Episode 1: A Day in the Life

Title: A Day in the Life
Author: rivermoon1970
Fandom: Criminal Minds, NCIS
Characters: Aaron Hotchner, , David Rossi, Derek Morgan, JJ, Penelope Garcia, Jack Hotchner, Jimmy Palmer, Tony DiNozzo, Henry LaMontagne, Will LaMontagne
Pairing: Aaron Hotchner/Derek Morgan, Tony DiNozzo/Jimmy Palmer, JJ Jareau/Will LaMontagne/Emily Prentiss
Genre: AU, Canon-Divergent, Family and Friend relationships
Series: Life At the Brewery
Beta: None
Word Count: 6249
Tags: Slash, Introspection
Warnings: None


Aaron’s alarm went off a little earlier than usual, but he had a full day planned out. First, though, he had to actually get out of bed, and so did his bed partner.

“Hey, Derek, time to get up.”

“Mmm, few more Hotch,” Derek groaned as he burrowed under the covers, not wanting to get up.

Aaron chuckled and he leaned down and kissed the side of Derek’s cheek.

“Believe me, I wish I could stay in bed too. But someone kept us up very late.” The husky tone and his erection told Derek that Aaron really didn’t want to get out of bed. In one swoop he had Aaron on his back straddling his waist, kissing him. They both knew that Aaron always put the alarm early so they had some time in the mornings whenever Derek stayed the night.

Afterwards, a lazy shower with more morning kisses and touches. Finally, they exited the bathroom, got dressed, and walked out to the living room. Aaron’s son, Jack was up and watching some early morning kids shows. The door to Aaron’s bedroom was a heavy metal sliding door, and Jack always knew to knock.

“Hey short stuff.” Derek grabbed a cup of coffee that had been brewed on a timer, and sat next to Jack on the large comfortable couch. Aaron smiled and shook his head at his sometime lover.

“Good morning Uncle Derek.” Jack leaned up and kissed Derek’s cheek. Aaron just sipped his coffee, and wondered at how his life got to where it was today. He knew part of it was his divorce from his wife when Jack was only a few weeks old. He had wanted to give up being a lawyer, especially after some of his photography was shown at a few of the smaller galleries in DC. He was making a bit of a name for himself, and he wanted to get away from the politics that the DOJ was infested with. He knew he could have gone into private practice, but truthfully, the law held no appeal to him anymore. Haley hadn’t been happy about it, but Aaron just couldn’t muster up the will to keep doing something he no longer liked.

When he bought one of the lofts here at the Brewery, it had been a stroke of luck. He owned an eclectic place, having forced the sale of the house he had bought when he married Haley, the split was enough for them to each get something smaller. Jack didn’t need to grow up in a five bedroom, four bathroom, 4,000 sq foot house. The loft they were in was perfect for the two of them. His bedroom was behind the sliding door, and he had made Jack’s room from the open plan of the rest of the loft. The kitchen had already been installed, as was the bathroom. With furniture and screens Aaron made a nice, but eclectic separation of workspace and home space. The place was one of the bigger lofts at 1500 square feet, more than enough room for his photography studio at the back of the loft.

Aaron watched Jack and Derek interacting and knew that he cared about the man, but he wasn’t in love with him. A part of him could see himself spending the rest of his life with the on and off relationship they had, but then there were times that Aaron wanted more. He just wasn’t sure what that more was. After finishing his coffee, he turned off the appliance and grabbed his Jacket.

“Okay Jack, go get your jacket and backpack. We are going to stop at the coffee shop before going to Aunt Penny’s.”

Jack jumped up and turned off the TV, hugged Derek and ran to his room to grab his things then quickly came back to his Dad.

Derek stood and walked over to Aaron and gave him a very heated kiss.

“I gotta go meet some vendors. Later I’m gonna be sampling some new craft brews around 1:30, you’re welcome to stop by.”

“I’ll see. I’ve got a pretty full day, but I might be able to squeeze in some lunch.”

“Good, I’ll make you my new special. You might have to get in an extra run though.” Derek smiled wickedly, kissing Aaron once more before heading out the door.

“Ewwww, kissing,” Jack declared as he frowned up at his father.

