So, here we are, at the end – or is it the beginning?
Calverville Point, South Dakota
'"Heroes know that things must happen when it is time for them to happen. A quest may not simply be abandoned; unicorns may go unrescued for a long time, but not forever; a happy ending cannot come in the middle of the story.'
- Peter S. Beagle
Chapter 34 - Epilogue
They are one down on the plane; Rossi having decided to remain with Jolene for an extra night and make his own way to Utah the following day. JJ is sitting at the back with Will and Henry, the baby now fully recovered from the virus that has plagued him. He is on her knee, pulling at her hair, the take off having bothered him less than Reid, although as usual they have all pretended not to notice Reid's discomfort.
White clouds float pass them, carried by pockets of air, undeterminable by human intervention. Below them are the plains of South Dakota, the thick snow still there, blending the fields and trees into one white cover. After the thaw in spring, two more bodies will be found, unrelated to the cases that had now been solved. But for now, they sleep a dreamless, endless sleep under a duvet of frozen water.
There is little chatter on board the flight. The details of the next case have not yet been given out, Hotch having decided to wait until a briefing at noon the following day, giving his team some breathing space and time to clear their minds of Calverville Point. He is aware of the overload they are facing with one case after another, and with more requests for their help than ever it is becoming more difficult to say no. After this case, after Utah, they will have at least a week at the BAU, with time to catch up with paperwork and research. There are a few trips that needed to be undertaken to interview various killers, trips that don't involve the pressure of a case, and Hotch fully intends on his team undertaking a few of those.
He looks out of the window, into the endless skies, the tension leaving his shoulders. He will enjoy the moment, the brief moment, when he can relax into the chair and not have to step inside a killer's mind, remaining inside his own. A soft sheet of peace soothes his usually tense expression, and his eyes almost close.
Emily sits next to him, as she did on the flight to Calverville Point, but this time she has room to stretch her legs into the aisle as Hotch has taken the centre seat. Reid is facing her, his eyes focused on the chess board in between them. She is whipping his ass and enjoying it immensely. She is also enjoying having Aaron sitting next to her, his warmth reminds her of the life outside of this plane, away from the darkness in which they spend most of their life residing. His leg is pressed against hers, although she knows that no one else is aware of it. Emily is sure that the team have made some sort of pact to ignore what is going on between her and Hotch; no one, not even Garcia has asked her about last night and where they ate. In some ways she is grateful, it means they have some privacy, even if it's false privacy, but she would also like the chance to share things with JJ and Penelope.
Reid frowns, hesitating over which piece to move. His long fingers pause over the chess board, unsure, totally unsure. He is not that used to playing against Emily and he cannot predict her moves the way he can with other opponents. Yet she can still predict his.
"You want to quit?" she says, and Reid sees Hotch smile a little. Hotch knows that Reid will never quit unless he can see absolutely no way out.
"No," Reid says. "If I..." He chooses his move and is successful. Emily smiles at him, taking her turn rapidly. She had already spotted what he was going to do.
"I'd rather play against Gideon than you," Reid says, sitting back in the chair now, wanting to casually study the board. He knows that there is some form of physical contact going on between Emily and Hotch. They're trying to be discreet, but when you read people for a living, it's fairly difficult to not pick up on certain signs. It doesn't bother him, and in fact, he's happy about it. They needed a little sunshine in their lives. Reid thinks of Katie and the way she laughs. He knows he will miss her company, and the possibilities, but he understands that his job means he can't stick around in the way he might like. He could've stayed there tonight, like Rossi was doing, but that would make tomorrow harder.
"Why's that?" Emily says, smirking.
"Because he took less enjoyment in winning."
Morgan pulls out an ear pod and looks over at the game of chess and grins. Reid is getting his ass whipped. "Hey, boy wonder," he says, using Garcia's term for him. "You need some help over there?" Reid glares and Morgan chuckles.
"You know, hot stuff," Garcia says, looking up from her computer. "One day, he will be mocking you."
