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

Chapter 7

3 HOURS LATER

The door to the waiting room opened. Six heads jerked upwards from their various poses. Only young Jack Hotchner was unaffected, continuing to weave his toy fire-truck in and out of the legs of a table.

"Just me." said Morgan. His carried his right arm in a sling to ease the pressure on his wounded shoulder.

"You come here right now!" ordered Garcia, leading him to a chair and fussing over him like a mother hen.

A sombre-looking Detective Liam Carver had followed Derek into the room. "Still no word on Agent Hotchner?"

There was a general shaking of heads.

Rossi got up and offered the detective his hand. "I'm sorry about Tubbs... how are the others?"

Carver acknowledged the comment with a slight nod and then sighed. "Both have moderate concussions. The doctors have told us not to expect them to remember anything so we may never know how Foyet took them down."

"Be glad they're alive, Liam." Dave said gently. "Most who got in Foyet's way weren't so lucky."

Carver glanced uneasily at Jack and Haley. "True..."

Meanwhile Prentiss had moved around Garcia so that she could talk to Morgan. "You okay?" she asked her dark eyes boring into his face as if daring him to lie.

Derek nodded. "All superficial, just some stitches and bruises." He paused seeing Emily's doubtful expression. "Really Emily, I'm fine. Save your concern for Hotch..."

Prentiss continued to stare at her colleague for a moment, then sighed and sat down again. Apparently satisfied that Morgan was telling the truth, she allowed her frustration to bubble to the surface. Her eyes narrowed as she asked stonily, "Okay, tell us what happened. Why didn't you call us for back-up as planned?"

"There wasn't time, Em..." started Morgan.

The scathing look he received told him he should have come up with something better than that. He went on with his explanation.

"Seriously, Prentiss. I woke up and was about ready to let Tubbs get some rest but felt something was wrong. I heard the bathroom taps going. At first I thought it was just Pete, who had forgotten his gun on the table. But then I saw the blood starting to flow from under the door and knew..."

Garcia's hand flew to her mouth but the rest of the team simply waited. Seeing their friend in front of them, knowing he was alright made the story easier to hear.

"Foyet seemed to know right where I was, crouched against the wall; I had planned on taking him out but he shot me in the shoulder first."

Rossi frowned. "How did you end up with the stab wound?"

Derek shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "Ok, I admit it I got a little angry..."

Dave raised an eyebrow.

"Don't look at me like that, man! I had just lost my partner and with everything else... Anyway, I tackled him but he managed to get at his knife. That gave him the upper hand until I told him that Barton was doing Hotch's operation and that Hotch would be recovering in a hidden location. That pissed him off and he made the mistake of turning his back on me. I got his gun and the rest is history."

He looked at Detective Carver.

"I'm sorry I couldn't save young Tubbs... "

Carver nodded. "We found your ID and Agent Hotchner's tie on Foyet's body; they're evidence for now but you'll get them back eventually. Agent Morgan, do you have any idea why Tubbs let him into the apartment? We've found no evidence of forced entry and the coroner thinks that Pete died quickly; there were no signs of a struggle..."

Morgan shook his head sadly. "I tried to impress upon him how smart and dangerous Foyet was..."

The rest of his sentence was lost as the waiting room door opened again. This time eight heads swivelled around expecting Dr. Barton but instead JJ entered together with a teen-aged boy who bore a strong resemblance to the surgeon. JJ's eyes searched for Morgan and she smiled when she saw he was safe.

"Sorry it's taken us so long." she said. "It took a little while to get through all the SWAT and undercover officers, even with my credentials." Then upon noticing all the sombre faces, "Still no news on Hotch? It's been over 6 hours!"

The worry in the room was palpable. JJ changed the subject. "Foyet's really dead?"

"Yeah Jay, no more victims." Reid assured the blond. "Morgan shot him through the heart."

"Can't say that I'm sorry the bastard didn't live to face trial." JJ muttered. She turned to where Jack was still playing quietly with his toy trucks. "Hey Jack."

