Title: A Little Bit of Faith
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Series: 1) Actions Speak Louder than Words
Disclaimer: I do not own Criminal Minds, or the characters involved. I just make them bend to my will in my free time.
Summary: Sequel to Actions Speak Louder than Words. The BAU is stirring with action as many events begin to unfold.
***Hotch stared down at the stack of files on his desk. They didn't look any different than the other miscellaneous files on his desk. The FBI insignia was there. What made these files different was what inside these. These files weren't case files, but Hotch almost wished they were.
Hotch sighed. He didn't want to start looking at them, but he knew he had to. Instead, he stood up, and walked over to the window.
In the bullpen Garcia had stolen Morgan's chair causing Morgan to lean against his desk. They were talking to Reid, JJ and Prentiss, whom were all at Prentiss's adjacent desk. Hotch chuckled to himself. The younger agents were all smiling and laughing at a story that Morgan was telling.
Hotch was glad they were happy. The last few weeks had been rough with case after case after case. They had been in Quantico for three days catching up on paperwork which was good. Members had begun to get snippy at each other on the last case due to lack of sleep with the add-on of jet lag. Hotch almost considered telling JJ to just not take another case, but so far he didn't have to. Now everyone seemed back to normal.
A knock came to Hotch's door.
"Hey." Gideon responded after closing the door.
"What's going on?"
"Isn't it amazing?"
"That even though we're profilers, and we know every trick about lying, that we still don't use them ourselves?" Hotch asked with a light smile.
"Where's this coming from Hotch?"
"Look at JJ."
"She's telling a story."
Gideon peered through the window a little harder and laughed.
"Eyes are up to the left as she is fabricating details." Gideon noted.
"Prentiss knew all along. I think Garcia and Reid just figured it out." Hotch stated. Everyone but Morgan was trying to look clueless, but they were failing. Reid, trying to hide his smile, took a sip of coffee, and Garcia had her hand over her mouth to disguise her smile.
"She's trying to trick Morgan."
"It worked." Hotch agreed a moment later. Morgan threw his hands up in the air when he realized what had happened. Everyone laughed at him. Morgan started laughing as well, and Gideon and Hotch shared their own chuckle.
"Be thankful Hotch. They don't need to be profilers all the time."
"Hey, why don't you take off early today? It's Friday after all. Go home, spend some time with Haley and Jack." Gideon suggested.
"As much as I want to, a new assignment unfortunately came in." Hotch said as he returned to his desk. Gideon took notice of the files, and promptly opened one up.
"New agent profiles? Hotch, is someone leaving?"
"She came and talked to me two days ago. She said that she sent in an application to work as the assistant to the head of the Press Corp for the Quantico office. The current head, Linda Connens, is retiring in six weeks. Her current assistant, Natalie Whelden, is moving up. JJ made it to the second phase with interviewing, and she wanted me to know. She asked me not to say anything though because she didn't think she would get it."
"But I take it she did."
"Well, that's great for her." Gideon replied.
Hotch nodded again. Gideon walked over to the window again.
"She isn't acting unusually happy or excited. The others aren't acting as if she's not going to be here in a few weeks." Gideon commented.
"She doesn't know."
"And you do?"
"One of the agents who helped with the application process is a friend of mine. I talked to him this afternoon. They told all the applicants that nothing would be announced until late Friday. He said that they didn't think the decision would be as easy as it was." Hotch expressed with a proud smile. "They're getting ahead on the official paperwork. He also sent these over, said I'd better get started."
Gideon looked out the window once more as the news sunk in.
"Been a while since you've had to do this." He continued to which Hotch concurred. "How long exactly?"
"Well, let's see. If you count when I had to do it for Reid when he went into rehab, that was March '07; it's August '08, so almost a year and a half."
Gideon considered this for a moment. His gaze returned back to Hotch, whose face was sullen.
"Hotch, what's up? You look like someone stole your puppy."
"Be careful with what you say."
"You don't have a dog."
"Haley's trying to change that now that Jack's older."
"Still, what's eating at you? Is it this?"
"It's...it's why JJ's leaving. Well, actually, I don't know why JJ is leaving."
"She didn't tell you?"
"Well, I asked her. JJ said that she wanted a change."
"That's a legitimate reason." Gideon said calmly.
"Yes, but it was the way she said it."
"Was she lying?"
"No. Well, not exactly. Jason, do you think we ever push anyone on the team too hard?"
"Well, take JJ for example. She works between us and the local authorities. If they're unhappy, they run to JJ. Do you ever think we're too demanding of her? We just got off three cases in a row. One of them, she had to call security because a victim's mother almost hurt her. We barely stopped to make sure JJ was all right. Did I ask too much of her?"
"Aaron, you are a great team leader. You know what your team members are capable of and what they aren't. You don't push them any more than they can handle." Gideon stated, astounded by Hotch's insecurity. Hotch didn't seem to believe him. "Why are you doubting yourself so much? JJ wanted a change, so she found a different job. That doesn't mean that it was because of anything we did."
Hotch stared at Gideon for a moment before sighing.
"I know that you're probably right. But, something's just unsettling in the way she said it. My gut's telling me something else."
"Hotch, did you ask her about being too demanding?"
"Yes. She immediately said no, but-" Hotch rattled.
"Hotch, Hotch, Hotch," Gideon exclaimed almost completely throwing his hands in the air, "trust her. She would have talked to you, you know that. Let her spread her wings, go to new places, experience new things. In the meantime, you have a few weeks to find a new agent to replace JJ."
Gideon returned the file that he had taken moments before. He then turned and opened Hotch's door. Morgan's voice floated up into the room.
"What you got JJ?"
"It's...uh... a text message. I have to go."
"Where?" Reid asked.
"To, uh, talk to a press buddy." JJ called back excitement in her voice.
Hotch and Gideon shared a look. Both of them were pretty sure that JJ's eyes had once again been up to the left.
Hotch leaned back in his chair and smiled at that memory. It was four weeks ago that JJ had told everyone else that she was leaving the BAU. At first everyone had been as surprised as him, but now they were all warming up to it. Instead, everyone was incredibly happy for JJ. Today was her last Monday and her last week.
Name: Jessica Lynn Raguse
That was what the top of the file for Jessica Raguse, JJ's replacement, read. Hotch didn't need to read it again. He had done so dozens of times. It had been harder to replace JJ than Hotch had originally thought. While it was easy to find someone who could fulfill the duties that being a press liaison presented, Hotch wanted to bring in someone like JJ who went above and beyond. Three applicants stood out, and Hotch interviewed every one of them.
Jessica reminded Hotch a lot of JJ. Just from spending a little amount of time with her, Hotch could tell that Jessica had the ability to go from compassionate to a grieving family to being able to take no prisoners in the press war. She was also very intelligent and eager to take the job.
A gentle knock came to the door.
"Agent Hotchner, good morning." The young brunette entered
"Jessica, good morning. How are you?" Hotch greeted her with a handshake.
"Excellent. I'm happy that you've accepted my offer and have decided to join the team. However, Agent Raguse, I want to make this clear. Although you have a different position than the rest of us, I still demand that you give your very best to this team. This is a difficult job, and it takes a lot of strength to do it. Only a few people can handle it."
"Are you saying you don't think I can handle it?" Jessica asked with determination in her voice.
"No. I'm preparing you for what's ahead."
"Thank you Agent Hotchner. I understand that the BAU can be a challenging job at times, but I want to accept that challenge. I am more than ready to join your team and to begin."
Hotch gave one of his rare smiles.
"Welcome to the BAU. Let's go meet the rest of the team."
Hotch and Jessica stepped out of the office.
"Don't worry. Everyone on the team is really nice."
"How did you... wait, profilers."
"Hey, Hotch, sorry to bother you, but we have a lot coming in this morning." JJ interrupted.
"No, but one may possibly be coming this afternoon. There may be a serial rapist in rural Virginia, but they aren't sending anything over until later. Until then, Gideon is working on a consult to the Phoenix PD about an arsonist, and another consult is just coming in. A serial killer in Gulfport, Mississippi. The police have a few suspects, so they want a profile to help."
"Okay, what is everyone else doing?" Hotch said as he followed JJ towards her office.
"Morgan and Prentiss just got here, but Reid is doing that seminar in Charlottesville."
"I thought that was Wednesday."
"Apparently, there is some community thing that just came up. Too much police personnel will be needed, so they rescheduled for today." JJ continued as she gave him the file on the serial killer.
"Okay, make sure Morgan and Prentiss get caught up on paperwork. Gideon or I may need help, so if they're caught up, have them check with us." Hotch instructed as he flipped through the file.
"Yes sir." JJ replied as she started to walk away.
"Oh, I almost forgot. This is Jessica Raguse."
"Hi, Jennifer Jareau." They shook hands.
"Uh, JJ, I need to get started on this. Can you show Jessica around and introduce her to everyone?"
"Thanks." Hotch turned out of the room, file in hand.
JJ turned to Jessica.
"So, are you here to talk to Hotch about a case or...?"
"Me? I'm, uh, here because I'm the new press liaison." Jessica said softly.
JJ's eyes widened, and then she laughed.
"I'm sorry. I completely forgot that this is my last week. I just kind of got caught up with all the files coming in, and…"
Jessica laughed along with JJ. Awkward silence filled the room.
"Well, this changes things a bit. I'll start the tour here since this will be your office starting next week. Sorry about the mess."
"Don't worry, I understand. Moving can be a hassle."
"Actually, it always looks like this."
Morgan looked up from his file. Prentiss was sitting across from him, working on her computer. Reid was missing, but the ideas that were popping into Morgan's head about his whereabouts were pushed away by the woman walking next to JJ.
"Hello." He said loud enough for Prentiss to hear.
"Who's that with JJ?" Prentiss turned to look.
"Don't know. Why?"
"Because she is fine." Morgan answered standing up. A moment later JJ and the woman approached him and Prentiss.
"And Jessica, this is SSA Derek Morgan. He's the team's expert on obsessional crimes. This is SSA Emily Prentiss. She specializes in languages and other talents. Guys, this is Jessica Raguse. She's going to be the new press liaison."
Prentiss had to hide her laugh as Morgan realized that dating this woman would go against his code of survival.
"Uh hi." He recovered shaking her hand.
"Nice to meet you." Prentiss followed suit.
"And you heard me talk to Hotch about Reid."
"SSA Dr. Spencer Reid. He's an expert on-"
"Everything and anything." Morgan supplied.
"Among other things." JJ concluded. "His desk is over here."
"Where is he by the way?" Prentiss asked.
"He's doing that seminar in Charlottesville."
"Charlottesville, Virginia. It's only about an hour from here. He should be back this afternoon. They only wanted the basics. So you guys get to do paperwork."
"Are you sure? I mean, I can give Jessica the rest of the tour." Morgan pleaded.
"Hotch and Gideon are both working on separate consults. If you guys are done, you can help them. Oh, and we might be getting a case this afternoon."
"It's in rural Virginia."
"I like it already, it's close to home." Emily said.
"I talked to a detective this morning. He said that there could be some connected rapes in some nearby small towns as well as theirs. He wouldn't have the information until this afternoon. So, we'll leave you guys and go visit Garcia."
"Is she always like that?" Jessica asked after her first encounter with the technology diva.
