A/N: Ladies and gentlemen, you have waited far to long for this, but here it is now - the absolute final installation of Death's Play. I hope it will be to your liking. Forgive the long hiatus of my writing, but my muse has completely forsaken me and I have a feeling it will be a very long time before I write anything here again. Maybe I will kick it up again when the season starts, but I don't know. Thank you all for sticking with me during this time and I hope you all like what you read! As always it's beta read by the fabulous LT!
It was the one thing that would send Hotch over the edge. There had been so much pain, so much terror and so much horror over the last hours, yet nothing had managed to rock his determination and strength. That is, until now.
He could feel every joint in his body scream in pain as he fell to the floor, kneeling next to Reid, who tried miserably to hold his boss on his feet. Reid himself felt his heart sink as he looked into the room; a wave of nausea and intense fear crashing over him.
Gritting his teeth, Hotch squeezed his bleeding thighs in an attempt to regain some form of composure. He couldn't let go now. Not now. Once again he raised his eyes to take in the view before him. It was without a doubt the most frightening thing he had seen in his entire life.
The room was divided into two, a large glass wall separating them. Half of the glass was pitch black, seemingly leading into a third division of the room. Half of the glass, however, was clear as day, and what was behind it had Hotch shivering.
On the other side of the glass was a room, a perfectly normal room. It was filled with toys and balls, colorful blocks and books, videogames and coloring books. It would be the dream room of many children, had it not have been a part of such a nightmare. In the middle of the room, on a blue and green checkered mat, sat Jack, peacefully playing with a toy racing track.
Hotch got to his feet and stumbled over to the glass. As he pressed his hands against it, they were smeared with blood. "Jack!" he cried as he banged the apparently thick glass. "Jack!"
The child didn't react at all, but continued playing with the small cars, this time making them fly above his head and crash down on the tracks.
"Jack!" Hotch yelled once again, slamming his hands into the glass.
"Hotch, it won't work!" Reid touched the glass next to his superior. "It's soundproof. And it seems to be a one way mirror."
"There has to be a way in", Hotch gasped, running his hands over the glass. "There has to…"
"Of course there's a way in, Agent Hotchner", came the horribly distorted voice once more.
Hotch spun around. "You bastard! If you hurt my son, so help me God, I will kill you!" He had already lost his wife to a homicidal lunatic, he was not prepared to lose his son as well.
"Now, now, Agent Hotchner, let's all just take a breath and relax."
"No! No, I will not relax! Just tell me what to do and let us out!"
There was a short chuckle on the speaker, then a short exhale. "Very well then. Do you see that handle behind you?"
Hotch turned from the glass, reluctantly tearing his eyes away from his son. A metal handle, resembling a stirrup, hung in a chain from the ceiling. "Yes."
"Better grab it!"
A rustle was heard, then a clink, and suddenly the handle began rising. Hotch threw himself at it, but the intense pain in his legs and feet caused him to stumble. He reached for the handle, but missed. Instead, Reid dove for the handle, catching it at the absolute last moment before it would become unreachable for them both.
"Good! Now turn around and keep a close eye on the ceiling."
The men turned towards the brightly lit room containing the small child, and looked at the ceiling. What they saw shocked them both.
Large metal spikes were protruding from the wood of the roof, some as long as an adult's arm and razor sharp. The ceiling seemed very unstable.
"You had better hold onto that handle, Spencer, it is the only thing holding the ceiling in place."
Reid stared at the handle in his hands above his head. The metal was already becoming sharp and cutting into his hands, and the weight was chilling. "Hotch…"
"Reid, you hold onto that thing as if your life depended on it." There was no arguing with Hotch at this point, and he knew the 'rules' of this sick, demented game. There was always a twist. He looked at his son, who played soundly only 10 ft underneath one of the longest spikes. Pain shot through Hotch, but not physical pain. His heart felt like it was about to burst into a thousand pieces. Silently he begged his son for forgiveness for allowing him to end up in a situation like this. "Now what?" he yelled furiously to the anonymous voice.
"I have a game for you, Agent Hotchner."
"What a surprise, just tell me!"
"There is a keypad on your right hand wall. If you enter the correct code, a safety latch will engage and support the ceiling. If you enter the wrong code…"
"What code?" Desperation was rising inside Hotch, whether he accepted it or not. He saw Reid's arms trembling and hands dripping blood. There was not much time.
"Listen up, Agent Hotchner. What does man love more than life, fear more than death or mortal strife, what the poor have, the rich require, and what contented men desire, what the miser spends and the spendthrift saves
and all men carry to their graves?"
