Aaron stood in his living room and looked around at the sparse decorations. He knew he should do more, that for Jack he should at least try to celebrate, but Aaron just couldn’t find it in himself to do more than the small tree and the paper ornaments Jack had made in school.
There were many reasons Aaron didn’t celebrate and most of them he didn’t want to dwell on. It wasn’t even just the fact that Haley used to go all out those first few years of their marriage and could never understand why Aaron didn’t want to be a part of the celebrations. How do you tell your wife that Christmas held no joy growing up? That it was always a very austere and oft unpleasant hollow celebration. Everything was done for show, or to entertain clients and the higher-ups in your father’s law firm. How do you explain that the smallest infraction during those times could get you sent to your room after being brutally punished? And, how do you explain the drinking and the embarrassment every year or your mother protesting loudly how ‘good’ and ‘righteous’ your husband is while diddling the secretary pool on the side, while in the middle of an important party.
No, Aaron had very few good memories of Christmas. He always let Haley do what she wanted, he would even smile and try to let those good times with her replace the bad, but it was difficult. Especially when their own parties began and it was so like the ones he had grown up with that it just reiterated to him that Christmas was merely a way to show off and to schmooze all the right people at all the right times. There wasn’t any warmth behind the celebrations after a while, and Aaron gave up pretending to enjoy them.
Aaron wasn’t a complete humbug about it. He indulged Jack every year and the bright eyes and excitement of his son on Christmas mornings were almost worth it. He learned how to put on a fake smile and show his happiness just for Jack.
Then, Haley died and even that bit of Christmas cheer that Aaron could muster was gone. If it wasn’t for Jessica prodding him to get a tree and try to make the apartment somewhat festive, Aaron would not have done anything at all. He knew he was short-changing his son, but he just didn’t know how to be open and festive at a time that all he knew was cruelty and pain.
Taking one last look at the tree, Aaron set his glass of scotch he had been sipping from down on the counter, turned out all the lights, looked in on Jack to see him sleeping soundly, then crawled into bed. His last thought was that he hoped a case would come up, then he thought how incredibly selfish that was. Just because he didn’t like celebrating the season, didn’t mean others should suffer.
A case did come in and Aaron was almost sorry he had wished for it. Luckily it wasn’t an overly complicated one, the Unsub was killing those that were already on edge during the holidays. The victims had all been part of an online support group for those that either didn’t celebrate the holidays or were feeling depressed and anxious around Christmas time. Aaron could almost relate. He struggled with it himself, but always put on a smile for everyone else.
The plane ride back, everyone was talking about what they were going to do for the holidays. When Aaron heard the talking stop and all eyes were looking at him, he looked up and wondered what he should say. For some reason he found himself saying something to his team, the people he had come to think of as family, that was very much close to the truth.
“I don’t really celebrate Christmas.”
“Oh, come on, Hotch. Not even a little?” JJ asked.
“No. It was always Haley, and now Jessica who goes all out. Christmas…” Aaron looked out the window and not at his friend’s face. “It never meant anything growing up. A reason to impress the clients.” Aaron looked down at his paperwork and started to work on it once again, effectively shutting down any more questions about the holidays.
He heard quiet talking and didn’t pay any attention to it. Not even when Spencer moved to sit next to him.
“You never told me you didn’t celebrate.”
Aaron took a deep breath as he set the work aside and took his partner’s hand in his.
“It’s not something I really like to talk about, Spencer. I’ve tried to do something for Jack, but it’s difficult to just push aside those memories.”
“Aaron, you know I would never push you to do something you don’t want. But, would you give me the chance to show you Christmas can actually be fun?”
Aaron didn’t care if the others were looking at them, they had come clean to the team the year prior about their relationship. It had been building for years, then six-months after Haley died, they took a chance with each other and had found some happiness in the dark world they lived in. Taking Spencer’s hand, Aaron kissed the back of it and let his lips linger there a moment, then nodded. He wasn’t sure what Spencer had in mind, but he trusted the younger man not to go too crazy.
“Alright, Spencer. Just, don’t go too crazy?”
Aaron smiled softly and those two words more than any others meant a lot to Aaron.
