The first thing he noticed was the color of the room. Pure white. The worst color to keep pristine and perfect. The second thing he noticed? The gun held to Penelope Garcia’s head. He screamed her name and tried to move toward her. His feet felt glued to the ground, unable to take a step or even move an inch.
She reached toward him and mouthed the words “I love you.” The echo of the gunshot made him cover his ears. The carmine red of blood spatter covered the walls in a pattern that resembled a child’s foray into flinging paint on a wall.
He watched her body slump to the floor and finally his feet began to move. He started running, but as he ran the room seemed to stretch longer and longer, expanding from a square room to an elongated rectangle. No matter how hard he tried, he could not reach her. He yelled his frustration and looked about wildly to find the person responsible for her death. He saw no one else in the room.
Aaron Hotchner woke with a start, bathed in sweat and panting for breath. He stared at the ceiling and waited for his heart rate to slow. He swallowed then rolled to his side. She lay there, still sleeping. He stretched out his hand and trailed his fingertips over her cheek.
They saw it every day. It was part and parcel of the job. Violence. Blood. Gore. He’d seen it firsthand. He lost count of the times he’d seen it in his dreams. Seeing Penelope in his dream left him as cold and disjointed as finding Haley’s body.
“What’s wrong, honey?” Her voice pulled him out of the jumble of his bloody thoughts.
“Another bad dream.” He stroked his thumb over her cheek once more. “Help me get that image out of my mind?”
She smiled and snuggled closer. “What did you have in mind, boss man?”
“What’s that song you sing to Jack when he’s not feeling well? You know, the one you mentioned was from a TV show?”
“You mean ‘Soft Kitty’?”
She began stroking his hair and softly singing, “Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur…”