Actions

Work Header

All the Wrong Reasons

Chapter Text

Spencer opened the door to the coffee shop and was greeted by a burst of warm air and the smell of roasting coffee beans. He took a moment to breath in that tantalizing scent, before quickly getting in line behind the only other customer in the shop. The shop, simply named 'Roasted,' was a small family run shop that had only opened a few months previously around the corner from Spencer's apartment. He'd stopped in once on a whim and had loved both the atmosphere and the coffee. He was a bit of a regular now.

He glanced up at the menu with tired eyes while he waited for the other customer to finish up. He'd already decided what he wanted before he'd arrived, but it didn't hurt to see if something else would catch his fancy. Nothing did, though, and he went with what he'd already decided.

"What can I get for you, Spencer?" The barista asked. Spencer came in enough to be recognized by name and develop something of a friendship with the employees.

"Hi, Aimee," he greeted sleepily. Aimee was small girl with mousy brown hair and a quick smile. She was very friendly and very talkative. During one of his previous visits, she'd told him all about how she'd gone away to college, met a boy, fell in love, fell pregnant, gotten heartbroken, dropped out of school, came home to Quantico, and opened the shop with her mother. She'd said that she'd been very upset about having to leave school, but she loved this little shop and she loved her daughter more. "How's Jillian?"

"She as well as can be expected. She's starting to cut teeth and she's making sure the whole house knows how much it hurts."

The door to the shop opened and closed behind Spencer and he assumed that the lady who had been in line before him had left. "Sounds like you're all getting about as much sleep as me."

Aimee laughed. "I think we may be getting a bit more sleep than you, dearie. You look like hell."

Spencer smiled sheepishly. He's just completely his bimonthly hell week—also known as his Omega Heat—so it went without saying that he would look like hell. "I feel like hell, too."

"Have you found yourself a lover yet? Spend the night practicing making babies? Jilly-Bean could use some kids her age around here."

Spencer coughed, mildly embarrassed by her straightforwardness. No one had ever called Aimee shy or subtle. He ignored the question. "May I have a large caramel mocha with three shots of..." he broke off in a yawn, "Three shots of espresso?" He finished, a light blush coloring his cheeks. He yawned again. "Actually, make that two... two coffees, not two espresso shots," he added quickly in clarification. In some sort of backwards logic, it seemed more acceptable to him to ask for two coffees instead of six shots of espresso, despite the end result being more or less the same.

For some reason this Heat had tired him out more than usual; probably because his body was tired of him being in the near constant company of two Alphas—one of which he was extremely attracted to and compatible with—and not bonding with either of them. Spencer mentally rolled his eyes. He would bond when he was good and ready, and at this moment in time, he was definitely not ready. To bond now would be just like what Aimee had done: put her life completely on hold for the sake of raising a baby.

Still, after another Heat spent alone—behind no less than four locked doors, an alarm system, and a security detail outside just to keep wandering alphas away—his body was extremely exhausted. He'd slept like a log the previous night, but had woken more tired than before he'd slept. So, six shots of espresso was more than justified; especially considering it took two shots to get him normal functioning levels on a good day.

He had known ignoring his biological urge to mate for so long would begin to wear on him, but he'd been sure he could handle it. He wasn't exactly a normal omega, after all. Actually, Spencer Reid could not be called normal by any standards.

"Two large caramel mochas with half a pot of espresso," Aimee teased, "would that be all?"

Spencer was about to nod, when a voice from behind him said, "Add a raspberry scone."

Spencer didn't need to turn around to know who had spoken, though he must have been more tired than he'd thought for not noticing his presence before. "I assume you're paying then," he asked Derek while giving Aimee a nod letting her know it was OK to add his request to the order.

"Of course, Pretty Boy," Derek said, pulling out his wallet and handing a bill to the barista.

"What are you doing here, anyway?" Spencer asked as Aimee rang out their purchases and counted Derek out his change. Aimee was the only one working, so she turned her attention to making Spencer's coffee once she was done handling the money.

"Well, I was hoping to surprise you with coffee, so you wouldn't have to suffer that tar at the office, but you beat me here, so I'm buying myself a scone and paying for your coffee."

"You came all the way here to get me coffee?" Spencer asked, genuinely surprised. He'd mentioned to Derek only once over two months ago that he liked the coffee at this shop and that the caramel mochas were his favorite, but he'd just been making small talk. He hadn't expected Derek to even remember, let alone come here, especially since Derek had to go in the opposite direction of the office to get here. He'd have to deliberately go out of his way to get here.

"Of course, Pretty Boy," Derek grinned. "I know how you are after your week. It takes six shots of espresso just to get that super brain of yours powered up."

"Thank you," Spencer said with a blush. Out of the two alphas Spencer spent his time with (Hotch and Derek), Derek was the one that called to his inner omega the most. Spencer was extremely attracted to him and the two of them were very compatible. He knew, if he ever wanted to, bonding would Derek would make him extremely happy; they could live a great life together.

But Spencer didn't want to bond with anyone. He wasn't ready to settle into the role of the domesticated omega, caring for the home and children while his alpha took care of everything else. That wasn't the life Spencer wanted to lead. Of course, there was nothing that said Spencer had to play that role, but it was engrained into his genetics to want children with all his being and to be a homemaker. Spencer just had too much strength of will to give in to biology.

"No problem, Baby Boy." Derek leered at him teasingly. "But you know, I could make your hell week a little less hellish."

Spencer's entire face turned red. No matter how many times Derek teased him like this, it still made him blush. And it still made his inner omega roar with want and hope. To be completely honest, Spencer had been in love with Derek for quite some time. He wasn't exactly sure when it had happened, but he'd quite literally woken up in the middle of the night some months ago with that knowledge engraved on his heart and mind. At first he'd thought it was just his omega side trying to bond with an alpha, but as more time passed the more he grew sure that he loved Derek. He, Spencer Reid, loved Derek Morgan. And it had nothing to do with their alpha-omega instincts. He well and truly loved him.

It had to be real love, because being an omega did not explain why he spent so much time just thinking about Derek. Or why Derek's smile made his heart flutter and his laugh sounded better than Mozart or Beethoven. Or why he craved his company. How he genuinely enjoyed spending time with Derek with no inclination of the sexual nature. Or why old conversations they'd had would randomly drift through his head and even after the passing of time they still had the power to make Spencer laugh or smile. Or why he'd see or hear something and immediately think of how much Derek would enjoy it.

Being an omega only explained his base instinct to mate with Derek and bear his children. The thrill he got from simply being able to surprise Derek or make him laugh or smile was completely Spencer alone. He loved Derek, and sometimes Derek's teasing was a bit too much for him because he couldn't be sure if it was just teasing or if the voice in the back of his mind whispering of love requited was speaking the truth.

There was also the small little, nearly unimportant fact, that Derek had already Claimed him.

"What would you do if I decided to take you up on that offer one day?" Spencer asked.

The teasing smile left Derek's face as he set Spencer with a look that was somehow heavy and gentle all at once and said seriously, "First, I would take you to bed and rock your world. Then I'd bind you so tightly to me you'd never second guess the decision. I would love and protect you and fill your belly with both food and babies."

Spencer licked his suddenly dry lips and cast his eyes down, unable to meet Derek's heated gaze. "And what if I didn't want babies? What if I want to continue working at the BAU?"

"We'll worry about that when the time comes."

"Your order, sirs," Aimee said before Spencer could think up a reply.

"Thank you, Aimee," Spencer said quickly, ignoring the raised eyebrow and questioning look she gave him.

Derek chuckled. "Thank you," he repeated, grabbing the bag with his scone in one hand and one of Spencer's coffees in the other.

"Please come again," Aimee grinned. "Both of you."

Spencer was a little scared of the mischief he saw shining in her eyes.

Derek smiled at her as he headed towards the door. "Did you walk here, Baby Boy?" He asked Spencer.

Spencer nodded. The shop was in between his apartment and the station where he caught the subway to work.

"Good, I'll give you a ride to the office then."

Spencer, though still a bit embarrassed from the earlier conversation, saw no reason to decline and just got into the car without complaint.


 

Spencer had already finished one of his coffees by the time the two of them arrived at the office and was half way through his second one as he followed Derek into the bullpen.

"Good morning," Derek said as he made his way over to his desk.

Penelope and Emily were standing at Emily's desk chatting. They looked up at Derek's greeting and Emily smiled. "Good morning, you two," she said.

"Did you two just arrive together?" Penelope asked, a scandalized look on her face. "After this week? Should we be expecting a happy announcement soon?" Penelope was one of the few people who knew that Spencer was an omega and Derek was an alpha. She also knew exactly why Spencer took entire weeks off every two months. Spencer hadn't even thought of how it would look to others if he and Derek arrived at work together the first day after Spencer's Heat. He blushed and tried to hide his embarrassment by taking another mouthful of his coffee.

Derek chuckled. "Don't worry, baby girl, you're still my one and only."

Penelope opened her mouth to reply, but was cut off by JJ's sudden arrival. "Good, you're all here," the small blonde woman said moving quickly across the bullpen. "We have a case. Meeting room, now."

The team rushed into motion. "Don't think you're off the hook yet, Derek Morgan," Garcia said as they entered the meeting room. JJ handed them all case files as they walked through the door.

"What did he do this time?" Rossi asked. He and Hotch were already seated at the meeting table.

"He and Reid arrived together," Penelope explained.

Hotch looked at them curiously, a bit of surprise showing on his face. He, of course, knew that Spencer was an omega, if not because he himself was an alpha then because he was team leader and needed to know that kind of information about the team members. "After this week?"

"Should we be expecting a happy announcement soon?" JJ also knew that Spencer was an omega, and of his attraction to Derek, but that was because Spencer had confided in her. Prentiss and Rossi had no idea what was going on.

"The three of you should mind your own business," Derek said, "but if you must know, we bumped into each at a coffee shop and I gave him a ride."

"Likely story," Penelope said.

"Weren't we here to talk about a case?" Spencer spoke up before his private life could be discussed any further.

"We do," JJ said, pulling everyone's attention to her, "and it's a bad one." She picked up a remote off the table and pointed at the screen behind her. Two pictures appeared on the screen, one a cap and gown photo of a teenage girl with blond hair and brown eyes. The other picture was a crime scene photo of her body. The teasing air in the room evaporated as everyone looked at the two pictures.

"This is eighteen year old Megan Sparx," JJ explained. "She left work one day and never made it home. Two days later, her body was found in a lightly wooded area by a group of boy scouts. She'd been eviscerated, her breast cut off, and her vagina sealed with melted wax."

JJ pressed a button on the remote and the screen and two different pictures showed up. This time it was a black man. "This is twenty-two year old Nathan Miles. He left home to go to the store, only for his body to turn up the next night: eviscerated, genitals removed, and his anus sealed with wax."

JJ hesitated for a second, before pressing the remote button again. Garcia let out a surprised squeak at the pictures that appeared on the screen. "This is ten year old Jordan Rodriguez," JJ said. "He was last seen playing at the playground with a group of friends. He'd split from the group to head home. His body was found that same night in the same condition as victim two."

There was a brief moment of silence in the room, before Hotch closed the file folder in front of him and got to his feet.

"Wheels up in twenty," he stated as he stalked out of the room.

Chapter Text

"So what are we looking at here?" Hotch asked as soon as the team was settled on the jet.

"Honestly, I have no idea," Prentiss spoke up. "The UNSUB is all over the place; victims of different ages, races, genders, and socioeconomic classes. They were grabbed from different locations. Dumped in different locations. The only consistency is the cause of death."

"What's the first thing we look at when working a case?" Hotch asked.

Spencer looked up from the case file and answered, "Victimology: why this victim, why this day, why this crime."

"But, like Prentiss said, the UNSUB is all over the place with his victims," Morgan stated.

"What's the second thing we look at?"

Spencer answered again. "Methodology: how the UNSUB kills, what's his signature, and what does that say about him."

"So what does his method say about him?"

"He guts them like animals and then discards them like trash," Rossi said. "A lot of anger, but very little respect for the victims."

"Perhaps he actually sees them as animals or trash or just anything less than human." Prentiss suggested.

"He sees them as less than human and thus they don't deserve to live?"

"Or reproduce. There's no signs of sexual assault other than the removal and sealing of genitals and obvious erogenous zones."

Derek mused, "Maybe he's impotent. This could be his way of expressing his displeasure at his own impotency."

"So we have an impotent UNSUB, who views his victims as less than human, seemingly targeting at random?" Rossi's tone betrayed how farfetched that sounded to him. Spencer agreed that it was a bit of a stretch with what little information they had.

"What about the time between killings?" Prentiss asked. "After killing Sparx, he waited three weeks before killings Miles, and then over a month before going after Rodriguez. What was he doing in the meantime?"

"Maybe he was hunting? Maybe he was trying to find victims that suited his taste."

JJ didn't seem convinced. "But what are his tastes? We have victims spanning the ages of ten to twenty-two, both genders, Caucasian, African American, and of Hispanic decent, one from lower middle-class background, one just straight middle-class, and another upper middle-class. There's no particular type."

Rossi had a sudden spark of insight. "Maybe the victims each represent someone different in his life. The Cottonwood Grove Killer, Jeffery Daniels, was severely abused both physically and sexually as a child. More than once, he reached out for help but was ignored. When he started killing, he chose victims that resembled those who hadn't helped him as a child, but each victim reminded him of how they were when they denied him help instead of how they are now. His first victim was a twelve year old girl that reminded him of his childhood friend who had called him a liar when he admitted his abuse to her. His second victim was man who he thought resembled the pastor who hadn't asked questions when he'd come to church with bruises. His third victim was a sixteen year old boy that he associated with the older brother that had run away from home and left him behind." Rossi and Gideon had worked together on the Cottonwood Grove case years ago. Spencer had read about it in both Gideon's old case files, and one of Rossi's books.

"That's a valid point, but it seems unlikely. Let's not count out other connections just yet."

Spencer frowned. He'd been intently studying the crime scene photos and the case file during the discussion and something wasn't adding up. "Uh... guys," he said realizing what it was that was off, "I wouldn't exactly say he discards them like trash. Sparx 's body was found in a lightly wooded area within two days of her disappearance. She was right off a well-traveled hiking path. The UNSUB had taken the time to cover her body with a sheet after laying her down carefully. Miles was found the day after he disappeared, in an alley behind some commercial buildings not far from the door where one of the buildings received its weekly supply deliveries, on the day said delivery was to arrive. Once more, he'd taken the time to cover the victim after laying him down. Rodriguez's body was found the same night he disappeared, on the side of a well-traveled road, again covered in a sheet after being dumped."

"He wants them found fast." Morgan said, catching where Spencer was going with these observations. "He places them in areas he knows a lot of people pass, so that they can be discovered quickly."

"More than that, he wants to be found quickly. Instead of just wrapping them in a sheet and dumping them from his vehicle while in transit, he takes the time to pull over, lay the victim out carefully, and then cover them with a sheet. The first victim wasn't found fast enough for him, so he changed the dump-site to somewhere more populated. And he lingers there in hope of someone catching a glimpse of him."

"But why is he bothering to cover them with a sheet in the first place, other than giving him a reason to hang around the body a few seconds longer?"

"He carries them and lays them down. The victims are all small in stature and considerably lighter than other people their age, but even they would be heavy as dead weight. Yet he still carries them instead of dragging them. And he clears the ground around them before laying them down, as if he wants them to be comfortable. Then he covers them, trying to preserve their modesty."

"He's remorseful. For whatever reason, he feels bad about killing these people and he wants to be caught."

"When we land, JJ you should meet up with the local agents. See if they have any information they might have thought too unimportant to put in the initial briefing, or if they have any new information at all. Ask about witnesses at the dump-sites. Anyone present at all three? Any suspicious vehicle reported being seen at all three? Also, we need to talk to the families of the first two victims; see if you can arrange that. Reid and Prentiss, I want you two to visit the last victim's family. He's the biggest outlier as far as ages goes, but he was chosen for a reason. Find out what that reason is. Garcia, I want you digging. We need to find out whatever it is that connects these victims. The UNSUB found and chose the victims somewhere and we need to know where. Morgan, I want you to visit the Medical Examiner. Rossi and I are going to visit the dump-sites, starting with the last one and working backwards."


The Rodriguez residence was a two story home in a regular middle class neighborhood. To Spencer, it was almost remarkably unremarkable. The house was painted blue, with a white front door. The front lawn was cut, but not overly manicured, while the car sitting in the driveway was a non-too-expensive family car. Everything was completely normal to Spencer, he wasn't sure what he'd been expecting but this wasn't it. A family who'd just lost their ten year old son couldn't be this normal.

He followed Prentiss up to the door and stood over her shoulder as she rang the bell. A few seconds later, a voice called out from inside the house. "Coming!" they yelled. A few seconds later the door opened and they were greeted by dark haired woman in her early thirties, wearing a tired expression and drying her hands on the frilly apron tied around her waist. This was the face of a grieving mother, Spencer thought. No matter how normal the house looked from the outside, its occupants' faces told the story of their loss.

"Hi, can I help you?" The woman asked.

"Hello, ma'am," Prentiss spoke up. "I'm SSA Emily Prentiss and this is Dr. Reid. We're with the FBI and are investigating the murder of your son, Jordan. We just have a few questions for you."

"We've already talked to the police."

"We tend to ask different questions," Spencer told her. "We're from the Behavioral Analysis Unit, our questions will be more about discovering what type of person would have targeted your son and why he was targeted, and less about the actual crime itself."

"Oh, well come in," she stepped aside and held the door open wider and Spencer followed Prentiss in.

"Sorry for the mess," Mrs. Rodriguez said as she showed them the way to the living room. "I was in the middle of putting everything in order. I'm going to have a house full of people starting tomorrow with everyone arriving in preparation for the funeral. Even my sister Lucy is coming. We haven't spoken in three years, but Jordan was always her favorite nephew. Everyone loved Jordan." She paused. "Anyway, it's a bit of a family tradition that everyone stays in the... late one's home as a way to commemorate how he lived. Our house isn't very large, but tradition is tradition. I'm trying to figure out sleeping arrangements now, because tomorrow I probably won't be able to step foot out of the kitchen. Another tradition, you see, we cook a feast and throw a party. A celebration of life."

"Will anyone be staying in Jordan's room?" Spencer asked.

"Yes, some of the younger children. I wanted to avoid having anyone in there, but my husband and I have a very large combined family. As I said, our house isn't very large and Jordan has two sets of bunk-beds and room to lay a pallet on the floor in there if need be."

"If you don't mind, I'd like to take a look at Jordan's room. Just to see if there's anything in there that might hint at why Jordan was targeted."

"Um...sure. It's the first door on the left at the top of the stairs. It might be a bit of a mess. Jordan was sick for a week and confined to his bed. It was his first day being allowed outside when this happened. No one's been in there since... Jordan liked his privacy, you see, and I keep expecting him to come running through the door at any minute. He was such a happy boy, I don't understand why anyone would..."

"Mrs. Rodriguez, why don't you speak to me while Dr. Reid takes a look at your son's room," Prentiss said, bringing Mrs. Rodriguez's attention to her.

Spencer slipped out of the room and up the stairs while the two women spoke. The first door on the left at the top of the stairs was closed. Spencer opened it slowly and stepped inside. It was a medium sized room with hardwood flooring and pale cream walls decorated with posters of different anime characters. Despite what Mrs. Rodriguez had said about it might being messy, the room was very clean compared to most children's. There was no pile of dirty clothes, or kicked off shoes, or dropped toys. Everything seemed to have a place and be in that place.

There were two sets of bunk beds on parallel walls. Each of the beds were made up neatly with dark blue sheets. Jordan's bed seemed to be the lower bunk on the left, based on the number of hand drawn pictures pinned up there. Spencer went over for a closer look. Jordan seemed to have been trying his hand at drawing his own anime characters. They were fairly decent attempts for a ten year old. Spencer stepped back, but lost his balance and ended up falling forward. He caught his balance by pressing his hands against Jordan's mattress. He sneezed as he got back to his feet, his nose suddenly burning. He stepped back more carefully this time and turned around.

On the wall between the beds was a desk with a stack of notebooks and school books, but no computer. The desk had a built in bookshelf and it was filled with manga volumes. Spencer took a step closer and looked at the books: NarutoBleachDeath Note, and Hikaru no Go. From what Spencer knew about anime and manga, these were some of the more popular and typically boy manga. There was also an assortment of music books. He looked through the schoolbooks on the desk. Apparently Jordan's class was studying long division in math and mitosis in science. They were reading Where the Red Fern Grows as a class and Jordan was reading Bud Not Buddy for his personal reading log. They were covering the Civil War in history and Jordan had been tasked with memorizing The Gettysburg Address. He was good at math, bored in science, intrigued by history, and enjoyed reading. He was a normal ten year old boy and a low risk target.

Spencer rubbed his still burning nose and barely managed to refrain from sneezing again. As he was about to look over the room again for something he might have missed, Spencer's phone rang. It was Hotch.

"Hello," Spencer answered.

"Reid, how close are you and Prentiss to finishing up there?"

"We should be wrapping up in a minute or so."

"Garcia is going to send an address to your phone. Meet the team there as soon as you two finish up."

"What's going on?"

"There's been another victim."


 

The latest dump-site was the parking lot of a local diner about five miles from the Rodriguez home. Spencer and Prentiss arrived on the scene fairly quickly. Hotch, Rossi, and JJ were already present when they got there. JJ was standing off to the side talking to an old couple.

"The victim is twenty-one year old Julie Summers," Rossi said. "She'd been reported missing just ten minutes before her body was found."

"Who reported her missing?" Prentiss asked, a small frown etched across her face as she looked at the sheet-covered body of the young woman.

"Her fiance, Michael Gregory; the LEO's are trying to contact him now. He said she went to the gym yesterday and never came home. He waited exactly twenty-four hours before reporting her."

"There's something different about her," Rossi added.

"Other than the fact that he only waited two days before targeting her while there was weeks between the first three murders?"

"Take a look."

Spencer and Prentiss stepped up to the body of the victim and pulled back the sheet covering her. Julie Summers was a petite woman with an almost childish face covered in freckles and framed by long red hair. Her skin was pale and cold and it took all Spencer had to ignore the smell of death clinging to her—one of the downsides of being an omega. He pulled the sheet further down until it showed all the way to her waist. Both of her breasts had been sliced off and a splattering of red wax showed that her vagina had been sealed, but...

"She wasn't gutted," Prentiss stated, confusion in her tone.

JJ walked over to them at this point. "Patrons at the diner say she couldn't have been here more than ten minutes before being found, as no one had seen her when they'd arrived. No one saw her being dumped either. Apparently people pull up onto this parking lot and use it as a turnaround point all the time, so it's not out of the ordinary for a car to pull up on the lot then leave it right away."

"No one saw him at all?" Rossi asked, a little doubtful if his tone was anything to go by.

"If they did, they're not saying. The body was dumped in the middle of the lunchtime rush. The parking lot was full of cars, but most likely everyone was already inside."

Hotch frowned. "Let's reconvene at the station and go over what we've gathered. Morgan should meet us there."


 

"What did you learn from the ME?" Hotch asked once all the team was present at the police station and seated around the table in the room they'd been given for use.

"The cause of death for all the victims was asphyxiation. The UNSUB first gutted them, then smothered them with a pillow before they could die from the wound. The removal and sealing of their... personal parts happened postmortem."

"But why would he wait until they're dead to degrade them in such a way? If he's trying to tell them they don't deserve to reproduce or that they're less than human, wouldn't they need to be alive for the torture?"

"Maybe he isn't trying to tell the victims anything? Maybe he's trying to prove something to himself with these acts?" JJ mussed. "Maybe he's sexually attracted to the victims and he's killing and mutilating them in order to show that he's in control of himself and his unwanted urges."

"But what about the evisceration? He does that first, right? That's the important part to him. More than wanting them dead, more than wanting to remove their sexuality, he wants them split open."

"Except he didn't gut the last victim."

"Are we sure we're dealing with the same UNSUB and not a copycat with last one?"

"A copycat is highly unlikely. The only information given to the media is that the victims had been gutted. A copycat wouldn't know about the mutilation."

"What about the people who found the bodies? They would know about the mutilation."

"Actually, they wouldn't, because of how the UNSUB takes the time to cover the body in a sheet after he dumps them. The only thing uncovered are their heads."

"If we're not dealing with a copycat, then why the break in pattern?"

"We'll have to wait to hear back from the ME to see if there's any other discrepancies with Julie Summers. What did you two learn from visiting the Rodriguez home?"

"Nothing much. They're a normal family. Jordan was a normal boy. Nothing really stood out. I saw no reason why he would have been targeted."

"JJ, did you contact the family of the other victims?"

"Yes, Megan Sparx's parents and boyfriend are unable to make it to the station, but they will welcome us to visit their home tomorrow sometime before noon. Nathan Miles has been estranged from his family since he was nineteen. Apparently he was kicked out because of his sexuality. I did manage to contact his boyfriend; he will be stopping by tomorrow."

"Have Garcia run background checks on these boyfriends as well as Summer's fiance. We can't count out anyone as of yet."

"Yes, sir," Morgan said, pulling out his phone and dialing Garcia's number, putting the phone on speaker.

"You're on the line with the all knowing empress of awesome, speak and be recognized."

"Hey baby girl."

"Hello my luscious drop of sinful dark chocolate, I was just about to call you. I've got news."

"Good news I hope?"

"Unfortunately my news is a whole lot of nothing. I've been digging like our fearless leader bid me and found zip, nada, nothing. Our victims didn't even so much as buy the same type bubble gum in the last year. Sparx was a student at a local university. She lived on campus. Spent a lot of time at the movie theater if her credit card purchases are anything to go buy. The only thing of note is that for the last week or so before her death, she'd used her credit all of one time, which is big considering the amount of times she'd used it since she got the plastic beauty two years ago. Not that she's racked up any debt or anything, seeing she paid all of her bills on time, never even a day late. Her credit score is enviable. That one time she did use it was at a gas station across town from her school. An area she's not in very often, except she was there as well a couple of months ago. Didn't take much digging to find that it was a gas station she frequented before going away to school. It's right around the corner from her parent's house.

"The wonderful Nathan Miles is another fellow with a credit score I would kill for; he'd also racked up a lifetime of good karma. He lived nowhere near either Sparx's school or parents. He was a certified nursing assistant employed by a small company catering to in home care of senior citizens. He must have been really good at his job because no one has ever lodged a complaint of any type about him. On weekends, he volunteered answering calls for a hotline and shelter that serviced LGBT youth. Kudos for that, my man. The last big purchase on his credit card was a platinum engagement band that he was supposed to pick up the day of his disappearance, but never retrieved. He'd also booked hotel reservations for the week following his death. Looks like he'd planned to wine and dine and propose to his sweetheart then spend a week celebrating the engagement by doing the dirty in a hotel bed.

"Little darling Jordan Rodriguez was an honor student at Ripley Elementary. His name was mentioned in the newspaper no less than five times in the last three years, boasting of his vocal prowess in school choir, church choir, and a private children's choir. From what the papers say and from what I saw on YouTube, the kid had the voice of an angel. He was out of school for a week just before his death. According to school records, his parents called in saying he was ill. Prior to this, he had perfect attendance, and the perfect attendance would have remained in tact because his parents had called him in. There is, however, no record of him visiting a doctor during that week of illness, but considering it is flu season they may or may not be justifiable.

"All in all, we have some wonderful people but nothing saying why they were chosen, I am sorry my dearest."

"That's fine, Garcia," Hotch said, "Thank you for digging. We have a few more names we want you to look into."

"Another victim?"

"Unfortunately, baby girl. Tell us what you can find out about Julie Summers, as well as her fiance Michael Gregory. And while you at, look into the boyfriends of victims one and two." Morgan gave her their names. "Work me some magic, baby girl, we're counting on you."

"Magic is what I do best, over and out."

"There's nothing more we can do tonight. Let's head to the hotel and get some rest; we'll look at this with fresh eyes in the morning."

Chapter Text

They'd been on the case for nearly a week and was still no closer to catching the UNSUB. They had worked and reworked their profile, but it still wasn't quite right. There was something missing. Something about this UNSUB was different and that made pinning a profile to him exceedingly difficult. But what was it? What set this UNSUB apart?

Spencer stood in front of the board containing pinned up pictures of the victims and crime scenes, as well as a map containing even more pins for the geographic profile. They'd managed to narrow down the UNSUB's hunting ground based on abduction and dump-sites. But that was pretty much all they had. Spencer studied the board.

There were four victims of different ages, gender, race, and sexuality. No connection had been found between them no matter how deep Garcia dug. It was aggravating. It was like the UNSUB was completely indiscriminate, like he had no preference at all. Except, he had to have a preference. There had to be something tying the victims together...but what was it.

Spencer looked carefully at the victim board.

Four victims: two male, two female. The youngest was ten years old. The oldest was twenty-two. Each were abducted while doing normal, everyday things like going to work, home, or shopping. They were all killed the same night they were abducted. All were smothered. All were eviscerated, except for victim four.

Spencer frowned. That was a big question right now. Why wasn't Julie Summers gutted like the rest of the victims? They were still waiting to hear back from the Medical Examiner. His frown deepened. For some reason, he was absolutely positive that whatever the ME found out would be the final clue, the final piece of the puzzle.

"JJ," Spencer called out, "Have you heard from the ME yet?"

"Actually, yes, a deputy just brought in a report from her. I haven't gotten the chance to look at it yet, but..."