The words spun in Hotch's head, a mishmash of blabber and rhymes. "What?"
"Now let's see how long Spencer can hold on before… Well, let's just say that you ought to find the answer to my little riddle quick. Good luck!" There was a crackle on the speaker and then nothing but silence and the sound of two men's strained breath.
"No, wait! Wait! I didn't hear it!" Hotch's voice trembled as he limped over to the keypad. There were letters from A-Z and numbers 0-9 on it, but Hotch was completely clueless as to what the answer was. And they only had one single chance. "Love more than….strife? Being poor and…what the hell did he say?"
Spencer gave a strained moan. "What does man love more than life, fear more than death or mortal strife, what the poor have, the rich require, and what contented men desire, what the miser spends and the spendthrift saves
and all men carry to their graves? That's what he said!" The handle began grinding his fingers harder and harder as he desperately tried to hold on. Blood ran down his arm and as he shifted his grip ever so slightly, a new, white pain shot through his hand and arm as the metal cut through his flesh and grazed the bone of his index finger. He screamed.
"Reid!" Hotch stumbled over to his subordinate, who violently shook his head.
"Get the answer! Get it!"
Hotch rushed back to the keypad, his mind racing a million miles per second. Reid's brilliant mind was completely useless at the moment as it was muddled by intense pain. Only Hotch could save his son.
He could hear his subordinate scream once more, and forced himself to think. What do the poor have and rich require, what do all men take to their grave, love more than life and fear more than death?
Then suddenly, it dawned on him, and he came to the chilling realization that he had been shown this riddle before, only differently formulated. The situation had also been similar. It couldn't be…
"Nothing…" he whispered. Just as he raised his hand to enter the password, he heard a desperate cry from behind him.
"Hotch, I'm slipping! I can't…! I can't!"
Hotch typed with shaking fingers. N-O-T-J-
"Hotch! Oh, God…! Hurry!"
"Fuck!" Hotch smashed his fist into the wall in frustration. His fingers were shaking so badly, he could hardly hit the letters.
One final scream made Hotch spin around and race towards Reid. "Hotch, I'm sorry!" The desperate, shrill voice died off as a rattling noise, followed by a thud. Reid had lost hold of the handle and fallen to the floor.
"No! No!" Hotch threw himself at the handle, but it had already slipped away from reach. "No! Jack!" He crawled to the glass, banging it. "Jack!"
The ceiling rapidly lowered for a second and dropped about five feet, then stopped abruptly, the spikes some six feet from Jack's head. To both men's surprise and incredible relief, the roof then began to slowly return to its original place and stopped soundly.
Hotch's breathing came in short, hard bursts as he slumped down against the glass. A tear fell silently off the tip of his nose as he leaned forward against his knees. "Oh God… Thank God…"
Reid's voice interrupted his short moment of bliss. "Hotch…"
Hotch looked up at his subordinate, who was rising from the floor, facing the blackened part of the glass wall. It was no longer blackened. Hotch leaned on the window to get to his feet, and suddenly, his eyes fell on something he would not have expected.
On the other side of the glass, separated from both the agents and Jack, stood a person covered by a dark cloak, seemingly watching them. The face could not be seen because of a hood.
Hotch limped over to Reid, who helped him stand steadily. Together they stood in silence for a few moments before any of them spoke. It was Hotch who broke the silence.
"Who are you?" A part of him had already figured it out, but he had to be sure.
"Who do you think?" The distorted voice sounded much closer now, and they noticed that it was actually coming from a small speaker just next to the glass.
"I think… You're an extremely deranged person who has a pathological attraction to games."
A small chuckle. "Can't argue with you there, Agent Hotchner."
"Let my son go, he's just a child." Hotch fought furiously with himself not to lose control of his temper. If he did, it could be the last time he ever saw Jack.
The cloaked figure turned away from the glass and moved slowly towards a door leading into the furnished room where Jack was busy playing a game on a PSP.
"Leave him alone! Don't you go near him!" Hotch struck the glass in front of him, but to no avail. The figure entered the room, and Jack shortly looked up before returning to his game.
"Hello, Jack." The voice could be heard from the other room as well. "Are you having fun?"
"Yu-huh." Jack's voice was equally distorted. The speakers had been fixed in there as well.
The figure moved close to the little boy and kneeled next to him, back to the glass. Both men watched in absolute horror, not knowing what was about to happen. Hotch's heart was about to beat its way out of his chest, and he squeezed Reid's arm tightly as he fought to stay upright.
"I just came to tell you that your daddy is here to pick you up."
"But I'm winning!" Jack's little voice sounded almost annoyed.