Jack looked up and smiled. "Hi Auntie JJ."

JJ's heart melted. She wished she were still so innocent to the horrors of the world. She was about to say something further to him but Jeff had gone over and sat down next to the youngster. The two were soon engrossed in a toy car chase.

"Jeff wanted to meet us all, but especially Jack." she explained when Morgan looked questioningly at her.

"I also wanted to thank you for helping my dad... and saving me." Jeff said shyly. "I thought maybe I could keep Jack occupied..."

The adults all smiled. With Foyet dead, one father and son would soon be reunited. They all hoped desperately that the same would hold true for their Unit Chief.

***

By the time the door to the waiting room opened for a third time, it was 3:30am but nobody had gone home. All eyes moved to the man in the doorway.

A thoroughly exhausted-looking Nigel Barton moved into the room. He was still wearing his scrubs, dotted with the blood of his patient. His surgical mask hung around his neck.

"Dad!" exclaimed Jeffrey. In typical teenager fashion, he avoided physical contact with his father but gave him a big grin.

The doctor smiled in weary relief at seeing his son. He wanted to go to hug Jeff but knew that would have to wait temporarily; these people had been kept waiting long enough and he understood how anxious they were.

"Aaron is still in recovery," he began, "but the operation went well."

Garcia couldn't contain herself. "Oh thank God!"

She wasn't alone. The relief was obvious. Sean held his head in his hands, overwhelmed. Haley looked down into the sleeping face of Jack on her lap and closed her eyes in prayer. Her son still had his father. The others relaxed slightly but waited for more details on their boss' prognosis.

"We were able to use a less invasive "off pump" bypass surgery which meant that Agent Hotchner's heart remained beating throughout the procedure." Dr. Barton explained. "Given his recent crashes, this was the best thing we could have hoped for... This type of operation also reduces the risks for several complications of bypass surgery like stroke or neurological injury.

"Nevertheless, it will be at least 24-36 hours before Aaron will be stable and out of the woods. We're transferring him now into the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, where he'll remain until his vital signs are stronger."

Reid was watching the doctor's face carefully. "But you think he'll be okay? The survival statistics..."

"Reid, let the man finish." Morgan interrupted, not wanting to hear the odds of Hotch being okay. "Please doc, go on."

"The man is one tough customer. He really fought for his life in there and I won't lie, it was definitely touch and go at times. But now that the bullet has been removed your boss is already showing signs of improvement. His heart is beating in regular rhythm again and his oxygen saturation levels have increased. I'm very hopeful that there will be no permanent damage and Aaron will make a complete recovery."

Sean raised his head. "I don't know how to thank you for saving my brother..." he said softly.

Dr. Barton looked at Jack, still sleeping on his mother's lap. Next he looked at Jeffrey.

"No thanks necessary. Every son needs his father..." he paused and exchanged a knowing glance with Dave. "...and every father needs his son."

Rossi smiled slightly and inclined his head.

"Can we see him?" Prentiss asked.

The surgeon hesitated. "I can get you as close as a CICU window but no visitors until the agent is moved to a regular room..."

"We'll take it." Morgan said firmly.

***

CICU

The patient felt extremely groggy and disoriented as he regained semi-consciousness. Gradually, through the haze he heard the steady beeping of a cardiac monitor and the hissing of a ventilator. He could feel the bulk of a tube down his throat and knew himself to be in intensive care.

Hotch tried to open his eyes but it was too much effort so he gave up. Normally these things would be cause for alarm yet he felt strangely calm. After all, he was aware of the only thing that mattered: he was alive. He had won. He would see his son again. And Foyet hadn't succeeded.

Hotch drifted back into darkness, fully prepared to face what he anticipated would be a long and painful road to recovery.

***

They looked like visitors to a zoo, all jostling with each other to peer through the glass and get a glimpse of the man who had beaten the odds.

