*It goes without saying that Criminal Minds – the story and all related characters – belong to the writers, to the network and to the cast and crew of the show. I claim no ownership or association to the TV series titled Criminal Minds. This was written by a fan solely for the enjoyment of other fans.*

Chapter 2


Get up. Get up, Derek. Wake up . . .

He couldn't. He couldn't move. Darkness swelled, filling every crack and crevice. It was all around him and he could feel it crushing his body. The weight pressing down, intolerably heavy and light as air simultaneously. Like he should have been able to push it aside, only he couldn't.

Derek was dead. Buried alive. There was six feet of earth pressing in on him, smothering him. Choking him. No, not chocking. He could breathe. Air, not soil, filled his burning lungs.

Wake up, Derek. Wake up.

He wanted to shout, 'I'm awake! Here! I'm here!'

His jaw locked, like it'd been nailed shut. He couldn't make a sound.

Derek's fevered mind spun; slowly slipping between the different sections of his character. Like blocks falling through a hole . . . chunky and individual. Child. Man. Cop. Profiler. A leaking womb bulging with the promise of consciousness. This person called Derek Morgan fighting to pull all the scattered pieces of himself together.

"Derek," the voice punched straight through the darkness "Shhhhh. I'm here, Derek, I'm here."

Past, present and future converged. Time stretching inexorably onward. Forever and ever.

That voice. He wanted to answer her, but he was too broken . . .

XxXxXx

Emptiness with only the faintest flicker of thought whispering words he couldn't understand.

Ghosts.

Derek woke all in a rush, his death ripped away and replaced by brilliant life. Pain sizzled over his skin. His blood heavy; feeling like it was dragging through his veins. Light and sound and taste returned and it was like a crack of lightning. Shocking. Brutally painful.

His entire body . . . was on fire. From his throat, a single strangled plea, "H-help!"

A roar filled his head, and Derek knew he was in hell. The fire that ravaged him burned with a ferocity that showed the fires he'd known before were only a tame imitation. Hellfire was pitiless and it was everywhere. Burning him without killing him. Through the agony, danced faint memory.

He remembered dying. Felt again his eyes rolling back, helpless against the grasping fingers dragging him down into a void from which there was no coming back. Deeper and deeper, death like water closing over his head. He'd reached for the light; like a man drowning watching the surface pull away but whatever had a hold of him drew him pitilessly down.

And now he was in hell.

Devoured by white fire, unspeakable agony. He couldn't scream. Couldn't buck and writhe, though he wanted to. The pain so severe he couldn't even reach his own limbs to slap at the flames.

Stop. Stop! No more.

And then . . .

. . . something cool washed over him. Like spring rain and aloe, slowly extinguishing the flames.

With all the desperation of the damned, he strained for more of it. More, please more, it hurts! The hellfire returned with a vengeance, all the more acute for the momentary relief. Roaring fury all around him; inside him. Sharp claws slashing at the underside of his skin.

No mercy. No end to this hell.

Hearing was the first of his senses to be released from the white hot quagmire. Voices whispering. The distant hiss of traffic. He recognized the sounds, could even assign words to what they were, but the pain was still to all-encompassing. He couldn't make himself care.

What mattered – the only thing that mattered – was the blessed relief.

More. More poured into his throat, ice that cooled the burning. They were only split-second reprieves at first, dousing the hellfire eating at him. Insatiably hot. Each merciful shot of ice lasting a little longer than the one before, and in those spaces he found pieces of himself. Fragments of distorted memory. His soul.

Derek opened his eyes; not to a lake of fire but to tile and porcelain.

Awareness returned with a shocking suddenness. Scattered pieces falling into their proper places so smoothly that without his training he might not have even noticed how far lost he was. To pull himself together, the cracks in his psyche filling in until even the memory of them faded into the abstract. Derek wasn't only unbroken. He was sane.

Sane but nothing was the same. Derek reeled at the alien acuity of his senses.

He could see, hear, smell, touch and taste . . . oh, god. Taste!

Something delicious was in his mouth. Derek swallowed hard, delirious with the heavenly flavor like ambrosia. It had the consistency of cream on his tongue. He knew at once that it's what had driven the hellfire from his body. A balm that soothed him. The last lagging bit of reality clicked into place and Derek lifted weary eyes; disbelief competing with euphoria.

