On this last day of February 2012... here's my contribution to my Fic Amnesty collection, those snippets/scenes/concepts of stories that never quite got completed or were edited out of the final version of the document. Below is the original concept for the "V is for Vacation" Alphabet Meme prompt. There are part of this that I love and parts that I fully acknowledge are over the top.
The first chapter of the "official" V is for Vacation fic, "The Five Things that Dave Learned on Vacation," references the events that take place here. Is this my best? Nope. But I've been tinkering with this on and off for over a year.
Title: Dog Jail
Author: Kuria Dalmatia
Rating/Warnings: FRT/R (profanity)
Characters/Pairing: Hotch/Rossi, Jack
Summary: A half-hour before the Hotchner-Rossi family is supposed to leave for a week-long vacation, Jack and Mudgie go missing.
ARCHIVING: my LJ and FFNet account... anyone else? Please ask first.
March 2011, July 2011, February 2012
Feedback always welcome.
DISCLAIMER: The Mark Gordon Company, ABC Studios and CBS Paramount Network Television own Criminal Minds. Salut! I just took them out to play and I promise put them back when I'm done. I'm not making any profit just trying to get these images out of my head.
It started off with the simple, "Have you seen Jack?" from Aaron, a half-hour before they were supposed to leave for their first Hotchner-Rossi family vacation.
When Dave said, "I thought he was helping you pack out in the garage," and realized that it wasn't the case, he concluded that Jack was somewhere in the house or out in the yard with Mudgie. Since Aaron and Jack moved in a year ago, the kid and dog were inseparable.
It was then Dave noticed Mudgie's leash, the one that Jack specifically picked out and always used, was missing. "He may have taken the dog for a walk."
"He knows he's supposed to ask one of us before he goes," Aaron replied crisply, hands settling on his hips as his gaze traveled from the hooks where Mudgie's leashes were to the front door.
Jack was a good kid. He understood the rules. He followed the rules. He rarely got in trouble. Still, "We're gonna be gone for a week," Dave said with a shrug. They both noticed the mild anxiety that Jack had about the dog not going with them. "He probably just wanted some time with Mudgie before we left."
Since Jessica was taking some well-deserved vacation as well, they were going to drop Mudgie off at the Puptastic Paradise Pet Resort. It was a stupid name for a boarding kennel, but Dave had done business with them for years. To help ease Jack's worries, they toured the facility just last week; Dave booked extra playtime and walks for the dog, making the daily rate for Mudgie almost as expensive as the beach house that they were at for vacation.
"Jack could have also packed the leash in with Mudgie's stuff," Dave reasoned. "Did you check upstairs?" When Aaron gave him a look, he shrugged again and suggested they check the house once more.
Jack and Mudgie weren't there.
"Jack's Iron Man backpack is gone," Aaron told him tersely as he came in from the garage. "The cooler wasn't shut all the way. Four juice boxes are missing as are the snacks he packed for the trip and his blanket."
That prompted Dave to say, "We're getting ahead of ourselves. He probably wanted a little picnic or something with the dog before we left."
The Hotchner Glare was lethal.
"Seriously, Aaron," Dave continued, pissed that he was the recipient of the look when he was simply trying to be the voice of reason. "I'll head one way down the block and you, the other. We have our phones. We talk to people ..."
"I know how to do a search," Aaron snarled and then marched past Dave out the front door.
Jack's walking Mudgie, Dave chanted to himself. He's just taking the dog for a walk before we take the pup to the kennel.He glanced at the crucifix on the wall with the palm frond tucked behind it. Please God, let it be that simple.
Ten minutes and four neighbors later, there was still no sign of Jack or the dog. Dave 's blood turned cold, his belly twinged hard, and all the images of dead little boys accrued from his years in the BAU conveniently flashed through his mind. Then, he went into case-mode because, damn it, that was what they did. No panicking. No accusations on who was supposed to keep track of the boy and dog who were now AWOL. Just years of experience clamping down on the rising terror that came with wondering where the hell their kid was.