“I do trust you.”
“Good. Because when we get back you are going to go spend the night with Jessica and leave everything to me.”
Aaron tried not to worry, but with Spencer, it was always a little unpredictable. But, he would do as Spencer asked and trust him.
Aaron stretched out on Jessica’s spare bed and blinked awake. Smelling fresh coffee he pulled himself out of bed and went in search of a cup.
“Morning sleepy head.”
Aaron chuckled as he took the cup Jessica was offering.
“Thanks. And, thank you for letting me crash here.”
“It’s no problem, Aaron. So, you guys are on downtime?”
“Yes. We are not back on-call till the third. Though we are first if it’s a critical situation or kidnapping. Other than that, we have the holidays off.”
“Aaron, you know it’s a good thing you’re letting Spencer do.”
Aaron sat down at Jessica’s small dining table, sipping his coffee while she worked in the kitchen.
“I know. I just…”
“I know, Aaron. I may not be a profiler, but I’m not oblivious to certain signs, things you’ve said over the years. I know why it’s difficult for you, and I know you try to do something special for Jack. Just, keep an open mind for whatever Spencer is going to do?”
Aaron smiled as he thought about his lover wanting to try to do something for him. That alone made Aaron’s heart speed up as he thought about how much he loved Spencer. Breakfast was placed in front of him and Aaron ate heartily. He and Jessica talked about the holidays and what she was going to do with Jack during New Years’.
After breakfast, Aaron took a quick shower, threw on some fresh clothes and wondered what to do with himself for the day. Aaron decided to go out and try to find something special for Spencer for Christmas.
Thankfully Aaron had hit the stores during that perfect time of it being moderately busy, but not crowded. He first got himself a cup of coffee and walked around the stores trying to figure out what he could get Spencer. As he walked around, something happened, he started to look at the holiday through Spencer’s eyes. His enthusiasm for Christmas, not as big as Halloween, but Spencer said it was his second favorite holiday. Aaron thought of all the Christmas traditions he had heard about over the years from Spencer and formulated a plan. As he shopped he found himself picking up things for Jessica, Jack and the other team members, even Will and Henry.
Hauling his packages to his car, Aaron laughed at himself about how he had gotten caught up in the Christmas spirit. He went back to Jessica’s and got to wrapping up all the things he had bought. Some he just put in nicely done gift bags or decorated boxes. He took his time with Spencer’s and Jack’s.
As Aaron finished packaging and wrapping his things he got a text from Spencer that just said, safe to come home. Aaron now wondered what the genius had done. Leaving Jessica’s presents for her, Aaron grabbed everything else, after cleaning up, and made it home in under an hour.
Walking up the drive to his house, Aaron saw a soft, warm glow peeking out of the front window. Smiling, he let himself inside and stopped. The decorations were like nothing Aaron figured they would be. The warm glow was coming from the strings of fairy lights all around but done in a beautiful tasteful way. There were bell jars, large mason jars, and other lidded glassware that had colored fairy lights in them all lit up.
There were rustic Santa’s, baskets of woven fall decorations, as well as papercrafts all around. The tree had been transformed with bows, hearts, snowmen and other old fashioned ornaments. The garlands were made of popcorn and holly berries. More fairy lights wrapped around the tree, and it was topped with a cutout wooden star.
“Hey,” Spencer said from beside Aaron.
The smells from the kitchen only just hit him making his mouth water.
“Hey yourself. Spencer, this is…” Aaron choked on the emotions he was feeling. Setting the packages down he turned and pulled Spencer into his arms and held him close. “This is beautiful,” Aaron whispered in Spencer’s ear.
“I figured that you wouldn’t want all of the traditional Christmas decorations. I had some of this, Jessica said you had stuff in storage, but when I looked at it, I just knew it wasn’t you.”
Aaron pulled him back and kissed Spencer, long and slow, pouring every ounce of emotion he had for the man into that kiss.
“I love you.”
Aaron swallowed hard. It was the first time he voiced the emotion he had felt for Spencer. When Spencer smiled and cupped Aaron’s cheek, his knees almost buckled with relief.
