Author's Note: Okay, you guys are probably getting tired of my post episode thoughts by now...but I've got dozens and I can't seem to stop myself. It was too powerful an episode to include in one story. This one orignates from my need to tell a story from little Jack's point of view. I hope I did the poor little guy's character justice. As ever, I own absolutely nothing. Please read & review. The outpouring of responses I had from my previous post eps has been inspiring and I thank you all - even if you didn't review!
Through His Eyes
They all looked so, so sad, Jack thought, looking around at his daddy's friends. Even Aunt Penny. And she was always happy and smiling. And nobody seemed to know where Mommy was. He'd stopped asking after Uncle Reid had turned green when he'd asked. Everybody just kept telling him to wait for his daddy. But he was tired of waiting. Shifting in the big padded seat around the circular table, Jack looked from face to face.
Uncle Derek wouldn't stop pacing. Back and forth across the carpeted floor, his footsteps making squishy noises as he passed his seat. Every once in a while he'd drop a big hand on his head, smoothing his fingers across his hair like he was checking if he was really there. He didn't understand that…he hadn't moved from his chair since Daddy had said to stay put.
Uncle Reid sat by the door chewing on his pinky nail, a worry line creasing his forehead. Not really that unusual since his uncle always looked worried about something. But today, it was worse than usual…cos he kept glancing up and looking at him, a small sad smile flashing at him every once in a while.
Miss Emily kept blinking real hard. And her nose was red. Almost as red as Rudolph's. He didn't know her very well, but she always slipped him one piece of chocolate when he visited Daddy's work. And today, she'd given him a whole handful and kissed his forehead. Really weird.
When he'd gotten here, he'd thought his Aunt Penny was going to hug him to death. She squeezed tight, specially when she was excited. But today instead of squealing like she usually did, she'd been crying. And she hadn't stopped yet. Uncle Derek just kept handing her tissues.
Aunt JJ was crying, too. Not loud like Aunt Penny. But more quietly, like Mommy did at night after she and him had to go away. Mommy liked Aunt JJ. A lot . She said JJ had something called common sense and was Daddy's work wife. He didn't know what that meant, but she always smiled when she said it. Her hugs felt a lot like Mommy's. So he was super glad that she'd been giving him lots of them since they'd come in Daddy's office.
Uncle Dave looked mad. Like he'd been sucking on a lemon. But he smiled at him and his voice had been real nice when he'd asked if he was hungry or thirsty. When he'd said yes, he was thirsty, Dave had brought him a soda pop! He'd told him that he only got soda when he was a really good boy. Those were Mommy's rules. But his uncle had just smiled and told him that he'd earned every drink today. He was still confused about what that meant.
He wished daddy would hurry. The old prune faced lady had come and gotten him what seemed like hours ago. She was Daddy's boss and he didn't like her. Neither did Uncle Dave. They'd both glared at her when Daddy was leaving. He'd looked up at his uncle and whispered, "I don't like her, Uncle Dave."
"Nobody does, kid," Dave had said quietly, watching the door close.
"Is my Daddy in trouble?" he'd asked, biting his lip as his eyes had filled with tears.
"No, son, Daddy just has to talk to her for a few minutes and explain some things. He'll be back in a few minutes," Dave had said gently. But his eyes had been hard and his fists had balled against the desk as he spoke.
"You'd all help Daddy if he needed it though, right?" Jack had asked, hoping Daddy's friends loved him as much as he did.
"Always, Jack," Dave had answered quietly as his eyes seemed to soften as he'd looked at him.
But that had been forever ago and he was getting antsy. No Mommy or Daddy! He loved his Daddy's friends, but there wasn't anything like his Mommy's hugs or Daddy's smile.
And these grown-ups wouldn't tell him anything! And how much coloring could one kid do anyway?
After what seemed like hours, Daddy and ole prune face came back. And by that time, he was tired and fed up. And more than ready to use those naughty words that Mommy always took tv time away when he used. But giving up Transformer cartoons would be worth it to find out where Mommy had gone.
"Daddy!" Jack yelled, hopping down from the black chair and running toward his tall father. Jeez, even Daddy's face looked wet. Wrapping his arms around his father's legs, Jack stared up at him. "Daddy, did you find Mommy yet? Did she get lost?" Jack worried out loud. He felt a shudder run through his daddy when he asked the question.
Kneeling in front of his son, Hotch stared into identical eyes as he took a deep breath. "Jack," Aaron whispered hoarsely. Clearing his throat, he spoke a little louder, "Jack, something bad happened this afternoon."
"But we worked the case," Jack frowned. "You said we caught the bad guy," Jack said, his four year old voice small and uncertain.
Biting his lip, Aaron nodded. "We did, son. We did."
"So where's Mommy? I wanna tell her I was a big help," Jack reasoned, bouncing on the balls of his feet nervously. "She likes it when I help, Daddy."
Smiling through his tears, Aaron nodded again. "She's very proud of you, Jack. So proud," Hotch whispered, trailing a hand down his son's soft cheek. "But Mommy can't come see you."
"Why not?" Jack asked impatiently. "I want my Mommy!" Jack stated, his voice as determined as Aaron had ever heard it.
The other adults in the room winced as Hotch's eyes clouded. "She can't, son. I know she'd want to, but she can't. She's in heaven?"
"Where's that? Let's go get her," Jack groaned, shifting from one foot to the other.
How did he explain this, Hotch asked himself. How did he explain that his mother had selflessly sacrificed herself to George Foyet in order to save him. He couldn't understand it himself. Closing his eyes against the well of tears rising to the surface, he struggled to keep it together. It was the least he could do for his ex-wife. She'd been strong enough to make the ultimate sacrifice. He could do this.
"Remember Snowflake, Jack?" Hotch asked hoarsely, recalling their cat.
"Mama's kitty kitty," Jack nodded. "She died and went to…" he began to recite as his eyes widened. "NO! Mama can't be with Snowflake! She said Snowflake couldn't come back…that she could only visit in my heart and dreams," JJ wailed, tensing in his father's arms. "I wanna see Mommy now, Daddy!"
Wrapping his arms around his sobbing son, Hotch held his breath as the first of many waves of grief crashed over his son. "I know, Jack. I know," he whispered against his son's hair.
"But we worked the case, Daddy! I did good! You said so!" Jack sobbed, unable to understand how his mother could be gone if he'd done his job like Daddy said.
"And you did, Jack. You did exactly what Mommy and I wanted you to do," Hotch assured him.
"But I was s'posed to protect Mommy. You said to take care of her! But she's gone," Jack sobbed hysterically, slapping at Aaron's shoulders as his father held him tighter.
"You did, son! You did exactly what she wanted," Aaron murmured, convinced that he was right. Nothing was more important to Haley than saving this little boy. Nothing!
Jack cried helplessly for long minutes, his tears mingling with his father's as the team stood back wiping their own cheeks. Finally, exhaustion took its toll on the small boy and his little body sagged against his father. "Mommy's gone," he whispered against Aaron's neck, his hot breath fanning against his skin.
"I know, buddy," Hotch whispered, sitting on the floor and pulling his son into his lap as he nestled his head against his chest. "But I'm right here."
Tightening his arms around his Daddy, Jack nodded, blinking back more tears. "Not fair, Daddy."
"No, it's not," Hotch agreed softly. And what more could he say? His son was right; none of this was fair. There'd been no justice in Haley's death. Even Foyet's death couldn't assuage their loss. But in that moment, he resolved that they would survive it. It's what Haley would have wanted. And God knew, he owed her whatever he had left to give her. Just look at what she'd left him with. His world was sitting in his lap.