Victimology,  Part 2

by Juli

February 2009


David Rossi's steps were light as he approached BAU headquarters. He'd enjoyed his free weekend and being temporarily reunited with his dog, but he was happier to be going back to work. In retrospect, his interest in hunting should have been a clue that early retirement had been a mistake. Hunting was in his blood, but the pursuit of dumb animals just seemed meaningless compared to the satisfaction of getting criminals off the street.

From the happy faces around him, David got the distinct impression that his teammates had enjoyed their weekends too. Automatically, David's eyes went to Hotch's office, but it was dark. He was relieved, having been halfway convinced that Hotch would circumvent the doctor's orders and come in to work anyway. That relief was short-lived, however, as Rossi remembered that he'd been unable to reach Aaron by phone the night before.

"Hey, has anyone heard from Hotch?" David asked as he approached the younger members of the team. They were gathered around the coffee machine, no doubt exchanging stories of how they'd spent their days off.

Morgan frowned. "No and I told him to call if he needed anything."

"Like he'd really do that," Prentiss scoffed. When Morgan glared at her, she hunched her shoulders. "But I didn't call him either."

"I was out of town," JJ admitted with a blush. David wondered how long it would be before she admitted to a long-distance relationship with that New Orleans detective of hers. Rossi hadn't even been on the team when the two of them had met and he knew about it; she wasn't fooling anyone.

"We could call him," Spencer sounded hesitant and, by the looks of the other agents' faces, David could see that they were too. As one, they turned towards him.

Rossi stifled a chuckle. Technically, he was the newest member of the team, but obviously they thought his long relationship with Hotch would protect him from the other man's potential irritation at being called so early in the morning.

They were probably right.

David dug out his cell phone and pulled up Hotch's number. While the others watched expectantly, it rang, but finally rolled over into voice mail. David shrugged at the other agents while he left a message. "Hotch, it's David. Call if you need a ride to your doctor appointment or something. You better not be on your way here."

"I wonder if he's at his follow-up appointment with the FBI doctor," JJ suggested once Rossi had put his cell phone away. She looked relieved at the thought. "That was set up for this morning."

"That's probably it," David was relieved at the sensible explanation, even as he was frustrated that Hotch hadn't called to ask for a ride. Then again, Prentiss had been right about their team leader. Hotch was good at delegating when it came to a case, but would not want to reveal anything to his team that could be seen as vulnerability.

There was still paperwork pending from the case they'd just wrapped up in San Francisco. It consisted of the little details that the local FBI couldn't handle, but that could wait for the BAU team to rest for a couple of days. It wasn't the most fascinating work, but it was exacting and a couple of hours passed before David was interrupted.

"Director Strauss," David greeted his superior as she entered his office following a brief knock. "What can I do for you?"

"SSA Hotchner did not report for his post-injury exam with the FBI physician," she stated. "Since he is so attentive to his beloved team, I thought he had perhaps notified you as to his reason for flaunting Bureau policy."

David sat up straighter in his chair. "No, he didn't and I couldn't reach him by phone this morning, either. Did you call him?"

"Of course I did," Strauss replied, looking more irritated than worried. "But there was no answer."

"Aaron Hotchner does not flaunt Bureau policy," David snarled at her. He got up and grabbed his coat, leaving Strauss behind in his office, mouth open in surprise.

Rossi came barreling down through the bullpen, cell phone in his hand. He didn't expect Hotch to pick up, but rang his number anyway. He was halfway to the exit before Aaron's answering machine picked.

"What's wrong?" Morgan demanded. Rossi would have blown passed him, but the younger agent was both big enough and ornery enough to block him.

"Hotch didn't show up at his doctor's appointment," David explained. As he spoke, the other members of the team drifted closer. "And he still isn't picking up his phone."

Unlike with Erin Strauss, David didn't have to point out to the others that Aaron wasn't the type to blow off a mandated appointment.

"I'm coming with you," Derek stated bluntly.

The other agents nodded an agreement and started moving forward, but Rossi knew he couldn't let things get out of hand. Aaron would not be pleased with having the entire BAU show up on his doorstep, demanding an explanation. On the other hand, the behavior was unusual enough to be worrisome, so one extra person wasn't a bad idea either.

"All right, Morgan, but just you," Rossi agreed. When the others looked disappointed, he didn't give in. "We can't all take off and give Strauss a reason to snipe at Hotch when he gets back."

Since they all knew that she would jump at any excuse to get on Hotch's back, the rest of the team didn't press the issue.

"Call us as soon as you know anything," Prentiss instructed.

Morgan gave her a sloppy salute, but by the time they got to the SUV, was solemn. "What do you think happened?"

"I don't know," David admitted. "Aaron Hotchner is a proud man and it wouldn't be easy for him to ask for help, but he could have taken a cab. It's not like him to miss something like that."

"No," Derek admitted. "It's not."

The rest of the ride passed in tense silence. Rossi had Morgan drive, so that he could continue to try to reach Aaron by phone. He called the land line and Hotch's cell, but neither was answered.

When they arrived in front of Hotch's house, Rossi jumped out before Derek brought the SUV to a complete stop. Morgan still almost beat him to the front door. Seeing Hotch's car in the driveway wasn't much relief.

"Hotch!" David called as he abandoned the doorbell for his fist on the door. "It's David Rossi. Are you all right?"

While David pounded on the door, Morgan peered into the front window. Out of the corner of his eye, David noticed the younger agent make a startled motion and then reach for his gun. "Morgan, what is it?"

"Blood on the wall," Derek nodded at the window and David leaned over for a quick look. There, on a pristine white wall, in clear view of the front window, was a bloody handprint.

"Damn," Rossi drew his own weapon, but stood back to let Morgan kick the door in.

"FBI!" Morgan yelled as he entered the house in a careful crouch.

Rossi was right behind him and the first thing he noticed was the smell of bleach.

"Oh, this is not good," Derek muttered.

Working as a team, the two men cleared the living room. They moved to the kitchen, with Rossi checking it out while Derek moved to the bathroom. The bleach odor was just as strong in the kitchen, but the only thing David noticed as unusual was a large water jug on the counter. He cautiously stepped to the hallway, Derek joining him with a brief shake of the head.

"Clean in there," Morgan informed him. "Too clean; the bleach smell is a lot stronger."

As one, the two agents moved towards the bedrooms. Morgan was positioned so that he took the larger bedroom, which had to be Aaron's. David headed towards the smaller one.

The first thing David Rossi noticed was that, unlike the rest of the house, this room was decorated. Instead of stark white walls, these were painted a playful blue. A yellow cartoon character was on the bedspread. David had no idea what it was supposed to be, but it looked like the sort of thing that a child would like. Toys and books were neatly placed on equally colorful shelves.

The second thing Rossi noticed was Aaron Hotchner, naked and pale, huddled on the floor.

David checked his headlong plunge into the room just long enough to open the closet and verify that no one was hiding there. Then he rushed into the room. "Morgan!"

Dropping to his knees, David frantically put his fingers to Hotch's neck. The younger man's skin felt dry and hot, but there was a pulse. Aaron was curled into as tight of a ball as a man of his size could, but David could still see the bruises that were all over his body. The markings were concentrated on Aaron's hips. Gulping back bile, Rossi put his gun down so that he could strip his suit coat off.

"Oh my God."

Derek Morgan was in the doorway and looked as shell shocked as David felt. Rossi quickly covered Hotch using his suit coat, wanting to shield the vulnerable man from even friendly eyes.

"He's alive," Rossi informed Morgan in a clipped tone. "Call 911." He turned back to Hotch, vaguely aware of Morgan's tense voice behind him, calling for an ambulance.

"Aaron, it's David," Rossi spoke to Hotch in a comforting voice. Aaron's eyes were shut and David didn't know if he were conscious or not, but he figured it wouldn't hurt to speak to him as though he could hear. "You're safe now, help's on the way."

Rossi kept up the quiet patter of reassurance until he heard a siren in the distance. Derek went out to meet the ambulance and came back followed by several EMTs and a gurney.

"What do we have?" The lead EMT asked, pulling a pair of latex gloves over his hands.

"His name is Aaron Hotchner," David explained, backing away so the medical professionals could help Hotch. "We found him like this approximately 15 minutes ago. He's not responsive."

"He was stabbed in the gut three days ago," Morgan chimed in.

"Could he have taken too many pain meds?" The EMT asked as he took Hotch's pulse.

David held on to his temper; it was a legitimate question. He simply lifted up the suit coat that was hiding the worst of Aaron's injuries. "I don't think so."

The EMT winced. "You're right. If you'll excuse us, Sir, we need room to work."

Reluctantly, David left Aaron's side and backed up a few steps to where Derek was standing. The two of them watched as the EMTs checked their colleague out. Morgan hissed as the EMTs moved Hotch enough to reveal ligature marks around his wrists; Hotch had been tied at some point.

"I'm going to the hospital with him," David told Morgan quietly. "I need you to stay here until forensics arrives." Morgan looked rebellious. "This is for Hotch; we need to make sure this case receives the best from everyone involved.

Derek subsided. "All right. I told the rest of the team to meet us at the hospital."

David nodded. "And Strauss?"

"I left a message," Morgan shrugged. "She wasn't answering."

