"I didn't mean to! I-I-I just- I just wanted-"
He breathed unsteadily in the powder-thick air. Picking himself off the ground as his hand firmed around the familiar shape of his gun in the gloom. He coughed. Spitting cement chips and blood to the side as the grit tried to burrow between his teeth.
The small explosion had turned the UNSUB's house into a chalky ecosystem of paint flakes and dust. Scattering tablets and notebooks everywhere as storage boxes littered the hall. He fished the broken radio out of his ear, barely recognizing Reid's voice before it broke into static. The wires seared.
He had to focus.
"People are dead, Jacob," he answered, picking up where they'd left off minutes before. Voice steadier than he felt as he advanced down the hall. The plaster was bristling with nails and metal-fragments that had barely missed him. "This needs to end peacefully. I know you want that. …I know you didn't mean to hurt them. You were trying to help them, weren't you?"
He registered the situation quickly. They'd been retreating. He'd pushed Reid out the door ahead of him before the bomb had detonated. Cutting him off from the only way out. It wasn't ideal, but it meant his team was safe. Alive. And for now, that was enough.
"Yes! Yes! Help them! Yes! I wanted to help them! I was trying to help everyone! You have to understand... I had to...someone had too! Everything is wrong. I was just trying to fix it."
He inched forward, shaking himself as his ears rang. Blinking rapidly as smoke and debris turned the air suffocating. He felt his way forward, moving carefully as his right knee twinged - bleeding through his dress slacks.
He had to focus.
He had to-
He inhaled, tasting dry-wall and chemicals on his tongue.
"Jacob. This is Agent Hotchner. We talked on the phone... I need to see your hands."
There was thump from the other room, then the sound of footsteps towards the remains of the closet that had been rigged to blow when Emily had stepped on the landing. He'd been lucky. They'd all been lucky. Remembering how small her waist had felt as he'd snatched her back. Keeping her behind him as the tell-tale ttttick! had sounded.
The hairs on the back of his neck prickled. Alert.
There could be more devices. The chemicals the UNSUB was working with were unstable. Containing deadly levels of hormones and pheromones - enough that it had virtually overwhelmed the nervous system of Jacob Hindes' victims. His test subjects. A lethal cocktail meant to do the impossible.
"I just need more time! I almost have it figured out. Almost!"
The pitch of the man's voice was grating. Manic. Spiraling. On the cusp of hyperventilating as the outline of the UNSUB peered through a hole in the wall. Showing a care-worn face and thick blond hair wet with blood before he ducked away again.
"Jacob, I need you to listen to me-"
He flashed back to the briefing. Jacob Hindes. Omega. 42. Divorced. Father of three. Bio-engineer and amateur chemist. Mentally unstable. A rare mix between a Dispute-caused and Mission-oriented bomber. His manifesto hit the internet almost three weeks ago. Claiming he had the answer to the Alpha problem the same day as his devices started to go off in crowded locations all over New York City. DOJ was involved and together with the FBI, CIA and Secret Service, were all trying to hold off on raising the terror-level.
This had to end.
He hadn't been able to get the victims out of his mind. Rachel Warren had only been 13. She'd been the first one exposed, but the last to die. Fighting the virus with bared, rictus teeth. Foaming at the mouth as something close to a growl slipped from her throat just before her heart gave out.
"-listen to my voice. You can still do the right thing. For your children. They can still grow up knowing their father. It's not too late. They need you. Don't give up on them. I spoke to Sarah, Jacob. She said the kids want to know if you're coming to get them this weekend. What should I tell them? They love you, Jacob. Don't do make me do this."
It had been his profile, and so far, it had been accurate.
Which meant he knew how far Hindes would take this.
Talking wasn't going to be enough.
He needed to get close enough to bring him down before he could set off another device.
"No, no, no! No! I need more time! I can make it right," the man yelled, each word punctuated by a hollow thud that made him picture fists slamming into an unstable wall.
"What do you need to make right, Jacob?" he asked, stalling. Hoping the others would find another way in. He needed to give them time to coordinate with the bomb unit and hazmat team outside. "You can tell me. It's just me and you, alright?"
The truth was, this was a symptom of an existing problem. The amount of people who couldn't cope with the shift was growing - especially amongst the Omega population. No one knew how or why the Alphas died out, but the scars the event had left on humanity's psyche were only becoming more apparent by the decade.
There were theories, of course. Most of them thoroughly debated long before he was born. Some claimed that the Alpha gene had never been as dominant as historians and anthropologists believed. That they had been steadily dying out since mankind's antiquity. A throwback. Some believed the shift into modern city centers had contributed to lower birth rates. With even Alpha and Omega pairs producing more Beta and Omega offspring. Not Alphas. Whatever the reason, within less than three hundred years, Alphas were extinct.
And more and more, Omegas were lashing out. Without Alphas, some Omegas couldn't cope. It was in their biology. Many were forced to check into Omegan Treatment centers - places that were only growing in number across the world. Leaving experts with the realization that something had to change. Soon.
It hadn't escaped him that this could be the start of something inevitable. Maybe it was unavoidable that people would start playing God. Desperate to exhume the Alphas from the dust, despite evolution likely having good reason to put them there.
He'd never thought much about it, before all this.
But then, he was a Beta.
It didn't affect him.
"I can bring them back," Jacob whispered, making something tighten under his skin. Flexing like a second heartbeat before he forced it down. He couldn't afford to be distracted.
He shook himself again, trying to clear his head. Pressing a hand between his eyes, forcing them away from seeing double. Barely registering it when his fingers came back red.
Jacob whined, thin and wounded-high somewhere in front of him.
A muscle in his cheek twitched.
"Nothing has been right since they left..." the man cried. Distressed. Pacing.
"Since who left, Jacob?"
He inched forward.
"The Alphas..." Hindes whimpered.
He gritted his teeth as the feeling threatened to rise again.
What was that?
Gideon's voice was surprisingly quick to answer in the privacy of his own head.
Concussion. Head injury. You're bleeding. Work it out, Aaron. You're going into shock.
Or he'd been exposed.
No. If he'd been exposed, he would have felt the effects by now. With the other victims it had been almost instantaneous. Seizures. Confusion. Muscle aches. Vomiting. Swelling in the gums, glands, groin. Irritation in the vascular system, increased heart rate and an almost immediate fever.
"I was just trying to make everything right. You know I-"
Jacob surprised him, making his gun jerk when he suddenly appeared in the jagged hole in the wall closest to him - making him flinch. But the man just stared at him. Owlish and awed against a smear of soot and blood.
"Oh- yes- of course. Of course. I can fix you... Agent- I can fix you!"
His gun rose, barely wavering. But Jacob didn't notice, he just kept babbling. Reaching for something out of sight that made his aim jerk from the man's center mass to his forehead. Finger ghosting the trigger.
"Jacob! Hands where I can see them!" he barked, repeating it until the man raised them distractedly. Showing a glass vial half-full with yellow liquid.
Anxiety swelled in his throat. Adrenaline crashing. Threatening to close his airways.
That had to be it.
"Yes. Yes. I've always been able to tell. It's so strong in you. I can- I can fix it. It's why you found me. You knew I could help!"
His finger tightened around the trigger. Surprised he was letting his anger get the better of him. Unable to keep Rachel's smiling photo from flashing across his mind's eye as Hindes babbled. Her parents had pressed it into his hands after she'd died. Pale and drawn as JJ ushered them into his office and closed the door.
"I'll find who did this to your daughter, and they will pay."
It hadn't made the Warrens feel better.
But it was something they could focus on.
Something he could focus on.
"I found you because you've killed four people, Jacob. Four innocent people," he snapped. The lack of control unlike him as he watched the liquid in the vial slosh with the man's erratic movements.
"Accidents. Unhappy accidents! The road to progress is rough. They were martyrs. They will be remembered! I just need to get it right. You'll thank me… There's something missing, you know there is. You know there's always been something missing - inside. Look at you...even now, you-"
"Jacob, listen to me. Put. The vial. Down."
The words came out low and gravel-rough. Like a command. With a power so strong that Jacob quivered to a stop. Looking at him with wide eyes, pupils dilated. Obeying. Good.
The moment stretched - yawning out of his control before a sound from outside - the slam of a vehicle door - broke the illusion. Shaking Jacob from whatever fugue state he'd been caught in as the UNSUB blinked hugely. Twitching.
"Put the vial down," he repeated. Only this time, the words didn't seem to have the same power. Hindes just looked at him like he'd hung the god damned moon. A blissful smile spreading across his face. Determined. Insane. Spreading wide lips to show the points of blunt teeth and-
"I'm going to fix you, Agent Hotchner," Hindes repeated before lifting the vial. "I'm going to fix all of you."
He would remember three things clearly.
First, the tension of the trigger against his finger as he took the shot.
Second, the lack of a shatter as Jacob fell, vial rattling across the floor.
Third, the strange wobble before his legs gave out underneath him.
He woke up to the muted sound of beeping.
He inhaled before he risked opening his eyes.
Chlorine. Exhaustion. Crushed codeine. Salt.
If he hadn't been so out of it, he might have wondered at being so sure.
But there was something else.
Something familiar. Comforting. Almost-
His eyes cracked open, unable to help the groan as the low-light sent pain piercing through him. Highlighting the headache that seemed to be doing it's best to burrow through his skull. His fingers twitched at his sides, aching. Hating the thin scratch of the hospital blankets against his skin as he fought to bring the room into focus.
He turned his head to the side, seeking out the source of the comforting scent before he stilled. Finding Reid curled in the chair by the window, sleeping.
For a long moment he didn't know what to do. Lost in a haze that felt completely different from any trauma he'd experienced. Only realizing he was inhaling roughly - practically a pant - when the sound echoed in the relative silence. The frayed nerves he'd woken with gradually settled. Calming him bone deep as he took in the way the sun streamed through the windows, framing the angles of the Spencer's face.
His fists uncurled, breathing easier.
Reid was okay.
He hadn't realized it had been weighing on him so heavily until right now.
Reid had been calling for him on the radio. His voice had been the first one he'd heard when he'd come to after the first explosion. Fingers still buzzing from the rasp of Reid's vest after he'd pushed him out the door. Remembering the slight weight. He wanted to feel that again. He wanted to know how it felt to-
The moment broke when he inhaled a bit too roughly and coughed.
Spencer stirred, stretching. Letting go of a yawn as he opened his eyes and caught him staring.
There was a tired, exaggerated beat before-
"Hotch! You're awake!"
He winced, head pounding.
"Sorry," Reid murmured, quieter this time. "How long have you been up? How do you feel?"
He cleared his throat, voice rough. Hand shaking as he reached for the cup of water on his tray table and worked the straw between his lips. Feeling the sting of cuts sound off as the cool liquid easy down his throat. Christ, that was good.
"Slow," Reid reminded, scanning his face and looking worried. "You've been out for almost twelve hours."
He didn't want to know what he looked like right now.
He could smell himself.
That was enough.
"I just woke up now," he answered, deciding to wait on the second part as he worked through it himself. He felt- off. Which wasn't unexpected, considering the concussion he already knew he had. There was something else. Something that didn't mesh with his baseline. Hell if he could put his finger on it, but it was there. Present. Refusing to fade. "The team?"
"They're fine. Everyone got out, thanks to you," Reid returned, hair hanging shyly in front of his eyes before he tucked it back.
"Hindes?" he questioned. Already knowing the answer.
"Dead," Reid answered, bland but not without feeling. "You're a good shot, even when concussed. "Luckily the vial didn't break. They're still processing the scene, but they put a rush on the compound. It was an accelerated formula, something stronger. He perfected it. Hindes was adapting it to affect as many people as possible – think aerosol vapor. It was- …Hotch, I think you should know there's a chance that-"
The moment before the bomb exploded flashed like flicker-tape on the blank wall across from him. Emily had spun around so quickly at the tick! her hair had flared out. Looking at him instinctively before he shouted for them to move. Reid had tripped, knocking his shin against the door frame as momentum worked against them. He'd grabbed him up, pushing through the last steps as his heart pounded in his ears – drowning out the shouts. Propelling Reid into Morgan's back as they hit the front stoop and-
"That the bomb had the formula in it," he finished for him. Meeting his eyes calmly. "I know. Has anyone shown symptoms?"
In truth, that was his only worry.
He knew he was fine.
Reid was fine.
But the others?
He had no idea if the blast radius had been contained to the house or not.
Something told him he wouldn't be settled until he saw them all for himself.
It was his job after all.
He was their boss.
That much was true.
But it didn't seem like the whole reason.
He cocked his head. Fighting to follow the cords to the source of the problem. Usually he was honest with himself about what he felt. It was more efficient. If there was a problem, he could usually identify it and decide what needed to be done. Repress it or resolve it. But this existed on the very edge of his awareness. Fighting to be seen, but without the context to be understood.
He was sure Reid had a name for it.
His bruised lips quirked into a shallow smile.
And then, just when he'd turned his attention elsewhere, the feeling reared it's head.
'They were his,' an unfamiliar voice inside his head whispered. 'His.'
He ignored it, filing it away with a serious frown. Unsettled by how right it seemed. How something so inappropriate, so possessive, could sound so appealing.
He shook his head, concentrating on what Reid was saying. Pleased when the same comforting smell wafted over him as Reid leaned in.
"We're fine. They are still waiting on your blood work, but the good news is you haven't showed any of the signs. The ward is sealed off as a precaution until the tests come back. When Hazmat got in, you'd just taken the shot. They were pretty sure you passed out because of your injuries, not whatever was in the bomb," Reid continued, long fingers wrapping around the railing of his bed. "Morgan and Prentiss think it could be a dud. Or a diversion. We caught him while he was mobile, he might not have had enough formula to put in all the devices."
He shook his head, sipping distractedly from the cup of melted ice-chips.
It didn't fit the profile.
"Have you gone over the papers the deputies found? The ones in his office?"
Reid's head jerked a negative, spine curling as he stood beside the bed. Trying not to tower over him. It was a classic Omegan response - meant to appease - even as the man edged closer. Fussing.
If he'd been in any other situation, he might have paused on that. On the closeness.
