Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Haley's breath quickened, her heart pounding in her ears so loud, she was sure that not only could Foyet hear it, but probably Hotch and the team as well. She knew he will get there before that bastard can get his filthy hands on her son, but she also knew she was doomed. She wanted to tell Hotch that this wasn't his fault, that he shouldn't stop doing what he does because of this, that she finally understood why he did it. She wanted him to keep doing it so there will be less Foyets in the world for her son's sake, their son's sake. But she didn't have the time... and she didn't want to give that bastard the satisfaction of hearing her admit that he got to Hotch and that Hotch will forever carry this guilt with him.
She could hear Hotch sniffing quietly on the other end, and she knew he was beyond devastated. She gasped softly when the cold nuzzle of the gun touched the back of her neck. It was hard not to show fear when you're facing death; when you know that you're leaving behind a five-year old who will forever wonder why it had to be his mommy that got taken away; that you're leaving behind a man who tended to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders, and tried his best to save it, taking it hard when he presumably failed; when your father and sister might blame said man for the rest of his life for what happened to you, despite logic saying that Foyet killed her because he's a psychopath, that she was just another victim to him, and that his obsession with Hotch was nothing more than a sick attempt to divert the blame and cause pain. Her tears cascaded down her cheeks despite her will, and she closed her eyes when she felt him take a breath, and grin behind her.
It was eerily quiet for a split second, and then two shots rang out.
SSA Aaron Hotchner didn't have an easy childhood growing up; his father was an abusive drinker who demanded perfection. A lawyer who saw every discussion as a case to be argued, only he appointed himself judge, jury and sometimes, even executioner. And his mother had tried to keep them from the harm, but was never successful. He had died young, at the age of forty-five, and to Aaron, that was not young enough.
His solace had come in the form of Haley; his high school sweetheart. The blonde girl, with the radiant smile, whom he had joined the drama club for. And it had been a dream come true. They stuck together through thick and thin; got married, had a child. But then one day it all went to hell. She couldn't handle his job anymore, and she walked out. He had tried to balance between the two, but she gave him an ultimatum. Give up the job, or them. And he couldn't. He loved her, and he would die if something happened to Jack. His son was his whole life. But she was asking him to give up who he was, and he couldn't handle that. He knew he would be miserable, and so will she. So, he let her go. He let her go, so she can have the life she wanted, and he was content with his son. He didn't see him as much as he hoped, but after Foyet stabbed him, he decided he was going to work his schedule better so he can at least see him on the days when they're not on a case.
But now... now the job that he refused to give up, was about to get Haley killed. He was getting her killed... because the job was him... and he was the one who refused to make that deal. Her blood was as much on his hands as it was on Foyet's.
He heard her breath become shallow, could distinctly hear the tears in her voice, and knew the thoughts running through her head, for they were going through his as well. He stepped on the gas, hoping Foyet will taunt him longer, that by some miracle he won't shoot her. That when he got to his house, she won't be lying in pool of blood, next to the corpse of their son. It's true he had told Jack to hide, but Foyet could look for him, and he could find him.
He knew his prayers weren't answered, when she gasped lightly before two shots rang out, deafening him as they echoed through the cell phone. He threw the device on the dashboard, and pressed his foot on the gas pedal even harder, as he sped the last few miles towards his house. He knew what he had to do. He was going to do what they should have done the first time around... he was going to end it. Regulations and policies be damned. George Foyet was not going to spend another day on this Earth.
He screeched to a halt outside his house, pulled his gun out, and practically jumped out of the car. He knew Foyet would hide inside the house to enjoy the look of pure horror on his face when he saw Haley's body, so he wasn't cautious as approached the front door.
To his surprise, it opened, and he immediately aimed his weapon ready to fire, when his eyes widened in shock, his brain unable to comprehend what he was seeing.
"It's okay, it's okay. It's all over," she whispered softly.
He stared at her in shock for a few seconds, before his brain managed to form one single word. "Haley!".
The large, black SUV carrying the rest of the team screeched to a halt outside the Hotchner residence, and they all jumped out, guns at the ready. And like Hotch, they all froze.
Hotch was standing in the middle of his footpath, holding a hyperventilating – but very much alive – Haley.
"Haley, I need you to breath for me. And try to tell me what happened. Did he leave?" Hotch spoke in a soothing voice, not quite sure what to make of the situation, but he was sure of one thing; Haley would never leave the house if Jack was hurt or in danger. So, whatever the situation may be, he knew his son was safe. And thus, he focused on trying to get his ex-wife's breathing under control. They all holstered their guns, except for Morgan.
"Hotch," Morgan spoke first, his eyes gaping at Haley, and not quite sure how to ask the question. Hotch, knowing what he had in mind, shook his head. "I have no idea what's going on."
Just then, the door to the house opened, and Morgan immediately raised his gun, which seemed to snap Haley out of her panic attack, and she grabbed his hand, yelling, "No!"
He froze; both by Haley's reaction, and by the sight before him. The door had opened, and a woman, dressed in black, tight jeans that were tucked into knee-high black boots, and a black high-neck top, with sun-kissed tan skin, braided light brown locks, and sharp, enticing brown eyes walked out of the house, with Jack perched on her hip.
"Daddy!" Jack squealed, as he let go of the woman, and she effortlessly set him down on his feet. He took off running towards Hotch, and she walked behind him, a small smile on her lips, and immense relief swimming in the abyss of her eyes.
"Amalya!" Emily whispered.
It was Morgan's first case as the interim unit chief, and despite being confident, and knowing that Hotch was going to be there every step of the way if he needed anything; he couldn't help but feel slightly nervous. Strauss, after reviewing the case they were about to embark on, had mentioned that there was something she needed to discuss with the entire team, and was simply waiting for JJ to give the go on the conference room.
Once they were inside, and seated, he spoke up. "Before we begin, Strauss said she wanted to talk to all of us about something. So I think we should wait until she's done to dive in."
"Don't worry, Agent Morgan, I won't keep you long." Strauss's voice came from the hallway outside the room, and when he turned he found her walking towards them, with someone else in toe. And he just couldn't help but try and profile the petite brunette heading towards them.
She was small, five foot, four inches tops; small frame, and seemingly nonthreatening. But one look into her eyes, and you'd know that she was a force to be reckoned with. She was tanned, naturally not artificially. Her light brown hair went all the way to the middle of her back, and she let its loose-curly nature style it without much product. Her eyes were sharp, smart, and despite the edge you saw in them, the kindness was hard to miss.
"Agent Hotchner had spoken to me about adding a new profiler to your team before, and I finally managed to find room in the budget for it. I would like you all to meet Agent Amalya Dawoud, the newest member of the team," she introduced, and the brunette smiled.
"I'm sorry, Amalya..." Morgan trailed off, not catching her last name. Reid's voice immediately popped up from behind him. "Dawoud; it's how David is pronounced in Arabic. And Amalya; while having many origins and meaning, one is a king's granddaughter – a little princess – in Ancient Egypt. So she's most probably from there!" he finished, smiling shyly at the stranger when he realized that he basically just ranted.
The brunette, however, simply chuckled. "You must be Dr. Reid," she commented lightly, and he chuckled. "Yeah, sorry". She shook her head, "not at all; it's quite refreshing when someone else does the explanation. But you're half right; I am Egyptian, but through my father. My mother was a US citizen; but she spent most of her life in Egypt. So, I'm a dual citizen."
"Derek Morgan; unit chief," Morgan introduced himself, extending a hand towards her, which she took. "And these are agents Rossi, Hotchner, Prentiss, Jareau – our media liaison – and you already met Dr. Reid."
She nodded at them all, her eyes settling a bit longer on Hotch, before they moved back to Strauss as she spoke again. "She's still finishing up her last assignment, but I have already asked her to look at Foyet's file since it is an active case, that way whenever she's back, she's up to speed".
And they hadn't seen her since, she had swung by Garcia's office, picked up the boxes, and vanished. Garcia told him that she requested various other files, but other than that, she hadn't been involved at all. Until now.
Hotch – despite his surprise at the sight of the brunette – swept up his son and held him close. "Daddy, I worked the case with you and Amaya," he announced proudly. "She's like a ninja!" he exclaimed excitedly, and Amalya chuckled.
"Good job, buddy," Hotch praised him, his voice betraying just how frightened he had gotten. His eyes found Amalya's, and he was surprised by the calmness in them. "I told you, I won't stop until I put an end to this!" she reminded him.
The case was long, but it felt strange that he got to go home and now worry about any of the paperwork. He went straight to his apartment from the airstrip, no need to swing by the office. His mind was reeling; the case wasn't easy, and his mind couldn't stop thinking about the new agent. Strauss had talked to him about bringing someone new, fresh eyes, another helping hand. He had been nagging her to make room in the budget for another agent for about a year now, and he knew of Amalya's reputation, and he had read her file, and she was one of his top candidates. But he never green lit her hiring. And he was starting to feel like Strauss had suggested Morgan take over, so she can hire her without much fuss. He didn't have anything against her, her file was proof enough that she would be a good asset. But there was a learning curve to this job; and they couldn't afford someone new with Foyet looming in the shadows. He plopped down on his couch, a loud sigh escaping him, as he rubbed his hands over his face. He undid his tie and popped open the top two buttons on his shirt. He still had a long night pouring over those files, trying to find a new lead.
He was shrugging off his jacket, when the knock came. He immediately reached for his gun, and approached the door with caution, and feline-like steps. He looked through the peephole and frowned. She was the last person he expected to see at his doorstep. He quickly unlocked the door and swung it open. "Agent Dawoud," his voice betrayed the shock he felt.
"Amalya, please," she corrected. "Can I come in?" she asked, and he immediately stepped back from the door. "Of course, I'm sorry."
He quickly closed the door, holstered his gun, and turned towards her. "I know I'm the last person you expected to see, and that Strauss sprung me on you this morning. Even though I told her I would only come on with your approval, which she assured me she had acquired."
"I had talked to her about a new hire, and you were on the top. But no, I had no idea she hired you," he explained.
"I know. Your face said it all this morning, especially when she mentioned that I would be working on the Foyet case as I finish my last assignment."
"It's nothing personal, but..." he started, and she cut in. "But it is personal to you. You don't know where your son is because of him, and you're not sure you trust the new girl just yet, to have her working on something which your family's wellbeing depends on," she finished for him.
"If we fail..." he trailed off, and she nodded. "That's why I'm here. If I'm gonna help put an end to this, then I need to come straight to the source, the one who's at the center of it all. And I do promise you, I won't stop until it's over."
"How are you here?" Rossi asked, his tone both surprised, and relieved.
"Why wouldn't I be?" she countered, and realization dawned on Emily. "There was never any assignment, was there?" she asked, and Amalya shook her head.
"Where's Foyet?" Reid finally asked. It was the one question they all wanted an answer to but was afraid to voice.
"Gone for good," was her simple answer.
"You're sure?" Morgan wondered.
"I doubt anyone has the ability to survive a bullet to the neck and another to the head!" she informed him, and his eyebrows shot up his forehead. "Those gunshots we heard...that was you!" he almost whispered, and she nodded.
Amalya parked her car a little bit down the street from the Hotchner household, cursing when she saw Haley letting Foyet into the house. She swiftly grabbed her phone, and her badge before she exited the car. She stuffed her badge in her back pocket, as she made her way over to the house. She knew she had a couple of minutes at the most, before he killed Haley, and it was up to her to stop him. Hotch and the team were too far away.
She approached the house along the side, and immediately spotted Haley standing with her back to a window. She thanked her luck for her small stature, as she crouched down below the window, and moved to the other side of the window hoping to catch sight of Foyet. She saw him sitting on the floor, playing with Jack! She bit back a growl at the mercilessness of the man, before she tried to take aim, but Haley was in her way. She moved towards the back, and to her luck she found a spot where she could climb to the second floor, and hopefully pry a window open to allow her access to the house. She said a silent prayer in her head, before she put her plan into action.
Once inside, she started listening to the voices coming from the floor below, trying to figure out the layout of the house as she went, and desperately attempting to identify a way to shoot him without killing Haley and Jack, and preferably before he shot both himself. She briefly debated calling the team and letting them know but decided against it when she realized she had no guarantees she will save Haley, and it would be cruel to give Hotch any hope.
The voices were becoming more and more distinct as she made her way down the stairs, and her anger was rising with it. Hotch was practically saying goodbye to Haley, and the bastard was tormenting him. She had made it down the stairs, when she heard Jack repeat what Hotch said, and realized he told him to hide. She pressed herself against a wall, just as Jack whizzed by her, and bounded up the stairs. She sighed in relief, at least the little boy was safe. Now, she only had to save Haley.
