Title: Common Denominator

Author: Kuria Dalmatia

Rating/Warnings: FRAO, NC-17 (profanity, sexual situations, adult content). Spoilers for S5 "Faceless, Nameless" and "Haunted"

Pairings: Hotch/f, Hotch/m, Rossi. Both are series regulars, but I don't want to spoil it right away.

Summary: In his dreams, Aaron shot the Hollow Creek Killer.

ARCHIVING: my LJ and FFNet account... 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: October 2009.

TIMELINES: Season 5 after 5x02 "Haunted" but no spoilers or considerations for episodes after that. I took some liberties with the post-episode timelines and with how fast evidence can be processed, but hey, TPTB do it as well.

COMMENTS: This is written in the 100's series format except for two scenes. It's also an experiment in style on my part, since our subconscious tends to deal with things in unique ways.

In "Haunted", the two shots that killed Jarvis were off camera. When Rossi, Morgan and Prentiss arrived in the room, Hotch was finishing hand-cuffing Call and stated that he wasn't fast enough to stop Call from shooting. He then left the room. Given Hotch's state of mind (PTSD, dealing with a pedophile-murderer), did he pull the trigger?

I'm originally from Louisville, so it was interesting to see how my hometown was portrayed.

***/***

Umberto Eco said, "I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth."

***/***

In his dream, Aaron shot the Hollow Creek Killer.

"Stand up," he ordered sharply, hauling Jarvis to his feet. "Be a man."

Jarvis was typically unrepentant.

Aaron stood behind Darrin Call, steadied the man's arms, and wrapped his fingers around the man's on the trigger.

Jarvis stood there.

Waiting.

Wanting.

They double-tapped Jarvis. Chest shots were always easier than head ones.

It was so easy. So simple.

Front sight, trigger press, follow through hadn't even been part of the equation.

Aaron felt no remorse.

A killer had been taken down.

A tortured man had closure.

Justice, Aaron's mind whispered. Justice.

/***/

In his dream, Aaron shot the Hollow Creek Killer.

"Stand up," he ordered sharply, hauling Jarvis to his feet. "Be a man."

Jarvis was typically unrepentant.

Aaron stood behind Darrin Call, steadied the man's arms, and wrapped his fingers around the man's on the trigger.

Jarvis stood there.

Waiting.

Wanting.

They double-tapped Jarvis. Chest shots were always easier than head ones.

It was so easy. So simple.

Front sight, trigger press, follow through hadn't even been part of the equation.

"Do you get it now?" a woman asked. Her voice had the barest of Brooklyn accents.

Aaron did not answer.

/***/

In his dream, Aaron shot the Hollow Creek Killer.

"Stand up," he ordered sharply, hauling Jarvis to his feet. "Be a man."

Jarvis was typically unrepentant.

Aaron stood behind Darrin Call, steadied the man's arms, and wrapped his fingers around the man's on the trigger.

Jarvis stood there.

"Do you get it now?" a woman asked. Her voice had the barest of Brooklyn accents.

Aaron replied, "I never said that I didn't understand."

"Oh, right," she said mockingly. "It just wasn't something you could condone."

"It is not our place to be judge and executioner."

"What does that make you?"

/***/

In his dream, Aaron shot the Hollow Creek Killer.

"Do you get it now?" a woman asked. Her voice had the barest of Brooklyn accents.

Aaron replied, "It is not our place to be judge and executioner."

"What does that make you?"

It had been so easy. So simple. But Aaron didn't say that aloud.

His dress shirt slid off his body, revealing his short-sleeved undershirt. It covered all but the two bandages on his forearms.

Aaron was adamant: "It is not our place to render judgment."

"But you would do it again if you had the chance, wouldn't you?"

/***/

In his dream, Aaron shot the Hollow Creek Killer.

"Do you get it now?" a woman asked.

Aaron easily recognized her voice. Still, he was surprised to finally see her as she slid into the chair in front of him.

He replied, "It is not our place to be judge and executioner."

"But you were anyway."

He was wearing his undershirt and suit trousers. The room was typically dark except for the warm, pale light shining upon her.

Sure, Aaron had been married, but like most men, he noticed. Paid attention. Admired.

Elle Greenaway had always been an attractive woman.

/***/

In his dream, Aaron shot the Hollow Creek Killer.

"Do you get it now?" Elle asked.

He was standing in Jarvis' house, facing the dead man who was slouched in the worn out recliner. The two bullet holes still oozed with blood.

