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The Art of Courtly Love

Chapter Text

Prologue Pt 1

T – 30 years

Santa Catalina school for Girls

Rome, Italy

Emily.

"Hey. What's wrong with you?"

Emily looked up as her friend Heidi came over and sat next to her on the grass, before she went back to poking her pencil into the turf. "Nothing. My Dad is going back to DC."

"Really? I wonder if that means we are too." Heidi's father was a part of the Ambassador's staff.

"Nope, not Mom. Just Dad." Emily sighed. "They're getting a divorce."

Heidi's eyes grew wide at that. "Really?'

"Yeah."

"That's awful!"

Emily shrugged. It wouldn't be too bad, mostly. At least they would stop fighting, and she could stop feeling like she was betraying one every time she spent time with the other.

Heidi opened her mouth like she was going to say something, but then someone called her name. Emily looked up as her friend got up and ran over to a woman pushing a stroller. She sat there and watched as Heidi lifted her baby brother Mikey into her arms.

That was the awful thing, that's what she was so upset about. Mikey was kind of perfect, cute and round and cuddly. Heidi's mom let them dress him up and feed him his baby food and even let them help her give him a bath once. He wasn't big enough to really play with them yet, to have any kind of adventures, but someday he would be, and that was going to be the best of all.

"Come here Mikey. Come give Emily a hug. She's having a real bad day."

Emily smiled as Mikey took a few toddling, uncertain steps over to her, his arms up and out for balance, then all but fell against her knee. He looked up at her with those big, proud eyes as if to say "Look what I can do!" and giggled. At that moment Emily knew the one thing she would always want would be a baby brother of her very own.

Chapter Text

Prologue Pt. 2

T – 20 years

Chaparral High School

Las Vegas, NV

Diana

The boy walking down the street beside the woman was dragging his feet, if the truth be known. He was walking a little slower with every block, slower and slower, until the woman beside him, lost in her own world, finally noticed. "What's wrong?"

"Mom, I'm scared." He admitted, "I don't want to go to a new school."

"Well, I thoroughly understand; Philistines, the lot of them. But your old school wasn't able to keep up with you any longer, and the government insists that you spend the day inside a school somewhere."

"But why can't I stay home with you? I can read whatever they want me to learn. I'll just recite the books back to them."

"Oh, Spencer, there's more to learning than just that." There was a bit of wall handy, thankfully. Diana sat down and patted the space next to her to get her son to sit. "Learning is about mastering a subject; one cannot do that without discussing that subject with others."

"But I'm going to be too scared to discuss anything with anyone in there. They're all bigger than me. And they're going to think I'm a geek."

"Now, now, bravery is required here. Tell me again, what are the rules of Chivalry?" There were many, in reality. Chivalry was never a written code, more a philosophy of the High Middle Ages. There were many sources that listed many different rules. She'd meant to teach her son one, a specific one, but it was so hard to remember which. The Government, she thought, either it's in the water or it's in those beams they keep pointing at my head. They just don't want him growing into his vast potential.

She waited patiently as her son retrieved it from his memory. After a moment he started to recite:

"A Knight should obey the laws of the land whenever possible and within reason, for in the main they have been chosen with wisdom.

A Knight should have pride in himself, and seek perfection in body and in mind.

A Knight does not falter in the face of adversity, but perseveres

A Knight must respect all things and beings.

A Knight must never resort to physical violence to solve non-physical conflict.

A Knight must defend the pure, innocent and helpless.

A Knight's word must have the validity of a signed and witnessed oath.

A Knight must be honest with others, and have them known that honesty is likewise expected of them.

A Knight must pledge friendship and fealty to those who so warrant and support and honor his brothers as best he can.

A Knight must always be loyal and true to his Lady, and do all things for her glory, and serve her to the best of his ability

A Knight must always remember that those who seek the truth should consider themselves as select of God, for it is they who lead the rest to the highest of thrones and beyond the very stars."

"Very good," she beamed at him. Take that, she thought, when she saw the Men in Black slinking their way around behind the bushes, listening to their conversation. I'm teaching him what's right and true anyway, and you cannot stop me. "Now go forth my Knight, with honor and bravery, and seek ye perfection in order to do the highest honor to your Lady."

"But, I'm not a Knight Mom, and I don't have a Lady."

"Squire, then, my brave, young squire, and you will have a Lady of your own someday, I just know it. Err…" She looked down at him a moment. Ten was a little young for that sort of thing; "When you're considerably older. Now give me a hug and go on."

Diana Reid hugged her son, and stood there watching as Spencer headed in to his first day of high school. Then she turned and carefully avoided the monsters all the way home.

Chapter Text

Prologue Pt 3

T-5 years

Villa in Southern France

Emily

"A baby brother, huh?"

"Yeah." Emily rolled over and cuddled into Ian's side. She knew he was a psychopath, a monster, someone capable of killing without thought or care. But at times he could be the most charming man, kind, caring, loving. It was all a farce, of course. She knew none of it could be trusted. But in order to gain his trust she had to open her body to him, and to do that, to convincingly do that, at times she had to make herself believe. "I've kept in touch with Heidi and Mike over the years. They're always off doing something, he made her learn how to surf, she took him to see Angor Wat, they've gone mountain climbing in Argentina. They're the best of friends, to this day. I am still so envious of her, I admit it."

Ian chuckled. "I'm surprised her men don't get jealous."

"She always said if they did they weren't the right guy. She did get married, finally, a couple of years ago, to one of his college buddies. He practically picked the guy out for her, really. But he has yet to find a girl that she thinks is good enough for him."

"Big sisters and baby brothers." Ian rolled over to look at the ceiling, dragging her with him so she draped over his chest. "What about real babies?"

Well now that was a turn in the conversation. "What, me?"

"Yeah. You ever think about it?'

"Oh. I don't know. With the lifestyle we live I don't know that I'd ever be able to look after an infant. But, um…I can't say the idea doesn't have its appeal."

Ian looked down at her. "I think there's someone I want you to meet."

 

Chapter Text

Prologue Pt. 4

T – 4 years, 9 months

BAU Headquarters

Quantico, VA

Spencer

"So this is where you work?"

Spencer followed his mother into the conference room. It seemed like everything was falling apart. It had to be when his Mom was the key to it all. Not that he didn't love her like crazy; he still did, even to this day. His first Lady, really, but in the end, when you need the help of a schizophrenic to solve your case…"This is where we meet, uh, my desk is, uh, right out there in the bullpen area."

"The table's round."

"Yeah, just like I wrote you in my letters." Mom would pick up on that, he thought, The Knights of the Round Table. And hopefully the Squire here hasn't just ruined everything.


Later on Randall Garner would call him Sir Percival. Apparently that was what his mother called him to her friends.

Dr. Jessup said she was exceptionally proud of him. Exceptionally proud.


 

T – 4 years, 3 months

BAU Headquarters

Quantico, VA

Spencer

"Think of it as a quest." Emily said in the elevator, out of nowhere.

Spencer was heading out on a month's vacation time. Not that he was planning to actually relax anytime soon. Gideon had loaned him the cabin, he was going to come check up when he could, but he was going out to take care of that problem. Everyone knew that without saying anything. Everyone knew how badly their squire had fucked up, well, his entire life. Percival his ass. "Excuse me?"

"A quest. Vanquish the dragon, return to the castle." She looked over at him with a smile. "Good luck." She said as the door opened on her floor

"Thanks," he called after her, a quest to kill a dragon, how appropriate. Still, maybe I can prove myself someday, overcome this someday.

Maybe even find the Grail.

The elevator opened at the lobby and his quest began.

Chapter Text

Prologue Pt. 5

T-1 year, 6 months

Foggy Bottom Cinema

Washington DC

Emily

An all too familiar voice spoke right next to her, just as the lights came up. "Is this seat taken?"

They were out at a movie marathon night, her and Garcia and Morgan. Saw 1-3, which was kind of wrong for them, especially considering they kept laughing through the worst parts. They always sat in the back for these, the better to play "Profile the Villain" and not disturb anyone. Reid usually came with them, but tonight he'd had an actual, honest-to-God date.

Had clearly being the operative word. She looked over and up at the tall figure who was still leaning on a cane. "It didn't go well, huh?" She asked as he took the aisle seat and stretched out his knee.

"No." He looked from her to Morgan, who was about to join Garcia on a popcorn run, a look that said Not in front of him.

"I told you to bring her here instead. You could have had her jumping into your arms instead of getting bored in some Russian Sci-Fi movie." Morgan told him.

Stop trying to change him, Emily thought. You will never understand. "Ignore him. If she doesn't get it then she's not the right girl for you."

Reid looked over at her with gratitude in his gentle eyes. "You sound like my Mother."

"Oh god, do not go there." Garcia remarked. She reached down to tug on his tie. "Didn't I make you take this off?"

He pulled it out of her hand. "I felt naked without it." He admitted. "A gentleman should always be properly dressed."

"Yeah, right." She chuckled. "Popcorn?"

"Gummi Worms, please." When they had moved off he looked back at Emily. "I didn't want to say anything in front of Morgan but she apparently thought I said "Go for a grope-a-thon" when I asked her to the movies. When I told her I wasn't interested she got offended and asked me to take her home."

Dammit. Why does this keep happening to him? Why can't people accept him for what he is? "Well if that's the case then she really wasn't the right girl for you."

"I know. I just…" Reid sighed. "I want a girl I have to work for, you know, and I want one who appreciates the effort. There's no point in bettering yourself if all someone wants is what's in your pants. Which is not to say that's a bad thing but I think it's something a guy should have to earn, not just have it thrown at him."

"Earn?"

"Yeah, you know like a…" He was blushing. Emily smiled, he was actually blushing. "…A knight would make himself worthy of his Lady."

"Ah, the rules of Chivalry. Show courage in battle, mercy toward the vanquished, defend the weak, serve your country…"

"Yeah, that kind of thing." He was still red about the ears. "I know it's silly. Just don't say anything to Morgan, he'd laugh."

"Oh, he's just not geeky enough to understand. Not to worry Sir Spencer," She reached up to muss his hair and pull his head down to her shoulder in a hug. "Your secret is safe with me."

"Thank you Dame Emily."

"I beg your pardon?" Garcia asked, having come up behind them. "What are you two doing?"

"Hey, if a guy has to mourn a bad date he ought to be able to do it with his sister." Emily told her.

"Yeah, please tell me that's all you were doing." Garcia said as she dropped a bag of Gummi worms into Reid's lap.

Reid rolled his eyes. "There's a term for what you're thinking. It's called incest."

"And that would be my point." She gestured for them to stop that, thank you, then sat on Emily's other side. "Just so you know, I left Morgan chatting up some hottie in the lobby."

Why does that not surprise me, Emily thought. She reached over and stole a Gummi worm. Really, no better way to spend a Friday night than watching cheesy horror movies with your little brother.

 

Chapter Text

Prologue Pt 6

T – 3 weeks

Glenwood Cemetery

Washington DC

Hotch

It was raining.

It was fitting that it was raining.

Aaron Hotchner stood in the grass under his umbrella looking at the mess in front of him. A mess not only in the literal sense, but also the figurative, the metaphorical.

There, in front of the all too familiar headstone was a gaping wound in the earth. From that a sacred box had been extracted and brutally violated. Around the shattered remains of the coffin were lumps and piles of cement slowly turning to concrete in the rain.

He turned to look at the seemingly delicate blond woman who stepped to his side. "This is not good." He said.

"No." JJ sighed. "It's not."

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 1

Time

_ St

Washington DC

The morning routine went the way it went every morning. There was waking up, there was a little TV while Daddy got breakfast, there was washing faces and getting dressed and putting the dishes into the dishwasher. All the usual chores of the usual househusband on the usual week-day.

After the chores were done they went downstairs and started heading to the park about four blocks down, as they did every morning before it got too hot. It was a gorgeous summer morning in DC, the air fresh after a brief bit of morning rain. "So what do you think?" The house husband drawled to his son. "You ready to go see the fireworks this year?"

"Yea!" His son called back to him, all excited about the upcoming holiday.

Just then, about a block and a half away from their apartment, just feet before they crossed the mouth of that small alley, a neatly dressed Asian with a coat over his arm stepped in front of their path, practically touching the stroller. "Oh, hey, I'm sorry." The house husband said to the man. "You just kinda stepped out there."

The man lifted the coat over his arm, revealing the gun pointed at the stroller. All of a sudden the house husband froze, realizing there were more men beginning to crowd around them. "Do not be sorry, Detective LaMontagneit was my fault." The neatly dressed man said as Will felt one behind him slide his own gun from his holster. "Please join us a moment."

"What do y'all want?" Will asked him carefully as he slowly pushed the stroller into the alley, as the small band of men insisted. He looked them over; trying to memorize faces, to judge what this might be from their appearance. The men were dressed in dark, carefully tailored suits, but they gave an air of violence, carefully controlled menace. He had seen their kind before, back in New Orleans, back before the storm. They turned the corner and he spotted a van in the alley, the engine running, the side door open, and another man waiting inside.

"I'm afraid we have business with your son." The leader said. Then he looked to the other man and nodded.

Oh hell no, Will thought, hell no. But before he had time to react something clipped him on the back of the head, hard. As he went down he dimly heard Henry start to cry.

_ St

Washington DC

In another part of DC the morning routine was much the same. Breakfast, getting dressed, doing chores. But instead of the park a woman loaded a small boy into his car seat intending to drive him to day camp.

As she came around to the driver's side a van pulled up behind them, blocking them in. The side door opened and two men hopped out. One went to the boy's side, the other came up to her. "Jessica Brooks?"

"Yes." She replied. "Who are you?"

The man in question was dressed in what might have been working man's clothes, a grey t-shirt, dark hoodie, jeans, work boots. He put one hand on the top of the car door, revealing the tattoo of what looked like a shamrock on his wrist. With the other he pulled up the hem of his sweatshirt and revealed the gun tucked into his waistband. "We have some business with your nephew." He said, his Irish accent clear and strong. "Well, actually with his father, but that will come in time."

"No! Let me go!" Jack screamed as the other man pulled him from the car.

"Stop that! What are you doing?" Jessica screamed as the other man turned back to the van. They both piled into the van, taking Jack with them, and then it pulled away.

BAU Headquarters

Quantico, VA

"All right. All right. I'm on my way."

Hotch hung up the phone and very literally ran to grab his coat and get out the door. On the way he bodily ran into Morgan. "Hey, where's the fire?" The younger man asked.

"Jack was just kidnapped." Hotch told him. His eyes were wide and wild, but he was moving with confidence and conviction, just as he always did. "Jessica called me after the police got there. She said three men pulled up to the house in a van as they were leaving, showed her a gun and pulled him out of the car." No one was answering. He dodged around Morgan who followed him down to Garcia's lair. "Garcia, I need you to pull up Will LaMontagne's phone, get a location for me right now."

"Yes sir." She picked up on the tension in the room, turned and started typing.

"Hotch, what is going on?" Morgan asked.

"It's a long story. I need you and Reid to go to JJ and Will's place and bring them in, Rossi and I will go to my house."

"Reid's not in yet."

"What?" Morgan watched as Hotch managed to add pissed to the anger and terror already haunting his eyes.

"Sir?" Garcia called over her shoulder. "Will's phone is about a block and a half from their apartment. And it's not moving."

"Garcia," Morgan turned to her. "Contact DC dispatch, send a local unit over there, tell them I'm on my way." He turned and walked Hotch out to the bullpen. "You want to give me the short version."

"There's reason to think that Valhalla might be active again."

"Doyle?" Morgan shook his head. "All right, you tell me why when we get back."

_ St

Washington DC

Morgan drove like hell through the tail end of the rush hour traffic. In very little time he pulled up in front of the alley close to Will and JJ's house.

But the local PD had beaten him there. There was already a cop car, and when he parked and walked down the alley the two officers had already helped Will to a careful sitting position. "Will." Morgan called out as he came closer.

"Morgan." Will managed to get out. He had a large lump forming just over and behind his ear, and a cut trailing blood down to his collar, but his eyes were able to focus and his pupils looked to be the same size. "They took Henry. Damm bastards took Henry."

"Damm it." Morgan cursed. "They took Jack this morning too. Look, stay down and go to the hospital, we're on it." He pulled out his phone to call Hotch.

"I am not going to go to the hospital. What the hell is going on?"

"I don't know." Hotch finally answered. "I found Will, they grabbed Henry too."

"Jessica said the man who spoke to her had an Irish accent." Hotch told him. "And she was able to identify the tattoo as the mark of Valhalla."

"Christ." Morgan turned to Will. "What did these guys look like?"

"Asian. Asian accents. Real well dressed." Morgan could see Will dropping the house husband facade, reaching back to his life as an NOPD Detective. "It felt professional, was quick and clean. Based on how they looked, the way they were acting, I'd say Tong or Yakuza."

"Asian organized crime took Henry?" Morgan said so Hotch could hear. "What the hell is going on?"

3121 18 th  St NW

Washington DC

Morgan parked again and headed for the building a few doors down. Normally Reid lived at the office, of all the days for him to be late.

The Mount Pleasant neighborhood is made up of neat brownstones and hundred year old town houses, many of which have been broken up into quaint apartments. Reid's was in the center of a quiet, tree lined block, a narrow, cream colored building of a type Morgan was familiar with. The cellar, lying below grade had its own entrance. It would have a small living room in the front, a tiny kitchen and bath in the center, and a single bedroom in the back with access to a small garden. Odds were it would be occupied by a college student. The middle two floors would be accessed through a door just to the left of the main front door. Those two floors would compromise a decent sized apartment, with a living room, large kitchen and deck on the first floor and an internal stairway leading to two bedrooms on the floor above. It would be occupied by the owners, probably an immigrant family with one or two young children. The top floor would mimic the cellar, with its own stairway separate from the main apartment, one bedroom, a small kitchen, fireplaces given the state of the chimneys, and a bit more living room space given the large bay window. That was where he expected to find Reid.

He climbed the front steps, checked the names on the mailboxes, let himself in the front door, and was just about to climb the stairs in front of him to the top when the door on the left opened. "Can I help you?" asked a woman with a light accent.

Morgan turned and showed his badge. "I'm Special Agent Derek Morgan with the FBI. I'm looking for Dr. Reid. You are?"

"Claudia Morales. My husband Hector and I own the building. I thought Dr. Reid worked for the FBI?"

"Oh he does, Mrs. Morales, but he didn't show up for work today and he's not answering his phone. He's my partner; I came to check on him."

Mrs. Morales was frowning by now. "I don't understand. He left this morning."

'Are you sure?"

"Yes. He keeps such an odd schedule, you know, we never know when he's in town, and some mornings he leaves quite early. But when he can he walks with my son Julio to the bus stop, so Daisy and I don't have to go. She's two and if I don't have to bundle her up that early it's a good thing."

"Did he walk with Julio this morning?"

"No, Julio didn't have to go to school today. Teacher in-service."

Which would have been posted on the school website, Morgan thought. "Can I talk to Julio, please?"

"Sure." She called to her son in Spanish, and after a moment a boy of about ten appeared in the doorway. "Julio, this is Agent Morgan. He works with Dr. Reid." She said, by way of an introduction.

"Julio, can you show me how Dr. Reid usually walks to the bus stop?" Morgan looked up at Mrs. Morales. "I'll walk him back safely, Ma'am, if you don't mind."

Both mother and son agreed, and once a jacket was acquired they set off. Morgan and Julio walked north about half a block, and crossed the mouth of an alleyway. "Wait a minute, do you always go this way?"

"Yeah, sure." Julio replied. "Up to the corner, then turn right on Lamont about two blocks to Mt. Pleasant, then turn left to the bus stop. It's not that far."

"Any other alleys between here and there?"

"Not really."

Morgan stood and looked around, then got down low to the ground and kept looking. Finally he spotted something he didn't like. "Hey, kid, can you shimmy under that dumpster and grab that thing there." Julio complied and came back out with a travel mug in his hands. He handed it to Morgan who turned it around to look at it. It was shaped like a common Starbucks to-go mug, only it was reusable, an unusual shade of brown, decorated with the CalTech seal in white. He'd seen it on the conference table, and on Reid's desk he didn't know how many times.

"Sonofabitch." He muttered.

"Hey." Julio called to him. "What's this?" He was pointing at something on the ground almost behind the dumpster. Morgan came over, then fished some gloves out of his pocket to pick it up. It was a refillable AutoJect pen, used to rapidly deliver medications in case of emergency.

"We don't have any junkies in this neighborhood." Julio told him

"This wasn't a junkie, kid. Come on." He quickly walked Julio home and then called the office. "Hey, Hotch? I think they got Reid too."

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

T + 8 hours

Abandoned Factory

Boston, MA

Spencer

Something woke Spencer up. He opened his eyes, squinted at the bright light above him, groaned at the pain in his head, and closed them again. Sleep was better. He wanted to sleep some more.

A moment later someone was patting him on the face, and someone was crawling over his body. "Uncle Spencer, wake up." Someone said.

Spencer opened his eyes again, and this time forced them to focus. He was lying on a thin rug on a concrete floor. Jack Hotchner was lying next to him, patting his face to get him to wake up. Henry LaMontagnewas climbing over him. "Jack." He managed to get out. "What's going on?"

"Bad men," was all Jack said.

That was enough. Spencer gently shoved Henry off and worked his way to his feet. He blinked as he looked around. I was drugged, he thought, not narcotics, thankfully, but something. He looked around again; steel walls, concrete floor, a rug down, some toys. "Where are the bad men?"

Jack pointed at one of the two doors in the wall.

Spencer went over and naturally found it locked. The other door concealed a small washroom with a window too small even for him to slither out. "Okay, you two play a minute, I'll be right out. If anyone comes in I want you to yell for me." He went in the washroom, did what wanted doing, and splashed water on his face until he was awake.

When he came back out Jack was holding out a cell phone. "Before they locked the door the bad man told me to give this to you."

Spencer was not about to look a gift horse in the mouth.

T + 8 hours

BAU Headquarters

Quantico, VA

"What the hell do you mean Emily is still alive?" Rossi asked.

"We had to convince Doyle she was gone to protect her while she healed. And then to give her cover while she re-joined Interpol and went after him." Hotch told him. He looked at the stunned, saddened faces around him. "I'm sorry. We did what we had to do. She's already on a flight back from Paris, there's no point in her maintaining her cover now."

They were standing in the conference room, along with Morgan, JJ and Will. Outside the room the entire Bureau had just kicked into overdrive, all of them trying to find Doyle.

You didn't go after the children.

Ever.

Will shook his head. "Okay, we know Doyle's men went after Jack, but that don't explain the guys who took Henry. Has Doyle ever worked with Asian gangs before?"

"Not to the best of anyone's knowledge." JJ told him as she paced away her nerves. "I checked all the files Interpol sent us, this is entirely new."

JJ might have been about to say something else when Garcia's line rang. "Okay, that is weird."

Morgan looked over. "What?'

"That's the number reserved for you guys, but you're all here."

They all looked at each other a moment, and then Hotch answered the phone direct to speaker. "Reid. Where are you?"

"I don't know. I just woke up." Their youngest member still sounded groggy. "I think I was sedated."

"Are the children with you?"

"Yeah, hold on."

There was a faint murmuring, then another familiar voice, "Hi Daddy."

Hotch sagged in relief. "Jack. Are you okay buddy?"

"I'm okay. Bad men took me. We were in the car a loooong time. I had to go pee-pee in a bucket."

"I bet that wasn't fun. Jack I need you to do something for me."

"Okay daddy."

"I need you to do everything Uncle Spencer tells you to do, all right. No arguing or dawdling, when he tells you to do something you do it right away, okay?"

"Okay daddy."

"And I need you to remember as much as you can about what happens. Pay attention to everything and remember as much as you can. And remember…I love you."

"I love you too daddy. I have to go, it's Henry's turn."

"Okay buddy." Hotch closed his eyes to hold back the tears.

JJ didn't bother. She started crying as soon as the next voice came on the line, "Mama."

"Hey Henry, Mama and Daddy are right here. We love you."

"Love you Mama."

There was the sound of someone taking the phone back. "They both look fine to me, and from the remains in the trashcan over here they've both had McDonald's today." He paused a moment. "I'll do what I can, you know that."

The entire room knew that Reid would lay down his life for his godchild and Hotch's son. Of that there was no question. "Thank you." Hotch said simply. "Now where are you?"

"I still don't know. It appears to be some kind of abandoned industrial building. There are no windows in this room and only two doors. One leads to a small washroom, the other is locked. It looks like they planned to have us here, there's a rug on the floor and some toys for the children."

Morgan spoke up. "Reid, we're pretty sure it was Doyle that set this up."

"Doyle? Why?"

"Turns out Emily's still alive."

"What?"

Hotch spoke up. "We had to fake her death as cover."

"You're kidding me, I don't…" There was a sound on the other end. "Uh, guys. It's definitely Doyle." There was the sound of him moving the phone away.

"Oh no, don't hang up Dr. Reid." The voice was calm and cultured with the faintest of Irish accents. "I assume you're speaking with Agent Hotchner. I need to speak with him as well."

There was a beep. "We're on speaker." Reid said.

"Agent Hotchner," Ian Doyle's voice filled the room. "Are you ready to discuss business?"

"If you hurt my son I will…" Hotch growled until Rossi put out a hand to stop him.

"What sort of business do you want to discuss?" Rossi asked.

"For the record, I have no plans to harm anyone. I give you my word on that." They could almost hear Doyle smile, just a little. "I want Lauren and I want my son, and I will give you seventy-two hours to produce them. My colleague will be sending the lovely Miss Penelope a way to contact us via e-mail shortly so we can make arrangements."

"And if we don't?"

"If you don't then these two handsome young fellows will be taken somewhere far from here, where they will be placed with the families of my associates who have been unable to bear children. They will raise them and cherish them as their own. Given their ages within a year or so I judge that they will no longer even remember that they are American." He paused a moment. When he spoke again the first emotion entered his voice. "I will do to you exactly what Lauren did to me, no more and no less."

"And what about Dr. Reid?" Rossi asked.

"Oh, that is a special issue between Lauren and myself. Please tell her that I will be introducing him to an associate of mine that she should remember, Mandarin."

"Who is that?" Rossi asked.

"She'll remember. Seventy-two hours." With that he hung up the phone.

Hotch immediately punched in the code for the tech room. "Garcia?"

"Boston. It must be a pre-pay, no GPS, but I was able to isolate the towers and narrowed it to a mostly shut-down industrial area."

"Guy's got a habit." Morgan murmured.

"Wheels up in 30," was Hotch's only reply.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

T + 8 hours, 30 minutes

Abandoned Factory

Boston, MA

Spencer

As soon as he had hung up Doyle turned and without a word left the room, taking the phone with him. Spencer heard the distinct sound of the door locking behind him.

Okay, he thought, now what? He sank down on the rug, his back against the wall, and began to contemplate the situation. The problem was that he was well and truly locked in here. Even if he could escape, trying to get away with Jack and Henry in tow would be nearly impossible, and there was no way he would leave them behind.

"Uncle Spencer." Jack came over and sat down beside him. "What did the bad man mean?"

"What part?" He had always believed in being as honest with children as you were with adults, talking down to them and hiding the truth was just rude. Granted sometimes you had to coach things in ways they could understand, but outright lying was just not right.

"When he said we would be taken away, what did that mean?"

"He was trying to scare your daddy and Henry's mom by telling them that if they don't do what he wants then he'll send you away so they can't find you."

Jack smiled. "But Daddy is Superman, he can find anybody."

"Exactly. So you just remember that and don't be scared. I know they're going to find us." He looked down at his watch, it was 4 in the afternoon, he assumed the same day. "Jack, what were you doing when they took you?"

"Aunt Jessica was putting us in the car to go to day camp."

Ok, that meant about 8am, about the time he was taken. "While you were in the car with them did it get around to nighttime?"

Jack shook his head. "Nope. Why?"

"Well, it's 4 o'clock now on the same day. Given that your Dad was in the BAU, if they figured out we were in Boston, got on the plane in thirty minutes, it takes about two hours to fly here, give them at least ninety minutes to get an insertion team together…hmmm….we can't expect them to find us until after bedtime."

This caused Jack to giggle. "Daddy's right, you do know everything."

Spencer grinned at him. "No, I just know quite a lot."

By now Henry had gotten bored with the trucks on the floor and toddled over. "Read me a story Uncle Spence." He demanded.

"I can't. I don't have any kid's books with me." He pulled Henry into his lap. It's to comfort him, he thought, not to comfort me. "All I have is a book on chivalry that my Mom used to read to me, but it's for grown ups. I think you guys would find it boring."

Jack, sensing that maybe he could get Uncle Spencer talking, which was almost as good as a story, settled down next to him on the other side from Henry and wormed his way under Spencer's arm. "What's chivalry?"

"Chivalry is what they called the rules that Knights used to follow."

"What's a knight?"

"What, no one ever told you?" He looked from one boy to the other as they shook their heads. "Well, knights were warriors and gentlemen about, um, 800 years ago. They were, well, they were kind of like super heroes."

"Like Daddy?"

"Oh yeah, your Daddy would so be a knight. So would Uncle Morgan and Uncle Dave and Henry's Daddy. They're all knights. And the rule of chivalry is what the knights would follow to make themselves worthy of their Ladies."

"What's a Lady?"

"Um, A Lady is a woman who makes herself worthy of a Knight." Spencer thought about it a moment. "You Mom was a Lady. She was your Dad's Lady and he was her Knight."

"Was he?"

"Yep. Even when they were really mad at each other, he never stopped being her Knight. I always admired him for that."

"Is Henry's Mom a Lady?"

Spencer chuckled a little. "Henry's mom is a Dame. A Dame is girl who's a Lady and a Knight at the same time. So she's Henry's Dad's Lady and a Knight in her own right."

"Wow." Jack grinned. "Does Uncle Morgan have a Lady?"

"You know, I think Aunt Penelope is his Lady, they just don't want to admit it."

"Does Uncle Dave have a Lady?"

"Not right now, but he did before." A few of them, Spencer thought, but we're a little too young here.

"Are you a Knight? Do you have a Lady?"

Spencer chuckled and felt his ears growing warm. Leave it to the kids to get to the good questions. "One of the rules of being a Knight is that you can't decide if you are one yourself. Other Knights have to decide if you're good enough to join them. But I'd like to think I could be a knight. And, um, no, I don't have a Lady yet."

"Why not?"

"I haven't found the right Lady."

"What about Aunt Emily before she went to be with Mom?"

Spencer shook his head. "No, she was never my Lady. She was a lot like my big sister. But she was very much a Dame, and I was proud to serve with her." And now she might be alive, he thought. I don't know how I feel about that.

Jack mistook his contemplation for something else entirely. "Are you scared Uncle Spencer?"

Spencer shook his head. "Nope. I expect your Daddy is going to come through that door and rescue us right about bedtime. All we have to do is wait."

But then the door was opening. "Dr. Reid, will you join us a moment, please." Doyle called out as he stepped to the side of the door.

Spencer scooted the kids off his lap. "Remember what I told you." He said to them and then stepped over to Doyle in the doorway, not willing to go further, not wanting to let Jack and Henry out of his sight.

"I have a business associate I'd like you to meet." Doyle's smile grew wider as he looked down the hallway. "Ni hao Kenda."

Spencer turned and found himself looking at a slight, slender, androgynous Asian woman surrounded by her own brace of goons. Her spiky black hair and carefully tailored, even foppish, man's pinstripe suit were distinctive enough to be identifiable. From that to the attitude she carried, this was not a woman afraid of anything. "Ni hao Ian. It is good to see you again." She said with a faint accent.

Doyle nodded. "You as well. May I present Dr. Spencer Reid as payment for services rendered. He is unmolested and by now the drugs should have worn off, all according to the terms of our agreement. Dr. Reid, Kenda Mandarin."

"I see that." She looked Spencer over, from the Chucks on his feet to the top of his unruly hair. "Shen shen, Ian, you have done well." When she finally reached his face he found her eyes cool but amused, not the eyes of a psychopath, not at all. "It is a pleasure to meet you Dr. Reid."

I never understood the term undressed with her eyes before, Spencer thought, as a chill went down his spine. "I wish I could say the same." He turned to Doyle. "You said seventy-two hours."

"I said seventy-two hours for the children, and I do intend to keep my word. But I also intend to keep the promise I just made to Lauren about what will happen to you."

"Emily." I lied to Jack, Spencer thought, I am very much afraid. "Her name is Emily."

Behind him Mandarin chuckled, just a little. "It is time to go Dr. Reid."

"Go?" He looked from her to Doyle and back. "I'm not going anywhere. I'm not leaving Jack and Henry here."

"Yes you are." Doyle said, reaching past him to shut the door.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

T + 10 hours, 30 minutes

FBI building

Boston MA

Emily

Emily had to admit it, if only to herself.

She was terrified.

She slowly paced back and forth in the conference room they were using. Any moment now her old team, her old friends, was going to walk through that door and she was going to have to explain to them why she'd forced them to attend her funeral. She didn't know how she was going to do that. And that was on top of being bloody terrified for Reid and the boys and not having a clue how to help them. So for now, she paced.

"Stop scratching." Clive Easter said to her, as he had a thousand times before.

She looked down to where she had been rubbing the scar on her breast and pulled her hands away. "I can't help it." She replied, as she had a thousand times before. "It itches." It couldn't by now, that was probably all in her head. "What am I going to say to them?"

"That you made the best decision you could at the time." He told her. Then he looked at her. "Morgan is a big boy, he'll understand."

"I wouldn't be too sure about that. You don't know him." But then there was a burst of noise from the hallway.

Hotch was, as usual, the first through the door. He'd known, he'd known since the beginning, so there was no shock or surprise on his face. There was fear there, for his son surely, and a grim determination, but of all things there was gratitude there as well. "Emily," he nodded when he saw her. "Thank you for coming back. Agent Easter," he nodded to Clive before going to assemble the rest of the local agents.

JJ was next. She looked like she had been crying, like she was going to start again at any moment, but she was also fierce and strong for her child. All she did was pull Emily into a fierce hug. "I'm sorry," was all Emily could say to her.

"Just tell me he won't hurt him." JJ said far too calmly into her shoulder.

"I don't think he will. For all that he's a sick bastard he actually likes children." That was what had made it so difficult, back then. Knowing that for all that Doyle was a monster; was still, there was something that was good about him.

Rossi was the next to approach her. "Bella, I don't know if I should hug you or spank you." He said to her, as calm as he had ever been.

"Probably both," she admitted. Rossi felt like a father to her, he had since Matthew had died. He'd been one of the hardest to hurt, especially since she knew he would bury it deep and never ask for help of any kind. A moment later he was pulling her into a hug as well, and a small part of her thought it might be all right after all.

Then Morgan walked past without saying anything.

Damn.

Emily and Clive followed the team into the conference room. "We just got off the plane," Clive told them. "We haven't been briefed. All we know is that you have people missing and he's making demands."

Hotch nodded and began the briefing, for him and for Emily and for the local agents, illustrating with pictures as Morgan put them on the board. "I'm sure by now you all have read the brief on the activities of the Valhalla group four months ago. As you now know we faked Agent Prentiss' death to provide her cover long enough for her to heal from her injuries and then be re-assigned to the Interpol task force tracking Valhalla and Ian Doyle specifically. Now we do not yet know how that cover was breeched but three weeks ago someone dug up Agent Prentiss' grave and confirmed that it was empty. Ten hours ago we believe that Valhalla, working with another group, executed a coordinated attack."

"Working with another group?" Clive asked.

Hotch nodded. "One of the victims was my son, Jack. My sister-in-law Jessica was taking him to school. She confirmed that the men who took him had Irish accents and one of them bore the tattoo that identifies the members of Valhalla. At the same time Henry LaMontagne, the son of our State Department liaison Jennifer Jareau was taken. His father, Will LaMontagne, is a former detective with the New Orleans Police Department was present at the time and was injured during the attack. Based on their appearance and actions he believes the men who took his son were members of an Asian organized crime syndicate."

Emily looked at Clive and frowned. "That doesn't make any sense. In all the time I've know Doyle he's never outsourced. To anyone."

Hotch nodded and indicated that he had more. "We believe at about the same time SSA Dr. Spencer Reid went missing. There were no witnesses but we found evidence near his home that he had been abducted. Two hours ago Dr. Reid was allowed to make contact. He was able to confirm that he and the children were uninjured, and are being held in what appears to be an unused industrial site. Now it was a drop phone, so we weren't able to trace the GPS, but our technical analyst was able to trace the call to a bounded area within Boston. That's why we're here."

"Doyle allowed him to call?" Clive asked.

"Yes. About midway through the conversation Doyle came into the room and had Reid switch to speaker phone so he could give us his demands. He said that we had seventy-two hours to produce Agent Prentiss and his son who is being kept in protective custody by Interpol. If we don't meet his demands he threatened to put the children into adoptive placements overseas and to introduce Dr. Reid to someone named Mandarin."

Emily felt her heart stop. No.

"What does that mean?' One of the locals asked.

He couldn't do that to Spencer. He just couldn't. No.

"We don't know, but from the way he said it we assume it was a threat." Hotch replied.

There was no time for this. There was no time. No. Emily pulled out her phone and dialed an all too familiar number. "Garcia?"

"Oh. My. God. You really are alive." Garcia replied.

"Garcia, can you track every cell call that came out of that area since Reid called you?"

"Yeah, but that hundreds of calls."

"Were any of them made from a phone registered to a corporation in Hong Kong?"

"Um…." Her fingers flew. "One. The phone is registered to a registered to a Jinwu corporation out of Hong Kong, China. It was made to another drop phone."

"Okay, get us the location. When was the call made?"

"About thirty minutes after Doyle hung up."

"Oh God," Emily turned to Clive. She'd faced Doyle, she'd lived through his marking her, she'd nearly died, and she'd gone after him alone. She'd done all of that without fear or complaint. But now she felt like she was going to faint, right here onto the briefing room floor. "She's already got him!"

"I know." Clive was already moving to help with the insertion team.

"It's been nearly two hours!"

"I know."

"But…but…"

"Emily." Clive moved to calm her, to at least get her out of the way. "He's a grown man, he'll survive. Now we have to go get the boys first, you know that. Then you'll go find him."

She shook her head, but he was right. Of course he was right. And Reid wouldn't want it any other way. But all she could do was remember those kind, gentle eyes, how he'd come to her with his hurts, when he was having migraines, when a date when wrong, how he'd come almost looking for praise when he'd found the solution to a mystery. Not Reid, she thought, oh please not Reid.

T + 12 hours

Abandoned Factory

Boston, MA

This time it was a lot easier. This time they had the drop on Valhalla by hours. This they were actually able to catch Doyle, and red handed too. And this time no one died.

Morgan got the cuffs on Doyle with a grunt of satisfaction, then pulled him up and pushed him against the wall. Emily found them then, came over to see the man who had caused them all so much heartache. "Where is he Ian?" Emily asked him. "Where did she take him?"

"How the hell should I know?" He replied, without heat. Then he smiled at her, cold and cruel, "Pauvre frère de bébé."

No, he knew. That bastard knew. He knew exactly what could happen. As the world shattered around her she growled out her fury and lunged for his neck. Unfortunately Clive pulled her away before she could break it.


In another part of the factory they found a locked door. A moment later the SWAT team beat the door in.

"Daddy!" Jack cried out as soon as his father came through the door.

He ran to Hotch just as Henry ran to JJ's arms. Both boys were completely unharmed.

At least that part ended well.

T + 16 hours

Gulfstream 5000

Northeastern US airspace

In the end there was nothing they could do but head back to DC and work out from there. A close inspection of the Boston site revealed nothing. And all the boys knew was that Uncle Spencer and the Bad Man went out into the hall way and never came back.

Emily was sitting next to Clive on the plane, trying to rest as best she could. But every time she closed her eyes images of the times she had met Mandarin, the times she had seen….not Reid, she prayed to something she no longer believe in, please not Reid. Not that. Not him.

Eventually she felt rather than saw Morgan come and sit down across from her. She felt the waves of anger off of him as he waited. "I'm sorry," was the only way she could start. "I did what I had to do."

"I'm not sure that's good enough." He replied. "You lied to me Emily. You didn't tell me about your involvement with Doyle. You should have the moment you suspected him of being a threat. You took off to play cowboy right when the team needed you the most. We're a team Emily! We work together! And then you pretended to be dead…."

"I did what I had to do to protect you!"

"It is not up to you to decide if I need protection! I trusted you! I mourned you!"

Emily gave up. He was right, and she knew it. At the time it had seemed like the only decision, but now… "I'm sorry. I am so very, very sorry."

Morgan sighed and felt his shoulders fall. "No more. No more secrets and no more lies. I need to be able to trust you again so we can get Reid home." She nodded wordlessly, over and over. "Now, who is this Mandarin person?"

Emily would forever be grateful to Clive for answering, "Kenda Mandarin. She runs a crime syndicate out of Hong Kong, one of the wealthiest and most powerful. She used to buy weaponry from Doyle. He hosted her a few times at his villa."

"All right, that explains the Asian gang members. So why is her involvement a threat?"

"Mandarin makes the money to fund her activities through targeting kidnapping."

"So we should expect a ransom demand?"

"No, not like that; usually she kidnaps specific, high value targets and is paid by the person on the receiving end."

"Usually."

Clive sighed. "Sometimes she sells them to the highest bidder."

Morgan blinked as that sunk in. "You mean…"

Clive nodded. "She's a slaver."

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

T + 10 hours, 30 minutes

Global 8000 business jet

Northeastern US air space

Spencer

He had been taken from the factory by a number of large, strong men. They had cuffed his hands and covered his head with the bag and tossed him in the trunk of a car. Some distant part of Spencer's mind had to admire the brutal efficiency of a good, old-fashioned kidnapping.

They drove for some unknown amount of time. Eventually the car stopped, the trunk opened, and he was hauled out and up a familiar feel of stairs. He felt himself being pushed down a familiar type of space, felt his shins bump into familiar furniture. A moment or so later the cuffs were removed, he was pushed onto something soft and resilient and then he heard a door click and lock behind him. He tore the bag off his head and was not at all surprised to find himself lying on a couch in a large, comfortable business jet.

He was also not surprised to find that he was locked in, away from the front of the cabin. Nor that the blinds were glued down. He had no way of alerting the pilot or ground crew that he was in here. There was nothing he could do but sit down, belt in, wait through take-off and breathe and breathe and try to think clearly past the fear that twisted in his gut. They'll find me, he thought, I know the team will find me. I just hope they find Jack and Henry first. I wish I knew what was going to happen. I wish I could prepare somehow. Unwillingly he remembered all the things that had ever happened to male victims in all his previous cases. For a few long moments as they reached for the heavens he found himself trying to curl in a ball. A Knight does not falter in the face of adversity, but perseveres, he remembered, and a Knight must defend the pure, innocent and helpless. I chose not to fight in order to give Henry and Jack the best chance, he thought, now I must simply be honest to whom I am and know that the team will find me. They will, they will.

After take-off, after he had felt the plane level out, the door opened. One of Mandarin's goons nodded that he should come out into the rest of the cabin. Spencer stood, straightened his hair, his sweater and his dignity, missed the weight of his gun on his hip, and stepped out the door. Goon One went to join goons two through four at the conference table and ignored him, while further up Kenda Mandarin gestured for him to come down. "Dr. Reid. Please." She indicated the seat across from her. "We should talk."

He didn't want to go down there. This woman was meant to be a threat, one he did not even begin to understand. But the greatest weapon you have is a profile, Gideon always said, this was the perfect chance to begin one. Spencer walked slowly down the aisle and settled into the offered chair. "What should we talk about?" He started. "You clearly hold all the cards here."

She waved away his honesty with a gesture of her cigarette, thankfully one of those electronic ones that gave off water vapor only. "True, we are in transit, for now that is all that matters. And that is what concerns me, I need to know if you are going to acquiesce to my demands while onboard or if you are going to put up a fight."

Loyal to your own ideals, he thought. "I cannot collude in my own kidnapping." She was clearly confident, but he needed to make that point quite clear.

"Of course not, but we are reasonable people, Dr. Reid. You are not going to escape at forty thousand feet. Now you can either go along with my demands or you can fight. But if you choose to fight I will ask that you move back to the sleeping cabin, so as not to disturb the flight crew. I will have my men join you and you can fight to your pleasure."

Her calmly amused demeanor was disquieting to say the least. "What are your demands?"

She smiled, the smile of a cat looking at a mouse with a broken paw. "I actually only have one. According to Ian you wear contacts. My client has asked that they be removed before we land. Now either you can do that yourself or my men can assist you."

"Your client? Not Doyle?"

She smiled at him. "No. Not Doyle. Well?"

Concern over this situation had already set the nerves trembling in his gut. The thought of these men literally pawing at his eyeballs caused them to pull into tight knots. "I can acquiesce to that."

"Excellent, the facilities are in the back. Dr. Reid's bag," she said the last to Goon One who reached over and produced his satchel. Spencer took it and hurried to the back of the plane.

Of course they had taken his gun, his spare ammo, his phone, pretty much anything that could be used as a weapon against them. They had left everything else though, even the stuff taken from his pockets. Damn it all. He quickly pulled his contact kit out of his bag, and in a few minutes was placing his glasses on his nose.

Once back in the main cabin Mandarin gestured to any of the empty seats as she spoke into her phone in some Asian language he did not recognize and poked at what seemed to be a meal laid out before her. He sat at the table across from her and dug his writing kit out of his bag. Good quality stationary, stamps, and a fountain pen in a neat leather pouch. A Knight should be generous, especially to those who depend on him, so he never bought much, preferring to put his money into Bennington and into enough insurance that he wouldn't be a burden on others if that gene was passed down, but what he did buy, and used every day, he liked to buy for the lasting pleasure of it. He pulled out a sheet, dated it, and got as far as Dear Mom. What am I supposed to tell her, he thought, that I'm in the middle of being kidnapped again? That I'm on an airplane surrounded by goons and I don't know where I'm going? That I suspect that her referring to her client means that I have been bought and sold? What did you think of the latest issue of the Medieval Literature Journal? I think Prof. Brixton was way off base with that analysis of Piers Ploughman.

He was pulled from his letter by Goon One who dropped a box and a bottle of water on the table in front of him. The box was stamped with the insignia and information from one of the better hotels in Boston. In it he found a green salad, a piece of grilled salmon on pasta, some fruit, a roll and butter, and a thick chocolate chip cookie. He looked over and realized that Mandarin was eating the same thing. She noticed and covered the mike on her phone. "Ian had you out all day, you must be starved. Eat. Eat." He looked at the food and decided to take her up on it. There was no point in drugging him now; he was already at their mercy. And he was that kind of hungry. So he put his writing kit away and forced the food past the nerves in his stomach. It might just be his last decent meal after all.

About the time he was working on the cookie he felt someone looking at him. He turned and watched Mandarin considering him with a cool sort of interest. "Yes?" This might be his chance.

"I was wondering what my client saw in you. Why you?"

"I honestly have no idea. I don't even know who your client is."

"Hm," she considered him a moment longer, then seemed to make up her mind. "Tell me, Dr. Reid, have you ever played Go?"

"Yes, I have. I'm, um, actually ranked amateur Dan."

"Are you really?" Her smile grew wider. She gestured to the seat across from her, "Please, a request. I know of no better way to truly get to know someone."

Spencer smiled internally. Neither do I, he thought as he moved to the seat and watched her pull a board out of a storage compartment. Neither do I.

T + 14 hours

He was so engrossed in the game he barely noticed they were landing. She was a remarkable player, easily his equal and he was rarely matched. So it came as a surprise when they bounced on the ground and he looked out the window at the runway. His watch said 8pm, but it was just coming on sunset out there. He had just enough time to realize that that meant a Pacific Time zone airport when she reached over and pulled down the shade. "Now, now, there's no need for that."

He sat back and considered her. He knew now that she was the consummate businesswoman, competent, confident, highly intelligent, an expert in strategy and politics. There was no point in playing the boyish, nearly childish geek to try to disarm her, she would see right through that. He also knew that she was a truly dispassionate rationalist, she didn't care what other people thought or felt, her motivations were strictly for profit, all of which he found abhorrent. But there was something else that he hadn't quite been able to catch. My only hope, he thought, is that she's found my company more intriguing that her profit margin.

While he sat back and considered her, she sat back and considered him. "Now I understand." She said, finally.

"Do you?" He asked.

"Almost, something still does not make sense."

"So keep me here. Don't turn me over to your buyer. See if you can sort it out."

She shook her head. "As curious as I am Dr. Reid, my interest does not exceed the size of my bank account. You are worth not only what I invested in Ian's operation but also a tidy profit. And besides, I would not want my client disappointed." She took a pull on that e-cigarette. "I am at the top of my field, you see. As tempting as you may be, I would not want other men to top me because I disappointed a client."

Ah. That's what he had been missing. That explained it. "Then alert my team. They'll make it look like they did all the work, and you can keep your profit." A Knight must always be loyal to his own ideals; even thinking about what he was going to say made him feel ill from the betrayal. I am sorry, M'lady, but if I am to survive… He smiled slowly, gently, as seductively as he could manage given the circumstances, tipped his head ever so slightly, a deliberately submissive move. "I'll make it worth your while."

She grinned and chuckled. "Ahhh." She considered him in a way that said that she understood what he had not said, but something still did not fit. "Now I must regret." She looked above him, just as he felt the Goon step to his side. "Shen shen, Dr. Reid, for the game, I do wish you luck."

Damn. So close. He kept his eyes on her, even as one of her goons grabbed his arms, pulled them behind him and back into the cuffs. "Zai Jian, Mandarin." Until we meet again.

He saw her smile just before the bag went back over his head. "Zai Jian"

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

T + 16 hours

Gulfstream 5000

Northeastern US airspace

Emily

"So if you know so much about this Mandarin," Rossi said to Clive as he slid over to join them, "Why haven't you been able to put her away?"

"We've never caught her with the victim." Clive replied. "She never holds on to anyone more than twelve hours, and most of that was transport. An hour at each end on the ground, max." He frowned. "What I don't understand is how Doyle managed to pay for her services. We have all his accounts locked down tight."

"Reid," Rossi told him. He looked over at Emily. "Taking Reid wasn't about hurting you, although that was a side benefit for Doyle. That's not Doyle's style. He likes to play like for like, a son for a son. No, he took Reid to pay for the help he needed to grab both boys at the same time. All right, he turned Reid over to this Mandarin person to pay for services rendered. But why did she work with him, if she wanted Reid why not go for him herself."

"Intel," Emily told him. "When they looked at her she shook her head. "I met with him a few weeks before he started burning down houses." She sagged as the anger came back into Morgan's eyes. "He'd been following everyone for weeks. He even knew that you and Garcia had a movie night when we came home from that case with the autistic kid in Louisiana."

Morgan's face turned from anger to one of shock. "Garcia surprised me with that, in my office. We never left the building." He shook his head. "All right, I can see why Mandarin wanted to work with him."

"Yeah, but you're all missing the point." Rossi pulled the conversation back. "Mandarin has no use for Reid herself. She doesn't keep victims on hand, so she can't be caught with them. And I doubt there's enough of a market for tall, scrawny geniuses to make putting him on the open market worth her investment with Doyle."

"Oh God," just talking about Reid this way was making Emily feel ill.

Rossi continued. "She wouldn't have approached Doyle, or accepted his approach, without having a buyer waiting for him on the other end."

"Well whoever he is, he's probably already taken delivery." Clive pointed out.

They sat there blinking at him as that struck them. "Who would want to buy Reid?" Morgan asked.

"Exactly, why this victim at this time?" Rossi sighed.

"Someone who coveted him," Clive pointed out. "Mandarin doesn't leave Hong Kong anymore for less than ten million."

Morgan's jaw dropped, "For Reid."

Clive nodded, "And that's in profit, more to cover her investment. And I'm sure there would have had to be additional riders for going after an FBI agent within the continental US. In the end it probably cost her client closer to twenty."

"And we covet what we see every day." That was big money, even for the wealthiest member of the team. Rossi looked at them all gravely. "I believe it's time to break the first rule."

"What's that?" Clive asked.

"Never profile each other." Morgan told him. "We need to run victimology on Reid." He pulled out his phone. "Hey, baby girl."

"Anything? Anything at all?" Garcia was not her usual bubbly self. They all knew she wouldn't be until everyone in her family was home and safe.

"Not yet. I know you're not going to like it, but we need to run a victim profile on Reid. We need his phone records, his financials, net access, whatever you can give us."

"Oh God, he's going to hate that." But her fingers were already flying.

