Truth and Lies
JJ stood in front of the jostling group of reporters. Her hands were trembling, she felt sick, she wasn't sure she would even make it through the press release and was desperately wishing someone else had volunteered to do it. The reporters had been standing outside the hospital ever since they got wind of the rescue team descending in to the mine. They were already impatient and JJ's hesitance made them even more so. Some of them began to shout questions at her which she ignored. She cleared her throat, took a deep breath and planted her hands firmly on the edges of her wooden podium.
"Following the disappearance of Mary and Rosie Banks from their home yesterday morning, several Pima County Police Officers and members of the BAU were led to a warehouse just off West Duval Mine Road where we had reason to believe Mary and Rosie Banks were being held. We found them and they are both unhurt and back home. However as you will know, there was an explosion in that warehouse trapping myself and five other FBI agents underground. We have every reason to believe that this explosion was intentional and was caused by the same man guilty of the seven other murders in Green -" JJ couldn't continue talking because there was an explosion of yelling and shouting and shoving.
"Agent Jareau! What do you mean seven other murders? Has there been another death?"
"Agent! Did any of your team die in the blast?"
"As a result of the blast," she began carefully. "Two of our senior agents were seriously injured."
"Agent, did either of them die?" JJ suddenly felt like she couldn't breathe. The twenty microphones being thrust in her face made her feel suffocated.
"As a result of his very extensive injuries and internal bleeding..." She had to stop and take a sip of water with trembling hands. "As a result of his injuries, Supervisory Special Agent Aaron Hotchner died this morning."
"Agent Hotchner, the BAU Unit Chief?"
"Is it true that Robert Fox is the killer?"
"He is one of several suspects." Three more reporters started talking at once. "No more questions," JJ said, stepping back from the podium. She couldn't bear to be up there any longer, she had given all the information she needed to and just wanted to get back to her friends.
She collected her belongings from the OB/GYN ward where she had spent the last twelve long, painful hours and headed down to join her friends. Everyone was gathered outside Hotch's room. Rossi was sitting in a wheelchair, looking pale and drained, Reid had dark circles under his eyes, Emily had at least twenty stitches down the side of her face and Morgan had one of his arms bandaged from wrist to shoulder, not to mention a spectacular black eye. They looked well and truly defeated.
JJ sat down on a chair beside Rossi who she hadn't seen since they were in the mines. Besides his pallor, a burst lip and some scratches on his hands and face, he seemed remarkably unscathed for someone who had had a cave collapse on him twice, with only a heavily bandaged foot to show for his troubles.
"Hey Rossi, are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm okay,” he said quietly. “Just a broken foot."
"That's pretty lucky," she said.
"Tell me about it. Although I do appear to have lost a toe," he said with a small attempt at a smile.
"No way," said Prentiss. She shuffled closer to him to get a look, but her voice was flat and her interest didn’t quite reach her eyes. "Which toe?"
"My little toe. It got crushed and they amputated it while they were fixing my foot."
"Evolutionarily speaking, it won't be that long before humans lose the need for their little toes altogether." Reid said, although he continued staring blankly in to space, making him look like some kind of encyclopaedic robot. "A lot of scientists believe humankind will soon only have four toes on each foot."
"Hear that?" Rossi said. "I'm evolutionarily more advanced than all you guys."
"Well no," Reid said, finally looking up, "you're pretty much just... missing a toe." A few of the agents looked amused, but then silence fell and so did their smiles.
JJ looked over to Hotch's room. The blinds were drawn but she could see moving shapes.
"What's happening in there?" she asked.
"Just family phone calls and stuff," Morgan said with a cracked voice, not even bothering to take his head out of his hands. "How was the press conference?"
"Horrible," she said, feeling sick again. "They didn't even care when I told them about Hotch - ” she had to pause as her words caught in her throat, “they were more interested in the killer."
"That's reporters for you," Rossi said.
"Any news on the Unsub?"
"He stayed in Green Valley for a little while but he went on the run when he found out some of us survived," said Reid. "He's heading for Mexico by the looks of it."
"He can't get away," Morgan said. "Not after all of this."
JJ couldn't bear waiting any longer. She wanted to see Hotch. She hadn't laid her eyes on him since he was dragged out of the mineshaft. She rose from her seat, walked up to the door and knocked three times. There was no answer so she opened the door a little. Hotch's voice drifted out of the room.
"Yeah, buddy, just remember that whatever you might hear on the news isn't true, okay? Daddy's fine, we're just trying to catch a bad guy. I love you, I'll see you real soon. Bye, Jack." When he had hung up the phone, JJ knocked again to announce herself and pushed the door open.
