He remembered voices; loud, unintelligible sounds grating against his already throbbing skull. He felt himself grimace, turning his head from the noise till his cheek touched a cold, smooth surface. In the back of his mind he knew something was wrong but he didn't care. His head hurt too much. He was cold. The darkness of unconsciousness had been comfortable. Again, the back of his mind began interjecting unwanted observations. He was in shock, most likely with a concussion. The feel of the cold, smooth surface pressed against his back indicated he was undressed... He couldn't remember undressing... His head hurt.
Aaron Hotchner opened his eyes. For a moment, he just stared at his surroundings as the sound of his name echoed in his mind. His head no longer hurt. In fact, nothing hurt but a slight pinch in his left hand. Lifting it up, he could see the strips of white tape pressing down on the IV needle to keep it in place. Setting the hand back down, he looked around the room. The lights were turned off, leaving only the faint glow of the monitors as his only light. He could feel the rough plastic of the clip attaching his finger to the monitor almost more acutely than the thin cotton fabric of the hospital gown. The room smelled clean, though without the overpowering odor of antiseptics. In fact, any smell would have been undetectable save for the absent coppery assault his senses had consistently taken for the last few weeks.
Eventually, his eyes moved from beyond his bed and adjacent monitors to the rest of the room. Glancing to his left, he didn't bother holding back a sudden intake of breathe. Sheer relief flooded him as he saw Morgan lying, almost peacefully, in the hospital bed beside him. The younger agent's face was turned towards him giving Hotch a full view of the damage. In all honesty, he couldn't help thinking Morgan got off easy. A plain, white, gauze bandage covered a good side of Morgan's forehead just above his right eyebrow. A scratch ran down the other side of his face, so thin Hotch could barely see it. The initial impression of the wounds made it seem as though Morgan had been on the lossing end of a bar fight. Hotch was certain that if he were to look in a proverbial mirror, he himself would resemble more a mangled raccoon then a drunken brawler. The assessment was hardly fair, however, and Hotch knew it. He knew about Morgan's broken ribs and his sprained ankle. He knew about the cuts along Morgan's arms and legs. He knew about the countless other bruises, marks, and pains the other agent was being treated for. He had heard every one inflicted and seen more besides.
Closing his eyes, Hotch swallowed. He could feel his heart rate accelerating at the memories. Taking a deep breathe, he forced himself not to panic and took another one. Opening his eyes again, he looked at Morgan again. A thousand thoughts and feelings rushed through his mind, leaving him incapable of assimilating them all. He was relieved and tense; happy and angry; sad, hurt, and terrified. Morgan looked peaceful in sleep, but Hotch was almost certain he could see shadows of their experience in his face. If the light wasn't playing tricks on his eyes, he was also certain Morgan had begun to dream.
His attention drifted from Morgan's face to his hand to the hand holding Morgan's. Audrey lay slumped over Morgan's bed with her head beside the agent's leg. Her other arm lay pinned beneath her head while her fingers tightly clutched at the thin sheet. She was still seated in the uncomfortable chair. Hotch frowned. The girl should be in a bed of her own. God knew how little she had slept in the past few weeks. Ironically, though, she had been the one who needed it most. The lack of rest played to well in the Unsub's game. It would have been in the profile, had the profile been complete. Hotch choked back a derisive chuckle. The profile had not only been incomplete, it had been downright wrong.
"How long have you been sitting there?" he suddenly asked the darkness.
" A few hours," Rossi replied, unsurprised by the question. He had known Aaron had seen him in his first look around the room. In fact, he had made sure to sit in view of the monitor so as not to frighten his fellow agent. However, he also knew the other man needed a moment or two to process.
"The lights?" Hotch continued.
"Right after Audrey fell asleep."
Hotch nodded, considering the answer for a moment. He felt tired, bone-weary exhausted. He wanted nothing more then to just close his eyes and drift back to sleep. Dave would understand. He would still keep watch over the three of them. Hotch closed his eyes, only to hear the same sounds echo over and over again in his head. He opened his eyes. There would be no sleep for now. Silence filled the room, giving company to the darkness. Several times Hotch opened his mouth, trying to say something, and found the words wouldn't come. He could feel his heart rate accelerating again as well as dampness around his eyes. There was only one question he really wanted to ask at the moment, but the thought of the answer scared him. He was to certain of what the answer would be.
