Case #6G-8295, Aaron Hotchner. Interview Two, Transcript:
"Aaron, I'm Doctor Finneran."
"That's good. You're more responsive then you were last time."
"I think the meds are working."
"Do you remember why you're here?"
"Because I locked myself in a room with several hundred casefiles, and frightened my son."
"That's part of it, yes. Jack's worried about you. Your friends are worried about you, Aaron."
"Don't call me that, please."
"Call you what?"
"Don't call me Aaron. Call me Hotch, call me SSA Hotchner, call me Mr. Hotchner, just don't call me late for dinner."
"I was trying to put you at ease."
"Oh, we're well past that point now."
"Just not Aaron. Please, not Aaron."
He could always pick her out of a crowd.
Well, most of the time, picking anybody out of a crowd was easy for him. When he was concentrating, that is.
But even after 6 years, he could always find her.
Her pale skin, and those huge eyes of hers, tended to compensate for her relatively short stature.
And, yeah, the hyperactive 12-year-old jumping up and down at her side helped too.
Spencer Reid moved towards JJ and Henry as he exited Dulles Airport security, and headed for Luggage Carousel 2. But Henry was too quick for him. His godson had apparently picked up tackling abilities from Derek Morgan, and executed a flawless Flying Tackle Hug.
His godson looked up, and opened his mouth to say something. Then he looked over to his mother, and seemed to think better of it. But when it came to Henry, Reid had long ago developed a minor form of telepathy.
"Y'know, Henry, I went to the Lost City Museum in Overton last month, and I thought to myself, which little boy do I know, who would love a genuine archaeological dig kit?"
His magic experience aided Reid in surreptitiously pulling out the present in question. The years and practice had only served to improve his timing. Those wide eyes and that broad grin never ceased to be their own reward.
"Sweet! I found some old bits of 1920s pottery in our back yard a couple weeks ago, and now I can dig more up properly. I mean... I can, right, Mom?"
Reid looked over at JJ. Who had apparently been glaring at him, but now smiled at her son.
"Sure, pumpkin. Just let me and your dad know first, so we can warn the sewer company."
Reid fortuitously spotted his luggage at that very moment, escaping what he hoped was the broadside of JJ's maternal wrath. However, after making sure Henry was safely ensconced, JJ followed him over.
Ah. The other conversation. Reid decided to fire the first shot.
"How's he doing?"
"That's better, right?"
"Yeah, I guess."
JJ smiled at this, but the smile didn't manage to reach her voice. That sent a familiar shiver down Reid's spine.
When he was saying nothing, talking seemed like the solution. When he started talking, you found out the problem was worse then you thought.
"Dave came down a few days after it happened. He's visiting today, with Jack."
"How's Jack doing?"
"Scared. Worried. But trying to keep up a brave face for the rest of us. You know, just like his daddy."
JJ looked at her feet, suddenly seeming overwhelmed. Reid grasped her elbow gently. She looked up, her eyes shining with unshed tears. Her voice was sad and angry.
"Just like Hotch. Damn him. Damn him and his stupid stoicism. You have a problem, Hotch is there. But you try to do the same, and he'll bite your head off. Politely, of course."
Reid wanted to interrupt, but thought better of it.
"You know that I talked with his doctor, Doctor Finneran? And she said that he might have looked like he was doing all right, but that there were probably signs. Little signs, before he...."
Reid inwardly cursed the psychiatrist. This needed to be nipped in the bud.
"JJ, no. Do not go there. This is not your fault. Not yours, or Emily's, or even Jack's. If Hotch didn't want to let you, there was nothing you could have done. And beating yourself up over it will not help. It's worse than useless."
JJ looked up, shocked at the steel in his tone. But then she smiled, genuinely this time.
"I've missed you, Spence."
Reid gave a sigh of relief, and returned the smile.
"Missed you too, JJ."
He pulled her into a hug.
"Whatever I can do, I will do. I owe him that much."
"Hotch, tell me about the weeks before the incident."
"Can you be more specific?"
"What were you doing? How did you feel?"
"You mean, was there anything in my work or my personal life that might have set this off?"
"*Yes*, necessarily. Dr. Finneran, please don't treat me like an idiot."
"I'm sorry, that wasn't my intention."
"I do this for a living, ma'am. I've done this for a living for 20 years, so I might be expected to know when someone's searching for a stressor."
"All right. Well?"
"Was there a stressor? Was there a case, or an anniversary, or some personal encounter?"
"No, there wasn't. [laughs] That's the problem. Everything was fine. Everything was normal. [pauses] Wait, I take that back. Everything wasn't normal. Nothing's been 'normal' for 10 years, at least, but that's another subject entirely."
"I don't think that's true, Hotch. I think that it's exactly what we should focus on."
