Author's Note: Okay, first, thank you to everyone reading, reviewing, favoriting and alerting our stories. We truly appreciate your comments.
Second, we want to offer you a quick rundown of activities and threads that are ongoing at the forum:
First, we have opened our next challenge to participants. "The Future Fic Challenge" thread is open on Chit Chat on Author's Corner forum. Rules and explanation of the challenge are there as well. In short, choose one character and get assigned a random secondary character to tell a story set in the year 2022. It looks like a lot of fun.
We've also introduced a "Help Wanted" thread to the forum for authors that are looking for assistance with various writing complications that come up. Perhaps you want someone to bounce ideas with, or maybe you need a beta….this is the place to post an ad for what you are looking for. We've also reopened the "Chat Chat Among the Authors" thread to discuss spoilers or ask questions. The "Getting to Know YOU…Tell us about yourself" thread is open. Swing by there to introduce yourself whether you are a reader or an author. We'd love to meet you.
And lastly don't forget our "Pay It forward Review Incentive Program". From now until the end of April, anyone that reviews a Hotch related story is eligible to win an gift card. Details found on thread at forum.
This week's author of the week is the talented Flames101. Please swing by that thread to ask questions about their writing and/or stories. In addition, there are several other threads open for comment. We hope to see each of you there.
Sweet Silver Lining
Slamming the car door, JJ collapsed against the seat, exhausted…scared…but mostly, still uncertain about her son's future. Waiting until Aaron climbed behind the wheel, she turned her head to look at him. "Do we even have a chance here, Aaron? Without reverting to blackmail and mind games?"
"Max thinks we do," Aaron replied evasively, shrugging as he slid the key into the igntion. "Strauss will make a convincing witness. The plan could work."
"Could is not a reassuring word," JJ muttered, pressing her fingers to her eyelids. How could she explain how the alien thought of losing her child for even a single moment literally tore the fragile lining of her very soul? Throughout the entire meeting in her attorney's office, she had attempted to listen with an objective ear, to contribute saliently to the discussion concerning her son's future…but all she had really wanted to do was find her son, scoop him up, and run as quickly as possible to the fartherest point on the earth where no one would ever find them again.
And yet, she knew this was not truly an option, no matter how her battered heart campaigned for it. She had the best team possible around her, and if anyone could ferret out a way to bring a modicum of peace to what was a volatile situation, it was them. But it didn't mean she had to like it.
"JJ, we need something solid against Will. We can bring up his gambling addiction, but as yet, that hasn't put Henry into any immediate danger. We need to find something that proves he's a threat…or could put that child in a threatened position. We have to show the court that his safety is better served with us."
Cracking open one eye to stare at the man she know called her husband, JJ groaned. "But we're FBI agents. We're the good guys, remember?"
"And Will's a cop," Aaron stated flatly. Hearing JJ's sharp intake of breath, he grimaced. He'd made her a promise not to lie to her, however, and he had to honor it. "While you and Strauss were talking in the hall, Max updated me on a few things he'd learned. Evidently, Will pulled a favor at his old precinct. He got his old job back, pending a resolution to the custody case."
Her heart literally plummeted at that unexpected news, and JJ felt her chest tighten as she tried to swallow. "It makes him look stable," she whispered, her fingers maniacally twisting the edge of her sweater. "He's doing the same thing we are, Aaron. He's lining up his ducks in a neat little row."
"Our pond is a bit bigger than his, JJ," Aaron reassured her, covering her hand as he back out of the parking space.
"Maybe," JJ murmured unconvincingly, still worried. It was clear that Will was as prepared to play hardball as they were and that scared the hell out of her. Insidious and capable of far greater deception than she had ever realized before, the man was dangerous. And desperate. A truly bad combination in any man…especially one that had helped her create a life.
A life that she refused to lose, no matter what any court in the land declared. A mother's love was not to be trifled with, and as fearful as she was of Will's motives, she reminded herself that she had the upper hand at the moment. She had her son.
"What did you and Strauss talk about?" Aaron asked as much to distract her as to satisfy his own curiosity. "Did she question your sanity for marrying me rather than Reid or Morgan? There's no way she would have recommended Dave."
