The Art of Butterflies

SAIC Aaron Hotchner took in the sight of his team, pulling on bullet proof vests and readying guns in a semi-circle around him. The past week had been a gruesome one for the Behavioral Analysis Unit of the FBI. Their chase for Anthony Bennett, a secretary who'd brutally murdered eight women, had led them to a cluster of warehouses in the outskirts of Washington D.C. The maze of warehouses before them was enough to make anybody's head spin – their UnSub could be in any of them.

When the team stared back at him with ready eyes, he nodded. "Our UnSub could be in any of them – we'll need to split up. Reid, Rossi, take Building A. Morgan, Prentiss, building B. JJ, you're with me." The agents set off to their designated buildings, ready to end the week long chase.

JJ and Hotch moved towards Building C, the largest of the three warehouses. Being on the field like she was today didn't happen in every case for the liaison, but she'd always felt the need to prove herself when it did. The chance to show the team that she could handle such situations wasn't one that she was going to miss, even I she knew that she'd already proved herself countless times. The two agents stood on each side of the door to the building, guns at the ready.

"Ready when you are, Hotch." She said, and he nodded before swiftly kicking down the door. They darted in, guns ahead of them, and saw another man's silhouette in the dimly lit building.

"Anthony Bennett, FBI! You're surrounded!" Hotch called out, his voice bounding off the walls. "It's over. Drop your weapon and put your hands up!"

But Hotch's voice was already sounding far away in a moment that seemed to hang suspended. She knew instantly that the moment was all wrong. JJ smelled the gunpowder before she felt a searing pain rip through her side and heard the crack of the bullet leaving the gun. She felt herself crumble to the ground, the breath gone out of her and floor rushing up to meet her.

Hotch fired the gun once, twice, but the shots connected with walls instead of their suspect, who was nowhere to be seen. In the maze of obstacles – shelves, boxes, and heavy machinery – he could be hiding anywhere, and not be found. Hotch dropped besides the liaison, hoping the bookshelves proved enough cover for them. He didn't hear footsteps or breathing from their suspect.

JJ's eyes were squeezed shut and he noticed the hard line her mouth had formed. She was laying half on her side and half on her back. The side of her that wasn't connected to the ground was covered in blood.

"JJ," He spoke softly, touching her cheek to get her attention. "JJ, I need you to open your eyes, please." She shook her head slightly in resistance. Though he was making an effort to sound composed, he was enraged at the UnSub for shooting her – shooting her, when she rarely went out on the field.

And he was fearful. If the man had fled, was he approaching the rest of his team right now? If he hadn't – where was he? No footsteps told his location – but people could move quietly.

"Yes, JJ." Hotch persisted. "You're going to be fine, but you need to open your eyes. You know that."

She did – they were frantic, pained, and sad all at once, and her face was pale as she grimaced, making a pained attempt at a deep breath. The liaison's hair was plastered to her face. "Hotch."

"I'm right here." He soothed, finding the wound just where the bullet proof ended. She saw him looking and shook her head again.

"Don't touch it." The statement came out as a question and he shook his head, his eyes gently apologetic.

She whimpered and he swallowed, feeling guilty. Hotch passed a hand underneath her, checking for the bullet. Her face drew tight in pain.

"I'm sorry." He whispered, not knowing what else to say, guilt swarming him as he pressed a hand against it to stop the bleeding. "It's clean." He continued, watching her eyes. "The bullet's out. I'm going to radio for them – "

Her scream took nearly every ounce of her strength, blue eyes widened in shock, staring at something behind Hotch. His blood curdled in fear and he turned to see the face of Anthony Bennett. The side of the gun was the last thing he saw before darkness overwhelmed him.

"Come on now, my little friend. You're coming with me."


Author's Note:

My first full length Criminal Minds story – since Closing Walls and Ticking Clocks was more of a collection or a prolonged mini-series. I've got another case fic in the works, as well. Review please, tell me what you think!