Disclaimer: I do not own Criminal Minds, the characters from the show, etc. I am not making any money off the writing of this story.

Warning: This is AU! Hotch and Haley are still together, Jack is school age (though where exactly I left to your interpretation)

AN: This was a thought that occurred to me and I finally got the time to run with it.

Enjoy, and as always please R&R!

Parenting is a stage of life's journey where the milestones come about every fifty feet.

~ Robert Brault

'Aaron, we need to have a talk about your son when you get back.' Hotch listened to Haley say over the cell connection. The team was across the country in Oregon working one of those cases that would stay with everyone for months to come. The words 'we need to talk' never preceded a pleasant conversation.

Especially with all the additional stress both of them were under at home. They were having the exterior of their house renovated and the contractors were almost three weeks behind.

'We're hoping to be able to wrap this up in the next day or so.' He replied.

It was three days later before the team was back in Virginia. The UNSUB had been caught after such a lengthy stakeout, they opted to fly out the following morning – late morning. Hotch pulled straight into the garage, happy to be home and sleep in his own bed with his wife. Haley was at work and Jack would be at school for another few hours. Hotch put his clothes in the wash, showered and collapsed in bed.

Jack was ecstatic to find his Daddy finally home. Over supper, he talked incessantly about school, his friends and the new things he had learned. The young boy finally collapsed from exhaustion just as his bedtime story finished. Aaron kissed his forehead, tucked his son in, and headed back downstairs to his wife.

'So did you see what your son had done?' Haley began as the couple settled on the couch with their drinks. Aaron had his good scotch, neat and Haley's glass of red wine sat in front of her on the coffee table.

'I don't think you're referring to the school art,' Aaron began. 'So, I don't think so.'

Haley frowned, 'you didn't notice when you came in the house?'

'I came in through the garage.'

'Then you missed it.' She stood up and pulled her husband off the couch. 'Come and see.'

Apprehension filled the profiler as he was led to the front door. 'Go ahead, open it.'

His hand starting to tremble, he reached for the deadbolt and doorknob in turn. Slowly opening the door, he peered into the growing darkness. At first glance, he didn't see anything terribly different. The tree was still roped off, some of the new sod had been put in, and the walk… wait the walkway. Aaron blinked but the sight didn't change.

'This is Jack's doing?' He turned to look at Haley. She was trying to fight the grin and laughter threatening to bubble up.

'Come back inside, it's quite a story…'


'Yes, Jack, you can go play outside, but please don't pester the workmen.' An exasperated mother finally caved to the youngster's pleas.

Jack jumped up from his seat at the table and began running for the door. At the last moment, he remembered to grab the wheeled box his outdoor toys were kept in. He needed to have a serious talk with Mr. Four-Man, as his Daddy had said to call him. The contractor, Jim, had three kids of his own (the youngest an older teenager). He truly enjoyed jobs at family homes, especially with kids old enough to know how to stay out of the way and young enough to be fascinated with everything his crew did.

'Ex-cuze me, Mr. Four-Man, sir,' Jack called once the door was closed. His Mom probably wouldn't like what he had to do.

'Yes, young man, how are you today?' Jim sat down the shovel he held out of the way and walked over.

'Good, sir,' Jack puffed up at being addressed as a young man. 'C-can I talk to you pre-vat-ly… umm… alone?'

The contractor smiled as he indicated a spot over by the garage. 'Privately is how it's said. Why don't we sit over here out of the way?'

When the pair had settled again, Jack began to explain his thoughts. 'Jeff's sister Annie showed him this really neat game. It's really easy and – and grown-ups can play same as kids!'

'What game is that?'

'Hotch-Scotch,' Jack said proudly. 'Named like what Daddy's friends call him – Hotch.'

Only his years of parenting kept Jim from bursting out laughing, this was going to be a good chat.

'You have to jump in squares right or you don't win,' Jack continued. 'We have a place at the playground someone painted on the cement. Todd said he played with the cracks on his sidewalk.'

'Ok, I remember that game. Mae, my daughter, used to be quite fond of it.'

Jack's smile got even wider. 'I want to do something special for Daddy. He's a hero and for-ever away helping people. I want to make him smile.'

Jim's throat began to constrict. 'I'm sure you make him smile all the time. What did you have in mind?'

Jack beamed at the compliment. 'I want to give him a spe-cial smile this time. I want to have a pre-man-ant Hotch-Scotch so he can have fun on his way to help people.' The big words were starting to get tied up in the youngster's mouth.

'Hmmm…,' Jim looked at the earnest young man and came to a decision. 'I think you and I could come up with something. But you do understand this will cost money.' He really didn't want the child's money, but had to be sure he was committed.

Jack's lip began to quiver; he had overheard his Mom and Dad talking about how expensive the renovations were going to be before it began. His young mind began working overtime. 'I have some money in my piggybank, but I'm not a'posed to take it…' tears began to form in his eyes; he wouldn't be able to surprise his Daddy.

Inspiration struck Jim, 'why don't we do this -'

He was cut off by the, now hysterical, child.

'Don't tell on me! It has to be a sir-prize or it'll be no good! Please Mr. Four-Man, sir!'

'Relax, child,' Jim soothed. 'I have an idea. How about this: you help me with the work. You can help me as payment for the surprise.'

The transformation was nearly instant. Jack's face lit up and he jumped up to give the other man a fierce hug.

*End Flashback*

'The pair took two afternoons and designed something that they were sure you would enjoy.' Haley began to wrap up her story.

'It was such an elaborate secret. Jack insisted all the work had to be hidden and covered every night. I had to park in the garage and was only allowed out the front door to get the mail.'

Aaron was shocked that his son had gone to such great lengths for his Daddy.

'He'll probably want to show you in a big ceremony tomorrow.'

The next week, Jim personally came to deliver the bill and ensure everything was completed to his customer's satisfaction. Jack went outside alone with Jim to inspect their work. Aaron and Haley watched from the window. Aaron glanced at the invoice in his hand. A hand-written note at the bottom caught his attention.

'For a very special Daddy,

You have an amazing son. Enjoy these years, they'll be over before you realize.

I hope you are able to play Hotch-Scotch with your son for years to come.

From a fellow Daddy.'

Childhood is the most beautiful of all life's seasons.

~ Author Unknown

The greatest poem ever known
Is one all poets have outgrown:
The poetry, innate, untold,
Of being only four years old.
~ Christopher Morley, To a Child

Again, hope you enjoyed.

For those of you reading Reid's Surprise: I've been having some problems with the case they're on but I hope to be past that soon.



PS: edited and clarified the beginning. 03/23/12