Status: complete

All the Madness in the World


"And yet to every bad there's a worse." – Thomas Hardy


The team had been called in to Charleston, South Carolina to work a case of spree killings that were devastating the city’s Spring Festival. The event was a week-long thing with something happening in a different place in the city each day. Each killing had been brutal and showed a lot of mob mentality influence which meant that whatever group we were dealing with—most likely a triad—had a very angry alpha and generally outcast subordinates. We worked the profile but were running low on time. Hotchner made the call that we would canvas the day’s event to try and find them simply by following their habits. It was a concert today, with all proceeds going to a local children’s hospital.

We spread out, encircling the crowd as best as we could. There was already a police presence so I doubted that anyone was paying much attention to us. Except, of course, the unsubs. They were somewhere in this mass of people, hidden in plain sight. It would be better for everyone if we caught them all, but if we managed to get a hold of even the submissive members then we’d be able to make them turn on their alphas. Every now and again I caught a glimpse of either a cop or the team, but no suspicious people. Or rather, no one that fit the profile. The DJ’s voice boomed over the crowds, an incoherent blur of riling words. One word caught my attention, though, and pulled me from my focus.

“Now I’ve got a very special shout out to deliver, is there an Athena with us in today? Man I didn’t know people still gave their kids these weird names—oh shit the mic, uh, sorry Athena. Make yourself known!”

My heart rose to my throat and I rapidly scanned the area for any sign of him. Already Rossi and Hotch were spewing commands in my earpiece for me to stay where I was. I had no problem doing that, I just wanted to make sure everyone else knew to be careful as well.

“Spencer?” I waited a few seconds before pulling the mic close to my mouth again. “Someone please tell me you’ve got eyes on Spence.”

“I’ve got him, Tash.” Emily said. “I think he’s talking to a witness.”

“Atheeeenaaaa?” The DJ sang. “I’ve got a message from your boy, he said to tell you that he’s always going to be looking out for your friends and that he’ll see you soon. C’mon, girl, we don’t got all day!”

It didn’t matter that Rossi was moving towards me through the crowd, it didn’t matter that I’d been told to stay put, it didn’t matter that Spencer was probably out of his line of fire: Ares “looking out” for my friends meant he could take them all out right now. This was the problem with having a heart: there was always something to use against you. You always have something to lose. I took a breath, found a bench and climbed onto it.

“There she is!” All the heads turned to face me, the white FBI emblem in plain view. I used the time to search the crowd, leaving my mic open so I could speak freely in case I noticed anyone.

“Natasha, get down!” Hotch ordered, but I stayed put. There were two people moving towards me in the crowd—Rossi and some kid, no older than sixteen. However, there were three backing away from the crowd. The sleeves of their sweaters looked lumpy as if they had weapons concealed and their eyes were glued to my vest.

“Prentiss, Morgan, 8:00. Blue and black sweaters, heading east. I think it’s them.”

“T-Bird get off the damn bench!” Morgan growled as he and Emily began to circle around to cut off the suspects. The kid got to me before Rossi, handing me a slip of paper. Rossi was quick to place his gun against his side, commanding him not to move. I could see Spencer looking at someone in the crowd and slowly began to walk over to them. My heart began to race as I jumped off the bench.

“Rossi, the kid isn’t anyone I remember, he’s just a messenger.” I left him to deal with the kid, trying to push through the people—a nearly impossible feat.

“Hotch, we got them. All three of them.” Derek announced as I began to move faster. Spencer was still worming his way through the crowd, almost at the edges where someone was speed walking.

“Natasha, where are you going?” Rossi asked. I chose to ignore him for a lack of being able to properly explain myself. Instead I broke into a run, full out pushing people out of the way until I finally caught up to Spencer. I pulled him back immediately.

“What the hell are you doing?” I demanded.

“I thought that—I thought I might’ve seen someone who fit the description.”

“Spence, you can’t.” I began, but gave up. He knew what I was about to say. I just shook my head, directing him over where the rest of the team was congregating.

