Status: complete

All the Madness in the World


“It's hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your head.” - Sally Kempton


“I need a drink.” The bag thudded on the ground as Hotch did the usual rounds, checking every room and window and closet. My keys jingled in the bowl where I threw them as I kicked off my heels, pulling my hair out of its ponytail and flicking on the kitchen lights. The ceramic tiles were cold against my feet; a welcome sensation. From the cupboard I took two glasses, fishing an open bottle out of the fridge and pouring out its contents.

It was such a normal thing, now, to have one of the boys fluttering around my apartment. I had lost all notions of privacy; but I willingly gave them up if it meant my survival. Hotch closed every door behind him as I settled onto the couch, flicking on the television and jumping channels. His footsteps drew closer and trailed around until they stopped beside me. He told me everything was clear.

“Sit down, Bossman.” I held up the second glass for him to take, waiting patiently as he caved in and sat down. When I realized I’d been through all of the channels I let it stay on a news network, taking a big gulp of my drink before setting it down and collapsing backwards and running a hand through my hair. I rubbed my eyes until I saw shapes and patterns, letting them paint their fading frantic movements on the blank ceiling.

One of the things I appreciated most about Hotch was that he knew to separate work from home. Unless an issue was pressed or brought up, he acted as if the office didn’t exist. But sometimes, despite the logic of this system, there were things that needed to be said. Or rather, things I couldn’t bear to let stew in my mind and keep me up at night. Deimos—or Luke.

“You think you know someone…” I tucked my legs under me and reached for my glass, taking a sip.

“There’s no way you could have known something like that.” Hotch reasoned, lifting his own glass to his mouth and casting a glance at me. I shook my head, laughing.

“I went out with him for two years, did you know that? Seven hundred and thirty days. He proposed to me in Paris. The next morning he was gone: no note, no phone call. He changed his number, removed every trace of his existence that had been in my apartment. It was like he never lived.”

“And you think it was the Miller using him against you?”

“That’s just it, Hotch: I think it was the opposite. Or maybe it’s just what I want to believe… I think he tried to get away from Ares, but something must have happened that night…Well what do I know; it’s been seventeen years and I haven’t caught him yet.”

“That isn’t your fault, Natasha.”

With a sigh my eyes met his, and I gave a weak smile. Aaron Hotchner, this complex enigma that had a new layer to discover every time you bothered to look close enough. It was twice now that he’d managed to rescue me from some sort of peril; I wondered how many more times this would happen before my luck ran out. It was only as I came from my thoughts that I realized the change in the atmosphere. Who started it was beyond me, but the distance between the two of us was slowly closing. Although I was fully aware of it, nothing in me tried to stop it. I just let it happen, closer and closer and closer.

A ringing pierced through the daze, sending us flying away from each other and overtaking the reporter’s voice on the television. I let out a nervous laugh, grabbing my empty glass from the table and marching off to the phone. The number wasn’t familiar so I just let it ring, figuring only a telemarketer would be calling at this time of night. Taking determined steps to the kitchen I tried to fathom what on earth had just happened. My hand stretched out for the open bottle as the machine played my voice message followed by a beep.

“‘Grey-eyed one, I sing of you, wisest and most beautiful, relentless Athena, protector of cities, strong-armed and fair.’ Oh, Athena. Such lies they write.” The wine glass slipped from my hand, shattering at my feet. In a heartbeat Hotch’s phone was out. “But they will see soon; all of your blinded followers will see.”

“Garcia, are you still at the office?”

“They will see the blood on your hands and the frailty of your spear and the weakness in your heart.”

“There’s a message being recorded on Natasha’s home phone, I need you to trace it now.”

“I will peel the flesh of their eyes open and force the sight of your ineptitude to their very souls. Olympus is mine.”

With a click, the line went dead. “Did you get anything?”

My fingers gripped the countertop as if it was my last connection to life. Hotch finished his conversation with Penelope and told me she’d traced the number. Explaining that he was calling everyone in he told me to get my stuff. After a moment I carefully stepped over the glass, getting my shoes on and grabbing anything else I needed. As he called Rossi, I flicked off the television and lights, waiting for his signal.

