Title: The Cult
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Characters: Aaron Hotchner, Haley Hotchner, OMC
Genre: Angst, Hurt/Comfort, Pre-Slash, Multiple Partners
Word Count: 4401
Tags: Unknown Past, Cult Dynamics, Falling in Love
Warnings: Canon Character Death
Summary: Aaron Hotchner has a past he never revealed to anyone. The only person that knew was David Rossi and he vowed to keep Aaron's secrets to help him move on. But, those secrets are going to come out to the one person he never wanted to know. He was torn between an old relationship he held dear and a new possibilities, but in the wake of Haley's death, Aaron wasn't sure what he wanted anymore.
Aaron woke with a start. He was curled around Haley and Simon was snuggled at his back, the three of them had been dead asleep when he had a strange feeling wake him. Frowning he extricated himself from the others and walked to the window in their bedroom. When he peeked through the curtains what he saw made him very afraid. There were dark vehicles that had breached the perimeter of the compound.
Running to his closet Aaron threw on clothes, opened the gun safe and grabbed his rifle, checked to make sure the safety was off, then grabbed his ammo box. Setting the rifle next to the window, he gently shook Haley and Simon awake.
“Hey, get dressed. I don’t know what’s going on, Father hasn’t said anything, but there are dark vehicles around the perimeter. Simon, get your rifle, Haley go to the nursery and protect the children.”
The two scrambled out of bed and quickly got dressed. After Simon checked his weapon he pulled Aaron close and kissed him.
“I love you,” Simon said. Aaron cupped his cheek, gently running his thumb over his cheek.
“I love you too. We’ll go downstairs to see if the others have woken up yet. Father will know what to do.” Simon nodded then grabbed his shotgun and their packed duffel that was prepared just for this situation.
“Aaron, I’m scared.” Haley bit her lip as she leaned into him.
“We’ll be fine Hales. Father will make sure we’re okay.” He leaned down and kissed her gently. “Now go to the nursery. You know what to do Hales.” She nodded as she reached into the gun safe, she drew out the nine millimeter and a box of ammo. They were ready.
Leaving the room they found some of the others had woken-up as well.
“Andrew, any word from Father?”
“Do you know what’s going on?”
“No. But you and your spouses know what to do. Get downstairs and take your positions. I’ll go find Father and see what’s going on.” As Aaron and his spouses started to go down to the bottom floor, Andrew called back out to them. “Don’t forget to grab a two-way each.”
“On it.” Aaron led Simon and Haley downstairs and when they got there, it was organized chaos. People were piling their duffels in the corner, others were packing up their important belongings in plastic crates, and still others were taking up positions at each of the windows with their weapons at the ready. Haley ran to the nursery to help where she could. Simon and Aaron took up positions at one of the windows, awaiting orders from their leader.
The tension around the house was very high as everyone was trying to understand what the hell was happening. Aaron could feel the fear and anxiety pouring off of Simon.
“Hey, it’s going to be okay, I promise.”
“I don’t want to kill anyone,” Simon whispered as he leaned toward Aaron.
“I’m sure it won’t come to that.” Aaron tried to reassure his husband even though he was just as scared.
When the floodlights came on, everyone covered their eyes trying to shield against the glare. It made precise shooting impossible.
“Isaac Stone, this is the FBI. We would like to talk to you.”
Aaron heard a slight commotion behind him and saw Father walking towards them.
“It’s okay, everyone. I will go out and see what these intruders want. Do not fire, we don’t want to give them any excuse to invade. Be still, know that Father loves you all.” The man smiled at those closest to him. He walked over to Aaron and cupped his cheek. “You will come with me, just in case.”
“Yes, Father.” Aaron felt honored that he had been chosen to help protect their leader.
“Simon, don’t worry I will bring your husband back to you. I would never endanger him purposefully, you know this.”
Simon smiled and Aaron’s heart beat hard in his chest as the love he felt gave him a sense of calm and peace.
“I know that, Father. I trust you.”
Isaac moved forward with Aaron at his side, his rifle strapped across his chest. He knew why Father had wanted him, Aaron had proved that he was the best marksman out of everyone in the compound. He knew he would take his duty to protect Father very, very seriously. The two of them stepped out and walked down the porch steps and stood a few feet from the entrance.
