Status: complete

All the Madness in the World

Meet the Morgans

"Worse than telling a lie is spending your whole life staying true to a lie." – Robert Brault


“Pass the remote.” Derek kicked at my leg and I raised an eyebrow at him. He had sprawled out on his couch, giving me very little room to sit, having slid further and further down as the night had progressed. Technically the remote was closer to me, but it was his place. He could get it himself.

“Didn’t know you were handicapped, Morgan.” I challenged, pulling the blanket up around my neck and settling down. His eyebrows rose and he turned to me.

“Don’t give me that sass, T-Bird.” He scolded, sitting up and grabbing the remote before collapsing back down. “Unless you think Prettyboy can move all your furniture next week.”

It took me a moment to realize he meant Spencer, not Hotch. I called him a jerk and he nudged me again. It was one in the morning when I woke up in my apartment shaking from a particularly nasty rendition of that all-too frequent nightmare. Hotch was watching Jack for the night, Spencer was staying overnight in Richmond for a conference he was guest speaking for. Derek was of course asleep when I called him, but despite my best efforts the shakiness of my voice woke him right up. He’d come all the way to my half-packed apartment, picked me up, and spent the next two hours watching bad infomercials with me and reminiscing of our glory days in Chicago.

“Alright,” he stretched, releasing a monstrous yawn before getting to his feet. “I’m beat. I’m gonna go get my stuff and you’re gonna go get some sleep. First room on the left.”

“Derek I woke you up and basically invited myself over, I’m not taking your bed.” I challenged, crossing my arms over my chest as he defiantly put his hands on his hips.

“Woman, this is my place and those are my rules.” He insisted. “Now get your ass up before I make you. And if you need anything you come get me, alright baby girl?”

He was half way to the hallway and I was half way out of my seat when his phone started buzzing. Turning back, he picked it up and I waited: no one calls at 3 am with good news. Ever.

“Hey, is everything alright?” He asked, voice bereft of any panic. “What’s wrong, is it Ma?”

My heart was working into a panic, a million thoughts running through my head as I clutched the borrowed blanket in my grip. No. She had to be okay. After all that she’d done for me, for her kids, she couldn’t disappear now.

“I’ll catch the next flight.” He said quickly before hanging up. For a moment he just stood there, and then it was like for the moment he’d forgotten all about my being there. He immediately set off towards his room but turned back after a second. “It’s…Something happened to Desiree. She’s hurt. I gotta go.”

“I’m coming with you.” I stammered out, grabbing my jacket off the back of the dining room chair and slipping it on. He didn’t even bother arguing, just disappeared down the hallway to presumably put on some real clothes and get what he would need. While I waited by the door, double checking my purse for everything I would need for a flight, I dialed Hotch’s number.


“Hey, I’m so sorry, I know it’s late and all.” Derek returned with a worried expression slowly carving away at his face. I opened the door, stepping into the hallway as he locked up.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Derek silently led the way down the staircase and into the underground parking. “Look, something’s come up and Morgan and I need to go to Chicago. I don’t know how long for, but I’ll call you when we get there.”

“What’s happened?” He asked as Derek unlocked the car. I slid into the passenger’s seat and buckled my seatbelt just in time for him to blitz out of the garage.

“His sister’s in the hospital.” I said quietly. “I’ll call you later, okay?”

“Be safe.”

I slipped the phone back into my purse and risked a glance over at Derek. His eyebrows were furrowed and he kept one hand on the gear shift, tapping ceaselessly. Reaching out, I took his hand in mine. It was all I could do: we didn’t know how badly Desiree was hurt so I didn’t want to promise that she would be okay if she wasn’t going to be. All I could do was let him know that I was there and pray that she’d make it through.


“Oh Natasha, you didn’t have to come all this way.”

“Yes I did, Mama Morgan.” I smiled, taking comfort in her embrace but frowning at the state of her. She was an emotional mess. I let Derek cut in and turned to his other sister. “How’ve you been, Sarah?”

“I’ve been okay.” She smiled weakly. “We miss you ‘round the dinner table. Not the same without our Vegas girl.”

