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Seared with Scars

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Vincent would never speak it aloud, never admit it, even to himself--especially to himself--how satisfying it was. How it burrowed down to his every fiber, this feeling when the shackles tighten, when he heard the click of the cuffs tight around his wrist, the clang and scratch of metal against metal as the chains circled his legs, his arms, his waist. All these weights just to contain him, to imprison him.

His mind flittered and snapped images, memories and he bit his lip to contain any emotion, any peace or any rage; for he felt both. He thought of his father, and how little it took to shackle him, how weak and pathetic he was in the end. His whole childhood the man reigned over him with his fists, his power, and in the end, he was nothing, it took nothing to lock him down, to reciprocate, to retaliate.

He schooled his features, but it was too late. He saw the recognition, the understanding in the man across him with his wounds and his scars. He licked his lip, liking very much that some of those wounds were due to him, liking that he had scuffed that pretty face, marked him. Not too long ago, he’d had the man’s life pulsing in his hands, his muscle, his grip digging the cord into his neck, his knee digging into the man’s back. It had been delicious, but over too soon.

And now this same man, this Aaron Hotchner from the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit, sat too close across from him. Their legs almost touching, and there’s a different sizzle under his skin. There was no blazing light shining down on him, no long metal table between them, but there didn’t need to be, he felt it all the same. Exposed.

So he steadied his breathing, concentrated on opening and closing his eyes and listened to this man tell him why it is that he did what he did to people. He smiled, made a joke: “You’re saving me thousands of dollars in therapy bills” and all the time, he’s imagining doing what he does to this man.

Aaron talked about natural progression and bullies; then he talked about mothers. When he talked about his weakness, his inability to do to that woman what he’d done to dozens and dozens of men, Vincent found himself saying what he’d never meant to say, and he saw it in Aaron’s eyes when the confession sunk in.

“He was a bastard alright?”

“Your father?”

“I called him Frank and he was a mean son of a bitch, is that what you wanted to know?”

Aaron’s eyes widened almost imperceptibly, but Vincent saw it, knew that he had lost. He lowered his eyes, couldn’t look at the man across from him anymore. Not now. And since he wasn’t looking at Aaron, he didn’t expect or understand why Aaron said what he said next, why he said anything at all.

“You were just responding to what you learned, Vincent.” He looked up and tried to figure out what this meant. “When you grow up in an environment like that, an extremely abusive household, it’s not surprising that some people grow up to become killers.”

“Some people?”

***

Some people grow up to catch them.

Aaron scrubbed at his face, the water hot, the suds stinging his eyes, trying to scrub those words out of his mind.

Why? Why had he said that? Why had he given him that?

It was a stupid, rookie move and he hadn’t been either of those things in a very long time. He knew why Gideon had sent him into the room when they narrowed down Perrotta’s motivation. Bullying fathers and ineffectual mothers.

There were a lot of lessons Aaron Hotchner learned at school, a lot of things he learned in his varied careers, but there were some things he learned at home before he was old enough to know they were not lessons at all.

Some people grow up to be monsters…

He scrubbed harder. When he stood up straight, through the fog of the mirror, for a moment,he saw not his own face, but Vincent’s. Two sides of the same coin. He wiped the steam off the mirror and almost audibly sighed. Just him. A bit bumped, a bit bruised,but still intact, soul and everything.

He wondered why he had let this man get to him. He wasn’t the first unsub who had grown up like he had, though of varying degrees of abuse--Mr. Hotchner didn’t leave bruises--but there was something about Perrotta. Maybe it was in the way he held himself together, kept his mask in place at all times. Aaron was all too familiar with that skill. He knew how to keep his emotions in check. Never let them see they’ve got to you.

Only he’d let him.

Before, before it wouldn’t have mattered that he’d given that little piece of himself to a psychotic killer, let him in even that little bit. But now…

The wail from the bedroom articulated Aaron’s fear.

He rushed out of the bathroom. Haley bolted up with the terror of a brand new parent.

“I got him.”

“Are you sure? He’s probably hungry.”

Aaron scooped up Jack from the bassinet next to Haley. “Just for a minute first.”

He held the tiny bundle tight to his chest and bounced slowly. The wailing subsided instantly.
As Aaron walked slowly around the room, running his thumb over the curve of his son’s tiny skull, he forgot what had gotten him up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. He had only one mission now, keeping his family safe. Never giving Jack a moment in his life like he’d had to endured.

He raised Jack to his face and kissed him gently. He opened his tiny mouth in a yawn, and for what seemed the first time in days, Aaron smiled.

“And some of us, Jack, some of us catch the monsters.”