Chapter Twenty-Three

Even without looking at her, Hotch knew Autumn's head had snapped up. Any vocal response she may have given was over shadowed by her daughter's happy squeal. Jack, who had rejoined them in the hall, wrapped himself around Autumn's legs, squeezing with all his might.

Sydney wiggled herself out of Hotch's grasp, turning her attention to Jack. "Your daddy is gonna marry my mommy! "

Autumn laid an absent hand on Jack's little blonde head, but her eyes, which were rapidly filling with tears, were locked on Hotch's face.

Jack looked up at Autumn, with a smile, clearly as a excited as Sydney at the idea of new family they were all creating. "Mommy, why are you crying?" Jack asked, "Are you sad?"

"No," Autumn said, looking down wiping at her face. She knelt down and gave the boy a tight hug. "I'm not sad." She pulled back from him, holding his little shoulder in one hand while she drew Sydney close with the other. "So you guys are okay with Jack's daddy marrying me?"

"You'll be my new mommy all the time?" Jack asked.

"All the time," Autumn answered.

"Does that mean I can call Mr. Hotchner Daddy now?" Sydney asked her mother, though she looked over her shoulder at Hotch.

Hotch nodded. He knelt down, pulling Sydney towards him, holding her little shoulders so she was arm's length in front of him. "Sydney, you can call me Daddy any time you want."

The little girl smile, throwing her arms as much around him as she could manage, squeezing as tight as she could. "Can we go play in Jack's room, Daddy?"

The words tugged on Hotch's heart strings, making it hard from him to speak. He nodded and she was gone with squeal, with Jack on her heels, leaving the two adults alone in the hallway.

Autumn stood up first, moving down the hall, always from him.

He rose, and followed her into her bedroom. She walked to the edge of her bed, sitting down on it, while he closed the door, leaning against it. "I should have asked you. I should have done it properly."

With a half-smile, she looked up at him. "What's properly?"

"Valid point."

"I was shocked that's all."

"I should have asked you at least, before I told the kids."

"You can't go back on it now."

"I never said I wanted to."

"Then stop talking."

He smiled, "I can do that." Like a leopard stalks his prey, Hotch crept across the room towards her.

Laughing, she turned towards him, leaning back with her weight on her elbows.

At the end of the bed, Hotch knelt with a knee on either side of hers. He descending on her, laying her down flat on her back. His weight on his knees and his elbows, he slid his hands into her hair, lifting her head gently as if weighting it in his palms. The whole time their eye contact never wavered.

"You don't think this is too fast?" His voice was barely a whisper, more felt than heard.

"Do you?"

"I asked you first."

"What a childish response," she reached up, running her finger tips through his hair, scrapping her nails along the baby hairs at the base of his neck. "No, Aaron, it doesn't feel too fast. People will always have their opinions on how long is right for every stage of a relationship but…"

"It feels right," he finished for her. "I'm in love with you."

"I think I was a goner when you said 'Ma'am, are you alright?'" She drew a chuckle from him, at her impression of his bass. "I don't know why but I feel like this is right. And I don't want to wait just to make other people feel better about us. It should be us, and only us, that matters."

"Why does it sound like you're trying to convince me?"

"Because I need you to tell me I'm right."

"You know you're right."

"Doesn't mean I don't want you to agree with me, so I have some confirmation."

Shaking his head, Hotch gave a sweet gentle kiss before saying, "You're right."

"So you're gonna marry me?"

"Well, that's what I told the kids."

"Yes, it is."

"Autumn McNeal, will you marry me?"

"Do I have to wear a white dress in a church surrounded by people?"

"Only if you really desire too."

"What if I said let's call the court house right now?"

Hotch shifted his weight to one side, so he could use his left hand to dig in his pocket. Out he pulled a cell phone which he offered to her.

Taking the phone, she seemed to stare at it for a long minute, before pulling up yellow pages on his phone. She found the court number easily and dialed. It rang a few times.

A receptionist picked up, reciting a long intro speech that ended with, "How may I direct your call?"

Autumn took a breath and replied.

So I won't be posting on this one for a little bit. I have a few scenes that I need to work out, and figure out the best way to do, and I want to get those do before continuing. So just hang with me for a bit.