Prompt(s): fanfic100 #3 Ends and story_lottery #24 Space
Word Count: 1050ish
Summary: The space that comes at the end of a marriage, the end of a life. It can be a hard thing to get used to.
Author's Notes: Spoilers for "100" within. Also, if I have some of the details wrong about the breakup of Hotch and Haley's marriage, I apologize; I haven't seen those episodes in a while. I'm sure you'll forgive me. Standard disclaimers apply: I own nothing; suing would be pointless and cruel.
"The space between
Where you're smiling high
Is where you'll find me if I get to go.
The space between
The bullets in our firefight
Is where I'll be hiding, waiting for you."
-The Dave Matthews Band, "The Space Between"
Haley Hotchner rolled over in bed and reached for his familiar, solid warmth, but she found herself groping at empty air. He wasn't there. His side of the bed was empty; cold. He was on a case…?
No. He'd gone to Wisconsin, even though she'd begged him not to. He couldn't give it up, that thrill he got from profiling, from shining the light on the worst mankind had to offer, from the adrenaline rush the whole thing gave him. It had been the last straw, and she'd left him. She'd taken Jack and walked out, and when he'd finally returned from chasing the bad guys (as he always did, she admitted grudgingly, even if it wasn't on the schedule she would have set for either of them), she'd told him about her own transgressions.
She sat up; ran small, shaking hands through sleep-tangled blond hair. She remembered his look of hurt and betrayal. Aaron Hotchner was a man who only understood the concept of adultery in theory – a vague abstraction that didn't apply to him or his life and had no business butting its messy little nose in where it didn't belong – and with his wife's words, suddenly everything he thought he'd known had been turned on its head.
It hadn't been an affair, not technically. It's just…she felt so alone so much of the time, and he'd been there for her when Aaron was off being Hotch, perfect G Man. It was no excuse, but it was all she had, and some part of her knew their marriage had been over long before she started making excuses for spending time with another man.
Sighing, Haley turned her back on the empty side of the bed. She still loved Aaron, but sometimes love wasn't enough. When it ceased to be, the only thing left was empty space.
Even before Aaron Hotchner opened his eyes he could feel her absence like a missing limb. That was a flawed simile, he knew, because they say you don't feel a missing limb; it still itches and aches like it's actually there, attached, and it's only when you reach out to scratch or rub it that you remember it's gone. He didn't have to reach across the bed to know that Haley was gone; the cold emptiness where her warmth should have been told him everything.
He sat up; rubbed his aching chest (the place where his heart used to be) with a large, blunt-fingered hand. She'd taken his son and gone, and he'd returned home to an empty, echoing house. When she'd finally come back, she'd told him about the other man. Not an affair, she'd said, just some company. Just someone to spend some time with, someone who spoke in complete sentences about something other than apple juice and Legos.
Twenty years gone in a simple, tear-filled confession.
The ironic part? He didn't blame her. Not really. He wasn't even all that surprised. If he'd been the one left at home with the baby while she'd been off chasing the bad guys all the time, he might've gone a bit stir crazy, too. He should've encouraged her to go back to work after Jack started preschool, but she'd said she was happy being at home with him…and with Hotch traveling as much as he did, it made sense to have one of them home more often…
He still loved her. He'd never stop loving her. He wondered if he gave up the job, or at least maybe cut back on it, if then they could… He shook his head. It was impossible. He'd tried, or at least…he'd tried to try, and it…it just wasn't in him to give up. He lived for the job…for the…he had to admit it, at least partly for the adrenaline of it. He loved Haley and he loved Jack, but he couldn't live without the job. Pathetic, maybe, but true.
He rose from the bed and padded to the sideboard in the living room; poured two fingers of Scotch into a cut tumbler and knocked it back. Dark olive eyes studied the bare room, and he sighed. The small exhalation did little to fill the stark space, and he wondered if his life would ever be full again.
Aaron Hotchner should have been used to the empty space next to him in bed by now. He and Haley had been apart for two years; surely that was enough time to come to grips with it…
But it felt different now. Some part of him had always held out hope for their relationship, but now there was…nothing. Emptiness, with parameters as set by one George Foyet. The Reaper had taken her more definitively than Hotch's own driving ambition ever could have. He flexed his hands; felt the satisfying sting of flesh broken against Foyet's skull.
He shouldn't find it so satisfying.
He didn't care that he did.
Haley was dead. Foyet was dead. Were the scales of justice balanced? Somehow it didn't feel that way. Somehow he felt…empty. That was all. Such a small word, used too often, yet so profoundly apt to describe how he felt. Or his lack of feeling, as it were, since he wasn't sure he was capable of feeling anything at the moment.
He stretched out an arm; draped it across the pillow where Haley's head would have rested once upon a time. Not in this bed, though, never here, but still the sentiment was the same. He spread his palm as though cradling her skull with infinite, loving tenderness.
He stayed like that for he knew not how long. His hands hurt. His heart hurt. He ignored it all and concentrated on the memory of mischevious, twinkling eyes and a bright, brilliant smile that had once made him happily sacrifice his dignity to the gods of the stage. He stared at the ceiling, nearly unblinking, and absorbed the sense of quiet, unfilled space all around him.