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Cold Case

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“Love lights more fires than hate extinguishes.” ― Ella Wheeler Wilcox

The young brunette woman woke up to find herself tied to her bed and immediate panic set it.  She tried to move her arms but couldn’t no matter how hard she struggled.  She tried to yell for help, but her mouth was gagged and trying to yell just made her gag.  She looked around, scared and confused.  It was her bedroom, in her apartment.  How did she get here?  She remembered leaving the club after getting the hot blonde's phone number, but that was her last memory before waking up to this.  Something shifted in the shadow of her room and she realized someone was in the room with her.  She tried to call for help, but it was no use.  Her body felt sore and she cried as it dawned on her what had happened.  She knew she had been raped by the man that was now standing over her and she began to cry.  Her adrenaline kicked in and she struggled against the ropes as the man ran his hands up and down her naked and exposed body. 

“You’re awake, finally.” He whispered and continued to let his hands explore her young flesh while she thrashed to try to pull away, though it was impossible.  

“You have very beautiful eyes; do you know that?” he continued.

“FFUGGGHGHGHGHGH” She tried to scream again, but it was useless.

“Now that you know what a real man can do for you, you’ll never crave a woman’s touch again.” His smirk made her want to vomit. “If you ask me nicely, I’ll do it again.  Would you like that?”

She shook her head violently- no- no- please no.  She had been unconscious the first time, thank god, but now she was awake.  NO- she struggled and pulled on the ropes until her wrists and ankles were raw and bleeding.

A flash of something evil went through his eyes and she could tell that he was getting angry.  “I’m going to remove your gag, but if you scream, I will kill you.  All you have to do is tell me that you want it, and I promise I’ll be gentle and then I’ll leave.”

 He removed her gag to let her answer for herself. 

“Get the hell away from me you sick motherfucker!” She screamed at the top of her lungs.

He grabbed her throat and squeezed until her world went black.

 

<><><><><><><><><><> 

 

She was running and her lungs were on fire, but she didn’t care.  The toned muscles in her legs screamed for her to stop, to take a break, but she kept pushing.  One more mile, she would keep going.  A voice in her head kept reminding her that she was not as young as she used to be.  Just keep going.

As she rounded the corner of her street that led to her D.C. townhouse, she saw the dark SUV waiting out front of her house. Fuck.

Carol Aird walked up to the vehicle with the darkened windows and stood, hands on hips, breathing deeply.  A tall, dark, and handsome man in a suit got out of the SUV and met her on the sidewalk.  “I see you are still keeping in shape.  That is good.  How is your shooting?”

“I never miss." The beautiful blonde smiled.  "What do you want Hotch?” Carol asked him while trying to catch her breath.

“Can we go inside and talk?” he motioned for the door, envelope in hand. Carol looked at the large yellow envelope and felt her stomach drop.  She nodded and escorted Aaron to the front door and into her living room.

Aaron Hotchner was the Unit Chief of the Behavioral Analysis Unit of the FBI.  The job of the BAU was to assist other agencies on special cases and up until a few years ago, Carol Aird had worked with the BAU as a supervisory special agent.  Together, she and the team helped to catch serial killers and terrorists across the country. They also worked to find missing children and solve other crimes when the local law enforcement agencies needed help.  That was until her life fell apart and one of her fellow agents was killed. 

“Where is Rindy?” Hotch asked as he looked around at the simply decorated home.  He noticed the lack of color on the walls and the sparse furnishings.  Carol had not been here long, or if she had, she had not done any decorating. 

“She is in New Jersey with Harge’s parents this week.  It’s spring break, so…” Carol took a long drink of water from her sports bottle.  “Why are you here, Aaron?”

“We need your help.” He walked into the kitchen and placed the envelope on the table.

Carol immediately began to shake her head as blonde strands fell out of her ponytail.  “I don’t work for the BAU anymore and you know I can’t go back.”

“I know you still consult with the FBI on various cases and you teach classes at the academy, Carol.  I know you have not filed your retirement paperwork, and you have been in this state of limbo for two years now, which tells me you aren’t really ready to leave.  I look around your house and I can tell you are still struggling with what happened.  I also know you believe what happened was your fault, but it wasn't. Losing agents is never easy, but it is an unfortunate part of this job.  We all know the risk when we sign on.”

“First, stop profiling me.  Second, she was my agent and my responsibility, Aaron.  And more than that, she was my friend. And you know as well as I do, that what happened wasn't the same as being killed in the line of duty.” She gazed off into some imaginary distance.  “And I still don’t know who murdered her so how good of an agent can I possibly be?”

Aaron stood and looked out the window.  “The whole team worked on that case Carol, and while it may be a cold case, it is still open.  You know that when there is only one scene and very little evidence, it can be near impossible to solve a crime.  But there are still other people out there who need your help.”

“You have a team.” She took another sip of her water; her muscles were shaking now from the crashing adrenaline of her run. "Why do you need me?"

“I do, and they are excellent, but honestly, we are stretched too thin, so I am creating a second team and I want you to lead it.”

Carol just looked at him with ice-cold blue eyes.  “Are you listening to me?  I told you I can’t.”

He pointed to the folder on her kitchen table.  “Four women over two years, New York, Philadelphia, Ohio, and now the latest in Chicago.  The unsub has a cooling off period of about six months. We were only brought on a few days ago because he is crossing state lines and you know that it makes it more difficult to connect the cases.”

She didn’t move to open the contents.  “How do you know it’s the same unsub with that much time in between?”

“All brunette, all women, tied to the bed and assaulted.” 

Carol felt the bile rise to her throat as she recognized the description he was giving.  “Hotch…were they…” she paused and shut her eyes.

“Yes.” he said simply.

“Are you trying to telling me that this is the same man who killed Abby?” Carol's voice dropped to a deep and dark growl.

“The DNA at the scene matches that of the unsub who killed Abby, but he still hasn’t been identified.”

Her face had gone red with rage, “I would be emotionally compromised, Hotch, you know that. I couldn’t guarantee what I would do if I did catch him.”

“I know it would be difficult since she was your friend, Carol.  But if anyone can find this man and bring him to justice, it is you.  And I know you.  In the end, you will do the right thing.”

Carol did not answer at first and Aaron sat down at the table across from her waiting for her to process everything.  She needed her blood pressure to come back down before she could make a rationale decision. “Who would be on my team?” Carol finally asked.

“I’m sure you remember Penelope Garcia, our technical analysts and Dannie, Genevieve, and Phil were there when you left and are still on the team.”

“I would need at least one more.” Her voice had gone emotionless.

“There is a new special agent that would join your team, an Agent Belivet.”

She closed her eyes and tried to breathe through her rising anxiety. “You seriously want me to train someone new while trying to catch the man who killed my best friend?”

“You are one of the best profilers in the FBI, Carol.  She could learn a lot from you and I think you will be impressed.”

“She?”

“Yes. Agent Belivet has been in the FBI for two years, but she would be new to our unit.”

“Two years?  She’s practically a child! What is she another Spencer Reid? Super genius?”

“Not exactly. She does not have his memory, but she is incredibly smart and empathetic, and she is good at reading people and her background in forensic science has proven invaluable to the FBI.  She has moved up the ranks very quickly for a reason.  Believe me, you will like her.”

“If I take the job.” Carol added.

Aaron stood and walked towards the door to leave.  “I’ll leave that with you,” he said pointing to the unopened folder still on the table. “If you decide to come back, be at the office tomorrow at 9am for the morning briefing and to get to know your team.”

“And if I say no?”

Aaron just smiled as he turned to walk out the door.  Carol would not say no, not to this.   

Chapter Text

Carol took a deep breath to steady her nerves as she watched the elevator numbers climb higher.  Why am I here? Abby. You’re here for Abby.  She reminded herself.

The elevator dinged and Carol walked out into the large corridor.  The glass doors leading into the BAU were directly in front of her and off to the left, the In Memorial wall.  She walked over and scanned the pictures of fallen FBI agents until she found the picture of Abby. I’m going to find this asshole, Abby and I’m going to get justice.  I swear to you.

“Carol?” The soft voice came from behind her.  She turned to look into the soft blue eyes of Special Agent Jennifer Jareau, communications liaison for the BAU. Her long blonde hair was pulled back and the years had been very kind to her.  

“Hi, JJ.”  Carol was pulled into a gentle hug by agent Jareau, the second busiest agent in the BAU.  Not only was JJ responsible for sorting all incoming cases to ensure they fell within the purview of the BAU, but it was also her job to handle all media issues, interviews, and more.  She was considered the face of the BAU, but she was also a fiercely intelligent and capable agent.  Today, however, she was taking on her secondary role as human resources for the unit. 

“Hotch said you were coming back.  It’s good to see you.”

“I’m not sure I’m back, but I will be working on this case.”   Carol explained before immediately changing the subject. “How are the boys?”

“Oh you know, growing so fast!  How is Rindy?" 

“Amazing, beautiful, and yeah, growing up way too fast.” Carol shuffled her feet and looked over at the photo next to Abby’s on the wall.  “I was sorry to hear about Emily, JJ. I know you two were close.”

JJ smiled and leaned in to whisper in Carol’s ear.  “We’ll have to talk about that later.”  Carol tilted her head, intrigued, but before she could ask any questions JJ stepped back and started to walk towards the elevators.  “I was just going down to gather your new agent and bring her up.  I’ll bring her to the conference room once I get her settled. Everyone is waiting there for you.”

Carol nodded and turned to look at the glass doors.  No point in putting it off any longer. The office of the Behavioral Analysis Unit had not changed.  She walked in to find four desks all facing each other in a large square, the kitchenette off to her left, and the stairs leading up to the conference room and senior offices.  Everything looked and smelled the same and memories danced in her head like ghosts. She wondered who sat at these desks now. 

She made her way up the stairs and past the senior offices.  She read the name plates, Derek Morgan, David Rossi, and of course Unit Chief Aaron Hotchner.  They were the key players on the A-team of the BAU, along with JJ, Dr. Spencer Reid, and Penelope Garcia.  She wasn’t sure if Special Agent Emily Prentiss had been replaced yet, but it would only be a matter of time.

As she walked in to the conference room she was immediately grabbed and pulled into a death squeeze of a hug. 

“OH MY GOD!  CAROL!”  The voice and the perfume were immediately recognizable. 

“Hi, Garcia.  Nice to see you, too.” Carol managed to get out as the air was squeezed from her lungs. 

Penelope Garcia was the BAU’s technical analyst.  The title did not even begin to do her justice.  She was THE busiest person in the BAU at any given moment and as every agent could attest, she was the major reason the majority of their cases got solved.  She could track anyone and anything on the internet, usually had two or three computers going around her at once and could travel in and out of the dark web with surprising ease.  Carol always thought they should change her title to technical guru or something.  Despite living in the dark world of the web, Penelope’s personality was that of a bright tropical paradise.  She wore bright colors, always had fuzzy pens, and her hair color and glasses frames were changing with her mood.  She was the heart of the BAU and everyone knew it. 

“I’m so angry at you for not keeping in touch, Carol.  You said we were going to go have a girl’s night, and then you just disappeared!  Not cool!  And how is my little superstar, Rindy? She's probably about to graduate from college!”

Carol couldn't help but smile at the woman's exuberant nature.

“Let her breath, Garcia.” Hotch came up behind them.  “Can you pull up the case files while she gets reacquainted with the rest of the team?”

“Yes, sir.” Penelope was like lightning on her keyboard, quickly pulling up the five case folders they would be discussing today.

“Carol," Aaron smiled and shook her hand. "I’m glad you decided to join us.” . 

“You knew I’d be here, Hotch.” Carol smirked. 

“I think you remember everyone.” Hotch gestured over at the large conference table in the center of the room.  Special Agent Dannie McElroy had been a researcher with the BAU for five years now.  He was a good agent, but he didn’t have much field experience.  Special Agent Phil Daniels had been with the BAU for three years.  He came in just as Carol was going out.  Rumor had it, he was an excellent field agent.  Finally, Supervisory Special Agent Genevieve Cantrell.  She had worked off and on with the BAU for six years.  She stood to shake Carol’s hand.  “Good to see you again, Carol.” She was polite, unemotional and formal, just as Carol remembered. 

“Good to see you all,” Carol offered and took a seat at the table. 

Unit Chief Aaron Hotchner started the morning briefing at nine on the dot.  “Good morning, everyone.  JJ will be arriving in just a minute with your newest member, Special Agent Belivet, so I won’t start going over the cases until she arrives, but as you know you are being brought together as the secondary BAU team.  Our case load is getting larger and larger, so we needed more team members and even though you will be referred to as the B-team, do not think of yourselves as any less important.  If things keep up at this pace, we’ll be adding a C-Team within a year.  You will have access to everything the A-team has, including the use of the team jet.  Are there any questions so far?”

The room was quiet as Penelope passed out brown folders to everyone at the table and set folders in front of the two empty chairs for JJ and the new agent.  Carol immediately started to look through hers as JJ walked in with the new agent.  Carol looked up and stopped breathing.

Special Agent Therese Belivet was a young, beautiful brunette with medium length brown hair that was pulled back into a simple ponytail.  Her deep green eyes were like gemstones.  She wore black dress pants and a white V-neck shirt with a black jacket.  Carol was immediately taken by her beauty as she eyed her up and down.  She reminded her of a young Audrey Hepburn.  A pink blush crossed the brunette’s face and Carol realized she had been staring for too long and quickly shifted her gaze back to her folder.

“Everyone, this is Special Agent Therese Belivet.  She will be joining your team.” Aaron introduced her and motioned for her to sit in one of the empty seats.  Therese chose the chair next to the striking blonde that had given her the once over.  Therese was immediately enamored with the older blonde and felt incredibly embarrassed by this.  The woman would be her senior agent, her boss, and here she was undressing her with her eyes. 

“Therese?” Carol finally spoke without looking up, sounding out her name.  “Not, Tereesa? That is an original name." Carol quickly chastised herself for even entertaining the thought of finding the younger woman attractive. She is beautiful, but you have a job to do.  Nothing and no one can get in the way of that.

“Thank you,” Therese said shyly, finding it hard to maintain eye contact.  Carol’s eyes were an unusual combination of blue and grey, like a sky during a thunderstorm.  Therese was always good at reading people and she watched as Carol’s eyes quickly changed, as if from open and welcoming to cold and closed off.

Aaron went around the room and introduced Therese to the other agents before coming back to Carol.  “And this is Supervisory Special Agent in charge, Carol Aird. She will be running the B-team—“

“For now.” Carol turned and interrupted him.

“For now,” Hotch agreed.  “Well, now that everyone has met, Penelope, will you begin?”

The room was suddenly filled with dark images of brutality and death.  Penelope Garcia hated this part of her job.  She never looked at the screen as she presented, choosing instead to stare out the window and into the daylight.  “Amy Young, 28, found in her New York apartment, Raped and strangled to death.” The screen flipped. “Amanda Robins, 32, found in her home in Philadelphia.” The screen image flipped again. “Marian Harris, 31, Canton, Ohio, and” one last screen, “our latest victim, Renee’ Collins, 34, Chicago.”

Aaron cleared his throat.  “We need to add a 5th victim to our file,” and he passed out another folder.  Carol didn’t open it. The images were already seared into her brain.   “Abigail Gerhard, 35, former member of the BAU, found in Washington, DC.”

The room went still and all eyes turned to Carol.  She did not react. 

“We now know that this is the same unsub that murdered Agent Gerhard three years ago, as DNA evidence has been collected at each scene,” Hotch explained.  “The DNA is not in CODIS, which only means he has no criminal record up until now.  We have been able to identify our unsub as a white male based on the DNA analysis.  The rest is up to you.  If his pattern holds, he will not strike again for at least five months, but as we’ve seen with prior cases, once someone gets a taste for death, it becomes harder and harder for them to resist.  Do not go under the assumption that he will be inactive.  Move quickly and decisively so that we can prevent another woman from dying at his hand.” Aaron turned and looked over at Carol. “I’ll turn it all over to you.  Call me if you need me, we’re heading to California to meet with the other team, and we'll fly commercial so that you all can access the jet.”  And with that, Aaron left the room, taking JJ with him.

Carol steadied her emotions and stared at the group in front of her.  “We’ll be heading to Chicago.  Wheel’s up in 30.”

Chapter Text

As they boarded the private jet, Therese chose a seat towards the back, away from the others.  An introvert by nature, she was uncomfortable with small talk and wanted some time alone to study the crime scene photos.  There were always clues people missed, you just had to know how to look for them. She also found herself feeling like a child sitting at the adult table, out of place, and inexperienced compared to the others on the plane.  Gen, Phil, and Dannie had all worked together for a few years now and they all knew Carol.  They seemed to share a comfortable comradery, and Therese wasn’t sure how she fit in to that or if she even wanted to. 

Carol was the last one to board the plane, and after speaking with the pilot, she chose a seat towards the front also away from everyone else. Therese wondered if she also felt like an outsider.  She wondered what had brought this woman back to the BAU after so many years away. What was it about this case that seemed personal to her?  She watched as she tucked a strand of blonde hair behind her ears.  Her beautiful blonde hair was in a medium length bob with soft waves that came just to her shoulders.  Long enough to pull back, but still short enough to wear down.  As if feeling her staring, Carol turned around to see Therese’s eyes on her and Therese quickly diverted her gaze. 

Once the plane took off, Therese began her study of the photos.  She was deep in thought when she heard someone sit across from her. She looked up into sweet brown eyes.  She could only describe Dannie as cute with his short brown hair and deep New York accent.  “So Therese, tell me about yourself.”

“There isn’t much to tell.” Therese answered with a shrug of her shoulders. 

“I hear you were NYPD.  Me, too!” He seemed determined to make some kind of connection, Therese noted. 

“I worked in the crime lab, mostly.  My background is in forensic science and behavioral psychology.  I also worked with criminal photography.”  She didn’t mean to sound cold or like she was reading off her resume, but Therese really did find it hard to relate to most people.  She found it easy to study them from a distance, but hard to connect in person.

“So, like, you were one of the people taking the crime scene photos and such?”  Dannie asked.  “Doesn’t seem very scientific.”

“There is a science to it, trying to capture as much detail as possible for the detectives and such, but I find the photos can help with victimology.”

“How so?” Dannie was intrigued now.

“When you photograph the room, the objects that the victim owned or touched, you can get a sense of their personality.  It is more than just the crime; you have to look all around the room and all throughout the house to get a full picture of the scene.” Therese wasn’t aware but other ears were now listening to their conversation.

“How long have you worked with the FBI?” Dannie continued his inquisition.

“Two years.” 

His eyes nearly popped out of his head.  “That’s all? Jesus!  I’ve had to work my ass off for ten years to get here!  You’re what, like 20-something?” Gen and Phil looked at each other and rolled their eyes before going back to their files. 

“26.” She wondered if she should be embarrassed by her young age. 

“I think you may be younger than Dr. Reid when he started.  Are you one of those genius types like him?”

“I’m no prodigy, no.” Therese looked down at her pictures again.

Dannie could see he wasn’t going to get much more out of the young agent.  “Well, kid, welcome to the team.”

“Thank you.” Therese chose to ignore the pejorative term, realizing she was the youngest one in the group.  To them she was a 'kid'. She went back to studying her photos and had several clues already.  She wondered if Carol already knew and didn’t want to embarrass herself by showing off her inexperience.

Just then Carol stood and told them all to move towards the middle of the plane.  “Let’s talk victimology.”

Everyone flipped through their file folders as Carol started giving out assignments.  “When we land, Phil and Gen will head to Chicago PD to set up.  Keep in touch with JJ if they give you any headaches, but as this is a serial and crosses state lines, we have jurisdiction.  Dannie, Therese, and I will head to the crime scene.  I haven’t worked with either of you before and I need to assess your skills." Carol looked over at the young brunette now sitting beside her.  "Therese I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation earlier, it seems you have a background in crime scene analysis.  Bring your camera.  I want to see this through your eyes.”

Therese could feel her face flush as she nodded.  She was nervous at the idea of Carol watching her work and judging her.

“Now,” Carol continued, “tell me about the victims.  What do we know?”

Gen was the first one to speak.  “Well, they have similar appearances and ages, so he definitely has a type, so far.”

“Was Garcia able to find any connections between the victims?” Phil asked.

“Nothing so far,” Carol answered and waited.  She had already figured out one major connection between the victims, but she was waiting to see if anyone else would catch it.   She turned to look over at the quiet brunette, waiting to see if she would be the star she hoped she would be, but she seemed unsure of herself and shy.  Carol decided to give her a bit of encouragement.  “One of the most important aspects of this job is understanding victimology.  As profilers, you need to be able to see the hidden connections. Tell me what you see.”

“They were all lesbians.” Therese spoke so softly her voice was barely audible over the plane engines.

“What was that?” Carol asked. 

Therese cleared her throat and said it again, “They were all lesbians.”

Phil, Gen, and Dannie started flipping through their folders.  “How do you know that?” Dannie asked.  “I mean, it says that two of the victims were, so why are you assuming they all were?”

Carol looked over a Therese, a small smile playing on her lips. “Care to explain your rationale to the team?”

Therese opened her folder and pulled out 4 photos, one from each crime scene.  “It isn’t the crime scene itself, but the space around it.  Look at the books on the shelf, the DVD’s by the television, and even the art and décor of the space.”

“It’s dangerous to stereotype.” Gen tried to interrupt Therese’s thought, thinking she could teach the young agent something, but Carol was quick to counterman her.

“Yes, but stereotypes do exist for a reason.  We would be foolish to ignore them outright as well.”

“I do know we have to be careful, but in the lesbian community there are…clues.  Look here,” Therese pointed to the DVD’s in one picture.  “The top shelf are all movies about lesbian relationships; Carol, Imagine Me & You, Desert Hearts…well known.  And here,” she pulled out another picture that had some books on a nightstand.  “The Price of Salt, Rubyfruit Jungle and Curious Wine are all famous lesbian fiction.”

Therese looked up and realized by the stares that she had just outed herself to the team.  “Yes, I am.”

Carol smirked at the Melissa Etheridge reference knowing the others would miss it. 

“Ok, even if this is true, what about Special Agent Gerhard." Gen questioned. "She was murdered in a hotel room and we have no way of confirming—“

“She was.” Carol interrupted.  “So we’ve established that all of the victims were gay women, around the same age, all brunette with similar physical characteristics. Now tell me why our unsub attacked them.”

Dannie went first.  “Maybe they all rejected him in some way?”

“He clearly hates women.” Phil added.

“Not all women, apparently,” Gen inserted.  “Only gay women.”

Therese was quiet again. She had an idea, but she needed to speak with Penelope Garcia to confirm her suspicions first.  The brainstorming session continued for another 30 minutes.  Therese found her eyes uncontrollably drawn to Carol.  She would watch her hands move as she spoke.  She noticed how she clenched her incredible jawline whenever Abby’s name was mentioned.  They were close, friends, maybe more, Therese thought.  She found herself lost in the cadence and sound of Carol’s voice. But mostly it was the color of her eyes that left Therese speechless.  Suddenly Therese realized everyone was looking at her again.  “I’m sorry, what?”

“I asked if you were alright.  You’re very quiet.” Carol said for a second time. “What are you thinking?”

“I’m sorry, I think I’m just taking it all in.  Learning.” She looked down at her hands and started to fidget. that was the second time she had been caught staring at Carol.

Carol found Therese's innate sweetness disarming and for a moment she worried that working in the BAU would someone devour a soul like hers.  She didn’t want this sweet, beautiful woman to end up cold and jaded like she was.  You need to protect her. Carol wasn’t sure where the thought came from, but it immediately made her uneasy. Fuck! Carol looked at her watch in an effort to distract herself.  “We have an hour till we land, I suggest we all try to get a powernap in.  It will be a long day.”   

Chapter Text

When they stepped off the plane, there were two black SUV’s waiting for them on the tarmac.  Phil and Gen got into one and left to head towards Chicago PD headquarters.  Carol asked Dannie to drive and got into the passenger seat while Therese got in the back seat of the second one.  Therese took out her phone and called Penelope. 

“Speak and be heard.” The chipper voice came over the phone.

Therese was taken aback by the way she answered.  “Uh…hi…its Therese…Belivet…is this Penelope Garcia?”

“What can I do you for, newbie?” Garcia answered.

Carol turned and watched her, listening intently.  She had been on the other end of the phone with Garcia before and knew that it took a while to get used to her unique phone personality.  Carol chalked it up to the isolation she must feel being alone in her office, surrounded by her computers.  So Garcia compensated with wild outfits, colorful nick-naks, and fuzzy pens.

“I was wondering, “Therese paused feeling unsure of herself.  “Can you get me something, some information?”

“I’m going to need you to be way more specific, newbie.  Tell me what you need and I shall make it appear as if by magic.”

“Autopsy reports, specifically I need to know if there were pictures taken of the victims hands.” Therese tried to be as specific as she could. "We have a basic overview, but I need to see the detailed notes."

Carol tilted her head as she listened and watched Therese.  This genius girl was already connecting more dots. She was indeed going to be a star.  Carol motioned for Therese to put the phone on speaker so they could all listen.  Suddenly the car was filled with the sounds of the clicking of a keyboard and within a matter of micro-seconds, she had her answer.

“Morbid much?" Garcia said as her fingers started working. "Oh! I see what you are looking for! Club stamps! Four of the five victims had stamps on their hands.  Good catch, newbie!” Penelope praised her.

Carol was impressed and called out from the front seat, “Can you trace the stamps, Garcia?”

“I can try, my queen.  I’ll get back to you!” And before Therese could say thank you, Garcia was gone.

“You’ll get used to her,” Dannie laughed. “She’s quirky, but Garcia can work miracles.”

They had only driven a few blocks before Therese’s phone started to vibrate in her hand.  She put in on speaker phone, “What did you find,Garcia,” Carol shouted from the front seat.

“I’m sending the information to your phones, but yes, four of the five women had stamps on their hands.  They are from local gay and lesbian bars in each city.”

“Garcia, send that information to the local police departments. Have them take photos of the victims and see what information they can find.” Carol instructed.  “Specifically, I need to know if the bartenders remember these women and if they remember them being hit on by a man that night.”

“I’m on it!” And with that she was gone again.

“Does she ever say good-bye?” Therese stared down at her phone. 

“Not when she’s in the zone.” Dannie explained. 

Carol was still looking at Therese.  “Good catch, Therese.  You got that from the photos?”

Therese nodded.  “I saw the stamp on her hand of the woman in Chicago and on the hand of the woman in New York.  I wasn’t sure if it would be true to the other women and I wanted to check before I said anything.”

Inside, Carol felt herself beaming with pride.  How could this intelligent, beautiful woman, be so unsure of herself and what could she help to boost her confidence?

<><><><><> 

 

Phil and Gen walked into the busy office of Chicago Police Headquarters.  They flashed their badges until they were met by Detective Reynolds.  There was a round of handshakes and he showed them to a conference room.  There were boxes on the table and a white board with images already posted.  “Will this work for you all?  I had all of our information from the case brought in.  I spoke with an Agent Jareau earlier, she told me what all you would need.  I think I have everything she requested.”

“This will do nicely,” Gen said as she thanked him.  She looked the detective up and down.  He was older, in his 50’s maybe, with a greying goatee.  He was a little overweight, but not obese and his grey suit was a little wrinkled.  She could tell he spent the majority of his time at a desk these days.  “Can you give us a rundown on what you already know?”

Detective Reynolds walked over to the board and pointed to the picture of the deceased brunette.  “Her name was Renee’ Collins and she was 34, lived alone and single.  Her employer called and reported her missing when she didn’t show up for work or call the next day.  Apparently, it is a small company and they are like family.  Anyway, officers did a welfare check and found her body.”  He got uncomfortable as he described the crime scene.  “She was found tied to her bed, strangled, and the medical examiner said there were signs of sexual assault.  DNA was collected from the semen, but no matches.”

“Any finger prints?  Other physical evidence?” Phil asked as he surveyed all of the photos.

“There was a partial print found on the bed, but the CSI team thinks the suspect wore gloves.  They aren’t sure if it the partial is his, there isn’t enough to match. And from the marks on her neck, you can see she was strangled. We are still waiting on some other test results.”

Gen and Phil flipped through the evidence boxes.  There were ropes, clothing items from the victim and more photos.  “Any specifics about the ropes?”

“Standard, sold at every hardware store.”

“Any signs of a break in at her apartment?” Gen kept flipping through the boxes.

“None.  It’s like he walked in the front door.” The detective explained. “No prints on the knob, no signs of tampering with the lock.

“Maybe he was invited in.” Phil suggested.  “Maybe she knew him?”

“What are the chances, based on what Belivet said?” Gen stated.  “Would she let a man in her house?”

The detective looked a little lost.  “One of our agents has suggested that all of the victims were gay women.”

“Oh, yeah.  Of course,’ the detective nodded. 

Phil took out his phone to call Carol.  “so gay women don't have male friends?  They still could have known each other is all I'm saying. I hope Carol’s team finds something more at the scene.” Phil looked over at Gen.  “We don't have enough to build a profile.”

 

<><><><><> 

 

An officer led Carol, Therese and Dannie up the Renee’ apartment and removed the crime tape for them.  “I’ll wait out here.  Just let me know if you need anything.”

The three agents entered the apartment and Therese’s camera immediately went to work.  She took pictures of the living room and kitchen, and even the bathroom before moving to the victim’s bedroom.  She let her camera fall around her neck and walked around the room slowly and carefully.  Dannie on the other hand went straight for the crime scene and just stared at the bed. 

Carol was silently watching them, studying their processes. She found the differences in their techniques fascinating, but was most interested in watching Therese.  She was captivated as she watched her move around the room, her green eyes fixating on random objects.  “Tell me what you see, Therese,” she said softly.

She bent down and pointed to the pile of clothes of the floor in the corner.  “She went out to a club the night before.  But her room is clean and if you look in her closet, it is organized by color and style.  There are no other dirty clothes anywhere.  She wouldn’t have tossed them like that, she seems more careful with her possessions.” She then looked around the room, “There are no photos of a partner, so she was single and looking, thus the club scene.”

Carol looked over at Dannie.  “And you?”

“So the unsub undressed her and tied her to the bed.  There are no signs of a struggle, though.  Was it consensual gone wrong?”

Therese huffed.

“What?” he asked.

“You think a lesbian woman brought a man home for consensual sex?” She rolled her eyes.

“We can’t rule anything out, Therese.  Maybe she was bi-sexual, or questioning.” Therese was shocked when Carol backed him up and she felt her heart sink.

Carol saw a shift inthe young agent's demeanor, like she was hurt by her words.  On the one hand she wanted to soothe her, but on the other, she knew she also had a responsibility to teach her. 

Therese shook off her feelings and stood up, and shaking her head.  “Everything in this room screams lesbian.  The bar she was in was a known gay and lesbian establishment.  You don’t go there to pick up a straight man, even if you are bi or..." she paused and looked over at Carol, "questioning.”

Carol smiled.  That’s my girl, holding her ground, even against me

“He had to subdue her in some way.  What were the results of her tox-screen?” Therese asked, feeling more confident. 

Carol’s phone began to buzz before she could answer.  She looked at the screen and put the phone on speaker.  “Gen, Phil, tell us what you have.”

Gen filled them in on everything the detective had told them.  “We’re almost done here.  We’ll be there shortly,” Carol said as she hung up the phone. 

“Last chance, you two.  Tell me about our killer.”

Dannie did one last look around the room.  “Assuming that what Therese says it true, that the victim was a lesbian and didn’t bring him home, he would have had to drug her or subdue her somehow.  We need to find out how.  Tying her to the bed suggests a need for control.  While the motive is still unclear, we do know he has a specific type and a signature.  He is choosing his victims based on appearance and sexual preference and picking them up at bars.”

“Very good, Dannie.” Therese felt jealous of Carol’s praise.  “Anything you want to add, Therese?”

“I can’t put my finger on it yet, but something feels off.  I agree with everything Dannie said, but…if the unsub is a sexual sadist, why kill the victim?  His goal would have been to humiliate her and scare her.  He needs to feel powerful and raping her would give him that.  He leaves his DNA, so he isn’t afraid of getting caught.  And why drug them?  They would be unconscious when he rapes them, so is he literally just getting off on the visual aspect of the scene, not the actual control.   Something doesn’t fit, but I need to go back and look more at the other scenes.”

Carol nodded and smiled at her.  “Let’s go then and meet the others.”

 

<><><><><> 

 

At the station, Therese sat at the conference table, the pictures of all five crime scenes spread out in front of her.  Carol walked over, “Do you want a coffee?  I was going to go get one.”

“Cream and 2 Splenda” Therese smiled up at her.  “Thank you.”

“Anyone else?” Carol asked the room, but the others declined.  While she was gone, the brainstorming started again, this time led by Gen. 

“So, organized, sexual sadist.  Victims- he has a type, but otherwise, random?”

They all agreed, except for Therese who sat quietly staring at the photos.  She was still missing something, she knew it. 

“Therese, the autopsy found trace amounts of Rohypnol.  You were right.” Dannie was reading the results of the tox-screen they had just received. 

She looked up and sat back in her chair as Carol walked in and handed her the coffee.  Their fingers brushed and Therese felt a spark go through her again.  She looked up and gave Carol a warm smile of thanks.  Carol felt something inside of her melt as she looked into those green eyes. 

“So what was Therese right about?” Carol turned around and faced the group, attempting to steel herself again. 

“Date rape drug.” Phil offered.  “So he is finding them at the club, drugging them and taking them back to their own homes.”

“Would be easy enough to do.” Dannie interjected.  “If he drugged them and then just waited for them outside, get them in a car and he would have their ID, keys, everything he needed.”

“He’d have to be strong enough to carry them inside their homes without being detected.” Gen offered. "So that helps to narrow his age."

“None of the buildings had security, so either he is lucky, or he was watching them in advance.” Phil explained.

Carol turned and looked at the quiet brunette beside her.  “What are you thinking?”

“I just still have a feeling that we're missing something and I can’t put my finger on it." Therese rubbed her temples before continuing,  "Based on his MO, he’s a coward. He is drugging them and raping them while they are passed out.  Yet, from the autopsy notes, they were conscious when he killed them.  Does that seem odd to anyone else?”

Carol ran her fingers through her blonde hair, she was starting to feel the effects of the day.  “We need to put together a profile and soon.” She was frustrated. “White male, late 20’s to early 30’s, sexual sadist. That isn’t enough; I need more.”

“He would have been abused by his mother, humiliated emotionally and possibly physically abused.” Gen added to her list. 

“No clear father figure.”  Dannie stated, “So we can look for males with absentee fathers.”

“Jesus Christ, Dannie.” Carol let out a deep groan.

“What?” He wasn’t sure why Carol was upset with him.

“1 in 4 boys grows up in a home without a father, Dannie.” Therese said simply.  “We can add it to the total picture, but it doesn’t really help narrow it down.”

“We’re not getting anywhere.” Carol decided with another deep sigh.  “I’m starving and we need a break.  Let’s go get something to eat.”

<><><><><>

 

Thirty minutes later they were sitting around a large round table, bowls full of various Chinese dishes in the middle. 

Dannie was moaning over some eggrolls while Therese stuck to rice and veggies.  “Are you a vegetarian, Therese?” He asked, still trying to get to know her.

She nodded.  “For the most part. Sometimes I will eat fish and chicken if my body needs extra protein.”

Carol couldn’t help but watch her.  Even the way she used her chop sticks was adorable.  She noticed it was getting harder and harder to control the warm thoughts she felt towards Therese.  So far, she had managed to keep them all to herself, but she knew she would have to be careful.  She was attracted to Therese and that both scared and fascinated her.

Therese looked up from her plate and green eyes met blue.  They didn’t speak, but something was exchanged between them.  She felt a warmth growing in her stomach.  Her eyes were so beautiful, like the sea after a storm.  Therese found her own eyes roaming over Carol’s face and body, stopping to looking longingly at her lips.  She wondered what it would be like to kiss them, to feel Carol’s body against hers.

“So are we heading back to the station or to a hotel for the night?” Phil asked, breaking the moment between Carol and Therese.   Carol looked over and realized that Gen had been watching the exchange with Therese and she shifted uncomfortably in her chair.  “I think the hotel.  We all need sleep.  We will regroup in the morning and will hopefully be able to put together a better profile.”

They finished their meals with simple small talk and Carol actively avoided looking at Therese. Therese could only wonder if what happened a few minutes before had all been in her mind.

 

<><><><><> 

 

Carol secured three rooms at a nice hotel close to police HQ.  Dannie and Phil would share, Gen and Therese would share, and as the team leader, she would get a room to herself.  By the time Carol got settled, it was after nine.  She made a note to call Rindy in the morning as it was after her bedtime.  She took a hot bath and poured herself a drink from the minibar.  She hadn’t been in the field for a while and she’d forgotten how exhausting it could all be. 

She laid on the bed and found her thoughts wandering to the woman next door.  She wondered if she was okay sharing a room with Gen.  Had she taken a bath or was she a shower kind of girl?  What did she sleep in?

“God dammit,” she sighed to herself.  “I cannot believe this is happening now.  Get it together Aird, you need to solve this case and get back home to Rindy.”

 

Meanwhile in the next room, Therese was lying in her bed, wearing only a t-shirt and her underwear, staring at the ceiling.  She tried to think about the case, but her mind kept wandering to the blonde next door.  Therese wondered what she was doing.  Did she have anyone to call to whisper good-night, too?  Who did she dream of when she slept?

“Do you want to talk about it?” Gen asked from her bed. She was fresh out of the shower, hair wrapped in a towel and wearing a solid blue pajama set.

“Talk about what?” Therese didn’t turn towards her roommate.

“I saw the looks exchanged between you and Carol.  Are you attracted to her?” Gen didn’t know the woman in the bed next to her, but as a fellow agent, she knew she had a responsibility to look out for her, just as she would do out in the field.

Therese sat up and glared over at Gen.  “Are you trying to profile me?”

“I’m just stating the obvious, but you need to know some things before you even let your mind go there, Therese.”  Gen got herself settled in her bed, but rolled on her side so she could look at her room partner.

“Such as?” Therese said waving her hands in the air.

“First, it is against FBI policy to date within the same unit.” Gen stated the obvious.

“Am I dating Carol and no one told me?” Therese did not appreciate being called out like this.

“Second, she has a history.”

Therese didn’t reply, she just waited to see if Gen would continue.  “There were rumors that she had a relationship with Abby, more than friends and that’s why she left the BAU.  When Abby was murdered, something inside of her broke.  She never recovered.”

“I don’t typically believe office gossip.” Therese laid back down.  “And Carol’s sex life is none of my business.”

“I just don’t want anything to ruin your career chances, Therese.  You seem like a good agent and though you don’t say much, when you do speak, you offer incredible insights.” Gen said sincerely.

“Thank you, Gen.  But you don’t need to worry about me.  You would know I was lying if I said I didn’t think she was beautiful, but I have no intention of sleeping with my boss.”

“Good.  Let’s get some rest.  We really need to make some headway tomorrow.” Gen rolled over and turned off the light.

Chapter Text

 

Rindy was playing on her swing set in the backyard of her grandparent’s estate when her father came strolling outside dressed for work.  He was a tall man with sliced back brown hair and dark brown eyes.  His grey suit was perfectly tailored to fit him.  He ran his fingers up and down the tie his mother had picked out for him. 

“Good morning, sunshine!” He called to her.  Rindy came running into his arms and he spun her around, causing her to squeal with joy.

“Good morning, daddy!  Will you play with me?”  She said with a childlike joy. 

Harge loved his daughter and wanted nothing more than to be with her all the time, unfortunately, his real estate investment firm had several important projects in the works and he found himself increasingly busy.  “I can’t today, honey.  In fact, I have to go out of town for a couple of days.”

The look of disappointment was written all over his daughter’s face.  “Again? But you just got back.”

“I know and I’m sorry, pumpkin.  But I will be home on Friday and then we can spend the weekend together!”  This seemed to brighten her spirits a little.

“Rindy!” Florence, the Aird’s housekeeper, called to her from inside the house.  “You mother is on the phone for you.”

Rindy jumped from her father’s arms and ran into the house. Harge remained outside, his face now bright red with anger.  That fucking bitch was always taking his daughter from him.  He waited a few minutes for his blood pressure to return to normal before joining his daughter in the living room.

“I miss you, too mommy! I love you!”  Rindy ended her conversation and then handed the receiver to her father.  “Mommy wants to talk to you.”

Harge put a fake smile on his face.  “Ok, sunshine.  Why don’t you go have Florence fix you some pancakes?”  He waited for Rindy to go skipping from the room before he brought the phone to his ear.  “What do you want, Carol?” Harge’s voice was laces with venom.

“What the hell, Harge.  This is supposed to be your time with Rindy, yours and your parents, but apparently you haven’t been there with her at all this week.” Carol was rubbing her temples.  It was way too early for a headache.  Was it too early for a drink she wondered? She looked over at the minibar.

“Rindy is perfectly fine, Carol.  I’ve had some business to deal with, but I’ll be back on Friday.”

“Friday." Carol repeated the asinine statement.  "I dropped her off on Saturday.  You do realize I pick her up Saturday morning, Harge?  So what, you will spend a few hours with her? And apparently you promised to spend the weekend with her.  Don’t make promises to her that you can’t keep.”

Harge dropped his voice to a cold, fury filled whisper.  “I’m not the one who breaks promises in this family.”

“Jesus Christ.” Carol let out an exacerbated sigh.  “Not this again.” The headache was quickly becoming a migraine.

“You broke your vows, not me, and our daughter pays the price for your decisions, Carol.” Their divorce had been a bitter nightmare for both families.  Harge fought it every step of the way and even now, three years later, he was angry and vengeful over the whole thing. He also knew which buttons to push to cause Carol’s guilt over Rindy to make her feel like shit. 

“I’ve apologized over and over Harge, but I couldn’t keep lying to myself or to you. How was that fair to either of us?  I can’t keep having this same conversation over and over.” 

“How is Chicago, Carol?” Harge changed the subject so quickly it was jarring.

A shiver went up and down Carol’s spine. “How did you know I was in Chicago?”

“Rindy told me.” There was a long pause.  “If you are travelling again it can only mean one thing.  Are you back with them?” Of course she was.  

“I’m just consulting on a case, Harge.  It isn’t a permanent thing.  I’ll be there to pick up my daughter on Saturday.”

“Rindy is OUR daughter and I’ve heard that before. We’ve both heard that before.” He couldn’t resist getting in one last jab.  When Carol was with the BAU before there were many weekends spent away from her family.  Rindy was Carol’s weakness and Harge would use it every chance her got.

Carol hung up the phone without saying good-bye.  That man infuriated her to no end and suddenly Carol wished she hadn’t stopped smoking.

<><><><><> 

The conversation with her ex-husband had left Carol in a very disagreeable mood.  Her head was pounding and she wasn’t one to put on airs when she didn’t feel well.  She met the team in the hotel lobby, dark sunglasses covering her eyes and without as much as a good morning, she walked out to the SUV’s and expected the team to follow.

Therese stayed quiet and kept her distance, not wanting to upset Carol more than she already was.  She chose instead to watch her from the backseat, observing all of her little tells and nuanced movements.  Carol kept clenching her jaw and she was grinding her teeth.  Therese wondered who or what had her so angry this early? When they arrived back at police HQ, Therese went immediately back to work.  She pulled out the photos from Abby’s murder.  She had an idea in the middle of the night, but she needed proof before presenting it to the team. 

After about an hour of everyone working on their own, Carol called them all back together.  “I know there is little chance of this unsub striking again in Chicago.  He tends to move to a different city each time, but without a complete profile we cannot say for sure that he wouldn’t.  Before we leave here today, we need to be able to give their department a working profile and threat assessment.”

By lunch they had no more than the previous day.  Dannie was showing his inexperience by stating the obvious, Phil was repeating himself, Therese was lost in her photographs and Gen was ready to bang her head against the table at their lack of progress.  Carol was becoming an angry frustrated mess as she watched all of them.  If something didn’t give soon, she was going to become homicidal.  She walked out of the office and over to Detective Reynolds, “Do you all have a place for officers to go and smoke?”

“Roof,” he stated.  “Mind if I join you? I could use a break, too.”

“Only if I can bum a cigarette off of you.  I quit a few years ago.”  She started following him to a door marked stairs and they walked the four flights up to the roof. 

“Must be bad if you are smoking after quitting.” The detective handed her a cigarette and lit it for her. 

She took a long drag and let the smoke fill her lungs.  “It is.  I’ve never struggled so hard to create a profile.  I mean we have the basics and obviously we’ll share our insights, but I really do not want to leave here without giving you a true profile.”

“You did say he’s probably not still in the city, right?” The detective took a drag of his cigarette and looked over the edge of the building.  He loved this city, but there were other criminals he needed to worry about.  “We usually have at least one homicide a day in this city. Between the gang violence, murders, and the non-violent crimes our plates are already full, so what I’m really hoping is that you will tell me that I don’t have to worry about a serial killer in my city.”

“I can’t promise anything, detective, but it does seem that way.”

 

Therese was suddenly aware that the energy in the room changed when the scent of Carol’s perfume was fading.  She looked up to see her walking to the door to the stairwell.  At first she was disappointed at Carol’s absence, but then realized it might be a good thing for the time being. She looked over at everyone else in the room.  “Guys, who has the copy of the medical examiner’s report for Abby Gerhard?”

Phil pulled it out from his stack. “I have it.  What’s up?”

“There is no stamp on her hand and she has a head wound.” Therese was staring at the photos. “How else was she different and why was she different?”

Gen started first, knowing the most about the history of the case.  “She was his first kill so he was disorganized and unsure of himself.”

“And she had no drugs in her system?” Therese questioned.

“No,” Phil read off the report.

“So he subdued her by hitting her.” It wasn’t a question, more of an observation.  “That suggests anger and power assertive behavior.” She paused and leaned back and looked up at the ceiling.  “I think Abby was his original target and the rest have been substitutes, like he is killing her over and over again.”

“That makes sense.” Dannie offered her encouragement.

“We looked at all of her old cases after her death.  We were never able to pin point a suspect that way.  We came up empty handed.” Gen explained.  So far Therese wasn't giving her any new insights to work with.

“Okay.  Next question…in the photos, the bruising around her neck is different. Why?  What made his signature different during the first murder.”

Phil started reading through the autopsy report as quickly as he could.  “Maybe he didn’t have a signature yet.  He was just figuring out what he liked and what he…wait.” Phil paused and flipped through his papers multiple times. “Here is something.  How did we miss this?”

“What?” Gen asked.

“They couldn’t determine if Abby was sexual assaulted pre or post-mortem and the bruising patterns on her neck suggested she was strangled at least an hour before her death.” Phil summarized from the notes.

