Title: Bau Bau to the Black Sheep
Author: Kuria Dalmatia
Rating: FRM, R (profanity, graphic violence, adult content, sexual situations, non-con with an AU twist at the end)
Pairing: The Hotchners, with a dash of Rossi and Reid.
Summary: Haley had every reason to hate Aaron and his job. Even after the divorce, all Aaron had to do was show up and he was hailed as the FBI agent who at least tried. She wasn't expecting to finally forgive him.
Word Count: ~9100
Warnings: Adult content. Seriously.
ARCHIVING: my LJ... anyone else? Please ask first.
SERIES: Criminal Minds
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.
TIMELINE/SPOILERS: Set during the 4th season, before "Pleasure is My Business".
COMMENTS: I took a few liberties with Jack's age and Haley's background. It's not like there's much to work with anyway, right? This is independent from the Triggers & Ties series. Thanks to Pabzi for the beta and encouragement (as always) and Lady_of_scarlet for the beta and the push on the ending. Any mistakes left are mine.
February/March 2009. Initial outline written on a flight to Amsterdam, sections written on the train between Amsterdam and Maastricht, and finished at home in the States.
"Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness."
- Carl Jung
It was the third move in twelve months for Haley and Jack, and she was sure Aaron and his little team of expert profilers would have a lot to say about her nomadic tendencies. While she told herself that she didn't care, there was always part of her that wondered just what they thought about her. How much had Aaron really disclosed? Given how little she knew about his team, she wondered if he ever really said anything about her.
Probably not. Aaron had always been a secretive son of a bitch, even before joining the FBI. At first, Haley had thought it romantic that her then-husband would so ferociously guard their private life. As their marriage progressed, she felt stupid for not realizing that he protected everyone else's with the same intensity, even more so with the BAU. Aaron would refer to cases by locations, rarely going in to any detail except for two times when he mentioned the criminals' names.
West Texas. The one in Los Angeles. Shiloh, Virginia. The Dowd Case. Hankel.
The only real information she got was what she could gather on the nightly news or the internet, and even that was limited because of the subject matter and gag orders from the courts. Hell, even if she had wanted to brag, she had never been able to. Perhaps the most humiliating of all was the admiration that was automatically bestowed upon Aaron by people who were supposed to be on her side.
"So, what does the ex do?"
Haley looked up at the middle-aged woman with badly frosted hair. Her nametag read "Belinda" and she plopped her overweight self in the chair across from Haley. It was Parent's Night at the daycare, the closest thing that she had to social networking nowadays.
"How do you know he's an ex?" Haley asked with a laugh to cover her wariness.
"He's not here, honey," Belinda replied. "And you're not wearing a ring."
Christ! Was everyone a profiler now?
Belinda held up her left hand and waggled her bare ring finger. "Attorney. Screwed me out of a lot of things except, thankfully, custody." She nodded toward two chubby children. "Brittany and Nathaniel."
"He works for the government," she answered with a dismissive shrug. She really didn't want to go into details, but she didn't necessarily want to alienate. Haley could certainly imply a whole slew of things in order to gain sympathy; that was exactly what she had done in the first two places she and Jack had settled. She'd vilified Aaron thoroughly only to have it come back and bite her in the ass. After all, when Aaron showed up, he was the perfection of the caring, divorced dad who "tried". God, she hated that. She tacked on, "He was never home."
Jack suddenly announced to the class that his father chased down the bad guys and put them in jail. Immediately, he was the most popular kid in the room. He then invited Nathaniel, Brittany, and the other children to play FBI.
Jack, of course, was the unit chief.
Haley pinched the bridge of her nose.
"Oh." Belinda nodded and then added, "One of those."
It just wasn't fair.
There were times when Haley wanted to grab Aaron's gun and shoot him with it. Today was one of them. She seethed as he went in to "Mr. Safety" mode and inspected her new townhome, recommending replacement latches on the windows as well as the deadbolt to the one-car garage. There was a file on the kitchen counter with where the child molesters lived, security companies that he had vetted, the rankings of the schools in the area, and evacuation routes in case a hurricane were to ever hit.