"The team is working on it, but it's a lot to go through. Mostly junk science. He was too manic to have much of a process, but so far there are some basic chemical structures that make sense. I think it's why the symptoms were so targeted. He knew what he was doing, enough to make him dangerous."
"I want a copy of the case file as soon as possible," he returned, looking down at the thin layer of blankets piled in his lap and the equally revealing hospital gown. Already calculating how fast he could get back into the field. "And Reid, I want your analysis. We need to understand his process in case there are any more developments. He might not be alone. Tell Rossi he has the lead until I'm back in the office."
Reid's body language was surprisingly uncooperative. Making his head come up sharply, aching at the sudden movement. Annoyed at the younger man's defensive posture.
"Hotch- this can wait. We've got this. When you didn't come out after me- we thought..."
There was something there behind the words when Reid swallowed, the sound audible in the silence. But he couldn't afford to get distracted.
He shook his head. A stand in for two different emotions.
There was something he was missing.
An obvious connection that was almost graspable.
All he needed was-
Rachel Warren's face flashed in his mind's eye. Hearing the strain as she fought against the restraints they'd been forced to secure her to the hospital bed with. The line of her chin sharp against the red-flush that was spreading down her neck. Lips cracked and tinted blue. She'd been in the subway bathroom when the device had gone off. She hadn't had a chance, but she'd fought the longest. Other devices had gone off after the first, killing those exposed almost instantly. Some as far as a quarter mile away. But not her. It had taken her days to die.
The ghost of Jacob Hindes peered around Reid's shoulder. A neat bullet hole flowering from the left size of his forehead. One hand pressed to his mouth as if to stifle a laugh.
You know why.
She was special.
Nausea roiled, trying to surface. He swallowed it back – or at least he tried to - but the moment the acid backwash hit the back of his tongue it was too late. He twisted, too weak to get up. Breath hitching as he-
Reid shoved a basin into his hand. The sudden sterile reek of plastic making it a hundred tines worse as he gagged. Retching into the tub as a wash of fever-heat seared through him.
Exhaustion won over embarrassment as he eased back against the pillows, weak. Accepting the tissue and small cup of water to rinse as Reid disappeared with the tub.
Ironically, he felt worlds better. Managing a shallow smile as Reid came back with a woman in scrubs. Submitting to the usual ordeal without comment as the nurse took his vitals and hooked his I.V with Dramamine.
The sterile scent of her made his nose twitch.
"You okay?" Reid asked when they were alone again.
He nodded, gums itching. Swallowing convulsively around the backwash.
Maybe he drank too fast.
His lids were heavy again. Feeling the strain of being awake. Frustrated when he couldn't get his thoughts to condense. Remembering bits and pieces as Hindes' process filtered through him like a strainer with too many holes.
It was a fight to get his brain to cooperate.
"Rachel Warren," he pushed out, sinking back into the pile of pillows as Reid shuffled closer.
Her mother and father had been at her side in the end. Holding her hands through thick gloves and full haz-mat gear. Tears threatening to fog the inside of their suits as the doctors fought to keep her alive.
"What about her?"
He wet his lips, welcoming the sting. The pain helped keep him awake.
"There has to be a reason she was one of the first infected, but survived the longest. Her exposure was way more than the others. You were there, Reid. It didn't make sense. It killed everyone else almost immediately. But not her."
"What are you saying?" Reid asked, frowning. Reaching for his phone. "Did we miss something with the dispersal method?"
He shook his head, regretting the motion when his head spun.
He needed to close his eyes, just for a little bit.
He could rest for a few minutes.
Just a few minutes.
"I think there's a reason it killed some people faster than others," he rasped, thoughts jumbled as Reid's face gradually softened out of focus. "She was-"
He cut himself off before he could say it.
Not ready yet.
He knew it didn't make sense.
Reid looked thoughtful. Typing something on his phone before putting it aside.
He exhaled, unsurprised at the question. Reid might not have been good at picking up social cues, but he'd always been tuned to him. To the team.
"Hindes- he said something to me in the house… I don't know if-"
He trailed off, tired.
There had to be a reason.
He could feel it in his gut.
There was something about the way Jacob had looked at him - really looked at him - that was making tracks in his hind brain. The Omega had looked at him and seen something else. Something that'd seemed too clear-headed to be a delusion.
"Hotch? What did he say to you?"
"That he would fix me," he breathed, eyes heavy. Feeling the idea try and manifest. As if every cell in him had stretched at the same time. Reaching for it.
As he slipped off to sleep, he swore he could hear Jacob Hindes laughing.
He jerked awake, coming off an honest nightmare as his son's name left his throat in a croak.
The book in Reid's lap caught air as he leaned forward. Still curled up in the chair beside his bed.
"He's fine. He's with Jessica. Remember?"
He latched on to the soothing tone. Calming almost immediately as he relaxed back into the pillow. Rubbing a hand over his face before blinking up at the ceiling. The lights were low. Giving some idea of the time. He looked automatically for his watch, but it wasn't there. Just the pale strip of skin that existed underneath.
"What time is it?"
Reid set his book aside. Handing him a cup of water carefully.
"You've only been out for four hours. It's six- uh- thirty."
He was still exhausted, but his mind seemed clearer than before.
"Does Jessica know?" he asked. Ready for the usual wash of guilt when it came to his son and sister in law.
"She said she'd keep him another week, until this is over. Jack doesn't know. I figured you'd want to keep it that way, especially since they're talking about releasing you soon. He's having a good time. Apparently Disney world is a big hit."
He smiled, sobered, then compartmentalized.
Reid's expression flattened.
"It's going to take a while to get through it. He had no organization system. Morgan is working with some bio-chemists to get everything in the right order. They sent over the first packet a few hours ago."
He nodded, aware Reid would have already read it
"Is there anything to it?"
He sighed, doing his best to ignore the small flinch as Spencer absorbed his displeasure. He should tell the boy to go back to the office. He'd probably get more done there. But for some reason he didn't mention it.
"I'm fine, Reid."
"You didn't see yourself when you were wheeled in," Spencer shot back, frowning.
His gums ached.
He must have been grinding his teeth in his sleep.
The stalemate only lasted a few seconds.
"So far it's what we thought. The problem is, he posted the last version of the serum on the internet before we surrounded the house. It went viral. There's no reason someone won't pick up where he left off. His process might have been manic, but the basic compounds are viable. All it will take is someone finding the right chemical structure and-"
He stopped listening. Imagining bombs going off in city centers nation-wide.
The fall out would kill thousands.
Hundreds of thousands.
And if someone did make a formula that worked, well-
"Alright," he interrupted decisively, running his hand through his hair. Stirring up the chalk of powdered dry-wall and dust until he had to hold back a sneeze. "Go home. Get some sleep. I need you fresh tomorrow on this. Something tells me time isn't on our side. And get me a phone, I want a conference call with Rossi and Morgan in twenty. Make sure JJ knows that none of this gets out. I want her to liaise with her counterpart in the CIA. See what they can do about getting that information off the internet."
Reid drove for his phone and typed furiously, making no move to leave. Instead, he passed him a tablet with the documents salvaged from Hindes' lab already queued up. The sweet scent that seemed to follow Reid had caramelized into something buttery – inviting him to breathe just a little deeper as he swallowed making it an order. Settling himself upright in the hospital bed as Reid booted up his laptop beside him.
It was time to get to work.
Reid was still there when he woke up the next morning. Curled up on the narrow orange chair he was uncomfortable just looking at. Able to imagine the back pain. But for some reason, the idea that Reid had stay after he'd fallen asleep felt comfortable. Right.
He bit down on the inside of his cheek. Needing the self-conflict.
He should have sent him home. From what Morgan said, Reid hadn't left since he'd been admitted. It should have horrified him. It should have concerned him. It should have made him question if Reid was too close to the case. Too close to him. It should have. But it didn't.
Instead, it... pleased him.
He rubbed at the right side of his neck. The skin under his jaw slightly tender. Swollen. Tempted to dig his nails into the fattening pad. He blinked. Confused enough at the impulse that he forced his hand away.
Thankfully, Reid was enough of a distraction.
Because the calming scent was back in full force.
Addictive in a way he imagined any number of hard drugs might be.
He breathed it in until he couldn't ignore his bladder anymore.
He sat up slowly. Sore muscles aching as he gripped the edge of the bathroom counter. He exhaled carefully, painfully. Every inch of him throbbed. It even hurt to think. He stood there for a long moment, taking stock, before he dared to look in the mirror. And- well… His reflection wasn't completely complimentary. Bruised with a healing cut down his left cheek, but it wasn't as bad as he feared.
It could have been worse. Much worse.
It might even be healed before his son came home.
He didn't like Jack seeing him hurt.
The area of his neck he'd been worrying was red. Not infected or inflamed, just slightly swollen. He looked at it, angling his head in the bad light. But he didn't touch it. Some instinct warned him away. Maybe he was allergic to something the hospital used. A detergent or chemical.
" I'm going to fix you, Agent Hotchner… I'm going to fix all of you."
He blinked, letting his head drop as he stared down at the sink, both hands braced on either side of the counter. He felt out of his body. Not removed. Just- remodeled. Uncertain of the feel of himself in his own skin.
It wasn't hard to rationalize it.
It was just the concussion.
And truthfully, it was a good explanation.
But the thought that something wasn't right never really left his head.
He'd gotten through a few emails by the time Reid stirred. Stretching out as the chair creaked endearingly underneath him. Somehow managing to come out long-limbed and small as his lips quirked in spite of himself.
"Morning," Spencer echoed, yawning. Reminding him of a computer slowly booting up as the man blinked at him before his gaze sharpened. Pausing in mid-stretch. "You look way better than you did last night."
His eyebrow rose.
"I'm going to take it as a compliment," he remarked dryly.
"I feel better," he admitted after a moment, setting aside the tablet.
Which was surprisingly true, all things considered
His headache was mostly gone.
He was almost cripplingly sore.
But he was hungry.
He figured that said something right there.
In fact, he could smell breakfast. They must be delivering the trays now.
"Just in time for breakfast," he hummed idly, stomach gurgling. "Smells like toast and bad coffee."
Spencer frowned, looking down at his watch.
"I don't smell anything. And you're about an hour early. They don't start breakfast until 6:30am. Do you want me to see if the nurses have something to tide you over? You didn't eat much yesterday."
He opened his mouth to argue.
Because he could smell it.
It had to be close if he could smell it.
But for some reason he closed his mouth again.
He didn't meet his eyes. Instead, he clicked on the tablet and switched to the case file. Preferring to face Hindes disjointed mania than anything more immediate as Spencer's chair creaked loudly. Like an awkward tell.
"It's fine. Let's get some work done before breakfast gets here."
He heard from a couple dozen people, including the rest of the team, before the doctor made it to his room. Smiling approvingly as she tapped something into her tablet as he finished his lunch tray. Somehow still hungry after demolishing breakfast, lunch and whatever Spencer hadn't finished from both.
"Well, Agent Hotchner, I'm pleased to report that your results have come back negative across the board. You're officially in the clear. By all counts, you're a healthy Beta male with a mild concussion and two weeks of mandatory leave," she chirped, stealthy hiding the lead in a way that spoke of years of experience. "You're very lucky."
He pulled a small face. Well aware he could be back in the office doing paperwork in a week if he played his cards correctly.
"Can I go home?" he asked, ready to negotiate. But mostly just itching to get away from the sterile smell of bleach. He thought he'd be acclimatized to it by now, but he wasn't. If anything, it was getting worse. It'd burned the inside of his nostrils to the point where he'd had a minor nosebleed.
The doctor sighed. Exhaling espresso and mint.
"Ideally, I'd want you to stay until tomorrow. But if there is someone who can keep an eye on you, I'll take what I can get. So long as you follow the two weeks of rest. I have the Director on speed dial, Agent, so no funny business."
There wasn't anyone at home.
There hadn't been for a long time.
"I can," Reid spoke up, tucking a sheath hair behind his ear as he glanced at him. "If you want?"
The word left him so quickly - so strongly - it startled all of them.
"If that's alright?" he offered hesitantly, looking over at Spencer. Trying to cover his enthusiasm with a buffer he knew all of them saw through. "Hard to say no to a real bed."
It wasn't just that.
The desire to be home, to be in his own space, was a driving force.
He thought he'd immediately want to be back in the office.
But instead, all he could think about was-
"I don't mind," Reid returned shyly. Sounding remarkably like he didn't. Warming him in a way he recognized as dangerous as he watched Reid watch him.
The doctor nodded, making a note on her tablet.
"It's settled then. I'll get the nurses to do up the paperwork. In the meantime, take it easy. You were lucky, but you've been through a serious trauma. Rest. No stress. I mean it. As far as I'm concerned, you're off the case."
It wasn't until the Doctor left the room that they looked at each other.
Holding the quiet for a few heartbeats before-
"Fat chance of that," Spencer muttered, rolling his eyes.
Privately, he agreed. Trying to pretend - like he often did - that they both didn't live for it.
"Make yourself at home, the spare room is already made up. I can't take credit for it, so don't look impressed. My housekeeper makes sure I'm consistently a step away from chaos any given day of the week. Towels are in the hall closet...I think."
The moment they pulled into the driveway, he felt calmer than he had in days. Taking a deep breath in the foyer as Spencer clattered in behind him. Shoulder bag swinging like a half-empty pendulum as he looked around, toeing out of his shoes.
"I hope you tip," Reid answered, grinning. Sock feet leaving humid half-prints in the hardwood. "Mind if I wash some clothes? Garcia said she'd swing by my apartment and pack a bag for me. But she's pretty busy right now."
He opened his mouth to offer him the car.
The logical part of him saw no reason why not.
But he didn't.
He didn't want Reid to leave.
He swallowed the strangeness of it and opened the fridge to take stock. Surprised not only to find it fully stocked, but jammed with covered dishes. Each one with cooking instructions from his housekeeper and a stern, but loving warning not to go back to work until he was fully recovered. Almost able to hear her strong Ukrainian accent through the post-it notes.
God, he didn't deserve that woman.