"Hey," she said.
"Hey," Hotch said. He was wearing a grey hospital gown with one of his arms strapped firmly across his front. His face was dappled with reddish purple bruises and there was still blood around his ear. All in all, he looked dreadful.
"You should be in bed," she said. He sat down on the edge of the bed obediently and rubbed his eyes. "You really think Fox is going to come back?" she asked.
“He’s a narcissist. He won't be able to resist putting himself in the middle of the action, especially now he think's I'm dead. And telling the press that he was only one of several suspects will mean he has so come back to make sure he gets credit for his actions.”
JJ just nodded. Seeing Hotch standing there was almost overwhelming. Giving the press conference and announcing his death had felt far too real. She had been living one of her worst nightmares, the nightmares that had plagued her ever since she started working at the BAU, that one day she would have to tell the world that someone she loved was dead.
"Don't ever ask me to do anything like that again," she said.
"I know, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you," he said, his brow creasing.
"I'm not upset," she said, but her voice and expression betrayed her. She felt tears prick at her eyes and she glanced up at the ceiling. In the few seconds that she averted her gaze, Hotch had stepped forward and pulled her in to his arms. The feeling of his face pressed against her hair; his one free arm wrapped protectively around her back; the warmth radiating from him was more comforting to her than she would ever be able to explain. So she clung to him for much longer than she should because she hadn't felt so safe in months.
"Okay, is everyone clear on what they are doing?" Hotch said. Everyone nodded their assent. On doctors' orders, Hotch was back in bed and Rossi was sitting with his foot elevated. "The Pima County cops and SWAT team should be here soon, they will be dressed as doctors or nurses and they will all be armed. We should be able to take Fox out ourselves but we will have the cops as backup."
There was a knock at the door and Deputy Commander Watts came in, dressed in navy blue scrubs.
"Hey, it's Doctor Watson," Prentiss joked, but then she saw the cuts and bruises that covered his skin. “Are you okay?”
“Oh,” Watts said, looking down at his blotchy, bandaged arms. “I’m okay, I was near the warehouse entrance when it came down. It’s just a few scratches.”
“What’s the news on Fox?” asked Hotch.
"Uniforms have just spotted him driving through Rio Rico. He'll be back here in about half an hour," he said. "Glad you're all okay," he added, looping a stethoscope around his neck before backing out of the room.
"Remind me why we can't just shoot the bastard the second he steps out of his car," Morgan asked.
"Once Fox is on the ward, he'll be unknowingly outnumbered fifteen-to-one and he'll have nowhere to run. If we try anything out in the open there's a chance he could still get away. This is the safest way to take him down and he'll walk right in to it," Hotch said.
"I just can't wait for this to be over," Prentiss said.
Hotch shifted his position in the bed, feeling rather uncomfortable, and if he was honest, a little emasculated at being the only one lying in bed.
"Okay, Reid, Prentiss and Rossi, stay outside the room and stay hidden. Morgan, I want you in here with me. JJ, I want you to stay with the evacuated patients and staff upstairs," he said. She turned to him with a look of surprise that quickly darkened to one of complete irritation.
"Seriously? You're benching me?"
"I'm asking you to keep an eye on the patients."
"But there are already cops up there. I'm pregnant, Hotch, not an invalid."
"No, I'm staying here. I want to catch this guy as much as you do."
"As your Unit Chief I am asking you to go upstairs!" Hotch immediately wished he could take the words back. He could almost feel the rest of his team wishing the same thing.
"As my Unit Chief? Really? You're playing the Unit Chief card?"
"Forget it," she said. "Just forget it," and she stormed from the room and headed to the stairs.
"Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned," Rossi said sagely.
"Yeah, and you would know," Morgan said.
"Watch it, you little punk," Rossi said, throwing him a good-humoured glare.
"What are you going to do about it Limpy?"
"I'll even up that black eye for you."
"Bring it!" Morgan said, smirking.
"Guys," Hotch said. "Fox will be back here in thirty minutes, we don't have time for games." He saw Morgan and Rossi exchange a glance and he knew he was being unfair. They had every right to be happy but Hotch wouldn't be content until the Unsub was in their custody. The fact that he had just inadvertently insulted JJ didn't help his mood either.
They had just taken their positions in the ward when the door swung open and Robert Fox rushed in. Hotch lay back and closed his eyes, entirely relaxing his body and hoping that he didn't do something stupid like move his eyes or breathe and ruin the entire operation.