“Wait…what?” Gen grabbed the report from his hand.  “Oh now I remember…Oh god, I can’t believe I forgot this.  The first medical examiner suggested that she actually died during the rape.  He thought it was from a combination of the damage done to her airway and the cerebral hematoma, but he couldn’t confirm that, so he got a second opinion and that doctor said the opposite, raped and then strangled.  When the other cases were brought to us, and we reviewed all of the evidence, it just seemed to all flow the way the second doctor said.”

“Two unsubs”, Therese said quietly.  “It could mean we have two unsubs.”

“I'm not following?.” Dannie questioned.  “All I see is that his first kill was unplanned, but once he got a taste for it, he got organized and started planning out his kills.”

Therese was standing her ground. “Or there are two unsubs and this is why we can’t nail down a profile.”

“But there has only been DNA from one person.” Phil explained.

“Exactly!” Therese yelled.  “Do you all not see this?  Where is Carol?  She will understand this!” Therese took off running from the office, desperate to run her idea past her.

 

<><><><><> 

 

It was warm and sunny on the roof, with a slight breeze.  Detective Reynolds had left Carol alone after he finished his cigarette.  Carol took a drag off her second cigarette and let the heat of the sun run over her.  Her body was slowly relaxing as the sun and nicotine worked their magic.  She heard to door to the staircase open and turned to see Therese, winded from running up the four flights. “Out of shape, agent?” Carol questioned with a slight smile attempting to form on her face.

Therese stood up, still breathing hard.  She pointed to the cigarette in Carol’s hand.  “Those things will kill you.”

“Well it was either a slow death for me or a violent death for one of you.  I took one for the team.” Carol actually smiled for the first time all day and took another drag.  Therese walked over to stand next to Carol and leaned against the wall that kept one from falling off the edge.  She looked over and whistled.  “Long way down. I’d hate to fall.”

Carol just nodded and  gazed off into the distance.  “Falling would be bad.”  The irony of her statement was not lost on her.

“Are you alright?  You’ve been…on edge…all day.” It wasn’t how Therese really wanted to describe her behavior, but she figured it was better than saying she had been bitchy all day.

“On edge?  Is that a polite way of saying I’ve been horrible?” Carol took one last drag and then snuffed out her cigarette.  “God, I have been horrible, haven’t I.” She sighed and looked down at her feet.  She wasn’t sure why she suddenly felt comfortable in sharing her personal life, but it was soon pouring out of her. “I got into it with my ex-husband this morning.  It wasn’t a good way to start my day.”

Therese was temporarily thrown by this new piece of information.  “You were married? To a man?” Therese now wondered if she had misread all of the signs.

“For almost 10 years.” Carol turned and looked up into the green eyes that made her feel warm all over. She could read the confusion radiating off of her.

“But I thought you were…I mean aren’t you…” Therese was stammering and Carol found it adorable. 

“The rumors are true, Therese.  I just  didn’t realize it until after Rindy was born.”

“Married with a kid.” Therese didn’t know what to make of all this new information.  Did this change anything about how she saw the beautiful blonde she was so drawn, too.  “Are the rumors about you and Abby true, too?”

Carol shot her a dangerous look, a warning to tread carefully.  She wasn't sure how much to tell her and deliberated for a few seconds before finally giving her a partial answer, “not entirely true.”

“So you didn’t sleep with her?” Therese asked shyly, lowering her head.

“Well aren’t you suddenly brave!” Carol tossed her hair back and laughed out loud.

Therese realized she may have overstepped a line. “I’m sorry.  It really is none of my business.” She shuffled her feet. “It isn’t why I came up here.”

“It’s alright, darling.” Carol heard the term of endearment come from her mouth.  Her heart was overriding her brain and she said a silent prayer that it didn’t make Therese uncomfortable. Her worries were set aside when she saw Therese’s smile grow.

Their eyes locked again and subconsciously they were inching closer together, pulled hopelessly like two magnets.  “There are two of them.” Therese suddenly remembered why she had come up to the roof.

Carol was confused. “Two of them who?”

“Two unsubs.” Therese clarified. “I was looking at the crime scene photos from Abby’s crime scene and it just didn’t make sense.” Carols face went dark at the mention of Abby’s murder, but Therese continued with her thinking aloud. “I know it was the first kill and thus disorganized, but I think there are two unsubs serving two different roles.”

“But,” Carol tried to say something but Therese kept talking.

“But DNA?” Therese interrupted and Carol nodded in agreement. “One of them isn’t leaving any evidence.  He is clearly the dominant and smarter one of the two or maybe it’s a counter measure.  I think one is a power control rapist and the other is killing the women after, but they are working together.”

“Therese slow down,” Carol placed a hand on the brunette’s bicep.  “How did you come to this conclusion?”

“I told you, the photos just don’t make sense and then there is the medical report.  Abby’s murder was just so different from the others.  I mean honestly, if we didn’t have the DNA, would you have connected the other four to Abby’s?  The autopsy report is a mess, too.  There was the head trauma, the question of the timing of the events.  I think he lost control and then panicked, thus killing her.”

“And the sexual aspect of the crime?” Carol was trying to follow her train of thought.

“That is why I came to find you.  I can’t figure that part out.  I mean, maybe the second unsub found her later?  Maybe the first one called him for help? I don’t know!” Therese was frustrated and threw up her hands at her lack of ability to answer that question. If there were two unsubs, how did they meet and what connection did they have to Abby?

Carol was absently rubbing Therese’s arm, now standing mere inches from her.  “Therese, do you know Occam’s Razor?” Carol spoke calmly and softly.

“What?” Therese tilted her head.  She knew what it was, but she wasn’t sure where Carol was going with this.

“All things begin equal, the simplest explanation is usually correct.” Carol explained.

“I know what Occam’s razor is, Carol.  I’m a scientist.” Therese rolled her eyes.

“Ok, then you will understand my reluctance with this.  It’s not that I don’t hear you, I do.  It’s just that there are too many unanswered questions with your theory; too many unknowns.  Maybe there was a second, but there is no physical evidence, no DNA evidence to back that up.” Carol hated to disappoint Therese, but there just wasn’t enough. Carol looked down and shook her head. “I can’t support it.”

Therese felt like the wind was knocked out of her sails.  She knew she was right about this and she was going to prove it, but right now she didn’t have the evidence to do it and she knew it.  Before she could say anything more, the door between the roof and the stairs creaked.  Carol immediately removed her hand and took a step back, suddenly aware of how close they were to one another. 

Gen walked towards them.  “Am I interrupting?”

Carol cleared her throat uncomfortably.  “Therese was just explaining her theory to me.”

“Yeah, she ran out of the conference room before we could finish talking about it.” Gen gave Therese a disapproving sneer.

“Well apparently, there is nothing more to discuss anyway.” Therese pulled away both physically and emotionally and started to walk towards the door.  “I’m going to go grab some lunch and clear my head.”

“Therese,” Carol called after her.

“Let her go,” Gen stepped in between them.  “I need to ask you something.”

Carol stopped her forward momentum towards Therese and dropped her shoulders.  She turned to look at Gen.  “Why? Do you have a theory, too?”

“Something like that.” Gen turned to make sure that Therese was no longer with them. “I think you need to be careful with Therese.” Gen was bold in her statement.

“I’m sorry, what?” Carol wasn’t sure if she should be insulted or angry or both. She pinched the bridge of her nose.

“That girl is clearly smitten with you, Carol.  I’d hate to see her mess up her career when she is just getting started.”

Gen’s words floated around Carol’s head.  Anger it was, then.  “Gen, while I appreciate your concern for your fellow agent, you are way off base here.  And even if you weren’t, you are making a huge assumption that I would ever let anything happen between us.”

“Are you trying to tell me you don’t feel anything for her?  You really think you can lie to me, Carol?  You helped to train me.”

“What I feel and who I feel it for are none of your business, Gen!” Carol spat out and walked around Gen and towards the door.

“I’ll take your defensiveness as a yes.” Gen crossed her arms and looked at Carol sternly.

Carol decided it was best to just end the conversation and stormed off.  This day sucked.

Chapter Text

By late Wednesday the team had completed their threat assessment and had a short, rough profile to deliver.  Carol and her team stood in the conference room with the lead detectives and the captains of homicide and special victims units of the Chicago PD. 

Carol started the delivery and then they each took turns adding information. “Please remember ladies and gentlemen that a profile is simply a behavioral sketch or blueprint and it can change as more information becomes available.  You can use our profile to aid in your investigation and to help eliminate subjects.  At this point we have no reason to believe that the unsub is still in Chicago, so our threat assessment is low.”

“That being said,” Gen continued, “we still want to leave you with as much information as possible.  We are looking for a white male, late 20’s to early 30’s.”

“He is what we refer to as a power/control rapist and his anger excitation behavior means that he takes pleasure or becomes aroused at the suffering of the victim.” Phil added.

Gen finished their analysis by adding information about his patterns of behavior.  “The unsub seeks out his victims at gay establishments, so we recommend a general warning to local clubs, especially those that cater to lesbian women.”

Dannie made sure to add some additional information, not wanting to feel left out. “Please understand our intention is not to scare anyone, we just want women to be aware of their surroundings and to never leave drinks unattended as we believe he is dosing their drinks.”

“Thank you for your time and assistance.  While we fly out in the morning, we are always available to assist you in any way you need.  Thank you all.” Carol finished, realizing Therese had not spoken a single word during the delivery of the profile. In fact, Therese had not spoken a word to anyone since leaving Carol on the roof earlier that day.  She seemed withdrawn and sullen, and if Carol wasn’t mistaken, pouting. 

Carol was wrong, however.  Therese’s mind was stuck in overdrive, locked in a thinking spiral and she couldn’t see her way out of it.  The key is Abby.  Who would want to hurt Abby?  Why did the unsub kill her?  Why did he continue to want to kill her? What could she have done that would make someone want to destroy her over and over.

Everyone had taken turns speaking while delivering the profile and Therese had missed her chance to add any important or relevant information.  The outside world fell away as she kept searching for answers, running all different scenarios in her mind.  She had called Garcia while at lunch.  “Send me everything you can on Abby Gerhard.”  Nothing Garcia texted to her was of any help.  Therese was at an impasse and she knew it.  She became increasingly frustrated by the limitations of her own brain and knew she would need to talk it out with someone.  She didn’t feel comfortable doing so with anyone other than Carol, even though Carol had shut her down earlier.  Abby…Carol and Abby…two unsubs…were there two people who hated Abby?  What if it wasn’t just about Abby?  Carol never answered the question.  She told her the rumors weren’t entirely true.  What did that mean? 

By midnight, Therese had a massive headache.  Her brain would not shut off and the rest of the team had given up on trying to talk to her, deciding her aloof behavior was petulant and annoying.  She didn’t know how to explain to the others what was happening in her mind.  It was just her process and as Therese was new to the team, they had never seen her work before.  She didn’t really feel the need to explain herself though, assuming the rest of the team would learn her quirks eventually.

Therese rolled over and looked at Gen who appeared to be sleeping peacefully.  Must be nice. She wondered if Carol was still awake.  If she was, they could finally have a chance to talk without interruption and prying profiler eyes. She quietly slid out of her bed, pulled on her pants, and tiptoed out of the room, careful not to make any noise. 

 

 

Carol was on her third small bottle of wine from the minibar.  She kept replaying the day over and over in her mind.  The fight with Harge, Therese on the roof, Therese standing so close to her, Therese with the green eyes and the warm skin and Therese walking away and shift in mood.  Carol blamed herself and knew shouldn’t care so much, yet here she was, wide awake.  Why was this woman getting to her? 

*Knock knock* Carol tilted her head.  She wasn’t sure she heard it the first time.  I mean who would be knocking on her door at 12:30 in the morning? *Knock Knock* Carol grabbed her gun from her holster and carefully made her way to the door.  “Hello?”

“Carol, it’s me.  Therese.” She said quietly through the door. 

Carol felt her body relax out of fight or flight mode.  She cracked the door to see the disheveled brunette standing at her door with her hair pulled back in a messy half pony tail and her dress pants paired with a Guns-n-Roses t-shirt.   “Therese? What’s wrong?”

“I couldn’t sleep.” Therese pointed to her head.  “There is too much going on up here and I need help.  Can we talk?”

Carol shifted and opened the door to let Therese in her room.  As she walked in, Therese felt her mouth fall open.  Carol wasn’t wearing any pajama bottoms; her long, smooth, alabaster legs laid bare had Therese almost drooling.  Carol could feel Therese’s eyes moving up and down her body and between that and the alcohol in her system, it made her feel a little naughty.  She slowly walked over to place her gun back in the holster and laid it on the nightstand before grabbing a robe and sliding it on.  “What did you want to talk about?”

Therese had to shake the lust induced fog from her head. “Abby.”

Carol sighed and sat on the edge of her bed. "Oh." She might need another drink. “What about Abby?”

“She is the key to this Carol, I’m sure of it. Why did they kill her?  What was it specifically about Abby?  Who hated her?  Did you sleep with her?” Therese had been on a roll and that last question had slipped out by accident, a typical Freudian slip.

Carol’s jaw nearly dropped to the floor.  “I don’t know how,” she paused, “I thought you decided that was none of your business.”

“No…I mean, it doesn’t matter to me if you did or didn’t, but it might have something to do with the case.” Therese was back stepping like crazy trying to justify that last question?  “Maybe, I mean, I don’t think Abby was chosen at random like the others.  She was taken for a reason, Carol, and I need to know about her life, her history.  Garcia gave me all she could but there is a lot unknown, so I need you to fill in the blanks.” 

Carol was surprised.  Therese had been so quiet and introverted all day and now all of this was pouring out of her.  Who was this girl, really?

“Aside from you, who knew about Abby’s sexual preference?” Therese’s stream of thought kept going, ignoring Carol’s obvious shock over the subject matter.

“So you’ve gone from two unsubs to thinking this was a hate crime?” Carol was trying to keep up, but the wine was making her brain fuzzy.

“No, I still believe there were two unsubs, but if Abby wasn’t random that means at least one of them had a reason to hate her.”

Carol shook her head.  “Therese…I…Abby is…was…” She couldn’t talk about Abby without talking about herself.  Uncertainty started to creep up her face and as if reading her mind, Therese sought to put her at ease.  She came to sit next to her on the bed and without thinking took Carol’s hand in her own.

“I know this is hard for you, but I really need to know.  Otherwise, I’ll never get to sleep again.” Therese smiled and it made Carol laugh and feel more at ease. “I feel so close to making a breakthrough, I just need to understand Abby’s history and I know it intertwines with yours.”

Carol squeezed Therese’s hand and looked into her warm green eyes.  “I met Abby at the academy.  We were roommates and immediately became best friends.  We were so different, but it didn’t seem to matter. I had married Harge, my ex-husband, right out of college and he wasn’t exactly supportive of my choice to join the FBI, so meeting Abby gave me the courage and support to keep going.  If he’d had his way, I would have been a stay at home mother, just like his mother had been. It’s funny, he was so different when we were dating, caring, warm, gentle, but as soon as that ring was on my finger he changed.  It was like he thought he owned me.” Carol shifted her gaze and was now staring off into some imaginary distance.  She wasn’t sure why she was sharing all of this with Therese.  She had asked about Abby, and yet Carol was sitting her telling her own life story. “When I joined the FBI and met Abby I got stronger and more independent and I think it just made Harge more insecure. And of course he hated Abby because she represented being single, strong and independent. Harge and I were fighting all the time, so I tried to put some distance between me and Abby, and he calmed down a little.  You know when I first started with the FBI, I was primarily a researcher.  It was Monday through Friday and never had to leave D.C., but as I got promoted, the hours got more intensive and I had to travel with assignments.  When I would get home we would fight and I would appease him with sex.”

Why did I just tell her that? Carol paused for a moment and Therese wondered if she was done.  So far Carol had talked primarily about herself. Therese wasn’t really sure why, but she was learning so much about the beautiful woman she was drawn too that she didn’t want her to stop.  After a brief silence, Carol continued with her story.

“Anyway, the more I was away from home, the more controlling he became.  He would call, text, and he even started tracking me.  It was only after I began the behavioral analysis courses that I realized I had married a narcissist. I was going to file for a divorce, but then I found out I was pregnant.  I had already joined the BAU by the time Rindy was born, but with a newborn, I still primarily worked as a researcher.  I would have to travel some, but not as much as the rest of the team.  Of course, when I did have to travel, Harge would go crazy. Now I wasn’t only abandoning him, but now I was abandoning our daughter as well. Anyway, Abby joined the team a year after Rindy was born and our friendship was soon as strong as ever.  People talked, but we were just friends.”

Therese’s mind had finally stopped racing as she listened to Carol’s story.  She found the low timbre of her voice had a calming effect on her.  “Carol, I don’t understand…I mean, what does all of this have to do with Abby?  Not that I’m not fascinated by your life, because believe me I am.  I think I would listen to you read the phone book to me and find it intoxicating, but if you didn’t sleep with Abby—“

“I did.” Carol interrupted her and Therese felt her heart drop.  “We were on a case in Los Angeles and after we caught the guy, the team went out to celebrate and blow off steam.  Abby and I got really drunk and well…but it was only the one time!” Carol tried to rationalize her behavior for fear of upsetting Therese.  “Abby was gay and she knew what she wanted, but I was married with a three year old by this point, and I was really confused.  Eventually, I accepted that I was gay, too.  I felt more in that one night with Abby than in all the years with Harge…or any man for that matter.  Once I dealt with that, I filed for a divorce.  Do you know how a narcissist deals with rejection?”

“Not well.” Therese answered.

“That’s putting it mildly.  I took Rindy and I left.  I had to get a restraining order and for a year our life was hell.  I was protected because of my job and thankfully, Rindy was too young to remember any of this.  And then one day, Harge just stopped, calmed down, apologized, and the divorce went through.  He accepted everything and for the most part we moved on.  Eventually, I let him have supervised visits and he still gets them.  Rindy will go stay with his parents and he goes there to spend time with her.  He does love her and she adores her father. Rindy was four when Abby was murdered.”

“Carol,” Therese paused.  “I have to ask…”

“I know what you are thinking.  Hearing my story, I can see why you would think that too, but I just can’t even begin to fathom that Harge would ever do something like that.  Don’t you think I would know if I was married to a sociopath?”

Therese shifted sideways so she could face Carol, never releasing her hand. “Gary Ridgeway, Robert Yates, John Wayne Gacy, and there are a lot more I could name.  They were all serial killers and were all married and their wives had no clue. You know how manipulative they can be and how well they can hide.”

“Their wives weren’t FBI profilers.”

“True, and I’m not saying your ex-husband did this. I trust you.  I’m just looking to see who would be angry enough.  I’ve been through all of her old cases and there is nothing.  But your story…maybe…I mean, did Harge know about you and Abby?”

“I never told him specifically, but I’m sure he had his suspicions.  Everyone did.”  Reliving all of this was painful and Carol couldn’t prevent the tears from falling. Therese reached up and laid a hand on Carol’s cheek and wiped her tears.  “I’m so sorry, Carol.”

Carol leaned into the warmth of Therese’s hand as her tears increased and Therese leaned forward and pulled Carol into a tight hug.  She ran her hands up and down Carol’s back as she sobbed.  Carol didn’t know how long it had been she had cried over everything, but this time felt different.  She felt something of a release and she felt safe in Therese’s arms.  “I’m so sorry.  I don’t know where all of that came from or why I told you.  You asked about Abby and I gave you my life story.” She whispered into Therese’s shoulders and then sat back.  “You’re an angel.”

“Not really, I made you cry.” Therese tried to lighten up Carol’s mood a little.

“My life made me cry, Therese, not you.” Carol felt so incredibly tired now.

“You should get some sleep.” Therese stood to go.  She still didn’t have all the answers she needed, but hopefully her brain was calm enough to allow for sleep.

Carol reached out and grabbed Therese by the arm. “Will you…” Carol stopped herself from asking for what she wanted.  “Never mind.”

Once again, the younger woman proved that she could read Carol’s mind.  Without saying anything, Therese walked to the side of the bed, removed her pants and got settled under the covers.  “Come here.”  Therese wasn’t sure how or why she felt so in tune to Carol, especially when she usually struggled to connect with others, but she wanted to feel her, to talk to her, to touch her, and to be close to the older woman.

Carol stood on her side of the bed looking down at Therese and hesitated. She knew the rumors would start again, and while she didn’t care what people said about her, she worried about Therese.  For the third time that night, Therese read Carol’s mind.  “Nothing will happen and if anyone asks, we stayed up all night talking about the case.  Now come to bed and let me hold you.”

“What a strange girl you are.” Carol said as she removed her robe and slid into the bed.

“Why?”

Carol laid on her side and stared into the green eyes that constantly drew her in.  “Flung out of space. You always know what I’m thinking.”

Therese smiled and pulled Carol into her arms.  Their legs wrapped around each other, fitting naturally together. 

“Therese?” Carol whispered and Therese felt her stomach do a cartwheel.  Was Carol wanting more than this tonight? “What did you mean when you said you would find it intoxicating if I read the phone book?” Carol asked with a smile.

“Good night, Carol.” Therese placed a simple and chaste kiss on Carol’s head.

<><><><><> 

 

When Carol woke up, Therese was gone.  She had slipped out quietly and moved into her own room at some point during the night.  On some level, Carol was grateful to avoid the inevitable morning awkwardness, but she also wondered why Therese felt the need to leave.  Was she scared?  Was she trying to protect their reputations? She rolled over and looked at the clock.  She had two hours before their plane departed Chicago. She had time to shower, dress and get some much needed coffee and food.  As the water ran over her tired body, Carol felt like one weight had been lifted from her shoulders only to be replaced by another. She got out of the shower and wrapped herself in a towel before picking up her phone. 

“Good morning my queen! How can I be of an assist to you?” Penelope was way too chipper for the morning.

“Good morning, Penelope. Listen, I need you to do me a favor, just between us.”

“Hmmm…” Garcia breathed into the phone.  Busy day for favors.  “Tell me who and what you are looking for and all secrets shall be revealed.”

“I can’t stress this enough, Pen, this is personal.  I need you to promise this is just between us.”

“Ok, wow…super serious then.  I can do that, I promise.” Penelope Garcia reassured her.

“I need everything you can find on my ex-husband, Hargess Aird.” After her conversation with Therese last night, Carol started to have a nagging feeling in the back of her head.  She prayed to God she was wrong, but now she had to rule it out.

“Um…anything in particular you are looking for?” Garcia asked.

“Travel locations, hotels, credit card receipts, phone records, text messages.  I need to know where he has been and who he has been talking too and go back three years.”

“Carol, I thought things were better between you two.  Why the deep dive?” While they weren’t as close as they had been in the past, Penelope still loved Carol.  Once she decided someone was her friend, they were her friend for life.

“I just need it. Can you get that to me as soon as possible?” 

“It will take a little while.  Can you give me till tomorrow? The A-team has me super scrambled with their case.” Garcia explained.

“Just do what you can.  I appreciate it, Pen.” 

Carol hung up the phone and Penelope turned to her screen which was already lit up with information on Hargess Aird.  “Well, Mr. Aird.  You are a popular guy today. Why is everyone interested in your business and why is everyone being so secretive about it?”

Chapter Text

Carol pulled up to the Aird estate in Northern Virginia promptly at 10 am on Saturday.  The team had returned to D.C. on Thursday afternoon and Friday was spent on paperwork and such to keep her busy, but by Friday night she missed her daughter terribly.  Carol had forgotten how hard it was to be away from Rindy for prolonged periods of time, but knew it was good for her to spend time with her father’s side of the family.  And as much as it pained her to admit, it was good for Rindy to spend time with her father.

Carol sat in her white Range Rover in the front drive and waited for Rindy to come outside.  Usually, the seven-year-old would come bounding out with her bag so that Carol didn’t have to come inside, but after a few minutes of waiting, Carol walked to the door and rang the bell.

Florence answered with a confused expression on her face.  “Mrs. Aird. I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were here.  I didn’t think you were still coming today.”

“I spoke with Harge on Wednesday, Florence, and I specifically told him I would be here on Saturday morning to pick up Rindy as planned.  Is she not ready?” Carol was angry and annoyed now.

“I’m sorry, she isn’t here.  Mr. Aird took her to the National Zoo for the day.”

“What?!?!” Carol shouted, now livid. She pulled out her cell phone and dialed her ex-husband’s number, but it went directly to voice mail.  “Listen here you son of a…I don’t know what you are tyring to pull, but you know the rules.  Rindy had better be dropped off at my house by 5pm today or I swear to God I will make sure you lose what little time you have with her now!” Carol missed the days of being able to slam down a down phone receiver for emphasis.

She turned, her face red, back to Florence.  “Are Harge’s parents with them?”

“No, ma’am.  They are inside.” Florence said timidly.

Carol screamed again.  “What part of supervised visitation is unclear to you people!” She stormed back to her car and slammed the door behind her, letting out a scream. She grabbed her phone again.  “Garcia, I need another favor.”

“Anything my love! What can I do for you…from home…on a Saturday?”

“Can you track Harge’s cell phone and give me a location?” Carol sounded desperate but she didn’t care.

“Uhhh,” Penelope paused, “officially?  Or unofficially?”

“Unofficially.” Carol knew she was going to have to give Garcia at least a partial explanation.  “He took her Penelope.  He’s not allowed to…” Carol stated to hyperventilate…”oh God…he took her.”

“Carol…calm down…hold on…just breathe…” Penelope’s fingers started to move with a speedy purpose in the background.  “I have him.  He’s in D.C., looks like the National Zoo.”

She tried to calm her breathing.  “Jesus Christ.”

“I’ll keep tracking them, okay?  I won’t let them out of my sight, so to speak.” Garcia offered, trying to make Carol feel better.

“Thank you, Penelope.”

“By the way, I have the information you requested.  Would you like me to leave it at the office or have it couriered over to your place?”

“My place, please. You are truly a life saver Penelope Garcia.”

“I try,” Penelope smiled through the phone.  “I’ll text you when they leave the zoo.”

Carol need to get her emotions back under control but between the fear and the rage running though her body, she knew she needed a physical release of some sort.  She looked at her phone.  It was only 10:15, Garcia was tracking them…she had time to kill.

 

<><><><><> 

 

45 minutes later Carol was standing with her gun loaded and ready.  The shooting range was loud, even with the protective earphones and the smell of gunpowder filled her nostrils.  Carol clipped the white paper target man on the rig and pressed the button to send it flying away like a ghost.  She stopped when it hit the back wall at 500 meters.  Carol aimed and pulled the trigger, slowly emptying her Glock.  She hit the switch to retrieve the tattered paper man and stood examining her work when she felt a hand on her shoulder and nearly jumped out of her skin.  “Jesus!”  She turned and recognized the green-eyes immediately. “Therese.”

“You’re a little jumpy this morning,” she smiled shyly.  “What did he do?”

“What?” Carol was confused. How did Therese know about Harge and Rindy?

Therese pointed to the paper man. “You shot him ten times in the head and five in the heart.  So what did he do?”

“Oh,” clarity returned to Carol.  “He…well…he held up some girl scouts and stole all the thin mints.” Carol joked.  What was it about this woman that immediately calmed her down and made her feel happy.

“The nerve! Death to all cookie thieves!” Therese joked back.  “I just came to get some practice in, but after watching you, I think I’d best just go home.  Do you ever miss?”

“No.” Carol replied seriously.

“Oh.” Therese looked down at the ground again, as their light banter returned to a more serious note. 

“Well, don’t leave me waiting, Miss Belivet.  Show me what you've got.  Where is your target?” Therese held up her paper target and Carol attached it to rig and sent him flying to his impending doom, while Therese walked up to the stand, placed her earphones on.  She steadied herself and then fired her first shot, nearly missing the target.  She looked over her shoulder, her red cheeks showing her embarrassment.

Carol looked down at the smaller woman. “Do I make you nervous, Therese?”

“God yes,” Therese whispered garnering a small grin from Carol.

“I see. Well before I leave you alone to practice, can I make a recommendation?” Blue eyes met green and Therese nodded.  Carol slowly moved up behind Therese and placed her hands on her shoulders, pulling her body back into her gently.  She pulled one side of the ear coverings off and spoke softly into her ear. 

“Square your shoulders, darling. You were leaning forward a little.” Therese’s whole body was suddenly aflame between Carol’s hands and the breath on her neck. 

“Ohhhh….okay.” Therese whispered. 

Carols hands lingered on her shoulders. “Try again.”

Therese’s lips turned into a small smirk, unseen by Carol who was still behind her.  She returned her protective earphones, lined up her next shot and hit the target square in the heart.

“Good shot.” Carol encouraged her.

“Thanks.”

Carol looked at her watch.  It was only 11:30 and she wasn’t expecting Harge to bring Rindy back anytime soon.  She also hadn’t heard from Garcia, so she had to assume they were still at the zoo. “Therese, would you like to have lunch with me?” Carol asked quickly before she had a chance to change her mind or come to her senses.

“Yes, Yes I would.” Therese said with a smile.

Carol smiled in return. “Do you want to finish your round?”

Therese turned back to her target and quickly emptied her clip.  When she retrieved the target there was the one near miss followed by 14 other perfect shots that created a perfect letter C around the heart.

Carol stared at the target, mystified. “I think someone was pretending to need help.” 

“Or maybe I just had an excellent teacher.” Therese smirked.  “So lunch?”

 

<><><><><> 

 

Carol drove them to a little French bistro she loved on Massachusetts Ave.  They each ordered soup and salad and Therese order tea while Carol ordered a latte. It was comfortable and Carol enjoyed how easy it felt being with Therese. “So do you want to tell me who you were shooting today?” Carol teased the beautiful woman across from her.

“Richard.” Therese shifted uncomfortably in her chair. Carol picked up on the discomfort, but couldn't stop herself from asking for more. 

“And who is Richard?” Carol asked lowly and slowly.

“My ex-boyfriend.” Carol’s eye widened at her response.

“I thought you were—“

“Oh I am, now.” Therese interrupted.  “I mean I wasn’t and I dated Richard through college. I think I was just trying to run from it all.”

Carol was intrigued now and she understood all to well about trying to run away.  “So tell me about Richard and why he deserved such a fate.”

“Well, he was my boyfriend.  He was studying criminal justice and I was forensic psychology.  He followed me into the FBI, and we were together for a while, until my career started to take off and he just became even more of an asshole.  Between that and coming to terms with my own sexuality, I knew I had to end it.”

“I find a lot of men are assholes, but it doesn’t mean I want to blow their heads off.” Carol grinned.

“Technically, I didn’t shoot him in the head.” Therese smiled mischievously. “Besides they don’t make targets that are anatomically correct.”

Carol now had a full blown smile on her face as she gazed into the beautiful green eyes.  “I see. So, did he cheat on you?”

Therese could feel Carol’s smile filling her heart with warmth.  She wanted to keep that smile on her face forever.  “He didn’t cheat on me…he was just lousy in bed. Like really bad...horrible.”

Carol threw her head back and let out the most beautiful laugh.  “Well remind me to never disappoint you,” She teased as she kept laughing.

Therese leaned forward looking deeply into her eyes. “Somehow I doubt you could,” Therese said flirtatiously.

Carol felt her face flush.  “oh…” Their food arrived just in time.

They each took a few bites of their meal, sitting comfortably and enjoying each other’s company when a surge of bravery came over Carol.  “What do you do on Sundays?”

“Nothing much.  What do you do?” Therese asked between bites.

“Oh nothing too exciting; laundry, groceries, meal prep. The typical mom stuff.  I was wondering if you would like to come to my place tomorrow?” Carol offered.

“To do laundry and meal prep with you?” Therese was teasing her again, a twinkle in her eye and her dimples on full display.

“Dinner? And work?” Carol took a few more bites of her meal.

Therese took a few more bites as well, finishing her salad and moving on to her soup.  “Work?” She tilted her head.

“I asked Garcia to do some digging on my ex-husband after our talk in Chicago.” Carol’s eyes grew serious again.  “Garcia is having everything sent over to my place today and I really don’t want to go through it alone. So, would you?”

“Yes.” Therese agreed with a sweet smile.  “I’ll bring the wine.”

Carol’s phone buzzed and she looked down to read the screen. They are on the move.  Carol let out a frustrated sigh and slammed her phone down.

“What’s wrong?” Therese asked as she placed her warm hand on top of Carol’s.

“Fucking Harge.” She growled and retreated to a dark place in her mind.

“Ah.” Therese sat back and took a drink from her tea.  “Is that who you were really shooting today?”

She didn’t have to say anything, Carol’s eyes gave her away, but she filled Therese in on the events of the morning anyway.

“So what are you going to do?” Therese asked, genuinely concerned.

“I don’t know yet.  I guess I’ll decide when I see her tonight.  The thing is I really need his parents to help out sometimes.  Being a single mom with no real support system is…problematic.  If we have to go out of town, I need someone to keep Rindy.  So it’s not like I can really do much to keep him away unless I stop her from seeing her grandparents and I don’t want to do that to her.”

“Carol, that’s rough. I'm sorry.  I wish I could do something.” Therese felt useless.

The phone buzzed again.  Carol read it and her face went white.  “Shit. Looks like they are heading back to my place. Therese, I need to run, but I don’t want to just leave you, we haven’t even finished eating.” Carol was suddenly rushing and looking anxious. 

“Go. Carol, I’ll take care of this,” Therese said earnestly.

“But how will you get home? I can't just leave you here.” Carol said worriedly as she gathered her purse.

“It’s no problem, Carol.  I’ll get a taxi back to the range to get my car.  Go, I promise, it is okay! Text me your address and details for tomorrow when you get home.”

“You are an angel. I’ll make it up to you tomorrow.” Carol ran out of the restaurant and Therese reached down to grab her phone.

She sent a short text to Garcia.

          No need to courier information.  Work will be fine.  Thank you for all your help.

Therese knew that Garcia would have given Carol more detailed and better information.  In any case, she would get to see the information she needed tomorrow with Carol…over dinner.  Therese let out a contented smile before she felt a cold chill go through her body.  She looked around at everyone in the restaurant, taking note of faces.  She could swear she was being watched, but then thought of how ridiculous that was.  She paid the bill, waved down a taxi and went to get her car from the shooting range, never noticing the small blue sedan following the cab.

Chapter Text

Therese could not shake the feeling that someone was watching her.  After running her errands on Saturday afternoon, she came home, dead bolted the door and closed all of the blinds in her third floor apartment.  That night she slept fitfully and when she woke the next morning, it was still there.  She stared out her windows for a while, searching for anything out of the ordinary, but nothing jumped out at her.  She decided to go for a run, and made sure to do so without headphones on and kept her eyes opened for anything that felt weird.  When she got back she cleaned her gun, but no matter what she did, the feeling remained.  

Later that afternoon, Therese felt her phone buzz.  There was a message from Carol.

C- Dinner at 6- but come any time before. We are home

The text was followed by a second one with the address.  Therese replied with a simple, Can’t wait. See you soon.  For a few minutes she thought about cancelling, worried that the nagging feeling would ruin their evening, but she eventually decided the best person to talk it over with would be Carol.  Therese took a quick shower, making sure to take her gun into the bathroom with her.  Her thoughts of being ridiculous were battling with her thoughts to trust her instincts. 

Therese kept her outfit casual, settling for jeans and a black V-neck tee. She kept her make-up simple and after drying her hair, she pulled it half up in a bun and left half hanging down below her shoulders.  She slid on her black converse and then grabbed her badge and her gun.  It wasn’t something she would normally take for dinner, but her instincts were on hyper drive.  Finally, she grabbed a bottle of red wine from her personal reserve and headed out the door.

She pulled up to Carol’s townhouse in Georgetown at 4:30 and found some street parking.  She sat in her car and waited, watching cars drive by for a few minutes.  Once she felt comfortable enough, she took her badge and gun and locked them in the glove compartment of her car and then walked to the front door. Before knocking she turned and watched the street again.  At 4:45 she finally accepted that she wasn’t followed and turned to knock on the door.  Therese heard a young girl’s voice followed by the muddled sound of running feet.  A shorter and younger version of Carol opened the door, “Hi!”

“Hi, I’m Therese.  You must be Rindy.” Therese held out her hand to shake, but Rindy just turned and ran back inside the house.

“Mom! Therese is here!”

Therese turned to look over her shoulder one last time before she let herself in the door, making sure to close and lock it behind her.  As she looked through the door window, she noticed a dark blue sedan slowly moving down the street and she made a mental note.

Rindy was back behind her when she turned around.  “You’re in the FBI like my mom?”

“I am.”

“Will you tell me stories?  Mom never tells me stories about her job.”

Therese felt like she was being interrogated.  “Oh, I don’t know…I mean…I’d have to talk about it with your mom.”

Suddenly Carol’s voice echoed through the house.  “Nerinda Aird, stop harassing Therese and show her to the kitchen!”

Rindy sighed and took Therese by the hand.  “This way.  You’re very pretty!”

“Thank you.” Therese blushed.  She wasn’t sure how to respond to the high energy, precocious seven-year-old. She turned her attention to the house, noting the colors and art work on the wall.  Carol clearly had a love of classic art and antique furniture.  They walked down a hallway that opened to an open floor plan with a large eat-in kitchen and huge open living room with a fire place.  Therese could tell the home had been remodeled recently, but there were still elements of the original architecture. “This place is beautiful.”

Carol was standing in the kitchen, knife in hand, cutting some kind of vegetable.  “Thank you.”

Therese watched her for a moment and smiled.  “So gun and knife skills? A woman after my own heart.” 

Carol let a small blush cross her face and gave Therese a sideways glance. She felt much more relaxed today, in her own home, Rindy safe by her side.  “I’m afraid my knife skills are nowhere near as good.  I’ve almost taken off my finger more than once.”

“Oh we can’t have that.  Can I help?” Therese walked over and stood next to Carol in the kitchen.  “What are we making?”

“An orange and fennel salad, followed by pasta.  I remember you saying you were a vegetarian.”

Therese’s smile could have lit up the room.  “That sounds amazing.”

“I’m not really that talented in the kitchen, so I keep it simple most nights.  It helps having a daughter that lives on dinosaur nuggets and macaroni and cheese, but I didn’t want to subject you to that.” Carol let out a small chuckle.

“I would have happily eaten the mac-n-cheese!” Therese felt so comfortable with Carol. It had only been a few minutes, but this felt so…normal.   

“MOM! What is the Netflix password?”  Rindy called from the living room.

“Will you excuse me for a second?” Carol walked over to the living room and bent over to type in the new password. Therese couldn’t help but take a peek at the blonde’s perfectly formed ass.  Carol turned to see Therese staring and raised an eyebrow before returning to chop fennel.  “I have to change the password every week or two because a certain seven going on 30-year-old keeps trying to watch horror movies when I’m not around.”

Therese laughed, “I love horror movies!”

“Ugh! Not you, too!” Carol rolled her eyes.  “Isn’t what we do scary enough?”

“Oh I only watch the ghost stories.  The psycho thrillers do hit a tad close to home, but I’ve never had to arrest a ghost or a demon, so I feel safer with those.”

“Well the child in the other room has enough nightmares as it is.  We don’t need to add to it.” Carol spoke loud enough so that Rindy could hear her. 

Carol and Therese continued to work together to make dinner while making polite small talk.  “Tell me something about your life, Therese.  I feel like you know so much about me, but I only know about Richard.”

“What do you want to know?”

“Anything, really.  Tell me about your childhood.  Where did you grow up?” Carol started boiling the water for the pasta.

“Oh, well I grew up in foster care in New York, so I don’t talk about it too much.” Therese looked down at the pile of orange slices now in front of her.

Carol stopped moving and turned to look at the younger woman.  “Really?”

Therese didn’t like it when people felt sorry for her, but what she saw in Carol’s eye’s wasn’t sympathy.  It was empathy. “Yes. My dad died when I was Rindy’s age and my mom…well…I guess she couldn’t deal with being a single mom.  She just left me at school and never came back.”

Carol’s blue-grey eyes were watering up. “Therese…that’s…I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t be.  It helped to make me who I am today.  I’m strong, independent...though sometimes too much so.” Therese reached for a triangle of parmesan and started to grate it.

“How do you mean?” Carol started heating up the pasta sauce.

“I don’t really connect with other people, so, I built this whole life in my head.  I read a lot, stay to myself, and well, you don’t come out of a childhood like that without some trust issues.  I had one shrink try to diagnose me with schizoid personality disorder.”

Carol shook her head.  “That is ridiculous.” She added the pasta to the boiling water and stirred the sauce.

“Well after that I tried to be more interested in people.  I still struggle when I get lost in my own head, as you saw in Chicago.”

“I just thought you were pouting because I disagreed with you.” Carol smirked.

“Wow! Really?” Therese mocked outrage. “I do not pout.”

“Hmmm…well you seem to connect with me just fine.” Carol nudged her with her hip and Therese relished the brief physical contact.

“I feel very connected with you.” Therese said honestly. 

Blue-grey eyes locked with green and their internal magnets started pulling them together once again. “I’m glad.” Carol whispered. 

They finished making dinner, working in sync while stealing glances at each other.  Therese set the table while Carol retrieved Rindy from her Netflix binge and they all ate, laughed, and enjoyed spending time with each other.  Rindy filled Therese in on the drama-filled life of the 1st grade.  And for several hours, Therese forgot all about her odd feelings of being followed. 

After dinner, Carol cleaned up the kitchen while Therese and Rindy played Mario Cart and giggled away.  Carol couldn’t help but watch them and let herself dream.  She wanted this life; someone to love, someone who loved Rindy, peaceful, simple, and beautiful. “Rindy, you have school tomorrow.  Time to get ready for bed, sweet pea.  Bath, teeth, clothes set out.  You know the drill.”

Rindy jumped up and shut off the game and then wrapped Therese in a bear hug that took the woman by surprise.  “Thanks for playing with me Therese.  Goodnight,” she said before she took off running upstairs.  Carol came and sat next to Therese on the couch, taking Rindy’s place.

“I love your kid,” Therese said with a genuine smile.

Carol gave her a sweet smile. “She’s a demon spawn in the mornings.”

“Hmmm…like mother, like daughter.” Therese leaned into the blonde and gave a smirk.  “I’m not much better, to be honest.  Super cranky until I get my coffee.”

‘God, I really like you’, Carol thought to herself as she let her gaze fall into the green warmth of Therese’s eyes.  What would it feel like to kiss those lips, to feel her skin? Her thoughts were heating her up from the inside and she started to lean closer before hearing a loud thud from upstairs that drew her out of her reverie.

“I’m going to go help that little tornado get ready for bed.“ Carol said as she placed a hand on Therese’s knee.  “Um, I left a folder for you at the kitchen table.”

Therese ran her hand over Carol’s and swore she felt the older woman shiver.  “Do you want me to wait for you?”

“No…no.  Go ahead and look through it all.  You’ll be less biased than I will, especially after yesterday.”

“You never told me what happened with that, by the way.” Therese was now creating little circles lightly on the back of Carol’s hands.

“I’ll be back in a few minutes, and then I’ll fill you in.”  Carol went upstairs and Therese went to the kitchen. 

Therese pulled each item out of the folder, making organized stacks of phone records, credit cards statements, and business information.  She stopped when she heard giggles from upstairs and she felt her heart melt before turning back to job at hand.  Therese started with the credit card receipts and tracked every city Harge had travelled to in the past three years, paying particular attention to travel during the time of the murders.  While Harge did travel a lot, the cities and dates never matched with the exception of Abby’s murder, but she was killed in D.C., so that didn’t really count.

Therese then moved on to Harge’s phone records.  She circled any repeated numbers around the time of the murders so that Carol could identify them, but nothing was sticking out that was abnormal.  She leaned back and let out a frustrated breath.

“That doesn’t sound promising.  Coffee?” Carol offered.

“No, I’d never be able to fall asleep if I had caffeine now.”

Carol nodded and sat down next to the young brunette.  “So? Anything?”

“Nothing.” Therese leaned forward and leaned her head in her hands.  “Looks like you were right.  Harge was always in a different city.”

“Oh,” Carol looked over at Therese and swept some hair behind her ear. 

“Is that good news? Bad news?” Therese suddenly couldn’t read Carol’s expression.

“No…I guess…it’s good for Rindy, for me…but I hate that we aren’t any closer.” Carol explained and rested her head in her hands, close to Therese.

Therese could help be gaze into Carol’s eyes as they subconsciously moved closer to each other.  “I understand.”

Carol’s voice dropped to just above a whisper.  “Do you? I mean, it’s been three years since by best friend was murdered and I feel like I’ve done nothing but fail her.” A sadness crossed her face.

Therese gently stroked Carol’s cheek.  “You haven’t failed her,” Therese said softly.  “Failing would have been to give up, but here you are…with me…and we’ll find him, Carol. I promise.”

The gazed into each other’s eyes, unspoken words passing between them.  “Therese,” Carol closed her eyes, unable to resist the pull towards the younger woman.

“Can I kiss you?” Therese whispered.  She wasn’t sure where the courage came from, but she couldn’t stop herself from asking.

“I’m…your…” Carol paused as Therese leaned in a placed a soft sweet kiss on Carol’s lips. “Boss.”

“I,” Therese kissed her again. “Don’t,” another sweet kiss. “Care,” and with that, Carol pulled Therese in for a deeper kiss.  They sat close to each other, exploring each other’s mouths tenderly and passionately.  Carol’s tongue requested entry and Therese granted it, tongues slides together.  Carol moaned at the sensation and electricity hummed through her body.  Heat was rising from her core as her desire was building and Carol knew that if she didn’t stop now, she wouldn’t be able too.  She finally pulled back, lust filled eyes staring deeply into Therese.  “God.” She breathed heavily.

Therese felt like her heart was about to beat out of her chest.  “I’m sorry,” she worried that she crossed a line.

“Are you? Really?” Carol sat back, brows furrowed. Did Therese regret it?

“No.” Therese never diverted her eyes from Carol’s.  “I’m only sorry you stopped.”

Carol’s lips turned up in a small smile and she leaned in closer again.  “You make me feel things I’ve never felt before, Therese.” She whispered honestly.

“I know,” Therese agreed. “I feel the same…I feel…connected.  But, I should go. If I stay, I’m going to kiss you again and this time I won’t let you stop.”

Carol nodded slowly, knowing that if Therese didn’t leave something more would happen.  “I wouldn’t either, but we do have work tomorrow.” Carol chuckled and then her eyes turned serious, “speaking of which—“

Therese placed a slim finger over Carol’s lips, feeling their warmth.  “It won’t be a problem.”

“Gen already suspects something, darling.”

