Status: complete

All the Madness in the World


"The soul is healed by being with children." – English Proverb


It was a little disappointing that the first time I’d ever gone to Los Angeles was on a case. And a curious one, at that. We’d been called in to consult on a series of odd murders in the city. Three women had been dumped all over the city, usually wrapped in plastic or some equivalent. The odd part was they’d all officially died from drowning. What was stranger was each one of them had a single square of flesh missing from the bottom of their feet—an exact two by two inch square.

The Medical Examiner explained to us that although drowning was the COD the bodies were lacking certain tell-tale signs of it. Tests were run which led to the knowledge that the three women had been submerged alive in methanol, a highly toxic alcohol that was absorbed through their skin. We knew that chloroform was being used to subdue the women prior to their kidnapping, but there were burns around their nostril and mouth that suggested it wasn’t administered in the usual cloth-to-face mode, but rather inhaled in a sort of aerosol form.

All we knew was that the unsub was using an unregistered taxi to take his victims—but we still didn’t know why or how he picked his victims. The clock started ticking even faster when the LAPD alerted us that another woman was just reported missing.

Spencer was sitting cross-legged on the table, one hand pressed against his chin as he studied the crime scene photos. He rubbed his eyes a few times and stifled a yawn before I clued in to what I was seeing. Abruptly I got to my feet, crossing over to him quickly and setting the rest of the team on alert. Reaching out, I tilted his head up so I could see his face better. There were circles under his eyes darker than his coffee that could only mean one thing.

“Jesus Christ Spencer, how much sleep have you been getting lately?” I asked as he wiggled out of my grasp, avoiding my question. I rubbed my forehead and sighed, knowing the answer to the question I was about to ask. “Please tell me you haven’t been working on Ares.”

“He’s not just going to give himself up.” He mumbled, going back to the photos as I crossed my arms over my chest.


“Don’t act like this isn’t what you did for the past decade.” He snapped, struggling to keep his voice low. “You told me not to think about it again and now he’s back. I should have been there so it didn’t happen in the first place.”

“This isn’t—”

“And you know what?” He raised his voice, directing his words to the others. “I don’t really understand why we’re working this case at all instead of trying to find him. Because I’m pretty sure the last time someone on this team was being targeted, you all were doing everything possible to catch him.”

“Spencer!” I hissed, staring at him wide eyed. The anger he was exhibiting was so misplaced, so unorthodox. I tugged at his arm, pulling him up. “Take a walk.”

Everyone was watching as we left the room and I didn’t blame them—it was quite the outburst, especially from Spencer. I pushed him through the station until we found an unoccupied room. He sat down at my request, immediately pulling at the edges of his nails. Heaving out a sigh I took a seat across from him, feeling like a mother begrudgingly scolding her child.

“Look, you heard Hotch when I told everyone. He said that Ares was all anyone was supposed to be working on. Where did that get us? A whole host of FBI agents, evidence from ten cases, hell you even have a first-hand witness and we’ve got absolutely nothing. There was nothing from the cabin and he’s living underground or working with aliases or something. Spencer, the point is it doesn’t make sense for other cases to go unsolved just because mine is. I asked for us to take this case.”

“If you just let us keep working, we might’ve found something Tash.”

“Spence…I think you know deep down that we won’t. We haven’t for all these years—I can’t imagine you actually listened to me when I told you to leave it alone. All we’ve got are dead ends. We’ll just have to wait until he makes a move.”

“What am I supposed to do if his next move is your last?” He asked very quietly, looking up at me for the first time. I couldn’t pretend the possibility wasn’t something I’d thought about, but to hear it from him was something else entirely. I swallowed hard and ignored the watering of my eyes. Reaching out, I took his hand in mine.

“I’m not going to leave you, Spencer.” He nodded for lack of either of us being able to say anything more. We both knew that it wasn’t a guarantee, that I could very well die any time Ares saw fit. But it was all I could do. All I could give him until Ares was behind bars or dead.


My phone buzzed on the coffee table, inching closer to the edge with every ring until I snatched it up. Half of me expected it to be Spencer—the part of me that always wanted to hear his voice to know he was safe and sound. But 10 pm on a Friday night and it was Hotch’s name on the display. Flipping it open I greeted him with confusion.

“Is everything alright?” I was waiting for him to tell me they’d found Ares or gotten closer to him or gotten within a thousand mile radius of being remotely nearer to getting him. Anything.

“Yeah, everything’s fine…I’m sorry, I know it’s late and all.”

“What’s up?”

“This is going to sound like an odd request but it’s my weekend with Jack and he’s having trouble sleeping and…well, he asked for you.”

My eyebrows furrowed in confusion and for a moment I thought he was joking. Jack had only met me once, and he preferred my company over his father’s? No, that wasn’t it. It was just that his Aunt wasn’t there and I was the nearest familiar female presence.

“Oh,” I stammered out eventually. “Yeah, uh, sure—I’ll be right over.”

I knew that I looked like absolute shit and a trip past the mirror wasn’t necessary to reinforce that fact, but I wasn’t going out, I was going to tuck a little kid into bed. Maybe read him a story or something, I saw no good reason to change anything. When I got to Hotchner’s I was careful to knock instead of ring the bell in case Jack had managed to fall asleep on his own. But the door opened and Aaron looked at me with a mixture of laughter and apology.

