Title: Confession is good for the soul
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Characters/Pairing: Hotch/Morgan (pre-slash)
Spoiler: Take place just after Profiler Profiled, so up to this episode.
Summary: Hotch wants to make things right with Morgan after Chicago and their discussion leads to Hotch making a confession of his own.
Disclaimer: The characters and settings are not mine but the property of their creators.
Confession is good for the soul
Hotch wasn't sure he was doing the right thing by showing up there. He knew that Morgan wasn't exactly pleased with him at the moment and that another intrusion in his private life probably wasn't going to help the matter any, but he just couldn't let it go. It wouldn't be good for the team to have two members barely speaking to each other – well, Morgan barely speaking to Hotch, really, because it wouldn't be the same the other way around. However, he knew he was also doing it for himself. His team was his family and Morgan being mad at him was tearing him apart. Haley had seen it.
When they had gotten back from Chicago – without Morgan, who had decided to stay a few more days with his mother and sisters – he had gone home almost immediately. After all, he hadn't planned to get out of state when he had gotten to the office the day they had been called and he hadn't wanted Haley mad at him. Thankfully, she had understood, mainly because it had been Morgan who had been framed and Haley actually liked Morgan. Still, he had known it was better for him to go home as soon as he had been back in Virginia.
Haley had still been awake when he had gotten home, waiting for him in the leaving room. Jack had already been asleep for a few hours and they had both gone to see him, watching him sleep for a few seconds, before going to bed. He had tried to act normally, really tried, but, of course, Haley had known him for years – she had been his high school sweetheart after all – and she had immediately sensed something had been wrong.
In the beginning, he had refused to say anything but, this time, the evasive method hadn't worked and had been forced to tell her everything. Well, not everything because he wasn't going to betray Morgan once again by telling her of his past, but he had told her that he had been forced to dig into his agent's past to discover things that Morgan hadn't wanted him to know and that the black man hadn't taken it well at all. Hell, in the state things had been when he had left Chicago, Hotch hadn't thought that Morgan would want to speak to him ever again, at least not about anything that didn't partake to any case they were working on.
Haley had seen how much it seemed to hurt her husband that a member of this team would think about him with betrayal and she had come to realize, once again, how much his team mattered to Aaron. Of course, she had always knew they mattered, it showed whenever he talked about them, whenever he had to take care of one of them even if it meant spending less time with her and Jack, but seeing the utter defeat in her husband's eyes for having to betray Morgan's trust in him to be able to save him had made her realize the real extend of these feelings and she had found herself completely speechless for a moment.
Then the sensible part of her had gotten back in the driver seat and she had done her best to advise Aaron. She didn't know Morgan all that well, she had had to admit it, but she did know him a little and did know stubborn men in general – she had quite a specimen at home with her – and had talked gently to him, telling him that it was probably less critical that he had been imagining it and that the moment he had last talked to Morgan was just after whatever happened happened so, maybe, it had been just a little too sore still and that it had been the reason the situation had seemed so desperate.
Then, she had proceeded to tell him that the one way she thought was going to arrange the matter was to go and talk to him. When he had told her he had been planning on calling Morgan in his office to talk about it as soon as he was back to work, she had shaken her head.
"Aaron, if you do that, it won't help anything. Back at work, you're his boss, you've the authority and he doesn't really have any choice but to obey. You're not equals, no matter what your opinion may be. If you really want to have an honest conversation, go see him at home to talk to him as a friend. And for god's sack, not in one of your suits!"
He had, of course, realized that she was right and had therefore headed her advice. So he had waited for the moment he knew Morgan would be back home, before he went back to work, and now, there he was, stressing out as he was walking the last few steps that still separated him from Morgan's front door.
Great, he could go and raid a suspect home without breaking a sweat but he was all but panicking at the idea of ringing Morgan's bell. God, he was pathetic. Eventually, he acted and waited for his subordinate to open his door, which happened surprisingly promptly.
Hotch had no problem seeing the surprise in Morgan's eyes when he saw who was on his doorstep and it wasn't a good surprise either, apparently. He seemed on the verge of closing the door in his boss' face, if it hadn't been for the fact that it would have very probably brought his career to an end. He felt a pang in his heart at seeing that; he hated the fact that Morgan was so mad at him, more than he should have maybe.
