Sometimes catching the bad guy isn't enough, and after one such case Mick ends up learning more about Prophet's past.
Prophet and Mick are one of my favorite best friend pairs to write, and since there are lots(ish, given this was a one season show) of stories out there with background for Mick I'm sticking to torturing Prophet for now. I do have my own version of the early part of Mick's life in my head, but for now this is my take on why Prophet hates pedophiles so much. Probably a two-shot since I've got way too many other stories to update, but who knows. For the record, I should probably stop binge-watching seasons of Criminal Minds on Netflix. And occasionally trying to figure out how it would have played out with the CM:SB team since we didn't get so much of them.
Takes place sometime after the end of the series, and there's no need to read any of my other stories first, although this does fit in with them.
Mick stared at the door in front of him. Prophet's car was here, and Prophet wouldn't have wanted to be around people which meant that he should be here as well, but for once Mick had no idea if Prophet would open the door for him. Or what he would say if Prophet did.
It wasn't like he had to guess what had set Prophet off. Their last case…the sight of those little bodies being carried out of the park-turned-dumpsite under tarps far too large for them had been rough on everyone, and as much as Mick hated to admit it he was glad that Coop and Beth had handled the coroner visits. This particular unsub had targeted preteen boys and it had been bad even in comparison to most of their other cases. But they—Prophet included—were professionals and they'd locked it down and done their jobs and that sick bastard wasn't going to be seeing the light of day again anytime ever.
Afterwards, though, when they'd foregone another night in the hotel in favor of an empty room at the little regional airport and a flight out as soon as the jet could arrive, Mick had been expecting an explosion. And honestly, as much as he hated seeing his usually gentle-natured best friend turn into something very different, he'd almost been looking forward to it. At least for a few minutes he'd have something to focus on besides his own sick feeling of inadequacy. If they'd found the monster just a day sooner….
He cut off the thought of little Timothy Mitchell, age ten, whose death the coroner's report had placed at less than twelve hours before they'd smashed through the doors of the warehouse, with an unvoiced curse and forced himself to unclench his hands. They'd done the best they could, even if it didn't feel like enough. Would probably never feel like enough.
After a few slow breaths he focused on the door in front of him again because despite what he'd expected, there hadn't been any explosion. Oh, Beth had paced and sworn and kicked a few plastic chairs before throwing herself into one and picking a fight with Coop over some obscure point of whatever that no one else could even follow, Coop had snapped two pencils and torn through one of his small notebooks trying to draw his way through the darkness prior to Beth's interruption, and Gina had sat alone in the corner with her arms locked around her knees and pretended that there were no tears. But Prophet? Nothing. He'd taken a seat with his bag beside him, and said absolutely nothing. Done absolutely nothing. If it hadn't been for eyes locked on the blank wall across the room from him, Mick would have thought that he'd fallen asleep.
Even worse, on the plane back when Gina had taken the seat next to him he hadn't spoken to her. Hadn't so much as looked at her. It wasn't something they ever talked about, but Mick knew damn well that Prophet considered both him and Gina something along the lines of younger siblings and would never deliberately do anything to hurt either of them. Ignoring her like that, no offer of a smile—pain and all—or an arm around her shoulders or anything, just wasn't Prophet.
Prophet had continued his silence after the plane had landed, too, not even speaking to Coop when Coop had finally noticed that something was wrong. He'd just grabbed his bag, slipped around the group with the ease of someone who'd long ago learned to be invisible, and taken off. Gina had only been able to shrug when Coop had looked at her, Beth's expression couldn't have said 'You're asking me?' any more clearly if she'd said it out loud, even Mick hadn't had an answer.
"Will he talk to you?"
Any other day Mick wouldn't have had to think about Coop's question. Of course Prophet would talk to him, Prophet always talked to him. Well, usually. And on the rare occasions he didn't it was only after a pretty clear warning for Mick to back off. He didn't just start ignoring people, especially after something this bad.