The small attempt at humor broke through her spiraling thoughts, and JJ couldn't help but smiling faintly at his adept analysis as she shot him an amused look. "I think she likes you more than you think."
"Since I'm fairly certain the woman loathes me, I suffer no delusions. She likes you, JJ. And that's quite enough to keep me satisfied," Hotch stated evenly, arching a dark brow as he flicked the steering wheel, sliding easily into the traffic. "She didn't miss a beat when Dave approached her on our behalf."
"Dave went to her?" JJ gaped. Damn, they really must be desperate, she thought grimly, shaking her head.
"There's history there." Hotch shrugged, knowing by her tone that he had obviously surprised her with that bit of information. "I don't know what it is. Hell, I shudder to think of what it might be, if you wanna know the truth. But, Dave said she didn't blink twice when she heard it was you that needed help."
"You could have knocked me over with a feather when I realized she genuinely wanted to help us. Us, Aaron," JJ stressed, turning sideways in her seat to stare at the man she called her husband. "I think we might have misjudged her a bit. I mean, don't get me wrong, she's dangerous as a cobra, but I don't think it's us she wants to strike."
"She wants what's best for the team. Seeing you hurt…it hurts the entire team. It affects productivity. One thing I have learned about Strauss is that she lets nothing influence the plans she has for our unit. Will made an unfortunate enemy. For those she dislikes, she merely makes there life hell. Those she hates?" Aaron snorted, shaking his head. "She has a unique way of making them pray for death. Rossi and her share that trait in common."
"I guess…but I don't think you give yourself enough credit, Aaron. She respects you. She actually has quite a lot of faith that you'll find a way to resolve this."
"I won't allow Will to destroy this family." Hotch declared grimly. "Whatever we have to do, he won't be successful."
"So, what's next?" JJ asked warily, glancing at his set face as he navigated them down the city's streets. Usually when she rode with someone else, she had to be in control, had to keep one eye on the road to know where she was at all times. But over the past few years, she had found herself far more comfortable with Aaron's driving than with anyone else she had ever known. And in the past week, she realized that as long as he was the one behind the wheel, she never even looked at street signs any longer. She trusted him.
With far more than just his driving, she told herself as she leaned her head against the leather seat. She trusted him to help her with her son. And as much as she wanted to run away to a deserted island if that's what it would take to keep Henry safe and in her arms, she realized that she couldn't do that without Aaron…and Jack…in her life, too. She needed them all.
Somewhere along the line, she had melded more with Aaron Hotchner than she had ever thought about doing with Will LaMontagne.
"We go home to our boys and live our lives until the hearing," Hotch answered evenly, reaching out to squeeze her hand again. "We find a rhythm in our family. We concentrate on building us, JJ. Max is going to call when we're issued a date. Until then, Rossi and I will keep searching for incriminating information on Will's activities. And you are going to spend time with the boys. Strauss has granted you a sabbatical until all this is resolved. You'll have time to spend with Henry and get to know Jack better."
"Happy homemaking 101?" JJ asked, raising an eyebrow as she snorted her derision. As if? She couldn't change who she was. She could never be the happy housewife! It wasn't HER. What the hell was Aaron doing with these plans? Especially since he hadn't bothered to consult her.
"I'm not going to lie…it's a tactic. I didn't think it up, but I agree with it," Aaron admitted hesitantly.
"A tactic?" JJ echoed, confused now as she turned her entire body in the seat to face him. "What are you talking about, Aaron? Is this another discussion that you had while I was out of the room?"
"Yes," Aaron confessed guiltily.
Feeling a surge of anger replace the earlier trust she had just mentally professed for this man, JJ crossed her arms over her chest as she glared at her husband. "Well, it would appear you were all very busy arranging my life for me, weren't you? You do realize that this is one of the reasons that I always refused to marry Will. I wouldn't slip into the mold he wanted to create for me."
"That's the point, JJ," Aaron said tightly, aware of JJ's growing agitation. He supposed she had cause to be upset, but comparing him to Will was enough to make his grip on the steering wheel white-knuckled. He knew she was tired and overwhelmed, but he'd honestly thought she'd be willing to at least hear him out before attacking.
Eyes widening, JJ bit out, "You think he had a point? That I should have been willing to conform to what he wanted from me?"