“You Government lackey’s are trespassing on private land. We have all the correct permits to be here. We have done nothing wrong. We are a peaceful, law abiding religious group that has not hurt anyone. Please leave, or that peace will be broken.”
“May I approach?” The man standing near the gate to the compound asked. Father contemplated him for a few moments, took a deep breath, then walked to the gate to open it. “Just you.”
“Thank you. My name is David Rossi. We are here because there are some concerns about what is going on behind your closed doors.” Dave’s eyes flicked to Aaron and raised a brow, then turned his attention back to Father.
“And what kinds of concerns do you have, Agent Rossi?”
“We have a warrant here, Mr. Isaac.”
“Father.” Aaron glared at Rossi as he held his rifle loosely, but expertly in his hands.
“My apologies. Father. I just want to talk, can we do that? And maybe a tour?”
Father took the warrant and read through it. He didn’t even flinch.
“Aaron, tell everyone to stand down and to get into their family groups and wait in the meeting area. You and Simon may be with Haley in the nursery. I will come get you in a few minutes. We will let this Mr. Rossi in and show him that there is nothing going on other than wanting to be left alone to live our lives in peace.”
“Yes, Father.” Aaron once again glanced at Rossi, frowned and went back into the house. “Jonathan, Father wants everyone to get in their family groups and gather in the meeting area. He said to stand down. He’s bringing in one of the FBI agents to show them that nothing is going on here.”
“Alright. I’ll take care of if. Where will you be?”
“Simon and I will be in the nursery with Haley.”
“Go, protect your spouses and the children.”
Aaron grabbed Simon and they went to the nursery to wait. When they entered, Aaron’s expression softened as he checked on each of the babies and toddlers. Haley was in a rocking chair with one of the newborns, comforting her.
“Hey, what’s all the commotion?’
“FBI. They claim they have some concerns.”
“Well, they scared little Kyla.”
Simon moved to sit at his wife’s feet, gently smoothing back the baby’s fine hair. Aaron leaned in the doorway and watched them for a few moments. His heart swelled with love while he watched his spouses. Aaron was the head of their family and he took his duties very seriously. He would care for and protect them no matter what happened. He had to turn around a moment because he didn’t want to be emotionally compromised at such a tense time.
Keeping guard of the nursery was one of their main duties as a family. Haley loved all the children, but Aaron knew she ached with wanting the son she had bore just a few months prior. He was torn between following the good of the group, and wanting to give Haley everything she ever wanted. He didn’t want to admit that he too missed his son. A part of him wanted to take the boy and his spouses and leave, but another part of him loved his life. He was conflicted and would often be found sitting out by the little lake that sat at the back of their property thinking.
“And here is the nursery. This is Aaron, and his spouses Simon and Haley.”
“Father,” Aaron smiled a tense smile at their leader, then his features went flat when he turned to the Agent. “Agent Rossi.”
“Aaron. May I ask how old you are, son?’
“16, and I’m not your son. We all belong to Father.”
“Of course. I didn’t mean offense.” Aaron watched as Agent Rossi moved into the nursery and looked over each of the children. “She’s beautiful,” Rossi said as he stopped at Haley who was rocking in the chair. “Why are they not with their families?”
“We are all one main family. We are all responsible for all of the children. We raise them together.”
Rossi looked like he was studying, watching them as they were watching him.
“Oh, this little guy has got to be yours, right, Aaron?” Aaron swallowed and knew which bassinet that Rossi was standing next to. He would know his son anywhere.
Las Vegas 2010
Aaron had Jack nestled in his arms as he made his way inside Bennington Sanitarium. He was still reeling, still hurting form Haley’s death. Even though their marriage hadn’t survived, he didn’t stop loving her. Reyna had wanted to come along, but she had finals to get through. The college had been kind in letting her postpone them for bereavement, but she couldn’t put them off any longer. He wished she had been able to come with him, this was going to be hard enough.
After he cleared check-in and the nurses station, Aaron saw him. Simon was sitting in his favorite chair, sun coming in and hitting him just so. Aaron’s heart beat hard as the love and sadness welled up inside him. He loved Simon as well, and every time he came there he wished he could take him home. There had been some hope for a while that he would be able to live outside the hospital, but the two times they tried, everything had overwhelmed him and he would slip back into depression, extreme anxiety, fear and sleep deprivation. Aaron hated the separation but knew it was the best place for Simon.
