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Secret Santa for Evergreen (Criminal Minds)


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I was lucky enough to get the talented and sweet Evergreen in the Secret Santa. I'm going to post her story in a few different sections. This first part takes a bit to get going but it will be worth it...promise ;)

Hope you enjoy. Merry Christmas!


He was in the break room making his second cup of coffee for the morning when saw her stop just outside the glass doors leading into the BAU. JJ patted both her pockets before pulling out her wedding rings and slipping them onto her finger. With a final flip of her hair, she pulled the door open making her way straight to the coffee.

"Morning Hotch," she said.

"Good morning. Here," he said reaching up and getting a coffee mug down for her. He filled it up and handed it to her, watching her try and school her frazzled features. "You okay?" he asked.

"Yeah. Just a rough morning with Henry. He didn't want to get up. I didn't want to get up. It made for a difficult start is all." He gave her a sympathetic nod and made his way upstairs. He frowned; today was the second time in a couple weeks he'd caught JJ slipping her wedding rings on just before coming into the office. Maybe she just took them off when she was getting ready in the morning and occasionally forgot to put them on, but he didn't think that was it. He couldn't recall the last time she'd mentioned Will. He stole a glance at the blonde woman down in the bullpen and really hoped she wasn't having trouble with her husband...and if she was, that she wasn't hiding it.

Two weeks later and although JJ obviously had something on her mind, she wasn't giving anyone any indication of what it might be. Morgan had asked her on several occasions, Reid had expressed concern, Rossi only half-jokingly asked if there was anyone he needed to deal with for her. Aaron was sitting at his desk thinking about the best course of action when Garcia knocked on his door, files in hand.


"Yes Garcia."

"You okay, sir? You looked kind of far away," she said coming into his office.

"I'm fine. Garcia, have you noticed anything unusual with JJ lately?" he asked, taking the case file from her. She sighed and sat down across from his desk.

"She hasn't told me what it is that's bothering her if that's what you mean. And not for lack of effort, I might add."

"Hmm. You'll let me know if you hear anything?" he asked.

"Of course, my liege." He handed the file folder back to her.

"Looks like we're going to Detroit. Have the team gather in the conference room in fifteen minutes."

As soon as Hotch entered the room Garcia clicked the screen behind her bringing up photos of four recent homicide victims.

"Okay, my super crime fighters, put on your thinking caps because this is a weird one. Every Friday for the last three weeks a different blonde woman in her 30's has disappeared on her way home from work. 48 hours later, police discover the body dumped outside a department store in a high end suburban mall. The victim's hair has been cut and their eyes sewn shut."

"That's a new one," Rossi said.

"Any idea how he's abducting these women?" Reid asked.

"No. In all three cases witnesses report seeing the woman leave from work but they never make it home. Police haven't found their cars so we're assuming the unsub is abducting them en route."

"That's pretty high risk," Morgan commented. JJ had been flipping through the crime scene photos on her tablet when she paused and pressed a finger under her nose, holding her breath to fight back a tickle that had been plaguing her all morning. Her head jerked forward with two silent stifled sneezes. She sniffed once and then said,

"Any overlap between our victim's social circles?"

"Nothing that I've been able to find yet," Garcia said. "I've only started looking though. I should have more results for you by the time you all land."

"If this unsub holds to pattern he'll take another woman tomorrow night," Hotch said. "We need to figure out if there's something connecting his victims other than their age and hair color. We also need to learn the significance behind this signature." Reid began explaining possible meanings behind stitching the eyes shut. JJ was trying to focus on what he was saying, but she could feel another sneeze quickly building. For the last couple of days she'd had a persistent headache and a tickle in her throat, but when she woke up this morning she had to admit that she was coming down with a cold. Great, just what she needed. Being sick didn't fit into her plan of flying under the radar with her friends for a little while longer. Although her personal life was in shambles, she wasn't ready to tell her teammates yet--unprepared to deal with their questions and concern. So far she'd been reasonably successful but a cold was definitely going to make that more difficult. Case in point, she turned her head and stifled another two sneezes. NgtK! N'gTK!

"Salud bella," Rossi said quietly, getting his handkerchief out of his pocket. She waived it off.

"I'm alright," she sniffed. He raised an eyebrow but nodded and tucked the fabric back into his jacket. JJ turned her attention back to the conversation just as Hotch was getting ready to give instructions.

"Prentiss and Morgan I want you two to look into the possible motives behind sewing the eyes shut. Go to the morgue and look at each victim. Reid, I want you working a geographical profile. Rossi, review witness statements. JJ, you and I will start with victimology. Wheels up in thirty. Garcia, we'll call you when we're in the air."

"Be safe and pack warm clothes," Penelope said. "Forecast is calling for snow, wind, and really chilly temperatures." The team gathered their things and began filing out into the bullpen. Hotch touched JJ on the elbow and quietly asked her to stay behind for a moment. Once they were the only two people left in the room, he took a second to look at her. JJ was standing with her arms crossed across her body, trying to avoid looking her boss in the eye.

“JJ, are you alright?” he asked.

“Fine,” she said with a smile.

“Are you sure? You look a little pale.”

“Hotch, I’m fine. Don’t we need to be getting ready to leave?” Her voice was tinged with impatience. He sighed.

“Yes, we do. I’ll see you on the plane.”

She made it halfway down the hall before the sneeze that she’d been fighting became impossible to ignore. She cupped her hands over her nose and mouth and sneezed without breaking her step. AhhK’tsshhew! The noise made Hotch’s frown deepen. JJ hadn’t looked well for weeks but he’d been able to chalk it up to exhaustion and stress; today she just looked ill.

