A/N: I know this is late, everyone, but with the holidays and going away etc etc., things have been busy.
And I didn't quite get to twenty-five chapters in the Advent calendar, but I'd say twenty's pretty good as well. ^^'
Anyway: here's the last chapter of Memories You Share, though I'm pretty sure there'll be an epilogue with Reid and Gideon.
Thanks to everyone who has kept with me throughout the story, that has actually ended up at close to 60k words. I have to say I'm a bit proud of myself for finishing such a long fic, even if it's one without much plot to brag about. Especially thank you to those who have favorited or subscribed and especially, especially thank you to those who have reviewed!
Now, on with the final chapter (minus the epilogue) which, to honour the occasion, is Jo's POV.
Just how it was that her husband could be out of bed with a loaded gun in his hands in the blink of an eye when there was some threat but otherwise seemed unable to do much more than mumble incoherently into his pillow before nine, Jo had never been able to figure out. Surely a grown man should be able to operate on less than eight or nine hours of sleep?
"Alex," she said, nudging him as she turned on her bedside lamp and sat up, "Alex, wake up."
Turning his head, her husband peered at her with blurry eyes. "'Time is it?"
"Seven thirty. I think some of our guests are already up."
"Their problem," Alex grunted before turning back to his pillow.
Jo snorted, shaking her head in exasperation. Why did she even bother talking to her husband in the morning anymore?
"Are you planning on getting up in time to cook lunch?" she asked, with a bit of bite.
"Promised the puppy-kid to make salmon crepes."
Not bothering holding back her laugh at the rather apt description of their youngest guest since there were only the two of them there, Jo patted Alex's back before getting out of bed to get ready for the last full day with her guests.
It had been a little tiring to have the house full of guests, she had to admit, but now that their departure was rapidly approaching she realized that she would also miss them.
Rossi and Hotch, of course, she had known from the beginning she would miss as soon as they left. Rossi had been a permanent fixture in her life since the day she'd fallen in love with Alex and the agent was more like a brother than a friend. Hotch had become a part of their life as soon as Rossi took a shine to him; the young man had been a strange mix of eager and too serious and both Jo and her husband soon accepted him into the family. Which was just as well, really; Hotch needed to be mothered.
And she had probably expected to like Hotch's team; mostly because both Rossi and Hotch obviously did. But it was still a bit surprising just how quickly they'd gone from strangers to being practically family.
After pulling on some jeans and a turtleneck Jo headed downstairs, feeling her stomach starting to rumble. Entering the kitchen, she realized that Hotch was the only one up. Or at least he was the only one in the kitchen, and she doubted that her guests where somewhere else this early in the morning. He was just in the process of making coffee and he looked up when Jo entered, smiling warmly as he saw it was her.
"Good morning," he said. Jo smiled back, just as warmly.
"Good morning, honey," she said and to her pleasure the man didn't blush. The first… well, thousand or so times she had used any form of endearment with him he had blushed and as amusing and adorable as it was to see Hotch's cheeks burning as he refused to meet anyone's eyes she wanted Hotch to be confident enough in the knowledge that she loved him that he wouldn't find the term strange. And the fact that he actually needed to be acclimatized to it to begin with pissed Jo off. Hadn't the man's mother ever called him 'sweetie'?
"Please tell me coffee wasn't all you were planning on having for breakfast," she scolded lightly. She didn't really think that was the case, since Hotch was normally conscious of his health; it was just that eating was far too low down on his list of priorities. But it didn't hurt to remind him that she expected him to eat three proper meals a day even if she wasn't there to supervise.
Hotch smiled boyishly, displaying his dimples. "Actually, I was hoping for chocolate chip pancakes."
Jo rolled her eyes and shook her head, secretly pleased. Hotch's eager and too serious nature had over the last years shifted into just too serious, and obsessive workaholic, of course, so any levity from the man was treasured by her.
"I told you already; tomorrow."
