A/N - Okay, decided to only go Sunday without posting. Please review and let me know ya'll are still reading! And is anybody else seeing their story traffic acting screwy. According to that, I've got practically no readers. I really, really hope that's wrong. LOL! Thanks, guys, and as ever, I own nothing!

The Cold Art of Persuasion

Leaning over the metal railing of the staircase, hands clasped, their postures identical, Jack Hotchner offered David Rossi a long sideways glance. "Daddy's right," he declared in that voice of absolute certainty only a five year old could attain, "You ARE a big ole chicken!"

"Balk! Balk!" Dave squawked out the side of his mouth as he stared down into the open bullpen below them. His position on the upper rail gave him an excellent view of not only the entire area but also the young meddler at his side. "You know what happens to a chicken that refuses to play by the rules, kid?"

"Nope," Jack replied with a shrug as he raised a familiar dark inquisitive brow at Dave, propping his elbow on the lower rail. "Tell me, Uncle Dave," he urged in a voice so much like his father's it caused Rossi to do a double take.

"They end up in the frying pan," Dave grumbled under his breath, shaking his head at the comparison that seemed to float through his mind. "Served with mashed potatoes and gravy…not a great ending for the chicken."

"So you're afraid Aunt JJ's gonna eat you for dinner?" Jack asked, cocking his head at the older man, wrinkling his forehead. Boy, were grown ups always this stupid? First, he'd had to talk Daddy into asking Aunt Emily to trick or treat with them for Halloween and now this! Man, this being the littlest matchmaker for Daddy's friends was a hard job! Didn't his aunts and uncles know how to get together on their own? But, Aunt Penny HAD promised that double scoop sundae if he could do this and he could already taste that creamy chocolate ice cream when he closed his eyes.

Watching his uncle just shake his head, the young boy wondered what else he could say that could make his favorite uncle see things his way. "Come on," Jack pleaded, wondering if he could get his favorite aunt to double the treat if he got an immediate answer. "Don't be a 'fraidy cat, Uncle Dave!" he intoned impatiently, tapping his sneakered foot against the bottom rail.

Frowning, Dave shot a look toward the four foot wonder beside him. "It's complicated, kiddo," he said quietly by way of explanation. Although, the idea of the young blonde downstairs consuming him for a meal wasn't something he'd exactly turn down. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Gazing down at the top of his Aunt JJ's blonde head, bobbing as she talked happily with Aunt Emily, Jack scrunched his nose. "Doesn't seem too comcated," he huffed, wondering how adults always seemed to make things harder than they really had to be. "She's standin' right there!" Jack said, pointing a stubby finger down at his aunt.

"It's not a matter of not knowing where she is, Jack," Dave replied, reaching out a gentle hand to push Jack's accusing finger back to his side, not wanting to draw attention to them. "And it's not nice to point."

Snorting as he tucked his hand into his jean's pocket, Jack lifted irritated eyes to his uncle. "I was just makin' sure you seen her."

"Saw her," Dave automatically corrected, then narrowed his eyes at the apparent little matchmaker. "And what's your stake in this anyway?"

"I just want to see you happy, Uncle Dave," Jack recited with just the right amount of inflection, remembering the line his Aunt Penny had told him to say. The sundae was a secret.

"Yeah, right," Dave said, his words sarcastic as he looked fondly down at the child at his side. "But I still smell an ulterior motive here."

"An alter what?" Jack asked in confusion. Sometimes the adults spoke this strange language. Daddy promised he'd understand when he was older, but he still had real doubt about that. If he had to talk like them, he knew he didn't wanna grow up. Why couldn't they use the same words that he did? That always worked for his teacher, didn't it?

"An ulterior motive," Dave repeated, biting back a grin at the look of consternation blanketing the youngster's face. Damn, he hadn't realized until that very moment how much he'd missed this kid. The months that the US Marshals had hid Jack and his mother had just served to remind Dave, and the rest of the team, that they never wanted to have to live through something like that again.

"Speak English," Jack demanded, again sounding so remarkably like his father it was almost startling. No matter how long Aaron and Jack had been separated, it hadn't changed the fact that they were definitely father and son. And the apple definitely hadn't fallen far from the tree.

"I think there might be another reason you want me to travel down these stairs and ask your Aunt JJ to dinner," Dave said clearly, bending at the waist to stare into young Jack's dark eyes.

"I have no idea what you're talkin' 'bout, Uncle Dave," Jack replied with perfect innocence, remembering his Aunt Penny's warning about what to say if Uncle Dave caught onto the plan. Doggone it, his double scoop sundae was on the line here. "And you're defecting," Jack retorted, as he recalled what his dad always told Uncle Dave.

"Deflecting," Dave chuckled, admiring the kid's tenacity. "And you spend way too much time listening to your dad, kid."

"He's smart," Jack replied proudly, straightening himself automatically at the thoughts of his dad. No matter how far away he had been, Jack had always known that his daddy was smart enough to get him home one day. And he had.

"Yeah, I guess he is," Dave conceded with a shrug before he straightened back up, his eyes automatically travelling back to the bright blonde hair just beckoning him in the distance. "And you were right. I guess I am deflecting," he murmured as he stared longingly into the maze of desks downstairs at the woman who'd convinced him that life was worth living again.

Jack could see that his Uncle Dave was starting to surrender, and that meant that he had to make his move. His sundae might still be safe if he could get this older man to act quickly. "Then do somethin', Uncle Dave! Hurry! Be brave, 'member? That's what you told me when I had to leave daddy. I was ragous, member? You have to be, too," Jack babbled, bouncing on the balls of his feet. Yes, he had a strong feeling he was close to that sundae…

"Courageous," Dave corrected again with a quick look down at the boy at his side. Damn it, the child had a point. The five year old was smarter than he was. How the hell had that happened? Growling low in his throat as he shot a quick prayer heavenward, Dave groaned, "Fine! I'll do it! But if this doesn't work out, I'm blaming the idea on you, kid!"

"It'll work! It'll work!" Jack said with wide eyed excitement. Forget the double scoop, he deserved a triple for all this trouble. With sprinkles. And M&Ms.

Watching as his Uncle stomped down the metal stairs toward Aunt JJ, Jack shot a glance towards Aunt Penny's door. He wondered what he could get if he actually got 'em married!

FINIS