Title: Coda: In Heat
Characters: Hotch, Rossi (friendship)
Word Count: 700
Summary: Set immediately after In Heat (3X17) . Hotch and Rossi have a post-case bonding moment on the jet.
“Did you ever?”
Hotch looked up from his paperwork to see Rossi sliding into the seat across from him. “I thought you were asleep.”
Rossi folded his hands on the table between them. “Couldn’t sleep. The others are, though, so now is a good time to answer the question.”
Hotch sat back as far as the too-upright seating would allow to study Rossi’s face, hoping to find a clue there that would help him figure out what the question was. He didn’t. “If you want an answer, I need more to go on than ‘did you ever’. Did I ever what?”
Rossi inclined his head. “Struggle with your sexuality.” He kept his voice low. Even, by Rossi standards, soft.
Hotch appreciated Rossi’s effort to maintain his privacy, because it wasn’t any of the team’s business. It also wasn’t a secret. If it had been, Rossi wouldn’t have known about it, regardless of the length of their friendship. That Rossi was asking the question this carefully, or even at all, made Hotch wonder if Rossi understood the difference between the two.
Given the timing and use of the phrase from Steven’s profile -‘struggling with his sexuality’- also made him wonder if Rossi thought he was going to suffer a mental break, start choking gay men and assuming their identities. “Not in that way,” he said, extremely dryly.
“It was a serious question, Hotch. Did you?” Rossi leaned forward when he asked the question, persisting in getting an answer and was obviously more concerned than curious. Dammit.
Hotch sighed and put his pen down, fingers resting lightly atop it. “Not in any significant way,” he said, slow more out of thoughtfulness than reluctance. “I had... other ways of measuring my self-worth. By the time I realized I was occasionally attracted to men, I was already wrapped up in proving myself in other areas, and was already crazy about Haley.”
“So you’re saying it never really impacted your life.” There was no ‘question’ in Rossi’s tone, but there was definite disbelief - and in the way he leaned back and waited for Hotch to explain himself.
Hotch’s patience with the conversation -or rather the patronizing tone of Rossi’s questioning- was waning rapidly.
“No. That’s not what I’m saying. It was just far enough in the background that it was a non-issue for a long time. I was busy with work and in love with Haley. She knew, but she also knew that I wasn’t going to be unfaithful to her with anyone, regardless of gender. It was always theoretical, and that gave me a lot of room to get used to it. Is this a psych-eval or a conversation?” He didn’t raise his voice, but those last words sounded clipped, even to his own ears.
If Rossi noticed Hotch’s impatience or irritation, he ignored it. “Just a conversation. Is it still theoretical? Now that faithfulness to Haley isn’t a concern?”
“That,” Hotch said, using words with the same precision he’d use to put a bullet through someone’s head, “is really none of your business.” There were limits to how far he’d allow himself to be pushed, even by Rossi.
Rossi looked at him. Hotch stared back, unblinking and silent until Rossi put his hands flat on the table and slid out of the seat. “I’m going to try to catch some sleep.”
“Good idea,” Hotch said, fully approving - both of Rossi getting some sleep and baking off when and where he had. “Oh, and Dave...?”
“Hm?” Rossi paused, standing but not yet moving away.
“If you ever see me in a bar -any bar-: It doesn’t matter who I am with, it doesn’t matter who you are with. We don’t know each other.”
Rossi laughed as he left, patting Hotch on the shoulder on his way to the back of the plane.
It was, Hotch decided as he watched Rossi go, time to call a meeting and give them all a strongly worded reminder that intra-team profiling was against the rules. Maybe, while he was at it, he could convince them that acknowledging one another during unplanned social encounters was also against the rules.
Somehow he doubted it.
Hotch snorted to himself, picked up his pen, and went back to his seemingly endless stream of paperwork; like any of them had social lives.