Disclaimer: No own. Piss off.
AN: not the best work I've ever done… kind of lame in a way, but I had it in my head and couldn't get rid of it until I wrote it.
SLASH As usual, this is Hotch/Reid, but more of a team fic than a pairing fic.
SSA Aaron Hotchner groaned as he awoke.
"… What the hell?" He muttered, looking around. "… Reid?" He called, eyes wide. The last thing he remembered was falling asleep in his own bed, Reid by his side. They had just gotten home from a case. They had showered, put on pajamas, had something to eat and then collapsed into bed, exhausted… Too exhausted for their usual pre-bedtime "activities".
But now, he was sitting tied to a chair in his pajamas, and the man he had fallen asleep with was nowhere to be found…
"Good Morning, Agent Hotchner." A voice came over a small radio on a desk before him. A television sat beside it. The screen was black. Hotch looked around. He was in what looked like an old office… there were some old filing cabinets against the wall… it looked like once upon a time, there had been more. "If you will please direct your attention UP..." The voice said, and Hotch looked up.
Oh. There were the missing filing cabinets. They were dangling over him, courtesy of a very strained looking rope. And this rope was tied to one of four pillars in the room. And right below the rope was a small pipe bomb with a timer on it… and it was counting down. Hotch blinked. What the hell was this? A Batman Villain Wannabe?
"What's going on here?" Hotch demanded to the empty room
"An exercise. A team bonding exercise." The voice said.
"… 'Team bonding'? What the hell is that supposed to mean? Where's Reid?" Hotch demanded.
"Your team is here." The voice told him. "Your life is in their hands, Agent Hotchner. I am sure you will learn something today."
"You will learn to truly value them. You are nothing without your team."
"I know that…" Hotch hissed. "That's why we're a team. We're nothing without each other."
"You will also learn just how much you mean to them. You will get to see just how far your team will go… for YOU. I wonder if you will be able to live with the guilt…"
"… What the hell do you mean!" Hotch shouted, struggling. "If you hurt them in ANY way—"
"They will make the choice, Agent Hotchner. Like I said. You will see how far they are willing to go for you… They may stop at any time… and let you die. The question is… will they?"
"You son of a bitch! Leave them alone!"
"The game begins, Agent Hotchner…"
And an image appeared on the television… Hotch just stared…
Supervisory Special Agent Jennifer Jareau woke slowly… the first thing she noticed was that she was cold. And that wherever she was, she wasn't were she had been when she went to sleep. She wasn't in bed. She was lying on a hard, unforgiving floor, and her wrists were cuffed together. And then, she realized there were voices around her. Familiar voices. Slowly, she opened her eyes. It was dark. And someone was shouting.
"… getting REAL sick of this!"
She blinked. "… Morgan?"
"… JJ!" Came a gasp.
"Garcia?" JJ squeaked, turning to her left in the darkness.
"JJ, oh my God…" Garcia whimpered from beyond where Morgan's voice had come from.
"I think it's safe to assume that we're all here…" Came the thoughtful comment from Agent David Rossi.
"So we have almost everyone accounted for then…" Emily's voice came from between JJ and Rossi. So… they were in a line. Rossi, Emily, JJ, Morgan and Garcia… Morgan and Garcia were to JJ's left, Rossi and Emily to her right.
"Someone's breathing on my right…" Rossi announced. "Hey… Hey, wake up! Hotch? Reid? Hello!"
They heard a soft moan.
"It's Reid." Rossi identified. "Hotch? You in here?"
"… W-What the… Rossi?" They heard Reid gasp.
"Hey kid. You okay?"
"Where are we?"
"We don't know."
"… Morgan?" Reid squeaked.
"We're all here, Spence." JJ called.
"At least we're together, right?" Garcia offered, weakly.
"Where's Emily and Hotch?" Reid asked.
"I'm here." Emily called.
"Is anyone hurt?" Morgan demanded. Until Hotch made his presence known, he intended to take command.
"I harmed no one." The Agents all jumped, startled at the voice that came over speakers, unseen in the dark. A moment later, lights flashed on. The men and women winced as they were momentarily blinded. Then they looked around. They were each in a small narrow cage, like a dog run in a kennel. They were about three feet by five feet, and about nine ten feet tall. Chain link fences that ran from floor to ceiling separated them all. On one end of the runs were chain link doors, chained closed with a padlock. Leather straps linked their handcuffs to this door. And on the other end a wall… a wall with a long, large spike sticking out about two and a half feet. The floors and walls were tile… and on the walls were old rusted shower heads…
The Agents looked around at each other. Everyone was in their pajamas… for the most part. JJ was in a little pink nightie that fell to just above her knees. Garcia had her hair in little braided pigtails and was wearing a hot pink night shirt with lime green pants with little hot pink polka dots all over it. Rossi was in a pair of pin striped pajamas, and Emily was in a long red t shirt with red, black and white plaid pajama pants. Reid was in sweat pants and an FBI Academy T shirt. Morgan, however… was naked.
"… Aw, man!" the man groaned.
"Wow… you weren't kidding when you said you slept naked…" Emily said, blinking.
"… Not what we want to see when we first wake up." Rossi sighed, averting his eyes from Morgan.
"… Speak for yourself…" Garcia purred, giggling and looking Morgan up and down.
"Hey, hey, hey… Behave!" Morgan scolded, covering his privates with his hands.
"… Says the hot naked man." Garcia teased.
"I'd offer you my shirt, but I don't think it would fit you." Reid snorted.
Slowly, Rossi stood. "What's going on here?" He called.
"We're playing a little game…" The voice said.
"What kind of game?" Rossi asked.
"Agent Hotchner is watching you… He will watch everything. Only he can save you. But first, you must save HIM. And to do that, you must get to him. But sacrifices must be made…"
"… What have you done?" Reid suddenly shouted, leaping to his feet. "Where's Hotch?" His eyes were wild and frightened.
