Title: More Than Just a Little Bruise

Challenge: The Great Alphabet Meme 2: D is for Doubt

Prompt by resolucidity

Author: Kuria Dalmatia

Rating/Warnings: FRT/PG (profanity, allusions to abuse and violence) Spoilers for Season 6.

Characters/Pairing: Hotch/Reid, established relationship

Summary: It wasn't the first time that Hotch muttered, "What the hell am I doing?" as he stared at the mirror.

Word Count: ~950

ARCHIVING: my LJ and FFNet account... anyone else? Please ask first.

March 2011.

COMMENTS:

Feedback always welcome.

DISCLAIMER: The Mark Gordon Company, ABC Studios and CBS Paramount Network Television own Criminal Minds. Salut! I just took them out to play and I promise put them back when I'm done. I'm not making any profit just trying to get these images out of my head.

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It wasn't the first time that Hotch muttered, "What the hell am I doing?" as he stared at the mirror. The bruise just below his right eye was one of the more impressive ones he received over the years. He still tasted blood from the cut on his upper lip and where he'd bit the inside of his cheek. He let out a sigh.

Hotch washed his lip and his chin, careful that his tie and shirt didn't get wet. That part was automatic, flipping his tie over his shoulder and rolling up his sleeves. He had been cleaning his own wounds for…Christ…he didn't like thinking about that because it was far longer than he ever wanted to admit to. He grabbed a few paper towels, dried his face off, grabbed a few more, turned on the faucet and wetted the new towels. Dabbing his cheek carefully, he was relieved that the skin hadn't broken.

Still, he was going to have one hell of a shiner.

And Jack always reacted badly to any time Hotch came home with cuts and bruises. Really badly. As in nightmares that had Jack crawling in bed and wedging himself between Hotch and Reid. Those nights, Reid was the one Jack wanted assurances from, which didn't make sense until Reid explained one morning.

Jack knows I'll tell him the truth. Not that you lie to him about what happened, but he wants to know you weren't alone and, well, sometimes you forget to say, 'Daddy had sixteen SWAT agents with him and they all had really big guns.' He remembers that he and Haley were alone with Foyet. I think that's what scares him the most.

But today Hotch didn't have sixteen SWAT agents with him. It was just him and Ewbank, a newly minted cop who just happened to be a woman. The UnSub took Hotch by surprise; Ewbank then handed the UnSub his ass 'beating on a Fed' (her words, not his). It turned out that Ewbank's father was a former agent and, well, Hotch reminded her of her dad.

Hotch tried not to feel humiliated. He tried to quell that little voice in his head that taunted, You let a girl fight your fights for you now? Because you're that weak? That was quickly followed by, You're too old for this. He didn't give a shit that Dave was in his mid-fifties and still going strong. Dave, at least, was always smart enough not to get the crap beat out of him by some UnSub.

The door to the men's room suddenly swung open and Hotch automatically reached for his weapon. He blamed adrenaline on his jumpiness, but knew it mostly came from the UnSub coming out of nowhere and decking the hell out of him. It was going to take a while to shake the hyper-vigilance.

Reid entered, talking on his mobile and carrying a medium-sized Styrofoam cup. Engrossed in his conversation, he barely glanced at Hotch as he walked up, plunked the cup on the sink, turned and left. Hotch wondered if his lover even noticed that he had his hand on his gun. Probably not, which was typical Reid. It made Hotch want to pinch the bridge of his nose because "typical Reid obviousness" inspired him to do that.

It was then he looked down at the cup.

It was filled with ice.

He peered closer and realized that plastic wrap lined the cup so he could pull it out and use it as a makeshift ice pack.

His first thought was, Reid carries Saran Wrap in his messenger bag? But then he chastised himself. That wasn't practical. Sandwich baggies, sure. Antibacterial cream, a ponytail holder, bobby pins, dice, and protein bars, certainly. But plastic wrap? No, a roll took up too much room, so it had to come from the police station's kitchenette.

Hotch was grateful; the warmth from Reid's thoughtfulness washed away some of his earlier embarrassment. Not all of it. Hotch doubted he could let it go anytime soon. He stared at himself a bit longer, seeing every wrinkle and every gray hair.

His phone buzzed against his hip, so he dropped the used towels in the trashcan and took his phone from its holster. It was a text message from Reid.

EWBANK JJ BLK BELT FGTS MMA WLLWGT RNKED

It took a few seconds for Hotch to translate, especially the "JJ" part because JJ always meant Jennifer Jareau in his mind.

Ewbank has a black belt in jujitsu, fights in the mixed martial arts welterweight division, and she's ranked.

Basically, the UnSub didn't have a chance in hell against her; she was the female equivalent of Morgan. Coming from anyone else, Hotch would have balked at the effort to soothe his ego. From Reid? He accepted the effort and put his phone away.

He also understood what else Reid was also telling him: Ewbank's fellow cops would take her seriously now and that wasn't easily earned. Not only did she save a Fed's ass, said Fed happened to be the unit chief and in charge of the investigation. Hotch would be heckled about it until they left but, well, Ewbank did her job. She covered him. He couldn't fault her for that.

He made a mental note to speak to the police chief and commend her actions today. He wondered if he was being sexist, but told himself that if Ewbank had been a guy, he would still speak to the chief.

A good job was a good job. Period.

Hotch pulled his tie down and adjusted it. He washed and dried his hands again. He pried the plastic wrap from the cup, careful not to spill any ice, and twisted it closed. He hissed as he pressed the icepack against his cheek.

He spared one last glance at the mirror.

He did know what the hell he was doing.

He was doing his Job.

And, thankfully, he had Reid there to help remind him of it.

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