She dropped to her knees once more and spared a glance towards the room. She saw Foyet moving, with Haley smack in the middle of her aim. The small hallway outside the room was dark, and she was in black. She swiftly pressed herself against the wall, away from Foyet's line of sight, and moved towards the door. What Haley was saying was making her blood boil with rage; the poor thing was trying to cram every hope she had for her son in a few seconds worth of words. She looked over at Foyet through the door slit and saw him grinning like a malicious predator. He was moving to stand behind Haley and she knew this was her chance. If she didn't take her shot now, he will.
She dropped to her knees, rolled onto her stomach, aimed the gun and shot. It hit his neck as intended, and his head jerked back, giving her a perfect angle at his head, and she took it without missing a beat. Haley had frozen in shock, and Amalya was grateful for it. For if she had moved an inch, she could've been shot as well. She sprung to her feet, and approached, the now very dead Foyet lying on the floor, bleeding from his head and neck, and checked for a pulse. She already knew she wouldn't find any, but just to be sure.
Once she was sure he was dead as a doornail, she turned to a still stunned Haley, who was looking at her like she was some mythical creature. She quickly holstered her gun, and approached the trembling woman, whose knees promptly gave out from under her.
"Haley, I need you to breath. It's okay, it's over," she soothed, after she caught her in her arms.
"J...Ja...Jack," she stuttered.
"I'll get him, but I need you to focus a little. I'm Amalya, I work with Hotch at the BAU. And he's gonna be here any second, and he's gonna come in with his gun drawn. He will shoot first and ask questions later. So, I need you to go outside, and wait where he can see you, and I'll get Jack. Okay?" she explained hastily, as she guided Haley to look at her. The trembling woman simply nodded, and Amalya helped her stagger to the door, before she sprinted up the stairs in search of the little boy.
She scanned the top floor, when her eyes landed on an office, and she smiled. "Work the case," she mumbled to herself, as she made her way into the room. She easily found the hidden compartment, and she opened the lid. She found him lying on a few soft blankets which she was sure Hotch had put there for him after the boy had come in a few times to 'work the case' with him. Jack looked up at her, and she couldn't be happier that the sweet little boy wouldn't have to grow up without his mom.
"Hi sweetie, my name's Amalya," she said, as she pulled her badge from her back pocket, and turned it to him.
"You work with Daddy!" the boy pipped up, and she chuckled as she nodded. "Yeah, I do. How about we go downstairs to meet him?" she suggested softly. "Okay," was his simple answer, as he raised his arms for her to pick him up. She easily lifted him into her arms, not yet comfortable letting him walk with Foyet in the house. Dead or alive.
Rossi smiled at her once she was done explaining, before he closed the distance between them, and engulfed her in a hug. "Good job, kiddo," he said softly, and the rest of the team realized Rossi was welcoming her into the team in his own way if he was already calling her 'kiddo'.
"I can't even begin to tell you how grateful I am, I don't know how I'm ever going to thank you," Hotch finally spoke, and she shook her head. "There's absolutely no need for that; knowing she's alive, and that Jack won't grow up without his mother is all the thank you I need."
Just then, Reid's phone went off, and he quickly pulled it out. He found a sniffling Garcia on the other end. "Chief Strauss wants you guys back here," she hiccuped, and he realized that both her and Strauss still believe Haley's dead.
"Garcia, she's alive," he spoke softly.
Garcia went dead quiet on the other end for a few seconds, trying to figure out if she's heard right or not.
"Garcia?" Reid called softly, when the blonde, usually bubbly, technical analyst didn't say a word.
"What did you just say?" she whispered, and Reid smiled. "I said she's alive," he repeated.
"Agent Reid, this is Chief Strauss. Put me on speaker, please?" Strauss more or less ordered, and Reid complied. "You're on speaker, ma'am," he announced.
"Agent Dawoud?" her voice filtered through.
"Yes," Amalya answered simply.
"Where is Foyet?" she asked. "Gone for good," was Amalya's simple answer.
"I need you all back here immediately!"
So here's a longer chapter to hopefully give a better introduction to the character.
The name I chose because it has many, many roots, but like Reid said, one of them is Ancient Egyptian, and after a recent trip there, I fell in-love with the culture, and I thought it would be interesting to see how someone with a different background would work with the dynamic of the team.
I would love to know what you all think, and if I should continue, or simply take it down.
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
Sorry for the late installment. My 'profile' of Foyet is what I thought of him as I watched the Reaper episode, and the 100th. This was how I analyzed his behavior, and I do hope it makes sense. :)
I do hope this long chapter makes up for the wait and the previous shorter chapter.
I would love to hear what you think of it.
Hope you enjoyed :)
As soon as Reid pocketed his phone, the tactical team Morgan requested arrived, sirens blaring with a SWAT van speeding behind the police cars. The SWAT captain jumped out of the van before it even came to a stop, and Hotch held Jack tightly to stop himself from snapping at them; if it hadn't been for Amalya, it would've been too late. Jack had recoiled slightly at the sight of the assault riffle the man carried, and the number of men exiting the van.
"Agent Morgan, Captain Stokes," the large man introduced himself in a gruff voice, extending a hand towards Morgan. "Where's your UNSUB?" he asked, and Amalya couldn't hold it in any longer. A loud snort escaped her, as she shook her head in disbelief at the Captain's words. Was he still expecting to find Foyet around? Would they be standing around chatting if he was?
The large man's eyes found her, and he frowned slightly at the unfamiliar face. His hard look was meant to faze her, but unbeknownst to him, she had dealt with larger, burlier and scarier men than him, and never batted an eye. So, he was not intimidating in the least. "He's lying on the floor of a sunroom on the bottom floor, with two holes that don't physiologically exist in human beings," she enunciated, the words barely escaping her clenched jaw.
"And you are?!" he demanded.
"SSA Amalya Dawoud, the agent who just saved my family's life!" Hotch spat. He knew when Morgan deployed them, and it amazed him how long it took them to actually arrive. And the man was standing around asking for an update on Foyet's whereabouts!
"You…." The captain's words were interrupted by Reid. "There's a four-year-old, Captain Stokes."
The captain finally looked back at Morgan for instructions. "Process the scene, by the book. The Marshalls lost an agent to that man, and they will want a copy of everything."
"Hey, buddy, why don't you go to your mom for a second?" Hotch spoke gently to Jack, as he moved to hand his son over to Haley, who subtly shook her head. She was still shaking slightly and couldn't carry him. He was about to bend over to set him on his feet by her side, but Jack surprised them all when he leaned towards Amalya, who didn't hesitate in taking him. He wrapped his arms around her, and she rubbed his back comfortingly.
"Aaron, my purse is in there," Haley spoke, her voice still shaking, and he nodded without saying a word. He moved towards the house, and Rossi followed him; partially to offer support, and mostly to see for himself the lifeless corpse of the man who had nearly broke the strongest man he'd known.
They both entered the house, and Hotch stopped. The last time he'd been here was the day Haley left him. He hadn't set foot in the house since. Jack usually ran out of the house whenever he picked him up, and he had rented his apartment the day after she moved out. This was their house, and he couldn't stay there without her and Jack in it. And now, now he wasn't sure any of them would ever be able to stay in the house again. The bastard took away the home he had built for his son.
"Aaron," Rossi called gently, which seemed to snap him out of his trance, and he moved towards the room, with Rossi, and the SWAT captain following behind. Once they got to the room, they saw Foyet's feet peeking from behind the coffee table. Rossi instinctively put his hand on his holstered gun as he approached and saw the SWAT captain from the corner of his eyes tightening his hands around the assault riffle as well. Hotch was the only one who seemed in a trance, staring at the floor as they all approached the dead man, his arms hanging limply by his side.
There was something surreal about seeing Foyet lying in a pool of his own blood, the two bullet holes Amalya caused visible from where they stood. His eyes were open, empty and cold just as they always were. But now also lifeless, which added an air of gloom to the situation. Both veteran profilers were having a hard time consolidating the notorious Reaper with the dead man lying before them. The man who killed simply for the sake of killing; who decided to manipulate a decorated detective into surrender, just so he can watch his life fall apart, because killing no longer satisfied him. The man who stabbed Hotch nine times, making sure he missed every major artery; who took away his son. And all it took to take him down were two bullets, delivered by their newest agent, in the nick of time.
Hotch had read her file, he had wanted her onboard for a while, and had nagged Strauss about finding room in the budget for a new agent for that reason. He had presented her with multiple options, but Amalya had been the one to catch his eye. Her work with Interpol was impressive, her knowledge of four different languages aside from Arabic and English, and her extensive background in different cultures and religions meant she would have a new take on cases. Reid had the knowledge, but not really the interactions, and in many ways, their resident genius didn't know how to employ his knowledge.
But then Foyet struck and hiring her took a backseat in his head. Even before Foyet's attack on him, he had stopped talking to Strauss about it, because he was worried Foyet would use the distraction of a new agent to strike when the team dynamic wasn't as strong. And after Foyet forced him to put his family into witness protection, he forgot about it all together until Strauss walked into the conference room with her in toe.
He had been furious; Strauss had gone behind his back, waited till Morgan was in charge and hired her. But it had become especially hard to mask when Strauss said she would be going over Foyet's files. He apparently didn't do a very good job hiding his distaste for the situation since Amalya mentioned it when she showed up at this apartment later to go over the files with him.
But in the end…..she was the one he was forever indebted to. She saved his family.
"How the hell did she get that shot?" the SWAT team's captain's gruff voice filtered through his thoughts, and he chuckled weakly. "If you read her file, you wouldn't ask that."
He saw Haley's purse sitting in the corner, so he grabbed it as he finally left the room. Foyet was finally gone, for good. He wouldn't torment him, or anyone else for that matter.
When he left the house, Jack was still perched up on her hip, animatedly talking to her, the smile on his face meant that she either actually followed along with what he said or knew how to fake it well enough to fool him. But the smile on Haley's face had him leaning towards the former.
"So, I'm the Scarlet Witch?" he heard her conclude, and Reid frowned at her. "You know Marvel?"
She nodded. "Yeah. Even if I wasn't into it as a kid, with six nephews and nieces, it was bound to happen," she elaborated.
"Daddy's Hawkeye; he never misses!" Jack announced proudly, grinning at his father, who handed Haley her purse before he reached for his son. He missed him terribly, and his presence in his arms grounded him. "I don't know, buddy, I think Amalya might be have a sharper aim," he spoke softly, before his eyes found the brunette's. "That's one hell of a shot!" he stated, and she smiled. "We should get going," he stated. "Give your car keys to one of the agents and tell him to bring it to Quantico. You're riding with us," he continued, directing his words towards Amalya, who didn't really argue.
Ten minutes later, they were all heading towards FBI headquarters, with Jack sitting in the backseat listening to music from Amalya's iPod, since Haley didn't have hers with her. Hotch's cell phone rang, the screen flashing Garcia's name.
"Sir, I already have the rest of the team patched in," she informed him as soon as he answered. "And there's someone else here," she added, before an unfamiliar voice was heard. "Lya!"
"Selim!" Amalya's surprised voice came from the passenger seat. Haley had opted to sit next to Jack in the back. "What are you doing in Quantico?" she asked.
"I missed you," he quipped, and Hotch saw her raise an eyebrow. "Uhuh." She didn't sound convinced, and neither was he, he could hear something else in the man's voice. "I've known you since we were twelve, I don't need to be a profiler to know when you're hiding something. So, spill!" she demanded.
"I'm not hiding anything, I will tell you. I'm just not sure if I should tell you now, so by the time you get here you would've calmed down a little. Or would that just give you more time to stew in anger," he said, and she frowned. "I'm really not gonna like what you have to say, do I!"
"Hoyt is here."
"What!" her voice was low, dangerously low. And monotonous, almost dead, and if the almost inaudible wince this mysterious Selim gave was any indication, this was not a good thing.
"Sekhmet," Selim warned, and it was Hotch's turn to frown.
"Huh?" came Garcia's confused voice.
"Ancient Egyptian mythical goddess of war. Body of a woman, and the head of a lioness." Reid immediately pipped up.
"Dr. Reid I presume," Selim quipped. "She also ate her enemies; so you understand why I'm worried about the man!"
"Oh, I won't eat him!" her voice had become slightly dark, and Hotch was beginning to think he was about to see a glimpse of the woman whose file impressed him to the point where he persistently tried to get Strauss to allow him to hire someone new.
"You won't?!" Selim asked skeptically. "I don't like pork!" she deadpanned.
"Oh, mama's got teeth!" Morgan commented, and Selim chuckled. "You have no idea."
"And for those of us who don't know who Hoyt is," Emily finally interrupted.
"U.S Marshall Benjamin Hoyt! The one handling Haley and Jack's case, and the reason we found ourselves in this mess!" Amalya explained.
