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Saturday

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It’s Saturday. More than that, it’s one of the rare Saturdays Dave doesn’t have to spend in the company of the travelling circus, carting off to God-only-knows-where to see horrifying things and commit atrocities. 

In light of all of that, Dave thinks he can be forgiven for answering the phone the way he does. 

“Aaron, what the fuck do you want now?”

“Sorry. I know I shouldn’t have called on the weekend, but Jack’s sick and I was just wondering if-”

Dave’s heart drops and he backtracks. Aaron sounds awful, like he’s got a knife in his throat that hasn’t let him sleep for a week. Then again, that’s how he usually sounds, but it’s worse this time. The apology further serves to steep him in guilt, and the comment about Jack being sick just puts the nail in the coffin. 

Less than thirty seconds. Less than thirty seconds and he already knows he’s going to be spending the weekend in Aaron’s apartment. 

“Hold on, Aaron. I’m sorry, I thought you were calling me with a case. You said Jack is sick?” He tactfully doesn’t mention that Aaron sounds sick, too. They’ll cross that bridge if and when they come to it. If all goes well, he’s just caught the tail end of whatever bug Jack has. All never goes well with Aaron.

“Oh. Are you bus-”

“No, I’m not busy. What do you need?”

“I was wondering if you could stop by the grocery store and pick up some cold medicine for Jack and bring it over here. He woke up last night throwing up and it hasn’t stopped. I would go and pick it up myself, but Jessica’s out of town and I don’t want to leave him alone.” 

Aaron sounds miserable and defeated, and Dave’s already putting his shoes on. “Hang in there, kiddo. I’ll be there in twenty.”

“Thank you.”

 


 

At eleven a.m. on a Saturday, the grocery store is unsurprisingly packed with people, mostly middle-aged mothers shopping for families. Dave frequents this place, knows it like the back of his hand, but this time feels… different. This time, he’s not shopping to make another overly elaborate meal for one.

“That time of year, isn’t it?”

Dave startles. The older woman standing just down the aisle from him is looking at him and smiling. “Huh?”

She comes a bit closer. “February. All of mine got sick in February, every year.”

“Oh. Yeah. Something about the cold, I guess.”

She stops next to him, looking down at the shelves. “Kid or grandkid?”

Dave considers this for a moment, then says, “Both. Stomach bug.”

She sighs. “Oh, I remember those days. The little one still pretty young?”

“Six. I don’t think his father’s quite gotten the hang of the whole thing yet.” Dave thinks of all the times he’d gone to see Aaron and Haley and Jack, how easily Haley interacted with him and how frightened Aaron was of the whole prospect of fatherhood. He’s been doing well, all things considered. It could be much, much worse. 

She nods sagely. “They always think they’ll never learn and then, bam. The kid’s going off to college and he’s just fine.” She grabs a few boxes off the middle shelf. “I’d go with this one for the kid and this one for the grandkid. Good luck.” Then she walks off. 

 


 

Dave shoots Aaron a text just before he starts up the stairs to let him know he’s on his way up. Aaron answers with a simple, “k,” but when Dave knocks on the door, it goes unanswered. 

He doesn’t bother knocking again, just takes out his keys and makes quick (ish) work of the three sets of locks on the door. Ever since Foyet, he’ll admit he’s been a little more reluctant to let Aaron just not answer the phone or the door or a text. That shook Dave up a little bit. So sue him. 

When he finally manages to get the door open, Jack’s the only one in sight. He’s sitting on the couch watching some sort of dinosaur-themed documentary. The poor kid looks half-dead, eyes bloodshot, face pale, and hair a greasy wreck. “Hi, Uncle Dave,” he croaks. 

“Hi, Jack. Where’s your dad?” He sets the grocery bags down on the kitchen table and glances down the hallway.

“He’s in the bathroom. His tummy doesn’t feel good.” 

Before Dave can answer, the sound of vomiting comes from the bathroom, followed by the toilet flushing and the sink running. “I can hear that,” he says to Jack. “How are you feeling?”

Jack pulls his blanket tighter around his shoulders. “Icky. My tummy doesn’t feel good either.”

