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Death Is Not the Last Unknown

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LONDON, UK

“I told you it was a waste of time to call the Americans,” an absurdly tall man—in a greatcoat better suited to a black-and-white film than a crime scene—is saying, his put-upon tone suggesting he’s had this conversation before. His conversation partner, insomuch as the term applies, wears an equally exasperated expression; the badge visible at his hip pins him as none other than DI Greg Lestrade.

Sighing, he shakes his head. “All of the victims are American,” he explains patiently, like someone beating his head against a wall.

“Ridiculous.” The man in the coat is as fair-skinned as he is dark-haired, and he’d be handsome were it not for the disdainful sneer on his face. “It’s like saying Bolivian fruit can only be eaten by Bolivians.”

“Actually, that’s not entirely accurate,” Dr Spencer Reid interrupts, deliberately oblivious to the tonal undercurrents though he’s as bemused as the rest of the team. “There is no law against eating fruit, for one, Bolivian or otherwise.”

He spares Reid the barest glance (as the DI winces), grey eyes cool. “No wonder you people never get anything done if you’re always so sentimental,” he sniffs, then turns on his heel in a whirl of black wool and ducks under the crime scene tape. “Coming, John?” he calls over his shoulder, and then he’s through the door and up the stairs.

A shorter man, who has until now gone unnoticed, spreads his hands with an apologetic look. Where his companion dresses like a model, he’s much less conspicuous in a cable jumper and khakis, for all that he looks a bit as though all his good clothes were burnt in a fire and he was left in the things he normally wore to crawl about the attic.

“He gets like that sometimes,” he tells them like it’s sufficient explanation, with an ease that suggests he makes apologies for the other man with some regularity. Then he, too, is ducking under the crime scene tape and into the house—if his haircut screamed military, his bearing paints it on a billboard.

With an eye roll that may or may not have been reflexive, the DI turns to face them fully. “I’m sorry about that,” he offers, extending his hand. “Hotch, it’s good to see you again. Thank you for coming.”

Unable to conjure up a polite response to the former that does not involve the phrase “who the hell was that?”, Supervisory Special Agent Aaron Hotchner accepts his old friend’s proffered hand with a nod and moves right to the latter. “Our pleasure; it’s too bad it’s not under better circumstances,” he answers, then gestures behind him. “My team,” he says, introducing the agents in turn.

Lestrade nods at each of their names, then pauses. “Sally Donovan, my sergeant,” he says finally, indicating the petite woman directing a handful of officers around the scene, “you’ll meet the forensic lead, Anderson, inside; the arrogant arse is Sherlock Holmes, a consultant; and his polite friend is John Watson.”

“Consultant?” David Rossi’s tone is carefully even, but the polite scepticism lurks underneath. Lestrade doesn’t bother acknowledging it—he’s used to it by now.

“Yeah. He’s brilliant, but sometimes more trouble than he’s worth.” Tipping his head in the direction of the house, he says, “You already know the details; come in and have a look.” He starts moving, then glances over his shoulder. “Just don’t take the insults seriously. I’d take it as a kindness if you didn’t shoot him.”

----------

NEW SCOTLAND YARD
LONDON, UK

Two days later, Sherlock Holmes is finally out of the room, running off on a lead of his own and leaving the BAU alone in a conference room with the NSY. Emily Prentiss is the first to speak, propping an elbow on the slightly worn-looking oak table and dropping her chin into her hand, which sends her dark hair swinging in front of her cheek. With a speculative look at Reid, she says, “There’s a passing resemblance, you have to admit.”

They’ve one body more than they had when the BAU arrived—another American with stab wounds in the shape of an “X” across her back, this one dumped in the Thames—and between Sherlock and the jet lag the Americans haven’t had time to catch up with, everyone’s got at least one reason to feel a little worn around the edges, looking for an excuse to think about something that isn’t murder. The Reid-Sherlock paradigm is the perfect solution.

“Plus a tangent or two,” Jennifer Jareau adds, somehow managing to maintain a perfectly straight face (working with the press might actually have its benefits). “And a handful of words over four syllables.”

“There is not!” Reid’s protest is indignant, injured, and perhaps just a touch serious as he looks up (he’s not about to deny the consulting detective’s brilliance, but he’s also pretty sure the Bureau would have him out the door in seconds flat if he himself took up the same attitude). All of this is ignored in good humour by the rest of the team, now comprised of both the BAU and the New Scotland Yard detectives, who have become rather more embedded in their unit than initially anticipated.

“There is, rather—or would be if you were a complete prat.” Lestrade says it the way he would any sort of backwards compliment, and then he pauses, corners of dark eyes crinkling with a smile that avoids his lips. “Or if he were less of one, either way.” The ridiculous part is that Reid finds himself complimented. Apparently England does not agree with him. Them. Someone.

Across from her boss, the curly-haired sergeant tries to suppress a distinctly unladylike snort. She’s only marginally successful. “He’s a bit of a freak,” Donovan says drily.

Lestrade turns a laugh into a cough, and Anderson, the forensics specialist, snaps around to look at her so quickly it’s a wonder he doesn’t give himself whiplash. One might assume Donovan’s being unusually generous.

