Status: complete

All the Madness in the World


"The minute people fall in love, they become liars." – Harlan Ellison


“We need someone he’s already shown interest in.” All of the eyes in the room turned to Emily and me. It took a moment before I understood what they were saying.

Hell no.” I breathed, turning to Emily. “Rock paper scissors.” She nodded, holding out her fist and indulging me in my attempt to evade Viper, the scumbag suspect at the top of our list who spent his time teaching guys how to pick up girls. In unison we lifted our hands once, twice, and on the final time presented our weapons. Hers: scissors. Mine: rock. “Say hi to Viper for me, sweetheart.”

“Oh, this is going to suck!”

“The rest of us need to cover the other clubs in the area that may be a target.” Rossi said.

“I think I’m…just gonna stay back.” Spencer said, taking steps away from us all. “You know, see if I can figure out anything else…”

“Oh no, I need a wingman kid!” Morgan smirked, grabbing hold of his shoulder.

“Sorry Spence, if Emily’s stuck with Viper it’s the least you could do to hang out with Derek. You might learn a few things.” I nudged him playfully. I trusted Derek with my life; but more importantly, I trusted him with Spencer’s. “I’ll take Rehab.”

“I’ll go with you.” Hotch said as Derek claimed the 7 Lounge. This was something I’d noticed: ever since my confession Hotch had been keeping a much closer eye on me. Whenever we were working a case it was either him or Rossi I was paired with.

“Clubs don’t open for another three hours; Em, want to come with me?” I asked as the others began to disperse, knowing their jobs.


“I need to find something to wear.”


With a final tug I got the last bit of the zipper up on the dress. This being done, my look was complete: hair, makeup, and dress transforming me into someone worthy of being picked up by a psychopath with an affinity for cleaning. The strapless red dress reached my mid-thigh; it had a sweetheart neckline with jewels dusting the bottom. I had found it cheap, just like the clutch that matched it and perfectly held my badge, phone, gun, and wallet. Finishing off with a pair of nude heels, I was fully equipped.

Everything I needed to seduce a serial killer.

I helped Emily get the back of her dress done up and we made small talk. It consisted mostly about Viper, how she could make a fool out of him and successfully get everything she needed out of him in one night. Briefly we were even on the topic of past romances, but I killed that conversation quickly. Neither the time nor place for an in depth explanation of stupid, stupid Luke.

Taking note of the time, I wished her good luck and left to go meet Hotch. It was weird walking through the police station I’d been normally clothed in minutes before—I felt like a hooker brought in for questioning and desperately wanted a sweater. The only thing that brought my comfort level back to somewhat normal was Morgan. His shameless flirting had become the norm and so to hear his wolf whistle put me at ease. At least some things were reliable.

“Damn girl, you sure seem to be lookin’ for love dressed like that.”

“Shut up, Morgan.” I smiled, punching him as we passed. Hotch was waiting, arms crossed, at the side doors. I pretended not to notice as his eyes gave me a quick once-over. I also pretended that a part of me wasn’t satisfied at the gesture.

“You’re not exactly dressed for the event, Bossman.” I teased when I reached him. He didn’t crack a smile, but stepped ahead of me and held the door open.

“I’m not trying to lure anyone.”

“You got me there.” My shoes clicked with each step as he led me to his car. How he learned to tell his apart from the other standard issue black SUVs was a secret that still eluded me. He clicked the remote in his hand that unlocked the doors and came around to open the passenger door for me. The unfiltered politeness was something I still hadn’t gotten used to. We were both in, seat-belted, and en route to the club before he spoke again.

“You’re okay with this, right?” It was a sudden question that I hadn’t even bothered to think about. Of course it was a bit nerve-wracking: the possibility of flirting with a serial killer and not even knowing it, but that was the job. I already felt at a disadvantage because of the whole Ares thing, I did not want to show any more signs of weakness.

“Of course. If I wasn’t comfortable with it I’d volunteer to stay back.”

