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19 December 2009 @ 11:59 pm
Criminal Minds Fic: Red Hands Black Heart Part 2  
Written for Sweet Charity
Posted to bau_fic


Title: Red Hands Black Heart Part 2
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

Part 1


"Hotchner."

"Hotch, it's Chiang-mei."

Aaron pulled his keys out as he headed to his car, juggling a shopping bag in the hand that wasn't holding his cell phone.

"You have news for me?"

"Nothing much. No prints on the letters or photographs. Chemical make up shows the photographs were probably done in a private darkroom so you're looking for someone who's a camera buff. The kind of zoom lens necessary to take that sort of long distance shot would run about 800 dollars so it's someone who can afford an expensive hobby, but not a professional. The clarity's not there for someone who does this for a living."

"Anything on the paper or envelope?"

"Paper's available all across the Eastern Seaboard, carried in just about every office supply shop - same with the envelopes. The postmark's shows it was mailed locally, as you noticed, but there's no DNA on the stamp. It's self stick - no gum to lick."

"We should make the post office ban self-sticking stamps," Aaron grumbled. "They used to be a great source of DNA."

"I'm with you on that," Chiang-mei said. "I'm sending you the items back via secured interoffice mail unless you want to pick them up."

"No, that's fine. We've learned all we can out of them. Just put them in the mail when you have a chance. And thank you."

"I'm sorry I couldn't tell you more."

"It was a longshot. But I appreciate you trying."

"Anytime."

Aaron hung up the phone, opened up his car door and tossed the bag in his hand on the passenger seat. He paused before getting in, taking a moment to look all around him.

For a second a faint clicking sound could be heard - a sound that might be interpreted as the snapping of a picture on a camera. He stepped away from the car, looking harder, but saw nothing but parking lot and cars and a few errant shoppers leaving the stores.

He got behind the wheel, locking the door, then started his car. As it warmed up he pushed the bag open to reveal the contents: a stuffed polar bear wearing a bright red muffler just like Jack's favorite scarf.

Aaron smiled and pulled out of the parking place, polar bear by his side.

/

"Guys! Come look at this!"

Heads popped up across the bullpen as Derek called to them from Aaron's office. Spencer and Rossi headed there, Spencer gesturing to JJ - who'd just walked into the office - to join them.

"What have you got?" David asked once they were all in the office together.

Derek held up a large envelope marked as official FBI internal communication. "Secure interoffice mail. It wasn't marked priority so the mailroom sat on their asses and didn't deliver it right away." He pointed to the contents laid out on Aaron's desk. "It looks like the three missing threat letters from JJ's file and some black and white photographs."

"Of what?" JJ asked as they approached to take a look.

"Of Hotch," Derek answered soberly. "He was being stalked."

Spencer picked up one of the letters and held it up to the light, examining it. "Based on the handwriting, it's a male, probably in his forties, likely with a public school education - no college. The rage is there, I can see it in the handwriting as well as in the phrases he chooses - hunt you down, make you pay, know my pain - but it seems a little too controlled."

"Which is why it wasn't classified higher on the threat level," JJ explained. "It read more like letting off steam than a real warning."

"But Hotch took it seriously," David mused, looking closely at the photographs. "And he must have suspected the letter writer took the photos." He waved a hand over them. "All taken with a zoom lens at a distance, all in black and white not color, suggesting the stalker wasn't sexually or romantically obsessed with him..."

"He wanted Hotch to know they were surveillance type photos - recon, if you will," Spencer posited. "Nothing says I've got my eye on you 24/7 like black and white," he huffed.

"We can work with this," David said. "This is enough to start building a profile from."

"Definitely," Spencer agreed. "We have the beginnings of one, but this? This is concrete evidence. I can have a full graphology analysis within the hour."

"I can work with Garcia on a list of men who fit that age range who might have a grudge on Aaron based on one of our past cases," Derek added.

"I'll follow up with..." JJ picked up the interoffice envelope and read the from portion on the interoffice addressing section. "Agent Han in forensics. If the results of what they found wasn't in the envelope they probably told Hotch over the phone. I'll find out everything they know about these items and see if there any tests they didn't run yet."

David put out a hand to hold them off from departing. "Just remember, keep this close to the vest, okay? Just us in on this right now. Until we know more, I don't want word getting out that we're looking at anyone other than Haley for this." He picked up one of the photos, showing Aaron leaving the building. "You never know when the walls have ears."

/

Aaron took a look around his office, surveying the stack of folders in his inbox, then closed and locked his briefcase.

His phone beeped with a new text and he pulled it out to check it, a smile cracking his hardened face when he saw that it was from Haley.

'Miss you' was all it said.

Rising, he slung his coat over his arm and grabbed his briefcase as he headed for his office door. Locking it behind him, he dialed her number on the way to the elevator.

"Miss you too."

"Hey..." Haley's voice was soft and welcoming. "I was hoping you'd call. Jack absolutely adores his polar bear. Apparently the bear's name is Jack too - don't ask because he hasn't said why - and he's been carrying it all over the house wearing his red scarf. Half the time he's got his scarf around both their necks! I keep worrying he'll trip on it, but he's having such a good time with it I try not to fuss too much."

"I'm glad he likes it. I'm just sorry he was napping when I came by."

"He usually doesn't go down that early," Haley said. "But I guess the zoo this weekend tuckered him out."

"It tuckered me out!" Aaron said with a chuckle. "How many times did we go back to the monkeys for him?"

"I lost count!" Haley's laugh was free and easy. "I had a good time."

"Me too." Standing at the elevators, Aaron pulled a small box from his jacket pocket. He opened it and looked at a slender gold ring inside. "Hey, I'm leaving the office right now. Could you meet me at the house?"

"You're leaving the office? At this hour?" Haley's tone was surprised but delighted.

"I told you the changes the director approved would make a difference." He ran his thumb over the slim metal band with his left hand, the gold of his own wedding ring - the same style only a little wider - matching its glint in the office lights. "I really want to see you."

"Well, I suppose I could pick up Jack from my parents and meet you there," she said.

"Actually, why don't you let him stay there? It would be nice to have a moment together - just us." He hesitated for a second or two. "I miss my son, but I miss my wife too."

"Okay," Haley said gently. "I'll see you at the house then."

/

Aaron drove up to the house, but Haley's car wasn't parked outside. He parked his car on the street, not blocking the driveway just in case her car was in the garage.

