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All the Single Ladies

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It had been a happy and productive morning and early afternoon. Since Nicky was at camp, Rossi went down the block to carouse with his good friend Hotch who was a black Lab. Hotch’s owner, six year old Jack, had a brand new airplane that he put together himself. He let the dogs chase it wile he flew it around the backyard.

After that he threw the ball for a while, Hotch and Rossi challenging each other as to who would retrieve it. When Jack had sufficiently worn out the dogs it was time for lunch and a short nap. The two retrievers caught some rays and some shade under the big backyard tree. Rossi needed to go home for lunch and his nap soon. He wanted to talk to his friend first.

“So you're not going to talk to her?” Rossi asked. “You're just not going to talk to her at all?”

“I didn’t say that. There's just…I'm really busy right now and I'm not sure distractions are a good thing.”

“Distractions are always a good thing. When is the last time you had a distraction? I think you need a long, sweaty distraction.”

“Don’t…” Hotch sighed.

“She's crazy about you, Hotch. She’s done everything but hold up a sign covered in lights that says she’s crazy about you. What are you going to do about it?”

“I don't know.” The black Lab shrugged. “I don’t want her thinking ill of me. I think she’s great, she's more than great, but now is not the right time.”

“What's wrong with now?” Rossi asked.

“I need to look after Jack. His dad isn’t coming back. He told Jack that he loves him but he and Mommy have to spend time apart. And Mommy’s dating that guy with the black sports car so what does that tell you? Jack needs someone there he can depend on. He needs someone to talk to and who will love him no matter what. I took an oath to be his best friend…I’ll never turn my back on him.”

“Getting better acquainted with Beth doesn’t mean deserting Jack and you know it. Most of the times you guys would be hanging out the kid would be fast asleep. Look, you know that I know what you're going through. Nicky and Billie both took it hard when the dad moved out for a while. I did pull double duty being his best friend.

“But you have to carve out special time and special people for you too. Pretty soon Jack will have a million human things that take him away from you. He’ll always love you, you know that, but what are you going to do when you're alone. This is your chance not to be.”

“Were you a politician in a past life?” Hotch glanced at him. “You’ve got the impassioned speech thing down.”

“Hey, I'm the smartass in this relationship.” Rossi smirked. “All I'm saying is to talk to her. Meet her over in the park for one of her evening runs. Stop avoiding eye contact with her during the Bark at the Moon parties. This last time was particularly painful.”

“Speaking of painful, I noticed a certain someone is always absent from our gatherings.” Hotch said.

“Are you turning this around on me?” Rossi asked.

“I might be.”

“Tracy Belle is a sweet but clingy kid. Erin gets very little breathing room. Plus she's under the impression that most of the neighborhood doesn’t like her. She might be right about that. It’s not her fault that her owner wants to treat her like a princess.”

“Have you mounted her yet?” Hotch asked.

“Hey, that is so personal… soooo personal.”

“That would be a no.” Hotch grinned.

“Shut up.” Rossi bumped him. “Look, Erin has standards OK? I'm not saying that many of the lovely ladies I've been with over time haven’t. I'm pretty high on the awesome totem pole. Erin’s a little skittish about intimate contact.

“I'm starting to think she might have been pushed into it, for breeding or something. It had to be before the Belles adopted her. I have to tread lightly. You need to start treading with Beth. If she goes elsewhere and ends up attached to one of these neighborhood yahoos you're gonna regret it.”

“Maybe I’ll go over to the park tomorrow evening and see if she's there.”

“Atta boy!” Rossi barked happily, slapping Hotch’s shoulder with his giant paw. “Just dip your foot in the pool; that’s all I'm saying. You can't spend your entire life being a selfless monk. You're awesome and the way Jack expresses that will be completely different from how Beth will.”

“I don’t think that she thinks that I'm awesome.” Hotch said.

“How much do you actually know about women?”

“No comment.” The black Lab grumbled.

“Exactly.” Rossi stood and stretched. “I need to get out of here. There's a big bowl of lunch with my name all over it. Then Billie is probably gonna take me for a walk. I might have missed that but it doesn’t matter cuz my afternoon and evening are up for grabs. That’s the way I like it.”

“Are you going to take the scenic route home?” Hotch asked.

“No comment.” Rossi replied. “I’ll see you later.”

“Bye Rossi.”

After seeing his friend off, Hotch went into the house to lunch and then nap with Jack. A certain Siberian Husky was on his mind no matter how much Hotch didn’t want her to be. It wasn’t that Hotch didn’t want to think about her, he just had no idea what to do with those thoughts. Beth was awesome. She was pretty, popular, and fun.

It seemed improbable that she liked a rather subdued dog like him. His breed was friendly, personable, and easily excited. Hotch could be those things once in a while. But those surely weren't the first three words he thought of when looking in a mirror. Well, the least he could do was find out if any of it was true before he completely dismissed the notion.

Rossi strutted down the street, speaking to his fellow creatures as he passed. When he got to the Belle’s house, which was a bit out of his way but he could care less, he slowed down. It was hard to stop the smile on his face when he saw her playing in the yard. The kid wasn’t with her but she could be napping or something. This seemed to be universal naptime for little kids. Rossi knew that they stopped napping when they reached a certain age. They had no idea all the fun they were missing.

“Hey Erin.”

“Hey.” She looked up from her toy. “How are you?”

“I'm great now that I'm seeing your face.”

“Oh yeah right.” Erin came over to the picket fence.

“I mean it. This is the highlight of my day and I have at least two naps coming. You look pretty today.”

“Thank you. I got a new collar.”

“I thought it might be. Look, I want to invite you to our party next week out at the park. We bark at the moon. I mean not literally but…you know what I mean.”

“I think so.” Erin nodded.

“I know that it’s not always easy to get out but I could come and pick you up. We can go together.”

“I can try. When is the next moon?”

“Spencer will know. To be a pup he knows all that stuff and more. I’ll tell you as soon as I know.”

“Alright. Are you sure I'm invited, David? I don’t think that a lot of the dogs around here like me. I can't help that but it’s the truth.”

“I'm inviting you…don’t worry about it. It’s going to be a really good time. But I want to see you before that, if you wanna.”

“We can probably meet tomorrow night.”

“Great.” Dave smiled. “How about 9 o’clock; it will be dark by then.”

“Yes.” She smiled too. “You're getting better with the time.”

“When I put my mind to something it doesn’t stand a chance. It’s past time for some lunch though so I better go. My stomach is growling.”

“Wait.”

“What?”

Erin ran away. Dave was confused for a moment but then saw her running along the picket fence. Soon she was on the other side where he stood. Dave smiled when she ran toward him.

“I'm going to kiss you.” she said.

“And I plan to stand here and enjoy every moment of it.”

Erin smirked, standing on her hind legs, putting her paws on his shoulders. She gave him a few Eskimo kisses and then licked his face. Dave’s front leg shook but he didn’t do anything. Standing still wasn’t in his nature so he licked her too.

It was tentative and cautious; he didn’t want to scare her. Erin responded with a low hum in her throat. That emboldened the retriever and he did it again. Then Erin stood back on the sidewalk.

“I’ll see you tomorrow.” She said.

“Yeah.” he was smiling but there was nothing to do to stop it. If Hotch didn’t want this feeling with Beth then he was nuts. He knew his friend wasn’t nuts. With an extra pep in his step, Dave made his way across the street and home.

***