22 February 2012 @ 12:16 am
Solitary Confinement (3/?)  
Title: Solitary Confinement (Chapter 3 of ?)
Author: Merucha Characters: Criminal Minds/Torchwood
Rating: Some chapters definitely not safe for work. Disclaimer: Oh, please. If I owned them, would I let some of those idiots write the scripts? And if I were making any money off them, would I be where they could find me?
Summary: Aaron Hotchner's secrets and the real reason for the existence of the BAU team is revealed when a terrible serial killer strikes...
Author's Note: People are the only mirror we have to see ourselves in. The domain of all meaning. All virtue, all evil, are contained only in people. There is none in the universe at large. Solitary confinement is a punishment in every human culture. Lois McMaster Bujold. Mirror Dance.
Author's Note: If you're not a Dr. Who fan, you need to look up

Part one is here; part two is here

“You have a key to the back door of the American Museum of Natural History.”

The disbelief in Reid's voice make Hotch want to laugh out loud. Instead he gave his subordinate one of his best raised-eyebrow looks. “Have I managed to impress you?”

Reid grinned at him. “Ultimate geek cool.”

Hotch chuckled as he opened the narrow door. It led into a foyer with another door, this one with no handle or lock. Hotch put his hand flat on the metal surface and waited. A few moments later they could hear a low whine coming from the place where his hand rested. He looked over his shoulder.

“You're not going to ask?”

“Built-in fingerprint and palm reader,” Reid said blandly. “Pretty advanced technology, but I suppose there are some very valuable exhibits in the Hall of Gems.”

“You know where we are?”

“I looked at the museum website once.”

Hotch nodded with understanding. The interactive floor plan, of course. Reid would have used it to work his way through the online exhibits. Once seen, never forgotten. He wondered what it was like, sometimes, inside Reid's head.

There was a soft click and the door slid aside. The room beyond was circular. A spectacular piece of rock was displayed at its center, while tables and pedestals supported smaller pieces around it. From the doorway they would see the team gathered  around Ieuan Harte, who was holding up his hands in a classic don't-blame-me gesture.

“He told me to bring you here and wait, and that's what we're going to do. Talk to him about it when you see him next.”

Hotch moved to where they could see him. “I would rather talk about other things.”

“How did you get here?” Morgan demanded. “I've been looking at the entrance the whole time.”

“Hotch has a key to the back door,” Reid said. “Did you know...”

“Reid,” Hotch said and watched Reid subside. “The reason I asked Ieuan to bring you here is that there is something about this case that can't be dealt with through regular police procedure.”

Rossi looked startled. “There's no hint of national security implications...”

Hotch help up a hand. “Actually there are. They just aren't the kind you would recognize. But more to the point,  this is the kind of case this team was specifically set up to handle.”

“You mean the BAU?”

“No. This team.” He looked at each one of them in turn. “When I was given this job, part of the assignment was to assemble a team that had not only complimentary characters and skills, but also one thing in common.”

“And that was?” Morgan said in a challenging tone.

“Intellectual flexibility. The ability to look at a situation and accept it for what it is, not what logic or reason says it should be. Now. I'm going to ask you to walk through that door. Once you step through it you will have made a commitment to something beyond anything you have ever experienced. It will put you in mortal danger and it will break your heart. You will never be able to speak to anyone outside this group about it, and if you do, retribution will be swift and final. I won't hold it against you if you want to walk away now.”

“That's how they get you,” Harte said confidingly. “After that kind of speech, who's going to walk away without at least looking first?”

“John.” Hotch  used the same tone with Harte than he used when Reid became a verbal runaway train, and with the same effect. “All right. Follow me.”

He led them back into the foyer. Once everyone was crowded in, he placed his palm against the door again and tapped a quick sequence. There were a few grunts of surprise as the whole room began to descend.

“According to the interactive map,” Reid said calmly. “There are no rooms below the Hall of Meteorites.”

“This place isn't in any map.”

The elevator came to a stop with a gentle bump. After a second's delay, the door slid open. Hotch stepped out and moved aside, letting the others follow.

“Wow,” Rossi said.

 The elevator door opened onto a catwalk that circled a vast oval room; other doors opened onto it, neatly labeled with brass plaques.  A large part of the catwalk wall was glass, and they could see a large conference room on one side and what seemed to be a greenhouse on the other. Below, workstations were spaced evenly around the perimeter of the area. Three large virtual screens floated at eye level opposite the elevator door. One showed a detailed map of the city. Another was divided into several unequal sections in which data scrolled constantly. The last one was a constant swirl of color and shapes as fractals formed, dissolved, and formed again.