“I’m sorry, I’ll be sure this won’t happen again.” He said as I stepped into the house and slipped my shoes off. I brushed the apology off and shook my head.

“You act like I actually have a social life, Hotch.” I teased. “It’s no problem, really.”

“I owe you.”

“You really don’t.” I promised. Instead I ascended the stairs and walked the path to Jack’s bedroom where I’d tucked him in once before. He was sitting on the edge of his bed, legs swinging and hands folded in his lap. I knocked twice on the door before wandering to where he sat and crouching before him. “Hey Superman. What’s up?”

“I can’t sleep.” He frowned, eyes glued to the carpet as he fiddled with a crease in his blanket. “Can you sing me a lullaby?”

“Sure I can, sweetie. Let’s get you tucked in first, alright?” He nodded, compliantly leaning backwards and letting me pull the blankets up around him. I was making myself comfortable on the floor but he asked me to lay beside him, so I clambered cautiously up onto the small bed. Even curled up my feet extended off the end.

He curled up against me and closed his eyes as I began to brush back his sandy blonde hair. It took me a moment to recall the matching words and melody to the lullaby that my mother used to sing to me when I was a child. A song about happy things, calm things, with a slow tempo that could cure any night-time woe and make even the darkest of places light. I sang to this poor child who had lost his mother at such a young age, who had his innocence stolen before he even knew what it was.

When the song ended and he looked to be asleep I turned onto my back so that I could get up, but he mumbled some sleep-ridden incoherent sentence and lay his head on my chest. I sighed with the knowledge that there would be no escaping until he was deep in slumber. And although it was only half-past ten, although the bed was three sizes too small, and although I was far from home, I dozed off with the sleeping child in my arms.

When I woke, I was filled with the heaviness of sleep and a lingering happiness that must’ve meant I’d had a happy dream: only I couldn’t remember it. It took me a bit to shed the grogginess and realize that this wasn’t my house or my bed and that I’d fallen asleep on what was supposed to be tuck-in duty. I turned to the sleeping boy, who was now off of my body and curled up on his own. Quickly and quietly I got to my feet, backing out of the room and gently closing the door behind me. I checked my phone as I went downstairs, my eyes growing wide as the clock read 2 in the morning. Had I really been out that long?

“Jesus, I’m so sorry.” I heaved out as I got down to the living room. Hotch was still up scribbling away at some case files. “I didn’t think I was that tired, you should have woken me.”

“It’s fine,” He laughed as I supressed a yawn. “You looked exhausted and he looked pretty comfortable.”

“Yeah, I sang him a lullaby and he was knocked right out.” I explained as I pulled on my shoes and fished my keys out of my pocket. Me driving home technically went against the whole always-be-escorted-home deal but it was too late to call anyone else and Hotch had a kid to look after.

“Hey—Is Reid okay?” He asked, catching me off guard. I hesitated for a moment before responding.

“He’s just…” I tried to find out how to phrase it properly, delving my hands into my pockets. “I don’t know if I made it clear, but Spence and I walked home together every day. My mom’s job kept her till 6 so I’d always stay with him and Aunt Di until my mom got home from work. He’d asked his mom if he could compete in this chess tournament—a big league thing against these college kids right around the time we got out of school—and of course he wasn’t allowed to. But I told him he could go and I’d cover for him, saying he was still at school or something. So he wasn’t there to walk with me the day I got…taken. He just really beats himself up over it, even though I don’t. Probably because I don’t.”

“And what about you?”

“What about me?”

“Would you prefer to have us all working the case?” He asked seriously, causing me to laugh.

“I think it’s clear we all want to catch him, but I can’t be selfish. We aren’t going to get anywhere by staring at a bunch of dead ends. I’m fine, Hotch. I promise.”

“Alright…” He got to his feet and approached the door, unlocking it for me. “Thanks again for coming over, I really appreciate it.”

“Anytime, Bossman.” I offered a smile before wishing him a good weekend and turning to leave. He called me back at the last minute but hesitated, as if rethinking what he was about to say.

“Just…Call me when you get home so I know you’re safe.” He said with sudden seriousness. It caught me off guard, but I nodded once and got into my car. It was a nice feeling, knowing someone cared enough whether you lived or died to tell you to your face. When I pulled into my building’s parking lot I had a moment of panic when I thought I saw someone move behind a car, but I pulled myself together and went inside. When all the lights had been turned on and I did my own sweep the phone came out.

“I’m safe, sound, and ready to sleep.” I reported, going around shutting off all the unneeded lights and retreating into my room.

“Alright, I’ll see you Monday—and thanks again.”

“You need to stop thanking me for silly things, Hotch.” I asserted before we exchanged goodbyes and I crawled into bed. I hadn’t exactly lied when I said that I was fine—it was just that I’d been fine for nearly two decades. Fine for me included a deep rooted and perpetually present fear of when Ares would show himself again. Now that he finally made his presence known I didn’t know if I felt better or worse that my fears had finally come true. I just knew that the fear meant I was, for the moment, still alive.