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18 December 2009 @ 11:59 pm
Criminal Minds Fic: Red Hands Black Heart Part 1  
Written for Sweet Charity
Posted to bau_fic


Title: Red Hands Black Heart Part 1
Pairing/Characters: Aaron/Haley, Derek, David, Emily, JJ, Penelope, Jack, OCs
Rating: PG13
Spoilers: 1x1-3x14
Summary: Separated from Haley Aaron decides to fight for his marriage as the team races to find an unsub stalking his family (AU)
Notes/Warnings: Read the disclaimer on my LJ


"Love is a state in which a man sees things most decidedly as they are not"
- Friedrich Nietzsche

/

"Unit 572. We're at the location. Making entry now."

The uniformed officer nodded to his partner and they approached the upscale suburban home, well lit on the outside but inside the partially open front door only darkness could be seen.

Guns drawn and flashlights out, they crept closer noiselessly, then pushed open the door, sweeping the room before rushing in.

A muffled sound came from further back in the house and the lead officer gestured to his partner to follow, both racing forward - guns at the ready.

As they neared the kitchen they spotted a slight figure standing over a body on the floor.

"Police! Put your hands up!"

They shined their lights on the scene in front of them and a petite blonde woman, clearly startled by their intrusion, stared back at them with wide eyes.

Her hands were covered in blood and in one she held a slender blade, a kitchen knife it appeared, the knife's bright metal glinting in the flashlight's glare where it wasn't stained red.

"Drop the knife!"

The woman looked down at her hand and gazed at it for a second before opening her hand and letting go of the knife.

"Step back! Back!"

When she didn't respond one officer grabbed her and pulled her away, throwing her up against the kitchen island as he frisked her.

"I've got a pulse!" The other officer reached for his radio as he shined his flashlight on the body on the ground before him. "Unit 572 requesting ambulance at current location. We have an adult male - thirties or forties - victim of a stabbing." He thumbed off his radio, getting the squawk of an acknowledgement back from the dispatcher, then continued under his breath. "God, there's blood everywhere..."

"Here - use this!" The other officer finished handcuffing the woman and tossed a kitchen towel to his partner. "Down on the floor!" He made the woman kneel then lie face down on the floor then turned turned his flashlight on the injured man.

The officer pressing the towel into the bloody wound drew a quick breath. "Hey, I think I've seen this guy before. Check his ID."

His partner dug for the man's wallet, flipped it open and shined a light on the inside. "Holy shit... This guy's a Fed."

Next to the badge was an FBI ID with the name Aaron Hotchner.

/

"Hey, Hotch..."

JJ poked her head into Aaron's open office door.

Aaron looked up from his paperwork, putting the documents in his desk in a folder as he spoke.

"Yes, JJ?"

"I'm heading out, but I thought you should see these new requests that hit my desk while we were in Houston. The cases are about three hundred miles apart, but there are enough similarities for us to consider looking into them as a possible serial case. There's a strong two week cycle going so if we can get in before the next cycle..."

"Leave them with me," Aaron told her. "I'll review them and decide if we'll present them to the team in the morning."

"Thanks." JJ stepped inside and went to lay the files in Aaron's inbox, but Aaron held his hand out for them instead. "Don't stay too late," she said, heading back to the door.

"Good night," he told her, giving her a nod of farewell as she exited his office.

Staring at the folders in his hand he almost went to open one then quickly shut it and put them in his inbox unopened.

Once JJ was gone, Aaron got up from his desk and walked to the door, looking out over the bullpen below. The rest of the team had gone home, only the janitor left - emptying trash bins and vacuuming the floor.

He closed the door and headed back to his desk, pulling out a large manila envelope from his top drawer. He laid his hands on it for a moment - eyes closed as if steeling himself - then briskly opened it up, laying the thick stack of papers inside on the cleared blotter of his desk.

The documents were slightly dog-eared from handling and reading as well as slightly curled from being rolled into a tight cylinder. He tried to flatten them out, but the damage had been done.

He flipped through the pages - not reading, not doing much of anything really - then finally turned to the last page, the empty signature line with his name printed below it looming at the bottom.

He picked up his Mont Blanc pen automatically, but then stopped, gazing at it for a moment. Putting it aside, he rummaged in his desk and pulled the most nondescript pen he had out of his drawer - a cheap ballpoint from a bank he didn't even have an account at.

He held the pen poised above the line for a good ten minutes before flinging it down, rising to alternately pace his office and stare out the window, looking at nothing. At one point he picked up the folders JJ left, opening both of them only to shut them again with a breathed curse, tossing them back in his inbox.

After an hour of restlessness he returned to his desk, took a deep breath and signed his divorce papers.

/

The text was still visible on his cell phone, lying on the passenger seat of his car as he careened through the streets: 'Georgetown Memorial Hospital ER - Get here as fast as you can. - Rossi'

Derek barely parked his SUV, screeching into the hospital parking lot and leaping out, bolting for the entrance.

A hospital employee pointed at his car as he ran towards her. "Hey, you can't..."

Derek flashed his badge at the woman without slowing. "Not now."

Derek ran through the hospital, dodging nurses and orderlies, skimming past gurneys with mumbled apologies. He almost ran past Spencer in his haste, halting when he recognized the slim figure hurrying in from an adjoining hallway.

"Reid! What's going on?" he asked, breathless.

"I don't know!" Spencer responded, hands flailing, clearly unnerved. "I just got a text from Rossi to get here fast. He didn't say what was going on."

They burst through the Emergency Department doors together and caught sight of Emily heading into a waiting room, her expression grim.

"Prentiss!"

"In here." She beckoned them in, holding the door open. "We're in here."

They followed her inside and found JJ sitting with her hands in her lap, looking shaken, as David prowled the tiny room, tense and taut.

"What the hell's going on?" Derek demanded, more of the room than to anyone in particular. "Why are we here?" He glanced around the room, doing a headcount. "Where's Hotch?"

David stopped pacing long enough to face both of them. "At 7:45 this evening the police responded to a 911 call from one of Aaron's neighbors. They found him on the floor of his house unconscious and bleeding from a stab wound to the abdomen."