“Hey, one day buddy, you won’t think kissing is so ewww.” Aaron ruffled his hair before slipping into his jacket. “Ready to go see JJ?”

“Yay!” Jack jumped up and down and Aaron just shook his head. Grabbing his keys, he locked the door behind him, and headed through the winding collection of converted warehouses till he got to street level. They took a right and walked down a short distance to The Big Easy Cafe. Aaron held the door open for Jack, then he followed behind.

“Hotch, morning. Hey little guy, I think Will might have something special for you and Henry, but you better get back there,” JJ said as Jack went up to the counter.

“Okay,” Jack ducked under the snug, and Aaron couldn’t help letting out a chuckle.

“He never waits.”

“He just gets excited. How are you Jayje?”

“Good. Business has been doing really well. Let me guess, a plate of beignets and the chicory coffee.”

“Am I that predictable?”

“No, I just know what you like. Will is back there working on the King cakes for Easter. Sit, I’ll bring it out to you in a few minutes.”

Aaron took one of the small tables in the corner. He liked to sit there, and watch the people who came in and out of the charming coffee shop. JJ and Will had outdone themselves in decorating, bringing in a small bit of New Orleans to the area. Their other partner, Emily was probably in the back working on their paperwork. Aaron had been surprised by the polyamorous relationship, but after he had gotten to know them better, he could easily see why it worked.

He smiled up at JJ as she served his coffee and pastries.

“I heard Lydia moved out. Everything okay?”

“Yeah, she got an opportunity out in California doing script work. She had been working hard to get a foot in the door, somehow, and decided to take it. Jack was upset for awhile because he and Brandon had gotten close. Having Henry helped. I want to thank you for that JJ.”

“Hotch, those two are bonded at the hip practically. I know Hen was a little sad when Brandon said he was moving away, but promises of Skype and e-mails seemed to help calm him. Do you know if anyone has bought her place yet?”

“Yeah, it was the only way she was able to move so quickly. She said he seemed nice, but really shy. I don’t know when he’s moving in, maybe next couple of weeks or so I assume.”

“Be nice to see some new faces. We still on for dinner at Rossi’s on Friday?”

“Of course, wouldn’t miss it.” Hotch smiled as JJ squeezed his shoulder. He watched her for a moment and was glad to see her happy. He knew some of her background, and was glad she found people that loved her. He was abruptly brought out of his thoughts when two little boys ran into the cafe and straight for his table.

“Dad!” “Uncle Aaron!” They yelled at the same time. “We got to help Will hide the baby Jesus’s in the King Cakes.”

“You did?” Aaron smiled wide as the man in question came out with pastries for both Henry and Jack.

“Hey, thanks for takin’ Hen here to Penny’s. We got a full day ahead of us today.”

“Its no problem Will, really.”

“Still on for Rossi’s on Friday?” Will called out as he headed back towards the kitchen.

“Wouldn’t miss it.”

Aaron shook his head as he finished his beignets, prodding the boys to finish their sweets, then it was washing up and heading out of the cafe to Penny’s. Everyone said their goodbyes as Aaron ushered them out.

The walk to Penelope Garcia’s was a short walk. She actually owned two places in the complex. They were next to each other, one smaller than the other. The smaller one was her living space and studio for the handmade crafts that she was known in the community for. The other was the Daycare center she started when more families had moved into the Brewery. She was one of the luckier ones and had bought both spaces when the prices were quite low. Aaron knew that most of the money came from insurance policies when her parents had been killed when she was sixteen. He didn’t know the whole story, just the bits and pieces he had gleaned over the years he had gotten to know her.

He smiled as he walked up to the daycare and opened the door. Jessica was there as well, his ex-sister-in-law had been hired by Penny when more kids had been taken on. A few of Jack’s, and Henry’s friends were there as well. Jessica was also responsible for getting the older kids to school later in the morning.

“Aaron, morning. Hey Jackers.” Jessica smiled as Jack ran into the her arms for a hug. Aaron was glad that she hadn’t taken sides, letting Haley and him work out what they needed.

“Hotch!” Penny scrambled up to him, her brightly colored skirt and t-shirt almost made his eyes water. Aaron, though, could never hide the smile on his face when he was around her.

“Penny, looks like you have a full morning.”

