Spirits rarely got vacation time. There was always something in the world that needed their attention. The power of the light didn’t have a sick and personal time plan, and The Boss’ best team was definitely busy. But now they were about to get two weeks off on The Boss’ word. They were overworked and deserved it. As soon as they got back from Tel Aviv, John Blackwolf and his team had a feast fit for kings. Then they slept for most of the weekend.
By Monday morning, they were going their separate ways. John was off to Arizona, his ancestral homeland. He wanted to commune with the spirits and live amongst the Apache to teach and build the community. It was only two weeks but he was always welcomed back home. He’d been killed on that land over a thousand years ago but was able to return in triumph.
JJ was going to The Bahamas with some of the female spirits. She was looking forward to it like a college coed did Spring Break. She packed SPF, bikinis, an iPod, and her bubbly personality. The girls planned to have as much fun as The Boss would let them get away with. Hotch went straight to DC, and the arms of Emily Prentiss. He hadn't seen her in nearly a year.
Work kept them busy and he missed her terribly. All he wanted was some time alone and they were finally going to get it. He was practically skipping on clouds when he said goodbye to Sam. The two men quickly became the best of friends in their time together. A shared love of one woman did nothing to affect that. It became clear to Hotch after a while that Sam’s love for Emily would never be more than fraternal.
It could be if he wasn’t a spirit. But for Sam, the rules of life according to The Boss were a top priority. Everything else was fleeting; the love of the light everlasting. To be sure, he had his fun and the people he held so dear; he wasn’t a stick in the mud rule follower. Still, being a spirit came first.
So the first week of his stay-cation, Sam worked. He mentored younger spirits, taught, read, and meditated. Sam also enjoyed a nice lunch with Nora Bennett, The Boss’ second in command. She was quite impressed, as was The Boss, with the work of John Blackwolf and his team. She wondered aloud if Sam ever considered becoming leader of his own team. He definitely had leadership potential…The Boss had known that for some time.
Sam believed it was something to contemplate though he wasn’t sure that the time was now. He was so grateful that The Boss believed in the work he was doing. He wanted The Boss to know that when the time came to have his own team that he wanted Aaron Hotchner to join him. Nora didn’t think that was a problem. He had trained Aaron after all; The Boss knew they were close.
Cohesive teams were the best way to get things done. And Sam Kassmeyer definitely got things done. As the first week of his time off wound down, Sam was in the garage working with Katie Cole on some of the refurbished motorcycles. The two spirits chatted amiably, about this and that, as Cat Stevens played on the radio.
“Did you hear that?” Sam said, holding up his hand.
“Someone needs help.” He stood, putting down his lug wrench and walking out of the garage.
It was a faint sound but Sam definitely heard it. He couldn’t feel anything though. Closing his eyes, Sam focused as hard as he could. He couldn’t astral project like JJ but intense meditative concentration could put Sam on a different plane. When he opened his eyes again he was in a bedroom.
A woman sat in a chair, she was the one praying. She was frightened, looking for strength and guidance. She didn’t know why these things were happening to her and her loved ones but she needed to get through it. She looked young to Sam, not a teenager but surely not a senior citizen by any stretch. No matter how hard he focused he couldn’t feel her even though he now heard her prayers clearly.
There was a little boy asleep in the bed, no more than a toddler. The aura around him nearly knocked Sam’s backward. The woman did the sign of the cross. She looked at the little boy and said ‘we’ll work this out, Jack’.
Then Sam was back on the sidewalk. He put his hands on his head; Katie asked if he was alright. He didn’t answer her immediately so she took him inside the garage. After sitting him down, Katie got him a glass of water.
“What happened?” she asked.
“Someone needs our help. She’s a young woman with a small boy. I couldn’t feel her but his aura was so strong. You didn’t hear anything Katie, or feel it?”
“No.” she shook her head. “Where was she?”
“I don't know. It was the strangest thing I've ever experienced. Wow.”
Katie sighed, rubbing his shoulders. He was trembling and she’d never seen Sam like that before. She wished she had seen what he did so that she could help. They heard lots of prayers all the time, even though they couldn’t help everyone.
“It’s OK.” She put her cheek on top of his head to bring him some solace.
“Thanks. I better get back to this motorcycle…its not gonna fix itself.”
“Are you sure? Maybe you should rest.”
“I'm fine, Katie, honest. A lunch break might be a good plan though. Do you want some lunch?”
“I never turn down food.” She smiled. “We’ll get a burger and fries and then work for the rest of the afternoon.”
Sam nodded, standing up. They both left the garage and headed down to their favorite burger joint.
Sam couldn’t sleep that night. He’d spent his evening reading and meditating after leaving the garage. He was trying to get back to a place where he could hear that voice again. All he got was a whole lotta nothing. He communed with his teammates but they hadn't heard or felt a thing. The name Jack meant nothing to them.
There was no such thing as coincidence, Sam felt; he was supposed to hear that prayer. Just like he heard Emily Prentiss in Warsaw 66 years before, he needed to help this woman. Why couldn’t he feel her? That was more confusing than anything else. Perhaps he could go through the toddler Jack…his aura was so strong.
Taking a few deep breaths, Sam sat yoga style on his bed. He closed his eyes and tried to recapture what he felt when he first got close to Jack. He was very strong, warm, and good. When he opened his eyes, Sam was in a park. He recognized it almost immediately as Washington, DC.
The little boy Jack was on a swing set smiling. The young woman was pushing him while they talked. He wanted to go higher and she obliged, telling him to hold on tight. Jack’s aura was as strong as before yet the woman wasn’t giving off a thing. Then Sam felt a rush of cold…darkness was close by. He looked around the park and tried to find it. He couldn’t see a thing but Jack was definitely in danger.
Sam thought the little boy sensed it as well because his smile faded. He wanted to leave the park. His little sneakers dug into the dirt to make the swing stop. Hopping off, he grabbed the woman’s hand. He told Aunt Jessie that he wanted to go home. Aunt Jessie; her name was Jessie.
Jessie what? She asked Jack if he was sure, she thought they were having fun. He said yes and was adamant about it. He said there was danger. Jessie didn’t understand but she started leading him out of the park. Sam followed along, looking around just like Jack was.
Nothing jumped out and soon they were at silver blue Ford Focus. Sam grabbed the license plate number before opening his eyes. He wrote it down on a piece of paper sitting on the nightstand. Exhausted from his travels, he lay down on the bed. Her name was Jessie and he had her license plate number. Sam wasn’t allowed to go off on his own to pursue something like this, no matter how strong his feelings.
It was a blatant rule violation and the penalty was stiff. There was a chain of command that Sam had to go through to get an assignment. He was sure Jessie and Jack were in danger; he felt it. He also knew that Jessie needed some kind of help because she prayed for it. Why he could feel Jack and not her, he didn’t know, but this wasn’t going to leave him alone. He had to do something.
Getting a sit down with The Boss was next to impossible, even for a spirit. Nora Bennett was the voice of The Boss and everything went through her. The Boss was busy, couldn’t stop everything to have a conversation with someone. It was just unheard of. So Sam was mystified when he was walking into The Boss’ private chamber.
He’d gone to Nora with his issue…he needed to find Jessie and Jack. If he heard her then he was supposed to. Darkness wanted to engulf them and as a spirit he couldn’t let that happen. There were rules, which he was well aware of and typically followed to the letter. It was why he came to her; permission must be sought to investigate this.
When help was sought, whether it was for battle, collecting souls, or general guidance, The Boss was well aware of it. Then spirits were dispensed to fight for or act in behalf of the light. Often they bought back souls to train for future missions. Only special souls caught The Boss’ attention. While there were many good souls, in both the spirit and human world, fighting in the name of the light was a large responsibility to undertake.
The Boss knew who was ready for it even when the person had no idea. Aaron Hotchner was the last soul Sam’s team brought The Boss. Not everyone who lived amongst them battled. But Jessie and Jack were not names known to The Boss and this was cause for great concern. Sam, who had been a spirit since before the birth of Christ, was about to stand in the presence of the truest greatness.
He felt faint and pretended not to. Nora put her hands on his shoulders, told him it would be alright. He nodded. He knew what he wanted to do and was prepared to defend it to The Boss if need be. The door opened; Sam’s feet were stuck to the floor. Nora gave him a gentle nudge.
“Go ahead…The Boss is waiting for you.”
“I know, but I'm nervous.”
“Do you want me to calm you down?” Nora asked.
“No, no, I need to feel this. Alright, I'm going.”
He took a deep breath and walked into the room. A warm, blinding light engulfed him as the door closed behind him. Sam fell to his knees, tears falling from his eyes. He’d never seen something so beautiful in his life.
“Stand up son.” The Boss said.
Sam did as he was told. The light faded some but was still bright
“Nora tells me that you’ve heard some prayers.”
“Her name is Jessie.” Sam replied. “It started a few days ago when I was in the garage. She was so faint; I had to go into a deep meditative state to find her. Something is after her nephew Jack; something very dark.”
“Tell me about Jack.” The Boss replied.
“He's a toddler, no older than five. I can feel him…he has one of the strongest auras I've ever encountered. He knew when the darkness came; he felt it at the same time I did.”
“But the Aunt feels nothing?”
“Not to my knowledge.” Sam said. “I can't feel her essence…I'm starting to think she's human. Jack is definitely of our world.”
“I have to tell you, Sam, I have never seen Jessie or Jack and this causes me concern. A force could be out there setting traps for spirits. We've been there before.”
“I remember.” Sam gave a solemn nod.
Many more souls may have been saved on The Lusitania but that was the era of the long Great War between the darkness and the light. At the same time the human world was battling, so was its supernatural counterpart. Spirits were being lured with false calls of help and ambushed by Reapers and other agents of The Darkness. Sam hated that time; he hoped something like that never happened again.
“I've been able to reach them both in a deep meditative state.” He said. “I know where they are, their names, and now I have a license plate number. There are people in that world who can help me find out if this is real or a trap. I won't have to reveal myself to anyone but those who will protect and defend me. I'm asking for a few days to look into this. I want this woman and child to be safe. I feel as if it’s a calling.”
“Spirits never travel alone.” The Boss said.
“They're in Washington, DC. I’ll meet up with Hotch—Aaron—and we’ll investigate together. If you permit it that is.” Sam bowed his head respectfully.
“While I am a bit concerned about where this may end up, you’ve fought valiantly in the name of the light for nearly three millennia Sam. There comes a time when the child comes to the parent and the parent must trust the child’s instinct. Meditate on this journey for 48 hours; other information could be revealed to you. After that, if the pull is still strong, meet up with Aaron and find these people. If they're human there may not be much we can do but I will permit you a chance to find out.”
“For that, I am so grateful.”
“Go forth Sam, and take the light with you in your heart and soul.”
The Boss turned to walk away; at least Sam thought that’s what happened…the light was very bright. It soon started to fade as The Boss moved away from him. The large door behind him opened; Nora waited on the other side. Sam could hardly feel his legs moving as he walked out to her.
“Are you alright?” she asked, caressing his cheek.
“Yes. Have you ever been in The Boss’ presence before?”
“I have. It never gets less awesome, believe me.”
“I do.” he smiled. “It was amazing.”
“Yes.” She nodded. “Will you be going on a mission?”
“I've been granted permission to look into it but must meditate for 48 hours first. I better start that.”
“The light will always guide you in the right direction.”
Sam headed back to his room. He felt it in the pit of his stomach…this was a very important mission. Something was strong in Jack and it was something good. Dark forces were around though; they were closing in. He heard Jessie’s prayers for a reason and he had to follow the lines fate and The Boss laid out for him. Sam had been doing this for a long time, even The Boss said so. It was time to start the mission.
Sam stood outside the door; there was no reason to ring the doorbell. It was only a matter of time before…
“Hi.” Sam said when the door opened.
“Get in here, you, it’s so good to see you.”
Emily Prentiss opened her arms and Sam walked into them. It always amazed him how warm she was. Emily was the grayest of the gray and she was warm. Perhaps that was something he should've asked The Boss about. Sam smiled when she kissed his cheek.
“I used to love seeing you. Now I'm afraid you're coming to take Hotch away. We get so little time as is and…”
Tracy ran through the living room and straight into his arms. He picked her up, spinning her around.
“Are you getting bigger?” he asked grinning. “I think you're bigger than the last time I saw you.”
“No silly.” She giggled. “Look it,” she pulled the angel necklace from under her yellow tee shirt. Sam bought it for her 75th seventh birthday. “I wear my necklace everyday so we can be close. You still watch over me, right?”
“I watch over you all the time. I promised you that I would and guardian angels never break their promises.”
“I'm so glad you're here.” Tracy hugged him.
“Tracy, love,” Emily stroked her daughter’s white blonde hair. “Mommy and Sam have to have a grown up talk. You should go back in your room and read.”
“You promise not to leave without saying goodbye?” Tracy asked.
“Cross my heart.” Sam put her back down on the carpet and did just that.
“OK.” Tracy sang it like a song as she skipped away.
“Where is Aaron?” Sam asked, sitting down on the couch Emily waved him toward.
“He went to lunch with Senator Rossi. I wasn’t pleased but everything that’s happened hasn’t caused him to lose his connections to the old world.” she smiled sadly. “I actually think its easier when all of those links are gone. It makes some long for things that will never be again.”
“Aaron is an excellent spirit. Of course the work he did before his death was on the side of right…he didn’t have far to go.”
“Is this something bad, Sam?” Emily asked. “Are you allowed to tell me that?”
“I can tell you many things without giving away my mission. I'm just looking into something right now and spirits never travel alone. Since it’s in DC area The Boss wants Hotch with me.”
“Baby, is Sam…Sam!”
Hotch walked into the living room and embraced his brother.
“What are you doing here?” he asked.
“I need some of your time; just a few hours. Someone needs help.”
“I’ll leave you two to your conversation.” Emily sensed it was time for her to exit. “It’s always good to see you, Sam.”
He smiled as she left the room. Then he looked at Hotch.
“I'm hungry.” Hotch said though he’d just had lunch. Spirits had voracious appetites. “Are you hungry?”
“What do you think?” the smile never left Sam’s face.
“How does steak and eggs sound?” Hotch asked.
They walked into the huge kitchen filled with stainless steel appliances and frosted glass cabinet doors.
“This is a nice condo.” Sam said.
“Emily loves it. She really loves having her own space. I like it too.”
“She and Tracy look great.” He sat down at the counter.
“They're doing great.” Hotch replied. “They're all happy here…Nathan too. And Jordan has stopped by a few times since I've been in town.”
“You look happy as well.”
Hotch couldn’t helped the dimples that poked into his cheeks as he opened the oven and put in the marinated steaks Nathan cooked the other night.
“Its difficult being away so much but you knew that. I don’t often get to be domestic so I want to enjoy every moment and take it with me when I have to go. Last night I took Tracy horseback riding up in Potomac. Her father just bought her a brand new horse to his stables there. She's very close with Jason and I wouldn’t interfere with that. I'm just glad she finds some space for me.”
“And Nathan?” Sam asked.
“Well, he’s a tougher nut to crack but my heart and mind remain open to him. What’s going on, Sam? Is this about the communication last week?”
“There's a woman and a little boy in trouble. I heard her praying; it was so faint. It took a deep meditative state to reach her but I finally did. Her name is Jessie and she's scared. Dark forces lurk around her nephew Jack…I could feel them. I think he could as well.”
“Where are they?” Hotch asked.
“Here in DC…that’s why I'm here. I know you're on vacation and I'm so sorry but I need someone to go with me so I volunteered you to The Boss when I sought permission.”
“You saw The Boss?” that caused Hotch to pause. “What was it like?”
“It was the most beautiful thing ever; there's no other way to describe it. The Boss permitted this inquiry into Jessie and Jack. There's just one problem though.”
“Only one?” Hotch asked as he grabbed the eggs from the fridge. “We can knock that out. What is it?”
“I don’t know where to find them. I can't feel Jessie at all, and while Jack’s essence is strong I can't put a location on it anymore. That’s troubling me.”
“How do you even know they're in DC?”
“I saw them in a park I recognized. I got Jessie’s license plate number and it was a Virginia tag. I thought they might live in the Corridor. We can use that tag number to find her, right?”
“I’ll call Penelope after we eat. Then what are we going to do? I'm a bit concerned that you can't feel her, Sam.”
“That seems to be the general consensus.” Sam replied.
“But you can feel the boy?”
“His essence is one of the strongest I've ever felt and he can't be more than 5. The darkness lurking around him is strong as well. He feels it but I wouldn’t say he is afraid of it. Its more like…awareness. I think what's most important to him is protecting Aunt Jessie. A human is no match for the darkness. At least I think she's human. That’s the best way to explain not feeling her essence.”
Hotch nodded, not sure what all of this meant. He’d been a spirit less than a year and was still getting used to all it entailed. Still, he’d been an FBI agent forever. This sounded like it could get worse before it got better. Perhaps his vacation would end earlier than he planned. Emily was going to kill him. Hotch started apologizing in his mind, knowing she’d be able to feel it.
Her name was Jessica Ann Brooks, indeed a human, and she lived in a Georgetown condo. Garcia was able to find out that she was a writer who took in her young nephew Jack after the brutal murder of his mother, Haley Brooks, a year before. The name Haley threw Hotch off; that was his ex-wife’s name. But the last time he checked, just a few months ago, she was safe and sound in Silver Spring with her professor and their children. He didn’t know who Haley Brooks was.
She was beaten to death in a home invasion type robbery in her McLean, Virginia apartment. The state police found her three year old son hiding in his toy chest. He had his mother’s blood on him. That upset Garcia immensely, along with the crime scene photos…she told Hotch now she’d have to watch videos of Knut the polar bear for the rest of the day. He told her a pair of shoes, any pair she wanted, was in her future. The oracle told him that she already knew that.
As Hotch and Sam headed down the hallway toward Jessie’s place, something caused them to stop. They looked at each other.
“You feel that?” Hotch asked quietly.
Sam nodded. He grabbed his archer’s bow and arrow from the pack on his back. Hotch pulled his jutte from the holster inside his jeans. They crept along the wall, hoping no neighbors emerged, as they made their way to 509. The door was ajar; Hotch had flashbacks of that night in his apartment and the fight with the lightning bugs. Sam pushed the door open and walked in first.
It was quiet…too quiet. The place was a mess; there had definitely been a fight there. Blood droplets and some stains were all over the living room and kitchen but there wasn’t enough to suspect they were looking for bodies. Both Sam and Hotch knew the smell of decomposing flesh. The neighbors would’ve called the police about that. The spirits split up to check every nook and cranny of the place.
He rushed to his friend, who was in the back room. It was clearly the room of a small boy. There was a racecar bed, plush toys, and a bookcase filled with Dr. Seuss and Little Golden books. By the open window lay the carcass of a lightning bug. He had gone into full chrysalis-like state, which they did when they died.
By the open closet door lay Jessie Brooks…Sam recognized her immediately. It looked as if she was dead too. Hotch rushed to her as Sam stood frozen in the middle of the floor. He was too late. He tried, but was too late to help. Jack was definitely gone. Sam couldn’t feel his essence anywhere in the house.
“She’s alive, Sam.”
“What?” that got his feet moving. He crouched down beside Hotch.
“Her pulse is faint but she’s not gone.”
“Should we call 911?” Sam asked, slipping his bow and arrow back in the bag.
“And say what?” Hotch asked. “Damn, I don’t know how much longer she’s gonna hang on. Let me make a quick phone call.”
Sam nodded, taking her hand. Spirits were able to bring calm to chaos but that was only amongst their own. He didn’t know if he could do that for Jessie Brooks but didn’t plan to just give up without trying.
Sam sat in the hospital room still holding her hand. There were people he could call; they would be there to heal her in an instant. People in his world were different than human beings though. In Sam’s world they were once dead, undead, or never will die, with a little bit of everything in between. Human beings were simpler. Jessie’s hand was warm in his so that was a comfort.
He wanted her to wake up, tell him what happened to her and Jack. Clearly whoever took him didn’t intend to leave her behind to tell the story. This was probably exactly what happened to his mother. Someone wanted Jack badly and didn’t care who got in the way. As night fell in Washington, DC, it looked like his mission was just beginning.
