Title: Blackjack

Author: Kuria Dalmatia

Rating/Warnings: FRM, R (profanity, graphic violence, adult content, torture, profanity, mention of child abuse, frank discussion of bodily functions)

Pairing: Hotch, Reid and the BAU

Summary: Aaron isn't sure what is worse: being held hostage naked in a basement while being subjected to beatings, or having Spencer dissect his failed marriage in horrifying detail.

Word Count: ~...

ARCHIVING: My LJ and FFNet... anyone else? Please ask first.

Feedback always welcome.

DISCLAIMER: The Mark Gordon Company, ABC Studios and CBS Paramount Network Television own Criminal Minds. Salut! I just took them out to play and I promise put them back when I'm done. I'm not making any profit just trying to get these images out of my head.

VERSION: Original concept January 2009, long before "To Hell... and Back" aired. Originally posted September 2009

TIMELINES/SPOILERS: Season 4 after "Pleasure is My Business" but before "Omnivore", slight AU. Direct quotes from "Extreme Aggressor", "L.D.S.K.", "Fisher King Part 1", "Aftermath", "No Way Out 2: The Evilution of Frank", and references to second season's "Revelations" and fourth season's "Brothers in Arms".

COMMENTS: Thanks to Pabzi for the encouragement and lady_of_scarlet for the beta. Any mistakes left are mine.

For those who might cry "OOC" for Hotch, well, everyone has a bad day. Given the events in Season 4—starting with the death of Kate Joyner quickly followed by Hotch's temporary hearing loss and "not recognizing" the UnSubs in "Paradise" and "Pleasure is My Business"—this story takes in to account those issues. Plus, sometimes the hardest thing is admitting that you did something wrong.

This is independent from the "Triggers and Ties" series.


"Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame."

Benjamin Franklin


Aaron doesn't remember the exact case they had just finished, city they had just returned from or UnSub that they had dealt with. It is the stressor that blocks these details out. It is a stressor that should never have been one because he knows better. Still, it is that stressor—one that he can't even remember now—that caused him to target Reid simply because the younger man had been the only person in the SUV on the return trip from airstrip. Oh. And Reid had been in yet another perilous situation. This time, he had earned a rifle butt to the kidneys.

"What the hell is it with you getting the snot kicked out of you?" Aaron remembers snapping as he pulled up to Reid's apartment building. "Or held hostage? Or... Christ! Being kidnapped? Ever since Elle left, if there's something bad that's going to happen to the team, it happens to you! I bet we can make a drinking game out of it!"

He remembers looking over, seeing the wounded look that briefly flashed in Reid's eyes. Aaron remembers watching Reid's entire demeanor change, from slouching and relaxed to vigilant and guarded.

Aaron remembers Reid getting out of the SUV, retrieving his hard-sided suitcase from the back—and really, did anyone besides Reid haul those around anymore?—and slamming the door closed. He remembers Reid spinning on his heels and walking away.

He remembers that for the following week, Reid had peppered the team with statistics on abductions. Aaron remembers him citing everything from recovery percentages to psychological breakdowns to average time a person could "hold it" before losing control of the bladder or bowels.

Aaron remembers the last comment causing Morgan to stare at Reid before asking cautiously, "What are you driving at, kid?" and knowing that Morgan really didn't want an answer but someone had to ask.

He remembers Reid lifting his chin and saying a little too loudly, "You know, all those times I've been kidnapped or held hostage? Well, I've never pissed or shit myself."

He remembers the shock of Reid being crass, the stunned expressions of Morgan and Prentiss. He remembers Morgan rallying a half-hearted, "Well. Ah. Um. Good for you, Reid," while sounding uneasy and worried.

He remembers Rossi whispering to him, "Why can't Reid just let it go?" He remembers being unable to tell Rossi that the discussion was entirely his fault.

Aaron remembers not apologizing despite numerous opportunities to do so, especially when Reid lingered just a little too long just a few too many times. He remembers not knowing what to say or how to explain it, unable to open up just a little to admit his mistake.

He wonders if Reid still holds it against him.

God, he hopes not.

"Do you know what time it is?" a voice hisses close to his ear.

Aaron wants to say, "Of course, I don't. You ambushed me outside my house on Friday at midnight. You knocked me unconscious and then blindfolded me with duct tape. You've taken me to a location where there is no real ambient noise except for water in the pipes, no real change in temperatures to indicate night and day. You've bound me to a chair, my wrists behind me and my ankles to the chair legs. The chair is obviously bolted to the floor."

But Aaron can't. Not with the dirty towel stuffed into his mouth and held in place by a thick strip of cloth.

Christ, his head hurts.

Aaron knows that the UnSub is male. The UnSub's words are enunciated as if trying to suppress a rural drawl, trying to sound menacing but not quite succeeding. Nervous because he's probably surprised he's pulled off the kidnapping. This must be his first, going for the verbal threats because he hasn't thought beyond sequestering his victim.

The UnSub is probably intelligent, though. Most are; it's one of the first things Aaron highlights when giving a profile. Kidnapping in the middle of the night gives the UnSub at least four to six hours before the victim may be reported missing. It was Friday when Aaron had been abducted, which could give the UnSub an additional two days unless a case came up.

To hell with the first weekend off in five weeks, Aaron fervently hopes JJ calls him.

After all, JJ would call Dave and say that she couldn't reach Aaron via his cell or home number. Dave would offer to stop by his house. Dave would know the minute he pulled up that something was wrong. He would call Garcia and ask for a trace on Aaron's phone if JJ hadn't already. Garcia would search and...

Aaron doesn't remember what happened to his phone, although he does know that his two guns have been removed. He wonders where the phone fell off. Maybe the UnSub kept it as a trophy. Maybe the UnSub left it on.

Everyone makes mistakes. That's how most killers are caught.

Aaron knows it probably won't be that easy. It never is.

"It's time for this," the UnSub says.

Aaron automatically tenses. He waits. He hears the UnSub moving in front of him and feels fingers yanking at his belt buckle. He runs through the categories of abductors, their specific behavior patterns, and which one this UnSub would fall into. His thoughts are interrupted when he feels his belt pulled roughly out of the loops, the buckle hitting the side of his knee.

Strange that the UnSub didn't strip Aaron before tying him to the chair. Clothing provides a shield, a sense of security and identity for the victim. To be forced naked makes the victim more vulnerable, dehumanizing them in the eyes of the UnSub.

He hears the sharp crack of leather and unexpected fear suddenly pours through him. Aaron knows that sound. Knows it all too well. His father always doubled up the belt before hitting him. His father always snapped the leather before telling Aaron to stand in the corner with his palms flat against the wall and his trousers pulled down to mid-thigh. His father always allowed him to keep his underpants on.

The first hit is to Aaron's right arm. The second to his left. The blows sting but are not especially hard. Twenty-one total, alternating sides. The UnSub makes a high-pitched whine each time he hits.

Aaron knows right then that this is just the first of many, that the subsequent ones will be more vicious and that the weapon types used will escalate.

His team will find him. He knows that.

They've got Reid, after all.