“Just the way I like it. But, I have something for you.” Hotch frowned as he watched the effervescent woman run out and towards her own place, then run back and shoving a box in his hand. “Just a small thank you for the other night. I appreciated you coming to get me. And I know, I know you warned me, but just, thank you.”

Aaron shook his head then opened the gift that Penelope had made for him. He pulled out a small stained glass picture of Jack. It was beautifully done and it made Aaron speechless.

“Pen, I…I don’t know what to say…”

“Don’t say anything. Just take it and go hang it up someplace nice.”

Aaron quirked the side of his mouth in a half smile then gave the woman a quick hug.

“Thank you.” He knew if he tried to say no the woman would get offended.

“Now, I’ve got a lot of fun stuff planned for the midgets for today, and you should get going.” She was practically pushing him out the door.

“Penny, I should be picking him up around 5.”

“Okay, and we are all still getting together at Rossi’s on Friday, right?”

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world.” He bussed a quick kiss on her forehead, said his goodbyes to Jack, then walked back to his place to get ready for the model that was going to show up soon for a photo session. He had to get the projector and his filters ready, as well as the sayings and quotes he wanted to use. Once he got his screens up and the lights and filters set-up he made more coffee, took out the bottles of water, the plates of fruit and cheese to snack on, and waited.

Luckily, Aaron didn’t have to wait too long. He was grateful that the model was on-time. There were many times he had to wait, many freelance models were very fickle and often didn’t go anywhere because of the sheer unprofessionalism. He was grateful that Austin wasn’t like that. It made her one of his favorites to work with. Today was no exception as she knocked on the door right at their appointed time.

“Austin, thanks for being on-time.” Aaron stood to the side to let her in.

“You’ve always been good for my career, Hotch. I’m glad you asked me to model for your project. Sounds really interesting.”

“I’ll just be here in the kitchen while you change.”

Aaron was also grateful that Austin was wearing loose clothing. They wouldn’t have to wait too long for lines to disappear. A couple of minutes later she was wrapping a robe around herself as she came out of the bathroom.

“Coffee?”

“Yes, please.”

“It’ll take just a moment.” Aaron turned to start the coffee maker, then grabbed a bottle of water. “I think we’ll start with just the filters to get the lighting right, then we’ll move on to the projection work.”

“Sounds good to me, just tell me where you want me.” She walked back to the studio after grabbing a bottle of water for herself.

“Just to the left of the tape on the floor.” Austin stood where directed, dropped her robe, and Aaron got down to the business at hand.

Four hours, two rolls of analog and a few dozen digital photos later, he called the session done. He had Austin sign the model release, paid her, and thanked her for her time.

Aaron put the leftovers back in the fridge and got down to downloading the raw images into his computer, with a back-up on an external hard drive as well as a DVD. He did not take chances with his work. He only looked-up when the alarm on his phone went off. He had been so engrossed in his work that he didn’t pay any attention to the time. As he carefully saved and shut everything down his stomach growled reminding him that he hadn’t had a proper meal all day. Shaking his head at himself, he grabbed his wallet and keys, then made his way down to the pub that Derek ran. Aaron could be seen quite often at A Little Bit of Heaven, mostly because he was dating Derek, but also the food. Derek’s menu was upscale gastro pub food, and he loved just about everything on the menu.

When he walked in he saw his lover talking to three men and a flight of ales was laid out on the bar. When Derek looked up he waived Aaron over.

“Aaron, these guys are from The Laughing Maiden brewery. It’s a place over in Virginia. Here, try this.” Derek handed him the first ale, which was light golden in color with a thin, delicate head on it. Aaron took a sip and smiled.

“That’s delicious. I taste some honey, a bit of coriander and black pepper?” Aaron frowned and sipped again. The combination was unusual, but delicious.

“Yeah, exactly. The sweetness balances out the spicy of the pepper.”

“But compliments the hops.” The men went on to explain the rest of the grouping of ales.

“I like them all,” Derek said as he cleaned up the flight glasses, then got down to the business of buying several cases of each. Aaron just smiled then moved down the bar, taking his phone out and doing a little work while waiting for Derek to finish.

“I think I’m going to host a tasting menu. Sit down with Sean and come up with dishes that will complement each ale.”

