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Loving and Losing

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Reid’s phone rang early the next morning. Duty calls, he thought. He got dressed and checked on Emma, who was sound asleep, and then looked around for Paisley. He found her in the living room, drinking coffee and watching television.

“Leaving?” she asked, already knowing the answer.

“We’re needed in L.A.” Reid said, making himself some coffee.

“Alright, good luck.”

“Thanks,” said Reid as he grabbed his go-bag and coat.


As usual, the team had a plan before the plane landed in L.A. Reid and Rossi were sent to the hospital to talk to Colleen Everson, the woman who had been beaten, raped, and forced to watch her husband die. Morgan and Prentiss met the LAPD detectives at the Everson house, and JJ and Hotch went straight to the station.

They hadn’t gleaned much from Mrs. Everson, who’d already tried to kill herself twice. Reid joined JJ, where they conferenced with Garcia.

“Garcia, this unsub’s had practice,” Reid said. “A lot of it. Maybe not in L.A., but he’s definitely done this before.”

Garcia understood. “Word. This is not his first crime party. I seriously can’t find a single case in L.A. that equals this level of emotional destruction.”

Reid thought for a moment. “We need to expand the search to all of Southern California. He can be in other cities with a quick ride on the freeways.”

“Yeah, will do.”

“Thanks, Garcia,” Reid said before hanging up.

“We’re going live on the 11:00 news,” said JJ. “You think he’ll be watching?”

“It’s late,” Reid replied. “He could already be hunting.”

Prentiss and Spicer arrived a moment later, in mid-conversation.

“I’ve just always believed that things happen for a reason,” Spicer was saying. “It’s hard to find the reason for this, though. Utterly meaningless crimes…” He stared at a photo on the board. “No obvious motivation. Pure evil.”

Reid couldn’t help but speak up. “Evil can’t be scientifically defined. It’s an illusory moral concept that doesn’t exist in nature. Its origins and connotations have been inextricably linked to religion and mythology. This offender has shown no signs of any belief.” At Spicer’s expression, he said: “I’m, uh, Spencer Reid.”

“Matt Spicer.” said the detective, shaking his hand.

“Jennifer Jareau,” said JJ, making the final introduction. “The media’s been asking for you.”

“Yeah, well, nobody else around here wants to talk to them,” said Spicer. “I figure it hasn’t hurt me yet.”

“Uh, they’d like an interview for the 11:00 news,” JJ explained. “Can we go over a few points?”

“Absolutely.” Spicer said, following JJ out of the room.


Reid listened as Hotch began to deliver the profile.

“Forcing a child to witness this is clearly sadistic. He destroyed the boy’s innocence and took away his childhood. This probably mirrors the unsub’s own experience.”

“That’s an excuse for what he’s doing?” asked an officer in the back.

“There’s no excuse for what he’s doing,” Hotch assured him.

“We’re not justifying anything,” Rossi said, taking over. “Everything he says, everything he does, tells us what makes him tick, that’s all.”

Now it was Prentiss’ turn. “The message that he left us was misspelled, which says that he was not well-educated.”

It was always like this - everyone on the team knew when it was their turn to talk. They didn’t even have to look at each other to know. Years of practice allowed them to work in harmony.

“And based on the vicious nature of his crimes, the press has named him the Prince of Darkness,” JJ was saying.

“Prince,” Rossi repeated. “That’ll fuel his ego.”

JJ nodded, obviously annoyed the media was sensationalizing things again. “Yeah, and he’s gonna be all over the news.”

“Once we unravel his need for darkness, we’ll find him,” Hotch said.


“I have scoured and searched,” Garcia began as everyone gathered around the laptop where she was on video chat. “And you were totally right. This unsub has been doing it forever. There is nowhere he hasn’t been in the last 26 years. Honestly. Every single state. Well, 48 continental. My point… He is the worst I’ve ever seen, and we have all seen some things.”

“How did you connect him?” Hotch asked.

“Everything you said,” Garcia said. “He’s drawn to the dark. He shows up during a blackout, he robs, he kills, he leaves a witness.”

“How’s he getting away with this?” asked Kurzbard.

“He never hits the same city twice.” Garcia said.

“Except Los Angeles.” Morgan commented.

“I’m sending everything your way,” said Garcia. “And you better load up that printer, ‘cause it looks like he started in southern California way back in the summer of 1984.”

They set to work sorting through the files and picking up patterns and timelines.

But still they were too slow. Their work was interrupted as Spicer and Kurzbard left to investigate another murder.

Back at the station, JJ was alerting the media that the rolling blackouts had been cancelled for the following night.

“We’re talking over 200 houses in 26 years,” Prentiss said.

“When he started in San Diego, it was all about the robberies,” said Reid.

“By the time he got to Orange county, he robbed and assaulted his victims,” Morgan said. “First murder was in Long Beach, and he left a witness.”

“He got away with it for 26 years,” said Hotch. “Why did he come back?”

Spicer and Kurzbard returned, with new information. There had been no message, but the neighbors had been hypervigilant and called the police as soon as the gunshots went off. Spicer was particularly angry that a baby had been left in a closet.

They discussed what everything had to mean. Why these victims? Why this time? Why did he stay in Los Angeles? Why did he kill the first two women in Newton division? Slowly, they started to piece things together

He’d started 26 years ago, just as Kurzbard had. “You think this is because of me? That all these people are dead because of that?”

But as they dug deeper, they found it had nothing to do with Kurzbard. This unsub was after Spicer, having killed a couple named Joe and Sylvia Spicer years ago, leaving a child and a baby alive. The child, they realized, was Matt Spicer.

Spicer was in denial. He’d believed for all these years that his parents had died in a car accident, as his grandparents had told him.

“This guy is taunting you,” Morgan said, having followed Spicer to another room. “He left a young boy alive, and now a baby. He wants you to know it’s him.”

“How could I not know?” Spicer asked hopelessly.

Morgan helped him calm down and tried to help him remember the night his parents died. Somehow, the memories came back, but not in one piece. It was enough, however, for Morgan to realize why the unsub had returned.

He left survivors all over the country, but Spicer was different. The unsub felt he’d turned Spicer into a hero, as he was the reason Spicer was alive. And if he hadn’t killed his parents, Spicer never would have become a detective.

The unsub had read an article about Spicer, in which his daughter Ellie had been mentioned. The team went straight to Spicer’s house, but Ellie and Kristin, Spicer’s sister, were already gone.

Chapter Text

Morgan was angry and helpless, two things he hated being.

“I don’t usually take much to kids. This one’s…” The unsub sniffed Ellie’s hair. “Just special.”

“We’ll find you, you sick son of a bitch.” Morgan said.

“Is that another promise?” The unsub dragged Ellie out and left Morgan and Kristin tied up.

The team finally found them, but it was already early in the morning. Ellie and the unsub had a headstart.

Morgan told them everything he’d learned from Kristin, who was badly injured. He drove an old, dirty RV, much like the unsub himself. He refused to go the hospital until they found Ellie.


Ellie was surprisingly calm. For a moment she’d believed she had a chance to escape, but it had been a trick. He’d used her as a decoy to kill the couple in the house she’d run to.

Now he was calling the two of them a team. But he was repulsive. A monster. This, Ellie thought, wasn’t a Disney movie. She was certain there was nothing to love about this beast. He’d killed her father, and maybe her aunt, too. The best plan was to wait.

He continually listened to the radio, pausing every time he himself was mentioned. The entire county was searching for her. No way she could give up now.


Meanwhile, Morgan was on the phone with Garcia, who was running a search for the RV. Kristin had given Prentiss more information about the man, including how he listens to the radio constantly.

He snapped at Garcia and hung up. It was obvious he was angry, and the pain in his shoulder and head was not helping. He was going to find him, and keep both his promises.


Ellie confronted the man. “We’re not a team.”

“You got us in. We did it together.”

“But I didn’t know. And if I didn’t know, we aren’t a team.”

“Yet.”

“Why do you have to kill people?” Ellie asked, annoyed. “My dad says people who hurt other people are cowards, that they never hurt somebody who can protect themselves.”

“So how would he explain what happened to him tonight?”

“He let you go so that you wouldn’t hurt me,” Ellie decided to add an insult. “That doesn’t make you brave.”

“He let me go?” The man sounded amused.

“To save me.”

Ellie opposed him every chance she got. When he asked whether they should kill the man parked nearby, she said no. Unfortunately, that had made him more confident in the “team” idea.

“The question isn’t why do I kill people, the question is why I don’t kill everybody. I decide who dies, but mostly, I decide who lives. I’m like… God. And now you are, too.”

Ellie was disgusted. She didn’t want to be God. She had to find a way out.

The radio caught their attention. It was describing the RV. Ellie’s heart sank as she watched the man nearby look at the RV and pull out a cell phone.

Still, she didn’t flinch at the sound of the gunshot. As he returned, the radio continued.

“Police are also saying that the prince of darkness may now be traveling with a young girl, an 8-year-old girl, as a hostage. She’s described as having long brown hair.”

He looked at her, and Ellie gulped.


The team was going over the recent events, trying to figure out how the unsub was developing. Was he devolving? Or becoming more controlled?

Garcia had nothing on the plates, leading Morgan to snap at her again. Hotch gave him a disapproving look, which Morgan ignored.

“How the hell are we supposed to find this guy?” Morgan demanded.

“We can contact him,” Prentiss said. “Kristen remembered in the ambulance that the unsub listens to the news radio incessantly. He would even stop assaulting her if the broadcaster said anything about the Prince of Darkness.”

Prentiss’ idea was a good one, but there were about twenty news radio stations in Los Angeles. There was no way they could cover them all.

“What about the emergency alert system?” JJ offered. “It would be a way to communicate over all the stations simultaneously.”

“How do we do that?” Prentiss asked.

“I don’t really know.” JJ admitted. “How hard could it be to work out?”


Ellie was quite happy with herself, having outsmarted the man, even if for a moment. Seeing him in a panic was satisfying.

“He has a brother,” Ellie revealed in a sweet voice. “I told him to tell the neighbors to call the police, and then tell the next house, and the next house, and the next house. You know, he’s probably told the whole block by now. Can’t kill them all, can you?”

“I can try. Come on.” He was obviously angry, but Ellie knew if he wanted her dead, he would have killed her a while ago.

Going out the front door was a bad idea, as the whole neighborhood was gathering around. It was like a mob was forming. For a second, Ellie believed she might be free. But he had another idea.

There was a car in the garage. He quickly found the keys, and forced her into the passenger seat.

“What’s the matter, scared?” Ellie mocked him.

“Shut up.” He growled, before backing the car through the closed garage door, and speeding away. The neighbors narrowly avoided getting hit.


“He cut her hair,” Reid commented.

Morgan shook his head. “I swear to God, when I get my hands on this son of a-”

“That actually might be good,” Reid reasoned. “Why disguise somebody you’re gonna kill?”

They snooped around a bit more in the RV, finding a newspaper article about Spicer, in which Ellie’s name was underlined. He was after Ellie the entire time. He thought he was something like a grandfather to her.

From the articles, Reid realized that the unsub’s first murder had been in 1968, not 1984. He needed to call Garcia.


“Yes, yes I’m still here,” said JJ, trying to sound pleasant. “Yep, I’m always gonna be here. Ok, my name is Jennifer- no.” She’d had enough. “Do you know what? I’m not going to explain this entire thing again to another mid-level bureaucrat who can’t give me a sufficient answer. Put someone on the damn phone who can authorize what I need.”


“Why did you do this?” he asked, and Ellie wondered if he was actually capable of having his feelings hurt. “We were gonna be a-”

“I told you,” Ellie said. “We’re not a team.”

“Not a team? We were going to-” He paused, before looking at her. “I was nice to you.”

Ellie huffed. If the definition of nice was killing her father, then sure, he was nice to her.


“Great. Thank you so much, Madame Secretary,” JJ said, grateful she’d finally reached her. “Yeah, yeah, I will let you know how it goes.”

She called Hotch immediately.

“I need you to talk to him, JJ. I’ll give you some strategies,” Hotch said after JJ explained how the EAS worked.

“I’m not a hostage negotiator.” JJ argued, but Hotch wouldn’t take no for an answer.

“I’m sorry. You are today.”


“Dr. Reid, you’re on your own cellular.” Garcia said, surprised.

“Yeah, the power came back here a few minutes ago.”

“How’s my main man doing?”

“On the completely safe assumption that you’re not talking about me, let’s just say I wouldn’t want to be this unsub when Morgan finally gets his hands on him.”

“That bad, huh?”

“Has he ever yelled at you before?”

Garcia laughed. “Touche. How can I be of service?”

“How far back can you go with your records, Garcia?”

“How far back you talkin’?”

“Uh, a murder investigation from 1968.”


“Get inside and don’t come out until I call for you!” he shouted.

Ellie stared at him. Who was he talking to?

He didn’t say anything, but looked surprised with himself.

“Billy? Billy Flynn?”

He jumped.

“Did you-?

“Whose Billy Flynn?” Ellie asked.

“Mr. Flynn, I… I don’t know for sure that you can hear me, but… my name is Jennifer Jareau.”

It was the radio. She was talking to him through the radio.

“I work for the FBI as a communications liaison for the-the behavioral, uh…” It sounded like she was taking a breath. “Ok. Mr. Flynn, I want to talk to you about letting Ellie Spicer go. I mean, I want to ask you to. Uh, see… I’m not a hostage negotiator, uh, I’ve never done anything like this at all ever, but, um, sometimes circumstances, it’s…”

There was a pause. “Look… You can tell I’m not a hostage negotiator. But I am a mother. And I… I know what your mother did you to you when you were little.”

Ellie watched Flynn’s expression, feeling sympathetic towards him for the first time.

“If I could just… you know, pick you up and just tell you that it’ll all be okay… That’s what moms are supposed to do. They’re not supposed to be the cause of your pain, they’re supposed to make it go away. They’re supposed to hold you and tell you everything is gonna be all right.

“They’re supposed to tell you that thunder is angels bowling and that it’s okay to be afraid of the dark and that it’s not silly to think there might be monsters in your closet and that it’s okay if you want to climb in bed with them just this once, ‘cause it’s scary in the room all alone.

“They’re supposed to say it’s okay to be afraid, and not be the thing you’re afraid of. But most importantly, they’re supposed to love you no matter what. What happened to you isn’t fair, it’s not right, but…

“I’m supposed to empathize with you. Sympathize. Understand. But I can’t. That would be a lie. The truth is, I don’t understand what you’ve done. I don’t sympathize with you killing people all these years, and I especially don’t understand you taking Ellie.

“What I can do is tell you what a mother should tell you, that you can’t take away your pain by hurting someone else. That it doesn’t make all the nights you went through, scared and alone, any better if you scare someone else the way you’re scaring Ellie. What happened to you, it isn’t fair.

“But what you’re doing to Ellie isn’t fair, either, and if anyone should understand what that feels like, it’s you. You have the power. You can do what you want to do. But for once, you can choose to use that power to do for Ellie what should have been done for you.

“You can choose letting her go. You can choose teaching her that, yes, there are monsters, and it’s okay to be afraid of them. But it’s not okay to let them win. And it’s not okay to be one.”


Everything was right in the world again. Well, as right as it could be. Reid was on the phone with Emma, telling her he’d be home soon. Ellie was sitting in the police station next to Morgan, who was waiting for child services.

He didn’t want to let her go, but everyone was saying he didn’t have a choice. Her mother had died a year ago. Her father had been shot down, and her aunt had died in the hospital. She had no one left.

Reid was finally off the phone, and Morgan approached him.

“Reid, I need your help with something.”

Reid glanced at Ellie. “I’m not sure they’d let you, Derek.”

“I have to try.”

Chapter Text

“I can’t thank you enough, Kurzbard,” Morgan said.

“It’s the least I can do. Matt was my best friend,” The detective said on the other line. “She should be landing soon.”