He was muttering a slew of words I was too distracted to catch as I holstered my gun. After a few moments he hung up, motioning me out the door and refusing to venture more than a few centimetres from my side, keeping a hand placed on my lower back. His eyes were crossing over every inch of the environment we moved through: my own personal bodyguard. At the car he opened and closed the door as if I was the president, and quickly locked the car when he got inside. My phone began to ring and I pulled it out of my pocket, realizing for the first time that my hands were slightly shaking.

“Hi Spence.”

“Morgan just called me, are you okay?” I could hear his car rumbling in the background, a low undertone to his voice of concern.

“Yeah…Yeah, I’m fine—I’m with Hotch. Listen, don’t go in until I get there okay? Promise me, Spencer.”

“I promise.”

I told him I’d see him soon and hung up, buckling my seatbelt as Hotch sped out of the parking lot. He’d flicked the lights on so we didn’t have to obey things like stop signs or traffic lights or other cars. My eyes were glued on the passing scenery, but I wasn’t really seeing it. My heart was beating like a hammer, this blaring reminder that Hey, you’re alive. You made it out. You’re still here.

“I don’t want you going in there.” Hotch said without sparing me a glance. I began to protest but he cut me off completely. “You’ll stay in the car with Reid. That’s an order.”

There was no use in arguing any more so I kept my mouth shut, half of me glad to be staying somewhere safe but the other half wanting to barge in myself and kill him. When we were almost there it occurred to me that this might not be what I thought it was, he might not be in there, he might be leaving some new drug addict in withdrawal there as a present. Or worse—it could be an ambush. He had to know that we would be coming; was this an attempt on my life or on everyone else’s?

The address was to a stretch of dilapidated townhouses in a stretch of the ghetto. Most of the windows were boarded up, all traces of lawn pulled up or turned to mud, entire patches of roofing were missing—these places had been abandoned for a while. Even half the bulbs in the street lights had been smashed out by one thing or another. The lights and presence of the cars brought a dozen pairs of eyes out of hiding spots, everyone wanting to see what the fuss was about. These hidden people of the night. We were the last to get there, the team and some back up officers waiting outside with guns trained on the townhouse. Spencer came up to the car immediately and Hotch pulled his gun out and opened the door. At the last moment I held him back, trying to fit all of my fear and desperation into the shortest number of words.

“Please be careful.”

Spencer took his place after a brief exchange of words with Hotch, doing his best to give me a reassuring smile. He was such a bad liar. I bit at my lips, voicing my concerns about the likelihood of the situation, but Spencer dismissed them. It didn’t take a genius to see his hands gripping the wheel, the gear set in reverse and his foot ready to accelerate. He was supposed to get me out of here, if things came to it. I held my breath as the bodies disappeared, one by one, into the old house. Through the spaces between the boards on the window I could see the occasional passing of flashlights. My stomach was in knots because part of me expected another bomb to go off—any second now, the whole place would go up and it would be my fault. Or better yet, the house was a distraction and Ares would just kill Spencer and take me again. What if the incident at the park was just a way to determine who I would go after? Who would be the best bait to reel me in?

From the car I could hear yelling—booming cop voices demanding for whoever was inside to get down, to surrender. My nails dug into the edge of the seat as we waited. Spencer kept glancing around to make sure we were alone outside. And then the door to the townhouse opened, a host of cops pouring out with irritated looks. I didn’t need to wait to know he wasn’t in there. Derek confirmed my suspicions when he came out and drove his fist into the front door, blowing a clear hole into it. The rest of the team exited as well, but they were followed by three more: two police men who were escorting a familiar boy. Luke. Deimos. Second in command.

I sat wide-eyed at the sight as they pushed him into one of the police cruisers. He turned in his seat and looked at me through the back window. Well, he tried to at least. I knew the windows were tinted so he couldn’t actually see me—but he knew I was here. His eyes practically pierced mine. He wasn’t his usual cocky self though. No, he was something else…he was confused. Worried almost. I averted my eyes from his direction and saw the team staring in my direction.

“It isn’t him.” I said quietly to myself. I had to be prepared for this. I had to know that this was all some sort of ploy. Of course he wouldn’t be caught by something as simple as a traced phone call, he wasn’t that stupid. He hadn’t been caught in almost two decades, he was nowhere near that stupid. Whatever the point of this all was eluded me, but it couldn’t be good.

