His first thought wasn’t really a thought at all. At best, it was a punctuation.
Reid slowly, quietly moved. Gun in hand. Ears listening. Methodical sweep of the entire apartment, avoiding his couch.
Nothing. No windows open. No disturbed floor boards, displaced vents, damaged ceilings. He checked the bathroom as well. Nothing. Satisfied that there was no earthly way anyone was either in his house still or had forced their way in, he put his weapon away and retrieved his phone. Standing in his living room, he dialed. Waited. The line clicked on and Langly didn’t even get a chance to answer.
“Why is there a cat in my living room?” Reid asked, staring down at the rather handsome grey tabby that had woken up while he was checking the place and now slowly blinked large golden eyes up at him, paws tucked primly in.
“It wasn’t me.”
“I didn’t say it was.”
Reid looked a little wide eyed, sitting in the chair. The cat curled up in his lap, purring. Langly could hear it from where he’d walked back in with a cup of coffee in each hand.
“No, but you did call me when you found it. That would point to at least a fleeting suspicion.” The cat looked reasonably sized, draped down the length of Reid’s lap. Langly suspected that meant this cat was unusually large.
“Every other surprise addition to my household thus far has been your doing,” Reid admitted. Neither of them mentioned the way Reid’s fingers had slid into the cat’s fur and was rhythmically kneading its scruff.
“Well yeah, but I know better than to dump a live animal on someone. Especially someone who’s gone a lot and doesn’t even have anything to keep it with. Has it shit anywhere yet?” Langly reached out to cautiously rub between its ears.
“No,” Reid said, eyes widening.
“Don’t worry. Set up a kitty shitty in the bathroom. Seems house-broken,” Langly said, bending over to hand Reid a cup and a kiss.
“I’m more concerned at how it got in here. Nothing was open or disturbed when I checked. There shouldn’t be any points of entry for it.”
“Maybe it teleports?”
The cat refused to be moved. Reid took it to the vet, where it was pronounced male, intact, healthy, and unowned. He left it with the shelter. Three days later he returned home to find it curled up in the leather chair. Attempt number two at removing him resulted in one fuzzy uninvited houseguest reclaiming a spot on Reid’s couch within a day and a half. At that point, Reid gave up. It appeared that Gilbert was there to stay.
“Gilbert?” Langly asked, scooping food into his mouth.
“It was a historically popular name for cats,” Reid said. “Gib ended up being slang for a cat.”
“Guess it’s better than Tiddles.” Langly begrudged. “Hey, no, my food, out!”
He shoved Gilbert with the back of one hand, but Gilbert refused to be moved until he grabbed a chicken drumstick and vanished into the kitchen with it.
“I’ll have to find the bones later…” Reid said with a faint frown.
“Is he at least shitting where he should?” Langly asked, making a displeased face at his raided dinner.
“ah… yes and no.”
“Yes and no?” Langly blinked.
“He’s using the toilet.” Reid said. A short sharp bark of laughter tripped out of Langly.
“You’re kidding me. The people toilet?”
“Yes. And before you can ask, no, I didn’t teach him that.” Reid shrugged. “I seem to have been adopted by an unusual cat.”
“It comes and goes and you still don’t know how, it eats weird shit, and it uses the toilet.” Langly squinted at the door frame to the kitchen and then leaned over to murmur to Reid. “Are you sure that’s actually a cat?”
“…What else would it be?” Reid asked.
“Some kind of cryptid? I don’t know. But that’s not a normal cat. It’s abnormal, and I should know.” Reid smiled a little to himself.
“Seeing yourself in Gilbert?”
“I just don’t trust the little fucker.” Langley said.
“And yet, you let him sleep on you.”
“I said I don’t trust the little fucker. Doesn’t mean I don’t like him.” Langly said. “I feel that way about a lot of people."
Things were fine. Reid had invested in a cat feeder, resigned himself to finding cat poo in the toilet and enjoyed the unobtrusive if unpredictable company when doing grading. Then he had to go out of town and needed to figure out what to do with Gilbert. Perhaps a cattery? But prohibitively expensive, especially at short notice. Garcia noticed his blank look.
“You doing ok there Reid? You look like your login just stopped working.”
“I need to figure out what to do with my cat,” he admitted. Garcia froze and then rounded on him, eyes wide.
“Cat? You have a cat? Since when?” she demanded.
“Gilbert is a recent… acquisition. The arrangement was his decision.”
“His? Did Frank get you a cat?” Garcia asked, voice flat and eyebrows high.
“No! Frank did not get me a cat. The cat got me himself.”
“No kidding,” Garcia said, mouth curling up in a smile. “That’s what cats do, Reid, they just arrive and declare themselves sovereigns, as all cats should. Oh!”
