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With A Friend Like You
"A friend is one who walks in when others walk out"
Prompts: Rossi/Hotch; silk tie, carbine, notebook
Glancing down at the small spiral notebook containing David Rossi's nearly illegible scrawl, Aaron Hotchner frowned. How the hell was it that an author of Dave's caliber hadn't learned at some point in time to write complete words? Ironically, his best friend that had assisted in putting some of the most depraved minds in history behind bars shared a stunning characteristic with those very psychos.
David Rossi, too, had the handwriting of a serial killer.
And for a moment, Aaron Hotchner couldn't help but wonder if it was some form of communicable disease.
Throwing his silk tie over his shoulder, Aaron Hotchner shook his head as he chose to focus on navigating his SUV around another winding curve. He couldn't believe he was actually doing this anyway. The concept of taking time for himself felt almost perverse in light of everything that had happened in recent months. Between catching killers and helping his son find his way after Haley's death, he'd barely spared a moment to eat, let alone sneak away for any kind of "Aaron" time.
Dave's enforced timeout shouldn't have been a complete surprise. For months, the other man had been frowning and muttering under his breath about Aaron's apparent refusal to take care of himself. And finally, when the elder profiler's rumblings had made no impact, he'd taken matters into his own influential hands. Wrangling Garcia for a weekend babysitting adventure had been easy enough, according to him. Convincing Aaron to make the two hour trek into the Virginian wilderness to his hunting cabin had been considerably tougher. But, in typical Rossi style, he'd managed it.
Aaron was truly beginning to believe that Rossi could move mountains whenever he put his mind to it.
And now, here he was, driving down the road on a perfectly sunny Friday afternoon, searching for a shack in the woods. Could he think of more attractive things to do? Sure. But the drive had already provided some much needed quiet time, a rare commodity when he was raising an active five year old alone. Hell, he'd actually managed to listen to a full news broadcast without being interrupted. And he wouldn't lie and say that a day spent with his older best friend wouldn't be enjoyable. How many years had it been since he'd had a boys' weekend away?
Thinking hard, he simply couldn't remember. And he knew that Rossi would tell him that if he couldn't recall, it had been too damned long.
Spotting the cabin in the distance, Dave's truck parked in front of it, Hotch sighed. Knowing his blissful solitude was about to end, he mentally steeled himself. He was well aware that Dave had dragged him out here to ream his ass for not taking care of himself as well as he did others. But, the upside was that the older man would probably do it with his usual Rossi brand of style.
And that was to say that there wouldn't be any style at all.
Parking beside Dave's 4x4, Hotch cut the engine as Dave walked around the side of the cabin, carbine in hand.
"I was beginning to wonder if you'd gotten lost or just stood me up," Rossi said gruffly by way of greeting as he leaned the short barrel rifle against the house.
"I told you I was coming," Hotch replied, pulling his go bag from the front seat beside him. "I got waylaid at the office and got off to a late start, but I'm here. You can stop complaining now."
"Not complaining," Dave shrugged, crossing his arms over his chest as he raised an eyebrow at Hotch's attire. "You realize a three piece suit isn't appropriate for a trek through the woods, right?"
"I brought clothes," Hotch retorted, waving the bag in front of Dave, wondering once again exactly why he had chosen to subject himself to this interesting form of torture.
"And you couldn't take thirty seconds to change before you started out?" Dave asked sarcastically.
"Weren't you just complaining about me being late?" Hotch replied, rolling his eyes at the other man. Honest to God, David Rossi could try the patience of a saint. And he was definitely no saint.
Ignoring the question in typical Rossi fashion, Dave nodded toward the cabin. "Pick a bedroom and get changed. We've still got time to get a short hike in if you put a little lead in your step."
"Dave," Hotch replied, glancing at his watch then up at the setting sun, "It's already past six, man."
"All the more reason for you to stop flapping your jaw and get moving, son," Rossi said, gesturing toward the house.
Knowing nothing could sway the elder man when he got an idea in his head, Hotch nodded. "Ten minutes," he mumbled.