"Lya, that's not…." Selim started, but she interrupted him. "He didn't even show her a picture of what he looked like! It didn't even occur to him to show her a picture of the man trying to kill her and her son and say, 'by the way, if you see him, run for your life', I showed up to the house and she was letting him in!"
"I thought he broke in, and waited for her," Selim's voice had gone softer now. "No, no. And this was after I called him, and specifically told him to put as much distance between them and Hotch as possible. I even offered to go through the legal hoops for international relocation myself, and foot the bill…but nooooooo, he said he had it all under control; that I shouldn't worry about that and focus on catching Foyet; that I should be more of a team player and trust that other people are doing their part, and simply worry about mine. And as it turns out, his idea for a safe distance is New Jersey! So, I will nail his ass to the wall when I see him. And I'm pretty damn sure the Attorney General will have his badge once he knows about this."
"How did you know this was his endgame?" Rossi asked.
"This was simply part of his endgame, the tip of the iceberg if you will. His endgame was a lot worse than this," she retorted, and Hotch swallowed thickly. "What do you mean?"
"Remember at your place, when I said that him repeating his taunt with Shaunessy didn't make much sense?" she asked, and he nodded. "I decided to work the timeline backwards; if Haley and Jack were his endgame, then why didn't he simply go after them while you were in the hospital? Why didn't he taunt the rest of the team? They would've protected them, and probably put them into Wit Sec themselves. Why wait till you woke up?" she listed.
"The taunt was greater that way, he has to let go of his family," Rossi stated.
"Exactly. The close call…he didn't just want to hurt them; he wanted a scenario where Hotch would almost save them but miss his chance. So, the greater the distance between them, the harder it is to achieve that close call."
"But that would've drove him underground, made him harder to find, and cost Hotch his family for good," JJ pointed out.
"No, because like I said, Haley and Jack were only a part of his endgame, not the whole thing."
"Then what was?" Garcia pipped up.
"You guys!" Amalya stated, and they all fell silent for a few seconds, before Hotch finally found his voice. "Care to elaborate."
"Okay. So, when I looked over his earlier crimes; the behavior, the victimology, the pattern, even the taunt against Shaunessy, it all tracked with Hotch's omnivore profile. But then we get to Shaunessy's death, and it doesn't fit anymore." She started, before Morgan interjected. "Why? It was all the same!" he sounded confused. "Exactly, that's what didn't track for me," she affirmed, and Hotch looked puzzled. "He manipulated Shaunessy into surrendering when the killings stopped satisfying him, he needed a new challenge, a new way to feel the euphoria, so he manipulated a decorated officer into waving the metaphorical white flag, sat back, and watched as he slowly threw his life away because he couldn't live with the guilt."
"Which is what he was trying to do to Hotch," Emily said, still not sure why it didn't track. "Yeah, but he had ten years to plan what he would do when Shaunessy died, and the best he could come up with was hitting the rewind button?" Amalya said questioningly, and it dawned on Rossi. "It wouldn't satisfy him. He already burned through that high with Shaunessy, repeating the same pattern wouldn't have been effective. He had to take it up a notch."
"Precisely. If this was a simple power play over Hotch, then why not go after him ten years ago?" she wondered.
"Because that meant risking the chance that I don't take his deal, which would force him to break his word with Shaunessy," Hotch offered, but Haley interjected from the back seat. "Aaron, you always told me criminals are the best profilers. He knew you would never take that deal, that hasn't changed in ten years."
"That's what he counted on," Selim joined in. "Yes. That's what he spent ten years planning for, and the best he could come up with was killing your wife and son!" Amalya stated.
"It was too simple." Morgan realized.
"It was a distraction," Amalya corrected. "He wanted your focus off your own safety, so he can strike, take you all down. He was never planning on killing Hotch, he was going to incapacitate him. Injure him enough that by the time he comes out of it, not only will Haley and Jack be dead, but the rest of you as well."
"And he would've made sure I can't go after him ever again," Hotch added. "But still live with the guilt." Rossi added.
"Yeah. If you guys showed up to the house, found Hotch injured, with Haley and Jack killed; it would've made you vulnerable, giving him the perfect opportunity to strike against you all. He would've spared Will and Henry so Hotch would live with the guilt of Henry losing his mom." She explained.
"Okay, but why Hotch? JJ had a family, and that same scenario could be applied to her." Emily pointed out. "Because JJ doesn't fit the profile." Amalya told them.
"What profile?" Morgan asked. "Rossi, you've been with the BAU since it started. Have you ever come across a team with this dynamic?" Amalya inquired instead of answering Morgan's question.
"Thank you for making feel old," Rossi quipped. "But no, I haven't. Not even when Gideon was unit chief."
"I don't follow." Garcia interrupted.
"Hotch is the father-figure of the group, and I think he did something during the initial investigation that made Foyet realize he'd make a perfect target. Watching Shaunessy's spiral was keeping him satisfied for the time being, and it gave him enough time to plan. He waited for a specific set of circumstances to occur, and during those ten years, they slowly happened. When Tobias Hankel took Reid; he chose Hotch because he knew he would get the message. The room had three other profilers, and no one thought to look up the Bible verse. You all assumed that Reid wasn't in his right mind, and said anything to save his life, even though he called Hotch a narcissist, which is the farthest thing from the truth. When Garcia got shot; he took hell from the brass for refusing to handle any cases until her shooter was captured. Something which not even Gideon would've done. When Morgan was charged with a crime, everything else got dropped, and clearing his name became a priority. And the list goes on. That's what he was attacking; the family unit that formed between you guys, with Hotch at its center." She took a deep breath after she finished, and Morgan's voice came through. "If anything happened to us, the guilt would've destroyed Hotch."
"A family annihilator. They go after the fathers first." Emily added.
"Worse. When I looked at his pattern of behavior, I stopped treating him as an UNSUB all together," Amalya interjected. "He stole Morgan's credentials, and used them to admit Hotch into the hospital. He attacked Hotch in his apartment, but made sure not to kill him, or do any permanent damage that would incapacitate him for good. And he waited, waited until Hotch got back on his feet, before he attacked. And it wasn't because he couldn't find Haley, it's because you guys hadn't gotten close. He was waiting for your move."
"It was a chess game to him," Reid interrupted. "No, not a game. This was war! When I stopped looking at him as an UNSUB, and looked at the whole thing from the perspective of war, I realized his endgame."
"An enemy of the state mindset," Rossi said in realization. "Yes," she agreed. "And what do they usually do?" she asked.
"They bring the war to their enemy's gates!" Selim answered her.
"That's why I wanted Haley and Jack as far away from here as possible! It was the one variable I could manipulate to throw him off. It would've pissed him off enough to make an uncalculated move, and that would've been our chance to catch him." She finally finished.
"And that's why you had to stay in the dark. He had a plan for each of us, but not you. If he knew you existed, he would adjust to fit you in. But if you stay away, you're his blind spot." Reid added.
"He knew Hotch would get on the rig with Kesserman, and separate from us. That he would be alone when he spoke to him, so he would have to wait for transport. He calculated everything….." Morgan listed. "Except for you." He added.
"Except for me. I even left the country after I met you guys in the office just in case he found out somehow and ran my name." She explained.
"But you came back. Shouldn't he have known that?" JJ wondered.
"No, not really. I have two passports, and the English spelling of my name in the Egyptian passport is completely different from the American one. Not to mention that I use a different last name back there, and the fact that I was technically smuggled in here on a private jet!"
"And that's why I'm here, to sort out your legal status," Selim interjected. "And to make sure I don't have to bail you out of jail for murder!" he quipped.
"Actually, with the situation as it is; I have diplomatic immunity!" she retorted cheekily, and Hotch couldn't help but chuckle despite the grim situation. She would fit right in with them.
"Well, I suggest we use this car ride to relax a little, because I think Strauss will read all of us the riot act when we get there. Especially our dear Egyptian goddess," Rossi pointed out, and they all chuckled, before they hung up.
Amalya rested her head against the seat, and sighed in relief. Which was echoed by Hotch. Those past few months have been hell on him; he was stabbed, he had to say goodbye to his family, and Haley nearly got shot by a psycho killer. His body was still tense from the worry, and because he was trying to stop the shaking caused by the adrenaline pumping through his veins. He glanced in the rear-view mirror, and saw Haley staring out of the window, with Jack's head in her lap, who had fallen asleep. He allowed himself to close his eyes for a split second to calm his wayward thoughts; it was over, they were safe.
By the time they made it to Quantico, Jack was fast asleep in the backseat, with his head in Haley's lap, and Amalya had undid her braid. The black SUVs pulled up to their designated spots, just as the trademark bell of the elevator echoed through the underground parking lot, signaling its arrival. All eight doors of both SUVs opened, and the agents, plus Haley with a sleeping Jack exited. Hotch quickly took Jack from Haley, and the toddler fussed a bit, but soon settled into the warm embrace of his father. The air had a chill to it, and Haley realized she forgot both her jacket and Jack's in the trunk of the car at the house. She opened her mouth to voice her thoughts, when she saw Amalya putting her own jacket over Jack's sleeping frame. They all heard the chime of the elevator but didn't think much of it. But the sound of fast-clicking heels caught their attention, and when they looked in the direction the sound was coming from, they saw Garcia practically jogging in her heels, her face still red, her eyes puffy from the tears, with a man following behind her at a fast pace, but not necessarily a jogging one.
Emily, JJ and even Haley couldn't help but notice how handsome the man was. He was tall – as tall as Hotch – with broad shoulders, a head full of black hair, and hazel-green eyes. His hair wasn't as black as Hotch's, and it had a few specs of grey scattered around. The salt and pepper look contrasted beautifully with his eyes, especially since they shone through thick, long eyelashes. The mischievous sparkle in his eyes matched the confident – slightly smug – smile on his lips, his hands stuffed in his pant pockets, the top two buttons of his dress shirt was open under his suit jacket. They had no doubt that this was the Selim Amalya spoke to earlier. And they all wondered about the nature of their relationship.
"Oh, I love you so much," Garcia's voice pulled the three women out of their thoughts. Derek smiled brightly at her. "I love you too, baby girl."
"Not you!" she quickly shot him down, as she plowed into an unsuspecting Amalya. The latter stumbled back, and Haley was quick to help her keep her balance. Derek looked slightly affronted, while Emily, JJ, Rossi and Reid all hid their smirks. Hotch was too busy profiling Selim.
"I'm usually not very good with change," Garcia mumbled against Amalya shoulder. "More so than other people. I hate it, absolutely hate it. But this time, I love it. I love it so much, because it was you, and you saved them. And now our boss man didn't suffer an unspeakable loss, and little Jack didn't grow up without his mom. So, I love it, and I love you," she rambled.
Derek moved to pry her off Amalya, but Selim stopped him. "We're Egyptians, we're huggers. She's fine!" he dismissed him, and Derek noticed that Amalya wasn't trying to escape, but rather shaking with laughter in Garcia's arms. "Oh boy, you're something else, aren't you?" she quipped, and Garcia pulled back without really releasing her. "Is that a bad thing?" she questioned, suddenly worried she pushed some boundary, but Amalya shook her head. "No, not at all. I absolutely love it. And I love you too!" she said, and with that, Garcia crashed into her again, eliciting a throaty laughter from Amalya.
She finally let go after a few seconds and gave Haley a brief hug. "I'm very glad you're okay," she said softly, but sincerely. "Thank you, Penelope," Haley spoke softly, her voice still shaking slightly.
Amalya had moved on to hug Selim, and they were both rambling on in an intangible language. The BAU team looked over at Reid, who shook his head at them. "I think they're switching between Turkish and Farsi, with a few Arabic words in the midst, but I think its mostly slang, so I don't really understand a word," he replied regretfully, and Emily huffed.
"Agent Hotchner, Selim Dogan, Interpol, Turkish office. I'm glad your family is safe," Selim addressed Hotch, extending a hand, which Hotch shook, his eyes still trying to study the man, but it was proving difficult.
"Thank you," Hotch replied, as he shook his hand. Selim looked over his shoulder at Haley and smiled warmly. "Mrs. Hotchner, glad to see you." She smiled gently at him and nodded. "Thank you."
"So, what is it that you want to tell me away from the office?" Amalya deadpanned, and he flashed her a dashing smile that Emily, Penelope and JJ were sure would make any woman go weak in the knees. "Selim, you won't convince me that you're down here as part of the welcome committee, so might as well spit it out!" she demanded, and he chuckled. "Always the impatient one!" he teased, and she arched an eyebrow at him. He held up both hands in surrender. "Tamam, tamam. Anne!"⃰⃰ he clicked his tongue cheekily at the end, and she glared at him even more.
