Author's Note:

I'm so sorry that this chapter took so long. I'm hoping that there are still people out there who're reading – let me know if you're reading through a review, and tell me what you thought? I've got plenty that I want to do with this story, so if there are people still reading it, I'll be updating it! If you still want to read, let me know, and tell me what you think!

Also, here's a warning: there are mentions of child abuse in this chapter. Nothing graphic, but I just thought that I'd give you the warning.

A Christmas Carol

He opened his eyes when he felt the scene change around him. It was the same house from the previous two scenes, but something was different. There were lights this time, but though the scene was physically brighter, it felt cold, even colder than the prior scenes. There was something missing from this house: something missing for many years now.

"I don't know how old I was here." Hotch spoke aloud. "This could be so many Christmases."

He was standing near the bedroom door; it was open but nobody was inside. He turned from it, moving through cold hallways to where the unhappy family argued, there that sound became apparent.

"You're always home late, always drunk, and it's Christmas for God's sake, Sam!" His mother yelled at his father, who tok a step towards the dark haired woman. His eyes were menacing, his hand raised.

"You won't tell me what to do, Maria."

"It's Christmas! Hell, I don't know why that should matter, you've never cared before!" His mother's words earned her a cold, hard slap across the face.

A young Aaron Hotchner stood slightly away from his parents. He was older than they'd seen him yet. Sean clung to the leg of Aaron's pants, fear running through his eyes. His face was wet. "Sean, you need to go inside." Aaron said, and Sean shook his head against Aaron's leg. "Yes, Sean. Go back and I'll be in soon, okay?" He said to the boy, giving him a small shove from behind. The three year old finally turned and scampered back towards the room that the two shared.

The older Hotch turned, taking several steps towards the direction Sean had run in, looking back towards the memory of Elle. "I was twelve." He seemed caught between going and staying, and leaned against the molding of the door. "I tried to stop him, Elle, I tried. And he turned to me instead." The dark haired profiler closed his eyes, sinking against the floor. In the center off the kitchen, the events that he described began to take place – young Aaron stepped in between his parents. "The only good thing I did that year. He stopped beating her for a moment. And Sean never remembered it."

She bent down in front of him, kneeling. "Hotch, you can't hold yourself responsible for this."

"I did." He said. "And I'm glad I did. Sean doesn't remember this. He remembers the few good Christmases we had. If I got a few scars because of it, I could deal."

She squeezed his hand. "It wasn't fair to you. I hope you know that. You were forced to grow up too fast."

"Sean got a good life because of it." Hotch said with an air of finality. He still hadn't opened his eyes. "I know what happened here. I don't need to see it again."

--

When the scene changed again, they were not in the same house. The rooms were smaller than those of the previous house. The kitchen where they stood was a mess – there were dishes that hadn't been put away and the sink was full of dirty silverware. There were several books on the floor – picture books for a six year old – and notebooks were scattered along the kitchen table, along with several pens and pencils.

The living room was even worse. Several empty bottles of soda sat by a threadbare couch. There was an empty box of pizza on a wooden coffee table. The remote to a small TV sat next to it, untouched. The TV was on, blaring some news channel that not a soul in the house was listening to.

And, in the center of the threadbare couch, Samuel Hotchner sat.