"You know," Rossi finally said, seeing his friend's discomfort, "I never understood why they make hospital beds so uncomfortable."
Hotch blinked. Glancing at Rossi through the corner of his eye, he gave his friend and collegue a credulous look. Rossi smiled saddly back at him, shifting in his chair.
"I'm serious," he said, leaning forward and folding his hands together, "Of all things why make hospital beds uncomfortable? Most patients are already in the worst kinds of discomfort. The beds just make it worse."
Hotch smirked. It was a forced expression, dry and resigned. Whatever humor it was meant to represent never came close to touching his eyes. Rossi felt a spasm of pain in his chest as he realized how dead Hotch's eyes really were. His friend was hurting. He was hurting so much, in fact, he wasn't even bothering to hide it anymore. He was hurting and there was nothing Rossi could do about it.
"I know what your doing," Hotch replied, looking away.
"I know," responded Rossi, "Not one of my best conversation starters, but it got you talking."
There was a brief pause. Swallowing, Hotch closed his eyes again.
"You haven't found him," he said, more as a statement then a question. Rossi resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Typical Hotch, always heading straight into business without considering his own injuries first. At least the unsub didn't take that from him, Rossi thought.
"No," said Rossi, "Not yet."
Hotch frowned, considering the statement.
"Who..." he began, and paused, "How did you find us?"
"An anonymous tip," replied Rossi, carefully studying Hotch's features, " Someone gave us the address."
He watched Hotch stiffen at the statement. Before Hotch and Morgan's disappearance the team had speculated on the existence of a team dynamic. However, according to both agents there had been only one assailant during their capture.
"You followed an anonymous tip?" Hotch asked curiously.
"It..." Rossi paused to consider his next choice of words. He understood Hotch would want to shove the incident aside until the Unsub had been caught. He was certain the other man would completely ignore his own physical and psychological health to do his job. He knew it was Hotch's way of coping and, as strong as his friend was, Rossi didn't want to add stress to an already stressed mind.
"It sounded credible over the phone," he said finally.
Rossi sighed, realizing he had left himself open to the question.
"You were screaming," he replied quietly, looking down at his knees. Glancing up, he was surprised to see Hotch's face drawn back into an expression of horror.
"What?" exclaimed Rossi, concerned.
"Th-that's not possible," Hotch replied, his voice barely above a whisper, "There was no one else in the house b-but the Unsub and...."
The words drifted away as he looked over at Audrey and Morgan. There had been only one Unsub, he was sure of it. The walls....the walls had been to thin. He would have heard another person. Oh God! Imagined noises echoed in his mind. The sound of things he could have stopped, should have stopped. There had been only one man, hadn't there? He could feel his breathe coming in short gasps.
"Hotch, Hotch, look at me," he suddenly realized Rossi was grasping his shoulders, forcing him to sit up. A sharp, stabbing pain ran briefly through his right side before subsiding to a dull throb.
"It's alright, Hotch," Rossi said, loosening his grip as he saw a spasm of pain cross the other man's face, "It's alright, your safe."
Hotch barely choked back a slight chuckle. Safe? He wasn't safe. Foyet had shown him that easily. His own home hadn't been able to hide him. The best he could be was prepared, and even that had done nothing. He glance over at Audrey and Morgan again. He was aware he wasn't safe, but there was no reason either of them should lose that delusion. Not after....
"That's enough, Hotch," he heard Rossi say seriously, "You need to rest. This can wait till tomor-"
"No!," Hotch interrupted suddenly and heatedly, "Dave, I'm not going to be responsible for what he may do. With the three of us gone, he'll...
"He'll either hunt you down or start again," Rossi continued, "We know, Hotch. We know."
"Not everything," responded Hotch. Not everything.
A.N. Uh-oh. What could the team possibly not know? Well, you'll have to wait and see. Sorry if everyone seems ooc, please let me know and I'll fix it. Next chapter I'll start getting into what happened to the boys and Audrey. It's not going to be pretty. Anyway, please review!