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Fic: Reflections pt1

reflections copy (1)
Reflections
by PaBurke
Art by
Distribution: cm lj bigbang
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended, no money made, no characters created.
Spoilers: Season three of Criminal Minds, Season 2-ish of Supernatural
Summary: There are thirteen extra Aaron Hotchners in the DC/Quantico area, trying to destroy the original any way they can. The Winchesters have to keep the right one alive and kill the rest.


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The face is the mirror of the mind, and eyes without speaking confess the secrets of the heart.
Saint Jerome (374 AD - 419 AD)




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As a profiler, Aaron Hotchner knew that every circumstance happened due to a process. Events led to even bigger events which, in Aaron’s line of work, often led to death. Most people never realized that their slightest self-involvement months ago had been interpreted as a snub and could be added to someone else’s psychotic break. In the same way, even the most trained behavioral analyst wouldn’t realize when a kind word and a smile could postpone or derail someone’s suicide plans. Everything was connected and small events were vitally important in retrospect.

So it was no surprise that even Aaron missed the very first clue that something was wrong in the FBI offices. He might have missed earlier ones, but this one he remembered weeks later. The clue was small, miniscule: his trash can was out of place. It was only shifted two inches to the right, but it was enough for Aaron to notice. Housekeeping was normally more careful. Aaron simply assumed that maintenance had a new employee and sent a friendly reminder to the housekeeping department to leave everything in his office the way he left it. It was best to encourage good habits in the first week of work rather than waiting weeks before correcting a bad habit. The trash can never was moved again and so Aaron assumed that the problem was corrected.

The second clue was just as ignorable: a rumor began to circulate. Aaron, the person, preferred to ignore rumors. Aaron, the supervisory agent, tried to confront rumors and stop them before they caused a rift in the office. So when people –mostly females- stopped talking the second time he entered the kitchen for tea, he pulled Emily Prentiss aside to investigate.

Emily didn’t even need to ask any of the gossipers. She had already heard and dismissed the rumor. When questioned, Emily rolled her eyes. “Lauren from Archives is saying that you sexually harassed her late at night sometime last week. Don’t worry, no one believes her.”

While it was certainly true that Aaron worked too many late nights, especially now that Haley had left him, he had actually gotten home at a decent hour three times last week. Aaron wasn’t even sure he had met Lauren. He checked her personnel file and yes, with her blonde hair, petite figure and pretty face she was his type but Aaron had never laid eyes on her in person. Aaron checked her file to see if she had ever accused another person in authority of sexual harassment. She hadn’t. In fact, Lauren Mackenzie had once backed her boss when he had been falsely accused of harassment. Behaviorally, the situation was interesting. Personally, Aaron chose to ignore it. Any investigation on his part would be badly and incorrectly interpreted.

The third clue was the one that caught Aaron’s attention. Penelope Garcia was chiding him again on his health and work hours. “And what can you really do with all those files in your office if you don’t have your laptop?”

Aaron put down the current file in his hands and gave Garcia his full attention. “Garcia, what are you talking about?”

“Your late nights,” she looked confused that Aaron was, one, actually listening to the familiar conversation and, two, seemed unaware of the circumstances that he lived.

“Let’s be specific. What nights?”

“Tuesday, Sunday and Tuesday,” she answered.

Aaron’s blood turned cold. Out of all the nights Aaron had been working recently, those three were notable exceptions. “What happened on those nights?”

Garcia looked worried. “Why are you using your coax-the-witness voice on me?”

“Garcia.”

“You leave with your laptop at eight-ish, or nine-ish or ten-ish,” she gave him a very disapproving look for the last one. “You come back an hour or so later and do some work with files and not on your laptop,” that was the part that truly confused the tech geek, “for a couple of hours, sometimes in your office but mostly not, and then you leave again to be back in the office by seven.”

“How do you know it’s me?” Aaron asked.

“I check the security cameras every morning,” Garcia said as if it were part of her assigned duties. It wasn’t and it was a horrible invasion of privacy, but it was one of the ways that Garcia protected ‘her peeps.’

Aaron was most assuredly one of Garcia’s ‘peeps.’ She would not misidentify him. Aaron knew that he had been elsewhere on the nights in question. He didn’t have an alibi, but he had not been in the office. Who had been in his office? What files had they read and potentially sabotaged. Aaron wondered how anyone could have imitated him well enough to fool Garcia and her cameras.

“Sir, are you sleepwalking? ‘Cause that would explain you acting so out of character to Lauren.”

Aaron stared at Garcia. “Was there at one time, video proof of me approaching Lauren Mackenzie?”

Garcia hemmed and hawed and Aaron knew that she had erased it. “You were sleepwalking and it’s nothing you would ever consider doing and that camera has been on the fritz for months, a year even and…”

“Garcia, there is nothing that can excuse sexual harassment.”

Garcia’s jaw dropped. “So you’re saying that you did it?”

“No. But I will need your help tonight to prove it.”

“You got it,” she promised without hesitation. “What do you have in mind?”

“We need to be physically in the same room outside of FBI cameras but somewhere we can remotely view them.”

Garcia grinned. “You can come over to my place. I’ll have no problem setting something up from there.”

“I’ll bring Thai and coffee. This might be a long night and it might not be the only one.”

“It’s a date.”

Aaron quirked a smile. “What would your boyfriend say?”

Garcia flipped her hair. “What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.” Garcia’s words and attitude might have been flippant, but Aaron agreed that this circumstance demanded secrecy.

