DISCLAIMER: Criminal Minds and its characters are the property of CBS. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: As usual, thanks to darandkerry for her wonderful beta skills. For the purpose of this story, JJ had a happy childhood and has brothers. I havenít seen all episodes, and if I got any facts wrong, I apologise.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The Weather Outside is Frightful
"No, no, no mix the baking powder with the flour first."
Emily peered down into the bowl, clearly wondering what the point of adding one ingredient to the other first was when everything would end up being blended together in the end anyway. She gave JJ a doubtful sideways glance before turning her attention back to the sticky mass in front of her. "Why?"
"To make sure the baking powder's everywhere in the dough and not just in one place." JJ carefully poured flour into a measuring cup, the last of the amount sliding from the container at once and causing a small white cloud to rise with a puff. Wiping the powder from her nose, she slid the cup over to Emily. "Here. I thought you were joking when you said you'd never baked. Have you never made cookies with your " She stopped mid-sentence, realising what she'd been about to ask.
Emily just chuckled. "Can you picture Ambassador Prentiss with an apron and her hands in cookie dough? I could get all the cookies I wanted from any place we went, but my mother wouldn't have dreamt about baking them with me, not even before Christmas."
"And you decided that today would be as good a day as any to learn doing it, and you yanked me out of sleep with 'JJ, bake cookies with me.' Other women get to hear 'Good morning, gorgeous' or 'Make love to me' first thing in the morning, and I get 'JJ, bake cookies with me.'"
"I'm a different kind of romantic. Besides, it's been snowing for the past 24 hours; we can't go outside and need something to do." Emily tore into the can of baking powder and mixed it into the flour before emptying the contents of the cup into the mixing bowl. "And now?"
"You knead it."
"Right. You got a dough hook?"
"With your hands."
"Oh." Hesitantly, Emily pushed up the sleeves of her shirt and rolled her shoulders as if she were preparing for a wrestling match. Then, she lowered her hands into the bowl and began to dig into the ingredients with her fingers tentatively.
Amused, JJ watched as Emily Prentiss discovered the joys of mashing food with her hands. "How do you even know what a dough hook is if you've never baked?"
"I read." Completely focused on her task, Emily's reply was curt. She continued kneading the dough until it was firm and smooth, adding a bit of extra flour to get the right texture.
Meanwhile, JJ had covered the countertop with a thin layer of flour to keep the dough from sticking to it. Waiting for Emily to finish her preparations, she pensively focused her gaze on the fairy lights that hung across the kitchen window, outside of which thick snowflakes danced through the air. "Emily?"
"Mmh?" Emily formed a perfect ball and, taking it out of the bowl, almost lovingly set it down in front of JJ, secretly pleased with the result.
"Do you sometimes think that we miss out on the small things in life because of our jobs? You know, this." JJ swept her hand around the room. "Making cookies. Before today, I hadn't baked for years."
"Maybe. The fact that we don't have much of a private life can't be denied. It's only natural that when we do have some time off, we engage in things that seem more important, like grocery shopping, doing our laundry, or even just sleeping. But I like my job, so I don't mind making a few amends." Emily observed JJ, trying to read her. "Do you miss these small things?"
Pressing down with both palms, JJ deformed Emily's perfect ball of dough and began to flatten it with a rolling pin. She shrugged. "Sometimes. This reminds me so much of my childhood. Mom always baked chocolate cookies with us kids before Christmas. We made so many that the entire neighbourhood benefitted from it." She smiled at the memory.
Emily smiled back, her heart leaping at JJ sharing this small bit of her childhood with her and at seeing the happy expression on her face. "That sounds nice. I think I probably don't miss these things as much as you do because I never had much of a domestic life when I was a child. Unless you count the pompous Christmas dinners my family held, where I couldn't see who sat across from me until I was nine and tall enough to look over my mother's ostentatious silver candle holders. But that's not something I particularly miss."
JJ chuckled at the mental image of Emily at the age of nine, a skinny dark-haired girl craning her neck to see beyond the table's decoration. "I bet you were such a well-mannered child, always polite to guests and a good conversationalist from the moment you could talk."
Emily lined a cookie sheet with baking paper and grimaced. "I was bored out of my mind at these gatherings. They weren't exactly a family affair as you might expect on Christmas. I spent the holidays with more strangers than I would have liked. Nobody ever hey, I saw that."
Wearing an impish smile, JJ licked a remnant of dough from her upper lip. "Saw what?"
Without warning, Emily wrapped an arm around JJ's waist and drew her close, capturing her mouth in a probing but gentle kiss. She tasted sugar and butter and JJ, and, pulling away, she raised an eyebrow. "That; I thought we'd bake the cookies before eating them." Her dark eyes twinkled.
"You're supposed to try the dough. That's the whole fun of making cookies at home, Emily." Smirking, JJ pushed an assortment of cookie cutters in Emily's direction. "Ready to make stars, bells, and Christmas trees?"
The word 'home' still pleasantly echoing in her mind, Emily picked up a reindeer cookie cutter and sunk it into the flattened dough on the countertop. They worked in comfortable silence for awhile, lifting delicate pieces of dough from the surface after cutting them out and placing them carefully on the cookie sheet side by side.
"What's that supposed to be?" Emily held up one of the metal shapes and eyed it curiously. Squinting, she rotated it left and right in an attempt to figure out what it depicted.
JJ moved closer to Emily and cocked her head to the side. "I think it's Santa Claus."
"Looks more like a yeti to me."
"I don't think they make yeti cookie cutters."
"Would be a unique idea though."
With a smile, JJ noticed Emily's shining eyes. "You enjoying yourself?"