“I promise not to kiss you at work…but I cannot promise that I won’t mentally undress you with my eyes.  I seem to do that a lot.” Therese’s eyes twinkled when she was flirting and Carol found it absolutely adorable.

“I’ll be sure to wear something special tomorrow, just for you.” Carol flirted back. 

Therese loved how perfect this felt.  This was her Carol, relaxed, flirtatious, warm, and incredibly sexy, and this Carol was for her eyes only.  “I’ll see you in the morning,” Therese said as she stood and started walking towards the front door. “and then you can tell me about what happened yesterday.”


“Text me when you get home?” Carol walked with her, placing her hand on the small of Therese’s back, creating an instant reaction under Therese’s shirt.

“Ok.” Therese felt her heart skip at the simple statement and the lingering touch. 

Before opening the door, Carol turned back to Therese, her face serious.  “I need to tell you something, Therese.  I don’t do this….I don’t invite people to my home and I don’t introduce people to Rindy…I don’t have flings with my co-workers.” She said quickly, clearly anxious.

Therese took Carol’s hands and placed a slow kiss on each one.  “I don’t have flings.  Thank you for introducing me to Rindy.  She really is an amazing kid, Carol.”

Minutes passed, unspoken as they just stood and gazed into each other’s eyes.  Whatever this was, was clearly stronger than anything either of them had ever known in the past. 

“If I don’t leave now Carol, I won’t be able to.” Therese whispered.

Carol nodded and opened the door.  “Thank you for coming.”

“Thank you for dinner.” Therese was delaying her inevitable departure as she moved slowly.

“Thank you for going through all of that stuff with me.” Carol smiled sweetly.

“Thank you for being…you.” Therese smiled back.  “Goodnight, Carol.” Therese walked down the front stairs and towards her car.  Carol waited to close the door until she saw Therese get into her car.

As soon as Therese got into her car, the uncomfortable feeling of being watched returned.  She looked around, but there was no blue sedan in sight.  She started the car and retrieved her badge and gun, placing them in her lap, and looked back at Carol’s house.  She watched as the downstairs lights were turned off and she waited, making sure no one was stalking Carol’s house.  Once she sure no one was watching Carol and Rindy, she slowly drove away.   

Chapter Text

The Pink Hippopotamus was one of Baltimore’s oldest and most established gay and lesbian bars.  Opened in the 70’s, the club really hit it’s heyday in the 80’s and 90’s.  Over the years the traffic had slowed considerably and the owner was now thinking of closing but club, but Sandy planned on enjoying it for as long as she could.  It was a Sunday, which meant no dancing, no DJ, just a quiet and safe place to drink. 

Sandy sat enjoying her cosmopolitan while playing on her phone, waiting for her on again-off again girlfriend to return her text.  She paid no attention when the middle-aged man in a baseball cap sat one stool away from her.

“Slow night,” he said, looking over with a smile.

Sandy didn’t look up.  “It is.”

He ordered a whisky on the rocks from the young man behind the bar, but paid him no attention at all.  “Can I buy you another?” He asked, never taking his eyes off of the young brunette beside him.

“No thank you.” She said nicely.

There was a prolonged period of silence, but Sandy was now acutely aware that the man next to her was staring.  She kept playing on her phone, trying to ignore him and hoping he would take the hint.  Finally, he broke the silence, “So what is a pretty young thing like you doing in a place like this?”

She couldn’t help but roll her eyes. “Dude,” She looked up wearily, “you know this is a gay bar, right? You are really barking up the wrong tree here.”

“I was just trying to make conversation.  I know where I am and what you are.” His demeanor had changed from happy to ominous and Sandy was suddenly very uncomfortable with his tone. 

“Yeah…ok…just making sure.  Sometimes people get confused.  If you sit here long enough, I’m sure some ‘pretty young thing’ will surely buy you a drink and I’m sure he’ll be more your type.” She through his own words back at him.  He just smiled.

This asshole was creepy and she knew she needed to get as far away from his as possible.  “Well, it was nice to meet you, but I have work in the morning so I’m calling it.”  Sandy downed the rest of her drink and left a $20 on the table before waving good-bye to Joey the bartender.  “Later Joe.”

“Night Sand.” He called back.

“Be careful getting home,” the stranger said. “There are lots of psychos out there.”

“Yeah, thanks.” God what a creeper.  Thank god I’m gay!

Sandy walked across Eager Street to the parking lot, but by the time she got to her car, the world was spinning.  What the hell is wrong with me?  I only had one drink, she thought as she dropped her keys on the ground.  When she bent to pick them up she fell forward, hitting her head on the car door. Fuck.

He sat and waited for about five minutes before laying his money on the bar and walking out.  When he walked out, he could see the young woman leaning against her car.  He looked around to make sure no one else was on the street or watching before walking over to her.  “You alright there?”

She didn’t answer.  He slid on his gloves and picked up the keys off the ground next to her and used the electronic fob to unlock the car doors.  He then picked Sandy up and carefully placed her in the passenger seat, pulling her cell phone from her pocket.  He held it up to her face so it would open to the home screen and then went to maps and hit the home feature.  Within seconds, he had directions to her house and they were on their way. 

With all the traffic lights, it took around twenty minutes to arrive at Sandy’s home.  He liked how quiet the street was and that the houses were large and decently spaced apart.  That would make it easy to get her into her house unnoticed.

Once inside, he carried her upstairs to the master suite and laid her out on the bed.  He sat next to her and waited, growing impatient as his thoughts started racing.  You think you can take what’s mine?  You think this life you live is right? Wake up!  I can’t do this if you’re sleeping!

Sandy’s head was pounding.  How did she get home?  She slowly opened her eyes, but everything was blurry.  And then she heard his breathing.  She wasn’t alone.  Who was here with her?  She listened, unmoving and thought of all her options.  She could keep pretending to be asleep, try to roll off the bed and get to the phone or try to fight, but she could barely move, let alone think, so fighting was out, so he tried to roll and the man next to her immediately sensed it and turned on her.  In a flash, e was above her, hovering, so close she could smell the alcohol on his breath.  Oh God.  The man from the bar.

She tried to scream, but his hand was quickly around her throat, squeezing, but not enough to silence her yet.  Her heart was racing, adrenaline started pumping, and she felt her body ramping up.  “Who the fuck are you?” She croaked out.

“How quickly they forget. I helped you get home.” He was straddling her now and she felt like her worst fear was going to come true. 

“Please don’t,” she begged.  “Just…just leave me alone.” Her eyes started to tear. 

His grin was sickening.  “I just want to know why you did it.”

Sandy was sobbing now. “Did what? I didn’t do anything to you!” Her throat hurt as he hand was slowly getting tighter and tighter around her.

“LYING BITCH!” He screamed!  “YOU STOLE WHAT WAS MINE!”

“NO!  I didn’t steal anything from you!” She tried to wiggle away but he was too heavy and her body was still too weak. 

He was savoring the fear radiating off of her and he wanted this feeling to last.  He released his hold on her neck and shifted off of her, but somehow she knew she was still in great danger.  “I don’t know what you want.” She tried to breath, but it was difficult.  Panic was setting in.

“You take and you take…you take the women…fuck them…and leave nothing left for us!” He turned back to her screaming and sweating now as his anger continued to rise.  “You took her from me and now you’re going to pay for that!”

The adrenaline finally gave her the strength the move and she rolled off the bed and onto her feet.  She knew it was fight or flight, and she needed to flee, but as she tried to run out of her bedroom he grabbed her arm and swung her face first into the wall.  She heard the crack as her nose broke, and the tears filled her eyes making it impossible to see.  She realized at that moment that she was going to die and now she knew she needed to fight.  Every crime show she ever watched came rushing into her mind.  Bite, scratch, claw! She swung around to try and hit him, but missed and before she could do anything else, his hand was around her neck again.  She brought her hands up to try to pull them off and to scratch, but he had on a long sleeve jacket and gloves.  She tried to kick, but he didn’t even flinch.  She couldn’t breathe…couldn’t think…pain…dark…and then there was nothingness. 

He squeezed until he was sure the last breath had escaped her and then watched her body fall to the ground as he panted.  He had wanted it to last longer; wanted her to fight harder.  He sat on the bed and let his own body calm down, watching to make sure his victim was indeed dead and not faking.  After a few minutes he walked around the house, searching for what he needed, but he was missing one essential element.  He would improvise.  He pulled two fabric belts from her closet and then lifted her body to the bed.  He used the fabric to tie her hands to the bed, taking care to stage her in just the right way.  Afterwards, he looked around and cleaned up the room, not wanting to leave any traces of his DNA behind. 

Satisfied that the cops would attribute the crime to the right person, he quietly left the house, leaving the front door slightly ajar.  He needed her to be found.  He slowly and confidently walked a few blocks over to the college campus and caught a local city bus to take him back into the inner city and to his car.  He smiled and spoke with the bus driver, feeling good, strong, and relaxed.  That was just what he needed.

Chapter Text

Therese slept peacefully through the night and woke feeling calm and happy after dreaming of a certain blonde.  She got ready for work and only after getting in her car did she realize that she no longer had the creepy sensation of being watched.  Maybe it had all been in her head after all.  She made it all the way to Quantico without looking over her shoulder once, but now she needed to focus on keeping her emotions in check.  Just the thought of seeing Carol made her smile, but she knew a room full of profilers would easily read her, so she had to control it. 

As she walked in to the offices of the BAU and set her bag on her desk, she immediately looked around for Carol.  She tried to tell herself that just one look at her eyes or just one smile and she could go about her day and hopefully focus.  God, all this happiness was kind of annoying. 

Gen sat at the desk next to her pretending to read the morning paper and sipping her coffee.  “How was your weekend?” She asked without looking up.

“Good, uneventful.” Therese lied.  It was amazing!  I kissed Carol! She wanted to scream, but couldn’t.  “How was yours?”

“Busy.” Gen said and sat down the paper as Phil and Dannie came walking into the offices together, discussing some weekend sport event. They hadn’t even set their ready bags down before all of their phones were buzzing.  //conference room//

Carol walked out of her office, phone in hand and the rest of the agents followed.  As Therese walked into the conference room, she saw Carol standing in a corner speaking quietly into her phone.  “I understand….yeah we’ve got it…20 mins tops.”  Garcia came running in with the brown folders for each agent and passed them quickly. 

“Don’t sit down.” Carol turned and spoke to everyone in the room.  “We’re heading for the helipad.  Looks like we may have another victim in Baltimore, so you can read the files on the chopper.  It will only take us about thirty minutes to get there and I don’t anticipate us needing to stay the night, so leave your ready bags here.  Let’s go.”

The four younger agents climbed into the back of the chopper and Carol sat in the front with the pilot. It was really hard to talk to each other over the sound of the engines, so Therese just read over the limited information that she found in the folder.  Once they landed, everyone ran towards the waiting SUV’s and they all took their normal positions.  Gen and Phil in one car and Carol, Dannie, and Therese in the second vehicle.

Carol took out her phone and called the other car, keeping the conversation on speaker.  “Sirens on- we need to move fast. The body hasn’t been moved yet, and they are waiting on us, but they need to do so as soon as possible. We will all be going directly to the scene.  Be aware, this is a possible new victim.”

“What does that mean?” Dannie asked.

“Apparently, the MO is not exactly the same.  We’ll know more when we arrive, should be about 10 minutes out.”

Therese stared out the window as they sped through the neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city.  She knew she should be focusing on the job at hand, but she was helplessly distracted.  She just wanted a minute alone with Carol, but it didn’t seem like that would be happening anytime soon and she mentally chastised herself for even thinking about all of this.  She tried to center her thoughts on what needed to be done.  Someone is dead and you want to kiss your girlfriend.  Wait…girlfriend?  Is she my girlfriend? Jesus, get yourself together.

They arrived at the beautiful, two story, brick, colonial style home.  The neighborhood was quiet and upper-class.  As they exited their vehicles, Carol gathered them all together by the front door speaking in a direct, cold, and full supervisory special agent tone. “Here is what we know.  Sandy Cuevas, 28, found this morning by her housekeeper.  The door was left slightly open, no signs of forced entry.  Baltimore PD contacted us immediately when they recognized the similarities.  The medical examiner is waiting to move the body, so we need to be thorough, but quick.  Any Questions?”

Everyone replied with a “No” and they all entered the house.  Therese immediately started her process of shooting photos of everything she looked at in every single room while most of the others went directly upstairs.  Therese was focused on scanning the bookcase in the living room when Carol came up behind her. She didn’t want to interrupt, but it had been such a crazy morning that she hadn’t even had a chance to say good morning to the younger woman.  “Hey you.” She whispered. 

“Hi.” Therese felt her heart skip a beat, feeling her Carol standing directly behind her. Her Carol

“I don’t want to stop you; keep doing what you do.  I just needed one second alone with you.” Carol sighed.

Therese did not stop snapping her photos. “All I’ve wanted to do since waking up was look into your eyes. It’s just been so crazy.”

“Turn around.” Carol said softly. Therese lowered her camera and slowly turned to look into the beautiful ocean that lived in Carol’s eyes.  It was enough.  They paused, allowing themselves to have this one moment, and then immediately went back to work.

“I have what I need down here, I’m ready to go up.”  When Therese walked in to the master bedroom, she paused to take in the scene before her.  The victim was tied to the bed with some kind of fabric ties and her clothes were still intact. The bruises around her neck were dark purple.

“Jesus.” Carol sighed. “It never gets easier to see this shit.”

“There are so many differences,” Gen came up beside Carol and Therese.  “Do you think it is the same guy?”

Carol looked over at Therese.  She really wanted her insights before saying anything.  Therese instantly understood.  “Give me a minute.” Her eyes were quickly darting around the room and then she started taking photos of everything she could.  She looked in the closet, at the pictures on the wall and on the dresser, and finally in all of her drawers, including the nightstand.  “Yes, I think it is our unsub, or unsubs.” Therese corrected herself.

“But our guy has only been striking every six months.  If this is him, it would be a major escalation.” Dannie said to no one in particular.

Gen was the first to reply.  “It isn’t unusual for an unsub to escalate and devolve when they know the authorities are on to them. But usually there are mistakes, more disorganization.  We aren’t seeing this.”

“We need to know if there is DNA.” Phil was talking to the crime lab techs that were working around the room. 

A younger woman in a white paper hazmat suit with evidence bags was moving around the room.  “So far, no liquids or fluids have been found. We’ll look for hair and fibers next.”

“No bodily fluids?” Dannie questioned.  “So she wasn’t raped.”

“I agree that it is different, but there are too many similarities.” Therese spoke to Carol.

Carol looked back at her from across the room. After only a few days of working together, they had developed a distinct pattern of evaluating a crime scene. Carol would stand back and survey the scene, while Therese sought out seemingly insignificant details.  It would start with “What do you see, Therese?” and suddenly Carol was brought into the world in Therese’s mind, seeing the things that no one else could see.

Therese took a deep breath before she started. She knew everyone was in the room, but she was speaking only to Carol. “The obvious, fabric belts instead of rope, more facial trauma.  He slammed her again the wall, see the dent over there?”  Therese pointed to a clear mark in the drywall.  “He was angry, less prepared, but still organized enough to stage the scene. The strangulation marks are the same which leads me to believe—“

Carol interrupted her.  “Your two unsub theory was correct, but for some reason we have one working alone.”

“Exactly.” Therese replied. “How long till DNA and the medical report?”

“They’ll put a rush on the autopsy, but DNA takes longer to process.  Hopefully we’ll have them both by tomorrow, at least preliminary reports.”

Phil, Gen, and Dannie shared looks around the room, suddenly feeling invisible as Therese and Carol spoke back and forth as if they had some secret code or language. “Should we reconvene outside and let the techs finish?” Gen suggested.  Carol looked over at Therese to make sure she had all she needed and then agreed.  They let Dannie, Phil and Gen leave the room first and then Carol motioned for Therese to follow them.  She placed her hand lightly on the small of the younger woman’s back and felt her shudder under her touch. 

Once in the yard, the round robin brainstorming began again.  “Swanky neighborhood,” Phil said as she looked around.

“Rich neighborhood for sure.” Gen agreed.  “What did she do for a living?”

“Lawyer.” Therese answered.

No one spoke for a minute, once again exchanging looks.  “Ok, I’ll ask.  How do you know that?” Dannie smiled as he asked the question. 

“Law books on the shelf, law review magazines on the table, and the diploma on the wall.”

“Seriously?” Phil looked at her.

“You all went directly upstairs.  I looked around the whole house to get a more complete picture of her.” Therese shrugged.  “It’s what I do.”

“And you do it well.” Gen complimented her. 

“But why all the pictures then?” Therese was sure they had already covered this, but she was willing to answer Phil’s question again.

“I don’t have a photographic memory, or an eidetic memory like Dr. Reid, and I need to be able to go back and look again in case I miss something.” She explained simply.  “I guess we all have our processes, and that is mine.”

Carol gave her a wink of encouragement, before returning to the others. “Now back to the issue at hand.”

“Something triggered him to not only work alone, but he was angrier. I mean, that was closer to the first murder.” Gen stated cautiously, not wanting to upset Carol. 

“You can say it, Gen.  Abby’s murder.”

“Is he angry at his partner?  Or is this still anger at Abby?” Gen finished.

“He wasn’t prepared,” Dannie added.  “It’s almost like he decided to do this last minute.  But what if, and hear me out Therese, this wasn’t the same guy.  What if he just wanted us to think it was?”

Phil was the first to counter.  “How would he know the specifics like body placement? Those details haven’t been released to the press.”

“True,” Dannie agreed before turning to Therese. “I guess what would really seal the deal on your theory is whether or not our victim was gay.”

“She was.” Carol and Therese said in unison.

“I’m afraid to ask,” Phil pinched the bridge of his nose, “but you know this how?” 

“There was a woman in the pictures around her house, a current or ex-girlfriend, suits in closet, thumb rings, oh and the strap-on dildo in the nightstand,” Therese paused. “Good enough?” Therese said quickly, almost annoyed that she was still having to explain it all to them.  How could they not see it?  Wasn’t all of that obvious?

Carol almost blushed at the mention of the sex-toy, but managed to suppress it.  Everyone’s phone buzzed with attachments, but Carol’s rang. 

“You’re on speaker, Garcia.” Carol answered.

“Good morning crime-fighters!  Ok, so I’ve sent you all her most recent text messages- looks like she sent one to an Aubrey Dunn last night around 9:30.  Based on her phone GPS and credit cards receipts, she was at a bar called Club Hippo, love that name by the way, and then her phone shows her going home and then shutting off shortly thereafter.”

“Thank you, Garcia. Can you send us the address to the club and the home and work information for Ms. Dunn?” Carol said as she started mentally running through a list everything they needed to do.  

“Done and Done. Let me know if you need anything else. Garcia out.”

“Dannie and Gen, you find Aubrey.  Find out if she was the girlfriend and get as much info as possible on our victim. Phil you go with the Baltimore police to the medical examiner’s office.  Stay with the body.  I know we won’t get DNA results today, but I want as much forensic information as we can get before we leave, so stay on them. Therese and I will check out this club.  Keep in touch.”

 

 

Carol drove quickly and with a laser like focus, while Therese looked out the windows, taking in the city that was flashing by.  “What are you thinking?” Carol asked.  “Do you know how many times a day I ask you that?”

“Sorry.” Therese knew she should be thinking about the case, but all she could really focus was being alone…in a car…with Carol. Sitting this close to the stunning blonde and smelling her perfume had Therese’s senses on overload.  As much as she wanted to confess all of that, she understood that wasn’t what Carol was really asking. “I was wondering…why the escalation? What triggered him to increase his aggression and to act alone?”

I finally get her alone, and this is what we have to talk about, Carol thought to herself.  Normal couples get to talk about vacations and favorite colors and movies.  We get death, great way to start a relationship. Are we in a relationship? That’s what I really want to ask her.  Does she want to do this? To try to be something? I won’t be in the BAU forever, just this case. Will she wait?

“Carol?” Therese could tell she was thinking and assumed she was thinking about the case, but for the briefest moment a look had crossed her face and Therese wondered if maybe she didn’t want to talk about the case.

“Can you call Garcia? It’s only 10:30, the club won’t be open; we’ll need the owner or a manager to meet us there.”

“Right.” Therese did as she was told and then went back to looking out the window. 

“GPS says we’ll be there in about fifteen minutes.” Carol hated the awkward silence sitting between them. “Plenty of time for you to tell me what you are really thinking.”

“You go first.” Therese blushed.

Carol turned her head and glanced over at the brunette with a smile.  “I asked you first, but fine. I hate that our time together is spent hunting a serial killer and I want to do something normal with you.”

Therese’s face lit up in a bright smile.  “I know I should be thinking about this case and I feel terrible, but all I can think about is kissing you.”

“Oh…” Carol let out a contented sigh and then she felt Therese’s small hand on her thigh.  Oh, she is such a brave girl. Heat radiated through her black pants and her heart started to beat faster. 

Nothing more was said or needed to be said as they drove the rest of the way to downtown Baltimore. It was a weekday, so the city streets were busy and the parking lot Sandy had used the night before was filled with cars.  Carol parked on the street in front of the club.  It would still be a few minutes before the club manager got there to talk to them, so they walked across the street to the parking lot.  “The chances of us finding anything is low, but it’s worth a look,” Carol explained.

Therese stood in the parking lot and looked back across the street at the club.  It took up half a city block and there was a back alley behind it. “What’s back there?”

“Let’s go check it out.”

They walked in front of the mirrored glass front of the club and Carol noted how much taller she was than Therese.  They moved down the alley than ran beside the club to find it opened to another parking lot. 

“Security camera on the corner.” Therese said as she pointed up to a building across from the club.  “I know she parked out front, but we should check anyway. He may have parked here.”

“Agreed.”

They walked back to the front of the club and waited until the manager arrived.  Though neither of them spoke, it no longer felt awkward.  They enjoyed the confortable silence of just begin close to one another.  A small red sports car pulled up in front of them and a young man in a tight grey shirt and a man bun got out. “Are you the FBI agents I’m supposed to be meeting?”

Carol reached out her hand.  “I’m SSA Carol Aird and this is Special Agent Belivet.  Thank you for meeting us this morning.”

“I’m Joe,” he shook respective hands. “How can I help you?”

Carol gave Joe a few details about the woman and how she had been at the club the night before.  “Any receipts, video footage, and we’ll need to speak with the bartender who was on duty last night.”

“I worked the bar last night…are you…are you telling me this was Sandy?” His eyes grew wide. “Oh my god…”

“You knew her?” Therese asked sympathetically.

“She was a regular, every weekend.  She and her girlfriend would come and dance on Saturday’s and if they were ever on the outs, which was quite often, Sandy would come on Sunday nights.”

“She had problems with her girlfriend?” Carol inquired.

“I mean yes and no. Aubrey wanted to get married, but Sandy wasn’t ready to settle down.  So they would fight, but they were really meant to be together, so it was impossible for them to stay apart.”

Carol and Therese shared a look, understanding that feeling.

 

 

                                                                                                                          <><><><><>

 

The inside of the club was divided into two parts.  As you walked in the front door you could go right into a smaller space with a square bar in the center and a small stage.  If you went left, it led down a long hallway with bathrooms and into a larger room with a sunken dance floor and bars on either end.  There were large speakers that lined the room and wall to wall mirrors.

Joe led them down the hall, past the bathrooms and into the club office.  “I have all the receipts and such from last night.  Sandy paid with cash though, always does…did.” He corrected himself. “She was always a good tipper.”

“What about video?” Carol asked.

“Well, yes, but I’m afraid the quality is really shitty. The owner has been thinking about selling the club to some national drug chain, and he hasn’t really been interested in upgrading anything.  It still uses VHS tapes for fuck’s sake.”  Joe turned on a small black and white TV monitor and then rewound the tape a bit.  He pressed play and then fast forwarded well-worn tape until Sandy came in the bar.  The three of them watched as she ordered her drinks and played on her phone, not noticing the way the stranger next to her slipped something into her drink.

“Son of a bitch!” Joe yelled at the camera.  “He did it right in front of her! How did she not see that!”

“Selective attention.” Carol answered. “Our brain can only pay attention to a small amount of information at a time.  She was so engrossed in her phone, it was easy for him…and he knew that.  He’s smart.”

Carol felt the shiver move down her spine as she watched the man at the bar.  There was something about him that made her incredible uncomfortable. 

“Do you have another angle? You can’t see his face.” Therese asked.

“No.  Like I said, it’s an old system.  There is only the one camera and it’s mostly to make sure the bartenders aren’t skimming.” Joe said apologetically. “I can tell you that I didn’t recognize him.  He definitely wasn’t one of our regulars. In fact, I kinda got straight vibes off of him and I remember Sandy  telling him to back off or something.”

“So she rejected him.” Carol looked over at Therese. “Could have been his trigger.”

Therese nodded and continued to watch the tape as Sandy got up to leave.  A few minutes later the man got up to follow her. 

Carol froze and went rigid.  It was the way he moved, something in his demeanor.  Therese felt the change in Carol’s body language and instinctively reached out to her, but Carol quickly jerked away.  “I…uh…I need to step outside and make a call.  Finish watching.” Carol ran out of the bar, needing the daylight and fresh air. No… no… no…her brain kept screaming!  It just wasn’t possible!

Therese felt the sting of begin rejected but didn’t have a chance to really react before Carol ran out of the office.  She asked Joe if they could keep the tape.  She hoped that their crime techs would be able to clean up the video some, but she wasn’t over optimistic.  “Do you remember how he paid?”

“No.  But there were only four other people in the bar last night.”  He pulled out the receipts and Therese typed their names into her cell phone to send to Garcia.  “I think that’s all we need for now. We’ll call you if we have any further questions.”  Truthfully, she knew she needed to look around the bar, but Therese just wanted to go find Carol and find out what was going on with her. 

She walked outside to find Carol on the phone, speaking in a hushed tone.  Her eyes looked panicked and her hands were shaking.  Therese stood back and watched her, taking in all of her facial expressions and body language.  Her profiler instincts kicked in and suddenly, she understood.  Carol hung up the phone and turned back towards Therese, unable to meet her eyes. “You think it was him. Tell me why.”

Carol didn’t answer her question, choosing instead to walk back towards their SUV.  “He gave you the tapes?  Did you get the receipts?”

Therese got in the SUV before answering.  “Yes, now stop avoiding my question.”

Carol started the car and merged into the city traffic, still not answering.

“Carol.” Therese was relentless.

“I don’t, it’s nothing.” Carol lied, speaking harshly.  Therese could tell she was lying, but she didn’t understand why.  Carol’s walls were up and Therese knew there was no point in pushing, at least not right now.  She chose instead to text the four names to Garcia followed by a text that said, //anything you can find//

They drove back to the helipad in silence to meet the others and to head back to Quantico.  It was awkward and uncomfortable, but they both left it alone.  Clearly, Carol had seen something in that video that spooked her and Therese assumed it had something to do with Harge, but she didn’t know for sure.  She could only hope that Carol would open up when she was ready. In the meantime, Therese would start her own investigation. If the killer was indeed Carol's ex-husband, Carol was in trouble and Therese felt the need to protect her. 

Carol’s mind was racing all the way back.  She had been so happy that morning, just because of the slightest touch and a lingering glance and now it was all going to crash around her.  She knew now she would have to put as much distance as she could between herself and the brilliant agent she was so taken with. She didn’t know how she was going to explain this to her, or to the rest of the team.  Maybe she wouldn’t.  Maybe she would call Hotch and turn it all over to the other team.  No…this was her responsibility.  In any case, she had to step back from whatever she was feeling for Therese. Maybe it was all for the best.  Therese was a young woman whose career was really just taking off.  What kind of life was Carol really offering?  Sideways looks, office gossip, serial killers, oh and a child with a crazy ex-husband.  No, this was going to be better for Therese in the long run.  End it now, before it even really started.  Carol’s mind was made up.  

Chapter Text

The team returned to Quantico on Monday afternoon and Therese immediately went to see Garcia in her technological wonder of an office.  “Hi, newbie.  You lost?” Penelope asked with a smile.

“No. I just wanted to follow up…see what you found out about the people at the bar and see if you could tap into some surveillance video?” 

“Yes, and possibly yes.” She handed a sheet of paper with the information on the four other bar patrons to Therese.  “Where is the video from?”

Therese looked at the names on the paper and the information Garcia had dug up on each one.  Nothing was flashing red to her. “There were cameras on the street corners down the back alley of the club.  I know it’s a long shot, but there was a parking lot back there.” 

“I see where you are going with this…Good catch!” Garcia turned and pulled up the club address and then began typing furiously.  Therese just stood there amazed at her speed and ability as she saw a map pull up on one screen and then there were numbers and IP addresses and three screens were moving a lightning speed.  “Ok- looks like one camera was private and I can’t access that feed, but the other belongs to the grocery store next door to the club and it is not closed circuit, and viola! I can access their feed and it looks like they keep their footage stored in the cloud…and 3,2,1…we have Sunday night's footage.”

Therese’s brain barely had time to process what just happened.  “You already pulled it up? Oh my god!”

“You doubt my abilities, newbie?” Penelope cocked her head.

“I mean I’ve heard stories…I knew you were good…but Jesus!”

“Yes, be amazed by the wonder that is me. Now, shall we take a look and see if your hunch is right?”

Garcia and Therese watched the video in fast forward.  Therese was starting to doubt that there was anything useful until she saw it.  “There!” Therese told her to stop.  “That car, blue sedan.”

“How…what?” Garcia asked, confusion crossing her face.

“I’ve seen that car before! Sunday afternoon at Carol’s.”

Penelope turned from her computer screen and tilted her head again, “You were at Carol’s?  Like alone? Explain please.”

Therese’s face flushed, realizing she had revealed too much.  “Yeah, we were working…on the case. But I saw that car…and I had this feeling all weekend that I was being followed…and it cannot be a coincidence!”

Penelope turned back to the screen.  “I can’t see a tag, but I’ll see what I can find, but Therese, did you tell anyone about being followed?”

“No.” Therese shook her head.  “The feeling went away and then I just thought it was all in my head.”

“Not even Carol? When you were alone? At her house?" Penelope tried again.

“No, and after today…it was probably better that way.” Therese looked at the floor dejected. 

Penelope looked at Therese and a sudden wave of empathy washed through her.  “Hey, I know you’re new and you don’t really know me, but I’m really cool and I’m a really good listener, so if you ever need someone to talk to…ok?”

Therese looked up into Garcia’s warm eyes.  “Thank you.”

There was a knock on the office door and as it opened and the air was sucked out of the room as Carol Aird walked in.  She was staring down at her phone and hadn’t realized Therese was there as she started speaking.  “Pen, were you able to check his phone?”

Carol looked up to see Therese standing beside Penelope.  “Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

“I was just leaving.” Therese looked down and quickly moved to exit the office, sidestepping Carol in the process.  She closed the office door behind her a little harder than necessary. 

“Fuck.” Carol let out a deep, frustrated sigh. 

“Ok, so it wasn’t just me.  That was awkward, right?” Penelope looked at Carol with concern in her eyes. “And I know by the way, so don’t try to hide it from me.”

“I just…I can’t…did you find out about his cell phone?” Carol avoided Penelope’s question and accusation.

Penelope had always been a very empathic person.  It was the primary reason she surrounded herself with positive vibes and bright colors.  The world on the other side of that door was scary and dark, and she needed to be a light, not only for herself, but for her friends.  “I did, and his phone never left Virginia. But Carol, you know that doesn’t mean anything. If you really think…I mean you were married to him…you know?”

Carol wanted to scream. Everything depended on this.  If it was Harge, if she was right, she had to pull away.  But if she was wrong, they could be…maybe…it was all just too much to process, so Carol focused on dealing with one problem at a time and right now that had to be her ex-husband.  “I couldn’t see his face.  It was just something in the way he moved.  Maybe I’m just chasing shadows. I don't know!” She ran her fingers through her blonde waves. 

“I’ve known you for a long time, Carol.  You should always trust your instincts. I’ll keep looking.”

“Thank you, Pen…and please don’t--”

“Stop. You know I will never tell a soul until you say it’s okay…about either thing.” Garcia smirked. A notification pinged on one of Garcia’s computers. “Oh, medical examiners report is in!” The bubbly technical analyst ran over and pulled up the report.  “No DNA on the body and no signs of sexual assault. That’s good, right?”

“Maybe.” Carol sighed as she read over her shoulder.  “Can you call everyone together again?”

Penelope turned and clicked a few buttons on her keyboard.  “Done.”

 

<><><><><>

 

Carol walked into the conference room to find everyone waiting.  “The medical report just came in and there was no DNA and she was not sexually assaulted.  That being said, there is no way to definitively prove that it was the same unsub, but I want us to go under the assumption that it was, so for now we will actively explore Therese’s theory of two unsubs.”

Therese did not look up from the table or acknowledge Carol’s statement, a fact that did not go unnoticed by the others in the room. 

“So, uh, why did he act alone, then? That has to mean something.” Phil started when he realized Therese wasn’t going to be the first to speak. 

“It wasn’t his first time acting alone.” Therese replied without looking up from the table. “Abby’s murder was his first. He did that one alone and then the second unsub came in at some point after.”

Gen thought about this for a few seconds.  “So you think they bonded over Abby?”

“Yes.” Therese said simply.

Dannie felt like he was missing something. “So what made him kill Abby? I mean, that's the key, right? We are back to Abby?”

Therese looked up for the first time, and her eyes met Carol’s before she quickly diverted them to look out the window.  “We know that he hated that she was a lesbian.  It could be something as simple as she rejected his advance, or it could be something bigger,” she looked back at Carol, “jealousy or revenge.”

Carol didn't react to the last part, but she knew what Therese was insinuating.  If Harge had found out about Abby, would he have blamed her for breaking up their marriage?  

“But why work alone again after working with a partner?” Phil wasn’t letting go of his point.

“A bond between to sociopaths would be tenuous at best.” Carol explained.  “They would already struggle to trust each other, so if our unsub did this without his partner, that trust may now be broken.”

Gen’s face lit up, “But that’s good! The partnership will fall apart now! They’ll turn on each other or make a mistake.”

Carol nodded. “Yes.”

“Except if we profile this as a sociopathic partnership, one would have to be dominant and the other subordinate, right?” Phil interjected. “What are the chances that the subordinate would turn on his dominant?”

“Wouldn’t that depend on who did this crime?” Dannie asked everyone.

“The dominant.” Therese answered.

“How do you know?” he asked.

Therese stood and walked over the window she had been staring out of so intently.  “The subordinate is the one that leaves DNA.  He’s not as smart and the dominant has been taking advantage of that, setting him up to take the fall.  We need to find him first and he’ll lead us to the other.”

“Very good.” Carol finally spoke again, her eyes tracking Therese’s every movement around the room and wishing she could go back in time and change how she reacted at the bar. “I think we’re done for today.” Everyone stood to leave. “Therese, can I speak with you for one moment?” Carol waited for everyone else to leave and she closed the conference room door. “I just wanted to apologize…for earlier…at the bar.”

“You don’t need to explain.” Therese said defensively. 

“Clearly, I do.” Carol crossed her arms across her chest.

“No, you don’t."  Therese replied with an icy tone. "I’m a big girl and we have a job to do and obviously that comes first. I crossed a line and I won’t make that mistake again, ma’am.”   

The ma’am was a purposeful insult and slap in the face and Carol did not take it well.  She locked her jaw and narrowed her eyes.  “I guess you’re right.  That will be all Agent Belivet.”

 

<><><><><> 

 

Carol left the office at 4 to pick up Rindy from her after-school program.  It was going to be a busy night as Rindy had a dance class and between getting her ready, class, and dinner, there would be little time for self-reflection and for once Carol was grateful for being a single mother.  She didn’t want to think about Therese.

Therese sat at her desk and completed her paperwork for the day.  At 5pm, she left, speaking to no one.  She was hurt, she was confused, and she was angry.  Last night at Carol’s had meant something, and Therese thought this morning had confirmed it, but to suddenly be cast aside and rejected, was too much.  She didn’t know what had changed for Carol so suddenly. Therese didn’t want to care, but she did, and she hated the fact that she did.

One Tuesday, Rindy woke with a fever.  Carol sent the team a message that she would be out of work for a few days until her daughter could go back to school and Therese was grateful for the reprieve and yet she worried for Rindy.  At least she would be able focus and work without looking over her shoulder for Carol all day.  She poured over photos and analyzed the medical reports and data records, but everything led to a dead end.  Even the car was proving impossible to track. Garcia was able to determine it was a 2015 Toyota Camry, but there were thousands of them on the road.  By Thursday, Therese was at her wits end…they all were.  They were no closer to solving this case and the overall frustration was wearing on the team.  

The A-team returned from their latest case Thursday afternoon, exhausted but feeling celebratory after having saved a young boy from a sexual predator. It wasn’t difficult for a room full of profilers to sense the growing tension on B-team, however.  Feeling the palpable tension in the office, David Rossi, the eldest agent on A-team, decided that everyone needed a break.  “Tomorrow night, we’ll all go out for drinks after work.  I think it is past time for both teams to get to know one another.  We can toast to our case and maybe we can even offer some insights into yours, while we have a few drinks in the process.”  The plans were made and everyone was expected to attend. 

Chapter Text

 

Therese woke up early on Friday.  She was frustrated and desperately needed to get in a run before heading to work.  Carol would be back in the office today and Therese needed to release some tension before she had to face her.  She had typed several messages to Carol throughout the week, but she never sent them.  She wondered how Rindy was doing.  She wondered if Carol was thinking about her…she wondered a lot of things.  As soon as her running shoe hit the pavement, the feeling of being watched returned.  She felt the cold shiver move up and down her spine and it caused a rush of anger to flood her body.  Ok, asshole! Let’s do this!

She put in her headphones, pretended to turn on the music and started running through her neighborhood.  She knew what she was looking for now, so she would turn corners and then wait, looking for the blue Camry, but nothing.  Jesus, I really am losing my mind.  Therese didn’t have her weapon, and suddenly felt the need to get off the street.  A short run would have to do and as she made her way back to her apartment, she decided that she would tell Carol about being followed, or at least that she thought she was being followed.

<><><><><> 

It was almost time for lunch and Therese still had not spoken to Carol, who had remained locked in her office or on the phone all morning.  She had watched from her desk as various members of the A-team had gone in to speak to her, but Therese had yet to make her move. 

“You keep staring.” Dannie looked up from his desk.  “You aren’t very subtle, you know?”

Therese heard Gen snicker from her beside her.  “He isn’t wrong.”

“I…I just need to talk to her.” Therese tried to explain, feeling embarrassed.

“So just go knock,” Dannie said not understanding what the big deal was.  “I mean if you have some insight about the case, she needs to know.”

“Unless it isn’t about the case,” Gen gave her a disapproving look.   

Therese rolled her eyes.  “Of course it is, at least I think it might be.”

“Something you want to share with the group?” Dannie asked, leaning back in his chair and looked at her with true concern.

“Not yet.  I mean, I’m not sure.  Honestly, it could be nothing.” Therese’s voice dropped to almost a whisper.

Dannie shook his head.  “You know Therese, we’re supposed to go under the assumption that your theory is correct, trusting your instincts, so I’m guessing nothing isn’t actually nothing.”

“Dannie has a point.” Gen agreed.  “At some point you need to trust all of us, Therese, not just Carol.”

Therese sat and thought about Gen’s words for a few minutes.  She wasn’t going to be bounce everything off of Carol anymore that was obvious.  “You’re right.”

“I know.” Gen said with a sarcastic tone. “You should listen to me about a lot of things.”

Therese rolled her eyes but then nodded her head in affirmation.  “Fine, I think…I think I’m being followed.”

Gen and Dannie looked at each other across their desks and then back to Therese.  “What? How long? Who? Are you sure?” The questions came flying towards her.

Therese held her hands up as if to ward off the onslaught of questions.  “I don’t know.  Garcia helped me find the car, well, the type of car.  I’ve seen it twice, it followed me Sunday, and then I saw it on video from Sunday night’s murder.”

“You told Garcia? What did she find?” Gen asked her.

“Wait…the same car?  As in the same model? Or as in the exact same car?” Dannie needed her to clarify.

“Yes, I told Garcia, and yes, it was the same car. That much I am sure of.” Therese answered.

“So you saw it here in DC and then again in Baltimore? I mean I know it’s only about an hour or so away, but still, what are the chances?” Dannie asked.

“I don’t know for sure.  It could be one hell of a coincidence.” Therese admitted.

“I don’t believe in coincidence.” Gen looked at her seriously.  “And if Reid weren’t on vacation, he would rattle off some insane statistic right now about the chances that you would see the same car, in different cities.  Your gut says you’re being followed, we need to trust it.  How long has this been going on?”

“Last weekend, and then it stopped after Baltimore.  It started again today, this morning.”

“It stopped after Baltimore?” Gen tilted her head.  This was significant and Gen knew what that could mean. 

Therese nodded. “For a few days anyway.”

Gen stood up and went immediately to Carol’s office.  Therese sat and watched from her desk as Gen told Carol about everything Therese had just admitted.  Carol’s face went white as she stood and looked out her office window and down at Therese.  Was that worry? Panic? Concern? Therese wasn’t sure. 

“Therese,” Gen called from Carol’s office.  “Can you join us, please?”

Therese pushed herself back from her desk, stood and walked slowly, feeling all the eyes of her coworkers on her.  As she walked in to Carol’s office, she felt the air around her turn cold.  “Sit down, please.” Carol spoke, her voice controlled. “Why didn’t you tell me about this?”

Therese sat in a chair across from Carol’s desk.  “You haven’t been here.” Therese looked straight ahead, unwilling to meet Carol’s eyes. 

“You have my number, Therese.” Carol countered with a frustrated sigh. “You know how to reach me.” She sat down at her desk so that Therese would be forced to look at her.

“Look, I didn’t even know if I was right.  I mean, maybe it’s all in my head…and you were busy taking care of Rindy, and—“

Carol turned to Gen and interrupted Therese, “Could you give us a few minutes alone? And can you also get Hotch and Garcia? I want protection for her until we know what the hell is going on.”  Therese noted a hint of worry in Carol’s voice.

“I can take care of myself…I don’t need—“

“This isn’t up for debate.” Carol interrupted her again, holding up a hand as if to silence her.  Gen nodded and left the office, closing the door behind her.  Carol exhaled shakily and closed her eyes.  “Why didn’t you tell me?” She asked in a hushed voice.

“I was going to on Sunday, but when I was alone with you and Rindy, the feeling went away and I was so distracted by everything…and then I didn’t sense it again until this morning.  I just thought it was all in my head.”

Carol opened her slate blue eyes, staring directly at the woman in front of her.  If Therese was in danger, Carol couldn’t keep all of this to herself anymore.  Regardless of what happened next, she needed to protect the young agent. “It was him.”

Therese was confused and just shook her head. “The video at the bar.  I couldn’t see his face, but I just knew…it was him.” Carol explained and stressed that last word, hoping she wouldn’t need to say his actual name. 

“Harge.” Therese finally understood and Carol winced at his name.  “But why would he be following me?”

“When did the feeling start?” Carol asked.

“After our lunch on Saturday.” Therese shuffled her feet nervously. 

“I see.” Carol’s mouth twitched at the memory of their weekend together.  Had that only been a week ago?  It felt like months had passed since that day.  “He was probably following me and then saw us together. That shifted his focus to you.”

“But why? What is so special about me?” Therese was still hurt and her walls remained up, guarding her heart. 

Carol sighed again, “Therese. If it is Harge, you know the answer to that.”

“No, I don’t.  I thought I did, thought I understood you, us…but it was too easy for you to walk away from me, to cut me out, so that is my answer. There is nothing special about me.” Therese was grinding her teeth in an attempt to control her emotions, but was failing.

“Jesus Christ, Therese! You think this has been easy? Do you know how many times I picked up my phone to call you this week?  To try to explain?  But you didn’t want to hear me out!” Carol raised her voice taken aback.  “You have no idea,” Carol paused.  “All I want,” she stopped herself from saying what she desperately wanted to say. “If it is him…” she struggled to get her words out.  “If it is him, and he knows about my feelings for you, you would be in danger.”

Before Therese could react to anything Carol had confessed there was a knock on the office door and Aaron Hotchner entered with a harsh expression on his face. Therese stood to leave, but he shot her a serious look as if to say don’t move. “Who wants to explain this me?”

Carol leaned back in her chair.  She knew as soon as they explained their theory, she would be pulled from the case. “We can’t prove anything, Hotch.  It’s all just speculation.”

“I don’t care. Start at the beginning.” He stood, crossing his arms, looking back and forth between the women.

Therese looked at Carol and waited for her to give a slight nod in approval before she started. “I met Carol at the shooting range last weekend and we went to lunch after.  After she left the restaurant, it started.  All that night and the next day, just a feeling, like I was being watched, but I never saw anyone.  Then Sunday…” she paused and looked over at Carol, unsure of how much more she should say.

“Therese came over to my house on Sunday.  I started to have suspicions about my ex-husband and I needed a fresh pair of eyes.  We had dinner, looked over everything, and then she left.”

“I see.” Hotch looked at both of them.  “I assume Garcia has been tracking him?” He asked Carol.

“Yes, but so far it hasn’t proven anything.  He has never been in the same cities as our murder victims, at least not at the same time, not that we can show, and according to Penelope he hasn’t been anywhere near Therese.  But I know what I saw on the video at the bar and Hotch.  I swear to God, I thought it was him.” Something dark crossed Carol’s face.

“Why didn’t you say anything before now?” He asked her, his look softening.  Hotch already knew the answer to his question, but he needed to hear from Carol. He needed to get an idea of how emotional she was, before he made a decision on what to do.

“Because I can’t prove it.  What if I’m wrong? What if I’m biased?” Carol stood and started pacing her office, arms crossed across her body.  “I told you this was a bad idea, Hotch.  I told you I was emotionally compromised! But you can’t pull me off of this, not now!”

Therese suddenly felt the need to defend Carol and to give her time to regain control of her emotions.  “The sensation came back today…the feeling of being followed.  This isn’t Carol’s fault. I didn’t tell her.”

Hotch thought for a long, quiet moment.  “Carol, do you really think he is capable of doing this?”

“I never would have thought so, but now I can’t help but wonder.  It was Abby and he was so angry during the divorce.” Carol explained.  “But he calmed down and aside from recently, he has been fine with Rindy. And if it was him, why would he have waited so long?”

“We looked at him as a possible suspect after Abby’s murder,” Hotch admitted.  “We couldn’t find a connection at the time and he had an alibi, although I admit it was weak.”

Carol’s eyes went wide.  “No one told me you investigated him.”

