Here it is – the end of this tale. It's been novel length and written in about two months – I'm quite pleased with that.
Thank you to Chiroho for betaing this. I am eternally grateful!
Thank you to everyone who has reviewed throughout, especially to those who have taken the time to review each chapter. You are why it was written in the first place.
"In this world everything changes except good deeds and bad deeds; these follow you as the shadow follows the body."
The view outside the windows was obscured by darkness, a break in the snow resulting in a blackened landscape with only the ground coloured white. Take off had predictably been delayed, the weather proving to be a hindrance once more. There was a sense of relief, even as they waited at the terminal to begin their trip home, that within a few hours they would be asleep in their own beds, with no one except Morgan and Hotch expected to show their faces in the BAU the next day.
JJ's eyes were half closed, fighting sleep, as the plane began its ascent. Emily had passed out hard candy as usual, and a few glances had been thrown Reid's way, his fear of the plane leaving the ground a quiet common knowledge.
"Where do you get this candy from?" JJ said, eyeing the pink and yellow thing Emily had just passed to her.
Emily smiled, putting the bag on the table in reach of almost everybody. "There's an online old fashioned candy store, where you can get all the candy from when we were kids," she glanced at Hotch. "You can get cola cubes on there too."
JJ raised her eyebrows, popping the candy into her mouth and sucking to clear the pop out of her ears. It tasted of sweet pears, and she found she quite liked it. However, the insinuation that Emily knew Hotch's favourite sweet was one she was rather fascinated by, and she wondered whether it would hurt to do some fishing.
"So, what are you guys doing when we get home?" JJ said, looking from Hotch to Emily and making it clear to the other three that she wasn't asking them.
"I foresee a hot bath, pyjamas and at least twelve hours worth of good quality sleep in my future," Emily said, her dead pan features making it perfectly apparent that she knew exactly what JJ was up to.
JJ smiled sweetly, and transferred her gaze to Hotch. "How about you?"
"Paperwork," Hotch said, his mask now well and truly fixed, covering any hints. "I guess I'll get a couple of hours done before I go to bed."
JJ squinted at him. Even if she even thought that he wasn't going to be going home with Emily, she knew he was too exhausted to even pick up a pen. He raised a single eyebrow back and relaxed back into his seat next to Emily. They hadn't bothered to sit apart, and JJ was pleased about that. There was no need, and they could obviously see that. The team were not going to go shouting to HR or Strauss, and they wouldn't expect either Hotch or Emily to be anything less than professional when on a case.
But now they weren't on a case. It was over. The bad guy had been stopped from harming any more people, and they could go home. She closed her eyes with relief.
"So what are you up to when we get back?" Emily said. It took a few seconds before JJ realised the question was directed at her.
"Waking up Henry," she said, the thought of it heavenly. "He'll be fast asleep by now, and I really should leave him be, but I haven't seen him in so long." She smiled dreamily at the prospect. "Then I'm going to sleep for a good ten hours straight and tomorrow I'm not even going to get dressed."
Reid shifted forward in his seat, his movements stiff. He was clearly in some pain still, and JJ could understand Hotch's concern when he'd first seen him after he and Emily returned to the hotel. "There's an online chess tournament that I should just get back in time to enrol in. One thing about being stabbed is that it does give you a bit of a chance to rest, so I'm nowhere near as tired as you."
"You should still be resting," Hotch said, not looking up at Reid, his eyes focused on a document resting on his lap. "If you want to get back behind your desk within ten days, you need to sleep as much as possible."
Reid shrugged. "I doubt I'll do very well. I don't suppose my state of mind is conducive to winning at the moment, but it'll be a nice wind-down after everything that's happened."
"Is that from Detective Barry?" Rossi said. JJ had thought he was asleep. His eyes had been closed since they had taken off, and his expression so peaceful she'd thought he must have dozed off immediately.