Spencer grabbed the file from her hands and opened it, scanning his eyes across the pages quickly. Cause of death also asphyxiation. Likely smothered with a pillow. No signs of sexual assault. Few defensive wounds. All of that was the same as with the other victims. He skipped ahead, looking for something that stood out. There had to be...

"Oh," Spencer gasped, dropping the file and ignoring how all the papers scattered across the floor. He rushed back over to the drawing board and looked over the information again.

Victim one, Megan Sparx was a college student who lived on campus, but at the time of her death she was staying with her parents. She'd been with them for a week and had missed all her classes during that week. Apparently this was something that happened every so often, but her professors were forgiving because she had a good reason. No one had said what that reason was.

Victim two, Nathan Miles had just arranged some time off of work. He'd made reservations at a local hotel for a week. His friends said that he often planned little getaways for himself, but this time he'd been extra excited because it would be the first time his boyfriend joined him on one such getaway.

Victim three, Jordan Rodriguez had missed school for a week, just like Megan Sparx. His parent's had said he was ill, but they hadn't said what that illness was nor had they taken him to see a doctor.

"Oh," Spencer said again, wanting to slap himself. How had they missed this? Probably because the dates didn't overlap and all the victims had done or planned different things, but it was still an obvious connection and they had overlooked it repeatedly.

But now it had all come together thanks to the Medical Examiner's report. It all made sense now. Even the little things that Spencer had disregarded made sense now! A certain scent lingering in the air. The burning in his nose and the sneezing. The way Megan Sparx's parents swore her boyfriend would never hurt her even though Prentiss had mentioned he'd shown some hostility towards Derek. Derek was an alpha encroaching on his territory in a time of grieving. Another alpha couldn't help but feel hostile in such a situation. Spencer would bet anything that Megan Sparx was an omega, and he would make that same bet for Jordan Rodriguez and the other victims. It all came together because of one little detail.

Julie Summers had been exactly eight weeks pregnant.

The ME's report said Julie Summers was pregnant and if the UNSUB had known this, it might have been what caused his pattern break. But, it was already ruled that the UNSUB did not stalk his victims, so unless Julie had screamed out that she was pregnant in hopes of having her life spared, there was only one other way the UNSUB could have known.

Spencer could tell a person was pregnant within twenty-four hours of conception, as could Derek and about .4% of America. But Spencer and Derek and .4% of America were biologically different from others. They were Alphas and Omegas and everyone else were Betas.

The amount of damage done when the victims were eviscerated had been enough to hide the truth from a Medical Examiner who hadn't known to look for it, but it was obvious now. The UNSUB wasn't killing indiscriminately. No, he was targeting Omegas. But the only way to recognize an omega was by scent. And only other alphas and omegas could actually smell the difference.

"It's an Alpha," Spencer stated, almost positive of his deductions.

"Impossible," Rossi said. "We've already determined that it was a single killer and not a pack. And the UNSUB grabbed the victims instead of coercing them."

"Not that kind of Alpha, right Pretty Boy?" Morgan asked, walking over to stand next to Spencer by the drawing board, gently bumping their shoulders together before shifting away from him with such casual ease Spencer doubted anyone even noticed the little touch. He'd picked up the file that Spencer had dropped and gathered up all the papers. He looked over the pictures and information, then down at the file in his hands. Spencer could tell when he reached the same conclusion by the widening of his eyes. "But Alphas don't kill Omegas. It's not in our nature. Especially not like this." He stated as if that would make the evidence point in a different direction.

"An Unknown would. He wouldn't understand the sudden urges he got around certain people and that not understanding would anger him and that anger would make him retaliate."

"But killing Omegas?" The disbelief was heavy in Morgan's voice.

"Will the two of you please stop speaking over our heads," Prentiss asked shortly.

"Actually," JJ piped in, "You and Rossi seem to be the only ones out of the loop."

"Then care to fill us in?" Rossi asked.

"Sorry," Spencer said, a little sheepish. "We're talking about Biological Alphas and Omegas."

"And that is?"

"For lack of better terms, a genetic condition that affects a small percentage of society, about point four percent of America and two percent of the world as a whole to be exact. A chemical imbalance in the brain leads to people being born as Alphas and Omegas."

"Just as the terms imply," Morgan picked up, "an Alpha is an extremely dominant personality, a natural leader, with a strong protective instinct especially towards the submissive personality omega. Except it's more than personality affected by this. Omegas emit a scent that attracts alphas to them. This scent is stronger every two months when they go into Heat."

"Heat is exactly what you think it is," Spencer continued. "From the moment they're born, omegas have a nagging urge to find an alpha and mate and produce offspring. They start emitting their scent during their first Heat, telling all alphas around that they are ready to be mated."

Morgan cut in, "This sometimes causes problems. Omegas have been known to go into Heat at ages as young as seven. Most of the time, they're ten during their first Heat; much too young to be mated."

"There are special laws in place for such cases," Spencer said. "Their parents are also tasked with taking special precautions to protect them, like pulling them out of school during their Heat, such as the case with Jordan Rodriguez."

"But the scent of a Heat lingers for a day or two after the Heat actually ends and sometimes it can be smelled a day or two before it begins."

"Besides the scent, there are some other common traits between Alphas and Omegas. Studies have shown that Biological Alphas tend to be more solidly built, and both stronger and faster than others. They also tend to be employed in fields where they can protect others and show their ability to care and provide for their families, such as law enforcement or firefighting or the military in a position that wouldn't keep them away from home for too long. Omegas, on the other hand, tend to be smaller and weaker, as well as more nurturing. They tend to take jobs where they can work with children or help others, like teaching or nursing. Also, male Biological Omegas have the ability to conceive and carry children as easy as any female."

"Okay, now I know you're kidding," Prentiss said. "I think I would notice a pregnant man walking around."

"Yeah, but chances are you'll never see a visibly pregnant omega out in public," Morgan stated.

"Omegas usually don't leave their homes once they're noticeably pregnant," Spencer explained. "The nesting instinct is much more extreme in omegas. It can get to the point of total isolation, not letting anyone but their alphas and sometimes other omegas near them."

Derek interrupted, "Even if for some reason the omega decides not to isolate themselves, an alpha's instinct to protect their pregnant omega sometimes results in them forcing the isolation against the omega's will." 

There was a pause to let that sink in, before Spencer thought to add, "Also, 97% of omegas opt to have home births instead of leaving their nest to go to a hospital."

Derek took over speaking. "Generally, alphas don't kill omegas, but there are two situations when they might: Ferals and Unknowns. Ferals are alphas who have lost their omega, usually in a very traumatic way and more often than not leaving behind no children. In something resembling a psychotic break, they begin searching for someone to take the place of their omega. They find omegas whose scents appeal to them, but when they realize it's not quite right, they kill."

"All alphas can smell omegas, but they're not attracted to all omegas. It's in the scent. The scent tells how compatible you are and whether or not you'd have healthy and strong children together. The more appealing the scent, the more compatible, the more attractive. Ferals have already found the omega they are most compatible with and they were happy together. No one else can fully take their place, even though instinct leads the alpha to attempt to find a replacement anyway. When they realize the replacement is no true substitution for what was lost, they feel affronted and kill the omega for having the audacity to even try. And only with their death do the alpha have their omega, because only then are the smells exactly the same. In death, we're all the same. There's no scent that tell us compatibility. There's only the smell of death."

"The other situation is Unknowns. There are rare occasions when an alpha or omega does not know they're an alpha or omega. An omega finds out as soon as they have their first Heat. An alpha can go their whole lives not knowing what they are until they meet their first omega."

"This is our UNSUB. An alpha who didn't know he was an alpha."

"But how does not knowing he's an alpha lead him to killing the people his genetically predispositioned to protect?" Prentiss asked.

Morgan chose his next words carefully. "Meeting an omega for the first time can be pretty... disconcerting. Your body reacts in ways it never has before. You're simultaneously presented with the urge to take this person and hide them away and protect them forever, and to throw them down on the nearest flat surface and have your wicked way with him until they are heavy with your child. And its worse the more compatible you are with the omega. And even worse than that if it's near or during their heat. The pheromones released during Heat clouds all sense of judgment and if the omega isn't already mated with an alpha or locked up tightly, any passing alpha with a weak will would rape first and ask questions later."

"That's horrible."

"That's the way things are."

"How come the two of you know so much about all of this."

Spencer blushed and shuffled his feet, slightly embarrassed.

"Reid is an omega and Morgan's an alpha," Hotch answered for them.

"Really?"

"Hotch is an alpha, too," Morgan threw out.

"Technically, yes," Hotch admitted, "but due to a case of bacterial meningitis in my teens, I can't scent other alphas and omegas so I'm exempt from the hard part. But we can discuss all of this later, in the meantime I think we're ready to give the profile."


 "Our UNSUB is a Biological Alpha. That means he's meant to be bigger, stronger, and faster than Betas."

"Anyone who is not a Biological Alpha or Omega is considered a Beta, even those of Alpha Male Personality if they're not Biological, then they're technically Betas."

"The UNSUB only targets Omegas, which gives him a very small victim pool. Considering he had not known he was an Alpha before now and this city seems to have a larger than average concentration of Omegas, he's most likely not from around here. He moved to this town no more than two weeks before the first murder happened."

"He's a white male in his early to mid-twenties, because outside of complete social isolation, it's impossible for an alpha to go a decade without meeting an omega. Early teens are around the time Alphas come into their alpha traits. It is unlikely that the UNSUB is a teenager simply because a non-psychotic teenager wouldn't respond in this way."

"What makes you think he's not psychotic?" One of the local officers asked. "I mean, he's murdered four people."

"Being a Biological Alpha or Omega is sometimes considered to be a psychological disorder in its own right and one that's not comorbid with any other mental disorder. The chance of developing a disorder on the psycho-social pathology scale while being a BA is less than point-zero-zero-two percent."

"So this man who gutted four people is not a psychopath?" A different officer asked.

"He's very confused and angry. He feels threatened and betrayed by his own body and mind. This has made him violent. When we find him, don't be surprised if he comes in without a fight, if he's distraught, crying even. He'll be remorseful, while at the same time showing a lack of understanding about what he's done. He's most likely secluded himself away somewhere, trying to control his urges."

"His urge to kill?"

"No. He doesn't have an urge to kill. He has a strong sense of morals. He knows right from wrong. There are things he'd thought he would never even consider doing. Things he considers to be a fate worse than death. The urge to rape, and claim, and bond, or just to engage in sexual acts is what he's trying to control. The victims were omegas a couple of days before or after their heats. They brought up these urges in him. He's weak-willed, a rarity among BA's but they exist and this weakness of will makes them dangerous."

"Our UNSUB killed because he thought it was better than the alternative."

"Are you saying that if he hadn't become a killer, we would be dealing with a serial rapist?"

"Actually, no. He would have only raped once. Victims one and three were still so close to their Heat that being raped by an alpha would have pushed them back into it. He would have spent the entirety of this triggered Heat with them and bound them to him. He would have then spent the rest of his life protecting them and trying to make up for his misdeed. He would have attempted to have a normal relationship with them, and they would have given him a fair chance at making it work. If, by chance, the omegas rejected the bond, then they would have come in and reported the rape and all you would have needed was to send an alpha to follow his scent."

"If he would have raped one of the other two, he would have turned up dead shortly after. Victims two and four were already in committed relationships with an alpha. Their Alphas would have avenged their rape and legally wouldn't be held accountable for their actions."

"How come the Alphas didn't avenge their murders?"

"Because they were dead. And the scent of death overwhelmed the scent of the perpetrator. And without that scent, they would have been unable to find him."

"I don't understand why these people aren't considered psychotic. They're rapists and murderers and they can get away with it. That's wrong. They need to be locked away. All of them."

"This team contains two Biological Alphas and a Biological Omega. They've never raped anyone or killed anyone in cold blood. The number of rapists and murderers among the Biological Alpha-Omega community is one every five years. The number of rapists and murderers this team profiles on average is four every three months. If not for the omega on this team, we would still be in that room, staring at the drawing board, and trying to piece together a puzzle that doesn't have all it's pieces. The number of people saved by the alphas on this team alone outnumbers the number of people victimized by alphas in the last twenty years. That says nothing for the people saved by alphas working in law enforcement across the country and all over the world, including the ones working at this very precinct that you really just offended."

Silence.

"There's one more part of the profile we need to discuss before we let you go. There's a strong likelihood that the UNSUB will either turn himself in within the next few days, or tell someone what he's done and they'll turn him in. His actions, the guilt and the part of him that rejects harming omegas, is eating at him. He's not going to be able to keep it to himself much longer. Pay close attention to all the calls we get on the tip-line from here on. Also, the chance of there being another victim before he's brought in is very slim."

"Why would he turn himself in now when he didn't before?"

"The space between his last two murders was much smaller than in previous instances. Right now, he's terrified. He's scared of himself. He's scared of what he's done and what he might do. He's not going to be able to live with it much longer. He has a strong sense of morals and knows that he's done wrong and everything inside of him is screaming that he's betrayed himself and those omegas and that he needs to be punished. He'll want justice for the deaths he's caused. This whole time, he's wanted justice. He's wanted to be caught. Eventually, he's going to stop waiting and bring himself forward instead, because that's the right thing to do."


 

After giving the profile, catching the UNSUB was easy. The day after the profile was delivered, an anonymous caller contacted the tip line and reported that their friend had confessed to the crimes before barricading himself inside an abandoned house. Twenty-three year old Jeremy Klein came in without a fight. He'd recently moved to this town from New Mexico to stay with a friend for a while after the death of his parents in a car crash. He'd only been in town for four days before committing the first murder.

The team boarded the jet and were on their way back to Quantico that same night.

"So how come we didn't know about you guys being alphas and omegas?" Emily asked on the jet. She was sitting across from Spencer at one of the tables, shuffling cards for their game of poker. Derek sat next to Spencer, reclining against his seat and staring out of the window. JJ sat on one of the benches, reading a book. Rossi and Hotch sat at another table talking quietly among themselves. Everyone's attention was gained with Emily's question.

"It never came up," Derek answered, sitting up straight in his seat and adjusting his position, subtly brushing his leg against Spencer's as he did so.

"Hotch knew because he's Unit Chief, Garcia knew because she knows everything, and JJ knew because she got me drunk once," Spencer added.

"So I have to get you drunk in order to learn anything about you?"

"You can try, but I'm not exactly a lightweight, and I really don't like drinking."

"Lace his coffee. With the amount of sugar he puts in it, he'd never be able to tell."

"That's actually an extremely dangerous suggestion. The caffeine in coffee is a stimulant, it makes the brain speed up. And alcohol is a depressant, meaning the brain slows down. Mixing the two would simultaneously make the brain try to speed up and slow down which could lead to deadly results."

"Tell that to the fools who like to chase their vodka with energy drinks."

"Anyway, back to his alpha and omega thing. What exactly does that mean to the two of you? Are you bonded? I don't mean to each other, just in general."

"I'm considered claimed, but not bonded," Spencer admitted.

"What the difference between claimed and bonded?"

"Claiming is something of a precaution. It's when an alpha leaves his scent on an omega as a way to warn other alphas off. It's like saying 'this is mine, don't touch' or 'this person is under my protection, harm them at your own risk.' It's often used as a way to protect children who aren't ready to be bonded. Usually, the first person to claim a child is a member of their family. Even though it takes repeated physical contact to make a claim, a claiming isn't sexual and it isn't permanent and it in no way implies a relationship. It can be created with just casual touches, like shaking hands, ruffling hair, touching arms, or hugging. Though, sometimes an alpha claims an omega while they're courting. By smelling like an alpha, other alphas are deterred from approaching an omega."

"There's also a kind of physical and mental side to being claimed. There's a low level subservience, for example. Omegas want to please alphas and they rely on alphas to tell them what needs to be done to please them. Following an alpha's orders is tied to the reward pathway in the brain. It brings us pleasure. Not saying that omegas blindly follow all alpha's orders, but the inclination is there. Especially orders that pertains to protecting oneself. Also, if the alpha that claimed me was to suddenly leave me and there was no alpha around to take his place, I would experience an omega drop."

"What's an omega drop?"

"In order for a claiming to take place, an alpha and omega will have had to spend a certain amount of time together. They become very accustomed to each other's presence, to the point that if they're apart for too long the omega can become physically ill. That illness is called an omega drop. The only treatment is for them to be with an alpha, preferably the one who claimed them, but any would do."

"So, you're physically dependent on being around an alpha?"

"Yes and no, it's actually quite a bit more complicated than what we're making it out to be. An omega can, eventually, recover from a drop without the aid of another alpha. It takes longer and it's a horrible process, but an omega of strong will can adapt to having no alpha in their life. If they never had an alpha to begin with, they wouldn't even experience the drop first."

"Tell me about Heats," Prentiss said. "What's it like? What's its purpose?"

Spencer blushed and squirmed in his seat. How was he supposed to explain what a week of being horny and desperate was like? "Heats are... exactly what they sound like. It's a period when Omegas are most fertile, like ovulation in women, and their bodies demand for them to find a mate and get pregnant. It's a dizzying, hot, hellish week. It's mostly a haze; even with an eidetic memory, it's hard to recall everything that week. There's a ninety-eight percent chance of successful conception during that week. Also, it's physically exhausting if you go through it without an alpha for extended periods of time. Your body is demanding a mate and is calling out for one desperately. It's Hell."

"How come you never go into Heat while we're on a case? With the unpredictability of our job, it's kind of hard to schedule regular time off."

"I actually have gone into Stage One Heat on a case before. But, I carry around Omegesterin for those occasions. It's a Heat Suppressant. If taken during Stage One Heat, it can temporarily halt the process, giving me about two extra weeks. Unfortunately, at the end of those two weeks, the post-suppressant Heat is much worse... much more intense than a standard Heat. Thankfully, I don't have too many instances where I have to rely on suppressants."

"Is there a suppressant that can stop a Heat cycle completely instead of just postponing it?"

"There was research into creating something like that. The side-effects were...trying to stop a Heat completely is like trying to stop regular bowel movements, or trying to stop you lungs from craving air. It can be deadly. As it is, even temporary suppressants like the one I take aren't approved for repeated long-term use."

"Alright, you said the purpose of Heats is to get pregnant, right? But Julie Summers was already pregnant, how come she was targeted when the UNSUB was targeting people near their Heats?"

"The first Heat cycle after conception is a pseudo-Heat. Your body releases the same pheromones as it does during Heat, but in much lower doses. It's like the body is just making sure you're pregnant, in case something has happened such as a miscarriage, it can slip into a full Heat whether quickly."

"OK. What about a bond? You explained claiming, what's bonding?"

"Is it just about sex?"

"A bond is so much more than sex," Derek said, "it's forming a deep, unbreakable connection between two people. As an alpha going into a bond, I promise to always protect you and our family above all. I will fight to keep you safe, and lay down my life before I ever let harm befall you. I will do my best to provide for you, even if it means I have to go without. I will always put you first. I will listen to you and advise you. I will never betray you. I will do whatever it takes to make you happy. I will be strong where you cannot be, and I will let you be strong when I cannot, for I will acknowledge both your strength and your shortcomings just as I wish you to acknowledge mine. I will place on you no limitations, nor demand of you any changes that you yourself do not want. And I will love you to the ends of the earth and back again."

Some time while he was speaking, Derek's eyes met Spencer's and Spencer was completely frozen under his gaze. Something like electricity filled the air between them and it was all Spencer could do to keep a blush off his face and force his eyes away.

"But the forming of a bond is sexual," Spencer said, trying to fight down his embarrassment. Derek always made things so intense between them, it made his head foggy and his body heated. "In order to be bonded, an alpha stays with an omega through the week of their Heat. On occasions, when an omega isn't safe enough and they end up being raped by an alpha, their body can reject the bond. There seems to be a compatibility requirement or something, no one is exactly sure, for a bond to form. It's like our body won't force us to be with someone if there isn't even a small chance of us having chosen before. Only about two percent of omegas get raped during their Heat and of those two percent, fifty-two percent result in a bond. Afterward, both the alpha and the omega can become physically ill if they're intimate with someone else."

"So bonds really are unbreakable?"

Derek shrugged. "As far as I know. No one has ever actually tried to break one before. I assume that they can be broken in a way similar to removing a claim. Another alpha would have to be on standby to keep the omega from experiencing a Drop."

"So, Reid, the Alpha that claimed you, is that protection or is he courting you?"

Spencer blushed and glanced at Derek out of the corner of his eye. "A bit of both, I think."

"What about you, Morgan? Made any claims or bonds?"

"I've claimed the one I want. I'm waiting for him to be ready for the bond."

Spencer looked down at the cards in his hands as a way to avoid Derek's gaze. He had two aces and two kings. "I think I'm going to go all in."

Chapter Text

Spencer was almost hesitant to step into Roasted the day after they'd returned to Quantico. He knew Aimee hadn't forgotten about the conversation she'd overheard between him and Derek the last time he was there and she would without a doubt pounce on him demanding details and gossip and asking inappropriate questions and making shameless suggestions. Because that was the type of person Aimee was and Spencer had witnessed her behaving in such away with some other customers and she had always shown an unhealthy interest in his sex life. Still, the promise of the caramel latte with cinnamon sprinkles that she was undoubtedly going to give him on the house as a way of bribing him into sharing dirty details was too much to pass up. And maybe Spencer wanted to gossip with her, that would explain why he'd left the house a half hour before he needed to. He opened the door and stepped into the sweet smelling cafe.

"Spencer!" Aimee called out as soon as she caught sight of him. Both she and her mother, Susan, were working today and there was a small line of customers in front of Spencer, but Aimee didn't seem to care. "You take a seat right over there and I'll bring you over a caramel latte with sprinkles in a minute, so we can have a much needed discussion."

She moved like a tornado, steaming the milk for his latte and adding the caramel and two shots of espresso. She dripped some heavy whipping cream on top and shook some cinnamon sprinkles on that. She then made another for herself, making hers with chai instead of espresso. "Going on break, ma!" She called to Susan as she stepped around the counter and made her way over to Spencer.

"Where's Jillian?" Spencer asked in an attempt to delay the inevitable. It was a legitimate question though, Susan usually watched Jill while Aimee manned the shop and vise-versa though sometimes they brought her with them while they both worked the shop, but right now they were both at the shop and the baby was nowhere to be seen.

"Her asshole father has her for the week. I'm giving him two days, tops, before he brings her back saying something came up and he can't keep her. Mom is giving him four days; she has more faith in him than I do."

"So he's making an effort to be in her life now? That's nice."

"Not really. He got a letter from the child support office. After demanding a DNA test, he demanded joint custody, trying to get out of paying as much money as possible."

"He sounds like a very...demanding man."

"Something like that. And you think you're a clever man, Dr. Reid, but you're mistaken. I'm not letting you steer this conversation away from that extra tall caramel mocha with whip that was all over you last time you were here."

"He wasn't all over me."

"But he wanted to be. If I remember correctly, he wanted to take you to bed and rock your world."

Spencer blushed and took a sip of his latte. "You know, eavesdropping is very rude."

"Spencer, dear, there was only three of us here, and this shop isn't very large. One can't help what they overhear."

"I second that," Susan said, pulling up a chair next to her daughter and sitting a cup of cafe au lait on the table in front of her. She'd seen to all the customers and most of them had departed, except for a few who'd settled down at other tables in the shop. "I may never be here when something interesting happens, but my daughter kindly fills me in on all the missed details. Aimee has been talking of nothing but your tall, dark, and sexy boyfriend for over a week now."

"He's not my boyfriend. Derek is a colleague of mine."

"The FBI has hunks like that? Maybe I should consider getting a badge or committing a crime. Whichever gets him knocking on my door first."

Spencer couldn't help but chuckle softly at that. "Commit a crime and trust me, he'll be kicking your door down."

"And I'll be waiting for him, on the couch wearing nothing but a g-string made of whipped cream."

"Aimee!" Spencer couldn't tell whether Susan was amused or appalled at her daughter's words. Spencer, himself, was mortified.

"Sorry. It's been a while since... well anyway, all I have is my daydreams since Derek seems to have eyes for Spencer here. And Spencer isn't sharing the dirty details."

"There are no dirty details to share. We're colleagues. We chase down psychopaths and get shot at. He watches my back, and I do my best to watch his."

"He's an alpha and you're an omega, there has to be more to it than that."

Susan was an omega and had recognized Spencer as kindred the first time he'd entered the shop. Aimee had been dying to find him an alpha ever since.

"Just because we're alpha and omega doesn't mean we're sleeping together. That's like saying a man and woman can't be friends without having sex with each other."

"Spencer, you're twenty-what years old and haven't found yourself a nice alpha and settled down with yet?" Susan let a bit of disapproval slip into her voice. "If this Derek guy can keep up with you, and has already spent years watching your back, why not go for it?"

"I'm not ready to settle down, yet. Derek has claimed me and made his interest known and says he's willing to wait for me. That's enough for now."

"How long do you plan on making the boy wait? How long do you think he's willing to wait? Unless that's your plan: make him wait until he grows tired of it and moves on so you can go on telling yourself whatever lie it is you're telling that makes you not want this."

"I'm not telling any lies," Spencer stated. He was suddenly regretting coming here.

"Then what are you doing?" Aimee demanded. "Dr. Spencer Reid, you are a very intelligent guy with a kind heart, a great personality, and wonderful salary. Not to mention you're not half bad looking, in fact you're pretty fucking attractive. You're a great catch. And I know for a fact that there are men lined up around the block dangling their lines, so why the hell aren't you biting?"

"I'm not ready to be a trophy on someone's wall. And if I jump into a bonding right now, that's all I'll be. And I'm definitely not ready for a picket fence and two-point-five kids."

Susan frowned. "You of all people, Spencer Reid, should know that omegas are more than trophies and broodmares. That way of thinking I've learned to expect and accept from ignorant people and most Betas, but you are neither so where did that attitude come from?"

Spencer let out an exasperated sigh and rubbed his hands over his face. The door of the shop opened and closed behind him. "Someone will be with you in a second," Aimee called out to the customer that just entered, not taking her eyes away from Spencer. All her former playfulness and teasing was gone from her voice. "Well, Dr. Reid, we're waiting. Where'd that attitude come from?"

"What are you two doing to my Pretty Boy?" A voice said from behind Spencer before the young doctor could speak.

Spencer almost wanted to sigh in relief at the sound of Derek's voice, saved from these harpies interrogation. "Derek," he said, turning to his teammate with a smile. "What are you doing here?"

"That scone I got here last time was delicious and from the way you downed that coffee I can only assume it's just as good, so I decided to pick up some for the team."

"That is so kind of you," Aimee said before Spencer could open his mouth. She got to her feet and stepped around the table, extending her hand for Derek to shake. "We weren't properly introduced the last time you were here. I'm Aimee, a friend of Spencer's and co-owner of this little establishment. This is Susan, my mother, another friend of Spencer's, and the other owner of this little...e..sta...blish...ment..." Her peppy tone vanished from her voice and her speaking slowed down and anger began to set in as she looked over Derek's shoulder at the door. "And that's my asshole ex-boyfriend and my daughter, Jillian. Excuse me for a second." She stepped around Derek and headed toward the door just as it opened to admit a young man carrying a car seat and a diaper bag.

Spencer watched as Aimee stormed across the little cafe with a glare that could kill on her face, but instead of confronting her ex, her expression melted into a fond smile as she peered into the car seat at her daughter. "Hey, Jilly-Bean," she cooed. "Why aren't you strapped in properly?" She asked, sending a hard look at the baby's father. She picked up the little girl and talked to her excitedly and Jillian happily cooed and babbled back. "Do you want to go to Nana while mommy talks to daddy? Go to Nana while mommy talks to daddy." Susan rushed over and took the baby. Aimee turned to her ex with an angry look and was met with an equally angry look. She all but dragged him out of the shop.

"Is she going to be ok?" Derek asked concernedly.

"Honest? I'm more worried about him," Susan said. "Here, Spencer, hold Jilly-Bean while I get your coffee and scones."

"What?" Spencer asked, eyes widening. He fumbled to properly hold the baby thrust into his arms. He'd grown used to holding babies after he became Henry's godfather, but having one suddenly given to him caught him off guard.

Susan didn't give Spencer as second look. She'd made him hold Jillian before, citing that he was an omega it was in his nature to know how to care for children. She placed her hands on her broad hips and set Derek with a hard, calculating look. "So you're the Derek I've been hearing so much about." She looked him up and down. "My daughter's description did not do you justice." She turned quickly on her heel and headed over to the counter. "I'll box up an assortment of scones while you decide what type of coffee you want for your team."

Spencer was distracted by the baby in his arms who had just grabbed a handful of his hair and was pulling it towards her mouth. "No, no, no," Spencer chastised softly, gently unwrapping her hand from his hair and letting her grip onto his finger instead. Jillian gurgled happily. Spencer smiled at her and began talking to her, softly, about random things. He didn't know how much time had passed until he looked up and saw Derek and Susan watching him. Derek was holding a box of scones and on the counter were two four-cup holders with a total of seven cups of coffee. Spencer couldn't quite read the expressions of Derek and Susan's faces, but for some reason they made him blush.

"You're good with her," Derek stated. "Whatever happened to the Reid Effect?"

"The what effect?" Susan asked, taking her granddaughter from the blushing doctor.

"Pretty Boy, here, has an unfaltering ability to make dogs bark and growl at him and kids cry and scream with just his presence. Down at the office, we call it the Reid Effect."

Spencer's blushed deeper.

"Well, let's hope he's cured of that now. Wouldn't want him to make his own kids scream all the time. Do you have a dog, Derek?"

"Yeah, a pit-bull named Clooney."