"Go ahead, the detergent is under the sink in the laundry room," he called. Hearing Reid's bag unzip as he shuffled away.
He peered under the foil of the first Pyrex dish and set it on the counter. Stomach grumbling. He skimmed the instructions and put the oven on to pre-heat. He had no idea what Holubtsi was, but it smelled amazing.
He was in the middle of doing a circuit around the house – checking the rooms, the windows, the doors, the backyard, the alarm system – when Rossi called. Never more grateful that Garcia was a part of the team as he swiped accept. She'd sent a new work cell for him just that morning.
"Heard you were released," Rossi opened, by way of greeting. "Congratulations on the new record. How are you feeling?"
He smiled. It was good to hear the man's voice.
"If I said fine, do you think the Director would let me come in tomorrow and work the case from the office?" he asked, already knowing the answer. Letting himself imagine the fall out for a self-indulgent length of time.
"Not a snowball's chance in hell," Rossi returned, amusement obvious. "Give it until Friday, at least. If we don't make any progress you might be able to get away with it."
"I could come in," he answered honestly, rubbing the back of his neck. "I'm sore, that's all. The tests came back negative. So did my MRI. I was lucky. Hindes wasn't playing around, that last bomb had shrapnel in it. His others didn't. He knew we were trying to stop him. He wasn't devolving, he was trying to buy time."
It rang true to the profile.
Hindes wasn't a killer.
Not like that anyway.
Not by nature.
"I know, Reid has kept us in the loop. Listen Aaron, did he say anything about any others? We've found evidence he was in contact with a group of Omegas – or at least Omega sympathizers. We are tracking them now. Trying to see how deep this goes. It's mostly online, which isn't exactly my wheelhouse. But considering I haven't seen Garcia in over thirteen hours, I think she has it covered."
"No. He didn't say anything about a splinter group, but I wouldn't be surprised," he answered, thinking quickly. "He didn't start this with the intention of involving others, he just wanted an Alpha. But if someone reached out to him, especially after the first bombing, I could see him sharing information. It's possible he was able to get them something before we found him."
Hindes' reflection flickered to life in the glass, as if the man's ghost was standing behind him.
"It was never about me, Agent Hotchner. It was about you. …About the Alphas."
He didn't turn around. Knowing nothing would be there when he did.
"Spencer is with you?" Rossi broke in, changing the flow of conversation so much it put him physically off balance.
It wasn't a question.
It could have even been an accusation.
A muscle in his cheek twitched. Surprised when irritation bubbled quickly to the surface. It didn't fit the situation. But that didn't stop him from wanting the man to back down. To stop talking about it. To never say Spencer's name again and-
What the hell?
"It was a condition on being able to leave," he forced out instead. "According to the doctor, someone needs to be here for the first few days. Reid offered. If you need him just call, I'm sure it will be fine."
Rossi hummed a positive sound. Completely unaware of the turmoil he was in.
"Jack and Jessica still at Disney?
He nodded automatically, watching the birds fight over the empty feeder in the backyard. Distantly following the sound of the guest shower switching on down the hall. Distracted by the connotations as a contented rumble issued from his throat. Completely unaware of it until Rossi's voice echoed sharply down the line.
"What was that?"
His fist clenched at his side.
"What was what?"
There was a shift of interference across the line. Able to make out the sound of phones ringing and Prentiss saying something across the bull-pen.
"I thought I heard- Morgan? No- he's with the chemists on six. Tell him I want an update in thirty. It's, no- …Sorry Hotch, I have to go."
"Is there movement?" he asked, clipped and to the point as he tried to make sense of the background noise. Itching to get back in the field. Had the bio-chemists found something?
He should be there.
He knew Hindes' process.
It was his profile.
"Not yet, but we're close. I'll keep you informed," Rossi answered, voice already distant, like he was pulling the mic away from his face to end the call. Obviously on the move. "Gotta go."
The call ended there, leaving him annoyed for an entirely different reason.
"What's cooking?" Reid asked, wandering into the kitchen. Damp and soft from the shower as he looked up from poking the Holubtsi with a spatula.
He breathed deep. Excited when the familiar tones of the same bodywash he used issued from Spencer in waves. Fingers twitching against the counter as the urge to go to him and seek out more of the smell only grew stronger the longer Spencer waited for an answer.
Get a grip, Aaron.
What the hell was wrong with him?
"I'm not entirely sure, but it smells good, so that's what counts," he replied. Trying to cover the sudden wash of saliva in his mouth by bending over the instructions. He had no idea what this was supposed to look like cooked. Was it supposed to get crispy? Or was it supposed to be eaten soft?
Maybe he should google it.
"Bit early for dinner," Reid commented mildly, grabbing a mug from the cupboard. Signal enough for him to fill the kettle and bring down a selection of tea bags from the top shelf. Aware that Reid's eyes had flicked from him to the oven clock with surprisingly little judgement considering the numbers glowed 4:37pm.
It felt later.
"Rossi called," he said after a moment. Decision made to risk calling the dish done when his stomach grumbled audibly. Scooping out a smaller portion for Reid when the man begged off the massive square he'd fished out for himself.
"No, but he asked about the possibility of Hindes being in contact with other Omegas or Omega sympathizers," he posed. The profile fit with Hindes being a lone wolf. But again, if someone had reached out…all bets were off. Hindes was mission-oriented, if he thought it would help the cause, he probably would have shared information. "I got the impression it is a strong lead from what Rossi was saying. What do you think?"
Reid took a deep breath before meeting his eyes, setting his fork to the side.
"As an Agent or an Omega?"
He felt something in his stomach tighten at the word.
His mouth was dry as he answered.
"In this case, are they separate?
Reid expelled a breath, voice shaky but mind as sharp as always.
"Honestly, this case has made it hard to tell the difference sometimes."
He waited, leaning against the counter as the Omega shifted on the stool at the breakfast bar. Jigging his tea bag in the mug. Spreading the scent of green tea, clean skin and something that was uniquely Spencer in the close air.
"There is a conflict between them," Reid admitted. "Jacob Hindes killed people. Innocent people. Because he couldn't stand being alone anymore. There was an absence he couldn't fill. He had a family, a wife, children, and he loved them. But it wasn't enough. I understand that. Every Omega does, I think. …It's terrifying. There's a void. A need that never gets filled. And not just during heats. From what I've read, it's something only Alphas can provide."
His tongue curled around the syllables of a question he couldn't bring himself to ask. Chest aching at the idea that Reid might be feeling the same. Up until six months ago, Jacob Hindes had been a normal, well adjusted family man. He'd had a job. A retirement portfolio. A daughter who had the interest of Olympic scouts for her skills in gymnastics and a son who covered his walls with pictures of buildings and blue-prints. What changed?
Do you feel like that too?
Like something is missing?
Like it might never be enough?
"Hindes lost control, but his desire to fix the problem isn't unique. There is an imbalance. And I'm afraid it's only going to get worse. When this ends, there'll be others. With advancements in science and biology it's possible Alphas could be brought back. Now more than ever," Reid shared, hesitating before- "And maybe that's a good thing."
The last part came out softly.
Like it was forbidden.
Reid shifted uneasily, refusing to meet his eyes.
Obviously having said more than he'd intended to.
His lips were dry when he made to speak. Realizing far too late he could have said anything. He wasn't sure why, but he felt like he needed to say it. That Reid needed to hear it. From him.
"A lot has changed in the last few hundred years. What if society has moved past them? The world has changed – the way we view Omegas, women. What if Alphas can't adapt? What if society can't? You're introducing an extinct species into a different world, anything can happen."
Reid just shook his head.
"What's the alternative? More Omegas slowly being driven insane? When does it stop? Omega birth rates are still as high as they've ever been. We aren't dying out. The problem isn't going away. Something has to give. We aren't meant to be alone."
We aren't meant to be alone.
Jacob Hindes ghost spluttered into being in the doorway. Staring at him with wide, manic eyes over Reid's shoulder, as the phantom haze of powdered drywall and metal shavings spread like a chalky mist.
"I can bring them back! I can fix you!"
"No," he agreed, blinking until Hindes' ghost reluctantly disappeared. "Maybe we aren't."
He wasn't aware of how much time had passed until Reid's voice broke through.
He shook himself back to the present.
"Sorry," he answered, smiling shallowly. Swallowing the pang of embarrassment at the lapse. "I know this case has been hard on you."
Reid stared at him incredulously, pushing his mug aside.
"You were the one who nearly died. I should be saying that to you, not the other way around."
But it had taken a lot of out Reid. He could see it. There was a tension that hadn't been there before. An awareness. A discomfort. Reid wasn't just another Omega, with his training, he could emphasize with Hindes. And that feeling wasn't going away. Maybe he was afraid it never would.
He clamped down on the urge to sooth, then surprisingly caved. Unable to resist. Settling on resting his hand on Reid's shoulder as the man looked at him searchingly. He didn't have the answers, so he didn't offer them. Only moving away when the ding from the oven encouraged them to part.
Strangely, Spencer looked better afterwards.
Even if he barely ate anything.
He woke up in a cold sweat, heart pounding. Gums aching. Coming down from a nightmare he couldn't remember as he kicked the sheets to the side. Palming his sore jaw as he eased it from side to side. Wondering if he was going to have to go to the dentist to see if something had gotten knocked lose in the explosion. He probed at the gums above his canines cautiously, wincing when the sore throb turned sharp.
The line of his back stiffened when the taint of iron reached him.
When he flicked on the light, there was blood on his pillow.
He stood there, frozen in the moment. There was red smudged down the pads of his fingers, enough that it shut down the part of him that wanted to run to the mirror. Knowing if he did - if he faced his reflection - he'd have to internalize all if it. All the little pieces that had been condensing like a knowing weight since he'd woken up in the hallway, Hindes panicking meters away.
"I can bring them back…I was just trying to make everything right. You know I-"
He wrenched himself into motion. All action on autopilot as he stripped off the pillowcase. Then the sheets. Then the duvet and mattress cover. Forgetting to be quiet as he forced it into the washing machine and stumbled over the buttons and dials. Not realizing he was shaking until he spilled the detergent and had to fumble with a cloth.
"I just need more time! I almost have it figured out. Almost!"
He watched dawn break through the living room window as the mug of sleepy tea he'd optimistically poured went cold beside him. Slowly weaving the evidence so far. The heightened sense of smell, increased appetite, muscle aches, gum inflammation. How he couldn't stand the idea of Spencer not being close. Wondering in a detached sort of way why he hadn't called it in yet.
He'd spent his life finding the clues.
The small things that fit the larger picture.
That gave it shape.
The profession he'd chosen was geared towards honesty – integrity.
But something was stopping him from being honest with himself.
A dark little voice in the back of his head issued caution.
His tests had come back negative.
This was just…just-
Clarity rolled in slowly. Comfortable in the half-dark, where it could remain hidden.
He didn't want it to stop.
He wanted this.
He woke up when Spencer's door creaked open hours later, filling the air with warm sleepy tones. Uncertain if that last part had been a dream or something worse.
- Holubtsi - According to the classic recipe, holubtsi is cooked from boiled cabbage, where you take every other leaf to make a new roll filled with boiled rice and meat. A variation of the dish is to use boiled vine leaves for the rolls. The rice can also be substituted with the other cereals, mushrooms, Korean carrots, etc.dc
They spent the next few days quietly, reading through the packets of information the team sent their way. He took to running in the mornings and evenings, needing an outlet for his increasingly restless energy.
It felt like he had electricity under his skin half the time. But it wasn't just anxiety or the desire to be back in the field. This was something different. Something new. And it felt- good. Right.
He didn't let himself look at it too closely.
But Spencer was.
The Omega didn't seem to be looking anywhere else lately.
Still, it wasn't like he was doing anything to curb himself.
The dark little voice that had only been getting louder seemed to like the attention.
He had mainlined Garcia's scent when she'd stopped by with a bag of clothes for Spencer. Worried when she struck him as being beyond exhausted despite her usual happy chirp. It hadn't taken much to encourage her inside. Pleased when she gave in and took a nap on the pull-out in Jack's room as he did a quick inventory of the casseroles and put a chicken dish in the oven.
It settled him. Having more of the team close. Eventually he got them all to stop by. Quietly thriving in their company as they talked about the case, about their families, the last movie they'd seen in the theater, good things, small things. Mind more at ease than he could express when they left smelling like him, wan smiles and all.
Spencer didn't say anything. Only watching him when he thought he wasn't looking.
They were probably going to have to talk about it.
On the fourth day, Spencer was still there. Neither of them made any effort to address it. Nor did Reid give any indication he wanted to leave. Carefully not bringing it up as they fell into their established routines. Forced to find ways to enjoy the quiet.
Avoiding the news coverage about Hindes was harder. More insidious. With nothing to do but sit and watch, it suddenly became all he could think about. Quickly growing to hate the sound of the prime-time jingle. Especially when it ended up being a repeat of the previous hour's news, interspersed with so-called "Alpha experts."
The news had their new obsession, that was for damn sure.
Things were getting out of control.
The media was only picking up on the slow-moving wave of social hysteria.
Reid was right.
The faster they solved the case the better.
It would buy them time, at the very least.
That night they watched a terrible TV movie and heated up another dish they couldn't pronounce but enjoyed immensely. They started off sitting on opposite ends of the couch, but somehow managed to shift closer as they got up for seconds. Almost touching by the time Reid was settled with his tea and he had a beer beading between his fingers.
It was intimate. Keeping him on a razor-edge between excitement and a bone-deep contentment. Hyper-aware of every inch that was almost touching as his arm made its way over the drape of the couch. So close to grazing Spencer's curls he swore he felt them anyway. Unable to help wonder if Reid felt it too.
The movie came to a stale end. Meaning he was easily distracted from the predictable intimacy of the main characters kissing when Spencer yawned. Soft, warm and perfect in the nest of throw pillows and blankets that smelled like den and close things.
His cock twitched. Realizing he was hard in a long, slow roll that took time to heat his face. As if his body had been aware of it long before his brain. It wasn't embarrassing. It wasn't wrong. At least not in the moment. It felt like the only possible result. The only one that made sense. The-
Spencer shifted, peering at him through a snarl of honey-brown curls.