"You have a time limit. If you fail… Agent Hotchner dies." The voice said. Reid whimpered and stared at his team. They stared back.
"… Alright. We're listening." Emily called. "What is this game?"
"Your first task is to get out of your prisons. To do that, you need the keys. They are above you." The team looked up. Sure enough, there were little trap doors over their heads. "To get them, you have to push the button."
"What button?" Garcia breathed, looking around.
"The ones behind you." And slowly, the team turned and stared at the spike sticking out of the back wall. "All it takes is for one of you to take the plunge… One must be sacrificed to free the others… And the others may go on to find Agent Hotchner… It will take all of you to get him… But only five of you will leave this room to go to him…"
"Wait…" JJ gasped, eyes wide. "You mean… one of us has to…" She eyed the sharp wooden spikes in horror.
"That is exactly what I mean. And as I said before… you have a time limit… Tick Tock, agents. Perhaps after today, your Unit Chief will value his team more… I doubt you will all make it out of here alive. But know this… the faster you move, the better the chances are that you will all survive…"
The team stood in horrified silence.
"No…" Garcia whimpered.
"… That's what the cages and cuffs are for." Rossi said, slowly. "We can't reach the spikes with our hands… Not enough room to kick them… and we're all barefoot, so…"
"So the only way for us to get out is for one of us to…" Emily trailed off.
"But the more time we waste trying to find another way out of this, the less chance we all have to get out of here..." JJ pointed out.
"So we won't have a choice. One of us has to do it." Morgan said, and stood.
"There has to be another way!" Garcia cried.
"… There isn't." Reid said. "Hotch needs us. And the clock is ticking. We have to."
"… But… who?"
"… Me." Reid said. "I'll do it…" The team stared at him in horror.
"WHAT?" Morgan yelped. "Reid!"
But Reid paid no attention. He eyed the spike, sizing it up… measuring its height. Then he turned his back to it and stepped away from the door until he felt the point pressing into the skin of his back.
"Reid! No!" Emily called, eyes wide and face pale. Reid frowned, and bent his knees a bit, lowering his body and positioning the spike carefully to cause minimal damage.
"Reid! What are you doing?" Morgan shouted, now struggling against the cuffs.
"You have to get to Hotch." Reid said, trying to hide how scared he was at what he was about to do. Once he felt that he had positioned himself correctly, he turned and looked at the team, offering them a brave smile… He locked eyes with Rossi, in the cell right beside him. "Get Aaron…"
"Reid… you can't…" Rossi breathed, staring at the boy. "… If he loses you…"
"I can't lose him…" Reid hissed back, shaking his head. "I love him… I have to. Promise me you'll get him…" Rossi nodded, looking devastated. Reid turned his gaze back towards the others, staring at Garcia and JJ. "Look away."
The two women stared at him. Garcia was shaking. Morgan quickly moved between her and Reid.
"Don't watch, Baby Girl… Don't watch…"
"MORGAN!" Garcia cried. "You're going to LET HIM?"
"Penelope, I can't stop him…"
Reid swallowed thickly and lifted a foot, bracing it against the door. Then he looked at Rossi, eyes wide in terror.
"Don't hesitate." Reid said softly. "Just go. Get Hotch. And get help." Rossi stared at the boy, then nodded. Reid took a deep breath and stared at the door again. Reid didn't see it, but Rossi, JJ and Emily all closed their eyes and turned their faces away… Morgan had his back to him, and Garcia was crying into the man's chest through the chain link fence.
Hotch stared at the television in horror, struggling against his bonds. "No… No… Reid, please, no…" He gasped, and shook his head. "DAMN YOU! STOP HIM!" He shouted. "Kill me, I don't care! STOP HIM!" Helpless tears were beginning to form. He couldn't take this… he couldn't stand to watch his lover die… for HIM.
"… Dammit… no… SPENCER, DON'T!"
Reid took a final deep breath, closed his eyes, and kicked against the door as HARD as he could.
The entire team cringed at the sound of flesh being punctured… the sickening noise was followed by a strangled scream that reverberated through the air, boring into their brains. Then there was a snap and a thud, then a scraping noise. And then keys fell on the agents' heads.
Rossi snapped out of it first. He seized the keys and fumbled with them, unlocking the cuffs and then the padlock on the door. He ran to the door to Reid's cell and unlocked it. He threw the door open and stared down. Reid lay on the floor, the spike having snapped…
The man dropped down by the young agent, reaching out. Behind him, the rest of the team gathered and stared. Garcia let out a sob.
"… Reid…" Rossi called. The boy twitched.
"… S'okay…" Reid mumbled, cracking his eyes open. Blood was pooling on the floor and the spike was protruding from his abdomen almost six inches. "Get Aar'n…"
"… Hold tight, kid…" Rossi said, his voice strained. He gripped Reid's shoulder, then turned and looked at the team. "Let's go."
"what?" Morgan blurted. "We can't just leave him like that!"
"We have to." Rossi growled.
"I'll b'kay…" Reid called, struggling to keep his voice steady. "Jus' hurry… I'm coun'ng on y'guys…" And he gave them a strained smile. Rossi frowned, then removed his pajama top. The man knelt and draped the shirt over Reid.
"Hang tough, kid. We'll be back as soon as we can." He said and Reid nodded, resting his head on the floor. "Stay awake."
"Hurry." Reid called softly, and the team turned and faced the door before them, then stepped through. They were in a room with wooden benches bolted to the floor, and lockers lined the walls. On one of the wooden benches there was a folded pair of pants.
"Agent Morgan. Please get dressed before you put someone's eye out." The voice over the speaker sighed.
"Gladly…" Morgan snarled, pouncing on the pants and pulling them on.
"Now what?" Garcia asked.
