Title was borrowed from the film of the same name, but this has nothing to do with the movie. It was, however, loosely inspired by Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Rated T for naughty language.
Emily rolled over, not sure what had woken her up, but determined to ignore it. Getting to sleep had been a bitch since Doyle's prison break almost a year ago, nearly impossible while she was stuck in Paris, and only marginally easier since returning. Though part of her wanted to snatch her gun and get on the defensive, most of her was so tired of being scared and watching her back that she didn't even care. It was just Sergio anyway.
Then someone cleared his throat.
Emily flew up, hand grabbing her Glock from under her pillow, and pointing it at the figure shrouded in the darkness of her bedroom. "Make a move, and I'll put a bullet in you."
"Finally, thought you'd never wake up." A familiar voice spoke in a cocky British accent.
She threw the light on and stared in confusion at the figure. "Mick?"
"Hello, darling." He smiled, uncrossing his arms.
"What the hell are you doing in my bedroom? How the hell did you get into my apartment?" She kept her gun trained on him, experience telling her that just because someone saved your life once, didn't mean they wouldn't take it.
"Mind lowering that? You seem a little twitchy."
"I'm twitchy, because a strange man is in my bedroom. Now talk."
"Strange? I take a bit of offense to that."
Emily rolled her eyes. "Just talk."
He sighed. "You've been having a rough holiday season, feeling a bit more Scrooge than Santa Claus, right?"
Emily was at a loss. "I've never been fond of the holidays. What's your point?"
"You're actually considering worming your way out of the team Christmas party. Everything's still a bit awkward. Still doesn't feel quite right. Might just be easier to sit this one out, let them all celebrate while you stay here and wallow in self-pity."
She glared at the Brit. "I've actually been thinking of maybe visiting my mother for Christmas. I haven't seen her since I was—"
"Resurrected? You can say it."
"Since I've been back," she said instead.
Mick rolled his eyes. "We both know that's bullshit. That's an excuse you're considering telling them, not something you actually want to do."
Emily bit her lip, then snapped at him. "You know, it's none of your goddamn business, and you still haven't told me what the hell you're doing in my bedroom!"
"I was getting there," he said, "if you'll please, put the weapon down. I didn't travel all this way to be harassed with the business end of your Glock."
"Then you shouldn't have broken into my apartment and shown up in my bedroom like some creepy-ass stalker."
Mick stuck his hands on his hips. "You're impossible you know that? I'm here to help you deal with some of your baggage, the least you could do is say thanks."
"I don't need help with my baggage."
"Darling, you'd need a train of those hotel luggage carts for all the shit you're carrying around." Emily was about to object, when he snapped his fingers, and suddenly the whole world seemed to change.
"What the fuck?" Her grip on the Glock tightened, and her body tensed as she surveyed the area, her heart pumping faster as she realized where she was standing.
Ireland. A town outside Newry, where Ian Doyle had kept a house for when he wanted to return to his mother country. She was staring at that very house right now. It was a beautiful home, built in the early 1800s, all stone exterior, and sitting on 20 acres of land. Snow was falling, adding to what had already blanketed the landscape, and the look of it was so breath-taking, Emily was frozen on the spot.
"First stop," Mick's voice startled her, and Emily whipped around to face him.
"How the hell did you do that? Why are we here? Am I hallucinating?"
He put up a hand. "First put that gun away, it won't do you any good here. Second, no, you aren't hallucinating. As for the how and why, I've been trying to tell you, I'm here to help you figure yourself out, and find your Christmas spirit."
Emily opened her mouth, but was at a loss for what to say. "What?"
Mick rolled her eyes. "Just come with me."
He went to grab her hand to lead her toward the house, but she pulled away. "Are you fucking nuts? Whoever lives there now might be sympathetic to Doyle, they'll shoot me on sight."
"Well, fortunately for you, it isn't 2011 here. It's 2003. Ian Doyle still lives here, he's spending Christmas in Ireland, like he does every Christmas. It's his home, and he couldn't imagine celebrating the birth of Christ anywhere else."
She stared at him in disbelief. "How do you know all that?"
