SPECIAL NOTE: SEPTEMBER signups are now open through AUGUST, 31, 2012 for the "THE MIX n MATCH CHALLENGE!" Details can be found at the forum.
Additionally, the steamy FINAL chapter of the Morgan/Garcia ficlet, "Sex on the Beach" available at both The Writers Coffee shop and Fractured-Reality. Com.
This story is for Nebula2. I hope you enjoy it.
The Bottom Line
Will LaMontagne sat on the cracked wooden bench and smiled crookedly at his son, his gaze never wavering from the happy youngster as he climbed the monkey bars. His grin widened at the boy reached the top and waved proudly.
That was his son. His fearless, intelligent boy. His greatest accomplishment stared at him with eyes that broke his heart and filled him with a surge of paternal pride.
The past year had been rough on them all, but they'd done their best to ensure that Henry Jareau LaMontagne knew that he was loved and treasured every single day of his life. He and JJ might not have been able to make their marriage work, but they'd kicked ass at parenthood.
After the initial bitterness that an eroding relationship produced had passed, they'd both realized that for Henry, they could put aside their differences and concentrate on the one thing that mattered.
That had been two years ago. A lot had changed in twenty-four months. He was dating again, and JJ had remarried.
That had taken some adjusting. Watching another man take such an active role in his young child's life had been hard. Sharing the role of dad with another male wasn't something he'd ever thought himself capable of doing, but knowing JJ's husband was a good man that loved his child helped.
"Will?" a familiar voice called from behind him.
Shifting slightly on the bench, Will looked over his shoulder and nodded at the approaching man. "Hey, Hotch," he greeted the other guy.
"Sorry I'm late," the older man apologized. "We just deplaned about half an hour ago. JJ is still tying up some loose ends at the office," he explained. "Hope you don't mind that I came instead."
There was a time when he would have minded a lot. Those days, thankfully, were behind him. His jealousy of Aaron Hotchner had finally burned out and he could look at the serious man with no rancor now. Once JJ's boss, he was now her new husband as well.
It had rankled in the beginning. He'd suspected for a long time that their romance had bloomed before he and JJ had formally separated. Of course, neither JJ's conscience nor Aaron Hotchner's integrity would have allowed them to act on their feelings, but still, Will had questioned their relationship for longer than he felt comfortable admitting.
In hindsight, he could see he'd been wrong. Jealousy had consumed him then, and he hadn't been willing to be reasonable. In a fit of anger, he'd even filed for sole custody of Henry. Luckily, he'd seen his error in judgment before any lasting damage to his son had been done. Crazily enough, it had been Aaron Hotchner that had made him see that the more people that Henry had on his side, the easier the tot's life would be.
He owed the other man for that service…and if appearances meant anything at all, it looked like it might be time to pay up.
"You okay, man?" he asked when Hotch sat down beside him and scrubbed a hand over his face. "If you and JJ need an extra day to get your bearings, I'm happy to keep Henry another night," he offered. "I'll even take Jack if you like," he added, nodding to where Hotch's son practiced on the soccer field adjacent to the park. Usually Jessica watched Aaron's son during cases, but lately, he'd been taking both boys. Henry didn't like being separated from his brother and honestly, Jack was an awesome kid and great role model for the younger boy.
Aaron Hotchner offered will a crooked smile as he rolled his neck on his shoulders. "It's that obvious, huh?" he asked ruefully, inhaling deeply as he dropped his hand back into his lap.
"You mean that it looks like you went three rounds with another son of Satan?" Will asked sarcastically. "Yeah, it's pretty clear, but then, I used to be a cop, too. At least being a private investigator means I get to pick and choose my own cases now. Does JJ look any better?"
"Not really," Hotch confided with a sigh. "Child molester turned murderer in Portland. We spent thirteen days chasing him across Oregon. Of course, you know that since you had the boys. I'm sorry you got put on extended daddy duty, man. If I'd known it was gonna be a long one, I would have authorized JJ to stay behind. I swear to God, I do not understand the depravity of people."