"Now you must leave this room. You will notice the door to your left. You will also notice the panels I have installed. They must both be pressed at the same time. One is electrically charged. Whoever presses it may go into cardiac arrest." The team looked around at each other, nervously. "You could of course have two people press each panel. That way the shock is less likely to be fatal. But it will put two of you out of commission. And like I said… it will take all of you to reach your boss… So make your choice…" And it went silent again. The team stared at the two panels.
"… He's going to pick us off one by one…" Rossi said after a moment. "Leaving us not dead, but… in bad conditions… where if we don't get medical attention, we WILL die…"
"So we need the last man standing to be able to go for help." JJ said, softly.
"And that's not me." Garcia breathed, eyes wide and filled with tears.
"Me either." JJ said.
"We'll push the panels." Garcia said.
"No." Morgan said firmly, eyes wide. "No. I am NOT letting you do that, Baby Girl."
"No time to argue, Derek!" Garcia cried. "We have to hurry! For Reid!" And she turned, placed her hand on the nearest panel and pressed. She turned and looked back at him in brave defiance.
"Morgan…" JJ said, "The last one should be you, Rossi or Emily." And she walked over to the panel. Rossi, Morgan and Prentiss watched her, their eyes filled with anguish. JJ reached out and pressed the panel. The door slid open, and Garcia screamed.
"NO!" Morgan shouted, running to her. Her body was convulsing, and a moment later she slumped to the floor. "Oh no… no no no… Penelope… don't do this… come on, Garcia…" A small, weak moan passed her lips. Morgan cradled her close.
"Morgan. We have to move…" Rossi said firmly, glancing at JJ who was being held by Emily, tears in her blue eyes.
"I'll be back, Baby Girl…" Morgan murmured, kissing her forehead. Then he gently lay her down, turned and ran through the door after the others.
"… What the hell IS this place?" Emily asked, raising an eyebrow at the large Olympic Swimming Pool before them.
"The plate to open the next door is on the wall of the pool. At the deep end." They stared. They were at the shallow end. Then, they heard a whirring. And then they saw the pool cover beginning to move, covering the pool.
JJ blinked once, then bolted.
"JJ!" Emily cried, as the blonde darted around the corner and ran up the length of the pool. At the last second she leapt into the water, just barely missing being hit by the moving cover. She immediately struck out, swimming as fast as she could. She could see the panel. She smacked it with her palm, planting her feet on the wall and kicking off. She undulated her body in a dolphin kick, keeping her arms tucked in tightly, and when she lost the momentum from her push off of the wall, she reached out, then swept her arms down, kicking furiously. She desperately tried to catch up to the closing cover… Desperately tried to get out.
"Rossi! Take the left!" Morgan shouted, running around the right side of the pool. Rossi did as he was told without hesitation. The pair dropped to their knees and caught the front pole as it passed them, digging their heels into the floor and pulling, desperately trying to stop the cover… but they were dragged along the side of the pool. Emily danced on the spot, not knowing what to do. Ten feet left… seven… five… four…
"NO!" She cried, and leapt across the water, landing on the covering and clawing with her fingernails. Then, the cover snapped into place. Rossi and Morgan leapt onto the cover, scrambling over to Emily who was literally trying to tear the cover with her teeth at one of the seams. Several feet away, they could see the cover moving as JJ tried to tear through underneath.
"Oh God… JJ… Come on…" Emily gasped, frantic tears running down her face. "Yes… YES!" She had managed to tear a small hole into the cover. She wiggled a finger in, managing to widen it enough to get two fingers in, and then with a groan of effort, she began to rip open the hole. Morgan dug his fingers in and they tore. As soon as the whole was big enough, Rossi fell headfirst into the water, striking out towards JJ. A moment later the man reappeared, shoving the woman's head above water. Morgan reached down, hooking his hands under her arms and dragging her out. They floundered over to the side of the pool and laid her out.
"She's not breathing." Emily gasped, shaking her head.
"She has a pulse." Morgan said, then knelt and tilted JJ's head back. He covered her mouth with his own and exhaled sharply. Her chest expanded as her lungs were filled with air. She jerked and coughed.
"There you go, girl…" Morgan breathed in relief, turning her over onto her side and watching her cough up the water. Rossi made it over to them and they all leaned over her.
"JJ?" Rossi called. JJ groaned, wincing. Emily looked her over and shook her head. JJ's little nightie was soaking wet… and VERY transparent now… At least she was wearing panties…
"Get her out of that." Emily said, shaking her head when JJ started to shiver, violently.
"… What?" Morgan blurted. Emily gave him a look, stripping off her own night shirt. She was wearing a simple sports top underneathe. She shoved Morgan aside, stripping the wet garment off of JJ and getting her into the dry nightshirt that fell almost to her knees. Emily smirked to herself when she saw that the men had averted their eyes. She then dragged JJ out of the puddle of water and laid her down on a pile of towels by the wall.
"Wait here." She said softly, running a hand over JJ's hair, then turned. "Let's get moving." Morgan looked even more pained, but he nodded and the three ran through the door at the end of the room.
"Tell me, Agent Hotchner… how much do you value your team now?"
Hotch stared at the screen, tears pouring down his face.
"… You son of a bitch…" He gasped, his voice ragged. "I'll fucking kill you…"
"Ah… such anger… tell me Agent Hotchner… are you angry because I'm doing this to your TEAM? Or because I'm DARING to do this to YOUR team…?"
"You're doing this to my FAMILY!" Hotch shouted, struggling to get free.
"Ah… progress..." The voice chuckled.
Hotch just shook his head. JJ… Penelope…
Reid's vision was blurry. He struggled to focus on a little bug scuttling across the floor. He was cold… so cold… He also tried to focus on his body. He felt heavy. He knew that he needed help, and fast. Dammit… he had to stay awake. But with each moment that crawled by, that was getting harder and harder to do…
The trio walked through the door and found themselves in a long hallway. On their left the floor rose in three oversized stairs, the thin carpet under foot covering them. On their right, the wall was glass.