“Welcome to the  eastern branch of  the  ATCU.” Hotch said.

“The what?” Prentiss asked.

“The  Alien Tracking and Containment Unit,” Garcia answered as she appeared through one of the doors, tablet in hand. “But we just call it Torchwood New York.”

She grinned at their obvious surprise, then pointed to the glass-enclosed conference room.  “Lunch. The Cafe on One caters, no questions asked.”

“Baby girl... Garcia,” Morgan sounded nearly dazed. “What's going on?”

She patted his cheek. “It shall all be explained, angel face. And it's going to absolutely amaze you, as in shock, stagger, and dumbfound you, and you're going to love it. All of you.”

Rossi snorted. “Hotch has already warned us about the mortal danger and the broken heart.”

“That too.” the smile turned sad for a moment then she brightened up again. “But it's worth it. Come one before the grilled paninis get cold. Hotch, the boss said to tell you he'll be here within the hour.” She used her fuzzy pen to point to the conference room. “Allons-y!”

They followed her into a conference room where a sideboard  groaned under the weight of sandwiches, chips, fruit, cookies, and coffee. They helped themselves, trying to maintain at least some appearance of normalcy, but Hotch noticed their surreptitious looks to the area on the other side of the glass. He made a two-part bet with himself and promptly won both parts.

“So, Garcia,” Prentiss picked up her grilled chicken and roasted pepper panini. “What's Torchwood?”

“Torchwood,” Reid answered before Garcia had a chance to open her mouth, “is supposed to be a secret organization dedicated to protecting the Earth against alien threats.” He raised a hand to forestall the Morgan explosion they could all see coming. “Aliens as in from another planet, not from Mexico or China.”

Leah James, who had been quietly observing everyone and everything – Hotch was coming to the conclusion that she had the makings of a very good agent – looked at her partner, who was sitting between Prentiss and Garcia. “Are you part of Torchwood too?”

He seemed to think about it for a moment, then nodded. “Yeah.”

The gunshot sound of Morgan's hand striking the table made them jump.  “Enough. You've had your joke. Now tell us what's really going on.”

“No joke,” Hotch said. “Torchwood was established in 1879 by Queen Victoria after an encounter with a lupine wavelength haemovariform...”

“AKA a werewolf.” Garcia giggled at Hotch's exasperated look. “Come on, Hotch. He had way too much body hair and long fangs and if it bit you you would have way too much hair and long fangs at the next full moon. If it stinks like a wolf and it bites like a wolf...”

“Penelope.” The warning was obvious, and she subsided immediately. “To continue. Queen Victoria established Torchwood in 1879. Our version of it is this unit. It was established in 1930, right after the world as we know it damn nearly ended here in New York.”

“The Hooverville incident?” Rossi asked. As heads swiveled towards him, he waved his coffee mug at them. “What? I surf alien conspiracy sites when I'm bored, all right?”

“Hooverville incident my ass,” growled Morgan. “Why are you doing this, Hotch? Is this some sort of mental health test? Are those two even cops?”

Harte chuckled. “If this were that sort of test, you just failed it. Talk about conspiracy theories.”

“No tests, and no tricks, Derek,” Garcia said. “I know it's hard to take in, but it's the truth.”

“Really?” he said sarcastically. “And how many aliens have you seen?”

She swallowed some coffee as if to moisten her throat. “In this room? Two.”

The word landed with a thud. Hotch watched as each member of his team reacted. Prentiss sat back for a better view of everyone around the table. Both Rossi and Morgan stared at Garcia, one openly curious, the other disbelieving. Unexpectedly, Reid seemed content with silence, watching the confrontation without fidgeting or rushing to comment.

Morgan finally broke the silence. “You're seriously saying there are two aliens, two honest to Star Trek aliens, in this room right now.”

Garcia hesitated, then looked at Hotch, who nodded. “Show and tell time, my chocolate god.”

First there was a faint sound like a distant generator powering up. Then a flash of light, then another, brighter and hotter. Hotch shaded his eyes – he had found that looking directly at Penelope during one of her transformations could lead to mild headaches – but she was going very slow, giving them all a chance to adjust. Finally, the Penelope they knew was gone. In her place was a faintly humanoid column of coppery strands that shimmered lighter and darker as it swayed gently.