“Yeah, I’m already at the airport.”

“This is the fastest I’ve ever seen anyone become a foster parent before,” said Kurzbard.

“It helps when you’ve got friends on the inside,” said Morgan. “Reid’s adoption agent managed to work it out with the agency in Los Angeles. All the papers are done.”

“Well, good luck, Agent Morgan. I hope you and Ellie have a happy life together,” said Kurzbard.

Morgan thanked him and hung up. Then he waited, looking for a certain eight-year-old girl.

“Agent Morgan!!” Someone hugged him from behind.

“Ellie!” Morgan turned and embraced her.

“Are you really gonna be my foster parent?” She smiled at him. Her hair had been trimmed so it was even, and it was held back by a blue headband.

Morgan noticed she hadn’t called him ‘foster dad’. She’d been in a temporary home while Morgan and the agencies filled out the paperwork, and so that the funerals could be arranged. Derek hadn’t been able to attend, but Kurzbard had taken Ellie so she could say goodbye.

“Yes, I am,” Morgan assured her. “But you can call me Derek.”

“Okay, Derek.” Ellie said.

Morgan picked up one of her two suitcases and she followed him to his car, heading straight to his apartment.

“It’s not very big.” Derek said, unlocking the door once they arrived, and turning on the lights. “But you’ll have your own room.”

“Whoa!” Ellie took a step back as something big and furry tried to tackle her.

“Down, Clooney,” Morgan ordered.

“You have a dog?” Ellie smiled widely at the large dog, but didn’t make a move to pet him.

“Yeah, this is Clooney. Clooney, this is Ellie. Be nice.”

Clooney followed orders and sat with his tongue sticking out and panting. Ellie reach out and scratched him behind the ear, earning a lick from him.

“Come, I’ll show you around,” Morgan said.

He gave her a quick tour - two-bedroom, two-bathroom. He’d always meant to find a roommate, but it had never happened, so he had a spare room that was never used. Reid and JJ had helped him pick out a simple furniture set fit for an older child. Something that she would still use as she grew up.

Ellie set her bags on her bed and looked around. There was a single long shelf across two walls, a good-sized closet, and a plain blue bed set. The walls were a light peach color. Everything was empty, waiting to be filled.

“I know it’s plain, but I thought I’d let you decide how to decorate it,” Morgan explained. “We can go to the store sometime and pick up posters and stuff. Kurzbard’s mailed some things from your old house, too.”

“What’s going to happen to it? My house?” Ellie asked.

Morgan sighed, leaning in the doorframe. “The lawyers are still sorting it out. Your dad left a will, and everything was supposed to go to you and Kristen.”

“Are they going to sell it?”

“Only if your dad owes money - the banks will take it and short-sale it, but according to his partner at LAPD, he didn’t. He was in good standing.”

Ellie nodded, and opened her suitcase.

“Ellie, if you want your dad’s house, just tell me, and I’ll do what I can to try and protect it.”

Ellie glanced up. “I do want it, but I don’t want to force you to make promises like my dad and aunt.”

“I understand. I’m not making promises. But I’ll talk to the lawyers and Kurzbard and see what can be done.”

“Thanks, Derek.” Ellie said.

“I’ll let you unpack.” Morgan said, turning to leave.

“Actually,” Ellie stopped him. “Can you help me unpack?”

Morgan smiled. “Sure, kid.”


Ellie quickly became one of the family in the BAU. Emma had insisted on meeting her as soon as possible, so just a week after her arrival, Derek brought Ellie to the park for a playdate.

Hotch and Reid did this regularly, so they didn’t look out of place at the picnic tables next to the playground with several other families. Reid was tutoring two twins name Luwi and Kali, both of whom were struggling in math. Emma was on the playground with Jack and some of the other children.

“Morgan, glad you could make it,” Reid greeted him as he and Ellie walked up. “Hi, Ellie, do you remember me?”

“You’re Dr. Reid. I remember.” Ellie said.

“He’s a genius.” Luwi said.

Ellie laughed. “I know.”

“This is Luwi and Kali.” Reid said, introducing the twins. “They’re going into fourth grade, like you. Girls, this is Ellie, and Derek Morgan.”

The girls waved at her.

“Wouldn’t it be cool if we were in the same class?” Kali asked excitedly.

“No, goof. We’re never in the same class,” Luwi said. “They always split us up, remember?”

Kali sighed. “But Ellie coming to the same school would be nice. What school are you going to go to?”

“Are you gonna go to the academy like Emma?” Luwi asked.

Ellie looked up at Morgan, who shook his head. “I haven’t signed up anywhere yet.”

“Then you have to go to our school!” Kali cried, jumping up and grabbing Ellie’s hand. Luwi followed suit. “It’s the best. I mean, it’s not the best-best, but it’s pretty great. And we could be your best friends!”

“Your best-best friends!” cried Luwi.

“Slow down, girls.”

The twins turned to find their mother behind them.

“I’m glad you’re trying to make a new friend, but Ellie is new. Give her some space,” The twins did as they were told, and sat down in front of their workbooks again.

“I think it’s time for a break,” said Reid. The girls cheered, and put their things away in their bags.

They approached Ellie a little slower this time.

“Do you want to come play with us?” Luwi asked.

“We can introduce you to everyone,” Kali offered.

“Sure, I’d love that.” Ellie said, with little hesitation. They ran to the playground. Morgan was glad she hadn’t lost any confidence.

Morgan sat down next to Reid. “So is this some sort of planned thing?”

Reid shrugged. “We’ve only been official for about two months. We all realized that we come to the playground the same days every week, and our children like to play together, so we’ve made ourselves into a group.”

“We’re still working on a name, of course.” said the twins’ mother. “I’m Janna Previlus, by the way. Spencer and Aaron have told us all about you and Ellie. We’ve been looking forward to meeting you. There’s five families in all. You and Ellie would make six. We spend time at the playground together once a week. Of course, you and your co-workers have unpredictable schedules, but Emma has Paisley and Jack has Jessica, so they’ve never missed out. We’re working on planning other events like cookouts and book clubs, too. Becoming a real organization, see?”

“That’s pretty cool,” Morgan said. “I think we’d definitely be interested. Ellie’s already made friends with your girls.”

“Yes, it seems they have. How about I introduce you to the rest of the group?”

Reid told Morgan later that Janna was the unofficial president of the group, and Hotch was the vice president. Each member was grouped by their family, even if they didn’t share the same last name. Aaron, Jack and Jessica were the Hotchner’s. Spencer, Emma, and Paisley were the Reid’s. The Previlus’ consisted of Janna, her husband, Rodelin, and their three children - the twins’, Luwi and Kali, and their older brother Tshambi (a sixth grader).

The last two families were the McCoy’s - the parents, Kendall and Laura, and their two young children, Lucy (first grade) and Michael (kindergarten) - and the Angelo’s - Benjamin and Georgia, and their daughter, Maya (sixth grade).

Reid and Mr. Angelo both tutored the children - Reid in mathematics and Angelo in reading (he was the one who wanted the book club). Georgia Angelo liked to plan crafts for the children to make.

The McCoy’s often brought bubbles and sports toys for the kids, encouraging them to run around and challenge themselves.

Rodelin was an outdoors person, and liked to plan nature walks. He wanted to take the group to the zoo. Janna’s main job was organizing them all - the group had been her idea.

Hotch didn’t seem to have an exact function, aside from being Janna’s V.P. He seemed content helping her manage (something he was naturally skilled with) but always able to take a backseat when needed.

Morgan felt a little intimidated as the structure of the group was explained to him. He wasn’t sure if he had any skills or hobbies to pass on to the children like everyone else. Surely he wasn’t supposed to teach them self-defense or how to shoot a gun?

The kids played for half an hour before returning to the tables, where they cleaned their hands with wet wipes and helped set up for lunch. Apparently each family took turns making lunch for everyone.

“I made sure to pack extras,” said Laura McCoy. “Aaron said you and Ellie might come today.”

“Thank you, Laura,” Morgan said, gratefully. He hadn’t thought about food. He was really new at this parenting stuff.

The children were allowed to sit where they wanted at the four tables. Maya and Tshambi sat together with Maya’s parents. Benjamin Angelo was a teacher at the middle school that Maya and Tshambi were going to start sixth grade at, and they had tons of questions for him.

Jack and Michael sat with their parents at the second table. Reid and Morgan were joined by the Previlus’ at the third table. From there they could see Kali, Luwi, Ellie, Emma, and Lucy, who were all sitting together at the last table. Despite their age, Emma and Lucy were always included by Kali and Luwi. They laughed and talked and whispered to each other.

Morgan was overjoyed to see Ellie open up so quickly. He definitely didn’t regret bringing her here.

“So, are you eventually going to adopt her?” Janna asked.

Morgan nodded. “That’s the plan. Ellie’s a great kid, and I want to give her the best life that I can.”

“You’ve got great dedication,” Rodelin said. “But you also seem to be very withdrawn. Make sure you keep an open line of communication, or she’ll do the same as you and close off her emotions.”

“He speaks from experience,” Janna said. “We had a lot of problems last school year with Tshambi. He kept getting into fights and we did what we thought was right - consequences and such. But he just kept on doing it.”

“Turns out he was actually defending another student who was being bullied,” said Rodelin. “The teacher didn’t report it, because the bullied kid was black. The principal fired her, thank god. The parents were going to sue. They still should, I think.”

“The bully already has a record. He’s going to an alternative school. Tshambi won’t have to deal with him next year,” said Janna.

“Anyways, if we hadn’t jumped to conclusions about everything, we would have been able to avoid a lot of issues. We finally sat him and down and tried to get him to open up. That’s when he told us everything,” Rodelin said. “Take it from us, always talk with your kids - never talk at them.”

“Thanks, I’ll remember that,” Morgan said.

Eventually, everyone started to pack up and say goodbye.

“So, what do you think, kid?” Morgan asked.

“That was the best day I’ve had in a long time.” Ellie admitted. “Can we go again next week?”

“Of course.” Morgan said.

“What if you work? Don’t you go back on Monday?” Ellie asked, sounding worried. “Where am I supposed to go when you’re at work?”

“Good question. You like Emma, right?”

“Yeah, she’s cool. A little nerdy, but cool.” Ellie said.

“Well, her nanny has offered to take care of you. And Jack’s Aunt Jessica will when the nanny can’t.”

Ellie gave him a look. “A nanny? Like Mary Poppins?”

Morgan laughed. “Not at all. Paisley’s nice and all but she doesn’t have a magical umbrella or bag. She’s a college student, going into medicine. You’ll meet her tomorrow. Reid’s invited us to dinner with Hotch.”

“And Jessica is Jack’s aunt?”

“Yeah, she’s the back-up if Paisley is in class. She takes Emma and Jack, and she’s offered to take you, too.”

“That’s nice of her. They don’t even know me, though.”

“What, you think they won’t like you?” Morgan glanced at her, then moved his eyes back to the road. Good, she wasn’t crying.

“They might think I’m weird.”

“Ellie, if anybody can understand what you’ve been through, it’ll be Jessica and Jack.”

“Why?”

Morgan took a deep breath before delving into the story about Haley Hotchner and the events of last summer. By the time he was finished, Ellie was unusually quiet and thoughtful.

“What’s Emma’s story?” she finally asked.

“Her parents died when she was a baby,” Morgan explained. “She spent the first few years in foster homes. She was highly intelligent, which led to some bullying in school and no one really understood her. Her agent, the same one who helped me bring you here, was the only one who really cared about her. She did everything she could to find Emma the perfect family to adopt her. Then one day, Spencer Reid entered her office, and the rest is history.”

“Well, I guess that’s a happy ending,” said Ellie.

“Or a beginning. Depends on how you look at it.”

Ellie nodded. “Yeah, a beginning…

Chapter Text

“JJ’s still in there?” Garcia asked.

“And Strauss,” said Prentiss, just as Reid, who was sitting on her desk, reached for her antacids. “Oh, again with the dairy?”

“I can’t help it. I love dairy.” He popped two pills in his mouth without looking away from Hotch’s office.”

“It’s been like, what, twenty minutes?” Garcia asked worriedly.

“Well, ten more minutes, we’re in the air.” said Morgan, joining them.

“I don’t think it’s about the case,” Prentiss said.

Garcia looked at her. “Do you know something?”

Prentiss looked surprised. “Do I know something?”

“She just repeated the question,” Garcia told Morgan. “You always say that’s a sign.”

“Do you know why JJ’s in there?” Morgan asked.

“I have no idea.” Prentiss said honestly.

“What is going on?” asked Garcia again.

“Maybe she asked for a raise,” Reid offered, earning an annoyed look from Prentiss.

Garcia ignored Reid. “Have his blinds ever been closed?”

Strauss came out first, leading Morgan to make a getaway to his desk - but she didn’t notice Garcia, Prentiss and Reid still watching Hotch’s office as she bustled back to her own. JJ emerged a moment later, and the three of them quickly looked away, pretending to be occupied.

Reid picked up a file from Prentiss’ desk and pretended to be discussing it with her. After a moment, he returned to his own desk. He had a bad headache, and he wasn’t sure where it had come from. It was possibly the milk he’d had that morning, which was why he’d taken the antacids. Still, dairy didn’t normally give him headaches this bad.

They briefed on the way to the jet. It was only a thirty minute flight to Atlantic Beach. There was a missing female college student, who had last been seen with a pair of boys the same age as her. Local police hadn’t been able to get any information out of them - and they would be forced to release them in twelve hours.

Reid knocked on the door of the restroom on the plane.

“Hey, you okay?” he asked as JJ opened the door.

“Uh, yeah. You?”

“I just feel kind of sick. Excuse me.” He slipped past her as she came out, ducking his head.

Reid tried to stay as quiet as possible as he vomited into the toilet. His head was spinning and he knew it had nothing to do with the dairy. It took him a moment to get his body to stop shaking from the retching. Finally, he stood up, drank some water from the faucet, and flushed the toilet.

He didn’t feel any better, but a glance in the mirror said he looked fine. He took a deep breath, wiping his mouth as he left the restroom. His head still throbbed, in his frontal lobe, but it was pain he could deal with.

He sat down next to Morgan, across from JJ and Prentiss, at one of the tables. Rossi and Hotch joined them a moment later and they began discussing the case.

Reid had overheard JJ’s conversation with Prentiss and Morgan, and he vaguely wondered why no one was telling him. JJ, his best friend in the entire world, might be leaving the BAU and nobody thought he should know?


Reid did his best on the case, but thoughts of losing JJ plus the pain in his head drowned out the case. After hours of digging, they realized that only one of the two boys was responsible for the missing girl.

He’d thrown her to a frenzy of sharks in the middle of the ocean after she’d rejected him in favor of his friend. Thankfully, the coast guard found her. She was a strong swimmer and had been clinging to a buoy for three days.

And it was JJ who had solved the case. How could the Pentagon take her away? They would never have found the girl if it wasn’t for her. She was irreplaceable.

Reid’s headache had subsided a bit as they returned to Quantico. He sat in the bullpit with Prentiss, Rossi, and Morgan. Just waiting.

The team had finally told him about JJ, apologizing for keeping it from him. He tried not to show how upset he was about it - about everything. They were still waiting for her when she left the roundtable room.

“No,” Prentiss said, standing up.

“Wait a minute,” Morgan said. “I thought Hotch was supposed to-”

“It’s above his pay grade,” JJ told him. “Strauss’, too.”

“They can just take you away?” Reid asked quietly, not caring if he sounded a little childish.

“So, we do nothing?” Prentiss asked.

“It’s done,” JJ said. It felt so final, and it hurt so much.

She embraced each of them, one at a time, hoping they understood how important each of them was to her. She was sure Reid was holding back tears, and she hoped he would be able to sleep tonight.

“I’ll still see you, Spence,” she promised. “You’re still Henry’s godfather.”