“Why do I get the feeling that’s the complete opposite of what you’d do?”

A heavy sigh broke through my defenses. “Because you’re good at your job.”

It only took the flash of our badges to get cleared into the club with firearms. I would feel so much more comfortable if the gun was on my person, holstered somewhere, but unless I was going to strap it half-way up my leg my purse was the best option. There were loads of people already in the club but more kept coming in. Hotch separated from me almost immediately, and although I knew full well it was our plan it still caught me off guard. I tried to be covert as I fiddled with my earpiece.

With determined steps I set off to get myself a table, hoisting myself up onto the chair and crossing my legs. It was as I looked around at all of the people and tried to figure out what the fire-hazard limit was that I realized how unprepared for this job I was. Clubs were not my scene, especially when it meant trying to lure a serial killer. But it was more than just that: it was the whole being forced into flirting deal that made my stomach churn. It didn’t help that I felt naked with the amount of skin the stupid dress left uncovered. Why couldn’t acceptable club attire include something that didn’t need to put every feminine bit of my body on display? A part of me began to panic as I thought about how hard this might actually end up being.

“Hotch?” My voice was so much weaker than I’d intended.

“Yeah?” I scanned the bar until I found him, sitting nearby and making himself look wholly unapproachable. I calmed at the sight of such close proximity.

“You’ve…You’ve got my back, right?” I knew how pathetic I sounded, but the thought of our unsub approaching me was nothing in comparison to the thought that Ares might see this as a perfect opportunity for a second kidnapping. This was something I needed to hear. “If I actually…you know, need help?”

“I’m right beside you, Tasha.”

The fact that he used my nickname was what put me at ease. It was just another comfort thing, like Derek’s flirting or Spencer’s statistics or Penelope’s ramblings. I barely had time to suppress my smile before I noticed someone heading my way. Automatically I knew there was no threat—at least, not in a murdering kind of way. The guy was shorter, Latino, and looked meek. Our unsub was the opposite. He flashed a smile, though, and before he could start any spiel I blurted out a lie.

“Sorry, but I’m meeting someone here.”

“Oh…Well, lucky guy.” He smiled and I returned the gesture, knowing that not everyone would be so willing to accept the lie. During the time it took him to approach me, get rejected, and return to his group of friends the population in the club had almost doubled. The music was turned up so much that I could feel the beat through the table as my fingers nervously tapped along.

The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and I searched for the cause, but I didn’t have to look for long. I probably should have seen it coming, should have known the lie worked too well. He didn’t buy it; or at least his friends didn’t. I had officially made myself a target for a group of boys, none of which could be the unsub. I made the mistake of meeting eyes with one of the boys, who flashed a smile. I turned away immediately, but after about a minute something clanked on the table.

“From the gentleman in the red tie.” The waiter said, identifying the smiling boy. I clutched the glass just to have something to do with my hands, debating whether or not to take a sip before noticing the boy approaching.

“God dammit.” I muttered, taking a gulp of the drink and preparing to shoot him down. Despite the situation I couldn’t deny he was attractive: tall, dark skinned, light eyes, dressed to the nines.


“Hey, sorry I’m—”

“Incredibly beautiful? I noticed.” He winked.

“Meeting someone here.” I raised the glass to my lips before remembering it was paid for by him, and lowered it once more. It vibrated from the volume of the music and played out the tune against my skin.

“Well there’s a lot of creeps here, how about I keep you company till he shows?” I opened my mouth to argue but he cut me off quickly. This guy was good. “I’m Jason.”

“That’s very kind of you Jason, but I don’t think my boyfriend would be too happy if he found me waiting with another guy.”

“Hey, we’re just talking. How about a magic trick?”

“If I agree will you leave me alone?”

“If you tell me your name first.”


