This is the end of Act One. I won't start posting Act Two, "Does Not Play Well With Others," until I've got myself caught up with the case fic I have currently running, "Scrambling for Altitude." I'm also committed to picking up my poor abandoned AU fantasy, "Caller of the Living," again.

A chunk of this scene is shamelessly lifted from my previous one-shot story, "Fourth Time For Everything" but with a slightly different emphasis.

A thousand thanks to all of you who review or alert or favorite my stories. You light up my life and kick start my muse!

~ Kitty

Act One

It's All Context

Scene IV: Fear of Failure

Aaron Hotchner

April 1998

Same day

"Are you sure that you're all right?" Gideon asked him for the fifth or sixth time since they returned to their motel on the edge of town.

"Positive," he lied for the fifth or sixth time. It was easier to lie than it was to deal with the confusing fact that in the heat of confrontation, his fear had not been for his life, but that he might screw up the case somehow and make Elmo Chase impossible to prosecute.

Now, with Chase safely in jail, he was suddenly all too aware of the danger he had been in. He saw into the depths of those over-and-under barrels, felt the muzzle brush against his chest. He read the nothing-else-to-lose pain in their UNSUB's pale eyes.

As he lay on his bed in his shirtsleeves, the perspiration prickled at his forehead. He kept his hands laced behind his head to disguise the tremors in his fingers. Beneath his shirt, his tee clung damply to his torso.

"It's always unsettling the first time," Gideon said.

Aaron made a neutral noise, then backtracked, confused. "What's unsettling the first time?"

"Having a gun aimed at you."

"Oh," he said. "Wasn't my first, though."

"Wasn't your first what?"

We're not doing very well at communicating, are we?

"Wasn't the first time somebody's held a gun on me. Was the, ah–" Oh, come on, idiot, how many times was it? "Fourth time."

Gideon made a sound composed half of surprise, half amusement. "That must be some kind of record for a young attorney. Except for maybe those TV lawyers who are always running around and doing all their own investigations."

Aaron stared at the ceiling. "Wasn't like that. Guy with PTSD I was trying to represent took me hostage trying to bargain his way out of a court martial back in JAG Corps. Then there were – stupid threats from a couple mobsters. Nothing as intense as today. Just waving a handgun around."

Actually, there was only one stupid threat, from a little fuckup of a small-fry mobster in an alley. Aaron had looked him in the eye and said, "Jesus, Federici, don't piss me off," and the poor guy had shoved the .22 back down into his pants and scuttled away.

The other occasion – the first occasion – had been when he was thirteen. He could no longer remember exactly what started it, not that it ever took much to get the old man started even on a good day. His dad had ordered him to kneel down by his bed. He'd held his .38 Police Special right at the base of Aaron's brain and told him to say his prayers, because he was going to die. His mother had stood in the doorway, wringing her hands and weeping and repeating, You know that he really doesn't mean it, baby. Just go along with him. Got to go along to get along, Aaron. Come on, just say your prayers. Say, "Now I lay me down to sleep" or something. It's all going to be all right. Just do what he says, will you, please, honey? Come on, please, baby, you know he doesn't mean it.

And Aaron knelt there with his hands folded and realized that his father did in fact mean it, and that when the gun went off, his mother would insist to the police that it had been an accident because nothing was ever the old man's fault, and he was going to die there at thirteen with his brains splattered across his Star Wars down comforter, and he could not think of a single thing that he wanted to say to God.

Not a fucking word.

"Come on, Aaron," Jason Gideon said gently. "You're wound up awfully tight and you're grinding your teeth. Smell this." He waved a dark red vinyl bottle under Hotchner's nose. Something aromatic with hints of citrus and clove teased at his nostrils. "Skin lotion. It warms up your muscles. I get it sent to me by a friend in Haifa," he said. "Fabulous stuff. Let me give you a back rub."

He considered the offer from several angles, including the one that included the issue of that weird Jason-in-my-bed thing from February in Sioux Falls.

"OK," he said finally. "Thanks."

"Shirt off," Gideon directed.

Aaron sat up and removed his tie, his dress shirt, and his tee. He glanced once at Jason to see whether there was anything peculiar about the way Gideon looked at him, but his boss was occupied rolling up his own sleeves, removing his watch, and squeezing a daub of the lotion into the palm of his right hand.

"Turn over. You can put the pillow right across like this – and your head and neck will be more comfy. Arms down at your sides. How's that?"

"It's good. It's–" Lotion-covered fingers began to stroke his shoulders and the back of his neck. Whatever was in the stuff, it really was wonderful, both heating and stimulating. "Oh, nice," he breathed, and that was the last coherent thing he said for the better part of half an hour. Gideon's hands, alternately soothing his muscles and driving his thumbs deep into the knots of tension he found, quickly reduced him to sighing and groaning into the edge of the pillow.

When he was done, Aaron had no interest in moving. He felt like a puddle of of warmth and contentment. Gideon pressed his tee shirt into one of his hands and told him to put it on to retain the heat on his back and shoulders. Hotch fumbled with it and managed to pull his head and arms through the right holes, but when he realized he had it on inside out and backwards, he couldn't work up enough ambition to put it on properly.

