This is my first Criminal Minds fic, so I hope it is okay! The location of 'Calverville Point' is fictional, and is not meant to bear any resemblance to a real town. However, the Black Hills in South Dakota are real, as are certain other places mentioned. I haven't been there, so I'm going off internet research and a little imagination - I don't intend to offend anyone! I also aologise for any Englishisms!
I don't own Criminal Minds and its characters. I'm just toying with them!
Calverville Point, South Dakota
'All the things one has forgotten scream for help in dreams.' – Elias Canetti
The sky was black and starless. Somewhere in the distance he could make out the rugged form of the Black Hills, their silhouettes painted darker than the sky. He could hear his own footsteps echoing as he walked down the road; no one else was awake, everywhere had gone to sleep. Even the wind had stopped its gentle, whispered lullaby. The silence was enjoyable after the din of the bar, an old, outdated juke box playing tinny tracks from two decades before and the croaking voices of old men littering the evening. It hadn't been the best bar in the world, but the beer had been cold and the barmaid pretty. Enough to help him forget a little. It was only one night though; one night in the rest of his life.
The mountains looked awesome even at night. The imposing height of Harney Peak beckoned to him, like a bad man promising sweets and pet rabbits. Tomorrow would be a hard climb, but the views and the exhilaration of it would be a suitable prize.
He could taste the remains of whisky still on his lips. He liked to end the evening with a chaser, just as his father had done, and his grandfather. A family tradition, or that was his excuse. It helped to numb any pain he still felt and proved to be a soporific. The engine of a car purred in the distance, driving from the direction where he had spent the evening and shattering his silence. It came to a stop next to him and the window slid down, revealing the driver.
"You need a ride?"
He looked at the driver and smiled; the same smile that had captivated his wife, and began the downfall of his marriage.
"A ride would be good." He opened the door and slid in to the warmth. A ride would be more than good; it would be terrific.
The curtains were a fraction open, just enough to allow a stream of streetlight to laser onto her face. Emily Prentiss opened one eye and looked at the clock next to her bed.
This wasn't good. She turned over and pulled the duvet over her head, blocking out the beam of light, convincing herself that the noise she had been woken by was not her cell phone, and she had simply been dreaming about it ringing.
The noise began again: Mr Lover Man, Shabba Ranks. Morgan's idea of a joke.
Emily reached for her cell, knocking off a glass of water that was next to her cell as she tried keeping the duvet over her head. It could just be a mistake. Morgan could've sat on his phone and dialled her by accident. Twice.
"Prentiss," she answered, her voice sounding dry and tired. She hoped this wasn't bad.
"You want me to pick you up?" were the only words she understood. Morgan sounded far too awake. Maybe he hadn't even slept. She mumbled something incoherent and heard him laugh quietly. "I'll be there in twenty."
Groaning, she pushed back the duvet, the jet of light hitting her in the eyes and she stumbled over to the window and pulled the curtains together fiercely. She immediately regretted her actions. The blackout curtains did their job well, and with no light she walked into the corner of her bed and cursed loudly. Another bruise to add to the collection. It was why skirts were a bad idea; her legs were usually painted in a myriad of blues, not the most attractive of looks.
The shower went some way to reviving her, the feel of hot water stimulating her senses that had been deadened by sleep. They had only returned from an investigation yesterday, coming back to find a new pile of cases to add to the ones that had accumulated before they'd left. As she'd closed her eyes somewhere around 10pm, she'd been aware that an early wake-up call was likely, just not this early.
Her hair was dry and make-up had been applied by the time Morgan arrived ten minutes later than he'd anticipated. He showed no signs of the gruelling case they'd just worked; fatigue was something that just didn't apply to him.
"Sorry I'm late," he said. "It took longer to get there than I thought it would."
Emily nodded and rolled her eyes at Morgan's antics. "So how was your honey?" It was as well to try and get a little teasing in before the darker side of humanity seeped into their bloodstreams.
"She was an old friend. Someone to call on in an hour of need. You could do with one of those yourself." Morgan leant against the kitchen worktop as Emily grabbed her purse and suit jacket.
She raised her eyebrows at Morgan's serious face and picked up her keys, grabbing the suitcase she'd rapidly packed. They'd been no time to unpack her away bag from the last case, let alone do any laundry.
"Seriously, Prentiss. After a tough case, I give her a call and we..." he struggled to find a suitable euphemism.
"Service each other's needs?" Emily offered. "That's not my bag, Derek. I don't do no strings sex. Too complicated." An oxymoron she knew, but it was. No strings sex meant that at some point someone would develop feelings that created strings
"Maybe I could prove to you otherwise?"