As he sat there, pensive, he took a moment to pull the ring out and look at it one final time. The band was as simple as his wedding ring, but he and Haley had chosen the important part of their rings to be on the inside. She chose the inscription for his: Autre Ne Vueil - No One But You. She'd found it in one of her bridal magazines and fallen in love with it, despite the fact it was written in 15th-century French. He'd had her ring inscribed with the Latin phrase Semper Fidelis - Always Faithful, even though she'd made a joke about feeling like a Marine.

Somehow they'd managed to keep those vows and yet still lose their way as husband and wife.

Putting the ring box in his pocket, he locked up the car and headed into the house, his step quick with anticipation.

Once inside he ducked his head into the garage via the adjoining door: no Haley, at least not yet.

He quickly put his coat and briefcase away in the entry closet, leaving the front door ajar to listen for Haley's car coming up the driveway.

Glancing around for a place to hide the ring until the right moment, he put it in a candle holder on top of a nearly gone votive then took it out and stuck it in a decorative ceramic vase then moved it again, restless, sticking it inside the tinderbox on the fireplace mantle.

Heading towards the kitchen he stopped cold when he spotted something on the always bare counter. As he approached it was clear even with just the one light on in the living room he'd turned on as he came in that they were photographs. This time there were photos of Jack and Haley along with pictures of himself.

The floor creaked behind him and he spun around, going for his gun. The light reflected off a mirrored surface - a blade - and then a hand thrust it towards him. The hand on his gun faltered as the blade sliced into his gut.

He dropped to his knees as his body gave out on him - the sickly sound of the knife slipping from his body resonating in the silent room - then tumbled to the floor. His eyes gazed up, fading away to vacant at the knife-wielding hand and the face of the one who had stabbed him.

His mouth moved, but words didn't come. His hand fumbled towards his gun, but then fell lax, dropping to the floor.

His eyes began to close slowly as blood poured from him, staining his stark white shirt deep red.

His assailant crouched down beside him and brought the knife overhead, plunging it a second time into the wound. Aaron's body jolted once then lay sprawled on the floor: deathly still.

Aaron's eyes started to close as the assailant gathered the photographs and walked out the door, leaving as silently as they had come, turning off the light to leave him in darkness as the darkness swallowed him whole.

/

Haley pulled up in front of the house, parking on the street so she wouldn't block Aaron's access to the garage, only belatedly realizing - after she'd cut the ignition - that he'd parked across the street.

She quickly primped her hair in the mirror, a nervous gesture, then grabbed her purse and exited the car. She locked the doors and trotted up to the front door, which was ajar; he had to have just beaten her there.

She flicked on the overhead light for the living room as she put her purse on the console table just inside the door and jumped as the bulb blew with a loud pop.

"Aaron?" she called out, stepping into the familiar house. Not getting any response she headed for the next nearest light switch where the living room met the kitchen.

It took a second or two for her eyes to adjust to the dark and once they did she let out a yelp of fright. A body lay on the floor near the entrance to the kitchen: Aaron.

"Oh my god!"

She rushed to his side, falling to her hands and knees.

A knife was sticking out of his torso - one of their kitchen knives buried deep in his gut.

"No no no no..." she murmured under her breath. After a split second of shock and indecision she pulled the knife from his body with one hand then pressed her other hand onto his wound to staunch the flow of blood.

She looked around, but the house phone was across the room and her cell phone was in her purse by the door.

The sound of footsteps made her freeze in terror: whoever had done this could still be nearby.

Her eyes widened in panic as the footsteps came nearer.

The impulse to run, to hide, overwhelmed her and she rose to her feet - torn between bolting and fighting to protect Aaron.

Flashlights preceded the footsteps and she opened her mouth, but shock stole her voice and paralyzed her body.

Two men burst into the room, brandishing guns and flashlights: police officers.

This was good: the police would call for an ambulance, they would scour the house, they would find who did this and take them to jail.

Everything was going to be all right. Her brain wanted to believe that, but instead it just shut down.

/

The female prison guard escorted Haley into the private meeting room at the jail and her face screwed up in confusion when she saw who was there.

"Bradley?" Haley waited for the woman to lock the door with her inside before continuing. "They told me my lawyer was here to see me. How did you get in instead of Hamilton?"

"I begged and pleaded with Hamilton to give me some official documents to bring to you as a representative of your lawyer's office. So he gave me a business card and an envelope for you - I think so I'd stop pestering him." Haley sank into the seat on one side of the table and Bradley sat in the one on the other side, reaching across to take her hand. "I had to see you. It's been killing me to think of you in here!"

"Don't even say that word," Haley said, pulling her hands out of reach.

Clearly shaken, Bradley rose from his chair and came around to crouch down beside her.

"Hey, I didn't mean it like that. I'm sorry!" When she turned her face away from him, he reached up and turned her chin back to face him. "You know I'd do anything for you, right? Whatever it takes. Hell, I'd testify you were with me when it happened if I thought I could get anyone to believe me."

"Don't say that." Haley tugged her chin free of his hand. "Don't even joke about it. I didn't do this."

"I know, Haley, I know. You could never..." He caressed her hair with his hand, gazing adoringly at her. "You could never hurt anyone. You're an amazing, kind and gentle woman and I will do everything in my power to get you out of here. I'll take care of you, I promise. It's all going to be okay."

Haley's shoulders bunched up and she moved away from his hand, making him drop it. "I just need Hamilton to get the charges dismissed against me. This is all insanity. There's no way they can prove I did it." She let her head fall back as she let out a loud exhalation of despair. "God, this is such a nightmare! I just keep thinking, okay! I can wake up now! I want to open my eyes and be at home with Jack in his crib and Aaron by my side..."

"You don't mean that," Bradley interrupted. "You're just sugarcoating the past because he got hurt. Once this all goes away - if he survives that is..."

Haley all but leaped to her feet. "Aaron's going to pull through! I know it! He's strong. He's the strongest man I know. If anyone can recover from this, it's him. He knows Jack needs him." She choked a little, tears welling up in her eyes. "He knows I need him."

"Haley, no!" Bradley forced his arms around her even as she flailed, sobs starting to wrack her small frame. "You don't need that bastard! He abandoned you and your son when you needed him most! He didn't tell you you were in danger! God, you could have been killed instead of him - did you think of that? Just let me help you. Let me look after you..." Bradley leaned in to try to kiss her only to have Haley shove him away, breathing hard amidst her sobs.