Emily's mask of calm demeanour had fallen away and been replaced by unadulterated joy. Her cheeks glowed with unusual excitement as she determined the best angle to place Santa Claus on the dough. "Yeah, aren't you?"
"You've no idea." When the memory of cookie baking with her mother and brothers seemed almost too distant to have been real at some point, JJ was given a new one an Emily memory that she stowed away safely in her heart. Sliding the last cookie onto the baking paper, she surveyed their work. "And off into the heat they go."
Emily opened the oven for JJ to place the baking pan inside. "How long is it going to take for them to be done?"
"Shouldn't be more than ten minutes." JJ set the temperature and checked her watch. "We can just wait here and clean up a little in the meantime."
She took the bowl over to the sink to rinse it while Emily swept the flour from the countertop with a cloth. After drying the bowl with a dishtowel and setting it back into the cabinet, JJ crouched down in front of the oven to peer inside. "Next week, we can make gingerbread."
When no response came forth, she glanced up at Emily to find her leaning against the refrigerator and looking down on the floor tiles, lost in thought. Standing, she reached out and gently touched Emily's arm. "Hey."
Emily snapped out of her thoughts and raised her eyes to meet JJ's, words pouring from her mouth. "I was thinking, you and I, we could celebrate a belated Christmas after the actual holidays when you come back from Pennsylvania and"
"Emily, Emily," JJ interrupted, "slow down. I'm not going to see my family for the holidays. I want to spend Christmas with you."
"You do?" Her steady voice couldn't belie the surprising vulnerability in Emily's face. She seemed almost incredulous. Just a moment later, her expression turned smug. "You want to bake more cookies with me, don't you?"
JJ laughed. "Yes, that's it. I'm staying to spend more time in the kitchen with you. You've got me all figured out."
"I am a profiler," Emily grinned, adding more softly, "I'm glad you're staying."
"Me too." A warm gleam was visible in JJ's blue eyes. She sniffed the air, perceiving the delicious sugary scent of fresh cookies. "I think it's time to try your first very own homemade cookie."
She removed the baking sheet from the oven and set it down on a trivet to cool.
Emily fixated on the golden treats with her eyes, willing them to cool faster. Mere seconds later, she decided she'd waited long enough and gingerly picked up a shooting star with her thumb and forefinger. The warm cookie quickly disappeared into her mouth. Savouring the taste, Emily chewed on it slowly, a content smile spreading on her face. "Mmh."
"Good?" JJ let her hand hover over the pan for a moment and then chose a heart. She took a bite and nodded to herself.
"Very good," Emily confirmed. She reached out to take another cookie, only to have her wrist slapped lightly.
"Leave some for the holidays. Besides, we need to decorate them."
"Sugar icing and chocolate." After retrieving a small pot from the cabinet, JJ crumbled chocolate into it and placed it inside the microwave to melt. She pointed to the other side of the kitchen. "There's powdered sugar in that cabinet over there and lemon juice in the fridge."
Emily gathered her ingredients and poured them into a bowl. While she stirred, she glanced around the kitchen, at the cookies, the containers of flour and sugar still sitting on the table, and JJ balancing the pot of liquid chocolate. "You know, if Hotch saw us like this, he'd send us to see a shrink because he'd suspect we're trying to compensate for what we witness every day."
"Hotch will never find out about this. I control the flow of information for the entire team. No one will ever find out." JJ dribbled chocolate on a cookie from a teaspoon.
Using a silicone brush, Emily applied icing to a bell. "Garcia might. She has a knack for getting her hands on information that nobody else has access to."
"And she also has a way of looking at you and knowing you're hiding something from her."
The decorations forgotten for a moment, they looked at each other.
"We better tell her," Emily said.
JJ nodded in agreement. "Yes. It's not like there's something wrong with it. FBI agents can bake cookies, right?"
She licked her chocolate-coated spoon clean, bits of the sweet frosting sticking to the corners of her mouth. When her tongue darted out to sweep over the remnants, Emily could easily imagine what JJ must have looked like as a child. She chuckled softly.
"What?" JJ questioned.
Emily shook her head and smiled. "Nothing."
JJ started to protest when a barely audible crack from underneath her fingers distracted her. "Oh no."
"We have a dismembered reindeer."
Stepping closer, Emily looked down on the broken legs and antlers of the animal gravely. "Is it the only victim?"
"No." JJ solemnly pointed at the baking sheet. "We also have an angel without wings and an imploded star."
"The deceased seem to have little in common. However, the fact that the body parts or star parts, for that matter have been placed in a manner that one might think they haven't been severed makes the unsub's remorse obvious."
"Interesting. What else?"
Emily tilted her head. "It also appears that she tried to fix things with chocolate, which implies that all of these were just tragic accidents. I think she never meant to do any harm."
Moving behind Emily to look at the scene from her point of view, JJ rested her chin on Emily's shoulder. "I'm certain she didn't."
"She seems to be a very kind person."
"Is that so?"
"Mmh-hmm. I can also tell that she's blonde and beautiful."
JJ chuckled. "You can tell all that from a few broken cookies?"
Emily turned around to slide her arms around JJ's waist and smirked. "Yep."
"You're good." An amused sparkle in her eyes, JJ reached behind Emily. "I think you deserve another cookie for that." She brought a frosted star up to Emily mouth.
Emily devoured the cookie, a hint of astonishment evident in her face. "How can such a simple cookie be so much better than all the exotic confectioneries from all over world that I've tried?"
"You made it yourself." JJ smiled.
"Yeah," Emily agreed and leaned in to softly brush her lips against JJ's. "I don't think they'll last until Christmas."
JJ held onto Emily tightly and murmured into her hair, "That's okay. We can bake again."
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