Title: Antithetical Theory
Fandom/Genre: Criminal Minds/Sentinel and Guide
Relationship(s):Spencer Reid/Derek Morgan
Content Rating: NC-17
Warnings: Canon level violence and hate crimes
Summary: When a case involving Sentinels and Guides gets handed to the BAU they find their absent colleague, Dr Spencer Reid, wrapped up right in the centre of it
“In the early hours of yesterday morning, this was released on a video sharing site.” Penny looked away from the screen as she hit play. The voice over enough to trigger flashes of the brutal slaughter happening on the screen as the man mockingly repeated the words,
“Education leads to ideas beyond your station. Ideas lead to perversion. Perversion leads to the downfall of humanity. And that. That must be halted whatever the cost. Education! Education leads to ideas beyond your station. Ideas lead to perversion. Perversion leads to the downfall of humanity. We have to be saved and you must be the sacrifice…” as the man holding the camera started the next repetition Penny pressed her fingers into her ears and looked at Derek, waiting for him to giver her the nod that the film was over.
As the members of the team in front of her quickly typed notes into their iPads, she shut the video off before it could repeat and added,
“The three victims were all students at NYU, one studying Sentinel & Guide medicine and the other two were Masters students in the psychology department their research was being carried out at the Centre. The empathic backlash lasted over an hour but it was unfocused, the NYPD were forced to search three blocks before they managed to pin down the exact location with the help of a member of the Sentinel & Guide research Centre. In their usual helpful fashion, the Centre are refusing to give us any more information than they are legally obliged to. However, they did immediately request our team assist with the investigation.” Penny gasped in worry as her chocolate stud-muffin tossed his iPad onto the table with a sigh when Hotch looked at him and said,
“We need to talk to that researcher, we know the centre is going to only release details we could find out without them but knowing what they heard or saw or felt… would be hugely helpful in pulling together the profile.”
“Spencer would have more luck, I don’t exactly have the best relationship with them. Besides even if they did tell us, the likelihood is that that researcher wouldn’t actually be able to tell us anything. You know they keep the Centre’s research and information locked down.” Derek replied as Penny nodded and quickly flicked through her phone to find her favourite genius’ number.
“No.” Hotch glance up at her before adding, “I promised Spencer he could have as long as he needed, with no distractions and no emergencies. Morgan, do your best.” Penny pouted slightly before dropping her phone to her side.
“The plane is refuelling but we can leave in half an hour.” She added, tapping a text out and sending it without looking at her phone. Hitch and Rossi slid from the table to start analysing the information they already had before they reached New York.
Derek stood and wrapped his arms around her,
“You alright, baby doll?” He whispered into her ear as she tucked her head into his chest. The warmth of their platonic pack bond soothing them both as Derek allowed the Guide to huddle against him and hide from the horror of her job for a moment. She felt a kiss press against the top of her head before he pushed her back a little and waited for her to walk away entirely. As she clattered down the hall towards her lab she heard Derek laugh as he picked up his phone and dialled the number that she had sent him.
“Could you put me through to the director?…”
She leant in to Hotch’s office as she passed to let him know that she would need one of them to hook her into the NYPD’s system when they arrived, but before she could open her mouth he held up a hand.
“Garcia, I’m going to need you to come with us.” He said softly “We’ll probably need to access the Centre’s files at some point and you know that they won’t allow remote access.” Penny froze, staring at the Unit Chief in shock.
“I. Will … grab my things…” Penny eventually replied before racing into her lab and slamming the door shut, She set an alarm on her phone before collecting nick-nacks, laptops and external hard-drives into a few bags as she span around the room madly. She stopped, dropping one of her glass unicorns and suddenly realising she couldn’t breathe. She felt tears start to run down her face as she stumbled and caught herself on the wall before finally sliding down to sit on the floor. Her breath catching in her throat and her lung refusing to open as the panic attack took over. She sobbed as she remembered that the lining in the walls to keep the Sentinels from being bothered by the buzz of all her equipment would keep anyone from hearing her.
She finally managed to catch her breath and slide her legs out from the crumple below her to rest flat against the floor as the alarm on her phone went off to let her know she needed to leave for the plane. Penny pushed herself to her feet shakily and with her hand pressing to the still healing scar just below her heart from the last time she had been enticed from her lab to join the team in the field she gathered her bags. Taking a final look around her lab she took a deep breath, wrapped her emotions up tight behind her mental walls and rushed to catch Derek before he left the bullpen.
“Take this for me. And this. Oh, I need to go back I left my…” Derek caught her elbow and swung her back around to his side, sticking the bags she had handed him over his shoulder as he murmured,
He hugged her into his side and lead her from the room. “It’s going to be fine. We’re going to set you up in a safe room and you are going to stay right there until we come back to get you. No-one is going to get close enough to even comment on your dress.” Penny smiled, glancing down at her bright dress and fluttering a hand down it to disturb its drape and watch the specks of holo catch the light.
“I know… I just. I wish Spencer was here.” She whispered.
- – – –
“You have no right to hold me. I assisted you after you had started your investigation, in line with the agreement NYPD has with the Centre. I’ve answered your questions and provided you with all the information you are allowed to have. I would like to leave.”
“Sir, if you continue to argue I will be forced to arrest you and place you in Sentinel holding…” Derek looked up from the file he had been handed when they entered the station a few minutes earlier as a door opened letting a conversation wash through the building towards him.
“Doctor, actually. And placing me in Sentinel holding would breach the Sentinel & Guide equality act, standard operating procedures for NYPD is to hold Guides in a shielded interrogation room until…” as the door clicked shut, Derek stood up blocking a sergeant from passing before growling.
