Jack had been plotting for a number of weeks, trying to figure out a way to manage to buy the gift he desperately wanted for his Dad. He eventually honed in on his Uncle Dave as his best resource for Christmas shopping for what he needed.
So, at their next to last soccer game of the season, Jack got his chance. Sadly his dad had to miss the game due to being called in to admin meetings, but Uncle Dave was there coaching and willing to take on the post game celebrations.
After several hours of torment in the guise of a team trip to Chuck E Cheese, all Dave Rossi wanted to contemplate was his favourite arm chair, a very finely aged adult beverage and some smooth jazz in the background. Given he was standing in for Aaron and acting in loco parentis with Jack (who was acting suspiciously antsy), he feared that ship had long sailed.
“Uncle Dave…..I want to get Dad a very special present for Christmas, but….I think I need an adult's help to get what I need,” Jack blurted.
“OK kiddo, what can I do help?” Dave offered, praying it was something within his reach to grant the young boy.
“Ummmm….I want to buy Dad something special so he can have lots of fun watching, and making sure he writes things right. But I'm not sure I have enough from my allowance to get it.”
A puzzled Dave responded “What do you want to buy your Dad that's so important?”
“He needs the all the seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation….it will help him get all the characters right!”
Totally floored, Rossi questioned Jack further. “So your Dad really likes this show? Enough to have all the episodes?”
“Oh yeah, Uncle Dave, he really likes watching it a lot. And Dad really loves to write stories about them too. He says it lets him take a break from the crazy world he has at work. He lets me read some of them, but says I need to be more grown up to read all of them.”
That statement was met by a silent Dave Rossi, totally unsure of how to respond to this revelation. After all, as far as he could tell, he was the only published author in the BAU.
Dave took a deep breath and thought a little, before asking “Your Dad likes to write? I didn't know that, Jack, though it's super cool.”
Anxious to get enough details to figure the situation out, Dave questioned further “So where do you get to read what your Dad writes?”
“I'm not sure Uncle Dave, he calls it something like AO3????” Jack responded.
Determined to figure the mystery out more, when he had more time on his hands, Dave took the easy path and pulled up the Amazon app on his phone. “Don't worry Jack, between us we will get the entire run of the show for your Dad. Hey, look, it's on Amazon Prime. And it's ordered, it'll be at my house the day after tomorrow.”
“Thanks Uncle Dave,” responded an excited Jack, “I had $20 saved….I hope it's enough!”
Rossi had no intention of upsetting his young charge or telling him the real price for the box set. He figured what it would cost him in the difference in price, well...he'd more than make it up when he got to figure out what AO3 was, and how much he could tease Aaron about it.
A tiny bit of internet research had Dave realising AO3 was primarily a fan fiction website, with a devoted following to a lot of TV shows especially. The TNG site wasn't extremely prolific, but there were quite a few writers posting there, and he'd been introduced to the concept of smut and ships, not knowing what he was walking into. What he couldn't figure out was Hotch’s identity, who he was writing as. He tried to sound Jack out at the last soccer game, but the young boy just couldn't recall any identities or user names.
So it became a challenge. Dave was determined to rattle his friend’s cage a little….see if he could find a way to get him to reveal his writing identity somehow.
He started with a none too subtle gesture of pulling down on the front of his shirt as he stood up, as if it was uncomfortable. After four or five days, he noticed Aaron sending him a subtle glare, but not willing to confront the action.
The following week, Hotch had to pull out his SWAT background to arrange the team and assorted LEO's in the aggressive take down of the UNSUB. He grimaced, but didn't comment, when he heard Dave say “Make it so!” after he'd issued his instructions.
At this point, several weeks before Christmas, still not knowing who Hotch wrote as, Dave decided to spend a weekend binge watching Star Trek: The Next Generation on Netflix. He could see Aaron’s connection to Captain Picard...both of them strong, indomitable, overcoming terrible adversity, the wry humour….the struggle to connect with the team and maintain the role of the leader.
Dave found himself in a conundrum then. He'd gained a weird insight into his friend and unit chief, courtesy of Jack’s confidences. But he'd also felt, without reading a word that Aaron had written, that he'd also strayed into field he shouldn't be treading. That his friend and colleague deserved that very private outlet for his feelings, for his stress. He couldn't bear to take anything away from the things that let him cope with all the darkness and horror that the day to day workings of the BAU sent their way.
So, when the TNG box set arrived, he asked Jack if it was ok if he wrapped the gift for the boy. He explained that this way, it could be smuggled in as a gift to Jack from his Uncle Dave and Jack readily agreed to what he thought was fun subterfuge.
However, when Christmas morning rolled around, Aaron opened a present purporting to be from Jack and found the following note inside.
Sometimes I find myself forgetting the burden that it is to lead this team...and I've been there. Jack told me this would be one of the best ways any of us could choose to find a way to help you de-stress and enjoy life. I hope it's true…”make it so”. He told me just the barest information about you taking up writing. Please don't feel you have to hide it or there's any judgement on the genre. Your fellow authors welcome you, and if you feel open to sharing your work, we're anxious to read. Just remember, you're never alone Aaron.
Much love and respect,
Opening the gift, and reading the words, Aaron could only smile, knowing he had a community at his back, as weird as that community might be. And he was content.
Greatest love and affection to the AO3 community and the FA crew. You've brought me through a lot over the last couple of years. I hope this pays just a little homage!