Title: Jigsaw

Author: Kuria Dalmatia

Rating/Warnings: FRM, R (profanity, adult content). Spoilers for S5 "Faceless, Nameless" and "Haunted"

Characters/Pairings: Hotch, Rossi (Hotch/Reid) with a splash of Elle

Summary: "What the hell is going on with you?" Dave demanded sharply. "Is this what you want? To do exactly what Gideon and Greenaway did? To abandon every single thing in your life because of one goddamn event?"

Word Count: ~2,000

ARCHIVING: my LJ... anyone else? Please ask first.

This won't make sense unless you've read "Common Denominator"

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/November 2009. February 2010.

TIMELINES: Season 5 after 5x02 "Haunted" but no spoilers or considerations for episodes after that.

COMMENTS: It's in the same style as "Common Denominator", where each section is limited to 100 words except for the final scene.

Thanks to Pabzi for the beta and encouragement (as always) and Lady_of_scarlet and Memoryofsmoke for the beta.

/***/

"No man is so foolish but he may sometimes give another good counsel, and no man so wise that he may not easily err if he takes no other counsel than his own. He that is taught only by himself has a fool for a master."

-Hunter S. Thompson

/***/

In his dream, Aaron was sitting at his desk in his BAU office. Yet, the room was bereft of his personal belongings. No books, no trophies, no commendations or pictures… empty, like Gideon's office before David Rossi had come back to the team.

Aaron's desk was clear of everything except the phone, the blotter, and his nameplate. The Mont Blanc pen, something he had always treasured, was now in shattered pieces, irrevocably broken.

"What the hell is going on with you?" Dave demanded sharply.

Aaron jerked his gaze to the man sitting in the chair across from him. "Where's Elle?"

/***/

In his dream, Aaron was sitting at his desk in his BAU office. It was bare except for the phone, the blotter, and his nameplate on his desk. The Mont Blanc pen, something he had always treasured, was now in shattered pieces, irrevocably broken.

"What the hell is going on with you?" Dave demanded sharply.

Startled, Aaron glanced around the nearly empty room. "Where is Elle?"

"Elle Greenaway? Is that what this is all about?"

"I failed her, Dave," Aaron snapped.

"You can't fail someone who doesn't want your help. You know that."

"I didn't try."

"Yes, Aaron, you did."

/***/

In his dream, Aaron was sitting at his desk in his BAU office. It was bare except for the phone, the blotter, and his nameplate on his desk. The Mont Blanc pen, something he had always treasured, was now in shattered pieces, irrevocably broken.

"What the hell is going on with you?" Dave demanded sharply.

Aaron glanced around the nearly empty room. "Where is Elle?"

"We've been over this," he replied, frustration and anger clear. "What happened—"

"We weren't there for her," Aaron interrupted angrily. "In those months after she had been shot? We… I wasn't there for her."

/***/

In his dream, Aaron was sitting at his desk in his BAU office. It was bare except for the phone, the blotter, and his nameplate on his desk. The Mont Blanc pen, something he had always treasured, was now in shattered pieces, irrevocably broken.

"What the hell is going on with you?" Dave demanded sharply.

Aaron glanced around the room. "Where is Elle?" When Dave didn't reply, he spat, "I wasn't there for her. I failed her, Dave."

"She didn't want help," Dave replied calmly. "That's why she left. The question is, Aaron, are you going to do the same?"

/***/

In his dream, Aaron was sitting at his desk in his BAU office. It was bare except for the phone, the blotter, and his nameplate on his desk.

"What the hell is going on with you?" Dave demanded sharply. "Is this what you want?" He gestured around the room. "To do exactly what Gideon and Greenaway did? To abandon every single thing in your life because of one goddamn event?"

"Look around!" Aaron shouted. "Foyet took everything!"

"No, he didn't." Dave pointed.

The Mont Blanc pen was in shattered pieces on his desk.

"But it's broken!"

"Then fix it, Aaron."

/***/

In his dream, Aaron was sitting at his desk in his BAU office. It was bare except for the phone, the blotter, and his nameplate on his desk. He sorted the pieces of the Mont Blanc pen by color, remembering why he hated jigsaw puzzles so much.

