Status: complete

All the Madness in the World

Monster Ball

"Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain." – Joseph Campbell


“N’Tasha, can you help please?” Jack was kneeling at the top of the stairs, hands clasping the bars on the railing as he looked down at me.

“Did I forget to put out the Spider-Man costume?” I dropped my pen on the table, closing the case file and stretching as I got to my feet. He sat on the top step until I reached him and he got up, winding his hand into mine as he led me into his room. The costume was lying on his bed where I thought I’d put it, and he looked up at me. “What’s the matter?”

“I don’t want to be Spider-Man anymore.” He said as he released my hand, wandering over to the edge of his bed and staring at the costume. “Superheroes don’t wear costumes.”

“What makes you say that?” I asked, crouching down in front of him. He shrugged, looking away from me.

“Daddy doesn’t wear a costume.” He explained, looking up at me again. “I want to be a real superhero for Halloween.”

“Well let’s see what we can do about that.” I smiled, kissing the top of his head before crossing over to his closet. I slid the hangers along until I found what I was looking for: Jack’s mini collection of suits. Part of me hesitated, worried that I would manage to find the one in the collection that he’d worn to his mother’s funeral, but he seemed fine with what I ended up pulling off the hanger.

I left him to get into the suit by himself and went into the bedroom, rummaging through my things until I found where I’d put my badge. By the time I got back he was fumbling with his tie, and I helped him do it up properly hand handed him the badge to keep in his pocket. Anything to help him feel like a real agent. He thanked me and hopped down the stairs, running into the kitchen where Hotch was making dinner. I followed after him, leaning in the doorway and watching the exchange.

“What happened to Spider-Man?” Hotch asked while setting the table. Jack gave his explanation and I watched as a smile grew on Hotch’s face. He beckoned Jack over to him, setting him up on a chair and helping with some last-minute touch ups. “Ready to eat?”

He nodded and the three of us sat down to dinner. Garcia had invited the whole team to a park in the city that was throwing a Halloween festival. It was kid friendly so of course Jack was given the option to go if he wanted. He’d chosen to go trick or treating up and down his street, and then we would meet up at the park with the group. Henry would be there, so he wouldn’t be alone.

The only thing was that Penelope demanded all of us to dress up. She treated Halloween as if it was as holy as Christmas; I knew that it would break her heart if we showed up in plain clothes. The three of us had made the plan to eat dinner, take Jack out for his pre-party candy run, and then change into our costumes before meeting up with everyone at the festival.

When we finished dinner—after Jack had managed to spill ketchup all over his white shirt, changing his costume from FBI agent to wounded FBI agent—Jack got his candy-collecting bag and we headed out. The sun was just dipping below the horizon, remnant oranges and pinks and purples still mixing in the sky until they faded into the darkness of the oncoming night.

There were already a bunch of kids out with their parents in tow; tens of superheroes and witches and princesses and ghosts flocking from house to house. Hotch had left a bowl of candy out on the front steps, trusting the kids just to take a few pieces themselves. Jack met up with a few other kids he knew from the neighbourhood and I was introduced to their parents as we followed after our respective toddlers.

It was the first time that I’d met anyone else on the street, and despite my anxiety about what they would think, everyone seemed to be kind and welcoming. The neighbours on either side of the house had offered to help move me in, but that had been the extent of my welcoming party.

We watched as the kids made it to their first house, waiting anxiously as an elderly woman opened the door and guessed their costumes one by one before giving them all candy. The bags and pillowcases continued to fill up as we moved down the street, the air growing colder as the night darkened. Some people had taken a great deal of time to decorate their houses in the Halloween spirit, turning their front yards into elaborate scenes complete with fake skeletons, tombstones, sound effects, and occasionally even a smoke machine.

On our way down the opposite side of the street there was one house that went through a scaring process that would’ve made me draw my weapon, if I’d brought it. There was a giant pile of leaves at the corner of the lawn that a man was hiding in. There was also a man under one of the cars in the driveway who would grab your ankle as you went by (Superman decided after that he didn’t want any candy) and a scarecrow sitting beside the bowl of candy on the porch with someone inside who would jump out at whoever took candy (Cinderella left the bag of her goodies on the porch when she dashed back to her mother’s side). For those who survived both ordeals they were met with one more as the leaf man chased the kids a few houses further down the sidewalk.

Jack just stayed by his father’s side, gripping his hand as the man came up and then moved on. We finished the rest of the street and with a bag nearly overflowing with candy Jack skipped inside to check out his stash. Hotch let him have two pieces of candy before we went upstairs to change. I hadn’t participated in anything Halloween related since I was a kid (the parties in college posed to much of a trigger-threat with all of the Greek frats and sororities) so it had taken me a long time to decide something to dress up as.

