Criminal Minds © CBS.

This is part 11 of the Shadows Within Saga. Thank you, everyone who has reviewed all of these little one-shots, for sticking with the series for so long, despite short chapters and long breaks between. With that said, here's the story.

Taking the Next Step

Rossi has a mansion. Yes, an honest mansion. Huge rooms, property, everything. He lives in DC proper, in an apartment just like the others, but the mansion has been in his name ever since his second wife insisted they buy one. He hasn't lived in it since the divorce. He visits the place during his vacations, keeps it clean and running neat, but it's not lived in. He's never had a need for it.

There's an idea, brewing inside all of them, and as connected as they are they can't tell who originally thought of it. Now they all think it, and even though they never voice it aloud or in direct thought, it's still there and they all share it. It's in the way they tend to gravitate towards getting as few rooms as possible on their trips, how they spend the nights with each other in their apartments more often than not, in the way Jack now refers to Henry as his little brother because they spend so much time together.

So Rossi mentions the mansion. Only to Hotch at first, and the two kick around the idea until they decide to just ask the team and see what comes of it. They wait until they're at a restaurant that's more kid-friendly than what they usually frequent to bring it up. Rossi decides to be blunt.

"I have a mansion."

JJ immediately looks up from where she's trying to keep Henry from pelting Jack with French fries. "A mansion?"

"Just outside of DC. It's not that far from Quantico, actually. Maybe a thirty minute drive if traffic really sucks." He leans back in his chair and grins as Jack manages to slip a fry down the back of Henry's shirt. Hotch is sitting on Jack's other side, calmly pretending the kid doesn't belong to him. Rossi continues. "There would be enough room for all of us, even the kids."

Garcia blinks. "But, what about Strauss? There's no way she'd approve."

"We use post office boxes for our mail." Hotch replies, finally reaching over and smacking the back of Jack's hand before he can stuff another fry down Henry's shirt. "Behave yourself. You can have a food fight later – preferably outside." He returns his attention to Garcia. "Strauss would never know."

"Strauss may not be as big of a problem as we think." Reid says calmly. At Rossi's look, he adds, "What? She was talking with someone from a different division, and I happened to overhear. Someone wanted to take Prentiss from the team. Strauss simply said she wasn't breaking up the best group of profilers she'd ever seen."

"I thought Strauss hated us." Prentiss mused.

"Hated Hotch." Morgan corrected with a grin. "Once she finally figured out that Hotch ain't going anywhere, she calmed down a lot."

"Okay, so Strauss won't be a problem, but – Rossi, are you sure?" JJ asks.

Rossi just gives her a look. "Of course I'm sure. I wouldn't have mentioned it if I wasn't."

"It's not like we don't spend all our spare time together anyway." Hotch points out. "We would basically just be making it official."

"And getting rid of unnecessary apartment payments." Reid grins.

Morgan laughs. "Yeah, Rossi – you want us to pay you rent? Not all of us are millionaire authors like you."

Rossi gives Hotch an exasperated look. "Why do we like them again?"

"When you figure it out, let me know." Hotch says dryly.

And somehow, that's all the consent needed. Over the next year, they all let their leases expire and one by one, move in with Rossi. Ironically enough, his is the lease that expires last. Hotch is the first, followed closely by Reid in January. Then Morgan and Prentiss in July, JJ and Henry in August, and Garcia in October. Rossi comes in early November.

They each get their own room, except for the boys. Jack and Henry insist on sharing a room like real brothers. Hotch and JJ become their unofficial parents, with everyone else being Aunt and Uncle to them. The team comes together to help raise them, as they always have. Jack and Henry become theirs, not Hotch's and JJ's. Theirs.

No one has ever told Jack and Henry about the mental connection between their new family, or what Reid can do. But Jack is a sharp kid, and one day, when the entire team is forced to stay a bit late doing paperwork at the office instead of going to pick up the kids like they normally would, they find out just how sharp Jack is.


The sudden scream drops Reid to his knees, one hand grabbing his head. The team automatically gathers around him, Hotch kneeling in front of him. "Reid, what is it?" he asks gently. Reid's trembling, trying to stand and answer at the same time.

"Jack." he finally says. "He called for you."

Something flashes across Hotch's face, and Reid can sense the fear in his boss skyrocket. He pulls Reid to his feet. "Follow me. Wheels up – I don't care who gets in our way, we're gone. Morgan, take JJ." Morgan and JJ take off, followed by the rest of the group. Hotch turns his attention to Reid. "Can you contact him?"

"I can try."

"Do it. Let him know we're coming."

Reid waits until they get into the van to try. Jack? Jack, can you hear me?

Zoned in on the kid as he is, he can now clearly hear the steady mantra – It's okay Henry it's okay Daddy's coming they're all coming we're gonna be okay – but he can't make himself heard. He punches the dash in frustration.

Hotch automatically reaches out and grabs Reid's wrists before he can lash out again. It's going to be okay.

I can't reach him. I can hear him, but he can't hear me.

It's okay, Reid. We're not going to lose them. Hotch's tone leaves no room for argument, and suddenly Reid realizes that there is no reality in which they lose those boys. One of their own will have to die before they lose those children, and the thought sends a chill down Reid's spine.

They arrive at the daycare five minutes after the police do. Hotch curses DC traffic the entire time they run up to the cops and announce themselves.

"What happened here?" Hotch demands.

"Robbery." the cop replies. "Came in, stole some money, took the poor lady's jewelry, and left."

"The kids are alright?" Reid asks.

"Every one of them." The cops points to a police cruiser a few feet away. "Shook up, but okay. We've been asking them questions. Your little boy insisted he go first. Told us he wanted to go home as soon as you got here. He's a tough kid."

Hotch is already gone before the cop finishes. Reid grins. "He's Hotch's kid. Of course he's tough."

The team watches as JJ and Hotch hold tight to their children, taking a moment for themselves before bringing them back to the team. Jack grins up at his dad.

"I knew you'd hear me."

Hotch looks at Reid, and the younger knows everything going through his head. "Always, buddy."


AN: This was supposed to be only about moving in together, then it took a screaming left turn into this. Let me know what you think – I've got a whole idea set up around the kids.