"You need to leave," she choked out, moving away to the corner of the room. "Now."

/

JJ finished tacking up the last of the photographs on the conference room board and stood back to look at them, an odd look on her face.

"What is it?" David asked.

"It's just... We don't usually do this here, you know?" she said, her voice low enough that only he could hear as the others prepped their paperwork at the table behind them. "We usually handle this at the local Bureau office or police precinct where the crimes have been committed."

"This time the crime's too close to home," David said soberly.

"That's the other part," JJ said. "I can't believe I'm looking at this board - like so many boards we've done over the years - but it's to find Hotch's attacker, not some anonymous victim. It's Hotch. My brain... It just can't process that right now."

"Maybe it's best you don't," David said.

"We ready to go?" Derek asked, approaching.

"Yes," JJ answered briskly. "They're all up there now."

"Okay..." David and JJ took seats as Derek stationed himself by the board. "Let's do this. Now we've got five suspects who fit the graphology profile Reid came up with, are out of prison, live in or near this area, have reason to target Hotch in particular and not all of us and fit the profile for a violent face to face attack with a sharp weapon procured at the scene. Now what we need to know from each of you is what can we use to whittle them down?"

The files on each of the men were laid out in front of them on the table and they each referred to them repeatedly.

"Hoskins built detailed models of motorcycles to scale," Spencer mused. "And Bay did origami. Those sorts of hobbies usually result in much more precise penmanship - the fine motor skills controlling the pen are similar to the sort of manual dexterity needed for those kinds of crafts."

"Okay strikes against Hoskins and Bay," Derek said, marking them off. "What else?"

"Tanaka and Jalei were both apprehended covered in blood - they weren't careful at the crime scene. Our attacker didn't leave a drop on his way out," David pointed out.

"All right, so he's passionate enough to stab with a weapon of opportunity but has the presence of mind to keep clean and be careful with his escape afterwards."

"Halil cleaned up the scene of the crime after he stabbed his ex-girlfriend," Spencer said.

"But he stabbed her four times," JJ pointed out.

"He was in a relationship with her," Derek offered. "More passion, more stab wounds. The doctor did say it looked like there might be two stab wounds in the same place rather than just the one." Derek punched in the speed dial on the conference room phone, calling Penelope's bunker.

"Ready and waiting," Penelope said abruptly, all hints of joviality stunted by their somber mission.

"Garcia, I need you to give me a run down on Jasu Halil's family."

Her fingers could be heard typing frantically in the background. "Father from Kuwait, mother from Egypt, both listed Muslim as their religion yet have no listed affiliations with any mosques in a 200 mile radius. Mother died when Jasu was 17 - causes seem hinky, but no charges filed. He attended college - or should I say failed to attend college as he flunked out his first semester after pretty much not showing up for most of the classes - and then got a job as a club bouncer."

"What did his parents do for a living?" Spencer interrupted to ask.

"His mother worked part time at a day care and the father was an insurance investigator."

"Insurance investigators tend to take a lot of pictures," David mused. "That means camera equipment."

Garcia's fingers flew. "Amid Halil had a side job - photographing valuables for rich clients who needed proof for their insurance policies. His credit card shows regular purchase of developing chemicals. He's got to have a darkroom at home."

The entire table rose at once, rushing for the door.

"Garcia, I need a current address on Halil - now!"

/

"Hold these a sec, will you?" Clairissa shoved her bags into Haley's empty hands as she stopped to adjust the strap on her high heeled shoes. "Oh, I knew these shoes were going to be trouble! Why did I buy them?"

"You have your old shoes in the bag," Haley said, shifting the bags so as not to drop any. "You could just put them back on."

"But these are so cute! I just have to..." Clairissa wrestled with the strap again. "Ugh. I'm going to take them to my shoe repair guy and have him put another hole in the strap. One's too tight and the other is too loose."

She stood up straight, tested the shoes again by moving her feet around, then let out a dramatic sigh. Gathering up the bags from Haley again, she stopped short once she was done.

"What?" Haley asked as her friend stared her down.

"You haven't bought anything!"

"So?" Haley shrugged. "Not really in a shopping mood."

"Sweetie, that's why we go shopping! To get out of our bad moods!" Clairissa cocked her head for them to continue on. "I know just the thing. Elan Chocolates is just around the corner. We'll go there next, get a latte and a few truffles... It'll make the whole day seem so much better."

"Okay." They started off, walking side by side, Haley's stride dragging a little. "Oh, hey. Bradley left me a voicemail. Something about dinner. Is it his turn next to host the dinner party?"

"No, Martina's up next month." Clairissa leaned in, lowering her voice. "But if you want to swap turns with him - you know, give yourself a little more time - that's totally fine. I'm sure the group won't mind."

"Why would they mind?"

"Well, Bradley..." Clairissa made an aborted gesture, hands too full to complete it. "We've known him forever - and lord knows he sends me enough referrals that I probably owe him half my Mercedes - but he's a bit off, you know?"

"He's been really sweet to me," Haley protested. "He seems to be trying hard to be a good friend during all this stuff with Aaron and I appreciate that."

"Oh, honey." Clairissa made a clucking sound with her tongue. "He's not being a good friend. He's making a play. He figures with Aaron out of the picture you might give him a chance again."

"I don't think that's it."

"It is, believe me. Bradley's sweet on you. Has been for ages. But don't go there, seriously." Despite all the packages in the way Clairissa still managed to take Haley's arm as she escorted her into the chocolate shop. "You can do better, trust me."

/

The team parked their SUVs down the block, met up with the local police a few doors down and divided up to surround the building.

They crept up to the apartment building, getting into position, but then a woman carrying a laundry basket of clothes started to come out of an apartment a few doors down from where they were headed.

Emily quickly flashed her badge at the startled woman and got her back inside her apartment with the door closed, nodding at the others that it was safe to continue.

They got into position at the door marked 215. Derek gestured the countdown - three, two, one - and the team burst into Jasu Halil's apartment, guns drawn.

Jasu was on his way out of the kitchen, the bottle in his hand slipping from his grasp in surprise and shattering on the tile floor.

"FBI! Put your hands on your head! Now!"

