Emily Hotchner picked up her cell phone and attempted to sound cheerful despite the fact that she'd been dreading this call since her roommate Spencer had explained the events of his day.
"Emily Melinda Prentiss-Hotchner do you have any idea what your lack of forethought made me do today?"
Damn! She knew he'd be angry but she didn't think he would be this bad. The last time her older brother broke out her full name was after a pregnancy scare during her freshman year at Yale. Unfortunately Emily never inherited her mother's tact so instead of trying to calm the agitated man on the other end of the phone she got sarcastic.
"Well hello to you to big brother how are you? How's the kid doing? See this is what normal people do Aaron; they exchange pleasantries and trivial facts first and THEN they start screaming at each other."
"Don't start with me Em I assaulted a man in public today because of you."
"ASSAULTED? Spencer didn't say anything about that! So help me Aaron if you hit him..."
"No I didn't hit him I was in public and my son was present I just grabbed him. I was so angry and panicked I probably bruised his arm and shoulder but I didn't hit him. I may look like the man but I am not our father."
Oh god now Emily knew she'd screwed up. Rule one in the Hotchner household was never bring up that part of their past unless absolutely necessary. Now she'd carelessly done exactly that when her brother was already angry and hurt.
"Oh Aaron I'm sorry. I didn't mean it like that. I know you're nothing like him but when it comes to Jack's safety you tend to lose yourself."
"Then WHY didn't you take that into account when you left my son in the care of a man I've never met before without letting me know first?"
"I'm sorry I wasn't thinking. I had to go into work because one of my recent placement's foster parents decided to adopt her and I thought that they'd be fine together. Jack loves spending time with Spencer and I didn't think that Spencer would have the courage to take him into the city by himself. I thought they'd just hang out in the apartment and that even if you got there before me you'd recognize that he was my roommate and wasn't a threat."
"Why was your phone off? You promised to always leave it on if you had Jack with you"
"That idiotic intern that keeps trying to flirt with me accidentally knocked a bottle of water onto it and It spent the rest of the day sitting in pieces in a bowl of rice. I just managed to get it working again before you called"
In the tense silence that followed Emily swore to make the next few weeks a living Hell for that stupid kid.
"God Emily do you understand how terrified I was. To see my baby boy walking away from me with a man I don't know and to not be able to reach you to find out what the hell was going on. Do you know what that did to me?"
He was crying. Her stupidity had made him cry. Her strong big brother who took beatings for her, who carried all her burdens and troubles without batting an eye was crying and she was the one who had put those tears in his eyes. Shit she'd really screwed up.
"Aaron I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. You've got to know that I'd never put Jack in danger. I know how much he means to you. I never meant to make you feel like you were going to lose him."
"But that's just it Em, it wasn't just about Jack. I couldn't get in contact with YOU. Jack was in sight, I had a chance to save him if things had gone wrong but you...
It was like Foyet all over again. God Em I can't lose you! I just can't. And I was terrified that I already had.
"Aaron I didn't even think about..."
"I almost tackled Spencer in the street Emily, when I thought he had taken my baby sister away from me and tried to take my son I almost snapped. I could have killed that sweet man who helps Jack with his homework, buys him books and answers all his questions because of a goddamned misunderstanding."
Emily felt like the worst sister on the planet. She had inadvertently brought all of her brother's deepest fears to life with one ill-conceived decision. Now her brother was once again walking the line between fear and self hatred. She needed to make this right.
"Aaron listen to me ok. You are not a monster, you are not our father, and you were not wrong to think like you did. A lesser man who hadn't been through the traumas you've faced would have punched Spencer, grabbed Jack and run. You managed to keep your head long enough to find out what was happening and once again keep Jack from being scarred for life. You can be angry at me all you want but there is no reason to be angry at yourself. There is darkness in all of us Aaron but you can always choose not to feed it. And every time, without fail you starve that darkness in your heart."
"Not every time Em. Foyet..."
"Would have stopped at nothing to get to your son and everybody knew it. Killing him didn't make you a monster. You have so much restraint Aaron. You know as well as I do that you've stopped yourself from killing more than you've given into the need to do so. You only kill UNSUBS like Foyet if you have no other choice. Even when people deserve it you manage to keep your head. You never killed our father, you never poisoned his liquor, and you never hit him back. That proves that you're nothing like him and your nothing like Foyet."
The silence on the other end seemed to last a lifetime before her brother finally spoke again.
"You're right. I'm sorry. Its just getting so easy to lose myself to the fear."
"Ok first of all I'm the one that needs to be apologizing. I should be groveling at your feet right now. You didn't do ANYTHING wrong. Secondly, are you seeing that therapist? I know it's hard to talk about this stuff but if you can manage to do it you'll get a lot of help."
