Where´d You Put the Keys, Girl?
I´m just exploring the Criminal Minds world. It doesn´t belong to me. The title belongs to Tori Amos. It´s from the "Cornflake Girl" lyrics.Summary:
While Hotch tries to keep his family safe from Foyet, Haley struggles for acceptance and fights to do her part. Spoilers for Foyet arc. Rated for reflections on violence.
This wasn´t supposed to happen. Not like this. Sure, Aaron´s job could be dangerous: even profilers could get shot. But they weren´t attacked in their own homes by the one who got away. No, the one who got away came to eviscerate the profiler´s love.
Granted, the case with Sarah and Gideon had been extremely unlikely, but such unlikelihoods had proven possible the year before that with cryptic calls to the house and taunting packages delivered right to her. After all, that´s how they operated, those human monsters Aaron hunted. They taunted the authorities with their depravities and drew the investigators into macabre games for their amusement. And they couldn´t engage in such games if they killed the profiler after them.
Ergo, Aaron was fine, and Haley would wake any moment now.
Except hospital meant hurt, not dead, and there were other profilers on the team. No.
If Aaron still lived at the house, if she had been there for Foyet to target, then Jack could have been killed too. She had had reason to leave, and this argued further for her decision, no matter how bad she felt over the price Aaron had just paid.
No matter how bad she should
Haley had had the chance to get Aaron to transfer out. But despite her efforts not to admit it to herself, she had realized before he did that Aaron would be miserable. That it was not his work
life that had made him unhappy. Haley could have still pushed him through the transfer—Aaron’s desperate phone call when he found the house empty proved that. So what if he would have come to resent her, and their eventual would split would have him look at her with loathing instead of the hurt/angry/apologetic eyes of a kicked puppy? He would have been safe
. White collar criminals did not treat their pursuers as pincushions.
Well, usually. Didn´t she read about Aaron´s team pursuing a con man turned serial killer last year?
This had to be a nightmare, anyway. Aaron might not be the toughest man on the planet, but he could hold his own. Always could. And he checked the locks and frames for all doors and windows before anything else whenever they looked for a new place. So how could this Foyet ambush him in his own apartment? Aaron sure as hell wasn´t stupid enough to let the guy in, and he would have known Foyet was there.
Until today, she would have said the same of herself and an FBI team storming her house.
Haley hugged her arms tighter to herself. Aaron was not her. He had always had this manner that suggested he observed more than others.
Except for when it had mattered most.
Okay, so maybe Aaron could have missed Foyet. How this happened didn´t matter. The important thing was to keep Jack safe. Aaron´s team clearly thought they were at risk. They were cold and unsympathetic to her, but they were also elite agents. They would know how to set up surveillance and other protective measures. It would be rough on Jack, not being allowed to go over to friends without her watching his every movement, but he´d pull through. And her sister and their mother would help her keep an eye out. After all, Haley had stayed with them before, when things got rough. Both Jess and Dolores Brooks would fight tooth and nail to protect family. "Witness Protection."
Rossi´s words slammed into Haley like a lead brick. She had vaguely registered JJ talking about packing a bag for Jack, but assumed they wanted to put her and Jack in a hotel or safe house. She couldn´t leave the area. What the hell was she supposed to do, leave Jack with strangers
when she had to work? And she would have to work; they couldn´t live solely on Aaron´s child support.
But there was no way Lillian would give her a positive reference if she just quit showing up. That made it hard to get a decent job when the economy didn´t
suck. Were they going to have to go on food stamps? How would she feed Jack a decent diet? Healthy food did not come cheap.
And this was stupid to worry about given the circumstances, but leaving without notice felt rude, selfish and inconsiderate. Sure, it would leave everyone in the lurch. Bob and Helen would now miss special events with their respective families since she had agreed to cover their shifts. But their kids´ lives
weren´t at risk.
Fucking terrific. Her life had turned inside-out and upside-down, and her mind seized at what amounted to trivialities in comparison.
It should be impossible for anyone to look both better and
worse than feared.
Leave it to Aaron to manage it.
He had his color. Even though Rossi had mentioned a transfusion, Haley had expected him to look pale from blood loss. And Aaron showed his strength and health. Awake and alert, he clearly would recover.