"Hmm?" he hummed, every muscle pleasantly loose as Reid's scent sugared into something indulgent, the darker tones teasing spice. Nothing too much. In fact, it was just right. Like it had been meant for him all along.
There was a hesitating silence, enough to shake him out of the pleasant haze.
"What is it?" he asked, clearer now as Spencer bit his lip, looking indecisive.
"You said something in the hospital after you woke up. I meant to ask… what Hindes said to you? About fixing you?"
He blinked. It didn't feel like what the man had been about to say.
Not even close.
But he didn't comment on it.
Not sure what he'd say even if he wanted too.
After all, how did you put a confused, hedging sort of longing into words?
"Yes?" he answered cautiously, as the credits ran on the TV. Half a question, half an affirmation as he settled deeper into the cushions. Automatically craving a few inches of distance as discomfort ran thick.
How could he forget?
"What do you think he meant?" Reid pressed gently.
He considered it for a handful of moments before settling on uncomfortable honesty.
"The obvious answer is that he thought- he believed I could be an Alpha."
Outwardly, Reid didn't react. But his scent did.
He frowned. How could he know that?
"That you could be an Alpha? Or you were an Alpha?" Reid asked. Surprisingly on the nose considering the direction his own thoughts had taken.
He shook his head.
He saw me.
He didn't say it out loud.
But that's what his mind settled on
In that moment, Hindes had seen him.
He didn't know what that meant. But he felt it.
"Statistically Alphas are rare," Reid said carefully, filling the silence. "Even before their decline. And that is assuming the Alpha gene is being repressed, not extinct. Hindes' research so far points to the former. He was trying to exhume the Alpha gene. To bring it back in the people who have the right markers. Still, even if the Alpha gene could be switched back on, their numbers wouldn't be enough to-"
"Rachel Warren," he murmured, interrupting.
She'd been one of the first exposed, but the last to die.
People half a mile away had died in minutes.
But not her.
"What about her?"
"Is there a way to test for a repressed Alpha gene?" he demanded, wanting to get up and pace, but Spencer's eyes kept him grounded.
"You think she had the gene?" Reid inferred, expression switching seamlessly work-mode. Clearly running through the variables.
He shook his head. It was barely a theory. More a gut feeling. Something that only felt right the longer he thought about it.
"It could explain why she was able to fight it for so long," he offered, giving his suspicions a voice. Grazing Spencer's thigh with his hip as he got to his feet. Swallowing the shiver of awareness that resulted as he grabbed his laptop and headed for his office. Spencer close behind.
It wasn't much to go on, but a conference call with the rest the team felt like a start.
It was hours later when they finally wrapped up for the night.
Actually, considering the clock, morning.
Reid was tired, but he was strangely energized. He was physically tired, sure. But not mentally. The kind of tired where if he closed his eyes for long enough, he'd sleep. But if he kept them open, he could go for hours.
Reid yawned again, stretching.
"Go to bed," he told him firmly, after the last of the team signed off. "You smell-"
The man did smell exhausted.
But he'd forgotten that wasn't something you could really explain.
Reid sniffed his collar surreptitiously.
"Sorry, you seem tired," he corrected, passing it off as a slip of the tongue.
He thought he'd gotten away with it until Reid paused by the dishwasher. Toeing it closed after stacking their plates and cups inside.
"He wasn't wrong though, was he?"
He turned in his office chair. The carpet absorbing the creak.
Spencer fiddled with the long sleeves of his sweater.
"Don't take this the wrong way, but Omegas can- it's something we can sense. When someone's personality is dominant - naturally dominant – it feels like they're trapped some how," Reid uttered, scrunching his nose. Clearly uncomfortable. "I think that was what Hindes was picking up on. Your potential."
His face was a mask. Chest tight.
"And you get that from me?" he asked carefully, mind racing.
Reid opened his mouth, closed it. Then-
There wasn't much to say after that.
He waited until Reid had gone to bed before he got up and poured himself a drink. Then another. Nursing the third slowly before he felt loose enough to waver to his feet without breaking. Fighting pins and needles as he crossed to the bookshelf and took down the "Alpha, Omega & Beta Guide: 45th Anniversary Edition" from the top shelf. Where it had mostly been since his advanced biology course in his undergrad.
The book gradually slid into his lap, smudging dust down the crease of his jeans.
But he didn't open it. For some reason, it seemed like a step too far.
The self honesty behind it burned anyway.
Because he could smell Reid.
It wasn't the concussion.
It wasn't their proximity when he'd been in the hospital.
It was happening here. Now.
And Reid smelled good.
Like he was his.
He shook the thought away as he reached for his empty glass.
Wondering how long he could keep ignoring this before something broke.
"Hotch? There's been a development. How fast can you and Reid get to the airport?"
They made it to the tarmac in less than an hour. Long before dawn started streaking the sky. Fitting in seamlessly with the rest of the team as they flowed out of the department SUVs and onto the plane. Getting a condensed version as they walked, Reid close at his side.
He felt better than he had in days.
"What have we got?" he asked, aware of the glance between Rossi and Morgan. Any other time he might have addressed the fact that technically he wasn't the lead on the case anymore. He might have deferred in spirit to Rossi. But he didn't.
Instead, he let them have the glance. Refusing to back down. To follow the protocol he would have demanded of any of them - even himself as recently as a few days ago. Feeling territorial over the silence until Rossi gave a barely imperceptible nod to the rest of the team. Indicating he was back in charge. The others were quick to follow suit. Welcoming the return to normalcy.
It was wrong.
But only in the most righteous of ways.
"Alina Lincoln," Morgan started as they strapped in. Giving Reid a strange look when the Omega didn't take his usual seat and instead stayed close – sitting across from him. "Garcia found her after combing through Hindes' internet history. He was no computer genius, so we had that on our side. Lincoln is the one who was good at hiding her tracks. But our girl is better. Lincoln and Hindes were in contact less than six hours before we got him. If he shared the compound with anyone it has to be her."
"What is her background?" he asked, looking up to find Reid halfway through an unfamiliar case-file. Catching the flash of a brunette woman's picture clipped to the front.
That must be her.
"She has a PHD in Bio-Genetics - on leave from Harvard. Her online activity changed in the past year… when she started following Omega activist groups online," JJ supplied, briefly looking up from her cell before it rang again. Getting a disconcerting arc of static before the call connected.
He didn't have time to dwell on how he'd heard it over the background noise. With Prentiss continuing where JJ left off.
"She broke things off with her long-term boyfriend six months ago. They were engaged. Everything was set for the wedding and she just walked away. I talked to the fiancé, he's still broken up about it. He noticed she'd been spending a lot of time online. Using new passwords on her devices. He thought she was cheating until he found the flyers she was designing-"
"She's an Omega," Reid breathed, rippling the shock of it through the air. Meeting his eyes as Prentiss held up a black and white print-out. "Hindes would have trusted her."
"The Alpha Revitalization Project," Morgan read from the flyer, lips twisting.
Everything about it screamed indoctrination from the font to the word choice.
"It's a new group, but it isn't remaking the wheel by any means. The aim is to weaponize the Omega population's desperation. You can bet she reached out to Hindes the moment his manifesto went online. If they didn't know each other before," Rossi replied, shaking his head.
Off the side, JJ ended her call.
"That was Agent Selman at the CIA, they're setting up an interrogation room. They want us to take the lead," she informed them, scribbling something on her note pad as her phone dinged again.
Morgan's eyebrow rose, quickly followed by Prentiss'.
No one said anything.
He didn't blame them.
It wasn't often the CIA willingly gave over control of any investigation.
No less one of this importance.
Especially to the FBI.
"Hotch, you should know… they asked specifically if you were coming. Twice," JJ said hesitantly, blond ponytail swinging. "Do they know something we don't?"
He and Rossi shared a look.
The silence was heavier after that.
"Where is he? Is he here? I want to talk to him."
Alina Lincoln was exactly what he expected, at least at first. She was pretty, young, highly educated and wore her orange prison uniform like it was power suit. She was completely uninterested in the CIA agents grilling her in the interrogation room when they arrived. Observing through the double-sided glass as she answered them in a boring monotone. Like all this was beneath her.
He nodded when Rossi brought Prentiss into the room with him. Approving of a female addition after the two male agents filtered out, visibly frustrated. Lincoln wasn't moved by authority figures, especially male ones. It was time for a different approach.
The CIA agents stayed in the observation area, keeping to the back of the room.
The introductions were brief.
The handshakes overly strong and smiles forced.
The hair on the back of his neck prickled at the clinical hostility and veiled interest that was present as they took his measure.
Something didn't feel right.
He watched with the rest of the team as Lincoln took them in. Scanning Rossi and Prentiss before she sat back in her chair with a bored sigh that relaxed the line of her back. It translated like a dismissal. Reid caught his attention in the half-light. Not having to say anything to get his point across. He nodded shallowly in agreement. It wasn't a good start.
"You're from the FBI?" she asked, before Rossi and Prentiss could sit down.
"Yes, the Behavioral Analysis Unit," Rossi informed her, unruffled as Prentiss set a thick file in front of her and slowly unwound the thin metal-twine that kept it closed. "Miss Lincoln, I'm sure our colleagues in the CIA have made you aware of why you are here? These are very serious charges and-
"Where is he? Is he here? I want to talk to him."
She turned around, seeming to look directly at him through the glass. Brown hair falling over her eyes before she shook the curls from her face. Squinting like she could make out their profiles through the glass.
"Why is that important to you?" Rossi asked instead, expression thoughtful and open. Looking more like a kindly Uncle than a profiler. But Lincoln was too sharp to buy it. Too focused. There was a bruise on her cheek that indicated she'd already tasted what being held in federal lock-up meant. But she was still-
The realization was intriguing as it washed over him.
She'd been hoping for this.
She'd been playing the CIA for time.
She was ready to talk, but on her terms.
As far as she was concerned, this was for her cause.
She was in too deep to care about what happened to her now.
The only question was, what exactly did she get out of talking to them?
How did all this help the Alpha Revitalization Project?
"You want to know what I know? About Hindes? About Genesis?" she returned, only turning back to face them when Prentiss shifted. Trying to maintain control of the interrogation by changing her body language. "I'll only tell him. Cut the crap. Get him, or I tell you nothing. You can probably find out what you need from my files, but it will take time. From what I understand, you don't have a lot of it."
The atmosphere in the room tanked.
But he wasn't surprised.
In fact, he'd expected it from the moment he walked in.
His experience in the field had inferred this was a possibility ever since-
"Hotch, you don't have to-" Morgan started, rubbing his hand over his head. Tarting the air with the spice of high-end deodorant and unease.
"It's fine," he cut in, decisive. Refusing to give into the temptation to adjust his tie as it pressed uncomfortably against his throat. "She's right. We don't have the luxury of time. If she can give us something, it's better than what we have now. Which is nothing. We need to give Garcia something to work with if we want to track this group."
The CIA agents in the back of the room listened with open interest as Rossi and Prentiss rejoined them. Watching them huddle together and discuss how he should proceed like buzzards waiting to steal a larger predator's kill.
The irony being that this time jurisdictional peacocking was the last thing he was concerned about.
"Miss Lincoln, I understand you wanted to speak with me. My name is Aaron Hotchner. I am the Agent in charge of this case."
He came in with a serious expression, a much thicker file folder and a bottle of water. Immediately glad he had the distraction when a wave of her scent hit him the moment he walked through the door.
How could no one else smell that?
It was like hitting a brick wall.
She reeked like over-priced fondant and neon-colored cotton candy.
Bright and far too sweet.
The kind of sweet that made the acid in your stomach churn. Threatening nausea.
He almost stumbled. Tongue thick in his mouth as he slid into the seat opposite her. Repelled at the closeness. Fighting every newly implanted instinct as he forced the chair closer. Forcing them closer. A classic interrogation technique he'd never had an issue with before now.
"Tell me about Genesis," he told her, feigning calm. "That is what your organization is calling the compound, correct?"
Her scent strengthened as she ducked her head, showing him the pale of her neck.
He swallowed hard.
God, he was going to be sick.
"It's you, isn't it? You were there when he died," she said after a long moment. Voice surprisingly small, like she was speaking of the death of someone venerated and great. "You killed him."
"Yes," he answered. Words crisp, clear and with no emotion. "Will that be a problem?"
Her green eyes were blood-shot as she fixed them on him, ignoring the question in favor of leaning closer. Pink nail polish catching the light as her hands curled into fists on the table. But it was the way her eyes fluttered closed, the way she canted her head to the side and inhaled that made his jaw clench in discomfort.
"He did it…" she breathed suddenly, soft and reverent. Eyes snapping open as her scent strengthened. Nearly making him gag as saliva flooded his mouth. "He actually did it."
His chair creaked like a scream.
"What did he do, Alina?"
She laughed, sounding manic and strangely relieved as the handcuffs pulled tight across her skin. Like if she'd been able to move, she would have been halfway across the table. Body language a confusing mess of enraged and wanting. Like she might curl herself into his lap before she tried to strangle him.
"He brought you back and you killed him."
A muscle in his left thigh twitched as she smiled, showing a line of perfect white teeth.
"What did it feel like to kill your father? The man who gave you back a part of yourself you never knew was missing. I bet he knew, didn't he? Just before you put a bullet in him. I bet he saw you. He did. I can tell. You're hard to miss. Even before you walked in here, I could sense you. Was Genesis in his last device? Was that how he changed you? He told me he made enough for two bombs. He only had time to weaponize one of them. Jesus… he made you, right there in his house, didn't he? At least he got to see it. He knew he wasn't dying in vain. You're just the beginning, you know. It's all over the world now, I made sure of it. It's just a matter of time before our people duplicate it."
The tension tugged on the remaining air in the room like a stomach cramp.
Head spinning as he worked through her rambling.
There had to be something she could give them.
Something they could use.
"Tell me about 'The Alpha Revitalization Project' – who are your contacts?"