Aaron wanted to ask how his brother was doing, but he didn’t. He told Sean he wasn’t going to pry too much, but he was glad that Derek was giving him a chance. The two of them together had come up with amazing food and Aaron didn’t want to ruin it by becoming the overbearing brother again.

“You had a good showing when you did that for the Golden Road tasting a few months ago.”

“Yeah, brought in a lot of new people. I might want to think about this as a bi-monthly event. But, right now, why don’t I go make you the special like I promised.” Derek leaned across and kissed Aaron before going to the kitchen. Aaron smiled as he sipped the ale Derek had put in front of him, and pulled out his phone and continued doing a little more work on it. He was writing a series of articles for one of the photography magazines about living and working in the artist collective, and the impact it has had on his life, and those around him. The first one had been well received, as were the photos that he had taken of some of the structures that had been turned into housing and work spaces. He wanted to approach some of the other residents about doing a spotlight on them, photo shoot and article, and shopping the idea out to other art related publications. He also was looking into getting a blog up and running. By the time he had his next article almost halfway done, Derek was setting a plate in front of him.

“And what is this that you’ve made?”

“I thought of you while I came up with it. Your love of bacon. It’s fifty percent prime steak and fifty percent bacon as the burger patty. Topped with more bacon, caramelized onions, a raspberry mustard, with a tomato compote. Trust me, you’re gonna love it.”

Aaron picked up the burger and took a bite. The moan he made was almost obscene as he set it down to wipe the juices off his fingers.

“Oh my god, Derek. You have to put that on the menu, that is amazing. I wasn’t sure about the raspberry mustard, but its not sweet, its nice and tart.”

“Yeah? You like it that much?”

“I love it. And you paired it with the garlic steak fries?”

“Yup.”

“And you’re right, I’m going to have to get extra running time in, but it’s worth it.” Aaron smiled wide as he took another bite of the burger. When he sipped the ale he figured out why Derek served him that one. It had a raspberry note to it, and it paired with the burger perfectly.

After he finished eating, and a small argument over payment, Aaron said his goodbye’s to Derek. He wouldn’t see him that night, Derek had some things to catch up on and do inventory. Aaron was fine with that, it meant he could work on the photos he had taken earlier in the day, as well as the photos for the rest of the series. He was still trying to find male models that fit what he was looking for, which meant he had to call his agent to see if he could get some portfolios sent to him. All of this was running through his mind as he made his way to the bookstore. He was picking up an order for himself and Jack.

As he walked in he said his good afternoon’s to the owner of the store, Jimmy Palmer.

“I have your order right here Hotch. I did take a couple of the comics out and set them aside to have you look at first. I think Jack was trying to be sneaky.” Jimmy quirked his mouth into a smile as he handed Aaron the comics.

Looking through them he agreed with Jimmy and he knew he would be talking to Jack later about trying to get one over on him.

“Thanks Jimmy. How’s the store doing?”

“Great. The monthly subscription has really brought a lot of people in. I’m glad you talked me into it.”

“I’m glad it’s working out for you. How’s Tony?”

“He’s good. He told me to tell you he may be a few minutes late. He has an appointment over in Quantico, traffic may delay him a bit.”

“It’s fine. I’m just starting to head back up to my place. Thanks Jimmy for the heads up, we’ll be in next week for Jack to put in his order.”

“You still going to Rossi’s Friday?”

“Of course, wouldn’t miss it.” Aaron smiled as he grabbed his bags and started out of the store and headed up to his place.

After putting the books away on his shelves, then the comics on Jack’s shelves he sat down at his computer and started to work on the photos. When the door opened he knew Jack was home. He didn’t go to Penny’s like he should have, but Aaron was fine with that. He knew Jack got excited when it was comic day. And, if Aaron hadn’t been home, he trusted Jack to go to the daycare till he got home.

“Hey buddy,” Aaron called out, then Jack was running over to him.

“Hey Dad.” Aaron caught the boy as he flung himself at him.

“I picked up your comics today. Good thing Jimmy knows us as well as he does, some of those titles you know I won’t let you read Jack.”

“But Daaaad…”

“No, no buts Jack. You know the rules on comics and other books. Now, why don’t you go start on your homework. Tony is going to be here in a bit for our appointment.”

