You can't control the outer circumstances of your life but you can control how you react to them. That makes you dominant over circumstances.
"I'm going out for a while, okay bud?" Hotch asked, hesitance roaring in his tone. He stroked Jack's tiny delicate face with his thumb.
"Where are you going, daddy?" his soft voice asking, squeezing his stuffed green Dinosaur a little harder. Jack's eyes glistened in the moonlight that came streaming in through the opened front door, and he couldn't help but picture Hailey. That thought made his throat sore from the lump that formed.
Hotch's eyes softened and he forced a smile on his face to hide his concern. He desperately tried hiding the pain that was tearing at his insides. Not physically, but emotionally and mentally. Each part of his body was creaking with pain, sadness and such confusion it was unbearable. He wondered if he could ever fall back asleep. If he would ever be able to raise Jack without seeing Hailey in him and being terrified. He wondered if he could ever forgive himself.
"Just out," He replied with a strong sigh, the coolness of his breath easing the lump. "I'll be back soon." He gave his face one last gentle stroke before standing straight up and heading to his car. Hailey's sister, who voluntarily came to watch Jack for a while, had no clue where he was really going. He had told her the same exact thing. Just out. He needed room to breathe. His entire house felt claustrophobic and exhausting. Everything around him felt different, appeared different. I guess it's true, that the reason why you can't go home again isn't because the place changes, the people do.
The highway seemed less busy than usual. Cars weren't all streaming together in a line, which was a good thing, because he was beginning to feel cramped in this car. This drive wasn't helping him at all. He unrolled his window, fresh night air pouring in and cooling his face. He gripped the steering wheel harder, coming to a stop at the bright red light ahead. He kept his right hand on the wheel, and rubbed his forehead harsh with his left. His head was pounding, his throat was sore and his body felt weak from everything Foyet had done to him. Not physically again, but mentally and emotionally. He had to see Hailey dead. The thought again, the image, automatically made him squeeze his eyes shut in horror, as if she laid dead in front of him. Then, like a slideshow going fast, he saw images of her dead, standing before his car drenched in blood. He closed his eyes again, begging for this to stop. But he couldn't control the thoughts that played viciously out in his mind, infuriating him at his loss of control.
More images flooded, and he slammed on the gas, despite the fact that the light hadn't turned green. Nobody was coming, he decided, the street was empty. But at this point, he didn't care. He was ready to see the world crash around him and swoop him up into a world of nothingness. Nothingness sounded pretty damn good. He wouldn't feel the overpowering guilt weighing heavily on him, or the guilt he had for Jack, for all the people Foyet killed, for Hailey. For everything that's gone wrong in his life. He was taking the blame, willingly. That's all that made sense to him. Considering it his fault just made sense.
He gripped the steering wheel harder for strength, but also to keep his anger contained. He wanted to slam his fist through the window. He wanted to slam his fist through anything. He wanted this to end. The pain, it wasn't just emotional or mental, it was physical. The mental and emotional pain took a toll on his physical well-being, making it difficult to do just about anything. He couldn't even look at Jack without seeing her. And he couldn't see her without feeling a paralyzing amount of guilt and pain. The pain soared through his stomach up to his ribcage and meeting his lungs. The pain eventually traveled allover. The pain was undeniable and he couldn't rid himself of it.
The images of Hailey dead floated to the surface. He squeezed his eyes shut again. Then images of their wedding. He kept them shut. Them images of Jack's eyes glistening like Hailey's before she started crying. He squeezed his eyelids so hard they burned. And then nothing. His mind had enough. It faded to darkness. He opened his eyes and at the lonely street, he stopped to a halt. Darkness. Nothingness. He could settle with that. He wanted that. He wanted to be dead. He wanted this to be over. He gripped the steering wheel with all his might, his mind made up and pressed a little harder on the gas, picking up speed.
