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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus
Penelope Garcia turned from the stove in her tiny kitchen and surveyed her almost equally small living room. In the chair by the window, Derek Morgan lounged, one lanky leg flung over the overstuffed arm of the chair. There was an aura of utter contentment in every line of his body, muscles relaxed, the tension of work forgotten. His head was thrown back and a wide smile split his handsome face, teeth gleaming white against café au lait skin, as he gave directions to Spencer Reid on the proper way to hang Christmas lights.
Reid, his ubiquitous cardigan discarded for the moment, was stretching to loop a strand of multi-colored lights around the top of the tree. Scattered around him on the floor, other strands lay, already twisted and tangled again, waiting their turn to grace the spreading branches of fake evergreen. His face a model of concentration, he was attempting, much to Derek's amusement, to perfectly align the lights according to some obscure scientific principle, unsuccessfully, of course. Science and Christmas lights having no known relationship in the mysteries of the universe.
Garcia firmly believed that killing a living thing to have it in her living room for a few weeks, only to discard it on the side of the road, was wrong, plain and simple. So, Morgan and Reid had spent much longer than the half an hour really needed, trying to get the right limbs in the right slots, much to the amusement of Garcia's other three guests. Emily had tried to persuade them to read the directions, but they merely looked at her with incredulous scorn and continued putting random limbs into random slots, cheering and congratulating each other when by some luck of the draw, one fit.
Hotch stood, slightly apart from the others, attempting to untangle the seemingly endless strings of lights that Garcia had hastily thrown in a bag last January, a squirming mass of snake like creatures that seemed sentient and quite intent on not being untangled. He muttered occasionally under his breath, and Garcia was smart enough not to ask him to speak up, knowing without asking what he was saying, the scowl bringing down dark thick brows making it clear enough. Still, she could see that he was glad to be there, not home alone thinking of Haley and Jack.
On the diminutive loveseat, Emily and JJ sat, blonde and dark heads close together as they sorted through boxes of antique Christmas ornaments. Their shoulders and thighs were touching as they sat close, leaning toward each other, slender fingers gently raising fragile confections of glass and paint to the light, marveling at the detailed beauty.
Garcia watched as Emily turned her head slightly, the smile on her face meant for no one but JJ, and in the darkened pane of the window opposite her, Garcia could see JJ's answering smile reflected in the glass. Without even glancing to see if anyone was looking, JJ tilted her head to the side and gently brushed her lips across the perfect line of Emily's cheek. In the sanctuary of her apartment, the need for secrecy had fled, and Garcia couldn't help but feel a tug at her heart at the complete acceptance of the rest of the team to the minor miracle that the two of them had found in each other.
They were all a miracle to Garcia. Each flawed, yet each finding in the others a patch to cover the scrapes and bruises, filling the empty spaces inside them, made new and whole by the links that bound them together. Laughter erupted as Reid wound a string of lights around his legs, tying himself to the tree, and Garcia felt tears gather against the floodgates of her eyelids as each peal of laughter touched her skin like individual flakes of snow, unique and sacrosanct.
Each year since her parents had died, she had wished for something to fill the hole inside her; wished for a new family to make the world a little less lonely and cold. Tonight, standing in a small apartment in Virginia, watching with love as her friends, her family, decorated her Christmas tree, the world was suddenly transcendent and bright.
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