“Pretty name for a pretty girl.” He winked again, reaching into his pockets and pulling out a deck of cards. I waited, rather impatiently, as he set up his trick and went through his rehearsed lines. What bothered me, though, was that the hairs on the back of my neck were still standing up. My eyes danced across all the faces, searching for the eyes. After I’d swept almost the entire place, I caught him. He was standing off to the side, watching me. With a quick glance I could see that at least from afar he fit the profile. I flashed him a smile, hoping to show him I was interested.

“Am I boring you?” Jason asked, and I snapped back to him.

“Sorry, my boyfriend’s here.” I offered a weak smile as Jason followed my eyes to the other guy and came back to me.

“Yeah, yeah, I can take a hint.” He gathered up all of his cards and slumped back to his friends.

I expected the guy to come up to me right after, but he wandered around and waited, as if he wanted to see how many boys I would turn away for him. It was more than I was comfortable with, and the more who approached me the more agitated I became. Things reached the point where I dropped all pretence of kindness or sympathy: I just started snapping no at anyone who approached me. And then, after what felt like an eternity, he started making his way towards me.

“We’ve got a potential.” I tried to move my lips as little as possible, finishing the rest of my drink and fixing my hair a little, flashing a smile at the guy. He maintained an uninterested manner, fixing the hair under his top hat and adjusting the lit-up belt on his waist. Over and over it flashed the phrase ‘ask about my tattoo’ across the screen. He wore a leopard print scarf and a single fingerless glove on his right hand, which clutched a drink. There was a mark above his eye, but I couldn’t make out if it was the definitive scar our witness identified.

“Milady.” He reached out and brought my free hand to his lips. The gesture sent shivers down my spine as my fight or flight instincts kicked in.

“I thought you were gonna leave me waiting all night.” I teased, crossing my arms under my chest and leaning forward.

“Hey, you make me sound so easy.” He smirked, leaning close. “I’ll give you…3 tries to guess my name.”

“Oh yeah? What do I get if I win?”

“My number.”

This went on for a long time. This back and forth banter of his games and tricks bought from Viper. I didn’t get his name right the first three times but he told me it I could call him Matt. There was no doubt he was charismatic, and he had all of the routines down like clockwork, but something was off that I just couldn’t put my finger on.

He ran 2 routines before he was comfortable enough to sit down beside me. He kept glancing around, almost nervously, as if he was expecting someone to recognize him. This combined with the fact that he was holding my hand, stroking patterns on my palm, and sitting unreasonably close did not help me feel at ease. There were a few times I wanted to call the whole thing off, but there was a job to be done and I had my value to prove.

“So what do you say?”

“Hm?” The words caught in my throat. Was this actually it? Was he about to invite himself over to my place where he would try to kill me?

“You feel like dancing?”

Everything fell apart. This wasn’t the guy: our unsub wouldn’t waste time with something like dancing when he had me hook, line and sinker. My heart dropped as I realized I’d just spent all this time on the wrong guy. I had to think fast, scanning the crowd to see if I caught sight of anyone else who could possibly fit the profile.

And that’s when I saw him. Or at least, thought I did. It was a fragment; just a glimpse of half of his face. Half of that unforgettable smile. I looked again, feverishly searching the area for another look, but he was hidden. He was here. I broke into a sweat, stuttering and fumbling to open my purse to take out my phone. I pretended to check it, feigning surprise.

“Oh, sorry. My boyfriend just told me he’s here.”

“Boyfriend?” There was anger in his voice, that much I could hear over the music. I didn’t have time to be sweet.

“Look you’re cute and all but I was just passing the time, okay? He’s here.” The last part was for Hotch, but I didn’t know if he’d get it. I needed him to understand. “He’s here, right here.”

“What, was I too forward or something? Godammnit I knew that was a waste of my money!”

“Sorry to keep you waiting.” Hotch was beside me, hand on my lower back and eyeing the would-be unsub. I struggled to gain my composure, getting to my feet and wrapping my arms around him muttering something about missing him. The guy took a hint, backing off to the shadows as I frantically looked around. When I was sure the coast was clear I turned to Hotch.

