Disclaimer: I do not own Criminal Minds. What I do owe is a ton of credit card debt and two months on my cable bill. So don't bother suing me.
A hypothetical situation… What if Chester Hardwick didn't let Reid distract him? What if he really tried to kill the two FBI Agents?
Chester Hardwick stared at SSA Aaron Hotchner, smirking as he leaned against the wall.
"There's no WAY are they gonna execute me next week. Not after I kill two FBI Agents. You saved my life by coming here." He said, cracking his knuckles.
Hotch lifted his head slightly. "But unfortunately for you, I'm not a five foot tall hundred pound girl." The Agent said, his voice just as calm as ever. Hardwick frowned slightly and stood up straight, his amused look turning dangerous. The young SSA Dr. Spencer Reid standing off to the side stared in shock as Hotchner took off the coat of his suit. "All your life," Hotch continued, "you've gone after victims who couldn't fight back."
Reid's frightened eyes darted towards the serial killer they were locked in the small room with. He shifted nervously, his eyes glancing down at the horrific, nightmare inducing crime scene photos on the table before him, running his tongue over dry lips. His eyes flicked to Hotch again before returning to the serial killer, not sure of which he should keep his eyes on. What was Hotch DOING?
"And the rest of the time you spent looking over your shoulder," Hotch continued, removing his tie and beginning to step towards Hardwick in a challenging manner. "Worried about the knock on the door… scared that someone like me would be on the other side waiting to put you away." Reid gulped, watching as Hardwick took up an agitated pacing, staring down the senior agent. Hotch raised a hand, pointing a finger at Hardwick. "At your core, you're a coward." Hotch concluded, and Reid's eyes widened as Hotch and Hardwick moved forward aggressively, each of them prepared to kill the other with his bare hands. Hardwick sucked in a breath, preparing to verbally lash back at Hotch, but Reid found his voice first.
"Chester, do you want to know why you killed those women?" He blurted, reaching a hand out, desperately trying to stop the impending violence. Both men stopped and blinked at each other. Then the confused serial killer looked back and forth between the two agents, but kept his eyes on Hotch. In his mind, HE was the threat.
Reid continued. "Earlier you said you wished that you were different. I can tell you why you killed them; why you are, WHAT you are." Chester Hardwick turned away from Hotch and stared at Reid, cocking his head.
"… You can tell me why I did the things I did." Hardwick stated, slowly stepping away from Hotch and approaching the table between himself and Reid. Reid nodded slightly.
"I think so. I do." He said. Hardwick snorted, then smirked.
"Do you?" He asked. Reid nodded again. "Well I'm sure that it's fascinating but… I just really don't care." And with that he grabbed the chair before him and whirled. Hotch barely had time to raise up an arm defensively before the chair impacted. He yelped and fell to the floor. Hardwick stepped back, lifted the chair and brought it down on the agent again.
"HOTCH!" Reid cried, skirting the table and grabbing the chair before Hardwick could bludgeon Hotch with it again. Hardwick dropped the chair suddenly, throwing Reid off. He turned and slammed his fist across the young agent's face. Reid yelped, crashing to the floor with the chair. Hardwick was on him in an instant. He stomped down on the young man's abdomen, relishing in the shocked grunt of pain, and he kicked him again and again and again.
"No!" Hotch gasped, stumbling to his feet. Hardwick spun and charged at Hotch, slamming the man up against the wall. Hotch yelped as his skull bounced off of the stone walls, and he slid to the floor. Hardwick went to kick the man, but his leg was jerked back. Reid had crawled over and grabbed his ankle. Hardwick smirked, then reached down and grabbed Reid by the shoulders, jerking him to his feet and throwing him across the room. Reid yelped, falling to the floor. Hardwick came at him, gripping Reid's shirt and ripping it open, tossing his messenger bag aside. He punched Reid across the face again then began to go through the bag… surely there was SOMETHING in there… some kind of weapon…
Nothing… Then, Hardwick turned. He picked up the chair, and flung it up against the small window. Hotch winced and looked up as the glass shattered. Hardwick picked up a large shard then turned, holding it like a blade, not even noticing the glass cutting into his own hand. Hotch winced, trying to focus as the man moved across the basement. Then, he heard Reid.
"What are you…? No… No! Don't!" The boy cried, and Hotch lifted his head, setting Hardwick sitting on Reid's hips, pinning the boy's wrists over his head. "Please!" Reid cried. "Ah! AAH!"
Hardwick watched, eyes wide and gleaming as the boy's thin white skin was neatly sliced open by the glass, the blood welling up. It was a long, shallow cut.