"… Raquetball courts…" Morgan murmured, frowning. "The pool back there… The first room was tile with shower heads… the second a locker room… We're in some sort of rec center."
"Morgan…" Rossi said slowly. "three of the courts are open."
"Guess we each go into one." Emily sighed.
"and only two of us will come out." Rossi growled.
"You're starting to catch on…" The infuriating voice said. The trio glared up at the dark ceiling. "One of you will… pull the trigger, so to speak. Pulling this trigger will give one of the others the key to the door… and the third will be given a… very unpleasant surprise…"
"Who pulls the trigger?" Morgan asked.
"I'm guessing the one in the middle." Rossi said, peering into the middle court. "There's a string hanging down."
"So who pulls it?" Emily gasped.
"You." Rossi said firmly.
"I'm not doing it." The man said, shrugging.
"Me neither." Morgan agreed with a nod.
"Just do it, Agent Prentiss." Rossi ordered, and stepped into the closest racquetball court. Emily sighed and stepped into the middle one. Morgan took the last. The string before Emily dangled from the ceiling where two different strings ran off to the sides. Buckets were hung from the ceilings. Morgan and Rossi stared up at them.
"You must stand on the squares." The voice told them.
"and if we refuse?" Rossi asked.
"You all die."
"I was afraid of that." Emily mumbled, and they all stepped onto the black squares on the floor and stared up. "You guys ready?"
"This has got to be the most bullshit thing we have EVER gone through…" Morgan bitched. "Pull it." Emily took a deep breath and did as she was told. Both men on either side of her yelped and ducked as the buckets tipped, and what appeared to be water splashed down on both of them. But a moment later, Rossi gave a startled yelp.
"AH! JESUS! KILL IT! OW!"
Emily didn't hesitate; she bolted from her spot and ran out into the corridor, darting into Rossi's court. The man was on the floor, dripping wet and clutching his forearm. And then her blood ran cold… A large serpent turned, coiling up to strike. A buzzing filled the room as the snake's tail became a blur; it was a Western Diamond Back Rattle Snake…
Morgan slipped across the wet floor, seizing Rossi under the arms and dragging him back out of the court. Emily followed, closing the door behind them, leaving the snake trapped within, staring them down.
"Did it get you?" Morgan asked, dropping to his knees by the elder profiler.
"Y-Yeah…" Rossi grit out between clenched teeth. Emily's hands flew to the front of her pajama pants and she began to tug out the draw string. Morgan watched as she tied it around Rossi's elbow as a tourniquet.
"Stay as still as possible and as calm as possible…" She said softly.
"Go." Rossi said with a nod. "Get Hotch, and get help." Morgan looked torn. "I know this is killing you, Morgan, but the longer you hesitate, the closer we all are to dying…" Go."
"… We'll be back, Rossi."
"I know. Go." The man said with a nod, beginning to sweat. Morgan gripped Rossi's shoulder for a moment, then turned and followed Emily down the corridor. He ran back into the racquetball court he had been in and snatched up the key from the puddle of water.
"what's with the water?" Emily asked as h ran back out.
"My guess? Make us think that it was some horrible acid or something to make us instinctively duck and cover. That way whoever got the snake wouldn't see it coming until it literally fell on us." Morgan said, fitting the key into the lock and turning it. He and Prentiss ran through the door and found themselves in what was once a weight room.
"This is going to be a team effort, Agent Morgan, Agent Prentiss. The machine in the middle of the room is waiting for you." The pair slowly approached it. Weights had a cord attached, and were to be lifted by pulling down on a pull up bar. But a gun had been welded to the frame of the machine pointing down, and a string was tied around the trigger, and then to the weights. As the weights were lifted, the string would pull the trigger. "The key is under the weights." And as Morgan and Prentiss eyed the machine, the only way to reach under the weights would be to lie on the floor under the gun…
"This son of a bitch has WAY too much time on his hands…" Morgan hissed, mind clouded in fury.
"… Reminds me of Rossi and Reid's guy who did the acid chamber and had the fetish for numbers and spirals." Emily snorted, and if the situation weren't so serious, Morgan would have laughed. "You lift, I'll get the key."
"What? No way am I letting you get shot, Emily!"
"I don't think I'm strong enough to lift those weights, Morgan. You have to go on and get Hotch." And she lay down and slid through the frame under the gun, ready to grab the key as soon as Morgan had lifted the weights up high enough.
"Just hurry! We don't know how much time we have left!"
"Not much… you may want to hurry, Agent Morgan."
"No coaching from the peanut gallery!" Morgan roared, beside himself in anger at what this son of a bitch had done to his team… at what he had made them do to each other… Morgan grabbed the bar and looked down. "I am SO sorry, Emily…"
"Just do it." Emily replied, her tone grim. Morgan gripped the bar, and pulled down. The weights rose off of the platform they had been sitting on. Emily squeezed her fingers underneath. "Higher, Morgan…" She groaned, and managed to get her whole hand under, but she still couldn't reach the key. "Higher…" Morgan lifted them higher… and he was deafened by the shot.
"AHHG!" The woman cried, grimacing in pain. "Morgan! My arm!" Morgan stared; he had let the weights drop in his shock. With a grunt, he lifted them up and Emily pulled her hand out, the key clutched in her fist. Morgan dropped the weights and dragged her out from under the frame of he machine and stared at her.
"It's okay…" She gasped, face lined in pain. "Take the key and go. I swear, if you waste any time in your own self pity, I'll kill you." Morgan blinked tears out of his eyes and took the key.
"… I'll be back, Em…"
"I know… get Hotch." She said with a strained smile. It made Morgan think of Reid… and his gut twisted even more… How long had it been since they had left their boy genius bleeding on the floor? Had they taken too long? Was it already too late for him?
