Hey everyone! Sorry I didn't post earlier, but I didn't have time to write yesterday and this chapter took me way longer to write than I thought it would. There will be either one or two chapters left after this one. This is definitely the longest chapter I've written so far, and it's probably the most emotionally charged chapter of the story, as well (I'm not always the best at writing emotions, in case you haven't noticed, but I did enjoy writing this chapter.) As always, I would like to thank anyone who gave me feedback on the last chapter. I love reading your comments (even if it's to tell me that I am unnecessarily cruel and evil because, well…I am.)

ZOOM.

"We can spend our whole lives letting the world tell us who we are. Sane or insane. Saints or sex addicts. Heroes or victims. Letting history tell us how good or bad we are. Letting our past decide our future. Or we can decide for ourselves. And maybe it's our job to invent something better." – Chuck Palahniuk

"You have thirty minutes. The game starts now."

The whole room was cold. Much, much too cold. The sweating wasn't helping. Reid had no idea why he was sweating and shivering at the same time.

"There's something wrong with you," Tobias whispered to him. "Very, very wrong." The others were talking, too—JJ was talking and Jack was talking and Hotch was talking, talking, talking—but Tobias was the only important one. He was mean, and he was a liar, but he was the only one that spoke sense.

"I want to wake up," Reid whispered to Tobias.

"We all want to wake up," Tobias replied.

Reid closed his eyes tight. He thought back to his childhood nightmares—he would be dreaming of something menacing, something inescapable, some haunting ghoulish creature that was always following, always coming closer but never quite arriving, it was always the chase, the feeling of breath on his neck, the fear, the fear, they can smell your fear, and he would close his eyes and wake up in the real world, but always was the feeling of closeness, of pursuit, of the demons that haunted his mother and were always creeping closer to him, the scent of evil and the scent of death and the horrible scent of insanity…

"Why aren't I waking up," Reid whispered, less of a question and more of a plea. "Why can't I wake up, Tobias…"

He felt the soft air of breath on his neck. "There is no real and unreal anymore," Tobias whispered. "Fantasy is reality. Reality is fantasy. It doesn't matter. You can't wake up."

Reid opened his eyes, yet another feeling of nausea coursing through his stomach. All of the figures save Tobias had disappeared. He turned around—Hotch was standing at the very edge of the white line. He was talking to Jack.

"Are they real?" Reid whispered to Tobias.

"We're all real," Tobias replied. "None of us are real. It doesn't matter."

Reid wiped the sweat out of his eyes. "What do I have to do?" he whispered.

Tobias didn't answer him. He didn't seem to have an answer.

Reid took a step closer to him. "Logic isn't logical anymore," he said.

Tobias sighed. "Then what is?"

Reid looked away. "Fear," he whispered.

"Is it?"

Reid didn't answer.

"You aren't insane yet," Tobias said. "Deep down—underneath the drugs and the withdrawal and the pain and the hallucinations and the exhaustion—you know what's real and isn't real. But once you renounce logic, you will be insane. Insanity means allowing innocent people to die—insanity is renouncing logic in favor of fear."

Reid still didn't look at Tobias. "Then I am insane," he said.

"Are you?"

Reid didn't look at him.

"Maybe the logical decision is the wrong decision," Tobias said, refuting his earlier point. "Maybe the logical decision is illogical in the long run. You don't deserve another round in this game. Nobody does. Not you. Not Jack. Not Hotch. Not Henry."

Reid turned his head ever so slightly towards Tobias. He gave him a small smile. "I'm sorry you're not real," he said. "I'm wish I wasn't insane. But I have tobe. So I'm sorry."

Tobias eyed him rather somberly. "Me, too," he said.

O

"It's not much," the sheriff said, "But it's a clue. Back during the Cold War, they built fallout shelters all over the city—most of them have been decommissioned, but your strange technical analyst employee—"

"Garcia," Morgan interrupted automatically. The sheriff gave him an irritated look.

"Yes, her—she found evidence of an abandoned fallout shelter underneath—get this—the art gallery owned by Lloyd Booker's aunt and uncle. But there's very little information about what exactly is down there—it could give him access to the whole goddamn sewer system, for all we know—"

"What are we waiting for?" Morgan snapped, jumping to his feet. "Let's go!"

"Wait!" Morgan was forced to stop short as the sheriff reached out and put his arm on his shoulder.

"What?" Morgan demanded.

"Here's the thing," the sheriff said. "Your whiz kid got the address of the art gallery from a string of numbers sent to him by the killer. A day later, the place blows up. If we had gotten there sooner—like that son-of-a-bitch had planned—we would all be dead."

