Status: complete

All the Madness in the World


"Nothing is permanent in this wicked world. Not even our troubles." – Charles Chaplin


With a low, guttural sound the elevator doors parted: it had stopped a foot below the level, leaving a sizable gap from the elevator floor to the carpeted hallway above. A sigh escaped my lips and I climbed onto the ledge. As I passed the different doors I could hear faint signs of life: a bass speaker booming, a muffled conversation, the clanging of pots and pans. A golden-plated 2 and 4 glimmered in the light of the hallway, welcoming me home. I got through the locks, taking a step into the half-light and dropping my bag.

There was a sudden flash of light and while I shielded myself from it as a chorus of ‘Surprise!’ was bellowed forth from the living room. My feet were planted to the floor as I stood dumbfounded in the doorway. The whole team was there, banners and ribbons and balloons scattered throughout the place and taped perfectly to ceilings and walls.

Spencer came up to me; a wild grin plastered on his face at the sight of my shock as I closed the door. Pulling him in for a well-deserved hug, he wished me a happy birthday.

“You guys are crazy.” I mumbled as I got a chorus of hugs and well wishes from the rest of the team. After I thanked everyone for coming I excused myself to change into something more appropriate, seeing as they had set the dress code a little fancier than work-wear.

The dress I picked out was neutral and form fitting, ending just above the knee with a drooping front. There were black accents on the side that went in; the back of it covered in lace. With a quick touch-up to my hair and makeup I rushed back out to spend time with everyone. Although parties were stressful events—especially when you had no idea you were having one—I started going through my head and making a note of what I would start cooking.

“Tell me one of you brought wine, because I am all out.” Re-entering the main area, three hands rose up with bottles ready to be emptied. Derek, JJ and Rossi followed me into the kitchen as I got out 8 glasses and a cork opener. Derek began opening the bottles as I fluttered around from cupboard to cupboard trying to gather things I would need.

“Slow down!” Emily laughed as she grabbed a glass for herself. “You don’t need to worry about cooking anything, we all brought stuff.”

Halting my frenzy, she directed my attention to the dishes of food laid out on my coffee table. I was speechless.

“Has anyone ever told you guys that you’re the best people ever?”

“Every day, beautiful.” Penelope winked.

“I hope it’s okay, we put some stuff in the fridge.” Emily said as she began to wag a finger at me. “I’m sure I can figure out how to work the oven so you are officially off cooking duty, alright?”

“No, I can help with—”

“Out!” She nudged me out of the kitchen entirely, but not before putting a full glass into my hands. If she was insisting, I was more than happy to obey. Crossing the room to my stereo system, I began to shuffle through my music trying to find something fitting.

“Derek, come help.” I whined while scanning the cds.

“Alright, let’s see what you got girl.” He placed his glass atop the stereo and crouched to survey my alphabetized collection. “Damn, someone’s organized.”

“Do not start profiling me, Morgan.” I delivered a swift nudge to his ribs in response to his laugh.

“I gotta go with my man MJ.” He pulled out Michael Jackson’s HIStory, sliding the cd in and turning up the volume. Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough was the first track that came on, and he turned to me with a sly smile, taking the drink out of my hand and putting it beside his on the stereo. I asked what he was doing as he held up his hands for me to take and led me into a dance. We sang the lyrics aloud, horrible as we were, but a smile wormed its way onto my face that I just couldn’t shake.

“Up! Everyone up! Em, out of the kitchen, come dance!” I called as Derek dipped me, the sight of her laughing at me upside down sending me into a fit of giggles. Bringing me up, he let me go as we went to round up everyone else. He moved the coffee table out of the way, pulling up Penelope as JJ got Reid to join her. David got up as Emily came to join the congregation. Hotch was still sitting off to the side, and I gave him a challenging look. “You too, Bossman.”

“I’d rather not.” He meant to take a sip of his wine but I took the glass from his hands, setting it down on a table and grabbing his hands to pull him up.

“Uh-uh. There is no get out of jail free card, Hotch. It’s my birthday. Today I have seniority; and I’m pulling rank.” He smiled despite himself and gave in to my ludicrous demands.

All eight of us moved to the beat in the middle of my living room, doing a fairly good job at not bumping into one another considering our atrocious dancing skills. We were much better profilers than dancers—except, of course, Derek. My hands were laced with Hotch’s as we did as close to a dance as we could get, laughing all the while at how bad it was. It was unorthodox, but in a pleasant way. I didn’t think I’d ever seen a side of everyone like this before; it humanized them all. They weren’t just tunnel-vision federal agents; they were a group of great friends throwing a party when it was needed most.