Mick raised a hand, and tapped her temple. "It's all in here."
"Because, I'm just the face you picked for this little project. It's all from in your head."
"So I am hallucinating?"
Once again, the Brit rolled his eyes. "Do you not watch Christmas movies? Seriously, woman, figure it out already."
He walked off toward the house, shaking his head, and for a reason she couldn't yet fathom, Emily followed him. Her whole body was filled with trepidation at the thought of entering that house, but she didn't have much time to think as Mick took her hand and they moved again, to be in the kitchen of the house. There were two figures at the counter, one was herself eight years younger, and the other, the beautiful little boy she'd given so much to protect.
Declan giggled as he stirred the pancake mix, and Emily smiled at him. She opened a bag of frozen blueberries, and shook a generous amount into the batter. Allowing him to keep a hand on the spoon, she stirred the berries into the mix, and decided she was pleased with the consistency. A third figure appeared, still tired from the night before, but smiling at the scene nonetheless.
"Hey," she greeted. "Merry Christmas."
Ian pressed a long kiss to her mouth, and then ruffled Declan's curly blonde hair. "Merry Christmas. I see you're making breakfast."
"I thought it would be a nice surprise, and I didn't want Declan to wake you yet." They'd both gotten in late last nigh after an unexpectedly complicated weapons deal, and stayed up even later making love. She was still exhausted herself, but she was completely incapable of resisting Declan's smile.
"Can I open presents, Papa?"
Ian smiled at the boy. "After breakfast, Declan."
She finished the pancakes while Ian sipped his coffee and Declan somewhat shyly identified objects in the kitchen with their French names. Doyle wanted his son speaking multiple languages, and the boy wanted to please him.
After breakfast they retreated to the living room, where Ian nodded to Declan that he could start with gifts. Emily sat tiredly on the sofa, and snuggled into Ian when he sat beside her, his arm draped over her. They watched Declan tear through the presents, giggling madly, and thanking his father after each one.
Ian raised one hand, and motioning his son to a box toward the back of the tree. The little boy grinned widely, shuffled over to the box, lifted it carefully to his arms, and brought it over to his father. Ian took it and handed it to her. Emily glanced at him in surprise, and he just smiled, his lips turned up in a way that said he was clearly enjoying himself.
Declan went back to his gifts while Emily pried the corners of the paper open, and lifted it off to reveal an small, hand-carved box. It was a beautiful dark wood, and delicate Celtic knot work ran over the sides and the lid, but not enough to overwhelm the box. Carved on the lid, and framed by knot work was a phrase in Gaelic, "Cuisle mo chroí".
"Ian, it's beautiful," she said, finally looking up from the box to meet his eyes. "I'm afraid my Gaelic isn't very good though."
He spoke the phrase aloud and said, "It's an endearment, means pulse of my heart."
Emily raised her hand to caress his face, and gave him a long look, before pressing her lips against his. He returned the kiss enthusiastically, but didn't let it last long with Declan only a few feet away. Instead, Emily wrapped her arms around him, resting her head on his. "Thank you," she said softly.
After a few moments, they returned to their previous position, Emily half resting against his chest, Ian's arm around her. Her head was tucked close to his collarbone, and her hand resting close to his heart. She felt happy and content, and it didn't hurt at all, because she was compartmentalizing it all so carefully. Ian pressed a kiss to her head, and gently stroked her hair. For a sociopath, he was a surprisingly affectionate man, and it was his gentle attention that lulled her to sleep.
Emily turned away from the warm, happy scene, emotion stuck in her throat like a golf ball. "What the hell is the point of all this?"
"That miserable look in your eyes is the point." He sighed at her glare. "Our first stop was your happiest Christmas memory, and I hate to tell you this, Darling, but this being your happiest, that's quite a bit pathetic."
"You're an asshole."
"I'm honest, which right now, you need desperately." He got closer to her, in her face. "This wasn't real, Emily. None of it. You weren't that child's mother, and you never could have been. Lauren Reynolds was a lie, and so was the happiest Christmas memory you have, what does that tell you?"
