Usual disclaimers, yup, yup, not mine, the whole bit.

This is a Christmas gift to kisaitaluvr through Chit Chat on Authors' Corner. The prompts she suggested were Hotch/Rossi, "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," mistletoe, eggnog, and a Mrs. Santa Claus suit. I have used all four.

A joyous, blessed, and peaceful holiday season to everyone, and especially to kisaitaluvr!

Keeping His Simple Faith Alive

In Virginia's social circles, there are your "Byoo-cannon" Buchanans, and there are your "Buck-hannon" Buchanans, and one does well not to confuse one family with the other. Adina Grace Buchanan Hotchner was a Buck-hannon, and God help you if you pronounced it wrong.

Not that Aaron's mother was picky – oh, my goodness, no. "Picky" didn't even come close. She was crazed about getting everything right, meaning getting it her way. A perfectionist armed with the Glare of Disapproval of Death; her backup weapon was the Exasperated Cry of "What Will People Think" of Mass Destruction.

She had lost only three battles in her life (signal among them Aaron Buchanan Hotchner's absolute refusal to answer to "Bucky," which had been his parents' intention when he was first named) and she was not about to lose any more skirmishes. Three losses were quite enough, thank you very much.

So it was not with a barrel of warm fuzzy feelings and happy little shivers of anticipation that Hotch, accompanied by his son, collected his mother at Reagan International on Christmas Eve, fresh from a couple months with extended family in the Florida Keys.

And once she was in the car, it took her two minutes flat to go from "How nice it is to see you" and "How big you've grown, Jackie!" to "What do you mean, 'Sean isn't here yet'?"

"I mean that Sean isn't here yet," he replied stonily. "He has a special dinner to cater tonight. He'll catch a lift on a private flight out of Jersey at three and I'll pick him up at four-fifteen."

"This afternoon."

"No, tomorrow morning."

"Tomorrow morning? Christmas Day? "

"Unless an emergency comes up at the BAU," he added grimly. "In which case Haley's sister Jessica will pick him up."

"I thought you were in charge of that, that thing at the FBI."

"I am."

"Then just put your phone on voice mail and tell your subordinates to handle these minor crises on their own while you spend time with your loved ones."

"I can't do that, Mother." He looked for a break in traffic and slid out onto the highway.

"And why on earth not?"

"Because I'm in charge of it."

"Then take charge, Aaron!"

"Daddy only gets called away when something terrible happens to someone," Jack said to his grandmother. "When people are hurt by very bad men and they need help right away. Daddy's the bravest and the smartest one of all. Nobody helps better than Daddy, that's why everybody wants him."

Too bad the kid couldn't do his job evals. That would sure shut Strauss up.

"I'm sure your father has competent subordinates," Adina Hotchner said. "If he doesn't, then maybe he isn't all that good at his job. It's a basic management skill."

"But my daddy–"

"Jack," Aaron said quietly, "Grandma will only be here for three days–"

And it's going to feel like thirty.

"–and she just wants to make sure she gets plenty of time with her family."

To bite my head off and terrorize your Uncle Sean. And to keep me away from David on Christmas Day.

"Do you have your decorations up, Aaron?"

"Yes, I do–"

"Because you didn't last year–"

No, I am not going to remind her, right in front of Jack, that last year it had only been three-and-a-half weeks since Haley died, and nobody was feeling particularly festive except for Adina, the fucking Queen of Denial.

It was all about appearances.

~ o ~

"I have a special surprise for Jack," Adina confided to Aaron after a late lunch. "I brought along a Mrs. Santa Claus suit. He's been so serious lately – I thought it might help him to keep his simple faith alive."

"A Mrs. Santa suit."

She got that mule-stubborn Buchanan jaw on her. "Yes."

[Any of his team members would have recognized that jaw from his own face. Aaron was blind to the resemblance. Adina was not the only denial expert in the family.]

"'To keep his simple faith alive.'"

She missed the sarcasm. Or chose to ignore it. "Yes."

"I think Jack has a lot more important challenges facing him than believing in a pretend fat man who hands out presents."

"Don't be dense, Bucky."


She made a disgusted noise. "Aaron, if you insist. It isn't just about Santa Claus. It's about believing in happy endings, in looking for and finding the good in people. It's the spirit of love and redemption–" If she had any idea how ironic – how borderline ridiculous – it was for her to be delivering this little speech, she showed no sign of it.