Everything, the entire beautiful façade of the night, was torn away with three solid knocks on the door. I dropped my hands, turning my attention to the door as my heart rate elevated. Such a tiny little noise; and I had not been the only one to notice. All the laughter and singing faded away as eyes shifted from the door to me.

“Are you expecting someone?” Hotch asked, all traces of Aaron Hotchner replaced by an SSA profiler.

“No…” I said quietly, willing my feet forward. With a gulp, I smiled and said “It’s probably the neighbours telling me to ‘turn the racket down.’”

Everyone tried to recreate the atmosphere that had been built up, but it was only half-alive—its weak heart beat fluttering with every step I took towards the door. With all of my might I tried to keep my mind from wandering to the painfully obvious: it could be Ares. If there was one thing I was sure of, it was that ‘what ifs’ could rob you of a normal life if you let them. So I reached forward, unlocked the door and opened it a creak. The face waiting to greet me might have been just as unwelcome as that of a serial killer.

His eyes, always the first thing to be noticed, were just as blue as I’d remembered them. His angled features, cheek bones so defined I could cut myself touching them, dark hair falling around his face in perfectly effortless waves—and a smile that could kill. He hadn’t given up on looking sharp at all, donning a freshly pressed suit with his typical two top buttons undone look. Luke Evans, the British boy from Yorkshire that swept me off my feet in record time.

“Happy birthday, beautiful!” He chimed, producing a bouquet of flowers and a wrapped present from behind his back. With wide eyes, I cast a glance back at the team as if to tell them all was okay, before slipping outside and leaving the door open just a crack. Luke stood before me with a smile, gifts extended towards me as I struggled to find words to express myself.

“What are you doing here?” My voice was so much weaker than I had intended, and he picked up on it; located a fragile spot and planned his attack. He took my hands, halting their fidgeting, and planted the gifts in my grasp. They felt wrongly heavy in my grip, as if they were 10 pound weights and not flowers and a gift box.

“Whaddya mean, sweet-cheeks? It’s your birthday, I’m here to see you o’course.” He winked, leaning on the door frame and getting unbearably close. “Sounds like you already got a party goin’ there, love, and I must say I’m quite offended I didn’t get an invite. But I’m here now, so—”

“Don’t,” I began as he moved to go in. “Luke…How did you even find me?”

“What’re you hiding from me or somethin’?” He shrugged. “Bloke down the street told me you’d left so I looked you up. ‘S’Not that hard.”

“You…You can’t just show up like this after all these years and expect everything to be okay.” With each word, I began to find pieces of my confidence again.

“Look babe, I said I’m sorry and I meant it, alright? Blimey, whaddya want me to do, beg? Jus’ lemme in and we can talk about it.”

No!” I yelled much louder than I’d meant to, going so far as to shove him back. Anger took over his features.

“Are you havin’ a laugh?” He began to pace a bit, never taking his eyes off me as I winced at his tone. There was a creak and I realized the door was being opened. Hotch stood there, looking from me to my hands to Luke.

“Is there a problem here?” Hotch asked quietly, not removing his gaze from Luke.

“This is the secret, then? New boyfriend and all?”

“Yeah.” I said defiantly, shoving the gifts back into his grasp and crossing my arms over my chest. “So I’d like you to leave.”

“You bloody Americans, all the fookin’ same.”

“She asked you to leave.” There was an unmistakable authority in his voice that even Luke couldn’t ignore.

“Well alright then.” He huffed, throwing the gifts at my feet and storming off to the elevator, running his hand aggressively through his hair as Hotch picked up the discarded items and handed them to me. I mumbled a ‘thanks’ and went back inside, ignoring the fact that clearly an explanation was wanted by everyone. I threw the flowers and gift in the trash, announcing it was no one important and excusing myself.

The bedroom door shut quietly behind me, muffling the music and giving me a moment of peace. Sitting down on the edge of my bed, it groaned in protest and sunk down. I placed my head in my hands, taking deep breaths and failing horribly at blocking the memories. The pier, the Eiffel tower, the candlelit dinner and fancy champagne…It was an A way to ruin my elated mood.

“Natasha?” Two quiet knocks followed the call of my name. Emily. I told her to come in, trying to betray the stress rising inside of me. She offered a sympathetic smile and sat down beside me. “Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, yeah…just…People showing up that shouldn’t. Stupid, stupid people.”

“How long were you together?” The completely accurate intuition was perhaps why I got along so well with Emily.

“We were together for two years…Things happened, and one night he left me with no explanation. I hadn’t seen him since.”

