People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within. – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
Aaron Hotchner sat at the conference table, surrounded by the rest of the Behavioural Analysis Unit, waiting for JJ to outline their new case. Morgan was absent-mindedly clicking his knuckles, Prentiss had her head in her hands with her dark hair hanging over her face. Dr Reid’s eyes were vacant and heavy as he sipped his coffee and JJ stood at the head of the table, thumbing through the file with a frown creasing her eyebrows. He had rarely seen them look more exhausted.
"Okay, Pima County, Arizona," JJ said once David Rossi had taken his seat. "There have been seven murders in the Green Valley area in the last four weeks.”
"Seven?" Prentiss echoed, lifting her head to look at her friend. "And they're only inviting us in now?”
“Yeah. For the last four weeks a girl has gone missing every Saturday night but on Tuesday a family of three was taken from their car and killed; a mother, a father and their six year old daughter.”
“Why weren’t we called in sooner? One victim every Saturday night... it screams serial killer,” Morgan said, his dark eyes showing the frustration that they all felt. “Half of these murders could have been prevented.”
“The Unsub’s burial site was only found a few hours ago,” JJ said. “That revealed the bodies of all seven victims. There was no evidence that this was a serial killer until now.”
“But four young women don’t just vanish. Why did no one report them missing?” Prentiss asked.
“The first three girls were prostitutes with no family to speak of. No one even noticed they were gone. But the fourth girl was reported missing; she was a Law student walking home from the library in the early evening on a main road. Her parents called the police when she didn’t make it to her house. The cops found the rest of the bodies when they were out looking for her.”
“So the Unsub went from high risk victims to a low risk victim and then to an entire family?” Rossi asked. JJ nodded.
“So he started out killing someone once a week,” Prentiss said, “but now he only waited a few days and took multiple victims? This guy could be devolving.”
“Or beginning to enjoy himself,” Morgan muttered.
“What connects the murders?” Hotch asked. “The Unsub clearly doesn’t have a type.” The victims were both Hispanic and Caucasian; male and female.
“The victims don’t appear to have any connection to each other, besides the fact they all live in Green Valley,” JJ said.
She brought up the crime scene photos on the screen behind her. Seven bodies lay in badly made coffins in deep pits in the ground. All the victims were in separate graves except for the family, who were buried together. The mother still had her arms around her little girl, the girl in turn was clutching tightly to her teddy bear. The child's eyes were closed but the woman's were wide open, dull and glassy with an echo of fear still reflected in them. All six of them stared at the screen, and no one spoke. They had seen pictures like this before, but that didn’t make it any easier.
“He seems to be choosing his victims randomly but his M.O. is always the same: he keeps them for almost a day and then buries them alive,” JJ continued, dragging her eyes away from the dead family.
“Anything found at the crime scene?" asked Prentiss.
“Nothing at the first four, but he left a note on the family’s abandoned car. It said ‘Too slow, pig.’”
“He’s taunting the law enforcement,” said Hotch. “And making sure they know there’s a killer on the loose. He was probably getting impatient waiting for them to find his victims.”
“And he seems smug, like he’s proud of outsmarting the cops. We might have a narcissist on our hands here,” Rossi said.
“What about prints?” asked Prentiss. “Anything on the bodies?”
"Absolutely nothing so far, he's very organised - " JJ was cut off by the sound of raised voices from the bullpen. There were heavy footsteps and the door flew open.
"JJ, I need to talk to you." Hotch turned to see JJ's husband, Will, standing in the doorway looking grim. Her face fell.
"I'm busy," she said.
“Now." JJ paused for a second before sitting her file down in front of her and skirting around the table.
"Excuse me," she said to the rest of the team, her cheeks flushing.
"Will, I am working," they heard her say before she shut the door behind her. The second the door closed, Morgan, Prentiss and Reid hurried to the conference room window and peered out at the tense couple who had moved in to the middle of the bullpen. Rossi caught Hotch's gaze and rolled his eyes at the agents all pressed against the glass like children who had just noticed it was snowing.
Hotch didn't make quite so much of a scene, but he also glanced out the window to watch JJ. Will was standing with his feet apart, voice raised, shoulders back; all the classic signs of an attempt at dominance. But Hotch felt a spark of admiration as he watched JJ fighting her corner. Although she was an inch or two shorter than Will, she had drawn herself up to her full height and was firmly returning his gaze even when he raised his voice, never once backing down.