“Who are you?”
Sam turned when he heard the raspy whisper. He went to her bedside and poured a glass of water. Jessie drank from the straw as if she’d been in the desert for months.
“My name is Sam Kassmeyer.” He said. “I'm here to help.”
“Oh my God,” she tried to sit up some but couldn’t. Everything hurt and she honestly couldn’t believe she was alive at all. Those three monsters that attacked her planned to kill her. They told her they would take her out just like her sister.
Jessie cringed just thinking about it. They killed Haley and took Jack. When had everyday life become a nightmare? She didn’t even know how long she’d been lying on that floor wishing for something, anything, before thankfully she passed out. “Jack told me about you.”
“I’m sorry?” Sam raised an eyebrow.
“He’s four years old, Mr. Kassmeyer.”
“Alright,” Jessie managed a small smile despite everything that was happening. “Jack told me that Sam would always protect us. It was his destiny. I asked him who Sam was and he said an angel, a guardian angel. I didn’t know where he got that from but here you are. I know you're not an angel but here you are just the same. You’re here and Jack’s gone.”
“Where’s Jack?” Sam asked, sitting back in the chair and taking her hand. That seemed to make her feel better. Maybe he had a little power here after all.
“I don't know. These men, there were three of them; they came and took him. They kicked the door in and even though we were hiding they came right for us.”
“They felt his essence.” Sam said.
“It’s a long story. Go on.”
“They just snatched him and the rest is fuzzy. I tried to fight back but I was no match for them. They were strong, and fast…no one can move that fast. I think Jack stopped one of them. He was going to stab me but Jack stopped him. I have no idea what he did but he stopped him right in his tracks.”
“That wasn’t a man.”
“Can you please tell me what's going on?” Jessie asked. “Where is my nephew? Is he dead? I mean I think I would feel it, in my soul, if he was but…”
“Unfortunately, I can't answer any of those questions yet.” Sam said. “I’ll find out though, and do my very best to get Jack back. I don’t like making promises I can't keep. I very much want to get him home safely and find out why someone would take him. I’ll do everything in my power to do that.”
“Are you the police?” Jessie asked.
Sam couldn’t lie; it was against the rules and his nature. He surely couldn’t tell her what he really was. Not now and maybe never.
“No, I'm not. I know this might be asking a lot as we didn’t meet under the best circumstances but you have to trust that I'm one of the good guys, Jessie. Getting Jack back is important to me and the people who work with me. I know you’ve had a rough couple of days but I need you to tell me everything about Jack. I need to know about the days and weeks leading up to his kidnapping. Every little thing, even if you think it insignificant, might help.”
“Well, Jack has always been a special little boy Mr., I mean Sam.” Jessie smiled some. “I don’t know what to call you.”
“Calling me Sam is fine, really. Is it alright if I call you Jessie?”
“Sure.” she nodded.
“Well, I’ll stay with you tonight, Jessie, to look after you. Maybe you should just rest and hopefully in the morning they will discharge you. When they do we’ll go someplace safe to have a long talk about Jack and everything else. Time is of the essence but I know how exhausted you must be.”
“You saved my life.”
“Actually, my friend did. I thought you were already gone but he knew different.”
“I’d like to thank him.” she said.
“All in due time.”
Jessie wanted to know what day it was. She didn’t know how long she’d been lying on that floor bruised and bleeding. Time seemed to stand still as the constant loop of Jack being snatched from her arms ran through her mind.
“It’s Thursday.” Sam replied.
“They took Jack on Tuesday night. He’s been gone for two days. I know the statistics; over 70% of children are killed within the first 24 hours after abduction.”
“This isn’t your standard abduction.”
“That’s something else I'm in the process of finding out.”
“Well what do you know, Sam?” Jessie asked in an exasperated tone.
“I know we have a lot of work to do. That’s why you need to rest tonight. No one will hurt you; I’ll stay awake all night.”
She thought he would be pretty tired after that but Jessie was starting to fade again. She was in some pain and her eyelids were heavy. She was afraid for Jack. He was four years old and wouldn’t hurt a fly. He’d been through enough in his short life…who would want to take him away from her.
And what did they mean when they said they would kill her just like they killed Haley? Sam said they weren't men and she suspected as much. But could her mind wrap around what they truly were? This was too much to handle; sleep was easier right now. It might not be the right thing to do but Jessie didn't have much choice.
She looked at Sam, a peaceful look on his face as he held her hand. When he saw she was looking at him, he smiled. Jessie squeezed his hand. Just his being there brought her some kind of peace. How that was possible in the middle of this hell, she didn’t know, but she let that peace guide her to her dreams.
The doctors kept Jessie for an extra day. They were concerned about her concussion and the trouble she had breathing caused by her bruised ribs. She was itching to get out of there and find her nephew. Nothing else, even her own condition, mattered to her. She couldn’t do anything stuck in a hospital bed.
Her frustration was getting the better of her. Sam found that he couldn’t bring her any solace; couldn’t commune with her essence. He told her that his partners were working on leads. Just because he was there didn’t mean there weren't people out there looking for Jack.
“I don’t mean to be unbearable.” Jessie replied sighing. “I'm just frightened. I think I have some right to be. Someone, something, took my nephew and tried to kill me. I promised to protect him after Haley was killed.”
“I know.” Sam nodded. “We’re going to do everything we can to get him back.”
“How? You seem just as clueless as me…no offense.”
“None taken. I'm not clueless, Jessie, believe me. I know that we've only just met and this might be asking too much but you need to trust me. I've been doing this for a long time.”
“Jack told me that Sam would protect us.” She said. “I know that guardian angels don’t exist but you're the only one who’s here. The fact that your name is Sam isn’t lost on me either.”
“You don’t believe in guardian angels?” Sam asked.
“I'm sure I did when I was Jack’s age. He’s the one who told me to pray you know. He told me that there was danger and we needed help. He said I had to ask for it. That didn’t make any sense to me; so much of what was happening didn’t make sense to me.
“Jack was just so adamant though. Sometimes he cannot be talked out of things; this was one of them. How could I tell him no? It wasn’t as if he was asking for something unreasonable.”
“Did Jack tell you to pray? Were those his specific words?”
“No.” Jessie shook her head. “He told me to ask for help. He said that Sam would hear me and that he would come.”
“Are you sure?” Sam asked.
“Of course I'm sure.” Jessie showed her frustration. “Jack said danger was close to us. I was so scared, not about the danger he kept talking about but that he was losing his mind. I was even considering taking him to a shrink. Lately there were these moments when he…he was just beyond his years.
“He would say things that made no sense, almost like spouting out prophecies or something. Then, less than a minute later, he’d ask for Beefaroni. This is going to sound crazy but I was starting to believe he might be possessed. Remember in The Exorcist…that little girl was only 12.”
“I've never seen The Exorcist. Anyway, that was only a movie.”
“You’ve never seen The Exorcist?”
“No.” Sam shook his head. “So Jack told you to ask for help?”
“Yes. I thought about prayer when he told me that. That was strange since I hadn't done it in too long to recall. We always seek God out when our backs are against the wall but forget about him when things are good.”
“That’s true. He’s there all the time though, either way.”
“I prayed for so many things. I just wanted Jack to be alright and feel safe. He’s been through enough. And now he’s gone. I guess my prayers didn’t work.”
“That’s not true Jessie. Sometimes there is nothing you can do to stop the bad thing from happening. Once it does though, that’s not the end of the story. It’s not over by a long shot.”
“I wish I could have the faith that you do.” Jessie sighed and tried to relax in the uncomfortable hospital bed.
“I wish I could give it to you.”
Sam took Jessie to Emily’s place when she was discharged from the hospital. She lived in the Watergate East building, which had a guard and doorman. Jessie would be safe there and Sam felt better as they rode the elevator up to the 12th floor.
“What are we doing here?” Jessie asked.
She was tired and beat up. Between the pain and her worries, sleeping at the hospital was almost impossible. Now she had to trust a guy she didn’t even know who was taking her to a place she’d never been. When had Jessie’s life become a bad episode of a procedural drama? Where was Gibbs or Horatio or Don Johnson when you needed them? It was all too much to handle and more was happening faster than she could take it in.
“You're going to stay here for a little while. You'll be safe and that’s the most important thing.”
“Are you at least going to knock on the door?” Jessie asked as they stood outside of 1210.
“She knows we’re here.” Sam replied.
“The gang’s all here.” Emily opened the door wearing a pleasant smile. “Come on in.”
They did and Sam smiled when he saw the rest of his team. He hugged both John and JJ before introducing them to Jessie.
“What’s going on?” she asked. “You guys are not law enforcement…not even close.”
“How do you know that?” John asked.
“Oh c'mon, you're wearing a trenchcoat and it’s June.” Jessie reasoned. “What are you trying to hide under there? Someone needs to tell me what's going on. I'm neither naïve nor a shrinking violet.
“I can handle it, and you know what even if I can't I can try. My nephew is gone and I want him back. How are you going to help me? If you're playing some kind of game I can just go to the FBI. I don’t have time for this.”
“I'm FBI Supervisory Special Agent Aaron Hotchner.” Hotch pulled out his ID and showed it to her. “I'm an abduction specialist. Sam called me in as soon as he realized what was going on. We plan to get Jack back but I won't pretend it'll be easy.”
“Whatever you need from me I'm here to give it, Agent Hotchner.” She replied.
His presence made her feel better. The guy in the trenchcoat and the girl in the tight jeans and tank top didn’t even look like undercover cops. They resembled extras in a Mad Max movie. And the woman who answered the door looked more like a Real Housewife in her designer loungewear with her Bloody Mary. Jessie was sure they were nice people but the clock was ticking. She didn’t have time to make new friends. There were more pressing issues to worry about.
“Call me Hotch.” he replied with a warm smile. He’d never been the smiling type, still wasn’t, but he was attempting to put Jessie at ease. Like Sam, he couldn’t feel her essence. Knowing what she was thinking, feeling, or even concealing wouldn’t be easy. Luckily his FBI training helped him out there.
“We need to talk some more about the strange occurrences that took place before Jack disappeared.” John said. “Lets sit.”
“Do we have to do this on an empty stomach?” JJ asked.
“I could eat.” John and Hotch said in unison.
“I really need some clothes and things.” Jessie said. “I was expecting to go home tonight.”
“I'm not sure its safe there.” Sam replied. “I could just go and pick up a few items.”
“You wouldn’t even know where to begin. Can we just go together? It shouldn’t take too long.”
John nodded and Sam conceded.
“Your bike is downstairs in the parking garage.” John said.
“You probably shouldn’t go alone.” Hotch said. “I’ll go with you.”
Nathan walked down the hall and into the living room. He was dressed in black dress pants and shirt, heading straight for the door. He paid little attention to his mother’s guests.
“Mother, I'm heading to…” he stopped in his tracks, turning to face them. “I smell virgin blood.”
His blue-green eyes went black and his long fangs slid out of his gums. Jessie screamed; Sam covered her mouth and her eyes as Emily rushed over to her son.
“Nathan.” Her voice was calm as she made him look at her. He didn’t fight it, which was a good sign. Two years ago he might have thrown her halfway across the room. And before that it might have been worse. “Nathan, my love, look at Mother. Nathan…please.”
He slowly started to come around. His eyes were still black and shiny but his fangs returned to their hiding place.
“Nathan, this woman is a guest in our home and you aren’t to treat her with anything but respect. Do you understand me?”
“Yes, Mother.” he nodded as if he were in a trance.
“Nathan, tell me that you understand.” Emily still held onto his hollow cheeks.
“I understand, Mother. It’s just…it’s been so long.”
“I know, baby.” Emily pulled him into her embrace. “You're doing so well; your father and I are very proud of you. You need to focus on that, Nathan. You need to go to work, work hard, and control your impulses. You need to control your impulses. You don’t want to hurt anyone.”
Nathan nodded though the poor kid looked pitiful. Emily looked at Hotch.
“I can't let him go out by himself.” She said.
“I’ll take Nathan to work.” JJ volunteered. She came over and put a gentle hand on his shoulder. “You ever been on the back of a Harley, kiddo?”
“No.” he shook his head as some life returned to his eyes.
“Well you're getting ready to be the coolest kid on the block.”
“Can I hold onto you like they do in the movies?” Nathan got a little more of his spark back.
“You sure can. But be warned…I know jujutsu and I'm not afraid to use it.”
“Yes ma'am.” He smiled. Then he hugged and kissed his mother. “Goodnight, Mother.”
“Goodnight, love of mine.” Emily stroked his cheek. “Thank you so much, JJ.”
“Sure.” she smiled. “C'mon Nathan.”
He quickly said goodbye to the others in the room and left with JJ. Sam took his hands from over Jessie’s eyes and mouth. She turned around, punching him hard in the shoulder. He grimaced but took it like a man. It took all Hotch and John had not to laugh. This wasn’t quite funny.
“Don’t you ever grab me like that again, Sam Kassmeyer.”
“I…you…I didn’t want the neighbors to call the police to report screaming.” He replied.
For a while they were all silent. Something big just happened and they weren't sure how to handle it. If Jessie was of their world, they wouldn’t have to. There were people they could call to make humans forget. But the precious information of Jack’s kidnapping was in her mind as well and that would be a huge risk to take. They were already starting from Square Zero; they needed Jessie.
“Nathan’s a vampire?” she looked at Sam and then Emily for conformation.
“Yes.” Emily nodded.
“Am I safe around him?”
“Nathan has bloodlust but he hasn’t had an incident in over two years.” Hotch said.
“So I won't have to sleep with one eye open while I stay here?”
“No.” Emily shook her head, praying she was right. She might ask Nathan to stay with his father for a few days but she knew that he would hate that. If she was honest with herself, so would she.
“Before all hell broke loose someone said something about food.” Jessie said. “I'm starving; that stuff in the hospital was awful.”
The three spirits looked at each other. They couldn’t believe how calmly she was taking all of this, initial screaming aside. Hell, even Hotch thought about screaming the first time Nathan went Barnabas Collins on him. They quickly excused themselves to the kitchen. Emily told Jessie to sit down and asked if she wanted something to drink.
“Coke if you have it.” Jessie replied.
“You're in luck…I have plenty.”
“Are you and Hotch married?”
“No.” Emily shook her head. “I guess you can say he's my boyfriend. He stops by from time to time for food and a bed. His job keeps him very busy.”
“Is he good at what he does? Do you think he’ll find Jack before anything bad happens to him?”
“Yes I do. Jessie, I've been where you are…you couldn’t ask for a better group of people on your side. Sit tight and I’ll get that Coke.”
Jessie nodded and Emily went into the kitchen as she relaxed on the couch.
“She had a better reaction to Nathan’s game face than I did.” Hotch said.
“I'm a little shocked by her calm.” John said.
“I'm not.” Emily replied. “I don’t mean to interrupt official business but what is she, maybe 30? She's part of the supernatural generation. They grew up loving Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed. It’s not so hard for them to believe, or even wish, that those things were out there. They think they're privileged when they find out the secret. How do you think vampires are still bringing people over in the 21st century? We’re not dragging them kicking and screaming, that’s for sure.”
Emily left the room and the three spirits just stood there.
“I think the best way to do this is to go with the flow.” John said. “We don’t need to tell her everything just because she knows one thing.”
“She knows I'm not the police.” Sam replied. “She asked directly and I couldn’t lie.”
“Yeah, but I'm in the FBI as far as she’s concerned.” Hotch said. “I agree with John. Top priority is finding out what happened to Jack and who was involved. We’ll do what we have to after we get him back. You agree, Sam?”
“Yes.” The spirit nodded. “I need to take her to get some things from the apartment. You guys get some food and after that we’ll get to work.”
“I already called Morgan.” John told him. “He's got his ear to the ground. Penelope’s also looking around and I'm having lunch with Megan Kane tomorrow. She owes me a favor and I know men love talking to her.”
“Should I ask why the greatest Meretrix in the world owes you a favor?” Hotch asked.
The Meretrix were a race of women who could control men with their bodies and minds for a short period of time. Some, like Megan Kane, could hold the power over both men and women. Most Meretrix worked in the world’s oldest profession; it was where the money and the men could always be found. Their numbers were once great but during the last Great War, The Darkness hunted down many and slaughtered them. He felt as if they were a danger to his men and their mission. Despite their profession, Meretrix usually fell on the side of the light, or were at least gray.
They survived into the 21st century. The race was actually thriving again. One couldn’t become a Meretrix; you had to be born that way. The women self-impregnated, without the help of male sperm, a phenomenon that still confounded so many in their world. The Meretrix loved being a source of mystery and intrigue. It made the whole experience that much better for the men they entertained.
“Lightning bugs aren’t known for their discretion.” Sam said. “If we shake the tree hard enough, all the pieces will fall. Alright, I’ll be back in about an hour. Traffic in DC at this time of night will suck.”
“Is going alone a good idea?” John asked. “I liked it better with Hotch riding along.”
“I’ll be fine…it’s just in and out. Anyway, they got what they wanted out of that place. I don’t foresee them coming back.”
“You just call if anything feels remotely fishy.” Hotch said.
Sam took hold of his arm like a handshake and Hotch did the same. It was one of my many ways spirits said hello and goodbye. Then Sam did it with John.
“Be safe.” The Apache told him.
“I will.” Sam went back into the living room. “Jessie, are you ready?”
“Where are we going?” she stood up.
“We’ll go back to your place to get some things. I guess in the craziness you forgot that you asked. I hope you don’t mind riding shotgun on the back of a Harley.”
“In some circles that might get you kissed, Sam Kassmeyer.”
Emily could only laugh as she took the mostly empty Coke can from Jessie. She was a very interesting woman; she wanted to know more about her. By the time this case was over she just might. Emily hoped it had a good ending and Jessie wouldn’t have to go through what she had.
Sam put his hand on Jessie’s arm as they headed out the door. John and Hotch came out of the kitchen. John was going to head down to Five Guys for provisions…JJ loved their fries. This was probably going to be a long night; Morgan would stop by later with whatever information he fished out.
Hotch just looked at Emily when they were finally alone. He was happy Tracy was with her father for the weekend. No doubt the whole thing would’ve set off a firestorm of questions neither one of the adults was prepared to answer. She still had no idea what happened to Jason a year before.
“I'm sorry about this baby.” Hotch said.
“You know that’s a lot easier to swallow when you're kissing me while saying it.”
Hotch managed a grin as he wrapped his arms around her. Emily ran her fingers through his hair.
“I know we were supposed to have two weeks and how much we were both looking forward to it.”
Well, we almost did. I'm not going to complain too much; I knew what I was signing up for. You're my man and I’ll always have your back.”
“Even if it means three spirits and a human might be bunking with you for a while?” Hotch asked.
“Even then.” She kissed him. “The selfish part of me is glad to have you here for a little more time no matter what else I have to deal with. The curious part of me wants to know what happened to Jack.”
“Me too.” Hotch held her close. “To both things that you said; me too.”
“I guess I’ll just get the essentials.” Jessie said when she and Sam walked into the condo.
Sam stood in the middle of the floor and made sure nothing was in there that could hurt them. The bad guys had what they wanted but Sam didn’t know who was behind this. The place could still be dangerous despite what he told Hotch earlier.
“That’s a good plan.” He said, stopping in the doorway of Jessie’s bedroom as she walked in.
“What?” she turned around.
“I said that’s a good plan.”
“I heard you Sam. I meant why are you stopping in the doorway. Are you waiting to be invited in?”
“I'm not a vampire, Jessie.” He managed a smile. “Anyway, that whole invited in thing is a myth.”
“I think I know you're not a vampire.” She replied. “Something seriously strange is happening but I'm almost positive that I think I know that. Just come in.”
Sam nodded, walking into the bedroom. Jessie had a big four poster bed with a cherry oak frame. There was a cherry oak chest of drawers, armoire, and desk as well. A flat screen TV was on the wall across from the bed. There was a picture window with a window seat and an easy chair in the corner.
Two bookshelves were stuffed with both paperbacks and hardbacks. It seemed as if Jessie loved everything from historical romance to sci-if, biographies, and suspense thrillers. There were pictures all around the room…Sam recognized Jack in a few of them. He took one and slipped it into his bag. A Kandinsky painting hung above the bed.