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int1
Aaron tried to juggle coffee, take-out and his computer as he knocked on Garcia’s door. He waited as he heard the footsteps pause on the other side of the door. The pause continued. “Garcia?”

He heard her fumble with the lock. When she finally opened the door, she stared at Aaron with disbelieving eyes. “Wow. I mean, wow! I know you said that we would prove that you didn’t do it, but I thought you had to run back to the office before coming here.”

Aaron unloaded his arms on the nearest flat surface. He disregarded the messy tumble to focus on Garcia. “Is my double at the office already?”

“Yes, I thought…”

She had already offered her thoughts, so Aaron talked over her. “Call my phone. I’ll use my earbud. Give me a running commentary on everything he’s been doing.” He never heard her agreement. His phone was ringing before he started up his car. Aaron activated his earbud, “Yes, Garcia.”

“Your double is making tea at this moment. Just like you do it. This is more than a little freaky, sir.”

“Has he talked to anyone?”

“Nothing more involved than greetings, it looks like.”

“Make a list of personnel he’s contacted.”

“On it.” There was an awkward pause. “I’m not allowed to hang up on you, am I?”

“No. You need to be sure to whom you are communicating. That’s why we didn’t involve the rest of the BAU: they wouldn’t know which… one of me was the Unsub.”

“Ouch. Any ideas on how anyone can imitate you so well?”

“None. We might have to ask Reid or Prentiss.” Reid would know of any scientific advancements and Emily would know the latest scuttlebutt of the spy community.

“I can’t get over how much he looks like you. I’m even running a computer identification program and it comes up with you. And he probably will be identified as you every time I check, won’t he?”

“I believe so.”

“That is so not cool. I mean, it’s cool but it’s not cool because at least one of them is a sexually harassing idiot. And they’re trying to ruin your reputation.” Garcia tended to ramble at the oddest times.

“I’m glad you have such a clear cut opinion on the matter,” Aaron couldn’t help but to tease.

Garcia giggled appreciatively. Then she gasped and Aaron knew that the situation had taken a down turn.

“What is it?” he demanded. He was fifteen minutes from both the office and Garcia’s apartment. He could still turn around if it was an emergency.

“Sir! There are two of you currently in the FBI! You couldn’t have gotten there that fast. I mean, I’ve had a couple mornings when I’m running late but it is physically impossible to get to the office in less than twenty-five minutes.”

Aaron had to raise an eyebrow at the speeding implied. “What are the two Unsubs doing?” Using normal case terminology calmed Aaron’s mind. He could do this if the treated it as just another case.

Garcia’s voice turned more business-like, responding to Aaron’s attitude unconsciously. “One is in your office, but the other… He’s snooping in the archives. What could he be looking for down there?”

Aaron had no idea. “Investigate it. Which Unsub has fewer bystanders nearby?”

“The one in the archives.”

“I’ll try to isolate him.”

“I see you, sir. You’ve just arrived in the parking garage.”

She must have had the camera cued up so that she could follow his progress. Aaron thanked Gideon for having the foresight to hire her all those years ago even if the older man didn’t understand the full extent of her capabilities.

Garcia rambled on about doubles and comic book storylines. Fifteen minutes later, Aaron was signing in to the FBI offices. The guard at the entrance gave him a strange look and Aaron realized that the doubles must have used separate entrances on previous occasions.

“Garcia?” Aaron interrupted her. He was hurrying to the archive as fast as his feet could carry him, skipping the elevator and choosing the stairs.

“Yes, sir? I’m following you. Neither of the Unsubs is suspicious.”

“Good. I need you to double check Tuesday, Sunday and Tuesday night footage. You stopped last time as soon as you found the Unsub looking like me, but…”

She was smart enough to see where he was heading. “There might have been more than one Unsub looking like you snooping in the FBI office.”

“Exactly.”

“On it. I’ll also check last week when the Unsub was harassing Lauren Mackenzie.” Garcia calmed about as much as it ever did when she was on a case. Using familiar terminology had been a smart move on Aaron’s part.

“Thank you.”

“Sir, the Unsub’s right on the other side of the door from you.” Garcia warned.

Aaron unholstered his gun and took a deep breath. He held the gun by his side. He needed to capture the Unsub and interrogate him. He needed answers and if the Unsub thought he was the other Unsub, Aaron might have a chance. After all, Aaron looked exactly like the Unsubs.

Aaron steeled his expression and opened the door. The Unsub looked up at Aaron, confused. Obviously, the two Unsubs weren’t supposed to be in the same area in the FBI building. They had a plan and Aaron had just gone off script.

“You find it?” Aaron asked.

The Unsub straightened and alarm flitted across his face. He opened his mouth as if to speak, but threw the open file at Aaron, turned and run.

“FBI, Stop!” Aaron yelled at the retreating Unsub.

The Unsub didn’t pause. Aaron stopped and shot the Unsub. The Unsub stumbled, regained his balance and continued running at full speed.

“Holy shit, sir!” Garcia breathed in his ear. “That was a direct shot. You hit him. In the chest.”

“He’s not down,” Aaron pointed out.

“No, no, he’s not. He’s not slowing. He’s running up the stairs.”

Aaron followed. He pushed open the door to the stairs and nearly tripped over a blonde woman that had recently fallen. If Aaron had to guess, the Unsub had pushed her. “Are you all right?”

Lauren Mackenzie jerked her head up to meet his eyes. Then she looked at the gun in his hand, not pointed at her and finally in the direction of the Unsub had fled, downstairs. Aaron didn’t try to reassure her that he wasn’t the same man that had harassed her and had just assaulted her , but when she met his eyes again, there was understanding within.

