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Atlas was a Angel

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Aaron Hotchner sits in his black leather chair in his office, diligently filling out paperwork. The building is dark, so is his office. He has his blinds mostly closed and only his desk lamp on, though he can faintly see the lights of the city outside. His suit jacket is thrown carelessly on the sofa opposite him, and his black hair is a mess, constantly falling into his face. Though he can’t see it, he knows that there are heavy circles under his eyes. His shoulders are slumping slightly, and he’s having a hard time focusing on the words in front of him. Hotch thinks that if one of his team members looked this bad, he would order them home for a week.

The BAU had returned home after stopping a serial rapist in Minnesota several hours ago, but Hotch is still here. Working late as usual. The last one to clock out and the first one to clock in, that’s what he is. Though he never particularly enjoyed the paperwork, someone needed to do it, and that was his job as unit chief. Such responsibilities come with the job.

Hotch forces himself to focus on the paper below him, adding the final details to his report. A knock on his door startles him, but he is more surprised to find Erin Strauss, his boss, perched in the doorway. Her clothes and blond hair are rumpled slightly, though not as much as him. She probably isn’t used to staying up so late. Hotch narrows his eyes and leans back, inviting her in as he organizes the overflowing pile of papers and files on his desk. The stack has been growing by the day. Too many jobs have been coming in, too many cases for the small team of seven. The BAU has been doing cases back to back all year, and it is wearing them thin; he knows it. He can see it in how they hold themselves, the way they drag themselves to work each morning, and the amount of coffee they drink. Hotch can feel it himself. He’s tired, overworked, and undermanned. But who would willingly join this unit?

“You’re here late,” Strauss states, sitting in the chair opposite his desk. Hotch refocuses on her, peeling his eyes away from the files.

“So are you.” He answers flatly. Hotch watches her closely through dark eyes. Whenever Strauss comes around, there’s trouble. But he can’t exactly tell her off- only David has the guts to do that- he can only wait for the impending hammer she always drops.

After a moment, Strauss sighs and meets his eyes. “We know that you’ve been overworked.” She begins, glancing at the large stack of papers on his desk, “And I may have found a way to help you.”
This catches Hotch’s attention, and he sits up straighter in his chair. “You’ve found someone?” Unfortunately, he asks a little too quickly.

Strauss folds her hands in her lap, looking away. “Not exactly.” She says, obviously uncomfortable. Hotch narrows his eyes, even more, wishing she would stop beating around the bush like this, but he keeps his voice level.

“What do you have then?”

She sighs again, looking at him. “A mentorship program.”

“A what?” He raises his eyebrows. That was definitely not what he was expecting.

“You’re undermanned, but every time we give you an agent, they leave. They return to their old jobs. Your team is too valuable to get rid of, but the bosses aren’t happy with this.” Strauss fix’s him with her glare. Hotch blows out his breath. Of course, the brass is upset. They’re always upset about something. That’s why Hotch avoids politics; there’s always something to be upset about.

And it’s not like he hasn’t tried to get his agents to stay; they just don’t. First Gideon, then Elle, then Emily -twice, actually- and most recently, Blake. Hotch barely convinced Emily to come back from London after Blake left- but at least the team is solid now. No one is going anywhere. Though that doesn’t mean that they couldn’t use the help.

“So your solution is a mentorship program?” He asks.

“Yes. We already have the kids picked out, all but one. Fresh out of college, top of their class students from all over. Each of you will be assigned one to mentor until you deem them fit to be full agents.”

“College students?” He asks, startled. “This is not a job for kids.” Hotch’s own son, Jack, is about the same age, fresh out of college. At least he is starting his career-low in the FBI chain. And far away from this unit.

“They are well aware of what the job entails, and they can drop at any time. The program is in place; you can’t undo it.” She finishes sternly before softening slightly. “You need the help, Aaron.”

Hotch meets her eyes defiantly. She glances at his ruffled clothes, loose hair, and dark line sympathetically. He stiffens, not comfortable with his exhaustion is on full display. Finally, he sighs, closing his eyes for only a moment. He could fight this, as he has fought countless other threats to the team before. But frankly, he doesn’t think he can. Or maybe he shouldn’t. Perhaps some fresh faces will do his team well, help them brighten up, and take off the workload. They’re all so worn out, not even Garcia has been able to summon more than forced chuckles from them. He takes in a breath, opens his eyes, and looks at her, surrendering.

“Alright. You said you have all the kids but one; where’s the last one?” Piece by piece. Hotch will figure this out; he’ll make it work like he makes everything else work. One thing at a time.

“Yes. sadly, the last one had to drop the program due to family issues.” Hotch nods for her to continue, not needing the details. “We are still looking, but the bosses are considering Jack.” She says, lowering her voice as though it’s a secret.

Hotch is taken aback, his mouth hanging open for a moment as he processes this. “No,” He answers finally. “No, Jack joined the counter-terrorism unit; he doesn’t want to be here.”