"I heard about Aaron Hotchner," Fox said, managing to sound convincingly sad despite his breathlessness. "Is he still here? I wanted to... say goodbye."
"Are you a relative?" asked Watts, artfully scribbling on a clipboard.
"A close friend." There was a short pause and then they heard his footsteps get louder as he entered Hotch's room. Hotch heard Fox make a little noise of pleasure, just inches from his ear, and felt his warm breath on his skin.
"Poor Agent Hotchner," he breathed, the excitement in his voice unmistakeable. "How dreadful it must have been for you to be buried underground. So dark, so cramped." He wandered around the bed and Hotch held his breath as he felt Fox's sleeve brush against the side of the bed. "Now you know how I felt when I was thrown in to a closet for days, I - ”
“Bobby?” Hotch tensed when he heard a voice he was not expecting. Commander Holmes had entered the room, Hotch heard him walk a few paces and stop at the end of the bed.
“You,” Fox said, moving away from Hotch’s bedside and towards the new arrival. Hotch allowed himself a silent, shaky breath.
“Why did you do it, Bobby?” Holmes asked. Hotch felt his palms begin to sweat. This wasn’t planned, so much could go wrong…
“Well it got your attention, didn’t it?” Fox said, his voice snide. “You know, no one even batted an eyelid when I abducted and murdered three prostitutes, three young women and I just took them and buried them and no one cared. That’s why I had to move on to the Law student and that family with their pretty little daughter. That’s when people really started to pay attention.” Hotch opened his eyes minutely, looking down to the two men standing a few feet apart, their eyes locked on one another. “That’s getting to be a habit of yours, isn’t it, Officer Holmes? Spending all your time running around after the attractive, wealthy, middle-classes and ignoring everybody else.”
“I know I should have done more,” Holmes said. “I should have done so much more for you, but all these people didn’t deserve to die. If anyone is to blame, it’s me.”
“This isn’t about blame,” he said. “It’s about making everyone feel what I felt, the fear, the darkness, the loneliness. How many times have you looked at pictures of my victims? Those parents, the little girl, the student. How many times have you looked at their young, pretty, dead bodies and imagined what it must have felt like for them to die terrified? Dozens of times. Maybe even hundreds. But no one ever did that for me, no one gives a damn when you’re still alive.”
“You’re wrong,” Holmes said, his voice growing desperate. “I cared, Bobby.”
“Spare me the self-indulgent sympathy,” he said. “No one cared, no one even gave me a second thought, but they will now.”
“Please, Bobby, don’t make this any worse. Let me help.”
“Stop calling me that,” he snapped. “Little Bobby Fox is long gone, you made sure of that. Am I worthy of a second thought now, Commander?” he spat out the last word like it was poison. “Now that I have eight bodies at my feet? Do you care now? Maybe I’ll kill the Sheriff next.” He was growing more agitated. “Then my father. Oh, you have no idea how much I’m looking forward to that one. I’ll go down in history as the Dark Desert Killer - ”
"Alright, that's enough," said Morgan, slamming open the closet door. "Get your hands up, Fox." He turned and looked at Morgan, quite calmly.
"Nice black eye," he said. "Did I do that?"
"I said get your hands up." Reid, Rossi, and Prentiss entered the room now, pointing their guns at him. Again, Fox remained perfectly calm. He looked at Prentiss standing in the doorway, with the long cut on her face and the bruises beginning to form along her jaw, and a little smile crossed his face.
Hotch opened his eyes, pulled his gun out from under him and sat up.
"He said get your hands up," Hotch said. Fox whipped around, his arrogance vanishing at last.
"You're going to have to try harder than that to kill one of us," Rossi said. The surprised expression on Fox’s waxy, unshaven face became one of fury as he realised that his entire plan to kill them had failed. Then, as quickly as his mood changed, he became absolutely calm again, as he moved his hand to his coat pocket.
“Bobby, don’t,” Holmes said, reaching out to the young man, but a pair of arms pulled him back as Watts appeared from the hallway.
"Get your hands out of your pockets, Fox!" Prentiss said.
"Hands in the air, now!" Morgan said.
"Don't do it!”
“Bobby!” Holmes yelled, but Watts dragged him from the room as Fox clenched his hand in his pocket and began to pull something out. Something black and metal came in to view. Morgan was the first to fire his gun and Rossi was just a split second behind. Blood spattered the white hospital walls as two bullets caught Fox in the chest, and he was dead before he hit the floor. His hand fell from his pocket, wrapped around nothing more than a cigarette lighter. Out in the hallway, Commander Holmes fell to his knees.