Morgan gritted his teeth. "Yes, sheriff," he said, "But he's already blown it up. The information about the bomb shelter came to us from Garcia, not from Booker. The sooner we get down there, the sooner we find him."

"And we will," the sheriff said. "We're assembling a task force right now to investigate the area."

"A task force?" Morgan snapped. "How about a SWAT team? And how about you finish assembling it and get the hell down there before—"

"Agent Morgan," the sheriff interrupted. "Excuse my bluntness, but three of your agents have managed to get themselves kidnapped or killed by this man. I'm sorry if I'm not so anxious for my officers to share their fate."

Morgan clenched his fists together. "What are you implying, officer?" he asked the sheriff. "I don't see any of your guys running out to save the day—"

"Which is exactly why they're all still alive," the sheriff said stiffly. "Listen, Agent Morgan. I'm not questioning your team's abilities. Booker managed to take out an entire task force in one strike. I'm just saying—for this case—you've all let your emotions cloud your professional judgment. If you weren't so familiar with this case, I would ask you to be taken off of it. Not for my sake—but for your own."

Morgan took a deep breath. "Hotch's son was taken—"

"I know," the sheriff said. "Your family members and coworkers have been taken and killed by this man. You are no longer objective. You can offer you insights all you want, Agent Morgan, but I make the final call. We are going to do this responsibly."

Although Morgan knew the sheriff's reluctance wasn't entirely unwarranted, he could barely restrain himself from reaching across the table to strangle the older man. Morgan took a deep breath, exhaled slowly, then said, "I understand what you're saying, sheriff. But we can't afford Booker any leeway if we want to get any of the victims out alive. We have to—"

"Excuse me?"

Morgan whipped around as one of the young assistants poked his head into the room, interrupting the conversation.

"This is a private discussion," the sheriff said, eyeing the assistant angrily.

"Yes, sir," the assistant replied. "I'm sorry. But there's a young lady here. She says she needs to talk to Agent Morgan immediately."

Morgan frowned to himself, confused, as the assistant stepped aside and a small woman with light brown hair came into view. "Hello," she said. "Are one of you Agent Morgan? Zoom."

Morgan frowned at the strange girl. "Yes," he said. "What do you want?"

She cleared her throat. "I…" she trailed off, looking too frightened to continue, then started to speak again. "I'm, um…my name is Eva Booker. I'm…Lloyd's sister."

Morgan blinked at her, astonished. "What are you doing here?" he asked. "I thought Hotch already interviewed you."

Suddenly, the young lady burst into tears. "I'm s-sorry," she sobbed. "But I was just sitting in my kitchen, and, and, I was supposed to start classes that morning, and I saw on the news, about Lloyd, and taking that child, and I just…" she trailed off, took a few deep breaths, and then started sobbing again.

"Sit down, Miss Booker," the sheriff said immediately, offering her his chair. "How did you get here?"

"I d-drove down," she sobbed. "Early this morning. I j-just—zoom—I just got in the c-car and started driving and I thought, I thought, there had to b-be something I could do, t-to help, help f-find him, because he's doing such awful things a-and…" she immediately started crying again, her small shoulders shaking. "And he's my brother and I should've known a-and I should've stopped him and he sh-should've known b-better than to do all those t-terrible things, and now j-just look at what happened to my aunt and uncle and I know he's b-behind it, and I j-just thought I should c-come down, and, and—"

"Calm down," Morgan said, hesitantly putting his arm around her shoulders. "It's alright. It's not your fault. We're looking for your brother, alright?"

She turned to him, her large eyes glistening with tears. "You're going to k-kill him," she whispered. "Aren't you? Zoom."

Morgan took hold of her hand, which was shaking vigorously. "We have to catch him," he said. "He's killed a lot of people, Eva."

"I'm s-sure that, that what's h-happened, is he went into one of those, y-you know, dissociative states, a-a-and, he just d-doesn't know wh-what he's d-doing, that's all—it h-happens all the t-time—zoom—s-so if you could p-please make sure not to hurt him—"

"We'll try," Morgan said, unwilling to admit to the distraught young woman that her brother was, in all likelihood, a psychopath who knew exactly what he was doing and that most of the officers would not miss the opportunity to shoot him on sight.

"Have you gotten any sleep?" the sheriff asked her. "Have you been driving all day?"

"I j-just drove right here," she whispered.

"Do you have any place to stay?" he asked. Morgan shot the sheriff an irritated look. Although he, too, felt rather bad for Eva, they didn't have time to console the hysterical sister of a psychopath.