"U.S. Marshall Hoyt has been in Strauss's office since he learned of Foyet's death in a meeting with her, the Director and the AG, and he's raging mad." Garcia filled them in.
"He's raging mad?" Emily screeched incredulously. "This is his mess!"
"Yeah, he's not seeing it that way," Selim told her, and she gaped at him. Hotch was having a hard time keeping his cool, but the presence of his son in his arms was grounding him a bit. He noticed Selim was keeping a close eye on Amalya, who was surprisingly quiet.
"How exactly is he seeing it?" Rossi asked snidely, but Selim knew the snide wasn't really directed at him.
"I was there for part of it; but mainly that it was all some scheme to assassinate Foyet by the BAU, and of course, Amalya," he explained, and at that, Amalya immediately headed for the elevator, but he stopped her. "Lya!" he warned, and she shot him a look that should've froze the blood in his veins. "Don't worry, I won't kill him. There are far worse ways I can make sure he pays for his fuck-up!" she hissed.
"Well, Strauss did say she wanted you in her office as soon as you arrive," Garcia offered. She had taken an instant dislike to Hoyt since he set foot in the BAU after Kesserman's demise, and her anger was approaching dangerous levels when she heard how he ignored Amalya's profile. And now, he was claiming it was all some sort of scheme on their part to cover his ass. Not on her watch. She saw how angry Amalya was, and judging by how Selim was trying to calm her down, she knew she would hand Hoyt his ass on a silver platter – AG and Director be damned – and come out of it winning. And that's exactly what they needed.
Amalya smiled devilishly at Selim, as she once more headed for the elevators, and Selim took off after her, both arguing. Hotch turned to Rossi. "Dave, can you take Jack. I need to go after her," he said, but Garcia stopped him.
"No sir, Strauss said only Amalya," she clarified, and he looked over at the elevator just as the doors chimed closed on her and Selim, still arguing.
A few minutes later, they were all sitting around the table like they do every week to discuss a case. But this time they weren't discussing anything. Each member of the team was lost in his or her own head. Hotch was still holding a sleeping Jack close to his chest; Rossi and Morgan stood behind Garcia watching as the crime scene photos streamed through, both still trying to wrap their heads around the events of the day, as well as the impossible angle Amalya had; JJ had left the room to talk to Will and Henry, needing to hear their voices after the day they had; Reid was on the phone with his mom; and Emily was talking to Haley.
They all looked towards the door by the screen when they heard footsteps, and saw Selim walking in, with Amalya's purse in his hands. Morgan's eyebrows rose high on his forehead. "Not even you were allowed in!" he was surprised. Selim nodded. "Yeah, she shot him. So, they need her side, without any input from anyone," he started, and they all nodded. "And besides, I wasn't going for her sake. I was going for theirs!" he informed them, and Rossi chuckled. "Yeah, I have a feeling they don't know who they're dealing with!"
"Not in the slightest!"
10 minutes ago…..
Selim and Amalya walked out of the elevator still arguing in a bizarre mix of three different languages, that made other agents give them weird looks, but neither seemed to care. Amalya, in particular, was too pissed off to care. The asshole messed it up so bad she barely had time to save Haley, and he was claiming it was all an assassination plot by them? What? Did he think she was going to take it lying down? He obviously has no idea who he's dealing with, and she's about to let him know.
They were outside Strauss's office, when a junior agent stopped them both. "I'm so sorry, Mr. Dogan, but they only want Agent Dawoud."
Selim nodded, and took Amalya's purse off her shoulders without a word. Just as he heard Hoyt's voice filter through the closed door. "Your profilers made no mention that he would go after my marshal for answers. Kesserman was a good man, with a family, who I know must explain his death to. And they can't even watch the man responsible for it face justice," he roared, and Selim gulped. He looked at Amalya's hardened expression, and knew that whatever last ounce of care she had about being decorous, or diplomatic just went out the window. He sighed as she entered the office, and it wasn't long before her muffled growls reached his ears. Though he couldn't quite make out the exact words. He asked for directions back to the bullpen, and another junior agent offered to show him the way.
Inside Strauss's office...
Hoyt was getting in Strauss's face about the apparent mess the team made. He was not happy about Kesserman's death, but as she tried to – repeatedly – explain, neither was anyone in the FBI. But he seemed so adamant about how it was all some scheme by the team to take revenge on Foyet for what he did to Hotch and his family. Erin Strauss was no fool, she would not have made it this far in the bureau if she was, but she wasn't a profiler. She knew something wasn't right; her team was not like that – especially Hotch – but she couldn't figure out why Hoyt was so hell bound on putting the blame squarely on their shoulders. He knew as well as anyone that humans were unpredictable, and as good as the team was, they weren't psychics.
"You sound like they let him go, or that he managed to get away from them. He's gone!" she shot back at his last comment, and he rounded on her, turning his back to the door. "This isn't justice, this is revenge! Is that the business the BAU is in now; vigilante justice!" he hissed.
"You've got some nerve." A low growl came from the door, and he whipped around to find the source and found Amalya standing in the open door. Strauss had only met her twice before this time, and was finding it hard to put the sweet-faced, petite woman in front of her with the very impressive file Hotch had provided her with almost two years prior to convince her to hire her. But now…..with the murderous look on her face….it wasn't so hard anymore. For if looks could kill, Benjamin Hoyt would have been six feet under.
"Excuse me!" Hoyt said in astonishment. He didn't think Strauss would pull her into the meeting, he thought she would simply speak to her once she was done with them.
"I knew you were a narcissistic ASS when we spoke, but to ignore a very clear profile, and then place the blame somewhere else puts your narcissism at a whole new level!" Amalya hissed.
"Agent Dawoud." Strauss interjected, but the Director subtly shook his head at her, and signaled with his hand to let her be. Not that the warning tone in Strauss's voice did anything to deter the furious agent.
"How da…" Hoyt started to say, but Amalya stepped more into the room, and immediately interrupted him. "Oh no. You've said enough!"
Strauss was surprised by the slight smile on the Director's face as he watched the interaction, as well as the instinctive step back Hoyt took when Amalya stepped towards him. She demanded respect when she entered a room, and right now, she also struck fear into those who dared wronged her. And Strauss had a feeling she never wanted to be on the receiving end of her justifiable wrath.
"I told you what his endgame was; that he was too compulsive to deviate. To put as much distance between Agent Hotchner and his family as humanely possible. I even offered international relocation, and that I would take care of everything. But you assured me that you had it under control; that this is what you do for a living; that I had to trust the other player in the game. And I find myself scrambling to catch him before he puts a bullet into Haley with Jack upstairs; because your idea of distance is New Jersey! And you have the audacity to claim that it was vendetta, when it was simply your fuck-up!" her voice was getting angrier with each word, that when the last word left her mouth, it didn't faze her in the least.
Strauss did a mental facepalm, but to her surprise, the Director was trying not to laugh.
"Marshal Hoyt, what is she talking about?" the Attorney General demanded.
"I have no idea," Hoyt answered defiantly, and Amalya snorted. "Really? You have no idea about the two conversations when I explained that Foyet was going to try and hurt Agent Hotchner's family in a scenario where he would almost be able to save them, but fail? You have no idea about those calls when I told you that the further they are the better, that I can relocate them to a different country for their safety?" she listed incredulously.
"Marshal Hoyt!" the Attorney General's authoritative tone came from behind Hoyt.
"Before you think of a way to deny it all, those calls were recorded! And I know that a misogynist like you can't stand the idea that a woman would not only be right, but also prove you wrong, but that can't be why you royally messed this up, and is now denying everything!" she challenged. She had an inkling as to why he didn't take her advice to heart, and why he was so hell bound on denying those calls now. And she had every intention of getting it out of him.
"Marshal Hoyt!" the Attorney General repeated his call.
The entire office was standing still, watching Hoyt and Amalya stand toe to toe. They both held eye contact, and it was quite obvious Amalya was not the type to back down, and that she had every intention of taking Hoyt down. Strauss knew that under all that hard exterior, that Haley and Jack's situation hit her harder than she let on, despite not knowing them. She still remembered their first conversation.
"Strauss," Strauss answered the phone, already knowing who was on the other end, since it was the only international phone call she was waiting for.
"Please tell me that little boy isn't dead! That pictures of his mangled body won't be in those files!" came the voice of the woman she hoped to hire.
"No, and I'm hoping you can help me make sure it doesn't happen," she answered.
"I'm on the next flight out!"
"Section Chief Strauss, if you would please tell Garcia to contact one Ali Magdy at the Cairo Interpol office, and ask him for copies of those two recordings. It will take a few seconds." Amalya told Strauss, and Hoyt narrowed his eyes at her. "You're bluffing!" he shot back smugly, and she arched an eyebrow. "Am I? Are you really that arrogant?! Do you ho..." Hoyt's hate-filled voice made her stop. "It's not arrogance when it's well earned. I wasn't about to let your kind tell me how to do my job!" he snapped angrily, his voice dripping with venom.
"Excuse me!" came Strauss's shocked voice, just as a humorless laugh escaped Amalya's lips. "You know, I could hear the venom in your voice as we spoke, but I didn't think you were such a pig that you would endanger the lives of two innocents – one of which is a child – to prove me wrong. But I stand corrected! And that doesn't happen often."
Strauss found it impressive that her voice could portray such disgust, anger and yet be so calm. If Strauss had been the one to be insulted, she probably would have slapped him! But then again, Amalya has looked like she wanted to kill him since she set foot in the office, and despite the holstered gun attached to her hip, Hoyt was still breathing.
"Marshal Hoyt, your credentials and gun please," the Attorney General's voice was final, and Hoyt's head whipped around so fast he almost got motion sickness.
"Sir!" Amalya had to give him credit, he honestly didn't see anything wrong with his behavior, that it shocked him he was being stripped of his badge! That's a special kind of stupid.
"You just admitted to ignoring a viable piece of information from a source, based on their race. Which not only put the lives of innocents in danger, but got a fellow marshal killed. Therefore, you're suspended without pay pending a full investigation to determine if your misconduct rose to the level of a crime or not," the Attorney General explained, his hand stretched towards Hoyt. Amalya released a breath she didn't know she was holding and closed her eye in relief. Benjamin Hoyt had no business overseeing so many lives, and now, he wasn't. She didn't care if it sounded like it was petty revenge on her part, but she now had a clear conscious about the man.
She watched as Hoyt reached into his jacket to retrieve the things asked of him, and her hand subtly moved towards her gun….as a precaution.
The team was still sitting around the table, when the Director and Attorney General walked in. The team immediately sprung to their feet, especially Hotch, who quickly passed a now wide-awake Jack to Haley.
"Agent Hotchner," the Attorney General extended a hand, and shook Hotch's hand firmly. "I'm glad your family is safe."
"Thank you, sir." Hotch said gratefully.
"And I assure you that a full investigation will be launched into Marshal Hoyt's actions. Bigotry is not something I tolerate," he stated, and Hotch frowned. He turned towards Selim and shook his hand. "Mr. Dogan, I thank you for all your help."
"Bigotry!" Rossi wondered, and Selim chuckled as he shook his head. "Amalya Yusuf Dawoud! I hate it when she's right!"
"She's Muslim?" Emily asked, and Selim shook his head. "Coptic Christian. Yusuf is simply Arabic for Joseph and is used by both religions in Egypt," he explained.
"Not that it would matter if she was!" the Attorney General assured him, and Selim nodded. "Mrs. Hotchner, I'm glad you and your son are alright." He smiled at Haley, and Jack.
"Thank you, sir," Haley said softly.
The Director stepped out of the room and signaled for an agent, who came running. "Please walk the Attorney General to his car." He instructed, and with one final handshake, the Attorney General left.
"Bigotry!" Morgan repeated, still not quite sure how they knew that was why he ignored her advice. Morgan personally chalked it off to misogyny.
"Straight from the horse's mouth!" the Director declared, almost proudly, and Selim burst out laughing. The Director chuckled. "She's quite something. I mean her file was impressive, but it's totally entertaining to watch rip someone apart!"
"You have no idea." Selim said.
"She got him to admit it!" Haley said in disbelief.
"She bagged Vladishiv Sokolov, you think Hoyt was a problem for her?" the Director shot back, and Morgan's jaw fell open. "Sokolov!"
The Director turned towards Hotch. "Erin told me you've been nagging her for over a year to find room in the budget for an agent, and she was at the top of the list. Which makes me suspect she was the one you wanted all along. Am I right?" he asked and Hotch nodded. "I thought so. I've wanted her on the team for a while, and when Erin spoke to me about letting an outsider help with Foyet, I told her I would talk to the budget committee only for Amalya." He told them, and Hotch was a bit surprised.
