Title: The Waste Land
Criminal Minds
Team-centric - gen
Epilogue: Coming to terms with death isn't easy.
Warnings: Character Death

The Waste Land

'After the torchlight red on sweaty faces
After the frosty silence in the gardens
After the agony in stony places
The shouting and the crying
Prison and palace and reverberation
Of thunder of spring over distant mountains
He who was living is now dead
We who were living are now dying
With a little patience.'

T.S. Eliot – The Waste Land

'The dead cannot cry out for justice; it is a duty of the living to do so for them.'

Lois McMaster Bujold

Epilogue – The Round Table (Other)

It's May, and the sun shines high in the sky.

The team are almost uniformly dressed in black, the only exception being Reid's charcoal gray suit with purple shirt. They're clustered together, as though being apart might somehow break all of them.

Morgan doesn't recognize two-thirds of the people here – there's Haley and Jack, of course, as well as a woman with curly blond hair that must be Haley's sister, and there are a fair few cops and agents that the team has worked with at one point or another. Haley's eyes are red and wet with tears – whatever quarrels she might have had with Hotch in life, they seem almost diminished in death. Whatever else had happened between them, a lack of love was not what had broken their marriage apart.

The rest must be extended family, and friends, and colleagues from the past. Even Strauss is there, keeping herself noticeably distant from everyone else. Morgan ignores the looks that people keep shooting in their direction. The job is what got Hotch killed, it's not surprising that they might want to lay the blame on his colleagues.

Since Rossi's the only one out of them that's actually speaking, they take a row near the back. Morgan puts his arm around Garcia, who is already crying silently.

Like always, they persevere, even if they'll mourn properly in their own way.

They don't even have to discuss the matter to know that they'll all be going straight from the cemetery to Rossi's house. Nobody wants to be alone right now, and the fact that Rossi has the best stock of alcohol and the most space means that going anywhere else just seems silly.

An hour later, they're sitting around the dining room table, each with a glass of scotch. Morgan isn't usually one to drink scotch, but the drink isn't really for him anyway.

'To Hotch.' Their voices are a little out of sync, a little warbled, but by no means insincere. More than anyone else, Hotch is the glue that had held the team together.

Without him...

There's more drinking, and more reminiscing, and an awful lot of long, pained silences. Reid, being Reid, is the one who decides to compare the situation to some variety of classical literature (though that might be the hard cider).

'When the Fisher King was wounded, his kingdom suffered – deteriorating into a wasteland. Many knights came to try and heal the Fisher King, but only the chosen one could succeed.'

'Somehow I don't think anyone's gonna come along and heal the magic kingdom, Reid,' Morgan says, frowning.

'I didn't think someone whose main disciplines were sciences would be so big on allegories,' Emily adds.

'My mother studied the Arthurian legend,' he tells her. 'She read the various stories to me a lot.'

'Well, I have always said that we're the Knights of the Round Table,' Garcia says.

'Though somewhat lacking in sword-fighting skills,' JJ reminds her.

'Right. And how did King Arthur die again?'

'He was killed in the Battle of Camlann,' Reid provides, to nobody's surprise. 'By Mordred.'

Morgan's grateful then, that the discussion does not degenerate into further dissection of recent events. Beneath the light-heartedness, the events of the last few weeks will be on their minds for years to come.


Six weeks later.

This is it.

Their first case back, together, as a team.

After sick leave, and bereavement leave, and a hell of a lot of paperwork, they've all filed into the briefing room, sitting at that round table.

Reid's body still feels stiff, the scars pulling as he walks. He hasn't taken his field requalification yet, and he's not sure he really wants to.

Morgan's dressed in a suit and tie, and he looks more uncomfortable than Reid has ever seen him. Part of that is probably due to his tendency to be wearing jeans and a muscle shirt, but it's mostly due to the fact that in his eyes, Hotch will always be the Unit Chief, (even if, technically speaking, Gideon had been in that role before him). Reid knows that there is a pile of applications on his desk that he's avoiding.

A heavy silence falls over the group.

This is it.

'JJ?' Morgan asks, and JJ gives a nod. She takes her pointer, and starts the presentation.

'Portland, Oregon – two teenage boys were found dumped in a park on the city's northside...'

And just like that, they're back to work.

But things will never be the same again.

a/n: What now?