Aaron had changed over the years. They both had, but Aaron really had. He had slowly grown more serious over the years, until his placement as the BAU chief consumed the last remains of the joker who could always crack her up. But Aaron had always maintained a quiet certainty in who he was. He exuded a calm strength that Haley had always envied even as it drew her to him.
Oh, she had seen it shaken before, but at most that strong certainty bent and bruised. Haley had never seen it broken.
Until the moment she looked into his eyes in the hospital room.
That, more than the serum oozing though the bandage by Aaron´s neck, convinced her that this nightmare was really happening. Never, even at her angriest, had she wanted to imagine Aaron like that. She could see his attempts to hide the breaks, to collect himself back together. Having relinquished all right to do anything else, Haley gave him the illusion of success.
At least she hoped she did.
Haley wasn´t exactly at her best standing in his room. But when Aaron agreed that they had to go into hiding, she knew there were no other options. Aaron had worried over Jack´s shyness more than she had. He would not rip Jack from the few friends he had made lightly. But it still felt surreal. And for Aaron not to even know where they´d be? That would kill him. Aaron cherished Jack, and Haley had seen the wistful longing in his eyes whenever they spoke in person. Surely they could hide Aaron near them…
Except that was not Aaron. Not since he got hooked on Bureau.
But he also wasn´t someone who´d let himself be tortured, yet he was doing just that by sending them away.
How terrible was this Foyet to push Aaron to that?
And who the fuck was this Haley that Aaron thought he had married, anyway?
Stronger than Aaron could ever be? Please. Since the team broke into the house and upended her life, the only thing she´d done that resembled strong was threaten to deck David Rossi if he pawed through her underwear. All that did was announce to the room at large which drawer he nearly opened when he offered to help pack.
Well, it embarrassed the both of them and amused a couple random SWAT agents, but it did squat to help Jack.
Sure, she had lived with Aaron in his job for thirteen years. But strength had nothing to do with it. That was just blissful denial that the job could ever touch home. And once it did, she convinced herself that what happened once would never be repeated.
That, and a large envelope filled with a number sequence just wasn´t that scary.
But once Sarah Jacobs´ death shattered her illusions for good, she had barely made it one case before her nerves and one stupid hang-up—which she had known for a fucking fact was the Johnsons´ brat being stupid again
and not a damn stalker—sent her scampering like a rabbit.
No. Aaron was the strong one.
The brave one.
How the fuck was she supposed to manage against a threat that overpowered and terrified him?
Haley knew that WitSec rules prohibited direct contact of any kind. But she did not see how a few phone calls would hurt if she refused to say where she was. It wasn´t like her mother or Jess would tell anyone she called, and her phone had caller ID blocked. She needed to hear their voices, to bolster her strength with theirs. This was a real, solid threat straight out of her worst nightmares. In the handful of weeks since she had taken on a strange, isolated life in an unfamiliar town, she had plenty of time to think, and had reached some unpleasant realizations.
Even after all their time apart, Haley had never completely let go of Aaron. She could never cut him completely from her life—neither of them would do that to Jack—but she had kept him just a little bit closer than an ex. She had still drawn on Aaron´s strength by just knowing he was in town, had still counted on him to be
Haley had never thought it was possible to feel so alone, or that her own strength was so little."You´ve got it backwards, dear. Sure, the boy´s strong, but even before your little midlife crisis, you underestimated your own strength. You held each other up, but you gave him more strength than he gave you. I´m glad you´re starting to rethink things, but I saw the lad when he caught Jack´s play. He´s finally started to move on, instead of merely accepting your choice, so don´t count on getting him back."
Haley had always suspected that her mother had done far more than the grass she would admit to during her hippie days, but how the fuck does one translate "I´m so weak and terrified and alone that I can barely handle day-to-day life, yet I have to protect my son from something the strongest person I know wasn´t strong enough to fight off, with only a handful of people that I don´t know or trust as well you, Aaron and his teammates" to "I made a mistake and want Aaron back"?
Sure, she wanted to know Aaron was okay. Hell, she wanted him here
—Along with his team, her family and a damn National Guard unit. She wanted anything and everything possible to protect Jack from a human bogeyman. Instead, their safety depended solely on a changed name and red hair dye fooling anyone and everyone who had ever heard of Haley Hotchner.