Honestly, a hurricane?
The mini-van was next on his little list of to-dos.
Where the hell was this Aaron Hotchner when they were married?
"That's him, huh?" Belinda asked as she sidled up to Haley in the park. Somehow over the past six weeks, the woman had decided to be her best friend.
Haley wasn't sure about it, but it certainly beat being a loner in a group of very insular women. She wondered why there were no statistics on how bitchy other mothers were and how hard it would be to integrate into a new neighborhood. She wasn't sure how long she'd last in this one.
Still, she grimaced because she knew exactly why Belinda just had to talk to her.
Aaron was in the park with Jack. He looked like he had stepped out of a casual menswear catalogue with his crisply pressed khakis and long-sleeved navy pullover; the ensemble accentuated his athletic build. She supposed Belinda thought he was handsome, but all Haley could see were the dark circles under his eyes, perpetual five o'clock shadow, and the deep lines around his mouth.
Haley hated how Aaron showed up for visitations and instantly, Jack completely forgot about her. Aaron would arrive early on Saturday morning, fix whatever he thought needed fixing without asking her what needed to be done, and then whisk Jack off to some Father-Son adventure that Jack said was the best ever until the next time Aaron showed up.
However, this was one of the rare "family" days that her counselor had insisted on, citing some psychological bullshit about Jack witnessing his parents being nice to each other. She wondered how a soon-to-be-five year old interpreted the forced politeness between them, if Jack picked up on the undercurrents of the "Any of your team get killed this month?" from her and the "Who are you sleeping with now?" from Aaron.
The Washington Redskins jersey was three sizes too big for Jack, but Haley knew that she'd have a hell of a time wrestling the damn thing off of him. Aaron the Hero struck again.
"Yes, that's him," Haley said tiredly.
Usually, five-year-olds wanted Hot Wheels, Thomas the Tank Engine, dinosaurs, or pirate ship Legos. Those were the toys Haley had purchased for the parties Jack had been invited to.
Jack, however, was very specific in what he wanted for his birthday: Mommy and Daddy together at his party. He timed his request perfectly – during the inevitable standoff between Haley and Aaron at the end of a Father-Son weekend – and he even shed crocodile tears as he asked.
Aaron, of course, promptly turned into a pile of mush, vowing to be there.
"Even if a T-Rex eats your car?" Jack asked.
"Even if a T-Rex eats my car," Aaron repeated with that goofy grin reserved solely for his son as Haley's temper instantly soared. Jack squealed before dashing off to retrieve said dinosaur so that Aaron would know exactly what to look out for.
"How dare you make that kind of promise to him!" she snapped once her son was out of earshot. After all, Aaron had missed Jack's last three birthdays, so why should this one be any different? She could picture it now: Jack would be pensive throughout the whole party, making a terrible scene when Aaron inevitably didn't show. Haley would be unable to hide her fury, which would, of course, earn the wrath of the other mothers there. Aaron was the FBI agent "who at least tries" so somehow that made him infallible in their eyes.
Aaron's expression immediately went stony, his shoulders squaring and words clipped with the edge of How dare you question me? "I'll be there."
Haley supposed she should be intimidated by him, but she crossed her arms. "I'm not covering your ass if you miss it."
"I'm not expecting you to."
Aaron's coda of 'because you never did in the past' was left unspoken as was Haley's 'fuck you too, Aaron.'
Sixteen screaming four-, five- and six year olds raced around the park's playground, which had been festooned with balloons and streamers. Ten moms – all but two divorced – were stationed along the perimeter in clumps of two. The two fathers took refuge by the charcoal grill, insisting that it was only proper for them to help out with the hot dogs and hamburgers. The only reason they where there, Haley was sure, was part of the petty one-upmanship of "see? My husband is here and it's not even his kid!" that the two married women like to play with the divorced women.
