Here is my gift for the Christmas Gift Exchange over at Chit Chat on Author's Corner. My prompts were the song 'Let It Snow', Santa, tinsel, and cinnamon stars.

Merry Christmas BrightlyShining! I hope you enjoy the fic and how I made use of your prompts :D

Merry Christmas, Happy Channakuh, or whatever other holiday you celebrate at this time of year, may it be a safe and happy one. A little peace here, a little peace there, and hopefully someday peace everywhere...

One thing that I do not have a piece of is Criminal Minds. Bummer - oh well. Please pass the eggnog...

Happy reading and enjoy :D


"You know, you really don't have to stay and help clean up." Hotch said as he turned to look at Emily while they worked to clean up the kitchen of his apartment. With everything the team had been through in the course of just over the last year, with the team being ripped apart by various forces and finally put back together, with the team working to move past everything preventing them from being as close as they used to be, Hotch had invited the team over for Christmas Eve to celebrate the holiday together.

"I don't mind." Emily said as she washed the glasses that had been used. "besides, you don't want to clean this up all by yourself do you?" she asked as she looked around at the remaining dishes.

Hotch shrugged, "It's not so bad. I just need to load the dishwasher and then run it."

Emily raised a well-manicured eyebrow at Hotch. "And what about a certain little somebody who needs to get to bed so Santa can come?"

"I think I've been a good boy this year; do you suppose I'll get what I asked Santa for?" Hotch asked jokingly, as he wasn't sure Jack could hear their conversation or not.

Emily snorted and shook her head. "I meant Jack."

"Well, I know Jack's been a good boy this year, so I suppose Santa will be especially nice to him this year." Hotch said with a smile and then both he and Emily paused to listen to Jack who was playing in the living room, enjoying the good cheer provided by the lighted Christmas tree and the flames flickering in the fireplace. "But, we've still got some time before St. Nick makes his appearance." Hotch said glancing at his watch as he stood up from where he was bent over loading the plates into the dishwasher.

Emily nodded and allowed her mind to wander as she and Hotch worked to clean up the little bit that the rest of the team hadn't had an opportunity to help with before Hotch shooed them out the door to get on with their holiday plans.

Morgan's mother and sisters had come to visit him for Christmas this year instead of him going to Chicago, so he'd been anxious to get home and spend the rest of Christmas Eve with them.

PG and Kevin had been heading over to his parent's house to spend the holiday with his large extended family of parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, and the whole shebang according to PG's description.

Rossi hadn't said much about where he was headed for the holiday, but he had been anxious to get there.

JJ of course had to get Henry home, settled and ready for bed before Santa made his grand appearance at her house. The fact that Reid carried Henry back to the car and that he and JJ had rode together to Hotch's had not slipped past Emily or PG. Something was definitely going on with those two, ever since JJ and Will had broken up months ago and Reid and JJ had managed to put the difficulties that had been caused by Emily's 'death' behind them. JJ was in for a surprise ambushing in the New Year by Emily and Garcia in regards to what exactly was happening between them, even if JJ and Reid weren't ready to tell the team yet; one could only hold Penelope Garcia back so long.

And then Emily paused in her thoughts as she glanced at Hotch out of the corner of her eye. Oh but the man could fill out a sweater with that broad chest of his and those shoulders. When she'd first returned from her exile in France, she been concerned by how gaunt Hotch had looked... the sunken in cheeks… all the weight that he'd dropped. At the time she'd written it off to fourteen weeks in the Pakistani desert eating military rations. Apparently, the time spent living and training with commandos had rubbed off on him, and he decided to train for the FBI Triathlon in February. She was certainly learning to appreciate the leaner figure he now cut in his suits, and it didn't hurt that his slimmer waist only helped to accentuate his broad chest and shoulders that much more as well as certain other amenities… namely his rock hard backside from all the running, swimming, and biking he was doing to prepare for the triathlon.


Jack sat on the living room floor, entertaining himself with the thoughts of all of the amazing things that must be in the colorfully wrapped boxes decorated with ribbons and bows that were underneath the Christmas tree, and the amazed wonderings of whether Santa would be able to deliver what he really wanted for Christmas.

The Christmas tree itself was quite a sight to behold. Ornaments of every fashion were hung festively about the evergreen pine branches. Candy canes added their red and white stripped cheerfulness to the melee of ornaments and decorations adorning the tree. Multi-colored lights twinkled as they randomly blinked and twinkled. The sparkle from the tinsel was dazzling as it caught and reflected not only the blinking and twinkling of the lights on the tree, but also the dancing and flickering flames of the fireplace, giving the tree an ethereal, glowing quality that projected the magic of Christmas about the otherwise dark living room.