“You’re… as much of a genius,” she continues, matter-of-fact and deliberately ignoring her colleagues, “just not mental enough to be as much of a freak.”

There, again, comes that implication of a backwards compliment, complete with the universally recognised looping hand gesture at her temple; Reid wonders if it’s a habit of the English or simply the result of exposure to Sherlock Holmes.

“Thank you, I think,” he says at last, and behind him, Derek Morgan stops in the midst of his pacing to raise both eyebrows over the open folder in his hands, sceptically comical enough to set anyone not already smirking into their hands into doing so.

“Dude, the two of you could be related.”

“You might actually have an evil twin.” Even Rossi’s adopted this backwards compliment tone, and Reid decides that no, it’s not just England or Sherlock Holmes, it’s the combination of both.

Lestrade releases a sigh—the sort of put-upon, long-suffering, heaven-help-me sigh one heaves in the midst of a siege—and shakes his head. “If it were true I wouldn’t know whether to tell you to take Sherlock or let us keep Doctor Reid.”

Before anyone can justify that with a response (even though Reid’s mouth is already open, to say what exactly he’s not certain) the laptop at the centre of the table chimes a greeting, and Penelope Garcia appears on the screen, all cheerful blonde genius extravagance. “Hello, my lovelies, behold the awesomeness of my magical powers.”

Donovan raises a single dark brow in surprise, an expression that turns rapidly into sheepish bemusement when she catches Morgan’s knowing grin flash bright against his skin. “What do you got, gorgeous?” he asks like he usually does, grinning wider at Donovan and Lestrade’s brief moment of startled surprise.

“Nothing.”

There’s a pause. “What do you mean, Garcia?” Hotch asks finally.

“I mean nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. I’m sure Emily can throw in a few foreign languages for me.” She sounds unduly cheerful, given the news.

“Okaaaaaaay.” Morgan drags the word out while he thinks. “So how is this good news?”

Her smile would be audible even if they couldn’t see it. “They did not book through the same travel agency, they were not staying at the same hotel, they had no common acquaintances—in London or otherwise—they were not attending the same conference—not that there was one to attend—and so on and so forth. Three of the four did attend the same British literature course at Boston University about three years apart with the same professor, but there were no other students in common, and since that professor has been Stateside for all four murders and hasn’t made any calls to the UK, I’m not counting that.” Before Rossi can request the files anyway, she shoots him a knowing look and adds, “But his information is already on your phones anyway.”

“I hear a ‘but’ at the end of that sentence,” Prentiss says, not at all hopefully.

“Indeed there is, my multilingual friend. Each of the victims paid a visit to the Literary History exhibit at the British Museum about two days before their bodies were found. Something to do with Beowulf.”

Hotch and Prentiss wear matching wistful looks for just a moment before the professionalism snaps back into place. It doesn’t take a profiler to guess that if there’s time between the end of the case and their flight out, the two of them will be spending it lost in a museum.

“Anything unusual reported by the museum in that time span?” Hotch asks, and Garcia shakes her head.

“Nothing’s missing from the exhibit—officially, anyway—and no one landed on security’s radar. There was a fistfight in the lobby the week the first victim was there, but both guys were out of the country by the estimated TOD.”

“Who’s the curator?” Lestrade says, out of habit, and the technician glances at him with faint surprise. Then she grins, and he’s struck by the irrational desire to slide under the table.

“You must be Lestrade,” she replies, but before he can ask what, precisely, that implies, she goes on: “Curator’s Maire Calhoun. Degree in Irish Studies and Art History from Dublin University, moved to London five years ago when the museum offered her a job. No record, but her info’s been sent to you already.”

Leaning forward, Morgan braces a hand on the edge of the table, bringing himself to approximately eye level with the laptop screen. “You been through the list of museum staff?”

“Sadly inconclusive,” Garcia answers. “Brian Dawson did time for breaking and entering as a teenager, but none of your red flags have come up. I’ll keep looking.”

“Thanks, baby girl,” Morgan says, and the connection ends.

Nodding at the piles of paperwork surrounding them, Rossi observes, “We’ve some legwork to do.”

----------

A day later, they’re seated in the same conference room, having gone haring about what feels like half of London that morning, complete with rampant insults from the world’s only consulting detective. (Reid has been not-so-surprisingly spared, since after the initial conversation, apparently the great Sherlock Holmes had taken a liking to him—something to do with schizophrenia, music, and research—while they’d been bounding around the city like madmen. Lestrade and Prentiss had shared mutual looks of so-help-me-god exasperation, and then the DI had found himself dragged from his habit of waiting like a barrier between his team and Sherlock into crime scene analysis. Oh, to be young again.) The Met and the BAU look equally exhausted, but the epiphanies seem to come all at once.

“We’re missing something,” Prentiss says, frustration lacing her tone even if she’s not quite to the point of gritting her teeth.