“Are you alright?” Aaron repeated. He was itching to chase the Unsub. He needed backup to care for the civilians. He had to trust that Garcia would keep an eye on the Unsub.

“Now it makes sense,” she breathed.

Now Aaron wanted to stop and question her, because nothing in this scenario made any sense. She reached for her neck and drew a necklace and its charm up over her head. She offered them to Aaron. “You’re going to need this.”

Aaron knew better than to accept gifts from strangers but something about the charm drew his hand near. Lauren Mackenzie wrapped the necklace around his wrist. “Do not take it off under any circumstances.” She tilted her head in the direction of the Unsub. “Hurry. You need to get him.”

“There’s another one in my office,” Aaron told her.

Her eyes turned fearful. “I am going home sick,” she declared.

“Go to Penelope Garcia’s,” Aaron ordered. “She’s helping me from her place.”

“Good luck,” she offered. “You’re going to need it.”

Aaron ran down the stairs. “Garcia?” he asked.

“He’s still on the stairs. Third floor now.”

Garcia continued feeding him directions all the way out to the parking lot. From there, it was a car chase, but the oddest one Aaron had ever been involved in since neither he nor the Unsub wanted to attract local law enforcement attention. Interesting. Aaron knew why he didn’t want a patrol officer to pull him over, but why didn’t the Unsub want to add confusion to the situation?

He was working with the partner. A small part of Aaron’s brain wondered which Unsub (both that resembled him) was the dominant and which was the submissive partner. Aaron wasn’t submissive. He wondered how much of his own personality he needed to include in the profile of the Unsubs.

“What is the other Unsub doing?” Aaron asked. He knew that Garcia was busy trying to hack into the traffic cameras, so that Aaron wouldn’t lose the Unsub, but this was important.

“Uh… He’s settling into your office. He just moved your trashcan. I don’t get it.”

Aaron did. The Unsub had previously moved the trashcan but hadn’t repeated it when Aaron noticed it. He hadn’t done it a second time because Aaron had been returning to the office daily. The Unsub wasn’t expecting Aaron to return from his chase with the second Unsub.

Up ahead, Aaron saw that the Unsub had pulled into an allotment complex under construction. The Unsub put his car into park and ran toward the back of the house skeletons. There was little light back there. Aaron parked his car and chased the Unsub, gun in hand and Garcia in his ear, begging for an update. There were no cameras for her to hack here.

Aaron caught sight of a second figure. He –the Unsub- paused long enough for Aaron to recognize his own face on someone else… again. What was Aaron supposed to do? He couldn’t call for backup because they would never believe him, but he was currently outnumbered. Both of the Unsubs faced him now and they were pointing guns at him. Aaron dived to the side before they could aim. He turned to retreat but there was a third Unsub between Aaron and his car. Aaron shot the Unsub. It should have killed him, but it didn’t even slow him down.

All of a sudden, Aaron lost his connection with Garcia. He would worry about that later when he didn’t have two of his own reflections –they were Unsubs and Aaron wasn’t going to let them play mind games with him- trying to kill him. He suppressed the emotions that implied that Garcia had been the only sane thing in this whole mess.

Aaron had fallen for a trap. It was obvious: the Unsubs had isolated him. Aaron was not hunting them. The Unsubs were hunting him, like a cat hunted (played with) a mouse. He wasn’t sure at what point they had twisted the search around against him. Probably about the time that he had snuck around a corner, only to be shot by one of them. The Unsub had winged him, but he wasn’t losing much blood and he could still hold his gun. He only knew that he was running now because this sadist, this group of sadists, was beyond anything he had experienced. They were drawing out their fun. They could have ended this easily. His bullets didn’t faze them and he had a limited number. And since they all looked like him, Aaron didn’t know how many were currently trying to kill him. (Why him? He needed to pause and analyze himself both as the victim and the Unsub.)

First, he had to survive this trap. Aaron knew that his only chance was to take advantage of their ‘game’ and escape. He needed to get outside of the Unsub’s… Unsubs’ influence and control. He needed to regroup and call in reinforcements before the Unsubs turned on the BAU and harmed his team.

The bullet graze on his arm hurt.

A lot.

He had to survive.

He had to. He ran out a door as quietly as possible.

What would happen to his team if this flawless impostor was in his place? The Unsub had a partner in Aaron’s office. He needed to concentrate on his current situation and worry about his team later.

He needed a bolt hole. Someplace to think and to plan. He couldn’t run back to Garcia. Who knew what they would do to the computer tech? Though between Garcia and Lauren Mackenzie, they might have come up with some answers. Aaron rounded another dark corner and came face to face with himself. Again. He started backing away from that cruel, cruel smile. He had never really used that smile himself.

Aaron turned to run but was only faced with another impostor… UnSub. Trapped. He had his gun in hand and he had used it well before (but the impostors couldn’t be killed, not even with a headshot). Aaron knew that he hadn’t missed previously, Garcia had confirmed it.

He heard the gunshot first. He analyzed his body and knew that he hadn’t been hit (yet, again). It had been a warning shot? More sadism? Aaron turned to face the one behind him. He was not a coward, he would face his death. To his surprise, the bullet he had heard had entered the Unsub behind him.

And had actually killed him. It. Unsub. Whatever. He didn’t care about terminology at this particular moment. The situation was shaking Aaron’s legendary calm. Aaron felt fully justified in being unprepared. Nothing in his years as a prosecuting attorney, a SWAT team leader and now the Agent in Charge of the BAU had prepared him for this.