He wasn't sure where he was going, or how he was going to do what he decided to do, but the more he thought about it, the more it seemed like a good idea. As he drove to nowhere in particular, his mind ran through each case he could think of, plucking out reasons why certain things happened. And magically, he found someway to blame himself for every situation that went poorly. The guilt felt heavier, like someone just dropped 300 lbs on his chest. His chest tightened and his breathing quickened as the lump reappeared. His eyes flooded, blurring his vision. He didn't blink them or wipe them away, he just let them fog his reality. He didn't care if he couldn't see what was up ahead of him. Maybe this is the way it's supposed to end. Right now, right here. He closed his eyes, tears falling down his cheeks softly. He found himself silently praying, something he hadn't done in about three decades. "You can take me, God," he found himself saying outloud. "Right now." His voice cracked under the weight of his emotions and tears, and he found himself giving up.
The world rattled beneath his feet and he thought maybe it was his imagination. Or maybe God was giving him what he asked for. For a second, he felt a pinch of fear. Could it really be true? Would God really come to save him from his sadness? The thought of Jack without both of his parents made the guilt weigh that much heavier on his chest. He felt tears flooding down like a stream on acid, and he couldn't control himself. He slammed his forehead on the steering wheel, immediately feeling dizzy. The world just kept shaking until he felt himself vibrating along with it. He opened his eyes, coming to the realization: This wasn't God or his imagination, it was an earthquake.
Fear enveloped him. Jack. He reached for his cell and frantically dialed the numbers, pressing sixteen wrong ones. His hands were trembling. His mind was doing hoops. "Shit." he repeated several times to himself before inhaling deeply, calming himself, then slowly dialing his house number. No answer. Go figure. He slammed his phone on the floor mat, hearing it crack. He shoved his shoe directly into it, cracking into pieces. The tears came again, everything around him crashing. This is what he asked for. He asked to be taken away from this world. And now that it was happening, he was petrified. He couldn't even decide if he still wanted to go or not. He stepped out of the car, the rattling pace slowing down. He kept his balance, and the earthquake stopped. He slid down his car and fell on the pavement, the street as dead as before. He hadn't been washed up into a pit of nothingness. Then disappointment fell over him, the guilt returning as well. All of these emotions cramping on top of him were suffocating him slowly. His hands stopped shaking and his world stopped spinning, even in his mind, and he caught his breath. He allowed himself to feel nothing. Nothing but the wind cooling his face and the leaves singing to him, and the streetlight staring him down. The air felt fresh. The way air should smell and it felt calming. He couldn't ignore the voice that blamed him in his mind. Or the voice that craved death. But in this moment, nothing mattered. He was drifting off into nothingness. The thought of tomorrow made him feel heavy and tired, so he blocked it out of his mind. He blocked everything out. Then the world shook beneath his weight again, the aftershock settling in. He sat there, letting the world rattle beside him. No reaction, no fear, no nothing. This must be what it's like to be truly alive, he decided, to not care the slightest bit what happens next.
"Guys, has anyone heard from Hotch?" JJ came from her office, concern covering her entire face whole.
Morgan shared the same expression. "No, he hasn't called to check up on us." He shot Rossi a terrified glare.
Rossi shot him one right back. "Someone call him." Rossi responded.
"I tried, he's not picking up." JJ's voice shook like Virgina just had.
He couldn't even imagine how long he had been sitting there. If anyone drove by, he'd look insane. Or dead. He probably did look dead, he figured. His face was pale, his eyes were drooping from lack of sleep and the guilt was so damn heavy he couldn't pick himself back up. He remembered that he had broken his cell. That was stupid. He felt guilty for that, too. He rubbed his aching forehead and stretched his legs out on the pavement, breathing in the fresh night air. He wanted to tell Jack everything. Hell, he wanted to tell anyone. The urge to scream out was incredibly strong, but he fought it. If he had any trace of dignity left, he'd keep his mistakes to himself. The world had stopped shaking, and he could almost hear the amount of terror that surrounded the world around him. Faint sounds of cars honking and the busyness of the streets ahead flooded his ears. It reminded him that he's still alive. He closed his eyes, as the wind surrounded him entirely.