"I'll speak with her later," Rossi promised. "But it was good thinking to notify her, so she doesn't feel left out of the loop."

The EMTs started loading Hotch onto the gurney and David hurried to talk to them. "How is he?"

"His condition is stable, although he's still not responding to us," the EMT David had spoken to before said. "It'll be up to the doctors to determine, but my guess is that he's been drugged."

That reminded Rossi of something and he turned back to Derek. "Morgan, there was a jug of water on the counter in the kitchen."

"I'll see to it that forensics does a tox screen on it," Derek promised.

There wasn't time to say anymore, Hotch's gurney was being pushed towards the vehicle waiting to transport him.

"I'm going with him," Rossi said as they started loading Aaron into the ambulance. He flashed his FBI identification before anyone could protest. No one commented, which was a good thing because David was not in the mood to be denied.

The ride itself was uneventful. Aaron remained unconscious and, although there was some concern over how low his blood pressure was, he didn't seem to be in any immediate danger. David answered questions about any allergies Hotch had as best he could, but mostly he just sat quietly, prepared in case Hotch woke up and was confused.

Once at the hospital, Rossi was prevented from going into the treatment room. David geared himself for a battle.

"I'm sorry, Agent Rossi, but medical personnel only," the EMT stopped David firmly.

"Special Agent David Rossi?" A nurse had overheard his name and approached them before David could disagree with the EMT. "We have the rest of your team in a special waiting room."

"I can't stay with my colleague?" David asked. "He's obviously been through an ordeal; he should have a familiar face near when regains consciousness."

"I'm sorry, sir, but even family wouldn't be allowed to accompany him right now," the nurse didn't back down and David reluctantly had to admit that he'd been defeated. He allowed himself to be directed to the lounge that had been set aside for the team's use.

As David entered the small, private room, he saw that the rest of the team was already there. JJ noticed him first and stood, quickly followed by Reid, Prentiss and Garcia.

"How is he?" JJ asked, a delicate worry line prominent in her forehead.

"Stable," Rossi informed them. "Still unconscious, though, and it seems likely that he's been drugged."

Prentiss cleared her throat. "Morgan said that Hotch had been . . . . assaulted?"

Trust Prentiss to be the one to ask the difficult question. Still, it wasn't exactly something that Rossi could keep secret.

"From the marks we could see, assault is the least of it," Rossi stated bluntly. "We need to prepare ourselves for the likelihood that Hotch has been raped."

"Oh God," Garcia gasped, one hand coming up to cover her mouth.

The rest of the team were more subdued in their reactions, but they'd had more experience with the need to control their visible emotional responses. Even so, JJ and Emily looked shocked and Spencer appeared as though he was going to throw up.

"If you're going to freak out, do it now," David warned them sternly. "Hotch is going to need our full support to get through this."

"Where's Derek?" Garcia asked in a small voice.

David tried to smile at her. "I asked him to stay at the house until forensics got there. He'll be along shortly."

"Sir," JJ looked a little steadier. "What about Agent Hotchner's family?"

She probably was asking if they'd been notified that Hotch was in the hospital, but David's mind did a nastier turn. "We need to get a protective detail out to Haley Hotchner ASAP. We don't know the motive of this attack yet, but if it was revenge, the UNSUB could strike at Hotch's family."

JJ nodded and pulled out her phone, stepping aside to make the arrangements.

"What about the rest of his family?" Garcia asked. "I know he has a younger brother."

David was surprised that anyone knew that much, knowing that Aaron was close-mouthed about his background. "I'll take care of that later, after we get a determination from the doctor of what his exact condition is."

The agents lapsed into silence, sitting back down as they settled in to wait for an update from Hotch's doctor. After about a half hour there was motion at the door and they all looked up expectantly, but it was only Morgan.

"Any word?" Derek asked as he joined them.

"Not yet." David watched as Morgan grimaced. "Forensics get started okay?"

"Yeah," Derek took the seat next to Garcia. "It's Hogan's crew; they're the best. I told them it was for Hotch and how important it was, but she didn't hold out much hope. All that bleach."

"Bleach?" Garcia asked. "What does that have to do with anything?"

"Bleach kills any DNA evidence left behind." Morgan explained. "And from the smell of things, this guy was thorough."

"We're not going to be able to rely on getting much of anything from forensics," Rossi warned. "This UNSUB is obviously smart and organized."

Morgan swallowed. "Do you think he's one of us? He picked a weekend that Hotch was wounded and vulnerable - and he knew to use bleach."

Reid spoke up for the first time. "The number of procedural shows on television are effectively teaching the public how to better commit crimes. It wouldn't necessarily have to be someone in law enforcement to know that."

Rossi shrugged. "I won't rule anything out at this point. I wouldn't be surprised, though, to find out that Hotch'd been watched for a while. This kind of attack doesn't just happen." He winced as something occurred to him. "This was supposed to be Hotch's weekend with his son; the UNSUB could have been planning on using Jack's safety to control Hotch."

An uncomfortable silence settled over the group as that statement sunk in. The one thing worse for Aaron Hotchner than sexual assault would have been to have his son used against him. At least he'd been spared that.

There was nothing else for the agents to do while they waited and the conversation didn't resume. Forensics was processing the scene, Hotch's family was safe and, until they could talk to Hotch about what happened, they couldn't start looking for a possible motive. Besides, no one wanted to leave until they knew how their leader was doing. Thankfully, the doctor didn't keep them waiting too much longer.

"You're here for Aaron Hotchner?" A middle-aged woman asked as she entered the room. It was a private lounge and Rossi was grateful that she shut the door behind her. "I'm Dr. Anthony."

"Yes," David spoke up as he stood. He dug out his identification and flashed it at her. "How's he doing?"

The doctor eyed Rossi's credentials. "Are you family?"

Knowing she was concerned about medical privacy laws, David didn't snap at her. "Consider us the FBI agents that will be investigating the crimes committed against Special Agent Hotchner."

Dr. Anthony nodded at the entire group. "Very well, you better sit down, this might take a while." She waited until the team had taken their seats before launching into her report on Hotch's condition.

"Mr. Hotchner is still unconscious, but he's stable," she informed them. "It's highly likely that he's been drugged, probably with Rohypnol, but we'll need to wait for the toxscreen to come back before we'll know for sure. The puncture wound to his abdomen is the most severe of his injuries, I understand that the original stabbing took place several days ago?"

"Friday," Rossi answered. "It wasn't considered a dangerous wound; the hospital didn't even keep him overnight, although the doctor wanted to."

She nodded at the information. "Unfortunately, the wound opened sometime in the last couple of days, either during a struggle or perhaps even deliberately." The doctor frowned. "In fact, the wound is wider than I would expect it to be; it's almost as though someone stuck their fingers inside and pulled it apart."

The agents winced. They were used to UNSUBs inflicting horrors, but not on one of their own.

"In any case, that wound is now infected," the doctor explained and David remembered how hot Aaron had felt to the touch. "We've started Agent Hotchner on a course of antibiotics that we hope will address the infection. If not, we'll have to try something more aggressive."

"And the assault?" David asked quietly.

The doctor met his gaze squarely. "The assault was sexual in nature. There are clear signs that Agent Hotchner was raped both orally and anally. There is considerable soft tissue damage in both his throat and rectum, but his assailant appears to have taken steps to mitigate the affects."

"What does that mean?" Morgan demanded.

"The assailant took time to prepare Agent Hotchner for anal intercourse, even to the point of using lubricant," Dr. Anthony didn't bat an eyelash at Derek's question. "I'm sure Agent Hotchner will be in considerable discomfort when he regains consciousness, but there wasn't any rectal tearing, which I would have expected from an assault of this duration. He was raped several times over the course of a few days."

The agents looked at one another. The care that Hotch's attacker had taken showed not only that felt he had the time to be careful, but also just the fact that he'd taken those precautions would figure into their profile.

"Is there anything else?" David asked.

"There were lacerations around his wrists, indicating that Agent Hotchner had been tied, and that he fought those bindings. Both wrists are sprained," the doctor told them. "He has some bruising on other areas of his body, but other than the puncture wound he'd sustained earlier, nothing that broke the skin."

David felt his stomach drop. He hadn't thought about diseases that might be transmitted. "Did you do a rape kit? Was there anything to indicate if his assailant used a condom?"

Dr. Anthony sighed. "We documented the injuries and did the necessary swabs, but Agent Hotchner had been thoroughly cleaned. I highly doubt that anything will be found of use. I suspect that a condom was used, but I can't say for sure. We're also doing routine tests for STDs and he should have the results in a couple of weeks."

"When can we see him?" JJ asked.

"He's being moved into intensive care, so he can be monitored until he regains consciousness," the doctor explained. Done with her report, she changed the subject. "And now I have a question for you. Which one of you is Jason Gideon?"

David blinked. Gideon's name was the last thing he'd expected to hear. "None of us. Why?"

"Our administrative staff contacted FBI headquarters in Quantico," the doctor explained. "Jason Gideon is listed as having Aaron Hotchner's healthcare directive, which might become an issue if he remains unconscious. Do any of you know how to reach Mr. Gideon?"

"I'll take care of it," David assured her. "Along with notifying Agent Hotchner's family of what's happened."