"Does Clooney bark and growl at Spencer?"

"Don't know. Spencer always insists he be locked in the laundry room before he steps foot into the house."

"Well, you'll just have to introduce them slowly."

"Susan," Spencer said shortly. She thought she was slick, but her attempts at playing matchmaker were anything but subtle.

Susan smiled innocently. "Well, I don't mean to hold you two up. You better head on to work. Looks like you've missed your train, Spencer, though I'm sure Derek here won't mind giving you a lift."

Spencer rolled his eyes, but Derek just smiled. "I'll confess, I had an ulterior motive for coming here today. I was hoping to bump into Pretty Boy so I can offer him a ride and get the chance to talk to him."

"I don't give a damn!" Their attention was suddenly pulled towards Aimee, who was storming back into the shop with a look of fury etched across her face. "You screwed up, James! You screwed up in so many fucking ways, I've lost count and you only had her for thirty-two hours! You're not seeing her again until you get your shit together."

James followed behind her looking just as furious. "Don't walk away from me, Aimee!" He growled, grabbing her wrist in a grip tight enough to make her wince. Jillian started to cry.

"Let me go!" Aimee said, trying to yank herself free of his grip. He gripped her tighter and yanked her towards him.

"Hey," Derek called out, walking over to them. "I think you better let her go."

James gave him a cursory glance, before deeming him unimportant, which really surprised Spencer because no one the size of James ever thought someone the size of Derek was unimportant when it came time to choose sides for a fight. "Stay out of this. This is a private conversation between me and Aimee."

"No, it's not. Your private conversation took place outside the shop and outside of our hearing range. When Aimee walked through that door, it meant either the conversation was over or she no longer wished it to be private. Perhaps she felt slightly threatened by you, because she returned here where she knew two armed FBI agents more than willing to watch her back were. Either way, this conversation is over. Now let her go."

"FBI agent?" James asked, releasing Aimee and glaring at Derek, shifting his position to make himself look bigger, but he really couldn't measure up to Derek's height and bulk. "Right. You're just another nigger with a gun."

"And you're going to be just another dead man if you don't shut your fucking mouth," Susan stated, jostling the still crying Jillian around in her arms to try to silence her.

"And you're just another bitch!" James called back.

"Look, man," Derek said, "I think you better apologize to these ladies and get to stepping. I don't tolerate disrespect to women like that."

"I'm not afraid of you," James said.

"But you should be," Spencer replied. "Especially since there's currently four of us here against just one of you and we have the authority to kill you and make it look like self defense. We wouldn't even have to lie too much. We'll just say you came in here and grabbed Aimee. We warned you to back off. You refused. We warned you again. You released her and threatened us. We asked you kindly to leave. You refused. We warned you. You made a motion as if you were reaching for a weapon. We drew our own weapons and opened fire. There's two witnesses not involved in the confrontation," Spencer added nodding towards the two customers that were still in the shop, "and it looks it wouldn't take much at all to get them to go along with the story." Spencer was bluffing, they wouldn't open fire on an unarmed civilian unless they genuinely saw him as a threat, but James didn't know that.

"So you're crooked as cops as well?"

"And you're a poor excuse of a human being on top of being a deadbeat dad," Aimee said.

"Look, man, just back off," Derek said calmly. "Walk away and no one has to get hurt."

James seemed to be losing his steam in the face of having so many people against him. He glared for a second, before turning to Aimee and spitting out gruffly, "We'll talk later."

"Over the phone," Derek added, "because the next time you see her in person, I will also be present."

"You won't have this dog watching your back forever!" James growled, before turning and storming out of the shop.

Spencer felt himself immediately begin to relax once the offending man was out of sight.

"I hate that man," Aimee stated, taking her daughter from her mother. "Thank you, Derek, for standing up for me. You too Spencer."

"No problem," Derek pasted a grin on his face. "I'm always willing to help a beautiful lady."

Aimee grinned back roguishly. "Derek, do you by chance like whipped cream?"

Chapter Text

After Susan had wrangled a promise out of Derek to visit again soon, Spencer and Derek departed the coffee shop and got into Derek's car. "Those ladies are crazy," Derek said with a fond smile.

"Yeah, they're something else," Spencer agreed. "Take a bit of getting used to, though I think the BAU girls have us pretty acclimated to crazy."

"Ain't that the truth." Derek laughed and Spencer couldn't help but smile; he liked being able to make the other man laugh. "They seem to like you," Derek commented once he stopped laughing.

"Aimee likes everyone and Susan thinks I need to be mothered."

"Well, I like them; they take care of you."

Spencer smiled softly. "Maybe, one day, they'll like me enough to give me my coffee for free."

"Not likely, Pretty Boy, you'd put them out of business."

Spencer just rolled his eyes and took a sip of the coffee Derek had bought for him in addition to the coffee for the rest of the team.

"So, I wasn't lying when I mentioned my ulterior motives for going there today; there's something I want to talk to you about."

"Oh?" Spencer asked, wondering if he should be worried. After Aimee and Susan's interrogation, it would be just his luck that Derek wanted to have a deep discussion about their relationship.

"I was thinking about that last case. It had me wondering about a few things, thinking that something needs to change."

Spencer frowned. "Something like what?"

"What was it like for you growing up?" Derek asked instead of answering him.

Spencer's frowned deepened. "What do you mean?"

"As an omega, what was it like for you. With your mother, and your father, and graduating high school at age twelve, things couldn't have exactly been easy. But, being an omega on top of that, how did that affect things?"

Spencer pursed his lips thoughtfully. This wasn't something he'd talked about before. No one had ever actually asked him and he had never volunteered the information, but now Derek was asking and Spencer suddenly wanted to tell him.

"It wasn't easy," he agreed with Derek's assessment. "I had my first Heat when I was eight and a half. I had known I was an omega prior to that, but it was something I tucked into the back of my mind expecting it not to matter until I was much older. As far as I was concerned, it was just one more thing that made me different. I'll admit, I wasn't as eager to research the topic like I've been with other things. I only gave it a cursory glance over. As I said, I didn't expect to have to deal with it until I was much older. So, when the time of my Heat came, I had no idea what was going on. Thankfully, my dad was still around then and he'd been looking for the signs and made some arrangements. He had a friend of his claim me. Jared Clay, his name was. He was a firefighter. Nice man. He was good to me. And even after dad left us, Jared stayed around. He was kind of a second dad to me for a while. Until he left, too.

"My mother... she had her good days and her bad. I'd thought—well actually it was more of hoped—the kids at school would stop bullying me; that maybe an alpha would take me under his protection there simply because they didn't want to see an omega hurt. A futile hope. After my first Heat, I stopped avoiding the topic and researched it fervently. I needed to know everything about it, every little detail, every single study, every personal testimony, everything. I gathered all the information I could find, because I needed to know it all. I needed to know everything so I could understand myself and people like me. I think, mostly, it was the need to know that there were people like me out here somewhere so that maybe...maybe I wouldn't feel so alone."

There was silence in the car for a few seconds while they idled at a stop light. The light turned green and Derek pulled the car out into the intersection. "That's the thing that needs to change," Derek stated.

"What?" Spencer asked.

"That feeling of being alone. That's what needs to change. We all feel alone in the beginning. Some of us eventually find someone to let us know we're not, but in the beginning being an alpha or omega seems like a dark and lonely road to travel. People romanticize it, and yeah it can be romantic eventually, but at the start... The Youth Center in Chicago saved me in more ways than one. Not only did it get me off the bad path I was following, but I also met some other alphas there and a few omegas. It helped a lot. So, after this last case I was thinking, what if there was a youth center specifically for alphas and omegas? Imagine the good that would do. How it would help people. How it would change lives."

Spencer pursed his lips and let his mind drift. A youth center just for alphas and omegas? What would it have been like if such a thing had existed while he was growing up? There had been some Alpha-Omega support groups around, but they'd met infrequently and were more like social gatherings. Also the term "support group" was a bit off putting, it made it sound like a drug addiction or grief counseling program. Spencer had gone to two meetings before realizing they were no help to him at all.

But an entire youth center for alphas and omegas? A place where he could have gone to be with people just like him? People close to his age who understood what he was going through? An informal gathering place. He could have met other omegas. He could have met alphas. Maybe even nice alphas that attended the same school as him and were willing to stand up for him. Or an alpha willing to claim him after Jared had left so that Spencer wouldn't have had to experience the depths of an omega drop at the tender age of eleven, and then crawl his way out of it alone to stand on his own and go through so many years feeling that aching absence and having night terrors about the all consuming dark loneliness, like being at the bottom of a deep pit, that was the worse part of the drop. And if he'd had an alpha to take Jared's place, maybe Spencer wouldn't have been so terrified of letting another alpha close for fear of being left again. Then he probably would have opened up to Derek sooner and accepted his claim quicker and wouldn't have gone those agonizing years of being in the presence of an alpha he was compatible with but standing apart. And maybe...

His thoughts had drifted too far. He grasped hold of them as if they were on a tether and pulled them back to the subject at hand. An Alpha-Omega Youth Center. A place where people came together with no pretenses. Where they could be themselves and find support. And there would be different activities and programs catering to different people with different interests. And there would be educational meetings to help young omegas understand what to expect from their first Heat. And there would be a network of protection for omegas too young to mate but going into Heat, instead of leaving it up to parents alone. And omegas and alphas would interact. And they would become friends. And then a claim would form naturally and gradually and not out of necessity. And it would be a helpful claim. The alpha and omega would attend the same school, maybe, so that the protection was present and not just implied. And there would be betas present as well, if only to keep prejudice from forming. A community feeling between alphas and omegas without ostracizing betas.

It would be nice.

"Pretty Boy?" Derek called out, pulling Spencer from his thoughts. "You still with me, Pretty Boy?"

"Uh, yeah. Sorry. I was thinking an alpha-omega youth center would be a great idea. Wonder why no one ever thought of it before?"

"I'm sure someone else has came up with the idea, just didn't have the resources or just didn't know how to make it happen."

"And you do know how to make it happen?"

"Not exactly, but I'm sure our favorite Tech Annalist would be willing to take on a pet project and look into it for us. And, turned loose in a library, I'm sure it would take you all of ten minutes to figure it all out. I mean, if this is something you want to look into. I thought it could be something we did together. Something we both contributed to the world that isn't related to psychopaths."

Derek pulled the car to a stop in the Bureau's parking garage and turned to face Spencer. He almost looked shy, hesitant. As if a lot more than the fate of a new 'pet project' depended on Spencer's answer. Spencer smiled. "It is something I'd like to do. We'll need to figure out where we want the first one to open; that's assuming we're looking to start more than one all over the country. I'll look into what type of licensing is required and such. You can look into possible locations, finding a building of a suitable size, and if failing at that, constructing something and getting the right permits to do so."

Derek smiled as well, a little relief showing in his eyes. "This is going to take a lot of time and money," he stated, unfastening his seat belt and getting out of the car and grabbing the carrying cases of coffee. Spencer followed him with the box of scones. "We'll probably need some donations from some big-shots with cash. I'll get Penelope to look into people willing to donate or partner up with us."

"If we go through the channels of making it a public recreation center, we might be able to get some money from the city. But I think what we're looking to start should be a privately funded endeavor."

"I agree. I think we should open two at the same time to begin with, one in Chicago one in Vegas. Then we can gradually expand across the nation based on how well those to go."

Spencer nodded his agreement, but didn't speak. His mind had taken the idea and ran with it, examining it from every possible angle, sprouting statistics about children involved in extra-curricular activities outside of school, wondering what type of licensing a project like this would require, and... so much other stuff, Spencer needed to take a deep breath and start compartmentalizing his thoughts.

Before he knew it, he was standing in the middle of the bullpen being confronted by Penelope and JJ.

"Did you two just arrive together, again?" JJ asked.

"Derek Morgan, what do you have to say for yourself!" Penelope demanded.

Derek smiled. "Good morning, baby girl, I come bearing gifts."

"Coffee and scones for everyone," Spencer affirmed, holding up the box of scones for everyone to see.

"You shouldn't have." Emily had entered the bullpen just in time to hear that announcement. She headed straight over to Spencer and opened the box.

"Actually," Spencer said, "I didn't. This is Morgan's gift to you; I just happened to be at the coffee shop when he came to get it."

"A bribe is not going to make me forget that this is the second time the two of you have quote-unquote bumped into each other at a coffee shop. I've got my eye on both of you."

"And I'm sure you're enjoying the view," Emily stated, taking a bite of one of the scones. "Oh dear god, this is delicious. Where'd you get these? I haven't had a scone this good since I left France." She eagerly took another bite.

"You should try the coffee," Spencer said, setting the box of sweets down and grabbing his cup of coffee.

JJ and Penelope both helped themselves to scones while Derek sorted out whose coffee was whose. Soon the bullpen was filled with moans of appreciation.

"Why do I feel like I just walked into the middle of an orgy?" Rossi asked from the top of the stairs. He raised one eyebrow questioningly while he looked out over the team. Hotch stood next to him with a questioning look on his face as well.

"Shh," Penelope held up one finger and gave a scolding look towards the two men. "I'm having a food-gasm, don't ruin it."

Derek laughed. "I brought coffee and scones for the team," he said. "The girls seem to be enjoying it." There was another appreciative moan from Emily to accent his statement.

"These. Are. Sinful." Penelope stated.

"Good thing you're not a saint," Rossi chuckled, heading down the stairs and grabbing the coffee cup Derek extended towards him. Hotch followed him.

The Unit Chief took a sip of his coffee, but kept his face schooled and his reaction hidden. He picked up a scone and took a small bite.

"These are quite good," Rossi stated, since Hotch had once again concealed his reaction.

"Where'd you find these? Panera?" JJ asked.

"No, a little cafe run by some crazy women that seem to adore our little genius as much as we do."

Spencer blushed, feeling as if he'd suddenly been put on the spot. "It's a place near my apartment that I frequent. It's small and family run, so they make it their goal to remember all repeat customers."

"Which is why they introduced themselves as your friends and let you hold their baby."

"They're nice people," Spencer stated, suddenly feeling defensive. He hadn't realized it before, but he'd come to think of Roasted as something that was his. Something outside of the BAU that belong to him. Like Derek had his rental properties, Spencer had his morning visits to that little cafe. Everyone had something or someone that defined them outside of work; things that sometimes got a brief mention by the others, but was still uniquely theirs. JJ had Will and Henry. Penelope had Kevin and role play games. Rossi had this three ex-wives and his writing. Hotch had Jack. Spencer didn't know what Emily had, but he was sure she had something as well.

And Spencer had Roasted. And, while the BAU was his family, Aimee and Susan and little Jillian were his friends. And Roasted was his place. And he suddenly felt that if he walked in there one day and found the team there gathered for coffee, he'd lose part of himself. He hadn't been bothered by Derek's sudden appearance there, because on some level that felt right, as if Derek was meant to be a part of his private life, but the others... Spencer was sure he was being irrational, but this is how he felt. He didn't want to share the little niche he'd carved for himself with the team, he wanted it to just be his.

Hotch cleared his throat. "Don't you all have work to do?"

Spencer let out a mental 'thank you' as the group dispersed and everyone forgot about learning the location of the little coffee shop under the weight of the amount of paper work that had piled up over the last few weeks.

Chapter Text

"Hi Susan," Spencer said as he stepped up to the counter in Roasted.

"Wow," Susan said with a look of faux surprise on her face. "You've been in here every day this week. Did the villains of the world all of a sudden decide to take a vacation?" It had been a week since the team had returned home from the omega killer case, and there was a rare slow period going on at the BAU. Everyone had managed to catch up on their paper work, but aside from a few consultations, there hadn't been any new cases.

"It seems that way," Spencer said, watching as Susan moved around behind the counter preparing a cup of coffee for him even though he hadn't ordered yet.

Susan caught his curious gaze and smiled at him. "We're trying out some new flavors to add to the menu. Everyone who comes in get's a courtesy cup of the trial flavor of the day. You just have to tell us what you think of it." She spurted some whipped cream on top of the coffee in the cup and dripped some strawberry syrup over that. "This is our first trial flavor, a Neapolitan Latte. Try it."

Spencer picked up the small cup and took a tiny sip. "It's sweet," he stated. It tasted a bit like melted Neapolitan ice cream, only hot and with coffee in it. It seemed to be a latte made with cocoa powder, strawberry syrup and a vanilla creamer, in addition to the shot or espresso.

"'Sweet' from you is a compliment of the highest order considering how much sugar you put in your normal coffee. But sweet is also a way of ducking around the question of quality. So, is the coffee good or bad? Do you like it?"

"It's different," Spencer said, taking another small sip. "I like it. Neapolitan ice cream is my favorite."

Susan smiled and scribbled something down on a piece of paper by the register. "Alright, thank you for your opinion. What else can I get for you today?"

At that moment, Spencer's phone vibrated. He set his coffee cup down on the counter and dug the phone out of his messenger's bag. He sighed when he saw the words on the screen. "I think this will have to do for the day Susan, the villains' vacation is over."

Susan frowned. She didn't approve of his choice in career. She thought it was too dangerous of a field for an omega. But at the same time, she was proud of him for making his own path and proving that omegas could be more than housewives and schoolteachers and showing that they weren't as defenseless as people seemed to think. "Alright. You be careful, you hear. No foolish acts of heroics. We want you coming home to us. And tell Derek the same."

"Yes ma'am," Spencer said, stuffing his phone back in his bag and picking up the cup of Neapolitan coffee. He called a goodbye to Susan, as he rushed out the door. He knew she was still frowning at him when he left.


 

Spencer was the last to arrive at the office, and he rushed across the bullpen and into the meeting room as fast as he could to avoid keeping the others waiting any longer. He pushed through the door and stumbled on his untied shoestring, causing him to blush to his ears. "Sorry I'm late," he mumbled, rushing over to the open seat beside Derek and being careful to avoid stepping on his shoestring again.

"You would technically be on time if this case hadn't come up," Prentiss stated.

Spencer made a noncommittal sound in response to that as he set his coffee cup down on the table. Derek's fingers brushed over his as the black man reached out a picked up the cup. Spencer fought down a blush as he watched Derek sipping from his coffee. Derek frowned and shot the cup a confused look. "What's this? It isn't the stuff you usually drink."

Spencer reached out and grabbed the cup away from him, ignoring the brush of Derek's thumb over his wrist as he did so. "It's my Neapolitan Latte," he stated, his voice carrying a hint of chastisement. He did not like sharing his coffee. Derek knew that and he was pushing at boundaries that didn't need pushing when he had taken the cup.

"Guys," Hotch cut in tersely.

Derek immediately bit back whatever he was about to say in reply to Spencer's words and turned forward in his seat. Spencer slid his coffee cup across the table so that it was resting on the other side of him, next to Prentiss instead of Derek, and faced forward in his seat.

Once JJ was certain she had everyone's attention, she picked up the remote off the table and began presenting the case. "This is eleven year old Chalandra Knowles," JJ explained. Spencer looked at the smiling face on the school photo of the pretty little black girl. Sometimes, he hated how the pictures always showed smiling and happy faces. The simple fact that the pictures were included in the files his team discussed in this room and on their numerous flights meant that the person really had no reason to be smiling at that moment because something terrible had undoubtedly happened to them. "She was reported missing two hours ago from her home in Colorado. She's been missing about three hours." JJ continued as if to prove Spencer's stray thought correct. "Her disappearance has the same MO of five other child abductions in Colorado in the last two and a half years."

She pressed the remote and Spencer frowned at the collage of pictures showing five other smiling children.

"Ten year old Stacie Chambers went missing from her home two and half years ago. Eleven year old Kaylee Montgomery went missing from her home two years ago. Eleven year old Rain Redfern went missing one and a half years ago from her home. Ten year old Beatrice Fernandez, one year ago. And ten year old Jacqueline Yap, six months. All were the only children of single, working mothers. They were abducted when they were home alone because they're mom was working. Their bodies were found within seventy-two hours, in local playgrounds with a pretty distinct signature."

"The rest of the information can be discussed on the plane," Hotch cut in. "Wheels up in fifteen minutes."


 

Morgan claimed the seat next to Spencer on the jet, gently elbowing him in the side to get his attention and shooting a large smile his way. Spencer returned with a small, barely seen smile of his own, before turning back around and opening the dossier to begin reading about the past victims.

Out of the corner of his eye, Spencer noticed Prentiss raise her hand to her mouth and start chewing on her thumb nail while staring intently at the pictures spread out on the table. Her face was a mask of barely veiled confusion and annoyance.

"Something wrong, Prentiss?" Spencer asked.

"It's these dresses," she said, picking up the picture of Kaylee Montgomery and looking closer at it. "I've seen them before, I just can't remember where." She pulled all the crime scene photos of the first five victims from her file and laid them out on the table in a line. Each of the girls were wearing a dress that stereotyped their race: a pilgrim dress on victim one, a Victorian era gown on victim two, a Native American style dress on victim three, a traditional Hispanic fiesta dress on victim four, and a kimono on victim five. Their hair had been done postmortem to suit their outfits and so had their makeup. They'd each been laid carefully on the ground, not really posed but not just dumped either.

"They have too much detail to be just another set of dime-a-dozen Halloween costumes, but not enough intricacies to be custom made."

"They explain away the crossing of racial lines, at least. The UNSUB picks each victim to play a certain role," Morgan stated,

"Could the UNSUB be trying to make a racial statement?"

"I don't think so. Usually racism is targeted towards specific minorities, this is more like he's trying to get one of each race."

"Collecting one of each," Prentiss mumbled, almost inaudible. "That's it!" She said louder. "That's where I've seen the dresses before. I've seen them on dolls. Collectables."

"Dolls?"

"The victims dresses are a life size replication of the dresses worn by the True America Dolls Classic Collection," Prentiss clarified. "It's a collection of seven dolls, all of a different race. They're supposed to make a statement about how America is a mixing pot of different races and cultures, so all the dolls are listed as American while at the same time they're dressed to show pride in their ethnic background. My mother liked the idea of them and thought it was something an ambassador's daughter should own. I have the entire collection. They're on a shelf in my childhood room, never took them out of the box."

"What does the reference to these particular dolls say about the UNSUB?"

"True America is large doll franchise, but the Classic Collection is special. They're only released for a three month time period every twenty years and they cost over a hundred dollars each. These are meant to be collector items; I never even took mine out of the box. Few people own the entire collection or even half of it because it cost so much to get them all in one go. The last time they were on shelves was about sixteen years ago. But the dresses for girls are sold all the time and are a lot cheaper. It would be a lot easier to track the UNSUB if he used the actual dolls and not just the dresses. The only plus is that the dresses are sold exclusively at the True America stores."

"Still worth looking into. Garcia, if you could look into the purchase of these dresses from the stores."

"I can do that, what I cannot do is guarantee you a short list in a short amount of time."

"That search can take the back burner to other things we might need you to find."

"I am poised and ready to see to all your needs."

"The fact that he dresses them like the dolls says something. As well as the amount of care he gave to each girl. They'd all been bathed, even though there was no sign of sexual assault. They'd had manicure and pedicures. Their hair and makeup was done. There's not a bruise on them. Even the cause of death shows care- overdosing them with sleeping pills. He didn't want them to suffer. Their death was as easy as falling asleep. If they were actual dolls, they would have been cherished."

"This says all the victims were found by their mothers," Rossi said suddenly, changing the subject.

"Yeah," JJ said. "The victims' mothers received a phone call from an unknown number telling them to come 'pick up their daughter.' The local agents already attempted to track the call. It came from different disposable phones. Also, for the first twenty-four hours they were missing, the victims weren't actually being looked for. Their mothers received voice-mails from them saying they were staying at a friend's house."

"Did Karina Knowles receive a voice-mail?"

"Yes, but that's how we know she's been kidnapped. The phone calls weren't scripted. The victims were allowed to say whatever they wanted as long as they said they were going to a friend's and that they were safe and that they were convincing about it. This worked in our favor, because Chalandra Knowles and her mother had a secret code of sorts. Garcia..."

"Alright, our brilliant ladies had a fairly simple code. Karina Knowles says her daughter only ever spoke 'proper'. Never used slang or words like ain't or gonna. It became their little secret that whenever Chalandra spoke with anything less than perfect grammar, she actually meant the opposite of whatever she was saying. It was a game to them. It also pertained to her name. Apparently Chalandra only ever referred to herself as Cha-Cha, so whenever she used her full name, it meant seriousness. This also was the same with calling her mother 'mama' versus 'mum' and 'bye' versus 'see you later'. When Karina got this voice-mail she knew something was up. Here we go," Garcia pressed a button on her computer and the missing girl's voice filled the air.

"Hey, mama, this is Chalandra. I'm callin' to let ya know I'm finna head over to Jayla's house. I'm gonna stay the night there, so don't choo worry. I'mma be fine. Bye."

"From what Karina Knowles says, this message is to be interpreted as 'Hi, listen carefully, this is serious business. I'm calling to tell you I'm not going to Jayla's house. I won't be staying the night there, so please worry. I'm not going to be fine. We won't ever see each other again."

"That's pretty clever."

"And it worked in our favor. Karina Knowles reported her daughter missing less than an hour after the abduction, unlike with the first two victims where the UNSUB had a twenty-four hour head start before anyone even knew something was up."

"How does he choose these girls and get close to them?"

"They were all in the same school district," Garcia's voice came from the laptop situated on the table in front of the team. "Different schools, but same district. It's the only connection I've found so far, but I'm going to keep looking."

"Could the UNSUB work for the school district?"

"Garcia..."

"Run background checks on everyone employed by the school district, I know. Way ahead of you. Though, until you can give me something to narrow the list down to, this might be a while."

"Right now, I think it would be safe to exclude teachers or miscellaneous staff who only work at one school. If our UNSUB met them though the school, it's safe to assume that he visits all the schools, probably on a regular basis."

"Also, he would have been employed there for at least two and a half years."

"That's narrowed the search significantly, but this is still going to take a while."

"You can do it, Baby Girl, I have faith in you."

"You better have faith, chocolate thunder, because I truly intend to work some miracles over here. Hit you back when I got something. Ciao." She disconnected.

"It seems unlikely that the parents always found the body instead of a random park-goer, despite them receiving a phone call. The bodies were on display. Someone else had to see them."

"There's no reports of witnesses from the dump-sites. No one saw anything before the mother arrived."

"That doesn't make any sense. How could a body be placed in a public place with no witness from the public?"

"Maybe the park was closed. Most parks have curfews usually between ten pm and six am."

"The victims were found at noon. No way could they have been there for six hours without being discovered sooner."

"Noon is lunchtime. The park was probably empty. Plus it was on a Monday in both cases. Children would have been in school. Most adults would have been at work."

"I've never known a park to be completely empty in the middle of the day. Someone had to have been there. There had to have seen something."

"I just don't think he could have dumped a body in the middle of the day without being seen by anyone."

"It is an extremely public place. The local officers asked around and no one came forward saying they saw anything."

"They wouldn't if they, themselves, had something to hide."

"But why choose a park in the first place? What is he trying to do? To say?"

"Playgrounds are symbols of childhood's innocence and freedom. He's trying to taint that."

"An attempt to destroy other's childhoods and innocence like his own was destroyed."

At the moment, the pilot announced that the plane would be landing soon and all discussion was halted at papers were gathered and returned to folded and seat belts were put on.


 

There was a crowd of reporters outside the Knowles' family home when the team arrived. JJ immediately split from the group to go handle them while everyone else pressed through the crowd and into the house. Karina Knowles was sitting on her living room couch, clutched in the arms of someone who must have been a close friend. They both had tear tracks streaking their faces. There was a number of police officers milling about the room. Hotch went to speak with the detective incharge , while Prentiss approached the two women on the couch.

Spencer, Morgan, and Rossi all began walking around the house looking for things that would stand out. They still didn't know how the UNSUB had gotten into the house or coerced the girl into making the phone call. Morgan and Rossi looked around the front of the house, while Spencer headed down the hall towards the back. He passed a couple of closed doors as he went down the hall, and paused to look inside each of the rooms.

The third door he opened lead to Chalandra's bedroom. It was a typical little girl's room, painted in pastel purple and covered in frills and lace. There was a little girl sitting on her bed. She looked up when she heard the door opened and stared at Spencer.

"Hi," Spencer said, regulating his tone to as soft a soothing as he could make it like he'd seen JJ do with upset children. "You must be Jayla?" He took a guess, as that was the only other name they had for a little girl attached to this particular case.

The girl rubbed at her eyes, trying to rid herself of the tears pooling there. She nodded in answer to his question. "Who are you?" She asked.

"My name is Spencer. Doctor Spencer Reid. I work with the FBI."

"FBI? You don't look that old. You look like a student-teacher."

Spencer forced a small laugh at that. He'd once told Hotch that he looked like a student-teacher without a gun on his waist, but according to this girl he still looked like a student-teacher regardless of whether he had a gun or not.

"I'm sorry," Jayla said quickly. "That was rude."

"It's fine," Spencer said. "That is one of the kindest things people have called me."

"People call you names?"

"All the time. One person called me a pipe cleaner with glasses, but there're other names I've been called. I tend to be the youngest person in any given group so that gets attention drawn to me."

"Then why don't you just hang out with people your age?"

"Well, I'm smarter than most people my age. Which leads to even crueler names being thrown my way."

"I'm sorry. Cha-Cha and I get called names too, sometimes."

"Really? What kind of names?"

"Well, Cha-Cha gets called a Bougie Bitch. Don't tell my mom I said that," she added quickly. "I'm not supposed to cuss...curse," she corrected herself. "People say Cha-Cha is trying to act white because she don't speak in Ebonics."