"I'm pathetic, I get it. Can we just move on?" She refused to look back at the scene; it hurt too much now.
"No, you haven't grasped the meaning yet. You're still holding onto this fantasy you had with him, you have been all these years, and you need to let it go."
"I'm not holding onto a damn thing," she spoke through gritted teeth.
"You've kept yourself closed off all this time, even from your beloved team. Think about it, Emily. How much do they really know about you? How much have you confided in them? Have you told any of them that you actually loved him? Have you even admitted that to yourself?" Rawlins was looking aggravated now, demanding answers loudly.
"Can we please just go?"
He released a put-upon sigh. "Fine."
Then he snapped his fingers, and they were gone again. This time they were farther in the past, early eighties she was betting, maybe even the late seventies. Then she realized, she knew this house well, the orangish-off white walls, the horrible flower prints, and the constant smell of potpourri. The rental home in Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C. They were in the States for her mother's work, but not for long. Before the New Year they'd be in Lebanon, and Emily would feel like an alien on another planet.
She sat on the carpet, her knees drawn up to her chest, and a pout pushing her pink lips together. She'd gotten a butt-load of gifts, all selected carefully by the nanny, and given a cursory screening by her mother. She didn't care much about the presents, and in testament to that, she wasn't touching any of them. Her parents had already disappeared to take care of business matters, and she was left alone once again.
Emily Prentiss was the only child that dragged out Christmas morning gift opening as long as possible. Her parents had the decency not to leave until she'd finished opening all of them, but after she finished they'd be gone. So, Emily very carefully worked the wrapping off each and every gift, showing care that ten year-olds don't ordinarily possess. She'd started off hugging them after opening each one, but her mother had told her to finish opening the gifts and just hug them at the end.
Her eyes drifted to the pile on the floor, surveying the items that any other child would be envious of, but feeling none of the joy a little girl should feel on Christmas. She picked up a doll, glanced at it and set it back on the pile. Then she released her legs, stood up, and headed for her bedroom. Quietly, Emily closed the door, and crawled onto her bed. She curled up with her stuffed bunny, and lay there with dry eyes. There was no point to crying.
If anyone even noticed they'd just tell her to her stop. In a few days, they'd leave for Lebanon, most of the pile of gifts would remain at the rental house, and the Ambassador would comment on how her daughter was ungrateful and impossible to please.
Emily sighed. "So, I was a pathetic kid too, is that the point of this?"
"Bit thick-skulled, aren't you?" He asked. "This isn't about you being pathetic as a child or an adult, it's about your issues with people. Specifically, trusting people."
"You sound like Morgan."
"Imagine that, that bloke isn't just a pretty face. He's got some brains too."
She scowled. "Backhanded complements about my friends are not the way to win me over."
"Well, perhaps then we best be moving on to our next destination."
"Oh, you're going to drag me around some more? No thanks, I think I'd like to shake off this delusion now." She began to look around, for what she didn't know. An escape hatch maybe? The rabbit hole she'd apparently fallen down?
"There's nothing to shake off, Darling. Afraid your stuck with me."
Emily crossed her arms over her chest. "Great…I'm thinking that analogy between you and a virus was maybe a bit too apt."
"Well, at least I'm not mental."
"Hey—" Emily didn't get to finish her objection, because he snapped his fingers, and they were suddenly in a dingy hotel room.
1999. She recognized the dark, musty drapes, the open bottle of whiskey on the table, and the bed that got use she would be far too embarrassed to ever admit. Then there was her own hunched figure, head in her hands, a plastic cup beside her with a small puddle of amber liquid left at the bottom. She was thinner, not quite gaunt, but not far off, and the dark circles and dead eyes said she hadn't slept well in a long time.
She hadn't been in the spy business six years, and already it had taken a toll on her. She should be grateful she knew that, she'd proved herself early, gotten the assignments everyone else wanted, made a name for herself, but it came at a cost. Sure, her skills were in demand, but how the fuck many times had she actually been called by her own name in the last six years? Far too few. And today…today had been a turning point.
If it was good or bad she couldn't tell, all she knew was that something had changed.