Morgan stood and turned, running across the room. He would NOT give up now. His team was counting on him… He unlocked the door and charged through, finding himself at the bottom of a staircase. Not hesitating, he ran up the stairs.
Reid's eyes fluttered. He wasn't cold anymore. And he wasn't in pain. He was just… numb. He giggled slightly. Comfortably Numb. He hummed a few lines from the song to himself, then finished by singing softly "I have become comfortably numb…" Then he giggled again. Funny. Those were the only words he could remember. He had forgotten the rest. HE had FORGOTTEN. He giggled again. Then he grew quiet. He realized how foggy his mind was getting. And how shallow his breaths were. Was he still bleeding? He tried to move his head to see, but he couldn't.
Stay awake… Came a soft voice. You need to stay awake, Spencer. Reid blinked slowly. He knew that voice… but couldn't put an identity to it. … You're so thin.
Oh… Mom. Of course. He smiled slightly and a soft huff passed his lips. The only semblance of laughter he had the strength for.
But Mom… I'm so tired…
Spencer. Stay awake.
I can't. I'm sorry.
And his eyes fell closed.
Hotch felt sick to his stomach. When he watched the snake sink its fangs into Rossi's arm, he felt the acid burning his esophagus. When the bullet buried itself into Emily's gut, he couldn't hold it back anymore; he lowered his head and threw up onto the floor. A few minutes later, footsteps reached his ears and he turned his head. The door slammed open.
"Hotch!" Morgan shouted, staring at his Unit Chief. Hotch stared back and Morgan stood there, stunned. The man was pale, his entire body shaking. He was gasping raggedly, and his eyes were red and filled with tears. "… Hotch…" Morgan breathed. The man looked utterly broken.
Then, Morgan saw the bomb on the pillar…
And the number counting down.
Morgan's eyes followed the rope up to the file cabinets hanging over Hotch…
8… 7… 6…
"HOTCH!" Morgan broke into a run. Hotch stared, watching him run at him. His eyes grew wide.
5… 4… 3…
The explosion wasn't large, but it easily snapped the rope. The cabinets fell, and Morgan leapt forwards.
Hotch grunted as the hands shoved him. The chair fell… And then there was a deafening crash.
All was quiet. Slowly, Hotch lifted his head, blinking the blood out of his eyes from a cut on his forehead that had happened in the fall. He turned and stared.
The filing cabinets lay in a heap, piled on top of the man. Hotch stared at the brown hand, lying limp only a few feet away. Morgan's face was turned away from the Unit Chief, but the man wasn't moving.
"… Morgan?" Hotch shouted, and struggled. There was a soft crack, and one of the arms on the chair broke off; it had splintered in the fall. Hotch fought to free his other hand and in a few minutes, he was free. He stood and stared down. Morgan still didn't move. Light flared up behind Hotch. The man turned and stared. Five television screens had flicked on, each showing a different member of his team…
Emily was lying on the floor of the weight room, pressing her hands to the gunshot wound on her belly, trying to stop the bleeding.
Rossi lay in the corridor by the racquet ball courts, pale and gasping, his arm swelling up.
JJ lay on the pile of towels by the pool, curled up and coughing.
Garcia lay sprawled out on the floor of the locker room, body trembling.
And in what used to be the showers, Reid lay still and unmoving in a pool of his own blood, the spike still run all the way through his torso.
"I never believed they would do it…" A voice chuckled and Hotch whirled, staring at the man walking into the room. "I prepared for it, but I didn't actually think they would do it… But they did…"
Hotch just stared. "… What?"
"They all acted without hesitation. Each and every member of your team is willing to die for you… How did you manage to get such loyalty from them, Agent Hotchner?" The man asked, sounding incredibly amused.
"… Why?" Hotch asked, fighting desperately to hold it together.
"… I want to break you." The man hissed. "George Foyet got so close… I had fun watching him torture you. But in the end, you won. Because of your team. I've been watching. They are your family. And you know me, Agent Hotchner. I like to make the head of the family watch all the others die… because he wasn't strong enough. Normally I would kill you. But I think I'll let you live. With these images," he gestured to the TV screens, "forever etched into your memories…"
"… Karl Arnold…" Hotch breathed, eyes growing wide. And the man stepped into the light. "YOU SON OF A BITCH!" And Hotch lunged. Arnold stumbled back eyes wide. He had not expected that. He had expected Hotch to be beaten… broken… just like the fathers of the families he had murdered. But all he saw now was an enraged man, intent on destroying the bastard who had hurt his family. Arnold raised his gun, but by the time he managed it Hotch's fist was connecting with his jaw. The gun clattered across the floor.
Arnold scrambled away, holding a hand to his mouth as blood dripped down his chin. He juggled something around on his tongue, then spat it out. A broken tooth bounced across the floor.
"You'll pay for that…" He hissed, turning his head. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a knife, flicking it open.
"I don't think so…" Came a sudden rough groan. Hotch and Arnold turned and stared. Morgan was glaring at Arnold, the dropped gun in his hand. Arnold's eyes widened when he stared down the barrel of the gun. He turned and stared at Hotch, his eyes filling with rage. He raised the knife, and lunged at the Unit Chief.
A gunshot rang out through the room. There was a thud as Arnold hit the floor, and the knife spun across the floor. Hotch stared down at Arnold, his eyes staring off into space, unseeing. The man was dead.
"Hotch…" Hotch whirled and ran to Morgan. "Get help, man… I… I think my arm is broken… And the others…"
"Hold on." Hotch gasped, turning and running through the door that Arnold had come in through. "Thank God…" He breathed. There was a desk in the small room, and sitting on top of it were eight guns… seven wallets… and seven phones. Hotch snatched up the first one and turned it on. It was bright pink, so he guessed it was Garcia's. The seven missed calls from 'Kevin' only confirmed that. Hands shaking, Hotch just hit 'SEND'.
It only rang once.
"Kevin… It's Hotch." The man gasped.