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I love the Evergreen/Ickydog/Matilda circle of Secret Santa awesomeness we've got going this year :) Sooo much delicious Criminal Minds writing right now.

Okay, a little update...

A few hours later and they were in the air headed towards Detroit. The team had covered as much as they could in advanced and now they were all taking the last hour or so to rest and collect their thoughts so they could hit the ground running. Hotch had found his thoughts returning to settle on JJ once again. She’d sat towards the back of the plane by herself. Hotch sighed. If she wasn’t talking to Garcia, chances were she wasn’t talking to anyone. Whatever was bothering her, JJ was keeping it to herself. She walked past him silently and went through the kitchenette and into the jet’s tiny bathroom. He decided he’d try and catch her on her way back to the cabin—at least try and figure out how she was feeling. As he stood in the kitchen making himself a cup of coffee he got his answer. Even from inside the bathroom he could distinctly hear her trying to muffle a wet cough. Hotch frowned and started to fix her a cup of tea. As he placed the teabag into the mug he heard her sneeze AHhKtsshhhew! Ktschheew! followed by more coughing. He glanced into the cabin but no one on the team was able to hear her. Finally he heard the bathroom door unlock and slide open. As she brushed past him he called her name.


“Yes Hotch?”

“Here.” He handed her the warm tea and for a second he saw a sad smile flash across her face.

“Thank you,” she said and took a sip. Rather than ask her if she was sick, he decided to just skip to the part where he acknowledged it.

“You sound like you’re coming down with something,” he said quietly. She tucked a piece of hair behind her ear.

“Just fighting a cold. Nothing serious.”

“You sure that’s all it is? You haven’t seemed like yourself for a while.” She glanced up and saw the worry in his eyes. It made her stomach do an odd little flip-flop.

“It’s nothing,” she sighed. The crease between his eyebrows deepened and he moved a little closer to her.

“Whatever it is, it’s not nothing,” he said. Her lower lip trembled slightly and she bit it, shaking her head. He glanced over her shoulder but the rest of the team was still engrossed in their conversation. Hotch grazed her elbow with his thumb. “JJ?”

“Hotch, please…”

“You can tell me.” She just shook her head and blinked hard to keep tears from falling. “What happened?” he asked.

“Not now, Hotch. We’ve got this case and I don’t feel well and…I just can’t right now.” His eyes were clouded with worry and she knew he was about to press her further. “Please Hotch. I’m begging you—not now.” He frowned but reluctantly nodded. “Thaaahh Ahh thank you,” she managed before turning her head and stifling a several sneezes. AhhNgts! Ngtxs! AHh AHH HahhNGTks!

“Bless you, JJ.”

HahhNGKTS! NXTSS! She kept her nose pinched shut, her head bobbing forward once again. AHhNGTS! N’Ktss! Hotch reached up into the cabinet and handed her a couple napkins. She wiped her nose roughly and sniffled.

“Bless you.”

“Thanks,” she sighed.

“Why don’t you go to the hotel when we land? Check us in and get some sleep before meeting up with us.”

“I’m fine Hotch. Thanks for the tea.” She turned to go back to the main cabin.


“I’m fine,” she repeated, returning to her seat.

“No you’re not,” he sighed.

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totally forgot to comment on this. ummmmm.... i'm drooling. hotch is just so hot. and you write him so well. he's firm, insisting the JJ is not fine, but he's gentle about it and doesn't force her to admit she's sick. loving this!

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Thank you my dears! I'm having lots of fun writing this one. Here's another piece:

“No you’re not,” he sighed.

Garcia wasn’t kidding—it was bitterly cold when they landed. It felt like the wind cut right through their coats and scarves. Hotch was grateful that their original plan was for he and JJ to go to the station and start working on victimology. He really didn’t want her out in this weather. After greeting the local station chief they started posting photos of their victims on a large white board and writing down as much personal information as they could find. JJ was quiet, sniffling occasionally, but methodically filling out the occupations and personal habits of their victims. It wasn’t until she made it to their most recent victim that Hotch noticed something was wrong. She’d written and erased the woman’s name three times. As she began to write it the fourth time he saw the problem; her hands were trembling and her handwriting was almost too shaky to read. He came up beside her and took the marker from her hands, letting his fingers lightly brush against hers.

“Take a break,” he said quietly. She glanced up at him and he frowned. Her eyes were glassy and she was very pale.

“They look…” her voice shook.

“I know they do,” he finished for her. He’d noticed it as soon as Garcia brought him the file—their victims all bore a startling resemblance to JJ. “Take a break,” he repeated. She nodded stiffly and wandered towards the station’s break room to get some coffee. He turned back to the board and filled out the remaining information as quickly as possible. He stood back and surveyed what they knew.

“Not much overlap is there?” JJ asked, returning with two cups of coffee and a handful of tissues. They sat down at the conference table and reviewed what they had.

“All blondes in their early thirties,” he said, taking a sip of coffee.

“All abducted on their way home from…ahh…Ahh from work.” AhhNTsshh!

“Bless you. They all worked white collar jobs. An accountant, lawyer, and mortgage broker,” he said.

“Victims one and three are unmarried, victim two is…” she sniffed and grabbed a tissue. AH’Ngtshh! AHhhSNKsshhoo! “Victib two is divorced.”

“Bless you. So they’re all three single. Maybe our unsub is meeting them through some kind dating website or singles group,” Hotch said, dialing Garcia.

“Office of the All Seeing,” she said in her cheerful voice.

“Garcia, it’s Hotch. Have you been able to find any evidence of our victims using an online dating service?”

“Uh, let’s see.” She typed away at her keyboard for a moment and then said, “Well, yes and no. Our first two victims were both registered on dating sites but different ones. Our third victim isn’t on any dating sites but she did pay over $500 to a high end matchmaking service last month.”

