Inferno

Author's Note: Okay, one thing about me is that when I find something I like, I obsess like crazy. It was like that the first time I became a fan of Criminal Minds. Unfortunately, L&O:SVU comes on the same time Criminal Minds does, and that took precedent. Well, I saw the episode, Penelope again, and fell in love all over again, with Criminal Minds, and with Derek Morgan. So here I go, continuing my obsession, writing a Criminal Minds chapter fic. The last one I wrote didn't go anywhere, but I promise, I have big plans for this one. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I do not own Criminal Minds, or the characters. If someone would please, please, please give me Derek Morgan for my birthday (on Saturday), I think I would love you for the rest of our lives! Face it, who wouldn't want him dressed only in a big, red bow on his head? Mmm, I like that mental picture. Okay, enough creepy fangirl fantasies – time to get crackin' on this story! Whoo-hoo!

[1]

JJ sat at the familiar desk, stacked high with files upon files of pictures of the dead, the missing. They were like shadows, fleeting, invisible and yet, constantly present. They followed her like a constant nagging that would not subside. Seeing the faces of the invisible caused her pain, no matter how hard she tried to fight it. Each time they would meet for a briefing, she always entered the conference room a little more weary, and a little more worn. It was a hard job, they all knew that; but it was what they did. Besides, they were the heroes. Sometimes. Most times. Not enough of the time.

She grabbed one of the files from her mountain and headed into the conference room where the rest of the team waited. She was late. Again. It was a bad habit of hers, coming in late to these briefing meetings; but she felt as if looking at their files a little bit longer, lingering over them, soaking in the death-facts like sunlight, helped her be more prepared.

"You're late," Hotch noted. He wouldn't let her slide. His jaw was clenched, but he didn't push the matter. Agent Hotchner was not unfamiliar with the difficulty of their job. He understood her eyes being a little moist, and her cheeks a little red. He understood the shaky voice and hands. They were his too.

"Sorry," JJ blushed, setting the file to the table, and flipping it open. She lifted some Polaroid's that had been taken at the crime scenes, and scattered them before the members of the Behavior Analysis Unit. They each looked at the photographs, and recoiled.

The analyst in her kicked in. Hotch looked at his photograph, and blinked. No movement. Stoic. Emily Prentiss looked at hers, and put it back down, as if it had burned her hands. Unable to look. Reid squinted, and put the picture on the table. Morgan looked at his, and shook his head.

"Someone wanted to cause someone an awful lot of hurt," he said, still looking at his as if he were unable to turn away. He also knew the shaky voice, shaky hands. He knew the shock and nausea that came with the job.

"Mia Angelo, Audrey Sorento, Cindy Loras, and Jessica Samuels. Mia was our first victim. She went missing about a month ago when she didn't come home from school. Audrey, Cindy, and Jessica were next. They were logged into Missing Person's but the cases came up with no leads…until now. A mudslide in Tallulah, Texas unearthed their bodies – or at least what was left of them. Someone had dismembered the bodies with what is recorded as an axe."

"Any significant leads?" Hotch asked, looking at the photographs laying scattered on the table.

"No. All the girls went missing, each from walks home – school, friends' houses, the park. It's a small town. The families aren't used to this kind of thing. We need to get down there and figure this thing out. Four girls, four bodies, four sets of parents who want answers. We need to give them those answers. We need to find who is doing this."

"And talk with the townspeople," Reid added, "make them realize that they need to keep their kids inside, no one goes out after dark, and no one walks home alone. Not even in groups. The schools need to be contacted."

"No child will go home without a parent or guardian as an escort," Emily nodded in agreement, "So let's roll."

"Not that easy," JJ raised a hand, "We have no suspects, no leads. I've contacted the sheriff and he said they don't even know where to start. They are so unprepared for this kind of thing. We don't have any starts. We will be going down there with nothing."

"We know," Hotch intervened, "that we have four dead girls and a psychopath on our hands. That's more than enough. Load up and head out. We leave in twenty."

JJ packed up the pictures and looked at the team, all of them were packing up their things and heading out to their office cubicles. JJ returned to her office, snagged a picture of the baby off her desk, and shoved it into her bag. She headed to the lockers, and met up with Emily.

"How you holding up?" Emily asked.

"It could be him," JJ said, pointing to the picture of her baby that was Scotch-Taped to her locker door, "It could be anyone we know – one day."

"Don't think like that," Emily shook her head, shoving some clothes into a duffle, "They are victims that need answers, we will give them to them."

"But they are more than just victims – they are people. Human beings, souls."

"I know," Emily nodded, swinging the bag onto her shoulder. She hadn't been in the BSU long, but she knew. She understood just as well as the others did that sometimes, work doesn't end when the case does. There's always that question – it could have been a loved one, my loved one. She tried not to think like that, but it was unavoidable, "I have an eight year old niece," she said, "I see her in those pictures."

The women grabbed their things and headed out. More dead bodies, more lost souls. They needed to give answers. It was their job. Someone had to do it.

Derek Morgan loaded his duffle with Reid at his side. Neither really knew what to say. Derek was tough, tougher than most, but when it came to kids, he was soft. They all saw the soft side he had tucked away – saved for a few lucky ones. He would give his life for another at any given second. It was what made him a good Agent, a good analyst. His passion kept him going, kept him sane.

"You ready for this?" Spencer Reid asked.

"Why did it have to be kids, huh? Little girls?"

"We can't control our victims, Morgan. We get what we get."

"I know. It's just…"

"Difficult. I know," Spencer nodded. They didn't think he understood. He seemed almost stoic, unable to show much emotion, but he felt the same pain they did, his heart grieved for those little girls, "But we will put this guy away, like usual."

"Usual aint always."

Reid grabbed his duffle and nodded to the door.

"Go on. I'll be out in a second."

Reid did as he was told. Derek sat down at the bench in front of the locker, and put his head in his hands. After saying a silent prayer, and giving the silver cross hung around his neck a quick kiss, he also grabbed his bag, and headed out the door. Prayer and strength, it was all that could keep him together during this case.

"Hey!" Penelope Garcia, the BSU computer analyst bounded up towards him, "Keep me in the loop, alright?"

"Wouldn't be able to solve this case if you weren't, baby girl," Derek grinned, loving the fact that she could make him smile whenever the world seemed to crumble around him.

"Be safe."

"No promises."

"Try."

Derek rolled his eyes, but smiled, "Be good."

"Or what?"

"Just…behave," he lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it. He adored Garcia, and would gladly stop at nothing to protect her. She was his and he was hers. No one questioned it. It just…was. Of course they weren't romantically involved, but they did love each other. It was just how they were.

Together, the team headed out the doors and to the plane. It was another case, another day.

Their job.