“C’mon, Hotch is waving us over.” Spence said just as quiet. For a moment I just sat in the quiet, trying to come to terms with what I was beginning to understand in my heart. Where this path was leading me, what everything meant. Spencer waited for me to move before leaving, keeping close to me as we walked up the gravel driveway to the front porch.

“How’s your hand?” I asked Morgan, nodding towards the scratched up limb. He shook his head, a glare fixed on the occupied police car.

“Just fine, T-Bird.” He promised as I wrapped my arms around my body. After a few moments he shifted his focus from the police car to me. “You okay?”

“Peachy-keen, jellybean.” I placed my hand on his shoulder before nodding towards the inside of the house. “Can we start processing?”

Emily was the first to follow behind me, pressing a comforting hand to my back as we walked into the home of Ares. It was terribly dark and had a bad smell, like some mixture of rotting wood and urine and maybe some rotting animal. Whatever the combination, it was not a pleasant place to be. The structure of the townhouse was questionable to say the least, all the drywall stripped and showing the skeletal frame work like exposed ribs. This house was starving.

Cobwebs graced every nook and cranny, and more than once a mouse raced along the baseboards. There were a few chairs and ancient couch cushions scattered around the place—whether they were used by occasional squatters or Ares and Deimos was beyond me. The floor boards creaked with every step we took, and I laughed at the fact that I was almost more scared of falling through to the basement than I was at the possibility of Ares waiting somewhere in this place. Everything had been cleared, though, so I tried to push that out of my thoughts.

“The place was swept for explosives, right?” I asked Emily as we moved through the empty first floor and towards the stairs to the basement.

“Everything’s clean.” She promised. “Well…metaphorically speaking.”

She trailed a gloved finger across the bannister and it came up black with dirt and grime. She made a disgusted look that evoked a small smile out of me as we descended into the basement. It was the same as the upstairs in terms of dilapidation, but this was clearly the spot most occupied by the current dwellers. There were two make-shift cots laid out in the far corner, but much closer was an extremely out of place set up of tech stuff. There were two computers, three monitors, a mess of wires and a few other devices I didn’t even recognize.

“Penelope’s going to have fun going through all of this.” I said as I surveyed the equipment. The phone call had most definitely been traced here, and given that Ares was nowhere to be found it all seemed a bit strange. “Do you think he wanted Deimos to be caught?”

“Well he hasn’t blown us up yet,” Rossi began. “So that’s looking like the best guess.”

“But why…” I wondered, picking up a big journal and cracking it open. “Oh my God…”

I had to stop for a moment to make sure I wasn’t imagining what I was seeing. The book was full of pictures of me. They spanned from when I was fifteen until what looked like me running through Crossdale park, where we’d caught Jeremy Gornit. Although it only served in making me feel sick, I couldn’t stop flipping through the pages. He’d been following me ever since I’d been deemed a target. There were pictures from my birthday parties and of Spencer and I walking home from school—his body had been scribbled out with red marker—and the day I graduated and my mother’s funeral and me in Chicago and Paris and Vegas and Virginia. My whole life, chronicled in a 12x15 journal.

The back cover was the worst, though. On it had been pasted a photo that I’d taken of Spencer and I when I’d visited him one year. We were having dinner somewhere and I’d coerced him into taking just one picture with me. When I had gone to get the pictures developed the lady at the desk apologized, explaining that a few of the pictures hadn’t come out and the negatives had been misplaced. Spencer had rejoiced that his luck prevailed and our photo was missing. It wasn’t missing, it was stolen. Here it sat, off centre and slightly tilted. But he wasn’t scratched out this time, he was circled and an arrow drew down to one word: Leverage.

I handed the book to Rossi, announcing that I needed to go get some air. In reality, I just needed to find Spencer. I needed to know that he was safe and sound and this hadn’t been some plan to get him. My heart was at ease when I found him on the first floor. He was talking with JJ but I pulled him away, explaining what I’d found and trying as calmly as possible to tell him he needed to check in with me all the time. I told him never to leave my side and not to answer any unknown phone numbers and always be aware of his surroundings. He nodded silently and I took his hand, holding it too tightly as I looked out at the occupied police cruiser. Deimos was looking right back at me, unblinkingly.

For Spencer’s sake more than my own, I needed this to end.