Wonder and amazement danced in Jack's eyes as he sat lost in thought, taking in the sight of the room lit only by the Christmas tree and the fireplace, the smell of the pine, and the sounds of Daddy and Miss Emily laughing in the kitchen combined with the crackling of the logs in the fireplace. And then his sandy blonde haired head turned to look out the window, his eyes growing wide with horror.

Hotch and Emily both grew concerned when they heard Jack shout from the living room just as they were finishing up with cleaning the kitchen.

"Daddy, come quick! It's a emergency!" Jack shouted.

"What? What is it buddy?" Hotch asked as he rounded the corner from his kitchen and into the living room where Jack was standing at the window.

"It's snowing!" Jack said as he turned to look at Daddy and then turned back to the window. "A lot." Jack said mournfully as they took in the blizzard happening outside.

"Wow" Emily said as she took in the snowing and blowing going on just on the other side of the panes of glass separating the blizzard outside from the toasty warmth and Christmas cheer in the living room. "You can't even see across the street."

Hotch looked down at Jack. "I don't understand why you're upset Jack, you love the snow."

"Daddy, how is Santa supposed to fly his sleigh if he can't see?" Jack asked.

"Ah" Hotch said nodding in understanding at his six year old's thought process. "Well, he has Rudolph to lead his sleigh… remember?"

"But how is Rudolph supposed to see where he's going? Who's going to lead him?" Jack asked.

"I…" Hotch paused stumped about how to answer that question. He certainly couldn't give away the secret of Santa; he hoped that piece Christmas magic remained for at least a few more years. Hotch glanced at Emily, hoping she would have something.

Emily glanced at Hotch and saw the panicked expression on his face and raised her eyebrows at him, as if to ask permission to clear up the confusion. Upon Hotch's nod in response, Emily dropped down to her knees in front of the younger Hotchner. "Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night and need to get up, but it's really, really dark?" she asked as she looked at Jack.

"Uh huh" Jack responded nodding his head.

"You know where you need to go or where the light switch is because you remember where everything is because you do it all the time, right?" Emily asked.

Jack nodded again, causing his sandy locks to bounce a bit on the top of his head.

"Well it's just the same for Santa and all of his reindeer, even Rudolph. They make this trip every year, so they've had lots of time to practice and learn where every little boy and little girl's house is." Emily answered with a smile.

"Coooool" Jack replied and then he looked up at Daddy. "Oh no, Daddy, the cookies….."

Hotch grimaced. "I'm sorry buddy. Maybe we can leave Santa out something instead cookies this year?'"

"What about the cookies?" Emily asked in confusion.

"Jack and I make sure to go buy Santa fresh cookies every year and then we lay them out right before bed time. But since we're snowed in…" Hotch explained. "You know Jack, it'll be okay. I think Santa will understand if there aren't any cookies this year."

"Okay" Jack sighed, his shoulders slumping in defeat. In his mind, his house would be the only house where Santa didn't get cookies.

"You know," Emily said as she looked out the window. "It looks like I'm stuck here with you guys for a while until the snow let's up. How about if we see if you have everything to make cookies? If you do, I will share my super-secret sure to please Santa cookie recipe with you. How does that sound?" Emily asked.

Jack's face lit up again as he contemplated how much Santa would prefer fresh, homemade cookies to the ones he and Daddy would have gotten at the store. Maybe this year he'd get that extra special present he'd been wanting for a while now. "Can we, Daddy?" he asked as he looked up Daddy.

"As long as Miss Emily is really okay with making cookies tonight, I don't see why not." Hotch replied.


Jack knelt on his knees on one of the kitchen table chairs watching eagerly as Emily scanned and scoured the contents of their cupboards and refrigerator gathering items and placing them on the table along with mixing bowls and utensils Daddy had set on the table.

Jack tipped his head as he looked at the odd mixture of ingredients that Miss Emily was putting on the table. There wasn't anything on the table that he'd ever seen Aunt Jessie or Uncle Sean use to make cookies before.

Emily chuckled as the confused expression on Jack's face as she looked at the almonds, cinnamon, lemon, eggs, confectioner's sugar, salt, and lemon juice on the table. "Have you ever had cinnamon stars before?" she asked as she looked at Jack.

Jack shook his head as he watched the lemon in Emily's hand, wondering how she was going to turn it into a cookie.