Christ, it really felt like she was back in high school sometimes.
The party had started at noon and was supposed to end at two-thirty; non-stop, fun-filled was the goal. However, the kids had already terrorized Chuckles the Clown and forced Cowboy Larry to a hasty retreat after only thirty minutes of his hour long act. Now, it was almost two fifteen and Aaron was a still no show.
Jack's happy mood had started to deteriorate at the one forty-five mark, and Haley knew she'd have a full blown "why isn't daddy here?" meltdown precisely at two-thirty. Jack had a watch now, courtesy of Aaron's team who had sent the gift along with Aaron's three days before the party. It was the first time they had sent Jack something since he was born.
God, she hated them.
Predictably, Jack refused to open the one from Aaron until he arrived. Haley wondered how many times she would have to dust the damn thing before her ex deigned to show himself.
That was when she heard the sharp crunch that gravel made when a vehicle stopped too sharply. She looked over to the parking lot, which was only 50 yards from the playground area, and spotted the black SUV.
At least the son of a bitch didn't have the lights and siren on to announce his heroic arrival. If he had, Haley would have grabbed his gun, shot him and then happily pleaded to temporary insanity.
She watched as the passenger front door opened and Aaron stumbled out. Haley began marching over toward him, because if he dared show up here covered in blood…
Aaron was just… disheveled. It made her stop in her tracks.
Wrinkled blue dress shirt and the sleeves haphazardly rolled up to mid-forearm. Top button open. No tie. No suit coat. Service weapon on one hip, cell phone on the other. He closed the door, checking his watch. She watched as he quickly surveyed pack of children, obviously searching for his own.
Aaron closed his eyes. His shoulders slumped slightly. He scrubbed his face with both hands. The show of emotion was brief but it was enough for Haley to know that he had come off a bad case, more than likely involving children. Seven years ago, he would have murmured something like "Mammoth Cave" as an explanation and Haley would have rushed to console him.
Now, she was just furious. It wasn't fair.
Jack wouldn't remember that his father was fifteen minutes shy of missing the entire birthday party. No, he'd just remember daddy arriving at the last minute and never acknowledge all the hard work Haley had done to make the damn party happen in the first place.
"Daddy!" Jack's joyous squeal put her teeth on edge.
She turned as her boy raced through the crowd at full tilt. Aaron had gotten over to the grassy area and dropped to his knees, arms outstretched, just as Jack tackled him. Aaron gave him the full, "holy shit I'm freaked out" hug, holding on for just a bit too long.
Haley's mouth almost dropped open when she noticed Reid was getting out of the driver's side. Aaron let Reid drive? What the hell? Rossi then exited from the rear passenger side and leaned against the closed door. He looked like he could barf at any moment. She hoped he did. Profusely. She never liked that pompous bastard.
Of course, Jack's yelling had garnered the attention of everyone. Haley swore if she heard an "aaawwww… how touching" from any of the parents, she'd go on a rampage.
"This is my daddy!" Jack announced and Aaron gave a wave as he stood up, his 'friendly' face slipping in to place. Jack turned toward the SUV and let out another gleeful yell. "Uncle Dave!" and he charged towards the older agent, who had the grace to give an apologetic half-shrug to Haley before stepping in front of the vehicle and bending down to give the boy a hug. "Come on! Cake and ice cream!"
Rossi raised an eyebrow at Aaron, as if to ask permission, which was definitely a new twist on that particular relationship. It used to be Rossi who called all the shots. The older man and Jack began walking towards Aaron, who then motioned towards Reid. Reid clearly wanted to dive back in the SUV and leave.
When Jack saw Reid, his little body shook with excitement usually reserved for an episode of Thomas the Tank Engine. "Uncle Spencer!" he shouted, dragging out the syllables impossibly long. A look of absolute panic flittered across Reid's face as Jack tore off in his direction. Halfway there, Jack turned to the rest of his friends, pointed toward Reid, and proclaimed, "He's a magician!"
