Author's Note: This story is for Buka2000 for the Christmas Gift Fic Exchange over on Chit Chat on Author's Corner. Buka2000's prompts were Deck the Halls; eggnog; Christmas tree; snow. I hope you all enjoy and thank you for reading!
It was almost midnight on Christmas Eve and Spencer Reid couldn't sleep so he sat staring at the Christmas tree. It was a massive Douglas Fir, standing almost eight feet tall and decorated with multicolored lights and balls. Apparently, that was a tradition for the Morgan family. For the first time in over twenty years Spencer had helped decorate a tree. When he was a child and had done it with his father it was a solemn affair, but with Derek it had been fun. He put on carols and Morgan had even convinced him to sing Deck the Halls with him. He felt stupid but his older friend had insisted so Reid gave in and sang with him. Reid sipped his spiked eggnog and thought about how he came to be sitting on Morgan's couch on Christmas Eve.
Reid walked into the bullpen at seven oh five on December twenty second. He dropped his messenger bag beside his desk chair and preceded into the break room for his first cup of coffee, at the office, he had already had two large mugs at home. He poured the black liquid into his regular mug and dumped in some creamer and sugar. He took a sip, smiled slightly then went to his desk to start his stack of files. Hotch was already in his office. JJ may or may not be in yet, Rossi would saunter in at five after nine, unless they were called for a case and he had to come in early. Morgan would be in his office by eight. Prentiss would show up around eight as well and Garcia was probably in her lair already. Reid looked around the empty bullpen. He allowed his eyes to linger on Prentiss' desk as he felt the hurt run through him again. He forced all emotions from him as he took his seat and buried himself in paperwork, most of it someone else's.
Reid looked up when he heard the voices of Morgan and Prentiss. They were talking lightly as they entered the bullpen. Reid went back to his stack of paperwork with the niggling sensation of foreboding nagging him. Reid absently mindedly returned their greetings as he filled out the forms in front of him. That was how he spent the rest of his morning. He got up a few time to fill his mug with coffee, but each time he returned to his desk and started working again. By noon they hadn't gotten a new case yet so when everyone was talking about getting lunch Reid turned down their offer to get Chinese with them.
"Kid, you okay?" Morgan asked as he came over and propped a hip on his desk.
Reid looked up at the dark man and offered a slight smile.
"Yeah, Morgan," he said. "I'm fine. I'm just going to grab something quickly and walk around for a bit. I need to make a phone call – I'm fine Morgan. Go, enjoy lunch."
Morgan looked at him closely for several minutes before he nodded.
"Okay," he said quietly. "But Pretty Boy, you know you can talk to me if something is wrong, right?"
Reid smiled at his friend as he commented "yes, I do. Now go."
Reid watched as they left to go get lunch. Reid offered a smile when Morgan looked at him over his shoulder before hurrying to catch up to the others.
Reid slowly got up from his desk, suddenly feeling old. He stretched the kinks out of his back before stooping to gather up his messenger bag. He slung it over his shoulder and left the building. He stopped at a deli, ordered a bowl of soup to go and left the store happily sipping his soup. He was about half way done with it when his cell phone rang. He dug it out of his dark brown corduroy pants pocket and answered it. His face drained of color before he dropped his bowl; thick, creamy tomato soup spilled over the concrete sidewalk. He didn't bother to pick it up as he began hurrying back to work. He listened to the person on the other end of the phone for a few more seconds before he hung up. He looked at the small device that had just been used to give him devastating news before throwing it with all his strength against the brick wall he was walking by. The little piece of technology didn't stand a chance against the unforgiving bricks. It fell to the brick walkway in pieces. Reid bent down and scooped them up, still having the presence of mind to know that he didn't want anyone getting ahold of his SIM card.
Reid was sitting at his desk, head in hands when the rest of the team arrived almost twenty minutes later. Reid looked up at his surprised colleagues and friends and met Hotch's dark eyes.
"I need to talk to you," he said softly.
Reid stood when Hotch nodded and motioned him to follow him. The two men entered the office and his boss told him to have a seat. Reid took the offered seat and fidgeted slightly for a minute before settling back against the chair.
"What's going on Reid?" Hotch asked quietly, looking at him intently.
Reid shifted again. He looked at his hands that were clenched on the arms of the chair and he forced himself to relax a bit. When he started speaking his voice was devoid of any emotion.