"This from the girl who was kicked out of five therapy practices in a month."
"Well it's also important to find a therapist you can trust. I obviously couldn't trust them if they couldn't take some good natured teasing."
Aaron started laughing and Emily let out a sigh of relief. If her brother was laughing at one of their old jokes that meant things were going to be ok between them. After the laughing died down she took a deep breath and asked her brother a question.
"So does this mean I can't see Jack anymore? I understand if you don't trust me alone with him again but even so can you still bring him over for supervised visits? Both Spencer and I would really miss him. I don't know if he's told you but he's crazy about your son."
"Yeah I noticed." Aaron sighed "I suppose I can't deprive you of visitation without making Jack suspicious but there will be some conditions."
"One, you get a second phone so if something happens to your main line I can still contact you."
"I was already planning on it."
"Good. Two, when you have Jack I want you to let me know when you get called into the office."
"I promise to never leave you in the dark again"
"And three, you give me Spencer's phone number"
Well this was an interesting turn of events
"You want Spencer's phone number?"
"Yes, if the man is going to be spending time with my son I want to be able to contact him."
"That's the only reason?"
"Sure big brother whatever you say."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Oh nothing it's just that Spencer's a very attractive man..."
"Much better looking than some of the guys I caught you with when we were kids..."
"And he's a genius..."
"Frankly if he weren't gay I'd probably have already taken advantage of him myself."
There was a choking noise at the other end of the phone and Emily knew she had him.
"As the day is long big brother and single."
"While I appreciate your concern for my romantic well being I'd appreciate it even more if you'd butt out of my love life."
"Fine but I should warn you, it might be wise to clear the air with him the next time you see him."
"He thinks your still mad about the incident."
More choking, Emily loved that she was one of the few people able to get a rise out of the great, stoic, Aaron Hotchner.
"He thinks I'm mad at him? But why I made it very clear that I was grateful for his actions today. If anything he should be mad at me!"
"Yes but he's socially awkward and still worried about the fact that your first impression pegged him as a kidnapper. He thinks you might not want to let him see Jack because of it."
"He's worried about that?"
"I told you he's crazy about Jack. He's the first kid to ever be able to stand Spencer for long periods of time. Spencer didn't have a stable family life and I get the feeling that he's always wanted a family of his own. Before Jack, it was never a possibility for him. Hanging out with a kid as accepting as your son has opened up new doors for Spencer. I think he's afraid you'll shut them before he can walk through."
"Wow you certainly seem to know him well."
"Well when you live with someone for three years and have a monthly drunken Star Wars night you tend to learn a lot."
"Drunken Star Wars?"
"It's the only way the two of us can manage to get through those ungodly prequels."
Aaron laughed again and Emily decided to end the conversation on that high note.
"Listen Aaron it's late and I know if we keep talking neither of us is going to sleep tonight so I'm going to go. Goodnight."
"Goodnight Em. I love you."
"I love you too. And Aaron?"
" I'm always going to be here ok. You can't get rid of me."
After hanging up the phone Emily wiped the tears from her eyes and dialed another number.
"Welcome to the temple of knowledge, the goddess of love is ready to answer any question."
"Penelope why would the goddess of love be in a temple of knowledge?"
"Have you read Greek mythology?"
"So spill my sweet little social worker. Did our plan to get the antisocial men in our lives together work."
"It did they're definitely interested."
Emily held the phone away from her ear as a high pitched squeal erupted from the other end.
"But we can't do it this way again Penny. Instead of staying in the apartment and meeting Aaron when he came to pick Jack up Spencer decided to take him out to a museum."
"Ok so what's wrong with a little education for the mini boss man?"
"When Aaron was at lunch he saw Spencer and Jack together and assumed the worst. He had Foyet flashbacks Penny."
"Oh god please tell me boss man and my baby genius are ok!"
"They're fine. Thanks to Spencer's quick thinking and Aaron's restraint they managed to figure everything out before anyone was hurt. They spent the rest of the afternoon eating ice cream with Jack and having a great time. Spencer is already half in love."
"Ok that's awesome but I don't understand how things went wrong. Weren't you supposed to be waiting by the phone in case they needed to call you for answers?"
"Yes but then Keith, that annoying intern I told you about, spilled water all over it and it took me hours to get it working again."
"Ok easy fix. Tomorrow we get you a backup phone and a life proof case."
"I agree, but I think we need more backup as well. I never want to put my brother in that position again."
"Avoid scarring the boss man, got it. Luckily I know a lovely old Casanova who I'm sure would be willing to help us out."