“Okay.” Jack looked disappointed, but Aaron was trying to keep consistent rules for him. After he made sure that Jack was set-up to work on his schoolwork, Aaron sat back down and looked through his e-mails. There was one from Haley, she wanted to see him and Jack one day in the next couple of weeks. Aaron took a deep breath. His automatic response was to say no, especially after the cheating had come out in the divorce, and how quickly she had jumped into an engagement with another man. One that had been moving outside of the US. When Aaron sued for full custody, Haley had assumed that she was going to win. When the Judge heard everything, he surprised everyone by giving Aaron full custody, with visitation rights to Haley. With her being out of the country so much, she barely saw Jack a few times a year. They had tried to keep Skype and e-mails going, but his ex-wife wasn’t putting in as much effort as he assumed she would have.

Aaron was contemplating his answer when a knock was heard on his door. Closing down his computer he went to go answer it.

“Tony,” Aaron greeted the man with a hug. “Just set-up in the living room. I’ll go put on a robe.”

“Alright, it won’t take me long.” The man walked in with a massage table in one hand and a large kit in the other.

Aaron went to his bedroom and changed into one of his thick, soft robes and pulled it tight around him. He blew out a breath, then walked back out to the living room.

“Full body? Or just the upper back today?”

“Can you do what you did last time?”

“The Swedish style?”

“Yeah, and full-body. I’ve been getting knots in my calves, even after running.”

“Okay, hop up on the table.” Aaron dropped his robe, unashamed in being naked around Tony, then slipped between the warmed blankets. He was beginning to relax even before Tony started.

“How have you been Aaron?” Tony asked as he started at Aaron’s feet.

“Good. I already have a gallery lined up for the new show. I’m contemplating a series of articles about the Brewery and those that live here. With permission of course.”

“That could be really good.”

“Want to be one of my first?” Aaron asked as he looked down at Tony over his shoulder. The man still looked amazing. He hadn’t regretted their break-up, Tony had found an amazing partner in Jimmy. There were days that he wished he had what they had. The love between them was evident and it didn’t hurt that they were just damned adorable together.

“I’ll think about it.” Tony started to work on his legs and the moans he was making would have made anyone other than a trained masseuse blush.

“You still know just how to touch me.” Aaron teased as Tony worked on his legs, digging in to work out the knots in Aaron’s leg muscles.

“Oh, I never had a problem touching you, Aaron.” Tony teased back as he moved up and started to work on his thighs. “It was everything else.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah, you know exactly why we broke-up.” Aaron closed his eyes as he sank down into the comfortable massage table.

“Are we really going to do this again, Tone?” The teasing turned a little sad as Tony worked out the tension in Aaron’s thighs.

“No, but you started it.”

“Hm, I guess I did. God, your hands, that feels amazing.” Aaron tried to keep thoughts of just what those hands had done to him in the past. And not just his hands, but as Aaron relaxed more and more, he remembered all the other things Tony was so very good at. He couldn’t help smiling, thinking about their affair.

Tony moved up and started to massage Aaron’s back, paying particular attention to his shoulders and upper back. They kept trading quips back and forth, their usual banter whenever Aaron got a massage from Tony.

“Okay, turn.” Aaron turned, and tried to steer his thoughts away from other activities he had enjoyed with Tony. He really didn’t want to be sporting an erection in case Jack needed him for something. He was lucky in that Jack usually stayed in his room when he got his massages. Tony again had started at his feet and slowly worked his way up. Aaron was so relaxed that he was beginning to fall asleep on the table.

“Aaron,” the sharp tone brought him out of his sleep and he looked over at Tony.

“Did I ever tell you that you have the prettiest eyes,” Aaron was half asleep when he reached out and touched Tony’s cheek.

“Yeah, Aaron you did,” Tony just chuckled as he prodded Aaron off the table, holding his robe out for him.

“Why did we break up again?”

“Because, Aaron Hotchner, you were on the rebound from your divorce and didn’t want a commitment.”

“Right,” Aaron groggily drawled out. His hidden southern accent slipping out.

“Okay, time for me to go and for you to drink this.” Tony slapped a bottle of water in Aaron’s hand. “Then you go lay down and sleep it off.”