“You can’t be doing things like that again.” Hotchner scolded. I nodded, lowering my gaze as the thoughts of what had just happened replayed in my head.

“It won’t happen again.” And it wouldn’t. Not if I had my way. The paper in my palm registered once again and I unfolded it, keeping a straight face as I stared.

“Is that what the kid gave you?” Rossi asked as Spencer looked over my shoulder at it. With a nod I held it out for everyone to see. The square of paper held in it a single lock of hair taped to the middle. My hair, and underneath my name written and then scratched out with ‘Athena’ replacing it. They looked to me for explanation.

“He took hair from all of us the day before the rituals. I don’t know why—I just know it was a precursor to what was going to happen. This is his way of saying he’s coming. I doubt there’ll be any prints but we can check anyways.”

We successfully apprehended the unsubs but it didn’t feel like a victory, not in the slightest. Not after what had happened and the piece of paper in my pocket. Rossi had brought in the messenger kid and tried to get something out of him, but he’d gotten the paper and instructions from some girl who was long past finding.

The flight back was hellish at best. Part of me felt bad for being so incredibly sour and anti-social, keeping to the corner by myself with headphones in that weren’t playing anything. I didn’t want to talk about what happened because it had only confirmed my worst fear: that being tied to me meant being a target. Ares had full out threatened them, used them effortlessly to manipulate me. Who would he go after, what would he make me do next? This grand puppeteer with strings made of fishhooks. Once they were in, they would not come out. I could feel them stuck in my skin every which way; no matter what I would try and do, these people would always be at risk.

Twice I had to put a halt to my habit of biting the insides of my cheeks as I’d begun to bleed. The view from the window could have been a fireworks display and I wouldn’t have noticed—my mind was so far gone. I thought back to the incident on the roof, how although it would be cruel to leave Spencer it would be far crueler to keep him so close to this fire. I should have done it. I should have fucking jumped. Sighing I glanced over at Spencer, distraught at the fact that he was watching me. He got to his feet and started to make his way towards me so I moved quickly to the washroom and locked the door behind me. I listened as his footsteps came to the door, hovered for a moment, and then retreated. My fingers traced over the scar on my neck, a sigh escaping me as I pondered the life I might’ve lead if things had been different all those years ago.

Only when the jet was landing did I leave the washroom, taking a seat only as long as I needed to. I was at the door before it had even lowered completely, jogging down the stairs and making for the seclusion of the building. The controlled chaos was somehow comforting; Ares couldn’t stop the phone calls and keyboard clicks and symphony of voices. These sounds would go on unchallenged. My system craved caffeine and my feet complied, leading me to the kitchen as Spencer began to call out for me.

Ignoring him, my hands worked at constructing a half-decent coffee. Anger got the best of me as I tipped the cream into the coffee, splashing it onto the counter. With a growl I slammed the carton down and grabbed a cloth, trying to mop it up as Spencer kept talking. He was trying to be gentle, trying to be calm.

“What was I supposed to do?”

“You should have just let me kill myself!”

I whipped around but immediately regretted letting the words leave my mouth. The whole team had manifested outside the kitchen and there was no doubt in my mind that they heard me. I did my best not to look at any of them, but Spencer was dousing me with one of his looks. He opened his mouth to say something and I grabbed the mug, still dripping spilled cream, and left them all behind.

The most logical place for me to go would have been somewhere quiet—Spencer would never expect me to take refuge in Garcia’s office. She willingly let me in on my promise to keep the coffee away from her computers. Penelope didn’t know about what happened earlier, not yet. I was content to just sit here and listen to her stories and ramblings and references that I didn’t always get. But the more she spoke, the more I actually listened, the more I began to understand what it was that I needed to do to keep her, keep everyone protected.

“Pen, can you print off some papers for me please?”

“Of course, my dove.” She pushed off from one desk, spinning in her chair to face her computer as the pen in her grasp flashed different colours. “What is it you’re looking for?”

Scribbling what I believed to be the form number down on her notepad I slid it over to her. She looked up at me with wide eyes and simply shook her head.

“I—I can’t do that.”