Jessie grabbed a backpack from the closet and started opening drawers. She grabbed some jeans, tee shirts, underwear, and socks. She rushed into the bathroom and threw toiletries in as well. Back in the bedroom she got on her hands and knees, looking under the bed. She grabbed a blue keepsake box.
“Take this please.” She handed it to Sam.
“What is it?” he asked.
“They're mementoes. I can't leave them behind.”
After throwing a pair of Adidas in the backpack, Jessie zipped it and put it on her back. “I'm ready. Oh wait, I need one more thing. Jack has a teddy bear in his room…he’s dressed like a British constable. Could you grab him?”
“Sure.” Sam walked out of the bedroom with Jessie and then went into Jack’s bedroom. He got the teddy bear and they left the apartment. It was a quiet ride back down on the elevator. The curiosity got the better of Sam as they walked back into the warm DC night.
“Why didn’t Nathan being a vampire scare you, Jessie?” he asked, lifting his seat to put in the box of mementoes and the teddy bear.
“If you recall, I did scream.”
“Yeah but after that you took it all in stride. You're staying there tonight and you know a vampire lives there. I guess I was wondering how or maybe why.”
“I don't know.” Jessie shrugged. “I know those things that flew off with Jack weren't human, and now I know that Nathan isn’t either. I can only assume Emily isn’t since she's his mother. Most likely that bloody Mary I saw her drinking earlier was just the bloody. I don’t particularly care about any of it as long as I don’t have to worry about the safety of my neck.”
“How do you know you don’t?”
“Because you're going to protect me…Jack told me so. I figure only non-humans can fight non-humans so there you go. As long as you guys are the good guys and can get my nephew back, your secrets are safe with me.”
“My friends and I are definitely the good guys.” Sam replied, climbing onto his bike.
“Then we’re fine.” Jessie got on behind him. She held on as he pulled into traffic.
“I just thought of something.” Emily said.
“I can't hear you, baby.”
“Oh sorry.” Emily stopped licking his shoulder.
Sometimes their lovemaking could get rough. Emily’s fangs and nails were sharp; there was nothing to be done about that. A no biting policy had been instituted before they spent their first night together. That had been their last night before he came home for the two week vacation.
Unless Hotch also planned to restrain her hands every time they got passionate, the scratches were a cross to bear. As a spirit, he healed relatively quickly; vampires did as well. Emily did her best to keep some semblance of control but didn’t always succeed. Neither one of them admitted it aloud but her licking of Hotch’s wounds afterwards was enough to get them both off all over again.
“I could talk to Jason.” She said.
“About what?” Hotch asked.
Spirits trained, meditated, and prayed not to succumb to the weaknesses of humans, or non-humans, like jealousy. Hotch would never say he was jealous of Jason Gideon. He had no reason to be…Emily was in love with him. Still, Jason would always have a place in her life as the father of her three children and her constant companion for over five centuries. He was also a powerful man who didn’t like to lose.
Hotch worried with his being away so much that Jason would try to woo her back. He could never be upset with her when they spent time together. He understood that Jordan, Nathan, and little Tracy always came first. And anyway, Emily loved him. She gave him her heart and Hotch carried it with him when they were apart.
“This situation with Jack is a conundrum.” Emily said, pulling him back into bed. Hotch sighed when her naked body rubbed against his. “We know he was taken by lightning bugs but not for who or why. Jason is on the Council…he may know something we don’t.”
“And you suppose he’ll just tell you?”
“I don't know but I can ask. Maybe nothing will come of it but he might tell me something. I don’t expect Jason to spill his guts but if he knows someone is on the case he may feel the need to help them as much as he can.”
“Perhaps we should go and see Jason together.” Hotch said.
“That probably won't go over too well.” Emily replied.
“I know…just thought I’d put it out there.”
“I'm doing this for you.” she caressed his face, kissing him softly. “Jason owes me one. He owes me 101 actually, and I want to do something to help.”
“OK baby.” Hotch nodded.
“Yeah. We’re nowhere and there's someone who can help us get somewhere. I would be a fool to turn that down. This isn’t about me, this is about Jack. If I gave away this opportunity then I wouldn’t be doing my job to the best of my ability. The Boss entrusted me with this assignment. I have to do all I can to see it through.”
“You are an amazing spirit, Hotch. I know that and so does The Boss. You must be if he puts up with me being in your life.”
Emily kissed him, pulling Hotch on top of her. Hotch took hold of her wrists.
“Be gentle, baby.” He whispered against her lips.
“I’ll try; I promise.”
“You're sure you don’t mind this, right?” Sam asked as Jessie got into the bed.
“No, I'm fine. Are you OK?” Jessie pulled her unruly blonde curls into a ponytail.
“I'm a little nervous.” He admitted.
“Why?” she asked.
“It’s been a while.”
“Oh my God,” she covered her mouth. “That’s really cute. If this weren’t under the shittiest of circumstances I would think it was the cutest thing ever. Sam, we’re just sleeping…nothing is going to happen.”
“I know, it’s just…I'm old-fashioned.”
“Well you already said you’d sleep on the lounger so your virtue will remain intact. I don’t see how we have much choice anyway. Emily and Hotch are sharing a room, Nathan has his room, and John and JJ are in the other. Maybe Emily will let you sleep in her daughter’s room.”
“I don’t want to be too far away from you. I can't feel your essence so…” Sam stopped abruptly. He’d said too much. If there was one thing he noticed so far it was that Jessie absorbed and observed everything. He tried to be careful all night with what he said and how he said it, they all did.
“My what?” she stopped fiddling around with the pillows. She didn’t like strange beds but this one was quite comfortable. She didn’t know how well she’d sleep but it would probably be the best sleepless night she ever had.
“Your essence.” Sam replied.
“It’s everything you are on the inside.”
“And you can feel that?”
“No, I can't. That’s why I have to stay close to you. You should probably get some sleep. It’s been an insane couple of days and its probably only going to get crazier.”
“I feel like you're keeping me out of the loop, Sam. I don’t like that feeling. Is that supposed to protect me too?”
“Yes.” He nodded. “There are things you just don’t want to know or hear. But I promise you, I will always tell you anything concerning Jack. I'm not intending to keep you in the dark…please believe that.”
“What choice do I have?” Jessie mumbled, lying down in bed. She reached for the lamp. “Lights on or off?”
“I’d like to keep them on if you don’t mind. You know what, no, it’s fine. We’re all here and we’ll keep each other safe. It’s fine with me if you prefer the dark.”
Sam could see in the dark, which was something else Jessie didn’t need to know. It was hard for him to understand what made it so easy to be open and honest in her presence. It wasn’t as if he wasn’t always open and honest but he knew how to be cautious around humans without seeming strange or suspicious. His job required plenty interaction with them, which it didn’t a century or two ago. Jessie reminded him a lot of Emily when he found her in Warsaw.
Something bad was happening but she wasn’t going to shrink away in fear. She was going to fight to the end if she had to to protect the people she loved. Whatever came her way, bring it on; she didn’t plan to go quietly. He found that defiance intriguing…and attractive. Maybe tomorrow night he would sleep on the couch.
“What are you thinking about?” she asked.
“Well you're one up on me; I can't seem to stop thinking. My mind is buzzing like crazy. I want to turn it off.”
“I wish I could help.” He said. “Think about your favorite childhood memory.”
“Haley and I used to go swimming in this pond near our grandparents place in Newton, Georgia.” Jessie smiled. “We loved spending our summers there, far away from my parents and their issues. In Newton, life was serene.”
“Were you and Haley close?”
“Do you have siblings Sam?”
“I had a brother; he died a long time ago. We were very close and his death was hard on me.”
“I know what you mean. Haley and I were three years apart but we were best friends growing up. Then in her 20s she started hanging out with a different group of friends that were heavy into partying and drugs. She was never an addict, or maybe she was and I just wouldn’t admit it to myself. We were like strangers then. I regret that more than anything now.
“When she found out she was pregnant with Jack, she turned her whole life around. She got a new job, left the party scene, and focused on being a good mom to him. We reestablished our close relationship. Then out of nowhere, she was murdered. I took Jack in. My parents volunteered but I refused…I didn’t want him growing up like we had.
“Why people who don’t love each other stay married I’ll never know.” She smirked. “It wasn’t for the kids; Haley and I left years before. Anyway, I decided to raise him. I had no idea how to be a mother but I knew what Haley wanted for him. Now he’s gone too, and I'm all alone.”
“You're not alone.” Sam said. “And we’re going to get Jack back?”
“How do you know?” she asked, the tears obvious in her voice. “It’s been days and you guys hardly know where to start.”
“Yes we do…the dead guy in your apartment. He had to have friends, loved ones, someone who knew what he was up to. We follow the dead guy, we find something.”
“And how long do you suppose that will take?”
Sam sighed; he didn’t think it was a good idea to do this right now. Jessie needed to rest and Sam needed to meditate for a little while before he slept. This wasn’t going to be an easy assignment and he needed to prepare for it possibly being a heartbreaking one. But something in Sam knew he had to do this. Jack said Sam would protect him.
Whether he was talking about an angel he made up in his little imagination or the spirit lying on the very uncomfortable lounger, there was only one Sam working this case. There was really no way to stop Jessie from going down the dark path. Who wouldn’t when their loved one was in danger? Emily had done the same when Jason disappeared last year. They got him back and they would get Jack back too.
“It’s time for you to try and get some sleep.” he said. “You're exhausted. I'm exhausted. We’ll talk more tomorrow; I promise.”
“You do that a lot. Hasn’t it gotten you in trouble?”
“What do you mean?”
“You promise. It’s probably not the best thing to do in situations like this. How often do they not end in your favor?”
“The only favor I care about is Jack’s, Jessie. Goodnight.”
He hated cutting her off like that but felt he had no choice. It was time to end this day and be prepared for what might come with the next.
John walked into Verve on a cloudy Sunday afternoon. The small, upscale Georgetown boutique was crowded as the sounds of electronic music pulsed from the speakers. There was a beautiful redhead behind the counter and he approached her wearing a smile.
“I'm here to see Megan Kane please.” He said.
“Is she expecting you?”
“Yes. Tell her John is here.”
“Sure, hold on just a moment.” she picked up a cordless phone and spoke into it. Then she smiled at John. “She’ll be right with you.”
He turned, leaning on the counter to watch the hipster young women and men shop. A part of him wondered whether these clothes were the height of 21st century trendiness or whether Megan’s skill as a Meretrix kept them coming through the doors. It was probably a little bit of both. She was nothing if not multitalented. He’d known her for quite a long time and though no one could deny how good she was at being what she was, there was something else about Megan too.
She was vulnerable, hid it under a steel veneer that was almost impossible to penetrate. But John Blackwolf wasn’t just anyone either. And the Meretrix wasn’t able to stop him from seeing what was underneath even if she wanted to. It was a cross she bore to get what she wanted. She also happened to actually like him.
John looked at her standing in the doorway that led back to a few offices. She looked beautiful, dressed in a red mini-sundress and matching slide heels. He was only human, once; the look turned him on. But John pushed that all aside and remembered the mission. Megan smiled as she walked toward him and he found himself holding out his arms. She embraced him but when she went in for a kiss, John turned his head.
“Oh c'mon,” she had the slightest hint of a southern drawl, which always made him laugh since she was from nowhere near the Southern United States. “The Boss surely won't mind a little kiss.” Megan kissed his cheek. “It’s been forever since I've seen you.”
“It has been a while.” He conceded.
“Do you even think of me, John?” she asked.
“I think of you…more than from time to time. I think of you more than because you probably put the thoughts in my head.”
“I wouldn’t do that.” She smiled.
“Mmm, I don't know.”
“It’s really good to see you. But if you're here, then something’s happened that’s not good. Hasn’t it?”
“We need to go somewhere and talk.”
“Well, you did promise me lunch, and I'm sure you're hungry. Let me take you somewhere cool…it’s on me.”
He nodded as she went over to the counter and had a short conversation with the redhead. Then they were out the door and walking down the street. What a pair they must have made, the sexy, blonde fashion designer and the Native American in his green army pants, black combat boots, black tee shirt, and ever present black trenchcoat.
“That’s a good look for you.” she said laughing.
“Do you intend to peddle me some of your fashionable wears?” he asked.
“It’s a living…it’s a good one.”
“Tell me something.”
“Is it the clothes that draw them to you, or is it just you?” John asked.
“I think it’s a little of both.” Megan glanced at him. “I have this ability to always give the people what they want. Why not use it to the advantage of us all?”
“That’s a question I'm not equipped to answer.”
“Don’t fool yourself, John Blackwolf, you're plenty equipped.”
John couldn’t help the smile that danced across his normally serious face. The woman could get to that spot in the center of him. That was her gift. He wanted to think that wasn’t the only reason but John knew what she was.
They went into The Tombs, a small pub that was always crowded on weekends. John thought the wait would be longer than he had but in less than 15 minutes they were sitting in the booth Megan said was her favorite. A male server, who probably thought it was his lucky day, waited on the pair. Megan wanted a beer and John got a raspberry iced tea.
When it came time to order lunch he went for the double crab cake burger. Megan got the barbecue chicken sandwich without the bread and a baked potato. John also added potato skins with extra sour cream to their order. He might not eat again for while; he may as well enjoy it.
“What do you need, John?” she asked, sipping her Stella Artois. “If there's anyway I can help, I will.”
“I know that men talk to you. I'm wondering if you’ve heard anything about a missing little boy.”
“What? No, I haven’t heard anything like that. If I did I would’ve told someone. What's going on?”
“A child is missing and his family wants him back. He’s four and has never hurt a soul. Have you heard anyone talking about a big score, a secret mission, or anything about children, Megan? Anything at all?”
“No.” she shook her head.
“Do you, or any of your sisters, generally service lightning bugs?” John asked.
“Eww.” She crinkled her nose. “You better be glad I adore you…the consequences are usually steep for insulting me. Those dregs don’t come near me and my sisters. There is not enough money in the world.”
“It’s a recession…perhaps someone is working under the table. Would you be aware of anything like that?”
“I can admit I don’t have time to look in on everything.” Megan said. “But the Meretrix in North America and Western Europe…I know everything about all of them. We’re not servicing lightning bugs and won't as long as there’s breath in my body. Besides, Meretrix are resourceful. Recession or not, we’re gonna do our thing and get paid.”
“I don’t doubt it.” he smiled as their lunch arrived.
He watched Megan send a blessing to the goddess, Amanda, before cutting her chicken. The history of the Meretrix went that Adam and Amanda were twins and the first Meretrix children to be born. Adam was cast out into the darkness as he was a son and Amanda began the race as they are known today. Many believed that the slaughter during the Great War was Adam’s payback.
“I’ll be attending a party tomorrow night at the King George Hotel. I can inquire, discreetly, about anything you want me to. If there’s a missing child out there then you’ve got my services as long as you need them.”
“I appreciate that. I can't pay you back…”
“Oh my God, you better stop that John Blackwolf. You're pro bono; I already owe you enough.”
“How are your daughters?” John asked, biting into his sandwich. It was delicious.
“They're amazing.” Megan smiled as she thought of them. “They’re beautiful, bold, and smart; everything a mother can dream of. Cheryl is in London now, though I keep a watchful eye on her. Trish has been spending time with Senator Rossi but it’s not a love match. I told her to watch her back with those sharks. She’s always been the defiant one but mama will look out for her.”
150 years ago, John was sent to Earth to retrieve Megan Kane’s kidnapped twins, Cheryl and Trisha. They had been taken by a shadowy figure known only as The Fox. He had been taking little girls for a long time; most were never found. Megan was determined to get her daughters back, just seven at the time, before irreparable damage was done. Self-impregnated four times, these were the only babies she carried to term…Megan knew they were special. She also knew they were her only chance at ever being a mother.
John returned the children to the loving arms of their mother after almost 3 months gone. She didn’t know what happened to them when they were with The Fox, she couldn’t bear to know. But Megan swore to John, and the light, that she would always be in service to them for what they'd done. Meretrix could play with promises kept, it was all part of the game, but Megan never once broke it. Her daughters were healthy, thriving, vibrant women now and she owed everything to the light for that.
“Did you ever find that bastard…The Fox?” Megan asked.
“No.” he shook his head. It was one of the few assignments that never left him. He was happy to get the twins back but that wily creature slipped through his fingers and back into the embrace of the darkness. Since that time he’d become more myth than man. It was like a Grimm fairy tale parents told their children to keep them in line. Sometimes it actually worked. “Sometimes I'm glad I didn’t.”
“How could you say that, after he did to my girls?”
“I say it because I have the light to uphold. I'm not entirely sure I’d be able to do that if I got my hands on him.”
Megan nodded, reaching across the table for his hand and locking her fingers in his. She was surprised John let her lend him comfort but he probably needed it. She knew what her daughters’ case did to him. No one wanted to work one where a kid might be gone forever. She wasn’t privy to the work he did as a spirit but surely there were as many tragedies as there were triumphs. She would do whatever she could to help this one be the latter.
“If I hear anything I’ll call you.” she said. “Can I still reach you by cell?”
“Megan, you always know how to reach me.” He replied.
“You're on speed dial as a matter of fact.”
“I got good news and bad news.” Morgan straddled one of Emily’s overpriced dining room chairs. “Which do you want first?”
“Take a wild guess.” Hotch replied.
“Oh my God, Morgan,” Emily came walking down the hall, through the living room and into the dining room. “Your dog tracked…yuck…all over my carpet.”
“I'm sorry Prentiss but he is a dog.”
Clooney, a Rottweiler that might be older than Emily and Morgan’s constant companion, looked at the vampire. His facial expression, just as human as his master’s, seemed to be telling her to stop bitching. She wasn’t impressed.
“Could you at least have him wipe his feet before he comes in?” she asked.
“Wipe his feet? He’s a dog, Prentiss; he doesn’t have feet.”
“Well maybe you should leave him tied up outside.”
“OK, look, maybe you don’t quite get it but I'm not one of those DC Corridor bobos with a yapper doodle I put in a fur jacket and carry in a Burberry bag. Clooney has been my companion since 542 and he doesn’t get tied to a pole. We only separate if it’s essential for the cause.”
“Don’t you get paid by the cause?” Emily asked.
“Don’t push it Princess.”
“Hey, hey!” John held up his hand. “You two can make out later…we really do need to get back to the matter at hand. Morgan, you said you had good news and bad news. Give us the good news first.”
The spirits, Jessie, and Derek Morgan were sitting around Emily Prentiss’s dining room table. It was Sunday evening and they were getting into the case of Jack Brooks, the missing four year old nephew of Jessie Brooks.
“The good news is Jerome Dubois.” Morgan said grinning. “Hold your applause.”
“I will since I have no idea what you're talking about.” Hotch said.
“Jerome Dubois is the name of that dead fool in Jessie’s swanky apartment.” Morgan replied.
“Wow, we now know a dead guy.” Sam nodded solemnly. “Good job, Derek.”
“Whoa, people, let’s swallow the haterade…that’s not all I have. That’s the bad news; Jerome is dead and can't really help us. But I have another name, Ryan Phillips.”
“Who's that?” Jessie asked.
“That’s Jerome’s road dog. Those two are thick as thieves and when you find one you will definitely find the other. There’s no way in hell Jerome was into something like that and Ryan wasn’t at his side. From what I hear they finish each other’s sentences. Not that it matters cuz lightning bugs don’t have an extensive vocabulary. Anyway, I happened to find out from someone who likes me where the cretin hangs out.”
“Where?” John asked.
“Oh God, I hate that place.” JJ closed her eyes. “Can't the miscreants in our world find a new dump to call their own?”
“I'm sure it'll be as undesirable as The Cave in no time.” Hotch replied. “Alright…its time to shake the tree and see what falls.”
“Well lets go.” Jessie stood.
“You're not going.” Morgan shook his head.
“You don’t know me, Mr. Morgan, and you damn sure don't tell me what to do. Jack is my nephew and if this Ryan knows something I want to hear it.”
