Divergence

By Chestnut NOLA

By Chestnut NOLA

In the midst of a serial killer investigation, their superiors at the FBI call Spencer and Aaron’s relationship into question. With Spencer’s Transcendental powers increasing at a frightening rate, can he and Aaron keep their bond and Spencer’s abilities a secret or will they be forced apart to preserve their union?

Title: Divergence
Author: Chestnut NOLA
Beta: xphil98197
Fandom: Criminal Minds (Sentinel Fusion)
Genre: Romance, suspense
Warnings: Explicit sex, canon-level violence, graphic depictions of murder victims
Rating: NC-17
Word Count: 35,713

Part Three: Transference Series

“Do not be afraid; our fate cannot be taken from us; it is a gift.” – Dante Alighieri, Inferno

Chapter 1:

“Look up to the sky,” a man’s voice was whispering over and over.

Spencer flinched. Horrified, he retreated from Morgan’s mind. He needed to filter out the agent’s thoughts and only concentrate on Adam Racine’s. Derek’s mind was resonating with pain and grief, all the while interrogating their suspect. Cracks in agent’s façade of professionalism were starting to show as the interview went on, straining Morgan’s control.

There was nothing remarkable about their fifty-five year old suspect. Racine was average across the board, from his balding head to his plain dress shoes. He’d been smart though, smart enough not to get caught for years. A child killer and pedophile that was intelligent enough not to hunt the children under his care as a principal at an elementary school. They had finally caught him, but they needed to find little Robert, and Racine was not talking.

Watching though the one-way glass, Spencer again let his empathy seek the darkness that was deep within Racine’s mind. Once he found it, he hoped his telepathy would be able to find the killer’s thoughts. He just needed to stay out of Morgan’s head…

They won’t find him. The boy will be dead before long. I need to stay quiet, lawyer up, but the agent in front of me… I can see it in his eyes, the knowledge, the pain… so much pain in those dark eyes. If I’m going to end up in prison, I’m gonna cause this agent as much pain as possible. Finding the boy dead would do that. It’s all the satisfaction I’m going to get at this point. They’ll probably put me on death row—not that I don’t deserve it—it’s my due after the stupid mistake I made. They found me, but they won’t find the boy.

I can just see the boy, so pretty with his blond hair and skinny little body. He’ll die in that room, at Jackson’s place in the middle of the mountains. They’re never going to find Jackson’s place in time. The connection isn’t close enough. They don’t know about Jackson…

Spencer was ripped from the killer’s mind.

“Spencer!” Aaron growled.

“Hotch no!” Spencer gasped, trying to pull away from the hands that gripped his shoulders tight. Trying to keep the ghastly connection. “I need to see more!”

“No you don’t! Stop it Spencer!” he replied, his hands gave Spencer a small shake, the Sentinel’s eyes were fierce with a dangerous light. The golden glow of their bond was reflected bright within their depths. “I can feel your fear. Please, just stop.”

The words in his head were like a slap to his face, jarring Spencer fully from Racine’s sick mind. Spencer wrenched himself from under Aaron’s hands as fury rose beneath his skin.

“I could’ve found him, Hotch!” he barked, trying to still his trembling limbs.

“That may be, but I can’t let you see into that monster’s head!” Aaron replied, pulling Spencer to him, surrounding him in heat and strong limbs.

Aaron’s hand cupped his face, stilling Spencer under his touch, urging him to stop. He could sense the desperation, the possessiveness, in his Sentinel, just before the emotions crashed into Spencer’s mind, making him gasp in pain.

“Hotch, you’re hurting me!” Spencer started to struggle in Aaron’s arms. It was the first time in the three months they’d been bonded that he’d felt pain in their connection. “I can’t keep you out!”

Aaron growled, his locked hands tightened, and the agony in Spencer’s head surged, unbearable. Unable to break his Sentinel’s hold, he pulled in close, biting Aaron hard on the neck, and blood burst between his teeth with Aaron’s howl of pain. The iron salt heat of it was slick on his tongue when he finally wrenched himself free from Aaron’s arms.

“What the hell is going on?” Rossi exclaimed coming into the room.

The pair of them were panting at opposite corners of the room, like a pair of boxers squaring off in a fighting ring. Aaron had a hand pressed to his neck, blood seeping garish red between his fingers. Aghast, Spencer stared at what he’d done to the love of his life. The bite had worked to shock the Sentinel out of Spencer’s head, and the pain was gone now, but he couldn’t believe he’d reacted to his Sentinel in that way. The glow of the bond was still prevalent in Aaron’s eyes and Spencer imaged his eyes must looked equally bright to Rossi.

“Spencer? Aaron?” he asked again, his dark eyes rushing back and forth between them, before they stopped to linger on the blood coating Spencer’s lips. “Kid?”

“I’m sorry,” Spencer gasped. Blood smeared across his mouth and cheek under his fingers. He turned to Rossi, avoiding his friend’s eyes. “Dave, have Garcia do a search on any of Racine’s associates or family with the first or last name of Jackson. It wouldn’t be a close relationship, perhaps an acquaintance, a second or third cousin. The boy will be on a property that’s close to the Appalachian Trail. Most likely in driving distance of town, two hours or less away. Also, have her look for expenditures for gas and food to the area, and correlate those with the timeframe we have for the abductions of previous victims.”

He needed to leave. He couldn’t stay after what he’d done to his Sentinel. With one last look at Aaron, Spencer left the room, hurrying across the bullpen of the station and out into the dark damp of the night. He was running. He was a coward. And he’d made a grave mistake tonight.

****

“I’m sorry.”

The agony in Spencer’s eyes when he said those words to Aaron, were seared in his mind. He’d caused his bonded pain, because he couldn’t control his sentinel instincts. The possessiveness and protectiveness he’d felt for Spencer since he’d first met him over a year ago had continued to grow. And now, with the bond, they resonated within him in the extreme, undisciplined and violent. He didn’t blame Spencer for reacting to him in the same way. He deserved the pain of Spencer’s bite, the bite of a mate chastising him for bad behavior.

“Aaron, what in God’s name happened?” Rossi asked, pulling Aaron from his thoughts.

Aaron swallowed the lump that had gathered in his throat. “He read Racine’s mind and I reacted… badly.”

“You should go after him,” Dave urged. “The Kid was devastated.”

“No, I don’t want to hurt him again and I’m having trouble controlling myself, Dave,” Aaron grimaced. “Please… just call Garcia and have her search for the information Spencer gave you. Finding Robert James is our only priority right now, my personal issues will just have to wait.”

“Is this the first time the Kid’s used his telepathy on a subject?” Dave pulled Aaron’s hand away from his neck, inspecting the wound.

“Yes, since Frederick Combs, and I was prepared for that,” Aaron replied.

“And you were hunting… together,” Dave stated. “I’ll call Garcia, but we need to treat this and get you a new shirt. There’s blood all over the collar. I take it you don’t want the team to know what the kid did?”

“No, they shouldn’t know… this doesn’t bother you at all, does it?” he asked.

Dave just gave him a small smile, “I know the Kid, and I know you, Aaron. He wouldn’t use his abilities against anyone, unless he didn’t have a choice. I know my thoughts are private, and from what you’ve told me since you bonded with the man, my emotions are my own as well. Not sure how the rest of the team would feel about the Kid being able to get into their heads if they knew, though.”

“How did you know?” His eyes widened at the thought he’d just given Spencer away.

“I had an inkling, which you just confirmed,” Dave said, giving him a squeeze on his arm. “I figured if the Kid could get into an unsub’s head, then it was only a matter of time before he’d be able to read the thoughts of anyone.”

“Fuck,” he muttered under his breath, which only widened Rossi’s smile.

“Sit tight, I’ll call Garcia and scrounge around for a first aid kit.” He headed to the door. “Your go bag still in the conference room?”

“Yes, thank you, Dave. You’re a good friend,” Aaron said, not able to keep the relief from his voice.

Hand on the knob, Dave looked into his eyes. “Aaron, you’ll work it out. The Kid loves you and I know you love him. Have faith in that, and everything else will fall into place, I’m sure.”

Aaron could only hope that Dave was right.

****

“Agent Hotchner, I need to see you in my office,” Erin Strauss said.

Aaron turned, taking in his boss standing at the doorway to his office. “Of course.”

It looked like he wasn’t going to get home anytime soon, meaning that Spencer was going to be allowed more time to avoid him. His bonded had been extremely subdued for the duration of the case, dodging any attempt by Aaron to get him alone to talk. Not that they’d had much time after they’d found Racine’s connection to Connor Jackson, his third cousin. Once Garcia had a name for them, the location of Jackson’s hunting lodge was revealed quickly. The man had no idea what his cousin was using the cabin for when he wasn’t using it himself. They’d found little Robert James, frightened, but unharmed, in a small storage basement on the property. The little guy had clung to J.J. until they were able to reunite him with his parents. Aaron knew there was going to be some therapy in the family’s future, but little Robert was going to be ok in the long run.

The team had been triumphant on the short flight back from West Virginia, though they knew something was wrong with the Sentinel and Sensitive pair on their team. Aaron figured Dave had told them to keep their questions to themselves, since no one asked about the bandage on his neck, or pushed Spencer into engaging with them beyond the case.

He took a seat across from Strauss and hoped this would be a short meeting. He really needed to get home to Spencer, apologize for his behavior and make sure his lover was all right.

“Are you okay? Did you get hurt on the case?” she asked.

“No, I caught myself on a sharp shelf corner in the station’s file room,” he fibbed. “It’s just a scratch.”

“Good… Aaron, there is concern from the Director regarding your relationship with Dr. Reid,” she stated.

Wary, and slightly alarmed by the question, Aaron replied, “Concern?”

“Yes, you recently moved into the same address as Dr. Reid and having observed you for the last few months, I know you’re in a relationship with him,” she said. “I’ve kept my thoughts to myself on the subject, since I don’t wish to interfere. But, the relationship has come to the attention of the Director, so I no longer have a choice.”

He’d known at some point that Strauss could possibly question his relationship, but he’d been very naïve to think it would take longer than it had.

“You are aware of the fraternization rules, are you not?” she questioned. “A romantic relationship between a supervisor and subordinate is prohibited.”

“Erin, I know the rules are there for a reason, and I appreciate your discretion,” he said. He and Strauss had butted heads quite a bit at the start of their relationship, but they’d finally found a solid working rapport over time. Her discomfort in confronting him was coming off her in waves. The scent of her distress was palatable. “Dave and I discussed it, and he’ll be Dr. Reid’s direct supervisor from now on. He’ll report and submit evaluations to me, and I’ll have no say in those evaluations.”

“I appreciate that, Aaron,” she replied, her voice was grave with trepidation. “But, the Director is worried about the effect a relationship with a non-guide could have on one of the FBI’s few Sentinels. It could affect your judgment in the field, and be detrimental to your overall health. We could lose you as the BAU Unit Chief, or from the service all together, if you become unstable.”

“He’s making noise about transferring Dr. Reid out of the BAU,” she added.

Alarmed, his response burst out before he could think through his words. “Erin, have you ever known me to become unstable? You know that Sentinels aren’t that fragile, even under extreme duress.”

“I don’t want to lose either one of you from the unit, and yes, I do know that it’s rare for a Sentinel to drop into a feral rage or comatose state,” she replied. “But, it’s a possibility without a Guide.”

He was between a rock and a hard place. Aaron knew he needed to keep Spencer’s telepathic abilities, and their bond, a secret. There was no telling how the FBI and the wider society would react if the truth came out. Granted, most western countries had stringent protections in place since the devastation to the sentinel and guide population wrought during the Second World War. But he couldn’t trust that those protections would keep his bonded safe. Even with the International Committee of Sentinels and Guides, and the accords adopted by the United Nations, Spencer being known as a telepath was too great a risk. If keeping the truth secret meant the end of their careers in the FBI, then so be it.

“Erin, you know that Dr. Reid is a sensitive, a low level empath,” Aaron stated. He had to convince her to leave well enough alone, or find a solution that would satisfy the Director. “You should know that between his empathy and his intelligence, he’s extremely attractive to me as a Sentinel. I’ve been able to imprint, and ground my senses on him, in every way that I can. If he were to leave the unit, I would have to go with him.”

Her mouth dropped open in shock. “But, you can’t bond with him!”

“True, not as a sentinel and guide usually do, but I’ve chosen him as my Mate, Erin. I’ll not give that up, even at the expense of my career with the FBI,” he returned.

****

Spencer’s eyes clenched shut at the sound of the locks turning in the door behind him. The reflexive clench of his arms around Gottfried resulted in a low, sleepy yowl of complaint. “Sorry, buddy,” he whispered, loosening his grip around his lap full of fluffy fat feline.

He couldn’t help the small smile that curled his lips as Gottfried’s vocalizations became exponentially louder when he climbed up to stand on Spencer’s shoulder to greet Aaron. A gray furry tail accosted his face while his cat waited for his lover’s attention. His cat absolutely adored the sentinel in Spencer’s life. Gottfried had been somewhat aloof with Aaron when he’d first moved in last month. Spencer figured, Gottfried had not been a fan of the strangers bringing new things into his territory, but the boxes about the place had soothed Spencer’s savage beast during the unpacking, and Aaron spoiling the feline rotten with cuddles and treats also helped to get his cat over his temper tantrum.

The heavy weight was lifted off his shoulder. “Hello Mister, we missed you.”

His breaths left him in a shaky exhale at the feel of Aaron’s fingers running through his hair.

“Have you been sitting in the dark this whole time, Spencer?” he inquired, coming around from the back of the sofa with Gottfried in his arms. The engine purring coming from his cat was resounding in the quiet gloom of the apartment. Aaron’s tie was loosened and his suit jacket was off, his Sentinel’s usually straight-laced appearance relaxed somewhat in their home. The bandage covering the bite was a blunt blemish of white above his collar, and Spencer had difficulty taking his eyes off it. His shame at the evidence that he’d hurt Aaron was visceral.

“Spencer?” Aaron prompted, his dark eyes serious, but soft with the light of the bond within their depths.

Focusing on his cat, Spencer finally found his voice. “No, I just turned the TV off a little while ago.”

“Watching Star Trek again?” he asked, his lips curved at the corners while stroking Gottfried’s head.

Why Aaron wasn’t angry with him was a mystery. The gentle emanations of emotions he usually felt in the back of his mind had been muted since their altercation. He couldn’t tell what Aaron was feeling at the moment, and perhaps that was his due punishment for causing his Sentinel pain and for being such a coward.

“Am I that predictable?” he asked, knowing that his avoidance of dealing with the fallout of what he’d done to Racine was almost over.

“No, I just know you, Spencer,” Aaron replied, sitting down with the purring bundle in his arms on the couch. “Star Trek is your go to comfort when you’re upset.”

His Sentinel was so handsome with his dark hair and angular cheekbones stark in the blue-black shadows. “I’m so sorry I hurt you, Aaron. I didn’t mean to.”

“No…” he replied, taking Spencer’s hand. “I’m sorry. You were just defending yourself. What you did is not unusual when a Sentinel oversteps emotionally with his Mate.” The old term made Spencer’s cheeks grow hot. It was a dominant term, masculine, almost carnal coming from his Sentinel, but beautiful too. “I should’ve been more in control.”

“I shouldn’t have sought The Knowing, the darkness.” Spencer squeezed Aaron’s hand tight at the remembered feeling of the slick oily pressure of Racine’s mind. “I should’ve waited for Morgan to finish the interrogation. I should’ve trusted in the team.”

Aaron pulled Spencer into his arms, arranging his lanky limbs on his lap. Gottfried protested his displacement with a yowl, sitting on the coffee table glowering at the pair of them. Spencer had to smile at his cat, relaxing against the strong heat of Aaron, enjoying the hand running through the curls on the back of his nape. The warmth of that hand, and the opening of Aaron’s emotions to the bond, caused the last of his tension to dissipate. His muscles became boneless with relief. His sentinel was calm, but worried. Not for himself, but for Spencer.

“I’m ok, Hotch,” he murmured into the warmth of Aaron’s neck. The bandage covering the wound he’d inflicted was soft under his cheek. “I won’t use the telepathy like that again.”

Aaron tugged his face up, looking into his eyes. “Spencer, there was no guarantee that Racine was going to tell us where the boy was, you did what you felt was right. I’m the one who reacted badly. I guess I was unprepared for the feel of you in his mind.”

“I don’t ever want to hurt you again,” he whispered.

He gave Spencer a little shake. “You didn’t hurt me, Spencer. Not with the telepathy anyway. I’ve always been a bit possessive… territorial, about you, since we first met.” Stroking Spencer’s cheek, he said a bit ruefully, “I’ve been having problems controlling those instincts since the bonding. At least more so than before, and that came out when I felt you touch that monster’s mind. Your abilities are extraordinary, Spencer. You should learn to use them… to embrace them.”

Spencer swallowed the lump that had gathered in his throat at Aaron’s words. “I don’t think I should.”

“Why, what’re you afraid of?” Aaron replied, keeping Spencer from turning away and hiding.

“I… the first time I tried to find the darkness in Racine’s mind, I saw Morgan’s thoughts by accident.” He clenched his eyes shut, not wanting to see the disappointment in his Sentinel’s face. “They were painful, private, and I just plucked them out of his head. What if using my telepathy more causes me to see into everyone’s heads, all of the time? I can’t do that to people, Hotch, to the team. If they found out, they’d never be able to accept me.”

“Spencer, look at me,” Aaron urged. “I don’t know what you saw in Morgan’s head, and honestly, I shouldn’t know something so private. But, if we continue to have difficulty controlling our abilities, we might not have a choice in seeking some help. And it might have to be soon.”

“What do you mean?” He frowned. The bonding light in Aaron’s eyes had grown brighter, a golden yellow in the iris surrounding the black pupils of his eyes.

“I had a meeting with Strauss. She and the Director are aware of our relationship now, and they’re questioning it,” he said.

Spencer blanched, feeling the blood drain away from his face. “But… but you said Dave could do my evaluations, and we shouldn’t have a problem!”

“I know, obviously I was wrong on that front,” Aaron continued. “I don’t think Strauss really has a problem with our relationship…”

“It would be hypocritical of her,” Spencer blurted out. “She’s sleeping with Dave after all!” Mortified at his lack of brain to mouth filter, his cheeks heated again.

Aaron chuckled. “Spencer, I knew they were having an affair. I can smell their combined scents occasionally.” Spencer wrinkled his nose at the thought, glad he didn’t have deal with an extreme sense of smell on top of everything else. “Do you have another ability I don’t know about?”

“No! Garcia and I saw them come out of a hotel together a few weeks ago when she dragged me downtown to go shopping,” he said, primly. Aaron grinned at him for a moment, before becoming serious again.

“For now, I don’t think she’ll take any action,” he said, stroking his fingers down Spencer’s neck. Those golden eyes were caressing his face, watchful, yet loving. “But, if we can’t prove to her and the administration that our relationship isn’t detrimental to our work, they’ll separate us.”

“What do you want to do?” Spencer asked. Jitters tightened in his belly, fluttering madly at the thought that one of them might have to leave the BAU.

“I think we should see Dr. Freeman at the Council for help,” he stated. Alarmed, Spencer scrambled off Aaron’s lap. “Hear me out, Spencer!”

“Do you have any idea what’ll happen if people find out about the telepathy, Aaron?” he shouted, causing Gottfried to scramble of the coffee table in fright, streaking down the hallway to their bedroom. “We agreed to keep it a secret!”

Aaron surged up, stilling Spencer with hands on his biceps. “I’m not saying we tell him about The Knowing, Spencer. What I’m saying is, we can go to him for a consultation as a Sentinel in a relationship with an empathic Sensitive. He might be able to help us, or at least give me advice on keeping myself in control around you. I’m sure he’s worked with Sensitives before, perhaps there’s a way he can teach you to raise a barrier to keep me from feeling the bleed of your emotions during times of stress. And perhaps if you could learn, a barrier would work with the telepathy when needed.”

Spencer cuddled close to the heat of his Sentinel. Wrapping his arms around his lover, the fear overwhelmed him. “He’s a guide, Aaron. I can’t go, what if he can feel The Knowing within me?”

“Just think about it, please,” Aaron replied, holding him tight. “I love you, I won’t let anyone separate us, Spencer. We’ll figure this out.”

Surrounded by Aaron’s strong arms and gentle feelings, Spencer almost believed him.

Chapter 2:

The jump and buzz of the phone jarred Spencer awake.

“J.J.?” Aaron rumbled.

Spencer rolled over burying his face in Aaron’s armpit to whine, “No… no. It’s Saturday.”

“Where? Good, we’ll drive,” Aaron spoke. “Have the team meet for case briefing at eight, and let them know they don’t need their go bags… thank you.”

The phone clicked off and Aaron’s arm pulled him close, snuggling Spencer’s morning wood against his flank.

Spencer’s hips rubbed against the soft skin, appeasing his arousal a bit before he slurred, “What time is it?”

“Five-thirty,” he replied, nuzzling and scenting Spencer’s hair. Aaron enjoyed Spencer’s morning scent, which he found fascinating, and a little bit bizarre.

God, he was tired. The last time he remembered looking at the time it had been two o-clock. He’d lain in bed with his lover waiting, waiting for his swirling thoughts to shut down enough to fall asleep. It hadn’t happened for hours, which had been doubly maddening, since Aaron had fallen into a deep sleep within the first fifteen minutes. Even the steady breathes and heartbeat under his ear hadn’t helped to shut up his brain.

“Did you sleep at all?” Aaron asked, tugging Spencer up for a chaste kiss.

Spencer closed his eyes, enjoying the softness of the kiss. Aaron’s sleepy gentleness in the mornings always made him feel worshiped. “Not much, a few hours.”

Aaron’s hand stroked over his cheekbone. “Do you want to stay home?”

“No, I’ll be alright once I get some coffee,” he murmured. The bonding glow was muted again in Aaron’s eyes, they almost looked like they used to, a dark brown, almost black, but the hint of gold highlighted as amber within their depths. Aaron was calm, his emotions serene, with the respite he’d gained. They caressed Spencer’s mind with contentment in that moment, and he knew if he hadn’t had to get out of bed, they’d have lulled him back into a deep sleep.

A loud demand from the doorway pulled Spencer away from his focus on his Sentinel. Gottfried was ready for breakfast, if the yowling complaints coming from his cat were any indication.

“Come on, take a shower,” Aaron said with one last peck to Spencer’s brow. “I’ll have coffee and breakfast ready by the time you get out.”