Hotch nodded. "It is. I received it just as we were leaving. It's a school report written by his ninth grade teacher. She raises concerns about his family life and the influence of his grandfather. She also suggests that he needed to be seen by a psychologist as he had some behaviours that concerned her. Her name was Stephanie Waldren, and she was one of the people mentioned by Gemma Lafayette that Lee had threatened revenge on." He gave a half shrug. The information was now almost useless. They didn't need it in catching him, but it provided information about his background which meant Lee could be further profiled.
Rossi slid further down into the seat. "You know, there are too many kids to think about that have had childhoods as bad or worse than what Lee did, but they don't all turn out to be serial killers. There must have been something wired wrongly in his brain."
Morgan stretched in his seat, looking more relaxed than JJ had seen for days. He would be worried, she knew, about the investigation that would take place into his conduct, but I had assured him that he would still be recommended to stay on the unit; his actions placed under scrutiny for a while. "Would he have gone on to offend as he did if there had been some form of intervention?" Morgan said. "We know he was a witness to a murder carried out by George Mulliner when he was child. That could have been the turning point. If someone had taken this teacher's report seriously, then there's every chance that the tendencies he showed could have been altered through therapy. That would have suggested that it is nurture rather than nature that makes someone a psychopath."
Rossi closed his eyes, looking unfazed by the conversation. "We've had this discussion before, and I, for one, am too tired for it now. We will have plenty of time to analyze Lee's behaviour when we've caught up on more pressing issues. Like sleep."
JJ smiled, watching the rest of her colleagues tipping back seats and moving into more comfortable positions. Only Hotch remained awake, his eyes taking in Lee's school report line by line, Emily now asleep on his shoulder, oblivious to their closeness.
JJ caught his eye and gave him a soft smile. "You know, you could lose your reputation as being an ice man," she said, her voice remaining low.
Hotch smiled, pushing the report onto the table. "I think most people know that's just a facade," he said, moving his arm so it was around Emily's shoulders. "And if not, I'm sure you can keep our secret."
She nodded, her eyes beginning to fall shut themselves, the lights on the plane now dim and the temperature warm enough on board to sleep soundly. No turbulence woke them, and it was only when the plane began to descend did Reid rouse their senses by demanding candy from Emily.
There was no snow on the ground as JJ left her parked car, and fumbled in her bag for the keys to the new house she and Will had just moved in to. It had a larger garden for Henry to play in when he was older, a guest bedroom, and another, smaller room, for when they decided that Henry needed a brother or a sister. The move was still recent enough for her to get a brief thrill every time she came home.
A light was on upstairs, telling her that Will had waited up. She guessed he would be reading, his preferred pastime, not being a fan of TV unless it was sport that was on. She smiled as the key slid into the lock, looking forward to that first cuddle of Henry, then one from Will after that. She turned the key.
Rossi opened the mailbox before heading up the driveway. He was expecting another letter from his editor confirming the figure for the next two books, and he was interested to see what was in it. It wasn't the money, it was more to do with what sort of slant they wanted from the next book, what they thought the public was interested in. He was considering taking a sabbatical for three months from the BAU to write it, just coming in for the big cases, as he suspected that his editor was looking for a book that focused on just one killer. An in depth exploration of a single criminal mind.
The letter was there, as he'd expected, along with a handful of bills, and a delivery note to say that his neighbour had taken in a package. He double checked the house number for the neighbour and breathed a sigh of relief; it had gone to Mrs Hartshed at number twelve. If it had ended up at number sixteen, then he never would have seen the twenty-two year old malt that had been sent from his whisky club.
He pulled his key from his jeans pocket, the security light coming on brightly and almost blinding him, but at least it meant he could insert the key easily. His cell phone sounded as he was about to turn, and he pulled it out, looking at the message. He breathed a long sigh of relief; it was Jolene, texting to say that her sister was now out of hospital. He turned the key.
Morgan glared at Reid as he walked slowly from the elevator towards his apartment door. He lived in what must have been the state's smallest apartment block with only two apartments on each of the four floors. But that wasn't the cause of Morgan's wrath.