“Sweetie, The Cave is not your style and I'm not spending my night babysitting you. Let us do the real work and you can stay here and…do what you do.”
“Jessie,” Sam put his hand on her shoulder. “Don’t do this. We’re not going to put your life in danger. The Cave is a dangerous place and you have no business there. They’ll sniff you out in a heartbeat and it'll kill the whole operation. You have to stay here.”
“I'm glad you feel that way, Sam.” John said. “We need you to stay here with her.”
“Of course.” He nodded.
“What's the plan?” Hotch asked.
“We’re gonna need Prentiss.” Morgan replied. “If there’s one thing Phillips likes its women and swill. We have two of the former.”
“Oh my God, I'm going undercover!” JJ was excited.
“Calm down JJ.” John said.
“Oh,” she looked at Jessie. “I'm sorry; I just don’t get to go undercover much. I love getting the bad guys on their own turf.”
“Emily?” Hotch called to her in the living room where she was drinking a goblet of blood and looking over some designs for the new house she was working on. In her life post-Jason Gideon, Emily dabbled in interior design. It turned out she was good at it and wanted to start her own small firm.
“We need your help.”
“I don't know if I can do it tonight. Tracy’s on her way home and I don’t want…”
“We’ll stay with Tracy.” Sam said. “This is important.”
“So is Jason not having a leg to stand on saying my ‘single woman’ life may be detrimental to our daughter and son’s well-being.”
“He’d go there?” Morgan asked.
“I don’t want to find out. I…” she sighed. “Why don’t you ask him yourself; he's right outside.”
She put her cup and book down, walking over to the door. Looking out the peephole, Emily opened the door. She put on a smile for her daughter, who was in her father’s arms.
“Hello, my sweetheart.”
“Hi Mommy!” Tracy held out her arms, going from her father’s embrace to her mother’s.
“Tracy, we have company this evening. Be a sweetheart and say hello.”
“Hi company.” She waved at them.
“Hey Tracy.” They said in unison. They all, except for Jessie, were well acquainted with Emily’s gregarious seven year old.
“Mommy, I had such a good time with Daddy.”
“I'm so glad to hear that. I actually need to talk to Daddy so why don’t you go in and sit with Sam. You can tell him all about your weekend adventures.”
Emily kissed her daughter, put her down, and Tracy started running through the living room.
“Leibling?” Jason’s gentle voice stopped her.
“Don’t I get a hug?”
Jason crouched down as Tracy ran back into his arms. He held her tight. Maybe he could live with never being a part of Emily’s life again, the past year had been hard but bearable. Being reduced to a weekend dad, even though he knew he had full-time access to his little girl, was a crushing blow.
It happened to so many families; Jason saw it all the time. It was never supposed to happen to his. A dark pit in his stomach made him want to kill Aaron Hotchner with his bare hands. But it wasn’t the former FBI agent’s fault that his family fell apart.
“I love you so much.” he told his daughter.
“I love you more, Daddy. I’ll see you on Wednesday.”
“You sure will.” Jason kissed her nose and then let her run through her mother’s house. He stood and looked at Emily. It was strange but he was starting to see her as his ex-wife. They really had been amongst the humans too long but these days there was no other way to live. The world was the largest and smallest it had ever been. Everyone was forced to live together and there was nothing they could do about it. Everyone except Jason and Emily that is. “What's up?”
“I need to talk to you about something important.” She said.
“I know that.” Jason nodded.
“Don’t do that.”
“Don’t do what, Emily? You expect me not to be able to read your essence after 500 years together? That’s impossible. Why do you always feel the need to be so edgy and cross with me? I've done nothing to deserve that.” he sighed, slipping his hands into his pockets. “Just tell me what you need.”
“We just need to talk about some things. Its not the kids, everything is fine there. I just want to talk.”
“I'm in meetings all day tomorrow but I can meet you for lunch on Tuesday. Is that going to be alright?”
“Sure.” Emily gave a short nod. “Did you have a good weekend?”
“We did.” Jason couldn’t help but smile thinking about Tracy. “She’s getting really good with Biscuit; I love to see her ride. She tells me that Agent Hotchner took her horseback riding as well.”
“He did. He wants to bond with her too, Jason. It’s important to him and it’s important to me.”
“Hmm. Well, I need to go now. I’ll see you on Tuesday. Have a good evening, Katya.”
“Goodnight.” She kissed his cheek.
“Goodnight Daddy!” Tracy waved from Sam’s lap, which she quickly turned into her throne. She of course was the little princess. “Who’s this, Sam?” She looked at Jessie.
“This is my friend, Jessie. Jessie, this is Tracy Belle Gideon.”
“It’s so nice to meet you.” Jessie shook her hand.
“You too.” she smiled before looking back at Sam. “How come I can't feel her?”
“Sweetie…” Sam let out a nervous laugh.
“I'm human, Tracy.” Jessie replied with a smile.
Again, her reaction took everyone around her by surprise. Why was she so calm?
“Oh.” Tracy tried not to sound so discriminatory. Her mother always told her not to judge people just because they were different from her. She smiled again. “Wanna see my fangs?”
“No, sweetie.” Sam put his hand on top of her white blonde hair. “Maybe you can show her later but not right now, OK?”
“OK.” That answer was good enough for her. “Jessie, did you know Sam was my guardian angel?”
“Really?” that interested Jessie greatly. If it was one person you could get the whole truth from it was a little girl. She didn’t know how old Tracy really was but she didn’t look much older than 6 or so to her. “Why’s that?”
“He saved us from the Nazis. He promised to always look after me when he brought us here. Didn’t you Sam?”
“I certainly did.”
“Sweetie?” Emily came back into the room and took hold of Tracy. “I want you to go and play in your room for a little while. The grownups need to talk about grown up stuff. Then Mommy is going to go out for a little while but Sam and Jessie will stay to look after you.”
“Can I show her my fangs then, Mommy?” Tracy asked.
“If she really wants to see them, I don’t see why not. Go on now…Nathan’s in his room. Go and say hello.”
She was off and running again. Jessie couldn’t help but smile watching her. Then she thought about Jack and the smile faded. She didn’t want to miss all of that with him. It was bad enough that Haley would but Jessie didn’t want to. They had to get him back.
“She's beautiful, Emily.”
“Thank you; she is my pride and joy.” she sat down at the table beside Hotch. “What are we doing tonight?”
“We’re baiting a bug.” Morgan replied. “Are you in?”
“Tell me what you want me to do.”
“Is Tracy asleep?” Jessie asked as Sam came down the hallway from her bedroom.
He looked at her curled on the couch with a big glass of wine. Emily let her borrow some lounge clothes and she looked right at home in grey tights and an oversized tee shirt. He could see that Jessie was ready to come out of her skin. The wine was probably to calm her down.
She didn’t want to be there babysitting; she wanted to be out there finding Jack. Still, Sam was grateful she wasn’t giving him much trouble. Some of the people he looked after on his missions were fond of the chase. Sam only liked to chase bad guys.
“She’s out like a light.” He sat down on the other end of the couch.
“Which book did you read from?”
“No book. I’ve got a million adventures up here,” Sam pointed to his head. “Tracy wants to hear all of them. Tonight it was the story of Princess Elizabeth and her days as a little girl in the palace.”
“Were you her guardian angel as well?”
“No.” Sam shook his head.
“What are you, Sam? I just need to know something. I feel so in the dark and I'm not trying to write a tell-all book, I just don’t like stumbling around with no idea what's happening. That’s not my nature. Obviously you guys have to do the heavy lifting. I don’t like it but I can live with it. Still, you’re stuck babysitting me tonight…why don’t you tell me a story.”
“I'm a spirit.” He replied, clearing his throat. Sam knew there were certain things he could tell her and certain things he couldn’t. This was acceptable to The Boss. It wasn’t fair to leave someone completely in the dark; it would make them less likely to help you.
“What does that mean? Are you a ghost?”
“No, um…human beings have angels. You could just say that spirits are the angels of my world. That’s the simple answer.”
“So you are Jack’s guardian angel?” Jessie sipped her wine. “Oh my God, wow, he was right.”
“Actually, I don’t know Jack. I heard your prayers one night and it’s strange because I can’t usually hear a human being pray, only someone of my world. I had to go into deep meditation to find you and Jack.”
“You found Jack?”
“I mean that first night I heard you, before he was taken. When I found you two I felt his essence and it was very strong. I came here to find you because I knew he was in danger. I just got here too late.”
“Where did you come from?”
“Let’s just say heaven.”
“Why? You don’t wanna tell me what it’s really called?”
“We should keep it as simple as possible.”
“So John and JJ are spirits as well?” Jessie asked.
“I thought he was in the FBI.”
“He was. And everything else he told you is the truth; lying is a punishable offense for a spirit. We can color the truth, shift it to keep a mission safe, but outright lies are unacceptable. Hotch died last year and when he did we took his soul to battle in the name of the light. And I probably just told you too much.”
Jessie hardly knew what to say. Spirits and vampires and lightning bugs…oh my! Morgan said tonight that he and the dog Clooney had been together since 542, which made him nearly 1500 years old. Jessie also heard the spirits talking in the kitchen about the Meretrix and she had no idea what that meant. All of this was real, and Jack was right in the middle of it. When she pinched herself she didn’t wake up. Her life had just become something she couldn’t have imagined for her wildest short story.
“So you're not human?” she asked.
“I was, once. All spirits were humans. We died in the commission of selfless acts or after having lived a positive life. We’re taken into the light and then in turned train to fight in its name. We are the good guys.”
“Just answer one more question.”
“OK.” Sam would do his best but was already feeling the discomfort. It wasn’t often he had this kind of conversation with people. Especially not people like Jessie. Some things she seemed to take in such stride and being unable to read her he didn’t know why.
“Is Jack not human?”
“I don't know. I know I can feel his essence, which usually indicates he's of my world. Do you know anything about his father?”
“No.” Jessie drank down most of the wine and got up to refresh her glass. She asked Sam if he wanted any but he declined. “I tried to talk to Haley about it once but she finally broke down and admitted to me that she had no idea. She wasn’t seeing anyone specific at the time. She was partying hard, waking up in random places…that kind of thing. There was one thing that was strange though.”
“What?” Sam asked.
“Haley always said she didn’t remember having sex for months and months and then she was pregnant. I mean, she admitted she could’ve forgotten because of the partying but she was also in the midst of cleaning up her life; the pregnancy pushed that along. We used to joke that Jack was the second Immaculate Conception. It was silly, I know, but…”
“Oh my God.” Sam stood up from the couch.
“What?” Jessie walked over from the bar to Sam. She put her hand on his chest. “Are you OK?”
“Yeah.” he nodded, putting on a smile. “I'm fine.”
“Are you sure?”
“What made you say ‘oh my God’?”
“A story I remember hearing once about the second Immaculate Conception. Please Jessie,” he took her hand in his. “Don’t ask anymore questions about that. I can't talk to you about it.”
“OK.” She agreed though she didn’t want to. Still, Sam didn’t have to tell her as much as he had. She was kinda glad to get him alone. John made sure he kept his lips as tight as possible around her and he wasn’t there to do that tonight. Jessie figured he was doing it for their own safety…obviously there was a lot going on right under her nose. But she was glad to know something now, even if she had more questions than answers. “I don’t want to push you. You’ve been a godsend these past few days, Sam.”
“I'm just…” Sam couldn’t get out the rest of the sentence before Jessie wrapped her arms around him and snuggled close.
He sighed, unable to help holding her back. Part of who Sam was entailed giving comfort to those who needed it. He knew that she needed it. There was something in him that felt vulnerable in her presence, almost scared, but Sam couldn’t place it. He knew it felt better to hold onto her than it had anyone in a long time. He just didn’t know what that meant.
“Sam and Jessie sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G!”
The sound of Tracy’s squeaky voice brought Sam out of his cloudy mind and he was grateful for it. He turned to the little girl, giving her a playful glare.
“Someone in this room is supposed to be asleep.” He said.
“Will you tuck me in again?” she asked as Jessie went back to the couch with her wine.
“You better believe I will. Wanna piggyback ride?”
“Yeah!” Tracy hopped on his back as Sam crouched down. Then they were off to the bedroom.
Jessie smiled some, wondering if in his life before this Sam had children of his own. He seemed natural in his role as guardian angel. He said he didn’t know Jack but Jack knew him somehow. She was glad of that…didn’t think she’d be getting through this without him. She wasn’t doing that great of a job but knew it would be even worse without his strength and compassion. What she would owe him after this would be immeasurable.
“I got eyes on the creepy crawly bastard.” Morgan said.
He, Hotch, and John were sitting in a crummy booth in The Cave. Bad hybrid hip-hop/metal played over the speakers as unsavory individuals danced, drank, and engaged in other debauchery. It was a disgusting place but they were on a mission. At least they could sit and do the recon. Poor Emily and JJ were right in the thick of the slime, with eyes on Ryan Phillips as well.
“You'd think after coming into some money from kidnapping a kid, he would move up in the world.” Hotch said, doing his best to pretend he was enjoying the cheap beer they served.
“He doesn’t know any better.” Morgan replied. “A lightning bug could win the lottery and still come to this dump to celebrate. Or hit that tit bar some of those cretins hang out at in Anacostia. Now that place is horrific and I happen to be a strong supporter of tits. I think JJ’s going in for the kill.”
They watched the action at the bar; JJ and Emily were indeed moving in for the kill. This guy wasn’t going to know what hit him. Emily wore the same red dress that Jordan had on the first night Hotch met her. He had to push aside any thoughts of Phillips touching or brushing up against her skin…this was a mission. JJ was excited for her black shell-like mini-dress, which covered more per The Boss’ orders but was just as provocative. Ryan must have thought it was his lucky day when they saddled up beside him at the bar.
“If his teeth were white I could probably see them gleaming all the way over here.” John said.
Morgan and Hotch smirked as they watched the female vampire and the female spirit work their magic.
“What's a girl gotta do for a drink around here?” Emily asked, leaning on the stool next to where Phillips sat.
“Are you talking to me?” he asked, hoping to God or whatever that she was. Damn she was fine.
“I don’t see anyone else around here.” She grinned. “Do you see anyone, Jen?”
“Nope, I don’t see anyone.” JJ slipped her arm around him, managing to hold her breath and talk at the same time. She wouldn’t say Phillips was ripe but he didn’t smell like sunshine either. “So that means we were talking to you. You wanna buy us a drink?”
“What are you gonna do for me?” he asked, not even sure this could be happening. Damn he missed Jerome. He should be here for something like this. Not that he minded fucking two babes at once but the chicks he dragged back to his shitty apartment never looked anything like this. Jerome should be here to enjoy this.
“Oh, I think we can think of something.” Emily caressed his hand. “You look like the creative type to me.”
“Baby, you got no idea.”
He grinned and Emily tried not to cringe. Hotch owed her big for this one. She’d have to take two showers if this dog put his hands anywhere on her. Maybe after they got what they wanted the boys might let her just rip him to shreds. No, they were spirits…didn’t condone that sort of thing. But if he was involved in the kidnapping of a kid and the attempted murder of his aunt, he wasn’t worth a damn anyway.
“Buy me a drink and tell me about it.”
The lightning bug bought two vodka martinis, with cheap house vodka. Emily managed to swallow the swill but JJ, as a spirit, couldn’t imbibe in it. Beer was as much as the Boss allowed. So when Phillips wasn’t looking, she spilled it on the floor. It wouldn’t matter anyway, there was so much crap down there her feet practically stuck to it. The last time the place had a decent cleaning JJ was still human.
“So I bought you a drink…now you tell me.”
“Lets take this to the alley.” JJ said, throwing the guys the hand signal. She was praying they wouldn’t have to touch this dude anymore than they already had.
“Ooh, you like it dirty, don’t you baby.”
“I heard you do too.” Emily replied. “You want me, and my friend, you come out to the alley. C’mon, I'm really horny.”
Ryan couldn’t get up from the barstool fast enough. Emily and JJ exchange sickened glances as they followed him back to where the bathrooms were and out a side door. There was very little light in the alley and it smelled of cat and human piss. Luckily both JJ and Emily could see in the dark. Ryan put his arms around both of their waists as he leaned back on the graffiti ridden wall by a dumpster.
“You,” he leaned to whisper in Emily’s ear. “You can suck my cock. And you,” he pulled JJ closer. “Can watch her and then switch places.”
“Not in your wildest fantasies, man.”
Before Phillips knew it Morgan was on him and the beautiful women were gone. This was an ambush and the muscular moor had him penned. Usually he would use his lightning speed to get the hell out of dodge but they were a little past that point. His ass was grass. Dammit, he should've known chicks like that would never want him. If Jerome were here he never would’ve fallen for it.
“Who the fuck are you?” he asked gruffly, hoping to hold onto at least a shred of his dignity.
“No, bitch,” Morgan shook his head. “You don’t ask questions. I ask questions. And my first one is what the hell were you into that got your buddy Jerome killed?”
“I don’t know what you're talking about, man.”
“Wrong answer.” Morgan pressed his forearm more into Phillips’ windpipe. He squeaked. “But you'll find that I'm a gracious man so I'm gonna give you a chance to answer again.”
“What the hell do you want, man?”
“Answers and I want them now. Your buddy Jerome is dead…a kid got the jump on him. What the hell do you think I'm gonna do to you if I don’t like what you tell me?”
“I didn’t sign on for all this.” Phillips tried to swallow but couldn’t. “Look, look, look, loosen your grip a little and I’ll tell you anything you want.”
“Talk now, and breathe later…that’s the deal.”
“OK, OK, look, I got offered $5000 to just snatch a kid. That’s it. They needed three dudes and of course I had Jerome; he was my dog. He knew another guy so we got him in on it too; he promised discretion. That’s $15,000 for what was supposed to be a 15 minute job.
“Go in, snatch the kid, kill the woman…easy peasy. Except that damn kid was like magic or something. No one told us and we didn’t sign on for that. He killed Jerome with like the Force or some shit and we wigged out. Doug threw the burlap sack over his head and we broke out.”
“Who asked you to kidnap the kid?” Morgan asked.
“I don't know.”
“I don't know, I don't know. I'm so serious. All I did was take a few phone calls.”
“How did you get the money?”
“It was inside a locker at Union Station.” Ryan replied. “We got one-third before the job and the rest when it was done.”
“So you talked to somebody on the phone. Who was it?”
“I don’t know, and I swear to that on my mother’s name.”
“As if I give a damn about your mother’s name.” Morgan said. “Tell me everything you do know.”
“It was a broad, and a sexy broad too cuz she had this ooh la la British accent that always made me imagine she was in some stuffy suit but wore slutty underwear underneath. There were a few nights…”
“Phillips?” Morgan slapped him hard. “Your wet dreams don’t interest me. Let’s get back to the matter at hand. You talked to a British woman?”
“Yeah, like three times. She said she got my name from around and had an assignment I might find interesting. She would call me back. Then she called again and I agreed to it, as I said it sounded like a piece of cake. Then I called her when I was done for the drop off.”
“You called her? What's the number?”
“C’mon man, that was a burner cell and you know…”
“Give me the fuckin number!” Morgan exclaimed.
“(202) 555-6028. But I'm telling you, she is too smart to still have that thing turned on.”
“Where was the drop off?”
“We dropped him at a storage facility in Douglass. We went in, said what she told us to say. We got a key, opened Locker #219, put the kid in and jetted. I was happy to be rid of the little demon seed.”
“Show some respect.” Morgan gave Phillips a kidney shot and he grimaced. “Anything else you need to get off your chest?”
“No man, I swear…I truly, truly swear. Just don’t kill me; I didn’t want to hurt anyone.”
“So you didn’t want to kill a young woman and told her you were gonna murder her just like her sister?”
“Man, I didn’t know her sister from a hill of beans. It was all scripted. I did what I was told cuz I wanted the money, man. And I got the damn money but what else do I got? My best friend is dead. Me and Jerome grew up together; he was all I had.”
“Excuse me while I curl up in a corner and cry for your loss.” Morgan pulled him away from the wall, turned him around and kicked him in the ass. “Get the fuck out of here.”
“And if you’re thinking about trying anything.” Hotch said as he and John emerged from the shadows. “You need to know that’s a really bad idea, Ryan. Just take the ass whooping and run.”