Aaron could feel Elle's breath on his bare shoulder as he replied, "I never said that I didn't understand."

He wondered where his shirts had gone to. Squares of white gauze were taped to his skin. Even after forty-three days, Aaron still redressed his wounds every morning although it wasn't necessary now.

Elle's fingers slid down his biceps.

/***/

In his dream, Aaron shot the Hollow Creek Killer.

"Do you get it now?" Elle asked, her lips a soft caress against his bare shoulder.

He stared at the dead man who was slouched in the worn out recliner. Aaron turned to face her. "I never said that I didn't understand."

Elle's fingers slid down his biceps, thumbs brushing the curves of his inner elbows. She was wearing that one teal top with the plunging neckline and clung to her body. Aaron supposed it was one of his favorites.

Just because he had been married, didn't mean he never looked.

/***/

In his dream, Aaron shot the Hollow Creek Killer.

"Do you get it now?" Elle asked, her lips a soft caress against his bare shoulder.

He stared at the word written in blood on her living room wall. Hadn't he scrubbed it off those years ago?

"I never said that I didn't understand."

The plunging neckline of Elle's top exposed the pale, raised scar on her sternum. Aaron brought his hand up, fingers hovering over the marred skin. He refrained.

Elle's hands slid down his biceps, her touch intimate.

Just because he had been married, didn't mean he never considered.

/***/

In his dream, Aaron shot the Hollow Creek Killer.

"Do you get it now?" Elle asked as they stood face to face. The scar was puckered and pale against her skin, framed by a black lace bra.

They had all seen each other in various states of undress; it was inevitable in their line of work. Privacy wasn't always guaranteed, especially when one's clothes were being gathered for evidence.

Elle had never been embarrassed by her nudity. She had faced down those Jamaican cops in her nightclothes. The only reason she'd accepted Aaron's jacket was because she had been cold.

/***/

In his dream, Aaron murdered the Hollow Creek Killer.

"Do you get it now?" Elle asked as they stood face to face.

He kissed her, tongue touching hers. He expected Haley to come charging out of the shadows of Elle's bedroom and accuse him of infidelity, but Haley had crossed that line first.

"I never said that I didn't understand."

Elle's hands slid down his biceps. Under normal circumstances, he would be hard. Ready. Eager.

But nowadays…

Aaron told himself it was a side-effect of the anti-depressants, the anti-anxiety medications, and the pain killers.

He was most definitely not impotent.

/***/

In his dream, Aaron murdered the Hollow Creek Killer.

"Do you get it now?"

Aaron kissed Elle, pulling her close to him. She tasted like cinnamon. His bandages were gone but the scars were still there, angry red against his skin. There was a tingle in his groin that he happily (giddily) welcomed. Her arms twined around him as he cupped her breasts and thumbed her nipples. Her breasts were smaller than he expected, but that didn't matter.

Elle caressed him.

He knew he wouldn't be able to get it up fully, but it was nice knowing things still worked.

/***/

In his dream, Aaron murdered the Hollow Creek Killer.

"Do you get it now?"

Aaron was bare-chested, flat on his back in Elle's bed; she was topless, straddling him. He could feel her heat through the clothing separating their groins. He was hard (thank God, thank God) and there was that delicious rousing ache in his loins that felt so… exquisite.

He wanted. For the first time in fifty-six days, he wanted.

Elle pressed herself against him as they kissed.

The image of the last time someone had him in this position flashed in his mind.

Aaron woke up screaming.

/***/

In his dream, Aaron murdered the Hollow Creek Killer.

"Do you get it now?"

Elle rocked against him, the soft fabric rubbing just so against his hard cock. So good. So good. The pleasure built slowly, overtaking the aches of his still-healing body. He rolled his hips, a groan escaping him.

Her hair tickled the sides of his face.

She tasted of cinnamon and smelled of brisk pine.

Aaron kept going, straining, panting… needing…

But he knew his body well enough to realize that no matter how badly he wanted to come, he wasn't going to.

"It's okay," she whispered.

/***/

In his dream, Aaron murdered the Hollow Creek Killer.

"Do you get it now?"

Elle tasted like cinnamon, smelled of pine.

God, he was so close. For the first time in sixty-two days, Aaron was where his body thrummed on the precipice of orgasm.

"Please. Please," he found himself begging. Aaron wanted to take off her jeans and his pants so he could be inside her. But that meant stopping and God, no, he couldn't do that.

Suddenly, his belly muscles twinged, pain soaring through his body. Aaron immediately lost his erection, letting out an agonized cry.