"I'm going out for a bit," Gideon said. "Going to catch up with a couple friends. Can I bring you anything when I come back?"

He made a negative sound. "I'm OK," he mumbled. "Just want ... nap."

"Do that," Jason said. "It'll do you good." He snapped off the light as he left the room. "Sleep well."



He awakened at around ten, bought a couple cans of soda from the vending machines, turned on the TV, and missed Haley. She was unavailable, attending some work-related team-building horseshit thing in Silver Spring on Monday and Tuesday. He wouldn't have seen her even if he had been at home.

He could have used a little phone sex. Although more than five hours had passed since he faced down Elmo Chase, he still had that urge-to-merge feeling common to many people who had just faced death, and masturbation wouldn't cut it. It wasn't just the release. It was an intimacy thing.

He could almost hear his divinely silly wife say, "Hey, go to back to sleep. Maybe you'll get lucky and Gideon will join you again." Of course, he hadn't said a word to her about the Jason thing, he was probably as straight as any man he knew, and Haley would only say it because she was outrageous.

Hell, he couldn't even tell her about the Elmo Chase incident. Even the Jimmy-Federici-in-a-dim-alley thing had upset her so severely that she had cried for days. As the daughter of a policeman, she had seen her mother kissing her father goodbye every day and never knowing whether he would return home alive from his shift. If Aaron hadn't assured her that the Behavioral Sciences people were consultants, a step removed from the actual work of investigation, she never would have agreed to the career change.

God, he missed her!

Eventually, he stripped down to his boxers and climbed into his bed. He thought he would have trouble getting back to sleep, but whatever magic was in that lotion was still at work. He was out within minutes.

The room was dark and silent, and he had no idea what the time was when he again felt the weight pattern shift on the mattress. He hardly dared to breathe and he had no idea what he would do, what he would say – but he knew that he was not entirely unhappy at this turn of events.

Again, the warm, familiar hand on his upper arm. "You're thinking about me," Gideon whispered. "I can tell."

The imp side of Hotchner wanted to say Of course I'm thinking of you, you're in my bed, but instead he tried to master his thundering heart. He licked his lips and said, "Yes."

"Good," Jason said. "I've been thinking about you, too."

Instead of sliding down his arm, Gideon's fingers crept up, into his sleeve, up toward his shoulder. Having Jason's hand under his clothing and touching him was a significantly different thing from Jason massaging his bare shoulders and back. It was – covert.



Jason settled himself behind Hotch, his fingers exploring only his arm and shoulder, his warm breath against his neck. Neither of them said a word, nor did either attempt to move closer.

After a while, the fingers slid back down his arm, along his waist. Slipped under his tee and gently explored Aaron's chest, swirling the patches of hair around his nipples, tracing his ribs. Aaron bit his lip; he would no longer be able to hide his wildly thudding heartbeat from Gideon. He didn't mean to make a sound, but he did, a faint whimper that was half apprehension, half anticipation.

He shivered slightly as Jason's lips touched the back of his neck.

"This is a first time for you, isn't it?"

"Yes," he managed to breathe. Well, there had been the standard experimentations of boyhood – at summer camp, in the woods. Not much of it was mutual in nature, though. Mostly "every man for himself."

"Don't be afraid," Jason whispered. "Everything will be fine."

Hotch thought of Haley, thought of his vows, thought of his responsibilities, his career, his reputation. Told himself he had to stop this, now.

Gideon's hand played along his stomach and traced the waistband of his shorts.

"What do you want from me?" Aaron managed to breathe.

"Just to touch you. Shush. Everything will be fine."

A confident hand brushed gently across the front of his boxers and he hissed as, through the fabric, Gideon's fingers made the briefest possible contact with the erection that made a lie out of any protest he would dare to make.

"You liked that?"

"Mmm." It was all he could manage now.

Gideon scooted still closer, so close that even through his tee, Aaron felt that dense cloud of fur on Jason's chest against his back.

Gideon had been reaching around Aaron's arm, but now he lifted it slightly so it rested on his own. His fingers crept down the front of Aaron's boxers again and slid into the fly opening.

Hotch cried out involuntarily, so tense, so anxious, that he was beyond words.

He was long past his teen years. It was embarrassing how quickly, how unexpectedly, those gentle adventuring fingers brought him to a climax. He leaned back against Gideon, panting, fighting to get his breath back.

Jason gave a low chuckle and kissed the back of his neck. "Wait right here," he said.

What have I done? What did I let him do?

Gideon returned from the bathroom with a warm wash cloth. Still in the dark, he cleaned Aaron up. Then he pressed a kiss to his forehead. "You're beautiful, Aaron," he said. "Sleep well."

And he was gone, back to his own bed and very soon asleep, his breathing slow and even.

Aaron lay awake for he had no idea how long, curled up almost fetally, reliving each touch, each tingle, each shiver, like an adolescent girl reliving her first kiss. And, like an adolescent girl, he found himself wondering whether Gideon would lose interest in him now that Aaron had ceded control to him. Like the boys who lose interest in a girl after she puts out.

