DISCLAIMER: Criminal Minds and its characters are the property of CBS. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Written for P&P's 2008 Christmas Wishlist. Recipient: Lysachan. Thanks to Debbie for the quick read through.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

A La Perla Christmas
By Ann


Special Agent Emily Prentiss glanced down at her watch as she thrummed an unsharpened pencil against the surface of her desk, its smooth edge not missing a single adagio beat in her quest to check the time of day. Hotch should've returned from the Bureau's departmental meeting long ago, and she wondered what could possibly be keeping her boss.

"Hey Prentiss, either stop that or pick up the pace," said Morgan, peering across at his colleague. He offered a toothy grin. "It's Christmas - time to be more upbeat."

"Morgan's right," Reid piped up from his cubicle, "statistically speaking, the more upbeat the song, the more excited the listener is toward the season. That's why retailers go for the cheerful-sounding tunes." He nodded his head to indicate complete agreement with his assessment, although he was equally certain that it would take much more than just lively music to help the retailers draw in shoppers this Christmas season.

Halting her pencil in midair, Emily stared down at the writing instrument and then began to gently roll it between her fingers. She hadn't been aware that she'd been using it as a drumstick or that the beat she'd subconsciously chosen was steady and slow, which was in total contrast with the way she felt: tense, nervous, and edgy – her three constants each year whenever Christmas drew near. Placing the pencil back in its holder, she folded her fidgety hands together and spared another glance at the door that led into the offices of the B.A.U. What could possibly be keeping Hotch?

Morgan allowed his teasing mood to distract him from properly reading Emily's body language, seeing her fitful behavior as excitable anticipation of something she was actually looking forward to doing. If it had been a profiling test, he'd have failed miserably. "So Prentiss? What're you so nervous about? Got a hot date for Christmas Eve?"

"Who's got a hot date?" asked Garcia, waltzing across the room with a huge grin on her face and a pair of makeshift reindeer antlers on her head. "I'm feeling kind of horny myself."

Emily groaned aloud at the perfectly delivered line as the rest of the room erupted in laughter at the goddess of one-liners. She watched Garcia work the room with her jokes and infectious smile and couldn't help but smile as well. She wished she was as free of a spirit as the technical analyst, then perhaps she'd be asking to spend Christmas Day with the one she admired most instead of volunteering to work on the holiday – if Hotch ever showed up for her to ask.

"So, Emily, what're your plans?" Garcia plopped down in an empty chair next to her friend and straightened her antlers, her next words effectively destroying Emily's back-up plan to escape Christmas at the Prentisses. "Kevin and I are going skiing. I've got my pink snow gear packed and ready to go." She leaned in conspiratorially and grinned widely. "But I don't plan to step outside the cabin, if you get my drift."

Emily did indeed get her drift, although it had been some time since she'd shared a cabin with someone, or any other space for that matter, with the sole purpose of also sharing 'body heat' with that same someone. She envied Garcia and was just about to confess how truly jealous she was of the other woman's good fortune when a motion near the doorway stole her attention. Hotch had finally returned from his meeting.

"Have a good time, Garcia," said Emily hurriedly, as she pushed to her feet and tried not to appear as if she was running after her boss as he made his way to the stairway that led to his office. Garcia frowned at her friend's abrupt departure and watched as Emily started up the stairs behind Hotch. Something was definitely up besides the direction the dark haired agent was currently heading.

Arriving in the office just seconds behind her boss, Emily waited as patiently as she was able for Hotch to step behind his desk and take a seat. He'd barely felt the leather of his chair against crisp navy dress pants when his agent blurted out her reason for shadowing him so closely.

"Hotch, I want to volunteer to represent the B.A.U. on Christmas Day," said Emily, making every attempt to sound magnanimous in her offer instead of how she truly felt: panicked and desperate. The yearly practice of each section of the bureau 'donating' one member of their team to make a skeleton team on Christmas Day played right into her plans.