“Go see Papa, Daddy?”
Aaron swallowed back the tears as he looked at Jack.
“Yeah, buddy. We’re going to see Papa.” Aaron started forward then was stopped by Diana Reid.
“He’s having a good day. Spencer wrote me. I’m sorry, Aaron.”
“Thank you, Diana. Oh, I have something for you, from Haley. She, she had meant to bring it last time.” Aaron set Jack on his feet and told the boy to stay there. He reached into his briefcase he had with him and pulled out a book. “It was supposed to be a birthday gift.” He held out the book for Diana to take. Instead she pulled him into a hug where Aaron tried not to break.
“You’re still government, but I forgive you.” Diana smiled as she patted his cheek. She then took the book and looked surprised.
“Spenser’s essays and poems. Oh how lovely. This should be added to the curriculum, thank you, Professor. This is perfect.” Aaron tried not to sigh as he smiled softly at Diana. He let her go as she got lost in the book. Taking Jack’s hand he looked over to the man he still in his heart called husband. Simon hadn’t seen them yet, but Aaron knew he couldn’t stall any longer. With Jack next to him they made their way to Simon’s corner of the room.
“Afternoon, love.” Aaron sat on the small couch that was just under the large window. When Simon looked up his face split into that still beautiful smile. Aaron watched as he stood and then folded himself on Aaron’s lap. Jack had climbed on the couch next to them.
“Papa,” Jack got on his knees and laid his head down on Simon’s knees.
“Hey little man,” Simon smiled as he scratched at Jack’s head. He then turned to look at Aaron. “What brings you to the crazy house, my love.”
Aaron pulled Simon close and laid his head on his chest. He didn’t even stop the tears that fell. Words got stuck in his throat as his guilt welled up inside of him.
“Aaron, love, you’re scaring me.”
“It’s my fault, Simon. All my fault.” Aaron held Simon close as he tried to control the grief.
Simon gently pushed Aaron away and wiped the tears that fell.
“Aaron, you need to tell me.”
Aaron took a deep breath and told Simon what had happened with Foyet. Haley hadn’t wanted Simon to know till after Foyet was caught. Neither of them thought that the man would have lured Haley out and killed her. By the time he was done telling Simon everything, Aaron was a mess.
“Haley’s...gone? Aaron? You...you...you’re lying.”
“No, no, no. You’re lying, lying...no…” Simon scrambled off of Aaron’s lap and started to pace in a circle. He kept just yelling that Aaron was lying, then he started screaming for Father. Aaron’s heart was breaking as nurses ran in and subdued him. One of the orderlies started to pick him up, but Aaron asked if if would be okay if he did.
“Sure. But, he may have to be restrained.”
Aaron closed his eyes and nodded. He picked up Simon in his arms, the man was too thin and Aaron always complained that he didn’t eat enough. He followed the nurse back to Simons’s room where he put the man on his bed.
“Ssorry, Aaron,” Simon slurred as his head lolled to the side. The nurse strapped him in as Simon succumbed to sleep. Jack crawled in his lap and curled up as Aaron let his tears fall. The tattered remains of his family breaking his heart. He wished for his daughter, but knew she couldn’t be there. Holding Jack close, Aaron stayed in the chair watching Simon sleep.
A hand on his shoulder and the scent of coffee woke him from the light doze he had fallen into. He was shocked to see who was there. He noticed Jack wasn’t on his lap anymore, but curled up on the bed with Simon. The restraints were taken off and Aaron had not heard anyone come into the room previously.
“Wha-what are you doing here?”
“You signed off on the vacation request before everything happened.”
Aaron sat up and scrubbed his face. He watched as Jack shuffled a little and Simon laid an arm around him. The pain of Haley’s loss was sharp as he watched the two on the bed.
“So, how do you know Simon?”
Aaron closed his eyes and thought about what to tell Spencer. He should have figured that Spencer would have at least met Simon.
“Let me ask you what you know about him.”
“He told me that he had grown up in a cult. The Enlightened Path cult to be exact. That he had a wife and a husband as well as three children. We talked a lot over chess when Mom would have one of her bad days. I thought most of what he told me was, like many in here, bullshit, but I went along with it. He told me when the cult was broken up, his husband and wife were taken in by one man, while he was taken in by another. He tried to assimilate and had a hard time. He admitted to me that he tried to commit suicide and it broke him. He said his partner committed him.”