“Where are you holding the Guide who helped find the bodies?” The Sargent frowned before curling his lip,
“He’s a Sentinel, interrogation 4. Down the hall and to the left.” Derek stepped around the man and quickly moved through the building with a gait that had officers pressing themselves against the wall to avoid being in his way. He slammed the door open with more force than was necessary, letting the door bounce off the wall before slamming shut,
“ If you insist on holding me or if you intend to arrest me then you need to contact my Unit Commander.” The officer rose to his feet and slammed his hands on the table to cut off the words. Derek reached forwards and grabbed him hauling him away from the Guide as he pushed the officer out of the room he smiled at the Guide softly, muttering quieter than a mundane could hear,
“Good to see you, pretty boy.” Taking one last look at the too thin man he had barely seen in months before leaving the room.
He pulled the door shut as he stepped out into the corridor and turned on the officer.
“What the hell do you think you were doing?” he asked,
“That Sentinel worked with the victims, he certainly had the ability to take them down and it’s known that self-hate can manifest in murdering people you want to be like … Hell, he knew where the bodies were! Guaranteed we find blood on his clothes” the man said with a half laugh, clearly thinking that he had the whole case neatly tied up.
“He’s a Guide, and a member of the BAU, part of his training is finding the cause of empathic backlash. Of course, he found the bodies and seeing as all Sentinel & Guide research in the country happens at the Centre it’s not surprising that he worked alongside other people specialising in their care.” Derek replied smoothly, taking care to contain his anger.
“His driving licence has him listed as a Sentinel, we’re still waiting for a response to our information request from the Centre.” The officer shrugged, “we didn’t ask the Centre to send help, and wasn’t it you guys who said that killers will often involve themselves in the investigation? I’m just pulling the evidence together…” Derek took a deep breath and silently cursed the Centre’s decision to pull Sentinels and Guides from working with urban police departments, realising that rather than forcing them to improve their act to come up to the standard expected, it had allowed them to continue with their outdated views.
Before he could instruct the man to keep his distance from Spencer until Hotch arrived, his phone rang. He held up one hand and listened for a moment,
“Sure thing, Hotch, I’m on my way.” He said before hanging up and looking at the officer again. “You’ll have to let us look for a new suspect. There’s been another video released, footage showed Mcclaren park.” He opened the door to the interrogation room and motioned for Spencer to follow him as he moved through the station towards the street.
“Derek…” Spencer started as they reached the SUV. Derek interrupted him before he could try to explain the lack of contact.
“Still living in the Centre? I’ll drop you off unless you want to join Garcia and …”
“I don’t think that’s really a good idea,” Spencer said softly, Derek held his hand out, waiting for Spencer to take it, after a few seconds he dropped it back onto the shift stick. “I’ll come with you, you’ll get more out of the scene with me there to stabilise you. Unless, you applied for one of the conservators to come with you, in which case I guess you wouldn’t need me and you could just drop me off and I’ll…” Derek pulled over to the side of the road sharply, turning to face Spencer.
“Spencer, Penny doesn’t blame you. Neither do I, it wasn’t your fault.” He sighed and reached out to tug Spencer closer, holding him until Spencer relaxed and slid his arms around him. “And, no, kid. I didn’t get a conservator. You’re a pretty tough act to follow and I figured you’d come home once you got your head straight about all this, picked up another degree or wrote another book like you always do when something’s bothering you. Hey, I know that look! You’re my Guide, Spencer, I could wait before and I can wait now. I don’t want anyone else.” He let go as Spencer pulled back.
“If I wasn’t a Guide… She wouldn’t have been in the field, she wouldn’t have got hurt and you would…” Derek felt his heart sink as the genius ran out of words, shutting his eyes and slumping against the door before quietly saying, “you have a scene to get to.” Derek pulled back into the traffic.
“Can you tell me anything about the scene you found? Or did the Centre lock it down after you debriefed with them” he asked as they crept through Williamsburg,
“It felt wrong, more than usual for a murder scene and I don’t know why. That’s all I can tell you, the Centre want to run their own investigation on the other thing.” Derek cursed lightly as he changed lanes and followed the signs for the park.
“You know it would be so much easier if they would work with us,”
“They’re trying to protect them and the rest of us. They were bonded and…” Derek glanced sideways to see Spencer drumming his fingers on his thigh clearly trying to find a way around the block.
“So they think it could be a hate crime?” Derek asked, winding down his window and showing his badge to the Police officer at the entrance to the park before pulling in and parking up.
“Of sorts, not because of that though.” Spencer eventually said as he joined Derek at the front of the SUV, his frustration clear.
“Okay… Hold my hand?” Derek asked as he let his senses run loose to cover the whole park, Spencer’s steady presence holding him to his body with a tight grasp and easy words. Derek brushed over Hotch’s mind softly pointing him towards a sheltered area of the park, the low level Sentinel reacted with a soft push back before starting to move towards the area. Derek glanced at Spencer and with a light tug on his hand started to run.
– – –
“Umm, I hate to pile more bad news on the current pile of murdery bad news… But, we have a problem.” Penny babbled as her team arrived back at the office they were using at the precinct. As the last person walked in she squealed and raced forward to hug him. “Spencer! You’re back! How did you know where we were, did you ring someone other than me?”
“Not quite. Bad news?” Derek replied, reaching out and spinning her back to her computer. She pouted at him before remembering what she had been saying.