Spencer sat up reluctantly, admiring Aaron’s firm behind as he shimmied into his pajama bottoms. Watching his bonded, it was intriguing to think he could learn to control his abilities. That he could possibly be able to raise a mental barrier to stop, or mute, the flow of emotions between him and Aaron, perhaps even learn to use his telepathy in a positive way. But in what way could it be a positive thing to get into people’s minds? To see, hear and feel their emotions?

Spencer had thought he’d made a clear-cut choice last night when he’d delved into that pedophile’s mind. Good versus evil, he’d seen the use of his telepathy and empathy during the investigation, as necessary. He’d believed with absolute conviction in his choice at the time, and it had worked, but it had also failed spectacularly.

“Where are we going?” he asked.

Picking up Spencer’s pain in the ass cat, Aaron looked over his shoulder to reply, “Baltimore.”

****

Spencer was clutching a coffee the size of his head when Aaron came into the round table room. The dark smudges under his lover’s amber eyes were prominent, and he did feel a bit guilty for falling asleep so quickly last night. Though in his defense, the buzz of Spencer’s thoughts in the back of his mind had become a wonderful built in white noise generator for him since they’d bonded. He hoped the stop at the café on their way in for another coffee would wake Spencer up a bit more. It should, with the amount of cream and sugar he’d added. It made Aaron’s teeth ache just thinking about it.

He was more settled this morning, but knew he needed to keep a lid on his Sentinel drives when it came to Spencer. What he’d done to Spencer the day before bordered on abusive in Aaron’s view. He’d not meant to force his dominance onto Spencer and only the pain of the bite had awoken him from the haze of frenzied rage he’d been under. He’d lost all control, to the point of madness, at the revulsion he’d felt coming from Spencer’s telepathic contact with Racine. Aaron knew, more than ever before, that he had to contain the aggression that was a natural part of being a Sentinel. If he didn’t find a way to control his instincts, he was going to lose Spencer in the long run.

“Good morning, everyone,” he said, taking a seat. It looked like they were just waiting on Garcia and Morgan. Aaron could hear Garcia’s excited rambling about her latest project, the meditative benefits of adult coloring books, as the pair headed through the bullpen.

“I’m telling you, Derek, you should give it a try!” she chirped with her arms full of papers and tech. “Broaden your horizons… good morning all.”

Garcia was wearing a teal and pink skirt and blouse combo this morning, with a fuchsia hair band that seemed to have cat ears on the top of her blond head. He always looked forward to seeing his tech analyst first thing in the morning. Her style was always bright, and completely inappropriate for the FBI. Aaron loved when people decided to flaunt convention and be themselves. Those types of people were always interesting and fun. He did sometimes wish he didn’t seem so stodgy and conforming himself, but being the head of the BAU required that type of conventionality.

“Not gonna happen, Baby Girl.” Morgan just shook his head at her with a big grin, taking his seat. His grin widened when he set eyes on Spencer, before teasing, “Hey, Pretty Boy! That coffee big enough? A little somethin’ somethin’ keep you up all night?”

Morgan’s smile slowly faded when Spencer’s eyes sidled away from his. Spencer didn’t even engage him in their normal ritual to defend himself from Morgan’s teasing before saying in a muted tone, “No.”

Spencer hadn’t even blushed like he normally did. Aaron wasn’t sure what secret Spencer had seen in Morgan’s mind the night before, but he figured it had something to do with child abuse. The case had been difficult for all of them, but Derek hadn’t seemed to handle the stress as well as he usually did. The agent had been angry, and generally difficult and impatient for the duration of the case.

“Spencer?” Morgan murmured frowning. “You okay?”

“Yes, fine,” he replied, avoiding meeting anyone’s gaze. “Just fine, why wouldn’t I be?”

Before Morgan could inquire further, Aaron interrupted, “Shall we get started?” The distress Spencer was feeling was coming off him in waves. He needed to distract the team and he hoped by doing so, Spencer would settle down a bit. The discomfort coming from his bonded was starting to make his brain itch. “We’re going to head out in thirty minutes, Garcia?”

“Yes… right, boss man,” she said, hesitant before jumping back up from her seat with the remote. “The case details are on your tablets.”

Aaron had to hide a smile behind his hand when Spencer completely ignored the computer in front of him to blink big eyes at Garcia.

“Oh… my… God, you Luddite! Fine! Here’s the paper,” she huffed pulling out a file to fill Spencer’s grabby hands. “And I know you haven’t been checking your email! We’re going to talk about that when you get back.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about, Garcia,” Spencer stated serenely, already flipping through the file. Aaron cleared his throat to get the pair back on track, relieved when Spencer’s anxiety dissipated to a whisper in the back of his mind. The tech versus paper battle had been going on for more than a year now. Aaron had every faith that Spencer would hold out until the bitter end, but in the end he would lose the war.

“Ok, we’ve got three women raped and strangled in the last six weeks in Baltimore,” she grimaced, clicking her remote uploading the victims images and crime scene photos on the monitor. “Mary Ann Pritchard, age thirty-five was found in the front lawn of her parents’ house in Roland Park on April 15th. Veronica Griffin, thirty-eight was found on May 12th in the backyard of her home in Evergreen, and Brenda Webster, age thirty-seven, was found in the driveway of her home this morning. She lived in Wyndhurst.”

“Well, he certainly has a type,” Emily said. “They’re all in their thirties with dark hair and eyes, slim and athletic.”

Aaron didn’t say it, but he could easily see that Emily Prentiss could’ve been related to the victims. The Killer’s preferences were so specific. Perusing his own tablet, he said, “He beat, raped and then strangled them, bare handed. That takes a lot of strength, and stamina.”

“The neighborhoods he’s killing in are very upper-middle class, it would be difficult to assault these women outside their homes without anyone seeing, or hearing, anything,” Dave said, frowning. “Could we be looking at a team? One to keep the victims quiet, while the dominant does his work?”

The team’s tension, that had been palatable at the start of the briefing with Spencer’s disquiet, eased with the discussion of the case. Though, Morgan was watching Spencer out of the corner of his eye. Aaron could see the concern on his features, the wondering if he’d done something to upset their resident genius.

“There is a history of serial killer partnerships,” Spencer said. “One of the most prolific pairs killed ten infants.”

“I haven’t heard of that case, Spence?” J.J. replied in confusion.

Spencer, his eyes bright with knowledge, spouted a factoid that Aaron just knew his lover had been waiting for the opportunity to let loose. “Oh, you probably wouldn’t have. Jane Goodall observed Passion and Poms’ murder spree from nineteen-seventy-five to nineteen-seventy-nine, when they killed and ate ten infants in their community.”

“Kid, are you talking about apes?” Morgan asked incredulously.

“Well… specifically Chimpanzees.” Spencer replied, seemingly back on his game. “Slightly off topic, but I doubt our unsub was working with someone. It’s rare to have a killing partnership. He’s strangling them, and that might be the way he’s keeping them quiet, along with the beating. It’s hard to scream when your airway is obstructed.”

“Though we have seen partnerships in the past, so we can’t rule it out,” Rossi said.

Emily was flipping through her screens quickly. “It looks like two of the victims were professionals, and one was a stay-at-home mother. Two had children and one didn’t. Other than their looks, I don’t see how they could be connected at this point.”

“His preference is very specific,” J.J. agreed. “According to witness statements, the first two victims went out with friends in downtown Baltimore’s Inner Harbor area on the Friday night before their bodies were discovered.”

“We’ll have to see if that pattern holds with our current victim,” Spencer said. “If so, we know where he’s hunting.”

Emily shook her head. “These are all mature aged women, they wouldn’t go home with a stranger.”

“They are definitely not easy, high risk targets,” Morgan agreed. “They either knew him or they trusted him for some reason.”

“His behavior is certainly high risk,” Aaron added. “He assaulted and killed Mary Pritchard on the front lawn of her parents’ home, while they were inside sleeping. Perhaps he needs the added thrill of getting caught.”

“He’s a sexual sadist. These victims were tortured, beyond the beating and rape,” J.J. mused, her normally smoothed brow was furrowed, anger glistening in her bright blue gaze. “They feel safe, they’re almost home when he strikes. The door to safety is only a few steps away, and he takes it from them.”

“Arrogant,” Dave stated. “Thinks he can’t get caught. He’s not worried he’ll get caught, even with neighbors close enough to hear.”

“Dave, Morgan, I want you to meet the ME at the morgue to see the latest victim,” Aaron ordered. “See what additional insights you can come up with regarding the unsub’s needs or rituals. Emily and Spencer, head out to view the latest crime scene, a Detective McInnes will meet you there. J.J. you’re with me, we’ll be meeting Captain Simone Jackson at the station. Garcia, see if you can get any CCTV from Inner Harbor on the nights in question, and start going through it. Hopefully, you’ll be able to see our victims, and who took them home. We’ll convene back at the station this afternoon.”

A flurry of controlled movement almost drowned Aaron out. “Time is short and he’s escalating quickly. If he sticks to his preferred night to hunt, we only have six days to find him before he kills again.”

****

He’d never wanted Aaron to feel pain or disgust in their bond, and without thinking it through, he had. He’d known how horrible the connection to Racine’s mind would be, and he’d done it anyway. In doing so, he’d seen something horrific in Morgan’s mind. Morgan’s painful secret was so vivid; he’d not been able to meet his friend’s eyes this morning.

He’d made a decision last night during the long dark hours, with his Sentinel’s heartbeat under his ear keeping time with his own. Keep his secret. Don’t use his abilities. Seeing Morgan this morning only cemented his decision that without control over his abilities, he couldn’t in good conscience seek out the darkness again.

“So… you want to talk about what’s going on with you and Hotch?” Emily asked.

Spencer started at the sudden question, the first twenty-minutes of their drive had been silent, both lost in their thoughts.

“I… I thought you didn’t enjoy being profiled?” he replied, hoping to stave off the potential inquisition.

“True, it’s hypocritical of me, I know,” she agreed, her eyes were focused on the road ahead, hands graceful but firm on the steering wheel. “But, between that defensive show with Morgan this morning, the fact our boss got a mysterious wound on his neck during the interrogation, and your frankly, and I say this with love, epic pouting during the rest of the case the other night, I’d say something’s up with you and Hotch, relationship wise.”

“I was not pouting!” he exclaimed, offended by the term.

She grinned at him, “There’s the Dr. Reid I know and love. So what gives, Spencer?”

“Well, it’s true we’re working through some things right now,” Spencer admitted, wondering if he could get out of having this conversation.

“Things?” she coerced.

“Sentinel and bonding things, that I can’t really go into, Emily,” he sighed, watching the greenery whoosh by out the window. He definitely didn’t want the team to know what he’d done with Racine, but he obviously had to give them something. Otherwise, they’d never leave him alone about it. He seemed incapable of hiding his feelings from them. The lot of them were worrywarts. Dave was right, for a kid that grew up in Las Vegas, he had a terrible poker face.

“Okay… but that’s not the whole of it,” she stated. “I’m your friend, Spencer. I want to help, if I can. If it was just relationship stuff, ‘Sentinel and Guide things,’” Spencer had to roll his eyes at the finger quotes going on over the steering wheel, “You’d both be upset. And Hotch was definitely not upset with you this morning. Concerned for you, but not upset.”

Emily was one of the most level headed of the bunch, and damned insightful. It was maddening; her arguments were always logical, and irrefutable, taking the winds of avoidance out of his sails regularly.

“Strauss and the Director are questioning our relationship,” he blurted.

She looked over with a raised a black brow. “Oh… Really?”

“Yes,” he replied, adding his own finger quotes to the conversation. “They’re worried about Hotch becoming ‘unstable’ by being in a relationship with a non-guide. We can’t ‘bond,’ you see.”

Emily snorted. “You’re already bonded, Spencer.”

“I know, but they don’t,” he replied. “And we can’t let them find out. Who knows what would happen if they did?”

“True,” she said with a frown, before her brow cleared. “They do know they’re talking about, Hotch, right? I mean he’s one of the coolest, most levelheaded agents they have. I’ve never seen him become volatile due to his Sentinel abilities, well… except when you were attacked in your apartment last year. But, with everything we’ve seen in this job, he’s never blinked. Not once. They should already know that.”

“I’m sure they do,” Spencer agreed. “They’re afraid they’ll lose one of only five Sentinels in the bureau, if the relationship affects his decisions. They might end up transferring me out of the BAU.”

“Well, that would be a sure fire way to lose their Sentinel,” Emily said wirily.

“What do you mean?” Spencer frowned.

A smug beautiful grin overtook her lovely face. “Spencer, you’re bonded to the man, whether they know it or not. If you were forced out against your will, Hotch would leave too. That man has never been forced to do something he didn’t want to do.”

Spencer’s eyes widened, alarmed at the thought Aaron would give up his career for him. “Oh… oh! He would, wouldn’t he?”

Emily gave him a wink. “Yes, he would, so I don’t think you’ll have anything to worry about in the end.”

Chapter 3:

The horde of reporters on the street easily advertised that a horrific crime had been committed in the quaint neighborhood that Brenda Webster called home. Leaving his suit jacket in the SUV to keep the early summer heat at bay, Spencer followed Emily through the throng, ignoring the shrill questions of the reporters.

Benda Webster’s home in Wyndhurst was an adorable arts and craft bungalow probably built in the nineteen-twenties, with decorative brick and woodwork prevalent on its façade. The neighborhood was fairly old, mapped out over the hilly terrain that pleasantly framed the combination of bungalows and two story cottages with their green lawns, old trees, and thick shrubbery.

“The houses are close, but the foliage is very thick,” Emily murmured. “It would be easy enough for the unsub to hide, if he was stalking his victim.”

“Yes,” he agreed. “But, someone should have heard or seen something last night.”

The driveway had a slight incline that ended at a quaint, separated garage. There was blood spatter high on the drive, and painted across the garage’s white wooden doors, in a vulgar speckled pattern. There was a lot of blood, but not enough to have killed the victim.

Spencer crouched down over the spot where Brenda Webster had been killed. “Her neighbors on either side wouldn’t have seen anything, the hedges are too thick, too tall.”

“There’s a clear view across the street, though.” Emily observed with a wave. “Her neighbors across the street, and anyone driving by would’ve been able to see what was going on.”

“Unless he parked his vehicle in the drive,” Spencer stated.

A heavy pressure was growing in the back of his mind, throbbing in his temples, and Spencer realized the pain of it had been with him since they’d passed through the city limits. He just hadn’t noticed the initial twinge, too distracted by his situation with Aaron. He hoped he wasn’t coming down with a migraine. He’d be all but useless if that was the case.

“Spencer?” Aaron’s question brushed softly through his head.

Shocked, he stood abruptly. “Hotch?”

“Oh! You did hear me. Are you alright?” he said. “You’re in pain, are you hurt?”

“You can feel that? How are we doing this?” he replied, stunned. “You’re what, six miles away?”

Spencer had assumed the mind-speak and emotional transference they could engage in through the bond required close proximity. He was obviously very wrong. He turned to start walking the perimeter of the property, hiding the fact he was having a conversation that didn’t require actual voices to be heard.

“I have no idea, I’m at the station,” Aaron thought. “I just felt that you’re in pain.”

“This is really freaking me out, but I’m alright,” he insisted. “I just have a headache coming on. I have some ibuprofen in my bag. I’ll take some when we’re done here. Is it hurting you?”

“No, not really. I’m not actually feeling your pain, it’s more like a slight ache in my neck,” he explained. “Though, it’s not an ache either, I can’t really describe it right.”

Relieved he wasn’t hurting Aaron, Spencer replied, “Okay, good… I’m just fine. Don’t worry, we’ll be done here soon.”

“I love you.” Aaron’s answer sent a warm pulse down the back of his head, softening the discomfort throbbing in his temples for a moment.

“Love you too. I’ll see you soon, but this is still freaking me out,” Spencer thought perturbed. The warmth of Aaron’s presence retreated with an amused hum.

Emily was giving him an inquisitive look when he finally turned, and he realized he must’ve look a bit strange standing still in front of a shrub that couldn’t tell him anything.

“You must be from the BAU,” a low voice called, coming from the house’s porch behind them. The detective was a tall, powerfully built man, a good-looking specimen of humanity with his light brown hair and dark brown eyes. He was classically handsome, with a strong jaw line and sharp cheekbones.

Sharply dressed in a navy blue suit, he was light on his feet coming down the steps. Spencer’s eyebrow raising was involuntary when he raked his eyes admiringly up and down Emily Prentiss’ form. It was a very obvious appreciation, but he checked himself, and his ogling, before the point the scrutiny bordered on rude.

“John McInnes,” he greeted Emily with a handshake and a smile, completely ignoring Spencer’s presence, which didn’t surprise him in the least. Any red blooded heterosexual alpha male was going to ignore a beta male—preferences unknown—in the company of a woman, particularly a woman as attractive as Emily Prentiss was.

“Detective,” she returned. “Agent Emily Prentiss, and this is Dr. Spencer Reid.” She allowed the detective to hold on to her hand a bit longer than necessary, before pulling away.

“Pleasure to meet you,” he replied with a small smile.

“Who found the body?” Spencer inquired, finally pulling the detective’s gaze off of his partner.

McInnes assessed Spencer for a moment before answering. “Her neighbor next door, he’s in the house, and pretty shook up.”

“We’d like to speak with him,” Emily stated.

“I’ll take you in.” He nodded and then said ruefully, “I haven’t had much luck getting him calmed down enough to be coherent.”

McInnes looked to be in his middle thirties, Spencer determined, following him and Emily up the steps of the house. The detective must have been off the beat for about eight to ten years, so it was surprising he was having difficulty with a witness. Perhaps he was impatient, Spencer mused. Brenda Webster was the third victim in six weeks, and that would make any cop edgy to get answers, but impatience with volatile witnesses was never very helpful.

“Did you find evidence the killer was in the house at all?” he asked.

“No,” McInnes replied opening the front door, allowing Emily and Spencer to precede him. “The only disturbance we’ve found is what took place on the drive. The neighbor is Thomas Gladstone.”

They entered a small, bright living room with warm wood floors, pleasing white millwork, and bright yellow walls. Brenda Webster’s space was made to be homey and comfortable, with its plush furniture and bright colors. An old man, probably in his seventies, was sitting on the couch surrounded by cops and crime scene techs. He looked so alone surrounded as he was, silently weeping. He seemed so small to Spencer, caved in on himself, wrapped in a plaid throw blanket.

“Mr. Gladstone?” Spencer approached to slowly sit on the coffee table in front of him. “I’m Spencer Reid, and this is Emily Prentiss. We’re with the FBI. Would it be alright if we asked you some questions about Brenda?”

The old man’s breath hitched a bit as he nodded, patting the seat beside him for Emily to sit. His blue eyes were bright with tears, but he seemed to gather himself when they all settled.

“Mr. Gladstone, how well did you know Brenda?” Emily asked softly.

“Quite well, just over ten years,” he replied. “She and her husband Richard moved in when they were newlyweds.”

“And her husband? Where is he?” Emily asked, gently.

“I don’t know, he’s been out of the house for six months now,” he uttered. “The divorce went through about four months ago.”

“Do you think Richard would hurt Brenda?” Spencer asked.

“I… I don’t think so, but it was difficult for her. Richard was angry she got the house.” Thomas sighed, swallowing audibly.

“Do you know of anyone else, who would want to hurt Brenda?” Emily asked.

“No… no, she was a nice person, hard working,” he replied, with tears continuing to run down his parchment cheeks. “She was just starting to get her life back together. We were friends.”

“Do you know why they divorced?” McInnes cut-in, close and looming standing at Spencer’s back.

Startled, Thomas looked up to the detective. “Richard kept stalling about having children. Brenda’s window, as she put it, was closing, and he refused to discuss it. We both thought he might’ve been having an affair, but she couldn’t prove it. With the divorce done, she was trying to decide between artificial insemination, or adoption. She didn’t think she could wait much longer.”

“She wasn’t worried about becoming a single parent?” Emily asked, pulling Gladstone’s attention back to her.

“No… not really. She was a bit worried about it, I guess, but not enough to be childless for the rest of her life.” Sobbing he said, “I was going to be an honorary grandpa.”

“Mr. Gladstone, when was the last time you saw Brenda?” Spencer asked quietly, pulling a small handkerchief out of his pocket to handed over.

Wiping his eyes, it took a moment for Thomas to get his breath back. “Last night, just as she was leaving to go out. She really wasn’t up for it, but it was a co-worker’s birthday. She’s a ER nurse at Johns Hopkins.” His face crumpled when he whispered, “She was.”

“Do you know where?” Emily asked.

“Some place in Inner Harbor that was having an over thirties night,” he said.

“Did you hear anything last night?” Spencer pressed.

He shook his head. “I woke up briefly. I think I heard a car door slam, but I can’t be sure. I was only half awake.”

“I know this is difficult, Mr. Gladstone.” Emily glanced at Spencer briefly, before continuing the most difficult part of the interview. Their witness was doing very well, for having found the body. Spencer knew they’d have to locate the ex-husband as soon as possible, though it was unlikely he would be the unsub. “Can you tell us what you saw this morning? I know you found Brenda in the driveway, can you tell us about it?”

Thomas’ gnarled hands pressed to his face, trembling. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I couldn’t let anyone see her like that!”

“Like what,” she murmured.

“I had to pull her dress down. She was left exposed. I couldn’t let anyone else see her like that,” he cried.

“You interfered with the crime scene!” McInnes burst out.

Spencer turned to give the detective a frown, but Emily’s glare beat him to it. She shook her head at the detective, mouthing ‘be quiet’ before turning back to their witness. McInnes had stiffened at the rebuke, but he quickly settled with a nod to Emily.

“I’m sorry… sorry,” Thomas was muttering.

“It’s alright, Mr. Gladstone,” Spencer said. “You didn’t do anything wrong, we understand. Did you touch anything else?”

“No… no… I just pulled her dress down,” he replied.

****

His headache had become almost unbearable by the time they got back to their vehicle. Chewing ibuprofen dry was a chalky and less than pleasant experience.

“You okay, Spencer?” Emily asked as she settled into the driver’s seat.

“It’s just a headache,” he replied, waving off her concern. “So… what do you think of McInnes?”

Emily gave a derisive snort. “He is attractive… and he knows it.”

****

“Mr. and Mrs. Pritchard, thank you for coming in to speak with me,” Aaron said, giving Louis Pritchard’s had a final shake.

Wrapping an arm around his weeping wife, Pritchard nodded, his craggy face grief stricken. “Find the bastard who killed my baby, Agent Hotchner.”