Hotch stared at his agent with his usual serious expression, the corners of his lips twitching a few times and then erupting in a full-blown smile. "I did it, Prentiss."

"Sir?" asked Emily, glancing briefly over her shoulder at the narrow landing just outside that served as a hallway for the upper-level offices, before turning her attention back to Hotch. If possible, he was smiling even broader than before, and Emily began to wonder if she was caught up in the end of some whacked-out Christmas tale. Hotch looked like a joyous Scrooge and a grinning Grinch rolled into one.

"I plead our case and won," said Hotch triumphantly, pleased with his performance – of what Emily had no clue – as he continued to smile stupidly. She'd never seen him so completely out of character.

Worrying at her lower lip, Emily could only stare. She wanted her old Hotch back, the one with the stoic expression and the no nonsense attitude, the one who would grant her request and then thank her for her dedication to the team, and the one who would send her away with barely a second glance. This new Hotch, of the demented-looking smile, scared the hell out of her.

"I presented a chart detailing our year: the number of cases, the miles and miles of flying time, and the personal toll several of the cases had taken on the team. I was able to get us a reprieve this year," he said, his lips stretched far and wide and well on their way to Joker status. "We don't have to participate in the skeleton team this year."

"But…" Emily started, only to be interrupted by the Grinch who stole Hotch.

"It's okay, Prentiss; you don't need to thank me. Think of it as a Christmas present to the entire team."

Emily opened her mouth to explain that she really didn't need a present this year, especially the one Hotch had chosen to give, but she snapped her teeth together and pasted on a grateful smile instead. He was so proud of himself.

"Um, thanks, Hotch," she said inching backward and gesturing over her shoulder. "I'll just go and tell the rest of the team." With one final nod at Ebeneezer Grinch, she fled the room as quickly as her feet would take her.

"You sure? Because I don't mind," said Emily to Jenkins from Counterterrorism as she stood just around the corner from the B.A.U. offices. He was the seventh agent she'd spoken to in the last three hours with her offer to take the Christmas Day shift off their hands. The first six had all been newbies, scared to incur their bosses' wrath should they not accept their assignment, but Jenkins was a seasoned veteran, and Emily's last, and best, hope.

"I'm positive, Prentiss. It's the in-laws turn to host Christmas dinner this year, and I'm looking forward to playing 'sandwich roulette' with the vending machines in our offices. My odds are infinitely better to avoid food poisoning here," he laughed, adding, "But I'm sure you won't have that problem. You're probably going to chow down on some good grub served on fancy schmancy china."

Thoughts of roasted turkey with the trimmings, candied yams, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, fruit, rolls, and every kind of pie imaginable, all prepared by her mother's cook, didn't do a thing for Emily. The delicious meal was always spoiled by the pretentiousness of the whole affair as her mother invited people who she'd never met or barely knew. She'd felt like an outsider in her own parents' home, and if truth be told, she always had. If only . . .


Emily started at hearing her name, even more so that the voice was female. She looked around the corridor with a confused expression and wondered where Jenkins had gone. A gentle touch on her forearm caused her to shiver.

"Hey, you okay?" asked JJ, rubbing the other woman's arm gently as she stepped closer, her nearness seeming to snap Emily out of her trance.

"Huh?" she said as if she was just noticing JJ for the first time, which was actually true - in solid, real-time form, that is. Her mind had already conjured up a rather lovely, dreamlike version as the typical Prentiss Christmas dinner had taken a sharp turn and morphed into a private one, shared only with JJ, in her mind. "Um, I was talking to Jenkins."

JJ made a quick show of glancing around the hallway for someone else, knowing perfectly well there hadn't been anyone except for Emily in the corridor when she'd walked up. The older agent had uncharacteristically looked out of sorts, lost in a world of worry, and JJ hadn't hesitated to hurry to her side, feeling an irrational need to do whatever was necessary to chase the blues away. It took several moments for Emily's reply to slowly sink in and take hold.

