Author's Note: We wanted to thank everyone for reading this story and for giving us the opportunity to share our world. Both of us (Tracia and Tonnie) are the parents of special needs children. Tracia's son has medical challenges & autism, and Tonnie's daughter has severe, life-threatening medical challenges. This story is told through the eyes of mothers who have walked the walk and talked the talk. This is not theory to us or just a good story that we've researched….this is something we both have lived and continue to barely survive by the skin of our teeth. While we appreciate all of the suggestions (and trust us, in both this story and real life, we've heard them ALL!), please try to remember that theory is far different than practice. Thank you for your continued support, and we hope you continue to enjoy this story!
From Where I'm Sitting
"This little tyke had one exhausting afternoon," Dave said softly as he carried Henry into his bedroom, gently settling the child into his bed as JJ pulled his sneakers off and dropped them to the floor.
"He had fun," JJ replied on a whisper. She smiled down at her son, one smooth cheek pressed to the pillow as he turned onto his side and stuck his thumb into his mouth. "I actually think I heard him giggle. I can't tell you the last time that happened. Occasionally, I can get a smile out of him, but a laugh is rare," she admitted, trailing her fingers over his downy hair and tucking a wayward strand behind his ear.
"Mission accomplished, then. Henry had a great day, and we found you some of that help you were worried about finding. Two birds, one stone," Dave returned in a hushed voice as he pulled the covers over the sleeping boy. JJ had already denied the need to change him into pajamas, claiming that sleeping in his little shirt and jeans wouldn't hurt for one night. There was no sense waking a sleeping child.
He couldn't have agreed with that theory more.
Following the younger woman out of the room, he smiled faintly. All in all, it had proven to be a productive day. Stressful and overwhelming at different points, but overall, it had been a success. "You feeling any better?" he asked when they entered the living room.
"Much," JJ said with a relieved smile over her shoulder. "Can I get you a drink? I feel like I owe you a debt I'll never manage to repay after today, Dave. A glass of wine is all I have to offer at the moment though."
"I'll take it and be grateful for it," he said with a wink. He'd refused to drink at his sister's house, knowing that he'd be driving Henry and JJ home. While the risk would have been negligible at best, it still hadn't been worth it to him. Now, however, less than a few miles from his own place, he felt safe imbibing in a couple of glasses of whatever she was offering.
Watching her through the window to the kitchen, he saw her reach for a bottle of wine on the counter and search through one of the drawers for a corkscrew. Smiling as she struggled with the stubborn cork, he offered, "Need some help in there?"
"I'd say you've given more than your fair share of assistance today, Dave," she answered ruefully, still pulling at the stubborn cork. "But, yeah," she finally conceded when she blew a strand of hair from her face. "A hand might be nice. Again."
Easily circling to enter the kitchen, he took the dark bottle from her outstretched hand with a grin. "Grab the glasses," he suggested while he pulled the cork from the bottle with a soft pop. "Ahhh, the sweet spoils of success," he said with satisfaction, pouring the red wine into the two glasses she held aloft for him.
Offering him his own glass, JJ stole a sips from her own. The sweet fluid filled her mouth, soothing her frayed nerves while she followed him back into her small living room. Her home was a far cry from his, but it was comfortable and, despite the obvious differences in their financial backgrounds, he seemed comfortable here, too.
"You're staring at me, JJ," Dave stated evenly. "Say what's on your mind," he invited, taking a seat in one of the deep recliners by the couch.
"It's just…you aren't exactly what you seem, are you?" she asked curiously, folding one leg under her as she took a seat in the corner of the couch nearest him.
"Is anybody?" he returned with an easy grace. "I don't think you need me to tell you that a lot of things contribute to who a person becomes in life, JJ. And those components are constantly evolving."
"Spoken like a true profiler." JJ smirked, taking another sip of her wine. "But you, Dave," she said, pointing one finger at him from around her glass, "You like to cultivate a certain image. And you willingly showed me something different today."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Dave replied negligently, leaning his head back as he sipped his wine.
"Bull. You present yourself as this wealthy guy that works because it amuses him to do so. The car…the mansion…the spiffy suits. At heart, though, you're just a blue collar guy from a middle class neighborhood that has a real family with real problems. It's also a family that steadfastly refuses to use you to improve their situation in spite of your best efforts to the contrary. But still, you work really hard to keep anybody from knowing about it. Yet, you trusted me enough to share your background. Why?"
"Don't make me into some kind of saint, JJ. You needed some help. I had a way to get it for you," Dave brushed her off, shifting in his chair uncomfortably.
"Dave?" Waiting until he looked at her, she ordered, "Don't bullshit me."
Hearing her serious demand, he cleared his throat. "Look, sometimes it's easier to let people believe whatever they wanna believe about me. I long ago gave up trying to convince people I'm a decent guy. Besides, if people think I'm a snobby asshole, they leave me alone. Which I like…for the most part. Right up until I run into a legitimately good person that could use a hand…that becomes part of a surrogate family that I don't admit very many people into. Then, let's just say that if I have any influence, I'm not afraid to use it. And in case you missed it, you're doing my sister a favor, too. God knows, she won't take my money," he grumbled.
"And that bugs the hell out of you, doesn't it?" JJ asked with a small smile.
"Hell, yes," Dave growled, staring into his glass. "We grew up hard. We were loved, but things were always tight. There was never enough of anything. And now, when I have it to share, with somebody that deserves it, she won't come off her moral high ground and accept my help."
"She and her husband have their pride. They took help for their son, didn't they?" JJ questioned softly, raising one eyebrow.
"That's different," Dave muttered. "Seriously, I sign three alimony checks a month for three of the most vapid women on earth, you'd think they'd let me pay for a fucking plumber," he mumbled around his glass, draining it in a swallow.
"Face it, Rossi," JJ replied with a gentle smile and a tip of her glass. "You're officially one of the good guys."
Check out some of the new Vacation Challenge fics that have been posted by the great Criminal Minds authors at Chit Chat on Authors Corner. There's a new thread devoted to this latest challenge, and we hope you'll enjoy the great new reads!
While you're at the forum, check out all of the wonderful stories that were posted on the Christmas Gift Fic Exchange! From your favorite pairing to snowmen and jingle bells, our fellow authors have created some amazing fics just for your enjoyment!
Calling all readers of Sarah O'Rourke (our alter ego!) We have just lowered the price of The Devil's Snare to only 99 cents on Kindle. You can grab your copy today on at (slash) author (slash) sarahorourke, and choose The Devil's Snare! (Sarah also has three other books published…check them all out!)