Morgan thought a moment. "He takes the bus and Metro a lot; I bet he has a pass. See if you can pull up that data, it might be almost as good as a GPS."

"All right, will do, and it will be ready when you get back." With that she hung up the phone.

"Why Reid?" Rossi asked. It was the question of the night.

Emily just looked away again. They were about to go tunneling through the private life of one of the most private men she'd ever known. There was no way this couldn't feel like a violation, she had a sense of the kind of secrets he kept. I'm sorry Spencer, she thought, so very, very sorry. But there's no other way to save you.

T + 18 hours

BAU headquarters

Quantico, VA

By the time they landed the virtual board in the conference room was already filling up. Clive had moved on to helping sort Doyle, Hotch and JJ had gone home with their children, so that left Morgan, Rossi and Emily to start to answer The Question. They walked in to the conference room and there was Garcia, waiting. She'd already started laying out the case, had put Reid's picture up on the board on the victim side. It was a blow to the heart.

First things first, and not something she was looking forward to, at all. Emily stopped in front of Garcia. "I'm sorry." She said. What else could be said?

"I know. I understand." Garcia said. "I'm just sorry you had to go it alone. We would have helped you, you know."

"I know, I got your message." Emily had to fight back the tears again. "But then Doyle would have come after you."

"He did anyway."

Damn. She was right. "All right, maybe it wasn't the best plan after all."

"Yeah, but you meant it to be." Garcia pulled her into a big hug. "I'm just glad you're really alive so I can forgive you."

After a long moment Rossi cleared his throat and they settled around the table. "Okay, what about his phone records?" Morgan asked

"Nada, his only phone was issued by the Bureau, he calls you guys, me, Will and JJ, Bennington and the various Universities. Based on his phone records he doesn't have a life."

"Internet?" Emily asked.

"Nothing, he doesn't even have an account anywhere but through the Bureau. I didn't even find a computer at his address he doesn't have an online life either."

"Financial records."

"Okay, here's where it get interesting. First thing I've noticed is that that boy needs a raise." Garcia started calling up the documents. "Bennington is hella expensive. That place sucks down a third of his salary a month, easy."

"Is the Bureau his only source of income?" Morgan asked.

"Not quite. He's also drawing a part-time instructor's salary from George Washington University and sometimes gets paid for lectures from other Universities in the area, all of which goes in through direct deposit. He hasn't deposited any other checks since he came to DC."

"Okay, what about the outgo?"

"Most of it is also electronic so he doesn't have to think about it, just like the rest of you. Utilities, credit card, on which he does not run a balance, insurance, of which he has extra and pays through the nose for it, all that sort of thing. He regularly writes exactly three checks, one to Hector and Claudia Morales for $900 around the first every month."

"That's his rent, they own his building." Morgan said.

"I thought so. The second is to a Salon Marel, also around the first of the month, for eighty dollars."

"He gets an eighty dollar haircut every month?" Rossi asked.

"I don't know. I looked for hair place with that name, no joy. The third is made out to numbered account every three months for three hundred dollars. That account traces to a Swiss bank."

Now that shocked them. "I beg your pardon?" Emily asked. She knew a number of people who made out checks like that, none of them for good reason.

Garcia nodded. "That's what I said. I don't have a clue."

"Okay, what about his Metro pass? Did that pan out to anything?"

"Yes, it did." She called up a map of the DC area with highlighted points. "These are all the places he hits regularly. Now I think we can assume this route." She highlighted one, "Which takes him from Mt. Pleasant St and 17th to the red line at Van Ness to Union station where he catches the train out to Quantico is how he gets to work. Now on the way back at various times he'll transfer out to the different university stops, George Washington more than any of them." She showed another map. "Each visit is followed by a deposit from that university by the end of that month."

"Lectures, maybe classes," Emily guessed. That was an easy one, which fit the Reid they knew.

"More than likely," Garcia agreed. "Now, here's where it gets interesting." She pulled up another map, this one took him down to Union Station, but then it kept going east. "Instead of getting right on the train for here he gets started about an hour and a half early, gets to Union Station and then takes a bus out to the stadium. About an hour later he turns around, comes back to the Station and heads out here. But he only does that on Wednesday mornings."

"What's out there?" Morgan asked.

"I don't know. Then there's this route." Another one that went past Union, only this one went out to a real skeezy neighborhood. "But that's only on some nights after you guys get back from a case. There's this one," Which went from Mt. Pleasant out to a light industrial area. "Which he does two and a half hours early, and then he goes home before heading to work, but only on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. And lastly there's this one." A bus line took him to the heart of Georgetown, one of the most expensive areas in DC, "Where he goes at least three nights a week including every single Saturday for the past year."

"Reid, what the hell are you doing?" Emily wondered out loud.

Just then Garcia' phone rang. "FBI Behavioral Analysis, Penelope Garcia speaking….what…wait…you're sure? Hold on." She put them on hold and looked up at the room. "They found Reid's bag and ID."

That got everyone's attention. "Where?" Morgan asked.

"In a dumpster at SeaTac airport in Seattle."

"Seattle?"

Rossi turned to Morgan. "A lot of wealthy people out there; that must be where Mandarin's client took delivery." He shook his head. "Our pilots are on a mandatory rest period. I'll tell the local office to secure the crime scene and start forensics, Hotch and I will head out there in the morning. Garcia I want that bag on the next flight back here, and I don't want anyone else in it. For all we know Reid sent a message that only we would understand." He turned back to Morgan and Emily. "You two get some rest. Don't argue." He said as they both opened their mouths to protest. "We don't need you missing something because you're tired. In the morning come in here and check out that bag first, see if he left a message. After that start running Reid like a victim, starting with that Wednesday morning location, we got lucky there. After that check his apartment, just like we would anyone else, I don't want us to miss anything by making assumptions."

They both nodded. Once Rossi had moved on Morgan turned to Emily. "I don't know about you, but I want to get an early start in the morning."

"Are you thinking of crashing here?'

"Yeah, you?"

"Yeah, but I don't know that I'm allowed, I'm not on the payroll anymore." That would be something to sort later, Emily thought. Once we get Reid home.

"Don't worry about it, I'll cover you." Yes, the healing process was escalating. "I've heard Rossi has a very comfortable couch."

Emily smiled at him. "No better time to find out."

Chapter Text

Chapter 7

T +18 hours

Somewhere in Seattle, WA

Spencer.

He hurt.

Dear God, he hurt.

Every joint was on fire, every muscle tight with mind wracking pain. It was all he could do to remember to breathe.

Breathe.
Breathe.
Breathe.

He could feel every muscle, every joint. His bad knee, the one with the pins and screws from the shooting, was already badly swollen. If he could have looked down he would have seen the cloth of his trousers stretched drum tight over that knee, showing the damage that was being done inside. The pain from that joint alone was sickening. His other knee was little better. His ankles were sharp patches of misery that felt fragile and uncertain, like they were just about to shatter. His feet felt like he was standing on nails, more so the side that Charles Hankel had broken. But his hips were perhaps the worse, an ache so deep in his body as to instill terror on the primal level. And then there was his back, a long column of pain, terminating in drum tight shoulders. He could no longer feel his hands. And his chest and lungs burned with the effort to just breathe, breathe, breathe…..

To try to take his mind off the pain he went back over the journey from the airport here, wherever here was. Maybe he could come up with something, anything that would help him.

Once he was hauled off the plane he felt himself tossed into the back of some kind of vehicle. From the echo, the depth, the hard feel of the floor, he rather thought it was a van. For a time he felt alone in there, and he tried desperately to get himself out of his cuffs. He remembered that Harry Houdini could dislocate his left thumb, and so could slither out, but he'd never managed it. He also had a handcuff key hidden in his belt, much like Houdini, but without knowing how much time he had, trying to ease his cuffed wrists around his ankles seemed risky.

It was probably a good thing. Not too much time later someone climbed in the van with him. They took him by the shoulders and pulled him up to sitting, then pulled the bag off his head. Spencer found himself looking at two more goons, of a different type than either Doyle's or Mandarin's. These two were Caucasian, well yet conservatively dressed, one bald as an egg and one with close cropped, iron grey hair. They had a military bearing around them, and each had the cold eyes of a sociopath. "Look." Spencer said quickly, "I'm sure your boss has paid a great deal of money for this, but you seem like professionals and you ought to kn…"

He was about to tell them that he was a Federal Agent, given that they were professionals and ought to be able to appreciate the magnitude of the problem. But Baldy clamped a large hand over his jaw and stopped him. He held his other hand up, finger over his lips and said simply, "Shh." Then he reached over and took a strip of duct tape from GreyHair. All Spencer could do was make sure his lips were tightened inward to prevent the tape from sticking to the more delicate membranes and being torn when it was removed.

Then Baldy put the bag back and lightly pushed him over until he was resting on his side. They moved away, and after a moment the van started moving. Spencer had no idea how long it was, but it was a considerable amount of time that he spent in the back of that van. Unable to brace himself he bounced miserably until they stopped.

After a few moments he felt the van doors open, was all but hauled out and placed on his feet, and steered by the shoulders through some place that echoed and felt like concrete underfoot and smelled of tires and engines and exhaust. Garage, he thought, and from the sound of it underground. He was steered into a space that gave slightly underfoot, then he heard doors sliding closed and they went up…

And up….

And up….

Skyscraper, he thought, and we're heading for the top floor, or near to.

When he was pushed off the elevator he felt thick carpet under his feet, smelled polish and wood and leather, the sort of sensations that bespoke money and power. He heard the sound of an electronic key lock being unlocked, the faint ticks of the keys being depressed, but no pings to help him get the combination. He was dragged through the door into another place that felt expensive, and then a wait as the door lock snicked behind him, and someone ahead worked another key pad. Good security, he thought, you'd need two different combinations to get in or out, and if you didn't have the other you'd just be trapped between them. It also slows you down even if you do, must remember that.

After a moment he had been steered through the second door and into a space that felt immense. Once the door snicked closed they pulled the bag off and he got a good look at his new prison.

It was immense, the entire top floor of a large skyscraper, broken only by support columns across the space. There were skylights letting in bright sunlight, illuminating a space that felt unfinished. The center of the room was empty, left to the bare concrete floor, unfurnished. On the three sides not including the door concrete walls broke off the space, making what might be a narrow area around the sides behind them. In the open corners he could see small groupings of furniture, a table and chairs, a conversation area. Beyond those areas were huge windows, looking over a large city. It took him a moment to place the Space Needle. Seattle, he thought, I'm all the way across country.

In front of the concrete wall to his left was a low, concrete platform. Baldy and GreyHair steered around this wall. Behind it were two sofas and two chairs of a modern design around a coffee table, and a small kitchenette in the wall, very similar to the one back in the office. Next to the kitchenette was a glass door with another electronic key lock. Baldy, who felt to be up in Morgan's class for size and muscle mass, held him firmly in place while GreyHair opened the door.

Past that was a short hallway. On the right side was another key pad, this one much more complicated. A door just next to it slid open. Spencer felt Baldy unlock his cuffs, but before he could react he was given a firm push, sending him into this next space, causing him to trip over something on the floor and fall heavily onto something padded. By the time he got to his feet again the door had locked behind him.

Spencer took a look around this space as he carefully worked the duct tape off his skin. The glass door made up one half of one wall, the rest was all concrete. There were air holes in the top of the door, and a drawer of a kind he had seen in prisons to transfer papers to the most dangerous of unsubs down at floor level. He had tripped over a mattress pad on the floor, complete with blanket and pillow. Behind the concrete side, giving a modicum of privacy, there was what was commonly known as a squat toilet, a hole in the floor with a porcelain fixture to provide a certain amount of cleanliness and a chance for a flush. Bolted to the wall next to it at standing height was a sink, attached to that by a short chain was a tin cup. And that was all.

Looking out the glass door he saw an identical cell on the other side of the hallway. It appeared to be currently unoccupied, but the state of the bed showed that someone had been in there.

Okay, this was ridiculous. How was he going to build any kind of a profile if he didn't have anyone to talk to? Maybe he could get the goons talking. He tapped on the glass, then more loudly, hoping to be heard. "Excuse me? Excuse me! Is anyone out there?" A moment later Baldy and GreyHair were back, giving him a look an annoyed look. "Look, I just want to ta…" He got about that far when Baldy sunk his fist into his stomach, driving the wind from his lungs. He bent over with the sudden pain, managed to land on the mattress, before they were upon him.

He remembered some of his earlier training, from back in his high-school days, from the Academy which was less useful. He pulled himself in to protect his groin, wrapped his arms around his head to protect his head, face and neck. Blow after blow rained down for a few moments, leaving him sick and sore from the beating. When they were done he felt a hand in his hair, pulling him out of the ball he'd curled himself into. Baldy wanted his attention. He held a finger to his lips and said. "Shh."

Okay, Spencer thought, they don't want to talk.

Once they had gone, once he had his wind back, Spencer tried to get back to his feet. But one of the kicks had caught him just in his bad knee, and when he tried to get on it it nearly went down under him, "Oh, son of a..." He murmured to himself.

A moment later GreyHair and Baldy were back. "What?" Spencer said as they unlocked the door. "I didn't!"

It didn't matter.

He couldn't tell if the beating was worse this time, or just felt worse for being on top of another one.

When they were done he felt dizzy, sick with the shock and the pain. But they were only done with the beating. He felt himself being rolled to his knees, then up into a squatting position. His hands were rudely pulled behind his back and he felt cuffs, then the cuffs were attached to something, the plumbing on the squat toilet, he realized.

Baldy tugged on his hair to get his head up. Once again he had just enough time to get his lips out of the way as the duct tape went on. Baldy held his finger up again. "Shh." He said, before they left him there.

Okay, no talking, he thought, ever. I get that now.

That had been hours ago.

Stuck in this deep squat, thighs parallel to his calves, arms outstretched behind him and nearly as high as his shoulders, every joint had locked long ago, every muscle screamed from the pain of immobility, or the pain of the beating, or both. Stress position, he thought. I always wondered why these were considered torture in most of the world. I get that now. He wanted to empty his stomach from the pain, but to do so with his mouth taped closed would probably cause him to choke to death. Eventually other things wanted to empty as well, and eventually, he knew, he'd go past the point of being able to prevent it. And he was hungry, and growing increasingly thirsty, and would give anything just to lie down and rest. They make their point well, he thought, they must have at least audio monitoring going. And for some reason they do not want me to talk. Well, us to talk, there ought to be someone over there. Unless I'm the replacement, he thought as his right calf locked into a Charlie horse. His eyes started to fill as the pain stabbed and burned and he had no way of easing it. I could be the replacement.

He wasn't certain he wanted to consider that. That would be worse, and he didn't think it could get worse.

Of course it could always get worse.

Eventually they turned out the light.

Chapter Text

Chapter 8

T + 22 hours

BAU headquarters

Quantico, VA

Emily

She hadn't slept. It wasn't that Rossi's couch wasn't comfortable, or that it didn't feel like she was mending fences with Morgan, it was just that every time she closed her eyes she remembered the few times that Mandarin had come to the villa. She remembered her confident, good-humored cruelty. She even remembered the time she'd stayed at the villa while doing business nearby. Doyle had considered it good for business for them to go with her to the auction. She hadn't thought of that day in a long time.

After remembering that, sleep was impossible.

Now she was in the conference room with a large cup of the sturdy office brew, staring at an evidence bag. Sealed inside was a large, utterly familiar leather satchel. "Okay, I have to admit, I always wanted to know what he keeps in there, but this is so not how I wanted to find out." Garcia said. "It kind of feels like we're violating him or something."

Emily looked over at her and Morgan. "We have to. He might have left a message or something. And even if not, we have to figure out who has him. The only way we're going to do that is to learn as much as we can."

"Yeah, but that doesn't mean that we have to like it." Morgan pulled the evidence bag over and broke the seal. "Okay, this strap doesn't look cut or damaged. They didn't pull it off him."

"Maybe Doyle took it off him while he was sedated. Garcia, you get to log it all as we go." Emily said as she rolled a yellow pencil over to that side of the table. I'm sorry little brother, she thought, but we have to. She pulled the bag back over and opened it up. She pulled out the first thing she found in there, "A notebook," one of those nicer, European ones no less. "Here, see if he left us anything." She passed that to Morgan.

"Some pens and pencils," they had been neatly tucked in the pen holders inside the bag, some disposable pens to hand out, she realized, and the ubiquitous yellow pencils they tended to use for notes and preliminary forms to be typed in later. "All right, um, his badge," she opened it up and looked. He looked so young back when his official photo had been taken. Well, he had been so young. And he still is, she thought, don't forget that. He has a lifetime ahead of him.

Morgan shook his head over the notebook. "This looks like it's all case and lecture notes. We'll have to look at it more closely, but I don't see anything here."

"His wallet," it was good quality leather, she noted. She passed that off to Morgan as well.

She pulled out a small, elegant wooden box, "A travel chess set."

Morgan had laid the contents of Spencer's wallet out in front of him so Garcia could make notes, "Eighty-nine dollars in cash, the usual kind of cards, a picture of his Mother and a picture of Henry. Nothing worth noting."

"Okay. We have a leather pouch with...his iPod."

"I wonder what kind of music he likes." Garcia pulled that over and looked, "All classical, of course."

'We have one…two…three Snickers bars and…two bags of gummi worms."

"Now that does not surprise me." Morgan remarked.

Emily managed her first smile since leaving Paris. "We have a case with…a contact lens kit." She opened the small container. "Hang on a minute." She pulled out her phone and dialed. "Hey Hotch, can you ask Jack if Reid had his glasses on or off when he left." She waited a moment. "All right, thanks. We'll keep you posted." She hung up then showed what she had found. "He took his contacts out."

"Why would they do that?' Garcia wanted to know.

"I don't know." Emily replied.

"Do you think they let him keep his glasses?"

Emily flipped down the other side of the case. Empty. "Looks like." She said, showing them the empty one. Yet there was another case in there…. "But not his sunglasses."

"At least he can see." Garcia said.

Emily went back in to the bag. "We have a small electric razor. Another pouch with…toothbrush, toothpaste and mouthwash, all travel sizes." By now she was getting to the bottom of the main pocket. "We have a roll of Tums, opened. We have his keys. And we have two speed re-loaders." She pulled the steel wheels out of the bag and held them out. "These look like they would fit his revolver."

"Any loose ammo down in there?" Morgan asked.

"Nope, that's the end of that side. No phone, no gun, and no ammo." She turned the messenger bag over, and opened the large, flat pocket on the back. The first thing she found was a leather envelope, tied with a thong. "What's this?" She opened it and pulled out stationary, thick and quality, with a Renaissance design. Inside there was a loop holding a fountain pen, and a packet of stamps. One sheet had been started. "Dear Mom, What did you think of the latest issue of the Medieval Literature Journal? I think Prof. Brixton was way off base with that analysis of Piers Ploughman." She looked over. "Think that has meaning?"

"Probably only to his mother," Morgan told her. "Speaking of, what are we going to tell her?"

"Nothing," Garcia replied. "Wouldn't that only get her upset? Her bill is paid through the end of the month. I vote we don't tell her anything, at least not yet."

The next thing Emily pulled out had her smiling, "Oh my God."

"What is it?" Garcia asked.

"The Art of Courtly Love by Andreas Capellanus, I haven't seen a copy of this since I took a medieval literature class back in Rome." She picked it up and thumbed through the well-worn pages.

"Okay, what is it?" Morgan asked.

"It's a 12th century guide to wooing and winning fair ladies in a medieval court." She told him.

"You mean it's a 12th century guide to getting laid." Morgan grinned back at her.

"Something like that," she looked it over carefully.

"You know, that explains a lot." Morgan was still grinning. "Someone needs to bring that boy up to the 21st century."

"Hey, do not knock what you don't understand. This sort of thing still works on some women."

"Right, that's why he dates so much."

Emily ignored that and finished looking through the book in question, "No messages."

Morgan held out his hand to take a look. "You know, he can remember everything he ever read, if he's carrying this around it must have meaning for him."

"Maybe his Mom gave it to him." Garcia suggested.

"Maybe," Emily turned the bag all but inside out. "That's it."

Morgan sighed. "Great."

T + 23 hours

Corner of 18 th  st and E. Capitol

Washington DC.

Emily looked around the neighborhood then back down at her tablet, open to Google Maps. Why use secret resources when the open ones work so well. Why do you come here Spencer? She thought. "It looks like we have the Armory to the east, housing to the west, parking lots for the stadium to the north. It says there's some kind of research library a block north of here."

"Yeah, but a library won't be open at this hour." Morgan walked over to some people waiting for the bus. He showed Reid's picture and asked a bit. After a moment he came back. "They recognized him. They said he heads west on East Capitol."

The two of them started walking looking for anything that might have stood out, that might involve their friend. It was a pleasant enough walk, but one side was apartments, the other construction. After a while Emily looked over at Morgan. "Are you still mad at me?"

"Maybe," he replied in a tone that said that he wasn't.

"You think this is all my fault?"

"What, Reid and the boys?" She nodded. "Nope. You gave it your best. Hell, you gave more than that."

"Yeah." It didn't feel like that. Not anymore.

After a while she felt herself growing impatient. Every moment they took was another moment that someone could… "Are we getting anywhere? I mean it just looks like they're renovating the old high school here. Why would he go this way?"

"That's not what I'm looking at." Morgan wasn't looking at the land side of the sidewalk; he was looking at the street. "One, two…why are there five undercover cop cars parked out here?"

"How can you tell?"

"If you know what to look for you can see the lights inside the grille. Let's keep going."

They kept going another half block. Then they spotted two cops in different uniforms walking in to the hall of the church on the corner. They looked at each other, and headed inside after them. Just inside they were stopped by a man who wasn't wearing a badge, not openly, but his stance and demeanor clearly said cop. "Can I help you?"

Morgan pulled out his badge. "I'm SSA Morgan, this is SSA Prentiss."

"Darryl Patterson, DC Metro, retired." He offered his hand. "Are you here for the meeting?"

Morgan and Emily looked at each other again as they realized just what this was. "Not exactly," Morgan told him. "Can we talk for a minute?"

They stepped over to the side. Morgan laid out the bare bones of the case for him, Doyle, what had happened. "Look, we've worked with Reid for years now. Off the record, we know he's had a problem. I'm guessing this is an NA meeting."

Patterson nodded, "A closed one, cops only. Off the record, he's been a regular member for a few years now."

If nothing else, Emily thought, that's a good thing to know. "We don't want to out a fellow cop, but we need to know if he had crossed anyone, had a problem with someone, you know the drill."

"Let me go tap his sponsor, he'd be the one who would know."

A few moments later they were talking to someone known only as Bob. "Whatever it is, I know it's not addiction related. Reid's been clean since he got here, and there wasn't any indication that he was having a problem with it lately."

"Good to know." Morgan ran him through the usual questions, all made easier because they were cops and knew what to look for. But there was nothing, all they knew was that Reid was a decent guy and a good cop, working the steps and doing all right. "Did he go to any other meetings? Maybe there was someone else we could talk to."

"Yeah, sometimes he went to a meeting over at St. Jeremiah's Mission. They have them there three times a day, and it's not a place someone would go looking for a cop." He gave them the address, which popped up on Emily's tablet as being a half a block away from the unusual Metro stop in the skeezy neighborhood. "We only meet here once a week, and given the cases you guys seem to get, sometimes he and I meet over there after, you know, head off any problems at the pass."

"I can understand that. Thanks man." Morgan and Emily started back toward the car. "Well, at least he's been keeping his nose clean."

"Yeah, but that doesn't help us figure out where he's gone. And that's two questions out of six knocked off the board with no help. So what shall we do now?"

"Head over to his apartment."

Chapter Text

Chapter 9

T + 24 hours

3121 18 th  St NW

Washington DC

Emily

They climbed the steps to the top floor, opened the door labeled S. Reid, and stepped inside. They found themselves in a short hallway that ran the length of the house, one with a small table under a mirror and a closet. "I've worked on a place like this before." Morgan said. He started to the left of the front door and worked clockwise. "Living room, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom. Where shall we start?"

"Living room," every moment, every step, just felt worse and worse. "I feel so guilty for this." She murmured as she stepped into the small living space. The bedroom would be the worst of all; she wanted to put that off as long as she could.

"I know. I feel the same way, but there has to be something here that will help us. Morgan looked around at the blank walls, the furniture that looked to have all come from a discount store, "Or not."

"No kidding," directly ahead, on the southern wall, was a small kitchen. The western wall was the bay window, which held a straight chair and table with an electronic keyboard, and a box full of sheet music. The northern wall was all desk and book shelves. The eastern wall held an extra long sofa with a couple of pillows down where they might brace his knee, and a good reading light. There was very little personal in here. No larger pictures, no art, nothing. Don't you have a life, she thought, don't you live?

Morgan moved to the small kitchen and started poking through the cabinets. "Chinese take out in the fridge. There's some ramen and some mac and cheese boxes in the pantry. One of those press pots for coffee, a teapot and imported tea; looks like he can boil water but not much otherwise."

Emily moved to the desk. It was as tidy as the one he kept at work. She found not only notes and reference books for the lectures he gave, but other material as well. "It looks like he's still taking some classes as well as teaching them." Up on the bulletin board were a few snapshots, Will, JJ and Henry at the christening, a lot of them at Jack's birthday party, a couple with him what looked to be college friends. He had calendars for the universities up, the NA meetings. She gestured to those, "That might have saved us some time."

"What's that?" Morgan gestured to one page that used a more ornate type face.

Emily looked and smiled, "The Modern Rules of Chivalry." She pulled it down and read.

.

Prowess : To seek excellence in all endeavors expected of a knight, martial and otherwise, in order to bring honor and renown to his Lady.

Defense : The ideal knight was sworn by oath to defend his liege lord and those who depended upon him. Seek always to defend your nation, your family, your Lady and those to whom you believe worthy of loyalty.

Justice : Seek always the path of 'right', unencumbered by bias or personal interest. Recognize that the sword of justice can be a terrible thing, so it must be tempered by humanity and mercy.

Loyalty : Be known for unwavering commitment to the people and ideals you choose to live by. There are many places where compromise is expected; loyalty is not amongst them.

Courage : Being a knight often means choosing the more difficult path, the personally expensive one. Be prepared to make personal sacrifices in service of the precepts and people you value. At the same time, a knight should seek wisdom to see that stupidity and courage are cousins. Courage also means taking the side of truth in all matters, rather than seeking the expedient lie. Seek the truth whenever possible, but remember to temper justice with mercy, or the pure truth can bring grief.

Faith : A knight must have faith in his beliefs, for faith roots him and gives hope against the despair that human failings create. (Note: This includes the faith that Science will always find the truth.)

Largesse : Be generous in so far as your resources allow; largesse used in this way counters gluttony. It also makes the path of mercy easier to discern when a difficult decision of justice is required.

Nobility : Seek great stature of character by holding to the virtues and duties of a knight, realizing that though the ideals cannot be reached, the quality of striving towards them ennobles the spirit, growing the character from dust towards the heavens. Nobility also has the tendency to influence others, offering a compelling example of what can be done in the service of rightness.

Humility : Value first the contributions of others; do not boast of your own accomplishments, let others do this for you. Tell the deeds of others before your own, according them the renown rightfully earned through virtuous deeds. In this way the office of knighthood is well done and glorified, helping not only the gentle spoken of but also all who call themselves knights."

.

By now Morgan was sitting on the couch. And of course he was grinning, "Seriously?"

"There is nothing wrong with having high ideals." Emily pointedly ignored him. "I think it's sweet."

"If you say so," he got up and after a final look around Morgan looked down at the bedroom door and sighed. "I guess we have to."

The bedroom was nearly as bad as the living room. The closets and the bureau held little more than clothing. A set of cardboard boxes on the high shelves yielded Halloween decorations, magic tricks, and records dealing with his Mother. "I don't know, this just feels…transitory." Emily said. "It's like he's not planning on staying here. It almost feels like he's not living here, like a hotel room."

"I know." Morgan wandered around the fiercely straight bed. "You know what it is, he lives entirely between his ears, everything is in his head. He doesn't need anything here except a place to crash, get clean, and keep his clothes." He stopped at the nightstand. "There are a few more books down here."

"I never thought I'd say this but please tell me its porn." Please tell me there's something, some experience to buffer what might be happening to you.

"I wish." He crouched down to take a look at the well-worn titles. "Tristam un Isolda, The Idylls of the King, Le Mort de Arthur, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It's all medieval literature. And look at this." He picked up the picture on the nightstand, an ornately framed small print, the only one they had seen, and held it out.

It was a picture of a man in chain mail armor and noble colors kneeling in front of an elegant Queen who was laying a sword over his shoulder. Off to one side another man and a young boy, possibly his squire, looked on in awe. "The Accolade by Edmund Blair Leighton, the making of a Knight," and this, she thought, is the first thing you look at in the morning, and the last thing you look at before you sleep; a man becoming a knight, a man being judged worthy of his Lady. Oh little brother, this cannot be happening to you.

Morgan just shook his head. "So what does this tell us? Have we learned anything other than that he lives entirely inside his head?"

Emily considered a moment. How much can I tell you Morgan, she thought. Will you understand at all?

Morgan caught her look. "No more secrets Emily. No more lies." He pulled a simple straight back chair that Reid had in the corner over, sat down next to the bed, and patted it. "Sit and start talking."

He was right, of course.

Emily sat on the edge of Reid's bed, cradling that picture in her lap, and started telling him everything. She told him how she had to open up to Doyle to gain his trust, about her parent's divorce, about Heidi and Mike, all of it. "That's what he said, right after you cuffed him. Pauvre frère de bébé. Poor baby brother."

"So he sent Reid off to be…." She watched Morgan push that thought well away again. "…Sent him off like that to hurt you, effective. But how does that help us here?"

"Look, Reid and I are geeks. Given the way we were both raised we had a lot in common."

"Both from divorce, both your Mothers have…issues. I can see that."

"No, not just that, Reid's Mom was a Professor of Medieval Literature, I went to school in Europe where that's still a big part of the surroundings and the culture. So we were talking and he confessed that he's into the Knight in shining armor thing; hard core into the Knight in Shining armor thing. He really wanted…wants to be a Knight, or at least the modern version of one. That might even be why he chose the FBI. I mean, when you think about what he could earn with that brain of his, why else would he settle for a GS salary."

Morgan considered that. "Okay, I guess. Whatever works for the geek. He never said anything to me though."

"No, 'The Geek' wouldn't." Emily added the emphasis. "It was important to him; he didn't want to be teased about it."

"Okay, so if we want to profile Reid we have to profile a Knight in Shining Armor."

"I think so. I mean, look at this place." She gestured to the blank rooms. "I don't think this is a sign of depression or displacement, I think he just doesn't put that much value on acquiring a lot of material things. A big part of his off-time focus was on bettering himself for his Lady."

"His Lady? He's got a girl?'

"No, not yet, not unless he met one since I 'died'. But he was hoping he'd find the right one someday, and he wanted to become the best Knight he could for her. He wanted a girl he'd have to earn, and he was determined to make himself worthy of her."

Morgan shrugged. "So what do Knights do? All I know is they rode on horses, wore armor, and fought with swords."

Emily opened her mouth to tell him the rest when the Hammer of Knowing whacked her between the eyes. "Swords, she got up and started moving toward the one place they hadn't checked, all the while pulling out her phone, "Garcia?"

"Find anything? Please tell me you found something."

"Maybe," she opened the hall closet door and started poking, "Salon Marel."

"Yeah, that was a dead end."

"That's because you were looking for hair salons." She pulled out a long, skinny bag, gave Morgan a winning smile, and opened it. "Try athletic clubs."

"Okay. Why would I do that?"

Emily reached into the bag and pulled out a long, slender, honest-to-God sword, "Because it's his gym membership."

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 10

T +25 hours

Marel Fencing Salon

Washington DC

Emily

It turned out that the Salon was almost directly across the street from the mysterious Metro stop in the light industrial area. It was a large, open space with what must have been locker rooms at one end, some traditional gym equipment at the other. In between were long, narrow mats and on many of them two people in padded safety gear faced off against each other, armed with swords. But there were banners hanging from the rafters, and posters of knights and ladies on the walls, and even a complete suit of plate armor in the corner. It might be a warehouse, but it almost felt like a medieval hall. Emily just shook her head. I am not surprised, she thought. I am not surprised. She stopped to admire the armor. "Savoyard style, I think, maybe 1600, from the Swiss region."

"I know you told me you were a nerd one time, but I never realized it was that bad." Morgan chuckled. "I don't get it." Morgan continued as they started looking around for the owner. "If he wanted to learn a martial art, why not study at the Academy? He could learn something useful."

"He's never been a brawler Morgan. This is supposed to be good for the reflexes, maybe for getting out of the way. Besides…" She stopped to watch the fights going on. It was hard to see bodies moving under all that protective gear, but she could imagine sleek muscles and quick, elegant moves. "…your kind of fighting isn't nearly this sexy."

"So you think this is useful and sexy?" Morgan asked. "Hey!"

Emily turned back at his exclamation. A group of older boys had been goofing off in one of the corners. One of them had slid the tip of his foil under Morgan's jacket and lifted it away to get a look at his sidearm. "You think it's not?" The kid asked Morgan as his friends hid their laughter.

"You think you can beat a guy with a gun?" Morgan asked him.

A half a heartbeat later he cried out and jumped as if stung. From what Emily could see Morgan's gun, holster and all had literally jumped out of his pants and landed on the floor. Another half heartbeat and a neat crease had been laid in his t-shirt across his abdomen. "Pick up your intestines on the way out." The kid said, as his friends laughed again.

"Hey!" One of the people on the floor, this one in unusual, all black safety gear, strode over. He was tall and slender and moved with a hauntingly familiar, easy grace. For a moment Emily's heart caught in her throat, but when he pulled his safety mask off it wasn't Reid. This man was somewhat older, darker, with a close, neatly trimmed beard and moustache. The faint scar on his cheek only added to his appeal. "Joshua, a one week suspension, the rest of you, start pushing, and don't stop until I tell you."

"Coach!" The kid wailed in protest.

"One more word and its two weeks, that was dangerous and stupid and you know it. Now get off my floor and leave your foil at the desk." Once the kid was on his way and being watched by another instructor the coach turned to the two agents. "Ben Marel. I am so sorry about that. I should kick him out entirely, but we're grooming him for Olympic trials. If he makes it that will really put us on the map. Are you all right?"

"Yeah," Morgan had put his gun back and checked himself. He had maybe a slight bruise coming up, but nothing had broken skin. "I'm all right." Morgan introduced them and got to the questions.

Ben Marel, owner, fencing instructor, and physiotherapist was over six foot tall, slender yet muscular, with dark hair and, Emily realized after a moment, green eyes. But it wasn't just his build that resembled Spencer, there was something about him. He carried an air of being gentle and noble and kind. I hope he's single, she thought, if he is when we get Reid back he is so setting me up. It didn't help that he kept looking over at her like… "Yes, I know Dr. Reid. He's been coming here for just over a year now. He took an injury to his knee; we started working together right after his orthopedist cleared him to begin a rehab program." He shrugged and gave them a small smile. "He said if he had to do it, he might as well fulfill a boyhood fantasy."

"Was he any good?" Morgan asked.

"For a beginner he wasn't bad." Ben shrugged again. "He always seemed to enjoy himself though, isn't that what matters?"

Morgan asked him the usual questions, anyone have a problem, anyone get crossed, but all of it came up empty. "No, sorry, Reid's just a decent guy. I don't know anyone who ever had a problem with him."

The way he kept looking at her was beginning to bother her. Or maybe it was that they hit another dead end. "What?" She finally asked him, rather abruptly.

Ben looked away and Emily swore she saw him blush. "I'm sorry, but aren't you supposed to be dead?"

Morgan and Emily looked at each other. "Did Reid tell you that?" Morgan asked. Ben nodded. "It's a long story. How well did you two know each other outside of coach and student?"

"I don't know, we know each other pretty well."

"So, did you two and Reid ever socialize outside of the gym?"

"Sometimes," Ben looked down and away and this time the blush was noticeable. Crappy liar, she thought. "Is there anything else?" He asked, looking from Morgan to Emily.

"No, if we have any more questions we'll contact you. Thank you." Morgan headed out the door as the couple walked away together. "Okay, was it me or did he just shut down there at the end?"

"It wasn't you." Once they reached the car Emily pulled out her phone. "Garcia, have you found anything on Ben Marel?"

"Oh have I, every three months, three hundred dollars, Swiss bank account."

Emily looked over at Morgan. "Bingo."

T +25 hours

SeaTac Airport

Seattle, WA

Rossi

Hotch hung up his phone. "They're bringing the crew in now."

"Good," Rossi replied. There was one crew that had landed a private jet that was unaccounted for. That particular jet had been the only one to go on to Hong Kong that night. It wasn't hard to put two and two together. Rossi just hopped that something would come of it. For now he looked over at Hotch. Everyone thought of him as old stone face, but he could see the anger and fear in his old friend's eyes. "You know, Reid is a tough kid, he's been through a lot. He'll hang in there. And just having him in the states is a big mark in our favor at this point."

"Yes, but he shouldn't have to go through more. He doesn't deserve to be the instrument of Doyle's revenge." Hotch looked out at the dull, rain-grey sky. "The other night on the plane Jack told me about this "story" Reid told them, about being knights. He sat there, knowing what kind of monster was outside the door, and told them about us all being knights in shining armor and how we were going to come save them."

"Which kept them calm, kept them from being traumatized more than they already were. And in the end, it was true."

"Yes, but not for him."

Rossi sighed. "Don't worry Lance, we'll get Percival home."

T + 25 hours

Somewhere Downtown

Seattle, WA

Spencer

He had no concept of how long he had been chained there. He hadn't moved, not one inch, in all that time. It was amazing, some dim, dull part of his mind that had been able to escape the agony thought, how much pain the body can be put in simply by not moving.

He'd endured it because he'd had no choice but to endure it. He endured the fire pain of overstressed joints, the sharp, screeching pain of muscle cramp after muscle cramp, the disturbing sensation of the pain finally retreating to a burning numbness as either his mind could no longer process or, worse, the nerves simply gave up forever, the realization that parts of his body were swelling and he might not be able to get out of his shoes, his socks, these cuffs, the panging emptiness in his belly, the dizziness that was true hunger, the thickness in his throat and fog in his mind that was dehydration. This is why they had me take out my contacts, he realized at one point, I would have been blind by now were they still in, they'd probably be stuck there.

From some distant place he heard the door open. Someone tugged on his hair until they had his head up. He looked at the small smile on Baldy's face, watched as he put his finger to his lips. "Shh." Spencer felt himself nodding over and over. Yes, yes, I know now. Don't speak. Don't make a sound. Not ever. You've ground that into my bones.

Satisfied that they had gotten their point across, Baldy and GreyHair released the cuffs. Spencer felt himself falling sideways onto the mattress as they left, locking the cell door behind him.

He left the duct tape in place as he slowly, ever so slowly, worked out each stiffened muscle, each locked joint. The pain came back then, pins and needles in every muscle and bone, burning fire that sickened him, caused him to want to scream and cry in agony. He left the tape on so he couldn't, wouldn't risk them coming in again. Don't make a sound, he thought, don't make a sound. Cannot do that again.

Eventually he thought he could move, knew he must move, and so he once again gently worked the tape away. Then he managed to make his way over to the sink and haul himself briefly to his swollen knees then up to his feet, clinging to the sink for support. He filled the cup and forced himself to swallow the cool, clean, heavenly water slowly, cup after cup, slowly so he wouldn't send it right back. Eventually he had to shuffle turn on one foot and lean up against the walls around that hole in the floor, which meant he had rehydrated somewhat. That chore done, he attempted to walk, only to collapse back onto the mattress as his knee gave out under him.

He spent the next unknown amount of time trying not to scream again.

For a while he almost thought he could feel someone out there, someone who was coming to rescue him, someone who might just be able to make it all better. But the someone he swore was going to come through that door any moment didn't have short, blond hair and troubled, loving eyes. No, he was longing for someone with black hair and fire and preferable a machine gun to clear the way. I wonder what my big sister would think of this mess, he thought, granted she may just be alive and helping somehow. I confess, I wouldn't mind having her come in to mother me a bit, until the EMT's got here. I wouldn't mind hearing her fuss over how this just seems to keep happening.

After a time, when he'd existed with, at least, less pain, he thought to look out the door, just to see if he could see anything. And he found that he could.

There was someone in the other cell.

He couldn't tell what kind of a someone, whoever it was, was huddled under the blanket, all wrapped up, with his back to the door. Spencer's first thought was to tap on the glass to get their attention…

Don't make a sound.

…but they looked to be asleep, which, he realized, was a brilliant idea.

Within moments he was asleep himself, and dreaming of arms to welcome him.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 11

T +26 hours

Marel Fencing Salon

Washington DC

Emily

Given that Ben Marel was the only thing that even resembled a lead, they decided to sit on him for as long as it took. It did not take Morgan much to set up a full course of surveillance, within minutes Marel's phone was tapped, Garcia was sitting on his net connection, and he would be watched 24/7, starting with them, sitting in the SUV, watching the building. "So, what do we know about this guy?" She asked the thin air in the center of the SUV.

"Benjamin Marel, single, 38, born in the DC area, been a fencer most of his life." Garica's voice came over the speaker. "He made the Olympic team back in 1992, missed a medal by one match from the looks of it. After that he went to George Washington, now he's a licensed physiotherapist specializing in orthopedic injuries and a certified trainer type for fencers. Doesn't carry a balance on any credit cards, is up to date on his business loan, and owns a five year old Honda, no legal record, nothing exciting of note."

"Except that he deposits a hundred dollars in a Swiss bank account roughly every month." Morgan pointed out.

"Well, there is that."

"Any chance of finding out who owns that account, or who else is making deposits?"

Garcia made a sad noise. "Honey, Swiss banks are Swiss banks for a reason. There are some things even I can't do."

Morgan sighed. "All right, he so much as twitches you call me."

"Can do, will do." Garcia hung up.

They watched in silence for a while, until Emily felt herself yawning.

"Did you sleep at all?" Morgan asked her.

She shook her head. "Kept thinking of the last time I met Mandarin."

Morgan sighed. "Tell me."

"Oh." Emily shook her head. "There was an auction going on in Marseilles. She had someone up for sale; Ian thought it a good chance to go meet some potential new clients."

"What happened?" Morgan asked, carefully.

"For most of it we stayed in the 'buyer's lounge', had some wine, did the small business talk bit. But then the one she was trading came up and we went to see. They put them in the small room with these glassed in booths all around where the buyers could sit unseen and look over the merchandise. He was just a kid, maybe nineteen or twenty, just high enough to not struggle too much. He kept trying to cover himself, you could tell he was still shy and innocent and he was so confused and so scared. You could hear it in his voice, how scared he was. He kept saying he just wanted to go home, please, I just want to go home." Emily could feel her heart breaking for that young man, all over again. "I couldn't stay to watch, I excused myself to the bathroom. Later that night I called Clive and risked my cover to have the place busted."

"What happened to the kid?"

"I don't know." Emily shook her head. "We never found him."

Morgan just sighed and looked at her. "Reid is strong. He'll do what he has to do to survive until we find him."

"Yeah, but what's he going to be like when we find him?" She didn't want to think of him like that. Not him.

"First we find him." Morgan said stubbornly. "Why don't you drop back and get some rest, I'll keep an eye on this guy."

"No, I should help you." Emily shook her head. "Maybe it's penance or something."

Morgan shook his head. "Now you are already too close to this. As much as you need to deal with that now is not the time, I need you functional."

Emily made a wordless sound of protest, and then stretched out as best she could. And when she finally dozed her dreams were full of toddling boys who became very tall men.

T +28 Hours

Marel Fencing Salon

Washington DC

Emily

She only got a few hours sleep though. Not that Morgan meant to wake her.

"Yeah Rossi," when he saw her stirring he set his phone to speaker.

"We have nothing out here. This was a hand off, nothing more. We spoke to the flight crew, it took a little but finally they admitted that Reid was taken on and off the plane in cuffs and hooded."

Emily swallowed the nausea that was rising in her stomach. "And what happened to him on the plane?"

"Apparently he had lunch and he and Mandarin played Go."

Morgan looked over at Emily. "Well, that's a subtitle form of torture. So he was all right when he got off the plane?"

"As far as we know, but the crew didn't get a license plate, so now we have nothing." Rossi sounded disgusted with it all. "Tell me you have something."

"Yeah," Morgan clearly didn't want to say anything over an official phone. "Two of those stops were, uh, movie club meetings."

"You know I always wondered what that was."

"Ask Hotch to explain it. And tell him it's, uh, all good there. Another stop was by his gym. He's been taking fencing classes. Do not laugh. Looks like he got to know the owner pretty well, he's paying in to a Swiss bank account just like Reid is."

"And that's our best lead so far?"

"Yeah, we're going to try sit on this guy, see if that gets us anywhere."

"All right, we're going to keep working from this end. Keep us in the loop."

"Yeah," Morgan hung up.

T +28 hours

Somewhere Downtown

Seattle, WA

Spencer

It was the sound of the drawer in the wall that woke him.

He'd been dreaming of being in a movie theater with his family. They were eating too much junk and laughing at a movie where the male lead was caught by the unsub and going through different kinds of torture, while the heroine was trying to rescue him with the help of his friends. He was just about to lean over and tell Emily that that was her when the sound woke him. Spencer opened his eyes to see GreyHair standing there, looking down at him, and holding something flat in his hand. He watched as GreyHair held a finger to his lips….

Don't make a sound

…and he nodded his understanding. His stomach rolled as GreyHair smiled at that understanding, and then looked him over in a way that made it quite clear what he was thinking. He swallowed his gorge as he watched the front of GreyHair's pants tent. Only once he was quite done looking his fill did he look at Spencer and put his finger up again.

Don't make a sound.

The threat of rape was thick in the air. He could sense the older man's thoughts, desires from here.

Don't make a sound.

He nodded again.

With that GreyHair put whatever he was holding into the drawer and pushed it to Spencer's side of the cell, then stepped back toward the main room.

Spencer took a look at the object inside the drawer. It was a moist slab about six inches by four inches by two inches thick, a bland, beige color, sitting on a paper napkin, and smelling ever so faintly of cooking. Not of any ingredient in particular, just cooking. But it had been forever since he'd eaten anything, so he picked it up and took a bite. It had the texture of soft meatloaf, and didn't taste of anything at all, except perhaps mush.

NutraLoaf, he realized a favorite punishment diet of prisons everywhere. Commonly a mixture of wheat bread, non-dairy cheese, various vegetables, vegetable oil, tomato paste, powdered milk dehydrated potato flakes and from the chemical aftertaste, protein powder. All blended together to make a thick paste and cooked in such a way as to not brown and hold together so as to not require utensils. It would meet every nutritional need while providing little or no stimulation to the taste buds. He estimated this was about 900 calories worth. Hopefully he would get a second portion sometime in the next 24 hours, or else he was going to be in trouble.

At the moment it tasted like the finest ambrosia.

About half way through his meal, sitting there in front of the door another thought kicked in. If they're feeding me, they're probably feeding him as well. He looked over at the other cell, and saw that is fellow prisoner also had a meal.

She had a meal.

She was wrapped in a thick, cotton kimono or robe or something, something that looked too big for her and thankfully hid everything. She had freckles, and a snub nose and a mouth that was too pale and a little too wide. Her hair was too damp to qualify, but it seemed to hang down her back quite a long way. Even from here he could see that her eyes were blue, and intensely intelligent. For a long moment, he just sat there, trying to understand. Why such a difference in victimology, he thought, why her and why me? Who is she anyway? What is going on?

And then her eyes met his.

Eventually he remembered to breathe.

She took the last bite, set aside the napkin, neatly dusted off her hands. When she moved she had the grace of a dancer, the slow reverence of an acolyte in her temple. She came to her knees before him, folding aside her robes to ready herself for her rites as Spencer felt gravity double in the small space. She looked over in the direction of the doorway before holding a finger to her lips.

Don't make a sound.

He nodded his understanding.

She smiled at him, something daring and hopeful in her eyes. She's mentally crossing her fingers, he thought, you can see it clear. Something is about to begin.

But then he heard the door to the main room open.

He looked down. A moment later so did she.

Baldy and GreyHair appeared. He felt the panic rising, his heart beating faster. He hadn't made a sound, he hadn't…

No. Something sad and sorrowful and scared came into her eyes.

They had come for her.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 12

T +28 hours

Marel Fencing Salon

Washington DC

Emily

"Okay, we have some activity on the business phone." Garcia reported.

"What do you hear baby girl?" Morgan asked.

"It sounds like he's canceling classes for this afternoon."

"All right." Morgan looked over at Emily. "Looks like something is up."

As they watched they noticed movement in the windows upstairs. Emily pulled out a pair of binoculars and realized it was Ben Marel. "Do we have a residence on this guy?"

"Yeah, here." Morgan said. "Must live upstairs."

A moment later Emily's phone rang. She could see Ben with a cell phone to his ear. What were the chances? She answered it on speaker. "Hello."

"Hi, um, Agent Prentiss? This is Ben Marel from the fencing salon. We spoke earlier."

"Yes, Mr. Marel. How can I help you?"

"I called to apologize, I wasn't entirely honest earlier. Can you and I meet and talk?"

"Absolutely. Where and when?"

"Thirty minutes? The Bean Counter in Georgetown? I assume time matters here."

Georgetown. The last mystery stop on Reid's Metro card. "I will meet you there."

"Thank you." Ben hung up.

"Okay, why there?" Morgan asked.

Emily watched as Ben started peeling out of his uniform. "I don't know." She had been right about the sleek muscles under those padded clothes. "Follow or meet?"

"Meet. Thirty minutes does not leave him a lot of time for delay. Another team can follow him." Morgan started the engine and got moving.

T + 28 hours, 30 minutes

The Bean Counter

Georgetown

Washington DC

It was a good place for this. A long counter on one side served the usual coffee type drinks and bakery type food. On the other were high backed booths that gave some privacy and a few tables in the back. Morgan picked one table, where they could see the door, and they waited.

It didn't take long. At about three minutes to Ben walked through the door. He had changed into one of those chambray almost dress shirts, Emily noticed, with a tie, loosened against the warmth of the day and his sleeves rolled to the elbows and a jacket over his shoulder, pants that were a little snug and tucked into high boots. Swashbuckler, she thought, and it suits him nicely. He smiled when he saw her, gentle and yet utterly masculine. A smile that got just a little more professional when he spotted Morgan.

He paused by the table, looking straight at her, waited for her to nod him to a seat across from her. "I should start by saying I'm sorry. I could come up with a lot of excuses but the truth is that I should have been completely honest, and I wasn't. "

Emily nodded. "All right. Back to the beginning, how well do you know Reid?"

"Pretty well, I guess. We've gotten to be friends outside of the salon, I guess we get together three or four times a week now. He even got me to go back for my Master's"

"So what, you hang out at his place? He hangs out at yours?" Morgan asked

He looked at them. "Have you been to his place?" A slow shake of the head. "I've seen more lavish monk cells. No, there's this, um, club that we go to, here in Georgetown."

Morgan looked skeptical. "A nightclub?"

He was blushing, Emily realized. "No a…well, it's like a gentleman's club."

"Stripers?" Morgan shook his head. "No, come on, try again. Reid wouldn't do that."

"No, a gentleman's club." Emily said, as it started patting in to shape. "They're popular in Europe, especially in Britain. Most Gentleman's clubs were like second homes in the center of London where men could relax, mix with their friends, play parlor games like chess or cards, get a meal, and in some cases even stay overnight. Men would stop by almost daily sometimes. And the dues are paid into a Swiss bank account?" She looked over at Marel for conformation.

He smiled a little at her, and nodded. "They have branches in most of the major cities worldwide, but the headquarters are in Castle Allaman in Switzerland. I was introduced by one of the girls on the team back in Barcelona. After Spence started telling me about growing up with a Medieval Lit professor I figured he'd enjoy it, and brought him by, maybe about a year ago."

"You were introduced to a gentleman's club by a girl?" Morgan asked.

"It's only similar to a Gentleman's club, it's actually been co-ed since it's founding."

"That's unusual." Emily commented.

Ben shrugged again. "It's an unusual place."

"Did he have a problem with anyone there?" Morgan asked.

Ben shook his head. "Not that I know of. I mean, everyone liked him so far as I know. But I checked my calendar for the time period you were asking about, I had kids going to Nationals, I was in Atlanta for a few weeks, I could have missed something."

"Would anyone else there know?"

He nodded. "I left a message for the manager to call me if she gets in early. If not they open in about thirty minutes, we can head over."