"I have a f-friend," she whispered, "Zoom."

The sheriff frowned at her. "Why are you saying that?" he asked.

She swallowed nervously, then licked her lips. "S-saying what?"

"'Zoom.'"

She stared at him confusedly. "I n-never say 'zoom,'" she said, frowning. "Why would I say 'zoom?' Zoom."

Morgan and the sheriff exchanged looks. "I think you need to lie down, miss," the sheriff said. "You look very unwell."

"N-no!" Eva exclaimed, pushing herself to her feet. "I c-came all the way down here—I w-want to help," she insisted, clinging onto the sheriff's sleeve.

The sheriff gently extracted his arm from her grasp. "Alright," he said. "But if you could just lie—"

"There was a b-bomb shelter," she said, her eyes wide. "Under my aunt and uncle's house. Lloyd and I used to p-play down there whenever we could g-get away with it. Nobody knew about it but us, a-and my aunt and uncle—he m-might be down there now, and, and, I j-just had to t-tell you b-because, because…" she trailed off. "A-and I had to t-tell you n-not to hurt him, because, because, he's not himself, I'm s-sure, zoom, we l-learned all about it in my psychology class, he j-just went into a dissociative state, a-and—"

"Alright," the sheriff said, cutting into her rambling. "Thank you, Eva. You've been very helpful. We're going to get back to the case, now, but in the meantime, is there anyone you can call to come pick you up?"

Eva swallowed nervously, then nodded. "There's my f-friend," she muttered. "Zoom. She said she could c-come get me—"

"Give her a call, then," the sheriff said, already ushering the hysterical girl back towards the door. "Mr. Henderson—the man you came in with—will show you somewhere you can sit down."

Eva took a deep breath, then nodded solemnly for a few seconds. "Thank you for your help," she whispered. "Zoom. I'm sorry I came down here and b-bothered everyone, b-but I –"

"Sheriff!" Eva was nearly knocked over as a police officer burst into the room. The officer was panting. "We sent Cormac and McCarthy to investigate the bomb shelter—but there's smoke coming from down there."

The sheriff sprang to his feet. "Smoke? What do you mean?"

The younger officer wiped sweat from his brow. He was still panting. "We called a fire squad in," he said. "It's almost like someone set the fire just before we got there." He shook his head. "I hope there isn't anyone down there," he said. "Because I don't know how they're going to get out. We certainly can't send anyone in."

Involuntarily, Morgan's gaze flickered towards Eva, anxiously preparing for another meltdown—but for the strangest reason, she didn't look surprised or even upset. In fact, her face showed no emotion at all, until she caught him staring at her out of the corner of her eye.

"What does that mean, Agent Morgan?" she asked, her voice laden with fear. "Does that mean I was right? Zoom." Despite the fear, however, Morgan couldn't dispel the feeling that her eyes were burning with some inexplicable kind of satisfaction—as if she could barely conceal the fact that she was incredibly pleased with herself. Morgan frowned at her, wondering whether she was really that pleased at having been right about the bomb shelter. However, his musing lasted less than a second—Morgan shook his head, breaking eye contact with the strange girl.

"We have to go down there," he said to the sheriff, gripped by a sudden sense of urgency.

The sheriff sighed. "Agent Morgan, you heard what he said. There's nothing we can—"

"Get Rossi!" he snapped at the sheriff, already pushing his way for the door. His mind bounced from Hotch to Reid—from Jack to Henry—was there any chance that they were still alive?

"They'll be alright," Morgan muttered to himself. "Hotch and Reid have been through bad things before. They'll get through it. They might have escaped. They might have left. They'll be alright. They have to." However, he couldn't dispel the sinking horror settling deep in his stomach that told him he'd never see his friends again.

O

"No matter what happens," Hotch said to Jack. "No matter what I do, Jack, just know that I do it because I love you."

Jack was staring at him with a beaten, dirty face, with dark and cynical eyes far too old for a ten year old. "Why does he want to kill us?" he asked.

Hotch swallowed. "Because he's one of the monsters," he said. "He's one of the bad guys that I fight."

"Then why can't you beat him?" Jack asked, his voice laced with the anger and fear of a child unable to understand the indescribable cruelty in the world. It took every fiber in Hotch's being not to reach across the line and hold Jack in his arms.

"Watch yourself, Agent Hotchner!" This voice came from Booker, who was watching the pair of them like a hawk from up above, a gleeful and wild expression painted on his face.

