Rating: R for innuendo and somewhat graphic descriptions of harm to humans
Written for the Post-Christmas Crossover Fest at torchwood_fest
Crossover with:Criminal Minds
Prompt: Torchwood requests that the BAU help profile some alien species in order to catch them. Would like a case fic, but underlying... Hotch is hesitant to start a relationship with Reid since he is his boss... Jack and Ianto notice the tension and offer their advice to move the couple forward into a relationship. Nothing too fluffy, I like when they are the manly men they are... but definitely obvious affection/desire between the couples.
Word Count: This part - 6288
Summary: The BAU is loaned to the United Kingdom to help find a serial torture/rape killer who's been dumping bodies in Caerphilly Castle's moat. Torchwood is brought in when they find that the bodies that haven't completely decomposed are found to have no nerve tissue left, apparently eaten from the inside out. They need to work together to get rid of the threat.
Timeframe: Classic Torchwood with no dead people in it. Criminal Minds at least a year after the mess with Foyet.
Characters from Torchwood: Jack Harkness, Ianto Jones, Gwen Cooper, Owen Harper, Kathy Swanson
Characters from Criminal Minds: Aaron Hotchner, Dr. Spencer Reid, Jennifer Jareau, David Rossi, Emily Prentiss, Derek Morgan, Penelope Garcia
Pairings: Jack/Ianto and a taste of Hotch/Reid
Disclaimer: I do not own Torchwood nor do I own Criminal Minds. They belong to other people. I have no intentions on disrupting anyone's copyrights. I just like to play in the sandbox.
Warnings: Descriptions of torture/rape victims, really icky aliens, and some more gross subjects. Nothing very graphic occurs on stage, but it may trouble some people to hear it talked about.
A/N 1: Caerphilly Castle is a real castle with an honest-to-goodness moat, about 10 miles from Cardiff and Newport. Everything about the surronding area is as accurate as I could make it based on Google maps and much searching.
A/N 2: For those who are unfamiliar with the gorgeous people of Criminal Minds, go here:
Touching A Nerve, Part 3
Ianto woke up with the feeling of being watched. He wasn’t alarmed. It was the way he usually awoke. He opened his eyes and smiled up at the sky-blue eyes of the man he loved. "Good morning, Jack."
"Good morning, gorgeous."
Jack leaned down to give him a kiss that Ianto returned with interest. When he moved to kissing a line along Ianto’s jaw, Ianto said regretfully, "We actually have to get going this morning. The BAU crew said they’d call as soon as they had breakfast."
There was no answer while Jack trailed his kisses down Ianto’s neck to his shoulder. When he did speak, he ignored Ianto’s last sentence. "A little longer. You really wore me out last night."
"And whose fault was that, I wonder?" Ianto gave a little gasp when Jack’s talented fingers gave his nipple a little tweak. "After that exhibition, you’re lucky I didn’t ravish you in the tunnel."
"Damn, I should have gone a little further then. That would have been fun."
"You went quite far enough, thank you." Ianto tugged at Jack’s hair until he came back up for another kiss. "I never knew you went in for matchmaking."
"Pure self-defense," Jack protested, apparently deciding that Ianto’s earlobe needed a nip. "I couldn’t let their genius seduce mine. I had to give him another target."
Ianto chuckled. He encouraged Jack with some long leisurely caresses down his sides. "Typswyn. I’m only interested in his mind. I’ve never met anyone else with a memory like mine."
Jack rolled on top of him, making the camp bed squeak ominously. "Why are we talking about Dr. Spencer Reid when I could be making you scream my name?"
"You brought him up."
"No, that was Hotch’s job." After they both indulged in giggles, Jack murmured in that purring growl which made Ianto’s toes curl, "Now, be quiet unless you’re talking about me."
Ianto followed orders.
Spencer Reid woke up feeling happy. That wasn’t usual for him. For most of his life he woke up tense, weary, or frightened. Yet now, nestled comfortably in Aaron’s arms, he was happy to wake up.
