Status: complete

All the Madness in the World


"When we were children, we used to think that when we grew up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability, to be alive is to be vulnerable." – Madeleine L’Engle


If you at all remember being a child, then you might recall having a slightly debilitating fear of the dark: of monsters in your closet or under your bed that only ever came out when lights were zapped. No amount of kisses or lullabies or promises from a mother or father could calm the panic. Snuggles the rabbit and that big blanket were no match against the foul things in the night. All that could save you was a nightlight.

It’s a fear of the unknown, not darkness. A horrible, crippling, terrifying fear of what could be. The same reason that nothing is ever as good in real life as you imagined: because nothing can be as beautiful—or as horrifying—as you conjure it up in your head. Some people learn to adapt as they grow older. Moving, switching schools, losing friends, making new ones, aging: it’s all change. But not everyone is so good with it.

I was one of those people.

For the longest time I had a deep-seeded hatred for change unless completely necessary. Unfamiliar places were scary to me, and I could never get comfortable. Always the last to doze off at sleepovers, waking up before the call at hotels. There was no more foreign place, though, than hospitals.

A few minutes into my return to consciousness made me very aware of a few things: the sickening scent of sterilization, the uncomfortable standard hospital gown, the obscene brightness that burned red through my eyelids, and the beeping of at least ten different machines. There was an odd tingling sensation that mingled throughout my body, twinkling at random points as my memories came back to me.

I was supposed to be dead.

My eyes fluttered open at the recollection of Miller’s dead face, but they slammed shut immediately from the light. I began to sit up, easing my lids open and cringing at the elevated beeping of the heart monitor. A pain shot out from my stomach before I could sit up straight and I collapsed back down, clawing at the oxygen mask on my face. My eyes adjusted in time to see a face at the door.

“Natasha!” Spencer ran inside, stumbling over a cord as he came up to me. Hotch followed in after him and I tried not to think about all that would need saying. Spence hesitated before putting his arms gingerly around me, scared to press too hard. I could hear him sniffling back tears and despite the pain I held him close. He gave me a look as I finally pried the mask off my face and began to scratch at the IV drips in my arms.

“Spence, are you okay? How’s your head?” The voice that came from my throat was croaky and dry. He looked at me, bewildered, as I traced my fingers along the bandage on his temple. Hotch stepped outside and spoke to a nurse, pointing to his left before she nodded and went in that direction. “Did you need stitches?”

“I’m not the one in the hospital bed.” He said wearily, pulling a chair up beside me and preventing me from pulling at all the cords and tubes as little droplets streamed from his eyes.

“Oh don’t worry about me, I’m just fine.” Pushing myself up, I cringed and was forced backwards once more as I clutched the injured area. Through the fabric of the gown I felt tens of little bumps were scattered in a line. Sutures. I felt incredibly drowsy, despite the complete consciousness of my mind. Ares—Miller’s face was there each time I closed my eyes, and although I knew it was Spencer’s hand that reached out to hold mine, it felt like Miller’s skin and it was like I could hear his low voice whispering just outside the door.

“No, Tash…you’re not.” He said quietly. “You were in surgery for eight hours…I didn’t—They couldn’t tell me if you were going to make it or not.”

“I’m here, and in a bit I’ll be on my feet and back home so don’t you go worrying about me okay?”


“Spencer, I love you, but I’m fine and instead of telling me I’m not, I’d really like some water or coffee or something.”

He opened his mouth to argue again but with a single look I silenced him. The unspoken thoughts came out in a heavy sigh as he got to his feet and slid out the door. Hotch looked at me for a moment before turning towards the door.

“I’m putting you on paid leave until the doctor clears you.” He said stiffly as he reached for the door.

“You’re—you’re not firing me?” At this he turned to me, confused. “You said if I went in there…I’d lose my badge…”

“Natasha…” He began, all authority gone from his voice. “I was trying to stop you from going in so that this wouldn’t have happened.”

We stayed silent as the machines went on with their beeping and buzzing and bright lights. It was only now, as I avoided his eyes and looked around the room, that I noticed all the flowers and cards that had been left on side tables and chairs. My hand reached up and touched the bandage on my neck, covering the freshly burned scar that still had the heat of hell locked in it.

“I’ll give you some quiet.”

“No,” I cried out, halting him where he stood. “Please don’t leave me alone here.”

Hesitating for a moment, he caved and pulled up a chair to my bedside. His hand slid into mine as my face became laden with tears. There was so much fear, so much panic that I didn’t want Spencer to see; he worried enough without seeing how bad I truly was. All I wanted to do was curl up and have time to cry and just be held by someone. No, not just someone…

“You know,” I began, sniffing and wiping at my eyes. “There was a point down there…Right before I passed out. I started to believe him. I was convinced he was Ares, and I think he knew it.”