"Ebonics? That's a big word."

"It means Black English," Jayla said. "It comes from the words ebony and phonics. It's the politically correct way of saying a person talks in slang. Cha-Cha taught me the word. She wants to be a writer, so she's always learning new words. Sometimes she throws around big words, not even knowing whether or not she using it right, just because she know no one else in the class will even know what it means."

"She sounds like a very smart girl."

"She is. She's the smartest girl in class. Everyone says I'm her little tag-along and no one likes me."

"Well, obviously they were wrong because Chalandra likes you. You're her best friend." Spencer said. He knew very well how cruel children could be and how much weight classmate's words can have on self-esteem and self-image. "And I think you seem like a really nice girl. I like you plenty."

Jayla smiled. "Thanks. I like you, too. Do you have a best friend?" She seemed to relax a bit and shifted into a more comfortable position on the bed.

Spencer smiled back. "Yes, his name his Derek. He's actually another FBI agent that works on the same team as me. He's somewhere in this house right now."

"I bet he likes you, too."

"I'm sure he does." Spencer caught sight of something on the bed that he hadn't noticed before because it had been shielded by Jayla's body. "Jayla, is that doll yours or Chalandra's?" He asked, pointing to a doll lying on the bed almost behind the little girl. The doll had dark skin and brown eyes. It's hair was thick and curly and wrapped in a scarf. It wore a miniature version of a stereotypical African dress. It looked well cared for, but not new.

Jayla frowned as she quickly picked up the doll and hugged it to her chest, suddenly tensing up again. "It's mine," she said. "My dad bought it for me." The last words came out in a defensive rush as if she was daring Spencer not to believe her.

"I don't think you're telling the truth," Spencer told her softly, trying to avoid sounding accusing. He took a slow step into the room and sat down on the bed next to her. He looked into the little girl's eyes and continued speaking in a soft tone. "Jayla, I really want to find the man who took Chalandra, but in order to do that I need to know everything. Please don't lie to me. Where did you get the doll?"

Tears pooled in Jayla's eyes and she hugged the doll tighter to her. "It was a gift from Cha-Cha" she admitted. "It was the last thing she ever gave me. She made me promise not to tell anyone where I got it."

"When did she give it to you?" Spencer asked. "Was it for your birthday?"

Jayla began playing with a lock of the doll's hair. "No," she said softly. "It was today, before she disappeared. She showed up at my house after school and gave it to me. I pinky-swore that I wouldn't tell anyone she came over or that she gave me the doll. I swore I wouldn't tell. I've never broken a promise to her."

"I bet she'd be really proud of you for keeping your promise despite the circumstances, but sometimes a promise needs to be broken. Chalandra wouldn't be upset with you for breaking it, because you did it to protect her. Isn't protecting her and bringing her home safe more important than keeping her secret?"

Jayla nodded slowly. "I guess. If it'll help bring her home."

"Good. Did she say anything else to you? Like where she was going?"

"She said she was going away for a while and that I was the best friend she ever had and that she loved me. Then she made me promise not to tell anyone that she was leaving. I asked her if I could go with her, but she said that she was going on a special adventure that only she could go on. When her mom called looking for her, I wanted so badly to tell her that I'd seen Cha-Cha, but I had promised. I couldn't break my promise or I would be a bad friend."

"That was a very loyal thing for you to do, Jayla. You're a good friend."

"I feel like a horrible one!" Jayla yelled. "I saw her today and I told nobody. My mom and her mom asked and I lied. Now they're both upset over her being gone, and I still couldn't bring myself to say anything because I'm scared I'll get trouble for lying."

"Jayla, you're a wonderful friend, because you didn't break her trust. I think she'd be happy you kept her secret this long, but she'll be even happier that you finally told someone."

"I just want to help her. I feel so selfish. I'm trying to keep myself out of trouble while my best friend is missing."

"It's not too late to help Chalandra. Telling me the truth was already a big help, but there's something else you can do as well."

"What? How can I help her?"

"Your doll. I think it might be very important. If you let me borrow it for a little while, I promise I'll bring it back to you."

"If she can help you find Cha-Cha, you can take her." She handed over the doll and Spencer took it carefully, as if it was the most precious thing in the world, because to Jayla it was.

"Thank you, Jayla, I'll make sure you get her back." He stood up from the bed and stepped towards the door, before pausing and turning back to look at the girl on the bed. "I wish I had a friend as loyal and good as you," he told her. "Not everyone can be trusted to keep a secret."

Jayla gave a small, watery smile.

Chapter Text

"This is a True America Doll," Prentiss confirmed when Spencer brought the doll and Jayla to the front room where the team was gathered.

"Jayla, why didn't you tell me you saw Cha-Cha? I asked you and you lied to me!"

"I'm sorry," the girl cried, clutching Spencer's arm and half hiding behind him. "I promised her I wouldn't say anything, and then I thought it was too late because I'd already lied and I didn't want to get in trouble."

"Jayla, this is too important to lie about. What if whoever has Cha-Cha hurt her and we couldn't find her because you weren't telling us the truth?"

"I'm sorry," Jayla said again.

"It's alright," Spencer whispered to the girl clinging to him. "You told us now, that's what's important."

"There's a registry for True America Doll owners," Prentiss said suddenly, trying to pull the attention away from the upset girl. "I'd forgot all about that. Each doll comes with a unique serial number and there was a mail-in registry that was kind of an insurance policy. If your dolls were lost or stolen, your proof of ownership was that registry and they'd let you replace the dolls during a sale gap for a fee."

"Is the serial number on the dolls somewhere?"

"It's supposed to be printed on the doll's lower back, but I can't say for certain because I never opened mine. It's also written on a card attached to the box because they're not meant to be opened. They're collector items." She turned the doll over in her hands and began removing its dress to look for the number. "Found it."

"Assuming giving the dolls to the girl's best friend is something done each time, what does that tell us?"

"These dolls aren't cheap. If he owns the entire collection, I'd say we're looking with upper middle class background at the least. This doll isn't new. It's very well cared for, but it's obviously had a previous owner, most likely more than one. And it wasn't just put on a shelf to be looked at. It's been played with. It's even been restored more than once."

"How much does restoration cost?"

"Since they weren't meant to be played with the first place, it costs a small fortune to get them repaired. It's actually cheaper to just buy them new. Except, they're extremely hard to find during the sale-gap. A simple touch up on the paint can cost fifty dollars. Clothes repair or replacement start at two hundred."

"Definitely upper class background then."

"But what does the use of the dolls say about the UNSUB?"

"Probably had an unhappy childhood, or a very happy childhood but an unhappy adult life and this is an attempt to regain that childhood happiness."

"I think it was probably an unhappy childhood. The victims were all latchkey kids. The UNSUB probably was as well. Maybe a hardworking mother never home and either no father or a detached one always too busy with something else to be there for his children. Either way, there's some heavy resentment."

"But if the resentment is towards the parents, why target children? Wouldn't it make more sense to target hardworking mothers that never have time for their children?"

"Maybe, unless the purpose is to save the children while punishing the parents at the same time."

"You're saying this man took my baby to punish me for working too much?" Karina Knowles asked.

"That's not what we're saying at all. This is in no way your fault. The UNSUB is delusional. This isn't about you or your daughter. This is about him trying to get back at his own mother for a perceived wrong."

Morgan's phone rang at the moment. "Baby girl," he answered, stepping away from the team for a semblance of privacy. "We were just about to call you." Garcia said something. "Well, we have something to help you narrow down that list. We have a serial number for a True America doll. We need you to access their registry and see if the last owner has any connections to anyone on that list. And you can narrow that further by seeing if anyone of them come from an upper class background and or purchased those dresses."

Prentiss read out the number to Morgan and he repeated to Garcia. He put the phone on speaker while Garcia worked her magic. "I got something," the techie said about a minute later. "The doll was last owned by a Gretchen Miller. It belonged to four of her cousins before that. She's the daughter of an old money family."

"Does she have a brother?"

"Gretchen does have a brother. A younger one named Riley. Riley is on my list of school district employees. He's actually the district social worker. He's also on our list of dress purchasers. I'm like ninety-nine point nine percent certain this is our guy despite the lack of any police record besides a parking ticket two years ago. Ah, and here's our stressor. Not the parking ticket, mind you. I just found death certificates for Gretchen Miller and her ten year old daughter from two and a half years ago. Less than a month before our first murder."

"Tell me you have an address, baby girl."

"Sending it to your phones now."

"Thanks baby girl, you're the best."

"Anything for my heroes. Go save the day and bring this little girl home. Garcia gone."

The call ended and the team immediately hopped into action.


 

Riley Miller's house was in a suburb on the other side of town. Spencer rode in one of the suburbans with Morgan and Rossi. He adjusted the straps on his Kevlar vest as the truck sped through town, lights flashing and siren blaring. When they got closer to Miller's house and no longer needed them to clear the way on main streets, Spencer shut the sirens off. They didn't want to alert Miller of their coming for fear of spooking him into killing Chalandra.

They were the first ones to arrive and Morgan parked the car at an angle in front of the house while all the other cops pulled up. They all silently got out of the car while the chief walked up to Hotch. "How're we gonna play this?" Everyone was silently checking their guns and vests whilst Hotch was contemplating what to do. Morgan walked up to them, just finished with his checking and double checking.

"A group of us could go round the back and see if we could gain a point of entry and get to Chalandra from there. We could use a distraction from the front to keep him occupied and maybe stray him away from her."

"Good idea Morgan. You, JJ, Prentiss, the chief, myself and a few agents will split up and go around the back; Reid and Rossi, see if you can distract Riley long enough for us to get in and grab her and get her out..."


 

Meanwhile inside the Miller house, Riley was in the kitchen making a cup of hot cocoa for Chalandra, or Cha-Cha. He chuckled to himself remembering when she told him in one if their meetings the name she preferred to be called. While he was waiting for the milk to heat up, he was crushing a few Donormyl pills into fine powder to add to the cup. He was so pleased with himself that he'd be able to save another child from the misery of a lonely childhood. Of those years where parents just simply didn't give a crap about their kids. That kind of thing just angered him. Why would you do that to your children? They deserve so much better! They deserved to be loved and cherished and given attention.

Well, now he had the chance to help these kids and show these parents up at the same time. These parents deserved to have their kids taken away from them for good! These children didn't need them!

He looked over to the stove and saw the milk was ready and he added the powdered sleeping pills to the cup with the cocoa and switched the stove off. As he was about to pick up the pot with hot milk there was a knock on the front door. He looked up quickly and spun around. Who the hell?

"Mister Miller? My name is Spencer, I'm from the Behavior Analysis Unit in the FBI. I just wanted to have a word with you? May I come inside?"

FBI? Crap! Riley looked out his kitchen window cautiously and saw all the cruisers and suburbans lined up in front of his house. No no no NO! This wasn't supposed to happen! This was never meant to happen. He spun around looking for anything to help him. He glimpsed the knife on the counter he used to crush the pills with and picked it up, slipping it behind him in between the band of his underwear and suit pants and covered the handle with his shirt. He poured the milk into the cup and stirred whilst simultaneously opened the cupboard door above him as he had done many times to grab the bag of marshmallows stored there. The FBI guy was still talking but he paid no mind to whatever he was saying. As he added three marshmallows to the cup, a small smile spread across his face. Cha-Cha was going to get her hot cocoa no matter what before he answered the door.


 

Morgan, JJ, Prentiss, Hotch and a few other officers had split up, weapons drawn and slipped round the house to the back and met up again at the back door giving the all clear signal. An officer came up and began to pick the lock while Hotch quietly gave the signal to Reid and Rossi to knock on the front door through his mouth piece. As Reid knocked and called out to Riley, the officer opened the door and held it while Morgan slipped in first, followed by Prentiss, JJ and Hotch. They each split up, guns already drawn, cautiously looking for either Riley or Chalandra. Morgan made it to the front and quickly but silently went up the stairs to the next level. He turned left toward the only room with a door open and quietly walked through. As he walked further in he heard a quiet gasp and spun to his right quickly, seeing Chalandra sitting at a small table, tears tracks on her cheeks looking like she was pretty much made to sit there and have a tea party. He quickly put his finger to his lips while he tucked his gun away and cautiously walked up to the little girl.

"Hello, what's your name?"

"Cha-Cha."

"Hello Cha-Cha, I'm Derek. I'm going to help you get out of here and back to your mummy okay?" The little girl nodded and quickly got up from her seat. He spoke into his mouth piece, "Guys I've found her." Just as he spoke he heard a crash downstairs and a scream.


 

Riley was putting the finishing touches to his cup of cocoa when he heard something like footsteps. He came out of the kitchen with the cup smiling to himself and froze. There, in front of him was a group of officers with guns, and they were all pointed at him. Cha-Cha! What if someone already got to her?! No no no! They were messing it all up! It wasn't meant to be like this.

"Mister Miller? My name is Aaron Hotchner…" Riley dropped the cup and screamed "NOOO!" He began to shake "NO! GET OUT OF MY HOUSE! GET OUT!"

His front door burst open and a few more officers came through. He guessed it was the real skinny one that was having the conversation with the door just a minute ago. Everyone had their gun pointing toward him.

"We will.. As soon as we have Chalandra with us. Though you'll have to come with us too. You've got a lot to answer for Riley."

He tried to block out the woman's soft voice and shook his head. He looked up to see a tall, black man with his Cha-Cha. She was gripping on to his arm as he was slowly making his way down the stairs. All he felt was a hot, blinding rage. Cha-Cha needed to be set free. These people would never understand that. They had no idea how it feels to be lonely, no one having anytime for you. Everyone just too busy to play with little Riley. His big sister just thrusting the dolls in his arms saying she was 'way too old for these, why don't you just take them Riley and leave me alone'. Having only those dolls as his friends. Being in such a lonely, dark place, like a flower growing in a basement—crooked and yellowed. No one deserved that. Not him. Not those poor girls whose mothers never weren't even there to see them home from school. It was unfair to the children. They deserved better. Cha-Cha deserved better.

That was when he decided, he absolutely had to do this, he had to save her from the hurt, the loneliness. He was going to get her away from these people and save her. He reached behind him and pulled out his knife. There was a loud shot, a scream and then silence. For a little moment nothing happened, everything just stopped and Riley wanted to know why. He looked up to see every person in his house looking at him. That's when he felt it, he put his hand on his shoulder where he'd just started to feel the blinding pain. That officer shot him! He got shot! He looked down to see the knife on the floor and he wobbled and he sank to the floor on his knees.


 

The plane ride back to Quantico was its usual quiet journey. When they got back to the office, Hotch dismissed them for the day, saying that paperwork could wait for morning. "You did good work today," the team leader stated, "go home and get some rest."

Spencer pooled the strap of his messenger bag over his shoulder and headed for the elevators. Derek strolled up to him and threw his arm around Spencer's shoulders. Spencer only tensed for a little bit, he was still a little reserved about people touching him but at least it wasn't as bad as before. People don't seem to catch it now so he guessed it was a vast improvement.

"Hey Pretty Boy, how about you and I grab a bite to eat?"

"Um," Spencer started to say, he realized that he hadn't really spent much time with any of his co-workers this week but he just felt that sometimes he needed time to himself. He'd already made a mental plan of how he was going to spend his evening. He could practically taste the glass of wine he planned on having whilst reading the brand new book he'd just bought on hypnotism after seeing that movie Trance with Prentiss the week prior. He was just about to open his mouth to decline when Derek just continued speaking.

"Yeah I'm thinking Chinese. Or maybe Indian, I know this great place. Okay Pretty Boy Indian it is, lets go."

Spencer just looked at him wide eyed whilst he was being practically manhandled into the elevator. "But," Spencer started to say again, but Derek cut him off.

"None of that, Pretty Boy. I'm sure you were planning a romantic evening at home with your favorite paramours Ink and Page, but I want some time with you. So we're going to go to dinner and we're going to talk about tv shows and books and music, but nothing to do with work or personal life. And afterward, we'll have a couple of drinks and jokingly profile the other patrons of the bar. Then I'll drive you home and tomorrow I'll meet you at Roasted and give you a ride to work, during which time we can talk business. Sound like a plan?"

Derek wasn't actually giving him much of a choice, but Spencer couldn't find any complaints. "Alright," he said.

"Good, because I want some Tandoori chicken and I'm curious to see what weird Indian dish is going to catch your interests. Let's have some fun tonight."

"Alright," Spencer said again, a smile curling at his lips.

Chapter Text

Spencer enjoyed going out with Derek. The ride to the restaurant was a bit awkward at first, with Spencer stewing in silence about Derek suddenly making demands on his time. But, once they arrived at the restaurant, the awkwardness was gone and Spencer began enjoying himself. It was no secret that Spencer loved Indian food, he frequently asked the team to accompany to the different Indian restaurants that he'd found and enjoyed. The restaurant Derek drove them to was one Spencer had never visited before, it had only recently opened and wasn't near anything Spencer frequented.

The restaurant was small and dimly lit. It had a very intimate feel to it, which caused Spencer internally freak out. Was this a date? Derek had said they were going out, but he didn't say it was a date. Spencer had not agreed to a date. He didn't know what type of behavior was expected on dates. Hanging out with friends was easy, but dating was done with the intention to form a deeper, more meaningful relationship than one shared between friends. It required revealing private details about yourself and there were courtesies that Spencer only knew about in theory, and there was...

"Hey, Pretty Boy," Derek said, pulling Spencer away from his thoughts, "Relax, okay. We're here as just two friends hanging out. Nothing more than that. Don't get yourself so worked up." Derek's smiled eased his mind a bit and Spencer found himself relaxing a bit.

"I wasn't freaking out," He stated with joking defiance.

"Please, you had 'freak out' written all over your face. You need to power down that super computer you call a brain and stop over analyzing things. And, trust me, if I was taking you on a date, I would have asked instead of demanding you come with me, and I would have given you enough time in advance so that you could call JJ, Emily, and Aimee and freak out about it with them." His tone was light and teasing and the only retaliation Spencer could come up with was to stick out his tongue.

Things went well after that. They passed the time talking about sports (Derek was a hockey fan but didn't really care much for baseball and Spencer wowed him with his ability to recant facts and stats about his favorite teams), music (Derek managed to wrench a promise out of Spencer to broaden his musical variety and listen to some hip hop), books (Spencer surprised Derek with the fact that he had read all seven Harry Potter books and a couple of Kurt Vonnegut books), and movies (Spencer convinced Derek that it was only fair if he had to watch a foreign film with him if Spencer was going to listen to his music).

The food was great. Derek ordered chicken tandoori that was absolutely delicious if the little piece Spencer had tasted was anything to go by. Spencer ordered some Chingudi Jhola that was spiced to perfection, but Derek thought it was both too spicy and needed hot sauce.

They talked and laughed through their meal, before arguing over who was going to pay the bill. Derek said since he'd dragged Spencer out against his will, it was only fair that he paid the check, but Spencer was more than willing to pay for his own food. They went back in forward for a few minutes, before deciding to split it down the middle.

After dinner, Derek drove them to a bar where the both the security guard at the door and the bartender greeted him by name.

"I've been to your favorite watering hole, Pretty Boy," Derek said, leading Spencer through the crowd, "now you get to see mine."

Spencer felt very much out of his element here. This wasn't his first time at a bar, but usually the entire team was there and Spencer always had someone familiar near him. Now, with it just being him and Derek, Spencer stood awkwardly by the bar sipping on the drink Derek had ordered for him and wondering what he was doing here.

They'd been there for about ten minutes, when Derek downed the rest of his drink and grabbed Spencer's hand. "Come on hot stuff, let's dance."

"What?" Spencer asked, resisting the force of Derek tugging him toward the dance floor. "I don't dance. I can't."

"Anyone can dance, Spencer," Derek said with a smile.

"I don't want to dance," Spencer retorted.

"Well, I'm not going to force you. You can stay here while I go dance."

"Fine."

Derek smiled and winked at Spencer, before heading to the dance floor just a few feet away and starting to dance.

Spencer sat awkwardly on his bar-stool sipping the drink Derek had ordered from him and watched the older male. Derek hadn't even been on the floor for a minute before two girls sidled up to him and started doing what Spencer guessed was meant to be dancing, though it looked more like a mix of vertical sex and epileptic spazzing. Derek looked unfazed by his sudden acquisition of dance partners, in fact he seemed to be enjoying the attention. He was probably used to it. Derek Morgan was a very attractive man. Spencer doubt there had ever been a shortage of women throwing themselves at his feet.

One of the girls—brunette, big boobs, with an unfortunate stain on the back of her dress that her friend really should have told her about by now—plastered herself against Derek's front and did some type of whole body jig that made Spencer wonder if she'd just gotten a sudden chill. She popped her perfect lips, before leaning forward and whispering something in Derek's ear. Derek laughed, then whispered something back to her before pointing towards Spencer. The girl shot Spencer a look that could curdle milk, before whispering to Derek again. Derek shook his head no, but continued to smile at her. The girl didn't seem to appreciate that answer, she grabbed her friend's hand and turned to walk away. Derek grabbed her arm to stop her retreat, and for a moment a very smug look pasted on the girl's face. The look was quickly replaced by embarrassment when Derek spoke softly into her ear. She changed directions and headed quickly towards the lady's room, most likely to do something about that stain.

Derek didn't even watch them go, he just resumed dancing. Over the next ten minutes, Derek danced with a total of seven women and two men, before finally leaving the dance floor and returning to Spencer's side. "Still don't want to dance, Pretty Boy?" He asked while sipping the drink the bartender set in front of him the moment he reached the bar.

"You're doing enough for both of us," Spencer replied.

"You're going to dance with me one day, just so you know."

"We'll see about that."

Derek just gave the face splitting smile he'd been aiming at Spencer all night. That smile was a weapon. Spencer had to turn away to keep from getting flustered by it.

Derek finished off his drink and dug a few bills out of his wallet. "It's getting late. We better get out of here, work in the morning and all." He threw the money down on the counter with a nod to the bartender. Spencer got to his feet and let Derek wrap an arm around his waist and steer him through the crowd.

The trip to Spencer's house was silent save for the music coming through the radio that Derek occasionally sang along to. They pulled up outside Spencer's apartment complex and Derek hit him with that disarming smile again, a glint of mischief twinkling in his eye. "Want me to walk you to your door?"

Spencer felt the overwhelming urge to roll his eyes, but managed to control himself. "I think I'll be fine."

"Alright. See ya tomorrow, Pretty Boy."

"Goodnight, Derek."

"You too. Take care, Spencer."

Spencer entered him apartment complex, headed up the stairs, unlocked his door, turn on the light, then went over to the window. He pulled back the curtain and looked outside. Derek tapped his horn once, a chirpy 'bye', before finally pulling off. Spencer watched until his taillights were out of sight.


 

"Oh thank god," Aimee said the moment Spencer walked into Roasted the next morning. There was a line of people all the way to the door. Aimee seemed to be running herself ragged, taking orders, making drinks, and running the register. She had a smile on her face, but it was obvious she was running on caffeine and adrenaline. Little Jillian was in a baby swing in the corner of the room, crying loudly. "Spencer, if you could grab Jilly and make her a bottle your coffee will be free."

Aimee was mixing up a mocha frappé as she asked him, and despite his desire to protest, Spencer knew Aimee wouldn't have time to tend to her daughter with so many customers present. He slowly got out of line and made his way over to the crying child.

"Hello, Jillian," he said softly, looking at the straps keeping her in the baby swing and wondering if there was a special way he was supposed to undo them. He only hesitated for a second, before undoing the fasteners and lifting the small child. Jillian cried louder as Spencer adjusted his grip on her until she was held carefully in the crook of his arm with her cheek resting on his chest. He jostled her softly and spoke to her in hush tones as he looked around the coffee shop. He spotted her diaper bag behind the counter with Aimee, there was three bottles in it with lips snapped over the nipple.

Jillian's crying was starting to quiet down a bit as Spencer used his foot to hook around the strap of the diaper bag and pull it towards him without getting in Aimee's way. He lifted the bag and sat in on a table, picking up a bottle and finding that it already had the right amount of water measured into it. Unzipping the bag, he found a bannister of powdered formula. He continued talking to Jillian as he read the instructions. Mixing the bottle with only one available hand was a bit difficult, but he managed. By this point, Jillian had stopped crying and was staring at Spencer while smacking her lips.

Spencer smiled down at her. "Do you want you bottle warm?" He asked her softly. "My godson, Henry, refused to drink cold bottles, but Jack hated them warm. I bet you like yours warm just to make your Uncle Spencer have to do more work."

Spencer carefully maneuvered behind the counter, trying to stay out of Aimee's way as he turned on the hat water tap. "It's a good thing I read the instructions," he said to Jillian, "I would have put the bottle in the microwave. But they say never microwave formula because it can cause hot spots. We don't want hot spots, do we? No we don't. They can burn your mouth. That's not good at all." He held the bottle under the water long enough to warm in a little. "There we go. All ready for you." He said, shutting off the water and shaking the bottle. "Now, are you going to be a good girl and drink the bottle Uncle Spencer worked so hard to make? It looks so tasty."

Jillian giggled and gave him an open mouth smiled that showed the beginning of one tooth cutting through her gums. She raised her hands and reached for the bottle with a pleased sounding gurgle. Spencer sat down at the table where he'd left the diaper bag and sat Jillian in his lap. "Look at you, big girl, sitting up and holding your own bottle. I remember when you could barely hold your head up on your own." Jillian contently leaned against Spencer as she suckled her bottle, taking breaks from drinking to babble at him for a few seconds, before happily returning to her meal.

Spencer kept a steady dialogue going between him and the infant, not talking about anything in particular, just letting his usual stream of thought spill from his lips and smiling when she responded to his words. Jillian only drank half her bottle before handing back to Spencer and starting up a long monologue of her own. Spencer listened to her babble, responding as if she was speaking clearly on the most interesting topic in the world. He made different faces with each response, comical surprise and awe, amusement, shock, anger, happy, sad, and doubtful. Jillian giggled at each face and continued her babbling. Occasionally, Spencer had to stop her from grabbing at his hair, but that seemed to amuse her too.

"You're one silly girl, Jillian. Silly. Silly. Jilly."

"You're really great with her," a familiar voice said from beside him.

Spencer looked at Derek and blushed. "She's an easy baby," he said. "She's content to have someone talk to her."

"I doubt she'd accept just anyone picking her up and talking to her about Machiavelli and Nietzsche."

"She doesn't actually understand everything I'm saying. She just responds to my tone."

"And your ability to moderate your tone in a way that pleases her isn't anything to scoff at. You're great with her, Spencer." His tone said he wouldn't be shaken on the subject. Thankfully, Aimee chose that moment to come over and throw herself into a seat with a relieved sigh.

"I hate Wednesdays," Aimee stated, leaning back in the chair and running her fingers through her hair. "It's our busiest day of the week for some reason, which is great for business but so aggravating."

"Where's Susan?" Spencer asked.

"My dad got hurt at work, so mom is tending to him. She'll be in soon." Like most Biological Alphas, Aimee's father worked in Law Enforcement.

"Is he alright?"

"As alright as anyone caught on the wrong end of a bullet. It was just a graze though. Some desperate kid, in over his head, who barely knew how to hold a gun properly, let alone aim it. But he'll survive. He always does. You heroes always do."

Aimee had once told Spencer she hated her dad's job. She'd been raised to think of him as a hero and he was her hero. But, she hated the fear that a phone call would come in the middle of the night telling her that her hero had met his Kryptonite. She thought Spencer was a hero, too. Everyone who worked in a field that had them defending and saving people were heroes to her. So many heroes, but even more villains. She'd seen her dad wounded in the job before. Each time, the wound hadn't been too horrible. Each time, he had survived. The hero survived. Just like in the stories. The heroes always win in the end.

"We live in a world of heroes, don't we Jilly-Bean?" Aimee asked, sitting up in her chair and taking her daughter from Spencer. "They might not wear masks or crazy costumes, but they are heroes. Your Uncle Spencer is a hero. Uncle Derek is a hero. And Popsicle is a hero. They're big and strong and protect the world. They're not infallible. Nor invincible. But they're heroes. The Heroes always survive."

Jillian blinked her large hazel eyes and placed a hand on her mother's cheek as if she could remove the sadness hidden deep within Aimee with a single touch. Aimee smiled at her baby and kissed her on her pudgy cheek. "Let's make these heroes they're coffee so they can get back to saving the world." She got to her feet her Jillian situated on her hip. "What will you be having today?"


 

Spencer and Derek had arrived to the cafe early enough that they actually had time to sit down and drink their coffee before leaving. Right after Aimee made they're drinks, another wave of customers had flooded the shop and she quickly handed Jillian off to Derek before turning to get to work.

Spencer and Derek sat in the corner of the shop set up for Jillian to play in, an area distinguished by the large blanket on the floor and the safety-gates caging it in with an array of toys. Jillian immediately crawled over to a stuff bear and started chewing on its ear. Derek picked up another of the stuffed animals and began talking through it to the little girl.

"So, what have you found out about starting a Youth Center?" Derek asked Spencer, before continuing his playing with Jillian.

"There weren't many books on the subject, but the lady at the library helped me look it up online. Surprisingly, it doesn't take much. We need a Board of Directors. Especially since we intend to start them in places we're not in often. The Board can help us in outlining our Mission Statement. After that, we just need to file for Non-Profit status, find facilities to suit our needs, and gather volunteers."

"Garcia and I have been looking into real estate in Chicago and Vegas. I found a suitable building in Vegas, but we're going to construct a place in Chicago. My mom can hold a town meeting to gather volunteers and Directors back home. You know anyone in Vegas who can do the same?"

