Startled, JJ looked up from her breakfast when her one-year-old daughter whispered those words from her highchair. He was standing in the doorway in jeans and a blue t-shirt. Even after three years together, the sight of him in anything other than a suit caused her heart to leap into throat. He had laughed the first time she told him that nearly two years ago and vowed to be casual as often as he could after that. It was catching him barefoot in jeans and a gray shirt, his hair still wet from the shower that lead to the event that brought them their precious baby girl, Madeline.
"Hey," JJ said, softly, shaking her head to clear her thoughts. "Hap-"
"Ssh," Hotch interrupted. He quickly crossed the room to give her a good morning kiss. He barely suppressed a moan when he pulled away. "Not yet."
She nodded, understanding his desire to wait to celebrate Father's Day. "Can I get you anything?"
Hotch kissed Maddie's forehead, running his fingers through her dark curls. "I'm just going to grab a sip of your coffee. Henry-"
"Morning," Henry said, walking into the kitchen.
JJ smiled sweetly at her seven-year-old. He was dressed in jean shorts and a blue t-shirt. She wondered idly if he had checked with his stepfather before dressing that morning or if it had just been an odd coincidence. "Hi, sweetheart. Can I get you something to eat?"
Henry shook his head, his eyes glancing nervously at Hotch. "I'm ready to go."
"Okay. I'll grab my keys," Hotch told him. He leaned down to kiss JJ's cheek, whispering in her ear, "Don't worry. We'll grab something on the way back."
"Come here," JJ said, pulling Henry into a big hug. "I love you. You know that, right?" Henry nodded against her chest. "You don't have to do this if you don't want to."
Henry pulled back from her. "I want to."
They both looked up when Hotch returned. "Let's go."
"Bye, Mama," Henry said, taking Hotch's hand. JJ watched the doorway even after they left until Jack appeared in the doorway.
"Everything okay?" Jack asked, noting JJ's faraway stare.
For the second time that morning, she shook her head to clear her thoughts. "Yeah, just lost in thoughts. Can I get you some breakfast?"
Jack nodded. He kissed Maddie's head before sitting down next to her. Jack absently played with Maddie to keep her occupied while JJ made him a plate. "Did Dad and Henry leave?"
"A little bit ago." She placed the plate in front of him before turning to grab him some juice.
"I wanted to see Henry before they left," Jack admitted, sadly.
JJ wrapped arms around him from behind, kissing the top of his head. "You are an amazing big brother. Henry and Maddie are both very lucky to have you."
Jack's cheeks heated up. He rolled his eyes. "Oh, Mom."
The car ride was quiet as both Henry was lost in his own world and Hotch concentrated on driving so as to not worry about Henry. Hotch's thoughts, however, strayed without choice to the times spent the last few years with the boy beside him. Henry was always a spirited child. His exuberance for life had taken Hotch and Jack by surprise, as they tended to live a more subdued life. The more time that the four of them spent together, the more Henry was able to loosen the Hotchners up and, thankfully for his mother's sanity, their steadiness brought some calm into Henry's constitution. The fire in Henry's personality made his current pensive mood even harder to be around.
"We're here," Hotch announced as they pulled up in front of the gates. He turned so he could see Henry in the backseat. "Do you want me to go in with you?"
Henry looked from the gates to Hotch, his eyes wide. Slowly, he nodded, his face growing pale. Hotch jumped out of the car, helping Henry from his booster seat. Henry clasped his hand, tightly, as they walked up the driveway. Hotch pulled him along until they reached their destination.
"What am I suppose to do?" Henry asked, his voice barely above a whisper.
"Talk to him," Hotch replied. "Tell him what you've been doing; tell him about your life."
Henry took a deep breath and stepped forward. He gazed down at the headstone that read "William LaMontagne." He scratched his head in perfect imitation of his mother. "Hi, Dad. I'm seven now. I'm going to second grade next year. I'm hoping that I get the same teacher as Jack. He's my brother. I have a sister. Her name is Maddie. She's just a baby." Henry sighed. "I miss you. Mama let me keep all the pictures of you. They're in an album under my bed. Aunt Penny helped me make it."
Hotch sat down on the ground, his legs folded underneath him. He studied Henry's demeanor as he continued to prattle on about his life to his father's headstone. Henry's voice grew louder, more steady, as he spoke, but his shoulders grew tenser. Henry didn't often talk about his father unless he was prodded so they knew little about his real feelings. The therapist that talked with him every few weeks assured them that Henry was handling things fine.
"Hotch?" Henry questioned, standing over him. Hotch looked up and smiled. "Can I sit with you?"
"Of course." Hotch pulled him onto his lap, wrapping his arms tightly around Henry. The two of them sat in silence for a few minutes.
Henry leaned back against Hotch's chest. "Hotch, was my dad a bad guy?"
Hotch froze, not expecting the question. "What do you mean?"
"I heard Aunt Penny talking to Uncle Derek about him. Did he... hurt people?"