That was the part that really worried Mick. Oh, if Prophet had gone quiet after a different kind of case—serial rapist, rampage killer, whatever—Mick would still be concerned and want to know what was wrong and all of that. Prophet would do the same for him; they were friends and that was how it worked. But if Prophet really wanted to be alone, Mick would be a lot more likely to accept it in that situation. Coop would too. Unfortunately given what their last case had entailed and knowing Prophet's temper…well, Mick didn't see the way that Prophet had shut down doing anything to relieve any tension, and they all knew that Prophet couldn't afford any kind of violent explosion when it came to this type of unsub. Not anywhere that anyone outside their team might see it, anyway. For all that the director seemed more accepting of him now, it would only take one real blow up for Prophet to be off the team and out of the FBI and maybe worse. They'd come close before, and it was just as well that pedophiles posing as readers for children's story time had more to worry about than an FBI agent who got a little rough.
Mick squared his shoulders and hit the doorbell. He needed to know what was going on before he could figure out what to do. Maybe Prophet was already beating the crap out of his punching bag and there was nothing to worry about. If that was the case, maybe Prophet would let him take a turn.
The ring of the bell was faintly audible through the door, but there were no other sounds from inside, and after a few minutes Mick hit the button again. When there was still no response he decided that enough was enough and dug out his key. This wasn't exactly the kind of 'just in case' circumstance that they'd figured might come up when he and Prophet had swapped spare keys, but it was certainly a circumstance.
"Prophet, it's me," he called as he let himself in. Music was playing, at least that much was familiar, and Mick checked the kitchen and living area. No sign of Prophet there, nor was he in his bedroom where the punching bag hung, and the bathroom was standing open and empty as well.
"Hello?" Another round of the flat didn't yield anything new, and he was starting to wonder if, unlikely as it seemed, Prophet had decided to take a walk or something when he noticed the bedroom window standing open. He stuck his head out. "Prophet?"
He wasn't sure what he'd expected to find, but Prophet sitting on the fire escape, legs hanging over the edge and crossed arms resting on the lower of the two railing bars as he stared out over the buildings across the alley, wasn't it. "Mate?" Mick asked.
No response. Prophet didn't even seem to have heard him.
Mick frowned for a minute and then climbed out beside Prophet, mirroring his position. "What are you doing out here?" It wasn't raining or anything like that, granted, and it wasn't as if Prophet had any issue with heights so there was no reason for him not to be out here, but Mick could feel the chill in the air through his leather jacket and Prophet was only wearing a t-shirt. And even more than that, a perch up high like this—well, about as high as you could get in Prophet's building, anyway—was more along the lines of what Mick took comfort in. It wasn't a seat that he'd ever seen Prophet take before.
Prophet still didn't twitch.
"Hey! Simms!" A pause. "Jon!" It was the first time that Mick could remember ever using Prophet's real name when speaking to him, but he wanted a reaction and not the one that sticking an elbow in him was likely to get.
Prophet's head swung towards him.
"Finally." He hadn't meant to say that out loud, but that didn't mean that it wasn't accurate. "What's going on with you?"
"Leave me alone."
Prophet's voice was rough, but at least he was looking at Mick, and Mick shook his head. "No. You're not acting much like you." And he wasn't about to walk away now that Prophet was talking. Of course, he hadn't been planning on walking away when Prophet wasn't talking either, but that was hardly the point. "What's going on?" he repeated. "I mean, this was bad, really bad, and I figured there was going to be some yelling, but you've never shut us out before."
"Gina was right next to you for the whole flight and you didn't even look at her."
That, at least, got a little bit of a reaction as Prophet dropped his eyes, but then he shook his head and returned his gaze to the skyline. "I'll apologize next time I see her. Right now it's better if I'm not around people."
Mick didn't bother asking 'why' but his "Since when are we 'people'?" was perfectly legitimate, and this time he did nudge Prophet lightly when Prophet didn't respond. "Talk to me."
Prophet shook his head.
"Please?" He waited a minute. "You're scaring me, buddy." It was low, and he knew it was low, but it was kind of true too.
Prophet sighed and ran a hand over his face, and Mick kept his arms hooked over the bar of the fire escape and waited. Prophet knew perfectly well what he was doing, he didn't doubt that. The question was whether it would work. He figured that his odds were good, if only because Prophet talked more with him about stuff, even the bad stuff, than anyone else on the team. Though, to be fair, that wasn't saying a lot.
"I had a brother," Prophet said after a few minutes of silence, as Mick was deciding whether or not to nudge him again. "I think you knew that."
