Author's Note: We've got several notes for you today, guys, so hang with us for a second.

First of all, we'd like to talk to you about our next challenge! Wanna fun way to celebrate Halloween this year? Join us for our Round 5 Challenge – The Candy Land Adventure on Chit Chat on Author's Corner. Our challenges are open to any author, regardless of experience…and we have a spot ready for you. All you have to do is suggest a CM pairing and the name of a popular candy. We'll take all the suggestions, present them to the Great Pumpkin, then assign you a pairing & candy type at the first of October. You'll have a month to write your story, and it can be whatever you choose…drabble or epic, romance or friendship. And it does not have to be about Halloween or candy! For more information and to sign up, visit our forum, Chit Chat on Author's Corner, and click on Round 5 challenge!

Second of all, we have exciting news, my friends! Nominating ballots for "The Profiler's Choice Awards" are ready and waiting for you at the "Chit Chat on Author's Corner" forum. So please, everyone, come on over and name some of your favorite fics and authors. Lets honor our favorite stories and authors on the CM site! We want to hear from you. Rules and guidelines are also available at the forum and as always, tonnie2001969 and I would be delighted to answer any questions that you may have. Now, let's get nominating! Our first ballots are beginning to trickle in and we love hearing from each of you!

For anyone willing to help us advertise the awards, we've created a short author's note template available on both my profile page (ilovetvalot) and my co-author's (tonnie2001969). We'd love to have everybody's help making this venture a huge and fun success. Please feel free to copy and paste it into your own author's notes and/or profiles! With your help, I believe this can become an annual event that we ALL look forward to seeing. I hope that you're all as eager as I am to see this incredible project lift off. And a very BIG thanks to all the authors helping us advertise these awards! We truly appreciate any assistance you can provide.

Additionally, we have a wonderful new interview for you at the forum as well. Come, as we get to know the talented cm4ever this week.

Also, we wanted to take a second to thank everyone that continues to read, review, favorite and alert our stories. Writing is a pleasure, but you guys, you make it worthwhile!

And please, fellow authors and readers, don't forget to get out there and nominate your favorite authors and stories. We're excited to hear from you!


The Council

Jack Hotchner had learned about pain at an early age. Losing his mother, one would have thought it would prepare him for life's inexplicable cruelty.

One would have been very, very wrong.

Because nothing could have prepared him for this crippling blow. Absolutely nothing. Not even when he knew the unthinkable was coming. Not even when the people he loved had done everything in their power to prepare him...to soften that oncoming blow.

And, as he sat there in his Uncle Dave's study holding his last connection to his father, Jack Hotchner knew his life would never be the same again. It couldn't be. This blow had been too great.

"He wanted you to have that, son," David Rossi said from the corner of the room, his deep voice kind but tired. "He knew you wouldn't have listened to him before he went. In typical fashion, your dad wanted the last word," Dave said with a faint smile, waving his hand toward the pure white envelope in the young man's hand.

"Sounds like Dad," Jack muttered, squeezing his eyes shut against the tears he could feel pooling once again. "Can I have a few minutes, Uncle Dave?" he asked hoarsely, his fingers wrinkling the edge of the paper.

Staring back at his young ward, Rossi nodded. Thirteen year old Jack Hotchner was more like his father than even he realized. Aaron, too, would have wanted a few private moments to shed his tears. "Of course," Dave said quietly, straightening as he pushed out of the chair and stepped across the room. "But Jack," he said, reaching the doorway, "don't try to handle this alone. All of us are here for you."

Nodding jerkily, Jack opened his eyes and focused on the sealed envelope in his hands as he heard the door click shut. His father's familiar scrawl beckoned him and with a shaking hand he slit the seal, pulling out a single pristine white sheet of paper.

Blindly staring down at the still folded page, his hands shook. Once again he silently cursed the insidious cancer that had robbed Aaron Hotchner of his life. His dad had been way too young to succumb to anything…and he was way too old to not feel the loss keenly.

Firming his jaw, Jack slowly unfolded the paper and forced his eyes to begin reading.

Dear Jack,

If your Uncle Dave has given you this note, you already know that I'm gone. And I know you, son...stop railing against the fates. It won't do any good. I learned that lesson when we lost your mother. Take it from someone who knows… no amount of cursing and anger will bring me back. Remember the good times we shared. Remember how much I love you - how much I'm always going to love you...in this world and the next.

You were my light, son. When everything in my world went dark and dim, you were what gave me hope…even on those days that were the worst. You did that for me, and for that, I'll always be grateful.

I'm not in pain anymore. You hold on to that certainty, son. And let the anguish and bitterness go. Consider it an order from your father, okay?

