Fandom: Criminal Minds
Back again! This one's a bit old, and was something of a writing exercise. 'Revelations' was such a terrific episode, that it left all sorts of inspiring possibilities untouched, in my opinion. I have a couple of fics in-progress on my computer regarding the implications of that episode. This is one of them. All of the dialogue (in "quotations") is taken directly from the show.
Disclaimer: I do not own 'Criminal Minds', any of its characters or dialogue. Anything you recognize probably doesn't belong to me.
"How many members are on your team?"
Reid's voice was constricted, each breath still a struggle following the unexpected but life-saving CPR they'd all just witnessed. Even still, Henkel -- 'no, not Henkel - Raphael, one of his personalities,' Gideon corrected -- sought to continue the interrogation he'd started shortly before Spencer's temporary demise.
Gideon frowned, a sigh of frustration escaping him. How much more did Tobias plan to put Reid through? Hadn't the boy suffered enough already? He'd only taken the first breaths of his new life moments ago - didn't he deserve to rest now? The older profiler shifted his weight, staring uneasily at the array of computer screens depicting their youngest agent and his tormentor.
"'The seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound. The first sounded and there followed hail and fire mixed with blood and they were thrown to earth.'"
Hotch's hand hovered near his mouth, one arm crossed over his midsection as his eyes widened in both realization and horror. Another Bible verse. Memories of the previous videos flashed before his eyes - the bloody crime scenes, the slaughtered victims - each beginning with a similar verse. He couldn't help but think Reid was well on his way to joining them.
Behind him, Morgan shot an unhappy look in Gideon's direction, not liking where this was headed. He needed answers - he was sick of all the uncertainty. Sick of not knowing how to help. The older man would know what the verses pertained to, Morgan's own past knowledge of all things religious long-since repressed.
JJ glanced towards Hotch in confusion; silently asking the others for an explanation as to where it was all going, before quickly turning her attention back to the screen. She needed to watch - she owed Spence that much. Even if it meant seeing Tobias slit his throat like-- She shook her head, her own throat clicking as she swallowed against the bile threatening to climb up her esophagus, pushing away the memory of the last video she'd forced herself to endure. It wouldn't happen to Reid - not before she had a chance to tell him how sorry she was.
Garcia was confused as well, her ear turned toward the group for input but hardly daring to blink let alone turn away from the screen. There was no way she was taking her eyes off their boy, no matter how much it hurt to watch him suffer. There could be a clue, a hint - something, something - that would require her skills to find him, and she'd never not been there for her team before. Silently, she cursed Tobias and his array of computers so disturbingly similar to her own - she should have been able to track him. Why were the bad guys who ended up hurting her team always computer-savvy? Was she doomed to forever be one step behind these creeps right when her team needed her the most?
Beside her, Prentiss frowned at the strangeness of it all, still feeling out-of-place among the worried family, but unable to restrain her own fear for the first person on the team to befriend her. 'Focus,' she ordered herself as her emotions threatened to take over. She pushed her feelings aside with practiced determination, trying to concentrate on what was happening on the screens and what it meant for the facts of the case, boxing up the personal aspects. It was no use focusing on how young Reid had looked the first time she'd met him, or how scared she'd been when he'd first appeared on the computers, beaten and dazed. She couldn't afford to flinch now, even if Agent Hotchner's words from earlier - the almost-accusation that JJ had reiterated - still stung. She needed to put her energy into solving the case and getting Reid back. Maybe she'd always face opposition from this team, but it wouldn't be because she wasn't good at her job, and she knew Spencer Reid didn't deserve to die.
"He thinks it's Revelations - the seven archangels verses the seven angels of death." Hotch surprised himself with this small nugget of information, the remnants of a long-forgotten history of Sunday school attendance at his mother's insistence. His mouth curled into a bitter line at the irony of this cold-blooded murderer supposing that they were the angels of death. On a bad day, he might wonder how astute that assumption was, but for now, he couldn't afford to focus on the similarities between his team and the UNSUBs they chased.
