Don't Fear

Of course, there was hardly a time when a member of the team wasn't around him. Garcia would often park with armfuls of knitting in his room, chattering nonstop. JJ brought Henry by every day to see his Uncle Hotch. Emily and Reid would come by at night, reading books and sleeping in chairs.

On one hand, he wanted to tell them that Foyet would wait before striking again. On the other, it was nice not to be alone. But now he was being released from the hospital. Going back to the apartment. His apartment.

Rossi had told him that he, not Morgan or Garcia or anyone else, was going to drive him home. End of discussion. No wonder he'd been married so many times.

He had submitted to being wheeled out, per hospital policy. It was still hard to move. But Rossi had driven it.

"Garcia is knitting that purple monstrosity for you, you know," Rossi told him.

"What exactly is it?"

"It's either a tent, a cape, or an afghan."

"Probably the cape."

They were at Rossi's truck. It was a monstrosity in itself, a hulking black thing that looked like a wrong turn at Wannabe Farmersville.

Rossi opened the door and did a mock bow.

"You treat all your dates like this?" Hotch hauled himself inside. Slowly.

"Just the kids with the cute butts."

Hotch tried to scowl. It didn't work. He shut up and pulled his seatbelt on.

Once they were moving, Rossi asked what he wanted to eat.

"I'm not hungry."

"After hospital food? Bullshit. Besides, there's no food in your fridge. Morgan threw it all out."

"Why was Morgan-"

"We were cleaning. Actually, Morgan was patching the wall when Garcia opened the fridge and about passed out. You do know about expiration dates?"

"Remind me to make you do all the paperwork when I get back."

"So?"

Hotch raised an eyebrow.

"Food, Aaron. To eat. What do you want?"

He shrugged. "Chinese?"

Rossi rolled his eyes. "Lucky Stars?"

Hotch nodded.

"Take a nap," Rossi advised. "It's the dinner rush."

. . . . . . . . . . .

When Rossi taped him awake, they were in front of Rossi's new apartment building in Quantico.

"Dave, I think you forgot the way to my place."

"Believe me, I've been there enough recently."

"Dave-"

"Aaron, shut up. You're staying here tonight. Or at Emily's, if you prefer. Even Morgan's, although that mutt of his isn't nearly as well-trained as Mudgie. Even Garcia would-"

Hotch held up a hand. "I give. Uncle."

"Come on in, then. Don't get out until I get over there!" he added as Hotch began to get out. "If you fall and break open your head Garcia will put mine on a pole outside the bullpen."

"Yes Mother."

He was still stiff. Actually, he was still hurting like hell, but he wasn't about to say so and sure as hell wasn't about to take any painkillers.

"I picked up your prescriptions," Rossi added, shaking the bag cheerfully.

Hotch shook his head, watching where he stepped so as not to fall flat on his face. "I don't want to take them."

"Why? Because Foyet's addicted to his painkillers? Or because you're too proud to admit you might be injured?"

He considered making a rude hand gesture and decided he might lose his balance if he did.

Rossi's apartment was more rightly a penthouse, taking up half a floor in itself, and done out in Rossi's very strange take on Renaissance Italian style-complete with dog hair, rampart chew toys, a stack of manila folders a good three feet wide and one deep, and- surprisingly-a computer to which was attached an MP3 player JJ had gotten him. And a PDA that Garcia had gotten for him. Yes, David Rossi was now a fully functioning member of the 21st century.

Mudgie instantly ran to Hotch and proceeded to lick both his hands and nearly knock him over.

"Mudgie!" Rossi scolded, Chinese in one hand and medicine in the other. "Off!"

Hotch knelt down and scratched Mudgie behind both ears. "Hey, Mudgie."

Rossi grumbled as Hotch got comfortable on the floor, Mudgie going into ecstasies over all the petting and praise and rolling up so his stomach was skyward and tongue lolling out.

"Damned mutt likes you more then me," Rossi complained, setting plates and putting out the food on his dining room table.

Hotch was still on the floor, Mudgie panting happily, head on Hotch's legs. "That's because I lived here for a month before I found my apartment."