It was the closest thing they'd had to a break, all they could do was hope that it got them somewhere. "So, what's this place called?" Morgan asked.

"La Cour de L'Aumônier." Ben replied.

Morgan nodded. "Excuse me." He got up and headed for the front of the place.

Emily knew Morgan was going to get Garcia tracking it down. In the meantime she turned back to Ben. "I don't understand why you didn't want to say anything earlier."

"Well, I figured if Spence hadn't said anything he might be a little embarrassed. It is kind of geeky I admit." Now that Morgan was gone he seemed a little more comfortable, settled back in his chair, stretched out long, booted legs.

"Geeky? How so?"

"La Cour de L'Aumônier. The Court of the Chaplain." He looked up from under at her and smiled. "Capellanus."

Emily felt the first smile she'd felt since she left to go after Doyle growing on her face as the Hammer of Knowing whaled her between the eyes. Andreas Capellanus, the book Reid kept in his bag. "No, really?" Ben was still a bit pink around the ears as he nodded and shared that smile. "Seriously?"

"I kid you not, M'lady." He replied. "It truly does exist."

"What?' Morgan asked as he came back to the table.

Even in the midst of their hurry, must find Spencer, this cannot be happening, even with all that she was suddenly enchanted. She looked up at Morgan, unaware of the stars in her eyes. "It's a court of love."

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 13

T + 28 hours, 30 minutes

The Bean Counter

Georgetown

Washington DC

"A what?" Morgan asked.

"A court of love," Emily replied, looking to Ben for confirmation as she explained. "Okay, Eleanor of Aquitaine was one of the wealthiest and most powerful women in Western Europe during the High Middle Ages. As well as being Duchess of in her own right, she married Louie VII of France and ruled as queen during the mid-1100's. According to legend she had an affair with King Henry II of England during her marriage to the French Regent. We know she divorced Louie and ended up marrying Henry and becoming Queen of England as well."

"So?"

"So she was an… Alpha female in a world of Alpha males and got tired of it. After she and Henry separated she went to Poitiers in France where she set up her own court. It was entirely based on the rule of Chivalry, full of troubadours and poets and artists. All the noble ladies came there to be entertained, which meant all the knights went there to try to win the Ladies. The Knights would attend court, try to impress the ladies with their manners, their abilities, their prowess, and flirt like mad all the while Queen Eleanor made sure everyone met the standard. She's the one who enshrined the rules and standards of Chivalry concerning behavior and romance in order to keep things from getting too out of hand."

Morgan nodded. "What we think of as a court with Knights in Shining Armor was all her idea."

"Exactly, and her rules concerning love and chivalry were codified and published by her chaplain, Andre, Andre the Chaplain, in Latin, Andreas Capellanus."

"The book Reid keeps in his bag." Morgan nodded. "Okay, I'm tracking. It does sound more like a nightclub than anything."

"Well, it's a bit more complicated than that." Ben said. "For one thing the Ladies there have much higher standards than the average girl in a bar. No offence to girls in bars, of course. Most of the guys there have spent their lives trying to emulate the Knights of old, and it's rather nice to be surrounded by Ladies who appreciate that sort of thing, instead of just…um…wanting to see how quickly you can get behind closed doors." He was still turning pink as he looked over at Emily.

"Emulate the Knights of old? Okay, you just lost me again." Morgan admitted.

"When you say Knight everyone pictures a guy in plate armor riding around hacking at people with his sword. But most Knights were polymaths, what today we would call Renaissance men. They were expected to have studied in depth in the sciences, philosophy, history, be able to speak multiple languages, sing or play an instrument, have some knowledge of art, be extremely literate, and be able to engage in a number of parlor games or amusements to entertain the Ladies, all on top of being exceedingly athletic."

"And you all are like that?" Morgan asked.

"Well, no," Ben smiled. "That would take a lifetime to accomplish for most people. But one of the rules for being a member is that we're all trying, everyone is studying something. Now in most of society learning something new and in-depth, not for professional advancement or because Mom and Dad insist you go to school, but just because you want to better yourself instantly brands you the worst kind of nerd imaginable. Most people won't even admit it to their so-called best friends for fear of being laughed at. It's nice to be able to go somewhere where not only won't you be teased, but you'll actually be supported and admired for it. If nothing else, it's a great place to get someone else to cook dinner while you do your homework."

"Homework?" Morgan asked. He grinned a little, "Seriously? Picking up degrees impresses the women in this place?"

Emily just sighed and shook her head as she looked over at Ben. "I see what you mean. What are the other rules?"

"Well, a big part of being a Knight was supporting and giving back to your King or Lord. We interpret that as giving back to your community these days. Everyone either works in some kind of service field, teacher, law enforcement, military, that sort of thing, or does some kind of volunteer work."

"Nothing wrong with that," Morgan said. "So I'm guessing Reid got a pass for being FBI."

Ben nodded. "I teach over at the Boys' and Girls' club twice a week. The third rule is to try to follow the rules of chivalry as best you can."

Emily remembered the list Reid kept on his board. "Prowess, defense, charity…"

"Yeah, that. The club was founded in 1900, back then clubs were big into the self-improvement thing. These days it's not as big a deal but it is in the intro packet. The fourth rule is to always follow Capellanus's Twelve Chief Rules of Love."

"What are those?" Morgan asked.

Ben chuckled and recited:

Thou shalt keep thyself chaste for the sake of her whom thou lovest.

Thou shalt not knowingly strive to break up a correct love affair that someone else is engaged in.

Thou shalt not choose for thy love anyone whom a natural sense of shame forbids thee to marry.

Be mindful completely to avoid falsehood.

Thou shalt not have many who know of thy love affair.

Being obedient in all things to the commands of ladies, thou shalt ever strive to ally thyself to the service of Love.

In giving and receiving love's solaces let modesty be ever present.

Thou shalt speak no evil.

Thou shalt not be a revealer of love affairs.

Thou shalt be in all things polite and courteous.

In practicing the solaces of love thou shalt not exceed the desires of thy lover.

"Some of our members are a little less than socially adept; it helps to have things spelled out."

"Er, I'm assuming there's a modern version of that." Morgan said

"Yeah:

Don't brag about the size of your car, your house, or your finances. Let your achievements and manners show your worth.

No cheating, encouraging cheating or trying to break people up.

If you would be embarrassed to introduce him or her to your friends and family, you probably shouldn't ask them out.

This isn't the internet, be honest about yourself.

A gentleman never kisses and tells

Avoid the dreaded PDA; get a room if you need to.

If you can't say something nice don't say anything.

Don't gossip

The best manners are the most appreciated

"So why not just put it that way to begin with?" Morgan asked.

Emily sighed. She did love Morgan, he was her friend and her partner and everything that meant, but sometimes he just didn't get it, "Because it's more fun the other way." She looked over at him. "You're going to call me a nerd now, aren't you?"

Morgan had been opening his mouth, but instead of answering that turned back to Ben. "You know you missed a couple in there."

"I did, um…" Just then his phone bleeped a text. "And saved by the bell, looks like Carol is in the office." He gave them an address over on "P" street. "Mind if I catch a ride? I took the Metro over, I usually walk from here."

"Sure, just give us a minute." Once she had stepped away with Morgan Emily started laughing, "Reid, you naughty, naughty boy."

"What?" Morgan asked.

"Those two points Ben skipped over. That's why Reid was too embarrassed to say anything."

"Why?"

"Being obedient in all things to the commands of ladies, thou shalt ever strive to ally thyself to the service of Love, and in practicing the solaces of love thou shalt not exceed the desires of thy lover."

"Translation," Morgan asked.

"A Court of Love was designed for guys who really didn't think they were Alpha Males, that's what the regular royal courts were for. And it was set up for women who don't want an Alpha Male." She looked over and grinned. "In a Court of Love the women are in charge. Of. Everything."

She watched as the Hammer of Knowing whapped Morgan this time. He started laughing. "Well, all right then."

T + 29 hours

The Court of the Chaplain

3066 "P" St. NW

Washington DC

Just as they reached the large, French style home on the corner Morgan's phone rang Garcia's ringtone. He hung back to answer as Emily caught up with Ben Marel. "So that's it then?" She asked him, a little disappointed in the simplicity of it all. "I expected it to be more, oh, I don't know…"

"Romantic?" He asked. He cast a look back at Morgan, "It's kind of hard to explain something intangible to someone who clearly isn't going to understand. If a Knight is going to offer his sword to a Lady, with all that entails, he wants that to be appreciated and valued. Sex and romance aren't casual here."

"Not the land of players looking for a quick hook-up, huh?"

"Absolutely not, but then again, most of the Ladies here prefer to set the pace. The guys here like it when they do."

This, she thought, is something I never thought I would hear. "Good to know. Did Reid have something more than casual here?"

"Actually not that I know of," he chuckled a little. "Not that the Ladies didn't try."

Morgan caught up with them. "There is nothing about this place anywhere."

Ben shrugged. "It was founded in 1900; I don't think it's caught up to the Internet yet." He opened the gate and ushered them in ahead of him.

The entrance hall was more or less period and reminded Emily of an ambassador's residence. A heavily carved staircase took up most of it, and it was open to reception rooms on either side, empty at this time of day. It was nice, really. Kind of formal, but…

"Prentiss," Morgan got her attention. "That looks familiar." He gestured to a framed painting, carefully lit in its own alcove.

Emily stepped closer to look. A Queen laying her sword across the shoulders of a Knight…. "Is that…the original?"

"Yep," Ben replied. "That is the original Accolade. The club founders commissioned it from Leighton back in 1901. It was moved here from the castle right before World War II. The Queen there is supposed to be Queen Eleanor."

"I thought it was supposed to be Guinevere."

"One and the same, Eleanor was the model for Guinevere."

"And what was done with her was a travesty." They turned to see an older woman in a black dress coming down the hall. "Arthur should have been the one to cheat, as Henry II cheated on Eleanor with Rosamund Clifford." She stopped before them and inclined her head toward Ben. "Maestro Marel, your call expressed some urgency."

Emily watched as Ben actually gave the woman an elegant, courtly bow. "May I present Agent Derek Morgan and Agent Emily Prentiss of the FBI. I'm afraid they're here on behalf of Dr. Reid, they have some questions." He turned to the agents and smiled. "Mrs. Carol Martins, our club president."

"My office, please," Carol said. She led them down past the staircase to a small, sunny office done in the Directoire style. "Now, how can I help you?"

"I'm afraid Dr. Reid has been abducted." Emily started, gratified to see honest shock come in to Carol's eyes. "We're looking in to the incident and trying to find him. We're hoping you can help us bring him home."

"Anything, of course," Carol said.

"Is Dr. Reid a member in good standing here?" Emily started. "Do most people enjoy his company or…?"

"Oh, I'd say he's one of the more well-liked gentlemen here. I don't think I've ever heard a negative word said about him."

Emily decided to take a different tack from Morgan's. "Now I understand that one of the rules here is not to discuss your finances, but a place like this usually has members who are more financially well-off than most."

"Well, we accept members from all walks of life, membership has less to do with finances than with a personal recommendation from a current member and agreeing to follow our guidelines, but with our emphasis on personal growth our members do tend to be unusually successful over time. Our dues are on a sliding scale, everywhere from twenty dollars a month US to a few thousand."

"And you're sure he didn't cross anyone on the higher end of that scale?"

Carol opened her mouth to answer, but then stopped, a frown coming over her face as she remembered. "You know…" She turned, went to her cabinet, and pulled out a file. "Yes, here, he filed a complaint with our Gentlemen's Steward right before his friend passed away, accused another member of Conduct Unbecoming to a Gentleman. According to this the charge was substantiated, and the man in question was asked to leave the club, permanently. "

Ben whistled at that.

"What does that mean?" Morgan asked.

"That means he's been banned from every house in the system, even the Castle, for good." Ben told him.

"Any way of finding out who Reid accused?"

"No." Carol told him. "Once someone is banned their records are purged from the system. But…" She pulled out another file. "Look here." It was a financial record, showing who had paid what for the month. There was one blank spot where a name would be, with a five thousand dollar monthly due. "That was the highest end of the scale. I recall Paul saying something about how he would make it up out of his own pocket if need be."

"Paul?"

"Dr. Paul Smyth. I have the only paid administrative position, all our other administrative duties are done by volunteers. The Gentleman's Steward is in charge of such issues."

"Can we talk to Dr. Smyth?" Emily asked.

"I wish we could. Paul is a virologist with the CDC, he left last week to go to work on an outbreak in the Congo. I don't know when he'll be back or even if he can be reached."

"And you have no other record of this person?" Oh we cannot be this close and hit a dead end, Emily thought, we can't.

"No, I'm sorry."

Emily turned to Ben. "And you have no idea?"

"No, I was in Atlanta. I came home just in time for your loss." He managed an apologetic smile.

And Reid would have been too distracted to tell, Emily thought, damn, damn, damn.

"When was the last time something like this happened?" Morgan asked.

"The last time I recall was back in, oh, 1968 I believe. And I will not say how old I was at the time."

"No, that's not right." Ben said.

"I beg your pardon?" Carol asked him

"Well, Conduct Unbecoming to a Gentleman doesn't net you a permanent ban on the first offence; it gets you a six month probation. So whoever it is, he would have had to have done it before."

Carol thought for a moment. "You're right." She went back to the cabinet and pulled out another file. "Sara Conway, she made the same accusation just over a year ago."

"Can we speak to her?" Emily asked.

"I don't have a current number for her. According to this she stopped coming about a month later."

"Do you know where she works?"

"She is a professor of Art History at Gallaudet University."

Morgan was already pulling out his phone. "Princess I need to contact a Dr. Sara Conway at Gallaudet University."

"I can do." Garcia said as her fingers flew. "I can do…uh oh."

"Uh oh what uh oh?"

"The university filed a police report just over a year ago, saying that she had been kidnapped. She's been on the missing persons list ever since."

Chapter Text

Chapter 14

T +34 hours

BAU headquarters

Quantico, VA

Emily

All day. They had spent all day combing through Sara Conway's life.

Nothing.

She'd bee born and raised in New York City. She came from a nice family. Her father was some kind of a money manager, something Emily didn't have a hope of understanding. Her mother had been killed by a drunk driver, run over on a Manhattan street corner when Sara was just seven. Her father had died in the World Trade Center, leaving his children far more than comfortable. Even though he would never need to work, her older brother had finished college and joined the Marine Corps. He was a Major now, stationed in Afghanistan.

And when she was an infant she suffered from a case of acute Bacterial Meningitis, which took her hearing. She was lucky to have survived. Having never really developed speech she was functionally mute as well.

She had never let that stop her.

A reasonably gifted artist with a love of medieval history, she had finished school after her father's death, moved to DC and enrolled in Gallaudet University, a school designed for deaf and hearing impaired students. There she had studied art and art history, working her way up to a Doctorate in Art History, specializing in the High Medieval period, before beginning to teach.

Apparently as a graduation reward, one of her now colleagues had introduced her to the Court of the Chaplain. Although they couldn't be sure without access to any papers or journals she might have kept, it looked like that was the only thing she and Reid had in common. In order to gain access to her things they would have to get permission from her brother, who had packed up her apartment before he returned overseas. They were working on that.

The club; that was all they had.

"So, how many people are in this thing again?" Morgan asked.

"About a hundred, no more," Garcia replied from her seat at the table.

The state of the boards was depressing. They had put Sara's picture next to Reid's, on the victim's side, But there was precious little else up there.

"Okay, so why these two, out of all those?'

"Because they pissed him off," Emily replied. "They got him kicked out of the club."

"I get that. But Reid is not the kind to start trouble, which means the unsub started it. Reid went to the management to end it. Now, from everything her friends had to say about her, this Dr. Conway is the same type. So why did this guy start trouble with these two and no one else?"

"We assume that he did. It could very well be that they were the only two to go to the management." Emily pointed out.

"No." Rossi said, he and Hotch having returned earlier. "If he just wanted to punish them he wouldn't need someone as elaborate or expensive as Mandarin. No, he wants something from them, and he didn't get it, they cut him off at the knees. So now he's getting it."

"I'm sorry, how does this help again?" Ben Marel was the closest thing they had to a witness. He knew Reid better than anyone at that club, and he had also been a member when Sara was in attendance. So they brought him back with them to interview.

"You know this guy." Rossi explained. "You've met him. You drank with him. He was one of those hundred people. You just don't know which one of them we're looking for. A profile will give you a description and you'll remember. Now, can you think of anything Reid and Dr, Conway had in common?"

"No." Ben said again. "They didn't even know each other. They missed each other by a month."

"You got to know Reid pretty well." Morgan mused. "How well did you know Dr. Conway?"

"I didn't. I don't know sign language so I never really spoke to her. We sat in the same room."

"We don't have enough information to give a profile." Hotch spoke the knell of doom. "We need more. We need to find out what they had in common."

Morgan looked over at Emily. "Maybe our expert at infiltration ought to go see what she can find."

Emily just rolled her eyes at him.

T +34 hours

Somewhere Downtown

Seattle, WA

Spencer

If the plan was to kill him with boredom, they were probably going to succeed sooner or later.

He had considered all of the ramifications of them taking her, and none of them were good. But try as he might he couldn't come up with any ideas of how to help her. He couldn't even try to talk to her,

Don't make a sound

To try to ease the psychological damage a little. There was nothing he could do, really.

So he went over every inch of his display niche of a cell, finding nothing of interest or use. Whoever these people were, they were quite thorough. The plumbing was sealed in well, as was the light fixture and the AC vent. At least it was cool in here, he thought, it's even a bit chilly, but that means the air is circulating nicely. Then he flopped back on the bed and considered his predicament.

Whoever held him must have put an order in with Mandarin before Doyle became involved, or else why would she work with Doyle. He was payment for her help with picking up Jack and Henry, his real targets. So whoever had him had wanted him for a while, must have been watching him for a while. But who did he know who had this kind of money? An unsub maybe? The family of an unsub? There could be a list here.

He settled in to an orgy of list making, adding and rejecting people for various reasons for a while there, all the while contemplating the grey concrete around him. I send people to places like this, he thought, I might have to get involved with prison reform when I get out of here. Even an unsub deserves better. Thinking of prison made him think of Doyle and from there to Emily. Still alive, he thought, she's still alive out there. She must have gone to draw Doyle away from us, to protect us. But we're her family, we would have protected her. Not that I'm doing all such a great job of it at the moment. I just hope I get to see her once more; she's the first one to ever come back for me. Well, not just for me, but still. That realization made him smile.

He was so lost in thought that he it took him a moment to realize that they were coming back in. He watched as GreyHair opened her cell door and Baldy gave her a push that landed her hard on her bed, rendered graceless at their hands. Then they closed the door and walked out.

She was in the same robe, except that it looked damp, and her hair was dripping wet down her back. Must have had a shower, he thought, I bet she's freezing though. That thought was borne out when she wrapped herself in the blanket and wrapped the pillow covering around her head. Then she huddled onto her bed in a snug little ball and closed her eyes and just held herself there for the longest time, an acolyte cowering from her God. Shock, he thought, or pain, or some kind of psychological misery. If I could just talk to her…

Don't make a sound

…but they might hurt her further because of me. I don't want that to happen either.

He watched her for a time, because she was the only thing worth watching. After a while he heard the outer door open again. This time it was Baldy, who didn't bother with threats or warnings. No, he just dropped a slab of NutraLoaf in each drawer and left. It's like he's feeding his master's pets, Spencer thought, and not pets he particularly likes. Is this what it feels like to be in a kennel?

Still, food was food. As he started working down the mush he noticed that she had stirred when the chow came around. She was delicately, even daintily, having hers, finally showing an interest in something. After a few moments he realized that she was showing an interest in him as well. Good, he thought, that means she hasn't completely given up. There's something to work with there. Now if I could just…

Don't make a sound.

…but she was setting aside her empty napkin and just looking at him a long moment.

Just looking.

He watched her bite her lip and the look in her eyes filled with hope, something he was surprised to see in someone who must have been here a while. He watched her grace as she moved to knees in front of the door; facing him square on, as if to be certain she had his attention, as if once again attempting her worship. Her hands went out in front of her, palms down, fingers open, and moved from side to side a moment. Then she pointed at him, and then closed her hands into light fists with her index fingers out. She pointed her index fingers straight up, palms facing each other, and made small circles in the air. All of this was accompanied by a clear questioning look on her face.

Or rather, roughly translated, Do you sign?

Back when he started as a TA at CalTech, back before he met Jason Gideon, it quickly became apparent that either he would have to learn Sign Language or else there would be a subgroup of students he would always need a translator to function with. They weren't going to be learning English after all. Never thought that would come in handy again, not like this. Yes, I do know sign language.

He watched her face brighten, the light fill her eyes. Really? Not just a little, but really?

Yes, I studied back in college.

Thrilled didn't even begin to describe the look on her face. He was so used to profilers and people who wore polite masks, that her every emotion was right there was utterly fascinating. Oh, I haven't had anyone to talk to since this happened! Oh, I am so glad…well, no, I'm not. But…well, I'm sorry this happened to you.

Spencer shook his head. I understand. Maybe if you can tell me a few things we might find a way out of here.

I wish. I don't think there is any way out of here. He's too good at this. For a moment she looked almost hopeless. I'd love to go home.

Hey, no going there, he thought, there has to be a way. Just help me start the profile. We'll find a way to get you home, I'm sure we will. Let's start from the beginning. Call me Spencer, or… he spelled his name first, then showed her his name sign, the unique combination the members of the deaf community at CalTech had given him. If nothing else, it was a familiar opening conversation, which might just put her further at ease, and get her to open up a little more.

SmartBoy, why did they call you that?

I got my first doctorate before I turned eighteen.

Well, that makes sense. So it's Doctor Spencer?

It is. It's…try to stay calm, all right? He pointed at the door and held a finger to his lips.

It's all right, I'm also functionally mute. I don't like to use my voice if I can help it.

It was too early to ask her the personal question of why. I'm SSA Dr. Spencer Reid. I'm an FBI agent.

Well, that had the predictable effect. Her eyes went wide and her jaw dropped. Really? She asked. Seriously? He nodded again, entranced. With her it wasn't just sign, more than anyone else he had ever known she communicated with her entire body, a dance of communication.That means they'll be looking for you! They might find both of us! Oh, I hoped and dreamed this would happen!

You knew an FBI agent was going to get captured? You hoped this would happen?

She blushed a lovely shade of russet rose and looked almost away for a moment. Promise me you won't laugh. It's the only thing I've been able to cling to; I don't think I could bear it if someone laughed now.

Spencer smiled. I promise I won't laugh.

She was still blushing, couldn't look at him as she signed. I've always loved stories of Knights and Ladies and the Round Table. I've been hoping a Knight would come rescue me.

Spencer had to tighten his lips against the laughter. Some kind of a rescue, I'm stuck in a cage too.

He watched her shoulder shake in silent mirth. Well, it doesn't always have to happen like in the books.

Shared laughter, in this place. Now, what's your name?

Sarah Conway. Or…she spelled her name, and then showed him her name sign.

FireCurls? Okay, why?

In reply she bent a little at the waist and pulled the now sodden pillow case off her head. A cascade of copper red curls, glinting with fire even in this harsh light, fell all the way to her waist. Well, that's identifying, he thought, when he could think again. It suits you.

So, why did he take you? She asked him, the wide sleeves of her robe slid down to her elbows as she spoke, revealing ivory pale skin dusted with copper freckles, hands and arms moving with entrancing loveliness as her hair caught the light.

Who? I don't even know who's holding me here?

Pieter .

Who? The name tickled at his memory.

Pieter  Van Rensburg

And the Hammer of Knowing whapped Spencer between the eyes.

Chapter Text

Chapter 15

T +34 hours

Somewhere Downtown

Seattle, WA

Spencer

Spencer rocked back to his mattress and almost growled at the ceiling. Breathe, he thought, think. Don't just be angry, think. Breathe and… when he had a chance to calm down he went back to sitting where Sara could see him. Do you know why Pieter has you here?

The curious look fell away from her as she shuttered herself, held herself in a way both graceful and noble, watching him without truly looking up at all. Yes, I believe I do.

You believe?

I don't know for certain, he doesn't know sign. He watched the set of her, how she communicated how hard it had been to hang on all this time. And yet, he thought, she has. I don't know that I would have the strength to stay so vibrant and alive after this long. I haven't had anyone to talk to since this happened. But what he's done…

He waved at her to stop her, regain her attentionTry another angle, he thought, shutting her down won't help. You don't need to tell me now, maybe not everHow do you know Pieter?

We were members of a…a sort of a club in DC. It's a…

He stopped her there as he felt a smile growing, The Court of the Chaplain? Ah, it couldn't be that easy.

You're familiar? She looked up again, finally. Are you a member?

I am, and I ought to have greeted you properly. He levered himself to his feet as best he could, braced himself against the glass door and gave her his best courtly bow, A pleasure to meet you M'lady.

She moved to rise, to greet him with a grin on her face, but drew a quick breath and sank back down, A pleasure to meet you as well, M'Lord. I hope you forgive me for not greeting you properly.

It is understandable. And I will be ripping Pieter's head off his neck as soon as I get out of this closet, Spencer thought. But that grin meant she was open to talking again. He flopped back down before his knee gave way completely. You know, this is actually a good thing.

How so?

Well, if I know my team they have already gone through my belongings, poked through my apartment, looked over my finances, met Ben Marel, gone to the club, and found out about…. He sagged.

What? She had been growing more excited, but when he sagged it settled off her.

I had a problem with Pieter a while ago. I'm sure they'll find out about it, but Paul Smyth was the only one who knew the name of the person involved in the incident. And he left last week to deal with an outbreak in the Congo. He sighed, silently. We may be in here until he gets back.

She seemed to sigh as well. I also spoke with Paul about the problem with Pieter, of course. Do you really think they will find us when he returns to the country?

I'm quite sure of it. I've never known them to fail.

In that case you've at least given me hope. That is more valuable than anything right now.

I wish I could do more. I ought to protect you.

He watched a smile of charmed gratitude laced with sadness come over her. It's a bit late for that, isn't it?

Never. Don't you even think that way, he thought. Don't, please. And no true Knight would hold this against you.

Well, it's not like I've acquiesced. Granted it might be that he just can't hear my no.

Spencer shook his head quite clearly. Stockholm syndrome, perhaps, he thought, or she's tripping the edges of it. Don't even think that of him. If he had any indication that you were willing he wouldn't keep you locked in a cage.

Well, there is that. She paused for a moment, looked around their prison. Will you do something for me?

Anything. Spencer smiled. If I can in this place.

Tell me a story. Tell me about the world outside, as it is. Tell me… She clearly thought a moment. Tell me of your adventures. Tell me what you've read, or about art you like or history. Anything but this place, I haven't had anyone to talk to in so long.

You want me to tell stories? To…talk?

She was blushing again. I've always hoped to meet a Knight who could sign, one who would just talk to me. If you're mounting a rescue and can tell stories I may have to consider this near to miraculous.

Will you tell me about yourself as well?

She nodded a bow of agreement. If you like, but you first, it's been so long. Please.

She wanted him to start talking? Granted, it was harder, slower this way, but there was something about being able to slow down. And it would pass the time until they were rescued; keep her…them both sane and whole, right? Spencer grinned and cracked his knuckles. Whatever the Lady wanted.

T+ 38 hours

Marel Fencing Salon

Washington DC

Emily

They had tossed it around for hours, ordering the traditional Chinese food and going over what they had again and again. It all came out to nothing. Nothing, nothing, nothing. So the decision had been made. Tomorrow night she and Morgan were going undercover at The Court of The Chaplain. Hopefully they could come up with something there.

"Are you sure you're going to get home all right?" Ben Marel asked her.

Rather than have him take the Metro this late at night they she had just decided to drive him back to his place. "Yeah, I've got a hotel room that will last me a few days. Once Reid is safe I'll see about getting another apartment."

"That's not what I mean." Ben looked over at her. "I'm worried sick about him tonight."

"Yeah, well, in this job you have to compartmentalize well." Emily was worried sick too. She didn't expect to actually sleep tonight. It was more like going home and trying not to picture what was happening to Reid right now.

"What do you think is going to happen to him?"

"He's going to survive." She replied. "He always has. Get some sleep; we're going to need your help tomorrow."

"I don't know that I can." He sighed then, and turned to look at the building, a restless move. But then he…stopped. "Why are the lights still on?"

That got Emily's attention. "Should they be off?"

"Yes. Susan should have locked up an hour ago."

Emily called for backup, then got out of the car, drew her weapon, and headed for the building. "Wait here." She told Ben. But a moment later, when she turned the corner, he was right behind her. "I told you to wait there." She whisper hissed at him.

"You have the only weapon." He pointed out in the same whisper. "You're not leaving me behind."

Sigh. "I have a spare pistol if you want it."

"I've never used one."

Well then what did he want? They turned the corner, and spotted the van parked in front of the main entrance. "Do you have a back door?" She asked him

"Yeah, this way, he led her around one of the outcroppings of the building to a nearly hidden door. It led to a stairway with a door to the main gym tucked in the shadows. They entered the door and she saw him quickly pick a sword off the nearest rack.

Really? Seriously?

A moment later she saw someone moving in the main room. "Get down." She hissed at Ben, who darted into the locker room door. "FBI! Come out!" She called out, much louder. The figure stepped out from behind a bank of lockers. She had just a moment to recognize the face before the gun was being raised. She dove behind the wall to join Ben just as the gunfire erupted.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 16

T+ 40 hours

Marel Fencing Salon

Washington DC

Emily

We are not human, she thought, for we no longer react this way.

Emily stood in the Salon watching Ben's eyes. The place was swarming with cops and FBI and heaven knows who all else, a veritable beehive of activity. And yet, in the center of it all, Ben was kneeling there next to the body of a friend.

Susan Kohl was her name. According to Ben she was all of 23, just out of college, an excellent fencer who didn't have the wherewithal to shoot for the competitive circuit and so she became a trainer. She had been his employee and his friend and now she was lying dead on his floor, a single gunshot wound in her forehead.

And he was crying quietly over the body of his friend. For that reason alone she saw the person there, and not just another body of another victim. This is loss, she realized, or this is empathy.

No, this is what it means to be alive.

"Hey, Emily, get a look at this."

Ben had a closed-circuit security system, to be able to identify anyone who came in to steal weapons in the night. Emily came over and watched as three Asian men, the same who had run out of here when the sirens came too close came through the door and confronted Susan. As the other two split off to look around the building, the first pulled a weapon, and before she had the chance to react, Susan was crumpling to the floor. "Mon Jin Gi." She identified him. "One of Mandarin's lieutenants."

Rossi looked over at Ben, who was slowly heading for them as Susan's body was escorted out to the morgue. "Who usually locks up at night?"

"I do." He replied. "I just asked Susan to stay because I was with all of you."

Rossi nodded. "It looks like you just became our third victim."

Ben looked at him, confused. "I don't understand. Shouldn't that be Susan?"

"Does Susan have a connection to the club?" When Ben shook his head Rossi continued. "We already know that Dr. Conway disappeared after crossing someone at the club. We already know that this individual went after Reid, and made him disappear after he crossed someone at the club. Now this individual is after you and you are also a member of that club."

"Yes, but I haven't had any reason to complain about anyone."

"Think, man," Morgan insisted. "There's got to be someone; someone with money; someone who did something offensive."

Clearly Ben was racking his brain, but all he could do was shake his head. "I'm sorry, if there was anyone I would tell you."

'All right," Rossi said with a sigh. "Tomorrow night you go undercover. In the meantime Mr. Marel, you are going to be a guest of an FBI safe house. You're the only connection we have."

After everyone moved off Emily walked up to Ben's apartment with him so he could pack a bag. It was a very pleasant loft, a bit on the industrial side, done in warm, modern lines. But then he had added to. A suit of armor in a corner, some of the furnishings dated to the Renaissance period. Emily stopped in front of a cello set up in the corner. "Do you play?" She asked.

"Yes. More or less." He replied from down the hall.

She smiled at that. "I bet you speak more than one language as well."

"Italian, French, Spanish, Russian." He stuck his head out the door. "I heard you're a bit of a polyglot yourself.

"Italian, Russian, Arabic." Her languages came from her Mother's postings, his probably from the sport. But still. "You really take the whole polymath thing seriously, don't you?"

"A gentleman has to be worthy of his Lady." he admitted. "Spence and I used to complain that we were more suited for a different time. Granted I think he would have done better in the late 1800's or early 1900's than the late 1100's. Sometime before World War I."

"La Belle Époque , huh? Why then?"

"One of the great eras of science, when scientists and professors were held in the highest respect, and yet it was also the days of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, The Romantic movement, when there was a resurgence of interest in medieval myth and mythology."

"And a gentleman was always properly dressed." Emily had to chuckle, that fit Spencer Reid all right. She moved on down a short hallway, in the direction of the bedroom where Ben was packing. Among the pictures in the hallway was one of an Olympic fencing team. "Wow," was all Emily could say.

Ben stepped out, saw where she was looking. "I was nineteen. I was an infant, I swear."

"How close did you come?"

"One touch, duLac beat me out of the bronze by one touch." Ben shrugged. "He deserved it, he was better."

"Who got the medal?" She asked, pointing to the one American with the silver medal around his neck.

Ben looked away. "Viktor Sardoz. Le Mort Jeune."

"The young death?" Emily translated as she looked to him for an explanation.

"He was clean all through the Games, every test." Ben stopped to look at the picture. "OD'd three weeks later."

"I'm sorry." Emily said, seeing the pain there. It makes us human, she realized. It's when we don't feel… She looked at the other bag he was hoisting on to his shoulder. Not the duffle with his clothes, the long, slender one. "Were you really going to go in there with just a sword to protect yourself?"

He shrugged. "It is a legitimate weapon."

"Against a machine gun?"

He shrugged. "A Knight must always defend a Lady."

That was…that was…no… "I'm not…"

"Yes, you are." And he was out the door, leaving her to follow.

T +52 hours

Somewhere Downtown

Seattle, WA

Spencer

So, by returning the dolls I was able to end the incident peacefully. Her mind could not comprehend the difference between fantasy and reality, for her the dolls were the same as her victims and vice versa. By giving her the dolls we were able to take her away from her victims without having to resort to violence.

Last night he and Sara had chatted until the lights were turned out. He spent a much more comfortable night curled up on the mattress pad, admittedly comforted by the sound of her breathing, even faint snoring, in the other cell. After the lights went on this morning by mutual accord they didn't look at each other at first, giving each other the gift of privacy and dignity. It wasn't until Baldy brought in what passed for breakfast that they started talking again.

So the victims pulled through? And the girl is getting help? And what about the father?

Yes, all the victims recovered fully, the girl will spend the rest of her life in a hospital setting but she is getting help, and the father is serving prison time. I plan to keep him there as long as I can, he doesn't deserve to be out while the daughter he abused is locked away. That's not justice.

Sara smiled at him from her position of reverence. You should be proud of that. You should be proud of what you do. She stopped for a moment. I'm proud of you.

Now when was the last time he had heard that? From his mother. From Gideon, maybe? From Emily…. I wouldn't go that far.

Why not? You're stopping evil and chaos in the world and you're helping people.

I'm…I'm making up for past mistakes.

Penance then? Sara shook her head. And what criteria are you using to set your penance? Who is your clergyman? Who will grant you absolution?

He didn't want to answer that, not yet. So what are our chances of getting a shower today? She'd had at least one since his arrival, but he was starting to get a bit in need of one. That and he could certainly stand a shave.

I don't know. I hope not, I don't get one, usually, when Pieter isn't around. She looked at the door and her whole being seemed to shudder a little. It's….not pleasant. I don't want it to happen to you.

So a shower here is not just a shower?

No. She closed her eyes a moment, seemed to sigh with the whole of her being. A shower is not just a shower.

Now he was sorry he asked. A change of subject was in order. So, you never told me what you do?

I teach art and art history over at Gallaudet. I finished my PhD a few years ago, not as impressive as 18 or three, but still I'm proud of it.

You should be. Artist as well or just a professor?

Artist as well. Textiles mostly. Some shade of longing came over her. I miss color.

In theory losing one sense made the other stronger. But there were no pleasant scents here, no color, and her sense of touch…. No, no, no thinking of what you're missing. It's better to keep your mind away from here.

She cocked her shoulder and smiled. Then tell me another story. She insisted. Tell me about your family.

Anything M'lady wishes. Spencer stopped to think about that a moment. Actually my team is my family. My Mother is still alive, true, but she lives across country and is…well…she's a paranoid schizophrenic. That was getting easier to admit over time. I still love her, always will, but most of the time she doesn't even know it's me. It's the team that's there for me every day. He smiled. I admit to being the baby brother.

Her grin was the loveliest thing. Is there a big brother? A big sister?

Both, Emily and Morgan. We actually just found out my big sister, Emily, is still alive. I never thought I'd see her again. I still may not, he thought, but you have had hope for so long Sara, I am not going to shatter that now.

Your sister has come back from the dead? At his nod a question came over her. How?

I'm not sure. I was on my way here when I found out. He admitted. How about you, any family?

Only my brother Stephen; my mother died when I was quite young, and my father died on 9/11. He worked for Cantor Fitzgerald.

A company devastated by the collapse of the World Trade Center, Spencer recalled. I'm sorry.

She was close to tears from the memory, he could see from where he was. We used to go round and round, fighting all the time. He wanted me to function at New York City speed, to learn to lip read and speak, but I wanted to slow down, function in an environment where I could sign. That's what Mother wanted for me as well. I wasn't able to apply to Gallaudet until after he died. Mixed blessing, right?

I'm sorry. He said again. I didn't mean to bring up bad memories.

You didn't. He was an honest and fair man, he would have been happy for me, I think, and happy to admit he was wrong, about that and this.

And this?

She blushed again. I always wanted to be a Lady. Do all the things that the Medieval ladies did, study just for the pleasure of it, not for a career, create art, volunteer and support good causes. But not only that I wanted to feel like a Lady, live up to the rules of Chivalry myself. Make myself worthy of a true Knight. He thought I should be more ambitious, more businesslike, harder, and tougher, pursue a career simply for the achievement of it. That's why he was insisting on business school before he died. He said there were no true Knights in the world, that I was just being a silly girl.

But you lived your own life anyway. Spencer pointed out. That spoke to her strength and determination right there.

Sara nodded. I did. I would have found a way even if he had lived. And all the while I've been here I've been wondering if it was worth it. If it was worth holding on to hope and fairy tale dreams when they can all fall apart like this.

Spencer thought of that a long moment, thought of the mistake he'd made, how he hadn't given up, not quite. I think they are.

She smiled at him. I think so too, more than ever now.

He was about to answer that when the door opened. They had come for her again, only this time it was more awful because she wasn't just the woman in the other cell. She was Sara and she was acolyte to the art of communication and she was already special to him and he found himself on his feet and staring down Baldy for a long moment. Then Baldy just smiled and started to laugh, a grating sound in the now expected silence.

She threw him one stricken look as they pulled her away.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 17

T +52 hours

Somewhere Downtown

Seattle, WA

Sara

The Cloister of Saint Michel de Cuxa dates from approximately 1135. It was originally built in the Catalan region of France. In the 1930's it was disassembled stone by stone at the behest of JD Rockefeller, shipped to America, and re-assembled in  Fort Tryon Park in Northern Manhattan as part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And that is how a young schoolgirl came to be sitting on one of its walls, swinging her legs and savoring the sun in the garden.

That was where her father found her. He hitched the trousers of his suit and sat beside her. "Sara," he said to her, exaggerating his speech so she could follow his lips. "If you are going to keep running off like this they are not going to take you on any more field trips."

I didn't run off. She signed back. I told my chaperone I was going to the de Cuxa garden.

Her father gently grabbed her hands. "Your chaperone doesn't know how to sign, you know that."

She yanked her hands away. Why can't I go to a school for the deaf? Then I could concentrate on studying rather than trying to figure out what everyone is trying to say.

He grabbed her hands again, held on more firmly, "Because the world doesn't know how to sign. How will you work in the world if you can't talk to people?"

She yanked her hands back. I'll stay in a place like this. It's beautiful and it's slow, so there's lots of time for people to listen.

He shook his head and took her hands again. "What will you do when I'm no longer around to understand you?"

Stephen will understand me. There are people out there who sign, they will understand me. She paused for a moment. Mom understood me.

He took her hands again. "And what happens when your brother goes off to school? What then? How do you know you can trust those people?"

She tossed her curls back and looked at her father with a calm certainty. My Knight will understand me, when he finds me. And he'll be utterly trustworthy, honest and brave and smart and strong and…

Once more her father grabbed her hands and held them still. "There are no more Knights in the world Sara. Come on now, we must catch up to your class."

Sara allowed herself to be pulled along, like any 9 year old. But she looked around the garden and corridor as she went. Someday, she thought, I will find my Knight and I will find my home.


She stood there, letting her tears mix with the cold water sluicing down her head and body. Her father had been utterly wrong; it was the people who didn't care to try to talk to you that you couldn't trust. He'd been wrong about Knights not being real as well. She'd met so many at the club, just not the one for her. And as it turned out, towers and evil princes were also real. It's funny how they never talk about what happens to the Lady in the tower in the story books, she thought, or what happens when the Knight gets captured too.

For all that he never understood her, she would have rather he lived. If only so she could tell him that she'd found a Knight she honestly believed deserved her entire trust. And who spoke to her in sign.

Eventually they got tired of her standing there, like they always did, and turned off the water. Don't think about it, she thought as the two men hauled her over to the steel table and threw her face down. Don't think about Knights and rescues and happily ever after. Don't think about someone who can talk about anything with all of his being. Just don't let them bring him in here, she thought, don't let them hurt him, not like this. Why am I feeling so possessive anyway? Why do I want to keep calling him My Knight?

Then there was no more time to think. There was only the need to muffle her cries.

T + 52 Hours

FBI Building

Quantico, VA

"Do you have a gym?" He'd asked.

They had spent a restless night in a nondescript neighborhood in one of the nearby suburbs. Emily had volunteered to stay because, she told herself, she had no place else to go yet. Breakfast had been a junk food drive through. They had spent the morning going over everything, again and again, looking at what they could find about the club members, getting ready to go over there and start interviews as soon as it opened. Anything.

When it came time to break for lunch, when their heads were splitting, he all but begged for a chance to use the gym.

It wasn't unusual for people here to hit the gym before or after work or in place of a lunch break. Hell, free gym access was considered one of the perks of the job. Given the high incidents of heart attacks and strokes in law enforcement the FBI considered it a good investment. Morgan, in particular, was known as a gym rat, but she had spent time down here. Even now, as people were starting to trickle upstairs, there were people down here using the equipment, the heavy bags, sparring with each other on the mats, working out martial arts forms in front of the mirrors.

But only one had a sword.

He was wearing those snug fitting pants, black for an instructor or so Garcia had told her, and those swashbuckler boots as in his haste to pack he had forgotten his shoes. And he'd worked up enough of a sweat to have to pull off his shirt, he as all sleek, rippling muscles from the back. His movements were quick and sure as he worked through the footwork forms, sparring against an imaginary opponent, parry, lunge, thrust.

Damn it woman, she thought, get a hold of yourself! Your brother is out there going through God only knows what and you're thinking like that. Stop it now! "Ben." She called out, then louder when he didn't respond. "Ben!"

He stopped and turned, and it was just not helping one bit. Even his pulling out his ear buds was a revelation, "Yes, M'lady?"

"We're starting the meeting to go over the game plan for tonight at the top of the hour; I figured you'd want a chance to shower."

"Yes, I do. Thank you. And thank you for letting me use the facility, it was a true kindness."

"Oh, you're welcome, anytime." Anytime at all, Emily thought as he headed over to his bag, anytime at all.

T +55 hours

Somewhere Downtown

Seattle, WA

Spencer

He had no clue how long she had been gone. While she was not there Spencer took the time to attempt to stretch and work his knee. It was still hot and swollen, still didn't want to take the full of his weight, but it was starting to improve. Which meant it could improve. For all that Ben was a friend, he was also a physical therapist and a damn good one; and he knew, with time and work, he could get his knee back to field ready.

Hopefully.

He was just trying a stretch, hoping to get it to snap back just a little more, when he heard the sound of the door opening. Baldy and GreyHair came in, and looked down at him a moment. He levered himself to his feet, braced himself against the door and stared them back. Where is Sara, he wanted to ask them but…

Don't make a sound

…he doubted it would get him anywhere.

Baldy smiled. A moment later the door slid open and Spencer practically fell into Baldy's arms. Before he had a chance to even really get his feet under him he was being dragged out of the small prison and back to the main room, a short way down one side to another door, another keypad, another small hallway, another door. The room inside was tiled, harshly lit, with a large, steel medical table on one side and a showerhead on the other. They gave him a push which landed him on his hands and knees under the showerhead, and then one of them tossed a bar of soap to the floor next to him.

A shower is not just a shower here, he thought, they can't seriously think I'm going to do this. He turned to look at them and shook his head.

The two men looked at each other and shrugged. As Spencer used the safety bars on the walls to haul himself to his feet and thanked God for building codes, the two men stripped off their suit coats, revealing vests and holstered guns. That got Spencer's attention, he hadn't considered that. They pulled on blue medical gloves. They put some supplies on the table behind them.

Then Baldy came over and drove a fist into his stomach again.

Spencer went down with a gasp as the air was driven from his lungs. When he looked back up they were looking down on him, and GreyHair was holding a very long knife. Without a word GreyHair reached down and slid the knife down the back of his shirt, peeling shirt and vest and tie like the skin of an apple. When he reached for his pants Spence held up his hands in capitulation. Not that he wanted to stop fighting, but he really didn't want GreyHair in his pants if he could help it. For that reason alone he started working on his trousers himself. Thankfully they backed off.

At least he had the option of facing away from them. Once he managed to get himself precariously balanced mostly on his good side they turned the water on; ice cold, of course. He tried not to think about them watching as he quickly managed the job. While he soaped up he heard them talking quietly to themselves. After a few very high stress days, it took him a moment to realize that what he was hearing was speech, he was so used to the silence, and then that it wasn't in English. He didn't even recognize the language.

After what felt like too much time the water went off, leaving him dripping and vulnerable in the corner of the room. "Hey!" one of them called to him. He looked over his shoulder and was hit square with a flying towel. He went to work with that, only to get another "Hey!" from the same direction. He looked over his shoulder again to see Baldy putting something that looked like clothing on the steel table. He finished drying off as best he could with his back to them, as far away from them as he could get, before wrapping the towel around his waist and limping over to the table. She said a shower wasn't just a shower, he thought, but so far this seems to be just that. Hell, the cold is making my knee feel better.

The clothes turned out to be sweat pants and a t-shirt, both too big but good enough. He dressed with his back to Baldy and GreyHair, and paused to wipe his glasses off on the hem of the t-shirt. Once he had them back on he spotted the supplies on the shelf behind the table, small towels, gloves, nylon stockings, salt. The Hammer of Knowing popped him between the eyes. I may have to kill Pieter, he thought, I may have to break every rule for that.

Then the two goons dragged him out again.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 18

T + 58 hours

Georgetown Moving and Storage

Washington DC

JJ

"I'm sorry, Ma'am, tell me again why we're here, please." The young officer asked her.

JJ shook her head as she poked through another box. "Because Major Conway's sister is missing and we think the same person who abducted her also abducted an FBI agent, and has ties to an international terrorist and weapons dealer. If we can figure out why we can figure out who." She had managed to use her connections to speed through both tracking down Major Stephen Conway and then getting him to release his sister's belongings. Anything, he had said, if it would help being Sara home, one way or the other.

"And looking through her stuff is going to help you figure out why, Ma'am?"

"Not all of her belongings." JJ told him, "Look for files, letters, stuff from a desk. Maybe a briefcase or purse, that kind of thing." With the rest of the team going undercover at the Court of the Chaplain, she had taken the job of going through the boxes as soon as she got the paperwork. And she'd 'borrowed' the nearest two officers to help her do it. That they happened to be from the Pentagon, came along when she invoked the word 'terrorist', made no never mind in her book. Spence had put his life on the line for Henry, now they were going to get him home.

"Yes, Ma'am."

They worked in silence for a time. JJ had to prioritize. Not kitchen, she thought, not clothing, damm there are a lot of book boxes. She kept looking through the ones with miscellaneous labels, but was getting no where. I may have to go through every book box she thought.

"Ma'am?"

"Yeah."

"Is this the kind of thing you're looking for?"

JJ went over and looked. The Lieutenant had found a neat, structured leather bag. In it were files, office supplies, a good quality organizer, a sketchbook and a package of pencils, and a copy of The Art of Courtly Love.

And in the very back, what could only be a diary.

JJ picked it up and took a look. Nice paper, leather cover, fountain pen, a postcard of The Accolade as a bookmark. "Lieutenant, you just helped win the war." She said as she smiled.

"Yes, Ma'am."

T +58 hours

The Court of the Chaplain

Washington DC

Emily

The problem was that she liked this place.

The physical layout was comfortable. A number of small rooms in the main house, and in the back an extension that felt like a cross between a Medieval hall, an English pub and someone's comfortable living room. The main hall had a large fireplace at one end, cold in the summer, and a well stocked bar at the other. In between were comfortable areas to sit and small tables to gather around, some with games set up. There seemed to be cards going in one corner. She could picture it cozy in the winter, with the snow outside and a fire going, but now the French doors on one side were open to a garden with what looked like a number of private areas, some of which were on the way to being occupied.

So far everyone she had met had been cheerful and welcoming. The women came in all shapes and sizes, but generally ran to the distinctly feminine, and had an air of competency, as if they would be comfortably assertive if need be. She didn't get a sense of the desperation or lack of self-esteem that seemed to trail so many women in other bars. And the guys were all the kind that you really hoped you'd find someday. Although they came from all walks of life, she'd met a plumber and a heart surgeon within minutes of each other, they were all pleasant, extremely polite, and had that gentle, kind air that Ben and yes, Spencer seemed to carry. They were quite comfortable letting her or any of the women take the lead in any conversation. And yet the women didn't seem all that competitive, which probably had something to do with the advice Carol had given her earlier, the girls ask the guys out when they think they're worth it. It made the guys compete with each other to be the better man, not the women to be the more sexually available. I could see why Reid would go for that, Emily thought when she heard, he was never that comfortable approaching women. A place where he could just be himself and let them come to him would have its appeal.

But this wasn't about meeting people or finding a place to socialize. So once she had circulated for a while she headed for the one place where she knew from experience that she was going to find out all the dirt on all the guys. "So, are all the guys in these clubs as great as the ones I was talking to?" She asked to everyone and no one as she looked in to the mirror in the Ladies' Lounge and dabbed some powder on her nose.

"Yes." Said one of the other women fixing her make-up. "Granted the ones in Europe tend to have more money. But they also have real royalty over there. Real Knights, you know. All the guys here are really great though. Even the ones like Brixton and Hodges who spend too much time at the bar."

"All Knights of the Round Table, hm?" Emily asked.

The first women to answer giggled. "I know, isn't it fun."

"Is that what it is?" Emily asked. "Fun?" No wonder Reid didn't find a girl here.

"Well, yeah. I mean, no one takes it too seriously."

"Well," another woman spoke up. "Except for the True Believers."

"The True Believers?' Emily asked.

"Yeah," The second woman replied. "The guys who really believe in the whole knightly stuff, like the real Knights from Europe. You know, most of these guys, they want to better themselves, so they start going to the gym once and a while, they get organized at work, they start one of those learn a language in the car programs or join a book club or something, they donate a few hours on the week-end to a charity. The True Believers, they're the ones who really do it. They take it seriously. There is no such thing as too much or too good for them."

"Which, of course makes them the most eligible guys here." Woman #1 said. "By far. You cannot do better."

"I thought those were mostly guys from the European clubs?" Emily asked.

"Oh we have a couple of our own home-grown Knight types." The first woman looked over at the other women in the room, "The Maestro and The Doctor, am I right?" She got an approving murmur from the room.

"The Maestro and The Doctor?" I can guess who, Emily thought, now please tell me why.

"Yeah, Maestro Ben and Doctor Spencer." The first woman stopped with the lip gloss and turned to face her. "Get this, Ben speaks all the Romance languages, is supposed to be a gourmet cook…"

"He is." Said a woman from the back of the room.

"…plays cello, volunteers at the Boys and Girls club and with the Smithsonian, and owns his own very successful Physical therapy practice and gym, but, get this, Olympic level fencer. The man is built like a Greek God."

"Like Doctor Spencer is all that hard to look at." The second woman pointed out. "Put those two at a table together and it's a night of eye candy."