Dr. Anthony looked relieved and David didn't blame her. It wouldn't be a pleasant task, but it was his responsibility. "When can we see him?"

The doctor rose and the rest of them did too. "I'll send a nurse to find you when Agent Hotchner is settled. It would be best if he didn't wake alone."

"He won't," David vowed. He barely waited until Dr. Anthony left before turning to Spencer. "What's Jason Gideon's phone number?"

Spencer looked startled. "Gideon's number?"

"There's nothing wrong with keeping in touch with the man," Rossi stated impatiently. "Other than Hotch, you're the one most likely to be in communication with him."

"I leave him messages, but he never answers," Spencer admitted glumly.

"But he hasn't changed the number, has he?" David prodded. "And let me guess, his voice mail box hasn't filled up either. He's listening to your messages, trust me."

Spencer glanced briefly at Morgan, who shrugged. "202-555-4447."

David rapidly punched the numbers in and listened impatiently as it started to ring. After what Spencer told him, he wasn't overly surprised when the call automatically turned over to voice mail. Turning away from the others slightly, David waited until the tone to leave his message.

"Gideon, it's Rossi," David spoke tersely. He didn't bother to waste time explaining that he was back with the BAU; Spencer no doubt had mentioned it before, if he'd been leaving regular messages for Gideon. "Aaron Hotchner was attacked in his home and raped. He's unconscious and the hospital has notified us that you hold his healthcare directive. So, get over this prolonged sulk of yours, or whatever you call it, and get your ass back to Quantico. Hotch is going to need every friend he's got to get through this. You owe him that much."

After he signed off, David turned around and faced the rest of the team. He was expecting the others be uncomfortable with what he'd said to Gideon or maybe even be reproachful, but their reaction surprised him. They simply looked steadily back at him, with something like approval in their eyes. Gideon had obvious burned more than one bridge by leaving so abruptly.

"Good message," Morgan actually praised him.

David took a deep breath. "I want one of us to be with Hotch at all times; I'll stay with him until he wakes up. From what Dr. Anthony said, I doubt he'll be in any condition to give a preliminary statement, but I'll see what I can do." Aaron Hotchner was a formidable man, but if he'd been dosed with enough Rohypnol to remain unconscious for an extended period of time, the drug would likely affect his memory of the attack. Rossi thought it a mixed blessing. "Garcia, I want you to sift through Hotch's old cases and see if any have a matching MOs or feature anyone likely to hold a grudge."

Garcia gulped. "But, between his federal prosecutor days and then with the FBI, there's got to be a gazillion of them."

"Don't worry, I'll help, Baby Girl," Morgan put a hand on her shoulder as he soothed the distraught tech. "Even with the little we know, we can narrow the field of possible suspects a little bit."

"It might not be someone Hotch helped catch or convict," Prentiss pointed out. "It could be the family of someone he helped put away or Morgan could be right, it could be law enforcement."

"Let's not get ahead of ourselves," David cautioned. "JJ, check with your sources and see if there have been any other attacks like the one on Hotch. This UNSUB did not just crawl out of the woodwork; he's way too good at this."

"Statistics on male rape are rare," Spencer interjected. "In fact, researchers can only estimate that the vast majority of male rape victims fail to come forward, even more than female victims."

"Meaning that the UNSUB's earlier victims may not have reported the crime," Prentiss finished the thought.

"We still have to look," David told her. "I'd like you and Reid to go back to the scene. Make observations, as long as you don't get in the way of the forensic team, and start canvassing the neighborhood. Hotch was stalked and hopefully someone saw something out of the norm."

The other agents left for their assignments, reluctantly but seeing the need. David was left alone with his thoughts for a few moments before a nurse came in to direct him to Aaron's room.

"There are signs that he's getting restless," the nurse told Rossi as she left him at the doorway. "We'll be monitoring him, but it's good you're here. Mr. Hotchner will be very confused when he regains consciousness."

"There will be someone with Special Agent Hotchner at all times," David replied, putting special emphasis on Hotch's title. "He's going to get all the support he needs."

"Good," she told him with a smile. "Ring if Special Agent Hotchner needs anything."

Monitors surrounded Hotch, their quiet beeping a backdrop to the sound of Aaron's breathing. Intensive Care was set up so that the rooms surrounded a nurses' station and the wall that faced the center was clear. David found the design comforting; it would be easy for the nurses to tell if Aaron was in distress and react accordingly. No doubt, once Hotch was awake and aware, he would find it too much of a fishbowl, but hopefully by the time that came about, Hotch could be moved to a regular room.

David sat in the chair next to the bed, admitting to himself that he was studying the area in an attempt to avoid looking at his friend. He forced himself to and found that Aaron was much improved. The younger man was still pale, but was no longer curled into that heart-breaking huddle. A hospital gown covered the bruises and his wrists were wrapped, hiding the damage Hotch had done to himself, probably trying to break free from being tied.

If Rossi's memory for detail weren't so good, he could almost make himself believe that Hotch was in the bed for the original stab wound.

Hotch was good at controlling his expressions; maybe too good. Only very rarely did he let his guard down and let even close friends see a glimpse of the man underneath the FBI Special Agent mask. David counted himself lucky to be among those that Hotch trusted that way. He would have expected that, unconscious, Aaron's face would be relaxed, but that wasn't the case. The trauma Hotch experienced was obviously haunting his sleep, because his expression was strained.

"We're going to see you through this, Aaron," David spoke quietly. He carefully picked up Hotch's hand, knowing no one was there to see and that Aaron wouldn't be embarrassed by it. "I promise."

But damned if David knew how he'd keep that promise.

*
*
*

Aaron Hotchner had a lot of experience waking up quickly, but it wasn't helping him. He was vaguely aware that he should open his eyes, that something was horribly wrong, but he just couldn't. Several times he almost managed to claw his way to consciousness, but didn't quite make it. Just when he was on the verge of waking, the fog of confusion and pain would descend again and pull him back into a world of full of nightmares.

When he did finally wake, Aaron did so abruptly and with a gasp. He looked around apprehensively. Aaron had never seen the room he was in before, but instinctively knew it was a hospital. How he'd gotten there, however, was a mystery.

"Aaron?"

A light touch on his arm caused Aaron to flinch. He looked down at the hand resting on his and gradually slid his eyes up to see who it belong to. He discovered that David Rossi was sitting next to him, a concerned expression on his face.

"Hotch?" David asked anxiously. "Are you with me?"

Aaron licked his lips, suddenly aware of how dry his mouth was. Not trusting his ability to speak, he simply nodded. It was a bad choice. The movement caused the room to spin and Hotch closed his eyes.

"Here, this might help." David helped Aaron lift his head slightly, just enough so he could take a sip of water. Aaron didn't know when anything had tasted so good. He tried to drink more, but David took the glass away. "Not too much. Let's see how that sets on your stomach. They said you might not feel well for a while."

David was babbling, which was not like him at all. Hotch opened his eyes again to look at his colleague. Rossi was sitting on the edge of his chair, looking at Aaron intently and with more than a little concern in his eyes.

"Dave?" Hotch asked, surprised at the weakness in his voice. "What happened to me?"

Rossi frowned. "What do you remember?"

Hotch hated it when someone answered his question with a question, although the profiler in him recognized the technique. Swallowing heavily, he closed his eyes and let his mind drift back. The pain radiating from his gut was an unpleasant reminder. "San Francisco. I was stabbed."

"That's right," David confirmed. "That was Friday."

Friday. Aaron's mind jumped to the fact that Fridays proceeded weekends and this weekend meant. . . .

"Jack!" Hotch tried to sit up. "Where's Jack? Is he all right?"

Hands grabbed his shoulders, holding him down. The action only made Hotch fight harder. Aaron was aware of a male voice, but it took a few moments for him to realize that it was David and that he was calling his name. Finally realizing that he was too weak to overcome the other man, Hotch lay back against his pillow.

"Jack's fine," David told him. Aaron had the feeling that Rossi had repeated that statement several times. "He's with his mother. He's fine, Hotch, I promise."

Panting, Hotch tried to calm down. "Okay."

David got up and moved to the wall. Only then did Aaron realize that it was glass. He watched, dumb in the aftermath of his panic, as David pulled a curtain over it, giving them privacy that Aaron hadn't even realized they'd lacked.

"What else do you remember?" David prompted after giving Aaron a couple of moments to recover himself. "You remember being stabbed. What else?"

"Flannagan confessed," Hotch struggled to make sense of his memories. "I remember getting on the plane to come back to Quantico, but. . . . nothing else."

David seemed disappointed. "That's all, you don't remember going home?"

"No," Hotch replied. He began to realize that his gut wasn't the only part of his body throbbing with pain. "Dave, what happened to me?"

David Rossi, who'd interviewed far more serial killers than Hotch had, wouldn't meet his eyes. "I drove you home Friday night; I tried to get you stay with me, but you refused.
Morgan followed with your car. I carried your bag in. Hotch, I swear, everything was fine."

The older agent finally looked at Aaron again, guilt practically radiating from him.

"Dave," Hotch repeated, a growing fear adding to the gymnastics that his stomach was already doing. "What the hell happened?"