"Jenkins? Counterterrorism Jenkins?" asked JJ, wondering why the two agents would need to consult each other. There hadn't been any recent cases that had crossed jurisdictions between the separate departments, and she knew firsthand that there weren't any future ones either, at least not at the moment. And besides, Jenkins was married.

"Um, yeah," said Emily, nervously ducking her head to avoid eye contact, while her mind worked feverishly to come up with a plausible reason to have had a conversation with the man, other than just exchanging the usual passing in the hallway type of greeting.

Like Morgan earlier, JJ totally misinterpreted Emily's fidgety body language. "Jenkins? You're seeing Jenkins?" she asked in a mixed tone: disbelief tinged with a healthy dose of what sounded very much like jealousy. Had Emily been thinking straight, she'd have picked right up on the projected emotions, but her own very non-straight thoughts were so thick they clouded her judgment.

"I offered to take his Christmas shift," Emily replied, opting for the truth as JJ's light touch had penetrated her skin and shot an electrical current through her, causing the fine hairs on her arm to stand up on their ends. She feared her brain would soon short-circuit any moment, and there'd only be a black scorch mark on the tiled floor marking the spot where she once stood.

JJ frowned, having just heard some very good news from their boss, news she'd thought Emily had already been made aware of. "Why would you do that? Hotch worked so hard to ensure that none of us would have to work Christmas Day. You should see him; he's got a perpetual smile on his face."

"Yeah, I've seen," said Emily, blocking the image from her mind before it could settle down comfortably and take root. She'd only managed to rid that particular Hotch expression from her thoughts an hour ago and didn't want to ever see it again.

"So, why'd you volunteer? I thought you were looking forward to spending time with your family."

Emily snorted – a real live honest-to-God snort, earning a raised eyebrow from JJ. The lifting of an elegant blonde brow alerted Emily that her reaction hadn't been just her usual internal one, but that she'd let her guard down and had shown JJ her true feelings on the subject of Christmas with the Prentisses. Christmas with the Kranks sounded so much better.

"Um, sorry, must've been something I ate." Emily blurted out the first thing that had come into her mind and visibly flinched at the realization that she'd basically apologized for snorting like a pig because of bad food.

"The cafeteria's pork chops will do that to you. You should hear Reid after he's eaten their lamb stew," JJ quipped without blinking an eye. She watched with amusement as her words had the desired effect, eliciting a deep bellied laugh from her friend. She loved it when Emily laughed, her smile alone triggering hidden feelings JJ worked so hard to keep at bay. Pressing them back into their proper place, she returned her attention to Christmas. "You're going to be by yourself on Christmas Day?"

The smile left Emily's face as quickly as it had appeared, but she attempted to cover it with a shrug. "Yeah, but I'm used to it. My parents are often away at Christmastime." Without a legitimate excuse, it appeared she'd be spending Christmas with her parents after all. Although, she hadn't actually lied to JJ about being used to being by herself. She'd be alone despite whatever company her parents had chosen to invite this Christmas.

"No one should have to spend Christmas alone," said JJ, her mind already whirling with ways to circumvent what she deemed as a terrible plight for her friend before she settled on a perfect companion. A grin edged her lips at her thought. "I've got a wonderful idea."

"Oh?" Emily tried to appear interested, while trying not to do so. If JJ was suggesting what she'd hoped, her Christmas would be the best ever. Spending time with JJ was the one Christmas present she'd most wanted – even more than the toy guns and football she didn't get when she was six. Gifts, her mother had explained, that were totally inappropriate for a young lady of Emily's status.

"Mr. Whiskers can keep you company," explained JJ excitedly. "I've been worried about leaving him alone with the possibility of an ice storm hitting the city while I'm gone. If the power were to go out, he'd be all alone in a freezing house." She smiled broadly. "Now he can stay with you."

"Mr. Whiskers?" asked Emily, free-falling from the edge of hopefulness to the depths of 'this can not be happening.' Surely JJ wasn't suggesting…

"He's a wonderful kitty, so warm and fluffy. He just loves to cuddle."

