Of Moms and Elven Ears
Summary: Jack asks the question and Prentiss happens to be the one who has to answer it. A response to the Forum's Mother's Day TV Prompt Challenge: Three's Company - Jack's Other Mother. Hotch/Prentiss friendship
Set late season 5; I do mention a few episodes but I'm too lazy to look up the titles, so let's just say that everything up until mid-season 5 is fair game in terms of spoilers.
Rating: K (for everyone)
Disclaimer: Don't own anything.
Author's notes: I know this is cliché, but I couldn't help myself, it was just too easy. But still, I hoped I stayed in character and that you enjoy this little piece of fluff. I just have to say that I love Jack, and I love the potential that he has in bringing Hotch and Prentiss closer.
Happy Mother's Day!
Of Moms and Elven Ears
"It's no problem, Hotch, I'll be there in a few minutes."
Hotch nodded gratefully, even though Prentiss couldn't actually see the gesture through the phone. "Thanks. I'll owe you one."
Hotch usually had a well-devised back-up plan expressly for weekends when they got called in unexpectedly, but today his former sister in law wasn't available to take care of Jack and worse, Hotch had left his car at the mechanics the day before to remedy loosening breaks. Of course, the shop wasn't open on Sundays and even though he would have normally considered being stranded at his house with his son a blessing, the call from Washington PD had changed his plans. So now he'd got Prentiss to come and pick up he and Jack and drive them to JJ's house so that Will could babysit Henry and Jack. It was a last minute solution, but hopefully this was only for the day.
After a few minutes spent getting himself and Jack ready, his phone beeped with a text message, the noise distracting him momentarily from washing Jack's hands. He flipped his phone open.
I'm here. EP
"Alright buddy, time to go." He quickly gathered his stuff and Jack's little backpack and moments later he was settling Jack in the backseat of Prentiss's Volvo before climbing into the passenger seat.
Prentiss smiled at him behind her sunglasses and then greeted Jack with a request for a high-five, which Jack gave joyfully.
"I'm sorry about this Prentiss, if there had been any other solutions, I would have-"
"Hotch, it's okay, it's not that much of a detour." Prentiss interrupted him with a smile. "Besides, it's been ages since I last saw Jack, right Jack?" Hotch smiled as he heard his son giggle from behind him. "And," she added more seriously, "you saved me from having to spend the afternoon with my mother and her new man."
Hotch threw her a look, but couldn't quite decipher the meaning behind the ghost of a smile that played over her lips. Her tone was definitely sarcastic and resentful though. He wasn't sure how to respond, so he said the first thing that came to mind. "Oh, I didn't know your parents were separated."
She shrugged. "It happened a long time ago." She was silent for a beat, but then spoke again, her tone a little bit more on the positive side. "But since it's Mother's Day and all, I thought I would make an effort and actually meet the guy."
Hotch nodded but wasn't quite sure what to say. He knew that Prentiss didn't have the best of relationships with the Ambassador, and she had vehemently hinted once that she hated politics because it tore families apart, but it was interesting to note that even after all this time she still seemed to resent her mother for it. He was about to reply when Jack beat him to it.
"What's Mother's Day, Agent Prentiss?" he asked politely from the backseat and Hotch threw a look over his shoulder at his son and carefully avoided meeting the look that Prentiss sent his way in the process.
"Mother's Day, Jack, is a special day when we get to think about our mothers and tell them that we love them," Prentiss replied calmly, as if she answered the questions of a 4 year-old everyday.
"But what if my mom is in Heaven with the angels?" Jack replied and Hotch felt his heart shatter into multiple pieces at his son's innocent question. Good God! He covered his mouth with the back of his hand and, feeling a suspicious stinging heat in his eyes, turned back into his seat and looked out the window, trying to regain some control over his emotions. He still missed Haley, everyday, but he knew – he could actually feel it - that the pain of loosing her and failing her was slowly starting to alleviate, so that at that moment, the pain he was feeling wasn't so much for himself, but for his son, who was still too young to comprehend everything. Hotch could feel Prentiss's gaze on him once more, but he couldn't look at her and see her expression, whatever it was, so he kept his eyes stubbornly ahead.
He startled when her hand reached over and grabbed his forearm in a tight grip through his suit jacket, not letting go even as kept driving and replied. But he didn't shake her hand away. In fact he was surprised at how reassuring her touch actually felt. By that simple gesture, her meaning was crystal clear. She was there. She had his back.
He was not alone.
Hotch swallowed with difficulty as the thought reminded him of a night not so long ago in the semi-darkness of his house, when she had told him exactly that. At the time they had been speaking in metaphors, but her meaning had been as clear then as it was now. And the thought of her being there despite his constant attempts at keeping her at bay, was… astounding.
"Well," she started calmly, but her tight clutch on his arm told him that she was deeply affected herself, "when I was a little girl, my grand-dad used to tell me that angels and people in Heaven have very special ears, so that they can hear what we tell them even though they're miiiiiiles away," she said in a voice he imagined she would use to tell a bedtime story.
Hotch's heart swelled painfully as he heard Jack's singing and incredulous laughter. "Like elves?"
Prentiss let out a quick, relieved, chuckle. "Yeah! Just like elves. Isn't that cool?"