“Oh?” Reid didn’t trust the bright eyed smile.
Garcia called him while he was flicking through scribbled hand notes from the unsub, only for her to suddenly drop her headset. A few moments of background noise later and she was wrestling her headset back on, lap full.
“Reid somehow your cat followed me to work. I am SO sure he wasn’t in my car when I left. He was on the bed. Asleep!”
On the second day, he received a text from Langly.
Your weird cryptid cat is here. Take it back.
I’ll be home tomorrow.
Apart from that spate of weirdness, Gilbert and Reid seemed to settle into life together. Sure, sometimes Gilbert vanished and Reid couldn’t find him, but he always met him at the door, and was always prompt if picky about food. He found that if he fed him prior to leaving for any length of time, Gilbert tended to remain where he was supposed to, which did give him time to continue visiting Langly and Chaz. A month later, Chaz showed up at his door with Reid’s boyfriend and takeout.
“So where’s this cat of yours anyway?” Chaz asked, putting things down on the kitchen table.
“On the desk,” Reid said. Chaz looked up and then froze, before dumping everything in his hands and straightening up to point accusingly at Gilbert, who looked as smug as it is possible for a cat to look. To whit, VERY smug.
“THAT CAT!” Chaz seemed to be trembling slightly. “I know that cat! It is an ASSHOLE and it is not normal! I’m convinced that thing is a beta at the very least!”
“Fucking thank you,” Langly groused. “I’ve been maintaining that thing’s a cryptid.”
“Gilbert is a cat,” Reid sighed.
It took a bit of work to convince Chaz and Langly to leave off the Anomeowly long enough to eat, and even then it didn’t entirely work as Chaz kept eyeing Gilbert suspiciously.
“Is there any precedent for the Anomaly presenting in animals?” Reid asked, curious against his better judgement.
“Not yet, but it’s not like we’re equipped to check. Most serial killers are humans, and man-killing animals are shot.”
“How would we even know? Other than your cat being weird as fuck. Do we put him in a box and wait for him to vanish?” Langly suggested. “I’d say the fact that he showed up at my house and the bureau is a pretty good indicator.”
Chaz put aside the food he’d been shovelling into his mouth and leaned forward, elbows on knees and staring at Gilbert. Gilbert blinked slowly back at him.
“I’ve got an idea.”
Fifteen minutes later, Chaz had discovered the first person the mirror appeared to be utterly ineffective against. It seemed that the most he was getting out of the cat which was now purring in his lap was a blank fog that tasted suspiciously like amusement. Langly watched him from where he was slurping down jolt.
“I think I’ve figured out Reid’s power.” He muttered. “He just attracts gammas. You, me, the cat.”
“Whole team of us down the hall.” Chaz said distractedly before sighing. “I quit for now. This is going to give me a headache.”
Things resettled, with Gilbert the Schrödinger’s Anomaly continuing to be a nuisance, eating things he shouldn’t and being places he shouldn’t, Chaz waging silent war to either confirm or deny the Anomaly branching out from humans, Langly coming to grips with his newfound condition and Reid coming to grips with Langly sprawled over him, yowling as Chaz jack-rabbited him into Reid.
That had been one, two –buckle my shoe- Reid’s brain substituted, before Langly jolted and writhed, howling as his hips jumped and Chaz… Chaz had his teeth in Langly’s neck. Not bleeding, though definitely bruising, Langly sobbing as he kneaded his hands fitfully on Reid’s shoulders. A mental image flashed there and gone swifter than Reid could really catch it, unsure if it was coming from him or Chaz before they all collapsed in a sweaty smelly pile, Langly’s hair a tangled hydra up the pillow.
“Ok Villette, not that I didn’t appreciate the hell out of it, but what the fuck was that?” Langly panted, flexing his shoulders and neck slightly to feel out the dimensions of the rapidly bruising bite mark.
“Sorry,” Chaz mumbled into his nape. “Didn’t mean to bite so hard. Just did.” Chaz rubbed his face back and forth over the abused skin, a sensation of supreme comfort ebbing and flowing from him to Reid and back again around the hacker in their arms. Reid pressed his lips to Langly’s enjoying the sensation until Langly suddenly stiffened in his arms. Reid pulled back in concern.
“Are you… licking me?” Langly asked, nostrils flaring. Reid met Chaz’s wide startled eyes over Langly’s ear, where Chaz had indeed frozen mid-laving the bruise with his tongue. The plip of the gamma’s tongue darting back into his mouth was audible in the dead silence. At Langly’s offended face, Reid had the strangest urge to rub his cheekbone against Langly’s. He was pretty sure that wasn’t his. He was also pretty sure that wasn’t Chaz.
“Oh no. This stops right now. You’re channeling Gilbert.”