“Right, I thought I recognised something that this guy was saying in the latest video, when he says ‘there is no biological difference between the genetic makeup of unmanifested Sentinels and Guides, you are born with certain set of genes which dictate that you are something more’ it seemed really familiar so I ran it through a search engine. And got nothing. So I looked for other videos posted by the same user or on the same site. To see if it was something in his speech pattern. I found this.” She clicked on her laptop and sat down as the shaky shot of the back of an auditorium chair appeared on screen second before someone began to speak
“Doctor Reid, please could you expand on your points in chapter two, in particular in reference to the archaeological findings that you have identified as supporting your thesis.” Blair Sandburg asked in the recording, Penny grinned at Derek as he raised his eyebrows and looked Spencer in shock. Spencer sank into a chair as they heard in reply on the recording.
“It has long been thought, and argued, that it is the nature of a young S/G individual that dictates the way they manifest at pubety. the argument being that there is a minute and as yet unidentifiable difference between Sentinels and Guides, however, modern research suggests that we must look at how the cultural values we are immersed in affect presentation. In other words is it Nature or Nurture?
In the Western cultures of old, it was often assumed that men were stronger and better at defending and so Sentinels were mostly male. But if we look at other cultures, where female warriors were more common, Female Sentinels and Male Guides were the norm or as common as the opposite. Modern society has come to accept that gender does not have bearing on presentation and so, while still less common, Female Sentinel and Male Guide presentations are part of our cultural norm. And Nurture over nature has been further proven by recent archaeological surveys in the Amazon and the discovery of new Viking colonies, both of which show that the culture in which we live does have a direct impact on presentation even after an individual has come online.
We already acknowledge that there is no biological difference between the genetic makeup of unmanifested Sentinels and Guides, you are born with certain set of genes which dictate that you are something more than baseline homo sapien, at puberty you are then triggered to produce one set of hormones, which make you Sentinel, or the other, which make you a Guide.
However, the genetic profiling and detailed analysis of the Viking, Site 45b5e77, remains show that it is not simply the culture in which you are raised but the culture in which you are immersed in during your lifetime that affects your status as Sentinel or Guide. Not only were children born in one culture, but then raised through adolescence in the Viking culture, likely to present in the fashion of Vikings but also Adults captured, or conquered by the Vikings would go through a shift in status to match the needs of the group they had joined. This is evidenced by the unique physical changes that occur when a fully matured Sentinel or Guide transitions to the opposite Status.
And so we must not condemn or dismiss the existence of statue-queer or trans-status individuals as part of the fabric of myth and fairytales or the delusions of a damaged mind.“ As Blair thanked Spencer for his response and passed over to the next member of the doctoral committee the man recording hissed,
“Lies! Falsehoods to trick people into thinking that you can go against what you have been made.” The camera shook again before he muttered “Don’t listen to their lies. And remember their faces.” The screen faded to black and Penny leant forwards to stop the video from repeating.
“It was a private video but he’s using the same account, the email address connected is from a burner site and the name is fake. There are other people’s defences and talks on the same subject on here as well but the stats showed that he watched this one the most often.” Penny said when the silence got too much.
“The woman in the park was Dr Elizabeth Dealer, she defended her funding application at the same meeting. She’s…. She was… researching the effect of stress hormones in young children and how that influences presentation” Spencer almost whispered, Penny, gripped the sides of her chair to keep herself from moving to hug him. “I didn’t recognise the three men in the apartment but I might have missed their talks.”
“Ok, Spencer, I need you to find out everything you can about all of the victims. And see if you can persuade the Centre to give us a list of attendees at those talks. Morgan, I want you back at both scenes see if you can find a link between them. Rossi, liaise with the police on their request for information from the public. I’m going to the morgue and Garcia, keep searching that video site, I want a list of everyone who’s speeches are on there.
“Doctor Reid?” a young man called after softly knocking on the door. Spencer quickly shut all the files in front of him and turned with a gentle smile.
“Yes, how can I help you?” The young man bit his lip, then scratched his forehead nervously before dropping into one off the office chairs and staring at the floor.
“I’m a huge fan of your work, your paper on how Tribal memory could help mundane to sense … umm, that’s not why I’m here. I actually came because I thought I might be able to help you. Luke and Justin were in the same classes as me. “He paused looking up at Spencer to add, “Luke Thomas and Justin Garret…”
“I know how they are. Did you know them well?” Spencer asked pushing the urge to scan the man in front of him away and leaning back on the desk.
“Reasonably, they mostly kept to themselves but we used to work in the library together when we had big projects to finish. Go out for dinner every month or so. It’s a pretty small community. We had the same major and…” the man paused looking back at the ground before finally saying, “common ground, it’s nice to talk to people who get it. And their partner, Gabriel, was so funny. I just thought I might be able to help, I know the centre have probably locked down their research and I thought it might. And I’m probably just wasting your time.” As the man started to apologise and get to his feet, Spencer relaxed his iron grip on his empathic skills to sweep over him, at the wave of grief and frustration letting him know all he needed to know.
He slammed his empathic walls down and pulled back quickly as he felt Penny brush over the edge of his gifts, her delicate and light hold on her skills letting her find him subconsciously.
Realising the man was already halfway down the corridor Spencer brushed his hair out of his eyes and ran after him, dodging the police officers in the corridor neatly as they frowned at him. When he caught up he took a few extra steps and stood in front of the man.
“Wait, you aren’t wasting my time. Actually, there are a few questions I would like to ask you and some points I’d like to clarify.” Years of avoiding zoning out on the feel of a new fabric keeping him from reaching out to lead him back to the office. When they stepped back in the man sank back into the chair and lifted his hand so he could wiggle his fingers at Spencer in greeting,
“Carl, by the way.”