Dr. Barton had warned them that Hotch remained intubated and would have a good number of wires attached to his chest in-between the extensive bandaging. But it was still heart breaking to see the usually stalwart Unit Chief with his hands strapped to the bed so that he was unable to disconnect any of the monitoring devices while he slept. They watched as a nurse measured his pulse, breathing and temperature for the second time in 15 minutes.

"Is it normal for such frequent observation?" asked JJ, alarmed.

The surgeon nodded his head in affirmation. "Agent Hotchner has endured a major operation around his heart. If he is going to develop complications it is normally in the first hours following surgery. And don't forget that the initial gunshot injury to his lung hasn't healed fully. "

The team had forgotten. It had been easy to overlook the punctured lung with concern focussed on the final resting place of the bullet against the profiler's heart. As they continued their vigil one of Hotch's hands twitched violently against the restraint and his head moved slightly.

"Is he in a lot of pain?" Haley's eyes were wet with tears. She had left Jack in the care of one of the nurses; he didn't need to see his father this way.

Dr. Barton looked at her kindly. "At the moment we've got him on a very strong course of antibiotics and pain medication. He'll be pretty out of it for the next couple of days."

The ex-Mrs. Hotchner sighed with relief. She didn't want Aaron to suffer. Taking a last look at the patient, she touched JJ's arm briefly then left to collect Jack and head home. She couldn't do anything more here and wanted Jack to be rested so that he could visit his father as soon as the doctors permitted.

Dave went to stand next to the doctor. "Hotch is still in for a rough ride, isn't he?" he said under his breath.

Nigel's expression confirmed this suspicion.

"The area around the incision will be bruised and quite sore." The doctor said in a low voice. "But the worst will be the chest pain. It isn't heart-related, but we had to cut through the thick chest muscles to get at both Aaron's heart and lung... physiotherapy won't be pleasant...

"But having already witnessed his iron will and having seen the support he'll receive from family and friends, I have no doubt he'll be just fine."

"Thank you Nigel." Rossi said sincerely as Jeffrey came to stand on his father's other side.

The doctor put his arm around the teen. "You're very welcome. It was the least I could do... like I said, every father needs his son."

"I'm proud of you dad." Jeff whispered.

Rossi smiled as the pair walked quietly down the corridor. He turned to look again through the window. 'And I'm proud of you, Aaron. Thank you for coming back to me, to all of us. We'll get you through this, I promise.'

***

2 DAYS LATER

The fog surrounding Hotch's brain began to clear and he became more aware of his surroundings: there was a distinct lack of sound except for what must be a heart rate monitor; he could no longer feel any obstruction in his throat although there was a steady stream of oxygen coming into his body via a small hose in his nose; and he felt an unfamiliar weight on his outstretched right arm.

'I'm out of the ICU.' he thought in relief.

When Aaron slowly opened his eyes, he saw the large collection of flowers and cards in his line of vision. One card in particular caught his attention. It was big and colourful, done in crayon. Two stick figures, a tall one with a tie and a smaller one wearing a baseball cap held hands under a sun-filled sky.

Jack.

Suddenly, the weight on his arm moved slightly. Hotch painfully eased his head around and tears came to his eyes when he saw the tuft of blond hair; during his fight for life it was a sight he figured he might never have again. He could then feel the small hand resting on his stomach and hear the sound of a child's steady breathing.

Aaron shifted so that he could carefully wrap his left arm around the small body. The contraction of his chest muscles was excruciating but he didn't care. It was worth it just to hold his son in his arms again.

He leaned forward and placed a tender kiss on top of Jack's head, not wanting to wake the youngster. Then, gently pulling his boy closer, Hotch closed his eyes and allowed himself to sleep again, the loving smile of a parent visible on his lips.

He had made the right choice.

*THE END*

A/N: Thanks to everyone who reviewed this story; I really appreciate all of your support! You're the best! I hope you liked the final chappie; please let me know. Thanks! :)

I'm posting this on the "one month to go before the CM season premiere" date... Sept 23rd still seems so far away... *sigh* Have a great month!