She shook her head, looking at him with such a patented expression of pre-persecuted faith that his free hand clenched into a fist out of sight of the camera. Holding onto his control by a thread as her scent smothered everything in the room. Even the dull paste of dust and sweat was lost in it. He couldn't smell Rossi, Prentiss or even the lingering burr of Reid that still clung to his clothes.
He hated it.
"Hindes was a martyr. And if it comes down to it, so will I. It's better this way. You understand that now, right? Once Genesis is re-synthesized it will be released in every major city in the country. The world. Eventually everyone will be exposed and everyone with the Alpha gene will-"
She barked a laugh, interrupting herself. Staring at him with incredulous eyes before leaning closer. Studying him. Chewing on the fat plush of her lower lip as her glasses glinted in the muted overhead lights.
"You don't know do you?" she murmured in open disbelief. Frowning like she was trying to figure him out. A living, breathing puzzle that was acting out all the motions in front of her. "Or at least you're starting to suspect something is different, aren't you? You can feel it. You're different. Better. Like you're breathing with both your lungs for the first time? This is how it's supposed to be. What you're meant to be. It was taken from you, Hindes gave it back."
Horror rose like bile when he realized he was hard under the cover of the table.
His lip curled in open self-disgust.
Unable to help the lapse as the expression pulled a wounded sound from her.
The sense of wrongness reigned, even though her scent tried to infiltrate his brain.
He didn't want her.
She wasn't right.
She wasn't his.
Her words and their meaning washed over him like an afterthought. Delayed, but no less devastating as he worked through the gamut of conflicted emotions.
"I know what you're going through. I have all the data. What to expect. I- I could help you," she murmured, voice high and breathy. "You need me- you need an Omega. I can-"
He stared at her without really seeing her, viscerally repulsed and barely present.
He'd already chosen.
He exhaled, breathless at how natural the omission was.
"I know you can smell it. My heat is coming and I would be so good for you…"
The sound that left him was too low for the others to hear, but he knew the moment she did. Eyes flaring wide as a low-frequency growl rumbled from his throat. Stopping her cold. The sound was more animal than human, but he felt it anyway. An emotion so raw, so completely foreign, that he didn't know what to do with himself in the aftermath.
She seized on his uncertainty, doe-eyes blinking with tears. Chewing on her lower lip as his eyes followed the way they bruised red. Fixated on it as his fist uncurled at his side and-
"Alpha, please…" she whispered.
His mind blanked, lost in a static-roar of muted rip-tide explosions.
He barely kept himself from kicking away from the table as he got to his feet. Grabbing the file with clumsy fingers as he turned away. He ignored it when she lunged for him, trying to touch. Knowing if he faced her, his teeth would be kissing the air beside her throat. Snarling at her for daring to force his hand.
He needed to get away.
He didn't stop when he crossed into the observation room, dropping the file on the table. Feeling the weight of the others stares. The jumbled mess of people talking. Seeing double as the Omega's scent slicked itself to his throat and threatened to swell there.
He tugged on his tie, shaking off the brush of familiar hands.
"Hotch?! What happened in there?"
He nearly crumpled in on himself as something or someone brushed against his cock. Hoping they would think it was his side arm or a cell phone as he hissed through it. So hard he wanted to punch something as one of the CIA agents spoke over the din.
"Agent Hotchner? Do you need medical attention? Fortis? Call Director Cleven, we have a-"
He was barely aware of it when he forced out a stilted, brittle excuse and pushed past them. Saying something about the bathroom as he hit the open air of the hall and kept going. Something in his expression parting the personnel milling in the hall as his gun holster clunked against the corner wall.
He didn't breathe again until he fell through the bathroom door and locked it behind him.
"Hotch? You okay?"
The handle didn't rattle, it depressed downwards only once. But it was Reid's sugared scent - cut with anxiety and a strange blurt of synthetic lavender - that made him look up from where he'd braced himself against the sink. Head hanging low between his shoulder blades. Breathing in and out as his heart raced.
He didn't know how long he'd been inside. But the moment he heard Reid's voice; something clicked. Finding himself crossing to the door and unlocking it in one smooth motion. Getting a flash of Reid's worried expression, the rest of the team farther down the hall, before he grabbed him into the bathroom with him.
His heartbeat was a furious dystopian gospel as he pulled Spencer in. Not questioning the need or where it came from as he buried his nose in the Omega's neck and just breathed.
He calmed almost instantly. Rubbing his stubble into the thin of the man's neck until it tarted the air with the abused precursor to iron. Not realizing he'd started talking until Spencer murmured into his suit jacket.
"She wasn't right... she didn't smell right... I don't want her, I don't- I can't-"
He trembled, breathing in Spencer's scent until it was all he could smell. Replacing the stink of the inferior Omega as Reid's arms wrapped around his back. Hushing soothing sounds as they wavered there in the middle of the bathroom.
The line of his teeth grazed the arc of Spencer's throat.
"Hey, it's okay, look at me."
Suddenly hungry for something different as his cock grazed the Omega's thigh.
An unfamiliar sound rumbled from his throat. More a purr than a growl as Reid's weight shifted, bringing their hips together. Able to feel that he wasn't the only one aroused as the Omega's cock rubbed at the crease of his slacks.
The hand on the back of Reid's neck tightened, keeping him close. Jealous and territorial as the sound of people talking on the other side of the door filtered through the recycled air. The dark voice in the back of his mind whispered dangerous things. That they wanted to take his Omega from him. That the Omega had come to him. Chosen him. That he needed to claim him. Bite. Bite. Bite. Bi-
His lips parted, dragging his nose down the fattening lymph-pad on the Omega's neck. Gums radiating pain as Spencer hummed a questioning sound. Tickling his nose with a thatch of honey-brown curls as he turned his head, giving him more of his neck.
A sudden knock jerked his head up and away.
"Hotch? You okay?" Morgan asked, voice muffled through the door.
He breathed unsteadily, coming back to himself. Horrified and confused when he realized he had Spencer crushed to his chest. He stepped back slowly, blinking quickly. Unwilling to meet Reid's eyes as the man cleared his throat and straightened his sweater.
What the hell?
"Fine! Just needed some air. I'll be out in a moment," he rasped, hands shaking as he wheeled around. Cock still firm against the line of his zipper as he hid it by fumbling with the facets. Splashing cold water on his face turned to Reid.
"I apologize. I don't know why I- …I don't know what that was," he said honestly.
But part of him did.
Spencer looked at him with fat pupils, dilated and shocked-warm.
He wanted to reel him back in.
"It's okay," Reid hushed, the words coming out in half-whisper.
He wished there was more. Something he could use to understand how they were both feeling. To figure out what had just happened. To apologize in a more meaningful way. But that was all Reid said before there was another knock on the door.
"Hotch? Com'on man. The CIA is lookin' for a reason… if you don't get out here soon they might-"
He met Reid's gaze and got a nod in return. Silently shelving everything that had happened as he straightened his tie and let his expression settle into its usual professional mask. Opening the door before Morgan could finish his sentence.
They would talk about it later, he promised himself.
The feral little voice in the back of his head just chuckled darkly.
"What happened in there?" Morgan asked, frowning as the team ringed around him in the observation room. Worry issuing like sweat from their pores. Strong enough to twitch his nose as Reid stayed close. Almost touching. Unknowingly keeping Lincoln's scent from overwhelming him again.
He let go of a grim smile and shook his head. Aware that two more CIA agents had joined the original handful and were all watching him closely.
"Did she say anything?" he asked, fixing the CIA agents with a nod of acknowledgement. Stern and giving nothing away as Rossi followed his glance and moved closer.
"Just crying," Prentiss replied, angling her head back to the window where the female Omega was half splayed across the chair and floor, back heaving with silent sobs. "We had to mute her. She's been going on like this since you left."
"Is there anything we need to know, Hotch?" Rossi asked, low enough that only their circle could hear.
He could feel the weight of Reid's eyes on him as he shook his head again.
"I got nauseous," he replied, musing on how it wasn't a lie. "I'll get checked out when we're done for the day. I wanted to press through it, but it got the better of me."
"She called you 'Alpha,' Morgan pushed, leaning in. "She might be emotionally unstable, but her records don't show any sign of mental issues."
"All his tests came back negative," Reid pointed out. Defensive enough that it made Morgan and Prentiss' eyebrows go up. Shuffling his feet as one of the CIA, a red-headed woman with a thin face and dark freckles approached. "The doctor told him nothing in the field for two weeks, minimum. It's no surprise he's dealing with after-effects."
"Agent Hotchner?" she greeted, holding out her hand for a shake. "Agent Butcharn, it's a pleasure to meet you. I am the Agent in charge here. I understand you aren't feeling well?"
Her scent was almost acrid.
"What can I do for you?" he returned, by way of greeting. Taking her hand and shaking it firmly. Feeling the bite of her acrylic nails against his palm. "We appreciate you facilitating this interview. My team would like to get back at it."
Rossi's expression was thoughtful as he watched the exchange. Nodding to the Agent in charge as she looked at them all in turn, then dismissed them. All her attention on him. Body language calculating and on edge.
"We took the liberty while you were…indisposed. We have a medical team in the room next door, please come with me," she remarked crisply, as two other Agents flanked her. Eyes glinting like sharks in deep water.
The mood of the room changed.
It wasn't phrased as a request.
"That isn't necessary," he replied, fighting to keep his voice level.
"I disagree," she returned smoothly. "With your previous injury and current medical status, we would be remiss if we didn't make sure."
The only reason he was able hold himself back from letting go of a warning growl was with the distraction of the team converging around him.
"With all due respect," Prentiss started, smelling like sun-baked heather and sweet basil as her shoulder brushed against his. "If there's a problem, we'll handle it."
"If Agent Hotchner has nothing to hide, why would he refuse medical attention?" one of the original agents pointed out. A younger man who stank of unwashed socks and angry adrenaline. Painfully blunt as the point of all this became startlingly clear.
A bitter scent rose up from Agent Butcharn.
She wasn't happy.
Blunt had not been in her playbook.
Morgan was quick to pounce.
"Are you saying you believe what Lincoln is spouting? On the word of a suspect, you want to detain a senior agent of the FBI? In the middle of an investigation? Exactly what are we talking about here? You think Agent Hotchner is an Alpha? After his tests came back negative? And even if he was, why would you bar him from doing his job?"
He could tell the moment before Agent Butcharn decided to back off.
"If you feel as though you don't require medical attention, by all means. Please carry on with the interview, Agent Hotchner," she replied, jaw moving with the slight grind of molars. Making him wonder exactly what the CIA's stake in all this was before her words sank in.
He swallowed. He hadn't intended to go back, but now he had no choice. Aware every action, expression and word would be scrutinized as she motioned for him to start. Reid took a step back, giving him room he didn't want as he turned towards the observation window with steel in his eyes. Getting a flash of their suspect slumped against the table, openly weeping.
Rossi caught his eye when he picked up the file folder.
Silently agreeing with him as he opened the door to the interrogation room.
The faster they got out of here, the better.
Hours later he finally made progress with Alina Lincoln.
It took time, but with coaxing and an authoritative voice that took him back to that moment in Hindes' hall when he'd ordered him to drop the serum. Regressed to that strange, powerful place when Alina blinked at him with sloe-eyes. Pink lips parting as she exhaled breathily. Wanting to please him.
"Jacob, listen to me. Put. The vial. Down."
This time, he asked her who she'd shared Genesis with.
What were their names?
How long did they have before another bomb was detonated?
She told him enough before the spell was broken by her foot catching on the metal floor. Jarring her out of the odd fugue state that seemed to result whenever he stumbled on the right tone of voice. Carrying on as if absolutely nothing was wrong when she blinked, confused. Ending the interview with a clipped goodbye and thank you for her cooperation.
He'd been half-way out of the room before she realized what she'd done. Shutting the door on the start of her angry shriek with no small sense of satisfaction as Rossi met him at the door with affirming approval, telling him Garcia was already on it. He drank it in. Regardless of the tension, the observation room was a relief. Quickly finding Reid and handing him the file as an excuse to be close. Breathing in his calming scent as the sickly-sweet stench of burnt fondant started to fade.
Agent Butcharn paused on her way out the door. Able to hear JJ in the hall, liaising with the other agents on what they'd been able to get from Lincoln. The woman looked him up and down with an expression that conflicted itself. Somewhere between hedging admiration and patented suspicion.
"Good work, Agent Hotchner, we will be in touch."
Her scent burned as the hush of the door spread her scent.
Getting the scorch of freshly lit timber and fire-flowers.
It was stronger than before.
He didn't like it.
He stared at the closed door for longer than he should have after she left. Strangely close to seething. Not moving until Reid nudged in at his side. Quiet, but firm as he realized the others were watching from the open door. Listening. Worried. But not asking. Not yet.
"Come on, we're going out to eat. Let's have dinner and get back to the hotel."
He nodded, shaking off the lingering backwash of Lincoln's scent and the oppressive feeling that had only grown the longer they'd been under the CIA's roof. Longing to be back in the BAU bull-pen.
"Sounds good, I'm starving," he admitted, cracking a cautious smile that Reid returned ten-fold.
Morgan hooted from the doorway, making JJ and Prentiss laugh.
"Yeah, you are! Come on, there is a burger with my name on it!"
Reid's grin was infectious as he ducked his head and headed to the door.
He followed close behind, refusing to look back as Lincoln was led away.
All things considered, food and sleep sounded like the best idea he'd heard all week.
It was after dinner, after they'd gotten back to the hotel and checked in with Garcia, that he finally allowed himself to relax. He stretched, grateful for the privacy of his own room as he eased his sore muscles. Exhaling in a slow rush as he went over the day's events. Pleasantly full and with no pressing emails or calls waiting for his attention, the free time felt indulgent.
He pulled off his tie with a grateful hum. It had been a lot to process. But mostly he was lingering on his interactions with Alina Lincoln and Agent Butcharn. Adeptly skipping the moment in the bathroom with Reid. Avoidance was a coping strategy he was well acquainted with, but even he knew he'd have to face it at some point. It was getting harder and harder to ignore.
His nose wrinkled as he shrugged out of his suit jacket. Catching a whiff of Butcharn and Lincoln - melded together like burnt cotton candy - as he tossed it across the nearest chair. Planning to take advantage of the hotel's dry-cleaning service as he sent a quick text to the front desk.