Jillian got bored with watching Derek and the bunny. She put down her bear and crawled over one of her other toys. It was a busy board with a mirror and a lot of buttons and moving parts on it. She giggled as she looked at her reflection and made a sound that sounded like "baby."

Spencer thought about the people he knew back in his hometown as he watched her. Who did he know would be willing to take charge of this endeavor? He'd never be particularly close to anyone his own age, but there were a few teachers he'd had that were kind and had a vested interest in Alpha-Omega life. "I know of someone," Spencer said. "I haven't spoken to them in a few months, but they're always happy to hear from me. They're a bonded couple with alpha/omega children, so they would understand what we're trying to do."

"Filing for non-profit status should be pretty easy after we get all that figured out. I was thinking we could take some vacation time to visit potential locations for the centers and get talking to the community." Derek said as Jillian started pressing buttons on her toy. It began to play Ode to Joy, only to switch to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star when she pressed another button. "Would it be too much of an abuse of FBI systems to get Garcia to make a list of families with Alpha-Omega members, so we can directly target those most likely to show support?"

"I think the legality of it is more of the question."

"Please," Derek scoffed. "I know for a fact that Penelope runs full background checks on almost everyone we come in contact with on a regular basis. Usually people like the guys Emily dates, but she's looked into Aimee and Susan too. She's not bothered by how legal the act is."

For some reason, Spencer wasn't surprised by this at all. Penelope was always trying to look out for them in the best way she knew how. "We're going to have to do a lot of fund-raising," Spencer said instead of commenting on that. Jillian got distracted from her busy board when Derek accidentally bumped the side of her pin and sent one her balls rolling across blanket. She turned and crawled after it as fast as she could.

"Less than you think. Penelope and I found some politicians and celebrities who might be willing to invest. Including the lovely Lila Archer who already promised to help with promotion. In return, she asks that you maybe call her more than once every half century."

Spencer blushed. He remembered Lila Archer quite vividly. The actress who's best friend was stalking her. The girl who had stolen Spencer's first kiss after dragging him into a swimming pool. That whole situation had been awkward. Especially Derek's reaction to it. He teased Spencer about it constantly for months. Of course, that had been back before Spencer had been willing to accept Derek's desire to claim him. Spencer and Lila were still in contact and on friendly terms, though he hadn't talked to her as much in the last year or so.

"You already contacted her?" Spencer asked. He'd guessed that they would ask Lila for support since she was a big name celebrity that they knew personally (if only through the job), but he'd assumed they would expect Spencer to be the one to call for the favor.

Derek shrugged and smiled down at Jillian who was handing him her ball. He set the ball down and sent it rolling across the blanket again and Jillian eagerly crawled after it. "She was someone we were almost completely sure would help, so we called her."

"Oh."

Jillian caught the ball and brought it back to Derek, but didn't bother it chase after it when he rolled it this time, in favor of reaching for Derek to have him pick her up. The moment she was in his arms, she reached for his nose. Spencer chuckled as Jillian hooked her little fingers into Derek's nostrils and started pulling with all her might.

Derek chuckled too as he grabbed her hand and pulled it away. "No," he chastised lightly. "That's dirty. Now we have to clean your hands, because I know the moment I let it go it's going straight for your mouth." Spencer reached into the diaper bag for some baby wipes and handed one to Derek. Derek cleaned Jillian's hands and the moment he let them go, she turned and reached for Spencer. Apparently her only interest in Derek had been his nose and now that she's been denied that she wanted nothing to do with him.

Spencer chuckled again and took the child. She immediately grabbed her hair and pulled it towards mouth. Spencer clucked his tongue in disapproval and replaced his hair in her hand with a finger. Jillian gripped tight on his finger and gave a large, gummy, smile and started smacking her lips.

"You two need to stop being so cute with my granddaughter and get out of here," Susan said, coming up behind him.

"Hi, Susan," Spencer and Derek said together.

"Hello boys. Good to see you both alive and well. Now, you need to start heading to work before you're late. I can take care of this little terror."

Spencer handed Jillian over and got to his feet. Derek did the same.

A few minutes later, they both had fresh cups of coffee and had said their goodbyes to the three ladies of the shop. They got into Derek's car and headed towards the office.

Chapter Text

They had arrived at William Jewell College in Liberty Missouri shortly after noon. The local law enforcements had set up a command center in one of the multipurpose rooms in the school's student union. They were dealing with a spree killer.

Three students had died in the last five days, all of gunshot wounds to the head. The first two victims were both sorority girls that shared no physical traits. The third victim was male and not a member of any Greek association.

“Della Ochoa was a third year Communications Major,” said Mary Jacobson, she was an employee of the college but Spencer had missed her job title due to being distracted at the time of introduction. “She was a sweet girl. She visited Student Affairs all the time. She liked to hang out in Quentin’s office after her classes.”

Della Ochoa was the first victim. She'd been found in the student parking lot during the early hours of Monday morning. She'd been dead for only about three hours at the time. Spencer listened with only half his attention while Mary continued listing all of Mary's positive traits and talking about how close knit everyone on campus was how she just couldn't imagine one of the students doing anything like this. The other half of Spencer's attention was on the bottle of water he held clenched between his hands. The moment their plane had landed, Spencer had been hit with such a strong thirst it left him wheeling for a few seconds. He'd already finished off three bottles of water since their arrival in Liberty and he was very close to finishing a fourth but he was trying to convince himself to moderate the remaining water in the bottle so as not to disrupt the discussion to get another one.

He took a small sip of water from his bottle and turned his attention back to what was being discussed. They were talking about the second victim now. Deanna Horn was a first year student majoring in elementary education. She'd died at around four in the morning on Wednesday. She'd also been killed in the student parking lot, a place referred to as The Sahara because of it's distance away from campus. The Sahara was tucked behind the dormitories at the bottom of a staircase containing eighty-one steps. Deanna had just returned to the school and had called Campus Safety to drive her up to her dorm. This wasn't an unusual thing at all. Somewhere between the time she hung up her phone and Campus Safety had arrived to her, she'd been shot. She was dead less than five minutes when Campus Safety found her sitting in her car with the lights on.

“Deanna was very involved in campus life,” Mary Jacobson said. “She was on the track team. She was a member of various campus organizations. She joined her sorority before recruitment due to Continuous Open Bidding. She was a really really sweet girl.”

Spencer gave up his internal fight and downed the rest of the water in his bottle, the cool liquid easing the unbearable thirst within him and clearing his head a few minutes.

The conversation had turned to the third victim, Henry Kelley. Henry was a senior nursing major. He was the only one not killed in the student parking lot. His murder had taken place almost half way across campus on a path next to the house where the school's president lived. The path was a direct route from the back of the student union to the area where the upper year dorms were located. According to his roommate, Henry had stayed late at the Union to work on a paper. The Union was open twenty-four hours, but the doors locked at midnight. The doors could only open from the inside and there was a campus safety officer inside with any students that might be there. They were told he was seen heading downstairs in the Union to check his mailbox and then had left through the door near that area. His body wasn't found until the next morning by students on their way to breakfast.

“Henry was a very quiet boy,” Mary said. “He had a small group of friends and stuck close to him. But he was really sweet and wouldn't hurt fly.”

The annoyance Spencer was beginning to feel every time Mary described the victim as 'really sweet' was very unjustified, but he couldn't push it away. And he was so thirsty!

There was a little more talk about the victims, before the team started giving a basic profile. “Our UNSUB is a type of spree killer. He's most likely a white male, loner, probably bullied, socially inept, easily frustrated, show interests in violent topics, has signs of depression, and little trust in others.”

“Spree killers feel like they have nothing left to live for. They think their own lives are over and aim to take as many people with this as they can. They usually select their victims at random, though sometimes they are drawn to certain traits. School shooters often targets students who gave them a hard time, teachers who gave them failing grades, or a group of bullies.”

“Spree killers devolve really fast. He's going to start getting sloppy. He feels he has nothing left to live for and in the end he'll prefer death to being captured, usually resulting in suicide by cop.”

“There are rare occasions when spree killers do target a certain type of victim. Right now, all we can recommend is that you inform your students to never go anywhere alone. We don't know if he's looking for a specific victim type or if these are just crimes of opportunity, but to be safe minimize his opportunities.”

“Should we close the school?” Mary asked. “Maybe send the students home for their own safety?”

“With your policy that all students must live on campus, you're definitely just going to be sending the UNSUB home with them and if he doesn't continue his spree outside of school, where he'll have a larger victim pool to choose from, he will just... ...when... ...reopens... ...continue....”

“Reid?” Morgan’s voice was low, but his concern could be heard. The feel of his hand on Spencer’s shoulder was enough to pull him back to clarity. “Are you okay?” Morgan asked.

“I...uh...” Spencer stammered, pulling away from that large heavy hand and putting some space between him in Morgan, despite wanting with everything in his being to get closer. He wanted to get as close as possible to the alpha, to be wrapped up in his arms, to touch every single part of him. His heart pounded in his chest and he could see the exact moment Morgan realized what was going on, his nostrils flared and his eyes dilated a bit before he backed up and put more space between them.

“I need a moment,” Spencer finally managed to get out, his cheeks burning red. He slid a hand down the side of his messenger bag, searching for the familiar lump of an object he never left home without. “Excuse me,” he said to everyone in the room, rushing towards the door.

His brain was cloudy and he felt strange--hot, floaty, blurry around the edges. He recalled seeing a sign for the restroom when they’d first entered the Student Union and he made his way towards it, his hand never leaving the reassuring lump inside his bag. He may have been caught off guard, but he wasn’t unprepared. His Heat was starting early, so he just had to postpone it until a more convenient time.

Spencer hurried down the stairs and around the corner. He entered the restroom and made a beeline for the stall furthest from the door. Sliding the latch to the stall closed with one hand, Spencer dug his hand inside his satchel with the other and fished around for his stash of Omegesterin.

Spencer pulled the box and syringe out of his bag and let out an audible sigh of relief. He wouldn’t have come on this case if he’d known his Heat was going to start,  but it was more than two weeks early so he’d been literally caught off guard. It wasn’t uncommon for Heats to be irregular; much like girls with their periods, Heats could changes cycles or be affected by stress or other factors.

He’d been thirteen and just starting CalTech the first time his Heat had came off schedule. He hadn’t bothered to buy more suppressant before he’d left Vegas because his Heat hadn’t been expected for another two weeks and he’d thought he would have time to pick up some in Pasadena if he ever needed it. His Heat had hit him unexpectedly and Spencer had ignored the symptoms for the first couple of days, because his Heat always came on schedule so there was no way it could be starting yet. He’d slipping into Stage 2 Heat in the middle of class and one of his professors had had to barricade him in his office while he rode out the week. After that, Spencer had made sure to pay attention of the signs of his Heat and to always have Omegesterin with him no matter what.

He quickly unfastened his pants and pulled them just below his hip, before freeing the bottle of suppressant from it’s box. It looked just like the little bottles of insulin diabetics used. He took a deep breath to try to clear his mind of the heat-induced haze clouding it. He needed to think clearly for a second, just long enough to measure the suppressant. It was safe to take enough suppressant to postpone a Heat for two weeks, but he didn’t need that much. He just needed enough to get him through this case. It was a spree killer. It shouldn’t take more than a day or two for that to play out. So three days worth should be enough to get him through. He measured that amount into the syringe and set the bottle down on top of his bag.

Spencer didn’t like needles. Ever since his Dilaudid addiction, he hated them. It reminded him too much of how he’d almost ruined his life. He pushed his discomfiture aside and stabbed the needle into his hip, slowly pressing down on the plunger.

Relief wasn’t instantaneous, but it was close. It took just over a minute before he started to feel it. The haze on his thoughts began to clear. The flush left his skin. The unbearable thirst became so much more bearable. The fever left his body. He could focus. He could think. It was almost as if the Heat hadn’t been there at all. As if the quirk in biology that controlled so much of his life didn’t even exist.

Spencer let out a sigh of relief. If he was being honest, Spencer would say he didn’t like going into Heat. It made him irrational and illogical. It impeded his judgement and deteriorated this cognitive abilities. It made him unable to remember. It made him hyper aware of his body and made him feel so needy. But the main reason Spencer hated Heats was because he knew he’d never have anyone to spend them with. He knew he wasn’t much to look at and his personality left a lot to be desired. And he was weird even by Alpha-Omega standards. Seriously, he was an Omega employed in a profession usually only sought by Alphas. He wasn’t good with kids. He wasn’t attractive. He wasn’t anything special. And the fact that he’d just stood next to Morgan, had even been touched by him, while releasing Heat pheromones and Morgan had reacted by moving away from him proved that.

Spencer sighed and began gathering himself. The used needle had to be seen to first, since he didn’t conveniently have a sharps disposal container with him, he had to recap the needle and properly dispose of it later. He stood the cap of the needle up on the of the toilet paper dispenser and slid the used needle into it with one hand in a well practice motion. After the syringe was capped, he wrapped it in toilet paper and put it into a rarely used zip up pocket inside his satchel. The bottle of Omegesterin went back into it’s box and dropped it into the bottom of the bag. Finally he righted his clothes and fastened his belt.

Taking one last deep, fortifying breath, Spencer exited the bathroom and made his way back upstairs to the room where the team was meeting. “Reid,” Prentiss called the moment he entered the room. The rest of the team was gone and the only remaining people in the room were random school officials and a couple of local law enforcement agents. “You’re with me,” Prentiss said walking towards him. “We’re going to talk to Henry Kelly’s roommate over in Semple Hall.”

“Alright,” Spencer said, adjusting the strap of his messenger’s bag.

“You alright?” Prentiss asked. “You left pretty suddenly. Morgan said not to worry, but I gotta ask.”

A light flush covered Spencer’s cheeks. “I’m alright now,” he said a bit sheepishly and Emily (bless her soul) didn’t press for more information.

“Henry was a great guy,” John Holcomb, Henry’s former roommate said. “Neither one of us made any real friends our first year here so we let Student Affairs randomly assign us roommates for second year, that’s how we met. We became best friends. We’ve been rooming together ever since.”

“What can you tell us about Henry?” Prentiss asked. “We’re trying to determine rather or not these were random killings, so anything you can tell us about Henry will help. Did he ever mention having an altercation with anyone? Did he have a bad break up recently?”

“There’s not many bullies at Jewell,” John said, he was clearing out a dresser of Henry’s possessions and packing away everything into boxes and bins. “Henry was a bit of a wallflower in crowds. Well, that’s putting it nicely. He had really bad social anxiety so he avoided things like parties and stuff. Nothing much about him really stood out though. He was this small thing. He was a bit of a puppy around close friends, always smiling and filled with a contagious happiness.”

There was a knock at the door that interrupted the conversation. “It’s open,” John called out. The door opened and a pretty dark skinned girl stuck her head inside the room.

“Hey John, am I interrupting?”

“Harley,” John said, motioning the girl to come inside. “These are FBI agents looking into the shootings. They were just asking me about Henry.”

The girl moved further into the room and closer to Spencer and Prentiss. The moment she was completely inside the room, Spencer was struck by her scent. It was sweet and floral like toffee and lavender with an undercurrent of something Spencer was very familiar with. “FBI agents?” She asked, eyeing Spencer in a way that said she’d smelled him the same way he’d smelled her.

Spencer always felt awkward when he met other omegas, especially while he was working. They always looked at him strange because it was so rare for omegas to employed in such a dangerous and high action field. Omegas were teachers and nurses, not cops and soldiers. “Profilers,” Spencer explained. “We work in the Behavioral Analysis Unit.”

“That’s cool,” Harley said. “I’m a psychology major with an interest in abnormal and criminal psychology.”

“Maybe you could be a Profiler one day,” Spencer said with a weak smile.

“Maybe,” Harley smiled back. “But right now I’m just picking up some things from John. Do you have those pictures I asked for? I need to finish the collage before tomorrow.”

“I’ve got some,” John said, grabbing a stack of photos off his desk, “I can bring you the rest later. Are you going to be at the vigil tonight?”

“I might be a bit late, but I’ll be there. It looks like it’s going to take me longer than intended to finish prep for the memorial. I’m going to be next door in Jones’ for the rest of the day.”

“Down in the Multicultural Center?” John asked.

Harley nodded. “Yeah, setting up for the memorial tomorrow.”

“I’ll bring them by later there then.”

Harley smiled and bidded a farewell before departing the room.

Spencer and Prentiss only asked a few more questions before they, too, departed.

“There’s no indication that the UNSUB is targeting a specific victim type and if I hear how ‘sweet’ everyone on this campus is one more time, I’m going to scream.”

“Hey,” Morgan said, sitting a cup of coffee down on the table in front of Prentiss, “relax, we’ll get a lead soon.”

“Before or after someone else dies?” Rossi said. It was a rhetorical question, but everyone knew the answer. The likelihood of them even narrowing down potential suspects before another person was targeted was so slim that Spencer didn’t even want to think about breaking down the percentages.

“I think we should call it a night,” Hotch said. “The UNSUB usually doesn’t strike until the early hours of the morning and there’s nothing we can do right now.”

The team stood and gathered their things, closing and locking the door to the multipurpose room behind them. They made their way down the stairs and towards the glass doors of the student union. Outside, they could see the doors to the campus’ chapel open and a large hoard of students spilling out onto the quad.

“I guess the vigil is over,” Rossi said, glancing down at his watch.

Hotch’s phone rang at that moment and he stepped away from the group to answer it. Up ahead, all the students seemed to be all migrating in the same direction in a frenzy that resembled hysteria. A siren could be heard somewhere close by and a few seconds later and ambulance sped up the hill heading the the same direction at the students.

Hotch hung up his phone and came back over to the team. “There’s been another shooting,” he announced, though everyone had guessed as much.

The team moved at once, following the crowd to the scene of the crime. Teachers, cops, and campus safety officers were making a barricade trying to keep the students back, but the team was let in with just a flash of a badge. As Spencer was about to pass the barricade, someone grab his arm and held him back. It was John Holcomb.

“Dr. Reid, it’s Harley,” he said, his face a mask of anguish as the words spilled from his lips, barely more than a whisper. “Someone shot Harley. She never made it to the vigil, I just thought she’d gotten too busy, but I should have known better than to leave her alone.”

“Hey, John, it’s okay,” Spencer tried to console him.

“But it’s not okay. I knew she could be targeted, but I still left her alone.”

“You couldn’t have known.”

“But I did know. I wasn’t sure at first, but I thought it was possible. All the victims have been omegas. That’s why Harley was in charge of planning the memorial; she’s the event chair for COS.”

“Campus Omega Society,” Spencer said in disbelief. How had they missed this?

“This school has just over a thousand students. Being a liberal arts college, it’s not going to attract many alphas. In fact, there’s currently only fifteen Biological Alphas enrolled as students and three Biological Alphas on staff. One of these guys has to be our shooter.”

“Now we just have to figure out which one.”

“Get Garcia on the phone.”

Six hours later, they’d narrowed the suspect list down to eight potentials, but none of them were really suspect and they didn’t have enough for so much as a warrant for any of them.

“Why are you so sure it has to been an alpha?” The local law enforcement agent taking lead on the case asked with a frustrated sigh.

“Because the victims are all omegas. The only way to identify an omega is through scent. The only people capable of scenting and omega is another omega or an alpha. And there’s never been  a case in recorded history where an omega has ever killed anyone in cold blood, ergo it must be an alpha.”

“It might be an alpha, but it’s not any of these guys.”

“It has to be someone at the school. It has to be one of them.”

“There is a chance he might not be one of the alphas listed.  Unlike omegas, who have to take weeks off from class and would need special arrangements for their Heats, alphas aren’t required to have their status on file. There could be alphas at this school that administration doesn’t know about. Though I doubt there would be many. Fifteen alphas is a large number for a liberal arts college this small. There are about 3,163,897 alphas in America. There are 251 Liberal Arts colleges. On average, only about twenty-five hundred alphas attend liberal arts colleges a year. That averages to about ten alphas per college, but there’s the tendency to choose larger colleges over smaller ones to take into account. A college this size would generally have an alpha population of about five to seven.”

“And you know all of this, how?” The LLE asked in disbelief.

“You’d be surprised by how much our boy knows, just don’t question it.”

“Alright, then, Mr. Know-It-All, if you know so much, how come we haven’t found this guy yet?”

“Because I don’t know everything. We don’t know everything. We’re missing something. We need to figure out what.”

“Well, when all else fails,” Rossi said, “go back to the profile.”

The team nodded and set about re-examining the profile. It was during this, while everyone struggled to find the missing variable, when something became clear to Spencer.

“Gideon,” he whispered as realization hit him.

“What was that?” Prentiss asked.

“Gideon,” He repeated louder. “Working a case on a college campus always brings to mind two things for me: Morgan telling me I need to think outside the box and Gideon.”  One of the last case they’d worked with Spencer’s former mentor had been on a college campus, so it made sense that his brain brought up memories of the man, but that wasn’t the point. “In one of Gideon’s papers he said that multiple personalities wasn’t a reasonable defense because there’d never been a proven case of Dissociative Identity Disorder. But after the Adam Jackson and... Tobias Hankel cases, I’m inclined to believe that such a disorder exist.”

“Where are you going with this?”

“When Gideon wrote it, there had never been a proven case of D.I.D. so his paper wasn’t wrong, but now it would be considered outdated and behind the times. Perhaps holding on to the idea of an omega being unable to commit these crimes is outdated and behind the times as well.”

“You think our killer is an omega?”

“Well, it’s definitely not one of these alphas and it’s extremely unlikely for it to be a beta.”

“Fuck.” Morgan said suddenly. “I know who it is.”

At that moment, one of the local officers’ phone rang and just a second after answering it, he informed the room that shots had been fired at the Multicultural Center in the basement of Jones Hall where the Campus Omega Society were currently having a memorial party for the lost students.

Leah Humphrey didn’t consider herself a killer. People always said she was a sweet girl. Gentle-natured, mild-mannered, a bit shy, and really really sweet. Sure she had her quirks, but everybody did. And parts of her personality were atypical of omegas, but no one really fitted perfectly into the cookie cutter mold of what their biology said they should be. Anyone who knew Leah would say she was a perfectly normal girl and there was nothing in her nature that could make her a killer.

What people didn’t realize was that the only thing standing between sweet-Leah and a cold-blooded killer was a boy by the name of James Small.

James had been Leah’s best friend for as long as she could remember. They’d been in the same Mommy and Me classes when they were in diapers and by the time they were walking and talking, they were already firmly attached at the hip. For the longest time, James was Leah’s only friend until he managed to coax her out of her shell enough to meet new people. But even after she’d made new friends, her friendship with James was the strongest and most important.

Learning that James was and alpha and Leah was an omega had been a most fortuitous occasion. James Claimed her right after her first Heat when she was twelve and maintained that claim on her for the eight years since. Leah had thought that one day, after they’d finished school and had gotten settled into their careers, James would turn that Claim into an actual Bond and the two of them would have their happily ever after together. Because Leah was the most important omega in James’ life and she knew he wouldn’t be willing to let her go for anything, and him attending William Jewell to be with her just proved it.

But then James had met Regina Vaughn. Regina was an omega. She was beautiful and outgoing and everyone loved her. She was president of the Campus Omega Society and a member of the track team and Social Chair of her sorority and was a Freshmen Mentor and was just this perfect person with so much to love about her and Leah hated her. But James loved her. He was enamored with her from day one.

It was fine the first couple of years they were at college. James and Regina were just friends first year and second year, she let him Claim her. It was their third year, this year, that things had gone to hell. James decided that he wanted to Bond with Regina and, if that wasn’t a big enough betrayal, he wanted to break his Claim on Leah because Regina didn’t want him tied to anyone else if he was going to Bond with her. James asked Leah to find another alpha to Claim her. A week later, Leah lied and said she had. If James had cared enough and had pulled his head out of Regina’s ass long enough to notice her, he would have realized that Leah didn’t smell at all like another alpha had Claimed her. Leah hadn’t let another alpha near her. James was the only alpha for her and he didn’t want her.

So the sudden loss of contact that was James removing his Claim had sent Leah in a Drop. She’d known it was going to happen, but nothing could have prepared her for the experience. The deep, dark, aching, loneliness that fell over her was so terrible she thought she’d lose her mind. The depression that clung to her everyday weighed her down like lead. She managed to go a month before she couldn’t take it anymore.

Her dad had bought the gun when she was sixteen and had taught her how to shoot it. How he’d acquired the gun was pretty shady, but he’d had her best interest in mind. She’d never used the gun on an actual person before. The only reason she’d had it at the school was because she’d wanted to put herself out of her misery, but then she’d seen Della in the parking lot and she’d gotten a better idea.

It was all Regina’s fault that James had left her. It was Regina’s fault that Leah had to suffer the Drop. If Regina wasn’t around, Leah could have James. If there was no other omegas around, James would have to choose Leah. The other omegas needed to die.

When the FBI came to campus, Leah realized she might have bitten off more than she could chew. When one of them questioned her, an alpha actually, she realized she needed to finish things quickly. Even though they hadn’t suspected her at the time, who knew they would wise up. There was only two omegas left that she really wanted dead. She would take them out and end all of this. All she needed to do was kill Harley and and Regina and it would be done.

Harley was easy. Her tendency to go into seclusion when she felt overburdened worked in Leah’s favor. And Regina being the president of C.O.S. meant she would have to be at the memorial party along with most of the the other omegas on campus. If she happened to take out some of them in the process of getting to Regina, then more power to her.

Spencer was told to stay behind while the team moved in for the capture. Being an Omega made him a target and they didn’t want to put him at unnecessary risk. Sitting in the meeting room and listening to the words being passed over the headset was one of the most nerve wracking experiences of his life. He didn’t like his team (his family!), being in danger without him there to help them.

He listened to Morgan and Hotch trying to talk the UNSUB down, telling her that no one else needed to die, but the girl was saying no. “One more person needs to die. She needs to die. This is all her fault. She’s the life ruiner here, not me. She has to die!”

Some more words were passed and then shots were fired. Spencer held his breath as the sound of bullets reverberated over the headset. He continued holding his breath after the noise died down until he heard every member of this team speak and assure the others that they were okay.

He let out a sigh of relief. It was over.

Chapter Text

“Thank you,” Spencer said, stepping to the side and letting the officer carrying the two cases of bottled water he’d bought pass him and enter the apartment. “Just set it over there, please.” He made a vague gesture towards a corner of the living that wasn’t currently overrun with books.

They’d been called on the Jewell case suddenly and Spencer had been in the middle of researching some things, meaning he’d had multiple books open and spread around him on the floor. Too many to put away before heading to the office, so the books had remained where they were. There really wasn’t anywhere in the living room for the officer to set the cases of water, not that it mattered; as soon as the officer left, Spencer would move the water to his bedroom along with the supply of granola bars in the bags hanging from him arms.

Bottled water and granola bars: standard Heat food. During his Heat, he wouldn’t be able to focus on anything other than his body’s demands for sexual relief, so cooking himself meals were out of the question. It was actually a great achievement to pull himself out of the Heat haze enough to stay hydrated and force down the granola bars. Eating and drinking would quite literally be the last thing on his mind, but going through Heat was physically demanding and he would need the nutrients.

That was another downside to going through Heat alone. If he had an alpha with him, the Alpha would take on the task of keeping him fed and hydrated so as not to do his body damage. Spencer’s body was already accustomed to missing meals anyway, though, because of his tendency to throw himself into a task and forget that his body needed more than sugar and caffeine to function.

There was actually a lot of downsides to going through Heat alone, and no upsides at all. Well, there was an upside to being an FBI agent going through Heat alone. That being the security detail offered to him. To keep wayward Alphas who happened to catch a whiff of mateless Omega Heat pheromones away from him, two Beta officers were stationed outside his apartment. One of the officers was the one currently dropping the two cases of bottled water on the floor at the head of the hallway.

“Thank you,” Spencer said again.

The officer nodded his head. “No problem. If you need anything else, my partner and I will be right downstairs.”

Spencer gave a small smile, the only thing he could think to do other than saying ‘thank you’ again. The officer stepped out of the apartment and Spencer watched him head down the stairs, before closing and locking the door. There were five locks on his door, which seemed paranoid but was a necessary precaution for being mateless in Heat. He raised his wrist and glanced at his watch.

His Stage 1 Heat had already made a reappearance while he’d been in the office trying to finish as much paperwork as he could before his week away. Because he’d used suppressants already, the Stage 1 had hit him without any of the subtlety as before. He’d drank nearly a gallon of water between leaving the office and getting home. His body knew it would be losing a lot of fluids soon, so it was trying to stock up.

If Spencer was right about the timing, he would be moving into the next, actual Heat, stage of his heat within the next hour. He could already feel the fever building beneath his skin and the fog settling at the corners of his mind.

He forced himself to take a deep breath and went through his usual pre-Heat routine. He checked all the windows to make sure they were secured with the blinds closed. He lifted the cases of water and placed them on one of his hard-bottomed dining chairs. He pushed the chair down the hall into his bedroom where he left it next to his bed, moving the water from the seat to the floor. All small or sharp objects were removed from reach of the bed. His supply of granola bars were removed from their boxes and lined up on one of the bedside tables. There was one more thing he needed to prepare in the bedroom, but it could wait.

He journeyed back the living room and focused on cleaning up his scattered books instead. He gathered as many of them into his arms as he could fit and started putting them in their proper places on his already overfilled bookcases.

