Hotch has one hard-and-fast rule while he's working a case: he never lets himself think about Haley and Jack, never lets himself use them as an emotional crutch. He knows Elle thinks he's got some secret he can just hand over, some magical way to juggle family and the job, but mostly it's a lot of hard work. It's hard work, and Hotch's own stubborn insistence to never, ever, let the job taint his family, even if it's only in his mind. Especially if it's in his mind.
Maybe if he ever relaxed that rule a little, John Blackwolf wouldn't have slithered under his skin like some mystical desert wind.
He can't decide if Jason's noticed or not. They all have their blind spots, things they willfully ignore. Hotch thinks this might be Jason's.
The rest of the team is too wrapped up in the case to notice what's going on in their midst, but he knows just how each of them would react. Derek would shake his head, saying not cool, man, concerned about objectivity and professionalism and getting the job done. Elle would be surprised and worried about what it means for his family, but once she got past that she'd have a knowing smile and little teasing jabs throughout the day. And Reid would be curious, quoting facts about chemical attractors and incidences of homosexuality in the wild.
Hotch is busy enough dissecting his own thoughts that he doesn't need anybody else's in the mess. It'd be hyperbole to say that he felt it from the first moment he saw Blackwolf. He'd been too focused on profiling (and keeping Reid from completely pissing off Blackwolf) to make a personal assessment. Then they'd arrived on site and Blackwolf fell into his smug, all-knowing routine, so superior that Hotch wanted to punch him.
He's not sure when that urge faded to simple masculine competitiveness. Or when Blackwolf went from outsider to trusted co-worker to someone he could sense without looking. When he started knowing the man without trying, and found himself being known in return.
Whenever it was, it was an asset he welcomed as they took down the cult. But now, as they sit in front of the school, waiting for the others, Hotch feels like Blackwolf is tangled up inside him, even though they're inches apart. Stupid things keep leaping to his lips, things he fights to keep inside.
Come work for us, he wants to say, though he knows Blackwolf would never do it, even if the FBI would ever let him in.
Maybe you can consult from time to time, he thinks about offering, but he's afraid of the disbelieving stare he'd get in return. Yes, Hotch, you get so many incidents among Native Americans that you need a consultant. He rolls his eyes at himself for that one.
The caravan rolls up. Hotch is grateful; the thing he really wants to ask, he can barely keep inside. The words reverberate in his head as they banter back and forth, as they bundle up the prisoners and the handle the other's questions. By they time he drives off, Blackwolf beside him, the urge has settled, the question is only a distant wish, something he'll never breathe aloud.
Do you feel it, too?