And yes, she missed Aaron. She had always missed the man he´d been when their marriage was good. Here, she missed his strength and the way he was with Jack. Despite the times his job distracted him from calls or visitation, Aaron still made a better, more loving father than she had had. And God help her, but she actually missed the things he did that had fueled her anger when things tanked.
If nothing else, that bitter fury could push her through each day. But no matter how Jack needed her to keep going, Haley could not rail at Aaron when she thought of him laying broken in that hospital room.
Yet none of that meant she had changed her mind about the divorce."I know you still have issues to work through, dear. And I bitterly wish that the circumstances that pushed you to face them were not so extreme or dangerous, but once you find yourself again, you´ll be stronger than ever. Whether you try to reclaim Aaron or not. I´m just glad you expressed your insecurities with the flurry of hairstyles instead of the more clichéd boob job and facelift…
“You didn´t use the killer after you as an excuse to have surgery, did you?"
Well, Haley never said whatever planet Dodo Brooks had landed upon didn´t sound like a nice place to live. But she couldn´t afford to ignore reality.
Not when Jack depended on her.
At least her mother´s voice still provided comfort. It could not calm Haley´s nerves completely. Nothing could when she knew the dire reality. But she would sustain herself with it as long as she could. She just hoped it would be long enough. That Sam would bring Aaron any day with news of Foyet´s death.
After a lecture about how a killer skilled with computers might be able to trace calls to known contacts back to her, Haley found herself in another city of strangers with another strange name and another new hair color. Once uprooted, Haley realized that she had slowly adjusted to her former hiding place. She just hadn´t seen it because of the isolation and fear of discovery.
But a new locale on top of those pressures was worse, compounded by the lack of a lifeline home. Still, she would not make that mistake again, and had told Sam as much.
"I needed to hear her voice and didn´t know it could hurt" had not impressed Sam Kassmeyer. And why should it have? A forty-something mother who needed her mommy´s comfort to move through each day was
Pathetic enough not be trusted, apparently, as Sam waited until Jack was asleep, and then launched into a detailed description of Foyet and everything that made him tick. Before things had soured, Aaron had wanted to protect her from the grittier details, had wanted his home life unsullied by his work. Sam pulled no punches. He knew Foyet´s file inside and out. He described every graphic detail of the man´s known crimes and summarized the profile. Haley might not be strong, but she could fake it long enough to get Sam out of the house. She owed Aaron that much. After Sam´s car turned off the block, she found herself shaking and unable to stand. She sank to the floor, back against the door as she struggled to process it."Piqueristic tendencies."
Haley had heard of people who got off on cutting and/or stabbing flesh, but she had never thought to—had never wanted to—associate the paraphilia with Aaron´s attack.
No wonder he had looked so broken.
Aaron knew what the man got from the assault. Even if he weren´t a profiler and Foyet fell into the impotent majority, Aaron would still know. He would´ve seen it in Foyet´s eyes and actions, felt it seep out of the creep´s every pore as he—
Haley hugged her arms to herself. She never wanted to be forced or sliced up, but… if something hard and pointy had
to be violently shoved into her, she honestly did not know if she would prefer the "traditional" rape or not. With plain rape, she´d have idiots saying she´d asked for it and dismissing the trauma with "get over it" or snide comments like "at least it wasn´t worse"—as if not being hurt as severely as she could have been disqualified her right to feel hurt. But she would lack outward scars to remind her, to belie her efforts to pretend it had never happened. With the knife, no one would question that she was
a victim, that she needed to heal. But there would still be the itchy, vermin crawling under her skin sensation that came from the knowledge of how
her attacker enjoyed the assault. How many would understand that? Would she be accused of being dramatic, of belittling "real" rape victims?
All of the trauma of some freak getting off at her expense with none of the admittedly scant comfort?
Of course, Aaron didn´t have that
problem. The Bureau could provide help that understood all the implications. Whether or not he would accept said help was the question. Haley hoped he would. Had.
Either way, Aaron´s whole team knew that the knife thrusts were Foyet´s rape. And he knew they knew it. His team would follow Aaron´s lead and not mention their knowledge directly to him—or anyone else—but it would be a dirty little secret in the back of their minds. Almost as private a person as Haley, Aaron must find that unbearable. If it had been her, she would at least have the option of withholding details from coworkers.
God, did Aaron´s whole team have victim photos of him?