“You weren’t exactly in good state of mind after Abby’s death. I let you stay on the team, but we had you looking at other angles.”

Therese watched as anger flushed over Carol’s face.  “If you for one minute thought that he was a suspect I needed to know! He sees my daughter, Hotch!” She was ragging now and there would be no recovery.

“And like I said, we didn’t find a connection.  He was cleared.” Aaron replied calmly. He understood her anger, but he needed Carol to tap back in to her rational mind if there was any hope of keeping her on this case.

Therese could almost sense Hotchner’s indecision at that moment.  Again, she intervened, hoping to give Carol time to calm down.  “So now what?” Therese asked.

“We have to make sure you stay safe. Both of you,” he answered.  “And you go back, as a team, and look at Harge more closely.  If he is involved, you will find out. But Carol, you can’t—“

“I know.” She wanted to scream, to run, and to throw something.  “I need…I need to get out of here.”  She grabbed her purse and went to storm out of her office but Rossi was suddenly in her doorway. 

“I know you don’t plan on missing out party tonight, do you?” His deep, soothing nature immediately calmed Carol.

“David, I appreciate it, I do, but—“

“No buts.” He held up both hands in front of his body in an attempt to disarm Carol.  “JJ has already taken care of getting a babysitter for all the kids tonight, and I think we could all use a break.  It’s bad enough that both Reid and Morgan left for vacation and can’t come, I can’t lose you, too,” he said smoothly.  Rossi was always good at luring people in.  It’s what made him such an excellent interrogator.  He would speak slowly and calmly and lull you into a sense of trust and before you knew it, you would tell him all of your secrets. 

“Fine.” Carol surrendered. “I’m going to go get lunch or a coffee…I just need to clear my head.” She looked back over her shoulder at Therese, desperately wanting to invite her to come so they could talk, but she couldn’t with the others watching.  “I’ll be back shortly.”

Chapter Text

Therese thought the bar was tacky to say the least, trying for some kind of Tiki Island, dive bar mix.  At least the DJ was playing a decent dance mix and the first round had been on Rossi.  Therese sat at a small round table with Dannie and Phil who were once again discussing some sporting event.   Rossi, J.J., Gen, and Garcia were all out on the dance floor and she marveled at how different it was to see everyone out of their work personas.  Therese, however, was still her quiet and withdrawn self. She sipped on her vodka tonic and let her mind reflect on the afternoon and the conversations about protective details, police patrols, and Carol's confession. Therese had refused them all.

<><><><><> 

 

Hotch, Carol and Therese were once again in Carol's office.  Carol stood, looking out the window, her body still tense. Therese sat in one of the office chairs and Hotch was now seated at Carol's desk. 

“I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself!” Therese argued.

“I know that you are a very capable agent and I have no doubts about your ability, Agent Belivet, but we still need to ensure your safety.  And I'm sure I don’t need to point out that you fit the physical description of all of our victims. You are his type.” SSA Hotchner explained, his voice remaining steady and calm.

“We don’t even know if I am being followed or if it’s Harge, but assuming that it is, we can use me as bait.” It seemed so rational to Therese, why couldn't the others see it?

Carol spun around quickly from her position by the window. “Absolutely not! We will not risk your life!”

“Again, I can take care of myself.” Therese looked up at her with a cold glare. “I’m not saying I’m going to go troll gay bars and make myself a target.  I’m just saying that IF he is, we let him continue to follow me. If you put a detail on me and he sees that, he will stop and we lose our best bet of catching him.”

Carol stared at her, disbelieving everything that was happening. “Therese, please…” Her voice was pleading. 

“You know I’m right, Carol.” Therese’s eyes started to warm.  She knew that Carol was worried about her, but she also had a job to do. 

“I’ll agree to skip the protective detail, but I insist on extra police patrols in your neighborhood.” Hotch paused for a second before he continued, “We also need to discuss what is going on between the two of you.  I need to know how far your relationship has gone.”

Carol’s eyes went wide and Therese looked down at the floor.  “We aren’t in a relationship,” Therese said, the coldness returning to her voice.

Carol turned from the window and looked down at the brunette and felt her heart shatter.  “Aaron…I...I need you to promise that you won’t pull me off this case.”

“You know I can’t promise anything. If the unsub is your ex-husband, I will have to pull you and you know that.”

“I understand that.  What I'm saying is don’t pull me because of my feelings for Therese.  We work well together, Aaron.” Carol’s eyes welled with tears that never fell as Therese’s head shot up and the green eyes met hers in surprise.

Aaron thought to himself for a few minutes while Therese and Carol’s eyes remained locked.  "Technically, you are only with us temporarily as a consultant, so I won’t pull you…yet.  But I need you both to ensure me that you will remain professional while on the job.”

Therese nodded her head in approval, never acknowledging what Carol had said as she stood and returned to her desk in shock.

 

<><><><><>

 

Therese was two drinks in when Hotch and Carol finally walked into the bar.  The rest of the group shouted at their arrival, but Therese simply sighed and felt her face blush when she saw the blonde across the room.  God, she is so beautiful.  Regardless of the distance that had developed between them, Therese realized that she would never look at another woman the way she looked at Carol. It would always be Carol. 

Carol’s eyes scanned the room until her eyes locked with Therese’s and they held each other’s gaze.  Within their eyes were a thousand words they had yet to say to one another. Therese was pulled out of her hypnotic state when Garcia’s arms wrapped around her and pulled her onto the dancefloor.  “Come on newbie!” Maybe it was the alcohol or the company, or maybe it was Carol's earlier confession about her feelings, but Therese found herself swaying with the others on the floor with a smile on her face. Carol couldn’t draw her eyes away from the brunette, watching her move her slender and athletic body to the music. Therese could feel her eyes on her, almost like they were physically caressing her body.

J.J. and Penelope exchanged a knowing look and then quickly went to work.  “You should go talk to her,” Penelope leaned down to whisper in Therese’s ear. Therese stopped dancing, a look of shock on her face.  “I’m not saying make out with her on the bar, just talk.” Suddenly, J.J. grabbed Therese by the hand and led her to the bar, dropping her off next to Carol.  “I believe you lost something.” She yelled over the music and winked at Carol as she walked away. 

Therese didn’t know what to think at that moment, so she just leaned against the bar and let the alcohol settle her nerves. Carol took a sip of the martini she had just ordered before turning to look at the beautiful young agent.  “We really should talk,” Carol leaned in close to speak in Therese’s ears, “but not here. Too loud.”

Therese could feel goosebumps rise on the back of her neck as Carol’s breath moved against her cheek. She turned and set her empty glass on the table and walked out of the bar.  Carol downed her drink and followed her outside.  Therese was walking down the street when Carol called to her, “Therese, wait!”

She stopped and spun back around and practically stalked back towards Carol. She felt so conflicted. She wanted Carol so desperately, but she was terrified of being hurt and pushed away again. “Well? What do you need to say?” 

Carol was so taken aback by her nearness, her mind went blank.  Words were meaningless anyway.  She grabbed Therese by the waist and pulled her into her, kissing her harshly.  Therese tried to pull away, but found herself melting into Carol’s body as she was as slowly pushed against the outside wall of the bar. Carol's hands moved up Therese’s arms until she reached her neck and pulled her in closer, kissing her more deeply.  The kiss escalated as their tongues fought for control and Therese’s hands pulled desperately at Carol’s jacket.  They stayed there, passion overtaking sense, until a car horn in the background snapped them back to reality.  Carol pulled back just enough to look into Therese’s eyes, but did not release her from her grasp.  “I do have feelings for you, Therese,” she said still breathless from their kiss.

“Then why did you push me away?” Therese said in a hushed, shaky voice. Her arms still wrapped around Carol’s waist. 

“When I saw that video, I got scared and I started to question everything I knew about my life. But I need you to know I never meant to hurt you.” She let her fingers run through her hair and down her cheek. “Therese, if Harge is involved in this, I’ll be pulled from the team. I won’t be able to protect you.”

“Carol, I don’t need you to protect me.  I just need you to let me in…don’t shut me out.” 

“I can’t help but try to protect you, Therese.  My feelings for you are already so strong and it’s making me a little crazy.” Carol smiled and pulled Therese’s body as close as she could.

Therese shivered despite the warmth outside.  “It’s only been a couple of weeks, but I feel like I’ve known you forever.”

“It scares me…how much I feel already. It’s so different, Therese, from anything I’ve ever experienced before” Carol was searching her eyes, looking for some sort of understanding and when she saw it she leaned in for another searing kiss. “Therese,” she whispered as she came up for air, feeling desperate for her touch. She needed to feel every inch of her.

“I’m sorry, Carol.” Therese pulled her into a desperate hug.  “I overreacted and I—“

Carol hushed her with a finger over her lips.  “Whatever happens, Therese, know that this is real and I won’t let you go.  Do you understand?”

“I understand.”  Therese leaned up and placed another kiss on Carol’s lips. Their kisses now slow and gentle, yet passionate. 

Carol finally pulled away and took a step back, immediately feeling the loss.  “If I don’t stop now I won’t be able to…and we should get back inside.  Clearly J.J. and Garcia already sense something between us, but we should try not to advertise it to the others.”

“I think Gen suspects, too.” Therese grinned. 

“Oh yeah, she does.” Carol agreed.

“You know, I think I’m actually going to head home instead of going back in.  I’ve already had a few and it’s been an exhausting week. And honestly after that kiss there is no way I’ll be able to keep my hands off of you.”

Carol felt a wave of heat wash though her body.  She wanted Therese’s hands all over her, but she also knew they needed to be careful.  “Are you sure? Are you okay to drive?  I mean, I could take you home.”

“Carol, if you drive me home, things will…continue.” Therese looked at her with lust filled eyes.

“Yeah, they will.” Carol nodded with a mischievous smile.  “I am going to make sure you get to your car, though.” 

Therese’s car was parked a few spaces down on the street and they walk hand in hand, still needing to feel connected.  “Text me so I know you got home,” Carol said as she leaned down and placed a sweet kiss on Therese’s cheek.  She waited for the car to start before turning and walking back in to the bar. 

Therese took a deep breath and let the buzz of their kisses flow through her.  It was stronger than the alcohol.  She shook her head and slowly pulled out, too happy to notice the headlights that came on a few cars behind her.

Chapter Text

The disposable phone rang and he let out a heavy sigh.  He contemplated not answering as he loosened his tie and poured a whiskey straight. Clearly the caller wasn't going to give up so after several hundred rings, he finally answered the phone.  “I told you never to call me.  I call you when it’s time. You follow, you record, you post. Those are the rules.”

There was a beat of silence. “I just made a special post...just for you.”

“What are you talking about?” He quickly logged on to his laptop and watched as a woman was strangled.  “What the fuck? Who is this?” Panic rose in his voice, but he pushed it down.

“I couldn’t wait. It was taking too long.” The voice on the other end of the line was overly calm- void of emotion.

“You broke the rules! I told you we would always do it together! We agreed, Tommy!”

“Calm down.  It was just a spur of the moment thing.  I just needed to let out some frustration or I was going to make a mistake.” He wasn’t lying.  The girl in Baltimore had just been a stress release.  “And I was careful, wore a disguise and pretended to be you.”

“YOU DID WHAT?” He screamed! “YOU STUPID, FUCKING, MORON! YOU ARE GOING TO RUIN EVERYTHING! WHY COULDN'T YOU JUST WAIT AND DO WHAT I FUCKING PAY YOU TO DO!”

“CALM DOWN!” Tommy screamed into the phone and then instantly calmed back down, his emotions turning on and off like a switch.  “I’ve followed your girl and it got me…excited.  She’s soooo pretty and I want her, but you said to wait.  So I found someone else.” He paused and let out a frustrated sigh.  “I couldn’t do it though.”

“What do you mean, Tommy? I just watched you kill her on this video!”

“Couldn’t perform after…like normal.  I…I needed you there.”

“You sick fucking pervert,” he growled in frustration.

“DON’T CALL ME THAT! NEVER CALL ME THAT!” He screamed into the phone again.

“Jesus, Tommy.  I- I need time to think about this…see if you fucked it all up.  You know the rules, 6 months and only the girls I choose!”

“You really think I’m stupid, don’t you?” an eerie edge to his voice.  “You think I don’t know what you’ve done? I can protect myself, too.”

“I’m not going to explain myself to you, Tommy. If you want in on anymore of MY girls, you will follow orders. I’m careful and I have a plan! You are careless and you will get us caught! I need you to follow the plan!” He spoke harshly, scolding him like a parent. 

There was another beat of silence. 

“Tommy? Do you understand?” He sat his drink down on the table with a force that almost broke the glass.  He couldn’t have his plan go south, not now, not when he was so close to his final blow.

“Yes.” Tommy replied.

“Look, I know you’re frustrated and you have…needs.  I’m almost ready, okay? Can you wait just a few more weeks? We’ll need to let this Baltimore thing die down now.”

“Yes.”

He took another sip of his whiskey and let his blood pressure return to normal. “You haven’t told me…what do you really think of her? Do you like the one I picked for us?”

“She’s beautiful!” He said excitedly.

“Remember to be careful, Tommy. She’s an agent and it is important that you keep your distance until I say…but soon.”

“Did you see? The other video from tonight? SO HOT!” Tommy’s was voice was shaking with need.

He clicked on the second link that Tommy had sent and watched as the blonde and brunette kissed outside of the bar. He felt his manhood react and it sickened him. “Yessss…and I have special plans for this one.  Oh yes, we are going to take our time with this one, but ONLY if you can keep yourself under control!” His face twisted into a wicked grin as he thought of all the dreadful things he wanted to do to the young agent.

“Oh…okay.  Just follow and soon? You promise?” He could tell Tommy was getting worked up. “I don’t want to wait!”

“Not long.  I will see you soon. I will call you when it’s time to take her and we’ll do it together, I promise.”

The older man hung up the phone and then dropped and shattered it under his foot.  He tossed the fragments into the trash and sat down at his computer and pulled up the video footage Tommy had posted again.  He watched them, brazen, on the street, sickening. I’m going to destroy her and you…and this time Carol, you won’t recover.

Chapter Text

Three years ago…

 

Abby’s cell phone screen lit up with the words 'unknown caller'.  She silenced it and went about unpacking her bag.  It had been a really long day.  First, she had to shoot an unsub in Nashville, then there was the hours-long debriefing as to whether it was a justified shooting, and when she finally got back to her DC apartment, there was a gas leak in the building and everyone had to evacuate.  To top it all off, she and Carol had been…well fighting seemed too strong a word…they just weren’t seeing eye-to-eye right now.  Abby had hoped that after the divorce was finalized Carol would reconsider their relationship, but that had not happened.  She thought of calling Carol when she found herself homeless for the night, but decided against it. A night at a hotel would suit her just fine.  It was Friday, she’d order room service and make sure to get a room with an extra-large garden tub.  The silver lining to the shitty day. 

Her phone rang again with the unknown caller identification.  She really didn’t feel like discussing her car’s warranty or sending money to a prince in Guam.  She made a mental note to have Garcia do some magic program that would block all spam callers on her phone.  It rang again…and again…and again…and she felt a cold chill in the air of her hotel room. When it finally stopped she sighed in relief, persistent little fuckers, she thought. 

She finished her unpacking and got ready to retreat to the comfort of a hot bath when her room phone started ringing causing her to jump.  “What the hell?” She walked over slowly to the phone on the nightstand, letting it ring a few more times before she finally answered hesitantly, “hello?”

There was a long silence, but she could hear the breathing on the other end of the line.  “Hello?” She asked again.

“You weren’t answering your cell phone.” The low voice growled into the phone.

The air in the room went frigid.  No one knew she was at this hotel. “Who is this?”

He laughed and it sent a shiver down her spine.  “I would think you would know me well, Abigail, after taking what was mine.”

Her fear turned to aggravation at the recognition.  “Jesus Christ, Harge!  How did you get this number? Are you fucking following me again? And for the record, I didn’t steal anyone because she wasn’t YOURS- you didn’t fucking own her!”

“She was MY wife! You destroyed MY family! You ruined MY life!” He was shouting in a whisper, his voice straining to keep quiet.

“I’m so over this shit, Harge!” She slammed the phone down.  Before she could clear her head, her cell phone was ringing again. “Leave me alone, Harge or so help me God, I will have the DC police at your door in a matter of minutes! Do you understand?”

“Let me talk to Carol.” He replied, ignoring her threat.

“What? You fucking psycho! She left you! And not that it is any of your fucking business, but she isn’t with me, either!”

“Of course she’s with you. She isn’t at home.”

“So you’re still following her, too? I’ll be sure to let the police know when I get off the phone with you.  Do you want that restraining order back in place? Because you are about to make that happen!”

There was another beat of silence before he answered her. “She’s my wife. I still love her.”

“I can’t help you with that.” She shut off her phone and unplugged the hotel phone from the wall.  “Jesus, I need a drink!”  She looked around the room, but alas no minibar.  “Fuck.” She ran a shaking hand through her hair and decided the hot bath would have to do, but before she could move towards the bathroom there was a soft knock on her room door.  Her sympathetic nervous system kicked into fight-or-flight mode and she grabbed her gun from the foot of the bed before moving slowly towards the door and setting the security bolt. “Who is it?”

“Maintenance, ma’am.  There was a leak in the room above you and I just need to check your room for damage.”

Wait, she thought. Are you fucking kidding me? This cannot be happening. She cracked the door open to see a younger man in a hotel utility uniform. He was scrawny with glasses and seemed very unsure of himself.  Not much of a threat. 

“I’m sorry to bother you ma’am…I just need to do a quick check of your bathroom. I won’t be but just a minute.”

Abby kept her gun in her hand and undid the security bolt.  Tommy Tucker walked into the room, tool box in hand.  She lowered her gun to her side, out of direct sight of the maintenance man, letting her guard down a little.  She still felt slightly on edge, so she followed him with her eyes as he made his way into the bathroom. Her back was turned to the opened hotel room door when the crack of a sharp pain hit the back of her head, followed by a vivid display of colors and then darkness as she struggled to maintain consciousness.  Her gun hit the floor and a wave a nausea washed through her. She went to call for the maintenance man but her cry for help was cut off by a gloved hand around her throat.  Squeezing…pain…can’t breathe…head hurts…

Abby tried to fight back, but her body was overcome with weakness.  Somewhere in the back of her mind she heard an exchange as the young maintenance man came out of the bathroom.  “No problems in…Oh my god! What…what are you doing?” His voice sounded shocked, yet he didn’t come to her aid.

Harge turned and looked at the young man, his eyes stone cold. “This bitch stole my wife- destroyed my family!” He voice was oddly calm as he started squeezing harder. This wasn’t what he had planned.  Harge had been watching and waiting for her to return from Nashville.  He told himself the gun in his pocket was just to make her listen.  He just wanted to talk, to make her see reason, but his anger kept building.  He had followed her to the hotel and how stupid was she that she didn’t even notice him standing a few paces away in the hotel lobby as he strained to hear her room number.  He called her from the hotel lobby phone when she wouldn't answer her cell phone, and this made him angrier.  How dare she ignore him! How dare she hang up on him! When he got to her hotel room and saw her, gun in hand with the door open, a sudden rage filled him.  Before he realized what was happening, he was swinging the gun at her head and his hands were around her neck…and it felt good. He felt more powerful than he had in years as he watched the life draining from her body at his hands.

Tommy was fascinated by the scene playing out in front of him. He watched as the flush of the cheeks on the woman turned from pink to blue to pale from a lack of oxygen.  His body tingled as he watched her struggle to fight off her attacker.  And as her body went slack and Harge tossed her like a ragdoll onto the bed, he felt himself become aroused. “Is…is she alive?” Tommy asked as he walked over and stared down at the crumpled body.

Harge turned and closed the door.  He suddenly realized he had been lucky that no one had walked by, but in his rage he just reacted, not thinking of consequences.  As Abby laid on the bed, her breathing raspy, Harge slowly felt his rational mind return.  He walked over and sat in a chair and laid his head in his hands, berating himself for his impulsivity. How the fuck was he going to get out of this?  

“What will you do with her?” The young man asked. His voice was shaking with a nervous energy.

Harge looked up at the kid standing by the bed, clearly enamored with the brunette.  He could tell the little pervert had an erection and on some level this sickened him, but he also realized this could be his ticket out of the mess he made.  “What is your name?”

“Tucker! Tommy Tucker!” the young man said excitedly. 

Eager to please.  Good.  “Well?  What do you want to do with her, Mr. Tucker?”

Abby laid still and struggled to breathe.  The pain was lessoning and she realized her brain was shutting down.  What a strange realization. She thought it odd that she wasn’t panicked by this, rather she found herself feeling a strange sense of calm.  She would have laughed if she could have.  She saw flashes of her life, family, friends, and Carol flash through her mind.  There was a sharp pain in her chest and her breathing became more and more difficult as the swelling in her windpipe increased and the darkness slowly overtook her.  Abby’s last conscious thought was of the woman she loved so completely…I love you, Carol. Darkness. Peace. 

Tommy moved closer, leaning over the body.  He ran his hand down the woman’s cheek, but she didn't flinch.  “I think she’s dead.”

Harge looked over at the body.  “Is she breathing?”

Tommy crawled on top of the body and leaned in close to her beautiful face.  “No…no breath.”

“Then yes, she is dead.” Harge said rolling his eyes. 

Harge heard the young Mr. Tucker’s breathe hitch. “Can I have her?”

It seemed like such as odd question, but Harge quickly realized what the little pervert meant as his hands started to run up and down the body.  He thought about this for a minute and decided he really didn’t care one way or another.  “Do whatever you want…I need to think.”

But he couldn't think.  Harge sat in the chair and watched as Mr. Tucker quickly worked to tie the body to the bedpost, using rope from his toolbox.  He couldn’t help but wonder why he would do this as Abby was clearly unable to fight back.  It was like watching a car accident, horrifying and yet he was mesmerized.  He didn’t want to watch, but couldn’t turn his eyes away as Tommy took his time fondling the dead body.  Eventually he watched in disgust as Tommy undid his pants, mounted and then all too quickly, got his release.  What a sick fucking bastard.  “Are you…uh…finished?” Harge asked, clearing his throat in discomfort.

The younger man was panting and sweating, his pants and the body covered in a liquid mess.  “Yeah. Now what?”

“What do you mean, now what?” Harge felt his mind become suddenly clear.  “Now we clean up this mess and get the hell out of here, that’s what!  Do you have access to the video surveillance from the hotel lobby?”

“I think so.” Tommy looked around the room, suddenly feeling unsure of himself.  “But what about her? What do we do with the body?”

“Leave it. Housekeeping will find it in the morning.  You should vacuum, though.  Remove as much evidence as you can.”  Harge was only thinking of himself now.  Tommy had left too much evidence all over the body, but his stupidity would indeed work to Harge’s favor.  Even if they could place him at the hotel, he could argue that she was alive when he left her.  He looked down at his gloved hands.  No prints, burner phone, just need the surveillance dealt with.

 “Do you think they will they catch us?” Tommy asked as he did up his pants. 

Harge looked over at the nerdy, young man now standing beside him.  “Tell me Mr. Tucker, have you ever done anything like,” he motioned at the body, “this before?” 

“No…” he said shyly.  “That was my first time.” Tommy removed his smudged glasses and started to clean them. 

That explains a lot, he thought.  “I don’t think they'll catch us. As long as you do everything I ask you to do, we should be fine.”  Harge calmly explained in great detail everything that the young Tommy Tucker needed to do, reminding him again about destroying any video evidence.  “Program your cell number into my phone.” He handed him the small, cheap, burner phone.  “I will call you tomorrow evening to check on you.  Do you understand?”

“Yes.” He paused, again seeming unsure of himself.  “Can I ask you something else?”

“Yes.” Harge said simply, feeling only slightly annoyed.

“Can we do this again? Mister?”  Tommy smiled and Harge felt a sudden strange kinship with the man.

He smiled back, mocking a warmth he did not actually feel. “I will call you tomorrow and you can call me Mr. H.”  Harge turned and walked out of the room, feeling strangely happy and calm.  There was an air of confidence in his walk and he felt enjoyably secure in the fact that no matter what happened next, Carol’s life was about to completely fall apart.

Chapter Text

Carol sat on her bed folding laundry, day dreaming of the night before.  No matter how hard she tried to concentrate, her mind kept wandering back to kissing Therese.  She could feel the warmth of her lips, taste her on her tongue, feel her under her fingertips...and it was driving her into a frenzy.  Carol looked over at her phone.  Should I text her? Call her? Invite her over for a lust driven fuck-fest while Rindy played video games downstairs? 

The sudden ringing of her cell phone woke her from her fantasy.  She felt her heart sink at the realization that is was only Jeanette, the mom down the street.  They made polite small talk until she finally got to the reason for her call.  “Oh, I’m sure she would love it.  What time?  Great.  We will see you tomorrow.”

Carol stood up, leaving the clothes on the bed, and walked down the hall to Rindy’s room.  “Hey sweet pea.”

Rindy’s face beamed up at her from the make-believe zoo she had created in her room with all of her stuffed animals.  “The elephant is sick and needs to go the animal doctor.”

“The vet?” Carol played along, acting concerned for the sickly animal.  “Oh goodness! Is there a vet around here that works with elephants?”

“Me! I know all about all the animals at the zoo! I can fix him!” Carol imagined her daughter in the future, working as either a vet or a zoologist.  She hoped her love of animals wouldn’t go away and that her future career would be in a world safe from the darkness that Carol dealt with every day.

“So Jeanette just called and was wondering if you wanted to go on a playdate with Olivia tomorrow.  She said something about the trampoline park?”

The seven-year-old’s face lit up with excitement.  “Really? Yes! I love the trampolines!”

Carol sat on the edge of her daughter’s bed.  “Ok, well they will pick you up tomorrow at 11.  I’ll give you some money for lunch.  Do you remember our rules?”

“Don’t talk to strangers.  Stay within sight of the grown-ups. Be polite,” Rindy recited.

Carol mussed the blonde hair on the little girl’s head.  “And easy on the junk food! You always forget that one! I’m going to go finish the laundry and make us some lunch.  Any requests?”

“Nuggets.” The blonde girl said going back to her animal party.

“I don’t know why I even asked.” Carol smiled and left her daughter to play.  She walked back into her bedroom and picked up her phone to text Therese. 

C- Good morning.  She waited for a few minutes but when no reply came she went back to her clothes in an attempt to distract herself.  After an eternity…or maybe ten minutes…her phone finally buzzed.

T-Morning. Sorry, just got out of shower.

Carol didn’t know if she meant it to be teasing, but the image of a naked Therese wet and fresh from the shower was definitely having that effect on her.

T-How are you? How is Rindy?

Carol’s heart melted.  She was asking about her daughter? How was this woman so perfect?

C-Getting ready for a gourmet lunch of dino nuggets. How are you?

T- Once again, I am taunted by the dinosaur nuggets. I must try these.

Carol paused before sending her next text.  She didn’t want to push too far, too fast, but after last night she was sure they were both on the same page and Carol desperately wanted to spend some time with Therese…alone.  She wondered if they could start a relationship without letting it get in the way of the job.  Carol knew she was good at compartmentalization, but she wouldn’t make that assumption about Therese.  She decided she would play it loose and easy and just let Therese set the pace for whatever would happen.

C-Any big plans this weekend?

T-The usual, laundry, grocery, paperwork. You?

C- Nothing too exciting. Rindy has a playdate tomorrow. Would you want to come over? We could talk about the case or…

T- Or?

C- I have wine…and dinosaur nuggets.

T- How can I refuse that? What time?

C- Rindy gets picked up at 11- any time after.

T- See you tomorrow.

The butterflies in Carol’s stomach started to swarm.  She set down her phone and let her imagination take over again. Tomorrow she would see Therese and they would be alone, away from the prying eyes at the BAU and no, Carol had no intention of discussing the case.

 

<><><><><> 

 

It was a beautiful Sunday morning. Therese stepped out of her apartment building and looked around, soaking in the sun as a police cruiser drove past.  She could feel it, feel him, like a buzzing in the back of her mind. Fuck you, she thought.  I am not going to let you make me feel like a victim. Even though she was desperate to see Carol, she took her time and meandered down the street to her car and then took her time driving out to Georgetown.  She strolled up to Carol’s door and before knocking, turned back to look out at the street.  She flashed a big smile and her dimples to the world.  I hope you are watching, you son of a bitch, because I’m about to go inside and fu…

“What are you looking at?” Carol said from behind her. 

Therese turned around to see Carol standing in the doorway with a smile on her lips. She looked absolutely ravishing in blue jeans and a white button down top and Therese knew she would look even better out of them.  Her face flushed with something between embarrassment and arousal. 

“Well?”

“It’s stupid,” she said looking down at her feet.

“Tell me anyway.” Carol walked out onto her small front porch next to Therese.  The younger woman was wearing black jeggings and a loose fitting t-shirt that was cut low in the front. The pants hugged her ass perfectly and being slightly taller, Carol could see down the front of her shirt.  Carol realized Therese knew exactly what she was doing when she picked out her outfit today.  

“I thought if he was watching…I wanted him to see...to see me here.” Therese didn’t think she was being clear, but a sense of understanding crossed Carol’s face.

“Hmmmm.” Carol took her hand and brought Therese’s chin up so their eyes could meet.  “If you want to challenge him, you’d better look confident when doing so. So what is it you want him to see exactly?”

Therese didn’t hesitate before leaning forward placing her lips on Carol’s. It wasn’t deep or passionate, but it was tender and full of affection.  When she pulled back, Carol’s eyes were a stormy grey and filled with want.

“Who knew you were such as exhibitionist, Therese Belivet?”

Therese smirked. “Says the woman who attacked me on the street last night?”

Carol looked up and down her street, but nothing seemed out of the norm. “Is your spider sense tingling? Do you think he is watching us?”

“Yes.” Therese looked around also before turning back to Carol and her breathtaking eyes.

“Good.” Carol leaned down and pulled Therese into a fierce kiss before looping her arms around and pulling her inside the house.  She closed the door behind them with her foot, not wanting to release the beautiful woman from her arms. 

“Lock.” Therese muttered between kisses.  Carol broke her mouth away just long enough to turn and lock the door, but when she turned back around Therese had taken a few steps back and was looking at her seriously.

“What’s wrong?” Carol said with concern.  Oh God. Was this not okay? Was she moving too fast?

“I just…was that smart?  I mean, if he is following me, should we be taunting him? Should I even be here?” 

Carol thought for a moment and then started walking towards the living room, grabbing Therese by the hand and pulling her along. “You know, I didn’t really plan on us talking about the case today, but since you brought it up, yes.”

Therese quickly started following the blonde towards the back of the house and to the kitchen. “Yes to what?”

“Yes, you should be here.  I will not cower in the corner and let him ruin our lives. Drink?”

Therese nodded as Carol opened the fridge and started to look around, pulling out a bottle of white wine. “Too early?”

“Does it pair well with dinosaur nuggets?” Therese was finally starting to relax again.

Carol smiled at her. “Not as well as grape juice, I’m afraid.  Would you rather that?”

“Wine is fine.” Therese sat on a stool at the island that separated the kitchen and living room. “Can’t we just bring him in as a person of interest?”

Carol uncorked the wine and grabbed two glasses. “Not without just cause.  His lawyers would eat us alive.  I need him to do something, to say something- anything really- to give us a reason.  In fact, I think we need him to be emotionally off kilter so he’s more likely to make a mistake.  If my ex is the one watching you, knowing that you are here, with me, might just be the thing that pushes him to do so.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want anyone else to get hurt, but I need him to show his hand.”  Harge always thinks he is the smartest person in the room, especially if that room is filled with women.  I’d actually like to see him go against you and Gen in interrogation.” 

“To be honest, it isn’t my best skill.  I’m not mean enough and the unsubs always think I’m young and weak.” Therese played with her finger nails, feeling slightly embarrassed to admit that to her boss.

“Who said you had to be mean? You need to be able to read people, and that my darling, you are very good at.” Carol handed her a glass before taking a sip from her own.

“How do you know?” Therese looked at her quizzically.

Carol took another sip before answering her. “Because you can read me like a book.”

Therese smiled and let her green eyes wander up and down her hostesses’ body before taking her own sip of the sweet wine.  “Mmmm…this is good and most of the time I can, but not always.” She licked her lips, enjoying the fruity taste of the wine on her tongue.

“What am I thinking now?” Carol looked at Therese, blue eyes flashing like lightning.

Therese studied her thoughtfully for a second.  She could see the flush of her cheeks and she thought back to their kiss on the porch.  “You want to stop talking about the case and move on to…other things.”

Carol nodded, a naughty sparkle in her eyes. “Exactly. See? You’re brilliant.” Carol walked over and took Therese by the hand to lead her over to the sofa.  “Sit. Make yourself comfortable.”

Therese sat down, setting her wine glass on the coffee table.  She looked around the room again, thinking back to the last time she was here, playing video games with Rindy. “So you said Rindy had a play date?”

“She went with her friend Olivia to the indoor trampoline park.” Carol was staring at her now, her eyes growing more intense by the second. 

“What time will they be back?” Therese felt her body reacting to the penetrating gaze.  She tried to meet her stare with her own, but felt herself flush.

“After four.” Carol studied her carefully, “What are you thinking?”

Therese was sure Carol’s voice just dropped an octave. “I find it hard to think anything when you look at me like that.”

Carol smiled mischievously. “Like what?”

Therese let the fire she was feeling flow through her. Feeling something shift inside, she looked up and this time she held Carol’s blue-grey eyes with her own bright green eyes drenched in desire.  Two could play at this game. “You know exactly what you are doing to me, Carol.”

“I only know what I want to be doing to you.” Carol whispered, shifting a little closer on the sofa. She wanted to grab her, to kiss her, to throw her back and feel her body under her--

“Did you mean everything you said last night?” Therese broke up the sexual fantasy playing in Carol’s mind.

Carol’s head tilted forward and a strand of blonde hair fell into her face.  She realized she needed to slow down.  Clearly Therese needed some more reassurance from her before they could move forward.  “I meant every word.”

Therese hesitated for a moment and then slowly reached up to tuck the blonde hair behind her ear.  Her hand lingered on Carol’s face and she traced the outline of her jaw before her eyes fell to Carol’s lips.  She was slowly moving closer, helpless against the gravity that always pulled her towards Carol. 

Suddenly, Carol’s body felt like it was on fire with need.  Her rational mind, just seconds ago filled with warnings to go slow, to wait, to let Therese decide how fast they would go, was short-circuiting.  She needed to kiss Therese.

“Carol, I know we said we needed to be careful, but—“

The ‘but’ was all Carol needed to hear before she was pulling Therese into a passionate kiss.  Her tongue immediately sought entry and started dancing around Therese’s mouth.  Hands were wandering over and then under clothes.  Therese leaned back, pulling Carol on top of her, spreading her knees apart and Carol pushed her hips into the younger woman, wanting desperately to remove all the clothing that was keeping her from feeling every inch of her.  Therese gasped at the feeling, needing more contact.  They were animalist, unhinged, and about to become a raging inferno when Therese reached up and ran her fingers through the blonde strands and pulled back, forcing Carol to look into her eyes.  “Take me to bed.”

Carol nodded and lifted herself off of Therese before lowering a hand to help Therese up from the sofa.  They walked hand in hand up the stairs until they reached the door to Carol’s room.  Carol paused before opening, “Are you sure?”

Therese was kissing her again, deeper, harder, as if trying to relay everything she felt into that one kiss. The inferno was building again and quickly.  “I need you.” She panted against her mouth, “Need to feel you…to touch you.” Carol whined into her kiss and opened the door revealing a queen-sized bed drenched in sunlight. For a minute, Carol felt self-conscious and wondered if Therese would be comfortable like this, making love in the daytime. Would she be comfortable being so open? As if answering her question, Therese pulled her t-shirt over her head and walked over to the bed.  She turned to face Carol and started undoing her buttons.  “I want to see you.”

They were kissing again, shirts off, bras quickly discarded, breasts pressed against each other.  Carol thought it felt divine, Therese’s skin against her own.  She reached for Therese’s jeggings and slid them down her beautifully toned legs before removing her own.  They laid next to each other on the bed, slowly touching and exploring each other. 

Therese wanted to memorize every inch, every curve, every freckle of the goddess laid bare before her.  She kissed her softly, running her finger tips down her arms, across her stomach and up to her breasts, cupping and feeling them under her palms. 

Carol’s hands were on Therese’s hips, shifting as her thigh moved in between her legs. Therese gasped at the thrust of Carol’s thigh against her and Carol licked inside of her mouth.  This had never felt so pure…so intimate…or so perfect before.  She reached down between them and gently ran her hands over Therese’s soaking underwear and let out a deep moan.  Carol needed to taste her, to be one with her, to be inside of her. She slid her hand under the panties, sliding a single finger in between her folds and Therese’s head fell back in pleasure.  “God, yes…”

Carol shifted again, slowly kissing her way down the brunette’s athletic body.  She kissed each breast and sucked on each nipple as her fingers kept moving slowly, exploring the wetness.  Carol kissed her way down her stomach and finally stopped just above her panty line, slowly lowering the black lacy undies down her thighs, tossing them across the room.  The smell of Therese’s desire was overwhelming and Carol’s mouth watered as she lowered her mouth, licking delicately at first, relishing every subtle taste.  Therese was salty and sweet and just so…Therese. Carol felt absolutely ravenous, wanting to devour every inch of the woman laid out beneath her.

Therese was lost in the sensation of Carol’s mouth on her.  She grabbed a pillow and pulled it to her face and moaned loudly in absolute ecstasy. Carol couldn’t help but giggle at how she was hiding and trying to be quiet.  “We are home alone, Therese.” She sucked delicately, eliciting a louder moan from her young lover.  “Let me hear you, baby. Tell me how it feels.” She dove back in, licking long and slow. 

“So…God…so good…I need…Carol…I need…” Therese struggled to form words.

Carol knew what she needed because Carol needed it, too.  She moved one hand lower to join her mouth and used two fingers to slowly circle and then plunge into the hot wet heat.  Therese screamed in pleasure as Carol moved her fingers in and out, slowly matching the rhythm of her tongue. Carol wanted this moment to last forever, but she could feel the increased wetness and the muscles tensing around her fingers. She knew Therese was close, so Carol slowed down…moving agonizingly slow.  I love this, she thought.  I love you…my beautiful, brilliant, girl. Her thoughts scared her.  How could she feel so much, so soon?  

Therese was writhing under her and Carol knew she wouldn’t last much longer.  She increased the speed of her tongue and thrusts until she heard the young brunette calling her name.

“Carol...Carrrroooolll….oh God…Ohhhhhhh!”  Therese didn’t know if she was falling or drowning or maybe she was flying? All she knew for sure was that her body was no longer hers, it now belonged to Carol. Her body, her heart, her soul…all belonged to Carol.  She reached down and pulled the blonde up, devouring her mouth and wrapping her arms around her.  “Carol…I…I…”

Carol didn’t let her finish, kissing her again.  “I know…” She lowered her head to rest on Therese’s chest and listened to the sound of her heartbeat.  This was heaven.   

Once recovered, Therese sent Carol into an orgasmic frenzy.  She had been with a couple of women over the past few years, mostly one night stands, but no one had ever made her feel the way Therese did.  The way she moved her mouth, her hands…like she was indeed worshipping her.  It was indescribable and Carol knew that no one else would ever be able to make her feel this way.

Over the next few hours, they took turns adoring and loving each other until Carol’s text alert sounded.  She reached her exhausted body over to read the message.  “Rindy is on her way home. I’m afraid we have to get up.” She stretched and moaned, returning to lay her sated body next to the beautiful brunette beside her. “Will you stay for dinner?”

Therese smiled and reached over to pull Carol closer.  She looked deep into the blue-grey eyes and thought about her next words, of everything she desperately wanted to say. “Carol, I...” she paused as she saw the fear flash in Carol’s eyes. It was too soon for either of them to say what they clearly both felt. “I believe I was promised dinosaur nuggets.”

Carol’s head was thrown back in a fit of laughter. “Oh my beautiful girl!” She leaned forward and kissed Therese before pulling back, her smile now lighting the room.  “You can have all the nuggets you want!”

Chapter Text

Carol walked into the office on Monday determined.  After her Sunday afternoon with Therese, she was more than ready to move on with her life, a life WITH Therese.  It was fast and it was pure insanity, but Carol knew what she wanted.  She wanted nights and weekends with Therese.  She wanted to wake with that beautiful woman in her arms.  She wanted family vacations, and holidays and a normal life with the ups and downs.  Of course, in order to have that, they needed to catch these assholes.  She had a game plan, starting with going back over every inch of each murder.  If Harge was involved, and she felt more and more in her gut that he was, she was going to find out how. Once the case was done, Carol would leave the BAU and move to a permanent teaching job at the FBI academy.  She would support whatever Therese chose to do with her career, so long as they could be together.  That was her plan, to do whatever she had to do, so that she and Therese could be together. 

The lights in the office were still dim which meant Carol was the first one to arrive.  The A-team had been called away, otherwise she was sure J.J would have beaten her in.  She walked in and the motion sensors kicked on, lighting the entire office.  Since she was the first one there, she walked over to the small office kitchenette and fired up the coffee pot.  She was just pouring herself a cup when Gen came strolling in, Starbucks in hand.  “Good morning, Carol.  You’re here early.”

 “I think it was more of just not running late.  Rindy was in a good mood; I was in a good mood and everything was just running smoothly. I see you already have coffee. You’ll be bouncing off the walls later!”

Gen took a sip from her Venti sized cup, “Yeah, I was craving a mocha latte.  So good weekend?”

Carol smiled, but kept her cards close to her chest.  “It was! How was yours?”

“Oh you know I stay busy.” Gen replied as she walked over and sat at her desk, turned on her computer and started skimming through her emails.

“As I recall, you were always somewhat of a daredevil.  So, what was it this weekend? White water rafting? Skydiving? Alligator wrestling?”

Gen laughed.  “You do remember! Well, I have slowed a bit.  This weekend was just hiking.”

“And were you hiking alone? Or has someone special come in to your life?” Carol asked as she sipped her coffee. 

Gen looked up at Carol and tilted her head.  She was confused.  This was not the Carol that had been running the team the past few weeks or even the Carol she knew from the past.  This was not the emotionally unavailable, cold, hard, and somewhat broken Carol that had trained her.  No, this was a different Carol, a happy Carol.  She was making small talk and smiling and…

“Good morning, ladies!” Phil came walking in. “I smell coffee, thank God!”

“You’re chipper, this morning.” Gen noted.  “Meet a girl?”

“Ha! Several!” He smirked.  “Friday night after you all bailed, I met Gracie.  Saturday night was Amy.”

“God, you’re such a player.” Gen shook her head. “And not even that cute!”

“I get cuter when the girls get drunker!” he said with a loud laugh.

“Too early and too loud, dude.” Dannie walked in half asleep.  “Please tell me there is coffee.”

“There is.” Carol patted him on the back.  “Rough morning?”

“I guess.  Just a Monday.” He poured himself a coffee and then slouched over to his desk. 

“I heard A-team got called out to Colorado,” Gen said to the group.  “Does it ever worry anyone else just how many serial killers there seem to be in the world?”

“Well without them we’d be out of a job.” Phil noted with a smile.

“He’s not wrong.” Dannie agreed, his eyes still half shut.

This was nice, Carol thought.  They were starting to feel more like an actual team or family, much like the other team always did.  For a while she had worried that this group just wouldn’t click and while being close wasn’t a requirement, it definitely helped in a dark career field like this.

“Once you all get settled, I want us all to meet in the conference room as soon as Therese gets here.  We are going to start at the beginning and review every crime scene. Let’s pretend we know nothing and just start over, okay?”

There was a general “yes, boss” from the group and Carol walked up the stairs to her office.  She finished her coffee, read her emails, and then gathered her folders to head to the conference room.  It was 9:00am and everyone had coffee and was waiting in the conference room, notes and folders at the ready.  Carol came in to start, but stopped when she saw the empty seat.  “Where is Therese?”

Chapter Text

Sunday evening

Harge watched in a mix of disgust and fascination. The windows had been opened, letting the sun shine down on them.  He wasn’t sure how Tommy had gotten the video, maybe he climbed a tree or was on the roof of a house across the street.  It was shaky and there was a glare from the glass of the windows, but it was clear enough to see Carol and that bitch, fucking like animals in his bed.  Revolting! Carol had always made him turn out the lights, always in the dark, but here she was, in the day light, exposed, with HER.  At least with Abby, he’d not had to witness it, to see his beloved like this and she had never been like this with him, she wasn’t an active participant when they made love…she would just lay there and take it.  And where was Rindy? Where they fucking with his daughter in the house? He could feel the fury building again, boiling inside him, and seeking a release. When the video cut out he threw his glass of whiskey across the room and watched as it shattered, almost as if in slow motion.  This is what he wanted to do to Carol.  To watch her life shatter, just like that glass.

Florence walked in to the downstairs study when she heard the commotion.  “Mr. Aird, are you alri—“

“Get the fuck out of here!” He screamed and picked up some random item off the desk, hurling it across the room, missing her head by inches. 

“Oh!” She turned and ran screaming from the room, yelling for her employers who had already retired to their respective bedrooms for the evening.  Florence had worked for the Aird family since Harge was a young boy and as much as she needed this job, she would not tolerate this abuse.

She had pulled on her sweater, grabbed her purse and was rushing for the front door when she felt a vice grip around her arm.  The older woman felt her back hit the wall hard, forcing the air from her chest, but before she could catch her breath there was a hand around her throat, squeezing.

“You don’t leave until I say you can leave!” His face was bright red, veins bulging, monstrous.  

“Hargess Aird! Unhand her this instant!” A woman called in a stern voice from the top of the stairs. 

Florence felt the hand withdraw as air was pulled back into her lungs.  She wrapped her own hands around her neck that was now throbbing in pain and looked up to see a 40-year old man with a look of terror on his face as he looked up to his mother.

Jennifer Aird looked absolutely disgusted. “I will not tolerate such behavior in my house, Hargess! Leave at once!”

“Mother…I…I’m sorry.” He took off running, but not towards the door. Florence heard the door to the basement open and close.  It was where Harge had always gone to hide as a boy. 

Mrs. Aird descended the stairs quickly.  “Oh dear, Florence, I am so sorry.  Are you alright? Come, let’s get some ice on that and get you all sorted.”

Florence wanted to run; she wanted to run out the front door and never look back, but John and Jennifer had always been so good to her. She followed the older woman into the kitchen and watched as she grabbed an ice pack from the freezer.   “Here, wrap this around your neck. I’ll make us some tea.  You can’t drive in this condition.”