“How is she?” Derek asked, gripping his mother’s hands in his own as Sarah linked her arm with mine.

“Doctors say she’s going to be alright.” Sarah nodded. “She was involved in a back-to-back car accident. She’s hurt, but she’ll live.”

“Alright.” He nodded, taking a deep breath. “Mama why don’t you go home and get some sleep? I got it from here.”

“No, I should stay here with my baby.”

“Fran, you need to rest.” I pushed quietly. “She’ll be here when you come back.”

After a moment she finally gave in and exchanged goodbyes with all of us. I asked Derek if he wanted me to wait outside while he went in but he assured me it would be okay for me to join him. Sarah went to get a coffee and the two of us sat on either side of Desiree’s bed. It was hard, seeing her so beat up. She was the baby of the family; the family that had taken me in even after Derek had gone to Quantico.

“Either my big brother is in the room or somebody else is wearing his nasty-ass cologne.” She smiled, one eye too swollen to open as she looked at him. He smiled back, getting to his feet.

“Well hey there.”

“Tasha, baby.” She mused as I took her hand in mine and kissed it. “So this is what it takes to get you two back here?”

“I missed you, Dee-dee.”

“Where’s mom?” She asked, squirming as she tried to look around the room. I looked up at Derek, leaving all of the talking for him.

“I sent her home to get some rest.” He said before taking on a more serious demeanour. “Desi, what were you thinking? Who were you chasing?”

“I didn’t see the driver. But the passenger…It was Cindi.”

“Aunt Yvonne’s Cindi?” Derek asked, heaving out a sigh as she nodded. “Desi, she’s dead.”

“I swear to God, she was as close as you are to me. Closer.”

“Now you gotta listen to me.” He demanded gently, taking her free hand in his. “Sometimes our mind plays tricks on us. We invent things. That’s why witness testimonies—”

“No.” She asserted. “When I got her to look at me, she didn’t just recognize me. She said something. She said ‘I’m sorry’. Now would I invent that?”

“Try and get some sleep, Desiree.” I pressed my lips to her forehead and Derek joined me as we left her, moving into an empty waiting room and staring at each other. “What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know.” He said quietly, eyes stuck on a spot on the wall. “Do I risk telling them I lied on the hope that Des was right? And if she’s not, I don’t know what aunt Yvonne is going to do…”

He’d made a choice when we were working the case in Florida to tell his aunt and the rest of his family that the unsub had murdered Cindi, that her remains had been found. It was a decision that would give the family closure, because they’d been dreading her fate for too long. But if there was even a chance that Desiree was right and actually did see Cindi, there was only one group of people I trusted to bring her home.

“Derek, I think you should call everyone in on this.” I said, resting my hand on his shoulder. “If Desi’s right…”

He nodded, taking a deep breath and making the call as I stood at his side. I could hear the exchange, could see as Derek’s eyes watered as he explained the lie he’d told his family and what was going on. Of course Hotch agreed to take the case, and he promised they’d leave as soon as possible. He hung up the phone and we stood a moment in silence before his head snapped towards the door. Sarah was standing there wide eyed and he sighed heavily before walking out towards her. She was frozen in fear, eyes watering as she stared at him.

“What have you done?” She hissed before walking off.

“Sarah, wait.” I called out, running after her. She tried to shrug me off but I pushed my way into her personal space, pulling her into my arms until she gave up and started to cry. From down the hall I could hear Derek talking to the team on the phone, briefing them on the circumstances of Cindi’s disappearance: how she’d had a persistent stalker in Chicago that the police couldn’t do anything about, how she’d left town on her family’s advice and wasn’t heard from again, and how her stalker had committed suicide two weeks later.

“I need to go.” Sarah said quietly. I was reluctant to let her leave but I knew she needed space and time to come to grips with things. I told her to call if she needed anything before watching her leave. When I went back down the hallway Derek was back in the empty room, only this time with his aunt Yvonne. He must have told her the truth because she slapped him across the face before storming out of the room. I hovered at the door a moment before wandering inside. I waited for him to look up at me before going any closer: I didn’t want to smother him. This was a family matter, and as close as we were I still was just his friend.