Morgan glanced at the unit chief, putting his hand in front of his mouth. If Tobias was bringing religion into it again, it could only mean bad things for Reid. Not for the first time since this whole mess began, he wished that Hotch had sent him to the house instead of Reid. He wouldn't have let Tobias take him - or anyone else, for that matter. Reid had had no business going up against this murderer. Try as he might, Morgan still struggled against the image of Reid as the young, green agent who'd twice failed his firearms qualifications. He couldn't blame JJ for thinking he was mad at her for letting Reid split up - he was. But it was a lot easier to blame the friend who was safe from harm than the friend he might never see alive again.
Emily wrung her hands, listening to Hotch's worried explanation, at a loss. There had to be something they were missing - some clue she could find that would reveal Reid's location. The sound of a scraping chair brought her attention back to the screen. They all watched as Henkel moved Reid back into a sitting position, coming around to face him.
"Tell me who you serve."
"I serve you."
"Then choose one to die."
Morgan stared at the screen, his heart sinking. 'He already chose people to die,' he argued silently. 'You can't ask him to do that again.' He knew the lives of that couple would weigh on Reid's soul for the rest of his life - how could this scumbag even think of adding to that burden?
"Your team members. Choose one to die."
Hotch shook his head slightly. 'Don't ask him to do that. He can't handle that on top of everything else.' Hotch wasn't sure when his confidence in Reid's emotional stability had waned so much, but he knew he couldn't stand to lose another agent, not after everything that had happened with Elle. He'd failed her more than once, and now he realized he'd failed Reid just as badly. 'I don't know how much longer he can do this.'
JJ steepled her hands in front of her face, closing her eyes and bowing her head in silent prayer, begging whoever was listening to just leave Spence alone. It should have been her. Reid probably blamed her as much as the rest of the team. She tried to ignore the tiny part of her that was relieved it wasn't her strapped to that chair in that dank-looking room. She wasn't so sure she'd have made it this long. The media liaison bit her lip. It should have been her.
Morgan narrowed his eyes, fear settling in the pit of his stomach. 'Don't do that, kid. Don't try and be a hero. Use that big ol' brain of yours and think! He can't hurt us here, so don't you dare provoke him into doing something stupid, Reid.' Too many times, the kid had volunteered himself for dangerous tasks - putting himself unnecessarily in harm's way as some twisted method of proving himself - but this time, Morgan wasn't there to step in front of him or tackle him to the ground. Reid was on his own with this one, and god, how Morgan wished he wasn't.
"You said you weren't one of them."
Hotchner flinched at the admission. Reid knew the profile - Henkel was killing sinners. He had no doubt the only reason Reid was still alive - that his kidnapper had bothered with the act of resuscitating him - was that Tobias had yet to find an excuse for his execution. There was little chance of Henkel being able to follow through on his threat to kill one of the team, so why provoke him by admitting sin just to avoid naming one of them?
His eyes scanned Reid's face, reading his body language. The young profiler looked barely conscious, the wound on the side of his head still appearing somewhat fresh. Was it just the blood loss that had left that careless, absentminded gaze on his youngest agent's face? Or was the head wound more severe than it looked? Worriedly, Hotch furrowed his brow, remembering the three-and-a-half minutes Reid had gone without air. Had it done something to his brain? The young agent too-often regarded his intelligence as his one worthy attribute. What would Reid do if his brilliant mind had been damaged somehow?
Tobias spoke again, and Hotch reminded himself that potential brain injury would matter little if Reid didn't make it through this encounter alive.
"Your team has six other members. Tell me who dies."
They watched as Tobias pulled a gun from his inside pocket, spinning the chamber and leveling it with Reid's skull before cocking it. Reid didn't so much as blink throughout it all - a surreal, dreamy, distant expression settling on the young profiler's features.
Gideon froze, his hand slowly falling from in front of his mouth. Beside him, Prentiss closed her eyes - her mouth open in silent horror - all of her compartmentalizing for naught at the thought of watching Reid's brains splatter all over the wall.
Hotch raised his hand again, briefly contemplating shielding his eyes from what was sure to be the imminent death of his colleague and subordinate, but he fought against it, instead bringing the hand to rest in front of his mouth. He needed to watch. It was the least he could do. Reid was his responsibility - if he did die, Hotch owed it to Reid to watch every last bloody second of it. He should never have sent him out here in the first place. How many more of his team members would suffer for his decisions?