"Shhh… It's okay."

/***/

In his dream, Aaron murdered the Hollow Creek Killer.

It was different than before. Aaron was on his side, dressed only in his boxers with a cool sheet tangled around his legs. He rolled his hips against the hand cupping his cock through the thin cotton.

"Please," he whispered against a cinnamon-flavored mouth. "Please. So close."

"Like this?"

"Yes, God yes…" Aaron breathed, wondering just how she knew how to touch him. "God."

"Good?"

He nodded, panting. His hips jerked against the hand, his body desperate for the contact. "Please, Elle."

The hand on his cock stilled.

Aaron didn't come.

/***/

In his dream, Aaron murdered the Hollow Creek Killer.

Aaron was on his side, wearing a long-sleeved pajama top and full-length bottoms. The bed was lumpy but that didn't matter. A warm hand grasped his cock through the material, stroking just right.

"Please," he whispered against the cinnamon-flavored mouth. "So close." He rolled his hips, thrusting harder.

"Good?"

"Yes." Aaron was right along that edge, Elle masterfully working him.

But… He wasn't supposed to be with Elle.

His breath caught in his throat. His body snapped to a stop.

"Aaron?"

Horrified, he whispered, "I'm not supposed to be with you."

/***/

In his dream, Aaron declared: "I murdered the Hollow Creek Killer."

The room was devoid of furniture. There was no bed, only an uncomfortable-looking wooden chair with a bare bulb dangling over it, light harsh in the darkness.

"What?" Elle's voice was rougher than before. Huskier. It had to be her but she sounded different.

"I murdered the Hollow Creek Killer," Aaron repeated. "That's what you wanted, right? My confession? That's what this has been all about."

"Aaron—"

"Aren't you going to ask why, Elle?" he interrupted as he circled the chair. "Why I committed murder?"

"What? Aaron, no."

/***/

In his dream, Aaron declared: "I murdered the Hollow Creek Killer."

He was back in the room with one chair and single light bulb, the Hollywood cliché of an interrogation room.

"That's what you wanted, Elle, right? My confession?" he asked as he circled the chair. "That's what this has been all about."

"Aaron—"

"The Louisville police botched the Ignatow case," Aaron snarled, gripping the chair back. "They didn't find the photographs until after Ignatow was acquitted of the rape, torture and murder of Brenda Schaeffer. I was not going to allow William Jarvis to be the next Ignatow."

/***/

In his dream, Aaron declared: "I murdered the Hollow Creek Killer."

Aaron wore the suit he saved for giving testimony at high-profile cases; Gideon used to call it his "gonna take their lunch money" one.

He sat in the chair, placed his hands on the tops of his thighs. "Our key witness had suffered a psychotic break," he explained, "before going on a killing spree and kidnapping a young boy. Our only other witness, the only one to escape, was an alcoholic. Without physical evidence, our case relied upon the testimony of those two individuals. Jarvis would have been acquitted."

/***/

In his dream, Aaron declared: "I murdered the Hollow Creek Killer."

He wore the good suit, sat in the chair, and placed his hands on the tops of his thighs.

"God, Aaron," a voice called desperately, "please, don't do this."

"I'm doing what you couldn't, Elle," Aaron spat back bitterly. He couldn't see her, wondered why she wasn't standing in front of him like before. "I'm admitting what I've done. I killed a man because it was the right thing to do."

"Aaron... no."

"There wasn't enough physical evidence," he continued. "Our witnesses weren't credible. No jury would believe them."

/***/

In his dream, Aaron declared: "I murdered the Hollow Creek Killer."

"You didn't!" came the shout but he ignored it.

Aaron wore the good suit, sat in the chair, and placed his hands on the tops of his thighs.

"I plead guilty. I agree to extradition to the Commonwealth of Kentucky for the murder of William Jarvis."

Cold hands gripped his biceps. "Aaron, no!"

"I killed a man because it was the right thing to do." Aaron was shaken hard, but he punched back. He was let go. "He would have been acquitted if I hadn't."

"Please… don't do this."

/***/

The knock on his front door was loud and insistent. Aaron glanced at the clock—8:43 p.m.—and groaned. He didn't want any visitors, especially on a night when he could pour himself a healthy shot of bourbon, brood over case files, and not worry about getting up early in the morning.

The sharp, quick raps against the wood meant it was Reid; Morgan and Rossi tended to pound with closed fists while JJ, Garcia and Prentiss always tapped lightly and called out for him. He knew that Reid would stay out there until Aaron at least answered the door. He sighed, pushed himself away from his desk, and walked over.