Thank goodness they were sharing this suite. Had they not been, Reid would have been happy on the floor of the gun range, or on the ratty sofa in the Torchwood Hub. As it was, they’d been handicapped by the lack of supplies that neither of them had dreamed they would need. Fortunately, it was enough to touch each other, all over, and then do it again. And again.
To reassure himself that it wasn’t a dream, he kissed the chest underneath his cheek. That earned him a deep breath, making the chest move a little. He repeated the experiment to see if he achieved the same result. He did. He tried a third time and got a very different reaction. Aaron rolled them to one side so that he was on top, making sure though that the weight was not too much for Spencer’s lighter frame. "What are you trying to do to me?" Aaron said, with a smile such as Spencer had seen only once – last night.
"Er… wake you up?" Spencer offered.
"Now that you’ve succeeded in that endeavor, what do you intend to do next?"
Spencer pretended to consider. "Kiss you?"
"I believe that would be countenanced under the existing agreement. Although, I think I will exercise my option to kiss you instead." He suited action to word so well that Spencer’s head began whirling.
When it was over, Spencer whispered, "I love it when you talk lawyer to me."
That earned him yet another of those mind-whirling kisses, followed by kisses along his jawline while Aaron murmured things like "Habeas corpus" and "the party of the first part".
He couldn’t hold back a laugh. "If you’re going to be like this all day, I’m going to need baggier trousers.
Aaron pulled back a little and sighed. "I’d love to spend all day like this, but we have an unsub to catch and aliens to control."
"Spoilsport." Spencer kissed him to take the sting out.
"Spencer, listen to me. We’re going to have to be SSAIC Hotch and Dr. Reid while we’re on duty. It’s important."
"I know, Aaron," Spencer said solemnly. "I know. I understand." After a beat he said, "When do we go on duty?"
They both looked at the alarm clock. Aaron gave a crooked grin. "In an hour."
"Let’s take advantage of some Spencer/Aaron time then."
"In the interest of both parties, I concur."
Emily wondered what was going on with Hotch and Reid. They seemed somehow calmer today, even though they still had a confusing case that was getting them nowhere. There was no change in their behavior though. She couldn’t put a finger on it.
They were assembled in the Torchwood conference room again, waiting while Ianto served his wonderful coffee. How did he do it? Maybe she could coax him into sharing the secret. Also, Owen hadn’t come in yet though Ianto put a cup at his empty spot. He erupted in a few minutes later, practically quivering with excitement. As crabby as he’d been yesterday, this was peculiar.
Jack asked Tosh, "Have we gotten anywhere on the facial recognition?"
She shook her head and sighed. "Nothing yet. It’s still running. It found about a hundred possibles, but they weren’t even close according to their records."
Owen cleared his throat loudly. Jack said, "All right, Owen, spit it out."
"Well, the bodies I looked at weren’t exactly in the best of shape, but I took what skin scrapings I could. My regular scans didn’t find anything out of the ordinary, but I decided to look deeper. I told the scans to give me everything on the skin and I eliminated the stuff I knew about. There were some bacteria I didn’t recognize and had to go look them up. And what do you think I found?"
Jack gave him a dark glance. "Just tell us. Without making a lecture of it."
The doctor frowned. "Killjoy. All right, I found traces, very small traces, of Mycobacterium leprae."
Emily saw that the others were as bewildered as she was, except for Reid and Ianto. They were both leaning forward with concentration. Finally, Reid spoke. "Our unsub has Hansen’s Disease?"
"Looks like it."
Hotch voiced the question they were all thinking. "What is Hansen’s disease?"
Ianto said hollowly. "Leprosy. The person we’re looking for is a leper."
There was a general cacophony of noise until Jack rapped sharply on the table. Everyone, including Emily, subsided. "I get to go first," he said, "and then we’ll take turns. Owen, are you certain about this?"
"I found it from the scrapings around the pubic area on both victims. That would make sense if he sneezed or had open lesions on his hands. Contrary to popular belief, leprosy is not sexually transmitted. It’s not even terribly contagious."
Reid jumped in. "Only 5% of the population can actually catch it. Most of us have a natural immunity. And if you find out early enough that you have it, you can control it. There are multiple treatments for it. Some are even handed out by WHO in Third World countries."