After a few minutes, Jennifer pulled ice pack from Florence’s throat.  There were raised whelps around the woman’s neck and it was already starting to bruise.  “I cannot imagine what has him in such a state.  He hasn’t been this upset since the divorce, you know?”

“Yes, ma’am.” It hurt to speak.

“Florence, you’ve work for us for over 30 years.  You practically helped raise that boy.  I’m sure you know that isn’t…well, he isn’t normally like this.  I also know you understand the need for…discretion.”

“Ma’am?” her voice croaked.

“Obviously, we will take care of any and all medical bills, but we really do need to keep the police out of this.  It would hurt the family name and business and you know how the rumors go around here.”

“Mrs. Aird, surely you don’t expect me to—“

“I expect,” she interrupted, “I expect loyalty, Florence.  I always have.”

There was suddenly something in Jennifer Aird’s manner that scared Florence more than Harge’s violent rage.  Somehow she inherently knew that crossing her would be more dangerous than her clearly deranged son. 

“I’m going to call a taxi to give you a ride home and I want you to take the rest of this week off, dear, paid of course.  I will have our family doctor stop by your apartment tomorrow to check on you.  Make sure you stay home and rest, Florence.  You don’t want people to think you’re one of those battered women, now do you?  I will have some groceries brought to your place as well.”  Jennifer was speaking quickly and though she she sounded concerned for her employee, Florence knew there were ulterior motives.  What she was really saying is ‘stay home and out of sight so that people don’t talk’.  She could leave, quit, run out the door and to the police, but after that, then what? She knew Jennifer Aird would make sure no other family in Virginia would hire her.  The Aird’s had paid her salary, health insurance, and even paid for her apartment.  How would she start over now at the age of 57?  No.  Jennifer Aird held all of the cards and Florence knew it. 

Florence nodded in approval of everything Mrs. Aird was telling her to do as they walked to the front door.  “And Florence, please believe me when I say nothing like this will ever happen again.” Jennifer looked back over her shoulder and towards the hallway that led to the basement door.  “I will deal with Hargess.”  And for a single fleeting moment, Florence actually felt sorry for the man.

 

<><><><><> 

 

The basement was dark, cold, and musty.  There was a door that led to a wine cellar, but otherwise, the majority of the space was used for storage.  As a boy, Harge would come down and hide amongst the boxes.  He would seek solace from his mother’s rage and constant disapproval and his father’s absence by pretending that the space was his castle and he was a mighty king, overseeing his subjects.  Here, he was in control and everyone answered to him.  But now, as he looked around, he didn’t see his imaginary kingdom.  He saw a dark, cold, and empty space. 

The door to the basement creaked open and his mother called down to him.  She did not like to go down into that filthy room, so she stood at the top of the stairs and glared down at him. 

“Are you going to explain yourself, Hargess?”

He wanted to hide, to slam his head against a wall, anything, but face the look of disapproval on his mother’s face.  He wondered why he so afraid of her?  He was a grown ass man! He’d killed women with his bare hands! But here he was cowering in the darkness, afraid of an old woman, when it would be so easy to reach up and just…

“Answer me!” She screamed and he fell to his knees.

“Carol.” His voice was meek and shaking.

Jennifer crossed her arms and rolled her eyes.  “Of course.” She paused, looking down at the sorry excuse for a man on the basement floor.  “Well? What has the blonde bitch done to you now?”

“She…I saw her…she was with…a woman….they were.”

“Oh for Christ’s sake, Hargess.  Stop stuttering and spit it out!” She demanded. 

He sat on his knees, silent, afraid making his mother’s anger worse.  “So Carol has moved on, that is what this is all about?”

“Yes.” Harge answered, wishing he had the will to stand up.

“Hargess, as hard as this is for your tiny brain to comprehend, the two of you are divorced.  I had hoped that you would have moved on by now, that you would find a…normal woman…more suited to our family, to take care of you and my granddaughter.  Clearly, you are incapable of this,” she sighed.  “For some reason, you insist on holding on to that woman when she is clearly she is not worthy of our family and honestly, it is embarrassing, Hargess. I am ashamed of you and how weak you are.  This is not how a man behaves, hiding in the dark like some coward.”

Harge wanted to run up the stairs, to hit her, to wrap his hand around her and shut her up.  All the years of her disapproval and disdain and more.  He hated her!

“You are weak just like your father and no matter how hard I have tried to make you stronger, well…it seems I have failed.  I can see now that you will never be more than a scared little boy hiding in his parent’s basement.”

“You don’t know!” He screamed! “You don’t know what I’ve done! What I am capable of!” He teeth were clenched and his fists pounding on the dirty ground.

“From my view you are capable of so very little, aside from throwing temper tantrums when things don’t go your way.”

“Mother, I swear to—“

“Do not swear, Hargess.” She rolled her eyes again. “It is a sign of a weak mind.  A weak mind in a weak boy, pretending to be a man.”

He slammed his fists down again and again, feeling them bruise. 

“Foolish.  In any case, Florence will be back next week.  I expect you to apologize to her.  Good help is so hard to find, Hargess and I will not have your issues scaring people away.”  She turned and walked back to the basement door before turning around, something wicked in her eyes.  “Whatever this is, it ends tonight.”  She moved her hand to the light switch and hovered over it. “You know what happens when you disobey me.”

He felt his heart rate increase and a sense of terror seized his body.  “No…dddddoon’t…mommy, please.” He voice was shaking and cracking. “I will fix it, I promise.” It was not a grown man speaking now, but a terrified little boy. 

“Hmmm…well, shall see about that.  Fix it quickly.  And one other thing, Hargess. After your little visit to the zoo, Carol has been less willing to let me…us…spend time with Nerinda.  John really does miss her, so make sure to fix that mess as well.  Understood?”  She slowly lowered her hand from the light switch. 

“Yes, mother.” His normal voice slowly returned. 

Jennifer turned and walked out of the basement, closing the door behind her.  For just a moment, she thought of teaching him a lesson, turning off the lights and locking the door, leaving him alone to ponder his behavior, but she decided against it.  She would wait and see if he did indeed manage to fix the mess he had made.

Harge stood up and dusted off his pants. A tremor ran through his body as he pulled his cell phone out of his pocket.  The signal was weak down here, but it would still call out.  There wasn’t time to go buy a new disposable phone, not now, and somewhere in the back of his mind Harge knew it no longer mattered.  This was to be his endgame and no one was coming out of this unscathed.

The phone rang once. “Hello?”

“It’s me.  It’s time, Tommy.  I want you to take her and keep her until I can meet you.  I will call you back with the details as to where we will meet, bu I have a business meeting in Minneapolis, so head in that general direction.  Do you understand?”

“Keep her?”

“No playing until I get there, Tommy.  We’ll do it together just like I promised.  Just hold her for me and wait.”

“I understand.”  Tommy hung up and looked out his car window and up at her apartment.  The brunette had just gone inside a few minutes ago. He’d have to figure out which floor and which apartment and that would be complicated, but if he waited till morning, there would be too many people.  Just then, Therese came walking back out of her building, heading towards her car.  It was as if the heavens had answered his prayers.  He’s have to move quickly, though.

Therese opened the passenger side door and reached down towards her glove compartment.  In her post love making haze with Carol, she’d left her badge and gun in the car.  Suddenly aware of the buzzing in her head, louder and closer, she tried to grab the gun, but she felt a sharp pain in the back of her neck and the world went black.  She dropped her keys she fell forward into her car.  Tommy gently pushed her the rest of the way in and closed the door before moving around to the driver side.  He reached down and picked up the keys, buckled her in and sped off, heading west, as far as her car would take them. 

Chapter Text

Carol stood in Therese’s apartment and watched as her team analyzed every square inch.  It was a violation; a violation of Therese’s privacy, a violation of their relationship, of everything.  Carol had never been here before, so to be here now, with her entire team, it just felt so very wrong. This was all wrong.  She felt her phone buzz in her pocket and answered without looking at the screen. 

“Hello.”  Her voice sounded hollow.

“Carol?” Penelope Garcia’s voice filled the void, but Carol didn’t respond. 

“Are you there? Carol?”

“I’m here.” Carol finally answered.  Inside she was screaming, frantic, and falling apart, but on the outside she was still, cold and unmoving.

“I was able to tap into the security feed of Therese’s building.  I was able to see her walk in to the building last night and then before she got on the elevator she turned around and walked back out.  No one followed her in.  I’m still trying to find some footage from outside of the building.”

“Any luck tracking her phone?”

“Just what I told you before you all left.  The last location it pinged from was just outside of Cumberland, Maryland.  After that…nothing.  But I did put out an APB on her car and I have set up and alert.  If her phone comes back online, I will know immediately! Oh, and I spoke with Hotch and both he and J.J. are on their way back!”

“Thank you, Garcia.”

“Carol? Are…are you okay?”

“No.” She hung up the phone as Gen walked over next to her.

“There are no signs of a struggle, nothing to point to anyone being here.  Whatever happened to Therese, it didn’t happen here Carol.”

Carol was willing the tears to not fall.  Demanding that her brain override her emotions.  Therese wasn’t here.  Therese was gone.  Her brilliant, beautiful, perfect girl had been taken.  Taken because she loved her…because they…

“Carol?”

“We need to find Hargess Aird and bring him in for questioning.”

“I’m sorry?” Gen wasn’t understanding.

“I know he had something to do with this. I’m telling you to go arrest my ex-husband.”

“Carol what are you basing this on? We have to have just cause.  Is there something you aren’t telling me? Has he said something?  Done something?” Gen said in confusion.  To her, it appeared as if all of this was coming out of nowhere. 

“It can’t be a coincidence that she was taken the night we…” Carol cut herself off.  “I can feel it in my bones, Gen.  He has something to do with her disappearance.  Bring him in as a person of interest, but just do it!”

“Wait, the night what? What happened last night, Carol? If you are serious about him being a person of interest, just explain it to me.  Give me some reason!”

Carol’s eyes glassed over and all of the pent up emotion was rushing to the surface as she screamed, “How about because I fucking ordered you, too!”

The room was stunned into silence and Carol felt the eyes of every one bearing down on her.  There would be no stopping the onslaught of tears now, so she ran…she ran out the door, past the elevators, down the stairs and past the car.  She ran around the corner, down the street and further…she just ran until her lungs gave out and the bile came to the surface.  She stopped, bent over, and threw-up her breakfast. It was too much.  She fell to her knees on the sidewalk and let out a blood-curling scream and the damn of tears broke. 

People walked by and some looked at her with annoyance and others with concern, but no one stopped. Typical D.C., they probably all thought she was some homeless crazy person or another activist creating a scene to gather attention for their cause.   

“Carol?”  The woman standing behind her was out of breath.  “Jesus, you run fast!”

“Gen, why are you…why did you follow me?” Carol sobbed.

“I was worried about you!” Gen felt the fire in her lungs as she struggled to breathe. “Carol, you just took off before…what is going on?” She reached down and helped the blonde to her feet.

Carol dusted the dirt off her pants and wiped her nose on her sleeve.  “I’m fine.”

“Clearly you are not fine! None of us is fine, Carol.  Someone has taken one of our team! And I for one am pissed off! I’m not fine! You aren’t fine! But I want to find the asshole or assholes who did this and get her back alive! I can’t do this without you! I need the brain of Carol Aird!  So where is she?” At some point Gen’s frustration had caused her to start screaming. 

“Gen…I…I…” The tears kept falling. “Therese and I were together yesterday.” She took a deep breath.  “Like together, together, for the first time. She had a feeling…that same feeling she told us about, about being watched.” 

Gen stood up a little straighter and stiffened. 

“I know what you’re thinking, so just spare me the FBI protocol lecture.”

“Hardly the time, and it isn’t like I didn’t see this coming a mile away.  You’ve been infatuated with her since she walked in the door.  As much as you try to be an ice queen, Carol, you aren’t as good at hiding your emotions as you think.  And the only reason I tried to warn you both off was to protect you both, but trying to stop you two from falling for one another was like trying to stop a speeding train.”

Carol’s lips curled into a small smile.  “I really tried to stay away. Willed myself not to fall for her, but…”

“But we don’t choose who we fall in love with.  Emily and J.J. taught me that.” Gen place her hand on Carol’s arm.  “Come on.  Let’s get back and get the others.  I’ll take Phil and we will bring your ex in for questioning, but Carol- while we walk back, you need to tell me everything.  No more secrets!  If we are going to find Therese, we are going to have to start acting like a team and you are going to have to trust us.  You can’t be the one to question him, so the more you tell me, the more I have to work with. Understood?”

“Understood.” Carol let out a deep sigh.  “Gen?”

“Yeah?”

“Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me.  Let’s just go find your girl!” 

Chapter Text

Her head was screaming in pain.  Actually, her whole body was hurting.  Therese tried to move, to stretch, but couldn’t.  She opened her eyes to darkness.  Her brain felt like it was lost in a fog of dulled sensory information- pain, loud noises, cold, and what was that smell? She tried to move again.  Why wouldn’t her arms and legs cooperate? She tried to focus. It must be a nightmare and she just needed to wake up to open her eyes.  She screamed, but found the sound muffled.  There was something over her mouth? Like a hundred pound weight falling from the sky, awareness hit her.  “FUCK!” She screamed in her head.  She twisted her hands, but it was useless.  Her breathing and heart rate suddenly increased and she pulled against the ropes until she felt them burning her skin. 

“Calm down.” She heard a voice in her head.  It wasn’t her own.  “Calm your breathing, listen for clues. Try to remember. Ignore your pain.  Calm your breathing.” It was the voice of one of her instructors at Quantico.  They had been trained on what to do if ever in a hostage situation, and while this wasn’t exactly the same, the basics seemed relevant.  She needed to calm her breathing, take control of her thoughts and listen for clues. She repeated the words over and over like a mantra. 

Therese moved her head around and felt it hit something hard.  She couldn’t see in the darkness, but she had her other senses to rely on. She went through them one at a time.  I smell rubber and gasoline; I hear traffic and cars; I’m in a trunk of a car.  Must be on a major road based on the sounds.  If she could get her hands or legs free, she could break out a light, hopefully get pulled over by a police officer. 

She tried to move her legs and felt it pull on her arms.  She realized her arms were pinned behind her and quickly realized she was hog-tied, arms tied to her legs behind her body.  She started to panic again, but the voice returned.  “Calm your breathing.”

The pain was starting to become overwhelming.  The muscles in her arms and legs were burning and the throbbing in her head was building.  She needed a distraction.  Like an angel in the darkness, an image of Carol flashed in her mind.  She let herself remember Sunday at Carol’s, making love all afternoon.  The smell of her perfume, the feel of her skin, the taste of her…she replayed the afternoon over and over in her mind.  She remembered dinner with Carol and Rindy and the games they play and all the fun of the evening. 

Wait. Did I go home? I don’t remember walking into my apartment.  She focused now on her memories of leaving Carol’s.  She remembered getting into her car and driving away from Georgetown.  She remembered parking in front of her apartment building and then she walked in…and back out…and then there was a sharp pain and that was it. You idiot! How did you not see him? You are trained to be alert! She chastised herself in her mind.

A wave of exhaustion washed over her.  There was no way to know where she was or how long they had been driving.  She should sleep- conserve energy.  She imagined Carol again and let herself slip back into unconsciousness.

 

<><><><><>

 

Therese woke to more pain.  She opened her eyes expecting darkness, but this time she was visually assaulted by disgusting green carpet.  She looked around the room and took in the dingy paint on the walls and the smell of stale air and cigarette smoke filled her nostrils. 

“You’re awake.  Good.”

Therese tried to roll to see who was speaking, but it was useless. 

“I have a gun…your gun, actually. I'll remove your gag so you can drink and eat, but if you scream, I will kill you. Do you understand?”

Therese nodded.  He bent down and removed the gag from around her mouth.  This wasn’t Harge.  He was younger, skinnier, and wore wire rimmed glasses.  Therese didn’t try to speak, she just let her mind imprint the scene. She would need to be able to describe him, identify him.

“Are you hungry?” He asked.

Therese tried to speak but it only came out as a dry croak. 

“Thirsty, too. It was a long drive.”  He bent down close to her with a bottle of water and poured some into her mouth.  She let the liquid swish around her dry mouth before swallowing. 

“Where are we?” Therese finally asked.

“Ohio.”

Her eyes went wide. “How long have I been asleep?”

Tommy tilted his head and eyed her curiously.  She could tell he was trying to decide how much to tell her.  He finally decided there was no harm in being honest as she wouldn’t live to tell the tale.  “It’s Monday night.  I gave you a pretty strong dose.”

“Dose?”

“Powerful stuff.  I gave you a syringe full and you’re so small it really did a number.”

Therese assumed it was Rohypnol. “My…my arms really hurt.”

“I’m not going to untie you yet, so don’t ask me, too. I know you’re an agent and I know what you’re capable of.” He poured more water into her mouth. 

“You’re the one who has been following me?”

“Did you see me?” He looked upset.  “There is no way you saw me! I’m too good! I stay far away- special camera!”

“I could feel you.” She answered honestly and this seemed to spark his interest. 

Tommy’s eyes narrowed.  “Feel me…feel me how?”

Therese paused and took a moment to analyze him.  She needed to keep him talking to build a profile.  She also needed to find a way to humanize herself in his eyes. “It was like I could sense you in my head.  You’ve been following me for a couple of weeks, right?”

“Saw you at the restaurant with her.  He told me to change.”

“You were following Carol? Why?”

“Hmmmph. She never noticed...years off and on. You must be special, to feel me like that.” He stood up and went over the his bag and pulled out a pack of crackers that were clearly from a vending machine.  They were the orange kind with the fake cheese, but Therese suddenly felt the hunger burning in her stomach.  She would eat them.  He fed her one cracker at a time, followed by water.  “The drugs can make you sick to your stomach.  Don’t eat too fast.  Keep it simple for now.”

“Thank you,” she paused. “I don’t know what to call you.”

“I’m Tommy.”

“Tommy.” Therese repeated.  “Are you sure you can’t at least loosen the ropes, Tommy? I promise I won’t run.”

“No. It’s better this way.  Safer for both of us.  I’m not allowed to touch you until…” He broke off and fell silent, looking off towards the motel room door.

“Until what?”

“He is coming to meet us.  Only then. His rules.  He gets angry when I break them.”

“Who is coming, Tommy?”

He sat on the edge of the bed and looked down at her laying on the floor, helpless.  It sent a surge of pleasure through his body to see her this way.  “I have to control myself until he gets here. He was really angry about Baltimore. I will be good and wait, but you’re so pretty.  I really want to touch you.”

Bile rose in her throat.  This is the monster that had murdered Sandy in Baltimore, not Harge.  The image of the crime scene flashed in her mind.  Sandy had been beaten and strangled, but not sexually assaulted.  Was it the partner that raped the women? “Who is coming to meet you, Tommy?” Therese asked again.

“Mr. H.”

She thought for a minute.  Therese needed to word her question in a particular way to get the right reaction.  “Is Mr. H. your boss?”

Tommy stood and started pacing the room, clearly anxious…or maybe frustrated. “Not my boss!  He’s my partner! We do it together! Always together!”

Therese noted this shift in his demeanor and flashed back to what Carol had said about the dynamic between the two unsubs, about how one would be dominant and the other submissive.  Tommy was clearly the submissive, but he wasn’t happy about that.  She wondered if she could manipulate that in some way. She tucked that nugget away. “Tommy, I need to use the bathroom.”

He sat back down on the bed and looked down at her.  “Go ahead.”

“What?” Therese was confused. “You want me to do it here? On the floor?”

Tommy moved quickly and was suddenly laying on the floor staring Therese in the face.  He was so close she could feel his breath on her cheek. “I’m NOT untying you, Therese Belivet, so do what you need to do.”

He knows my full name and knows I'm an agent.  Everything helped to confirm in her mind that Harge was Mr. H.  Somewhere in her training, Therese remembered reading something about women urinating on themselves to help ward off a sexual assault, but somehow, she knew this wouldn’t make a difference with Tommy and Harge. She decided to try to hold it, but then wondered if she had already gone on herself.  There was no way she’d gone 24 hours without going. She couldn’t tell. She wondered if leaving pee on the carpet could be used as evidence to prove that she was here, but as she looked at the disgusting, stained carpet, she doubted they’d be able to tell.

Tommy stood up and sat on the bed again.  “You should sleep.” He brought a pillow down and placed it under her head.  “We have a long drive tomorrow.”

“Where are we going?”

“Iowa.”  Tommy laid back on the bed and shut off the light.  It only took a few minutes for Therese to hear his steady breathing.  He was asleep.  She looked around the room for anything that could be used to free her, but everything was up on tables or counters.  She didn’t sleep, though she tried.  The pain in her legs, arms, and back made it impossible.  The drugs had completely worn off now.  She thought of calling out for help, but knew she’d probably just end up gagged or dead. 

Therese laid in the silence and tried to picture Carol again.  She closed her eyes and let herself dream, picturing Carol’s eyes.  And then she was there, leaning next to her and whispering in her ear, “Hold on baby…I’m coming.”

“Find me…Carol…please find me.”

Chapter Text

The team returned to the office to find Hotch and J.J. waiting for them.  “Time is of the essence,” Hotch explained as they all entered the conference room.  Carol’s plans to have Gen bring Harge in for questioning had changed when Garcia had tracked him to Minneapolis.  They would need to regroup.

“Agent Belivet’s last known location was Cumberland, Maryland, based on her cell phone.” Hotch began restating the facts to make sure everyone was on the same page. “As we have no information to the contrary, we must assume that her phone was with her and not just stolen.  We know she was abducted from outside of her apartment and she was taken in her own car and an APB has been put out on her black Elantra.  The fact that it hasn’t been spotted tells me he’s sticking to back roads and off major roadways.”

“Where are they going?” Dannie questioned.  “Do we have any clue? I mean, all of the other vict—” he paused, not wanting to imply that Therese was going to be the next to die, “women…were taken in their hometowns and back to their own homes.  Are we even sure Therese was taken by the same unsub?”

“He’s going to meet him.” Carol said, her voice void of all emotion.

“Him who?” Phil asked, clearly feeling like he had missed something.

Hotch looked to Carol before he continued.  “We have reason to believe that Hargess Aird, Carol’s ex-husband, may be our second unsub.  He is currently in Minneapolis, so we assume that is where Therese’s abductor is heading as well.”

“And we are basing that assumption on?” Phil needed more.

“I trust Carol and even Therese thought that Harge was involved. We have no other leads, so this is where we will start.  We will all head to Minneapolis.  We will have to local authorities bring him in as a person of interest and Gen and I will question him.  Dannie and Phil, you will continue to work on tracking Agent Belivet’s location.  J.J., Carol, and Garcia will all work the case from here for now.”

“But—”

“No.” Hotch cut Carol off.  “You cannot go anywhere near him, Carol.  I need you to stay here. Look for connections.  We need to know who his partner is.” J.J. understood and placed a hand on Carol’s arm to calm her down, but Carol knew better than to argue and risk being benched all together.  So, she just nodded. 

“Recovering Therese is our goal.  As Dannie pointed out, they aren’t following their pattern, but this may be good. It probably means that Therese hasn’t been hurt yet, but obviously we’ve got to move with a purpose.  We do not rest until we find our teammate and bring her home. Wheel’s up in 15.”

Before anyone could move, Garcia came running into the conference room, out of breath.  “They found her car!”

Carol’s heart stopped as she waited for the rest of the information. “Where?”

“Just outside of Canton, Ohio, at a small dive motel and there are reports of a stolen van in the area, too.” Garcia continued.

Hotch thought for a moment.  “Change of plans.  Gen, J.J., and I will head to Minneapolis; Dannie and Phil are going to Ohio.  I will have a second plane waiting for us at the tarmac.  Carol and Garcia, working from here.  Let’s move!”

 

 

<><><><><> 

 

30 minutes later, Carol was alone in her office, staring out the window. There were no tears left to be shed. No, now she was angry- angry at the world, at whatever god or fate had let this happen, at her boss, but mostly angry at her ex-husband.  He had taken her best friend from her and now he was trying to take the woman she loved. It seemed silly to admit that so early, but it was true.  She was in love with Therese Belivet. She swore in her mind, if anything happened to Therese, she would kill Hargess Aird with her bare hands.  She cursed the parents that brought such a creature into the world, and that last thought sparked an idea, his parents.  There was no way that the controlling bitch, Jennifer Aird, did not know something.  She had manipulated Harge his entire life, but Carol also knew that she would not give up Harge willingly.

“Where do you want to start?” Carol jumped at the sound of Penelope Garcia’s voice behind her.  The perky blonde had her laptop in hand.  “Sorry! I didn’t mean to startle you.” Garcia stared at Carol waiting for a response that never came.  “I know that face…you’ve had an idea.”

“Maybe.” Carol replied.  “But first, I need to make arrangements for Rindy.  When I get back, I will explain.”  She didn’t want to lie to Pen, but she couldn’t risk Hotch finding out what she was about to do and removing her from the case.

“We’ll be working non-stop, so I’m going to have her grandparent’s keep her until this is all settled.”

Penelope paused and her eyes narrowed.  “Her grandparent’s…as in his parents?” she clarified.  “Are you sure she should go with them right now? I mean we are investigating their son.”

“They won’t know that yet and I don’t plan on telling them.” Carol moved around her office and started cleaning up her desk. 

“But aren’t you worried about her safety?” Garcia’s voice went higher.  “I mean, I’m sure we could get J.J.’s nannie to help out!  I can call her right now!”

“No!” Carol raised her voice just enough to get Garcia’s attention.  “They’d never hurt her, Pen.  As hard as they were on Harge, they adore, well…John adores his granddaughter.  They spoil her rotten. And by the time they know what is happening, I’ll have Rindy back with me.”

“Ok- well what do you need me to do?” Garcia felt helpless.

“I need a tracker that I can put in Rindy’s bookbag, just in case.  And while I’m gone, find me everything you can about this missing van.  As soon as Dannie and Phil land, I want to know.  Tell them to take pictures of everything, just like Therese would! They need to think like she would think!”

“He should have let you go with them.” Garcia said softly.

“No, Hotch was right.  I am too emotional right now.  But I swear to God, Penelope, if anything happens to her…I’ll…I don’t think…”

“Don’t even think like that!” Penelope ran over to her friend and grabbed her hands.  “Therese is smart and strong, and she’ll fight!  She has something, someone, to fight for! And we are going to find her!”

Carol nodded and wiped a single tear from her cheek.  No more tears.  “You’re right.  Thank you, Penelope.” Carol took a deep breath and steeled her emotions.  “Okay, I’m going to go pack up a bag for Rindy, pick her up from school and take her to her grandparents.  I just need that tracker before I go. Hopefully, we’ll have some more answers by the time I get back.”

 

<><><><><> 

 

 

Alone with her thoughts as she drove towards her home, Carol was suddenly overcome with emotion.  She screamed at the top of her lungs and slammed her hand repeatedly down on the steering wheel of her car. She let all of the pent-up anger and frustration out and to the surface, until all that was left was her guilt.

Abby had been strong, too, right?  Abby was a fighter, wasn’t she?  So why was she killed? Was it that Carol hadn’t left her with anything to fight for? She thought of all the other woman and blamed herself for them as well.  I should have seen it.  Should have known who he was and what he was doing! I told myself to keep her safe, to protect her.  I should have stayed away! This is all my fault.

“Don’t be a stupe.”

Carol swerved off the road and nearly hit a guard rail.  Her analytical mind was at a loss for what was happening.  Sitting next to her in the passenger seat of the car was Abby, clear as day.  Never one to believe in religion or spiritual crap, Carol slammed on the breaks and pulled her car over.  She opened and closed her eyes repeatedly, but the vision beside her sat unmoving.  “Oh God…I’m have a psychotic break! I’ve lost my mind!”

“Ha! I knew that long before any of this happened!” The vision of Abby spoke.  She sounded just like her, so real. 

“Whaa…how…I don’t understand…” Carol was shaking her head.

“Don’t overanalyze it kid.  I’m in your mind- this is all in your mind.” She waved her hands around herself. “But you need help, so here I am.  Let me be the voice of reason and I’ll start by reminding you that this wasn’t your fault.  It was his fault.”

“But I—”

“Blah, Blah, Blah.  Coulda, shoulda, woulda.  You know damn well that there was no way for you to know.  Harge didn’t start killing people until after the divorce and that is on him! He chose to react that way! People get divorced every day; they don’t go around killing because of it.  HE did this!”

“You’re right.” Carol spoke to her imaginary friend. 

“I’m always right.  Now, tell me about this girl.” Imaginary Abby smirked at her with her usual shit-eating grin and Carol couldn’t help but smile.

“If you’re in my head, you already know all about her.” 

“I do! And she’s a catch, Carol! Do me a favor and don’t let her go.” Imaginary Abby suddenly looked very serious.  “When this is over and you have her home, love her completely.  Don’t hold back because of what happened with me.  Can you do that?”

“I’ll never let her go again.” Carol whispered softly.

“Ok, don’t be all stalker, psycho on me.  The girl will still have a job and such.” The vision of Abby laughed.

Carol sighed and felt the tears welling again. “I miss you, Abby.”

“Stop it, you nitwit.  I’m always with you, living rent free in your mind apparently.  Now, get it together, Carol Aird.  You are one of the best profilers out there and it is time for you to go to work and do what you do best.  Find and catch the bad guys!”

“Ok.” Carol looked down at the steering wheel and closed her eyes tight.  She let out a deep, heavy sigh and when she looked back up, her vision of Abby was gone.  She gripped the wheel, set her jaw, and finally focused her mind.  “I will find you my sweet, beautiful, brilliant girl.  Just hold on.” 

Chapter Text

Carol pulled up to the Aird estate with Rindy in her car seat in the back.  “Mommy, where do you have to go again?”

“Honestly, sweet pea, I’m not sure yet.  I may have to go to a bunch of places this time.” She turned off the engine and used the rearview mirror to look back at her beautiful daughter.

“But you will be back soon, right?” Carol noticed a hesitancy in Rindy that was not normally there when she had to leave for work.

“As soon as I possibly can, my love. Can you get yourself unfastened?”

“Yeah.” She unbuckled herself from her seat. “Will Therese be going with you to catch the bad guy?”

Carol took a breath to steady herself as she felt her heart drop.  “Yes.”  She hated to lie to her daughter, but she knew that the truth would be too much for Rindy to understand or process. 

“And you will call me every night?” There it was again.

“Rindy, are you okay with staying with your grandparents this week?  You seem a little worried.”  Carol turned in her seat and looked back at her daughter.  “Has something happened? You know you can tell me anything.”

“No mommy…it’s just I really miss you when you are gone.” The seven-year-old looked down at her shoes and Carol felt her heart melt in her chest. With everything that had happened over the past few years, Carol knew the only reason she survived any of it was her daughter.  She was Carol’s main source of strength and her light in a world that could get incredibly dark.

She reached back and lifted her chin. “I will miss you too, my sweet girl.  I will call you every single chance I get, ok?  I promise.”

Rindy seemed to settle with that and smiled as Carol got out and walked around to open her door.  “Don’t forget your back-pack, sweet pea.  I put all your favorite things in there.” Along with a tracker to keep you safe and on my radar, she thought to herself.

“Got it!” Rindy jumped out and ran to the front door as Carol grabbed her suitcase and followed behind her.  Jennifer Aird greeted them from the door.  “Hello Nerinda. You look very pretty today.” She ran her hands through Rindy’s blonde curls. “We should see about getting you a haircut this week, hmmm?”

Rindy was oblivious to the backhanded compliment, but Carol recognized it immediately and felt her hands ball into fists. “Hello Grandmother! Where is Papa?”

“He is in the study waiting for you.” She smiled in a sickeningly sweet way that Carol instantly recognized as fake. 

“Where is Ms. Florence? Can she make me some cookies?” Rindy asked excitedly.

Carol watched as Jennifer Aird’s body language stiffened.  “Florence had to take some time off, but your grandfather and I can help you make them.  Run inside now, dear.  I need a quick word with your mother.”

Rindy turned and gave her mother a big hug and a kiss.  “Bye mommy! I love you! Good luck catching the bad guy and tell Therese I said hi and I can’t wait to beat her at Mario Cart again!”  Like a flash she was gone, running to find her grandfather.

As soon as the young girl was out of earshot, Jennifer’s fake warmth dissipated, replaced with a disapproving sneer. “Therese? That must be the person Harge spoke of. Do you really think is it appropriate to bring your little flings around my granddaughter?”

The wheels in Carol’s mind started to turn.  Confirmed, Harge knew Carol was seeing Therese.  There was no way it was a coincidence that she was taken Sunday.  How could he have known about that unless he was following her.  Carol avoided speaking of Therese, refusing to take the bait. “I take it Harge is out of town? He didn’t mention any upcoming travel when we spoke last, so thank you for keeping her while I’m working.” Carol attempted to keep the conversation polite in the hopes of gathering more information, but Jennifer cut her off.

“I should thank you for finally letting us spend time with her.” Her voice was filled with venom.

Carol rolled her eyes, refusing to give in to Jennifer’s manipulations.  “You just had her for a week earlier this month.” They stared coldly at each other.  “Anyway, I hope to wrap this up by week’s end.  Thank you again for keeping her and I will check in with her each night.”

“You don’t need to thank me for being a good grandparent, Carol.” She started to turn to go into the house, but Carol spoke again.

“And you’ll have no problems getting her to and from school while Florence is gone?” The discomfort crossed Jennifer’s face again.

“We are more than capable of getting Nerinda to where she needs to be.” She quickly spun on her heels and closed the door in Carol’s face.

Carol walked back to her car and immediately called Garcia.  “Carol? How did it go? Is Rindy settled?”

“I need all the information you can get me on Florence Wesley, the Aird family’s housekeeper.”

“Oooh-kay. Why?”

“Because for the first time in the ten years I’ve known her, she wasn’t at work today and Jennifer Aird flinched at the mere mention of her name, so I need her address, Pen.  I’m going straight there.”

She heard Garcia typing, followed shortly by a ping on her phone.  “Sent, but couldn’t she just be sick or something?”

“It is possible, but I have to trust my instincts, and based on Jennifer’s reaction, it is more than just being sick.”

“Ok then! Well I’m glad you called because I just got word from Dannie and Phil. Forensics is processing the car, but they said there were no obvious signs of violence. I mean there was no blood or anything.  That’s good right?” There was so much hope in her voice.

“Let’s hope so.  I’ll call you after I speak with Florence.”

 

<><><><><> 

 

It was a small, two-bedroom apartment in an older outdated complex just outside of Alexandria.  Carol rolled her eyes.  She knew that the Aird’s paid Florence’s housing expense as part of her salary and with all of their wealth they could have found a much nicer apartment that was closer to their house. Of course, Jennifer was never known to be anything resembling generous.  How Florence had managed to stay with that family for so long, Carol would never understand.  

Carol approached her apartment on the second floor and knocked.  She could hear the shuffling of movement behind the door, but it did not open.  “Florence? I know you are there. It’s Carol and I need to speak with you. It’s important,” she stressed.

The door cracked open, and Carol could see a fragment of the older woman’s face.  Florence was wearing an unseasonable black turtleneck sweater, and it was much too warm for that.  “What do you need Ms. Aird?” Her soft voice croaked, and it was clearly painful for her to speak.

“I’m sorry to bother you while you are on vacation, but I need to speak with you regarding a family matter.  May I come in?” Carol had stressed the word vacation on purpose to get a reaction, and it worked. Florence huffed at the word and the door opened a little further.  Carol now had a full view of the woman and her eyes instantly found a dark purple mark just above the neck of her sweater. “Are you alright? Has something happened?”

“I’m fine,” she struggled.  “What did you need to discuss?” She tried to swallow, but it was difficult.

“It’s about Harge.  Something has happened and I need…” Carol stopped as Florence’s face reflected a mix of fear and anger. “What happened to your neck, Florence?”

“Nu…nothing.” Florence stuttered and turned away from Carol, wincing in pain.  “It was just a stupid accident.” She moved to pull the neck of the sweater up higher to her chin, but Carol quickly moved around her, entering the apartment, and stopping her hands.  “Let me see.”

Florence hesitated and then realized there was no use in fighting it.  Carol had seen enough to be suspicious.  She slowly lowered the sweater and the full picture came into view. There were dark purple and blue finger marks wrapped all around the older woman’s throat.

Carol’s eyes went wide with horror.  “Did Harge do that to you?”

Florence jerked away and moved to cross the room, putting space between her and the other woman.  “I told you it was an accident!” She walked over to the front door and went to open it back up to escort her unwanted guest out, but Carol was too fast, blocking the door with her arm.   

“Are you trying to tell me that Harge accidentally choked you?” Her eyes narrowed. “Because those are clearly handprints.”

Florence was silent, staring forward.  She tried to pull the door open again, but Carol was too strong.

“Fine.  We’ll do this another way.” The color faded from Carol’s eyes, which were now an ice-cold grey.  “You can answer my questions here and now, or I will take you to Quantico and you can answer them there.  Your choice.” Carol stood up taller, asserting herself over the smaller woman.

It worked. All the fight left Florence’s body and she moved away from the door.  She slumped down into her old couch, covered in yellow and orange flowers.  “You don’t understand.  If Mrs. Aird finds out I talked to you, I will lose my job, my apartment, everything. She has all the power Ms. Aird. I cannot betray the family.”

“Ah yes, Jennifer Aird and her demands for loyalty.  Too bad she doesn’t return it.” Carol sat down next to her and placed a comforting hand on Florence’s.  “Listen, I can protect you, but you need to tell me everything that happened.”

Florence went over the options in her mind.  At this point, it was too late to hide it from Carol and there was no way Mrs. Aird didn’t have someone watching her apartment.  There was no choice but to put her faith in Carol.  She nodded slowly.  “Alright.”  Florence explained everything that happened that night as Carol listened and used her camera to take pictures.  It would be too late to get touch DNA, but assuming Florence would testify, they would not need it. 

While she listened, Carol couldn’t help but imagine Harge with his hands wrapped around her or Rindy’s neck, around Abby’s neck, and then around Therese.  He had murdered all those women and clearly felt no remorse.  There was no doubt that he planned on killing Therese.  Another frightening thought dawned in Carol’s mind.  This was the endgame for him.  Harge had lost control in front of his mother and Florence, which meant other people had seen his darkness and imperfection and his narcissism wouldn’t let that stand. He always needed to be perfect in the eyes of others, and now that had been taken from him.  In his mind, there would be nothing left to lose and would use Therese as his last stand.  

Carol stood and moved swiftly to the door.  “Florence, thank you for your help.  I will have agents here shortly to guard your door.  We will make sure you have everything you need until this is settled, so please do not contact the Aird family in any way.  Do you understand? I will call you later this evening.”

Florence nodded and Carol was sprinting out the door and to her car.  She called Hotch as she sped back towards Quantico.

“Carol, we just got settled in the office. Officers are heading back from his hotel now with Harge.”

“I have news, Hotch!  Make sure they read him his rights! You have grounds for arrest!”

“Explain.” Hotch said calmly and Carol described in detail everything that Florence had told her about that night.  She forwarded the pictures from her phone.  He listened intently, understanding, but before he could reply, Garcia was breaking into the line on both Hotch and Carol’s phone.  They both clicked over to join the conference call with the entire team.

“We have important news.  Is everyone on the line?” Garcia asked before she continued.

There was a general acknowledgement from everyone on the team.  “Ok, Dannie and Phil- you’re on.”

“We are at the motel and we can confirm that Therese was here.” Phil explained to the group on the call.

“How do you know?” Carol asked in a mixture of worry and excitement.  “Did someone see her?”

“No.  She…well…she left us some physical evidence.  I mean the lab is confirming everything, but we do already have definitive prints on some furniture.  Specifically, the chair legs and the legs of the bed.” Dannie added nervously.

“What on earth made you think to check there?” Gen asked.

“The uh…puddle…on the floor.” Phil said, clearly uncomfortable.

“I’m sorry, what?” Carol needed them to clarify.

“We did what you said, Carol. We took pictures of everything and we’ll send them, but as we were moving around the room, we stepped in it...literally.” Dannie cleared his throat and continued.  “It was urine, so I laid on the floor, next to it, and looked around and tried to think of how she would leave us clues.  We found some prints, though they appear to be reversed, like her hands were behind her or something. The lab is analyzing the liquids now to confirm, but we’re fairly certain.”

There was silence on the phone lines as everyone processed what they were saying.  Carol could picture it in her mind, how her hands would be tied behind her back, lying on the floor.  Hotch finally broke the awkward silence from the group.  “What about the van? Garcia?”

“Oh yeah, Ford, white, rusted fender.  Looks like he switched out the tags, though.  Going to make it a little harder to track.” Garcia noted for the group. “The highway patrol is searching, along with local police.”

“So, we are still assuming he was travelling to meet Harge in Minneapolis?” J.J. asked the group. 

“I had a thought about that, but I need to confirm it. Garcia, can you pull up his travel history, rental car history, and if possible, the mileage on those cars?" "The mileage might take a minute, but I should be able to. Why?" she asked. "I just have a hunch that make help us build a geographic profile," Carol explained.

“Good,” Hotch answered.  “Once we have Harge in interrogation, I’m confident J.J. and Gen will be able to get the answers from him.” 

Harge always thought he was smarter than any women in the room, but now that Carol had explained everything that had happened with Florence and his mother, Hotch had his number and would use his weaknesses against him.  Carol couldn’t help but smile a little and wished she could be there to see him crumble. 

Chapter Text

The van was better than the trunk of her car at least, but Therese no longer had any feeling in her arms or legs.  It was good to no longer feel so much pain, but she knew that the longer her limbs remained numb, the more long-term damage was being done. At this point, fighting back would be near impossible.  Tommy had replaced the gag and the blindfold before lugging her body out to the new vehicle earlier that morning.  He had commented on her wet state and the smell, but he made no move to change her clothes.  Therese was initially grateful that he had refrained from drugging her again, though as she laid there lost in her thoughts, she started to reconsider that.  Right now the oblivion offered by the Rohypnol might actually be welcome.

For a while, Therese had tried to listen for clues and to pay attention for any sign of a location, but it was too difficult to keep up with any sense of direction from her prone position in the back.  A darkness was overcoming her mind and she felt herself wanting to give up. She was trying so hard to stay alert, to keep her wits about her, but the longer they drove, the further away she felt from safety, from home, from Carol.  The dark thoughts would enter her mind that no one would find her, and she would fight to push them out. 

Her mind wandered to all the dead women and the pictures flashed in her visual cortex of the crime scenes.  She tried to make it all make sense with what she now knew about Tommy.  She was right about the two unsubs, Harge and Tommy.  Carol had been right about one being dominant and one subordinate, but it didn’t quite fit with what she was seeing.  If Tommy wasn’t the killer, and if he was waiting for Harge, then surely he was the subordinate one. If Tommy was the rapist, why hadn’t the woman in Baltimore been raped?  That would mean that Harge had acted alone, but why? Had he planned that? Or maybe Tommy was setting Harge up? Therese also wondered why Tommy hadn’t attacked her yet. Why was he waiting for Harge to assault her? It all pointed back to the dominant/subordinate idea.

She was thinking in circles now.  Her brain needed more information.  She needed to hear them speak to one another, or to see some interaction.  Of course, the minute that the two of them were together meant that she would die.  One thing that was clear to Therese was that Tommy was getting increasingly frustrated the further they drove.  He was waiting for something and she assumed it was something from Harge.  Tommy said they were going to Iowa.  Why the hell were they going to Iowa?  What was there aside from corn fields? That didn’t make sense either.  All the other murders had been in big cities.  Were there any big cities in Iowa?  She tried to picture a map, but couldn’t. 

“We’ll stop soon.”  Tommy finally spoke for the first time in hours. She couldn’t respond, so she just laid there, feeling cold and numb, her mind circling back around to wanting oblivion.

 

<><><><><> 

 

Hargess Aird was calm and smiling as officers led him to the interrogation room, removing his handcuffs.  He said nothing, but looked around at the grey walls, metal table and chair, and the obvious two-way glass on the wall.  He was certain that Carol was behind the glass, so he stared her down as he took a seat at the table.  He couldn’t wait to face her, to torment her, so he was slightly taken aback when Special Agents Genevieve Cantrell and Jennifer Jareau entered the room, introduced themselves and laid out several file folders on the table.  Ridiculous to delay the inevitable, Carol, he thought to himself.  This was a waste of time. Women were so easy to manipulate.  There was no way they could connect him to any of this, of that he was certain.  This was all a game and he was smarter than both of these cunts.

“Mr. Aird,” Gen began politely as she sat in a chair directly across from him, “Did the police read you your rights? Do you know why you were brought in today?”

He smiled at both of them.  “Yes and I can’t say as I do, but I imagine my ex-wife has something to do with it.”

Gen and J.J. looked briefly at each other, but said nothing, before turning back to Harge.  “Why do you think that?” J.J. asked.  She smiled at him and batted her eyes. 

Is this bitch flirting with me? Harge thought for a moment before returning her smile.  “You know how exes can be.”

Gen opened a case file and slowly pulled out 5 photos, turning them so he could see.  “Do you recognize any of these women?”

He didn’t look down at the pictures, choosing instead to maintain eye contact. “Should I?”

The women waited silently, staring.  Several minutes passed before Harge’s impatience got the better of him and without looking down he slammed his hand down on one of the pictures. “That is Abby Gerhardt, she was friends with my wife.”

“Ex-wife.” J.J. corrected him and his jaw clenched.  He did not like being corrected by a woman, his body language made that clear.

“What about the others?” J.J. continued.

Again, he never lowered his eyes to look at the pictures.  “No,” he lied.  “I mean one of them isn’t even a face. How could I recognize someone based on pictures of a neck?”

“Well I think it would be easy to recognize your handy work on someone you know.” Gen let the corners of her mouth curl up slightly as awareness hit Harge.

“What did that old woman say?” He let out in an outburst.  “Florence is lying! Mother was there, she will tell you!”

The women waited for Harge to calm back down before continuing. “Thank you for confirming you recognize Florence Wesley and know about what happened to her.” J.J. said smoothly. 

Gen was laughing now.

“What’s so funny, bitch?” Harge snarled.

“I’m sorry, but did you just say your mommy was there?” She leaned forward to taunt him further.  “Do you still live with your mom? You’re what…40? I mean that’s pretty pathetic.”

His face was now a dark red color and his blood pressure increased.  “I moved back home temporarily after the divorce.  It allowed me to spend time with my daughter,” he growled.

“Oh yes, Rindy.” J.J. picked up where Gen left off in humiliating Harge.  “Tell me, why did you lose your parental rights again? Is there a reason you need help caring for her?  I mean…are you incapable of being a good father?”  She tilted her head and smiled at him again.

