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Red Garlands and Cold Beer

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"Well, I'm off," Lisbon said, pausing in the doorway to the bullpen on her way to the elevators. "Don't stay too late, Cho. It's Christmas Eve."

When Cho looked up, he realised that he was the last person left in the office besides her.

"Got it, Boss," he said, and then nodded towards the large suitcase Lisbon had with her. "Need any help with that?"

She shook her head.

"No thanks, Jane already offered to carry it." She looked around. "Speaking of which, where is Jane? My cab is probably already waiting downstairs."

As if summoned, the consultant in question appeared from the kitchen. He tapped Lisbon's left shoulder, then slipped past her from her right, using her confusion as a distraction to conjure a small, brightly-colored parcel from his jacket pocket.

Lisbon gave him a stern look, but Cho could see the smile tugging her lips. "Jane, you shouldn't have."

"I thought you could use some glamour in your life."

Lisbon's eyes narrowed as she accepted the gift. "This better not be an emerald necklace."

"Don't worry, it is perfectly within the acceptable price limit for a gift between two co-workers." He tilted his head, looking at her in the eyes in that way that he did when he was pretending to read minds. "And no, it's not lingerie either."

Lisbon swatted him with the parcel.

"Shut up, Jane," she said, and then closed the distance between them and pulled him down for a hug. Jane went very still for a few seconds, surprised by her sudden gesture, before wrapping his arms around her.

"Thank you," she said. "And Merry Christmas. Don't spend it at the office."

Jane smiled. "You too, Mom. Have fun in Chicago."

Neither Lisbon nor Jane were known for public displays of emotion - at least sincere ones in Jane's case - and so to give the two of them some modicum of privacy, Cho turned his attention back to the paperwork in front of him. The office Christmas Party had been cancelled because of budgets cuts, which meant there had not been the usual secret santa, but that hadn't stopped Jane. Cho had already seen him ambush Van Pelt and Rigsby with his gifts, receiving an enthusiastic hug from the former and a manly pat on the shoulder from the latter in return. Based on the strange looks that Minelli had been giving Jane all day, Cho guessed that Jane had bought a gift for him as well, probably for no other reason than to just mess with him. Which only left Cho himself.

As predicted, less than ten minutes later Cho became aware that someone was watching him. When he looked up, he found Jane standing in front of him. Jane grinned, and held out a small parcel, pushing it over the desk to Cho. The slim gift had a weight to it, suggesting that it was a book. Knowing Jane, it was going to be something rare or expensive, or at the very least out of print.

"You're not getting a hug," Cho said.

Jane's grin only widened, like Cho had just said something incredibly amusing.

"Fair enough," he said, and then rounded the table and flopped down on the couch behind Cho's desk.

Jane was still lounging on the couch when Cho finished the paperwork and switched off his computer. He grabbed his coat and keys, shoving Jane's gift into his coat pocket, and then turned to leave, but stopped after just a few steps and turned back to Jane. The sight of Jane sleeping on the couch in an empty office on Christmas Eve was depressing enough to make even Cho feel sorry for him . No matter what Jane had told Lisbon, Cho knew that he was going to spend the night on that couch. And Jane had bought him a gift - the least Cho could do was to make sure that Jane wouldn't have to be alone for at least a few more hours.

"Wanna go grab a beer?"

Jane opened his eyes and angled his head to better see Cho. "On Christmas Eve? You're not going to Oakland to see your family?"

Cho shook his head. "They're spending the holidays in Korea this year. One of those heritage trips."

The answer didn't appear to satisfy Jane, who gave him a curious look. "You have over two weeks of unused vacation time. Why didn't you go with them?."

Cho decided to ignore how Jane would know how much vacation time he had. "Would you want to share a hotel room with your father for two weeks?"

"Ah. Good point," Jane said, then shrugged and stood up. "Sure, a beer sounds great. It's not like I was invited to Jesus' birthday party anyway."

