Author's Note: Hey, guys! So, this my January challenge piece for CCOAC. It is a little unusual because my pairing was Rossi/Hotch. And it is. Sort of. Except Aaron never speaks…except thru his son. I hope you enjoy it! It will be two chapters.
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When It's Right
Eyes darkening, Dave's brows drew together. "No, kiddo. Nothing like that. Your dad and I are getting along fine." Better than fine, Dave thought privately. Hence, this conversation. "In fact, because things are going so well…I wanted to talk to you about something important."
"I don't like important," Jack stated baldly, leaning back in and crossing his arms over his chest. "It's a big word that means that something bad's either happening or gonna happen."
"Not this time, kid," Dave said quickly but solemnly, shaking his head as he met the younger Hotchner's leery eyes. "As a matter of fact, I'd kinda like to think that this is a good sort of important."
Cocking his head to the side as he stared up at his pseudo-uncle, Jack asked, "How do you know the difference? You still look like Daddy does when he talks about the bad important." Pointing at Dave's forehead, he added, "Your skin's all wrinkled up there like your brain's too tight in your head. Like Daddy's is."
Self-consciously rubbing his fingers over his forehead in a vain attempt to smooth the so-called wrinkles, Dave shrugged. "My brain's not too tight, Jack, but I have been using it to think a lot recently. And one of the things I've been thinking about is that I really want you and your Dad to live with me forever."
"Like a real family?" Jack asked, his nose wriggling as he tried to understand. His fingers idly searched in the cardboard container for remaining fries, and came up empty.
Nodding, Dave pushed his wrapper toward the youngster, motioning for Jack to finish the remaining fries. "Just like a family." Drawing in a deep breath, he added quickly, "And I want to marry your Dad, Jack. I want us to be a complete family."
Blinking slowly as he took in the elder man's statement, Jack's eyes narrowed. "You can't marry daddy. It's illegal. They say so all the time on those shows you guys watch in the morning on television. It's kinda a big deal, Uncle Dave," Jack informed him knowingly.
Resisting the urge to laugh at the matter-of-fact delivery of Jack's monologue, Dave shook his head. The kid was way too smart for his own good….a downright Spencer Reid in the making. "You're right, kiddo. It isn't exactly legal. The official word for what I'd like to do with your dad is a commitment ceremony. But that ceremony wouldn't just be for me and your daddy. It would be for you and me, too. I need you to understand that I love you just as much as I do your daddy. See, I'd be making vows to you, too."
"You would?" Jack offered curiously, his little face scrunching in confusion.
"Uh huh." Dave nodded seriously. "And they're kind of important because they'd last a lifetime."
"Like a pinky promise?"
"Exactly like a pinky promise," Dave agreed, grateful for once that he was well-schooled in the ways of kids these days.
"What would your promise be?" Jack asked in typical Hotchner style. His dad had taught him to always get every bit of information you could before making a choice about something.
"Well, I'd start by telling your dad and you how much you mean to me and how much you guys have changed my life. Then, I'd explain that I'll spend the rest of it doing everything I can to make you both happy and safe. Now, I know that's hard to swallow when you've both had some pretty hard knocks in the last couple of years," Dave said slowly, "but, it's true. The both of you mean more to me than anything, kid. There isn't anything I wouldn't do for you."
"I know," Jack conceded softly, his tone as matter of fact as if he was discussing the color of the sky. "But, what if you went away like mommy did….or like my friend Amy's daddy did? Mommy is gone forever and Ami's dad lives in a whole different state now."
"I promise, Jack, that as long as I'm alive, I'll be a part of your life," Dave replied gently, thanking God Almighty that Jack didn't realize this would be his fourth journey into wedded bliss. "And just because Ami's daddy doesn't live with her anymore, it doesn't mean he still doesn't love her the same way."
"I guess," Jack murmured doubtfully, biting his lower lip as he stared up at his uncle.
"Hey," Dave chided, covering Jack's hand where it rested on the table. "Your dad and I won't do anything until you're ready. You are the most important person in our world, Jack. No decisions ever get made without talking to you first."
"Why now, Uncle Dave?" Jack questioned his uncle, clearly puzzled.
He couldn't even pretend ignorance. He knew what Jack wanted to know. They were clearly living together as a family…each one of them aware that they were part of a team. His desire to know what had inspired him to change the status quo was a fair query. Clearing his throat, Dave met the child's eyes. "Remember our New Year's party?"
"Yeah," Jack confirmed, grinning suddenly. "It was fun. Uncle Reid accidently drank the grown up punch and spit it everywhere," he said as he giggled at the recollection.
"Yeah, he did." Dave chuckled. "Do you remember how I told you that at the stroke of midnight you were supposed to make a promise to yourself to keep in the New Year?"
"Yep! I said I'd remember to keep my bike under the carport at night. And I have!" he informed the older man superiorly.
"I know. I made myself a promise that night, too. I told myself that I was going to find a love that would last…and that when I did, I'd hang on tight and never let it go."
"So?" Jack scrunched his nose.
"So, I found it," Dave said simply. "I found that love. For you and your dad. And the commitment ceremony to the both of you is one of the ways I plan on never letting it go," he explained. "Before I can do that, though, I need your blessing."
"I think I get it now," Jack said with a slow smile.
"Good," Dave breathed, relieved. At least everything was out in the open now.
"I say we should go for it," Jack said with certainty, propping his bony elbows on the concrete table. "I wanna be a real family."
"You sure, kiddo? There's no pressure here. You can take as long as you want to decide," Dave offered, his breath coming slowly.
"Nope. My mommy used to say "You know it's right when its right." And Uncle Dave? It's right. I'm sure of it."
Blinking back tears, Dave's throat tightened. "I think so, too, Jack," he agreed hoarsely.
Ever logical, Jack grinned. "We'll have to think of something for me to call you. You won't be my uncle anymore. And you can't be my daddy. That would just be confusing. If I yelled for daddy, you'd both come running."
Laughing, Dave nodded. "That would be inconvenient," he assented. "The good news is that I'll answer to most anything."
Mouth twitching from side to side, Jack considered the quandary. "Hmmm," he hummed, popping a French fry into his mouth and chewing thoughtfully. "I got it!" he announced a moment later. "Papa! You're papa!"
Heart swelling, Dave nodded. "Papa it is, son."
And from that moment on, Papa he always was