Harge leaned back in his chair, and crossed his arms.  He realized they were toying with him and he needed to stop responding. The women stopped laughing and the room got serious again. 

“Look, Mr. Aird, I’m not going to mince words with you.  We know you were involved in the death of Abigail Gerhardt, Renee’ Collins, Amy Young, Sandra Cuevas, and Amanda Robbins.  We also know that you were involved in the disappearance of Agent Therese Belivet.” Gen said as she pointed to different pictures on the table.

“Who?” He played dumb.

“Help us with the return of Agent Belivet and we can work out a deal.” J.J. offered.

“You know ladies, I am a master of the deal and right now, from what I see, you don’t have anything to offer…nothing I need.  If you had any evidence, I’d be in jail, not sitting here making small talk with you.” He turned his eyes over to Gen, “So why don’t you go get me a drink, coffee with two creams?” He smirked.

Gen understood he was trying to reassert himself as the dominant alpha male in the room.  He needs to feel powerful and we emasculated him all too easily. She stood and walked across the room towards the door. “I think all we have is hot cocoa, seems more appropriate anyway.”

J.J. stood, gathering all of the files, saving the photo of Abby for last.  Aaron Hotchner knocked and waited a couple of seconds before opening the door.  He could read the disappointment on Harge’s face; he was still waiting for Carol.

“J.J. we just got word that the warrants came through.” She nodded and looked back at Harge.  “Do you know what that means?” Harge didn’t respond.  “It means we now have the right to search your personal belongings, cell phone records, business records, and financial records.  This is your last chance to share any information willingly to help yourself.”

He looked past her to the mirror, still believing Carol was behind it.  “Fuck you.”

J.J. joined Gen and Hotch in the hall.  “Well that was fruitless.”

“On the contrary, he never actually professed his innocence.  An innocent man would have fought the allegations, declared that he didn’t do it.  He never even tried.  Now we just need to find the evidence to actually connect him to the murders.  In the meantime, we can still take him back to Virginia and arrest him for the assault, but we won’t be able to hold him once he’s processed.  He’ll make bail easily.”

Hotch pulled out his phone and called Garcia.  “Speak to me, oh fearless leader!”

“Garcia, I need you to do a deeper dive than you already have.  Focus on any and all records in the days leading up to Therese’s abduction.  Look for any texts, calls, or social media of any kind.  He is communicating with his partner somehow and we need to find it.”

“Yes sir!”  She hung up and went to work just as Carol returned and entered her office.

“Anything new?”

“Agents have been assigned to Florence’s apartment; warrants came through; and I’ve pulled up all the information you asked for.  I’m going back through everything and could use your help.  You would know better than me if something is odd.”

Carol sat down next to Garcia. “You are amazing, Penelope. Ok let’s start with the geographic profile.  Pull up his travel locations around the times of the murders on a map for me.”

Within seconds the information was on a screen in front of them.  “Do you see it?” carol asked. 

“See what? They don’t match….wait a minute.” Garcia’s mind started to catch up.  “It’s like he was next door!”

“Exactly.  The murder in New York, Harge was in New Jersey; the Philly murder he was in Atlantic City and so on.  If you pull up his rental car records, I’m betting the mileage will correspond with him driving to the actual murder location and back!”

“Carol Aird you are a freaking genius!” Penelope was giddy for about a second and a half before her face fell.  “How did we miss this?”

“He was far enough away to not make it obvious.” Carol explained.

“Ok, now it is my turn to wow.  I figured out he was paying for the rental cars on a business account and that got me thinking, what if he is using that account to pay for other things?  And I may have found something.  Is there a reason a real estate developer would need a private web server?” Garcia said in her super speedy way.

Carol shook her head. “I can’t think of one.”

“If I can break in to his server, I may be able to find how they’ve been communicating, but I’ll need a few minutes.  While I do that, can you look over all of these phone numbers?  Tell me what numbers you recognize and which you don’t.”

Carol was scrolling through a long list of numbers dialed out of Harge’s phone.  She had to look up a few, but most were either family, office, or travel related, but there was one that didn’t come up on her search.  “This number, Pen.  It doesn’t come up when I do a search and I don’t recognize it.”

“Probably to a burner phone, hold on.” She twisted over to a second computer and started typing furiously.  “Carol! That’s it!” She screamed.  “This phone is on and while I can only track as it pings off of different towers, it is clearly going west! This has to be him! I can give the cops the most reason road he was on!”

“Wait! Garcia, hold on.” Carol had to scream over her to get her attention. “When you send the information, tell them to track and follow at a distance!  They are NOT to engage!”

“What? Why? Carol they could get her.” Penelope was at a loss.

“If they stop that van, he’ll kill Therese and then himself.  He isn’t going to let himself be taken alive.  We need him to believe everything is going to plan and then we can set a trap.”

“Okay, but are you sure?”

“We profiled him as the subordinate partner.  He wouldn’t risk disappointing Harge, so yeah, I’m sure.”

“I think we need to call Hotch.”

“Absolutely.”  Carol pulled out her phone and filled Aaron in on everything they had found in the past thirty minutes. 

“So we know the general area, but not his exact location?” Hotch asked.

“It’s a burner, so the best I can do is triangulate based on pings, but as long as the phone stays on, I should be able to track the van.”

“Carol’s right about his state of mind.  I’ll have J.J. contact the local precincts and highway patrol.  If they find him, they need to keep their distance until we can get there.  Garcia, send me that phone number, as well.  I have an idea.”

Carol’s eye’s lit up, as if reading his mind.  “You have Harge’s phone!”

“I do.” He acknowledge. “Where does it look like they are heading?” Harge asked.

“I mean, his last ping was south of Chicago.  Iowa? Maybe?” Garcia guessed.

“Carol, using what you know about how far he would typically travel from your profile, tell me what is close.”

She looked on the map she and Garcia had already pulled up for reference.  “Cedar Rapids? Des Moines?”

“Des Moines is larger and we have a field office there.  I’ll call them. Garcia, is there any way to see any of the past messages?  I want to send his partner a message, but we have to word this right or he’ll know we’re on to him.”

“I can’t see the messages on the burner.  I can contact the cell company on Harge’s phone, but it’s going to take some time.”

“Do it. If we can get him to meet us where we are ready and waiting, we’ll have a better chance of saving her, but we’re only going to get one chance at this,” Hotch explained.

“Hotch, have you had any luck with breaking Harge?” Carol finally asked. She knew that J.J. and Gen were incredibly skilled profilers and both were excellent interrogators, but she worried Harge would shut down since he wasn’t speaking directly to her.

“We’ve made progress.  I’m about the send Gen and J.J. back in and we’ll do our best to see if they had already had a planned location to meet.  In the meantime, I need you both on a plane to Iowa.  Get to the field office and help get them ready.  We’ll need S.W.A.T., and recon.  You know I can’t let you into the field, Carol, but I know you’ll want to be close by when we go in.”

“Thank you, Hotch.”

“Don’t thank me yet.  Let’s get her back safely first.  Send me those text messages as soon as you get them, Garcia.”

Hotch hung up and both women stood to leave.  “Wait, what about that private server?” Carol reminded Penelope.

“We can pull it up on the plane. Let’s go! Wheel’s up!” She could help but giggle. “I’ve always wanted to say that.”

Chapter Text

Therese landed on the floor of the motel room with a thud and knew there would be a bruise on her arm and leg later. 

“You know, for such a petite girl, you’re still heavy.” Tommy sat for a minute, tired.  “I’m going to go out and get us something to eat.  Don’t try anything.  I’ll remove the gag when I get back.” He leaned down closer to whisper in her ear. “I swear, if you even think about trying to escape, I’ll not only kill Carol, but I’ll take my time killing that beautiful daughter of hers as well.”

Therese wanted to scream, to strangle him, to beat him bloody with her bare hands, the hands she couldn’t feel, but all she could do was lay there on the floor, helpless.  She heard the room to the door open and close and she lay still, weighing her options.  She was too dehydrated to leave another mess and unless Tommy moved her closer to the furniture like last time, they was no way to leave prints.  She rubbed her head against the carpet until the blindfold shifted enough for her to see.  The room was dark, but she could make out one double beds, a dresser with an old tube television, and a small brown chair in the corner.  She imagined picked up the TV and smashing it over his head as it appeared to be the only thing in the room that could be used as a weapon. 

She closed her eyes and tried to picture Carol, but it was getting harder and harder to see the images in her mind’s eye.  Blonde waves, blue eyes, red lips, long fingers…beautiful, but hazy.  She could almost hear Rindy giggling in her ears.  No, she wouldn’t let anything happen to either of them.  One way or another, she would fight her way out of this and she would protect them.  That single thought started to play over and over in her mind; protect Carol and Rindy, no matter what.  She knew without a single doubt that she would die for them, but by God she was going to take this lunatic with her if she did!

The door opened and closed and Therese realized she was easily losing track of time.  How long had she been there on the floor? The blindfold was quickly removed and she could once again see his face.  He waved the gun in front of her eyes.  “I’m going to untie you.  I know I said I wouldn’t, but honestly, the smell is bothering me, so I went to the dollar store and bought you some clothes. I’m going to untie you and you are going to take a shower and then we are going to eat something.  Then I’ll tie you back up.  If you cooperate, I’ll be nicer with the knots.  Nod your head for me if you understand.”

Therese nodded slowly as she looked into his cold eyes. 

He moved behind her and held the gun to her head.  “I mean it.  One false move and I will not only end your life, but theirs as well.”  He started with the knots at her feet and then moved up to the ones at her wrists.  When he was done, he stood up and took a step away, gun aimed, waiting for her to try to run.  Her arms and legs were free, but she struggled to move them.  The pain flared back up every time she tried and then the pins and needles started in her extremities and it was excruciating.  She wanted to cry, but held it back, unwilling to give this asshole the satisfaction.  It took about 20 minutes, but eventually Therese was able to move into a seated position. 

“Shower, then food.” He watched her.

“Where are we?” She asked, her throat dry and hurting. 

“Some shit town in Illinois.” He answered, clearly annoyed that she wasn’t moving fast enough. 

She noticed that overall his demeanor had changed.  Their first night he was almost sweet in some ways, but now he was irritable, angry, or maybe overly stressed.  She wasn’t sure just yet.  She moved to stand, but found it difficult.  Tommy made no moves to help her, so she leaned on the bed for support.  She saw the stack of cheap clothing, grey sweatpants, a black t-shirt, and some white panties.  She picked them up slowly and started to walk to the bathroom. Her heart dive-bombed into her stomach when she realized he was following her. 

“Are you…are you going to watch me?” She got angry at herself when she heard her voice shake.

“Of course I am.  I’m not taking any chances.  I mean you can wash behind the curtain, but I’m going to watch you take off your clothes then I will toss them. Now go ahead.”

Therese wasn’t sure what was more uncomfortable, being tied up for days or having a sexual pervert watch her undress, but he didn’t seem phased by her actions.  She noticed that he showed no signs of arousal as he watched her and she filed that information into her mind. Therese turned on the water, making it as hot as she could stand it and climbed in the shower, pulling the shower curtain closed.  The water was stinging against the rub burns on her wrists and ankles, but overall it felt wonderful.  She looked around, but only found the small cheap bottles of shampoo and conditioner.  Nothing she could use as a weapon. 

“Hurry up.” His voice said from the other side of the curtain.  “Your food is getting cold and I need to rest.”

“Are…are we still going to meet Harge in Iowa?” She called as she ran the shampoo quickly through her hair. 

He didn’t answer.  She needed to get him to open back up to her and to relax if she had any hope of surviving this.  “That’s what you said before,” she continued. “Are we close? It feels like we’ve been driving for days.”

Silence. She sighed and used the cheap soap to lather her body.  Could they get DNA off her soap? No, but she needed to leave them something.  Something Carol could find, but Tommy would miss.  She pulled out a few strands of her hair and rested them on the side of the tub.  It was a start, but she needed more.

She turned off the water and peeked around the curtain. “Could I have a towel?”

Tommy handed her a cheap, plain, white motel towel and she quickly dried off behind the curtain.  Then it dawned on her.  Therese took a deep breath, held it, and bit down as hard as she could on her tongue until she tasted blood.  She used the towel to wipe out the blood from her mouth and then carefully wrapped the towel around her in a way that he wouldn’t be able to see it.  She stepped out the shower and walked past him quickly and dressed as fast as she could, all the while feeling his eyes on her.  The clothes were loose on her small frame, but they would do.  She went to walk back into the bathroom but he stopped her.  “Where are you going?”

“I was just going to hang the towel back up in the bathroom.”

“Just toss it on the floor.  That’s how they know to clean them.”  He grabbed the towel and threw it into the corner.  Therese prayed that he didn’t see the red stains. 

“Sit down.  I got you burger and some fries and a bottle of water.” 

Therese felt her stomach lurch at the idea of eating a fast-food burger, but she was too hungry to pay attention to her inner vegetarian.  Maybe it will cause me to puke, she thought.  More evidence.

She sat quietly in the chair and ate her food, while Tommy gathered her dirty clothes into a trash bag.  He then sat on the bed and watched her finish her meal.  She needed a way back in to his mind, something that would get him to open back up and lower his guard.  “You aren’t eating anything?”

“I ate on the way back from picking it up.” His voice sounded stale.

“Thank you for getting it.” She smiled weakly.  “How much longer will we be driving?” Polite conversation seemed the easiest bet on getting him to talk to her.

“We’ll make it by tomorrow.”

She heard his phone buzz and he looked down and frowned.  “About fucking time.”

“Was that Harge? He gave you your orders?” She tried to phrase the question in a way to get a reaction, and it worked.

“I told you he’s not my boss!” Tommy raised his voice and started pacing the room. “He only thinks he is!”

“Tommy, you know you don’t have to do this. You don’t have to do what he says. I know you aren’t a murderer.”

He laughed out loud as he head flew back.  “You think you know me Agent Belivet? You spend two days tied up next to me and somehow you can read my fucking mind?”

Therese shook her head, “No, I just meant, we know that Harge murdered the women Tommy, not you.” She tried to explain, but he was up in her face before she could finish.  He grabbed what was left of her food and threw it across the room. 

“I didn’t seem to have a problem with murdering that woman in Baltimore!”

“That was you? But we saw the video footage of the bar.  We thought…” Therese was legitimately confused, but she hoped he would explain.

“You thought what I wanted you to think! You know it really amazes me how stupid people can be!”

Tommy was clearly on a role now and Therese just sat back and let him rant, taking it all in.  “I mean, take Harge.  He really thought he was in control this whole time! He thought he was manipulating me, letting me leave evidence all over while he left nothing…always in gloves and being so careful! But that was why I did that girl in Baltimore! I set him up, you see?  Oh I know that if they catch me I’ll go down for the other girls, but I’m taking him with me! I’ve watched him, too, you know.  It’s what I do, I watch, I copy, I mimic! There was no evidence of me that night, but I made it look the same.”

Therese was starting to make sense of it, as best she could.  Tommy really thought he had somehow turned the tables on Harge with the murder in Baltimore.  “That was smart, Tommy. We did think it was him.  Even Carol saw the video and thought it was Harge.” She tried stroked his ego.

He smirked and sat back on the bed, feeling calmer. “He thinks I’m stupid, but he’s the dumb one. He’s the one that got caught.” Something flashed in Tommy’s eyes.

“What? How do you know he got caught? Didn’t he just text you?”

“Because I can see.  I see everyone.  I watched you, I watched Carol, and I watched him, too.”

Awareness was again dawning on Therese.  “You are tracking him?”

Tommy looked down at his phone.  “I assume this message isn’t actually from him, but from your fellow agents.  Des Moines and the name and address of a motel. We aren’t going there by the way.” His smile was growing larger.  “I think it’s time for me to rest.  I’m going to be nice and tie you to that chair for the night.  Gag goes back in, can’t risk you screaming.”

She didn’t resist as he tied her hands to the armrests and her legs to the chair legs.  Honestly, it was more comfortable than she’d been in days, so she wouldn’t give him any reason to change his mind. Once she was tied and gagged, he left her to shower and then he quickly went to bed. 

Thanks to the food and water, Therese could feel her brain starting to fire on all cylinders again.  She started working to put it all together in her mind.  Tommy murdered the woman in Baltimore while pretending to be Harge.  His personality changes were stark and quick, but he wasn’t a schizophrenic and showed no signs of Dissociative Identity Disorder.  No, it was more like he lacked a clear personality of his own at all. He also admitted that it was his sperm all over the other murdered women and Therese had to bite back the wave of nausea that hit her as she realized he was a Necrophiliac.  That’s why he hadn’t assaulted her yet.  He couldn’t have sex unless the woman was dead. But why not kill her and then do it? Especially now that he knew Harge had been taken into custody.  What was he waiting for?

She struggled to make sense of his motives and then remembered something David Rossi had said in one of her training classes.  They were learning about the serial killer Tommy Yates and someone in the class had mentioned that the how and why of the murders didn’t make any sense.  Rossi had replied, “It only has to make sense to him.” She realized now how true that was.  Whatever his motive for keeping her alive made perfect sense to him, but she was going to have to figure it out.

At least Harge had been caught and that meant that her team couldn’t be too far behind.  Carol would be able to break him easy enough, of that she was sure, but now that Tommy knew it wasn’t Harge that sent the message, would they be able to find them.  For the first time since being taken, Therese truly realized the danger she was in.  Yes, Tommy was capable of murder and sexual assault.  The chances of her team finding her in time were slim and she would have to find a way out of this on her own.

Chapter Text

Carol sat staring out the plane window as Penelope worked at her laptop in frustration.  “The Wi-Fi up here isn’t great, so it’s taking me longer to get to anything.”

“I know you are doing the best you can.” Carol replied.  She found mind wandering and was trying to remember the day and time. It was dark, but she wasn’t sure if it was night or morning or something in between.  Time had lost all meaning.  She hadn’t slept in a while, that much she knew.  She tried to figure out what day it was by putting everything in some sort of sequence.  Sunday afternoon was heaven.  Monday morning, Therese was gone.  Rindy taken to the Airds, Monday afternoon? Was that right?  Harge was in custody, Monday afternoon? Or was it Monday night?  Had it only been 24 hours?  None of it felt right.

“Pen?” Carol asked tentatively.

She looked up from her laptop, “Yeah?”

“What day is it?” Carol didn’t turn her head, remaining fixated on the darkness outside.

“It’s Tuesday.”  She said as if it was the simplest thing ever.

Carol shook her head. “That can’t be right.” Had she lost a day somewhere?

“You’re exhausted, Carol. We’ve been going non-stop since Monday morning. I think you should try to close your eyes and take a nap and reset your internal clock or something like that.”

“He’s had her for 2 days?” A look a horror crossed Carol’s face.

“Well, I mean technically it’s Tuesday morning and he took her Sunday night, so more like a day and a half.” She desperately wanted to make Carol feel better but was clearly failing. 

“So much has happened, is happening...” Carol could feel the physical and mental exhaustion overtaking her body.  “but I can’t sleep until I find her.”

“You can’t do anything from up here and apparently, neither can I,” she said slamming the laptop shut.  “So, we should be rest. We’ll be in Iowa in about an hour and I’m sure you know some psychological research about sleep deprivation.  A nap will help us both.”  When Carol didn’t move, Garcia stood up and went to sit across from the blonde agent.  “You’re no good to her if you are sick and exhausted.  Just try for me, okay?” She leaned forward and turned off the cabin lights above them. 

Carol closed her eyes and listened to the constant hum of the plane’s engines, willing herself to sleep. She wasn’t sure if she actually fell asleep, but Carol knew she didn’t feel rested at all when the cabin lights came back on and the captain announced their final approach. 

 

A little over an hour later Penelope and Carol were walking into the FBI field office in Des Moines, Iowa.  It was a dull and plain two story building and Garcia wondered if they even had working internet.  As they entered, a perky young red-headed agent met them at the door.  “Good morning! My name is Agent Alena Carter and I’ve been assigned to help you while you are here.  Anything you need, just let me know.”

The girl had to be in her early twenties and fresh out of the academy.  She was too eager to please and looking for action.  “I need a Starbucks.” Carol said dryly.  “Do you have those here?”

The agent wasn’t sure if she was serious, but when Carol removed her glasses and the dark circles under her eyes were made present, the agent got her answer. “Yes, ma’am! What would you like?”

Carol and Pen rattled off their orders, both including extra expresso shots as they were led to a conference room and Garcia got her computer connected to the FBI mainframe. “Ok- where were we?”

“Private server, business accounts, and van.” Carol sat across from her at a large conference table.  “I’m going to call Hotch and get an update while you get wired back in.”

SSA Aaron Hotchner answered on the first ring.  “Carol, are you in Iowa?”

“Just arrived, Garcia is setting up now.  Any word?”

“I wish I had better news. By the time the local police made it to the motel, the van was gone. But there is a CSI team there now and I have Phil and Dannie on a plane to oversee.  They should arrive soon.  We are closing in Carol, it’s just a matter of time. Oh and tell Garcia not to worry about the phone messages, it was taking too long so I texted the number.”

“Hotch, what if that was a mistake? What if they had a code or something?” Carol’s heart felt heavy and her voice was shaking.  What if they said something wrong?  What if Therese was already dead?

Carol stood and started moving around the room anxiously, the ‘what ifs’ echoing through her mind.

“I have a van update,” Garcia interrupted and Carol put her phone on speaker.  “They found it! It’s moving again and from the looks of it, heading this way, so they are following at a distance as requested and waiting for us.”

Carol’s head was spinning.  “Any sign of Therese?”

“No.” Penelope sighed.

Just then the young Agent Carter arrived with two large coffee cups declaring she was at their service. “Great.” Carol replied. “I need to speak to the head of the Des Moines S.W.A.T team and I need to speak to the local chief of police. While we have jurisdiction, I don’t want to step on any toes.”

The young agent bounced out of the room while Carol and Penelope returned to their call with Hotch. 

“This is probably the most exciting thing that has ever happened out here.” Penelope said with a smirk.  “OH!” she suddenly hollered, “I think I may have found a way into the server and oh what is this...I think I found...and I might be able to…oh…OH!” Her voice dropped as she stared at the images on her screen, mouth wide open.

Carol came running around the room to see what she had found, but Penelope turned the laptop away from her eyes.  “Ok, before I show this to you, I want to say I’m sorry.”

“Garcia, what is it?” Carol nearly screamed!

“He…uh…well…it’s…” Garcia was clearly uncomfortable.

“Garcia, let Carol see.  Whatever it is, we need to deal with it.” Hotch said calmly over the speaker phone.

Frustrated, Carol grabbed the laptop to see a screen filled with frozen images of her and some of Therese.  “What is this?” She whispered.

“I found it through a link to a web address on the server.  There are videos, hundreds of videos Carol, and if you click on the image you can watch.  Based on the dates and the number of videos, someone has been watching you for years.”

Carol scrolled down to the last video on the screen.  She didn’t need to click on it as she recognized something in the still.  “He recorded us? How could he see into my bedroom?” She said, her voice raspy and cracking.  She felt a fire burning in the pit of her stomach building to a slow burning rage.  If Harge had been there, Carol was sure she would have killed him on the spot. "Jesus Christ." She sat staring at the computer as hundreds of images moved up the screen.  She stopped when she saw images of Rindy. "She's four here.  He's been recording me, us..." Even with the knowledge that the videos were a violation of their privacy, Therese was floating on a screen in front of her, too. She wanted to reach out and click play just to see her face, hear her voice, get any semblance of her alive. "Send this to Hotch."

"Carol are you sure?"

"Just do it and keep looking."

 

 

<><><><><> 

 

“We’ve been here for hours, ladies! Either charge me with something or let me get back to my business dealings.” Harge was more than annoyed.  They had kept him in the interrogation room all night and he was hungry, tired, and feeling royally pissed-off. 

“I don’t think you understand what is happening here, Mr. Aird.  You are being charged in the assault of your housekeeper and we are holding you until we take you back to D.C. with us.” J.J. explained.

“You can’t do that!” Harge screamed! "I'm innocent until proven guilty or some shit like that!"

“Turns out we can,” Gen smiled.  “Oh and we’re tracking your partner.  What are the chances he’s going to turn on you once we bring him in?”

Harge immediately returned to state of quiet.  She said tracking, not caught.  “You know what I think? I think I am going to use my right to remain silent for the remained of the time you hold me and when we get to D.C, my lawyer will be waiting.  In the meantime, I would like something to eat and my phone call.”

Hotch walked into the interrogation room with an opened laptop and turned it so that Harge could see the images.  “You’ve been a busy man.”

Harge's eyes went wide.  “I didn’t take those,” Harge said, but he didn’t turn away from the images on the screen.

“No, but you did pay to have them taken, right? I mean we found the private server and we know that you are using your business to pay for it.  I’m sure your partners will be thrilled to know that this is how you spend the company money. I'm also certain we'll be able to follow this same trail to find out who you've been paying.”

“Wooowww,” Gen said with a mocking inflection in her voice.  “I mean I knew you were a pathetic loser, but really? You just sit around and watch your EX-wife like this?” She leaned in a little closer and lowered her voice. “Hey, you don’t…you know…”she looked down at his lap insinuated something naughty. 

“Ewwww.” J.J. cut in.  “Please don’t answer that.”

“I’m going to call and have you taken to lock-up.” Hotch closed the laptop and turned back to J.J. and Gen. "I think we are done with him.  Have him taken to lock-up until we are ready to have him transported back to Virginia. 

Harge felt slighted. “I haven’t told you a damn thing!” He said angrily.  “And I want my phone call!”

“On the contrary, Mr. Aird, you’ve given us plenty to work with. Agents, we are done here. Make sure he gets some food and his phone call, from the payphone.  Your cell phone is now evidence.”

As Gen and J.J. stood, they made sure to giggle and further mock him, "He's probably calling him mommy."

Harge couldn’t explain why he felt angry that he was being cast aside.  More importantly, he was pissed that he was going to miss the show that he had so carefully crafted.  This was all supposed to be about ruining Carol’s life, but instead he was being verbally abused and humiliated while Tommy was no doubt enjoying himself with Therese.  He tried to console himself with the knowledge that even if he didn’t get to see it, he knew Tommy would follow through. Except for Baltimore, Tommy had never let him down.

<><><><><> 

 

“Viola!” Penelope Garcia screamed! “I found the money transfers! Harge has been using his business account and sending $2000 a month to this account,” she pointed a screen filled with numbers.  “And that account belongs to one Viola Tucker? Wait…that account is based out of Waterloo, Iowa. Could his partner be a woman?”

“Harge would never work for a woman.” Carol moved to sit next to her.  “Tell me everything you can about this woman.”

Garcia was typing a breakneck speed.  “Ok, Viola Tucker, age 50, lives at…oh, wait…I have her last known address.  Apparently, she went missing a couple of years ago.  She has a son, Thomas Tucker, age 26, he was taken from her when he was 15 and sent to foster care.  She has a criminal record, looks like she was arrested for prostitution a few times.”

Carol listened intently and started filtering the information into her profile.  “Ok, two men with mommy issues, one dominant and one subordinate.  One is a narcissistic sociopath, and the other…what happened to him after foster care?”

“He aged out of the system and moved back home.  Looks like he has lived all over since then, very nomadic. It seems he tends to find work at hotels and such as a general handy man.  Oh God…Carol he was working at the hotel where Abby was killed!”

“And I'll bet that is how he met Harge.” Carol mused. Her mind was now working on the extra espresso shots as she tried to fill in the missing blanks.  “Why was he taken from his mother? Was it just the arrests?”

“Some of the files are locked, but give me two seconds and I’ll break in…and bam! Ok, there were reports of abuse from his mother’s johns.  There are medical records, and a psych evaluators notes and a police report...oh dear lord.”

“What?" 

“Ok I would like to state for the record that in all my years on this job I have NEVER read anything this horrid! And considering what we investigate, that says something! I need a cute cat picture like now!” Penelope started rambling. 

Carol pulled the laptop over to her and started to read for herself.  She started with the police report and then the psych evaluation and social worker notes. The more her eyes moved across the screen the more her heart started to race, and a loud buzz started filling her head.  “FUCK!” She ran out of the room and grabbed the young, eager agent.  “I need the head of S.W.A.T. here NOW.  We’ve got to move!”

She turned back to Garcia in an absolute panic. “Send all of that to Hotch right now.  They need to confront Harge and then I need them on the plane! We are out of time and we are in the wrong fucking city!”

Chapter Text

Carol was on the phone, trying to remain calm and failing miserably.  “No, you don’t understand!” She was pissed-off now. “This is a federal agent we’re talking about!” 

Penelope watched her concerned, but not understanding what was happening.  She knew she had contacted the chief of police in Waterloo, but clearly the conversation was not going as planned.

“Listen to me you back-country, small-minded asshole! I don’t care what your city policies are! I will fucking bring the national guard with me if I have to!” Carol screamed into her phone.

Penelope shook her head at Carol and mouthed, “We can’t actually do that, can we?”

“I KNOW I can’t actually do that? Jesus Christ! I’m asking you to let me bring the SWAT team from Des Moines since you don’t even actually have a special ops or tactical team! Let me bring resources that we need—“

The line went dead. “SON OF A BITCH!” Carol stared at her phone.  She wanted to throw it across the room and have it shatter into a million pieces. “Why are men such arrogant fucking assholes?!?”

Pen approached her slowly, “What happened, exactly?”

“He won’t let the Des Moines SWAT run the operation in HIS city.  Garcia, he has NO team capable of dealing with this! It would just be us with officer Goober McGee as back-up.” Carol was worried and she was ringing her hands, stressed. 

Garcia couldn’t help but smile at the Goober McGee comment.  “Carol, I’m sure—“

“Do NOT tell me it’s going to be fine, Penelope." Carol rolled her eyes and began pacing again.  "This is Therese’s life we are talking about!” She whispered with intensity.

“Ok, so we’ll wait.  Phil and Dannie are on their way here now and I’m sure that Hotch and the others will be finished soon.“

“Where are they now?” Carol ignored her and motioned towards the laptop and Garcia understood she was referring to the van.

“Oh, uhhh…well, you were right.  On the last ping it showed they had turned north, towards Waterloo.” Garcia showed her on the screen.

“and how much longer until they get there?”

“Maybe an hour? Carol, are you sure you don’t just want the highway patrol to pull them over? Maybe he wouldn’t kill her.”

“I can’t chance the maybe, Pen.” Carol hung her head.

“Okay, well explain to my why we are waiting till he’s home? I mean wouldn’t he just kill her there, too? You said it was about Harge, about not disappointing him.”

“I profiled him as needing to please, but he may not understand that about himself.  Plus, if we wait, there is a greater chance of moments of separation.  He’ll leave her alone at some point, even if just to use the bathroom.  He’ll drop his guard some and be less on edge and that’s when we move in.”

“He’d drop his guard? Even with what happened there?” Pen asked, still not understanding.

“Especially with what happened there.  Its home.”

Penelope had worked for the BAU for a long time, but this case was truly unbelievable.  “That’s really…gross.”

Carol nodded in agreement.  “You know, I think I need some air,” she said as she left the room. She'd had an idea, but she couldn't share it.  She knew that Garcia would try to stop her or would call Hotch, and she needed time.  One hour. She walked over to the young agent Carter.

“Agent Aird, did you need something? I couldn’t help but overhear your call with the Waterloo chief.  Is there something I can do?”

“It is a two-hour drive to Waterloo from here, correct? Maybe an hour and a half with sirens?”

Agent Carter nodded. “Yes, ma’am.” 

“Can you get me a helicopter?” Carol asked in a hushed voice.

“I can arrange that!” She was excited to finally be of some help.  “How many agents will be going with you?”

Carol contemplated that question.  She knew she could not go alone and would need back-up, but she also didn’t want word getting to the Waterloo chief.  “Me, you, and one other.  Tell me Agent Carter, who do you trust?”

Agent Carter had an immediate answer, “Jack! He’s my partner and I trust him with my life.”

“Fine.  You, me, and Jack.  How soon can you have the chopper ready?”

“We can be in the air in 30 minutes.” Agent Carter said with a smile. 

“Good.  I’m going to go for a quick walk to clear my head.  Oh, and one more thing, this may seem unorthodox, but I have my reasons, do not say anything about this to my tech analyst, Penelope Garcia.  Understood?”

“Yes, ma’am, but—“

“No buts.  Garcia isn’t field trained and she will want to go with us.  I can’t risk her life.” Carol spun on her heals and walked out of the building while agent Carter recruited Jack from the records office.  “Jack, we have a case! We are going with SSA Aird on a real mission!”

 

<><><><><> 

 

Harge was pouting as they shoved him back into the interrogation room.  “Why am I back in here? I told you I’m not saying anything else until my lawyer is with me! I have rights!”

“Sit down, Mr. Aird.” Hotch said sternly and Harge sat slowly.  SSA Aaron Hotchner sat across from him at the small metal table and J.J. and Gen stood behind him, creating a formidable wall.  “Tommy Tucker.”

Harge’s face twitched and his brow furrowed, but he did not speak.

“You don’t want to talk, fine.  Just sit there and listen.  You’ve been paying Mr. Tucker $2,000 a month from your business account.  The money was transferred into an account under his mother’s name.  Did you know about his perversions when you hired him and when you partnered up?”  Hotch kept his voice steady.

Harge remained still, but beads of sweat started to appear on his temples.

“Did he tell you why he needed you to be in the room with him?”

Harge shifted uncomfortably.

“I’m guessing he neglected to fill you in on the details of his adolescence, but didn’t you ever wonder why?” Hotch tilted his head, but Harge remained silent.

“Let me tell you about the man you hired to follow your ex-wife and daughter.” Hotch stressed the final word, hoping to get a rise out of the man seated in front of him. “You hired a necrophile, Mr. Aird.  Tommy enjoys sex with dead bodies. In fact, it is the only real way he can achieve a release.  He is also an exhibitionist.  Tommy needed you to watch and you did.  It fascinated you, didn’t it?  That’s what drove you to partner with him, because he tapped into your voyeuristic tendencies.”

Harge’s eyes were wider, and the sweat was dripping down his face now, but he still did not speak.  Hotch went in for the kill.

“You are a narcissistic sociopath, of that we have no doubt, and that was what was so confusing for us. Typically, someone like you would prefer to work alone, but you felt connected to Tommy, didn’t you?  Or maybe you did know about Tommy’s past. Maybe he told you about his mother and how she was forced into prostitution by one of her boyfriends.  How one night, when Tommy was a teenage boy, the boyfriend beat her unconscious and then forced Tommy to have sex with her.  Maybe he did share that with you and maybe that excited you.  You liked the idea and maybe you even fantasized about your own mother—“

“You sick son of a bitch, he never told me any of that! I didn’t know!” Harge screamed and lunged forward towards Hotch. He wanted to wrap his hands around his neck and squeeze the life out of him for even suggesting it!

Hotch nodded slowly and turned back to look at J.J. and Gen.  “A federal marshal will be here shortly to transport him back to Virginia.  We need to get to Iowa.”

As they walked out of the room, Hotch tried to call Carol but it went directly to voice mail.

 

<><><><><> 

 

Carol looked down at her phone and pressed decline as she climbed into the helicopter and buckled herself in.  The flight would take just at 30 minutes, which should put them in Waterloo just after Tommy and Therese arrived.  She prayed they would get there before he had time to hurt her, but it was going to be close.

Garcia’s sat in the conference room, watching as the little dot that represented the van pinged again.  She looked down when her phone rang and hit the speaker button, "Yes, sir. I'm here."

 “Garcia, I need to speak to Carol but she isn’t answering her phone.”

“Oh she stepped out for some air…wait…ohhhh no…” Penelope heard the helicopter engine behind the building for the first time. “Let me call you right back!”

Penelope ran through the building as fast as her heels would let her.  She made it out the door just as the helicopter swooped up and over the building, carrying Carol and two other agents inside.  “Oh no. Oh no. Oh no.” She dialed Hotch’s phone.  “Sir, we have a problem!”

Chapter Text

He was carrying her again, but blindfolded and gagged, Therese couldn’t tell where they were.  She felt like a burrito.  He had untied her in the van and then wrapped her in a blanket before throwing her over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry. She imagined she looked like a rolled up carpet or something.  She did her best to listen to the environment around her, but it was quiet.  No cars, no traffic, just a bird chirping in the distance. 

Suddenly she felt the back of her head slam against something hard as she was dropped.  “You aren’t getting any lighter!” Tommy grunted.  He unwrapped the blanket and removed the blindfold.  Therese scanned the room quickly, determining it was a bedroom in a house.  They weren’t in another motel.  Tommy started to until her feet and reached for her hands and Therese realized this would probably by her only chance.  At least if she died, she died fighting and it would be over soon. 

As soon as her hands were free, she lunged forward, knocking Tommy off the bed.  She threw her legs over the other side of the mattress to run, but he was faster.  He grabbed her arm and she turned quickly, swinging a fist with what little strength she had.  It just made Tommy laugh.  “Spunky, but slow!”

He had her by the hands again and her only move at that point was to hurl her head forward into a head-butt.  It was going to hurt, but what the hell! She threw her head forward and heard the crack reverberate through her skull as her head smashed into his nose.

“Fuck!” She screamed in her head at the same time he screamed aloud.

“Bitch!” He screamed as he backhanded her across the cheek.  Hitting him with her head had left her disoriented and she was even slower to react.  She turned back to push against him just as the butt of her gun came swinging towards her face.  She felt her cheek bone break and her skin split and then darkness returned. 

When Therese awoke she wasn’t sure how much time had passed.  She knew her face hurt, but when she tried to reach of it, her hands were bound.  She tried to open her eyes, but everything seemed too bright.  She tried to bring her legs up, but they too were bound.  She suddenly pictured all the women in her photos and when she opened her eyes, she saw her own naked body, spread and tied to the bed.  She started to panic, though she was fairly certain that he hadn’t assaulted her yet.  She wanted to scream for help, but as she looked up she saw it and shrieked in absolute terror!

Tommy came running into the room, ice on his face.  “Shut up!” His face was swollen and already bruising, his nose clearly broken.  He followed the track of her eyes and smiled.  “Oh I see you’ve met mom.  Therese, this is my mother.  Mom, this is Therese.  Now you two talk nicely, I’ve got the rest and take care of some stuff before we get started.

JESUS FUCKING CHRIST! Her mind was screaming! All thoughts of begin naked and exposed left her conscious thought as she stared at the blue, frozen corpse sitting in a chair across the room from her.  The reality of everything came smashing down on her like a ton of bricks.  She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think.  She pulled on the ropes as hard as she could, but it was no use. 

“Options! What are you going to do? Fucking think, Belivet!” She whispered to herself, still in a panic.

She closed her eyes and tried to calm herself.  What do I know?  I know he’s a necrophile.  She opened her eyes.  Must keep eyes open! Must keep taking, stay awake, move as much as possible. She looked back over at the body.  What the fuck did you do to him?

Her face hurt and her vision kept blurring.  She was fairly certain she had a concussion and she could taste the iron in her mouth from where she had bled down her face.  She wasn’t really a religious person, but at that moment, Therese started to pray.  She prayed for Carol to find her.

 

<><><><><> 

The helicopter landed in Waterloo, met by two police cars.  “SSA Aird I presume?”  A fat, greying, sixty-year old police chief stood there greeting her.

“Yes.  Chief Smyth? Carol extended her hand, hoping that all the cursing and screaming earlier would be forgiven. 

He didn’t take her hand.  “I already told you earlier, ma’am—“

Carol shifted her hand up into the air making a stop gesture and her eyes narrowed.  The blue was gone, replaced with ice cold grey.  “Save it.  This is a federal case and the FBI has jurisdiction.  As you can see I honored your…request…not to have the SWAT team join.  So here is what I need from you.  I need a car, a driver, and your best sharp shooter and I need them now or so help me, God above will not be able to protect you from me.”

Her phone started buzzing and Carol looked down.  “Excuse me just a moment.” When the chief didn’t move, she turned back around before answering the phone.  “Don’t you have things to do?” He jumped out of his stupor and turned around to get the bitchy fed what she needed. 

Carol saw that it was Hotch calling and considered not answering, but though better of it.  “Hotch.”

“Carol, you need to wait for us! We are in the air and Dannie and Phil are as well.  We will all be there within the hour! You can’t go in without back-up!”

“I have back-up, Hotch. We are going to the house, but I won’t make any promises.  If I sense her life is in immediate danger, I’m going in.” She hung up the phone and turned back to the annoying fat man.  “Are we set?”

“I’ll drive you where you need to go and Bobby, he’s our best shooter is gonna meet us there.  Where are we going?”

Carol rattled off the address from her memory and the chief blanched.  “The Tucker house?”

“Yes, why? Does that have some significance to you?” Carol asked, impatient now.

“I just have some really bad memories of that place.  Wasn’t aware anyone was staying there again.  Come on then.”

“No sirens, but step on it.  He can’t know we’re coming.”

“I hear ya.”

Tommy walked back in to the room and Therese moved in an attempt to cover herself, suddenly aware again of her nakedness.  He eyed her up and down, but it didn’t seem to cause a reaction.  He won’t touch me if I’m alive.  I need to buy time, need to get in his head, distract him. 

“I was just sitting here talking to your mother.”

He scrunched his face in confusion.  “My mother is dead, Therese.  I wasn’t being literal earlier.”

Ok, we can rule out psychosis, she thought.  “What happened to her, Tommy?”

He studied his mother’s body and then turned back to Therese.  “I killed her.” It was cold, calculated, and without any sign of remorse.  “I hid her body in a freezer that’s way back in our storm cellar, but honestly, I don’t think they ever really looked for her.  I needed to keep her safe until I was ready to let her see.”

“Let her see what?”

Tommy sat on the bed and moved a hand onto Therese’s thigh.  He ran his finger slowly up and down her leg, but never too high.  He wasn’t ready.  She wanted to pull her leg away, kick him in the face, bust his teeth, shatter his nose again, but she was helpless. 

“I want her to see what she did to me.”  He hung his head and suddenly he looked incredibly tired.  Therese had a thought and it was pure insanity, but if it worked it might just save her life. 

“You look tired, Tommy.  Why don’t you lie down next to me and tell me what happened?”

She could see a mix of emotions cross his face; confusion, disbelief, mistrust, and finally he seemed to settle on some form of acceptance.  He laid back and cuddled up next to her naked form and rested his head on her stomach.  Therese wanted to hurl her guts up, but managed to hold back the impulse.  He laid there silent for so long, she wondered if he had fallen asleep, but suddenly he started talking again. 

“I loved my mother, but it wasn’t easy.  She hated me, despite how much I tried to make her happy.  I got good grades, never got in trouble, helped around the house, but it was never enough to make her happy with me.”

Therese started thinking back to their profile and all they had gotten wrong.  Tommy wasn’t the subordinate partner, they had that wrong.  He had a deep need to please and for some reason, he had transferred that to Harge, until Harge let him down.  “I’m sorry.” Therese spoke softly.  “What about your father?”

She felt him tense slightly and then relax again.  “I don’t know.  I never knew him and mom never spoke of him.  We were poor, always struggling, so I assume he just wasn’t in the picture.”

Absentee father, Harge was the substitute father figure.  “How did you and your mom survive, Tommy?”

“Mom did what she had to do, I guess.  World’s oldest profession, isn’t that what they call it?  I hated her for it, but I couldn’t stop her for bringing them home.  This place is so small.  I could hear it all, her crying out as they fucked her.  They’d leave a wad of money on the dresser and leave.  One stayed though.  I remember when she brought him, he stayed for a while.  He was so mean.

She was checking off boxes in her head as he opened up about his life.  Oedipus Complex, abused as a child, neglected, Jesus no wonder he is so messed up. Nothing so far though explained the necrophilia or his escalation to murder.

“He would hit her, scream at her, and I would just hide.  He called me a baby, told me I needed to grow up and be a man.  Said he was going to show me how to be a real man.”

Therese could feel Tommy’s body start to shake.  “Do you know I’ve never had a girlfriend?  I would always get so nervous around women.  I feel comfortable with you, though.”

“I’m glad, Tommy.”  Therese had a loose idea of what had happened to Tommy, but it still didn’t fit with her profile.  She assumed that he had been raped by the boyfriend.  “Did he ever hurt you, Tommy?”

A shudder went through him and he sat up and looked into his dead mother’s face. “You look like her, do you know that?  You all looked like her.”

“I can’t really tell.  Did she have brown hair?” Therese was horrified at even the idea of looking like the dead thing in the chair.

“It was one, very pretty.  Long like yours.  Last time I saw here she was grey and not so pretty anymore.”

Therese remained silent, not sure of how to respond to that.  She was however grateful that he had moved away from her. 

“You asked me what happened to her.  You want to know why I killed her.” He said simply, as if it was no big deal.

Therese nodded.  It was the final piece to the profile puzzle in her mind. 

“She let it happen.  She just laid there and let it happen.  When he made me…she didn’t try to stop it.  I think she enjoyed it.”

Therese’s mind was reeling! He couldn’t possibly be saying what she thought he was saying.  Her eyes went wide in horror.  “Tommy, did he make you have sex with her?”

Like a flash, he was up, standing across from the dead woman.  “And she liked it! The sick fucking bitch just took it!”

She wanted to throw-up, but there was nothing in her stomach.  A tear rolled down her face as everything came into focus.  “Tommy, it wasn’t your fault.”

He spun, darkness overtaking his features.  “I know that!” he spat!  “It was hers! She let it happen! She made it happen!” He was screaming now and Therese watched in horror as he raised his fist and brought it down across the dead body’s face, causing it to fall on the floor.  He screamed and kicked and thrashed about until he was spent.  He stood, tears running down his face, out of breath.  After a few minutes, Tommy reached down and picked up the corpse and sat it back in the chair. 

“She’s going to watch.  I want her to see I’ve moved on. I don’t need her or him.” He looked over at Therese one last time. “I have something I need to do and then I’ll be back.”  As he walked out of the room, Therese started to scream internally.  She knew without a doubt that she was about to die.

Chapter Text

It was a small two-bedroom range style house at the end of the dirt road.  No immediate neighbors, lots of open space and plenty of room to scream without being heard.  It looked abandoned from the outside.  The shutters were falling off, paint peeling, and the grass was overgrown. 

Carol hadn’t been in the field like this in a few years, but certain behaviors returned to her like riding a bike.  On the drive over, she asked the chief to tell her everything he could about the property and owner.  He told her stories of prostitution and calls regarding child abuse.  He remembered Tommy being quiet and withdrawn, but never a trouble maker.  The owner had disappeared a couple of years ago.  They searched the property, but didn’t find anything, so they assumed she left.  The property was in foreclosure, but there had been no interest in it, so it just sat vacant. 

