A/N - It's been forever, I know. I'm sorry! Real life kicks my butt. This continues straight from the last chapter - which if you don't remember is Hotch's and Emily's meeting with Jack's teacher!
"Hey Dad," Jack smiled at his father, jumping into his arms once Jessica had opened the front door.
"Hey buddy," Hotch forced a smile as he scooped Jack into his arms and hugged him. "Were you good for your Aunty Jess?"
"He was a gentleman, as always," Jessica answered for Jack. "He was just playing out in the back yard, so maybe he should wash his hands?" She suggested to both Hotch and Jack. Really she just wanted a few minutes alone with Hotch.
"Good idea, buddy," Hotch replied as he put his son back down and watched him run down the hall to where the bathroom is. "Thanks for taking him, Jess."
"It's never a problem," Jessica shook her head. "You know I love having him. I actually miss minding him while you were working. How did the meeting go?"
"Ms. McKee is concerned about Jack's school-work," Hotch replied, lowering his voice just in-case Jack was near by. "His grades and homework are slipping. She said it's to be expected, giving what happened… She's basically just saying that we need to try and encourage him with his learning, and to keep a better eye on his homework. Nothing too serious, and certainly nothing I wasn't already aware of."
"How is Emily taking it?" Jessica asked, unconsciously looking over Hotch's shoulder to the black car parked at the end of her driveway.
"Not well," Hotch sighed as he scrubbed a hand down his tired face. "She was pretty angry at first. She thought that Ms. McKee was judging her as a bad parent, blaming her for what happened to…" He trailed off, tears beginning to sting his eyes. He blinked quickly and rolled his eyes upwards to try and stop the tears from falling. He would not break down. Not here, not in front of Jessica. "She's going to make more effort with Jack's homework. She's fine."
"Are you okay?" Jessica asked him concerned after looking behind her to make sure Jack wasn't nearby. "People seem to only be talking about how Emily and Jack are doing. How are you doing? How are you coping?" She asked worriedly. Jessica knew Hotch, knew him better than most, so she knew that he would put Emily and Jack's grieving above his own grieving.
Hotch took a few seconds to decide if he wanted to be truthful with her, or if he wanted to lie. Jessica, since Haley's death, has been somewhat of a pillar of strength for him, a confident. Remembering how helpful she was when Jack and he lost Haley pushed him to tell her the truth. "I'm avoiding." He admitted. "I'm focusing on helping Emily and Jack through this so I don't have to think about it. I don't want to think about it. My daughter died. There was nothing I could do about it, there was no monster for me to stop. She just… Died. I'm avoiding. Ready to go buddy?" Hotch asked with forced enthusiasm as Jack walked down the hallway towards him.
"Yup." Jack nodded his head. "What's for dinner?"
"Can't be sure until I see what's in the fridge, but possibly Mac and Cheese," Hotch said as he took Jack's bag. He knew that Mac and Cheese would be something Jack would want to eat. He might even be able to convince Emily to eat a little too. She used to get so excited by his Mac and Cheese. "What do you say to your Aunty Jess?"
"Thank you," Jack grinned at her, accepting the hug she was offering. "See-ya, love you." He called over his shoulder as he was halfway down the drive way.
"Take care of yourself, Aaron," Jessica said as she followed Hotch onto the porch. "You have my number if you need to talk."
"I know, Jess," Hotch smiled weakly. "Thanks."
"Number four is wrong," Emily said to Jack as she passed him back his maths copy. "Needs another look I think."
"I'm bored of Math," Jack groaned as he took the copy from her and threw it onto the table in front of him. "I don't want to do stupid math anymore."
"We don't say stupid," Hotch warned as he took the copy and had a look at the work too. "Mom's right, number four is wrong. You need to correct it. Can I take a look at your English homework?" He asked as he slid the copy back over to Jack.
"Fine," Jack pouted, which had no effect on the outcome.
"How long did it take you to do this?" Hotch asked after reading over the short story Jack had written.
"Dunno," Jack shrugged his shoulders.
"Not long, I'd guess," Hotch replied as he read through it one more time. "I'm going to circle all the wrong spellings, and you're going to correct them."