“The team should be here soon.” I mumbled, hesitating before wrapping my arms around him. “We’ll figure this out, Derek. I promise you that.”

“Thanks, baby girl.” He muttered, so far gone in his own thoughts.

“You should call Garcia.” I suggested as we pulled away. “She’ll know how to cheer you up.”

He smiled weakly, letting me kiss his cheek before we went back to Desiree’s room. It was only forty minutes before I got the call from Hotch that they were on their way to the local station; the place I used to work. Derek had left earlier, needing some time to himself and knowing I would watch over Desiree while he was gone. She had fallen back asleep but by the time I got the call Sarah had returned. I explained to her that we were reopening the case and she nodded, wishing me luck as I left to meet the others at the station.

Hotch was the first one I saw when I got there, and just seeing him took a weight off of my shoulders. I kissed him quickly before letting him catch me up on what was going on as we headed towards where everyone had set up. A few of the officers had recognized me and came up, asking how I’d been, but I had kept the conversations short: I was much more concerned with our case.

“So she had two stalkers?” Derek asked as we caught up.

“No, only one.” Rossi explained. “Ford fights the profile better than Hitchens.”

Malcolm Ford was the registered buyer of the gun Hitchens, Cindi’s stalker, used to kill himself with. As JJ explained, Ford had a slew of assault and harassment charges from ex-girlfriends. There was also the matter of receipts for black and white camera equipment, the kind that was used to take all the pictures found at the scene of Hitchens’ suicide.

“So this guy killed Hitchens and then set him up?” Derek was staring at the picture of Ford, committing every detail of his face to memory.

“It makes sense, behaviourally.” Emily explained. “If he was stalking your cousin he would have seen Hitchens as competition, so he kills him and plants the photos to throw off your investigation.”

“Hotch I want to bring this guy in and question him personally.”

“Garcia just sent us his address.” Hotch said before pulling him aside. I took a seat at the table, pulling the nearest pile of paperwork towards me and going through it. Derek pulled Spencer, JJ, and a few of the local police to join him on the raid. I wished him luck and they disappeared to suit up. Hotch took a seat beside me and claimed some of the papers for his own. “You don’t want to go with him?”

“I’ve got a feeling Ford isn’t going to be there, and that things are going to get a whole lot worse before they get better.” I said quietly, looking up at him. “I don’t want to be there every time it gets worse, because by the time he actually needs me I’ll have nothing left to say, you know?”

He nodded and we were silent as Emily fluttered past us. I was reading the papers but not really reading them, my mind so full of worries and fears. “You were with him when he got the call, right?”

“Yeah, I…” I looked around before lowering my voice. “I had the dream again, and I knew you were with Jack, and Spencer was out of town…”

“You could have called me.” He said with a frown, filling me with guilt. “You could’ve come over.”

“Don’t worry, a week from now you won’t have any choice but to deal with my spontaneous night terrors.” I said sarcastically as Emily joined us. “Have they left?”

“Yeah, they should be there soon.” She explained, looking up at the evidence board. “Poor Morgan.”

The team was gone for no more than thirty minutes, and returned empty handed as I’d anticipated. Derek was looking worse and worse by the minute and Spencer waited until he’d left to recount all that they’d found. The torture devices, the covered tracks, and one piece of paper that hadn’t been properly destroyed by the fireplace.

Derek went to talk to Yvonne as the rest of us gathered the police to deliver the profile. We explained that Cindi Morgan had been held captive for eight years now by Malcolm Ford, a man who frequented her local church. Over the years her Ego had been completely shattered and wiped clean, replaced with severe Stockholm syndrome and something even worse. Ford had made her believe in the Company. A Sado-Masochist roleplay scenario where the dominant male convinces the submissive female that she was a slave and that any attempt at escape or acting in a displeasing way would result in the Company killing them as well as their family.