“Penelope as much as I love you, if you don’t print it I’ll just go and get it somewhere else.”

She turned slowly back to the computer, begrudgingly typing and printing off the papers. She grabbed them before I could, holding them out to me with the promise that she wouldn’t let this happen. After borrowing a pen and signing on the Xs I gave her a weak smile before leaving her and heading for Hotchner’s office.

With a knock on the door I was beckoned inside, receiving the same look that the others tried to hide. Worry about my stability, concern about my well-being. Not anymore. I gave a half-hearted smile and set the papers down on the corner of his desk, promising that everything should be in order. The confusion took over his face as I began my retreat.

“What’s this?” He questioned, holding me back as I nodded for him to take a look. His eyes were glued to the sheet and he looked up at me with disbelief. “Resignation?”

“I already signed what I needed to.” I turned to leave again but he called me back, asking me before ordering me to take a seat.

“I can’t accept this.” He said bluntly, gathering the papers and tossing them into the garbage. It was my turn to look at him with confusion.

“Sir, I don’t want to work here anymore.”

“And this has nothing to do with what happened today?” I sighed, sitting back in the chair and understanding the stalemate we had reached. “Natasha, all of us have baggage. This team is a family and we protect each other—that includes you.”

“Yeah well, last time I checked no one else’s baggage is willing to kill everyone they care about. If Spencer…if any of you got hurt because of him…I just can’t have that blood on my hands. It’s better this way.”

“You’re safer working here and I think you know that.”


“Every person on this team takes risks every time we take on a new case. We know what we’ve signed up for. You’re an asset to this team and it’s better if you stay with us.”

“I’m a liability to this team.”

“No you’re not.” He challenged, the proceeding silence spawning a staring match. I kept waiting for him to budge but he just wouldn’t. At last I lowered my eyes and sighed, picking at the edges of my thumbnail.

“I can’t let anyone get hurt because of me.”

“And none of us want you to get hurt because we didn’t catch him in time.”

He refused to back down and I didn’t know what else I could say to change his mind. There had to be something I could say to make him see that if Ares hadn’t been caught in all this time, then he wouldn’t now. I had meant it when I told Spencer I should have died; and no matter how much it would hurt him if I was gone, he would be safe. Alive. No one else could be harmed if I ceased to exist. Ares couldn’t torture me six feet under. You can’t stalk a ghost. You can’t threaten a rotting corpse.

“I’ve got things to do.” I made it to the door before he called me back one last time. I turned, leaning half way in against the doorframe. The body language suggested an aversion to the subject of discussion: one foot out the door, a desire to flee.

“You know that if you ever want to talk,” He trailed off as I lowered my eyes, shaking my head before straightening up.

“Unfortunately talking won’t change anything.” When I retreated to my desk I didn’t really know what I was feeling exactly. It was partly anger at Hotch for not allowing me to simply quit—although if I really wanted to I supposed I could take it higher. I was still mad at myself for putting everyone in this situation, but Hotch was right in one thing—it was better if I was on the team. Otherwise, how could I make sure Spencer was out of harm’s way?

“Ay T-Bird, we going or what?” Derek was holding out his arms in impatience at the elevators. I rushed to grab my jacket and down the rest of my bad coffee before going over to him. He started cracking jokes as if nothing was wrong, as if the entire day hadn’t happened, and I tried my best to go along with it.

It was sometime after 8 when he pulled into the parking lot of my building. A street lamp half way down the street was flickering in its last moments of life. We got out of the car and I told him that the elevator was officially closed for maintenance so we’d have to take the stairs.

“You’re lucky I love you.” He teased as we walked towards the main door. I raised an eyebrow at him.

“Hey, it could be worse. I could make you carry me up all those stairs.” We continued this banter back and forth until we were almost at the front steps, when I stopped. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and I couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was watching me. Derek asked me what was wrong and as I began to survey the street he did the same. “I don’t know…”

“C’mere.” He said quietly, draping his arm around my shoulder as we both caught sight of movement in a car ahead of us. The man in the car kept eyeing us and I looked around as Derek led us closer to the rolled down passenger window. “Hey man, can I help you with something?”