“Garcia is there any way to see if the same man is registered on all three services?” JJ asked.

“Maybe but it’s going to take some time. I’ll need to search each database individually and hope he used the same credit card, email address, or photo.”

JJ turned her head to the side and sneezed. AHhKtsshhoo! Hotch frowned but didn’t say anything, instead taking Penelope off speaker phone.

“Garcia if your search comes up empty, look for overlaps in phrasing in their profiles. He may have been smart enough to use different credit cards.”

“You got it sir.”

AhhSNtsschhoo! KTsschhoo!

“Goodness, that’s not JJ is it?” she asked.

“Unfortunately,” he sighed.

“Hotch she’s—”

“I know,” he said, taking a couple steps away so JJ couldn’t hear him. Though she was so preoccupied with another impending sneeze, he doubted it mattered. “Penelope I need you to focus on the case.”

“Sorry sir, I’m just worried about her.”

“I know, but I’m keeping an eye on her. I need you chasing down this lead. Okay?”

“Yes sir. I’ll call you as soon as I know something.” He hung up and turned back to JJ. She was absentmindedly playing with the charm on her necklace. The dark circles under her eyes were nearly purple and the bright pink across her cheeks lead Hotch to suspect she was running fever. JJ glanced over and caught him studying her, but he didn’t try and cover it up. Instead he crouched in front of her and pressed a hand to her forehead, confirming his suspicion. Her eyes widened slightly in surprise but she held still. Hotch frowned and stood up again.

“Hotel?” he asked. JJ shook her head. He didn’t look happy but nodded. “Asprin then,” he said. This time it was clearly not a question. Hotch opened his briefcase and took out a small bottle of asprin. He shook two from the bottle and handed them to her. JJ downed the pills with a swallow of cold coffee and grimaced as they brushed against her tender throat.

“Thank you,” she said. “What did Garcia say?”

“She’s said it’s going to take some time to sort through all the databases. It’s just a theory though—it might not amount to anything.” As Hotch finished speaking he saw the sheriff trying to get his attention. “I’ll be right back,” he told JJ and he went to go see what the man wanted. JJ watched him. It was bad news, whatever it was. She could tell by the way his arms were crossed across his chest and the deep, intense look in his eyes. He nodded once and made his way back over to JJ. She sighed as she realized she’d have to wait to hear the news until after she was finished sneezing. Her nose twitched and she grabbed her last tissue, raising it within a few inches of her face. Hahh Ahh AHH’NGTshh! AhhhEHHSNGT’ssschh! She blinked a few times and Hotch’s face came into focus. He unfolded his handkerchief and handed it to her.

“Here,” he said. “Bless you.” She nodded her thanks because she knew she wasn’t done yet. Stifling her sneezes may have been quieter but it was doing nothing to ease the intense tickle deep insider her nose. She held the cloth tightly over her nose and sneezed repeatedly. AHhhKT’ssschhooo! Hahhssnschhhoo! Ktschoooo! Ahh…Hahh AHHNTSCHHHOOO! It took all herself control not to whimper as the sneezes tore at her throat. “Bless you, JJ,” Hotch said. She sniffled a few times.

“Thank you. What did the sheriff want?”

“They found another body.”

“What? It’s too early. We should have had another 24 hours,” she said.

“Our unsub’s accelerating.”

“But Hotch, we were supposed to have another 24 hours,” she insisted. He frowned.

“JJ, you know this happens. They decompensate and shorten their timeline—”

“We could have caught him if we’d had more time!”


“It’s only Thursday Hotch. It’s not fair! We should have had another day. He wasn’t supposed to take another woman until tomorrow. It’s not fair.” Her voice was raised and she stood up like she was ready to storm out of the building. As soon as she was on her feet though, the room tilted as a wave of dizziness hit her. Hotch quickly wrapped an arm around her waist to steady her. He swore he could feel the heat from her fevered skin through her shirt.

“It’s okay,” he said quietly, keeping a tight grip on her until she made a move to pull away. When she looked at him, the worry in his gut doubled; she looked defeated—exhausted, sick, and beaten down.

“It’s just not fair,” she whispered with tears in her eyes.

“I know,” he said.

“Are we meeting the others at the dump site?”

“No,” he said firmly. “We’re going back to the hotel.” She opened her mouth but he cut her off. “You’re sick. I’m taking you to get some rest. The others can handle the new crime scene.” Although true, it was only half of his reason. Honestly, Hotch wasn’t sure if she could handle seeing another brutalized blonde homicide victim. He was currently second guessing every time he thought about talking to her over the last month—JJ was rattled and had been for a while. His efforts to respect her privacy had backfired and now he had a very fragile, very sick agent and friend on his hands. To her credit, her stubborn streak remained unscathed.

“Hotch I can handle it,” she said even as her nose began to flare in anticipation of another sneeze.

“JJ, I admire your willingness but you’re burning up. You’ve been sneezing all day, you’re losing your voice, and you look like you haven’t slept in days. You have to get some rest.”

Hahh EHH’SNssschhhooo! She doubled over, sneezing into the handkerchief.

“Bless you.”

“Thag you,” she sighed. After putting on his overcoat, he picked up her jacket and held it open so she could slip her arms in. Dissatisfied with the thin, feminine scarf she had with her, he looped his own thick wool scarf around her neck.

“Gloves?” he asked. JJ shook her head and he pulled heavy leather gloves from his coat pocket and handed them to her. “They’re too big but you need to stay warm.” She looked ready to argue, but he gave her something approaching a Hotch Glare and she slipped her hands into the gloves. “Let’s go,” he said.

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So glad you're liking it! :)

“Let’s go,” he said.