"Is he going to be okay? Is it bad?" Spencer asked, looking stunned. He lowered himself into the nearest chair, eyes never leaving David as they waited for him to continue.

"He lost a lot of blood," David explained, his voice revealing the emotion behind the news. "The knife apparently sliced an artery. He's still in surgery to repair the damage. They think his chances are decent, but it's still touch and go. We won't know more until they're done operating."

"Did they catch the son of a bitch who did this?" Derek asked, hands clenched in fists, jaw locked tight. "Because if they didn't..."

"They made an arrest," JJ said solemnly, finally lifting her gaze from the floor. "Haley."

/

"Men! I tell you, they're rotten - the whole lot of them! Who needs them?"

"Uh huh," Haley agreed, gazing out the window, her attention obviously elsewhere.

"Take Roger for example. No good cheating liar! And Andrew? Ha! He conveniently failed to mention that his divorce not going through yet meant they hadn't even drawn up any papers for it!" Clairissa stopped in the middle of her living room, gesturing with her wine glass in her hand. "Don't even get me started on Brian." She let out an exasperated groan. "Men are pigs!"

"Yeah..."

"Here, hon. Have some more wine." Haley held out her still half full glass and Clairissa poured more into it anyway, refilling her own almost empty glass next. "I say to hell with them. We're better off without those bastards."

"I guess."

"Haley, honey..." Clairissa crouched down in front of where Haley was curled up in the corner of her couch. "I know it hurts now, but you'll get over him, I promise! And even if you don't join my She-woman man-hating club, you're still going to be better off if you let him go and find a real man - one who values his family enough to come the hell home once in a while!"

"I know..." Haley murmured, staring into her wine, avoiding her best friend's eyes.

Clairissa plopped down on the couch beside Haley, throwing an arm around her and tugging her in affectionately.

"Oh, sweetie..." She nudged Haley until she caved and laid her head on Clairissa's shoulder. "Think about Jack. He needs a real father, someone to be there for his baseball games and birthday parties. What good is having a hero dad who saves people if he doesn't even know him? Believe me, Aaron will make a fine weekend dad after the divorce. He'll probably spend way more time with Jack than he does now. And you'll be free to find someone who loves you, who wants to build a life with you, not just expect you to push out babies and keep the house clean."

"Aaron's not like that," Haley protested, sitting up. "He never asked me to give up my career."

"And he was never willing to give up his own, was he?" Clairissa raised her eyebrows at Haley until she crumbled in non-verbal response. "Face it, you're an FBI widow. Doesn't matter if he's still alive, he's all but dead to your family."

Haley curled back up next to her friend. "I just feel so guilty taking Jack away from his father."

"Oh, honey," Clairissa soothed, threading her fingers through Haley's hair. "You're not the one who took Jack's father away. Jack's father did."

"But..."

"No buts." Clairissa sat up and looked Haley in the eye. "The thing is now you can give your son a good life instead of empty promises. Don't you owe him that?"

/

"Excuse me, Agent Rossi?"

David looked up to find a uniformed police officer sticking his head in the waiting room door.

"Yes, please come in!" He rose, shaking the hands of the two officers who entered. "Thank you for coming." He turned to the team. "Officers Stern and Havilchek were the first on the scene at Agent Hotchner's house," he explained.

"Good," Derek said. "Because I want to know what the hell happened."

The two officers shared a glance and the older of the two, Officer Havilchek, appeared to take the lead.

"We received a 911 call from the neighbor across the street, a Mrs. Clayton, who said the door was ajar and it was absolutely never left open. We were nearby in a squad car so we rolled to the scene and found the door partially open and no lights on inside the house. We made entry and found a female suspect standing over the victim. She was holding a bloody knife in her hand and she dropped it when we challenged her. Past that she was taken into custody without incident and we called for an ambulance right away. It was only after Officer Stern thought the victim looked familiar that we checked his ID and found out he was an FBI agent."

"I saw him speak at a seminar I took here at Quantico," the younger officer piped up. "I want to make detective some day and he encouraged us cops to study the psychology of profiling." He gestured to David, almost shyly. "Including your books, sir."

"So you didn't see him get stabbed?" Derek asked.

"No, we didn't," Officer Havilchek admitted. "But his blood was all over her and there were no signs of anyone else being in the house."

"If it's all right with the department," David said, keeping his voice friendly, "I'd like to have one of our forensics teams do a sweep after yours are done. With both of our resources I'm sure we can close this case quickly."

"Seems pretty closed to me," Officer Havilchek said with a shrug. "But sure. We'll arrange to release the crime scene to you guys seeing as how it's one of your own."

"Thank you." David opened the door to usher them out. "We appreciate your cooperation."

"Hold on." Derek stood, joining the two men so he could talk to them face to face. "What did Haley look like when you found her?"

"Look like?" Officer Havilchek screwed up his face in confusion. "She looked covered in blood is what she looked like." He shook his head a little then headed out the door.

"Like a deer in the headlights," Officer Stern added quietly before following his partner out.

Derek stood there with his hands on his hips for a moment. "I have to see her," he said, shaking his head in disbelief. "I have to see Haley. I need to know what really happened."

/

Derek had his hand on the doorknob, ready to head to the jail to see Haley, when the door opened from the other side.

"Oh! Excuse me!" A woman in surgeon's scrubs tried to step out of his way only for Derek to gesture her in instead. "I'm looking for Agent Rossi?"

David stepped forward. "I'm Agent Rossi. Do you have news on Agent Hotchner?"

"Yes." She came into the room, greeting them all with a nod. "He's out of surgery finally. We were able to repair the damaged artery, but it took a while. He'd lost a lot of blood by the time he got to us so we were fighting the whole time to keep his blood pressure up and his heart going. To be frank, the damage is more from the blood loss than from the actual stab wound."

"Can we see him?" JJ asked.

The doctor's expression was grim. "He slipped into a coma on the operating table. We've got his vitals stabilized, but past this it's a waiting game. We have to hope there wasn't too much damage during the time his brain was deprived of normal blood flow."

Derek stared her down, equally sober. "So you're saying he might not come back."