"Really?" he snapped. "His faith died thirteen months ago when he saw his mother's body lying on the bedroom floor." He knew that his tone was harsh, perhaps cruel. "The child's life, his whole reality, has been torn to shreds, Mother. Believing in Santa Claus just isn't going to heal that loss."

"Every child needs to believe in something."

Aaron glowered out the living room window. "Don't get me started, Mother."

Jack bounced in just then with his special Christmas coloring book and a massive zillion-color box of Crayolas. His grandmother scooted her chair over to look over his shoulder and offer him helpful constructive criticism about the appropriate colors for reindeer.

"These are my reindeers," Jack told her serenely, if ungrammatically, "and I like purple reindeers. And yellow ones." He seemed to have the gift of blowing off anything his grandmother said that he considered unreasonable. Aaron hoped that maybe if he hung out with his son long enough, he would learn how to do it himself.

Grandmother Hotchner withdrew slightly and began to sing seasonal songs, mostly of the commercial variety, like "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Frosty the Snowman."

Aaron contented himself by putting the finishing touches on the dining room decorations while humming "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" to himself.

A man can dream, can't he?

After a bit Jack started to sing "I saw Daddy Kissing Santa Claus."



Mrs. Hotchner got up and joined Aaron in the dining room. "Isn't that touching?" she said. "He knows that his mother is missing, and so to compensate, he puts his father into the mom's position in the song, kissing Santa Claus."

"No," Jack called to her. "It was really daddy. But it wasn't really Santa Claus. It was Mr. Rossi and he was under the mistletoe, right there, that mistletoe, and he was wearing a Santa suit."

Please, please, Mother, say something rude and dismissive and go fix your makeup or sharpen your claws or something.

"Really?" she said, far too interested to please Aaron.

"Uh-huh. I came downstairs to get a cookie and Daddy was kissing Mr. Rossi. In his Santa Claus suit."

"Mother, would you like a cup of eggnog?" Aaron said, trying for friendly-and-enthusiastic.

She stalked away from him deliberately and seated herself again in the living room. "Who is this Mr. Rossi, Jack?" Adina asked, that dangerous tone in her voice.

"He's Daddy's best friend."

"Your daddy's best friend," she echoed, as if Jack had said, we're having anthrax for tea, how jolly! "And your – your daddy kissed Mr. Rossi?"

Oh, dear. Like a dog with a bone. Or a cat with a mouse.

Let it freaking go, Mother!

Aaron held his breath.

"Sure." Jack carefully returned one crayon to the box and selected another. "Daddy kisses Mr. Rossi a lot."

Aaron stood rooted to the floor, willing to do almost anything to stop this conversation – except to call his son a liar. That, he simply could not do – not for the whole world.

Adina, her face the original whiter-shade-of-pale, looked up slowly at him. "Aaron?"

He said nothing. He wondered for an instant if he could avoid all this by agreeing to be called Bucky, now and forevermore, but he suspected that the situation was way past that kind of bribery.

"Aaron, do you, er, kiss Mr. Rossi?"

It's probably just as well that this has come up. It saves me an awful lot of fiddling around and trying to avoid issues. I would have to deal with it eventually, anyway.

"Yes, ma'am," he said in the calmest tone he could manage. "I do."

"And they hold hands," Jack added helpfully. "Mr. Rossi makes Daddy happy. Daddy smiles when he's with Mr. Rossi, don't you, Daddy? He's nice!"

Jack saves the day!

Aaron looked her directly in the eye. "I couldn't put it better myself, Mother. He makes me happy. He makes me smile."

"He's nice," Jack repeated.

"You're right," Aaron told him, his heart swelling with pride, in both Jack and David. "He's very nice."

His mother glared at him. "So you're – you're–"

OK, Slick. Man up here, and get it over with.

"Gay? I suppose so," he replied, trying to sound negligent and casual about something that still sometimes confused him. "Bi, more likely, because I was genuinely in love with Haley, both emotionally and – and physically."

Is that David's car in the drive? It is. Christ, could the timing be any worse?

Adina seemed to be struggling to absorb a lot of startling information in a very short time.

He could sympathize. It had been much the same for him the first time he realized that David's arm around his waist was more than a buddy thing – and that he was completely all right with that.

And the way his nervous system had exploded the first time Rossi's lips had brushed his, and it was like being a teenager again, all longing and hormones and doubts and racing pulses and above all, breathless, giddy, I'll-be-up-all-night-thinking-of-this amazement. He wouldn't have been a bit surprised if he had broken out in zits on the spot.