His phone pinged with a new email a moment after he'd set it down. Lip curling at the sight of Director Strauss' name on the alert banner. He set it back down without opening it.
He needed a shower.
He was collecting his clothes for the concierge staff, still damp with a towel wrapped around his waist, when there was a knock on the door. Thinking it was them, he opened the door without looking.
"I'm just grabbing the rest, give me a-"
He paused, smelling Reid before the door finished opening.
There was a moment of awkward silence as Reid flushed. Too invested in the blush that was arrowing below the man's collar to internalize he was half-naked and probably the cause of it. Warmth licked into the pit of his stomach as he watched the Omega take him in. Barely resisting the urge to preen. Soaking in the attention as his hand firmed around the fold of the towel. Sensing it was about to come untucked a moment before disaster.
Spencer coughed in open embarrassment.
"Ah," he muttered belatedly. Far too delayed to pass as unaffected as Spencer shoved his hands in his pockets, looking lost. He peered past him, into the hall, but found no one milling around. Getting the impression this was a social call, not work-related.
And for some reason, that sat better with him.
That Spencer would seek him out independently.
He opened the door wider and stepped back.
"Come in, I'll get dressed. Give me a minute."
He pulled on the soft sweats and worn university shirt he used as pajamas. Looking at himself in the bathroom mirror with a slanted smile. If it had been anyone else, he might have redressed in his other suit. At least a dress shirt and trousers. But with Reid it didn't seem necessary. He felt...comfortable.
It wasn't the same kind of comfortable that'd come with sharing a house over the past week. With sleepy brushes on the way to the bathroom in the morning. Or learning how the other liked their coffee when they had something better than the cheap, bull-pen grind to work with.
It was something else.
Reid was perched precariously on the second double bed when he emerged. He inhaled without thinking about it, pleased to find the calming scent he'd mentally labelled as 'Spencer' strong in the room.
"We aren't on the clock," he reminded, settling in the chair by the window. Close enough their knees could brush if they got up at the same time. "What's on your mind, Spencer?"
Reid played with the tacky, purple duvet cover. Peering at him through freshly washed hair. But even the generic, hotel shampoo couldn't damper the man's scent. It seemed as strong as ever. Stronger.
"I wanted to check in, after-"
"After what happened," he finished for him. Catching himself before he displayed the more obvious signs of discomfort. Internalizing it as the muffled sound of someone walking in heels in the room above echoed like a staccato heartbeat.
He should have expected this.
Reid wasn't as adept at shielding his body language. Absorbing a mash of discomfort, curiosity, worry and- interest from him as he shifted uncomfortably. It was a weird juxtaposition, even as far as Reid was concerned.
"I just- I can tell that you- well, the others are talking and- are you okay?"
The last part came out in a rush, like Reid didn't trust himself to take his time. Having to get it out at once or maybe not at all. He didn't blame him. And despite the fact there was a lot to unpack, he huffed a laughed, rubbing the back of his neck. The only conscious tell he was comfortable allowing free.
"More or less," he answered. Remaining safely in the middle.
He doubted he could explain how he felt. After all, how did you put instinct into words? How could you make someone understand who wasn't through the same thing? The same strange needs that felt more and more like the only right answer as the first week stretched into the second and-
'This is how it's supposed to be. What you're meant to be. It was taken from you, Hindes gave it back.'
He mentally shook himself, hating the sound of Lincoln's voice echoing inside his head.
Reid squinted at him, disappointed. Knowing he was holding back.
He felt the weight of it, but he didn't know how to broach it.
He didn't know if he could.
Not unless he was forced.
"I've been thinking about the CIA's interest in all this," Reid allowed, beginning with something soft. Knowing full well this wasn't over as he seized on the distraction anyway.
"So have I," he answered, probably too quickly.
"Their interest in you, specifically," Reid retorted, frowning. "I have a few theories. The most obvious is that that the idea of Alphas being brought back benefits the agency in some way. Generally, Alphas were considered the warriors and protectors in Ancient times. If there was a resurgence, recruitment alone would-"
He nodded, gesturing for the man to continue as he sat back in his chair and let the words wash over him.
They never ended up talking about what happened in the bathroom.
He didn't know if that was a good thing or not.
But he didn't press his luck by bringing it up.
He figured that said everything right there.
The digital clock on the side table hazed 11:43pm in red.
He held back a yawn as Spencer strayed deep in a tangent about other questionable avenues of CIA interest, but the stretch of the muscles around his jaw gave him away.
"I should go, you're exhausted," Reid murmured, slowly unfolding himself from when he'd been sitting cross-legged on the bed. Feeling the air from the movement feather across his face as the man's scent thickened.
"Stay?" he asked suddenly, without thinking. "There's another bed."
Reid blinked, surprised.
He wasn't the only one.
But he didn't walk them back.
They were honest.
He was hyper aware of both their breathing, before-
"I'll get my bag," Reid answered shyly.
He woke up to his phone pinging, once, twice, three times. He gritted his teeth into the pillow and reached for his cell blindly. Cracking an eye open enough to see they were all from Strauss before he let the phone clatter to the carpet.
His cock dug uncomfortably into the mattress. He allowed his hips to move restlessly. Biting his lip at the pleasant burn before he froze in embarrassment. Remembering he wasn't alone.
His eyes snapped open, breathing in Spencer's scent, which only made his predicament worse. He breathed unsteadily, not hearing anything. He covered his previous movements with a stretch. Slowly turning towards the other double bed, only to find it empty.
Reid must have gone back to his room.
He turned over, eying the clock and scooping up his abandoned phone.
He'd slept in.
No wonder Reid had left.
The team was probably at breakfast by now.
He looked up at the ceiling, vainly willing his hard on to fade as it firmed in the v of his legs. Tenting the linen so obscenely he grunted a laugh at how ridiculous it was.
He should just have a cold shower and get on with the day.
But he didn't move.
Instead, he breathed in. Rumbling happily when Reid's scent was quickly found. His hand brushed his cock through the sheets without being aware he'd moved. Hissing at the contact. His hips rolled upwards in a slow rut, chewing on the inside of his cheek.
It had been ages since he'd touched himself.
He looked around the room, making sure he was alone. Catching sight of a crumpled grey shirt that wasn't his left on the duvet of Spencer's bed. The one he'd slept in. He exhaled roughly, staring at it as his hand shoved aside the covers and moved under the waistband of his sleep-pants.
His eyes slammed closed.
God, he was so sensitive.
He jacked himself off quickly, breathing in Spencer's scent as his fingers twitched around his length. He spat into his palm, grunting. Lost in a building pleasure that caught him completely off guard as it ramped up faster than he could remember experiencing in years.
It was different.
He yanked himself closer to the side of the bed. Fingers curling around the fabric of Reid's shirt as he grabbed it up. Unable to help the animal sound that left him as the Omega's scent thickened. Jaw slack as he buried his face in the material and breathed.
It was a step too far.
He knew that.
But he didn't stop.
He didn't want to.
His cock throbbed, soaked in Reid's scent as his hips jumped. Trying to force himself to go faster. More. He wanted more. His pulse was pounding in his ears as he traced the crown of his cock without looking. Too busy dragging his lips across the material, able to taste the sweetness of him on the fabric.
He pulled the shirt away reluctantly, catching his reflection in the mirror.
He barely recognized himself.
He was flushed, hair mussed, shirt riding up his belly. Panting hotly as his cock turned a violent reddish-purple between his fingers. Unable to shake the feeling he'd never been harder in his entire god damned life.
What the hell is wrong with me?
The dark little voice was quick to answer.
But not with words, instead, he remembered the moment in the bathroom. What it'd felt like to bury his nose in Spencer's neck. Dragging the dry of his lips against the fat of the Omega's bonding pad like, like-
He gave in. Neck tense and straining as he watched himself in the dresser mirror. Bringing the shirt back to his nose as he fucked into his fist. Inhaling thickly. The muscles in his belly pulled taut as he kicked his sweats to his ankles and spread his legs. Wanting more room to thrust.
He was too lost in it to acknowledge the lump at the base of his shaft. Or the way his hand had started to work feverishly around the bulge. Knowing instinctively how to manipulate around it as the pleasure only ratcheted higher.
He didn't even see it. He was too focused on chasing his own pleasure. Too busy burying his scent so deep in the shirt that the next time Reid wore it, he'd smell like him. Only him. Everyone would know. Every Alpha would be able to smell his claim.
He choked on a fractured sound as his fist tightened around the knot.
What the hell was this?
How had he never felt like this before?
It was better than any sex he'd ever had and it was just him and his hand in a dingy hotel room that smelled like-
A soft, fettered gasp issued from the direction of the door.
It took him a moment to realize what that meant. So clouded with lust he didn't stop stroking himself as he pulled the shirt away to see Reid standing at the foot of the bed. Shocked and stuttering as the door closed with a naturally heavy sway behind him.
But the reasons why that was a bad thing were suddenly nowhere no be found.
He growled instead. Completely without shame as he worked his cock. Lifting his hips so the Omega could see him better. Preening.
It was right that his Omega would be here.
Let him see.
Let him watch.
He inhaled when a fresh burst of Spencer's scent hit him. It was better than the shirt, so in a moment of inspiration he wrapped the material around his cock. Snarling a rough sound that pulled a whimper from his audience as his nostril's flared.
He could smell the Omega's wet.
He spilled with a feral sound, working the cum into Reid's shirt. Hips slotted up, straining with the last pulses that seemed to go on forever as he gasped for breath. Thighs trembling as thick ropes of cum splattered up his belly near the end, too exhausted to catch them. A low, gravel-purr started up as he settled back into the pillows, sated. Everything that had been building for the last week - everything he couldn't name – had been smoothed away. Resolved.
Christ, he'd needed this.
He smiled loopily at Reid. Proud in a uniquely animal way when he looked down at the man's shirt and found it impossibly damp with his cum.
The stress in Reid's voice, more a croak than the way he wanted the Omega to say his name, made his head come up. Blinking. Something tickled. Nudged. Whispering that he was missing something. That something was wrong. But how could that be? He hadn't felt this good in ages. Maybe ever.
He felt alive.
He shook his head.
He looked down, taking in the hand still loose around his cock.
It was thick and red with an obvious knot swollen around the base that-
His hand jumped away like he'd been burnt.
What the hell!
He looked up, eyes wide on his face.
"I- I don't know what-" he started, before trailing off.
He didn't have words.
He didn't have an excuse.
He used Reid's shirt to cover himself, hissing as the damp fabric coated his prick.
"That was-" Reid started. Fist clenched so tight around the strap of his messenger bag his knuckles had blanched white.
"-instinctive," he finished, fingers curling around the bulge of what could have only been a knot through the material of the shirt. Horrified and strangely settled all at once.
Reid nodded, curls bouncing.
He swallowed hard.
'Alpha,' the dark little voice in the back of his head whispered with an audible smirk. 'Alpha.'
"Your tests came back negative," Reid repeated. Eyes dropping to the fat swell of his cock, barely hidden under the cum-streaked fabric. "I saw them. The doctor set down the tablet when she checked your vitals and they were negative."
He jerked his head. Wondering at this point if either of them believed it.
"I think," he started, pinching the bridge of his nose with his free hand as the moment grew possible and stale as cold air chilled gooseflesh down his skin. "I think I need to get more testing done."
Reid said nothing for a long beat. Then-
"I'll come with you."
That was as far as they got before his cell rang.
He curled away, grabbing at the sheets to cover himself as he slapped his phone. Cock still impossibly hard against his thigh as he heard Spencer's cell go off behind him.
"They found another device," Rossi barked, out of breath as the sound of JJ and Emily hazed in the background above a burst of static.
"Where?" he demanded, looking over at Reid as the Omega pounced on his open bag and started stuffing things into it. Not bothering to wait.
"Here," Rossi returned, jangling keys he heard twice, once on the phone and the other faintly down the hall. "Langley. Three blocks from CIA Headquarters. We're meeting at the SUV in ten."
"Five," he retorted before ending the call.
He didn't let himself look at Spencer again until they were running down the hall. Well aware that 'later' seemed like a buzzword for 'never.'
The cordoned-off street was tightly controlled chaos by the time they arrived. Moving seamlessly through the crime scene with a CIA escort as flyers emblazoned with the Alpha Revitalization Project's logo littered the pavement. N95 masks were shoved into their hands as they ducked under the tape. Pulling them on as the world grew muffled and humid under the particle filter.
"Just a precaution," one of the CIA remarked bluntly, before whirling away again. Juggling a blaring radio and two different cell phones as a gaggle of junior Agents duck-stepped in his wake. Each of them wearing a mask, eyes already too wide on their faces.
He scanned the area. Something wasn't right. Why would Alina Lincoln's organization plant a device so far away? If they wanted to make a statement, the CIA building was less than three blocks from here. There hadn't been heightened security in the area, nothing to dissuade them from taking advantage of a hard target. The other devices had been detonated on the opposite coast. It didn't make sense.
He frowned when he saw bystanders picking up the flyers that had drifted past the barricade.
"You need to get people in the crowd, quarantine anyone you see with a flyer," he ordered, turning to the CIA agents escorting them. "Anyone who has touched one, even if the person standing next to them touched one- hell, everyone in the vicinity needs to be tested. Now. For all we know, the serum could be on the papers. Right now, we have control. Five minutes from now might be a different story. As soon as these people start moving, we lose the ability to contain this."
The Agents nodded and radioed it in. Vaguely recognizing one of them as the Agent from the day before. The young brunette man who'd smelled like unwashed socks and angry adrenaline. Only now he had a vastly more pleasant scent. Ripe with Agent Butcharn's acrid camp-fire tones and the soft sweetness of a yearling pine.
It was complimentary in a strange, off-putting way.
The only way he could explain it was that it wasn't 'his type.'
Which didn't make much sense, admittedly.
"What do you think?" Morgan asked as they watched the bomb-squad detonate the explosive in a closed-off containment cube. Yanking Reid out of the way as a trio of police rushed through the narrow corridor between emergency vehicles.