“How’s this,” She said after a moment. “You give Garcia his name and she can probably find a way to wipe his computer or phone or something. Sound good?”

“Something tells me that might qualify as ‘improper use of company resources.’” I laughed, getting to my feet and smoothing out my dress. Emily hugged me and took my hand, leading me back to my party.

“C’mon. Forget about him. Let’s go party.”

When we went back out everyone was courteous enough to pretend like nothing had happened—everyone, of course, except for Spencer; who was never very good at hiding his confusion in social situations. I took a seat on the couch between Penelope and Spencer, JJ going to the kitchen to help Emily.

“Natasha, where do you keep the plates?” JJ called to me.

“Closest cupboard to the fridge.” Spencer and I said in unison, earning weird looks from the others.

“She’s had a place for everything since college.” He shrugged before turning to me. “So who was at the door?”

“Reid—” Derek hissed, slapping his arm.


“Do you…Do you remember Luke?” It was only at this that he seemed to understand the caution with which he should’ve breached the topic. With a single nod I figured I didn’t have to explain any further.

“Is this Parnassus?” David asked, standing in front of the picture that I hung next to my much-too-full bookshelf.

“Yeah, Andrea Mantegna. My dad was a big art collector; it kind of rubbed off on me.”

At this, everyone lapsed back into their own conversations. After the Luke moment things went back to normal, JJ helping Emily get the food ready and setting it up on the breakfast bar in a sort of buffet. Emily tried to break out the paper plates but I assured her that my dishwasher was ready to be put to good use. With Derek in the house the food did not last long, and I made no effort to hold back on the jokes about his bottomless-pit of a stomach.

After dinner I made sure to spend my time equally with everyone to the best of my ability. Things seemed to be going well—although, I didn’t know why I really cared. I hadn’t planned the party and it was for me, so there was really no reason for me to be worrying. Regardless, I was always the first to get up when a CD was finished, having picked a selection of music that would probably last until tomorrow. When the night grew later Emily disappeared with Penelope in the kitchen, and at some cue that I wasn’t privy to everyone got up and started motioning me to the kitchen.

“Please tell me you didn’t.” Pressing my hands over my mouth I stayed put, staring at the lit candles in the shape of a 3 and 2 sticking out of the cake sitting on the dining room table. Spencer killed the lights and joined the others as they all stood around the table, waiting for me. “You guys.”

“T-Bird, do not make me carry you over. I will if I have to.” Derek stood with his arms crossed giving me a look. I narrowed my eyes and shook my head at his ridiculous proposal, waiting for my feet to be ready to lead me over. He was impatient, though, and so as the team began a chorus of Happy Birthday he came right at me and scooped me up.

“Put me down, you animal!” I squealed as he carried me over and set me down at in front of the cake. I delivered a swift punch to his arm as he laughed it off, joining in the last bit of the song. When they were done I paused for a moment, held my hair back from the flames and blew out the candles.

Of course, I only had one wish.

The fire turned to smoke, dancing spirals into the air until they disappeared entirely. Everyone applauded in the darkness for a moment, but when the lights came back on there was a collection of gift bags and boxes sitting in place of the cake. I groaned, backing away from the table and covering my eyes.

“You are out of your minds!”

“Open ours first!” Penelope said excitedly, handing me two gift bags and staring with a giant smile. “It’s from us girls.”

The first bag was smaller and had a necklace-earring-bracelet set that looked far more expensive than I was comfortable accepting. Penelope shushed my protest and helped me get everything on, musing at me. The second bag held some ridiculously intoxicating perfume that I wasted no time in putting on.

“You can thank the three very attractive boys at the mall that day for telling us this one smelled the best.” She explained as I laughed. Derek shifted the gift box towards me and I sighed, a stupid smile on my face.

“And this is from your boys.”

I ripped the paper off, crunching it into a ball and sliding my nails along the edges of the box to cut any tape. Opening it, I had to pull away all the tissue paper before I finally got to the gift. When I did my eyes went wide and I looked at Derek.

“You didn’t.” I breathed, pulling out the leather jacket that was almost identical to the one I used to wear. I held my hand to my mouth for a minute before he took it from my hands and helped me into it.

“The finest Italian leather I could get my hands onto.” Rossi promised, nodding to me as I bit back tears.

“And T-Bird is back.” Derek mused as I pulled him in for a hug. I moved around the room, shamelessly throwing my arms around them all and trying to fathom how my heart could be so swollen with emotion.

“This was completely unnecessary, but thank you all so much. I don’t know what I would do without you.”
♠ ♠ ♠
Dreamcast for Luke here