“We’re hunting him, sir and we’ll do everything we can to find him,” Aaron replied. He watched for a moment as the couple left, wondering if this was going to be one of the cases that the BAU couldn’t solve. They had an above average solve rate, but there were always cases and killers that remained a mystery.

“Do you think we’ll catch him?” Captain Simone Jackson asked as she came along side him.

Aaron nodded. “I think we have a good chance, but only time will tell. Killers like this one will not stop. He’s organized, and smart enough not to leave DNA behind, but he’s also reckless. I think it’s only a matter of time before he makes a fatal mistake. That’s how we’ll find him.”

“Down to luck instead of good police work?” she asked.

“It’s usually a combination of the two that works best.” Aaron smiled.

“Very true.” She snorted.

Aaron liked Captain Jackson; she seemed to be a tenacious and dedicated officer, and ran her unit efficiently. She was a tiny thing though; the top of her head was just shy of reaching his shoulder. Aaron thought she must have been pretty determined and stubborn to work up the ranks of the male dominated Baltimore Police Department, both as a woman, and as a black woman. It couldn’t have been easy and probably still wasn’t with the majority of her officers being white men.

Jackson had a presence about her though, embracing her heritage and culture with her hair in natural ringlets haloed around her face, wearing a bright red skirt suit that was set off with a colorful patterned scarf. Aaron guessed her age to be close to fifty, but her skin was smooth with an agelessness people of African descent were known for, looking far younger that she was.

“I’m looking forward to meeting the rest of your team,” she said. He followed her back into the conference room where the case boards were set up.

“They should start trickling in soon,” he said, glancing at his watch. It was going on two in the afternoon. He hoped Spencer and Emily had stopped to get something to eat after the crime scene. His genius ate like a bird most of the time, and often forgot meals, his big brain distracting him from the needs of his body. Aaron had admitted to himself months ago, he was a bit of a mother hen when it came to Spencer’s wellbeing. Luckily, Spencer didn’t seem to mind his fussing most of the time.

He sat and pulled Mary Anne Pritchard’s file to him. He really didn’t need to look at it again, but was a bit restless waiting for the rest of the team. At least the tightness in his skull had eased, which he thought meant that Spencer’s headache was going away. It had been a weird feeling, like the skin around his skull and neck was shrinking. It hadn’t been painful, just unpleasant.

Since they’d fully bonded and consummated their relationship, Aaron had experienced various symptoms that correlated directly with what was going on emotionally and physically with Spencer at any given time. When Spencer was excited or intrigued by something, Aaron felt a tickling up the back of his neck. When Spencer was uncomfortable, his brain felt like it had an itch he couldn’t scratch. When Spencer was in physical pain, his skin got tight in the place that Spencer’s physical pain was felt. Spencer was so wary of his abilities that Aaron hadn’t broached the topic of his awareness of Spencer’s emotional and physical state.

Their bond was like nothing he’d ever read about, in regards to sentinel and guide bonding. Now they could speak to each other over a distance. It was surprising, but Aaron found it fascinating, and to a lesser extent, his sentinel instincts were quite pleased with the ability. Oh, who was he kidding? It was badass.

Now if he could convince Spencer of that, they could work together to figure out what their individual and combined gifts could really do.

Spencer’s delightful scent teased his nose. It was an addictive fragrance, spicy and sweet, with a hint of the coffee Spencer drank far too often His thoughts must have conjured his genius, the whimsical notion making him smile. He caught sight of Spencer and Emily through the conference room window. The BAU’s two coffee hounds—the evidence of their foraging for caffeine irrefutable with the extra large cups in their hands—were being led through the bullpen by an officer.

“Did you at least eat a muffin or scone to go with that coffee?” he said as the pair approached.

Spencer gave him that little pouting frown that Aaron just found adorable. “Yes, meddler, Emily made me.”

Aaron tried not to grin at him. “How did it go?”

Emily set her things down to take a seat, replying, “As well as could be expected, Benda Webster’s elderly neighbor found her body this morning. It’s a wonder he didn’t have a heart attack from the shock. We need to get Garcia to find out where her ex-husband is, their divorce wasn’t all sweetness and light.”

“It’s unlikely he had anything to do with her death, but we should rule him out as quickly as we can,” Spencer acknowledged, staking out his own seat across the table.

“Dr. Reid, Agent Prentiss, it’s a pleasure to meet you,” Jackson greeted. Aaron had to keep the grin from his face as Spencer was forced to shake the officer’s hand. His phobia about the amount of germs exchanged during handshakes was amusing, though he certainly didn’t have any reluctance about his Sentinel’s hands on various parts of his body, particularly when sex was on the table.

“Rossi and Morgan not back yet?” Emily asked. “Where’s J.J.?”

“She’s finishing up with Veronica Griffin’s sister,” Aaron explained, before opening his hearing, seeking out his team’s heartbeats. “Dave and Morgan just parked.”

Spencer was eyeing the map that highlighted the cluster of attack sites, and his big brain buzzing with computations sent that tickling sensation down the back of Aaron’s neck.

Dave and Morgan sauntered in, exchanging introductions with the Captain. Morgan gave Spencer’s shoulder a squeeze and Aaron could feel the itch of Spencer’s discomfort start in his head when their eyes met. He gave his friend a small smile at the appraisal, which seemed to satisfy Morgan, at least for the moment. Aaron knew Morgan was eventually going to confront Spencer about what was bothering him.

Spencer’s frown was epic when Morgan’s hand mussed the wild curls on his head and the prickling in Aaron’s brain washed away with the teasing.

It was a somber room, the crime scene images stark on the board. Aaron could see J.J.’s golden head moving toward the conference room. She must’ve finally finished with her interview. Her face was tight when she sat next to Spencer, and Aaron was somewhat relieved that the bond protected Spencer from the emotional transference of others now. Aaron knew that the heightened feelings Spencer had often received before had been stressful in the extreme for him throughout his life.

“Dave, do you and Morgan want to start?” Aaron asked.

Dave nodded. “The beating and rape was brutal, full of rage and hate. He’s gotta be strong, he was able to strangle Brenda Webster one handed. The ME said his hands are quite large, and if we can catch him, he has the hand span measurement available for comparison.”

“He’s definitely punishing these women for something,” Morgan added frowning. “The torture was excessive, particularly since he strangled and released during the assault multiple times.”

“What does that tell us about his ritual?” Aaron asked.

“He’s probably using them as surrogates for the true source of his rage,” Emily replied. “Manual strangulation is not easy to do, and it’s very personal.”

“Surrogates?” Jackson questioned, intrigued.

“There’s a woman in his life who he perceives as having wronged him in some way,” J.J. said. “At the moment he can’t go after her, so he’s choosing his victims as a replacement for her.”

“How can you know that?” she asked, leaning forward.

“He has a very specific physical type, and we found out today that Brenda Webster was recently divorced.” Spencer frowned. “The first two victims were also recently divorced or separated.”

“According to her sister, Janice, Veronica was abused by her husband, Chris,” J.J. said. “I looked up her records, and there were multiple police visits to the home, but she would never have her husband charged. The separation has been extremely volatile. Janice said that her sister’s husband would constantly harassed Veronica over the phone with multiple calls and texts per day, as well as email. It got to the point recently, that she had him blocked from contacting her, unless it was through her lawyer.”

“Mary Pritchard’s divorce was more amicable, according to her parents, though she was living with them while she was house hunting,” Aaron voiced.

“I knew Mary,” Captain Jackson stated. “She was a public defender for the City, so most of the detectives here knew her in one way or another. She was a fixture in the station, dedicated and confident. It sounds like Veronica Griffin was timid, very different from Mary.”

“I don’t think that’s what really matters to him, it’s enough they are no longer with their husbands, and they fit his physical ideal,” Spencer replied.

“Both Mary and Veronica’s husbands have alibis,” Jackson replied. “I’ll have Detective McInnes track down Brenda Webster’s.”

“He’s also leaving them in humiliating positions, fully naked and exposed.” Morgan shook his head in disgust. “He hasn’t an ounce of remorse for what he’s done to them. He’s proud of the punishment he’s dealt out.”

“Brenda, wasn’t left naked, but he did pull her dress up to her armpits,” Emily said. “He’s leaving them stripped down for their neighbors to see. A mockery of pornography in a seemingly idyllic community.”

Spencer was frowning at the images on the case board. “Brenda was missing a pendant. Her neighbor said she wore it every day, a silver etching of her deceased dog’s paw print. Were the other victims missing any jewelry?”

J.J. nodded. “Veronica’s sister said one of her rings was missing when she was going through her things, a small gold ring with an opal set into it.”

“I’ll have to contact the Pritchard’s again, but I think it’s safe to say, he’s taking trophies,” Aaron said, making a note on his tablet. “Both earlier victims were out the night of the assault at various bars and restaurants in Inner Harbor.”

“Brenda was going there too, for an over thirties night,” Spencer said. “We should see if we can determine where they overlapped. He might be hunting at a specific place.”

Morgan pulled out his phone. “Oracle of omnipotence, all knowing and all seeing at your service.”

“You’re on speaker, Garcia.” he grinned at Jackson’s raised brows.

“Yes… well, my proclamation still stands,” she chirped. “What can I do you for?”

“Garcia, have you had any luck with last night’s security footage?” Aaron asked, trying to be stern. It was a losing proposition, he knew.

“Unfortunately not yet, Anderson has a team helping me go through the oodles we got from the BPD, so it’ll take awhile,” she replied.

“Garcia, can you trace Brenda Webster’s movements for last night?” Aaron asked. “We need to see if there’s overlap with any bars or restaurants that the other victims went to on the nights they were killed.”

“That I can do, Mon ami!” she answered.

“Also, this isn’t the unsub’s first rodeo,” Rossi stated. “Check VICAP and expand your search back a few years and see if you can find any similar murders. His MO is unique, so if he’s done it before, you should come across similar cases.”

“Will do, I’ll get back at you, as soon as I’ve got something. Oracle out.” She clicked off with her usual flare. Aaron knew she’d find them something; she always did in one way or another.

“Should we alert the media where he’s hunting?” Jackson asked. “We’ve increased the police presence in Inner Harbor since the second victim was discovered, not that it’s done much good.”

“No,” Aaron shook his head. “He’s probably already aware that the police might know where he’s luring his victims, but if the media confirms it, he could change his MO or location.”

J.J. added, “I would just recommend advising women fitting his preferred type to be vigilant, and stay within a group if they go out.”

“We could lose him, if he thinks we’re getting too close,” Dave remarked.

Chapter 4:

“Aaron, what do you feel from me?” Spencer asked softly. “Is it always physical?”

Aaron glanced over, stilling hands that had been industriously chopping vegetables for a late dinner stir-fry. He tried not to smile at the tableau of his genius sitting at their small kitchen table, surrounded by papers with his laptop open, and Gottfried sprawled across his workspace. He was under a strict pinking swear not to tattle to Garcia that Spencer used the computer she’d forced on him regularly. Though, he figured if she wanted to find out, she could always hack into the machine.

He turned back to his culinary project, mulling over how to answer the question for a moment. “I’m always aware of your emotional state. Most of the time, it’s like a gentle hum in the back of my mind.”

Spencer pulled a notepad out from under Gottfried’s plump belly, causing his fluffy tail to swish in irritation. Aaron set his knife aside as Spencer started to write. It didn’t look like dinner was going to get done anytime soon. After today’s newest manifestation of their abilities, it seemed his bonded was finally ready to talk. Relieved, he washed his hands and joined Spencer at the table.

“Okay, you said you could feel that I was in pain,” Spencer started, his amber eyes bright with curiosity. A tickle swooshed down the back of Aaron’s head, raising goosebumps on his arms. “Was the response to it planned, or spontaneous?”

Stroking the spoiled feline purring in front of him, he replied, “Spontaneous, a gut reaction. I didn’t even think about it when I called out to you.”

“And… what did you feel, physically?” Spencer pressed.

Aaron grimaced, thinking back on the tactile feeling. “It was like the skin on my head got tight. Sort of similar to someone pulling my hair, but not hard… more of a soft tugging sensation, I guess.”

“Do you experience physical sensory input from me?” he asked, watching Spencer’s furious note taking. His genius had the worse handwriting imaginable, and Aaron didn’t know how Spencer could decipher half of what he wrote on a regular basis. Garcia had noted at one point she needed the Rosetta Stone to figure out Spencer’s chicken scratch.

“My handwriting is not chicken scratch,” Spencer protested matter of factly, before his eyes rushed up wide to meet Aaron’s. “Shit! You didn’t project that at me, did you?”

Alarmed, he captured Spencer’s flailing hand. “No… I didn’t. Or at least I didn’t mean to. Easy baby, it’s alright.”

“How can it possibly be alright?” he exclaimed, rearing back in his seat, pulling his fingers away from Aaron. “First Morgan, now you! Whose thoughts am I going pluck out of their head next? This is not good, not good at all.”

“Spencer, maybe I did project it, but just didn’t intend to,” Aaron said, trying to sooth his high-strung genius.

“No… no you didn’t. I know you didn’t, Aaron.” He buried his face in his palms.

“Spencer… Spencer, stop hiding,” he said, tugging those slim fingers away from Spencer’s face. “Granted, it’s a bit disturbing, but we need to talk about this.”

Spencer’s breaths were hitching a bit, his discomfort starting that itch in Aaron’s head again. Gottfried gave an inquiring meow before getting up to bump heads with Spencer. His lover got a lap full of purring feline, and the itching in Aaron’s head started to settle when Spencer buried his hands in his cat’s soft fur. Gottfried working as a genius soother was a good thing to know, he mused.

“What am I going to do, Aaron?” Spencer whispered, avoiding his gaze.

“There’s no I in this scenario, Spencer,” Aaron replied, reaching across the table to cup Spencer’s refined jaw. “We will figure this out… together.”

The bond was luminous in Spencer’s amber eyes, evident yet subtle, and his bonded was so beautiful it almost took Aaron’s breath away. The love Spencer felt for him was a soft caress in his mind, making his heart clench within his chest.

Spencer took some shaky, deep breaths, cupping his own hand on Aaron’s, pressing it firmly against his face. “Alright… alright, together.”

Aaron ran his hand through Spencer’s curls with a smile before retreating. He wasn’t too comfortable with the notion that Spencer would be able to read his thoughts without his knowledge. It would be a slippery slope for them relationship-wise if that became the case. They shared so much with the bond already, but Aaron, and he was sure Spencer would agree, also needed to keep some things private. It was human nature to hold inner thoughts close, keep them separate from the spoken word. Sentinels and Guides could not read each other’s thoughts, unless there was some sort of danger or duress involved. At least, that’s what he understood from his own experience with his parent’s volatile relationship. Perhaps he was wrong about that, he pondered.

Spencer picked up his pen again, keeping an arm around Gottfried, whose head just peeked over the table. “Okay, I want to know about every physical sensation you get from me. So, you get a tugging on your skull when I have a headache.”

“Well, it has to be a pretty bad one for me to feel anything, I think,” Aaron said. “This was the first time I’ve felt it.”

“What about if I’m hurt someplace else?” he questioned, frowning.

Rubbing the back of his head, Aaron didn’t know why he was embarrassed to admit what he felt from Spencer. It felt raw, uncomfortable, like he was admitting he was a Peeping Tom or something. “You haven’t really been seriously injured, so I don’t know what that would feel like. When you bumped into the corner of your desk and got that deep tissue bruise on your buttock last month, my skin felt tight. Like someone was giving me an Indian Burn or pulling at the skin, I guess.”

“It was not on my buttock!” Spencer said, affronted. The tension between them suddenly eased a bit with Spencer’s fibbing.

Aaron smiled. “I didn’t know what I did to hurt myself at the time, since I was just sitting at my desk. I figured out it was you when I saw that lovely bruise that night. It was definitely on your left butt cheek, baby. I kissed it better, remember?”

Spencer blushed red to the roots of his hair. “Fine! Stop teasing me. We’re having a serious discussion.”

“I love you,” Aaron thought.

Spencer huffed. “I love you too. Now, let’s continue. What other symptoms from my emotional state do you have?”

Caressing Spencer’s writing hand, Aaron confessed, “When you’re really uncomfortable, like with Morgan this morning, my brain feels like it has an itch; a prickling sensation that doesn’t go away until you’re calm again.”

Frowning, Spencer jotted down some notes, but kept his arm under Aaron’s fingers. He figured that was a good sign, Spencer seeking his touch instead of withdrawing from it. Aaron hoped the puzzle of their situation would prod Spencer away from his tendency to avoid dealing with his abilities.

“Anything else?” he asked.

“I get a tickling sensation down the back of my head, when you’re intellectually stimulated,” Aaron replied.

“That must be annoying,” Spencer stated, his pen scratching across the page.

Aaron shook his head. “No… not really, I just get a heads up when your big brain goes into overdrive. It dissipates quickly, so it’s not a sustained sensation like pain or discomfort.”

Spencer was scowling at his notes, fidgeting. The itch was back with a vengeance.

“What are you truly afraid of Spencer?” Aaron asked, stilling his lover’s hand on the paper. “I know our situation is unusual, and frightening. I do think we should seek out help, if we can, but it’s more than worry about invading people’s privacy or seeking out The Knowing. What is it?”

Spencer swallowed thickly, turning his hand to clutch at Aaron’s fingers. Meeting his gaze, Spencer said, “I’m afraid of my mind, Aaron. What if… what if, my abilities are a factor in manifesting Schizophrenia?”

Shocked, Aaron rose and knelt next to him, stroking his lover’s face, he whispered, “Spencer, our bond wouldn’t be possible if that was the case. It’s strong, I’d know if something like that was happening to you. It’s not all in your head, you know. I feel you. I know you.”

“But…” Spencer started.

“No, you don’t have any of the signs, Spencer.” Aaron shook his head. It had never even occurred to him to be worried about the possibility of Spencer developing Schizophrenia. “You’re not paranoid or confused. You’re not hallucinating. You’re anxious about your abilities, but I’d say that’s pretty normal for something so different to what we know about Sentinels, Guides, and Sensitives. Don’t the symptoms start in young adulthood?”

“Yes, forty percent of males manifest before the age of nineteen,” he replied slowly. “But there’s still a chance I could develop it, even though the peak for onset is twenty-five years old for men.”

“You’re going to be thirty soon, Spencer,” Aaron said, deliberate. The anguish Spencer was feeling was evident through the bond, and he had to ruthlessly tramp down the heated instinct to protect and possess ascending within him in the face of his lover’s torment. “You won’t develop it, what we’re experiencing has nothing to do with mental illness.”

Spencer rested his forehead against Aaron’s sighing. “You can’t know that for sure.”

“Spencer, listen to me,” he said, cupping Spencer’s cheeks in his hands, pulling those beautiful eyes to his. “I think… you’ve always had the potential for these abilities to develop. The car accident just helped to bring them out in you. Once your injuries healed, all of your brain scans were normal for you, right?”

“Yes, but my scans did show some increased neural activity and unique patterns,” he replied, pressing his forehead against Aaron’s again. “But differences in brain structure are seen with patients diagnosed. I have a first-degree relative with the disease, and that increases my chances of developing it by thirteen percent.”

“You’ve been carrying this around for quite a while,” Aaron murmured, wrapping arms around him, and Gottfried let out a small squeak of complaint at being squeezed between them. “The only way to find out for sure would be to have some medical testing done, but I’m convinced in my gut that your abilities, and the bond, have nothing to do with Schizophrenia, Spencer.”

It was true, he mused. He’d have felt the instability of mental illness through the bond. Spencer’s mind was full of knowledge, and often swirling mathematical and logical thoughts, intermixed with the emotions of a man who was extremely self-aware. Aaron knew this to his core; the bond between them had made that conclusion evident to him. He couldn’t read Spencer’s thoughts, but the sensations he felt from the way his bonded perceived the world around him were always there, in the back of Aaron’s own mind. The Knowing was not related to mental illness. It was a unique gift, that he hoped one day, Spencer would finally accept.

“Okay… okay, but you have to promise me that if you’re in pain because of me, I need to know, Aaron,” Spencer replied, fiercely. He rocked his forehead against Aaron’s, agitated. “I mean it.”

Aaron leaned up to capture Spencer’s soft lips in a chaste kiss, whispering against them, he replied, “I promise.”

****

Spencer’s thoughts were churning shadows in his head with only Gottfried’s warm weight against his hip to distract him. He wondered what Aaron was feeling, if he was receiving the darkness in Spencer’s mind by the conjuring of a physical ache someplace in his body. His abilities were violating his lover. He was forcing himself on Aaron, with no way to stop it. The promise he’d made to himself, to not use his abilities without control over them, wasn’t working out so well. His didn’t have the knowledge or the skill to discipline his telepathy and empathy, and it was affecting his Sentinel in ways he could hardly comprehend.

If he didn’t find a way to manage the transference, he couldn’t see how he could stay with Aaron. He was hurting his lover, even if Aaron played down the sensations. Spencer knew, what it felt like to have an unwelcome presence in his mind, to have The Knowing overwhelm him in darkness and horror.

He sighed, taking off his glasses, and setting the book he’d not been able to read on the bedside table. He wondered if he’d get any sleep tonight. He was exhausted, but his mind wouldn’t shut down enough to allow him to sleep. It was going to be a long night, Spencer thought, as he settled further under the covers, staring at the ceiling with Gottfried under his arm.

The light in the bath went out, and Spencer’s thoughts sputtered at the sight of Aaron, naked and hard, stalking towards the bed. He’d never get use to that sight, his lover was so gorgeous nude, it always gave him a bit of a shock. Aaron stood at the side of their bed, just smiling, allowing Spencer to look his fill. He was just splendid, with his wide shoulders, slim hips, and heavily muscled thighs.

Heat surged along the bond, even with everything that had gone on today, his Sentinel still wanted him. Spencer gasped softly at the stimulation; his own cock started to fill and throb under the covers, responding to Aaron’s want.

“Aaron,” he murmured.

His Sentinel slowly tugged the bedclothes, the material slithered down Spencer’s body, exposing his gray FBI t-shirt and navy blue and red checked pajama bottoms. Aaron slowly crawled onto the bed, predatory, and Spencer’s breath hitched in his chest with Aaron scenting his groin on the way up his body.

“Hi,” he said faintly when Aaron’s bulk and warmth hovered over him on hands and knees.

Aaron’s lips curled. “Hi, back.”

The pleasure of the words in his head resonated three-fold with Aaron’s desire surging through the bond.

Spencer pulled Aaron to him, capturing those teasing lips. Gottfried’s yowl of complaint from the jostling barely registered, the taste and feel of Aaron in his mouth at the forefront of his mind.

