Title: Christmas Cookies
Author: Caitrin Torres
Feedback address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Date in Calendar: 30 December 2009
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Word Count: 1486
Summary: Some Christmas traditions are meant to be shared.
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Disclaimer: "Criminal Minds", the characters, and situations depicted are the property of The Mark Gordon Company, Touchstone Television, Paramount, ABC, and CBS. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes. Previously unrecognized characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author. This site is in no way affiliated with "Criminal Minds", CBS, or any representatives of the actors.
As Emily let herself into the house only to be greeted by the sound of distant splashing and laughter, she felt the stress of the day melt away. There was a part of her that hadn't yet become accustomed to the chaos that came with a toddler in the house, but she knew that she wouldn't trade her life with JJ and Henry for anything in the world.
"JJ?" Emily called out. "I'm home." She hung up her coat and followed the noise towards the hall bathroom, but she was brought up short when she caught sight of their kitchen. The table, the counters, the drainboard straddling the sink... nearly every available flat surface held a cooling rack covered in cookies.
There was a muffled crash and a happy shriek followed by some muttering that Emily couldn't make out, and then JJ emerged, carrying a slightly damp Henry dressed in his favorite firetruck pajamas.
"Em, hey," she said, leaning in to give her a kiss but being thwarted when Henry wiggled his way into the proceedings. "Did you just get here?"
"Just a minute ago," Emily replied. "What happened to the kitchen?"
JJ boosted Henry up higher in her arms. "The tornado here happened. I swear, the older he gets, the more respect I have for my mother. I have no idea how she handled three of us. I'll finish cleaning up the mess in a minute; I wanted to get him cleaned up before he had a chance to touch anything else."
"What mess?" Emily looked at the kitchen again. Henry's high chair sat in the middle of the floor and was smeared with what looked to be a mixture of melted chocolate and cookie crumbs, but everything else looked fine. "Oh. No, I didn't mean that. What is all this?" she asked again, gesturing to the table.
The look JJ gave her told her just what she thought of that question. "They're Christmas cookies. The main reason I took today off was get the baking done all at once, remember? We talked about this this morning."
Emily was beginning to feel a bit at sea in this conversation. "Yeah, I know. I mean- I remember the conversation, but I was picturing, I dunno... sugar cookies or something like that, not the explosion of the Keebler tree."
JJ raised an eyebrow. "You thought it was going to take me all day to make sugar cookies?"
Emily shrugged. "I don't bake?"
"Obviously," JJ said, laughing. She handed Henry over to Emily and disappeared, only to reappear a moment later with a still-warm cookie covered in red sprinkles. She broke it in half, popping part of it into Emily's open mouth and handing the other half to Henry, who immediately took a bite. "Don't worry. I made your sugar cookies."
Emily chewed experimentally and then nodded in appreciation. "Mmm. 'S gd." She swallowed and tried again. "Yum. That was excellent." She followed JJ into the kitchen. "What else did you make?"
"Um..." JJ glanced around the room as she spoke. "Those butter cookies that Reid likes, thumbprints, chocolate mint shortbreads -- with chocolate filling, hence the mess -- and there's some fudge chilling in the refrigerator."
"Wow. Did you help mommy fill the cookies?" Emily asked Henry. He giggled and bounced on her lap.
"He helped mommy fill a cookie, and then he mashed it into everything he could reach," JJ corrected.
"Awww..." Emily said. "It's a good thing you're cute, buddy boy." She picked up a butter cookie from one of the racks on the table, started to take a bite, and then stopped and looked at it more carefully. It was rectangular, with stripes of dough dyed red and green, and she was sure that she'd seen some like it before. "JJ? That cookie tray we had at work a couple years ago around the holidays -- that wasn't from a store, was it? You made all of those."
"Busted," JJ said, leaning back against the counter. "I didn't have time last year, but I bring in a tray most years."
"But why didn't you ever tell anyone the cookies were homemade? I remember that Morgan kept bugging you for the name of the bakery and you told him that it was a secret. These are good enough that you should want to take credit for them."
JJ ducked her head and turned faintly red. "It's not about that. It's... growing up, we always had a ton of different cookies around the house at Christmas. None of my brothers liked the same things, so Mom made something different for everyone. It doesn't feel like Christmas without cookies. I certainly can't eat these all by myself, though, so I bring them into work to share with everyone. I don't want it to be a big deal."
Put that way, it made sense. Working with a team trained to notice the smallest details meant that none of them had much personal privacy, rules or no rules about profiling each other. Everyone was used to it, but JJ truly didn't like revealing any more of herself than was necessary or inevitable. Between that and what Will had put her through, it still amazed Emily that JJ was so willing to open up to her. Given that, she decided to leave the topic where it was. "Fair enough. Is there anything I can do to help here?"
"Yes, actually." JJ pulled the magnetic clip that held their collection of restaurant menus from the refrigerator and handed it to her. "You can take care of supper."
Later on, after pizza had been eaten, cookies put away, the kitchen cleaned, and Henry put to bed, Emily found JJ in the kitchen again. "I was just finishing the shortbreads," JJ said when Emily came up behind her. "I never got around to it after I stopped to give Henry his bath."
JJ quickly and methodically made sandwiches out of shortbread cookies and chocolate ganache filling. Emily reached over to take a taste of the filling, but JJ swatted her hand away. "Let me finish this first. You can snack if there are leftovers."
Emily sat back to watch her work. She tried to picture her mother in a domestic scene like this: hair messily pulled back, old t-shirt and ratty jeans, and a batch of fresh-baked cookies in front of her just waiting to be finished.
It didn't compute.
"I love you," she said, the words spilling forth almost before she had a chance to think about them.
JJ half turned, a shy half-smile on her face. "Always." After a moment, though, the smile fell away and she gave Emily a quizzical look. "Emily? Everything okay?"
Emily blinked. She hadn't realized she'd been broadcasting what she was thinking. "No. I mean, yeah, I'm fine. It's just...." she stood up and went to the sink to wash the lone dirty spoon, suddenly unable to meet JJ's eyes.
"Henry's so lucky to have you. The Christmas I was five, we were somewhere in Europe. Vienna, I think, but Mom got moved a few times around then. My nanny had read a book to me about some kids who left cookies for Santa, and I got it into my head that my mother and I should bake cookies."
She trailed off. Eventually, JJ prompted her to continue. "Did you?"
"Oh yeah. We did twice, actually. The first batch was a little burnt, but it was so much fun, and I was thrilled when my mother announced the next weekend that we were going to do it all again. I didn't even question it when the photographer showed up."
JJ wiped her hands on a towel and came over to hug Emily from behind. "I'm sorry, Em."
Emily breathed out and tried to let the feelings go. She was not going to let this get the best of her so many years after the fact. "It was for a magazine article - something about the changing face of women in the foreign service. I didn't realize it until I found a copy of the article years later. There I was, baking cookies with Mom, right next to a photo of her with the Chancellor. The main thrust of the article was that children weren't the hindrance they once had been for a woman's career."
JJ gently turned her around and kissed away a teardrop that was slowly working its way down her cheek. "Tell you what: next year, we'll both take the day off, and you can help. I'll even let you pick the color of the sprinkles."
Emily buried her face in JJ's shoulder and laughed. "Think Henry will be old enough to help without such a mess?
"At twenty-five months old? Not a chance. It should be fun trying, though."
Next year. She liked the sound of that. "Yeah. Yeah... it will be."