"If you don't mind me asking, sir. Why didn't you contact her before?" Reid asked, and the Director smiled.
"Who said I didn't? I spoke to her after Agent Greenway left the team, but she declined. And after that, the timing never seemed to be right." He elaborated.
"She declined two years ago but agreed now. What changed?" Emily inquired.
"One of the most notorious serial killers in modern history wasn't after a four-year-old then," Selim answered her. "Speaking of which, where exactly is she?" he asked.
"Briefing Strauss. I will read the reports later." The Director replied. "And Agent Hotchner, I wouldn't lose her if I were you."
"I have no intention to," Hotch said.
"Amaya!" Jack's excited voice rang in the small room, as he bolted out of the chair towards the brunette in question, who was walking with Strauss. Hotch made a move to stop him but didn't get a chance. He saw him hesitate a bit when he noticed Strauss, but Amalya was quick to pick him up and balance him on her hip.
"Say hi," she instructed gently.
"Hi." He obliged bashfully.
"Hello, Jack," Strauss said softly.
"Why do you look grumpy?" Amalya asked. "Your iPod won't work!" he declared, and she feigned offence. "It won't? Blasphemy!" she said in an exaggerated tone, as she entered the room, and noticed the Director. Her demeanor immediately became more professional, as she set Jack on his feet. "Director."
"Agent Dawoud, nice to finally have you on board," he said as she shook her hand, and she smiled curtly at him. He turned towards the entire team. "There will be mandatory time off for all of you before you take on your next case after your done briefing Section Chief Strauss. And Agent Hotchner, of course you will have a bit more leeway with it under the circumstances." He listed off, and they all nodded. "And Agent Dawoud, welcome to the BAU." He finished, and she smiled. "Erin, I will meet with you tomorrow morning," he said, and Strauss nodded. "Enjoy your time off, everyone." And with that, he left the room.
"Amaya," Jack called, and that snapped her out of her own head. "Right, my iPod. What's wrong with it?" she asked, and Haley handed it to her. "The battery died."
"I wanna finish that puppet show," Jack pouted, and Hotch was about to intervene, when Amalya crouched down to be at his level, her eyebrows furrowed "What puppet show? I don't have any puppet show videos on my iPod."
Jack huffed, and Amalya smiled. "They had funny voiced, and pointy hats, and moved like this…." and with that he wiggled his body, making them all laugh. "Ooooooooh, sweetie those are marionettes," she corrected. "Let's see if they're on YouTube," she added, as she pulled her phone out of her pocket.
"Marionettes?" Selim wondered, and she sang a line in the 'funny' voice Jack was talking about and Selim gawked at her. "How on earth do you have that in digital?" he asked incredulously, and she beamed. "Amer digitized the VHS and sent it to me," she told him before she looked over at Jack. "Sorry, sweetie. I can't seem to find it." She told him regretfully, but he was studying the screen intently. "Those letters are funny," he said, and she laughed.
"Yeah, I know. How about you listen to Selim's iPod?" she suggested. She knew they still needed to talk about a few things and didn't want his little ears to hear. "Do you have it?" Jack asked Selim, who shook his head regretfully. "I'm afraid not, kiddo. But I do have other things, wanna have at it?" he wondered, and Jack nodded eagerly. Once he was set up, and they made sure he can't hear a word. They both turned to Strauss.
"Well, I'm sure the Director has told you all that the U. S. Marshal's office is launching a full investigation into Marshal Hoyt's actions in this case, and probably a few others. Agent Dawoud, OP will probably still want to talk to you about the events of today. But I am sure that they will reach the same conclusion I did, so you have nothing to worry about. As for the rest of you; I would like you all to go home, get some rest. And I will contact each of you about when to come in for briefing. I am sure you are all aware that this case is very sensitive, so I will need to hear first hand what happened from each of you. But for now, go home." She said, before she took her leave.
"Don't have to tell me twice," Morgan declared, and they all chuckled.
"Come on, Lya!" Selim beckoned Amalya, just as Haley pulled the earphones out of Jack's ears.
"Wait, I wanna finish it," he said, and Amalya crouched down once more. "How about I bring your Dad a copy, so you can watch it anytime?" she suggested, and he beamed at her. "Promise?" he asked delightfully, and she nodded. "I promise."
He looked thoughtful for a moment. "How do you say it in that funny language?" he wondered, and she couldn't help the throaty laugh, before she said it, making him giggle. "You double promised." He warned her, and she put her hand on her heart. When he looked satisfied enough, she ruffled his hair as she stood up once more.
"Come on, let's get some food into you," Selim told her, and she made a growling sound. "Yes, please."
"Dawoud," Morgan called her, as she grabbed her stuff. "Welcome to the team," he said, extending a hand. She smiled gratefully at him and shook his hand. "Thank you, and Amalya is fine." She stated, as she shook her hand.
Haley walked over to her. "Thank you!" she said simply, and Amalya smiled softly at her, squeezing her hand reassuringly. She nodded at the rest of the team, before she left with Selim.
Hotch had been silent through it all, trying to come to terms with the many thoughts roaming through his head. He watched her walking next to Selim; seemingly lighter than the first time he saw her; than the night they spent pouring over the files at his place; than even an hour ago. He heard her laugh at something Selim said, and it sounded care-free. Almost like the weight that was on her shoulders had been lifted. And it amazed him that a woman who didn't know him, nor his family, had cared so much that such a change of character would be noticed now that she felt she finished her mission.
He had wanted her onboard for a while and was quite aware of her reputation. But he was starting to realize that there was more to her than her file. And he also had an inkling as to why she turned down the Director's offer before, and he was almost glad she did. For he suspected anyone could've pulled off what she just did.
Alright. Here's a looooong chapter for you all to set the stage for a few things.
The line with * at the end is Turkish, and it translates to. "Ok, ok. Mom."
Reviews are greatly appreciated, so let me know what you all think.
Alright. Here's a looooong chapter for you all to set the stage for a few things.
The line with * at the end is Turkish, and it translates to. "Ok, ok. Mom."
Reviews are greatly appreciated, so let me know what you all think.
Chapter 5: Chapter 5
So I couldn't find a single official source that gave Hotch a middle name, so I did :)
A long chapter to make up for the wait. Let me know what you all think.
"Daddy, Daddy," Jack screamed in the dark, and seconds later, the door to his room burst open, and Hotch rushed in. "It's okay, buddy, I'm here," he assured him softly. Jack, on his part, scurried over to his father the second the door opened, and threw himself at him. Hotch held him close and rubbed his back comfortingly. "I'm here, buddy," he repeated, as his ears picked up Haley's footsteps behind him. She was sharing the spare room with Jack, but neither of them could sleep, so they were both on the couch talking when Jack started screaming.
"I'm scared," Jack whimpered into Hotch's neck, and he sighed sadly. He knew Jack realized Foyet was a criminal, but he didn't think he comprehended much beyond that. He had thankfully been able to get him out of the room before Amalya's shots rang and put two holes into Foyet. She'd taken Jack out of the house without him seeing Foyet, and they left before CSU started processing. Was it possible some of their talk filtered through the headphones while they were back at the BAU? Or in the car?
He'd been sleeping fine the first couple of nights, but then he would suddenly wake up crying and cling to Hotch. He understood Haley's fretful, and nightmare-infested sleep. After all, she did end up with a gun to the back of her head. Maybe he should speak to a professional about this.
He sat down on the bed, the upset four-year-old balling up in his lap, his hands still clutching Hotch's cotton t-shirt. "I'm here, buddy," he whispered reassuringly once more, his hand running up and down the four-year-old's back soothingly. "I won't let anything happen to you," he promised, and Jack simply snuggled up to him even further.
They stayed like that for a while, with Haley sitting on the bed by their feet. Jack had fallen asleep within a few minutes in Hotch's arms, but his grip around the shirt had become iron clad.
Hotch sighed in frustration after a few mintues of silence. Haley's eyes cut to him, and she moved to sit closer so her voice wouldn't wake Jack. "Aaron, this isn't about Foyet." She said, and Hotch – who'd been staring at an invisible spot on his sweatpants – snapped out of his reverie and looked at her questioningly. She smiled softly in the dark of the room which was dimly lit by the sliver of light filtering through the open door. "I can hear the gears turning inside your head," she quipped, and he chuckled softly. The sudden movement of his chest made Jack stir in his lap, which Hotch took as his que to lay the boy down by his side. Jack stirred a bit more, but Hotch's soothing shushing quickly lulled him back to sleep. He kept one hand on his back, as he finally turned his attention back to Haley.
"I let one of the most ruthless killers to ever exist sit across a coffee table from my son; he knew he wasn't a good man. What else would it be about?" he refuted gently, yet his exhausted voice betrayed the amount of guilt he felt.
Haley sighed; she knew he would blame himself. Hell, that's one of the things she thought about when Foyet was about to kill her. And she guessed, that had he succeeded, Hotch's guilt would have rolled over the Earth. She leaned forward, moving closer to him in the process, as she placed a comforting hand on his knees.
"You didn't let him do anything! You heard what Amalya said, this guy has been planning this for ten years, he was light years ahead of everyone because he spent ten years planning what his next move would be when that detective dies; he studied the team, each and every member. You did everything you were supposed to do, everything you could do." She argued, pausing for a moment to let her words sink in. But she could tell that he wasn't really convinced.
"I should've come with you," he shot back, and she shook her head.
"That would've put us in more danger, and you know it." She said adamantly.
"You two were vulnerable; I should've shown you what he looked like, told you more about him. You fell right into his trap…" he rattled off.
"No! Hoyt should've been the one to show me his picture; that was his job. He's the one who didn't do his job properly, despite the ample warning he got from Amalya," she said forcefully.
"If it hadn't been for her….." he trailed off. The alternative haunted his dreams, his waking moments. Every time he saw Haley with Jack, his mind would wander off to what it would have been like had Amalya not shown up. That was one debt he would never be able to repay.
"Let's not go there. She came, she saved me, - and according to the Director and the AG – also handed Hoyt his ass on a platter!" she joked, and he cracked a smile. "Stop berating yourself for not seeing what she saw. She was fresh eyes. She didn't face him before, didn't spend ten years with his profile haunting her." She continued.
"She was racing against time like we all were," he pointed out.
"Yeah, but she's small. Less surface area means less resistance," she quipped, and he couldn't help but laugh. "She got there faster, because she wasn't working on anything else. Who knows if she'd been part of the team for years if she'd reached the same conclusions or not?"
"She would have. I didn't spend the past two years hounding Strauss about hiring a new agent because we needed someone; I did it because she has something that none of us possess. Her background affects how she sees things, and her perspective wasn't like anything I've ever seen." he told her.
"Okay, so she would have. But you just said that she was different. So, stop berating yourself about this. I promise you, it's not on your head. And I felt the same way with the gun at my head too." She assured him.
"But this isn't about Foyet!" he repeated her first statement in disbelief, signaling with his head to the now peacefully sleeping four-year-old.
"It's not. He's worried you will leave again." She dead panned, and he frowned at her. "Being away from you without being able to see or talk to you hit him hard," she continued, and his eyes saddened, as they drifted to Jack's sleeping form. "Especially on his birthday." She finished softly, and he closed his eyes in pain. "Why don't you sleep here tonight, and I'll make use of that king-sized bed of yours?" she suggested, and he wordlessly nodded.
He slid under the covers next to his son, draped one hand over his back, and pressed a kiss to his temple, before he lay his head next to him. Haley stood for a moment watching them both, before she closed the door and headed off towards the other room, to try and get some sleep herself.
Morning had come by too quickly; both Jack and Hotch had showered, leaving no hot water for Haley, so she decided to shower after breakfast was done with, and some of Jack's boxes were unpacked. She hadn't really decided what's going to happen with her and Hotch yet; but she knew that at the moment Jack needed some stability, not to mention that she doubted Hotch would agree to their previous custody agreement in light of everything that happened. They hadn't even spoke about his job. She knew the team had been called for a case, but Hotch decided to take advantage of the time off the Director more or less ordered.
She emerged from the shower, and saw Jack playing with a few of his action figures, with Hotch standing right behind him, his phone in his hand, and a frown adorning his face as he scowled at his phone.
"Everything okay?" she asked, as she made her way over to Jack, and ruffled his hair.
"Strauss wants to talk to me," he said vaguely.
"Are you gonna go, Daddy?" Jack wondered sadly, abandoning his action figures and turning towards his father. Hotch shook his head, as he plucked Jack out of the chair and held him close. "No, buddy. She's gonna come here."
Haley's eyebrows hit her hairline at that statement. "Must be urgent!" she commented, and Hotch shrugged.