Emily saw the Hotch "look" that could keep Reid from rambling. He spoke. "How does one catch it in the first place?"
Owen shrugged. "Best guess, go to a leper colony in India or somewhere like that. There’s no place to catch it up here. It’s so rare that most doctors have never seen it. It’s certainly the first time I’ve ever had it present itself."
Emily wrinkled her nose. "Who goes to leper colonies?"
"Doctors, nurses, missionaries," Ianto suggested. "Health officials, Peace Corps volunteers, unintelligent tourists…"
"Well, that puts a real dent in our profile," Derek said. "How would a person with leprosy behave? It’s kind of hard to wrap your head around it in this day and age. And why wouldn’t they seek out treatment?"
"It might present as eczema at first," Owen said. He caught Emily’s eyes and smiled. It was the first time she’d seen him do that. "Good call last night, Prentiss. Leprosy is a disease which attacks the peripheral nervous system. It might make him or her taste bad to our wigglers."
Ianto’s mobile rang, startling all of them. He smiled apologetically, glanced at the caller ID, and said, "I better take this." He moved to the door and out to the main room.
The Captain did not look happy.
Hotch leaned closer and said something that Emily could not quite catch. Whatever is was took away the scowl and caused Jack to smile. When Ianto came back into the room, he said, "That was Detective Swanson. We may have something. Someone is at the station claiming her friend went missing last night. They are both, as they say, working girls."
The team looked to Hotch and Jack. "Jack said, "Gwen, go to the station. Who do you want to send with her?"
"JJ, Prentiss, and Rossi. Get whatever she has and come back."
After they had gone, Derek said, "If this guy is in the area, someone should have noticed him. I mean, he’s got to be getting his gas from somewhere. And food. Which takes money. He’d look different, right?"
"If that’s your delicate way of saying he’d be gross," Owen said snidely, "my guess is he would. Even in the early stages, the skin lesions are pretty noticeable."
Apparently the man was always snide, Derek thought. "Should we go over to the castle and start canvassing around?"
"It would probably be better to ask the local constables," Ianto said. "People around the area can be… insular. They’d be more likely to talk to someone they knew. I’ll call the station and…"
Jack plucked the phone out of his hand. "I’ll call the station. You can… do something else."
Derek found himself grinning at the unspoken argument between Jack and Ianto. Jack gave in. "I’ll be nice," he promised. "You and Dr. Reid go be geniuses and come up with a lead. Owen, is there anything we have that might help us track the whatever-you-said bacteria?"
Owen apparently forgot to sneer when he was thinking. "I don’t know… the traces wouldn’t be very strong. Come on, Tea boy. Maybe you can put that brain of yours to use in the Archives."
Tea boy? What the hell did that mean? Reid was bristling on Ianto’s behalf, but Hotch put a hand on his shoulder and he subsided. It was a gesture Derek had seen more than a hundred times, but today it seemed to be a little… different. He decided to not profile it at the moment.
Hotch turned to the ladies. "Garcia, Tosh, see if there have been any robberies lately where gasoline has gone missing. Perhaps food and cash as well. I doubt if our unsub would take anything he would have to pawn. That may help us narrow down the area. Reid, check your maps for any isolated place that someone might be living in."
"He might be living in his cave," Morgan pointed out.
"That’s where you come in," Hotch said. "I want you to take a look at those maps Tosh made for Reid yesterday and work with him to find possible locations for caves that would be big enough to reside in. I’m going to check those photos of the victims again. The ones who still have skin at rate. The patterns may not be as random as we thought."
Reid had already vanished down the stairs and Derek could see him talking with Ianto in rapid spurts. He was somewhat surprised that Reid had taken to a relative stranger that way. Normally Reid would be closed in, head down and arms crossed, instead of leaning in and using his expressive hands to gesture instead of gesticulate. Ianto was listening with interest, contributing to the conversation instead of zoning out. It was almost enough to make Morgan uncomfortable and he didn’t know why.