He'd trafficked in children. The son of a bitch had abducted innocent, sweet little babies, and sold them for sex. He moved them all across the world, so no one would ever find these kids. They could never rescue them all. Of course, that wasn't JTF's problem anyway, the paper-pushers at Interpol would lead the way on that, partnered with police agencies all over the world. JTF just had to catch him. They wouldn't even have been involved, except that he used the money he made from the kids to fund terrorism. JTF-12 to the rescue.
They'd profiled him, discovered some things that made her truly disgusted by the man. He tested a lot of his own merchandise, raping the children before selling them. Mostly the girls. They'd profiled him as a psychopath, and a pedophile, preference females, and non-exclusive. He liked adult females too. And that was their in. He had a weakness for beautiful brunettes. Clyde had smirked at her when Sean made that observation. She'd wanted to punch him.
Yet, she'd still found herself in a hotel room with child rapist pawing at her body. He'd smelled of sweat, cheap cigars and blood, though she may have imagined the last. She'd been down to her underwear when he put down his gun, and Sean and Tsia nearly broke down the door in their enthusiasm. It had happened fast then. He'd grabbed his gun, and Emily had grabbed hers from under the pillow. Before anyone could think, she'd fired point blank into his throat.
The shower of blood that had followed was like something out of a horror movie.
A knock startled Emily from her thoughts. Grabbing her weapon (there would be no formal incident report, no review of the shooting, no disciplinary hearing, just a footnote in a file), she moved toward the door, glanced through the peephole, and undid the locks. Clyde walked in, glancing at the open bottle and glass, before grabbing another plastic cup, and sitting across from her. He poured more into her cup, and a generous amount into his own, before raising his glass.
"Joyeux Noël." He said, holding his glass for a toast.
Emily opened her mouth. "What?"
"It's Christmas, Em. Did you seriously not know?"
She shook her head. "No, I didn't realize. Don't pay much attention to the date I guess."
"Why? I'm still here, drinking away…everything. That date doesn't change that."
He raised an eyebrow. "You did good today. It would have been nice to get him alive, try and get locations out of him, but we both know the odds of that are very low. He's just as good dead."
She laughed through her nose, knocked back her whiskey and poured more. "Do you know what I did Christmas 1999, Clyde?"
"Is that a trick question?
"I seduced a man, allowed a man who rapes little kids put his hands all over me. Then I shot him in the throat and took a bath in his goddamn blood. Santa isn't coming this way, Clyde. Hell, God isn't fucking coming this way."
Clyde stared at her, and grabbed her hand. "That man that rapes children, that sells children so other men can rape them? He'll never be able to hurt another child again because of you."
Again, Emily gulped down her whiskey and poured more. She was starting to feel a little light in the head, and a little bit warm. "Hell is empty, and all the devils are here."
"You can quote Shakespeare. You're all my mother told me to look for in a woman."
She met his eyes. "What do you do when you aren't sure that you aren't one of the devils?"
Clyde stared into her eyes, his blue eyes searching hers. Then he removed her hand from the plastic cup, and held both of hers in his own. "You Emily Prentss are not a devil."
She would never be sure if it was the reassurance in his words, or the care she saw in his eyes, but Emily dropped all pretense of control and sanity, and grabbed his face, pressing her lips against his. Clyde seemed to fight it at first, but soon gave up. Before she had the time to gain her senses back and remember that he was her partner, their clothes were on the floor and he was inside her.
Emily turned away from the image of herself over ten years ago. "I think we already covered that I make piss poor decisions in this particular area."
"You buggering your partner isn't the point of this memory."
"Oh? I assumed that if it was the seducing a kiddie rapist and putting a hole in his throat part, you'd have shown me that."
Mick half smirked. "Actually I applaud you for the latter."
"Uh, thanks, I guess," she said. He was silent. Emily glanced around awkwardly, wondering what the hell she was supposed to do now. "So…are you going to fill me in here then?"
Mick stared at her. "No," he finally said, and snapped his fingers again.
This time they were in a bank, an American bank, and by the décor she'd estimate they gone back in time again, to the eighties. Emily turned to Mick, her face contorted in confusion, and held up an empty hand in question. He nodded toward the bank entrance. Emily scoffed. "What? Is it going to be robbed?"