“Tone,” Aaron reached out and cupped Tony’s cheek. “I didn’t deserve you. I never said I was sorry for how things ended, did I?”

“Aaron, it’s fine. We both said things we wish we could take back. It’s in the past, let it go.”

“Jimmy is good for you. I’m glad you’re happy.”

“You really mean that?” Tony looked up at Aaron.

“I do. I just want you happy. I do love you, you know.”

“I know. But, you don’t love me enough and we both know it. Now, go drink your water and sleep it off because if I know you, when you wake up you are going to so regret this conversation ever happened. It’s in the past Aaron, we’ve both moved on.” Tony was getting his massage table folded up and the blankets and towels put into his bag to be washed later.

“You’re right, thank you I do feel better.” Aaron leaned over and kissed Tony’s cheek. The small affection was allowed. The two men would always have a closeness with each other, even if the relationship had ended badly.

“I’ll get back to you on the article. I think it might be fun.”

“Might even want to do a double profile on you and Jimmy. We’d have to talk about it, but please consider it.”

“I will, now go rest, and don’t forget to drink plenty of water.” Tony was gone before Aaron could say anything else. Closing the door he sighed then walked towards Jack’s room.

“Hey buddy, you doing your homework?”

“Yes, Dad.”

“If you need anything come get me. I’m going to get some sleep before classes tonight. Penny will be over at about 6.”

“Okay. I’ll be fine Dad.” Jack didn’t even look up from what he was doing and Aaron just shook his head and smiled. He sometimes wondered if he was doing the right thing, this somewhat bohemian life he was leading, but he had been happier in the last few years than he was when he was a lawyer. He walked up and gave Jack a quick kiss on the top of his head, ruffled his hair, then went to his room. He grabbed the water and was almost halfway done by the time he was slipping into bed for a nap. As he was closing his eyes, he put aside his anxieties, knowing that overall he had a better life. He still hadn’t made a decision about Haley, but he would take a couple of days to think about it. Aaron tried to set all these thoughts aside as he was slipping into sleep, after making sure his alarm was set. He did not want to be late to his class.


“Alright, today we are going to talk about White Balance and the importance of it.” Aaron leaned against the desk and crossed his arms, looking out on his students he had gotten to know over the last five weeks. Some were here just for a throwaway credit, some to further their hobby, and some were serious about learning the art of photography. He was one of the few teachers that still taught analog, along with digital. Aaron had embraced digital almost as soon as it became readily available, and somewhat affordable for high-end photographers like himeslf. Though, he never gave up his love of analog. With the advent of the analog hobby market, his classes were fuller than they had been in the last couple of years. He tried to make his classes fun and the projects interesting to keep them coming back. Though, it didn’t go unnoticed that he had a higher percentage of female students. It both amused and made him nervous. A few of the older female night students had not made their intentions subtle at all, and he had to quash their advances fairly quickly. He was not one to take advantage, though it wasn’t unheard of in college circles.

“Can any of you tell me why White Balance in digital photography is so important?”

Several students raised their hands and Aaron knew which ones had done the reading.

“Jess.” He pointed out to one young man.

“It’s to help control the color contrast better. The better the white balance, the better you are able to get a truer color to your photos. Though some analog cameras have a white balance setting, it’s not nearly as important in that medium. Digital tends to either sharpen colors too much, or blend the colors and you end up with a muddy picture. Proper White Balance helps to keep the colors more normalized.”

“Very good. Today I want you guys to go out into the Quad and take several photos focusing on using White Balance. Also, don’t forget what we learned last time on light and using the light limiters. Okay everyone, grab your cameras and follow me.”

Aaron picked-up his favorite Leica digital. Though it wasn’t one of the higher resolution ones, it was one that gave him photos close enough to analog that it had become his favorite. He led the students outside and was pleased with the light they currently had. It was spring and the days were getting longer, so the light was staying longer.

He helped several students as they lined up shots, led them through settings and framing. When the light started to change, everyone adjusted their settings. It was the perfect time to work on what he wanted them to. After it became too dark to get anymore decent images, he got everyone back to the classroom.