A chorus of "wow", "cool", and "awesome" came from the pack of kids who had now surged forward, their eyes wide with excitement. Haley forced herself not to glower. Chuckles the Clown and Cowboy Larry, the two top child entertainers costing a small fortune to book them both on the same day, had been outshone by a snot-nosed geek who had the social skills of a table lamp.
It just wasn't fair.
Haley had truly been stunned when Aaron showed up at her townhouse precisely at 6:30 the night of the school's Open House. Sure, she'd emailed him about it but never expected him to actually be there.
Jack, of course, had been beside himself with glee.
It angered her to no end that all Aaron had to do was make an appearance and he was hailed a hero. And if she heard one more time that "well, at least he tries", she was going to go postal on those bitchy divorced mothers. They had no idea. None at all.
Well, except for Belinda. They had little in common besides the obvious "divorced moms with kids", but she seemed to understand exactly how Haley felt without Haley having to say a word. At least she had one person on her side.
It had been Belinda who had suggested the small Catholic grade school that included a kindergarten. "The ex is a behaviorist, huh?" she had asked one morning before handing over the pamphlet. She never referred to Aaron by name and funny, they didn't talk much about their respective former husbands. "Look, I don't know what your religious feelings are, but St. Peter's a good school with smaller classes. So Jack has to go to church once a week. It's not all that bad."
Haley had burst out laughing when she saw the full name of the school: St. Peter in Chains. She had wished she could have been there when Aaron read the email, especially since he detested parochial schools.
Now, she and Aaron sat in a brightly decorated classroom as Ms. Beasley, the kindergarten teacher who looked barely out of high school, chirped through her half-day curriculum; the children were off in the gymnasium. When Beasley got to the part about teaching Latin to the students, Haley automatically rolled her eyes because the girl was so enthusiastic about it.
"Talk about a dead language," she found herself muttering.
"Latin is the basis for modern romance languages," Aaron replied quietly with that barest quirk of a smile. He did have a sense of humor, but it was sharp and sophisticated. At one time, Haley had thought that was one of the most endearing things about him.
"You didn't swap brains with Reid by any chance, did you?" she teased, unable to stop herself from slipping in to their familiar, if long forgotten, bantering.
"No, but I was thinking that Jack could maybe translate the menu at Mama Bianchi's."
"What? Your minions on speed dial won't do that for you?"
Aaron's lips thinned. "They are not my minions, Haley."
Oh right. She could get away with one snipe at his precious team but a second time wasn't allowed. She crossed her arms and shifted away from him. Still, she hissed, "It was a joke, Aaron."
They sat in stony silence for the rest of Ms. Beasley's presentation. It only lasted thirty minutes.
When the parents and children rejoined in the cafeteria for the closing Ice Cream Social, Jack made a beeline for Aaron, with two new friends in tow. The other children's parents wandered over as well.
"This is my dad," Jack announced with pride. "He's an FBI. He chases down bad guys and puts them in jail."
There was, of course, no introduction for Haley and that humiliation never went away.
There was a time when Haley adored school plays. She had auditioned for every one she could while growing up and was a theater major in college. Now, she could live the rest of her life without ever attending a school production, even if her only son had won the coveted role of Stable Boy Number One in St. Peter's Christmas pageant.
She sat in the seventh row with an aisle seat, dutifully wielding the camcorder so that she could send really bad footage to Jack's grandparents and, if she was feeling particularly generous, Aaron. He'd made yet another promise to Jack to be here, another one she was sure he was going to break.
Jack had been devastated about Halloween, even more so when Aaron failed to show for the school's Thanksgiving Festival. Jack had been inconsolable both times, making Haley frazzled, embarrassed, and furious.
It simply wasn't fair.