Reid nodded, but said nothing.

Finally, she had to let them all go, and turn in her exit interview to Strauss. After that, she made one last stop in the office of their technical analyst.


Reid drove home as calmly as he could. But the second he was in the house, he dashed up the stairs, grateful that Paisley was asleep for once. At least, she wasn’t in sight.

It took all of his self-control not to slam the door shut. He just made it to his bed before the tears came. His headache returned in full force and he buried his face in his pillow to keep from screaming. His body was shuddering uncontrollably.

He wasn’t sure how long he stayed like that, but by the time he regained control of his body, light was streaming through the window. He wasn’t sure if he’d slept at all. From downstairs came the sounds of the girls talking and the TV playing, and from the smells, they were cooking breakfast.

Reid sat up and moaned. His head didn’t hurt anymore, but his body was sore from shaking all night. He glanced at the clock.

Seven o’clock.

“Shit.” He had to be at work in an hour.

There was a knock on the door. “Hey, Spencer? Are you up?”

“Yeah, yeah.” Reid said. “I’ll be downstairs in a bit.”

“Alright, just making sure.”

“Thanks.”

He stepped into the shower, and his aching muscles begged him not to leave. But as soon as he washed Atlantic Beach off him, he was out, drying off, dressing, and checking the mirror once to make sure he didn’t look hectic.

He ran down the stairs, grabbed his coffee, kissed Emma, and was out the door before Paisley could chide him for skipping breakfast.

Chapter Text

A few months had passed since JJ’s forced promotion, but Reid still glanced up at the liaison office every morning when he arrived. He still saw JJ regularly, but he missed seeing her in the morning, missed hearing her deliver the case. Fortunately, there were quite a few distractions for him.

Morgan, Reid and Hotch continued taking Ellie, Emma and Jack to the playgroup, which now had an official name: Kids at Play, D.C. They’d had several events so far, including a nature walk, a trip to the zoo, a cookout at the McCoys, several library visits, and monthly book club meetings.

Ellie had taken up softball, something Morgan took endless pride in. They had also begun the adoption process, so Ellie would soon be a permanent member of the family. She also doing well in school, and although she missed her dad and aunt, she loved Morgan and the rest of the BAU.

Emma had joined the academy’s equestrian team, which hosted riding lessons for first through third graders at it’s off-campus stable just north of Bethesda. Emma would be able to start competing for the academy’s team, AGC Stable’s Equestrians, in the fourth grade, though she would need her own horse. She had lessons twice a week after school.

Jack liked playing soccer, and Hotch enjoyed taking him to practices and games. The kids were little, so they didn’t keep score, but Jack always had a blast, and made new friends. Michael McCoy from Kids at Play, D.C. was on Jack’s team, as well.

As the days drew closer to Halloween, Reid felt his spirits rise. Halloween was his favorite holiday.

“Are you sure? It’s going to be great,” Reid said at dinner a week before the holiday. Emma was at sleepover at Kali and Luwi’s house with Ellie.

“No, sorry,” Paisley said, looking quite unapologetic. “I got stuck with the holiday shifts this time around. And there’s no one to cover for me.”

Reid sighed. “You’re going to miss a fantastic reenactment of the Fantasmagoria. Though considering the increase in reckless stunts around Halloween, I suppose you won’t be bored.”

“Yeah, so sad,” said Paisley unconvincingly. “I can’t believe Emma actually wants to see it.”

“It’s science magic. The best kind,” Reid assured her, sneaking some chicken to Chewie, who had turned a year old last month.

“She’s six.”

“She knows it’s not real.”

Paisley gave up in favor of changing the subject. “Has she decided what to wear for trick-or-treating?”

“She doesn’t want me to tell you.”

Paisley shook her head. “Emma said they usually have an event at the stables?”

“Not this year. They’ve cancelled night-time events for the younger kids indefinitely.”

“Why?”

“Someone’s kid went missing last year. They found him, but the parents’ wanted to sue.”

“Oh, great,” Paisley decided not to delve into the topic of missing children with the FBI agent.

Reid took her silence as an opportunity to bring up Fantasmagoria again. “Are you sure you don’t-”

“I’m sure.”


The following morning had them headed for Detroit, where someone was burning people alive every night of Devil’s Night. They finally found him, and returned just in time for the team to throw Reid an office party for his birthday. That evening was Fantasmagoria, which Emma enjoyed as much as her father.

The next evening was Halloween itself. The Kids at Play group were going trick-or-treating together, beginning at six.

“Emma, it’s time to go!” Reid called. “Paisley wants to see your costume before she leaves!”

“Coming!” Down the stairs they came - Chewie and Emma together.

Paisley squealed. “That is the best costume ever!”

“Thanks,” Emma said. She motioned to her stethoscope, glasses, lab coat, and medicine bag. “Know what I am?”

“A vet!”

“Daddy said Chewie can go so long as I don’t let go of the leash.”

“And you don’t let him use people’s yards as a restroom.”

“Right. That, too.”

Chewie woofed and wagged his tail.

“Don’t worry, boy. I don’t think anyone’s gonna have dog treats, so I packed some in my bag.” Emma made Chewie sit, and tossed him a treat to catch. “Perfect form, boy!”

“Alright, Emma, Chewie. If we’re late, Janna will never let us hear the end of it,” Reid said, opening the door.

“Okay, we’re coming.”

“Bye, have fun!” Paisley cried, heading to her own car in the garage.

Chapter Text

“I’m glad we finally found a chance to see each other,” Adam Hyles said. “It’s been a long time.”

“Me, too,” Reid said to his companion. “I’ve been pretty busy with work, and the playgroup, and Emma’s equestrian lessons.”

Adam smiled as he paid for their movie tickets. “How is Emma? I’ve missed having her in class.”

“She’s great. She misses you, too. Tells me every time she sees you in the halls,” Reid told him, following him to the concession stand.

“And you? I know you said your coworker left. Are you doing alright?” Adam handed him a soda and popcorn.

“I’m hanging on. Stayed away from the dilaudid, but that’s probably because of Emma.”

Adam suddenly looked concerned. “Does she know?”

“No, not at all. It’s just… everytime I think about… using again… I look at Emma and think… she needs me, at my best. I can’t give up now.”

“That’s good. What about your headaches?”

Reid shook his head, sitting down next to Adam in the theater. “It’s a miracle I don’t have one right now.”

“Are you getting it checked out?”

“I have an appointment next week.”

They talked a little longer, until the movie started. Reid really was amazed he wasn’t feeling any pain right now. Strangely, he’d never felt them when he was around Adam, who’d become a close friend since Emma had finished kindergarten.

Sometimes, Reid would bring Emma when he saw Adam, but it was usually just the two of them. Adam had yet to meet his team, though he constantly asked about them. He seemed genuinely interested in Reid’s life and wellbeing, and Reid tried to learn about Adam as much as he could.

But Adam didn’t have much to say about himself. He had an IQ of 189, was born and raised in San Diego by his single mother. He’d never met his father or any other family (his mother never wanted him to meet his schizophrenic grandfather), so when his mother died five years ago, he’d been left all alone. He loved teaching, and his passion had brought him to D.C., where Dr. Nash hired him to teach gifted children.

He liked chess, reading, mathematics, and all kinds of sciences, but that was all. He’d shared a few childhood memories with Reid, including a few bullying instances in school. Reid felt a strong connection to Adam. They were so similar. They even shared the same birthday - Adam was just a year older than Reid.

“What’s it like to be thirty?” Reid asked as the movie came to an end.

Adam shrugged. “I honestly keep forgetting my age. I don’t feel any different. I don’t think you will either.”

“I’m sorry we didn’t have a chance to see each other,” said Reid as they left the theater. “I was on a case. It’s a miracle I celebrated at all.”

“That’s alright. I just watched movies,” Adam said, unlocking his car. Reid climbed into the passenger seat. “At least I wasn’t looking at dead bodies.”

“You get used to it after awhile.” Reid pulled out his phone to text Paisley he was on the way back.

“I’ll take teaching over what you do any day,” said Adam, backing the car up. “Hearing about your cases… I just pray I’m not teaching a future serial killer.”

“Actually, serial killers are created from numerous factors-”

“Spencer, please. That’s the last time I give you a caffeinated soda at eight o’clock.”

They were silent for awhile, listening to the music on the radio.
“So, what are your plans for Christmas?”

“Same as the ones for my birthday,” Adam said.

Reid nodded. “Do you, maybe, want to spend it at our house? I know Emma would love to see you.”

Adam glanced at him. “I don’t want to take away your family time.”

“But you are family.”

Adam pulled partway into Reid’s driveway, his eyes turned away from Reid. “Do you really mean that?”

Reid placed a hand on Adam’s shoulder. “I do. Sometimes I feel like… you’re the brother I never had.”

Adam’s lip twitched, as though he was trying to smile. “Thanks, Spencer. That means a lot.”

“So you’ll come?”

“Yeah, I’ll come.”
*************************
As promised, Adam arrived at the Reid house on Christmas morning. Emma, still in her pajamas, was digging through her stocking as Reid brought him to the living room. She didn’t seem to notice either of them.

“What have you got there?” Adam asked, startling the little girl as she was opening a candy cane.

The candy cane dropped to the floor and was quickly snatched up by Chewie, who bolted out of the room. Emma stared in silence at the point Chewie had disappeared, and then slowly turned around to glare at her former teacher.

“You owe me a new candy cane.”

Adam grinned. “Good thing I brought one, then.” He held up a gift bag, which contained three plastic candy canes, each containing a different kind of candy.

Emma’s glare broke into a smile. “All is forgiven, Dr. Hyles.”

He laughed. “You can call me Adam when we aren’t in school.”

Emma considered it for a moment and shrugged.

“Hot cocoa?” Paisley offered, carrying a tray with four mugs. They each took one, and sat down in the living room.

“Why are there four stockings?” Adam asked. Hanging on the fireplace was one simple red stocking, a hook for Emma’s purple stocking, a turquoise stocking for Paisley, and a smaller red stocking at the end.

“The last one is for Chewie, but I don’t know if I want to give it to him.” Emma said. Chewie had finally returned, his breath pepperminty fresh.

“He’s a dog, Emma.” Paisley admonished. “And it’s Christmas.”

Emma sighed, and held out her stocking to Reid. “Guard this with your life.” She went to the fireplace and picked up the little red stocking.

Reid laughed. “You know, Chewie never steals anything from me. He knows better.”

“Train him to respect you.” Paisley added. “And there’s a dozen more candy canes on the tree.”

“Chewie, sit,” said Emma sternly. He sat, and Emma pulled a bone out of the stocking and tossed it too him. The large dog caught it in mid-air and took it to his bed, gnawing happily.

“He seems very obedient,” Adam said.

“He is, but he wants anything I’m eating,” Emma said, snagging a candy cane off the tree like Paisley said. “Want one?”

“No thanks, I’m not big on peppermint,” said Adam, taking a sip of cocoa.

“When are we going to start cooking?” Emma asked.

“You’re not hungry already?” Reid said.

“After the Christmas specials.” said Paisley.

Adam looked at Reid, who shrugged. “She insists on watching the old cartoons every year. Rudolph, Nester, and the others.”

Adam smiled. “I can’t say no to a movie.”

Paisley set up the DVDs and Emma climbed into Reid’s lap. Paisley sat on one side of Reid and Adam on the other.

Although he thought the cartoons were silly and preposterous, he thoroughly enjoyed listening to his daughter and Paisley sing along to every song. Even Adam sang the few that he knew. Reid couldn’t help but join in.

After the movies, the four of them gathered in the kitchen and cooked a small Christmas dinner, with pumpkin pie for dessert.

“So, are you glad you came?” Reid asked as he walked Adam to the door late that evening.

Adam looked thoughtful for a moment, and then he smiled at Reid. “I am. This is the best Christmas I’ve had in a long time.”

Chapter Text

“Why are you leaving so early, Daddy?” Emma asked at breakfast a few weeks after Christmas. It was a school day for Paisley and Emma, and despite not having work for another two hours, Reid was already preparing to leave.

Reid shrugged. “I was going to stop at the library before work. Are there any books you’d like me to pick up?”

Emma thought. “Maybe if they have the new Midnight Riders book, but it only came out yesterday.”

“If it’s not at the library, I’ll stop by the bookstore.”

“Thanks, Daddy!” Emma cried, giving him a hug before running out the door with Paisley, who was dropping her off today.

As soon as he heard the car start and drive away, Reid took a deep breath and closed his eyes. It was hard trying to ignore the pain in his head. It was so bad now that he was sensitive even to the smallest amount of light.

The incandescents in the house was fine, but the bright fluorescents at Quantico were irritating. The sun itself was blinding. He had to wear sunglasses every time he left the house, even if he stood in the shade.

But the worst part was lying about it. Thus far, the only person who knew about his chronic migraines was Adam. He hadn’t told Hotch or JJ or Emily or even Paisley. Even Emma, who always seemed to know when something was wrong, hadn’t picked up on it. He hated being dishonest with her, but he also didn’t want to be seen as weak by any of them, especially his daughter.

Reid opened his eyes to check the time. He had an hour to get to his appointment. This was the second doctor he’d seen since his discussion with Adam. The first one didn’t know what was wrong with him. Hopefully after some tests, the new one would.

The waiting area was excruciatingly bright, with the early morning sun streaming through the open window. He left his sunglasses on as he tried to read, his leg bouncing rapidly as he tried to distract himself from the pain.

“We’re almost ready for you, Dr. Reid,” said the old nurse. “Just a few questions.”

Reid took off his sunglasses to try and see her better.

“Are you having one of your headaches right now?”

“Yeah, I am.”

“How long have you had it?”

“Um…” Reid considered the amount of time that had passed. “Not really that long. I don’t know.”

“Can you be more specific?”

“Uh, maybe two days…”

“And the lights hurt your eyes.”

Reid nodded, the pain intensifying.

“Any hallucinations?”

He shook his head. “No.”

After waiting a little longer, the nurse called him back. He changed into a hospital gown and laid down on the bed of the MRI machine.

He fidgeted with his gown as the machine turned on, and was relieved when he was allowed to move again. He changed back into his clothes and slipped on his sunglasses, leaving the hospital as soon as he could.

He stopped by the bookstore and picked up the book Emma wanted, as well as a few on migraines.

It wasn’t even nine yet, and he thought he might have a chance to sleep before heading to work. But instead he found himself on the highway headed for Quantico. Apparently his mind and body were not agreeing with each other.

Halfway there, Reid suddenly felt like his brain was splitting open. He pulled off the highway. Once he was safely parked at a gas station, he felt the full force of pain sweep over him. He put his head between his knees and tried to breath.

In. Out. In. Out. Don’t panic. In. Out. It’ll pass. In. Out.

He wasn’t sure how much time had passed, but the pain began to subside to a manageable amount. He sat back in his seat and forced himself to continue breathing normally.

One glance at the clock told him he was going to be late. Somehow, he didn’t really care. Morgan was always late. Even Prentiss had her days.

He finally reached Quantico two minutes late. He tried not to rush - moving too fast made the pain worse.

“Hey, you okay?” Prentiss asked as Reid came in and took his seat.

“Yeah, why?” Reid asked.

“You’re never late,” Morgan pointed out.

“Have we started the briefing yet?”

“Just about to,” said Garcia.

“Then I’m not late,” said Reid, with more force in his voice than usual.

No one argued with him. The last thing they needed was a pissed off Reid. Garcia started the briefing - they had a ritualistic serial killer on the loose in a Latino neighborhood in Miami.

Florida. The sunshine state. Wonderful, Reid thought as he boarded the plane, where he sat in the darkest corner as he read of Afro-Caribbean religions.

The case took several turns as the team searched for the truth. Reid was a little shaken up by Julio Ruiz’s apparent clairvoyance of Reid’s headaches, and the subsequent ‘transpossession’. Julio cooperated with the team, helping them search for Elian (Julio’s protege), but was captured himself.