Now a very tall young man stood there with a gun. He aimed it (not quite at Aaron) and pulled the trigger. Again the bullet missed him and hit the other of the Unsubs. This man had excellent aim and didn’t flinch when it came to shooting (and killing) humans.

Aaron was standing (bleeding) between two dead (Aaron Hotchner) bodies.

The young man raised an eyebrow. He already had the gun (a revolver) pointed safely down. He didn’t consider Aaron to be an immediate danger. “C’mon! Let’s go. There’re more of them out there.”

Aaron didn’t have to be told twice. He followed the young man, pausing only to grab a gun from one of the bodies, he was out of bullets for his own. The man led the way to a ’67, black Chevy Impala; he was as aware as Aaron of all the movements surrounding them. The car’s engine was running and there was a driver fidgeting. Aaron’s savior (who had killed two Unsubs on his behalf) slid into the front passenger’s seat. Aaron climbed in the back.

The driver peeled out as he tossed a mechanical device onto the backseat. He glanced at Aaron in the rearview mirror. “How many reflections you nail?”

“Three.”

The driver nodded. “Eight more.”

The taller one shook his head. “It’s too many to get from the shadows. That’s why I brought him in.” He reached under his seat and pulled out a first aid kit.

“You get hurt?” the driver asked sharply.

“No, he did.” The taller one handed over the gauze and alcohol, so that Aaron could dress his own wound until a professional could look at it.

The driver sighed. Aaron knew that he agreed but was making sounds just to be disagreeable. Aaron picked up the device the driver had tossed and asked the easiest question. He would get them used to him so that when he started asking impossible questions, they would answer truthfully. Any lies at this juncture might kill him. “What is this?”

The driver shrugged. “A jammer.”

The savior turned in his seat to give Aaron a better answer. “We couldn’t chance the reflections getting a call out and turning this place into a bloodbath, or calling for more reflections as reinforcements. Any emergency responders would have trusted someone who wasn’t you.”

Aaron flipped it around in his hands. He didn’t know much about this things and it was dark but still… “It looks homemade.”

The driver shrugged again and Aaron’s savior bestowed a smiled on him. “It is.”

The driver had made it. Interesting.

“Is it off now?”

“Yeah…” the question was implied.

“I have to warn my team.”

“If you went crazy, are those who you’d kill first?” the passenger asked. He was sliding shiny bullets into the chamber of the revolver, replacing what he had used. Three bullets. When had he fired the third?

“No. If I ever had a psychotic break with reality, I’d kill my ex-wife.” Sad truth. He didn’t even need to mull over the thought. So he should have been analyzing himself as both the victim and the Unsub.

Aaron had gained the attention of both young men (mid-twenties). Very competent for their youth.

“Where’s she?”

“At her sister’s.”

“Where?” the driver stressed.

Aaron gave them the address. The driver made an illegal U-turn to go in that direction. “Are they… me?” Would these two give him answers? Hotch knew that he’d be terrifying as an Unsub.

The two men looked at each other and a decision had been reached silently. The passenger had been elected to speak. “Strictly speaking, no. They’re more like a hive mind bent on destroying you, every part of you, for their own purposes.” Aaron considered this. The Unsub in his office had subtly claimed the space when Aaron had chased the second Unsub out of the FBI building. The Unsub Hotch had been chasing never had a chance to update the one in the office. The Unsub he had chased had somehow been warned that Aaron wasn’t a partner. Hive mind? They weren’t saying that the Unsubs were telepathic, were they? And that the one in the archives had known Aaron was Aaron because he couldn’t respond telepathically?

“What is their purpose?” Aaron asked instead.

“Immortal chaos. The ability to have thirteen reflections of you killing at any given time.”

“What?” That didn’t make sense. He wished for Reid to translate.

“Don’t worry about it. Just know that for the time being, mirrors are not your friend,” the driver answered. He slowed at a stop sign. “Which way?”

This answer was easier for Aaron to answer. “Left. Left at the next sign and then third house on the right.”

The driver didn’t bother stopping at the other signs. All three men jumped out of the car and raced up the drive. The driver used a twelve-pound sledgehammer to smash open the door without knocking. It was nearing midnight, Hailey and Jessica could be asleep and Jack definitely should have been asleep. Aaron opened his mouth to argue at their tactics but then he rounded the doorway into the kitchen and promptly lost his train of thought and his objectivity.

There he was threatening Hailey with a gun. The Unsub had one arm wrapped around her and the 9mm pointed at her head. Another one of him was terrorizing her sister and little Jack. Both had guns, much like the two he was wearing. They were even wearing the exact same suit as Aaron.

“Hey, bitch!” The driver threw the sledgehammer at the one standing between Hailey’s sister and Jack. The momentum threw him into the wall. Jack ran to Aaron screaming ‘Daddy’ as if there weren’t two other men in the room wearing his face. The one that had a gun pointed at Hailey changed his target to Jack. Aaron dove for his son, even as the tall savior pointed the revolver at the Unsub and pulled the trigger. Aaron covered his son’s body with his own. He did peek to check for an opportunity to get his family out of the line of fire. At the first sign of safety, Jessica and Hailey rushed to Aaron’s side. He had Jack. Even if he was another one of the crazy… reflections, he had Jack and they would protect him. Aaron wondered if Hailey would be able to ever trust his face, his voice again.