Jasu complied immediately and Derek grabbed him, pushing him against the nearest bare wall. Once David had his gun trained on Jasu in position, Derek holstered his to frisk and handcuff the prisoner.

"Whatever it is, it's not going to stick," Jasu scoffed over his shoulder, sneering - clearly over his initial shock.

"Want to bet?" Derek snarled in his ear as he clicked the second bracelet closed. He pulled him away towards the front door only to have Jasu cock his head back towards the kitchen. "Clean that up will you? I'll be out in an hour or two and don't want my floor all sticky when I get home."

Derek all but shoved him out the front door, holding back only when David put a hand on his shoulder to slow him down.

"Careful," he whispered. "If it is him, we don't want to give the judge any reason to dismiss the charges on a technicality."

"It's him," Derek hissed back. "Look at him! Cocky bastard knew we were coming." Derek moved out of David's reach and directed Jasu to the back of one of the police sedans. "We need to talk to him as soon as he's processed, you hear me?" He glared at the uniform who just nodded his understanding quickly.

"Of course, Agent Morgan. Right away."

He stood and watched as the two uniforms got into the car to drive Jasu to the station.

"We got him." Spencer stood by his side, watching them go.

"Yeah," Derek agreed, voice drained of bravado. "Let's hope we can make it stick."

"Even if we don't, we'll get him for something else." Spencer gave him an encouraging grin in hopeful optimism. "But at least something good will come from the arrest."

"What's that?" David asked, joining them.

Spencer smiled, a more genuine one this time. "Jack will get his mother back. With Jasu in custody, we can get his mother out of jail - for good."

/

Haley shifted Jack on her hip to free up her right hand to open the front door.

"Bradley! This is a surprise." She stepped back to allow her friend to enter her house. "Come on in."

"I'm sorry for coming over unannounced, but you sounded so lonely after you got home last night from that horrible place... I just had to come over and take care of you."

"That's sweet of you, really." Haley offered him a smile. "My parents stayed over last night so I was okay. They've been great with Jack. He adores them. Don't you?" Haley poked at Jack's belly as she addressed him, making him giggle.

"I don't know why you're even here." Bradley settled himself into Aaron's big club chair in the living room while Haley sat down on the couch with her son, keeping a hand on Jack as he bounced on the cushions gleefully. "Were your parents tired of taking care of Jack or something?"

"No!" Haley stared at Bradley, confused and a little aghast. "They love him! I chose to come back here because this is Jack's home, our home."

"Hmm..." Bradley steepled his fingers, pensive. "I guess you would get the house in the divorce. I hadn't really thought of that. No matter. Easy enough to dump the house and the bad memories. And Clairissa might even forgo her commission to sell it - or at least part of it - just to help you move on with your life."

Haley let out a long breath and fell silent for a moment, letting Jack play with the collar of her shirt, flipping it up and down then one side up and the other side down. "I'm not selling the house," she said finally, her voice slow and controlled. She finally turned to look at Bradley, tugging Jack into her lap. "You've been great - you, Clairissa, all of you... And I know you have really good reasons for wanting me to leave Aaron and start over with someone new. But the thing is, I don't want to. I love my husband and I want to stay with him." She sat up straighter. "I've made up my mind. We're not getting divorced. I'm staying with Aaron."

Bradley just looked at her, shaking his head as if she was a thing to be pitied. "You poor thing. This house, him being in the hospital, those horrible days you spent in jail... It's no wonder your head's spinning. You crave what's safe and easy, what you know. But that doesn't make it the right thing! Nothing's changed since you filed for divorce! He'll still be the same man, ignore you for the same job, and you'll wake up a year or two from now and wonder what the hell happened to make you change your mind! It's just pity and fear. Don't let it rule you."

"That's not it," Haley told him.

"Haley, sweetheart, you're not thinking straight - and how could you be?" He rose, looked around the room then headed towards the hallway. "First things first. We need to get you packed so you can move back to your parents' house. You'll be able to think more clearly there."

"Bradley, no. I'm not going back to my parents."

Bradley ignored her and headed down the hall. "Fine, but then you're staying at my house. I'm not leaving you here alone with your future ex-husband's ghost."

/

"Where was I? I was screwing your wife!"

David just stared across the interrogation room table at Jasu, relaxed and smirking. "I've got three ex-wives. Which one? Not that you're not welcome to any of them. In fact they'd probably be better punishment than jail."

Spencer stared though the one-way glass alongside Derek and JJ. "His penmanship matches. He wrote those letters. I'm sure of it."

"Yes, but not even Hotch had any proof the person who wrote the letters took the photographs," JJ pointed out.

"Look, I want to nail him as much as you guys do," Derek said, "but if he's going down it has to be nailed tight - no chance of him wiggling out and right now? We don't have him." He turned to JJ specifically. "Haley out yet?"

"Yes. I arranged for her parents to pick her up." JJ grimaced. "I figure we're not her favorite people right now."

"We're trying to find out who did this to Hotch!" Spencer protested.

"Maybe, but she still sees Emily on the stand as taking her away from her son, so add that to the fact that she blames the BAU for taking her husband away in the first place?"

"She'll come around," Derek asserted, sounding more like he was trying to reassure himself than his co-workers.

"I'm more worried about Hotch coming around," Spencer admitted. "If a patient stays in a coma more than seven days, the odds..."

"I don't want to hear the odds," Derek warned. "There's a time and a place for statistics and this is not it!"

"Sorry," Spencer muttered, shoving his hands in his pockets and hanging his head.

Derek's phone rang and he glanced at the Caller ID before answering it and switching to speakerphone. "Tell me you've got evidence, baby girl. I need good news."

"Oh, I've got evidence all right, but it's not good news, I'm afraid." Her voice sounded hesitant over the line. "I tracked down an employee at the photography store that showed up on Jasu's credit card statement. Ends up the guy remembered him well because he had to spend like twenty minutes explaining stuff to him."

"Explaining what?" Derek asked. "What did he buy there?"

"He mostly paid for them to do some enlargements of photos that the guy figured were from his parents' wedding album and some old family shots, presumably before the mother died. He apparently didn't get that they do it all digitally now and was afraid they were going to ruin the originals with, and I quote, 'chemicals and stuff.' He also needed help getting pictures off of a digital camera and getting them printed. In the employee's opinion? Based on the questions he asked and the amount of money he was willing to pay for pretty simple work, he has no advanced knowledge of photography at all."