He looked through peephole carefully, not too close to get stabbed in the eye or even worse, shot in the face. Hyper-vigilance, his mind whispered and Aaron promptly told it to shut up. Reid stood on the other side, clearly impatient, and then began knocking again.

"Hold on," Aaron snapped as he slid the chain over and then undid the deadbolt. He opened the door partially because, really, he did not want to have company. He wondered what he'd have to say, how vicious he'd have to be, to be left alone. Then again, Reid had always been easy to chase off.

Aaron wasn't expecting the crutch tip to be wedged between his foot and the door. He wasn't expecting Reid to place the other crutch tip almost on top of his shoe, forcing Aaron to step back so his toes wouldn't get crushed. He wasn't expecting Reid to barrel past him into the apartment, quite a feat considering the man had a bad knee.

The boldness spiked Aaron's anger. "Listen, Reid—"

A brown folder with the FBI insignia was thrust into his hands. Reid then raised one crutch, planted the tip against the door, and shoved it hard enough so that the door slammed shut. The younger man faced Aaron.

"Read it," Reid demanded with an edge of authority in his voice that Aaron had only heard once or twice before. It was Reid's interrogator tone. "Specifically page three, paragraph six."

There was also a blaze in Reid's eyes that Aaron had seen very few times: defiance, anger… calculated superiority and intimidation. It was… sexy. Rousing. A pulse surged through Aaron's groin and his hands automatically flexed. Aaron wanted kiss Spencer right here, right now. Shuffle him back to the couch, press him into the cushions, run his hands through his hair, tease Spencer's lips open with his tongue, slide to his knees and suck his cock…

Something they hadn't done since… Something they couldn't do because…

It was wholly inappropriate.

Aaron sure as hell wasn't going to give Foyet another target.

Aaron forced his mind back the folder he held. Spencer was angry, no doubt, but Aaron could also see that little tremor of anxiety in Spencer's right hand. He looked down at the cover and was momentarily stunned by just what it was.

The Internal Affairs report from the Jarvis shooting in Louisville. It hadn't been mandatory, even if Aaron had been the only agent in the room at the time of the shooting. However, Aaron had insisted on it despite Rossi's protests. "There should be no doubt of the events that transpired," he remembered saying. IA's investigation had corroborated Aaron's account: Call had shot Jarvis, Aaron had disarmed Call and had been in the process of handcuffing Call when SWAT had come in to clear the room.

Aaron's passion was quickly doused by fury. His voice became icy, "Where did you get this?"

"Read it," Spencer repeated, matching Aaron's hostile tone. "Specifically page three, paragraph six."

He was tempted not to, to tell Spencer to get the hell out of his apartment and that he had no right to access an IA report on his superior. He could threaten Spencer, write him up for this stunt. He could revise his report about Spencer's injury, where he'd conveniently glossed over the bogus "second opinion". At the time, Aaron had let it slide because he himself had done the exact same thing after New York.

But Spencer rarely challenged his authority. Certainly never barged into his apartment and made demands like this.

"Read it," Spencer ordered, his tone frostily even.

Aaron found himself obeying, opening the file and turning to the page that Spencer told him. He slid his finger down the paper until he got to paragraph six.

The paragraph that detailed the actual shooting.

The paragraph that stated that there was no physical way Aaron Hotchner could have shot Jarvis. There had been no GSR on his hands and the shots had been fired at an angle that Aaron would have not been able to make, even if he had been standing behind Call and guiding the gun.

"They recovered your fingerprints on the muzzle, barrel and slide of the gun," Spencer told him, voice still coldly harsh. "They were not found on the grip, trigger guard, trigger, or hammer. Those prints belong to Call and the security guard from the pharmacy. Furthermore, your fingerprints on the barrel indicated that you had grabbed it as if was pointed at you, not from behind."

"And why do you think it's important that I read this?" Aaron's lips curved into a sneer. "I know what happened."

Spencer ignored the question, continuing with, "I asked a friend of mine at the LVPD crime lab to double check the prints and the angles of the two shots." His gaze never faltered. "They confirmed IA's findings." He paused. "You didn't murder the Hollow Creek Killer."

The rage that descended upon Aaron Hotcher was white hot. It took ever ounce of willpower not to strike out with his fist; Spencer Reid had never been a match for him physically. He never would be.