He cursed but zoomed out of the alley and down the badly lit block.
“He didn’t have as much as I hoped.” John said.
“You're welcome.” Morgan replied as they walked out of the alley and toward the SUV Emily was keeping warm.
Sam slowly opened his eyes as the door opened. They saw Jessie was asleep so the conversation stopped.
“Wake her up please.” John said. “There are a few questions we need to ask.”
“Jessie,” Sam put a gentle hand on her shoulder. “Wake up, Jessie; we need to talk to you.”
She stirred just a little and then turned over. Sam shifted his weight uncomfortably.
“That’s awkward.” Morgan smirked.
Jessie had fallen asleep with her head on a pillow in Sam’s lap. She wasn’t drunk but three glasses of wine got her to the place where she could finally pass out. When she turned over, it put her face and head in a precarious position. That wasn’t lost on anyone in the room but she didn’t know that because she was asleep.
Sam seemed nervous but tried to conceal it. He bent low to whisper something in her ear. Jessie opened her eyes. When she saw where she was laying, she quickly moved to the other side of the couch. Her whole face had a raspberry tint.
“Do you know any British people?” John asked, hardly giving her a moment to collect herself.
“Um,” Jessie rubbed her eyes. “I know Mick Rawson. He’s a friend who’s published some of my short stories.”
“Do you know any women?” Hotch asked.
“My friend Lisa Woodbridge from Sarah Lawrence, but she has this strange hybrid British-South Carolina accent. We’ve been friends since college but I haven’t seen her in about a year and a half. Other than that…wait, there’s Kate. Kate Joyner has a British accent.”
“You know Kate Joyner?” Sam asked, shocked.
“You know Kate Joyner?” Jessie repeated. “I'm sure we don’t know the same Kate Joyner, Sam.”
“She has blonde hair, blue eyes, and is about 5’ 6”.”
“That sounds like Kate, and a million other women in DC.”
“The plot just thickened.” Morgan said. “If she's involved in this we don’t know who the hell we’re up against. She’ll do anything for money.”
“Tell me how you know Kate, Jessie.” Sam said, not wanting to believe what Morgan said but knowing it was true.
Everyone sat around in the living room as all the sleep burned off Jessie. It seemed improbable that a vampire and other supernatural beings could know the same Kate Joyner she knew.
“Kate is a party girl. She and Haley were tight for years. I don't know her super well but we’ve met and even hung out on a few occasions. She was Haley’s friend.”
“How long were she and Haley friends?” Hotch asked.
“They met at Colette I think, that trendy boutique where Haley worked. It may have been Kate who got her involved in all the partying. They were good and bad for each other. Even after Haley got out and had Jack, Kate came around from time to time.”
“Have you seen her since Haley’s murder?” Sam asked.
“Sure.” Jessie nodded. “She comes by every couple of months to see Jack. Haley asked her to be his godmother and Kate liked to buy him expensive gifts and such. She was always cordial to Jack and I; would ask if we needed anything but we didn’t. I used most of Haley’s life insurance to set up a little trust for him. My family is comfortable so we were fine.”
“So Kate Joyner knew Haley and then Haley was murdered.” John said. “Now she knows you and you nearly suffer the same fate.”
“That doesn’t even make sense, John.” Jessie replied. “I'm sure Kate knows a lot of people…she’s a party girl. So what?”
“Did she seem abnormally attached to Jack?” Hotch asked.
“Not at all. She was good for the gifts and stuff but seemed standoffish when it came to affection. I always appreciated her trying though. She told me that she made promises to Haley and no matter how difficult it was she wanted to keep them. Kate would never hurt Haley; they were like best friends.”
“Kate saddled up to Haley for a reason.” John said.
“She knew about Jack.” Sam finished his sentence.
“How do you explain them being friends before that?” Jessie asked.
“Maybe they were friends at one time.” Sam said. “But if Kate was a party girl there's no way she’d want to be saddled with a pregnant best friend. She had to know about Jack when he was still in the womb.”
“What about him?” Jessie asked.
“She definitely felt his essence.” Derek said. “It was five times easier since Haley gave off nothing. She stuck around for a reason. That cretin said Jack used something like the Force to kill Jerome.”
“OK, despite all I've heard and seen over the past few days, I'm pretty sure the Force is not real.” She looked at Sam. “It’s not real, is it?”
“The Force is made up…the moving of objects with one’s mind has been scientifically proven.”
“What is my nephew?” Jessie asked. “Is whatever it is the reason he was snatched?”
“We don’t know the answer to either one of those questions.” John said. “There's one person who does though.”
“I’ll call Garcia.” Morgan stood, pulling his cell from his pocket. “Burner cell or not, it had incoming and outgoing calls. Numbers might bring us other people we can talk to.”
“Good idea Morgan.” Hotch looked from him to Emily. “When are you talking to Jason?”
“We’re having lunch on Tuesday.” She replied.
“We need information before then. Is there any way…?”
“I’ll drop in on him tomorrow. He might not like it but I’ll do it anyway.”
“Ask him what he knows about the second Immaculate Conception.” Sam said.
“I will.” Emily nodded.
“Alright,” John stood. “We’ll get some rest and jump in with both feet in the morning. Morgan will work with Garcia while Hotch and Emily talk to Jason. JJ and I plan to visit some people who know Kate well.”
“Am I expected to baby-sit Tracy again?” Jessie asked.
“You and Sam need to dig into your sister’s former life. We need to know people she knew, places she went; the whole thing. If you know or can locate any of those folks, that’s what you'll be doing tomorrow.”
“I need to do something before I crawl out of my skin. I wish I could just call Kate and get her over here. She's always been sketchy about giving addresses and phone numbers.”
“Too many people wanna kill her.” Morgan replied.
“We’re getting close.” JJ said in a reassuring tone. “We may not know the whys but we have a who or two. We’ll get to the bottom of this.”
“If Kate was willing to cultivate a lasting friendship then Jack was very valuable to her.” Hotch said. “That means she's less likely to harm him.”
“How much less likely?” Jessie asked.
“A whole hell of a lot.” Emily replied. “That's technically speaking of course.”
Jessie smiled a bit but felt her stomach bottoming out. She’d known Kate for about eight years. Could it be that all that time she wasn’t who she appeared to be? Did Haley figure that out? Did it cost her her life? How did those lightning bugs find her and Jack hiding in his bedroom closet but they didn’t find him in his toy box?
Her head started to hurt; a combination of the wine and all she’d heard tonight. More questions than answers didn’t make her feel like she was closer to getting Jack back. If everyone else did she would do her best to trust in that. When she wasn’t doing that, Jessie would be getting to the bottom of who the hell Kate Joyner really was.
“I need a drink.” Emily stood and shuddered. “I need a shower too.”
“I second the shower.” JJ raised her hand. “Dude was super dusty.”
“He was a little dusty.” Morgan said. “And his breath stank.”
“I would ask if anyone’s thirsty but you guys don’t drink what I do.”
“I'm heading over to Penelope’s.” Morgan said. “We’re hot on the numbers trail.”
“Speaking of numbers,” Sam said. “Have Penelope dig into anything she can find on Kate. Financials, real estate, her social security number, or travel plans. I want to know where she buys her coke, her DVDs, and her high heel shoes.”
“Yeah.” he nodded, walking to the door with Clooney. “See you guys sometime tomorrow.”
Morgan left and everyone started making their way to their respective bedrooms. Sam stayed in the living room for a while. He could hardly believe all that happened tonight. They went from one random name to cracking the case wide open. He never would’ve believed that someone he’d known for so long, and at one point trusted wholly, was right smack in the middle of this.
Sam knew that Kate fell far…it was well known in their world. But the kidnapping of a child was pretty low. And if she didn’t want him for herself, who was she working for. Maybe they weren't the only ones knee deep into something outside of their control. Oh hell, he was probably just as clueless now as he’d always been about her.
Sam didn’t want to make this personal. He didn’t want to make it about Kate Joyner. He would focus on Jessie and Jack…they needed his attention. Kate Joyner was a long time ago. She needed to stay that way.
Her crying broke his heart. Sam looked at the clock on the nightstand and saw that it was nearly 3am. He wasn’t sure if he should but Sam got up from the lounger, climbed on the bed with Jessie, and enveloped her in his embrace.
“I'm so, so sorry.” He whispered, lips brushing across her hairline. “I wish I could take away the pain. I wish I could bring you some peace.”
“Don’t let me go.” She sobbed.
“I'm here.” Sam stroked her hair and then her back. He’d never felt so helpless. It was always his job to bring peace and now he couldn’t. “I won't leave you.”
Jessie cried for a long time. She just clung to Sam and sobbed her heart out. Every muscle ached; she hurt all over. It didn’t make any sense that this was happening to her and her loved ones. She would fight, she had to survive, but nothing prepared her for this battle.
“I'm going to kill Kate when I get my hands on her.” Jessie’s tone was dark as the sadness burned off and the anger took over.
“Please don’t stoop to her level.” Sam replied. “She's not worth it. You're not that woman. I can't feel your essence but I know that in my soul.”
“She murdered my sister, Sam. If she didn’t do it then she ordered it done. Haley may have done many things, I can't deny that. But she was a good mom and my only sister. That monster smiled in my face knowing that she took her away and planned to steal Jack too. What kind of person…fuck!” Jessie pulled away from Sam some to wipe her face. “She's not a person, is she? You tell me what she is, Sam. I want to know now.”
“At one time Kate was a spirit just like me.” he replied.
“That’s improbable. Even before I knew she was a murderer I know she was no angel.”
“During the Great War, Kate was seduced by The Darkness. I don't know all the details; it’s not my place to know. She turned her back on the light and was cast out. Some say she had something to do with agents of darkness ambushing spirits. I don't know what happened; I just know that she turned her back on the light. For that I feel sorry for her.”
“She could never be like you.” Jessie said caressing his face.
“She really was once.” Sam nodded.
“Well she fell very far. You're…you're amazing, Sam.”
“I'm not that great.”
“You're modest too.”
“No, I just…”
Jessie cut him off with a passionate kiss. Her lips on his took Sam’s breath away. He pulled away from her, literally gasping. He had to get away but the intensity of her only pulled him in deeper. Holding her close to him, Sam ran his hands down her arms. He felt Jessie quiver and it made him do the same.
“Make love to me, Sam. Tomorrow is tomorrow but now is now. I need you.”
He couldn’t, he shouldn’t even be thinking about what was running through his mind. But her skin was so soft and fragrant, her kisses deep, and her touch like nothing he’d felt before. It made Sam feel closer to the light. That warm, engulfing light he was in while in The Boss’ private chamber…how was that feeling possible in her human arms? He kissed her again and felt Jessie move onto her back. Sam moved with her, his tee shirt coming off somewhere along the way. He surrendered, unsure why but knowing it was the only choice.
“I…” Sam’s voice cracked as his mouth crushed against Jessie’s.
Her body arched against his. He felt so good, so strong, safe, and true. Jessie hadn't felt a feeling like this for a long time, if ever. She never wanted it to end and couldn’t explain why but knew that she could only feel it with Sam.
When he touched her she lost her breath. When she ran her fingers over his skin, Jessie felt euphoric. The clothes came off quickly and being naked together only made them both more excited. She felt his warmth and radiance all around her.
“It’s been so long.” Sam murmured as his body settled between her thighs. He couldn’t stop touching her; kissing her…she was amazing. How was she so amazing?
“We can take it slow.” Jessie whispered, stroking his bare back.
Sam was sure he whimpered at the contact, just like he whimpered when she touched him there. It was a miracle that it hadn't ended before it even started. He hadn't been with a woman since he was alive. It wasn’t as if spirits weren't capable of or allowed to make love. While The Boss encouraged giving up the pitfalls of sexual desires, not all spirits felt that way or practiced celibacy. Only adultery and bed-hopping were strictly forbidden.
Many spirits were in loving, monogamous relationships, either with their own kind or others in the supernatural world. Hotch was the strangest Sam had ever seen, falling head over heels for a vampire. But he might just have his friend beat as he moved inside of a human woman for the first time in over 3000 years. She was a responsive woman, who called his name and gripped his hips. Jessie moaned, arched, and wrapped her legs around him. It was impossible not to feel what she was feeling and respond in kind.
“Oh God, oh God Jessie, oh my God…” Sam shut his eyes tight as the feelings engulfed him.
“Don’t stop,” she gripped him harder. “Oh Sam, ohhh Sam…mmm…”
He knew how to touch her, how to make her climax. It may have been a long time but Sam was sure that some body parts never changed. He was right, and soon Jessie was biting down on his shoulder to keep the intensity of her climax from waking the whole house. He was right on her heels, moaning her name as he filled her. And then there was silence. Silence pierced by heavy breathing, satisfied sighs, and then passionate kisses.
“Don’t go.” Jessie mumbled between kisses. “I want you inside of me, Sam. Don’t go.”
“I won't leave you.” Sam held her tight to him, both of their bodies shaking from the intensity of what just happened. He could feel the warmth and light all around them.
A noise came from Sam’s diaphragm that he wasn’t even sure that he could make. But he had, and he obeyed Jessie, lingering with her until exhaustion put him back on the mattress. They fell asleep in each other’s arms, both feeling a shared peace that they couldn’t seem to reach any other way. Sam felt her now. It wasn’t her entire essence, but he felt her just the same.
“This must be important,” Jason sat down in his chair and crossed his legs. “You're a day early, Katya.”
“I really need to talk to you. I know that you're busy but this is important.”
“It must be…you brought Agent Hotchner with you.”
“He’s downstairs.” Emily sighed. “Neither of us thought it was a good idea for him to come in here with me. This isn’t about some competition. A child’s life is at stake.”
“What child?” Jason asked, dropping some of his irritation.
“His name is Jack; he’s four years old and in danger. Agents of darkness have kidnapped him.”
“This happened almost a week ago. Time is of the essence; I know that from experience.”
“What can I do?”
“I need to know what you know about the second Immaculate Conception.” Emily said.
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“Really? Are we going to play that game because I can read you and you do know what I mean, Jason. Look, I know that I can't be privy to all the great and powerful things that you are. But I'm doing this to save a child. You don’t have to tell me everything but something is going on. Jack is of human mother and unknown father. He’s one of us…not a vampire but of our world.”
“How do you know this?” Jason asked.
“His essence is felt by spirits. That wouldn’t be possible if he was just human. And if there wasn’t anything special about him who would pay three lightning bugs to snatch him and take him to places unknown?” Emily sighed. “I don’t know if the Immaculate Conception theory has anything to do with that, but why not start there. We need to start somewhere.”
Jason thought about it for a while. He wasn’t supposed to discuss the things he knew with anyone, including his loved ones. But if a child’s life was at risk, he would have to push some of those rules away. When the time came to explain himself, and the time always came, he would. Whoever didn’t like it didn’t have to.
Sometimes doing the right thing was more important than spouting the party line. He hadn't lived to 1205 to reject doing something for someone other than himself. You couldn’t be selfish all the time, even if it was a trait of your race. How could he look his children in the eye knowing he’d let someone else’s die to keep ridiculous secrets?
“There's an ancient prophecy which declares that a child born of human mother will be bathed in the light.” He said. “It’s supposed to happen prior to the end of the first decade of the 21st century. This boy, well we assumed it was a boy then, would grow up to defeat The Darkness. The prophecy doesn’t have capital letters…no one was sure if it was the actual Darkness, or those who do his bidding. For years there have been those who keep an eye out for The Chosen One but nothing has come across their radar.”
“What else does the prophecy say?”
“It is written that the child’s powers will manifest on the full moon closest to his ninth birthday. Nothing else really stands out.”
“Well The Darkness or agents who do his bidding think that Jack Brooks is that boy. They murdered his mother last year in an attempt to get him and were unsuccessful. This time they left his aunt for dead and succeeded. Did the prophecy state who would take him?”
“No,” Jason shook his head. “Nothing like that was written. The Darkness doesn’t believe that fate is absolute. There have been whispers for a long time that his plan was to take the child and raise him in his image. If his powers are as strong as they say, The Darkness could rule our world with the child at his side.”
“But he’s bathed in light.”
“A child will only do what he is taught, so says The Darkness. We figure if the child cannot be swayed, then he would be killed. As I said, there are a group of people watching for his arrival. I would’ve heard if they found him.”
“Well the first decade of the 21st century is almost over.” Emily said. “Is it possible they could’ve missed something?”
“Do you doubt the absolute greatness of The Boss?” Jason couldn’t help his teasing grin when he asked.
“I'm gray, and you know it. It’s not my place to say.”
“Well its Aaron Hotchner’s place; there's nothing gray about him.”
“What's that supposed to mean?”
“I think the statement was clear.” Jason replied. “Is there anything else that you need?”
“No.” she stood, not willing to have that conversation with him. “I don't know if Jack is this Chosen One or not, Jason. All I know is that someone thinks he is and they’ve taken him. I just want to get him back for his loved ones. Thank you for your help; I’ll see you on Wednesday.”
“Of course.” He nodded. “Please kiss Nathan and Tracy for me.”
Emily walked to the door, put her hand on the knob, and then turned back.
“Maybe we can um, do something together soon…all of us.” She said.
“All of us?” he raised an eyebrow.
“Hotch isn’t going anywhere, at least not where my heart is concerned. But he’s frequently gone from me.”
“So you’d like my company in his stead?”
“No, I wouldn’t do that to you or him. I just want the kids to know that we’re doing our best to get along. I want us to get along; it’s important to me. I still love you, I’ll always love you, and if you don’t know that then you're farther gone than I ever wanted you to be. Nothing lasts forever, Yason. That doesn’t mean we can't make it work…for the kids if nothing else. God,” Emily rolled her eyes. “How human is that?”
“I was thinking the very same thing.” Jason replied. “This past year hasn’t been easy but I already know that you understand that. Let me think about it…we’ll talk soon.”
“Alright. Thank you again; this information will be helpful.”
She left his office, traveled down 25 floors on the elevator, and went out to Hotch’s truck. She was driving it now when he was off on his missions but since he was home, he wanted to be behind the wheel. That suited her just fine. Climbing into the passenger seat, she put her hands over her face and took a deep breath. Hotch didn’t say a word, just put his hand on her shoulder and let her have the moment. Soon she was looking at him and trying to smile.
“You don’t have to smile for me if that’s not in your heart.” He said.
“I know, and that’s why I love you so much.”
“I love you too.” he kissed her lips. “Did Jason know anything?”
“Yeah, he did. We should get back home and confer with the others. This might be a very big deal, Hotch.”
He was afraid she’d say that. From the beginning he knew it wasn’t a run of the mill kidnapping case. They might have to face something very dark and very powerful if they wanted to get Jack back safely. He was ready for that; not just because he was a spirit. Hotch just didn’t know if he was ready for the consequences of their possible failure.
“You know that I'm a light sleeper right?” JJ asked.
“Yeah.” Sam smirked. “You're kinda notorious for it. I bunked with you in Bratislava…twice.”
“So um, it wouldn't be surprising to know that I heard what's been going on in your room for the past couple of nights.”
Sam and JJ were sitting in the kitchen. It was after 2am on Thursday morning. All four of the spirits sat around the kitchen table as a storm raged outside. Nathan had just come home from work, coming into the kitchen for some blood before bed, and broke up their powwow. John excused himself to the bathroom while Hotch wanted to check on Emily and Tracy, who was sleeping with her mother because of the storm.
They’d spent hours going over everything they learned, everyone they talked to, and every rock they kicked over in the past couple of days. Morgan had just gone home at 1:30. When he left they were still no closer to having a direct line to Kate Joyner. Then John got a cell phone call and the answer was right in their laps. There was a VIP party tomorrow night at the Sparkle Lounge.
Megan Kane would be there and she knew Kate Joyner would be too. She knew it because she seduced her the night before for the information. John told Megan that she didn’t have to do that. She told him she did anyway, and now they knew. They were planning their ambush until Nathan came in. Now JJ and Sam were alone and the conversation just got uncomfortable.
“It’s nothing to be ashamed of.” JJ smiled some. “We all need love.”