"Almost two weeks ago my mom was taken to a hospital in Vegas with pneumonia. She had started to get better, but then she got a chest infection on top of that. She-" Reid's voice broke so he cleared his throat and finished in a slightly shaking voice. "She died this morning."
"Reid, I'm sorry," Hotch replied as gently as he could. "What do you need me to do?"
Reid looked up in surprise to see compassion in his boss's eyes. He offered a forced smile.
"I-uh- I need some time off. I have to, well, you know what I have to do." Reid said sadly. "I made a call to the funeral home before you guys got back. They won't be able to hold the service until the twenty eighth. They are leaving town tonight for their own Christmas celebrations. I told them that was fine. I didn't want to bury her on Christmas. I'll get a flight out to Vegas on the twenty sixth."
"We'll all be going with you," Hotch announced after a second. "I'll get Jess to keep Jack and I'll come out. I'm sure everyone else will want to come as well."
Reid looked at him in shock. He shook his shaggy head as he struggled for words.
"No. Hotch that's not necessary. JJ is going to see her parents with Henry and Will. Prentiss is seeing her Mother, Rossi has plans with some old Marine buddies at his cabin, Garcia is seeing some friends, you have Jack. Morgan and I were the only two who didn't have plans."
"I know he invited you to spend Christmas with him," Hotch said gently.
Reid just nodded.
Reid pulled himself out of his memories to take another sip of the rum laced eggnog. He stood, went to the kitchen and added another splash of rum. Now, days later, Reid was still in slight shock over the team's reaction. He had known they cared but this… He had never expected this. He took another sip as he allowed the memory to swamp him.
Hotch herded him out of his office and into the round table room; calling for the team as they went. Read was sitting on the far side of the table, head once again cradled in his hands.
"What's going on Pretty Boy?" Morgan asked in concern.
Reid looked up and offered him a weak smile before resuming his previous position as he ignored the other questions and looks being sent his way. He was trying to figure out what to say when Hotch took charge.
"Everyone sit down," he said firmly.
The team was slow to take their seats.
"What's going on Aaron?" Rossi asked looking at their youngest, concern clear in his eyes.
"Reid?" Hotch asked quietly.
Reid tried to speak but after several failed attempts he just shook his head. He scrubbed his hands over his face before looking away from all of them. He listened with only half an ear while Hotch explained what was going on to the shocked and saddened team.
When Hotch was done explaining JJ and Garcia immediately got up to hug him. He tried to smile at them but he didn't like being touched on good days. Thankfully, JJ seemed to sense this and she pulled back, taking Garcia with her. Rossi was the next to speak.
"I'm so sorry Reid. I will of course be going out to Vegas with you. Let me know if there is anything I can do." Rossi said compassion clear in his voice.
"Thank you Rossi. The arrangements have been taken care of already. All I really have to do is inform a handful of people," Reid explained.
"Give us a list Pretty Boy and we will take care of that," Morgan said softly. "There is no reason you have to."
Reid looked up at his friend in surprise. He forced a smile that was slightly more genuine as he said quietly "thank you. I may take you up on that."
"There is no may Kid. The only call you are going to make is to your dad. The rest of us will handle anyone else you want informed."
"He's right, Reid," Prentiss chimed in. "We can handle everyone else. You just talk to your dad."
With a sigh Reid gave in and nodded.
The rest of the day passed with the team taking three to four people each and calling them to inform them of Diana Reid's passing. Hotch talked to Strauss to clear their time off. She agreed and told Hotch to pass along her condolences. Most of the team wanted to cancel their plans to stay close in case Reid needed them. Reid refused, telling them to go spend Christmas however they had planned to. When they were getting ready to refuse again Morgan stepped in and told them that Reid was spending the holiday with him. Rossi offered to bring Reid with him as did Hotch, JJ, Garcia and Prentiss. Reid thanked them but politely refused them all. He tried to get out of spending it with Morgan but the man wouldn't hear of it. At the end of the day he told Reid he was taking him to his apartment so he could get a bag for the week. Reid tried to argue but in the end Morgan wore him down.
Spencer forced those thoughts away as he wandered back out to the living room. The lights on the tree were twinkling gently at him in cheerful colors. Loneliness filled Spencer bringing tears to his brown eyes. He forced them away as he took another sip of the holiday drink in his hand. He could feel the alcohol taking hold and he knew he should stop drinking after this glass. He went over to the stereo in the corner of the room and turned it on. Deck the Halls started playing softly, filling the room with warmth and life. Spencer smiled as he thought about the day before.
