A/N – Just because I love them and their relationship so much. Set around season three, in case anyone is keeping note.
Disclaimer – I have DVDs and too much time. That is all.
"Can't you get Katy to take him to Florida? You know I'm better off on my own."
David Rossi leaned against the closed door of Jason Gideon's office and tried his best to smile a winning smile. If anyone but his old colleague had been sat at the desk, it probably would have worked, but Jason just looked distinctly unimpressed and shook his head.
"He's been out with Katy already, David. Besides, Florida is probably going to turn out pretty simply – Kentucky looks much more interesting."
"Is there anything I can say that will make you change your mind?"
"I doubt it."
"Fine, you win. Don't blame me if I scare him away."
"It's a risk I'm willing to take," Jason grinned, turning his attention to the papers on his desk to indicate that the conversation was over. Muttering darkly under his breath, Dave stalked out of the room. His objections to Aaron Hotchner accompanying him actually had nothing to do with the new recruit at all; it was just routine to complain about anything that Jason asked of him, especially since Max had left the year before and they essentially ran the BAU as a joint leadership, neither of them willing to take over the job entirely. Aaron was sat at his new desk and he looked up when Dave left Jason's office and sauntered into his own. When Dave left it moments later, his bag in hand, the younger man was still looking in his direction.
Like a bloodhound, Dave thought sarcastically, and then he called out.
"Hotchner, you're with me. Let's go."
The man seemed keen enough on the idea as he stood up and took his bag from under his desk but on the drive to the airport, Aaron was very quiet and Dave wondered if he had overheard and misinterpreted his objections.
"You okay kid?" he asked, once the plane was in the air and they were on the way, "You're quiet."
"I'm just thinking about the case, what we know already. I thought I should be prepared."
The look on his face was rather endearing and Dave remembered that the man was a lawyer at heart, and if there was one thing lawyers seemed to be good at, it was being prepared. He smirked and held out his hand.
"Done with the file? I'll catch you up and then you can tell me what you're thinking."
And so it was during that flight, the first time they had been alone for any time longer than meeting at the coffee pot, that Dave realised just how much of a hidden gem Jason had found when he recruited this kid straight out of SWAT. He talked like he had been doing the job for years already, although Dave noted wryly that being able to talk the talk was probably another benefit of having studied and practiced law.
It was late when they arrived in Richmond, so it was straight to the hotel for a meal and few drinks before bed, where once again Aaron demonstrated conversation so sharp that Dave began to wonder if there was anything that the man wasn't good at. The only dark cloud had been when Dave accidentally brought up the subject of family, something that he usually avoided at all costs with new acquaintances, knowing how awkward some life stories could turn out to be.
"There's not much to tell there," Aaron said firmly, his eyes downcast as he played with the fries left on his plate, "I have a younger brother, Sean. My parents died a long time ago."
Sensing how tense Aaron had become at the thought of his family, Dave swiftly steered the conversation onwards. By the end of the night, Aaron had cheered sufficiently to tell Dave that he could call him 'Hotch' if he so pleased and the mention of family seemed forgotten.
At least for now, Dave thought privately as he let himself into his room afterwards.
By the time they got to the station the next morning, the killer had struck again. The head detective offered to show them the scene before it had even been properly processed and they climbed into the car almost without pausing for breath. The alley behind the diner was too narrow for the car, so the detective stopped out front instead and they got out to walk. The air was fresh and crisp, and as they got closer to the alley Dave was able to pick up the definite scent of blood on the air. He glanced at his partner but Aaron hadn't reacted; either he was choosing not to notice or, more likely, he was green enough that the smell meant nothing to him. Dave wasn't sure how much blood one came across in SWAT.
As they rounded the corner and were confronted with the scene that the killer had left behind, Dave saw exactly why his nose had known about it first. This was a major escalation; blood was coating the walls of the alley, smeared over the dumpsters and pooling on the floor around a body that had once resembled a human being but now was little more than a hulk of mess on the ground. Taking a deep breath to steady himself, Dave stepped forward with the detective and began to examine the chaos.
"Hotch, get over here!" he called without looking over his shoulder. When Aaron didn't appear at his side he looked up to see that his partner had disappeared.
"Where'd he go?" he asked the nearest uniform, who pointed around the corner where they had come from. Striding round, he found Aaron bent over with his hands on his knees and a conspicuous puddle of vomit at his feet. Any irritation he had been feeling drained away and he put a sympathetic hand on Aaron's shoulder.
Aaron coughed and shook his head, a painfully red blush creeping up his neck from under his collar. He didn't look up and Dave realised that he didn't want to meet his eye.
"It's alright Aaron. Don't worry about it."
"I-I'm sorry," Aaron said, straightening up. He dug in his pockets, the frustration on his face obvious as he couldn't find what he was looking for. Dave slipped his hand into his own coat and took out a handkerchief. He offered it wordlessly to Aaron, pressing it into his hand when the other man shook his head. Eventually Aaron accepted it and wiped his mouth, folding it and clenching it in his hand when he was done.
"I'm sorry," he said again, his voice steady and composed despite the fact that the blush was still flooding his face and neck, "I don't know what happened."
"It's alright," Dave shrugged, searching his other pockets for the mints that he usually kept there, "Here. Take a couple of these."
"We've all been there, Hotch," Dave leaned nonchalantly against the wall, "This is a bad one, that's for sure."
"Oddly enough, that doesn't make me feel any better."
The smile that crept onto Aaron's face defused the tension somewhat and Dave clapped him on the shoulder.
"Come on. One step at a time."
Yes, it was definitely Kentucky. Dave had never forgotten that day and, years later when he had left the BAU and come back again, he still remembered. Aaron didn't smile like he had back then and his dark sense of humour had become even more sardonic.
Dave heard the others talking sometimes, when they thought they couldn't be overheard. Talking about how Gideon had really screwed Reid and Hotch over; about how Reid had retreated into himself and how Hotch had become virtually untouchable since the man left them. About how they weren't sure Rossi would be able to offer either of them what Gideon had taken away. On the Reid front, Dave was inclined to agree with them, the kid being just a little too grating for him to desire any more of a relationship with him than he already had. But then again, time was a great decider when it came to these things, and he was a reasonable enough man that he would wait and see what happened there.
When it came to Aaron though, Dave knew exactly what the man was thinking. When they went to LA, to the case that ended up being a product of the murder of some famous writer's fiancé, the mess that the guy left behind was a lot like that alley back in Richmond. Aaron breezed in and took control, as Aaron tended to do these days and to start with there was absolutely no hint whatsoever that he even remembered what had happened on his first case with Dave. As the scenes got worse though, Dave could feel himself under scrutiny and one time he looked up to find Aaron staring right at him. It was a look that said it all; Aaron did remember, and he'd appreciate it if Dave didn't mention it. Dave only smiled and shrugged his shoulders in return.
He wouldn't share. He didn't need to. All he needed to know was that, as hard as he tried to disprove it, Aaron Hotchner had been, and always would be, human.
A/N 2 - The Profiler's Choice Awards in full swing over on Chit Chat on Author's Corner. Head over there to vote for all your favourite stories and give your favourite authors some love! Speaking of love, thanks so much to everyone who nominated 'Princesses, Witches and Bachelors, Oh My!' for best Alternative Universe and 'Behind Every Great Man' for best Hotch/JJ. I'm so humbled and totally ecstatic!