“Kinky,” Langly managed, still looking like a dreadfully offended cat, and that was an image Reid could without right now.
“…. I refuse to have sex with your cat as a third party. Fourth party? Still. Refuse.” Chaz grumbled, raking his fingers through his hair.
“Glad we agree on that.” Reid said, still blinking owlishly.
Thankfully the bleed through stopped at unusual displays of affection and Reid developing a sixth sense for what Gilbert wanted at any given point. Which seemed to primarily be companionship. Gilbert was lonely. It was a somewhat poignant realisation at first. But that was swiftly overtaken by the dawning realisation that Gilbert was realising he didn’t have to be.
Reid simply refused to explain Gilbert’s presence at the BAU. Some days he was there, some days he wasn’t, and half the building assumed that the BAU in general simply had an office cat now as Gilbert proceeded to charm the laps and lunches of all present. The other half assumed Reid was beginning metamorphosis into the next stage of freaky genius, complete with familiar.
Down the hall was another story.
“Explain.” Duke gestured to the cat currently sprawled inside his desk drawer, looking very comfortable amongst the rest of the clutter. Gilbert chirruped and rolled over a little further, eyeing them upside down through slits for eyes.
“Cats like small spaces.” Chaz said, before sucking his teeth furiously in an attempt to not laugh.
“I’m aware of that. But that is not a normal cat, as that was a locked drawer until I opened it and found him in there.” Duke informed Chaz. He made an unconvincing show of innocence.
“Ok, yes, I’m pretty sure that cat has the bug. I’m keeping an eye on it, but it’s hard to judge since he’s a cat.”
“The cat’s a beta?” Brady asked, eyes wide.
“Pretty sure it’s a gamma.” Chaz admitted. Brady’s nostrils flared a little, just as Gilbert hopped out of the drawer and stretched on Duke’s desk. Eye contact was made.
“Don’t you dare.”
Forty-five minutes later, Brady had decided that he was going to work from home tomorrow, because having Gilbert sitting on his desk just staring at him was beginning to freak him the hell out. His insistence that a gamma cat would be invariable evil was not entirely helped by the photo Chaz texted everyone.
“Looks like Frost has a new work-buddy!” read the text, above which was a picture of Frost holding a supremely happy looking Gilbert with what appeared to be a mauled small animal of some description on the table behind her. Langly blinked and flicked his fingers.
“Isn’t that the very scary lady who declared us dead?”
“Yes. It appears Gilbert has more of a social life than I do.”
“That a problem Special Agent Sexy?”
“No, he can definitely keep Frost’s friendship.” Reid admitted. “She unnerves me.”
Things began to settle again. Gilbert met most of the teams. Accepted most of the teams. Developed an affection for Duke that invited speculation on Gilbert being the return of a very singular cat he had met in Cambodia. Spent his spare time freaking out Brady while accumulating an otherwise inadvisable amount of treats from Lau. Deciding he very much did not appreciate Hafs’ presence. That one had engendered a great deal of sulking from Hafs and bewilderment from all and sundry. Bringing small dead things to Frost like a proud suitor. And then he brought a human hand.
The humans were being slow.
Gilbert swished his tail, watching them. Nice... Frost was it? Frost was usually pretty quick for a human. But she wasn’t doing the THING. She took the dead parts and found out who and why. But she had the part and she wasn’t doing anything. Instead the other members of his colony were there smelling like unease and anxiety. They were clustered around the flat screen and looking at the pictures on it, talking.
“Prints match Nina Sayers. 28. Ballerina. Prodigy, shot up the ranks very early. Her mother dropped out of the profession when she realised she was pregnant with Nina. She’s estranged from her family, and it seems she didn’t get on well with a number of her coworkers. I quote ‘she always made you feel inferior, even when she didn’t say anything’. She wasn’t reported missing until last weekend, but all activity on her phone stopped a week prior, and she’s missed a rent payment with no use of power or water at her apartment during that time. Decomposition on the hand isn’t quite equal to that, but it was mostly frozen when your cat brought it in.”
Yes yes, the queen was alone with no colony, he could have told them that if any of them were able to listen. But that wasn’t the point. She was like him. Like some of them. Like the noisy blonde and the too-clever one who tried to dominate him a few times. Someone was hunting those like him. And he wouldn’t stand for the threat to his colony.
Reid blinked at the funny sound Gilbert made. It was a miao crossed with a chirp that sounded like... what was the word for it... Chirring. That was it. Gilbert was chirring. Usually used by mother cats to reassure kittens, or friendly cats eliciting the approach of another cat or a human. But this one sounded like Gilbert had his mouth full.
He leaned around his desk in time to see Gilbert trot out of the bathroom, tail held high and a bundle of striped orange fur in his mouth.