"Garcia? Yeah, get used to it. She and I got to spend a lot of time together if I didn't go along, which happens. But don't worry. She's totally sweet, and she can brighten even the darkest days."
They headed back to JJ's office.
"So, are you going to miss this?"
JJ looked up. She had been answering questions for Jessica all morning. This one caught her off guard.
"Miss the BAU? Yeah, a lot. It's... it's just one of those jobs."
Jessica gave JJ a confused look.
"I can't truly describe it. This job, it's rewarding, but it's also scary. There are a lot of times I found myself going to Garcia's office just so I could talk to her and laugh. I'm not trying to scare you, but there are some things that you will see and be forced to do that are pretty frightening. Some days you start to wonder about the world and the people in it."
"How do you handle it then?"
"I guess I remember everyone that we save. And if you think about it, any person we pass on the streets could be a potential victim. Sometimes after cases where we deal with a specific type of person, such as blonde older women, every time I see a person that fits the description, I can't help but think about that case, that unsub, and his or her victims. But then I remember that had we not gotten that unsub, that person could have been a victim. Every person we see has the potential to be a victim. We have the ability to change that. That, as much as anything, helps me through this job."
Jessica seemed to be contemplating this when JJ's phone rang.
"Agent Jareau. Yes. This is sooner than expected. You're sure? Okay, fax everything over to the office, and we'll get on it. I'll call you as I know something more." JJ hung up. "We have a case."
"Thank you Dr. Reid."
Reid was shaking hands with the Charlottesville police chief.
"No problem. It's good for every police department to know some of the simplest profiling tools. Uh, excuse me." Reid stated as he took out his ringing cell phone. "Hello?"
"Hey Reid. We got a case."
"Hey JJ. Uh listen, can you wait until I get back to Quantico? I just finished; it shouldn't take me too long."
"Reid, you're really close to the most recent scene."
"There's a serial rapist in rural Virginia. The victims are all from small towns that are really close to each other. The two farthest apart are only 35 minutes from each other. The most recent happened two days ago. The victim was found by hikers in a forest off the highway. The sheriff thought this sounded familiar to another incident that occurred a few months ago. However, with that one, no rape was reported, so the connection was never made. The local news station then ran this story, and since then, 5 new victims have come forward. They span from a few weeks ago to 8 months ago."
"How do we know they're related then?" Reid asked.
"The victims were found along the highway as well. There doesn't seem to be a connection between the sites. Some areas are wooded, others are more open. But they all have the same story. They went out partying with their friends, woke up confused along the highway. All are believed to have been raped." JJ informed him. "Most show signs of being drugged, but toxicology on the latest victim isn't back yet so we don't know with what. The others are being tested in case, but for most, the drug has probably been removed from the body by now."
"Reid, can you go talk to the last victim?" Morgan instructed through the speaker phone.
"Okay, I'll come out there. We can go to the site, see if we find anything."
"I'll go with you guys. We'll need to watch what the news is saying, especially now."
"I'll stay behind. Garcia and I can start on victimology." Prentiss stated as she got up and left.
"JJ, what's the information on the victim?"
"The victim's name is Kevin Wintcher, and he lives at 191 Hapner in Clearmont."
Reid's eyes widened.
"So, are these sorts of things common?"
Reid was sitting in an SUV with a Charlottesville officer; the local cops said it would be best if one of them took Reid as it was somewhat difficult to find all the turnoffs for Clearmont.
"Serial rapists? Well, we see our fair share."
"How about for this, where guys are the victims?"
"Well, actually, 9 percent of all rape cases are believed to be male victims. However, this is only an estimate since only about 16 percent of all rapes are even reported."
"So, what are you going to do?"
"Well, first we're going to start comparing stories. I'm going to talk to the last victim to start. The most recent victim is more likely to have the most details. Then we'll start seeing how this matches up to other stories. We'll look for what's constant, what's unique about each case, what seems important, etc."
"Well, don't you already know some of that already?"
"Well, according to what faxed over, the victims all appear to be around the same age, and they all went partying the night before. That's where-"
"Holy-!" The officer yelled.
A man was standing almost directly in front of the SUV. The officer slammed the brakes and swerved. Luckily, he saw the man in time. The car came to stop only a few yards form him. Both immediately hopped out.
"What are you doing?" The officer yelled.
"Sir, are you okay?" Reid asked. He ran over to the man, who looked ready to pass out.
"Help me." He whispered.
"Help me. I don't know where I am, or what's going on." He whispered again.
The man looked right into Reid's eyes. It was obvious that he was impaired, but it felt like it was more than a few too many beers.
"Get an ambulance." Reid ordered. "Sir, what's your name?"
"Okay, Lowell, what do you remember?" Reid asked as he guided Lowell to the side of the road.
"We were partying..."
"Who was partying?"
"Me, my buddies, and my brother. Then I started to feel sick, so I started to leave. And then I woke up down there."
"You're kidding. All right. We'll be there in about 20 minutes." Morgan flipped his phone shut and put his eyes back on the road.
"Who was that?" JJ asked.
"Reid. He found another victim."
"What do you mean found?"
"I guess he was driving along, and a man was on the road. He stopped, and it appears that he's most likely another victim. He's only a few miles from Clearmont."
"Is this an escalation? Most of the victims were at least a few weeks or months apart. This is the second man in two days."
"It's possible. We'll have to check out the crime scene. This one will be fresh, so there could be some indicators there."
"Okay. Jessica and I will need to go to the police station in Clearmont. It appears that most of the cops are going there to set up one base so we don't have to go between all the towns."
"What will we do when we get there?" Jessica asked from the backseat.
"We'll need to be watching the media with this case. Although the media so far has been very good for drawing out victims, we don't want it to start to hurt the , if we need to, we'll start organizing the police efforts. Most will probably never have dealt with something like this."
Twenty minutes later, Morgan pulled up to the now blocked off part of the highway. Everyone jumped out.
"Agent Morgan. These are Agents Jareau and Raguse." Morgan flashed his badge.
"Are you guys with Agent Reid?"
"He's down at the bottom. I'll take you down." The officer replied.
"Morgan, you good here?" JJ asked.
"Okay, we'll head to Clearmont then." She said as she and Jessica headed back towards to the SUV.
Morgan passed the ambulance where a young man was being loaded in the back. He saw Reid looking around at the bottom.
"Hey. What've you got?"
"Hey. Not a lot. I was talking to the victim before the ambulance came. His name is Lowell Quintin and he's 26. He said he was partying with his friends, he felt sick and left the bar. He doesn't know what happened after that, but he woke up here."
"Did he say whether or not he made it home?"
"If he did, he didn't remember it."
"Well, he fits all the obvious links. He was out partying, and he woke up in the wilderness."
"He also fits the age. The other victims were all between 23 and 29."
"But there are no other similarities. I mean, these guys don't look anything alike. And they were at different bars in different towns. But the towns were all relatively close."
"I think Lowell said he wasn't even from Clearmont. He said that he and his brother are from Viola."
"It was his brother's 21st birthday. That's why they went partying on a Sunday."
"What's the big deal with that?"
"Morgan, what kind of people normally get wasted on a Sunday when they have to work the next Monday?"
Morgan got a look on his face. "Anyway, so, I'm the unsub. Why did I choose here?"
"It is somewhat secluded."
"But some of the other scenes weren't so much. One of them was open plain."
"Yeah that's true. This site is actually almost contradictory. On the one hand, being in the wilderness is a form of privacy, but being that close to a roadway… It's almost as if the unsub wants them to be found."
"Like the unsub is protecting them? Why? Just a little while before, the unsub wanted to hurt them."
"Not necessarily. None showed major defensive wounds."
"Which means either they trusted the unsub, or they were too out of it to know what was going on."
"Lowell Quintin was obviously drugged. I'm not sure what with."
"Well, while it looks like most of the victims were drugged, it looks like it was probably something different every time. They described different symptoms that are not all associated with one drug." Morgan stated.
"I didn't see any obvious needle marks. He would have had to ingest it then."
"What was he describing his symptoms as?"
"He said he was drowsy, and dizzy when he woke up. He also was pretty close to puking. I had to keep him talking to make sure he wouldn't pass out."
"So what could that be?"
"Maybe a depressant, narcotic, barbiturate, it could be lots of things."
"So far there hasn't been any sign of date rape drugs."
"Morgan, were there any missing persons reports?"
"No. To file one, someone needs to be missing 24 hours. Most woke up and got help. Only one, the victim two days ago, was actually found. But he came out of it after a couple hours." Morgan looked around. They were surrounded by woods. "Hey, Reid, what's that?" Morgan asked as he pointed to the garment next to a tree.
"That's just my coat. I made Lowell sit down until the EMT's arrived." Reid brushed off. He got very quiet and had a pensive look on his face. "Morgan, I'm thinking that this isn't where Lowell was brought to do anything. There aren't any signs of movement in this area. Really, all you can see now are the footprints of the cops and us."
"So what are you thinking?"
"This is a dump site, and to learn anything, we're going to need to find the site where everything happened."
"Okay, well to add to your new victim, you have a total of seven men. One is an agricultural engineer, a mechanic, a student at the U of Virginia majoring in education, a farm hand, a bank teller, paralegal, and another student majoring in biology. One is from Twin Brooks, one from Gary, one from Lincoln, two from Viola and two from Clearmont. Two are married, and that's all I have for paper trails." Garcia finished.
"No criminal records?"
"Well, if you count things like parking and speeding tickets, then these boys were bad boys, but other than that, no nothing in common. Three have had a DUI in the past ten years. Didn't their mothers ever tell them to just get a ride?"
Emily was posting this on the board in the conference room. Garcia was sitting at the table with one of her many laptops.
"Garcia, I don't get it. These guys are normal guys, and for the most part, their lives didn't cross paths. Why them?"
"I don't know." Garcia replied. "I have a question. We believe these guys were raped, right?"
"How do we know?"
Emily was stumped for a minute.
"Maybe that's something we don't want to know." She tried awkwardly.
"Hey, what do you guys have so far?" Hotch asked entering the room. Both of the girls' faces turned red.
"Uh, right now there is no evidence to support that they were targeted. We haven't found a link other than their stories." Emily stammered.
Emily's phone began to ring.
"Hello? Hey Jessica, let me put you on speaker. Okay, go."
"The other victims were drugged, right?"
"We believe so."
"Well, I'm at the scene of the last victim, and I may have found the drug used."
"Well, Reid left his coat here, and I moved it. Underneath it were some vials. Some local cops are processing it right now."
"What was it?" Hotch asked.
"Something called Dilaudid."
***The air was sucked out of the room. All three agents exchanged horrified looks.
"What do you mean found?" Hotch finally uttered.
"Well, I lifted his coat, and it was resting underneath."
"Where is Reid now?" Hotch demanded.
"He and Morgan left to go talk to other victims. JJ and I are here. Why?"
Hotch turned out of the room and stormed down to his office. Prentiss hurried after him.
Hotch had already whipped out his phone and was calling before Prentiss could finish.
"Reid, get back here. Now." Hotch commanded. There was a pause. "Reid, come back to Quantico now. That's an order."
Hotch flipped his phone shut.
"Sir, it's not Reid's. It can't be."
"Prentiss, please go back to the conference room and assist Garcia."