"The team should have checked on you during the weekend, but no one did," Rossi continued, bitterness creeping into his voice. "We were all too busy having fun on our time off. We didn't even know anything was wrong until you didn't show up for your doctor appointment Monday morning." David took a deep breath and met Aaron's gaze. "Morgan and I went to your house to see if you were all right. We found you in Jack's room."

"But Jack wasn't there, right?" Aaron was getting a very bad feeling and, although he knew he'd asked about his son already, wanted to make sure that Jack was unharmed.

"No, Jack wasn't there. He was with Haley all weekend," David assured him. "He's perfectly fine, Aaron, I promise."

There appeared to be tears in David's eyes, but surely that was a trick of the light.

"Aaron," David's voice was as gentle as Hotch had ever heard it. "There's no easy way to tell you this, but you were raped. Repeatedly."

The words both were and weren't a shock. Aaron's body had been screaming details at him ever since he'd started becoming aware, but he'd been ignoring the implications. David's hesitation to speak had been another clue. Even so, hearing the words said out loud was like a hammer blow.

"How can I not remember that?" Aaron heard himself whisper hoarsely.

David tried to put a hand on Hotch's arm, no doubt meant to comfort, but Aaron pulled away from him in reflex. Clearly, his body remembered being violated, even if his mind didn't.

"You were drugged," David explained as he carefully pulled his hand back. "When the toxscreen came back, it showed Rohypnol in your system, a lot of it. The doctors are guessing you were drugged throughout the weekend. The UNSUB was either very good at it or lucky, he came damn near to overdosing you."

Aaron's colleague didn't need to explain that Rohypnol in large doses could affect the memory. "What day is it?"

"It's Tuesday morning," David told him. "You've been out of it for a while."

Hotch closed his eyes for a minute, as though he could will away the unwanted news. "Are there any suspects yet?"

Rossi answered slowly, as though reluctant. "Not yet, no. This bastard was organized, maybe the most organized I've ever seen."

Aaron opened his eyes so he could look at his colleague. "Tell me."

"He didn't leave any DNA evidence behind," David began. "It's almost certain that a condom was used, so it's unlikely that you have to worry about any STDs."

The thought hadn't even occurred to Hotch yet.

"More than that, though, the UNSUB cleaned your house and, well, you with bleach," Rossi continued. "He also stripped the sheets off the beds. The bedspreads were left behind, but no hair samples of any kind were found. No fingerprints, either. Some blood was found on one wall, but it was yours."

Something occurred to Aaron. Rossi had mentioned it earlier, but the implications were slow to hit Hotch.

"Beds, plural?" Aaron asked. "He raped me in my son's room?"

David's face and voice were compassionate as he replied. "Yes, we think so."

Aaron was aware that David continued to speak, but the words were a meaningless jumble. His mind was stuck on the fact that something so perverted as rape had happened to him, in his child's room. What if Jack had been there? Would the UNSUB had gone after Jack instead? What sort of damage would it have done to his son if the young boy had been forced to witness the attack on his father?

Hotch's stomach was no longer content to just roil, it heaved. A basin appeared underneath Aaron as he retched and an arm came around him in support. Aaron would have flinched away from the touch, but his body out of control for the moment and he couldn't do anything about it. As soon as his stomach got rid of its meager contents, however, Aaron shrugged off David's arm. To his immense relief, Rossi backed off.

"The doctors said you might be nauseated for a few days, due to the amount of the drug you were given," David explained. Aaron appreciated the older man's matter of fact tone; it helped with the humiliation of having lost control. "There isn't that much physical damage. The worst of it is the original stab wound and your wrists."

He hadn't even noticed anything wrong with his wrists. Aaron looked down and saw that both were wrapped in bandages. "And there aren't any suspects?"

"No one specific, no," David admitted. "Garcia and the team are going through past cases, to see if anyone fits the basic profile. JJ has scoured the databases; no similar crimes have been reported in the area."

Hotch was well aware that 'reported' was the operative word in that sentence.

Rossi sounded hesitant as he continued. "We were hoping that you might remember something that would help narrow it down a bit."

Aaron started shaking his head before David finished the comment. "Nothing, unless bad dreams count."

"They might," Rossi took Aaron's comment seriously. "And I know you, you'll do your best to bring any memory fragments to the surface, no matter how unpleasant they are."

An uncomfortable silence lapsed between the two men. Finally Aaron took a deep breath and forced himself to look Rossi in the eyes. "David, I'd like to be alone for a while, please."

The other man looked like he was going to protest, but he nodded instead and rose slowly. "One of us will be nearby at all times. The team, I mean. Haley and Jack are being watched over too. We're going to catch this guy, Aaron, I promise."

He couldn't help it, Aaron snorted. "Even if it takes 20 years?" When David flinched, Aaron realized how cruel that comment had been. "I'm sorry, that was uncalled for."

David smiled at him, but it was a sad smile. "I stewed over that case for 20 years and got nothing but nightmares. We worked on it as a team and it was solved in a few days. It won't be 20 years on this one, trust me."

Aaron couldn't think of a reply, so he just nodded. As Rossi reached the door, though, he made a request. "Do me a favor, Dave?"

"Anything."

"You're going to have to pull me apart to solve this," Hotch acknowledged. "Could you oversee the victimology personally?"

Rossi swallowed heavily. "Absolutely." And he left without saying anything else.

Once he was alone, Aaron lay quietly, staring at the ceiling. His body throbbed at various points, telling the story of what happened to him. He felt the bile rise again, but swallowed it back down. Falling apart wasn't going to help matters. He laughed at the thought, not knowing if anything was going to help matters. He briefly pressed the heel of his palms against his eyes, as though he could squeeze a vision out of them of what the UNSUB looked like, but it didn't work.

There were plans that would need to be made. David could lead the team in the interim, but Hotch knew there would be some administrative hoops he'd have to jump through before he was allowed back on the job. In the meantime, the team would have to be reassured that he would eventually rejoin them. After Gideon's abrupt departure, continuity was important. On a personal level, he'd have to communicate with Haley, find a place to stay until his house was released as a crime scene, follow-up on any physical care that needed to be addressed. . .

In spite of the details whirling about in his head, Hotch found sleep sneaking up on him. He didn't try to fight it. Even bad dreams would be preferable to the living nightmare he currently found himself in.

*
*
*

David Rossi kept his head held high as he exited Aaron Hotchner's room, at least until he was through the door and a few feet away. Once safely out of sight of the wounded man, he let his body slump, stopping and leaning against a wall for support. He didn't know what was worse, witnessing Aaron's breakdown at the thought of being sexually assaulted in his son's room or the brutal tamp down of emotion that swiftly followed Hotch's initial reaction.

"Sir, are you okay?"

It was JJ speaking to him and David pulled himself together enough to answer. "I'm fine, thanks. Just a little tired."

She didn't look convinced, but didn't question him further on it. "How is he?"

"He's awake and aware," David explained. Hotch had woken briefly before, but had been too dazed to talk to and had drifted back into unconsciousness. "But he has no memory of the attack."

"How did he take the news?" JJ asked, concern in her eyes.

David shrugged. "He's Hotch; he was stoic." There was no way in hell that David was going to tell anyone about Aaron breaking down.

To his surprise, JJ reached out and squeezed his arm briefly, although she didn't say anything more on the subject. Instead she sighed. "Mrs. Hotchner has called three times, demanding to know why she and her son are under protective watch."

Rossi rubbed his face. He couldn't blame the woman for being concerned, but begrudged the time that would be needed to fill her in on what was going on. It would have to be done in person and it would have to be him. Just like with breaking the news to Aaron about what had happened to him, it wasn't something that David would trust to anyone else.

He didn't consider the possibility of not telling Haley. Working up the victimology on Hotch meant delving into the man's background and, whether she liked it or not, that included Aaron's ex-wife. At least David telling Haley would spare Hotch the humiliation of having to do it himself.

"Now that Hotch is awake, I can leave for a little while. I'll go and explain things to her," David stated.

"Are you sure that's a good idea?" JJ questioned. "You were here all night; maybe you should go home and get some rest instead."

David shook his head. "There's time for that later." He looked at his watch. "Give me a couple of hours and then have the team meet here at the hospital. I'll want an update on all aspects of the search so far."

Prentiss and Reid hadn't found anything at the scene, nor did canvassing the neighborhood yield any results. It was a newer housing development, full of lots of people like Hotch that were focused on their careers. Aaron hadn't lived there long enough to meet any of his neighbors and no one had seen anything out of the ordinary. With that in mind, they'd joined Morgan and Garcia in pouring through old case files. Even with Garcia's computer magic, there was still a daunting amount of material to cover.

"Do you want me to find someone to drive you?" JJ offered.

Rossi shrugged off her suggestion. "No thanks, I could use the time to think. Now that Hotch is awake, he'll be moved out of intensive care and into a regular room. I'd appreciate it if you could let me know the room number, once he's transferred."

"Will do," JJ promised.

It was hard to leave the hospital, and Aaron, behind, but David did it anyway. He could feel exhaustion dogging his steps. He wasn't as young as he used to be and an overnight vigil had taken a lot out of him, even if he'd taken catnaps in between the times the nurses had been in to check on Aaron.