“Absolutely not.” he informed Gilbert, before the contrary feline hopped onto his desk, right on top of his papers. He plopped the kitten down between them, one paw draped over its nape possessively, and gave Reid a kitty smile, eyes half mast and whiskers pushed forwards. Absolutely yes.
The kitten was rather unimaginatively named Tom, and was promptly taken to the vet for vaccinations and fixing. The vet raised an eyebrow at Reid. Reid looked long suffering. “Gilbert brought him in.”
“Your unfixed tom?”
“Not unheard of, you’d be surprised the number of male cats, including intact toms, that have a real paternal instinct going on. Do you know where he found?”
“No idea.” Reid’s mouth was a thin line of amused disapproval. “He’s not supposed to be able to leave the house.”
The little one, now called Tom, was safe. That was good. He was one of his kittens. He should be with the colony. There was still the problem of the humans not finding the danger though. The missing one’s ‘case’ was being ‘worked on’. From what he could tell, it involved a good deal of looking at screens, and going places to talk to other humans. If her own colony didn’t even notice or care that she’d been dead for a week, Gilbert didn’t see how they’d be much help. He’d need to do some more work himself, like teaching kittens to hunt. You had to bring them a few examples first to show them what they were looking for. But he’d need to find someone to leave Tom with, since he had to leave home for this and his first choices were a bit busy. Noisy Blond it was.
“SHIT!” Langly lunged for Tom, seizing the kitten around the middle who made an incredibly high pitched squealing sound of pure rage at being denied delicious caffienated energy drink that was absolutely not safe for feline consumption. “How much of that did you drink?” He held the squirming kitten in one hand and tried tilting the can to see if he could spot a difference.
“I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to be drinking that shit!” he told the much put out cat who was attempting to squirm his way out of his oppressor’s grasp. Escaping imprisonment, Tom went haring out the door, tail puffed up. “If you shit somewhere make sure it’s Frohike!” Langly yelled after him.
“Reid. Come to my office. As soon as you are able.”
The voice message ended and Reid glanced up at Chaz across the box of donuts Chaz was devouring.
“Why does that fill me with an uncommon level of dread?” Reid asked. Chaz blinked and swallowed.
“Because she deals with dead people, not us living mortals?”
“Gilbert has brought in another hand, belonging to another missing person. This time the prints indicate someone who was also reported missing, this time a month ago.”
“Is anybody else really creeped out by the fact that the weird possibly gamma cat is bringing us severed human hands?” Brady asked, looking a little twitchy.
“Yes. Mostly because I want to know where he’s getting them. None of these are hands that were removed by a cat.” Chaz said, waving his hand at them.
“We’re looking at a serial killer, at least two victims. Both of whom were disliked by their peer groups, unlikely to be missed much, who also removes their left hands.”
Too slow. Time for another. Gilbert waited. Slipped in. Took. Left.
“Any links between them thus far?” Langly asked. “Because Gilbert’s a cute little shit and I’d like to think he’s a whistle blower rather than an accomplice.”
“We’ll need something,” Reid said, frowning into thin air as he kneaded Gilbert’s scruff, Tom asleep in the dip between his thighs and snugged under Gilbert. “My possible cryptid cat brought us the severed hands of the defendant’s victims isn’t exactly admissible evidence.”
“Sure it is,” Chaz argued from the kitchen where he was doing something delicious and unspeakable to various vegetables. “We just need to find another plausible source for the information.”
“Slippery slope!” Reid responded.
“Hard stop,” Langly countered, swiping his thumb across his finger. “All three were looking like budding psychos though.”
A collective wince in the room.
“Sorry. Exhibiting concerning antisocial behaviours, according to mental health records. You’d think a place that digs into people’s deep seated issues would have better security, for legal reasons if nothing else.”
“Wait a moment.” Reid held up one finger, expression distant. From the kitchen came the sounds of Chaz putting down what he was holding to look back into the living room. Langly paused his typing to watch. Even Gilbert perked up a little, ears forward and eyes open. The only oblivious soul in the room was Tom, who signed and turned over in his sleep.
“You found their records at the same location?”
“Yeah, were all seeing the same psych.”
“Do we have any information on the psych?”
“You think he’s responsible?” Langly asked, looking for whatever he could find.
“You think there’s something related to the anomaly.” Chaz said slowly, eyes trained on Reid.
“If we work on the assumption that Gilbert is anomalous, why would a house cat start dropping kittens that survive and thrive on eating chocolate and drinking Jolt on us at the same time as bringing us the severed left hands of potential murder victims with unstable psychiatric profiles and severely low BMIs?” Reid asked the room and himself.
“You think our unsub is hunting gammas...” Chaz’s voice was grim, and no contradictions were voiced.