"… No…" Hotch groaned, wincing and forcing himself to his feet. He stumbled across the room, coming to Reid's aid. Hardwick turned and swung his fist. The long shard of the blade sunk into Hotchner's thigh. The man gasped and stumbled, and when he fell, Hardwick swung his arm again, the back of his hand cracking across Hotch's jaw. Hotch spun to the floor, spots popping up in front of his eyes. His mind reeled. He heard Reid cry out in pain again. He focused on Reid's voice, using that to pull himself together again. He turned and lunged, tackling Hardwick off of his young colleague.
A sharp pain burned a trail up his arm and then the sharp of glass flew across the room and broke into small fragments. Groaning, Reid rolled onto his side, pressing a hand to the gashes across his abdomen.
"Hotch!" He cried, watching the serial killer and FBI Agent struggle around on the floor. Hardwick managed to wedge his leg between their bodies, then kicked out, hard. Hotch gasped as he was thrown back.
"HOTCH!" He heard Reid scream, and then a metallic thud and pain… Hardwick raised the chair and brought it down on Agent Hotchner again and again and again.
"NO!" Harwick heard a frantic voice shriek, and then a cold pain in his side. The man looked down, the chair falling from his hands. A shard of glass protruded from his side, the yellow jumpsuit turning a dark red around it. Slowly, the man turned and stared down the frightened young doctor. He staggered towards the boy who was now backing away, eyes wide. Blood dripped from his hand where the edge of the glass had bitten into his flesh.
Hardwick knew his time was running out. He lunged, seizing Reid's shoulders and slamming him against the wall. Then he reached out, placing his hand over Reid's face, pulling his head away from the wall, then slamming the back of the boy's skull into the stone. He watched Reid slide to the floor, his eyes unfocused. Then, Chester Hardwick knelt, pushing Reid flat on his back on the floor.
"Too bad I don't have my tools…" He chuckled. "I guess I'll have to use my bare hands." And with that, he dug his fingers into the deepest cut on Reid's stomach. The boy let out a strangled gasp, and his long fingers curled around the man's wrist. Reid whimpered, then screamed when the man wiggled his fingers, literally digging into Reid's stomach.
Reid's hand released Hardwick's wrist and he grabbed the piece of glass still sticking in the man's side. He jerked it out, then plunged it back in. Hardwick yelped, jerking his hand out of Reid's wound and backhanding the boy. But Reid stabbed him again. Hardwick began to struggle with Reid as the boy slashed at him desperately, doing as much damage as he could. Then there were hands around his throat, and he couldn't breath. The pressure built.
Hotch slowly lifted his pounding head. His entire body throbbed in pain. He looked across the room and stared in horror. Hardwick was straddling Reid on the floor, struggling with the boy. The serial killer's bloody hands were wrapped around Reid's neck, and he was slamming the boy's head repeatedly into the floor. But Reid was still fighting. He was thrashing and kicking, and slashing at the man with a piece of glass. But his struggles were quickly weakening. The shard of glass fell to the floor. And a moment later, so did Reid's hand. A finger twitched… eyes rolled back and fell closed. And after a moment, Hardwick let go. He stared down at Reid, gasping for breath, then turned his eyes onto Hotchner. Slowly, he stood.
"You're next…" He hissed, picking up the glass that Reid had dropped. Hotch tried to get up, but he couldn't. His head was throbbing… the ground seemed to undulate beneath him… he felt sick… Then he was roughly rolled over onto his back and Hardwick kicked him harshly in the ribs.
Hotch wasn't sure what happened next. There was suddenly a loud bang, and then shouts… A moment later, the sound of glass falling to the floor. And then, he opened his eyes and saw Chester Hardwick stumbling back into the wall, and collapse onto the floor. As the guards rushed across the room to secure him, Hotch dragged himself across the floor, reaching out. A moment later, he managed to grab Reid's hand.
"… Reid…" He groaned. He felt like he was going to pass out. "Reid… come on…" He dragged himself closer, reaching out and feeling for a pulse. "We need an ambulance!" He cried, relieved to feel the gentle throbbing of Reid's jugular vein under his fingertips. But it was weak. And Reid's breathing was very fast and shallow. But he was breathing…
The next several minutes were chaotic to Hotch's half conscious mind. Men running around shouting. Hands on his body, cataloguing his injuries. Men around Reid, someone pressing down to try and stop the blood flow. Reid's fingers twitched in Hotchner's hand, and he squeezed reassuringly. But then, Reid's hand was pulled out of his own.
"No… Reid… Reid?"
"Sir. It's alright. We're getting the two of you to a hospital." Said a concerned voice.
"… Reid… take Reid…"
"He's going first." The voice assured him. "We'll be right behind him, okay?" Hotch winced.
"Yeah…" He gasped, and allowed himself to relax.
JJ, Rossi, Morgan and Prentiss all walked into the BAU, feeling tired, but feeling good.