He opened the door and ushered her out of the police station. They were instantly hit with a blast of frigid air. Wind whipped the snow that dusted the ground and JJ shivered despite her coat and Hotch’s scarf and gloves. The moment they were in the SUV, he turned the heat up and tilted the vents in her direction before pulling out his cell phone and dialing Rossi.

“Dave? It me. Are you on your way to the latest dump site?”

“Yeah. Morgan and Prentiss are already there and Reid’s adding the new locations to his geographic profile.”

“Good. I need you guys to handle the new scene without JJ and me.” At the mention of her name, JJ leaned her head against the cold window. Despite the asprin she still felt feverish.

“Everything alright?” Rossi asked.

“JJ’s not feeling well. I’m going to take her back to the hotel,” Hotch said.

“Good. The kid looks like hell.”

“I know,” Hotch sighed. He glanced over at her and saw her quickly pulling his gloves off her hands, before pressing her wrist to her nose trying to hold back a sneeze. The worry lines around his eyes deepened as he watched her struggle. It was only after Rossi called his name a third time that he remembered he was on the phone.


“Sorry. I’m here.”

“Stay with her for a while. We’ll keep you in the loop on what we find. Hopefully Garcia will get a hit on her search. JJ could use to have a friendly face nearby.”

“Thanks Dave.” Even though Hotch had no intention of leaving JJ’s side, it eased his mind to have Dave make the offer to manage the investigation. He hung up and pulled out onto the main road. “The hotel’s not far but I’m stopping at a pharmacy first,” he said. She nodded as she finally lost the battle with her sneeze. Cupping her hands in front of her face she sneezed a painful sounding HahhGNSScchhhoo! “Bless you,” Hotch said. She dug through her pockets for the handkerchief he’d given her earlier.

“Thag you.” Hahh…Ahh She found the crumpled handkerchief just in time. AhhNGSHHoo!

“Bless you.”


“Bless you JJ,” he sighed, pulling into the parking lot of a local drug store. “In addition to the obvious, what do you need? Is there anything that would make you more comfortable?” She shook her head. “Okay, stay here. I’ll be back in a minute,” he said. As soon as he was inside the store, JJ took advantage of her solitude and gave her nose a fierce blow. Although it felt good to clear her nose, it triggered a coughing fit and made tears spring to her eyes. As it calmed down, she rubbed her throat and leaned against the window again. She was so tired. She just wanted to crawl into bed and sleep for the next…three months should do it, right? JJ couldn’t remember the last time she wasn’t exhausted. AhhNHG’ssschhoo! Being sick certainly compounded things. She could feel her resolve slipping since she got sick—especially around Hotch. Every time he looked at her with that intense, quiet concern she felt her armor crack a little more. She constantly had a lump in her throat and it had nothing to do with being sick. As JJ saw Hotch coming out of the store, several bags in his hands, she doubled her resolve to keep her emotions in check.

It worked…briefly. They made it to the hotel and Hotch quickly got them checked in and carried both of their suitcases as well as the shopping bags to the elevator. For her part, JJ was finding it hard enough to just follow along without collapsing. When they stepped into the elevator she leaned against the wall. The drastic temperature change was causing her nose to run and she was sniffling frequently. Hotch pulled a box of tissues from one of the shopping bags and handed it to her.

“Thags,” she said, tearing the top off and grabbing two tissues to hold to her dripping nose.

“Of course.”

Her nose was beginning to burn and tickle and JJ had never been so glad to see a hotel room before in her entire life. Hotch held the door open to her and she’d barely crossed the threshold before doubling over with violent sneeze. HahhSHhehhSNNSSSHH!

“Bless you.”

She nodded her thanks but couldn’t speak over the itch flaring inside her nose. She sank down onto the bed, dropping the box of tissues next to her. ahhSNGshhhoo! HahhNGSchhhoo! Ahh AHHsnncht’SSHHOO! She let out something between a groan and a whimper.

“Bless you, JJ.” After she finished blowing her nose he knelt down in front of her, taking a thermometer from the drug store bag. “I need to see how high your temperature is,” he said and held the digital thermometer out to her. She slipped it under her tongue, closed her eyes and tried to focus on breathing through her irritated nose. She was going to sneeze again; she was just trying to hold off until she heard the electronic beep. Hotch saw her red nostrils flare and twitch a couple times. He pulled three tissues from the box and put them in her hands. The second the thermometer beeped he took it from her mouth and she immediately turned to the side sneezing. NGssschhOO! AHSNT’sschhhoo! She was so grateful Hotch had handed her tissues or her hands would have been soaked. AhhSNSCHHOO! Ahh Hahh AhhngHEHSSSCHHHOO!

“Bless you. Done?” he asked. She gave an experimental sniff.

“For ndow.” When she noticed the severe frown on his face she asked, “Thad bad?” nodding to the thermometer in his right hand.

“It’s 101. That’s not good but I was actually afraid it was higher,” he said. She knew he was holding something back. He started to say something but looked hesitant. It was strange—Aaron Hotchner didn’t do hesitant.

“What?” she asked.

“I’ve never seen you this sick,” he said. “I want you to be honest with me. Do you need to see a doctor?” JJ swallowed her immediate reaction to insist she was fine. She wasn’t fine and he knew it.

“I’b sure id’s just a bad cold,” she said, realizing her congested voice probably wasn’t helping her case. JJ resisted the urge to squirm as he scrutinized her. Finally he gave her a short nod.

“I’m going to step out into the hall and check in with Rossi. You should change and then I’ll get you some cold medicine,” he said.

“You’re stayig?”

“Yes. Unless you either want me to leave or the team can’t manage something without me.” She blinked in surprise.