Raising his eyebrows and widening his eyes slightly, which Jo was convinced he knew made him look much more like a begging puppy than should be allowed for an FBI agent, Hotch tilted his head. "You said our last day here. This is technically our last day here; tomorrow is our last morning here."
"Sweetie, you know I hate it when you do that lawyer thing," Jo said, raising an eyebrow at him, "You're not bettering your chances."
"So there is a chance?"
Sighing, Jo shook her head again, not sure if it was fondly or in exasperation. She pointed to a chair. "Sit."
With a small smile, Hotch obeyed her. Jo went over to the fridge, looking through it for something to serve Hotch. Because no matter how good his puppy impression was, she wasn't feeding him candy for breakfast.
"Omelet or plain eggs?" Jo asked.
Hotch considered for a moment. "Omelet, please."
Jo nodded and began preparing the dish. An omelet she felt confident making, unlike a lot of other things. There was a reason her husband did most of the cooking in their house. As she efficiently cracked the eggs, added the water and began frying, she now and again threw a glance over her shoulder at Hotch. It was a habit she couldn't, and didn't want to, break; just checking to see if he was still there, mostly.
It only took a few minutes to get the food done and she put it on two plates, putting one in front of Hotch before taking putting down the other one at her place before moving over to make some sandwiches, then taking a seat at the table.
"What are you doing for Christmas?" she asked after a moment, deciding that this was as good a time as any to bring it up. Christmas was approaching rapidly, after all. Hotch shrugged, drawing a deep sigh.
"If… if Jack and Haley aren't back, nothing really," he replied quietly and Jo almost felt bad about asking. Almost. She hadn't gotten to celebrate Christmas that much with Hotch; he normally went to his wife's parents. Last Christmas had been a welcome exception, even if the reason was that Haley's parents were too small-minded to let Hotch visit now that he'd divorced Haley, and Jo was hoping that it could be repeated this year. Because to be entirely honest, her boy was too good for Haley anyway.
"We're celebrating with Dave's family, as usual," she said, giving Hotch a pointed look saying that he'd better rethink his plans of doing 'nothing' unless he wanted both Jo's and Mrs. Rossi's wrath to fall upon him, "You know we'd all love it if you'd join us. And whoever from the team you want."
Hotch raised his eyebrows, shooting her an amused look. "Do you have the authority to make that invitation?"
"Of course," Jo retorted with a smile, "Elena trusts me."
Hotch's smile widened and he gave a small nod in concession of the point. "We'll see."
And that might not be as much of a promise as Jo would like, but it was a start.
The next day she did make chocolate chip pancakes for the team, the realization of just how much she would miss them hitting her all the harder. She loved Maine and she loved the steady lull of country-life as opposed to city-life. But she also loved her family.
Their last full day with their guests had been a lazy and companionable affair. Her husband and Rossi had even managed to think up new insults; quite a feat considering that they had been exchanging insults and banter for thirty years or so. Reid had gotten Prentiss to play chess with him yet again and after lunch, when Garcia together with Reid had found the entire Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, they had staged a marathon, happily subsidized by her husband bringing them five different kinds of ice cream.
She sometimes considered buying Alex a cat or something that he could coddle instead of actual people. But then she remembered the look on Hotch's face the first time Alex gave him a gift 'just because' and she decided that her husband could play indulgent uncle as much as he liked.
Dinner, to honor the occasion, had been three courses: gazpacho, beef Wellington and panna cotta. After dinner they served coffee and after that Alex got out some port. The conversation had flowed comfortably without awkward silences and even if Reid's tendency for rambling had led to Jo finding out more about cannibalism than she quite liked, it had been pleasant.
Once they were finished they sent 'the kids' off to bed, staying behind to do the dishes. Hotch, no longer clearly belonging to either category, remained weighing on his feet in the doorway to the kitchen.