The doctor turned to face him. "I'm saying be prepared for the possibility. For now, he's got a chance and that's worth holding on to." She referred to a chart in her hand. "Our records show him as having a wife as next of kin. Is she here? She needs to be notified."

The team all shared glances, but no one spoke until David finally managed a few words.

"She knows."

The doctor nodded, heading for the door. "I'll be sure the staff keeps you up to date on his condition."

"Thank you," David told her, offering a polite nod in gratitude.

Derek was still holding the door open when a familiar voice rang out in the hallway.

"Morgan!" Penelope rushed in, flailing and mussed in a loud red and white flowered dress - the color sticking out in the drab hospital interior. "I was all the way out of Stafford County when I got the text! What's going on? Is everyone okay?" She did a scan of the room, same as Derek had. "Oh my god, where's Hotch?"

"Sweetheart..." Derek took her by the shoulders to still her. "Hotch got attacked at his house. He was stabbed..." She let out a squeak of alarm, but he kept on talking. "Now he's out of surgery, but he's not out of the woods yet so we have to wait for news. He's stubborn - you know Hotch. He won't let this beat him."

"But, but..." Penelope's gaze went to all of them in turn, flustered and confused. "Who did this? Why are you not all out trying to catch them?" She floundered, brow furrowing. "Where's Haley?"

/

"I'm with Clairissa." Martina gestured to the end of the table, raising her glass to the dinner party hostess. "Good riddance, Aaron!"

"You know, I never liked him," Sandra said to Haley across the dinner table. "You remember, I told you not to marry him."

"I remember." Haley's voice was toneless, deadened, but the group gathered around the table just kept going, oblivious.

"You deserve better," Bradley pointed out, his smile kind and encouraging. "Really, you do."

"Hale, babe," Mark huffed out. "I could line up five guys like that," he snapped his fingers, bragging, "who would go out with you in a heartbeat - even with a kid. All of them good marriage material: they make great money, they all have Ivy League educations..."

"But do they ever come home?" Martina interrupted. "What good is having a lawyer husband if he's always at the office?"

"Yeah, isn't that the problem in the first place?" Sandra added.

"Haley deserves a man who can be a real husband to her," Bradley said firmly.

"Says the guy who dumped her in high school," Mark scoffed.

Haley cast a glance Bradley's way before turning to Clairissa.

"Didn't you say that you made a cake for dessert?"

"Made?" Clairissa chuckled as she rose. "I picked up one from the bakery. That's about as domestic as I get." She gestured to the dinner. "So if you have any compliments for the chef, I'll pass them on to the cooks at Domenico's."

The table laughed en masse, the sound almost covering up the beep of a text coming into Haley's cell phone.

She pulled it out of her purse, but kept it under the table as she read the screen.

'Can you meet me at the house? Please. Need to talk. - A'

She quickly texted back a single letter response.

"Everything okay?" Martina asked from beside her. When Haley looked up she realized the entire table had gone quiet, all staring at her.

"It's from my parents," she lied, grabbing her purse and coat as Clairissa returned from the kitchen, cake in hand. "Jack's running a fever. I should go."

"Okay, hon. I hope he's okay..." Clairissa's voice trailed off as Haley headed to and out the door, pulling her coat around her shoulders as she hurried to her car.

/

Aaron rose abruptly from the couch when the sound of the key in the door resonated in the silent house.

Haley entered tentatively, offering Aaron a little smile as she laid her purse and keys on the console table.

"Hi."

"Hi." Aaron managed a smile of his own. "Thank you for coming."

"You said you wanted to talk." She came closer, but stopped about eight feet short of where Aaron stood.

"I needed to tell you some things." Aaron's fingers twisted his wedding ring as he spoke. "I miss you. And Jack. And I know you said you didn't believe things could change, that I could change, but I wanted a chance to prove to you that you were wrong. Things can be different between us, better. I want them to be."

"You can't change who you are." Haley took a step forward. "And I wouldn't want you to. We both know if I made you give up the BAU it would only make things worse between us. But there's no in between! The job takes all of you and I can't make a family when there's nothing left for Jack and I."

"It doesn't have to." Aaron pulled some papers out of his briefcase. "I went to the director. I told him the way the BAU is being run right now isn't working. I'm not the only one who's having trouble maintaining a life outside of the unit. We all know how many ex-wives David has, Morgan's going to hit forty without ever even getting engaged, Emily admits she hasn't had a serious boyfriend since before Quantico and she's only had two dates period since she joined the unit. Spencer writes his mother emails every day because by the time he gets done with work she's already asleep and can't call her." He paused for a moment, expression defeated. "And that's not taking into consideration how horribly wrong things ended with Elle and Gideon."

Haley took a step forward, gesturing to the sheaf of papers in her husband's hand. "So what are those?"

"Approvals. From the director himself." Aaron flipped through them as he described them. "The reassignment of two agents to the unit to assist with non-priority profiling. They're junior agents, but once trained as profilers they'll take more work off the critical response team's hands. The next is okaying a change in criteria for what cases are escalated to the BAU versus handled at the local field offices. That could cut the stack of potential cases in JJ's office in half. And finally, signed by the director and Dave, an agreement to share some of the duties of unit chief. Dave will be able to take on some of the responsibilities, including paperwork, that keep me working later than the rest of the team."

Aaron carried the papers over to Haley and put them in her hands for her to see.

"Please... All I'm asking for is a chance."

/

"You have to let me in! I need to see her!"

Derek brushed past the man pleading fruitlessly to the desk sergeant and flashed his badge at the uniform who gestured him forward.

"Agent Morgan, FBI. Need to speak to one of your prisoners: a Haley Hotchner."

The officer glanced at the badge then nodded. "Sure, come on back."

The man beside him blew up. "You let him in to see her, but not me!"

"Sir, you need to calm down!" The sergeant nodded to Derek and the other officer. "I've got this."

Derek walked off as he came around his desk to talk face to face with the man, letting the officer unlock the door before them and confirm it locking behind them.

"She's in the women's wing," he said, "Right this way."

A few turns, more locked doors and a guard booth where he turned in his gun and signed in then they were at the holding cells. Haley was being held in a cell at the end, alone, so curled in on herself that she appeared tiny even on the small cell bench. She looked up, face drawn and aged, but came to life when she recognized him.