Emily loved to cuddle, too, but her preference for cuddling partners was standing right in front of her. It wasn't some fluffy, long haired feline that would set off her allergies in a very big way. "Um, JJ . . ."

"You don't know how much I'd appreciate you looking after Mr. Whiskers, Em. It'll be a huge load off my mind," said JJ gratefully. She stepped even closer and squeezed the other woman's arm again and causing yet another uncontrollable shiver. It hadn't escaped Emily's notice that JJ had maintained physical contact throughout their conversation, nor had it slipped past the keen eye of Garcia who'd been watching and listening to the proceedings from around the corner.

Emily's brain had finally hit its peak of JJ overload as had the rest of her body, causing her to briefly lose her mind. "No problem. I'd love to keep him." The words were out and presented on a silver platter before she'd realized that she'd just sentenced herself to days of sneezing and a never-ending runny nose. The dreadfully awful symptoms still seemed like an infinitely better proposal than Christmas at the Ambassador's.

"Oh, thank you, Emily," replied JJ, so excited she kissed the other woman on the cheek before continuing, "I'll bring him by Wednesday afternoon on my way to the airport. I'll be back on Saturday to pick him up."

Wearing a dreamy expression accompanied with a stupid grin, Emily just nodded her approval as she watched a beaming JJ turn and walk back in the direction of her office. She unconsciously reached up and reverently touched the spot where the other woman's lips had lingered. Just a mere inch to the left and she'd have realized her dreams of having her lips pressed against JJ's.

Down the hallway, Garcia took in everything and wondered when her two friends would finally catch a clue. One of these days, she would sit them both down and have a talk, and if that didn't work, she'd lock them together in the tiny supply closet. Smiling, she headed for her office. She now had her New Year's resolution.

Emily straightened the decorative Christmas throw that was currently draped over her spotless white sofa and grimaced as if she was in intense pain. She hadn't wanted it or any of the other seasonal coverings she'd purchased at Macy's the same evening she'd agreed to house-sit JJ's cat. She'd steered her mid-sized SUV directly to the store in hopes of finding something she could use to protect her furniture and figured the throws would give the illusion that they were simply a part of her usual Christmas decorations. And so, she'd had to buy 'usual' decorating things too, such as a tree, lights, ornaments, and even a tree skirt. It'd taken her half the night to put the finishing touches on her supposedly yearly Christmas tree, then the rest of the night to move the more expensive ornaments high enough so that Mr. Whiskers wouldn't be able to shatter them when he swatted them onto the floor.

A soft knock pulled her from her destructive cat thoughts and had her giving the room one final visual sweep, before she smoothed down her red cashmere sweater over her designer jeans and headed for the door. JJ was running very late.

"Oh, hey Emily, sorry I'm so late, but I couldn't catch Mr. Whiskers. He always goes and hides whenever I get out my big suitcase," said JJ as soon as the door had opened. She immediately lifted a cat carrier and held it out for Emily to take, but the hissing and growling noises emanating from inside had the dark headed agent hesitating as to whether to accept the offering. The cat sounded less than pleased.

"Um, does he always sound like that?" asked Emily, tilting her head and trying to get a better look at the unhappy furball. And that was exactly what Mr. Whiskers appeared to be as long, white fur poked out from the sides of the container, lots and lots of fur. Emily's skin immediately began to itch.

"No, he just hates the carrier. He'll be okay once he's gotten out. Could you take him while I run back to the car and get his litter box and food?" asked JJ, once again offering the cat to the other woman. Tentatively, Emily took hold, and JJ released the carrier and stepped back into the hallway. "I'll be back in a sec. You might want to take him inside and acquaint him with your apartment."

Emily looked down at the fluffy white fur, her eyes watering at the thought of the long-haired cat roaming around the interior of her apartment. For some reason, the antihistamine the pharmacist had spoken so highly of wasn't working. "How about I just put him in the spare bedroom? Then I can show him around later."