"Whoever took those pictures, according to Agent Han, had to have experience with different camera lenses and exposure times at the very least," Spencer said. "This doesn't sound like someone who'd know his way around a semi-pro camera or a home darkroom."

JJ stiffened. "So even if he could have gotten his father to develop the film for him, he couldn't have taken the actual pictures in the first place."

"Damn it," Derek swore. "He's not our guy."

/

"This is getting us nowhere!"

Derek tossed a stack of files into the middle of the conference room table and stood, starting to pace the room, hands flexing futile at his sides.

"We have to keep at it," JJ said. "Whoever attacked Hotch? He has to be in here somewhere."

"Sure, one in the how many tens of thousands of people who know or knew someone Hotch once put away? Hell, this could go back decades! We could be talking about someone Hotch sent to jail back when he was a prosecutor, before the Bureau. Maybe somebody died in jail and one of their relatives decided they had nothing left to lose; it's payback time."

"Actually Garcia checked on that," Spencer piped up. "No deaths in the last six months of anyone Hotch had a hand in sending to jail."

Derek let out a loud growl. "I need to be doing more than shuffling papers!"

David put down the folder in front of him. "I understand the frustrations of impotence in this situation, but we're profilers. This is what we do. This is how we catch unsubs. You have to have faith in the system."

There was a tap at the door and Emily stuck her head in.

"I got your message about Haley being released." She looked around the room. "Is it safe to come back?"

"Of course," David told her, beckoning her in. "And thank you for being willing to go through that for Haley and Hotch's sake."

"Anything I can do," Emily said with a nod, taking a place next to JJ who gave her a smile in welcome. "What have we got?"

"We've got nothing," Derek grumbled, still pacing.

"We had a suspect, but he's only guilty of writing the three threatening letters," Spencer explained. "We don't think he's the one who took the photographs and he didn't attack Hotch."

"His sketchy sounding alibi came through in the end." JJ let out a long breath. "So we're back to square one, looking at all the people who had a motive to hurt Hotch in particular, not just the BAU."

"We've even gone back into his days as a prosecutor. So far no stalker/photographer types and no one who fits the M.O. of the crime."

"Well, I've got fresh eyes, perhaps it might help if I look at who you're considering," Emily offered.

"Can't hurt," David said. As Derek glared his way, David rose. "I'll brief you on where we're at."

The door opened and Penelope came in.

"I have more background data on the families you asked for." She plopped down a stack of files on the table. "That's the last of them." She smiled Emily's way. "Glad to have you back."

"Thanks."

"What's next?"

"I'm about to brief Emily," David explained. "But you can stay if you want. Two sets of fresh eyes might be better than one." He walked over to the board. "Okay, after gathering a list of everyone who might have a reason to target Hotch, we started our analysis..."

"Question!" Penelope interrupted, raising her hand timidly. When everyone turned to look at her, she continued. "Why Hotch?"

"We think whoever did this is someone who has a reason to single him out, out of everyone in the BAU," JJ explained.

"I get that," Penelope said. "But why just Hotch? Why aren't you looking into people who might have wanted to target Haley?"

"Where's Hotch's cell phone?" Derek demanded. He took it out of JJ's hand when she proffered it to him, checked the contacts and dialed. "Mrs. Brooks? This is Agent Morgan at the BAU. I need to ask you some questions about your daughter Haley's friends."

/

Haley emerged from the laundry room, a basket of whites on her hip, and froze when she got to the living room.

Bradley stood in the middle of the room holding a fussy Jack in his arms.

"I told you to leave," she said, her voice stern yet clearly on edge as she put the basket down and approached them. "How did you get back in here and what are you doing with Jack?"

"Jackie here didn't want a nap," Bradley said, ignoring Jack's squirming in his arms, trying to get down.

"Give him to me," Haley ordered, putting out her arms to her son who reached out to her.

"You know everything's all about Jack," Bradley complained. "What about what Haley wants, forget about the mother in you - what does the woman in you really want?"

"Bradley so help me, if you don't give me my son right now I will never speak to you again as long as I live."

"Fine." Bradley swung Jack over to her as if he was little more than a sack of potatoes and Haley grabbed him and held him close, moving as far back in the room as she could.

"What is wrong with you?" she spat out, her voice terse, arms clutching Jack tight.

"It's not me that's the problem," Bradley countered, oddly calm. "It's you. You're deluded into believing your husband's going to change. You can't see that there's someone better right in front of you!" He spread out his hands. "I love you! I would never put my career ahead of my family! Why would you want to put up with that jerk if you could have a husband who treated you like a real wife and not just a part time accessory?"

"I love Aaron," Haley said icily. "And you need to go or else I'm going to call the police."

"I'm not doing anything," Bradley said, looking totally unconcerned. "And I'm not leaving until you come with me. Nothing you can say can convince me you should stay in this house, in this sham marriage."

"I love my husband!" Haley cried, making Jack burst into loud tears. "Can't you understand that?"

"How can you love a man who loves his job more than you! If he was out of the way for good you'd see that!"

Haley froze, staring at Bradley in shock.

"Please tell me you had nothing to do with his attack," she whispered, backing up until she hit the wall. "Please. Tell me."

"Haley, sweetheart..." Bradley went to her, wrapping his arms around both her and Jack as she wept, shuddering as Jack howled in her arms.

/

Bradley hummed a little tune to himself as he walked through his front door, shrugged out of his jacket and popped into the kitchen for a soda. As he opened it up he listened to his voicemail - no new messages.

He took a long drink and headed downstairs to his basement, starting up with the humming again.

He put his duffle bag aside and opened it up, pulling his extra jacket and a bag of uneaten sandwiches out in order to get to what was further down.

Once he could reach it, he pulled out his camera bag and removed a couple of rolls of undeveloped film.

Taking another long swig, he walked over to the door separating the den part of the basement from the hobby portion.

Stepping through, film canisters in hand, he stopped to gaze at the photographs pinned on the corkboard wall of the small hobby room.

"Why hello there, pretty lady," he said cheerily to the pictures. Most were in black and white, but a few were in color and placed closer to eye level - some of them blown up.

He opened the door to the dark room, setting the film canisters aside to the left of the film prep area.

The last set of pictures he developed were still hanging to dry and he pulled on a pair of gloves before he plucked them down, one by one, examining them for flaws as he went. He smiled at them then carried them out into the hobby room.