"Hey, Morgan," he said when it became clear that the black man wasn't going to say anything to him. "Can I come in?"
His tone was hesitant when he asked because he was afraid of a negative answer; what could he do if Morgan refused to let him in? Quite frankly, Derek was very tempted to say so but the hesitant, almost shy, demeanor and voice of his boss was the one thing that prevented him from doing as much. Hotch was never hesitant.
He stepped back and let his visitor in, closing the door behind him. Truth was that even though he was still mad, he had calmed down quite a bit since Chicago and was sure he could manage to be civil, even if he had to admit he wasn't very happy to have his boss in his personal space once again after having been profiled by him.
Morgan turned around to face Hotch again and asked him coolly why exactly he was there, when he had made it painfully clear he hadn't wanted to see him outside work. Of course, he didn't add the last part out loud but he was more than sure Hotch didn't have any trouble understanding its presence, left unsaid.
"Look, I know I'm the last person you want to see," Hotch began and couldn't prevent his heart from breaking a little more when Morgan made no attempt at denying it. "But I… I just needed to know if we were okay?"
Deep down, Hotch already knew that the answer to his question was a no. That didn't prevent him from hoping he was wrong, from hoping Morgan was going to say that he was forgiven.
"Okay? No, Hotch! We're not okay. How can we be okay after you spent hours on end looking into my life, looking for every single little things. You had no right opening that record, it had been sealed and was supposed to stay like that. And I told you, I told you time and time again I didn't want you looking into my past, there were things I never wanted to show up in my present. Now, everything has been said, you know everything, but it was never my choice to tell you these things. Don't you think it should have been my decision?"
Hotch knew it should have been but he also knew he had made the right decision in the end. He couldn't have left Morgan take the fall for three murder he was sure he hadn't committed and he couldn't let him accuse a chief of gang when there was no actual proof it was him. He wouldn't have allowed an innocent man to be judged and found guilty of something he didn't do. That didn't mean he was happy that he had had to go looking through Morgan's personal life when it was more than clear that the black man didn't want him looking there.
"I just wanted to get you out of there," Hotch tried to defend himself, knowing full well it wouldn't change a damn thing for Morgan. Still, he had to try because he had to try this friendship; it meant too much for him not to fight. "The only way I could do it was to see who would want to see you take the fall for it, who would have any interest in framing you for these murders. You know that."
He knew he was almost pleading but he really didn't care anymore. He just wanted Morgan to see he had had nothing but his best interests at heart, no matter how it may have seemed. Maybe, then, the black man would forgive him?
"It doesn't matter. I didn't want anyone to know about that. Do you know what I've been through?" Morgan yelled and Hotch almost winced at the anger he could hear behind the words.
He just shook his head and looked down at the carpet that covered the living room, where they were standing still. He briefly wondered where was Clooney when he saw a few canine hairs, but it was a fleeting thought that flew away as soon as he realized that Morgan's question hadn't been rhetorical at all but that he had to answer.
"No," he admitted. "I've never been sexually abused."
He could say it, contrary to Morgan who was still talking about 'that', without behind able to put it into words. Of course, he hadn't lived through it so it was easier, even though Morgan was someone he knew and he would have done everything he could to take away the pain, take away the memories, to prevent him from ever knowing what it felt like to be a victim.
"Sexually abused?" Morgan repeated, the words sounding strange in his own voice. "Why did you precise that? Why not just saying you have never been abused?"
The tone of the question let Hotch know that Morgan didn't have a clue and thought he was trying to get him to admit, to say it out loud, by putting a name on what he had lived through. But he wasn't and, at the moment, Hotch couldn't answer by anything but the whole truth.
"Because you deserve better than a lie," he told him flatly, finally looking at Morgan in the eyes.
He saw the black man swallow compulsively , the weight of Hotch's admission getting to him, and his breath hitched. Hotch had to look away first because he couldn't stand the look he was getting from Morgan, who seemed to have been slapped.
