Disclaimer: None of the Criminal Minds people, places, or things are mine, unfortunately. Although Christmas is coming up...

Author's note: This is set during season 2, between Revelations and No Way Out 2. I mean, come on. Just not ready to give up on Gideon.

Derek Morgan came up behind Spencer Reid and clapped him on the back, causing the younger profiler to nearly jump out of his skin. "You bailed on me last night!"

"Morgan, I told you I wasn't going to go out last night. I turn you down every time you try to get me to "party" with you. When are you going to give up?"

Morgan shook his head. "You can't live in that huge brain of yours forever. And it is my job to teach you the ropes. Your official, government-issue big brother. I'll have you singing karaoke and cutting the rug in no time!" He slung his arm around the younger man's thin shoulders and pulled him down into a headlock as he ground his knuckles into Reid's scalp.

Reid struggled and fought and finally pulled himself loose from his friend's grip, then hurriedly smoothed his hair and looked around, blushing, to see if anyone had witnessed Morgan's adolescent display. Fortunately, they were alone in the break room. "Do you want me to even start on the list of reasons that will NEVER happen?"

Realizing how badly he had embarrassed his friend, Morgan calmed down a little. "Seriously, Reid. You're young. You should get out a little more. I'm just trying to-"

He was cut off as the door to the break room opened, and Jennifer Jareau popped her blond head in. "Meeting room in ten, guys. This one looks bad." The door closed behind her.

Reid looked at Morgan. This was why they had random moments of childishness. Because the real world always came crashing down hard.


A copy of the file sat open in front of each team member, gruesome photos covering the round table. Six pairs of eyes followed JJ as she paced, laying out the case for them. "Police have located three pairs of bodies in and around Clayton, Kentucky. The first pair a month ago, another three weeks ago, and the third last week."

"Pairs?" Prentiss asked.

JJ nodded. "Two bodies found each time. One brutally tortured, one simply shot in the head. Both dumped together." She turned and put a gory photograph on the overhead projector. "First victims, Robert Mills and Jason Fuller. First cousins, very close according to family. They disappeared on their way to class at the local community college and were found 48 hours later. Victim A, Robert, was beaten, shocked with a cattle prod, cut with a large knife, had his fingernails removed as well as three whole toes. Victim B, Jason, was simply shot in the head."

Hotch spoke up. "How long was the gap between times of death?"

JJ looked through the papers. "No discernable gap. They died at approximately the same time." She changed the picture for one equally gruesome. "David and Amy Marsten, second set of victims. Husband and wife, taken on their way home from a movie. Amy was tortured in much the same way as Robert Fuller, with a few new ideas. This one involved hydrochloric acid. David was shot point blank in the head with a .45."

Changing the photo again, the third set of victims appeared on the wall. "Michael Targus and Victor Johanssan. Best friends, totally inseparable since tenth grade, taken from the bowling alley parking lot. Same M.O., except the unsub seems to be getting more creative with each victim. This time he utilized what the M.E. can only speculate was a power sander."

Morgan scanned through the files, paying more attention than he should be comfortable with to the bodies. "What are these marks on the Victim Bs' wrists? Were they bound?"

Hotch and Gideon studied the red marks on the wrists. "Looks like it," Gideon said. "And if they were bound, and they both died at approximately the same time…"

"They were forced to watch," Hotch finished. He found himself drawn to the picture of Amy Marsten. He couldn't imagine being forced to watch while someone did this to Haley. This was one sick son of a bitch.

"Geez!" Morgan breathed, risking a glance at Reid. He remembered all to well the helpless agony of watching via internet link as Tobias Hankel worked Reid over. The horror of watching your best friend suffer and not being able to help…he shivered imperceptibly.

"So," said Prentiss, "we have a sadistic killer who likes to have an audience."

"Maybe not," Reid put in. "Usually a sadistic killer has a type of victim that he targets. This guy has gone from a 22 year old male to a thirty year old female then back to a 25 year old male. That just doesn't fit."

"Unless victim A isn't really the target," Gideon said.

"What do you mean?" asked Reid.

"He's not really trying to torture victim A. They're just a means to an end."

Hotch nodded. "Which is worse, being in pain or watching someone you care about in pain?" They all looked at Reid, remembering how helpless they felt in Georgia. Any one of them would have traded places with him in an instant.

They stared at each other for a split second, letting this sink in. Finally, Hotch stood up and closed the file. "Ok, guys. Wheels up in an hour."