"I think this isn't the reason we're all here," he answered, distracted. Looking over the heads of the team back towards the CIA building.
"What is it?" Rossi asked, catching on. Eyes on the group of CIA conferring with the Bomb Squad. Stomach tightening in unease as the Agents shook their heads and gestured towards the exploded device.
"Agent Hotchner?" the familiar brown-haired agent interrupted, shoving a radio towards him as the Bomb Squad called all clear. "Agent Timson, from yesterday. I have Agent Butcharn on the radio, she wants to talk to you."
"Agent Hotchner," he answered, wincing at the static as the others ringed around, listening. "We are at the scene; the Bomb Squad just gave the all clear."
"I know," she responded, heels echoing loudly like she was in a stairwell. I am at headquarters. It just came over the radio. There is no residue of Genesis. I repeat- there is no sign the serum was ever inside. What does your profile say about-"
The sound of another explosion jerked their heads towards the CIA building just in time to see a cloud of smoke plume high over the skyline.
He was running before the screaming could start.
There was nothing cordoned-off, just fire, dust and figures stumbling out of the north side of the building when he rounded on the main entrance. Boots flirting with blown-out brick and mangled iron struts as he looked up at the ruined exterior.
He pulled his mask down without thinking, desperate to breathe. And was immediately hit with a wall of scent.
Blood. Adrenaline. Iron. Chemicals. Fire. Urine. Sweat. Cotton. Salt-
He wheeled around, catching the fray of camp-fire among the wreckage.
She'd been in a stair-well.
He followed the scent deep into the dust cloud. Aware of heavy breathing behind him. Of boots slamming against the pavement. Muted voices. Screams. Knowing without having to look that Morgan and Agent Timson were following at his heels. But he couldn't scent Reid. The others must have been somewhere behind.
"Hotch! Your mask!"
He ignored it. Following the scent into the building and through a set of emergency doors. Grimacing at the sight of the foyer littered with bodies. Some still writhing – exposed to the serum. Dying. He forced himself to push through it, jamming his way through a dented door and into a collapsed stair-way that was thick with her.
"She's here," he rasped, as a broken line of sprinklers spluttered on above them. Catching sight of Morgan and Timson in the gloom, soot-streaked and wearing masks. "Fan out and keep your masks on! The compound was in that bomb!"
He nearly growled when Morgan appeared at his side and jerked his mask up. Grazing the bridge of his nose as their eyes streamed with the smoke. Only able to see the creases between the man's eyes to judge how pissed off he was as they whirled together in the dark. Timson's flashlight jerking a crazy spotlight over the rubble as the younger man tripped over a clipboard. Climbing over a hill of debris as Morgan's hand firmed around his forearm.
"Get it together, Hotch! You're not immune!"
He didn't have time to argue. He just adjusted the mask over his mouth. Hating the way it muted his senses. He couldn't smell her like this.
"Here!" Timson yelped. Voice choked and echoing strangely as the cut-off stairs swaying overhead screamed with pitching metal teeth.
He scrambled up the pile of debris to watch as Timson wormed his way under a collapsed lean-to of metal and cement. Protecting her from the worst of the fallen debris as the metallic buttons on her navy coat caught in the low-light.
"Is she alive?!"
He wrenched the mask off again, inhaling, pushing in after him. Getting a flash of red-hair, one foot missing a black business heel, bruised under-eyes and an arm that was buried to the shoulder debris. Worse, she wasn't wearing a mask. If she had been, it had been lost in the blast.
"Unconscious!" he returned, yelling over his shoulder at Morgan. "She's breathing! Agent Butcharn?! Can you hear me? What's her name?"
The sharp of metal threatened to slice grooves across his knees as they huddled over her in the cramped space. He pressed his fingers to her neck, relieved to find her pulse strong. In fact, it was almost racing. Maybe being in the stairwell had protected her from the serum. Maybe-
"Sarah, her name is Sarah!" Timson answered, working to get her arm free. "Where is her mask? I can't find it. No...no! I can't find it!"
The younger Agent hissed a breath between his teeth when he heaved the last of the rubble away. Revealing a nasty, open break where her forearm should have met with her elbow. The bone was sticking jagged out of the skin. But he was already thinking ahead, knowing it would be a miracle if that was her only injury.
The stairway overhead groaned, shifting.
It wasn't going to hold.
He and Timson shared a glance through the dust. Previous antagonism forgotten.
"We can't risk moving her," Timson coughed, muffled through his mask. Even though his eyes said the opposite. Gentling bits of concrete and brick off her chest as the woman's dark freckles made the bruises look worse. Movements too tender to be strictly professional as Timson brushed her hair back. Smoothing it with reverent, crooked fingers that shook with upset adrenaline. "Sarah? Open your eyes. Don't do this to me. Come on- Sarah!"
The haze of pine rose up again, stronger this time. Like it was trying to make up for the muted char of Agent Butcharn's scent as the wail of sirens echoed in the eves.
'Omega,' he realized, as he leaned in to count Butcharn's pulse. Inhaling just a bit too deeply as the man called her name. 'Timson was an Omega.'
Somehow, he knew.
He just knew.
"We don't have a choice," he ordered. Looping his arms under Agent Butcharn's legs as the stairway groaned above them, raining chucks of concrete. "This entire thing could come down. On three- one, two, three-"
Timson scooped up her other half and moved. The jarring motion screamed her awake as the bones her broken arm shifted. Wrenching her to safety just before the broken stairway collapsed. They fell through the emergency exit and back into the ruined lobby. Feeling the wind as three floors of debris pulverized the cover they'd been under only seconds before.
He caught the blood-shot whites of her eyes over Timson's shoulder as he covered her. Bloody fingers digging into his suit as they hit the floor and skidded with the uneven momentum. Not having to think twice as he covered Timson's back the same way. Aware of Morgan's harsh pants somewhere in front of them - safe.
"Get medical in here!"
The breath he forced in almost sharded his lungs. Air so thick he ducked his nose back into the mask just to find oxygen. It wasn't until the light-headedness faded that he recognized the way Butcharn was breathing.
He pushed Timson out of the way, forcing her to look at him as he tracked her eye movement. Chewing on the inside of his cheek as her rib-cage jumped. Wrenching air with a reedy rasp he recognized from Rachel Warren in the hospital.
"She's been exposed," he shouted to Timson, finding him in the half-dark, bloody and blinking. "Make sure medical is on their way!"
But the Agent didn't move. He was frozen there. All his attention on the woman in his arms.
He didn't know what to do. Because Butcharn wasn't responding. She was looking around wildly without seeing as her body twitched. Chest rising and falling. Temperature climbing as the serum took effect. Knowing that if he looked up - if he looked away, even for a moment - he'd find Hindes' ghost kneeling beside him. Catching the reedy thinness of the dead Omega's hands between blinks. Hovering over Agent Butcharn's injured arm with a hopeful croon.
His lip curled up in a snarl.
Timson's voice broke when he called her name. Shaking him out of the moment as he ignored the ghost. Head pounding. Spitting grit to the side as a familiar outline took shape in the gloom.
"Hotch! Hotch! They're on their way!" Morgan shouted, ripping off his belt as he tied a tourniquet around the leg of an injured man whose skin was so incredibly white he didn't look real.
If they could keep her conscious until the medical team got here, maybe-
"Agent Butcharn, look at me. I need you to look at me!"
Her eyes were rolled back in her head when he forced them open.
It was too late.
It had been minutes since the explosion.
Even seconds of exposure was lethal.
She'd been too close to the dispersal radius.
She didn't have a mask.
There was no way-
Agent Butcharn's breathing rattled, straining, skin flushing oxidized-purple as her body seized. Mentally he tried to calculate the time. Realizing in a slow, painfully hopeful rush that she should have been dead by now. Rachel Warren was the only person who'd made it to the hospital after being exposed. The only one who'd been able to fight it until her body couldn't anymore. Until now.
"Hey...hey, you're going to be fine," Timson soothed, pushing her hair off her face with tender panic. Looking up at him for confirmation he couldn't give as the woman's mouth worked, exhaling wordless sounds. Wiping the spittle and blood from the seam of her lips with his thumb as the woman's eyes focused on the younger Agent. "I have you, medical is on their way. Sarah, hey- there you are. There you are. Good. That's it, keep looking at me. Keep-"
Something warned him to move back. Instinctively giving way to a feeling that breathed animal-caution as the woman's scent strengthened. Coming into it's own as her tangy, camp-fire smell became a forest fire.
The hair on the back of his neck prickled.
"Timson! Move away!" Another CIA agent called, pushing their way through the doorway as a trio of medics followed in his wake with a stretcher and an EMT bag. "Make a hole!"
But Timson ignored them, looking no where but her.
"Sarah, fight it! I know you can, just-"
Everyone froze when a feminine growl - deep and unmistakable Alpha - rattled from her throat. Somehow finding the strength to grab Timson with a desperate sound as he called her name. Looking up at him like she was seeing him - finally seeing him - as the man let go of a teething whine. Melting into her as she buried her face in his neck. Shuddering with it as the combined forces of the CIA and FBI wavered. Shocked. Witnessing a rebirth of an entirely different kind as he climbed unsteadily to his feet. More grateful than he could express when Reid reached for him, brushing fingers in the gloom. Steadying him as the connotations permeated slowly – but firmly. Like oxygen forcing the smoke to give way.
That was the moment the lingering suspicion finally clicked.
"Hotch, what the hell is going on?!"
Everyone was in various stages of disarray when he forced his way into the evidence lock up. Leaving Butcharn and Timson at the hospital to undergo testing. With the former very much alive and causing her own share of problems as the doctors tried to figure out how to handle their first Alpha patient in hundreds of years.
He marched up to the front desk. Knowing he had everyone's full attention as he slammed down his I.D badge and handed in his weapon. Signing the paperwork needed as the others did the same behind him.
"Agent Aaron Hotchner of the FBI, I called ahead. We need to see Rachel Warren's personal effects. Now. Everything you have. I need to know if anything is missing."
The authoritative tone echoed in the high ceiling. Earning him a blink, then frantic scrambling.
"No, no- I mean yes! It's all here," an older man with a military haircut hurried to explain, keys banging as the secure door buzzed. "It was transferred here when you flew in, in case you needed to re-examine it. It's set up in the next room."
No one said anything until the door slammed behind them, leaving them alone.
Reid was quiet, but present at his side as he hushed close. Voice low.
"What is it?"
His jaw worked as he slit open the bag. Barely maintaining the chain of evidence as he dumped out the girl's effects. Silver rings. Shirt. Shoes. Underwear. Hair tie. Hospital shift. Jeans. Earrings. A single rainbow sock.
"Hotch? Talk to me," Morgan insisted, moving forward only to stop when Rossi put a hand on his shoulder. Shaking his head. Catching all of it out of the corner of his eye as he focused on the items on the table.
"Why are we here, Hotch?"
Rossi's voice was distant, but it tugged. Forcing him back to words.
"Agent Butcharn is an Alpha," he rasped, giving in to instinct as he scented the contents of the bag. Working his way through each item before he found the disparity. Nostrils flaring. "She had the markers. Meaning she was meant to be an Alpha. The serum activated the gene. That is why she survived."
Prentis shook her head, black hair flaring like a wing.
"We can't know that, not until the tests come back. Where are you going with this?"
"It's Rachel Warren," Reid breathed, like he finally understood. Sending him back to the moment in the hospital where they talked about her. To the long conference call with the team at their house where he struggled to put his suspicions into words. All of it. "Rachel Warren is the key. Hotch, you knew. Right after Hindes. You knew it was all going to come back to her."
He leaned down, inhaling without sensor. Too far gone to care that everyone was watching as he focused on the crumpled hospital shift. The scent was different from what the girl had been wearing during the attack in the subway. Changed. There. There it was. He grabbed the shift and brought it to his nose as the others shifted wearily behind him. Instinct guiding him as he balled it up in his fist. Eyes closed to slits as his breathing turned into rattling, low-decibel growl.
He reared back, letting the thin material fall back on the table. Gripping the edges hard enough that the table creaked with the strain. Feeling like he was about to be sick as every inch of him trembled. Exhausted. Angry. Over-stimulated. Hungry. Crashing.
The scent was acrid, but not offensive.
Not like Agent Butcharn.
It was milky. Adolescent. Pup.
She'd been on the cusp.
That was why she died.
He rocked back. Trying to wheel around, only to find Reid already there, steadying him. Grabbing at his jaw as pain blossomed from his gums. Wanting to bury his head in Spencer's neck and just breathe, but he was off-balance. Room spinning.
"Rachel Warren would have been an Alpha, that was why it took her so long to die," he croaked. "It killed the others because they didn't have the Alpha gene. Warren was too young. She had- she had the gene, but her body couldn't handle the change. She would have, she would have been-"
What a waste.
She would have been one of them.
She could have been.
"What the hell is wrong with you, man?" Morgan snapped, pushing through Rossi and Reid. Worry and frustration chief on his face as the table shuddered under his hands. "Jesus, we need to get him to the hospital. Look at him!"
But the dark little voice that had been living in the back of his head only saw the stumble from Reid when he got pushed out of the way. And in the end, that was the only thing it needed to soar past the point of no return.
The pain in his gums was searing. Sending blood pooling in his mouth before it seeped from his lips as he snarled an aggressive note. Coating his chin as he turned to face the threat to his Omega. Lips pulling back to show newly sharpened canines. Every part of him Alpha as he growled a challenge.
He didn't have to say anything. All hell broke loose with the stink of frantic horror and the flowering rush of Reid's scent maturing to meet his as they caught eyes through the crowd and reached-
The rest came to him in vague flashes.
He remembered baring his teeth when Morgan held him back.
He remembered the way his pack smelled wrong, upset - needing comfort.
He remembered the strain of muscles and the shocked-wide of Morgan's eyes when he'd over-powered him. Shoving him aside. Lurching unsteadily to where JJ and Emily were keeping his Omega away from him before Morgan had him in a head-lock and Rossi was yawning sounds he couldn't understand in his ears.