Eventually, Reid discovered Dr. Morales was the unsub, and that he was in the abandoned house nearby. He went alone, which Hotch could have fired him for, and managed to distract Morales by ‘faking’ a headache long enough before he turned his back to him. Reid took the chance to knock him out with a pipe, saving Julio and Elian.


Reid returned to the doctor for his results the following week.

“That doesn’t make any sense,” said Reid after listening to the doctor.

“I’m not sure what you want me to say.”

“So there’s nothing wrong?”

“Well, your scans are perfectly normal, and there doesn’t seem to be any physical explanation for your headaches.”

Reid was at a loss. “Well, what do I do now?”

The doctor looked unsure. “Well, have you considered…”

“Considered what?” Reid asked.

“A psychosomatic cause.”

“Psychosomatic?”

“It just means a mental or emotional stress-”

“I know what psychosomatic means, doctor, but it’s not that.”

“Well, I think it’s something we should consider,” the doctor insisted.

“It’s not - I’m not crazy,” Reid insisted.

“Crazy? Dr. Reid, I’m not saying-”

“I have headaches,” said Reid desperately. “I have intense sensitivity to light because there’s something wrong with me, physically, not mentally. It’s not that.”

He was not crazy. He was not his mother. He couldn’t - wouldn’t - allow himself to become lost like her. He didn’t want to live like that.

“That?”

“Listen, Doctor, my mother’s a paranoid schizophrenic who’s been institutionalized, so I know very well what mental illness looks like, maybe even better than you, and it’s not that. It’s not.”

Reid stood and pushed past the doctor, grabbing his bag and rushing out of the room. He slipped his sunglasses over his eyes in the hallway, already feeling the pain from the fluorescents. He would find someone with answers. Someone who could figure out what was wrong with him physically. He refused to believe it was all in his head.

Chapter Text

Reid finished his paperwork as quickly as he could. It was one of his better days - no headache, though the bright lights still bothered him. Luckily the sky had been overcast all day.

Emma was at JJ’s house, so he had the night to himself. He’d considered long and hard what to do with the time, and he’d finally found it. He pulled out his cell phone and dialed.

“Reid?” said the voice on the other end.

“Emily, you are not going to believe this.”

“No?”

“They’re showing ‘Solaris’ tonight, the original, in the theaters. You want to go?”

“Did Morgan put you up to this?”

“What?” Reid was totally confused.

Prentiss repeated herself. “Did Morgan tell you to call me?”

“No, Morgan would have no idea what ‘Solaris’ is.”

“So, uh, you just called me out of the blue.”

Why was Prentiss acting strange? “Well, I mean, the original one’s in Russian, so, really, you and I are the only ones that can really enjoy it.”

“Isn’t ‘Solaris’ like four hours long?”

“It’s five. The best Sci-Fi meditation film of all time. But for some reason, they never really show it in the theaters. You want to go with me?”

“Sorry, handsome. I’m gonna have to pass. I’m just gonna hang out with Sergio tonight.”

Oh… “Shoot, I didn’t realize that…”

“Relax, Reid. Sergio is my new cat. But, um, thank you.”

“For what?”

“For being you.”

“Aw, thanks, I don’t know how to be anyone else.”

“Yeah, that’s what I love about you.”

“Bye.” Reid put his phone in his pocket and wondered what was going on with his friend. Why was she so distant? And why hadn’t she told him about her new cat?

And why would Morgan be telling him to call Prentiss?

Reid shook his head, knowing he wouldn’t get the answers tonight. He grabbed his bag and left the bullpen, resigning himself to watching Solaris alone.


Reid was the second person in the round table room a few days later. Only Prentiss was already there, talking to someone on the phone.

“Lauren Reynolds is dead.” Prentiss was saying. A minute later, she hung up.

“Who’s Lauren Reynolds?” Reid asked, hoping to shed some light on Prentiss’ recently strange behavior.

Prentiss turned, startled. “She was a friend of mine.”

“How did she die?”

“A car accident.”

“I’m really sorry,” Reid was about to say more when the rest of the team arrived. Hotch and Garcia started the briefing immediately.

Don’t worry, Emily, Reid thought. We’re here for you.


“How about this one, Daddy?” Emma reached up to tap one of the keys on the musical keyboard.

Reid joined her in the corner of the store, and tested the instrument himself. He knew he couldn’t afford a real piano, but after his experience with Sammy, he couldn’t shake the need to learn how to play.

Though Paisley was surprised at his sudden interest in the piano, Emma had been excited, and begged to go with him when he picked out a keyboard. So here they were, in a musical store near their home, trying to decide.

“I think you found the perfect one, Emma,” Reid said. “Let’s pick out some music books.”

While Reid talked to the store clerk, Emma sorted through the collection of music sheets, heading to the counter with her top three choices.

“Those are pretty advanced,” said the clerk. “If you’ve never played before, you might want to get a beginner’s book, too.”

Emma glanced at her dad, who gave her a look that said he agreed. She sighed and walked away, returning with a princess themed beginner’s book.

After paying for their purchases, Reid and Emma headed home to unpack the keyboard.

“Where are you going to set up?” Paisley asked upon their return.

“The library in the loft, I think,” Reid said. “I thought about the rec room in the basement, but that’s right next to your study. I don’t want to interrupt your concentration.”

Paisley shrugged. “That’s nice of you, but I doubt either of you will be so horrible that I’ll be distracted.”

Emma was bouncing on her feet in excitement. “Can we play it right now, Daddy?”

“For a little while,” Reid said sternly. “You have school tomorrow, and riding lessons, so you need to be in bed in an hour.”

Emma took what she could get. She grabbed the music books and followed her father, who carried the keyboard, to the attic.

Though Reid managed to play a moderate piece easily, Emma had a little more trouble getting her fingers to move independently. She huffed in frustration.

“Give it time,” Reid said. “Your body is still learning fine motor skills, like tying your shoes or typing.”

“There are kids younger than me who do this,” Emma argued. “They’re masters.”

“Yes, and they start playing at a very early age. You’re starting out a little later than them.”

“But you’re almost thirty. Why is it so easy for you?”

Good question. “I don’t really know…”

Emma crossed her arms, pouting.

Reid decided he could only give her words of encouragement. “All that matters is that you don’t give up. Just like your riding lessons. Remember how you fell off and got right back on your horse?”

“Yes…”

“That’s what you need to do here, too. Keep trying,” Reid said. “And you’ll get better.”

This did not pacify his daughter. “It’s just not fair. You’re good at everything.”

Reid almost laughed. “Emma, you do realize I’m one of the only FBI agents with little to no combat skills?”

“You can shoot a gun, though.”

“Yes, and do you know how long it took me to pass the qualifying test?”

Emma didn’t answer.

“I almost didn’t. I wasn’t even close,” Reid admitted. “And I probably never would have if it weren’t for Hotch.”

She finally looked at him. “Were you really that bad?”

Reid smiled sheepishly. “My aim was about three feet off.”

Emma laughed. “Yeah, that’s bad.”


“Looks like it’s going to be a bad one.” Paisley said, watching the weather on the news.

“Yeah, I’m glad they cancelled school for both of you,” said Reid, handing her a mug of black coffee.

Paisley sipped the bitter drink without flinching. “Too bad they didn’t cancel work, too.”

“Well, the bad guys don’t take breaks. And the worst of the storm won’t be here for another three days.” He scooped some sugar into his coffee.

Emma dashed down the stairs, skidding to a stop in the kitchen. “Can you believe it? No school! For the rest of the week!”

Reid rolled his eyes, taking a sip of his coffee. “And here I was thinking you’d be upset about it.”

“I was, at first. But then I thought - now I’ll have more time to practice on the keyboard!” Emma paused, taking in her father’s attire. “You’re not really going to work today?”

“Sorry, Butterfly, but I have to.” Reid gave her a kiss. “The team already has a case.”

Emma’s shoulders slumped. “You’re leaving?”

“Actually, this one is here in D.C.” said Reid. “With any luck, I’ll be home for dinner.”

Emma’s eyes lit up. “Paisley, can we bake cookies?”

“If the power doesn’t go out,” Paisley promised.

Reid left before Emma’s excitement had her bouncing off the walls.


“Guys, I’m sorry I’m late,” said Prentiss, rushing into the round table room, two minutes after the briefing had started.

“You okay?” Hotch asked.

“Yeah, it’s just one of those weeks, I guess,” Prentiss said. “I’m sorry. What did I miss? Arsonist?”

“One appears to be murder-suicide, the other a freak accident,” Morgan explained.

“So why are we looking at it?” Prentiss asked.

“House fires are rare,” Rossi said. “Add to that a few miles apart, within the same hour, kind of tips the scales of coincidence.”

Reid jumped in. “Yeah, if somebody did this, they’re highly motivated and organized.”

“And if he wants to strike again, he’s got 72 hours before the storm shuts the city down.”


Reid hummed as he read through the reports.

“What is it?” Seaver asked. She and Garcia were the only ones in the round table room with him.

“You know, considering the time these fires occurred, the habitual patterns of both families were in direct conflict with where the bodies were found.”

“The master bedroom,” Seaver noted.

“Yeah, normally Lauren Cosenza would be downstairs helping her son with his homework, and Ron wouldn’t even be home from work yet.”

“What about the Fagans?”

“Their routines were less established - they traveled a lot,” Reid said. “But they were expected at a dinner party last night.”

Garcia shook her head. “If someone did this, what are the chances these victims are random?”


A sudden sound sent a shot of pain through Reid’s forehead. He flinched, and looked up. It was Prentiss, setting her bag down on her desk.

“I’m sorry,” Prentiss said, thinking she’d interrupted his concentration.

“I thought you were in there,” Reid said, motioning to the round table room.

“Are you okay?” Prentiss asked.

“Yeah, I’m - I’m sure these victims overlap somehow…” Reid said. “Garcia pulled their phone numbers but so far I can’t find anything.”

“You just jumped,” Prentiss pointed out.

For a moment, Reid considered lying. But then again, Prentiss was a profiler and would probably see right through him. And even if he was able to dodge her, she’d probably recruit Morgan and Garcia to help her figure out what was wrong.

Prentiss was a really good friend, so maybe he should be honest. Adam had said once that Reid needed to be more open to his other friends.

“I’ve been having these… really intense headaches lately…” Reid admitted.

Naturally, Prentiss looked concerned. “Have you seen a doctor?”

“Yeah, a few. None of them have been able to figure it out.”

“Oh, I’m… sorry,” Prentiss said. “Does Emma or Paisley know?”

Reid shook his head. “Just you… and Adam…”

Prentiss nodded, and promised, “I won’t tell anyone.”

“I know,” Reid said honestly. “They’d just worry. Not that you’re not gonna worry, but they’ll just make me feel like a baby, you know?”

“I do.”

“How ‘bout you?” Reid asked, hoping that Prentiss might open up to him as well.

“I’m good,” she assured him.

“You’ve been picking your fingernails again,” Reid pointed out.

“Yeah…”

“You only do that when you’re stressed.”

“It’s just a bad habit.”

Reid gave up for the moment and turned back to his files. Wait. There it was.

“Aha!” Reid gathered his papers and stood quickly. “You comin’?”

Prentiss looked mildly surprised, but nodded. “Yeah, I’ll be there in a minute.”

Reid shrugged and went straight to Hotch and the rest of the team to tell them what he’d found: one number that both families had in common - and the ones who’d received calls from it were the European victims.

A short while later, Reid was analyzing a photo of one of the unsub’s wrists. The leader of the group had shot the wrist of the unsub to cover up a tattoo after Prentiss had shot his femoral artery. Prentiss and Morgan had been too late to save Byron Delaney, who had tried to warn the other two victims.

Whoever had shot the man’s wrist obviously didn’t know how skilled Reid was. It didn’t take him long to figure out.

“Got it.” Reid said, handing his sketch to Hotch. It was a four-leaf clover with a stem that ends in a V. The symbol of the Valhalla led them to the CWS - Clear Water Security.

Reid waited with Garcia and Seaver while the others met with the leaders of the CWS. When they returned, they had a name: Ian Doyle. Whoever he was, he’d been in prison for seven years, but he’d suddenly vanished a few weeks ago.

Hotch had Prentiss reach out to her contacts at Interpol and then sent her and Morgan to the house of the last victim.

Reid took the opportunity to call Emma. She answered before the first ring finished.

“How are you doing, Butterfly?”

“Great! I’m practicing my scales, and I’m almost ready to try the first piece.”

“Wonderful. Maybe you can play it for me when I get home?”

“I’d love to! But… are you still coming home tonight?”

Reid didn’t answer at first. “I’m not sure… This case is a lot more complicated than any of us expected.”

“Oh… okay…”

Reid hated hearing disappointment in Emma’s voice.

“Em? I’ll call you again tonight, okay?”

“Okay, Daddy. I’m going to keep practicing.”

“Good, we should do a piece together sometime.”

That cheered her up a little. “Yeah, when I get better.”

“Love you, Butterfly.”

“Love you, too, Daddy.”

Reid sighed as he hung up.

“Everything okay?” Seaver asked.

“I hate disappointing her…” Reid admitted.

“That’s normal.” Seaver said. “She’s your child and you’re her hero. Of course you don’t want to be the reason she’s upset.”

Reid smiled. “Thanks, Ashley.”

“For what?”

“Saying I’m normal.”

Chapter Text

Ian Doyle was a hard man to find. Reid was assigned to going through the files on Ian Doyle’s arrest. Seaver had specifically told him to look for photos, see who was there.

She returned momentarily to tell him that Doyle had not been locked up in Russia, but Kwan-Li-So, in North Korea. What that changed, he wasn’t sure, but it was definitely something.

He sighed as his headache worsened, heading to the restroom just in case he needed to throw up again. On his way back, he ran into Prentiss, who was holding a document with several lines of blackened text.

“Hey, what’s that?” He asked.

“Oh, this is the only lead I have so far,” Prentiss explained. “What about you? Seaver said you were looking for photos of Doyle’s Tuscan villa?”

“I couldn’t find any stills from the day he was arrested, but there may be some surveillance footage from the Sedans. They generally record everything,” He started to make his way back to his desk.

“Yeah?” Prentiss said, and Reid thought she sounded a little nervous. He wished she would just open up, but he would never force her to. After all, he’d kept things from the team before - his mother, his addiction (which he was certain Hotch knew about), and now his headaches.

As Reid got back to work, the BAU became overrun with representatives from other agencies. Ian Doyle was on everybody’s list.

Reid did not like all the noise, but he didn’t have any other choice. He just wished Hotch and Rossi would start the profile already.

“We’re waiting on Metro P.D.” Seaver said, thankfully speaking quietly. “They’ve got a double homicide that Morgan and Prentiss are checking out. Might have something to do with Doyle.”

Reid nodded, but continued typing on the computer. Even with Kevin’s help, he was still having trouble finding any footage from the Sedan’s on the day of Doyle’s arrest.

“They’re staring at you,” Seaver whispered.

“Who?” Reid asked, eyes still on his screen.

“A couple guys from the CIA and that woman from the NSA,” Seaver said. “They’ve been eyeballing you for ten minutes. Haven’t you noticed?”

Reid had noticed, actually. And he knew why they were watching him, unnerving as it was.

“When I was in training with the FBI, I was groomed specifically for the BAU. Some other agencies tried to interject and recruit me, but I turned them all down,” Reid explained. “They haven’t given up. Once this is over, I’ll have a pile of job offers sitting on my desk.”

“And they’re going straight to the trash can?” Seaver smirked. “Still, I wish I had that kind of recognition. People who actually want you around…”

Reid turned away from his screen to look her in the eyes. “The BAU wanted you.”

“That’s not how it felt when I started here. I thought Rossi was the only one who liked me.”

