Summary: Five times when Aaron Hotchner found a way to let it go, and one time when he didn't.
Disclaimer: Except for Det. Sheftkowitz, I own none and no part of these characters.
Credit: The lyrics below belong to the "Man " himself, Johnny Cash, from "Man In Black" and I only borrow them to honor them.
Spoilers: Up to 4.18, "Omnivore"; specific for "Omnivore", 2.22, "Legacy", and 4.01, "Mayhem." One mid-sized reference to a story of mine, "I Watched", which you should all go read. And a sideways reference to NCIS.
Note: This is me on a personal challenge, trying something a little different, and it might not work. I wanted to write a Five Times…fic. But also a song fic to "Man in Black". And also a post-ep to the awesome episode "Omnivore." (And even write from JJ, Morgan, and Reid's PsOV, which I've never done before.) I decided to do it all in one fic, so bear with me.
Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,
Why you never see bright colors on my back
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone
Well, there's a reason for the things that I have on.
"HEY! Hotchner! You got a phone call. Some doofus who says he's your brother."
"Oh, that particular doofus. Hand it over... Come on, Jeremy…seriously, dude, I will tackle you for it…Hi doofus."
"Hey, Sean. I appreciate the effort. But don't break your phone on my behalf. You are just a penniless college student, after all."
"Bite your tongue on that penniless stuff. You'll ruin my reputation for the weekly dorm poker games, and then I really will be penniless."
"Oh, I wouldn't want that."
"Right, seeing as you did teach me to play 'the evil game.' "
"Now you bite your tongue. I taught you on pain of secrecy."
"Ooh, does young Haley know how talented a degenerate you really are?"
"I know that pause. That was a trademark Aaron Hotchner pause. When you play, you let her win, don't you?"
" Hah, new blackmail material. What about those new colleagues of yours up at Quan-ti-co? Maybe they should be advised of their newbie's poker prowess."
"None of them are big poker players."
"Oh, not even that Gideon guy? He's got one of the best poker faces I've ever seen. "
"He prefers chess."
"Ah. That makes a certain amount of sense."
"You know why I called."
"Aaron. The answer is still no."
"She really wants to see you."
"Mom never wants to just "see you." She wants to appraise you, wants to bring you in and observe you, tell you exactly what you're doing wrong with your life, break you down and look at the component parts. I've been at 19 family Christmases, Aaron, trust me, I know. And anyway, I'm going to Rhode Island."
"With Olivia's family?"
"Yes. Why are you two going, anyway? I'm sure Haley's crowd over in Front Royal would love to see the two of you."
"I'm going because she asked."
"And because she's all alone at this time of year, now that Dad's gone, and she wants to see her beloved sons, and because Aaron Hotchner is a big goddamn pussy who could never resist a maternal guilt trip."
"Sean, stop it."
"Why won't you cut the cord, Aaron? Why? I don't understand the affection you have for the woman! You don't think I remember that you protected me? That you were my human shield? That you got off way worse than I ever did-"
"Merry Christmas, Aaron."
We're doin' mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin' cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there oughta be a Man In Black.
"Oh, man, Hotch, Gideon, we're out of popcorn."
"That's because you threw so much of it at the screen, Morgan!"
"Hey, that amount was negligible compared to the popcorn that String Bean over there vacuumed up."
"Yeah, where do you put it all, Reid? A hollow leg?"
"I just so happen to have a very fast metabolism."
"I think I have some more back in the kitchenette…"
"Never mind, I'll go get it."
"THANK YOU, HOTCH."
"Just yell when it gets to the barroom scene."
"…Any of them."
JJ looked up, around 15 minutes later, and realized that they lacked both popcorn, and a Unit Chief.
Derek Morgan had noticed it too: "Hey, Hotch has been a while with the grub, what gives?"
"Yeah, should we send a search party?"
"With sled dogs?"
Much as she hated to miss the triple act of Morgan, Prentiss and Reid in a mood like this, JJ knew her boss pretty well, and had a pretty good idea where he was.
"No problem, I'll go find him and bring him back. One of Strauss's lackeys must have latched on to him and delayed him with paperwork."
Damn Gideon. As well as JJ had figured out Hotch, Gideon knew him even better. The normally inscrutable dark eyes locked with hers, and he nodded. She nodded back.
JJ made her way towards the opposite end of the bullpen, and Hotch's office. Before she could even look inside, she heard the signature parts of an unpleasant conversation that Hotch had had many times. A few versions she had even been in on, but she was glad to have escaped this one.
"Yes, ma'am. Yes. Yes, I understand. He crossed the line from Missouri into Kansas, so it was…Yes, ma'am, I realize that. I did think that I had an understanding with Captain…ah. I see. I see. I'll remember that in future…We did good work out there. I know. I know. Thank you, ma'am. All right."