He felt a small hand tugging at his bicep and looked down. Garcia was there with her bright smile and raised eyebrow. "Come on, tall, dark, and luscious. Let your Pretty Boy talk to the Coffee God without going all protective. Spend some time with my homey Tosh and me. She can show you maps like you’ve never seen."
Morgan couldn’t help but smile. "That sounds like a plan."
Gwen sat with JJ across the table from the girl who said her name was Bella. She was a little thing, barely five feet and probably less than a hundred pounds. Her eyes though were not the eyes of a teenager. She’d given her age as twenty-four.
JJ reached across the table and patted the girl’s clasped hands. Gwen smiled at her. "Now, dearie, you just tell us what you told the woman at the desk."
Bella looked at them both and relaxed slightly. "I… I don’t want any trouble."
"You’re not in any trouble," JJ assured her.
"You’re a Yank," Bella said. "Whatcha doin’ here?"
"Hopefully I’m here to find your friend."
"Yeah, well, I just thought… Look, she didn’t call, all right? She always calls and she didn’t. She didn’t call and I don’t know where she is and I’m scared, okay? I’m really scared."
"Of course you are," Gwen crooned. "It’s scary when you don’t know what’s going on. Just take a deep breath and tell us about last night."
JJ moved her chair so that she was sitting next to Bella without blocking the one-way mirror where the others were watching. She put an arm around the distressed girl. "We want to help you. Just relax and tell us."
"Well, me and Mandy, we were workin’ our corner, you know? We’ve been friends for a long time. She’s a lot taller than me and we’d kind of developed this system, see? She thought that big guys might hurt me and so she would take them on, instead of me. Then we’d share the money."
Gwen nodded encouragingly. "Sounds like a good system."
"She says, ‘you take the little guys and leave the big tossers to me, Bella Belle.’ That’s what she calls me. So last night, around 1:00 I think. I’d just heard a clock chimin’ from somewhere. There comes this car. It’s a big car and it’s old-looking and there’s a guy behind the wheel. He looks tall, but he’s kind of hunched down. Mandy says to me, ‘I’ll take him, Bella Belle, you go stand in the alley.’ The alley’s dark and I can stand in the shadow and not be seen from the street."
She took a deep breath. "He stopped and Mandy leaned over the window. He said ‘How much?’ His voice was… I don’t know… kinda hoarse, like he had a cold. Maybe he did ‘cause I heard him sniffin’. She told him 30 Euros an hour and he said ‘all right, here’s the money’, and she got in the car. He drove on past me. He had on a hoodie and I couldn’t see his face, but I saw his hands and he was wearin’ gloves! Like it was winter! They were black and that made him kinda creepy, you know?"
She looked up at them, and they both nodded solemnly. Black gloves were creepy. Gwen thought the whole thing was creepy actually, but she kept that to herself.
"So anyways," Bella continued. "I had a good night after that and I didn’t make it back to the flat until about 5:00. Mandy wasn’t there, so I checked my mobile. There wasn’t a message. See," she said earnestly, "we always call. Just to make sure that, you know, we haven’t run into trouble or something. We’ve always done that. This business is kind of all-for-yourself, really, but Mandy and me, we’re friends. Like buddies. I’d called her, but she hadn’t called me back. And that was weird, really, because it shouldn’t have taken her four hours to get the guy off. I was tired, so I went to sleep and woke up at 9:00 and looked at my phone and she still hadn’t called. And now’s it’s nearly 10:00 and I don’t know why she hasn’t called because she always calls and I’m afraid she’s in trouble and I usually wouldn’t run to the coppers, but I didn’t know who else might find her." Bella burst into tears and JJ hugged her.
Gwen used the moment to slip out of the room to find Prentiss and Rossi. "Creepy black gloves," Rossi said speculatively. "To prevent anyone from seeing his skin rash maybe?"
Prentiss nodded. "An older car, she said. Probably didn’t even look at the license number."
"I doubt if she remembers that cars have licenses." Gwen shook her head.
Rossi nodded. "I’ll go in and be the kindly father figure." Prentiss snorted. Rossi ignored it. "See if we can get anything else out of her." He went into the room and closed the door quietly.
"He actually can pull it off," Prentiss said. "He’s a chameleon."
