Author's Note:

This story was published before any promos for the Season Five of Criminal Minds were released, and were written under the assumption that Hotch was shot by Foyet at the end of the fourth season. The entire story is written under the presumption, it does not follow the premiere of the fifth season. In that way, it could be considered AU – as if Hotch was shot. Most of it – save for the final three or four chapters –were written before any promo was released, and those chapters – the four or five that were written after – continued in this story's timeline. I had no knowledge of the season's opener when I wrote this, and continued to write it as if I had no knowledge even after the promo was released.

So, just for knowledge of anybody confused: This story takes place as if Hotch was shot by Foyet after the season four finale.

This author's note was added on the 23rd of September, for reference of anybody who was confused.

Criminal Minds

For the most enduring stretch of time, no words were passed. The silence stretched eternal, ringing at the ears of each agent, stinging behind their eyes, eliciting no longer hidden tears. Life seemed to go on without the six men and women, as if they had created a separate sphere, outside of which the world hurried on, hurtling towards its next destination. Nurses and doctors whistled by, patients families fretted – some eventually relieved of worrying, others not – and patients came and went. All of this went unnoticed by the BAU, each lost in their collectively separate world.

Spencer Reid sat rigidly in one of the plastic chairs; his mind running through gunshot wound statistics like rapid fire pinball. They bounced off of the inside of his skull, ricocheting almost painfully. Every few moments, he would take a breath and open his mouth to state one, immediately thinking the better of it and closing his mouth again. His left knee bounced, the fingers of his right hand tapping on the corresponding knee involuntarily. This game wasn't fun to play, the waiting game.

Derek Morgan refused to sit, instead pacing back and forth in front of the rest of his team. His right hand was clenched in a fist; he was muttering words that no one could catch. Twice had his fist made contact with the wall, earning a shocked response from nearby nurses. The BAU team, however, registered no shock at this – they could no longer process any more shock that day.

David Rossi sat with his back to the wall, his head tilted upwards. Before that day, none of the team had seen him cry. No one had seen a man so efficient at both spilling tears and ordering nurses to tell them exactly what was happening simultaneously. Finally, however, shock had stung him too, and he remained still.

Emily Prentiss sat next to Rossi, her eyes remaining on the wall in front of her, deep in thought. Every few moments, she would change the cross of her ankles, left to right, right to left. She felt as if she could hear the tick-tocking of the clock; her eye frequently returned to it. Hadn't it been too long by now? 3:30 AM. 4:21 AM. Time passed both slowly and quickly, agonizing.

Jennifer Jareau sat next to Reid, and had long since exhausted her tear supply. Now her head rested lightly against Reid's shoulder, her eyes closed but unsleeping. The team had tried to send her home to Henry, telling her that they'd phone as soon as anything should happen, but she'd refused. Will was home with him; they needed her here. Reid's hand came to rest lightly on hers; he gave it a gentle squeeze.

It was Penelope Garcia who broke the silence.

When words of cheeriness had failed her, she'd sat somberly, eyes on her hands in her lap. Garcia had tried, almost successfully, to not think of her boss in the state that he was in. It was the thought of his son's earlier words to them that had done her in.

He and Haley had stopped by for as long as they could without alarming the young boy. He'd been clueless, speaking of spending a forthcoming vacation weekend with his Daddy.

"Oh god…" She whispered, the flood gates cracking. Shoving her face into her hands, she'd begun to sob.

The protective silence that had shielded them had been cracked.

"I'm going to get a nurse." Rossi announced, his voice hard as he stood from his chair and stormed towards the nurse's station.

"You mean terrorize a nurse." Prentiss muttered, hitting her head lightly against the wall.

"Maybe someone should stop him…?" Reid said, his eyes following a finger-jabbing and vocally abrasive Rossi. "Before they kick us out?" His question went unnoticed.

Morgan sat for what seemed like the first time in ages, closing his arms around the shuddering Garcia. He longed to remove all this from her view, to not let it hurt her – but that was impossible. Instead, he cradled her until her sobs subsided. They all yearned for something now – these moments were the ones nobody would get used to. They hoped that this would be the last time they had to wait for a friend like this. They hoped to find Foyet.

But most of all, and more than anything, they wished for Hotch to wake up.

They waited for long hours into the night.



Author's note:

This is the beginning of a mini-series, revolving around the events that take place after To Hell… and Back.