"Well then, you are in for a super special treat." Emily replied with a smile "When I was a little girl, my grandpa and I would make these every year for Santa."

"Did Santa like them?" Jack asked apprehensively, not wanting to displease Santa with the cookie selection that was provided to snack on while he rested before going to the next house.

"Not only did Santa like them, but so do I… I bet we might even have to watch your Daddy to make sure he leaves plenty for Santa later." Emily said with a wink at Jack as she nodded her head at Hotch.

Hotch chuckled in amusement and shook his head as he leaned against the counter, enjoying seeing Jack interact with an adult female other than Jessica.


"Okay" Emily said as she pushed up the sleeves of her sweater and set about getting the ingredients ready. Within minutes, she had Jack stirring the finely ground almonds together with the ground cinnamon and the lemon zest while she worked on beating the egg whites and salt until peaks formed.

"So this part is very important." Emily said as Jack watched her check to make sure the egg whites formed the peaks that they needed them to. "I need your help." She said as held out the measuring cup that currently held two and a half cups of confectioner's sugar. "Can you shake this, just like this," she said as she demonstrated sifting the sugar into the egg whites. "while I keep beating the eggs?"

Hotch smiled as he watched Jack reverently take the measuring cup from Emily's grasp and gently shake the sugar ever so slowly into the mixing bowl as she held it into place.

"You are doing great Jack." Emily said with a smile just as Jack finished emptying the measuring cup into the bow.

Jack watched as Miss Emily rolled the dough out on the wax paper they'd laid down on the table. Who knew you could turn almonds, cinnamon, and lemons into cookies. He couldn't wait to see what they'd taste like.

"Are you ready for the fun part?" Emily asked as she held up star shaped cookie cutters and waived Hotch over to join in the fun.

While Hotch and Jack worked to cut out the stars and line them up on the parchment lined cookie sheets to go into the oven where they would bake until deliciously golden brown, but still deliciously soft in the center, Emily prepared the glaze.

At the sound of the timer dinging, Jack and Hotch both followed Emily back into the kitchen, curious to see what their creation would look like, let alone taste like. Based off of the smell alone, the cookies had to be wonderfully cinnamony and delicious.

"Okay buddy" Hotch said as he looked down at Jack who was eagerly eying the star shaped cookies. "The cookies need to cool for a few minutes, so how about we get jammies on?"

"Okey dokey!" Jack shouted excitedly as he bounced away into his room.

Hotch smiled and then turned to look at Emily and then out the living room windows at the blizzard that was still raging. "It doesn't look like you'll be going home anytime soon. Do you want to borrow some pjs or sweats or something?"

"Um…" Emily paused, her brain frozen for just a moment at the thought of wearing and sleeping in clothes that smelled like Hotch. "yeah, that would be great." She replied, realizing that her jeans, sweater, and boots, while highly fashionable, would be unbearably uncomfortable to attempt to sleep in.


"Can we have one yet?" Jack asked as he sat rocking on the edge of the couch while they waited for Emily to change into her borrowed pajamas in the bathroom.

"We have to wait for Miss Emily" Hotch said ruffling Jack's hair with his hand "but then, yes we can have a cookie and get Santa's plate ready for him."

Jack nodded and then eagerly bounced up off the couch at the sound of the bathroom door opening.

Hotch's breath caught in his throat at the sight of Emily in his flannel pajama pants and long sleeved t-shirt.

Emily was in heaven. She'd spent a wonderful evening with Hotch and Jack, she was snowed in for the time being, and she was completely surrounded by the delightful combination of the scents of pine, cinnamon, and Hotch.

"Miss Emily?" Jack asked, suddenly shy, "can we have a cookie now?"

"Did Daddy say you could have a cookie?" Emily asked looking at Hotch, who nodded, confirming that indeed he had said they could have a cookie.

"Yuh huh" Jack replied.

"Alright, then let's go have cookies and milk." Emily replied.

A low throaty growl escaped Hotch's lips as he bit into the warm, soft, cinnamon flavored, star shaped piece of heaven he held in his hands. "Emily these are really good." He replied after washing the first bite down with a sip from his glass of milk.

"Thanks, but I don't think they would have been nearly as good without the help of my assistant." Emily replied smiling at Jack. "How about you Jack, do you like them?"

"Uh huh" Jack mumbled and nodded with his mouth full of cookie.

"What do you tell Miss Emily, Jack?" Hotch said gently reminding the six year old of his manners.

"Thank you for making cookies for Santa Miss Emily." Jack said gracing Emily with a wide smile. "Do you think Santa will like them Daddy?" he asked turning to look up at his father.