"Do you want help?" he asked. Jo exchanged a questioning look with her husband, not quite certain what to answer. She did want Hotch to stick around, in a way. But she also wanted to talk to Rossi and Alex alone, mostly because part of the conversation was destined to be about Hotch. And to be entirely honest, Hotch was still mostly one of the kids, in Jo's view.
"No, you head on up," she said after Alex's silent agreement, "We'll take care of this. Good night, honey."
She pressed a kiss to his cheek and gave him a quick hug, happy to see her husband doing the same.
"Sleep well, mon cher," he said. Rossi just gave Hotch a nod and gestured to the stairs.
"I'll be up in half an hour or so," he said. After a moment's hesitation, Hotch nodded and turned on his heel to head up the stairs.
"I feel old," Alex announced abruptly as they heard the door to Hotch's room close.
"You look old," Rossi immediately retorted, smirking, but he quickly turned serious again, "I get what you mean, though."
Jo nodded. They were right, she supposed. It didn't seem that long ago that she had questioned whether Hotch was really old enough to be a profiler, and now he was one of the best there was.
"You should be proud of him," she said to Rossi. The Italian man nodded, looking genuinely thoughtful for a moment.
"I am, trust me," he said, "You know… after James I sort of gave up on ever having someone to be proud of. And now I've got Aaron and I'm more proud than I ever thought I could be of someone."
Alex nodded, absentmindedly putting the dishtowel over his shoulder. "He's a good man. Really."
They were silent for a while, continuing the cleaning up and probably deep in their own thoughts. Jo certainly was. Rossi really was proud of Hotch and even though losing James had been devastating for him, for all of them, Hotch was as dear to them as a biological son would have been. She couldn't help but wonder sometimes what James would have been like, and especially how James and Hotch would have interacted. She was certain that they would have loved each other.
"Is he dealing with this whole Reaper thing all right?" Alex finally broke the silence, "I mean… considering the circumstances."
Rossi shrugged. "Not really, to be honest. But that is probably as much as you can expect considering the circumstances. He's… reeling. But I'm handling it."
"Didn't think you weren't," Alex replied, "But… you don't have to do it on your own, you know. We can come down to Quantico if you want us to."
Jo nodded her agreement, putting a hand on Rossi's shoulder. He wasn't as good as Hotch at taking on the burdens of the entire world, but he had his moments.
"I invited him to spend Christmas with us," she said, "You might want to push the idea with him."
"I'll do that. Mamma's been at my throat about taking him with me for a visit for ages."
There was another silence and soon enough they were done with the cleaning up. There were advantages to having a dishwasher, after all.
"Dave…" Alex said once they were done, a deep sigh and the tip of his tongue moistening his lower lip betraying that what he was about to say was something very serious. "You've got things covered here in the States, but if Foyet leaves the country I've still got active contacts in Europe and most of the Middle East."
Rossi raised an eyebrow. "And are these… contacts the kind of guys to call the police or are they more shoot first, ask questions later?"
"After I've talked to them they'll be the kind of guys to call me to shoot first and then don't bother asking questions," Alex replied, the menacing glint that Jo had never quite liked in his eyes, "He hurt Aaron, Dave. I want to tear him to pieces."
"That would be me doing that," Rossi said, his eyes holding a similar look.
That was as much as Jo wanted to hear, so with a kiss to her husband's cheek she left the two agents. "If you're going to discuss ways to murder someone I'm going to bed. I don't want to hear it."
She wasn't entirely sure if she should be as comfortable as she was with the fact that Alex didn't join her in bed until an hour later.
If they had spent that hour thinking up devious and painful ways to murder George Foyet they didn't show any signs of it the next morning, however; they happily teased each other and picked on their younger companions. Basically, they were themselves.
Breakfast was over a bit too quickly for Jo's liking. A week was too short a time to spend with family, and she knew that she probably wouldn't get to see them again until Christmas.
So it wasn't really all that surprising that she was a bit teary-eyed when she said her goodbyes, giving Hotch a tight hug and kissing him on the cheek.
