Author: bear (matociquala )
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Warning: Character death, among other things
Spoilers: And anti-spoilers! through 2x15
Disclaimer: *boilerplate denial of ownership here*
Acks: thanks to cpolk and truepenny for prereading
Summary: Five things that never happened to Aaron Hotchner.
(four linked drabbles, and a triple-drabble at the end.)
Hotch knows it's not the end of the world.
It's not even the end of Gideon's career. He can teach; he will teach. He did last time, after medical leave.
Gideon's not far from mandatory retirement. Fifty-seven. Although the Director could push it back to sixty. New rules since 9/11, too: even after that, he could stay on as a consultant. Keep his pension.
Gideon still wouldn’t be allowed a gun.*
This is the second time Gideon's decisions have resulted in the death of an agent.
Hotch signs and dates. He does his job.
He does what he has to do.
*Exceptions to the mandatory retirement age will only be granted in special cases where the continuation of the employee's services promote the needs of the component in fulfilling its mission, and retention of the employee clearly serves the public interest. -- DOJ 1200.1
Elle Greenaway is something else again: beautiful, tough, and--Reid aside, because you can't count Reid--the smartest agent Hotch has ever worked with. And he failed her.
No amount of scrubbing walls can make that go away.
Which is why he breaks the news. "Elle, I'm pulling you. We're sending J.J. in." In a dark wig, a bulky sweater.
Her hand shakes, pressed against her centipede scar. Her voice doesn't shake at all. "I can do my job. J.J. isn’t ready--"
"Stay angry," he interrupts. "There will be a thousand cases. This is not the end of the world."***
Morgan says call her.
Morgan is giving him relationship advice.
There's Hotch's thumb on the speed dial, Honey, I can’t say why, but today I need you to stay home.
She wouldn’t be Haley, whom he loves, if she would just leave it. She won't ask. She'd never put him in that spot. But she'd call a friend....
Staring at the phone won't dial it.
He flips it shut.
Someday, he knows, he's coming home to an empty house and a process server.
He does his job. He doesn't blame her.
But it feels like the end of the world.
His failures brought them here, to this graveside in the sunlight. His mistakes. He should tell Gideon, that Gideon was just doing his job. That it wasn't his fault.
It wasn't even really Elle's. His mistakes left her vulnerable. Hotch should have predicted the response, how she could crack. "You have to come with me."
She tilts her head. His heart breaks. This is the end of her life.
And this is Hotch's fault, and so it's Hotch's job. He meets her eye as he holds out the cuffs.
"Elle, we have a witness. A neighbor saw you plant that gun."
Hotch would never ask anyone else to do something he couldn't, so this has to be his job.
It must be now. Before the funeral. The funeral he also can't avoid, even though he'll taste vomit at the sound of Taps.
There's just him, and the janitor waxing. Even Gideon's gone.
He descends the stairs with a metal waste bin, and begins. Just cleaning out a desk. No big deal.
The surface is easy. Nothing personal except doodled-on Post-it notes, though those are bad enough. Anybody else would have phone numbers, honeydew lists. But Reid used to write things down, then throw the paper away, seeing it in print enough to ensure he'd remember.
Reid used to.
Hotch is going to have to get used to those words.
The drawers are bad. A stack of gossip magazines, puzzling until he sees who's on them. A wristwatch with a broken strap. A burned candle. The stub of a football ticket.
Hotch throws it all away.
He doesn’t lose it until he picks the last lock and finds Reid's stash. Jelly Bellies, caramels, chocolate covered espresso beans. Rice Krispie Treats in blue foil.
Hotch read the autopsy report. The human details are worst, and most important, too.
Like the stomach contents: puffed rice, sugar, corn syrup, marshmallow fluff. A Rice Krispie treat. Probably the same one Reid had been shoving into his mouth when Hotch sent him to his death.
His last meal.
During extreme stress, the digestive tract shuts down.
Hotch knows all sorts of things. Like the odds against successful CPR. Things he'll need to remember for himself now.
He jerks the drawer off its tracks and upends it over the trash can. A vicious shake to be certain.
Just because it feels like it, doesn't mean it's the end of the world.
**"Marksman" = in poker, a full house, three twos and two aces. "Three ducks, and two bullets."
(yes, I finished a draft of my column first. sheesh. what do you take me for?)