"I'm pretty certain I got the better end of the deal," Will replied easily. "I picked up a coffee for whoever showed up," he remarked, offering Aaron the steaming Starbucks cup.
Gratefully accepting the still warm cup, Aaron nodded. "Thanks," he mumbled, carefully twisting off the lid and taking a sip of the aromatic brew. "JJ was pretty clear about killing me slowly if I didn't come back with both boys, but if you don't mind, I might take you up on your offer for a day this weekend. She'd deny it, but this case got to her, too."
"Yeah, she's never was real keen on admitting that she'd reached the limits of her control. Usually her conquer the world attitude is cute as hell…"
"Yeah, right up until she breaks," Hotch grunted.
"Cheers to that," Will snorted, toasting the other man's cup of coffee. Offering Aaron a sidelong look, he murmured, "It's none of my business, Aaron, and you can tell me to mind my own business, but you guys are okay, right?"
Sighing heavily, Aaron nodded. "Yeah, we're fine. Tired and exhausted from the job, but we're fine."
"Good," Will murmured with a surge of relief.
"You know, there was a time when that would not have been your reaction," Hotch noted with a small smile.
"Yeah, I know," Will acknowledged quietly.
"Mind if I ask you what changed?" Hotch asked conversationally. "Don't get me wrong. I'm grateful for it, but I've always been curious."
Inhaling deeply, Will shrugged. "I could give you a bullshit answer about how I realized that JJ and I just weren't meant to be, I guess. And I reckon that's partly true. The bottom line, though, is that those kids' happiness," he said, nodding toward where Henry now stood at the sidelines cheering Jack on toward a soccer goal, "was a hell of a lot more important than the bitterness I was carrying around in me. Besides," Will reflected with a sad smile, "JJ is happier than I've ever seen her. Obviously, you understand her better than I ever did, Aaron. I'm not sayin' that it doesn't still hurt, but seeing the light back in her eyes…it eases the ache."
"You're a good man, Will. Someday, you're gonna find that special lady that loves you the way you need to be cared for. Mark my words," Hotch declared with a nod.
Chuckling softly, Will grinned. "From your lips to God's ear, man." His grin widened as the soccer practice ended and the children dispersed. Both Jack and Henry ran toward them, racing each other as they laughed, the sound filling the warm air. "Brace yourself, the human hurricanes are about to make landfall."
Choking back a laugh as Aaron grunted when the first child barreled into him, he actually let it slip out as the second kid made impact and knocked him into the bench.
"Hello, boys," Aaron laughed, wrapping an arm around each boy.
"Dad, did you see me score that goal?" Jack asked, bouncing on his toes.
"Uncle Aaron, I got an A on my book report!" Henry informed the older man proudly. "Daddy helped me with it," he added, beaming at Will.
"Congratulations to you both, then. It sounds like it's been a busy week," Hotch said with a smile. "You can both tell me all about it over dinner. Your mother has declared it Pizza Tuesday."
"Awesome! I want pepperoni!" Jack whooped.
"I want mushrooms," Henry added, not to be outdone by his quasi-brother.
"Ah, what about anchovies, Henry?" Will asked, ruffling his son's hair.
"Ewwwww, Daddy! I'm not eating baby fish!" Henry rebelled loudly, wrinkling his nose in a perfect imitation of his mother.
Both men laughed at the boy's reaction. Exchanging a look with Will, Hotch joked, "So, you up for a jaunt to the local pizzeria or have you had enough of our hoodlums in training?"
"I wouldn't miss it," Will replied, wrapping his arm around Henry.
And as the four of them trekked toward the parking lot, Will LaMontagne silently admitted that while life might not be perfect, it was pretty damn close.
Chit Chat on Author's Corner forum news: I'll try to keep it brief.
SEPTEMBER signups are open through AUGUST, 31, 2012 for the "THE MIX n MATCH CHALLENGE!" Details can be found at the forum.
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