He was in a bathroom.

Sink, toilet, bathtub. The bathroom was small, utilities cramped together so that they would fit in the space. A single unlit bulb on the ceiling. The smell of soap and heaven clogging his nostrils. The scents so strong he winced away from them.

Derek swallowed hard, his throat burning with thirst while the creamy flavor coating the inside of his mouth was foreign. He couldn't place it. His head rolled weakly, mind churning to understand what . . . what . . .

He was in the bath . . .

Derek's long, muscled body stretched out so that his feet were down by the open drain. Too tall to properly fit, his shoulders were lifted up out of the tub. His head braced on the white-tiled wall as if he'd been propped up while unconscious though he had the sinking sensation he may have done that himself. The screaming pain he endured stiffening his limbs so that he pushed with his feet, propelling his entire body up and out.

Derek stretched, relieving some of the pressure building in his shoulders. His sweater clung to the defined muscles of his chest and stomach. The gunmetal gray fabric blackened and wet. Wetness coated his arms, pooling in the dips and hollows. Lifting his hands, he saw how the blood gummed between his fingers.

Fear knotted in his stomach.

Inches of purplish blood pooled in the bottom of his bathtub, trickling slowly into the open drain. On his lap were bags, a half-dozen scattered like discarded playing cards. St. Jude's Memorial was stamped into the heavy plastic. Derek picked one up, holding it shakily with clumsy fingers. The bags had been torn open and savaged. Just ripped apart. More bags splat on the pink linoleum of the bathroom floor, their contents drained away.

And the smell. Coppery sweet.

Derek was too familiar with the scent of blood, but never like this. The blood soaking is clothes smelled like cotton candy and dark, decadent chocolates. He drew a deep breath without meaning to, pulling that mouthwatering scent into his body. Feeling it soak into starved cells. That smell . . . that smell . . . his mouth was filling with spit. The urge to lick his fingers, to press his soaked sweater into his mouth and suck what he could off his clothes was nearly overpowering. He wanted to.

The thought shook him to his core.

The flavor – liquid coating his tongue – felt like the heavy milk Penelope added to thicken her coffee. Desire coursed through his body so forcefully it was nearly pain. Horror like poison shot over his psyche. His mind balked, refusing to accept the only conclusion.

There was blood in his mouth and he liked it.

Muscles straining with the effort it took to find purchase on the slick porcelain, Derek heaved himself out of the bathtub. He felt surprisingly strong, his body responding to his commands with uncanny swiftness but on the inside he was still shaking. The memory of the pain he'd endured searing his brain with fire. Taunting him with the possibility that it might return.

He was scared. So deeply afraid.

He couldn't take it. Not again.

Derek's bare feet slipped on the blood-splattered floor and he skidded to the sink, holding on with both hands to keep from falling. He felt like something inside of him was changing; was still in the process of going through some awful metamorphosis he didn't understand and that when it was done, he would know it.

Derek's entire body trembled. Sweat beaded on his forehead. He could feel it there, hot, and the way his stomach pitched and rolled. He swallowed but that did nothing to ease the nausea twisting his gut, instead only bringing attention to the hunger gnawing at him. The taught muscles in Derek's arms bulged, veins rising under his skin as he strained to keep himself upright. Leaning his weight on the sink basin.

What was happening?

His right foot was slipping on a discarded, flattened plasma bag. They were like a deck of cards scattered over the bloody floor. There was blood everywhere; it dripped from the showerhead. Splashed over the walls. The ceiling. A liquid sweet scent, he was nearly delirious from it. Derek lifted his weary gaze to the red-splattered mirror.

A fresh swell of terror threaded through his emotions, but he had to see. He had to know what was done to him. Derek closed his eyes, drawing whatever courage remained to him so that he could do this thing. Releasing his indrawn breath on a soft sigh, he looked into the mirror hung over the sink . . .

"What – the – hell . . ."

He clutched the mirror, bringing his face closer to the reflective glass and stared straight into his own eyes.

They were gold.

Not entirely, no, Derek's eyes were still the same solid brown as they'd always been. Only now they were cut with the deepest amber-gold ring which flared from his pupils. A burst of honey color. He stared at them, scarcely able to believe what he was seeing.