'This is so true." The first woman agreed. "He's the other one. "Three PhD's, three other degrees, amazing water color artist, speaks a few languages himself, does these adorable little magic tricks…"

"I heard he taught himself to play piano in a few weeks." Someone else in the back piped up

"…can lecture and talk about anything, and I mean anything, and…you will not believe this…he's an FBI agent!"

"Really!" Emily thought she could feign shock rather well.

"Yeah! Have you ever heard of a writer named Dave Rossi?" When Emily nodded she continued. "Spencer was in his last two books! He goes out and hunts serial killers and crazies out there. I mean literally, he doesn't just sit in the office, he really goes out there face-to-face and stops them. You couldn't get more amazing if he was going after real dragons!"

"Wow." Someday I will look back on this, Emily thought, and wonder how I managed to keep a straight face. "I can see why those two are impressive."

"Oh those two are more than impressive." The second woman replied. "Every guy in this place looks up to them. They are the gold standard."

"So if they're that eligible how come no one has….um…." There was a certain club terminology, Emily had realized. Thankfully, as a new member she wasn't expected to know it all yet.

"Accepted an Offer?" The second woman asked.

Emily nodded, that was the term she'd been looking for. "How does that work, anyway?"

"Usually women here ask the guys out, at least the first few times." The second woman replied." When a guy approaches a woman he's been dating he…ahem…offers her his sword."

"You mean sex." Emily didn't really ask.

"Well, yeah." The second woman admitted. "Unless you were a True Believer, I guess."

"In which case it would be a Knight offering his sword to a Lady." Emily mused. "By her command, for her glory from then on out, right?"

The second woman nodded. "Mmm-hmm. Either way, it's usually not long before they're ready to get their families involved and get engaged."

"And no one has ever accepted an offer from Master Ben or Doctor Spencer?"

"Because neither of them has ever made one." The first woman came back in. "I think every woman in this place has asked them out, some two or three times. But they just aren't interested."

"Given how much time they spend staring at that chess board together, I wonder if they rather prefer each other's company." The second woman mused out loud. "Not that there's anything wrong with that."

"Oh no." The first replied. "Well, not Ben. Do you know Theadora Sardoz?" A few of the women in the room nodded. "Well, she was on the same fencing team as Ben. According to Dora, he is very straight. You know, first hand experience. I don't know about Spencer though. Don't they kick you out of the FBI for that?"

"So, homosexually isn't the thing here?" Emily asked.

"Oh no." the second woman waved that away. "No one here cares. We get all kinds."

"Lying about it though." The first woman mused, "That would put some tarnish on your armor."

"Would lying about that sort of thing, or accusing someone of lying, be…what was it…Conduct Unbecoming to a Gentleman?"

"No," the first woman replied. "But it would be pretty darn close."

Chapter Text

Chapter 19

T +58 hours

The Court of the Chaplain

Washington DC

Hotch

Rossi was too well known. And Morgan was clearly far too much of a player to fit on such short notice. That left them with one option. Thankfully he was comfortable in a suit.

Hotch had spent a little time circulating before settling by the bar. The women here were quite something, he had to admit. A few of them reminded him so much of Haley that it almost stopped his heart. I can see why they have a rule about waiting two years after the death of a spouse before joining, he thought, I am not ready to get back out there, at all. So he'd found a small group of men, insinuated himself while nursing a scotch, and had found himself going over the same bits of gossip as Emily, minus the question of sexuality, and with more emphasis on achievements. "I have to admit, they sound impressive."

"Yeah, they set the standard, and you have to run to keep up." One of the men, Brixton, said. "And the hell of it is, they're two of the most decent guys you'll ever meet. Always willing to help you out with whatever, not all stuck up and snobby like some of the European guys that come through. Nope, those two are just decent guys who have it all together."

"I'm surprised no one is jealous." Hotch almost asked.

"Of what? I don't know what the hell they're waiting for, but every woman in this place has made a play for them. They've turned every one down. So, you know, the playing field is open."

"Are any of the women True Believers? Maybe that's what they're waiting for."

"No." Brixton said. "I don't think so."

"No," his drinking buddy Hodges corrected him, "There was one for a while. Lady Sara."

"Now, see, I didn't get to know her." Brixton told him.

"That's because you don't know sign language. I decided to learn when they started mainstreaming some kids into my school." Hodges taught sixth grade. "She was amazing."

"Really?" Hotch asked.

"Yeah. She wasn't a classic beauty, I guess, but there was just something about her. She was a professor over at Gallaudet, art or history or something, and she was an artist and she could cook and she was thinking about going back for another degree of some kind. But really, she just had that something, graceful, elegant…"

"So if the other two were true knights, would she be a true lady?"

"Oh absolutely." Hodges replied. "She really believed in this sort of thing. It's too bad she stopped coming around about a year ago, I guess."

"You know who else would be, or would have been had she ever made it here." Brixton looked from Hotch to Hodges. "That friend of Spencer's we had the wake for. Remember?"

"Oh yeah." Hodges replied. "Dame Emily. Now she sounded like something."

Hotch was glad he had the scotch to hide behind.

T + 60 hours

BAU headquarters

Quantico, VA

Emily

"They had a what?"

"A wake." Hotch replied. "In your honor. Apparently the bards will be singing of your deeds for generations to come." It was hard to tell, but he was laughing somewhere in there.

"It was quite an impressive party." Ben told her, rather sheepishly. He was still sitting in, as they hoped something would jar out of his memory. And he was safer there.

Emily just groaned and put her face in her hands. I will never live this down, she thought; I will never live this down.

"So what did we get?" Rossi asked.

"It's a small social group." Morgan replied. "And they are at the top of it."

"I wouldn't go that far." Ben replied.

"Oh no, trust me." Emily replied. "Every woman there would."

"All right, that links them." Rossi said. "Maybe someone was jealous."

"Not from what we could tell." Hotch replied. "No one seemed jealous of anyone there."

"Maybe Queen Eleanor had the right idea." Garcia pointed out.

"So we still have nothing?" Rossi asked.

"I think I have something." JJ spoke up. She had been reading her way through Sara Conway's diary. "According to her diary someone she called "P" made her an Offer about two months before she disappeared."

"Made her an Offer?" Morgan asked.

"Sex." Emily told him

"It's more than that." Ben protested.

Emily looked back to him. Of course it was, she thought, if you really believed. "Not to most people."

JJ flipped to another page. "A month later "P" sent her a note at the club calling her virtue a lie and her a liar, saying he knew where she got her money, and offering her $500,000 for the night."

And that stopped the table a moment. "You know, it doesn't take a fancy club to find that offensive." Garcia pointed out. "Even for that much money."

"Would that be Conduct Unbecoming to a Gentleman?" Morgan asked.

"Suggesting a lady was really a prostitute and offering her money? Hell yes." Ben replied.

"But how would that affect Reid?" Rossi asked.

"To get him kicked out it would have to be pretty much the exact same offence." Ben told him

"So you're saying some guy offered Reid money for sex?" Morgan asked.

"It would have to be." Ben replied.

"But Reid is straight."

"Yeah, well, when you turn every girl down there's going to be some question about that." Emily told him. "The rumor in the ladies rest was that he might be lying about his sexuality due to FBI policy."

"So this guy thinks they're both closet prostitutes?" Morgan asked again. "Ben, anyone ever offer you money for it?"

Before Ben could answer Rossi spoke up. "No. He doesn't think they're both prostitutes. He thinks they're both liars." Rossi stood up and began slowly pacing. "We're not just dealing with a psychopath; we're dealing with a narcissist, one who's had a recent break. This man is in his mid 30's to early 50's, Caucasian, single. According to the club records most of the members are self employed, a greater percentage than the community around them, so he probably owns his own company. With the kind of money they were charging him he's at the top of his profession, and given that he knows someone like Mandarin he's willing to play dirty to get there. He thinks his ability to succeed no mater the cost makes him better than everyone else. He firmly believes that he is the best man in any situation, the best man for the job, the best man in the room, the best man period. That overwhelming self-esteem and confidence is what's propelled him to the top. Then something happened to damage that, something either personal or corporate. This club is international, something brought him to DC where he came into a branch and was not the best man in the room anymore. There were two men in the room who were better at the social game than he was, two he would never be able to catch. And worse than that, there was a woman there who thought she was better and rejected him because of it. That caused a psychological wound that he needed to heal."

"By calling them liars?" Morgan asked.

Rossi nodded. "By finding out that they weren't the best in the room, that they were fooling everyone. He had to come up with something. If he couldn't he invented it based on something in their behavior. That way at least in his own mind he could put himself back on top."

JJ looked up from the page. "According to this she thought he was stalking her."

"And he saw something that made him think she was lying about the source of her income. He challenged her on it, but instead of answering the charge she invoked a higher power and never answered to his satisfaction. He went to Mandarin to have her brought into a space that he alone can control to force her to answer the charges. He did the same thing with Reid. And you." He turned to Ben, "He thinks you're lying about something in your past, he thinks he has the goods on you. He came to you and he challenged you and you turned him away on a technicality. You never gave him satisfaction."

"Only he did it at the salon not at Court." Ben finished for him. "Pieter Van Rensburg. He came to the salon, he wanted to have a duel, live steel." He stuttered at their confused looks. "Sharp swords. In competition they're always blunted for safety, I told him no, I can't have live steel on the floor, I'd lose my league membership, I wouldn't be able to train at the Olympic level. He called me a cheat and a liar and stormed out."

Garcia had started typing as soon as Ben got the name. "Pieter Van Rensburg, CEO of Black Raven Security, major huge defense contractor, under Congressional investigation, headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa and Seattle, Washington."

"I think we have a winner." Rossi said.

"Yeah, but one thing doesn't add." Morgan said. "Reid wasn't lying about his sexuality. Someone with those kind of connections would be able to look into the FBI culture and clear up that rumor."

The Hammer of Knowing hit home and Emily felt herself die inside. "Yes, but by the time he realized that he had something else." She looked up at them. Oh god, little brother. "Doyle. He must have shared his intel with Mandarin who would have included it in the package. Doyle had been following Reid around just like we've been for the past few days." Oh you do not deserve this.

She watched the same Hammer of Knowing hit Morgan, and she watched as he turned and kicked a chair across the room.

T +58 hours

Corporate Headquarters of Black Raven Security

Seattle, WA

Spencer

He waited for some endless amount of time. They had pulled a conference table into the center of the large, unfinished room, and he sat there while Baldy and GreyHair stood behind him. Thankfully he was able to sit and take the pressure off his knee.

The hell of it was, with his soft pants and silk robe, Pieter had clearly just come from his bed. Spencer decided to believe he had been sleeping for now, the better to think clearly and not be overwhelmed with fury at the man. "Ah, Dr. Reid. So nice to see you again." Pieter said expansively. "I'm sorry I wasn't able to sit down with you earlier, I've been answering to a raft of Congressional people. They have kept me far too busy to welcome you as I had planned."

This is the true UnSub here, Spencer thought, be careful. Collect as much information as you can. Hopefully no one will hit me if I talk. "I wish I could say the same. So, why have you brought me here?"

"We never finished our last discussion at Court. You avoided the issue by having Paul toss me out on my ear. Well done, by the way, very well done."

"Our discussion?"

"Yes. About your fooling everyone into thinking you're one of the best Knights in the club, the best man there. We both know that's bullshite. And I do not like to be fooled. I don't mind watching as others are fooled, but I don't like it myself."

"I'm not entirely certain how I've been fooling everyone. I'm not homosexual and I'm not a prostitute."

"No, but you are a liar." Pieter had yet to sit down, GreyHair had brought him coffee that smelled impossibly sweet, and now Pieter was pacing a bit at the head of the table. "See, the whole sexuality thing was my mistake, I admit it. I was distracted by that little whore in there. I figured if there was one whore hiding in the ranks there might be two, and I figured since you didn't desire any of the ladies you must desire the gentlemen. But I was wrong, my mistake. A man can admit his mistakes. However, thanks to Mr. Doyle's tireless work I found out that you don't desire the ladies because you're too distracted by your desires for something else."

With that Pieter put his hand in his pocket, pulled out a small object and slid it down the table to Spencer's hand. Spencer didn't have to look, he knew exactly what Pieter was going to say, as the anger and fear turned in his gut.

"Junkie."

Chapter Text

Chapter 20

T +58 hours

Corporate Headquarters of Black Raven Security

Seattle, WA

Spencer

Damn it, Spencer thought. "All right, I admit it. I have a problem." He slid the small bottle back down the table to Pieter without looking. He didn't have to, he knew what it was.

"Oh, that's not good enough." Pieter said. We've already determined that you have trouble with honesty. Now I'm afraid I'm going to need proof." He nodded to GreyHair, who had come over with an actual, honest-to-God tray with alcohol pads, a length of rubberized tape, and a sealed needle.

Spencer was floored. Psychopath, he thought, narcissist and seriously confident bastard. He's used to being in control, and he's not going to like being defied. If there was a way through this that made him happy without giving in I'd take it, but I don't think there's going to be a way to do that. "You expect me to inject myself in front of you?"

Pieter looked up from his coffee. "For starters, yes."

Well, there it was then. "I'm sorry, but that's not going to happen."

"Oh, well if it's a justification for FBI that you need I'm sure that Marko and Joost can assist you with that." He said something just as calmly in Afrikaans to Baldy and GreyHair.

The first blow caught him square in the throat.

Spencer toppled out of the chair, hard on to the concrete. He tried to pull himself into a ball again, even as the kicks and punches caught him in the stomach, ribs, and groin. The pain was deeper now, as trauma lay down upon trauma. "Just let us know when you're ready, Doctor." Pieter called out over the rain of blows. Help, Spencer thought, someone help. They can come through those doors right now and save us both. Please. Morgan. Emily. Help. Help.

He was not saved by the team, not yet, but by the bell. Specifically by Pieter's phone, "Oh, too bad, the Senator is here early. I'm afraid we're going to have to cut this short Doctor." He said. "I have business to attend to."

Spencer was absurdly grateful to the Senior Senator from Washington when the beating stopped and he was dragged away.


He was dropped onto the mattress in his cell like the proverbial sack of potatoes. For a long moment all he could do was lie there and breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

He heard the faint sound of something smacking against the glass.

Then he heard it again.

Stop, he thought, they're going to tie you up all night. I'd go insane knowing that. He lifted his hand and managed to fingerspell I am ok.

He wasn't, of course. His knee was useless again, he could feel it swelling. He rather thought he might have a few cracked ribs under there. His abdomen ached brightly along with his head. But what most concerned him was his throat. That first blow that swept him out of his chair had caught him square in the voice box, and now it hurt in a bright, raw sort of way. He gently felt around his Adam's apple, and noticed that it was swelling. Please don't, he thought, not all the way. I won't be able to breathe. I don't want to choke to death alone in this cell.

He lay there, breathing carefully, until he decided that it had swollen as much as it was likely to. If I don't use it, he thought, if I don't speak it won't get any worse. He rolled over, coughed from the effort, shuddered against the sudden burn, spat blood on the floor, and finally managed to sit up and confront Sara's tear stained, worried face. I'm all right, I'm all right. He signed to her.

I am so sorry Spencer. I hoped they wouldn't…

They didn't. He stopped her. They didn't rape me. They just pounded on me a while. He managed a faint smile. It's not like it's never happened before.

Thank God. He watched her shoulders sag in relief. I just wish I knew why.

He can't handle not being the best man in the room, can't handle rejection. He's made himself believe we lied to everyone at Court. He thinks that makes him the better man. The better Knight. He looked at her, not even wanting to bring it up. I'm guessing I know what he thinks you lied about.

He could see her still weeping from here, would give anything to be able to put her head on his shoulder and wipe those tears away. I turned down his Offer. I thought there was something not right about him, he seemed too cold and too crude and besides, he doesn't know how to sign. He wasn't what I wanted.

What did you want? Do you want? Maybe I can distract those tears, Spencer thought.

Someone I could talk to. She replied with a gentle smile as she swiped at her cheeks, Someone brave and strong and noble who would slow down and talk with me and savor the beauty in life; someone I could help find a little peace from that harsh world out there. Clearly, that's not Pieter. He must have had his men following me or something. A few weeks later my brother and a couple of his men were passing through DC and I let them sleep in my spare room and on my couch. It was nothing, I just wanted to spend time with my brother, but Pieter decided I was working as a prostitute. I brought the matter to Paul and the next thing I know I'm here. I don't know what happened, but…

He was able to confirm his suspicions in his own mind based on a cultural belief. Spencer said, stopping her. It's perfectly natural, you know. A woman's body is supposed to work that way. Any…true Knight would want just the opposite of what he does, for his Lady's pleasure. I swear. He managed that small smile again. Trust me on this. I may be somewhat particular, but I'm neither gay nor a virgin, regardless of what anyone says.

Is that what he thinks you lied about?

Not anymore. Spencer took a deep, slow breath. A few years ago we went out on this case, involving a man named Tobias Hankel…

T +65 hours

Federal Building

Seattle, WA

Emily

They had all caught some sleep on the plane, getting here while Garcia worked her fingers off back home. By the time they arrived they had a neat file on Van Rensburg to work with. They even had security camera footage from inside the building thanks to Black Raven being a government contractor and JJ having connections all around. On the night Spencer arrived they had seen a van pull into the underground garage, a man get out speaking on his cell phone, and then the camera went to static. So did the camera in the main elevator. "They were transferring him." Rossi had surmised.

"And the cameras haven't cut out since." Garcia said.

"So he's still up there." Hotch noted at the time.

Now they were here and had run into the one problem that none of them were quite certain how to overcome. They knew Spencer was up there, but they didn't have proof. There was no hard proof that Van Rensburg was involved at all.

At least not enough for a warrant.

Emily stood on the top of the FBI building near the helipad and stared at the skyscraper all of three blocks away. She heard footsteps coming up behind her, didn't have to turn to see who it was. "A Lady and a Knight, trapped in a tower by a Black Prince." She said. "You know, in all the storybooks the heroes were never stopped by the paperwork."

"Everything had to be hand copied back then." Ben replied. "There was less of a thirst for everything in triplicate." He came up behind her, quietly, a little too close. "I've been told we're all going to a nearby hotel for the night, we're going to try the judge again in the morning."

Emily had insisted he accompany them, claiming that she didn't trust anyone else against Mandarin. It wasn't just that she was beginning to enjoy his company, to take comfort in having him there. "I know. It's just…" She turned and looked back at the tower. Even from here she could see lights on in the penthouse. "He's right there. I could walk down there and bring him home. But I can't so he has to go through another night of…" She didn't think she could finish.

"Do you really think it's that bad?" Ben asked.

Emily nodded. "I asked Garcia to look it up, off the record. Dilaudid clears the body quickly. Depending on the dose withdrawal symptoms peak between fourteen and twenty hours, and are gone after thirty-six."

"You think that's what Pieter is doing to him?"

"What better way to prove a junkie than to make him beg for a fix. He could easily be on his second round of withdrawal right about now. Without medical care that's hard on the heart." Emily heard her voice break on that last word and turned back to the tower. Don't you die on me Spencer, don't you dare die.

Ben took one step closer and put his hands on her shoulders. "You know, it's clear that everyone is very upset by all this, but it seems to be hitting you more." He pointed out, gently.

"This is all my fault." Emily finally admitted what had been going around in the back of her mind this entire time. "I led Doyle right to them. And he went after my…" The tears started falling, and for a moment she couldn't finish.

"Your?" Ben prompted gently.

"My baby brother," she said when the words could come out. "I always wanted one." She told him about her parents, Heidi and Mike, what she had told Doyle, what happened when she died, what Doyle said when they arrested him. "Now he's all of three blocks away and he could be dying on me and I can't even say good-by. Now I know exactly what I did to him and I cannot believe I hurt him this way." She sobbed at the end.

"Now, now M'lady, don't fret." Ben pulled her into his arms, and let her sob into his shirt. "I know Sir Spencer, he's a strong fellow, and he'll survive. We'll get him home and the Lady Sara with him. And then you can, what's traditional for little brothers, take him for ice cream?"

Even through her pain the archaic language almost made her smile. "I can't. He's lactose intolerant."

She felt Ben chuckle under her cheek. "Well, we'll find something, as soon as we get him home,"

T +65 hours

Corporate Headquarters of Black Raven Security

Seattle, WA

Spencer

You're not a junkie you know. Sara sighed a little. I know the 12-step programs say once an addict always an addict, but from what you've told me you're just not.

Spencer shook his head. I am. I kept using after it happened. Not often, but even once was enough. I couldn't find any other way to, I don't know, stop time. Shut my head down long enough to rest. Stop absorbing input long enough to process. He'd told her about what happened after, about empathizing too much with the victims, about nearly giving in when faced with the destruction of New Orleans, about Gideon leaving, about the kid having his head blown off in front of him in Chula Vista, about Owen Savage and how he tried to defend his lady love. And about his big sister Emily, how she protected him from Benjamin Cyrus, how she'd "died" to protect them from Doyle, how she might still be alive. How it was all so big and so messy and so lodged in his brain and never going to be forgotten. I managed to get off the drugs on my own for a while, when I realized I was letting everyone down, when I realized what it was doing to me, but then after Vaughn killed Ryan I realized I couldn't do it alone anymore. So I started going to meetings. They help with not going back to it, but nothing helps with the original problem. I think this is the first time I think I've ever been able to slow down my head on my own.

Why?

Because I'm talking to you, he thought, because of you or for you, either way it's good. But he just shrugged and didn't answer.

So what do you think he's going to do now? She asked.

I'm not sure. Spencer admitted. He wants me to shoot up in front of him, which is just not going to happen. Unless he changes the game somehow, in which case I don't know what I'll have to do.

I do. Sara replied. Maybe it's because you're my Knight in Shining Armor, but I believe in you.

He was about to say something when the outer door opened again.

This time they came for him.

Chapter Text

Chapter 21

T + 65 hours

Corporate Headquarters of Black Raven Security

Seattle, WA

Spencer

They dropped him into the same chair, this time under harsh spotlights due to it being night out there. Spencer could see the Seattle skyline through the windows. He thought he could even see the Federal Building from where he sat, safe haven so close and so far away.

"I've had some research done, Doctor Reid, and I've finally had a chance to take a look at it." Pieter said. "Apparently there's a much easier way of dealing with this than we had planned." He smiled and nodded at Baldy and GreyHair, "I didn't realize one reached withdrawal from this particular medication so quickly."

Before he could react Baldy got him into a head lock, his forearm pressing down against his already wounded larynx. He flailed at that heavy, solid arm but to no avail. If I fight him, Spencer thought, it will only make it worse. Then I might not be able to breathe at all, and as it is Dilaudid suppresses your breathing. I don't want to die here. I don't want to die. I don't want to die.

So all he could do is plead in a hoarse whisper as GreyHair wrapped the tourniquet around his bicep, grabbed his arm and forced it to the table, pinning it there as he slid the needle home. "You see, Doctor," Pieter remarked as he looked on, "A normal, healthy man, a true Knight, would wake up in a few hours feeling refreshed and well rested. Something tells me for you it will be a different story."

No, Spencer thought, that's simple biology. That has nothing to do with morality or will. What you do in response….but then the entire world floated away from him.

They left him there on the cold, concrete floor while the drugs took hold. He looked out toward the Federal Building and thought that hope and haven never felt so far away.


For the first four hours Spencer did nothing but breathe.

He didn't hurt anywhere, more or less, which might have been a good thing. He felt peaceful and calm and sleepy, as if he had escaped from every worry, every care. Of course that was also the problem. When he drifted off his breathing would slow until sooner or later his brain kicked into emergency override and he would draw a deep, sharp breath. Then his cracked ribs would scream and for a moment he would panic as he realized that his throat was badly swollen and he almost couldn't get the air in fast enough.

Until that happened, he would doze or drowse or become unconscious, while looking up at the harsh spotlights in the ceiling. He would wake at times to find Baldy or GreyHair checking up on him; feel their cool hands on his throat, taking his pulse, or on his chest, checking that he was, in fact, still breathing. At one point they rolled him face down over a drain, when they might have thought something was going to come up, but it didn't. At one point he thought he felt someone's hand on his groin, opened his eyes and saw GreyHair above him, but then he drifted back off and decided not to think about that any longer.

Then he heard a sound.
A cat, crying.
Maybe a seagull.
No, a baby. Henry, when he was angry about a lost toy.

What was that?

Functionally mute, some distant part of his mind reminded him. Means she lost her hearing before she learned to speak. She chooses not to, but her vocal cords still worked. That's Sara, crying. He's raping her.

He flailed around, clawed at the concrete trying to get to her, to try to save her, before he blacked out again.


The end of the active high and the beginning of withdrawal came first with a chill. His skin pricked goose bumps all over his torso and he shivered into the concrete. Then a rolling cramp began in the already badly bruised muscles of his abdomen. He let out a groan, then, without being able to stop it, even though it tore at his throat. That drew the other men to him. Pieter spoke to the others in Afrikaner, and they picked him up and brought him back to his cell.

After the men left Spencer hauled himself to a sitting position despite the pain and dizziness in his head. As he expected Sara was there, watching him, her lovely face etched with worry. I'm all right. It didn't kill me.

What did he do?

Had those two shoot me up. He's hoping I'll crack rather than go through withdrawal.

Will you? She asked.

I don't know. He answered honestly. The effects include anxiety, depression, muscle cramps, muscle and bone aches, runny eyes, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, trembling and fever. Also involuntary leg kicks and chills that lead to severe goose bumps, which is where they get the phrases "kicking the habit" and "going cold turkey." In addition you itch, everywhere, constantly. It feels like ants crawling under your skin. And all that on top of a few good beatings and a night of torture, he thought. No wonder I feel like hell already.

And all this is going to happen to you?

Spencer nodded. It's been about four hours, given the dose they gave me. It should peak in about ten to fourteen more hours and then be completely over twenty-two hours later. At which point, he thought, I fully expect Pieter to start this cycle again, and again another 36 hours later, and again past that, until I crack or my heart gives out. But I won't tell you that Sara because you need all the hope you have. I heard you crying, he said. I am so sorry.

Her eyes filled with tears. He's not trying to kill me. I just can't control it, not when it's like that. I can't help but cry. I'm sorry.

Spencer shook his head, and almost wished he hadn't. It was coming on quickly this time; worse this time. Don't be sorry, this is all on him. I tried to get to you, really I did.

She smiled through her tears. It's enough that you tried.

He was going to say something else, but then his whole body tightened and began to shake on him. I'll try to keep talking as best I can.

Her eyes were so worried. I wish I was over there so I could hold you.

He smiled. You'd look after a junkie going cold turkey? This isn't going to be fun.

I'd look after my Knight. I'd look after you.

With the part of his mind still functioning he considered this. Then he considered it with his heart. It's enough to know that.

And then the sickness took him away for a while.

T +75 hours

FBI building

Seattle, WA

Emily.

"No, you can't." Emily shook her head as her stomach sank through the floor. "Rossi, that's insane."

"Do you have a better idea?" Rossi asked her, asked everyone.

"You want me to contact Mandarin, make her a deal to deliver Ben to Van Rensburg with a wire on so he can see if he sees Reid up there, so we have an excuse to go in." Emily was floored by this. "What if he's not up there? What if Ben's kept away from him? What if the wire doesn't work?"

"Emily." Ben said, almost too calmly. "I'm willing to try."

"No. You have no training in how to deal with an unsub. Van Rensburg will rip you apart."

"Back to my original question, what other options do we have?" Rossi said. "It might be off the record, but we are dealing with a deadline here."

Emily knew that. She also knew that Reid landed in Van Rensburg's clutches twelve hours after he was taken, roughly. From that point on every thirty-six hours could have been a cycle of drugging and withdrawal, every time putting more and more strain on his heart. They had to assume they were well into the second cycle. They didn't think he could survive a third. But did they have to put Ben at risk too? But it was Spencer…"All right, we'll do it."

She pulled out her phone, stared at it as people began to bustle around her. She knew some old contacts; it wouldn't take her long to get a hold of the slaver. But damn it…. "Please, just tell me you're not doing this to impress me, or because Van Rensburg called you a coward."

The meeting had broken up. Ben came over and sat against the table beside her. "I'm not a coward, no matter what Van Rensburg thinks. And if what I have done with my life doesn't impress you a single act of courage is not going to make up for that after." He said.

She held up a finger as she left a message with her first contact. "So you never told us why Van Rensburg thinks you're a cheat."

"Because I threw the Olympics," Ben said, calmly.

That stunned her. On autopilot she left a message with her second contact, and then turned to him in shock. "What?" Impossible. The Olympics would be the peak of any athlete's career. There was no way he would deliberately lose. But he was nodding a confirmation. "Why?"

"Le mort jeune."

"Sardoz," Emily remembered; the one who won silver. The one who's sister, Dora, had had an affair…. "Please don't tell me you lost so Dora's brother could win."

"Yep," he nodded, then put a hand on her elbow at the look on her face. "Not to impress her, not like that. I went up against her brother in the final bout before the medal round. The way it was playing out, whichever of us won was going home with either a gold or a silver, the loser would go home with bronze or nothing. Viktor had been fighting oddly the entire games, too wired, too aggressive. I kept pestering him and Dora to tell me what was going on. Finally Dora told me. He had cancer. And he wasn't treating it because if the IOC knew they would have kicked him out of the games. So when I went up against him I threw the bout. I flinched away from him, twice. That way he had a shot at the top. Viktor found out three weeks after the games that it was terminal. He chose to go out quick and easy and on top, and I can't say that I blame him."

"Deliberately losing doesn't sound like cheating."

"Tell that to the guys in Vegas. I was the favorite. Anyone who wagered on Sardoz made a fortune. But I didn't, I went home with nothing but the rest of my life. It was enough."

"And now you're going to risk that life to help another friend?"

"Mostly, yes."

Emily looked at him a moment as she dialed the third number, "Mostly?"

He shrugged, smiled, leaned over to speak into her ear before he moved away. "I also want to bring your brother home."

T + 75 hours

Corporate Headquarters of Black Raven Security

Seattle, WA

Spencer

He had no idea how long it had been since he'd been drugged. All he knew was that he really, deeply, truly wanted to be drugged again.

The last time he got this sick he was in Gideon's cabin, in a comfortable bed. And Ethan was there, having flown up to change cool cloths and sick buckets, bring him Gatorade and water, and tell ribald stories of drowned New Orleans to distract him from his misery. Now it was nothing but him and a hole in the floor and endless miserable hell. Every muscle was in knots, every bone hurt, his legs kept kicking in a vicious dance of agony, he'd emptied himself from both ends until there was nothing left to give and then kept trying. He was shaking with either cold or fever, impossible to tell which. And worse of all was the deep certainty that they were never going to come for him, that he was going to die here. Made all the worse by the swelling in his throat that forced him to pull in every breath.

But then he would look over to the other cell and see Sara's frightened, worried face, all for him and not for herself. And he would remember those anguished cries. She's endured that hell for so long, he thought, I can make it another day. Just another day, I know they'll come for us, I know they'll come.

At one point there was another sound, grating against aggravated nerves. Baldy and GreyHair appeared, opened the door, reached down and pulled on him. The next thing he knew he had been deposited on that concrete platform and Pieter was there in front of him. "My goodness, Doctor," he said, with all mock sincerity. "You're filthy."

He was not, was not, going to face Pieter lying down. Slowly, painfully he levered himself to his knees. He debated standing, realized he'd just fall over, but at least he was not lying down.

"I'll make all this better." Pieter promised. "I'll take all the pain away. I'll give you a comfortable bed, clean clothing, the finest cuisine, whatever you want." He held up the little bottle in his hand. "Just beg like the junkie you are."

For a long moment, Spencer Reid was the most tempted he had ever been in his life. A chance to end the pain, end the worry, a chance at comfort and care. Everything I ever wanted, he thought, as I recall it feels a lot like love.

But there was one thing he wanted more.

He looked at Pieter and smiled as he pictured himself picking up a sword and facing the dragon head on. It came out as a hoarse whisper, but it was still quite clear.

"Go to hell."

Chapter Text

Chapter 22

T + 75 hours

International Zone

SeaTac Airport

Seattle, WA

Emily

It was a wise choice on Mandarin's part. There was an area of the airport where US laws did not apply, a secure area before customs. To even meet to discuss the deal she insisted that her plane be allowed to park there, to refuel and re-crew, and to be allowed to leave if she didn't accept. Now she and Rossi were walking down the very empty concourse into that zone. "Ni hao, Kenda. You know, you're not allowed to smoke in here." She said to the slender, androgynous woman in the finely tailored men's suit sitting completely alone.

"Ni hao Lauren. Given how badly you have want of me I am willing to break a rule." Mandarin said as she blew a stream of smoke from her cheroot toward the ceiling.

"You know those things will give you cancer." Rossi commented.

Mandarin smiled. "I do not expect to live that long. So, what is it you want of me, hm?"

"You have a contract for Ben Marel." Emily told her. "Pieter Van Rensburg put it out on him."

"And you are particularly cozy with Marel, are you not Lauren." Mandarin smiled. "I'm sorry, it's Agent something now."

Emily didn't answer that. "We want to buy out your contract on Marel."

"Why? You already have him." It was a pointless question and they all knew it.

"We want you to turn him over to Van Rensburg as planned." Rossi told her, taking the prompt. "But we want to package him for delivery."

Mandarin smiled the smile of a cat that has caught the mouse, and gestured with her cheroot. "You want him to go in with a wire. You want to catch Van Rensburg with your Dr. Reid."

"We'll make it worth your while." Emily told her.

Mandarin chuckled over that. "You already have Interpol riding me. You do not have the budget to cover the bribes I'll have to make in the coming months. No, I want one thing from you. How did you get on my ass that quickly, hm? It has been three days; no other agency has ever caught up with me like this before."

Emily smiled. "Help us and I'll tell you."

Mandarin grinned in return, "Agreed."

T + 75 hours

Corporate Headquarters of Black Raven Security

Seattle, WA

Spencer

Pieter just chuckled, "Perhaps a bit later. It has only been what, eight hours since your last injection? The symptoms are supposed to peek at eighteen. In another ten hours perhaps you will be more willing to face your true nature." With that he nodded to Baldy and GreyHair to take him back to his cell.

As per usual they dropped him onto his mattress like old laundry. As soon as they were gone he turned to face Sara. What happened? She asked him

He offered me everything, bed, food, all of it. He wanted me to ask him for more drugs, to begSpencer managed a smile somehow. Let me give you this, please. I told him to go to hell.

She grinned at him, a smile that lit up the room. I knew you would. Don't ever let anyone tell you you're not brave and strong.

Just then a shadow moved across the floor.

They both noticed. What was that? She asked

I don't know, he replied.

A few moments later Pieter strode into the small hallway, pulling on some of those blue gloves. Without a word he had Baldy open Sara's cell, grabbed her, threw her against the wall behind her, and put his hand between her legs. Spencer felt his vision going white. He wanted to tell Pieter to leave her the hell alone, God damn it, but all that came out was a harsh croaking sound. I don't have much voice left, he thought as Pieter dumped her back on her bed, and if I try to talk my throat may close completely. He watched as she looked from him to the door and back, her eyes wide and confused and frightened before she covered her face in shame.

A moment later she stood and banged on the glass as Baldy and GreyHair came for him.

T +77 hours

Security Center

SeaTac Airport

Seattle, WA

Emily

"Here's what's going to happen." Hotch said to the assembled group. "In approximately one hour Mr. Marel and Agent Rossi are going to board Ms. Mandarin's plane. Our pilots are going to fly out in a loop and then land on schedule, using the runway expected for a flight arriving from DC. Ms. Mandarin is going to transfer Mr. Marel to Van Rensburg's men in the usual manner. We will then follow their van to the next location. If all goes accordingly he will be taken to the basement garage of the Black Raven Security building downtown. Our technical analyst has used the DOD pass codes to access their security system, so we will be able to view his progress through the building until he reaches the top floor. Once there we hope he'll be able to make contact with Dr. Reid, at which point our insertion team, lead by myself and Agents Morgan and Prentiss will go in immediately. If we don't hear from him in…."

Emily tuned out the rest of the briefing, given that she had helped set up most of it. Instead she looked over at Ben, who was sitting there looking, well, more than a little nervous. "You okay?" She asked quietly.

"No," he admitted. "You people deal with these monsters all the time. This is all new to me."

"You're going to be fine." She said as she pulled her hair back, started getting ready to get into her radio gear, her vest. "We're going to be watching you the entire time; I won't let anything happen to you."

"You won't?" He looked over with a tip of his head and a soft, gentle smile that went straight to her heart.

"No I…" That was a slip of the tongue. Wasn't it? Why do I want to keep him and…? "I won't." She smiled at him. "Just don't actually fight him. Don't antagonize him before we can get up there."

"Yes, M'lady," he replied, and then he gave her a small bow and went off in response to Morgan's hail.

She watched him walk across the room, and had to stifle an urge to fall to pieces. Oh please, she begged a God she'd stopped believing in long ago. I can't lose them both.

T + 77 hours

Corporate Headquarters of Black Raven Security

Seattle, WA

Spencer

Breathe.
Breathe.
Breathe.

Moments after Pieter had left the prison Baldy and GreyHair had come back for Spencer. They had dragged him out to the main room, pulled him over a drain in the floor, kicked at him until he was down in that horrid squat again, and chained his hands around a large support beam behind him. The pain of the position combined with the pain of the withdrawal was beginning to erode his sanity. His muscles kept cramping, his joints were swelling again, and his very bones ached. There wasn't anything that didn't hurt. He had already fouled himself uncontrollably and they had turned a hose on him in response, so he was shivering in the large, cool space. And his legs wanted to kick, kick, kick. They finally had and he had lost his balance and landed on his ass, causing a pain that almost made him scream as his shoulder dislocated. The only thing that kept him from screaming was knowing, in his heart and in his bones, that if he screamed his throat would close for good and he would die here. He had to cling to the post behind him, holding on tight to keep his torso up, to even give his chest enough room to expand.

He caught sight of movement, looked up in time to see Pieter come out. He had clearly recently dressed, was fiddling with his cufflinks as he sat on the edge of that small, concrete platform and looked at Spencer. "I must say that Ms. Mandarin is worth every exorbitant penny. In another hour you're going to be joined by an old friend of yours, a Maestro Marel. He's a cheater, you know, cheated at the Olympic Games. No one else knows about this, of course, and so he is the other top knight in that little group. I'm not entirely certain how I'll go about having him show off his cheating ways to me yet, but I will sort it. Of course, I didn't realize he wasn't the only cheater in that group of yours."

Spencer looked up as Baldy and GreyHair came around the corner, half dragging Sara by the elbows. They threw her down on the platform beside Pieter, and the look in her eyes as she spotted him nearly broke his heart. I love you, he managed to mouth to her, and got her nod in reply before Pieter finished with his cuffs and knotted his fist in her hair.

"There's going to be ample space because the lovely Lady Sara here is going to be vacating her bedroom. See, I never expected you two to violate Capellanus' third law; Thou shalt not knowingly strive to break up a correct love affair that someone else is engaged in. But there you were, Doctor, flirting madly and this little whore was responding to you. If that's the way she wants to be, so be it. I'll give her a chance to ply her harlot's ways all she likes; I am a generous man after all. She is going to be taken to the airport where she will be put on one of my private jets with about a dozen of my men whom she will be allowed to entertain during the trip, and then when they land in Johannesburg she will be taken to my training compound where she will be given a bed in the corporate brothel. Granted between the dysentery, the malaria and having to take on twenty or thirty men a day I don't know how long she will be there, but I'm quite certain she will enjoy her stay."

Breathe, Spencer thought, just breathe. I can always go find her. I will go find her. But I have to live. Breathe.

"Now this is the part," Pieter said, with a nod to Baldy and GreyHair to hold on to Sara, "Where a Knight would say something like 'I will find you and save you', or 'you will always be a lady, no matter what they do' or he would express his love, or something of that sort. However, neither of you truly deserve such a loving, touching scene straight out of the storybooks, so that is not going to happen today."

Spencer could only watch helplessly as they dragged confused and frightened Sara away.

Chapter Text

Chapter 23

T +78 hours

Global 8000 business jet

Northwestern US air space

Ben

It was the movement in the doorway that caught his eye. Benjamin turned from the mirror to watch as Maestro Dagan spoke to his wife. He was too far away to hear the conversation, and that was rude anyway, but he watched.

Benjamin always watched the older man and tried to copy him. Not only was it good training, but he was the closest thing he had to a father, really. Ever since the divorce Dad just wasn't around that much. He was out with Karen most of the time. And Mom was always upset about it, usually on the phone with one of his aunts until late in the night. But Maestro was always happy and content, even when Mrs. Dagan stopped by; maybe especially when Mrs. Dagan stopped by.

So now he watched as Maestro spoke to his wife and then gave her a small bow before she left. Now that was interesting, wasn't it? "Maestro," he asked politely, for one should always be most polite on the salon floor, "Why did you bow to Mrs. Dagan like that?"

"It is an expression of my respect for her as a Lady." Maestro replied. "For I follow the rules of chivalry whenever I can.

"Chivalry?" Benjamin asked.

"What, you become a student of the blade and no one has taught you the ways of Knighthood?" His teacher seemed shocked. "Come here then, stop your practice. This is most important."

Well if Maestro was willing to have him interrupt training for it then it had to be Most Important. Benjamin set aside his epee and mask and went to the table, climbing up on one of stools that were far too tall for an eight year old. He was unbearably curious about this new thing to learn.


Ben smiled a little as he watched the land rushing up to meet him. He hadn't thought of Maestro Dagan and his wife in years. He had been his first fencing coach, back when he was that young and showing so much promise. And he had introduced him to the ways of chivalry and the desire to be a true Knight. Which had led him here, in an airplane owned by an international slaver, about to land and be turned over to a psychopath, all to save a brother and a Lady, because it was the correct thing for a Knight to do.

And maybe to make another Lady smile.

He looked up and around as the wheels touched down. "Are you ready?" Agent Rossi asked him. The older man had come along, or so he had heard, to make certain Mandarin didn't decide to head out for Hong Kong with Ben in tow.

"I rather have to be, don't I?" Ben asked him rhetorically. He was bloody terrified, he admitted that to himself. For all that he practiced a martial art, he had been rather sheltered, he realized. He had never really dealt with criminals, with killers, with this sort of thing. He had always respected Spence for doing that, for showing true courage. But now it was his time and he must take up the sword. He stood as the plane began to slowly taxi to the hangar. "How do we do this?" He asked, holding his wrists out to Agent Rossi.

Mandarin gave him a catlike smile. "Turn around." She suggested helpfully from her seat.

He turned around and felt Agent Rossi's warm hands close the cold cuffs around his wrists. He hadn't realized just how hard they would be, how restraining, how they would pull on the shoulders. I must, he thought, I must.

"Last check Garcia." Agent Rossi spoke out once he was done and could open his phone.

"Loud and clear," she replied. "We are hot."

"Remember, we're with you the entire way." Agent Rossi said, and then gently pushed him toward the brace of large Asian men at the front of the plane. "Ms. Mandarin, it's up to you."

The smile had never left her face. "Shen Shen Agent Rossi," she turned to her men and spoke a few words in that language.

Ben felt himself grabbed by the men. As the door just started to open one of them pulled a bag over his head. In the blackness he felt himself dragged down the steps, over a little ways, and then pushed into the back of a vehicle. He lay there, listening to his heartbeat, trying to control his breathing. They're with me, he thought, they're right behind.

He felt himself lifted up by the shoulders and the bag removed. Two men were looking at him, one bald, one with short, grey hair. "Shh." The bald one said as he put his finger to his lips. Ben just nodded his agreement. Like I could manage to say anything, he thought.

They put the bag back, and he felt the van drive away.

T + 78 hours

Corporate Headquarters of Black Raven Security

Seattle, WA

Emily

She sat in the back of one of the SWAT team trucks and watched the monitor with Morgan. This has to work, she thought, this has to work. I have done so many things, but I do not deserve to lose my baby brother and my…my…

"Okay, here we go." Garcia said.

They watched the van pull into the garage and a large, bald man in a business suit climb out. He held up his phone and after a moment the camera went to static. A second later and it came back as Garcia overrode their system. "We're in." They heard her murmur.

Emily watched as the bald man and another man pulled Ben out of the back of the van. Hooded, cuffed, helpless he was led over to an elevator and they started going up. Please, Emily thought, oh please.

Then the doors opened and they stepped out of view.

Ben

He waited as they went through some kind of elaborate security entrance. Then the two men pulled the hood off and Ben could see a large, nearly unfinished concrete room. But he didn't take in much more, his gaze settled on a ball of human misery curled up at the base of one of the support pillars.

"I'll be damned; she did get him away from the FBI. Undo the Maestro's cuffs." A familiar man in a fine suit said. "We might as well begin now."

As soon as his hands were free Ben broke loose and ran to his friend. "Spence! Come on!" He said, shaking him, trying to get him to respond somehow. You have to say something. They have to hear you. "Spence, come on, say something. Say something!"

Spencer

He had been hazing in and out of consciousness. It won't be long, he thought, either I will win or fail her quite soon. But I will try to the end. With my last breath I will try.

"Spence, come on, say something. Say something!"

Spencer opened his eyes at the wave of pain and saw Ben, of all people, shaking him. "Say something." Ben kept saying. "Say something." But why the hell did it matter if he….

FBI, Pieter had just said FBI. One shot he thought as the Hammer of Knowing whacked him, one shot. "Garcia," he managed to choke out in a harsh near-whisper. "Garcia, Pieter's plane is going to Johannesburg. You have to stop that plane, Garcia. Stop the plane. Please stop the plane. Stop the plane. Please. You have to…you have…" He coughed once, twice, felt the blood come. And felt that last bit of air….

T + 78 hours

BAU Headquarters

Quantico, VA

Garcia

Voice recognition didn't fail her, even with him sounding so bad. A second after Reid started talking they had a match. "It's him!" She called out to the entire team. "It's him! It's so him!"

But even as she did that she was working her way into the airport computer. Stop the plane he said. And she was damned well going to stop that plane for him.

T + 78 hours

Corporate Headquarters of Black Raven Security

Seattle, WA

Emily

"It's him! It's him! It's so him!" Garcia called out to them

"Go!" was Hotch's only reply.

There was a special squad to actually breech security and enter the building. She was right behind. I'm coming little brother, she thought; just hang on a few minutes more.

Ben

"Get up, Maestro." Pieter said, calling his attention away from Spence. Ben slowly stood straight and turned to face the man who had caused them all so much misery. "You know why you're here?"

"Because you think I cheated at the Olympics." Ben shrugged. "I'll save you the trouble; I threw the match against Viktor Sardoz. Is that what you wanted to hear?" He began slowly pacing away from Spence, wanting to keep Pieter's attention off his friend.

"Not exactly," Pieter replied as he turned to face him. "See, I know you're a liar, so how can I trust what you say?"

"All right, so how do you intend to prove it? Do you want to fight me?" Ben asked.

"That's the idea." Pieter grinned, "Unless you plan to invoke a higher power that will keep you from fighting again."

Ben nodded. "I'm afraid that's exactly what I'm going to do. Sorry."

Pieter chuckled. "It's just you, me and the junkie here. What higher power are you going to invoke? The IOC? You're precious little club?"

"My Lady," Ben said. "She told me not to fight you, and a true Knight must always do what his Lady commands."

"And why would your Lady not want you to fight me?" Pieter sneered.

"Because she wants to do it herself," said a voice right behind them.

Ben turned solely and took in a most amazing sight. Fire and fury, in her armor and with that assault rifle in her sure, solid hands, a dark angel, so utterly beautiful. "Pieter Van Rensburg you're under arrest for the assault and kidnapping of a Federal agent." She said with a vicious, victorious smile. And with it he felt his heart utterly lost.

Now he understood Maestro Dagan.

Ben watched as the agents swarmed over Van Rensburg and his helpers and for the moment just stayed out of M'Lady Dame's way. And wondered if it was really over.

Chapter Text

Chapter 24

T + 79 hours

Corporate Headquarters of Black Raven Security

Seattle, WA

Emily

Even before the local agents had takenVan Rensburg away she was turning her attention to the figure at the base of the pillar. "Spencer!" She called to him crouching down on one side as Ben took the other. "Spencer!"

Something was clearly horrifically wrong. He felt fever hot under her hands, was smudged with bruises of different ages, his shoulders were at an unnatural angle, his legs looked swollen to fill out the loose pants he wore, and as she touched him he broke out in a violent bout of shivering. But his breathing was the worst, he sounded like he was choking, fighting for each breath, his lips starting to turn blue. "Stop the plane." He choked out. "Stop the plane….please stop the plane…."

"MEDIC!" She screamed to everyone and no one. Dear God, someone come help, please.

Morgan and Hotch rushed over. Morgan took one look and went around behind the pillar to unlock those cuffs. "Sara Conway's not here." He reported as went to work on those cuffs.

"On the plane….she's on the plane…stop the plane." Spencer gasped out between labored breaths.

"We'll stop it. I promise, we'll stop it. Just shhh now, you're going to be all right, shhh." As soon as he was free Spencer slumped over into her arms, landed with his head on her shoulder, clawed at his own neck out of reflex, coughed hot blood on her skin, and from the sound of it, wasn't getting any air at all. "Oh my God!" She managed to get out just as the medics ran up to them. They took him, then, and someone was pulling her away. She turned and found herself in Ben's arms; swayed there a moment, never taking her eyes off Spencer, before she spoke to Hotch, "The plane?"

He was already on the phone. "Garcia said a Black Raven corporate jet took off from SeaTac ninety minutes ago. It's heading for Johannesburg."

"Sara Conway is on that plane." She said. She watched the medics work as she pulled her phone out, as the Hammer of Knowing whacked her between her eyes. His last breath, she thought. He knew that and… "Garcia. That plane can't get from here to South Africa on one tank of gas. Where's it stopping to refuel?"

"According to the flight plan they are stopping in Frankfurt, Germany." Garcia replied. "They're taking on fuel and a flight crew but no one is scheduled to disembark."

"That's what they think. Thanks Garcia." She rang off and dialed another number, watching as Spencer suddenly relaxed into the gurney, as they shoved something that looked wicked and too long down his throat, as they started pumping air into his lungs. I'll make this right, little brother, she thought, just don't die on me. She looked over at Hotch as her phone worked its magic. "Clive is in Berlin." She told him. "We'll head them off at the pass."

T + 85 hours

Harborview Medical Center

Seattle, WA

Emily

Maybe we just needed this one stroke of luck, Emily thought. Maybe it's the one thing we have, that one of the best trauma centers in the country was just minutes away.

They waited, quietly, taking shifts to go get something to eat, to walk outside, to stretch, something. Rossi and Morgan took turns making coffee runs just to keep moving. JJ and Garcia had come out on the next flight and were now talking quietly. Hotch, as team leader, never left.

Neither did she.
Neither did Ben.

Is this what I put them through, Emily thought, this endless waiting? And now they're going through it again because of me. How are we doing this? How? She looked over at Ben, vaguely remembering him helping her out of her Kevlar armor, gently toweling some of Reid's blood off her neck. He hadn't left in all this time. What do I want in a guy? I want someone who'll accept my inner nerd, who won't leave when the job gets awful and who doesn't have a problem when I have to take charge. He hasn't left in all this time.

Just then a woman in scrubs and a white coat came into the small waiting room. "Dr. Reid?" They all stood up and gathered around her in a small knot. "Who has medical power of attorney?"

"I do." Hotch said. He looked at the assembled team. "We're family."

The doctor nodded. "Well, I have a lot of good news. First off, it looks like he's going to pull through just fine." The loss of tension in the room was palpable. "I did check for cranial trauma as you asked, and based on our scans there's nothing. No hemorrhage, no swelling, no damage we could see. Now that's never a one hundred percent guarantee, but from what we could tell despite a decent black eye there was no brain damage. Also, we didn't find any damage to the neck or spinal column, there's nothing that would indicate current or future paralysis. Also we did not find any indication of sexual assault."

"What about his heart?' Hotch asked.

"At the moment it's good. But he is going through narcotics withdrawal, as you suspected. He's also dehydrated as a result and his electrolytes are off. That can cause heart problems so we plan to keep him in the ICU until those stabilize. In addition he has received multiple blunt force traumas, processing all that out can be hard on the kidneys, so we will be monitoring that as well. He started out healthy, so he should be able to process this without any complications, but we're going to treat him for both problems over the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours."

"You said you had a lot of good news." Rossi pointed out. "That means some bad news."