Dave placed a tumbler of bourbon on his desk before sitting in the chair across from him.

Aaron stared at the glass briefly, but went back to the mess before him.

"What happened?" Dave prompted.

"I broke it."

"I can see that, Captain Obvious," Dave retorted. "But how?"

Shamefully, "I lost my temper."

/***/

In his dream, Aaron was sitting at his desk in his BAU office. He sorted the pieces of the Mont Blanc pen by color, remembering why he hated jigsaw puzzles so much.

Dave placed a tumbler of bourbon on his desk before sitting in the chair across from him.

Aaron stared at it briefly, but went back to the mess before him. He tried matching two jagged pieces together, but they didn't fit. He let out a long, frustrated sigh. "It's broken."

"Then fix it," Dave said.

He bit his lips together and looked away. "I don't know how, Dave."

/***/

In his dream, Aaron was sitting at his desk in his BAU office. He sorted the pieces of the Mont Blanc pen by color, remembering why he hated jigsaw puzzles so much.

Dave propped his feet up on the edge of the desk, folding his hands over his stomach. "You've been working on that for days."

Aaron didn't bother looking up. The pieces still weren't fitting together no matter how hard he tried. "Three weeks," he corrected bitterly. "I've been working on it for three weeks and…" He gestured angrily at the mess. "It's still broken."

"Then ask for help."

/***/

In his dream, Aaron sorted the pieces of the Mont Blanc pen by shape, remembering why he hated jigsaw puzzles so much.

"It's been four weeks, Aaron," Dave said as he propped his feet up on the desk. "Four weeks and you still haven't figured it out."

"I know that," he retorted angrily.

"No, you don't."

"Yes, I do." Aaron insisted and then glared. "It's broken and I've been trying to fix it. I haven't figured out how to put it back together."

"No, Aaron." Dave let out a sigh. "You haven't figured out that you can't do it alone."

/***/

In his dream, Aaron sorted the pieces of the Mont Blanc pen by shape, remembering why he hated jigsaw puzzles so much.

"There's one person who can help you with that," Dave said as he leaned over the desk, inspecting the glittering mess.

"I don't need help." Emphatic. Sharp. Angry. Fear was in there as well, but Aaron excelled at hiding his fear.

Suddenly, Dave held a small trashcan in one hand and, with the other, swept the pen pieces into the garbage. "You won't ask for help, so might as well throw it away."

Aaron woke up screaming, "No!"

/***/

In his dream, Aaron sorted the pieces of the Mont Blanc pen by shape, remembering why he hated jigsaw puzzles so much.

His Glock was on his desk, within easy reach, and gleamed in the low light.

"Jesus, Aaron," Dave snorted as he stood in the doorway. "Paranoid much?"

"I'm not throwing this away," Aaron snarled angrily, hovering protectively over the pen.

"What? Are you going to shoot me like the Hollow Creek Killer?" Dave taunted.

Aaron rocketed to his feet and yelled, "I didn't shoot the Hollow Creek Killer!"

"Well, glad we at least got that part sorted out."

/***/

In his dream, Aaron arranged the pieces of the Mont Blanc pen. His Glock was on his desk, within easy reach, and gleamed in the low light.

Dave stood at the doorway, arms folded across his chest. "I'm not going to touch your precious pen, so you can put the damn gun away."

Aaron glared. "You could help, you know."

He chuckled. "Oh hell no. I'm not going anywhere near that."

"Then get the fuck out."

"And leave you on your own?" Dave snorted. "No way. That's how you lost Greenaway. That's how you lost Gideon. We're not losing you."

/***/

In his dream, Aaron arranged the pieces of the Mont Blanc pen. His Glock was on his desk, within easy reach, and gleamed in the low light.

"Okay, this is getting really stupid." Dave stood in the doorway.

"Either shut up, or sit down and help," Aaron fired back. He put all the gold bits in one pile.

"I told you what to do." He crossed the room, hand outstretched towards the pieces. "But you didn't listen."

Aaron rocketed to his feet, swiftly picking up his Glock and aiming at Dave. "Don't."