The kiss was deep, passionate, and possessive, with tongues gently dueling. A gasp escaped him, his hips naturally opening to cradle that solid form undulating against his own. Spencer’s cock tingled against it’s mate with Aaron’s teasing fingers tugging at his hair. Spencer loved the feel of Aaron’s skin under his palms, so soft over the hard planes of muscle and bone.

“Love you,” Aaron’s thought was a reverent whisper in his mind.

His hands clutched at his lover, tears prickling in the back of his eyes for a moment at the heartfelt declaration, surging and sweet. His loins clenched at the soft suck given to his upper lip before Aaron pulled back from the kiss. The bond bloomed between them, thrumming as Aaron’s eyes, golden with their connection, caressed his face from above.

“I won’t let anything happen to you, Spencer,” he murmured.

Spencer’s breath hitched at the conviction in Aaron’s voice. Surrounded by his Sentinel, Spencer let the confidence in the words wash over him, settling the disquiet in his mind. There was no room for apprehension within Aaron’s protective embrace.

“I know… I love you too,” he replied, gently smoothing his fingers over the ridges of the healing bite on Aaron’s neck. “More than I thought possible.”

Aaron sealed the words between them with chaste kisses to Spencer’s lips, cheeks, and chin. Spencer arched back, exposing his neck to the delicate suckles Aaron’s supple lips started grazing down his throat. The occasional nip of teeth streaked electric down his torso, peaking his nipples and shivering sensation in his groin.

A whimper escaped him as Aaron moved down his body, stopping to pull a nipple into his mouth, wetting the fabric covering the nub. A rumbling sound from deep in Aaron’s throat vibrated over the sensitive peak before he continued down, pushing up Spencer’s shirt to nuzzle and scent his belly. With his fingers full of the thick dark hair on Aaron’s head, Spencer’s frame bowed at the sharp nip his navel received, before his pajama pants were pulled down past his knees, exposing his desire.

A sharp punch of want cascaded down the bond as a satisfied sound of enjoyment burst from his Sentinel at the scent of Spencer’s sexual core.

“Oh, God,” he said faintly at the sight of Aaron’s dark head between his thighs and the big hands gripping his slim hips tight.

Those golden eyes held his as Aaron’s mouth slowly licked a stripe up the shaft of his prick. Spencer couldn’t hold that gaze for long once Aaron’s tongue swirled around the sensitive head of his cock, gathering the pre-cum waiting there, taking the sharp taste into his mouth, with a contented hum. He arched, grasping Aaron’s head hard with a soft groan at the wet heat that encased his prick to the root.

The pleasurable pressure of Aaron’s mouth had Spencer writhing under those grasping hands and bobbing head. His eyes clenched shut with the nerve endings in his loins resonating with deep pulses, bowing his body, seeking to get deeper into the fevered warmth sheathing his cock.

It was quiet with only the sounds of Spencer’s panting breaths and the moist melody of Aaron’s lips and tongue taking him again and again, deep, squeezing his cock over and over. The prickling bliss continued to build, reverberating throughout Spencer’s body to the point the bond opened wide between them. Groaning, with Aaron’s own ecstasy cascading through the connection, the deep throbbing crested, tensing Spencer’s frame, before the shivers of his release pulsed outward in time with the rhythm of his beating heart.

Boneless, Spencer worked to catch his breath, the fluttering of his climax was a pleasant background ache in his loins. He shivered at the taste of himself still on Aaron’s mouth when his lover stole a soft kiss, before sprawling on top of him with strong arms wrapped around his torso. Aaron’s head was a welcome weight on his slight chest.

Petting Aaron’s head and shoulders, Spencer slurred, “Give me a minute and I’ll take care of you.”

He felt Aaron’s grin against his skin. “No need. I came when you did, baby.”

His hands stilled for a second, before continuing his patting. “Huh… okay, good. That’s good.”

Aaron nuzzled his chest a bit, saying, “Yes, a very good thing.”

Serenity was like a warm mist through the bond, the afterglow of their lovemaking enchanting in the quiet between them.

“Where you consciously muting your emotions after Racine?” he asked, breaking the silence.

Aaron rested his chin on Spencer’s sternum, his brow creased, but his reply was sleepy, “Yes, I was trying to. I was worried I’d hurt you if I didn’t, Spencer.”

Running his fingers softly over his lover’s head, Spencer said, “Don’t do that again. I don’t like it.”

“Okay, I’ll try not to,” Aaron agreed, rubbing his face against Spencer’s chest. “But, I don’t want to hurt you like that again.”

“You won’t,” Spencer stated. “I also don’t want you to sacrifice your career for me either.”

Aaron gave him a squeeze. “If they force you to transfer out of the unit, I can’t stay. I won’t stay.”

“You know… I hate it when you’re all noble and self-sacrificing, it’s irritating.” Spencer frowned and received a nip against his side in reprimand. Cupping Aaron’s jaw, Spencer captured his eyes, they were amber with the contentment of their bond deep within them. “Make an appointment with Dr. Freeman.”

Chapter 5:

The stifling, wet heat of the summer pre-dawn punched Spencer in the face as he exited the SUV. The swirling blue and red lights of the cop cars blanketed the large crowd of onlookers and reporters milling about behind the crime scene tape. The lights and the noise spiked the pain he was already feeling in his temples, another headache throbbing under the bones of his skull, pulsing insistent behind his eyes.

Aaron was frowning a bit, walking along beside him, and he figured it was either the loud and bright chaos of the scene, the sensation of Spencer’s own aching head, or the fact the unsub had struck again so soon that furrowed his Sentinel’s brow. They hadn’t gotten more than four hours of sleep before the call had come in and the sun had yet to climb up and chase away the gray of early morning.

The killer had come back to Roland Park, the scene profane in the quaint picturesque neighborhood. They ignored the calls of the reporters, ducking under the crime scene tape in front of the sprawling, powder blue hued Victorian house on Roland Avenue. The body, covered in yellow tarp, clashed harshly against the backdrop of the decorative house and gentle slope of the manicured lawn.

Spencer gave Emily a wave as he passed by her, and McInnes, at the edge of the crime scene. It looked like Morgan and J.J. hadn’t arrived yet, but Dave was standing over the victim with Captain Washington at his side.

“Dave, Captain,” Aaron greeted. “Do we have an ID?”

Dave gave them a grim nod. “Jennifer McDonald, thirty-seven.”

The victim had almost made it onto the steps of her home before she was attacked. She’d been so close to safety, the tips of her bloodless hand, peeking out from under the covering, just touched the first step up to the wooden porch.

Spencer kneeled down to pull the tarp up a bit. The blood scent was sharp in his nose. She was unrecognizable, her face broken and bloodied. Her naked form was sprawled with her legs spread wide, bent at the knees. Her placement was full of the killer’s mockery and ridicule.

“This is a serious escalation, Aaron,” Rossi stated, giving Spencer a hand up.

“He’s devolving, leaving no room for a cooling off period,” Aaron agreed gravely. “I didn’t expect him to kill again so soon. Two nights in a row is extreme.”

“And dangerous,” Washington said. “We added to the patrols in this neighborhood and the surrounding area last night. But, we didn’t get any calls, and my guys didn’t report anything suspicious happening in the area either.”

“She’s not wearing any jewelry,” Spencer said, taking in the contents of her purse and clothes scattered around her. “He’s only left her in her shoes.”

“The attack was frenzied, he didn’t take his time,” Dave added.

“Why would he take the risk to come back here?” Washington asked.

Aaron’s nostrils were flaring. “He didn’t take his time with the assault, but he did linger.”

His Sentinel was frowning fiercely, and Spencer perceived that his concentration was fragmented. Ignoring the lance of pain in his head, Spencer opened his empathy to a narrow focus, carefully trying to keep the pain muted along the bond, blanketing Aaron’s mind softly. He knew how to help his Sentinel focus. They’d done this before. Aaron’s brow smooth out somewhat with the elastic connection of Spencer’s empathic touch. It helped his Sentinel to tune out the discord all around them, allowing Aaron to stretch his senses wider than he could on his own.

“What is it?” Dave asked.

Breathing deep Aaron shook his head. “I can smell him.”

Spencer’s gut clenched at Aaron’s words.

“He’s here?” Washington, exclaimed, her eyes wide.

The question lingered in the air before Aaron, his head tilted, answered with frustration rife in his tone. “He’s either here in the crowd, or the scent is strong, because it’s only been two hours since the assault. I don’t know for sure, it’s not coming from any specific direction.”

Aaron sent a pulse of thanks down the bond, and Spencer folded empathic merger closed.

With Aaron’s words, Spencer’s awareness of the people around him intensified, prickling down his spine, and he wondered if The Knowing would single out the unsub. If the killer was here, watching in the crowd, he could possibly find him if he allowed his empathy to hunt for the darkness he knew was in the man’s mind. The darkness that seemed to always be within those who sought to kill for the pleasure of it. The idea he could find the killer now was enticing, seductive.

Spencer swallowed the lump that had gathered in his throat, thinking the temptation through. After his Sentinel’s reaction to the black touch of Racine’s mind, and the ease in which he’d pulled Aaron’s thoughts out of his head last night—benign as they were—Spencer didn’t dare to attempt it.

His abilities were too unstable. He had to trust in the skill of the team, and their profile, working together to find the killer.

“… I’ll get my officers to start taking pictures of the crowd.” Catching the tail end of Washington’s words, Spencer’s attention was pulled back to the discussion.

“What do we know about the victim?” Spencer asked, hoping to hide his distraction.

“Let’s get Garcia on the horn and find out,” Dave said, pulling out his phone.

“Y’ello!” she chirped. “You’re on the air, best selling author, David Rossi!”

Garcia was just too chipper at the early hour in Spencer’s opinion, relaxing at the sound of his friend. She always was, no matter the time she was called, and Spencer hadn’t figured out how she did it, yet. “Garcia, can you tell us about Jennifer McDonald? She’s a resident of Roland Park.”

“Let me see, Junior G-Man,” she replied, the clicking and clacking of her keyboard was a rambunctious sound over the line. “She is… a lawyer, specifically a criminal defense attorney, pricy for her clients. She’s currently estranged from her husband, Dean and… seems to be living in their house on her own at the moment. Her husband is paying rent at an apartment building downtown. They don’t have any kids.”

“Another woman, who’s in the midst of marriage trouble,” Washington murmured.

“Can you find out what her movements were tonight?” Aaron asked.

“Will do, shouldn’t take too long,” she replied. “I did find out that two of the victims used their credit cards at the same club, Club Inferno in Inner Harbor, the night they were killed. And our third victim can be seen entering the club the night she died. We’re still going through the surveillance for the other victims, but Brenda Webster wasn’t on camera leaving the club that night.”

“She probably used a side or back door,” Dave guessed. “Garcia, see if Jennifer McDonald went to that club last night. If so, we know his preferred place to hunt.”

“I’ll get back at ya soon,” she agreed before clicking off the line.

“Dave, call J.J. and Morgan, have them meet us at the station. We’re ready to give the profile,” Aaron announced.

****

“How are you and the Kid doing, relationship wise?” Dave’s murmured question interrupted Aaron’s contemplation of Spencer’s willowy figure fussing with the geographical profile on the large board he’d wheeled out for the presentation.

“We’re doing better,” Aaron said, and couldn’t help the twitch of a smile curling on the corners of his lips. Spencer had been so cute last night, wrecked from his orgasm, conceding to Aaron’s need for a long post-coital cuddle. “We got some talking done, finally. He’s agreed to have a consultation with Dr. Freeman at the Council.”

“That’s surprising. You’re not going to tell him everything, are you?” Dave asked, his heavy black brows raised. “That Kid, has made avoidance of the uncomfortable an Olympic sport.”

“No, we can’t.” Aaron shook his head, trying not to smile at Dave’s assessment of their resident genius. “We’ll have to confess to some things, because I need help controlling my instincts when it comes to him.”

“It’ll be just like marriage counseling,” Dave stated with a grin. “Not that it ever did me any good.”

Aaron’s huff, aborted a laugh. “No, marriage counseling didn’t help me either. I’m hoping for some added insight on the Sentinel aspect, though.”

Giving Aaron’s shoulder a squeeze, Dave said, “Well, I wish you luck. Since Freeman’s not actually a marriage counselor, perhaps a consultation will actually help.”

“Dave’s nosy,” Spencer declared.

“You reading my thoughts again, baby?” Aaron smirked.

“No and don’t call me baby while we’re working,” he replied with an epic frown fixed on his Sentinel. God, his bonded was just so adorable sometimes. “I could just tell you guys were talking about me instead of the case… and I’m not adorable!”

“Yes, you are,” Aaron asserted, just fine with Spencer picking up that particular thought. Spencer’s snort of derision was colossal across the bullpen. Aaron had to turn to hide his smile from the room, his brevity inappropriate given the circumstances of the case.

The tugging sensation he’d been experiencing at the crime scene had eased on the drive back to the station, but it was back again. Spencer’s continuous headaches the last few days were a bit of a worry, but he hoped it was due to lack of sleep, rather than the state of their bond. If they persisted, he’d have to convince his genius to have some medical testing done.

Aaron’s own abilities seemed to be on the fritz as well. He’d had difficulty at the scene, dialing down his hearing and sight to be functional. His inability to pinpoint where the sickly sweet scent of the killer, even with Spencer’s empathic assistance, was coming from, had been doubly frustrating. The remnants of that tainted cloying scent were still in his nose, even now, miles from the crime. He’d always been able to control his Sentinel gifts with little difficulty; the fact that he couldn’t the last few days was disquieting.

“I think we’re ready, Sir,” Emily said, settling next to him, her eyes on the patrolmen and detectives streaming into the room.

“You were having an intense discussion with the detective earlier,” Aaron said. “Any new insights?”

“McInnes? No, he was just apologizing for butting in with our witness yesterday,” she replied. “He was worried that he’d hindered the interview.”

“I haven’t met him formally, yet,” Aaron said. “Did he? Affect your interview?”

She shook her head. “Not really, he was just a bit of a bull in a china shop, eager for answers. Frustrated by the lack of progress of the case, and probably a bit irritated we were called in.”

“Ah,” Aaron said. “Not the first time, and probably not going to be the last time, a detective hates the fact we’re on their case.”

“Too true,” she agreed with a soft smile.

“You can get started, everyone’s here,” Washington said, approaching to join them at the front of the crowd.

The room was full, and Aaron spied Detective McInnes stationed at the back, leaning against a door jam, a notepad in hand at the ready. Morgan and J.J. were alongside Spencer to his right, with Dave and Emily on his left. The whole team was ready, and Aaron couldn’t have been prouder of them in that moment.

“Thank you all for your attention,” Aaron started. “The man were looking for is a white male, and is or was married, possibly with children, between the ages of thirty and forty-five years old.”

“He’s experiencing, or had recently experienced, the breakdown of his own marriage.” Dave stepped up. “His situation at home is his trigger, so look for men who have been separated, or divorced, two to three months ago.”

“The urge to kill is not new for this unsub,” Morgan added. “But, his divorce or separation from his wife has given him a reason to pursue his actual desires. He is a need based killer, using surrogates, rather than seeking out the true source of his rage, his wife.”

“He’s unraveling, and when he finally does, he’ll eventually seek her out,” J.J. said. “His wife is in grave danger, and his motivations, to some extent, are in his choice of victims. He has a specific type, and his wife will no doubt fit into his ideal. She will have been, if not physically abused, then profoundly mentally abused. It will have taken quite an effort for her to finally leave him, and the court proceedings of the divorce will have been contentious in the extreme. He will have no doubt tried to convince, doctors, therapists, the police, and judges that his wife is actually mentally ill. That is not the case, but at some point he will have even convinced her of it. His mental abuse is that persuasive.”

Morgan continued. “This is not the first time he’s killed, he has experience, so check your cold case files going back ten to fifteen years; we’re sure you’ll find at least one or two similar cases. He is organized, and patient, for the most part. With the latest victim, we can see he’s devolving, taking her so soon means either the FBI’s presence on the case has stepped up his game, or he’s got his own internal deadline to meet.”

“He is a narcissistic sociopath, arrogant, and domineering, but he hides it well,” Emily said. “He believes women must be subservient to men, but he is able to keep this opinion under wraps with colleagues, acquaintances, and friends. Women who have contact with him will be uncomfortable around him, but won’t know the reason why.”

“He comes from a background of abuse,” Dave interjected, “and most likely emulates his father’s views on women. His father no doubt had absolute control over his own wife and children.”

“This man needs total control and domination over every aspect of his life,” Morgan added. “Including those around him. That control was recently shattered by the ending of his relationship.”

“He most likely lives, or has lived at one time, in Roland Park or the surrounding neighborhoods,” Spencer said, with a wave to the map on the board. “Roland Park was the first planned suburban community in North America, developed between 1890 and 1920 as an upper-class streetcar suburb. He’s killed two of his victims in that neighborhood, so it means something to him. He was probably recently forced out of the family home with the separation from his wife. He attacks his victims out in the open, he knows when the neighborhood is quiet. Even with the added police presence, this man’s assaults have not been seen.”

“He is able to gain the trust of his victims,” Aaron said. “They either know him in some fashion, or they trust him because he’s in a position of authority. Two of the victims were lawyers working in the criminal justice system, and one was a nurse. Look at doctors, lawyers, judges, firefighters, and others within positions of law enforcement.”

“You think he might be a cop?” Washington exclaimed.

“We can’t rule it out,” Aaron replied. “These women were all mature in age, they wouldn’t allow a stranger or someone they didn’t trust to drive them home.”

****

“You still not speaking to me, Pretty Boy?” Morgan said, startling Spencer into dropping his files on the floor of the conference room.

Kneeling to gather his things, Spencer fibbed, “I’ve been a bit busy, Morgan. It’s not like I’ve been avoiding you.”

“Could’ve fooled me, Kid,” Morgan replied, crouching to help pull some papers out from under the table. “If I did something to piss you off, I’d really like to know what it was.”

Sitting back on his heals, he sighed. “It’s not anything you did, it’s a problem with me.”

“Are you really giving me the ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ speech,” Morgan said, his black brow raised in amusement. “I thought you were dating Hotch.”

His cheeks hot, he couldn’t help but glower at his smirking friend. If he still didn’t feel so guilty about invading Morgan’s privacy, he’d go in all guns a blazing at the Neanderthal’s teasing.

“Neanderthal?” Aaron’s mind-voice was accompanied by a fit of coughing across the room.

“Never you mind,” he replied, feeling his cheeks get even more heated at his faux pas. He really needed to sort himself out, or his telepathy was going to drive him crazy. “I’m just having some personal issues to deal with. I’m sorry if I’ve been distant lately.”

Concern lightened his friend’s dark eyes. “You sure? I’ve just been getting some vibes off you lately that had something to do with me.”

“No, Morgan.” Spencer shook his head. “You haven’t done anything at all to upset me in anyway. I’m sorry if I made you feel that way.”

“Ok, Pretty Boy,” Morgan returned with a strong hand on Spencer’s shoulder. “I’m here, though, if you want to talk about whatever’s going on with you. You know I’ll help you in any way I can.”

“I know,” he replied, patting Morgan’s hand. “Now help me with my stuff, since it’s your fault, my notes are all over the floor.”

Morgan snorted. “If you used the tablet Garcia got you, you wouldn’t have that problem.”

“Oh… just shut up and help me,” he said, exasperated, hiding the fact he was actually relieved to be teased again. It wouldn’t do to let Morgan get complacent.

Chapter 6:

Spencer was sleepily rubbing his morning erection against Aaron’s hip and Aaron loved that, loved the feel of Spencer’s slim form against him, around him, with his wild curls tickling his chin. He smoothed his hand over Spencer’s forehead, content, scenting Spencer’s sweet morning fragrance, waiting for his lover to wake fully.

At least they’d finally gotten some sleep, and had some regular working hours. Spencer’s headache seemed to be gone as well, while they waited for something to shake loose with the case. It had been two days since the profile, and another victim hadn’t been found, the killer quiet in the aftermath of the profile being given to the press. Washington had placed plainclothes officers in the clubs and restaurants in Inner Harbor the last two nights, but nothing had come to light. They’d kept the name of the specific club the victims all frequented out of the press, and Aaron hoped the profile hadn’t completely spooked the unsub. If it had, and he went dormant, the case was going to go cold.

“Shush, ‘m trying to sleep,” Spencer slurred, stretching his body against Aaron’s with a satisfied shiver.

Aaron grinned. “I didn’t say anything.”

“Brain’s loud, be quiet,” he replied, rubbing his face on Aaron’s chest. Long fingers started to play with the downy trail of hair underneath Aaron’s navel.

They had the rare opportunity to sleep in a bit this morning, although of course Gottfried had come calling for his breakfast before dawn. Aaron had gotten up to feed the feline menace to keep him from waking Spencer, and for the last thirty minutes, he’d been trying not to watch Gottfried’s post-breakfast wash. It was disconcerting to have a fat cat, legs splayed wide, large belly in a Buddha-like slump, licking his genitals right next to his hip. God forbid, he try to shoo the feline off the bed, he’d never hear the end of it, from either Gottfried or Spencer, if he did.

“What time’s our appointment?” Spencer murmured.

“Ten,” he replied with a kiss to Spencer’s soft brow. “Everything will be ok, baby.”

“I hope so,” Spencer whispered, and Aaron wished he could settle Spencer’s fear in some way. He hated feeling helpless in the face of it, unable to do anything to assuage it.

****

Their steps echoed on the polished marble floors of the ostentatious building that housed the National Council of Sentinels and Guides in Georgetown. Nerves were fluttering in Spencer’s stomach, and he was glad he’d only been able to eat a piece of toast this morning. Aaron’s fussing about it had been epic, but Spencer just couldn’t get anything else down his gullet, he was so apprehensive about the upcoming meeting.

Their FBI credentials had allowed them to pass the security checkpoint with their firearms, and now, waiting on the elevator, Spencer had the sudden urge to bolt. Only Aaron’s firm hand on the small of his back, and his concern pouring through their bond, kept Spencer from running.

He could sense the Sentinels and Guides all around him within the building. The feel of them pressing against his empathy was disconcerting; it was unusual to have so many in one place. He’d never felt anything quite like it.

“Can you feel them too?” he whispered as they got into the elevator.

“Yes,” Aaron replied, low.

Before long they reached the right floor, the doors opening to reveal a posh, but homey, reception area with a young man smiling in greeting. The offices had kept the original character of the old building with its warm wooden floors, and plaster moldings, painted in pleasing shades of light and dark greens. Persian rugs enhanced the tableau of comfortable chairs and couches on either side of the desk with pops of color in warm reds, dark blues, and gold.