“Oh. Uh, okay,” she stammered. He lifted her suitcase and put it on the bed next to her.

“I’ll be just outside,” he said.

When the door latched, JJ unzipped her bag and pulled out her pajamas and her favorite old college sweatshirt. She shivered when she took off Hotch’s scarf, but she positively shook with chills when she took off her coat and changed clothes. The door opened a crack and she heard Hotch’s voice.

“Can I come back in?”

“Yes,” she said, failing to hold back a cough. The catch in her throat made her cough into her sleeve. She felt a hand rubbing circles on her back.

“It’s okay,” he said. “I’ve got some water when you’re able.” As soon as the spasm eased enough she opened her eyes and took the bottle of water from his waiting hand. A few sips and she managed to finally stop. “Are you okay?” he asked. “You’re shaking.”

“Just a little chilled,” she said. It was almost true—she was absolutely frozen.

“Come on,” he said, pulling back the blankets on the bed. She slipped in and the cold sheets caused a violent shiver to wrack her body. Hotch sat on the edge of the bed and handed her two cold pills. After she swallowed them he put her water on the bedside table. Despite how cold she felt, there were beads of sweat gathering on her forehead. Even though he'd just taken her temperature he still laid a hand on her forehead and she pressed her lips together to try and keep her teeth from chattering. He frowned and cupped her cheek for just a second before getting up. He found a spare blanket in the closet and draped it over her.

“Thanks,” she whispered. He looked down at her—she looked so helpless laying there shivering, the only spots of color on her pale face the fevered flush of her cheeks and the ever-present dark circles under her eyes.

“I wish there was more I could do,” he said.

“Could you AHh..Hahh AHH tissues?” she managed. He handed her the box and she immediately brought one to her nose. AHhNGsschht! HahhSNGsschhoo! AhhngchSSHOO! She fumbled for dry tissues, more sneezes torturing her nose. Ahh Hahh AhhNGT’sschhhoo! Gntscchhhooo! SNTsschhooo! NGssschhOO! AHSNT’sschhhoo!

“God bless you,” he said, sitting back down.

“Thag you,” she said, pulling more tissues so she could blow her nose. Finally she collapsed against the pillows completely spent. Hotch once again wore a worried frown and the intense concern in his eyes that had become so familiar in the last 24 hours. He brushed her bangs out of her face and placed a cool washcloth on her hot forehead.

“Just relax. Those pills will kick in soon and you’ll be able to sleep,” he said. He switched off the bedside light, leaving just a single lamp lighting the room. He picked up the washcloth and pressed it to one side of her neck, then the other. He folded the cloth over and repeated the process, hoping to draw some of the fever from her skin. He didn’t talk or ask her any questions. He got up a couple times to rewet the washcloth and was pleased to see that she wasn’t shivering nearly as badly as she was earlier. JJ hadn’t fallen asleep yet and her eyes tracked his movements. Several times she was on the verge of thanking him but was afraid she’d break down crying before the words left her mouth. As it was, she could feel tears pooling in her eyes. No doubt he had noticed, but he didn’t say anything or ask what was wrong. Despite her best efforts, a hot tear escaped each eye and rolled down her cheeks. Hotch pressed the washcloth to either side of her face, blotting the tears away. The harder JJ tried to stop them, the more the tears slipped from her eyes. Again and again he silently wiped one side of her face then the other. The moment her eyes met his and she saw the compassion and concern etched on his face, she couldn’t hold it back a second longer.

“Will left,” she sobbed. He sighed.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “When?”

“Just after Henry’s birthday.” He blotted her face again, running a quick mental calculation.

“JJ, that was over two months ago,” he said quietly. She nodded. “What didn’t you say anything?”

“I was so embarrassed,” she cried. “We got married in such a rush. It was stupid and then it all fell apart and I just…I just felt so humiliated by the whole thing.”

The twitch in his jaw was the only thing that indicated that he was ready to punch Will in the face for hurting JJ.

“I’m so sorry JJ. I knew something was going on but I had no idea. I should have asked,” he said.

“I wouldn’t have told you anyway,” she whispered. Between finally giving up her secret, the cold medicine, and Hotch’s care, she finally started to feel like she could sleep. “Don’t tell the others yet?” she asked through a yawn.

“Of course not,” he said.

“I’m so Ahhh AHhh so tired, Hotch,” she said grabbing a tissue.

“I know you are. We’ll talk more after you’ve slept.”

AHhNTSSSHHOOO! She froze with the tissue near her nose as she waited to see if another sneeze was lingering. Ahh HAH…HahhEHHNTSSCHHHOO!

“Bless you. I’m going to work at the desk,” he said, nodding towards the other side of the room. “So I’m right here if you need anything.”

“Thank you,” she said as her eyes drifted shut.

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I am apparently drunk on angst and hurt/comfort at the moment rolleyessmileyanim.gif I think I have one more section I want to write for this one. It could end where it is but I'm pretty sure there's a bit left to write.

“Thank you,” she said as her eyes drifted shut.

Hotch booted up his laptop and sat down at the desk. He turned his cell phone to vibrate and sent Rossi a text letting him know that JJ was settled and he was going to work from the hotel. He learned that Garcia had found three possible suspects on both the dating websites and registered with the matchmaking service. They were all three being brought in for questioning. He answered a couple emails and reviewed the working profile for their current unsub. Hotch glanced over his shoulder as he heard JJ sniffle and roll over onto her side but she stayed asleep. Since the case seemed to be progressing and JJ seemed comfortable enough for the moment, Hotch decided to change into something more suitable for tending to a sick friend. He unzipped his bag and took out the jeans and sweater he’d planned to wear on the flight home. He quietly stepped into the bathroom and changed out of his suit, flipping off the light and dropping his suit and tie on top of his suitcase.