“We’d just lost JJ. It was nothing against you - we were frustrated.”

“So you all didn’t warm up to me that fast because of politics?”

Reid grinned. “JJ is the third agent to leave since I started working here, and she’s my best friend. I can’t speak for the others, but… I still miss her. I’ve mistaken you for her a few times.”

“Because I’m blonde?”

“I know it’s stupid, but I’ve somehow managed to not call you JJ on accident. I always catch myself before.”

“I don’t know. Might be a compliment, really, thinking I’m someone as awesome as her.”

Reid laughed, ignoring the shot of pain it cause his head. He looked up and suddenly straightened. “They’re starting.”

Seaver looked up, too, but she didn’t get off the desk she was sitting on. “Finally.”

When Hotch finished, Prentiss wasn’t there. They assumed she must have gone to the restroom. The team found a corner of the room where they could discuss the document she’d recovered from her contacts.

“I got four names on the bottom of the list Prentiss gave us,” Morgan said, pinning them to the board. “Luke Renault, Lawrence Riley, Lila Rafferty, Lyle Rogers.”

“All with the initials L.R.” Seaver noted.

“The CIA uses cryptograms like that to assign to non-official cover agents working the same case,” Hotch said.

“So do other foreign countries,” said Morgan. “These last four names are covers… spies.”

“Wait…” Garcia took the page. “This isn’t right. Do you see this space? That shouldn’t be there.”

“Could it be a formatting error?” asked Reid.

“No, this is a spreadsheet template. Formatting doesn’t allow for this. There’s a missing name on here,” Garcia said.

“It’s another spy whose cover is L.R.” Hotch said.

Words he’d heard a over two weeks ago echoed in Reid’s mind. “Lauren Reynolds is dead.”

Hotch turned. “What?”

“‘Lauren Reynolds is dead.’ Prentiss said that on a phone call seventeen days ago. But her intonation wasn’t surprise or grief. It was like a mantra, like she was reminding herself. Lauren Reynolds. L.R.!”

“If Prentiss is the last name on that list, she’s on Doyle’s list, too.” Seaver said.

As Hotch stepped away to call Prentiss, Rossi took the lead. “That explains her behavior the past month. The secrets, the evasion.”

“She’s been biting her fingernails again, too.” Reid added.

“Guys.” Hotch said. They turned to see him holding two things.

“She left her badge and gun?” Morgan asked. “Why would she do that?”

Reid could hear the panic in his own voice. “That doesn’t make sense. Why run? We’re her family. We can help.”

“Doyle’s killing families,” Rossi pointed out. “She’s not married, not close to relatives. He was ready to wipe us out. She ran to protect us.”

After the initial realization about Prentiss’ true identity, the team tried to figure out where she would go.

“She knows all of our tricks,” Morgan said. “We don’t know any of hers.”

“All right, then, how do we find her?” Garcia asked with a sense of urgency. Reid wasn’t surprised at her lack of jokes right now.

Hotch took point again. “Here’s how: Ian Doyle is our unsub, Prentiss is our victim. We profile their behavior and we treat it like any other case. Because terrorism isn’t an area we specialize in, I’ve reached out to an expert from the state department, someone who can also shed light on Prentiss’ past.

“Who?” Reid asked.

“Her.” Hotch looked past them, and they all turned to see a familiar figure behind them.

“Let’s get to work.” said JJ.


Reid was feeling a multitude of emotions that were hard to cope with. JJ was back, so he was ecstatic. But he was also confused - how would she know more about Prentiss’ past than the rest of them? And Prentiss… could already be dead. And that made him want to throw up more than any amount of dairy or headaches.

He coped in the only way he knew how - work. He listened to JJ’s briefing on Ian Doyle and Prentiss’ past. Apparently, she’d been working for the CIA when she joined a task force called JTF-12, assuming the identity of Lauren Reynolds.

JTF’s job was profiling terrorists, and it was made up of agents from several agencies: Jeremy Wolff of Germany’s BND, Sean McAlister of Interpol, Tsia Mosely of France’s DCRI, and Clyde Easter of the British S.I.S.

Doyle was the team’s last case, and everyone on the team was on his hit list. Easter and Prentiss were the only two left alive.

“If all they did was deliver a profile, how does Doyle even know about them?” Hotch asked.

“Well, considering the shadowy nature of terrorist cells, they utilize a skill we don’t…” said JJ. “Infiltration.”

“Who was undercover on Doyle?” Reid asked.

“Emily. She made contact with him in Boston to get intel on Valhalla. She was posing as another weapons dealer.”

Morgan studying the photos from the file. “Look at how she’s dressed. She seems awfully comfortable.”

“How close did she get to Doyle as part of her cover?” Hotch asked.

“The recon they did on Doyle included a background of all of his romantic relationships,” JJ explained. “Emily was his type.”


Morgan was angry. Understandably, but Reid would rather Morgan be calm right now. His loud voice was not helping Reid’s headaches, or the case.

“She threw a flash-bang grenade into a car! She’s lucky the three people inside didn’t die! Is anybody else bothered by that?”

They had just watched surveillance footage of Prentiss ambushing Doyle outside The Black Shamrock, and her subsequent capture. Now they were all in the plane, on their way to Boston, where Easter was being detained, after attempting to flee the U.S. under an alias.

“Well, three bad guys,” Rossi said. Before Morgan could argue, Hotch interrupted.

“Illegal as is, I think Prentiss knows she has to be as ruthless as Doyle.”

Reid agreed. “He’s come to the U.S. to wage a public vendetta and hired a group of mercenaries to remain loyal to him. He has nothing to lose, so she has to act the same way.”

“So how did Doyle know she was waiting for him?” Rossi asked.

“Well, the mole must have told him, right?” JJ said. “The same guy’s who’s been feeding Doyle the contractors and agents?”

“And our best suspect was just arrested with a suitcase full of cash,” Seaver said. “How do we get Easter to talk? He won’t cooperate willingly.”

“I’ll handle that,” Hotch said. “The rest of you focus on Doyle’s location.”

“I hate to be the one to ask this, but…” Garcia said. “How long does Emily have?”

“Her best chance is also the most troubling,” Hotch said. “Doyle saved her for last because he views her as his stressor. Which means he’ll take his time.”


“Why were you calling Clyde Easter so much, Jack?” Rossi asked. He and Reid were handling Jack Fahey’s interview. Apparently he was associated with the Irish mob.

“Anybody got a smoke?” Fahey asked, ignoring the question. “How about you, beanpole?”

Reid looked around to see who he was talking to, realizing a moment too late that it was him. He decided not to react.

“What do you think?” Rossi asked Reid.

“Narcissism masking deep-seated insecurity.” Reid muttered.

“So if we puncture his self-image, this hood rat will talk.” Rossi said.

That hit the spot. “Hey, hey, hey, I ain’t no hood rat. You take that back.”

“Well, you look like one. You smell like one.” Rossi said, and then he looked at Reid, who stayed near the window while Rossi moved closer to Fahey. “You smell that?”

Reid sniffed the air. “Hood rat.”

“I am not! Take it back!”

Rossi leaned in close. “Hey, Jack, do you know what a hood rat is?”

Fahey didn’t answer.

“You see what I mean?” Rossi said to Reid. “He’s just gonna have to learn the hard way.”

That’s when the hood rat squealed.

“Lauren Reynolds. Where is Lauren Reynolds?” Reid asked once Fahey said Doyle’s name.

Realization crossed Fahey’s face as he realized what the two wanted. “Oh… friend of yours, is she?”

“You tell us where she is right now, or I swear, I’ll send you to a prison where they’ll teach you what a hood rat is.” Rossi threatened.

“And by the time you do, she’ll be in pieces. So, uh, my price just went up.”

Reid and Rossi exchanged glances. Great. Just great. Suddenly, Fahey had turned the tables.

They turned them back by taking advantage of Fahey’s addiction. Rossi and Seaver took him up to the roof so he could smoke. Reid could tell it didn’t end well when Seaver returned, covered in blood.

“What happened?” Reid asked, hopping up from his seat. “Whose-”

“Fahey’s.” Seaver said. “Shot by a sniper.”

Reid had more questions, but decided to help Seaver get the blood off of her instead.

They had two breakthroughs in the following hour:

First, with pressure from Rossi, Seaver brought attention to the fact that Doyle had been killing families. He could have spared the boy in D.C. but he didn’t.

Second, Easter, who had been proven innocent, joined forces with the team, delivering Doyle’s former profile as a terrorist.

“Ian Doyle’s a power-assertive psychopath,” Easter began. The team was gathered around. “Highly controlling and very explosive when something doesn’t go as planned.”

Seaver nodded. “Okay, so how does this fit in with who he is as a family annihilator?”

“And Prentiss’ role in it,” added Rossi.

“Annihilators have a romanticized view of who their family is,” Reid said.

“Well, actually, he was an orphan,” Easter said, momentarily extinguishing Reid’s point.

Morgan agreed with Reid. “Well, they think of family as their possession, until some law shatters that and starts them killing.”

“But Doyle was never married.” Easter argued.

“Children?” Rossi asked.

“No.”

“You run your profile that he carried out his murders with surgical-like precision,” Reid said, having read the entire profile in five minutes.

“Yes.”

“With no collateral damage,” said Morgan.

“That’s right,” Easter replied.

“Perhaps this child was a surrogate for one he had,” Rossi offered.

“Say Doyle had a child and you didn’t know about it,” Seaver said. “Is it possible that Prentiss did?”

Easter shrugged. “Then why would she keep it from me?”

“Who else was in the compound the day that you arrested Doyle?” asked Hotch.

“Just his staff.”

“All Irish?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s a start,” said Hotch.

Ten minutes later, Garcia called the team. “I got him. I matched Irish immigration records based on Doyle’s employees. Declan Jones, he’s the only boy who matches. He settled in Boston eight years ago, adoptive guardian Louise Jones.”

“I knew Louise Jones,” Easter said. “She was Doyle’s housekeeper.”

“Are they still alive?” Hotch asked.

“Declan and his mother went missing seven years ago. Bodies were never found… wait, what is this?” Garcia pulled up some files and opened them. “God, someone took pictures of them being shot.”

“Is there an address?” Hotch asked.

“That looks like a warehouse. It’s gotta be big enough to house a small army. That’s weapons, supplies… let’s see… which means it has its own perimeter… I got it. 1518 Adams Street.”

A few minutes later, Reid was studying the photos of Declan and his mother being shot with Garcia. “Wait, wait, look at that. Morgan come look at this.”

Morgan joined them. “It’s black clothing and a hand, Reid.”

“No, look at the fingernails.” Reid said, drawing attention to the damaged nails.

“Oh, my God!” Garcia cried. Those were Prentiss’ hands.


“Agent Prentiss is the only friendly in the building.” Hotch said, briefing the SWAT team. “Rescuing her is our primary objective.”

“Our only advantage here is stealth,” said Morgan. “Once they know we’re on site, there’s nothing to stop them from killing her, so we keep it quiet until we get to her.”

Reid, Garcia, and Seaver waited at their base of operations while the others joined the SWAT team.


It seemed like hours before they received a call from Hotch, telling them to meet at a hospital nearby. Prentiss was injured. Seaver had to drive - Garcia was in hysterics and Reid was suddenly unresponsive.

At the hospital, JJ joined them and filled them in. Morgan had found her right after Doyle had impaled her with a wooden stake. Doyle had escaped.

Reid was pacing back and forth, holding a coffee that he hadn’t taken a sip of. Seaver sat in a chair with her knees to her chest, staring at nothing. Rossi was just behind her, standing because sitting made him feel useless. Hotch sat, staring at the ground and deep in thought. Morgan and Garcia sat next to each other, not talking or touching - simply taking comfort in each other’s company.

Eventually, Morgan made Reid sit down, and Rossi took a seat next to Seaver. Hotch paced for some time, until JJ finally returned. She instantly had the room’s attention, six heads swiveling in her direction, waiting expectantly, and even a little desperately.

It didn’t take a profiler to read her expression.

“No…” Garcia said, almost inaudibly.

Tears forming, JJ shook her head. “She never made it off the table.

Reid could feel himself about to break down. His body went into autopilot, and he stood quickly and started to leave, but JJ stopped him.

“Spence…”

Reid almost pulled away, but something told him to stay. “I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.”

“Come here,” JJ said, opening her arms to him, and he instinctively returned the embrace, feeling the tears roll down his cheeks. His body trembled as he fought back the urge to scream.

It wasn’t fair. It just wasn’t fair. That was was the only coherent thought Reid had.


The funeral was two weeks later, and Reid joined the group that carried Emily’s coffin. Emma walked just behind them with Will, Henry and Paisley. But when they gathered around the grave for the service, Emma returned to her father’s side, grabbing his hand and leaning into him.

Reid’s arm wrapped around her, wishing there was something he could say. She had taken the news of Emily’s death badly. Reid wanted to help her, but he couldn’t help himself. He and Emma had visited JJ’s every day for the past two weeks, where Will would take Emma to play with Henry and Reid would cry into JJ’s shoulder.

Like at Haley’s funeral, they took turns laying a rose on the coffin before it was lowered into the ground. Emma’s eyes filled with tears, and Reid picked her up and pulled her close. She buried her face in his coat and wrapped her arms around his neck as she sobbed.

He’d never felt so helpless as he did in that moment, holding his trembling daughter in his arms. What was he supposed to say? What was he supposed to do?

Chapter Text

“There’s nothing you can do.” Adam assured him, passing a bowl full of neapolitan ice cream and a bottle of antacids across the counter. Adam’s apartment was very modern-looking, with white walls and bright accents.

It had only been hours since Emily’s funeral, and he’d finally gotten Emma to sleep. Realizing he wouldn’t be able to close his eyes without seeing her face, he had called Adam - the only friend he had that didn’t know Prentiss.

“I’m her father.” Reid said, scooping up some ice cream but not moving it towards his mouth. “I should know what to do.”

“Spencer, you’ve read enough books to know that you can’t heal a broken heart over night. Sometimes it never does.” Adam assured him. “It’s going to melt if you don’t eat it.”

“How long are we going to feel miserable?” Reid asked, eating reluctantly.

Adam shrugged. “I don’t have answers like that. But I can tell you something about you and Emma. You don’t know how to help her because you’re in the same place she is.”

Reid looked up at him, confused.

“Emma’s parents died when she was a baby,” Adam began. “She can’t remember them or what it was like to lose them. And you have lost people, sure, but none of them are dead. Your father left, but he’s alive and well in Las Vegas. Your mentor, Gideon, is alive somewhere, too. And the other agent you told me about… Elle?”

“She’s started a family,” Reid said.

“Exactly. She’s living her life. And JJ left against her will, but you see her regularly. She’s still a part of your life.” Adam reached across the table and laid his hand on Reid’s. “You stare death in the face everyday, but you’ve never experienced the sense of loss that it brings.”

He was right, Reid realized. Prentiss was the first person he’d loved and truly lost.

“That’s why you don’t know how to help Emma. You’ve never been through it yourself.” Adam stood and picked up their empty bowls. “That doesn’t mean you leave her alone, though. She’s just a child. The two of you can get through this, but only if you do it together.”

Reid nodded. It was one of those moments where he was speechless.

“Now, how about a movie? I just bought Hotel for Dogs and Coraline. I’m sure you’ll enjoy pointing out everything unrealistic about them.”

Reid smiled and joined his friend in the living room, which Adam had set up specifically for movie-watching.

Reid woke the next morning in his own bed. On his nightstand, someone had plugged his phone in to charge and left a glass of water on the nightstand. A note under his phone said, “You were half asleep so I brought you home. Hope you had a good night’s sleep, you deserve it. Let’s take Emma to the movies this weekend. Monsters vs. Aliens is out.”

Reid didn’t remember anything past the opening titles of the movie, so he supposed he had slept well. He took a sip of water and decided to take a shower. The hot water running down his back was relaxing.