It was early in the morning on the twenty third and Reid was in Morgan's kitchen making breakfast for them when Morgan walked in.
"What are you making Kid?" The older man asked as he pulled out the orange juice from the fridge and poured a glass.
"I'm making French toast. Is that okay with you?" Reid replied quietly.
Morgan looked at him intently for a minute before he smile and said "that's great Reid. It smells amazing!"
Reid smiled shyly as he mumbled a "thank you."
Morgan laughed warmly then asked if there was anything he could do to help. Reid said there wasn't, that he was almost done so Morgan gathered plates and sliver wear and set the table. Ten minutes later the two were digging into their breakfasts. They ate in comfortable silence for several minutes before Morgan announced "we've got a lot to do today Pretty Boy."
Reid looked up, his brown eyes questioning as he said "we do?"
"Yup, we need to go get a tree," Morgan explained gently with a small smile. "I'm not going to let you not celebrate. I know you may not want to and I know it hurts but I'm not going to let you sit around and drown in that pain. I'm just not. I hope I can distract you for a bit. You deserve to have a good holiday."
Reid thought about it for a little while before he smiled back tentatively.
"Okay," he said softly. "We'll try. I know she wouldn't want me to sit around and be sad, so…" he sighed before finishing stronger "lets go get a tree!"
It took almost forty five minutes before they were ready to go but finally they piled into Morgan's SUV and set off for the nearest tree lot. They found one that advertised all trees for thirty five dollars. Morgan pulled into the makeshift parking lot and they got out.
"Okay, Kid. Lets go find a tree." Morgan said with a smile at the younger man.
Reid returned it before the set off to find a tree. He wandered through the aisles of precut trees, gently touching branches. He had been walking for close to twenty minutes when he saw the perfect tree. As he was making his way over to the tall, full Douglas Fir it began to snow. Reid smiled as he pulled his phone from his pocket and texted Morgan.
When Morgan found him he smiled at Reid. He was standing beside this beautiful tree, snow specking his dark hair and smiling for the first time since he got the phone call about his mom. Reid looked up at his friend and said softly "it's snowing."
Morgan just grinned at the younger man, knowing how much his best friend loved snow. Looking around the tree lot he smiled as he thought he understood the magic his friend saw in the white fluffy stuff. They carried the tree to the front of the lot, had it wrapped in netting, paid and strapped it to the top of the SUV. They drove back to Morgan's and got the tree inside and set up easily. They stood back and looked at the huge tree standing in front of the windows.
"Okay Pretty Boy, lets get this tree decorated!" Morgan said, smiling.
Reid returned the smile as Morgan got a box of lights and ornaments. For the first half hour they worked in silence, talking to each other every now and then. Finally Morgan put a CD in the player and hit play. Christmas music filled the air. Reid smiled as the heard the familiar lyrics of Winter Wonderland. Morgan sang along as he hung balls on the tree. The next three songs he tried to get Reid to sing with him. When Deck the Halls started to play Reid finally gave in and sang along with his friend.
"Deck the halls with boughs of holly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Tis the season to be jolly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la." Morgan and Reid sang loudly and not very well.
Morgan started dancing around the room as the crooned out the next verse solo.
"Don we now our gay apparel,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la.
Troll the ancient Yule tide carol,
Fa la la la la, la la la la. Take it Kid!"
Reid laughed before singing "See the blazing Yule before us,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Strike the harp and join the chorus.
Fa la la la la, la la la la."
They sang the next three verses together, Morgan still dancing around the room. When the song was done the collapsed onto the couch, laughing. It took a few minutes but when Reid calmed down he looked at his friend and said a heartfelt "thank you."
Morgan threw his arm around Reid and pulled him close.
Spencer smiled as he pulled himself out of his memory. They had made the eggnog, lit a fire in his fireplace and sat, listening to Christmas music and looking at the tree for hours after they were done. Morgan told him they were going to make a few cookies tomorrow and just relax. It sounded good to Spencer. He was tired in a way that had nothing to do with being sleepy. Spencer settled into Morgan's comfortable couch and closed his eyes. Yes, his Mother's death still hurt, but as the snow fell gently outside, the lights on the tree twinkled brightly at him and the warmth from being with someone who love him and he loved in return, a sense of peace settled over him.
To everyone who celebrates Merry Christmas! I hope you have one filled with warmth, love, family and friendship. God bless!