Beth smiled as she opened the door. Hotch and Jack smiled as they walked into her condo.
“I don’t know how to thank you for this.” He said, leaning to kiss her hello.
“You don’t have to thank me, though I'm glad I can help. Hey Jack!”
“Aaron, do you remember my friend Leah?” Beth asked.
“I do. I didn’t know you had company, I'm sorry to interrupt.” He extended his hand. “It’s nice to see you again Leah.”
“You too.” she smiled and shook his hand. “And who is this handsome fellow?”
“This is my son, Jack.” Hotch replied.
“It’s nice to meet you.” Jack extended his hand too.
“You too, Jack. I bet you're going to be as handsome as your dad when you grow up.”
“Ladies like his dimples.”
That made all the grownups laugh. It was true. Hotch noticed more than ever that he was getting compliments on them these days. To him that was a victory; it meant he was smiling.
“I hope we’re not rushing you out, Leah.” Hotch said as he told Jack to go and relax in the living room. This was only the second time his son had been to Beth’s place. Why that was he really had no idea.
“Nope; I just came by to drop off some wine and DVDs I borrowed forever ago. I ended up staying an hour. But now I really have to go. I left Mike home with the kids. It’s a dangerous thing to do.
“Great seeing you again, Aaron. We’ll have to get together for dinner soon. Mike and I were thinking of doing a couples cooking thing sometime before the summer is over. I know your schedule is pretty busy.”
“It can be sometimes. I’ll do my best to be there. It sounds like a lot of fun.”
“Great.” Leah smiled and then Beth walked her out. Hotch went into the living room where Jack was sitting on the couch.
He’d taken his book out of his backpack and was reading to himself. He still moved his lips when he read but Hotch remembered doing that until he was nine or ten. He was reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. They’d finished The Sorcerer’s Stone together but Jack said he wanted to try this on his own.
His father wasn’t sure about the content but when he mentioned it to Garcia she thought Jack would be fine through the first four books. It was Book Five that got a bit scary. Hotch knew that time would come too; Jack was a voracious reader. He might be there before the summer ended.
“So, no AC huh?” Beth came into the living room and sat down on the couch. Jack put his book on the coffee table and scooted over beside her. She put her arm around him.
“The year’s first heatwave and this happens. The management company says it might not be back working at full capacity until Monday. They assure us that they’re working as fast as they can and have a company out on overtime until it’s done. Monday is four days from now.”
“You're welcome to stay as long as you need to. I have plenty of room and I love company. This is going to be good.”
When Beth smiled Jack did too, and he nodded. Hotch didn’t want to be too much trouble and he expressed that.
“Sam and Jessie would've taken us in I know. I just thought…”
“You don’t have to explain.” Beth shook her head. “Everything is going to be fine; you and Jack can stay as long as you need to. Did you have dinner?”
“We went to the diner.” Jack replied. “We usually have dinner at home but Dad said it was a special occasion.”
“No AC during a heatwave is pretty special.”
“Oh yeah.” Hotch nodded. “Do you mind if I have a drink?”
“Of course not. Mi casa es su casa…please make yourself at home.”
“That means my home is your home.” Jack said. “Agent Emily taught me some Spanish. She says I should know lots of languages.”
“Agent Emily is right. You read your book Jack; I’ll be right back.”
“OK.” He grabbed his book and lay back on the couch.
Beth joined Hotch in her kitchen. He’d gotten a bottle of cranapple juice from the refrigerator. She leaned on the counter just like he was.
“You're freaking out a little.” She wasn’t asking a question.
“Just a bit.” Hotch held his thumb and forefinger close together to emphasize.
“Everything will be fine, Aaron. We can do this.”
“We can do it for three days?” he asked.
“Sure.” Beth smiled and her dimples came out to play.
Hotch smiled too, putting his arm around her. Beth hugged him close and gave him a kiss. Kissing was definitely not something Hotch freaked out about anymore. Being close to Beth felt so natural...kissing her was second nature now. She was his girlfriend, which was weird to say when you were 45 years old. He wondered what Beth would call herself.
“We should probably talk about sleeping arrangements.” He spoke in a low tone as they still held each other.
“I thought you and Jack would sleep in the guest room. It’s a full size bed, which could be a squeeze for two adults but probably OK for a little kid and a big one.”
Beth laughed and Hotch kissed her nose.
“Jack’s a kicker. You know why he's so good at soccer? It’s because he’s got long, strong legs. My son sleeps like a young wombat; he never stops moving. He starts out the night sound asleep, usually curled on his side. By the time I go to wake him up in the morning he looks as if he's gotten into a bar fight.”
“Does he sleep alright?” Beth asked.
“He sleeps fine. After his mom died he did suffer from some nightmares and he would sleep in my bed. That’s how I know his sleep patterns. But the kicking doesn’t seem to disturb his sleep and his pediatrician thinks he’ll grow out of it. She says a lot of kids, particularly boys, can be wild sleepers from toddlers to puberty. Some even go into their teenage years but rarely into adulthood.”
“So do you want to sleep with me? Do you think that would make Jack uncomfortable? He's in a new place and might want to be close.”
“This isn’t a new place. It’s your place and even though he hasn’t been here very much he still knows that you and I are here. I don’t think he’ll feel strange sleeping alone. I thought I would just sleep on the couch. It’s more comfortable than mine.”
“Aaron, you can't sleep on a couch for three days. We probably need to look into getting you another couch and loveseat. I figured when you first moved you might have seen the situation as temporary.”
“Something like that.” Hotch replied.