“ Hi Carl,” Spencer smiled, “a couple of questions. One, did Luke or Justin give a talk at the NYU conference last week? Two, did they ever work with Dr Elizabeth Dealer? And finally…” Spencer glanced up as someone rapped on the window, spotting Penny he quickly finished, “Do you know if they regularly met with anyone other than you? Oh, and could you make a note of any point or views they had that could have made them targets. Excuse me.” He stepped out of the door to instantly be, good-naturedly, bombarded.
“I felt you! You! Oh, Spencer…” Penny jumped up and down a few times before wrapping her arms around him and wiggling him side to side a little. “And I was excited and then I was worried so I came to find you and it was nothing bad so. YAY! I can’t wait to tell Derek.” Spencer hugged her back for a moment, smiling as he fell into the old habit of soaking in her energy and happiness. Slowly he worked his way free and squeezed her shoulders softly.
“Penny, you can’t tell him. We need to focus on the case, not this.” He looked away as her face fell, realisation washing over her. He felt her draw in, the familiar warmth he associated with her fading away as she whispered,
“You weren’t planning to come back, were you?”
“ I hadn’t decided.”
“That always means you aren’t coming back!” Spencer glanced around, surprised to find the corridor empty,
“It all changed. I changed… I couldn’t just expect things to go back to how they were.” He eventually replied, looking away from her to check on Carl and avoid her eyes.
“He loves you, he’s always loved you… I could have bonded with him outside of the pack bond but he turned me down because it wouldn’t be fair to you and all he wanted was you.” She smiled softly, stepping around him so he was forced to look away again or meet her eyes. He looked away.
“He fell in love with a Sentinel, he never wanted a Guide and we worked, balanced each other out. I’ve done the math, Penny, I’ve researched it, I tried to find a way that this would work and…” she interrupted him, stepping forward to keep him from talking as she said,
“Derek Morgan loves you. Not Spencer the Sentinel or Spencer the Guide. You. I have never seen him happier than when he is with you and that didn’t waver an inch those few weeks you stayed. You always said that somehow Sentinel didn’t feel like quite the right fit, and I know you didn’t get to choose but… He will always support you and love you.”
“And I can make peace with this. I have. But this isn’t some decision we talked through and decided on and all the research shows that that is the deciding factor. There’s a difference between choosing to support someone through something, loving them as all the people they are and supporting someone through something that you didn’t even know was coming.” Spencer looked at Penny with a sad smile.
“But you’ve both had time to decide how to deal with this, apart from each other and being it all up, isn’t that the same?”
“I should get back in there, we need more information another has to be a link in their research.” Spencer said as Penny wrinkled her nose muttering,
“Sure, sure. But this conversation is not done, Genius.” She shouted over her shoulder as she walked back to the lab she had set herself up in. Spencer grinned and looked at the floor before walking back in to find out what Carl had for him.
“No, they didn’t talk at the conference. They talked about it but they decided the research wasn’t ready. I don’t recognise this woman, well, maybe in passing but her research doesn’t seem to be connected. And I don’t think they met up with anyone else, we were all really busy and like I said they tended to keep to themselves. And I made a list, I didn’t know if you meant academic or personal but to be honest, they were just really nice guys and they tended to keep their heads down and views to themselves. They always joked that they could use it all to take the academic world by storm once they graduated because no-one would know which party they were going to argue for in an argument.” Carl summarised, handing Spencer the list.
“Thank, could you leave me your number in case we need to ask you anything else. And this is my card if you need anything. “ Spencer said softly guiding him out of the room after they had exchanged numbers.
He paused at the end of the corridor frowning at the list as Carl made his way out of the station. He ran back to the office and rifled through the files until he found Elizabeth’s. He scanned through it and as he lifted his phone to ring Hotch, Rossi leaned through the door,
“We need you.” Waving for him to follow him.
As he walked into the main room they were using, Spencer said,
“I think I know why he’s targeting them.” As Hotch said,
“This Geo profile makes no sense… you what?”
“ Dr Dealer was working on how stress hormones affect potential Sentinels and Guide, why some come online and others go dormant. Part of her focus was on an adult control group that she could definitively say had been through immense stressors and had still come online, in particular, abuse. Justin Garret was in her control group and the victim studying medicine, Gabriel, was specialising in paediatrics, his current research focus was stabilising abused Potential’s to keep them from going Dormant.”
“It’s a Dormant, that works with the profile. He’s not working around a base, like a mundane would, and this is too far spread to be territorial, in a city anyway. How do we track one Dormant in a city this size?” Rossi said frowning at the board.
“We ask the Centre.” Spencer said after a moment.
- – – –
Derek rolled his shoulders and stretched his head forwards to work the knot in his neck loose, two days of trawling through the data the Centre had given them taking its toll.
“You should take a break before you zone out,” Spencer muttered without looking up from the tracking data he was working through.”Go grab lunch and coffee. I’ll be done by time you get back.” From her fort of computers, Penny simply lifted an empty take away cup and wiggled it at them sadly,
“ I require Avocado and chorizo on rye with arugula and mayo, with a drizzle of balsamic.” She said pointing at one of the menus they had been given when they arrived.
“Alright, pretty boy, but we have a deal remember, if I need break so do you.” Derek smiled, reaching out to offer his Guide a hand up. Spencer frowned at him slightly and Derek dropped his hand, “Right, not necessary anymore” he sighed. As he stepped back he saw Spencer glance at Penny, who looked back and narrowed her eyes, as the two Guides seemed to engage in some kind of staring contest he walked out of the room and tried remember how to get back to the foyer of the Centre.
He jogged down what he hoped was the right set of stairs, focusing on smelling out the most used corridors through the scent neutralising air fresheners. He flinched out of the way as he heard someone heading down the corridor towards him.
