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THIS IS FIFTEENTH IN THE "SHAKESPEARE SERIES" OF POST-EPS TO THE NEW SEASON. THIS ONE FOLLOWS "DEVIL'S NIGHT".
Where Eagles Dare Not Perch
Sitting behind his desk, Aaron Hotchner toyed with the paperclip between his fingers as his mind deliberated the upcoming conversation headed his way. Staring at the picture of Jack on his desk, his hand reached for it automatically, bringing it closer to him.
His son. His reason for waking up in the morning. His lifeline.
Inhaling deeply as he took strength from the thoughts of his little boy, his mind revisited their last case. Had he made risky calls in the field that could have harmed his future, he asked himself. The answer was obvious.
Of course, he had. That was part of his job, wasn't it? Making those calls no one else wanted to make. Getting the job done. But he didn't think he'd made any call this time that merited concern. He'd simply done what he would have expected any of them to...he'd gone in and gotten a victim out.
Morgan would have done the same.
Hearing the soft knock on his office door, he replaced the photograph on his desk and glanced toward the entrance to his office. "Come in," he called out, mentally preparing himself for what might start out as a disagreement, but could potentially escalate into a full blown war.
But, he had to take his stand. Now. Before things got any worse.
Cringing as his cell phone vibrated on the corner of his desk, Derek Morgan sighed as he read the display.
Meeting. My office. Ten Minutes.
Fuck. Derek knew what this was about without being told. The boss man felt like he'd had his authority questioned...and he guessed he had.
But not without good reason. Hotch was taking more risks than ever lately, and they couldn't go unnoticed.
Christ, running into a burning building? Alone? No back up?
Hotch could have waited the extra thirty seconds for help to arrive. But, had he?
No. He'd gone in, storming the freaking gates alone. And that was just jacked up. Lead by example...that had always been Hotch's motto, hadn't it? And right now, their so-called leader was making choices that didn't make sense.
And somebody needed to tell him so.
Glancing up as his office door opened, Hotch nodded to the tall, well built man standing in his doorway. "So, you got my message?" Hotch asked bluntly, the words stiff and formal.
"Yeah, I did," Derek nodded, closing the door behind him. Nobody else needed to witness this conversation.
"Good. Have a seat, Morgan," Hotch suggested, gesturing toward the chair in front of his desk. Waiting until the taller man was seated, Hotch eyed him across the desk. "It seems like you and I have some things to discuss. Care to tell me why you're questioning my authority in the field, Morgan?" Hotch asked, lifting one eyebrow as the two men squared off.
"Because lately it doesn't appear like you're thinking through your commands lately, Hotch," Derek replied, his voice serious and truthful.
"Is that so?" Aaron asked, his voice deceptively calm in spite of the anger spiking in his chest.
"You ran into a damned burning building, man. Without backup. If any of us had pulled a stunt like that, we'd still be picking your teeth out of our ass."
"Perhaps," Hotch assented with a short nod, not denying the assertion. "But, what would you have done, Derek? Our best lead was inside that building and we were out of time...I'd like to think I would have taken those points into consideration."
Pressing his lips together, Derek silently admitted the other man had a valid point. He would have gone into the building, too. And probably in exactly the same manner as their intrepid leader had chosen to employ.
"Furthermore, this team is NOT a democracy, Morgan," Hotch stated firmly. "The buck begins and ends with your team leader. I respected that when you were in charge, did I not?"
"Yeah, but Hotch..."
"But nothing," Hotch bit out, interrupting the other man. "There's only room at the top of this pyramid for one person, Derek. I will not tolerate having my decisions publicly questioned while in the field. If you have a problem with my performance, I suggest you either address it with me privately or you file a grievance. Either way, I will not allow you to attempt to disrespect my professional judgment," he continued, his tone unyielding, his gaze unwavering.
"Fine, you want private...it's just the two of us, Hotch," Derek nodded, his jaw tightening. "You're making fucked up calls. You're regularly putting yourself in danger lately. How the fuck do I trust you with my back when you keep jumping into the goddamn fray, Hotch? How do any of us?"
"I don't believe that's what I've done, Morgan," Hotch shook his head. "I'm not doing anything differently than I ever had. You simply notice my role now more easily since you've been in it."
"No, man, ever since Haley died and you got Jack...it's like you've got a death wish or something," Morgan shook his head, the words spoken bluntly and honestly.
Leaning forward, Hotch's eyes narrowed on the other man. "I'll say this once, Morgan. So listen closely. I have more reason than ever before to live. I'm all my son has left. I don't take what I deem unnecessary risks with my life or anyone else's...but I still have a job to do. And I'm going to get it done. And right now, part of my job is to remind you who's in charge here, Derek. Don't make the mistake of questioning my authority a second time."
"Or what?" Derek challenged, his alpha male hackles rising.
"Or you'll find yourself in the unenviable position of finding yourself a new team, Morgan," Hotch replied blandly. "I won't have my integrity and ability to lead called into question. It does nothing except create tension and doubt in the unit. We've all had enough of that. With JJ's sudden departure and the events of the past year, we need...all of us...a sense of stability. I can't have my subordinates questioning me. There are times and places, Derek, where diplomacy isn't an option. The field is one of them. If you've developed a problem with my style, either you need to deal with it or you need to transfer out of this team. I'll write you a recommendation if you choose to go that route."
"No compromise," Derek said with a faint smile. He had to respect the other man. He didn't lie and he said what he meant whether it's what a person wanted to hear or not.
"No compromises," Hotch repeated.
"You honestly don't think the past year changed you, man?" Derek asked softly.
"I never said that," Hotch countered. "But I do believe taking care of my son on my own has only improved my performance as an agent and a Unit Chief. It's taught me to prioritize more...to concentrate on what's truly important."
"I don't agree with you, Hotch," Derek said, keeping his tone respectful, meeting Hotch's eyes without hesitation. "But I shouldn't have questioned you to the others. If I've got an issue, I'll take it up with you from now on."
"You were a good leader, Derek," Hotch said softly, gazing across the desk at the other man. "But I'm back now. If you want to lead, you'll need to look for a new team. I'm not going anywhere."
Well, he had to give his Unit Chief credit. He'd thrown down the gauntlet, cutting across all the bullshit and getting to the heart of the matter with an economy of words. Typical Aaron Hotchner.
Rising, Derek nodded. "I hear you, Hotch," he said softly, extending his arm.
Shaking Derek's hand, Hotch nodded. "Good. I don't want to have this conversation again."
"We won't," Derek offered softly, turning to go.
It appeared he had a lot to think about.