Gathering up a handful of thumb tacks, he started looking for open spots to put them on the cork board wall.

"One for you and one for me," he said, in a sing-song fashion - setting some of the photos in a stack on the table while choosing others to put on the wall. Once he was done he stood back, surveying the overall effect. "Very nice."

The rest of the photos he put in a large manila envelope. The manila envelope then went in a slightly larger envelope which he closed shut and put aside before snapping his gloves off and tossing them on the table.

Surveying his work, his humming turned into singing off and on as he gazed over the wall covered in photos of Haley.

"You, you're gonna want me back... I want you back, baby girl, I need you back... Gotta have you back, babe..."

Still humming, he headed into the darkroom to develop his newest rolls of film.

/

With a loud slam the door burst open and Derek led the team in, guns drawn and faces grim.

"FBI! Back away from Haley and Jack, Bradley! Right now!"

Bradley shoved a hand in his pocket and backed away, trying to seem unperturbed.

"What's the problem here, agents? I'm a friend of Haley's."

"Hands where I can see them!" Derek ordered, not budging.

Bradley turned to Haley, a sad look on his face.

"I loved you. We could have been happy together."

Spencer rushed forward, grabbing Haley and Jack and pulling them past Bradley to the backyard. "Let me get you out of here."

Once they were out of eyesight, Derek approached.

"Hands on your head. Now."

Bradley pulled his hand out of his pocket and put both hands on his head, turning around so Derek could frisk him. As Derek patted him down his hand moved over a bulge in his pants pocket. He pulled out a syringe that looked empty.

"What's in syringe?" he demanded.

"Nothing," Bradley said blithely.

Derek holstered his gun and slapped the handcuffs on Bradley's wrists one by one.

"You're going to come with us. We've got some questions and seeing as how we're pretty pissed off, you're not going to enjoy how we ask them."

"I'm not worried about any questions," Bradley replied, oddly serene.

Derek shoved him ahead of him, out the front door and walked him a few doors down towards one of the SUVs. They hadn't even made it to the car when Bradley stumbled and fell to the ground despite Derek trying to hold him up.

"Bradley, you son of a bitch!" He slapped the man's face, trying to get him to open his eyes. "Damn it! Somebody call an ambulance!"

"I'm on it!" David's voice could be heard in the background, calling for medical assistance as Derek shook the limp and unconscious man at his feet.

"You are not going to get out of this the coward's way! We are going to save your miserable ass just so you can stand trial for what you did to our boss! So you better live, damn you! Because I am so going to throw your ass in prison and throw away the key!"

Emily crouched down and put her fingers to Bradley's neck, feeling for a pulse.

"He can't hear you. Not anymore."

/

The cup of vending machine coffee in Haley's hand had gone cold, but more troubling was her husband's hand - still disturbingly cool to the touch - in her other hand.

She put the coffee in the trash can with the other stone cold barely drunk ones and returned her attention to Aaron.

Lifting his limp arm, she held his palm to her cheek, eyes rimmed red from too many days of tears. The machines bleat a hypnotic rhythm at his bedside and she closed her eyes to try to rest them since sleep wasn't a possibility.

The shift in the regular rhythm jolted them back open though and she watched as the heartbeat meter sped up slightly.

"Come on, Aaron, you can do this," she said to him. "Come back to me."

His eyelashes fluttered slightly and she gripped his hand, making his fingers move in response.

A nurse hurried in and checked the monitors.

"I'll get a doctor," she said before rushing out.

Haley stood up, hovering over Aaron, still clutching his hand.

"Time to wake up now," she cajoled. "Jack misses his Daddy and you promised him you'd take him back to the zoo again." She leaned in and placed a kiss on his cheek. "I miss you too."

She stood back up and watched as Aaron's eyes began to open. He came to with a bit of a start and she shushed him, laying a hand on his chest.

"It's okay," she soothed. "It's safe. You're safe. Everything's fine." She gave him a second to take in his surroundings. "You're in the hospital, but you're going to be fine."

Aaron calmed slightly and ventured a deep breath, blinking at her.

"In our house..." he managed, voice raspy from disuse. "Bradley... He stabbed me..."

"I know," she said, hand, cupping his face. "It's over. Bradley killed himself when they tried to take him into custody. Don't think about it. Just focus on getting well."

"Did he hurt you?" Aaron struggled to get the words out. "Jack?"

"No. Jack and I are fine," she assured him. She brushed his hair aside then bent down and placed a featherlight kiss on his lips. "I thought I'd lost you," she breathed, resting her forehead against his.

"I meant what I said before," he murmured. "I'm not leaving you."

She lifted her head to look at him, wiping the tears away as they welled in her eyes.

"I'm going to hold you to that," she told him, her voice getting choked up. "Because now that you're back, I'm not letting you go - ever."

Aaron weakly lifted up his arms and enfolded his wife into them, holding her as she crumbled - sobbing - into his chest.

"I was so scared!"

"Shh..." he said, holding her close. "I'm here. Nothing can come between us now."

/

Seeing the crowd hovering outside his door, Aaron squeezed Haley's hand and cocked his head subtly so she'd see the team was there waiting to speak with him.

"Just for a little while?" he asked, his voice gentle.

She gave him a patient smile and rose, letting go of his hand reluctantly.

"I'll be right outside."

She went to the partially open door and pulled it open the rest of the way, gesturing them all in. The only greetings were nods of acknowledgment passing between the team and Haley before she ducked out of the room, closing the door behind her.

When no one spoke at first, Aaron started.

"It was Bradley Lockerby," he told them. "I recognized him from the dinner parties Haley's friends throw every month." His face was grim. "She told me he died in custody, but not how."

"Insulin injection," David explained. "Apparently his mother's diabetic. He stole enough to fill a syringe and injected himself with it before we could handcuff him."

Aaron nodded. "I just wanted," he began slowly, "to say thank you - to all of you. I appreciate all that you did for my family." He turned his gaze to Emily. "Especially you, Emily. It couldn't have been easy to get on the stand to keep Haley in jail, but you did the right thing."

"I'm not sure Haley sees it that way," Emily muttered, regret clear in her voice.

"Probably not then, but when she told me what happened I explained to her that you wouldn't have done it if it wasn't in the best interest of her safety - and Jack's."

