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If Only We Could All Be Superman

Aaron Hotchner had a hero complex. And it was going to kill him if someone didn't do something soon to stop it. Soon.

It was there in the lines etched against his aging face. It was evident in the way he held himself so stiffly, as though he could brace himself against whatever obstacle was hurled in his path. It was in the slightly defeated hunch of his shoulders that slowly appeared when a case, like the one they'd just finished, went south.

Even Superman had his Kryptonite. And Aaron Hotchner's was evident.

David Rossi had learned long ago that he couldn't save every victim, try though as he might. And the sad truth was that some didn't even want him to make the effort, their trauma was so great. Unfortunately, his one-time student had never managed to learn that lesson, even after fifteen years of loyal service to the Bureau.

But as he sat looking at the stoic, hardened face of their collective Unit Chief, Rossi knew it was time to disabuse his friend that he was the only thing that stood between the darkness and the victims.

No one had that power. No one.

Rising quietly, Dave made his way to his former protégé's side. Dropping into the deep leather seat beside him, Rossi offered Hotch a sidelong glance. "Deep thoughts?" he asked softly, well aware of the answer before he asked the question.

"We should have been able to save that boy," Hotch declared woodenly, his eyes never leaving the window, his eyes staring sightlessly at the bubbling blue sky.

"How many times do I need to remind you that we can't save them all, Aaron?" Dave admonished, his voice lacking any condemnation. "We aren't God. And we aren't omniscient. We had no way of knowing that kid would step in front of the unsub. The shot was already in motion, Hotch. The boy was an unfortunate casualty of a horrendous situation. But, honestly, the abuse he'd suffered at the unsub's hands...I think he knew what he was doing."

"Doesn't change the fact that if I'd figured it out a little sooner...a little faster...," Hotch trailed off, swallowing hard as he stared even deeper into the endless clouds.

Blowing out a deep breath, Rossi demanded, his voice even, "When the fuck did you get superhuman powers, Aaron? You had a whole team of trained profilers that couldn't get a read on that psycho. You don't think each of us feels that guilt? We share the success, Aaron, and we share the burdens of our failures. You aren't a superhero, my friend."

"If only I could be," Hotch said, almost wistfully, his eyes drooping for a second, his fingers clenching tighter around the leather handrest.

"If we all could be Superman, everyone would fly, Aaron. There wouldn't be any point to what we do. We wouldn't be needed."

"I guess," Hotch admitted softly, his face relaxing slightly in spite of the turmoil that still seemed to roil inside his chest.

"Aaron, can I offer you some unsolicited friendly advice?" Dave asked slowly, leaning his head back against the padded seat.

"Would it matter what I said?" Hotch returned evenly.

"Probably not. But I figured that I'd try polite first. You are technically my boss," Rossi replied, ending his comments with a definite snort.

"Just say it, Dave," Hotch sighed, turning his head slightly to stare at the seat ahead of him, the stitching on the leather drawing his attention.

"This job will kill you if you let it. Don't. This team needs you too badly to allow you to burnout," Dave replied knowingly, his words colored by years of experience and compassion for the man beside him.

"Is that what happened to you? All those years ago?" Hotch asked curiously, glancing toward the older man beside him.

"I could feel the darkness creeping in, yeah," Dave nodded, letting out a sigh as he kicked his feet out, the muscles in his legs stretching with the effort. "But scarier than that, I found myself seeking it out more and more. The more dangerous the unsub, the better. I wanted to save them all, too, once upon a time. Hell, I still want to save them. I wouldn't have come back otherwise. The difference is that now, I know that I can't. Now, I focus on the monsters. Not the victims. It's the only way to keep your sanity."

"You think we're sane?" Hotch snorted derisively, his lips pressing together tightly as he felt the overwhelming urge rise inside him again.

"I think we're tired. Get some rest, Aaron. Send your red cape out to the cleaners. Then, focus on the next monster we need to hunt."

"Because there'll always be another," Hotch murmured sadly, his earlier anger sliding down once again, resting uneasily somewhere deep inside his already tense mind. Perhaps what Rossi was attempting to share was true…perhaps.

"There always will," Dave agreed, closing his eyes, content in the knowledge that at least he'd tried.

finis