Aaron sat up and sipped at the coffee Spencer had given him. He wiped away the moisture in his eyes that threatened to fall.
“That was me.” Aaron didn’t look at Spencer, he couldn’t. “Haley and I were his spouse's, well till we were pulled from the compound.” Aaron kept his eyes on Simon. He didn’t want to see anything on his friend’s face, he didn’t want Spencer to think less of him.
Aaron finally looked at Spencer with furrowed brow.
“Eidetic memory, remember? The first year I was on the team we had that case in South Dakota with an off-shoot of the Children of God cult. Then, Cyrus and how quiet you were on the plane ride home. Not to mention the amount of prep you gave Emily and myself on cults. Rossi had once told me that you were an expert on cults but wouldn’t elaborate. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“It’s hard to talk about, Spencer. Haley, Simon and I we were fifteen when we were married by...Father...christ I still can’t use his real name.” Aaron stood and went to the window in the room to look out on the grounds.
Spencer stood next to him and laid a hand on his arm.
“It was the only thing you knew, Aaron. You grew up on a compound with isolationist ideals. Your whole world at the most vulnerable time in your life, was the cult and it’s leader. What about Sean?”
“DNA tests. They figured out Sean was my biological brother from my biological father. The only part of my family I never saw again was our first son.” There wasn’t a day that went by that the pain of never getting to hold the children again didn’t twist a little something inside. Laying his head against the window he tried not to cry. “Haley was almost sixteen when he was born. All the babies were taken and raised together. As we grew, Father would put us in what he called “family” groups, these would be our future spouses.”
“I’m so sorry Aaron.” Aaron could tell that Spencer didn’t know what to say. He saw that his friend was thinking and was about to say something when they both heard someone talking.
“Aaron,” Simon moaned from the bed. Aaron left the window and was immediately at the man’s side. “I-I-I’m sorry.”
“No, love,” Aaron brushed his long hair back out of his face, “Nothing to be sorry about.”
“Don’t feel guilty Aaron.”
“How can I not, Si?”
“You’re a good man, you love us with all you are. You and Hales, you held on for as long as you could.”
“I promised she’d be safe. I promised to bring her home and now…” Aaron took a deep breath as tears leaked out. Simon sat up, being careful of Jack and wrapped his arms around Aaron.
“Shh, love. You have to be strong, for Reyna, for Jack.”
“You should have been at the funeral.”
Simon shook his head hard as he held onto Aaron.
“No, no, no. Would have followed her, would have laid down over her, no Aaron no.”
Aaron rubbed Simon’s back and helped to calm him down. Finally when he pulled away, the two men shared a kiss. Aaron laid his head against Simon’s and shuddered under the force of his emotions.
Spencer had tried not to watch, the scene was intimate and heartbreaking for more than one reason. He still had not told Aaron his feelings for him, and now, he wasn’t sure he could. He was looking down and scuffing his feet over the floor.
“Hey, Doc. Didn’t see you there.”
“It’s okay Simon.”
“See, told you I wasn’t crazy.”
“You did. I’m sorry about Haley.”
Simon just nodded and held Aaron’s hands in his. “Do you know each other, Doc?”
“Simon, Dr. Reid works with me.”
“Really? I never put it together. You aren’t too hard on him, are you, Love?”
Aaron looked up at Reid and wondered what he was going to say.
“He’s a little tough, but fair. He cares about all of us.” Spencer didn’t take his eyes off of Aaron as he spoke. “He’s compassionate and I think I understand a little more about him now. You’re right, Simon, he is a good man. The best.” Spencer cleared his throat looked like he was going to leave. “I’m ah, I’m just going to go spend some time with my Mom.” He mumbled and blushed with embarrassment.
“I’ll be right back, Si.” Aaron stood and went after Spencer. “Hey, um, where are you staying?”
“Do you...do you want to get dinner? I don’t...it would be nice to talk, really talk.”
Spencer smiled and nodded. “Sure, but what about Jack?”
“Oh, ah Jessica is with me. She wanted to help.”
“Okay, we’ll make plans when we’re both done.”
Aaron gripped Spencer’s shoulder for a second, then walked back to Simon’s room.
“He’s in love with you.”