"Henry." Hotch paused to take a deep breath. "Your dad was very sick and nobody knew. He... hurt some people, but it wasn't his fault. It was an accident. If your dad had known that he was sick, he never would have driven that car. He never would have hurt anyone."
"Hotch?" Henry asked after another few minutes of quiet. "I don't... really remember my dad. I just pretend because I want to have a dad like Jack and like Maddie."
Hotch felt a lump settle in his throat and hot tears in the back of his eyes. "You have me... like Jack and Maddie do. I may not be your biological father, Henry, but you are my son in every way that matters. There is nothing that I wouldn't do for you. Nothing."
Henry snuggled closer to Hotch. "I don't look like you."
"No. You look like your mother. You have her eyes and her smile. Jack doesn't look a lot like me, either. Not anymore. He looks like his mom, too."
"Maddie looks like you," Henry counter.
Hotch nodded. "She does. You know if doesn't matter, right? I love all three of my children exactly the same. I will keep telling you that until you believe me."
"I believe you," Henry told him, "but Zane says that you can't be my dad because we don't look like each other and we don't have the same last name."
"Zane's wrong, and you shouldn't listen to him." Hotch stopped, thinking over Henry's statement. "Have you been telling people that I'm your dad?" Henry shrugged, tensing again. "It's okay. I'm honored, actually. I love being your dad."
Henry grinned, widely. "Can I call you 'Dad'?"
Hotch's heart sped up so fast, he thought it might burst. He had wished for that since he and JJ had gotten engaged, but they both agreed to let the boys decided what to call them. Jack had taken to calling JJ "Mom" right away, but Henry had never given an indication that he wanted to call Hotch anything other than his name. "Absolutely."
"Do you think we could have the same last name? Everyone's a Hotchner, but me."
Hotch turned Henry in his arms so he could look him directly in the eye. "You are a Hotchner, just as much as Jack and Maddie; just as much as me. But if you want to change your last name, we can talk to your mom about that."
Henry smiled and nodded. "Can we go eat now? I'm hungry."
"You got it." Hotch stood, pulling Henry up with him. He grabbed Henry's hand to walk back to the car.
Henry paused a few feet away. He glanced over his shoulder at the headstone. "Bye, Dad. Happy Father's Day."
By the time they returned home over an hour later, Henry was back to his normal bubbly self. He ran right into Jack as the entered the house, causing both boys to tumble to the ground in a sea of giggles. Jack whispered in Henry's ear before they both took off upstairs.
"How'd it go?" JJ asked, walking into the hallway with Maddie in her arms.
Hotch took Maddie from her, leaning down to give her a languid kiss. He shifted Maddie to one arm, putting the other around JJ, drawing her close. He breathed in her scent, deeply. "Good. He was a little unsure at first, but you know our Henry. Once he gets talking, it's hard to shut him up."
"Our Henry," JJ repeated, an amazed and content smile on her lips.
"Our Henry has decided that he wants to call me 'Dad'," Hotch told her.
JJ wrapped an arm around his waist. "I had a feeling that was coming."
"He also wants to change his last name to 'Hotchner'."
"I did not see that one coming," JJ admitted, causing Hotch to chuckle. Rarely did their kids do anything that caught JJ unaware. "What did you say?'
Hotch kissed her forehead. "I told him that he was as much a Hotchner as Jack and Maddie, but that if he really wanted to change his last name that I would talk to you about it."
"Good answer, Hotchner," she told him, playfully.
"What do you think?" he asked, genuinely curious.
JJ licked her lips, running her hand over Maddie's face to remove a few crumbs. "I think that if he still wants to do it in a few months, then we should go ahead with adoption plans."
"Best Father's Day gift ever," Hotch muttered, capturing her lips once again.
"I think I might be able to make it a little better," JJ said, cryptically. She pulled just far enough away from him to yell, "Boys!"
Jack and Henry came running from one of the bedrooms to the top of stairs. They opened up a poster board while shouting, "Happy Father's Day!"
Hotch lit up at the sight of them. He squinted as he read the sign aloud. "Happy Father's Day to the best Dad ever! Love, Jack, Henry, Maddie, and Baby #4." Hotch stopped abruptly. He turned JJ so that she was facing him. "Number four?"
"Got the official yes from the doctor yesterday," she answered. "You'll be the father of four in about seven months."
Hotch grabbed her neck and kissed her until they were both breathless and the boys were gagging at the top of the stairs. Maddie patted both of their faces, tired of the focus not being on her. JJ swayed as he pulled away from her, grabbing onto his arm to steady herself.
"So, I guess that means you're happy," JJ joked.
"Maybe a little bit." He shrugged, his eyes sparkling with joy. "I love you."
JJ wiped away a tear that had fallen from her eye. "I love you."
"I love, Da-da," Maddie added.
"We love you, too," Jack said as he and Henry ran down the stairs to hug Hotch and JJ.
JJ kissed Hotch's cheek. "Happy Father's Day, Hotch."
He looked down at them all. "Best one ever."