After dressing, he went to check on Emma. She wasn’t in her room. Reid paused at the stairs and listened. Downstairs was quiet. Paisley was interning today and had probably left very early. From above him, a sad melody reached his ears.

He climbed the steps to the loft, where he stood in the doorway and listened Emma as she practiced on the keyboard they’d bought together.

As she finished, he applauded, startling her.

“Sorry,” he said. “That was beautiful, Butterfly. Moonlight Sonata?”

“Yeah,” Emma mumbled. “I wanted to play it for Emily before…”

“She would have loved it,” Reid said quietly. He sat down next to her and pushed her hair out of her face. “She loved everything you did.”

Emma sniffled but didn’t cry. “Are you going back to work?”

“On Monday, yes,” Reid said.

“Do I have to go back to school?” Emma asked.

Reid nodded. “It’s going to be hard for both of us, but we have to face it sooner or later.”

“I think I’d rather do it later.”

Reid gave her a soft smile. “You have friends at school, Emma. And while you and I have each other and Paisley, we need others to help us heal. I’m not going to force you to go back to everything all at once, but it could help you if you returned to your daily life - school, riding lessons, chess club, the playgroup.

“Are Ellie and Jack going to the playgroup?”

“Yes, they’ll be there.”

“Then I’ll go, too.”

Reid nodded. “Adam invited us to see Monsters vs. Aliens this weekend.”

“That’s the movie with the giant girl, right?”

Reid nodded, and Emma smiled for the first time.

“Can I get M&M’s at the concession stand?”

“Only if you share.”

“Oh, fine.”

Reid silently thanked Adam for his advice as he and Emma made lunch that afternoon. They laughed as Chewie snatched up every dropped crumb, and when the entire contents of Reid’s taco fell in his lap. Chewie cleaned that up, too.

It was a good day, and Reid hoped his life had more of those than the other kind.


“Come on, Em, you can do it,” Ellie cried from the outfield as Luwi prepared to toss the ball.

Emma did not agree with Ellie. She held the bat at the right angle and placed her feet strategically, but she could not figure out how to actually hit the ball. She didn’t bother asking her father for help. As he’d said on multiple occasions, he was not the sporty type.

Luwi drew the ball behind her and Emma watched as her hand pitched it forward, propelling it in her direction. Wait for it, she thought. Not yet… and… now!

Emma swung the bat the way Morgan showed her.

“Strike one!” shouted Lucy behind her, having caught the ball and tossing it back to Luwi.

At Emma’s annoyed huff, Tshambi, Emma’s team captain, offered words of encouragement, “Relax a little. This isn’t chess or mathematics. No logic.”

“Logic’s what I’m good at, though.” Emma argued. Tshambi called a time-out, and took off his mask so he could talk to Emma.

“Emma, you’re great in the outfield. You catch the ball and throw it like nobody’s business. You have the instinct - you just need to figure out what’s different. Why are you having trouble here when you’re fine out there?”

Emma didn’t have to think very hard. She held up the bat in her hand. “I don’t have to deal with this thing.”

Tshambi nodded. “That’s a good reason, but it’s not an excuse. What are you going to do?”

Emma stared at the bat in her hand for a moment. “I only have one strike. Let me try again.”

“Alright, Pigtails. Go for it.” He called everyone back in, and Luwi prepared to pitch again.

Emma tried not to think. She decided it wasn’t important that she stood exactly the way Morgan said. She let her instinct take over for a moment, and pretended she wasn’t a genius. Just a kid playing softball with her friends.

Just relax, she told herself.

Luwi pitched.

Emma swung, and heard a loud pock, followed by Tshambi shouting, “Run!”

Emma ran.

First base…

Second base…

Third base…

She could see Lucy calling for her, glancing to the outfield where Ellie had picked up the ball and was aiming.

The ball left Ellie’s hand.

Emma threw herself onto home base, a split second before Lucy caught the ball.

“You did it!” Lucy cried.

Tshambi helped her up. “Told you. No logic.”

“Yeah, I get it.” Emma said, accepting hugs and pats on the back from her friends. Ellie, Luwi and Lucy, all of whom had been on the opposing team, were proud of her.

Her dad was proud, too. He picked her up, despite the red soil on her clothes, and kissed her on the forehead.

Morgan gave her a high-five. “You just won the game for your team, Mini-Reid.

Emma smiled, and turned to her father. “Maybe the adults should have a game.”

“How about a giant game of chess?” he offered.

Morgan laughed. “Don’t worry, Emma. I’ll get him on the field eventually.”

“Hey, guys!” Hotch called. “Pack it up! We’re getting ice cream!”

“Bet you thought he was calling you in for a case.” Emma said as her daddy carried her to the picnic tables.

He ignored the question, so Emma took that as a yes. “Do you want to change clothes here or at the ice cream shop?”

“Here. Did you bring your antacids?” Emma asked.

“They’re in the car.” He smiled at her. “I put them in there yesterday, remember?”

“Yep, I know. I also know that you didn’t bring your car today. Morgan and Ellie picked us up, remember?”

The color drained from her father’s already pale face. “Th-there’s a convenience store next to the ice cream shop.”

“Yep, how about you put them in your bag this time? It's a little out of character for you, Daddy.”

He sighed. “I thought I was the parent…”

Chapter Text

“Hey, how’d it go?” Paisley asked as Reid returned to his house.

“Fine…” Reid said, yawning and collapsing on the couch.

Over the past week, Hotch had performed evaluations on each of them. The team had just finished another case in Florida. The bright sunlight had been painful, and given him a headache, but it had gone away on the plane ride home. Now he just wanted to see his daughter, but it was so late she was probably asleep.

“Sounds like it was a bad one.”

“A mother was killing first responders because they didn’t save her son…” Reid explained. “Is Emma asleep?”

“Yeah, sorry. I sent her to bed about an hour ago..”

Reid stood up, his body aching. “It’s fine. I’ll see her in the morning.”

He bid Paisley goodnight and headed upstairs, stumbling into his bedroom.

Why was his bed unmade? He wondered as he entered his room. He never left it that way. The answer to his question was, in fact, under the covers.

Apparently Emma had figured out a compromise to having to go to bed before her father got home. Reid chuckled and grabbed some pajamas, changing in the restroom. Then he crawled into bed next to his daughter.


Reid awoke the next morning to his phone ringing. He groaned and tried to rolled over and reach for it, but something heavy was lying on his back, pinning him to the bed.

Reid sighed. “Emma?” He whispered.

A soft voice came from above him. “What?”

“I need to answer my phone.”

“No, you don’t.”

“Emma, you know I do.”

“It’s your day off.”

“Emma, do you want Hotch and the team breaking our front door down because I’m not answering my phone?”

“Maybe.”

Reid sighed, wondering what parenting technique he should use here. Threatening punishment wasn’t really his style… bargaining was probably a bad idea with a miniature genius… as was reasoning. He was not going to plead with her. That left just one viable option.

He pulled his arms under him, calculating which direction he should go that would keep Emma from falling off the bed. As his phone started ringing again, he pushed himself up and rolled so that Emma was under him and he could dive to the other side of the bed where his phone lay charging.

Emma yelped and tried to tackle her father as he snatched up his phone. He fell off the bed, narrowly missing hitting his head on everything and answered the phone, looking up at his glaring daughter.

“Hello?”

“Reid!” Garcia yelled into his ear. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, fine. Why?”

“Uh, hello, genius, I’ve called you three times. Why didn’t you answer?”

“I had a little trouble in bed.”

He realized far too late how badly he’d phrased that.

“Oooh, trouble in bed, huh? What kind of trouble?”

It was way too early to explain the extent of his daughter’s stubbornness. “Do we have a case, Garcia?”

Garcia sighed. “Yes, we do. In North Carolina.”

Reid sighed. “Why do people have to commit crimes so early in the morning?”

“Uh, Reid? It’s one in the afternoon.”

“What?!” Reid did hit his head this time as he bolted upright. “Ow!

“You okay?”

“Ow, yes.” Reid mumbled as he heard Emma snickering from somewhere on the bed. He glared in the direction of the sound.

“Wow, she must have been good if you slept in. Or he. Whichever you prefer.”

“No, it’s not like that-”

“Kiss her goodbye, sweetcakes, ‘cause Hotch just got here.”

“No, Garcia-”

“Tootles.”

Reid facepalmed as the line went dead, wondering what can of worms he’d just opened.

Emma pretended to be asleep when Reid stood up. He quickly changed in his restroom and grabbed his go-bag, giving Emma a kiss on his way out.

“Catch the bad guy, Daddy.” A little voice mumbled as he opened his door.


Although they missed Prentiss dearly, Reid and the team continued solving cases with just as much, if not more, focus as before. The case in South Carolina, along with several others, had been solved, and now the team was gathered in the round table room, ready for the next briefing.

“Pack your speedos and bikinis, team, because you’re going to Jacksonville, Florida.” Garcia said by way of greeting.

“Florida? Again?” Morgan asked.

“Jacksonville has a pretty high crime rate,” Reid commented. “With a crime index of 9 out of 100, the rate of crime per 1,000 residents is 44.01, and violent crimes make up 15% of that, higher than the state and the national median. It was bound to have a serial killer eventually.”

Seaver, who was still unused to Reid-the-random-fact-generator, furrowed her brow, while Morgan shook his head. Hotch and Rossi barely flinched.

Garcia didn’t miss a beat, continuing the briefing as though Reid hadn’t actually said anything. Reid was happy to see their usual reactions. Just this small amount of normalcy helped him cope with losing Prentiss.

The case in Florida was interesting, in Reid’s opinion. Someone had been dumping bodies in the water for over ten years. They caught him, just in time to save a teenage boy. They were too late to save the boy’s father, though.

What made it most interesting was Morgan’s involvement in the case, as his aunt had appeared, believing one of the victims might be her daughter, Cindi. In the end, DNA results proved the Jane Doe was not Morgan’s cousin.

The doctor had followed Morgan to his aunt, where he overheard their conversation. Reid understood that closure was powerful, and Morgan lying to his aunt that Cindi was dead would be merciful. Still, he couldn’t help but wonder if this might come back to haunt Morgan, and the team, one day.

Finally, they returned to Quantico, just like every other case, and Reid went home to his daughter and Paisley. Just another day in the BAU.

Chapter Text

“You’ll do great with them,” Reid said to Seaver as she packed her desk. “Just as well as you did here.”

“Thanks, I hope I can,” Seaver had decided to transfer from the BAU to the Domestic Trafficking Task Force.

Reid looked down at his feet. “We’ll miss you, though.”

Seaver smirked. “No, you won’t. You’re getting JJ back. You said it yourself - you thought I was her a few times.”

“You’re both blonde,” Reid defended. “And yes, she is my best friend, but you’ve become your own person on this team. You’ll be difficult, if not impossible, to replace.”

She closed her small box of things and looked up at him. “You really mean that?”

“I don’t say things I don’t mean.”

“That is very, very true,” Seaver gave him a real smile and reached out to hug him. Reid accepted her embrace, bending a little since she was shorter than him. “I’ll miss you guys, too.”

When they pulled apart, Garcia was next to them.

“God, Garcia,” Seaver exclaimed. “You should teach the stealth class at the academy.”

“I would, but camo clashes with my eyes,” Garcia smiled, and then turned to Reid as Seaver walked away. “So, it was her, wasn’t it?”

“Who was what?” Reid was thoroughly confused.

“Remember the other day when you slept ‘til one because some lovely lady gave you a great night?” Garcia reminded him. “It was her, wasn’t it?”

“Seaver?”

Garcia nodded slowly, her expression dubious.

“No, you don’t understand. I didn’t… We didn’t… It wasn’t like that.”

“Don’t worry, tiger.” Garcia patted him on the back. “You’ve got my support.”

“Support for what?” asked Morgan.

Crap, Reid thought.

“Milo Thatch here has got himself a Kida.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Pretty Boy has a Pretty Girl?” Morgan grinned devilishly.

“He does?” asked Seaver, returning to her desk.

Garcia froze. “You… didn’t know?”

“No.” Seaver shook her head. “What’s her name, Spencer?”

Reid sighed. Enough was enough. “Garcia thinks I have a girlfriend because I overslept the other day, and she had to call me three times for a case because Emma wouldn’t let me reach my phone.”

“Wait, so that trouble you had in bed…” Things seemed to be clicking in Garcia’s head.

“Was my daughter laying on top of me and refusing to get off.”

“I get that,” Morgan agreed. “Ellie’s turned my phone on silent a few times because it rings at all the wrong moments.”

Garcia huffed. “But you and Seaver-”

“Were saying goodbye.” Reid clarified.

“Wait, Garcia,” Seaver was trying not to laugh. “Did you think Reid and I were sleeping together?”

“Don’t say it so loudly and you won’t have rumors like that flying around.” said Rossi as he passed by. “JJ’s official start date is tomorrow. Anybody up for a few rounds tonight?”

Garcia and Seaver immediately volunteered.

“Sorry, guys. I promised Emma a movie night.” Reid said.

“And Ellie and I are invited.” Morgan added.

“Jack and Hotch are coming, too. Paisley has plans so it’ll just be us and our kids.”

“Oh, a single-dad’s convention,” Garcia commented. “Have fun, boys.”

And they did. Ellie, Emma and Jack chose Despicable Me and Tangled, the latter of which Jack fell asleep during. At the end of the second movie, Hotch had to carry his son to the car, and Morgan and Ellie stayed much later.

It was a weekend, so the girls went upstairs talking and giggling, while Morgan and Reid sat in the living room, discussing one of the few things they had in common: Kurt Vonnegut.

Eventually, the noises upstairs quieted down, signifying that the girls had gone to sleep. Their fathers continued talking until they, too, fell asleep on the couch.


A shrill but familiar ringing startled Reid awake the next morning. He groaned as he tried moving his head. Why did his neck ache? And why was it so hot in his room? His phone continued to ring, somewhere in the distance, and he opened his eyes.

It was then that he noticed he was not in his room. Somehow, he’d fallen asleep on the couch. He tried to sit up, but something held him down.

“It’s too early, babe, sleep a little longer.” said a deep, sultry voice. Two strong arms wrapped around him, pushing his shirt up.

“Well, I would, Derek, but that sounds like your ‘baby girl’ summoning us, so unless you want her to send Hotch here, and for him to find you groping me, I suggest letting me go answer my phone.”

Morgan jerked awake as he began speaking and slowly processed what he said.

“Shit.”

Reid felt Morgan release him and jumped up, running to his still-ringing phone.

“Hello?”

“Jesus, Reid, did she tie you to a chair this time? That was the fifth time I called you.”

For once, Reid decided to have a little fun. “No, actually, Derek doesn’t really like bondage. He prefers holding me down with his hands.”

Reid grinned at Morgan’s horrified look.

“Oh. My. God. Put me on speaker.”

Reid did as we was told.

“Listen, baby girl, do not believe anything he tells you, understand?” Morgan said quickly, trying to salvage what little dignity he had left.

“Derek, I have no idea what you did to Reid, but I’m going to squeeze every last juicy detail from him about it. Now, both of you, find a babysitter and get your asses over here pronto. We have a major case.” With that, Garcia hung up.

Morgan looked Reid up and down. “Well played, Pretty Boy. But it’s not over.”

Reid smiled, and followed Morgan upstairs, where they would have to say goodbye to their daughters.


The case was fairly cut and dry, and Reid found himself back at the BAU, finishing paperwork and wishing he were at home with Emma.

“Hey, Pretty Boy, you alright?” Morgan asked, appearing behind him and wrapping an arm around his shoulder.

“Yeah… just tired.” In reality, Reid was in the middle of a blinding headache, but he’d learned to hide his pain well.

Morgan slid his hand down Reid’s arm and leaned his face closer to Reid’s. “Hmm… sounds like someone needs a break.”