"So, is that why Haley left you? Because you preferred men?"

He seated himself carefully, self-consciously, on the couch across from her chair. "Mother, we've been through this a dozen times. Haley left me because she couldn't handle the insane hours and the stress we're under in the BAU," he replied. "Because when I was done exhausting my physical and mental resources trying to find someone before he killed his next victim, there was pretty damn little of me left over to go around at home, and what I did have, I tended to devote completely to Jack.

"It wasn't fair. I thought that I was giving her what she most needed by taking some of the parenting pressure off her, but she needed my attention, too. She needed a husband, not just a co-parent. I know that now, but it's too late. It was nothing about my preferring men. I'm not sure I prefer men. I just prefer Mr. Rossi."

His mother's lips remained in a tight line. More than a year had passed, she had visited on three occasions, had attended Haley's funeral, and she had never yet wanted to hear any of the details about how her daughter-in-law had died. She just knew that an intruder had entered her house and shot her. Probably assumed that Aaron's absence had left Haley alone and unprotected.

Which, in a way, was exactly what had happened.

"And what does this Rossi person do?" she finally asked.

"He–" He resisted the impulse to throw this Rossi person back in her face. "He's an agent with the Bureau, like me. We serve in the same unit."

"And he has never married?"

"Merry Christmas," a familiar voice said. Dave had entered the room silently, cat-footed as always. "Ma'am, I'm David Rossi. We've actually met once before, but it was under stressful conditions, so I'll understand if you don't remember me. How do you do?"

He was wearing a fifteen-year-old but elegant Versace wool blend suit that hung on his frame perfectly and never went out of style. That certainly couldn't hurt him in Adina's eyes. He wore a hand painted red and green silk tie, and sported a sprig of holly in his lapel.

"Merry Christmas," she said, stone faced. "Do you live here now?"

"No, ma'am, I have a place in McLean," Rossi replied smoothly, "but I'm helping with the decorations and the baking, and I promised Jack I would take him shopping."

"Yeah!" Jack crowed. "We're going to the game store!"

"So you'll need to put away your Crayolas and stuff, Champ," David continued. "And make sure your dad won't need you for an hour or so."

"No problem," Aaron told his son. "Be good. Don't drive Mr. Rossi crazy."

As Jack gathered up his coloring things, David said to Mrs. Hotchner, "And to answer your question, I've been married three times. I tried as hard as any man can to deny what and who I was. To be a real man, the way my mom and dad defined it. The way they wanted me to be."

Almost defiantly, he perched on the arm of the couch, his hip bumping up against Aaron's arm; his left hand on the back of the couch, fingers just a breath away from Aaron's neck.

"I would probably be on wife number four now if I hadn't realized that I had already met – and there's no other way to say this – the man of my dreams: brave, intelligent, honest, loyal, compassionate, witty ... and gorgeous, too. All of which, by the way, he got from you."

Adina Hotchner picked at invisible lint on the skirt of her suit and studied her son with a grave sadness. "So," she said finally, "which one of you would be the boy, and which of you would be the girl?"

Hotch raised an eyebrow. "We're both men, Mother."

She made an impatient gesture at him. "I know that, Aaron. What I mean is, in – in your relationship, which of you is the man and which of you is the woman?"

"It isn't really like that, Mother. We're both men."

Clearly rattled, but determined, she continued, "But isn't the general rule that one is, er, the sissy and the other is, I believe, the butch?"

Aaron could only stare, lost for words. Sometimes his mother simply befuddled him. For someone who was so intelligent, so sophisticated and well educated, she could be ... ah, hell.

"That's not the way it works, ma'am," Dave replied, once again riding to the rescue. "We don't need to imitate the pattern of a het couple. We're not playing house, like You be the Mommy and I'll be the Daddy. We're two men. We both behave like men. Neither of us has any interest in being a woman."

Mrs. Hotchner studied both of them intently. "Good, because while Aaron has somewhat delicate features, nice cheekbones and eyes, and he might make a halfway acceptable girl – although she would be far too tall and her knees would be too bony, of course – you, sir, would probably be quite a homely woman. Even if you plucked your eyebrows."

Before Aaron could decide whether to act on the impulse to smack his mother upside her judgmental head, David laughed. "I would lose the beard, Mrs. Hotchner," he assured her. "That would make a difference."

"You're making fun of me now."