"Prentiss, this is an order. I will talk to Reid when he gets back. Work on the case."
Hotch stated this curtly. Prentiss and he were locked in a staring contest for several seconds. His eyes didn't tell Prentiss anything, as usual.
"Yes sir." Prentiss reluctantly said.
She sadly turned out of his office and headed into the conference room. In the background Prentiss could hear Hotch dialing again. Garcia was still there with a horrified look on her face.
"What did he say?"
"Nothing. He called Reid. He's coming back."
"He could just be taking Reid off the case. Conflict of interest." Garcia said hopefully.
"Yeah, I'm sure that it's it." Prentiss agreed. She was trying to be calm for Garcia, who still looked pretty shook up.
"Shouldn't we call Reid? Warn him?"
"I don't think Hotch will let us."
"Well, shouldn't we at least tell Gideon?"
"He just left to teach." Prentiss said wearily. "But I think Hotch was calling him as I left. Gideon's class doesn't start for a few more minutes. What did you tell Jessica?"
"Nothing really. Just something like that you guys saw something, I don't remember. It's her first day. She doesn't need to learn everything about us." Garcia remarked.
"I don't know if she's going to get a choice about this."
"What'd Hotch want?"
"We have to go back to Quantico."
"Why? We need more information on the other victims." Morgan stated as he pulled a U-turn on the barren highway.
"He didn't say. He didn't sound too happy."
"Maybe the tie's too tight again." Morgan joked.
Reid laughed and looked out the window. Then he yawned and took another swig of coffee. Morgan looked over and took note of the dark circles underneath his eyes.
"Late weekend actually. And then I had to get up earlier than usual for the seminar." Reid stated matter-of-factly.
"Reid, you okay?" Morgan inquired seriously.
"What? Yeah, fine."
"You sure? I mean, you're not having nightmares or anything again, are you?"
"What? No! Well, the occasional one, but nothing more." Reid was quiet for a moment. "Wait, you thought I wasn't sleeping because I was having nightmares or something?"
"Little slow on the get up there genius…"
"Well, maybe. It's not unusual for our line of work. I'm just looking out for you."
"Don't worry Morgan. My late night wasn't for anything bad." Reid expressed with a smirk. He immediately tried to take it back, but Morgan saw it.
"You're getting some lovin?"
"Morgan, you didn't see that."
"You are getting some lovin!"
"Morgan, you didn't see that." Reid kept repeating.
"You have a woman!" Morgan yelled proudly as his face grew into one gigantic smile. "Reid, why didn't you tell me?"
Reid remained silent, not even looking at Morgan. Instead he glared out the window with an obviously suppressed smile on his face.
"Come on man." Morgan pleaded. "Okay, fine. Keep me, your friend, in the dark. But at least tell me this, is she fine?"
Reid couldn't stop himself.
"All right Reid, my man! Wait… yes!"
"I win! Ha, Prentiss you are doing my paperwork!" Morgan yelled triumphantly.
"What are you talking about?"
"I won our bet."
"We made a bet a few weeks ago. I thought you had a girl; Prentiss didn't."
"You made a bet on my personal life?" Reid yelled, stuck between laughing and being appalled.
"Yep. And now she has to do all of my paperwork for this case."
"Why didn't you ever just ask me?"
"I knew you. You wouldn't tell me. And then I forgot. Emily probably did too, but she is going to remember now."
"Morgan, doesn't it affect your conscience at all that you are betting on a private portion life that I didn't wish to share with you?"
"Nope." Morgan gleefully said. "Can't wait to get back and tell her."
"What even made you think I had a girlfriend in the first place?"
"You started getting lots of text messages, you left early."
"Yeah, but, I guess I'm just an expert profiler."
"If that's all it takes, then Prentiss should have made a bet like this with you a long time ago. She would have won." Reid teased.
"Oh, ouch Reid!" Morgan said playfully hitting him across the seat. "She thought you would have said something to me or JJ or someone. But that doesn't matter now."
They rode in silence for a few minutes.
"Wait, why were you dissing partying on the weekend if you're staying up late getting lovin?"
Reid rolled his eyes.
JJ walked around the site one more time. The questions that always plagued her mind during a case were present. How could someone do this? What caused this? How were they going to stop this person? How did her hair look in the news release that her and Jessica had just done?
JJ cast her look down the hill. Some officers were doing something around the bottom.
"Jessica, do you know what they are doing?" JJ inquired.
"Oh, I forgot to tell you. When I went to go grab Reid's coat, I found the possible drug used underneath it. The unsub may have accidentally left them here."
"What did they use?"
"Dilaudid, have you ever heard of that?"
JJ's eyes widened. She gave a slight nod.
"Yeah, fine." JJ emitted.
"You sound just like Garcia when I told her."
"You told Garcia?"
"Yeah. Prentiss and Hotch were with her."
"Prentiss and Hotch?" JJ repeated. "When was that?"
"About an hour ago. JJ, what's going on?" Jessica asked picking up that something was definately off.
JJ wasn't paying attention. Her phone was out, and she was dialing. Hotch didn't answer, and then JJ's worst fears were coming out into the open.
"Emily, what's going on?" JJ demanded, not even bothering with a greeting.
"I don't know."
"Is Reid there?"
"No, but it won't be long now."
"Does Reid know?"
"I doubt it. Hotch told me not to call him. Well, not in those words, but he got the idea across."
"It's going to be okay JJ. It's not his."
"Yeah. I know it's not." JJ replied quietly but firmly.
"Are you guys coming back soon?"
"Yeah. We just finished giving a news release, so we'll head back. Day's almost over anyway."
Prentiss smirked. The time of day never seemed to matter in the BAU. Then her face quickly fell. Morgan and Reid were entering the bullpen, their happy, laughing smiles taunting her. Hotch exited his office.
"Reid, my office, now."
Hotch's tone was sharp, commanding, and loud. Reid and Morgan both looked utterly confused. Garcia looked at Prentiss with terror in her eyes. Hotch hardly spoke to anyone on the team with that kind of tone.
Reid dumbly went up the steps and into Hotch's office. Morgan followed slowly behind.
"I heard that." JJ said into the phone.
"JJ, it's going to be okay."
"We're heading back now." JJ replied.
It didn't sound like she had heard Emily's last statement. She hung up.
"Morgan we need to talk to you." Emily immediately said as he entered the conference room.
"Me too. I won our bet."
"Remember that bet we made a few weeks ago about Reid getting a girlfriend? He told me-"
"Morgan we have bigger things to worry about."
"Dilaudid." Garcia whispered.
"What?" Morgan asked, his face darkening at the mention of the substance.
"They found Dilaudid underneath Reid's coat at the scene. It's just a coincidence."
"But, Hotch, he doesn't think," Morgan stammered. "Hell no!"
He took off for Hotch's office.
"Morgan!" Prentiss yelled.
"Prentiss, it's not Reid's." He came to a halt just feet from Hotch's door. Prentiss grabbed his arm to keep him there. "It can't be."
"We know that. Angering Hotch by busting your way in there isn't going to help. He probably just has to clear some things with Reid." Prentiss assured him.
"He better." Morgan threatened.
"Hotch, what's going on?" Reid asked innocently.
"Sit down." Hotch repeated. Reid obeyed and Hotch moved behind his desk.
"Reid, you left your coat at the crime scene."
Reid looked around as if to find his coat in thin air.
"I guess I did."
"They found Dilaudid at the scene."
Reid gulped uncomfortably but then nodded.
"It was underneath your coat."
"Hotch, no! I put my coat down for Lowell to sit down. I left it there because it was getting warm and I wasn't going to need it. There wasn't anything underneath my coat when I laid it down."
Hotch looked at Reid, whose eyes were widening at what he implied.
JJ walked into the bullpen. Most every other agent was finishing up his or her last things before leaving. Seeing no one on the team, she headed to the conference room.
"JJ, hey." Prentiss greeted her. Garcia and Morgan nodded.
"Is Reid okay? What's going on?"
"We don't know. Hotch kept him in there for 5 minutes before Reid came out. We think he went to do a drug test. He came back, but before we could talk to him, Hotch made him come back in." Morgan replied tensely.
"Hotch doesn't think-"
"We don't know what Hotch is thinking. He won't talk to any of us." Prentiss interrupted sadly. "Where's Jessica?"
"I told her to go home. Today's already been screwed up enough."
"Does she know?" Garcia asked.
"I think she figured it out. She wasn't too surprised when I told her that Reid had a slight problem with Dilaudid a while back. I think she knew what I meant." Everyone exchanged dark looks. "What have you guys been doing?"
"Working on the case, sort of."
JJ sighed. A noise came from the hall, causing the team to turn. They saw Gideon coming up the stairs. He pointed to Hotch's door and received confirmation from the team. He disappeared inside.
"Where's Gideon been?" JJ demanded.
"Does he know?"
"We think so."
Hotch's door opened. He stalked out and headed into the conference room.
"How are you guys coming?" Hotch asked tersely.
Everyone was so shocked by the normalcy of his question that it took them a moment to respond.
"Okay, uh, good." He rubbed his eyes wearily. "Can you guys catch me up on some details?"
Everyone was trying to profile Hotch. However, his face gave no information about what had been happening inside his office. They reluctantly began recanting the finer points of the rural Virginia rapist.
Reid rubbed his eyes. Anger, confusion, hurt, it was all burning inside him. He had been thankful when Gideon entered, hoping he would rescue him. Gideon had asked Hotch to leave.
"Hi." Gideon started.
"Hotch called me before my class started. He said that Dilaudid was found at your crime scene; said he was going to talk to you about it."
"Yeah, well if talking is the same as interrogating, then we've been doing a lot." Reid spat out sarcastically.
For the last hour, Hotch had been asking Reid over and over about whether or not the Dilaudid was his. Reid had told him even more times that it wasn't. Hotch was still doing a drug test.
He then turned to Gideon, his eyes pleading. "Gideon, I didn't look when I set my coat down. Lowell was about ready to pass out, I swear, my test will-" Reid rambled.
"Reid, shh. Just answer my question. Is that Dilaudid yours?"
Gideon looked straight into his eyes. Having all the information he needed, he nodded and left.
"Okay, you guys can go home. We'll start fresh tomorrow." Hotch ordered.
He was already down the hall. Prentiss and Garcia sighed. Morgan almost pounded the table in frustration and anger. JJ just stood there for a moment, but then her demeanor changed. She threw her file down on the table and stormed out without saying anything. Immediately she joined the conversation. It looked she had gotten through to Hotch, which was astounding everyone.
"What's she saying to them?" Morgan demanded.
Suddenly all three went down the hall into JJ's office.
"What are they doing?"
"Who knows?" Prentiss answered.
Another minute of silence passed. Suddenly, Garcia let out a little sob. Morgan and Prentiss immediately turned to her.
"Honey, what's wrong?" Morgan asked forgetting his frustrations and anger.
"I was just thinking, it's been so long since we were this scared." Garcia replied quietly. A few more tears leaked out of her bright eyes. Morgan immediately pulled her into a hug, and Prentiss patted her back.
"I thought we were done being scared. I thought we were done months ago. He's been out of rehab for so long. I didn't think we still had to worry about him relapsing." She sobbed.
"Hey, mama, it's okay. I know you're scared. We're all scared." Morgan soothed.