“Mr. Hotchner, Dr. Reid? Dr. Freeman is ready for you,” the receptionist said with a smile. Spencer could tell he was a Guide, and a fairly strong one at that. He didn’t think the handsome young man, with his light blond hair and bright blue eyes, was bonded yet, but he couldn’t be sure. “I’m Richard. Can I get you anything to drink? Coffee, tea?”

“No thank you, Richard,” Aaron replied. “We’re fine for now.”

“Alright, just let me know if you change your mind. Dr. Freeman’s office is at the end of the hall to your right,” he said with a wave.

Aaron gave him a nod and steered Spencer down the hall, hand still on the small of his back. Spencer figured Aaron knew he was on the verge of making a break for it.

Freeman’s door was already open, the man waiting on them in a small sitting area on one side of the room. The other side housed a large desk with plush leather armchairs facing it. The whole room seemed to be a personal library, with rows upon rows of rare, and not so rare, books, only broken up by floor to ceiling windows that allowed soft light to seep through the gossamer drapes covering the panes. Spencer would have loved to nose about the shelves, if he’d had the opportunity, and wasn’t so damn scared.

“Ah, right on time,” he said, setting aside some papers on the couch next to him before getting up to greet them to shake their hands. Freeman’s hand was small and warm in his, but the weight of his mind brushing up against Spencer’s was unexpected. “I’m so pleased to meet both of you, but particularly you, Dr. Reid.”

“Oh?” he said, startled.

“Yes, I was planning on getting in touch with you soon, but you beat me to it!” Freeman said with a grin, waving them to take a seat across from him on a plush brown leather couch. “I’m conducting a study, and I was hoping you’d be interested in becoming a participant.”

Spencer blinked. “What kind of study?”

“We can talk about that later, since you’re both here for a different reason.” Freeman waved the question away. The doctor had an affable countenance with his snub nose, apple cheeks, dark blond hair, and bright hazel eyes. He was quite short and slim, probably not much taller than five foot six inches, but had a powerful presence about him.

Spencer knew Dr. John H. Freeman was a bonded Guide, and the mental brush of the man’s mind had been quite different than that of Richard’s, more firm, less open, and Spencer wondered if that was because Freeman was bonded, or perhaps it was a gauge of the strength of the doctor’s guide gifts. Spencer had done his homework, and knew Freeman was forty-three years old, with Ph.D.’s in history and psychology, and was an M.D. specializing in genetics, specifically those related to sentinels and guides. He’d spent his career studying sentinels and guides at the biomechanical level, as well as throughout the historical record. His latest book, A Comprehensive History of Sentinels and Guides, was scheduled for release in the fall. Of course, with Garcia’s hacking a few months ago, Spencer already had his hands on a draft copy, where small references to the special telepathic and empathic gifts of Transcendentals were made.

Spencer tucked in close to Aaron on the couch, needing the warmth of his Sentinel against him.

“So, what can I do for you both today?” he asked.

Aaron took Spencer’s hand in his. “We were hoping you could help us. I’m having trouble controlling my Sentinel instincts when I’m around Spencer.”

Eyeing the handholding across from him, Freeman asked, “How long have you two been in a relationship? Have you imprinted on Dr. Reid, Mr. Hotchner?”

“Aaron, you can call me Aaron, doctor,” he replied. “We’ve been together about three months now, but we’ve known, and worked with each other, for over a year. I’ve always been a bit territorial around him, but since we became lovers, I’ve become increasingly possessive and dominant. I’ve imprinted on him physically, though that started early on in our acquaintance.”

Spencer’s cheeks heated at Aaron’s words.

“Have you had difficulties in the past with your gifts?” Freeman asked, raising a brow.

Aaron shook his head, frowning. “No, never. I’ve always been able to suppress those feelings down when they crop up. Even when I was married, my instincts weren’t extreme with my wife, like they are becoming. I had normal territorial drives regarding my home and people I considered family, but nothing unusual for a sentinel.”

“Dr. Reid, you’re a sensitive, are you not?” Freeman questioned, and the doctor’s focus on him caused a clench in his gut. “Can you tell me a little about how your empathy works for you? I asked, because the experience of it can be quite different from person to person.”

“I…,” Clearing his throat, Spencer found his voice. “My empathy has always been intermittent, but fairly strong when it manifests. I’ve never had any sort of control over it, and will pick up on people’s emotional states regularly. Gentle emotions usually dissipate quickly, but intense emotions tend to pour all over me and I can’t block them out.”

At least that had been the case until he and Aaron had bonded, Spencer thought. Now, he generally picked up his Sentinel’s emotional state, with the new ability to grab the occasional thought without thinking about it. He no longer got the bleed of other’s emotions now, and he hadn’t tried to seek them out, too relieved to no longer inadvertently pick them up.

“When did your abilities emerge, Dr. Reid?” Freeman said, jotting down some notations in the journal on his lap.

Spencer squeezed Aaron’s hand tight, the line of questioning was beginning to alarm him. He wasn’t sure what else, Freeman’s research showed in regards to the link between empathic gifts and genius but he was wary about giving the man too much information about his particular circumstances. He also couldn’t lie either, they were here to get some help, and he did want to at least help Aaron.

“It’s alright baby, tell him.” Aaron soothed.

“My empathy started around five years old,” he replied. Freeman’s pen stilled for a second on the page, before continuing.

Freeman slowly looked up from his notes, before saying. “That is extremely unique and rare, Dr. Reid. How did your parents handle it?”

“Not well, they had tests done, but there was nothing they could do about it,” Spencer said, haltingly. “My mother has Schizophrenia, and by the time I was nine, my father had left us. I haven’t seen him since, and my mother is hospitalized in Las Vegas. When she was having one of her episodes, I couldn’t shut her out, and had to physically leave to get away from the hemorrhage of her emotional state.”

Aaron’s arm went around his shoulders, and his smile was wiry, when he added softly, “She never knew I was gone on those days.”

“If we continue our consultations, I’d like to see your medical records,” Freeman stated, his eyes alight with excitement. “Having your gifts so young, probably affected your neural pathways significantly.”

“I think you’re getting ahead of yourself here, doctor,” Aaron growled, reacting to the spike of alarm Spencer accidently sent down their bond.

Freeman’s eyes widened, taking in the Sentinel’s fierce stare. “Of course, sorry, I didn’t mean to push.”

Spencer took a shaky breath, bumping Aaron with his shoulder to gain his attention. “Perhaps, Aaron should go over the trouble he’s currently having.”

Aaron relaxed against him minutely, but Spencer could tell, his senses were still heightened. His Sentinel was on alert, ready to defend Spencer against the small doctor. It would’ve been funny, if it wasn’t such a serious situation.

“Yes… yes, I can see that we need to,” Freeman replied, less composed than he’d been previously. “So obviously, the territoriality you experience for Dr. Reid is becoming somewhat primal. What else has been happening?”

Aaron was breathing deep next to him, trying to get his sentinel impulses under control.

“We’ve been on a case in Baltimore the last few days,” Aaron replied, gravely. “Two days ago, I couldn’t focus my senses properly, particularly concerning the filtering of my hearing and targeting a specific scent. That’s never happened to me before.”

Freeman was contemplative, frowning into his notes for a moment. “It’s rare for sentinels to have long-term relationships with mundanes, but not unheard of in the literature. However, relationships between sentinels and sensitives have inherent problems, that much is known in the medical field. What I can tell you is, that pairs comprised of a sentinel and a sensitive empath usually manifest complications in regards to controlling their gifts, and often, the relationships don’t last.”

“Do you know why?” Spencer blurted, shocked.

“Unless we have some medical tests done, brain scans and MRI’s, etcetera, I can’t tell you for sure. I do think, based on my experience, that Aaron’s inability to bond with you, might be causing the problem. It is intrinsic to a sentinel’s nature that they bond with a guide. A sensitive empath is incapable of this type of relationship; however, the empathy the sentinel receives can make the primal need to bond intensify. I believe, Aaron is unconsciously trying to bond with you and since he can’t do so, it’s affecting him physically.”

But they were bonded and it was strong, golden in Spencer’s mind, and at the start, three months ago, had strengthened their abilities exponentially. Of course the doctor didn’t know that. There was no way, their bond was causing Aaron’s difficulties with his senses, Spencer mused. It had to be something else, perhaps something inherently wrong within him.

“No, it’s not you,” Aaron growled in his head.

“You don’t know that!” Spencer returned, the stress of the meeting was starting to get to him. “It’s the only explanation that makes sense. I’m hurting you, and you’re keeping it from me. I don’t need protecting, Aaron!”

“You’re making assumptions, Spencer!” Aaron returned, his gaze fierce on Spencer’s with the golden glow of the bond ascending within the depth of his eyes.

“You’re a Transcendental.” Freeman’s amazed voice was jarring in the quiet room.

****

Spencer’s sprint out of Freeman’s office was reminiscent of the time Aaron had accidently stepped on Gottfried’s tail. His slim form had been a blur of purple suit, streaking down the hallway. His genius had not even waited for the elevator, making his break clean, utilizing the stairway. Spencer could certainly run fast when he put his mind to it. The whole scene would’ve made Aaron laugh, instead of sitting there in shock, if his bonded’s distress hadn’t surged through the bond.

He’d squeezed the cushions under his hands tight to keep from losing total control of himself in front of the doctor. Aaron just knew the man could see the gold of the bond bright in his eyes, there was just no way he could hide it, feeling what Spencer was experiencing as he raced out of the building.

He’d not said a word to the doctor, who was sitting with big round eyes across from him, before he got up and sedately left the office. Aaron had ignored the doctor’s calls behind him to stay and talk. He’d needed to find Spencer, and wasn’t quite sure where his bonded would go after such a fright. He’d called, but Spencer hadn’t picked up his cell, so he did the next best thing. Rather than try to hunt with his sentinel gifts, he’d called Garcia to track Spencer’s phone. It was cheating, he knew, but he was too wrung out from Spencer’s emotional state to even try to coaxes his senses into obeying him.

To his surprise, his genius had been on his way, via the Metro, to returned to the BAU. Obviously, Spencer was going to avoid talking about what happened and being surrounded by their nosy profiling team, was a way to do that. Aaron could wait, though. They’d eventually talk, since they lived together, it wasn’t like Spencer could dodge him forever. He’d learned over the course of their relationship, that Spencer often needed time to ruminate on what was bothering him. It was something Aaron had learned even before they’d become lovers. Spencer needed his space to fuss internally, and Aaron would give it to him for the time being.

Aaron spied Spencer at his desk, blinking big beautiful amber eyes at him.

“Sorry,” he whispered with a mental caress.

Aaron gave him a wink and a soft smile in return. “It’s fine, we’ll talk about it later.”

Spencer’s shoulders visibly relaxed, before he replied, “I love you.”

“I love you too,” Aaron thought gently at the love of his life, enjoying the sweet, small smile he received in return.

“Sir! Sir!” Garcia called waving her bejeweled fingers frantically at him, moving as fast as her spiked orange heels would allow. “I’ve found something!”

“BAU team, roundtable room, please,” he called, papers rustled and chairs were sent flying as the team moved as one up from their desks.

“I have found something big, huge, colossal!” Garcia exclaimed, her excitement palpable.

“Don’t keep us in suspense, Baby Girl,” Morgan said when they settled at the table.

“Okay… okay,” she replied, breathing deep and stilling her splayed hands in front of her, as if she were trying to calm a puppy down, before clicking her remote to display crime scene images on the big screen. “My digital magic knows no bounds. The BPD detectives are still going through the analog slog of cold cases, but I extended my search outside of Baltimore, and wouldn’t you know it, I got a big hit! Two cold cases in Pittsburgh, PA, former steel country, now Mecca to tree huggers everywhere.”

“Garcia,” Aaron scolded.

“Right… right, sorry sir, just excited,” she grimaced. “Eleven years ago, in February, Dianna Peters, twenty-five was found in an alley behind her apartment building by a day laborer. Her jewelry was missing, she was left naked, and had been raped and strangled. The killer didn’t use a ligature, and there was DNA under the victim’s nails. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a hit in CODIS when I ran it again. The second victim was Helen O’Neil, twenty-nine, her body was found three weeks later in the backyard of her house. The contents of her purse were scattered all around her, she’d also been raped and strangled without the use of a ligature.”

Spencer exclaimed, “There’s a witness.”

“Yes, doctor démodé! Glad to see you’re using your tablet,” Garcia replied, ignoring Spencer’s frown for the remark. “Helen’s sister was out with her the night before and they shared a taxi with a man named James.”

“They didn’t get a good description of him from her,” Spencer frowned. “And the witness statements from the club are all quite different.”

“Unfortunately, Jean, Helen’s sister was quite drunk that night,” Garcia answered. “It seems the beer goggles had been out in full force with the people the police interviewed at the time.”

“We still need to bring her in,” Aaron stated. “J.J. can you contact her, and see if she’d be willing to come down? If not, we can come to her. Regardless of her state that night, we might learn something new about the unsub. It’s too good a lead not to pursue.”

Chapter 7:

Aaron kissed Spencer’s sweet nape, then set aside the plate he was drying at the knock on their door. Somehow, he always ended up helping Spencer with kitchen duty even though it had been agreed that if one of them cooked—Aaron the majority of the time, since Spencer was a complete disaster in the culinary department—the other would do the dishes. Aaron had two spoiled boys on his hands and he only had himself to blame, though the whims of Gottfried had been catered to long before Aaron had come into the picture.

Whoever was at the door, wasn’t going to stay for long, he determined. Aaron had been biding his time, since they’d arrived home, and Spencer was almost ready to give up the ghost and finally sit down and talk about his panicked dash from Freeman’s offices.

“Can I come in?” Freeman asked, standing relaxed in the doorway. Startled, Aaron took in the doctor’s casual dress of a gray t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers for a second before standing back to allow him to enter. “Thank you.”

“Aaron, who is it?” Spencer asked, peeking his disheveled head out of the kitchen entry. Amber eyes wide, the mug he was holding slipped out of his soapy hands shattering at his bare feet.

“Don’t move, you’ll cut your feet,” he growled, a tide of alert protectiveness washed over him at feeling Spencer’s fear pulsing through their bond.

It was quick work for Aaron to clean up the mess, and by the time he was done, Freeman had greeted and was cooing over Gottfried who was stationed on the top of the couch. The cat was actually allowing it, which surprised him. Gottfried was always particular about who he liked or tolerated, the fact he was arching and purring under Freeman’s hands was unusual.

“Go sit down,” he ordered, gently prodding his bonded out into the living room. Spencer gave him a frown at the mental command, but acquiesced to sit on their lone armchair. “Can I get you something to drink, doctor?”

Settling himself on the couch across from Spencer, Freeman replied with a smile, “A scotch or whisky, if you have it, would be great.”

“Spencer?” Aaron asked.

“Tea, please,” he said. “And put sugar in it this time!”

“I can feel that, you know,” Freeman stated, raising a blond brow.

“You can?” Spencer gasped, his shock quickly made way for curiosity that Aaron felt tingle down the back of his head. “Would all guides be able to?”

“I don’t know for sure, but I think to feel your telepathic conversation, the guide gift would have to be quite strong,” Freeman said, relaxing into the back of the couch. He was stroking Gottfried one handed, who had decided that standing on the doctor’s shoulder, purring in his ear, was the place he wanted to be. “I can feel it vibrating over my empathic barriers.”

Aaron shook himself, and left the pair to contemplate each other in silence while he got their drinks sorted. He wasn’t as concerned as Spencer was that Freeman had found them out. There was no way the doctor could prove that Spencer was actually a Transcendental without additional study, and Aaron wasn’t going to allow Freeman to expose his bonded, or his abilities.

“Thank you,” Freeman said, receiving his tumbler of scotch as Aaron took a seat with him on the couch. “I’m sorry if I startled you this morning, Dr. Reid. I’ve been looking for someone like you for a long time, and got a bit excited when I realized what you were, and the fact you’re actually bonded to a sentinel.”

Spencer bit his lip, eyeing the mug held in his hands, and when he looked up the luminescence of the bond was resonating within the depths of his eyes. He’d made a decision, but Aaron didn’t have a clue as to what it could be. Aaron thought he understood Spencer pretty well most of the time. He knew that his lover feared losing his mind, and to some extent Aaron could understand that fear, but he really didn’t know what the darkness truly did to Spencer. Aaron knew it scared his lover deeply, but he’d had only a taste of it with his experience of pulling Spencer from Combs mind. He knew Spencer had always been set apart from the others around him, and that he’d found a measure of acceptance being on the team. He hoped Spencer knew how much being bonded meant to him, and that Aaron’s acceptance of their bond, and everything that came with it, was treasured.

“Am I the first one you’ve found?” he asked sober.

“The first I’ve had confirmed contact with, yes,” Freeman replied with a tilt of his head. Aaron felt like he wasn’t even in the room, the two doctors focused solely on the puzzle of each other. “My question to you is… how did you recognize the term? Transcendentals are only referenced in my book, which has yet to be released and my research data.”

“I… I’ll have to plead the fifth on that question,” Spencer said, fidgeting.

Freeman’s lips curled into a small smile. “Well, no matter what happens this evening, if you could at some point let me know how to better secure my data, I’d appreciate it.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Spencer replied clearing his throat. “You said I’m the first you’ve had contact with. You know of others like me?”

Giving Gottfried one final stroke, Freeman leaned forward with his elbows on his knees, drink in hand. He was quiet, studying Spencer, and Aaron could feel the press of the man’s empathy between the three of them. The heavy weight of it on Aaron’s mind was steadily growing, not an attack of any sort, but unwanted all the same, a trespass.

“Doctor?” he growled, surging to his feet, ready to haul the man out of his home, and away from his Mate.

The bond-glow flared outward from Spencer, illuminating his skin, striking Freeman’s invisible empathic touch away from both of them. It caused the doctor to rear back in his seat, and sent Gottfried skittering off the top of the couch with a yowl. The protective embrace of their bond undulated around Aaron, and the unwanted weight of a strange mind was replaced by the sweetness of Spencer’s. The empathic caress of his lover washed over him with a delicious shiver, before settling into the familiar buzzing presence in the back of his mind.

“I haven’t agree to be your test subject, Dr. Freeman,” Spencer stated fiercely.

The man laughed, breathless and elated in the face of Spencer’s fury. “No… no, you haven’t Dr. Reid,” he said shaking his head. “That was magnificent though, I was wondering if you could feel my empathy. I just had to see if you could, I’m sorry.”

Except for the anger in his bonded’s face, Spencer was still sitting as if nothing had happened, holding his tea.

“Did he hurt you?” Aaron asked concerned, still reeling from the strength of Spencer’s stunning empathic gift.

He shook his head, still frowning at the doctor. “No, I’m fine, Aaron.”

“I am sorry,” Freeman said, glancing up at Aaron. “It was a rude thing for me to do, but I’m here because you both need help, and I want to help, if I can. And to answer your question, there is one other person I’ve identified who could be a Transcendental.”

Spencer came to attention, and Aaron grimaced at the intense tingling that shot down the back of his head when Spencer asked, “Who?”

“I can’t tell you his name, only that he’s located in London,” Freeman returned, smiling wiry. “He’s refused to talk with me so far. The most I’ve gotten out of our two phone conversations is that I’m, and I quote, ‘a nutter and a complete idiot.’ Needless to say, his irascible personality has been a bit of a hurdle in getting him to agree to meet with me.”

“Well… you are a bit pushy, doctor,” Spencer replied around a sip of his tea, eyeing Aaron. “Please sit down Aaron, your overprotective hovering is distracting.”

“Little shit,” Aaron grumbled at Spencer, rolling his eyes. Taking back his seat, he took some deep breaths to get his heightened instincts under control. They were still on high alert, but thwarted with Spencer’s suddenly calm acceptance of the situation. Spencer had been on edge all day, which had put Aaron on edge and now, his bonded, was settled. It was maddening. “Why are you so calm all of a sudden?”

Spencer frowned. “I don’t know.”

“You feel more steady now, don’t you?” Freeman asked, his bright hazel eyes glinting with interest.

Spencer hesitated for a second in surprise before he replied, “Yes, I do. It’s strange, did you do something?”

“No,” he replied. “Using your gift to push my empathy away, just released some tension.”

“Did you know that would happen?” Aaron asked, unsuccessfully trying not to rub at the surging tickle on his scalp. The impact of Spencer’s brain in overdrive had become commonplace for Aaron over the last few months, but lately, the excitable buzzing touch of empathy was becoming more physically intense for him.

“If Dr. Reid detected my infraction, I thought it might,” Freeman replied, frowning at him. “I’ve come across guides in my research that try to suppress their gifts for one reason or another. They almost always have physical symptoms from the stress that manifest in various ways.”

Aaron had never come across a guide that hadn’t embraced their abilities. It was ingrained in sentinel and guide family culture to use their empathic and sensory gifts. Granted, his parent’s explosive relationship, and the use of their gifts against each other had been unusual and detrimental, not only to themselves, but their children. Only once Aaron had gotten away from home, had he learned how different, and destructive, his parent’s bond had actually been.

Breaking the silence, Freeman said, “Look, I admit, one reason I’m here is, I’m hoping to bring both of you into my study to scientifically prove the existence of Transcendentals. I make no bones about it; I’m really excited by the prospect. I want to find out when your gifts emerged, and what the circumstances surrounding the manifestation were. I want to know how the bond works between you, and how different it is to a traditional sentinel and guide bonding. However, even if you refuse to take part, I do think I can help you overcome the problems you’ve been experiencing. The physical symptoms for each of you will get worse over time, particularly in regards to Aaron’s senses… if left too long, neither of you are going to be able to function.”

****

“If you use your gifts, you’ll learn how to control them.”

Freeman’s parting words had struck Spencer down to his core, and he’d come to the conclusion that the doctor was right. Spencer was the root of his and Aaron’s problems, though Freeman hadn’t outright stated it.

He’d fought for so long against his gifts, even before the telepathy had manifested. It was a terrible experience to be on the receiving end of other people’s emotions, with no way to shut them out. His own experiences as a sensitive had been horrible since the empathy had emerged when he was five years old. The terror in his mother’s mind, her deranged feelings washing over him, then the calm of clarity after an episode had been paralyzing throughout his childhood. The sanctity of his mind, violated over and over, unknowingly by his parent. He’d never been able to defend himself from the overwhelming emotions everyone around him had sent across the invisible ether of the air.

But, he’d defended himself, and Aaron, tonight.

The experience had been profound, his attack on Freeman’s empathy effortless, a release of pent up energy, perfect.