She was barely able to stifle the smile that threatened to escape at her wonderful idea; this was going to be much easier than she'd thought. The cat could live in the extra bedroom, and she could have the run of her house without having to worry about damaged furniture or symptomatic problems caused by her allergies. She'd just have the room professionally cleaned and fumigated after Mr. Whiskers' stay.

"That sounds like a good idea. You can let him out after I'm gone, and the two of you can get to know each other better," said JJ with a smile as she turned toward the elevator, an extra spring in her cute little step.

Emily watched until the other woman entered the elevator and disappeared behind closed doors, before she gripped the carrier tightly and started for the stairway. She could do this; she'd just put out some food and water and check on the cat every now and then. Piece of cake…


The force of her sneeze almost caused Emily to lose her balance as she made her way to her master bathroom. She'd started sneezing the minute JJ had hurried out the apartment door on her way to catch her flight. The pair had placed the cat, the litter box, and his food and water containers in the spare bedroom, and Emily had watched from outside the bedroom door as JJ had opened the carrier. She'd been surprised at the speed in which Mr. Whiskers had shot out of the container as he'd slipped under the bed so quickly Emily would've missed it had she blinked. JJ had disappeared almost as quickly once she'd raced out of the room to keep the cat from escaping. With another quick thank-you and an equally fast good-bye, she'd left Emily alone with only Mr. Whiskers to keep her company.


"Damn it," said Emily, slipping out of an article of clothing with each step and allowing them to litter her plush carpeting as she crossed her bedroom on the way to her master bath. She couldn't wait to slip under the soothing water of a hot shower and looked forward to the calming spray that would offer her itching skin some much needed relief.

Stepping into the floor-to-ceiling tile enclosure, she pulled the glass door closed and eased under the relaxing spray, tilting her head back and giving the water full rein over her nakedness. It selfishly took its time to caress every square inch of smooth, silky skin already made hyperalert from the stark contrast of the coolness of the air outside the shower to the heated air of the enclosure. Finally, she closed her eyes and ducked her head directly under the spray, allowing the water's heat to dull her senses and wash away her foolish grown-up Christmas wish of spending Christmas Day not with Mr. Whiskers, but with his owner instead.


The volume of Mr. Whiskers' plea for someone to let him out of the bedroom grew increasingly louder and louder and drew Emily from downstairs. She didn't need her profiling abilities to figure out what he'd wanted when she crept down the hallway and spied a lone paw sticking out from under the door, the motion accompanied by a single meow and then another and another. The tone of the cry had vacillated between pitiful and angry, but had now settled on a sad note and tugged on Emily's allergic heartstrings.

Just as she'd made the decision to abandon her own well being for the cat's happiness, a light knocking from downstairs made its way to the second floor and to her ears. She stopped steps from the bedroom door and frowned at both the lateness of the hour and the realization of the day's date. Seconds later, her curiosity got the better of her, and she turned back toward the stairs, leaving a mewing Mr. Whiskers in favor of whomever was paying her a visit in the final half-hour of Christmas Eve.

Peering through the peephole, Emily pulled back from the door with a sudden jerk and stared wide-eyed at the wooden structure. Another knock softly sounded and brought her back to the reality of her situation. She knew who appeared to be on the other side, but it just couldn't be.

Emily checked her watch, and according to her calculations, JJ should be tucked in bed at her parents' home, not standing outside her door, shifting from foot to foot, but just to be sure, Emily stepped closer to the door and peered again. The image didn't change, and the knocking grew louder. She turned the deadbolt and opened the door.

"Thank God you haven't gone to bed yet," said JJ, brushing past a stunned Emily and stepping into the foyer. "The storm rolled in faster than expected and delayed all the flights. Mine was cancelled about an hour ago." She tilted her head and looked toward the den. "Hey, where's Mr. Whiskers? He always comes to the door when someone knocks."