Hotch hung up the phone. He took a breath, and for a moment, he seemed to compress.
"JJ? …How long have you been standing there?"
"Never mind that, just the usual."
"It didn't sound so usual."
"Actually, I have those conversations with Strauss quite a lot. I'm just usually better at hiding them."
"Well, this time, it deprived Derek Morgan of popcorn, so that might be a mistake you want to avoid in the future."
Hotch smiled. "I will remember that."
There was silence, and JJ decided to jump into the breach, for once: "They're happening more often, though, right?"
"Those conversations. With Strauss. "
The smile disappeared. "JJ, you shouldn't worry about that."
"I brought us in on this one."
"You bring us in on everything, JJ, that's your job."
"No, I mean, I brought us in on this one. I knew there could be problems with the Kansas City brass, and I brought us in anyway."
"JJ, you remember what I said on the way out there."
"It's no less true now than it was then. Don't start second-guessing yourself. I need you trusting your own judgment. Let me worry about the small stuff. I need you all on the big picture."
"The big picture?"
"That we saved a life this week, and probably dozens more besides. McGee saw the big picture. Not just the cracks, but the people who had fallen into them. If he hadn't, Holcombe would have gone on for months, maybe years."
JJ knew he was right, but putting it like that struck her aback. "Years?"
"Do you ever wonder how many serial killers there are, like Charles Holcombe, who we never catch? That we never even realize are out there, because no one sees the patterns?"
"JJ, if we did that, it would paralyze us. We'd be McGee times a thousand, seeing patterns everywhere."
"But you've never wondered, just for a second?"
"No, JJ, I haven't."
Said in a pleading tone that she had never heard from him before.
An unspoken request for her to not push any farther than where she was right now.
So she didn't say anything at all.
God bless Derek Morgan's innate sense of timing.
"Hate to barge in, you guys, but the natives are getting restless back there."
Hotch sprang to life again: "Popcorn?"
I wear it for the sick and lonely old,
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold,
I wear the black in mourning for the lives that could have been,
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.
He had been in Minneapolis more years then he felt like counting at the moment. And a member of the Minnapolis PD for nearly as long. But at heart, Det. Robert Sheftkowitz had never managed to escape the small boy from Tonka Bay, who cried when he found the dead squirrel on the edge of the pond, and buried it under the biggest tree in the apple orchard.
That boy was deep, deep inside, now. Right now, he was focused on the suspect coming in from downtown. Focused on the fact that finally, they might catch the killer who had been kidnapping young men in his district. Kidnapping them, carving them carefully, and dumping them in the shallows of Lake Harriet.
He had been at his wits' end a month ago, when Captain DiGaetano had given him the number of JJ Jarreau at the FBI. Liason for the Behavioral Analysis Unit. It had been a tough month, but now it looked like Agent Hotchner and his team had brought them a break in the case. They had spread their net out to several locations, and Agents Rossi and Morgan had struck pay dirt.
His radio chirped. "We're coming up now. Over." As the voice died down, the tall inscrutable G-Man came up beside him.
"They're telling me that Segel is irritable and hostile. You have a way you want to go with this?"
Sheftkowitz looked up, surprised. He hadn't met many FBI agents in his life, but the few encounters had not involved asking. They had mostly involved telling, as in "This is how we're going to do it, follow my lead." Hotchner, on the other hand, had been incredibly cooperative, almost deferent.
The other man must have noted the detective's surprise, and went on. "We may be the profilers, but you've been on this case for 8 months, and you know him as well or better than we do."
"He's been leaving those goddamn pieces of string around their necks, taunting us for months."
"Yeah. He wants us to think he's confident, Jack the Ripper type. But the first victim, Jerry Yanek- he left him a mess, didn't know what he wanted to do. And he's been switching his dump sites. I think…inside, he's scared. He's freaking out. And we can use that."
Hotchner…didn't smile exactly, but he looked pleased. "That was my thought too."
Suddenly, noise came from the other end of the room, from the elevator as it opened to the floor of the Minneapolis Homicide unit. Sheftkowitz and Hotchner raced with the rest of the force as the elevator's contents became visible. David Rossi and Derek Morgan, wrestling with Mark Segel, as he writhed against forces none of the rest of them could see,
"Can we get a little help here?" "Dave, grab his arm, grab his arm." "NONONONONO STOP THEY'LL KILL ME NO GET HIM I WON'T STOP STOP IT."
By some miracle of coincidence, a bus had just come in downstairs, and two paramedics raced in, with Ativan ready from their kits. As the drugs raced through his system, Segel slumped against the restraining arms of the BAU agents.