As he drove to Aaron's old house, David remembered happier times he'd spent with the Hotchner family. Aaron had been one of the few people in the FBI he'd kept in touch with after retiring. He'd had dinner with Hotch and Haley more than once, although not since Jack had been born. Even then he'd seen cracks in their relationship, although he'd hoped for Aaron's sake that he'd been wrong.

David had been divorced three times; he knew that there were two people involved in every broken marriage. Intellectually he knew that it wasn't entirely Haley's fault, just as it wasn't entirely Aaron's. He couldn't help but feel resentment building, however, the closer he got to his destination. Aaron was a good man, maybe one of the best men that David knew, and he deserved better than a broken home.

When David pulled up in front of the house, he was pleased to see a dark sedan with federal license plates parked outside. The woman behind the wheel had sunglasses on, but David could tell that she was watching him avidly as he approached the house. David nodded to her, pleased the diligence. She nodded back, but didn't get out to question him. There were advantages to being a celebrity in the Bureau; even though he hadn't met this particular agent, she knew who he was and that he had a right to be there.

The door opened before David had a chance to knock. He was a little startled to see a man there instead of the expected Haley Hotchner.

"What the hell is going on?" The man demanded. "You guys call Haley and scare her half to death and then won't say what it's all about. I can't even reach my brother by phone. Even by FBI standards, this is a load of crap."

Brother; this must be Sean Hotchner. There was no point in looking for a physical resemblance, but Sean had a familiar angry glint in his eyes.

"That's why I'm here," David explained. He'd dealt with enough scared relatives over the years not to take the younger man's attitude personally. "If you'll let me in, I'll sit down with you and Haley and explain everything."

"Sean, let him in."

David recognized the voice coming behind Sean as that of Haley Hotchner. Grudgingly, her brother-in-law stepped aside. From the way Sean's hand came to the small of Haley's back, David had the sinking feeling that Sean Hotchner was more than an in-law to Aaron's ex-wife.

"Hello, Haley," David greeted her. "I'm sorry to have to see you again under these circumstances."

Haley had already looked pale and strained, but when she realized who was addressing her, her face totally drained of color. "My God, David, is it bad enough that they pulled you out of retirement?"

Her comment made David realize that Aaron had not spoken to her much about his job since the divorce. It was understandable, since it was Aaron's dedication to the BAU that had caused the tension in the marriage.

"I've been back at the Bureau for some time now," David stated quietly. "But it is bad. Can we sit down to talk?"

"Of course," Haley gestured David in and then led him to the living room. Sean was close on their heels. "Jack's taking a nap."

David waited until they were all seated before he got started. "Aaron was attacked in his home over the weekend. He's hospitalized, but he's going to be all right."

"I don't understand," Haley frowned. "He told me he'd been stabbed, but it wasn't bad enough to keep him in the hospital. Did he get worse?"

"This is something different," David explained. "We think the UNSUB that attacked Aaron had been watching him and was aware that he was wounded. He used that to his advantage to overpower Aaron."

"What are you not saying?" Sean Hotchner asked. Apparently Aaron wasn't the only observant one in the family. "That's awful, but not enough to put Haley and Jack under protection."

David took a deep breath. "The attack occurred on Friday night, but Aaron's injuries indicate that the UNSUB abused him the whole weekend, perhaps not leaving him until Sunday night or Monday morning."

Haley looked ill. "You said 'abused.' What exactly do you mean by that?"

"The assault was sexual in nature," David said gently. He wasn't happy to have to deliver the news, but was somewhat mollified on Aaron's behalf that the other two were so upset to hear it. "Aaron was raped, repeatedly, over a period of three days."

"Oh my God," Haley covered her mouth with her hand and Sean wrapped an arm around her shoulders . "Is, is he okay?"

"He's doing as well as can be expected," David replied. He had no intention of telling the woman how shattered her ex-husband had been. "He was also drugged and he's still trying to throw off the effects of that too."

"And you think whoever did this might come after Haley and Jack?" Sean asked.

Dave worded his response carefully, not wanting to worry Hotch's family too much, but also needing to impress on them the need to be protected. "We're not sure what to think just yet, but we know that his family's safety is always Hotch's primary concern. In fact, he asked about Jack immediately after regaining consciousness."

Sean's expression softened. "Yeah, that sounds like him."

"Until we know you're in no danger, there will be agents watching the house and following your car," David explained. "It would best, Haley, if you didn't go anywhere by yourself, except to work."

After the divorce, Haley had gotten a job teaching at a private school. It was an elite one frequented by the children of diplomats and politicians. As a result, it had more security than a normal school, so safety there wasn't an issue. There was also onsite daycare, so Jack would be safe on the grounds as well.

"Do you have any idea for how long?" Haley, thankfully, wasn't questioning the necessity of having protection.

"I'm not sure," David admitted, "but I can guarantee you that we won't stop until the man who did this is caught." He glanced at them each in turn. "Is there anyone else in the family that we should notify?"

Sean snorted. "Not my mother."

David nodded. "I'm aware of that situation, but thanks for the warning. Anybody else?"

"Not that I can think of," Sean shrugged. "You probably know who he's closer to at this point that I would."

"The BAU, Jack and, used to be, me," Haley's smile was watery. "Aaron's always had a small circle."

"All right, then," David braced himself for the next part of the interview. It would probably start out fairly calmly, but especially with Sean Hotchner present, would likely degenerate into something a lot more emotional. "Are you aware of anyone that would want to hurt Aaron?"

"That's something else you'd know better than either of us," Sean pointed out. "His job puts Aaron into contact with a lot of criminals."

David smiled thinly. "I think the FBI has a good handle the job-related possibilities. I'm talking more along the lines of long-time personal rivals, neighbors that he had disagreements with, and that kind of thing."

"No," Haley shook her head. "Not that I'm aware of."

"How about anyone you're involved with romantically, Haley?" David pressed gently. "Aaron is your ex-husband, could there be a boyfriend who feels threatened by his ties to you?"

Haley blushed and snuck a quick look at Sean before answering. "No."

"And how about anyone you were seeing while you were married to Aaron?" David continued.

"Excuse me?" Her blush had drained from her face, leaving Haley as white as a sheet.

Not so Sean, his color rose as he stood to tower above David. "What the hell are you implying?"

David ignored Hotch's younger brother and stared at Haley. "You had at least one affair while you were married to Aaron. I'll need the name of the man or men that you were involved with."

Haley blinked rapidly. "I-. . . . I didn't think he even noticed."

"I'm not sure that he did," David admitted. "Hotch didn't believe in using profiling in his personal life."

"Maybe if he had, it wouldn't have happened." A little bitterness crept into Haley's voice.

"What?" Sean looked flummoxed by the turn the conversation had taken. "Haley?"

She bit her lip as she implored Sean. "Aaron was always gone and distant even when he was physically present. I needed more than that, Sean."

"I assume from Sean's reaction that you didn't start sleeping with Aaron's brother until after the divorce," David commented dryly.

"Wait a minute," Sean shook off his shock at Haley's confession and rounded on Rossi again. "Where do you get off being judgmental?"

Realizing he'd let his personal feelings bleed into the conversation, David decided it was best to apologize. "You're right, I'm sorry, that was uncalled for." He turned to address Haley again. "I do need to get those names. I think you learned enough over the years about Aaron's work to know how important it is."

Haley sighed. "There was just one and his name was Paul." She gave David the man's full name and telephone number. "He was an instructor at the gym."

"And it ended amicably?" David asked.

"Oh, I'd say so," Haley laughed bitterly. "He bolted the minute I told him that I'd left my husband. I guess he found married women more attractive than available ones that might expect a commitment."

It didn't sound like a potential suspect, but David made note of the information. "Anyone else? Someone who may have been hanging around or seemed more interested in your life than you'd expect?"

Haley shook her head. "No, nothing like that."

David rose. He wasn't going to get any additional information and it felt like he'd been away from the hospital too long the way it was. "Thank you. I'll keep you informed of how the investigation is progressing."

Sean and Haley exchanged quick glances.

"David, are you going to tell Aaron about us?" Haley asked, she blushed as she attempted to maintain dignity in an awkward situation.

Not inclined to make it overly easy on them, David shrugged. "I'm not going to lie for you, but I won't bring it up unless it's necessary." He could help but add a jibe. "I think he's already hurt enough, don't you?"

There was nothing much either of them could say after that, so David saw himself to the door. He nodded again to the vigilant agent keeping watch at the house and hurried to the car. Once he was on his way back to the hospital, David checked in with JJ and found that there'd been no change in Hotch's condition. He next tried to reach Strauss again, but had to leave a message. Although he had yet to speak face to face with the woman, David was doing everything he could to keep her in the loop, knowing that Aaron would pay for it later if he didn't.

David made short work of the commute back to the hospital and, once there, made a beeline for the family lounge near Aaron's room. All the other team members were already there, a fact which made David narrow his eyes in anger.

"Who's with Hotch?" He demanded.

Prentiss answered. "I was until the doctor came in to do an exam. She kicked me out. Agent Booth is guarding the door."

Her response made David realize he'd overreacted. He nodded at her, hoping he looked as sheepish as he felt. "Good. Okay, what do we have?"

"There's no way this was a revenge attack," Morgan opened up the discussion.