Aaron picked through the cubby where they kept Mudgie's gear. "The doggie hiking backpack with the collapsible bowls is missing," he reported and then strode into the kitchen. "So are the water bottles that go with it."
"Okay, so Jack's upset that we're leaving Mudgie behind so … He packs supplies, takes the dog and … what? Runs away?" Dave asked aloud. When Aaron picked up the dry eraser and started cleaning the whiteboard, Dave stared at him for a second. "You are not starting a damn timeline. Christ Almighty!"
He received another hard look followed by a clipped, "My son is missing thirty minutes before we're supposed to leave on vacation."
The use of the pronoun 'my' stung like hell. It was insulting because it implied that Dave didn't care as much as he should, that he didn't consider Jack as much his kid as he was Aaron's. It was why his own tone was harsher than it needed to be. "The Howley's have a treehouse, don't they? And the Reese's have that weird-ass plastic dome thing in their backyard that the kids use as a fort. They could be there."
"How the hell would Jack get the dog into the treehouse?" Aaron snapped as he tapped his foot impatiently. "And the Reese's have a fenced yard, they keep their dog outside, and the dog is territorial. Plus, I spoke with Dev Senior, who's been outside all afternoon working on his lawn, and he hadn't seen Jack or Mudgie."
"Well, the Howley's is where I'm looking next," because Dave had to do something besides stand there. He knew what Aaron was going to do: call Jessica and start with the standard missing person questions. "I've got my phone on me."
Dave marched out of the house, willing himself to calm down. Telling himself that they were just blowing this out of proportion. Oh, he knew exactly what kind of freaks lurked out there, but he also knew that little boys and their dogs went on adventures without telling their parents.
Hell, he used to do it all the time as a kid, but it was a little different in Commack than in a suburb of Virginia.
So, it was quite plausible that Jack took Mudgie to the Howley's treehouse. It made sense. Jack loved the treehouse and wanted one badly. They were going to build one as a surprise for Jack's seventh birthday; Reid had already drawn up preliminary designs and Morgan volunteered to help with the construction. As for getting the dog up in the treehouse? The mutt would do damn near anything for beef jerky, which was one of Jack's chosen snacks for the trip.
"Alright, God," Dave muttered under his breath as he approached the oak with the rope ladder swinging gently in the wind, "we've done everything right. We're raising Jack right. We treat him right. We taught him right. We taught the dog right. Okay, I taught the dog but Mudgie's not gonna abandon Jack. He's too good a dog for that. And for all the shit Aaron's been through despite all the good he's done, don't fucking do this to him … to us … don't you dare fucking do this to us."
The treehouse was empty.
Dave closed his eyes. He counted. He looked up to the sky and was tempted to shake a fist but didn't. He was being melodramatic. Treat it like a case, he ordered himself. Jack took Mudgie's hiking stuff for a reason ... He doesn't want to leave the dog behind … but the dog's going to a kennel! I paid extra so the damn dog would have two play times per day plus two walks! We discussed it last night! Christ! Why?
"Okay. Okay. Okay," Dave said aloud as he scanned the treeline behind their houses. On his side of the street, the properties backed up into acres of woods. The rule in the Hotchner-Rossi household was, of course, that Jack wasn't allowed to venture into the woods without an adult. The dog didn't count as adult supervision and Jack knew it, although the boy gave a helluva an argument six months ago about it.
"Mudgie's seven years old," Jack had explained. "And Uncle Spencer says that seven dog years are really forty-nine people years and that means Mudgie's older than daddy!"
But, really, the woods were the next logical place to look. There were three heavily used paths that were within five houses, so Dave opted for the closest one to him, which was in the Howley's backyard. As he got about ten yards in, Dave stopped in his tracks. He smacked himself on the forehead as he called Aaron on his phone.
Aaron answered with a sharp, "Yes?"
"Mudgie's collar has a GPS built in," he explained, giving a quick glance to the Heavens and thanking God that he'd splurged on such a frivolous item back when he was hunting on a regular basis. Dave normally wasn't a gadget kind of guy, but it had made sense at the time. It was a low profile attachment to the collar so he hadn't bothered to take it off, just made sure the batteries were fresh. "The tracking unit is in the kitchen junk drawer."
