Author's Note: Angst, angst, and more angst. I picked this prompt for the challenge, and I originally had a very different idea in mind for it. Something light. But that was last week. And this is now. My mood changed.
This is unrelated to my other stories. It takes place in canon, a little further down the road.
Prompt Set #2
Show: The Andy Griffith Show
Title Challenge: The Case of the Punch in the Nose
Of Broken Hearts & Broken Noses
"She's leaving today."
Hotch flipped another page in his file. "She left six days ago."
His voice was without inflection.
Dave stood in front of the conference room table, staring down at him. Wondering what the fuck was wrong with him. Why he wouldn't fight for her. Why he wouldn't go after her.
He twisted his jaw.
"Her plane leaves today. There's still time. You can still catch her."
Hotch didn't look up. "I have a meeting to prepare for. And besides," his voice caught, "she's already gone."
At that, Dave tipped his head. That was the first hint of any emotion that he'd heard in Hotch's voice in days. And he did mean any emotion. He had been speaking in a near monotone since Emily had packed her desk last week. No emotion, no inflection. Nothing. And it was that complete absence of feeling that had made it apparent to Dave that his friend was dying inside.
So he stepped closer.
"She's not gone until she takes those vows. And the wedding isn't for another two days."
There was no response but silence as Hotch scribbled down notes in his legal pad. He was pretending that Dave hadn't spoken again. Pretending that he didn't care what he'd said . . . pretending that it didn't matter.
His pen almost ripped through the paper.
Dave could see Hotch's shields had gone back up. So he decided to try a different approach . . . though he felt like a bastard doing it.
"We're all flying out tomorrow night. Are you coming with us?"
Finally Hotch snapped his eyes up . . . they were blazing.
"No," he growled, and then he went back to his case file. Almost tearing the page as he turned it.
Finally . . . Dave narrowed his eyes . . . pay dirt. So he dug deeper.
Dumping more salt in that festering wound.
"Really? You're skipping her wedding? You've worked with the woman for three and a half years. You've been down in the mud together, you've spilled blood together, and out of all that darkness she finally finds a bit of light. And you can't be bothered to show up on the happiest day of her life. That's kind of a shit thing to do Aaron."
Again Hotch's eyes snapped up, this time they were glistening.
"Why are you doing this to me?" He whispered.
She was gone. He had lost her. Why was Dave being so cruel?
At the horrible pain Dave saw in his friend's eyes, he almost stopped, almost pulled back. But he was so close. He told himself that it was for the best. So he shoved his conscience aside, and went on plowing into that now gaping wound.
"Doing what to you? You don't seem to care that she's gone. You don't seem to have any desire to get her back, so why would it bother you to attend her wedding? You're supposed to be her friend. And that's what friends do, they support each other." Then his voice started to get harder, "and yet you can't be bothered to show your support for her. Why is that? Why are you being such a prick about this? God Aaron, you didn't even show up on her last day."
As Hotch looked down, swallowing the clear lump in his throat, Dave went in for the kill. He stepped beyond Hotch's pain . . . and over into Emily's.
And he hated himself for it.
"She cried you know. She cried because you didn't even show up to say goodbye. Hell, you didn't even CALL! You left her a fucking letter of reference on her desk! Seriously Aaron! Who the FUCK does that?"
Then he stepped back as he threw his hands up in disgust.
"You know what! You don't DESERVE her! She's better off without you!"
Hotch was up like a shot, now screaming in fury.
"DON'T YOU THINK THAT I KNOW THAT? DON'T YOU THINK THAT'S WHY I STAYED AWAY? SHE DESERVES BETTER! SHE DESERVES TO BE HAPPY!"
And then he sucked in a ragged breath as his voice trailed off, "and I can't make her happy."
He wanted to, he wanted to more than anything. But he was a mess. He was terrified of hurting her. So he'd never told her how he'd felt. He just assumed that she would always be there. At his side. And he had decided . . . that would be enough for him. Just having her in his life.
It would be enough.
But then . . . she found someone. Someone who was normal. Someone who could love her. And he tried to be happy for her, he really did. But then she decided to leave. Why did she have to do that? Why couldn't she stay with him? His eyes began to burn.
Why did she have to leave and take his whole world with her?
Suddenly . . . without warning . . . Dave hauled off and sucker punched him in the nose. Blood spurted onto Hotch's shirt and his face.
He stumbling backwards, clutching his nose. And as he pulled his hands down and saw all the blood, he looked over at Dave in shock.
"What the FUCK? Why did you DO that?"
Dave got in his face. "Did that hurt?"
Hotch looked back incredulously, "yes, it FUCKING hurt!" He put his hand to his face, feeling the bump, and the blood running down his face.
"Jesus Christ Dave! You BROKE my nose!"
Rossi expressed no remorse, just curiosity.
"So," he tipped his head, "it hurts a lot then."
Hotch's anger was fading as it was replaced with confusion.
"Of course it hurts a lot. It's broken."
Had Dave lost his God damn mind?
Hotch turned to go across his office and get the box of Kleenex on the coffee table. He snatched up a three or four before he tipped his head back. Then he gently pinched his nose.
But then Dave hit him again . . . but this time with question.
"Does it hurt as much as her leaving?"
Hotch pulled the tissues away from his face. "What?"
His voice came out as a whisper.
With a heavy sigh, Dave walked over to his friend.
"Aaron, I BROKE your nose. That hurts like a bitch. But we can go to the hospital, and they'll give you some drugs and in a few days, you'll be fine." He looked at him sadly, "but Emily broke your heart. You're dying inside. And they can't fix that at the hospital. There are no drugs to make that better." His eyes began to sting, "And I know you," his voice started to get husky, "you will not be fine."
Feeling own emotions rising up, Dave dropped his gaze down to the table. Then he added softly.
"You'll just let the job consume you." He looked back up, "and it will kill you. Of that I have absolutely no doubt."
Dave was silent for a moment, and then he whispered.
"She's your last chance Aaron. Your last chance to be happy. And if you let her slip away . . ."
As Hotch stared at him his eyes began to burn. "But," and then his voice cracked, "but what if she won't come back?"
Dave reached up and patted his arm.
"She will," he gave him a soft smile, "she loves you. And you would know that if you had seen her face when she realized you weren't coming to say goodbye to her." Dave bit his lip, "you broke her heart."
Hotch didn't think that he could feel any worse than he did. But with the knowledge that despite all of his efforts not to, that he'd hurt her anyway, his own misery was tenfold.
At the look of horror on Hotch's face at that revelation, Dave gave him a sad smile.
"But I guess that makes you even."
A/N 2: This will be a two shot. The rest of it is about half done and I'll try and finish it up in the next day or so. Fair warning, it might not end happily. I haven't decided yet. You're welcome to share your two cents on the outcome. Either way, please do hit the little green button.