"Morgan! Is Aaron okay? They won't tell me anything!"

"I'll be fine alone," Derek told the officer who nodded, locking the cell door behind him before departing. "Haley..."

She launched herself at him, hugging him tightly as fresh tears flowed. "Tell me he's okay," she murmured between sobs into his shirt. "Tell me you didn't come to break the news that he's dead."

Morgan gently extracted her arms from around him and held her small hands in his own.

"Haley, he's alive, but he's not okay - not yet. He's in bad shape, but you know Hotch. He's too strong for this to get the better of him." He led her back to the bench and got her to sit down as she wiped her eyes with her hand. "First things first. Where's Jack? Is he okay?"

"He's at my parents, he's fine," she told him, breath hitching. "Oh god, they don't even know yet."

"Let us take care of that," he assured her. "Now tell me what happened."

"I didn't do it!" she blurted out. "Aaron wanted to meet me at the house, but when I got there I found him..." Her voice trailed off, tears starting to flow again. "He told me to be extra careful, he was worried about Jack and I, but he never said why."

"This is important," Derek told her, forcing her to look at him. "Did he say anything else?"

"He asked me if I'd gotten any photographs of Jack or myself, that's all." Her voice took on a tinge of hysteria. "Oh, god... What if I lose him? What am I going to do?"

/

The remaining team members, sitting at the BAU conference room table, looked up expectantly when Derek entered the room.

He shut the door behind him for privacy, then leaned over what would normally be Hotch's chair, eyes intent on his co-workers.

"I don't think she did it."

JJ sat back in her chair, relief clear on her face, while Rossi leaned forward, head cocked in curiosity.

"Are you basing that on your skills as a profiler or your relationship with Hotch and Haley?"

"How can you even ask me that?" Derek stood, hands on hips, affronted.

"It's a fair point," Emily said. "Can any of us be objective in this? I mean, I'm newer to the team and all, but I admit I'm thrown enough to not be able to guarantee I'm seeing a hundred percent clearly."

"Maybe we can't be completely objective." Spencer splayed out his hands. "But we need to look anyway. I mean, who better than us?"

"There are other profilers in the Bureau," Emily countered. "We're not without resources."

"I tell you what," Derek said, voice terse. "Both my gut and my years as a profiler both tell me she didn't do this. Happy?"

"No, I'm not happy." David rose, heading around the table to stare down Derek. "I've got a co-worker in a coma and a lot of unanswered questions. Someone did this to Hotch and right now we have absolutely nothing to point to a third party."

"Then let's look for something!" Derek's voice had grown loud enough that several agents in the bullpen turned their way. "We've got the best crime solving team in the god damned country! You'd think we could solve the attempted murder of our boss!"

Derek turned and opened the door to leave.

"Where are you going?" David asked, his tone laced with exasperation.

"To work the case," Derek shot back. "I'm going to get Garcia working on Hotch's computer, start looking into his email and cell phone records… There might be something in them to point us to a suspect."

"I'll split it with you," Spencer said, rising. "I'll take email if you take phone records."

"I've been reviewing all the threat letters," JJ piped up. "I haven't found any that stick out, but then I'm not a profiler."

"I'll help," Emily offered. "I can profile them based on content and pull any Reid might want to review for handwriting analysis."

David let out a sigh of resignation. "I'll go through his office again. Maybe there's something we missed."

Derek's sweeping gaze took in all of his co-workers as he stood at the door. "Haley did not do this," he reiterated. "But even if you don't believe that, this is what we can do to help now. Until the doctors call with news, it's on us to do what we can to find the truth."

/

"Martina just called, she can't make it." Bradley snapped his cell phone shut. "Apparently cell service sucks here. Her call didn't go through, but my voicemail beeped."

"Weird..." Haley pulled out her phone to check it. "I have two bars, but that's it."

Clairissa's cell phone rang, playing a tinkly piano sample. "Clearly I have service," she drawled. "Whether I want it or not. Hello, this is Clairissa Bates!" She switched into a higher artificially sweet tone to answer her phone. "Can I help you find a new home today? Oh hi, Alan." Her voice lowered as soon as she identified her co-worker's voice. "What? No, that's my property! The whole office knew it! Hello? Alan?" She got up from the table, turning her attention to Haley and Bradley. "I'm going to take this outside. Order me a cobb salad will you?"

She rushed outside, free hand covering her other ear as she went.

"Hey, how are you holding up?" Bradley asked, nudging his chair closer to Haley's.

Haley forced a smile. "I'm doing okay. It's hard though, when Jack asks for his father."

"Forget your kid for a moment," Bradley scoffed. "I'm talking about you - the fantastic, warm loving human being that is Haley soon not to be Hotchner anymore."

"I don't know about that," Haley demurred. "Aaron really wants to try to work things out."

"Of course he does!" Bradley edged his chair closer, placing a hand on Haley's arm to punctuate his words. "Haley, any man with half a brain wouldn't want to lose you so yes, he's going to fight to try to keep you, but what then? He's not going to change. You'll be stuck right back where you started - alone and unloved. You'll just find that a year or two passes and you're talking divorce all over again."

"I don't know..."

"Trust me," Bradley stressed. "Don't listen to his sweet talk and lies. Listen to your heart. You want someone to love you and it's not him. He's in love with himself, his job, his role as Mr. Superhero Crimefighter, so he can't just settle down and be a husband and father like any normal guy."

"Well, my heart kind of likes Mr. Superhero Crimefighter," she admitted, head hanging down.

"Hey, he'll always be the father of your child, you'll never lose him." Bradley made her face him. "But you're a woman with needs and you shouldn't have to go without love just because he's more enamored of his job than you. You deserve so much better."

"Okay, back!" Clairissa flounced over to the table, settling herself back down on the other side of Haley. "What did I miss?"

"Me trying to convince Haley she deserves better than that creep Aaron," Bradley grumbled.

"Oh sweetie, are we still on that?" Clairissa shook out her napkin and perked up as a handsome waiter approached. "Time to trade in and upgrade to this year's model!"