“Morgan, can I help you?” Reid asked, somewhat uncomfortable. “Or is this your revenge for my comment to Garcia on the phone?”

“Trust me, Pretty Boy,” Morgan whispered into his ear. “My revenge for that will be far worse than a little uncomfortable proximity.”

Reid smirked. “How about a wager?”

“You mean continue to make Garcia believe we’re in a relationship?” Morgan asked.

“And whoever can keep it going the longest wins. First one to tell her it’s not real loses.” Reid suggested.

“Interesting. What does the winner get?”

“Hmm… I don’t know,” Reid said. “Maybe we should have a referee?”

“I’ll volunteer for that.” said Rossi, passing by. “What do you need a referee for?”

Morgan stood up straight. “Spencer and I have a bet.”

They quickly explained the situation and parameters.

Rossi was on board. “Alright, how about this: The loser has to do something he hates or has sworn he would never do, and the winner decides what that should be.”

Morgan had a mischievous smile. He reached out and wrapped an arm around Reid’s waist. Though he hid it well, Morgan could see the fear in the doctor’s eyes.

“Oh, this is gonna be fun.” Morgan said into Reid’s ear.

Reid grinned. “It’ll definitely be interesting.”


“I cannot believe you two!” Garcia stomped her four-inch heeled foot indignantly. “I seriously thought it was real!”

Reid stared down at his hands, unable to meet the eyes of his coworkers.

Morgan was apologetic. “Baby girl, we didn’t think you’d be so upset. It was a joke, and to be honest, I didn’t think we were that good at acting.”

Garcia scoffed. “I’m not a profiler, Derek! And to be honest, I’ve always thought that you two secretly had feelings for each other and you were both just too afraid to show it!”

“Wait, you ship Reid and Morgan?” JJ asked, shocked.

“You don’t?” Garcia asked. “Anyway, that’s not the point. What you two did was not nice and I’m very upset about it, and it’s NOT FUNNY ROSSI!”

Rossi sat in the back of the roundtable room, barely holding in his laughter.

“In my defense, it was Reid’s idea.” Morgan said.

Reid’s face was full of betrayal. “You agreed to it! And you’re the one who took it too far!”

“Yes, that’s true,” Rossi intervened. “And, as the referee to your little bet, I say you’re both equally guilty of pulling on Garcia’s heartstrings.”

“But if you’re the ref, doesn’t that make you just as guilty?” Hotch asked.

Rossi suddenly regretted opening his mouth.

Garcia huffed. “Exactly. All three of you! I can’t believe you would do this to me. I was already planning your wedding, and then you rip my heart out?”

Reid looked terrified. “Wedding?”

“I sure hope Ellie and Emma didn’t fall for this, too.” JJ added.

“We, uh, kept it to work only.” Reid explained.

“Right, because the whole point was to fool me into thinking you two were a couple.” Garcia said.

“When you say it that way, it sounds really bad.” Morgan said. “We didn’t do it to be mean.”

“Well, it was.” Garcia said.

JJ decided to intervene. “Look, obviously, this was just a prank that went way too far. Could we all just kiss and make up?”

“The kissing has already happened, JJ.” Garcia said. “A lot of kissing.”

“Oh, come on, Baby Girl.” Morgan said. “It was just a peck.”

“You kissed Reid, Morgan! That is like… like…”

Everyone was quiet for a moment.

“Oh my God…” Garcia finally said. “Reid, was that your first kiss?”

Reid gave her an odd look. “Um… no?”

“Oh, good.” Garcia said. “Not that I think Derek would be a bad kisser… but I doubt you'd want him to be your first. Now, I have one question for you both.”

The two of them tensed under her gaze.

“Did the two of you plan on kissing each other?”

Reid shook his head slowly, and everyone turned to Morgan.

Morgan glanced at each of them and sighed. “Fine. Reid, I am sorry if I surprised you or made you feel uncomfortable in any way when I kissed you. You’re a great person, but I was acting as part of the prank.”

“Thanks, I appreciate it…” Reid said. “But I think everyone else was more upset that I was.”

Garcia huffed, and regained her composure. “Anyways, because I love you, and you’re both like brothers to me, I forgive you for playing that prank on me.”

Reid breathed a sigh of relief. Derek smiled, and stood up to hug her.

“I’m glad this is finally settled,” Hotch said.

“Not quite,” Garcia said. “According to Rossi, the loser of your bet has to do something the winner chose. So who lost?”

Morgan and Reid looked at each other, and then to their referee, Rossi.

Rossi thought for a moment. “Well, Reid did pull away from the kiss first, but Morgan did do it without permission…”

“So it’s a tie, then?” asked Morgan.

“I’d say you both lost.” Hotch said.

“Which means…”

“Morgan is watching an entire season of Doctor Who,” Reid said.

“And Reid is going to use a drill to help me flip the house I’m working on,” Morgan said.

“Wait, what?” cried Reid. “You didn’t say anything about power tools.”

“And you didn’t say it was an entire season.” Morgan said. “You know how many total hours that would be?”

Reid opened his mouth.

“Rhetorical question!” Morgan cried. “Don’t answer it.”

Hotch stood and gave them all a serious look. “In the future, I would prefer we didn’t have this sort of conversation. Is that understood?”

There were five affirmatives.

“Good. Dismissed.”

Chapter Text

“Want to kill me yourself, agent?” The Irishman asked, hands in the air, though he could simply jump off the roof. He valued his life.

Morgan glared at him, his gun raised, but he didn’t fire. “Ever thought that I don’t actually want you dead?”

“That’s hard to believe,” Doyle drawled, as Morgan moved closer. “But I suppose I can empathize. I never wanted Emily dead.”

“You have the right to remain silent.” Morgan said, handcuffing him and beginning the Miranda rights.

Ian Doyle chuckled. “Never thought I’d hear that, either.”


“And how long have you been back with the Bureau?” asked the Senator in the center of the long table.

“Three and a half months, sir.” JJ replied. She thought it was a little overkill to use the giant room, full of empty seats, for the hearing, but politicians loved to be dramatic.

“A lot has happened since then,” said the Senator. “Sabbaticals, transfers, reassignments. Four of you remained in the unit?”

JJ nodded. “Agents Rossi, Morgan and I were there with our technical analyst, Penelope Garcia.”

“Hmm… You had 14 cases in that time.”

“16, sir.”

“Ah, yes, in 14 weeks. That’s impressive.”

“Thank you.”

“But what’s more impressive is the fact that you were reinstated, promoted, and suspended in that short time. I believe that’s a record, Agent Jareau.”


“Did you trust Agent Jareau?” asked the Senator.

“I did.” Morgan said, taking his turn before the Senate Committee.

“But don’t anymore.”

“I didn’t say that.”

“You left her out, but involved Penelope Garcia, whom you trust.”

“That is not why.” Morgan assured him.

“Isn’t it?”

“Her specific skills were very helpful.”

“For your vendetta.”

Morgan forced himself to stay calm. As a profiler, he knew the senator was just trying to get under his skin. “For justice.”

“You don’t believe in the system?”

“Ian Doyle wasn’t at the top of anyone’s list, Senator.”

“Except yours.”


-Two weeks earlier-

Morgan sat outside the school yard in his car, watching Declan talk to his friends.

In an effort to track down Ian Doyle, they’d found Declan, and learned a bit about Emily as well.

Everything she did, she did to protect Declan, both from his father and his father’s enemies, including moving to D.C. to be close to him.
She’d placed him in a house in Reston, Virginia with his nanny as his adopted mother. Declan was well-adjusted and attending a boarding school in Strafford County. An honors student, playing lacrosse, winning science fairs.

But Morgan didn’t stop once he’d located Declan. He couldn’t.


“You watched Declan for two months,” the Senator said, though it sounded like a question.

Morgan nodded. “I knew if I could find him, it was only a matter of time before Doyle did.”

“Around-the-clock surveillance requires constant presence,” said the Senator.

“When I wasn’t in the field, I was there.”

“And when you were on a case?”

“I set up pole cameras for surveillance.”

“Under what authority, Agent?” asked the Senator, obviously angry.

“Senator, I needed to protect this child, because I knew Doyle would find him eventually.”

“And what was the plan once you found Ian Doyle?”

“Lock down security on his son and then move in on Doyle.”


As expected, Doyle did eventually show up, and Morgan called Hotch, who was on temporary duty. When the team downsized, he was sent to Pakistan on an investigation.

Though Hotch had not authorized Morgan’s actions, he agreed that Declan needed to be safe.

“Morgan, it could be a trap. You make sure you have eyes on Doyle.”

“And if it is him?”

“Then you take the shot.”


“Spencer, you’re far too skinny,” Diana said, her voice hoarse from the flu she was getting over. “You really need to eat more.

Paisley laughed. “He eats all the time, but he never gains weight. And Emma’s just like him.”

Diana lifted a spoonful of soup to her lips. “Sometimes I wonder if she’s secretly his biological daughter.”

“I’m pretty sure she isn’t.” Reid said, glancing at his daughter, who was fast asleep next to his mother after their flight to Las Vegas. He wished he could fall asleep, too, but his head was killing him. “She’s definitely adopted.”

“Either way, you two are medical marvels.” Paisley pointed out. “For example, the other day, you -”

The ringing of Reid’s cell phone silenced Paisley and abruptly woke Emma from her nap.

“No!” Emma whined. “We just got here!”

Reid sighed, answering his phone. “Morgan? You do know I’m on vacation, right?”

Paisley, Emma, and Diana watched as Reid’s expression changed from annoyed to intrigued to determined.

“I’ll be on the next flight. Don’t do anything Hotch wouldn’t do.” Reid stood and immediately started packing. “Mom, Em, Paisley… I’m sorry, but one of our old cases has come up and the team needs me.”

“It’s about Emily isn’t it?”

Reid turned to his daughter, unsure what to say.

“I heard Doyle’s name,” Emma said. “He’s the man who killed Emily, right? Is Derek going to kill him?”

Reid knelt beside his daughter so that he was eye level with her. “Emma, I know you miss her, and Doyle is the one who killed her, but killing him is not going to bring Emily back.”

“Then what’s going to happen?”

“I don’t know, Butterfly.” Reid said honestly. “What I do know is Emily gave her life to protect Declan Doyle, and the best way to honor her is to continue what she started.”

“Protecting Declan?” Emma asked. She knew who he was, having overheard many conversations between her father and the rest of the team.

Reid nodded and kissed her on the cheek.

“Okay, Daddy. Go save him.”


Reid and Rossi entered Declan’s house silently, flashlights and guns leveled in front of them. As Rossi searched downstairs, Reid steadily made his way upstairs.

He soon discovered the body of one of the two agents they’d sent there.

Rossi appeared behind him, his silence telling Reid all he needed to know of the fate of their other agent.

“I’ll check the back, you take the hallway.” Rossi said.

Reid did, opening a closet and backing away as a woman fell to the floor.

Reid checked her pulse as Rossi returned from the back rooms. “Must be the nanny.”

“Three bodies and no kid,” Rossi said. “Doyle’s got him.”


“Why didn’t you let him take the shot, agent?” asked the Senator. “Because a bullet to Ian Doyle’s brain would have ended his life too easily? You wanted him to suffer.”

“He deserved the same beating he gave Prentiss, but I did not unleash that on him, Senator.” Morgan pointed out.

“No, you didn’t.” The Senator agreed. “Instead, your actions put an innocent child’s life on the line.”


Morgan stared Doyle down as he was forced into a chair in the interview room.

“Forgotten where I’ve been, Agent?” Doyle asked, bemused. “Places far worse than this.”

“Doyle, where’s Declan?” Morgan asked.

“Don’t play dumb.” Doyle said. “You found him a month before I did. He’s living in that lovely little house our friend set up for him.”

Doyle smiled, as though picturing an old memory. “I should have found him sooner. Finally remembered she likes cul-de-sacs.”

“Where is Declan right now?” asked Morgan. “You expect me to believe you had nothing to do with his abduction?”

“And you expect me to believe this isn’t part of the strategy?” Doyle said with a grin. “You tell me my son is missing when I know he was safe a few hours ago? You’ll have to get more creative.”

Morgan sat down in the chair across from him and met his eyes. “Listen to me, you son of a bitch! I am not playing games with you! If you care about anybody other than yourself, you give me a list of who would have done this.”

Realizing Morgan wasn’t playing him, Doyle’s expression broke. “Why would anyone take Declan?”

“You tell me.”

“No one even knows he exists.” Doyle assured him.

“Someone does.”

Chapter Text

“Welcome back, sir.” Penelope greeted Hotch, though he didn’t exactly look like Hotch.

He looked a little thinner, probably from eating rations for the past several weeks. His face, though gaunt, was covered by untamed facial hair, and his jeans, t-shirt and unbuttoned navy blue top were a stark contrast to his usual pressed suit and sit.

He looked more like a mechanic than an FBI agent.

“Thank you,” Hotch said. “What have you got?”

Garcia held out a thin file. “Uh, top ten list of Doyle’s enemies.”

“Anybody recently in the States?”

“Richard Gerace’s been here a few weeks. He’s a low-level gunrunner who angrily crossed paths with Doyle,” Garcia explained. “I caught an image of him on a surveillance camera at Declan’s house. Confirmed it was him through a scar on his neck.”

“All right, get me everything you have on Gerace.”

“Yeah, what I’ve just told you is everything I’ve got,” Garcia said apologetically.

Hotch didn’t look upset with her. His face was full of determination.


Rossi was the only one daring enough to mention Hotch’s appearance.

“Well, that’s a good look,” he commented as Hotch arrived in the viewing room, not long after Strauss had left. “How was the desert?”

“Hot.”

“Have you seen Jack yet?”

“No, Jessica took him to Hershey Park for the weekend,” Hotch replied, sending a message on his phone.

“Well, he’ll love that beard.”

Hotch smiled. “Yeah, we Skyped everyday. He’s not a fan.”


Morgan, JJ, and Rossi filed into the round table room. Garcia and Reid were already there.

“You getting anywhere with Doyle?” Reid asked.

“Doyle doesn’t think Gerace has the guts to take him on.” Morgan said.

“But that’s definitely Gerace on the tape.” Garcia said.

Hotch joined them then.

“Welcome back,” Morgan said.

Hotch answered distractedly. “Thanks, everybody have a seat.”

“Why?” Morgan asked as everybody else moved to a chair. “What’s going on? Everything alright?”

“Seven months ago, I made a decision that affected this team.” Hotch began.

He knew there was nothing he could say that would make this any better, so he decided to stick to the facts.

“As you all know, Emily lost a lot of blood after her fight with Doyle.” Hotch continued. “But the doctors were able to stabilize her and she was airlifted from Boston to Bethesda under covert exfiltration. Her identity was strictly need-to-know. And she stayed there until she was well enough to travel.”

Hotch tried his best to meet the eyes of each of his team, but the broken faces of Reid and Garcia, and the angry one of Morgan, made it very hard.

“She was reassigned to Paris where she was given several identities, none of which we had access to, for her security.”

“She’s alive?” Garcia asked, tears in her eyes.

Reid’s mind was trying to process his emotions. “But we buried her.”

“As I said, I take full responsibility for the decision,” Hotch said, hoping to spare JJ. “If anyone has any issues, they should be directed toward me.”

“Any issues?” Morgan asked. “Yeah, I got issues.”

The sound of familiar footsteps turned their attention from Morgan possibly about to dropkick Hotch to the doorway.

There stood Emily Prentiss, alive and well.

“Oh my God,” Garcia managed to say.

“I am so sorry.” Prentiss apologized, embracing Reid, who was trying his best to hold in the tears. “I really am. Not a day went by that I didn’t want to…” She took Garcia’s hands and the analyst gave her a tearful smile.