"Go on," David had been thinking along the same lines, but wanted to hear the younger agent's reasoning.

"The UNSUB had Hotch totally under his control for three days." Morgan explained. "If it were a revenge rape, then he would have ripped Hotch apart. Instead, he took time to make sure minimal damage was inflicted."

Prentiss made a small sound of distress. "You call that minimal damage?"

Morgan didn't back down. "Hell, yeah. Rapists don't prep their victims, they're only concerned with their own needs. Sure, Hotch is sore, but physically, he's relatively intact. That's typical of a Power Reassurance Rapist."

"Unless the UNSUB were unusually subtle," Spencer countered. "Being made helpless would be particularly hard for someone with Hotch's personality. If he'd had a chance to fight back, Hotch would feel less victimized. In that case, the mental torture would have been the intent, not the physical."

"That's awfully roundabout," JJ disagreed. "Would an UNSUB really take the risk that holding Hotch for days in his own home would bring, only to sit back and wait for the aftermath to take its toll?"

"For what it's worth, I agree with Morgan," David stepped in. "This feels more like a stalker or a personal obsession, not revenge."

It was Garcia's turn to be frustrated. "You mean I've been going over all those old records for nothing?"

"Hardly nothing," David corrected her. "Even if we theorize we're looking for a Power Reassurance Rapist, we still have to pinpoint where the UNSUB met Aaron and Hotch's FBI work is the most likely point of contact. This guy was too good for Hotch to have been the first man he attacked."

"So maybe this UNSUB was a suspect on a previous case?" Garcia asked.

"That's one possibility," Rossi told her. "Or it could have been someone in law enforcement."

It was a thought that had been mentioned before, but was still disturbing. The others became quiet at the idea of a cop or even another agent attacking one of their own.

"What we're looking for is anyone who may have taken an unusual interest in Hotch or seemed too fascinated with a sex-related crime," David instructed Garcia. "I'm sure when Hotch starts feeling better, he can help us pinpoint some possibilities."

"Hotch is a good-looking guy," Prentiss spoke up. When the others looked at her oddly, she blushed. "What I mean is that it could be someone he met at the dry cleaner's or the gym. If we just focus on case-related prospects, we could be missing our UNSUB."

"Point taken and that's why we're going to work several angles." David outlined his plan. "Morgan, you and JJ look into previous cases. I want you to look at every rape case Hotch has worked on, as a federal prosecutor or an agent, where the victim was male. You know what we're looking for." He turned to Prentiss and Reid. "I want the two of you to pursue any other contacts Hotch currently has. I want background checks on his neighbors, on the delivery guy for his favorite pizza place and, yes, the dry cleaners too."

"I can help with all of that," Garcia offered. David smiled at her. After her own experience at being shot and the team rallying around her, no doubt Penelope was eager to return the favor.

"I know you can, but you'll also be working with me," David explained. "We'll be doing Hotch's victimology." Garcia gulped at that and Morgan flinched. Having been through the experience himself, he no doubt sympathized.

Seeing the doctor walking by, David rapidly closed the meeting, agreeing to meet Garcia later in the day and sending the rest of the team on their own assignments. He left the lounge and saw that the doctor had stopped at the nurse's station. David caught up with her there.

"Ah, Agent Rossi," Doctor Anthony greeted him. "I had a feeling you'd be wanting an update."

The doctor led David to a small conference room.

"How is he doing?" David asked.

"As well as can be expected," she answered, smiling faintly. "I know that's not what you wanted to hear, but it's going to take some time. Physically, the drug is almost cleared his system, but we're going to keep observing Agent Hotchner for the time being. Being drugged that deeply for a period of days can be dangerous. Other than that, he's sore, so I've ordered a therapeutic bath; we've a whirlpool tub in our physical therapy department that should work nicely."

"And mentally?" David reluctantly asked. "We need to get his input on who may have attacked him.

Her expression showed her understanding at the need for it. "Agent Hotcher's been through a severe emotional trauma, but he seems eager to catch whoever did this. I'd say you're safe to discuss it with him, but I'd let him take it at his own pace. We have a rape counselor scheduled to come in to speak with him in the morning."

"Understood," David agreed. "I'll let Hotch dictate how much he can take when giving a formal statement, but knowing him, he'll be better able to handle it better than I will."

She frowned at that comment. "Then it'll be up to you to make sure he doesn't push too much."

"I'll do my best," David agreed, knowing full well that it might be a futile promise. Hotch was too stubborn for his own damn good.

It turned out to be a moot point. By the time David got back to Hotch's room, Aaron was fast asleep. David had work to do, a lot of it, to catch the man responsible for the troubled expression on Hotch's face. The trauma wouldn't leave him, even asleep.

David settled into the chair by Hotch's bed. His work could wait, at least for a few minutes. Hotch wouldn't even know he was there, David didn't fool himself on that count. He was selfish enough not to care.

Aaron wasn't the only one who needed comfort at the moment.

*
*
*

Aaron Hotchner wasn't used to being idle. Not only did it seem wasteful, but not having anything to do gave him far too much time to think. Not that he didn't have a lot to think about, given his current situation, but it was futile. The drug the UNSUB had given him had done its job well. Try as he might, Aaron couldn't remember anything after falling asleep on the airplane during the trip back from San Francisco.

Frustrated, Aaron shifted his body restlessly, the constant ache from his fever making him uncomfortable, and then winced as the movement caused pain to radiate up his spine. Pain, Aaron could deal with, but the nature of the pain and not remembering how it was inflicted weighed upon him.

His morning had started with giving David Rossi his official statement, another practice in futility. David had been understanding, his eyes kind as he led Aaron through a series of questions designed to prompt memories, but it had been useless. The UNSUB had rendered Hotch helpless, not only with the rape itself, but taking away any hope Aaron had of helping to catch him. That rankled.

A visit from the rape counselor had continued the morning's unpleasantness. She seemed competent enough and had apologized for not being a specialist in male rape cases, but Aaron just couldn't connect with her. He'd cooperated, but acknowledged to himself that he was going through the motions. He was seasoned enough in such cases to know that he'd never be approved back for field work if he didn't jump through the appropriate hoops.

He didn't know what frightened him more, that he couldn't remember what had happened to him or the prospect of having his job taken away from him because of it. Aaron had lost his relationships with his wife and son because of his work; to lose his position in the BAU would render that sacrifice null. Aaron had no idea of what he'd do if that happened.

What he should be doing at the moment was studying case files, but the counselor had put an end to that activity. She'd been appalled that David had Aaron involved in the investigation itself. Aaron was certain that he'd seen a glint of rebellion in David's eye at that pronouncement and for a few minutes he'd been relieved when David had taken the counselor out to the corridor to 'discuss' the issue. Unfortunately, the counselor had apparently won that argument. David had come back in only briefly and told Hotch to rest. Aaron had been checked on throughout the day by various team members, but they'd been unified in their unwillingness to discuss his case. Aaron would have been touched at their concern if he hadn't been so frustrated by its results.

Aaron flinched as the door to his room abruptly opened. The hospital staff and his team members had taken to prefacing their entrance with a short knock, no doubt in deference to his ordeal. It didn't overly surprise Aaron, then, to see who came in without using that basic courtesy.

"Director Strauss," he greeted his visitor. He didn't offer his hand and hoped that it would be attributed to his injured wrists.

She nodded at him. "Agent Hotchner. I wanted to visit and personally tell you how sorry I was to hear of your. . . . situation."

Her composure cracked a little as she struggled to find a word suitable to Hotch's predicament.

The last thing he wanted to do was to talk to his boss, but Aaron kept his voice even as he replied. "Thank you."

"You have the full support of the Bureau as you recover," Strauss assured him. "I'm looking into assigning a temporary unit chief for the BAU to fill in until you can return to work."

Aaron didn't doubt that in the slightest. No doubt Strauss would take the opportunity to put her own creature in place; he only hoped he could return to his position when he was cleared for duty.

"Thank you," Aaron kept the irony out of his voice. "I appreciate the concern."

"You can take your time coming back," Strauss told him. "After all, we wouldn't want another incident like Elle Greenaway."

A soft knock at the door saved Hotch from having to make a reply. David Rossi entered, the picture of politeness, but knowing him well, Hotch could tell that the older man was seething underneath his calm exterior.

"Director Strauss, could I see you for a moment?" David asked.

"Of course," Strauss gave Hotch one of her thin smiles. "I hope your recovery continues, Agent Hotchner."

Aaron breathed a sigh of relief as she left the room, David hot on her heels. Rossi looked at Hotch over his shoulder as he left, but Aaron wasn't overly reassured. He appreciated David watching his back, professionally, while he was down, but didn't particularly want anyone to fight his fights for him.

Hotch didn't have the energy or inclination to do anything but lie there, so he could easily hear the sound of raised voices near his room. One was female and the other a male rumble. Knowing it was probably Strauss and Rossi, Aaron gathered himself to get up and deal with the situation. Before he could, though, another soft knock came on the door. This time it was Derek Morgan who walked in.

"Oh, no, you don't," Morgan chided him. "Rossi's big boy, he can take care of Strauss all by his lonesome. You don't needing to be getting out of that bed."

Aaron glowered. "I don't need David Rossi to run interference for me with my boss."