“Aaron, you cannot be that blind. I can see it, and I’m batshit.” Simon tried to joke, which Aaron always hated.
“You are not batshit, Si. Besides, Reid is my subordinate and you are my husband.”
“Aaron, you know that isn’t technically true.”
“It doesn’t matter what the outside world thinks, Si.”
“Aaron, I’m trying to give you permission. I think a part of you cares about him as more than a subordinate, or friend. I’m not jealous and I would never deny you. You will need someone, Love. You can’t be alone, if I know you as well as I think I do, you are going to wallow in grief..”
“I’ve hated being alone.” Aaron watched as their fingers intertwine and Aaron felt the acute loss of Haley not being there. Even after the divorce, she still came with Aaron to see Simon, they still had that connection to each other that had started in childhood. The ring on Simon’s finger matched his own. When Aaron had started to make better money he had bought his spouse’s new rings. An affirmation of his commitment to them. Now, it was all shattered and broken and Aaron felt more lost than he had when David Rossi had taken him and Haley in.
“Let someone take care of you for a change, Aaron. I can see you have feelings for him. I think…” Simon gripped Aaron’s hand tight and looked him in the eyes. “I think you need to let me go.”
“No. No don’t ask me that Simon.”
“You know I’m never leaving this place. I’ve tried living out there, but you know I can’t. It’s too big, too much. You need to let me go and you need to move on. It doesn’t mean that you have to stop visiting, it just means that you need to move on.”
“Don’t. Do not ask me that Si.” Aaron abruptly stood and gathered a still sleeping Jack in his arms. “We’ll come back tomorrow.” Aaron didn’t look back as he walked out of the room. Deep down he knew Simon was probably right, but he always had a hard time saying goodbye.
The restaurant was a local favorite that no one told tourists about. It was warm and homey and Aaron liked it immediately. He felt a little humbled that Spencer was sharing one of his favorite places with him. After he took a sip of coffee he set it down keeping his eyes on the mug as his thoughts swam in his head. Finally, after an appetizer was set in the middle of the table did he look up at Spencer.
“You have questions.”
“Oh so many questions,” Spencer teased as he picked up a tortilla chip dripping with cheese.
“You can ask me anything, Spencer.”
Spencer finished the food he was chewing then wiped his hands on his napkin. Laying his arms on the table, Spencer leaned forward a little.
“Where did you live? What was the name of the group?”
“We lived close to the Appalachia's. As I said earlier it was called the the Enlightened Path, and we lived on what had been an old Pentecostal compound. That group had disbanded and Father...Isaac, bought it with his original group of followers. They cleared land, built the church and the main house in that first year. The adults would tell us the stories of how they first came together. They learned which food crops worked in which season. It took a bit, but it became highly efficient. They added chickens, goats, cows and other animals. We all had a part of the compound we were responsible for and they changed as we grew up.”
“Did you go to school at all?”
“We were homeschooled. It had been built after many children had been born.” Aaron was talking almost like he was talking about an Unsub, like one of their conferences before the team headed out. He felt disconnected to that time in his life and he knew Spencer would probably pick up on it, but not say anything right away.
“I’m going to guess that the group was polyamory?”
Aaron nodded and sipped at his coffee. He reached over to the plate and grabbed a corn fritter bite.
“None of us were with our biological parents. We were raised by everyone in the community. At three or four, Father would pair us up then one set of adults would raise us together till we were fifteen. Then, with our partners, we would marry. Haley, Simon and myself, we had a bond right away. I think Isaac would have made a good profiler, because each married group was, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but many were surprisingly healthy and compatible. He had some kind of knack for knowing who would work together.”
“We’ve always said that cult leaders were sometimes better profilers than we are. By the time we are four or five our personalities are almost fully formed. Now they can grow and change as we get older, but for the most part the foundation of who we are and who we are going to become are set at that age. It isn’t all that strange that he learned over the years to understand the dynamics of human behavior, even in children.”
Aaron sipped at his coffee and didn’t deny what Spencer was saying.
“Have you seen Isaac Stone since Rossi and Gideon broke-up the cult?”
Aaron let out a sigh as he picked at the food in front of them.
“When I knew the full extent of who Isaac was, it broke something inside me, Spencer. I loved him, trusted him and even now, all these years later I still feel his betrayal. He was supposed to care for and protect us. I’m just grateful he never hurt Haley.”