Morgan shakes his head. "That, baby girl, is never going to happen. What're you up to there?" She's been busy for a while, and at first he thought she was on another of her role playing sites, probably one that she had designed, but it looks more official and he'd seen a couple of emails as well.
"The woman – the elderly woman – Mrs Eunice Murs at Appletree," Garcia's words draw everyone's attention. "I've been looking into her background and her son who owns the house. He's in charge of her estate, in fact, it's her house but he's rented it out for years and taken the money from it. So I sent an email or several to his sister, a lady who lives in New York. She speaks to her mom a couple of times a week, and has been in contact with her brother to say that she thought their mom needed to go into a care home. Her brother's been assuring her that he's taking care of her. Anyhow, I shall cut a long story short by saying that daughter is now on way from New York and about to kick brother's butt. She's also a lawyer, so brother may find himself in a bit of bother as it appears he's been defrauding Mrs Murs out of her savings."
"Result," Emily says. She's now sat back in her seat, her focus no longer on the chess game, which isn't surprising, given this game's been going on for several flights. Her shoulder is next to Hotch's and they're sitting too close together to be simply friends.
Garcia stretches out her feet, putting them on Morgan's lap. He grins at her, knowing why she's put them there and begins kneading the soles of her feet, knowing which pressure points to work. "Some people should be given lessons and an exam in taking care of their own, and if they fail they should be taken out into the nearest desert and left to fend for themselves on their own. Let them find out what it's like having no one to look out for you," Garcia says, her shoulders slouching down further into the seat as Morgan works his magic.
Her words resonate in many ways, for some days could be a desert and they relied on the other members of their team to provide them with water. For a brief moment, a little silence falls while they contemplate what they have, there right now.
"You know," Morgan says, breaking the silence. "As much as I love you guys, I'll be quite happy seeing a different face tonight."
Garcia digs into his thigh with her heel and Emily throws a pen at him. Morgan ducks, and shields his face in an over dramatically manner.
"And which face will it be tonight?" Emily says. Hotch's eyes glance down at her as she speaks and the look doesn't go unnoticed, especially by JJ, who catches Emily's eye and raises her eyebrows ever-so-slightly.
"I have a date with Suzie," he says. "She was the lady I had to leave when we got the call to go to South Dakota."
"What's her surname?" Emily asks, her voice filled with cynicism.
Morgan shrugs. "She doesn't need one. So what are you doing tonight?" He looks at Emily.
Emily shrugs. "Getting take-out probably. Thai, I think."
"How about you Hotch?" Morgan says as Emily throws him daggers.
"That's funny," Hotch says, directing his gaze at Emily. "I was going to get Thai too." His voice is full of fake surprise, leaving the others in no doubt as to what their plans actually are.
"Really, Aaron? Maybe we're even going to the same place?" Emily says, her eyes containing a dancing flame.
Morgan is silenced, not expecting their reaction. He looks at JJ, then Garcia, and shrugs. "What are you up to tonight, mama?" he says to Garcia.
"Catching up with Kevin." There's a smile in her words. "It's been too long."
"I'm looking forward to a night in my own bed," JJ's voice is quiet but oozes with anticipation. "As soon as my head touches that pillow I am going to sleep like a fairy tale character."
"At least until the alarm goes off, or Henry wakes up, Cher," Will says, picking Henry up from her lap. She puts her head on his shoulder, her eyes already half closed, even though it's only the mid-afternoon.
The plane hits some turbulence and for a few seconds everyone is quiet, steadying themselves. They are used to this, and as the pilot requests that they put their safety belts on, they return to their activities, the conversation at a close for now.
Clouds pass by, the sun dimming in the sky, its day's journey drawing to a slow close. But like the sun, they know that their job, their purpose, is not over. It's just a mere pause until the next story begins.
An alternative style, I know, but I wanted to do something a little different.
The sequel shall begin sometime within the next week – I promise it will be up on or before December 22nd, so keep your eyes open or pop me on author alert. I want to get a couple of chapters written before I post the first one, and I think you can guess what the first chapter will focus on.
So thank you for coming to Calverville Point with me, I do hope you enjoyed.
Thank you to my beta – Lily Moonlight!