It hit him all at once, like  a punch to the gut, knocking the wind out of him. The books in his arms fell to the floor, followed shortly by Spencer himself as he dropped to his knees with a strangled moan. A shiver passed through his whole body, leaving a familiar heat in it’s wake. There was usually more build up. Like the rising action leading to the climax in a story plot diagram. Usually he’d get a persistent erection, first, and the overwhelming urge to touch himself; an urge he would have to deny because what offered him relief during the first hours of heat wouldn’t be enough later and he would have to find new ways to get the needed release.

It was because of the suppressants, even just the little bit he had taken, that his body skipped the build up. It was like a thunderstorm with no cloudy precursor. Just the sudden onset of a heat so intense it left him breathless.

Energy thrummed beneath his skin like something electric and dangerous. His fingers clawed at the carpet as he forced himself to breathe deeply and focused. He needed to get to his bedroom. He needed to get the box from his closet while he still had something resembling clarity of mind to do so.

Getting to his feet was a chore. His legs felt like overcooked noodles. His clothes felt itchy and uncomfortable against his clammy skin. He tripped over his own feet trying to get to the wall to lean on for support. His cock was hard in his pants, straining so much against his zipper he could feel the metal teeth through his underwear. It was a struggle not to reach down and adjust it, but he knew if he touched himself now, he was likely to lose his mind later.

The wall supported his stumbled trip to the bedroom, but he had to lean heavily against the door to regain his bearings once he got there. He’d miscalculated somewhere. He’d forgotten how quickly his Heat set on after the use of suppressants for even such a short time. The fever was coming on quickly and his whole body was crying out with the need to mate--the need for an alpha to come and touch him, to fill him.

He felt so empty, so alone, so out of place in his own skin. He needed to be touched, needed to be filled, needed to be fucked. He wasn’t going to survive without it. He needed it so badly, he thought he would cry.

Another deep, somewhat shaky, breath later, he pushed himself off the door and crossed the room as quickly as his shaking legs allowed.

Truth be told, Spencer was embarrassed by his Heat. He was ashamed of his body’s desires. It was one thing to be aroused or horny, everyone had those base urges, but it was another thing entirely to need with every fiber of his being to be fucked, to be used. To have his body and his mind turn against him. To become incapable of the most basic human function and care only about having something up his ass. Even though he could never fully recall what he did while in a complete Heat Haze, he desires he had during these early hours gave him enough insight to know the things he did while not in full control of his mental functions were quite shameful.

That was why he kept the box hidden in the closet: away from anywhere he could stumble across it in day-to-day life. Out of sight; out of mind. But now he needed it. His body was pleading for it. His gut was in knots. His heart was pounding. His mind was screaming. He was so hot and so hard and he needed relief.

Spencer made a mess of the closet, knocking items off the shelf and clothes off the hangers, in his scramble to get the box. If he didn’t get it now, he wouldn’t have the presence of mind to get it later and would end up hurting himself when he became truly desperate. Things were fuzzy and hot right now, but he hadn’t gone truly into a Heat Haze yet  and things weren’t nearly as bad as they would get.

Finally, he had the box grasped firmly in hand. He carried it across the room and set it down on the bed. He ignored it’s presence as he set about ridding himself of all his clothes, pulling of his sweater vest in one jerky movement and slowly undoing each of his buttons until his shirt slid off his shoulders and fell to the floor. Removing his pants took a bit more care and effort. He needed to avoid stimulating his aroused penis as much as possible. Even the little pressure on his crotch from unfastening the button was enough to pull a whimper from pursed lips.

Usually he would have waited longer to remove his pants. The longer he restrained himself in the early hours of his Heat, the less difficulty he would have later. But the suppressants had thrown everything off. He’d been in full Heat for less than an hour, but he was feeling things with an intensity that usually came four or five hours in. He was hoping that acting now as if it really had been hours since the Heat had started, he would be able to get through the first Haze no worse for wear.

His cock was so hard that it forced down his zipper the moment his button pulled free and stood there tenting the cotton of his boxer shorts, a damp circle of the fabric attesting to just how much precome was already leaking from him.

Statistically, most Omegas had smaller penises than Betas and Alphas. Their bodies weren’t designed to impregnate others, in fact they had a very hard time doing so. Omegas produced the same amount of sperm as the average Alpha or Beta, but not all that sperm was viable. During sexual intercourse, sperm cells traveled from the testicles to the Omega’s pseudo-uterus to act as egg cells. Omegas were simultaneously as fertile as a Beta male with low sperm count and a female during ovulation. Because they were not meant to be doing the impregnating, Omega males had no use for a large penis. Not to say there weren’t any outliers from these statistics.

Careful not to actually touch his erection, Spencer slid his pants and boxer shorts down his pale thighs and let them pool at his ankles. Spencer’s penis was about average length for an Omega at about four inches fully erect and about two inches in girth. It was a nice penis, if Spencer did say so himself. It was smooth and uncut. His pale skin was flushed a pleasant pink, the round glans peeping through the slowly retracting foreskin a darker red color. A clear bead of precome pooled at the tip. It seemed to radiate heat.

Once completely naked, Spencer settled himself in the center of the bed. The cool sheets felt amazing against his bare skin. His heart was pounding in his chest as he finally allowed himself to touch. He slowly thumbed back the foreskin of his cock, fully revealing the moist glans to the chilled hair. A little thrill of pleasure shot through him and his breath caught in his chest. Pinching his foreskin between just two fingers, he slid it back up and over his penis head. An involuntary noise of pleasure slipped from his throat.

Making himself resist the desire to wrap his hand full around his cock and tug at it until he reached orgasm was almost too much. He forced himself to concentrate on and be content with the contact he was allowing himself. Just gentle, almost teasing, touches on the head of his penis. Sliding the foreskin up and down, biting back groans at the stimulation of his frenulum.

He kept the movements slow and steady, constantly adjusting the amount of pressure he applied. He could almost get himself off with this, just by playing the foreskin on his engorged cock. Almost. But not quite. Spencer lowered his other hand to his testicles. He cupped the heavy sacks and rolled them in his palm. The sensation wrangled and extra loud cry from him.

He continued playing with his balls, ignoring the twitching and hungry hole just on the other side of his taint, and slid his fingers down the entire length of his shaft. His lower lips was pulled between his teeth as his tried to hold back the noises building in chest. His hips bucked off the bed, seeking more contact without his expressed consent.

God, he needed to more. He really needed to do more. But the more he held out now, the better control he would have later. But he could feel it there. The Haze looming over him, dark and inevitable. It was pulling him in. He could barely remember why he was denying his body what it so desperately needed. There was a gnawing ache within, telling him just what he needed. Begging for it.

Spencer released his hold on himself and reached for his box instead. The lid came off easily and what he needed first was right on top. “The Lube Shooter” was  a discreet purchase he’d made in a small shop in Las Vegas years ago. It was a very handy object to have during solo heats. The plastic applicator was reusable, though the applicator tips were meant for single uses and he had to regularly purchase more. He kept the tube already filled with a silicone based lubricant and wrapped in plastic. The plastic was discarded without a thought.

Resituating himself on the bed, Spencer laid flat on his back and bent his knees. He spread his thighs as far as he could and bypassed his straining prick to gently probe at the crinkled flesh of his anal sphincter. It opened to his exploring finger easily, but Spencer only pressed in to his first knuckle before pulling his finger free. The rubber tipped head of the Lube Shooter applicator took the place of his finger. The tube was five inches long and not much wider than his finger. It slid in without difficulty and Spencer pressed down on the plunger quickly.

It was always weird squirting lubricant inside of him with the lube injector. It always felt so sudden, one moment he was empty and the next a viscous fluid was spilling out it ass. It was quicker and more efficient that trying to apply lube with his finger (and a lot less messy) which made it great for use during his Heats. He pulled the now empty tube out of his anus and discarded it over the side of the bed.

Laying back, Spencer once more prodded his hole with a questing finger. The whole length of the digit slid inside the lubricated orifice and he gently moved it around until he felt it had been stretched enough. The single finger soon joined by another and he greeted the intrusion with a pleased moan. Slowly, he thrusted his fingers, each drag and pull of his muscles were rewarded with another moan. Spencer wrapped his hand fully around his dick and gave a sharp tug.

The Haze hit him all at once. One second he was gently exploring his body, the next moment he was clearly aware of found him on his knees with one of the dildos from his box hanging half out his ass as he doused his bedclothes in semen. He did not recall the transition from one state to the next, he was not sure how much time had passed or of what, in any specific terms, had transpired during that time.

Breathless and boneless, he collapsed against the bed and stared unseeingly at the ceiling. His cock was still hard despite the sticky mess now covering his hands and bed. He could feel the energy thrumming beneath his skin. His whole body ached, not from the strain of the deeds he’d just committed, but because they weren’t enough. Fucking himself with a dildo and jerking off wasn’t what he needed. He needed and a real person, a lover, an Alpha.

Tears spilled unbidden down his cheeks. This was torture. Why was he doing this to himself? Why was he alone? What was so wrong with him that no alpha would come to him in his time of need? Even he could smell strong enticing scent of his pheromones permeating every bit of air in the room. He smelled strong and fertile, so why was no one coming to breed him?

A keening cry built in his chest and Spencer had to bite down on his pillow to keep is silent. He had to remember that he didn’t want an Alpha. The Haze made him forget the important things, but he was slowly falling away. He did not want an Alpha, despite what his instincts said. He had no desire to be bred. There was nothing wrong with him other than the fact that he was stronger than his nature. He was strong enough to do this on his own.

Head slightly more clear than what it had just been, Spencer started to set himself to rights. Priorities: hydration and nutrition. He had no idea how many times he’d climaxed while in the depths of the Haze, he needed to rehydrate himself and get something in his stomach so he could keep up his strength.

With a low whimper, he pulled the dildo from his bum and rolled over onto his back. He needed to act fast, because there was no telling when the next Haze would hit. He pushed himself to an upright position and reached, first, for one of the granolas bars on his bedside table. After he’d ripped open the wrapper and bit off a large chunk, Spencer forced himself to bend over the side of the bed and grab a bottle of water from one of the cases. He gulped it down as if it was the first drink he’d had in days.


 

In his next moment of awareness, Spencer was no longer on his bed. He was straddling the chair he’d brought to the room earlier. One of his larger dildos was suction cupped to the wooden bottom of the seat, and Spencer was gripping the back of the chair as he impaled himself over and over on the realistically textured length.

Something was different about this awareness. It wasn’t true awareness, it was more of an out of body experience. His Heat still had complete hold on his body. He could still feel the Haze thick around his mind; it didn’t seem as if it would retreat anytime soon. Something had coaxed this awareness out of him even though he still deep within a Haze. His body was out of his control, but his mind was alert. He didn’t understand… until he all of a sudden did.

Alpha, his inner omega whispered. There was an alpha very near to him. Part of him knew that this was a cause for concern, but his rational thought was not ruling his mind. The omega in him was crying with joy at the thought of an alpha coming to him, even as he continued to rock his body on the dildo inside on him, gripping tightly at the wooded back of the chair as the latex phallus rubbed against his prostate. His cock rubbed uncomfortably against the polished wood of the chair and if he was still deep in his Haze, he wouldn’t have cared, but this strange awareness he was feeling now prompted Spencer to take himself in hand and relieve the pressure and discomfort.

He’d only managed a few strokes before his body stilled completely. He couldn’t hold in the keen that built in his chest this time. Tears streamed down his cheeks as he cried out. The alpha was gone. He’d come so close and had turned away. Had left him despite how obvious his need was. Surely the alpha had smelt the pheromones he was releasing. Did he find his displeasing? Was Spencer so undesirable? This was the second alpha to move away from him when their instincts should have been bringing them closer.

Spencer sobbed, his body aching but his heart hurting even more. He released his hold on the back of the chair and slumped down in the seat, ignoring the fact that the action had pressed the synthetic penis into him all the way to the base. He could still feel his Heat under this skin, but the Haze was retreating. It wouldn’t stay away long, he knew. It was only retreating because he’d suffered something of a shock to his system. Once he calmed down, it would be back. Back and demanding more.

But, what was the point? What use had he of breeding cycles if no alpha desired to breed him?

“You’re not thinking clearly,” Spencer whispered to himself. But he was, wasn’t he? No alpha wanted him. Quite clearly he could remember Derek moving away the moment the caught scent of Spencer’s need. The only alpha he’d ever wanted had rejected him. And now this unknown alpha that had been outside his apartment had rejected him, too.

“You don’t want some unknown alpha,” Spencer told himself. Which was true. He wanted Derek. But, as mentioned, Derek had already rejected him. “Then why would he claim you? If he doesn’t want you, why claim you?” To protect him, of course. Derek’s claim was a friendly one of protection. He had no desire for Spencer. Soon he was going to find an omega that he did want, and Spencer would be left alone.

But that wasn’t right. That wasn’t true. Derek would never leave him. What had he said when JJ asked about claims and bonds. “I claimed the one I want. I’m waiting for him to be ready for the bond.”

Derek was waiting for him. That was all that mattered.


 

His Heat went back into the unpredictable cycles of Hazes and plateaus. He mostly remembered to eat and drink water. The ache he was feeling from his loneliness could be felt down to his bones, but he did his best to satisfy his body’s urges. Finally, he came out of a Haze and could feel his Heat drifting away with it.

He collapsed against the bed and fell into the first real sleep he’d had in days.

 

Chapter Text

"You look like hell," Susan said the moment Spencer stepped into Roasted.

"I feel like hell," Spencer admitted.

"Two large caramel mochas with three shots of espresso each?" Aimee asked, already making the drinks without waiting for Spencer's answer. They'd been in the same position two months ago. And two months before that. And two months before that. And the look in Susan's eyes said she was afraid they'd be here two months from now.

"Your Heat came early?" The older omega asked.

Spencer nodded and slumped against the counter. His entire body had been hurting ever since he'd (quite literally) crawled out of bed that morning. A warm shower had soothed most of his muscle aches but, unfortunately, a lot of the pain that came from spending a Heat alone was psychosomatic in origin. But, knowing that his pain had no physical cause didn't make it hurt any less. That, paired with the mental and physical exhaustion he was experiencing, had made Spencer briefly consider taking an additional day off. He could have used a personal day for rest and recuperation but, despite all his ails, he couldn't stomach the thought of spending another day alone. He needed to go to work. He needed to be near people. He needed to be near Derek.

"And you spent it alone?" Susan continued her line of questioning, though it seemed more a statement than a question. There was disapproval and sympathy warring in her eyes. "Why do you keep doing this to yourself?"

Spencer pursed his lips and watched Aimee make his coffee instead of looking into those judgmental eyes. "I have no other choice."

"Have you talked to Derek about this?"

"Why would I talk to Derek about it?"

"Because Omegas aren't meant to go so long without being bonded, Spencer. It's not healthy. You know this. I know this. Derek knows this, obviously. He's already Claimed you. He knows what you're going through. His instincts must be screaming—"

"I don't want to be with Derek because of instincts," Spencer cut her off. "I don't want to be with him just because he's an alpha and I'm an omega and our instincts are screaming this is how it should be. I want to be with him because he's Derek and I'm Spencer and our hearts are saying this is how it's meant to be. Genetics aren't something to build a relationship on. But the way he makes me smile and how he looks out for me and the fact that he helped me through my darkest days... that is something I'm willing to build my future on. Willing, but not ready."

"Why not? You obviously love him."

Spencer frowned. He did love Derek. He'd loved him for a long time. He hadn't realized it at first. Derek had been asking Spencer to accept his Claim since they'd met and had really started pressuring him about it since the alpha had helped Spencer through his Dilaudid addiction. Spencer had kept turning him down, telling himself that he was strong and didn't need an Alpha, and that it wasn't worth the risk of getting hurt again. Derek had helped him through a dark time, but he didn't need him. He wasn't worth letting close enough to hurt.

But then the Anthrax had happened.

Spencer had been in the room with the poison and it was too late for him, but there'd still been a chance for Derek. It had taken all of three seconds for him to realize that Derek was already close enough to hurt. He'd locked the alpha on the other side of the door because the thought of him getting poisoned had terrified him. The thought of losing him had been enough to shake Spencer's whole world. That was when he realized he loved Derek. That was when he'd finally accepted his Claim.

But accepting a Claim was one thing. Bonding was a whole different ocean.

"I'm scared," Spencer admitted, his voice almost too soft for Susan and Aimee to hear. "Just the thought of bonding terrifies me. I'm scared of being hurt. And, until I can get over the fear and trust myself to know that Derek would never hurt me, I'm not going to be ready."

The ache in his mind and body was nothing compared to the phantom pains of a broken Bond.

Susan looked like she wanted to say something, but swallowed down the words quickly as the confusing expression on her face was quickly replaced with a smile so fake it could have been painted on. Behind Spencer, the bell over the door rang as someone stepped into the shop. "Derek," Susan greeted. "Welcome."

"Hi Susan, Aimee. Spencer?" The way he said his name showed genuine surprise at seeing Spencer leaning against the counter.

"Hi Derek."

"How are you, Pretty Boy?"

Spencer offered up a shaky smile. "Better than I was yesterday."

"Derek's been in here every day this week," Aimee stated as she placed Spencer's drinks on the counter in front of him. "We almost started believing he liked us and not just our scones."

"Hey," Derek teased, "I love you both plenty, but there's something about a good pastry that warms the heart."

Aimee smirked. "I could warm a lot more than your heart if you wanted."

Derek grinned back and leaned conspiratorially towards the flirting barista, he beckoned her even closer as if to whisper in her ear. "How's Jilly Bean?" he asked.

Aimee choked on a laugh and swatted at Derek. "Shame on you, playing with my emotions that way."

"Shame on you, offering me something I could never have."

"Oh, Der-Bear, you could have me. You could have me anywhere you want, whipped cream G-string included."

Derek laughed. "You need to quit it."

"And you need to get to work," Susan cut in, thrusting a bag of scones into Derek's hands. "It won't do for the two of you to be late. Get going."

"I still need to pay for my coffee," Spencer stated.

"It's on the house, this time. Same with your scones. Now, go."

"Alright, alright, we know when we're not wanted. See you two later."

"See ya, Derek. See ya, Spencer."

Spencer called his farewells and followed Derek out of the shop and into his car. The trip to work passed quickly and they spoke of only inconsequential things. Every now and then, Spencer would catch Derek watching him out of the corner of his eye, a look on his face of concern and a visible effort to hold back the words he really wanted to say. Spencer was glad when they got to the office without Derek ever saying those words.

Garcia called Spencer and Derek into her cave almost the moment they reached the bullpen. "I found some promising properties in Vegas and Chicago for your little pet project." She explained as the two of them crowded around her computer screen. "The most promising Chicago property is up for auction and I'm ready and willing to make a bid on it, but I thought you two might actually want to visit it first."

She pulled up some pictures on the computer screen. The building was a bit old, but not all too rundown. It was a red brick building with a fenced in field on the property. It looked to be an abandoned school of some sort. Not a very large school though. It actually looked quite perfect for what they were planning for the Youth Centers.

"It looks perfect, Baby Girl," Derek vocalized Spencer's thought.

"Some of our sponsors made good on their contributions, so we have the money to make a bid. But, if you want to see it in person first, you'll have to leave soon. Bidding closes in a week."

"That's not much time," Spencer stated.

"I know, but there's a plane that leaves in six hours and you two could be on it."

Spencer shook his head. "I just came back from a week off. I can't take any more time."

"Ah, but you can," Garcia said with a grin. "Miracle of miracles, we received a file from the Chicago PD yesterday asking for a consultation. You fly out there and save them from drowning and if you happen to take a look at this building and stop by Mama Morgan's house to get me some peach cobbler, and you wouldn't even be using your vacation days. Unlike you will be doing when you board the plane from Chicago to Las Vegas to look at this other property."

"You already told my mama we coming, didn't you?" Derek asked, raising an eyebrow at the technical analyst.

"Talked to Hotch and booked your flights, too."

Derek turned to Spencer and gave a half-hearted shrug. "Guess we don't have any other choice."

Chapter Text

Chapter Twelve: Ill Chosen Words

The flight to Chicago took longer than they were used to, simply because they were using a commercial airline instead of the team’s Learjet. Talking about the case was out of the question with so many people around, so Spencer expected most of the flight to pass in silence. For a while, he and Morgan silently read over the case files given to them before departure. There wasn’t much they could do at the moment without being able to openly discuss things, so after about thirty minutes, they put work aside. Morgan put his headphones in and Spencer entertained himself by doing a mental reread of one of his favorite books.

Once the plane touched down, the two of them were picked up by a local officer and were immediately swept up in working the case. A little boy had been found dead before he was even reported missing. It was obvious his parents were hiding something, but it was equally obvious that there was more to the story.

By 10 that night, there was nothing more they could do at the moment. They took their borrowed car and headed to Derek’s mother’s house. She welcomed them in, fed them dinner, and sent them to bed. They woke early the next morning so they could stop by the building Garcia had found for them. Despite being in disrepair, it was perfect for their purposes.

“I’ve been meaning to ask you,” Derek said as they walked around the grounds of abandoned school, “how are you?” They were closer together than what was strictly professional, but it didn’t faze Spencer. He was used to Derek being in his personal space; it was part of the Claim.

“What do you mean?” Spencer asked. “I’m fine.”

“It couldn’t have been easy going through your heat alone. I just wanted to be sure you’re okay.”

“I’m fine,” Spencer repeated. It wasn’t a complete lie. Physically he was still exhausted and achy and mentally he wasn’t much better, but he was coping. It helped having Derek around. It was like his body was drawing strength from the alpha. It wouldn’t be long until he was feeling 100% himself again.

Derek looked at him for a long moment as they walked on towards their car. “You know, you don’t have to…” He stopped walking and talking all at once, a hand on Spencer’s arm pulled him up short next to him. “I want to Bond with you.” Derek stated plainly. “I’m waiting for you to be ready. You know I would never pressure you, but Spencer, I can’t wait on you forever. I don’t know if you’re hesitating because you’re scared, or because you don’t know how to tell me nicely that I’m not what you want. If it’s the former, take your time. But if it’s that latter, I’d whether you tell me straight out instead of trying to tiptoe around hurt feelings. Whichever one it is… I’m not going to wait forever for you to decide what you want, Spencer. You can’t ask that of me.”

Spencer frowned. His thoughts we’re racing. This was it. This was the moment he’d always been scared was coming. The moment Derek decided Spencer wasn’t worth waiting for. The moment where he would leave and tear down everything Spencer was building for himself as he did so.

No. Spencer was not going to stand here and let himself be hurt. “I never asked you to wait for me at all. I never once said I wanted to Bond with you. You filled your own head with those ideas. I was doing just fine before you barreled your way in. I was strong on my own, but you caught a whiff of an unclaimed omega and decided I had to be yours. Because you’re the big strong Alpha, and Omegas exist solely to throw themselves at your feet. Well, I’m sorry I’m not the complacent little omega you wanted.”

He spoke it all in a deadly calm voice that didn’t once shake or fluctuate with his emotions. The air around them felt heavy and still and Spencer could only stare at the ground, knowing that meeting Derek’s eyes would mean breaking down. He’d regretted the words as soon as he’d said them, but he couldn’t unsay them now.

He heard Derek take a long, slow breath. “I never wanted to Bond with some complacent little omega, Spencer. I wanted to Bond with you.” With those words, Derek walked away.

For the next two days, Derek barely even looks at him. It’s strange, because he still touches him, still eases casually into Spencer’s personal space, maintaining the Claim between them without hesitation or afterthought. Half way through the third day, they wrap up the case. Turns out, the little boy was an omega going through his first Heat. His parents hadn’t known what was happening and had consulted their pastor. The pastor assumed the child was possessed by some kind of demon because he hadn’t known what else could be the cause. The boy had died during an attempted exorcism.

“You two have the most perfect timing in the world,” Garcia said when Morgan called her to let the team know they’d wrapped up the case and were ready to head to Vegas. “Your Las Vegas honeymoon is going to have to wait; the team is on a case in Kansas right now and Hotch says they need you there.”

“What’s going on?” Derek asked.

“Six children went missing from Sedgwick County Zoo this morning. An hour ago, a video was sent to the local news station. Only one of the kids were in the video. And, well, I’ll send the video to your tablet. We only have five hours left to save this girl, so we’re sending the jet for you. Can you guys be ready to go in under an hour?”

It wasn’t a question they could say no to and in 45 minutes, they were boarding the jet and flying to Wichita, Kansas.

On the jet, Derek pulled up the video Garcia had sent him of the missing girl. Spencer sat close at his side to get a good view of the small screen.

“My name is Laura,” the girl said, her eyes were red and her face streaked with tears. “I’m seven years old. My favorite color is orange and I like riding my bike with my friends. When I grow up, I want to be a heart surgeon like the man who saved my Aunt. I was one of six children taken from the zoo today. I’m scared and I want to go home, but the only way I can leave is if someone solves this riddle and sends it to the news station within the next six hours. If no one solves the riddle, I’ll never see my family again.”

The camera stayed fixed on Laura but it was the voice of a little boy that came through the speakers next. “My maker does not want me. My buyer does not need me. My user does not know me. What am I?”

“A coffin,” Spencer answers immediately. “A coffin builder does not want to build his own. If you’re buying the coffin, then you’re alive and don’t need it. And only the dead truly knows nothing.”

“Forget six hours, that didn’t take you six seconds,” Morgan stated as he pulled out his phone and called Garcia.

“Hey, Baby Girl,” Morgan said into his phone. “We got a solution for that riddle.”

When they landed in Kansas, Spencer and Morgan were picked up from the airport by Rossi and a couple of local officers. “So, good news, your solution was right,” Rossi said by way of greeting, “bad news, just knowing the answer was a coffin wasn’t enough. We’ve got teams of officers searching Maple Grove and Highland Cemeteries, the two oldest cemeteries in Wichita. We have maybe two hours until she runs out of oxygen.”

“He buried her?”

“Yeah, but we’ll find her. Meanwhile, Hotch wants the Reid with him at the station working on profiling the UNSUB and Morgan with me. We’re going to the zoo.”

They took two cars, Rossi and Morgan riding in one with a LEO, and Spencer in the other with the other local officer. The cars went their separate ways and Spencer was soon at the station with Hotch. He immediately went to the case board and looked over what they had. There was information about each victim and their families, as well as a map of the zoo with a marker for each location the victims were last seen. There was also the letter the news station received along with the video. The letter was handwritten in block letters on generic printer paper, stating simply that if the video wasn’t played during the news hour, the girl on the tape would die.

It wasn’t much to build a profile on. He and Hotch discussed it for a while, but they agreed there wasn’t much more they could do until they had more information.

“How are you, Reid?” Hotch asked as the two of them sat down at the table. Hotch’s tablet was in front of them and they were watching through the video of the girl for something they may have missed.

“I’m fine, why do you ask?” Spencer answered, not taking his eyes away from the small screen.

“I know last week must have been hard for you. I’m sure I don’t act much like an Alpha, given my physical disability, but I just wanted to be sure you know that I’m here if you ever need me for anything. I know Morgan has been there to support you, but I’m here too in case you find yourself unable to talk to him about something.”

Spencer looked at his unit chief with barely concealed surprise. Sometimes it was easy to forget that Hotch was an Alpha. Sure, he could scent it on him all the time, but that sometimes got buried under Morgan’s more present scent. And Hotch didn’t really behave around Spencer the way Alphas usually did, because he couldn’t smell Spencer’s omega nature.

“Thank you, Hotch. I’m fine, but I’ll keep that in mind.”

Hotch simply nodded, then turned him attention back to their work as if they hadn’t just had a personal conversation.

They found Laura within an hour of Morgan and Reid arriving in Kansas; she’d been sedated and buried alive in Highland Cemetery. She was traumatized and her parents wouldn’t let the team interview her just yet.

With nothing new to go on, the team called it a night and went to their hotel. They had the usual room assignments, Derek and Spencer in one room, Emily in J.J. in another, Rossi paid for his own room leaving Hotch in a single.

They were woken early the next day when the news station received another video. This time it was one of the missing boys. They were given five hours to solve the riddle “Weight in my belly, Trees on my back,Nails in my ribs,Feet do I lack.What am I?”

They spent three hours searching boats docked along the river before realizing the riddle was actually meant to lead them to Marine World.

They did get to interview Laura and the little boy that day, but they didn’t give much new information.

At the end of the day three, in which they were given four hours to solve a riddle that led them back to the river, the only thing they knew for certain about the UNSUB was that they were looking for a team. That was, thankfully, enough to build a rough profile on.

“To our UNSUBs, this is just a game. They’re not trying to make a statement or prove a point; their motivation is simply to see if they can get away with something like this. That’s the reason for the time constraints. Give a person a time limit and they feel pressured, and rushed. They get tunnel vision and focus on getting that one task done.”

“The UNSUBs are expecting us to be too focused on the children to waste time trying to figure out who is behind this. They’re underestimating us. We can easily divide our attention between finding the children and finding the UNSUBs.”

“We’re looking for a group of at least seven people, most likely predominantly white males. With groups, there’s always a hierarchy. There’s someone in charge, the brains behind the operation that keeps everyone else in their place. And there’s someone at the bottom. A weak link. Someone who might have found themselves in over their head.”

“This is good. If we find the lowest member, they’ll lead us to the top and we’ll soon have the whole group. Unfortunately, finding this person will be difficult. There were at least six members of the group at the zoo doing the abductions. And there was most likely at least one person offsite, pulling the strings. At least one member of the team is employed or had been employed by the Sedgwick County Zoo in recent months. It’s how they managed to get the kids out despite the lockdown procedures in place without the security cameras picking up anything. We’ll start looking there and see where it takes us.”