Pausing, Jack lifted a shaking hand to swipe the silent tears dampening his cheeks. Leave it to his dad to still be issuing orders from the Great Beyond. Dropping his gaze back to the note, he focused on his father's familiar handwriting as he continued to read.

Now, moving on, we come to the reason I'm writing you this letter, son. I know you'd tell me that you're mostly grown and that you can figure out what you don't already know on your own. I know you'd say this because you are very much my son AND it's what I'd say in your position.

But, here's the thing, Jack. And it took me a lot of years to figure this out. No man is an island. Trite? Yes. But that doesn't make the statement false.

So, in that vein, I've taken the liberty of forming a council for you. Let's call it the parenting council, shall we?

"Awww, jeez, Dad!" Jack groaned aloud, his father's voice loud in his mind as he read the words.

Don't argue here, Jack. You NEED this. Whether you'll admit it or not at this stage in your life, you aren't prepared yet for all the challenges you'll face. And since I can't be there and these people can, this is how we're going to run the play.

Jack could almost hear Aaron Hotchner's stern voice echoing in the room around him and he smiled faintly.

Now, we decided before I left you that your Uncle Dave would be your legal guardian. This'll allow you to stay in a familiar setting with a guy that loves you almost as much as I do. Your Uncle Dave is a great example to mold yourself after. Mostly. Although, I'd prefer if you didn't go through quite as many wives as he's chosen. He'll love you, Jack. And he'd give his life for you. But most of all, your Uncle Dave knows how to LISTEN. He might not always have solutions, but sometimes, a good listener can help us in ways no amount of advisers ever can. He's at the head of your council...at least in my mind.

For girl advice when you're older (much older), you have your Uncle Morgan. Although, I'd advise running any suggestions he gives you through your Aunt Emily or Aunt JJ first. Trust me, it'll be safer that way. And when you need a day to just throw the football around and just vent your hostilities through hard, physical activity, he's your guy.

Uncle Spencer will have the technical answer to most any question you ever have. He's an endless fount of knowledge, buddy. And, granted, a lot of it is useless information. But, there are pearls hidden among the rocks. So, pay attention.

He had to pause to laugh at that. In his mind's eye, he remembered his father's frequently rolling eyes whenever Uncle Spence went on a diatribe. But, he'd always listened patiently. Unlike Uncle Dave who more often than not seriously threatened to gag his youngest uncle.

Your Aunt Emily is a very special woman, too. She will always be, at least in my mind, the most diplomatic on your council. When you disagree with Uncle Dave, allow Aunt Emily to run interference for you. She makes for a valuable...and influential… ally, kiddo.

And when you need a weekend of familial normalcy, turn to your Aunt JJ and Uncle Will. They'll show you how it was supposed to be. Let them be your example of the typical family. Let them include you, buddy. Don't shy away from the unfamiliar because it's uncomfortable. Let them show you another way.

And while your Aunt Erin and I never saw eye to eye in my life, know that she has always had a soft spot for you. When the time comes for college, allow her and Dave to open doors for you. Opening a door does not mean that you don't have a long walk once you reach the appropriate avenue. At least allow them to hold a door for you every now and then.

You Uncle Jason and Uncle Sean have been in and out of your life, I know. But, even they are just a phone call away and each will do anything they can to ease your journey in life.

And finally, there is your Aunt Penelope. Jack, so many times, you Aunt Penny has brightened my day simply with a smile. She has the unique ability to make someone feel better with just her mere presence alone. So, on those days when your soul feels battered and life becomes this overwhelming mass of pulsing emotion, let her grace shine on you. I survived some of my darkest moments in life by allowing her upbeat enthusiasm for life to touch me.

This is it, buddy. This is the Council that I created for you. Use them, buddy. I know they won't replace your mother or me in your heart. They aren't meant to. But, they are a means for you to ease the burden. Each one loves you, just as I do. I can't be there in body for you now, Jack, but I'm forever with you in spirit. Nothing could tear me away.

Know that I love you. That I'm always going to love you. Grow strong, my boy, and let these people that loved me in my life shape you into the wonderful man I know you'll turn out to be.

Until we meet again,

Your dad

Holding onto the edges of his last connection to his father, Jack's breath hitched tightly in his chest. Even when he had been so sick that he could barely sit up straight, his father had taken time to write this note, creating a council to shape his life. And as much as Jack appreciated it...the head of that group was gone.

And no one could ever fill that father-shaped hole in his heart.

But, he'd honor his father's wishes...his memory. And he'd do exactly what had been asked of him.

Jack Hotchner owed his father that much.

Finis