"I remember the day he came back. It was so confusing. How were we supposed to act? What were we supposed to say? What was he going to do? It was so awkward." Garcia continued.
"What isn't with Reid?" Morgan joked. Garcia gave a smile that was still her priceless value, even though it was small.
"I missed that today." Morgan commented.
"Hasn't been a great day for smiling."
"Don't worry. Everything's going to be okay. Right, Prentiss?"
Emily's eyes widened, and she was speechless for a moment.
"Yeah. Everything's going to be fine." She did agree.
"Listen, how about you go put your babies away for the night, and I'll escort you home?" Morgan offered as he pointed to Garcia's computer. Garcia's smile grew somewhat bigger as she picked up her laptop and left.
"Morgan, you know you-"
"Possibly made a promise that I can't keep? Yeah, I know." He replied looking her right in the eye.
"Penelope knows the truth. I'm not hiding anything; I'm just trying to be hopeful for her. You were too."
Prentiss was quiet for moment.
"Is that feeling back for you?" She finally asked.
"That feeling? When all of this was happening with Reid?"
"You mean guilt, fear, and worry all rolled into one?" Morgan asked to which Prentiss nodded. "Yeah."
"It was guilt for me. It was so obvious after we found out. We just stood by, and watched him fall. I knew something was wrong, and I should have been able to figure it out. And all the while, I was mad at him for snapping at me." Prentiss stated.
"There was that guilt, and then the guilt over being angry." Morgan remarked. "I was pissed at myself and Reid. It felt so wrong to be mad at him. How you can be angry at Reid? He's so innocent. But this, I couldn't help myself."
"It felt wrong to not trust him." Prentiss said. "Like you said, it's Reid. He's so innocent. It just felt like this could never have happened. Morgan, you don't think Reid actually, you know, relapsed, do you?"
"I honestly don't know. We never knew he started. I tried so hard to watch him, check for signs. I researched all the signs and symptoms so I knew what to look for."
"I did too." Prentiss admitted. "It's like, after he got out of rehab, it was my mission to make sure he never had to go back."
"That was why I did it even though I knew if Reid figured it out, he would have killed me. I couldn't watch him suffer again."
"Is that why we never talked about this after Reid came back?"
"Why relive bad memories? We never had to. There never was a case that came this close before. Reid never brought it up, so we never did. It just felt so good to have him back. Now we trust him again. I don't want that to be a mistake." Morgan finished quietly.
Prentiss nodded. Garcia entered the bullpen again, prompting Morgan and Prentiss to leave.
"Hotch, what's going on?" Gideon asked him as he came into the hall. "What have you been doing with Reid for the last hour?"
"Talking to him, clearing some matters."
"Hotch, it's not his."
"I'm just testing him to be sure."
"Aaron, you don't need evidence."
"Jason, I'm doing what I think is best."
"Hotch." A new voice emerged. JJ couldn't take it any longer. She was going to talk to Hotch.
"JJ, go home."
"No." Hotch looked up. JJ didn't usually defy him.
"Hotch, it's not his."
"JJ, you can't prove that."
"Hotch, Reid doesn't possess any Dilaudid." JJ stared Hotch down almost as hard as he stared down an interrogation subject.
"JJ, you don't know that."
JJ's glare only strengthened. Hotch, confused, turned to Gideon, looking for the answer. Gideon studied JJ for a moment.
"JJ," Gideon began softly, "you've checked haven't you?"
JJ started to flush a little red.
***"First, let me say that this wasn't supposed to be a secret. It just happened." JJ began. Hotch and Gideon were sitting down in her office.
"Why don't you just tell us what happened." Hotch suggested.
"Right before I found out about Reid's addiction, I told Gideon that I cared for him. Gideon said I should tell Reid, and I did. He was still in rehab. When he got out, we called each other a couple times, but we never really dated. Reid wasn't quite ready, but he didn't forget. He invited me to spend Memorial Day with him as we both had the day off." JJ paused, reflecting about their second date. "We decided to keep dating, but not say anything. If it didn't work out, we thought we would be able to keep the awkwardness between us."
"Then what happened?"
"The months flew by. We kept going on dates, and we kept it secret. Here, Reid and I are FBI agents. We didn't want our relationship to affect that. At first, it was something we laughed at, our secret office relationship." JJ smiled for a moment before her face became serious again. "But then it changed. We were hitting our one year anniversary, and it was becoming difficult to keep things separate. It first hit me, then Reid."
"JJ, it never-"
"No Hotch. It never interfered with the BAU. But Reid and I got scared that it would."
"JJ," Gideon began, "is this why you're leaving?"
JJ gave a small nod.
"Like I said, our relationship started to become difficult to keep apart. Reid and I got into a huge fight over what to do. He thought he was making me leave, but I assured him that he couldn't leave the BAU. This is where he belongs. Our fight was so big, we almost broke it off. But then we realized that one of us would then probably have to leave the BAU anyway because it would be too awkward." JJ laughed. "I applied for the assistant job because it was the first position that was open. I really didn't think I was going to get it, but I did." She paused for a moment. "Wait, I guess there was one time that it sort of affected our work. The day I found out, I texted Reid and told him to meet me in the parking garage. He had to leave a little early, but I couldn't wait to tell him."
"JJ, I'm happy for you guys," Hotch began testily after a minute, "but how do you know Reid isn't using again? He's capable of hiding it."
"I know he can hide it." JJ suddenly looked down in shame and bit her lip. "But he doesn't have any."
"JJ," Gideon inquired softly, "what did you do?"
JJ looked up slowly. Her eyes were a little fuller than usual.
"There were a few times when I got scared that Reid might be using again, so… I checked his apartment."
"I went through his bathroom, looked through his drawers, etc."
"He was okay with that?" Hotch asked incredulously.
"He didn't know." JJ said slowly. "I did it when he wasn't home, or when he wasn't really paying attention."
Gideon's face fell while Hotch's remained as full of shock as when he first learned of their relationship five minutes earlier.
"When was the last time?"
"Two weeks ago. Reid didn't come in-"
"He said he had the flu."
"He did. I went over after work. He was definitely sick, and there was no Dilaudid. While he was sleeping on the couch, I took my chance and searched his house. Hotch, he's clean." JJ reaffirmed. Hotch looked positively confused, while Gideon just looked saddened. Eerie silence filled the office. "Hotch, Gideon, say something!"
"JJ, would you have said anything if you had found Dilaudid?" Hotch asked.
"Do you mean would I have covered for Reid?"
Hotch nodded. JJ looked puzzled.
"No. If Reid was using again, I would make sure something was done. He almost killed himself last time; do you think I would really just stand by and watch?"
"But you knew that if he was caught again he would leave the BAU."
"You said you wanted him to stay, you to leave. Would that have been enough to make you lie?"
"Aaron, stop it." Gideon demanded. His face was full of rage and JJ's was full of shock. Hotch had never talked to her like that.
Hotch glared back, but his phone started ringing. He left the room to answer it.
"Gideon, I would never cover for Reid." JJ said quietly as she turned to Gideon.
"I know that JJ."
"Gideon, it's not his. I know it's not."
"I know. Reid assured me it wasn't."
JJ breathed a sigh of relief. They both were left in their thoughts for a few moments.
"JJ, you said Reid doesn't know about what you did? With the searching I mean."
"No." She answered sadly.
"JJ, tell him. Don't continue your relationship out of deception."
"Just, trust me."
JJ looked puzzled and peered out into the hall. Hotch's door was open, and she could see him talking to Reid.
"Gideon, what's he doing?"
Gideon wasn't going to wait to find out. Hotch had spent all that time talking to Reid before; now he had a whole new thing to discuss.
Right as Gideon approached the door, Reid and Hotch exited. Hotch immediately took off, but Reid stayed. Reid's eyes traveled through from the empty conference room, to the near empty bullpen, to Gideon. His face showed the turmoil that the afternoon had caused.
"My results came back. I'm cleared."
"Reid, Hotch, he was-"
"Gideon, please, I just want to go home. I'm off the case at my request, so I won't come in tomorrow. I'll deal with it when I come back."
Gideon nodded again as it was no use to argue with him. He looked back at JJ. She had stayed behind at her office, giving Reid and Gideon their space.
"Reid, we know."
"You and JJ."
Reid's eyes widened.
"She told you?" Reid looked about ready to panic.
"Reid, it's okay."
"You aren't angry?" Reid inquried after a moment.
"Surprised a little, happy, but not angry. I'd rather your secret be a relationship with JJ than you relapsing." Gideon replied with a comforting smile. "Take care."
Gideon headed down the stairs, but looked back when he got to the bottom. He saw JJ almost run to Reid and wrap her arms around him. Reid was surprised by this public display of affection, but returned it warmly.
Gideon's mind went back to that airplane ride where he gave Reid those Redskin tickets. He laughed. It was amazing how much had changed. Faintly, Gideon could hear JJ.
"Reid, I need to talk to you."
Gideon cringed. He knew that it would be best for JJ to be honest with Reid, even if it was a little late. He just hoped their relationship would be able to withstand the turbulence.
"It's open." Gideon answered to the knock on the door. Morgan entered.
"Hi. Having fun?"
Morgan smiled and looked back to the conference room. As today was Friday, it was JJ's last day. The BAU team members had decided to have a little party for her. Since Hotch and Gideon were working on other things, they were only there for a little while. However, the other members were still enjoying themselves.
"I was. But then they started to talk to JJ about a certain soon-to-be-previous coworker, and that's not a topic I wanted to enter." Morgan stated sitting down.
"You had no problem making a bet about that coworker." Gideon laughed.
"Yeah, I'd just rather to him about it instead of JJ." Morgan's face turned serious. "Gideon, he's not here. We planned to take off part of today if we could. He knew about this, and he got a message that the case is done. Yet, he still didn't come. I'm worried."
The last few days had been tense. Trying to solve a case without your main source of knowledge is difficult. Add in the fact that your two team leaders were obviously butting heads, a new agent, and the fact that everyone was confused about what had happened, the case is suddenly ten times harder.
Hotch seemed to be avoiding Gideon, who was trying to find a moment where they could talk. No one knew why Hotch had freaked. Gideon was the only one who had a chance of finding out, but so far, he too was clueless.
They had finished the case Thursday. Hotch had retreated to his office most of the day, and every time Gideon approached him, Hotch found a way to elude him. He had left early taking some of his paperwork home to avoid Gideon.
"What are you thinking is going on?" Gideon asked.
"I don't know. Reid said he was going to come back, right?"
"All he told me was that he was off the case. He made it sound like he was going to be back by Wednesday." Gideon replied.
Morgan stood up and began to pace.
"I still can't figure it out. Why did Hotch freak? There was nothing to suggest it was Reid's."
"Morgan, Reid suffered a terrible addiction to Dilaudid only a year and half ago. There were two vials underneath his coat."
"Gideon, you can't justify Hotch's actions." Morgan almost yelled, stunned.
"I'm not justifying what he did. I'm trying to rationalize why he may have considered it to be Reid's."
"Rationalize all you want. Reid's clean. Nothing else should matter."
"You're right." Gideon agreed a moment later.
"Then why isn't he here?"
Gideon was thoughtful for a moment.