"Yeah, I can see that. But you know what?"
"You can pick any toys you want from here and take them home with you."
"For real!" Jack looked up at the figure with a smile on his face which lit up the entire room. "Thanks!"
The figure lifted its hand and put it over the little boy's shoulders. "I'm pretty sure you'll have more fun with it than I would."
"Can you babysit me again some time? This place is really cool." Jack kept playing the game as he spoke, not really looking up.
"No, sweetie, I'm sorry. I have to go away for a while. But I'm sure we'll meet again before you know it." The hand patted Jack on the back, almost lovingly.
Hotch gritted his teeth. "Don't touch him…" he growled lowly.
"Okay", said the figure and rose from its place. "I have to go now, but your daddy will be here in a couple of minutes, so don't you worry. Can I have a hug goodbye?"
Jack put the game down on the mat and rose, throwing his arms around the figure's legs in a tight hug. "Bye, aunt Sissy."
"Goodbye, honey." The figure hugged Jack back and stroked him over his blonde hair. "Now you win that game, alright?"
"Alright! Bye!" He plopped back down on the mat and grabbed the PSP. Bleeping sounds were heard for a few moments until the figure had left the door and closed the door, and it all went silent again.
The figure once again approached the window.
"Aunt Sissy…" Hotch mumbled as his fears were confirmed.
As the figure pushed the hood back from its face, Reid lost his grip on Hotch and stumbled backwards and straight into the opposing wall. "Y-you!"
"Yes, Spencer – me. I'm flattered you remember." Turning towards Hotch. "Oh, come on, Agent Hotchner. I'm insane, not a monster. I'd never hurt a child. But what better way to play a game than with a child involved? Makes everything so much more interesting."
"If I get my hands on you…"
"Oops, sorry, don't have more time now. My ride is waiting, so I have to go. Jack is fine, he's eaten dinner and I even took him to the bathroom. Hence my short absence there for a while…"
"No, you listen now, Agent Hotchner, because I have one last thing to tell you." A moment of silence. "When you entered the room where Spencer was held, there were two doors left in the hallway. This is the room next to Spencer's. Who did you sacrifice to save Spencer, Agent Hotchner? Who was behind door number seven?"
"You will never know." A short wave. "I must be going now, have a lovely life, both of you!"
"Wait! Wait!" Hotch banged the window. "How do we get to Jack!"
"Oh." A gesture towards the end of the window. "There's a door there. I'll open it once I get out."
And so the figure disappeared through yet another door, leading to the outside. A few seconds later, a glass door popped open into the second room, and Hotch could finally rush through it. He grabbed the handle to the outside door, but it was locked. Turning towards the door into the room where Jack was, he began trembling. Would there be another trap sprung on him as he opened the door? Would there be another sick game?
Hotch slowly opened the door into the furnished room. Jack looked up from his game.
"Daddy! Daddy, what happened to you?" The young boy looked almost frightened, and it suddenly dawned on Hotch that he must look horrendous, with blood and cuts everywhere on his half naked body.
With a relieved smile on his lips, Hotch limped over to his son and slumped down onto the floor next to him. "Daddy had an accident, sweetie. But I'll be okay. Are you okay?"
"Yeah, Aunt Sissy played with me all day and we had a blast!"
Hotch ran his fingers through his son's blond hair. "That's good… That's good…" Tears gathered in his eyes, but he blinked them back.
"Dad? Can we go home now?" Jack looked up at him with a smile.
Hotch smiled back. "Yeah. Yeah, we can."
"Can we get ice cream?"
Hotch chuckled. "Anything you want, little man." He pulled his son into a tight hug.
"Daaaad! I'm winning!"
Hotch threw a quick glance at Reid, who had not moved from his place by the wall. He could hear the young man mumble over and over: "Not again… Not again… Not again…"
Images flashed before Reid's eyes as he was once again thrown back into a nightmare he thought would never return. The pain, the humiliation, the fear… The terrifying imprisonment in an oubliette torture chamber. The insanity of a woman who loathed his mentor beyond bounds. The madness. The blood. Once again he fell back into silence, futilely trying to fight the nightmare in his head away.
Hotch briefly watched the terror on his subordinate's face, and while holding his son close in his aching arms, it dawned on Hotch. Who had been in the seventh room? Who, without knowing it, had he sacrifice to save Reid? He really would never know.
A/N 2: Don't get the ending? Read "Sins of the Father", it'll all make sense :) And I can say right away - there will not be a sequel, epilogue or anything resembling it. Sorry guys! Love ya all tho for sticking with me! /AA