Tony decided to take the day off. The week after coming back from a relaxing weekend had been insane. He wanted some time to unwind and taking Jack out to the zoo seemed like the best idea in the world.
Aaron had called him in the morning during breakfast, and they got to talk some more. There had been another victim, but this time the Unsub had messed up, and they left some DNA behind. It wasn’t much, and it would take time to process, but the police chief had pushed through for a rush on the results. He hoped they had something later that day.
Tony hoped that as well. He missed Aaron but also knew this was part of the job, and Tony understood that. However, it did not stop Tony from missing and worrying about his partner.
“Okay, you, where do you want to go first?” Tony hand a firm hold of Jack’s hand. The toddler wanted to walk, and Tony would let him, for now.
“Monkey’s!” Jack jumped up and down, his little face split into the biggest grin Tony had ever seen. Jack’s enthusiasm was infectious, and Tony couldn’t help laughing.
“This way, then short stuff.” Tony kept ahold of the boy and started off towards the Ape and Monkey enclosures. When they arrived, there was a crowd around one section, so Tony steered Jack over to the Gorilla area.
Jack was in awe as he stood near the railing. He leaned forward, but Tony stayed with him to make sure the boy didn’t hurt himself.
“Look, dere,” Jack pointed, and Tony turned his eyes towards where Jack was pointing. Two of the younger Gorillas’ were playing rough with each other. Jack thought it was the funniest thing he had ever seen. He was giggling and hopping from foot to foot.
“Dere, funny, Unca Tony.”
“Yeah, they are pretty funny aren’t they.” Tony had never gone to anything like this with his father or anyone else as a kid. Seeing Jack’s unreserved Joy made Tony’s heart melt even more. He knew at that moment the love someone could have for a child. Though it still terrified him, Jack made it so easy for Tony to love him.
“Come on, let’s go see what everyone else was looking at.”
“Un huh.” Jack held his hand out for Tony to take, the trust he was showing just made Tony’s heart flutter a little more.
They moved on to where the Chimpanzees were. When Tony looked at the large area for them, there was one section that was closed off that had a single Chimp inside of it. Tony frowned a moment, till he looked to see a docent was there talking to a few school children.
“Now, I bet you are all wondering about this area over here. If you watch for a moment, you will see something quite amazing.” Tony picked Jack up and put the boy on his shoulders so that he could see.
After a couple of moments, a rare white tiger ran inside and jumped at the Chimp that was lounging in the shade. The chimp held up his arms and let himself fall back on his back and hugged the not quite cub in his arms.
“This is Caesar,” Tony couldn’t help the snort as he tried to stifle a laugh. When he looked up, the docent was trying not to laugh as well. “Caesar is one of our oldest male Chimpanzees, but he is quite smart and also very compassionate towards other animals. He has helped us on more than one occasion with care and nurturing of abandoned or hurt animals. The tiger is Kimba, her mother had been killed by some poachers. The cubs were hiding in their den. Rangers on her preserve found the poachers, and thankfully they went to prison.”
Tony knew a little about the issues of poaching. He had helped one of the FBI teams break up a poaching ring here in the US. The problem was terrible, and only getting worse.
“The cubs were rescued, and they were flown here as part of a unique program we have with other zoo’s around the world. We will help the cubs grow strong, then when old enough send them home to the preserve. Kimba, though might stay here. Her and Caesar have formed quite the bond.”
Tony and Jack watched the two animals interact and it even Jack seemed to sense it was something rather unique and special. They watched the animals for another few moments then moved on.
After visiting a few more areas of the zoo, Jack announced he was hungry.
“Okay, short stuff. What do you want to eat.”
“Nuggets!” Jack shimmied a little on Tony’s shoulders, making him laugh. Reaching up, he carefully put Jack back down on his feet, and they sought out the best place for food.
Sitting and carefully watching Jack eat his food, Tony again felt that fluttering in his heart. The only emotion he could put to it was that he loved Jack. Over the months he and Aaron had been together, not one Hotchner man, but two wormed their way into his heart, and Tony knew right then he wouldn’t trade those feelings for anything in the world.
“Done now, Unca Tony.” Jack lifted his hands and smacked his lips after finishing his juice.
Yeah, Tony was pretty much gone.
Aaron was exhausted as he stumbled in the door around three am. The case had wrapped when quickly after they got a hit on the DNA. Aaron made the arrest. The killer was a man who had been in a relationship with another man, then had been rejected. He took his anger out any man that looked even remotely like his previous partner.