The other him shrugged off the sledgehammer that should have shattered his ribcage. The driver didn’t seem surprised and was waiting. He threw a knife (as shiny as the bullets had been) into the Unsub’s chest. Aaron had the… dubious pleasure of watching two more of his reflections die.

“I’ll clear the house,” the tall one said.

The driver nodded in agreement, glanced around and walked back to Aaron and the women who were hiding behind him. Aaron stood now, Jack in his arms, mostly, the un-bloodied one. The driver put a kind hand on the back of Jack’s head and tucked him beneath Aaron’s chin. “Close your eyes, buddy. You’re safe now. You don’t need to see this.”

Jack obeyed. His tiny hands clutched Aaron’s pressed, (dirty now) white, dress shirt.

Now the driver was addressing the women. “Have you gotten a mirror sometime recently?”

Hailey looked at her sister in confusion. “A mirror?”

“Yes, it could be any size, big or small, but it’ll have odd markings on it.” Hailey’s trembling hand went to her necklace. It was a new antique.

The driver noticed as well. “Give it to me,” he ordered.

Hailey looked to Aaron for guidance. And shied away. “Are you really you?”

“Ask me anything.”

“First time we met?”

“I joined the crew of Pirates of Penzance to meet you. I talked you into letting me keep the hat from my old costume.”

Hailey cracked a smile at the memory and relaxed slightly.

“Trust me. Give the necklace to him,” Aaron repeated.

Hailey fumbled with the clasp. Her hands were still shaking. Aaron gently turned her around and unhooked the chain with his free hand. Hailey handed the necklace over. The driver glared at it for a moment and then handed it off to his tall partner who had returned without firing a shot. “What do you think, Sammy?”

‘Sammy’ touched it with a finger to stop it from spinning in the air. “That’s it. Where did you get it?” He handed it back to the driver who dropped it on the ground and then dropped the sledgehammer on top of it.

“A man. He’s been flirting with me.”

Aaron buried any jealousy. “What his name?”

Hailey shook her head in confusion and shock. “I don’t know. I just… see him at the coffee shop. He left it for me via the barista. It was just a small token that…”

…made her feel wanted and special, Aaron understood.

“What did he look like?” The driver asked.

“I don’t know, I can’t remember.”

Aaron could feel their frustration, but noticed that they weren’t surprised. “I’ll help her,” he promised.

The partners nodded. Then the driver started giving orders. “You all have to leave. There’re more reflections loose and you don’t want to meet up with them, especially now that they’re trying to cover their tracks. Grab your purse and an overnight bag and whatever you can’t live without for a little while. For safety sake, don’t take any mirrors with you. No cell phones, no computers, no electronics. You guys are leaving in two minutes.”

“You’re not hiding the bodies, are you,” Aaron asked. He had survived by identifying allies in a blink of an eye and these two would not hurt his family, blood or chosen. “I need to have proof to show my team, so that they are suspicious of anyone wearing my face.” The camera evidence could be manipulated; corpses could be laid side-by-side. “There’s an Unsub at my office pretending to be me, right now.”

The partners exchanged another glance. If they weren’t related they had been working together of a hell of a lot of years to silently communicate so effectively. The driver shrugged. “If they can keep themselves from getting killed, I’m all for it. But why do evil doubles always show up when we’re dealing with the feds?”

Sammy smirked. “One does not predicate the other.”

“Whatever, bitch.”

“Jerk, watch your language in front of the kid.”

The driver rolled his eyes. “Dude, you’re the one using words like predicate.” And then he glared at the women. “You have one minute to pack a bag.” He turned his gaze to Aaron. “And you are not taking your phone.”

Aaron nodded and ushered the women upstairs. “Hurry,” he murmured to Hailey and her sister at their doorways. “I’ll take care of Jack’s bag.”

The women hurried. Aaron tried to set Jack on his bed, but the little boy clung to him. Aaron didn’t have the heart to force the issue. He dialed the number for Garcia Penelope while he grabbed Jack’s bag and started throwing clothes and toys into it.

“Sir, Sir? I couldn’t contact you. I called and I called and I didn’t know who to call for help. I mean, who would believe something like this.”

Aaron ignored the computer tech’s panic. “Garcia,” he said firmly.

“Hotch, sir.” He could image her sitting up in her seat.

“Tell me that you’ve taken all the safety precautions at your house.” He waited a beat. “Is it locked up yet?”

He heard her quick breath. “Yes, sir. It is. I locked it as soon as you…” Her voice trailed off as she realized that she might not be talking to her real boss.

“What’s going on could be used as the storyline for one of the comic book adventures that you read, but it’s even worse than we had assumed.” Aaron heard crashing in the background of Hailey’s house, but couldn’t concern himself with it.

“No, no, no. I don’t want to hear that. You don’t say things like that,” Garcia said. “Prove it’s you.”

Aaron pressed the cell phone to Jack’s ear. “Tell Penelope hi and tell her who you’re with.”

Jack smiled. “Hi, Flower Lady. Daddy is with me.”

Aaron took back the phone, cocked it between his shoulder and his ear and continued packing. Jack now imitated what Aaron had done for him and held the cell phone to his father’s ear. It helped. Aaron grinned at him and then continued packing anything of Jack’s that he could lay his hands on. “I left my laptop on your coffee table a couple hours ago. My laptop was how you caught on that something was…. Hinky. Is that good enough, Garcia?”

“I am so glad you are you and that you are with Jack. But, I don’t understand.”

“Neither do I,” he told her honestly, “but I have more work for you.”

“Okay. Lay it on me.”