“I think our deal should stand.” Spencer said from behind him, Derek grinned before stopping to wait for him to catch up.
“You mean Penny told you to take a break because I can’t be trusted to her sandwich order exactly right.” He laughed,
“Actually I still zone, just every now and again, my brain hasn’t quite adapted to not hyper-focusing. So, taking a break is probably a good idea.” Spencer said quietly before adding, “And you do always get Penny’s order wrong.” Derek laughed, slapping Spencer on the back as he started walking again.
They walked in easy silence to the cafe, stepping in to be greeted with a cheery call of,
“Doctor Reid and, I assume, Agent Morgan. I have your order, we’re just making the coffees.” As Derek frowned at the man behind the till and looked into the bags suspiciously, Spencer said,
“Hi Carl, we didn’t order and I didn’t know you worked here.” Derek looked at Spencer out of the corner of his eye as Carl’s eyes widened and his heart rate climbed.
“I… well my grant doesn’t cover living costs and if I live here so it’s convenient.” He babbled, tapping at the screen in front of him for a few seconds, before hesitantly saying, “And a someone with the email [email protected] sent it in, like, two minutes ago.” He span the screen so they could see it.
“Well, it’s the right order. It’s fine, Carl.” Spencer said soothingly as the other server brought their coffees to the front and pointedly stood next to Carl as though expecting them to argue. Derek held back a twitch as the image of a phone and Penny wound their way into his mind as Spencer pushed them at him. Derek nodded and picked up the bags and one of the coffees, leaving Spencer to collect the other two and pay. The man beside Carl muttered,
“I’m going for a break, you got this?” Ignoring the answer, Derek stood outside the cafe and rang Penny,
“Office of awesome. How can I help you, stud muffin?” she answered,
“Did you email our order through to the cafe?” He asked, turning so he could see Spencer through the glass front, the odd timing of their break meaning it was empty and shouldn’t have been giving him a feeling being unsafe.
“No, and someone did? Creepy.” She replied, Derek, scanned the foyer carefully, looking for anyone watching to them too closely.
“Worrying more than creepy, they got the order right. All the way down to your drizzle of balsamic…” he said, peering into the shadows beside the cafe’s fridges.
“Did you get the email address?” she asked,
“Yeah,” He said, quickly telling her, the rattle of keys letting know she was already searching it and tracking where it had been sent from. While he waited he turned to scan over the foyer again, inspecting each of the shadows on the ground floor before moving on to the narrow balcony with corridors leading off it.
He dropped his phone and span to bang on the window before diving to the floor behind one of the cafe tables as he heard the soft click of a safety being knocked off. Time seemed to slow as he heard Spencer dive over the counter and the gun fire. Glass shattered above his head as he pulled his sidearm out and tried to spot the shooter without breaking cover. After a dozen shots, the sound of feet running and a door slamming open had him rolling to his feet and racing up the stairs to the balcony surrounding the area as the fire alarm sounded. He picked the most likely corridor and headed toward the end.
“Fuck!” he shouted as he crashed through the fire escape to find himself looking down into the busy shopping area the Centre backed on to. Behind him, the fire alarm turned off as every sentinel in the building flooded into the foyer. As he watched the crowd for anyone acting oddly he heard Spencer shouting for everyone to stop contaminating the scent profile of the scene and picking up the phone to reassure Penny that they were both fine.
“Get Hotch and Rossi here, and let dispatch that we don’t need the paramedics, the centre’s medics are dealing with it.” Derek heard him say softly as he started to head back through the building. Taking a through scent profile, he huffed in annoyance as the number of people and the neutralisers had destroyed most of it. He gripped the banister and with an easy leap jumped over the balcony to land next to Spencer lightly. He pressed their bodies close and made the sign for ‘ Sentinel’ before covering it with a grounding ritual. Spencer wrapped his arms around him and Derek gasped as he felt him relax his hold on his empathic senses to take a read of the whole building. When he felt him stop breathing, stretching his senses too far, he squeezed gently to bring him back into his body.
Behind them he heard white noise generators click on to keep the investigation from being over heard as the Centre’s security team began to sure people away from the area. Spencer pulled away a little to mutter,
“He was aiming for both of us, the initial shots were at Carl and then the rest were at me.” Derek twisted to glance at the main doors as Spencer spoke, Rossi and Hotch arriving and instructing the police to stay outside.
“Carl doesn’t fit the victim profile” Derek said as they arrived beside him, “it would have made more sense for him to be aiming at me.”
“Are we sure he wasn’t?” Rossi asked as he looked at the scene,
“The shots came from that balcony, when I looked down from there it was pretty clear he could have shot at me if that was his intent. Even without training, a Sentinel could make that shot.” Derek said as Hotch’s phone rang,
“You’re on speakerphone, Garcia.”
“Right, well guess who just got partial access to the Centre’s investigation.” She said as all their phones buzzed with an incoming file. “I just sent you the part of their profile they gave me. They suspected a Dormant too, which explains how they could provide the tracking data so quickly, and if we thought our list of potential victims was small, the centre’s is almost none existent. And while our list had our favourite chocolate god on it, their list has both Spencer and Carl. And everyone on their list works or lives at the Centre.”
“Garcia, grab on of the personnel files for one of the people we haven’t got on our list” Spencer suddenly said,
“Find their status listing, are there two statuses listed or a notation about them being trans-status?” Derek nodded as Spencer spoke, realising where he was going.
“Yes for this one… and the three poor boys from the first scene were too.” Garcia replied sadly. “Dr Dealer wasn’t though.”
“No, but she was a psychologist.” Hotch said waving the medics out of the cafe when they appeared in the doorway with the gurney “We dismissed that angle because all of her patients were Sentinels.”