Hotch didn't look to see Jack's response, but as his son stayed silent he imagined him to be nodding.
"And you know what that means, right?" Prentiss pressed.
"What?" Jack replied, curiosity tingeing his childish voice.
"It means that you can tell your mom that you love her, even very quietly in your head, and she'll hear you. Isn't that great?"
At that moment Hotch couldn't help but look at his colleague with new, amazed eyes, wondering how in hell she wasn't a mother herself. She was so natural with children it was almost painful to watch for Hotch, who felt like he struggled with fatherhood everyday. Oh there were good times and moments when he felt at complete ease, but other times… One thing for sure, he couldn't have answered Jack's questions with the thoughtfulness and caring that she had just demonstrated.
She met his gaze with a small smile and nod and pulled her hand back from his arm, returning her fingers to the steering wheel.
"So you be sure to think about your mom a lot today and tell her that you love her, alright Jack?"
A few minutes passed without any of them saying anything, and Hotch's composure slowly returned to normal as he gazed out the window, soon recognizing the neighborhood as JJ's.
"Agent Prentiss, do you think you could be my new mother?" Jack asked suddenly, making Prentiss choke on the sip of coffee she had just been taking from her traveling mug, which in turn made her swerve the car dangerously.
"Jack!" Hotch reprimanded quickly, but then realized that his son had probably no idea why his innocuous question warranted reprimanding.
By that time Prentiss had recovered and was dabbing at a coffee spill on her jacket even as she kept her eyes on the road. Now she was avoiding his apologizing gaze, and while he was as mortified as she was, Hotch couldn't help but wonder what she would say to that.
"Ah, that's not so simple Jack," she replied with a nervous chuckle that made Hotch bite back a smile. "Besides, I hear your aunt Jessica is taking good care of you, why do you think you need another mother?"
"She's just my aunt. My friend Matt says he has a new mom. I wish you could be my other mom."
Hotch decided to intervene, earning himself a grateful look from his colleague as he twisted around in his seat and took off his sunglasses. "I know you miss your mom, buddy," Hotch said. "But Agent Prentiss has other people to care for."
He felt her gaze on him once more, but he kept his eyes focused on the disappointed face of his son. He knew it wasn't entirely true, but it was the only thing he could think of to end this line of thought in his son's mind. Just the idea of getting into why she really couldn't be his mother was too much for the situation. He could have this discussion with Jack in a more appropriate time and space, he decided.
"Hey Jack, you know what though?" Prentiss said in a chipper tone, as if to lighten the mood. "Your dad's right, I can't really be your new mom, but I can be something even better. You know what that is?"
Hotch's snort echoed with Prentiss's chuckle. "No, silly. What I can be is your friend. That means that we get to play together and tell each other secrets. Does that sound fun?"
Jack shrugged, making Hotch smile. "I guess."
Hotch returned to his right position on his seat just as they were pulling into JJ's driveway.
"Oh thank God," he heard Prentiss mutter under her breath, echoing his thoughts exactly. "Is he always like this?" she asked as she put the car into park.
Hotch put his sunglasses back on. "Only with a few lucky people, and apparently you're one of them. I'll be right back."
He got Jack out of the car and accompanied him to JJ's door. After giving a few directions to Will and telling JJ that he would see her at the BAU – after wishing her a happy Mother's Day - he returned to Prentiss's car and settled back in. The first few minutes back on he road were spent in silence, as Hotch tried to come up with the right words to apologize. He didn't believe Prentiss minded being interrogated by a 4 year-old, and if she did she hid it gracefully, but still, he felt like he should have been the one dealing with his son's questions.
"I'm sorry about Jack," he said at last, going with short and straightforward.
Prentiss shook her head and even smiled. "Don't be, he took me by surprise, but who could hold it against him? He's such a sweet and smart kid."
Hotch looked down, deflecting her indirect compliment with a shrug. "Maybe so, but it should have been my responsibility to answer his questions, and I…" Hotch shook his head, momentarily at a loss for words to explain his belated intervention. The truth was that he had felt powerless and quite overwhelmed, and Prentiss had stepped up so gracefully in his stead, that he hadn't been able to do anything else but watch, mesmerized and slightly envious.
"You know, as much as I agree that I can't really be a mom to him, I mean not that I would- I mean," she chuckled nervously and shook her head, as if clearing her thoughts. She let out an impatient sigh and started again. "What I mean is that I know that you're a great father and that you're doing everything in your power to be there for him, but I think it's only natural that he also look for a surrogate for his mom."
"Of course, I know that."
"And if I hadn't been there, then he would have looked elsewhere."
His gaze firmly settled on her face and he studied her for a few seconds until she started to fidget and squirm in her seat.
"Maybe so, but I'm glad he turned to you." Her shoulders sagged slightly at his admission, but he couldn't tell if it was in relief or something else. So he went on. "You're…good at this."
Her lips quirked up. "Yeah?" she asked wistfully, as if she seriously had not been aware of that fact.
Hotch studied her profile for a few more seconds. "Thanks."
Her smile widened and, when she glanced at him, he could tell even with those opaque sunglasses that her smiled reached her eyes, and his breath caught in his throat at the sight. "Anytime, Hotch, anytime."
Hope you enjoyed and thanks for reading!
And to all the moms out there, enjoy your special day :-)