“First I need you to send my team, before they come in for the day, minus ‘me’ to Hailey’s house and to this house in the east suburbs.” He rattled off address of the construction residential maze he had been forced through. “Tell them not to stop and call you at the first body. Remind them that I’m not dead. They have to find the rest of the bodies first. And not to feel guilty, they were trying to kill me. There are multiple Unsubs that they are tracking.”

“Bodies?” she squeaked.

“Garcia,” Hotch warned.

“Okay, okay, they are not allowed to call me until they find all the bodies. I’ll be lucky if they don’t call me when they get the message to go.”

“And whatever you do, Penelope, don’t trust me unless I’m with Jack and don’t get caught alone with me. Do you understand that?”

“Yessir.”

“Good. Stay home as long as you can. Call in sick. Take care of my team, Penelope.” He was ready to hang up and she could tell.

“Sir!” she screeched. “What about you? Who’s helping you?”

“It’s a team, of two, and they’ve run into… evil doubles before and usually when they cross paths with the federal government. I think they’ve been presumed to be the Unsubs. They are both over six feet. Sammy is taller at 6’5”. If they are not close relatives, they’ve been working together since high school if not longer. I think Sam is younger. They’re both between the ages of twenty and thirty.”

“That’s quite an age range. Do you have an origin?”

“No…” Aaron finally remembered the car. “Penelope, you can’t send the team after me.”

“This is scary. I mean, crazy, horror movie scary. I want to make sure that these guys can take care of you and if not I really am sending you the team. You need help, you get the best, sir.”

Aaron smiled at the affection and determination. “I’ll tell you later. First, I need you to take care of my team. They need to see what they are up against before they can help me. This case is going to break all the rules. I’ll update you when I can. Lauren Mackenzie should be coming to your house. She’s calling in sick too. Pump her for information. She believed in the doubles immediately and in my innocence. She knows something. Get it.”

“Hotchner!” Sam shouted up the stairs. “Time’s up! We have to hurry!”

“I’ll call you, Penelope. Do not repeat this information to me. I’ll be safe if I have Jack. Sam and my driver have killed the evil twin in each time. They understand this in a way that the BAU can’t, that I can’t. I’ll find a way to contact you but it won’t be by my phone.”

“Sir!”

“Goodbye, Penelope Garcia. I know that you will take good care of my team for me.”

Aaron left his phone on his son’s bed, grabbed his stuff and ran down the stairs. It wasn’t that hard to leave this symbol of the BAU behind. It should have been harder, but this way, his family was staying alive. He hugged Jack close and ushered Hailey and her sister out the door and into his saviors’ rather distinctive car.

Jack waited five minutes before leaning forward on Aaron’s lap. He rested his arms on the front seat. “Who are you?” he asked the driver.

The man spared a moment to grin at Jack. “I’m Dean,” he answered, “and this is my little brother, Sammy. What’s your name?”

“I’m Jack. This is my mommy and my daddy and my Aunt Jessica.”

“Nice to meet you all,” Dean said in the rearview mirror.

“I’m Aaron Hotchner and this is Hailey,” Aaron offered names.

Sammy twisted in the passenger’s seat and offered his hand to Aaron. “I’m Sam.” Aaron shook the hand, but Sam didn’t let go. He pulled Aaron’s hand forward and teased the silver chain out from under his dress shirt. “Where did you get this? Why are you wearing it?”

Aaron had forgotten about Lauren Mackenzie’s impulsive gift. Somehow it made sense that Sam recognized it. “That’s a long story.” He wasn’t sure if he wanted to share that much information with strangers.

“We’re trying to keep you alive,” Dean reminded him.

“It looks like a Scottish protective emblem,” Sam examined it closely. “It’s strong. I was wondering how you had survived the trap that the reflections sprung, but this could have given you an edge. Where did you get it?”

“A co-worker,” Aaron admitted. He pulled his hand back and Sam let him. The young man stared at him, waiting for more of an explanation. Aaron had used that interrogation trick too many times to count. He spoke, not because the silence was too uncomfortable but because these investigators needed the facts. “Two weeks ago, one of the Unsubs sexually harassed Lauren Mackenzie. She was starting the paperwork to report me for the crime. Thankfully, no one believed her. Or maybe not. I was trying to get to the bottom of it all and discovered the multiple Unsubs. When I returned to the FBI office to isolate one, there was a chase and Lauren Mackenzie got in the Unsub’s way. She saw me just after the Unsub and… she seemed to understand the possibility of the impostors faster than I had. She insisted that I take her necklace, and said that she was going to go home ‘sick’.”

“Smart woman,” Dean muttered.

“This is smarter than our average monster,” Sam said, mostly to Dean. “They tried to drive a wedge between Hotchner and probably the only person in the whole building who had experienced the supernatural and had a defense.”

“I agree with your assessment. They lured me to the construction complex and had several Unsubs waiting,” Aaron added. “And call me ‘Hotch’,” he offered.

Sam grinned despite of the serious circumstances. “It’s nice to meet you all. Wish it was under better circumstances.”

“But then we never would have met unless Hotch was arresting us,” Dean joked.

“What laws do you break?” Aaron had to ask. He needed to be prepared for the crimes.

“Desecration of the dead, breaking and entering, trespassing, sometimes theft, property damage, impersonating federal and law enforcement agents,” Dean rattled off. He looked at Sam, “Did I miss any?”

“Credit card fraud.” Sam twisted around to face Aaron. He wanted to explain the problems. “Sometimes we get blamed for the deaths caused by the supernatural creatures and sometimes the supernatural creatures we kill have a background that makes it sense like they’re human, but they’re not.”