“He’s gone, Tash.” Hotch brought up his other hand and covered mine, his thumb gently moving across the back of my hand. “It’s over.”

“I don’t think it’ll ever really be over…This doesn’t feel like winning. Not at all.”

“That’ll be the morphine, sweetie,” Penelope said from the door with watery eyes as Hotch’s hand slipped from mine. She marched up to my bedside and added another bouquet to the collection, leaning forward and hugging me; Derek, Emily, JJ and Rossi all piled in after her, and soon after Spencer returned. Derek threw the piece of crumpled paper that could have only been my letter in the garbage before forcing me to endure his bear arms enveloping my broken body.

“Don’t you ever pull that bullshit again.” He said quietly as Spencer cleared his throat from the back of the room. He wiggled to the front and handed me a bottle of water. Derek intercepted it and twisted the cap before letting me have it.

“My hero.” I said sarcastically before taking a gulp. “Don’t you guys have work to be doing? I won’t get better any faster from you standing here.”

“Actually, there’s research to support the thesis that presentation of familiar stimuli in the form of contact with friends and relatives actually promotes higher neuron firing rates, which in turn speeds up the rate at which damaged cells repair themselves.”

“Cite your source.” I challenged, smiling as he rocked on his feet for a moment.

“Professor Darcy Jodwin, University of Cambridge, in her 1986 paper The Positive Correlation Between Stimuli and Recovery, published in Scientific American Mind.”

“Nice try, Spence, but I think everyone knows Jodwin studied experimental psychology, not neuroscience.”

Hotch had melted to the back of the room, Emily taking up his seat. JJ had gone to my place and picked up a change of clothes for when I was released, placing the bundle at the edge of my bed, and Rossi brought me a book I’d once talked about on one of the many plane rides so I had something to do in the lonely hours to come. They did a wonderful job at making me feel like I hadn’t just been through what I had, cracking jokes and starting conversation and overtaking the hospital soundtrack.

One by one they were whisked away, called to other engagements that they had no way of escaping. Each left with a hug or some equivalent of a parting gesture, with promises to visit soon. Rossi was out in the hall talking to Hotch, leaving me alone with Derek and Spencer.

“Spence, I’m really sorry to keep banishing you, but could you give me a sec with Derek?” I asked, sitting up in my bed a little. With a yawn he obeyed, shuffling out of the room and closing the door behind him.

“What’s up?” Derek took a seat on the edge of my bed.

“Derek, you wouldn’t lie to me, right?” I fidgeted with the edge of the bed sheet and he raised an eyebrow.

“Of course not.”

“Okay…Well I want to know everything that happened after Spencer came outside. I…I was out of my mind down there so everything’s distorted in my memory. I just want to know what happened.” After a moment he nodded, taking time to think back to the beginning and filled in the missing pieces.

Spencer came out of the house, hands up in surrender and blood streaming down his face. When the order not to fire came he broken into a run, holding one hand against his head. He reached Morgan, Hotchner, Rossi, JJ and Prentiss; he was thinking too quickly and skipping too many words: no one could understand him.

“Slow down, kid.” Morgan said, grabbing hold of his shoulder as the medics rushed over to him.

“Reid, where is he taking her?” Hotch demanded as the boy shook in his shoes.

“I-I don’t know! I don’t know! Hotch we have to go in there, he’s going to kill her!”

“Set up a perimeter,” Hotch bellowed to the surrounding policemen. “Have eyes on every door and window, check for a cellar. Go! I need SWAT and Bomb Squad inside with us now! Reid, stay here. The rest of you, with me.”

The group followed behind SWAT, halting for only a moment before entering the unlocked door. They immediately spread out, working their way carefully around each corner and shouting ‘clear!’ The agents called out for Natasha, but just as an officer took his first step upstairs, a series of blood curdling cries wormed their way through every creaky floorboard.

“Over here!” Prentiss called everyone over to a locked door. Hotch ordered for it to be broken down.

“But we haven’t cleared upstairs yet!” One of the men cried.

“Open it!” He yelled in response, the shuffling feet of the men carrying the battering ram were calm in juxtaposition to the screams. The voice called out for Hotchner, for mercy, for Father, for God. The SWAT member pulled his arms back and released, crashing against the door: but it did not budge. Again, the screams and pleading.


The battering ram hit its target three, four, five times; the cries reached a crescendo with the sixth, but ceased altogether before the seventh finally defeated its enemy. Hotch took the lead, descending the stairs with his gun at the ready. The flames were felt before they were seen: the basement, under normal circumstances the coolest place in a home, was blazing hot. But this all came secondary to the fact that Miller stood before them, bloodied and beaming.