"Upstairs," said Emily, regaining some semblance of control as she closed and locked the door behind her. "He really likes the spare bedroom." She offered a weak smile and almost melted on the spot when JJ reciprocated with one that lit up her whole being. Emily could barely keep her knees from buckling underneath her.

"I'm surprised he hasn't tried to crawl into bed with you," teased JJ, her exhaustion of sitting around in a broken airport chair for hours on end almost loosening her lips enough to speak aloud her thoughts that crawling into Emily's bed would certainly have been her first priority.

"Um, nope, he hasn't stepped outside the bedroom since you put him in there," replied Emily with a straight face. She hadn't lied. Mr. Whisker's had only swiped his paw outside the bedroom door. Emily suddenly remembered her manners. "Would you like something to drink? Coffee? Hot cocoa?"

"Got something with a little more kick?" asked JJ, in dire need of something to take the edge off the past six hours of hell. She'd barely been able to make it to Emily's in the treacherous conditions and hoped that after she'd had a little something to warm her up, she and Mr. Whiskers would be able to navigate their way back home.

"I've got a bottle of Glenlivet 25 year single malt scotch" said Emily, grateful for something to do beside nervously fidget in her own foyer. She eased past JJ and headed toward her kitchen, opening the closet cabinet and removing a couple of Waterford whiskey glasses. She placed the crystal on the counter and moved to the end cabinet.

JJ, who'd been slightly stunned at the generous offer to share the expensive liquor, followed the other woman into the kitchen and watched wide-eyed as Emily pulled on the far cabinet door, revealing bottles of liquor that, when their worth was combined, would easily pay a few of JJ's house notes.

"Whoa, Em, that's quite a stash you have there," she moved closer until she was standing hip to hip with the other woman, leaving Emily with nowhere to go but through JJ. The hairs rose on her arms and her skin began to tingle, but this time, Mr. Whiskers couldn't be blamed for her current condition. Every symptom came courtesy of Jennifer Jarreau, including the sudden increase in Emily's respiration.

"My mother's idea of the perfect Christmas present," said Emily, barely feeling any guilt for not being present in person to receive this year's bottle. Her mother probably wouldn't mail it either. She hadn't been very happy to have been stood up because of a cat.

JJ stared at the various labels in awe. "My mother always gives me scarves or gloves. I think I like your mother better."

A look of sadness crossed Emily's face, but it was gone before JJ could blink. Her words, however, confirmed that JJ had truly seen what she'd thought. "Trust me, the liquor gets old really fast." There wasn't enough liquor in the world to fill the gaping hole of loneliness Emily always felt whenever she'd spent Christmas with her parents. She'd actually tried the drinking routine once, but all it got her was a horrible hangover.

"We can have coffee instead," offered JJ, easing even closer to Emily. She felt an almost uncontrollable need to give the other woman a hug, but she knew Emily wouldn't like being coddled to. It was best to try to change the subject.

Emily swallowed hard. JJ was in her space – way in her space – so close that she could smell faint traces of the perfume JJ wore. "I think I need a drink," she finally said, but not trusting herself to move an inch toward the glasses or the bottle that still sat on the cabinet's shelf. It was at that moment, she could have kissed Mr. Whiskers on the mouth as a loud crash sounded from upstairs.

"Oh shit," said JJ, immediately moving away from Emily and starting for the stairs, while Emily blew out a relieved breath and slowly followed, until she remembered the antique lamp that she'd fallen in love with and bought specifically to match the spare bedroom's décor. She passed JJ at the top of the stairs.

Completely forgetting about her allergies and how it had taken her hours to stop sneezing, Emily stepped into the room and looked for the damage. Mr. Whiskers sat in the middle of the bed and looked as innocent as could be.


"Mr. Whiskers, what did you do?" JJ was only seconds behind Emily and stepped past the other woman to admonish her cat for whatever crime he'd committed. Her serious-looking face and harsh tone lost its desired effect when a laugh sounded from behind her.