Aaron wanted to protest the killings but he remembered the Unsubs he was currently running from. He couldn’t kill them with his gun and they most certainly would have killed him, Jack, Hailey and Jessica if Sam hadn’t appeared with his special gun. He knew that a regular prison, or even a SuperMax wouldn’t be able to keep a supernatural creature contained.

“We really want to keep all of you alive and safe and we are probably the best people in DC to do it,” Sam told Aaron and his family earnestly. Aaron certainly hoped that Sam and Dean weren’t serial killers, Sam could convince normally suspicious people into following his lead. He could probably talk himself into and out of anything.

“Why do you do it? Why are you helping a total stranger?” Hailey asked.

Aaron spared a moment to smile encouragingly at her. It was a good question.

“It’s what we do,” Dean answered. “Saving people, hunting things. It’s the family business.”

“It can’t pay well,” Jessica finally spoke.

Dean grinned at her. “And thus the credit card fraud.”

“You figure that society owes you for disposing of the supernatural problems?” Aaron asked mildly.

Dean shrugged. “If you say so. I say that it gives me more time to hunt down supernatural ass.” He steered the Chevy into a motel parking lot. “Okay, everybody out,” Dean ordered. “Bathroom break. Give your lunch-dinner-breakfast- and lunch orders to Sam. He’ll go get enough food for a while.”

“We’ve got to pack and make a few phone calls before we hunker down and do some research,” Sam explained. “We’re not as prepared for this job as we’d like.”

“Whatever you get for us for food would be fine.” Aaron looked at Hailey and her sister. “Call your work first. Then you can call your mother and tell her that you two are alive and that you’ll be okay. Don’t take too long. I have to call my team and see if they are interrogating the Aaron Hotchner Unsub in their custody.”

Jessica used the bathroom first and returned to the bedroom with a clean face. She then escorted Jack through the process. After Hailey was done with the phone, Jessica called her work. Hotch noticed that neither of the women gave an explanation for their absence from work. He was just as shell-shocked. He couldn’t imagine a good enough lie in this circumstance. He washed his face and hands while Hailey was on the phone. He noticed that the bathroom mirror was covered with an odd fabric embroidered with red thread. Aaron wondered what he looked like. Did he look like his whole world had turned upside-down? Did he look as shell-shocked as the women? The faces of the Unsubs haunted him. Like a nightmare, surely it hadn’t been real. Surely? But Aaron Hotchner had never shied away from horrible facts and circumstances. For some reason several Unsubs wearing his face were trying to destroy his life and for another unfathomable reason, Sam and Dean were determined to keep the Hotchner family alive.

Aaron was the last one to use the phone. He knew full well that his one phone call would back trace him and tracing him to this landline would be cakewalk for Garcia. On the plus side, they were well outside of city limits and it was rush hour. It would take a while for anyone from Quantico to make it to this hole-in-the-wall motel.

Garcia answered the phone before the first ring had finished. “Hello?” she asked breathlessly.

“Garcia,” Aaron said as he waved over his son.

“Sir?” she questioned.

Jack accepted the phone and chirped. “Hi, Flower Lady. The Bad Guys didn’t follow us and Sam has a cool car.”

“That’s my car,” Dean protested as he eavesdropped. He grabbed two well-used duffle bags and slung them over his shoulder. “That I am about to pack. Ten minutes, Hotchner.”

Aaron merely grabbed the motel phone back and waved Jack to his mother. “Garcia,” he said again. “How is the interview going? They did capture my… the other one of me, true?”

“Yessir. And they showed him all the dead you and can I say sir that you better not show up on any more autopsy tables. He’s in cuffs, which is wrong on so many levels, but right now he isn’t talking. He’s silent. This whole thing is too creepy.”

“I’m not sure that it can be helped.” Aaron remembered part of a conversation. “I believe that there are five more out there to be captured.”

“Sir?” Garcia worried. “Are you going to stay out in the cold until they are all caught?”

“It would be difficult to identify me apart from the others,” he reminded her.

“Oh!” The computer tech sounded perky again. “But they are all right handed, sir. They all have the calluses on the wrong hand. Emily twigged that.”

“Right-handed,” Aaron echoed. He saw Sam nod as he collected dusty, old books and take them out to the car. With both of the strangers outside, Aaron was quick to tell Garcia. “My helpers have Kansas license plates on a ’67 Chevy Impala.” He didn’t know if the names they had offered were true.

Garcia’s fingers started typing so fast and hard that Aaron could hear them through the phone. “Thank you, sir. Added with the other stuff you told me and now we’re getting somewhere. Aha. Samuel and Dean Winchester. You were right… on many points. They’ve got federal files. Dean is accused of skinning women alive. Just like you said, there’s a lot in here about the suspects being in two places at the same time. Dean’s body was even found shot dead at the scene of the crime and given a pauper’s burial. Sending the pic to your PDA. Oh, wait. You don’t have your PDA. Reid found it on Jack’s bed.”

“It had to be done. We don’t want the rest of the…,” he ended up using Sam’s word for the Unsubs, “reflections to find us. Describe the Winchesters.”

“Sam Winchester is 6’5” and really cute. Wavy brown hair, longish and hazel eyes. Dean is a knockout that’s about 6 foot with short, sandy hair and green eyes. I can’t decide which one is better looking. Dean is more of a character though. Well, if you had to be helped by outsiders with records, you probably picked the best looking of them all.”

