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Crossing the Line

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Usually it's Reid who's whimpering in pain on the floor of Hotch's apartment.

Hotch thinks all the whimpering is in his head. Dad taught him that lesson well: You want me to give you something worth whining about? It's just all the more urgent now, with Foyet kneeling over him, shoving the knife again between his ribs.

His throat locks on something that wants to be a scream. He whites out.

Comes to with a bloody knife blurring in his vision. Vaguely he thinks: when Morgan passed out, Foyet left him alive. But no-one's chasing Foyet now. Hotch won't get off that easily.

Thinks: Foyet wants to dominate. Hotch can't cede an inch. He has to strike back, even if all he has is words. Weak as he is, prove he still considers himself Foyet's match. He summons all his energy to speak firmly. "I will kill you..."

It comes out as a breath he can barely hear over the roaring in his ears. Now he knows he's not whimpering. It'd hurt too much to whimper.

"Don't speak," Foyet soothes, and he lies there not speaking.

He tells himself he's listening for clues. Waiting for the moment Foyet lets down his guard. He'll only have one chance—

Then Foyet stabs him again. With the coursing pain comes the knowledge: he's already had his one chance. His one chance was the whiskey glass, which Foyet saw coming and blocked with his mask. He had his one chance and threw it away.

Foyet leaves the knife on his stomach, hot and heavy, as he sits back to strip off his gloves and jacket. Right there on his stomach, and Hotch can no more reach it than his gun across the room. He can barely twitch a finger. All he can hope for is to draw this out until—

Until what? Not until Reid visits at ten in the morning. Ten hours is a lifetime. Maybe if he'd let him visit tonight — but Reid leaves his phone in the car. He certainly doesn't come armed. He'd be no better off than any concerned neighbour.

(Another reason not to scream, back when he could have. A midnight gunshot in a good area might be a car backfiring, but screams would bring a knock on the door, another victim for Foyet's knife.)

Bare-chested, Foyet kneels over him again. Through the haze, Hotch can't see the scars he's showing off. Only the spot on his chest where Hotch would plunge the knife, if he had it in his hand. If he could sit up. If he had ham he could have a ham sandwich, if he had bread.

The fact is he's going to die here.

It makes things simpler. No more conserving his energy. Just rattle Foyet into making a mistake the BAU can use. He pulls the words together again — manages a dizzying, "My team..."

"Your team," Foyet snarls back. "Your team didn't catch me until I wanted them to."

His anger belies him. Hotch tries to feel triumph. Tries to think what to say next. But it's all slipping away. He's halfway across the line to that other lucidity, like when Reid tells him to stop, and to go, and—

"You're not in charge."

And Hotch knows he's right. It's so much easier when he relaxes.

*

When he wakes in the hospital he tells Prentiss he doesn't remember anything. He tells Haley he's fine. He tells Jack he'll see him soon.

All lies.

When they're gone, it's Dave's turn at the comforting lie. Apparently the team were called to another case this morning. They worked the profile, it had a happy ending. It's the same message he gave Hotch after the bus massacre in Boston, minus the dramatics: Hotch might be down for the count, but the team will carry on. And they'll catch Foyet.

What little comfort he took from it then eludes him completely now. He says so. Dave insists. He almost lets himself believe it just to save the effort of arguing. But happy ending echoes sourly in his head. "You left something out of that story," he says.

Dave's got a hell of a poker face. "What's that?" he asks.

"You, Morgan, Prentiss, JJ — you were all here when I woke up. Reid hasn't been here once. He doesn't have a problem with hospitals, so where is he?"

"Aw, you know the kid," Dave says with awkward levity. "He jumped in front of a bullet, it went right through his knee. He's going to be on crutches for a few weeks, but he'll be fine."

Hotch snorts. (Somewhere distant, muffled by industrial grade painkillers, it jags at one of the holes in his chest.) He looks back up at the light on the ceiling. "Dave," he tells it, "I am going to do everything in my power to keep Foyet from winning this. But don't give me that 'happy ending' bull pucky."

*

Garcia brings tinsel and fake flowers, and Jack's handprints and photo from his office, and a bottle of orange juice with a message from Reid: Get well soon.

He stares for a long time at the photo, trying to erase his memory of the blood-smeared one Foyet left tucked into his credentials. Stares at the beaming smile, trying to erase his memory of Jack sitting on his hospital bed to say goodbye, so somber Hotch barely recognised him.

He dimly wishes Reid had sent a bottle of whiskey instead of juice.

But there are two ways of reading Get well soon. One is a wish; the other is an order. If he's going to keep Foyet from winning—

(Damn Tom Shaunessy anyway. If you must make a deal with the devil "til death do us part" then at least have the decency not to drink yourself to that early death.)

—he needs his head clear. No more trying to wean himself off it and failing miserably. It stops now.

(But he's decided that before.)

When Dr Zwerling next passes through, before he can chicken out, he tells her, "So I'd rather this stay out of my medical file, but you should probably know I've been trying to quit drinking and not doing a very good job of it."

Thankfully she just rolls with it. "When was your last drink?"

He tries not to picture the scene, but there's probably a reason her eyes flick to the heartrate monitor and back. "A sip just before Foyet attacked. Before that it would have been about forty-eight hours. Four or... probably five standard drinks."

The mental note she makes looks from the outside very much like a six, which may not be so wrong. She asks a few more brisk questions about quantity and frequency and hangover severity, and doesn't look entirely convinced when he says he doesn't drink in the morning, or on a case.

"My team would notice," he explains.

"Okay," she says provisionally. She picks up his chart, but only to leaf through it. "Some of your injuries are very close to the liver so it won't look unusual if I order some more tests there. Best hold off on that juice until we get some vitamins in your IV." With this she returns to noting down the numbers off his monitor.

After a silent moment he ventures, "The reason I've... been concerned is that my father died of a heart attack when he tried to go cold turkey."

She meets his eyes assessingly. "You should be past the worst risk for that by now, and the lorazepam you're on for the seizures will help too. But yes. If you keep binging, that will happen." As he opens his mouth to object to the term, she puts in, "And your team will notice."

The idea of withdrawal symptoms on a case — or while he's trying to track down Foyet... "Consider me suitably scared."

It comes out sounding a lot more flippant than he meant it, but once more her glance goes to the heartrate monitor. Goddamned polygraph, he thinks, without energy to really care. She puts the chart back at the end of his bed and says, "I've been warned you'll try and discharge yourself early." (Goddamned Dave.) "If you do that, I can't taper your meds properly and it'll be ten times harder to stay dry when you leave. So, just how scared are you?"

He's trapped on his back while the love of his life and their not yet four-year-old son head into witness protection to escape a sadistic predator who's just given Hotch an excruciatingly graphic demonstration of what he'll do—

He catches his breath in the part of his throat where everything tastes of steel, and lets it slowly out through his teeth. Like he told Dave: everything in his power to keep Foyet from winning this. Which means (however Reid meant it) getting well soon. "I'll follow doctor's orders," he says faintly, and in desperate exhaustion submits without cavil even to her order of sedatives to let him sleep.