JJ had tossed one of her blankets on the floor and Aaron bent to pick it up. He spread it over her feet and made sure the other blankets were pulled up over her shoulders. Even in her sleep she looked uneasy—stress lines etched into her forehead, lips turned down in a tight frown. Hotch smoothed a hand over her forehead and felt her relax slightly. He went back to the desk, grabbed his cell phone, and then returned to her bedside. He sat down on the floor and gently stroked her head. It took a while but slowly JJ relaxed, settling into a deeper sleep and (Hotch hoped) a restful reprieve from her cold. He leaned back against the bedside table and watched her sleep. He couldn’t believe Will had left over two months ago. He couldn’t believe she hadn’t told anyone and that she’d been shouldering the burden on her own for so long. He had so many questions. How was Henry? Who was he staying with? Did Will go back to New Orleans? What happened to break them up? Perhaps most importantly, how could he help? She whimpered slightly, turning her head from one side to the other.

“Shh…it’s okay,” he whispered, brushing the hair off her forehead. Not for the first time, he felt a surge of anger well up inside him at the thought of Will hurting JJ. Admittedly, he knew absolutely nothing about what had caused their relationship to fall apart, but he didn’t really care. He’d made JJ cry and that was enough to make Hotch boil with anger. Although he’d never really felt like Will was good enough for JJ, as long as she was happy it didn’t matter. Hotch had to admit it was deeply unsettling to see her like this. Despite being one of the youngest members of the team, she was always one of the most stable. They each had things that plagued them: Morgan got angry, Reid felt insecure, Rossi isolated himself, Garcia got emotionally involved, and Prentiss struggled with her ghosts. JJ seemed to largely avoid those pitfalls though. Of course the senseless brutality of what they dealt with everyday got to her; it would be more worrisome if it didn’t but she always seemed to stay grounded.

His vibrating phone shook him from his thoughts and Hotch read a text from Morgan saying that they had narrowed in on a single suspect. Rossi was interrogating him now and even though it was late, they thought it best to keep pressure on their unsub. Hotch agreed and asked if they needed any help. Predictably, Morgan said they had it covered and so Aaron turned his attention back to JJ. She was restless again and was almost due for more cold medicine. He was pleased that she’d managed a few hours of sleep though. Every little bit was helpful—she obviously hadn’t been sleeping well for a while. When he heard the sad small whimper leave her lips again, Hotch decided it was better to wake her up, medicate her, and then try and get her back to sleep. He got up off the floor and sat on the edge of the bed. He gently rubbed her arm through the blankets.

“JJ? Wake up,” he said. She stirred and mumbled something incoherent. “I know, just for a few minutes,” he said. She gasped and sat straight in the bed. The room spun and she pressed a hand to her forehead and tried to catch her breath. “It’s okay. JJ, it’s okay,” he said sliding closer to her. He pulled her hand away from her face. “Look at me.” He put his hand under her chin and when she opened her eyes she found his face directly across from hers. Hotch could see the moment the fear passed and, once he was sure she was calm, he let go of her face. She took a deep breath and looked around the room.

“Did—” the moment she tried to talk her throat constricted and she coughed. She raised her forearm and attempted to smother the wet, rattling coughing fit. Hotch schooled his features, trying not to let his worry show, and waited until she was done. Finally she recovered some and asked in a raspy whisper,

“Did he kill any more women?” Her question pulled at his heart.

“Is that what you were dreaming about?” he asked.

“Did he?” she insisted.

“No. In fact, they have a suspect in custody.”

“Did he say…” her voice trailed off and Hotch, recognizing the look on her face, handed her several tissues. Ahh Ahh Hahh AhhNGT’sschhhoo! SNTsschhooo! Gntscchhhooo!

“Bless you.”

“Did he say why he killed them?” she asked from behind the tissues.

“You know there’s no reason he could give that’s going to make you feel better,” he said.


“Bless you. They haven’t finished the interrogation yet. I’m not even sure if he’s confessed. Rossi said he’d let me know.” She nodded and blew her nose. If possible, she sounded even more congested than she had earlier. Her nose was red and raw looking and she pinched the bridge of her nose. “Sinus headache?” he asked.

“Ndo. Still feeehh…Ahh feel like I have to sdeeze,” she said, grabbing a tissue and roughly rubbing her nose in it.

“I’m going to get you more cold medicine and I’d like to take your temperature again,” he said getting up. JJ nodded, her breath catching Hahh AHH HahhEHhNTCHSHHooo! “Bless you.”

“Thag you.”

“Need more tissues?” he asked. JJ assessed what was remaining in her box.

“Nod yet but sood.” She sighed as she felt another sneeze tickling her sensitive nose. AhhNGKsschhooo!

“Bless you. Here,” Hotch said holding out a couple pills. She shook her head and held up a finger. Hahh HAhhSNGCHshhhooo! She blew her nose and once she was sure she was done for the moment, she held out a hand for the pills. Hotch sat down on the edge of the bed and handed her a cough drop. “Sounds like you could use one.” She smiled and popped the lozenge into her mouth. He checked her forehead for fever and was pleased to find that it was down some from before. “A little better,” he said. Then he slid his hands down to either side of her neck and felt the glands on either side of her neck and the ones just below her jaw. “JJ, your glands are a little swollen. If it hasn’t gone done by the time we get home you need to see a doctor.”


“What can I do?” he asked. She looked into those intense, warm eyes and knew he was talking about a lot more than her cold. She shrugged.

“I don’t kndow. I honestly just don’t kndow what makes this better. I keep thinking…” she stopped, her bottom lip trembling. She took a shaky breath and tried again. “I keeb thinking I’ll wake ub ad it won’t be so hard,” she whispered. One of his hands came to rest on top of hers.