The doctor nodded. "He did receive a number of injuries. We were able to reduce his shoulder dislocation without any problems, and the swelling in his knee looks to be the result of an aggravation of an old injury, not any new trauma, so once the swelling goes down it should be fine with some therapy. Right now the major problem is the trauma to his larynx. Now due to the blunt force trauma to the larynx and subsequent irritation it has swollen and cut off air flow through his trachea. Because of that we have put in a tracheostomy, but now that that's in place he's breathing well on his own. We expect that to remain in place for two to three weeks until the swelling goes down."

"It sounds like he's going to heal everything up in two or three months." Morgan said.

The doctor nodded. "The only concern I have is for his larynx. It's too swollen right now to make a firm judgment on the amount of trauma there. It shouldn't cause long term problems with breathing, but I don't know about his voice yet."

"Thank you Doctor." Hotch spoke up. "When can we see him?"

The doctor was about to answer, but a nurse came up and told her something…. "Actually we could use your help, he's fighting the sedation." The doctor told them.

"Stubborn." Rossi muttered.

Morgan looked over at Emily. "Come on."

The two of them quickly followed the doctor in there. Emily expected tubes and wires, machines and nurses, none of that shocked her. Neither did the battered body before her. But she was surprised to see him open his eyes and look at her, "Hey handsome, stop hitting on the nurses."

"Yeah, pretty boy." Morgan told him, "We got your back. Now get some rest."

Spencer shook his head. He kept trying to say something, was fighting it just to have his say, but there was a tube in his throat that kept his voice at bay. He kept looking at her desperately, clearly needing to tell or ask or something. Emily gently put a hand on his shoulder and turned to the staff. "Does anyone have some paper?"

"Hang on." Morgan headed for the nurse's station, came back with a pen and a small whiteboard, much to their consternation. "Here," he said as he put them into Reid's hands.

He was shaking so badly he could barely write, but he still managed to get it down. "T H E P L A N E?" Spencer wrote. "J A C K? H E N R Y?"

Damn it, I should have known, Emily thought. She tried to find an unbruised spot to touch him, to try to comfort him as best she could. "Jack and Henry are home and fine." She told him, grateful she could give him some totally good news. "JJ and Hotch are here, they'll be in to tell you themselves in a minute." Now for the hard part, "Spencer, the plane was already in international air space by the time we got to you." She watched something in him die, watched his head roll back and forth on the pillow. "They're stopping in Frankfurt to re-fuel, I've already contacted Interpol, Clive is there now waiting for them, she's not going to get back off the ground." His eyes were starting to get damp on her. "What?"

Spencer picked up the pen and wrote again. "12 M E N O N P L A N E"

"Son of a bitch," Morgan said.

Emily looked at the tears welling in Spencer's eyes; the desire in Morgan's to hit something, someone and the realization of what that meant sunk in. Oh, that's not fair, she thought, he finally finds someone and now this. "I'll make sure they have a medical team on the ground and Clive knows what to expect. It's the best we can do, you know that." She watched Spencer nod. "I will let you know as soon as they have her, I swear. Now just try to get some rest until then, please." She sighed as he finally nodded and closed his eyes.

She and Morgan waited until they had stepped back out into the hallway. "What happens now?' Morgan asked her.

"We leave it up to Clive on that end. He's good; I've trusted him with my life before. But whatever we do," She looked back at the figure finally at rest. "I don't think we should tell him that it's another five hours until they land."


Sometime in that timeless span of waiting Emily's phone rang. Maybe they caught a tailwind, she thought, maybe we got lucky. "Clive?"

"Sadly, no," replied that familiar female voice with the light Asian accent. "The operation went well, Lauren, did it not? I've called for my payment."

Mandarin, "You want to know how we caught you?"

"Yes." It was almost a hiss, almost a purr.

"Let me tell you about yourself Kenda. You operate as a young business woman in a male-dominated culture that values and respects age. Not only do you not bend to either aspect but you flaunt both your youth and your sexuality. Some might call that bravado, but you think it's justified confidence, you know you're so good you can make your own rules. You got into this because it's the family business and you wanted to gain the attention of your father, who retreated from the world and business after your elder brother's untimely death..." Emily went on and on, giving Mandarin her own profile.

In the end Mandarin's voice was still confident, still playful, but a little shaken nonetheless. "So you caught up to me because you read minds? Or souls?"

"Neither, I caught up to you because I know you're a child of the Pacific Rim, and subconsciously you believe that your technology is leaps and bounds beyond anything of the 'Old World', including the DC establishment. Next time you call a client, use a drop phone."

Emily hung up on Mandarin's laughter


Five hours later Emily hung up her phone a second time. As she had promised she turned and headed back to Spencer's room with Morgan right behind. "Hey handsome," she said softly as she walked back into the room and gently touched his arm to get him to come around just a little. Once his eyes opened she tried to smile. "I just got off the phone with Clive. They got her. She's being airlifted to Frankfurt University Medical Center as we speak. She's going to be all right." She watched him sag and his eyes start to well up again. "Look, I know what happened. She will be all right, I know she will. Just give her time. In the meantime, since this is all my fault," He shook his head again and she shushed him. "I am going to help you through this. And since I understand how important this is now, Sir Spencer, I am going to do what I can to help her as well. That means I am going to tell you to get some rest and let me worry for a while. Clive is looking after her, I trust him with my life. And I'm about to go ask JJ to help me get her brother off on compassionate leave to go take care of her. Right now you have to get better yourself and that means rest, all right?"

She watched Spencer pick up the pen and whiteboard again. "N O T Y O U R F A U L T"

What? Was he serious? That started the tears heading down her cheeks. The one person she knew she was going to hurt, the one person that it hurt her most to leave and he… "Spencer, I led Doyle right to you, I went cowboy on you all and went after him alone. I made you all mourn my death. "

Spencer slowly shook his head. "F O R G I V E Y O U"

He did. He did mean that. She did not deserve that. "Spencer, I left you. Just like your Dad. Just like Gideon."

He shook his head again, clearly starting to drift back out. "C A M E B A C K" He wrote.

And then he reached over and took her hand.

Emily stayed right there as he drifted off to sleep. And she stayed right there until the sun rose the next morning.

Chapter Text

Chapter 25

T + 95 hours

Frankfurt University  Medical Center

Frankfurt,  Germany

Clive

The hardest part had been arranging for a translator. He needed someone who spoke both German and English and who was fluent in ASL, and who also had a high enough security clearance but who did not work for Black Raven, a top military contractor. Clive ended up turning to the Embassy, and was utterly grateful when they turned up a member of the Embassy guard, a young Marine, who was all of the above.

Clive took the young Marine on to the floor, introduced him to the medical staff so they would know, and then took him into the room in question. A young woman lay on the bed, too thin and too pale, her copper red hair glinting in the light coming in the windows. "Now Dr. Conway's brother Major Conway, Marines, is being processed out of Afghanistan on compassionate grounds. I need you to stick close until he gets here."

"Yes, Sir," Clive watched as the Marine went to the end of the bed, caught her eye, and started speaking. That brought the first smile to the confused, frightened young woman's face. "Um, Sir," the Marine said. "She's asking about a Dr. Reid. Is he at this facility, Sir?"

"No, he's an FBI agent." When working with a translator it's rude to talk to the translator and not the person you're speaking with, in any language. To that end Clive caught Sara's eye. "Dr. Reid is safe; he's in the hospital as well. He's the one who told us where to find you. He arranged for the rescue. You could say he's the one who saved you." There you go Emily you meddler, he thought, and you'd best tell me why I put it just that way the next time we sit down for a drink together.

Neither man knew what to do when she started to both smile and cry.

T + 106 hours

Harborview Medical Center

Seattle, WA

Emily

After 24 hours in the ICU, roughly, they decided that the Dilaudid was out of Spencer's system, and the withdrawal period was over. That meant they could move him to a regular room at least, while they kept monitoring his kidneys and the rest of his recovery. They gave him a larger, corner private room, where he could be more easily guarded if the need arose, where he had a lovely view of the harbor and city, and where his relatively large flock of visitors could congregate. When Emily came in, followed close behind by her self-appointed assistant Ben, and the lovely Garcia, Spencer, Rossi and Morgan were sitting there watching a soap opera and working their way through what had to be a sampler of all the available flavors of Jell-o. "Say thank you to one of the local agents." She told Spencer as Ben put the crate he was carrying on a nearby chair and stepped right back out. "Given that you're going to be in here for at least the rest of the week one of them lent us his library card. We brought a selection." She grinned as he frowned at her. "Did you really think we would forget?"

"Close your eyes." Garcia told him. Somewhere in all the struggle his glasses had been lost, but as soon as his eyes were closed she slid a new pair onto his face. "I got a hold of your ophthalmologist and had a new pair made for you. Now you can write real notes instead of using that whiteboard. Yep," she smiled at the effect of the simple, just-more-than-slightly old-fashioned mock-tortuous shell frames. "I have excellent taste if I do say so myself."

She watched him open his eyes and blink at her a few times as they re-focused. He smiled and reached for the pad of paper and pencil on the bed table. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

"You're welcome. So, I need to do more shopping, given that boy wonder over here doesn't even have clothes to wear home. Anyone want to go with?" Garcia asked.

Rossi cleared his throat. "You know, Garcia, I have heard about your shopping marathons. I think it's about time I experience one first hand."

Spencer frowned and shook his head. That's very generous, but really, you shouldn't…

Even as he was writing Rossi reached over, tore the paper off the pad, wadded it up and tossed it in to the trash for two points. "You know, the silence is golden, isn't it?"

"Oh, I think so." Ben agreed as he came back in with a trash bag half full of ice. "I don't have to hear him call me a sadist for the next three weeks." He folded back the blanket, not the sheet, and plunked the bag on Spencer's bad knee, making him jump and wince. "Leave it, twenty minutes."

"Make me a list." Garcia told Spencer. She gave him the insistent face until he started writing.

Stationary
Disposable fountain pen

Spencer scratched at an itch on his chin

Shaving stuff

"So I found that one of the local Salons is part of a larger gym complex. We have a reciprocal agreement through the league." Ben said. "I'm going to head down for a few hours."

Chucks, size 12M

Socks, at least 2 different patterns.

"That is if M'lady doesn't mind." Ben said, with a smile toward Emily.

Boxers size…. Spencer looked up at Emily, his eyebrow reaching for his hairline.

Emily actually felt her cheeks starting to tingle at that look. M'lady, she thought, everyone else just thinks it's cute but he knows better. "Nope, I'm going to take my turn keeping the wiz kid here company." Emily told them.

Morgan looked over at him. "Does that reciprocal arrangement include the rest of the gym?"

"Sure does." Ben told him

"Mind company?"

"Not at all."

Once everyone had cleared out, JJ and Hotch having headed back to DC, Henry and Jack, Spencer sat back and looked at Emily with an expectant smile. He didn't have to write a thing, the 'start talking' was utterly clear. Emily just looked at him for a long moment, until she lost the staring contest. "All right, I like him. He's gorgeous, built, kind, nerdy smart and didn't freak out when confronted with the job first hand. What I want to know is, why didn't you introduce me before?"

I didn't think you were in to that sort of thing.

"What sort of thing?"

Spencer just smiled. If he hasn't told you I'm not going to.

"Oh. I'd smack you if you weren't already black and blue." Great, now what did that mean? "So is it going to bother you if I go out with him?"

Spencer emphatically shook his head. Not at all, I assume you went to Court. I'll set you up there if you want.

"I do, thank you. But not until you've healed up enough to explain why the guest of honor at a wake is coming by for a drink. I want to hear what you come up with for that one." She watched his shoulders shake in silent mirth for a moment. "I still can't believe you waked me."

You deserve the honor. He wrote back. Have you heard anything about Sara?

"JJ said her brother is on his way there. According to what he officially told his CO once she's cleared to travel he is going to arrange for medical transport back to New York. They still own an apartment there."

I wish I had a way to contact her.

"Oh, you know Garcia can find her mailing address."

That's not too creepy?

"I don't know, you got to know her." Emily had settled into the chair beside the bed, the easier to take his notes. "So, what's she like."

Alive. Spencer wrote after a minute. Smart, charming, loves to listen. Really believes in the whole Knight and Lady thing. He got a shy sort of smile she'd never seen before. I like her.

Like her my ass, Emily thought. "Uh, you knew good and well that your voice box was swelling up, yet you darn near killed yourself trying to save her. Do you want to try that again?"

He raked his fingers through that unruly hair. Do you want to get more specific about Ben?

"No." Fine, then. "You know, I don't think anyone is as resilient as you are. It's going to take a while for her to get over all this."

I just want her healthy and happy, I can be very patient. He yawned as he handed that one over.

"You should get some more rest." She told him, catching that yawn. "I'll turn off the TV; we have lots of books now. Anything I can do before you settle?"

He thought a moment, a look of gentle longing on his face, Two things. The second is a little embarrassing.

"Do I need to get the nurse?" If it's in a hospital and it's embarrassing…

He shook his head, held up a finger for the first thing, and passed her the ice pack from his knee. As she took it to the bathroom sink she saw him grimace as he worked the joint. "Is it getting any better?" She was gratified by his emphatic nod. "Good, okay, what's the second?" He scooted over in the bed to make room, pointed to the box of books and made a come here motion. "You're supposed to rest, not read." But she passed it over anyway. He checked out the titles, pulled out one and smiled a thank you. But when she set the box aside he held the book out to her and patted the side of the bed beside him. She laughed. "Oh, you have got to be kidding." He gave her what had to be his best ever puppy dog look. She shook her head, slipped off her shoes and propped herself on the bed beside him. "Did your Mom used to do this?" He nodded emphatically, scooted down and took his glasses off. "You're spoiled rotten, you know." He nodded again as he put his head on her shoulder. Just like Mikey, she thought. I missed you so much. "All right."

"Oh please you, gentles, I will tell a fair tale of love and death. It is the tale of Tristan and Isolde the Queen…."

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 26

T + 6 days

University of Frankfurt Medical Center

Frankfurt, Germany

Sara

She sat on the wall of the cloister  at Bonnefont-en-Comminge and watched the garden. It was high summer, the best time for this garden, with the lavender in bloom, full of bright yellow bees growing drunk on nectar and heat, and the butterflies in the herbs dancing in the brilliant light. It was hot in the sun and cool under the cloister roof and in her mind one wall was missing so you could look out over the harbor and see tall ships pass before the Statue of Liberty. She was safe here, quiet and alone, could soak in the gentle colors and scents of the herb garden and no one made her hurry or hurt.

For she did hurt. Some distant part of her was aware that her body was very much in pain. But that was elsewhere and else when and could be pushed aside and placed in a box and forgotten.

"No, it can't you know." said the tall, slender figure sitting next to her.

"Yes, it can." She replied. "It's my body; I can ignore it if I damn well choose."

"Not forever," he replied. "Do you really want to ignore it forever? You can't even dream of touching me without breaking that barrier. Do you want that?"

"No." She said, feeling a different pain, this one the cracking of her heart. "I want my body back and my life back and I want to be with you. I thought I would be able to have those things when I was rescued. I kept myself sane remembering places like this and hoping for the day I could have my life back. And now I'm rescued and it's just as bad if not worse." She felt the tears trying to come and fought those back as well; couldn't risk it. "You know, I almost wish we were back there. If it hadn't been for Pieter making you so ill…." Oh, God, she had to stop the tears. "It was quiet and we had each other."

"Find me, M'lady. Let me help you." They were speaking without words, without sign, on some level she could not understand. "Let me help you, you know I want nothing more."

In the quiet depths of this garden, in the space where she could hide from the world, she had to admit this to herself at last. "You deserve what I may never be able to give you."

He shook his head, and maybe what answered her was hope. "We must try."

Then the wall shook beneath them.


Sara opened her eyes to find a tall, broad, very familiar figure kicking the bed to get her attention. Stephen?

Hey Ladybug. His smile crinkled the desert worn skin at his eyes. I never thought I'd see you again.

Ladybug, a nickname born out of childhood taunts. She felt those tears coming then, reached up to wipe them away only to have him move to hold her. For that she put up a hand to stop him. Don't. Please don't. I can't right now. I just can't. Please don't make me feel, she thought, I'd have to feel what they've done to me.

She saw him sigh and move to sit by the bed, put a bag beside it. I know. I'm sorry. Dear God I am so sorry this happened. I should have been there.

You should have been doing exactly what you were doing. This isn't our fault. She echoed healing words said to her in a cell on the other side of the world without realizing it. We've done nothing wrong. Sometimes evil just happens and all we can do is survive until it's over.

Well, it's over now.

No, it's not. She sighed at the confusion in her brother's eyes. I did manage to catch that they want to do surgery.

She turned her head, looked away only for a moment, for it was quite rude. You could have asked me, you know. They could have asked me.

Stephen shrugged. It's done.

That's not the point, she thought. I don't want narcotics or anything for anxiety or depression. I refuse to lose control that way, she thought. Even Pieter didn't go that far. I'll fight them if you don't agree

Unfortunately no understanding came into her brother's eyes. Fair enough, but they need you on antibiotics in order to perform the surgery. Without it we won't be able to transport you home.

She didn't want it; she didn't want any of it. She just wanted this over. But he was right, of course. All right.

Stephen moved straight away to inform the doctor. And what about something to eat?

You mean I get to choose? How about a high tea tray? She forced herself not to think of the delicacies she'd find on a high tea tray.

He smiled. As soon as they let you; right now you're on a liquid diet.

Of course she was. Whatever.

All right. He stepped out for a few moments, and then came back to her side. I brought you something. With that he passed the bag over. I know you need about everything, but they said you were depressed and I figured this might help some.

I'm not depressed. She protested, setting the bag aside. Well, maybe I am depressed. I thought this would all be over as soon as I was free. I could go back to my life. Clearly I was wrong.

You are free, Ladybug, in case you haven't noticed. Stephen replied, a frown on his face. We're getting you set up with a therapist as soon as we get home.

Home. Something else to not think about. Tell me we're going back to DC.

No, we're going to New York. I spoke with Father's lawyer; he's arranging to have the apartment re-opened for us.

Sara shrank back into the bed. She'd grown up in that apartment, that soulless box of steel and glass, and disliked every minute of it. Was it any wonder that she lived in a hundred year old cottage in Georgetown? I spent the past year in a glass box, now I'm going to another one.

The best specialists are in New York, that's where you'll get the best care.

I won't have anyone to talk to. She protested.

I'll be there. He replied. Now are you going to look at your gift?

She pulled the bag up, took a look, and felt herself soften. Art supplies, pencils and paper, colored pencils, a small travel box of watercolors, a notebook. Where did you find it all?

I stopped at a shop between here and the airport. He smiled at the look on her face. At least you can have this back right off.

Thank you. Oh, thank you. It was color, something she had longed for. She could build her world again, starting with this.

See, you do remember how to smile. I told them we were the sturdy sort. Now short a tea tray, what else can I do right now?

I love you Stephen, she thought, and I am so grateful for this. But there are some things you cannot do, something you cannot be.Something to write a letter back to the states, please.

Easy enough. He stepped out a moment, came back with a clipboard, plain paper and some writing pencils. I'll dig up an envelope and stamps in a minute. To anyone in particular?

Yes. Can you find Agent Easter as well, please? I need to get an address from him.

Agent Easter? But he was already pulling out his phone.

Yes. I met a Knight, and I believe Agent Easter has his mailing address.

Stephen sighed. That silliness again? I never thought I'd be glad to hear it.

It's not silly, he's quite real. He even saved my life. For some reason this was important now, connect back to that somehow. I always said no to Pieter, you know. He never bested me. I remained a Lady throughout all of it. And I always knew a Knight would come rescue me, at least I always hoped for that.

I know Ladybug, I know. Maybe that silliness saved you after all. He shook his head, looked like he wanted to hold her again. Well, if it's going to make you happy. Does Sir Lancelot have a real name?

Percival. She corrected. Dr. Spencer Reid.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 27

T + 6 days

Harborview Medical Center

Seattle, WA

Emily

Early that morning Rossi and Morgan had shown up and shooed everyone else out of the room. The two of them were taking Garcia and heading back today on a commercial flight. By mutual agreement they were forgoing the plane so it could take Spencer, Emily and Ben back in a few days. They didn't want Spencer to have to fly commercial, not with a more than creepy tube in his throat. "Besides," Garcia said, "I've never flown first class before; might as well go for it when you can, right?"

"First class?" Emily had asked.

"I hate flying coach." Rossi said before he and Morgan shut the door to Spencer's room behind them.

Now the three of them had gone to the airport. Ben was off at the gym for a few hours, which gave her a chance to finally see what all the mystery had been about. "Hey handsome," she said as she came in.

Spencer looked up, waved and slid over; giving her space to sit beside him, which meant he wanted her there. She slipped off her shoes and perched on the side of the bed next to him. "So what was that all about this morning?

There was an official file on the table in front of him. I need to talk to you about something kind of important.

Uh-oh. "Okay, if that is anything disciplinary I will have to hurt someone."

It's not. I think it's good. He paused for a moment. Emily, I'm an addict.

Oh. "Yeah, I know that, it's…"

He touched her hand to stop her. No excuses. I was an insufferable ass there for a while. I was a total jerk and it landed on you and I'm sorry.

"Spencer," She sighed. "You know, you're talking to the woman who faked her own death."

That was to protect us. I was being selfish.

"No, you were…" She stopped at the look in his eyes. No excuses, he'd said. "Apology accepted. And you've already more than made up for it. But why is this coming up now?"

With that he opened the file. While this might be the first time anyone in the BAU has been drugged against their will it's not the first time for the Bureau. The Organize Crime unit has resources and protocol in place. Rossi set it up so we can share.

That means while we're still not talking about what happened with Hankel we can be more open moving forward, Emily thought. "So, what do you have to do?" She asked, looking over the file as he nodded permission.

Report to my superior, check
Seek medical treatment, check
Attend some kind of counseling, either individual or a 12-step meeting
And submit to random tests. The results go straight to Hotch.

"Well if that doesn't keep you on the straight and narrow." He nodded emphatically. "You're good with this?" He nodded again. "At least you don't have to hide it anymore. How do they know you're attending meetings?"

The meeting leader has to sign a form. He will; that's not an issue. At least now I can apologize to everyone. She felt him sigh. He wanted me to, you know.

"Who did?"

Pieter, he wanted me to prove it by begging to break the withdrawal. He got that shy, not looking at you look that always said to her that he was proud of something and too modest to really brag. I told him to go to hell.

Damn. "That could not have been easy."

He shook his head. I had to kill the dragon for Sara, and for you.

"Well, I am very proud of you." She was gratified by that smile. "Was she?"

Very much so. She watched his ears turn pink. She called me her Knight.

"Really?" he nodded. "I know other women have wanted a crack at that title."

Not like her.

More confirmation that this was serious. "How was she, by the way? I would have expected Stockholm syndrome, or some kind of delusion, having been trapped in his scenario for so long."

He shook his head. Not as much as you would think. Because of her hearing loss he wasn't able to manipulate her at all, so it wasn't really a question of fitting in to a scenario. From what we discussed from the time her mother died until her father's death she was fairly isolated. He wanted her to communicate using oral methods, lip reading and speech, and she refused because she's more comfortable with sign. I think she's embarrassed by the sound of her own voice. Because of that he kept her mainstreamed in a standard classroom. She did well academically, but she was socially isolated. That caused her to develop an intricate internal life that sustained her. What happened was physically brutal, he stopped and shuddered, but it wasn't as psychologically damaging as it could have been.

"What happened?"

He frowned. I don't think I'm ready to process that.

"Whew." If Reid didn't want to think about it… "So, any idea what you want to do when we head back?" It would be another three days. Bruises age at a predictable rate, as the blood under the skin was reabsorbed and processed out through the kidneys. They didn't want him to go home until the majority of the bruising had turned green, at which point his kidneys would be out of danger, which would be about 5-7 days after the last assault. It had been two, which meant that all the red bruises were now turning lovely shades of blue and purple, over top of the green ones from when he was first abducted. And that would be the first time they changed the tube in his neck, and would be able to tell if it was stable enough to endure air travel.

Not a clue. I'm not even sure where I'm going to stay. When I was shot I was living in the basement apartment, there's a flat walk to the back door. But when I got off the cane I moved up to the third floor for the light.

"Yeah, I don't think you're going to make it up all those stairs right away."

What about you?

"Well, since you were abducted on Tuesday I've slept on the plane, in the SUV, on Rossi's office couch, in the safe house, and now in a hotel in Seattle." Eventually she was going to have to do laundry somewhere. "Ben invited us to stay with him."

Spencer put up that damned eyebrow again. Sure you want to?

Emily sighed. "Yes… No… I don't know." She caught the look. "What?"

This sounds serious. Are you sure you want a chaperone?

"You know, if you weren't black and blue I'd hit you. He has an elevator and plenty of room and he's always around to check on you. And I'm not going to go back for a couple of weeks, just in case.

He frowned at that. I can't talk, I'm not helpless.

"Still, I told you I was going to make this right somehow." She looked over at the tube in his throat. "How is that going by the way?"

They don't know yet. I'm supposed to set up with a nurse to help take care of it when we get back to DC. He shrugged. I'm not worried about it.

"You're not?" She blinked at that. "You know, you could lose your voice for good here." I never thought I'd miss the babbling, she thought. I want to hear that again.

I'm more worried about Sara. I wish I could help her somehow.

She sighed. He looked so serious just then. Not a boy any longer, "Percival." Her phone rang just then, something she would always consider telling. "Hey Clive," she answered as she almost automatically slid out of bed. Then she felt the grin growing on her face as she turned back to Spencer and covered the phone. "Sara Conway wants your mailing address."

His smile was the best thing she had seen in a very long time.

Chapter Text

Chapter 28

T + 9 days

Gulfstream 5000

Northwestern US airspace

Emily

"All of a sudden," Ben commented "You seem every much more relaxed."

Emily considered that as she felt the force of take-off push her back into her seat. "We're going home." She finally decided.

He considered her for a moment. "No, it's not just that. We were going home an hour ago, you weren't like this."

"No." She looked around. "It's this plane. We're on the plane, heading back to DC. That means the victims are rescued, the bad guys are caught, everyone is safe, and none of the paperwork has caught up to you yet. This is the most perfect, most pure time and place to relax."

"Ahhhh, I see." Ben nodded. "So if I want to get you relaxed I should charter a plane, fly it around DC a few times?"

She laughed at that. "Okay, that was a horrid line."

"Was it? Was it that bad?" Ben looked at her smile, then past her to where Spencer was stretched out on the couch, nodding his agreement. "You're no help, you know."

Spencer had been folding paper airplanes for the past two days. They thought he was just longing to head home. But the reason became clear when one sailed over the seat backs and landed on the table. You're flirting with my sister. I'm not supposed to help.

"You're supposed to be resting." Emily pointed out. Great, just what I need, little brother help. Not that she would have it any other way. He'd been determined to go home today, even though he still needed help looking after that thing in his neck, even though they'd had to have a nurse come with them. Stay out of his way he's determined, she thought. She turned to look at him and saw that Spencer had snuggled down a little further into the old, familiar couch. Good, she thought as she turned back to Ben. "So, I hear you can cook?"

"Yes, mostly Mediterranean food. I even took a few classes."

"Mmm, Italian? Southern French?" He was nodding. "Spanish? Greek? Middle Eastern?"

"Ah, haven't tried that one."

"Oh, well, then I'll have to take a turn in the kitchen a time or two."

"You cook?" Ben asked.

"I picked up a few things during my Mother's postings."

"Great, we can always sous-chef each other." It was his turn to lean over. "Spence, what are you good for in the kitchen?"

A paper airplane flew back. Eating.

"That gets you dish duty for the duration, you know that, right?" Emily called back to him.

Another airplane. Deal.

They laughed and settled and talked some more. All the little, get-to-know-you chatter that normally would have happened in the first few dates, except their first few days together had been some of the most stressful and difficult of her life. And he had been right there for all of it. He had even gone into the monster's den.

She had already fallen for him

T + 9 Days

BAU Headquarters

Quantico, VA

Spencer

Thankfully, his knee was not bad enough to need crutches. He was going to need some PT for it, but he didn't need crutches.

Using his cane to help he followed Ben and Emily out of the elevator. Emily needed to pick up her other bag, he wanted his back, they needed to pick up some paperwork, and then there was a certain symbolic moment or two that needed to happen.

For starters, Emily stopped and removed her picture from the Wall of Fallen Heroes.

He and Ben followed her into the bullpen and stood there as she walked up to Hotch and Rossi on the catwalk and handed him the picture. "Does this mean you're coming back?" Hotch asked,

"If you have room for me."

"We do. We're shorthanded. When can you start?"

"A couple of weeks, when Genius over there gets that thing out."

Wait, no. She didn't have to stay home for him. He tried to protest, but…well… he still had some paper airplanes left.

"Keep your notes to yourself. It's not going to help." She told him.

"It will take two weeks to process the paperwork." Hotch told them. "I'll contact HR, have it waiting for you."

"Thank you. And also," She held up a set of keys. "Thanks for letting us borrow the plane Dad."

"You know, that's a straight line." Rossi told her.

"Too many choices." Hotch told him as he took the symbolic keys.

"Hey." Morgan said as he came around the desk. "At least you made it this far." Spencer nodded at that. "You know you're going to be out for the next month, right?"

What? No. Two weeks. I get this thing out in two weeks.

"And then it has to heal. A month. Consider it vacation, you deserve it. Oh, and hey." He pointed to the desks in the center of the room. "You got mail."

Spencer headed over to his desk. He did have mail. A manila envelope, postmarked Germany. Inside was a folded piece of plain paper and a thicker piece with another paper laid over it. He settled on his desk and went for the folded one first.


Dear Spencer,

I don't know if it's appropriate for me to be writing to you or not. For all I know this was just another case, just another adventure, and now you're planning to leave it all in your wind wake and move on to the next one. If that's the case, then let this be a most heartfelt thank you. You saved my life and restored my faith in heroes and Knights. I can never adequately express my gratitude, and I will forever be in your debt.

If, however, you felt something there as I did, something beyond our shared captivity, and you'd like to continue our conversation and see where it leads, consider this an invitation to do so.

I would love to say write to me here at the hospital, more than you could know, but I don't know how long I'll be here. By the time you get this I should have had the surgery needed to be able to return to the States, and as soon as I've healed to everyone's satisfaction we plan to do so. I've been joined here by my brother, Stephen, and he's making all the arrangements. Granted that means I don't know when I'll be returning, so perhaps it's best you write me there, if you choose. While I won't receive it right away, better it be safely waiting there for me than to cross in transit. According to Stephen we will be returning to our family home in New York City. As much as I might prefer DC according to his research the specialists I need are in NYC. And besides, as much as I would love to see you again, I'd rather you not see me like this.

I miss you.

Anyway, if you do not decide to write, or if it is against policy or some such business consider the enclosed nothing more than a thank-you gift, inadequate but heartfelt. If you do decide to write I will perhaps tell you the where and whys of it in a future letter.

Either way, thank you.

Sara


Spencer sighed, set it aside, and pulled the picture out. It was a garden, a cloister, filled with what looked to be lavender and roses and other plants he couldn't identify all done in colored pencil, gentle and rich. Sitting along the side, looking over the garden was a couple, their faces done without detail. But the man was tall and slender in dark pants, a light shirt, vest, tie, and the woman in the blue dress had copper red curls. They looked to be talking companionably on a warm, summer day. And just at the edge, where a wall ought to be, the cloister was open to the sea and the Statue of Liberty in the distance.

"Oh wow." Emily said, peeking over his shoulder. "Is that the Cloisters?"

Spencer blinked at her in confusion and went for his notepad. It's a cloister. She set it in New York for some reason.

"No, is it The Cloisters?" At his confusion she continued. "Part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art? You've never been?" When he shook his head she smiled. "You should let her take you sometime."

When she lets me see her, he thought. But at least we have this. I think… What's the department policy on staying in contact with a victim?

Morgan reached over, took the note, balled it up, and made two points in the trash basket. "Now you let that stop you with Lila and you let that stop you with Austin. You are not going to let that stop you here. You have done more than your fair share for your country and for the Bureau. You get a pass on policy."

Now normally Spencer would argue with that. In fact he had, both with Lila and Austin, for weeks on end. But this time…. he nodded his agreement. This was more important than policy. And that was made ever more clear as he re-read the letter, somehow both letter and picture spoke sadness to him.

But she would be going home before a letter could reach her.

On the other hand….

Emily and Ben found him there, had brought down his bag, thankfully. He felt better with it on, more grounded. "So, I'm thinking Chinese take-out after we head by your place and gather up some clothes. We'll get you soup." She said. "Anything else?"

What's a good thing to send a girl in a hospital bed?

"Oh, a teddy bear." Emily said. "Something to cuddle."

"Did you have something to cuddle while you were in the hospital?" Ben asked her.

"No. And I missed my cat."

If we would have known you would have had a room full. A teddy bear? No, Spencer thought, something else. Give me ten minutes; I need to borrow a computer. Where is Sergio anyway?

"I sent him to a no-kill shelter." Emily sighed. "I didn't know what else to do with him on short notice without raising a lot of questions."

"Can you get him back?" Ben asked.

"I suppose, if he hasn't found a new family. I need to get a place first."

Spencer quickly found what he was looking for online, and it would ship overnight. He pulled up the in-house text system. Garcia, can you find the address to send packages for patients at the University of Frankfurt Medical Center?

I can and I see your page up. She texted back. Just go before you catch something and I'll take care of it.

Thank you. He pulled his bag on and re-joined Ben and Emily. Done

"Good. Anything else?" Emily asked.

Can we stop at a stationary store on the way?

T + 10 days

University of Frankfurt Medical Center

Frankfurt, Germany

Sara

Her eyes fluttered open at last. Instantly she wished they hadn't. It should hurt more, Sara thought, but even though it doesn't really hurt I feel so utterly wrong. I feel horrible.

A familiar face swam into view. Good morning Ladybug. Everything went just fine

Cut open like a Christmas turkey. Like I no longer belong in polite society. Embarrassed. Foul. He doesn't want to hear any of those things. He's so happy about this because it's all getting fixed. She couldn't reply, not without risking slipping a tube, so she just nodded.

Does anything hurt? She shook her head. Good. Stephen smiled and nodded to the doctors. She watched his lips move for a while and then gave it up and looked away. I wish I was back in the cage, she thought, I wish I was back at Pieter's and I could wake up and open my eyes and see Spencer over there. I think he could have just stopped feeding us or stopped pumping in air and just let us go and it would have been better. I just hope Spencer isn't going through anything like this. I don't think I could endure knowing he felt like this too.

Hey Ladybug. Stephen swam into view again. This came for you. She watched as he put something down where she could hold it without moving much.

It was a unicorn.

It was a stuffed unicorn, all white plush fur and iridescent horn and hooves and the softest, most appealing expression. It also had a silvery necklace complete with iridescent stars and a nametag.

Percival, it said.

Oh.

Oh.

Sara gingerly reached out and pulled the silly, lovely thing to her even as she felt her eyes filling with tears. I was wrong, she thought, it's better out here. I hope this means he meant it after all.

She held her unicorn close as the nurse touched a button and the drugs carried her away.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 29


Dear Sara

M'Lady, I have thought of nothing but continuing our conversations since the moment they took you from me.

I should warn you, I'm known as a prolific letter writer. I've written to my Mother every day since I left home, and see no reason not to do the same for you. Hopefully the pile won't be too deep by the time you reach New York. While I admit I'm sorry to hear that you're going to be so far away I'm also rather glad of it. I'm glad to hear that your brother is at your side and that you're receiving such good care, you deserve no less. I am only sorry to hear that you need such care now, because you didn't appear all that injured when we parted, and that I am not there to assist where and when I can.

Just say the word, M'Lady, and as soon as I am released from the doctor's care myself I will gladly come be at your side.

Small sketch of a Knight in plate armor in margin.

Of course now that I've said that I ought to reassure you that I'm not that badly off. Thankfully I made it through the rest of the withdrawal period with all due medical care and now have all that out of my system. Other than aggravating some previous damage to my knee, a misaligned shoulder, and a bit of a throat injury I'm fine. I expect to be more or less back to normal in the next two weeks, although they are telling me to allot a month for everything to finish healing. It always amazes me how fragile the human body can be, and yet how resilient in the end. We can take so much if we are determined not to give up.

Anyway, for now I am being carefully watched by my "sister" and teammate Emily. As we are both more or less homeless at the moment, me for not being able to manage a third floor walk-up with a bad knee and her for being recently returned from the dead, a good friend, Maestro Ben Marel, has opened his home to us. He is also at Court and was while you were in attendance, I don't know if you remember him or not. While I firmly believe he would have opened his home to me anyway, I do have to wonder how much of this has to do with the way he's acting toward Emily. As I sit writing this I can hear and see them flirting madly in the kitchen, and I have honestly never seen either of them quite so happy.

So, within a few weeks, I shall be able to come to your side, should you desire it. If you do not, please tell me what I can do for you from here? I will do anything I can.

I'm glad to see that you have color again.

This picture is amazing. Is that supposed to be us? Emily said that looks like The Cloisters in New York to her, is it? I looked it up online; I never even knew it existed before. If I had I would have gone to New York for a week-end just to experience it. I've always wanted to go to Europe, but I never thought I'd get the chance, at least not for many years. I didn't realize some bit of it was so close to home. It looks so beautiful. Are you going there? Soon, I hope.

I meant what I said at the end.

Spencer


Dear Spencer,

First off, let me say thank you a thousand times over for dear Percival. I woke from surgery to find him there, and he has not left my side in all this time. He was a marvelous companion on the flight, especially when it got a bit bumpy.

I have no problem with you writing every day. I was planning to do so myself, if I can come up with anything to say. Given that it doesn't look like I'll be leaving the house except to visit doctors for the next six months that might become an issue. Of course that assumes that I make it home.

I do not want this to become a pity fest. I rather hate that.

So I am glad to hear that you're doing relatively well and that you have family of the heart there to look after your needs. Given the way you looked when I last saw you I rather expected your injuries to be more severe. I hope you recover as quickly as they project.

Did I tell you how very proud I am of you?

I'd like to think you fought that, you killed that dragon, because you were trying to keep a clear head in order to save us both, or because you did not want to leave me alone, or some other type of scenario in which I was involved. Granted that's probably selfish and silly, but I do like to think that. Regardless, that's a dragon you killed, and you ought to have bards celebrating your achievements; or, at the very least, the eternal admiration of a lady, which you do indeed have.

That picture is of the cloister of the Abbey at Bonnefont-en-Comminges, which is part of the Cloisters complex at Fort Tryon Park here in New York City. It contains a medieval herb garden which is at its most beautiful in the heat of summer. If I close my eyes and focus enough I swear I can smell the lavender, feel the heat of the sun on my skin and the caress of the sea breeze as I watch the tall ships sailing in and out of the harbor. Granted you can't even see the river from there, it's walled on all sides, but I plead artistic license. It's my fantasy world and if I want to see the ocean from the Cloister then I shall. Until I can get the rest of my life back I intend to enjoy my fantasies as much as I can. Granted my brother has decided that this requires therapy, but all things considered I believe this a healthy response.

Thankfully, I do have color.

I've started drawing again, and will perhaps paint and am thinking of returning to embroidery. I miss the rich colors of silks, and have no clue what happened to my former kit. I'm sure it was packed away when my brother packed up my house, but who knows if it was packed carefully or when I'll be able to get to it, so I might as well begin anew. I enjoy the work, so it's not as if it's any great difficulty there.

As much as I long to hear more of your stories, I would rather you not come visit me. Perhaps it is vanity, but I am far from my best. I am trying very hard not to think about that right now, so if you truly want to help then please send me stories. Tell me of your life, tell me of your adventures, tell me of the world out there. Please tell me the summer is glorious and that you, at least, are savoring it.

Would you be disquieted if I said it back to you?

Sara

Accompanying this letter is a picture of a knight facing off a dragon. The knight has removed his helmet and while his face is not detailed he has a rather familiar profile and shock of unruly hair. The dragon managed to look a lot like Pieter and had claws that bore a resemblance to needles. The knight had, of course, stabbed it through the heart.


T – 12 Days

Ben Marel's Apartment

Washington DC

Spencer

Percival?

Spencer looked up from Sara's letter as Emily flopped onto the couch near to him. It didn't take a profiler to recognize that she'd had a bad day. Never let Garcia send a gift for you. Nothing yet? He wrote, and then passed her the note.

She read it with a sigh. "No. I think I gave up the only apartment in DC that takes pets."

Try the suburbs.

"I don't want to have to commute everywhere. I want something close to the Metro."

Spencer thought about it a moment. Not a clue.

She had brought over a beer for herself, soda for him. Now she popped hers open. "Okay, question you don't want to answer."

Spencer looked an okay, shoot at her.

"Do you think Ben is really in to me?"

Spencer thought about it a moment. I think I manufacture too much testosterone to answer that question.

"Oh, stop." Emily gave him her most exasperated sigh. "You know, we 're practically living together and he has yet to even try to kiss me, let alone make a pass. I have yet to meet a guy who would wait that long."

A knight wouldn't proposition a Lady like that. A knight would let her make the first move.

"I'm not a Lady." Emily replied.

Spencer gave her his best bullshit look.

"I'm not!"

Yes you are. Even if you don't believe it, we do.

She rolled her eyes again. "I don't know how to do this whole Lady thing. I just...why can't he act like a regular guy?"

Spencer shrugged. He doesn't know how to be anyone else. Neither do I.

Emily kicked off her sandals and slouched a little deeper. "So I have to make the first move then?"

If you want to. Or you could wait for him to make you an Offer.

"Which is not just sex?"

No, it's a lot more than that.

"Do you want to unpack it for me?"

Spencer thought about it a long moment. How do you explain a shared feeling? It's about loyalty and devotion and respect and trust. It's about putting your Lady first, before everyone else, including yourself. It's about trying to never let her down, in any way, about always wanting her to be proud of you.

Emily looked over as he wrote it. "I can't imagine someone giving someone all of that."

I can't imagine love without all of that. I would be surprised if Ben could.

"Yeah, but we're not talking love, we're talking sex."

Spencer considered this as well. Back in college I decided that I didn't want to separate the two.

"Please tell me you tried first."

He nodded. Yes, they have girls at CalTech. Guys too, but it took even less time to sort that one out.

Emily picked at the label on her beer bottle a bit. "So how does this work anyway? Does he actually offer you a sword?"

No, it's more symbolic, although a guy usually gives a woman something, something that represents their life. Jewelry is popular, but I always thought it a little crass. What does it represent past money? Granted in Ben's case it might actually be a sword.

"Great. So what do I do with it?"

Well, now that was the easy question. Accept it and live happily ever after.

Chapter Text

Chapter 30

Dear Sara,

My Mother always told me that all letters should begin with the most important news first. So let me begin by saying that not only would I not be disquieted if you said it back to me, I don't think anything could possibly make me happier.

I love you.

Now why aren't you leaving the house for six months? I can understand being injured and wanting time to recover, I plan to be in another week myself, but six months sounds excessive. You have a life, you should be living it. And why can't I visit? I'm off for a month, which I think is ridiculous but Hotch is insisting, so I have ample time. I'd love to come see that garden with you. I know that being alone for so long can make people fearful of the crowds or of open spaces, and if that's the case I understand. I'll help you find the best doctors to help and I'll be there to assist in whatever you need. Please tell me, so I can find a way to help you, I would not consider it a desire for pity, at all. I would never pity you. And in the meantime, please tell me more of these fantasies you're creating. Hopefully you'll give me the opportunity to make them come true.

Thank you for the picture, you have an amazing talent. I finally had a chance to sit down and talk to my sponsor, who informed me that despite everything that happened I did not have a relapse. Apparently between having told my friends that I never want to take narcotics again and telling Pieter to go to hell I actually maintained my recovery. Being shot up against my will does not count, I said no. He doesn't really understand the idea of being faithful to the ideals of Knighthood and the concept of chivalry, but he's decided it's somehow related to the idea of a Higher Power. Whatever, I can still say that I have been officially clean for four years, six months, one week and five days. I admit to being proud of that.

Now, as far as life around here at the moment, I believe Emily and Ben are growing somewhat closer...

T + 14 Days

Ben Marel's Apartment

Washington DC

Emily

"Good night."

Emily locked up behind the nurse as she left for the evening. Spencer had steadfastly resisted all attempts at her trying to help him with the tube in his throat, insisting that it was too personal, too embarrassing and too, in his words, icky to have a co-worker/friend/sister help him with it. So, for now, they had a nurse coming in morning and night to help him with the thing. Hopefully it would only be until Wednesday. Wednesday he went back to the doctor and if the swelling in his throat had gone down enough the tube could come out and he would be very nearly healed. I'd like to put Van Rensburg in a choke hold for a while, she thought; see how he likes breathing through a tube.

She wandered back into the kitchen to find her glass of wine. Dinner had been shrimp scampi over linguini, garlic bread, zucchini parmesan, some gelato she'd picked up on her travels for dessert. Even Spencer had managed most of it, although they cooked up some orzo pasta for him instead of the linguini, the smaller size being easier to get down, and he had to cut the shrimp smaller and pecked his way through the bread. At least she didn't have to worry about him losing weight, she'd realized when he fell into her arms that he was already too dammed skinny, and even the loss of a few pounds while in captivity were not to his benefit. But thanks to her being late and so cooking late they ran right into the nurse's visit and he was now in bed with a stack of books and a bowl of gelato and Ben was doing the dishes. This gave her the excuse to settle at the kitchen counter and watch.

"You haven't said anything about the apartment hunt today." Ben said when he heard her settle.

"That's because it's going so badly. So far I haven't found anything that's secure enough, within my price range, in an area I'm even willing to accept, that takes a cat." If she'd thought it would be this difficult she would have told JJ to hold her old place for her.

He scrubbed at the pot a moment. "You know, you could stay here."

Ah, she thought, here we go. "Is that a proposition, or an Offer?"

He looked up at her once he put the pot in the dishwasher. "You tell me, M'Lady."

She sagged a little. "Oh stop that. I'm not a Lady." She took her wine and went over to sit in the living area, by the fireplace with the sword on the mantle. It was one big room; she could easily watch him from there. "Reid told me what that means to you people. I don't deserve all that."

Ben shrugged and started rinsing the last pot. "I'm afraid I disagree."

"You don't know me." She pointed out. "You don't know the things I've been involved with."

"So tell me."

Emily sighed and peered into the past through her wine glass. "Remember when I told you I had to gain Doyle's trust?"

"Yes. You said part of that was telling him about wanting a little brother."

"Yeah, well, I didn't tell you I was fucking him at the time." She raised her glass to her lips in time to see him wince. "Yeah, I sacrificed my 'honor' on the altar of national security a long time ago."

He rinsed his hands, and came over with his own wine. "Did you love him?"

Well, there was a question. "No. I hated him. I hate him." But, had she? Did she?

"See, that's the problem with casual sex. Our bodies aren't wired for it; we tend to fall in love with the people we have sex with. And then we ache when they leave, even the monsters." He watched her with compassion in his eyes. "I'm sorry you had to go through that."

She shook her head. "Don't feel sorry for me, I volunteered."

"That was still a damned difficult thing to do." He considered her a moment. "Spence couldn't tell me everything, but he did say there was a child involved."

"There was. Declan, Doyle's son." She could still see the boy in front of her, plain as day. "He wanted me to settle down with him, to raise Declan to be a 'warrior' like him; to be a monster like his father." She looked back into her wine glass. "You know, I was a profiler for the CIA before I joined that task force. When he asked that I looked over at Declan and realized I knew exactly how to break that little boy into a monster."

"So what did you do?"

"I sent Declan and his guardian into hiding so no one could find them. Not Doyle, not Interpol, not even me. He's out there, somewhere, trying to get through high school, looking forward to getting his license, maybe hoping to date a cheerleader someday. He has a life, a good, normal life."

Ben considered all this a moment. "Given that, I would hardly call your actions dishonorable."

Emily shook her head and didn't even look at him, too good for this world, both of them. "I cheated, I lied to the people I love, we didn't know about Declan when I went in, I fucked a monster just to get intel. What kind of a Lady does all that?"

"A very brave and loving one," he replied as he leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees. "Do you know what I see when I look at you? I see a Lady," he said, very softly, "who sacrificed everything most precious in order to serve her country and protect her people. I see a Lady who would give up her own future to protect an innocent child. I see a Lady willing to face danger with courage and valor to protect her family, even to losing everything in her life just to keep them safe and free." He looked at her for a long moment, as if making up his mind, then set down his glass and stood and stepped to the fireplace.

And brought down the sword from the mantle.

There was a hush in the room, in the building, in the city. There was a hush in creation as something that had not happened for hundreds of years finally returned to the world. There was a hush in her heart and her soul as he dropped to one knee before her, that blade cradled in his open hands. "I see a Lady I would be proud to serve, if she found me worthy."

No, she thought, I don't deserve that. I don't deserve that kind of love. I lost the right to that when I volunteered to go after Doyle. She felt the tears welling behind her eyes as she was confronted by his simple, impossible act. This is not all in fun, she thought, this is not casual. This is real. This is love. If I accept that, I accept him.

I accept him.

It was lighter than she expected. The metal of the blade was cool and flexible, the hilt warm and rounded to his hand. When she looked at the blade, saw that it was engraved to Barcelona, to 1992; it just made it all the more real. Something, she thought, I should say something. But... she looked up and he was right there, brushing the hair away from her cheek. As their lips met, soft and warm and so perfectly gentle and that first spark of heat flew, all she could do was say yes. With everything she was, she said yes, I accept.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 31

T + 14 days

Ben Marel's Apartment

Washington DC

Emily

I accept, I accept, I accept.

His kisses trailed heat, left ghostly marks as he opened his mouth to taste the skin over her pulse, just there, intimate, bringing her back to herself in a way utterly new. "I don't know how to do this." She confessed. I don't know how to be this, she thought, it's never been like this before.

"How to do this?" He whispered as his lips found her ear, tugged gently, "By her command, for her...pleasure?"

"Yes." Command, she thought, how? Every man she had ever known had not exactly taken, but certainly taken the lead, concentrated on themselves and her as a tool of that. Command, she thought, I've never had to before. I've never even wondered before. What do I say? What do I do?

Ah, but of course, she thought after a moment as she tried not to think about how his soft lips and rough whiskers felt on her jaw. Of course. "Show me."

She felt his smile on that spot on her, next the movement of it, the feel of his whiskers enough to begin to melt her into nothing but want. "My pleasure, M'Lady." he murmured before returning to kiss her in earnest.

It was slow, what he did. Every movement experimental, every reaction closely watched. Emily felt like she was being studied, like observing her intently as to learn exactly what suited her best. He took his time over the sensitive parts of her neck, each kiss, each nip running heat down her veins, even as his fingers ghosted up under the hem of her tank top, lightly brushing the skin on her waist, on her back, pausing a moment to stroke a small spot on her spine that made her tremble. It left her so utterly distracted that she didn't even realize that the top was coming off until he peeled it over her head.

That scar.

He dipped his head and pressed one kiss close to the thing. He must have noticed when she stilled there, how she had cooled a bit. He looked up to her face, questioning. "Doyle," she said. "I didn't want...he marked me." Bastard, she thought for the thousandth time, how dare he?

Ben's response was to drop a kiss in the middle of the shamrock, then all over each line. The brush of that beard made her gasp; she hadn't expected the scar to be that sensitive still, or for it to be that...good. He's erasing it, she thought, he's taking it away somehow. His fingers were sure on the clasp of her bra, peeling it off and away so he could kiss lower. How strange, to be so open in the daylight like this. I've never been this naked before. I've never felt this naked before. It's how he's watching me.

Then those lips, those whiskers, found the tip of one breast, and she went mindless for a whie.

No man had ever paid that much attention there. It was always a look for their own pleasure, a caress or two for the feel, and then let's get on to more important things. But he stayed, lingered, varied each kiss and caress, fingers, whiskers, lips, teeth, suck, bite, until she was twisting beneath him, wanting more than she thought possible, Until the pleasure began to spill over to pain and she had to push his head away. "Enough!" She gasped, pleaded, pushing him away from swollen, reddened, now overly sensitive mounds.

She thought she'd die when she felt his next kiss on the taught skin of her stomach, and then the lift of her skirts, and the next on her thigh.

She swore she would die when the next kiss came right there, where she had the small tattoo of a heart, as he eased her panties down over her hips.

When he spread strong, nimble hands under her ass and lifted her to his mouth she did die. Right there, in the last of the sun, she lost herself in and endless flow of pleasure. It went on and on until he hit just the right place, the right combination of lips and tongue and teeth and she couldn't help but take hold of his hair and hold him there, rock herself against him, wanting, needing...