"I'll give you five," Dave snorted, watching with twinkling eyes as the younger man finally went inside.
Two hours and a few thousand steps later, Aaron Hotchner was tired, thirsty and out of breath. "Could you explain why this hike couldn't have waited until tomorrow?" he grumbled, glaring at a rock as he stumbled. "I mean, I'm all for a trip over the mountain and through the woods, Dave...but this is nuts!"
"No, it's not," Dave stated evenly, his breaths even and his steps sure. "It's actually serving a purpose here. You just don't realize it."
Glaring at Dave's back as his cryptic words rang in the fresh air around him, Hotch tried not to imagine strangling his one-time mentor and best friend in the world with his favorite silk tie. "Okay, Rossi. I'll bite. Tell me, oh wise one, what the purpose of this journey was?" he asked facetiously as he finally spotted the hunting cabin on the horizon.
"I'll explain it when we get back over a couple of scotch and sodas," Dave said over his shoulder.
"Can't wait to hear," Aaron muttered under his breath, trudging down a grassy knoll after Dave.
And several minutes later, lead tumbler happily in hand, Aaron Hotchner took a seat on one of the iron lawn chairs on Dave's wraparound porch as the sun began to set. "Okay, Rossi, lay it on me," Hotch ordered as a cool wind scattered leaves over the faded wooden planks of the porch. "Why the evening stroll in the wilderness?"
"Because you don't sleep anymore," Rossi answered evenly, his voice holding no judgment as he glanced over at the younger man. Leaning back in his deck chair, he added, "Best way to fight nightmares is to physically exhaust yourself, kid. Why do you think I practically live in the woods when we aren't in the field?"
"Wha-...How did you know?" Hotch gaped, surprised that the other man had figured out the problem that had been plaguing him for endless months. He'd tried so hard to conceal the insomnia from his team. Hell, he'd always kept odd hours, even when they weren't on a case, but since Haley had passed, sleep had become an elusive treasure. One that he'd slowly gotten used to living without. It wasn't worth the nightmares he had when he did manage to close his eyes.
"Those dark circles under your eyes speak for themselves, Aaron," Rossi commented as he stared into the distance, his eyes seemingly focused on a copse of trees to the west. "But, if not for my nephew, I would have put those down to work. Your son told on you."
"Jack?" Hotch asked in shock, his fingers tightening around his glass.
Nodding, Rossi took a slow sip of the aged liquor in his glass, his eyes never wavering from the tree line. "Jack tells his Uncle Dave all kinds of interesting things when we're together. Like how Daddy wakes up screaming almost every night and then paces the floor when he's home."
"Jesus," Hotch groaned heavily, running his hand over his face. "I had no idea that he had caught on to anything."
"Kids are smart, Aaron. But, yours is more than just smart. He's brilliant," Dave said with a faint smile. "And he's worried about you. So am I, for that matter."
"I'm fine, Dave," Hotch automatically denied, wincing when Dave shifted his piercing gaze to his face. "Okay," he amended, well aware of the futileness of resisting that knowing glare, "I'm not fine, but I'm better than I was."
"You are," Dave conceded with a slight nod. "But, you're a long way from being healed, Aaron, and since I know that you'll balk if I suggest any kind of pharmaceutical assistance, we're going to kick this insomnia's ass the old fashioned way."
"The old fashioned way?" Hotch echoed.
"Hard labor combined with physical exertion and a little bit of liquid laziness," Rossi said with a grim smile, raising his glass to Aaron."
"Think that'll work?" Aaron asked, already feeling his eyelids growing heavy as the last rays of sunshine cast shadows against the enclosed porch they sat on.
"The method's never failed me before and I'll be damned if I let it fail you either, Aaron," Rossi promised quietly, letting his words drop off as he watched Hotch lean his head back against the cushion.
And as the sound of the birds chirping lulled him toward a hopefully peaceful sleep, Aaron Hotchner silently thanked God for friends like David Rossi.
Author's Note 2 - This story was written for the Dealer's Choice Challenge for the "Chit Chat on Author's Corner" forum.