Their encounter wasn't going at all like he had planned, Hotch thought idly. It was supposed to be all about Morgan, about getting the man to forgive him for what he had had to do, but he wasn't supposed to talk about himself, not supposed to let Morgan see his weakness. He was supposed-
"Hotch? What? But…," Morgan interrupted his train of thoughts by stammering through a few questions, none of them actually finished.
"Please, Morgan, I just need to know if we're going to be alright?" Hotch outright pleaded this time around, employing the future tense because he knew that Morgan wasn't ready to forgive him anytime soon but he at least would like a hope that everything would go back as it had been in the future.
Morgan shook his head softly, and then saw the utter despair in Hotch's eyes and realized how his gesture could be interpreted and swore to himself.
"Hotch, wait, stop!" he said when he saw his boss getting ready to turn and leave the place. "I didn't meant in like that. It wasn't the answer to the question. I.... Of course we're going to be alright."
Hotch nearly sighed out loud. He knew it was far from won but at least Morgan wasn't completely dismissing the possibility of them regaining their friendship and was even very optimistic about it so it was a good step in the right direction. He let a little smile grace his lips and listened to Morgan as the man started talking again.
"I was just trying to get my wits back. Talk about dropping a bomb," Morgan said and Hotch knew he was talking about what little he had just revealed about his own past. "Come one, Hotch, sit down," he said, indicating the couch. "We're going to talk."
"There is nothing to talk about," Hotch said but still did what Morgan asked and waited for him to sit down beside him.
"Oh, no! You didn't let me run from my past, I'm not letting you run from yours," Morgan stated.
The words may have seemed to mean an eye for an eye, Morgan's tone of voice and body language belied the black man worry and Hotch had no problem seeing that his subordinate was concerned about him and he didn't know why. His past was actually in the past and nothing was threatening to bring it back up, except from himself apparently. He didn't know why he had actually told Morgan about that but it was already way too late to go back now.
"Who hurt you, Hotch?" Morgan asked gently, a far cry from the beginning of their conversation.
He may still have been mad at Hotch, the worry for his friend and the will to know who was the demon in Aaron's past and make sure he pay dearly for it was greater and took over the anger he was feeling at the moment.
Hotch let his eyes fall on the floor again, his hands carefully folded on his knees. He hesitated for a while, not wanting to say anything more about what had happened to him to someone who had to look up to him in the field, someone who had to know he could rely on his and therefore be strong to keep the team together, but the gently voice and his own desire to finally tell someone – anyone – who would actually believe him instead of berating him for being a liar was far too compelling and he confessed in a whisper.
"My father," he admitted so softly Morgan had to listen carefully to understand.
Once he did, though, he frowned before he distinctly remembered Hotch talking about his father with his brother and from what he had heard, he seemed to like the man just fine and had a great deal of respect for him. So what was all that about?
"Your father? But when you talked about him…"
"Sean doesn't know anything. He was very young when dad died and mom has been able to shield him from dad so he have never been hurt. He remembers dad as a nice, caring father and I don't want to tell him otherwise. He doesn't need to know the truth."
"So you pretend…" Morgan let his voice trailed down. "God, Aaron."
It wasn't a very common occurrence for Morgan to use his first name to address his boss but that particular moment required more intimacy that what could be brought by using the nickname they all did at work. No, this was nothing related to work, nothing except a friend confiding in another friend.
Hotch shrugged, as if to say that it didn't matter anymore, when it did. But he couldn't let it be shown because he still had a work to do and he couldn't afford any weakness when he was in the field. Acknowledging that he was letting something from when he was a kid bother him wasn't exactly what he needed so he pretended everything was alright. It was so much easier, except when they were cases like Dowd or Perotta that, each in their own way, reminded him of his childhood.
He didn't realize that he had spaced out until he felt Morgan's hand on his arm and he turned to him. He felt more tired than ever and he knew that the whispered confession about what happened had opened a dam he didn't know how to close, didn't want to even close it because he had never told anyone since that fateful day his mother backed his father up in saying that it was bully and not him that had hurt Aaron, no matter what he was saying. But he couldn't talk to Morgan, not after what the other man had just been though. It was not right, and he didn't know what to do anymore. He had no idea.
Morgan saw so many emotion pass in his boss' eyes that he had no trouble understanding what the problem was and when Hotch looked at him, looking all too much like a lost little boy, the lost little boy he had to have been when his father decided to hurt him for the first time, he made the decision for him.
