I don't own any of the CM characters; can only wish that I did.

Thanks to B for the suggestions, comments & editing... and of course, to the character of Hotch.


Standing at the tiny wet bar of his otherwise dark and sparsely furnished apartment, SSA Aaron Hotchner sighed softly as he poured a finger of scotch into a glass. He was utterly exhausted, mentally and physically, from the horrific pig-farm case in Canada. Having removed the gun and holster from his hip and placed them on the kitchen table, he was now ready for a drink.

He had taken a first sip and the glass was halfway to his lips for a second when he felt a presence. Instinct identified the black-hooded, masked intruder behind him. Hotch's face registered momentary surprise, recognition, fear and resignation before he pulled himself together. He was all-too aware of the Boston Reaper's profile and he certainly wasn't about to give the serial killer the satisfaction of seeing him afraid.

Even as he heard the 'click' of the gun's safety being removed, the agent didn't flinch. Instead, he pasted a look of defiance on his face, squared his shoulders and turned to face his nemesis.

"You should have taken the deal." hissed George Foyet, face hidden behind the smooth, expressionless black mask.

He was standing directly in front of Hotch, gun levelled at the Unit Chief's head. Hotch said nothing. He simply continued to stare directly into the Reaper's eyes. The two men glared at each other for a split second then...



George Foyet smiled triumphantly and put his Desert Eagle into a pocket in his sweatshirt. He looked at the agent lying sprawled on his back on the floor surrounded by broken glass and scotch from his unfinished drink.

Blood soaked through Hotchner's white dress shirt and dark brown suit jacket. He had reached for his chest as he fell in a vain attempt to staunch the steady stream of blood coming from his right breast; his left hand now rested limply on his stomach where it had slipped off the wound when he had lost consciousness. His right arm lay by his side; he had tried to lean against the wet-bar on his way down but instead had simply collapsed.

Foyet dug into another pocket and retrieving its contents, placed them into Hotch's right hand, forcing the fingers closed around the solid, shiny object. Grinning, he bent over the injured man and put two fingers against his neck feeling for a pulse. It was hard to find and the agent's breath was coming in short, shallow gasps.

"Not long now, Agent Hotchner." he murmured in satisfaction.

He loosened Hotch's tie and unceremoniously yanked his trophy from its owner. He heard a weak, painful moan and chuckled. He sat back on his haunches, ready to watch his latest victim bleed to death. He wanted to be sure. And it would make up for the disappointment of Hotchner showing no fear, only defiance at his end.

However, Foyet's vigil was interrupted by a sudden commotion in the hallway. There was a loud knock on the front door and the knob rattled as someone tried it from the outside.

"Aaron?! Aaron, are you alright?! It's Greg from next door... We thought we heard a gunshot and wanted to make sure everything's okay?!"

Swearing softly, Foyet knew he needed to make his exit. He flipped off the light on the wet-bar, plunging the apartment into total darkness and slipped quietly into a bedroom and out the open window. The Agent didn't have long; it would be stupid to get caught now.

Having received no reply, Greg acted on instinct and kicked down the door. He had heard his neighbour come home only minutes earlier, too soon to have gone to bed. He paused on the threshold, knowing that he could be in danger too.

"Aaron?" he called out. From the light coming from the hallway, Greg could just make out the shadowy outline of a couch in front of him, but nothing more. "Aaron?" he repeated, stepping inside and leaving the door open.


Greg took out his cell phone and punched 9-1-1. Thumb resting on 'send', he cautiously moved past the living-room toward the back of the apartment, ears straining for any sound of an intruder and his free hand feeling for obstacles. It was pitch black. Suddenly, Greg's shoe found something sticky on the floor. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, Greg realized in horror that he'd come upon a body, one he recognized as Aaron Hotchner. His thumb pushed the green button as he first turned on a light and then bent down over his neighbour, desperate to find signs of life.

"9-1-1, please state your emergency..."

"My name is Greg Simpson and I need an ambulance and the police! My next-door neighbour has been shot... he's an FBI agent... it looks bad, there's blood everywhere..."

"Sir, stay calm. Are you in any danger?"

"I dunno... I don't think so..."

"Give me your address please, Sir."

Greg rattled off the address, screamed for his girlfriend, who he then sent for a towel to press against Aaron's chest. They left the connection to Emergency Services open while assessing the fallen man.

"Greg, he's not breathing..." said Kelsey Adams shakily.

Greg took a deep breath, trying to remember the CPR training he'd had in University a good ten years earlier.

"Keep applying pressure!" he ordered. "We've got to try to keep him alive until the paramedics get here!"

He tilted the agent's head back and gave him two breaths. His fingers moved to Hotch's neck.

"Still has a pulse, thank god. Doing rescue breathing..."

Minutes later two policemen rushed into the room, followed closely by two paramedics carrying a stretcher. The officers secured the rest of the apartment while the medics took over the patient.

"Pulse weak and getting fainter." muttered the first EMT, removing his fingers from Hotch's neck. He ripped open the white dress shirt and after putting a large dressing over the wound, applied defibrillator pads to the chest.

