Summary: "Waverly, Iowa, 1999, a man kills two boys, only to walk away free and kill another one."- Hotch, A Real Rain. Every agent has their own ghosts.
Disclaimers: I don't own Aaron Hotchner, Jason Gideon, David Rossi, or Derek Morgan. They belong to Eddie Bernero and Mark Gordon. But SSA Jenna Plancini, SSA Alex Sheridan, and the various denizens of my fictional version of Waverly, Iowa do belong to me.
Note: Waverly, Iowa does exist, and I have tried for accuracy in detail, but this version is fictional, and any resemblance to real people is purely coincidental. Especially since I have never been to Iowa.
Cookies: Much love to the TWoP CM thread, who inspired me to write this, and CharmedMummy, who is a fantastic Beta.
Rating: T, due to discussions of nasty case details.
Spoilers: 1.17, "A Real Rain" in particular, up to season 4 in background
The Good Boy
"The past is not dead. In fact, it's not even past."-William Faulkner
Clark Inn, St. Louis, Missouri, April 27th, 2001
God, I hate these swipecards. Give me a good old-fashioned skeleton key any day of the week.
Hotel technology would not normally engender such anger in Jason Gideon. But the day's events had produced no patience for anything, let alone recalcitrant inanimate objects. Better they bear the brunt of his frustration with this week's unsub, then some other more sentient being.
Every single lead, that their efforts and those of the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office had produced, steadfastly refused to pan out. Not a single one had proved useful, and it looked like it would be a long night trying to get two new inches off of Square One. Dinner before plunging back in would be essential. But after twenty minutes, the usually reliable Hotch had still not emerged from their room to join the rest of the team in the lobby.
Jason would almost have considered chewing him out, if he thought it would have done any good. The younger man had been oddly distracted this week. Nothing to the point of interfering with his work; the insights had come as quietly and as solidly as they usually did. And it would only be to those that knew him well that Aaron Hotchner appeared unusually quiet.
A satisfying beep finally emitted from the card scanner, and Gideon entered the room he and Hotch had been sharing.
The bed, unmade. A file folder empty, its contents spread out, almost viciously, across the floor. Hotch's go bag, unzipped and rifled through. The hotel phone off the hook. Something was wrong.
"Hotch? Are you in here?"
What was that sound? The shower. Why shower right now? After nearly three years of working with the man, and as many rooming with him in myriad hotel rooms of varying quality, Jason knew Hotch's routine. And this was not it.
"Hotch, what the hell are you doing in the shower? We're supposed to meet the rest of the team for dinner…well, now."
"Hotch, are you all right?"
"Hotch, I'm going to open the bathroom door now, okay?"
Gideon gently eased the bathroom door open.
The steam of a long, hot shower filled the bathroom, but through it Jason could see a tall figure, sitting in the stall.
It was Hotch, still in suit jacket and slacks, soaking under the spray of the showerhead.
Gideon opened the glass door, turned off the shower, and knelt down gently in front of his friend, until the two of them were each at eye level. "Aaron. Aaron, look at me, please."
Two dark eyes slowly returned his gaze, and Gideon almost flinched at the abyss of sorrow he saw there.
"Do you know where you are?"
"Are you hurt? Are you sick?"
"Why are you in the shower?"
Confusion now. "I…I don't know."
A blackout? A stroke? Gideon's mind spun frightening scenarios, and his hand rested on his cell phone, Jenna's number on the second speed dial.
"Aaron, please, let me help. What happened?"
Hotch looked down again. And when he replied, it was not as much a word as a sob.