Then he stopped.

He stopped.

She whimpered in frustration. She had been so close, so very close. It was going to be so good. But then he was sliding her off the sofa, down onto him, her legs draping about his hips. Not a clue when he'd managed to get the condom on. And those warm hands were lifting her, guiding her. "Yes?" He murmured into her ear.

"Please." It came out as a whimper, as a moan.

It was all she had to say before she felt him fill, felt him hold her there so she could get used to him, felt him guide her hand down so she could touch if she liked, find the rhythm she liked. "Show me." He almost asked as his fingers followed her to learn that rhythm, to feel her touch there as he just rested inside her. After a few moments his hips rolled to take her in earnest and he nudged her fingers out of the way. She lost it then. It was too much, too good and so it was only a moment of time before she sealed her lips against his neck to muffle her cries as her body tightened and the world stopped and she came around him.

"Oh God," she said into the hollow of his neck, when she could breathe again. "Dear God, that was...oh, that was..." It was good, she wanted to say, you were amazing and it was never like that and all the things guys liked to hear except this time they were true.

"Shhh," he said into her hair as he held her against him. "You're talking."

"Oh, yeah, it was good." She smiled. "So?"

"So if you're talking I haven't done my job right." He rolled his hips again and moved inside her. He was still hard, she realized, he hadn't...

Oh God.

He rolled her over onto her back, on the rug before the fire, touching her as she liked, and this time thrust deep into her, filling her completely, taking her lips as he did so.

This time she didn't bother to hide her cries of pleasure.


Emily held him there, in the quiet dark, feeling his breath against her breast even in his sleep, feeling him still hot and damp against her thigh, having served his Lady admirably and well.

It had never felt like this.

There had been Mick, a few years ago, that sniper on Cooper's team, who understood the job but who had a mind as complicated as a blank page and who thought he was a god and she was there to worship. Before that there was Clive a few times, when she needed to be back into herself, to remind herself that she really didn't want Ian like that, that it was just physical. There was never any emotion with Clive, she'd always felt like he was just doing what he had to do to prime a weapon before going back into combat, like it was a chore for him to get over quickly. Before that was Ian, which she didn't want to remember, not ever. Before that there were some rather drunken encounters in college, a dim collage of memories she could barely count, one-night stands, over before they could find out what a nerd she really was. And then there was John, who was a friend and a chance to learn and grow and who led to her learning and growing too much back in Rome.

But nothing had ever felt like this.

It wasn't just that he accepted her; that he had heard what she had done and had somehow understood. It wasn't just that he accepted her geeky side, and entertained that to the ultimate degree. It wasn't just how he felt about her. It was how he was with her. The other men had all been so controlled in bed, controlling, approaching love and passion as a job to do, get her off, get them off, and move on with the next thing. It had been good, mostly, with them. She had enjoyed it, or else she wouldn't have done it again.

But it had never been like this.

He'd been so relaxed with her, willing to explore, to play, to take his time and let her lead and have her way. And he'd been so present for all of it, as if in that moment there was nothing more important, no place he needed to be or thing he needed to do, not even to see to his own pleasure. At that moment her wants and needs and pleasures were the only thing that mattered in the world. She'd lost count of the number of times he'd brought her to that edge and then over.

But it had never been about showing off his skill, never about impressing her or amazing her with what he could do. It had been respectful somehow, as if putting her pleasure, a Lady's pleasure, first and foremost was the most natural way to carry out the act. As if it were the whole reason for the act to begin with. At one time she felt quite certain that they could have stopped and he would have been utterly satisfied, even though he had yet to finish himself.

And now he was hers, in some deep, rich sense of possessing and protecting and belonging and belonging to. He was hers and in return she was his, and it was so real she almost believed it was disappear with the sunrise. Ian had marked her, tried to claim her against her will, which never had a hope of being a real thing. No, one could not take this. One could only give in love and trust and one could only accept such a gift.

I have a Knight; she thought as she lightly stroked his shoulder, this is my Knight.

She rested, safe in his arms, and for the first time in nearly a year, slept the whole night through.

Chapter Text

Chapter 32

T + 2 weeks, 1 day

Ben Marel's apartment

Washington DC

Emily

When she finally woke it was to daylight streaming into the living room windows, after spending the night on the rug by the fire, with the sofa cushions and throw serving as a bed. She woke to the light in the windows, the sound of a door closing, the smell of coffee freshly brewed and the weight of Ben's arm, heavy with the deepest sleep, pinning her down. She turned and snuggled into the warmth of his body and smiled.

Wait. That was coffee.

Now the apartment was designed to give a house guest some autonomy, you could get from the front door to the spare bedroom without going through the living room. However, you could not get from the spare bedroom to the kitchen without going through the living room.

Damn it.

Emily raised her head to see how much of the blanket was over them, which was not nearly enough, and to find her clothes, which were completely missing, and finally to spot her robe which had been hanging in the bath when she got in last night and which was now tossed over the nearby coffee table.

Damn it.

She slid out from under Ben's arm, pulled on her robe, and looked about for the source of the door closing. Lo and behold, she found him sitting on the patio with the usual monster mug, already nose deep in the Sunday Times. "I...uh...we, uh...did you?"

Spencer passed her a note with a neutral look on his face. Good morning. There's fresh coffee.

"Yeah, I noticed that. I didn't hear the nurse..."

Come and gone. I got up early to let her in; I figured you were going to sleep late.

"You figured..." Emily watched as he got that 'waiting for the penny to drop' look. It did. "Right, I hope we didn't, um..."

I have headphones.

Damn it. She just sagged and gave up. "I'm going to go grab a shower."

Before she could go he passed over the notepaper again. His sword's not over the mantle.

"God, I hate profilers." He would have noticed; the little brat. "No, it's not."

He just settled back with a smile. Congratulations. I'll save you the travel section.

T + 2 weeks, 2 days

Ben Marel's apartment

Washington DC

Emily

It wasn't until the next day that she began to really understand what having a Knight of her own meant. Well, two, considering she also had a true believer as an adopted little brother. She thought later that she should have expected a conspiracy.

On the one hand, not having to look for a place any longer was a huge load off. On the other, she had spent the day looking over the boxes JJ had packed up from her former apartment, trying to decide if she wanted any of them. And then late in the day she had a dinner appointment with a certain former Ambassador, just returned from a trip to the Ukraine.

Yeah, when she came in she was exhausted. Ben looked up from where he was putting the Chinese away. "So, how was it?"

"Moderately horrible," Emily said as she slipped off her shoes; put the mail on the counter. "Not that I can blame her, I did make her bury her only daughter. I think she finally settled on deciding I'm just going to remain dead and we're never going to speak again."

Ben sighed at that. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be. This might not be a bad thing." She came around to wrap her arms around his waist a moment. "Are you still close to your parents?"

"More or less, they divorced when I was seven. I'm still close to both, but they aren't close to each other. It makes the holidays interesting."

"Well, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it."

"At least I have something that might cheer you up." He cast a conspirator's look over at Spencer, then reached up into a cupboard and pulled down a can to show her.

Emily put up an eyebrow, "Tuna?"

Ben nodded, opened the can, and put it on the counter. "Nothing quite so cheering as the effects of a good can of tuna."

Emily was about to ask what the effects of a good can of tuna were when a familiar black shape leapt up onto the counter and went nose down into the can. She took a good look and felt her eyes welling with tears. "Sergio?"

"In the flesh," Ben grinned. "Well, I suppose in the fur."

"Oh!" Emily picked up the sleek cat, held him close for a moment, even though he really wanted to get at that can. "How did you find him?"

"Well, after you left this morning I brought up the idea with Spencer," a nod to his smiling conspirator, "Who got in touch with Lady Garcia, who can apparently do anything. It turned out he hadn't been adopted yet. We picked him up as soon as you left for your mother's."

"Oh God, thank you!" She pulled Ben in for a long, grateful kiss, and then stopped Spencer as he went to answer the nurse's knock and gave him a hug as well. "Thank you too. There's mail from New York there for you." She couldn't think of a better thank you for her little brother, but Ben was going to be thanked tonight, very thoroughly indeed.


Dear Spencer,

I love you.

I am most impressed and as always very proud of you.

Now, with the most important business out of the way, we can proceed.

My reasons for not leaving the house are not psychological. I was born and raised a New Yorker, considered myself one until I decamped for DC. I'm not at all afraid of crowds or the bustle of city sidewalks, if anything I'd love to be out there again in the sun and the heat. I'd like to tell myself my reasons are purely physical; my injuries are keeping me in. But that might very well be a lie, and lying to one's self is, in no way, acceptable, at least not to me. The truth is I feel far too fragile and far too open to risk venturing out into the world.

Pieter never "broke" me, never turned me into what he wished. However in the winning of that battle I had to pull my focus quite intently. In the end I was quite pleased with the effort, quite happy with my victory. Even with the hell that was that plane ride, I never once felt broken. Injured, yes, but not broken. I maintained my dignity, my pride, my sense of self. I find it very odd to find that the medical profession has succeeded where Pieter and his minions did not. Ever since I landed in the hospital in Frankfurt I have found myself being forced into the role of the dependent, submissive child and I do not like it. You might say there is no difference between the two situations, in both cases I was handed about like a sack of potatoes, but with Pieter and his minions I was allowed to fight. I could battle with all my being, even if any physical battle was useless. But with the medical professions, with the doctors and nurses and aides, I am expected not to fight, not even to submit, but to do so with an almost fawning gratitude. Tell me, Profiler, is it not all the more damaging when the victim is forced to lose themselves in the fantasy of the, what was the term you used, unsub? Is it not that they feel that they become complicit with the ongoing act, that they, in a way, become their own abuser? As this medical treatment is an ongoing effect of that abuse, would that not be the case here? In submitting to the medical establishment, all the way to the point of thanking them for the ongoing pain and humiliation, am I not then, at last, becoming what Pieter wanted of me? I suppose you can say that I am participating in undoing the damage he caused, or allowed, but that is merely the physical. A certain righteous indignation along with some distance and dignity would be more comforting here as opposed to the folksy infantilization more common to the situation. To put it simply, I earned the title Doctor, damn you, now please stop calling me "honey" and stop telling me I should be happy and grateful and stop acting offended if I'm not. I am grateful for the work you are doing and have said so, or would is we spoke the same language, but I am not grateful for the situation and I am in no way happy with this.

So the original question was why I am staying in as much as possible. It is because I do not yet feel that it is over and to go out there now, as I am, in this situation, would cause me to feel that all of New York is complicit in the ongoing abuse. That I must play along has made me feel far too vulnerable to face the city right now.

It is also why I want you to stay away. You are my champion, and I would rather always feel you as such. I do not want to feel you complicit in this.

You ask about my fantasies, dreams you can make come true. A triumphant return to Court, to the situation and people who understand and accept, there is one to begin with; a chance to feel among my own kind again. I hope to return in time for the holiday season, if all goes well.

In the meantime, tell me of you. Your dreams, your fantasies, tell me what matters to you? Why did you go to Court to begin with? Or perhaps, when you realized what it truly is, why did you stay?

Sarah

PS. My next letter will be slow in reaching you. I apologize in advance.

Accompanying this letter was a delicate, detailed color drawing of a Victorian Christmas tree.

Chapter Text

Chapter 32

T + 2 weeks, 6 days

BAU headquarters

Quantico, VA

Spencer

It wasn't so much that he wanted to get back to the office, Spencer thought, although he did. It was that he wanted to get out of the house. He was quite done with convalescence.

"Hey." Morgan said as he came down into the bull pen. "Haven't seen you since you saw the doctor on Wednesday. What did he say?"

Spencer smiled and took a sip of his coffee. "Did you know that the Tracheotomy was first depicted on Egyptian artifacts in 3600 BCE? Homerous of Byzantium is said to have written of Alexander the Great saving a soldier from suffocation by making an incision with the tip of his sword in the man's trachea. However Hippocrates himself condemned the practice of tracheotomy as incurring an unacceptable risk of damage to the carotid artery."

By the time he finished Morgan was laughing, and clapped him on the back. "I never thought I'd be so glad to hear something so pointless. Welcome back!"

Spencer returned the smile. Yes, he had his voice back. It was softer now, huskier, and he'd been told it might wear down with too much usage; he might have to rest it from time to time. But he could speak; he could share knowledge quickly and easily, he was still a valuable, useful member of the team. It was a huge relief. However he was about to correct Morgan on that last point, when a blond tidal wave overwhelmed him. "Ow! Garcia, careful."

"You're back! You're talking! What? What?" Garcia released him from the hug and stepped back.

"Bandages." He lifted the edge of the purple scarf wound around his neck to reveal the neat bandage there. "I'm not back yet. Given the location they don't want me back until the hole closes completely, and then I'll probably be on desk duty for a couple of weeks until they're sure my knee isn't going to get any worse."

"Oh, but see, that's okay because that's totally doable. We know you'll be back from that." Garcia was still all happy smiles. "So, are you still staying with your friend Ben?"

"Actually I'm moving back to my place tomorrow. The stairs would be a good workout at this point and Ben and, ahem, Emily deserve some privacy."

"Oh, hello." Garcia said as they all turned to look at Emily through the glass of Hotch's office.

"Hard to sleep?" Morgan asked, grinning.

Spencer didn't say anything, but the way his sipped his coffee spoke volumes. "Going to come help me move tomorrow?"

"I will if you let me buy a poster for your wall."

Spencer shrugged. "Why bother? Eventually Sa...a girl is going to want me to either move in with her or get a new place together, why have a lot of excess stuff to move?"

He winced as Morgan and Garcia shared a look. Damm. "Speaking of...Sara." Garcia said. "How is she doing."

"She's...hanging in there." I wish I knew, Spencer thought. "Actually, I was wondering if you could help me with a project."

"Sure"

They left Morgan to his office and his stack of work and headed for Garcia's lair. "So, what are we doing, another Percival?"

Spencer smiled at her. "I thought that was your doing."

Garcia just gave him that long, slow smile of hers. "Trust your Goddess, oh brilliant one, she knows what will set a maiden's heart a flutter. So, what are we doing?"

"Actually, any chance of you leaving me alone with your computers for about ten minutes?"

Garcia looked back at him, "Which means it's either illegal or immoral. Not a chance. Go shut the door, we go down together. What are you looking for?"

Spencer did as he was told, shut the door and came back. "Sara Conway's medical records."

"So it's illegal and immoral." She was already typing. "What, she hasn't told you what's going on?"

"No. She's dissociating herself from what she's going through so we've been writing about everything else."

"What, pen and paper?" When she nodded Garcia shook her head. "It's called e-mail. At least get up to the '90's."

"We both prefer the tactile experience of a good letter."

"Yea, she's the girl for you. Anyway, if she doesn't want to talk about it, why look it up?"

"Because I might still be able to help her. And besides, I'm not talking about it with her, I'm talking about it with you."

"Right. Here you go, hardcopy for the Luddite and because I don't want that file in one of my tablets." A printer nearby began spitting out paper. While it worked Garcia was reading the screen. "Um, I don't really know what half of this means, but is this as horribly icky awful as I think it is?"

"Worse." Spencer was reading the sheets as quickly as the printer could spew them out, each one causing more of a frown, and more of a broken heart. "You know, these injuries have become so common in parts of Africa that they finally realized that solders were being sent out to deliberately cause them to lower the moral of the opposing side. They've declared rape to cause bodily harm a war crime."

"Which, you know, helps not at all." Garcia looked over at him. "Is she going to be okay?"

"Probably. She is getting the best care."

"Are you going to be okay?"

That was a very good question. Spencer had the simple desire to go kill Pieter. Bare handed would be nice. "I'll let you know. Thank you Garcia."

"Don't mention it. To anyone."


Dear Sara,

I love you.

Thank you.

I never thought of medical treatment in that manner before. You've given me great insight into the patient/caregiver relationship. I find myself wondering if that's why my Mother has so many difficulties with being in a care home environment. Although upon reflection I've managed to minimize that as best I could, the staff there does try to treat their patients with the utmost respect. At least I think they do, I may have to look into it.

For now let me say I'm sorry.

I'm sorry it's not over. I'm sorry you still have to fight. I confess, telling me not to look would have been setting me up for failure. I looked. I understand what happened. I would give everything I have to have those two hours back, to have been able to stop that plane. I am so sorry.

Given the nature of your injuries it's understandable that you would find treatment to be akin to ongoing abuse, or that the happy, cheerful attitude insisted upon by the medical profession these days akin to a demand to play along with an UnSub's fantasy. I'm sorry you find yourself in a position where you must act almost complicit with the people who are causing you such distress. If I could I would reach through and pull you into a life where you could be free of it all in an instant.

I can't. I'm sorry.

The only thing I can do is promise that I will never treat you that way. If I ever come across in any way that feels at all complicit with this, please, tell me. I'll stop. Feel free to rant and rage and complain to me all you like. I might even be able to do something, but if I can't at least the two of us will still know that you're fighting as best you can. If nothing else, at least you will still have a fellow prisoner in your corner.

That's a very good question, you know, why did I stay. I think most of my friends believe I stayed because I'm a horrid cook, and it was a place where I could unwind with supper and a chess game with a friend after a long day, where there was no pounding music or screaming sports channel or being rejected for not being the Alpha Male. And there is all that, none of that is entirely wrong, I do value Court for all of those things.

I stayed because I thought that it would be the most likely place to find someone with whom I can communicate clearly.

As much as everyone at court values wit and flirting, it's not something I've ever been able to do well. While I can communicate at work for hours on end I tend to become tongue tied in social situations. I'm not a player like my friend Morgan; I don't have what he calls game. I stayed because, in the end, there at least, you can clearly state your wants and needs and desires and a true Lady will neither laugh nor run away. She might not be able to meet them, but she would at least respect enough to not laugh. Granted until now I had not met anyone of that caliber, even at Court, but I stayed because I thought it my best shot. And because I found that it suited me, like minded people and all.

Or perhaps I stayed for the chess and the BLT, who knows.

So, you asked what I dream of. I'd like to matter to someone. I've found that when I give someone my respect, my trust, I tend to do so without reservations. I'd like to be able to give my respect, my trust, even my heart to someone who at least comprehends that. I've done so before only to find that it wasn't perhaps entirely understood. My father and my mentor, Gideon, just left notes behind. It wasn't me it was them kind of a thing, my Father left because he couldn't handle Mom's illness anymore and Gideon left to find himself. I can understand why Elle left, she was attacked by an UnSub in her own home, that changes someone, although I would have helped if she would have let me. JJ was transferred to another department. And to Emily's credit she both pretended to be dead so I could mourn and then came back when I truly needed her. That counts for quite a lot.

I still don't really understand why Gideon left though.

Anyway, I do dream of someday having someone in my life who understands how much I care and how much it hurts to lose people. So that maybe, when they leave, and they will leave I am not so naive as to believe otherwise, they will at least respect what I have given them enough to look me in the eyes and say good-by.

Spencer

Chapter Text

Chapter 34

T + 3 weeks, 5 days

St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital

New York, NY

Sara

Why?

It was all Sara could think of as she watched light fixture after light fixture pass over her prone body. Why? Why had they left him? Why had they hurt him? What could possibly have been so important that it mattered so much more than him? What could have been worth hurting him so badly?

That someone had hurt him was clear. In fact, for his pain to have reached such a depth, such an overwhelming level, it would have had to be multiple people, multiple leavings. He would have had to give his trust over and over, each time more carefully, more tentatively, only to have it destroyed each and every time. When he loves, when he trusts, they leave. That's clearly all he knows. And it wasn't fair. He was such a good man, such a marvelous Knight with such a gentle heart. Did they not realize the immensity of the give he gave? Of the gift he was? Her eyes welled as she thought of someone so loving and so honorable and so true being treated so cruelly.

Of course the nurse thought the concern in her eyes was for a completely different reason. Don't worry, when you wake up it will all be over.She signed right after they slid her to the operating table. Sara looked over and wanted to tell her she really didn't care about the surgery anymore, her Knight was hurting and she needed to go to him. But then it was a bit late for that, wasn't it? She watched them bustle around her, preparing everything but her at the moment, honoring her one request, that she not be put into position, not be opened like that or touched like that until she was under anesthesia. She knew it had to happen, would happen, she would just rather not experience it, thank you. But now she either wanted to hop off this table and run to him, or goad them to do what ever it took to make this go that much faster. Even by just five or ten minutes, she could get on the road to true healing that much more quickly, and get to his side that much sooner.

Ridiculous chit, she mentally admonished herself as they started bustling around her head, like ten minutes is going to make a difference in the three to four months you still have to go. Besides, running to him is not the way to go about helping him heal, not this problem. You can do better work at a distance. And why are you feeling so responsible for him anyway? He hasn't made you an offer yet, has he?

No. But he's mine just the same. I feel that way for him.

Her attention was pulled by the nurse. Now start counting backward from 100, she said, as a mask descended over her face.

99...98...97...

T + 4 weeks, 2 days

The Court of the Chaplain

Washington DC

Spencer

Dear Spencer,

Ah love, if only I would have known.

My first thought is to promise you exactly your heart's desire, that being that I will never leave without saying good-bye. But that is problematic on two accounts, the first being that we have yet to meet face to face in freedom. That makes it rather difficult, yes? So I will promise these three things, stated simply and clearly.

- I will not stop writing without giving a reason why
- As soon as I am free from medical care I will come to your side
- Once there I will not leave without saying good-by to your face, should I ever have cause to do so.

I do not expect you to believe me right off. I fully expect that upon reading this you will feel doubtful and mistrustful and perhaps even afraid. Now it is my turn to tell you that I understand that such responses are normal. I can't even prove myself on the last two until I'm healthy, until then I'm talking into my hat. But I hope you will give me a chance to prove myself on the first.

I know I'm asking you to take a risk. I can only hope you're willing.

The second account is that I firmly believe you deserve so much more...

"Reid?" Emily tipped her head to attempt to catch his eye. "Reid? Are you going to sign in or are you just going to stand there?'

"Hm?" Spencer looked up and around him. They were in the familiar foyer of Court already, the last thing he had known he had been walking out of the BAU. He had been so wrapped up in his latest letter. "Oh, right." He tucked the precious paper into his bag and went to sign in. He honestly didn't know how he felt about her letter. The problem was, she was right on all points. He was afraid.

And tempted. Oh, how he was tempted. How he wanted it to be right this time. It was so easy to say I love you, so many people had felt that way, at least that close in friendship. His dad, Gideon, Elle, even JJ. But to promise to stay above everything else...

"So why are we here again?" Morgan asked. He, Rossi and Garcia had come along tonight as guests, at Emily's urging. Hotch had declined, needing to go home to Jack. And, Spencer privately thought, perhaps it was too soon after losing Haley. And JJ was out of town.

"Celebration." Emily told him. "My first case since coming back, and a successful one to boot." Someone had been snatching kids from a town not far away. They found the guy, rescued the child, no one got hurt while they were unraveling it, it all went very, very well. "Reid getting back to work, even if it's desk duty the rest of the week."

"My last gasp before disappearing for three months." At the confused looks Ben smiled. "Olympic team tryouts. I'm putting in every free hour I have with the team."

"You might finally win that medal." Emily smiled as they headed for the gathering room.

"Let us know when. We've all already decided to come as a cheering section." Garcia told him.

"The kids would love that, thank you."

"And I figured Reid would need an audience tonight." Emily told them as they entered the large room. "Drinks, food, the usual?"

"Audience?" Rossi asked. "Please." His reply was confirmed by everyone.

"Uh-uh, that's my job." Ben told her.

"Well you can help me carry." She replied.

Once they were gone Morgan turned to Spencer as the younger man led the team to the table he usually shared with Ben and a chess set. "Audience?"

Spencer just sighed and nodded. "I can't believe she's holding me to that."

Rossi chuckled. "With an opening like that I can. Are you going to tell us?"

"No, I'll probably just show you."

"Oh, this I have to see, whatever it is." Morgan sat back a bit. "Is it just me or is every woman in this place checking me out?"

Now it was Spencer's turn to smile. "Probably but, um, I don't think you're their type."

"Are you sure you didn't get hit on the head?"

Thankfully that was the moment that Ben and Emily came back. Two beers, two red wines, one white wine, one cola, a promise of a light meal on the way. Emily sat back and sipped her beer. "Well, let's hear it."

Spencer just sighed again. There wasn't going to be any getting out of this, he might as well get it over with. The only way through it was to make it as dramatic as possible. He stood up, straightened his tie and waistcoat, took his drink with him to give him something to do with his hands, stepped to the fireplace, climbed on the hearth in lieu of a stage, and rang the ship's bell used to get everyone's attention. "Lords, Ladies and gentle persons, with my return tonight I have a tale of adventure to tell."

"When do you not have a tale of adventure to tell?" Hodges called out from his usual table by the bar. He and Baxter had clearly already been there a bit. "What, did you save the country from a terrorist attack?"

"No." Spencer replied to the house smart-ass. "That was, what, three years ago? Five?"

"Both." Morgan supplied, helpfully.

"No, no, this is a classic tale fit for a bard. It involves the finest group of knights to walk this land, the Knights of the Other Round Table, their humble squire," He bowed to a bit of good-natured laughter. "A black Knight, an even blacker King, a genuine pirate, a Lady fair and perhaps the noblest Lady Dame I will ever have the pleasure to know." He lit into the tale, sparing nothing, not Doyle/the Black Knight's return from banishment, not how the Lady Dame set off on her own quest, leaving her fellow Knight behind for their own safety in order to hunt the Black Knight.

"Wait. How did she manage to lose the rest of the Knights? If you're talking about who I think you're talking about, that's got to be hard to do." Baxter asked

Spencer bowed his head. "The Lady Dame in question perpetuated the ruse of her own demise." That earned impressed murmurs. "I kid you not, she gave up home and hearth and all she held dear in order to go off on the quest. In fact she accomplished her ruse so well the Squire of the Other Round Table held a wake in her honor with the, ahem, assistance of this very company."

"Wait, you're talking about Emily? The one you held the wake for..." Hodges' jaw dropped.

Spencer lifted his glass in Emily's direction. "In the very much living flesh." Emily inclined her head to the applause that went around for the heroine of the story.

Baxter's eye's narrowed. "Wait, I thought your name was..."

Emily interrupted him. "It'll come out in the story."

"Well, in that case..." Hodges and Baxter were grinning at each other.

Ben looked back at them. "Too late."

"Oh, you bastard."

"May I continue? We're only half through." Spencer continued with how the Humble Squire was captured by the minions of Mandarin/The Pirate while attempting to walk and read the paper at the same time (not recommended), not how the Pirate shipped the Squire off to Pieter/The Blacker King, how the Knights of the Other Round Table rescued the Squire and the Lady Fair in the end. He told all of it with as much drama, action and pathos as he could, all the while glossing over the identifying details and leaving out all the names to protect the case. "And if you don't believe that my tale is utterly and completely true," he wound up as he was getting more than a little hoarse, "Just ask our resident Maestro, who was witness to the greater part of the adventure."

"What the hell were you doing there Marel?" Hodges asked.

Ben's reply was calm, assured and given with an entirely straight face. "Wooing the Lady Dame."

This was greeted with hoots of laughter.

"Wait. He left out an important part." Rossi rose with the air of a Master Storyteller well through his second glass of wine. "What the Squire here didn't tell you is that the only reason why the Knights of the Other Round Table were able to find the Lady Fair and rescue her from a fate worse than death is because, after being tortured by the Blacker King, with his dying breath..."

"Really?" Hodges asked.

"Hey." Emily called over her shoulder. "If we hadn't been ten minutes from a trauma center it would have been."

Rossi glared at Hodges and took back the floor. "...with his dying breath he told the Knights where to find said Lady Fair. He nearly gave his life to save her, and I do mean that literally. So I put it to the assembled Court, can we not elect him a Knight at last?"

The cheers were a definitive yes. And none were cheering more than the (admittedly tipsy) members of the team. Spencer felt his ears growing warm. I guess I made it after all.

Chapter Text

Chapter 35

T + 6 weeks

T2 – 10 weeks

Gulfstream 5000

Southwestern US airspace

Spencer

Spencer stepped out of the galley with his tea and looked around the quiet plane. They were heading back home after another successful case. Successful but long, it had taken the better part of a week to unravel this one. Still, it was done. The unsub was behind bars, even the victim that should have died while they were looking had lived, although she would take a long time to heal. Still, it was better than some.

Now Emily was snoring lightly on the couch. Morgan was slumped over in his seat, his headphones crooked, too deeply asleep to notice. Rossi was looking over what looked to be the final edit of his latest book. And Hotch was at the far end, doing paperwork. Emily had once called this the purest time to relax, and she had been right.

He dropped into his seat, pulled out a cough drop to go with the tea and his own bit of relaxation, his latest letter from Sara. True to her word she had been writing him every day, as he had been writing her. They had discussed everything from favorite food (he loved diner food most of all, she was a bit of a health nut) to politics (both tended liberal) to religion (none) to literature (medieval of course but she also loved military and naval fiction and he had to have good sci-fi), to, well, everything.

And yet there was still so much more to say.


Dear Spencer,

As a matter of fact I do love music, especially classical. I find it a remarkable tactile experience. I was first introduced by my brother, who was learning to play at the time. Sometime before I was born my family acquired a baby grand piano, of all things, and I remember lying on the floor under it as a small child so I could feel the vibrations. Of course he stopped playing in high school, so I wasn't reintroduced until college, where a gentleman of my acquaintance showed me that a piano is must better enjoyed if you drape yourself across the instrument.

I confess, I find music erotic, especially Beethoven.

As I recall they have a baby grand at Court. Would you play for me?


The letter went on, but Spencer stopped there, as he had at every reading and looked at the picture. It showed her draped across a piano, in something in ivory, some slip of a thing, feeling the music with her entire body her chin resting on her crossed arms just above the music rest as she watched the tall figure with the unruly hair play. Even though neither figure truly had a face, there was something almost proprietary in the woman's attitude. It was the closest she had come to a proposition; at least he thought it was. He hoped it was. He wasn't the best player, but would that matter? And then maybe afterward she would want to...

Okay, best not to think of this on the plane.

Right.

"Is that still Sara Conway?" Rossi had looked up from his editing at some point, must have been half watching him lost in thought for who knows how long.

"Yeah," he was hoarse from all the talking the past few days. Getting home and giving it a rest for a day or so sounded like a good thing.

"You sound like hell." Rossi sat back, was clearly not paying all that much attention. That's a good thing you know.

What. The. Hell. When did you learn sign?

"Before you were born. It came in handy a few times."

I didn't know that.

"You never asked me"

Good point. What's a good thing?

"Getting to know her better; I know a lot of guys who swore they loved a girl the moment they saved her from the unsub. A month later, when the excitement wore off and they weren't saving her anymore, they realized they couldn't stand each other."

Then why did you encourage me to keep talking to her?

"Because a couple of times it worked. They're still together decades later." Rossi still wasn't really looking at him. "You deserve a shot like everyone else."

Six weeks ago Spencer would never have agreed with him. But now...

He barely noticed as Emily's phone rang.

BAU Headquarters

Quantico, VA

They settled in around the conference table, tired, wired, not wanting to hear any of this. "Agent Easter," Hotch murmured to the Interpol agent, giving him the floor.

"Three days after the rescue Pieter Van Rensburg made bail." Clive Easter told them, putting the relevant documents up on the screen.

"You have to be kidding." Morgan said. "How could he not be a flight risk?"

"Politics," Clive replied. "But the judge thought of that. She sent him to his building with an electronic monitoring system in place, one of your ankle bracelets. This morning he didn't show up for court. The police went to find him and they found one of his loyal employees wandering about with the bracelet on. Van Rensburg had been gone for weeks."

"I thought those were supposed to be unbreakable." Garcia pointed out. "They set off an alarm if you open them or something."

"He has the access to technology to get around that. Or he bribed someone to look away at the right time."

"Where is he?' Rossi asked.

"We think South Africa. He has a large compound outside Johannesburg, complete with private airstrip."

"Is he a threat?" Emily asked

"We don't believe so. He's never done his own dirty work; he always hired Mandarin to do it for him. His accounts are still locked down; he doesn't have the kind of money it would take to get her out of Hong Kong."

"And if that changes?" Rossi asked.

"Then we'll send everyone into hiding and go after him ourselves."

"That won't work." Spencer pointed out. "Sara...Dr. Conway is still under medical care, I don't think she can be moved."

"And Ben's not going anywhere." Emily told them. "Not this close to trials."

"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it." Clive told them. "In the meantime we'll keep you posted." After they left the conference room he drew Emily aside. "So, if we have to set a trap, you do know your little brother there is our first choice of bait, being an Agent and all."

Emily chuckled without humor as she shook her head, "Over my dead body, Clive; over my dead body."


Dear Sara,

I will gladly play piano for you whenever you ask. In fact, I'll keep working on new pieces, just so I have a selection to choose from. We can see which one you prefer. After all, does it not do a Knight well to improve his skills to bring a Lady pleasure?

Speaking of Knights and Ladies, why did you stay, when you found out what it was? Or have you always known this about yourself? I confess, I didn't really understand until Ben introduced me to Court, but I think I always felt this way. I would say I was never like the other guys, but then being a genius and so far ahead in school there were so many other things that overwhelmed that. It wasn't until I was in my late teens and had been at CalTech long enough to be comfortable that I realized that, all things being finally equal, I still wasn't like other guys. I thought I was the only one who felt like this, until my friend Ethan explained things. But I rejected the concept for many years for being too crude, too shallow, too...well, just wrong. It wasn't until I came to Court that I realized what a subtitle, elegant thing it really could be.

So, when did you know what you are?


Dear Spencer,

Somehow I rather expected you to be the lifelong learner type.

Oh, I suppose I've always known. I recall butting heads with my Father at a very young age, fighting for dominance with my brother even when we were school children. Perhaps that's why we can't stand each other's company for more than a few days at a time anymore. It's been weeks now, and I have to tell you, he's been acting more and more odd lately. He never used to spend this much time on the computer. He probably wants to get away from me. Not that I'm going anywhere, with all these stitches I can barely get from one end of the apartment to the other.

Now that I have digressed, I always knew I wasn't like the other girls, I wasn't "girly", shy or retiring or pandering for the attention of the boys. None of them ever met my standards, fools the lot of them, really. It was worse in college, but I'm sure I don't have to tell you what I found there. The only ones who ever clicked, as they say, always preferred the company of other men. It took a while but eventually, with their help, I figured out why. I felt the same; I honestly believed I was the only one until Dr. Orenstat introduced me to Court. It was so lovely to know that I wasn't the only weirdo in the world. Manny affirms that I'm not, just rare. And there is nothing wrong with being rare, now, is there?

Ah, I have yet to tell you about Manny. Yes, I took your advice and I did get into therapy soon after being freed from the hospital. I know that most female rape victims would never sit down with a male therapist, but you try finding a sex positive therapist who works with trauma victims and knows sign. At least he understood when I explained that I really didn't think that what happened with Pieter had anything to do with sex or sexuality, his or mine. It was all about proving who was the dominant in the room, and his belief that force made him so.

Clearly not.

Perhaps I ought to ask Manny what is up with Stephen; I think he just came home with another case of beer. And cheap beer too, that was never like him before.

You know, you never talk about your Mother. Will you?

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 36

Dear Sara,

My Mother is one of the most amazing women I know. Dr. Diana Reid, you've probably read some of her articles in the journals, she's a professor of medieval literature who used to teach at UNLV. She was the one who introduced me to the art and ways of chivalry. She used to encourage me to face the bullies at school with the Knight's Code. Granted I found out later it was only her mind making a hash of a number of different codes, including our old friend the chaplain, but I loved it. I confess to being a Mama's boy. There, I admit it.

Unfortunately my Mother isn't what she used to be. She's has paranoid schizophrenia. Back when I was at CalTech I had a home health aide working with her, but she gradually became more of a danger to herself and so I had to commit her to an asylum when I was eighteen. It was in no way easy, but she truly is getting the best of care, and they do respect her dignity. And I still write her every day to assuage the guilt of not being able to go visit nearly as often as I would like.

I think, presuming she was stable; you two would enjoy each other's company.

I just recently told her about taking up fencing. She always thought the martial arts too violent, too crude. But, you know, maybe in this case she'll think differently

T + 8 weeks

T – 8 weeks

Marel Fencing Salon

Washington DC

Morgan

The one thing that had always bugged Morgan about Reid is that outside of work they had so very little to talk about. He considered the kid a friend, even a brother, and yet their interests were so dissimilar; the same, more or less, with Prentiss. So when they both found a sport they enjoyed he was determined to learn what he could and meet them on common ground.

Well, okay, Reid was enjoying the sport and Prentiss was enjoying the coach, same difference. And she had never looked happier.

Anyway, he'd checked out some books, watched some videos, looked over some websites. He'd been paying attention. Which was how he knew that the long, set apart space on the floor was called a strip, that it was supposed to represent a castle corridor, and that if you went backwards over the end you were out of bounds because that was where your friends had drawn a line back then, and anyone who went over it was condemned for a coward.

Which was not going to be a problem with these two fighters. "Is it just me or are you actually good at this?"

The fighter in question put up one finger to have him hold that thought, assumed the en garde position one more time, and within about a minute and a half won the final point and the bout. He made the correct, respectful bow to his opponent and stepped off the strip and safely to the floor. "Not bad I guess, for a beginner." Reid admitted, pulling off his mask to let some of the sweat cool. "I have to admit, it's a lot of fun. I missed it. You should try it. What's going on?"

"What did I always say about a good work-out?" Endorphins, Morgan thought, natural anti-depressant. "No thanks, until they let us carry swords into the field I'll stick to judo and target practice. Speaking of, we have a case, wheels up in about 45 minutes. Your phone was off. Got your go bag?"

"It's back at the office, under my desk. I thought we were off this week-end?" Reid was already putting his sword away.

"Strauss."

Reid's face mirrored his feelings on the matter. "I think Emily's upstairs; she was putting groceries away when I got here."

"I already went there, she was going to grab a shower and pack up."

"Speaking of a shower, give me ten minutes." He picked up his stuff and headed for the locker room.

"I'll have Garcia toss your bag on the plane." Morgan called after him before pulling his phone out.

After he rang off with Garcia Morgan noticed that everyone in the gym was gathering around the center strip. The two men stepping onto it carried an air of controlled lethality, the sort of thing he was used to feeling in the FBI gym when no one was going to be pulling any punches. As one of the instructors stepped back to act as referee they made the traditional bow to each other, and took up positions. After the ref told them to begin they did not seem to move for a time, as the two combatants sized each other up. The one on the right tried a feint, a fake attack to draw the one on the left out, then another, and then another and their blades touched. Then the one on the right tried, and the one on the left took the bait. Attack, parry, riposte, parry, counter-parry, touch, point, Morgan lost track of the moves, especially when the men got in so close that they couldn't use swords anymore, when it almost got physical, at least to his mind. Thankfully, unlike Reid earlier these two were on one of the so-called wet strips, wired to the electronic scoring system which made it easy to tell. But it didn't take a scoring system for him to realize that had those been real weapons, this could easily be a lethal battle.

Even he could tell it was a near thing, the two competitors were evenly matched, but in the end the one who started on Morgan's left won. He'd had more patience, Morgan thought, more maturity. But that was to be expected. The one on the right, the one all in white, bowed much more respectfully than he had at the beginning, when they both stepped on the strip as equals, with a "Merci, Maître." Before stepping off and pulling off his mask, revealing his identity as the kid who had disarmed Morgan when he first came here. Joshua, Morgan thought, Olympic hopeful. Well, no wonder.

Of course the one on the left, the one who had won the bout, the one wearing all black, was a slightly different story. Ben bowed in return, and then pulled off his own mask. "Well done, very well done. But next time..."

Morgan was distracted from hearing Ben's coaching lesson by Emily touching him on the elbow. "Don't tell me I missed it." She said, looking over the scene.

"Okay, I admit. I was impressed. Reid's in the shower." Morgan told her. "Can you really follow this now or do you just like watching the coach?"

"I refuse to answer that." She turned to Ben with a smile as he stepped over to join them. "Dinner is in the fridge. Don't forget to eat it this time."

"Yes, M'Lady," Ben turned to Morgan. "Taking her from me, then?"

"Not while you're holding that." Morgan nodded to the epee still in Ben's hand. "We have a case. Explain something to me, Maestro, Maître...?"

"Maître in French, Maestro in English. All a fancy way of saying 'Coach'." Ben admitted.

They looked around at a hail from the front desk. Not only was Reid just coming out of the locker room, but there was a delivery. "Ah, finally," Ben said, grinning as he moved to the long, slender box and opened it.

"What is that?" Emily asked, seeing the silvery gleam within.

"A replica of the rapier carried by King Gustav Adolf the Second of Sweden in early part of the 17th century. It goes with the replica of his armor over there." Ben nodded at the suit of armor over by the door that led up to the apartment as he pulled the sword from the packing material and offered it to Reid.

"Okay, I have to admit, that is a lot prettier than a Glock." Morgan said as he watched the way Reid moved it in the light.

"Yeah, right," Reid replied as he gave Ben a Significant Look. "It's gorgeous. But, we should probably get going." He carefully handed the sword back to Ben, and then they all took their leave.

"What was that all about?" Emily asked when they got to the SUV.

"I didn't want to say anything with all the kids there, but that was real." Reid told them.

"What do you mean, real?" Morgan asked.

"I mean that may be a technical replica, but he had it professionally sharpened. It looked sharp enough to shave with. In the right hands that's about as deadly as your Glock."

They both looked at Emily who was frowning. "I'll ask him about it when we get home."


My Dear Son,

I always wondered if you would finally succumb to the violent hypermasuclinity of our age and take up a sport. Leave it to you to pick one with such a noble pedigree. See, if we had thought of fencing when you were younger I would have come to every match. I think it's an excellent choice. I bet you are so handsome out there on the strip, now if only you had a lovely Lady to offer you her colors and cheer you on. Surely there must be someone in Washington who would value you. Keep looking, son, do not give up hope.

Yes, I am familiar with Dr. Conway's work, why do you ask?


Dear Spencer,

You have the most charming way of gently easing around a question. I do wonder how you'll manage to do that in person, if we will be able to communicate quite so well. I believe we were toward the end. It's something I'm quite looking forward to trying again.

In answer to the question you most carefully did not ask, no, I don't think I'll be afraid. You did, after all, tell me that a true Knight would never treat a Lady like that, and I do believe you. Also I don't believe that so many people would have written such lovely things over the centuries if it were not good. And also I've been working with my therapist and doctor to make certain that my body heals and becomes comfortable with the concept again. I've been following their treatment plan to the letter, and plan to continue to do so.

This letter continued on for some time, but at this point included a detailed drawing of a set of Russian matryoshka, or nesting dolls

Now I do believe that it will take a healthy dose of courage when the time comes, but I like to think I am that brave and I know I am that determined. And if not I do plan to have a partner who is patient and understanding about such things. For, you see, call me a somewhat old-fashioned girl, but until Pieter I was waiting for my true Knight, and as far as I am concerned some things cannot be taken and so are still mine to give, which I would, if the right Knight were to make me an Offer.

T + 8 weeks, 5 days

T – 7 weeks, 2 days

BAU headquarters

Quantico, VA

Emily

Emily looked over at Spencer and had to grin. "Letter from Sara?"

"Ah! Um...uh...yeah, how could you tell?" Spencer looked up, looked to be almost squirming in his seat.

"You're blushing." Naughty letter, she thought. Well good for him. "Got any plans for the rest of the day?" She gave her e-mail box a wicked stare. On the one hand it was still early enough in the day that they ought to stay and finish it. On the other it had been a long case, in the southern heat, dragging themselves through the swamp muck. They all just wanted to go home and kick back for the night. As soon as Hotch leaves, she thought, that's the signal.

"Um, waiting for the mail at the moment."

Emily chuckled. He'd had a fist full of letters waiting on his desk when they got back, but greedy wanted one more, "After that, going to Court tonight?" Or just home to some private time, she thought.

"Um, not sure yet. What about you?"

"I have to wait for Garcia to get me a new phone." The old one was lying in the bottom of a Florida swamp. "Then I'm going to see if I can pry Ben out of the gym."

"Is he still working with Joshua?"

"Yep. All that potential, so little maturity, or so I keep hearing." Just then the mail came around.

"Prentiss," Morgan called to her.

She went up to help him sort one of the files. It was only a few minutes, but when she came back Reid had changed. He had gone pale, was packing up already, and not even looking at her. "Reid, what's wrong?"

"Nothing, I'm, um, I'm just going to head home tonight. I think I'm just tired." He had packed that quickly and now he was moving toward the elevator. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Reid." Oh, he was not getting away that easily. "Reid!" She hurried after him, dammed those long legs, finally caught up when he was stopped by a knot of people who would not make way, dragged him off into a quiet alcove in the files. "Reid, what is going on?" He didn't say anything, didn't even look at her, but when she looked she could see the immense pool of pain opening up in his eyes, could see him clenching his jaw to keep it in there. She opened his bag, spotted the letters, and pulled out the one on top.


Spencer Reid, PhD
C/O Federal Bureau of Investigation
Behavioral Analysis Unit
1 Hoover Rd.
Quantico, VA 00000

S. Conway, PhD
111 Central Park North, Apt 8C
New York, NY, 00000

NOT AT THIS ADDRESS
RETURN TO SENDER


Emily just sagged. Oh, this was so unfair.

"She didn't even say good-bye." Was all Spencer said, before she pulled him in and hugged him.

Chapter Text

Chapter 37

T + 8 weeks, 5 days

T – 7 weeks, 2 days

BAU headquarters

Quantico, VA

Emily

That was where Garcia found them a few minutes later. "Hey," she said. "What's wrong?"

"Later," Emily said as Spencer rubbed his face, clearly not crying but not by much. "What's up?"

"I activated your new phone and it started ringing off the hook." She handed it over, and proceeded to go to Spencer's side.

Even as Garcia was pulling Spencer into her hug, Emily found herself frowning at the five dozen or so voicemails left for her, all from the same, familiar number, "Yeah, Clive?"

T + 8 weeks, 5 days

T – 7 weeks, 2 days

Somewhere Else

Sara

Sara woke up slowly, found herself staring at an unfamiliar ceiling. One thing you could tell right off from Father's apartment, it was square; square spaces inside a square frame of a square building. But this roof rose, to a high, cathedral peak. Not a grand one, it had that usual curdled cheese texture much beloved of landlords everywhere, but peaked.

This was not her bedroom.

She sat up slowly, her head feeling stuffed with cotton and mould, the world slowly spinning around her. She felt desperately thirsty and that space past hungry where you don't even really feel it anymore and incredibly sore, like she had been...she quickly lifted her skirt and pulled down leggings and underpants. No, she had not been raped. There would be blood if she had. But whatever had happened had tugged on every single stitch, and enough that she felt sore and bruised everywhere she could. And her bags and bandages needed changing, badly.

She sat up gently, swung her legs over the edge of the bed, and looked around. There was a bed, no headboard, and that was all, what looked like a large closet, two doors, one open, one closed, and a large window with the blinds closed. She managed to get to her feet, and then gingerly staggered over to the open door first. It was a bathroom, large and roomy, with lots of counter space. Someone had left some generic toiletries there, bar soap, cheap shampoo all large sizes, a toothbrush and a stack of those small, disposable cups. Wherever they were the water tasted faintly of pine boards. There were also bags from a Costco, of all places, which held exactly the medical supplies she needed, and all the medication she was taking, although the name on the bottles read "Suzy Sizemore." The cupboard turned up towels, more of the toiletries, cleaner, gloves, that sort of thing. Not one to look any gift horse in the mouth she set about changing everything, just as she had seen the nurse do so many times. It was harder to do it on yourself, but she managed neatly enough.

Once that was done she went back to the bedroom to sit on the bed and think, or even just to sit. It hurt to walk still; it pulled on her stitches when she did. Those stitches were supposed to dissolve in the next two weeks, but until they did it was going to be tricky. She sat there trying to think for a moment, to remember. She really didn't remember a thing. But as she tried she saw, leaning against the closet door and within easy reach of the bed, one thing that made her smile.

Now you would think, given that her high school had had a strict uniform code, that every girl there would take the opportunity to express their individuality wherever they could. Not so. When she had been in high school, the in thing had been British leather school satchels; everyone had carried them as book bags. When she returned to her Father's apartment she had found hers still stashed in her closet where she had left it when she went off to college with a larger, somewhat more rugged version of the same. Hers had been a very traditional chestnut brown, unlike the red or navy blue preferred by the other girls, with her initials stamped on the flap. She had been using it to stash the things she really did not want her brother or the nurse, neither of whom had any sense of boundaries, going through. When she pulled it over she found that it was exactly the way she had left it. Her journal, her e-book and cord kit, the etui she had just finished, which now held her measly stock of needlework supplies, her letter writing kit, her drawing supplies, the watercolor kit Stephen had given her in Germany, her new Court copy of Capellanus with a small print of The Accolade pasted to the front cover, as it should be. And every precious letter from Spencer.

Okay, she thought, so if I'm not where I should be, at least whoever brought me here thought to bring my bag. But really, what fresh hell is this?

Now that the pain of changing bandages had eased she got up to explore a bit more. There were clothes in the closet, cheap stuff, sweats mostly, nothing she would ever choose for herself, but all in her current sizes. Between that and the medical supplies someone had clearly planned for her to come here, someone who knew her well enough to know what she needed, but not well enough to know her tastes. The window looked out over a parking area and a strip of garages, with more, similar buildings in the distance. It was also a sunny sort of midday, even though it felt much like supper time.

That left the closed door.

She eased it open and peeked. She only had time to realize that the door opened into a barren, open kitchen before she spotted the men sitting at the folding table in the far room, the only furniture in there. And just as she spotted them, they spotted her.

Stephen got up quickly and came over to her. Good Morning, Ladybug. How are you feeling?

What's going on? Where are we? She wasn't really looking at her brother, though. She was watching the other man at the table. Shorter, middle aged, dark hair, dark, hard eyes, he'd been coming around for the better part of two weeks, always off in Father's old office with Stephen. Pat Mannan. She watched him to watch his lips carefully, lip reading was more difficult than most imagined, and her head was still not at all clear.

"You need to tell her what's going on. We must have her cooperation."

She looked up at Stephen. She couldn't see his lips clearly enough from this angle, but the way he nodded, the attitude of his body said that he was both, agreeing with Mr. Mannan, reassuring him, and lying to him all at once. Then he turned back to her, was trying to be calm and soothing, but was clearly nervous and scared and annoyed with her. Go on back to bed, Ladybug. You ought to get more rest.

Now she bloody well hated it when people hid things from her, and she hated it when people acted like she was stupid because she was deaf, and they tried to make decisions for her. And Stephen knew all that, he had witnessed enough battles between her and Father over the years over that very sort of thing. But she still felt sick in the head, and sore in places she didn't even want to think about, and what was she supposed to do, storm out? She could barely creep across the room without pulling a stitch. Stephen, what is going on?

Don't worry, we're safe. Just go lie down. He was clearly trying to keep both her and Mr. Mannan happy, and clearly not succeeding at either.

Or at least not with her, bothersome brother, Is there anything to eat? I'm starved. Maybe that would delay him long enough for her to stay out here and pick up on at least some of the conversation.

Or not, I'll make you a tray in a minute. Go on now. With that he practically pushed her back into the bedroom and shut the door behind her.

She went back to the bed and gingerly flopped. The last thing she remembered was her brother bringing her one of those nasty vitamin protein milkshake things. Before Pieter took her she had tried to avoid chemicals in food, preferred organic and cooking for herself when she could, because eating too much processed crap made her feel sluggish and out of sorts. Now for, what was it, going on a year and a half she had eaten nothing but, chalk that up to one reason for feeling awful. But now that she thought about it, back when she was first rescued they had been giving her something for the pain and something for the anxiety and the combination had made her sleep for hours and hours and left her with this same, fuzzy, cotton and mould feeling in her head. Once she realized what was causing it she had stopped the stuff for anxiety and took the pain pills sparingly, preferring to have her mental faculties intact. But the chemical sweet taste of the vitamin drink would have covered up the taste of crushed pills, wouldn't it? My own brother drugged me, she thought, and brought me here, probably at Mr. Mannan's request.

What the hell?

Not that there was anything she could do about it, not in her present state. Not and risk missing her next surgery. That was a frightful thought. Thankfully any competent surgeon could do that one, that didn't require a specialist like the last one had.

Bother.