Dave starts unpacking the bags, stowing things in the fridge and setting the medicine out in a nice line on the counter. “I’m sorry. I have some medicine for you and Dad to take in a couple of minutes. I think it’ll help you feel better.”

The bathroom door opens and Dave turns around to see Aaron making his way down the hall in a wobbly approximation of a straight line, fingers trailing along the wall for support. “Sorry,” he greets. “I didn’t think I was going to throw up again so soon.”

“I have a key for a reason, Aaron. How are you?” He points to the couch and Aaron obediently sits down next to Jack.

“Alright.” 

Dave rolls his eyes, already unboxing the Nyquil for Aaron and some anti-nausea stuff for Jack.  He’s glad he didn’t just get the anti-nausea medication, because he’d be willing to bet that at least Aaron has a fever, too. “Aaron, do you have a thermometer anywhere?”

“Yeah, it’s on the counter right there.” He points and Dave grabs it. It’s the in-ear sort. He tosses it to Aaron. 

“Both of you take your temperature, and then you’re taking some medicine.”

“Dave-”

“This is not up for debate, Aaron.” He glares and Jack giggles. “Tell him, Jack. Tell Daddy he has to take his temperature, too.”

Jack leans against Aaron’s shoulder and stage whispers, “Uncle Dave says you have to use the ‘mometer, Dad. It’s the rules.”

Aaron sighs dramatically. “Well, I guess if you say so… But you have to go first, alright?” Jack nods and lets Aaron put the thermometer in his ear, then his own. “One-oh-one point two for Jack and one-oh-one point five for me,” he reports.

Rossi nods. “Here.” He hands the Nyquil and Tums to Aaron. Gesturing to the Nyquil, he says, “This one’s for you. The Tums are for you both. I also have some fever reducers for Jack if you think he needs some.”

“Probably,” Aaron says. “Shouldn’t you have gotten Dayquil, though?”

Dave shakes his head. “Nope. You’re going to take a nap, and I’m going to keep Jack company.” Aaron won’t sleep unless he’s forced to, something Dave learned approximately twenty years ago and hasn’t forgotten since (It’s hard to forget things you’ve learned by watching your idiot coworker fall asleep standing up in front of law enforcement from a different state). 

“Dave, I’m not that sick,” Aaron insists. He then doubles over coughing. 

When he’s done, Dave hands him the Nyquil and says, “Here’s a logic problem for you, just in case you’ve been missing Reid in the last twelve hours. If Jack is throwing up and has a hundred and one degree fever and he’s sick enough to need medicine and rest, and you’re throwing up and have a hundred and one point five degree fever, then do you, by your own judgment, not also need medicine and rest?”

“It’s different.”

“It is not. Here, Jack.” Dave hands the kid some fever reducers and Tums, which he swallows with water from the coffee table. 

“Thanks, Uncle Dave. Daddy, are you going to take your medicine, too?” Jack’s still young enough to have that little-kid lisp.

“I am, Jack, don’t worry.” Aaron, true to his word, takes the bottle from Dave’s hands and pours a capful of viscous, startlingly blue-green medicine, downing it with a grimace. “See? All gone.” 

“Thank you for your cooperation, children,” Dave quips, taking the bottle back from Aaron. As he walks into the kitchen, he smiles at Aaron’s groan and Jack’s high-pitched laugh. “Are either of you hungry?”

Aaron murmurs something to Jack, who answers, “Mac an’ cheese.” Aaron calls over to him, “There’s some macaroni and cheese in the fridge from last night. Could you heat some up for Jack?”

Dave opens the fridge and pulls out the glass container of pasta. “Sure. What about you?”

“I’m alright. Just a glass of water, please.” 

“I’m alright” is usually Aaron code for “I’ll throw up if I eat anything and I might even throw this water up,” so Dave doesn’t push it.