“Well, if they transfer him, there isn’t much either of us can do.” Hotch knows this better than most. “But would it really be so bad? Working here with your son?” Strauss asks, tilting her head.

Hotch considers this for a moment. Would it really be so bad to have Jack working with him? Hotch loves his son more than anything, which is precisely why he doesn’t want him working here. This job got Haley, Jack’s mom, killed years ago. How would it affect Jack to see people like that again? To track and hunt and arrest people like Geroge Foyet? Hotch himself struggles to handle it sometimes. He knows that he gets a little too angry whenever they deal with someone killing families. And the nightmares still haunt him; that can’t be good for Jack. He can’t submit his son to that, can he? But what choice does he have? He could argue that it could damage his mental health or that family working together would create biases. But what would that do? If the brass decides to transfer Jack here for the mentorship program, Hotch wouldn’t be able to stop it.

“Maybe you should ask him what he wants, Aaron,” Strauss suggests, snapping Hotch from his thoughts. “Have you?”

“No.” He answers gravely. “How long do we have?”

“They plan to speak to Jack about it first thing tomorrow. They’ll bring in the kids probably less than a week after that.”

One week. He could work with that. Tomorrow he starts. Talk to the team, assign responsibilities, set boundaries, make rules for the kids, child-proof the BAU, fill out the paperwork. Yea, he can do this in a week. But first, he has to talk to Jack.

Hotch checks his watch, which reads 11:46 PM as he responds to Strauss.
“Alright. I’ll prep the team. Keep me up to date.” He finishes before standing and running a hand through his slick, dark hair, pushing it away from his face. He watches Strauss follow the movement with her eyes for a second too long before looking at him again. He’ll have to tell David that he’s got competition.

“I will.”

They shake hands; she turns to leave but stops halfway out the door. Turning back to face him, she adds, “And Aaron. Get some sleep.” Before leaving.

But Hotch can’t sleep, not yet. He pushes the open file aside before pulling out his phone, squinting at the bright light. He waits a moment for it to adjust before opening it and going to call. It’s late, but Jack is young and the newest member of his unit. They may have him working late.

Hotch dials the number, presses the phone to his ear, and waits. There’s been plenty of times he’s been nervous on phone calls before, but he shouldn’t be this nervous now. Though he doubts his face shows any emotion, he is almost certain that something peaks through the cracks when the ringing stops, and Jack’s tired, young voice echoes from the other line.


“Hey, buddy.” Hotch greets, unable to tamp down his smile. “You working late?”

“Yea, turns out the guys in counter-terrorism are dicks.” Jack curses, and Hotch hears a rustling of paper and fabric in the background. “Why are you calling so late?

Not ‘Why are you working so late’ because Hotch is always working late. Since birth, it seemed.

“I just wanted to ask you something.”

“What is it?” Jack asks, voice growing weary.

Hotch sighs. He’s not Strauss, no beating around the bush. “How would you feel about working in my unit?” he asks.

Jack has gone quiet on the other line, though Hotch can tell by his breathing that he’s still there.
“What?” Jack starts, “Working at your unit, why are you asking, dad?” Hotch hears Jack rub his hand across his forehead, brushing his golden hair away. It’s the same movement Hotch does, and everyone finds it adorable how Jack picked it up. But Jack’s voice is tired and nervous, questioning too. Hotch drops his head almost shamefully.

“Just answer the question, Jack.” He stretches, trying his best not to sound rude.

“I-I dunno.” Jack sighs on the other line. “I don’t know. I’ve never really thought about it. I guess it would be fun.”

“Really?” Hotch asks incredulously. “You’ve never once thought about being a profiler?”

“Dad, I’ve taken the classes, so you know I’ve thought about it. But it takes years to build up to your unit. Dr. Reid is the youngest person you’ve had, and he’s basically a genius.” Hotch smiles again, agreeing internally.
“Why are you calling me at midnight to ask about this anyway?” Jack inquires.

Hotch sits back in his chair, not missing a beat to answer. “I just wanted to know.”

“Daaadddd.” Jack draws out, trying desperately to read what little info Hotch is giving him across the screens.

“You’ll see.” He says, then quickly adds, “I’ll call you tomorrow.” Before Jack can interrupt him.

After a moment of silence, Jack speaks again. “Alright then. Good night dad.”

“Goodnight, buddy.”

“Oh, and dad?” Jack says just before Hotch hangs up the phone.


“Go to sleep.”

Hotch chuckles dryly. “You too.”

He hangs up, placing the phone down on his desk and staring at it. After a few moments, Hotch stands, gathers his things, puts the files back together, and throws his suit jacket back on. He tucks his hair into place as he grabs his shoulder bag, opening the door. As Hotch leaves the Quantico building, the secretary guard at the front desk hails him good night. The guard looks up from his post, takes one look at Hotch, and tells him to get some sleep.

God, Hotch wishes everyone would stop telling him that.