"I saw a picture once," Mick said with a frown, not quite sure where the shift in conversation had come from. "A couple years ago." It had been back when they'd first started working together and he'd been poking around Prophet's shelves for whatever reason. There had only been a couple photos among the odds and ends—there still weren't that many now despite the fact that he'd added a few of the team—but one had been of Prophet at maybe twelve or thirteen, his arm around a blond boy with similar facial features a few years younger. Prophet hadn't said much about it at the time, and Mick hadn't known him well enough to ask, especially since he didn't talk about Jenna with relative strangers either. And he'd never seen the picture again after that. "He's dead, isn't he?" Mick asked after a minute. It wasn't exactly a question since Prophet had never made a secret of the fact that he didn't have any blood family left, but he suddenly had a bad feeling about where this might be going.
Prophet picked absently at the peeling paint on the railing in front of him, but his mind was clearly elsewhere, and Mick kept his mouth shut and waited.
"His name was Ty. Tyler. He disappeared on his way to a friend's house when he was eleven."
"I wasn't with him," Prophet continued as if Mick hadn't spoken. "School had been out for a couple weeks by then, but there were still chores to do, and I had friends of my own to hang out with when that was done. Didn't even occur to me to offer to ride along that morning." A flicker of a smile crossed his face. "Truth tell, he'd probably have looked at me like I had three heads if I had offered. Danny lived all of three miles away, and he'd been riding way longer distances alone for years. But when he wasn't home for dinner Dad sent me to get him, and that's when I found out he'd never made it." A particularly large piece of paint peeled free and Prophet flung it away with an explosion of air that might have been a laugh if there had been any humor in it. "I didn't think anything about it at first. Well, I thought Dad was going to be pissed that supper had to wait even longer while I tracked him down, but it never even crossed my mind that something might be wrong. Obviously he'd run into another friend on the way to Danny's and decided to go off with them instead. I must have wasted a good hour riding around looking."
"Even when he wasn't—and hadn't been—at Kyle's or Terry's or the ball field or anywhere else I looked, I wasn't really worried. The town was small, but not small enough that it was hard for two kids on bikes to miss each other, and eventually I gave up and headed home. Figured he had to be home by then and I'd just missed him because he'd really be in deep shit if he was two hours late for supper. That's when I saw his bike lying in the weeds by the road maybe half a mile from our place. He wouldn't…he'd never have just left it lying there like that. Bikes were expensive and we didn't have a lot of money. I had to have ridden right by it before and hadn't even noticed, and how the hell I missed a bright blue bike ten feet to my left I'll never know. That's when I freaked out a little, and then I got home and Dad freaked out a lot because obviously Ty still wasn't there, and we went to the sheriff and..." Prophet shook his head. "We found his body in the quarry four days later. What was left of it, at least."
Mick swore again quietly, but Prophet's eyes stayed on the skyline.
"That kind of thing, it just didn't happen back there. I mean, I know that's what everybody always says, but in all seriousness people still talked about a little girl who'd drowned in the duck pond five years before I was born. That was pretty much the worst thing that had happened to a child in anyone's memory. And then suddenly there was Ty." He shook his head again, harder this time. "I knew what 'rape' meant. Theoretically, at least; I was fifteen. And I grew up hunting so 'eviscerated' wasn't a new concept either although it would never have occurred to me to apply it to a human. The other stuff they talked about, though, the other things that had been done to him? I'd never even heard most of those words before. Took snitching the coroner's report off his desk to figure it out." Another breath of harsh non-laughter. "The coroner was really just the town doc, and I don't think he'd ever seen anything like it, but hey, he had diagrams. Pictures."
"Did they ever catch who did it?" Mick asked, trying not to dwell on that last. "That sounds like—" He cut himself off before he could finish with 'a signature' but evisceration and worse weren't usually part of a first kill. Nor did pedophiles typically start out killing their victims. But this was Prophet and Prophet's little brother not some case they were being called in to investigate and he didn't want to make things worse.
If Prophet noticed the chopped off sentence he gave no sign of it as he answered Mick's question. "Never had a clue. Everybody was scared and everybody was asking, but there was just nothing to go on. You know how hard it can be now, and back then—and back there—with no internet, no experts…." He shrugged. "People had probably heard of serial killers, Manson and Zodiac and all of that was earlier, but California might as well have been China as far as we were concerned. And he was just one little boy."
"We go out on missing child cases," Mick objected.