“Garcia, create a list of all the patients she was seeing…”Hotch started before Spencer interrupted,
“Cross reference it with the list of attendees of the NYC conference and people who have access to personnel files.” Derek frowned at him, “we know he recorded me. Dr Draper had over 50 patients none of whom she saw on a regular basis, she provided crisis care not on going. We’re going to need to narrow it down.”
“Got it,” Penny replied before hanging up.
“I’m going to check the security footage, there has to be shot of him somewhere.” Derek said , getting a clean scent profile is pretty much impossible in this place.” He squeezed Spencer’s shoulder one last time before leaving the foyer, Rossi following him. Behind him he heard Hotch telling Spencer to interview anyone who Garcia managed to identify as a suspect.
- – – –
Spencer paused midway through his debrief on the interviews he had conducted with the men Garcia had identified with her search, he met Hotch’s eye and sighed,
“I have an idea,”
“I’m going to hate it, aren’t I?” Hotch replied, Spencer nodded slightly.
“We should announce that we are looking for a Dormant who’s family and friends may have noticed that he is spending more time online. We make out that we believe that he saw the video of my talk, rather than recording it, and was influenced to act on the message he heard.” Spencer held up a finger when it looked like Hotch might interrupt, “then we announce that I’m going to give a talk, addressing the issues raised by the original video.”
“You want to draw him out.” Spencer nodded,
“Garcia’s search turned up three people who matched all of the criteria we gave her, all of whom had alibis. The next group down has 24 people in it. He clearly feels motivated by what I said and he took a big risk by attacking within the centre. I don’t think he would be able to resist coming to watch another of my talks and have another shot at me.”
“No, the risk is too high. If we get this wrong and he does turn up and does take a shot at you then half my team goes down and we never catch him.”
“We ring the hall with Sentinels and agents so that if he does manage to make it out of the auditorium he’s going to be trapped. If we plan this out carefully he’s going to be trapped.” Spencer said as Hotch shook his head. As he considered how to get Hotch to agree to his plan their phones buzzed. Spencer waited as Hotch checked the message, he grabbed his phone when Hotch cursed and rose to his feet, rushing from the room. Spencer looked at the message ‘Video released, new scene, 2219 Quimby Av. TOD approx. 48hrs.’ Spencer was on his feet halfway through the message and following Hotch to the main room they were using as he stuck his phone back into his pocket. He arrive just after everyone else and said,
“That means he’s killing, or attempting to, every 24 hours. And we’re getting pretty close to that.” Hotch nodded in agreement.
“The victim wasn’t on the Centre’s database, but the coroner is certain that they were trans-status.” Derek’s voice came over the phone in the centre of the table.
“You don’t have to register with the Centre, you can apply to have your status listing changed with the Council and request to be missed of the Centre’ research list.” Spencer explained, adding “he cold have found them through one of the support group or online communities.”
“Which mean’s our victim pool just grew again. Spencer,” Hotch sighed, “we’re going with your plan. I’ll get security arranged and get someone to make an announcement, you collect Morgan, book a hall and get set up. We can’t do anything about today, so let’s aim for tomorrow and hope that the announcement gets him excited enough that he doesn’t risk it. ”
When Spencer arrived outside the coroner’s office to collect Derek, he was stood leaning against a wall. Spencer bit his lip and slid out of the driver’s seat so that Derek drive the rest of the way.
“You realise this is a crazy plan, right!” Derek said the moment he had the door shut.
“You wouldn’t be saying that if it was someone else. This is hardly the first time we’ve drawn an UNSUB out rather than waiting to find him. If we wait for him to make a mistake then dozens of people could die.” Spencer shot back,
“So this isn’t just you taking another risk because people got hurt over something you had no control over?” Derek snapped as he pulled out into the traffic.
“This isn’t about Hankel! It was never about him. I didn’t leave because of what he did to me, I didn’t even leave because I couldn’t get it together and control my gifts in the field and got Penny shot while she was trying to do my job. I left because of what it was doing to you.” Spencer dropped back into his seat taking couple of deep breaths in the silence. “We always agreed that we could keep work and our private lives separate, that we could be bonded and not be distracted if something happened to one of us. And we could. You would get shot or trapped somewhere and I would just get on with my job and you would do the same but this was different. You never wanted a Guide and suddenly you were stuck with one and I couldn’t keep things straight in my head I’d go from zoning out because someone touched me to empathic overload. You were spending as much time trying to keep me steady as you were doing your job and then we would go home and you would be trying to help me, support me with something that neither of us had never imagined.” Spencer shut his eyes feeling Derek look at him,
“Spencer…I wanted to be there, yeah it was difficult and I was stressed but if I hadn’t wanted to do it alone we had choices.”
“I know what it’s like to be stuck looking after someone that you feel responsible for, that you love regardless of how difficult you are but eventually it wears you too thin and one of you has to make the difficult choice and …” Spencer cut off as Derek threaded his fingers through his as he said,
“And then Penny got shot trying to talk me through a zone at a crime scene and you knew if I hadn’t been tired and stressed I wouldn’t have zoned. Penny wouldn’t have come out to the scene and if your body hadn’t been trying to do a 180 on itself you would have heard him long before he reached us.” Spencer just nodded as Derek sighed, “and I had told Hotch that that was the last case until you were ready, that we were both worn too thin and we need some time to get it together. I let you push me into agreeing to go back to work as soon as possible, I knew it was a bad idea but I also know you. You would have never accepted taking some time until you were ready to deal with it.”
They drove in silence, hands linked and minds pressing against each other softly until they arrive at the university Derek pulled into a parking space and turned to face Spencer fully.