"Keep dreaming, Derek," she said, as Morgan grinned. He'd tried this before, jovial flirting, attempting to get a rise out of her. If she ever reacted positively, he'd run a mile.
"Always dreaming, Prentiss. Always about you."
Emily locked the door behind them. Three locks, three keys. It was not easy to break in, which was the way she liked it. "Who called you?" she said, curious as to whether JJ had worked late. She hoped not. JJ had looked tired enough by the time they'd landed yesterday.
"Hotch. He was going to pick you up, but I figured if I offered you'd get longer to wake up,"
"Any idea what the case is?" she said,
Morgan shrugged. "Hotch didn't say. I don't think he's been home, though. JJ passed him a couple of files and he was looking through them when I left. "
"The man doesn't sleep. If I had more of an imagination, I'd swear he was a vampire." The elevator doors opened and she took a last glance of her apartment door for what could be several days.
"He's got nothing to go home to. What do you do when you only thing you have left is work – you throw yourself into it," Morgan said. "You want to tell him he needs a life outside the BAU? I don't. I like my job."
"Maybe you should give him some advice about having his needs serviced," Emily said as the elevator journey ended and Morgan lost the slight tension that had crept into his features.
Morgan looked at her and laughed.
There was a certain serenity to the office and bull pen at night that Aaron Hotchner had found he enjoyed. Gone were days when he had rushed to file away the cases, physically and mentally, then run home to a wife he had failed and all the hearache that had gone with that particular failure.
Now that home was gone, so was the deadline for leaving the building, and the BAU had begun to feel like a school after the pupils had left, resuming a calmness that was palpable, a calmness that wrapped him gently as he attempted to understand and predict the minds of killers and rapists. He was safe after everyone had gone home; the only person he had to protect was himself.
Hotch walked around the conference table, placing down two files in front of each seat, the expression on his face tight and grim. They had only just returned from helping the Baltimore PD catch a serial who had being preying on 12 and 13 year old girls, and he had hoped for a few days grace where they could return to the more academic aspect of their specialism. But it wasn't to be.
He sat at the head of the table and began to look through the first file. Photographs of crime scenes sat on top, the same ritual defacing each body that took the centre stage: the prima donna of the show a star never to be forgotten.
Hotch closed the file and looked at the blank wall in front of him, needing to see nothing for a few minutes. He focused on his breath, the feeling of being in control of his life. When he was a small boy he had practised holding his breath until he passed out, each time managing longer and longer until he was a master at not breathing, a master at controlling.
Footfalls echoed down the hallway, their resonance familiar. Sharp clicks of stiletto heels. JJ entered; her face unsmiling. She looked pristine apart from the wet mark on her shoulder.
"Henry?" Hotch said, his eyes on the stain. It was familiar, a reminder of a better time, a time that had passed by too quickly. You only ever get one weekend with your three week old son.
JJ nodded, elbows on the table as she sat down, her head resting on one hand. Her finger grazed the corners of the file, not wanting to open the Pandora's box. "He's running a temp. Probably starting with a cold."
"Have you had any sleep?" JJ looked tired; there were dark circles under hers that were usually absent. Then he remembered that it wasn't close to 4am, and they should all be sleeping. Including him.
"A couple of hours. Will tried to get me to sleep, but I wanted to look after Henry," she paused, still toying with the corners of the file. "Does this case involve children?"
Hotch shook his head. "Not young ones. High school juniors and men in their twenties and thirties."
The blonde head looked up. "Two cases?"
"Unfortunately. I'll go through it when the others get here."
JJ stood up, looking pale, and pushed the chair away from her. "I'll make coffee." She needed to leave the file for as long as possible.
Hotch wondered whether to send her home and deal with the media liaison himself, but he knew that even offering her the choice would offend. Instead he pulled out his cell and made a call, a call he wished he could've made to Haley at some point in their history, knowing it would have be appreciated.
"Hotch, what've we got?" Rossi entered as Hotch finished the call.
"The file's on the table."
Reid, Prentiss and Morgan filed in together, followed by JJ carrying a tray with coffee. They all sat, silence falling as they took the coffee.
"We've got two cases?" Morgan said. Any humour, any banter, had evaporated. Thoughts of bed and of tiredness had been chased away by the sobriety of the room and by the case files sat there, waiting like a childhood monster to grab them from their sweet dreams and launch them into living nightmares. Nightmares that were real, nightmares where the monsters weren't killed by a bedside lamp or a mother's voice.