And could she really trust that the agents outside his team showed Aaron the same courteous silence on the matter? The Bureau had
trampled over his loyalty at least once.
Haley rubbed her hands over her arms, trying to calm her gooseflesh as she brought her knees up to her chin. Whatever the help offered, however Aaron coped with his assault, he was not
as well off as she had hoped. He couldn´t be. Not with the attack´s nature, and not when he knew that that
was what Foyet wanted to do to her. To Jack
. God, he must have pushed himself back into the thick of it as soon as he could, his top priority to keep them safe. A relentless drive to find Foyet before he found them. And Haley could only hope and pray that Aaron didn´t push himself to the shattering point."It´s okay, Mommy. Agent Sam will pro-tect us. Daddy will get well. He´ll catch the bad guy. Then we’ll go home."
Oh, no. No, no. No. NO!
No fucking way was she forcing her baby to comfort and prop her up each morning! It was her
damn job to reassure him
! Jack was nearly four, for fuck´s sake! While sadly not too young to be unaware that things were scary, that did not mean he had to know how
scary. She had no fucking right to let him see her rattled, much less find her shaking on the floor! To spook him into repeating her earlier promises in a vain attempt calm them both, voice clearly conveying his fear.
No boy deserved that, especially her precious miracle, and damned if she would ever let it happen again. "Of course, sweetie. It´s just taking Daddy longer to heal than I thought, and… He wanted to throw you a birthday party, and won´t be able to even see us. I can´t cheer him up, but I bet you can. You think he´ll like that? A tape of his little buddy smiling and waving to him?"
This Foyet had better fucking hope he was taken down far away from her. If Haley ever got her hands on that son of a bitch after he caused this, after he dared to threaten Jack at all, she was chopping his junk off, balls included."Mommy! I´ll be big buddy then!"
And force-feeding them to Foyet for what he had dared to do to her ex.
Vowing to become strong and becoming strong were too different things, of course. Her initial burst of fury had allowed her to fake it for Jack, but Haley knew that she had to confront her fears head-on if she wanted to make it through. But she couldn´t talk about this with Sam. Aside from the fact that he all ready thought she was a pathetic whiner, he did not seem to grasp everything he had told her about Foyet´s profile. Or he thought by not spelling it out, it would go over Haley´s head. Either way, he seemed to consider Aaron a colleague. Haley was not about to spill everything that she had kept bottled up to a partial audience, or further publicize Aaron´s trauma. Not when Aaron would be discreet if their positions were reversed.
Unfortunately, Haley´s reservations about confiding to Sam precluded her asking him if there were any Marshal-approved therapists available. And there was certainly no hotline for those in WitSec.
In the end, a pricier-than-her-stipend-appreciated, safety-locked, micro-cut home shredder and bargain package of cheap notebooks solved her dilemma.
While Haley knew that she had to get things off her chest, she had never before seen the appeal of a diary—journal
, Aaron used to insist when Haley would tweak him about the volumes he used to keep—and was uncertain how well it would work. And it was awkward at first. Haley only managed a couple terse paragraphs that sketched the obvious: she was scared and hated being in WitSec. But just shoving the page into the shedder and watching it become a fistful of narrow rectangles seven millimeters long had been cathartic. Haley couldn´t justify shoving blank paper through the damn thing, so she rewrote her paragraphs and shredded. Over time, more detail slipped out of her pens about her fears and frustrations. It took a few weeks, but Haley found herself pouring her soul into those pages. She covered everything from her current situation to past grievances to happy memories.
The shredder then freed her feelings for the universe to recycle or deliver to the appropriate people, depending on what was best for her and her family. It did not
masticate those pieces of her soul imbued in the paper and leave the remains in a pile until she dropped them off at the local animal shelter for the puppies to piss and shit upon.
Okay, she had issues with how she coped with her issues, but overall it helped.
And God knew she needed it. Sam had vetoed any form of working at home like the telecommuting gig a friend of a Marshal had set her up with in Pennsylvania. Haley had known that anything like the hand-embroidered dolls she had done before Jack´s birth were out, but surely telecommuting or other home-based businesses weren´t that
unique. Still, he wanted as many differences as possible between the aliases. So, Haley had set out into a shaky job market with a shakier work "history". After a few dead ends, the local Marshals´ contacts led Haley to a temp job at a shipping warehouse. Clerical work while one of the staff had surgery and medical leave, it promised a few month´s income with the possibility of full-time employment later on. And if not, she would remain on the temp company´s roster.