“The language in the slave contract we found may indicate where Ford is heading.” Rossi explained. I kept glancing towards the hall where Derek was having to explain this all to his aunt. I wanted to go to him and help him through this, but we would never get through this case if I couldn’t get my perspective in check. “It talks of an underground network, so we know there’s a group of people he trusts.”

After the briefing Hotch divided us up into group, each with a specific area to canvas for the whereabouts of Ford. Rossi and I grouped up with Derek and as the night grew deeper we headed out. It was quiet in the car, uncomfortably quiet, but each of us knew why and didn’t bother to press the matter. We were about ten minutes away from our destination when Garcia called Rossi, who put her on speaker.

“I got a 911 call at a grocery store identifying a couple that matches your description. Hotch and the gang are on their way but you guys are closer.” She patched through the last seen location and the model of the car; Derek floored it as Rossi and I drew our weapons. My heart was racing and I prayed with all I had in me that this would be the end. That we would catch them just in time and we could rescue Cindi.

“There he is!” Rossi pointed to the green van in ahead and Derek sped up behind him, sirens blaring. The car slowly pulled over to the sidewalk and Derek stopped the car centimetres from his bumper. He leapt out of the car as Rossi and I followed, the Chicago PD backing us up.

“Get out of the car, and put your hands where I can see them!” Derek bellowed, edging closer to the vehicle. A pair of hands moved out the window and were soon joined by the body of Malcolm Ford.

“Put your hands behind your head and get on your knees.” Rossi commanded, our guns trained in synchronization on Ford as he complied. Derek ran around to the back of the van, wretching open the door. “What do you got, Morgan?”

“Nothing.” He came back around with fury on his face. “It’s empty.”

“Morgan?” Ford asked with a smile. “Agent Derek Morgan. Well, well.”

“Where is she?” Derek demanded as Ford laughed.

“Where is who?” The smile stayed on his face even as Derek pressed the gun to his head and repeated the question. My heart skipped a beat and I took two steps forward, grabbing his hand and trying to pull it away. But he was resisting, battling the urge to blow Ford’s brains out right here in the open. And he would do it, too. I knew that.

“Morgan.” I said quietly, trying to snap him out of it. He ignored me until I turned my back to Ford, facing him completely and blocking the man from his view. “Derek.”

He finally lowered his gun, taking a few steps back as Rossi cuffed Ford and sent him with one of the officers. I stayed as a barrier between the two until Ford was pushed into the back seat of a cruiser and Derek started off towards the car.

“Hey, where are you going?” I called out, running to go in front of him.

“I’m riding back to the station with him.”

“No, you’re staying here and processing the scene.” Rossi ordered, not even flinching as Derek’s anger transferred to him.

“Rossi, come on!” He cried out, watching as the cop got into the driver’s seat.


There was a moment of silence, a fraction of time where I thought Derek may try to challenge him, but it passed and he stormed off. Rossi and I exchanged a look and I waited a few minutes before going over to him. He was absolutely fuming and it worried me; never had I seen him so angry in all our time knowing each other.

“Everything will work out.” I promised, trying to block his view of the disappearing police cruiser. He huffed and looked away from me, but I moved closer towards him. “C’mon, don’t bottle it up. Just let me have it. Talk to me.”

“Yeah, like you talked to me all those times you were crying in the break room? Or the entire month you stayed at home just talking to me every day so that I could help you? Yeah, sure.”

I stood wide-eyed at him, almost not believing that he had actually just said those things. My eyes began to water and I walked away from him, taking refuge in the crime scene of a grocery store and wandering into an empty aisle. I knew that he was just snapping because of the stress of everything, I knew that he would apologize because he didn’t mean it, but that knowledge didn’t help erase how I felt. I almost broke down in the middle of the crime scene, and when I knew there were enough other officers to assist Morgan and Rossi I hitched a ride back with some rookie cop.