/

Aaron stared at his signature on the divorce papers for a second before all but bolting from his chair, taking the documents to his shredder and forcing them through, reducing the sheets to fluttering white diamonds in his shred bin.

Pulling out his cell phone, he speed dialed as he prowled his office, agitated.

"Haley, it's me. Listen, I'm not signing the papers. I know you think it's best for Jack, but I refuse to believe we can't get past this." He stopped pacing and his voice softened. "I love you and I love our son. Nothing else matters." He paused for a second. "I'll be at the house this weekend if you..."

The beep cut him off. He snapped the phone shut and tossed it on his desk. He sank down into one of his guest chairs, rubbing the bridge of his nose, wearily. When he finally looked up he spotted the framed picture of Haley and Jack on the shelf behind his desk.

Rising, he went to the photograph, picking it up and carrying it back to his desk. He gazed at it for a long moment, fingertips grazing the outline of his son's face. He pulled a tissue from his desk and wiped the glass clean, polishing the tiny smudge over Haley's face until it was spotless.

He set up the picture on his desk facing his chair.

After a moment, he plunged into action, looking up a phone number on his computer then dialing.

"Hi, Dr. Asher. It's Aaron Hotchner. I'd like to get back on your schedule if possible. It would be solo sessions at first, but hopefully I'll be able to convince Haley to start going to counseling again. You have my cell number. Call me if you have a cancellation even. Thank you."

He dialed a second time, this time from memory.

"Hello."

"Dave, do you have a minute?"

"I have until my dry cleaner finds my shirts," David told him, "which is probably more than a minute given how many I've dropped off and not picked up lately. What can I do for you?"

"I decided not to sign my divorce papers."

"Hold on." David's voice came back in a few seconds, quieter as if he'd gone somewhere private. "Have you talked to Haley about this?"

"Not yet, but I can't do it. I just can't," Aaron said firmly. "But that means things have to change here at work. I can't keep going the way I've been going and expect to change." He paused, hand tightening on the desk phone cord. "I need your help."

"Whatever I can do." David's voice was warm, reassuring, over the line.

"I need to relinquish some of my responsibilities," Aaron admitted. "And you're the one I trust to take them on for me."

/

"Find anything?"

David looked up to find a tired looking Emily leaning against the door jamb at the entrance to Aaron's office.

"Just further confirmation that Aaron's probably the biggest neat freak not being treated for OCD." He tossed another perfectly labeled and organized folder onto the stack in front of him where he sat on the carpet surrounded by the paper contents of Aaron's desk. "There's not a single document out of place. Nothing important is missing, nothing suspicious..." He shook his head. "We're spinning our wheels here. There's nothing to find in his office that's going to solve the case."

"On the what's missing note..." Emily entered the room and sat in one of the guest chairs near where David was on the floor. "When I was helping JJ review the letters we discovered a discrepancy: we're three letters short."

"There are threat letters missing? Do we know from whom?"

Emily shook her head. "They were logged as anonymous sender, but they were listed as a specifying an agent by name, which earned them a higher threat assessment."

"Let me guess," David said, pushing the folders aside. "That agent was Hotch."

"Exactly," Emily told him. "Only since they didn't reach the threat threshold level for action they were just filed away. JJ remembers Hotch checking out and returning the folder, but there's no note that he removed any of them."

"That might be something," David conceded. "Or it could just be a filing error. But then again…" He gestured to the neatly color coded files around him. "How likely is that when it comes to Hotch?"

Emily glanced back at the open door. "Listen, I didn't want to say this in front of Morgan, but you and I know that Haley's not so far off from the profile of a spouse killer. If you factor in their impending divorce, concerns about custody of their infant son, post-partum depression..."

"Plus Haley's not very well hidden animosity towards the BAU for stealing away her husband?" David raised an eyebrow at her. "The problem is this isn't just a profile, it's a human being. It's less biased to build a profile from a crime when you don't know the unsub. When you have someone under arrest already, it's easy to build a profile that implicates them."

Emily shook her head sadly. "You can claim it's biased, but the statistics don't lie. We all know the percentage of homicides that are committed by family members, especially in cases like this where it totally reads like a checklist for a crime of passion: weapon procured at the scene of the crime, one violent blow, face to face attack..."

"Emily..." David rose and sat on the edge of Aaron's desk, looking Emily in the eye. "Do you really believe Haley could have done this?"

Emily sat up straight, chin held high.

"Yes, I believe so."

David nodded solemnly.

"Then you can't be part of this investigation."

/

Emily opened up all of her desk drawers one last time, checking to make sure they were empty. She let out a little sigh as Derek plucked her name placard off her desk and added it to the top of her box of personal effects.

"No hard feelings?" she asked, managing a little smile.

"You've got to do what you've got to do," Derek told her somberly.

She nodded and hefted up her box.

"I'll get the door."

Derek walked ahead of her, opening the glass door to let her out of the BAU offices.

"I'll see you, well, around I guess," she said lamely. "At some point."

Derek just nodded. "Yeah. I'll see you." He closed the door and she watched him walk away through the glass, headed to where David and JJ were already meeting.

Her cell rang and she had to put her box down on a nearby chair to answer it.

"Prentiss. Oh, thank you for returning my call." She dug into her pockets for her notepad and pen. "Yes, I'm the agent from the BAU who is going to be testifying at Haley Hotchner's arraignment. Sure, we can meet beforehand." She flipped open her notepad and wrote down the location. "Courthouse twelve, 8AM. Got it. I'll be there. Thank you."

She hung up the phone and pocketed the notepad, pen and phone, picking up her box once more.

"Hold the elevator!" she called out as one opened and an agent waiting got on. He held the door for her as she entered, pushing the next floor down with her elbow. "Thanks."

It had been a while since she worked on this floor and the desk she was going to be at was far from prime, but as she plopped her box down on the empty desktop she plopped down herself in the slightly worn chair left there for her.

She set about unpacking her box after a moment of rest, placing the name placard on the edge and setting up her laptop.

Once she got connected to the network, she discovered a new email from Penelope labeled 'Status.'

She opened it and read the message contained.

"Just to confirm, per Agent Rossi's instructions I have removed you from the BAU team email list."