Lestrade is still combing through phone records with a tenacity that explains his rapid promotion through the ranks, but he glances up long enough to give her a sympathetic look. He isn’t as well versed as they are in psychology and profiling, so he and Donovan are doing their job while the agents do theirs, but if someone happens to have a revelation for the other side no one’s going to turn it down.

“Seeds,” Reid exclaims suddenly from his place in front of the whiteboard, throwing up his hands and nearly hitting Rossi, who sidesteps only just in time; for a brief moment it’s as though Sherlock’s taken over his brain or teleported into the room. “They all have… what are these, achachairú seeds? The same seeds are on all the victims—McCullogh and Devon’s shoes, Raivan’s hair, the hem of Johnson’s pants.”

Hotch blinks, then dials Garcia. “Is there anyone importing achachairú in London?”

A pause; then, “Yes, Thomson and Smythe Imports. Their address is…”

Which is the exact moment that every mobile in the room buzzes with a text message:
FRUIT! –SH

“I really hate it when he does that,” Lestrade says to no one in particular, but a text from John Watson follows a moment later, before anyone can get too far into their cursing, with the more helpful inclusion of an address—it and Garcia come up with the information almost simultaneously. It’s downright creepy.

----------

NEW COVENT GARDEN FLOWER MARKET
LONDON, UK

In the space of an hour and fewer than three miles, they’ve gotten in two MVAs, run a quarter-mile in a downpour, and been charged at by three enormous Dobermans—which are not, Lestrade promises them, standard security practise for British import companies. To wrap up a perfectly imperfect raid (they’re admittedly shorthanded at the moment, but that is, for the moment, to be ignored), they’re now pinned down behind some derelict equipment and a number of wooden pallets.

By a hail of gunfire. From what sounds like MAC-10s.

Brilliantly inaccurate in the hands of amateur shooters though they may be, it’s still a wild spray of bullets. In a country that doesn’t put guns in the hands of its police force. Excellent.

“I thought you guys didn’t have firearms,” Morgan mutters. It’s loud enough for Donovan and Lestrade to hear him, which means it’s also loud enough for the shooters to hear them, but that’s mostly irrelevant, since it’s not as though their location was terribly well hidden. Plus, there’s gravel and broken glass and god only knows what else digging into knees and hips and elbows, so diplomacy isn’t terribly high on the list of priorities.

Lestrade throws him a look—which, in a lesser man, might be called withering. “They don’t give most of us firearms,” he says over the roar of the shots as Hotch fires around the edge of one pallet and Prentiss stretches out on the floor to shoot under what looks like a forklift. One shooter goes down, and Lestrade continues, “That doesn’t mean we don’t have illegal guns floating about!”

“Half of you wouldn’t know which end to hold,” Sherlock snorts derisively, audible in a brief pause of guns; no one bothers to point out that it’s John, not Sherlock, who’s holding one, mostly because they’re all studiously pretending it’s invisible and Lestrade knows better anyway.

Conversations during shootouts might well become the new SOP.

Donovan’s calling for backup (a good deal of it), and Lestrade’s got Hotch’s second firearm at low ready as Morgan signals over the top of a pile of heavy crates, just before he starts firing heavily to the left. With that as cover, Lestrade shoots over the top of whatever he’s hiding behind, taking out one shooter and clipping another. Which leaves one, and he apparently has the sense to run, leaving his injured partner in crime to whatever fate may befall him.

Morgan and Prentiss are both reloading, slamming magasines in place and racking slides, except Sherlock yells out, “John!” as though John lacks eyes of his own, and the runner goes down with a kneecap blown out. The screaming that follows is regrettable, and Donovan changes her request from backup to an ambulance.

“Could’ve done without that, then,” Lestrade observes after a brief moment, a measure between wry and exasperated as he fishes for his mobile and offers Hotch his handgun back.

John makes the mistake of looking at Sherlock, because then they’re both gone, snickering in spite of themselves in the midst of spent brass and wood splinters and very unhappy criminals and American agents who seem to think they’ve lost it.

----------
Two hours later, the parking lot is still awash in the reds, whites, and blues of party lights, and while forensics is still combing through the contents of boxes and crates, Anderson can be heard from inside the warehouse shouting at his people to wrap things up. The shooters have been carted off to either A&E with a police escort or the morgue, and things are at least quieter.

Lestrade’s leaning up against his car, filling out paperwork, leaving the dispatching of the rest of the Met officers to Donovan. Hotch is on the phone with brass—likely Strauss—Prentiss and Rossi have fallen deep into a conversation rife with too many military terms with John, and Reid and Sherlock are debating in what might well be Latin while Morgan and JJ are trying to work through the informal parts of international law.

“Can we treat you to a drink?” Lestrade offers at last as Hotch slides his phone back into his pocket and Donovan approaches. “It’s the least we can do,” he adds like he’s trying to prevent protest, and the team turns (almost) as one with a raised eyebrow at Hotch, who pauses for a moment and catches Lestrade’s eye.

Just the corner of his mouth turns up, and then he says, “Sure.” His team’s expectant looks morph into ones of surprise and are turned instead on each other, and he compounds the effect by continuing, “But only if you let us cover the food.”