David nodded. "We thought she might be a target so keeping her in jail meant the unsub couldn't get to her. And Jack and your in-laws had an agent on them the whole time just in case."

"We were right," Derek added. "Letting Haley be charged meant he had his guard down." His face darkened. "Only we were wrong about who the unsub was and I'm really sorry about that. If we'd figured it out sooner..."

"You figured it out," Aaron interrupted. "Haley's strong, resilient. She'll get over the shock. And Jack? Haley says it's like it never happened."

"The innocence of children is a gift," JJ said quietly. "They bounce back so easily."

"We should let you get some rest," Derek said. "We just wanted to see you for a minute and say welcome back."

"Oh!" Penelope burst forward, fishing around in her bag. "I made you something!" She gave Aaron an apologetic look. "I had to keep my hands busy while I was keeping Haley company in the waiting room and she told me about Jack's polar bear and the red scarf thing..." She pulled out a long knitted red scarf and put it on the bed beside Aaron's hand. Aaron picked it up, holding the scarf - so like his son's - tight in his hands as he struggled to keep the rising emotion within off his face. "Now you've got a dad sized version."

/

"Oh, that smells good!" Emily all but moaned when they stepped through the door of the restaurant. "I feel like I could eat a horse! It's like I haven't eaten in days."

"Yeah," JJ agreed. "It's like I haven't had any appetite at all since this started."

"Whatever I ate," Morgan added, "I'm pretty sure I didn't taste any of it. Just shoveling down food as fuel to keep going."

"Tonight's on me," David said. "I know the owner so I can tell you this may be some of the best Italian you've ever had, trust me."

"I'm up for anything but coffee," Penelope said. "I think we all deserve a hiatus from caffeine."

"You said it, baby girl." Derek put an arm around Penelope to give her a quick squeeze. "Right now, I could really use a drink."

"David!" An elderly Italian man emerged and greeted David warmly. "So good to see you!"

"Good to be back. It's been too long." He turned to his team. "Everyone, this is Luigi Salducci - the man behind the restaurant."

"Welcome! Come! Sit!" He guided them to a large corner booth and the server following them silently handed out menus. "Are we celebrating tonight?"

"In a way," David said tentatively.

"Then you must have wine," Luigi stated, holding up a finger for them to be patient. "I have something special I think you will like."

He departed and the group opened their menus save Emily, who let her head fall back with a long groan.

"Wine, yes please! I think I've earned it."

Derek slung an arm around her, giving her a brief and friendly shake.

"You done good, Prentiss. Time to unwind."

"Easier said than done. I keep picturing Haley giving me dirty looks."

"What you did," David said soberly. "It was hard, I know that, but it was important."

"You kept Haley safe," Derek stressed. "Now she might not appreciate that, but you know Hotch does." He looked around the table at his co-workers. "And we all do as well."

"BTW," Penelope piped up. "I saved copies of all the BAU email list correspondence you missed while you were gone. I'll forward them to you in the morning." She gave Emily a smile. "I didn't want you to feel left out."

"Yeah, you're back for good," Derek said warmly, bumping shoulders with her. "Don't think we're letting you go anywhere for real."

/

"Here we go..." Sean held the front door open, carrying Aaron's bag for him as Aaron walked through slowly - hand over where his stitches laid under his clothes.

"Daddy!" Jack threw out his arms to his father, trying to wriggle out of his mother's tight hold to get to his father.

"Hey, buddy!"

Haley walked him over so Jack could throw his arms around his father's neck.

"Welcome home," she said, smiling serenely.

"It's good to be home," he told her, pulling away from embracing his son just enough to give her a kiss.

"Why don't we get you on the sofa?" Sean suggested. "Doc said you shouldn't be on your feet too much at first."

"Come on, sweetie." Haley pried Jack's arms away from Aaron, but Aaron held on to his son's hand as they walked, blowing little raspberries into his palm to make him squeal with delight.

Sean helped Aaron sit carefully and Haley sat beside him, holding Jack on her lap.

"No no, honey!" she warned when he tried to step into his father's lap. "Stay here."

Jack pouted, clearly displeased.

"It's okay," Aaron reassured. "Come give Daddy a hug."

Haley settled their son so his tiny feet were in the scant space on the couch between them and Jack threw his arms around his father's neck again.

Aaron rubbed his son's back as his eyes met Haley's. "I missed you."

"Hey you guys..." Sean emerged from the kitchen. "You've got next to nothing in the refrigerator so I'm going to go out and grab you some groceries then make you all a nice dinner. Okay?"

"Sounds good, Sean," Haley said. "Thank you."

"Back in a bit!"

After Sean left Haley smiled, watching as Aaron and Jack played. "Your brother's been great, but I think he was a little put out that I wouldn't let him feed me until you came home."

"He's an exceptional chef," Aaron told her.

"Sure, but I just couldn't eat while you were..." Her face darkened. "I didn't have any appetite."

Aaron pulled her close, this time for a longer kiss - one filled with reassurance.

"Could you get me the tinder box off the mantle?" he asked after the kiss ended. "Please?"

Haley frowned, confused, but rose and fetched the box, placing it on Aaron's lap before taking Jack from him so he could open it.

Aaron opened the tinder box and pulled out the jewelry box within, handing the tinderbox back to Haley to put on the coffee table.

"When did you put that in there?" she asked, surprised.

"That night," he said quietly, staring at the unopened box. "I'd asked you to come over to show you this." He opened it and pulled out the ring, letting her take it from his hand.

"It looks like our wedding rings," she cooed. "But..." She frowned when she tried putting it on her thumb. "It's way too big."

"It's not for you," Aaron pointed out. "It's for me to wear." He angled the ring in her hand so she could read the inscription as he said it aloud. "'Ante Omnis Mea Familia': My family before everything. I wanted a physical reminder of my renewed commitment to you and Jack."

He held out his hand and let her put the ring on his ring finger, sliding it up against his existing wedding band.

"You didn't have to do this."

"I wanted to." He slipped a hand behind her neck and tugged her in for a lingering kiss. "I love you," he whispered, pulling her and Jack into his arms.

Haley settled against his shoulder, curled up with her son in his arms.

"I love you too."

/

"Jack settle back down?"

Aaron put out his arm and Haley curled up next to him on the sofa.

"Yeah, eventually. I swear this kid's going to be pulling the thirsty trick to avoid going to bed or staying in bed until he's, oh, eighteen."