Do you like this me, Derek? The voice was all Penelope. You were the first friend I ever had who never knew this me.

Morgan shoved away from the table, sending his chair crashing against the wall. “What the hell?”

“Her people were called the Oraz Phoenix,” Harte said quietly. “Their planet was destroyed by a freak supernova explosion. There were never many of them, since they live for a very, very long time and reproduce by nuclear fusion. Now there are only a few thousand, scattered across the galaxies.”

Prentiss reached timidly to touch one of the strands. She giggled as it wrapped around her wrist and tickled at her pulse point. “You are so beautiful, Gar... what's your real name?”

We do not have names as you do. My people speak in terms of light and energy.

“The one who rescued her named her Penelope, which means weaver.  Her family was famous for great art pieces made from weaving starlight.” Harte spoke in the same quiet tone. “I saw one once. It had been commissioned for the coronation of the Emperor of Ili. A tapestry several parsecs long, hung between two wormhole transfer points. It was said that at certain times, when both transfer points were open and vortex energy could escape, it would show you your deepest desire.”

My father made it. He called it Lies and Dreams. The snicker was pure Garcia. He didn't like the Emperor all that much.

“Stop it!” Morgan shouted, jumping up. “This is...” he turned on Hotch, fist clenched. “You knew this. You let this... thing... become part of our team. Of our family.”

“Dammit, Morgan!” Rossi barked, reaching for Garcia, whose light-body shaded into a dull olive green before reconstituting as the Penelope they had always known, and gripping her suddenly human hand. “You don't have to be so damn thick-headed about this!”

“Who's the other?” Morgan ignored him as he stared at each person around the table in turn. “The other alien?”

“That would be me.” Ieuan raised his hand.

“Prove it. Show me what you  look like.”

Hotch rubbed his forehead, trying to stave off the incipient headache. Trust Morgan to find the most insulting thing he could say, leading with his gut instead of his brain. For the first time ever he wondered if he had made a mistake in his choice. He started to say something that would break the horrible silence, but was stopped cold by a look from Ieuan. No, not Ieuan. John Hart. The bastard was back and they were all going to have to hang on for dear life.

“This is what I look like, you terrified little primate,” the words were etched with pure acid. “I am from so far in the future that your century's idiotic hangups about race and color and ethnicity and all those sorry falsehoods have absolutely no meaning. In my time there are pure humans who look like cats and aliens who take on human form just to know what it is to have flesh. I can trace my roots back to a tiny village in County Meath, Ireland, and  to a planet circling a triple sun where human beings have genetically transformed themselves into porpoises, because that rich, rich planet has no land to speak of. Look at me!” The sudden bark, Hotch thought, was worthy of the Brigadier at his worst. “Penelope's people were civilized when our ancestors were still rolling in the mud, hiding from the things with big teeth. She has chosen to gift you with friendship and you toss it back this way?”

“She lied to me!”

“So what? Don't tell me you've never lied to a friend, or two, or nine.” Hart pushed his chair back, sprawling with one foot up on the table. “Close your mouth and don't try to con a conman, kid.  I was professional liar and thief before you were the proverbial gleam in your father's eye. Let's just settle this, because there's more important things to do than soothe your feelings. You have two options. We can make you forget everything you have ever learned. You can go back to being a good profiler, sure that you know everything there is to know about your team. In a few months you'll feel the need to spread your wings, head your own team, and you'll put in for a transfer. It'll be granted, you're due for a promotion anyway.  They,” he swept a hand around the table, “will throw you a going away party, and you'll make promises to keep in touch but you won't. After a while, you'll go for drinks when you meet  at conferences, but there'll be none of the close friendship left.”

Morgan stared at the other man with an intensity that was nearly visible. Hotch found himself holding his breath.

“And my other option?”

“You stay in. You learn to see the world as it is. It'll become a little small for you, because you will see and do things that shows you there's a big Universe out there. If you're lucky you'll even see some of it. And you figure out why you were so pissed at pretty Miss MoneyPenny. You're no bigot and you're no coward, and you've spent your professional life looking inside the heads of people seventy times more terrifying than she is, so ask yourself what happened.” He looked down at his left wrist and then raised a hand, thumbs holding pinkies down across his palms. “Choose fast. The Universe doesn't stop for anyone.”