Back at the station I wandered the familiar halls back to the evidence board. The reason I’d kept my feelings to myself were because if I’d actually gone to someone every time I felt like breaking down or crying they’d all think I needed therapy. If I’d allowed myself to give in to all the things I felt I wouldn’t have been able to leave my apartment at all. There wasn’t anything any of them could do for the most part; and my bottled feelings weren’t putting an entire investigation at risk. The fact that he acted like I didn’t care about him at all just wrapped my heart up with barbed wire, forcing an ache into my chest that resulted in a few tears that I tried to covertly wipe away.

“What’s the matter?” Hotch asked, placing his hand on my lower back and catching me completely off guard. He motioned for me to follow him and he found an empty office to take refuge in. “What happened?”

“It’s nothing, really…” I began, trying to stop feeling sorry for myself when there were more pressing matters at hand. “Derek, he just sort of lost it on me. Said some things.”

I stopped talking entirely and he let me take comfort in his grasp, enveloping me in his arms as I forced myself to regain my composure. We needed to find Cindi. She was alive, and she was somewhere close. We had Ford, we could find her. As I pulled away Hotch held me there for a moment, kissing me before releasing me.

“Ford hasn’t asked for a lawyer yet, which means he’s baiting us.” Hotch explained as we exited the room. “He’s expecting Morgan, so Rossi and I decided to do something to throw him off. We want you and JJ to do the interrogation, are you up for it?”

“Absolutely.” I nodded, prepping myself as we came to the door. JJ raised her eyebrows at me, silently asking if I was ready, and after a short briefing on tactics the guard let us in.

“So I get home and of course he’s still up past his bed time.” JJ sighed as we walked in, completely absorbed in our own conversation as we sat down.

“Reminds me why I’m not married.” I joked, pulling a stray thread off my shirt.

“Well neither am I, technically.” She reasoned and we laughed.

“Do you guys ever…talk about it?”

“Oh please.” She snorted as I played with my hair. “Like I need a man to tell me what to do.”

“Excuse me.” Ford said from his side of the table. I shushed him, holding up my hand as we both glared.

“The adults are talking.” JJ said. “When it’s your turn to speak, I’ll give you permission, okay?”

“So did you end up getting any sleep at all?” I asked as she turned back to me. She rolled her eyes, shaking her head as our conversation slowly dwindled. At last I turned to the case file in my hands, opening it up and flipping through it. “Okay, what are we doing….Right. So, Malcolm, do you want to confess now or just go straight to prison?”

“Look, my wife and I had a disagreement in that store.” He said smugly.

“Wife?” JJ asked. “You’re married?”

“No, this is about John Hitchens.” I explained. “His suicide is looking more like a murder and the gun traces back to you.”

He was completely silent, having been totally thrown off from whatever script he’d made in his head. JJ and I exchanged a look before gathering ourselves and getting up.

“Well he’s not talking. Let’s go meet with the wife.” We headed towards the door, but he stopped us.

“I don’t know who this Hitchens person is, but if you had anything on me you would’ve charged me by now. You’re here because of Cindi.”

“You caught us.” I said, shrugging as we sat back down.

“You know, this is my favourite part.” JJ said, folding her hands on the table. “This is where you hang yourself with your own tongue so please keep talking.”

“What are you doing here?” He hissed at her. “With a baby at home being raised by a man you’re not married to? What are you doing here?”

“It’s work.” She shrugged, face completely blank. “We make it work. Where’s Cindi?”

“I know all about work. Negotiating who does the dishes, fighting over who does the laundry. Except Cindi and I never fight. She knows her role.”

After you beat her into signing a contract.” I challenged, staring him straight in the eye.

“What we have is a bond you know nothing about.” He responded, chest puffing up. “But I’ll tell you about it…If you ask permission.”

“C’mon.” I said, getting to my feet and laughing him off as I headed towards the door. After a minute JJ followed and we met with the others outside. A fury was building within me. “Please let us go back in there.”

“No.” Hotch said calmly.

“His guard is down, he thinks he can manipulate me.” JJ reasoned, pleading with Hotch for another chance to ruin this guy.

“We can’t give him what he wants.” He replied. “We need to keep him off balance.”

“Then let me go in.” Derek said, entering the room. We all looked at him expectantly, but I looked away when his eye met mine. “I can get into his head. Look I know I have no right to ask but please, trust me on this. I can break him.”