She looked about the bed, wondering what was missing. Something was... Damn it, the bastard. He forgot to grab Percival. Her unicorn was gone.

Hell.

Well, there was one person she could still turn to. One person in all the world she still could trust.

She got up and carefully crept out to the door again. Now her brother and Mr. Mannan were right there, in the kitchen, the strange man leaning against the counter looking right at her. Really, Pieter he was not. She met those eyes head on. If only I was healthy, she thought, cooperation my ass.

Then Stephen stepped around the refrigerator, with a spoon in his hand. What's up Ladybug? I'm heating up some soup.

Tinned soup, lovely. Where is the phone? No, she thought, I am not asking permission. I have every right.

Stephen hesitated a moment. We don't have one yet.

Her brother was a horrible liar. There is a mailbox here, yes? We are getting mail?

Yeah, Mr. Mannan here is going to be bringing our mail from New York for us. And I'll go put your letters in the box for you.

I can get to the front door Stephen.

It's not at the front door, bug, the mailbox is down at the far end of the block.

She nodded and closed the door, leaned on it a moment. Trapped. Perhaps not as much a prisoner as she had been, a prisoner with comforts now, but a prisoner nonetheless.

She would not cry. She was far too angry to cry.

Once back at the bed she pulled out her writing kit and checked. Yes, she had sealing wax. Hopefully it would be enough; she had no idea how to code anything.


Dear Spencer,

Something very strange is going on. I need your help...

Chapter Text

Chapter 38

T + 8 weeks, 5 days

T – 7 weeks, 2 days

3121 18 th  St NW

Washington DC

Emily

Emily should not have been surprised by the figure that opened the door. She had made several stops along the way just because she expected this. But it still hurt when she saw him there. "I'm sorry." She said, right off the bat. "We honestly didn't think the US Attorney was going to insist on Witness Protection at this point. May I come in?" Spencer shrugged and stepped back to let her into his barren little apartment. She was used to seeing him in a t-shirt and scrub pants now, barefoot and wearing glasses, it was his usual way of hanging around the house. But she was not used to that look on his face, that pink, slightly swollen, I've been crying look. "I brought your favorite pizza." She said, moving to the kitchen. "And some of that gelato you liked and five hours of the best Russian sci-fi meditation movie ever. We can stay up all night watching it."

"Is that the traditional break-up healing kit, pizza, ice cream and a movie?" Spencer dropped back on his couch, tucking his feet under him. "Where's Ben?"

"He's at the Salon, working the team, surrounded by kids, parents and four agents. He's going to eat with them, show them training videos after and then go right to bed. He has them coming back at the crack of dawn. He can be a slave driver." Emily left her shoes and bag by the door, went to the kitchen to start building plates.

"So he refused Witness Protection?"

"He said he wasn't going to let Pieter bully him into abandoning his kids, not this close to trials." Plates, napkins, forks, two glasses of cola over ice; she brought it all back to the coffee table and sat next to her little brother. "You weren't there when they took Haley away, were you?"

"No, I was busy getting my knee put back together. Why?"

"We went to the house to get her. She had all of five minutes to pack a bag, maybe, while JJ helped Jack. Then they brought her by the hospital and I think she had less than that to say good-bye. Twenty some odd years of marriage and a son and they had less than five minutes to say good-bye."

"So what are you saying?"

"I'm saying this might not be a break-up. Given that you and Sara aren't even really dating, that you've known each other all of two months, do you really think they would have given her the chance to sit down and write a letter?"

"Good point."

"Now I know how close you two have grown, we all do. I just don't think the Marshalls would understand that. I talked to Ben about it. He said he couldn't imagine being apart like this." She reached out to rub his knee a little. "You know, the only parallel we have for this is Hotch. I can only imagine that it's going to be that kind of hard."

"I'm not Ben. I don't have his self-confidence. I know that." Spencer looked at her with that sheepish look he got when he had to admit to something he didn't like. "And I'm not Hotch, Emily. I don't know that I can do this."

"I think you are so much stronger than you realize. I think you can do this, maybe not like Hotch or Ben, but you can."

"I can't do this! She left, Emily! I know it was for the best of reasons, but it's always for the best of reasons. My Dad left for what he thought were the best reasons, Gideon left for the best reasons, Elle left for the best reasons."

"I left for the best reasons." Emily filled in the missing gap.

Spencer stopped. "I wasn't going to say that."

"Why not, it's true."

"You came back."

'How do you know she won't come back?" Emily watched his face as he considered that. He could click over facts so quickly, find a solution before they could even begin, but emotions were still so hard for him. "Did you ever tell her about everyone else leaving? Did she ever say anything about that?"

"She said she wouldn't stop writing without telling me, that she would come back as soon as she was released from medical care, and that once she got here she would never leave without saying good-bye." He slowly admitted.

"Maybe she was too afraid of Pieter so she just ran."

He shook his head. "She wasn't afraid of Pieter. There's nothing in the profile that indicates that he wants her dead. He wants her to submit, and she didn't, not in all that time. As far as she was concerned she held victory and could do it again. That's why I don't understand, it was so important to her that she earn my trust, and then she didn't say anything, even though she wasn't running in fear. Surely there would have had to be some warning of some kind. If it was that important she could have sent a text, if nothing else."

That was the important point, wasn't it? Emily thought about it, if she had been in Sara's place, knowing what she knew now about Court and its underlying function, once she had heard about the losses Spencer had taken the single, most important thing would have been to earn his trust. She would have insisted on at least sending a message somehow. Unless... "Oh, here's a disturbing thought for you, you said she was still in a lot of pain after the surgery, right?"

"Yeah, she could barely walk. It's going to be like that until the stitches dissolve."

"So she was on pain meds?"

"Yes, unfortunately."

"Could that be used as an excuse to get someone else to sign the paper?"

She watched as Spencer's eyes jittered a moment, accessing his memory banks. "Maybe, but only as long as she was under medical care, it's a very grey area."

"Would her brother have done something like that?"

"Quite possibly, he's been showing signs of PTSD, including withdrawal and paranoia. And she hasn't even been able to get to the mailbox; the nurse has been taking her mail up and down for her. But she could get by right now without a nurse."

"This would leave her brother handling her communications."

"And if he was paranoid enough and then the Marshalls said to cut all ties to keep her safe he might not let her get word out. And they would probably have to sedate her to move her. But why wouldn't she have gotten word out before they sedated her?"

"What if her brother considered it too important to risk her saying no?"

She watched as Spencer got that deeply angry expression it wore so rarely. "She'd be a prisoner again."

"Is there any reason to go after her? If the Bureau tries to get her from the Marshalls, that's going to be a huge pile of bureaucracy, even just to get her location."

Spencer thought again. "No, her brother is her next of kin, he does hold her medical power of attorney; at this point he would be considered her legal guardian. There's no reason to think that he would prevent her from getting health care. And if the US Attorney thinks she's valuable enough to protect from Pieter then he would order the Marshalls to keep her healthy as well. But that's only so long as she's under a doctor's care. Once she's healthy she would have to agree to stay in the program independently."

Emily smiled. "So the question is, what do you think she would do? What's more important to her, staying away from Pieter or keeping her word to you?" What's it going to be, little brother, hope or despair?

Emily watched as hope ever so gradually eased into Spencer's eyes. "What kind of ice cream did you get?"

T + 8 weeks, 6 days

T – 7 weeks, 1 day

Safford Diner

Safford, VA

If you wanted to have a conversation off of FBI property you had four choices of nearby restaurants. Two were heavily populated by customers from the US Marine base that surrounded Quantico, served alcohol, and tended to get a little, or a lot, rowdy. One was slightly upscale, served alcohol, and was immensely popular with the brass. And one was a hole in the wall that did not serve alcohol, and served mostly locals.

It wasn't a difficult choice.

"It is a grey area." Rossi agreed, after Spencer and Emily laid out their theory on Sara being placed in protective custody against her will. "The whole point of putting someone into Witness Protection is to keep them safe and willing to testify. If they piss her off enough she might say no."

"She wouldn't do that." Spencer replied.

"You know that. They don't." Rossi sat back, sipped his cup of bad diner coffee and looked them over. "Are we all in agreement that she cannot be moved until she's medically clear?"

All four of them, Spencer and Emily, Morgan and Garcia, nodded in agreement. At Rossi's suggestion they had left Hotch out of it, at least at this stage, so as not to cause him any more problems with the powers that be. "So we can't do anything for another eight weeks." Morgan said.

"At a minimum," Spencer told them. "It could be up to ten, which is one of the reasons why we have to wait for her to contact us when she's clear."

"Why can't we just look her up now?' Garcia asked. "We could keep an eye on her medical records, and as soon as she's clear we can go pick her up."

There was a long pause. "You notice none of us are asking if Garcia here could find her." Morgan finally said. "The problem with that is that it gets the FBI involved."

"So?" Garcia asked.

"So, that would release the paper storm on Hotch. That's what we're trying to avoid. But, if Juliet calls Romeo over here and asks him to come help as a civilian, then the rest of us can go along as his friends."

"And what's to stop them from invoking their badges? I mean, you're going to have to work through a translator, what's to stop them from just not listening?" Garcia asked

"We'll have to cross that bridge when we come to it." Morgan told her.

"You know what the problem is with you young people?" Rossi said with a sigh. "You're not devious enough. We already know that Van Rensburg bribed one official in Seattle to get out of the electronic monitoring. What's to stop him from bribing the Marshall on site and going to get her as soon as she is healthy? Or for that matter, her brother?"

"There hasn't been any indication of that." Morgan reminded him.

"Not yet." Garcia purred.

"He doesn't have that kind of money." Morgan tried another hole.

"He doesn't have Mandarin money." Rossi reminded him. "She's expensive. How much would it take to bribe someone on our kind of salary?"

Morgan tried again. "They won't believe it if it comes from us."

"They will if it comes from Clive." Emily pointed out. "At this point he owes me his firstborn."

"The charges won't stick."

"They don't have to. We don't even want them to." Rossi looked at Morgan. "All we want to do is get Juliet away long enough to make her own decision, and state it to a witness. Even another cop will do."

"What if she decides she wants to stay in?" Morgan had to put it out there.

"That's her decision. It might make a hard day for Romeo here, but the whole point of it is to give her the chance to choose for herself, free and clear."

Morgan sighed. "All right, I'm in. I don't like it, if we have any other option I'd rather go with that, but I'm in. So what do we do while we're waiting for her to contact us?"

"Be ready to move." Emily said. "Didn't they move Haley every time she called her Mom? We don't want to have to go looking for her."

"Try not to go too insane." Spencer muttered.

Garcia looked over at him. "Oh, no sweetie, you have to shop."

"What?" For a moment Spencer looked terrified. "Why?"

"Because when they put you in Witness Protection they get rid of everything that might tempt you to go back." Emily told him. "They cleaned Haley out, the house was on the market, the only reason why they even had photographs and videos left was because Kassmeyer gave them to Hotch. Odds are when we rescue her all she's going to have are the clothes on her back."

"I don't even know where to start."

"Not to worry." Garcia said. "You peeps can work a psychological profile, but your goddess can work a fashion profile. We'll have a trousseau for her in no time."

"And you will let me help." Rossi told him

"You're not leaving me out." Emily added. "And JJ had to go through her storage unit, she might have some ideas."

By now Morgan was chuckling. He looked at Spencer with all honesty. "Leave me out. There's one thing I don't understand though." He said, turning serious again. "They let Hotch keep in at least brokered contact. We're FBI, why not just run their letters through the Marshall's service and move them inter-office? Especially if it would keep her compliant."

"That," Rossi said, "Is a very good question."

Chapter Text

Chapter 39

T + 10 weeks

T – 5 weeks

Rogue Valley Medical Center

Medford OR

Mannan

The hardest part of this job, he thought, was having to handle that little bitch with kid gloves.

Mannan looked at the figure sitting next to him. The truth was that Stephen Conway was the one who needed to be in a hospital. He had a rip roaring case of PTSD going on, and he was self medicating with beer, junk food and internet porn. But his paranoia was helpful as hell; it was helping to keep that sister of his in line. Mannan had enough experience to know that if she could talk and walk they'd never be able to keep her in sight, let alone buttoned down and safe. She was far too strong willed to submit to the rigors of Witness Protection, even just the way she looked at him made him want to knock her back in her place, and hard. And what was worse was who she had in her ass pocket. "Is Sara still trying to send those letters?"

"Yep, every day. Are you sure you can't get them to him? She was always so happy to get the mail, you know." Stephen asked, almost pleading.

"Nope, the only way to keep her safe is to cut all ties. I'm sorry she's having so much trouble with that, but it really is in her best interests, I swear." And if Doctor Color Crayons knew where she was he'd lead that bastard Van Rensburg right to her. "I've worked with that kid she's been writing to before; you just can't trust him not to lead the kidnappers right to her. He's too young, has no maturity. On the last job we worked on a kid got killed because of him, and they covered it up to protect their baby there." Well, he thought, we covered it up. But it doesn't matter, I still don't trust him. "No, it's better if you keep stashing them. Eventually she'll forget about him and move on."

"I don't know what she sees in him." Stephen said in his shaking voice. "Not if he's the way you say."

"Who knows with girls, right? You just keep speaking for her and she'll make it all the way to the trial, you'll see. Just don't let her go babbling to the nurses about how she wants to call her boyfriend and everything, you have to stick close."

"All right."

Just then the doctor came out to the waiting room. "Suzy Sizemore?"

Mannan had to elbow Stephen to get him to respond to the new name. "Yeah, I'm her brother, Steve. This is Pat, he's a friend. Um, how is she? How did it go?"

The doctor smiled. "Everything went perfectly. Whoever put that in did a marvelous job; it all went back together without a hitch. Now we just have to keep her here a couple of days to make sure everything is, well, let's say working according to factory specs, and then once the incisions heal she'll be good as new."

Great, Mannan thought. Then we'll have hell to pay, sure. He looked over at the doctor. "Can we go see her? She's gonna need a translator and all."

"Sure. I'll let the nurse know that her family will be helping with communication. It shouldn't be a problem."

Not a problem, Mannan thought; at least not for now."

T + 10 weeks, 4 days

T – 4 weeks, 3 days

3001 "Q" St. NW

Washington DC

Spencer

Sara had told him, back in Pieter's prison, back a lifetime ago, that she lived in a small, brick house next to a neighborhood market. He'd discouraged her from describing it, for fear of making her homesick and melancholy. Now he regretted that.

Spencer poked around the tiny house. She had opened up the kitchen onto the living room, making it one large, cozy space where you could curl on the couch by the fire and watch someone cook. It had what looked like too much stove and too much fridge, the hallmark, or so the realtor said, of a kitchen designed for a cook. The bathroom had an old-fashioned slipper tub, where someone could soak long and deep. The smudges on the floor in the smaller bedroom with all the light gave testimony to its use as an art studio. And the small backyard was a carefully tended vegetable garden, or had been, once upon a time.

Spencer knew that he might have been able to afford it, except that he had been paying for Bennington all these years. Rossi or Morgan might have helped, but there was such a thing as too generous, and besides, by the time they realized what was happening it was already in escrow. Morgan's realtor buddy just let them in to have a look around to satisfy their curiosity.

It suited her, Spencer thought, warm and cozy and comfortable. But the next place will suit her as well; I'll make sure of that. Still, I wish I could have known her when she was here. I bet it was wonderful here.

"Hey Reid," Morgan called to him. Behind the back door, more or less protected from the elements, were a pair of battered old sneakers, the kind of thing you might wear out in the mud to muck the garden. He crouched down to check them out. "Nine N," he said. "Wasn't that the one thing Garcia couldn't figure?"

"Yeah," we'll put it all back together, Spencer thought, starting from here.

_ Arrowhead Dr.

Medford OR

Sara

Sara stood in the bathroom and slowly pulled the long t-shirt that passed for night clothes over her head. For the first time in well over a year she saw her body as it should be, more or less. No bandages, no tubes, no bags. No holes where they ought not to be. Just a few squares of gauze covering a few small cuts, that was all. For the first time she dared to look at herself in the mirror, fully.

Before Pieter had taken her she had been healthy. She had walked something called an exercise trail every morning, a long, brisk walk around campus, stopping at stations to do things like sit ups and pushups. It had kept her strong and healthy, and helped to balance out a love of good, sometimes rich, food. Throughout her adult life she had been a good fifteen pounds overweight, but at five foot ten it had shown in full curves more than anything. And even though she was red-head pale, exercise and wholesome, natural food had given her a healthy glow, tender care had given her curls like silk. She'd liked her body back then.

Now? After a year with Pieter, and then the trauma of repeated surgeries she was down a good sixty pounds, technically underweight according to the hospital right before she left. She had little muscle left and no fat stores, she could see her ribs and the knobs on her spine, and the spars of her hips, and losing that much had done nothing but horrid things to her breasts. They hung, for goodness sake. And she was pastier than anything, her skin too pale and dry, and her hair brittle and frizzy.

She really looked like hell.

But I can fix this, she thought. Yes, I'm only a few days out of that last surgery; yes my body is still trying to wake back up after everything that has been done. But I have control of it now, finally.

Her churning stomach told her that she might be a bit optimistic in that assessment.


Later, after everything has settled, she went looking for stamps. She hadn't received a letter from Spencer for weeks, rather wondered what Mannan was doing with the mail anyway, but she had faith that it would get through eventually. Anyway, the important part was that she kept writing to Spencer. She was not going to abandon him. She was going to earn the trust he placed in her.

Stephen was out, for the moment. One of Mannan's goons was on the rental couch, spread out, watching a football game on the gigantic screen TV Stephen had insisted on renting. That's all he did anymore, drink beer and watch TV, or worse, spend hours on his computer, munching away at snacks bought from Costco. When they arrived here, Oregon of all places, she had very deliberately started palming her pain medicine. It had made it impossible to walk for the first few weeks, or to sleep well, and now her latest incision was hurting brightly, but she wanted her mind clear. No one was going to move her again, not if she could help it. If this was bad, somehow, and Spencer was looking for her it had to be better if she stayed in one place. But she knew, now, that Stephen wasn't sleeping well either. He slept worse than she did, had the lights on at all hours, and was in and out of the kitchen until the wee hours of the morning.

Stephen was...not well. And Mannan was not helping. Not one bit.

But Stephen was out for the moment, and so she went to his office to find a stamp. Surely he had to have some in here, somewhere. He had to be paying bills or something. Or was Mannan doing everything?

In the third drawer her world turned upside down.

It wasn't just the file of paperwork she found. That would have been bad enough. That in and of itself was enough to send anger, bright and hot through her veins.

When she considered what it implied her knees gave out from under her and she had to land in his chair.

But when she pulled out the file to have a better look, no, to confront Stephen and Mannan when they got home, she found something even worse.

Her letters.

The letters she had been sending to Spencer.

They were all still there.

Seventeen letters, including the one in her hand. Seventeen letters, most with a picture tucked inside. Seventeen requests for help, which had gone unanswered. Seventeen promises not kept.

That bastard. The both of them. She skipped right over depression and grief, touched on them all but briefly. But anger, that settled in, that went from bright and hot to deep and lasting.

She knew, right then, that her complaints and her concerns would fall on, well, deaf ears. Vague cultural memories were being proven true, right before her eyes. When they put you in Witness Protection they cut off all ties to your former life. All ties, every one.

Son of a bitch.

Chapter Text

Chapter 40

T + 12 weeks, 5 days

T – 2 weeks, 2 days

3121 18 th  St NW

Washington DC

Spencer

It was a suitcase. Old-fashioned, leather, boxy, packed with some long skirts, simple tops, shoes, toiletries. It was just a suitcase, sitting on his living room floor. But to Spencer it represented so much more. That wasn't something he could explain to anyone on the team, Garcia and Emily were too, well, female. Morgan and Rossi were in their own ways ladies men, players who played a different game. Hotch might have understood, he thought, but it was still too soon after losing Haley and he'd never been comfortable talking to Hotch anyway, not about this sort of thing. Thankfully he had one friend who absolutely Got It, without having to explain it all. And that friend was willing to take a few hours off to come talk. "So, have I completely lost my mind here?"

"Certainly not," Ben told him, settling on the piano stool with a beer. "It's a classic romantic gesture, she'll adore it, you watch."

"No, I mean waiting like this. I keep going back and forth between wanting to go make sure she's all right and wanting to just give it up and move on."

"'It's not the despair, I can handle the despair. It's the hope that kills you.'" Ben quoted at him. "Why don't we start with that first option and get the cruel reality out of the way. Is it even up to you to go help her? Is she really your Lady to save? Has she accepted you?"

"Not in so many words, but..."

"But, but, but. I know the feelings are there but in the Classic sense, without an actual agreement her defense is still up to her family, meaning her brother. And without an agreement your first duty is to King and country, or in this case, your work. You know that."

"So you're saying I shouldn't worry about her?"

"No, I'm saying your hands are tied. You have to wait for the Lady to make the first move."

"Would you go after Emily?"

"Emily and I have an agreement. Besides," Ben managed to look a little sheepish. "I would trust Emily to go after me."

"Isn't it supposed to be the other way around?"

"Classically, yes, but let's face it, she keeps an assault rifle under the bed."

That stopped Spencer a moment, "Seriously?"

"Yes, seriously, as well as a box of other goodies in the closet that she told me not to go into, advice I am taking, thank you. You know the suits of armor I have down in the Salon?" When Spencer nodded Ben started chuckling. "She bought a dress mannequin at an antique shop the other day, a lovely old piece, one of the wire form ones. She put it in the corner of the bedroom and draped her Kevlar vest over it for storage. Seriously, M'Lady Dame stood her armor in the corner of the bedroom, I kid you not." By now they were both laughing a little. "And that brings us to the second point, trust. You know how much that matters here."

Well, that cut the laughter. Spencer sipped at his soda thoughtfully. "Yeah, I know."

"Which is the hardest thing, isn't it?" Ben studied him a long moment. "Does she know that?"

"Yeah, I told her about what happened."

"Well then, either you trust her or you don't. It really is that simple, in the end." Ben sipped his beer. "At least you know one thing."

"What's that?"

"If you make it through this, you're probably good for the rest of time."

T + 15 weeks, 1 day

T 2  – 6 days

Southern Oregon University

Ashland, OR

Sara

I just want to go buy some art supplies. Sara had all but begged her brother as soon as they left the doctor's office. Why not?

Because it's not safe. He said, again.

Why not? We're in the middle of nowhere, Pieter has no clue where we are, and it's a busy college campus, I won't be alone. I just want to get out of the house for a few minutes. Please.

He finally relented. All right. But we're getting some lunch while we're down there.

That was how they ended up at the nearest university. And without Mannan's goons as well, she had put her foot down about them not accompany her to doctor's appointments. And given that none of them wanted to go sit in an OB/GYN office they had complied.

It was her one chance.

As they walked in to the student union she nodded in the direction of the fast food court. Go ahead, I'll just be a few minutes.

No, Stephen said, I'll go with you. Then we can eat.

No, you go eat. You're lousy company when you're hungry. Get a paper; I'll meet you over there.

He sighed. He looked so tired, she thought, not sleeping, always scared. And Mannan was encouraging this, not helping at all. Bastard. I don't know.

Look, there is one door in and out of the bookstore. And if you sit at the food court you can see all the doors in and out of the building. It's perfectly safe, I'll be fine. I just want to do a little shopping, all right? It's a girl thing.

Okay, he finally relented. Just don't leave the building.

Oh, I don't intend to, she thought as she watched him head off. Once he was safely around the corner she headed for the University Bookstore. But on the way she spotted a building map, and stopped for a look, hoping it might just possibly tell her what she needed to know.

And it did.

She darted into the bookstore, quickly bought the first art notebook that came to hand, and then right back out. Quick as she could she ducked into the stairwell next to the bookstore and headed downstairs. A right, down a deserted hallway, then another right, and bingo, there it was.

Academic Access Resource Center.

She carefully shut the door behind her and over to the counter. Can you help me? She signed to the woman behind the counter.

The woman in question shook her head, held up a finger to wait, then went to tap another woman, one who came over with a smile. What can I help you with? She signed

Perfect, Sara thought. Just perfect.

BAU Headquarters

Quantico, VA

Garcia

Garcia settled back in her seat and sighed. Another case successfully closed, now her babies were packing up and heading for the plane to come home. Life was good.

And then her phone rang. Something from the switchboard. "Behavioral Analysis Unit."

A clipped, professional voice answered. "This is a TTY relay call, one moment please." There was a pause. "May I speak to Penelope Garcia please, go ahead."

Huh? "I'm sorry, what is this?"

The voice on the other end remained professional, but took on a patient air, as if she had already explained this twenty times today. "This is a TTY relay call. The person on the other end of the line is using a teletype device. It's a method of communication used by those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Just speak to me like you would to them, only say Go Ahead when you're done so they know it's their turn to talk."

Deaf? "Oh. My. God. Yes, this is Penelope Garcia, yes. Oh, Go Ahead. No, wait, don't go ahead. Just tell her to tell me where she is..."

_ Arrowhead Dr.

Medford OR

Mannan

"So how did the appointment go?" He asked Stephen when he got there that night to check on them.

"Good. Real good. She doesn't have to go back anymore, it's done." That, at least, had Steve smiling. Mannan didn't blame him, getting the marks of that fucktard off his sister had to be a relief.

"Outstanding. She seems to be setting in better?" He looked over at the silent young woman, sitting at the folding table, drawing something or other.

"Yeah. Yeah, she's doing all right. We even headed down to the University in Ashland today so she could pick up some more art stuff. She's back up to doing her own shopping and everything." Stephen looked over at his sister and gave her a proud smile.

"Good, that's...wait, her own shopping?" That caught Mannan's attention.

"Yeah. Well, she didn't leave the building, but she was able to go in to the bookstore on her own."

Just then Sara looked up at him. Given that she couldn't talk, that when she did make a sound it was garbled and strange, he kept mistaking her for stupid, for just not being all that bright. Clearly, that was a mistake. "Excuse me." He said to Stephen, and then stepped out the back door, pulling out his phone. "Yeah, Nancy. Get a bead on the University down in Ashland, whatever building houses the bookstore, and check every call made out of it on a landline between, oh, eleven and two today. Yeah, call me back." Goddamed little bitch on wheels was going to make his life a living hell, he could just tell. While Nancy checked he called the main office, got a location for a move, someplace without a university anywhere in driving distance.

While he was working his phone beeped incoming. "Yeah, Nancy, what have you got? Uh-huh...uh-huh...wait, what kind of relay? And where did it relay to? Right, thank you." With that he set things in motion and hurried back into the house.

"What's going on?" Stephen asked him, seeing the angry look on his face.

"I told you to keep an eye on her. While she was supposed to be in the bookstore she called Mr. Wizard over at the FBI. He's gonna lead them right here, you watch. I've already got things going, as soon as the plane gets here you're moving again."

Stephen's eyes widened in terror. "What if she says she won't go?"

"We do it the way we did it the last time." Mannan looked at her, then stepped into the hall bath. There was already a spoon and a small plate in the medicine cabinet, it was the work of moments to grind the sedative combination into a powder. This would knock her out for a good six hours, ample time to get them to a new hidey hole.

About ninety minutes later, when he received word that the plane was on the ground, he dumped the powder into one of those vitamin shakes and mixed it up. Then he passed it off to Stephen who took it over to Sara. Here you go, Ladybug, don't want to forget this.

Oh, I don't have to anymore, remember. She looked up at him and smiled. Those things are disgusting, really. No thank you.

But...but you have to.

No. She gathered up her sketchbook and pencils. I'm going to go rest a bit before dinner.

Clearly at a loss, Stephen looked over at Mannan. "She won't take it."

He'd prepared for this. Little brat had to be protected for her own good, why couldn't she see that. "Then we do it the hard way." As Sara tried to get past him he pulled the back up from his pocket and flipped off the cap. He grabbed her arm and with a good, solid push injected her right through her clothing. She gave a bark like a seal, hit him hard, and managed to pull herself away.

What was that? She signed, backing up and looking from him to her brother, terror in her eyes. What are you doing? I trusted you!

It's for your own good, bug, I swear. Stephen signed back to her. A moment later she staggered, went pale, and crumpled to the floor.

"Come on; let's get her into the car. We don't have as much time." That sedative only lasted four hours; they would have just enough time, maybe. He bundled her up himself, shocked at how light she was, then carried her out to the SUV. He tucked her into the backseat and draped his coat over her to hide her. "Leave everything. We'll start again when you get there."

Of course just as he went to pull out of the parking lot there was the sound of sirens. Sheriff's department, local cops and, oh yes, FBI cars. And it was a very familiar voice that called out once they all stopped. "Federal Agents." Aaron Hotchner called to him. "Come out with your hands up."

Son of a bitch.

Chapter Text

Chapter 41

T + 15 weeks, 1 day

T 2  – 6 days

Rogue Valley Medical Center

Medford, OR

Cotton and mould. That's what it felt like, like she had cotton and mould in her head and had to dig her way through. The last thing Sara remembered was Mannan grabbing her and punching her in the shoulder, hard. Now she was lying on something soft and comfortable, but her shoulder still hurt and her arm felt odd. And her head was full of cotton and mould again. Drugged again, she thought, I should probably not be surprised.

She opened her eyes and saw a ceiling of acoustical tiles and fluorescent fixtures. That hurt. She closed her eyes again. It didn't matter, she'd called for Spencer and he would come and save her. Everything else was just details. Although I'd rather not be hurt again, really, she thought, I've had quite enough of that.

She just had to trust. Thankfully, she already knew he was a worthy Knight.


Meanwhile, in a nearby consulting room, the bureaucratic gods were releasing what could only be described as a shitstorm. Crammed into the small room was the BAU team, Mannan and three of his men, Clive Easter representing Interpol, the local Sheriff and one of his deputies and the ER doctor.

Yes, it was tight.

"Sara Conway is in Witness Protection." Mannan asserted. "As soon as she wakes up her and her brother are going to be moved to a secure location."

"You mean as soon as they wake up." The ER doctor said. They all turned to look at him. "Stephen Conway was becoming agitated and hysterical; we had to sedate him for his own safety an hour ago while all of you were consulting with your offices."

"Oh, great." Manning groused. He looked back at Hotch, "See what you did?"

"Actually we're more concerned with what you've been doing." Clive Easter spoke up. "We were alerted when Interpol detected a transfer of funds from a bank in South Africa to one of the black accounts used by the Marshall Service. Now it may be nothing, but I'm sure you can understand our concern." Clive looked at Mannan grimly. "Of course finding Dr. Conway drugged in the back of your vehicle does not help matters at all."

Okay, now Mannan was pissed. "Are you accusing me of taking a bribe? How fucking dare you!"

"Gentlemen." Rossi raised his hands, stopping the battle. "No one is accusing anyone of anything here. I'm sure it was just a mistake on the part of the bank. And I'm sure you thought you had good reason for sedating Dr. Conway. But given that that was clearly a violation of her rights, and given that Agents Prentiss and Easter are most familiar with the threat, we believe it's probably safer for all involved if we took over protective detail for Dr. Conway."

"Bullshit." Mannan spit back. "You just want to help out lover boy over there and screw what happens to the case. She goes into hiding until she testifies, just like she agreed."

"No, she didn't." Hotch said, quietly.

"What?" Mannan turned on him.

Hotch was looking through a file. "She didn't sign any of the documents accepting Witness Protection. All of these just have her brother's signature on them."

"He's her guardian."

"In order for him to take over as legal guardian she would have to be declared incompetent by the court, and he would have to be appointed. There's no such order here." He pulled out his phone and hit #7. "Garcia?"

"Speak oh great one."

"Would you look for any record of a competency hearing concerning Dr. Sara Conway, please. See if her brother was granted guardianship."

"In a trice." Garcia rang off.

"Stephen Conway holds her medical power of attorney. He's her next of kin."

"A medical power of attorney only applies to health care decisions when the patient is not capable of making decisions on their own. As soon as Dr. Conway was released from the hospital after returning from Germany it no longer applied, if not before. And regardless, it would not apply in this case." Hotch looked up at him. "You should have had her sign these documents."

"Every time I went over there she was sleeping off the pain meds. Besides, I don't speak sign, I couldn't have talked it over with even if she was awake."

"Why not get a translator?" Morgan asked.

"That would have created a security gap. Her brother was doing the translating."

"Was he even competent to make this kind of decision?" Morgan looked over at the doctor.

"Not in my opinion." The doctor replied. "From what I've seen he's suffering from paranoia, depression, possibly even hallucinations and his blood alcohol level was elevated. Given that, as I understand, he's recently returned from Afghanistan? I suspect severe PTSD. He could stand treatment himself. There's a Veteran's Hospital just up the road that could take him."

"Great, now we will have a security gap." Mannan complained again. "Look, he explained everything to her, she was being compliant."

"Only until she was cleared by the doctor. She was only putting up with you for the health care." Rossi informed him. "If she was going along, why did she call us to come get her from you as soon as she was cleared to travel?"

"Because she's a stupid girl who doesn't understand security. She's just upset that we cut her off from Mr. Wizard over there. Look, I don't care what you think of him that kid has no respect for authority or proper procedure. I refuse to trust him within a mile of my witness."

"Gentlemen, please." Now it was Hotch's turn to calm everything down. "There's a simple way to go about fixing this. As soon as Dr. Conway is awake we'll ask her if she's willing to go into the Witness Protection Program. If she is Agent Mannan can have jurisdiction. If not we'll offer her FBI protection."

"And who's going to translate, you?"

"Agents Rossi and Reid are both fluent in ASL, either of them can translate for us."

"Bullshit." Mannan replied. "I don't trust them or you not to coerce my witness."

"My witness." Clive reminded him.

"Ahem!" They all turned to look at the ER doctor. "Until I release her, she's my patient. And the sheriff and I will ask her what she wants to do."

The doctor and sheriff stepped out, and the two groups retreated to their separate corners to prepare for round 2 if needed. Hotch looked over the lot of them, but focused on Rossi. "So, how much longer before the bank realizes its 'mistake'?"

"I have no idea. That's up to the bank." Rossi replied. "Remind me to call Garcia when we're ready to move on."

"Right." Hotch nodded.

"Regardless of how we got here, the truth is that Mannan messed up." Morgan pointed out. "He should have had a translator in on the family briefings and he should have gotten her signature on the Memorandum of Understanding. Drugging her to get her compliant was way over the line. Whether or not she presses charges, it's still going to cost him his job, he has to know that."

"And to be honest, Van Rensburg has way too much political pull inside the US to guarantee that his crimes against Dr. Reid here will not be dismissed." Clive pointed out. "The only way we're going to stop him is through the International Court and the charges of human trafficking, and for that we need Dr. Conway's testimony. The last thing we need is a witness turned hostile because she was drugged and moved against her will."

"She wouldn't do that." Spencer told them

Rossi turned to look at him. "Hush." He said

"Well, all right then." The Sheriff said as he came back into the waiting room. "Dr. Conway has flat out refused the offer of Witness Protection from the Marshalls Service. I can't say I blame her, and I will gladly inform the US Attorney of that. She has also declined to press charges against the Marshalls Service for assault and kidnapping. That said, the head of the ER here has asked me to ask the US Marshall to get the hell out of his ER, and to escort him if necessary."

"It's not." Mannan snapped. He turned to Hotch and the team. "All right, now it's on your head. Good luck controlling that little bitch." With that he turned and stormed out.

Morgan put a hand on Spencer's suddenly tense shoulder. "Uh-uh."

The Sheriff took a deep breath and got his own temper under control. "Dr. Conway did say she'd discuss a protection detail with the FBI. The doctor is just finishing up the paperwork for her release and her brother's transfer now. It'll be a few minutes."

"Thank you Sheriff." Hotch said, as the entire team breathed a sigh of relief.

"Okay, now what?" Morgan asked.

"Now, if you don't mind, I think Interpol would like it if you stashed all three witnesses in a safe house until Van Rensburg makes some kind of a move." Clive replied.

"Ben even refused that much." Emily told them, her voice full of tried patience. "He has a guard detail and is staying in a hotel downtown this week under full security at night. During the day he's at the conference center and it is packed. This thing is huge."

"Well, he has lots of witnesses." Rossi pointed out.

"Do you think we're going to be able to get Dr. Conway into a safe house, after all this?" Morgan asked.

"Oh, I think if we offer her the right package she'll work with it." Rossi said with a patient smile.

There was a long pause in the room as people started sorting what had to be done next. "What?" Spencer finally spoke up, "You're not even going to ask me?"

"No, we're going to order you." Hotch said, not even looking up from his tablet. "You will be staying in a safe house with Dr. Conway until this is all over." He finally looked up. "Any objections?"

"Um, no." Spencer said, without needing to think at all.

"Good."

Just then the door opened and they all turned to look at the woman standing there. She was taller then Spencer had expected, a little taller than Emily, in jeans and a long-sleeved T, with her hair a thick, red braid over one shoulder and a fringe of curls around her face. She looked too tired and too thin and utterly beautiful.

"Um, I should go tell Interpol what's happened." Clive said, and he ducked out the door.

He was quickly followed by Hotch, who needed to go arrange for the safe house, Rossi, who needed to call Garcia, Emily, who really ought to tell Ben everything was okay, and Morgan who wanted to go find some coffee.

There had always been space between then, Spencer thought, panes of glass or the strong arms of Pieter's goons, or states, or even a whole continent. Now it was still there, only that space had shrunk to a few feet of nothing but air. One step, that's all it was. And yet she was the one who had to cross it. He stood there, watching her, as time itself held its breath.

And then she smiled.

Hello, love. Sara said. And she took one step and took his hand.

Chapter Text

Chapter 42

T + 15 weeks, 1 day

T 2  – 6 days

_ Arrowhead Dr.

Medford OR

She just needed to get a few things, she'd said. Just a quick stop on the way to the airport. The Marshalls were already cleaning out the apartment when they got there, but she walked in fearlessly anyway. Just wait here, she said, I'll only be a moment.

Emily went in with her, while he waited outside with Morgan. They watched the two women walk around the corner. "You know who she reminds me of?" Morgan asked, rhetorically.

"Emily." Spencer replied.

"I was going to say Elle. Or JJ. Or my baby girl. Or even my Mom, kinda." Morgan looked over with a smile. "Look, I still don't really get this whole Court thing..."

"Is that why you keep going back, even though you keep getting shot down?"

"Hush. But if it means having a thing for really strong women, that I can get."

"That's part of it." Spencer watched as the Marshalls gave him the kind of looks that usually meant something unpleasant. "Why are they looking at us like that?"

"Because Mannan screwed up, and now they're all going to take the fall. But it's easier to blame a rival than to blame a boss you like." Morgan said. Spencer already knew that, but it was good to hear it said out loud, and Morgan knew it.

It was only a few minutes. She came back out with a leather bag slung across her body, a shopping bag in one hand, and a box under her arm. That was all. "I tried to tell her you have stuff for her." Emily said. "But I don't know that I got the vocab right. Anyway, she stopped to grab a few things."

"No worries, you weren't gone that long." They piled back in and headed for the airport. Sara easily passed him the shopping bag, maybe a third full of clothes, and he rather figured she kept the same kind of thing in her satchel that he kept in his, more or less, but the box was a mystery. It had once held file folders, and she wouldn't let him touch it. Not yet, she said, not until we have some privacy.

All right.

Gulfstream 5000

Northwestern US airspace

Once in the air they had some privacy. They took the smallest, most private set of seats at the far end of the plane, while the rest of the team settled in for the quiet flight home. Once they were safely in the air he pulled a couple of boxes out of his satchel, stepped to the galley, and quietly made them each a cup of tea. His was an herbal blend, good with cough drops and for sore throats and hers... Lapsang Souchong. You remembered.

Lapsang Souchong, turbinado sugar and a splash of half and half. I said I wanted to make some of your fantasies come true, starting with a proper mug of tea. He smiled as he watched the laughter dance across her face.

She set the tea aside a moment after she tasted it. She then rather ritualistically pushed the box across the table to him. A gift? He looked a question at her. What is it?

Open it and look.

He lifted the lid on the box. It was filled with letters, each one addressed to him, stamped, sealed, ready to go in the mail. An entire box of letters. Fifty-six he realized, one for every day they had been out of touch. He looked up at her, confused. I don't understand, didn't you figure it out?

Oh, eventually. When I ran out of stamps about two weeks in I went looking for some in Stephen's desk and found them. I still couldn't get to the mailbox, and probably would have been stopped if I tried.

And yet you kept writing?

Yes. She replied. I promised. I also promised I would come to you the day I was released from medical care. Unfortunately I ended up calling you to come get me. I'm sorry about that.

Spencer blinked at her. No, don't be sorry. You contacted me in any sense, I don't see a difference.

She nodded, Good. Now as for my third promise I will not leave without saying good-by to your face. Granted it may take a lifetime to prove on it.

He had been considering that, hoping about that, for weeks on end. I don't think I would mind, he said, finally.

You know, I wasn't just writing to you, before I was taken away again.

Oh?

I wrote to Carol at Court, to tell her I was planning on returning. She wrote back this long, charming letter, telling me about the tale of your adventures. Sara reached across the table, brushed his purple scarf out of the way, slid a finger under the knot of his tie to loosen it, and then unbuttoned the top button of his shirt. She lightly ran a finger over the scar that was revealed. You never told me what happened.

A knight ought to be modest, he replied, feeling his ears burn as she commented. Or at her touch.

She gently ran her finger over it again. You really did that for me?

Anything for you. He'd spent years trying to think of how to do this, and now... You know, my Mom always taught me to seek perfection in everything I did, the better to do honor to my Lady. She encouraged my academic career, told me to never stop learning and growing and to always use my gift to help others, never for personal gain. And my mentor Gideon always said that the best weapon anyone could have was a good profile, a thorough understanding of the mind of another. He wanted to do this do well, and now he was just flailing here. I guess...everything I've done, everything I am is within my head. I've been trying to come up with a tangible representation of that and just haven't...

Sara fluttered her hands over his to calm him. Easy, love. What are you trying to say?

For a long moment all he could do was breathe and lose himself in her eyes as the world finally slowed down enough. The sign for the verb "to offer" is to make a gesture toward the person to whom you are speaking, hands open, palms toward the sky. It is to offer a suggestion, a thought. It is, perhaps, to offer everything. Spencer looked at her a long moment, held his breath. I offer...

She reached across the table and took his hands in her own. I accept.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 43

T + 15 weeks, 1 day

T 2  – 6 days

Gulfstream 5000

Northwestern US airspace

Spencer

At one point in the flight they moved to two seats side-by-side. Spencer had promised Sara every fantasy, every desire, and he was keeping to that. Which was why he was trying to work his way through a box full of sealed letters with her sleeping against his shoulder. He found she fit quite comfortably, her head tucking neatly under his chin. He looked up as Emily came over and sat across from them. "She looks comfortable."

"She wanted to be held for a while. Everything settled then?"

"Can't say I blame her," Emily nodded. "Once we land you two are going to the safe house, I'm going to go meet Ben at the hotel. If Van Rensburg hasn't made a move by the end of Nationals he'll be joining you there."

"Do you think Joshua has a chance?"

"If Ben doesn't spank him first," Emily looked him over. "Speaking of fencing, don't forget to put your sword back over the mantle."

Spencer looked down at Sara, who was snoring very softly, "That obvious?"

"You look happy."

"I am happy. Look at this." He gestured to the box in front of him. "Every day, she promised she would write every day and she did, even though she knew they weren't being mailed." He looked down at the pile in front of him. "She kept her word."

"A worthy Lady for a worthy Knight," she looked down at her coffee. "I have to admit, I'm a little jealous."

That set Spencer frowning. "Why?"

"I don't want to lose my little brother."

He chuckled. "You're not. No more than I lost anything to Ben."

"Promise?"

He looked up when he heard her voice, realized just how much this mattered to her. "Absolutely. Do you?"

"Of course." Emily looked at the young woman sleeping on his shoulder. "Maybe she'll be able to explain all this to me." She finally conceded.

Now that surprised him a little. "You mean you haven't figured it out by now?"

"Well, more or less. I keep feeling like I'm missing the details though."

"I'm sure she'd be willing to help." He looked passed Emily, realized that everyone else on the plane was deliberately not looking at him. "Is that what you came over to talk about?"

"Kind of," she looked back at the rest of the plane. "You know, you have a bit of a reputation. And she was just released from the doctor..."

Spencer just blinked at her. Wait, seriously? "Didn't we already have this discussion? I'm not a..."

"I know. I'm not here to tell you that. But it was me, Rossi or Morgan so I deliberately lost the card cut."

"Ah. Thank you." It was hard to decide which birds and bees lecture would have been more horrifying.

"Anytime," Emily's phone rang, "Prentiss."

Then her eyes grew very, very wide...

T + 15 weeks

T 2  – 5 days

Marel Fencing Salon

Washington DC

Emily

"What the hell happened? Where's Ben Marel?" Emily asked whoever might be listening when she reached what looked like the command post.

"He said he'd be right back." The incident commander said. "You want to stand back; someone had some powerful ammo stored in there.

"Yeah, me," Emily showed her badge just as the fire set off something loud and bright.

"Still keeping flash-bangs on hand?" Morgan asked her. Hotch had gone home to check on Jack, the rest of them had come straight from the airport, Sara included.

"Well, I was." Emily said. She stood there trying very hard not to go into shock as the building that held the Salon and their apartment finished going up in flames.

"Ah, there you are." Ben said, coming up behind her and wrapping her up in his arms. "I'm sorry for your things, love. I hope none of it was irreplaceable."

"No. No. Oh God," she turned and held him and allowed herself to be held. "Was anyone in there?"

"No, the entire staff has decamped to the convention center for the week. And I just got back from the emergency vet, Sergio is fine. It looks like whoever started this thing broke several windows in the process and he ran. I found him out behind the dumpster. They're going to board him as long as we need."

"Good," Emily let out a sigh of relief. "What about your things, your business?" Most of her stuff had still been in storage, but everything he had...

He shrugged, "Fully insured. And all my records are backed-up off site. The only thing I would have regretted losing was my, um, Barcelona sword, all things considered, and I took that with me for luck. Everything else can be replaced. Besides, I was never that fond of this neighborhood."

"Is that why you're taking this all so calmly?" She asked him.

He shrugged. "It's stuff, things; no one was hurt, that's what matters. The Salon and the business will carry on. It's going to be difficult for a while, yes, but we shall carry on."

Just then the incident commander's radio went off...

3121 18 th  St NW

Washington DC

Spencer

"What about the family?" Spencer asked as they looked up at the burning building.

"On vacation, and the sprinkler system they put in kept any damage from reaching the buildings next door. It's mostly smoke and water damage in there."

Spencer sighed. He knew his landlords had only put the sprinkler system in to cut back on their insurance costs. Thankfully, they were also fully insured, and the basement apartment was between tenants. Emily looked over at him. "You didn't lose anything irreplaceable, did you?"

"Notes for classes, Mom's records, I might have lost a couple of files." Nothing that can't be replaced, he thought. "It's going to be more an annoyance than anything."

"Two fires in one night." Rossi said. "This is more than coincidence."

They all looked at each other. "I'll alert Mom's security detail." Emily said.

"I'll call Bennington; tell them to keep an eye out." Spencer said.

"All my kids and staff are spread out." Ben mused. "And I'm not that close to my folks."

Sara watched Rossi translate. My brother ought to be safe at the VA hospital. She told them, but if you would call for me...

"Wait, I just thought of one other place." Spencer looked over, as he waited on hold. "We need to go..."

"No, you don't." Rossi stopped him. "You call your Mom's doctor then get Sara here to the safe house. Prentiss, you get Marel under cover at the hotel. Tell us what needs to happen, Morgan and I will get it done."

The Court of the Chaplain

Washington DC

Morgan

He waited at the gate until Carol Martin appeared from around the corner, a blanket draped over her arm. "You're absolutely certain there's a threat?" She asked as soon as she got into view.

"No, Ma'am, but better safe than sorry. We'll have officers outside all night, but you said you had something you wanted to remove?" He stepped back as she opened the gate.

"Yes," she replied. "If you have someplace safe where you can take it on such short notice I would be most appreciative. And we will not hold you financially responsible in any case." She did the dance of alarms and locks and let them in the front door. Once inside, with the lights on, she stepped to the display alcove.

"I meant to ask the other night." Rossi said. "Is that the original?"

"Yes, the original Accolade. It was commissioned by our founders in 1901. It cannot be replaced." She draped it with the blanket and with their help removed it from the wall. "You're certain you have a safe place to keep it?"

"Yes Ma'am." Morgan replied. "We'll keep it safe."

"Well, thank you. Everything else is replaceable and insured, of course. Still, perhaps we'd better be careful until this is sorted. "

"Yes, Ma'am."

Morgan waited until Carol was safely in her car and away before he turned to Rossi, "So, your office or mine?"

"The conference room; let people enjoy it while we can."

Chapter Text

Chapter 44

T + 15 weeks

T 2  – 5 days

FBI Safe house

Washington DC

Spencer

After two fires by the time they got in it was past dawn. Sara was given the master suite, of course, and Spencer made it as far as the second bedroom. He did not, however, make it all the way out of his clothes.

Some time around noon he woke up, managed a quick shower, slicked back his hair, put on his glasses, and considered. On the one hand, they were being guarded by agents he did not know. On the other hand he had the deep desire to be completely honest with her, now, in the bright light of a crisp, fall morning. That mattered. A lot.

At the sound of water running in another part of the house he decided to compromise, dressed in everything but his tie, and did not bother to button his shirt. That decided he tucked something in his pocket, headed for the kitchen, made a fresh pot of coffee, and built two mugs. Thankfully the other agents were in the living room. By the time he made it back down the hall the water had stopped. And he managed to navigate knocking without knocking, while trying to ship two coffee mugs.

She was beautiful.

She looked much the same as when he had first seen her, in a cream colored robe, her hair slightly damp, hanging fire down her back. But the robe was silk now, and she was sitting in a sunbeam and there was nothing between them any longer. She accepted the mug of coffee with a smile and a pat on the bed to sit and join her. Bless you. Have there been any more fires?

No, Court is still there. And the Accolade is safe in our offices. He pulled off his outer shirt, wanting to hide nothing today, not the scar on his throat or the scars on his arms. Then he dropped on the far end of the bed, crossing his legs under him, much the same as he had before...

Do you think it was Pieter?

I do. We do. It fits the profile; he's trying to get revenge.

Through arson? What does he gain from that?

He places a great deal of value in the material trappings of power. Even his torture chamber, designed to look like an abandoned building, was really a very costly version of false humility. Now he has lost much of that and stands to lose much more. He thinks that by denying us our material goods he can make us as miserable as he feels now. He doesn't understand that some of us value intangible qualities far more than tangible goods, honor, valor, knowledge, loyalty.

Chivalry? She cut in.

Spencer nodded. And love, all things that he cannot take away. That no one can take away.

Ah, but didn't they? All those who left you?

He considered this a moment, then shook his head. I thought they did. I was wrong. I can still trust, he thought, I can still risk. I can still love.

She just watched him a moment, then nodded. So now what happens?

Breakfast. Well, brunch I guess. I hope you have something to do, we're going to be here a while.

I do. She picked up her coffee again, smiled into as she sipped and thought, and turned that shade of russet rose around the cheeks. I always thought, once I accepted a Knight, I'd set about claiming him.

This had the immediate effect of doubling gravity in the room, tripling his heart rate and tightening his pants. You could, if you wanted to. He wasn't going to deny her, not at all.

I could. She agreed. But regardless of what the doctor and Manny said, I'm still afraid, I admit it. And I hate that I am. It makes it feel like Pieter is still in the room.

Oh the things he wanted to do to Pieter right now. So start with something simple. You can claim me later, it's not like I'm going anywhere.

Simple. How so?

I was waiting for my true Knight, he remembered, that's what she wrote. All of a sudden he realized what that meant. I could show you, if you like.

Ah, but then it wouldn't be a claiming, now, would it? Sara looked at him, up from the edge of her mug once she'd gathered it again.

Spencer shrugged. It feels like it to me. Trust me with this, he thought, let me show you. I'll belong to no one else, the rest of my life, I know it. You can still mark me, if you like.

She cradled her mug in her hands, in her lap, and clearly considered a long moment. He could almost see her patiently weighing her options, realities, needs, desires, hers and his. Finally she leaned back, placed her mug on the nightstand and met his eyes again. Show me.

He moved up the bed to meet her. It started with kisses, soft and slow and then coaxing open and tasting coffee and molasses and life. He lay her down in the sunbeam with no hurry at all and lightly touched the bright silk of her hair and kissed her and kissed her until she relaxed, soft and warm under him. He nipped gently at her jaw, felt her sigh as he tasted her pulse, but waited, waited until she undid the belt of her robe and guided his hands inside to touch her.

