So this is a Christmas fic that is unrelated to my current work in progress. It's WAY in the future. You'll understand as you read it.

SPOILERS FOR 100!

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Every Year

PROMPT:Will & Grace - All About Christmas Eve

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Then we followed a path - For as far as we could
Till we found ourselves there - In an evergreen woods
There were thousands of candles - Upon every tree
It was beautiful - But there was one mystery
For with all of those candles - You must understand
That the only one lit - Was now in that Child's hand
And there upon that Christmas scene

The candle wax of melted dreams - And the years they had taken
And as the snow did gently fall - He one by one relit them all
Till each dream was awakened
And there to that light - That young Child showed to me
All the things that he dreamt - All the things that might be
How for everything given - That something was gained
Strike one match in the dark - And all the world's not the same

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Aaron Hotchner looked over at his wife. "Emily, he may not be coming."

The brunette shook her head. "He'll be here, Aaron. He always comes."

It was Christmas Eve and he and Emily were waiting for Jack.

After Haley's death at Foyet's hands, Emily had stepped into the role of Jack's pseudo-mother. She'd been the most influential maternal figure in his life while he grew up and it had meant the world to Hotch, between them, they'd not only been able to teach Jack to love, but he'd learned how to love again too, how to realize that he loved Haley, but that didn't mean he couldn't love Emily.

But it wasn't a smooth ride by any stretch of the imagination. They'd had their battles, some of them worse than others. They were both stubborn, Hotch in insisting that he was too broken for her, that she deserved a man who was emotionally healthy, and Emily in repeating to him that it didn't matter what he thought she deserved, she wanted him. She always tilted her head to the side during these arguments and said the words he had yet to find a counter argument to: "And anyway, isn't it my decision to make?"

Between the recovery of his grief and actually getting their relationship off the ground, it had been almost eleven years, but he'd finally gotten the courage to propose. They'd been happily married for almost ten years now.

"You know he was planning on spending the holidays with Kinney," Hotch said, wrapping his arms tighter around her shaking body. Kinney was Jack's girlfriend of almost four years. Both he and Emily were just waiting for him to propose. But he'd never shared this tradition with her. This was something he'd maintained had to be shared with only those who had started it.

"Jack never misses this, Aaron," Emily returned, squeezing him in response. "He has never missed this."

Even the year Jack had gone to New York, he hadn't left until Boxing Day simply to be able to be in Washington for this particular tradition. After Emily had shown them this tradition, just after the one-year anniversary of Haley's death, Jack had never missed it. Ever.

"Hey Dad, Em."

Emily beamed as Jack finally came up to them, bundled tight. Beside him, walked Kinney, looking a little nervous. "There you are!" She broke away from Hotch's grasp and moved to Jack, kissing his cheek. Then she smiled at Kinney. "Hello Kinney."

"Hi Emily," Kinney replied with a smile, accepting the brunette's hug. "Jack actually let me come this year."

Emily and Hotch exchanged a glance. If this wasn't a declaration of intent, if this wasn't an indication of Jack wanting to spend the rest of his life with Kinney, neither of them knew what was. Then Kinney looked at Jack shyly. "He also wouldn't tell me what this was."

Emily blinked. "He didn't?" She'd just assumed that Jack would tell her.

Jack grinned. "It's kind of a more show than tell thing."

"Come on, sweetheart. It's cold," Hotch encouraged, reaching out to take Emily's hand. "Did you bring everything?"

From her purse, Emily managed to one-handedly extract three small candles.

"Candles?" Kinney asked as she and Jack followed Emily and Hotch through the little path in the evergreens. She gasped when they reached the clearing at the end. "This is beautiful!"

"It's called the Memory Garden," Jack explained after exchanging a look with Emily. "People come here every year to light a candle for their loved ones who can't be with them for the holidays."

They moved over to a section of branches and Emily removed the first candle holder, sliding the candle in. Jack knew who each candle was for. There was one for the baby she'd had to give up – a story she'd told him finally, when he was eighteen and able to determine for himself his own views on abortion – one for Matthew, the friend she'd lost in someone else's quest for revenge. The last candle, she'd handed to Jack.

From the year he was old enough, Jack had lit the candle for his mother. So, as he accepted the lighter from Emily. He glanced over to Kinney as he lit it. "This one's for my mother," he explained. Of course, Kinney already knew that Haley was dead, but he felt like at least this candle deserved an explanation. He stepped forward, hanging the candle, then stepped back and took Kinney's hand tightly in his own. With a deep breath, and an expectant look from Hotch and Emily, Jack began.

""Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

Once Jack was done, they stood in silence for a moment. Then, Emily wrapped an arm around Kinney's shoulders. "Come on, let's leave these two for a minute."

Both Jack and Hotch stayed silent for a few minutes, just watching Haley's candle flicker in the wind. Finally, Jack said, "Do you still miss her?"

Hotch didn't look away from the candle. "Every day," he replied. "Every damn day. But Emily makes it easier."

Jack had always been grateful to Emily for everything she'd done for him, but more importantly, what she'd done for his father. Jack refused to imagine what his dad would be like if Emily hadn't been there for him, if she hadn't kicked him back in line. He didn't remember much of his father before his mother's death, but he remembered a stoic, sober man at his ex-wife's funeral. Emily had made sure that Hotch didn't curl in on himself and she would never know how much Jack was truly grateful for that.

"I'll always miss her," Hotch said, then, with a small smile and a slap on Jack's shoulder, he walked away.

Jack stayed, watching the candle. "Hey Mom. It's that time of year again." He chuckled to himself slightly. Then he sighed. "I miss you, you know. I miss you a lot and I miss you every day." He looked down at his shoes "I celebrated Christmas Eve with Kinney, you know. Her family is crazy. Crazier than Aunt Pen, Aunt JJ, Uncle Will, Henry, Uncle Dave, and Uncle Derek combined and at their worst." He'd left out spouses and significant others, but he usually did.

He reached out, his fingers grasping the small wire that left the candle hanging from the tree. "I'm going to marry her, Mom. She's everything to me and I love her." He smiled. "So I think we can definitely say Dad kept his promise. He taught me about love. He taught me how to love. He taught me that love is the most important thing in this world. It's a lesson I'm not going to forget, Mom, no matter what. I'll always know that you loved me with your whole heart. And I'm going to teach my children that. Kinney loves like me, with everything. And she's my everything."

Then he stepped back, and wiped the corner of his eye where the moisture had pooled. "I love you Mom. Forever."

He walked away, back to where Emily, his father, and his future stood close together. He smiled as he wrapped his arm around Kinney, kissing her temple. "Come on. Let's go get coffee."


So, a few things. This comes from a combination of Trans-Siberian Orchestra's "Dream Child" (the lyrics at the beginning of the chapter) and I-luv-to-write-law-and-order. It struck me as I was typing up the Christmas Eve chapter of His Christmas Wish and it wouldn't leave until I wrote it down! I should be studying people, not writing fic! Well His Christmas Wish doesn't count.

I almost burst into tears writing Jack's lines at the end there. Even now I can feel the tears creeping at the back of my eyeballs.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you'll pass on a review too!