"You know Jack, I think he will," Hotch replied with a smile and then looked at the clock on the wall. "but if you don't brush your teeth and go to bed, we might not find out. It's just past your bedtime."

Jack gasped and jumped up from his chair and headed off to brush his teeth. Minutes later he came back out of the bathroom and into the kitchen to say good night.

"Goodnight Miss Emily." Jack said as he looked up at Emily. "Thank you for making cookies."

"Oh, you're welcome sweetie. It was fun. Sweet dreams." Emily replied wrapping her arm around Jack as he hugged her waist.

"Goodnight Daddy." Jack said with a grin as he hugged his Dad.

Hotch grinned back at him. "Goodnight Jack. Do you want me to come and tuck you in?"

"Nope" Jack replied.

"Are you sure?" Hotch tentatively.

"Uh huh" Jack said as he pulled out of the hug and scurried off to bed, after all Santa didn't come until you were asleep.

Hotch and Emily chuckled as they watch Jack scamper off to bed and then they headed into the living room to relax in front of the fire. Hotch paused to turn on the stereo at a very low volume as Emily took in the view of blinding whiteness through the windows. "I'm sorry if being stuck here with Jack and me tonight ruined your Christmas plans." Hotch said as he stepped up next to Emily to watch the storm rage outside.

"Actually, I didn't really have any Christmas plans. The Ambassador is overseas right now, so…" Emily trailed off as she turned to look up at Hotch. "Tonight was fun, and nice. Thanks for lending me your pajamas." She said as she played with the hem of Hotch's long sleeved t-shirt that she was wearing.

"Well, I couldn't very well leave you to wear nothing…" Hotch paused as he realized exactly what he said and that it was causing them both to blush. "I mean… that is… you're welcome." He said clearing his throat and finally managing to regain his footing in the conversation. "I know Jack enjoyed it and by the way thank you for saving me there too." He said with a smile.

Emily smiled at Hotch. "Your welcome, but really it was a treat for me too. It reminded me of all the Christmases when I was a little girl visiting my grandfather at his cabin in the Alps." She replied smiling again softly in remembrance.

"I don't suppose you'd like to dance?" Hotch asked as he glanced at Emily, taking in her beauty by light of the fireplace and the glow of the Christmas tree.

"I'd love to actually." Emily replied, chuckling at the irony as 'Let It Snow' came on the stereo just as she and Hotch stepped into the large open space in front of the tree and the fireplace.

Oh the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
And since we've no place to go
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow
- Let It Snow – Sammy Cahn & Jule Stynne

Emily and Hotch danced slowly as the spectacularly decorated tree, the blizzard outside, the fire in the fireplace, the carol on the stereo, the smell of cinnamon lingering in the air, the fact that Emily was wearing Hotch's pajamas, and their arms around each other all combined together for an added bit of Christmas magic.

As they continued to softly sway in time with the carols playing on the stereo, they each found themselves mesmerized by each other's lips and their heads began to drift together, seeking each other out.

A six year old sandy haired blonde boy stood peeking out the crack of the doorway in his room, intently studying the scene happening in the living room. It was dark of course, but he was able to make out Daddy and Miss Emily dancing from the light of the fireplace and the Christmas tree. He smiled when Daddy leaned down to kiss Miss Emily. Santa hadn't even come yet, but it looked like he was already going to get what he'd most wanted for Christmas this year. He smiled as he turned and hopped into bed. After all Santa wouldn't come until he was asleep. He sure hoped Santa enjoyed the cookies.


Cinnamon Stars

Ingredients

2 2/3 cups finely ground almonds
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/3 cup egg whites
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 3/4 teaspoons lemon juice

Directions

Stir together the almonds, cinnamon, and lemon zest until combined.

Beat the egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. Slowly sift in the confectioner's sugar, continuing to beat until the mixture is stiff. Set aside 1/3 cup of the egg white mixture for the glaze. Fold in the almond mixture.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (170 degrees C). Line the cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Roll the dough to 1/4 inch thickness on a surface that has been sprinkled with confectioners' sugar. Using a 2 1/2-inch star cookie cutter, cut out the cookies and place them on the cookie sheets.

To make the glaze, add the lemon juice to the reserved egg white mixture, stirring until smooth. Brush the tops of the cookies lightly with the glaze. (If the glaze starts to thicken, add a few more drops of lemon juice.)

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. When done, they will be light brown and soft in the center. Remove and cool on wire racks.


May Santa enjoy your cookies ;)