"Doctor Finneran, when you work in the BAU for as long as I have, you learn to redefine normal."
"What is normal for you?"
"Jack. Jack is my normal. The team. The work. Occasionally getting there in time to do some small bit of good."
"So, was 4 weeks ago less...normal, than normal?"
"Are we back to this? There was no stressor. That's the dirty little secret, Doctor. A lot of times, there isn't. Oh, of course, some offenders will create one retroactively, pick out some picayune excuse. Get the interviewer on their side. "
"I am on your side."
"They want pity, most of them. You have the worst of their nature laid out in front of you, but they still want you to extend a hand, pull them out of the darkness. They want understanding, true understanding, comprehension from another human being. And it's the one thing you can't give them. I won't do that. I'm not like them. I'm not. And I do not need anyone's pity, especially yours."
"I don't pity you, Hotch."
"Of course you do, everyone does, even if they don't say it. It's pretty exhausting, really."
"No. I told you, I've told you before. I asked you nicely, both... please Doctor, don't, just don't."
They should have called first, Dave decided. Early afternoon had usually been a good time to come, but apparently St. Elizabeth's had changed their schedule. Moved group therapy to later, and individual sessions after the lunch hour.
So there he was, sitting in silence, on a set of the most uncomfortable industrial chairs he had ever come across. He would swear they'd come out of the Soviet Interior Decorator catalogue, circa 1974. His aging back did not improve matters any.
His company wasn't much better, though that was understandable. Jack Hotchner had inherited his mother's easy Southern charm, her facility with people. But he apparently also picked up a touch of his father's laconic nature, especially in times of stress. The kid was a veritable broadcast tower of frustration, radiating waves of worry.
When Hotch did this, Dave always knew what to do. Put on the "Bull in a china shop" persona, plunge right into a conversation. Be the instigator, play the jackass right now, knowing that Aaron would usually forgive him later.
Jack was an entirely new entity. Dave couldn't read him nearly as well. Jack was gloriously bright and cheery when he wanted to be, but Rossi knew. He knew that the kid was revealing less than you thought, and only as much as he wanted you to know.
Hell, maybe profiling talent was genetic.
"Dave, stop it."
And telepathy, too.
He called me Dave again. That's a good sign.
"Am I that obvious?"
"Only when you're silent for more than 5 minutes at a time."
"I would be offended. But...eh, I've been told that before."
"Dad does it, too. He doesn't mean to, but I think it's second nature by now."
"It's not just him. I was watching an old Cary Grant movie the other night, and I started doing it."
"Arsenic and Old Lace?"
"How did you know?"
"It's one of our favorite movies. Which, yeah, I know, how twisted is that?"
Jack smiled as he said that, and Dave's day immediately brightened.
"So you two profile the Brewster sisters?"
"And Jonathan too. You know what Dad's favorite part is?"
" 'I'm not a Brewster'...."
They recited the next part in unison.
" 'I'M THE SON OF A SEA-COOK!' "
The two of them broke into gales of laughter, immediately earning them a look of scorn from the duty nurse at the end of the hall. They duly calmed themselves, and both leaned back (as far as was possible) into their chairs.
Silence fell again, and then Jack decided to speak.
"I was talking to his doctor. I told her that... that I think I knew, a little bit. That it was going to happen. Before it happened."
"Jack, please, you can't-"
"Let me finish. He's been...kind of distracted, lately. On his and Mom's anniversary, he spent a long time looking at photo-albums, when he thought I wasn't looking. Rereading case-files , making notebooks. And, last fall....."
Jack trailed off. Dave sighed, and finished the sentence.
"The week before Thanksgiving."
"Jack? How much do you remember about that day?"
"About...Mom? And George?"
It threw Rossi a little to hear Jack use that name.
"Not a lot. Sounds. Colors. Flashes of memory." Jack looked away, trying to compose himself. "Mom hugging me really tight."
They both had to take a moment with that. And then Jack looked back at Rossi.
"I figured Dad would tell me when...if, he was ever ready."
The kid was smart. He would figure it out eventually. And David Rossi, Instigator on the Side of The Angels, decided to take over.
"I can tell you what I remember, if you want me to."
"Your son said you've been distracted lately. Reading old case files, looking at photographs."
"We always do that. Profiling was invented by doing that. Looking over cases, comparing different ones, interviewing serial offenders to see what they had in common. Finding the patterns."
"But this was more than that, right? These weren't just old cases.The case-files on your floor, SSA Prentiss said these were all cases that you'd never solved. Ones where you didn't get there in time."
"Emily's a smart woman. The team's safe in her hands."
"Hotch, you didn't answer my question."
"I was hoping you wouldn't notice that."
"What were you trying to find? What did you think you could find?"
"That, I can't tell you."