"Hey, buddy. What were you doing?" Hotch asked Jack, to change the subject. Jack, immediately perking up, turned towards the table and the now-discarded figurines. "That's you," he said, pointing towards one. "And that's the bad guy," he pointed towards the other. "You were fighting him," he finished.
"Yeah," Haley said enthusiastically, and he nodded eagerly. "And who's winning?" she asked.
"Daddy!" he said matter of factly. "No body beats Daddy!" he announced proudly, complete with a dead-ringer for Hotch serious look on his face. Haley looked over at Hotch, her eyebrow arching pointedly, a smirk playing on her lips, and he chuckled.
"Okay, so it wasn't about that." He conceded.
Her hand flew to her chest, her mouth falling open in fake shock. "Aaron Matthew Hotchner, did you just admit that I'm right?!" she gasped, and he couldn't help but laugh, especially at Jack's innocent laughter at his mother's absurd behavior.
"Mommy, you're being silly." He giggled, and Haley laughed along with him, as she moved towards the duo. "I'm being silly," she said indignantly, as she tickled the four-year-old, who immediately squealed and turned towards Hotch's broader chest to hide. Hotch wrapped him in a hug and pretended to stop Haley's assaulting hands.
Haley couldn't help but notice that even though Hotch seemed genuinely happy, that something was still bothering him in the back of his mind. She knew he was trying to figure out why Strauss needed to talk to him before his vacation was up and knew that no matter how many times she would say not to worry about it, that he will, so she saved her breath.
"How about some lunch?" she suggested, after planting one last smacking kiss to Jack's head. It was already past noon.
"Grilled cheese?" Jack asked excitedly, and she nodded.
A little over an hour later, Haley was putting away the empty plates, when they heard a knock at the door. Hotch went towards the door, checking the peephole, before he released the safety chain and pulled the door open. Strauss stood on the other side of the door, and Jack looked over at her with curious eyes. He'd already met her a few days before but was curious as to why she came over. He was worried she would take his dad away again.
"Chief Strauss, I appreciate you coming to me," Hotch greeted, as he opened the door and let her in.
"Oh of course, you shouldn't be away from your family," she said gently, before her eyes found said family, and nodded in greeting towards them.
"Jack, can you say hi to Chief Strauss?" Hotch commented softly.
"Hi," Jack said warily, still not completely trusting that she won't take Hotch away.
"Hi, Jack." She said softly, and Jack waved at her. "Mrs. Hotchner how are you holding up?" she asked, cutting her eyes over to Haley.
Haley smiled softly. "I'm doing good, thank you. Would you like something to drink?"
Strauss smiled politely at her. "No, thank you."
Haley nodded, before taking Jack's hand. "We'll let you two talk." And with that, she more or less dragged Jack away, the younger Hotch still not quite trusting the Chief.
"Aaron, I know someone who has some experience with situations similar to what happened if you would like to give him a call," she informed him, and he nodded.
"I was planning on asking around. So, yes I appreciate the offer." Hotch said.
Inside the room, Jack had his ear sticking to the door, as he strained to hear the conversation happening outside.
"Jack, what do you think you're doing?" Haley asked. "You know you shouldn't eavesdrop," she scolded slightly.
"What if she's here to take Daddy away again?" he mumbled sadly, and she sighed in frustration. This whole witness protection thing hit him harder than she and Hotch both thought.
"Jack, I promise you she won't. I don't think your daddy would let anyone take him away again," she soothed. And she wasn't lying; she knew Hotch would move heaven and earth before he let them be away again.
Jack shuffled his feet over to his mother, and she picked him and set him in her lap. "Sweetheart, we only had to go away because of George. And he's gone now," she reminded him.
"But what if more bad guys come?" he wondered. "What if they make us go away again?" he continued.
Haley sighed, she had to admit that he had a valid point, but she couldn't let him live in fear.
"I thought you said no body beats your dad?" she reminded him of his earlier statement, and he nodded. "Yeah, he's the strongest," he stated proudly.
"So, do you think he will let another bad guy take him away?" she pressed, and he shook his head. "We're safe, honey, and your dad won't let anyone keep him away from us anymore." She promised him.
Haley tiptoed out of the room, slowly closing the door behind her, before she made her way to the front of the apartment, just in time to see Hotch and Strauss getting up from the couch.
"As soon as I've made my decision, I will let you know," Hotch told Strauss.
"Of course, take all the time you need." She assured him, as she made her way towards the door, before she stopped and turned around. "One favor though," she started, and he nodded at her to continue. "Regardless of your decision, can you convince Agent Dawoud to stay?" she wondered, and both Hotch and Haley were shocked.
"She wants to leave?" Haley heard her own voice ask the question in disbelief before she could stop herself. They both turned towards her, and Hotch looked as shocked as she sounded.
"Technically, she was a private consultant, not really a part of the BAU yet. When we started to discuss a more permanent arrangement, she declined." Strauss elaborated, but it did nothing to alleviate their shock.
"Why do you think I would be able to change her mind? The Director tried to hire her before, and she refused then as well." Hotch wondered.
"When I spoke to her about coming on board; the original agreement was that she would become a part of the BAU, and she said she would only come on if I had your seal of approval," she started, and saw Hotch about to comment, so she cut him off. "I know she's the one you've been hounding me for two years about hiring, Aaron, that's why I called her as soon as I needed fresh eyes," she told him, and he nodded. "But I also knew that with your family's life on the line, you would have been hesitant to allow her to come aboard. I was going to tell you, but you stepped down, and I took my shot," she continued. "She's the one who came up with the idea to stay in the shadows, even from all of you to avoid being detected by Foyet. And since she caught on to the fact that I deceived her when I said I had your seal of approval, she's saying that she wont stay." She finished.
"I'll talk to her." Hotch assured her.
An hour later, Hotch and Haley were sitting on the couch talking about what Strauss told him, when another knock came. Hotch shot off from the couch, and looked through the peephole once more, releasing the safety chain as he opened the door.
Haley was getting to her feet just as Hotch swung the door open, revealing a more relaxed Amalya. She looked different when she wasn't furious with a US Marshal; or hadn't just shot a notorious serial killer. She was in black pants, a white shirt and beige jacket. Her hair loose on her back with a few strands cascading down the front of her shoulders in loose, almost wavy curls. She looked rested, her eyes not as dark or clouded anymore.
"Thank you for coming on such short notice," Hotch greeted, as he moved to the side and ushered her in.
"Of course," she said, smiling at him and Haley. "How are you holding up?" she directed her question at Haley.
Haley smiled at her. "I'm coping," she answered.
"It'll take time, you should allow yourself that," she advised softly, and Haley nodded.
"Strauss was here earlier," Hotch started, half expecting Haley to excuse herself like last time, but to his surprise, she stayed. "She told me about your decision to leave the BAU," he started, and she cut him off. "Technically, I'm simply turning down the offer," she corrected.
He chuckled. "Yes, she did mention the technically part," he commented, and she smiled. "And I think it's a mistake," he said flatly.
She chuckled at his bluntness. "Going for the kill I see." She quipped, and he smiled. "I know you think Erin didn't have my approval," he started, and she cut him off. "She didn't." She insisted, and he shook his head. "She may not have had my approval about the timing, but she did have it about hiring you," he stated.
"I was a necessity; one that's no longer needed. Haley and Jack are fine, and Foyet's gone. It wouldn't feel right to stay. I don't want to push anybody out," she told him, and he frowned. "What do you mean?" he asked, and she pointed with her head towards the retirement package lying on the coffee table. "Morgan would be Unit Chief, so technically, I would be replacing you," she elaborated.
"They're not forcing me out for your sake; they want you onboard regardless of my decision, which I haven't made yet," he informed her, and she was confused. "Amalya, Strauss didn't pull your name out of thin air. I've had my eye on you for close to two years when Foyet struck; I've hounded her for those two years about making room in the budget for another agent, even more so after our first encounter with Foyet," he recounted, and it took Amalya by surprise. "Yes, I gave her other options, but that's only because she doesn't exactly like being told who to hire, so I merely presented it as a top option, but she knew I was really after you. I had no idea the Director had approached you before and you refused."
"Yeah, the timing wasn't right for me," she said.
"I know that's not the real reason," he dead panned, and she chuckled. "But my point is; even if I had been hesitant about you coming on board to the team with Foyet hunting my family down, I was wrong."
Hotch was always good at reading people, even before he joined the BAU, it's what made him a good lawyer. He knew that his last statement struck a nerve, despite Amalya's impressive abilities to hide just how much it did.
"Hotch, you don't have to do that. I don't want you to feel obligated to keep me on because of what I did. Foyet had to be taken out, and I would have agreed to do it regardless of the situation I was called in for. His reputation was global, and no one had any doubt that the only way to stop him was to put him six feet under." She argued.
"Amalya, I'm not trying to keep you as payback for what you did. I don't think I can ever repay that debt," he shot back, and she opened her mouth to argue, so he held his hand up to stop her. "And this isn't me trying. I've wanted you onboard when all I knew about you I knew on paper. You honestly think I would let you slip away now that I've seen what you're capable of for myself?"
She sighed audibly; she did want the job, her reason for turning it down before no longer viable, the timing was perfect….and the schedule was a hell of a lot calmer than her previous one, not to mention the danger was cut by almost 90%, which should make her family happy. Haley's voice pulled her out of her reverie.
"Amalya, the team is very good at what they do, but none of them – Aaron included – have that aim of yours," she started, and Amalya chuckled. "Not to mention your very complex background is bound to influence how you view cases and criminals, just like it did with Foyet. So just think about how many close calls you can turn around, how many Haley and Jack you can save."
"None of us saw what you saw with Foyet, including Rossi – who founded the BAU, and is one of the most experienced profilers I've ever seen – and he still didn't see it. You have a unique point of view, and it will be a great asset to the team, and I would be a fool if I let you slip away once more." Hotch added.
Just then, a small voice from the hallway behind Hotch and Haley came. "Daddy." Jack said through his yawn, before his sleepy eyelids finally pulled apart and he looked at the three adults in the room, his face lighting up – the last of the sleep fog disappearing within seconds – at the sight of one occupant in particular.
"Amaya!" he squeaked, as he sprinted towards the brunette, who merely grinned at him as she caught him, and hoisted him up to settle him on her hip. "Hey buddy, did you take a good nap?" she asked, and he nodded eagerly. "That's good, because I have something for you," she teased, and he smiled at her eagerly, as her other hand rummaged blindly in the purse slung over her shoulder. If Haley didn't already know she didn't have any children, she would think she's a veteran mother. Not only with how good she was with kids, but with her impressive abilities to multi-task on a level only a mother masters. Her hand finally emerged from the bag with a USB stick, one that she waved at Jack, who looked confused for a few seconds, before his fogged brain put the pieces into place.
"The video with the silly voices?" he squealed, and she nodded as she laughed. He squealed with glee, as he threw his arms around her neck.
"Jack, what do we say?" Haley reminded gently, happy that her downtrodden boy from a couple of hours ago was back to his happy, bubbly self.
"Thank you," he said with glee into Amalya's hair.
"You are most welcome," she chuckled, though her voice sounded a bit strained, and Haley knew from experience that Jack probably had his arms wrapped too tight.
"Hey Jack, how would you like it if Amalya worked with me, and you get to visit her?" Hotch asked, an all-too-innocent expression on his face. Jack immediately turned his head around – arms still wrapped around her neck – and beamed at his father. "Really!"
Haley had to hold back her laughter, Amalya's raised eyebrow and glare that were directed at Hotch were a dead-ringer for his own when he's non-too-pleased with a situation. She had to admit it was a bit of a low blow, but she also knew it would work on Amalya.
Hotch looked pointedly at Amalya. "Well?" he pressed, and Jack immediately rounded his puppy-eyes on her. "Are you really gonna work with Daddy?" he said, in the most Oliver Twist-like voice he could muster, and Haley nearly burst out laughing right then and there. Her son was really putting on the moves on her. Like father, like son. Spare no weapons in the Hotchner Boys weaponry.
Amalya smirked at Hotch. "Does that mean you won't be using this?" she pointed towards the retirement package on the coffee table.
"I'll see you Monday." Was all Hotch said.
It was well past Jack's bedtime, and Hotch had finally managed to put him to bed. His long and late in the day nap had made it slightly difficult for the energetic four-year-old to want to sleep; add to that the fact his excitement after he finally got to finish the video Amalya was showing him, and it was damn near impossible to get him to stop his incessant and excited blabbering. The one constant though, was him asking to sleep in Hotch's bed again. Not quite ready to part with his dad, and Hotch obliged.
Hotch tip-toed out of the room, and saw Haley doing the last of the dinner dishes in the kitchen. He saw at the counter and fumbled with his hands. "Haley, we need to talk about what happened today. About what I said to Amalya." He stated.