“It’s going to get better, JJ. You’re don’t have to keep doing it alone now that I know. I’ll help you until it gets better.” Tears slipped from her eyes and splashed down her face.

“Thag you, Hotch.”

“Always.” He stood up and toes off his shoes, then laid down on top of the blankets next to her. “Lay down,” he said.

“What are doing?”

“What I wish I wasn’t too proud to let someone do for me when Hailey left,” he said. He slipped an arm around her and eased her down so her head was resting on his chest just below his shoulder. Her body was rigid for a moment but as he slowly rubbed circles on her back she softened. She brought her arm around and tentatively draped it across him. “There you go,” he sighed, shifting closer to her. He felt her tears drop before he heard her. “You’re going to be okay,” he murmured into her hair. She cried off and on for the next twenty minutes. He remained perfectly “Hotch”—solid, strong, and quietly reassuring. JJ finally cried herself out and just as she was ready to drift off to sleep, a sneeze snuck up on her. She barely managed to raise a hand to cover her nose and mouth. HhhNTSSSCHHHHH!

“Oh God! Hodch I’b so sorry!” To her absolute shock he just tightened his hold on her and handed her some tissues.

“Bless you. You don’t have to apologize, JJ. Just stay put and close your eyes.”

“You’re sure?” she asked.


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Done! Happy Secret Santa, dear Evergreen! This was great fun for me to write. I hope you like the ending.


It didn’t take long for JJ to settle into a deep sleep. With the exception of an occasional sniffle or shiver, she seemed completely out. Aaron tugged the blankets to make sure she was completely covered and then he closed his own eyes. He wasn’t sure what time it was, but he knew it was late—after midnight at least. The congested steady breathy coming from the blond woman curled up against him was nearly hypnotic. He’d nearly forgotten how comforting it was to be curled up in bed with another person. It was really nice, he thought.

A light knock on the door awoke Hotch sometime later. He immediately glanced down at JJ but she remained oblivious, her lips parted, red nose twitching every now and then. Aaron slowly eased himself out from underneath her and went to the hotel room door.

“Rossi?” he asked, rubbing a hand over his face.

“Sorry. You weren’t answering your phone.”

“I’m sorry. I think I dozed off and didn’t feel it vibrate,” Hotch said, patting his pockets but not finding his phone. “I couldn’t have been asleep for long though.”

“Sleeping’s not a crime Aaron,” Rossi said. “And it’s four in the morning. We got a confession from our unsub. Thought everyone could use a few hours sleep and then we can fly home later this morning.” Hotch nodded and tried to answer but a yawn snuck out instead.

“Excuse me,” he said. Rossi restrained from rolling his eyes—only Hotch would apologize for yawning in the middle of the night.

“How’s JJ?” he asked.

“She’s pretty sick,” Hotch said. “But her fever finally broke last night and we talked a little. I hope she’ll feel better when she wakes up.”

“Did she finally admit that she and Will split?” Rossi asked.

“You knew?” Hotch asked.

“Strongly suspected,” Rossi said. “When you’ve had as many failed marriages as I have, you get to recognize the signs. I was hoping she’d finally tell someone though. Poor kid’s got to be torn up about it and she shouldn’t have to deal with it alone.”

“She’s not anymore,” Hotch said firmly. Rossi smiled and patted his friend on the shoulder.

“You should get some more sleep. Something tells me you’ve had just as stressful a day as the rest of us.”

“I really appreciate you guys handling things without us,” Hotch said. “It would have been a mistake to leave her alone.”

“And you were just the man for the job,” Rossi said with a wink causing Hotch to roll his eyes.

“Dave she’s sick and upset and—”

“Does that room only have one bed in it?” Rossi asked, clearly enjoying getting under his friend’s skin. It was so easy to tease such a straight-laced guy.

“One day I’m just going to fire you,” Hotch said.

“Eh, you’re all talk.” A loud sneeze could be heard inside the hotel room and Rossi conceded. “That’s your cue,” he said. “I’ll call you when the rest of the team is up. Or if your phone is still ‘lost’” he said putting air quotes around the word, “I’ll have to come by and interrupt.” Dave laughed at the full strength Hotch Glare he received for his last comment and walked down the hall to his own room. Hotch locked the door and turned on a single lamp to give him just enough light to see. JJ was laying on her side, a handful of tissues pressed to her nose, taking quick shallow breaths, as an intense tickle plagued her nose.

AHh HAH…Hahh HAH AHH AhhhYIHHSKSSSSHHHOOOO! She curled towards her knees with another wrenching sneeze HehhHAHHSNNSSCHHHOOOO! before blowing her nose into the tissues.

“Bless you,” Hotch said frowning.

“Thaahh AH thag you.” He helped her sit up and rest against the headboard before sitting down on the edge of the bed.


“Bless you. I was hoping you’d feel a little better when you woke up.” He handed fresh tissues and she gratefully raised them to her red, flaring nose.

“I do feel better,” she sniffled. “I just aahhh AHH always waaahh AHHKTSSHHHOO! HehhAHHNTSCHHOOO! Always wake up to a…ahhhahhEHHNTCHHHOOO! A sdeezig fit whed I have a cold.”

“Bless you again. So this is normal?” he asked, resisting the urge to brush the stray pieces of blonde hair from her face as she turned her head and blew her nose. She nodded, grabbing two more tissues.

Uhh unfortunately…” HahhEHHNTCHooo! SNTCHHooo! Displeased with the answer, Aaron stood up and started gathering things he could use when she was done: A fresh bottle of water, cold pills, a couple cough drops, and the thermometer.

