Disclaimer: I own nothing, except my own creations.
It was the first anniversary of Hailey's death.
Emily Hotchner stood outside Jack's school, rocking the pram that held the sleeping Ava backwards and forwards. As she did so, her eyes were distracted by the sun glinting off her ring.
After her daughter was born, Ambassador Prentiss had visited and demanded to know when she was going to be married, horrified that she was not already so. She'd thought that Hotch hadn't wanted to ask because of Hailey, and he had thought she didn't want to be asked just because she had given birth to his child.
After spending far too much time worrying about the response of the other, they'd finally gotten it into their heads that they both did very much want to marry the other, and had been wed in a small ceremony five weeks earlier.
Her reflection was interrupted when the school bell sounded and Jack came sprinting out of his class. As he headed straight for them, she was inwardly relieved. Jack had been in a strange mood this morning, his sadness at the anniversary of his mother's death not helped by the fact that Hotch was stuck out of state on a case that should have taken 24 hours, but was stretching out to three days.
She was ignored as he thrust his head into the pram to find his sister.
Ava startled awake, but she didn't cry. If it had been anyone else, the four month old baby would not have been impressed and promptly cried, but with her brother, she never did.
Well used to being ignored in favour of Ava, she pressed a kiss to her stepson's head. It had been a sombre boy at breakfast, but it looked like going to school had been the right decision after a long chat with his father.
Smiling as another parent passed her by, she hooked Jack's bag onto the pram. 'You ready?' she asked softly when he finally turned to her.
She saw the light in his eyes dim a little. 'Yeah. Is Daddy coming?' asked Jack, and she could sense the hope in his voice.
'He's trying his very best,' said Emily, biting her bottom lip.
'Oh, okay,' said Jack, dragging the words out as he turned away and they walked to the car.
Slipping Ava into the baby seat and strapping her up as Jack strapped himself in, she then collapsed the pram with a skill she'd quickly picked up these past few months. Starting the car, she backed out carefully. They were going for a visit.
To the cemetery.
Why couldn't serial killers and their copycats be considerate for once, Hotch thought darkly to himself. Let them turn themselves in for once, and let him be home for the anniversary of the death of his child's mother.
He was unknowingly twisting his wedding ring as he took a seat on the plane next to the window. He was brooding as he looked out.
The team flicked concerned looks in his direction, but on the whole, they let him be.
When the plane landed, Hotch was the first person off the plane. Sparing a glance to his watch, he hitched his go bag up onto his shoulder.
'Hotch, they've probably gone home man,' called Morgan after the determined man marching across the tarmac to the black SUV.
'No, they haven't,' said Hotch as he reached his car. Slamming the door, he nodded to his fellow agent. 'I'll see you tomorrow.'
They'd been at the cemetery for an hour, Jack talking quietly to the headstone. She was sitting on the bench, nursing Ava when Jack rose and approached her. When he took a seat next to her, she gave him her full attention. 'Do you want to go and come back later?' asked Emily softly.
'No,' said Jack, shaking his head stubbornly. 'Daddy will come.'
Jack sat on the bench, his legs swinging as he waited. And waited.
The sun was beginning to set when a car could be heard pulling up into the carpark. Emily smiled wanly as she struggled to see if the new arrival was in fact Aaron or not. Jack, certain it was his father, leaped off the bench and began running.
Hotch had removed his tie and was loosening the top buttons of his shirt as he walked briskly up the path. His face was blank as he bent down and smoothly swung Jack up into his arms. He hugged him tight, pressing a kiss to the side of his head as he made his way over.
He exchanged a tight look with Emily before he knelt down in front of the headstone with his son. With Jack standing in front of him, back against his chest, they both spoke quietly to each other as Emily stayed back, jostling Ava in her arms.
When Jack moved away from him, Hotch stood up and looked down at the engraved name of his first wife on the headstone.
It was a painful reminder why he did his job.
He startled when he felt Emily stand next to him. Reaching out, he drew her closer to him. Pressing a kiss to the top of her head, he took a soothing breath as his wife wrapped her arms around his body. 'Thank you,' he said simply. Emily squeezed him in response.
Behind the couple, a wide-eyed Ava lifted up a hand to her brother. Jack wrapped his bigger hand around his sister's as he peered into the pram. The little boy was sombre as he looked down at the baby. 'I'll look after you Adie, just like Mummy and Daddy,' promised Jack. 'Nothing bad will ever happen to you.'
Ava Hotchner thrust her other hand into her mouth, as if understanding everything her brother had said. Jack Hotchner backed away when his father leaned over him and rested a brief hand on the baby girl's chest. Aaron Hotchner swung his son up into his arms next as Emily Hotchner manoeuvred the pram.
As the sun set, the departing Hotchner family were ready to face another year.