"Gideon, we need to figure this out with Hotch. I mean, when we told Jessica that this job can be stressful and tense at times, we were talking about being out in the field, not in the office. The whole last week, it's felt like we were on a raid outside a bobby-trapped bomber's house." Morgan finally broke the silence.
"Trying to not set anything off." Gideon finished.
"How are the others doing?" Gideon asked. He hadn't been able to concentrate so much on them the last few days as he had been busy trying to corner Hotch.
"Not great." Morgan stated slowly as he tried to find the best words. "Prentiss and Garcia are both pretty shook up, but they're trying to hide it. And Jessica, I think she feels guilty. She thinks she screwed things up since she found it and called Hotch. She'd only known Reid for all of fifteen minutes, and now she thinks she messed up his life."
"It's not her fault. Eventually this would have come up in a case, and we would have had to deal with it."
"We all knew that it would eventually. I thought we were ready for when it would. Did you know that Hotch was going to react like that?"
"If I knew that, do you think I would have let this happen?" Gideon asked. "What about JJ?"
"JJ's really worried. I was talking to her this morning, and she confessed that Reid hasn't answered his cell phone in a couple days. She's texted him, but he hasn't replied. She hasn't talked to him any more than we have. And, I think that if she hasn't already gone over there to make sure he's okay, then they must have gotten into a fight."
Gideon disappeared into his thoughts. Morgan, seeing no immediate reply, sat back down.
"Morgan, what are you doing tomorrow?"
"Nothing much. I have a date tomorrow night. Why?"
"Can you go over to his apartment? Check up on him, see what's going on? If all else fails, talk to Reid about JJ and him."
"Me? Shouldn't you?"
"You'd probably be better. Reid will probably want a friend instead of a mentor." Gideon advised.
"Yeah, all right." Morgan said, somewhat uneasily. "I'm going to go see if the subject has changed yet."
"Morgan?" Gideon said, stopping him, "Make sure that Reid says he will be back on Monday. We all want to see that he's okay."
Here Morgan stood. He was afraid of the doorbell to Reid's apartment. Sure, he could chase creeps all day for the FBI, but he could barely reach out and touch a little button. All he had to do was talk to Reid. Maybe even about things that Morgan knew far more about than Reid, and there were very few of those subjects in the world. Still, he was anxious.
Morgan's nerve came, and a moment later Reid answered the door. He looked tired, possibly a little thin, and not exactly happy to see Morgan.
"Hi." It was tense, almost forced. Morgan's stomach lurched. Something was definitely wrong.
"Can I come in?"
Reid backed away from the door.
Morgan stepped into the apartment. It was pretty much the same as when he had been in it before. However, it was definitely messier. Reid shut the door and walked back in. He promptly sank down into the couch. Morgan took the chair across from it.
"How's the case going?"
"How's the case coming?"
"We finished it. Didn't you get JJ's text message?"
"I haven't checked my phone."
"Reid, we finished it on Thursday. It's Saturday."
Reid shrugged. Morgan kept in his frustrated and scared sigh.
"It was a team of sisters. The dominant personality was the younger sister, Maddie Perkin. Her sister was Zoe, who was a DJ at all of the bars. Zoe would go to the bars to do parties or special occasions, and she would single out certain men. She then would get the bartender to give her a drink. Maddie is a pharmacy student at the University of Virginia. She helped run the student pharmacy, so she could steal drugs. She would dose the drink and give it to the man. If they were lucky, the man would get sick and step outside. If he did, the sister went after him and brought him to their apartment. The older sister would then do, well, you know. If he didn't step outside alone, he just got really sick and really lucky."
"Was Dilaudid used every time?"
"No. The drugs were consciously changed every time. Maddie had to change the inventories to show that the drugs weren't stolen. Too much of one drug would have aroused suspicion."
"Did she say why she did it?"
"Maddie was victimized a year ago. However, Maddie didn't rape the men. She had Zoe do it and lived her revenge though Zoe. Reid, I didn't come here to talk about the case." Morgan added after a small pause.
"Then why haven't you said anything else? Why haven't you checked your phone? Why are you avoiding us? You didn't come in yesterday. We missed you, JJ missed you. We're your co-workers, friends!"
"Friends? Really?" Reid remarked sarcastically as he stood up. "Then why didn't you act like my friends?"
"What are you talking about?" Morgan asked, also rising.
"Where were you when I needed you? I was alone in Hotch's office for over an hour. Where were you guys? Where were you guys after it was over? The conference room was empty! Why didn't you talk to Hotch?" Reid yelled angrily.
"Or did you agree with him? Did you think it was mine? Did you and Prentiss have a bet on this too? How long would I make it until I relapsed-"
"Reid!" Morgan shouted deafeningly. Reid immediately became speechless. "Do you think we were just sitting there? We tried to talk to Hotch. He wouldn't listen to us-"
"He wouldn't listen to me either. He interrogated me for almost an hour. No matter how many times I said it, he wouldn't believe. He waited for my drug test to come back before he finally agreed." Reid's anger was diminishing, and he became quieter. "I told him Morgan. I promised Hotch I wouldn't go back. I promised him that when I was still in rehab. You guys should have known that. Instead I was alone in his office. No one came to help."
"Reid, we tried, and you're probably right. We probably should have tried harder to get through to Hotch. And Reid, JJ stood up. She stood up to Hotch and got him to listen. We all believe in you Reid. We know you won't relapse."
Reid walked over to the window to avoid Morgan's eyes.
"She never had any confidence in me." The anger was back in full force.
"She didn't think I could do it. Do you know what she did Morgan?" Reid asked finally looking Morgan in the eye.
Morgan shook his head.
"She went through my stuff Morgan. She checked my drawers, my bathroom cupboards, everything. She wanted to make sure that it didn't happen again, so she went though my possessions. Not only that, but Gideon and Hotch knew before I did." Reid uttered through gritted teeth. "Why doesn't anyone think I could do it? Tell me Morgan, did you think it was mine?"
"Reid, we do trust you-"
"Morgan, answer my question. Did you think it was mine?"
"I didn't know."
"Morgan, how could you? You should have known, JJ should have known, Hotch should have known, you all should have known I wasn't going to go back." Reid
"Reid, give us just a little bit of credit." Morgan retaliated. "By the time we found out you were addicted, you had almost killed yourself. Do you think we would just back and let it happen again? And Reid, we do trust you. We've spent the last year getting that trust back, and Reid, you earned it. And, I'm sorry Reid. You're right. We should have stood up."
Morgan's last statement finally got through. Reid turned around slowly. He sank back into the couch. Morgan sat next to him, and then he saw Reid's eyes starting to water.
"Morgan, I appreciate that you guys are looking out for me and trying to make sure it doesn't happen again. But, I've been clean for one year, five months, four weeks, and 2 days."
Morgan stared at him. Reid noticed this and laughed wryly.
"Addicts don't forget those sorts of things."
"Reid, you're not an addict."
"You're right. I'm not an addict. I was an addict. I'm not anymore, and I won't ever be again. My life has only gotten better since I've gotten out of rehab. I got to go back to work. JJ and I, we started, you know, dating." Reid laughed. It was so strange to be able to talk freely about that subject.
"I know." Morgan nodded. He smiled.
Reid started to rub his forehead.
"I thought she and I were past this. I thought we put it behind us months ago. But, then she told me this. She checked two weeks ago. Only two weeks." Reid's anger returned for a moment before he softened again. "I trusted JJ the most out of anyone in the world. She's the person I've been the closest to outside of my family. It just hurts so much Morgan." Reid sniffed.
"I get that."
"No, you don't."
"You don't understand Morgan."
"Because I uh, I have..." Reid stuttered.
Instead of finishing his sentence, he stood up and went over to his bedroom. He came back a moment later and gave Morgan an object. Morgan's heart broke when he realized what it was.
"Gideon, we got a problem." Morgan exclaimed.
"What do you mean? Is he okay?" Gideon immediately asked, his almost fatherly concern present.
"Yes, no, somewhat. Gideon, I don't know what to do."
"What's going on? Did he tell you why he didn't come in yesterday?"
"Sort of. To sum it up, he didn't want to. He's pretty pissed, and he's pretty much been seething about what happened for the last few days. He's feeling betrayed by all of us right now."
Gideon sighed. He was afraid of this.
"So, what do we do?"
"Are you still at Reid's apartment?"
"Yeah. He's in the shower now. I don't think he's eaten or showered much since Monday. He seemed a lot better after I talked to him, but we have a lot of damage control."
"Well, I'll talk to Hotch, and"
"No, Gideon more than that." Morgan nearly whispered for fear of being overheard. The shower was still going, but he didn't want to take the chance. "I think Reid and JJ might have broken it off, or they might be really close because JJ's hurting him the most."
"Are you sure?"
"Gideon, Reid's got a ring."
Hotch stared out the window. He was sitting in his office, looking out the window. Haley and Jack were playing with the new golden retriever. He wanted to go down there with them, but he just didn't have the heart. The past week had put a damper on his mood.
A car pulled up. It looked familiar. Hotch peered more closely to the driver. His heart sank when it was Gideon. He cursed.
Gideon politely greeted Haley and Jack. The puppy came over to investigate this new person. However, his whole demeanor changed when Hotch came into the front yard.
"Hey Aaron." Haley greeted him. How could she be so happy in a time like this?
"Hi." He replied. Jack immediately wandered over to say hi as well. "Do we have a case?" He asked tensely.
"No." Just as tense. Gideon paused. "Do you mind if we talk?"
Haley looked curiously between the men. Hotch knew that if he said no like he wanted to, she wouldn't let it rest.
"No. Come in."
"What is this about?" Hotch began once they were inside and to a place where Haley couldn't hear them.
"What do you think?"
"Why did you do what you did on Monday? There was no evidence to support that it was Reid's in the first place." Gideon's voice was full of frustration, anger, and impatience.
"There wasn't any to say it wasn't."
"So you interrogated him? Hotch, why?"
"I questioned him because suspicious circumstances had arisen, and it was my job as Unit Chief to make sure that it was not my agent."
"So you interrogated him?"
"Damn it, I didn't interrogate him!" Hotch yelled in frustration. "I just talked to him about it."
"Okay, fine. You didn't interrogate him, but you could have just tested him. Told him what was going on, ask him to test to officially clear him, and move on. Why didn't you?"
"I wanted to know that he was keeping his word."
"So you questioned him?"
"Yes. Jason, nothing I did was wrong."
"No it wasn't. But it certainly wasn't right either."
Hotch looked at Gideon. Gideon often wore a look of kindness on his face, but right now, his face was full of rage. The kind of rage he saved for the unsubs. It started to scare Hotch.
"Hotch, what happened to you?"
Reid exited from the bedroom. Usually he didn't take that long of a shower, but today, he felt like he needed it. His frustrations and fury still weren't completely gone, and the hot water seemed to make it feel better.
Morgan was still in his kitchen, walking around doing something. Why he was still here, Reid didn't know.
"Hey, did you try drowning in there?" Morgan joked with his big smile. Reid laughed, a true laugh. Having been a few days since he last had, it felt refreshing.
"What are you doing?"
"Oh, I was making a sandwich for you. Figured you might be hungry. Hope you don't mind that I just started messing around in your kitchen."
"No, it's fine." Reid quickly agreed as his mouth watered at the sandwich that Morgan had prepared.