Since their rather uncomfortable conversation earlier, Reid hadn't stopped talking. At first, it had been a blessing as it had completely taken Morgan's mind off everything that had happened, but by now he had the start of a headache and was desperate to fall asleep in an attempt to be fresh for his interview with Strauss tomorrow afternoon.
However, he'd driven Reid home, and was determined to make sure he was settled in his apartment before heading over to his own. It wasn't penance; he had suffocated any feelings of guilt, knowing that it was a pointless emotion once the cause of it had been identified and then put in the process of being rectified. It was a genuine affection for the boy genius. He just wished he'd brought earplugs.
"You sure you'll be okay?" Morgan said, standing outside Reid's door as Reid hunted for his keys. The eidetic memory had some flaws, and recalling where he had put keys was one of them.
"I'll be fine, Morgan. I can order groceries online for delivery tomorrow. I have everything I need. Seriously, you need to get home and get some rest," Reid said, inserting the key.
Morgan nodded, too tired to debate something that was actually true just for the sake of it. He stood back as Reid turned the key.
"You don't need to give me a ride home," Emily said, glancing at Hotch as he drove. "Morgan would have been happy to take me. I think he would have appreciated the distraction from I."
Hotch looked oddly harsh as he indicted to turn into the parking lot of her apartment block. "I wanted to make sure you got in okay," he said. He had been quiet for the whole of the ride, and she was beginning to wonder why.
"Aaron," she said as the car came to a halt. "Are you going to tell me what the matter is?" She placed a hand on the clip of his seatbelt and looked at him severely. For her own peace of mind she needed to know what was eating him up.
He turned to her, and she was reminded of the other time he had taken her home and they had been parked near here. "It feels strange knowing I'm not going to spend the night with you," he said, a confession.
"Then why don't you stay here tonight?" she said after a brief moment's thought.
"Is that wise?" he said. "We've not spent a night apart, and we've only just started to see each other. This could become rather intense."
Emily nodded. "You're right; it could. But we're not a pair of teenagers. We know what we want, or at least I do."
He turned away from her briefly and looked out of the window. "I want to wake up with you in the morning," he said. "If I don't, I'll feel that what we had was just because we were in Utah."
She removed her hand from the seatbelt clip and placed it on his arm instead. "I want you to stay with me tonight, for the same reason," she said. "Now let's get out of this car and go somewhere we can get some sleep."
He looked at her, the corners of his mouth twisting upwards faintly. Then he got out of the vehicle and pulled their luggage out of the trunk. Emily let him. She'd fought sometimes for her right to not be treated like the weaker sex, but Hotch carrying her belongings made her feel looked after rather than undermined.
They got to her apartment door with passing a single other soul. "Coffee?" she said, pulling her key out of her purse.
"Just bed, I think," he said, and she turned the key in the lock.
The sudden sound blared through the night air, causing nearby night time creatures to seek shelter, and any passersby to fear the worst. The explosion was quick and without pomp or circumstance, a swift, sharp bang that punched glass from windows, and anyone near enough off their feet.
The door that had just been opened was torn from its hinges with the force of the blast, falling onto the person who had just turned the key.
And then there was a shocked silence that bathed the immediate vicinity, shortly succeeded by the flashing lights of emergency vehicles and the sounds of sirens wailing like banshees. There was no rest for anyone. Wicked or not.
And yes, I know I am wicked too. I couldn't help but pinch a little season three cliffhanger to get you all (hopefully) worried.
So, who do you think turned that key?
If you are nice, and review, I will continue this small saga in a fic to be entitled When the Blue of the Night. The first chapter of this will go up on 16 March, if all goes well.
However, I am going to post my promised one shot, which has now become a five-shot. It's called Lake Erie and the first chapter will go up on Thursday. It's not a case fic, but a twenty four hour window on Hotch and Prentiss some months after the events of 100, and building on from their relationship in this story,( without spoilers for Blue.) It isn't nausea inducing fluff, but it does focus on an important point in their relationship.
Thank you for reading, and in the words of Vinnie Jones' character in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels 'It's been emotional.'