Hotch nodded and as he went inside JJ and I walked off to get some space between us and Ford. It wasn’t until we were standing away that I realized how much he’d reminded me of Miller. And I realized that what I’d endured for four months, Cindi had endured for eight years. It made me suddenly nauseous, and the image of Miller and Ford began to blur in my mind; an indistinguishable line. JJ stayed with me, the both of us feeling the Malcolm after effect. We stayed in the hallway for the duration of the interrogation until Derek stormed out with Hotch.

“I was in control! I wasn’t going to hurt him!”

“Someone has retained a lawyer on his behalf.” Hotch said as a woman turned the corner of the hallway. My heart dropped as I recognized her from the security camera footage of the grocery store. It was Cindi. The beating thing inside my chest squirmed at the sight of Derek’s face as he looked at her.

“Oh my god.” He breathed. “Cindi.”

“Stop!” A man standing before he said. “You are not to speak to her or to Malcolm Ford without me present.”

“What the hell is this?” He challenged, eyes flickering between the man and his cousin.

“You’re holding my client on suspicion of kidnapping. As you can see, the victim is alive and well.”

“Kept against her will.” Hotch offered, but Cindi snapped towards him.

“No. He’s my husband. Now drop the charges.”

“Cindi!” Morgan cried out. “Why are you doing this?”

“Because I love him.” She said simply. Everyone was silent for a moment before Emily asked the both of them to move to a separate room for further questioning. Spencer went with them and JJ and I watched Derek. He swayed on the spot for a moment before gathering his composure and following the rest of us to the main area while Emily and Spencer tried to get something, anything out of her.

After a few minutes Cindi and the lawyer exited, Emily shaking her head slowly. Derek got to his feet, disappearing down a hallway and returning with his aunt as Cindi met Ford at the end of the hall. She embraced him, kissed him, made us all believe she genuinely loved him. JJ and I watched from afar as, at the last minute, Yvonne called out for her. Ford let her talk, heading out to the parking lot. There was a short exchange of words, but even though she looked heartbroken she quickly left the building.

All of us gathered near the evidence board after a few minutes, racking our brains for an explanation of what on earth just happened. Severe Stockholm syndrome? Battered wife syndrome? Genuine love?

“That’s not her.” Derek insisted. “That’s not my cousin.”

“Derek’s right.” I nodded, sitting forward in my chair. “Listen, when you’re taken by someone and they beat you into compliance, that’s all it is: compliance. When you have a family like the Morgans, when your cousin is Derek, the big bad FBI, you wouldn't ever give up. It doesn’t matter how long she’s been with him: she’s learned to adapt, she hasn’t given up. I can promise you all that much.”

“But what could be keeping her?” Emily pressed. “If she knows the company isn’t real, what’s holding her back?”

“Only something important would make her agree to torture…”I began, looking up at Spencer and remembering how I’d felt when I walked into Miller’s hellhouse. “Her family is safe. It can’t be another man, she’s had no chance to meet anyone else…”

“She said she needed to cook dinner for ‘him.’” Derek picked up the tub of instant soup that Cindi had tried to steal from the grocery store, which called us over in the first place. “Would you make this for your husband? JJ, would you make that for Will?”

“No.” She shook her head. “I might for Henry though.”

“Exactly.” Derek said, throwing the soup onto the table. “When I was growing up, this is what Cindi and I ate. This exact brand. Hotch, what did your mom make you for breakfast?”

“Oatmeal and orange juice.”

“And what do you make for Jack?” He challenged.

“Oatmeal and orange juice. The same brand.”

“She might have been making dinner, but it wasn’t for Malcolm Ford.” Derek insisted.

“You think she has a child?” Emily asked.

“But we didn’t profile that, there was no evidence in the house of a child.” Spencer offered.

“Unless he keeps the child from her to keep her in line.” I proposed. “That fits the profile. It’s the only theory that would explain her behaviour.”

“Alright Morgan.” Hotch nodded, sitting back in his chair. “Prove it.”

