Disclaimers: I don't own any members of the BAU team, or the beautiful folk song "The Logger Lover" that appears herein, please please don't sue me, o powers that be.
Rating: K- Completely harmless.
Spoilers: Up to 4.13. Set sometime before 4.14, after the return of JJ.
Credit: The song that I know as "The Logger Lover", that appears here, was written by James Stevens, and sung to me as a child.
Summary: Bickering, joking, shop talk, and some singing. Just another long night plane ride home for the BAU.
"If I never see another pancake again, it'll be too soon."
"Oh come on, Morgan, I thought you liked pancakes. Scratch that, loved them. That one case up in Burlington, you were practically giddy when we stopped at that packie that sold maple syrup by the case."
"Okay, first of all, I do not get 'giddy'. Excited, maybe, manfully enthusiastic, but not giddy."
"No, Emily's right, I was there, you were giddy. Maybe even…bouncy?"
" Reid, if I could reach you right now, I would smack you."
"Well, fortunately, as always, I remember to keep myself at least 3 feet out of your wingspan."
"Settle down, children."
"Sorry, Mr. Rossi."
The younger Dave Rossi might have gotten annoyed at that last phrase, sung by the three younger agents in unison as the team reached the jet. As it was, he restrained himself to raising a bemused eyebrow. He followed Morgan, Prentiss and Reid up the stairway, JJ close behind, and Hotch bringing up the rear. He wasn't sure which trained part of Hotch's brain caused his friend to do that, but he always did. SWAT, FBI, father to a 4-year old; Hotch always brought up the rear, watching all around him as he did so.
Maybe just a step slower tonight, though. With the help of the local sheriff's office, they had cornered the unsub in an abandoned warehouse on the edge of town. The bastard hadn't gone down without a fight. It had taken him, Hotch, Morgan, and three deputies to finally wrestle the former high school quarterback to the ground. Kicking, scratching and clawing as he did so- god bless the meth epidemic here in rural Oregon. And while the stubborn SOB had waved off any of Dave's attempts to guide him towards the EMTs, Rossi was pretty sure that Hotch had taken at least 3 solid blows to the ribs. Probably nothing broken. But he would guess from personal experience that neither moving nor breathing were feeling too good for Hotch right now.
As they entered the jet's main cabin, Rossi saw Prentiss eagerly heading for the couch. He managed to catch her eyes briefly, and nod backwards in the relevant direction. Emily's eyes widened, she nodded back, and quickly moved to sit in the seat next to Reid. Rossi mouthed a quiet "Thank you" to her, and to the fates who had gifted a globe-trotting latchkey kid with such an overdeveloped maternal instinct.
Hotch had finished his usual check-in with Chuck the pilot, and returned to the group. He eased himself down on the couch's overstuffed upholstery as the plane's engines whirred to life, and swung his legs to follow. Only a somewhat forced exhale denoted that the stoic chief was anything other than 100%.
The jet took off into the starlit night sky. As Chuck gave the go-ahead over the intercom, 6 Bureau-issued cell phones glowed in unison.
That had come from JJ's direction. As many times as Rossi remembered Hotch calling Haley in his first years in the unit, he was sure that JJ exceeded that number fourfold in checking her cell these days. Somehow, she seemed to be managing both the unit and her home equally as well. Speaking as someone who had tried and failed at a similar balancing act three separate times, Rossi had no end of admiration for her.
"Trouble at home?" Emily could never quite turn that part of her brain off, could she?
"Probably not, just a missed call from Will. He should be putting Henry to bed right about now, I'll check in." JJ retreated to the tiny area that served as a kitchenette, for a little more privacy.
"Well done this week, guys. I know serial arson is a slog at the best of times, but it's the rare case where we can get there in time to make a difference, and this was one of them."
Hotch couldn't really be accused of having been anywhere near neglectful before. But Rossi had overheard Jordan's recent admonition, and Hotch seemed to be taking it especially to heart.
"Speaking of arson, have we heard anything from ATF on this thing in Coatesville?" Morgan's question was the first they'd spoken of it, but the BAU had been keeping track of the situation in Pennsylvania. Even living a decent distance south of the Delaware Valley, the mysterious string of fires had been all over their local news.
"Nothing yet. They still haven't nailed down whether it's one guy or several yet. They've got good people in that ATF unit, though, they'll get it eventually."