"Can't tell me, or won't tell me?"
"I think this interview is over."
[subject rises, pushes back chair]
"Hotch, this is not your interrogation room, and this session is not over until I say it is."
"Don't try that tone with me. I've been at this longer, I know more tactics than you ever will."
"What were you trying to find, what pattern were you trying to see?"
"Nothing. Anything. Something. Some way to end it. Some way to make them stop."
"Make who stop, Hotch?"
"SSA Hotchner, answer the question."
"Him, her, them. All of them. I thought if I could find a way back, it might satisfy them, but it hasn't."
"If you tell me, maybe I can help."
"You can't. I can't. I can't find the pattern, I can't save her, I can't stop him, and it just keeps going."
"Hotch, please tell me, who is 'she'? Who is 'he'?"
END OF INTERVIEW
Spencer Reid was of the opinion that if you had seen one mental hospital day room, you'd seen them all. And the fact that he'd now seen two made him feel expert on the subject. He would rather have seen neither, but there it was.
He searched at the chess tables. Not there.
He searched next to the bookshelves. No luck.
He looked to the corner of the room. Third time was the charm.
Hotch had placed himself in the corner next to the window. With a full view of all the room's entrances and exits. Some things really never did change.
Reid eased himself next to the man he still thought of as his boss; the old knee injury protested viciously. He looked across the room; there was a nice view of a Matisse poster opposite them.
Hotch didn't meet his eye. His knees were pulled up to his chest, his arms crossed.
"Brought you a book. McCulloch's Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years. Good read, I read it on the plane ride here. It's hardcover, and it's long, so it's pretty heavy. So the staff here were pretty worried. But I convinced them that you weren't likely to use it as a weapon."
He motioned with the book; Hotch's hand snaked out, and grabbed it. He looked at the dust jacket, and flipped through the introduction.
"Thank you, Reid." Hotch's voice was very quiet.
"No problem. I thought you might be a little bored, in here. That can happen."
"How's your mother?"
"She's okay. Better than she has been. Day to day."
There was the first hint of a smile on Hotch's face.
"Aren't we all."
Reid grinned, and sat for a few seconds in the comfortable silence. But no comfortable silence was ever destined to last.
"I looked at your grid, those cases. Emily made a list. All different localities, all different signatures, even different genders. But all cold cases. And all married couples or families."
"I wasn't looking for anything, I know that now. It's fine."
"I know....I read your interview transcripts."
Hotch looked over to Reid for the first time, betrayal tinging his features.
"Jack asked me to."
The mention of his son seemed to chasten Hotch, and he returned his gaze to the wall.
"I didn't mean to do this to him."
"I know, Hotch. Trust me, I know."
Hotch had gone silent again. This is a good a time as ever, thought Reid.
"The doctors think that it's the victims. That you're just another shell-shocked public servant. Like poor Robin Doyle. That you've got all their voices in your head, begging to be silenced. But we both know that's not true, right?"
Hotch discreetly glanced over at Reid, but didn't proffer any more of a response.
"It's not 'them', is it? You said 'her', and you said 'him'."
The strain in Hotch's tone might have stopped others, but it only made Reid raise the volume of his.
"The photos, the dates, the casefiles. Why you can't stand to let the doctor call you Aaron."
Hotch was staring straight at Reid now, his dark eyes blazing.
"Shut up, Reid."
The younger man was reminded, of how frightened he had once been of Hotch's buried but fiery temper. But he plunged on.
"Because that's what she called you. And that's what Foyet called you. too."
"No. No, you're wrong."
" 'Personal is not the same as important', that's how it's always been with you. And now it's caught up with you. You've buried them for ten years, but they won't stay there, will they? You lock yourself up, but you're not alone. You're never alone, you haven't been for months, because they're always there with you."
"I said, stop it."
"You're letting him win, Hotch! Even now, George Foyet is winning, and you're letting it happen-"
Reid abruptly cut off that sentence, as he felt Hotch's strong grip on his arm. The look in his friend's eyes was verging on murderous. But Reid kept his gaze locked. Both of them were now breathing heavily.
Suddenly, as fast at it had appeared, the storm broke. And Hotch's facade crumbled. He looked to a spot beyond Reid's head, towards the far wall.
"...please, stop. Just please make it stop. Haley, please make him stop."
And as he buried his head in his knees, Reid could hear Hotch softly start to sob.
"I can't save her. I can't ever save her. It keeps happening over and over and over, and I can't do a damn thing."
The emotions bubbling up within Reid threatened to overwhelm him. He grabbed hold of Hotch's shoulder.
"It's okay, Hotch. It's going to be okay."
Those seemed, to Reid, to be possibly the most useless words in the world.
But, at the moment, holding onto his friend for dear life? They were all he had.