"Maybe I am, Mrs. Hotchner, but if I am it isn't with hurtful intent. Neither of us wants to be a female. I think your son is quite stunning just as he is."

"Good," Adina Hotchner sighed. "He would have been simply impossible to shop for. Do they even make women's shoes in your size, Aaron?"

He shook his head helplessly. How in the hell had they moved from homosexual roles to buying shoes? "I have no idea."

Rather than an explosion erupting, a silence descended. Adina Hotchner gazed back and forth between the two men, sniffing as though – oh, God only knew what she thought she might smell that was different.

Sissy. Butch. Good Lord.

"You know," she said finally, "I don't believe that I have ever seen two men kiss, other than on a movie screen."

Aaron raised an eyebrow; he was surprised she had even seen a male to male kiss in the movies. "It's just like any other kiss," he said.

"Christopher Reeve and Michael Caine," she said. "My goodness, that was shocking."

My God, what would that be? Deathtrap? That was what? Almost thirty years ago?

But Dave was on his feet, tugging at Aaron's arm. "Get up," he urged. "Come on, come here."

He glared at Rossi. "If you're thinking what I think you're thinking, this is just completely unnecessary."

"But so much fun," Rossi cooed. "Come on, Aaron."

Not in front of my mother, damn it ….

"Yes, Aaron," Mrs. Hotchner said without enthusiasm. "I might as well start getting used to it."

He finally allowed Rossi to drag him to his feet. Dave's eyes were shining with affection and pride. He could never resist the older man when he looked like that. He slid one arm around his lover's waist and tipped Rossi's chin upward an inch or so.

"I love you," he whispered huskily just before their lips met. There was a little fire in their kiss, but mostly it was just warmth, sweetness. A comfortable exchange of affections.

"Good God," his mother breathed. "It really is just like normal people."

David continued to hold him close and ran his fingers through Aaron's hair. "Ma'am," he said, "we are normal people. We kiss and we talk and we argue and we plan for the future and we both love that little boy with every fiber of our being."

"But – you do things with each other's–"

Aaron broke free of David's embrace. "Mother," he said sternly, "how would you feel if people – if Dave and I, for instance – started speculating aloud about what you and Dad did in the privacy of your bedroom?"

There was more anger than embarrassment in her flushed cheeks. "But the very fact that you're – that you're homosexuals" [and saying the word seemed to take something out of her] "raises certain presumptions."

"And you and Dad were heterosexuals, and that raised certain presump–"

"Enough!" Adina snapped. "I take your point. So when are you going to find some state where you can get married?"

I'm going to get whiplash from all these changes of topic.

"I don't know," Aaron said. "It's legal in the District, but we would still have to navigate all kinds of local problems. I mean, it's in our future, but we're not rushing into it."

"But if the District marries" – she hesitated over the word – "homosexual couples, why don't you two just get married now? Isn't that what you people are always marching and yelling about?

Aaron looked seriously at his mother. "When did I become 'you people'?"

She looked back at him sternly. "Since you took up with – with–" She glanced around uneasily, as if there were something she hesitated to say in front of Rossi.

"'A man'?" Aaron suggested. "'A gay man'? You can say it, you know. David knows who and what he is. He's comfortable in his own skin."

She mouthed something at Hotchner, but he couldn't figure out what it was.

"Say again?" he asked.

She mouthed it again.

"Out loud, Mother. I'm not a lip reader."

Adina Hotchner did not look one bit happy. "An Italian," she managed at last, unable to disguise her uneasiness.

But of course: Aaron's father had represented a few mob bosses in his day as a defense attorney in Richmond. Contact with organized crime had made her profoundly fearful; she expected everything to be like it was in the Godfather movies, their house riddled by automatic weapons fire, finding a horse's head in the bed if her husband failed his clients. Aaron's father would sometimes whinny when he woke up, just to tease her.

"No," Aaron said forcefully to Rossi. He could tell by the changes in his posture that Dave was on the verge of doing his (notorious throughout the Bureau) Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone imitation. "Not funny, not appropriate," he told his lover. To his mother, he said, "Dave is in the FBI, remember? He's one of the good guys."

"So what's he doing dressing up as Santa Claus?"

More whiplash. Is dressing up as Santa a Mob thing?

"He was trying on the costume," Aaron told her. "He's playing Santa Claus at the family Christmas party for a local Narcotics Anonymous group tonight."

"That's for drug addicts, right?"

"Yes, ma'am." It was Dave who answered her.

