Disclaimer: I do not own Criminal Minds and intend no copyright infringement

Hotchner later hardly remembered anything that was said at the hearing. Prentiss did the talking. In the end they were both reprimanded, but nothing serious came out of it. As they exited the room, Reid was waiting for them and led them to the BAU's conference room, where Morgan, JJ, Garcia, Rossi and DI Kapoor were already gathered. Nobody said a word. The Unit Chief sat down and waited. His complexion was white as a ghost's but he was more composed than a few hours ago. He sensed that something bad was coming, but at least it would be the truth.

Finally Rossi broke the silence and recounted to him what had happened in that fateful night four weeks ago. JJ had volunteered to do that, but he had insisted on telling Hotch himself. "I suggested everything in the first place", he had told her. "So it's my responsibility to bear the consequences."

At this, JJ had touched his hand. "We're in this together. Hotch is our friend, not yours alone. We all decided to protect him. It didn't work, but at least we tried and that's to your credit."

After Rossi had finished, the Unit Chief was so outraged, he wasn't even able to look at his friends. "DI Kapoor, you have every right to arrest me", he stated firmly.

Ishika shook her head. "No, I won't", she said. "Your friends tried to find proof that you were right killing Brown. Garcia searched everywhere for homicides where ex-husbands or ex-boyfriends of the victims had been warned beforehand, but she came up with nothing. During my investigation, I compiled a list of all things Brown had bought in the month before his death. Don't ask me why I did that… it included an awful lot of legwork. I think I wanted some solid results because all the interviews I did with certain FBI agents led to nothing. It's plain hell, interrogating people who are experts at interrogating." She winked at Rossi. "The list bugged me somehow, but I couldn't quite grip it. Only when Agent Jareau told me how you explained your deed, it all made sense."

"The list contained three unusual items", Reid picked up. "A piano string, dry ice and a set of fishhooks. Brown neither owned a piano nor did he go fishing."

"We entered the terms into various search engines and came up with three unsolved murder cases in Europe where the victims had been tortured with these things", Garcia continued.

"DI Kapoor sent the investigating police officers in the European cases to question the victim's ex-partners if they had been warned beforehand that something would happen to their once-beloved. As it turned out, they had. Two had actually tried to persuade their former partners to be careful with their new lover, but no one believed them. And after the crime was committed, they didn't come forward because they feared the reaction of the press and their families. George Brown always used false names and had the means to disappear fast, so there was no chance to find him", Morgan added.

"You were right to shoot him", Prentiss emphasized. "Brown was a serial killer."

"You had no other way to protect Haley", JJ stressed.

"Without DI Kapoor, we wouldn't have figured this out, Aaron", Rossi said. "And she would have never put the list together if we hadn't let her run into one wall after another."

"If you decide to come forward now, you'll drag every single member of your team down", Ishika Kapoor stated flatly. "They all broke the law to protect you."

Hotchner nodded slowly. "I won't", he said. "I won't tell anyone." Was he relieved or grateful? He wasn't quite sure. His mind told him to be angry with his inferiors because they had broken practically every rule they had ever followed. But deep inside he knew they had done this out of love for him. This knowledge didn't only heal a lot – it also made forgiveness possible.

"What are you going to tell MP Brown?", Rossi asked as he escorted DI Kapoor to the elevator.

"The truth", Ishika replied, "I'm going to start with informing her that I've got evidence that her son was a serial killer. Do you think she'll insist on hearing the rest?"

Several hours later, alone in his office, Hotchner slowly dialed a telephone number. He listened to the free line signal for a while. Just when he finally wanted to put the phone down, someone answered the call. "Elle Greenway", a familiar voice said.