"But Dad," Jack whined, glaring at his father. "I don't wanna do it again. I wanna watch TV."
"Just be glad I'm not making you write it all out again," Hotch warned him. "Your hand writing is very sloppy. It used to be a lot neater than this."
"How about you finish your Math, then we'll watch half an hour of TV, and then we'll come back and correct your English?" Emily suggested softly. Hotch was going too hard on Jack, in her opinion. Yes, they needed to get back into the routine of checking his homework and helping him with it, but they didn't need to make the whole experience unpleasant. Sometimes she felt like Hotch enforced the same attitude he had at work during times spent with Jack. She didn't like that. She liked it when Hotch would be the soft and playful version of himself, rather than the strict and demanding one. Although, she would admit that sometimes he needed to be the bad guy. More often than not, Jack's little pout and his puppy-dog eyes would sway her into giving him whatever he wanted. Hotch, on the other hand, was immune to it. Mostly.
"Jack would be staying up past his bedtime if we did that, Emily," Hotch replied, trying his best to keep his frustration from his tone. She is trying, he kept repeating in his head. If he shoots her down while she's trying, she might stop altogether. He couldn't do that to her. He needed to encourage her as much as possible. He couldn't remember the last time she had suggested a family night in front of the couch. More often than not, he and Jack would spend the evenings alone while Emily would be upstairs 'sleeping'. Of course, he knew that she wasn't really sleeping. She would be silently pacing their bedroom, trying to stop herself from going into the nursery, trying to stop herself from looking at photos of their family as a foursome. Or she would be sitting in the armchair by the window, silently crying.
"Em, please!" Hotch chuckled softly as he tugged on Emily's left hand, his fingers brushing off her engagement ring and wedding ring. The latter had only been there for two months, and Hotch was still trying to get used to feeling it there. Feeling the physical evidence that Emily is his and his alone. "You're due in two weeks, your blood pressure is elevated, the doctor said you're supposed to stay in bed. Don't make me take out my frowny face!" Hotch said, laughing heartily at his own words. It was just yesterday when he had heard Jack mention that his frowny face wasn't as frown ridden anymore.
"I'm sick of being in bed," Emily pouted at him. "I spend all day and all night in bed. Anyway, you know I like looking out the window." She told him, not letting her gaze shift from the beautiful sun set currently in process.
Hotch let out a quiet sigh, knowing his wife wouldn't back down. Once her mind was set on something she didn't let go. "What if I bring the armchair from my office up?" Hotch suggested after a few moments, delighted with his own brain wave. She loves that chair. Back before she had been bed-confined, she would spend most evenings relaxing in that chair just watching him do whatever paperwork he hadn't completed at work.
"That would be amazing," Emily turned and grinned at him, her arms immediately circling his neck. Her protruding belly making a hug a little tricky. She moved over to their bed, waiting patiently for Hotch to return with the armchair. She enjoyed watching his muscles contract and flex as he carried the heavy piece of furniture into the room. His skin had a slight sheen of sweat, something which would normally turn Emily on, but at 38 weeks pregnant she was simply too tired to care. "You know, it's very likely we conceived her in this chair." Emily said happily as she sat into the comfortable old armchair. She smiled against Hotch's kiss, returning her gaze to the sunset when he moved to the bathroom to shower. 'Life couldn't get much better than this' she thought as she felt the baby move within her.
"But, what's half an hour?" He gave in after a few moments. Realistically, half an hour wouldn't disrupt the routine he had been trying to implement too much.
"Yay!" Jack smiled as he quickly began to work on his math again. He liked having both of his parents in the one room together again. He liked having them fuss over him and pay attention to him, even if it meant he had to do school work. It felt like things were back to normal. Mommy and Daddy were helping him with his homework, they were all happy even though they hate Math. Even at Jack's young age, he could tell things weren't the same though.
A/N2 - Thank you again to everyone who's reading! This will have a happy ending. A bittersweet one, at least! I can't have Hotch and Emily on the outs! Please leave a review letting me know what you think! I know I suck at updating frequently, but reviews are a real encouragement to write more!