Aaron’s hand ran softly through his hair, before he rounded the couch to sit across from Spencer on the coffee table.

“I don’t know what you’re thinking,” Aaron said.

His Sentinel had been nothing but supportive since they’d bonded, before even as his supervisor and friend. Patient, Aaron was, always with Spencer. Aaron’s health as a Sentinel, had always be robust, and now, because of Spencer’s resistance to even acknowledging his gifts, let alone accepting them, Aaron was suffering.

“I’m so sorry for what I’ve done to you,” Spencer whispered, taking Aaron’s hands in his.

Love, affection, calm washed over Spencer. The tenderness of the feelings Aaron had for him stroked away the despair that had been gripping his heart tight for days.

Squeezing his hands softly, Aaron replied, “You don’t have anything to apologize for, baby. I love you, I love our bond, and we’ll figure this out.”

Taking a shaky breath, Spencer asked. “Do you think Freeman is right? If I start using my abilities, I’ll be able to control them?”

“There’s no way to know for sure,” Aaron said. “It might work. I think it’s obvious to both of us, that suppressing them, even unconsciously, isn’t working for you.”

“Or you, Aaron,” Spencer agreed. He really didn’t want to invade people’s privacy, but he especially didn’t want to seek out the darkness, The Knowing. “Do you think that some guides or sensitives, can have an inherent awareness of certain kinds of thoughts or feelings?”

“I really don’t know, baby,” Aaron shook his head. “That’s a question you might have to put to Freeman or investigate on your own, but you have an incredible talent, special and unique. When you used your gift to seek out Combs after we bonded, the strength of your abilities, and mine, were extraordinary.”

That was true, Spencer reflected. He’d felt so sure of himself at that time, the bond new, his wandering empathy protected by it, and the strength of their connection equated to a control of his gifts he’d never had before. Picking up Morgan’s thoughts accidentally had thrown him for a loop, but he hadn’t really allowed himself, or Aaron, to explore their gifts after the Combs case. Spencer realized the remnants of his previous experiences with his abilities had kept him from being brave enough to do so.

If he stopped resisting exploring the potential of his telepathy and empathy, stopped fighting against it, perhaps control would be within his grasp. Spencer knew he needed to do something, otherwise his bond and relationship with Aaron could shatter.

“I’ve never been confident in my gifts, Aaron,” he said. “You’re right, stifling them isn’t working, but I’m really uncomfortable with the thought of being Dr. Freeman’s guinea pig.”

Aaron cupped his cheeks with large warm hands, eyes searching and sure on his. “You don’t have to make that decision tonight, sweetheart. You don’t even have to choose to use your gifts until you’re comfortable with the idea of it. We’ll muddle through for the moment, until you’re ready.”

“You think I should, though,” Spencer stated.

“I think, if you leave it too long, the choice might be taken from you,” Aaron replied. “But that won’t happen for awhile, I’m sure. There’s still time for you and me to wrap our heads around the possibilities.”

Spencer turned his cheek, kissing the soft delicate skin on Aaron’s wrist, watching his Sentinel’s eyes dilate at the touch. “I’m sorry I ran away like a scared rabbit, leaving you behind. I won’t do that again.”

“I never realized how fast you could be, baby. The Flash came to mind.” Aaron smiled, his gazed focused on Spencer’s mouth.

Spencer scraped his teeth over Aaron’s pulse point in punishment for his teasing, causing his Sentinel’s breath to hitch. There were two things he was confident in, their love for each other, and his knowledge of just how sexy and desirable Aaron found him. He’d been a lonely virgin only three months ago, but he had to admit, he was getting good at the sex stuff, even if he still blushed like the virgin he wasn’t afterward.

“I want you to mount me, Sentinel,” he sent the thought along their bond.

Aaron flushed, and the bond flared washing his Sentinel’s primal possessive desire over Spencer. This was what he wanted, what he needed, to wallow in the physical and mental convergence of their bodies and minds. Aaron’s lust and love felt so good surrounding him, flowing through him with a heat that tightened in his loins. It made him feel alive with belonging.

With a rumbling growl in his throat, Aaron pulled Spencer into an ardent kiss, claiming his lips with wet heat. He tugged at Spencer’s hair, opening his mouth wider to delve deep. Spencer submitted, happy to allow Aaron to immerse himself in the taste of his Mate with a satisfied sigh.

He gasped at the nip Aaron gave to his lower lip, and the slight pain of it settled into a sharp throb in his cock before he was lifted effortlessly into his Sentinel’s arms. He held on for dear life with his arms and legs wrapped around his bonded, his head back, enjoying the scrape of Aaron’s teeth on his neck, and the heated rub of Aaron’s cock against his own, on the way to their bedroom.

He was abruptly settled on his feet. Buttons went flying across the room, cool air rushed over his skin under Aaron’s frantic hands. Aaron’s need made Spencer feel powerful, alluring, and beautiful in his nakedness, amused when he was thrown on the bed, Aaron’s haste was endearing. His pants and boxers were ripped from his legs, he was splayed, hard and throbbing under Aaron’s golden gaze.

Eyes half-lidded he watched as Aaron ripped his shirt open, toeing off his shoes with frantic movements. His Sentinel’s fierce desire was stark along the planes and angles of his face, masculine, dominant and gorgeous. Deliberate, Spencer captured Aaron’s eyes with his own, moving higher in their bed before turning with his hands curling over the wooden headboard, lowering his head, spreading his legs, and arching his back. Presenting himself to his Sentinel.

“Christ, Spencer,” Aaron murmured, reverent.

Breathing deep, Spencer waited, still, hyper aware of Aaron’s gaze on his flesh making the heavyweight of his cock and balls between his thighs pulse, rapture was skimming over his skin. Warm hands flowed down his back, cupping his buttocks, spreading his cheeks wide for the blunt wet head of Aaron’s slick cock. The breach of it when it came, the pressure, burn, and minor pain caused Spencer to throw back his head with a gasp. It was perfect, Aaron delving deep in him with one stroke, blanketing his body with hard sinew and fevered skin. His Sentinel’s hips were flush against him, the hairs framing Aaron’s sex a soft tickle against the sensitive underside of his buttocks.

His head lowered again, presenting his nape to be bitten and suckled, the joy of having Aaron like this resonated throughout his body, making his heart pound with the power of their communion.

“Fuck me, Aaron. Fuck me hard,” Spencer groaned at the feel of the walls of his passage gripping his Sentinel’s cock tight.

Aaron growled, his hands clenched bruising on Spencer’s shoulders, restraining him for the surge of powerful hips.

“Yes,” he said faintly, gripping the headboard tight arching, taking his Sentinel in deep.

He could see in his mind’s eye how they must look, beautiful, slick with sweat, flushed with arousal, his slim body trembling, bowing under Aaron’s powerful form. The pleasure and pressure of Aaron’s cock coring him, brushing perfect over his prostate, rubbing against his sensitive inner walls, causing his own prick to dribble and slap against his belly, ratcheting up the cresting surge. Opening his eyes, he saw his skin was golden with their bond.

Suddenly, he saw his own back, the stretch of his hole around Aaron’s wet, thick cock, the muscles of his back standing out in stark relief as he arched to receive his Sentinel, again and again. He could feel the tense grip of his hole clenching Aaron’s sensitive skin, the thrum within the hard flesh building toward release.

“Oh, God, I can feel what you feel… so full,” Aaron gasped, hips pounding harder, grinding deep.

Gasping, Spencer’s head was thrown back at the feel of his sheath stretching tighter around the increasing mass of Aaron’s cock. Eyes wide, he shouted at the surge of his Sentinel’s biting climax ripping through his frame, pulsing hot in time with his own, his cock messily spilling pulses of hot cum onto the pillows and sheets beneath him. The gasping sobs of Aaron’s breath against his neck and the writhing of his form in ecstasy caused Spencer to buck, colliding hard over and over against his Mate, his Sentinel, his Love, until nothing was left between them but the trembling aftermath of sated lust.

Limp, only the tight grip of Spencer’s hands on the headboard kept them both upright for long moments, with Aaron a heavy lax weight against his back. They were both still panting harshly, when hands smoothed down Spencer’s arms to coax his fingers to release their grip. His Sentinel caught his pliant form against his own, sitting back on his heels, kissing, nuzzling, and scenting Spencer’s sweat sheened neck.

His head back on Aaron’s shoulder, still connected by the bond and their bodies, Spencer enjoyed Aaron’s unbroken thoughts sweeping through him.

“My love, my mate, my beautiful Spencer, love you… love you… love you…”

Chapter 8:

Aaron felt a heavy weight on his chest; it was furry and purring. Opening his eyes took a bit of effort, but he succeeded, and found two pairs of eyes staring down at him, one green, and the other amber.

He sunk his hands into soft fur and wild bed head, simultaneously, smiling softly.

“Gottfried’s forgiven us for neglecting him last night, I take it?” he rumbled, his voice sleep rough.

Spencer’s lips curled as he replied, “Only because it’s breakfast time.”

Aaron’s smile widened at Gottfried’s demanding meow. “Very true, having him yell at me is a big hint.”

“You been awake long?” he asked, enjoying the way Spencer’s hair clung to his fingers.

“A little while, watching you sleep,” Spencer admitted, leaning down to give him a soft kiss.

Aaron sighed into it, holding Spencer still for a moment, not ready to let those kiss swollen lips go just yet. He kept the kiss chaste, soft with little pecks, enjoying the way Spencer’s plush mouth clung to his own.

Gottfried interrupted the moment with another loud yowl of complaint. Spencer pulled back with a soft grin, stroking a hand over his cat’s head, before snuggling his face into Aaron’s neck.

His fidgeting fingers were stroking over the hollow of Aaron’s throat when he asked, subdued, “Was last night okay?”

Aaron squeezed his bonded close with an arm around his slim shoulders, enjoying the silky skin under his fingertips, and the scent of a sex and sleep mussed Spencer under his nose. It had been a unique experience and so hot and sexy that if he wasn’t so exhausted from their exertions, he probably would’ve gotten hard just thinking about it.

“It was a bit unexpected, but honestly, if you end up in my head during sex on a regular basis, I won’t be complaining,” he replied, kissing Spencer’s brow.

The tension he hadn’t realized Spencer was holding within himself let loose, making Aaron grunt with the added weight of a boneless body draped over his chest and side.

It was quiet, serene in the safety of their bed; the dawn had yet to bring its soft light through the curtains. Aaron could feel Spencer’s contentment, the concerns of the previous days and hours assuaged for the time being.

“It was really hot, wasn’t it,” Spencer murmured, a little bit of the pride he was feeling sneaking through. “Seeing you move in and out of me. I liked it.”

“Like is not the term I’d use.” He chuckled, remembering feeling what Spencer had been experiencing, the fullness of his cock inside, the aching pressure in Spencer’s own cock and balls swinging in time with the motion of Aaron’s hips. “I don’t think there is a good word for it, beyond fucking fantastic.”

“That’s two words.” Spencer laughed, lifting his head. His eyes were so beautiful with humor sparking within their depths. God, he just loved this man to distraction.

Aaron gave his lover a pinch to his small butt cheek. “Semantics.”

“Ow!” Spencer yelped, frowning down at him.

Aaron couldn’t help the silly smile that graced his face, before teasing his fingers on that round cheek as if to give it a pinch again.

“No you don’t!” he fussed, scooting down a bit to keep his behind out of pinching range.

His chuckling disturbed Gottfried enough to stand on his chest to yowl directly into his face.

Smiling, Spencer sat up, picking up his pain in the ass cat, cuddling the indignant feline, he stated, “We should get up.”

Aaron hummed in agreement, watching Spencer, fulfilled just by being in his presence. Settling Gottfried back down, Spencer leaned down and stole another quick kiss, before throwing the covers off Aaron with a cheeky grin, quickly vacating their bed to avoid any possible punishment.

“Little shit,” he grumbled, too sated and content to move yet.

“Well, come on,” Spencer said to his cat, whose continued yowling was becoming a bit shrill. “I know, I know, you’re starving to death, so neglected and abused.”

Aaron watched Spencer’s pert behind shimmy into his underwear, all the while listening to the commentary addressed to his cat, while Gottfried weaved around his feet with continuous vocalizations. He grinned at the ceiling, hearing his lover stumble and trip over his cat all the way down the hall and into the kitchen. The musical notes of cupboards opening, bowls being filled, the domestic sounds of home washed over him.

He loved his life too much with Spencer in it, to allow anything to tear them apart, even their own fears. Optimistic, he arose to start his day.

****

Spencer’s cheeks kept getting hot, his blushing was getting out of hand this morning, and Aaron was utterly amused by his dilemma, very unhelpful. Spencer pulled the Pittsburg cold case files to him, determined to distract himself from the images of their lovemaking last night. He felt much more settled this morning. He didn’t know if the feeling was due to their discussion, the use of his abilities, or their lovemaking, but Spencer reveled in the feeling nonetheless. It had been months since he’d felt this way, and he was going to savor it as long as possible.

Unless, Morgan decided to tease him about his red face, Spencer thought, watching his friend saunter into the bullpen.

“Morning, Pretty Boy,” he said, taking a seat at his desk, eying Spencer the whole while. “You’re glowing, Dr. Reid. Anything you want to share?”

Spencer pulled the file in his hands up to his face, hiding. “Nothing you’d want to hear, Morgan.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that,” he replied, and Spencer peaked over the top of the file. The Neanderthal was grinning, wide and bright.

“You look deranged. Stop it,” Spencer grumbled before ducking back down.

Spencer could hear Morgan’s chuckling as the agent settled in with his own set of files. Deciding to risk it, Spencer lowered the file back down. Morgan still had a small smile on his face, but seemed focused on the case file in front of him, rather than Spencer. His own lips curled a bit, pleased with their morning teasing ritual, even if he seemed to always be on the receiving end of it. They were getting back to normal, Spencer mused, relieved.

He blinked, as a piece of FBI stationary was shoved under his nose. Emily gave him a wink and before he could say a word, headed to her own desk adjacent to his.

It was a general notice from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, dated from 2007.

It has been determined by the U.S. Federal Court of Appeals, Washington, DC that a blanket non-fraternization policy that ‘implicitly’ preclude employees from engaging in a union or concerted activity is a violation of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

Federal employees are cautioned that engaging in romantic or sexual relationships within the workplace can affect professionalism, moral, and productivity; however, such relationships are not restricted. All other policies and procedures for conduct still apply.

The memo went on with a notation on where to locate the specific court decision online. The rule against supervisor and subordinate relationships still applied, but in looking through the information, Spencer thought he and Aaron could work with that. He did a quick read through on his computer of the court’s decision, and realized that the problem the administration had with his relationship with Aaron probably stemmed from the fact that he wasn’t a Guide. The one thing the FBI couldn’t do was interfere with a Sentinel’s personal life. Granted, the rules were intended to prevent obstruction of a Sentinel’s ability to bond with the Guide of his or her choice even if they worked together, but Spencer thought the policy could be used to apply to Aaron regardless.

It was a relief to know they had a position to cite, if the Director insisted on taking action against them for their relationship.

He mouthed a thank you to Emily, who gave him a soft smile and a nod before turning back to her work. Spencer relaxed back into this chair, smiling. He had friends now, a family of a sort he’d never thought he’d have in his life before meeting them all. He’d been so alone for so long, being a murder suspect on the BAU’s radar had been the best thing that had ever happened to him. He couldn’t help chuckling at the thought.

“What’s so funny, baby?” Aaron’s thought was tinged with humor. Looking up, Spencer could see that Aaron seemed completely focused on the work in front of him in his office above the bullpen. Sneaky sentinel, Spencer thought.

Leaning back over his files to hide his blushing, Spencer replied, “Nothing, I’ll tell you later… and don’t call me baby at work!”

“Baby,” he responded, unrepentant before retreating with a pulse of affection sent Spencer’s way.

Spencer shivered in pleasure as the feeling washed over him. He was so far gone on Aaron, it was wonderful, he mused, trying not to give in to the lovesick sigh that was trying to emerge from his chest.

They’d found DNA under Dianna Peter’s fingernails, and if they could identify a viable suspect, it could be compared. She must have been his first kill, Spencer thought, as he read the file, to make such a grave mistake. She had also been a nurse, like Brenda Webster, and had gone out with friends the night she was killed. The Pittsburg PD had muddled the investigation though, because she’d told her parents she was going to a restaurant rather than a club. By the time they had gotten all of the information, tracking down witnesses in the club had been futile. It had also been over three weeks before the bartenders and bouncers had been interviewed, so their recollections of that night were very poor.

He’d been more careful not to leave physical evidence on Helen O’Neil, but he had left a witness. Spencer watched J.J. escort Jean Williams, Helen’s older sister, through the BAU to interview. She looked nothing like her sister, with her blond hair and blue eyes, her figure voluptuous with soft curves, rather than the athletic build the unsub preferred. It had been agreed that J.J., who’d had the most contact with her and Emily, would conduct the interview that morning, with the rest of the team observing on the other side of the one-way glass.

Spencer hoped the interview shook something loose, Friday was almost upon them, and he knew the killer would need to hunt soon.

“We were both… enamored with him, but I could tell he liked Helen rather than me,” Jean said.

It was a bit crowded with the four of them observing the interview, the heat of their male bodies making the small room a bit too stuffy for Spencer’s liking. Jean was doing well, only tearing up occasionally. It had been ten years since her sister had been killed, but Spencer didn’t believe anyone really ever got over the untimely death of a loved one, especially when the death had been as violent at Helen’s had been.

“I made her go out with me, trying to cheer her up. She’d just broken things off with her fiancé, and had become a bit of a hermit,” Jean continued. “We were having so much fun, and he was so nice, funny and attentive. I could tell she liked him, a lot.”

“What do you remember about him?” J.J. asked softly.

“He was really tall, broad, but not a bodybuilder type broad, more like a swimmer,” she said, frowning. “I just remember he had brown hair and deep set brown eyes, the rest of his face is a blur. I was so drunk by the time we shared a cab home. I shouldn’t have left her with him, but he seemed like the type of man you can trust. You know? And Helen wanted to keep talking with him, so they dropped me off first.”

“Did he tell you what he did for a living?” Emily asked.

“He said he was studying criminal justice at Pitt,” she replied. “He seemed a bit old to be in an undergraduate program, but I just thought perhaps he got a late start.”

The PPD had followed up that lead, but hadn’t found a viable suspect in the pool of students in the University of Pittsburgh’s criminal justice program at the time. Garcia had done her own searches since they’d found out about the previous murders, but it was a dead end. Even the cabby who’d driven them home hadn’t been able to give a description of the man, beyond the fact he was good looking. He’d been more concerned with dropping of his last fare to get home, than paying attention to the three young people in the backseat.

“I know you think you can’t remember anything about how he looks, but I think if you close your eyes and take yourself back to that night, you might be able to remember something else about him that could help us,” J.J. said.

“I… I don’t know.” Jean sighed, her breaths hitching while she wiped tears off her cheeks.

“Can you just try for us?” Emily asked. “Anything you can tell us about him, will help.”

“Okay.. okay,” she nodded.

“Close your eyes and think back to that night, picture the club and Helen,” Emily instructed. “You’re having fun, relieved to see her smile. Does he approach you?”

“Yes, yes, he did,” she said. “God, I had too much to drink. He was smiling when he came toward us…”

Watching, Spencer could sense everyone’s frustration, laced with hope. Jean couldn’t remember his face. As the cognitive interview went on, nothing J.J. or Emily were saying was helping Jean to jar the memories to the surface. She could remember bits of their conversation, the teasing affability of the man and her attraction to him, but no details of his face were coming to light.

“Aaron, I want to try to see,” he thought.

He didn’t know if he could find the memories Jean had buried in her mind, his talents seemed to lie with a sensitivity to evil, darkness, but he had to try. They needed to find him before he killed again.

Spencer felt Aaron take his hand, squeezing it tight. It wasn’t giving permission to use his gifts, it was support, acceptance of Spencer’s choices. The breath he’d not known he was holding, softly escaped.

“Take yourself back to the beginning,” Emily was saying. “You’ve had a little bit too much to drink, he’s coming toward you, look at his face…”

Spencer’s eyes went half-mast focused on the curve of Jean’s ear, hoping to hear, to see her thoughts. He released his empathy, not sure if he should seek darkness or light.

“Come on, come on, remember…”

“Her eyes are so blue, like mine…”

“Please, please, see him…”

“This is hopeless…”

“Spencer, focus, on Jean…”

The cadence of Aaron’s mind voice removed the cascade of his team’s thoughts, driving his telepathic senses to Jean’s mind.

Her mind was darkness and light, pulsing colors of the club lights all around, hazy on the edges. The heat of bodies bumping and grinding to the deafening music, pressing with the beat and swinging hips. The musk of sweat was sweet in the stagnant air.

Helen was laughing, so beautiful with her dark hair swinging in time to the music.

What is she looking at? Oh, my he’s gorgeous! He’s seen us and he’s coming over!

Tall, so tall, with drinks in his hands and a smile on his lips. His eyes on Helen, a disappointment, not to be noticed. His body was close, it was hard to hear him over the thumping music. Large masculine hands offered a drink, leaning close to say hello. He smelled good, clean, spicy. His dark eyes were crinkled in the corners from his charming grin.

Spencer swayed in shock as he was jolted out of Jean William’s memories.

He knew that face.

****

“She’s with the sketch artist now, Hotch,” J.J. said entering the roundtable room. “We’ll have a composite in a few hours.”

“What did you do, Reid?” Morgan’s question was a gunshot, dropping the bottom out of Spencer’s stomach. “I saw your eyes glowing, you were doing something during the interview.”

All eyes were on him, he felt like a rabbit in the sights of a fox, and wondered if he’d made a grave mistake, if he was going to lose his friendships, his family in the next few minutes.

Aaron stood, rounding the table to stand behind him. His hands grounding on Spencer’s shoulders, supportive and possessive. His Sentinel at the ready to defend his Mate, a united front, dominant in the face of one of the other alpha males in the room.

The tension was palatable, only Dave seemed to be relaxed, concerned only by Morgan’s antagonism. Garcia’s round-eyed stillness was abhorrent to Spencer. Garcia should never be made to feel scared in any way. It put Spencer’s dander up, the soft hairs on the back of his neck prickling in irritation at Morgan’s combative tone.

Leaning forward, his eyes focused on his friend, he stated, “I found her memories of that night in her mind, Morgan.”

Morgan reared back, his chair flying out behind him as he stood abruptly. “You read her mind? Have you been reading everyone’s minds this whole time?”