"Tell me about it," he ordered gently but in a way that would let Hotch know he had no choice but tell him the truth.
And Hotch told him, he told him about how it began, about all the abuses he had suffered through the years. He told him how he had tried to tell someone, only to have his parents a front against him and Morgan just wanted to hurt the woman Hotch described in his tale because what mother prevented her child from getting the help he so desperately needed? What woman helped a monster continue to torture her own son just to prevent, what? Their name being dragged through the mud? There was no name to describe such a person.
All the abuses had finally ceased the day where Hotchner Senor had died but what had been done had been done and Morgan knew it was something that Hotch would never forget, like he himself would never forget about Carl Buford, the man who had abused him and taken away his innocence. They were both marked for life but he knew it was also what they had suffered that made them who they were today.
"Who knows about that, Aaron?" Morgan asked.
"My mother," came the whispered reply and Morgan instantly knew that no one else had ever been the recipient of such a confession from Hotch.
"Fuck!" Morgan exclaimed before throwing all the rest of his anger to the wind and attracting Hotch to him in what he thought would be a one-sided hug.
Hotch surprised him by putting his own arms around Derek and resting his chin on his shoulder.
"I came here to make you feel better, not end up crying on your shoulder," he said with a strangled laugh before hiding his face in Morgan's shoulder.
"You're not crying," Morgan answered spontaneously and tightened his arms around his boss. "And you're allowed to show some feelings from time to time, even to us."
He released Hotch and kept his hands on his arm while looking at him.
"And you did make me feel better. You made me realize that I wasn't the only one whose past was colored with demons and that, sometimes, it's better if they are out in the open, at least out to some people. You needed to tell someone as much as I did. We've just never been all that good at doing what we needed if no one is there to force us. Thanks, Hotch."
Hotch let out a laugh, more sincere this time around, and agreed that neither of them was exactly good at opening up. It was the whole man thing, probably, and the fact they both needed to pretend to be in control all the time, him more than Morgan he had to admit.
"I'm just glad we're okay," Hotch admitted, even if he had had to confess his own past wounds to Morgan in the process.
Quid pro quo, after all. In the end, it didn't matter because he knew his secret was safe with Morgan and he actually felt better after having told someone everything he had kept hidden for so many years. He had been forced to carry the weight of this secret alone for way too long.
Eventually, after a moment of silence, he got up, knowing that staying any longer would be overstaying his welcome. Plus, he had to go back to Haley, even though he had to admit it wasn't what appealed to him the most.
Morgan followed suit and walked him to the door. He was going to let his boss go without saying anything more but, when he saw Hotch on the verge of leaving, he spoke up, not being able to resist asking a question he needed an answer for.
"Hotch, why did you come here today?" he asked and Hotch frowned.
"Because I wanted to make things right," he answered as it was the most obvious thing in the world, which it admittedly was.
Morgan shook his head. Of course, he knew that. But they had to be more.
"You weren't so desperate to try with Gideon after New York. You could have waited for me to go back to the office. What was different?"
The black man hoped he was right, even though he knew it couldn't lead anywhere, not at the moment anyway.
Hotch looked at him, almost pleading him to take the question back, but when it didn't happen, he just had to answer because he had to admit the truth to himself, to Morgan, even though he didn't want to, not when his wife was waiting for him with their son, at home, after doing her best to help him mend fences with Morgan. God, that wasn't fair to her, not fair at all.
"I can't Morgan, you know I can't."
And like this, Morgan knew he was right and smiled, because it was good to know that. He nodded though, because he knew that what Hotch was saying was truth, but he also know it didn't have to be forever so, so why not tell Hotch that?
"I know. But if one day you can, I'll be waiting," he said before saying his goodbye and closing the door behind Hotch, giving him a look in which the older profiler could easily read his honesty.
Hotch just stayed still for a moment, processing what Morgan had just told him and, despite himself, he felt happy to know it, even knowing he shouldn't, knowing it was wrong and that he had to hope that the day where he could admit everything would never happen… but knowing inside himself that he did hope one day he could go to Morgan and tell him the truth.