Author's Note: Okay, guys! My muse is giving me the silent treatment! If you'd like to see some new stories, I might need a little push. Any ideas? Send 'em my way, please. As ever, thanks to everybody who has been reading these stories. I really, really appreciate it. As ever, I don't own Criminal Minds.
As Jennifer Jareau settled into the recliner, Henry in her lap, she wondered, not for the first time of the evening, if she'd have company this night. Glancing down at where Henry laid across her stomach suckling his bottle, she smiled. Single parenthood was definitely a challenge, but, oh, so worth it. The constant bickering over the last six months had taken its toll on her and she was relieved that it was over. Will had moved back to Louisiana three months ago, finally agreeing to grant full custody to JJ in exchange for no child support. It had been worth it just to have her freedom again. Things might be a little tight, but thanks to some shrewd investments, Henry wouldn't suffer.
Glancing up at the clock on the wall, JJ sighed. It was getting late. The chance of her late night visitor was diminishing. "I don't think he's coming tonight, Henry," JJ whispered to the drowsy baby. No sooner than the words had escaped her lips, however, a soft knock echoed through the living room. Smiling at the baby again, she whispered, "Maybe momma was wrong." Lifting the baby into the bouncy seat at her feat, JJ quickly scooted out of her seat.
Pausing only to check her appearance in the hallway mirror she headed toward the door. She hated to say she was relieved, but no other description would describe how she'd felt about these late night visits from David Rossi. They'd started about a month ago, right after Hotch had been wounded by Foyet. He'd shown up at her door one night after leaving the hospital, tired and disillusioned and asked if she'd mind if he spent some time with Henry. He'd said he needed the company of the innocent and from the look on his face, she'd known truer words had never been spoken. He'd rocked a sleeping Henry in his arms for over an hour. Finally placing the sleeping baby back in his crib, he'd joined her in the living room. They'd talked quietly for hours. About everything and nothing, really. She'd shared the particulars of her situation with Will and other than Garcia, he was the only team member that knew Will was gone. Over the course of Aaron Hotchner's recovery, Dave had been everyone's rock. And it had taken its toll on him. So, about three nights a week, she had a late night guest and she couldn't deny that she and Henry definitely enjoyed the older man's company. She knew she shouldn't allow herself to look forward to these moments so much, but it was unavoidable. Somewhere along the way, she'd fallen for David Rossi.
Reaching the door, she opened it to find a set of exhausted dark eyes staring into hers.
"Hey," he said with a half-smile. "Is the little man still awake?"
"Yep," JJ grinned.
"He's been waiting for you, I think," JJ said softly, widening the door to allow him entry.
"Good," Dave muttered gratefully. "I think he may be the only person all day that's been glad to see me."
Watching Dave walk into the living room, he immediately smiled as the baby kicked excitedly. "You been waiting for me, Little Man?" he asked reaching for the baby, raising him to his chest and rubbing circles along his back.
"I'm assuming that's why he'd been fighting going down for the night," JJ nodded. "I think he's gotten used to having you at night."
"I certainly miss the nights I don't hold him," Dave murmured, tickling the baby's neck with his whiskers as Henry giggled happily. "And after a day like this, I don't think I could have resisted temptation if I tried," he whispered, cuddling the little boy to him as he feathered a kiss along his downy head.
Feeling her heart constrict at the sight, JJ said slowly, "It's late-"
Turning his head to look at her apologetically, he said, "I know. I'm sorry, JJ. I should have called and asked if it was okay."
"No, Dave, I didn't mean it like that," JJ quickly assured him. "I just meant, you must have had a long evening since we got back from Louisville."
Relaxing marginally as he sank into the recliner and began rocking Henry, Dave nodded. "Yeah," he said softly. "Morgan caught me in my office and gave me hell about Hotch."
"I figured," JJ murmured, lowering herself to perch on the arm of the couch. "He was pretty angry when we got back to the police station to wrap up."
"He has cause," Rossi admitted quietly, watching Henry begin to drift in his arms. "But you know Hotch almost as well as I do, JJ. Questioning his authority when he's in this frame of mind could cost Derek his job. He'd regret it later, but we both know he'd do it."
Nodding, JJ asked, "Did you go see him tonight?"
"No, Em went home with him. I took Morgan out for a drink. Tried to talk him down," Dave replied.
"Any success?" JJ asked curiously.
"Hell, JJ, they're both alpha males. The dog fight is gonna come eventually. I might have managed to postpone it, but it's a temporary fix."
Smiling at the analogy, she studied the man rocking her son. He was one to talk about alpha males. He defined the term. He was a born leader. But this role that had been thrust on him as the guiding light of their unit was beginning to wear on him. Rossi's temper was fraying and he was tired. The others just hadn't noticed yet. But, she did. And she hated it for the man who had quickly become more important to her than she ever anticipated.
"Have you eaten yet?" JJ asked.
"I grabbed a sandwich earlier," Dave nodded. Glancing up at her, his eyes softened. "Why don't you go take a hot bath or something. Do whatever it is that overworked mothers do to unwind. Me and the munchkin will be fine."