“I'm on a mission; I need to remain focused on the tasks at hand. I cannot let temptations of the flesh…”
“Sam, I hate to break it to you but Jessie Brooks is not a temptation of the flesh. I mean she’s adorable but Megan Kane is a temptation of the flesh. This is something else.”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“Look, I'm practically married and I love Will, you know that I do. But when we’re doing it, we don’t sound like that.”
“JJ, don’t be vulgar.” Sam said in his fatherly tone.
“I'm not; I'm just being honest. Look, how long have we known each other?”
“That’s right, and during all of those years you’ve never given attention to your wants and needs. Not that that’s a bad thing but…don’t you think you deserve a little special attention?”
“I don’t think we should be talking about this. We need to be focused on getting Jack back. Jessie and I; well, there isn’t a Jessie and I.”
“You don’t care about her?” JJ asked. “That’s not your nature Sam.”
“I don’t know how I feel. This isn’t something I'm used to. Maybe it’s easy for other people…its not easy for me.”
“It’s not easy for anyone.” She put her hand on his shoulder. “If they tell you that it is, they're a liar.”
Hotch came into the kitchen and looked at his partners.
“I'm sleeping on the couch.” He announced.
“Tracy has completely taken over my side of the bed. There’s no room for me.” Hotch smiled. “It’s alright, its nice to be able to sleep with Mommy when the bad storms come.”
“Yeah.” JJ smiled. She had hazy memories of growing up in Norway and loving her mother too. “Where’s John?”
“He went to bed, said he was tired. Tomorrow is going to be busy. Megan is going to help you guys get snazzy for this party so you'll fit in.”
“Me?” JJ asked.
“John and Sam are going to handle this one. Hopefully, when it’s over we’ll know where Jack Brooks is.”
“Why would Kate tell us anything?” Sam asked.
“I want to say guilt, but from what I've heard she won't feel that emotion.” Hotch said.
“You're right about that.” JJ said, standing up from the table. “I'm gonna get some sleep too.” she once again squeezed Sam’s shoulder. “Goodnight, Sam; think about what I said.”
She kissed Hotch’s cheek and left the kitchen. Hotch looked at his friend, noticed that something was wrong. He knew Sam pretty well, not as well as John and JJ; he didn’t have centuries by his side. But still, over a short amount of time they bonded. Hotch bonded with few people in his life so he knew that Sam was special. He sat back at the kitchen table; cut himself another slice of key lime pie.
“Are you alright, Sam?”
“I just want to get Jack back safely. And honestly, I wish Kate wasn’t involved in this. I knew John was going to ask me to do this.”
“Why?” Hotch asked.
“The two of us were quite close once.” Sam replied.
“Were you close like you and I?”
“We were close like you and Emily.”
“Oh.” Hotch understood.
“No, I mean, we weren't lovers. Was I in love with her?” he shrugged. “It was so long ago; I repressed all the parts that hurt. I don’t know how I felt anymore. I'm not sure that I can see her again knowing what she's become.
“When you hear things around you can just ignore them. Rumors aren’t worth my time. But now I suspect she probably had Haley Brooks murdered, tried to kill Jessie, and snatched a toddler. That’s something a monster would do.”
“If she’s in this, then that’s what she is.” Hotch said.
“I know.” Sam nodded. “And she smiled in Jessie’s face for a year knowing what she’d done. Jessie’s so upset…she’s been crying for days. It’s been over a week and we’re still no closer to Jack.”
“We’re close. Tomorrow is going to be big for us. I don’t know if Kate will tell us a thing but there are other people we’re talking to. She didn’t do this on her own. We’re gonna find Jack.”
Sam nodded, slicing some pie for himself. The kitchen was quiet but he knew what Hotch was thinking about. He wanted to talk to someone, about his confusion and desires, but Sam couldn’t open his mouth. Whenever he did, nothing came out. It was the worst feeling in the world. He didn’t have to feel that when he was reading, praying, mentoring, or fulfilling his duties as a spirit. If this was love, or whatever, he did not want it.
“Why don’t you just talk to Jessie?” Hotch asked.
“You can talk to her about how she feels. You can talk to her about your feelings too.”
“She is under immense stress. She lost her sister and now fears losing her last connection to Haley. She’s not falling in love with me. She needs comfort. She’s human, I'm not; she's found another way for me to give it to her.”
“And you accept that? You truly believe that all she cares about is sex for comfort.”
“We hardly know each other.” Sam reasoned.
“It only took me a week to fall in love with Emily.” Hotch said. “I'm not saying you have to be in love with Jessie. I know how much the light means to you and it means the same to me. But The Boss knows that no one can live without love. He is love; he created it and endorses it.”
“There are lots of different kinds of love in my life. I'm happy, Hotch.”
“I know, and I see that. All I'm saying is that having Jessie in your life, in any capacity, might make you happy too. You should probably get some sleep. We’ve been up for hours and done a lot today. I feel good about where this case is going.”
Sam took hold of Hotch’s arm; he wanted to feel that too. It wasn’t that he felt darkness. It was there, for sure, probably even more so after tomorrow. But his feelings for Jessie, and the confusion they brought, were clouding Sam’s other thought passages. It would actually be good to go to that club tomorrow for some time apart.
They'd been constant companions for a week. It wasn’t as if Sam wasn’t used to that; some missions lasted for months. He just never found himself falling in love before. He wasn’t sure if that’s what he was doing now. So many missions, so many millennia, and Sam was facing something he’d never faced before. With that and Kate Joyner…tomorrow was going to be another long day.
“I'm gonna get some sleep.” Sam said. “I’ll need a lot of energy for a night of clubbing.”
“I have faith in you.” Hotch replied. “I always have.”
“Thanks. Goodnight, Hotch.”
Sam left the kitchen and walked down the hall to his bedroom. He knocked and peeked in on Nathan first. The young vampire tried to hide the Playboy Magazine from the spirit but Sam just gave him a gentle look.
“Are you feeling alright?” Sam asked.
“Yeah.” Nathan nodded. “My father has given me more exercises for when the urges come. My mom, Spencer, Max Ryan…lots of people are helping me. I'm glad that Miss Brooks isn’t afraid of me. I'm sorry if I scared her.”
“She’s not afraid, and knows that you're sorry. I always pray for you, Nathan.”
“Thanks. Goodnight, Sam.” He smiled, going back to his magazine as Sam closed the door.
In the bedroom he lay down on the lounger and tried to clear his mind. He looked over at Jessie, sleeping soundly in the bed. The pull to be close to her was too great and soon he was slipping under the covers. When he spooned behind her, Sam felt Jessie smile.
“Is this alright?” he whispered.
“Mmm, yes.” Jessie caressed the hands that held onto her. “I was just thinking about you.”
“You were thinking of my holding you?”
“Shh,” she turned around in his arms and put her finger on his lips. “We both need to rest, Sam. We’re gonna get through this; I believe that.” she kissed him. “You should dream good dreams tonight.”
That would be easy with Jessie in his arms. Sam pushed away thoughts that this would be over soon and his job would separate them. He would complete this mission and what happened after was up to The Boss. That’s the way it had always been and Sam devoted his life to that tenet.
Jay-Z and Alicia Keys crooned about the Empire State as the party raged in the Sparkle Lounge. The place was always crowded; it was one of the most popular clubs in DC. But VIP had to be at fire capacity tonight as hipsters, debutantes, celebrities, models, and wannabes celebrated whatever it was they celebrated. John hadn't seen Kate yet but he’d seen plenty of other women. There was so much skin in the place it was past ridiculous.
He stopped wondering over an hour ago how some of these dresses stayed up or how grown men could get so thin as to fit into skinny pants. He sat at the bar in his version of a hipster outfit, black slacks and a black and silver button down shirt. His long black hair was in a ponytail and he wore a silver cross around his neck. That was probably why the vampire bartender didn’t want to be anywhere near him. He finally just took it off; he might need information from her later.
“Are we having fun yet?” Megan asked, coming to stand next to him.
“Oh c'mon John, I know you're on assignment or a mission or whatever you call it but don’t you ever have fun.”
“Of course I have fun…this is not fun. You look lovely though.”
“You know you're one of the few men who tells me things like that.” she said.
“You always tell me that I look lovely. Men tell me I'm hot, fine, sexy, smoking; all that bullshit. With you it’s something completely different.”
“I'm not like other men.” He replied.
“You don’t have to tell me that. And thank you by the way.”
“Well I meant it.” John drank his beer.
Megan wore a purple sequined mini-dress with spaghetti straps. She was showing plenty of skin as well but there was something less overt about her appearance. Yes, she looked ready, willing, and able to have a good time. But she also carried herself with a poise and dignity that a lot of young women in the room would never reach. Her blonde hair was long and curly tonight, caressing her shoulders like a halo. John fought the urge to tangle his fingers in it.
“I know that. Kate’s here somewhere; I can feel her.”
“You didn’t have to do what you did, Megan.”
“Would you have found her if I didn’t?” she asked. Then she smiled. “Yeah, you would have…but it might have taken a little longer. I was just doing something to help. I'm glad I could. It looks like this is Sam’s mission tonight.”
“He and Kate have history.” John replied. “I doubt she’ll tell us anything but I thought it better that someone she once truly cared about asked her. We might get lucky.”
“Well I wish you the best. I’ll leave you to your job; I don’t want to be a distraction.”
“What, that I'm a distraction?” Megan asked.
“No, that you're not.”
She smiled, leaning over to kiss his cheek. “You keep saying sweet things like that to me, John Blackwolf, and I might fall in love with you.”
He smiled too, clearing his throat as she walked away. She wasn’t completely against the rules but his vacation was over. Now was the time to focus on more critical matters. He wondered how Sam was doing…it was hard to leave him alone out there. John would back him up if anything happened.
He could feel Sam and knew he was nervous. He also knew he was capable of doing this and doing it better than anyone else. There was no need to interfere; Sam would handle things. So he turned on his bar stool, sipped his beer, and let his eyes follow Megan through the thick of the party. He could feel her as well and for the first time in too long to recall, the Apache found himself sweating.
He watched her for over an hour. She wasn’t hard to keep track of in her silver flapper mini-dress and white patent leather go-go boots. She loved to dance to everything from Britney Spears to Barry White. She did coke and drank Cristal. She kissed men, women, and let herself be kissed as well.
She was the belle of the ball, in her little corner of the room, and she owned it. It was going to be hard to get her alone…it seemed that so many wanted her attention. Sam would bide his time; there was no rush tonight. He needed to do this and it had to be done right. How long it took didn’t matter. He would just keep an eye on her.
The woman out there was so unfamiliar to him. He knew a different Kate and wondered if it was that one, or this one, who never existed. He trained her for battle, answered all her questions, and listened to her talk about where she came from. Sam brought her soul into the light.
She was saving a person who fell in the river while she was out picnicking with friends. It was so hard to remember that Kate and see this person now. She was awash in drinks, drugs, and the weight of her own sins. If this was what being cast out looked like, Sam wanted no parts of it.
Kate started to make her way back to a semi-circular booth as Depeche Mode pulsed from every speaker. Sam knew it was time. He slowly followed her, this time with his body as well as his eyes. He let her sit, pour herself another flute of champagne, and watched her take a pill. It was now or never…who knew what universe the pill would take her to.
“Excuse me,” he slid into the booth with her. “I think I used to know you.”
Kate looked over at him. She seemed ready to brush him off, needed a few minutes away from the hangers-on, but then recognition dawned. A sad smile swept across her beautiful features.
“You must have me mistaken for someone else.” she replied.
“I think that’s possible.” Sam said.
“What are you doing here, Sam? The last time I checked The Boss didn’t do drinking and debauchery. The church is a few blocks north.”
“It’s been a long time.” was his only response.
“What do you want?” Kate asked.
“I want to know how you could fall so far as to murder someone who thinks they’re your best friend and steal their child.”
“Is that what you’ve heard?” she smirked. “Rumors are ugly things, Sam. I try to keep my head above the fray. DC can be a treacherous place.”
“Haley Brooks was an innocent woman, Kate.”
“She was anything but. Boy, could I tell you some stories.”
“For that she deserved to be murdered?”
“I just had a job to do, Sam.”
“Where is Jack?” Sam asked. He wanted to reach out and make her see sense. He’d trained her but she turned her back on those lessons a long time ago.
“How did you get involved in this?” she countered. “Is The Boss looking for his great savior?”
“The Boss doesn’t fear you. I bet Jack doesn’t even fear you. He’s a four year old boy and his family wants him back. You need to tell me where he is.”
“Or what? I don’t know if you have it in you Sam and I've been threatened by scarier souls.”
“I would never hurt you, but there are people who will. You're in favor, Kate…today. The Darkness doesn’t care about you. Those who do his bidding are only good for him while they’re doing it. And sadly, there are so many to replace the ones he throws away.
“You had a special place and gave it up. You will never have it again. But you can do the right thing this one time. You need to tell me where Jack is.”
“Do you get vacation time, Sam?” Kate pulled a cigarette from her purse and lit it. This place was smoke free, like everyplace else in the District, but VIP didn’t play by the rules. “I recall that you work far too much; you definitely need some time off.”
“I have a feeling we’re coming to a point soon.”
“A lot of people don’t realize it but Scranton, Pennsylvania is a hidden jewel. I have some property out there and I really love it. I can go there, clear my mind, just be away from all of this.” She waved her hand around the crowded club. “It’s so peaceful and quiet and away from everything…the perfect place to hide.
“Don’t go in the winter though; Lackawanna County can be cold and brutal. Actually, the weather right about now would be perfect for a side trip. They have these mansions in the Upper Green Ridge neighborhood,” Kate smiled. “Its perfect for an evening stroll.” She stood up, looking at Sam one more time. “I know The Boss doesn’t give you much time off but, mark my words, Scranton would be good for you.”
“I appreciate the advice.” Sam replied.
“I hate to cut this reunion short but the dance floor calls. Goodbye Sam.”
Kate walked away and he watched her. Sam stood and made his way back over to the main bar, where John was holding up a bar stool. He looked uninterested in everything going on around him but Sam knew he was taking it all in. Or maybe it was just Megan Kane he was taking in. She was playfully beating off the advices of an attractive man who was a bit too old to be club hopping.
Every time she had a second, her eyes connected with John’s. Since he made no mention of the Jessie issue, Sam would keep his mouth shut about Megan. Looking at a woman wasn’t against the rules and there were plenty of women there tonight. Sam flagged the bartender and asked for a Samuel Adams.
“Do you think she was truthful with you?” John asked, managing to tear his eyes away from Megan. The faster this mission was accomplished, the better for him. He’d been to many different places and been into many different things. It had been some time since he was dealing with these feelings. There were sometimes good reasons to separate yourself from someone for a century.
“Yeah.” Sam nodded, taking his beer and giving her a ten. He was wide eyed when he got four dollar bills back. How could anyone afford to get drunk in this city? “She didn’t give me an address but she gave me a good place to start.”
“I don’t think she was working this alone.”
“Neither do I. It just doesn’t seem like her M.O., no matter how far she’s fallen. You have to have a lot of hate in your heart to murder someone. Even if that hate lasts for just a moment.
“I think Kate was just a go-between. If she gave the lightning bugs $5000 then her payday was probably triple that. She could afford to spare it. We’re in the nation’s capital…lots of people have that kind of money.”
“Following the money hasn’t gotten us anywhere yet, but Garcia is still working on it.” John replied. “These people know how to cover their tracks. I guess we’re going to have to follow the vague ramblings of someone high on champagne and Xanax.”
“It’s the best lead we have so far. I happen to think it’s what we’ve been waiting for.”
“It could also be a trap.”
“That’s true. It won't be the first time we’ve had to fight our way out.” Sam said. “Remember the Volga River outside of Samara?”
“I won't ever forget.” John said, holding up his nearly warm bottle of beer. “Scranton, here we come.”
“Road trip!” Penelope Garcia chirped later that night as she sat in Emily Prentiss’ living room. Morgan just looked at her.
“You're not going.” He said firmly.
“You made me stay behind last time.”
“Yes, because it was dangerous. It’s still dangerous. You don’t need to put yourself in danger, there are five other people in this room who are going to do that.”
“I’ll stay in the car, Morgan; I promise.” Penelope said. “I’ll keep it running so when you guys book it out of there you can just jump in and we can tear off.”
“Someone’s been watching too much Starsky and Hutch.” John said with a smirk.
“I’ll have you know I'm a Hawaii Five-O girl…the redux.”
“I hope you don’t plan on stopping me from traveling with you, Mr. Morgan.” Jessie said. “I won't stay behind anymore; I need to find Jack.”
“She’s my responsibility.” Morgan replied, pointing at Garcia. “You're not.”
“Well I'm going.” She said, turning to Sam.
“I won't argue.” He held up his hands in surrender. “I’ll do everything I can to keep you safe.”
“Emily?” Hotch asked.
“I had to go before; it was my family we were talking about. I don’t think The Boss really wants this team to become a quintet. You guys go and do what you need to do…its not as if I don’t have plenty to keep me busy here.”
Hotch nodded. He wanted to know when they were leaving.
“It’s about four and a half hours away so I say we leave in the morning.” Morgan said. “We get there, grab the kid, and get the hell out. There’s no point in hanging out in Scranton.”
“We don’t even know where he is.” John said. “And we don’t know who’s minding the store.”
“Actually, we know he's in the Upper Green Ridge neighborhood.” Sam said. “Kate said it was lovely this time of year.”
“There are probably a lot of mansions there.” JJ replied. “Are we gonna knock on every door until the bad guys answer. I think I have an old Girl Scouts uniform I can dust off.”
“I was gonna say something dirty.” Morgan grinned. “I’ll skip it.”
“Thank you.” Sam said. “I know Jack’s essence. Believe me when I tell you guys, it’s so strong we’ll probably feel it as soon as we get to the Scranton city limits.”
“220 Sherwood Court!” Garcia exclaimed.
“Please, baby girl, tell me that means something.”
“It’s a 7 bedroom, 3 and a half bath house purchased last year by Haley Brooks.”
“Haley didn’t buy a house in Scranton.” Jessie said.
“I've been doing some digging and it seems like Kate was using Haley’s name a lot.” Garcia said as her fingers danced over the keys of the laptop resting on her knees. “But that’s the only purchase in Scranton under any of her aliases. That has to be the place.”
“OK,” Hotch nodded. “So we do know where he is.”
“I still say I should be able to go.” Penelope replied. “I'm just putting that out there.”
“Isn't working in the FBI enough of an adventure?” Morgan asked.
“You'd think so but every girl needs a road trip in her life.”
“I’ll take you to Vegas when we get back.” Morgan said. “Even though I won't have any extra money cuz somehow I got wrapped into doing this job pro-bono.”
“You're doing it for the betterment of humankind.” Sam said.
“OK, so who do I send the bill to for that? I gotta get some new friends. You never pay me, you drag me to places like Kentucky and Lackawanna County…you guys are just barrels of fun.”
“Consider this penance for some of the things you do when we’re not around.” John said. “Now let’s discuss a plan. I think it’s important to go for two days…this will require recon.”
“There might be an army waiting for us.” Hotch said. “If I kidnapped The Chosen One I wouldn’t leave him with some lightning bugs or Nanny McPhee. This could be an army against five.”
“Six…you forgot to count my dog.” Morgan said.
“Five and a half.” Hotch corrected himself.
Clooney growled at him and Morgan petted his gigantic head.
“He didn’t mean that, dude.”
“In a neighborhood like that too many people coming and going would be noticed.” JJ said. “I'm betting there will be no more than five people inside with Jack. They’re probably going to look like a real family so as not to cast suspicion. There will be at least one woman with them.”
“Mercenaries?” Sam asked.
“Who knows?” Hotch shrugged. “We just need to be prepared. But we also need to do it as quietly as possible. I don’t want to be on the six o’clock news.”
“I don’t want you on the six o’clock news.” Emily replied.
“That’s all the more reason for the recon.” John said. “We watch, get the moves down, and storm the place.”
“What's going to happen to the people who kidnapped him?” Jessie asked. “Will they face justice?”
“If we don’t take them all out, I'm sure The Darkness won't be too happy with them.” Morgan said.