"… Agent Hotchner?"
"Listen, are you at work?"
"Yessir! Where are you? The place is in an uproar, is your team with you?"
"Track this call!" Hotch ordered. "And send the police and six ambulances."
"… Ambu- what happened? Is Penelope alright?"
"… No…" Hotch gasped, slowly sliding to the floor, unable to hold back the tears. "No… They need help… Fast. They're hurt. They're all hurt… bad…" He could hear Kevin furiously typing away.
"… Help is on the way, Agent Hotchner."
"Good. I have to go, but I'll leave the phone on so you can track it."
"No need. I have your location."
"Good. Tell those ambulances to hurry." Hotch choked out, then dropped the phone and stumbled back to Morgan.
"Help is on the way…" Hotch gasped, putting his shoulder against one of the file cabinets. Morgan winced as he felt the crushing weight on him shift, then lessen. Hotch turned and heaved another cabinet off. There were five in all. He was exhausted and shaking by the time he had moved them all off of Morgan. A pool of blood was forming where one of the corners had gouged into the younger Agent's side.
"Go to the others, Hotch…" Morgan groaned, wincing. "I'll live…"
"I… I can't leave you like this…" Hotch gasped, shaking his head.
"Hotch… listen to me. I had to leave the others behind one by one. For YOU." Morgan said firmly, and Hotch winced. "Now it's my turn to be left behind. For THEM." Hotch stared at the man. "Hotch… you have to check on them. Make sure they're still…" Morgan trailed off, grimacing in pain. "… You need to go to Reid, man…"
"… I'll be back." Hotch breathed, then turned and ran. He stumbled down the stairs and almost fell through the door. "Emily?"
"Nnng… huh? Hotch…" The woman groaned, looking up. "You're okay! Where's Morgan?" Hotch knelt beside her.
"He's hurt. But help is on the way. Are you—"
"I'll be fine, you need to get to the others!" She exclaimed. Hotch blinked, then smiled slightly.
"You sound like Morgan. Are you sure you're stable?"
"Nnh… For now, yeah. Just… hurts like hell…" She admitted.
"Okay… Hold tight." Hotch said. "Help is on the way." And he turned and sprinted across the room, bursting through the next door. "DAVE!" He skidded to a stop by Rossi, staring down at his discolored arm.
"Hey, Aaron… Nice PJ's…" Rossi said, smirking. "Where are Morgan and Prentiss?"
"Hurt, but alive."
"That makes three of us, then." Rossi snorted. "I'm sure JJ is okay… but I'm worried about Reid and Garcia. You have to go check on them. Make sure Garcia's heart is still beating… and make sure that Reid…"
"… I know…" Hotch hissed, wincing.
"Go, Aaron." Rossi said, firmly. "I can see it tearing you apart. Go to Reid…" Hotch nodded.
"Stay still, Dave. I'll be back." And he ran from the room, glancing at the rattlesnake exploring his prison as he passed. He burst through the next door and ran across the Natatorium to where JJ lay.
"… Hey Hotch." The woman breathed, smiling up at him. Hotch frowned at her violent shivers. He seized one of the towels she was lying on and wrapped it around her, than gathered up a couple.
"Wait here, okay?"
"No… Garcia… Please…" She gasped. Hotch blinked, then nodded. He wrapped his arm around her and helped her get up. She coughed, violently. Hotch assisted her into the next room where Garcia was lying. The pair stumbled over to her and JJ finally collapsed beside her.
"… Mmmh… JJ?" Garcia whimpered, turning her head slightly. Hotch reached out and took her pulse. He frowned.
"Hold on, Penelope." He said, gently.
"Hotch… They found you."
"Yeah… They did." Hotch gasped. "Now hold on. I talked to Kevin."
"Yeah. He tracked your phone and found us. He's sending help."
"… Oh… God, my own Knight in Shining Armor…" Garcia mused, and Hotch smiled. He covered her up with a couple of the towels like blankets.
"You two stay here." Hotch said, then turned and walked over to the final door. And then he stood there and stared at it. His mouth went dry, and he swallowed thickly. His stomach turned as his mind was suddenly assaulted by the horrible memory of seeing Reid impaling himself on that spike… Hotch closed his eyes, took a deep breath, then opened them and pushed on the door. It swung forwards and Hotch stepped through.
"… Oh God…" He breathed, staring. "… Spencer…?"
Reid lay on the floor of the small cell, curled up under Rossi's pajama top. Blood was pooled around him and soaked into the thin garment that the eldest agent had covered him with. His eyes were closed, and his face was pale. Slowly, Hotch walked over and dropped to his knees, blinking away the tears in his eyes. He reached out and ran his hand over Reid's head, gently smoothing down the tousled curls.
"… Spencer?" He called, gently. He got no response… Swallowing, he reached out and pressed shaking fingers to Reid's neck. For a moment, he sat frozen with his heart in his throat… Then, he felt it. He let out a relieved sob. The pulse was there. It was slow and faint… but it was there… But God… the boy was so cold…
Hotch moved behind Reid and curled his body around that of his subordinate, taking the youth into his arms and doing everything he could to keep him warm. He didn't know how long they lay there like that, but Hotch nearly cried in relief when the EMT's ran into the room. And a moment later Erin Strauss appeared, looking pale and shocked. She stared down as the EMT's coaxed Hotch into letting go of Reid and moving away to let them work. She watched as the man slowly stumbled back, looking nothing like the Unit Chief she knew… The man looked lost and broken as he watched the EMT's work on Reid, wringing his hands; they were coated in Reid's blood. Finally, she moved forward.
"Agent Hotchner." She called, reaching out and laying a hand on his arm. He blinked and looked at her.
"... He… He was cold… He was so cold… I… I had to keep him warm, he…"
"I know." She said, gently, worried. "Come on… They'll take care of him. They're taking care of all of them. You need to be seen, too."