The booming tones of Captain DiGaetano echoed over the fray. "Someone get him restrained in Interrogation Three! And Anna, get me the St. Mary's psych unit on the phone. We've got one for 'em."
Shocked, and drained, Det. Sheftkowitz sat down in his chair. Hotchner sat down next to him, and the detective could feel his steady gaze.
Finally, he said what was on his mind: "Is he a schizo, or something?"
"I'm not a doctor."
"But you've seen enough of these guys, so tell me."
"From what I've seen…it looks like he's in the throes of a psychotic break, yes."
"He wasn't taunting us?"
"I don't know what the signature means, now. It may have been some bit of lucidity. But we were right about one thing: he was scared. Whatever is left in him of the original Mark Segel is terrified."
The detective slumped against his chair. "So, they're going to find him not guilty."
"We don't know that."
"Oh, stop it, Hotchner, of course they will. That was no criminal mastermind I saw there. That was a pathetic shell of a man. Helpless against the voices in his head."
"Some of them… god, they weren't even out of high school, they were teenagers. I chased this guy, I thought I knew him, but I didn't see it. I didn't see him at all."
"He's in custody, he's not going to hurt anyone any more."
"Can I ask you something, Agent Hotchner?"
"Cases like this….you've seen a lot of them."
"A decent number, yes."
"Who do you blame? Who pays for the havoc of a Mark Segel?"
"No one. You can't think of it like that. Not in blame, or payment, or…" Hotchner trailed off.
"Or you risk becoming like them."
"I guess I should go in there, see if he can talk at all."
"I'll come with you."
I wear it for the thousands who have died
Believing that the Lord was on their side,
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,
Believing that we all were on their side.
They had just left Wilmington, when Derek Morgan looked over to the passenger seat of the New York office's SUV. Hotch had been incredibly quiet since round about I-76 in Philadelphia, his head leaned against the window, his eyes closed. Morgan restrained the strong urge to poke his Unit Chief with a stick. Make sure he was still in the land of the living. Fortunately for both of them, he didn't have a stick handy.
"Morgan, either stop staring at me, or say something." Eyes still closed, mouth moving as little as possible.
"Yes. What do you want?"
"Nothing. Though I am on pain of torture to get you back to the office in one piece."
"JJ or Garcia?"
"Morgan, I'm fine, keep your eyes on the road."
"Yes, sir, eyes on the road, sir."
Hotch heaved a put-upon sigh, but Morgan could see him smirking a tiny bit.
"You know, I know a lot of actual drill-sergeants, and you all get off light in comparison."
"Well, one, actually."
"Hah. I know the one that you know, and according to my sources, he's really not all that bad."
"I'll have to tell Special Agent Gibbs that he's slipping, then."
"Aw hell, Tony's going to kill me, isn't he?"
"Yes, he is."
They both smiled, and Morgan did keep his eyes on the road.
"Garcia means well, you know."
"You don't have to tell me that."
"So do I, for that matter."
Hotch raised his head at that, and Morgan almost recoiled. The air of exasperation was thick between them.
"Morgan, we had this conversation, we really don't need to have it again."
That was that, and Morgan knew what Hotch thought he was referring to. But the statement wasn't quite true.
"It's not done."
Hotch looked like he wanted to object, but he didn't.
"No, it's not. But it's up to the New York office now. "
" Where are the rest of them? What did they want?"
"You know as well as any of us. You talked to Sam, what did he tell you?"
"All gibberish. Light and dark, that they were the righteous and we would lose. That sort of crap."
"The certainty of belief."
"We didn't stop them. We just…I don't know, contained them for now."
"It's frustrating. They'll be back."
Hotch caught Morgan's eye, and Morgan was startled at the cold fire he saw in his boss's gaze.
"Yes, they will. And when we do, we'll stop them."
There's things that never will be right I know,
And things need changin' everywhere you go,
But 'til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
You'll never see me wear a suit of white.
Emily Prentiss's voice retrieved Spencer Reid from the reverie that he had been in.
"It's your move. I don't relish drawing out your kicking my ass at chess any longer than necessary."
"That is wise of you, young one."
"Reid, what did I say last time?"
"That if I started doing the Yoda voice again when we played chess. you would beat me over the head with the board?"
Reid looked back down at the board, only devoting his peripheral vision to the conversation going on at the other end of the plane. Hotch had a very familiar expression on his face. Even if Reid hadn't been secretly talented at reading lips, he could have predicted that his boss was counseling Morgan to "find a way to let it go", to move on from the psychic violation inflicted upon him by George Foyet.