Mick turned to her with a scowl. With a huff, Emily crossed her arms, and faced the entrance. She didn't have to wait long.
A girl came in, not more than fifteen or sixteen, with dark brown hair, and dark, wounded eyes. In her hand was a gift bag, and her whole demeanor was tense and nervous. Emily's whole body went as tense as the young girl's.
"I don't need to see this," she said.
Mick looked at her. "Yes, you do."
Her eyes darted around the bank as she walked, and she carried herself like she was expecting someone to call her out on her actions any minute. No one did. She walked toward the large Christmas tree, and set the gift bag amongst the others. The little tag on the side was identical to the others, plucked from the tree two weeks ago. 'Boy, 5 months.' That was all there was to designate that her small offering went to a mother that couldn't afford to give her infant son a Christmas. Each gift had a tag for a child too destitute to get a visit from Santa.
Emily, only fifteen, had come back to the states a few weeks ago on school leave, and been left with her father's family while her parents tended to business matters. The Ambassador was still overseas dealing with business matters, and wouldn't be around for Christmas. Her parents didn't know that less than a month ago, their baby girl had walked into an Italian medical clinic, and had a doctor remove a tiny five week-old fetus from her womb. They didn't know that she'd had awful cramps and bleeding for days afterward. They didn't know that when the plus sign came up on the plastic stick, she'd considered taking her own life as a viable option.
Mathew wouldn't hear of it. He'd been hell bent on finding a doctor and had done just that. She was so confused and scared, foundering in an ocean of emotional pain, and so close to slipping beneath the tide forever. So, when she'd come to the bank with her grandfather and seen the tree full of tags for needy children, she'd snatched one for an infant. She'd gone to the stores she could walk to, and used the money her parents gave her to get the five month-old baby boy some clothes, a stuffed animal and a teething ring.
If she'd carried and birthed her child, he or she would have been five months old next Christmas. Emily tried to imagine celebrating Christmas with her five month-old baby in her arms. She rested a hand on her lower abdomen, where her baby had been. How had she let this happen? How had she been so stupid? Emily ran her fingers over the bag, wiped the tears from her eyes, and turned her heel and left. She left a gift for the child that would never live, and went back to her grandparents' house to pretend she wasn't dying inside.
She was pretty good at that already.
Emily felt like her blood was filled with lead, the weight of it dragging her down. She remembered this moment as clear as if it had been yesterday. She remembered the fear and guilt that had been churning through her stomach, and feeling so messed up she'd gotten sloshed on whiskey stolen from her grandparents.
She still dropped off a gift for a child every Christmas.
Swallowing down her emotions, she slowly turned to glare at Mick. "Are you going to tell me what the point of this was?"
"You haven't forgiven yourself for any of this, Emily. Just like you haven't forgiven yourself for Mathew's death, or for bringing Ian Doyle into your friends lives. And you damn sure haven't forgiven yourself for the pain they went through the seven months you were gone." He was staring into her eyes, his own tired and sympathetic. "You've convinced yourself that you don't deserve forgiveness, that you're some sort of toxin, one of the devils, to use your words."
Emily looked away and inhaled, pushed the tears away. "I don't know what the hell you want from me."
"How about you drop some of the baggage you've been carrying around with you?"
She gave a short laugh. "Just like that? It's that easy, just do it on command?"
"Yeah, I think so. Let's start with that second trip, shall we? You had a miserable childhood with no stability, no friends, and parents who didn't give a shit. Get over it. You aren't the only one. It certainly doesn't mean you have to remain closed off your whole life," Mick said.
"I thought I had. Not seeing them doesn't really bother me anymore."
"That's because you shut down. You didn't heal. The wound doesn't bleed anymore, because the heart shut down."
Emily frowned. "Did you just imply that I'm heartless?"
He inhaled and looked annoyed. "No, I didn't. It was just a metaphor." She didn't comment immediately, so he spoke again. "You found yourself a new family that adores you and wants to be let in, some more desperately than others. You don't have to completely dismantle the fortress you build, just keep the drawbridge lowered so they can get in when they please."