"Oh, thank you, Mr. Whiskers," Emily chortled, staring at the hideous figurine that lay broken on the hardwood floor. Her mother had given it to her as a housewarming present, and every time she'd held it over the floor, intending to just let it slip from her fingers, she just couldn't follow through. She'd never be able to pull off the 'it was an accident' explanation.

"Don't encourage him, Emily," said JJ, lifting the cat and moving toward his carrier. With a series of practiced moves, JJ tried to wrestle the cat inside. "I should probably get him home before the roads are closed."

Emily stifled a sneeze. "But what about your drink?" She stifled another one, causing JJ to tilt her head and frown. She watched as Emily snuck a quick scratch of her left forearm and then her right.


The word had just rolled off her lips when the mother of all sneezes almost knocked Emily's head off.

"Oh my God, you're allergic to cats, aren't you?" asked JJ, kicking herself for not paying attention earlier. She'd been so focused on getting to the airport on time she hadn't really noticed Emily displaying any of the classic symptoms. "Why did you agree to keep Mr. Whiskers?"

Emily could only answer with another sneeze and was quickly ushered out of the room by a very concerned and extremely guilty JJ. She pushed the door closed with her foot, leaving a now content Mr. Whiskers to settle comfortably on the Ralph Lauren bedding with the knowledge that his 'momma' was back.

"You weren't sneezing when I got here," said JJ, her hand having moved to Emily's lower back as it drew small, soothing circles. "Is there something you can take?" She unconsciously began to lead the other woman toward the master bedroom.

Emily sneezed again and tried to remember exactly what she'd done earlier to ward off the sneezing when she suddenly caught sight of her clothes strewn across her bedroom, her black La Perla underwear and matching bra lying just outside the master bath.

"Whoa," said JJ more gleefully than surprised. "I hadn't realized stripping had medicinal purposes." Her eyes kept tracking back to the sexy underwear, and she wondered if there was yet another set hugging Emily's body at this very instant.

"I'm sorry, JJ," whispered Emily as she struggled as much with her composure as she did trying to stifle her sneezes. "I've been a complete idiot."

JJ eased her eyes from the floor to land on dark pools that ran over with tears. She wasn't sure if Emily's eyes were tearing from her allergy or from her confession. She reached up and used her fingertips to wipe at the corner of the other woman's eyes. "You really hate Christmas at your parents so much that you'd condemn yourself to days of misery?" JJ's mind had caught up very quickly and had adeptly put the pieces of the puzzle together.

"Just a different kind of misery," Emily replied, sniffling slightly. "At least with Mr. Whiskers I knew exactly what I was walking into."

"Oh, Em." This time JJ went with her need and pulled Emily into a hug, smiling when the other woman didn't resist. The two women stood silently in the embrace, comforted by the warmth projected by the other. After endless minutes, Emily finally stepped back.

"Thanks, JJ; I really needed that."

JJ smiled. "Anytime." She stared into Emily's watery eyes and saw something shift; the other woman had allowed the barrier to drop, and JJ could finally see what Emily always kept hidden – a longing that was almost too much for JJ to bear.

"Why don't you jump into the shower – I'm assuming that's what helped last time – and I'll go open that bottle of scotch." JJ resisted the urge to kiss Emily senseless; there was still plenty of time for that as she was certain the ice had now made the roads impassable.

Emily sneezed again and drew a slight chuckle from JJ. "Alright, a shower it is." She purposefully brushed against JJ on the way to the master bath but refrained from shucking off her clothes until she'd closed the door behind her. She was really becoming quite fond of Mr. Whiskers.

Staring at the closed door, JJ grinned widely, before she finally turned on her heel and started for the stairs, already making plans for a Christmas Emily would never forget. Her thoughts had her stopping abruptly in the doorway, and turning back toward the door Emily had disappeared behind, her eyes settled on the silky black garments lying on the plush cream-colored carpet. A lascivious smile slowly made its way to her lips.

This would be a Christmas JJ would soon not forget either.

The End

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