Next to the microwave, there’s a neat line of orange pill bottles with “Hotchner, Aaron” printed in blocky text. Dave counts four. First is Fluoxetine in fifty-milligram tabs. Aaron’s been taking that one for as long as Dave’s known him. Helps with the obsessive-compulsive tendencies and the panic attacks and fidgeting that come with the territory of being Aaron Hotchner. Next comes Effexor, which was added to the regime a few years ago when it became obvious that Prozac alone was not enough to get Aaron out of bed in the morning. After that is Xanax, which has an AS NEEDED note written on the side. Dave had gotten tired of watching his kid panic himself into oblivion every time someone touched his lower abdomen or mentioned piquerism. Last is an anticoagulant he started taking shortly after his Foyet surgery. There had been complications with a few of the internal wounds, and now Aaron was stuck with a few blood vessels that would likely never work right again. He shakes his head and takes the mac and cheese out of the microwave. 

When he gets back to the living room, Aaron’s pointing at the television and horsley explaining the difference between a carnivore and an omnivore.

“Am I a carnivore?” Jack asks.

“No, buddy, you’re an omnivore. You eat plants like broccoli and strawberries and blueberries.” Aaron points to the bowl of mac and cheese Dave’s got. “Even your mac and cheese is made from plants. Carnivores only eat meat.”

“Ohhh.” Dave can see the pieces click together in Jack’shead, something he’ll never get tired of.

“Here, say thank you to Uncle Dave and have some food. It’ll make you feel better.” 

Dave smiles as Jack thanks him softly and starts in on the mac and cheese, already looking a bit better than when he’d first arrived. Aaron, on the other hand, is looking continually worse. The sedatives in the Nyquil are already making their way into his system if the haziness in his eyes is anything to go by. Dave sits down next to him and sets the water on the nightstand.

“Relax, Aaron. I can hear you thinking from over here.” Aaron’s staring intently at Jack, who’s still wrapped up in pasta and dinosaurs. Even before losing Haley, he’d never been the most confident parent, always afraid of doing the wrong thing and screwing Jack up in the same way his parents had done to him. No matter how many times Haley and Dave tried to get it through his thick skull that there was no way he could go that wrong, Aaron continued to worry. Now, though, it was so much worse. Every time Jack got the sniffles or cried or acted in the slightest way unhappy, Aaron blamed himself. Dave knew he blamed himself for Haley’s death, for dooming Jack to grow up without a mother, and there was nothing to be done about that. Nothing Dave could say could provide the kind of intensive therapy Aaron needed or change his way of looking at life, but he could be there. Italians are good at that, hovering. 

Aaron turns to him and blinks slowly. “Dave…” Whatever he was going to say, he doesn’t finish it. Instead, he lists a bit to the side and tips his head to rest against Dave’s shoulder. 

“Alright, kiddo,” he says, “Time for you to go to bed.” Jack giggles again as Aaron sits up and rubs his eyes, disoriented. “Come on.” Dave stands and extends a hand to Aaron. 

“Daddy, Uncle Dave says you have to go to bed,” Jack prompts. “‘Cause you’re tired.” 

“Traitor,” Aaron mumbles as he accepts Dave’s hand and lets him tug him to his feet. “Love you, Jack. Be good for Uncle Dave.” 

“Love you, too, Dad.” 

Dave puts an arm around Aaron’s shoulders and guides him gently towards the bedroom. “I’ll be right back,” he says to Jack. “Be ready to explain some dinos to me, okay?” 

Aaron leans against him more and more on the way down the hall and, by the time Dave’s gat him by the bed, he’s practically carrying him. Judging by the heat radiating through Aaron’s hoodie, he may have fudged the numbers on the thermometer a few minutes ago. Dave says nothing about it, just dumps Aaron on the edge of the bed and taps his leg. “Come on, bed time.” 

Aaron looks up at him, tucking his feet up onto the bed. “Dave, it’s not that big a deal. I should be out there with Jack-”

“Aaron,” he sighs. “I just listened to you throw up for what was evidently not the first time today. You have a fever. You sound like hell. I’m here to take care of Jack. Get some rest.” Dave pushes his shoulder and Aaron capitlates, slumping back onto the pillows and pulling the covers up over his legs. He’s already half-asleep when Dave pushes his hair off his forehead and says, “Sleep well, kid. I’ll check on you in a few hours.” Then, he turns the lights off, closes the door, and goes out to the family room where Jack is waiting to explain the difference between a saurischian and an ornithischian dinosaur to him.