Hotch was alone. He didn't even know what time it was. He thumbed the bridge of his nose. The mountain of paperwork left from their last case had drawn him into the office far too early. The rest of his team hadn't even arrived yet. And they wouldn't. Not for several hours.
"Agent Hotchner." Her voice was like nails on a chalkboard. He glanced up. Chief Strauss stood in his doorway, lips pressed into a thin line. Whatever brought her to his office at this hour, it couldn't be good. Without waiting for an invitation, she waltzed into the office. She shut the door before taking a seat.
"How is Agent Downs handling her new assignment?" She inquired with the bare hint of a smile.
Aaron offered a shrug in response. "As well as can be expected, ma'am."
"I see you are not involving her with any active cases." She leaned forward narrowed his eyes slightly, folding his hands before him on his desk.
"With all due respect-"He began to say. She cut him off with the slightly lift of her hand.
"Are you aware of Senator Downing?"
Hotch nodded slowly. He was not a fan of the senator. In his previous employment as a prosecutor, Hotch had heard rumors involving the senator and underaged prostitutes. Nothing was ever corroborated.
"It would appear the Senator pulled some strings in order to get Miss. Downs transferred here."
It was clear that, although Strauss was the one to insist Hotch accept the transfer, she did not approve of it. Like him, she was simply following orders.
"Why?" It was the only thing he could think to ask."Because she's his daughter."
This couldn't be good. Chief Strauss had been in Hotch's office for the past two hours, ever since he'd first arrived. She rarely, if ever, visited. When she did, it was always to deliver bad news. Abby didn't seem to notice or even care that the unit chief was paying their boss a visit. She sat her desk, quiet as always.
"What's Strauss doing here?" Derek inquired, arrived last as shrugged.
"I have no idea."
Rossi just so happened to wander by. He scoffed at Spencer's statement. "Well, that's a first."
The older man's attempt at a joke failed. Everyone was too on edge with the sudden appearance of the Unit Chief to recognize the humor behind his words. Even if they were true. Spencer could count on one the hand the amount of times he had failed at having knowledge on a particular subject.
Emily popped up. "Why is Strauss in Hotch's office?"
No one answered because, at that moment, the door to Hotch's office opened. He didn't exit. He stood in the door way a moment.
"Downs. My office please."Abby's head jerked up at the sound of her name being called. Her eyebrows furrowed in confusion. She set her book aside. She adjusted her shirt before striding towards where Hotch stood. He stepped to the side, allowing Abby to enter. He met their gaze but said nothing. Instead, he shut the door and retreated back inside the office.
"Well, guess that answers that question." Derek said with a sigh.
"You don't-" Emily started to say, "I mean, she can't be getting fired. She hasn't done anything. Hotch hasn't let her."
It would be highly suspect for Abby to be cut from her current position with such short notice. Emily was right. Abby had done nothing but sit at her desk for weeks on end. Hotch refused to allow her to work on any active case so it was unlikely to do with anything work related."We'll know soon enough." Rossi replied.
Abby didn't know what to expect as she stepped inside Hotch's office. A woman was there, someone she did not recognize. She offered Abby her hand. "Agent Downs. I'm Unit Chief Erin Strauss. It's a pleasure to finally meet you."
Abby returned the woman's handshake though her confusion remained. This woman greeted her as if they were friends. It made her more than a little anxious. The woman waved her towards her a seat, gesturing that she would like Abby to take seat. She slipped into one of Hotch's chairs, hands folding in her lap. It took every inch of willpower not to fidget.
"I'll cut right to the chase. I've brought you in here to discuss something of a…. personal matter with you."
"It's about your father, Agent Downs."
In that split second, Abby felt the color drain from her face. Her stomach tightened, heart thumping against her ribcage. She struggled to catch her breath. Her eyes dropped but too late. She knew Hotch had seen the fear and the anger, like that of a caged animal, shining from her hadn't seen her father since she'd left home at fifteen. And for good reason.
"Agent Downs? Are you listening? "
"I'm listening. And my answer is no." Abby replied, returning her attention to her superior Strauss blinked.
"I beg your pardon?" She clearly did not like being told no
Abby took a breath of air, averting her gaze. She had no where to look but directly ahead…. where Hotch could see every single emotion flickering across her face despite her best attempt to hide it.
"Whatever he wants, the answer is no."
"He just wants to talk."
Her chest began to ache, her hands trembling in her lap. "My answer remains. No. I don't want to see him. I don't want to talk to him. I don't want to even breath the same air as him."
Her father was a man of power, of influence. Except when it involved his daughter. Then, he was a coward…incapable of doing anything to prevent her suffering. And she hated him for it.
"Chief Strauss-" Hotch began to come to her aid.
"Stay out of this, Agent Hotchner." Strauss warned. "Agent Downs. Trust me when I say, I am not a fan of your father. I am not a fan of how he manipulated the director into allowing you to join the FBI in the first place. Truth be told, you have no business as an FBI agent. But, that's out of my hands. But, seeing as how he is responsible for your appointment to the FBI, if he wants to talk to you, then so be it."
"Is that a direct order, ma'am?" Abby inquired.
Strauss regarded her for a moment before answering. "Of course it isn't. That would be an abuse of my-"Abby didn't give the woman a chance at a reply. She stood, rather abruptly in fact. The door slammed shut behind her. Of course, drawing each and every eye to her. She barely made it two steps before she felt the familiar churning in her stomach. She bolted for the restroom, all too aware of the eyes that followed.