"Yeah, and he slept on your bed to whole time."

"I couldn't tell him no. It was winter and he was cold."

"Aaron, I spend more on keeping that damned dog well-feed, warm, and happy then most people do on their kids. Face it. You're a sucker for kids and puppies."

"Dogs."

"Puppies."

"Mudgie isn't a puppy," Hotch pointed out with lawyerly regard for precision.

"Mudgie was giving you a whipped-puppy look. Ergo, puppies."

"Are you a puppy, Mudgie?" Hotch asked. Reacting, Mudgie began to squirm around, begging for more. "Of course not. And I don't have any," he whispered in the dog's ear.

"What are you telling my dog?"

Deciding Rossi didn't need to know that Hotch had spent one lazy Saturday feeding Mudgie wholly inappropriate foods, including deep-fried livers and popsicles, and had thereafter always kept in his briefcase a collection of various crunchies-from potato chips to ramen noodles to some truly smelly turkey jerky-which he would drop by and feed to the dog while his owner was in the other room, or out to Church, Hotch fudged by saying "He likes me more because I'm better looking."

Rossi rolled his eyes and poured dog food into a bowl. Mudgie leapt up and ran.

"And you," Rossi added, beckoning Hotch over and pointing at the table.

Hotch dragged himself over and looked at the food. "Is there anything left in the restaurant?"

Rossi shrugged. "I paid, didn't I? And don't feed Mudgie anything."

There were packages of dry noodles, the purpose of which Hotch had never discerned, and fortune cookies. If only the bags didn't crackle so much.

Hotch was surprised by how hungry he was. Not that he would tell Rossi, or anything.

Mudgie joined Hotch after finishing his dinner, head on Hotch's lap while he ate. After all, he might spill a grain of rice, or something.

"And don't let him sleep with you!" Rossi warned, after telling Hotch to go take a nap.

"What do you think I do, invite him?"

"Yes."

He feed Mudgie a fortune cookie and went to lay down.

. . . . . . . . . . .

Foyet was crushing him. There was no air. And there was the knife, dripping with his blood, in Foyet's hand.

"I'm enjoying this," Foyet told him pleasantly, as if they were having a picnic. "Are you, Aaron? Aaron! Aaron!"

Foyet's voice had changed, and he was being shaken. But his arms weren't lead anymore-he swung out to catch Foyet on the side of the head, Mudgie was barking-

Mudgie. Rossi's apartment. Rossi.

"Dave."

Rossi let go of Hotch's arms. "Jesus, Aaron."

Mudgie, having no regard for his own safety, was sitting on the bed and trying to lick any part of Hotch he could reach with his giraffe tongue.

Hotch realized he was shaking and sweating and had hit Rossi, since there was blood coming from his lip.

"Sorry, Dave. Bad dream."

"No shit," Rossi sat down and shoved Mudgie over to have room. Mudgie responded by curling himself under Hotch's arm.

"How much did you-Did I say-"

"Foyet was attacking you."

"Ah."

Rossi looked at him for a minute. "We will get him, understand me?"

"Yes."

"And when we do, you can have Jack and Haley back."

"I'm never getting Haley back, Dave. Especially after this."

"They'll be here."

Hotch shrugged and stroked Mudgie.

Rossi was wearing his ridiculous old-man pjs, the same style he'd had since the BAU was in the subbasement of the Quantico headquarters. During his second divorce, he'd lived at the BAU, sleeping in a storage closet in similar gear.

"Scoot," he ordered Aaron. "And you, dog," he added to Mudgie with a pat."

"What?-"

There was some shifting and arranging, but by the end of it, Rossi was holding Hotch and Mudgie had Hotch's other side covered.

"Get some sleep," Rossi told him firmly.

If Foyet got past Mudgie, he'd have to deal with Rossi, and vice versa. And it was warm and he wasn't quite awake from his dream. And Rossi was stroking his hair, and Mudgie was snuffling into his leg, and there was a tail on the other side of his head.

Rossi felt Hotch go to sleep, and Mudgie looked at his master over Hotch's knee.

"He'll be fine," Rossi told the dog.