There was blood – wet and still dripping – caking his mouth and nose. A fat glob of crimson hung off his chin.

Derek pushed off from the mirror and slammed into the bathroom door, feeling the wood give under his weight. Hunger gnawed savagely under his skin, tightening his stomach into a painful knot but the worst of it came as a tremor of cold and numbness all through his body. His body crying out for nourishment with pitiless demand. The sweet and decadent scent of blood making his mouth water. Derek could not have been able to stop himself, even had he the presence of mind to try.

He snatched a discarded blood bag off the floor, and stuck the torn plastic into his mouth. Licking the crimson dregs left between the folds . . .

XxXxXx

Derek washed the worst of the blood from his hands and face.

At the little sink under a spray of warm water, he scrubbed as hard as he could to remove the traces from his skin. His stomach churned with distaste. He couldn't bring himself to watch the delicious red swirl around the basin before being lost to the drain.

To distract himself, he tried to take measure of his surroundings.

He saw things that he'd missed before. A plastic pump bottle of hand soap sat next to the faucet, innocuous in the blood soaked room. Pearl white liquid filled the bottle, and the paper label was smooth with the edges still properly glued down. It was new.

A tube of toothpaste and a single pink toothbrush were in the medicine cabinet. A hair comb with long, dark strands caught in the bristles. A bar of women's deodorant.

He'd just assumed he was in some abandoned bathroom in an industrial building. A warehouse or factory. But he wasn't. This was an apartment.

No toilet paper in the dispenser, but he found several rolls in the cabinet under the sink. Who put him here hadn't wanted an exposed roll to soak in the blood. Derek understood now that he was the one who made the mess. His desperate hunger, his crying need to drink from those heavy plastic bags bulging with blood . . . he hadn't been able to control himself.

The pain, the scalding white agony which had seared through his body with pitiless intensity had been soothed only with the ingestion of creamy cool blood. He couldn't remember doing it, but he knew he'd torn at the blood bags. Savaging them while trying to get at the liquid inside with only his blunt teeth to rip.

It was a horror. Fear shot like poison through his veins.

What else did he know? He was bare foot.

His boots, but also his socks had been stripped from him. The floor was cold, and stickiness pulled at the bottoms of his feet. His clothes itched as the blood soaked into them began to dry and flake. T-shirt plastered to the front of his chest. Jeans turning to cardboard. Some of it was from his violent feeding.

Most of it was his own.

Derek remembered what happened to him. His last memory before waking in this place; the woman in the white blouse and her sharp teeth lacerating his throat. The spill of hot blood down the front of him, followed by an icy numbness he now recognized had been his body going into shock.

Derek braced himself on the sink, trembling at the memory. His vision blurring as he watched water dripping off the tips of his fingers . . .

When it happened, he thought she cut his throat; severing his artery in one rough stroke. He hadn't seen any weapon but what else was there? Now, thinking back, he realized he'd been wrong. She'd driven her teeth into his skin and they'd been sharp as needles in his throat. The burning pain of her bite faded quickly; replaced by a sort of pinch . . . she'd bitten down harder when he tried to fight.

Disbelief competed with his own heightened sense of survival.

It was the implication. The sheer senselessness of what he was experiencing now, that froze him in place. He was lingering rather in a place he had no business being because he was bewildered and afraid.

He remembered dying.

He knew what he'd done when he regained consciousness. Crimson slashes over the walls, dripping from the light fixture and showerhead testament to his mindless savagery.

He was able to understand both events separately – the before, and the now – but could not bring himself to make those pieces fit. There was an idea which danced off the edge of his rationality, like a wisp of smoke. One he was afraid to look at. To consider that maybe, no matter how crazy the conclusion, he knew what had been done to him . . .

He knew.

Again, Derek lifted his eyes to meet his reflected gaze. The mirror showed him those same golden bursts around the pupils, which had never been there before. Liquid gold and actually very beautiful.

They were her eyes.

Autumn. She called herself Autumn.

For a moment Derek thought he could smell the floral perfume of her hair. Feel echoes of her hands digging into his shoulders, inhuman strength holding him still while she buried her face in his throat. And he could still taste the blood in his mouth. Sharp and sour, very different from how it tasted to him now.

He trembled and from just outside the bathroom, he heard the front door open . . .

. . . she was back.