"I’m beginning to believe you people can do anything," Gwen said. "Except maybe take down a Weevil. And we can teach you how to do that."
"If they are anything like that picture Ianto showed us yesterday, I’d just as soon leave them to you, thanks."
With a grin, Gwen nodded. "As soon as they get out of there, we’ll get Tosh to trace the vehicle through the CCTV. It might not tell us much, but we should be able to track it through most of Cardiff."
Theywere pleased now. He’d accidentally strangled the woman before he meant to, which meant they were feeding. He’d barely gotten to cut her at all. It was the screaming that did it. She’d started screaming as soon as he’d taken off the hood. She’d screamed when he made sure she was as unclean as he was. She’d screamed when he started to mark her as preparation for passing into His hands. He squeezed her neck to stop the screaming. The feeling in his hands wasn’t so good anymore and he misjudged what was needed.
The man was quiet. Maybe he’d seen what happened to the screaming woman. That was all right. It meant he could take his time. They were feeding and it would be a while before they needed to feed again. He knew the man was unclean, but he wanted to be sure before he prepared the sacrifice. How many more it would take before he purged his sin away, he didn’t know. He only knew he would keep going. They had told him to.
Had it not been for the leprous unsub lurking about, she would be having the time of her life, Garcia concluded. She’d bonded with both Tosh and Mainframe and wanted to take them home with her. Oh, and the Captain and his yummy Coffee God as well. There could never be too much male loveliness in the office. When she thought of Director Strauss facing all that testosterone, she could almost feel sorry for the woman.
Nah, not really.
The dots on her screen suddenly clustered. "Hey, Tosh," she said. "I have a target for you." She reeled off the coordinates.
"Got it." Tosh was hacked into a spy satellite and brought up images of the area. "Lots of trees to the west. And some outcroppings. Possible cave sites."
"What do you have there, Baby Girl?" Morgan asked.
"Ten reported robberies over the last six months. Gasoline taken from the cars, food gone from the houses, any loose cash, but nothing else, not even a valuable antique tea service sitting in plain view on a table."
On another screen, Tosh was watching the mysterious car that Bella’s friend Mandy had gotten into. By backtracking she had seen it come into Cardiff from the east. Now she was tracking it forward through the cameras to see where it went. She stiffened as she froze the picture. "Morgan, take a look. Do you see something in the back seat?"
He leaned closer, enough so that Garcia could feel his heat. Behave, she told herself firmly. She turned to look at the screen, too.
"I see it," Morgan confirmed. "Looks like something under a blanket."
"Another person?" Garcia breathed hoping someone would tell her not to be ridiculous. Unfortunately, no one did.
Tosh moved the frames forward slowly until the car rolled out of range. She switched to the next camera, which showed more of the passenger side. Mandy was no longer sitting up straight. Her head lolled to one side and she looked limp. Garcia saw that Morgan’s normally gorgeous face was marred by a big scowl. "Did he hit her or what?"
The next three cameras showed them nothing more. "This is the last one," Tosh said. "They’re headed north and I’m going to lose them past the city limits."
As the car moved by, they finally got a clear view of the license plate. It was rusty and hard to read. They all jotted down possibilities and Garcia began running them through. "I’ve got four possibles," she said. With practiced ease she began sifting. "This one’s a teen-aged girl, no good. No. No. Could be, but no."
"Try checking licenses that have expired," Tosh suggested. "That car was pretty old. Like fifteen years old."
The shortlist came in at six. Removing the ones that had been on vehicles that had been crushed left them with two. Garcia said triumphantly, "We’ve got a Louis Martinson from – how on earth do you pronounce that? And a Reverend Josiah Wheelwright from – another place I can’t pronounce."
Garcia hadn’t heard the others behind them until she heard Hotch’s level voice say, "I’ll bet on the Reverend. We’ve been examining the bodies again. The cuts are different kinds of crosses."