Resetting the alarm, Aaron set his briefcase down near the door, stepped out of his shoes and set them under the table that held a mishmash of items, threw his jacket on the back of the couch and continued to strip as he moved through the house. Tie, button up, and t-shirt was draped in his arms as he made his final ascent up the stairs.
Part of the way up he stopped at a framed picture that had not been there before. The woman was beautiful as she bent backward, butterflies flying up and around her, pouring out of her chest. The scene was haunting and beautiful. Biting his lip, something about the piece of art drew him in. Reaching out he gently touched the woman, tracing along what looked like an effortless pose, almost as if she herself was emerging. Her red hair flowing down, the golden of her gown touched the dry grasses surrounding her. Aaron was mesmerized.
“Ehem.” Someone to his right was clearing their throat, Aaron turned to see Tony standing there, leaning against the door jamb.
“I guess you heard me come in.”
Tony stood up straight and made his way over to Aaron slipping his arms around the man as he stood there.
“I hope you don’t mind that I hung it there. The blank space almost called for it. I saw it in a little gallery that Jessica and I went to the opening of. We got Penny to babysit.”
“It’s beautiful, Tony.”
Aaron turned in Tony’s arms, so they were face to face. Aaron smiled and lifted his unencumbered arm, gently running his knuckles over Tony’s cheek.
“Hi,” Aaron softly said.
“HI,” Tony’s voice equally quiet.
“I missed you.”
Tony swallowed and leaned in, connecting his forehead with Aaron’s.
“I missed you too.”
“So, you bought this for me?”
“It reminded me of you. Reminded me of your strength, the way you’re opening up, becoming more than who you were. It’s to remind you of those things. That you are strong.”
“Tony.” The emotions conveyed when Aaron said Tony’s name had Tony cupping the back of Aaron’s neck and kissing him as if he were a man dying of thirst. The need for connection so intense he felt like he was going to break if he didn’t feel Aaron’s lips on his.
“Let’s go to bed.” Tony was breathless, as was Aaron.
The two stumbled their way into the bedroom, Aaron shutting the door behind him. He stripped the rest of the way, not caring for once where his clothes landed. He just needed to be wrapped in Tony’s arms.
Their intimacy was slow and gentle. Hands and mouths brought each other a gentle climax, and after cleaning up, Aaron wrapped around Tony, pulling him close. Keeping Tony in his thoughts had been the only thing that had got him through the case. Aaron breathed in Tony’s scent, a mix of his cologne, his favorite shower gel, and that underlying natural scent of his skin. It was an intoxicating scent to him, and in no time, Aaron was fast asleep.
Waking up, Aaron found himself alone in bed, which made him a little disappointed. Sitting up he grabbed his phone and saw the time. It was after 9, which was late for him. He wasn’t awake long when Tony was coming inside the room, a tray in his arms. Smiling he set the tray down, moved around the bed and kissed Aaron.
“Morning. What’s all of this?”
“Breakfast. Jack has already had his and is currently in the den watching cartoons. We have some time before he comes up here.”
Tony shed his robe, and Aaron swallowed as he watched his lover move to his side and slip under the covers. Picking up the tray, he motioned for Aaron to move closer. Tony set the tray over Aaron’s legs.
“Coffee, juice, scrambled eggs with Italian sausage, peppers, onions, mushrooms, and spinach with some mozzarella cheese. Crispy smashed potatoes and some grilled toast.”
“This looks amazing.”
The two spent the next hour lounging and picking off the plate, sometimes feeding each other bits. It was the perfect wake up for Aaron.
“Tony, did you mean what you said? About the picture?”
“I did. When we first met, you were hesitant, and I understood why. But the longer we are together, the more open you become, which has helped me be more open with you. I don’t need to know what happened with you and Haley in your marriage, but I can tell that you were being held back. You’re amazing Aaron, and you hide so much of yourself. But, slowly, like those butterflies, you’re emerging into one wonderful man.”
“Tone.” Aaron was stunned by Tony’s words. “It’s you that makes me want to be a better person, Tony.” Both men were silent for a while, processing emotions both of them were still getting used to.
“So, what do you want to do today?”
Tony smiled and had a look on his face.
“Oh, I think you need to speak with your son. He has some very definite ideas.”
Aaron laughed and thank goodness they were done with their food because a stampede of boy, cat, and dog all jumped on the bed looking for affection. Aaron grabbed Jack first and snuggled him making him laugh. He turned to look at Tony, and the joy on his face made his heart tumble just that much more.
Aaron was watching Tony with half closed eyes and wondering what he was so engaged in. Jack was on the floor playing with Shiny, while Pretty was curled up on Aaron’s stretched out legs purring just deep enough that Aaron could feel the vibrations.