The team's usual hangout near the CBI headquarters had already closed for the holidays, so they picked a bar randomly, stepping through the first door with a 'Open' sign and a promise of beer. As they settled in their table, Cho took a look around. There was string of fairy lights with only every other bulb still working hung above the bar, a small concession to the holiday season which probably made no difference to the scruffy-looking middle-aged man hunched over his beer who was the only other patron besides Cho and Jane.

"You're not much of a Christmas person, are you Cho?"

Cho shrugged, turning his attention back to Jane. "I don't see the point of it. All that goodwill for all men and false cheeriness, pretending to care about people you hardly know. It's all fake, playing nice for Santa's sake."

As he reached for his drink, his eyes fell on Jane's gift lying on the table between them. Jane's latest ruse a few weeks earlier had gotten the whole team in trouble, and Cho himself had only barely avoided temporary suspension. When he looked up, Jane's expression hadn't changed, but he knew it was not so much because Jane didn't know what Cho was thinking as because he didn't want Cho to know what he was thinking. Cho raised his bottle to his lips.

"Do you have any plans for Christmas?"

Jane waved his hand absently. "A good book, a bottle of Merlot, and listening to the man in the room next door cry on the phone, begging his ex wife to take him back." He shrugged. "We didn't do Christmas when I was growing up. It's hard to believe in Santa when you've just helped your father scam some poor family out of their Christmas money. I never really celebrated the holidays until-"

Jane shrugged again, his thumb idly drawing circles in the condensation on his bottle, and then gave Cho a small lopsided smile. "'Bah.' said Scrooge, 'Humbug.'"

Cho took a drink from his own bottle. "How much did that copy of Christmas Carol you bought me cost?"

Jane laughed. "Good old Cho, nothing gets past you, does it?" He looked at Cho, still smiling, and this time the smile reached his eyes as well. "A little more than is acceptable for a gift between two co-workers, but you don't strike me as the kind of man to appreciate fine lingerie or a nice bottle of perfume, so I had to take some liberties." He finished his beer, and flashed a mischievous grin. "Let's go an see if there's any place more exciting still open at this time."

"-but what he didn't know was that the elephant had already been taken away." Jane finished his story and then doubled over in a fit off giggles, leaning so close to Cho that he was practically lying on his lap. Even when sober, Jane seemed to think of himself as the most hilarious person in the world, but alcohol had removed the little restraint he usually had, as Cho had come to find over the course of the evening. There was some red tinsel tangled in Jane's hair, but Cho resisted the temptation to fish it out and just gently pushed him back into a sitting position.

They arrived at Cho's apartment first, and so he paid his share, and then made sure that the driver knew Jane's address before stepping out. He was just about to close the door when Jane called after him.

"Wait, wait, wait! Don't forget your present!"

Jane scrambled out of the car, almost tripping over his own feet in his enthusiasm to return the small parcel, which had switched owners again somewhere between bars number four and five. He didn't let go, though, when Cho accepted the gift, and instead lurched forward, and pulled Cho into a drunken hug.

"You smell nice," Jane mumbled into his neck. "Minty."

"That's the peppermint schnapps that you spilled on yourself."

"Oh." Jane let go of him and took a step back, sniffing his own suit sleeve. "I smell nice."

Cho couldn't help smiling. He guided Jane back to the cab, but when the got to the car Jane resisted, refusing to get in. He held on to Cho, his hand gripping Cho's shoulder as he struggled to force a serious expression on his face.

"Thank you. I had fun today," he said, holding Cho's gaze. For a second Cho was afraid that Jane might kiss him, and maybe it was just the beer talking, but when he gave it some further thought, he found that he wasn't entirely against the idea. Finally Jane let go of his shoulder and took a step back.

"Merry Christmas, Cho," he said, slipping back into the taxi.

Cho closed the door, trying to ignore the slight pang of disappointment.

"Yeah, you too."