"Hey." Morgan said, blinking. "Where are Hotch and Reid?"
The group turned, and Morgan's eyes widened. "Penelope… what's wrong?" He gasped, staring at the woman with disheveled hair and teary bloodshot eyes. She was holding her bag and wearing her coat.
"… Hotch and Reid… they're in the hospital. I… I'm going to
"… Let's go." Morgan said, frowning. The group trooped right back down to the garage, all piling into an SUV, Morgan driving, Garcia taking shotgun, and Rossi sitting between JJ and Prentiss in the back seat. Morgan floored it.
"Garcia, what happened?" Prentiss asked, finally. Garcia bit her lip.
"They were attacked by Chester Hardwick when the guards were away…"
"Oh, fuck…" Morgan cursed. He sped up and they made the drive to Connecticut in record time, bursting into the ER as if they were there to take it over. Rossi took command from there, heading to the main desk and flashing his credentials.
Hotch awoke, thanking God for morphine. There was a face staring down at him, a glowing halo around it… was… was that God? He blinked. God was NOT a looker.
"Hey, Hotch." Rossi said, and then other faces joined his. And Hotchner stared at his team.
"… Hey…" He mumbled, closing his eyes and mentally shaking himself. Then, his eyes snapped open and he struggled to sit up. "Reid!"
"Easy." Rossi said, placing a hand on Hotch's chest and pressing him back down onto the bed. "He's to your left." Hotch blinked and turned his head.
Reid was laid out in the bed, receiving a blood transfusion as well as fluids, antibiotics and painkillers. He was perfectly still, save for the gentle rise and fall of his chest. His breathing was slightly wheezy, and his throat was swollen and bruised.
"He'll be okay." Rossi told Hotch. "They anticipate a full recovery for both of you."
"Hotch." Morgan said, shaking his head in distress. "What happened?"
Hotch closed his eyes briefly and swallowed.
"Chester Hardwick." He said, softly. "It was a trap. He asked to come here so that he could… kill us. So that he wouldn't be executed next week." The team nodded, silently waiting. "He waited until the guards were gone, moving the inmate population. And he… hit me with the chair. I don't know how many times but… he dropped the chair and I heard Reid… and I saw Hardwick kicking him. I tried to stop him but he hit me… and I hit my head. Then I heard glass. And then Reid started screaming. He was… cutting him with the glass. I tried to help and he… stabbed my leg. And then hit me in the head again…" Hotch winced, his head pounding as he remembered.
"I grabbed him. And we fought… he threw me off and then… hit me with the chair again. I could hear Reid…" He shook his head, grimacing in pain. "I don't know how long I was out. All I remember after that was… seeing his hands around Reid's neck… he was… slamming his head into the floor. And then he let go and said I was next and… Then noise and people." He frowned, trying to focus the tumultuous memory. "And I was holding Reid's hand. Then the paramedics were there. They took him away. How bad is he?"
"He'll be okay." JJ said, smiling bravely.
"… How bad is he?" Hotch asked.
"Not as bruised as you are." Morgan snorted. "You are ALL black and blue, Hotch."
"He has some gashes on his stomach that had to be stitched up." Rossi said, shrugging. "Obviously some bruising and swelling on his throat. You both have concussions."
"… Chester Hardwick… He dug into Reid's wounds with his fingers." Prentiss said after a moment. Hotch stared at her.
"There was damage inside of the wounds on Reid's stomach. And they… found his flesh under Hardwick's fingernails. Apparently when he lost the piece of glass he had used to cut him open, he decided to… claw his way through instead. He… tried to gut Reid with his bare hands." Hotch stared at his team, who were all looking slightly ill. He turned and looked at Reid, then moved to sit up again.
"Don't." Rossi said, firmly. "YOU have several cracked ribs. And your ulna has a hairline fracture." And Hotch suddenly noticed that his arm was in a splint.
"I don't want them to press any charges against him." Hotch said, suddenly.
"what?" JJ asked, confused.
"… Let the execution take place as scheduled." Hotch growled, staring at Reid in the bed next to him.
"Let the vengeance come later, Agent Hotchner." The doctor said, walking in. "You need to rest." He ignored Hotch's protests as he shined a little penlight into his eyes. "I'm going to give you something to sleep. Your team can visit later."
Hotch awoke to fearful cries. He opened his eyes, staring up at the ceiling. The room was dark. Then, a whimper. Hotch turned his head and looked at Reid. The boy was gasping slightly, then jerked.
"… Don't… please…" The boy groaned. "Stop… Hotch…"
"Reid." Hotch called. Reid twitched. "Reid!" The boy gasped, and his eyes fluttered open. He blinked up at the ceiling, confused, then turned his head. Hotch stared at the wide eyes.
"… Hotch!" Reid gasped.
