Criminal Minds

"Fireflies"

The case in Sarasota, Florida, had been extensive and unpleasant. The team from Quantico dealt with horrifying situations on a regular basis, yet cases were particularly horrific when they dealt with children. The B.A.U. had located their UnSub after nine long days, a middle aged man enraged with his own divorce, turning his anger towards children that looked like either of his two children. They'd located him, yes, but not until after seven children had been murdered, and one more was in critical condition.

The revulsion was apparent on each of the member's faces as they headed towards the airport. Agents Hotchner and Jareau, particularly, were in solemn moods as they headed towards the private jet. The older agent could not eradicate the image of the most recent victim, a five year old boy, from his mind. He was positive that the picture of his pale face would sear his retinas for years to come. Agent Jareau's mind was on the child she carried. Would the baby be a girl, a boy? What would keep her or him from witnessing the same horrors that those children had? A strong maternal instinct swelled in her veins.

It was another one of those cases, the ones that wouldn't leave them for some time. The jet seemed to blur in front of Rossi's tired eyes, JJ's feet ached, and Hotch was certain he'd sleep for once. The night was late; the B.A.U. wouldn't land in Quantico until at least one a.m.

"They're interesting."

Reid's voice cut the silence that had previously permeated the air. The other five members of the B.A.U. stopped short yards from the plane, turning back to stare at their youngest member. What was the genius talking about now? Their faces ranged from Morgan's bemused wonderment to Rossi's exasperated expression. In any case, all of the profilers had certainly been removed from their solitary musings.

With the excited hand movements of a child, Reid began to explain.

"The fireflies!" He cried, his voice rising three octaves. He motioned to the small, flying insects that showed themselves when they lit up in the night sky.

Emily pursed her lips, trying not to laugh. "Have you never seen fireflies before?"

"No, no, that's not what I mean."

"Then what do you mean?" Hotch asked, his brow furrowed.

"Haven't any of you read up on them? Hasn't anybody else wondered?"

Rossi turned to Hotch. "He reads? I was certain it all just appeared in his head."

A rare grin appeared on Hotch's face and stayed there. "Contrary to popular belief…"

"Can't say I have, Reid." Morgan said. "I caught them when I was a kid, though."

"Well, I know that they're beetles." JJ offered.

"Yes, and most people don't!" Reid exclaimed. "But there are also almost two thousand species of them. Two thousand!"

"Alright Reid, tell us how they light up. I know you're dying to." Hotch offered.

Reid eagerly took the bait. "They have light organs under their abdomens. When they breath, the oxygen, it mixes with this chemical called lucifern, and it produces light! No heat, just light!" The B.A.U. stared back at Reid. "Doesn't anybody understand just how unique that is?"

Morgan shook his head in amazement, laughing.

"There are two theories to what they use their lights for-"

"Don't they use them as, like, a mating signal?" Morgan asked, still wondering what had gotten the resident genius into this spiel. "Kind of romantic, I think." He winked at Emily, who rolled her eyes.

"Yes, yes, that's one of them." Reid said, pretending not to notice his actions. "The other is that they use the lights as a defense – predators see them and avoid ingesting them because they recognize the blinking lights as a sign of chemicals in their prey's body." His voice had become less excited and fallen into a lecturing mode.

"That's … decidedly less romantic." Prentiss concluded.

"Even larvae glow, did you know that?"

"No, I can't say I did." Hotch said, catching something in his youngest agent's eyes… something determined, yet not in the way he usually was, not his usual need to profess knowledge. He was unusually focused on the team, his attention almost physically evident in the way that he was standing, leaning towards the team as he spoke.

"And adults! Some of them never eat! And-"

"Reid. If we don't leave now, we're going to land right before we need to fly out again." Hotch's eyes flashed to his team. JJ was standing on an angle, her feet tired from the extra weight she currently carried. Emily looked as if she might fall asleep standing up, and even Morgan's shoulders slouched forward.

"Fine, but you'll never guess how they mate." Reid grinned.

"I might be glad for that, Spence."

Twenty minutes later, the plane in the air, Hotch slid into the seat across from Reid.

"Card game?" Reid asked, shuffling through his ever-present shoulder bag and producing a deck of cards. "I, uh, promise not to cheat."

"Can't sleep?"

Reid took a deep breath and let it out in a long sigh, his eyes falling to his hands. "I close my eyes and see his face, Hotch." He paused. "If only we could have gotten there… five minutes earlier, or we could have figured it out sooner…"

"I know the feeling, Reid." Hotch explained, offering the younger agent a sad smile. "But the last victim, any of the victims, are in no way your fault, or any of this teams fault. They're the result of a delusional, revenge driven man."

"I know that, I do, it's just hard to remember, you know?"

"I do."

"So I'm guessing that you couldn't sleep either?" Reid enquired, letting his eyes drift around the jet. JJ slept on the couch that the rest of the team had generously dubbed as hers until her maternity leave, a knit shawl covering her. Morgan slept, or pretended to sleep, in one of the chairs, his headphones on. Emily occupied another chair, her current novel open on her lap. Even Rossi slept, his constant business attitude abandoned.

"I'll find a way." Hotch answered. "I came over here to thank you."

"I'm not sure I know what you mean, Hotch." Reid said, stating the phrase as a question, shuffling the cards despite the absence of a playing partner.

"For lifting the team's spirits, back at the runway." He replied.

"You noticed?" Reid asked, bewildered. He hadn't thought he'd been obvious.

"Reid, we're profilers. We notice things?" Agent Hotchner stood, starting to head back to his seat.

"Wait, Hotch?" Reid called after his unit chief, spinning back towards his reproaching form.

"Yes?" Hotch desperately hoped he wasn't about to hear just how fireflies mated.

"I'm just wondering… did it work?"

For the second time in a short period, Hotch smiled. "Why don't you look around and answer that for yourself, Reid." He motioned with a nod towards the sleeping members of the B.A.U.

Reid smiled. "Thanks."

"Goodnight, Reid."

"Sometimes, a female will imitate the flash pattern of another species, attract a male, and then eat them. It's called the femme fetale firefly."

Hotch paused, then shook his head slowly. "Goodnight, Reid."

Author's Note:

This was the result of a one word prompt, turned from a drabble into an oneshot. Review please! Gracias,

SignedSealedWritten