"Two separate cases in the same town. Calverville Point, South Dakota," Hotch said, opening the file on top. "The first case is our priority. Four high school junior girls have been abducted and murdered over the last eight months. Their remains have been found between four and six weeks after their abduction on popular hiking routes between Calverville Point and Harney Peak. The last girl was found three days ago and the detective in charge has asked for our help. The pattern is that another girl is taken around two weeks after the remains of the last one have been found.
"He's also asked us to help on a second case where six men in past eighteen months have gone missing in the area. No remains have been found, but the latest man is the son of the town's mayor. I told him that the girls would be our priority, but we would do what we can to help. It may mean splitting into two groups depending on the severity of the second case when we look into it further.
"All the information I've been given so far is in these files. It's a two hour thirty flight so I suggest you get as familiar with it as you can in that time. Wheels up in twenty." He stood up, taking his files and retreated to his office, closing the door behind him.
Emily looked around the room. All eyes were on the files; the photos of the girls before and after their abduction and murder; the details of the victims – their ages, families, friends. Morgan's expression was stoic, but his eyes were determined. Rossi looked interested; he had seen enough to not be shocked, the benefit of experience, or maybe the cost of it. Reid was ingesting the facts, his mind tying laces together that no one else had realised were there yet. Emily could see his eyes flickering as he read at the speed of knots, his natural emotional detachment blocking the shots to the chest that JJ was clearly feeling.
"Jayje?" A familiar drawl came from the door that no one had notice open. Emily turned and saw Will, Henry in his arms. The baby was asleep, his face blotchy with a temperature and screams now soothed.
"Will?" JJ stood, anxiety froze her face. "What's the matter?"
"Everything's fine. Henry's sleeping and his temperature's down. Hotch called. Asked if we'd like to come along for the ride."
Emily stood, taking her files and glaring at her male colleagues so they shifted their asses out of there. Rossi was already out of the door, three marriages had taught him well. Morgan was only slightly slower and Spence needed a light tug on his hair as she passed, the second it took him to realise brought a smile to Emily's face.
Hotch's door was closed as she passed. He was sat at his desk, watching his computer monitor. Emily knew what was on the screen: home movies of Jack, probably in the park or on the swing. It was a nice thing he'd done for JJ, taking a risk and interfering by calling Will. There was the issue that being somewhere strange while Henry was sick would upset him more, but at least his mom would be there. And JJ would be soothed. Prentiss remembered Morgan's suggestion that she found a release, a warm body with whom she could forget and for a moment she felt lonely. It wasn't an unfamiliar feeling; it was one she had lived with for most, if not all, of her life. It was a feeling she'd become used to, and she'd learnt how to fill the empty boxes with other things, new things. Pausing, she looked at her supervisor; his shoulders were tense and stiff and she wondered how long it was since anyone had massaged the knots away. Maybe he did have a night time honey, like Morgan, a warm body he could call on, but she suspected not. Hotch wasn't wired that way, in the same way as she wasn't.
He glanced up to the window, clearly having sensed that he was being watched. Emily back tracked and entered his office, closing the door behind her. She took more liberties with Hotch than the rest of the team with the exception perhaps of Rossi. For Emily, a person was a person, even if he was your boss, a belief that had gotten her into trouble more than twice.
"That was a nice thing you did for JJ," she said.
Hotch shrugged, unsmiling, his eyes dark. "I'm not sure having a baby with a virus is great for the rest of the team, but on this occasion it might help. We've not even had time to unpack and we're off again, and I knew that JJ wouldn't stay here if I offered her the option."
"It brings a bit of sunshine to all of us," Emily said, watching Hotch pull on his jacket and switch off his monitor. He looked haggard and tired, and she wondered how much sleep he'd had recently. Not much, she guessed. "You should get some rest on the plane. I'll wake you when we get near and we can go through the case. You've read it already, we all need time to do that."
Hotch stared at her, and she wondered if she'd crossed that line again, but instead of giving a rebuke, he smiled slightly. "Thanks. I'll see you there."
Nodding, she left his office, a sense of anticipation waving over her. She couldn't identify where it came from, maybe the cases that lay in wait for them, maybe Hotch, maybe Morgan's suggestion that she tried to cure her loneliness, or maybe it was simply that fact that the sun had not yet risen and she was awake and up.
She shrugged the feeling off as if it were a smothering blanket, placing it into a box to be dealt with later. She headed towards the runway, pulling her case behind her, mentally preparing herself for the flight and another delve into darkness.
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