“Alright everyone, good work today. I want you to spend the next week processing your photos. I want five of your best, untouched and touched-up. Side by side comparisons and a short description of why you did what you did for each photo. Due at the beginning of next class.”

Every was packing up, including Aaron, and he thought about what he wanted to do for dinner. It was late, and he hadn’t given himself enough time to grab something before getting to class. He stayed a few minutes to answer questions, then ushered everyone out when it was getting too late.

As he drove home he decided to stop at Rossi’s. The Italian restaurant stayed open late, David Rossi, the owner, very much subscribed to the Italian way of living. His was one of the few places that stayed open later in the area. After parking and grabbing his things, he made his way to the restaurant.

Aaron was shown to a table fairly quickly, and ordered a single glass of bourbon. He was perusing the menu when David slid into the seat across from him.

“You’re coming in late.”

“I forgot dinner before my class.”

“Hmm, I wonder why.” Dave smirked as he sat back and sipped at the scotch in his hands.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Aaron quirked up a brow as he took a long drink of his water.

“I heard DiNozzo stopped at your place.”

“For a massage, Dave, that’s it. We broke it off months ago and he is much happier with Jimmy.”

“When are you gonna find someone and settle down Aaron?”

“Oh, like you have?” Aaron smiled wide as his waitress set his drink in front of him. He then ordered his dinner, keeping it light with an angel hair pasta with shrimp in a light olive oil and garlic sauce.

“Hey, my love life isn’t in question here. Yours is.”

Aaron chuckled as he took a drink of his bourbon. Shaking his head he couldn’t help teasing his friend.

“So, are you working on Rossi wife number four yet?”

“No. Too many of them just want me for my money.”

“It doesn’t help you flaunt it just a bit.”

“Hey, I can do that you know, I worked hard for it.” Rossi shook his head and smiled to himself. “So, I heard the place across from you sold.”

“Yeah. Jack was sad that Brandon was moving, but Lydia promised Skype calls once she gets them settled. I’m happy for her, an opportunity like she got doesn’t come around that easily.”

“I wish her luck. She’s gonna need it. Do you know who it is that she sold it to?”

“All I know is that he’s a writer and artist and has a son. Other that she wouldn’t tell me his name. Said the man was pretty private and that we may not see him much.”

“If anyone can coax him out of his apartment, it will certainly be you,” Dave smirked as he sipped his drink.

Aaron was halfway to taking a bite of his pasta when he turned his eyes up to Dave.

“And what is that supposed to mean?”

“Well, ever since you moved in here 7 years ago after you and Haley split, you’ve got a bit of a reputation. I mean, first there was that young law student. Then your short fling with Emily, and I forgot who it was after her. Then Tony till your epic crash and burn, now Derek. But everyone knows that you and Derek aren’t serious and you’ve each been seen with other people.”

“You calling me a manwhore, Dave?”

“Not in so many words. But, its been good for you. You’re more settled than you ever were with Haley. I like this new Aaron that’s emerging, now you just need a nice someone that you can be happy with.”

“I am happy.”

“No, you are content, but you aren’t truly happy.”

Aaron couldn’t argue with Dave. While it was true he was content with his life, he liked where it started to go when his divorce happened, but he couldn’t say that he was truly happy. He wasn’t going to force it though. He would just keep living his life the way he wanted, and if it ever happened, then he would hold onto that person.

“Alright, I’ll leave you to finish your dinner. Just, be good to yourself Aaron.”

“I am Dave, trust me. I’m putting Jack first, and then myself second, but I’m living my life how I want to, and not how it’s been mapped out for me.”

“See you Friday?”

“Wouldn’t miss it.” Aaron smiled as Dave got up, patted his shoulder and left. The two friends never said goodbye, neither of them liked the word. Aaron finished his dinner, paid his check then headed up to his place. He paid Penny for the extra babysitting, checked on Jack then sat down and did a little work.

When Aaron’s eyes started to get heavy he checked on Jack one more time then got ready for bed himself. He had a full day of classes the next day and wanted a good night sleep. He was thinking of all the things that he wanted to do and tried to check off in his mind if he had everything ready. He was drifting off to sleep when the conversation with Dave flitted across his mind. He tried to put the question of his happiness aside as he slipped into sleep, with the knowledge that he really was content and for now, it was enough.

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