"Yeah, and I'm hoping you will let me go first." She wondered, and he nodded at her to continue.
"I was wrong before," she started, and he frowned. "When I said you are who you are because of the job, and that if you stepped back from it, you can be someone else." She elaborated, and he looked down at his hands. How much he wished that was true; things would be easier for him, for his family….
"But like I said I was wrong," she repeated her earlier statement, and his head snapped up. "You do this job because of who you are. You've always wanted people to be punished for their crimes, to help as much as you can in making the world a less evil place. You've seen the worst of mankind long before this job," she alluded, and he pushed the demons back into the dark crypts of his mind where they belong. "It never really clicked in my mind until you told me you spent two years hounding Strauss to hire Amalya, not because the team needed another member, but because the team needed her. Because her perspective offered something different that would help you against some of the more complex minds out there. Especially when I saw you two today; she's like the female version of you," she joked, and he chuckled. "Which is probably how you knew using Jack against her would work," she teased, and he laughed. "You wanted her onboard because you know her unique background will help; and just like you, everything she ever did in her career, she did because of who she was. So, it makes sense for you to want her to join, for even the Director to approach her, the BAU is the perfect fit." She continued.
"Haley, you and Jack mean the world to me, more than anything else in the world," he started, and she nodded.
"I know, Aaron, I never doubted that. And I meant every word I said that day to you, and yesterday. None of this is your fault." She assured him.
"I know, and I wish I can stop doing what I do, step away like Gideon did, that I was different…." He rambled, but she cut him off.
"I don't. I fell in love with you because of who you are, you're the dad you are to Jack because of who you are. You didn't change the rules of the game, I did." She shot back. "I can't ask you to change who you are just because I want you to," she continued. "And that's why I think you did the right thing by not taking that retirement package," she finished, and he had to admit he was surprised.
"You are where you belong; at the BAU and with Jack. You just have to find a way to balance it better so he can have his dad more in his life; whatever accommodations you would have been forced to do had Amalya not made it, do them now." She told him.
Hotch nodded. He knew she was right about Jack, he did have to make sure he was more present, he would've had to accommodate had Haley not survived, so why not do it now? He had to be honest with himself though and admit that he was disappointed that Haley didn't seem to be willing to give them another shot. He still loved her, and he wished he can be with them again. But he had to respect her wishes, if she couldn't handle his lifestyle as his wife, then he would respect that.
"Now, go call Strauss and tell her you'll be back Monday, and to get started on Amalya's contract. I don't think that girl is gonna be an easy negotiation." She quipped and he smiled -genuinely smiled – at her, before he saluted, and got up to do exactly what she said. She may not be his wife, but she was still one of his closest friends.
Chapter 6: Chapter 6
So here's another chapter. Amalya's role in the episode is based on my thoughts as I watched the episode. I hope you al enjoy it.
Let me know what you all think of it.
Morgan was standing by the coffee maker when Amalya walked in. "He-hey, look who the cat dragged in," he teased, and she gave him a genuine smile. "We missed you on our last case," he added.
"Yeah, bureaucracy! Gotta love it!" she quipped, and he chuckled.
"You would think after exposing an incompetent US Marshall they would make it easy," he retorted, and she groaned. "If only!"
"You have dual citizenship, and you entered the country using the wrong one. That's not a situation they deal with every day," Rossi intervened.
"Hey, I did decline the offer. Twice if I may I add!" she defended, and Rossi shook his head. "I don't think that's the solution they were looking for," he said, and she shrugged. "Can't blame a girl for tryin'!"
Just then JJ walked in with a few files held to her chest. "Gather around everyone, we've got a new one!" she announced, and they all followed her to the room.
Amalya looked over the pictures of the victims, and despite the different racial backgrounds, she couldn't help but notice they did have one feature in common.
"And he turns their bodies into prisons to do it," Hotch stated.
"Well, he sure picked the right victims for that." She added casually; her eyes still focused on the reports in front of her when she felt their eyes on her.
"What do you mean?" Hotch wondered. "They're not the same." He added, but she shook her head.
"They may not be the same race, nor do they have the same background, or even lives. But they do have one thing in common," she objected. "Their body-type."
Morgan frowned, while the others looked back at the pictures of the victims. "They're small in stature; petite, weights are on the lighter side. Easier to grab, takes less drugs to keep them paralyzed, and by definition, easier to control and dominate. The UNSUB doesn't care about race or background. All that matters is that the victim looks easy enough to grab." She elaborated.
"That means even you're a target," Reid pointed out, and Morgan chuckled. "He who dares to think about taking her will probably regret the day he was born, let alone actually try it," he quipped, and she smiled.
"Well, even if Amalya isn't a target, I'm guessing anyone whose small enough to be grabbed is, which leaves our victim pool incredibly large," Emily deduced.
"Wheels up in twenty!" Hotch stated, as he closed his file, and got up from his chair. They all followed his lead and went to get ready to head over to the plane.
"Are we sure this is a he?" Emily posed the question, and she looked up from the file where she was sitting on the couch facing Emily and Hotch, her brows knitted together in thought. "The care this UNSUB shows these victims – although they are dehumanized – the profile says female," she explained.
"But the post-mortem weight, that's a lot of weight for a woman to carry," Hotch objected.
"But like Amalya said, these women are petite. They're under a hundred pounds," JJ pointed out.
"Alright, if we reconsider the gender of the profile, what changes?" Hotch conceded.
"Nothing," Morgan responded. "If anything, it fits better," he added.
"Men kill to fulfill a sexual compulsion, women don't." Rossi provided.
The discussion continued about the profile and the victimology, and when Garcia called to inform them that the victim's clothes were made to fit, Hotch started handing out their assignments.
"Dave and I will go to the disposal site; Amalya you're coming with us." He told her, and she nodded. "You were right about the body type being the drive, I want your perspective on the disposal site," he elaborated, before he turned to talk to Garcia.
Amalya walked with Hotch, listening to him talk to Rossi as they both finished each other's sentences. They sounded like an old, married couple to her. But she kept that observation to herself.
She agreed with Hotch's idea that the disposal site was about innocence, but she wasn't entirely sure about Rossi's explanation as to why she did it.
Once they were back in the car, Hotch looked at her in the rear-view mirror. "Any observations?" he asked.
"Just one. There are two justifications for why she disposed of the bodies here, and each one will probably lead to a different profile," she stated.
"How so?" Hotch asked.
"Well, either Rossi is right, and she simply wants the victims to have the fun she never had," she started. "Or, she's ruining other kids' childhoods just like hers was."
"How do those lead to different profiles?" Rossi asked.
"Because in your theory, the death could be entirely accidental. She could've lost her temper, hit them, or overdosed them, which led to their death, so she chose the spots that mean something to her," she elaborated. "But with the other theory, we have to find the trigger that made her decide to kill the current victims, and if that means she'll look for new ones. And this will also mean that those locations were pre-planned and might be part of a pattern." She finished.
"She doesn't let a body go, until she has a replacement," Hotch realized, and Amalya's head snapped up. "What is it?"
"So, you have an UNSUB who takes them for two months; feeds them through an IV, makes them custom-fit cloths, takes very good care of them, even grooms them. Not just any grooming; the dated hair, the dresses, the Betty Boop lips, the eyelashes. The care is almost maternal. On top of that, she leaves them in a place that screams childhood innocence," she listed. "And she doesn't even kill them. In a way, this could be seen as them abandoning her."
"Most serial killers have abandonment issues," Hotch interjected.
"Yes. And remember what I said in the car? The two theories; I think Rossi was right; she leaves them in places where they can have the fun she never had; she takes very good care of them, but like he said; death is an unfortunate side-effect. It's not even her goal. And with their size," she explained.
"Makes it easier for her to carry them," Morgan offered. "Exactly! She carries them around with her, to the carousel, and the swing. And like Hotch said, she doesn't let them go until she gets a new one…" she trailed off.
"What are you getting at?" Emily asked.
"I think she's turning them into dolls!" she stated, and they looked at her funny.
"It makes sense," Rossi pointed out. "Girls take their dolls with them everywhere they go, they groom them, brush their hair, sow for them," he listed.
"And the victims' body-types is as close as humanely possible to a doll's," Emily added.
"You were right," Reid said as he came into the room, "she's a collector!" he announced.
"We're ready to give the profile," Emily stated.
They all stood around the room as they delivered the profile, and she was standing between Hotch and Morgan. She'd studied the way the BAU operated when she was hunting Foyet, so she knew how they delivered the profile, and that they usually get a bit of resistance – mostly from lack of understanding of the profile – from the local police. But this was her first time, and she was mostly letting them deliver, as she observed quietly. It was only when the lead detective didn't seem at all convinced that three women were dead over some doll fetish, did she finally intervene.
"She doesn't kill her victims. She doesn't mean for them to die at all. If you take away the abduction and drugs factor, then all the causes of death become natural causes." She explained to the lead detective, when he didn't seem all to convinced with the profile. "To her, she's simply getting her dolls back, and they keep abandoning her," she finished, and Emily picked up the thought.
Garcia was on the phone rattling off Samantha Malcolm's history, when she mentioned that her father subjected her to ECT.
"ECT for grief! That doesn't make sense," she mumbled, and Reid agreed. "No, it doesn't. And I don't like the implication of what does."
Her eyes widened as she connected the dots but kept quiet until Garcia was done. It seemed that none of the other team members had heard them, so they both kept the theory to themselves.
Once Garcia was done with her information, Reid decided he was confronting the father about the ECT. Before she could interject, and offer to go with him, Hotch told him to take Rossi, so she kept quiet.
"Okay, what did you think of your first case back?" Morgan asked, as they sat on the jet.
"I will never look at another doll the same way again…." She started, and they all laughed. "That reminds me, I need to call my aunt and have her throw them away!" she quipped.
"You had dolls growing up?" JJ wondered, and she nodded.
"I was an only child, and totally a Daddy's girl," she said in justification.
"I thought dolls weren't allowed in the Arab culture," Morgan inquired.
"No, they are. And I had quite the variety." She said.
"Why do you need to call your Aunt and not your parents though?" Reid wondered.
"My parents died a year apart after I graduated college," she stated.
"Sorry to hear that," Rossi said. "Shame I can't thank them for a job brilliantly done on you," he complimented, and she blushed slightly.
"Thank you. My father was the one who got me into psychology at a young age. He was an avid reader, and I absolutely loved to argue with him about various books and topics." She told them. "When he saw the eye I had for analyzing human behavior, he bought me books, would read them with me, pick out stories from the papers and ask me what I think. I owe my knowledge and perspective largely to him."
"Smart man. And sounds like someone I would get along with," Rossi joked, and she chuckled.
"Well, you are his age after all," she teased, and he immediately glared at her, while the others snickered.
It wasn't long before the teasing and bickering filled the hollow of the cabin, as the voices of laughter mixed in with Reid's enthusiastic voice as he rattled off facts to them. And Hotch simply sat back in his chair and observed. Not only was he sure now more than ever about his decision to stay with the BAU, but he was also sure of his decision to hire Amalya. She fit right in with the team, and it didn't take her long before she fell into their pace. It only took her one case in fact. He couldn't help but wonder if she would have been as comfortable with the team had she accepted the Director's offer two years as she was now? Or would she have stayed on the sidelines and kept the relationship strictly professional? Would the team be where they are now?
He knew one thing for sure…. this was where he belonged, and he was not planning on going anywhere anytime soon.
Chapter 7: Chapter 7
The case was daunting, high on her worst-case list. And with everything she's seen and done, that was saying something. She listened to them spout off conclusions, but their voices were drowned out by her own thoughts. She could tell that JJ was more affected by this case than she wanted to let on, and she guessed that she lost someone close to her to suicide. After all, not many people would know about the spontaneous proclamations of love from a suicidal person. She only knew about them through a horrendous case when she worked with an abused girl who was helping them bring down a human trafficker.
But that wasn't what was bothering her. Something about the case seemed off. Yes, teenagers were known not to be too bright – unless you're Reid – but something about the macabre nature of the whole thing made her doubtful of the age of their UNSUB.
She'd kept her doubts to herself, as she tried to sort through her own thoughts, and try to see where they fit in with the evidence, and the narrative. She was listening with half a mind to her team as they gave the local police their profile, when the officer's question slid everything into place for her. She waited till they were done with the profile before she approached Hotch.
"Hey, you got a minute?" she wondered.
"Of course," he said, as he followed her into the Sheriff's office.
"I know this may sound crazy, which is why I didn't say anything before," she started, and he frowned at her. She may have been new, and he didn't know her very well yet. But he knew her well enough to know that she didn't often doubt herself. "I think we have it all wrong." She stated, and now he was really confused.
"How so?" he asked her.