He had been relaxing reading a new book from David Stone called The Echelon Vendetta. Aaron was indulging in his love of spy novels. But, whatever Tony was doing, Aaron couldn’t help being charmed by how he was bent over the table, tongue just sticking out and pencils furiously moving almost of their own accord. He didn’t want to interrupt, but Aaron was curious. Standing, he quietly snuck behind Tony and looked over his shoulder.
Aaron didn’t know what to expect, but a sketch of three baby dragons playing in what looked like some kind of library was not it.
“Tony that’s amazing,” Aaron exclaimed.
“Go away, Aaron and let me finish this.”
Aaron pressed a kiss to Tony’s temple then walked back to the couch where a very confused Pretty was sitting up on her tiny paws looking at Aaron like he had done the worst thing in the world. Laughing he picked up the kitten and set her on his chest while went back to reading.
A hand was shaking him awake, and Aaron pried his eyes open to see Tony smiling down at him.
“So, I ah, I’ve been kinda working on something. Will you and Jack like to hear it?”
Aaron saw how nervous Tony was and knew it wasn’t the time to tease him.
“Of course Tony. Let me get Jack, and we are all yours.”
A few minutes later, with a plate of snacks and water for all, Jack and Aaron were ready for whatever it was that Tony was working on.
Sitting in another chair, but close to the couch, Tony opened up the book he had been sketching in.
“Periwinkle, Crimson, and Mignonette had all hatched at the same time. Periwinkle tried to claim she was the oldest, but really all three of the baby dragons hatched their way out of their eggs at the same time. Their parents, Onyx, who was an enormous black dragon and their father, and Topaz, who was smaller but the most beautiful shades of brown, was their mother, loved them all equally.
“Quickly, Mignonette came to be known as the instigator. She liked to get her brother and sister into all sorts of trouble. Crimson was always up for the schemes that Mignonette would get them into and Periwinkle often just went along because she knew they would all have the most fun.
“Well, that was until their older sister, Chestnut found them out and always brought them back home. One day they got tired of their older sister, who never let them have fun and decided to do something about her.”
Jack was so enthralled in the story that he had crawled over to the arm of the couch and leaned over to see the book Tony was reading from. Tony stopped a moment, and let Jack crawl into his lap. He picked up the book once more and continued to read.
“One day, the three little scamps had found their father’s private library and lab. The books up on the bookshelf surely had something they could use to stop their nosy older sister.”
Tony pulled Jack closer then changed his voice a little try to make the characters come alive for Jack. For the next half hour, Tony read what he had written so far. When he got to the end, Jack tapped the page and looked up at Tony.
Tony laughed, then kissed Jack’s temple.
“Nope no more yet. So, tell me, Jack, did you like the story?”
“What, what are they going to do to sistah?”
“Don’t worry, Sister will be just fine, Jack. Don’t you worry.”
Jack looked at Tony with a furrowed expression that was an almost imitation of his father. Tony tried not to laugh at the overly serious look on the boy.
Jack looked skeptical, but he slid off Tony’s lap, and as soon as he did Shiny ran up to him and cuddled against his side.
“‘Kay.” Jack huffed then went off to play with Shiny on the enclosed patio. As soon as he was out of the room, but still in sight, Aaron leaned over and tugged on Tony till the two men were sprawled on the couch.
“It’s wonderful, Tone.” Aaron slipped a hand in Tony’s short dirty blond hair and pulled him down to where Aaron could kiss him. “I didn’t know you could draw that well.”
Tony blushed which made Aaron smile and gently rub his fingers along Tony’s jawline.
“It became an outlet. After Hawaii, and John getting custody of me till my Uncle Stephen could make arrangements, I needed something. I was lucky they encouraged me.
“You really think it’s good?”
“It’s wonderful. You should finish it and get it published.”
Tony laid down and buried his head against Aaron’s shoulder. Aaron’s arms came around Tony holding him close.
“There is so much I want to say, but I’m not quite there yet, but I think this is it for me, Aaron. You, Jack, even Jessica. You’ve given me so much these past few months.”
Aaron kissed Tony’s temple and held him closer.
“You’re it for me as well, Tony. I’m not quite ready, but I’m almost there, just give me some more time.”
“I can do that.”
The two men laid together, holding each other while they watched their son on the padded patio floor tumbling with Shiny. Aaron wasn’t going to bring it up yet that Tony was parenting Jack, he knew that might make the man pull away. But, in time Aaron would lay everything on the table telling Tony his feelings. But for now, he wouldn’t give up what they were for anything in the world.