"I suppose I should be grateful these metaphors don't involve flowers, babies and Kumbaya?"
"There's that biting wit I so adore." He smiled and batted his eyes.
But the moment passed, and he quickly turned serious again. "You may have done some things you weren't terribly proud of when you were CIA and Interpol, but it's done, and you can't take any of it back. What's more, you saved people with your actions. You have nothing to be ashamed about, and yet you have so much self-loathing."
"You know what, Mick, until you've rolled around half-naked with a child molester, then shot him at point-blank range and tasted his damn blood, don't tell me what I should feel."
He sighed. "Listen, regardless of what you may think of me, I do understand baggage. And yours isn't that much of a mystery. Your folks made you feel worthless, and that's shitty. The boy you lost your virginity too, threw you away like yesterday's newspaper, and left you to deal with an unwanted pregnancy all by yourself. You still hate yourself for being so weak and desperate for love and friendship that you had sex with him. Just as you hate yourself for your weakness with Ian Doyle. All that and some of your less than savory activities while with the CIA and Interpol, including the escapade with the child rapist, have made you wonder which side you're really on. I know that as much as you love your BAU team, you often wonder if you deserve to be with them. They're good people, innocent people, and sometimes you feel like poison with all your secrets and darkness and baggage."
She gnawed on a fingernail. "Maybe you do know me better than I thought."
"Yes, well I've got a newsflash for you, darling. You aren't the antichrist. You don't deserve be shunned by all of humanity. Not because you shagged a boy when you were a teen, not because you fell in love with a terrorist, and not because you seduced a child rapist in order to stop him. So, you've made mistakes and done things you aren't entirely proud of? Welcome to humanity, we're all fucked up in our own unique and special ways. No one expects you to be perfect, Emily. Regardless of what your parents set you up to believe when you were a child." He was speaking loudly and gesturing wildly with his arms.
"Okay, okay, I need to get over it, I get the picture." She held up a hand, hoping to stem the tide coming from his mouth.
"Climb off the cross, toss away the crown of thorns, and rejoin the rest of us mere mortals. Let the people who already love you, love you, scars, secrets and all, and consider opening yourself up to a nice, healthy romantic relationship."
Emily was about to ask with who, but Mick snapped his fingers, and suddenly, everything changed. She jumped with a start, fighting off the blankets in her own bed, and staring around in awe.
There was no bank and no Mick Rawson, just a dark empty bedroom and an annoyed cat glaring at her for having been woken up. She was still for several seconds trying to process everything and failing.
Later that evening, Emily found herself on Rossi's doorstep with a bag hanging off one arm, and the other wrapped around a dish of Grougeres. Her grandfather had taught her how to make the French cheese puffs, though she rarely cooked anymore. Her bizarre dream had inspired her to share a piece of her childhood.
"Hey, are you going to ring the bell or just hang out here all night?" She turned to find Morgan beside her, carrying a bag of presents and a casserole dish.
She smiled. "Is that your potatoes?"
Morgan grinned widely. "Yes, ma'am. I promised Garcia I'd make some."
Derek Morgan made the best scalloped potatoes she'd ever tasted. His mother's recipe, one of the many she'd insist he learn if he was going to live by himself, according to Morgan. Her baby boy was not going to starve on her watch.
"Back to my question," he said, "Are you going to hit the bell?"
"Oh right." She pressed the buzzer, and braced herself for the festivities.
Morgan nudged her. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, it's just been a little tense with everyone since…you know."
He nodded. "Healing takes time. We're all getting there, however slowly, you too."
She went to open her mouth, but the door flew open to reveal a buoyant and probably tipsy Garcia. "Hi! Come on in, Rossi's busy in the kitchen, he's finishing up the manicotti."
"I'll say, damn that smells good."
"Mmm," Emily agreed. "No wonder he had three wives."
They followed Garcia to the living room, which had everyone else already gathered and started on a couple of carafes of chilled eggnog, courtesy of Reid. Apparently, he'd consulted many sources to develop the best recipe for it, and it turned out a tad stronger than intended. Jack and Henry were playing on the floor, while the others sat gathered on the furniture, and it seemed that only Garcia was tipsy. At least so far.
