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Title: Missing from the World
Series: Of Innocence and Empathy (prequel to)
Author: Frogg
Beta: none
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: I don't own them. Damnit.
Author's Note: Occurs ~ a year before Criminal Minds, or 8 months before The Wisdom of Silence
Author's Other Note:  This is the first in a sort of side-series of stories within the OI&E universe which will make more sense when more are written.  Although you can probably piece together spoilers from some of the listed-but-not-written stories in the new big damn table of contents.

The door was open; Morgan knocked on the jamb before leaning in.  "JJ called a meet, we got a case."

Hotch barely glanced up at him, the crease between his eyebrows clearing briefly before reappearing as he went back to shifting piled paper around on his desk.  "I heard, I'll be there in a minute."

Morgan opened his mouth, shut it, then stepped fully into the office.  "Lose something?"

"My pen, it's here somewhere, it has to be."  Hotch pulled out the top drawer, rifling through it briefly before shutting it again and causing further disarray.  "I never take it out of this office--"

"Hey, hey, it's just a pen, Hotch, just--"

"No, it's not," Hotch cut him off, talking over him.  "It's the pen Haley gave me--" and he was muttering under his breath, "had it this morning" and "too many meetings, couldn't have just left it somewhere".

"The one she gave you for your anniversary."  Morgan knew about that pen; months ago, he'd picked it up to sign some documents one day only to have it snatched - possessively, proprietarily - out of his hand before ink met paper.  The matte finish of high-quality steel had flashed with a fancy engraving, "Aaron & Haley Hotchner" when Hotch had rolled it for display, a mute apology.

"Yes, that one.  The one I don't take out of this office."

"As much as I hate to say this, it is--"  Morgan stopped himself short as Hotch's shoulders slumped in defeat, hands going still and tense, tendons in his wrists prominent.

"Just a pen, yes, I know."

Morgan wanted to vomit.  Just a pen, my ass.  Like Reid's messenger bag is just--or Gideon's notebook, or.  He couldn't finish the list, not even for himself.

"I'll be there in a minute."

"Hotch."  Morgan waited for eye contact; it took more time than they could spare, but he wasn't going to leave without it.  "Let's finish this case, and I'll help you tear this place apart to find it when we get back.  Deal?"

Hotch only stared dumbly, something bruised and dark in his eyes, lost and vulnerable.  Then it was gone, so fast Morgan wasn't sure he'd even seen it.  "That's not necessary."

"Hotch.  Man, you know we all have--"  But it was too late, Hotch was already turning away, reaching back for the coat neatly folded over the back of his chair and slipping his arms through the sleeves.  "All right, all right.  Just remember, the offer's on the table."

"Understood."

Morgan barely managed to suppress the wince.  This was not going to be a good case.

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