I settled on a gypsy costume with a multi-coloured long skirt and a brown shirt with cut-off shoulders. Wrapping a small purple bandana around my head and a corset under my chest I finished the outfit with a bunch of gold costume jewelry. I was busy pulling on my knee high lace up boots when Hotch came out in his Indiana Jones costume. It was nearly identical to the real thing, with beige pants, a white shirt, a dark leather jacket, the iconic hat, and even the classic satchel hanging at his side.

“Interesting.” I mused, crossing one leg over the other and resting my hands on my knee as I surveyed him.

“What?” He was clearly self-conscious about the outfit, no doubt wishing he could’ve just put on a suit and tie. I got to my feet, running my fingertips along the leather jacket before looking up at him.

“Didn’t know I had an Indi fetish ‘till now.” I teased, a smirk spreading on my face. He laughed, shaking his head.

“Thanks.” He replied sarcastically, placing his hands on my waist and kissing me before we went back downstairs. Jack had, of course, gotten into more than just two candies in the time it took for us to change. Hotch put the candy in a high place and then we set off for the festival.

It was about a thirty minute drive into town to get to the park, but it was impossible to miss it. The entire place had been decorated extravagantly for the holiday, the city event planners clearly not holding anything back. The whole place was like a Halloween themed carnival, with sights to see at every turn and music feeding through numerous speakers. When we finally found a spot to park we headed off to meet at the House of Mirrors where everyone was supposed to rendezvous.

We were the last ones to get there but everyone assured us they hadn’t been waiting long. We took the time to have a good laugh about what everyone had shown up in: JJ had dressed up as Marilyn Monroe in her classic white dress, Will was an Italian mobster, little Henry was a wizard, Garcia was wearing a shiny and glittery Super girl costume while Kevin stood at her side, a slicked up Neo from the Matrix. Emily made an extremely convincing Cleopatra, except for when she was teasing Spencer, who was dressed as the 4th Doctor from Doctor Who. Derek, of course, came as Michael Jackson with the classic red jacket from Thriller, while Rossi took the lazy approach and just threw a cape on over normal clothes.

“You were supposed to dress up, Rossi!” Garcia whined, arm linked with Kevin’s.

“Dracula wanted to blend in, Penelope.” He reasoned with a shrug. “You’re lucky I tried at all.”

There were thousands of people that showed up for the festival, and everywhere we turned there was some new monster or movie star. We decided to begin with the “Guess the Body Part” display, letting the kids go first as they put their hands inside the covered boxes. The room was dark with orange lights casting an eerie glow around the place and a Mummy for a guide. We felt up the would-be horrific things: noodles for brains, peeled grapes for eyeballs, shrimp for ears, and root of fennel for a heart in a jar. The kids got candy for guessing everything right and a pack of stickers as well.

After we cleaned our hands up (Morgan needed to clean his face, given that Emily decided he needed to be more bloody for an authentic zombie thriller look) we moved on to the next attraction: the wheel of misfortune and bobbing for apples. JJ tackled the apples while Rossi went up (at Garcia’s insistence) to spin the wheel. I stayed at Hotch’s side, one hand wrapped in his and the other grasping Jack’s. I laid my head on his shoulder, watching as the wheel slowed.

“Chocolate Russian Roulette!” The zombie pilot announced from the stage. An assistant, dressed as a clown, brought a plate with three pieces of chocolate on it up to Rossi. “Now, what’s your name, sir?”

“David.” He said, unimpressed as the man held the microphone up to him. He eyed the chocolates with one eyebrow raised, clearly second guessing his decision to give in to Garcia’s commands.

“Well David, you’ve landed on a personal favourite of mine. The game goes like this: two of these chocolates are delicious confections filled with the most delightfully smooth mousse in the state. One of them, however, is hiding a chili pepper inside—not nearly as pleasant!”

Merda.” He cursed under his breath as the crowd cheered in anticipation. There was a drum roll started up as Rossi debated between the three chocolates, completely ignoring the input from the crowd of which one to take. He settled on the last one, picking it up and smelling up but seeming wholly unconvinced. The drumroll stopped when he lifted it to his mouth, eating the entire thing in one bite. He smiled, giving the thumbs up as he swallowed and received a round of applause from everyone.

He came back down to us, taking an apple from the bundle JJ had won and digging into it. We looked at him with raised eyebrows as we moved on to the next attraction. After half of the apple was gone he explained that he had, of course, gotten the one with the chili in it. How he’d managed such a straight face was beyond me, but he just shook his head as we all laughed at him.