AHh EHhNTSCHHHooo!Uhh…HohhhAHH Hodch?” she called.

“What’s wrong?” She waved the empty box of tissues in his direction.

“Do we haahh have bore?” AHhhKTSSSSHHHHH! She caught the messy wet sneeze in her hands and kept them cupped over her nose. He quickly pulled a new box from the bag of supplies he’d bought earlier. He set the box in her lap and then pulled out three, holding them up near her hands. JJ felt humiliated and blushed, but had no choice but to take the tissues and get them to her messy nose as quickly as possible. HehhAHHTSSCHHHOOO!

“Are you sure this is normal?” he asked, frowning deeply. She nodded. HahhEHHTSSSCHHHooo! GNTSCHHHooo!

“Bless you. Can I do anything?” His eyebrows were drawn together and his face was clouded with worry as he watched her petite frame shake with sneeze after sneeze.

“Just have to waiEHH…wait for HehhHehhAHHTSSCHHHoo! for id to stob.” HehhHAHHSNNSSCHHHOOOO! KTSSCHHOOOO! Hehh AHH…Hahh…hehhHIIHHSSSNNTCCHHHooo!

“Bless you.”

“ThaahhEHHNTCHH’ooo! Thag you.” She blew her nose several times and then leaned back against the pillows with a sigh.

“Are you okay?” Hotch asked. “I’ve never seen you sneeze like that.” She gave him a sleepy smile,

“I probise it’s annoying but completely norbal for be.” However, when the worry lines around his eyes didn’t even soften she sat up a little straighter and said, “Seriously, Hodch. Whed I have a cold I’b always like this whed I first wake ub.”

“I want to take your temperature,” he said, holding out the thermometer. JJ fought back the urge to answer with a robotic ‘Yes, sir’ or a sarcastic comment, or at least an eye roll, but she knew he was worried so she simply took the thermometer and slipped it under her tongue. He continued to sit there looking worried until the thermometer beeped and revealed that her temperature was only 99.3. “I still want you to take another dose of medicine,” he said, handing her the pills. She swallowed them and watched him pace the length of the room a couple times.

“Hodch are you okay?” she asked.

“I’m fine.”

Liar, she thought.

“Is sobething wrog with the case?”

“No. They got a confession. We’re going home in a few hours,” he said. JJ bit her bottom lip. His voice was clipped and terse; he seemed like a caged lion stalking around in its cage. A thought occurred to her that made tears prick her eyes.

“Are you…are you mad at me?” she whispered. He spun around and looked at her like she’d sprouted a second head.

“Mad at you—why on earth would I be made at you?” he asked. His eyes were dark and razor sharp. She twisted the blanket up in her fingers.

“Well I got sick while we were od a case ad you had to take care of be. Thed I kndow I told you about Will last dight. I didn’t bean to dump thad od you. If it wasn’t for the fever I dever would have said adything. I just—”

“JJ, stop,” he said. He sighed and sat down on her bed. “I’m not mad at you and you have nothing to apologize for. You can’t help getting sick and I’m glad you finally told me about Will. I could never be mad at you.”

“Thed why are you being so…you know?” she asked. He sighed heavily.

“I’ve been worried about you,” he confessed. “For weeks I’ve known something was wrong and I couldn’t fix it. Then we came out here and you got so sick so quickly. Your fever was really high last night and you were so upset. I just…” He sighed again. JJ sat openmouthed—it was the longest personal utterance she’d ever heard from him. “You’ve been hurting and I couldn’t help. Then you got sick and I couldn’t help. Last night you cried and I couldn’t help you feel any better and it just…it makes me so angry to see you hurting when there’s nothing I can do.”

“Oh, Hodch,” she sighed, rubbing her nose against her wrist. “You helped bore than even know. By bemory is a little fuzzy frob last dight but I rebember parts. You were so kind ad did everything you could do to bake be feel better. You hehh EHH…” her voice trailed off and she grabbed a tissue. “Hahh hag od a sec…” Ehh AHH HehhAHHSNGSHHHHooo!

“Bless you,” he said. She blew her nose and sniffled a couple times.

“Thag you.”

“I should let you get some sleep,” he said, standing up.

“I’b not dode with you,” she said, sounding as threatening as she could with such a stuffy voice. He raised an eyebrow and very nearly cracked a smile, but settled back on the bed.

“You are dot a superhero Aarod Hotchder, no batter what you think. I wasn’t ready to tell you about Will but that was by decision, dot your failing. Ad no pundching hib id the face whed we get back to DC, got it?” This time he did smile a bit.

“Got it.”

“Ridiculous alpha-bales thinking you cad solve every little probleb with brute force. You can’t glare by cold into submission, Hodch. Cold viruses aren’t udsubs.”

“In my defense, I didn’t glare last night,” he said.

“No, you didn’t. Do you kndow what you did last dight?” she asked.


“You helped. Tremendously. Thad’s why I feel so buch better: You.”

“Really?” She wasn’t sure if his lingering doubt made her want to do more: hug him or smack him.

“Really.” She waited until she saw it sink in—his face relaxed and his shoulders dropping. “Ndow we’ve got a couple hours before we fly hobe, so why don’d you bake yourself useful ad let be use you as a pillow agaid?”

He laughed that small goofy laugh of his and came around to the other side of the bed, stretching out and pulling her up against him. She yawned and sniffled, getting comfortable again.

“Are you going to have a sneezing attack like that when you wake up again?” he asked, readjusting the blankets.

“Probably. Think you cad handle it without freaking out?”

“I didn’t freak out,” he said.

“Of course you didn’t.”


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OMGOMGOMGOMG this was so perfect. thanks so much! awww! hotch freaking out because of her sneezing fit was so priceless. <3 perfect ending!

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