"You're an addict – a recovering addict?"

"No, ma'am. Someone asked me to do this and I said, sure."

Mrs. Hotchner stared forward for a long minute. "Well," she said at last, "it's a chance to wear the silly costume Bucky doesn't want me to put on."

"Bucky?" David echoed.

"No. Don't go there," Aaron warned him sternly.

"What silly costume?"


"My name is Aaron!" Hotch roared.

"He doesn't want me to wear my Mrs. Santa Claus outfit."

~ o ~

After Jack and Rossi returned from the game store with far too many games for the Wii and the XBox, because David was not good at saying No to Jack, there was a silent but civil dinner, which David attended, since there was no longer any reason to keep him away. Then Aaron got the dubious pleasure of seeing his mother heading off to an NA holiday party dressed as Mrs. Santa, to Aaron's lover's Santa Claus.

"Be glad that you weren't here to see it," he told his brother when Sean called with last minute flight and pickup confirmation. "Black tights, teetering high heels with red glitter, and the suit – good God, it's a miniskirt, and the top has a huge plunging neckline." Their mother had always had a flamboyant side.

"Fur trimmed, of course?" Sean said.

"Of course."

"Aha. See, this is what you've missed, Aaron. This must be the new, Mark Two Mrs. Claus. He ditched the frumpy one and picked himself up a trophy wife."

"Of course," Aaron chuckled. "And she still dresses like the North Pole cocktail waitress she was previously."

"Probably wearing a fur thong–"

"Oh, no, don't put that image in my head, kid–"

But mostly, it was just weird.

Hours later, he sat in the bedroom, drinking a scotch and watching Scrooged on TV, when he realized that he heard the sounds of clinking glasses and laughter downstairs.

He wrapped his robe around himself and slid into his slippers. Immediately, he found that he had company, a small form in Toy Story 3 jammies.

Jack raised one finger in the universal Shh gesture. Aaron nodded his understanding.

I'm sneaking down the stairs on Christmas Eve with my son. And neither of us is sure what we're going to find.

The Christmas decorations were all lit up.

As was the tree.

As, apparently, were Adina Hotchner and David Rossi.

They still wore their Santa outfits, although they had removed their steel rimmed glasses, and David's fake beard lay discarded across the back of the couch. They each had a large ceramic coffee mug, and the contents were easy to guess, since on the sideboard were an open container of eggnog and a large bottle of Dave's favorite rum.

"Grinch?" Rossi was wheezing in his best Marlon-Brando voice. "Didn't I tell you, don't worry about that Grinch, son? I had my people speak to that Grinch, boy; I made him an offer that he can't refuse."

"And what about Scrooge?" Adina prompted with a merry giggle, her cheeks rosy.

"Ah, Scrooge," David-as-Corleone mumbled dismissively, "That Scrooge, he is not un uomo di rispetto, son, you know what dat means? A man of respect? Scrooge, he sleeps wit' da fishes."

"Oops," Mrs. Hotchner said. "I think we woke the kids."

The kids?

OK, so maybe Dave had a few years on him, but ... the kids?

David looked up at Aaron and Jack and said, "Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas, boys!" and out of nowhere, Mudgie galumphed up the stairs and leaped ecstatically on Jack, his stump of a tail wagging, his enormous tongue slurping all over the giggling boy's face and neck like something from a science fiction nightmare.

This was probably the wrong company in which to say, Up yours, Rossi, so Hotch just said, "Merry Christmas back atcha. Been helping yourselves to the NA folks' secret stashes?"

"Aaron!" his mother said. "That was cruel and tasteless. We were paragons of virtue at the party – weren't we, David? – but Dave wanted to pick up his doggie, so we made a little detour past his place on the way home. And we had a couple drinks to celebrate the season."

Hotch sat down harder than he had intended to a couple steps below where his son and Dave's pooch continued their joyful reunion (what had it been? all of two days?) and watched the love of his life charming the socks off Adina the same way he charmed the socks off everyone else he met.

"Just think," Mrs. Hotchner said. "Just six more hours! By five-thirty, I'll have all of my boys here – my sons, my grandson, and my almost son-in-law. My practically son-in-law."

She smiled bravely, determinedly, at David Rossi, who gave her a thumbs-up in return. "My classy, elegant mother-in-law," he said, raising his eggnog. "Just like her son."

Aaron leaned his temple against the banister and smiled.

Somewhere deep within him, a simple faith was rising, stretching, and looking around hopefully.