These thoughts, these fears, did nothing to reassure him.


Gideon seemed capable of acting as if nothing had happened. For the first few hours of the next day, Hotchner found it profoundly difficult to meet his superior's gaze or answer him coherently. He stammered, lost his place, and generally felt like a fool. Part of it was embarrassment at violating his marital vows. Part of it was a fear that rocked him to his core when he finally identified it: He was afraid that now that Gideon had had his way, he wouldn't want him anymore.

Don't be an ass, Aaron. He's a profiler. He knew that you had – needs last night. He had them too. It worked out to everyone's benefit. Don't make it into something that it's not.

After dinner, he returned to the motel and reviewed some data again, then went for a long walk, only turning back when it started to rain.

He returned to the room to find Gideon showered and in his usual pajama bottoms – the man apparently never wore a shirt to bed - sitting in an armchair and reading the newspaper. "Glad you're back," he said. "You're wet."

Aaron nodded idiotically. "It's raining."

Gideon looked at him over his half-glasses. "That would do it."

He hung his suit to dry and took a long, hot shower. He considered a long cold shower, but, hell, there was no reason for Gideon to visit him again: he had already identified Aaron for what he really was, an unfaithful, spineless man with premature ejaculation problems.

Fuck it. You're taking this much too seriously.

He dried his hair and put on his shirt and boxers.

When he returned to the cool air of the room, Gideon was sitting up in bed, reading the sports section. His bedside lamp was the only illumination in the room. He set the paper aside and smiled at Aaron. He patted the mattress beside him and said, "Come here."

It was weird. As Aaron stared at his superior and realized that he was going to go to Jason, whatever the man had in mind, a little part of him died – and a little part of him came to life.

I can't figure this out.

The distance between the bathroom door and Jason's side seemed insurmountable. He put one foot in front of another, another, another, scarcely breathing.

"Sit down."

Aaron sat down sideways, facing Gideon. He made himself meet the man's gaze. Jason drew the covers back and said, "Come on in."

He slid in tentatively under the sheets. As before, he was on the left, Gideon on the right. Unfamiliar orientation. Imbalance of power.

Jason lay back on his pillow. "Aaron, will you please kiss me?"

Aaron half-sat up, leaning on his elbow. It was different with a light on, with his eyes open, with no possible wiggle room to pretend it hadn't happened.

He touched the lined face, the noble nose, the deeply furrowed brow of the man upon whom his career success depended. This gifted man who apparently considered him a worthy partner, perhaps even successor.

"Stop," Gideon said. "I see it in your eyes. You can stand up and walk away now, and it will change nothing between us. Aaron, you're a fine agent – more potential in a new man than I've seen in years, and I'm proud to call you my friend. Your success is not, and will never be, contingent on–" He waved a hand vaguely. "On this. Don't do it if you–"

Impulsively Aaron shut him up with a kiss on the mouth, firm, determined. Committed. And, eh, a little clumsy. When he pulled back, Gideon's eyes glowed.

"Ohh," he breathed. "Oh, my goodness, Aaron." He read Aaron's face with his fingers. "So beautiful."

Aaron bent again, still a little shy and thrown off by how different Gideon's mouth was from Haley's, but willing to learn. Jason stroked his cheekbones. He tangled the fingers of his left hand into Gideon's thick chest hair. Both of them gave a little, their lips parting. No tongues – just a little bit of surrender on both sides.

He rested his brow against Gideon's. "I'm in new territory here. I have no idea what to do."

"What do you want to do?"

Christ, how do I answer that one?

"I don't know," he confessed. "I – I know some things I don't want to do, things I don't want to – to be done to me–"

God, you're pathetic, Hotchner.

"Shush." Gideon's voice was gentle and understanding. He rolled to his left side."Then let's just stick with what we know, shall we? Lie back down, Aaron, and relax. No, turn around and face me."

He obeyed with a nervous laugh. "You make me sound braver than I am."

Gideon chuckled. "Which part of Shush weren't you clear on? Here – I think I recall that you like – oh, yes you do! You definitely like that!" Aaron gasped, stiffened, and reached out reflexively for Gideon's hip. Once his hand was there, once his chief had reduced him to hushed moans of need, he gathered his courage and let his fingers slide down to the (frankly, a little scary) protrusion in Gideon's pajamas.

Gideon's eyes widened and he gave a long sigh. "Ohh, now, you see – you've already learned something new, and, oh, my." He paused to catch his breath. "You – I must say, you show great promise."

Glimpsing a return to a balance of power, Aaron slipped his fingers into the fly of Jason's pajamas. Watching him wince and arch at his touch was impossibly exciting, empowering. It made his own body quiver, made the fear dissipate.

"Hotch," Jason murmured huskily, "a little ... faster ... a little ... " A harsh cry, and the division head was convulsing against his hand, teeth gritted, face contorted, his thrusts rapidly growing arrhythmic. The sight of all that power and brilliance out of control as a result of his own ministrations sent him over the edge himself with a strangled scream.

Only later, as he drifted back to sleep in his own bed, did he realize that what he had cried had been, "Help me!"