Rossi appeared after only a few minutes, greeting them with hugs and a string of Italian only Emily could understand. They spent the next several hours laughing and eating until nearly bursting. After the meal they gathered in the living room, the boys tearing open their presents with squeals of delight and patient "Thank yous". She sat next to Garcia on the loveseat, the tipsy tech having taken her hand earlier and exclaimed that the best Christmas present in world was having her rise form the dead. This only seconds before wrapping her in a massive hug. Penelope was still holding her hand, and Emily found that she didn't mind so much. Morgan was behind them, leaning on the back of the loveseat, trying to tone down Garcia's innuendo (there were kids around after all), and occasionally leaning over and whispering something to make Emily laugh.
Reid suddenly drew her attention. "What were those cheese things you brought Emily?"
The genius had generously sampled his own eggnog, and at large helping of wine with dinner as well. Morgan already assured everyone he would be driving his young friend home. In the meantime, the booze had torpedoed his IQ, though it left his memory for statistics completely untouched.
"Grougeres," she said.
"French?" JJ asked.
Emily nodded. "Yeah, my grandfather taught me how to make them."
"The one with the Unabomber cabin in the Alps?"
She turned around to see Morgan's teasing expression. "It wasn't quite that uncivilized. He had a gas stove and oven, I think because he liked to cook. He refused to get a phone though. He said he didn't come up there to talk to people, and if they wanted to see him they could drag their asses up to his cabin. I loved it, it meant my mother couldn't work while she was with us."
"Did your family spend Christmases with him?"
"Not very often. My mother usually had a bunch of functions around the holidays. One Christmas though, my parents they had something to do…" Emily paused to think, and then shook her head. "I can't even remember what it was they were doing. But when I got out of school for winter break, we flew to France and my parents dropped me off at his cabin. It was just the two of us for Christmas that year, I uh, nine I think. On Christmas Eve, we made hot chocolate and went outside. He pulled me onto his lap, and wrapped a blanket around us, and then he pointed to the sky. He pointed out the constellations and told me the stories behind each of them."
"You didn't get to spend Christmas with your parents? That's sad." Garcia squeezed her hand.
Emily chuckled. "Are you kidding? I loved it."
"You didn't miss them?" JJ asked.
She shrugged. "They were hardly around anyway. There wasn't much to miss."
Emily smiled at the memory of her grandfather, and realized that that was her favorite Christmas.
That night as they began to shuffle out, Rossi grabbed her and pulled her aside. "I'm glad you came tonight," he said.
Her eyebrows rose. "You thought I wouldn't?"
He smiled. "I have been reading behavior for a very long time, my dear, and yours was telling me that you just want to run."
She offered a self-deprecating smile. "I thought about not coming."
The older man nodded with a smile, and pulled her into a tight hug. "You know Garcia was right, we all got what we wanted this year."
"Yeah, me too," she said.
As Emily drove home, she called Clyde and wished him a Merry Christmas. He was awake already, on a dull stakeout, and a little too happy for the distraction. She realized that she had missed his friendship more than she'd realized. It was so tainted from the Doyle fiasco that she'd ignored it for the last several years.
She even texted Christmas wishes to Mick Rawson, too chicken to call, because there was no way it wouldn't be awkward after her freaky dream.
That night when she slept, it wasn't of Mick that she dreamed, or Clyde, or the team, or even Ian Doyle or Declan. Her dreams were filled with her grandfather's rich voice, regaling her with lushly detailed stories of Orion and his hunting dogs.
So, I wrote the bulk of this last year, decided I hated it (and got stuck) then I found it this summer cleaning, decided I liked it, and pushed myself to finish it. Still not totally satisfied, but when am I ever satisfied? I have another X Mas story in the works (Prentiss/Morgan!), that I only came up with about a week ago, so it may take me until after Christmas to get it done. Depends on how this week goes.
Thank you for reading and reviews are always welcome. Happy Holidays (whichever you celebrate)!