Emily clicked not just to close the email but to close her entire email application, then stared at the blank screen for a while. She rose, talking to no one in particular as she went to leave.

"I need some air."

/

"Hey, Hotch!"

Aaron looked up from his desk to find Derek and Emily, coats in hand, at his office door.

"Yes?"

"If you don't need anything else, we're heading out."

Aaron rounded up the paperwork on his desktop and corralled it into its folder. "No, we're set. Go on home."

"Thanks," Emily replied for both of them.

"Night." Derek offered a nod and they headed for the elevators.

"Don't stay too late!"

Emily's voice floated back behind her and Aaron caught himself reaching for another folder. He stopped, left the folder in his inbox and glanced over to where Haley and Jack's framed picture sat on his desk.

He rose, shoving his chair in, rushing around to grab his coat and briefcase before he closed his office, locking it behind him.

A quick jog and he was just in time to catch the elevator with them.

"Hold the elevator."

Derek put out a hand to keep the door open and Aaron joined them with a nod of appreciation.

"Man, when's the last time you left when we did?" he asked, gazing in amazement.

"Has he ever?" Emily responded slyly.

Both of his coworkers had teasing glints in their eyes, clearly joking. Aaron offered them a rare smile then punched the button for his level of the parking garage.

"You know, there's a stack of Mid-Atlantic and Pacific Northwest crime statistics from last quarter to review that I could delegate to someone," he taunted in return.

Derek made a motion of locking his lips closed and putting up his hands in defeat as Emily chuckled.

"No spreadsheets for me!" she said with a laugh. "I saw my mother go cross-eyed every time an economist would come visit, so I know to stay clear."

"That's okay," Aaron told them as they arrived at his floor and the elevator doors opened. "I have a better solution in mind. Tomorrow morning they're going into David's inbox."

/

Derek got to the courtroom early, sitting in the back corner far from where Emily sat in the first row behind the prosecution's table.

Haley was brought in wearing handcuffs, head down, her entire body shrunken in on herself. She went where directed and sat and stood as prodded, but otherwise didn't appear to speak at all.

Once the judge was settled, the arraignment began.

"In the case against Haley Lynne Hotchner on the charge of the attempted murder of Aaron Davis Hotchner, how does the defendant plead?"

"Not guilty, your honor."

"Your honor, the prosecution would like to request that the court deny bail to Mrs. Hotchner on the grounds that she may be a flight risk and may also be a hazard to herself and her infant son."

The judge looked over her glasses at the prosecutor. "Are you prepared to provide evidence backing your assertions, counselor?"

"Yes, your honor. We would like to provide the court with testimony from the arresting officers, documentation from a court appointed psychiatrist and the defendant's obstetrician supporting our contention that post-partum depression might have contributed to Mrs. Hotchner's instability. We also have a member of the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit ready to testify that Mrs. Hotchner meets the profile criteria for a crime of passion against a spouse."

The judge turned to Haley's lawyer.

"And what does the defense have to say about this?"

"Your honor," the man stood, "the prosecution has no case. This is all a mistake. Mrs. Hotchner found her husband already stabbed in their home and was arrested merely for making the mistake of trying to pull the knife from her husband's wound in a misguided attempt to help him. She has a young son and should be allowed to care for him. We're asking the court to release her on her own recognizance as we feel confident this issue will be resolved and the true guilty party arrested long before this can ever go to trial."

The judge just pursed her lips.

"As much as I sympathize with the idea of a young child suddenly being without both his parents, I can't in good conscience let someone charged with trying to murdering his father return to being his caretaker. Child protective services has assured me the boy is well cared for at his grandparents' house. I feel confident they can continue to care for their daughter's child even if bail should be denied." She turned to the prosecution. "Call your witnesses and present your evidence, then I'll rule on bail."

Haley turned around, her eyes scanning the crowd. When she caught sight of Emily, Derek watched as Emily looked away, unable to meet her eyes. By the time Haley's gaze continued to spot him her eyes were empty, haunted, vacant - hopeless.

/

"Officer Havilchek, you were the senior officer first on the scene at Agent Hotchner's house?"

The prosecutor, cool and sharp, focused on the uniform on the stand.

"I was."

"Please describe to the court what you saw when you made entry to the house?"

"We went in, guns drawn, and followed a sound towards the kitchen area." The officer sat rigid and formal, looked straight ahead and answered the questions in an almost monotone yet firm voice. "We shined our flashlights on a figure and found it to be a woman - the defendant." He paused for a moment to gesture to Haley. "She was standing over a body with a bloody knife in her hand. I yelled at her to drop her weapon. At first she didn't, but then she did drop it and I was able to subdue her and handcuff her."

"Did the defendant offer any denials, protest her innocence?"

Officer Havilchek just shook his head.

"She didn't say anything. Didn't even ask how her husband was."

There was a murmur in the crowd and the judge banged her gavel for quiet.

"What was his condition?"

At this point some of the policeman's humanity leaked through. "Oh man, there was so much blood..." He paused for a moment, collecting himself. "Stern - that's Officer Stern, my partner - he found a pulse even though I was sure he was going to be dead. When Officer Stern said he looked familiar I checked the man's ID to discover he was a fed: Agent Hotchner."

"Did you see anyone else at the scene?" the prosecutor asked.

"No. And we did search once we secured the suspect and arranged for medical care. There was no evidence of a third party in the house."

"And were there any prints on the murder weapon?"

"Only Mrs. Hotchner's."

"Did Mrs. Hotchner have any defensive wounds on her?"

"None. She was covered in blood, but it was all her husband's."

"No further questions. Thank you, Officer Havilchek."

Derek sat through the rest of the evidence including a deposition from Haley's divorce lawyer stating that she had contacted him with questions about divorce proceedings and custody agreements.

When they called Emily to the stand he rose, turning away from the stand, and left the courtroom.

/

"Describe to us, Agent Prentiss," the prosecutor said, pacing in front of the witness stand, "what the BAU's profile would include in the case of a woman killing her husband."

Emily straightened up, making sure she didn't look at Haley.

"We take into consideration many factors including the state of the relationship before the attack - if the couple was on good terms, acrimonious or actively seeking divorce; the mental health of the woman including possible post-partum depression if she's given birth recently; any violent or abnormal behavior in the woman's past, say domestic disturbance calls, problems getting along with others at work or school, mistreatment of animals..."