“Anton Miller! Put the knife down and step away from the girl!” Morgan bellowed, all of the agents lined up behind their leader.

“We’ve got bombs.” Prentiss said, eyes glued to the girl on the table.

“There’s accelerant trailing right to it from the fire.” Rossi added.

“Miller!” Morgan cried again, but the man did not surrender. With a laugh he reached forward and stroked the dying girl’s hair.

Everything has its breaking point. This was Aaron Hotchner’s. He took a single step forward, aimed his gun, and fired a bullet into the back of Miller’s head. The man collapsed, but the smile remained. Hotchner stepped over to the man and fired three more shots into the already lifeless body. JJ screamed for a medic. Prentiss crossed over to the girl. Morgan began to usher everyone out of the soon-to-be-detonated house.

Hotchner hovered over the body for a moment longer before instructing Emily to keep Reid away and tell the paramedics to leave the gurney they had: he could see that she was bleeding too much to be moved to another one. Morgan stationed himself at one end of the would-be death bed, ready to lift it out. Hotchner pulled off his jacket, crumpling it into a wad and pressing it against the gaping wound in the girl’s stomach. In response to this pressure the wound expelled more blood; an endless fountain of crimson red that drenched his hands and pooled around the girl’s body.

“Natasha, stay with me.” He called, keeping his eyes on her fluttering lids as her head lolled. He felt around under the gurney for the latch that would collapse it, nodding to Morgan when he found it. The device lowered down and Rossi took the other end. Hotch walked alongside them, keeping pressure, as they made their way up the stairs as quickly as possible.

“Don’t you quit on me, girl!” Morgan called out as they descended the front steps. All the vehicles, save the ambulance, had moved off to a safe distance. The team was waiting outside the emergency vehicle as the girl was carried out; the medics rushing to take over and immediately taking note of the injuries. JJ had taken Reid away from the scene, and as the paramedics pulled the girl into the van, they announced the hospital they’d be taking her to. Prentiss climbed in after the girl and Hotch took the other seat; Rossi and Morgan going to meet up with the rest of them at the hospital.

“They took you straight into surgery. The bombs went off when the ambulance turned the corner, so everyone was fine. Until I found what you wrote—do you have any idea what it was like to read that out loud?”

“Derek…” I began, taking his hands in mine.

“You don’t ever give me something like that, okay? And you don’t ever again do what you did today.”

“I’d do it a thousand times over if it meant saving any of you.” I said honestly. His eyes glossed over as he rolled them, shaking his head at me before pressing his lips to my forehead.

“After you got out they said you needed rest and Hotch tried to send us home. We all just made camp in the waiting room till the nurse came, baby girl.”

“And…” I took a minute to process everything. “His body…it’s?”

“Burned into dust.”

“Thank you Derek. For everything.”

“Anytime, T-Bird.” He smiled, pulling me into a hug and getting up to leave. He paused at the door, hand on the doorknob, and turned. “But you know, there’s one thing I’m sure of.”

“What’s that?”

“Hotch took all the classes in negotiation. He could talk guys into surrendering in his sleep. He always leaves shooting till the last possible minute. But this…he didn’t hesitate. Didn’t even speak to the guy. Shot him after he was dead. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like any of us are gonna say anything about breaking protocol.”

“What are you saying?”

“I don’t know if you know this, but Hotch’s ex-wife was murdered by an unsub. The way he looked at Miller, the way he acted…I just don’t think he could stand going through that again. Not with someone he cared about.”

A blush took over my cheeks that I couldn’t cover. With one last smile, Derek opened the door and left me in the pseudo-silence. I watched as he joined Hotch and Rossi, the three of them looking over at me but my eyes only meeting one pair. Spencer opened the door and freed me from the sight, peeling off his shoulder bag and curling up in the chair. He was giving me a look that made my heart ache.

“I’m here, aren’t I? You would’ve done the same stupid thing for me so don’t give me that look, Spencer Reid.”

“I thought I was going to lose you.” He said quietly.

“I told you I wasn’t going to leave you, Spence. I mean it, okay?” His eyes were glued to the floor and I sighed. “You’re a man of science. What are your facts? I am alive. Miller is dead. I’m not going anywhere, I promise. Please don’t look at me like that.”

Wiping at his eyes, he pulled a book free and flipped to his bookmark.

“Get some sleep, Tash.”
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I really appreciate all of the positive feedback on the last chapter, it means a lot to hear from you guys! I'd love to hear more :]