Morgan handed it over and proceeded to make himself one as well. The two were in almost complete silence as both were lost in their thoughts.
A small knock came to the door. Reid looked confused as he stood up to answer it. Gideon and Hotch were on the other side.
Morgan became just as confused. All Gideon had said on the phone was that he was going to talk to Hotch. The look on Reid's face changed from an innocent to dark demeanor, and Morgan started to get nervous.
"Hi." Gideon said softly. Hotch remained silent and very uncomfortable.
"What's going on?" Reid demanded.
"Reid, can we come in?"
"Why not?" Reid said almost bitterly. He turned to Morgan silently asking what was happening.
"Reid, I called Gideon." Morgan explained.
The look evolved to pure rage.
"What? Why? Why did you need to involve them?"
"Reid, we need to talk." Hotch stated calmly.
"Talk? Now? Why now Hotch? We had plenty of time on Monday." Reid spat back.
It was bad enough that Morgan had involved Gideon and Hotch, the one person who Reid wanted to see the least in the world. Morgan should have known that, and he should have known that Reid would want this to be somewhat private. Hotch's words had been the icing on the cake. Now, Reid was infuriated, and there were no prisoners to be taken.
"Reid, calm down." Gideon instructed.
"Calm down? Don't I have a right to be mad?"
"Yes, you do." Hotch said firmly. He looked Reid square in the eye, catching him off guard. Gideon motioned to Morgan that they should leave. "You have a right to be pissed off. What I did wasn't fair to you. You should be trusted. You've proven that you are going to stay clean."
Reid was stunned at Hotch's words.
"Hotch, why? You said that I should be trusted and that I'm going to stay clean. Why did you think it could be mine?" Reid asked quietly after several moments.
Hotch sighed. "Because I was stupid. When JJ first told me she was leaving, I got a little insecure."
Reid looked about ready to go into shock.
"I thought she wasn't completely honest when she told me why she was leaving. I started to think that maybe it was because I was asking too much of her, being too difficult, something along that nature. I had no idea JJ was even trying to leave the BAU. Gideon and I talked, and I thought I was over it. But then, this happened. The insecurity came back. If I had no idea that JJ wanted to leave, it was possible that I had no idea that you could have started using again. I stated that I possibly didn't even know my own team. I mean, what if it was yours Reid? We never saw it the first time. How could we miss it again? I didn't want to take my chances. I never meant to interrogate you. I never meant to accuse you of using again. I'm sorry Reid. I really am."
Reid was speechless. Hotch never wavered in his actions. He always knew why he did what he did and stood behind it.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah." Reid stated quietly.
Hotch's confession had been going through his head, and while it answered many questions, a few remained.
"It's just... Hotch, did you ever not trust me? Did you ever believe that it was really mine or that I would relapse?" Reid finally asked. Fear possessed Reid and caused him to look away.
"Reid, I still remember the day in rehab when you promised me you wouldn't go back. I know you haven't gone back on that." Hotch replied sincerely.
Reid looked at Hotch, received the look of confirmation from his eyes, and let out a breath of relief. With that, the tension lifted so much that Reid did something that took Hotch by complete surprise; he smiled. Hotch returned it.
"Reid, I am sorry, and I will try to make it up to you."
"Hotch, it's okay. Well, can you let it slide that I didn't come into work yesterday?"
Hotch laughed at the trivialness of Reid's request. "Of course."
"We're good then?" Hotch asked awkwardly.
"I think so." Reid replied.
They weren't completely okay, and both of them knew it. The air felt tight yet. Healing in their friendship still needed to happen, but that would come at its own rate in its own time.
Hotch extended his hand, and Reid shook it.
They went back into the living room to find Gideon and Morgan examining the ring.
"Reid, I'm sorry. I thought Gideon would want to see it." Morgan immediately began to say when Reid cast his eye over their way.
"Morgan, it's okay." Reid said calmly. He had accepted that since Gideon and Hotch were here, they were going to find out about everything.
"Reid, it's gorgeous. She'll love it." Gideon remarked.
"Reid, you're going to propose to JJ?" Hotch asked astounded as he went over to examine it himself.
"Well, that's usually what you do with an engagement ring."
"How did you keep this from us?"
"It's not like JJ knows either. Only I knew about this secret."
While Hotch and Reid had been discussing this, Morgan and Gideon had exchanged a series of glances. Through them, Gideon had given Morgan a command.
"Well, would you look at the time? I have to go and get ready for date." Morgan remarked smugly as he stood up.
Reid, while looking puzzled at Morgan's sudden declaration, also stood up and exited with Morgan.
"You two…?" Gideon half whispered, half asked.
"We're definitely on more friendly terms, but we still have some making up to do."
Gideon nodded. They were silent for a moment while snippets of Morgan and Reid's conversation floated through. From their best judgment, Morgan was trying to give Reid dating tips, which he was politely accepting with very few smart comments and many laughs.
"We're going to get past this, right?" Hotch asked.
"Get past what?"
It was in that moment that the events of the last few days finally made sense to Gideon. He knew what had to be said, had to be done, and had to be changed.
"Yes, with acceptance." Gideon stated as he bore his eyes into Hotch.
"Gideon, we did accept what happened. We accepted Reid's addiction." Hotch answered puzzled.
"But did we accept that Reid could, and did, get better?" Gideon questioned. Hotch didn't know how to respond. "We have to accept that Reid got better because he did. When we do, he'll forgive us, and this will finally be over.
"Where do we start?"
"Well, you know what you have to do." Gideon stated with his eyebrows raised.
Hotch nodded. "I know."
"I want to make sure that Reid really is okay." Gideon said.
"Go talk to her, make things right. I'll stay here and talk to Reid. We'll meet up Monday morning, and we'll start to move on."
Hotch retreated to the kitchen as well. He came into the kitchen to find Morgan still there.
"Okay kid. Take care of yourself." He said as he clapped Reid on the shoulder as he headed out the door. "Oh, and don't be afraid to call if you need any help."
"Morgan, you do know that JJ and I have been dating for over a year, and you've known for one week?"
"I've taught you well." Morgan explained with a smile.
Reid rolled his eyes and laughed. Morgan left with a smile on his face and a better feeling in his gut than he had come with.
"Something wrong Hotch?" Reid asked turning to him.
"No. I have to go."
"You're leaving too?"
"Yeah. I have to go talk to someone else, and Haley has the evening planned for us." Hotch replied.
"Reid, really, I am sorry. I don't expect you to forgive me anytime soon-"
"Hotch, it's okay."
"Reid, it's not." Hotch pleaded.
"Hotch, it's as okay as it's going to be for today." Reid stated sadly.
Hotch knew that Reid was, as was usual, right. He left in a similar fashion to Morgan. Reid walked back to the living room.
"How are you going to ask her?" Gideon asked fingering the ring.
"I haven't planned that yet." Reid said uneasily. "I wanted to wait until she was out of the BAU, but other than that, I don't know."
"Good. Don't plan it."
Reid stared at Gideon quizzically.
"Don't plan it?" He repeated.
"When the time is right, just ask her."
"Is that how you asked your wife?"
"No. I had everything planned down to the minute. I was going to cook her a romantic dinner, soft music in the background, and after a while, take her outside underneath the stars, and propose to her."
"What happened?" Reid questioned eagerly.
"First the chicken burned. Second, it was pouring rain outside."
"What did you do?"
"Just asked right before she was about to leave. She said yes, but it was pretty obvious I screwed up." Gideon laughed.
Reid emitted a little laugh as well.
"Should you at least have a little plan?" Reid asked. "I mean, if someone's completely random, the right moment may never come."
"If the couple is right, then the right moment will come." Gideon assured him.
To Gideon's surprise, Reid became very uneasy at this answer.
"I didn't think that… it's nothing." Reid said quickly.
"Reid, whatever it is, you can tell me."
Reid only looked down in shame.
"Morgan said you were upset with all of us." Gideon tried to change the subject "Reid, it's okay. Like Hotch said, you have the right to be angry."
"Angry, or shocked?"
Reid finally lifted his head. He waited several moments before finally speaking.
"Gideon, when I got out of rehab, the people at the first NA meetings all said the same thing; it's going to be hard to stay clean." Reid started, his voice small.
"At first, I thought they were just weak or something. I didn't want drugs anymore. By the end of rehab, it was so easy to say no. Then, I got out, and they were right. There were days that I didn't know if I would be able to stay clean. I was always so scared that I would screw up again and go back. But, the biggest thing that kept me going was that I knew that you guys had confidence in me. You guys knew I could do it, or at least, that's what everyone kept telling me. When I got really scared, I would call JJ, Morgan, Garcia, anyone. Hearing their voices reminded me that I had them to count on."
Reid's confession was almost bringing tears to both men's eyes. Gideon had never seen this side, even though he was sure it had existed.
"It eventually got easier. Not only did everyone start to trust me again, but I started to trust myself again. I wasn't afraid of being alone anymore. There were still times when an urge would come back, but, like I said, I had you guys, I knew I could do it."
Reid, who had been pacing this whole time, shifted his attention back to Gideon who was still listening intently. He nodded once, prompting Reid to go on.
"But Gideon, I learned this week that you guys didn't think I could do it. I'm mad, but I'm also shocked. I thought you guys had faith in me Gideon. I'm clean, and that's not going to change. You can trust me when I say that." Reid finished.
"Reid, I know that what happened was unfair to you, but don't ever think we didn't have faith in you. We've known you could do it since day one."
Reid didn't seem to really believe Gideon.
"Reid, what our mistake, mine included, was that we didn't do something that you did."
Reid stared at Gideon quizzically.
"You closed the chapter in your life that involved Dilaudid. You did a long time ago, and we didn't. We didn't recognize that you had done it."
"How about now?" Reid asked a moment later. "Do you think I have now?"
"Yes Reid." Gideon replied. "You won not only the battle, but the war."
He finally felt it. Reid finally felt the victory over Dilaudid. He finally felt victory over the drug that almost took his job, his life, and his friends, no, his family. But he knew that this feeling of victory was too small. Not only did he need to feel it, but he wanted his family to feel it as well.
"Gideon, how do we get beyond this? How do we put this in the past for everyone?" Reid inquired.
"There's only one way I'm afraid. Please give us a chance. Give us a chance to make amends, and in time, please try to forgive us. You don't have to do it today, tomorrow, or any time soon, but please sometime in the future." Gideon pleaded.
"And to start, you might want to come in on Monday." Gideon joked lightly.
Reid smiled. "Don't worry, I've already promised to Hotch I'm coming in. I'll talk to everyone else there, and hopefully in a little bit, everything will get back to normal. For good."
Gideon was extremely pleased with his answer.
"Reid, there is someone else who you need to talk to. And she won't be in the bullpen Monday morning." Gideon reminded him gently.
The same look of discomfort returned.
"Reid, just try to talk to her."
"I don't know if I can."
"Reid, I saw your eyes when you were talking about that ring. You love her. And when she was talking to me and Hotch, I saw her eyes. She loves you Reid."
"Does it matter?"
"Of course Reid."
"Gideon, I'm… I'm scared. I was going to propose to her. And…"
"Reid, I told you that if the couple is right, then the right moment for the proposal will come."
"You two are right for each other. Put a little faith into her, your relationship."