This was why she'd fallen in love with him. No matter how tired or how stressed he was, he worried about others. He wanted to see that their needs were met first. It had become of habit of his with her to try and convince her to relax while he had Henry. And she wouldn't argue that a hot bubble bath would feel wonderful right about now. Hotch's ordeal had truly taken its toll on every member of the team and unfortunately, there wasn't an end in sight.
Nodding, JJ stood. "I already made a pot of your favorite coffee," she said softly, touching his shoulder as she past the recliner.
Smiling up at her, he stroked the hand resting on his shoulder. "I'll get a cup after I talk myself in to actually putting him in his crib."
Staring down at Henry's closed eyes and open mouth pressed against Dave's chest, JJ offered a small laugh. "He looks pretty comfortable to me."
"I make a good pillow," Dave said, grinning down at the sleeping child. "I look at him and I remember why we do what we do, Jen. I don't ever want him to see the horrors we face."
"I know," JJ murmured, squeezing his shoulder. "I'll try not to be long."
"Take as long as you need, JJ. We'll be just fine," he whispered, stroking the baby's cheek as he huffed out a soft sigh in his sleep.
Forty-five minutes later, clad in an oversize sweatshirt and leggings, JJ made her way back to the living room, feeling refreshed. "Dave?" she called softly.
"Kitchen," he supplied.
Walking into the small eat-in kitchen a moment later, JJ found him sitting at her wooden table nursing a cup of coffee. "You know, if you ever hope to get any sleep tonight, you need to limit your caffeine intake," she gently admonished.
"Wouldn't matter," Dave grunted. "I don't sleep anymore," he muttered, running a tired hand around the back of his neck.
Pouring herself a cup of the dark fragrant coffee that he preferred, JJ took the seat beside him. "You want to talk about it?"
Silent a few moments, he finally sighed, "I don't know what we're gonna do, JJ. There aren't any leads for us to follow on Foyet. Garcia hasn't turned up anything. The U.S. Marshalls haven't uncovered anything. Babe, I think we're screwed."
"Don't say that," JJ said with a shake of her pony tail. "Something will out. It always does. We've just got to be patient and keep hoping."
"Hope," Dave snorted. "I'm afraid I don't have much of that anymore."
"That's not true," JJ softly denied. "You wouldn't come here and spend time with Henry if you didn't. You hope you're making the world safer for him."
"But am I, Jen? We had Foyet. We HAD him, damn it!" Dave growled, dropping his mug to the table with a clatter. Staring at the mug in shock, Dave muttered, "I'm sorry, JJ. I'm not much company tonight. I'll go," he murmured, beginning to rise.
Seeing the pained look in his eyes, JJ gently grabbed his hand. "Don't. Stay. You're allowed to be angry, Dave. He hurt our friend. You're allowed to be angry."
Sinking back into the chair below him, Dave squeezed her hand as he shook his head. "He didn't just hurt him, JJ. Hotch would be okay with Foyet just hurting him. But, that bastard has stolen his kid just as surely as if he'd kidnapped him off the street. And if we can't get him, that's gonna destroy Aaron."
"We're not going to let that happen, Dave."
"Sweetheart, I'm not sure if I can stop it," Dave said, staring at the wall ahead of them blankly.
"Hey," JJ said, shaking the hand holding hers slightly, drawing his eyes back to her face, "It's not up to you to do it alone, David. We're all responsible for Hotch. We're all family here. You don't bear this responsibility alone."
"I know that, JJ. It's just…you…Hotch…you're the family I have left. Seeing any of you hurt, it isn't something I can handle very well."
"That's because you're a good man," JJ replied, impulsively leaning toward him to kiss his cheek. At least that had been her intended target, right up until he'd turned his head to look at her and her soft lips had met his. Nervously drawing back, her breath hitched as their gazes had clashed.
Staring at her without speaking, Dave leaned forward slowly, giving her time to pull away if that was her intention. Finally stopping a breath away from her lips, he murmured, "I'd like to try that again."
Nodding mutely, JJ sighed as his lips covered hers again and trembled slightly as one gentle hand moved to cup her cheek. Relaxing as she felt his lips lightly sip at hers, she fought a moan as she felt him expertly part her lips, slipping inside. She wasn't sure whether it lasted moments or minutes. She only knew that when her lips parted from his, she felt lost.
Staring at him blankly as Dave whispered, "I'm sorry, Jennifer," she shook her head.
"Why?" she asked faintly.
"I shouldn't take advantage…"
"You aren't," JJ whispered. "I wouldn't have kissed you if I hadn't wanted to. Didn't you want to kiss me?"
Meeting her honest gaze, Dave blinked slowly. Leaning forward again he seized her lips again, deepening the contact quickly. Finally pulling away, he murmured huskily, "I've always wanted to kiss you, JJ. The problem is, I don't know whether I'll be able to stop wanting to kiss you."
"Maybe you shouldn't try and see where that takes us," JJ murmured, pushing out of the chair.
Watching her walk from the room, Dave grinned. "You trying to throw me off my game, Jareau?" he called after her.
"You'd have to be on my playing field for that to happen, Rossi," she called back, a smile in her voice.
Thanking God for small favors, Rossi muttered, "Game on, Jennifer."