“Can we please leave?”

“You saw the unsub?”

“What?” He misunderstood my message. “N-no, he’s not here—I just really need to leave.”

The crowds were hard to get through, all the people grinding up against each other shooting me death glares as I pushed my way through their mangled mess of arms and legs and torsos. I made it to the door, bursting through and looking around in a panic, worried he might be waiting for me outside. But no, he was here to taunt me, not capture me. My desire to be covered up multiplied tenfold.

“Natasha?” Hotchner was outside now, but I walked away from him so he wouldn’t see panic worked onto my face. I stopped when I got to the car, tapping my fingers against my leg and waiting for the telltale beep beep that signified the unlocking of the door. I clambered in, slamming the door and checking the back seat as Hotch got in. I knew he was looking for some sort of explanation for my actions, but the point was the guy I’d been talking to wasn’t the unsub and no one else there fit the description.

“He asked me to dance, it didn’t fit the profile.” I said quietly, gluing my eyes open on the passing scenery as he drove us back to the station.

“When you said ‘he’s here’ did you mean Ares?”

“No.” My voice cracked—it was no good. Hotch slowed, pulled off to the shoulder and flicked on the 4 way lights.

“Natasha, was he there?” He said more sternly.

“I—I don’t know! I…There was a moment where I thought I saw him in the crowd—” He began to turn around but I leapt forward, turning the wheel back and causing him to break. “No! I was probably just imagining it or something stupid like that!”

“Do you honestly believe you were imagining it?” He was staring right at me, and even as I straightened up I knew he wasn’t buying my story. My hands trembled slightly as I sat back and did everything in my power not to cry—my eyes were watering though, and I couldn’t hide that.

“He’ll be gone by now…Please don’t tell Spencer,” was all I could manage to say in response. It felt like he was holding my eye for a year, solidifying in my head the knowledge that he would not let this go. I was going to have eyes on me round the clock until we caught him, which probably wouldn’t happen until I was dead.

He eased back into traffic and we were silent the rest of the way back. There were a few times when I cried despite myself, the act of holding everything in breaking cracks through my attempt to be brave. As we pulled back into the parking lot I flipped down the mirror, carefully mopping up all the smudged eyeliner and taking a deep breath to steady myself.

“Remind me to call you the next time I need someone to pretend to be my boyfriend, Bossman.” I joked, forcing myself back to normal but exiting the car without looking over at him. It was like the secret was painted on his face and if I saw it I would break down.

“Back so soon?” Derek called as I met him at the entrance. I shouldered him as I went over to Spencer and hugged him briefly, knowing it would tip him off that something wasn’t right but needing to have something safe, only if for a moment. “What, get tired of all those boys hangin’ off ya?”

“I’m going to shoot you in the foot, Morgan, see how many girls you get with crutches.”

“Hey, ladies dig the crippled—I can play the sympathy card for a month! So how many numbers did ya get?”

“I was on the job, Morgan!” I couldn’t help but laugh, glad to be back in reliable company.


“I stopped counting after twelve.” He said from behind us, eyes glued to his phone as we piled into the building. “Do we have any leads?”

I rushed off to the locker rooms, gladly ripping off the dress and covering myself up with real clothes once more. There was a knock on the door outside and I told whoever it was that I’d be out in a minute. I shoved everything back into my go bag and put it into the locker, sitting down for a moment and trying to come to terms with what on earth had happened at the club. Was I just being paranoid and so I hallucinated him there? Or had he actually followed us here from Quantico just to let me know he wouldn’t be stopped by distance? Maybe this was exactly what he had meant with the note. He said he was coming, and now he’d shown himself.

With a sigh I got to my feet, knowing that if Hotch kept his word about Spencer he would certainly end up telling at least David. Spencer was waiting for me outside of the room, eyeing me wearily.

“Is everything alright?”