A car stopped directly in front of him, and he closed his eyes. It had to be one of his team members. This street hadn't had any visitors since he had pulled over. He heard them open the door and come rushing to his side. "You don't have to say it, I'm fine." Hotch sternly said behind clenched teeth and closed eyes.
Rossi sighed. "What's going on with you?"
Hotch shook his head. He didn't feel the strength to answer. But he could tell that Rossi was sitting right beside him now. Hotch opened his eyes and found his suspicion to be accurate. He eyed him from head-to-toe, his face sour and dead. His eyes were half-closed. "Your gonna ruin your pants." Hotch reminded him, his words coming out as a mumble. He closed his eyes again and faced his head forward.
"I can handle that," Rossi replied.
"I thought they're expensive?" He mumbled again, his voice as strained and tired as the rest of him.
Rossi shrugged. "They are." He wasn't sure where he expected this conversation to go, but at least he got him talking.
Hotch nodded. He felt Rossi's hand reach his shoulder, and he also felt himself inch away out of habit. He didn't intend on doing it, it just was his first initial reaction. It was like someone else controlled his thoughts and his body. "How'd you find me?" Hotch finally spoke, his tone somehow finding strength. Rossi took it as a good sign.
"We have a search team looking for you."
Hotch finally opened his eyes and scrunched his eyebrows in confusion. He paused waiting for Rossi to inform him on the prank. "Seriously?"
Rossi shook his head slightly. "Only the team are looking for you," Rossi punched his arm with his fist gently. "We're concerned about you."
He swallowed, despite the fact that his mouth felt incredibly dry. He didn't know if it was from the panic or the crying, but he felt dehydrated. He craved water as much as he craved dying earlier. "You don't have to be."
He felt Rossi's appalled stare behind his closed eyes. "No, we don't have to be," he replied slowly. "But we are."
Hotch nodded. Okay, fine, they worried about him, so what? It didn't matter. They couldn't erase the mistakes he'd made.
Rossi readjusted himself to Hotch's exact position; stretching his legs out wide and his back pressed against his car. Then lastly, he put his head back and closed his eyes. "Comfortable," he decided.
Hotch didn't move, but he stifled the laugh he felt coming. He was not only laughing at Rossi's ability to be nonchalant even at the worst of times, but his life in general. His thoughts, his loss of control. Just everything. Everything seemed hysterical. The thought that maybe he was losing his mind seemed funny too. And he laughed.
Rossi's eyes popped open and he glared at Hotch. "Are you..." he scrunched up his nose. "Laughing?"
Hotch choked back the laughs, calming down slightly and found himself admitting to it by a nod.
Rossi looked beyond shocked. "I've never seen you laugh."
Hotch paused. "I'm sure you have."
Hotch paused again, staring off into the woods in front of him before responding. "Really, never?"
Rossi shook his head.
Hotch burst into fits of laughter again, toppling over to his side. His stomach ached from the punches he'd gone through with Foyet, but he ignored it. He felt alive. The wetness of the concrete on his neck and through his shirt cooled him down. And his laughing stopped. The dark blue sky and the full moon above him clouded his eyes, and then he realized, he was beginning to cry again. He let the tears stream down into his hair, onto the ground below him. Rossi just kept staring straight ahead. He had to know Hotch was crying, he had to hear him sniffle.
"I wanted to die." He found himself admitting. He thought he'd feel enormous amount of regret, but nothing. He felt paralyzed to the world.
Rossi paused, taking in the information completely, then replied. "When?"
Rossi sighed, getting on his hands and knees to crawl over to Hotch. Hotch laughed again, at the image of two grown men laying on the pavement. He found it utterly hysterical. He also found the dirt stains on Rossi's $200-something jeans hysterical as well. He closed his mouth, another tear dripping.
"You came here to kill yourself?"
Hotch didn't respond. He just stared at the moon, as if it was speaking to him.