"And in the case of children, isn't custody a driving factor?" the prosecutor interrupted.

"It can be," Emily admitted. "If the woman feels that her husband will in some way keep her from her children, say by petitioning for full custody, then that can be a trigger. Many otherwise normal women can be driven to homicide if they come to believe their children are threatened."

"And does Haley Hotchner exhibit any of what the BAU would consider warning signs for someone who might commit a crime of passion?"

Emily dared a quick glance in Haley's direction. She was staring straight ahead, expressionless, as if he couldn't hear Emily.

"Yes," she said finally. "She does." Emily checked off on her fingers, "Pending divorce: recent birth of a child, acrimonious relationship with spouse over work life balance, possible resentment over giving up a career in favor of having a child only to have the father work so long he's never home to be there with the child or his spouse..."

"Let me ask you something, point blank." The prosecutor spun on her heel, facing off with Emily. "You've worked with Agent Hotchner for some time now and are familiar with his record with the Bureau. Is there any chance at all that he attacked Haley and that she might have just been defending herself from his attack?"

"None whatsoever," Emily shook her head adamantly. "None. I profile killers for a living and not only does Agent Hotchner fail to meet any criteria for a spouse killer of any kind, he's often spoken of his wife in loving terms despite her desire to leave him. It is my unshakeable belief that he loved her and had no desire for the marriage to end."

She risked a glance back at Haley again to find her lawyer offering her his handkerchief. It was only then that Emily noticed the shining trails of tears down both her cheeks.

"So in your professional opinion, do you believe Mrs. Hotchner is a flight risk - someone who would take her son out of the country just to avoid prosecution?"

Out of sight of the jury, Emily clenched her fists in the witness box.

"I believe Mrs. Hotchner meets some of the criteria for a flight risk." She held her head up, continuing, even as she kept her fists balled tense out of sight. "I believe it is in everyone's best interest for the defendant to be denied bail."

/

Aaron parked his car in the driveway, his hand halfway to the garage remote before he pulled back, killing the engine instead.

Getting out of the car, a woman's voice could be heard behind him.

"Yoo hoo!"

His grim mask was forced to brighten into a sociable smile before he turned around.

"Hello, Mrs. Clayton."

His neighbor was already halfway across the street, her little Pekinese pulling at his leash the whole way.

"I was hoping Haley would be with you! I saw the most darling little boy hiking boots at the mall and I just thought she should get a pair for little Jack..."

"Haley took Jack to visit her parents," Aaron told her politely.

"Oh." Her face fell in disappointment. "I thought maybe you'd gone on vacation or something. No one's been around the house for a while."

"I've been away," Aaron told her. "For work."

"Well, I guess I'll let her know when she gets back. Hush Sadie! We're going to go walkies now! Stop pulling!" She turned her attention back to Aaron from the dog as she started down the street. "Give that little boy a hug and a kiss for me!"

Aaron managed a smile for her, but once she was gone his face fell almost immediately. He let out a weary sigh as he headed up the front walk. He spotted several newspapers lying on the front stoop and pulled out his digital tape recorder in response. "Note to self: place a temporary halt on newspaper delivery..." His voice trailed off for a second as he noticed something white sticking out of his mailbox slot. "And check on mail forwarding as well."

He pocketed the recorder then unlocked the front door, crouching down to retrieve the papers, stacking them neatly just inside the door before rising to head to the mailbox.

He unlocked the box and tugged free the material stuck in the slot.

It wasn't mail; it wasn't even in an envelope.

They were photographs, large format and black and white - obviously shot from a distance with a zoom lens.

Every single one was of him.

Aaron looked around quickly then dashed back out to the car, looking up and down the street.

There was no one to be seen.

/

"This is nice." Haley looked around the restaurant, all white linen and fine china pristine. "I could get used to this."

Aaron looked up at her over his menu.

"Having lunch at Chez Bruyere?" he asked.

"Having lunch - on a weekday - with my husband," she replied, smiling sweetly over her own menu. "I mean, I know you have to travel, but when you're in town? I like seeing you during the daylight hours."

"I'm glad." Aaron reached across the table, taking Haley's hand in his own, squeezing it gently. "It makes me happy to see you too."

Haley interlaced their fingers briefly then pulled away, still smiling as she returned her attention to the menu. "Are you coming by my parents later to see Jack?"

"I wouldn't miss it," he assured her.

"Oh, I can't decide!" Haley closed her menu and put it aside. "You pick for me. I always like what you order more than what I pick out."

Aaron folded up his menu as the waiter approached them.

"So, what may I get for you?" he asked formally.

"We'd like the Wild Mushroom Risotto, no shaved parmesan on top for me, extra parmesan for my wife."

"Very good, sir. Anything else? Shall I send the sommelier over to show you our wine selection?"

Aaron turned to Haley, but she shook her head. "You're on the clock, I know. Besides, I'm driving."

"A bottle of mineral water would be fine," Aaron told the waiter.

The waiter nodded his head, collecting their menus. "Excellent. I shall bring it out straightaway."

Once he was gone, Aaron's brow furrowed as he leaned forward, voice lowered.

"Haley, you haven't gotten any strange photographs lately? Just showing up places? Perhaps of me or of you and Jack?"

Haley's expression darkened. "No, why?"

Aaron waved his hand dismissively as he straightened up. "I'm sure it's nothing, but call me immediately if you do. For now, just be extra careful, okay?"

/

"Here's how it's going to work." David glanced around the conference table at the team, all waiting to hear what he had to say.

"I'm all ears," Derek said, sitting back in his chair, watching with a wary eye.

"JJ has discovered there are three threat letters missing from the recent archives," he began. "Morgan," he turned to face Derek, "believes Haley is innocent and a third party had to have committed this crime." He turned again, this time to face Emily. "And Emily thinks we have to consider the statistics supporting Haley's possible guilt."

"We are not going on a witch hunt against one of our own," Derek stated, adamant.

"We're not," David said. "Emily is."

"Excuse me?" Emily blinked at him while Derek and JJ looked equally stunned.

