Aaron Hotchner vaguely felt someone’s arms pulling him away from George Foyet’s body. The man was clearly dead now. Beyond dead. ‘Overkill’ is what they, as profilers, always called what he had just done, and Aaron let that register somewhere in the back of his mind. He was now sobbing hysterically, letting all emotion overcome him – Foyet had killed Haley, and he was feeling the grief from that so completely, now that he had lost the living target at which he could direct his rage. Foyet had done more than that, though. As if killing Haley wasn’t enough, he’d had to do it here, in the beautiful Hotchner family home. So many wonderful memories of his life with his family were all tainted now by the thought of that monster walking through the house, murdering the only woman Aaron had ever loved. He’d done it with his son right there in the house, too. Jack was just four-years-old. Jack. Aaron realized he hadn’t yet checked to see if his son was safe. He’d told Jack to ‘work the case’, but would that have been enough?
Running, Hotch entered his old office, a room which he hadn’t been in since before the divorce. Luckily, the room was pretty much unchanged. Or at least the only part of the room that his eyes were focused upon. Jack had to be in that little storage chest. He had to be. Opening the lid, the forty-three-year-old was able to breathe a sigh of relief, and immediately, Jack started speaking.
“I worked the case, Daddy, just like you said.”
“You did a great job, buddy,” Aaron replied in a near-whisper, lifting his son up and helping him out of the chest.
“What happened to you, Daddy?” he asked innocently.
“I’m okay,” Aaron replied, hoping the words would reassure the boy. He was still out of breath, though. He was trying to be the best father he could, but in that moment, he knew that meant sending the boy off to be with someone who was less of a wreck. Aaron needed a moment free from that parental responsibility. “I want you to go outside with Miss Jareau, okay?” He was glad that she was there. She was a mother of a young boy too. He knew she could be trusted to take Jack at that moment.
“Come here, sweetheart,” she said as she pulled him into her arms, and Hotch and Reid both watched J.J. carry the boy away.
It was easy to be strong when Jack was in the room. His experience had been quite similar when Jack was visiting him in the hospital after he’d been stabbed. If his son was coming near, Hotch found himself pretending to be completely okay. It was an instinctual reaction, something that being a father required. But the moment the boy was gone… the need to let some tears out came back. All of the emotion did. So many emotions, he wasn’t even sure how many different things he was feeling all at once. He was heartbroken. Defeated. Still angry. Horribly frustrated and full of rage that any of this could have happened. He was mad at Foyet, mad at himself, mad at that U.S. Marshal Sam Kassmeyer and everyone else that could’ve and should’ve been able to prevent this. There was something positive in there too. Relief. That had to be the best word for it. Relief that his little boy was okay. Relief that the villain of this particular story was dead and gone. He knew Reid was still there, watching him, so he didn’t want to cry too much. He stopped himself. He needed to go to Haley.
Jennifer Jareau carried the young Jack Hotchner out of the house. It was a brisk thirty-seven degrees Farenheight, and the boy was only wearing short sleeves, so as quickly as she could, she got him inside one of the FBI vehicles.
“What happened?” Jack asked. He looked up into the blonde agent’s eyes and continued, “Where’s Mommy?”, and J.J. wasn’t sure how she should answer the boy. She didn’t want to do anything that might upset Hotch even more on this already unbelievably tragic day. But she didn’t feel right leaving the boy without an answer.
“You know the man who was in your house?” J.J. carefully began. She watched as Jack nodded. “He was a very, very bad man.” She hesitated, unsure of how she should proceed. So far, she had only reiterated what Jack already knew. She’d overheard the phone conversation when Hotch had told his son that George was a bad guy. But then Jack said something else.
“Did George kill my mommy?” he asked, and J.J. couldn’t see any alternative. She had to tell him the truth. She broke eye contact for a moment, trying to ground herself before breaking this awful news.
“I’m so sorry, sweetie, but yeah, he did.” She gently placed her hand on Jack’s shoulder. She took a deep breath, knowing that with children as young as this one, it was important to be clear and direct. “It’s really sad, I know. But yeah. Your mother is… dead.” She found it exceedingly difficult to say.
“Did George shoot her?” Jack then asked, and J.J. remembered how Jack must’ve heard the gunshots. Those things are scarily loud.
“Did my daddy kill him?”
J.J. hesitated. She didn’t want to betray Hotch in any way. Would Hotch want his son to know the truth? She wasn’t sure if she should answer that question. Luckily, she never had to. That moment ended up being interrupted when Emily opened the door of the SUV. They were taking Hotch to the hospital to make sure he wasn’t too badly injured, and to maybe stitch up the bad cut on the bridge of his nose.
When Jack and his father finally reunited, later that evening, Jack found out once and for all that George Foyet was dead, and yes, his daddy had killed him. Hotch didn’t want to lie to his son. But his son was too young to possibly understand all of the nuances of what had just transpired. He didn’t even know that he’d been in Witness Protection. He’d been fed a story about a temporary vacation, although it had lasted months, involved a new school and not seeing his father at all during that time period, and clearly wasn’t really a vacation at all. What Jack now understood was that his mother had been murdered by a man he had met, a man who’d introduced himself as ‘George’, and that his father had beaten the bad guy, just like a real life superhero. If someone were to ask this four-year-old how his mother had died, this would be his story, and it’d be so much simpler than anything his father might have to say.