“But will Jack and I have to spend the rest of our lives in hiding? If they think he’s important to them, he’ll never be safe.”
“We’ll worry about the future after we get him back.” Sam took her hand, coloring some when Jessie leaned her head on his shoulder in front of everyone. “If Jack is truly The Chosen One, he will always be protected by the light. So will you.”
“I don’t care about myself as much as I do Jack. I just want him back and for him not to live his life in fear.”
“Do we even know if he is The Chosen One?” Morgan asked.
“No.” Hotch shook his head. “The Darkness and those who do his bidding seem to think so. Actually, it might be better if he is. If they’ve already found out he isn’t…”
Sam looked at him and Hotch stopped talking. There was no need to go there right now, especially in front of Jessie. Prophecies didn’t matter right now. A child was missing and their mission was to get him back. They would go to Scranton and do just that.
“I was right.” JJ said, opening her eyes. “I should've bet money on it.”
“Stop contemplating gambling and drink your Gatorade.” Sam handed her the bottle.
They were in a Water Department truck parked on the opposite end of Sherwood Court. John and Hotch dug a hole in the street, which they fully intended to fill back in. They weren't really doing water work. In the truck, Sam and Jessie had been looking after JJ’s body while she astral projected into 220.
Morgan was in his black Chevy Suburban driving routes from Sherwood Court to the downtown Howard Johnson where they were staying. He needed to make sure they had at least 2 clear escape routes after grabbing Jack. He thought it better to take the bad guys out, he always did. Escaping was a lot easier when you didn’t have people on your heels. He couldn’t depend on the spirits to kill if they didn’t have to though.
It wasn’t as if Derek was a mercenary; he was anything but. He just believed in survival of the fittest and he always planned to be the fittest. He didn’t believe he was alive today just because of his quick wit, good looks, and immortality. Sometimes you just had to take people out. Morgan grabbed his cell phone, which played Spirit in the Sky…he knew who it was.
“We’re hungry.” JJ said. “Are you hungry?”
“Yeah, I could eat.” He replied.
“John and Hotch are gonna hang around for an extra hour or so. Can you swing by to get us?”
“I’ll be around the corner in 15 minutes.”
“There are five people; an older man and woman, two younger men, and a younger woman. They look bored actually, just hired guns with no investment in this gig but a paycheck.”
They were in a diner called The Eatery just a few miles from where Jack Brooks was being held. Clooney was outside in the car, unhappy, but Morgan promised to bring him some key lime pie.
“John thinks cover of darkness is our best bet.” Sam said. “I think it’s a good plan.”
“I have a bag full of smoke bombs…that’ll be a nice diversion.” Morgan said, eating an omelet. “We’ll be in and out in a heartbeat.”
“Will the smoke be harmful to Jack?” Jessie asked. She hadn't had much appetite since this whole thing started. Honestly, seeing spirits eat as much as they did made her want food even less. She picked over a fruit salad that JJ poked her fork into a few times as well.
“Nah, he’ll be fine.” Morgan replied. “He’s probably asleep now. We throw them in the downstairs windows in case the bad guys are hanging out watching reruns of Murder, She Wrote.”
“The plan is for Hotch, JJ, and I to take the front. JJ’s immediately going up the stairs for Jack. You and John storm the back, Morgan. I think we can be out in less than 15 minutes if this goes our way.”
“SWAT style.” JJ said, grinning as she put a hurting on a plate of pancakes. She was poised and ready for battle. “They don’t seem to have special powers. It’ll probably be guns and close combat.”
“Guns.” Jessie tried, and failed, to hide the concern in her voice. “This is going to be really dangerous.”
“Yes,” Sam nodded. “But this is what we do everyday. I don’t want you worrying; there's no use for it. I takes a lot to take us out…believe me.”
“Believe him.” JJ pointed at Sam. “Sam’s survived The Crusades.”
“And The Reformation.” Hotch said.
“The Civil Rights Movement.” John added.
“And all 11 seasons of Baywatch.” Morgan said.
That one made Sam laugh. He put his hand on Jessie’s shoulder. “I’ll be fine, believe me; we’ll all be fine. We may get battered, even bruised, but we’re going to win this.”
“And you get to keep the SUV warm.” Morgan said.
“That’s fine with me.” Jessie replied. “I don’t like violence.”
“No one should, but sadly there are those who relish it.” Sam said. “We don’t but do what we have to in battle.”
“Hear, hear.” JJ nodded.
“I’m just glad we’re getting Jack back.” Jessie said. “This has been going on for so long and I just want to know that he’s alright.”
“Some of our missions go on for months.” Sam replied. “This is one of the shorter ones. I'm really grateful for that.” he looked at Jessie. “I didn’t…that came out wrong. I'm agreeing that Jack being gone too long is not a good thing.”
Jessie nodded, she understood. She took his hand and didn’t care that everyone was around. Soon the mission would be over and life would return to normal, whatever that was now. She had a feeling that even though she’d soon be reunited with Jack, life as Jessie Brooks knew it would never be the same again.
“I hate the suburbs.” John mumbled as they got ready in the Suburban.
“It’s really dark out there.” Jessie said. “Haven’t they ever heard of street lights?”
“Its no biggie…we can see in the dark.” JJ replied.
“Mmm hmm, and this will be a cakewalk.”
“Pride always takes a fall, JJ.” Sam said. “It usually takes a hard fall.”
“I know.” She double-tied her Adidas. “I'm taking the side of the house. There are two open windows; I'm lobbing some bombs in.”
“I’ll send two through the kitchen.” Morgan said grabbing his backpack. “Then John and I are going in.”
“Let the light always guide our footsteps.” Hotch said, taking a deep breath.
“Amen.” The spirits said in unison.
“What do you want me to do if all hell breaks loose?” Jessie asked.
“You are absolutely, positively not allowed to get out of this SUV.” Sam said firmly. He didn’t sound mean when he said it but she knew he was serious.
“Yes sir.” Jessie saluted.
“If we’re not back in 25 minutes, call 911 and report a woman screaming from the address.” John said. “This is Scranton; they’ll show up.”
“OK.” She nodded.
Morgan opened the door and they all climbed out. Sam was the last one; Jessie stopped him by grabbing his hand.
“Just be safe…please. Even if you did survive all 11 seasons of Baywatch, I'm worried.”
Sam nodded as he tenderly brought her hand to his lips. He felt it again; the same warmth he felt the first time they made love.
“I’ll be back soon and I’ll have Jack with me. Lock the doors.”
Jessie put on a smile. She watched four spirits, an immortal, and a Rottweiler get ready to storm a non-descript mansion in Scranton, Pennsylvania. She said she would never write a tell-all book about them, and she would keep her word, but the plot just thickened.
There had been so many difficult missions in the past. Some were filled with violence, sadness, and death. Many spirits were killed in defense of the light. They saw war, genocide, pillage, and a plethora of things in between. They had to carry the souls of innocents, including children, back into the light. Spirits didn’t win every battle. Some were draws and some definitive losses. 220 Sherwood Court was just as JJ described it…it was a cakewalk.
There was gunfire and death but the spirits were putting it in the WIN column. After the smoke cleared, JJ and Sam ran up to the middle bedroom to find Jack. He was in a replica of his own room at home, sound asleep. Sam was gentle when he woke him. Jack opened his eyes and smiled.
“Hi Sam.” His tone was drowsy.
“Hey Jack. C'mon,” Sam held out his arms. “We’re gonna get you out of here.”
“He’s coming for me tonight.” Jack replied.
“Who?” JJ asked.
“The Fox.” Jack whispered. “Tonight he comes for me.”
Ice water ran through Sam’s veins as he scooped Jack out of bed. He knew what The Fox did to children, though thus far he’d only shown a predilection toward prepubescent girls. If he’d hurt this child, Sam would never let him rest. But there was someone else on the team who wanted The Fox even more than he did. Downstairs, JJ took Jack from Sam and out of the house.
Derek and Hotch were interrogating the surviving mercenary. She was a young woman; Sam feared she was barely out of her teens. She was about as helpful as Ryan Phillips had been. She spoke of a woman with a British accent, money in a locker, and a burner cell. Tell them something they didn’t know. Sam found John going through drawers. He was looking for any indication of who was behind this.
“The Fox.” Sam whispered it just as Jack had.
John stopped cold, looking at his old friend.
“Are you sure? How do you know that?”
“Jack told me. He said The Fox was coming and tonight was the night.”
“It looks like we got here just in time.” John replied. “Alright, take Morgan and Hotch back to the hotel. I’ll stay with the girl and wait.”
“Do you think that’s a good idea?” Sam asked.
“What choice do we have? He’ll back off if all of us stay. He’ll feel it from a mile away.”
“I just…” Sam sighed.
“What's the matter?” John asked.
“John, I don’t want it coming from a place of vengeance. Never doubt the faith I have in you but…I remember the feelings rushing through my bloodstream when I finally had Foyet. I know how you feel about Megan and we know what The Fox did to her daughters.”
“I’ll pray for restraint while I wait for him.”
Sam looked at him but knew he would never be able to talk John out of this. He wasn’t the only spirit or agent for the light who wanted to catch The Fox. The man needed to be stopped; it was past time. Sam squeezed John’s shoulder before going into the kitchen.
“We’re going.” He said.
“She doesn’t know anything.” Morgan pointed to the teenager. She licked her tongue out when his back was turned.
“John will stay with her. We’ll talk in the car.” Sam said.
Morgan, Clooney, and Hotch followed Sam out. They stopped in front of John.
“What's up?” Hotch asked.
“The Fox is behind this.” John replied. “I can't let him get away this time.”
“Hotch, this is John’s thing.” Sam said gently. “We’ll see you back at the hotel. Please be safe.”
John nodded. He shook hands with the three men and gave the dog a friendly pat. In a matter of minutes they were back outside, climbing into the Suburban. Sam sat next to Jessie, who cradled her sleeping nephew.
“I don't know how to thank you for everything you’ve done for me.” she said.
“I usually take money.” Morgan replied, pulling off into the night. “I take ridiculous amounts of money.”
JJ gave him a playful pop on the head.
“We’re just doing our jobs, Jessie.” Hotch said. “We’re happy to do it.”
Sam let out a happy sigh, barely of his own volition, when Jessie’s body relaxed against his. Jack opened his eyes some and smiled. He reached for Sam’s hand, placing it on top of Jessie’s as it rested in her lap. Jack put his hand on top of both of theirs before falling asleep again.
“Do you think he’s The Chosen One?” Jessie whispered.
“I honestly don’t know, but I do know that he's special. He knew my name when I came in.”
“Well you are his guardian angel after all.” her cheek rested on his shoulder. “You might be mine too I think.”
“I don’t think our hotel has room service.” JJ said a while later, breaking the comfortable silence. “We need to stop somewhere for provisions…I'm starving.”
“I could eat.” Morgan and Hotch said in unison.
Hotch looked back at Sam and he nodded. He could definitely eat.
Derek and Hotch had duct taped the girl to a kitchen chair, both her wrists and ankles. She’d stopped fighting it a while ago but she clearly wasn’t happy.
“What's your name?” John asked, leaning in the kitchen doorway.
“Lindsay. C'mon, let me out of the damn duct tape. McMillan and Wife got a bit too overzealous. I'm not a monster.”
“You're a sweet-faced teenage girl…and probably a vicious killer. The duct tape stays.”
“My ass itches.” She replied.
“I don't know what to tell you.” he crossed his arms and leaned even more. “We can keep going round and round or you can answer some real questions.”
“I already told your pals that I don't know anything. I got paid to watch a package that’s supposed to be picked up later tonight.”
“Do you know Karl Arnold?” John asked.
“Am I supposed to?”
“Just answer my question.”
“No.” she shook her head. “C'mon man, I'm tied to a damn chair and not in a fun way. Let one wrist loose; at least let a condemned woman have a smoke.”
John looked at her hard, thought about it, and grabbed the hunting knife from his back pocket. He sliced the duct tape from her right wrist.
“Any funny stuff and you'll meet the same fate as your friends.” He wasn’t going to harm her unless he absolutely had to. She didn’t have to know that.
“They're not my friends.” Lindsay took a Marlboro Mild from the pack on the table and lit it. The nicotine seemed to calm her. “I guess they were in it for the same reason I was…20Gs is a lot of money. All that to baby-sit a kid, and he was sweet too. I should've known this was bullshit.”
“Do you know The Fox?” John asked.
“What kid didn’t hear the story of The Fox growing up? He's a creeper mo who lurks in the shadows while little girls walk home from school. He’s all fangs and claws and shit. At least that’s how my dad always told the story. As you can see, it didn’t do much to keep me in line.”
“The Fox is real and he's on his way to pick up the package that my friends and I took.”
“You're shitting me?” Lindsay took a deep inhale.
“I'm a spirit; I don’t lie.”
“You're a spirit?”
“Yes.” John nodded.
“I was about to hand over a kid to a fuckin molester on a silver platter?” she asked. “Dammit, I used to be better at reading people. I was working for Kate…she didn’t say anything about The Fox. I might not have believed her if she had though. We’ve done some side stuff together in the past. She’s not a friend but relatively trustworthy. I'm gonna kill the bitch.”
“She might not have known, Lindsay. She's a cog in the wheel just as you are. And you don't have to worry about the kid; he's back with his family.”
“What about The Fox? You said he was on his way.”
“I'm gonna take care of him so that another family never has to suffer for his horrible acts. His reign of terror on children is over. After I handle him, I’ll let you go.”
“No shit?” she cocked an eyebrow.
“No shit.” John replied. “I only ask you one thing in return.”
“What? I don’t do kinky sex or blood play. You can just kill me now if that’s on your mind.”
“Lindsay, I'm a spirit; I can tell you that’s not on my mind. I just want you to do something good for someone other than yourself. Do a real good deed and not something half-ass. Do it and see how it makes you feel. Remember, spirits know whether you do it or not.”
“You just said spirits know if you do it.” She smirked.
“Yeah, I did.” John’s facial expression didn’t change; it rarely did.
“I’ll do it.” She said, sounding peevish but genuine. “You could’ve killed me. You didn’t and I appreciate it.”
“Well The Fox is coming now so I need you to stay here.” John let her get one last puff of the cigarette before putting it out and taping her wrist again. “Pray for his soul.”
Upon returning from Scranton on Saturday, the spirits, Jessie, and now little Jack spent the night at Emily Prentiss’ condo. She didn’t come home until late; she went to a party for an old friend at the Jefferson Hotel. Then on Sunday, Sam took Jessie and Jack back to their condo for the first time in almost 2 weeks. Jack ran in, ignoring the mess in the living room, heading for his bedroom.
“Jack!” Jessie exclaimed. “Don’t go back there, sweetie. That lightning bug…”
“They evaporate, for lack of a better term, after 72 to 96 hours.” Sam replied. “He’s gone.”
“Jerome is in a better place now.” Jack said. “He can't hurt anyone and no one can hurt him either.”
With that he ran into his room and Jessie looked at Sam.
“See? He does that and he’s not a four year old at all. It weirds me out a little.”
“I think you might have to expect that for a little while. Apparently Jack knows things and he’s going to tell them.”
“You're probably used to this, huh?” she asked.
“Being in the presence of the possible Chosen One? No, I'm not really.”
“Well don’t you get to hang out with God?”
“I don’t think we should have that conversation right now.” Sam smiled some. “I want to help you clean up some of this mess.”
“I really appreciate it. God, look at this place; it’s a mess. My mother would cry if she saw it…neat freak that she is. Where do we even begin?”
Sam thought that was pretty much the question they'd been avoiding for some time. He didn’t know how to answer it so he just asked her to show him where she kept the trash bags.
“Its chamomile tea.” Jessie walked out of the kitchen and into the living room where Sam was sitting on the couch. “I use it to calm me down after a crazy day.”
It was nine o’clock and the condo looked just as it had before any of this happened. Sam and Jessie, with some help from Jack, cleaned the whole place. Now the four year old was tucked into bed with his first ever story from guardian angel Sam. There was apprehension in the room as Jessie joined him on the couch.
“Chamomile is fine.” Sam replied. “I've always liked it.”
“I'm never going to see you again, am I?” she asked. “You'll walk out the door, off on the next mission, and soon it'll all be a figment of my sometimes wild imagination.”
“I hate to think that but…my work keeps me so busy.”
“Well you get some time off don’t you?”
“Yes, some, but I could never ask you to put your whole life on hold for the few times a year I might be able to make it back to DC.” Sam replied.
“Isn't that a decision for me to make?”
“Yes, it is Jessie. But my asking that of you is selfish and I can't do it.”
“I know you can't feel my essence but you have to know how I feel about you. Its not some hero worship thing, I mean I know that some women want the white knight on the horse to come and sweep them off their feet. I probably gave up that fantasy sooner than a little girl should. It’s not just the job you do that makes you amazing, Sam. You're an amazing man and why shouldn’t I want someone like you in my life. I want you in Jack’s life.”
“I can feel pieces of you.” he said.
“But I thought…”
“It started after we made love.”
“So that was real?” Jessie asked.
“You didn’t think…”
“Not that Sam; I was well aware of that.” She smiled. “I mean those feelings. When you touch me, even something innocuous, it goes all the way to the center of my soul. You can't make something like that up or recreate it with someone else.”
“Yeah.” Sam nodded, sipping his tea. She was right and he knew it. These feelings were something he had never experienced and wanted to explore. At the same time, the pull of the light was as strong as always. Sam couldn’t be distracted in his work in the name of the light. “Can I tell you something?”
“You can tell me anything.”
“I don’t want to scare you.” he said.
“Um, after these past twelve days I don’t think anything can do that anymore. It took a lot to scare me before this. Now…I think I'm ready for almost anything.”
“I'm nearly 3000 years old.”
“Holy hell! I mean,” Jessie laughed a bit covering her mouth. “Wow Sam, you don’t look a day over 40.”
He smiled, putting his half-full teacup down on the coffee table. He turned to face her and could see the affection in her eyes. He could feel it all over her and hoped she could feel it from him too. Sam didn’t think they were going to have a happy ending but that didn’t mean he wanted Jessie to be unhappy.
“I'm almost 3000 years old and I haven’t been with a woman since I was alive…for the first time. You’re the only one, Jessie. I’m so attracted to you and it’s more than just sexual. It’s everything. But our paths are running a different course. I wish it weren't so but life as a spirit requires much sacrifice. I may have to lose you.”
“You're never going to lose me.” Jessie took both of his hands. “I don't know what's going to happen; I can't pretend to know. God, or whatever He’s called, probably does but it’s not my place to ask. All I know is that your leaving won't stop me from being in love with you. Is it going to change how you feel?”
“Absolutely not.” Sam shook his head.
He pulled her into a hug, quivering when she held onto him. When he kissed her, Sam felt dizzy and he liked that feeling. This time it wasn’t scary or strange…it felt natural. He caressed her face. There were a million things he wanted to say but didn’t know how. Was it fair to speak with his body, which seemed to communicate with hers as if they’d known each other for all of those 3000 years?
He didn’t know what to do but Jessie was smart enough to make the decision for him. She stood up from the couch, still holding on to his hand. Sam stood and followed her into the bedroom. He’d been afraid to go in there the very first time. Tonight he didn’t feel that way. Jessie closed the door and held him in her arms.
“If I don’t know when I'm going to see you again, I can't let you leave without showing you how I feel.” She said.
“He’s sound asleep. I think you might feel it if he wakes up.”
“I would.” He was already pulling the tee shirt over her head. He was almost out of words. “I love you.”
Jessie exhaled and pulled him into bed with her. She wanted to say it; it was on the tip of her tongue. It just hurt so much to know she would and then he’d be gone. The words would be reciprocated before they were apart again but right now they both knew that the actions would speak louder.
A storm rolled through on Sunday night so John borrowed Hotch’s truck to drive over to Alexandria, Virginia. He made a quick stop to have a package delivered and then pulled into a parking space at 7150 Rock Ridge Lane. The Edgemoore Apartment Homes were the height of fashionable DC living and he scanned the parking lot before he got out of the truck for her silver ragtop classic Mustang. It was there. John climbed out of the truck, stepped up on the curb, and headed for the stairs.