“Remember, this their game and we don’t know the rules to it. Meaning, they can change the rules at any point. We have to stay on our toes.”

On day six, they’re given an hour to find the last child hidden in a clock tower. They still haven’t found the UNSUB.

Spencer doesn’t sleep that night. The sun never comes out on day seven. The sky was overcast by thick black clouds, letting out a sad drizzle of rain. Spencer is drinking his eighth cup of coffee and staring at the case board, when he finally finds the clue they’d been missing.

Six days, six children, six videos. And every video had had one thing in common. “The little boy reading the riddles, who is he?”

They’d just assumed the boy doing the voiceover was one of the kidnapped kids, but they’d recovered all the children and none of them had said anything about being the one reading the riddles.

It had never made sense for there to only be six. If the game was one child a day, why wouldn’t they take enough to make a full calendar week? This was what they were meant to be distracted from. When there were six children they knew for certain was missing, why would they ever make the jump that there might be one more?

As if summoned by Spencer’s discovery, the lead detective came rushing into the conference room the team had taken over for the case. “The news station received another video.”

This video was different. It wasn’t a frightened child in a dark room. The boy was blond haired and round faced. He was sitting on the floor of a well lit room that might have been his own bedroom. He was playing with a toy car and kept grinning and laughing at the person behind the camera.  “My name is Liam, I’m eight years old,” the boy on the video said. “I like playing soccer and coloring. I live with my dad; he’s my best friend, because he’s the only one that’s always been around. If I went away, my dad would be the only one who missed me.”

The camera stay situated on Liam playing with his toy cars while a man’s voice spoke over the scene. “You had six days to find Liam. Now you have less than an hour.”

At the end of the day, they had three out eight UNSUBs in handcuffs and a little boy in the morgue.

Chapter Text

The rain that had been falling at a steady pace the entire day had worked itself up into a storm by nightfall, making flying impossible. This meant, no matter how much the team wanted to return to the safe comforts of home, they were stuck in Kansas for another night. Despite how it ended, they were done here. The case had been to recover the six children taken from the zoo. They’d done that and caught some of the people behind it. Everything else was left to the local law enforcement officers. No matter how much they wished they could stay and catch the last of the bastards behind this (especially the one who’d been the brains behind the whole thing, Liam’s father) they’re job was done.

Everyone was dealing with it as best they could. A case like this one was never easy and the outcome of it had just made it harder.

They all climbed into one of the borrowed SUV's to head to their hotel. Derek drove with Hotch in the passenger seat. Spencer had climbed into the trunk so that the girls and Rossi could sit comfortably in the backseat. It wasn't exactly a legal place to sit in a moving vehicle, but there was an unspoken need for them all to be together right now, legality be damned. The moment they'd gotten into the car, J.J. had pulled out her cellphone to call home. Spencer supposed she needed to hear Will and Henry's voices just to reassure herself that they were alive and well and far away from this tragic place.

Spencer had expected Hotch to do the same thing, but the Unit Chief hadn't even touched his cellphone. He'd kept his face blank and unreadable and had sat in silence the entire ride back to the hotel. There was an air about him, heavy and sad and introspective, that made him seem somehow unapproachable. J.J’s soft voice as she talked to her boyfriend and son was the only noise in the vehicle as they traveled through the dark.

Spencer closed his eyes and began the painstaking task of compartmentalizing. Sometimes, his eidetic memory was a curse. If he couldn't manage to place things inside a mental storage container, he would have to live with heart-wrenching images forever engraved behind his eyes. It was bad enough that he was going to have to live with the nightmares of that little boy they couldn't save; he didn't want to carry the ghost during his waking hours as well. He would never be able to forget it, and when he chose the think about it, it would present itself in vivid detail as if he was seeing it for the first time no matter the amount of time that passed. For now, he would force himself to store it all away and fill his head with other thoughts instead.

The SUV pulled to a stop in the hotel's parking garage. The team all climbed out and silently headed inside.

“I don't know about you guys,” Emily spoke up once they reached the lobby, “but I could really use a drink right now. I'm heading down to the bar?” The last sentence carried the upwards lilt of a question as she looked at Hotch, silently requesting permission that he granted with a single nod; they were off duty now, they could drink as they pleased.

“I'll join you,” Derek said, running a hand over his head and letting it rest at the back of his neck, massaging it softly as if to make the horrors of the day melt away. Spencer pursed his lips and looked at the rest of the team. Everyone was holding themselves defensively, as if to protect against more pain. No matter how long you worked this job, there was really no way to completely hide away the toll it took on you. They all looked like soldiers, battle worn, world weary, and a bit shell shocked.

“I think I will too,” Rossi said.

“Me too,” J.J. added, hanging up her cell phone.

Everyone turned to face Hotch and Spencer. Hotch's lips twitched downwards, then smoothed out. “Just for a while,” he stated.

And Spencer conceded to join as well, because it was again unspoken but understood that the team needed to be together like the family they were.

The hotel bar had a decent size crowd when they entered. They all headed towards a table near the back corner. Derek volunteered to get their first round of drinks and everyone quickly called out their orders.

They made a point of not talking about the case while they sat at the table. Derek came back with their drinks pretty quick and they all chatted about absolutely nothing of importance. There was a small dance floor in the center of the room. An equally small group of people were on it. The music that spilled through the bar’s crappy sound system was unfamiliar to Spencer.

J.J. bought their second round of drinks while Emily regaled them with tales of her cat, Sergio’s, various antics. Hotch left shortly after that, but the rest of the team stuck around.

“I love this song!” Emily said suddenly. “Derek, come dance with me.” She grabbed his hand and dragged him to the floor with her before he had a chance to protest, not that he was inclined to protest anyway.

Spencer, Rossi, and J.J. watched the two of them on the floor, smiling in amusement. They danced for two songs, before Emily returned to the table. Derek stayed on the dance floor, having absolutely no trouble finding a new dance partner.

Spencer frowned as one girl in particular claimed Derek’s attention. The bar wasn’t too crowded for Spencer to miss the unmistakable scent of Omega on her. She was a small brunette with a face like a doll’s and Derek seemed hypnotized by the swaying of her hips.

“I think I’m going to turn in now,” Spencer said to the rest of the team, forcing himself to look away from the way Derek was rubbing against the brunette doll girl. He wasn’t jealous. He knew that they were just dancing, but it didn’t silence the irksome thought that Derek was getting his scent all over an omega that wasn’t Spencer. Not that Spencer thought Derek cared at all. The two of them hadn’t exactly made up yet after their little spat in Chicago. “I’m suddenly tired.”

“Aw, okay,” Emily said, looking up from her conversation with J.J. “Goodnight.”

“Night, Spence,” J.J. added.

“Goodnight, Reid, sleep well,” Rossi said, though Spencer could tell that he saw right through Spencer’s flimsy excuse.

Spencer pointedly did not look at the dance floor as he exited the hotel’s bar and headed for the elevators. The room Spencer was sharing with Derek was right next to Hotch’s room. Spencer paused outside their unit chief’s door and hesitated for only a second, before knocking.

Hotch opened the door after only a few seconds. He’d stripped out of his suit jacket and had undone the first few buttons of his shirt. “Is there something wrong?” He asked, obviously surprised to find Spencer outside his door.

“Uh, no. I was headed to bed and I wanted to say goodnight, I guess.”

“You guess?”

Spencer offered a noncommittal shrug.

Hotch stepped aside and opened the door wider. “Come on in, Spencer. I was about to have a drink. Join me.” Spencer nodded and entered the room proper, Hotch closed the door behind him. There was a bottle of whiskey and a single glass sitting on one of the bedside tables. Hotch produced another glass from the table by the mini-fridge/bar and placed it next to his. “I don’t usually go for this stuff, more of a wine drinker, but I felt like a change tonight. I just got off the phone with Jessica. She said Jack’s asleep, tuckered out from his soccer game. He was so excited for that game. He really wanted me there.”

He passed Spencer one of the glasses. They both took a sip of the amber liquid without saying another word. It burned going down and Spencer’s first reaction was something of a gagging noise. He forced himself to take another sip. This time he managed to control is reaction.

Hotch was seated on the edge of the bed. Spencer grabbed the straight-back wooden chair from the table by the television and pulled it closer to Hotch. “What are you hiding from?” Hotch asked once Spencer was seated.

“Who said I’m hiding.”

“You see enough of me on the day-to-day basis without stopping in my hotel room. And, you already told me goodnight when I left for bed.”

Spencer sighed and took a long swallow of his drink, the burn of it bringing tears to his eyes. “Derek was dancing with some omega girl downstairs.”

“Ah,” Hotch mused. “Say no more.”

“You know, I always thought it was unfair how this whole thing worked,” Spencer said. “An alpha Claims an omega and every alpha who approaches that omega from that point on knows it, as if there was some sign over his head saying ‘property of so-and-so.’ But the alpha doesn’t carry that sign. The alpha is even free to leave his Claim on other omegas. An omega can only be Claimed by one alpha at any given time, but an alpha is free to Claim however many omegas as he wants.”

“But he can only Bond one.”

“But he can still Claim other omegas while Bonded with one. You can’t be blind to that imbalance of power.”

“It is a bit unfair.”

“It’s more than unfair. Every alpha in a two mile radius can tell I belong to Derek, but unless we Bond, there’s no proof that he’s equally mine.” Spencer mentally added that Derek wasn’t his anyway, so it didn’t really matter.

“Spencer, if you want proof of that, all you have to do is look at him looking at you. I can’t smell his Claim on you, but I can tell it’s there from that alone. It’s the same way Dave looked at Caroline. The same way I looked at Haley. You’d think he thought you hung the moon.”

“Do you ever regret loving Haley?” Spencer asked.

Hotch looked up from where he’d been staring into the depths of his glass, startled by the sudden change in topic. “Why would I ever regret that?”

Spencer shrugged. “Because it didn’t work out between you two? Because of everything that happened with her.”

“I do regret allowing my work to follow her home. And I regret her death every night. But loving her was the one thing I did right. I could never regret that.”

“Even though she left you?”

“Haley was a Beta. We knew from the start that we likely wouldn’t last, but we also thought we could prove genetics wrong. I always thought I was lucky to be a defective alpha. I didn’t have pheromones and instincts clouding my judgment. I got all the physical perks of being an Alpha, but the Beta’s freedom to love for love’s sake. And I loved Haley dearly. I never stopped loving her, and she didn’t stop loving me either. I think that made it harder.”

“If you still loved each other, why didn’t you try harder to make it work?”

“We did try. But she didn’t understand an Alpha’s drive, and I didn’t understand why she couldn’t understand. Loving each other just wasn’t enough. But you know that, don’t you?”

“What?”

“You and Derek. It’s obvious you love each other, yet you haven’t gone passed a Claim.”

Spencer frowned. “I guess you’re right. If loving each other was enough to make it work, then I wouldn’t still be so afraid.”

“I always wondered, what is it that you’re afraid of? You must know Derek would never hurt you.”

“I know that, but… It’s not Derek that I’m afraid of, it’s the Bond itself. That tie. I’ve seen what it can do,” Spencer said softly. “Submitting to an alpha; giving yourself completely to another person, depending on them for your strength, wellbeing, and sanity. And then having them leave you. Not even die. Just one day up and leave. Just walk out, taking with them all the best parts of you.

“I’ve seen it. I had to live with it when my dad left my mom. That’s why she’s the way she is now. He destroyed her when he left. Just utterly ruined her. And I was just a child at the time, so I couldn’t really understand. Until Jared left me, that is.

“I still can’t understand what my mother went through, having a Bond severed like that. A broken Claim sent me into a Drop so deep and dark I thought I would never recover. And when I pulled myself out of it, I swore I would never put myself through that again. I didn’t want to ever be Claimed again, and I sure as hell didn’t want a Bond. Why risk the pain of having them leave?

“My mother is probably the only Omega who managed to drive their Alpha into breaking a Bond, against all instincts. And I was raised by that woman, so what’s to say I wouldn’t do the same? I refused to risk it. I didn’t want to be destroyed like her and I didn’t want the pain of another Drop. So, I never let another Alpha close to me. I never got Claimed again. I became strong and independent. And I protected myself from that pain. I had to.”

“So, what changed? Why did you accept Morgan’s Claim?”

Spencer frowned, and stared down at the amber liquid in his glass. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “At first, he was just another Alpha. He wasn’t the first to offer to Claim me after Jared. And I turned him down just like I did the others. But he kept offering, and I kept declining. By the time I realized he wasn’t just another Alpha, I was already in love with him. And, in for an inch; in for a mile, I just accepted his Claim. I already loved him. It was going to hurt if he left regardless, what’s a little more pain right?”

“Derek’s a lucky guy for being so loved. I may be a bit jealous.”

“Some days, I think it would have been easier to love you instead.”

They let those words hang in the air between them. Hotch refilled both of their glasses, despite the fact that they’d probably had enough. The burn of the whiskey slipping down his throat didn’t even phase Spencer anymore. He felt numb all over, but surprisingly still clear-headed.

Clear-headed enough to notice the change in the air between them. Hotch was looking at him with an unfamiliar flame in his eyes. There was a question. One that Spencer could not quite read, but still found himself nodding an unhesitant affirmative.

Yeah, they’d both had more than enough to drink. There was no other explanation for the foolishness that followed.

Spencer had always thought he’d be doing this for the first time with Derek. He’d loved Derek for so long and their teasing flirtations had always seemed like a sort of mating ritual, a gentle wooing. He’d always felt that Derek loved him as well, despite Spencer’s fear and reluctance to accept what was clear as day.

He’d thought, when the time came, it would be Derek sensually moving over him; it would be Derek sliding into him, stretching him taut, filling him completely. It would be Derek’s broad shoulders he would wrap his arms around, feeling wiry muscles beneath smooth chocolate skin. It would be Derek’s mouth on his, devouring him completely and being devoured in turn. It would be Derek’s large hands sliding over him, teasing and caressing him. It would be Derek’s warm chocolate eyes peering into his own and making him feel naked and exposed in a way their sexual act couldn’t. Spencer had always thought that it would be Derek that he gave himself entirely to, Derek’s skin against his, Derek’s name on his lips, Derek’s heart in his forever.

But he’d thought wrong.

It wasn’t Derek.

It was Hotch.

It was Hotch kneeling between Spencer’s spread thighs. It was Hotch sloppily kissing him with a mouth tasting of whiskey and regret. It was Hotch awkwardly touching him, not sure what to do because he’d never lain with a man before. It was Hotch spreading him apart and sliding inside of him.

No matter how much Spencer wished it was, and thought it would be, this wasn’t Derek.

This was Hotch.

And this was a mistake.

Spencer knew that, come morning, they would regret this.

But right now…

Right now, that didn’t matter.

All that mattered was that this was an Alpha, and Spencer had been denying his inner-Omega for so long. It didn’t matter that this was the wrong alpha. It was still and Alpha. Spencer had been fighting his instincts for so long; for too long. And finally, he was giving in. And no matter what his heart said, his body screamed that this was right. This was what he needed, and his mind couldn’t find the strength to resist.

And part of him didn’t want to resist, because Hotch was inside of him. He was inside of him, in a place no one had ever been before; touching him in ways he’d only ever touched himself. And he would be lying if he said it didn’t feel good, because (dear god!) it felt amazing. He felt so stretched and so full and he’d never thought he’d find pleasure just from feeling filled, but this wasn’t like anything he’d ever thought he would experience.

And Hotch was moaning. Aaron Hotchner, the man who had been in this business too long; so long that it seemed to have stolen his ability to properly display any emotions, Hotch was moaning and groaning and cursing and panting and grunting. He was gripping Spencer’s hips tightly as he plowed into him hard and deep, and these nonsensical sounds were spilling from his lips without control. He was without control! And Spencer was the one making him this way. Spencer was the one making him feel so good he lost control. And for some reason, knowing this added to Spencer’s own pleasure.

Spencer was moaning, too. The sound had built up in his chest and poured out of his mouth quite loudly. He was gripping tightly on Hotch’s shoulders, feeling the sinewy muscles moving under his skin, and he was raising his hips and pushing back against Hotch, eager to take all the man had to offer.

Spencer had never thought he would lose his virginity this way. He’d never thought he’d lose his virginity at all. He thought that maybe if he wasn’t careful, he would have it forcibly taken from him one day. More recently, he’d thought he would one day give it to Derek in some grand romantic gesture. But, right now, his virginity wasn’t being taken, nor was it being given. It was being lost. He was losing his virginity to Hotch. And he knew he would regret it later, but right now he didn’t care.

All he cared about was the fireworks shooting off behind his eyes as Hotch moves inside of him, and the electricity that seemed to be running through his veins, and the way his blood felt on fire with pleasure.

All he cared about was the feel of Hotch’s hands gripping tighter at his waist, and the way he was pounding into him, and his erratic breathing, and the way he threw his head back as if praying to god, and the way his cock seemed to literally explode inside of him.

All Spencer cared about was the way his own eyes fell closed, and his head fell back, and his fingers dug into Hotch’s shoulders, and his toes curled, and his back arched, and his entire world seemed to freeze for a single second as his orgasm ripped through him.

Hotch collapsed on top of Spencer and they lay there in a boneless heap, swimming in post-coital endorphins. They stayed like that, panting for breath, chests heaving against each other, for an unmeasured amount of time as they fought to regain their senses.

Spencer’s head was, for once, completely empty. His mind was blissful white nothingness. There was no thoughts of his lost virginity or the regret that was sure to come. There was only the resonance of the pleasure he’d just experience.

Hotch shifted on top of him, sitting up and slowly beginning to pull himself free of Spencer. For a moment, Spencer wanted to stop him, to protest the sudden open, emptiness he was feeling, but he did not. Neither of them spoke a word to each other. The weight of their actions were looming over them, the regret slowly sinking in with each passing second.

But Spencer was tired.

The regret could wait for morning.

He wanted to sleep first.

Hotch was no longer resting between Spencer’s thighs. Instead, he was lying on the bed next to him. Spencer closed his legs and rolled over on his side, his back to Hotch. He grabbed a pillow and hugged it to his chest, nestling his face against it. The bottom of the pillow rested between his thighs as he drew his legs up in a near fetal position and held himself together. Yeah, the regret could wait. Slowly, he closed his eyes.

Chapter Text

Chapter Fourteen: Regrets

When Spencer next opened his eyes, the muted light of approaching dawn was streaming through an open window. It wasn’t yet sunrise, but it wasn’t far off. There was only a barest trace of the musky scent of sex in the room, because a gentle breeze was slowly carrying it out. The storm clouds and rain of the previous night were nowhere to be seen. Spencer was alone on the bed, but the sound of the shower running told him where he would find Hotch if he was inclined to look.

He was not inclined to look. Spencer wasn’t even inclined to linger around this room where everywhere he looked, he was reminded of the fact that he had screwed up. He had really screwed up.

Spencer got out of the bed and quickly looked around for his clothes. They had been discarded hurriedly the night before, and there was a little trouble tracking everything down, but Spencer was determined to be out of the room before Hotch got out of the shower. He finally found his sweater vest tucked in a cranny between the minibar and television stand. Wearing only his pants and his incorrectly buttoned shirt, and clutching the rest of his things tightly in his arms as if afraid they would disappear, Spencer quickly departed the room.

Out in the hall, he froze. What the hell had he been thinking? How the hell could he have slept with Hotch? What the hell was he supposed to do now?

He needed a shower, but he was almost afraid to go back to the room he shared with Derek. But there was no way he could go back into Hotch’s room. That left Rossi or the girls. Not Rossi. That man was too perceptive. He would probably read Spencer’s mistake before he even got the chance to say why he was there.

J.J. and Emily were just as perceptive as Rossi, but they probably had hangovers from the night before. They would be too busy hiding from light to notice the things Spencer couldn’t hide. That settled it. He went down the hall and knocked softly on the girls’ room. There was loud groaning and protests from the other side of the door. Spencer knocked again. A crashing sound and some cursing later, and Emily opened the door, glaring drowsily at him.

“May I use your shower?”

“I hate you,” Emily stated, before turning and throwing herself back into the bed she had vacated. She left the door open, so Spencer took it as a sign that he was in fact allowed to use the shower. Spencer moved quickly and quietly, closing himself up in the bathroom without rousing either woman again.

Turning his back to the large mirror that took up one wall of the bathroom, Spencer stripped off his hastily put on clothes and turned on the shower. He didn’t wait for the water to heat before stepping beneath its spray. He tried not to think about what exactly he was washing off his skin.

It was the longest shower he had ever taken and still he felt it was not enough. He could smell Hotch on him. The Alpha’s scent was under his skin, clinging to him in an unmistakable musk that announced for all who could scent it what the two of them had done the night before.

The evidence of this mistake couldn’t be washed off with harsh hotel soap and hot water. It wasn’t a secret that could be compartmentalized and tucked away. The moment he stepped out of this room, the world would know. The scent of Hotch was on him stronger even than the Claim Derek had been working into his skin with years’ worth of casual touches. Hotch had erased Derek’s Claim on him.

There was no erasing what he had done.

Spencer suddenly wasn’t sure whether the wetness on his face was from the shower or tears.

“Spence?” J.J. called from the other side of the door, knocking softly as she did so. “Are you alright in there?”

Spencer quickly shut off the shower and stumbled out of the tub. “I’m fine,” he called out, though he didn’t sound very convincing to even himself. “I’ll be out in a second.” He dried himself off quickly with the hotel towel and, after a long moment of reluctance, dressed in the clothes he’d just taken off. He exited the bathroom just a minute later and found J.J. and Emily awake and packing their bags.

“Hi, good morning,” Spencer said with a smile that felt funny on his lips.

“How are you, Spence?” J.J. asked. She was squinty-eyed and exhausted looking, obviously hung-over.

“Better than you, apparently. What did you drink last night?”

“Too much,” Emily mumbled, pushing passed Spencer and heading into the bathroom.

“We probably drank way more than we should have,” J.J. agreed. “But we’ll be fine. Are you okay?”

“Of course, why wouldn’t I be?”

J.J. shrugged. “You just don’t seem yourself. Though it may be the hangover talking.”

“I’m fine, J.J.” Spencer said, probably too defensively. “I need to go pack my things.”

“Alright, just… If you’re ever not ‘fine’, you know I’m here for you, right?”

Spencer found himself calming under her concerned, almost maternal, gaze. “I know. Thanks.”

Derek isn’t in the room when Spencer goes to pack his bag and it makes him wonder if maybe he hadn’t been the only one who found himself sleeping in someone else’s bed the night before. While he’s changing into clean clothes, a text comes from Hotch saying the jet would be leaving in half an hour. Spencer quickly packs the rest of his things and rushes out of the room so that he isn’t there when Derek makes his way back.

He sits in the hotel lobby and tries not to have a panic attack over the situation he was currently in. He tried to think rationally about the whole thing, but there was nothing rational about sleeping with his boss. Of everyone on the team, Hotch was the worst person he could have chosen to sleep with if he had any hope of making up with Derek. Because Hotch was the only other Alpha on the team, and Derek already thought that maybe he wasn’t what Spencer wanted. Sleeping with Hotch was like telling Derek, “no, you’re not good enough for me and I don’t want you at all.” Just slapping him in the face would have been kinder.

Behind him, the elevator dinged and he heard the doors opening. He knew without turning around that Derek had just entered the hotel lobby. He knew because Derek’s scent was as familiar to him as his own. He’d carried that scent on his skin for years until it had started to feel natural, as if their combined scent was the way Spencer was always meant to smell.

Spencer didn’t smell like himself anymore, because he didn’t smell like Derek anymore, and because he smelled…

Spencer turned to face Derek. The alpha had been walking across the lobby with J.J. and Emily, but in an instant he froze in place. His nostrils flared and his face became a mask of shock. That shock quickly changed to a look that made Spencer feel as if he’d shot Derek through the heart. Maybe he had.

There was only one way to so thoroughly remove and replace someone else’s Claim overnight. You could spend a lifetime building a Claim from innocent touches, but the amount of physical contact and bodily fluids exchanged through sex could erase it in a blink of an eye. Derek’s Claim on him was gone. If any Alpha or Omega was to happen upon them now, they would say without doubt that Spencer was Claimed by Hotch.

And what was more, and it took so much out of Spencer to stop denying this fact and even just think it to himself, it wasn’t just Hotch Derek was smelling on him.

Spencer and Derek and .4% of Americans were biologically different from others. They were Alphas and Omegas and everyone else were Betas. Alphas and Omegas could tell a person was pregnant within twenty-four hours of conception because they could smell it.

Spencer didn’t smell like himself anymore, because he didn’t smell like Derek anymore, and because he smelled pregnant.

Derek just stared at him for a long silent moment, then he balled his fists, clenched his jaw, and walked away, giving Spencer a wide berth.

It took everything within him not to cry.

The flight back to Quantico was silent.

Everyone was still upset about the case and were coping with it by retreating into their headspace.

Only Spencer knew that the reason Derek had opted to sit in the back of the jet, away from everyone else with his headphones in loud enough to be heard across the plane, had nothing to do with little boys they couldn’t save and everything to do with being betrayed by people he trusted.

The plane landed and the team trudged back to the office like a squad of shell-shocked soldiers. For a moment, they all stood in the bullpen, silent, lost, directionless. Finally Hotch spoke, “Reports can wait until Monday. Take the rest of the day and the weekend off.” As he turned to head to his office, he added, “Reid, I need a word with you.”

He noticed Derek avoided looking at them both as he gathered his things and prepared to leave.

Spencer followed Hotch to his office and stood across the desk from the man as he talked about “mistakes” and “intoxication” and things that were “no excuse for” and stuff that would “never happen again” and how he could “understand if” and something about transferring or time off or some such nonsense. Even if his memory worked as well on things he heard as it did on things he read, Spencer doubted he would be able to repeat any part of this conversation later.

He was tired. Hotch wasn’t saying anything he hadn’t expected to hear. There was a voice in the back of his mind that found it hysterical how everything Hotch said meant nothing at all. Hotch had no idea the consequences of their actions. Even though Hotch was an Alpha, he was defective, and at that moment he thought some carefully chosen words could undo their actions. Spencer would’ve burst his bubble, except he was too tired to do anything other than stand and listen.

And then he couldn’t bear to do even that anymore. Spencer turned and left Hotch’s office without a word.

At home, all Spencer had was his thoughts and his regrets and the scent of Hotch on his skin.

He wanted to erase that scent.

He wanted to erase the last two weeks of his life.

He wanted Derek.

He stayed and bed all weekend and lived off the leftover bottled water and granola bars from his heat.

He didn’t stop at the coffee shop to see Aimee and Susan on his way to work.

On Monday, Derek avoided him and Spencer accepted it. He kept his eyes fixed on the report he was writing and pretended everything was okay.

On Tuesday, Derek avoided him and Spencer accepted it, but that didn’t stop him from staring at the man between the forced smiles and half-hearted laughs he gave J.J. and Emily.

On Wednesday, Derek avoided him and Spencer hated it. He forgot how to fake a smile. J.J. and Emily asked if he was okay and Penelope tried to cheer him up with candy and videos of kittens.

On Thursday, Derek avoided him and Spencer didn’t get any work done. He sat at his desk and stared across the bullpen and mentally prayed for Derek to look at him. Just look at him. One time would be enough. Just acknowledge that he existed. Derek never looked up from his work and it was all Spencer could do not to cry in the middle of the bullpen.

On Friday, Derek avoided him and Spencer realized it’d been seven days since the man last touched him. It was strange. For years they’d touched each other, sometimes without even noticing it, and now they just weren’t. And it shouldn’t have been a big deal, because it wasn’t anything new. A week without touches wasn’t bad. Every time Spencer went into Heat, it was a week without Derek’s touches. But this felt different. This felt wrong. And Spencer couldn’t take it anymore.

Spencer followed Derek when he went to the bathroom, and he could tell by the tension in the alpha’s shoulders that he knew Spencer was behind him.

There were two other people in the bathroom, but Spencer refused to lose his resolve. He stood silently by the door until the others left and he was alone with Derek. “Derek, can we talk?”

“I have nothing to say to you,” Derek said through gritted teeth and Spencer could tell he was trying his hardest to stay calm.

“Please,” Spencer begged. “I want to apologize.”

“Apologize?” Derek repeated as if the word was something profane. “I don’t want your apologies, Reid. I can’t stand to even look at you right now. Just leave me alone.” He turned and walked towards the door and suddenly just the idea of him walking away was too much for Spencer to take.

He reached for Derek, grabbing his arm. “Derek, please. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t fucking touch me!” Derek yelled, yanking his arm away and whirling to face Spencer with a look of unguarded fury. “You’re sorry? You slept with Hotch, Reid! You slept with another alpha while I had my Claim on you! Maybe in that freak brain of yours, that’s an okay thing to do or such a small offense it can be fixed by saying you’re fucking sorry, but out here with us normal people sorry doesn’t even begin to be enough. What were you even thinking?”

“I wasn’t thinking,” Spencer admitted. “I was hurting. I was hurting and he was there.”

 “You were hurting? Well imagine how I’m feeling right now. I said the wrong thing one time and you go off and fuck the next Alpha you see. And you didn’t just sleep with any Alpha, Reid. You slept with Hotch. You slept with a man I respected; a man I considered family. And I have to look at him every day. I have to look at you every day! And I want to hurt you! I want to make both of you hurt as much as I’m hurting.”

“I didn’t mean for any of this to happen. I didn’t want this to happen. What do you want me to do, Derek? What more can I say except I’m sorry?”