St. Peter's didn't have an auditorium – although there was a massive fundraising effort to build one – so all the productions were held in the gym. It meant bad lighting, horrific acoustics, uncomfortable metal chairs, and large creaking doors that announced whoever tried to enter or escape. Tonight, it was relatively crowded since the play featured students from every grade.
It was close to when Jack was supposed to make his appearance: right after the birth of Christ and before the appearance of the Magi. Jack had insisted on practicing his entrance and his single line, which meant that Haley knew the dialogue better than any of the kids on stage. Her son's attitude was a combination of Aaron's determination to be the best and Haley's perfectionism when it came to performances.
A bit of commotion erupted in the back; Haley wondered which parents were trying to escape. The doors opened and closed, metal chairs scraped on the floor, and a tidal of whispers surged from the back.
"It's that FBI agent. Hitcher or something."
Haley almost threw the camera down on the floor.
"Oh my! What happened to him?"
She closed her eyes, willing her temper to even. She dared to turn to see what kind of mess he was in.
Aaron, still clad in his overcoat, was slouched in one of the chairs on the aisle. Crutches gripped in his right hand. Left foot in some kind of boot. Left hand partially wrapped in white. A bandage just above his left eye. His gaze was focused on the stage, lips pursed. She knew he was praying fervently he hadn't missed Jack's part.
Reid hovered behind him like a nervous nurse, proof positive that the skinny geek was willing to do anything for his boss. When he met Haley's stare, he offered that tight little smile – the "holy crap don't kill me" one followed by a half-wave and him rocking back on his heels. She didn't return the gesture. Instead, Haley faced forward, adjusted the camera's focus, and forced herself not to scream in frustration.
The moment finally came. Jack led the other stable boys out, his expression a dead on imitation of his father at his most determined. Still, her son couldn't resist glancing out in the crowd, hope spreading across his face. Haley waved like any good mother was supposed to, but Jack didn't even see her. His eyes widened and he struggled not to bounce.
Obviously, he spotted Aaron.
The rejection stung.
Then, Jack marched up to Mary, Joseph and the plastic doll and declared in a loud, strong voice, "Behold Baby Jesus."
The children started to sing an abbreviated, off key version of "Go Tell it on the Mountain". Haley changed the lyrics in her head from "that Jesus Christ is born!" to "that Aaron Hotchner's here!" because that is what it felt like.
All hail the mighty Hotch. Battered and bruised, he still showed up.
It was the first time in four years that Haley had step foot in the BAU; she willed herself not to be nervous, because she knew Aaron's little team already hated her and she wasn't going to change that at all. She also knew that they would force themselves to be polite so not to upset Jack, who had a death grip on her hand since they had gotten out of the minivan. Gone was the excitement of getting to see where Daddy worked and spending the extra time with him; instead, the boy seemed almost afraid.
Well. That was interesting. Haley wanted to reassure Jack that it was going to be okay, but the hostility towards what this place represented and the dread of confronting Aaron's "family" shut down any attempt to do so. It even threatened to dampen her exuberance over the next few days.
Her new beau had surprised her with a weekend skiing trip that conveniently coincided with Aaron's monthly visitation. Haley hadn't given her ex all the details, just that she was going out of town and she needed to drop Jack off on Friday. He'd accepted after a bit of needling from her and (after a little prompting from her) Jack begging to see Daddy's office.
As she and Jack stepped off the elevator, he suddenly clung to her leg. Great. Just what she needed. Her son to go positively spastic and the BAU blame her for it. She bent down, breaking his grip as she did so. "Sweetie, what's wrong?"
Jack threw his arms around her neck and buried his face against her. The weekend bag swung awkwardly. That, combined with the force that her son hit her with and that she was wearing tight jeans and high-heeled boots, caused her to ungracefully fall on her ass.
She glanced around, hoping no one saw, as humiliation welled up.
"Don't go," he whispered.
"Don't you want to spend time with Daddy?"