They parked a quarter mile down the road so as not to alert Tommy of their presence.  “There really isn’t much of an area for Bob to get into striking distance,” the chief noted.  Carol pointed to a tree with some rather large branches.  “Would that work?”

Bob nodded and set to getting into position.  Once high enough in the tree he called down to Carol on his radio. “The curtains are closed. I don’t have clear sight of anything.”

“Noted.” Carol replied before strapping on her Kevlar vest.  She took a deep breath to calm her nerves and thought of her daughter.  If this went wrong, Rindy would be left alone.  Harge would be in jail, which meant his parents would most likely get custody.  She weighed her options one last time.  They could wait.  Hotch and the rest of the team would be here within the hour, but she wondered if Therese had another hour.  Hell, she didn’t even know if Therese was still alive.  She could send the local police in, guns blazing, and hope Therese wasn’t killed in the cross fire.  “God damn it,” she whispered.  No, this was the only way.

“Ma’am?” the young Agent Carter was standing close by and had heard her mumbling to herself.

“Nothing.  Are you and Jack ready?”  The two younger agents were in their FBI issued vests.  They looked a little nervous. 

“Where do you want us?” Jacked asked. 

Carol had worked it all out in her head, “Alena and I will go to the front door.  I’m praying it isn’t locked, since this is small-town America.  Jack you head around back.  Bob will be our eyes in the sky, but he can’t see inside, so we all need to be his eyes on the ground.  If at all possible, get the curtains open to give him a line of sight in the house.” She took another calming breath.  “We know he’s armed and extremely dangerous.  Do not hesitate to take action.  Do you both understand?”

The energy between the three agents crackled.  They were all scared.  “Fear is good,” Carol said as they slowly started making their way towards the house.  “Fear keeps us alive.”

They drew their guns as they approached the house and Jack quickly made his way around the back.  They gave him a few seconds to get into position before Carol slowly reached for the front doorknob.  She turned it slowly and sighed in relief when it gave way and the door opened slowly and quietly. She turned and looked back over her shoulder at the young agent, mouthing a “ready?”

Alena Carter nodded and they slowly entered the house.  It was dark and musty, smelling of mold and mildew.  Carol got her bearings as she looked around at the living room furniture and motioned for agent Carter to move behind her to open the living room curtains. The sunlight filled the room, through the dirty windows.  There was old, stained, broken furniture in the living room, dark brown paneling on the walls, but no signs of recent life.  What if we are in the wrong place? Carol wondered to herself.

They passed through the living room and into the kitchen. Carol saw Jack standing at the backdoor.  He jerked, startled when he saw her, but she held up her hand to calm him.  Carol made hand motions for him to follow her down the hall that led to the bedrooms and bathroom.  She motioned for Alena to stay put in the living room. 

There were two bedrooms, directly across from each other and at the end of the hall a door to the bathroom.  There was no way to know which room Therese was in, so Carol motioned for Jack to take the door on the left and she would take the door to the right.  The counted down, 3…2…1 and broke through both doors simultaneously. 

She heard Jack scream “clear” behind her as she stared down at her beloved Therese, tied to the bed, exposed to the world.  Therese’s eyes started watering as she looked up and saw Carol and quickly began sobbing in a mixture of gratitude, embarrassment, and fear.  Carol moved quickly, efficiently, not allowing her emotions to kick in yet.  She covered Therese with a blanket she saw on the floor and then moved to open the curtains for the sharp shooter.  She held a finger to her lips, telling Therese to remain quiet.  There had still been no sign of Tommy.

Carol looked at the ropes binding Therese to the bed.  They were too tight and too thick.  She’d need a knife to cut them.  A noise behind her caused Carol to spin, gun drawn, but it was just Jack.  “House is clear, agent Aird.  No sign of Tucker.”

With a deep sigh of relief, Carol holstered her gun and turned back to Therese.  Her emotions were crashing to the surface and she rushed to her side, taking her face into her hands.  “Oh my God, Therese, are you okay? Please tell me he didn’t hurt you! I need to find something to cut the ropes, baby.  I’ll be right back!”

“No!” Therese shrieked.  “Please don’t leave me!” Therese was crying now and Carol sat on the side of the bed. 

“Okay, sweetheart, okay.” She turned back to Jack. “Run to the kitchen and see if you can find a knife or something.  We need to get her out of here before—“

The loud sound of gunfire echoed through the room as Carol’s face was splattered with blood.  Therese’s eyes went wide and she was about to cry out her name, but it was too late. Jack fell forward in Carol’s arms, as they tumbled onto the floor next to the bed.  She felt a sharp pain in her bicep, but didn’t have time to process it.  She tried to reach for her gun, but Jack’s body lying on top of her was making it difficult.   She didn’t see anyone standing in the doorway and knew that Tommy was hiding in the hall.

“Fancy seeing you here, Carol.” His voice was like nails on a chalkboard.

“You knew I’d come for her, Tommy.  Go ahead and surrender, we’ve got the house surrounded.” It would never be that easy, but she could try.

“Oh you mean that pretty young agent I gutted in the kitchen?  Or the dead one in there with you?  Or maybe you mean that sniper in the tree across the yard. He can’t shoot what he can’t see.”

Carol shoved Jack’s body off of her and he moaned.  “Hold on, Jack.” She whispered before getting up onto her knees next to the bed.  “You can’t come in to the room without him seeing you, Tommy. You walk in, he shoots.”

“You think that bullet can reach me before I put a bullet through Therese?  I mean, she’s an easy target right now…all spread eagle for me.”

Carol’s body shook with the rage coursing through her.  She wanted to kill him with her bare hands. 

“Carol!” Therese cried out next to her as she pulled on the ropes.  “You’re bleeding!”

“It’s okay…I’m okay.” She never took her eyes off the door.

“There is no way out Carol,” Tommy snickered.  “If you come out here, I’m going to shoot you and if I make it into that room, I’m going to kill her.”

Carol spoke quietly into her earpiece.  “Agents down- send back up!”

“Who are you talking to, Carol? My mother? Therese?” Tommy toyed with her from the other side of the wall. 

Carol was confused until she looked quickly at Therese and then tracked her eyes.  She saw the corpse for the first time.  “Mommy dearest I suppose?” She said it loudly enough for Tommy to hear.

“He killed her, Carol and he’s a—“

She nodded, “I know.” Her knees were starting to ache, so Carol stood next to the bed. The pain in her arm was starting to throb and she felt her blood pressure rising and a dull ache in the back of her head.  Carol was tired and she was sick of this shit and one way or another, it needed to end.  She couldn’t see out of window behind her, but she had to assume that other officers were approaching the house.  There was about to be a shootout, this much she was sure of.  Carol needed to get Tommy into position so Bob could take him out first, so as not to risk Therese’s life in a barrage of bullets.  “Tommy, Therese isn’t yours.  You took something that belonged to me.”

“Such possessive terminology.  Therese wasn’t yours when I was lying next to her on the bed, my head resting on her stomach.  Her skin is so soft and warm, but then you already know that.”

More anger flashed in grey-blue eyes. “Not your type then, huh? You like them cold, right tommy? Dead like dear old mom here?” She heard him grumble and knew she was getting to him. “You know Harge told us everything, sold you out.  He put it all on you, Tommy.  You’re going to go down for 5 counts of rape and murder.”

He laughed maniacally, “So what you’re saying is I’m going to die anyway? Might as well take a couple more with me.”

Carol moved over to shield Therese’s body and aimed her gun at the door.  “Then let’s get this over with you sick, mother fucking pervert!” She stressed those words to get a reaction, and it worked. 

Tommy screamed, “Don’t call me that!” He slammed something against the wall, his head? He hands? Carol wasn’t sure.

“Why? It’s what you are! You are one sick, sadistic Son of a Bitch! And what was Harge to you? A replacement father? You wanted daddy to watch while you did it? What kind of a sick psycho does that?  And I’ll bet you blamed her for it all, right? That’s why I’m staring at her dead body? You blamed her for what YOU did!”

He was enraged, screaming and Therese started to panic, pulling and struggling on the bed.  She didn’t understand what Carol was doing! They had been trained to deescalate, not to intentionally poke the proverbial bear!

“Was Therese supposed to be a replacement for your mother, Tommy? Was Abby? How about the others? Were you imagining dear old mom when you raped them? And then you were so pathetic and weak you left Harge to clean up your mess!”

“NOOO!” He was screaming, banging on the wall harder.  “He killed them first! He killed them!”

“Oh so I guess we’re all safe in here then- well except for mommy.  Want me to toss her out into the hall for you? We can leave you two love birds alone!”

The last thing they heard was a blood-curling scream, followed by a room exploding in gunfire.

Chapter Text

There were people talking in the background, their voices muffled and distant.  She wanted to move her arms and legs, but new it was pointless.  Her leg twitched and jerked in a spasm and she felt it slide across a soft sheet…moving.  Wait…she could move.  She experimented with her other leg and it moved as well.  Next came her left arm, but when she tried to move her right, something hurt. 

The voices were getting louder and coming more into focus.  “Rape kit…concussion…facial trauma…rehab…” These were the words and phrases that were circulating the space around her, but she could not tell who was speaking. She willed her voice to speak, but was only able to crack out a low moan and suddenly she smelled her. 

Smell is our oldest sense, it’s primal and tied directly to our memory.  A feeling of warmth and safety traveled through her body.  Therese didn’t need to open her eyes to know that Carol was there.  She felt a hand on her cheek, warm, soothing sounds asking her to open her eyes and she did, to the blue-grey color of heaven.  “Carol.”

“I’m here, baby.  You’re safe.”  Carol held one of her hands and placed a sweet, but light kiss on her head. 

“Where?” Therese asked weakly.

“We are in a hospital in Des Moines.  They had to airlift you here and you’ve been sedated.  Don’t try to move too much, honey.  You’ve been through a lot.” 

Therese tried to remember how she got here, but everything was a fuzzy mix of random images.  His face flashed in her mind and jerked in a reflex, “Tommy?”

“He’s dead.” Her blue eyes turned grey at the mention of his name.   

“What happened? I can’t remember…” she closed her eyes.

Carol squeezed her hand, “Later my angel.  Just rest now.”

“Will you stay?” Therese whispered as her eyes closed and she drifted back off to sleep.

“Wild horses couldn’t drag me away from you, baby.”  Carol wanted to rest, to lay down next the Therese and sleep for days, but she couldn’t.  Not yet.

 

Carol walked out into the hallway and down to a small waiting room. Dannie and Phil were sitting, looking anxious, while Gen and J.J. were speaking softly.  As soon as she walked in Penelope was up like a flash and by her side.  “Carol, what did the doctor say?”

“How is she?” Hotch asked on everyone else’s behalf.

“The doctor said she has a severe concussion and the cut on her face needed stitches.  Aside from that, no permanent physical damage that they can see.”

J.J. was very tentative in asking the follow up question that everyone was wondering. “So she wasn’t…he didn’t?”

“No.” Carol looked down at the ground.  “He didn’t.”

Hotch pulled her aside, away from the others. “We have to head back to D.C. tonight, Carol.”   “I want you to stay with Therese until it is safe for her to travel, but you need to know that there will be a formal inquiry to your actions.”

Carol’s piercing eyes cut through him.  “I have no problems justifying my actions, Hotch, and you know I was right.”

He nodded. “I’m just glad we got there in time.”

“So am I.” There was a sincere look in her eyes.  “I should get back to her. I don’t want her to wake up without me being there.” Carol turned to J.J., “Can I speak to you?”

J.J. followed Carol back into Therese’s room.  “I need you to go get Rindy, J.J., I can’t leave her with those people, not with what’s happening with Harge.”

“Whatever you need,” J.J. stroked her right arm.  “I will go get her as soon as we land and it won’t be a problem.  You take as much time as you need here.”

“Thank you. I will call her tonight and let you know that you are coming.  She’ll be excited to see Henry.” Carol said with a sweet smile.

J.J. looked at Carol’s left arm, wrapped and in a sling.  “How long do you have to wear that?”

“The doctor said I’ll be fine in a week or two.  He removed the bullet and said I may need some rehab, but I’d be cleared for office duty soon.”

“And what about the other agent, Jack?”

“He came through his surgery.  They said the bullet went through his lung, but missed his heart, thankfully.” Carol looked down at the ground again, looking distraught.

“Don’t do that,” J.J. looked at her softly and offered comfort.  “Agent Carter knew the risks of the job.  It isn’t your fault.”

“I know, it’s just…” tears started to well in her eyes.  “I’m still sorry.”

“You have nothing to be sorry for. Put the blame where it goes and that is on Tommy Tucker.”

Therese flinched in her sleep at the mere mention of his name and Carol moved to the side of her bed. 

“Do you think she’ll survive this?” Carol asked.  “Will she truly be okay?”

J.J. knew that the question wasn't really addressed to her, but none the less, she wrapped Carol in a hug, “Therese is strong. Just focus on getting well and on getting Therese well and back on her feet.  We’ll see you back at home, soon,” and with that J.J. left, leaving Carol and Therese alone again. 

 

 

On Thursday morning Therese awoke, feeling clearer now, but still sore.  Carol was curled up in an out-stretched recliner, looking none too comfortable.  Therese stared at her, her eyes wandering up and down the blondes body and for the first time she noticed the sling holding Carol's arm.  She had been hurt? Therese closed her eyes tightly and willed her brain to remember, but it was fruitless.  She understood how repression worked, her mind didn’t want to remember the details and pushing too hard, too fast, could lead to a post traumatic response.  Still, it was frustrating. 

As if sensing eyes on her, Carol woke to see the sweetest green eyes.  “Hey, you.”

“Hi, beautiful.” Therese smiled and immediately winced in pain. “Ow!” She reached up and felt the bandage on her face. She flashed to the handle of a gun. 

Carol was up and by her side as quickly as the damned recliner would allow.  “Jesus, we have to get you out of here.  I need a real bed.”

“Can you lie next to me? Or will that hurt?” She looked down at Carol’s bandaged arm. 

“I doubt it will hurt more than this torture devise.”  Carol stood and stretched, her body cracking. 

Therese  motioned for some water and Carol grabbed it as Therese shifted over and made room for Carol to lay down. “Will you tell me what happened? How did you get hurt?”

“You don’t remember?” Carol spoke softly. 

Therese reached up and felt the fist-sized knot on her forehead.  “Honestly, the last thing I remember is this. I tried to escape and when he grabbed me I tried to head-butt him.  God that hurt.”

“Well from the looks of the bruising on his face, you did a good job, although it pains me to see this huge bruise on your beautiful face.” Carol traced the outline of the blue and purple swollen area lightly. 

They remained silent, close, just feeling each other for a long while before Therese finally broke the silence. “Thank you for finding me…for saving me.” She let out a sigh and trembled. 

Carol shifted closer, wanting Therese to feel safe.  “It was a team effort, really, and honestly, Garcia is the one who should get the most credit.  She found you. They really should pay her a lot more.”

They both giggled, and then a dark expression crossed Therese’s face. “I remember seeing blood,” Therese was looking past Carol now.  “You were covered in blood.”

Carol wanted to wrap her in her arms, but in her sling she couldn’t.  “Another agent got shot and the bullet lodged in my arm, but I’ll be okay and so will he.”

“My head really hurts.” Therese closed her eyes, the lights in the room seeming all too bright all of a sudden. 

“Let me go get the doctor, angel.  I’m sure there is something they can give you for the pain,” but before Carol could move, Therese had her arms wrapped around her waist, holding her in place. 

“Stay.  Let’s just sleep.” Therese tried to smile again, but stopped herself.  “It’s better when I close my eyes.”

Carol let Therese nuzzle up under her chin.  “Anything for you.”

Her breathing slowed and evened and Carol knew Therese was almost asleep again.  Only then did she close her own eyes, and let herself be lulled to sleep by the presence of the woman next to her.  She was drifting in that blissful stage, somewhere between sleep and awake when she heard a sweet, groggy whisper.  

“I love you, Carol.”

“I love you, too.” Carol whispered back.

Chapter Text

“I don’t understand!”

Therese woke to Carol’s panicked and elevated voice.  She opened her eyes to find Carol standing by her hospital window.  “Wha…”

“But I spoke with her yesterday! I told her you were coming! She knew to go with you!”

A nurse poked her head in the room to make sure there wasn’t a problem.  When she saw Carol on the phone, she shushed her and reminded them both that this was a hospital. 

“Carol?” Therese spoke softly, trying to get Carol’s attention.  “What’s going on?”

“I’ll be there as soon as I can!” Carol hung up the phone and turned to Therese.  Her eyes were watery and all the color had drained from her face.

“Carol?” Therese asked again.

“Rindy…he took her!” Carol lost all control and fell forward, laying her head across Therese’s lap on the bed.  “I have to go…I have to leave you and go back to D.C….have to find her!”

“Carol slow down, breathe for me.  Who took her? Can you start at the beginning?” Therese stroked the back of Carol’s head and tried to calm her.

“Harge took her.” Carol sat up, grabbed a tissue to wipe her nose and took a deep breath.  “Apparently he made bail and they were gone before J.J. got there this morning.  Therese, I have to go find her.  I don’t want to leave you, but you know I have to go!”

Therese could tell that Carol was splitting in two.  She felt guilty for leaving, but her daughter had to come first.  “”Let’s go.” Therese shifted and slowly moved to get out of the bed.

Carol’s eyes went wide and she started shaking her head.  “Therese, you are in no shape to leave yet. You haven’t been cleared. You have a traumatic brain injury, for Christ’s sake!”

“I’m not arguing about this with you, Carol.  Rindy needs us.  So go get my doctor and let’s get me released and go find your daughter!” Despite the swelling and deep bruising across her face, Carol could tell that Therese was not going to be deterred.  Carol nodded and left the room to find her doctor.

A few minutes later the doctor was in the room, trying to argue with them both.  “Agent Belivet, I URGE you to reconsider! I cannot in good conscience—“

“I understand your concerns, doctor, but this is a family emergency.  I promise to check in with my doctor as soon as we get home.  You can send all of my records to him and I will be sure to have a follow up CT as soon as all of this is over.”

He looked over at Carol, “Can you please tell her to reconsider?”

“Believe me doctor, I have tried, but her mind is made.  I may not know very much about her yet, but from I do know, once Therese has made her mind about something, there is no changing it.  I promise to watch over her, but time is of the essence doctor.”  Carol’s face was like stone, and it was evident that he was going to lose this fight, so the doctor agreed to release Therese against medical advice. 

 

<><><><><>

 

The full BAU team was gathered in the conference room.  Spencer was reading the case file from cover to cover to get caught up, Penelope was staring at her computer screen, while Derek and Jennifer were discussing something in the corner.  David Rossi was recording Gen, Dannie and Phil’s testimony from Waterloo.   

Hotch stood over Garcia, looking over her shoulder. “Are you sure the tracker is still working? Maybe the battery died.”

“I don’t think so, I think it’s just out of range or something.  Look, here it was on last night at the Aird’s house, but then it just disappears.” Pen tried to show him on her screen.

“Or, he found it.” Hotch stood up straight. “Ok, listen up, everyone.  We now have a missing child and this is our number one priority.  She’s been missing for approximately 12 hours. J.J., Derek, I want Harge’s parents brought in for questioning.  They know something.  Spencer and Rossi, I want you to question them when they arrive.  Garcia, keep working on that tracker.  Gen, Dannie, and Phil, you know more about Harge and this case than we do, you need to give the profile to get all of us up to speed. If we have any hope of finding Rindy Aird, we need to get inside of Harge’s mind. Any questions?”

Gen looked around the room and started.  “Our final profile of Harge Aird was of a Narcissistic Sociopath, however our profile of his relationship with Tommy Tucker was off.  We thought Harge was the dominant partner, but it turns out Tommy was playing on that.  He had his own agenda as we saw in Waterloo.”

“And what exactly happened in Waterloo?” Dr. Spencer Reid asked the room.

Hotch took over to answer his question. “Carol assembled a local team and went in to rescue Agent Belivet. When we made our way into the house, Agent Carter was on the living room floor and she had bled out from a stab wound.  We heard Tucker in the hallway and Carol was trying to bait him, to spur a reaction.  He saw us and I guess realized there was no way out and he ran into the room shooting.  Carol shot him in the head.”

“Why didn’t Carol wait? Didn’t she know you were on the way?” Derek Morgan asked. Morgan, or Garcia’s ‘chocolate thunder,' was the team’s noble man of muscle.  He would protect anyone on the team with his life, but he would always try to follow policy when he did it.

“She didn’t think Therese had time.  She wasn’t willing to take the risk…she couldn't risk losing her.” Penelope tried to explain. She had been angry at Carol for leaving her in the dark about her plan at first, but she understood it all now. I mean who wouldn't risk everything for love?" 

“Wait,” Morgan began to understand.  “Belivet and Aird are a couple?” He looked over at Hotch. “You knew this and let them work together? Hotch, there is a reason for the rule!”

“I am aware of the rule, but I am also aware of the fact that Carol isn’t a permanent member of this team.  She has no plans on staying, and at the time they had not acted on their relationship.”

“But they did, right? That’s what set Harge off?” He looked at Penelope, assuming she had more details, but it was Gen that spoke up and came to Carol’s defense. 

“They were together for the first time on Sunday and yes, that is apparently what set Harge off.”

“Jealousy is not a typical trait of a sociopath,” Reid noted.  “I think he is driven by something deeper, darker.  He is overly possessive, but incapable of feeling actual love.  Does anyone know about his relationship with Rindy?”

“Carol always said he was a good father and that she felt he genuinely loved his daughter.” J.J. answered. “I know it took a lot for her to trust him with her again.  I can’t imagine she would have let that happen if she thought he would hurt her. I mean aren't sociopaths capable of some bonds?”

“So we think Rindy is safe?” Phil asked.

“Not at all,” Spencer explained.  “Harge has lost his wife, lost his partner, and is now awaiting trial for assault, and once all of the evidence from Tommy’s house is processed, we should be able to add murder to his list of charges, and he knows this.  Carol was supposed to be his endgame and his goal was to destroy her and since he failed with Therese, Rindy would be his next best bet and while they can sometimes for a bond, it is typically with their mothers.”

"Go get his parents now." Hotch barked.  "If we have any hope of finding him, it will be through his mother." 

Chapter Text

The first part of the flight was quiet.  The change in air pressure was doing a number on Therese’s headache, but she wasn’t going to mention it.  Carol was already a nervous wreck, and Therese knew that if she mentioned the pain, Carol would fawn over her and feel guilty about her leaving the hospital. She also knew that there was no way to distract her.  How does one distract a parent with a missing child? You don’t, so silence was the best bet.

Carol’s phone buzzed with an email from Garcia.  Carol read it but didn’t reply at first.  “Do you ever wonder why they make you put your phone away on commercial flights? I mean, does it really interfere with the instruments like they say?”

Therese was confused by her chosen topic of conversation.  “I think it’s about more about people paying attention in case something goes wrong.”

Carol hummed in reply. 

“What did the email say?” Therese finally asked when it became clear Carol wasn’t going to willingly share. 

“Oh! I forgot you didn’t have your phone.” She pulled it out and read it out loud. “They have John and Jennifer Aird and are about to question them.  Oh and Dannie, Phil, and Gen are heading to the airport.  Apparently they are going back to Waterloo.”

“What? Why?” Therese’s voice was elevated.

“The local PD found something, but they don’t want to touch anything.  I think they are afraid of making a mistake and messing up this investigation, or maybe they just don’t want to step on FBI toes.”

“The Des Moines office couldn’t go?”

Carol hung her head, guilt washing over her features. “They are a little short-handed right now.”  Carol sighed deeply and Therese could tell there was a lot more to that sigh than just being tired.  No, Carol was exhausted; mentally, physically, and emotionally.  The worst part was that Therese knew there was no immediate relief in sight for either of them.  She needed to get Carol to rest.

Therese leaned forward and held her head.  “I think I need to close my eyes for a bit, give my brain a rest.”

Carol was up and across the aisle in a flash, “Do you need some pain meds?  Water? Tell me what I can do?”

Therese looked up into her blue-grey eyes and smiled at her sweetly. “There is that sofa seat back there, I just need to lay down for a bit.” She stood carefully, and reached her hand out to Carol, wordlessly asking her to join her.  Therese grabbed a pillow and blanket from one of the overhead bins.  She slid all the way over and sat sideways, placing her legs across the airplane sofa.  Carol was confused at first until she realized what Therese had in mind.  “Lay down with me, rest. Let me hold you.”

Despite knowing it was bound to be uncomfortable, the idea of lying in Therese’s arms was too appealing.  Carol tried to get comfortable, laying on her side and curling into Therese’s body, but her sling was getting in the way.  She removed it and threw it across the plane.  Therese giggled, “You’re putting that back on before we disembark.”

Carol rested her head on Therese’s chest and wrapped her newly freed arm around Therese’s stomach.  “Says the woman who checked out of the hospital with a head trauma.”

They lay for a long time, calm and quiet.  Therese wondered if Carol had fallen asleep, but then she started speaking. “Therese…I won’t survive if something happens to her.  I’m not strong enough.”

Therese pulled her closer, holding her tightly.  “We aren’t going to let anything happen to Rindy.  We will find her.  You know,” she paused, “you probably know Harge better than anyone.  Can you think of anyplace he would go to hide? Where would he feel safe?”

Carol was quiet for a few minutes while she tried to think of Harge ever mentioning anything.  “I don’t remember him ever talking about any specific place.  I know they own a house in Florida and another on the cape in Massachusetts, but he never spoke about them having any special significance.”

“I need to see where he lives and where he grew up.  Maybe I can—“

“Do what you do better than anyone I know?” Carol interrupted.  “He’s been living with his parents since the divorce in the house he grew up in.  We can go there after we land, but you don’t have your camera, though.”

“The camera helps, but I don’t need it. I mean I like to use it because it lets me go back later, see something I missed.  I can always use your cell phone.”  Therese was running her hand up and down Carol’s back in a slow, soothing motion.

“We can get you a new one when we get back. Any ideas on what he did with yours?” Carol was careful not to use Tommy’s name.

“I imagine he dumped it.  He kept me tied up and blindfolded most of the time, so there was no way for me to know.” It was the first time Therese had mentioned anything about her experience, but Carol didn’t want to push her. 

“You know I will listen, Therese.  Whatever it is, whatever happened or are feeling.  I’m here for you and I will listen.”

Therese knew beyond a doubt that it was true, but this also wasn’t the time.  “I know, but I don’t want to focus on that right now.  I want to find Rindy so we can move forward…together…if that’s…if that’s what you want.” Therese started to stammer at the end.

Carol sat up a little so she could look into the green eyes she loved.  “Oh course that is what I want. I know it’s fast…crazy even…but I want to try to build a life with you, Therese.”

“Ok then,” Therese smiled.  “Lay back down.  We both need to rest.”

Carol lowered her head back on Therese’s chest.  She listened to the sound of Therese’s heart beat and slow breathing. She thought at one point their heart beats had synched…and she slept.

 

<><><><><> 

 

Jennifer Aird was uncomfortable and annoyed.  The small room was dark and dreary and being here was an extreme inconvenience.  John sat next to her, quiet and pensive.  She expected nothing less, such a weak man.

David Rossi and Spencer Reid entered the room together, photos in hand. 

“What is the meaning of this?” Jennifer immediately protested.  “I demand to have our lawyer present!”

“Why?” Rossi questioned.  “Have you done something illegal?”

“No! Of course not!” Jennifer said, clearly insulted. 

Spencer tried to calm her back down.  “Mr. and Mrs. Aird, I’m sure you’re aware that your son and granddaughter are missing.  We’ve asked you here with the hope that you can assist us in finding them and bringing them home safely.”

“Why do you think they are missing?” John spoke for the first time.  Rossi could tell that the older man was uncomfortable.  He would look at this wife for guidance before he spoke.  His white hair and aged face were that of a man who had been beaten down over the years, apparently by his wife. 

“As you know, Carol spoke with Rindy last night and explained to her that one of our team would be there to pick her up first thing this morning.  When Agent Jureau arrived this morning, Rindy wasn’t there and neither was your son,” Rossi explained.

“A father can’t spend time with his daughter?” Jennifer said snarkily.

Rossi looked her in the eyes. “Not when the son has been charged with assault and is a potential suspect in the kidnapping of a federal agent and the murder of five women.”

“That’s preposterous!” John Aird yelled.  “My son would never!”

Spencer was empathetic for the man, clearly living in the dark regarding his son.  “Tell me, Mr. Aird, what does your son do for a living?”

“He works for Aird Enterprises.  We are a real estate development company. I retired five years ago, and he took my seat in the agency, working with my partners.” John tried to sound like a proud father, but his voice wavered.

“And what projects has he been connected to recently?” Rossi asked.

“I…I don’t…” Jennifer rolled her eyes as John struggled to answer.

Spencer pulled out a folder and opened it.  “According to the company records, Harge hasn’t secured a single property deal in over two years, yet he travels a lot.”

John didn’t reply.

“Mr. Aird, can you think of a reason for your company to purchase a private internet server?” Spencer continued.

“I don’t even know what that is.” He looked down, shaking his head.

“A private server would allow your company access to the internet without going through a third party, or another company.  Company’s tend to use them if they deal with sensitive material.  When we tapped in to the information on the server Harge purchased for Aird Enterprises, we didn’t find any company documents or information.  We did, however, find this.”  Spencer pulled out a photo with dozens of images of Carol and Rindy.

“Harge and Carol divorced what…four years ago?” Rossi asked. “Most of these pictures are recent, and speaking as a man with a long history of divorce, I can safely say that is not healthy.”

“Your pictures don’t prove anything.” Jennifer said stoically, refusing to even look at the pictures.

Spencer showed them a picture of Tommy.  “Actually, some are videos and what they prove is that your son was using company money to pay this man to follow his ex-wife and daughter.”

“Is that I crime?” John asked, clearly oblivious to what was happening.

Rossi smirked, “You mean aside from the obvious fraud issues?”

“Your son has an unhealthy obsession,” Spencer spoke quickly. “He’s a very sick man, but we can get him the help he needs.  We just need to know where he is.  Where did he take Rindy?”

John looked helplessly at Jennifer. “I honestly don’t know…Jennifer?”

Jennifer Aird knew exactly where they were, but she’d be damned if she gave them up.  Harge just needed time.  He needed time to get away, a distraction.  “Maybe the house in the Cape,” she lied.  “The house is secluded and he always loved it as a child.”

Spencer gathered all the pictures and stood.  He didn’t speak again until both he and Rossi were outside of the interrogation room and out of earshot.  “She’s lying.”

“I know,” Rossi agreed.  “So what next?”

“We should have Garcia pull up all property records for the family, along with anything in the company’s name.”

Twenty minutes later the list of possible locations was passed out to the A-term.

“There are the three houses and then two company vacation properties that work on a time share deal,” Garcia explained.

“We can’t be in five places at one,” Morgan said in frustration.

“We have to rule out what we can. Garcia, are the vacation properties run by a management company?”

She typed quickly, “Yes and before you ask, both houses are currently occupied.”

“Ok, so we’re down to three,” Rossi stated. “Better odds.”

“Is there a way to have the local authorities check them?” J.J wondered aloud.

“Yes,” Hotch agreed with her. “Reach out and have them look for signs of life, but we don’t want Harge to know that we are coming.  We just need to know if anyone is at the properties.  Tell them not to engage. As long as Harge feels safe and in control, he’s less likely to hurt Rindy. How much longer till Carol and Therese land?”

Chapter Text

A black SUV was waiting for Therese and Carol at the airport.  As they drove to Virginia, Carol called Hotch to get an update and to let them know where they were going.  She was disappointed at learning that Spencer and Rossi had interviewed the Airds, but got nowhere. She should have known that Jennifer wouldn't roll over that easily.  She had decades of being a frozen, cold-hearted bitch under her belt. 

As they pulled up the long drive to the Aird estate, the house looked quiet and empty and Therese marveled at the opulence of the house. “How many people live here?”

Carol just snickered, her nerves still on high alert. Internally, she prayed this wasn’t a waste of time, but she had to trust Therese’s instincts.  “Harge, his parents, and most of the time Florence…wait, did I tell you about that? About what Harge did to Florence? God, everything has been so crazy.”

“No. Did you ever live here?” Therese asked as they got out of the vehicle and walked towards the front door.

“No, although Jennifer Aird expected me too.  It was definitely a point of contention in our marriage.  I guess hindsight being what it is, I really should have seen the signs…his possessiveness, his odd relationship with his mother.  I should have known.”

“We show people what we want them to see.  Harge was careful and did his best to hide his true nature. How do we get in?” The door was locked.

Carol pointed to a gravel walkway that led to the back of the house. “Kitchen door is usually unlocked for the staff to come in and out of. We’ll try that first.”

Therese could tell that Carol was still blaming herself for everything.  “None of this is your fault, you know.  You left him.  When you finally saw who he really was and when you realized who you were, you did the right thing and you left.  You cannot blame yourself for his actions.”

“Can’t I?” The kitchen door opened.  “I married a sociopath; I had an affair; I divorced him; I started a relationship with…” Carol didn’t finish that last sentence.

They walked through the kitchen and into the main areas of the house.  “You started a relationship with me.  That’s what you were going to say?” Therese asked.  “Do you regret that?”

“No! I regret that it caused this!” Carol pointed to her injured face. “I regret that my actions caused you to get hurt!”

Therese stopped walked around and moved to stand directly in front of the older, blonde agent.  She was a few inches shorter, but stood straight to make herself look taller.  “I’m going to say this one last time Carol, so listen very carefully.  YOU did not do this.  YOU did not hit me, YOU did not kidnap me, YOU did not arrange all of this.  HARGE did this- he did all of it! It was Harge and Tommy.  I don’t blame you, so stop blaming yourself!”

Carol was struck by her intensity, but did not reply. 

They continued to move throughout the first floor of the house and despite how large it was, to Therese it felt suffocating.  Everything was immaculate, nothing out of place.  This seemed odd to Therese.  “Does Rindy have a room? Where are her toys?”

“Upstairs.” They walked side-by-side to the staircase and Carol watched as Therese’s eyes glided over everything in the house. “What are you thinking?”

“Everything is impersonal, like I’m in a museum, not a home.  Hard to believe people live here with how cold and dark it all seems.”

“You just described the very reason I could never live here.” Carol explained. “I mean you’ve seen my home, nothing like this.”

“Your house is warm.  It could use some more furniture, but there are pictures and clearly people live there.” Therese smiled remembering her last afternoon at Carol’s.  It had been the best day of her life, until that night.

“Jennifer is all about the illusion of perfection.  Outward appearances and the family name and reputation.  She’ll do anything she can to hide all of this, you know. The scandal will be unbearable to her.”

“Tell me about Florence.” They slowly made their way through all the rooms on the top floor.  Apparently Jennifer and John had separate bedrooms. 

“Harge attacked her, strangled her on Sunday night.  Garcia found…” Carol sighed and stopped walking,  She sat on the edge of John Aird’s bed and took a minute to gather her thoughts.  Therese came and sat beside her, placing a delicate hand on her thigh.  “Garcia found out that Harge was paying Tommy to follow us, to follow you.  He had a private account, somewhere he could upload all the images and…videos.  He saw everything we did, Therese.”

Therese understood the implication.  “Everything?”

Carol nodded, “Florence said he went ballistic Sunday night.  Garcia found the video that was posted earlier that evening. From the looks of it, he was on a roof across the street, but he had a direct view into my bedroom.”

Her head was pounding again, but this time it was anger.  Her face went rigid, “Carol…I…”

“I know, angel.  When I saw it…I felt like something was taken from us, stolen, like a violation.  And then later that night is when you were taken, so obviously it was that video that set everything into motion.”

Therese sat silent for a few minutes before she stood and started walking again.  She walked out of John’s room and into Harge’s bedroom.  “So Harge saw the video and sent Tommy, but Tommy ultimately had his own agenda and Harge really had no clue that he wasn’t actually in control.”

“Looks that way.” Carol agreed. She hated this room, the dark green walls and mahogany furniture seemed overly masculine, uninviting and with one exception, not personalized. She saw the one framed photo in the room, a family photo of Harge, Carol, and Rindy when she was only a toddler.  She looked at the bed shivered, remembering the first time she and Harge had sex; it was in this room.  And just like the rest of the house it was cold and impersonal, his parents downstairs while they did it quietly and quickly.

Therese looked at the photograph.  “He thinks you’re still his.”

“Yes.”

“He killed Abby, not Tommy.  And then he kept killing her over and over, because in his mind she took what was his.  Did he think that would cause you to come back?”

Carol thought about that for a moment.  “I don’t think so.  I think he wanted to punish me, which is why he took Rindy.  I think his goal is to make me suffer for having the audacity to leave him.”

“This room is wrong,” Therese walked back to the door leading to the hall.  “It isn’t where he would feel safe or comfortable.  There is nothing about Harge in this room, like it wasn’t really his space.” She walked back into the hallway, Carol following.

“Tommy was using him,” Therese started thinking out loud now, allowing Carol to see the inner machinations of her mind, “manipulating him and yet his narcissism wouldn’t let him see that.  When we find them, we’ll have to use that.  We’ll need to make him believe he is in control, that he is smarter, stronger…cater to his delusions.”

Carol could sense what Therese was implying and it made her uncomfortable and Therese picked up on her shifting energy.  “It would all be a lie, Carol, but it would buy us time. Show me Rindy’s room.”

This bedroom was unlike every other room in the house.  There were bright colors, stuffed animals and toys and dollhouses.  It was like something out of a toy catalogue. Still, Therese noted the clear feminine themes and toys didn’t quite fit with the personality of the little girl she had played video games with. 

“It’s beautiful, but this room isn’t about Rindy.” Therese looked around.  “I see what you mean about illusions. Does Rindy like staying here?” Therese asked and Carol shrugged. 

“She never told me otherwise.  I know she plays outside a lot when she is here.  There is a huge swing set out back.”

“And where did Harge play when he was a boy?”

It seemed like an odd question. “I don’t know, he never really spoke of his childhood.”

“So when you would come here, for family dinners and such, he would never reminisce? Tell you about his secret hiding places? That kind of thing?”

Carol thought back for a minute.  It had been so long ago.  “He did tell me once about how he created an imaginary kingdom out of boxes or something. He would hide there.”

“Storage? Attic? Basement?”

“This house has both.” Carol explained. “We’re already on the second floor, we could find the attic first.”

It took a few minutes, but when they found a door to the attic it was locked.  “I don’t think either of us is in the shape to break that door down.” Therese laughed.

Carol’s phone buzzed with a text message.  “It’s Hotch, there is nothing at any of their other properties, but there are also no signs that they have left the country…oh Shit! They didn’t have grounds to hold them and they are on their way back to the house so we need to finish up. Let’s check the basement.”

 

The door to the basement was closed, but not locked.  Therese reached out for the door knob but hesitated before turning it.  “Do you have your gun?”

Carol pointed to her holster.  “Yes, why?”

“Just a feeling.”  Therese started to open the door, but Carol stopped her.  “I think we should know by now to trust your instincts.  You don’t have a weapon, so let me go down first.”

“Okay, but give me your phone.” Therese held out her hand and Carol handed her the device.  “She punched in something quickly and then opened the camera app. “I’ll take pictures when we get down there since we have to hurry.”

Carol pulled her gun from the holster, readied herself, and slowly opened the door.  The stairs were steep and led into darkness.  “I think there is a light at the bottom." She crept carefully down the stairs, one at a time, not sure what to expect.  She found the light switch and flipped it on, but nothing happened.  “Shit. Can you use the flashlight on the phone?”

Therese turned on the flashlight and came down the stairs, but once she let go of the basement door it closed behind her.  The uneasy feeling returned.  She shined the light around the room, but it appeared empty, so they turned to go back up the stairs until they heard a muffled cry from somewhere behind them.  Carol turned quickly, weapon raised as Therese stood behind her, aiming the light towards the direction of the noise. 

“FBI! Come out with your hands up!”

*Silence*

“Harge! I know you’re here!”

*Silence*

Suddenly the room was plunged in to darkness and something hard came down on Therese’s arms, causing her to drop the phone and fall to the ground.  She could hear a struggle as she searched the ground for the phone.  Carol was fighting in the darkness, she heard metal hitting the ground, Carol had dropped her gun.  She heard a punch land followed by a masculine grunt.  Carol screamed in pain and then her voice was muffled. And when Therese’s hand finally found the phone and the light was turned back on, she saw him with his arms around Carol’s throat in a choke hold. “Welcome home sweetheart,” Harge sneered. "I see you brought company."

He was standing behind her as she struggled, elbowing him as hard as she could, causing him to loosen his grip enough so that she was able to kick her gun across the room. Therese felt it hit her foot, but before she could bend down, Carol was back in his grasp.  “Now, now, love, that is no way to treat your husband.”

“Fuck you!” She tried to scream but the pressure against her throat was making it increasingly difficult. 

“Not in front of company and our child, Carol!” He chastised her.  Carol’s eyes went wide and Therese moved the light around the room quickly.  Rindy was here, somewhere.  Behind them, there was door to a wine cellar.  Therese thought of the tracker Carol had mentioned. The tracker that had mysteriously gone silent.  If Rindy was locked in the wine cellar, it could have blocked the signal!  She felt the gun at her feet, but couldn’t reach down and get it without a distraction. 

As if reading her mind, Carol started fighting again.  She pulled and jerked and flung her head back in an effort to break his nose.  She kicked and screamed until he grabbed her injured arm and squeezed hard, bringing her to her knees in pain.  Luckily, it had been enough. Therese held the gun out in front of her.  There was the muffled sound of Rindy screaming behind her.  Could she see what was happening?  Therese tried to remember if the door had been solid or had there been a glass panel.  “Let her go.”

“Harge, please,” Carol pleaded. 

His face lit up.  “I always loved it when you begged.  You never could get enough.”

Something clicked in Therese’s mind and she looked down into Carol’s eyes. Read my mind, Carol. 

“Is that why you really wanted to come here Carol? To get back with him? You said I wasn’t enough…is that what you meant?” Therese’s voice sounded hurt and betrayed.

If at first Carol was confused, she quickly caught on to the game Therese was playing.  Make him believe he is in control and that he is stronger, better, and smarter.

“I’m sorry, Therese, honestly, but I realized that Harge is the only man for me.” She had worded it carefully, praying it would go over this head.  “I need my family and they have to come first.”

Carol slowly stood and backed her body into Harge’s.  “Can you ever forgive me? I know this was all my fault.”  It was a dangerous game for sure, and one that had no guarantee of working, but at least it bought them time, help was on the way.

Rindy kept pounding on the door, harder and harder, calling out for her mother.  “Let me get our daughter Harge and we can go.  We’ll take Rindy and we’ll just go.  Therese won’t stop us.”

Harge turned Carol around so that he was facing her and pulled her close.  He kissed her hard, slipping his tongue into her mouth.  She tried her best to fake it, to kiss him back, but it was revolting.  She could feel his manhood swelling, turned on by the power he felt and it made her want to throw-up.  He pulled back and looked at her coldly.  “You’re lying, but it doesn’t matter.  Therese can let her out. Rindy shouldn’t have to suffer any more for the sins of her mother.” He spun her back around, his forearm pressing harder against her throat. 

Therese ran to the cellar door and unlocked it. Rindy came rushing out, screaming for her mother, she tried to go to her, but Therese pulled her back. “No! Stand behind me, Rindy.”

“It was dark! And it was cold! Daddy wouldn’t let me out!” Rindy was crying as she held on to Therese, burying her head in her stomach.  Therese stoked her head.  “You’re safe now, honey.  I’ve got you.”

“Take your hand off my daughter, you filthy dyke!” Harge screamed! “Come here, Nerinda!”

Rindy didn’t move.  She grasped on to Therese’s legs tightly. Therese turned back towards Carol and Harge, and raised the gun again. 

They all looked up as the sounds of movement were suddenly above them. “Mommy’s home. Time for us to go.” Harge growled into her ear.

Carol and Therese knew that Hotch would have seen the SUV, would know they were still here. Back-up had arrived, which meant now was their chance.  Carol used the distraction and spun, landing an elbow against Harge’s jaw.  She tried to push off of him, but he was too fast and his hands were wrapped around her throat, squeezing, and cutting off her air supply.

Therese held the gun in her hand and screamed one last warning.  “Stop or I will shoot!”

Harge moved to behind Carol, using her as a human shield.  “Do it,” Carol managed to get out before he started squeezing harder.

Therese looked down quickly at Rindy and back up to Carol.  Her vision was still slightly blurred, and her body was damaged, her brain injured…what if she missed!  Carol rasped out the words again as the color drained from her face. Therese pulled the trigger.

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The basement door flew open!  “Carol! Therese!” J.J. was screaming down to them. 

“Down here!” Therese called up to her.  “We need paramedics!”

Therese had pulled the trigger and Harge had flown backwards, taking a bullet in the shoulder.  Carol’s knees had hit the ground, freed from his grasp and she crawled over to her daughter and pulled her into her arms before turning to see Harge bleeding against a wall. Therese bent down and wrapped her arms around both of them, protecting and holding them as J.J. and Hotch ran down the stairs, guns drawn. 

Hotch walked over to check on Harge and bent down to place pressure on his wound.  “The bullet went through.  He’ll be okay. Ambulance is on the way.”

“Where are the Airds?” Therese asked.

“Handcuffed together on the stairs.” J.J. smiled as she holstered her gun and turned to check on Carol. She was struggling to breathe.  “We need to get her upstairs and quickly!” J.J. helped her stand and then up the stairs while Therese kept Rindy close and they followed.  They were met by the paramedics who immediately went to work with ice packs on Carol’s neck.  She was placed on a backboard and quickly moved into an ambulance, Therese and Rindy following to ride with them.

 

Carol awoke in another hospital room, only this time she was the one in the bed.  Her neck was bandaged and her throat sore and dry. She tried to move her head around, but it hurt too badly.  “Therese.” She was able to get it out in a whisper.

Therese was quickly by her bed, looking down at her.  The bruising on her head was a little lighter, her eyes a little brighter.  “Carol, try not to speak. You had to have surgery to repair some ruptured vessels in your throat.  Whisper only, okay?”

Carol mouthed, “How long?”

“It’s Sunday.” Therese replied as she moved some blonde strands out of her eyes. "Your surgery was Friday night."

“Rindy?”

“She is safe and staying with J.J. until you are cleared to go home.”

“Harge?”

“Alive. He had surgery on his shoulder and once he’s healed enough, he’ll be taken to prison to await his court date.  And before you ask, John and Jennifer are being charged with obstruction, and are under house arrest.  You can relax.  It’s over Carol…it’s all over.”

