Aaron set the last folder he had needed to look at in his outbox, it would be picked up with the rest of the pile to be taken to Strauss to look over. Aaron looked out to his team and wondered, not for the first time, how much they could handle. Spencer didn’t look as lost as he had after the run-in with Hankel. Aaron hoped that he had been at least a part of his healing. If it had been up to Gideon, Spencer would have floundered much longer than he did. The counseling he was going to, along with meetings helped.
“What has you so pensive?” Tony asked as he came into Aaron’s office.
“How far Spencer has come. I’m just glad you were there to help. I didn’t want to see his career end for something he couldn’t control.”
Tony moved towards Aaron and wrapped an arm around his waist.
“You are a good man, Aaron Hotchner. Now, come on let’s get you home.”
Aaron turned and not caring who saw, he kissed Tony right there in his office.
“Sounds good. You staying with us again?” If it were up to Aaron, he would want Tony there every night. It had been hard seeing him go home some nights, but they had still been so new. But the last few days, having Tony there every night was something Aaron loved, as did Jack.
Aaron finished cleaning up his desk before he grabbed his briefcase and was out the door. He was making a concerted effort to leave at a reasonable hour to get more time with his family.
Arriving home, Aaron was on alert as he set his briefcase down as quietly as possible. The house was overly quiet. Tony, he could feel next to him, was also on alert. Aaron walked towards the kitchen where he saw Jessica sipping some tea, but Jack was nowhere in sight.
“Jess?” Aaron frowned as he walked towards her. “Where’s Jack?”
“He’s in his room. He’s rather upset, Aaron and I don’t know how to console him.”
“What happened?” Aaron sat down, Tony sat on the other side of him.
“Jack was outside playing with Pretty and Shiny, that kitten is very smart, Aaron. She stays wherever Jack is usually. Today, she got curious and started playing in one of the bushes near the back fence. I heard a commotion, Pretty cried out and ran back into the house. Poor little thing was scared. I went to see what happened, and it was the darndest thing.
“Somehow a little hedgehog had gotten into our bushes.”
Aaron and Tony looked at each other for a second, then turned back to Jessica.
“I’m sorry, can you say that again?”
Jess smirked at them, stood up and beckoned them to follow. Curious both men followed her. Pointing to the cat carrier they had bought for Shiny, Aaron walked outside and stood there, stunned.
“Jack finally found Pretty under your bed, he coaxed her out. She had a little cut on her nose, and I think it was more from the bush than the hedgehog. But, now we have a problem.”
Aaron closed his eyes and waited for it.
“Jack wants to keep the little thing, and I know that hedgehogs are illegal in Virginia. I know there isn’t really a way for anyone to know you have one, but I also know that both of you being in the FBI you wouldn’t want even a hint of impropriety. I told him that we couldn’t keep it.”
Aaron had figured that’s what happened. He could admit that the little thing was cute, but like Jess has said, they couldn’t keep it. Not just the legality issues, but he wouldn’t put another care of a pet on Tony or Jessica without discussing it thoroughly with them.
“I’ll talk to him.”
“He’s been in his room all afternoon.”
“And, I’m going to run an errand. I’ll be back in about an hour.” Tony kissed Aaron’s cheek, then was out the door.
Aaron wondered what that was about, but would find out later, right now he had his son to console.
“Jack.” Aaron walked in and saw his son curled up on his bed with one of his picture books. He looked so sad it broke Aaron’s heart a little.
Aaron sat on the bed and pulled Jack onto his lap.
“I know it’s hard to understand, but the hedgehog isn’t ours to keep. She needs a place that will take care of her like she needs. I know she’s cute, and I know you want her, but don’t you think, for now, that Shiny and Pretty are enough?”
Jack was still pouting as he leaned against his father.
“But she’s a little baby.”
“I know. And we’ll find where she belongs. Okay?”
Sighing against his father’s chest, Jack reluctantly nodded.
Aaron stayed with Jack, reading to him and trying to comfort his son.
Tony was back in a little over an hour and came into Jack’s room holding something behind his back.
“I picked up some pizzas from Giorgio’s. And you know what is near there?” Tony asked as he kneeled next to Jack’s bed.
Jack pushed his lip out and frowned hard concentrating.
“Toy store!” Jack finally said as he sat up on Aaron’s lap.
“Yup. And they had something very special today.” Tony pulled what he was holding from behind his back and laid it in Jack’s lap.
“It’s so cute, Unca Tony.” Jack’s face lit up as he picked up the stuffed hedgehog and squished it against him in a hug.
“She’s all yours.”
Jack squealed and jumped off Aaron’s lap and ran out of the room. Aaron smiled softly as he looked down at Tony.
“Tony, that was sweet.”
Tony shrugged his shoulder as he stood. Aaron stood up with him and pulled him close.
“You are a wonderful man, Tony DiNozzo.”
Aaron kissed Tony and knew soon he would be ready to say those three little words.