They’d spent time discussing tactics. Ianto had brought up weapons from the armory and they were distributed accordingly. Aside from their standard issue side arms, each agent was armed with what Ianto called "Point-and-Shoot lasers." Jack had cautioned them to be careful what they aimed at, because it would cause any live body to burn alive. Since they didn’t know exactly how to kill the alien, they were hedging their bets. Everyone was also equipped with portable scanners. Ianto had spent most of the afternoon trying to adjust them to pick up traces of the bacteria Owen had found, but he wasn’t sure he had succeeded.
Tosh and Garcia were staying at the Hub for mission coordination. Ianto knew that Jack had wanted him to stay behind, but he wouldn’t do it. Hotch and Spencer had probably had a similar discussion. But they were here with two teams of five, one to tackle the caves and one to check the forest. Jack and Ianto were teamed with Prentiss, Rossi and Morgan. Owen and Gwen were going with Hotch, Reid, and JJ. The only disagreement was which team to check what, and after ten minutes of argument, Ianto had made them use Rock-Paper-Scissors to decide. Jack’s team was going to cover the caves. Ianto still wondered how he managed to fix a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors to get what he wanted. On the other hand, maybe it would be better not to know.
It was late afternoon so they were still able to see the face of the rock formation clearly. It had a natural ramp that would, according to Tosh, take them to the top. She had loaded the cave maps onto their scanners with the cave maps and marked the ones big enough to hold two humans and… whatever else. Jack cautioned them to step lightly so as not to start rock slides. They moved up the slope quietly.
Hotch spread his team to form an arc and they moved forward under the trees. The light instantly dimmed. They all carried flashlights, including Reid’s new "very bright light" one. They weren’t using them yet, but if they got too far in, they’d have to.
It was so quiet that is was surreal. Not even a breeze to shake the leaves on the trees. He could only hear the whispers of their own footsteps. He looked down at the scanner. It had a red X on it, which Tosh said was an unknown life form. "It won’t tell you if they’re human or alien, just that it has found something."
He held up a hand to stop the team’s advance. The X was moving towards them.
Rossi wasn’t fond of physical activity in general and he certainly didn’t enjoy scrambling up a limestone rock face. Ok, maybe he wasn’t actually scrambling, but he still didn’t like it. He looked at the cave map on his scanner. They were approaching an opening that would be large enough that for a man to enter. It made sense for the captain to go in first, even though Rossi was still skeptical about the man’s ability to come back from the dead.
Reid found it difficult to let Hotch expose himself to possible danger. They had no idea who this unsub was or anything about him really. Their most powerful weapon, the profile, was not there.
By the time they were nearing the top of the outcropping, Morgan was sorry he hadn’t gone with the other group. Jack signaled and froze. In the gathering dark, something in the cave next to them was glowing faintly.
Owen had his gun out, keeping his position in relation to the others, watching the X on his scanner approach.
Noting that Ianto had both his gun and laser out, Prentiss did likewise.
Gwen was a walking arsenal, but she limited herself to carrying the two hand guns at the ready.
Ianto held Jack’s coat on his arm because the opening was too narrow for Jack to go through wearing it.
JJ held her breath when she heard a twig snap a short distance ahead.
The glow from the interior wasn’t very bright, but as he surveyed the horror around him, Jack was grateful for that small favor. The floor was moving, undulating from the hundreds of worms that crawled in slow motion across it. Against the far wall was the nude body of a woman, tied to some sort of crossbeam. The worms were clustered around her nose, mouth, and ears, in addition to the swarms around each of the crosses carved into her flesh. Jack swallowed his bile enough to raise the small camera he carried and moved it slowly across the disgusting scene for evidence. In his ear he heard gasps of repulsion and then Tosh’s soft voice strained. "We’ve got enough."
He wriggled back through the tight tunnel. Ianto wouldn’t like it and the others wouldn’t either, he knew. Once he was clear, he gave the four of them a brief summary of what he had seen. "There are too many of them for the lasers. We might miss some and have this problem all over again. Ianto, give me the bombs."
"Jack, you can’t…"
"I have to. You knew it was a possibility when we brought them."
Ianto glared at him and slowly reached into an inner pocket of Jack’s coat. His withdrew four golf-ball sized spheres and gave them to Jack. Jack looked at his team. "I’ll give you ten minutes to get down and get clear. The shock of these may cause a minor cave-in and I don’t want any of you to get hurt if I can help it."
