Characters: Hotch and Jack
Word Count: 1,512
Warnings: Spoilers for episode 6x11.
Summary: Jack hasn't been sleeping well, and Hotch is worried about him.
Author's Notes: Due to the completely crushing lack of Hotch in the most recent episode, and the semi-bullshit excuse for him not to be there, I got inspired and wrote a fic. Mostly because I am now going to have to deal with no Hotch until January, oh the pain.
He’s in that deep state of sleep, lying on his side, blankets dropping off the side of the bed in a puddle on the floor. Years of waking up to a ringing phone have conditioned his body, and when the screams start, he’s stumbling out of bed and getting tangled in the sheets, thudding to the ground in his rush.
The screams continue, and he kicks himself free, hauls himself to his feet and races down the hallway to Jack’s room. His son is sitting bolt upright in bed, arms wrapped around a stuffed toy, and his face is red and contorted.
Hotch grabs him, pulls him into an embrace and runs his hands through Jack’s hair. “Daddy’s here, shhh. Daddy’s here. Everything is okay.”
Jack sobs against Hotch’s chest until his shirt is damp, and he’s so exhausted he can’t keep his eyes open. Hotch spends the night in Jack’s too-small bed, legs dangling off the side, arms locked around his son in a tight embrace. He doesn’t go back to sleep.
Two days later, he gets a phone call from Jack’s teacher, who is concerned because Jack has been disruptive in class. He leaves work early and arrives at the preschool, only to find his son in a stand-off with another little boy. Jack’s fists are clenched, his body is tense, and he’s glaring at the other boy as his teacher tries to calmly intervene.
Hotch stops and watches in shock as his son kicks the boy in the shins and then runs away, through the playground and over to a small cubby house in the corner, where he ducks inside. Jack’s teacher comforts the other boy and spots Hotch standing there, bewildered.
“I need to show you something,” she says, and Hotch follows her into the building.
She hands him Jack’s artwork – pictures of a man with a gun, blood, gore and various monsters. Hotch thumbs through the pages, horror washing over him. She’s gazing at him sympathetically and offers him a drink, but he declines. He had no idea about any of this.
Jack is sullen in the car on the ride home. Hotch thinks about bribing him with ice cream or chocolate, and decides that he should probably be punished instead. Hotch watches him in the rear-view mirror contemplatively. Jack’s arms are folded across his chest, his face is screwed up and his bottom lip is sticking out in an exaggerated pout.
They’re stopped at a set of traffic lights when Jack finally speaks. “Jeffrey stole my crayons.”
“Who’s Jeffrey?” Hotch asks mildly, glancing in the mirror.
“A boy,” Jack practically spits, looking furious. “He’s so mean.”
“Was he the boy in the playground you kicked?”
Jack looks at him, surprised, his jaw hanging open a little. A blush creeps into his cheeks. “I didn’t kick him,” he practically whispers.
“I saw you.”
“No.” Jack folds his arms across his chest and glares.
“I thought we had a talk about what you should and shouldn’t do when someone upsets you.”
Jack’s face screws up even more, and then he’s wailing. “But he STOLE MY CRAYONS!”
“Did you tell the teacher?”
“Why not?” The light turns green, and Hotch steps on the accelerator.
“BECAUSE SHE DOESN’T LIKE ME AND SHE HATES MY PICTURES!”
“Inside voice,” Hotch reminds Jack patiently.
Jack throws his hands in the air miserably and is silent the rest of the way home.
The apartment is tense. Jack is on the floor, pushing a toy cement mixer back and forth, glancing up at Hotch in the kitchen every so often. Hotch is cutting up vegetables for dinner. Jack abandons the cement mixer suddenly, wandering over to the table set up with paper and crayons. He starts to draw.
Hotch pretends not to watch, but he’s studying his son intently. Jack is bent over the paper, tongue poking out from the corner of his mouth. He’s using a blue crayon first, and then yellow. He’s drawing a picture of the sky. Hotch is relieved.
He turns back to his cooking, still mulling everything over, still wondering what to do, when a hand tugs at his shirt. He looks down at Jack, who is staring up at him expectantly. “Daddy.”
“I’m sorry,” Jack whispers, biting his bottom lip. “I’m sorry I kicked Jeffrey.” Tears well in his eyes.