After a while, Gideon was able to coarse Reid into at least calling JJ. However, he did tell Reid that it would be best to think about it for a day before calling her. He said it would give Reid a chance to collect his thoughts, but really, Hotch was over there now. He was apologizing to JJ for his actions, and Gideon didn't want that to be interrupted.
Gideon wanted to stay longer and talk to Reid more. He wanted to help him get over the pain of what had happened, help him fix everything with JJ, help him propose when the time was right. But he knew he couldn't. Now, it was Reid's turn. All Gideon could do was leave, as there was nothing more to discuss.
***JJ paced nervously. Reid had called her a little bit ago. He said he wanted to talk, and they decided that he would go to JJ's. She couldn't figure out if that meant to do a victory dance or to pull out the Kleenexes and chocolate now.
She had thought she was going to spend her weekend moping, but then Hotch came to her apartment. To her utmost surprise, he apologized to her for his accusation that she would cover for Reid. Other matters were cleared between the two, and by the time he left, JJ truly felt she had left the BAU.
JJ sighed. The anxiety she was experiencing from her new job was also pressing down on her. Unfortunately, her ability to be calm in high stress situations had been pretty well drained this last week.
The thump of a hand against the door. His hand. JJ's heart skipped a beat. She knew that Reid in all of his geeky glory was on the other side of the door. It still surprised her to see him in the flesh.
"Hi." JJ began quietly.
Both parties were on edge. Last time they had seen each other, Reid had practically ran away after JJ dropped her bomb on him.
Reid stepped into her living room which he knew all too well. He turned to look at her and found that she was having just as much difficulty looking him in the eye.
"So, uh how have you been?" Reid tried apprehensively.
Had this been any other time, Reid's nervousness and shyness would have made JJ smile in ardor. Now, all she could do was desire for its end.
Reid nodded in response.
"Do you, uh…" JJ attempted to ask.
"We can… um, could…." Reid endeavored to say.
Two pairs of cheeks were crimson, and words were at a loss.
"Do you want a cup of tea?" JJ finally did manage to ask.
Reid nodded eagerly.
"I have some green tea, your favorite." JJ said as she turned into her kitchen.
"Find that out by looking in my cupboards?" Reid asked bitterly before he could stop himself.
JJ snapped her head back to Reid, and surprisingly, she saw that his face was cringing.
"JJ, I'm sorry. I didn't mean…"
"Spence, it's okay. I deserve that." She replied quietly.
"No, no you don't."
"Reid, go on, be mad. It's okay."
"JJ, I've spent nearly a week seething about this. I don't want to be mad anymore." Reid answered softly.
"Then, talk to me. You said you wanted to." JJ pleaded.
Reid began to pace around the familiar living room.
"Might as well start with the cause. JJ, what was your reason? Why did you…?" Reid trailed off. "I mean, was it insecurity, did you not trust me, were you scared-"
"I couldn't lose you." She said quietly as she went into the kitchen.
"Lose me?" Reid followed her.
"Spence, every couple knows that eventually, they won't be together. Even those married couples celebrating 50 year anniversaries know that one day one of them will die." JJ began as she shuffled around the little kitchen making the tea. "I knew that someday, I would lose you or you would lose me. There are lots of ways that I could lose you and I would be okay with it. Well not okay but I would be able to accept what happened. But Reid, I wouldn't be okay with losing you to Dilaudid. Almost once was enough. I couldn't let it happen."
"Yes Reid. I went through everything you own looking for a little vial."
Only the sound of the tea kettle filled the room for the next few minutes. Finally, Reid sighed.
"JJ, I don't understand. What made you so scared that you would lose me? What changed? Weren't rehab and NA enough to reassure you that I was clean?"
"Yes, they were." JJ almost whispered.
Her eyes wouldn't turn away from the kettle, annoying Reid.
"I told you, many times, that Dilaudid didn't change you."
"I was right. The first day back at the BAU, you weren't even in the conference room for five minutes, and you had rattled off a statistic already. You were the same Reid." She handed Reid a steaming mug. "But, this did change me. It changed me into someone who you don't deserve. I never had the right to search through your stuff. You're worthy of someone better than me. I know it's not enough Spence, but I am sorry."
Reid played with the handle on his mug. JJ was really worried. By now, Reid should have said something, and he was adamantly silent.
"Reid, you know, this happened at a pretty good time."
She figured she might as well come out with what she assumed was on his mind.
"What do you mean?"
"I just got out of the BAU. There won't be any awkwardness between us now." JJ replied sadly.
"We won't have to feel the tension everyday from the break-up."
Reid's eyes widened.
"JJ, I don't want to-"
"Don't tell me it hasn't crossed your mind because I know it has."
"Yes it has. But I don't want to."
"Reid, it's okay. You deserve someone better."
"JJ, I want to be with you."
"How can you honestly say that?" JJ cried. "Spence, you need to be angry at me."
"Then how can you want to stay with me?" JJ asked timidly.
"I don't know." Reid answered softly. "I don't want to break up, but JJ, the truth is I don't know if I want to stay."
She had answered that too quickly. It saddened Reid that JJ had been expecting the breakup.
"I want to try to make our relationship better, JJ. The only way I think we can do that is if we don't let the cloud of Dilaudid hang over us.
"We? Reid, that was me. I screwed up."
"JJ, we're dating. If it hangs over one of us, it hangs over both of us. The same way with the team. If one of them is still concerned about it, then we all are."
"We all were unfortunately." JJ admitted.
Reid nodded sadly.
"You don't need to be scared anymore JJ. I gave it up long ago."
JJ considered this for a moment.
"I'm willing to try to make this better. What do you want me to do?"
Reid, who had been sitting at the bar, stood up and walked over to JJ. Soon, his hand was wrapped around hers.
"Put a little bit of faith in me JJ. That's all. Deal?"
It came out rather muffled as JJ had wrapped her arms around Reid.
Against their custom, there was nothing sexual about this hug. Their relationship had changed that afternoon. It was nearly broken but still alive, and neither of the two knew how what was going to happen.
Things did change at the BAU. In the days following his return, Reid made sure that each and every member knew of his intentions. They all recognized that it was indeed time to move on.
The team had never noticed that they too had changed from this experience. Little bad habits had been picked up that were never noticed until they were gone. Now, the team members no longer checked to see if Reid's physical appeareance showed any signs of Dilaudid. Now, they didn't try to read between the lines on everything he said. Now, they didn't jump whenever Reid said 'drug' or 'addict, as they had in the past. And the biggest change, they finally talked openly about the days before, during, and after rehab.
It wasn't an easy change. Months passed before everyone truly recognized just how much had changed. The calendar was telling the BAU members that it was the Saturday before Super Bowl XLIII as they stepped off the plane in the evening. Feeling the success of stopping a bomber and the approach of the weekend, the members were flying pretty high.
Morgan and Reid had entered the bullpen simultaneously to grab a few things they had left at Quantico. They headed off to their respective desks. Reid was on his cell phone talking to JJ which didn't surprise Morgan. The two always seemed to be calling each other at the end of the day or case, not that it bothered him. Not only did it give him some new material to tease Reid about, but it also told him that the two were still together.
The last time that Morgan, or anyone, had seen JJ was at the Christmas party early in December. She and Reid had been close to each other the whole time, but they didn't act like they were dating. The vibe sent off was more of a platonic relationship than a romantic one.
Shortly after the party, Morgan had convinced Reid to talk about it a little bit. Morgan learned that things hadn't been smooth for the young lovers. It had taken a lot for both of them to keep their relationship going, but they were still alive.
The last time they had seriously discussed it was two weeks ago. Morgan had been thankful to receive the reassurance that Reid and JJ were doing okay.
"What's wrong Reid?"
"You've been staring off into space for the last five minutes." Morgan observed. "Whatever you're thinking about must be a lot more important than the paperwork we're supposed to be doing."
"It is." Reid remarked.
"Well, come on. Tell me." Morgan insisted.
"It's kind of… dumb."
"Can't be that bad."
"It's about JJ and me."
"How have you two been doing?" Morgan asked cautiously as he came over to Reid's desk and began to lean on it.
"We've been doing fine." Reid said somewhat unsure.
"Better than a few months ago. We're actually doing great, really, really great. We've been getting a lot closer, and I think we might have finally recovered." Reid replied.
Reid tried to divert his eyes away from Morgan.
"I, kind of, biffed this date."
"And JJ doesn't know."
"What happened?" Morgan asked intrigued.
"I almost proposed." Reid nearly whispered.
Morgan's eyes grew very wide.
"But you didn't?"
"No. I had it all planned. We were at a nice restaurant. JJ was beautiful, she had really dressed up…"
Morgan smiled as Reid went into his lengthy description. It astounded him that Reid had changed so much when it came to women.
"…anyway, I went to ask her, and well, I didn't."
"How close did you get?"
"The only words I left out were 'will you marry me'."
"So what'd you say instead?"
"I told her that the average engagment lasts 16 months and that June is the most popular month to get married. Surprisingly, I don't think JJ's picked up the vibe yet. If she has, they she's hiding it really well."
"May I ask why you chose not to do it?"
"When Gideon first found out that I was going to propose, he told me not to plan it. He said that when the time was right, it would happen on its own."
"And the moment didn't feel right?"
"No." Reid replied almost mystified. "You think that was really stupid?"
"No. I think it was smart of you to trust your gut."
"It feels wrong though. All logic tells me that I should have asked her then."
"Reid, it feels wrong in your head. But that moment felt wrong according to your instincts. Gideon's probably right. It'll probably feel right when the time is right."
"But Morgan, how do you know the moment is right? What would that feel like? What if it already happened and I missed it?
"Reid, I'm sorry to tell you, but I wouldn't know. I've never proposed."
Reid started to look nervous.
"But my bet is that the moment just hasn't come yet. You'll know when it does. It's probably one of those things that slaps you in the face."
Reid was about to protest, but then a new voice emerged.
"Hey, what's going on?" Prentiss asked.
"Nothing." Reid shot out too fast.
Morgan gave him one last look of reassurance before heading back to his desk.
So far, Morgan had heard nothing more about the engagement. It had been difficult for all the men to keep it a secret, especially because they all wanted to know. Hie greatest fear is that Reid would get scared and try to run, even though JJ was about the best thing that ever happened to him.
Morgan had grabbed most of his needed possessions when Reid flipped his phone off.
"How's your lady?"
"She's still coming tomorrow, right?"
The team had made plans to go out this weekend to celebrate the Super bowl. There was never any question that JJ had been invited as well, especially because the Redskins had beaten all the odds and made it in. To say she was enthused was a massive understatement.
"Yeah. She's pretty excited." Reid said with a slightly sarcastic smile.
"It'll be good to see her again. I've missed her."
"Yeah, me too."
"Reid, you saw her two days ago."
Reid shrugged. Morgan let out a huge belly laugh.
"You have got it for her bad…"
"Hey, Morgan, you've had one special girl, right?" Reid inquired a moment later.
Morgan looked confused.
"I mean, you've had someone special you may have considered being this serious with, right?"
"There's one that has stood out." Morgan couldn't hold back his triumphant smile.
Reid's expression pressed Morgan for details.
"We've been dating for about six months, I'm pretty crazy about her, she's pretty crazy about me, and I hope that someday you can give me engagement tips so I can ask her."