"You'd shoot me over this?"

Without hesitation, "Yes."

/***/

In his dream, Aaron arranged the pieces of the Mont Blanc pen. His Glock was on his desk, within easy reach, and gleamed in the light.

"You were going to shoot me, Aaron," Dave accused from the doorway.

He hovered protectively over the broken pen. "You were going to throw it away again!"

"I was going to show you how to put together the first two pieces," Dave replied blandly.

"Then show me," Aaron demanded.

"You lost your chance."

"Dave!"

"The answer's right out there." He pointed towards the bullpen. "You just have to work up the courage to ask."

/***/

In his dream, Aaron stood in his office, staring at the closed door leading out to the bullpen. He cradled the broken Mont Blanc pen.

"Don't make the same mistake I did."

Aaron whipped around, stunned. Elle was next to his desk. She looked sad.

He stuttered, "You… you came back."

"They've always been there, Hotch," she told him. "Waiting on the other side. Waiting for you. Don't make the same mistake I did."

"What if…"

"He'll help you fix it." Elle nodded towards the bullpen. "He's the one person who really understands." She paused. "Just open the door, Hotch."

/***/

The knock on the door was hesitant. Shy. It didn't have the authority that it should, lacking the confidence it should have had. Aaron glanced down the hallway, palm resting on the hilt of his gun.

He knew it was bad when he was annoying himself with his own hyper-vigilance. There was a series of thumps on the other side of the door. Four days ago, Spencer had graduated from crutches to a cane; the team had had a little celebration in the middle of the office. Aaron hadn't participated, hiding in his office like a damn coward.

The noises were easy to recognize: first deadbolt, second deadbolt, chain sliding across metal, handle jiggling. Were they all paranoid nowadays? The door opened. Spencer stood there, expression neutral but Aaron could see the wariness in his eyes.

Aaron held out his hand, the Mont Blanc pen gleaming in his palm.

Spencer's eyes widened. He blurted out, "Are you giving it back to me?"

And there was so much shock and hurt in those words, Aaron forced himself to meet the man's gaze. "No. I dreamed about it."

Spencer nodded faintly and then moved aside. "Come inside."

It wasn't until after Spencer had made coffee and they had settled on the lumpy couch that they spoke again.

Aaron held out the pen, staring at the smooth barrel. Quietly, "This is the only gift you've ever given me. I take it everywhere with me." He choked out a hollow laugh. "When I was in the hospital… when I asked for my clothes… I was terrified that Foyet had taken it. But when I reached into my suit coat, it was still there, where it was supposed to be.

"I dreamed I broke it and I couldn't fix it. I broke it because I was angry." He looked up. "I want to fix it. Fix us. But I don't know if I can. I don't know how." He glanced away, voice tight as his eyes burned. "You were trying to help me and I… I attacked you. I called you weak. Said that you surrendered because it was all you knew how to do. But that's not the truth. You've never rolled over. You've never given up. Dowd. Bryer. Garner. Hankel. Jackson. You were infected with anthrax. You were dying yet you never gave up." His voice cracked as he said, "I'm sorry. God, I am so sorry."

Seconds ticked by before Spencer reached out and covered Aaron's hand with his own. His tone was soft, gentle. "I knew when I confronted you about Jarvis that you were going to bring up my addiction. I was prepared for it. I knew that you were lashing out, and no matter what you think, I was relieved when you did. It was like… you finally allowed yourself to feel."

"I was cruel."

"Yes," Spencer acknowledged. "Cruel but predictable. If you would have physically attacked me, that would have been another story."

"I could never…" he paused, then jerked his hands away. "I could hurt you."

"You won't." Spencer paused. "I know that. I believe that."

Then, Spencer gently took the pen from Aaron's grasp, pulled open Aaron's suit coat, and slid the pen into the inside pocket. He let go of the fabric and then gently pressed it to Aaron's chest. Aaron watched, breathless, as Spencer's hand lingered over his heart.

"I forgive you, Aaron." He traced Aaron's jaw lightly before cupping it. "Now, it's time that you forgive yourself. You've punished yourself enough already."

/*** Finis ***/