“Give me two reasons that this is the best plan. Two good reasons that I should risk losing you.”
“He’s an obsessive, he’s fascinated with my research and twisting it and that means that he won’t kill me until I’m actually the last option. Yes, he fired at me in the cafe but I was behind the counter and he had no chance of hitting me. And secondly, if we don’t draw him out then we have to wait him out and waiting him out means that he is going to kill someone every 24 hours or so until he spirals and goes on a spree.” Spencer meet Derek’s eyes and waited until the Sentinel nodded.
“You’re wearing a vest” before leaning forward to kiss him softly on the lips, “ and I’m going to be right on the edge of the stage.”
Spencer pulled him back towards him as Derek started to get out of the car, “I never meant to hurt you, I thought I was protecting us both.”
“Yeah? Well, stop trying to steal my job I’m the Sentinel here.” Derek said with a smile, Spencer smiled back softly and as he did Derek murmured. “I love you too much to lose you, you hid from me and it hurt so much to not come and drag your ass home.” Spencer opened his mouth to apologise and Derek leant forwards and kissed him again, pulling back to say, “Don’t apologise for doing what you need to for you. Shall we go set this up then?”
- – – –
Spencer looked up at the audience from his position at the edge of the stage, worry gnawing in his gut as he realised that he couldn’t feel their empathic presence. He glanced down at the tiny Birdies and the little boxes resting beside of them creating an empathic shield to keep the speaker from being influenced by the audience’s excitement, derision or boredom. Usually a bonus to the speaker but in this case, Spencer realised too late to fix it, it left him blind to the killer’s location. He glanced at Derek and pointed at the lights discreetly, hoping that he would be able to get it switched off. He watched as Derek frowned for a second before realisation hit and he turned to talk to someone out of Spencer sight line. After a few seconds Derek waved to catch his attention back from the audience before shaking his head. On the stage the Head of Department finally finished his introduction and waved him onto the stage.
Spencer smiled as he took the stage, settling himself in front of the crowd with the ease of years of experience. Feeling his control slip a little, his brain reacting instinctively to the lack of empathic connection by trying to reach out with his other senses, he made a fist and dug his nails into his palm reining himself in and forcing it down sharply. He took a deep breath and reminded himself of the points form the videos as he picked the angle he wanted to try first to draw him out.
“When I was asked to give this talk today, I was expecting to find the graduating class waiting here to hear a rousing speech about how what you have learnt here will have applications across hundreds if not thousands of career paths and each of those will help you to make new discoveries and explore theories. New and old. Exciting and dull. With current thinking or antithetical.
So it was a surprise to arrive in the Dean’s office and find him asking me to repeat a talk I gave earlier in the week and expand on some of the inclusive social and cultural aspects of the subject. However, I will do my best.
As I am sure many of you are aware, I was until recently, working for the FBI as part of the Behavioural Analysis Unit. Which is just a way of saying that we research and find serial killers. It sounds like an odd step to go from looking into the minds of some of the worst of humanity to researching the intricacies of Status transition, but it was both a personal journey and a desire to understand a behaviour often seen as deviant despite having a long and rich history. I’ve never backed away from a challenge” Spencer paused as he considered his next words, watching as Rossi crept down one of the aisles to crouch at the end of a row.
“Many cultures had precise and prescriptive views of sentinels and guides but the variety of view is astounding. From the Ancient Greek view that Sentinels and Guides became gender-less at presentation and were pure warriors who took the necessary role to ensure that they would win to the degree that those incapable of changing were seen as abnormal. To the ridged view of the Late Ottoman Empire, who believed that your behaviour as a child and the training you were given dictated your Status. Those of you interested in a more detailed breakdown of the variety of cultural norms may be interested in buying my book, it will be in print in a couple of months but the online version will be available through the Centre’s archive from tomorrow.” Spencer said with a grin as a few members of the audience laughed.
Halfway down the auditorium a man raised his hand, waving slightly to catch Spencer’s attention. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Derek raise his hand to double tap his body mic in response to Hotch’s warning from the soundproof booth he was sat in observing the audience. Spencer tapped against his thigh to let Derek know he had seen the movement before saying,
“I think I will take a few questions before we move on.”
“Dr Reid, how do the recent accusations that the Centre has been planting evidence at dig sites to back its current major research projects,including it’s trans-status research?” The man asked, his voice carrying through the hall easily thanks to its acoustics.
“I wasn’t aware that there were any formal concerns being raised, and frankly I find the idea laughable. Evidence of trains-status individuals have been found for far longer than the Centre has been researching them and by independent researchers looking at museum pieces that have been kept in strictly monitored cases since their discovery, before the Centre was founded.” Spencer replied as Rossi worked his way towards the man.
“If changing status is a natural occurrence then why have we had to develop drugs to help these people fulfil their desire to change?” Spencer saw the student next to the man flinch and half climb over the person beside him as the UNSUB lifted a gun and aimed it straight at Spencer
“My research is far more focused on the historic occurrence and cultural place and value than the psychology of trans-status individuals. There are many others researching why some individuals present as a Sentinel but feel like a Guide or desire to become a Sentinel because they bonded with another Guide and want a ‘traditional’ bond. Although the concept of a bond being between one Guide and one Sentinel is a relatively modern invention, that like many things, we can blame on the Victorians. However, we mustn’t dismiss that cultures as far back as the Egyptians were using herbal remedies to heighten senses or boost empathic gifts. Modern medications just help us to trigger a change of status rather than mimic the desired status.” Spencer kept the man’s attention on him as Agents began to guide people out of the back rows and Rossi motioned for the people closest to the man to leave.