"Take care of yourself, Aaron," she ordered, cupping his cheek in her hand and trying to fight back the tears, "And I'll see you for Christmas, all right?"
Hotch nodded, giving her a small smile. "I've been led to understand that my wellbeing depends on it," he remarked drily, but he didn't seem very upset at what was probably Rossi's threats, and happily allowed her to kiss his other cheek, "I really appreciate you letting us visit."
Raising an eyebrow, Jo gave him a skeptical look. "Do we need to have this conversation again? You and anyone you care to bring along are more than welcome at any time. It's not some sort of burden having you here; it's a pleasure. Got it?"
He almost looked a bit embarrassed at that and nodded meekly at the sternness in her voice. "Yes, ma'am."
Pleased, Jo smilingly gave him another kiss. "Good boy. Try not to work too hard, now. And sleep and eat properly. I want you to have gained at least a few pounds by Christmas, all right?"
That seemed to amuse Hotch a little, but again he just nodded meekly and bent down a little to accept a final hug and kiss before Jo, after letting her hand linger a bit on his cheek, moved on to Rossi who was standing together with her husband, engaged in an intense conversation from the looks of it. When she approached they both looked up and greeted her with wide smiles.
"It's been great, Jo," Rossi said, bending down to kiss her cheek, "We really need to do this more often. How about you stay a couple of weeks with me around Christmas?"
After exchanging a look with Alex, Jo nodded. "Sure. And I understand that you threatened Aaron into joining us?"
Grinning, Rossi shrugged casually. "Might have given him some extra incentive, yeah. But can you blame me?"
"I guess not," Jo conceded with a small shrug of her own, "Take care of him, all right? And yourself."
Rossi nodded. "Always do. You two take care of yourselves, as well."
"Always do," Jo repeated his words, smiling, before she gave Rossi a kiss and moved on to the others. It was somehow easier to part with Rossi than with Hotch; maybe because with Hotch there was always a little fear that he would somehow manage to hurt or even kill himself if left to his own devices.
She hugged the women, noticing that Garcia's eyes too had gotten a slightly glassy look. It made her almost proud, in a way; that she'd get emotional over parting with them after only a week.
"Take care of yourselves," she told them, one hand still on JJ's shoulder. They nodded.
"You too," JJ replied, apparently speaking for all of them.
Jo moved on to Reid and Morgan who were standing shoulder to shoulder and after a moment's consideration she shook the older man's hand, taking it in both of hers. Reid, she simply smiled at, since the boy seemed so uncomfortable with physical contact from most people.
"Try to be good for Dave and Aaron," she told them lightly and they both nodded, Morgan smiling lopsidedly whereas Reid looked completely serious, "And take care of yourselves."
Again, they nodded, and now both Hotch and Rossi had moved closer and looked as if they were ready to get into the car. Alex was just finishing saying goodbye to the women and soon enough all of Hotch's team were gathered close to their SUV.
Just for good measure, Jo hugged and kissed Rossi and Hotch one final time before they all filed into the car. Rossi was driving and with characteristic speediness, he pulled out of their driveway. It was just as well, really, because just as the car rounded the corner and got out of sight, the tears in Jo's eyes flowed over. She always cried when parting with family for any length of time.
Alex, sensing and knowing her sentiments, put an arm around her shoulders. "We'll see them again soon."
"I know. But still."
Her husband just nodded in response, knowing perfectly well what she meant. He would miss his brother and nephew just as much as she would, and for a few days they would both consider moving back to be closer to the two. Of course they would then realize that all the reasons they'd moved away in the first place remained, and would decide to stay.
For a while they just stood gazing after the car carrying the team away, but then they pulled themselves together, exchanged a quick kiss and turned around to head back inside.
A/N2: Alas, that is the end of the team's vacation! All that is left is for Reid to 'fess up to Gideon about getting into trouble.