“Derek,” I reached over, touching his shoulder before I remembered he was supposed to be irritated with me. “The lawyer. How’d she get him so quickly if she’s been kept in line for eight years?”

He nodded, calling Garcia as we all listened in. She worked her magic, as she always did, and found out the lawyer had a mail-order bride from Russia. Exactly the kind of person that could be molded into the perfect servant; that would believe in the company. Of course Ford would have a lawyer on standby who traveled in the same circles as him. And now Derek had the leverage to get the location of the children out of him. It was in all likelihood where Ford was taking Cindi now that she’d sprung him from jail and covered their tracks.

When he came out of the interrogation room it was with an address not twenty minutes away from us. They had a maximum ten minute lead on us, but we were all quick to pile into our cars and start the chase. The address was for a cabin near a lake, but when we got there the only adults inside were a white couple. Emily and I followed Derek inside, stumbling onto a room full of sleeping children.

“How many of them are there?” Emily asked, mortified as the children began to stir. Derek told us to secure them as he went off in search of Ford. They began to ask if it was Christmas, if it was time to see their mommies. “We’re going to take you someplace safe, okay?”

“Officers, we need to get these kids to the station.” I called out to the nearest badge. “Em, we should follow Derek. If he gets into trouble…”

She nodded and then went out back, following the only logical path: into the woods. We could hear Derek calling and followed the sound of his voice. It was pitch black except for our flashlights and dead silent except for his voice; all of my instincts were on high alert.

“Cindi, he’s been fooling you for eight years, the company isn’t real!”

“I know.” She said, holding a gun up. At first I thought it was pointed at Derek, but as he rose I saw it was fixed on Ford’s head. I motioned for Emily to follow me around to corner Ford. As we got to the treeline Ford got to his feet, making a run for it straight at us.

“Malcolm Ford,” Emily began, moving forward with a pair of handcuffs as I kept my gun on him. “You’re under the arrest for kidnapping, child endangerment, and the murder of John Hitchens.”

He was glaring fire at me as these two would-be slave girls forced him up the hill and into a squad car. We got back to the station and I busied myself cleaning up the evidence board, watching the reunion out of the corner of my eye. Cindi’s little boy was beautiful, and seemed to be adjusting well to his new-found family. A small comfort, knowing that the abuse didn’t extend to the children. The Morgan girls were shedding enough tears to fill a reservoir, and the pulled Derek into a great big family hug. My thoughts drifted to Desiree and how she would be out of hospital soon. I made a mental note to visit her before we left Chicago as I packed all the pictures and papers into the appropriate evidence folders and boxes. With a pen I filled out the little form on the lid of the box with the necessary case information.

“There’s my T-Bird.” I turned to find Derek walking up to me, eyes glazed over. He stopped beside me, knocking one finger on the desk for a moment before looking up at me. “About my little outburst…”

“Don’t.” I shook my head. “Go be with your family.”

“Just let me do this, okay?” He pushed, turning me towards him and putting his hands on my shoulder. “I’m sorry. What I said was out of line and even all that anger wasn’t a good excuse.”

“Derek Morgan.” I shook my head, trying to hold back the tears and sighing as they fell anyways. It took me a moment to gather myself and look back up at him. “You’re my best friend. And if, even for a second, I let you believe that I got through any of Ares without your help then I’m seriously lacking in the friend department. You’ve been keeping me sane since you shot down Jeff Colby back in the old days.”

“I’m sorry.” He reiterated, placing his hands on either side of my face before pulling me into a hug.

“Yeah, yeah.” I teased, sighing. “Think about that when you’re stuck with all the heavy stuff next week.”

His laughter reverberated into my chest and as he pulled away his thumbs went up to wipe the tears from my face. After a moment he pressed his lips to my forehead.

“I love you, baby girl.”

“Yeah, you’re not so bad yourself.” I teased, grabbing one of the boxes and heading towards the cars. He laughed, mocking a hurt heart as he grabbed another and followed after me.

“You are a cruel one, Natasha Reid.”

“Love you too.”