Hotch leans against the bench. “You will have to apologise to him tomorrow.”
Jack nods, looking ashamed.
“And you won’t get any dessert tonight, okay?”
Truly miserable now, Jack stares at Hotch plaintively. “But Dad!”
“No buts.” Hotch nods toward the table. “What were you drawing?”
Jack wordlessly hands him the picture, and then wanders away. Hotch stares at it for a moment. Blue sky, yellow sun, green grass. A stick figure drawing of a man lying on the green grass with a pool of red around his head.
Hotch closes his eyes.
The next day, he books Jack in for therapy.
He’s apologetic when he calls Rossi, but the truth of the matter is he could use a few days away from the office. His son isn’t coping, and he needs to be there to take care of him. Rossi is understanding and compassionate.
The therapist they go to is one recommended by the preschool, and in the waiting room Jack climbs onto Hotch’s lap and leans against him.
“Where are we?” he asks quietly, looking around the colourful waiting room.
“We’re going to see a doctor,” Hotch replies, slipping his arms around Jack’s middle and pulling him in close.
“Are you sick, Daddy?” Jack looks worried.
“She’s not that sort of doctor.”
Jack’s hair brushes against Hotch’s chin. “Is she going to bring Mummy back now?”
Hotch closes his eyes. “No, Jack. She can’t bring Mummy back. Mummy is with the angels now.”
Jack looks disappointed.
Dr Cathy speaks to Hotch alone first, and then to Jack. Jack comes out of the room and instantly heads for the blocks, sitting down on his haunches and stacking the blocks, one on top of the other. Hotch goes back into her office and sits across from her.
She eyes him. “His nightmares are about what happened to his mother. He’s remembering a lot more of that day. He didn’t see much of it, but he’s intelligent enough to know what happened. He talked about hearing the gunshots and hiding in a small space.”
His chest aches. “What can I do?”
She tells him to be patient, and to keep bringing Jack for sessions. Hotch isn’t overly pleased with the outcome, but he knows he’s doing the right thing.
He takes Jack for ice cream, and they sit in a booth together, side by side. Jack leans against Hotch, stirring the ice cream in his bowl until it’s runny. Hotch absently strokes his hair, thinking.
“Daddy, where do the angels live?”
“In heaven,” Hotch replies softly.
“Is that where Mummy is? With the angels in heaven?”
“Yes. The angels take care of her."
Jack peers up at him curiously. “What happened to the man with the gun?”
Hotch instinctively pulls Jack closer. “He went where the bad people go.”
Jack licks his spoon. “The angels don’t want the bad people?”
“The angels only want good people, like Mummy. She’s up in Heaven, watching down on you. Keeping you safe.”
Jack considers this, and then says softly, “I miss her.”
Hotch kisses his cheek. “I miss her too.”
Hotch stands in the doorway to Jack’s room for a long time that night, watching his son toss and turn. After an hour or so, Jack falls into a deep sleep, and Hotch leaves his post, padding down the hallway to his room and collapsing on the bed.
He doesn’t close the door or even get under the covers, and when the screams start at 3am, he’s up and rushing down the hall before he’s even really awake.
It goes on like that for awhile, every night. He gets used to it.
One day Hotch wakes up, and the sun is shining brilliantly into his bedroom. He realises he forgot to close the curtains, and is shielding his eyes grumpily as the bed shifts and Jack bounces onto it, jumping up and down.
“WAKE UP!” he shrieks, and then he’s off and running out of the room, thundering down the hallway. “IT’S MY BIRTHDAYYYYYY!”
Hotch scrubs a hand over his face and grins, slowly pulling himself upright. He’s walking out the door when the realisation washes over him – Jack didn’t wake up screaming last night, for the first time in almost three months.
The relief is palpable, and Hotch is sagging against the wall when Jack comes zooming back into view. “PRESENTS?” he yells, holding his hands up in confusion. “DADDY?”
Hotch shakes his head with an amused grin, and pushes the door to the spare room open. He nods toward it, and Jack’s shrieking with joy and bounding down the hallway like an excited puppy dog.
And Hotch relaxes, somewhat.
The fanfiction archive of woodchoc_magnum
- "Nightmares", Hotch-centric, PG