"It's a classic," Aaron agreed, chuckling. He tucked her head under his chin, rubbing her back in slow circles. "Think there's any chance he might wind up with a sister to teach that trick to?" he asked quietly.

"Not a chance," Haley teased, pulling back enough to lean up and kiss him. "I've already put in an order for a second boy so you're out of luck, mister."

"Two boys, huh?" Aaron smiled at her. "I'm going to have to look for our baby name list to see who we picked as a runner up."

"Well, considering you picked the name of the most infamous serial killer for your first son..." At Aaron's shocked face she wagged a playful finger at him. "Oh, don't think Gideon didn't tell on you. He told me you were worried you couldn't find a name that wasn't a horrible criminal and he said we shouldn't think about that, so I don't." She curled up back in his arms. "I'm thinking Charlie would be nice. Charles Manson gave Jack the Ripper a run for his money, right?"

Aaron let out a long exhalation shaking his head as he closed his arms tight around his wife.

"You're amazing you know that?"

"I know," she taunted. "But feel free to tell me more. I like hearing your voice."

Aaron's cell phone rang and Haley pulled away frowning as he reached for it.

"Hotchner." His expression sobered instantly, his mouth a grim line. "What time were the girls taken?" As he listened, his eyes turned to Haley, questioning.

"Go," she mouthed, nodding her understanding.

"I'll be there. Wheels up in twenty." He hung up the phone, put it aside and took Haley's face in his hands, kissing her deeply. "I love you," he told her, mouth hovering over hers. "More than anything."

"I know." She ghosted her fingers over his bottom lip as she smiled at him. "But you're needed elsewhere. I understand. Go and come back home safe to us."

Aaron kissed her again, lacing their fingers so their wedding rings touched.

"Always."

/

"Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation."
- Kahlil Gibran

///
 
 
 
Emma DeMarais: BlueEyeemmademarais on December 21st, 2009 04:39 am (UTC)
Confession
This was written for iolsai's winning bid at Sweet Charity. It's horribly late, so if anyone needs proof why I'm still an avid member at ficfinishing, it's because I still apparently have some hangups about getting fic finished and my SC fic are the worst of my problem children. (Something about people having paid for my stories just paralyzes my pen for some reason. Guilt? Pressure? No clue, but I am writing *much* longer fic than the recipients paid for to make up for how long it's taking me to get these out.)

The request included the Hotch/Haley pairing along with the case fic aspect of it. We had detailed discussions on how to approach this in depth bunny and part of them included the request to do this in a non-chronological style like the TV show Damages. I admit it was rather tough, but a nice challenge to reveal the story elements out of order without risking too much confusion. (At least I hope people don't get too confused by it!)

[Spoilers - Season 5] Given that I started this fic two years ago this December I clearly didn't foresee the canon that Hotch was going to get stabbed on the show. (I finished the first draft in July of this year, so I really didn't incorporate that at all in the fic.) I just wanted to go AU before the end of Damaged where Hotch signs the divorce papers to make him not sign them (or in this case sign them then shred them). I like that pairing (even though I don't ship anyone on CM) and I was really sad to see how they ended Haley's storyline. /sniff/ I think I may keep this as my personal canon and forget that Haley's gone. /sniff sniff/

The only good part about Hotch getting stabbed in canon was that it gave my artist, the wonderful ficbitch82, an actual screen shot to use for my cover art! Bonus! [End Spoilers]

Speaking of, the reason this is listed as a bigbang is because I did sign up for it to be a CM bigbang, but several authors - including myself - had problems with the CM Big Bang comm and parted ways with the mods over it. I was only using the sign up to help push me to get the fic done so I really didn't need it, but I figured it was a rare novella length fic and it deserved artwork so I went out and found my own artist for it. I'm glad too because I had a way better working relationship with my own artist compared to the ones assigned to me for bigbangs in the past. (Not that the CM bigbang comm ever got me an artist, because they didn't, but I have done two other bigbangs which weren't as easy or fun as this was when it came to art.)

Art Credit: Bigbang cover art by ficbitch82 (Thank you so much!)
Image Credits: Source images from Oracle of Quantico, Pretty as a Picture et moi!

AFAIK there is not a Georgetown Memorial Hospital in Washington D.C. Chez Bruyere was also made up. There may be an Elan Chocolates, but it wasn't anything I had in mind while writing this.

The line "Why hello there, pretty lady" is based on a similar line in my favorite movie, only in the movie it was a scientist saying it to a murdered woman's reconstructed head. (Morbid and creepy FTW!) The song Bradley is singing in his basement is Usher's I Want You Back. (Also creepy!)

Very special thanks to First Readers miss_odell and csichick_2, artist ficbitch82 and betas t_vo0810 and melissima for their assistance with this fic.

Thanks,

Emma DeMarais
WriterJCwriterjc on December 24th, 2009 01:30 am (UTC)
Re: Confession
I'm back - not a stalker, I promise. :)

I enjoyed this story a lot - a what could have been with Haley & Hotch. I was made at you for a few pages with the whole Prentiss thing, but I hung in there to see what would happen and then there was the reveal so I was back to happy on that.

I really liked that this felt like something we'd see on the show in the sense that we see the team working the case, actively profiling. And there was Sean! :)

An enjoyable read. Two thumbs up!
WriterJCwriterjc on December 23rd, 2009 02:31 am (UTC)
I never heard of sweet charity and by the time I discovered CM & CM fandom (oh, like, this summer) the Big Bang was already in swing. But, I love even the idea of this fic! Yay! Good Haley/Hotch fic is hard find! I don't ship anyone on the show either, and, though I *get* the dramatic reasons for killing Haley, I so wish there was some other way. Sigh. Can I adopt your canon as my own?

So, not having even read this, but loving your writing style, I'm printing this one and off to read sans distractions.

Thanks so much for advertising this on bau inbox. :)
_nextboldmove__nextboldmove_ on December 28th, 2009 04:53 pm (UTC)
That whole story was really well written, the case was amazingly executed, and the twists and characterizations of everyone was very well done. thanks a ton for sharing and giving me something to read over christmas break!
Jenniferhotch_fan on November 16th, 2010 12:47 am (UTC)
This story is simply amazing !!!
Despite how little we saw of them on the show I always liked Aaron & Haley together, and the way that you wrote this is perfect. I really like it.

Thanks for sharing : )