Morgan chuckled. "Strauss can't touch Rossi; he's a profiling rock star. The man plays golf with the head of Homeland Security. He's too well connected in too many high places for her to mess with, the way she does you. Rossi knows that and she knows that he knows it. Just relax; you've got more important things to take care of right now. Rossi'll make sure your job is still there for when you're ready."

Knowing the other man was right, Aaron sank back against the bed. Seeing Morgan made Aaron think of something else that had been weighing on his mind of late. It wasn't a subject that Hotch was particularly keen on raising, but the two of them were alone and he didn't know how many such opportunities he'd have.

"Derek," Hotch said quietly. He kept his eyes down to where his hands were nervously playing with the edge of the blanket. "I'm sorry."

"For what?" The confusion was evident in Morgan's voice and, with a sigh, Aaron lifted his gaze to meet Derek's.

"You went through all of this," Hotch gestured around the hospital room, "when you were a boy. I don't think I ever gave you enough credit for coming through the experience as intact as you did."

Morgan settled into the chair next to Aaron's bed. "Apples and oranges, man. What I went through was nothing like what happened to you."

Aaron shook his head. "It was worse. You were a child and the man who hurt you was someone you trusted."

"I'm not saying that what Buford did to me wasn't bad," Morgan protested. "I'm just saying that what you went through was bad too. Don't assume it's not just because you're an adult."

Hotch didn't answer, not wanting to antagonize Morgan. He wasn't just an adult; he was an FBI agent who'd made a career out of catching men like the one who'd assaulted him. Never would he have thought that he would be such easy prey.

"For what it's worth, I think you're doing the right thing," Morgan continued. "Seeing the psychiatrist. Knowing what I do now, I was foolish not to tell anyone and try to deal with it on my own." He shrugged. "But like you said, I was a kid and kids do stupid things."

Aaron hadn't had the option to not report the rape, that decision was another thing he lost control of when Rossi and Morgan had found him unconscious. He liked to think he would have had the courage to report it anyway, but deep down, he wasn't so sure.

"Look, I'm gonna let you rest," Morgan offered when Aaron didn't respond to him. Outside, Hotch could hear that the loud voices had quieted. Either the fight was over or they'd moved to another location.

"Thank you, Derek," Aaron stated quietly as Morgan headed out.

Morgan didn't ask what he was being thanked for. "Anytime."

After the younger man left, Hotch tried again to find a comfortable position. He didn't know how Morgan did it, coming into the office every day after word had gotten out that he'd been molested as a child. Like other law enforcement officials, FBI agents knew better than the average civilian that the victim was not to blame in a sexual attack. Hotch wasn't worried about his immediate team, but they worked with law officials of various types, all over the country. Who knew how he would be perceived if it became common knowledge.

Hotch could only hope he could handle it with as much grace as Derek had and not become another Elle Greenaway.

*
*
*

The BAU team had taken over the small hospital lounge near Hotch's room as their own. Given the synergy that often existed between law enforcement and medical staff, the hospital personnel was more than happy to let them. Unfortunately, they weren't having as much luck with the investigation itself.

Hotch had been discovered on Monday. It was Wednesday and, while they had a couple of leads, nothing that was particularly solid. Yet again, David brought the team together in the hopes that brainstorming would shake something loose.

"We've been through Hotch's old cases, but there aren't many that deal with male rape," Morgan started them out.

"What about Andrew Rose?" David asked. He was one UNSUB that David remembered from an old case and had directed Morgan to check out.

"Rose would be perfect, but he's still locked up," Morgan reported. "He was the UNSUB in one of Hotch's earliest cases, wasn't he?"

"That's right," David nodded, remembering.

Hotch had been younger then and exactly fit the profile of the type of man that Rose preferred. David had sent Hotch in to question him and Rose had been so distracted that getting a confession had been relatively easy. Rose hadn't let it drop, though, even after being convicted. Hotch had gotten explicit letters for months afterwards, until he'd finally gotten a restraining order.

"We're cross-referencing the various law enforcement officials that Hotch has come into contact over the years," Prentiss added. "But it's difficult to track. Often, just the detective is listed on a case." They all knew that they came into far more contact than that when working a case.

"And no one stood out in Hotch's memory as being too attentive," David supplied. Aaron didn't use profiling in his personal life, but was hyper aware during a case.

"How about the victimology?" JJ asked. From the sudden silence of the others, David knew they'd all been wanting to ask.

Garcia had done most of the work, so David nodded at her to give her permission to speak. She gulped, but spoke despite her obvious discomfort.

"Hotch is squeaky clean, no surprise there," Garcia began. "From what we can tell, he works and he goes home once in a while to shower and change. There are no extracurricular activities, no hobbies, no nothing."

Morgan frowned. "Then why do you look like a cat in a room full of rocking chairs?"

Garcia looked mutely at David, who shrugged. She bit her lip before blurting, "Hotch wasn't always Hotch."

"That doesn't make sense," JJ stated, voicing the confusion they all clearly felt.

"What Penelope means is that Aaron was born Aaron Miller and not Aaron Hotchner," David explained. "He was the only witness to his birth father beating his birth mother to death with a tire iron. Joseph Hotchner was the prosecuting attorney on the case and he and his wife adopted Aaron after Aaron's father was sentenced."

"That explains some things," Emily murmured. "How old was he when it happened?"

"Five at the time of the murder," David explained. "Seven during the trial. By all accounts, it was Aaron's testimony that got the conviction."

"Do you really think the birth father could have had anything to do with it?" JJ asked. "It seems like an awfully long time to wait for revenge."

"He died in a prison fight over ten years ago, so unless it's revenge from the grave, we can rule him out," David shrugged. "I'll be having a discussion with Aaron's adoptive mother; I believe there are some issues there regarding her resenting her husband bringing Aaron into the family."

David was about to divide the team into assignments again, when he realized that someone was hovering at the door. He assumed it was the doctor or a nurse and turned eagerly, anxious to get an update on Hotch's condition. From Emily's gasp of surprise and Spencer's soft exclamation, he knew before he finished his movement that he was wrong about who it was.

Jason Gideon stood there, staring at them with characteristic intensity.

"How could this happen?" Gideon demanded as he strode into the room. "Where were all of you when Hotch needed you?"

From the icy demeanors from those around him, David knew he wasn't the only one who took issue with Gideon's attitude.

"I think the question is," David stated calmly, "where were you?"

Gideon flinched. "Tell me."

Speaking as dispassionately as he could, David filled Gideon in on the details. Gideon wiped a hand across his face as David's explanation wound down, visibly deflating as Rossi spoke. When he lifted his head to meet David's gaze, there was a lot less fire and more weariness in his expression than before. "How is he?"

David shrugged. "Physically, he's doing pretty good. We're just waiting for the doctor to give us an indication of when he can be released."

Jason pounced on his choice of words. "Physically? How's he doing emotionally?"

"He's Hotch," Rossi stated. "He's hurting, but he's hiding it."

"And how's Haley taking it?" Gideon asked. "Thank God she and Jack weren't home." The team exchanged uncomfortable glances, something that Jason readily picked up on. "What?"

"They're divorced," JJ explained gingerly. "Mrs. Hotchner and Jack were home when the attack happened, just in a different home that Hotch was in."

"Yeah, she left him about the same time you did," Morgan pointed out, folding his arms across his chest and looking at Gideon coldly.

David knew there was a reason he liked Morgan.

A myriad of emotions passed over Gideon's face, but David didn't have the opportunity to try and puzzle them out. Dr. Anthony came to the door and looked at them expectantly.

"Is this a bad time?" She asked.

"No, not at all," David reassured her. He gestured to Gideon. "This is Jason Gideon, the holder of Agent Hotchner's healthcare directive."

She smiled at newcomer. "I'm sure the others have told you already, Special Agent Gideon, that Special Agent Hotcher is conscious and the health care directive is no longer needed."

"Thank you for the news, but it's just Gideon," Jason corrected her. "I'm not with the FBI."

"Is Hotch ready to be released?" Rossi asked.

Dr. Anthony turned towards him, as though thankful to be out of the awkward moment with Gideon. "His fever is lower, showing that the antibiotics are doing their work with the original stab wound. I would feel comfortable releasing him tomorrow, but I'd rather he not be alone just yet."

"He can stay with me."

"He can stay with me."

Rossi glared at Jason, not liking that the other man had made the same statement as him and at the same time. "You just got back, are you sure that's wise?"

"My cabin will be perfect," Gideon claimed. "It'll be quiet and give Hotch a place to heal. It's remote enough that no one will bother him."

"The same cabin you had fifteen years ago? I remember that place and it's too remote," David countered. "The UNSUB is still out there and your cabin would be too hard to protect."

Jason bristled. "I have a security system."

"It's not enough," Morgan supported Rossi. "Remember, Gideon, one UNSUB's reached you there the way it is. We just can't take that risk."

"I have an apartment," Gideon replied stubbornly, then his expression softened. "At least, I used to."

"We saw boxes marked 'Gideon' in Hotch's garage," Spencer spoke up for the first time. He looked ready to jump out of his own skin and David remembered hearing that the young man had taken Gideon's departure hard. "You probably lost your apartment and Hotch took care of it without telling the rest of us."