Then she turned to Morgan, who seemed unable to say anything. “Really, I… You didn’t deserve that, and I am so sorry.” Morgan finally returned her embrace. “There is so much i want to tell you guys, and I will, I promise, but right now, I really need to know what’s going on with Declan.”

Reid jumped into action, eager to get his mind off his emotions. “Emily, was there a man living at the house?”

“Yes, my friend Tom Koehler.” Prentiss replied. “He was raising Declan as his own.”

“Where is he?” JJ asked.

“I never saw him go in or out of that house.” Garcia said.

“Uh, he was on assignment overseas.” Prentiss explained.

“But he’s all right?” JJ asked.

“Yes, he’s on his way back now. He got a call from Declan, he called me, and when I landed, Hotch told me that you had Doyle in custody.”

“And because of Tom’s line of work, that’s why you enrolled Declan in a boarding school.” said Hotch.

“I made sure that he, Louise, and I were the only ones allowed to take him off campus.” Prentiss said.

“Louise took him home last night because he was sick.” Reid said.

“Food poisoning.” Hotch said.

“Yeah, a few of the kids had it, apparently, so whoever did this got to him on campus,” Reid added. “They knew they only had one chance.”


It didn’t take them long to figure out who Gerace was working with, or rather, taking orders from.

Chloe Donaghy, the woman who had given birth to Declan. She’d tried to have an abortion, because she’d rather die than have Doyle’s child. Doyle retaliated by holding her captive until Declan was born, and paying her for her troubles.

Donaghy had spent all these years plotting her revenge. With Emily gone and Koehler overseas, she saw her opening.

Tainting a tray of cupcakes and giving them to Declan’s class was easy. Declan got food poisoning and went home with Louise, his nanny.

Enlisting Gerace’s help, the two of them posed as FBI agents and approached the house. They pretended to be the next shift, and, once in, overpowered the two real agents and killed Louise, stuffing her in a closet, as she had helped deliver what Donaghy considered the cursed child.

Then they took Declan to a warehouse owned by Lachlan McDermott, an old enemy of Doyle.

The team arrived at the warehouse too late, as Donaghy and McDermott had already taken Declan, leaving Gerace’s dead body behind.


“You’re the one who suggested Ian Doyle be released.” said the Senator.

It was Reid’s turn to be interrogated. “I am.”

“And you’re the only agent who has not requested reinstatement to the unit.”

“Mm-hmm.”

“Was the decision to release Ian Doyle a personal one?”

Reid leaned forward. “A young boy’s life was at stake. I ran the probability of his survival, and it wasn’t good. If you want to punish me for taking a risk, then I encourage you to do that, but do not put the rest of my team on trial for something that I suggested.”

“Calm down, Agent.”

“This is calm, and it’s ‘Doctor’.”


“Lachlan McDermott and Chloe Donaghy, this is the FBI.” Hotch said into the megaphone. “We know you have Declan. To ensure his safety, we would like to trade. We will give you Ian Doyle, and you send us the boy.”

There was silence for a moment, followed by a gunshot. Then the stairs of the plane lowered and McDermott appeared, holding a gun to Declan’s head.

“Bring Doyle here.” McDermott ordered. “I want him here on his knees.”

“Hotch, are we really gonna do this?” Morgan said on the radio.

“No one leaves here.” Hotch ordered.

As McDermott taunted Doyle, Reid noticed movement on the plane. “Gun!”

Several shots were fired from both sides. Reid shot Donaghy down, McDermott shot Doyle in the neck, and several bullets took McDermott.

Somehow, Declan ended up with nothing more than a few scratches.

As his father lay dying before him, Declan reached out and took his hand. “I remember you.”

“Sorry, son.” Doyle said, finally letting go. His head slumped to the ground and he didn’t move again.


“This team took many unprecedented risks.” The Senator said.

The entire team, including Prentiss, was gathered in the hearing room now.

The Senator continued. “None were approved. The DIOG has rules, and you chose to ignore every last one. That’s blatant disrespect to the Bureau, and to the authority of law in general. What I find interesting is that you are the experts in behavior, but find nothing wrong with yours.”

“May I?” Prentiss interrupted. “The journey was not traditional, but this team neutralized four international criminals and saved the life of a young boy in the process.”

The Senator didn’t seem to care. “You started a war with Ian Doyle, years ago, that this team and the US government had to finish. The rest of you are dismissed. Agent Prentiss, we’re not done.”


Rossi joined Prentiss at the memorial wall, where hers and many other photos of lost agents were displayed.

“I never thought we’d be taking one of those down.” Rossi said, reaching out to take it down.

“I already tried - it’s screwed in.” Prentiss pointed out.

“You’re kidding me.” Rossi pulled again, to no avail.

Garcia appeared around the corner and held up a screwdriver. “I got this.”

Rossi took it, and set to work.

“I also have Sergio.”

“Aw, I knew you would.” cried Prentiss, happily.

“I need visitation rights.”

“He’s a love, isn’t he?”

“Yeah, he takes after his mom.”

The rest of the team gathered around as Rossi finally got the frame off the wall. Strauss appeared then, and said simply, “We need to talk.”

They followed her into the round table room.

“The committee made it clear they will not support a rogue team,” she began. “Agent Prentiss convinced them you were not that. They will be watching you closely so I suggest you play by their rules.”

“So we’re okay?” Garcia asked.

“Suspension is lifted for everyone.”

“Thank you, ma’am.” said JJ.

“There may be more paperwork considering your… situation,” she went on, “but the team is lucky to have you, if you’re interested.”

“May I think about it?” Prentiss asked.

“Of course.”

It didn’t take her very long. “I’m in.”

Chapter Text

“Daddy!” Emma cried as she climbed into the backseat of the car. Paisley loaded their luggage into the trunk and then took the passenger seat next to Reid.

“Hey, Butterfly. How was your flight?”

“It was alright. We had plenty of stuff to pass the time.” Paisley said. “Someone is very hungry though.”

On cue, Reid heard a quiet rumble in the backseat. “We’ll have to fix that, then.”

“Are you okay, Spencer?” Paisley asked. “You look… distracted.”

Knowing Emma was listening in the back, Reid sighed. “We’ll talk about it when we get home. McDonald’s sound good?”


“Dad?” A little boy’s voice called from the living room. “Dad, are you here?”

“In my bathroom, Jack.” Hotch answered.

Two faces appeared in his mirror behind him.

“Oh, good.” Jack said. “I was afraid you might keep it.”

Hotch laughed and washed the shaving cream off his face. “Razors are a little hard to come by in the desert.”

Hotch turned around and picked Jack up.

“Welcome home, Aaron.” Jessica said to her brother-in-law.

“Thanks, Jess.” Hotch said.

“I’m glad you’re back, Daddy.”

“Me, too, Jack.”


“Ellie? Clooney?” Morgan called, wondering why there was no large dog or girl welcoming him home like usual. The babysitter had just left, a strange smile on her face.

There was no reply, so Morgan instinctively reached for his gun, and searched each room carefully. Finally, he opened the door to his room and found two lumps underneath his blanket.

He scanned the room, lowered his gun but didn’t holster it. Instead he slowly reached for the blanket.

“Boo!” cried Ellie, flipping the blanket off herself and Clooney.

Morgan jumped back, and quickly holstered his gun before he accidentally fired it.

“What the hell, Ellie?” Morgan cried, petting Clooney. “You nearly gave me a heart attack.”

“Language, Derek.” Ellie corrected him. “And you’re supposed to be a big bad FBI agent, but you’re scared by a little girl?”

“A big, bad FBI agent with a gun.”

Ellie rolled her eyes. “Oh, come on, Derek. You love pranks. Was your case a bad one or something?”

“Actually that’s what I wanted to talk about.”

Ellie gave him an odd look. “About your case?”

“Sort of. Come on, let’s go to the living room.”


“Spence, look, we’ve got to talk about this.” JJ said, cornering him in the police department. They were working on a case in Oklahoma, looking for a serial killer who was using sulfuric acid to maim his victims.

“What do you mean, talk about it?” Reid asked, his eyes on the file he was reading.

“I get it, okay? You’re disappointed with the way we handled Emily.”

“Well, I have a lot going on, all right?”

JJ decided to go on the offense. “You know what I think it is?”

“What?”

“You’re mad that Hotch and I controlled our micro expressions at the hospital, and you weren’t able to detect our deception.”

“You think this is about my profiling skills?” Reid snapped. “Jennifer, listen, the only reason you were able to manage my perceptions is because I trusted you. I came to your house for ten weeks in a row crying over losing a friend, and not once did you have the decency to tell me the truth.”

“I couldn’t.” JJ said.

Reid didn’t believe her. “You couldn’t, or you wouldn’t?”

JJ’s eyes pleaded with him. “No, I couldn’t.”

“What if I started taking dilaudid again, would you have let me?”

She looked taken aback.

“You didn’t.”

“No, but I thought about it.” Reid started to walk away.

“Spence, I’m sorry.”

“It’s too late, all right?” And then he was gone.


“Cooking is the most sensual art form.” Rossi said at his house the next day. JJ, Prentiss, Morgan, Hotch and Garcia were gathered around his kitchen island. “And these are my paints.”

“So your hands must be brushes.” Garcia concluded.

“Don’t interrupt.” Rossi said. “In a pot of boiling water, we cook our spaghetti until it’s al dente - firm to the touch.”

They passed the pasta around so they could all feel the texture.

“Now, in a large pan, we fry up our pancetta, keeping a sharp eye that the edges are crisp.”

“But careful not to burn the onions.” Hotch added.

“Bravo, Aaron!” Rossi praised. “We saute until translucent.”

The doorbell rang just then.

“I got it.” Morgan offered.

“Grazie Mille!” Rossi said, continuing his lesson. He wagged a finger at JJ. “Uh-uh-uh!”

JJ froze, her glass of wine halfway to her lips, and lowered it.

“Now we mix in the eggs, the parmesan, the spaghetti and parsley.” Rossi added the ingredients. “You see, it’s all about timing and rhythm. And if you don’t feel yourself doing it properly, please order a pizza.”

“Sorry I’m late.” Reid said, following Morgan in.

“Yeah, and this is why I cook alone.” Rossi said, still mixing his spaghetti and toppings together.

JJ looked at Reid nervously, but he smiled at her. She grinned in return, happy to have her best friend back. She wasn’t sure what Prentiss had said to him on the plane ride home, but she was eternally grateful.

“So, um, when do we get to drink the wine?” asked Prentiss.

“Almost there. Okay, we start at the beginning. You eat what you cook.” Rossi explained. “I’ll supervise, but we’re gonna do this all together, just like a family.”

They raised their glasses, crying “Salute!” and clicked them together.

Chapter Text

Reid and JJ were back in the swing of things, this time profiling a bomber who had killed the principal of North Valley High School, where, ten years ago, Randy Slade had set off a bomb, killing himself and thirteen others.

JJ was thinking aloud. “So, the UnSub has to be tied to the school somehow, right? Current student, alumni, family member who lost someone?”

“Could be a Slade groupie celebrating his hero,” said Reid. “He taped nails to the exterior of the bomb, specifically to rip open flesh. That’s a sadistic detail of Slade’s the UnSub copied.”

“Except he tricked Givens into blowing himself up,” JJ countered. “A groupie probably wouldn’t show that much self-control.”

“Someone with an ax to grind against the principal would. Maybe he’s a surrogate for the tormentors in high school he can’t punish,” Reid said. “Who were yours?”

JJ pursed her lips. “I don’t even remember.”

“You don’t even remember?” Reid repeated. “Wait, were you one of the mean girls?”

JJ scoffed. “No!”

“Valedictorian, soccer scholarship, corn-fed, but still a size zero,” Reid listed. “I think that you might have been a mean girl.”

“I was actually one of the nice girls,” JJ said. “Even to guys like you.”

“Guys like me?” asked Reid. “I’ll have you know that my social standing increased once I started winning at basketball.”

JJ obviously didn’t believe him. “Oh, yeah, you played basketball?”

“No, I didn’t play. I coached basketball.” Reid explained. “I broke down the opposing team’s shooting strategy.”

“Is that why Morgan kicked you out of the pool last week?”

“Yeah, it took him three rounds to realize I was hustling him.”


Morgan and Rossi took care of the media while Prentiss and Hotch talked to the parents of Slade. Morgan decided to make things a little more interesting for the BAU’s resident genius.

“All right, feel free to call me if you have any other background questions,” Morgan said. “My phone number is 702-555-0103.”

“What’s your name, sir?” one of them asked.

“Uh, it’s Dr. Spencer Reid. R-E-I-D.”


Reid had stopped answering the unknown I.D. calls several hours ago, but the constant ringing was getting on his nerves.

“Does every person with asymbolia have this?” Hotch asked.

“Actually, most feel empathy just fine, which makes me think the rest of our profile is still accurate. Loner, invisible, outcast, boiling rage- son of bitch!” He pulled out his phone and answered. “Hi, this is Dr. Spencer reid. I actually can come to the phone right now, with a very special message that your mother is a-”

“Reid.”

“Sorry,” Reid said, hanging up. “I’m really sorry, I don’t know what got into me. Where were we?”

“I’m going to have Garcia check medical records,” said Hotch. “What causes asymbolia?”

Reid glanced at Rossi and Morgan. Rossi was ready to hear Reid’s explanation, but Morgan was looking down.

“Severe trauma produces lesions in the insular cortex, usually after a stroke,” Reid explained. “But this UnSub’s so young, it’s most likely caused by an external factor.”

“Like a bomb going off next to him?” asked Rossi.

Reid stared at Morgan. “Yeah, like a bomb going off next to him.”

Hotch took the information and walked away.

Reid leaned down to gather his files. “I will crush you.”

“What?” Morgan asked.

“What?” Reid replied, walking away.


Morgan leaned back in his seat, finally relaxing after the case, headphones over his ears, and his favorite playlist going.

Beep. “We interrupt your regularly scheduled musical selection with an important announcement: Never wage a practical joke war against an MIT graduate because we have a history of going nuclear. Now, sit back, relax, and enjoy the dulcet sounds of me screaming in your ear.”

Reid screaming in his ear was an incredible sound, but it was quite loud, and he had to yank his headphones off.

“Okay, kid, that was cute,” Morgan said. “But that’s all you got?”

Reid snored in front of him, pretending to be asleep.

His phone rang and Morgan answered. “Hey, baby g-” He immediately jerked his head away as the sound of Reid’s screams began again.

“All right, Reid, it’s on,” Morgan said. “Just know that paybacks are a bitch.”

Reid snored in response.


“Can we watch it again, Daddy?”

Reid chuckled as they left the theater they’d seen Puss in Boots in. “One time isn’t good enough?”

Emma crossed her arms. “Not everyone has eidetic memory, you know.”

Adam laughed. “She’s got a point, Spencer. Tell you, what, Em. The DVD comes out around your birthday, so if you really liked it that much…”

Emma gasped. “Yes, yes, yes! That would be awesome. We watch it in theaters on Daddy’s birthday, and then in our living room on mine!”

“It’s my birthday, too, you know.” Adam pointed out.

“I know that! That’s why I came up with the rule that you pick the movie, and Daddy picks the restaurant.”

“What if I wanted to pick the movie?” Reid asked.

“You don’t exactly have good taste in movies.” Emma pointed out.

“Because that’s what you tell people on their birthday.” Reid said.

Emma gave him innocent eyes. “You told me to always be honest, Daddy.”

A couple nearby heard her and giggled. Reid grinned. “I did, didn’t I? So, I suppose that means you admit to eating the last of the ice cream?”

Emma pursed her lips. “You’re lactose-intolerant, Daddy. I don’t know why you’re complaining. I sacrificed myself for you by eating that ice cream.”

“Oh, really?” Reid couldn’t help but smile as they climbed into the car.

“Where to, Spencer?” Adam asked.

“Rasika, of course.” Reid said.

Emma cheered in the backseat. “Yes! I love Indian food!”