"Got it," Aaron replied and hung up.
Dave continued his way down the path, calling out for Jack and whistling for the dog. Before he and Aaron got together, Dave put up with the not-so-teasing accusations that he treated his dog like it was his kid. Special dog bed. High-end food. Homemade treats when he had time. A collar, leash and reflective dog jacket for hunting. Even two or three themed dog-dannas when he took the mutt to his family for the holidays. Jack embraced that part of it, which is why there was a leash that the boy specifically had for Mudgie, although the kid claimed that the dog had helped pick it out too.
His phone rang and he immediately answered. Aaron asked, "Where are you?"
"The down the path in Howley's backyard."
"The GPS map shows Mudgie's signal about hundred yards northeast from the house." Aaron, like all good little agents who have done searches before and relayed coordinates to those on the ground, used the word 'signal.' It made Dave's stomach twist even more.
You're blowing it out of proportion, he told himself firmly. "Okay," Dave said and got his bearings again. "There's a clearing back here where the older kids like to smoke up."
"And Jack knows about it?"
"It's a goddamn path to a clearing, Aaron," he snapped back. "Anyone can follow a goddamn path."
There was a long pause followed by Aaron's, "I'm heading out," before the line went dead.
Dave took a deep breath and continued calling out for Jack and Mudgie as he made his way deeper into the woods. He whistled sharply and paused, then finally heard an answering woof. It was quickly followed by Jack wailing, "No, Mudgie! Quiet! Shhhh! He'll find us!"
The gust of relief made Dave stumble hard. He grabbed a branch to keep his balance and tore open his palm, but he ignored the pain. He broke into a jog, still calling out their names. He rounded the large tree and there, crowded against the hollowed out oak, was his son with a death grip on his dog. Dave fell to his knees and exclaimed, "Thank you, Jesus Christ!" and made the Sign of the Cross.
Jack pulled Mudgie closer and cried, "No! Don't take him!"
He fumbled for his phone and hit Aaron's speed dial. When Aaron picked up, he announced, "Found them." Dave stared at the little boy. Anger at being scared so thoroughly overrode diplomacy. "Jack! What in God's name do you think you're doing? Do you have any idea what you put your dad and me through?"
"Don't take Mudgie! He's a good dog!" Jack pleaded.
Dave's heart raced as his brain struggled with why a kid he considered his own was acting like he was some goddamn UnSub hell bent on abducting him. It didn't help his temper as he snapped, "What the hell is this all about?"
"You're going to put Mudgie in dog jail!" Jack screamed and began sobbing into the dog's fur. "He's a good dog and you're a mean daddy and you're going to put Mudgie in dog jail when he's a good dog!"
Maybe it was the flood of relief that kept Dave's brain from understanding what the boy was saying right away. But there were two things stood out: 'mean daddy' and 'dog jail.'
It was the first time Jack had ever referred to Dave as 'daddy.' Dave's mouth dropped open as he struggled to piece together the rest of it. His heart hammered hard in his chest; he knew that moisture was gathering in his eyes. Christ, his palm hurt like a son of a bitch.
But before he could say anything else, Aaron made it to the clearing. Jack rocketed over to his father, still holding Mudgie's leash tightly, and the dog obediently followed. Aaron bent down and scooped him up. "You scared us, buddy," Aaron told him as Jack continued to cry. "You scared us."
"Mudgie's a good dog, Daddy! Don't make him go to dog jail!"
"Dave said on the phone that Mudgie was going to dog jail!" Jack sobbed. "But Mudgie didn't do anything. So I had to keep him safe so Dave wouldn't take him to dog jail!"
"Jesus fucking Christ," Dave heaved out as he shook his head, because he nearly had a heart attack over something as simple as this.
"Language!" Aaron snapped and when Dave looked up, he was stunned at the glare that Aaron gave him. Aaron smoothed Jack's hair. "I promise Mudgie is not going to dog jail. He's going to the puppy hotel like we talked about last night."