"He'll stay with me," Rossi stated firmly. He looked at Garcia. "I have a security system too, but would you be willing to look at it for me?"

"Can do," she nodded. "I'll have it standing up and singing by the time I'm done." She looked at Morgan. "I might need to borrow your muscles if I need to add some components."

"Whatever you need," Rossi told her, answering before Morgan could. "Spare no expense."

"I'm glad that's settled," Dr. Anthony said. "I'll sign off on Special Agent Hotchner being discharged tomorrow, although I'm sure he'll need to maintain therapy appointments on an outpatient basis, as well as follow-up with his primary physician about the stab wound and wrist injuries." She smiled at Rossi. "You're going to have your hands full. He's quite determined to get back to work."

"You have no idea," Prentiss murmured.

"I'll go over some instructions with you before Special Agent Hotchner leaves," Dr. Anthony told David. "Somehow I get the feeling that you'll be more likely to pay attention to them than he will."

After she left, David turned to the rest of the team to make sure they knew their assignments. "Morgan, I want you to help Garcia with the security system at my house. Prentiss and Reid, I need you to continue looking at old case files. JJ, I need you to work up a security schedule. I'm not sure how long Strauss will sign off on a protection detail for Hotch, let alone a second one for his family."

"I'm sure there'll be a lot of volunteers," JJ replied. "I'll make sure word gets around."

"I want to help," Jason said.

"You're not an agent any more," David pointed out.

Gideon snorted. "But I'm still his friend."

With uncanny timing, someone else entered the conference room. "Dave, I just thought of something-. . . . "

Aaron Hotchner broke off what he was going to say when he got a good look at who was standing in front of him. He was wearing a hospital gown, with an equally utilitarian robe over it. Hotch was a little sweaty from the remaining fever and he was moving with an uncharacteristic limp. David could only imagine what drove Hotch out of his hospital room and into a more public setting. Whatever it was, it was clearly forgotten once Aaron got a good look at Gideon.

"Jason?" Hotch went a shade paler than he already was.

Gideon's expression softened and he moved slowly towards the other man. "Oh, my dear friend, I'm so sorry this happened to you."

As David watched, Gideon did what Rossi had been wanting to do since the whole nightmare started. Jason wrapped his arms around Hotch and held him in a loose hug. For a moment, Hotch stood stiffly in the circle of Gideon's embrace, but then he relaxed into it. David could see Hotch's shoulders shake as he grabbed onto Jason like the older man was a lifeline.

"Let's give them some privacy," David told the others quietly.

They quietly exited the room. David was the last to go and looked longingly over his shoulder as he walked out. He'd called Jason Gideon because he knew that Hotch was going to need every bit of support that he could muster. David told himself that it was important that Hotch have someone he would allow himself to be comforted by, far more important than who that someone was. Even if that someone was Jason Gideon and not David Rossi.

Damn it.

*
*
*

Aaron hadn't realized how much he'd missed being touched. He wasn't the type of person to encourage casual physical contact and, even before Haley left, sexual intimacy had been nonexistent between the two. Hugs from his little boy were about the only affection Aaron had received for months and, thanks to the custody arrangement, those were few and far between.

So when Gideon's arms first came around him, Aaron's first instinct had been to freeze. Part of it was shock at seeing the other man there, but no doubt some of it was muscle memory from the rapes. In short order, though, the warmth of Jason's body seeped into Aaron, reminding him that touch could be good too. With a gasp, Aaron gave himself over fully into the sensation of being held.

He hadn't felt so secure since first awakening in the hospital and having David help him through his reaction at learning of being attacked in his son's room. Unlike that instance, however, Aaron's body didn't completely rebel and there was no embarrassing vomiting. Hotch did lose a little awareness of his surroundings, though. When he next became truly cognizant of his where he was, he was seated next to Jason, with his upper body being supported by the other man. A hand ran rhythmically through his hair and Jason was murmuring gently.

Aaron must have stiffened a little because the petting stopped.

"Are you with me again?" Jason's voice sounded concerned.

"I guess so," Aaron wouldn't look at Jason. "I'm sorry."

"For what?" Jason snorted. "Being human?"

Aaron forced himself to meet Jason's eyes. "Are you okay?"

Gideon's face went blank with disbelief. "Am I okay?"

"Yes," Aaron looked away again. "You left rather suddenly and wouldn't answer Spencer's calls. The whole team was worried about you."

"Worried or just pissed off?" Jason ignored his own question. "I'm fine. After Sarah's death, I needed some space from the job to heal."

"And did you?" Aaron asked, looking at the other man. "Heal?"

Jason shrugged. "I'm better." He gazed at Hotch pointedly. "Better enough to know when you're avoiding talking about something."

Aaron felt himself flush and turned away again. "Did Spencer call you about what happened?"

"No, David Rossi did." Aaron looked back in alarm at that comment and Jason chuckled softly at his reaction. "It was an interesting message."

Knowing that the two older profilers had never gotten along, Aaron winced. "I bet it was. I'm sorry, Jason."

"Don't be," Jason replied firmly. "You're my friend, Aaron. This is where I need to be right now."

Internally, Aaron wondered if it was also where Jason wanted to be, but he really didn't want to know if the other man had returned merely out of a sense of duty. "Thank you."

Jason looked uncharacteristically hesitant. "They told me about Haley, Aaron. I'm sorry about the divorce."

Hearing his ex-wife's name suddenly made Aaron very aware of the fact that he was essentially half draped over Jason's body, He sat up and brushed the folds of his gown and robe into order, wishing that there were more than two thin layers of fabric separating him from Gideon. "You said it yourself, the marriage was doomed; it was only a matter of time.

"That doesn't make it any easier," Jason responded sadly. "Believe me, I know."

Aaron nodded and briskly changed the subject. "Do you have a place to stay? I have the things from your apartment in my garage."

"I know, Spencer told me," Gideon answered.

Hotch's stomach clenched. Of course they'd gone through his house with a fine-toothed comb. He had nothing to hide, especially from his own team, but it felt like another violation.

"You could stay with me," Aaron offered. He had mixed feelings about it. On one hand, it would be comforting to have someone he trusted near. On the other, he had an urge to hole up by himself.

"Actually, you'll be staying with David Rossi," Jason told him.

Hotch sat up straighter, ignoring the way the movement caused pain to radiate both from the stab wound and his ass. "Oh, I will?"

Jason reached out as if to put a hand on Hotch's shoulder, but dropped it before he could complete the movement. "You can't honestly tell me that you want to go back to that house? Not after what happened."

"No, not really," Aaron relaxed a little, but still glared at Jason defiantly. "But neither do I like decisions about where I'll live being made without my input."

"Understood," Jason nodded. "But you need something more private than a hotel and my cabin was deemed too remote by our safety expert."

There was a tentative knock on the door and David himself stuck his head inside. "Everything all right in here?"

"I understand that I'm to live with you once I'm released," Hotch turned his irritation onto Rossi. "When you were planning on notifying me of that little fact?"

David stepped fully into the room and shut the door behind him. "Right about the time the prodigal son there showed up."

Gideon snorted, but didn't protest.

"Look, Hotch, your house is a crime scene; no one's going to be living there for the time being," David explained. "Strauss is allowing the team to investigate your case and has consented to a protective detail for now, but we both know that won't continue forever and she'd never spring for use of a safe house. It was either my place or a hotel and, call me spoiled, but I think we spend too much time in hotels."

Rossi's reasoning was perfectly sound, but Aaron hated it anyway. "I do not need a babysitter."

David spread his hands wide. "Did I say anything about babysitting?"

"If this had happened to Spencer," Jason added quietly. "Would you allow him to slink off to a hotel? Alone?"

Aaron didn't like Jason's comparison any more than he did Rossi's reasoning. "I'm not Spencer." Even he recognized the petulant tone of his voice and sighed. "But I do see your point."

"Good," David looked relieved, but only for a moment. "Gideon, there's room for you too."

"Me?" Jason sounded surprised.

"Like we said earlier, your cabin is too far away," David didn't appear to be too happy about what he was suggesting. "We need all the help we can get on this one; having you closer is a bonus. You're not with the Bureau anymore, but we could another profiler."

"All right," Jason nodded slowly. "That will make things a lot easier."

Aaron wasn't sure he liked the latest turn of events. On one hand, something in him eased at the thought of having Jason Gideon near. On the other, Gideon and Rossi had just double-teamed him about the living arrangements; Aaron wasn't sure he wanted to be in a position to be ganged up on again.

"Maybe we should get you back to your room," Jason suggested to Hotch. "You're looking a little pale."

"This is the first time he's been out and about," David protested. "The change in scenery will do him good."

Hotch shook his head, but internally he relaxed. Gideon and Rossi were like oil and water. Hopefully, there wouldn't be too many issues they agreed on, at least as far as Aaron's care was concerned.

As the discussion continued around him, Aaron closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. The UNSUB that had attacked him had stripped Aaron of more than clothing. He'd taken Aaron's sense security, his sense of self worth and even taken the ability to make choices about his own care.

Aaron could only hope, in the weeks and months to come, that he'd find a way to regain everything he'd lost.

~to be continued~

 

~to be continued~

 

 

 

 

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