She had an apartment on the second floor and in a matter of minutes he was knocking on the door. It probably wasn’t the best idea to come without calling; one never knew when she had company. But he would be gone soon and he couldn’t leave without seeing her. He thought about it and knew it wasn’t possible.
When Megan opened the door, she smiled. She wore a pink bra and panty set with a matching see-through robe. It didn’t seem to matter that she was standing in the doorway and anyone could see her. Those kinds of things never mattered to Megan. If people wanted to look, they could look.
“What are you doing here?” she asked. She sounded curious, not upset.
“May I come in?” he asked.
She moved aside and John walked in. Her apartment was immaculate and nicely decorated but he wasn’t surprised. It was 2 bedrooms, three baths, with a loft. The patio doors were open and a lovely, fragrant summer breeze was in the air. Down the short hallway on the living room table he could see her sketchpad and colored pencils…she was creating something for her fashion line.
“Can I get you a drink? I have some beer.”
She went into the kitchen and grabbed a Stella Artois from the refrigerator. Going back to sit on the couch, Megan patted the seat beside her. John smiled as he sat; he couldn’t help it really. In the chair across from him a Pembroke Welsh Corgi watched his every move.
“That’s Jacqueline Onassis.” Megan said with a smile. “She's fiercely protective of me.”
“I can see it in her eyes…she’s a killer.” He replied.
“Oh my goodness, John Blackwolf made a funny. I knew you had it in you.”
“I hope I haven’t come at a bad time.” He said, changing the subject. He needed to keep things on track. John wasn’t kidding when he said it was impossible for the woman not to be a distraction. Few things ever distracted him as much as she.
“No, I was just drawing. Sunday is the day of rest…doesn’t it say that in the Bible?”
“Actually, Saturday is the Sabbath. It’s the seventh day of the week; Sunday is the first.”
“Well, I'm a heathen John. Are you so surprised I got it wrong?”
“The Boss doesn’t think you're a heathen.” He said.
“That’s good to know. The Barrens are awful; it might be nice to go someplace else when the time comes. I don’t think The Darkness and I would get along too well. So…what's up?”
“Who? Oh God, John,” she reached for his hand. “Not that little boy? Please tell me that you didn’t come here to tell me that.”
“No, no, Jack is safe. He's back home tonight with his family and hopefully we won't have to worry about him in the future. Megan, The Fox is dead.”
She was quiet for a long time. There were moments where it seemed as if she wanted to say something but didn’t know where to begin. John understood that. She’d been dealing with these feelings for 150 years, since her daughters disappeared from the fields where they played. For 104 days she had no idea what happened to them.
He was with her and knew the variety of emotions that went through her during that time. Megan never wanted to but there were times when she almost gave up. The wily bastard stayed two steps ahead of the spirits at almost ever turn. And even when they did manage to rescue Cheryl and Trish to return them to their mother’s loving arms, John had to tell her that The Fox was still out there. It was one of the hardest things he ever had to do. Being able to do this healed a little of that wound.
To his surprise, Megan started to cry. John wrapped his arms around her and held her close. She deserved to have her moment; he wouldn’t interrupt. She just cried and held onto him for a long time. She always thought when someone finally sent that bastard to hell there would be this triumph. She would throw a party, pop open bottles of Cristal, and celebrate the victory.
She didn’t feel that though. Megan wasn’t grieving, at least not for Karl Arnold. She was grieving for the lost innocence of her daughters and the daughters of so many other families. She grieved for how unsafe the world was with him in it and how there would soon be another monster to take his place. She grieved for the woman she was before any of this ever happened and what she lost after it did.
“Are you sure?” she whispered, still in his arms.
“I'm sure because I killed him.”
“John…” She pulled away from him, looking at him hard with her hazel eyes. Megan quickly wiped the tears and mess from her face.
“I only did what needed to be done.” He replied. “It could not come from a place of vengeance and believe me I had to pray hard about that. He’s dead, Megan, it had to be done.”
“I understand.” She nodded. “All that matters is that you didn’t put yourself at risk to do it.”
“I didn’t.” John shook his head.
“I want to be glad. I want to shout it from the rooftops. But I don’t feel that way.”
“How do you feel?”
“I don't know. For almost a century I've been waiting to hear this news and I don’t even know. What kind of sense does that make?”
“Just because Arnold was a monster doesn’t mean he made you one.” John replied.
“I guess you're right. Wow, it’s never really over is it? You think it will be, someday, but it never is. I don’t even think I’ll tell the girls…they don’t need to think about him.”
“That’s probably for the best. May I ask you a favor?”
“What do you need?” Megan asked.
“There's a girl, her name is Lindsay Vaughan. She was one of the so-called mercenaries who were looking after Jack when we found him. I think she can he saved, Megan; all is not lost.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“Find her and give her a chance. She’s gray, but the darkness doesn’t have to embrace her essence. She's smart and could be of good use in this world if she uses what she has to help instead of harm. I have that hope.”
“I’ll find her; I promise. Do I even know where to start?”
“All I have is her name. She knows Kate Joyner…you can start there.”
“I think I know what to do.”
“I’ll leave that to you of course.” John finished his beer and stood up. He’d come to deliver the news, he’d done that; it was time to leave now.
“Do you have to go so soon?” she asked.
“Megan, I think we both know…”
“We both know what? We both know that we’re attracted to each other. We both know that it’s my nature to use my body to my advantage. We both know that I could because you were human once and are practically powerless against me.”
“Yes, to all of those things.”
“John, I don’t want to be with you because you have no choice in the matter.” She stood too. “I've never wanted that. You confound me; sometimes anger me, because when I'm with you I want so much you to like me for me. But I will always be a Meretrix and I'm not even sure that’s possible.”
He wrapped his arms around her, kissing her passionately. Megan melted against him.
“Believe me,” he whispered. “It is.”
“Then stay. I’ll get dressed…I promise. You’ve been running for almost two weeks. Stop for the night. Have a meal, watch a movie; I’ll even let you pet my dog. Let me give you a night in. Free of charge.”
“I don’t have any money right now, even if you did want to charge me.”
“Well then it looks like you're going to have to take me up on my offer.” She replied as her whole face lit up in a smile.
“There's one thing I’d like to negotiate on.”
“Don’t get dressed.” He said.
“John Blackwolf…there's a bad boy down there somewhere. Don’t be afraid to let him out to play.”
He didn’t want to admit that watching her cook for him in her skivvies would make his day. Luckily he didn’t have to; she already knew. They both deserved a quiet night in and tonight would be just perfect.
Hotch was still on vacation and he couldn’t be happier. After the kidnapping and rescue of Jack Brooks, The Boss allowed them to finish their second week off. His fellow spirits once again scattered to the four corners of the world to enjoy some free time. Hotch was really hoping Sam would stay in the city, even if it was more to spend time with Jessie than him. He didn’t though, he went back home to finish his vacation in meditation before more missions.
Hotch did his best to hide his disappointment. He thought Sam deserved something as wonderful as he had with Emily, even if he only got to enjoy it a couple of times a year. On a cloudy Wednesday evening, Hotch wasn’t even sure how much he was going to enjoy it. Wednesday was usually Jason’s evening with Tracy.
Tonight, however, Jason decided to take Emily up on her offer to do something together as a family. So he was coming to her condo for movie night. Nathan took off work and Jordan took off from clubbing with her boyfriend to spend the evening with mom, dad, and mom’s boyfriend. Hotch had no idea how this was going to end.
“It’s Daddy!” Tracy squealed when the door buzzed at 6:30. She ran for the door, Hotch on her heels.
He knew it was Jason, could feel him, but Tracy couldn’t reach the top lock to unlock it. Nathan was in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on appetizers while Emily was in her bedroom mentally preparing for how this all might go. Hotch opened the door and smiled.
“Good evening.” He said.
“Hey Hotch.” Jordan came in wearing her usual smile. She looked comfy in a pair of jeans and a tank top. It looked as if she was sporting a new tattoo…a cobra around her arm like a bracelet.
“Good evening, Agent Hotchner.” Jason extended his hand as Hotch closed and locked the door.
“Hello, Jason; calling me Hotch is fine. Everyone does.”
“I never had the opportunity to thank you for saving my life. If not for you I would’ve never seen my family again. You put yourself at great risk and that’s commendable.”
“You don’t have to thank me. I really was just doing my job. Emily’s the one who put herself at risk; she sought me out.”
“She goes after what she wants with such tenacity.” Jason replied.
“Hi Daddy!” Tracy said, taking Jason’s attention away from his rival.
“Hello, my sweet leibling.” He picked Tracy up in his arms. “What have we got planned tonight?”
“Nathan’s cooking stuff. It smells funny.”
“It does not smell funny.” Nathan poked his head out of the kitchen. “Hello Father.”
“Hi Nath.” Jason smiled. “What are you making?”
“It’s a new recipe. Sliced steak and potatoes in a pastry puff. Max showed it to me last week…I like it. Where’s Spencer?”
“He had to work tonight. He still wants to get together this weekend for a chess tournament.”
“I've been practicing.” Nathan smiled. “Hi Jordan.”
“Jordan,” her father admonished. “Be nice.”
“I was being nice Daddy.”
Nathan threw an oven mitt at her before quickly disappearing back into the kitchen.
“Mother!” Jordan exclaimed. “Can I kill Nathan?”
“No!” Emily yelled back from her bedroom. “I’ll be right out. Hello Jason!”
“Hello Katya. I hope you're not in there dolling up. I thought this was just a movie thing.”
“Can I get you a drink, Jason?” Hotch asked.
“Where does she keep the good blood?”
“Come with me to the mini-bar.”
Jason put his baby daughter on the couch to ooh and ahh over his oldest daughter’s tattoo. Then he followed Hotch over to the bar. He watched him pour blood into one of the ancient goblets Emily managed to keep from her life long ago. Her condo was lovely; Jason knew how much having her own space meant to her. There were even times he could admit to himself that if they were still together he would’ve never given it to her. So afraid of losing her, often he held on too tight. She managed to get away anyway.
“Here you are.” Hotch handed him the blood before reaching in for a beer.
“Thanks. Tonight is going to be very awkward.”
“I wish it didn’t have to be but understand. I love Emily, plain and simple. I know that you love her too and I respect that and your role as the father of her children. You don’t have to worry about my stepping on your toes. I would like to be close to them as well but I think they’re old enough to make that decision for themselves. Emily and I would never force it on them.”
“They do like you…it’s probably why I hate you more. But I'm 1205 years old, Agent Hotchner; I'm used to a few things not going my way. Sometimes I can turn them in my favor but others; I just have to roll with the punches. This was a real knockout.”
Emily finally came out of the bedroom just as Nathan was coming out of the kitchen. She sat on the couch, kissing Jordan and admiring her new body art. Hotch got her a goblet of blood while Nathan encouraged her to try some of his appetizers when they cooled off. Soon the whole family was sitting around the room. It was awkward; no one was going to deny that. But soon Tracy was picking out which movie she wanted to watch, Nathan and Jordan were moaning about it, Emily and Hotch were laughing, and Jason was trying to be diplomatic.
They were a family, a 21st century family. You made it work when you loved someone and Hotch loved Emily. He loved her children and loved the little moments they had together in this crazy life. If all of that meant a few family nights with her ex then bring it on. Aaron Hotchner wasn’t going anywhere. It was something they would all have time to get used to.
The Tuesday before Thanksgiving was warm in the DC area. Not that it made much difference to Sam. Temperatures didn’t affect spirits one way or the other, which made traveling around the world any time of year at a moment’s notice easier. He never had to pack a jacket or a tank top. He really never had to pack.
Pulling into the driveway of a recently purchased home in Fairfax, Virginia, Sam was comfortable in jeans, a white button down shirt and a pair of Adidas. He sat on his Harley after cutting the engine and took a deep breath. Unsure how to handle all that was getting ready to happen, he prayed for strength for about the millionth time since he started this journey.
Three days ago the team got back from a mission that took them to three continents in seven weeks. They were on the trail of renegade reapers who’d stolen nine souls that didn’t belong to them. Sam had been on those missions before; they took a lot out of him. Reapers didn’t play fair, that wasn’t in their nature.
It was exhaustive and the whole team wanted to rest after they were finally able to bring the souls home. Sam was quite surprised when Nora came to his rooms and announced that The Boss wanted to see him. 3000 years without a sight and now twice in five months. Sam went without question, of course.
This time a million things went through his mind as he waited. The light was just as strong, as beautiful, as it was the first time he was in The Boss’ presence. Sam basked in it, let it engulf him. After the long journey he had it was so nice to come home to. For a moment he let his mind drift to Kate and once again wondered how anyone could give up such magnificence.
“You were successful on your last mission, Sam, and for that the light shines brighter.” The Boss said.
“We all worked very hard to retrieve those souls and bring them back where they belong.”
“I wanted to talk to you before you left but things frequently move quicker than is the plan. The case of Jack Brooks…you know of the prophecy.”
“Yes.” Sam nodded. “May I ask if he’s the Chosen One?”
“He is not, but he’s very close to her.”
“Her?” Sam was quite surprised to hear that it would be a female.
“There is another, lesser known or lesser told prophecy Sam. I want to share it with you. It is the prophecy of the two human sisters. One is pure but one is gray; she’s changed by the life she carries inside of her. Unfortunately she does not survive, but her child does and he thrives. He grows to stand side by side with his cousin in battle against the forces of darkness. She will be here soon, already conceived.”
“Jessie’s pregnant.” Sam could barely get the words out of his constricted throat. She was carrying a child and that child was the Chosen One. How was that even possible? “Does she know?”
“Yes.” The Boss nodded.
“The Chosen One was a child born of human mother and unknown father.” Sam said. “That’s according to the prophecy.”
“Jessie knows of the father; she loves him deeply and his child will love him too.”
“What am I to do?” he asked, unsure of how else to respond. Jessie loved another though she pledged her heart to him. She would have this man’s child. How was it possible for Sam to be in the presence of such glory and want to scream in agony? She slipped through his fingers without even giving him a chance to hold on.
“The time has come for you to face your destiny, Sam. It won’t be an easy choice to make. You will always have the love of the light. Your child will have that love as well.”
“My child…” Sam stopped. Words, he knew he had to form words. It had suddenly just become the most difficult thing in the world. “My child is the Chosen One?”
“She is. I've known for a long time that I would have to make a great sacrifice to help save the world. I might have to lose you, but you have given me something so great that it cannot be measured.”
“I can't leave you; I can't leave my life defending the light. One day my child will stand beside me and we will both fight in your name. I know of nothing else.”
“You can go to Earth and be with Jessie.” The Boss said. “You can live the rest of eternity by her side.”
“I can do that anyway, if she’ll have me.”
“She will have no other, Sam. I think you both knew it from the moment you laid eyes on each other.”
“I love her. I love her as much as I love you.”
“I know, son.”
“But I’ll lose her one day…she's a human being. She can't stay with me forever. I have no right to ask for or expect such. But the very idea of losing her is one that I can hardly bear.”
“The child growing inside of her gives her immortality.” The Boss replied. “It’s a gift that only the Chosen One can give her mother. It’s my gift to her…to you.”
Sam was stunned into speechlessness. How could this be happening? He and Jessie conceived a child and that child was destined to one day save the world from the darkness. It wouldn’t be an easy job; it might be impossible. Not that Sam would ever doubt The Boss’ word but The Darkness was cunning.
It had been around longer than he had and there were many willing to do his bidding. No one in their world wanted another great war. But peace was not everlasting. Soon there would come a time when battle lines were once again drawn. To know that his child would be on the front lines leading the battle made Sam feel a love and pride that was nearly sinful.
“What am I to do?” Sam asked. Yes, he’d already asked that question. He still didn’t have an answer.
“Go to her, Sam. This is a decision that only you can make; you and Jessie. Carry the light in your heart and soul and it will always steer you in the right direction.”
“I will.” Sam nodded, standing. His knees were weak and he gripped the table in front of him to steady himself. For 3000 years he lived his life one way; was sure in it and of it. In 10 minutes all of that changed. Actually it changed the moment he heard Jessie’s prayer in the garage. Somewhere deep down he knew that the mission wasn’t going to be like any other. Sam couldn’t have imagined in his wildest dreams that it would come to this.
He now stood on the porch with his hand on the door knocker. Sam knew what he had to do but couldn’t make himself do it. He had no idea why really when all that had been on his mind since he left DC over five months ago was seeing her again. That was before he knew everything that he knew.
None of it made his desire to be with her less intense but it changed things just the same. His father left to battle the Romans when he was just a little boy and never returned. He felt that emptiness all the days of his life until he died in battle as well. Did he want to assign his child the same fate? The truth was that whatever her fate was, there was little he could do to tamper with it.
He turned when he heard his name, quite surprised to see Jessie and Jack standing behind him. Sam gasped when he saw her expanding belly.
“Hey there.” he smiled.
“Hi Sam!” Jack ran into his arms and Sam scooped him up and held him close. “I told Aunt Jessie you were coming home. Didn’t I tell you Aunt Jessie?”
“You told me.” she smiled, walking up the three steps to join them on the porch. Jessie kissed his cheek before opening the front door. The three of them walked into the house. “We were just taking our afternoon walk.”
“It’s good for our hearts.” Jack added as Sam put him down. “We take one everyday so we can be healthy. Aunt Jessie does it for the baby…she’s having a baby Sam.”
“It certainly looks that way.” Sam replied, smiling.
“Jack, you wanna go in the den and watch some TV?”
“OK. Will you stay with us, Sam?” he asked.
“I'm not sure yet buddy but I would never go without saying goodbye.”
Jack accepted that answer with a grin and then ran out of the room. It only took a few seconds before Sam had Jessie in his arms. Holding her again was so blissful; she was never out of his thoughts. He still battled, prayed, and fulfilled all of his duties as a spirit. He did it with the same joy he always had. Jessie was still never far from his thoughts.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” he whispered.
“I knew you were coming home. I thought you already knew.”
“I can't believe this.”
“Believe it.” she smiled and kissed him. “I know you have some tough choices to make. I won't try to influence you either way.”
“Jessie, ask me to stay. Ask me to stay and I will never leave your side.”
“I can't be selfish.” She replied. “Well, I want to be selfish but I won't be. The knowledge that you love me as much as I love you, even when you're not here, makes me happy. Look what our love created.”
“I’ll come home as much as I can to be with you.”
“I know. And I’ll be very happy when you do. It’s not as if I don’t have plenty to keep me busy. I'm writing a novel.”
“What's it about?” Sam kissed her again.
“It’s a love story, with a twist.”
“A good twist I hope.”
“Yes, it’s definitely a good twist. How long can you stay?” she asked.
“I’ll stay for the holidays and then I have to go again. Are you sure we can do this?”
“We can try…no one says we’re not allowed to change our minds. But you can't give up the light, Sam. I know you can teach our daughter and Jack about it because you’ve had it in you for 3000 years. But they will lead by example, not by stories told around the campfire.” She took his hands and put them on her belly. “We both have so many things to teach her. And I'm positive she has much to teach us.”
“I've got to know how you’re so calm about all of this.” Sam said. “You’ve been calm since the day we met.”
“I've always believed in fate. This is my fate and I'm ready to live it. There are things ahead that might be very scary but I know that you'll be by my side and we’ll be doing them together. I don’t have time to be scared…I'm a very busy woman.”
“You're an amazing woman is what you are. C'mon, you need to put your feet up. I’ll be here a few days and I'm gonna do all the hard work.”
Sam would get no argument out of her. Jessie knew there were tough times ahead. Being separated a lot, especially after the baby came, would be hard for her. But she knew that something greater than the both of them was looking out for her, her baby, and her nephew. She knew the sacrifices she made today would make for a better tomorrow. Jessie also knew that she would be around to see that tomorrow.
All the days of her life to love Sam and share the light with him…it would be worth all of it. They all had to make sacrifices for what was to come. She even had a new family in Emily, her children, Megan, Morgan, and Penelope. She wasn’t alone and would never feel it even when the time and distance between she and Sam was nearly immeasurable. Because, in reality, they hadn't been apart since the day they first met and nothing was going to change that. It was a love story, plain and simple, with a twist.