He settled on moving his knight, and looked up. To now find his other teammate engrossed in Hotch and Morgan's conversation.
"Not nice to spy, Emily."
Prentiss looked back at the quiet, but not unkind, admonition.
"Yeah. Reid, can I ask you something?"
"Boston. The first time, with Gideon. And afterwards. How bad was it?"
Reid was not fond of those memories, but decided that Prentiss deserved to know.
"Pretty bad. Gideon tried to stay at work for the first few weeks. But then, he just, kind of …shut down. Retreated inwards. Hotch tried to help; we all tried to help. But it didn't really work."
"And you couldn't blame him."
"Of course. No one did. He just kind of..," Spencer's voice caught, but he continued. "Slipped away. We came in one morning, and his office was cleaned out, and Hotch told us he was on 'extended medical leave'."
"But he came back."
"Eventually. For a while. I don't know, maybe he was just waiting the whole time for the other shoe to drop."
"I…can we maybe, not, talk about this anymore?"
"Okay." But she glanced backwards again. Hotch had moved from the seat opposite Morgan, and was sitting alone. With, surprise surprise, paperwork.
Reid knew what she was thinking, and cut it off at the pass. "This time is different. First, we caught the guy, and secondly, Hotch is most definitely not Jason Gideon."
Emily leaned over, and whispered, "I don't know. He steamrolled the BPD- he pissed off JJ, for God's sake."
" And Foyet's now snugly locked up in cell 5, South Wing Section B of the East Woburn Correctional Facility."
"You seriously memorized his cell number?"
"Of course. But my point is, Hotch has been there, done that, bought the t-shirt."
"Morgan taught you that expression?"
"….okay, you're right."
"Of course I'm right. Now move your rook so I can put you into check."
"How the hell do you always do that?!?
Ah, I'd love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything's OK,
But I'll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
'Till things are brighter, I'm the Man In Black.
After the news of Foyet's escape, and the chaos that had followed. David Rossi had been occupied for many other things for a while. However, when he had a chance to breathe, he realized something.
He had forgotten his coffee cup in Hotch's office. And he was very fond of that particular coffee cup, too.
As he entered Hotch's inner sanctum, he spotted the coffee cup first. Sitting next to Hotch's Atlanta SWAT mug, right where he left it. But the mug was minus its owner, and Dave looked over to the window. Hotch was standing next to it. Arms crossed, his broad frame collapsing in upon himself, like he had in that dank Boston alley.
Hotch jumped about an inch, and then turned and faced Rossi.
"I'm fine. You don't need to go whipping out your gun again."
"Wouldn't dream of it. That move only works once, anyway."
"Good to know."
"What did Riley say on the phone?"
"That they've got a lot of leads. But nothing's panned out yet. That he thinks Foyet's laid plans, plans within plans, back-up plans. That he knows Metro Boston like the back of his hand."
Hotch's tone was that studied and careful tone that he always used in times like this. After watching it for a year or two, Rossi had noted that whenever Hotch did it, Morgan, Prentiss, JJ and Reid always seemed a degree or two calmer, even in the most chaotic of situations.
None of the rest of the team was there, though. Rossi decided that Hotch must be doing it as much for himself as for them.
"We'll get him, Aaron. He's arrogant. He needs validation; not just from them but from us, now. You fought him. You didn't give in."
Lightning doesn't strike twice. What had worked in the alley was not going to work here, and Hotch looked almost annoyed at his attempt.
"Thank you, Dave, but right now, my personal moral rectitude is not really much of a comfort."
"I didn't think it would be. But that wasn't what I was saying, Aaron. You said it yourself, about BTK. When we catch them is when we get into their heads, when they make mistakes trying to break guys like you, who won't give in."
Hotch rubbed his hand over his face distractedly, and Dave wondered (he called me at my hotel) when the last time was that Aaron had slept. Not that Hotch was likely to wind down enough to sleep any time within the next 12 hours.
A knock at the door surprised both of them, and Rossi reconsidered his plan to hang a bell around the neck of their Media Liason.
"Guys, I know it's not great timing but…"
"Colorado Springs. Child abductions. They've had three in the past 4 months, and now two in the past two weeks."
Rossi watched his friend, as Hotch took a deep breath. Right there, he pivoted from exhaustion and frustration, into Go mode.
"Okay, let me take a look at what you've got, JJ. Dave , can you get everybody…"
As he exited to the bullpen, he spotted Reid and Prentiss together, and he was pretty sure where to find Morgan. He took one last look back into Hotch's office, to the Unit Chief and JJ, bent over her printouts.
George Foyet was going to be in Hotch's head for a while. But he'd have to share living quarters.