Reid, who had been in his own world up until this point, was seemingly jolted back to reality by this phrase. Jack and Hotch watched as the young man walked, slightly dazed, to stand before a bemused looking Booker.

"I'm insane," Reid said, his voice sounding alien and expressionless. He spoke directly to the ground, refusing to look up. "We all are. But it doesn't matter. We live here." He was silent for several more moments, then raised his head to meet Booker's eyes. This time, when he spoke, his voice sounded more like his own.

"You can shoot me if you want," Reid said. "But I'm not going to kill anyone. Because I'm tired. My whole life has been a nightmare and I'm tired." And then he walked across the room, sat down in the corner, leaned against the wall, and closed his eyes.

Jack and Hotch stared at him, dumbfounded. Booker looked slightly disoriented for several moments before regaining his composure and turning towards Hotch. "Well," he said, "Looks like Spencer has made his choice. Should make yours that much easier, Agent Hotchner."

Hotch stared at Jack's face for several more moments—finally, he felt his resolve stiffen. He backed away from Jack and turned towards where Henry was sitting. The child was staring at him with eyes that were wide and sad and confused—but not frightened. Henry assumed he was looking at his protector instead of his murderer.

"Daddy!"

Hotch stopped in his tracks, then turned to face his son again. Hotch immediately saw that his son had deduced what the younger child was unable to—and the expression of realization was one of such anguish and horror that Hotch felt as if his heart had turned to stone.

He walked back towards the line, his movements agitated and furious. "You don't understand," he spat at Jack. "I have to do it, Jack. It's the only way to save you."

Tears streamed down his son's pale face. Jack let out a cry of anger and reached across the line towards his father—Hotch flinched away from him.

"No crossing the white line!" Booker cackled joyously, from the rafters, pointing an accusing finger at Jack. "You should know better, young Mr. Hotchner, but I'll let you off just this once. After all, what's one little blunder in a game among friends?"

Jack completely ignored him. He was staring at his father. "Please don't," he whispered. "You fight the monsters. You have to keep fighting them."

"You're too young to understand," Hotch hissed, begging his son to see reason. "Sometimes you can't fight the monsters! Why the hell do you think your mother's dead, Jack? I have to protect you! You're all I've got left! Alright? Sometimes there's nothing you can do! Sometimes you have to let them win!"

Jack stared at him blankly. Instead of fear, however, there was a strange sort of defiance in his face. "I know," he whispered. "It's okay if you lose, dad. It's okay."

"You have to understand," Hotch whispered, his voice losing its anger and simply coming out weak and broken. "You have to understand…"

"It's okay if the monsters win," Jack said. Despite the defiance, there was also a determined, sort of forgiveness—as if Jack knew better than Hotch what his decision with be. "But don't be one. Please don't. You're the good guy that fights them. You're the guy that's always working the case. I know good guys don't always win. I don't care if you lose fighting monsters. But don't be one. I want you to be the good guy. Don't be one of the monsters. Please, daddy."

All of the anger and panic that Hotch had felt during the past few days seemed to evaporate, overwhelmed by the all-encompassing feeling of love and devotion towards his son. He stood staring at Jack for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, he stepped forwards and crouched down beside Jack. "Okay," he whispered.

He stood up straight and turned towards Booker, who was looking at him with an air of excited anticipation. "You're a monster," Hotch said simply, before stepping across the white line and pulling Jack into a tight embrace.

"NO!" Booker screeched, his voice distorted by absolute fury at this unexpected turn of events. "You can't cross the white line! If you don't get back there, I'll shoot you! I'll shoot you both! I'll shoot you all!"

Hotch wasn't listening. He simply held his son in his arms, as tight as he possibly could, vowing to never move from this spot, to never let him go again. "I love you, Jack," he whispered.

"I'll kill you all! All of you! You think I won't? Goddamnit, Spencer, if you don't wake up now, I'll kill those kids in front of you. Once these thirty minutes are up, I'll splatter your giant brain all over the goddamn floor!"

"Daddy?"

"I'll always be fighting the monsters for you," Hotch whispered. "Okay?"

"You're all idiots! You're a bunch of weak, cowardly fools! You're useless! I'll be glad to kill you! I'm going to kill your son, Agent Hotchner. You're going to watch me kill your son!"

"Daddy?" Jack asked again, this time more earnestly.

"What is it?" Hotch asked, still unwilling to let go of his son despite Booker's continuing threats. "What's wrong?"

Jack pulled back slightly to stare his father in his face. "I'm not sure," he whispered. "But I think I smell smoke."