“I love you too, Aaron. Now, are you hungry?”
“I am. I just want to put these up.”
Spencer didn’t question it, he just turned and went back to the kitchen saying dinner would be ready in five. Aaron found Jack in his room reading. He almost laughed when he saw the sweater Jack was wearing. It was a TARDIS with a Santa hat on top of it, snow all around and all the Doctors, but as cats in Santa hats.
“Did Spencer get you that?” Aaron asked as he sat on the edge of Jack’s bed.
“You look adorable. Did you have fun with Spencer today?”
Jack vigorously nodded his head, which made Aaron laugh.
“Spencer knows everything about Christmas. Can we keep him, Daddy?”
Aaron brushed back his son’s hair and smiled.
“I think we don’t have a choice, do we?”
“Nope.” Jack sat up and hugged his Dad.
“Okay, Buddy. Let’s go wash our hands.”
Aaron put Jack down and the two of them made quick work of washing their hands. When they walked into the kitchen, Aaron, for the second time that night was completely taken off guard at what he saw.
“I understand that you might not want reminders of the traditions you grew up with. So, we are doing things differently.”
There, spread out on the counter was a dim sum feast complete with fried rice, chow mein, and egg rolls.
“Where did you learn to cook like this, Spencer?”
“I’ve always loved dim sum. I’ve picked up recipes here and there. I had some of these in my freezer already. I make a bunch ahead of time and take just a few here and there when I want something quick to eat. Don’t worry, I didn’t slave.”
Aaron didn’t know what to say. This was more than he could have ever asked for. There were potstickers, dumplings, rice balls, char siu bao, onion pancakes, seared pork belly with soft fluffy Chinese bread to eat it with. There was also some soup and hot tea.
The three of them sat down and dug into the food.
“Spencer, this is amazing. I can’t believe you know how to make all of this.”
“Cooking is basically just edible chemistry. And I love the complex flavors and textures when it comes to dim sum. I knew you’d love it too.”
“I do. I really do, thank you, Spencer.”
“After dinner, movies in our pajamas.” Spencer grinned as he stole a rice ball off of Aaron’s plate. Laughing, Aaron just leaned in and kissed Spencer.
After dinner was done and the leftovers were packed-up, which Spencer insisted would make a fantastic cold breakfast, Aaron was about to go change, when a package was handed to him.
“Wear these.” Spencer kissed Aaron’s cheek before he moved to the bathroom to change.
When Aaron opened his package, he saw the pajamas were a gorgeous deep red color. The heavy cotton felt good, and the matching robe was soft and warm. Aaron shook his head as he slipped on a pair of slippers and went to the living room.
“Now, the first movie is all for Jack.”
They piled on the couch, with cups of hot cocoa and snuggled up together as they watched The Nightmare Before Christmas, which Aaron didn’t want to admit he loved despite himself. When Aaron put Jack to bed after the excitement of the day and came back out.
“These next movies, are all for you.”
Aaron wondered what Spencer had on the agenda. When the DVD player started and Lethal Weapon began, Aaron had to laugh once again. After that was Die Hard. When the movies ended, it was past midnight. Aaron stood and grabbed the package he had put together for Spencer.
“I hope you like. There’s a little story on each.”
Spencer pulled out the first package and in it were books, a tradition in Norway. Next was a heart-shaped box of chocolates, reminiscent of Japan. A bottle of wine and sweets like from Holland, and more. Each gift was a tradition from a different country.
“Aaron, this is wonderful.”
Aaron smiled and pulled Spencer to sit back on the couch.
“I didn’t realize until I was shopping that Christmas didn’t have to be anything more than what I make it. Thinking about what to get you, all those stories you’ve told over the years came back to me and I knew this was something you would appreciate.
“Spencer, all of this, thank you. I don’t think I’ll ever not celebrate Christmas with you in my life, our lives. This is so much more than I expected, and it’s all beautiful, and so very us.”
Spencer’s smile and the kiss Aaron got was worth it. He knew with Spencer and Jack Christmas would forever be something special. New memories were made and new traditions started, the way they wanted to celebrate, and Aaron let go of a past that had haunted him for far too long.