"What are those things?" Morgan demanded.
"They’re small bombs that give off highly toxic fumes and spread a powerful solvent in a 15 meter radius. Given the chemical makeup of these worms as described, this will be enough to destroy all traces of them." He avoided Ianto’s eyes as he added, "They only have a ninety-second fuse. It took me a minute to get out of that tunnel. Chances are one of them will go off before I can get clear."
Rossi said into the stunned silence, "You aren’t committing suicide, by any chance? The rumors are true?"
"I promise I won’t stay dead. Now get down off here." He looked at Ianto and pulled him into a tight embrace. "I’m sorry, love," he whispered. "I have to."
"Damn you, Jack!" Ianto’s voice was strained and Jack knew that he was hurting. "I know. At least promise that you’ll try to get clear."
Jack gave him a tender kiss. "Don’t do anything stupid, okay?"
"I seldom do." Ianto kissed him again and then followed the others as they made their way back down the slippery stone ramps.
Hotch waited until the unsub was close; he didn’t want to risk him getting away. When he was about ten yards from them, he switched on his flashlight and the others did the same. The small clearing was suddenly bathed in bright light.
The man held up his arm to shield his eyes. He’d been pushing what looked like a wheelbarrow and in it was the body of a young man. It was obviously a body with a blue-black tongue protruding. The other man, the live one, was dressed all in black with a hood hiding most of his face. It wasn’t Josiah Wheelwright since he was deceased. His only child stood in front of them. "Ezekiel Wheelwright," Hotch called. The dark opening in the hood turned toward his voice. "Step away from the body."
The man had on gloves. He gripped the wheelbarrow handles tightly. "No." The voice was harsh and raspy. "No, he must go to be cleaned before the baptism."
There were so many unknowns and Hotch needed to stabilize this situation. What was in that wheelbarrow besides a body? Of all the killers he had faced, the religious ones were the worst. They could justify anything in the name of their warped vision of the Almighty. He spoke again, keeping his voice level and nonthreatening. "You can clean him in a little while, Ezekiel. Talk to me first, please. It’s been sometime since someone has talked to you, hasn’t it?"
"No one will come near me. Why should they? I am unclean. Only when I have made enough sacrifices will I be cured."
In the same quiet tones that made him a premiere hostage-negotiator, Hotch continued. "Tell me about your cure, Ezekiel. Enlighten me, please, so that I may learn how to earn my own redemption."
"You are unclean?" The voice was wavering and uncertain. "You do not look cursed."
"Oh, but I am. Come and tell me what to do."
"It was them," he rasped. "They explained it to me. They promised me salvation if I sacrificed enough. They need the sacrifices to keep living. I can’t let them wither away. Only they can save me."
At least now the cart was resting on the ground. He might still bolt, but if he did it would be without the body. "Tell me about them. Please. I want to know. How did you find them?" He chanced taking a few steps forward. "Will you tell me?"
He took one hand off the cart to turn toward Hotch’s voice. "I found them." The harshness had faded some and it was easier to understand what he was saying. "The sacrifices weren’t working. I wanted God to take away my impurities and I would be whole again. I tried to clear the streets of the ungodly, but no one would listen. And then it started. My sins became flesh." With his free hand, he swept back the hood.
It was all Hotch could do not to flinch away. The man’s face and neck were wrinkled and rough, the skin dark and granular. The others kept their lights steady, but Hotch could hear the gasps. "I didn’t pray hard enough. I strove to be as godly as my father, but I failed. I came back here, to try again. But until they came, nothing helped."
Hotch changed position again, making it harder for the man to face him without letting go of the wheelbarrow. "Ezekiel, listen to me. You aren’t unclean. You have a disease. That’s all. You don’t need sacrifices, you need medicine. "
"No. I must make the sacrifices so that they will save me. Without them, there is no hope. They promised you see. I could hear them and they promised that I would be made whole again. Messengers, like angels."