Hotch stood and cleared his throat. "I think they would appreciate a little privacy."
The three younger profilers came slowly back to their seats exchanging half troubled, half curious looks, but before they could sit down, the door flew open again. This time it was Penelope Garcia, bursting in to the grey office in a flurry of pink and sparkles.
"I'm so sorry guys," she said. "I met Will out in the hall and I told him that you were busy and that he couldn't disturb you but he wouldn't listen! He was just yelling at me asking where JJ was and when I said I didn't know he said I was trying to keep him away from her and that this team has been turning against him for months and then he saw you guys through the window and I couldn't stop him I just feel terrible!" she finished, brandishing her bejewelled hands.
"It's not your fault, Pen," Prentiss said. "It seems like Will is a man on a mission, I don't think you could have stopped him."
"But I should have done something, oh gosh, JJ will be so embarrassed."
Morgan approached her and put a comforting hand on her shoulder. "Don't beat yourself up about this, Baby Girl."
"But I should have done something. I suck at being assertive."
"No you don't, you're assertive with me all the time," Morgan said.
"And me sometimes," said Prentiss.
"And me," Hotch said. Garcia gave an apologetic little smile and pushing her bright green glasses back up to the bridge of her nose.
"Now," he continued, "let's get back to work." Having been briefed on the case already, Hotch stood before the rest of his team and picked up where JJ had left off. Garcia scooted out the room before any crime scene photos appeared. All the while, he kept a close eye on the couple arguing in the middle of the bullpen.
"I can't believe you would come here," JJ said, her cheeks still burning with embarrassment.
"How else was I going to speak to you? Damn it, JJ, I feel like I don't see you anymore," Will said.
"You don’t see me anymore, Will, that’s the damn point.”
“Well that isn’t my fault,” he said. “I'm not here to make amends. I get that you are punishing me, but you're making Henry suffer too."
"Don't you dare bring Henry in to this!" she said, clenching her trembling fists. She heard her own words ringing through the empty office, and lowered her voice. "Don't you dare suggest that I’m not a good mother to him.”
"Well how to you expect to be a good mother when you are never around?" JJ took a step back from him, trying to control herself before she said something she would regret.
"I see him as often as I can, he knows why I'm not always around,” she fought back angry tears, refusing to let her husband see her upset. “Don't try and guilt trip me, Will, I'm not the one with a reason to feel guilty!"
“I’m telling you, JJ, don’t go on this case.”
"You're telling me?" She gave an incredulous laugh. "You do not get to tell me what to do, you have no right, especially after - "
"Is everything okay here?" JJ turned to see that Hotch had appeared from nowhere and was standing by her side.
"Yes. Fine. I'll be right in," she said, watching Will with a steely gaze. "We're done here.” A furious sneer appeared on Will’s face as he looked at the BAU Unit Chief.
“Of course,” he said. “The famous Aaron Hotchner swoops in to save the day yet again.”
“Is there a problem?” Hotch asked, his voice low and level despite Will’s remark. JJ looked from Will to Hotch as they stared each other down, Will’s eyes burning with fury, Hotch’s cool and calm. At last, Will cracked.
"Fine. You know what, JJ? Suit yourself. I'll just explain to Henry why his mommy isn't around to see him grow up. I'll see you when you get back, if you can make the effort."
She felt like he had just punched her in the stomach. He slammed the glass door on his way out and pounded the elevator button with his thumb. Only when the elevator doors slid shut did JJ allow her eyes at last to fill with furious tears.
"I don't need you to save me," she said, rounding on Hotch who was hovering protectively by her side, her temper still running high. "I can handle a domestic by myself."
"I wasn't coming to save you,” he said. “I know you had it under control. I only came to make sure you didn't kill your husband. I'd rather not have a murder in the middle of my department; the paperwork would be a nightmare."
She looked up at him, still mortified, but he was watching her calmly with one eyebrow slightly raised.
"If you need any time off..."
"I don't," she said abruptly. She pulled her blonde hair in to a sleek ponytail and started to walk back towards the team. "Thank you, but I don't." He followed her on to the gangway, sticking his head in to the conference room where everyone, including Rossi, was now gathered by the window.
"We'll finish discussing the case on the jet. Wheels up in thirty.”