Morgan took a deep breath. “Three minutes to what?”

Hart pulled two small white pills from one of his jacket's pockets and put them on the table. “Choose!”

Morgan looked at Hotch, then at Garcia, as if trying to read their minds, then shook his head. “I'm in.”

Hotch heard Reid's sigh of relief. His favorite genius had been uncharacteristically quiet, studying everyone and everything – every word, every gesture, Hotch was willing to bet every breath – with the sort of concentration he used when he was trying to rearrange facts into a solid pattern. Hotch knew how much Reid depended on Morgan for emotional support and the occasional smacking around. Morgan was Hotch to Reid's Sean, the big brother that the younger one could both emulate and rebel against. Reid had managed to get over losing Gideon, but Hotch didn't think he was ready to lose Morgan. Not this way.

He smiled at Morgan. “Thank you.”

Morgan's answer was lost in the general chaos as two men suddenly popped out of nowhere. Morgan and Leah moved like cops, ending up crouched, with guns drawn and pointed at the newcomers. Rossi and Prentiss had simply slid under the table, out of their line of fire. On the other hand, Reid didn't even twitch, his beautiful long hands resting loosely clasped on his lap.

“Everyone, stand down!” Hotch barked.

He waited until they were all back in their seats, guns put back in their holsters, then turned to Jack.    The sight nearly froze him solid. Jack had his manipulator pointed at Reid. His eyes were wide and Hotch would swear he could see a slight tremor in his hands.

“Jack, what's wrong?”

“You tell me.” The voice was raspy with shock. “Who is this, Aaron?”

Hotch frowned. “This is Doctor Spencer Reid. We've discussed him.”

“Well, I would say you left something fairly important out of the discussion. Like the fact that Doctor Reid is a Dalek.”
( Post a new comment )
[personal profile] yanto on February 22nd, 2012 09:32 am (UTC)
garcia is not human, hart kicks butt and reid is a dalek? a thrilling and brilliant chapter. i will be reading this chapter again and again. wow!
Merucha[personal profile] merucha on February 23rd, 2012 12:32 am (UTC)
Thank you! John as usual dealt himself in. Sigh. He's in my head, the redeemable bad boy.
rednwhiterose[personal profile] rednwhiterose on February 22nd, 2012 12:19 pm (UTC)
You would leave it there...ooo I hates you, but not really.
Merucha[personal profile] merucha on February 23rd, 2012 12:32 am (UTC)
I'll try to write faster, I promise.
ext_41651: Ianto neck rub[identity profile] fide-et-spe.livejournal.com on February 22nd, 2012 09:32 pm (UTC)
Oh dear, a dalek? Bloody Hell. Then I suppose that's it, he has to be destroyed.

I don't know Criminal Minds, not my sort of show, but this story is great fun.
Merucha[personal profile] merucha on February 23rd, 2012 12:34 am (UTC)
He's going to get everything he deserves, anyhow :-)
[identity profile] yuenoclow.livejournal.com on February 22nd, 2012 11:55 pm (UTC)
*twitch* Why do you have to be so *evil*?! Leaving it there... argh...

I hope this means you're feeling better! At least enough to tease your readers. X3
Merucha[personal profile] merucha on February 23rd, 2012 12:35 am (UTC)
Well, I am known for my cliffhangers, so.... BWWAHAHAHAHAH!
helice[personal profile] helice on March 6th, 2012 02:42 pm (UTC)
I don't even know why but for the last 2 chapters I kept imagining Hotch and Ianto as one person... well obviously they are not?

Ooooh, the plot thickens... I guess out of everyone in BAU, the ones who have the biggest chance of freaking out about aliens would be Morgan and/or Prentiss? Well I haven't watched Criminal Minds since S3 so I could be a bit out of touch with the charaters...

And where's Ianto? (Oh yeah, that's why I thought Hotch=Ianto -- because I kept expecting to see him.)

I am hanging on the edge of my seat for the next chapter!!!
Merucha[personal profile] merucha on March 14th, 2012 02:55 pm (UTC)
Sorry to be so late in answering. Many of your questions are partially answered in the next chapter!
hab318princess[personal profile] hab318princess on March 21st, 2012 10:03 pm (UTC)
oh wow, did NOT see that last line coming.... loved John and Garcia here... wonderful
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