Author's Note: Hello, readers! A couple of notes for you today.
First, please remember to stop by our forum, "Chit Chat on Author's Corner" and grab a nomination ballot for the first EVER Profiler's Choice Awards! You have SIX days remaining to nominate your picks and we'd love to hear from each one of you. Come, help us make sure that your favorite stories and authors get the recognition that they deserve.
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Love and Understanding
PYOP Prompt: A hard case leads to Characters A & B connecting on a deeper level.
David Rossi didn't waste a lot of time dwelling on things that he couldn't change. Death was an inevitability for every living being...even him...even those he loved. He would and could agree that many times...many, many times… people were taken before their time. But once gone, he was of the mind that all they could do was offer those unfortunate souls justice.
Analyzing if an action he'd not taken during the course of a case wasn't something he wasted valuable energy doing. A person made the best decisions that he could at the time he was asked to make them. That was his policy.
However, it hadn't always been.
He supposed that's why he understood the man he loved so well. Once, he'd been like him. Until the job had almost eroded what little humanity he'd possessed.
He'd made a choice all those years ago.
Not in a blaze of glory like Gideon. Nope, his exit had been very quiet; he'd simply chosen to depart when he'd finished the last case on his docket ten years ago. Early retirement had looked damn good back then. And after watching one unsub after another wreak endless havoc for more years than he wanted to think about, he'd taken the proverbial money and ran.
And he felt like he'd been running the entire time he had been gone.
But evidently all his roads had led him back here. He whimsically wanted to believe it had been destiny. In truth, though, it had simply been a favor for an old friend and the desire to fuck with Strauss' well laid plans that had brought him back. Her ambition and greed had led her to embark on an attempt to decimate a good man's career. A guy he'd trained...mentored.
A guy that, despite every single obstacle thrown in his path, persevered.
Never a man that offered praise freely, he had to admit, Aaron Hotchner had guts.
But this guilt that the younger man immersed himself into every time a case went south was going to kill him quicker than any unsub's bullet ever could. And that wasn't something Dave was prepared to sit idly by and watch. Not when he had so much on the line...something he hadn't risked in a hell of a long time.
Shaking his head, Dave watched as Aaron paced the small hotel room again. "You're really starting to make me dizzy over here, Aaron," he admonished softly, his eyes tracking the younger man's movements. "Pacing isn't going to change the way this case went down."
Crossing his arms across his chest, Aaron turned to glare at Dave where he laid on one of the two beds in the room, his long legs crossed at the ankle and his hands clasped behind his head as he reclined against the headboard. "How do you do it, Dave?" Hotch snapped almost angrily. "You just walk away from the station and turn it off. I'm not capable of doing that," he muttered defensively, turning on his heel to pace the length of the bed again.
"You are," Dave said slowly, aware that he was going to have to make a hell of a convincing argument to get through to the man he'd been sharing his life with for the past year. "I agree that it isn't something that you're going to be able to do overnight, but you can do it, Aaron."
"Dave," Hotch said softly as he turned to pin the other man to the bed with his focused gaze, "I made a bad call yesterday and another woman died this morning because of it. How do I just move past that?"
Scooting upward on the mattress, Dave leaned his head back and returned Hotch's steady stare. "Because I don't believe that you made a bad call. You took the information that you had at that time and made a decision to focus surveillance on the motel that the unsub had been frequenting. It isn't your fault that the perp changed his MO at the last minute. You aren't responsible for that woman's death any more than any of the rest of us are."
"I should have seen it coming," Hotch shook his head, pacing again, his eyes glued to the industrial carpet. "We profiled him to have links to the warehouse district. I should have..."
"Been a mind reader?" Dave snapped, his tone sharper than he first intended. "When the fuck did you get imbued with the magical powers of second sight?" Taking a deep breath as he watched Hotch's jaw flex, he sighed. "Sit down and listen to me, Aaron. Please?" Dave asked, capturing Hotch's arm and tugging him down on the bed beside him.
"What?" Hotch returned, running a frustrated hand around his neck as he sat stiffly on the edge of the mattress.
"You've got to stop doing this to yourself," Dave stated calmly, stroking his hand down Aaron's arm as he attempted to ease him slowly backward. "At a certain point, you have to realize that no matter how fast you move or how well you profile an unsub that you can't save everybody. Sometimes there are casualties. Whether because of bad information or not having the right information at the right time...occasionally, we're not going to get there fast enough and bad things are going to happen. That doesn't make you any less of an agent or any less of a man."
"That doesn't help Charlotte Barrett's family though, does it?" Hotch replied bitterly, dropping his own head back against the head board as he named their unsub's last victim. Staring at the ceiling, he muttered, "Doesn't help them at all."
"Neither does what you're doing to yourself," Dave protested impatiently. "Charlotte's sacrifice led us right to the bastard's door, Hotch. If you want to dwell on something, think about that. Because this guilt that you let eat away at you and insist on carrying around is eventually going to take its toll."
"What do you expect me to do, Dave?" Hotch asked tiredly, turning his head to look at his lover.
"The same thing you've been doing. Your job. I expect you to do your job to the best of your ability and let it go," Dave answered quietly, staring into the dark flashing eyes, recognizing the signs of fatigue hovering just at the edges.
"Or I'm gonna end up visiting the guy I love in his rubber room at Bellview," Dave replied truthfully, not willing to mince words when it came to their future happiness. "Because, eventually, this shit is gonna drive you insane."
"You won't let that happen," Hotch said softly, reaching toward Dave and linking their hands together.
"Damned straight," Dave grumbled, squeezing the hand in his, letting their fingers settle together. "Why do you think I'm back here busting my ass in what should be my golden years? I refuse to allow you to go down that road, Aaron. Take it from a guy that already traveled it, the scenery sucks."
Offering Dave a sidelong glance, Hotch snorted. "I guess I'll just trust you on that."
"Have I ever steered you wrong before?" Dave asked evenly, pulling at Hotch's hand until the younger man settled against his chest.
"I guess not," Hotch admitted, leaning his head against Dave and listening to the steady thump of his heart beating. "I just wish I could have saved her," he whispered, the words filled with a mixture of fatigue and regret.
"I know," Dave murmured, brushing a kiss to the crown of Hotch's dark head. "But right now, I'm more concerned about saving you."
And smiling against Dave's shirt, Hotch gently smoothed his hand across Dave's chest. "I think you already have."
Closing his eyes, Dave smiled. He hadn't saved him yet. But he would.
They'd do it together.
Author's Note 2 - Also guys, please don't forget that if you'd like to advertise the awards on your own profile pages or stories, there's a short blurb on my (ilovetvalot) and Tonnie's (tonnie2001969) profile page for you to copy and paste if you choose!
Again, thanks to everyone reading, reviewing, alerting and favoriting this story!