He remembered the bottom falling out of the world when Spencer let go of a needy whine. Staring at him over the other's heads. Trying to reach him as Emily and JJ kept grabbing his hands, keeping him from finding him. He remembered how the echoes of the whine drove him crazy, fish-tailing in Morgan's grip.
He needed to get to him.
"Don't!" Reid shouted, ringing his ears. Anxiety and want coloring the tones in such a confusing mix he wanted to tuck his nose into his own collar to escape it. "It will just make it worse. Let me go. I know what I'm doing! Morgan, trust me."
His fangs scored red across his lower lip as he snarled. Trying to get the traction to throw Morgan off. But one of his shoes had slipped off in the scuffle. Keeping him off balance. Skidding across the tiles with insane energy that refused to get him anywhere.
"Reid, you sure? If I let him go-"
He was hard in his slacks, painfully hard. Feeling like a fever was roaring through him as sweat broke out everywhere. Slicking his shirt to his skin. Mixing with the blood in a way that made him want to pound his chest. Feeling like he was dying. Like he was finally alive. Like-
"I'm sure. Just-"
He felt the wind as Spencer rushed forward. Timed so Morgan could scramble back as he grabbed the Omega up. Burying his face in his neck and hugging him fiercely. Finally. Finally. His.
He inhaled, panting into his Omega's neck.
He dragged his lips over the fattening gland on Reid's neck. Worrying it. Enjoying the sounds the Omega made as he paid special attention to the swelling patch of skin. More sure than he'd been of anything in years as instinct whispered what happened next.
There were too many bodies in the room.
Something told him that wasn't right.
But they smelled like pack and den.
Not a threat.
"Alpha," Reid whispered, distracting him from their audience. Tucking his head into the curve of his shoulder. Fingers trailing down the broadest points of the bone before arrowing up like they were looking for something. "Alpha."
Someone sucked in air harshly through their teeth.
But the fever under his skin roared at the omission.
He was too engrossed with scenting down the Omega's neck. Saliva pooling in his mouth as he prepared to sink his teeth, that he was caught off guard when Reid suddenly pinched either side of the equally swollen gland on his neck.
He spooled across the floor, forcibly relaxed. Mouth slack as a rush of calm cut through the need. Muffling the desire to fight, fuck and claim as Reid and Morgan propped him up against the wall.
"What- what was that?" he slurred, chin dipping into his chest. Unable to keep it up on his own as Reid's hair feathered like individual apologies across his skin.
"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry! I just needed you calm! We can't do this here!"
"Reid, what did you do?" Rossi demanded. Hand wide across the center of his chest. Keeping him upright as his body did its best to cave forward. Tired.
He blinked slowly. Room happily out of focus.
"Omegas have calming pheromones. I read a paper that talked about the Alpha's bonding gland. There is historical evidence. The Ancient Greeks and Romans wrote about it. Most North American indigenous tribes included how to do it in their oral histories. It's universal. If an Omega can get a hold of it, you can stop their response to-"
"A little too much gas there, Reid," Morgan chewed out as Spencer's shoes shuffled sheepishly. Leaking guilt. Pressing into him with affirming touches as he tried to shake off the stupor.
Someone's phone went off, leading to a muffled curse.
"Is this for real?" JJ murmured quietly.
"Yes," Spencer replied, choking back an upset sound. "It's a rut. I think he was exposed when the bomb went off in Hindes hallway. No one noticed because his body didn't react the same way. It's why his tests came back negative. We need to get him somewhere safe to ride it out. I can-"
"What do we do?" Prentiss replied, in control and focused despite the obvious quaver in her voice. "If it's a rut, what if-"
A sudden hammering on the door broke the tension.
"Agents? What's going on in there?"
He snarled. Head coming up in response to the new threat. Feeling a wave of fever and rage wash over him as he tried to push off from the wall. Out of control in a way he knew he would hate if he'd been in his right mind, but now could only relish. Finally himself for the very first time.
"Shit! Reid! Do it again!"
"Doctor Reid? May I speak to you for a moment?"
He woke with a jerk as the click of a closing door carried in the quiet.
"Spencer?" he murmured, head rasping across an unfamiliar pillow.
No one answered.
He opened his eyes slowly, frowning when he couldn't scent him. In fact, his senses felt strangely dull. Muffled. He pulled himself upright, recognizing Spencer's bag and an open book on the chair by the far window.
He scanned the room carefully. Alert for threats. Mouth dry and head pounding as the lack of anything - good or bad - put him on edge.
He didn't like it.
He was alone in a large room. It had a hospital feel, but was obviously more expensive than any he'd ever been in. He looked down at himself, looking for any injuries. But save for some bruises and cuts, there was nothing to indicate why he was here.
The last thing he remembered was-
He pinched the bridge of his nose. Mildly appeased to find himself in soft draw-string pants and a plain white t-shirt this time around. More comfortable than a hospital gown, but still not his own as a sensor on the wall started blinking blue.
He remembered everything, all of it.
The hotel with Reid.
The explosion at CIA Headquarters.
He'd been out of control.
"It's a rut. I think he was exposed when the bomb went off in Hindes hallway. No one noticed because his body didn't react the same way. It's why his tests came back negative. We need to get him somewhere safe to ride it out. I can-"
His fingers clenched around the railing.
He flushed through a nervous burst of discomfort. Vaguely remembering the unit in high school biology on Alphas. Or more accurately, the cat-calls and giggling as the teacher sighed and ploughed through a bland, dispassionate lecture about knots, breeding and rut-fever.
It hadn't felt anything like what she'd described.
It felt like he'd been falling apart.
But he'd liked it.
That was the worst part.
He'd never felt more himself.
He looked down, cock soft but twitching with lazy interest at the subject matter. Realizing he didn't feel like that now. He felt calm, controlled. Not coming out of his skin. Not desperate. From what he remembered; ruts were supposed to take days to resolve. Something told him that wasn't what had happened here.
The door opened before he could get any further. Relief flooding through him when Reid peered in. Smiling shyly when he found him sitting up.
"Oh, hey, you're awake. Can I come in?"
He nodded, clearing his throat. Using the opportunity to push back the covers as Reid sat in the chair closest to the bed.
"Where are we? How long have I been out?"
Reid made a face.
"Almost seventeen hours. They medi-vaced you here after you stabilized. As for this place? I don't know if it has a name, but the Agency is footing the bill. From what I can tell, it is a hospital, but I think you're the only patient in the entire wing. They're keeping Agent Butcharn and Timson downstairs. Garcia checked it out, everything is legit. Do you remember Doctor Janner? From the hospital? She's liaising with the doctors here. They are trying to figure out why you reacted differently to the serum. Butcharn's presentation was immediate, yours was so gradual the first tests came back negative. They just redid them, and they are positive. …How are you feeling?"
He opened his mouth, then closed it again.
How was he feeling?
Complicated, for starters.
"I don't know," he answered honestly. Shaking his head ruefully. "Embarrassed, currently. Is the team alright? I remember being pretty rough on Morgan."
Rough was an understatement. If he'd been able to regain his grip, he would have flung him into the table. Pack or not. Reid had been the only thing that mattered.
"They're fine, they're holding Strauss back from flying here. She isn't happy."
"I'll bet," he muttered darkly. Having a vague recollection of ignoring her inane, micromanaging emails. Knowing he would have a fight on his hands when this was over. She'd try and use this as an excuse to get rid of him for good. Already able to imagine the word choice with the review board. 'Compromised' came immediately to mind.
Reid snorted a laugh, making the corners of his lips twitch in spite of himself. Hazing the room with good feelings until the man sobered again. Looking at him searchingly.
"The last few days? It's been a lot. It's okay if you aren't okay with this yet. You don't have to be. You know that, right?"
He scented the air reflexively. Realizing how much he'd come to rely on it when he found he couldn't pick up on anything more than the obvious. The gently sterile smell of the room. Dust. The faint scent of coffee. It felt wrong. Knowing that just hours before he'd been able to parse almost everything about Reid from his fabric softener to his mood.
"I can't smell you," he admitted. Leaving it there like an open wound. Deciding that as small and incomplete as it was, it was still progress. At least he could say what he felt. No longer having to be cautious now that everything was in the open.
Reid looked at him from behind his hair. Hesitating.
"It's the suppressants."
"Suppressants?" he repeated, cocking his head. He'd seen Reid's over the years. Small green pills that managed his heats down from once a month to twice a year. "Like heat suppressants?"
If anything, he was surprised they had come up with something so fast
"They are similar," Reid nodded, hands clasped and restless in his lap. Like he wanted to get up and pace but didn't dare. "They aren't perfect. But considering you were the guinea pig, you're lucky that's the only downside so far."
He stretched restlessly at the mention of side-effects. Knowing full well the process it had been for Omegas to develop viable heat suppressants. Not to mention the fight to have the right to control their sexual health. The extinction of Alphas had helped, in no small part. Without Alphas, the ugly truth was, there wasn't much in the way of backlash towards Omegas suppressing their heats.
The fingers wrapped around the railing tightened again.
He wasn't like that.
He'd never be like that.
"Hotch, I don't know how you did it, but you fought it. What happened in the evidence lock-up? That was you reaching the end of your rope. I think you were in rut longer than the doctors are saying. If I had to guess, I would say before the attack at the CIA. Historically, an Alphas first rut is at the age of majority. They have time to rest and bulk up. You didn't. Your body went through a massive change in just over a week. So, the doctors decided it would be safer to try and push it back."
Just before the attack at the CIA?
The hotel room.
Well, that explained a lot.
But not all of it.
He might have been in rut, but there was only one person he'd wanted.
He opened his mouth to try and explain it, but Reid was already talking.
"They think your next rut will be in three months, if it follows the usual cycle. I hope you don't mind, but when it came down to it, they were deadlocked on whether to let you have the rut or suppress it. I told them you'd want the suppressants. The choice. That you'd want to decide what happens next, rather than your biology forcing you into it when you weren't lucid."
He swallowed thickly. More grateful than he could express. Hating himself for not saying it as he nodded. Never wanting that extra sense of smell more as Spencer looked down at his hands. Fidgeting.
He wanted that.
What they weren't saying.
Seventeen hours ago, he'd known what to do.
He'd known what he felt.
It had been simple.
His gums throbbed like a reminder. Unable to help tracing his tongue across the dull line of teeth. Knowing it was a lie. And suddenly, like a switch had been flipped, he was angry.
He'd never taken himself for a coward.
"I owe you an apology," he started. Struggling with it. Knowing that with every word he was making it impossible for them to come back from this. "I'm not sure where to start, actually."
Reid shook his head.
He wished he was better at this. At explaining this wasn't about the serum or a rut. Maybe that's how it started. Or maybe it had been like this for a while and Genesis had dragged it into the open. Forcing him to reconcile that he'd quietly felt something more than friendship when it came to Spencer for years.
"Don't apologize," Reid told him, voice cracking.
He couldn't run from this. Something told him that wasn't an option anymore.
"I knew," Reid blurted suddenly, like one of Jack's toys popping off after being wound too tight. "I knew what was happening, but I didn't say anything. I didn't know how."
He exhaled a continent of stress, then – shockingly - laughed.
"So did I," he admitted, holding back an amused huff. Afraid that if he let himself go he might not be able to stop. Because he had known, in a way. Part of it had been deliberate avoidance. The rest had happened so naturally he'd just accepted it. Struck more and more by the realization that he'd never once wanted it to stop. "I think I knew the moment I woke up in the hospital. ...It was you. You were the only thing that made sense."
Reid stared. Blinking comically.
"How about dinner? With Jack. At a restaurant?"
They spoke at the same time.
Both laughing in the aftermath.
He couldn't help drinking it in as Spencer smiled. Eyes crinkling. Soaking in the good feelings as the world carried on around them.
"I'd like that," Reid answered simply, chin tipping up as the Omega stared openly back.
It was a start.
They made it to the end of their second date before he broke. Killing the space and claiming it for his own as he crowded Spencer against the door of his apartment. Nosing into the curve of his cheek before kissing him with reverent, aching firmness.
Just like he'd been wanting to do for ages.
"You're mine, aren't you?" he whispered, dragging his lips down Spencer's temple. Rooting at the skin until he finally found the honest smell of him. Scooping him closer as Spencer's knees went weak in response.
"Yes," Reid murmured, hands everywhere. Tugging at him as they ranged off the wall and thudded against the door frame. "Yes."
He bit back a guttural moan. Feeling the Alpha in him strain to rise to the occasion. Held back by a mix of unnatural chemicals and dormant receptors. But before the desire could morph into something darker, Reid was sliding downdowndown. Looking up at him through the fan of his lashes as he fumbled with the buttons of his trousers and tugged-
"Oh," he rasped, breathing through it as Spencer's cool palm closed around as much of him as he could. Fingers endearingly thin and delicate as his cock pulsed.
"Alpha," Reid whined, lips pursed like an obscene kiss around the crown as a blurt of fluid seeped out. Inexperienced but still utterly devastating as he fisted the door jam. Head thudding back against the wall, throat exposed when Reid whispered it again. "Alpha."
He wasn't going to make it to his god damned rut.
Spencer was going to kill him before they got anywhere close.
"Do you regret it?" Spencer asked later. When they were sated and mostly asleep. Curled together under sheets that smelled like Reid. But in a way anyone with a nose would be able to recognize if they got close enough.
Admittedly, he missed the intimacy that came with being able to scent more.
It felt unnatural.
The question was expansive and open, but he knew what he meant. Pressing a kiss into his hair as Spencer's ass hitched lazily against the cradle of his thighs. It wasn't urgent or going anywhere. It just was.
He looked over at the door that yawned into the kitchen. Staring down Hindes' ghost as the dead man rocked in the threshold, humming tunelessly. Smiling. Manic. Peaceful.
He looked away, kissing the shell of Spencer's ear before nudging him over. Making sure his eyes were no where but him as he let the most important part go freely.
"No," he answered, kissing him firmly.
No matter how it happened, he didn't regret it.
He didn't have it in him.
With so many of their cases, sometimes there were blips of good mixed with the horror. This was the opposite. The good parts outweighed the bad.
In the scheme of things, you couldn't ask for more.
And he wouldn't.