“That’s them,” Aaron confirmed. “Dean’s not dead.”

“Yeah, that’s what everyone else is wondering. They were caught in Baltimore and the grave was exhumed and they swore that it was Dean. And there was a bank robbery in Milwaukie in which they got clean away but didn’t take any money. There too, a girl was found with a knife in her heart and at the same time her double was also escorted out and living. Again there’s conflicting evidence about people commit crimes after time of death that the coroner gives their bodies.”

“History, Garcia. The Winchesters.” He had to know if he could trust these two with his family. Were they good enough to solve this case? Were they smart enough? Aaron had no idea how he would deal with the Unsub impostors without their help.

“I’m a miracle worker, sir but even God needed six days.”

“I need something to build a working profile. I need to know how they think. Can I trust them to take care of my family?”

“Well, if you believe that someone else killed the girls that were skinned alive, not much of what’s in their FBI file will help you. Your own observations are probably of more use than anything I can give you.”

“Facts. Start with their parents.”

“Both parents are dead. Mother died when Samuel was six months old, in his nursery. John Winchester witnessed it and insisted that some person was in there and… huh, somehow pinned his wife to the ceiling and caught her on fire. Obviously, he recanted that story as soon as social services started sniffing around his boys. That wasn’t enough to make the case worker back off, and soon he hit the road with the boys, living mostly off the grid. John Winchester was wanted for impersonating a federal agent and multiple local law enforcement personnel, credit card fraud and drunk and disorderly. Also wanted for B&E and grave desecration. I’ve got record of child services called on him in at least eight different states. He was a Marine before your stressor and a well decorated one at that. He was also a half owner of a car shop.” The list of charges greatly resembled what Dean had rattled off in the car. They weren’t trying to hide the soiled parts of their past.

“What did child services records reveal?”

“Mostly neglect. The boys were left alone for days to weeks. They normally found out after Dean started stealing food. No record of them after Dean turns thirteen.”

“He had become a better thief,” Aaron guessed.

“Probably. Medical history: Dean had quite a lot of bruises, cuts and broken bones, Sam not so much. Dean has GED and mediocre grades. Sam had straight A’s and a full ride scholarship to Stanford. Prelaw.”

Somehow, Aaron wasn’t surprised that Sam had tried to be a lawyer. He would have gone far. “Why did he drop out?” he asked. Sam seemed to be more stubborn than most.

“His girlfriend died in a fire. There are some similarities to Mary Winchester’s death.”

“Something supernatural got both of them,” Aaron mused out loud.

“That’s… that’s really scary,” Garcia said. “I mean, I thought it would be awesome if werewolves and vampires existed but if they do they’re predators, they would be worse that serial killers, ‘cause whatever these Unsub reflections are, they are evil. They’re trying to sully your good name.”

“Garcia.”

“Sorry, sorry. This is scary.”

“You are safe locked in your apartment. Don’t go anywhere until I get back.”

“I won’t, but that means you have to return,” Garcia insisted.

Dean tapped the bed. He tilted his head toward the door. They had to leave now. “Civilian helping?” he asked.

Aaron nodded.

“Have her line all her windows and entrances with salt. It’s a quick and dirty way to keep out the supernatural.”

Aaron repeated the instructions to Garcia.

“Really?” she asked. She sounded as disbelieving and hopeful as Aaron felt.

“What will it hurt to help? By the way, has Lauren Mackenzie stopped by?”

“Not yet.”

“Find her,” Aaron ordered. “She might know more ways to stay safe.”

“Hotch!” Sam yelled.

“Bye Garcia,” Aaron said.

“Good bye, sir and good luck.”

Aaron had a feeling that he’d need all the good luck she wished him. He glanced around the motel room and saw that the Winchester brothers had cleaned out. There was no indication of their presence. Then he looked out the window and saw a line of salt. They practiced what they suggested for others’ protection. Jessica, Hailey and Jack were already climbing into the black Impala. Aaron locked the door behind him and followed.

This time when Aaron climbed into the back of the Impala, he noticed that all the mirrors of the car were covered with material embroidered with odd occult symbols similar to the fabric that had covered the bathroom mirror.

“How do you feel about tattoos?” Dean asked as he pulled onto a main road and drove further from Washington DC.

“Will it truly keep my family safe?” Aaron asked in return. He was just following the advice of the local experts, that’s the mantra that he repeated to himself.

“That charm from Lauren Mackenzie is really effective but it can be removed from your person and it only protects you. It will help if all three of you did it. The protection can’t be removed unless you pay for it.” Sam had a very reassuring and convincing nature. Aaron could almost forget the cold eyes that had shot four (lookalike) men dead.

“Okay,” Aaron agreed.

“Aaron?” Hailey was less sure.

“It’s to keep Jack safe.”

“But tattoos?”

Dean snorted. “I really want to know how you explain the reflections using conventional logic.”

“Clones?” she ventured. Cloning with humans was highly debated but theoretically possible; whatever Sam and Dean were very carefully not verbalizing was not.

“Even you don’t believe that,” Dean observed. “Will you get the tats or no?”

“Yes,” Aaron answered.

“All of you?” Sam asked.

“Yes.” This time Aaron answered over the women’s protests. “I’ll pay for them to be lasered off after,” he promised. “But for right now it will help with identification for Jack’s safety.”

“First we have to figure out what tattoo will be most effective,” Sam reminded them.

“You may get lucky and we kill all of the reflections before that point.” Dean offered hopefully.

Aaron hoped for the same resolution.

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