Emily's tone was hopeful, but the team fell silent, maybe suspecting that they had used up all the profiling luck available on this particular week. Luck being the vital ingredient that one rarely talked about but always needed.
A low soothing tone suddenly caught all of their ears, and they looked towards the rear of the plane.
"Is JJ…singing to her cell phone?" Reid whispered.
"I think she's singing to Henry, through her cell phone."
"Well thank you, Captain Derek Obvious."
"Why you two gangin' up on me tonight?"
"It's a lullaby," said Hotch firmly, clamping down on the adolescent tensions that threatened to bubble up again.
Rossi had been listening intently, and still couldn't identify it. "Which one is it, though? Not to incriminate myself, but it's been so long since I've heard one."
Morgan seemed equally confused: "Couldn't tell you. My mother always went with the classics. Baa Baa Black Sheep, Twinkle, Twinkle, that sort of thing."
Reid seemed almost transported, by JJ's song and by another, more bittersweet memory. "My favorite was always Barbara Ellen."
"Isn't that kind of depressing for a lullaby?"
Emily jumped to Reid's defense: "Not when you're 6 months old. The words may be haunting, but the tune's gorgeous."
"What about you, Em?" The addition of the sixth voice startled everybody, as JJ had stealthily reentered the cabin.
"JJ, that was beautiful! We were all in here trying to figure out what it was."
"Sorry guys, I can't take credit for that one. Has to go to two guys named John and Paul."
Rossi could have slapped himself in the head at that moment. "My god, they're going to come and take away my baby boomer card. How could I not know "Blackbird" when I heard it?"
JJ beamed quietly. "Give the man a cigar. We were playing The White Album one night, and it just calmed Henry right down. " She returned her attention to her friend. "You, Emily, never answered my question."
Prentiss looked down, and blushed slightly. "Well, I like all the traditional ones, too."
"But… there was one my grandfather used to sing me when we visited him. I think he said he learned it when he was a young man, back in Wisconsin. But I don't remember it very well…"
"Come on, if I get an audience for my butchering of the Beatles…"
"All right, all right." Prentiss cleared her throat, and screwed up her courage.
"As I sat down one evening,
Twas' in a small café.
A forty year old waitress
To me, these words did say:
I see you are a logger,
And not just a common bum
For no one but a logger
stirs his coffee with his thumb."
("I'll have to try that sometime." "Shush, Morgan, I want to hear.")
"My lover was a logger,
there's none like him today
If you'd pour whisky on it,
he'd eat a bale of hay …
He never shaved the whiskers
from off his horny hide
But he'd pound 'em with a hammer,
then bite 'em off inside."
("Sounds like it's from the Paul Bunyan school of early American tall tales…" "REID.")
"My lover came to see me
one freezing winter day
He held me in a fond embrace
that broke three vertebrae
He kissed me when we parted
so hard it broke my jaw
And I could not speak to tell him
he'd forgot his mackinaw."
Emily had been slightly embarrassed up to this point, but now she really seemed to get into it. Low, and sweet, and somewhat sad. What this waitress was to Emily Prentiss, or Emily Prentiss to her, no one could say. But Dave Rossi was entranced.
"I watched my logger lover
a-going through the snow ,
A-sauntering gaily homeward
at forty eight below
The weather tried to freeze him,
it tried its level best
At a hundred degrees below zero,
he buttoned up his vest.
It froze clean down to China,
it froze to the stars above ,
At one thousand degrees below zero
it froze my logger love.
That's how I lost my lover,
and to this cafe I come
And here I wait till someone
stirs his coffee with his thumb."
As Prentiss finished, there was nothing but contented silence among the team members.
Finally, Morgan spoke up.
"Emily, that was…I can't even…"
"My god, I have rendered Derek Morgan speechless. Score."
JJ had gotten up, at some point during the song, and gone to the back of the plane. They all turned.
And Prentiss, Morgan, Rossi and Reid together beheld a unique vision. JJ had found one of the jet's spare blankets, and was currently tucking it around the exhausted and unconscious form of their fearless leader.
"Prentiss…you actually sang Hotch to sleep."
Apparently, JJ had found an extra pillow, as well. She finished, stood up, and did her best imitation of the sleeping man's famous glare.
"If any of you make even so much as a peep…"
The other four nodded fearfully, aware of the power JJ wielded over them.
Rossi looked out his window over the passing mountains, and then back at Hotch. Head nestled against the arm rest, completely and totally at peace. For the first time in months.
That was a sight none of them wanted to disturb.