Freckles, he realized. She was all over freckles.

He explored everywhere he thought she would like, where her neck met her collar, that spot right in the middle of her back, the long length of her legs, the warm curve of her breast. Touches, kisses, gentle, slow. He encouraged and rewarded and loved until she was singing her yes with every part of her and there was only one place left.

He did not want to hurt her.

He had a fairly good idea where Pieter's tastes had run and he wanted this to be the opposite of that in every way. He wanted there to be no friction, no pain, nothing but pleasure. So as he returned to kissing her lips, as he gently nudged her legs apart, he pulled the small bottle from his pocket and slicked himself before touching her. For a moment she was afraid, for a moment he could see it, and then she realized there was no friction, there was no pain; there was just movement and gentle pressure in a way that was so clearly good. He watched as her eyes lost their focus, felt her hold on tight and then he heard her make the sweetest little kittenish cry.

Oh, her voice was beautiful.

He teased and caressed and coaxed sound after sound from her, savoring each sound of pleasure, until he eased one finger just in, slowly, and with one final cry she tightened around his fingers and flew.

Spencer held her tight as she arched and shook, and after uncountable time finally quieted against him. He kept her close, one hand on her back, pressing her to him, one hand cradling her head, long fingers laced through her curls, savoring the feel of her in his arms, so warm and real. He held her there as her breathing returned to normal, and then he felt her smile against the hollow of his throat, against that scar. Sara reached between them, lowered his zipper, and cupped her hand around the length of him through his fly. From somewhere else he heard his own cry and he felt his own body leap as with one touch she undid him utterly.

After they lay there, tangled in each others arms, sharing the air in that nondescript room, savoring the heat of the noonday sun through the window and trying to remember that there was a world out there that they must return to someday. Once they had stopped shaking and could breathe again she tugged him to remain there, and then rolled over to dig something out of her bag. When she rolled back she tucked into him in a way that let her pull his left arm around her, granting her access to the inside of his wrist. He watched over her shoulder, enchanted, as she began to draw.

It was a tiny drawing. Three tiny stitches she took, the thread curling up to pass through the eye of the needle. The needle itself was drawn to be embedded through his skin, as if tucked safely into cloth. The entire thing would hide neatly beneath a cuff or the band of his watch, unseen by anyone and yet every time he looked at his watch he would be reminded of its presence. When she was finished she blew on it lightly, to dry the ink, before holding it up for his approval.

What does it mean? He asked.

When doing fine embroidery, if you're going to lay your work aside for any length of time you take the needle out to prevent a mark. She told him. If you leave your needle in your work it means you're planning to come back.

He looked at the needle she left there, as if she would always come back.

Then he rolled her over and kissed her into forever.

Chapter Text

Chapter 45

Time, again

FBI Safe house

Washington DC

Spencer

For something that really wasn't supposed to be a vacation, the week had been remarkably restful.

Spencer had stayed in the safe house all week; neither he nor Sara venturing out passed the fenced, private, well guarded yard. At first he had been concerned that she might feel like a prisoner again, but she had reassured him that she felt like anything but.

When I was with Pieter, even when I was out in Oregon with Stephen and Mannan, I felt like a prisoner because I didn't have any choices and I didn't have any information. She'd said when he asked. With Pieter it was obvious, but even with Stephen he just wasn't telling me anything, the neighborhood we were living in had no public transit, and I had no money so I had no chance at a cab, and I knew no one there. Now everyone is communicating all the time, I know what's going on, and if I truly wanted to I could text for a cab and go stay at Court or at a friend's house. I'm choosing to stay here, love, because it's the safest option that causes you the least worry and your friends the least work. And besides, I enjoy your company.

So they had stayed. With Garcia's help to secure the lines she had started using e-mail to put her life back together, to settle her accounts, communicate with friends and the university, start working on going back to work in the spring, talk to the company who had published some of her sewing designs, all that sort of thing. While she did all that he worked on some of the department's backlog of files and interviews that needed work. It wasn't that he just needed something to do; he also found paperwork rather restful. In-between it all Rossi and Morgan came by with meals; they watched movies, played cards and chess, talked endlessly. And every night they made love until they were utterly spent.

It certainly felt like a vacation.

At one point they had discussed the fact that neither of them really had anything left but the clothes on their backs. Well, that's not entirely true. Sara pointed out. The Marshalls Service has returned my assets, I still have the investments my Father left, it's not like we're without resources.

You're not without resources. He pointed out. I have my next paycheck until the insurance settles. Thankfully he was a few months ahead with Bennington, if he skipped this month it wouldn't be a huge matter.

We're not without resources, love. She tossed back. This might actually be a good thing in the end, my cottage would never have fit two people. She smiled at him, slowly. Unless you have an objection, of course.

He looked over at her, naked to the waist, her hair a fiery halo, sitting in a pile of bedding in the morning sun. He could hear the team telling him not to rush, to give it time before committing. But he knew who he was, what he was, and belonging to a Lady's house... No, no objection at all. Try to find a place by a Metro line, please, if it suits you.

Now it was evening working on late, the house was closed down, the agents watching, guarding, were all in their places. He brought out two mugs of tea, hers just as she liked it, accepted her thanks with a small bow, a gesture that he'd given Mandarin once on false pretences, a gesture that was now sincere and true. Then he settled back on the couch and propped his stocking feet up on the coffee table, the better to drape a pair of long, silken, freckled, lavender scented legs across his lap. He picked up the file he had been reading, only momentarily distracted by the "pop, thruuuup" of thread being drawn through drum tight material. She was sitting with her back against the arm of the couch, the light over her shoulder working on something to replace something that Mannan had given away, he had no idea what.

But the sound reminded him of the small drawing on the inside of his wrist. That he was hers. That he was now a Knight that belonged to a Lady, as he had always dreamed.

Yes, it was that good.

Renaissance Hotel

Washington DC

Ben

It was over.

Nationals were officially over. In the end he had done extremely well. Not only had his personal pain the ass Joshua made the team, taking the epee slot, but one of his girls, Marjorie, had made the Saber alternate. Given that the team consisted of all of twelve slots for the entire country, having two from the same program was a world class achievement.

Yes, Ben thought, I have every reason to be celebrating tonight.

Not only had he just put himself on the bloody map, but he had a beautiful woman on his arm. He had always wanted to belong to someone his equal or better in valor and bravery, just like Maestro Dagan, and now he did, to someone far, far better then he could ever be, and he had done her very proud. It was hard to tell what had made him happier, the excitement in the eyes of his kids, or the pride in hers. He belonged to the finest Lady Dame, and he had done her great honor.

Yes, it was that good.

He had to grin as the door shut behind them and she tugged on his belt loops to get him to pin her against the wall for a very long kiss. "I hate to break it too you." Emily said once he had let her taste her fill. "But you need a shower before we celebrate any further."

After a long day of competition and a celebratory dinner with the kids, and then a party for those over 21, she was utterly correct. He did need a shower, and the water would help clearly the last bit of tipsy out of his head. He wanted to be clear headed so he could celebrate with her...properly. "Yes, M'Lady. Anything to oblige." He murmured as he nipped the soft skin under her ear as an opening move.

She laughed and purred a little, tipping her head to give him access. "While you do that I'll go check in with the agents on duty." They had a suite just for that purpose, he and Emily had the bedroom, the guards used the sitting room as a staging area. While she moved away down the short hall he went to the bedroom side to clean up. Ben moved to the bed and started digging through the suitcases.

A moment later he heard a thump.

Breaking glass.

The sound of something heavy landing in thick carpet.

When the time had come to pack for Nationals he had brought a number of blades with him. The ones he needed to train with the kids. Replacements for all of them in case someone broke something right before a bout. His Barcelona sword, for luck. And, at the last minute, with no idea why, one more.

Ben carefully drew King Gustav's rapier out of the bottom of his bag. If anyone had remembered to ask him he might have told them that he had it sharpened in case anyone ever came calling again, because he was a horrid aim with a gun. But they had never asked and so now he had it to carry down the short hall.

He carefully eased open the sitting room door and spotted three well-dressed Asian men, two of which were lifting a very unconscious Emily between them, the better to put her into a large trunk. They spotted him, shocked. The third turned, and pointed a gun straight at him.

He didn't even stop to think.

It was the simplest of attacks, lunge, beat, the foible, or tip of his blade, attacking the forte, or base of his opponents, with the aim of knocking it out of line. But he had to aim deeper, to deflect the gun, and with this blade he sent it spinning into the corner of the room.

With the hand holding it still attached.

The man screamed. Blood spurted from the stump of his arm like a fountain.

There was a sound behind him

He wasn't used to taking on opponents from both sides. But he turned, spotted the man who had been behind him jumping at him, executed a ballestra, fleche, thrust...

The blade sank between the man's ribs.

Blood appeared around the blade.

Blood appeared on the man's lips.

He executed a retreat move, and the blade pulled free as the man sunk to the ground.

Holy god, what had he done?

Emily. He had to get to Emily.

Ben turned, spotted the other two men, saw the muzzle of the gun come up, and executed a passata-sotto in quartata, a move to duck under a blade and turn just as there was a loud crack...

Chapter Text

Chapter 46

Washington Medical Center

Washington DC

Ben

Ben opened his eyes and caught a blurry look at acoustical tiles and fluorescent fixtures. A moment later he closed them again. He was afraid of the pain, he admitted it.

"Ben."

No, he didn't want to open them. If he opened them and kept them open then it would hurt, he knew it. The demon who was talking to him knew it. That was why he was trying to get his attention

"Ben."

No. If he kept his eyes closed it was all a bad dream. No demons, no pain.

"Ben, we need to talk to you."

Damm.

Ben opened his eyes again, blinked to try to clear them, and turned to look at the demon in question, hovering just past the machine that was pumping morphine into his veins. "Spence." He watched as Spencer floated into view. And with him came the pain. Not physical pain, he had failed... "She's gone, isn't she?"

"Yes." He watched his friend's shoulders sag. "Just so you know, they're calling it self-defense."

"Oh." There was the Pain of Emily being taken from him, and beyond that, hidden in the shadows was the PAIN of having killed two men. How did you live with all this? How did Spence? "Is it always this bad?"

"It is the first time. We can talk about it later. Right now, if you're up to it, Hotch wants to do what's known as a cognitive interview. We need to get as much as you can remember."

"Anything." Maybe I can still save her, he thought, maybe I can still do something. "Three questions first."

"Sure."

He had never like the feint, always preferred the attack. "Is there any chance of getting her back alive?"

"Yes." Spencer answered, quickly and easily enough for it to be true. "I've never seen this big of a manhunt before, we are going to find her. It's just a matter of time."

Ben nodded, and for a moment wished he hadn't. Second question. "Am I going to be able to fence again?"

Spence nodded. "Yes. You broke some ribs in there, nicked a vertebra, but with the way you were moving the bullet missed everything vital. With some rehab you ought to be able to get back on the strip, at least to keep training others."

Even if he could never compete directly again, it was worth it for his Lady. And he had his kids. It was acceptable. Third question. "What do you think Pieter is doing to her?"

There was the briefest of pauses. "I don't know."

"Bullshit." Ben coughed, and regretted that more than nodding. "That's what you do Spence, you get into their heads. You know what they're thinking. Why does Pieter want her?"

He heard his friend sigh. "Revenge." Spencer admitted. "We've made his life miserable, by his standards, so now he's making our lives miserable."

Ben closed his eyes to try to keep that pain away. "Do I even want to think about what he's doing to her?"

"That's what he wants you to do. Just focus on catching him. That's what I'm going to do."

"All right." It wasn't much, not much at all. "Send them in. I'll tell them all I can."

Global 8000 business jet

Emily

At first she just thought it was the drugs still in her system. But after a while Emily realized that the world was moving. She was moving. A while later she realized that familiar movement was a plane. Maybe she had already been rescued? She rolled very carefully, realized she was on a bed not a couch, and that unless they had done a major remodel in the past week this wasn't the BAU plane, and finally had to open her eyes and face it.

Damm it all straight to hell and back again.

Thankfully there was a head on the far side of the room. She was sick in it, used it, and cleaned up a bit in it. She expected the queasy stomach, the headache, but her shoulder hurt for some reason. Not just hurt, it ached as if she had been hit there, hard. She pulled her t-shirt over her head and felt around the sore area as best she could. If she didn't know better she'd say there was a lump, like a thick bead under her skin.

What the hell was going on?

She pulled her shirt back on, made sure she looked her best, considering, and tried the door into the main body of the plane. One look and she knew exactly what was going on. "Have you lost your mind?" She asked.

"Ni hao, Emily." Kenda Mandarin said from her usual spot up at the front of the plane. "Emily, Emily...no, too old-fashioned. You did better with Lauren."

"Oh, spare me the English as a Second Language bit, you graduated Harvard Business." Treat her as an equal, she thought, both with respect and contempt in equal measures, and get straight to the point. It's the only way to get anything from her. She made her way down the aisle and dropped into the seat across from the other woman without waiting for an invitation. "You didn't drug me and kidnap me to criticize my parent's choice of a name; you could have invited me to lunch for that."

Mandarin chuckled. "You're here to do me a favor." This time she spoke with the clear lack-of-accent of a good news anchor. "Pieter Van Renseburg has put a contract out on you and Dr. Conway. He is offering a substantial profit."

"And you're going for it? Two Federal Agents in six months, are you seriously that in need of cash? What happened to all our good will? And how am I doing you a favor, by getting you the money?"

Now she looked...dear god, Mandarin looked embarrassed. No wonder her feet were cold, hell was freezing over. "Actually I turned him down. I would rather have the FBI on my good side just in case. So...he went over my head."

"Over your head?" It took a moment for Emily to realize what that meant. When she did she started laughing. "He called your grandfather?" Seriously? Mandarin came from a long line of slavers, her grandfather was both elderly and near legend. "The one person you can't say no to, dear old grandpa. I guess you are a child of your culture after all." Mandarin pursed her lips but didn't say anything. Emily knew that respect for her elder was her only weak spot. She literally could not say no to the old man. "So, how is this a favor?"

"How long did it take you to rescue Dr. Reid?"

"About three days, why?"

"Three days." Mandarin considered this and nodded. "I had my men plant a GPS tracking chip in your shoulder. A prototype out of Shanghai, its good anywhere except in the middle of some oceans and perhaps the Antarctic. I wouldn't leave it in too long, it's been shown to cause cancer, but for three or four days you should be fine." She sucked on her e-cigarette and blew out a stream of warm water vapor. "In three days I'll have a messenger give your team the information to access that chip. Then they will come rescue you. I assume Agent Easter will be with them, yes?"

"More than likely. Why?"

"You don't know?" It was Mandarin's turn to laugh. "The CIA and MI5 have decided that Van Rensburg has lost too much of his mind to be trusted with their secrets any longer. They've jointly put a kill order out on him. I guess being FBI now you're too pure for such things."

Now it made sense to Emily. "So in three days I get rescued. The BAU takes the credit, your family's honor and your reputation remain intact, and Van Rensburg ends up dead. A neat little package." She felt the plane start to descend, put on her seatbelt. "But what makes you think I'll still think of you kindly when all this is over?"

"Because I will not find Dr. Conway before you are rescued. I will not hurt your little brother's beloved. I know you can stand three days, especially with that gorgeous thing to cuddle your wounds when you return." She made a purring noise. "Is he the same as that lovely doctor of yours?"

"You stay the hell away from the both of them." Emily's eye's narrowed. "How could you tell?"

Mandarin purred again. "At least without asking permission first." She chuckled. "How did you not over the years, hm? And all that time you thought of him as a brother." She continued laughing as the plane touched down, as her men came to Emily and got her out of the seat, cuffed her hand behind her, were about to pull the bag over her head. Only then did she grab her elbow. "Remember, C'est seulement viol si vous ne consentez pas, oui?"

Emily looked down at the other woman, her stomach suddenly in knots. "Oh go to hell. Pack a toothbrush." I can do this, she thought, I have to. "Three days, Mandarin."

Mandarin nodded. "Zai Jian Emily."

"Zai Jian."

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 47

BAU Headquarters

Quantico, VA

Spencer

Spencer couldn't decide if turning around and finding Morgan standing outside the stall with a handful of paper towels and some mouthwash was embarrassing or comforting. "I just wish I could, man." Morgan said as he handed him the towels.

Comforting. Definitely.

Spencer wiped his mouth clean and headed for the sink. "Hotch said the video was sent to Ben?" He managed between rinses.

"Yeah," Morgan replied. "His assistant found it in his work e-mail when he lit up the computer this morning. Every two hours, it doesn't look like they're giving her any kind of a break, at least not yet."

The videos had shown Emily, their sister Emily, being injected with drugs and then repeatedly raped. From the effects of the drug, the way she reacted, they were thinking something with MDMA as a base, Ecstasy. "Well, they can't keep her high that long." Spencer pointed out. "Eventually they're going to have to let her come down or else risk kidney or even heart failure."

"Oh, I have no doubt that that bastard has figured out how to keep her high as long as possible." Morgan looked like he was ready to kill. "What are you going to tell Ben?"

"I don't know." Spencer replied. "Let's get her back first."

When they stepped back into the bullpen Spencer almost automatically looked over at Morgan's office. Given that they still didn't know how the agents guarding Ben and Emily had been subdued and that he needed to be here to help they had decided to play it safer than even a safe house. Sara had set up camp in there, curled in the corner of his sofa, working on her embroidery and watching all the activity through the window. He only wished he could give her a better smile when she caught his eye. Are you okay? She asked.

The nifty thing about sign, he thought, you can have a somewhat private conversation from across a busy room. Good enough. He wasn't going to tell her, not yet. Are you?

Yes, I'm fine. David showed me how to make tea.

Good. If you need anything... Ah, but Hotch was calling them up to the conference room.

Go save your sister, love. I'm quite all right. With that she freed him for the task at hand.

He nodded and headed off to the conference room. Once there he found the rest of the team having a tense conversation with Clive Easter. "You're not going to believe this." Morgan said when he walked in.

"What?" Spencer asked. He almost didn't want to know.

"That's not Emily." Clive told him.

"How do you know?" Rossi asked.

Clive pointed at the screen. "She's missing a tattoo. Whoever that is is very good, she does have nearly every mark in place, but only the ones Emily had prior to her last encounter with Doyle. She picked up another one while she was in Paris, a little heart right there." He pointed to a spot just inside of the woman's hip bone.

"So if that's not Emily then where is she?" Morgan asked.

"We still don't know. But these videos are still the best clue we have so we keep studying them." Hotch pointed out.

"Yeah, and whoever she is is still going through hell, so we need to save her too." Garcia reminded them.

"We will. Baby girl, we will." Morgan murmured. To her as they went back to work.

Hotch stopped Spencer before he could leave. "As a supervisor it's not my business, but could Ben Marel verify that mark?"

"Um, I believe so."

"Ask him, discretely."

"All right," at least I can tell him that's not Emily. At least we have that.

Three days later

Three days. They had been looking for Emily for three days. Spencer fell into a conference room chair and rubbed scratchy, tired eyes. Ben had verified that the woman in the videos was not Emily Prentiss, thank God. Not that that had helped much, they still didn't have Emily. Three days and they had nothing. They had lost her once the van that carried her away left the loading dock. And now they had this other victim to worry about as well.

For three days they had eaten take out, had barely slept and had run quick showers down in the gym when someone pointed out that it was time, man. Sara had been doing what she could, mostly keeping the coffee going, sleeping over at the Academy without complaint, really just staying out of the way. Ben had given them every detail he possibly could. But there was nothing. Just nothing. It was Mandarin, they knew it had to be, but she had clearly learned since their last encounter. And Garcia had tried to track every single video that had come in, hadn't been able to find the source of one and had been found sleeping on her keyboard more than once herself.

And still the videos kept coming.

And still they had nothing.

Just as another video landed in his mail the interoffice phone beeped, "Dr. Reid."

It was the reception desk in the main lobby. "Dr. Reid, you have a visitor."

Who on earth? "Will you send them up with an escort, please?"

"Yes, sir."

He needed to watch this video. No, he needed to see what this visitor was all about. No, he needed coffee. Yes, coffee was the priority. He got up and headed for the door and the kitchen just passed it.

And stopped.

And for a moment stared at the well-dressed Asian man with the visitors badge and the small smile.


"I still wish I knew what the hell Mandarin was playing at." Rossi grumbled.

They had all assembled in the conference room; the better to go over the data they had accumulated as a result of the drive Mandarin's messenger had left them. Once they had a location they were able to backtrack with area security videos, and now they knew exactly where Pieter was holding Emily.

But, of course, there was a problem

Clive Easter hauled the demo model up onto the table for them to look over. "They're calling it a Dogbert door." He said, indicating the complicated locking system.

"Dogbert door?" Morgan asked. "Like the comic strip."

Clive nodded. "Out, out you demons of stupidity." He nodded at the key panel with the small screen. "It's a three part system, the air gap is supposed to make it more secure than simple electronics. You press this button, the door broadcasts a mathematical equation, the key solves it, and you have three seconds to type it in to the keypad, like so." He showed the answer on the small remote box, typed it in, and the bolts in the door model opened with a loud whack. He turned his hand to reveal the small tube with the smaller chip tucked into his palm. "The problem is that if you don't have the VeraChip implanted into your hand the key won't function. And you don't have enough time to solve the equation on your own, or type it in to another computer."

"Can we get a chip?" Hotch asked.

"It's a proprietary system, built by one of Van Rensburg's companies. How much time do you think she has?"

"How long would it take to cut through one of those doors?" Morgan asked.

"Given the materials, about three hours by torch; and according to the blueprints he has at least a dozen up there."

"How about..." Morgan didn't have a chance to finish.

The door model opened with a loud whack.

They all looked over. Clive looked down at the key and the chip, still in his hand.

Spencer looked up at all of them. He pulled the door closed, re-engaging the bolts. Then he hit the button, and relaxed as the equation scrolled across the screen. A moment later his fingers punched in the solution.

The door model opened with a loud whack.

He looked up at the other men, pulled the door shut and did it again.

The door model opened with a loud whack.

He pulled the door shut and did it again. "The trick is not to consciously think about it," he muttered as he punched in the solution. It was a little like reading, he thought, if you don't actually have to read what you're reading you can just sort of lucidly think over the data as it absorbs directly into your brain.

The door model opened with a loud whack.

Clive looked over at the other men. "We may actually have a chance at this."

Chapter Text

Chapter 49

Toronto Police Strategic Response Unit

Toronto, ON

Canada

Spencer

Given that they were coordinating the FBI, Interpol, the RCMP, the State Department, and the Toronto PD Spencer was amazed at how quickly they went from home to here. It seemed like the whole thing was dealt with in the time it took Clive Easter to fetch the door lock so he could figure out how to open it. But then when they walked into the conference room he spotted JJ and it all made sense.

He sort of hung back as they were introduced to Team 1, who would be heading up the raid on Pieter's tower. Honestly, this whole thing was better left up to the Alpha males in the group, even though there was much less jockeying for position then he had expected. It was an interesting group of people, a cross between a SWAT unit, a hostage negotiating team and an anti-terrorism unit, but much less paramilitary than he expected. The team here all seemed to understand that team was family, that One Of Their Own was being held and tortured and that that Mattered A Lot.

There was a lot of looking over blueprints, of explaining why they couldn't land a helicopter on the roof, of Garcia impressing someone named Spike with her ability to access the security cameras in the building. Thanks to them they were able to see that Pieter had apparently invited what looked like a bunch of college kids up to his unfinished penthouse for a kinky, drug fueled orgy. Otherwise it was just Pieter, Baldy and GreyHair. "I don't know that Van Rensburg goes armed." He pointed out at the appropriate moment, "But those two were the last time I saw them."

"Good to know." Sgt. Parker nodded. "We'll want to get the kids out safely, they don't deserve to die for being stupid. Let's not get them caught in any crossfire. I don't see your agent anywhere."

"If our intel is correct, she's still on site." Rossi pointed out. "And the rest of the building in unoccupied."

There was more discussion before they began to ready themselves to go. "Okay, who is going in with us?" Sgt. Parker asked.

"SSA Dr. Reid and SSA Morgan." Hotch told him.

"Wait." The tall, bald one they called Ed said. He pointed to Spencer. "You're sending him?"

"He's the only one who can handle the locks." Clive told him.

Ed still looked uncomfortable. "Don't worry, I got his back." Morgan told him.

"You better." Ed said. Then they were out the door.

Black Raven Tower

Toronto, ON

Canada

They met no resistance at all on their way up the tower. That was...disconcerting. "Is this guy just going to let us waltz in?" One of the guys, Sam, asked.

"It's looking that way." Sgt. Parker said. They proceeded to the elevators which had been taken over remotely by Garcia and Spike and headed up to the top floor. As dangerous as that was, no one was going to climb that many floors in full gear. Once out there was a door with a Dogbert lock directly across from the elevator. "Anyone on the other side?" Sgt. Parker asked.

Given that Spike could also join them up there, they were relying on Garcia, back in her lair in Quantico, to be their eyes through the security system. "Nope. No one in the main room I can see."

"All right." Sgt. Parker replied. "Positions." Once they were set he nodded to Spencer to open the lock.

Spencer pushed up to the front to get to the keypad. He had a vague sense of Morgan right behind him, of Spike watching over his elbow, but to do this he kind of had to slip out of it a bit. To let his mind run faster than he could consciously, actively think about what he was doing. He pushed the button and kind of half saw the equation scroll across the screen. Before he could actually think of it he bypassed that part of his mind and let it go directly to his fingers.

Given that it was mounted in the wall, the door bolts snapped back with a muffled whap.

"I'll be fucked." Spike muttered.

"Well, all right then." Ed nodded.

He was too out of it to react quickly. Spencer felt Morgan grab him by the vest and haul him back out of the way, even as the local team was heading through the door. They followed them in, guns drawn, only to find that the shadowy, oddly lit space was circled with doors. Not so oddly lit, Spencer realized, work lights. This place really was still under construction.

The local team split up into pairs and began to go room to room. Spencer moved more quickly, opening door after door, most of which concealed a small group of young people, half naked, high, in the middle of each other. As he went from door to door the confusion in the room grew, but the locals handled it quite well. Even moreso when they caught GreyHair and Baldy, in separate room, each having his own idea of a good time.

Spencer didn't feel the slightest bit bad about that.

Finally they came to the last door, and they were out of locals. Like all the others this one opened out. "Anyone on the other side of door #867?" He asked.

"Can't see, it's dark."

Morgan frowned. "Has anyone reported finding Emily yet?"

"Not so far."

"All right." He turned to Spencer. "I don't like it, but I don't want to wait. Let's go."

Spencer relaxed, unfocused, popped the lock, and then waited. On three Morgan pulled open the door and he went in, low and fast, checking the left first before moving to the right and putting his back against the wall. It was a textbook entry.

It didn't help. Someone rammed the door closed, knocking Morgan back, and re-engaging the lock. In that half-second something hard hit his hand, knocking the gun from it and sending it off into the darkness.

"Hello, Spencer." A familiar voice purred.

"Hello Pieter."


"Garcia, we need video in there. Tell me you have video in there." Morgan all but yelled into his phone.

"I do now, the lights just came up. It's on your tablet...now." Garcia finally looked up. "Oh god."

While the guys went to work on the door Morgan and Sgt. Parker watched what was going on inside.


"You don't mind if I call you Spencer, do you? I mean, we're such good friends now and all."

Spencer took a careful step back from the crazed figure waving the chunk of heavy, metal rebar around and took a quick look around the room. Work lights, he realized, and spare bits of building materials. And his gun was lost somewhere in the piles. "No, not at all. Although I would hardly call us friends." His left hand hurt brightly, but not enough to put him on the ground.

"No? Mortal enemies then?" Pieter took a swing with the length of metal.

"Something like that." Spencer managed to duck and dodge, a move Ben had taught him, and as he did so his hand landed on his own piece of rebar. "Is this what you planned for revenge?"

"No, I was going to blind that little whore of yours, leave her more or less unable to communicate. So much to say and the love of your life incapable of a conversation. And leave Marel always questioning the fate of his woman, another battle lost forever. I figured that would make you both as miserable as you've made me, or will make me once I'm in prison. Unfortunately you got here before Mandarin tracked down the little whore in question, so I'll have to settle for you instead." He stepped forward and brought his length of metal down toward Spencer's head.

Spencer managed to duck and deflect the blow, rolling and circling out of the way. "Settle for me?" He got back up into a crouch and tested the weight of the length of metal. It wasn't that heavy, a little flexible, it sure felt like an epee...


Morgan and Sgt. Parker watched Spencer backing away from Pieter in a slow circle. They watched him make a few odd, figure eight movements with the metal in his right hand. "What is he doing?" Ed asked, looking over their shoulder.

Morgan didn't answer. Surely the kid wasn't going to try it. No way.


"Yes. If I could just get you to hold still just before they open that door I'll crush your cervical vertebrae. That mountain of meat out there can surely keep you alive with CPR until the paramedics get in here. I'll lock that brain of yours into your own head, just like I'll be locked in a cell. Perfect revenge. Now stay still." With that he advanced, swinging.

Spencer did not stay still. He backed away trying to get his footwork under him, trying to find the ground, trying to find the balance. Over and over again the metal came at him, over and over again he had to dodge. Pieter simply refused to let up...


"Jesus, man, fight back." Jules, the female member of the team muttered. She was also not needed at the door, was also looking over elbows now.

"He's trying." Morgan pointed out.

"Yeah, but one of these times he's gonna miss the vest."


Spencer groaned at the fourth...or was it fifth hit landed on his vest. It was the only thing protecting him, he was trying to use his ribs and back to deflect the blows. But sooner or later Pieter was going to hit something unprotected.

And then, in the very next moment, he found the balance he needed.

Pieter brought his rebar down at his head. Spencer executed a neat parry, knocking it away, lunged, and thrust before he even had a chance to think.

The length of rebar slipped neatly between Pieter's ribs.

Pieter's eyes went wide.

Blood appeared at his lips.

Spencer let go of the rebar as Pieter fell to the floor.


"Damm." Jules muttered.

"That better be self-defense." Ed said.

"Oh yeah." Sgt. Parker replied. "We saw the whole thing."


Even though it was impossible, Spencer pulled off his vest and waistcoat and used the cloth to try to stop the bleeding. But it was too late, he must have hit the aorta. Within moments there was a puddle and Pieter was gone. "Morgan?" He finally called into his radio.

"Yeah, Reid."

"Van Rensburg is dead. Have you found Emily yet?"

"We know, we saw it. Not yet."

"Okay, I'm going to check out the rest of this space." Oh, great, that's where his gun landed.

"There's no more video." Morgan reminded him. "Be careful."

"Right." Spencer put his Kevlar back on, found his gun, and disappeared into the darkness..

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 50

Black Raven Tower

Toronto, ON

Canada

Emily

She'd been sitting in the dark forever.

It wasn't hot, it wasn't cold, and it was completely silent. She dozed at times, or at least she thought she did. But mostly Emily sat in the dark and waited.

Any minute now, any minute now they were going to come in here and it was finally going to happen.

Back in late high school, back in college there was this constant expectation that she was supposed to put out. Every year it was another school, and it was the only way to be part of the in crowd right off. Everyone liked a new girl who was easy. She'd thought she had to, to be accepted. That carried over into college. Hell, it carried over into training.

After that she had been the go to honey trap, the one you called when you really needed someone under cover to go under the covers. It had come to a head with Ian, she never wanted to let that monster into her body, but the government had insisted. Fuck him or the world will end, maybe literally. He'll sell something to some terrorist and the next thing you know, boom, right? So she had given in and let him.

And after that Clive made it quite clear that he thought her sanity was slipping, that the stress was getting to her. So it was either months of therapy with the threat of losing her job over her head or just keeps it simple and fucks him to prove that she really wasn't falling in love with Ian. She wasn't, but she didn't want to deal with all that crap so she just fucked Clive to prove it. And the same thing happened when she got to Paris. It was just...expected.

So when everyone thought she should go out with Mick, it was just that easy. The pressure was there and she gave in to it. No muss, no fuss, she slept with him and everyone was happy.

And now they had reached the ultimate. Any minute now Pieter Van Rensburg was going to come in here and take what he wanted, because he could.

This, she thought, is no way for a Lady Dame to live her life. When the hell did I become the woman who can't say no? This is not who I am. No, when he comes in here I am going to fight for all I'm worth. I know hand-to-hand, damn it, I can fight.

Except it's sex, she thought, and who knows what will happen. Isn't it just easier to give in? Be accepted? Make everyone happy? Survive?

But if I just give in to everyone, how can Ben ever truly trust me to hold his heart? If I can't say no my yes to him is meaningless. It's not just about sex; it's about honor and valor. It's about having the mental and emotional strength and control to say yes and no and support both. It's even about the physical strength, maybe not for some women but given what I do it is for me.

I used to be able to say no. I need to get that back again. I need to be in control here. I need to truly be a Lady Dame.

Spencer

She wasn't here.

They had gone through every inch of the top of the tower. They had found the other victim, she'd been taken to the hospital, and Baldy and GreyHair had been arrested on kidnapping, assault, and rape charges. Most of the kids were being looked at, they hadn't known the woman in bondage gear was here against her will, they just thought she was some rich bastard's girl and he was making all her kinky dreams come true. But Emily just wasn't here.

Except the chip said she was. Damn it.

"Maybe it's just a chip. Maybe Mandarin was lying to us." Morgan pointed out.

"No, she wouldn't." Spencer said.

"Why not?"

"That would be dishonorable."

"Reid." Morgan said with all due patience. "She's a slaver. Do you really think she cares about honor?"

"Yes, actually," Spencer stood in the large center space and slowly turned. "Slavery is her business. In her personal life she adheres to a strict moral code, that compartmentalization is what allows her to continue to function. And this encounter reads as personal, Emily is a friend of hers and Pieter is, was, a client. She would neither lie to a friend nor cheat a client."

"And yet she kidnaps people into slavery."

"Yes. She doesn't consider her targets wholly people, as they lead unexamined lives. She considers them akin to sheep and as such taking them from one paddock to the other isn't all that much of an issue." The solution was here, he knew it.

"And you know this how?"

"From the way she treated me. She was genuinely regretful when she turned me over to Pieter, when she realized I had examined my life. In her mind that made me closer to an equal, a human, and so worthy of greater consideration, but she would not cheat a client. From what I could tell from the reports she felt the same about Emily, which was why she was willing to work with the team. "

Morgan was following him around the space, dodging the locals who were conducting their own investigation as they went. "Then why come after Emily again?"

"Pieter probably went through an intermediary, most likely an older, male relative. Kenda was raised in a society that practiced Buddhist ancestor worship, she would not have been able to say no to an elder, if he said she had to satisfy the client by doing something within her day-to-day work then she would have to. But she turned the situation to her advantage."

"That means she really did deliver Emily, which means she's probably telling the truth." Morgan concluded.

"According to the profile," profile, Spencer thought, profile. "And a profile is the strongest weapon we have. So once Pieter had Emily what would Pieter do?"

Morgan sighed. "My first thought would be rape, but then why go for a substitute?"

"No, he raped Sara to prove that she was, in fact, submissive to men, a whore in his words. And she was capable of being physically overpowered; there was nothing in her background to prove otherwise. But Emily is FBI, former CIA, and Interpol, there's no way he could get that to work, she can physically overpower most men, he's not going to be able to prove it that way. No, those videos were designed to hurt Ben; they had nothing to do with Emily. He had nothing to do with Emily; she's always lived up to her billing."

"So this was all about hurting Ben. Okay, he can't keep sending rape videos forever."

"No, it would hurt him more for them to just stop, to leave him forever wondering what happened to her. And leave Marel always questioning the fate of his woman, another battle lost forever." Spencer looked around the space again. "He made her disappear."

"But we know she's still in here." Morgan pointed out.

The Hammer of Knowing finally whapped him, thank God. "Yes, but only because of Mandarin's chip. If it wasn't for that would we even still be up here?"

"No, we'd be looking everywhere else he could have been for her." The Hammer of Knowing whapped Morgan in turn. "She's in the walls." Now he was turning and looking himself. "That's a lot of ground to cover." He was already going for his radio to get the guys back up to help.

"No, no. It's in his profile." What am I missing, Spencer thought, where is it. Culture, identity... "Dry sex…"

"What?" Morgan stopped. "Man, we have got to move, it's been over three days, dehydration..."

The Hammer of Knowing whapped him again, Spencer thought his head was starting to ring like a bell from it. "...is not an issue. Hang on." He took Morgan's tablet from him looked over the blueprints, went back to the front door and started looking. In the northwestern corner of the building he found what he was looking for. He went back to the collection of construction equipment and stood there a moment, baffled. "I need to get through a wall."

"Hang on." Morgan picked up a good sized hammer and followed him, "Where?"

"Here," Spencer said, pointing at a blank chunk of wall, "Right here."

"Start explaining this as I work." He pulled out his knife to start working through the drywall, using the hammer to help get the hole to go.

"One, Pieter wanted Ben to suffer, when we found her, which we would once the body started to smell, he would want Ben to know that she suffered before she died. Two, he knew I went to CalTech, and this is a very common prank in the dorms there. It happened to me three times. He knew I would figure it our eventually, but if I was disabled I wouldn't be able to say anything before she died, thereby making me miserable as well. Keep going." He got out of the way a bit as insulation started to come out, then Morgan was working his way through the other side of the wall. "Three, Pieter was raised in rural sub-Saharan Africa, he has a cultural revulsion when it comes to bodily fluids, that's why he forced Sara to have dry sex, which means he wouldn't want to deal with any of that before she died."

"So what are you saying?" Morgan punched a hole into the room on the other side of the false wall. "Emily?"

"Morgan!" They sighed as they heard their sister's familiar voice. "Thank God!"

"All right, we're getting you out, hang on." He turned back to Spencer. "So what did you get from all that?"

"He needed a room with no windows and one door he could conceal with a false wall, that had access to water and the ability to process bodily waste, where we were unlikely to hear her cries for help and where she could slowly starve to death." Spencer shrugged and showed him the tablet. "I just looked for the missing bathroom."

"Go get a crowbar," was all Morgan had to say.

Chapter Text

Chapter 51

Global 5000

Northeastern US Airspace

Emily

She'd refused all attempts to get her to stay in the hospital overnight. Once she heard the Ben had actually been shot, all reassurances that he would be fine were ignored. Emily simply had to get to him right now. She'd let the ER make sure she was hydrated and her blood sugar was on it's way back to normal, let them dig that chip out from under her skin and then had gotten the hell out of there. This is what takeout was for. But she couldn't get there any faster than this plane ride, so she was stuck when Spencer landed in the seat across from her. "So, do you want to talk about it?" He asked.

He would be the one to ask, she thought. "What makes you think I want to talk about it?"

"Psych 101." He replied with a small smile.

She sighed. She didn't want to talk about it. But wasn't that a big part of whatever this was? Being willing to communicate? "I just spent three days in the dark waiting to be gang raped. The only thing that saved me was that I wasn't really the target." She shook her head. "All I kept thinking about was all the times I couldn't really say no. I mean I could, I suppose, but it didn't feel like I could say no. I ended up doing a lot of things I regret."

"Like sleeping with Clive?"

That shocked her. "How did you know that?"

"He identified the tattoo you have on your hip, the heart."

"Oh. Great." That came out with all due sarcasm. "Sleeping with him...no, let's get this right, fucking him was supposed to get the taste of Doyle out of my mouth, or so he told me." She looked over at Spencer and corrected herself before Mr. Literal kicked in. "Not literally."

"Did it?"

"Not really." She settled back and looked out the window at the passing sky. "I fucked Ian because everyone said it was the only way to get the intel, I fucked Clive because everyone said it was the only way to get over Ian, I fucked Mick because everyone said I ought to, I fucked around in high school and college because it was the only way to get accepted." She considered it a long moment. "I think the only two guys I ever had sex with out of genuine emotion were John and Ben."

"Did you love John?" Spencer asked.

"Yeah, mostly. He was a good friend and we were both curious about it. That's valid I think. But, this...whatever this is, isn't about sex."

Spencer shook his head. "No, not really. That's just one of the more enjoyable ways of expressing it."

Well, he was right there. "I think...I need to be able to say no before I can be what Ben wants." No, what he needs, especially where someone like Kenda Mandarin is concerned.

"You can, you know. You always could." Spencer pointed out.

Emily shook her head. "The body has a memory, you know that. You, of all people, know that." For a long moment she thought of nothing at all. "I think I need to write over the memory of Lauren Reynolds once and for all. I just don't want to hurt Ben doing it."

Now it was Spencer's turn to think for a long moment. "Well, if it's what I don't think you're comfortable saying, he's going to be laid up for at least another month. Can I help?"

"That ought to be long enough. And no, not you." She agreed. Then she looked at him. No, really looked at him. He seemed...calmer, some how. More settled. "How are you doing? How is Sara?"

"I'm really happy." He admitted as if it was still shocking, even to him. "And Sara is improving all the time."

"Improving?"

"The body has a memory." He admitted.

"Bullshit. You've had FBI agents watching you all week. They talk, you know, and you two are not exactly silent."

"Really?" He managed to look both distressed and curious at the same time. "What have they been saying?"

"It's not important."

He blinked at that. "Well, heterosexual intercourse is not the sole method of expressing human sexual desire. But, she's improving." He considered a moment. "I think either I'm lucky or she is, but even what happened with Pieter didn't change her sense of who she is."

"You are, then. I'm surprised no guy before Pieter managed to do so."

"There weren't any guys before Pieter. And there weren't that many girls before her."

"And there weren't that many before me." She looked out the window again. "You three are very lucky."

"Emily." Spencer had nothing but concern in his eyes. "You did what you did to protect us all. Doyle was..."

She stopped him. "I know what Doyle was, and I know what I became. Now I just need to get back to myself."

Washington Medical Center

Washington DC.

Emily settled beside Ben's bed, and watched him sleep. He was so utterly perfect, noble, good, everything she'd ever hoped for. Now if she could just be what he deserved.

A moment later he woke, maybe sensing the change in the room. He rolled his head and looked at her. "Hi. You're back."

"Yeah."

"Are you all right?"

"Yep. Lost a couple of pounds, got a cut in my shoulder, nothing that won't heal."

He reached a hand out and took hers, safe and warm. "He didn't..."

"Rape me? No. I'm not his kind of girl." She sighed and pressed a kiss to the back of his hand. "Look, we need to talk a little."

He winced at that. "Please tell me you're not breaking it off."

"Absolutely not. You're mine, no matter what. Even though I'm not exactly the Lady Dame you think I am." She held up a hand to stave off his protest. "I'm not, but I can be. I will be. There's just something I need to do first. And I need to do it...I need to do it before we sleep together again."

"Something tells me you don't mean sharing a bed." He nodded, accepting even if he didn't understand yet. "Well, I'm off all strenuous activity until these bones heal, so the timing is good. Can I help at all?"

"Stay. Be patient. Listen." Which was asking a lot, she thought, which was huge.

"For you, M'Lady, I can do all that and more. Is Spence helping?"

"No, but I will get help."

FBI Academy

Quantico, VA

"Yes, I'm sure I want to do this." Emily huffed with irritation. Why the hell did he keep asking her? "Anytime." She turned and looked at the wall in front of her. Took a deep breath. Pictured Matthew's parents and what they said about her, pictured everyone in high school and college who insisted she put out to be accepted, pictured every time Clive said she had to go back, Clive, Ian, all of them. She pictured everyone who ever made her feel like she had to give in, even though she didn't love.

And then she felt a man's arm go around her.

"NO!" She told them all as she stepped and reached and grabbed and rolled. The man who grabbed her went flying over her to land in the thick pile of mats. The bastard, how dare he even think... she stepped forward and gave him a kick in the ribs, and then another for good measure.

"All right! All right! Enough!" Morgan held up his hands to get her to stop kicking him already. He was wearing layers of thick padding, was strong enough to take the fall, but still. He rolled over and struggled to his feet with the padding getting in the way. "Better?"

"Oh yeah." This was much better than years of trying to talk it in to her bones. This was re-writing her no at the primal level. And she planned to keep at it as long as it took, wading into other instructors in Morgan couldn't hold up, until she knew that her body was hers once more, and that she could stand up to anyone. Even Mandarin. Even Doyle. Even Clive. "Go again?"

"Yes, Ma'am."

Emily grinned and took a step into tomorrow.

Chapter Text

Epilogue 1

Four Months Later

Marel Fencing Salon

Washington DC

Emily

She couldn't believe it.

Emily was standing in the ground floor of one of two tidy brick buildings on a small side street off the main Georgetown business district. A few blocks from one was a Metro station, a few blocks from the other was Court. The ground floor of the building next door held a bicycle shop. When Ben had bought this one, this space and the loft apartment above had been empty; so had the apartment above the bike shop.

Neighbors made perfect sense. She and Spencer could easily carpool now.

Over the past four months, by mutual accord they had put most of their off hours time and energy into helping Ben rebuild the club and his livelihood, even though it meant living in the Court building for most of it. It was like staying in a cozy bed and breakfast while they were working on your house. Now, tonight, she and Ben were finally able to sleep in their own bed. And Ben was finally able to take to the strip again as well.

You would think that bed was the first place he would want to go, but no. He had a lesson today, he had said. So she decided to spend her day off getting the finishing touches done on her most recent tattoo, an arched dogwood branch over her left breast. Not because the dogwood tree held any special fascination for her, but an opening flower was an apt symbol for how she felt after months of therapy and re-training, after returning to her proper place in the world and the team, after becoming who she was truly meant to be. That was why a flower. A dogwood because the shape of the flower and branch neatly concealed the remains of the curly Valhalla shamrock burned into her skin.

That space was hers again.

Now she was back, and watching this oh so important lesson. Ben was standing there introducing the gear and the first few steps to a brand-new student. It was the student who caught her eye. She grinned as she held up her phone and recorded the event, then sent it off to someone who simply had to see.


Later that night, safe in their own bed, she and Ben finally came together again. She could say yes now, now with a body that remembered how to say no down in its bones, a body that she, and only she, controlled, now she could say yes with all her heart and soul.

Now she could roll him under her and straddle his hip and feel the length of him as she slid down and took him to the hilt. But the pleasure wasn't physical, as good as that was. The pleasure was knowing that he trusted her, that he could trust her, that he was willing and able to utterly let go and come apart under her. That was where the pleasure lay. And no one else had ever understood that, no one else had ever seen that in her, she knew that now.

Afterward they lay in each other's arms utterly spent, utterly content. "So, I've been thinking about something." He murmured as he nuzzled the skin behind her ear.

"Oh?" She wasn't sure she wanted to do too much thinking. For all that they had been working side by side for the past four months whenever she wasn't at work, for all that they shared a bed and helped each other through nightmares and pain and the success of rebuilding their lives, this was the first time they had made love since Pieter Van Rensburg died. She wasn't sure she wanted to deal with anything other than that.

"Yes. I've been thinking that now that I have this..." He held up his arm to look at the mark there in the moonlight. It was a tattoo now, permanent, a sword running the length of his forearm. That was expected of a fencing master, surely, but in this case the blade was entwined with dogwood blooms, dogwood blooms that matched the one over her heart.

M'Lady Dame's sword.

"...now that I have this, maybe you would consider wearing my mark as well, hm?" She could feel him smiling back there. "And I do mean consider, I don't need an answer tonight. I'm sure you'll want to talk about it at length."

His mark? What tradition did that come from? "What are you talking about?"

"I'm talking about this." He reached around her, and revealed that he was holding a small, square box. A box that opened to reveal a ring...

For a long moment the world held its breath.

And then she smiled.

Chapter Text

Epilogue 2

Also four months later

The Cloister at  Bonnefont-en-Comminges

Part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Fort Tryon Park

New York, NY

Spencer

It was early March, spring was just coming to. Thankfully today was warm and perfect. It was early enough on a week day that it was still utterly quiet in the garden.

Sara was right, it was beautiful.

Spencer watched the video Emily sent him as he leaned against the wall, before showing it to Sara. I never thought he would go for it.

She looked over and grinned. You never thought Morgan would learn how to fence?

It didn't seem like the kind of thing he would want to do. I guess his competitive streak couldn't stand it anymore. He took the phone back and checked the message. It looks like Emily got the last of her tattoo done.

Oh good, she'll be happy with that. Sara looked over curiously. How is yours healing?

Healed. Spencer took off his watch and showed her. The three little stitches, the needle stuck in the work, it was permanent now. It had been time.

She admired it with a nod. I've been debating one.

It wasn't his place to tell her what to do with her body, but he could ask and did. Please don't. I don't think ink would suit you.

It only seems right, if you're willing to wear my mark I ought to wear one for you.

He took a deep breath, and let the perfect silence of a thousand years ago settle into his soul. True knights and true ladies had once walked these halls. He only hoped they wished him well. I actually have another idea. He said, right before he took the box holding a ring from his pocket...


Later that night, in the quiet of their hotel room, he was pleasantly shocked when she rolled over on top of him. She'd been afraid for so long, he had been helping her and coaxing her all this time, but this was the first time she dared.

As she slid down, surrounding him in all that heat, taking him, claiming him, he knew that it was all good from here on. He could trust her with what he felt, honor, valor, love. His heart was finally safe and home. He didn't need words in the silence to know, it was written on every inch of her, of what they were together.

And so he lay back and let himself be utterly undone. He was home.

Chapter Text

Epilogue 3

BAU headquarters

Quantico, VA

Emily

"Well?" Emily asked as soon as Spencer walked in the front door, fresh from his long weekend in New York.

"Well, Sara's brother is moving in to the family apartment, they worked out all the details and her business is settled. On our next long weekend we're going out to Vegas so she can meet Mom, even though they've been corresponding for a few months now they want to meet face-to-face."

"And?" She asked as they headed for the elevator.

"And the Cloisters are as beautiful as I was told. I can't wait to go back and explore some more. A friend of hers is a curator there; she gave us the most amazing tour."

Emily stopped him. "Spencer." She looked in his eyes and realized he was doing this deliberately. "What did she say?"

He let the question hang there, clearly just to build dramatic tension. "She said yes. Of course she said yes."

"Yes!' Oh, he so deserved this, she was so happy for him. "My little brother is getting married!" She could feel herself starting to well up a bit, she'd always wanted to say that.

He laughed right along with her as his ears turned pink and the rest of the elevator murmured their congratulations. "So, um, what did you say?"

Now it was her turn to turn pink. "How did you know?"

"Ben and I went ring shopping together. So, what did you say?"

"I..." She might as well admit it; she was going to have to tell everyone sooner or later. "I said yes." She held up her hand with the diamond ring on her finger.

"Yes!" He pulled her sideways into a hug as they got off the elevator. "Two weddings, Garcia is going to be so thrilled."

"I'll say. Wait..." There was a huge pile of shipping boxes in the middle of the elevator lobby, and a couple of strange workmen sorting them. "...what is all this?"

"You are not going to believe it." Morgan said. He was standing at the door cradling a mug of coffee.

"Believe what?" Spencer asked.

Garcia came over, brandishing a clipboard. "Here, you have more to sign." She gave it to Morgan, taking one sheet off. "A gift from La Cour de L'Aumônie, shipped all the way from Allaman Castle in Switzerland, in gratitude for assistance rendered to their members." She read, "With the proviso that it be neither sold nor gifted nor donated to any academic institution but rather displayed in the offices of the Behavioral Analysis Unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, USA until such time as the unit is disbanded and then it be turned over to the FBI to be displayed as they see fit."

"What?" Spencer stepped through the doors, and stopped, his jaw neatly dropping to the floor. Now Emily couldn't get past the lot of them. "Garcia, is that..."

"A reproduction?" Morgan finished. "Not with all this paperwork."

"Yeah, according to this it's French, from the Poitiers region, about 1170 CE." Garcia told them.

"That means..." Spencer's jaw was still on the floor.

"What?" Emily asked as she finally pushed passed, and stopped in shock.

It was a knight.

More specifically it was a suit of armor, standing in the corner of the cat walk, between the windows and Hotch's office, where an FBI flag used to stand, perfectly posed with his hands on the hilt of his sword in front of him. Emily just stood there, gaping a long moment. "Wow," was all she could finally say. What an honor.

"It's from the court of Queen Eleanor. It has to be." Spencer pointed out.

"What is?" Hotch asked, coming in behind them.

They just turned and watched him as Garcia told him what it was, and they waited for what he would say. "It adds something to the office." He said finally. "Conference room in five, we have another case."