“What about those who are forced to change because some doctor thinks that it will fix them?” Spencer saw Derek shift, drawing his sidearm and trying to discreetly aim at the man. Spencer froze at the question until he saw the man begin to look around.
“I assume your referring to Guides who go into empathic overload? Is that what happened to you?” He asked, drawing the man’s attention back to the front.
“Spencer…” Derek hissed from the edge of the stage in warning. Spencer just held his hand out to the side, requesting everyone to hold off for a moment as he tried to talk the man down.
“That used to be a death sentence, there was no cure and seeing as we don’t know the exact chemical imbalance in the brain that causes it we can’t fix it. Much like sense shock in Sentinels. You would have been none responsive, your body would have been in shock, after 48 hours your organs would have started to shut down and regardless of when the doctors did there would have been no stabilising you. Assuming that you didn’t have a living will the doctor in charge of your treatment would have done the only thing they could to save your life. With no way of asking you, they had to assume you want to live.” Spencer said softly,
“Listen, just put the gun down and we can talk about this. We can figure out what happened to you and help you fix it.” Spencer soothed.
“You just want to fix me, You just want to make me OK, that’s hat they said before. Don’t lie, you just want to lock me away for saving them from this!.” The man laughed, his gun wavering in his hand.
“The people you killed? What were you saving them from? And I really do want to help you, there are ways of making this better, of helping you live with what happened to you. I know it’s scary, you wake up one day and everything that you knew is gone. The whole perception you had of yourself stolen from you by someone who thought they could just make you into what they though you needed to be. They didn’t ask, they just took. But we can make it better.” Spencer saw Rossi creep closer, trying to get close enough to snatch the gun out of the man’s hand as he started to drop it, no long aiming at Spencer as he shouted,
“You can’t help me. No one can help me. You can’t put it back! I don’t want to be okay with this I want to be ME. This is wrong, you shouldn’t be changed.”
“NO!” Spencer yelled as the man lifted the gun again, Rossi dove forwards and Derek leapt out of the wings to drive Spencer to the ground.
The shot rang out and echoed around the hall for a few seconds, the banging of doors being throw open, by agents responding to the shooting, breaking the still of the hall seconds before Rossi shouted,
“All clear, stand down. Stand down.” Derek lifted his weight of Spencer, grabbing his shoulder and forcing him to turn around.
“I’m fine, I’m fine. He wasn’t aiming at me.” Spencer gasped, lifting one hand to fist it around the edge of Derek’s vest and pull himself up.
“Spencer…” Derek said softly as he ran a hand through Spencer’s hair, checking for damage from when he hit the ground.
“I’m fine.” Spencer repeated, shutting his eyes as the Sentinel pulled him close. “We’re fine.” He breathed, resting his head on Derek’s shoulder as he heard Hotch shout for them to check in over the radio.
“We’re good, Hotch. Just give me a minute.” Derek muttered distractedly pulling his radio out and letting it drop to rest against his chest. “How do you not go dormant if you feel like that? That level of…”
“Side effect of the medication, triggering the change like that is traumatic and the constantly fighting your own body can make you feel insane, expecting it to do one thing when it suddenly does another. So they built it in to the medication, most people adjust and those who don’t slowly go dormant over a period of time as the medication slowly fades from their system.” Spencer replied softly as Derek slowly pulled Spencer close and burying his mind into the safety of Spencer’s shields as Spencer pressed into the safety of his body. Bodies and minds merging until they almost became one, gorging themselves on the comfort of the other’s presence.
They sat huddled behind the podium as the coroner came and went.
As Hotch spoke to them, waited in silence for a reply and left.
As a medic checked them over and cleared them.
As Garica arrived and looked at them, prodding at them through their pack bond until she got fed up.
“Okay, boys, enough freaking out the boss man now. Time to shift your butts and at least stagger home to finish your scary, silent, bonding thingy.” Garcia said as she dropped to sit next to them, huddling in wine they both reached out and arm and let her into the huddle. “I much preferred the ‘everyone abandon the bull pen while the two sentinels decide if they want to fight for dominance or fuck’ bonding. I am all for watching the revised version of that by the way. If you feel the urge to just…” She rambled, kicking her heels off and unfastening Derek’s vest so she was more comfortable.
“ House rules, Penny.” Spencer finally muttered into Derek’s neck, reaching out a hand to smack her shoulder lightly. “No watching Derek and me have sex. Ever. For any reason.” Derek laughed, knocking them both off their perches as he muttered,
“Sorry, Goddess, my man has spoken.” They slowly climbed to their feet and as they looked at the empty hall, Spencer asked,
“Exactly how freaked out is Hotch?”
“Oh, we’ve reached the ’I’m calling the Centre and getting an emergency team in two minutes’ stage.” She replied, “ Apparently, two hours is his limit for quiet, sitting still and not responding from his agents. Come on, we have equipment to pack and a plane to catch. I want to get back to my nice safe lab and my own set up… and my own bed” she sighed happily.
Spencer glanced at Derek, who nodded and held out a hand before looking at the back of the hall as Hotch leant through the doors.
“Actually, I think we’re going to stay in New York for a bit, take that bond leave we never took and… figure out how this is going to work.” Derek said with a grin. “Spencer’s got some research to finish” Spencer frowned at him as Penny groaned and then started to laugh,
“I finished my research..?”
“Yeah, but I figure we gotta research this.” Derek muttered with a laugh and sliding his hand over the side of his chest his vest had slipped off. Spencer reached out and caught his hand tugging him towards the steps as he replied,
“Can’t we research that at home? I miss my books.” Behind them there was a soft thump as Penny slumped over the podium and started to cackle.