“Haunted house!” Henry cried out, pulling JJ by the hand towards the entrance. The group agreed to go in, Jack pulling Hotch up ahead as I stuck by Spencer’s side. I still hadn’t properly outgrown my fear of enclosed dark spaces, but I knew deep down that if I asked, Hotch would be willing to go down into the basement whenever I needed something. I didn’t want to be that paralyzed by fear of something that could no longer hurt me, but going into a kid-friendly haunted house could count as the first step. At least, that’s what I told myself as I clung to Spencer’s arm, nails digging into the oversized scarf he wore draped around his neck.

It wasn’t the pitch-black dark type of haunted house: it was much more ‘light-everything-in-creepy-colours-so-everyone-can-see-the-creepy-decorations.’ They did a great job, though. There were coffins that opened at random intervals with skeletons or mummies or zombies inside, bugs hung from the ceiling and scuttled across the floor on tracks, and every now and again someone dressed up as some sort of ghoul would pop out around the corner (unfortunately for the one boy who decided to sneak up on Morgan, his neck would probably be bruised from the reflexive head-lock he’d been put in). I jumped every single time, screaming just one octave higher than Spencer much to the amusement of Rossi.

At the exit of the house there was even more to do, including a two foot tall jar of candy that would be awarded to whoever guessed the number of sweets inside (or whoever got the closest). Spencer wandered over, inspecting it for a few minutes with his eyes narrowed as his brain worked some kind of magic before he finally scribbled down a number and slipped it into the submission box. Henry convinced Will to be the guinea pig in the Mummy Wrap (where teams wrapped up a member with toilet paper and whoever finished first won a prize).

We were on our way over when we were interrupted by the annual zombie walk: a fantastic display of a group—at least one thousand strong—decked out in wonderfully executed zombie makeup and attire. They were refreshingly dedicated to the role, limping and groaning like professionals in a zombie film. The festival was their first stop of the night and as they wandered through the park everyone took the opportunity to take pictures and video of the spectacle.

After the Mummy Wrap (JJ and Henry took on Will while Jack and Emily wrapped up Morgan) we were sure to take pictures of the both of them and collect the candy for the kids before they pulled us deeper into the festival. There was a maze set up with the walls made of piled bales of hay, and both the kids were desperate to go inside. The girl at the front handed us a bunch of flags that we could wave in case we got too lost (it was an awfully big maze). She explained to Jack and Henry that we needed to be careful, there was a minotaur that lived inside. Just like the tale of Theseus and Ariadne.

We were separated into groups and sent in at different intervals to avoid pile ups: Hotch, Jack, and me; Will, Henry, and JJ; Penelope, Kevin, and a reluctant Rossi (“Can’t I just wait at the exit?”); and lastly Morgan, Spencer, and Emily. My group went in first, Jack clinging to the both of us as something moved on the other side of the hay bales. There were growls which I was certain were just from hidden speakers somewhere, but they did a great job of creeping me out nonetheless. We hit a dozen dead ends, but finally saw the ending up ahead. From a hidden opening to our right a guy dressed up as a very convincing minotaur came running at us, chasing us the rest of the way out of the maze.

I was laughing about it until I accidentally crashed into someone. He was an attendant, and I could hear him rambling something about nearly escaping the minotaur, but that’s not what I was focused on. He was too familiar, dressed in those Greek clothes with those same eyes and dark hair. My eyes grew wide as I pushed away from him, stumbling backwards.

“You okay, ma’am?” Ares asked, a smile working onto his face. The same kind he sported the first time he took me. He was young again. I kept backing up until I hit the wall of a building, and I fumbled for the gun that wasn’t there. He just kept advancing towards me, trying to trick me into coming with him for help. Where was everyone else? Was I about to get taken again?

Aaron!” The name came out in a desperate scream, my nails scraping against the brick surface as Ares finally stopped. He looked backwards at the man who approached him, and I saw Hotch do a double-take too. He came right up to me, forcing me to look at him instead of my would-be captor.

“It’s just a boy, Natasha.” He said calmly, moving in front of my line of sight so that he was all I could see. “He’s gone. He’s not coming back.”

It took me a minute to calm down, pressing my hand over my mouth as I tried to regulate my breathing. Tears were welling in my eyes but he took me into his arms, holding me until I re-established my grip on reality.

“N’Tasha, you don’t have to be scared.” Jack said, tugging at my skirt. “The monster isn’t real! He’s just pretend.”

Hotch pressed his lips to my forehead before I crouched down, thanking Jack and asking what he wanted to do next once the others had made it out. He settled on carving pumpkins (despite the six jack-o-lanterns he already had at home) and began describing what he wanted to make out of them. Hotch kept a firm grip on my hand as we waited for the others, and there was no part of me that doubted if he wasn’t there I would have lost it.

“You look like you saw a ghost, T-Bird.” Morgan remarked as we all met up. I smiled despite the fear still bubbling beneath the surface, shrugging my shoulders as we headed towards the pumpkins.

“Life’s no fun without a good scare.”