“So now you’ve had a mediocre couch…”
“For almost five years.” He finished her sentence. “Maybe later this summer we could go furniture shopping. It’s probably time.”
Hotch looked over toward the windows when he heard the heavy rumble of thunder. The possibility of thunderstorms was in the forecast for the next week with temperatures in the high 90s and very humid. He hated this weather; the DC area was a lot of former swampland; it could get hellacious.
“Was that thunder, Dad?” Jack looked up from his book.
“I think so bud. It’s almost bedtime so we better get upstairs. We need to get you washed and settled. Grab your stuff.”
“Can I read one more chapter?”
“We’ll read upstairs. C'mon, time to say goodnight to Beth.”
Jack came into the kitchen with his backpack and his travel bag. He gave Beth a hug and she kissed him.
“Sweet dreams, Jack.”
He and his father went upstairs while she poured herself a glass of wine. She’d already had one with Leah and it was good. Another wouldn’t hurt; it would probably calm her nerves. It had been a long day, the heat only made it feel longer.
When Hotch called her that afternoon to explain the situation he was in Beth didn’t think twice about having him and Jack over for as long as they needed. She cared about them both and wanted them there. He was right; they could’ve easily gone to Jessie and Sam’s without a second thought. That he was her first call meant something. Beth would make sure Hotch knew he’d made a good decision.
She went into the living room with her drink and sat on the couch. Usually, if she was alone, Beth would watch some TV and relax. She wasn’t alone tonight. Still, nothing should be different. One day, eventually, she might even live with Hotch and Jack.
Beth didn’t want to get too far ahead of herself but she shouldn’t change just because she had guests. If there was one thing she was sure Aaron wanted it was for things to be as normal as possible. Normal was Beth channel flipping, reading a book, or listening to some music with a drink as she came down from her day. So that’s what she was going to do. Hotch was right; her couch was much more comfortable than his.
“Is Jack alright?” she asked when Hotch came back downstairs about 45 minutes later.
She was still on the couch, still sipping wine, and watching a documentary on the life of Christopher Isherwood. The rain had moved in, thunder and lightning too. The lights had flickered once or twice but so far they were still on. Hotch went into the kitchen and grabbed his drink before joining her on the couch. Beth could only smile when he took her foot in his lap and massaged it. Was he serious? As if she needed anymore reason to fall head over heels for this man.
“He's out like a light for now. He’s not a big fan of thunderstorms so there's a possibility he could be joining us later this evening if it gets louder.”
“I thought you said…”
“Well, Jack and I talked about it.” Hotch said.
“You and Jack talked about us sleeping together?” Beth had to bite back a moan when he hit the right spot on her foot. It felt amazing.
“That’s not exactly how it went. Before I turned out the lights I told him that he felt uncomfortable or didn’t like the storm he could come into the other room. I told him that you and I would be in there and he could sleep with us. It was a big step, I wasn’t sure that I was going to take it.”
“How did he react to that?”
“He said OK, I kissed him goodnight, and that was it. Jack likes you a lot and I think he's perfectly content with our relationship progressing. I don’t talk to him a lot about it. I don’t want him…I don’t want to say this wrong.”
“Just say it, Aaron. It’s alright; there's no judgment here.”
“I don’t want Jack feeling like his behavior and reactions could have any kind of negative effect on you and me. Does that make sense?”
“I think so.” Beth nodded. “Obviously if Jack and I didn’t get along it might be a problem for everyone. But since we do I think you mean you don’t want him thinking he could do or say anything that might end in our breakup.”
“That’s what I mean. This is complicated.”
“We’re going to take some of the complication out.” she reached to rub his arm. “Surely not all of it but we’re OK right now.”
“Yeah.” it was Hotch’s turn to nod. He also wanted to change the subject. “What are you watching?”
“It’s a documentary on Christopher Isherwood. I was channel flipping and got caught on it. This is what I do in the evenings. I relax, have some wine or a drink, and sometimes I watch TV. Other times I read, listen to music, or call home. I like to spend my evening hours focused on me. Tonight I get to focus on you too. That’s nice.”
“Its very nice.” he smiled. “I’ll give you a nice foot massage and that'll help you relax.”
“How can I help you relax?” Beth asked.
“You're here…that helps.”
The smile didn’t leave Beth’s face as she relaxed on the couch with her wine. Hotch seemed content massaging her feet and she was content to let him. There would surely be no hanky panky tonight so this might be the most touching they did. It was really nice for Beth; she found herself wanting to get used to it.
Just for tonight, or the three days they were here, she wanted to let go of the apprehension. She wanted to bask in the happiness she always felt when she was with Hotch and Jack. There was no need to over think the future. To live in the moment, in this moment, was pretty sweet. And soon as Hotch was massaging further up her leg as he moved up on the couch Beth had a feeling the moment was about to get sweeter.
“What are you doing, Hotchner?”
“Nothing.” He was almost there. Beth was practically sitting on his lap now.
“It doesn’t feel like nothing.”
“I just want to be close. It’s a hot, stormy night and I want to be close.”
She put her arms around him and they relaxed together. The documentary still played on TV and they even watched some of it when they took a break from kissing. Three days cohabitating, it would be just the three of them. Hotch wasn’t sure what to expect. He was going to do his best to go with the flow. This was a good thing; another step he and Beth were taking in this relationship.
He could admit, to himself, that this was a test. Hotch wasn’t sure if they would pass or fail. But the time had come to take it. Mother Nature, and a busted air conditioner, helped push it along more than he ever could have. That didn’t mean he couldn’t take full advantage of the opportunity given to him. He was with Jack, he was with Beth, and he was a happy man tonight.