It got her out and about more, which she could use, but it put her in contact with more people. People she continuously lied to. She had no close attachment to any of them, but how could she ever make friends when she couldn´t show them her
? How could she ever be a real friend to them? And Jack… he didn´t understand everything—was too young to be able to—but he had picked up enough to know he shouldn’t talk about his daddy, bad guys, or anything about life prior to their current location without prompting. What had that taught him? That it was okay to be deceitful? To take advantage of others´ goodwill? What kind of mother did that make her?
Aside from one trying desperately to keep her child alive, that is.
With no better choice, Haley continued on. Slowly carved out something that resembled an equilibrium. She was no longer in danger of falling apart at the drop of a hat, but things could still wobble her: a change in weather prompting a memory of better times, random new faces around Jack´s thoroughly vetted preschool, the coworker a little more aggressive than usual in her efforts to take the "young widow" under her wing.
All three in one day.
But Haley would make it through this day despite that. Just as she had every day since that morning Jack had found her on the floor. Each day she got through made it easier to get through the next one, and she would get through this until Aaron caught Foyet. Then, with that weight finally lifted, with what she had figured out, she and Aaron would have a long talk. One way or another, they both would attain closure. They had made their share of mistakes, but they both deserved to move on. “Hello, Haley?”
This wasn’t supposed to happen. Not like this. Aaron had promised her that Foyet wanted to torture him, not kill him. But if Aaron had known that Foyet was after Sam, if he got in Foyet´s way trying to protect them…
And why the hell hadn’t Sam bothered to show her a goddamn photo? And why the fuck didn’t she ask? Foyet could be any one of the people walking down the street.
God, this would never end. It wasn´t Aaron´s fault that this Foyet targeted them, but if Aaron´s death would not dissuade Foyet, if he took being denied targets in his torture quest so personally that he still intended to kill them, Haley could never go back to her old life.
She had to have Jess and her mother consider them dead.
It was best for everyone.
Even before Aaron had moved out, Haley had always thought of the house as more her domain than his. He had given her free reign in decorating it, with his only input moving or hanging whatever she told him to. A way to make up for yet another relocation on account of his job, he had said. As if he didn´t know she had always missed Virginia wherever they had lived.
It had been a subtle-only-to-him attempt to cheer her up from the disaster her interior design business in Seattle had been. Aaron had wanted her to reconnect with past successes. To an extent it had worked. The energy she had put into overhauling their place did allow her to vent her frustrations and accept that Seattle had been somewhat out of her control. But while she had decided to stick with what she knew appealed to both of their tastes, the lack of Aaron´s requests and spoken opinions made her realize that she was sick
of pandering to and designing for the God-awful tastes of clients with more money than sense. And that she had been since before
Though how the hell that had convinced her she could be crafty, still stumped Haley.
Now, coming home for the first time in months, Haley saw only shadows of Aaron: the blue that was a couple shades lighter than her favorite color, the cabinet that Aaron had used as a prop in a puppet show for Jack, the wall she had had to redo because Aaron had somehow managed to fling a paint can lid into it when he pried it off the can for her in the next room. That had been a fluke—and in retrospect, funny—but had irritated Haley at the time. Her muscles had been sore from all the priming and painting she had done over the previous week, and the last thing she had wanted was more work. How Aaron, who had sought to do his best in every task he undertook, could be so inept at painting had always puzzled Haley. She didn´t think she could produce as many splatters as he had while doing the walls of their first place if she tried
She really could have been nicer about asking him to stay three feet away from all brushes or rollers thereafter, though.
Haley should have insisted on another meeting place. The home she could not return to, the memories of the man she had once given her heart and soul to, the happy smile on Jack´s face when he recognized the neighborhood, all salted her wounds. Haley understood the logic. Foyet had been headed in their general direction, but would never expect them to return home. Still, there were plenty of locations in the area where they could have met.
The new Marshal seemed nice enough, but for some reason made Haley think of that creep that tried to flash her a few years back. There was some
resemblance, but that couldn´t be it. Haley had met men with more resemblance and did not realized it until later.
Whatever the cause, Haley just wanted to get out of there and on the the next location."Foyet?"