"No… No, I can't go. I have to stay with them…"
"Agent Hotchner… come on… you're going with them. I promise…" She said, softly. She was truly worried about the SAC now… Being assaulted by Foyet in his own home… the death of Haley… Now this… She didn't know how much one man could take, but if this didn't break Aaron Hotchner, she was convinced that nothing would.
She guided the man out of the building and out to where the ambulances were. Hotch looked around. One was already pulling away, lights flashing. He turned and watched Kevin Lynch climbing into another, holding Garcia's hand. She was smiling at him. In another, Will La Montaigne was pressing a kiss to JJ's forehead, and she was assuring him that she would be fine. Emily was being loaded into another ambulance.
"Hotch!" The man turned and watched Morgan being wheeled over. "The others?"
Hotch opened his mouth, but nothing came out.
"… You're all going to the hospital." Strauss said.
"Reid?" Morgan asked, eyes worried.
"… He's still alive." Hotch gasped. Morgan did not like how Hotch looked and sounded. The man seemed to possibly be going into shock. Strauss was guiding the man towards another ambulance, as if guiding a blinded child… Then, as Morgan was loaded into another ambulance, Reid was brought out. He thought his heart would stop when he saw the boy…
Reid was pale as death, the spike still in his body… And then the doors closed and Morgan had to try and calm himself down…
Section Chief Erin Strauss sighed as she looked out the window. The sun was setting. It felt like years had passed since she had walked into the office this morning only to find that Agent Hotchner and his BAU Team had never come in. Calls had been made. Not one of them was answering. By nine am, she had everyone under her command working on it. She had sent agents to each residence of the BAU team. They had found the same thing each time. Locks had been picked, beds were disheveled and alarm clocks were still going off. Badges, phones and guns were all missing. She had Technical Analyst Kevin Lynch check their phone records. There were no suspicious calls. And all the cell phones were off. She had a very bad feeling.
Then, at about ten thirty in the morning, Kevin Lynch had rallied the troops. TA Garcia's phone was on, and he had spoken to Agent Hotchner. He had a location, ambulances were on the way. Strauss had demanded a ride to the location, and decided not to argue with TA Lynch when he demanded to come along.
When they had reached the old rec center scheduled for demolition in a month, she had been ill at what she had found.
SSA David Rossi was pale and sweating, his arm swollen and discolored. An EMT had told her it was a rattle snake bite right before they loaded him up. She ran into the building. They brought out Emily Prentiss with a gunshot wound, and Derek Morgan with a broken arm, a gash in his side and possible broken ribs and spinal injury.
She followed the commotion and saw Agent Jareau and TA Garcia being loaded onto gurneys, the EMT's checking their vitals. Garcia and Lynch were embracing, and a moment later, William La Montaigne ran into the room and threw himself at JJ. Seeing that the women were alright, Strauss turned and walked through the next door. And she stared.
Agent Hotchner was on the floor, in his pajamas, in shock. The EMT's were trying to get him to move away from the thin body he was hovering over, protectively. Agent Reid was curled up on the floor in a pool of his own blood, a hideous spike protruding from his body.
Trying to assist the EMT's, she pulled Agent Hotchner away, calling out to him. He fixed a devastated look on her. All he could say was that Reid was cold. And he had to keep him warm. She had seen him to an ambulance and rode in with him. The man was silent for the entire ride. His eyes were haunted. When they reached the hospital, she retired to a waiting room. Agent Hotchner joined her only an hour and a half later, after being pronounced physically fit and uninjured.
He said nothing, and she didn't ask.
Now here they were. The day was over. The sun was setting. She sighed and looked at the empty waiting room. She walked out of it and down the hall. She paused at one room, and looked in.
SSA's Emily Prentiss and Jennifer Jareau were sitting up in their beds. Emily was tired. She had been lucky. The bullet had gone straight through. The only damage was to her appendix, which was consequently removed. But she would make a full recovery. Her mother, Ambassador Prentiss, was sitting at her bedside. The pair were smiling and talking.
JJ had her son Henry in her lap, and Will sitting on the side of her bed. She had been put on antibiotics and was undergoing other treatments to make sure the water in her lungs didn't progress to pneumonia.
Strauss smiled as JJ kissed her son's cheek, then went to the next room. In there, Derek Morgan and Penelope Garcia were in beds side by side. They had insisted upon it. Kevin Lynch was sitting with Garcia as she typed away on her laptop computer. The doctors were keeping her for observation over night to monitor her heart.
And a woman with red hair was beside Derek Morgan. She was scolding him.
"Mama! I'm fine!" Morgan was laughing. Strauss moved on to the next room. This room was not like the others. It wasn't full of smiling people. It was dark, and silent. She stepped in.
There were two hospital beds. In one lay SSA Rossi. In the other, SSA Reid. Both were lying there silently, eyes closed in a recovering sleep. Both were attached to machines monitoring their vitals, and both were receiving medicated fluids, and in Reid's case, blood, in Rossi's case, anti-venom. In between the beds was a chair. And in the chair sat SSA Hotchner. The man had his elbows on his knees, and his head in his hands.
Strauss sighed. "Agent Hotchner."
"… It's my fault." The man murmured. "I'm the Unit Chief. They're my responsibility. And this happened… It's my fault."
"No, Agent Hotchner." The woman said. "It's mine." Hotch blinked and slowly looked up. She stared at his bloodshot eyes. "I got the call last night." She explained. "That Karl Arnold had inside help, and had escaped. And his inside help had been caught, and informed the authorities that Arnold was after your team. I thought that informing you could wait until I had more information to give. That was my mistake. If I had told you as soon as I found out, you could have taken steps to protect yourselves." Hotch stared at her. "I'm sorry." She said. "This is my fault, Agent Hotchner. I should have informed you right away." Hotch just sighed and lowered his eyes to the floor. "Have you notified their next of kin?"
