Author's Note: Thank you Michaela for the one word prompt. And thanks to kdzl for her advice. This is part one of a two part story. I hope the readers enjoy it. Please read and review. As ever, I don't own Criminal Minds.

SKIN

Chapter 1

He'd broken the code! Goddamn it, he thought angrily, he broken his father's first fucking rule. You never hit a woman…no matter what the circumstances. Dropping his head into trembling hands, he rubbed his face furiously. And it hadn't just been any woman. No. It had been the woman he loved with everything in his body. Fuck! How he wished his father was alive. At least then somebody would give him the ass kicking he strongly felt he deserved.

Turning he reached for one of the glass tumblers on his credenza. Putting it on the desk, he bent to open the bottom drawer of his filing cabinet with an unsteady hand.

"You won't find it," a deep familiar voice said from the doorway to his office. "As soon as JJ got in the ambulance, she called Garcia and had her commandeer your stash," Hotch informed his old mentor quietly. "She knew what you'd do."

Grabbing the glass from his desk, he hurled it at the wall violently, hearing the satisfying shatter.

Moving inside, Hotch softly closed the door.

Looking at the other man, David bit out, "Get the fuck out of here, Aaron. Now!"

Shaking his head, Hotch replied evenly, "I don't think so. At least, not until she gets here."

Running a hand through his dark hair, Dave swore quietly. "I hit her," he said more to himself than Hotch. "I put my hands around her throat and had to squeeze…how the fuck do I look in her eyes again!"

Standing quietly against the wall for a few moments, Hotch studied his tortured friend. Finally, he blew out a breath as he said, "What was the alternative, Dave? Should you have let the unsub make her his fifth victim….let that bastard rape her…torture her?"

"Stop, Aaron! It's bad enough what I had to do to her…but if I think about what he could have done to her, I'll go insane," Dave said hoarsely. "Please just go. I'll be fine….I just need to gain some perspective before she gets here."

Nodding, Hotch walked toward the door. Pausing with his hand on the knob, Hotch faced his friend. "She loves you, Dave. We heard everything through the COM link. She told you to do it….that it had to look real. She knew what she was doing."

Raising eyes that had seen way too much in his life, Rossi said sadly, "It doesn't help, Hotch. He wasn't supposed to know she was there…how did it all get so fucked up? Regardless, tonight I marred perfection and I violated every rule that I've ever stood for."

"You're forgetting the important part, my friend. You did it to save her life. We both know that sometimes even the best laid plans go to hell. You both had to improvise. Try to remember that," Hotch offered before leaving.

Sinking back into his office chair, Dave closed his eyes as he leaned his head back. But all he could see was her widened eyes as he'd wrapped his hands around her throat and slammed her against the bedroom wall in the unsub's apartment. He heard her cry of pain as he'd raised his hand and viciously backhanded her as the unsub had laughed. He'd seen the blood pour down her face as his ring sliced her creamy ivory skin. His stomach rolled violently at the memories as he grabbed his trashcan from underneath his desk and wretched. Christ, he didn't know if he could ever live with himself again. If he'd ever be able to look at his reflection in the mirror and not feel this bone deep contempt for himself. And God knew, if he couldn't face himself….how the hell could she?

***

As JJ strode through the bullpen minutes later, her eyes quickly found their Unit Chief. "Hotch!," she called, "How is he? Where is he?" JJ heard his quickly indrawn breath as he turned at the sound of her voice and quickly said, "It's not as bad as it looks!"

"It looks pretty bad, JJ," Hotch winced.

"Hotch, he's here, isn't he? Tell me you didn't let him go off alone!" JJ ordered, a mild look of panic entering her eyes.

"He's here, JJ. He's up in his office. But, JJ, he's wrecked," Hotch warned.

"Garcia got to the Scotch first, right?" JJ asked quickly.

Smiling grimly, Hotch nodded. "Yeah, he was less than thrilled about that little maneuver of yours."

"I don't care…I won't let him do that to himself. He did what I told him to…what we HAD to do!"

"We both know that, JJ. I feel fairly certain that it's going to be a bit harder to convince Dave of that though. As I said, the man is wrecked."

"You let me worry about the wreckage," JJ said shortly. "He did the only thing he could to get me out of there. For God sake, he saved my life! I will NOT let him destroy himself over this," she said, determination oozing in her words.

"He loves you, JJ. More than anybody else I've ever seen him with. Doing this tonight…it broke something in him," Hotch said, trying to explain.

"Maybe…but I'm the one that can repair the damage," JJ replied.

"Of that, I have no doubt. Watch your step when you go in…you don't need a glass cut on top of everything else," Hotch told her.

"Glass?" JJ said over her shoulder as she climbed the stairs to Dave's office.

"I told you he was less than thrilled about the Scotch," Hotch said, genuinely smiling.