"I don't think it's reckless homicide; I think it's cold-blooded murder, and premeditated. This isn't some competition gone wrong, he does this on purpose, and I think he takes pleasure in watching them die slowly. He likes watching the life as it leaves them and enjoys their futile attempts to get the ligature off," she explained.
"A psychopathy this advanced at such a young age would show. We haven't found someone who could fit that profile in the area," he negated her.
"That's because he's not a teenager," she argued. "Our entire profile revolves around his age, and I think that's where we have it wrong," she continued, and he crossed his arms across his chest as he listened to her. "He masked his voice. Yes, it can be a simple act of anonymity because he's a nobody in real life. Or he's covering up his tracks to avoid leaving any damning evidence." She finished, and he looked thoughtful.
"Hotch, I know the theory doesn't have much ground to stand on, and that's why I didn't pitch it to the whole team, and I don't want you to scrub the profile just yet," she stated, and he continued for her. "No, you could be right. Why don't you head to the school with Morgan and Reid? Try to get a feel for the kids and see if any of them raise any flags, and I will look at the evidence once more with a fresh set of eyes?" he suggested, and she nodded.
"No need to, that's why I hired you," he told her.
At the school, Reid did most of the talking as he tried to dissuade the teenagers from choking themselves to death, while Morgan jumped in from time to time, and she strolled leisurely between the rows, her hands in her pockets as she studied their reactions to what Reid was saying. She had three theories in mind, and only one of them could be true.
One; he was a teenager who was choking himself and got in over his head when he dared others to do it. Two; he was a psychopathic sadist who enjoyed watching others die slowly and was doing it all for his own pleasure. And if he was a teenager doing this, then Reid's explanation would certainly elicit a reaction in him that he would not be able to mask.
The third option was what she feared the most. That the teenager was a Trojan horse meant to distract them all from the real killer, at which point being here is a huge mistake.
There was a kid in the back who caught her attention. He was dressed in all black, a chain necklace around his neck, and he seemed absolutely bored with what Reid was saying. He wasn't euphoric like you would expect from someone with such psychopathic tendencies. He wasn't hiding from the facts like you would expect from someone who simply got in over his head. He was simply bored with it all…. Until he saw that Reid was getting to his classmates.
But still, even as he pretended to be the tough kid who didn't believe what Reid was saying, something was still not sitting right with Amalya. She was a couple of desks away from him when Morgan invited him to come upfront and speak to the class about what he thought; so, when he broke off into a run, she was closer to him than Morgan was. Once she saw the empty hallway, she pulled the retractable baton, whipped it open, and aimed it at his feet, tripping him as he ran, and allowing her to catch up with him just as he was about to get up again. He tried to resist her – with her size, he thought he would be able to take her – but she had him on his back in seconds, and Morgan was right behind her.
"Hey, kid, stop fighting," Morgan instructed firmly, but the kid was still squirming.
"Let me go," he demanded, as he struggled against Amalya's surprisingly strong hold.
"You have a baton?" Reid wondered, as only Reid could, and she chuckled.
"Why'd you run?" Morgan asked the kid, who simply looked like a caged puppy looking for an escape, moving his neck from side to side in a panic, which was when Reid saw it.
"Guys look at his neck," Reid said gravely.
"Let me look at your neck," Morgan stated, and the kid immediately started to fight back against Amalya's hold once more. "Don't touch that!" he said, but his voice showed the panic he truly felt despite his outside bravado.
"Hey, hey, what did I say?!" Morgan snapped. "Relax," he said a bit gentler now, as he pulled down the chain choker the kid was wearing.
"Different colors mean different stages of healing," Reid pointed out.
"You've been doing this to yourself a long time, haven't you?" Morgan asked, but the kid didn't answer, his eyes locking with Amalya's, who frowned slightly at the look in them. "There's no telling how much his brain has suffered," he remarked.
Back at the precinct, Morgan and Reid were talking to Christopher, trying to get under his skin and get some sort of confession out of him, or at least an explanation. While Hotch and Emily were looking through his background trying to find a trigger for his actions.
"He's not worried about us finding anything," Emily pointed out.
"They aren't building rapport," Hotch added, just as Amalya entered the room.
"Hotch, I think we have the wrong suspect," she declared, and Hotch looked questioningly at her. "I think it's his father." She stated.
"What?" Emily questioned in surprise. "Our profile says teenager," she argued.
"She's been working a different angle," Hotch told her, before he turned to Amalya. "What makes you say that?"
"Both Christopher's demeanor, and his father's," she replied. "When Reid was talking about how the choking game could lead to death, he wasn't fazed at all; he wasn't euphoric or even interested like you would expect to see in someone with such psychopathic tendencies; nor was he showing signs of guilt," she elaborated, as she pointed at Christopher on the monitor. "And when we caught him, he was scared, until we saw the ligature marks on his neck," she continued. "His demeanor changed; he was no longer scared. More like resigned, or relieved even. It's like all the fight left in him was gone suddenly," she finished.
"But the ligature marks on his neck," Emily argued.
"Maybe that's how the father got the idea from," she suggested. "It's easy enough to write off as suicide, and easy to inflict on yourself."
Just then, Rossi entered the room. "They're back," he announced, and they all turned around to see Christopher's father entering the station with the Sheriff.
They huddled around Garcia's computer setup and watched in horror as the videos popped up one after the other. They were all dreading the inevitable; that one of those kids will not make it out alive.
Amalya was starting to doubt herself. The kid's computer was as secure as some of the intelligence agencies she worked with throughout the years. If time wasn't of the essence, she would've suggested bringing in outside help. But with the international loops, she knew it won't be effective.
She grabbed the file they had on Christopher, trying to find anything in it to persuade her that he truly was behind it all. But the more she read, the more convinced she became that he was nothing more than a Trojan horse. She vaguely heard Hotch tell Garcia to talk to him, to try and get anything out of him that would help them crack his security system.
"You still think it's his father?" Hotch asked her, when he saw her frowning at his file.
She looked up from the file and studied him for a few seconds before it finally clicked in her head what truly bothered her about the father's demeanor. "If – God forbid – someone told you that Jack was choking himself repeatedly until he passed out," she started, and could see the horror of the prospect of this happening on his face. "How would you react?"
"I would be in denial, ask more questions," he replied.
"And if instead of answering your questions, we spoke of something else?" she pushed.
"I would keep circling back to my son." He told her.
"Exactly. You won't ask questions about the investigation, about the other suicides. You would at least look surprised when some FBI agent tells you that your son has been chocking himself and think it's some sort of mistake. Not brush over it like we just told him he had bacon for breakfast," she explained.
"Yeah, now that you mention it, he seemed more interested in the investigation than what was going on with his son," Reid agreed with her.
Just then, the man in question walked up to them, and invoked on his son's behalf. Hotch sighed but went into the room where Christopher was talking with Garcia to put a stop to the interview with the man hot on his heels. Amalya followed them at a distance that allowed her to listen in on what the father was saying, and at the same time observe the Christopher's demeanor around his father. She felt Morgan come up behind her. "Something about this guy is off. I don't know what it is. But his tone seems almost robotic to me, devoid of any emotions," she commented.
"Yeah, I'm starting to get the feeling that the kid's innocent too. Not sure it's the father yet though," he told her, and she nodded.
There was a moment when she locked eyes with the father as he left the station, and she found herself visibly shuddering at the dead look in his eyes.
"You three stay with Garcia and look through the website for anything that might identify our UNSUB," Hotch ordered, as he pointed to Morgan, Reid and Amalya. "Dave, you and Emily come with me to review the family's history for anything that corroborates either theories. We're running out of time!" he continued, before he made his way into a separate room.
Morgan, Reid, JJ and Amalya huddled around Garcia as she continued to try to break through the security on his computer.
"Another video is going up," JJ pointed out.
"That's four kids playing in half an hour," Morgan interjected.
"How many kids go to this school?" JJ asked.
"Kashmund is the whole county, that's almost two thousand," Reid informed her. "Garcia we need to gain administrative access to the website," he stated urgently, as he told her of his list of passwords.
"No, there was something pathetic about him, not criminal." Garcia objected, and Amalya agreed with her. "That's what I've been saying. He doesn't strike me as a criminal mastermind. When we saw the marks on his neck, he wasn't defiant about them. He simply looked defeated." She said.
"When he was leaving he said he misses his mom," Garcia lamented, before a thought hit her. "What's his mother's name?" she asked.
"Cynthia Summers," Reid answered immediately, and Garcia quickly hit the keys.
"That's it." Garcia declared, once she was past his firewalls.
Amalya grabbed the printed pages as soon as they appeared, and gave some of them to Reid, while she poured over some of them herself.
"That's a pretty sophisticated behavior for a kid," Morgan commented, after Reid's observation.
"That's what's been throwing me off all along. A psychopathy this advanced at such a young age would show in his behavior, and it's not," she elaborated.
Reid started spouting off his observations as he read through the transcripts, and Amalya couldn't help but agree with him as she looked at the papers in her hands.
Just then, Rossi, Emily, Hotch and the Sherriff came over.
"Christopher's being manipulated by an adult." Reid declared.
"You were right," Hotch told Amalya. "The mother's death is a classic case of Munchausen by Proxy," he told them.
Back on the plane, she stood over the sink in the small bathroom staring at her reflection in the mirror. This case was harder on her than she thought, worse than Foyet even, and he killed far more people. But this one brought back a harrowing case she worked on a few years back that still haunted her to this day. A human trafficker, who was – by far- the worse she had ever seen. And it wasn't the ties to the terrorist organizations that made the case this haunting to her. No, it was his methods of breaking the girls so they wouldn't put up fights as they carried out missions. It was his methods of disposing of bodies, the way he mutilated them and then put them on display for the girls to see. For them to find once they apprehend them. They found meticulous records dating back decades, and thousands of girls who were eventually never found.
Most of the girls were teenager, and horrifically, many of them were his own. He had no compassion, nor did he feel any connection to them. They were mortified by the amount of incest going on within the ring, and it was one of the main reasons why she left that particular agency behind, and why she almost accepted the offer at the BAU years ago.
But now she was starting to wonder if she was really cut out for this job, would she be able to do it day in and day out? Can she handle the horrors? She knew how to compartmentalize better than most people, but she knew that some cases would dredge up her past more than others.
The sound of shuffling feet outside the door pulled her out of her reverie, and she decided to put a pin in her thoughts for now and figure it all out later. She pulled the door open, and found JJ making a drink for herself.
"Hey," she said softly.
"Hey," JJ said smiling.
"I…uh…. I know you lost someone to suicide, and you don't have to tell me who, or why. And I know this case hit you harder than most. And I can't possibly imagine how you must feel, but my mom once told me that you never really stop grieving. It simply becomes a part of who you are; there are good days and there are bad ones. And you can't deny the bad ones, you simply have to embrace them." She spoke softly.
"Thanks, Amalya," JJ said gratefully, and Amalya smiled at her, before she turned around and headed for the main cabin.
"There's a lot to hate about you, Dr. Reid," Emily said through gritted teeth, and Morgan laughed.
"Play poker with him sometime," Rossi chimed in nonchalantly.
"Try playing chess with him," Morgan chuckled.
"Or Go," Garcia added from her place.
Amalya bent down, and rummaged through her go-bag, before she pulled out a box, and headed over to where Reid was sitting and set it down.
"Up for a challenge?" she teased, and they all gave the box weird looks.
"Historically speaking, backgammon was…." He was cut off by Amalya's voice. "No, no. I don't want a history lesson, or you rattling off strategies. I want to know if you're up for a challenge!" she said calmly, a smirk on her lips.
"Bring it on," Reid said confidently, and Emily immediately gave up her seat.
"Oh, our inhouse genius vs. Cairo street smarts," Morgan announced. "Let's see who wins!" he egged them on.
It wasn't long before Morgan's roaring laughter echoed in the small cabin of the plane. Despite not knowing how the game was played himself, he could tell by the look on Reid's face that Amalya was winning. Sounds of cheers and protests mixed in with laughter and applause echoed soon after, and Amalya found her worries disappearing little by little into the abyss of her mind. And that's when it hit her; this was how she could handle the cases. How she can put it behind her. Instead of shutting down inside her head, she should appreciate the small moments between the team members as they enjoyed each other's company. She knew that some cases would have them shut down more than others, that each person handles their post-case stress differently. But for now, they were all immersed in the game she was playing with Reid. And they were even starting to take bets on who would win. And the more she focused on the game, the less her mind remembered about that daunting case. And by the time Morgan and Rossi cheered when she won – since they also won the bet – and cheerfully collected their winnings as the other groaned – while Reid scowled at the board, and tired to analyze why he lost – she found herself completely relaxed, with no stress over the case, or the ghost of the other one looming over her.