Reid smiled in happiness for his friend. He looked down to his watch.
"I'm going to go." Reid said abruptly.
"Don't have too much fun." Morgan warned.
"See ya Sunday."
Reid headed into the elevator.
"Aw, how sweet."
Morgan spun his head around so fast his neck cracked. He smiled at her presence, even though he didn't know why she was still there.
"That you're crazy about me."
"I'm just saying it because it's true."
She gave her giggle that made Morgan's heart do summersaults as she continued to approach Morgan's desk.
"Isn't it true that you're crazy about me?" He asked provocatively.
"Okay, okay. You are my king of hearts."
"Now that's what I like to hear from my queen." Morgan replied as he pulled her close.
She continued to chortle.
"Whose castle are we going to tonight?" Morgan inquired.
"I don't care. Just as long as we take my noble steed."
"Esther is not a noble steed." Morgan remarked indignantly as he picked up his coat.
"Better than your junker. Besides, you better be nice to me." Garcia warned as she traced one of her fingers around his face.
"Yes ma'am." Morgan answered with a smile.
They both got up and headed over to the elevator.
"What were you talking to Reid about?" Garcia inquired.
Morgan's gut knotted.
"Nothing too important."
"He's still coming on Sunday, right?" She asked nervously.
"Yeah. JJ too."
"Are you worried?"
"About it being two years since Georgia?" Morgan asked as they stepped into the parking garage.
"No." Morgan stated defiantly.
"I think I'm losing it." JJ stated.
"Why?" Reid asked.
He had only been home for fifteen minutes. JJ had been there for ten, coming over immediately after he called.
"Something this big can cause quite a lot of anxiety." She insisted.
JJ was indeed pacing nervously around Reid's living room. It was amusing for Reid to see the usually calm, composed Jennifer Jareau going stir-crazy.
"JJ, it's just the Super Bowl."
"Spence, the Redskins made it in! This hasn't happened since 1991!"
"Did you know the first Super Bowl occured in 1967 between the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Cheifs? In fact..."
Most days, JJ would have thoroughly enjoyed Reid's rambling, but then again, today was teh day before the Super Bowl. Reid's intution kicked in and he quit.
"JJ, just calm down. Tomorrow will come, and then we'll watch the game with the guys."
"That's a long time away."
"No not really. Just about 20 hours, 37 minutes, wait no, 36 minutes…"
"Reid, you must know some method that calms a person down. And I mean for longer than the ten seconds that you're supposed to be counting." JJ asked finally stopping long enough to look him in the eye.
"Well, some of the most pracitcal ways are listening to calming music, reading, writing in a journal, mild physcial activity,-"
"Let's go on a walk."
This was a command, not a choice.
Five minutes later they were out the door and down the streets of suburban Quantico. The young couple weaved their way in and out of the blocks. The winter night was beautiful even though the air bit a little at their exposed cheeks.
Reid was right in that walks did calm down people. As they continued, JJ became increasingly relaxed. She finally settled down enough for Reid to comfortably slip his arm around her shoulders and for her to settle into the crook of his arm.
Reid's other arm instinctively went down to his side. It brushed against his pants pocket, and he could feel it. The ring, the engagement ring. He had been carrying it with him a lot of places lately, anywhere that he thought the right moment might occur.
This had been causing Reid so much stress that he was surprised that JJ seemed unaware yet. Of course, if Garcia or Prentiss were to find out, that would change quite quickly despite the best of intentions. It was causing a war in Reid's head; on one hand, he wanted to get it over with so he wouldn't have to worry anymore about whether or not JJ would say yes. However, he also did want it to be special, something that JJ would always remember.
Their feet seemed to dictate where they headed. JJ and Reid were so immersed in their conversations that they weren't really aware of it. JJ had been flourishing at her new position, and while it seemed less exciting than the BAU, she had come out with a multitude of stories.
"Hey Spence, do you recognize this place?" JJ asked becoming aware of her surrondings.
"Yeah. This is the park we spent the day at on our first, well, second date." Reid answered as they sat down on a bench.
"I knew I remembered it. Wow, it's been a long time. I don't think we've been back here since that day."
"We've had a lot of things going on." Reid replied.
"A lot of changes." JJ responded.
"Remember how I barely had the nerve to hold your hand?" He inquired.
JJ let out a giggle. "Yes. Your hand was really sweaty too."
"You never told me that."
"Spence, your face looked like a tomato patch. I didn't think I needed to make it worse." She reasoned. "I remember how you asked me if you could kiss me."
Reid let out a little cringe causing JJ to laugh.
"It was the shortest, sweetest kiss I had ever had. And I loved it. We were both shy with each other at first. Now we don't have to ask."
"No, we don't." Reid went on to demonstrate his point.
Suddenly, Reid felt a slap on his face. The right moment. It had come. It was in this spot at this time.
"Spence, what's wrong?" JJ asked. She was obviously confused because it was odd for Reid to stop in the middle of a kiss.
Reid looked around. Snow was on the ground, maybe he shouldn't get down to one knee. But would JJ be offended if he didn't? Would she care? Why must this be so confusing?
"Spence, are you-"
"JJ, I love you." He managed to emit.
"I love you too." She replied without hesitation.
She's beautiful. That was the only thing passing through Reid's head. The one time that he needed to concentrate he could barely string a coherent thought together.
"JJ, I was wondering… I want to ask you… if you, uh" Reid stammered as he fumbled around in his pocket. Finally, his shaking fingers managed to grasp the ring case, and he pulled it out. JJ's eyes widened.
"JJ, um, Jennifer, I mean, Jennifer Jareau, uh," Reid couldn't believe that this was so difficult, "will you marry me?"
***"You know Reid, I gotta ask."
"Did you ever consider doing the whole billboard thing? You know putting 'JJ, will you marry me?' on an electronic board during a game like the Super Bowl?"
Reid took a large sip from his drink.
"I... might have." Reid replied. "Why? Do you think I should have done that?"
"No. I loved your way much more." JJ replied as she gazed upon her left hand once again. The ring sparkled even in the dim light. "It was romantic in its own way."
Reid flashed her a smile as he grabbed the hand that held his ring. While JJ had been thinking a lot about how Reid had asked her, Reid had been thinking much more about JJ's response.
"JJ, um, Jennifer, I mean, Jennifer Jareau, uh," Reid couldn't believe that this was so difficult, "will you marry me?"
JJ just sat in stunned silence. Each second that passed was almost unbearable for Reid.
"Yes." She said so softly, it was almost inaudible.
"You will?" Reid asked dumbly.
"Yes." She repeated.
Both sat in an utter quiet for a few minutes. Instincts then took over, and each was in the other's arms. A few tears and a few laughs, both of surprised happiness, escaped from them. Several moments went by before they let go. JJ broke the silence.
"Um, Reid, can I have the ring?"
While embarrassed by his forgetfulness, Reid eagerly slipped the band onto JJ's finger, officially transitioning the couple to the stage of engagement.
They left the park soon after and returned to Reid's house. Their bodies received very little sleep that night as Reid and JJ spent most of the hours of darkness staying up and talking. The wedding was discussed only a little, a project they wished to save for another day. However, they did discuss a lot of the past, the moments that had been significant to their relationship; the future, or the ideas that they had for it with each other; and the present, in which each expressed their happiness of being with the other.
Thankfully, it was a Sunday. Reid and JJ slept in very late, only just having enough time to get ready for the big game. JJ later joked to Reid that proposing right before the game was his method of calming her down because she really did forget about it until they were leaving.
Garcia noticed the ring at the speed of light. She actually screamed when she saw it. The BAU women were mad to find out that all Morgan, Gideon, and Hotch all knew, and none of them did. However, JJ placated them by telling the story with great detail. A number of hugs and 'Congratulations' had been given to Reid and JJ throughout the evening. The game had ended about a half hour ago, and the Redskins had been defeated.
"JJ, I notice you're not taking the fact that your precious Redskins lost too hard." Morgan stated from across the table.
"Something else is on my mind." JJ answered just slightly sarcastically. The atmpshere shifted suddenly when the song coming from the dance floor changed to a slow melody. "Reid, come on. Let's dance."
"What? JJ, please no!"
"Reid, you promised me at least one dance." JJ reminded him somewhat sternly.
Reid looked back to Morgan, pleading for a rescue. All he recieved were the mouthed words 'Go get 'em tiger'. Seconds later, Reid and JJ were on the dance floor. Morgan laughed as his eyes traveled back to one of the numerous screens where the crime drama that had been chosen to follow the Super Bowl was playing.
With their absence the team's table had been virtually abandoned by everyone else. Prentiss had gone off with some guy to the other side of the tavern. Hotch and Haley had left shortly after the game because Jack was sick and they didn't want to subject the poor babysitter to anymore torture. Gideon of course was on his Super Bowl visit to the Smithsonian.
"What's up?" Garcia questioned upon her return from the bathroom. "Where'd they go?"
Morgan pointed to the couple. Garcia chuckled because while Reid wasn't the biggest fan of dancing, a smile was on his face.
"So, Miss Penelope Garcia, we are all alone." Morgan remarked with the smile that many women only dreamed of seeing while the one sitting next to him was blessed with it everyday.
"Oh, why is that such a wonderful thing?" She asked playfully as she snuggled close to him.
Unbeknownst to them, they were not the only couple happy to be alone.
"Remember when we were making up, and you said that we had to put this in the past to continue our relationship?" JJ asked nervously.
"Yes." Reid replied uneasily.
"Did we officially put it in the past?"
Reid almost stopped swaying completely as he contemplated his answer.
"JJ, you said that finding the drugs happened a pretty good time because you were about to get out of the BAU. You were right. I know you were talking about breaking up, but it actually helped us. It was the right to end that time in our lives, and your leaving the BAU sort of helped end it."
JJ stared at Reid.
"Yes JJ, we did put it in the past. I mean, look at this. Last year, we tried to go out for the Super Bowl. Remember what happened?"
"We felt like we walking on eggshells because we didn't want to bring back any bad memories." JJ recollected.
"And this year?"
"Hasn't been too bad."
"No, it hasn't. Now that I think about it, I'm glad Jessica found that Dilaudid. It could have been a lot longer before we got closure, and then we wouldn't have been able to add our chapters."
"Yeah. We had the time after you left where we healed and improved our relationship. And last night, we started another one. JJ, we're going to get married." Reid stated with amazement.
JJ laughed because the same feeling of amazement and excitement tickled her on the inside.
"Hey, JJ?" Reid asked just a little bit nervously.
"About where we want to get married..."
"Sorry, but not Vegas. My mother would kill me. Speaking of that, did you ever ask my father? How are we going to tell my family, your family? When do we want to get married, or where? Who's going to be the maid of honor? What-"
JJ never knew what it truly was that caused her know at that moment to believe that everything was going to be okay. Perhaps it was the fact that she knew the team was behind their relationship now. Maybe it was that she was in Reid's arms and he had silenced the worried tumbling from her mouth with a kiss. It might have even been that JJ felt like destiny had kicked ever since that day Reid and her went to their first Redskins game together. Whatever it was, JJ only knew that ieverything was going to turn out okay. She knew their wedding would get planned, Reid and she would begin their lives together, and, who knows? Maybe the Redskins would win the Super Bowl next year. She just needed to have a little bit of faith.
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