Derek spots Spencer outside the cafe, sitting at one of the small round tables with a coffee and reading the local newspaper. He looks at peace in a way that is rare for the younger man, and Derek takes a moment to appreciate the sight before he walks over.
“Hey, we got - “
“Don’t,” Spencer cuts in mildly without looking up from the newspaper. Derek looks down at the chair he’s halfway to sitting on and rolls his eyes, but dutifully drags another over from a neighbouring table.
“I don’t see why ghosts need chairs, you know. They can just float.”
“They don’t float, Derek, and I know you know that because I’ve told you about fifty times.” Spencer finally puts the newspaper down, his eyes flicking to the other chair before focusing on Derek. “And she’s knitting. Have you ever tried knitting standing up?”
Derek grins. “Have you tried knitting?”
Spencer flushes, and Derek’s grin grows wider. “I tried a lot of hobbies growing up.”
Knowing exactly why Spencer had tried so hard to keep busy in his youth, Derek sobers. “Right.” He clears this throat. “We’ve got another one.”
“Head torn off?”
“And nowhere to be found, just like the other three.”
Spencer sighs. “Damn.”
“Yeah.” Derek’s a tactile person, by nature, and it’s instinctual to nudge Spencer’s leg with his own as a show of solitude, but he suppresses the urge. Hotch is still the only one Spencer accepts physical contact from. Derek’s not sure why, but he suspects it’s due to something that happened when they met. “There’s a bright side, though. We’ve got enough sites to find the point of origin, hopefully. Looks like it’s coming from the woods outside of town.”
“Of course it is.” Spencer downs the remains of his coffee in two swallows. “Family meeting time?”
Derek nods. “Family meeting time.”
They stand to leave and Spencer looks once more at the supposedly empty chair. Curious, Derek asks “what’s she knitting?”
“A sweater,” Spencer replies. His smile is somewhat sad. “It’s for her son.”
They lucked out enough this time that they don’t need to rent a group of shitty motel rooms - Garcia located a rundown, abandoned two story house on the edge of town that they’ve temporarily claimed as base of operations. They gather in the lounge room, spread out over the musty lounge, the moth eaten love seats and a chair dragged in from the kitchen.
“It’s definitely a Ranolleth,” Emily confirms. “I just don’t understand why it’s killing so quickly. They’re supposed to last six months on one meal.”
“Someone must be controlling it,” JJ says. “Unleashing it on whoever they want.”
“They think they’re controlling it,” Rossi points out. “As soon as it gets bored going where it’s told it’s going to turn on its master.” He frowns. “And then who knows.”
“We’re not going to let it get that far,” Hotch announces. “We know where they’re summoning it from now. The next time they try, we’ll be waiting.” He nods. “Let’s go.”
It’s three days and nights of stakeout before the summoner comes back, thirty minutes before midnight. He’s a small, skinny man, pale and with bloodshot, twitching eyes. None of this is a surprise. The rare times that the monsters they come across are being directed by a human, the human in question is not generally someone who can fight their own battles. Or is entirely stable.
It hadn’t been hard to find the clearing where the summoning happens. The ground is bare and charred in a four foot diameter circle, and the scent of sulphur lingers in the air.
Rossi and Emily had sent ahead the warning that the man was on his way, and the rest of the team is spread out around the clearing. He stops just on the edge of the circle and pulls from his knapsack a large leather book. That’s the signal for them to move in.
He freezes, book in hand, as four beams of light suddenly burst out of the trees and train themselves on him.
“Put it down,” Hotch advises, gun held steady with the flashlight in his hand.
“What the hell?” the man hisses, squinting in the sudden light. His head whips around, taking stock of the four people bearing down on him from all directions. “Who the hell are you?”
“We’re here to stop you,” Derek says. The man sneers.
“Stop me? From what? A little light reading?”
“I wouldn’t consider Trans Fenestram light reading,” Spencer says from his side, and of course he recognises the book. “We know what you’re doing. You need to stop.”
“Stop?” the man laughs, spittle flying from his teeth. “I’m just getting started, pal. And you’re sure as hell not able to stop me.”
“There’s four guns aimed right at you, pal,” JJ snaps, “how fast can you read?”
He turns in her direction and smiles. His eyes are wide and wild. “I’m not some amateur anymore, sweetheart. No reading needed.” His hand opens on the book and it falls to the ground. With a snarled “veni” he jumps back away from the circle just as it lights up in flames.
The team as one fall back. “Derek, Spencer, the Ranolleth!” Hotch shouts, and he and JJ chase after the fleeing summoner.
They turn to the beast lurking in the center of the burnt out circle. It’s a large, hulking thing, bigger than a wolf and covered in short orange fur. Its mashed face snarls at them and it bends slightly. It’s tense. Ready to pounce.
Ranolleths don’t go down with normal bullets. Their hide is too thick for them to penetrate enough to do any real damage. They’d been hoping they would be able to put an end to the summoning before that became an issue.
But there’s always a backup plan.
Derek pulls a long dagger out of his belt and widens his stance. The Ranolleth looks between him and Spencer, but Derek knows who it’s going to choose.
Sure enough, the demon charges him, bounding forward with long, powerful strides. Derek holds his position, tightening his grip on the dagger. It lunges and he drops, catching its underbelly with the tip of the blade and pushing forward hard.
The Ranolleth wails, like nails on a chalkboard, and Derek falls to the ground, the writhing monster pinning him, but he makes another swift jab with the dagger and pushes it in deeper. Warm blood spills onto Derek’s chest and stomach and he grimaces but doesn’t try to move or remove the dagger. Slowly, its struggling weakens to twitching.
Derek uses both hands to try and push the beast off but it’s not until Spencer’s helping that he manages shove it to the ground next to him. It’s twitching still, but it’s no longer making sound. Ranolleth’s hearts are where a wolf’s stomach would be. This one’s not getting back up.
Derek looks from the dying demon to Spencer standing over him. The younger man’s hand twitches forward, as if gesturing to help him up, but he draws his hand back to his body quickly. “You okay?” he asks instead.
“Yeah,” breathes Derek. He pushes himself to his feet. “Yeah, I’m good.” He grimaces as he looks down at himself. “Could do with a shower.”
Spencer nods seriously in agreement, the little shit, and Derek raises an eyebrow. “I swear to god man, one of these days it’s gonna be you covered in demon guts.”
“Based on the past fourteen months I’d say the statistics aren’t on your side.”
“Yeah, you say statistics, I say freaking magic.” Derek points at Spencer accusingly. “Not once. Not once have they ever attacked you. That Ulgrig in Dallas? Thing was inches from you and turned to go after Hotch. I want to know what good luck charm you’re using.”
Spencer’s smile ticks down, just slightly. “Believe me, so do I.”
Derek wants to put his arm around Spencer, jostle him a little to get the mirth back on his face, but again, he holds back. “Let’s burn this thing, huh? I am completely done with this place.”
Spencer nods, pulling out a box of matches. “Care to do the honours?”
“What, after I did the whole killing part? You don’t want to contribute here a little, Wonder Boy?”
“Calm down, I was just offering,” Spencer’s rolling his eyes but Derek cheers internally. There’s that smile he’s grown to love.