Derek’s large fist swung out and hit the wall just above Spencer’s shoulder. Spencer cowered beneath the alpha’s large form. For a second, he had been afraid that Derek had intended to hit him. It was terrifying. He’d never feared physical violence from Derek before, but he’d also never done anything like this. This was a fear he never wanted to feel again.

All at once, Derek seemed to deflate. The anger washed out of his expression and his eyes fell to the ground. His shoulder slumped and he said in a toneless voice, “You betrayed me. You and him both. He didn’t just violate our Claim, he destroyed. As far as I’m concerned, you’re not even mine anymore. You’re his. And you’re having his baby. And that’s not going to go away. No number of I’m sorry’s is going to make that disappear. What you did with him… If you didn’t want me, Reid, there were easier ways to let me know. Now we both have to live with this. You want to know what you can do? Just leave me alone, Spencer. Leave me alone.”

When he walks away this time, Spencer doesn’t stop him. When the door closes behind him, Spencer finally gives in to the tears he’d been fighting back for so long.

When Spencer leaves the bathroom, Emily, Penelope, and J.J. are crowded around each other staring at the closed door of Hotch’s office. They don’t even notice Spencer’s red and puffy eyes, too busy throwing out progressively off-target suggestions of what Hotch and Morgan might be in there talking about.

Fifteen minutes later, Derek leaves Hotch’s office, goes to his desk, gathers his things, and leaves without saying anything to anyone.

On Saturday, the team is called in to handle a case in Maine. Derek doesn’t show up.

Chapter Text

Chapter Fifteen: Unspoken

On the list of things Spencer did not wish to think about, babies fell somewhere near the top, right after Derek Morgan, Aaron Hotchner, and stupid mistakes. Unfortunately for him, babies were the center of their current case and he was forced to think about them and let his brain do its usual connect-the-dots game, tying babies to his own pregnancy that had come as a result of a stupid mistake he’d made with Aaron Hotchner.  A mistake that had had the secondary result of Derek Morgan “taking a temporary leave of absence to take care of some personal issues” (as said by Aaron Hotchner himself when the rest of the team wouldn’t stop asking where the man was).

The team had gone into the field a man down before, but that had always been with the knowledge that the missing member was well and would be returning to them soon. Derek had been gone two weeks now (that’s three days longer than his saved vacation days permitted) and no one knew if he was well or when he would be coming back.

“He finally returned my calls and said he was spending some time with his family,” Garcia said from the speaker of Emily’s cellphone. “I told him we’re his family, too, and we’ll help him through whatever’s going on, but he just made an excuse and hung up on me. It was like he didn’t even care we’re worrying about him.”

“I’m sure he’s fine, Penelope,” J.J. said. “He probably just needs a little time away from this job and all reminders of it.”

“But how am I meant to help him feel better if he won’t tell me what’s wrong. You know I’m not the type to sit on my hands when my family is suffering.”

They kept talking about it, but Spencer tuned them out and focused on the case instead. Their profile was pretty cut and dry, unlike everything else in his life right now. The UNSUB was a middle-aged, white female driven by maternal desire, kidnapping infants to replace the one she’d lost and suffocating them either to mimic what happened to her child, or because they didn’t quite fit in the space she wanted them to fill.

A lot like Ashley Seaver didn’t quite fit with the team enough to hide the fact Derek was gone. Gone because Spencer had screwed up enough to drive him away. Gone and probably never to return no matter how many times Penelope and Emily and J.J. called him. Gone like the Claim he’d once held on Spencer.

“If he thinks I’m going to let a few ignored calls stop me, he’s got another think coming. Penelope Garcia will not be deterred by such small obstacles. I’m going to keep calling until he answers and keep leaving voicemails when he doesn’t.”

“I’m not saying give up completely,” Rossi said quickly, “just give him a little space, maybe.”

“Can we please focus on the case,” Hotch cut in before Garcia could say anything more. Spencer glanced at him. He was seated in one of the parallel seats near the front of the jet, while Spencer occupied one of the table seats. The seat next to Spencer was occupied only by a large Derek Morgan shaped emptiness.

Spencer didn’t know what was worse: Hotch being so far away from him, or Derek not being there at all. Actually, that was a lie. Derek’s absence was definitely the worst, he missed him like missing a limb. He would have settled for Hotch being next to him though, if only to have the alpha touch him.

Spencer had known, in a theoretical sense, that most of an alpha instinctual behavior depended upon their ability to scent an omega. Hotch, lacking that ability as he was, didn’t feel the need to be next to Spencer, to reinforce his Claim with a series of casual touches the way Derek did. Or maybe Hotch just didn’t want Spencer.

The team leader continued, “There are lives at stake.” And Spencer turned his thoughts back to the case.

The current life at stake was that of a three month old baby girl who’d been snatched from the backseat of a car when her mother had gone to pay for the gas. The mother had thought the car’s tinted windows would hide the fact she’d left the infant unattended, but luck hadn’t been on her side. The baby’s father had been pissed at the mother’s carelessness. He’d yelled a lot of accusatory and hurtful words at his wife.

Hurtful words like the ones Derek had spat at Spencer back in that bathroom. He’d called him a freak. Said he wasn’t normal. Words that people had been throwing at Spencer like daggers his entire life. He’d thought he was done dodging those daggers when he’d joined the FBI, a place he was meant to be valued for his brainpower. But apparently when he succumbed to human error, the sharp words once more came flying, only he didn’t know how to not let them hurt him anymore. Derek had said he wanted to make Spencer hurt, and he had succeeded.

He couldn’t focus on the case anymore, because every time he looked at the victims (three infants, two of which were dead before the team had even been called in), he couldn’t help but think about the little life growing inside of him. A three week old bundle of cells somewhere between the size of a poppy seed and an apple seed. So small, but undeniably life changing.

He hadn’t seen a doctor yet, hadn’t even been able to bring himself to make an appointment. Mostly he tried to avoid thinking about it. Tried to avoid thinking about the fact that with all his might he just wanted it gone, but the thought of getting rid of it made him feel queasy and worthless.

That was something he was getting used to feeling even when he wasn’t thinking about the little blastocyst inside of him. Worthless and disgraceful and pitiful. An omega slut who’d slept with one alpha because he couldn’t keep another one interested in him. And even the one he’d spread his legs for didn’t want him. He was good enough to fuck, but not enough to touch. Not enough to Claim. Not enough to announce to the world that this omega is mine. Screwed once and tossed aside with only the melancholy cloud of an impending Drop to keep him company at night.

He imagined he could already feel the Drop, measure its arrival in the trembling of his hands and the blurriness of his vision. And he had to live with the knowledge that he’d brought this on himself. (And what a life it was. More of a half-life than anything. Go to work and save people in order to give value to his existence, only to go home alone with the knowledge that he meant nothing to no one.) This Drop, unlike the one he’d experienced before, was coming as the direct result of Spencer’s own actions.

All Derek had done was love him and pursue him earnestly and patiently, but without a willingness to be hurt or a patience that could be measured in increments of infinity. All Derek had done was dance with an omega at a bar and Spencer had reacted with an unnecessary amount of cruelty. And it wasn’t even like it was the first time Spencer had seen Derek dance with an omega. On their single date, Derek had danced with more than a handful of people. That place had been too smoky and overcrowded to properly scent anyone, but surely one or two of his dance partners had been omegas.

It wasn’t jealousy that had driven Spencer into Hotch’s bed. It could never be something so simple and logical. Spencer himself could not find excuse for his actions. It hadn’t even seemed like a good idea at the time, but still he’d done it. He’d done it and he’d driven away the only alpha—no, he’d driven away the only person who’d ever loved him.

How was he supposed to live with that?

“Spence, you okay?” JJ asked, pulling him out of his rapidly spiraling thoughts.

“Huh? I’m fine. I was thinking these kidnappings weren’t as randomly chosen as we’d thought. What’s the chance that an UNSUB who shops at the supermarket where the second baby was snatched gases her car all the way on the other side of town where victim number three was taken?”

“You think the UNSUB stalks the mothers?”

“I think victim number one was the only random grab and that number two and three had both been followed from somewhere.”

And that was all it took to get everyone back on track, focusing on the case and not the missing member of their team.

“Your Penelope just called again,” Sarah stated, looming over Derek in that irksome big sister way of hers. “You’re gonna have to start paying me if you want me to keep screening your calls like some kinda secretary.”

Derek pretended to be too busy tightening the pipes under his sister’s kitchen sink to answer her. Derek could tell without looking that Sarah had her arms cross and her lips pursed and was looking down at Derek in that other irksome big sister way of hers. “You gon tell me why you lurking about here, dodging calls from your friends and job? What are you hiding from?”

Derek wanted to continue ignoring her, but he knew she wouldn’t let him get away with that for long. “I’m not hiding from anything,” he told her, his attention still on fixing the plumbing he’d ripped out the moment he’d stepped into his sister’s house.

Repairing his rental properties had always been Derek’s way of avoiding and/or working through whatever problems he was having, but he didn’t have any properties in the Chicago area and he wasn’t inclined to stick around Quantico, so it was his family’s homes that suffered under Derek’s wrench. He’d already fixed all could be done in his mother’s house and Fran had eagerly foisted him off on Sarah when he refused to tell her what was going on with him. Now it was Sarah trying to wheedle his problems out of him while he menaced her house with power tools.

“Derek.” He didn’t like Sarah’s tone, it made him feel like a misbehaving child, something only his mother had been able to make him feel before. But Sarah was a mother now, maybe it came with the territory. Maybe one day Spencer would use that same tone on his child.

“Is this about Spencer?” Sarah pressed as if she’d read where his thoughts were going.

Derek slid out from under the sink and met her concerned gaze for the first time. “I don’t know what you think you know, but…”

Sarah cut him off. “I know that a month ago, you and Spencer came here and we were half expecting you to announce your impending nuptials, but by the time you left, you were barely speaking to each other. We didn’t think it was a big deal, because all relationships have their ups and downs, but then you came back here two weeks later a completely different person.

 “No, I don’t know what happened, but I do know that you’re angry and you’re hurting. And I know that mom, Desiree, and I, and your girl Penelope, have been trying to help you, but you keep pushing us away. Penelope said you had a hard case, but you’ve had hard cases before and you never flew out here to hide from them. So, it must be personal. And all I can think is that it has to have something to do with Spencer, because that’s the only thing personal enough to make you run away from the job you love and the people there who wanna take care of you. So, is this about Spencer?”

Sarah had always had such a good leash on her emotions, never showing more on her face than what she’d wanted to be seen. It came from being the oldest child, cast in the role of strong and wise protector of her younger siblings. But at this moment, Sarah wasn’t even trying to hide what she was feeling. More than her words, the open care and concern on her face was what made Derek tell her everything.

And then he finally returns Penelope’s calls and tells her everything too.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Sixteen: Side Effects

Their case had wrapped up neatly: UNSUB caught, victims saved, growing tensions abated, and minimal injuries on either side.

It was victory the team needed with the memory of the Riddle Man case still fresh in their minds, and with Derek’s absence still haunting them. Spencer couldn’t quite remember the exact details of the case, having been living in a fog for that last week or so, but he was glad it had ended well.

The team flew back to Quantico feeling happy and accomplished: Ashley Seaver talking happily with JJ and Emily about weekend shopping plans, Rossi and Hotch discussing Jack’s next soccer match, and Spencer staring at a book he wasn’t actually reading.

One month, two weeks, three days. Six and a half weeks.

That’s how long it had been since the Riddle Man case in Kansas. That’s how long it had been since that damned night he’d spent in Hotch’s bed. That’s how long it had been since Derek had looked at him as if he’d shot him through the heart.

Five and a half weeks since he’d actually seen Derek last. Five and a half weeks since that day in the bathroom when Spencer’s world had stopped. Five and a half weeks since Derek had packed his things and left without a word to anyone.

One month, two weeks, and three days since he’d last been touched by an alpha. Any alpha. Derek wasn’t around and Hotch was making an effort to keep a professional distance between them. Not that he wanted to be anything other than professional with Hotch, but he needed someone . He needed an alpha before it killed him.

When his last alpha had stopped reinforcing their Claim, Spencer had Dropped within a month. Three weeks and five days to be exact. And now it had been one month, two weeks, and three days.

Spencer felt like he was breaking apart inside. Every breath he took felt like a choice between crying and screaming. He wanted to flail his arms around and thrash on the floor like a toddler throwing a tantrum just to relieve himself of the feeling of helplessness. Every little noise grated at him: too loud and twice as annoying. He wanted to curl into himself until he was so small he ceased to exist. He wanted to lock himself in a dark room until the world disappeared. His mouth watered with the urge to vomit and it felt like there were stones at the bottom of his stomach.

He tried to make himself focus on his book, but it was impossible. Even if there wasn’t a pressure building behind his eyes that threatened to bloom into a full migraine at any moment, his ability to focus on anything longer than half a minute had been the first thing he’d lost. He closed his eyes and told himself to just breathe. Tears pooled in his eyes and he blinked them away.

He told himself he’d survive this as he had before. Five weeks into his last Drop, Spencer had been unable to force himself out bed. He wasn’t that bad this time around, so surely that meant he could handle this. He was stronger now. This would not be the end of the world.

Sure he could barely keep his hands from shaking, and sometimes his vision would go from blurry to completely dark, and his head felt like it was stuffed full of cotton, and his moods were wildly oscillating between extremes, and everything he ate tasted like ash in his mouth, and his attention span was nonexistent, but he would get through this.

He would be going into a pseudo-heat in the next week or so, and if he made it through that, the only way to go was up. At least, that's what he was trying to convince himself. He wasn’t very convinced, though.

The jet landed.

Spencer followed his team, a zombie moving on instinct. He followed them back to the office, to the bullpen, to his desk that was too near Derek’s empty one. Spencer hid his face in his hands. It was the only way to make himself look away from Derek’s empty chair.

A higher up had come the previous week and loudly argued with Hotch about the need to start considering hiring a permanent replacement for their wayward teammate. They couldn’t keep Ashley Seaver forever and if Derek wasn't back by now, it was likely he had no intentions of ever returning.

Hotch had argued against it. They didn’t need a replacement for Morgan, because Morgan would be back as soon as he sorted himself out. Hotch knew as well as Spencer why Derek was gone. Spencer, with his understanding of the ways of Alphas, thought Derek’s return was unlikely, but Hotch swore the other man would be back. Spencer wanted to believe him. More than anything in the world, Spencer wanted to believe that Derek would come back, but he knew better. Hotch may be an alpha, but he didn’t understand Alphas.

The decision was made that if Derek Morgan didn’t return to work by the end of the month, his employment at the FBI would be terminated.

The threat of a migraine pressing behind Spencer’s eyes ceased being just a threat and bloomed into a full assault.

“Spencer Reid.” The words were spoken in a short, borderline hostile, tone that was uncommon for their usually chipper speaker. Well, less uncommon at this point than it used to be. Three weeks ago, after they’d wrapped up the case with the kidnapped babies, the Spencer’s reunion with Penelope had pursed lips and a chilly glare, but she still treated him as a person and not as something she detested. Hotch had been given the cold shoulder entirely, so Spencer supposed it could have been worst.

Obviously Derek had told Penelope what was keeping him away, and obviously Penelope was not pleased with the situation, but there was nothing Spencer could do to appease her.

Spencer lowered his hands and raised his head just enough to meet Penelope’s eyes. She opened her mouth to speak again, but closed it just as quickly, whatever she saw on Spencer’s face stealing the words from her lips.

She frowned and dragged her gaze across his form. “Come with me.” It’s obviously not what she’d been planning on saying, but she was also not taking no for an answer. She grabbed Spencer by the wrist and hauled him out of his seat. Before he could begin to protest, she  dragged him down the hall, Spencer stumbling over himself as they went.

Penelope pulled Spencer into her office and she didn’t need to speak for him to know. “He’s not coming back.”

“You look terrible,” Penelope responded. It wasn’t like Spencer had phrased it as a question anyway.

“Do you hate me?” Spencer asked.

“Oh, Spencer, of course not. Can’t say I’m happy about any of this, but I couldn’t possibly hate you.”

“Why not? He hates me. They both do.” I hate me , went unspoken.

“Derek doesn’t hate you, Spencer.”

“Then why isn’t he here?” It came out louder than he’d meant it to. A screamed question that failed to conceal the pain he was feeling. Tears pooled in his eyes. “Why isn’t he here? Why won’t he come back? How do I make him come back?”

“Spencer…” She spoke as if he was something fragile, as if one misspoken word would break him beyond repair. Perhaps it would. It matched how he felt. Fragile. (Spiderwebbed with cracks and barely holding himself together.) Thin. (Stretched too far in too many directions.) Breakable. (Already broken). Delicate.

He let out a mirthless laugh. Delicate. As in “in a delicate condition.” Damn it all. Everything he’d been trying to hold in burst out at once.

“He left me. He left me and it was my fault. And there’s nothing I can do. He hates me and won’t even give me a chance to fix this. I know I messed up, but I just want to fix it. I want to tell him I regret hurting him more than I regret anything I’ve ever done. I want to tell him that no one in the world means more to me than him. I just want him to know I love him. I love him so much it hurts. Missing him feels like dying. I just want to die. What am I even alive for?”

“Spencer don’t think like that. You have so much to live for.”

“Like what? This job, where all I see is pain and tragedy and the worst of people? My mom, who has more bad days than good now and forgets I’m not six years old? This team, that’s so caught up in Derek not being here, they don’t even notice how I’m falling apart? Derek, who I drove away because that’s what I do, because I’m meant to be alone forever. Hotch?

“Hotch, who won’t even look at me. Who’s trying to pretend nothing ever happened, which is fine, because I wish that nothing ever happened. But I can’t even get him alone long enough to tell him I’m pregnant. He doesn’t care that his actions have consequences. So much that’s going wrong right now is his fault and he won’t even take responsibility for it.

“What does that leave me with? What am I living for? This baby? This baby that I don’t even want. That I’m terrified that I’m going to end up hating, because I never wanted kids and the only thing that would make a baby bearable would be if it’s was a piece of Derek that I could hold on to. But it’s not a piece of Derek. If I’d slept with Derek instead of Hotch, none of this would be happening.”

Of the whole tirade, Penelope got stuck on one point. “You’re pregnant?”

Spencer, who had once more hidden his face in his hands as he tried to scrub away the burning tears spilling from his eyes, looked up at Penelope. “Did he not tell you that part?”

Penelope shook her head. “No, Derek left out that little detail.”

He let out another mirthless chuckle, followed by a long despondent sigh. “As I said, actions have consequences.” And, as if to prove his words, all the strength seemed to leave him at once and Spencer collapsed to the floor.

Chapter Text

Chapter Seventeen: Consequences

Derek powered on his phone as he waited in the taxi line outside the airport. It was late at night and Derek was a bit tired from his flight between Chicago and Quantico. He hadn’t told anyone he was coming back, though really Penelope was the only one he would have told. Just as Penelope had been the only one he’d told when he’d made the decision to leave the FBI.

This had not been a decision he’d come by lightly. Derek loved his job. Loved it more than almost everything else in his life. But he also loved Spencer. And he couldn’t bear the thought of going to work everyday and watching Spencer be with someone else. Be with Hotch.

When the choice is between watching the love of his life be happy with someone not him or giving up the job he loved, well he was only back in Quantico until he made arrangements to get moved home to Chicago. He wished Spencer and Hotch the best.

As soon as his phone powered up, it began to vibrate nonstop from an explosion of voicemails and text messages.

Derek had half expected his phone to be blown up by calls from the team after he’d told Penelope he didn’t have any plans of returning to work. But the calls never came and Derek couldn’t help but wonder if maybe no one cared, or if Penelope just hadn’t shared the information around as he’d thought she would. But now he had a seeming million missed calls and messages from Penelope and JJ and Emily and David.

Derek only briefly considered ignoring it all until he’d gotten home and slept for a good eight hours, but, as if she could read his mind from wherever she was, his phone started ringing Penelope’s ringtone at just that moment.

Derek answered the call and before he could even say a greeting, Penelope cried out “Thank god, I’ve been calling you nonstop for hours.”

“Sorry, Baby Girl, I was on a plane.” An empty taxi finally pulled up in front of him and Derek began loading his baggage into the car.

“A plane back home to Quantico, I hope. We need you here. Now.”  Her voice was a mix of panic and hysteria.

“What’s going on, Penelope?” Derek asked worriedly.

“Just get to the hospital, please. As fast as you can. Where are you, I’ll get them to send the jet for you if I have to.”

“I’m in Quantico, Penelope. Tell me what’s going on.” Derek briefly covered the phone receiver with his hand to direct the taxi driver to take him to the hospital.

“It’s Spencer,” Penelope said and Derek could hear the heartache in her voice. “They’re not sure he’s going to make it.”

Derek felt as if his heart had stopped in his chest. “If you can get the word out to the local enforcement officers to not stop a speeding taxi, I’ll be there as fast as I can.”

The doctor explained: when an omega is suffering a Drop, their body can sometimes trigger an emergency heat as a last ditch effort to attract an alpha.This emergency heat is considered the lowest point of a Drop and an omega who makes it through it without the aid of an alpha, will slowly begin to stabilize on their own, eventually making it to the point where they can lead an almost normal life without a Claim or Bond.

When an omega is suffering a Drop during their first trimester of pregnancy, their body usually purposely miscarries the fetus in an attempt to make themselves available for a new alpha. By the end of their first trimester, a pregnant omega’s pheromones ceases being enticing to all but the alpha who’d impregnated them. If that alpha abandoned them, then their body abandons the fetus so that they can attract an alpha that won’t abandon them.

This risk of miscarriage is only present during the first trimester of pregnancy though. During the second trimester, once the omega is noticeably pregnant, other instincts overpower the mating instinct. It would still be a high risk pregnancy without an alpha present, but the omega’s body would no longer actively work against the fetus. This is generally when omegas begin exhibiting extreme nesting behavior and go into isolation. Instead of trying to attract a new alpha, every instinct goes to preserving the life within them to exclusion of all else.

Unfortunately, there is no way to save the baby after the body decides to miscarry it and all attention goes to trying to save the omega, as this miscarriage is dangerous for them.

The primary treatment, after ensuring that no damage was caused by the miscarriage, is to pull the omega out of their dropped state. An omega who suffered a miscarriage during a drop is unlikely to ever be able to pull themselves out of the drop without the aid of an alpha. A topical cream containing artificial alpha pheromones is applied to the wrists and neck (or full body in extreme cases) to fool the omega’s body into believing is has been claimed by a new alpha, bringing their hormones up to a healthy level.

This, however, is only a temporary fix. Eventually the omega’s body will begin to reject the false pheromones in the cream and will go back into a drop. A second drop so quickly after just coming out of one could have deadly consequences.

Two weeks is the maximum amount of time the topical cream can be used, with one week being the recommended usage window. This is also because Claiming by a new alpha after a drop 100% of the time results in a Heat. During the use of the cream, Omegesterin is also used to delay this heat.

The only lasting fix is to have the omega be Claimed by a real alpha. A familiar alpha would be best, as the transition from the false pheromones in the cream to a real alpha’s pheromones is easier if the omega already recognizes the alpha, but a hired professional alpha is also an option. It is also highly recommended that the omega Bonds to an alpha during the resulting heat, another reason why a familiar alpha is the best choice. Bonding is, of course, not a requirement, but it is what would be best for the omega.

“Do any of you know the reason for his break with his last alpha?” The doctor asks. “Is there any chance of reconciliation there?”

Derek stood there, face an impassive mask that barely concealed his anger and concern. At the doctor’s last question, his fists clenched at his sides and he barely stopped himself from glaring in Hotch’s direction.

The unit chief spoke up, “Reid’s previous alpha is… well it’s complicated.”

Derek had to bite back a growl. Complicated? There was nothing complicated about the fact that Derek had left, believing Spencer to be happy with Hotch, only for Hotch to abandon him.

“We were not aware Reid was pregnant. How far along was he?” Hotch asked and Derek could not bite his tongue any longer.

“You knew damn well Reid was pregnant,” Derek said, his anger turning the soft spoken words chilly. “How dare you stand there and pretend like this isn’t your fault! You did this to him!”

Except Hotch looked as genuinely surprised at the accusation as Emily, JJ, and Rossi were. Penelope grabbed Derek’s hand in a way that was probably meant to be calming, but Derek was feeling way too many emotions to be calmed.

“He just lost your baby and you’re standing here talking about ‘complicated.’ What the fuck kind of alpha are you?” If it had been his baby, if Spencer had still been his, Derek would be glued to Spencer’s side, helping his omega, the love of his life, through this.

If Spencer had still been his, none of this would be happening.

“Hotch’s baby,” JJ asked, completely flabbergasted, “I thought you were his alpha?”

There was so much Derek could say in response to that, but now wasn’t the time. Right now, all that was important was Spencer. Getting Spencer through this, letting him know he wasn’t alone, being at his side.

Derek turned his attention to the doctor and requested, “Take me to him, please.”

Spencer looked tiny in the hospital bed.

He looked as if he was fading out of existence.

Like he was shrinking into himself as color and life bled out of him.

Derek almost didn’t want to touch him for fear of him disappearing.

He looked like an illusion made of smoke, and even breathing too hard would disrupt his tenuous hold on existence and vanish him away.

Derek reached out a hesitant hand and laid it on top of Spencer’s.

Spencer was sleeping restlessly. There were all manner or machines and monitors strapped to him and needles stuck in him and just the sight of him had Derek choking on guilt and grief.

“Oh, Spencer,” Derek said, seating himself in the chair next to Spencer’s bed and taking one of his pale hands into both of his own. “Oh, Spencer,” he said again, unable to think of anything more to say. He bowed his head over their joined hands, but couldn’t even muster up a prayer.

“He hates me and won’t even give me a chance to fix this. I know I messed up, but I just want to fix it. I want to tell him I regret hurting him more than I regret anything I’ve ever done. I want to tell him that no one in the world means more to me than him. I just want him to know I love him. I love him so much it hurts. Missing him feels like dying. I just want to die. What am I even alive for?”

Derek looked up and found Penelope standing in the doorway of room, Spencer’s voice coming from the phone held in her hands. “We were talking in my office,” she explained, “you know I record everything there. This was right before he collapsed. The doctor said he had to have known something was wrong, because his body wouldn’t trigger this without a warning. I didn’t think much of it when he said he felt like dying.”

Penelope paused for a second, then continued, “Actually, that’s a lie. I thought ‘good’ I thought he was getting what he deserved for hurting you. But I didn’t mean it. You have to know I didn’t mean it. I didn’t want this. I love Spencer. He’s my family. He’s our family. Sometimes, families hurt each other. And sometimes families let stupid shit tear them apart. But we always come back together. When one of us is knocked down, we lift him up. We support each other. Right?”

“Right,” Derek agreed, outstretching an arm so Penelope could nuzzle into his side. They sat there together, looking at Spencer’s too still form. “We’re going to get through this,” Derek promised. And he meant it. He would do whatever it took to get Spencer through this.

And, afterward, he was never going to let Spencer go again.

A soft knock on the open door signalled JJ’s arrival to the room and Emily came quietly at her heels. “How is he?” JJ asked, approaching the other side of Spencer’s bed and taking his free hand. It was a rhetorical question. With tears in her eyes, she went on to say, “I can’t believe I didn’t realize how much he was hurting. I knew something was wrong, but I thought he would come and talk to me about it if it was really important. I figured he was just missing you and that either he’d work through in his own time, or you would come back and everything would be okay. I never once thought it would come to this.”

“Hey, JJ, it’s okay,” Derek offered reassurances that he himself found difficult to accept. “Spencer is strong. He’s going to make it through this. I’m going to help him through this. And I’m never going to let him hurt again.”

JJ’s eyes didn’t flicker away from Spencer for even a second. Her nod of acceptance to Derek’s words could only be described as solemn. She gripped Spencer’s limp hand tighter.

“I just can’t believe Hotch,” Emily said, she hadn’t gone further than stepping just inside the doorway and the expression on her face was completely unreadable.

“Where is he?” Penelope asked, glancing around as if the man in question would materialize out of the shadows.

“The doctor said having more than one alpha around Spence could do more harm than good right now,” JJ answered. “So Rossi took Hotch home.”

“We’ll only be staying for a few minutes, too,” Emily added. “The doctor said it would be best to leave him alone with you. We just wanted to see him.”

“He looks so sad,” JJ said, running a hand through Spencer’s bangs. “Even in his sleep.” She sniffled and wrapped her arms around herself, then finally looked over at Derek. “Take care of him.”

Derek nodded. “I plan to.”

They move Spencer into a bed large enough for Derek to crawl in beside him. Skinship with an alpha is the best treatment plan for Spencer right now, so Derek is propped up in the bed with his omega lying against his chest.

He’s reading aloud from a book he’d grabbed off the shelf in his childhood bedroom back in Chicago. He’d read A Farewell to Arms in high school and had found himself willing to give it another read when it came time for his flight and he hadn’t had time to stop at a bookstore.

If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. ” Derek read softly, “The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially.”

“If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry, ” Spencer’s voice is sleep heavy and incredibly soft. Derek would almost believe he’d imagined it had Spencer not nuzzled closer into his chest, blinked confusedly at the room, and mused, “I must still be dreaming.”

“Spencer,” Derek said softly, rubbing one hand down the omega’s arm, from shoulder to elbow.

Spencer looked up at him, mouth twisted into confused frown. “Not a dream,” he asked?

“Not a dream,” Derek affirmed.

Spencer nodded, then closed his eyes and laid his head back against Derek’s chest. “Just five more minutes. Let me have this for just five more minutes.”