"… You were having a nightmare."
"… Are you okay?"
"I'll live." Hotch admitted. "But we'll both be out of action for a while."
"… I can't believe we're alive…" Reid murmured, looking scared. "What… what happened? The last thing I remember… his hands... I couldn't breathe…"
"… The guards arrived." Hotch said, softly.
"… I think… that I understand how she felt now…"
"Elle." Reid said, softly.
"… What about her?"
"That night in her hotel room… on that last case… She was drinking. And I went to talk to her and she told me that… when Randall Garner shot her, he put his fingers in her wound to write on the wall with her blood." Hotch stared at Reid, letting him talk. "… She said that sometimes… she thought that she could still feel his fingers in her…" And Hotch winced and closed his eyes, knowing where this was going as Reid rubbing his stomach slightly, looking ill.
"Reid…" He said, softly. "… I'm sorry."
"… For letting him do that to you."
"Hotch… you didn't let him do ANY thing."
"I should have stopped him."
"Hotch, he wasn't going to let us stop him." Reid said, wincing. "… Concussion?"
"Oooh yeah." Reid groaned, and Hotch smiled slightly. "Wait. Did you mean me or you?"
"… Wow. That sucks."
"You're telling me."
"… What did the doctor say?"
"We'll both make a full recovery." Hotch said, and Reid sighed, relaxing back into the pillow. "The team will be back in the morning."
"they were here?"
"Of course." Hotch said. "They came as soon as they heard."
"How long have I been out?"
"… I'm not sure. I don't know what time it is." Hotch admitted, watching Reid's mouth stretch open in a yawn. And damn the psychological effects of making yawns contagious, Hotch yawned too. Neither said another word. They just closed their eyes and slipped into sleep.
Chester Hardwick blinked as the IV catheter was inserted into the vein on the inside of his elbow and taped there. He just stared at the ceiling, clenching his jaw as the people around him went about their work. What an interesting job, Hardwick mused. Killing people with the blessings of the law and society… Too bad he couldn't have had that. Oh well.
Before he knew it, the Warden was standing there with a priest. Hardwick ignored the latter. A moment later, the curtains covering the window swept open. Hardwick glanced, uninterested. But then he made a double take. Through all of the faces staring at him, his eyes focused on two.
FBI Agents Hotchner and Dr. Reid stood at the back of the room, side by side, shoulder to shoulder, fading bruises shadowing their faces. They stared back at Hardwick, their faces calm. They almost mirrored one another. But their eyes were so different. Hotchner's eyes were hard, filled with righteous anger, but also in satisfaction; Hardwick was getting what he deserved.
Dr. Reid's eyes on the other hand were much as Hardwick had seen them in that interrogation room. Gentle and innocent… nervous. But there was also now a deep… sadness. Regret. That only made Hardwick angry. God, if only he had killed them. He shouldn't have split his time up between them. He should have incapacitated one and just focused on killing the other. But damn it! He had thought the boy was dead! He had let go too soon… He'd had a plan. A plan to kill two FBI Agents to save his own life. But now, they were standing there staring him down in his last moments of life… that arrogant son of a bitch and his little snot nosed side kick… Gloating.
But then, he watched the boy wince, and press a hand to his stomach, closing his eyes for a moment. And Hardwick smirked.
"Do you have any last words?" The Warden asked, holding the microphone up to Hardwick. Slowly, the man grinned.
"I can still feel your blood on my hands…" He leered, and Reid's eyes widened. "Can you still feel my hand in your gut?" And Reid swallowed and looked away, wrapped his arms around his belly. Hotchner narrowed his eyes, glaring at Hardwick, clenching his jaw. Reid looked up again and met Hardwick's eyes, his own eyes suddenly dark and determined. He cocked his head slightly, as if contemplating the serial killer's eyes.
The Warden stepped out of the room. Hardwick's eyes moved back and forth, trying to stare down both Agents at once. A moment later, Hardwick felt it. The lethal drug in his veins. His vision moved in and out of focus. He fought it. He wanted his last sight to be the look of sick fear that he had seen on the boy's face at his words. But when he focused on Reid, he didn't see it. Reid stared back, perfectly calm. And his eyes spoke to Hardwick.
You will not break me. I am not afraid of you.
And then Spencer Reid turned, and walked away. The last thing Hardwick saw was the finality in the eyes of Aaron Hotchner. Like Reid, those eyes spoke to him.
Burn in Hell. It's where you belong.
And then the man turned and followed his subordinate out. And that was the final insult. The Agents had looked him in the eyes. And they were not afraid. They didn't even wait until he was actually pronounced dead. They didn't need to. Because he wasn't worth it. His last chance at some sort of triumph was lost. And as everything went dark and quiet, one final thought passed through Chester Hardwick's mind…