Spencer clamped a hand on Aaron’s arm; his Sentinel was emitting a low growl in the face of Morgan’s aggression.

Standing slowly, keeping his hand on Aaron, Spencer said, “No, Morgan, I have not.”

His dark eyes searching Spencer’s, widen in shock. “You have seen something in my head though, haven’t you?”

Spencer’s eyes closed, regret clenched his heart, but he had to be honest with his friend. He wanted to be honest, to stop hiding at least with his team, his family. In doing so, he could lose them all, but he knew in his heart what the right thing to do was. He had to believe and he did believe in right versus wrong. There wasn’t a choice really to be made.

Opening his eyes, he searched his friend’s gaze hoping for acceptance. “Yes, when you were interrogating Racine.”

“God damn you!” Morgan shouted. “God damn you. You stay out of my head, and stay the fuck away from me.”

Spencer sagged in Aaron’s arms, watching Morgan storm out of the room.

Chapter 9:

The clench of Spencer’s fingers around his own was the only thing keeping Aaron in his seat at the surging anguish throbbing through him. There was no foe for him to lash out at, and no one to defend his Mate from. He didn’t even dare to try to send calm and love down their bond to lessen Spencer’s distress. Aaron was in the midst of a catch-twenty-two, Spencer’s heartbreak feeding his own territorial rage that he couldn’t control.

He was a sentinel without a purpose at the moment, useless.

“You’re the reason we found Robert James so quickly, aren’t you?” Emily’s soft voice pushed through the red haze Aaron was immersed in.

Aaron clamped his lips shut tight to keep from growling at her comforting hand smoothing down Spencer’s back when she sat next to him. He couldn’t aid his lover right now, but the sentinel drives didn’t want anyone else to either. Another catch-twenty-two that made him tighten the fingers of his free hand on the edge of the table, knuckles going white, to keep from rolling to his feet to dominate the woman offering his Mate succor.

Spencer was blinking quickly, his eyes wet, gazing at the tabletop, his breaths hitching when Emily coaxed him to release the tight grip he had on his chestnut curls. She pulled his arm down, holding his hand lightly on the table, tugging it for attention and Aaron had to stifle another growl that wanted to escape his throat.

“Tell us what happened,” she ordered, soothing in tone, if not words.

Aaron watched as Spencer nodded, sitting back in his seat, the tight grip of his fingers relaxed around Aaron’s own. Aaron made himself focus on the soft repeating touch of Spencer’s thumb stroking over the back of his hand. He sought out Spencer’s slowing heartbeat, working to bring his own pounding organ back to a slower cadence. Grounding his senses on his bonded, Aaron’s nostrils flared catching Spencer’s sweet fragrance, still tinged with anxiety, but starting to settle back into its normal aura.

“I seem to have an awareness of the darkness in some killer’s minds,” he said, the halting tempo of that lyrical voice washed over Aaron, soothing. “Racine wasn’t breaking, wasn’t going to tell us where he’d hidden Robert, and I thought that perhaps, if I could see or hear his thoughts, I’d be able to get a location.”

“And you did,” Dave said, when Spencer hesitated. “We found the little guy because of you, Kid.”

“Yes… it worked, but not before I accidently saw into Morgan’s head,” he replied, lowering his eyes. “When I first tried to connect with Racine, my telepathy found the thoughts that were in the forefront of Morgan’s mind instead. I backed out straight away, but I’d already seen them.”

“You didn’t mean to, Spence,” J.J. said, her big blue eyes were wide in fascination on their resident telepathic genius.

“Well, no, but they were intensely private,” Spencer murmured. “He’s not going to forgive me for seeing them.”

Emily was patting his hand, her concern palpable on her brow and the tight lines of her mouth. She seemed accepting, and unconcerned, by Spencer’s confession. Aaron could understand Morgan’s reaction, even though it had put him over the edge, sentinel wise. No one wanted their deepest, darkest pain or secrets known, but Emily didn’t seem fazed at all by the knowledge Spencer could violate her privacy if he wanted to. Dave, he knew didn’t have an issue with Spencer’s abilities, having taken the news in stride over a week ago. He couldn’t get a read on J.J., her big blue eyes and heart-shaped face giving away nothing of her thoughts, but her scent pile was normal, with a slight hint of adrenalin from earlier, and her heartbeat wasn’t elevated at all.

“Are you able to read just anybody’s thoughts now?” Garcia said, finally finding her voice. Garcia with her round eyes was still in a bit of shock.

“I… I don’t really know. I use to intermittently pick up the bleed of people’s emotions, but haven’t since we bonded.” Spencer shook his head before looking to Aaron. “After seeing into Morgan’s mind, I’ve been trying to suppress the empathy and telepathy, so wasn’t really sure I’d be able to connect with Mrs. Williams. Aaron’s been having trouble controlling his senses, and we think that suppressing my abilities is the cause.”

“You met with Freeman at the Council, right?” Dave asked. “Was he able to give you guys any insights?”

Spencer smiled was wiry. “He’s a powerful Guide, and figured out I’m not just an empathic sensitive.”

“That’s really cool, and really scary, at the same time,” Garcia said, excitedly. “Also, you do know your eyes glow, don’t you? A dead give away, but very uber sci-fi.”

Garcia’s words, and the team’s acceptance of the situation, eased some of the tension in Spencer. The feeling blanketed Aaron, finally allowing the last of his protective instincts to release away. His back was aching, he’d been sitting so straight and stiff since Morgan had left.

“You okay there, Hotch?” Dave asked, with a raised dark brow.

Clearing his throat didn’t really help to keep the low rumble out of his voice. “I’m fine.”

“You look better than you did, but still a bit… peaked,” Dave replied.

Peaked was a fine word, Aaron supposed. It was better than feral, at least. He was starting to feel steadier, the team’s support helping Spencer get his anguish under control, though the sadness and regret in his lover kept thrumming through their bond. Aaron wished there was something he could do to fix it, but only Morgan and Spencer could do that.

“So? What did he say?” Emily asked, exasperated by the wait, tugging Spencer’s attention back to her.

“He said that if I used my gifts, I should learn to control them,” Spencer replied. “I’m not comfortable invading people’s privacy, but I also don’t want to be the cause of Aaron losing control over his senses.”

“So you decided to use them today with Jean,” J.J. stated, her gaze speculative. “Did it work?”

Spencer nodded. “It did, but I should probably not say anything until the composite sketch is done.”

“Kid, don’t keep us in suspense,” Dave demanded, leaning forward in his seat. “What did you see?”

Aaron was incredibly curious, as well. He’d felt Spencer’s initial struggle to focus, but once his bonded had made contact, the feelings Aaron had experienced through their bond had definitely not been Spencer’s. They’d been a young woman’s feelings, fun, and happy. It had been an extremely strange sensation, to sense Spencer’s merger with another mind to the point that Spencer’s being had been pushed aside. The darkness he’d experienced with Spencer’s fusion with Racine hadn’t been there. It had been a relief to find his protective instincts hadn’t been triggered from the joining.

Aaron gave Spencer’s hand and encouraging squeeze. “Tell them, baby.”

Spencer gave him a little frown for the endearment. “It was McInnes.”

“Detective McInnes of the Baltimore PD?” Dave said. Aaron hadn’t thought his thick black brows could go higher, but he was wrong. “Detective McInnes, who’s on the serial killer task force?”

“Yes, ten years younger, but it was definitely him,” Spencer stated. “He approached Jean and Helen that night in the club.”

Emily snorted. “I don’t know if he’s a true narcissist, but he does have a good opinion of himself.”

“This is a very delicate situation,” Aaron said, gravely. He’d not had any contact with McInnes, but thinking back, if the unsub was McInnes, it would explain why the scent he’d detected permeating around him at the last crime scene had been so strong, and why it was still in his nose at the station. “We can’t bring Captain Washington in on this theory until we have probable cause to question him, and get a warrant to search his home.”

“Also, he could run, if he gets wind of our witness,” Emily said.

“Garcia, do a thorough background on McInnes. Verify he was in Pittsburgh during the first murders, and what he was doing there. Look into his home life, family, friends, everything,” he ordered.

“Will do, sir. I’ll have so much dirt on him when I’m done, he won’t even be able to hide the color of his underwear,” she chirped before bustling out of her seat, the red and purple colors of her dress swirling around her as she headed to the door.

“He’s newly divorced,” Emily stated. “He told me the other day, when we were discussing the victim’s backgrounds. He didn’t go into detail, but did place the blame squarely on his wife shoulders.”

“We should talk to her,” Dave cut in.

“Actually, I think Emily and I should speak to her,” J.J. said. “If she is abused, like the profile indicates, then having men questioning her, particularly a couple of alpha males isn’t a good idea.”

Patting Spencer’s hand, Emily smiled. “Even Spencer, sweet beta male that he is, wouldn’t be a good choice to interview her.”

His bonded snorted in disgust at Emily’s assessment, but didn’t disagree with her. Aaron was having a hard time containing his smile at seeing that unconscious pout on Spencer’s face.

“Agreed.” He acceded. “Get the address from Garcia, and head over as soon as you can.”

“I’m going to see how that sketch is coming,” Dave said, rising from his seat.

“We’ll meet back here this afternoon,” Aaron stated. “Once we have a sketch and Garcia’s pulled his details, I’ll contact Captain Washington to come here. It’s best if we keep the BPD from finding out that one of their officers is the serial killer they’ve been hunting, for the time being.”

“What about Morgan?” Spencer said softly, trepidation surged through the bond, stiffening Aaron’s back again.

“I’ll call him and let him know what we’ve found out,” Dave replied. “He’ll be cooled off by the time we meet. Morgan won’t let a personal issue keep him from doing his job.”

****

McInnes had been missing for over twenty-four hours.

The pulsing strobe lights and thumping bass of the music in the club wasn’t helping to reduce the throbbing in Spencer’s temples. The headache was back worse than ever, making him sensitive to the light and noise of Club Inferno, the hunting ground of Detective McInnes.

Captain Washington hadn’t been thrilled to find out that one of her most decorated officers was a serial killer, but even if Spencer hadn’t told the team what he’d seen, the composite sketch was a dead ringer for her officer. A warrant had been quickly issued with the information Garcia had gathered on the man, as well as the results of J.J. and Emily’s interview of his ex-wife, Irene.

The picture painted was that of a full blown narcissistic sociopath, who’d dominated his wife from the moment they married in Pittsburgh ten years ago. Manipulating her into doubting her own memory, perception, and sanity over time, a true classic case of Gaslighting. He’d isolated Irene from her friends and family in subtle ways over the course of their marriage. McInnes had not physically abused her enough to leave marks on her flesh, but had been dominant often, using the strength of his body to regularly hold her down, to sexually coerce her. Even now, Irene Mackay wouldn’t admit that her husband had regularly raped her.

He’d had her so convinced that their marriage problems stemmed from her behavior, she never sought help from anyone until recently when her sister, Meg, had finally been able to get through to her and help her get away from him. The divorce had been made final two months prior, and their house in Roland Park sold immediately afterward, his trigger to take his rage out on the surrogates he’d hunted.

The team had speculated that he’d become dormant, because of the full control he’d had over his wife. He’d also probably gotten spooked by the police investigation in Pittsburgh while he was a beat cop there, privy to their investigation, angry at the mistakes he’d made as a young killer.

McInnes was still making mistakes, his narcissism so prevalent that he hadn’t believed they’d catch him. They’d found the trophies he’d taken, during their search of his apartment, kept in a box behind a hollow wall above the kitchen sink.

“All quiet at the Mackay residence.” Spencer heard in his ear, grimacing at the spike of pain that shot through his head at the added noise.

They had a team of six agents in and around Meg Mackay’s house, keeping an eye out for McInnes. There was a good probability McInnes would go after his ex-wife and her sister, who he viewed as a bad influence on his spouse. He’d disappeared after J.J. and Emily’s visit to the home, which wasn’t surprising since he had still been regularly stalking his ex-wife since they separated over eight months ago.

“If he’s run, this is a complete waste of time,” Aaron said in Spencer’s mind, the club too loud to not shout at each other. The frustration his Sentinel was feeling was evident on his frowning brow and tight face. Aaron had had to dial down his senses to the level of a mundane to be functional in the club.

“No, you’re right, he’s too narcissistic to run,” Spencer returned, going back to Aaron’s supposition during the team’s planning meeting hours earlier. “He’ll want to prove his superiority by taking a victim under our noses.”

The team was weaving through the crowds in pairs throughout the club with Washington’s plain clothed officers stationed around the perimeter, and in the crowd. Garcia with Anderson’s help was viewing the camera feeds. They’d catch him, Spencer could feel it in his gut.

Spencer knew Morgan and J.J. were on the other side of the large space, and Emily, Washington, and Dave stationed along the long bar. It was going to be difficult to spot McInnes, the crowd was so thick on a Friday night. In the past, Spencer had often been paired with Morgan, but the agent didn’t want Spencer anywhere near him at the moment. If he hadn’t understood the seriousness of the violation he’d committed against Morgan, his friend giving him the glacial shoulder during the meeting would’ve pissed him off. He didn’t know how he could fix their friendship, and it grated on him still, even in the midst of the hunt.

Knifelike pain lanced through his head again, and he caught sight of Aaron’s grimace. God it hurt like hell this time, worse than before.

“Baby?” Aaron said, squeezing his hand.

“I’m okay,” he returned. “I’ll deal with it.”

Spencer bumped into Aaron’s off-white Henley clad form, the gun hidden in the small of his back clicking against Spencer’s own under the straight hemmed lavender collared shirt he was wearing. He’d gotten a whack on his bottom for his cheek in pointing out that Aaron would look like a teacher chaperoning a school dance in his usual starch suited appearance.

Aaron turned and the bond flared for a second in his eyes, stilling their walk through the heaving bodies on the dance floor. “Spencer, has McInnes been present during the other times you’ve had a headache?”

Shocked by the question, he couldn’t find his words for a moment. “Yes… yes, he has. At the crime scenes and the station, though the onset always started the closer we got to the city.”

“Let your empathy go, baby,” Aaron said. “He’s here, you can find him, find the darkness in him.”

The conviction of Aaron’s words reverberated in his head, easing the pain minutely for a moment. Aaron could be right, the pain, and McInnes’ presence, was a strong coincidence, Spencer’s gifts alerting him to the darkness that was close. He’d just not been paying attention to the message, the need within him to seek out The Knowing.

His hands in Aaron’s, Spencer closed his eyes and allowed the pressure in his head to ascend, then release. His empathic touch shot outward from his being over the writhing and spinning bodies in the club, seeking the transference, the black space of McInnes’ mind. It was effortless and painless, the darkness leapt close at his mental touch, wanting to converge with him. He flinched with the merger at the tar sticky rage writhing within the black.

Lights flashing, sweat and close bodies, pushing through the haze. Dark hair, slim form, cherry lips and porcelain skin, getting closer… almost there.

Spencer gasped as he wrenched himself free of the darkness. “Hotch! He’s closing in on Emily!”

Aaron shouted into the mic on his wrist, “Dave, Prentiss he’s headed your way!”

“Say again?” Dave responded.

“McInnes is closing in on your position,” Aaron yelled again, the thumping cartography of the music interfering with his words of warning.

“Come on,” Spencer yelled, grabbing Aaron’s arm, heading to where he knew Emily and Dave had been stationed.

It was hard pushing through the crowd. Too slow, Spencer thought, frantic. Suddenly the crowd surged toward them, and the tide of panicked humanity almost brought Spencer to his knees on the dance floor. The only thing that kept him on his feet was Aaron’s strong hands on his upper arms. He pulled Spencer behind his solid form, powering though the crowd. Spencer’s clenching grip on his shirt kept him from being swept away by the deluge. It felt like hours before the mob passed to open space in front of them.

“Dave,” Aaron cried, seeing their friend on the floor bleeding, with Captain Washington’s hands pressing over a wound on his shoulder.

“It’s not bad, Hotch,” Dave gasped, his craggy face scrunched with the pain. “Leave me, he’s taken Emily!”

“Rossi!” Morgan skidded to his knees beside his friend, with J.J. not far behind.

“He’s got Emily! Leave me,” Dave hollered at them again, pushing Morgan weakly.

“I’ve called an ambulance, Agent Hotchner. I’ll look after him,” Washington said, her focus completely on stemming the flow of blood under her fingers.

“Go… go!” Dave barked one last time before the four of them obeyed moving as one to the exit.

“Garcia! Can you see McInnes and Emily?” Aaron said into his radio.

“No… no, sir. The crowd’s too thick,” she cried over the comm. “I can’t see them!”

“He’s got a hostage, he’ll need a vehicle to transport her,” Aaron said.

Spencer followed on Aaron and Morgan’s heels out of the club, running to their SUV, he could hear J.J.’s breathing was close behind.

Morgan had just turned the engine over when J.J. asked, “Where would he take her?”

“He’ll want time with her, but he knows we’re close,” Morgan said, gunning the engine, bouncing out of the parking lot.

“He’ll take her to Roland Park,” Spencer stated.

“He knows, we know that’s his preferred place, Reid,” Morgan scoffed.

“That’s where he’ll take her, or someplace very close,” Spencer asserted. “He can’t go after his ex-wife, she’s too heavily guarded. This is his last chance, his last victim. He knows it, and he’ll go to the place he believes is his.”

“Their house,” Aaron said.

“Yes, unless he’s stopped,” Spencer replied.

Aaron got on the radio, instructing units on the situation to blanket Roland Park, the surrounding neighborhoods, and McInnes’ former address.

“He’ll change direction, now,” Morgan said, his hands gripping the wheel tight. “We don’t even know what car he’s driving.”

“Aaron,” Spencer called.

His Sentinel turned in the front seat taking his hand. The bond bloomed expanding between them with Aaron sending his love, admiration and strength into Spencer. His eyes on his bonded’s glowing stare, Spencer sent his empathy and telepathy free, searching.

He allowed the press of the blackness in McInnes’ mind to settle, but resisted the urge to merge with that hateful mind. He was looking for the light beside the darkness, his friend. It was close, a sweet presence. He grabbed hold of the soft luminescence, and gave into the joining of his mind with Emily’s.

“Emily? Emily?” Spencer said. “Can you hear me?”

“Sp… Spencer?” her mind voice was weak and confused. Spencer could feel the aching throb on his own jaw. The bastard had punched her.

“Yes, it’s me, we’re coming for you,” he replied. It was dark, she must have her eyes closed, Spencer thought.

“He shot Dave,” she said, fretting.

“He’s being taken care of, just worry about yourself for now,” Spencer requested. “Can you open your eyes? I need to see where you are.”

“Stay with me,” she insisted.

“I will, but you need to open your eyes. Open your eyes, Emily!” he commanded.

Light sliced through for a second before darkening again. It took her a few tries, but she was able to open her eyes slightly. It was dark in the vehicle, the dash the only source of light besides the quick pace of the street lamps streaming past the window.

She looked down at her lap.

“My hands are cuffed behind me, Spencer,” she said, before her eyes turned to take in McInnes’ rage filled countenance beside her. He felt her fear spike as the light of the dash emphasized the stark madness on his features.

“Don’t look at him, Emily,” Spencer ordered. “I need to see where he’s taking you. Look out the window, look at landmarks, street signs.”

Her eyes swung away, her vision was blurry on the edges.

“Morgan he’s on the highway, 83 North,” Spencer said. “Good… good, Emily. Keep talking to me.”

He tuned out the murmur of Morgan on the radio, staying with Emily, concentrating only on her and the strength thrumming through the bond from his Sentinel.

“He’s going to kill me,” she thought.

“No he’s not, we’re coming,” Spencer returned. Another sign flashed by. “He’s coming up on the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute exit.”

“We’re closing in on him,” J.J. murmured, close.

He felt through Emily the car take the exit at a high speed. “He’s taken Cold Spring Lane left off the exit, Morgan.”

“He knows he can’t take me back home,” Emily spoke.

“We’re close, coming off the exit now,” Spencer replied.

McInnes’ was slowing the car down, taking a quick turn.

“He’s gone into Cold Spring Park,” Spencer reported.

Emily’s eyes tracked back to McInnes, meeting the killer’s gaze. His fist lashed out, striking, and the connection with Emily was gone, the force of the divergence throwing Spencer off balance in his seat, reeling.

“Spencer!” Aaron shouted, pulling Spencer upright.

“I’m okay… okay,” he gasped. “He hit her again, she’s unconscious. I lost the connection.”

“I see his car,” Morgan growled. “He’s on foot now.”

“Alright, vests on, everyone,” Aaron ordered as their vehicle came to a jarring stop behind McInnes’.

They spilled out of the vehicle with their guns up, in the darkness of the park. There was very little light, except the low rays of the half-moon, to illuminate the woods around them. The shadows were dark and deep, the smell of pine and rotting leaves heavy in the air.

Surrounding the Sentinel in their midst they waited, watching Aaron’s eyes go half-mast, opening his senses. Spencer could see Aaron’s eyes were radiant with their bond, and sent his love, obsession, and tenderness to his Sentinel. Their joining was a whirlpool of emotion, a convergence of devotion bolstering Aaron’s abilities, widening the range of his olfactory nerves, and hearing. Spencer was shocked when he realized he could hear McInnes’ rush through the forest, bogged down with the weight of his captive over his shoulder, one of Spencer’s own senses enhanced by the power of their bond and their minds.

“I know where he is,” Aaron growled, taking in his team with a fierce gaze. “Follow me.”

They were all Aaron’s, Spencer knew, like a pack of wolves or a pride of lions, and one of their own, their family, was in danger. His Sentinel was about to track their prey, and he was just beautiful.

Spencer’s breathing was harsh running behind Aaron and Morgan, with J.J. keeping pace alongside him. He could feel that Aaron was making an effort not to pull too far ahead of the team, even though his sentinel instincts were urging him on. The dark trees were flying by, the roots threatening to trip him if he didn’t keeps his knees lifting and pumping. The run was effortless for the two men ahead of him, he didn’t even think Aaron’s heart rate had risen very much, unlike the pounding in his chest.

The trees opened to a clearing, and he could see McInnes, with Emily struggling against him in his arms.

“McInnes, you got nowhere to go!” Morgan shouted, approaching with his gun trained on their killer. Aaron flanked him, and Spencer nodded to J.J., taking positions surrounding their quarry.

She was awake again and resisting him with all of her strength, even with her hands bound behind her. Grass and leaves were scattered over Emily’s hair and clothes. Spencer thought she must have awoken and struggled to the point the bastard dropped her. McInnes stopped her struggles with the barrel of his gun pressed hard to her temple, and an arm around her chest. He was using her as a shield.