"But Dave said…:"
"David will explain what he meant by 'dog jail,'" Aaron interrupted and Dave found himself on the receiving end of the patented Hotchner Bad Cop Interrogation Stare.
The use of Dave's formal name set his teeth on edge as he remembered the conversation he had this morning with his brother. He returned Aaron's look with one of his own, but he addressed Jack with a gentler tone, "I was on the phone with your Uncle Philly, Jack. When we were growing up, we always called the kennel 'dog jail.' It's not a bad place for puppies. It's just a joke between me and your Uncle Philly."
"But jail is a bad place!" Jack protested.
"People jail is," Aaron acknowledged. "You know when we talk about thinking before speaking?" Aaron asked. "Well, that's what David did."
"How the hell is this my fault?" Dave demanded.
"We'll talk about this later, David," Aaron replied with his imperious Unit Chief tone. Aaron set Jack down and his voice was warmer as he told his son, "Now, let's get back to the house. We'll need to talk about running away, Jack."
"Mudgie's not going to dog jail?"
"No," Aaron assured him. "Mudgie's not going to dog jail. Isn't that right, David?"
Three marriages meant that Dave knew when he was supposed to repeat things. So he said, "Mudgie's not going to dog jail."
"David, pick up Mudgie's things," Aaron continued as he took Jack's hand in his and Mudgie's leash in the other. "We're going home." With that said, Aaron led the boy and the dog out of the woods, leaving Dave kneeling in the mud.
Dave glared, because Aaron could be as imperiously bitchy as any woman. He wanted to argue, wanted to snap that Jack should pick up the things he brought, but he didn't. Instead, he fished out the cloth handkerchief he carried in his back pocket, wrapped it around his palm the best he could, and did what he was told.
Three failed marriages also meant that Dave knew when he should shut up and do as he was told. It was galling, because it wasn't supposed to be like this. This relationship was supposed to be different from all the others, and the little power play Aaron just pulled wasn't supposed to happen. But there was a kid in the mix, something Dave wouldn't trade for the world, so maybe the power plays just hadn't started yet.
At least Jack wasn't able to take too much stuff and, like his father, he was a neat-freak about packing. All Jack's stuff was in his Iron Man backpack, all Mudgie's stuff was in the doggie backpack, and the only thing that needed folding up was the blanket. Doing it one-handed was a pain—literally—but Dave gritted his teeth and got everything together.
As he shouldered the two packs and blanket, he took a moment to glance up to the sky. "Thank you, Lord Jesus, for keeping him safe."
Once in the clearing, he pulled out his cell phone and called the beach house owner. After all, Mudgie wasn't going to dog jail now.
Additional Author's Notes:
J and I refer to the crates for our pups as "Dog Jail" as well as whenever they are put in the boarding kennel. Hell, we even sing little songs about sending the dogs to "Dog Jail." The nickname has spread so now my sister, her family and my parents all refer to the boarding kennel as "Dog Jail." No, they don't sing songs about it.
As some readers may know, I don't have any children so I don't really have a point of reference when it comes to the fear that one's child is missing. I do, however, have the story of when I was about five years old, my older sister was at dance lessons at a studio across the busy four-lane highway from Sears department store, and my mom took me shopping during my sister's lesson.
I apparently decided that I wanted to see my sister, so I left the store and went to the crosswalk of the intersection (Sears Avenue and Shelbyville Road for all you Louisvillians). I asked 'this nice young man' to help me cross the street because I knew I wasn't supposed to cross the street by myself (but obviously I wasn't smart enough to tell my mom where I was going). The man did and I went inside the studio see my sister.
Now, this was in the mid-70's, when there were no such things as cell phones, GPS locaters on a backpack, Code ADAM in the stores, etc. I don't remember this incident at all, but my mother still vividly recalls the terror of not being able to find me (I'm the youngest of two) and her frantic search of the store. When she called over to the studio, one of the ladies informed her I was there. My mother says that she didn't know whether to bawl in relief or punish the hell out of me for scaring her so badly.