Carol reached a hand up and held it to the side of Therese’s face.  “Can’t believe you missed.” She whispered and smiled.

Therese had to think a moment before she understood what Carol meant.  “I didn’t miss, Carol.” Therese smiled warmly as she looked lovingly into Carol’s suddenly deep blue eyes.   “Regardless of what he has done, I wasn’t about to kill Rindy’s father in front of her.”

Carol’s eyes started to water.  “I love you, my angel.” She pulled Therese down and placed a simple kiss on her lips.  

Chapter Text

Six weeks later…

 

Recovery had been a hard road for sure, between the physical therapy for Carol and Therese and psychological therapy for all three, their schedules stayed full.  Once Carol had been released from the hospital, Therese had temporarily moved in to help take care of both her and Rindy.  It turned out to the best for all of them, as Therese and Rindy had horrible nightmares for the first few weeks and Carol was the only one who could bring comfort to either of them.

Today, everyone’s nerves were on edge and frazzled.  “Rindy, are you ready?” Therese called upstairs.  “We’ve got to go, munchkin!”

“Coming!” She called down. 

Carol smiled at their exchange.  Screaming was something she still wasn’t allowed to do, along with a very long list of physical activities, including sex.  Of all the things on that damned list, the only one she really missed was sex.  Therese was right there next to her every night and they would talk, caress each other, give sweet kisses good night and wrap their arms around each other to sleep, but they had not been truly intimate since their first time. On the positive side, they had been forced to slow down and get to know each other better.  Therese, for example, learned that Carol can be quite whiny when she didn’t feel well and she despised not being able to do things for herself.  Carol learned that despite having grown up in the foster system, Therese was quite maternal and so good with Rindy.  Still, Carol couldn’t help but wonder if it would ever be like it was that first time.  Did all the trauma somehow dull the passion that had simmered between them before?  Did they miss out on the fire that always existed at the beginning of a relationship?  Would they ever be the people they were before?

Rindy landed on the bottom step with a boom, “ready!”

“Do you have everything you need?” Carol’s said, her voice still raspy and a bit lower in pitch these days. Therese found it incredibly sexy. 

Rolling her eyes in response, Rindy replied, “Yes, mom.  I’ll just be down the street.  It’s not like I can’t come back if I forgot something.”

“Very true.  Ok, you remember our rules?” School was officially out for summer and Rindy was going to spend a few days with her friend Olivia.  It was very convenient as Carol and Therese had to go before an inquiry board regarding the case and they would find out if Therese was cleared to return to the bureau.  Having Rindy gone for a few days would give them time to process everything without her picking up on their heightened stress levels.   

“Please don’t make me recite them!” Rindy whined. 

Carol smiled.  “I won’t, but listen, I’ve spoken with Olivia’s mom.  She knows about the nightmares and she has promised to keep a light on in the hall for you.”

Rindy didn’t respond, but she looked down feeling somewhat embarrassed.  Therese picked up on it right away.  “Hey, none of that.  You know I still have them, too.  We all do.  It’s just our brains healing and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

“I know,” Rindy didn’t look up.  “Mom, did you…does she know…about…him?”

Carol understood now.  “Rindy look at me.” The young girl looked up, blue eyes at blue.  “What happened with your father was on the news, so I’m sure Olivia’s mom is aware, but hopefully she knows better than to bring it up. If at any time you feel uncomfortable or scared, you call us and we’ll be there. Okay, sweet pea?”

Rindy nodded.  “Okay." 

Therese and Carol smiled and took time to eye each other up and down.  Carol looked very professional in her white button down shirt and black trousers.  Therese had opted for grey dress pants and matching blazer.  The three walked out, hand in hand, into a new day.

 

<><><><><> 

After dropping off Rindy, Carol and Therese drove to Quantico.  Today was the day both Carol and Therese would give their official statements regarding everything that happened.  For the most part, they had been kept out of the loop on the investigation.  At first, Carol had found it especially irritating, but now that time had past, she understood why Hotch had kept them as far away as possible, allowing them time to heal. 

That isn’t to say they didn’t know anything.  Garcia and Gen had filled them in on the evidence found at Tommy’s house in Iowa and Hotch had called Carol when Harge pled guilty, the evidence against him piling up.  He was given life in prison without the possibility of parole, and after that Carol found her nightmares had subsided.  Therese’s took a little more time, and every now and then she would still get one, but they were definitely a lot less frequent.  Rindy, however, still had frequent night terrors.  She now needed a nightlight and doors were always kept open.  Carol had always read that children bounced back more quickly, but that didn’t seem to be the case.   

Carol sat in the passenger seat, while Therese drove. After over thirty minutes of quiet, Therese reached her hand over and placed it gently on Carol’s thigh.  “What are thinking?”

“That’s my line,” Carol smiled.

“Well I can’t exactly ask myself what I’m thinking.” Therese winked at her.  “So give it up.”

“I’m thinking…” Carol paused.  There were so many things going through her mind she wasn’t quite sure where to start. “I’m worried about Rindy, not looking forward to rehashing all of this shit today, and I want you to move in with me for real.”  She slipped that last one in quickly, wondering if Therese would notice.

“I already live with you Carol, and Rindy will be fine.  She’s strong and brave and a fighter just like her mother.” Therese did her best to be supportive. 

“You still have an apartment in D.C., so it just seems like you could decide to head back at any moment.” She tried to be nonchalant, but was failing miserably.

Therese shifted in the driver seat and pulled her hand back and onto the wheel.  It was a conversation that needed to happen sooner or later.  “I wanted to talk to you about that, I just didn’t know how to tell you—“

“You don’t want to live with me?” Carol’s voice rose in tone and she felt a twinge of pain.

“No! Not…it’s just…I wanted to wait until after today to discuss this.” Therese said with frustration. 

“Discuss what? Just be honest with me, has this all been too much for you? Are you tired of taking care of me? Of Rindy? Are we just a constant reminder of everything that happened?” All of Carol’s unspoken insecurities came rushing to the surface.  It was bound to be an emotional day, but she hadn’t planned on any of this.

It didn’t happen very often, but every now and then they would fall out of sync.  Usually, they could almost read each other’s thoughts or nuances, but when tensions were high, sometimes the messages would get jumbled.  Therese recognized this as one of those times.  “Ok, first, I need you to calm down.  You aren’t supposed to raise your voice or your blood pressure, and right now you are doing both.  Second, we are going to table this conversation, because right now we have to get through our testimony and see if you are still going to have a job.” She pulled up to the security gate and waved her badge before pulling through.

“I don’t care about this job, Therese. Christ, I never really wanted to come back to the BAU in the first place. I only did it to solve Abby’s murder.  Besides that, in order for us to be together, we can’t be in the same unit anyway.” Carol folded her arms and looked out the window. “Of course, if you don’t want to be with me, it’s a moot point.”

Therese pulled into a parking space and shut off the car before turning and looking at Carol.  She was adorable when she pouted. “Of course I want to be with you.  I LOVE you, Carol and I love Rindy! I just don’t think we should make plans about where we should live until after this.” She pointed to the building. 

“What does that mean?” Carol was confused and frustrated and to be honest, scared.  She wasn’t sure what would come from the inquiry, if she’d still have a job with the bureau, or if she even wanted one.  She did know that she wanted and needed Therese, regardless of the rest.  

Therese reached up and placed her hand on Carol’s cheek and wiped away a tear Carol didn’t realize she had shed.  “What it means is,” Therese’s voice was soft and calming, “we face one thing at a time.  We need to get through today.  Tonight, we’ll go to dinner and we’ll discuss the rest, okay?”

Carol nodded.  She despised feeling so weak and insecure, but somewhere in all of this, she had lost so much of her old self and she wondered if she’d ever find her confidence again.

 

<><><><><> 

 

Therese had gone into the room first.  She felt like she was sitting in the Supreme Court, only not as formal.  She was seated at a long table with her assigned representative and BAU Chief Aaron Hotchner, across from six senior bureau members, who all looked like would rather be some place else.  She recognized her former unit Chief, SSA Adams and her current unit Chief Erin Strauss, but the rest of the people looking down at her from their position on a raised platform where strangers. 

“Agent Belivet, thank for joining us today.  We understand that you have been through quite an ordeal and we do not wish to make this any more difficult than necessary.  We just need to ask you a few questions.  Do you have any questions before we begin?” Section chief Erin Strauss was the first to speak, hoping to put the young agent at ease. Therese shook her head, no and so Erin continued.  “First, can you please, in as much detail as possible, tell us of the events of your kidnapping?”

Everyone in the room listened intently as she recounted to the best of her ability all of the events of her abduction, her rescue, and the events in the basement with Harge. Despite all the weeks of therapy, she still found it difficult to discuss.

Of the 4 strangers on the board, three were males and one was a female agent she didn’t know, but she recognized the name on her placard, A.D. Barnes who asked the next question, “Now, can you please tell us, what is the nature of your relationship with SSA Aird?”

Therese really wasn’t prepared for this question, although she guessed she should be. “Do you mean now? Or then?” Therese asked for clarification.

Several of the board members whispered to each other before she clarified the question.  “Where you in a relationship with SSA Aird before the events? Are you still?”

Therese looked over at Hotch for support and he just nodded to indicate that she should be honest.

“SSA Carol Aird was my immediate supervisor when I started at the BAU.  Over the course of working together I became attracted to her and we did become romantically involved.  Since the abduction, we have been living together and healing together.” She tried to answer the question in an honest and thorough way without going into too much detail.

“And you were aware of the bureau policy of fraternization within units before this affair began?” Assistant Director Barnes spoke again and Therese was immediately put off with her tone of voice. 

“First, it wasn’t and isn’t an affair.  Second, I was aware of the policy. But we can’t help who we fall in love with.” She spoke honestly and from the heart.  “I was also aware of the fact that Carol had no intention of staying with the BAU.”

Again, the members of the board mumbled to each other.  “Did you, at any time, feel pressured to enter in this relationship with SSA Aird?” SSA Adams asked.

“Absolutely not!” Therese was insulted at the insinuation that Carol had somehow sexually harassed her.  There was more mumbling and then a change in tactic.

“Agent Belivet, without causing too much stress, we do need to ask a few specific questions regarding your capture and rescue,” Strauss spoke again.

Therese took a deep breath and continued to answer their questions as best she could, until they reached the question that brought this whole process in to the light for Therese.

“So you don’t remember who shot first?” AD Barnes asked.

It was at this moment Therese realized that at least one person on the panel had an agenda.  There had been rumors around the FBI for years that AD Barnes was looking to make cuts, and for some unknown reason she hated the BAU.  Up to this point, Strauss had managed to keep her away, but clearly the battle was ongoing.  If Barnes couldn’t take out the whole unit, she would attack the members of the BAU one by one and today her target was Carol Aird.  Since they already knew about her relationship with Carol, there would have been no point in lying about it. She did make a mental note to be careful not to give them anything else. “I’ve told you all I can remember.”

“In regards to the incident with Hargess Aird, why did you and SSA Aird not wait for back-up?” Barnes asked again.  Therese really disliked this woman.

“We had no reason to believe that we needed it when we entered the house.” Therese said simply.

“A house you entered without a warrant?” One of the male voices spoke for the first time, an Assistant Director Spencer. He was older, dressed in an outdated suit that didn’t quite fit right. He sounded unsure of himself, even though he was really trying to hide that.

“Carol’s…I mean SSA Aird’s daughter was missing and we had reason to believe her father, Harge Aird was involved.  This was his place of residence and the backdoor was unlocked.  We were simply there to look for evidence as to her whereabouts, but when we entered the basement, we were attacked.”

“A basement you had no legal right to enter?” It was Barnes again.

“Well it turns out we were right, and going into that basement saved a young girls life!” Therese spoke a little louder with an edge of defiance in her voice.

“But, you had no reason to think that Rindy was in any immediate danger from her own father.” Barnes countered.

“You mean the son-of-a-bitch that paid to have me kidnapped, raped, and had planned to kill me? You think he wasn’t a danger?  I’m sorry, do you have a degree in criminal psychology? Do you understand the mind of a sociopath?” She wasn’t screaming, but Therese was pretty damn close.

“Agent Belivet, you need to calm—“

“Do NOT tell me to calm down!” AD Barnes had crossed a line and there was no going back, and now Therese was raising her voice.  “You have no idea what I’ve been through! You have no idea what we’ve been through! Carol did what she had to do to save me and to save our daughter and if you can’t understand that you do not deserve to serve in this institution! We are here to protect and serve and Carol did her job!”

The room went silent. Therese hadn’t even realized what she had said, but Hotch did and he smiled at her sweetly.  “I think we’re done here.”

 

 

<><><><><> 

 

 

Therese walked out into the hallway and let out a frustrated huff. 

“How did it go?” She turned to see Carol sitting on a long bench in the hallway, just outside of the room. Though it had been impossible to hear everything, Carol had heard the things Therese said at the end and it had caused a dramatic shift somewhere deep inside of her.  It was one simple word, but it had worked like a transfusion, filling Carol with a strength she’d been missing.

“It could have gone better.” She sat next to Carol, but made no move to touch her. “That Barnes bitch is out to get you, be careful.”

Carol stiffened and straightened.  “I can handle her. I can handle anything, so long as we’re together.”

Again, it was one simple word that gave Carol everything she needed.  “Always.”

Carol stood and looked down at the beautiful. brown-haired girl that had changed her life so completely.  She gave her a wink and a smile and strolled into the room with an air of confidence.  She took her seat in between Hotch and the representative. A microphone had been placed at the table so Carol would not have to strain, but she had no intention of raising her voice.

“Good morning, SSA Aird.  Thank you for joining us.” Erin Strauss started.  “As we explained to Agent Belivet, we are simply here to ask some questions regarding the recent incidents with Tommy Tucker and Hargess Aird, as well your behavior during the course of this investigation.  Do you have any questions before we begin?”

“No.” Carol said softly and smiled, making sure to make eye contact with all six members of the panel members.

Erin Strauss had always found Carol to be exceptionally good under pressure.  She doubted today would be any different.  “Good. Let’s start with why you chose to rejoin the BAU.”

“I was approached by SSA Aaron Hotchner regarding a specific cold case and the possibility of building a new team.  I told him I would help him, temporarily.”

“So Agent Belivet was correct when she implied you really didn’t have any intention of staying with the BAU?” Erin sounded disappointed. 

“No, I did not.”

Assistant Director Spencer was the next to ask a question, “Tell me SSA Aird, was there something significant about this case?” Carol wasn’t sure if he was truly as oblivious as he seemed, but she would appease him in any case.

“As I’m sure you are aware, Agent Abigail Gerhard, a former member of the BAU and a friend, was murdered several years ago and that case had gone cold.  SSA Hotchner came to believe that some recent cases were related and asked me to consult.”

“Friend? Is that how you would describe your relationship with Agent Gerhard?” AD Barnes wasn’t trying to hide her insinuations.

“Yes, it is.” Carol countered, her eyes cold and grey, giving nothing away.

“May I remind you that lying to this panel could result in your dismissal from the Bureau?” AD Barnes said harshly.

“I’m sorry, but do you have some specific evidence that refutes my claim that Agent Gerhard and I were more than friends? Or are you making some assumption based on rumors and innuendo?” Carol was the one making accusations now. 

“No, I just meant…“ Barnes tried to backtrack, but Carol was about to take over this dog and pony show. 

“Can we just get to the point of this inquiry?" Carol moved closer to the microphone. "We are here because you believe I violated protocol in Iowa, but apparently we are mostly here because I am in a relationship with Agent Belivet, which also violates Bureau policy, and clearly in your eyes that led to the sequence of events laid out before you.  You want to place all of this at my feet? Go ahead.” Carol sat back and waited as the six-member panel whispered back and forth, unsure of how to react.

Hotch placed a hand on her shoulder to calm and her representative whispered something in her ear, as Carol sat, silent, waiting for the next question. The members on the panel were clearly shaken by her statement, however, and it appeared no one quite knew where to begin.

“SSA Aird, please just explain to us what happened in Iowa and why you made the decisions you did.” Erin Strauss was going to give Carol the room she needed to explain herself. 

“As you know, Agent Belivet was abducted by a man that had been hired by my ex-husband. She was held for several days and taken to Waterloo, Iowa.  Thanks to Agent Penelope Garcia, we found evidence linking Harge to Tommy Tucker, the man who had taken Agent Belivet.  Based on our initial profile, we believed Tommy and Harge had planned to meet in Des Moines and at that point, Agent Belivet was to be killed.”

“You husband was in FBI custody at this time, thought, correct?” SSA Adams asked, flipping through a file. 

“EX-husband,” Carol stressed, “and he was taken into custody around the same time, yes, but we came to realize that Tommy had an ulterior motive with Agent Belivet and I believed her life to be in more immediate danger.” Carol continued. “I also realized that Tucker was not coming to Des Moines, but to Waterloo and I did not feel it was safe to wait for the rest of my team to join as we were scattered in between three states, so I recruited members from the local Des Moines office as well as officers from the local Waterloo police force.”

“According to the Waterloo chief, you strong armed him into cooperating.” Carol didn’t bother to read the name on on the placard in front of the man, simply thinking  of him as sexist asshole number one.

“Yes, I find men often react that way when a woman is giving the orders, but the bottom line is that this was a federal kidnapping case, it crossed state lines, and it involved one of our agents.  It was within our jurisdiction and I was the senior agent on site.” Carol took a sip of water from a glass that Hotch handed her. 

“One of the young agents you recruited was killed because of your decision not to wait.” DA Barnes said, her voice grating Carol’s nerves.

“That agent was killed by Tommy Tucker.  She was a federal agent that was given the same level of training as each of us. She knew the risks going in.  If we would have waited, Agent Belivet, another young agent, would be dead.” Carol could feel her blood pressure rising and took a calming breathe and another sip of water.  It had taken her several weeks, but she had finally let go of feeling responsible for Agent Carter’s death, still, thinking of what could have happened to Therese still rattled her. 

“You don’t know that for sure.  Based on the evidence shown to this board, Tommy Tucker was not the primary suspect in the murders of the other women.”

“Oh, so I should have waited while he raped her then?” Carol’s voice was bitter and hard, her eyes piercing.

“That’s not what I’m saying!” AD Barnes face turned red, embarrassed.

“Miss Barnes," Carol started, purposefully leaving off her title as a sign of disrespect, "I made a choice to save Agent Belivet, and I would make that same choice today without hesitation.  I knew exactly what Mr. Tucker was capable of based on what he had done to those other women.  When we entered the house, there was no sign of him.  We moved quickly to extradite Agent Belivet from the house, but Mr. Tucker had been hiding in a storm cellar under the house.  It is my understanding that while Agent Carter stayed in the living room, Tommy Tucker snuck up behind her and killed her.  He then shot Agent Jack James.”

“And that’s the bullet that was lodged in your arm, so he shot you as well?” Strauss added, trying to build some sympathy towards Carol. 

“Yes,” Carol continued. “At this point, Agent Belivet was still tied to the bed and we were cornered in the bedroom. I had no immediate way to free her, so I knew our best bet was to have Tucker enter the room first, thus giving me my best shot at taking him out.  So, I did my best to upset him.” She tilted her head as she explained.

“And how exactly did you upset him?” A third nameless male agent on the panel asked.

“I knew that Tucker was a necrophiliac who had murdered his mother. I used his history against him,” she said with a shrug. 

“You didn’t think of this as an unnecessary risk, given your circumstances?” Strauss asked.

“No, I didn’t, because at this point I knew my team had arrived.  I had my earpiece in and I knew SSA Hotcher, Agent Jareau, and Agent Cantrell were on their way inside the house.  I just had to keep him distracted as they entered.  Once Tucker realized he was surrounded, he made his move and I shot him.”

“Wait, are you claiming this was some type of suicide by cop?” Barnes asked, disbelieving.

“I’m only telling you what happened.  You are free to come to your own conclusions.”

“Agent Hotchner, I believe your agents found additional evidence that shows a connection between Tommy Tucker and Hargess Aird?” Strauss was going to use every chance she had to support the BAU team. 

“Yes, ma’am we did.  Tucker kept video logs, detailing all of his crimes.  He was able to give specific information that had not been released to the press. More importantly, he kept records of phone calls, text messages, and he had the video showing Harge Aird entering and exiting Agent Gerhard’s hotel room.  There is no doubt that Hargess Aird was not only involved in her murder, but in the murder of the other women and in the abduction of Agent Belivet.”

“Moving on then to the incident at the house in Virginia,” AD Spencer was apparently eager to get this over with.  “Why did you enter the house without a warrant?”

“Harge had taken Rindy, my daughter, and this was his last known location. The backdoor was opened, so we had reasonable cause to search.” Carol’s face remained emotionless. 

“You seem to have a pattern of not waiting for your team, SSA Aird.” Sexist man number one surmised.

“I did not go in to that house alone, I had a member of my team with me.  It is not unusual for any team in this agency to go out in pairs.”

“Is it not true that Agent Belivet was not cleared for duty? She didn’t even have a weapon?” Sexist man #2, spoke. 

“Again, at the time, we had no reason to believe that Harge was still in the house.  Therese checked herself out of the hospital and felt more than ready to assist me in a search for evidence.”

“And that brings us back to why we have the relationship policy in place to begin with.  Would Agent Belivet have jeopardized her health for any other agent on the team like this?  Would she have checked herself out, against medical advice, and gone into a potentially dangerous situation for anyone else or did she feel pushed to do so because of her relationship with you?”

The questions were clearly rhetorical as AD Barnes started addressing the other panel members and not Agent Carol Aird.  “She violated FBI policy by seducing a younger and more impressionable agent and put her life at risk.  The evidence they found after the fact, cannot justify her violation of procedures that did, in fact, lead to the death of another agent.”

AD Barnes was like a dog with a bone and Carol was over her and this whole process.  he stood up, and placed both hands on the table to steady herself and leaned close to the microphone. If this was going to be her grand finale and she intended to make it memorable. 

“Agent Aird, please sit down.” One of the male panel members spoke sternly.

“No, I have something to say, and then I will take my leave.”

"You cannot leave until you are dismissed, SSA Aird!" Sexist man #1 spoke again.

“Carol,” Hotchner placed a hand on her arm, “please—“

“No.” Carol took a deep breath and released it slowly and looked at each panel member again.  “I have no doubts or regrets about any decision I made to save Agent Belivet or my daughter.  Now, what happened with Therese, I wanted, and I will not stand here as you try to make it out to be something it isn’t. Each and every one of you knows that agents die in the line of duty; it is a part of this job.  Abby knew that, Agent Carter knew that, and even Therese knew that when she helped me to save Rindy, so no, I will not ease your minds by accepting responsibility for their deaths. I will, however, accept responsibility for falling in love with another agent.

That being said, I will be submitting my resignation paperwork this afternoon, so you can all breathe a deep sigh of relief.  Pin this all on me if you choose, I really could not give a damn,  I only ask that Agent Belivet’s career not be sidelined because of my actions.  She is an extraordinary agent and will serve the bureau well if she chooses to continue to do so.”  Carol turned and looked at Hotch, “Aaron, thank you for helping me close this case and for helping me to move on.  You know I am always here for you, but it’s time to let go.”

“Are you sure this is what you want?” Aaron looked at her empathetically.

Carol smiled and felt a huge weight life from her shoulders.  “Oh I’m sure. I need to focus on Rindy right now.” She squinted her eyes and gave him a very serious look, “Take care of my girl, Hotch, or you will have me to deal with.”  Carol stood up straight and without looking back at the panel members that were scrambling and calling for her to return to her seat, walked out of the room with her head held high. God that felt good.

Chapter Text

Therese had made reservations for that night, knowing that regardless of what happened, she had a question she wanted to ask.  1789 Restaurant was one of the hottest fine dining establishments in Georgetown.  It was difficult to get in to, but absolutely worth it.  She’d read reviews, seen the pictures, and just couldn’t resist the opportunity to take Carol some place incredible to signify the end of one chapter and hopefully, the beginning of another. 

As they sat at the table, Therese stared in wonder as the candle light illuminated Carol’s features.  In her mind, Carol was still the most breathtaking woman she had ever seen, and even after everything they had gone through, she only considered her more so.  She was brilliant, strong, brave, and absolutely gorgeous and Therese could not believe she had the privilege of being with her. 

Carol looked around the room in wonder and then stared at the menu.  “This place is magnificent.  I can’t believe it is so close and I’ve never been.  You know they don’t really have any vegetarian options, angel.  What do you plan on eating?”

Therese smiled. “I’ll get one of the seafood options, I think, and that butternut squash soup sounds sinful.”

The waiter poured their wine and they ordered their meal and sat enjoying the ambience of the room, until Therese couldn’t hold back any longer.  “I can’t believe you actually quit. Are you absolutely sure this is what you want?”

Carol laughed softly. “It is absolutely what I want. The question is what do you want to do now? Do you want to stay with the BAU?”

Therese pondered this for a moment and took a sip of her wine.  “I think so, but to be honest Carol, I’m terrified.”

Carol leaned forward and took one of Therese’s hands in her own.  “What are you scared of?”

“Getting hurt again, being away from you for long periods of time, and I wonder if the team would ever treat me the same.  I’d barely been there a month before all of this happened.  But I don’t want people to think I failed if I walked away so soon.”

“What people?  I can’t imagine given what you’ve survived that anyone would think that.  I sure as hell wouldn’t.” Carol ran her thumb over Therese’s hand soothingly. “You need to do what is best for you.  There are plenty of other positions at the bureau, and even within the BAU you could work as a researcher for a while, stay off the front lines. You know Penelope would love having someone at home base with her.”

“Maybe.  I just can’t decide yet.” Therese looked down, wondering how to approach the subject she needed.  “Carol, this is going to sound very…intrusive…and I know this is a very personal question…and you don’t have to answer…”

“Ask me things, Therese. I don’t have any secrets from you.”

“I know you want to stay home and take care of Rindy, but how is that going to work, exactly? I mean, how are you going to support yourself?” Therese was embarrassed at even asking, but she needed to know before she asked the question that really brought them here tonight.

“Oh angel, I’ve never needed to work, and even more so now. Every dime I made at the bureau was just stashed away.  My parents made sure I was taken care of, and while I was married, Harge took care of everything, and I’m pretty sure my lawyer is working on a civil case against the Aird Estate.  Not that I want or need their money, but I want Rindy to be taken care of.”

“Oh, wow. I mean, I knew you came from a wealthy background, I guess I just didn’t know the extent.” Therese’s heart was about to beat out of her chest.  “Does your house have any specific meaning to you? Like did you inherit it, too?”

“Oh gosh no!” Carol smiled. “I bought that after the divorce.  The people that lived there before me had renovated it, so it was easy to take care of and such.”

Therese took all of that information and processed it and took another sip of wine, longer this time.  Carol watched her carefully, noting the creasing on her forehead and the tension in her jaw.  Therese was nervous.

“You know I meant it when I asked you to move in with me, with us.  I know it’s fast, Therese, but I’ve never been more sure of anything.”

“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about tonight, but I was worried that my answer would scare you.”

“Scare me?” Carol sat back. It was an odd choice of words.  If Therese was going to move back to her apartment, it was going to hurt her, not scare her.

“I want to live with you, Carol, but I feel like that space is…well…he took something away from it.  Does that make sense?” Even though she'd been staying there for the past six weeks, she couldn't help but feel like the space was haunted or something.  She would constantly look out the windows to make sure no one was watching them.  She didn't think it would ever truly feel like a safe space for her. 

Carol thought about this for a few minutes, sipping from her own wine glass.  She had seen Therese’s apartment, and while beautiful, it was much too small for the three of them.  Plus she had no desire to move Rindy into downtown D.C.  “I know what you mean, but I’m not sure where you are going with this.”

“Assuming I do stay with the Bureau and the BAU, Georgetown and D.C. are really quite a commute.  It was taking me over an hour each day.” Therese was staring into the candle flame, building up her courage. 

“What are you saying, Therese? You want to move closer to Quantico? You’d be farther away from us. I don’t understand—“

“I want us to move in together, some place new, some place that is ours, something not tied to…him.” She finally blurted out.

“Oh!” Carol’s eyes went wide. 

“I mean we can rent a place if you want.  I know it is so fast.  There are some beautiful areas around Manassas.  It would be a better commute for me and there are excellent schools for Rindy.  It’s ridiculous isn’t it? I mean you have a house…it would be too much to ask.” Therese wished she could take it all back, to go back in time and erase the past few minutes.

“Yes.” Carol said quietly, her eyes watery.  “Yes, I…Therese I would follow you anywhere.  I love you more than I know how to describe.  As soon as the doctor clears me, I do plan on showing you just how much, and I want to keep showing you. So, yes.”

Therese felt a tear run down her face.  She said yes. 

 

<><><><><> 

 

It didn’t take long for them to find a place, and Carol’s house sold faster than they thought possible.  Within a few weeks, their lives were in boxes and trucks, and being condensed.  Carol had insisted they hire a moving company to handle everything, as moving two places into one was going to be quite taxing. Ultimately, Therese was grateful she had given in, because all they had to do was check in to a hotel for a night.  As they had one last appointment in D.C., they chose to stay in town.  Tomorrow morning, they would meet the movers at their new home in Manassas.  Rindy was going to have one last weekend with Olivia, though Carol had promised she would bring her to visit as often as she wanted. 

The one last appointment had been to see Carol’s surgeon.  It had been 12 weeks since her surgery, and if he didn’t clear her for normal activities, she was going to punch him.  Carol walked out of the doctor’s office, a huge smile on her face. 

“Well? What did he say?” Therese asked as they walked to the car.

“I’m 100%, cleared for all activity.  I can lift boxes, scream, and most importantly,” she leaned pulled Therese close to whisper in her ear, “I can make love to you.”

A shiver went from Therese’s ear all the way down to her toes and she froze in place. 

“Angel?” Carol couldn’t read the expression on her face.  She had assumed that Therese was ready, but maybe she was wrong.  “I mean…if you want…if you’re ready…if—“

Carol was cut off by the feel of Therese’s mouth on hers.  They were standing in a hospital parking lot, but Therese didn’t care.  She was out of patience.  The kiss was downright feral as Therese pulled her as close as possible.  Only the need to air caused her to finally back up, staring into Carol’s now dark, stormy blue eyes.  “Yes, I want. We need to go to the hotel,” Therese said with a low growl.

Carol just nodded and followed Therese to the car.  Therese wished she had one of the FBI black SUVs with a siren, but she was prepared to risk the ticket as she sped to the hotel.  She pulled up to the valet and quickly gave a room number and grabbed their bags from the backseat.  She waited anxiously as the desk attendant checked them in to their suite.  “Will you be needing anything—“

“No thank you!” Therese said, halfway to the elevators. 

Carol had to giggle. “I think someone is a little excited.” 

“Is this elevator even moving?” Therese dropped their bags and pushed Carol against the elevator wall, kissing her deeply until the door chimed and opened.  She grabbed the bags with one hand and Carol’s hand with the other and practically dragged her down the corridor to their room. 

Whatever fears Carol had about their passion somehow dissipating were gone as she quickly found herself slammed against the back of the room door.  Therese was ravenous, hands everywhere, her mouth desperate to kiss every inch of skin on Carol’s body. 

Carol was just as desperate and she started to pull on Therese’s clothes.  In a matter of seconds, they were naked, on the bed, relishing in the feel of each other.  “God I missed this,” Carol whispered.  “I was so scared we’d never…”

Therese slowed down and pushed up, hovering over the blonde beneath her. “Scared we’d never what?”

“I don’t want to ruin the moment.  Can we just make love first and then talk after?” Carol tried to pull her back down, but all the physical therapy had definitely worked on Therese’s upper body strength.

Therese rolled off of Carol and laid next to her, slowing the moment down.  “Tell me…what were you afraid of?”

Carol sighed in frustration, angry that she said anything.  “It’s just been so long Therese. We were only together that one time, and incredible as it was, I was just afraid that with everything that happened, you’d never want this…or you wouldn’t feel this way about me again.”

“God, Carol…” Therese ran her finger delicately, slowly down her face, past the scars on the side of her neck, and traced her collarbones.  “Do you know how hard it has been not to be with you like this?  Every night, lying there next to you, having you so close, and not touching you?”

“I do know, actually.” Carol laughed before turning serious again.  “It’s just, I don’t want to rush you if you need more time.”

Therese looked at her with absolute want and desire.  “I plan on making up for lost time.” She kissed her way down Carol’s jaw and then down her shoulder, placing a sweet kiss on her scar there. “I want to have all of you, to make you scream my name.” She moved over and licked her way around a nipple with her tongue, her thigh grinding into Carol and feeling her rise to meet her. “Over and over again…” Therese licked her way down Carol’s stomach until the smell of Carol’s arousal hit her, causing her mouth to water.  She shifted further down, until she found the position she needed.  “I plan on worshipping you, like the goddess you are.”    

And worship she did. Therese took Carol to the heights of pleasure and down and up again, and it was unlike anything Carol had ever experienced before.  Their first time together all those weeks ago had been passionate for sure, but today they discovered all new levels of pleasure.  After her third orgasm, Carol finally managed to roll Therese over.  She devoured her, savored her, and left them both panting, exhausted, and a hot, sweaty mess.  Naked and temporarily sated, they lay quietly, limbs tangled until a knock on the door disturbed them.

Therese sat up, instantly on edge.  No one knew they were here.  Carol looked at her phone to make sure she hadn’t missed a call from Rindy.  There was another knock on the door. “Room Service,” a small feminine voice called from the other side of the door.  Therese wrapped a sheet around her and moved carefully to the door.  “We didn’t order anything.”

“Yes, Ma’am.  It’s compliments of the room next door.”

Therese looked through the peep-hole and saw a small, dainty, woman holding a bucket of ice with bottle of champagne and two glasses.  She carefully opened the door and peeked around it.  “Hi, um…like I said, we didn’t order that.”

“Yes, ma’am.  The people in the room next door wanted to congratulate you on your wedding and they asked that we send this over. They also requested a new room.  I’ll just leave this here for you,” she set it on the floor by the door and hurried off, clearly embarrassed. 

“Uh, thanks.” Therese said as Carol broke out into a fit of laughter. She brought the bucket into the room and sat it on the dresser. “Well that was awkward!”

“Pour us a glass and come here.” Carol looked at her seductively.  “I’m parched.”

Therese poured one glass and brought it over for them to share.  “I guess we were a little…boisterous.”

“Mmmm…you could say that.” She nodded, “I’m not through with you yet. Though, I do need something to eat.  Shall we order something from room service?” 

They ordered a fruit plate and some different desserts and enjoyed them along with the rest of their champagne. “I supposed we should get a little rest, we have a big day tomorrow,” Therese said as she looked at the clock that read 2 am. 

“A new life to build.  I just need one last thing to make this night, this day, perfect.”

“And what is that?”

Carol sauntered her naked body over to her bag and pulled something out.  She walked slowly back towards the bed, and hesitated before sitting back down.  “I love you, Therese Belivet.”

“I love you, too.”

Carol opened her hand to reveal a beautiful and yet simple titanium band, with a square cut diamond.  “Whatever happens, wherever we go, whatever we do, I want you with me.  You can read me, understand me, like no other. From the first day you walked into that conference room, you stole my heart and I don’t ever want it back.  I want you to keep it, forever…will you marry me?”

Therese’s eyes filled with tears and her heart started pounding fast and hard.  “Oh my God, Carol…”

Carol waited patiently, knowing that this was a huge surprise.  “Well? Would you?”

“Yes, yes I would.” Carol placed the ring on her finger and kissed her, slowly and sensually.  It didn’t take long for the kiss to build in intensity, only this time their love making was slow, delicate, and tender.  They slept peacefully in each other’s arms and awoke to begin a new life…together.

Chapter Text

“Mom, I’m home!” Rindy walked in a tossed her book bag on the kitchen table.  “I got the mail.”

Carol came breezing into the kitchen, “Hi sweet pea, how was your day? How was practice?”

“Fine, boring, I’m starving!”

“Do they not feed you at this school?” Carol wondered.  She walked by to tussle the young blonde’s hair, aggravating her.

Rindy jerked her head away, “Mom! I’m not 6! Plus I have plans later, you’ll mess it up!”

“Plans? With?” Carol opened the fridge and prepared her teenage daughter a snack. Rindy had always had a good appetite, but once she had adolescence and started playing lacrosse, it was a whole new ballgame! This girl would eat them out of house and home.

“Just me and some of the girls on the team. Janet said she’d drive, mall and movie.  That okay?” Rindy smiled.

“Mmhmm…home by 10.” She laid a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the table in front of her daughter that was quickly scarfed down.

“But it's a Friday," she whined. She looked in her mother's eyes and knowing the battle was already lost, quickly changed the subject, "How was your day?” she asked through her bites.

“It was good.  I started the new semester yesterday, so just getting to know all of my new students.” After leaving the bureau, Carol had taken a couple of years off to help Rindy continue healing, but eventually she found herself a little restless.  A woman could only do so much gardening.  She was easily able to get a job as a professor in the criminology department of George Mason University and loved bringing criminal psychology to life for the eager young minds.

“When does mama T get home? Didn’t they catch that guy in Mexico?” Rindy finished her sandwich and placed her plate in the sink.

“They did and she texted a little while ago. She’ll be home for dinner.” Therese had gone back to work for the BAU. It was hard at first, on both of them.  Carol would worry incessantly while she was gone, and Therese found she missed bouncing ideas off of Carol while in the field and it took some time to back into the swing of things.  Eight years later, SSA Therese Belivet was in charge of the B-team, which was fine with her.  A-Team, now led by Emily Prentiss, was always the first team to go out and B-team would hang back, helping from home, which meant most of the time Therese worked Monday through Friday.  If there were multiple cases, B-team would go out, and that had been the case this week.  Therese had been gone since Monday and both Carol and Rindy missed her greatly. 

"Good! She won't miss my game tomorrow..." Rindy was sorting through the mail and got quiet.

Carol instantly sensed her change in demeanor.  “Honey? What is it?”

“He sent another one.”

Carol sighed. Once a year, around the time of her birthday, Rindy would get a letter from her father in prison.  She had never opened a single one, always tossing them in the fireplace to burn.  But this year, as she stood holding it in her hand, she found her curiosity building. 

“If you want to read it, you should.” Carol came up behind her and placed her hands on her shoulders.  “I’ll give you some privacy.”

“No!” Rindy grabbed one of her hands.  “Stay,” she said her voice shaking.

Carol walked around the kitchen island and sat in one of the stools and watched her bright, beautiful, and strong daughter slowly open the envelope.  Her eyes scanned over the single page quickly, and Carol found it difficult to read her expression.  Her profiling skills were definitely rusty. “Do you want to share?”

“He says he misses me, wishes I would come see him, but it’s mostly about grandmother and grandfather. I think he’s trying to guilt me into spending more time with them.” She handed the letter to her mother to read.

Dearest Rindy,

I hope this letter finds you well.  You have never responded to any of my letters, so I’m not sure if you are getting them or if your mother is keeping them from you.  I miss you terribly and pray every day for a visit from you.  We always had a special relationship, sunshine, and I do hope one day you’ll find it in your heart to forgive me. I know I scared you that day, but please believe I would never have done anything to harm you.  I just wanted our family back together.

I want to encourage you to spend time with your grandparents.  Your Grandpa John tells me he misses you terribly, and seeing you only twice a year is heartbreaking for him.  Your grandmother misses you as well.  They are getting older, Rindy and time is running short.  I don’t want you to have regrets about missing out on time with them.

I love you always,

Dad

 

Carol folded the letter and slid it back into the envelope.  “Do you want to go see him?”

Rindy shook her head, “No. I know I should, but I just can’t.”

“Who told you that you should?” Carol tilted her head, already knowing the answer.

“Grandmother.” Rindy frowned. “She said she has forgiven him and I should, too and that I only have one father and should go see him to try to understand why he did what he did.” Rindy’s face started to get red, “How am I supposed to forgive him for killing people? For what he did to Mama T and how he hurt you?”

Carol stood and walked over to pull Rindy in to her arms.  “Listen to me, sweet pea, you need to do what is best for you.  If you feel like you want to forgive him, to see him, Therese and I will support you. If you don’t, we will support that, too.  Our priority is that YOU are happy and healthy, and we will do whatever needs to be done to make that happen.”

“I’m happy with the way things are.  You and Therese are the best parents I could ever ask for and honestly, mom," she paused, "I know we set up the supervised visitation with my grandparents, but it’s just so uncomfortable and I don’t want to do that anymore either.  I love Grandpa John and I'll call him and invite him to my games and stuff, but grandmother…the way she looks at me…you told me to always trust my instincts and something about her just feels…wrong.”

“I’m glad you told me that.  I will call Fred first thing tomorrow and if you are sure you don’t want to continue the the visitations, they will stop.” She held Rindy’s face in her hands.  “Whatever you feel is right for you.”

Rindy wrapped her arms around her mother.  “Thanks, mom.”

“Can I get in on this action?” Therese walked in to the kitchen to see her two favorite people hugging. She placed her bag on the table next to Rindy's.

Carol’s face lit up, “You’re home early!”

“Paper work can wait.  I needed to see my girls!” Therese walked over and pulled them both into her arms, doing her best to give them a squeeze.  “This was easier when you were little, Rind.”

Carol leaned over and placed a sweet kiss on Therese’s lips.  “Hi.”

“Hey,” Therese smiled back, still adoring those blue eyes.  “So, what did I miss? Why the hug-fest?”

“I’ll let mom fill you in.  I need to go shower and get ready.  Janet will be here in like 30 minutes” Rindy took off running up the stairs. 

Therese tiled her head and furrowed her brows, asking the silent question and Carol just handed her the letter.  “She actually opened one?”

“Yes, do you want a drink darling?” Therese nodded and Carol walked back into the kitchen and poured them each a glass of wine as Therese read the letter.  “She doesn’t want to go and she also told she doesn’t really want to see her Harge’s parents anymore, so…”

“Jennifer?” Therese made a face showing she understood all too well.

“That woman.” Carol sighed and took a sip of her wine before looking over at the beautiful brunette now standing next to her.  Her hair was shorter now, at shoulder length and she was starting to show the beginning of crow’s feet and laugh lines around her eyes, but Carol still found her absolutely breathtaking. She leaned forward and rested her forehead against Therese’s.  “I missed you,” she sighed.

“I missed you, too.” Therese leaned forward and took Carol’s lips into her own. She still marveled at how after eight years together, she could never get enough of her kisses.  It didn’t take long for the kiss to intensify, but Carol pulled back and looked into her eyes longingly.

“Save that for later.  Rindy is going out tonight and we’ll have the house to ourselves for a few hours.” She gave Therese s flirtatious grin.

Therese’s eyes twinkled.  “Do you want to go out to dinner?”

“I think I’d rather eat at home.” The double entendre was not lost on Therese.

“Then I’m going to go take a shower and get cleaned up.” She gave Carol another quick kiss.  Rindy came bounding down the stairs, looking like a teenage version of Carol.  “Have fun tonight, munchkin.”

“I don’t think you can call me that anymore since I’m technically taller than you now.” Rindy stood tall next to her. 

Carol laughed from the kitchen.  “She’s not wrong!”

“I’m surrounded my amazons!” Therese rolled her eyes and walked up the stairs.

Rindy grabbed her shoulder bag and ran towards the front door.  “Janet’s here! I’ll text you when we get to the mall.”

“Have fun! Be safe! I love you!” Carol called after the younger version of herself and watched from the door as she sped off. The shower water was still running upstairs and Carol took the stairs two-by two.  She crept into the steam-filled bathroom and stripped off her clothes. “Mind if I join you?”

Therese poked her head around the curtain, eyeing the beautiful blonde standing naked before her.  “God, yes.”

They made love in the shower and again in their bedroom, the passion between them as hot now as it was in the beginning. Her body spent, Carol fell back on the bed, “Fuck, I love you.”

Therese giggled from between Carol’s thighs.  “Interesting phrasing Mrs. Belivet.  Do you love me, or do you love it when I fuck you?”

Carol’s eyes lit in a wicked smile.  “Yes, to both.”

Therese kissed her way up Carol’s body until she could lay on top of her.  “Good, because I don’t think I’ll ever get enough of you.”

Carol’s phone buzzed from the bedside table and she looked over to read it.  “Just Rindy. They made it to the mall.”

“So we still have a few more hours of alone time?” Therese smiled and flicked her tongue around one of Carol’s nipples.

“Hours…” Carol looked down at her, her eyes lust-filled again.  She flipped then over so she was now on top of Therese and pushed her pelvis forward, causing Therese to close her eyes and let out a soft moan. She paused for a moment, taking in the amazing woman beneath her.  Therese opened her eyes and looked deeply into the blue-grey eyes staring down at her.  “I love you, Therese Belivet.”

Therese raised a hand and cupped Carol’s cheek.  “I love you, Carol Belivet.”

Carol smiled, never more grateful that she had taken Therese’s last name and further distanced them both from the trauma of their past.  She leaned down and gave Therese a searing kiss before whispering in her ear.  “I’m going to make you come so hard the neighbors complain again and then I’m going to make you a very special dinner.

Therese looked up, pupils blown, pulse racing.  “If you promise me dinosaur nuggets, I’ll come even harder.”

“I promise…” Carol whispered. 

 

<><><><><> 

Somewhere in Virginia, hazel eyes stared out a dirty kitchen window. It was so hard to find good help these days.  The older woman took a sip of her tea and pushed away from the counter, walking out in to the dining room.  Her husband sat there, reading the daily newspaper, sulking like he always did these days.  The past few years had not been kind to him and he looked much older than his 70 years.  They didn’t speak, just existed in an uncomfortable silence until her tea had gone cold.

“I’m going to have Paul drive me out to see him tomorrow, do you want to come?” They had lost a great deal of their fortune over the past years due to lawyer’s fees, civil cases, and such, but Jennifer Aird refused do such menial tasks as drive herself places or clean her own house.  She had gone through a series of housekeepers, but none was ever as good as Florence.  This house was significantly smaller than their estate had been in Alexandria, so she just couldn’t understand why these fools could not do such simple tasks like clean the damn windows. 

“No,” was all John Aird replied, not looking up from his paper.  Following the court case, John had disowned his son.  The stress and scandal of it all had just been too much, and it was easier to pretend that Harge was dead. The only light left in his life was his granddaughter, but he saw her so infrequently, it did little to ever lift his mood.

Jennifer sighed, knowing there was no point in even discussing it with him further.  She excused herself to her bedroom and sat at her vanity, looking out into the woods behind their house.  This simply would not do.  It had been eight long and taxing years, and she had been stripped of control over her own life for far too long, and enough was enough. Revenge is a dish best served cold.