But Spencer Reid was also used to having people punch the shit out of him. Aaron Hotchner knew that. So, he opted for the method that would have the greatest impact, that would generate the greatest hurt, that perhaps would create the so-called "Fisher King" wound from which Spencer Reid would never recover from.

Betrayals like this deserved the cruelest of retaliations.

"You think I lied?" Aaron snarled, closing the distance between them. He rolled his shoulders forward. He crowded into Spencer's personal space. "You go behind my back and do this?" He pushed the file to Spencer's chest. "After everything I've done for you." He tilted his head slightly to the side. He narrowed his gaze. He bit off the words, "You were a junkie, Reid. Nothing more than pathetic addict. You took the quick and easy way out. You rolled over. You gave up. You were weak. Because that's all you know how to do. Surrender.

"I knew you were using… did you really think I didn't know? But I let it pass. I protected you. I shielded you until you could sober up. I put my reputation, my entire career on the line for you. And this is how you repay me? The one time that I have ever asked you to have my back, you do this?"

Spencer lifted his chin. He didn't drop his gaze. Strangely, there was absolutely no fear, no hurt, no horrified expression… just sheer determination. "You talk in your sleep."

Whatever response Aaron was expecting, it certainly wasn't that. "What?"

"You talk in your sleep," Spencer repeated with such a calm authority that it overwhelmed Aaron's rage.

All Aaron could do was stand there. Staring. Struggling to make sense of just what was being said.

Spencer continued, "Three weeks ago, you asked me to stay just a little while longer. You had been having trouble sleeping and didn't want to rely upon medication. So, we went to bed together, fully clothed. Once asleep, you said you shot the Hollow Creek Killer.

"Two weeks ago, the same thing. You declared you had killed the Hollow Creek Killer because you didn't believe the Louisville police could effectively prosecute Jarvis based on the evidence. You cited the Brenda Sue Schaefer case in which Mel Ignatow was acquitted of all charges despite having his former girlfriend, who assisted Ignatow in the torture, murder and disposal of the victim, testify against him.

"Six days ago, you said that your confession was the one thing Elle couldn't do. From what I observed, it seems that Elle was a central figure in your dreams. It makes sense, given that there will always be that question of what really happened between her and William Lee. Five days ago, you plead guilty to the charges."

Aaron's blood ran cold. His stomach clenched tightly. Bile raced up the back of his throat causing him to cough slightly, but he managed to swallow hard enough to keep from vomiting.

He couldn't vomit on the carpet.

He just had it cleaned.

He stumbled backward but didn't fall.

"You said that you killed a man because it was the right thing to do," Spencer said. "Four days ago, I called in every single favor I had with the LVPD CSI. They rushed this through for me." He held up the folder. "They reached the same conclusion as IA: You didn't kill Jarvis."

Aaron reached back, felt the armrest and then sat heavily on his couch. Nausea hit in waves. He was light-headed. His grip on the armrest turned his knuckles white.

Spencer went on, "And to answer your earlier question…You needed confirmation from a neutral third-party that you didn't pull the trigger. You needed to know that we weren't covering something like this up for you. You needed to know that, if there was ever any doubt in our minds, you had solid proof that you did not kill Jarvis." For the first time the entire evening, Spencer's voice wavered but his gaze remained firm. "So… Yes. This is how I repay you for everything you've done for me. You needed closure. Well, here it is."

Aaron coughed suddenly. Bile seared his throat. He bolted for the kitchen, barely making to the sink before throwing up. He leaned over as his stomach heaved repeatedly. He was shaking. He broke out in a cold sweat. He was crying.

He wasn't sure how long he stood there, bent over and puking. He heard the thump of crutches and a heavy step. He heard the cabinet rattle open and the clink of a glass being set on the counter. He watched as water suddenly flowed into the sink, swirling with the mess he'd made before going down the drain.

But there was no soothing hand on his back. No calming voice telling him he was going to be okay. No cool washcloth pressed against his forehead. Instead, he felt the nudge of a glass against his hand. Aaron waved it away, unable to meet the gaze of the man standing next to him. Instead, he cupped his hands, shoved them under the faucet, allowed the water to fill them up before taking deep sips, swishing the water in his mouth, and then spitting it back out into the sink.

Aaron pushed up from the sink, turning to face Spencer but he still couldn't bring himself to meet the man's eyes. He opened his mouth, but no words came out.

Because in his dreams, Aaron murdered the Hollow Creek Killer, and no one… nothing could absolve him of that.

/***/ Finis /***/