“Drop your gun,” Aaron snarled.

“You drop yours! I’ll blow her head apart!” He raged at them. He was furious, trapped. Spencer knew having him cornered made him doubly dangerous to Emily. There was no reasoning with a narcissist, a psychopath, he was going to take Emily with him one way or another. They all knew it.

“Not gonna happen,” Morgan growled.

“You know I’ll do it, if you don’t drop your weapons.” McInnes laughed. “I got nothing to lose.”

“You’ll be dead,” J.J. stated.

“And so will she,” he returned.

They were all still, guns trained, immobile except for their heaving breaths, waiting. Emily’s wide eyes were on him, she knew McInnes was going to kill her, it was there in the tears flowing down her cheeks. Fury arose under Spencer’s skin at the dread in his friend’s eyes. He focused on her, a rising tide of power surged within him making his skin turn golden. He threw up a hand, the only thought in his mind, the only word he needed, was… Pull…

Emily flew out of McInnes’ arms, her body bowed, soaring through the air until she crashed into Spencer’s arms.

“Holy, fuck!” Morgan’s exclamation barely registered as a gunshot boomed.

Clutching Emily to him tight, Spencer saw smoke coming from Aaron’s gun, his eyes were vibrant taking in his prey. McInnes was down, still in death with a hole in the middle of his forehead.

Chapter 10:

“Amazing…” Emily trailed off at Aaron and Spencer’s arrival in Dave’s hospital room.

The team surrounded Dave’s bedside, and Aaron noted their elder profiler was pale, but seemed in good spirits, with a small smile on his face, and his left arm strapped immobile to his chest.

“Oh my god! Oh my god!” Garcia babbled out, turning with hands fanning her face, before crushing Spencer against her ample bosom. “You’re like Magneto and Professor X all rolled up into one badass nerd package!”

Spencer had been full of nerves, worried about how the team would take the evidence of his abilities, by the time they’d parked in the hospital garage. Aaron was on edge himself, with adrenaline from the chase still thrumming through his veins. He relaxed trying unsuccessfully to contain his grin at Spencer’s gobsmacked expression, over the top of Garcia’s blond head.

“I… a…” Spencer stammered, face bright red as he awkwardly patted Garcia’s back.

“You’d better let him go, Garcia,” Emily laughed. “The fangirling is going to make him spontaneously combust!”

“Right… right, but it’s so exciting!” she said, releasing Spencer from her affectionate embrace before catching sight of Aaron next to him. “Sorry, Sir.”

“You’re right, Garcia.” Aaron raised a brow. “It was badass.”

Dave snorted out a laugh, before groaning. “Ow.”

“How are you?” Aaron asked.

“Well, the bullet tore some muscle and tendons in my shoulder, and I’ll have to go for physical therapy for a while.” Dave grimaced. “Hurts like a son of a bitch, but overall good, considering I’m not dead.”

“Are you alright?” Spencer asked Emily softly, studying the bruising on her face.

“Thanks to you and the team,” Emily assured, pulling Spencer into a hug. “Thank you.”

The quiet whisper, meant only for Spencer, caressed Aaron’s ears as his lover’s disquiet at the team’s attention skittered over the bond. Aaron couldn’t blame the team for their fascination with their friend; he was still astounded by the evidence of Spencer’s telekinesis himself. The power that had surged through their bond when Spencer pulled Emily out of McInnes’ arms had been unlike anything Aaron had ever experienced. He still didn’t have the words to describe the event.

“Did you know you could do that, Spence?” J.J. asked, standing beside Morgan on the opposite side of Rossi’s bed.

“I had no idea,” he replied quietly, as he was released from Emily’s embrace. She was holding his hand, a silent show of support in the face of the team’s speculative attention.

Aaron was relieved to find his Sentinel instincts didn’t engage to take issue with it. Their bond was steady, but malleable, and so strong within him. It had been, since Spencer stopped fighting The Knowing at the club. Once he’d let his empathy and telepathy go, the pain Aaron had been feeling from Spencer had gone, his senses had stabilized, and he’d been able to command them once again. The grating irritation of having to keep them at mundane levels had been a relief to let go for the hunt.

Knowing how uncomfortable Spencer was with the attention, Aaron stepped in. “How long are they going to keep you, Dave?”

“At least over night, possibly two,” Dave replied. “I’d rather be anywhere else. Hopefully, I’ll be cleared to go back to work right away. I can’t stand being idle.”

“At least you get out of report writing for the time being,” Aaron said ruefully.

“True, that’s the upside, besides not being dead.” Dave grinned, giving a wave.

“And having your boss as a lover,” Spencer thought, causing him to twitch a bit trying to hide his reaction to his bonded’s assessment as Erin Strauss came in the room.

“Behave, baby,” Aaron responded, watching Spencer blink innocently at him. It was difficult not to pull Spencer into his arms, and kiss that look off his face.

****

“How much did you see?” Morgan asked.

Surprised his friend was at his door, Spencer had to juggled Gottfried in his arms to keep his fat cat from dropping to the floor. All he got was a sleepy squeak in protest for his trouble.

“A glimpse, but it was enough to know what happened to you,” he replied.

“Fuck!” Morgan exclaimed, rubbing his forehead. “Can I come in?”

Spencer stepped back to allow Morgan to enter, glad Aaron was still at the BAU finishing up reports. He didn’t think Morgan would’ve been so willing to be here if the Sentinel had been home. Morgan hadn’t exchanged more than a few words with him since McInnes had been killed the night before. The agent’s wary aloofness had been a harsh reminder all day that Spencer had probably lost a good friend, his uniqueness again illustrating the isolation he’d lived with throughout his life. Being different made people uncomfortable; being able to read people’s minds was all the more reason to shun him. Spencer really couldn’t blame Morgan for feeling that way, he knew his trespass was unforgivable.

The click of the door was quiet, the silence between them deafening. Morgan was rubbing the back of his neck, his discomfort palatable, when Spencer waved him to take a seat.

Sitting in the armchair that Gottfried often called home, elbows on his knees, Morgan began, “I’ve never told anyone about what happened to me. I never intended on telling anyone.”

“I know, and I’m so sorry,” Spencer replied, his hands buried in the soft fur of the feline nestled on his lap.

“Does Hotch know?” he frowned.

Meeting his friend’s dark gaze was difficult, but Spencer needed Morgan to believe him. “No, I didn’t tell him what I saw. He knows I violated your privacy, but that’s all.”

“Yes, you did violate my privacy,” Morgan stated. “And I hate the fact that you did, Reid.”

Stroking Gottfried, Spencer didn’t know how he could possibly fix his friendship.

“I’d like to tell you, it won’t happen again, but I can’t guarantee that it won’t,” he confessed. “At least at this point.”

“What do you mean?” Morgan asked, eyeing Gottfried, who was giving him the feline equivalent of the stink-eye.

“You were in interrogation, so you didn’t see Hotch’s reaction when I touched Racine’s thoughts. He lost control. After that, and on top of invading your privacy like I did, I decided to stop trying to use my abilities,” he replied. “I’ve been trying to suppress them, and it hasn’t worked out very well, for me, or Aaron.”

Morgan raised a brow. “You weren’t suppressing them last night.”

“I couldn’t anymore,” Spencer said with a shake of his head. “I’ve been getting bad headaches, and I’ve accidently pulled thoughts out of Aaron’s head a few times. He’s also been having difficulty controlling his senses, so we met with Dr. Freeman at the Council for Sentinel and Guide Research to get some help.”

“I didn’t think you wanted anyone but the team to know about the telepathy,” Morgan interjected.

“We didn’t intend to tell him about the telepathy, but he’s a powerful Guide, and figured it out,” he admitted, ruefully. “I ran out of his office so fast, I left Hotch in the dust.”

Morgan remained quiet while Spencer told him about the physical issues he and Aaron had had from stifling his gifts, and Freeman’s supposition that using them would help stabilize them. Spencer couldn’t get a read on how Morgan was feeling about everything. His face was so still, stone-like with not even a micro expression to give him away. Spencer was not going to invade his friend’s privacy further by trying to get an emotional imprint. He’d stopped fighting his gifts, but he wasn’t going to use them on people unsuspecting, unless he had to. He’d just have to learn how to read people better he supposed, in the traditional way, particularly since his empathy no longer wandered like it used to.

“You feel better now that you used your telepathy?” Morgan asked.

“Yes, the headache was gone as soon as I let my empathy go last night,” Spencer confided. “I think my gifts were registering that the darkness in McInnes’ mind was close the whole time I was around him. I just wasn’t listening.”

“It was incredible what you did, Pretty Boy,” Morgan said. The natural use of those teasing words from his friend warmed him to his core. “Emily’s still alive because of you. We wouldn’t have gotten there in time, if you hadn’t seen where he was taking her.”

“I really don’t want to see into people’s heads, Morgan,” Spencer deflected. To him saving Emily had been a team effort, even if his abilities had been more than helpful.

“You going to take part in Freeman’s study?” he pressed.

Spencer bit his lip. “I think I should, though it scares me more than I can say, but I need to learn control.”

“I’d never given Sentinel and Guide gifts much thought until I met Hotch, and even after working with him for the last five years, their usefulness was only occasionally notable,” Morgan said. “You know the whole telepathy thing makes me uncomfortable. I don’t want anyone to see into my head, ever.”

“I know,” Spencer murmured, he kept his gaze on Gottfried’s fluffy ears, afraid he’d see the revulsion he knew Morgan must feel for him.

“Spencer, your friendship means alot to me,” he continued, tapping the coffee table to bring Spencer’s eyes back up to his. “I’m not willing to give it up, but I do need you to stay out of my head, if you can.”

Searching Morgan’s face, Spencer let out a shaky relieved breath at seeing the affection his friend had for him. Morgan was going to give him a second chance, as unbelievable as it was, but the pain of Spencer knowing Morgan’s secret was a heavy weight in the room and he couldn’t leave it alone.

“Did… did the man ever get arrested for what he did to you?” Spencer asked. “What was his name?”

“Carl Buford.” Morgan winced, sitting back rubbing his face. The defensiveness of his friend’s body language was all the answer Spencer needed. “I can’t talk about this, kid.”

“Morgan, that man is a preferential pedophile, you must know you’re not the only one he’s abused,” he asserted. Morgan’s eyes widened with dawning horror, but he stayed quiet, just staring at Spencer. “Is this man still alive? Does he work with children?”

The pain on his friend’s face was stark, his voice was gruff when he replied, “He runs the community center in my old neighborhood, teaches football… I… I always thought I was the only one. He’d only ever had eyes on me, while I was there.”

“I know you’ve never talked about what happened to you with anyone, Derek,” Spencer said, subdued. “I’m willing to listen and keep your confidence, but we both know this man has to be stopped, be made accountable for his crimes. We could work on it together, privately, if you’re willing.”

Morgan stayed silent so long, Spencer started to doubt pushing his friend, on top of everything else, had been a smart thing to do. Hypocritical really, since he’d only just started admitting his own issues with his lover. The image in his mind of the heinous abuse Morgan had suffered was atrocious, extreme, and he couldn’t overlook what he knew, or ignore it. He needed to help, he wanted to see justice done, and wondered if that was selfish of him.

“I was thirteen when I started playing football at the center,” Morgan said, trailing off with a hesitance in his voice Spencer had never heard before. “If I’m gonna talk about this, Pretty Boy, I think I’m going to need a drink.”

“I think I’ll need one too.” He smiled softly, relieved and elated that Morgan trusted him so profoundly.

Giving Gottfried a nudge to get off his lap, so he could go find the booze, Spencer watched astonished when his cat gave in without protest, and jumped across the coffee table and onto Morgan’s lap. His gray fluffy demanding pain in the ass cat proceeded to circle three times on his nemesis’ thighs, before sprawling across them, as if he owned them. Morgan winced a bit with Gottfried’s claws kneading the bed he’d made for himself, content and purring.

Raising a brow, Morgan sunk his fingers in Gottfried’s fine fur. “You may be cute, but you’re still creepy.”

****

“Are you still having physical symptoms from Dr. Reid’s emotional state?” Freeman asked.

“Yes,” Aaron replied, remembering feeling what Spencer was experiencing that morning during their sleepy lovemaking session. This time, Aaron had not only perceived the physical sensations, but had also been able to see Spencer moving in and out of him. The image of Spencer’s pretty cock breaching his hole caused a pleasant clench in his gut.

“Stop it!” Spencer fretting flitted through Aaron’s mind. “Can we please not tell him about that?”

“He might need to know about it at some point, baby,” Aaron teased, watching Freeman twitch every time one of them spoke in their heads.

“No… no, he doesn’t!” he replied with a frown.

The color had still been high on Spencer’s cheeks from their meeting with Strauss that afternoon, and Freeman’s continued lines of questioning had only increased the rosy tint on Spencer’s creamy skin.

Strauss’ admiration on a job well done with the case had been satisfying, but her questions about their relationship, as benign as they were, had Spencer flushing uncontrollably throughout the meeting. At least, the Director had finally realized, Aaron had meant what he’d said almost two-weeks ago. The FBI didn’t want to lose their BAU Unit Chief and Sentinel, so they’d let the matter of his relationship with their resident genius, and team member, drop for the time being. Aaron knew Strauss would be monitoring the situation, but he was confident that his joining with Spencer wouldn’t unduly affect the work, or the team. So far, their bonding and gifts had only enhanced the performance of their duties.

He’d been uneasy about Morgan’s relationship with Spencer, but it seemed they’d talked it out, and were back to their normal banter. He had no idea what Spencer and Morgan were up to, but he knew they were working on something together. Aaron figured he’d be brought in on it when the time was right, but for now, Morgan and Spencer’s privacy was more important than his curiosity.

“Well, we definitely have a lot of work to do,” Freeman said, smiling. “I’d like you to be able to mind-speak to each other without other guides potentially sensing it, as well as reduce the physical symptoms for Aaron, if we can. I’m hopeful I’ll be able to teach each of you to raise an empathic shield or wall, not only between you, but also to protect your minds from potential empathic events. I know Aaron already has some experience with this, but I believe we can make it stronger, easier to achieve.”

Spencer cleared his throat. “What do you suggest?”

“I’d like to meet with each of you alone, at least once a week,” Freeman replied. “I know with traveling for your work that the schedule won’t be as consistent as I’d like, but we’ll work around it. I also want to work with you together at least once a month to start.”

“What would the meetings entail?” Aaron inquired.

Enthusiasm was apparent on the doctor’s countenance as he expounded, “I’d of course want to discuss your backgrounds, how your abilities manifested, and gather information on your families. I also want to test your abilities in a quiet environment, have you articulate as best you can the sensations felt whether you’re mind-speaking, receiving empathic projections, or using the telekinesis you’ve told me about, etcetera. I’d also want you to work with your bond, alone, and with each other. To do this, I’ll teach you various meditative states and techniques.”

“Meditation? Really?” Spencer scowled.

“Meditation is very beneficial, Dr. Reid,” Freeman grinned, not offended in the least by Spencer’s dubiousness.

“It is,” Aaron interjected.

“Maybe to you! I have enough trouble shutting my brain off to sleep, let alone trying to locate my non-existent Ch’i!” Spencer rolled his eyes. “Besides, meditation, practicing, and nosy questions, what else do you suggest?”

“I’d like to do measurable medical tests on both of you, MRI’s, CT scans, blood work, and of course, genetic tests,” Freeman replied, serious. “I know that makes you uncomfortable Dr. Reid, but to accurately figure out what you can do, and possibly identify the reasons why, they are necessary.”

Taking Spencer’s hand as anxiety surged over their bond, Aaron asked, “Can you guarantee that the results of your tests will remain anonymous? I will not have Spencer exposed to the media or the government.”

“I’ll do everything in my power to keep your secret,” he replied. “The last thing I want to do is expose either of you, though I would like to prove the existence of Transcendentals. If you take part in my study, the best way to keep everything anonymous would be to give you both a patient number, and leave all of your personal details out of the data. You are both unique, so it’s not like I’ll not remember which numbers I assigned to you.”

Curiosity flittered down the back of Aaron’s head as his lover perked up. “How many participants do you have?”

Raising a blond brow, Freeman reported, “I have over five-hundred individuals from around the world, with IQ’s of a hundred and sixty or above. My pool of candidates includes mundanes, sensitives, sentinels and guides, both bonded and unbonded, so far. I anticipate more will come as the study progresses, and I start publishing the results.”

“What do you think, baby?” Aaron asked, squeezing Spencer’s hand, looking into those beautiful amber eyes. “Want to give it a go?”

Aaron could feel Spencer’s big brain starting to swirl with the possibilities, before his genius burst out, “Any luck with getting London to take part?”

Freeman’s hazel eyes were flitting back and forth between them, the small smile on his face widened when he answered, “No, not yet, though I did try again a few days ago to talk to him. It didn’t go at all well. I’m hoping that any data I gather on you will entice him to agree to meet with me.”

“Would you allow me to study the data?” Spencer was practically bouncing in his seat, his intellectual excitement over riding his initial trepidation, and Aaron had to try not to rub at the tickling he was on the receiving end of. “Maybe meet London at some point if we can pin him down?”

“Absolutely, Dr. Reid, I’d welcome your input.” The doctor’s grin was elated. “And if I do eventually get to meet… London, I’d love for you to come with me.”

“Then yes, we’ll be part of your study, doctor.” Spencer said, enthused. “I’ll have our tech friend contact you about your data and network security, just to be sure it’s safe.”

Freeman leaned forward. “Oh yes! You have to tell me how much information they got, and I can show you what I have gathered…”

Aaron watched, completely ignored by the two geniuses who’d jumped up and made a beeline for Freeman’s desk. His lanky, lovely Guide dwarfed the small doctor, and Aaron knew, regardless of what the test showed, or the genetics Spencer had in his body, he was Aaron’s Guide regardless, his Transcendental, his love. The adoration and possessiveness was almost overwhelming as he watched the man who was his perfect match in all ways.

“I love you,” he thought, unable to stop from pushing what he was feeling at Spencer, and his lover jumped as if he’d been goosed in the backside.

Frowning at the interruption, Spencer, his own feelings of love surged over Aaron, even as he fussed at him. “I love you too, now shush, I’m thinking.”

Grinning, Aaron decided he’d see if Richard in reception could put a pot of coffee on, he was going to be here for a while.

****

Watching the words being typed on the page and listening to Dave’s thought process was fascinating. Spencer remained quiet in his friend’s mind, just viewing and listening, as agreed. Dave couldn’t perceive him in his mind, but he knew Spencer was there. He’d received Dave’s consent via text message on the infernal smartphone Garcia had got him, the use of which was her bribe to be one of Spencer’s test subjects so he could practice his telepathy. Both Emily and Dave had agreed to Spencer making contact with them, as long as they knew before hand, and had the option to say no if it wasn’t a good time.

Garcia’s enthusiasm for the whole process was unending, and she’d agreed to mental contact, as well as consistently worked with Spencer to practice his other abilities. The telekinesis was her favorite, but she also found the clear viewing, and their mental conversations, fun as well.

Aaron’s amusement stroked over the back of his mind. The meditation and practice had been very helpful in gaining better control of his empathy and telepathy, but raising a shield between him and Aaron was still elusive.

“Goodnight, Dave,” Spencer whispered softly in his friend’s head.

Dave’s typing stopped for a second. “Goodnight, Kid, have a safe trip, I’ll see you in two-weeks.”

He left his friend, gently coming out of the shallow trance he’d immersed himself in with Gottfried’s purring help and warm weight in his lap as his focal point, to see Aaron leaning on the doorway to their bedroom, just watching.

“Dinner’s ready,” he said.

His Sentinel raised a brow at his tie unraveling to slither to the floor. Spencer smiled holding out a hand, watching Aaron stalk over to him after receiving an encouraging invisible tug to his belt. Garcia was right, the telekinesis was epic and way cool, Spencer thought.

He pulled Aaron in for a soft kiss, murmuring against his lover’s lips, “Will dinner keep?”

“It’s lasagna, it’ll re-heat just fine,” Aaron replied, nipping at Spencer’s lower lip. “The question is… are you done packing? Our flight leaves at eight.”

“Get naked, I’ll finish packing later,” Spencer coaxed, giving Gottfried a little poke to get off his lap. As usual, his cat was not happy about being moved from the nest created by Spencer’s crossed legs, and resisted with a yowl. Aaron gently picked up the feline, giving him a cuddle before setting him on the floor, and crawling on top of Spencer. The warm, heavy weight of his lover was just perfect, as was the soft suckling kisses they shared.

Aaron pulled back from their kisses, gently stroking Spencer’s curls off his forehead, his eyes searching. “Do you think you’ll get a meeting?”

“I don’t know, but the data we have is compelling,” Spencer returned.

He really didn’t want to talk about London right now, or finish packing for their trip, he’d much rather make love to his Sentinel. He arched his head back, enjoying Aaron’s lips smoothing over the delicate skin of his neck. London would either meet with him and Freeman, or he wouldn’t. Spencer wasn’t going to worry about it right now. At this moment, his brain was calm, and only thinking about one thing. The rest could wait.

Unless of course, he couldn’t get his Sentinel with the program, he thought, irked, as Aaron slid off him.

Lying next to him, Aaron smiled. “You still haven’t told me what the genetic tests found.”

Spencer let out a huff, thwarted. “Fine! If I tell you, can we please get to the sex in the next fifteen minutes?”

After six months of tests, Freeman finally had some unique physical evidence of the existence of Transcendentals. Though without at least having a second individual with the same abilities to compare Spencer’s results to, they couldn’t yet prove the findings as more than an anomaly.

“You know I want you, baby,” Aaron soothed with a kiss to his cheek. “But you just found out today, and I’m curious.”

Cuddling up to the warm solid form of his lover, Spencer said. “My genome contains two of the four Guide chromosomes, and two of the four Sentinel chromosomes.”

“Wow,” Aaron exclaimed, pulling back a bit so he could see Spencer’s face. “Has Freeman found any other sensitive’s with a similar genetic makeup?”

“No, not yet,” Spencer murmured distracted by the beautiful hollow below Aaron’s throat. He was obsessed with that soft patch of skin, he thought, giving in to the urge to kiss it. Since his Sentinel was being obtuse at the moment, Spencer worked to slip the buttons of Aaron’s shirt loose with his long fingers. He could multitask though, and Aaron’s leather belt and trousers came undone with an unseen touch.

“Talk later, I take it?” Aaron laughed.

Spencer took his Sentinel’s mouth in a passionate kiss, which was all the reply his lover needed anyway.

The End.

Part One: Transference

Part Two: Convergence

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