Aaron´s voice. Aaron alive and—
The eyes. This “Marshal” had that same look in his eyes as that pathetic creep had had. On the phone, he had never said that he
knew where they were. And he had called her from Sam´s cell
to tell her that Foyet had killed Sam
How could she be so fucking stupid? Aaron had counted on her to keep Jack safe, and she had failed him. Failed Jack."I am so sorry."
Okay, she had to remain calm. And not just because of Aaron´s coaching and Foyet´s damn profile. They were in deep shit, but if she could let Aaron know where they were, stall until he could send the cops—come with his team if they were close—there was a chance. More than a chance for Jack, if she could get him out of the there. She would put herself between him and Foyet.
God, Aaron could be such a jackass
After years of calling him on his bullshit, Aaron should realize that not only did she not want to be protected from his job, she saw through his lies anyway. His denial of Sam’s death came too fast for her to believe. As it would eventually come out, all Aaron just did was tell Haley his opinion on the odds of her survival.
And really, they should have both expect Foyet to contradict him. At least Foyet had Sam´s service phone. Jack did not need to hear graphic murder details. Neither did she, honestly. Trying to keep composed while Foyet mocked Aaron´s faults and their failure at marriage was tough enough.“Did you even tell her… about the deal?”
So Foyet had
tried to remake his deal before the bus slaughter, and with Aaron. As Sam had said, Foyet had all ready leaked its existence, and Shaunessey´s move had not kept teenage girls safe from Foyet´s appetites. It was his attempt to cause more fear and chaos, one that Aaron could not play into.
One Haley would have lost all respect for him if he had.
But asking about it was as good a way to distract Foyet as any. Perhaps it would give her some way to drop a reference to the house. Would Aaron remember the paint lid? And how the hell do you drop that into conversation, anyway?“Tell Jack I need him working the case.”
As much as Haley wished that for once, Aaron would not lie or evade questions about his work—it was
about to fucking kill her—that made little sense. Then Aaron repeated himself, and Haley´s legs almost gave out in relief when a flash of memory hit. A few months before his attack, Aaron had watched Jack at the house while Haley ran errands. She had returned to find one worried, sheepish ex and an excited son chirping about helping Daddy work his case. It seemed that Jack had awakened from his nap early and managed to sneak into the window seat storage—which Haley had once whimsically called a hidden bookcase—while Aaron worked at the adjacent desk in the home office. In a show that he´d inherited Aaron´s once-existent sense of humor, Jack had dubbed it ´working the case´. Aaron had been apologetic and freaked about Jack getting stuck in there. Haley had assured him that Jack had hit upon it months ago during a round of hide-and-go-seek. She had promptly checked the ease of lifting the cushioned lid and discreetly drilled a few more airholes in the side where the desk would hide them from a casual glance. Aaron had been so relieved when she pointed them out, that Haley had let Aaron’s getting so wrapped up in performance evaluations slide. Jack could
be frighteningly quiet when he put a mind to it.
Haley didn´t have to tell Aaron where they were. He knew. He just didn´t think he would get there in time to save them both.
She could live with—well, die with—that. She´d rather not. She wanted Aaron´s team to storm the house now
so badly that she could taste it, but Jack was the important one. If Haley lost him, she would not wish to survive. Not after her stupidity delivered them into Foyet´s clutches.
And Foyet was too smug to let her live long enough for rescue. "You´re so strong, Haley. You´re stronger than I ever was."
Where the hell did her family keep getting that? Haley was anything but strong. It took everything she had not to run screaming, especially after Foyet started to caress her ass with his gun while sniffing her hair. A twisted foreplay that shattered any doubt that Foyet got off on his murders. Only the realization that she could not outrun a bullet or overpower Foyet, that the sooner she died, the more time he had to search for Jack kept her rooted to her spot as the gun barrel traced it´s way up her spine. "I know you didn´t sign on for this."
Neither did Aaron. As much as she wanted to wring his neck and ask why he couldn’t have applied to Medical School if he fucking had
to save lives, Haley knew that Aaron wasn’t to blame for Foyet´s actions. Besides, she suddenly realized that she had so much else to say. Too much to say. Haley could only focus on the most important words.
And hope the letter Sam had agreed to forward to Jess and time would tell Aaron the rest.