"Again, now, but if the BAU even existed when I was a kid it was three guys in a basement who'd never heard of my hometown. And the sheriff wouldn't have thought to call on Feds anyway, it just…it wasn't the kind of thing you did. Fact is whoever killed Ty could have raped and murdered a dozen other little boys in a dozen other little towns like the one I grew up in and no one would ever have put it together." His hands tightened on the railing in front of him until his knuckles went white. "Dad was real messed up after it happened. We both were, Mom died not too long after Ty was born so was just the three of us, but he wrapped his truck around a tree going about fifty on Ty's twelfth birthday. They said it was an accident."
Prophet didn't add what he thought and Mick wasn't about to ask. "So that's why you left home at sixteen." It hadn't seemed unusual to Mick when Prophet had first mentioned it, sixteen wasn't uncommon for university or trade school back home and he'd been seventeen when he'd left for the army, but he'd since learned that eighteen was the standard in the US.
"Nothing to stay for. I understand better now, but back then I just had to be somewhere else."
"And California might as well have been China," Mick echoed.
There wasn't a damn thing Mick could say, and he shifted a little closer and threw and arm over Prophet's shoulders.
"I wasn't kidding when I said that I shouldn't be around other people," Prophet said, though he made no move to dislodge Mick's arm. "Everything is numb right now. Weird, and very numb. But when it's not, it's probably going to be bad."
Mick nodded. Prophet's reaction made a lot more sense now; they'd run into pedophiles before but not with this specific victim selection or with the kind of knife work that had been involved in the signature. That didn't mean that he was going to listen, though. "You're not getting rid of me that easy, mate. I've survived your temper before." Fortunately Prophet generally lashed out at things rather than people these days.
"Someone really ought to explain the concept of self-preservation to you."
"You won't hit me, and I'm not leaving you alone. Especially out here." A pause. "Why are you out here? This is more my kind of place, and it's not exactly a warm day."
"I don't know. Everything inside was just too close. I don't feel cold."
Mick wasn't about to trust Prophet's reactions to external stimulus right now, but Prophet continued before he could voice the thought.
"I promise that I'll stay home and not do anything stupid enough to bring trouble down on my head. Or anyone else's head, for that matter. Was going to do that anyway. Okay?"
It was a hint, but not one that Mick planned on taking. "That's nice."
"I'm going to have to physically pick you up and move you to get you out of here, aren't I?"
"You can try, but you'll lose." And he wouldn't try, Mick was sure of that much. On another day he might, but on another day he wouldn't care if Mick wanted to hang around.
Prophet sighed and released the bar, letting his arms dangle again.
Mick pulled his arm back and once again mirrored Prophet's position. "See, I knew you loved me."
"I will feed you to the squirrels."
"Circus not buying?"
"Beth says they won't take pain-in-the-ass kids."
"Squirrels are vegetarians." Mick hesitated, debating whether he should let the whole subject drop, but it was worth asking, and if he didn't do it now he probably never could. "Did you ever think of looking again? I mean, reopening your brother's case, going back through records, all of that?" He would help if Prophet wanted; the whole team would. They'd opened cold cases before, in fact all of them had a few things they worked on in between active investigations. Granted that they weren't usually that cold or with that little to go on, but he was still willing to try.
"Once," Prophet said after a minute. "Back before you showed up, when I was splitting my time between academy crap and helping Coop with whatever old files he wanted to look at. What that bastard did to Ty..." Prophet let out a slow breath, opening and closing his hands. "But I didn't see anything good coming out of going down that rabbit hole then, and I still don't now. It'd be a different story if there was anything similar that was recent—recent meaning within the last twenty years—but there's not. That I did check." He shook himself slightly. "'Sides, even if there were other kills back then that might establish a pattern, because yeah, I'm damn sure there was a signature in all of that, if any records survived they're buried in old cardboard boxes in old forgotten storage rooms in little towns I've never heard of. There's not a computer search in the world that can find things that were never scanned in the first place. Hell, with Ty's I know exactly where to look and I'd still probably have to make an in-person visit to get my hands on anything." A pause. "Ain't been back since I left."
Mick nodded. Of course Prophet had noticed the same thing he had. He would have put it together years ago. And if he said it was a bad idea to reopen the case…well, it wasn't fair or right or anything else, but that was nothing new, and if there was really nothing to find all they'd accomplish was bringing down attention from above that none of them wanted to deal with. "It's lousy, mate."