"What were you going to do?" Rossi turned and faced the woods. "Stab yourself with twigs?"
Hotch laughed again. He knew it was incredibly inappropriate to laugh, but it felt good. He still felt painfully alive and aware of every inch of him. "I didn't come here to kill myself. I came here to just breathe."
Hotch nodded. "It sounds crazy," he turned over on his side, facing Rossi as he spoke. He ignored the fact that his entire work outfit was getting ruined. What did that matter now? He had bigger fish to fry. "But I just can't look at him."
Hotch nodded, the guilt returning. He felt awful, he was an awful parent. "I see Hailey."
"And that scares you." Rossi said it as a fact, not a question.
Hotch nodded. "I think it does."
"Because she's gone."
Hotch's throat felt like it closed on him. He couldn't move, and he somehow felt anger to Rossi. Rossi just saying that made his body overwhelm with such fury he couldn't even move or even look at Rossi anymore.
"And Jack isn't." Rossi informed.
Hotch closed his eyes, his jaw clenching tight. "I know that."
"No, you don't," Rossi explained. His hand returned to his shoulder sympathetically, but Hotch didn't even want to swat it away. He didn't want Rossi there anymore. "She's gone and seeing Jack reminds you of that."
Hotch felt tears fall, and he forced his fist into the concrete, blood instantly forming to the wounds. The tears flooded faster from the aching pain. It throbbed, but he didn't care. The pain in his knuckles distracted him from the pain that throbbed everywhere else.
"She's dead, Hotch."
The words hung in the air and the wind blew harder.
"But Jack isn't."
The tears streamed down. He wanted to die again. This was all too much.
"Your stronger than this, and you know that, and Jack knows that," Rossi had sincerity and sympathy laced heavily in his tone. He chose his words delicately with each syllable. "He needs a father like you if he's going to get over this."
Rossi and Hotch hadn't spoken a word to eachother since Rossi voluntarily drove Hotch home. He'd arrange for someone to get his car sometime tonight. Hotch got out of the car and didn't even give Rossi a second glance. He still felt angry. Yes, Hailey is dead, but was that really the right time to remind him of that? He slammed the car door and walked up to his house, the temptation of running off invading his comfort. The temptation was beyond tempting but he let it subside, and he stepped inside. He dragged his feet to the sofa and slumped down it, burying his face into a pillow.
"Daddy?" Jack said from behind. Hotch popped up, looking over his shoulder. He was still holding his Dinosaur. And he looked scared. Hotch forced a smile.
"Your still awake?"
Jack nodded, running over to his daddy eagerly, jumping on his lap. "I missed you," he pulled at the Dinosaur's legs as he spoke.
Hotch finger-combed Jack's hair. He had Hailey's hair color. "I missed you too, little buddy."
"Aunty's said we had an earthquake-"
The earthquake! How could he have forgotten? He wrapped his arms around Jack and brought him closer to his face, fear filling him whole from head-to-toe. "Everything was alright here?" Hotch asked.
Jack nodded with certain. "I hid under my covers."
Hotch let his laugh show. Then Jack smiled at his dad's laugh, unfamiliar with the sound. But when he heard it, it was calming. "I never heard you laugh." Jack admitted.
Hotch felt a ping of guilt, but he let it wash away. "Never?"
"Never." He decided.
Hotch pushed his son's bangs out of his face and kissed his forehead, painfully aware of all of the mistakes he had made again. But the one that he feels the worst about is wanting to die. How could he want to die when he had this? His pillar of strength, his happiness, the only person in the world who shared his laugh. He squeezed Jack harder, seeing his eyes glisten from the hallway light. He dared to stare directly into them, seeing Hailey. Then seeing himself in his smile. Jack was full of life, an excited and happy little boy. And Hotch didn't want to miss a single day of watching him grow up. He wanted to cry again, this time for realizing that he almost missed it.
Learn to pause, or nothing worthwhile will catch up to you.
I just felt like writing a Hotch story. God, I love Hotch. :)