"They aren’t angels, Ezekiel. They’re aliens. They can’t help you get rid of your disease, but I can. I can. Come…"
A sudden noise like a clap of thunder split the air. They all turned toward it, forgetting to keep their lights focused on the clearing. A scream brought them back. The man was shrieking. "No! No! I can’t feel them! I can’t… Save me. My only hope…" He screamed again and fell to the ground.
"Owen! Check him over. JJ, Gwen, help him. Reid, with me!"
They ran back to where they had started and across the dirt road that had separated the forest from the rocky slopes. Hotch nearly ran into Morgan who brushed past him headed for the rocks. Dust was everywhere, making it hard to see what was happening. Reid apparently found Prentiss because he heard her say, "Jack. He had to use bombs. He said there were too many in the cave."
Rossi showed up as soon as Hotch had found Reid and Prentiss. "Jack sent us down here so that he could set the charges. I hope what you told us is true, Hotch. I saw his body come flying off that ledge and there’s no way he could have survived that fall."
"Where’s Ianto?" Reid panted.
"He and Morgan ran to where Jack must have landed. That way."
The dust seemed to be settling and Hotch could see Morgan’s flashlight. They ran over to them to see Ianto cradling Jack’s body in his arms. Morgan said, "He had no pulse when we got here. Looks like he broke his neck in the fall."
Ianto didn’t pay attention to anything but the man in his arms. A few moments later, Jack stiffened and gasped loudly. He coughed, clinging to Ianto with his head buried in his lover’s shoulder. After a minute or so, he sat up. Jack looked around until he saw Hotch. "Did you find him?" he asked.
"Yes. I think his head may have exploded when you blew up his worms though."
"So they’re gone and he’s gone." Jack stood and extended his hand to Hotch. "I think we can call it good."
Hotch returned the handshake. "It’s good."
Tosh and Garcia had dug up the rest of the background. Ezekiel Wheelwright had spent his early years with his missionary father traveling among the leper colonies, in India and Africa. There was no record of his mother, but it was possible she was from one of those locations and didn’t pass on the natural immunity to her son. He became infected and no one noticed. After his father’s death. Ezekiel came to Caerphilly where his family had grown up, but when the symptoms of his disease had shown up, he had moved. They found a small hovel in the woods where he had apparently been living ever since.
They’d gone back the next day to make sure no worms had survived the explosion. The woman’s body had also been destroyed. Mandy would no longer be a protector for Bella, but JJ and Gwen managed to convince her to try counseling. It might be one more off the streets. They had left the other loose end to DI Swanson. Three of the skeletons weren’t ever identified.
Torchwood came to the airport to see them off. Reid was wistful. He would have liked to spend more time with Ianto prowling through the Archives. He knew Garcia wanted to adopt Toshiko and take her with them. They were standing a little apart, talking in their geek-speak to avoid saying good-bye. The others were clustered around each other, exchanging farewells. Reid shook Ianto’s hand warmly. "Stay in touch," he said. "I think we could learn a lot from each other."
Ianto offered one of his rare smiles. "I think so, too." Then with a wicked twinkle in his eye he added, "If you need more target practice, come back and I’ll let you in on the secrets of the gun range."
Reid felt himself blushing, but he grinned back. "A few years ago, I hated that place. Now I might learn to enjoy it."
The Captain came up with his 1000-watt smile. "Well, Dr. Reid, if you ever decide to leave the BAU, it would be my pleasure to make an alien hunter out of you."
"Hunting human monsters is enough for me right now."
Jack nodded solemnly. "Sometimes I think they are the scariest of all."
Hotch joined them and traded handshakes. "It was a pleasure to work with you, Captain. When I get home, I’ll have to tell my son stories about you. His name is Jack, too."
With a chuckle, Ianto cautioned, "Make sure they’re age appropriate."
Morgan stopped by and said, "The pilot’s ready to go. I think we’d better board."
Hotch nodded. Even now, Reid saw Jack’s response to another alpha so close to Ianto. Jack's hand came up to touch Ianto's waist.
A moment later, Reid felt a similar touch on his own waist. It had taken a trip across the ocean, an alien threat and an antique pistol, but it was all worth it. Reid had been claimed.
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