Meanwhile, the second medic had already inserted a tube into the agent's throat, attached a breathing bag and was continuing to ventilate the unresponsive man.

"Let's get him on the gurney, Barry, and check to see if it's a through-and-through."

They rolled the injured man carefully onto the stretcher.

"No exit wound Eric." said Barry grimly. "We'd better hurry; he's going to have massive internal bleeding. I'll get a line in as we go."

The paramedics nodded to the policemen, who were now interviewing Greg and Kelsey and rushed the gurney out of the building and into the waiting ambulance just as Hotch's heart began to fail.

"He's going into v-tac, step on it!" cried Barry, punching the shock button on the defibrillator to administer life-saving current and watching grimly as the man's back arched and fell back on the stretcher. The screen that usually showed heart beats registered only a flat line...


Hillside Hospital, DC

ER Surgeon Dr. Nigel Barton studied the myriad of screens above his patient. Satisfied that the man's life had temporarily been saved, he left the ICU to meet with the family.

Having been in surgery for the best part of six hours, he was surprised to see the large number of tired and anxious-looking faces that turned when he walked into the waiting room.

"Aaron Hotchner?" he called.

Four men and four women rose almost as one and approached the doctor.

"You're ALL family?" he asked dubiously.

A tall blond man stepped forward. "I'm Sean Hotchner, Aaron's brother. These people are Aaron's colleagues and mother of his son. We just want to know if he's okay..?"

The doctor wiped his still-sweating forehead. "Aaron is alive. That may not sound like much but it was, and still is, extremely touch and go. Your brother is in exceptionally critical condition. The blood loss was tremendous and we've had to restart his heart twice."

The tension in the room was palpable.

"The bullet entered the chest on the right side. It ricocheted off a rib and is lodged against his heart. Furthermore, a piece of the rib broke off and partially penetrated the right lung. We've re-inflated it but have put Aaron on a ventilator to ease his work of breathing."

David Rossi was frowning heavily. "Doctor, you said 'is' when referring to the bullet. You didn't remove it?"

Dr. Barton shook his head. "We couldn't. Aaron was too unstable. We only just managed to stop the bleeding and repair the damage to the lung, both of which were considerable. Before we attempt to go back in we need Mr. Hotchner to be stronger because we may need to do something equating to coronary bypass surgery to remove the bullet. So for right now the priority is to replace his blood volume and reduce the risk of shock the best we can. I have to be honest with you... I don't think he will survive another crash..."

The BAU team members looked at each other in total disbelief. It all seemed unreal. Only hours before they had all been together, taking some comfort in each other's presence as they flew back from one of the most horrific cases in recent memory. How could this have happened?

"I'm sorry that the news isn't better. But he IS alive, which is a major miracle and testament to his desire to fight for his life."

"Can I see him?" asked Sean, running his hands shakily through his hair.

"Of course, I'll take you to him." Dr. Barton looked at the group. "But please limit visitors to immediate family only and just one at a time. Aaron needs complete rest. With the bullet resting against his heart, we have to keep him sedated so that he doesn't move unnecessarily and remains calm. The next 24-48 hours will be critical; we're got a constant watch on him so that we can operate the minute his vital signs are strong enough to handle the procedure."

JJ asked the question that no one else dared: "What happens if he doesn't seem to make any improvement after 48 hours?"

The doctor sighed wearily. "Then we'll have to go back in and take our chances. The bullet is pressing against the heart; it can't be left there indefinitely since it will disrupt the heart's normal function and eventually cause a massive heart attack... I'm truly sorry that I can't be more positive."

Sean, eyes moist, clenched his jaw and followed the doctor towards the ICU. Garcia began to cry and was hugged by JJ. Reid fidgeted nervously while Rossi looked stunned. Haley sat alone in a corner, silent tears sliding down her cheeks as she wrestled with the dilemma of when/if to bring Jack to his father's bedside. Only Prentiss and Morgan seemed to be able to digest the full extent of the evening's events and keep their heads.

Emily raised an eyebrow at Derek; they both looked over at Dave.

"Rossi, we can't just sit here! We need to find whoever did this!" growled Morgan.

Dave shook himself back to reality and nodded in agreement. Attempting to put aside his worry for his friend, he took charge knowing the team needed his leadership.

"Morgan, Prentiss, why don't you go to Hotch's apartment and see what you can find out from the scene and the officers. Talk to the neighbours who found him. Don't take 'no' for an answer, I'll take whatever fallout from Strauss. JJ, go with them and try to keep the press at bay. We don't need the unsub knowing Hotch is still alive."

"Reid, Garcia... I need you back at Quantico. Gather a list of all the people that may harbour a grudge against Hotch and aren't already in prison. Make sure you include Hotch's cases as a prosecutor."

Dave regarded Haley. She looked as terrified as he was.

"I'll stay here. We need one of us to be around when Hotch wakes up." He tried to sound convincing but he knew things looked bleak. He fingered the gold bracelet he carried in his pocket and said a silent prayer as the rest of the team left, fatigue forgotten and each determined to catch the individual who had had the gall to attack one of their own.