"… Dave doesn't have any listed. He lists us as his next of kin." Hotch breathed. "And Spencer…" His breath hitched for a moment. "I'm his Power of Attorney. With his mother's condition, she is only to be notified if he… passes. Otherwise, Reid has requested that she not be informed of his being injured in the line of duty as long as he is expected to recover."
"And he is?"
"… Yes." Hotch breathed, and this time smiled slightly. "He… impaled himself. But he knew how to do it to cause the least amount of damage. The worst thing he's facing is the blood loss and shock. They uh… they'll all recover." And he looked at her with a strained smiled. Her eyes followed the path of a tear of relief rolling down his face. She walked over.
"You should go home." She said, and laid a hand on his shoulder. He shook his head.
"No… they… they're all here because of me."
"No, Agent Hotchner. I told you. This is my fault."
"They were all injured for MY sake!" Hotch cried. "They are here because they sacrificed themselves to save me. I'm staying with them… I'm not leaving until they leave."
Strauss responded the only way she could. She nodded.
"Hotch. Hey, Hotch! Wake up!" Rossi watched the Unit Chief groan and lift his head, wincing at a crick in his neck.
"… Dave." He groaned. "I'm not sneaking you in a scotch."
"I know that, asshole." Rossi snorted. "I think the kid is waking up." At that, Hotch leapt to his feet and hurried over to Reid's bed. Rossi snorted. "Didn't move that fast when I woke up… jeeze…" He chuckled, teasingly.
"Reid?" Hotch called, ignoring Rossi's comment. Reid slowly turned his head towards Hotch, and the man laid his hand on the boy's cheek. "Spencer?"
"… Aaron…?" Reid breathed, furrowing his brow.
"I'm here, baby… come on… open your eyes for me…" Hotch encouraged, smoothing his hair out of his face. "There you go… come on…" And a moment later, Reid managed to open his eyes about halfway.
"Aaron." He mumbled, staring at the man. "You're alive."
"I am. Thanks to you and all the others."
"Are you okay?"
"And the others?"
"… They'll be okay."
"Hey, kid." Rossi called, and Reid turned his head.
"… What happened?" Reid asked, his eyes going wide.
"The UnSub dumped a rattlesnake on my head." Rossi grumbled.
"Oh my God…" Reid gasped. "The others?"
"Prentiss is still here. Morgan, JJ and Garcia were released yesterday." Hotch said. "Prentiss has a gunshot wound to the abdomen. Morgan has a broken arm, some broken ribs and some stitches. JJ almost drowned and Garcia was electrocuted. But they're fine."
"God…" Reid breathed, closing his eyes. "Why? Who?"
"… Karl Arnold." Hotch growled.
"You're the team leader. He made you watch?"
"Yes. I saw everything."
"Hotch… I… I'm so sorry…"
"For putting you through that..."
"You didn't." Hotch said, firmly. "Karl Arnold did. YOU saved my life, by willingly giving up yours... I never wanted to see you do that. Not for me."
"... I love you." Was the only thing Reid offered. Because that's all that was needed.
Reid and Emily were the last to be released from the hospital. They walked out arm in arm, grinning. Garcia was waiting for them with a big smile on her face. Reid and Emily climbed into Esther and they were off. The warm sun caressed their faces and the cool breeze whipped through their hair. Reid ended up borrowing a hairband from Garcia and tying his hair back in a messy ponytail that seemed to delight the girls.
They ended up at Rossi's house. Out in the backyard, a picnic table had been set up and Morgan was at the grill, wearing a goofy chef hat and an apron that said 'Kiss the Sexy Cook'... Only the 'Kiss' had been crossed off in red sharpie and in Garcia's handwriting, it had been replaced with 'Grope'. This had Reid and Emily laughing. Rossi, sitting in a lawn chair, grinned and chuckled around his scotch at the amused younger agents.
"WEED!" Came an excited shout, and Reid knelt and caught Jack in a hug when the little boy charged out of Rossi's house. Hotch followed a moment later, smiling. Then, Jack and Henry went to play lion in the jungle of bushes that lined the fence of Rossi's back yard. And while they got all dirty in Rossi's shrubbery, the team took a moment to raise their glasses of what had been innocent lemonade until Morgan got his hands on it, and made a toast. To themselves, to each other... to their family. Then they all sat down to have a lunch of grilled burgers and hot dogs, and some barbecue brisket and ribs. There were giggles as Reid got the barbecue sauce all over his face, and so did Jack. Laughing, Hotch used a wet napkin to clean Jack, and then Reid, who pouted the entire time.
The day faded to dusk, and the team sat around with some red wine, watching Jack and Henry catching fireflies to put in an empty jar Rossi had scavenged from his recycling. Reid had the honor of holding said jar. The adults were getting sleepy. The children were staring to slow down...
Finally, JJ was putting Henry in his carseat, and Hotch was pulling away from the curb with Jack already sleeping in his seatbelt in the back. Reid sat in the passenger seat, staring down at the fireflies in the jar in his lap; he had promised Jack that he would let them go when they got home. Jack had insisted that their home would be more fun for the fireflies. Rossi just chuckled and told Jack to take as many as he wanted, he wouldn't miss them.
When they got home, Hotch lifted Jack into his arms and he and Reid made their way to the house.
"Let them go..." Jack mumbled. Reid blinked and looked at the boy, then smiled and unscrewed the lid. Jack lifted his head from his father's shoulder and looked up, eyes bright as the fireflies took flight in the darkness. Hotch looked down at Reid. The boy had the same whimsical look of delight on his own face. The fireflies dispersed and joined the population that already called the yard home.
"Welcome home!" Jack sang, and Hotch set him down to allow him one more round of chasing fireflies. Then he turned and pulled Reid into his arms.
"Welcome home..." He murmured, and the pair shared a chaste kiss before gathering the sleepy child from the yard and heading inside to bed.