Morgan was shifting nervously behind him. Reid was smart, but a big brain could mean nothing against a loaded gun. Reid had to realize he couldn't think his way out of this one. It all came down to him choosing a name - and fast.
"Choose, and prove you'll do God's will."
Garcia's eyes widened in horror and surprise, having already maxed out her 'watch a friend be hurt' quota for the next lifetime or so. The sight of Tobias Henkel beating a pleading, whimpering Reid would undoubtedly haunt her for the rest of her natural life. She battled between wanting to block out these new horrors and needing to soak up every last image of Reid - because at the rate they were going, they were likely to be the last ones she ever saw of him. She felt her eyes filling with tears again. Why was this happening? What had sweet, innocent Dr. Reid ever done to make the universe punish him so harshly? She should have been able to find him.
Behind her, Hotch shook his head imperceptibly. 'Just choose a name, Reid,' he urged silently. 'Buy us some time to find you. You can't outthink him if you're dead, and you can't win like this.'
Gideon swallowed, relieved. How many bullets were there in that gun? Henkel had spun the chamber, so surely it wasn't empty. Was he really going to have to watch Spencer die again, so soon after getting him back? He knew if Death took Reid from them a second time, there would be no undoing it. 'Will there be enough muttered self-assurances to relieve your guilt if that happens?' he thought to himself bitterly. 'Or will it be another Boston? You should never have come back. It should be your name he chooses.' Did Reid even know he was the one who'd stopped the video? Did he know Gideon's mistake had cost him his life once already?
A low growl escaped Morgan's lips. 'You sonuvabitch! Haven't you put him through enough? I swear, when I get my hands on you…' His fist clenched as he watched Reid shake his head again. 'Come on, genius. Say something. Find a way out of this. Just pick a name!'
"I won't do it."
Garcia flinched, her heart beating faster than she'd ever thought possible. She couldn't do this. She couldn't watch him gamble his life on the spin of a chamber. Her fingers hovered over the 'escape' key, wishing there were such a key for real life - wishing she could shut off the computers and make it all go away.
JJ's eyes were open now, transfixed by the scene. 'What are you waiting for? Please, Spence, don't die on me. Go ahead and blame me - everyone else does. Say my name. Tell him you choose me. Just please don't let him kill you.' Even as she thought the words, she wondered if hearing it from Reid's lips - hearing someone at last tell her the truth - wouldn't break her completely.
"Life is a choice."
Silently, Prentiss watched, her concern growing. His odds were getting worse - why hadn't he given a name yet? Didn't he know Tobias couldn't get to them at the house, surrounded by Georgia's finest? 'It's okay, Reid. Just say my name. I'm still the 'new girl', I'll understand.' It wasn't entirely true, but she'd rather have hurt feelings from the closest person she had to a friend on the team than to have to attend his funeral. Why would he hesitate? She had expected him to say a name right off the bat, but he was still stalling. He couldn't possibly have a plan for this.
The sound of the gun being cocked again sent a wave of agony through Hotch. It was his fault – he hadn't taught Reid how to handle situations like this, and now he was caving under the pressure. Why else would he wait so long to make such an obvious choice? 'Give him a name, Reid, so we can find you. We'll all forgive you - just say it.'
Jason frowned. 'Just pick a name, Spencer,' he implored. 'You can't beat him forever like that, and there're only so many chambers in that gun. Don't make it worse for yourself. Don't let that brain of yours outsmart you. Give him what he wants.' He closed his eyes, preparing to accept the inevitable.
Silence reigned as six people in a room all watched the screens, frozen, each dreading the next pull of the trigger as much as the name that could put an end to it.
"I... I choose... Aaron Hotchner."
Well, there you go. This prompt actually started out as a completely different fic about baby names in the pilot, but sometimes the muse just takes off in its own direction.
Liked it? Hated it? Feel like some psuedo-human interaction? Let me know - please take a short moment of your time to leave some feedback. Concrit is especially appreciated!
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