Criminal Minds © CBS

Part five of the Shadows Within saga.

Dangers of Courting Death

The BAU is the only team still in the FBI headquarters. Later, they will realize this is a good thing. They're alone, the power has been cut, and the phone lines are down. There must be a cell phone blocker involved as well, as no one can get a signal. Worst yet, the group has split up. Hotch, Rossi, and Morgan are trapped in the bull pen. The girls are stuck in Garcia's office. Reid has somehow managed to avoid capture, but no one is sure of his location. He's moving around, trying to profile the unsubs and get his team out of danger.

There are at least ten of them. Reid counts four keeping Hotch's group pinned down, another three attacking the girls, and the last three are patrolling the hallways, searching offices for other agents. Reid is actually stalking them, listening in on their conversations and relaying the information to the rest of his team. He's probably the safest of them all.

Hotch is still trying to negotiate. "You don't have to do this." His voice is hard and shows none of the confusion the rest of the team shares. "If you just tell me what you want, I can help you get it. There's no need to hurt my team."

"Shut up!" The leader brandishes a gun. None of them are wearing masks or anything else to hide their identities, but they all wear gloves. With the power out, the security cameras are not working. That leaves only the BAU to tell who attacked them, and Hotch knows with a cold chill that they will not live long enough to do so. This group knows what they are doing. The leader – a man with dark eyes and a scar across his face – raises his walkie-talkie. "You got anyone?"

In front of Reid, one of the others speaks. "Not yet, man. I'll let ya know if we find anyone."

"We were told seven." the leader says. "Find the other one. This has to be clean. We cannot screw this up." He's pacing now. Hotch exchanges looks with Rossi and Morgan.

Reid, have they found you?

No. I'm just following them in circles. Reid almost sounds amused, like this would be funny under other circumstances, and Morgan has to agree with that. Even Hotch cracks a small grin before turning serious again. Reid continues. I think I'm going to find a way to get the girls out.

Only other way out of Garcia's room is through the air vents. Morgan points out. Even you can't get your skinny ass through there, Pretty Boy.

I actually wasn't thinking of going in quietly.

Hotch bites his lip, but in the end, he knows what he has to do. Find the girls and stand by. Do not engage until I tell you. There's still a chance to talk our way out of this.

Yes sir. Reid backs up a few paces and pauses until the three he's been tailing go around the corner. Then he turns around and heads back down the hall, being as quiet as he can. He wants to run and make sure the girls are all right, but heavy footsteps will get unwanted attention. He won't do the girls any good if he's dead.

He's hovering just down the hall from Garcia's office when he hears it. One of the men is shifty; he doesn't have as tight of control over himself as the others. He's probably the only one beside the leader that realizes the true mission of his team. Still, the words send chills down Reid's spine. He knows the others have picked up on it; his confidence has slipped just a bit, enough for them to notice.

Reid doesn't hear exactly what Hotch has said to the unsub, but it pisses the scarred man off. The sound of gunshots elicits a scream from Garcia and flinches from Reid and the other girls. Searing pain shoots across Reid's side, and Garcia begins to cry. Reid reaches out. Morgan!

I'm fine, Kid. You hear me, Garcia? I'm just fine.

But he's not, and the entire team knows he's lying. They can feel his pain, his terror, as if it were their own, and that's about the point that Hotch decides the time for negotiating is well past. He and Rossi appear behind their desk barricades and open fire on the unsubs.

Reid takes his opportunity. He shoots two of the unsubs guarding the door before the other one turns and opens fire on him. The unsub only gets one shot though. Prentiss slides the door open just enough to shoot the man in the back of the head. With those three taken care of, the girls dart off one direction down the hallway. Reid heads the other way.

Hotch can sense the movements of his team. He knows the girls are trying to find a safe place for Garcia until the worst is over. He knows Reid is not with them. Reid has discovered something that has his blood boiling, but he has it hidden inside his mind. He's not thinking about it or what he's about to do. He's acting on instinct, and Hotch can't read his instincts.

The scarred man glares at Hotch. "Where is the rest of your team! I know there's one more!"

"I'm here."

The unsub spins around. Hotch and Rossi automatically hold their fire. Rossi stares at the young man, silently calling for him to get to shelter, but Reid ignores him. The scarred man grins. "And who are you?"

Reid bares his teeth in what might be a smile. "I'm the mind reading freak you've been sent to kill."

The scarred man raises his gun, then stops. Slowly, he looks down at his weapon, as if seeing it for the first time. After a moment, he drops it. His partners turn on Reid, only to find themselves in the same odd stupor. That's four people completely incapacitated. Hotch, Morgan, and Rossi watch with mixed wonder and fear. Dimly, they're aware of gunshots from upstairs.

Hotch, Garcia's safe and we got the other three. What should we do? Prentiss asks.

Wait. Stay out of sight.

What's Reid doing?

I don't know.

Reid's simply holding them in place, but already Hotch knows that's not going to last. The strongest of them – the leader – is already straining against whatever Reid has done to them. He's struggling to reach for the gun, and Reid fights to keep him in place. Blood starts to trickle down his nose.

The youngest casts Hotch and Rossi a brief glance before returning is efforts to the unsubs. Rossi is scared to shoot them. He doesn't know what that will do to Reid. Then one of the unsubs opens fire, shooting first the boss, then taking out the other two, before sticking the gun in his mouth and blowing himself away. With each shot, Reid's body jerks as if he's being shot. With each action forced, Reid's nosebleed gets worse.

When the final unsub dies, Reid falls to his knees, his mouth and chin covered with blood. There's a headache threatening to split his scull in two, but he doesn't consider these things. He doesn't think about what he just forced his team to witness. His only thought is getting to Morgan.

He hears the sirens in the distance, hears the girls coming down the stairs, and then everything goes dark.

/-/

Without the cameras, the local police and the brass at the FBI are forced to take the BAU's word on what happened. Hotch makes up some bullshit story that's mostly true until the end. He plays in a bit of turmoil between the assassins so no one will think it odd that one of them just killed the others and then himself. Strauss gives him odd looks, but Strauss can shove her disbelief up her rear end. She's not the one Hotch has to convince.

In the end, they live. Morgan has surgery done to repair the damage the bullet did. The entire team visits him every day in the hospital and they stay as long as they are allowed. They live, and they recover.

Hotch keeps a close eye on Reid though. Reid demonstrated a new facet to his ability that Hotch had never even considered. He knows Reid's scared of what they'll think of him now. He knows what he has changed with that desperate act to protect his team.

So they think nothing. None of them bring it up, none of them dwell on it. Nothing good will come from over thinking their youngest's actions. What he did, he did to save the team, and that is all that matters to them.

For his part, Reid's just happy he's not the one eating hospital Jell-o for once.