“N-no I was just—I’m waiting for my friend.” He pointed up towards the building as Derek straightened up, nodding. After another quick sweep of the street he steered me inside and we began our trek up the stairs. We made it to my apartment and he did his rounds as I slipped out of my shoes and jacket.

“We are good to go.” He announced as he collapsed onto the couch, picking up the remote and slinging one arm behind his head. I told him I’d be back and quickly put on some more comfortable clothes before sitting beside him on the couch. “Hey, d’you mind if I just crash here for the night?”

“Derek,” I began, giving him a look. “Please tell me you don’t have me on suicide watch or something.”

“No, I’ve got you on Morgan watch, baby girl. Garcia told me what you made her do today and she was not happy.”

“Do we have to do this now?” I whined.

“Well I can think of a few other things we can do on this couch.” He winked, successfully blocking my punch and managing to hold me down with one hand while tickling me with the other. “Think you can leave me, huh?”

“Stop!” I squealed, thrashing around in his grasp until he finally let me go. I huffed a breath out, blowing the hair out of my face and landing a punch on his arm. “Jerk.”

“Hey now, you weren’t calling me names the first day we met.” He reasoned as I sat with my arms crossed.

“My apologies oh brave saviour of one damsel in distress.” I said sarcastically, faking a bow as he laughed. “You weren’t half bad in Chicago.”

“What was that kid’s name again?”

“Jeff Colby.” I said each name slowly with disgust. “Who seemed to think objectifying me was the quickest way to a date. Enter knight in shining armor, who jousts the enemy down.”

“Never knew I’d be employed as your full time creep-shield.”

“Oh please, like you didn’t volunteer.” I pushed off of the couch, going down the hall to get him some blankets and a pillow. When I returned to the living room he was rummaging through my DVDs, a sight that made me cringe. “Please keep those in the right order.”

“Alright, Miss OCD.” He teased, putting something in the DVD player and tossing me the case. He sauntered into the kitchen, opening some cupboards and drawers before finding what he was looking for.

“We’re watching Shaun of the Dead? You do remember we have work tomorrow, right?”

“Just sit down, girl.” He scolded as he put the bag of popcorn in the microwave. I rolled my eyes but complied, putting the TV on the right setting and settling under half of the blanket. I picked at the stray threads sticking out of the blanket until he came back, handing me the bowl while he got under the blanket and draped an arm around me.

“How the hell do you manage to burn popcorn?”

“Shut up and watch the damn movie.” He scolded as I laughed. The whole thing felt like a deep breath you take before you talk about something important. And sure enough, fifteen minutes in, he turned to me. “You do know that leaving wouldn’t be good for anyone, right?”

“Hotch already gave me the speech okay?” I grumbled, picking at the skin around my nails. “It can’t be that difficult to understand why I want to. You do get it, right?”

“I get it, but it’s not the answer.”

“If it was you…If some psycho was threatening to kill me or the others unless you complied…I mean, wouldn’t you do the same thing? Am I just overreacting Derek?”

“Not at all, baby girl.” He tilted my head up and gave me one of those looks that made it impossible to doubt him. “You’re right, I’d probably want to do the same thing. But you’ve gotta understand that we all worry for you just as much as you worry for us.”

“I just wish I could be more help…”

“Don’t you dare go blaming yourself for this.” He said seriously. “None of this is your fault. You didn’t ask for this to happen.”

“But if I just—”

“—Nuh uh. Don’t even go there. Just keep in mind that we’re in this together. All of us. We’re your family, okay?”


“That means we’re going to look after you. You’re not alone in this.” He waited for me to nod before pressing his lips to my forehead and pulling me into a hug. I willingly wrapped my arms around him, holding him longer than normal in an attempt to stifle the tears trying to worm their way out. When I finally pulled away he kept his arm around me for good measure and let me rest my head on his shoulder.

“You’re not so bad, Derek Morgan.”

“You’re okay yourself, my little T-Bird.”