She struggled to get to her knees so she looked less stupid. She stroked Jack's hair. "You've been talking about it all week."
Belligerent now. "So?"
"Well, you're here." Please don't suddenly decide to have separation issues again. "It's your weekend with Daddy."
He pulled back, looking at her with tear-filled eyes. "Don't go."
The elevator behind them dinged and Haley knew she had to get them out of the walkway and to Aaron's office. Jack wasn't going to make it easy.
"… the consult in Birmingham should…" Aaron's voice tapered off. She didn't have to glance over her shoulder to know the expression on his face or that he was probably checking his watch and noticing she was almost a half-hour early. "There's my Jack!" he said warmly, but his tone easily conveyed, Why is he upset? "Good afternoon, Haley."
"Aaron," she acknowledged as she glanced over her shoulder. Rossi was beside him, with that particular glint in his eyes as he took in the scene. Just great.
"Are you ready for the weekend, Jack?" Aaron asked as he bent down, handing a stack of folders to the older man as he did. Jack looked at him, but the joy that usually poured forth from him was nowhere to be found.
Jack only nodded and before tightening his grip on Haley. "Don't go."
"Why don't you want Mommy to leave?" Aaron asked gently.
"Daniel is smelly."
Haley forced herself not to wince. She hadn't expected that part to be revealed just yet. Usually, Jack was so excited about seeing Daddy that it overrode everything else.
"Daniel?" This was from Rossi. She glared at him but he was typically unrepentant.
"Mommy's friend," the last word spat out as Jack gripped her tighter.
"Can we not discuss my personal life for the benefit of your coworkers?" Haley hissed at Aaron, willing him to show a little courtesy. After all, she'd been more than generous introducing him to half the school the night of the Christmas play. Hell, that night she'd even acknowledged Reid with a certain (faked) fondness.
Aaron opened his arms and Jack suddenly flung himself into them. "I don't like Daniel."
"Well, your mommy does," Aaron replied smoothly. "And that's important to her. Just like us spending time together is important."
Jack mulled it for a few seconds before saying, "But he's smelly."
Aaron had the grace not to laugh.
"C'mon, kiddo." Rossi ruffled Jack's hair. "Your dad has a whole mess of Hot Wheels in his office that need to be eaten by dinosaurs."
There was a long pause as Jack clearly debated on which was more important: begging his mother not to leave or the lure of toys. He favored Rossi a look before venturing, "Will Uncle Spencer play, too? He makes cars go 'way real awesome."
"Hey, Reid!" Rossi boomed. "Command performance in Hotch's office, pronto. You've got cars to save from a T-Rex."
Suddenly, Jack's gloominess dissipated and he grabbed Rossi's hand. "Okay." He looked at Haley once more before saying, "Bye, Mommy" and then tugging insistently on Rossi. "I'm the dino!"
"Of course you are, kiddo."
With their son gone, Haley and Aaron stood. His gaze was intense but unreadable. It was the one she hated the most. Aaron then asked quietly, his tone genuine, "Are you happy?"
Surprise made her eyes narrow. She handed him Jack's overnight bag. Maybe he had someone else as well. Cautiously, "Yes."
He nodded. "Do you want me to drop Jack off or would you like to pick him up?"
"You can drop him off." There was no way she wanted Daniel to meet Aaron, at least not right now. "I should be back on Sunday by five."
"Do you have a number where I can reach you? Besides your cell phone?" He didn't add, Because I always leave several contact numbers with you, including an itinerary.
It was still a bit too much for her. "Your concern is nice, but I'll be fine, Aaron."
"Does your sister know where you can be reached?" The unspoken Just in case lingered behind his words.
She huffed and rolled her eyes, because clearly he wasn't going to give up on the issue. Haley hadn't given all that much information to Jessica either because she didn't want this new boyfriend to be dissected like the others had been. Still, "Yes."
His smile was forced, but still he said, "I hope you have a good time this weekend."
"I hope you do as well."