"Look, either Haley is innocent - in which case she could be in danger from the real killer - or she's guilty. Either way, it's in everyone's best interest if she stays in jail."

"Not Jack's," JJ pointed out.

"Especially Jack," David countered. "If she's a target, being with her son makes him a target too. He's safe with his grandparents. I have an agent on the house just in case." He turned his gaze back to Derek and Emily. "The arraignment is coming up and it would not be unexpected for us to send a member of our team to speak." He gestured to Emily. "So we are. But we're sending Emily to help the prosecution, not the defense."

"You're joking," Emily said, staggered.

"You're perfect," David told her. "You actually believe that she might be guilty and can quote the statistics supporting that stance. If you give the judge enough reason to deny bail they'll deny bail and Haley will stay safe in jail."

"Leaving us free to track down the real killer while they're sitting pretty thinking they got away with framing her," Derek filled in, nodding his head in comprehension.

"So we're going to play this to our advantage." He gave Emily a consoling look of regret. "I'm sorry, but in order for you to maintain plausible deniability under oath..."

"I can't know any of what you guys are planning." Emily rose, smoothing down her suit as she paused at the table. "I'm sure I can find a spare desk for the short term downstairs. I'll pack up my things and be out within fifteen minutes."

"Thank you," David sad, nodding in gratitude.

"She has to leave the office for real?" JJ asked. "Why?"

"Because anything she might accidentally overhear is admissible in court," Derek explained, also rising. "And we can't take that chance." He gestured to Emily. "Come on. I'll help you pack."

/

Aaron tapped lightly on JJ's open office door and was greeted with a wide smile.

"What can I do for you, Hotch?"

"I wanted to see the folder of recent threat letters for the team."

"Sure." JJ rose and pulled a folder out of a filing cabinet, making a note on a sheet of who she was giving it to. "Nothing's crossed the alert level threshold as of late. Just the same old stuff."

"Well, behind all those standard 'when I get out of prison I'm going to track you down and kill you' letters sometimes there's more than meets the eye. It can't hurt to review them." He accepted the folder with a grateful nod. "Thanks."

He carried it back to his office, closing the door before sitting at his desk and opening it.

Many of the letters were to the whole team, most didn't even know them by name, but those for whom one or more of them had had to testify in court knew who to send their hate mail to.

It only took a few minutes to sort out all the letters that focused on him specifically. Most of them were signed or traceable, given the prison system's mail. Three were anonymous and sent through normal postal service. They were identical in handwriting, paper, ink and envelope. All were unsigned.

Since the threats were vague and showed no intimate knowledge of his personal schedule, home address or even his car they'd just been filed away as unlikely to be acted upon.

He went through the folder two more times, but still only came up with the three letters as plausible threats that might tie into the photographs of him left at his home.

He pulled the letters out of the folder before closing it up and putting it aside.

Dialing his phone, he waited for the extension to pick up.

"Forensics. Agent Han."

"Chiang-mei, it's Aaron. How busy are you?"

"Always busy, but if the BAU needs something..."

"It's not actually the BAU." Aaron fingered the letters - each sealed in protective plastic evidence bags. "It's kind of personal."

"It's not like you to ask for favors." There was a pause on the other end of the line. "Bring me whatever you have. I'll find time to look into it."

"Thank you. It's just three letters and a few photographs, but whatever forensics can tell me from them I need to know. And this is just between us, all right?"

"Understood. Bring them to me and I'll make it happen."

/

"Here you go..."

Bradley placed a cup of tea in Haley's hands and she smiled up at him over the steaming cup, perched on the edge of the couch.

"Thank you. It's very sweet of you."

"It's nothing." Bradley sat down on the couch beside her. "I remembered you saying you liked that kind of tea and I figured I'd give it a try. I'd been meaning to cut back on caffeine a little and tea seemed like a good way to do it. So I bought some."

"It's nice... Soothing..." Haley took a sip as Bradley rubbed her back consolingly.

"You're so tense. I wish I could do more for you than just a cup of tea."

"Trust me, this helps." Haley shifted back on the couch, making Bradley move his hand so she could curl up with her feet under her in the corner. "It's just nice to have someone to listen, you know?"

"So what's bothering you?" Bradley ducked his head down to catch her eye, looking at her in earnest. "Got a future ex-husband you need me to beat up or something?" he joked. "Not that I could - he's kind of big and, well, armed, but I'd give it the old college try."

Haley managed an amused little chuckle. "No, it's not Aaron, well not anything he did. It's just... He's worried about something; he told me to be extra careful but not really why." She waved her hand in a gesture of frustration and confusion. "Something about getting photographs of us or something like that."

Bradley stiffened and put his hand on her arm, face suddenly sober.

"Haley, this is serious. If someone is stalking him? Stalking you and Jack? You could be in danger! Does he have an agent on you? Do you have any sort of personal security?"

"It's not like that!" Haley protested. "I'm sure it's nothing, like Aaron said."

Bradley stared at her, clearly perturbed. "He's dangerous. His job? It makes him a target and who do you think the criminals he crosses are going to go after? Not him - he's too protected, too well armed. They're going to go after his family - you! And Jack!" He took her by the arms, almost shaking her in his vehemence. "You have to get away from him! For Jack's sake, for your own safety!"

"Aaron would never let anything happen to Jack or I!" Haley cried.

"Haley..." Bradley shook his head. "Don't you think every single FBI wife who was ever targeted and hurt or killed believed that?"

"Aaron would tell me if we were in danger!" Haley's voice was raised in protest yet held a hint of uncertainty.

"You have to ask yourself - what's stopping someone from hurting you or Jack? Better yet, what is Aaron doing to keep them from hurting you? Nothing." Bradley moved in close, his tone grave. "Move away from him, change your name, cut whatever ties you can. It might just save your life. And your son's life as well. And nothing's more important than Jack's safety, right?"

Haley didn't respond, but her hand gripped her tea mug tight.

/


Part 2

 
 
 
Emma DeMarais: BlueEyeemmademarais on December 21st, 2009 04:28 am (UTC)
Confession
Please see Part 2 for Confession post.

Thanks,

Emma DeMarais