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hate (is only one of many responses).

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When Spencer first wakes up, he’s disoriented by the shrill ringing of his cell. He groans, reaching out and bringing it to his ear, all with his eyes still closed.

“Reid, what hotel room are you in?”

“Morgan,” he mumbles, “I’m in Las Vegas.”

“I know, at the Marriott by your mom’s. Kid, I’ll ask you again, what room are you in?” Morgan sighs simply, and he can tell from the rustling in the background that he’s moving.

“I’m in room eighty nine on floor six,” he says around a yawn, hanging up and setting down his phone as he snuggles back against the pillows beneath his head.

He’s jolted awake by a hand on his shoulder and he whips around to look at Morgan who has his fingers pointed like a gun.

“You know, for a kid who grew up and Las Vegas and works for the FBI you sure don’t put much protection into how easily someone could break into your room,” He scolds, flopping down on the space that Reid doesn’t occupy.

“Why are you here?” He brings his hands up to  his eyes, rubbing them roughly, and then returns his attention to Morgan.

“Everyone waiting for you downstairs, that was the third time I called you. Kids from your high school are disappearing and the cop is certain he knows who it is but he won’t tell us until we get there,” Morgan pats his shoulder, “Emily even has a bagel with your name on it, be down in ten.”

“Deal,” Reid grumbles, “now get out.”

“Touchy,” Morgan chuckles as Reid forcefully shoves him off the bed.

Keeping true to his assurance, Reid shoves himself into some slacks and a sweater, meeting them in the lobby where JJ hands him his badge and gun, “I also grabbed your go bag, you can get it later.”

Emily, as promised, hands him the bagel and he munches on it as they drive to the precinct, “You awake yet?”

No,” Reid complains through a groan, “I didn’t land until two, and I didn’t even get a coffee before I left.”

“After this briefing we can go grab coffee, okay?” JJ reasons, as if talking to a small child.

Spencer is not above being childish when it comes to his daily caffeine fix, so he simply utters, “Fine.”

They step out of the car at the precinct, and Spencer’s walking right next to Morgan as the older agent gives him a brief rundown of what’s been going on before he sees the physical case report.

The cops stare at the group as they walk past— but more specifically, they look at Spencer— who becomes increasingly unsettled in knowing that he recognises some of these people.

They finally find the the police chief, who is leaning over a desk as he points at spots on a map.

“Captain McCormick?” Morgan asks, and Spencer’s body turns rigid as he prays to God that it’s not who he thinks it is.

But when Sean McCormick turns around, it only takes one look at Spencer for him to hurl a punch at him, cuffing him as Spencer’s lip bleeds onto the tile below.

Spencer can barely process anything that’s happened, hoisted off the ground by the shackles around his wrists. He gasps at the pain, and it seems that it’s this noise that draws his team from their stupor.

“How did you get him so fast?” Sean questions, but when he looks up from Spencer, the team all has hands rested on their guns.

“You know it’s a class D felony to physically assault a federal agent, right?” Spencer blurts, looking at Sean with confused eyes.

“What do you mean?” Sean hisses, “You’re the one that’s been kidnapping all of our senior class.”

If he wasn’t confused before, he certainly is now. Spencer takes advantage of McCormicks loose hold pulling back from the precinct captain and stepping towards his team who immediately step in front of him.

Sean,” Spencer states, “I was in Virginia until early this morning. What are you talking about?”

“Likely story,” He snorts, glancing between the BAU team members, and his smile drops as he realises they don’t seem to get what’s so funny.

JJ takes the keys from his hand, freeing Spencer’s wrists from the restraints before handing them back to him.

“You just assaulted a federal officer who has record of his flights,” Rossi gestures wildly, “What evidence could you possibly have that would make you think Spencer did this?”

And it’s then that Spencer catches a glance of the case file and his jaw slacks, “You think that because you guys tied me to more flagpoles than I can count that I would murder all of you?”

As if it hadn’t been before, the tension becomes far more dense, and McCormick can’t seem to meet his eyes, while everyone’s are a focused on Spencer and his still bleeding lip.

JJ reaches to the side, grabbing a tissue for him. He takes it with a soft word of thanks, cleaning the blood from his lip and chin.

“I thought you were a genius?” McCormick tries to lighten the mood terribly, but upon swing Reid’s confused looks he clarifies, “you said we tied you to more flagpoles than you could count.”

“forty seven.” Spencer rolls his eyes, before sending Sean a pointed look, “it was forty seven but I didn’t want to tell your precinct that you bullied a kid who was seven years younger than you.”

Spencer lips pull into a tight line and Morgan has to bite back a grin at the snarky smirk that the kid is shooting at the officer. He never thought he’d see the day when Reid was actually acting out. He doesn’t blame him though, the second that officer punched Reid in the face he wanted to return the favour.

“Could you have one of your officers show us to a cleared room so we can make a board?” Hotch asks, and turns to look at Reid and JJ, “You two go get some coffee, we’re going to have to start from scratch because it looks like the prime suspect didn’t seem to pan out too well.”

Reid snorts at the remark, turning with JJ as they leave the precinct.

 

 

“So they tied you to flag poles?” JJ sighs, looking at Reid as they sit at the both near the window.

“Shouldn’t we be getting the other coffees and getting back?” Spencer murmurs, anxiously tapping the table.

“You and I both know that Hotch sent us out until you could at least look me in the eyes,” and Spencer sinks in the chair, letting out a heavy huff.

“I think I blacked out for a second,” He says after a minute, clearly trying to divert the topic, “also I don’t understand what the logic was behind punching me when I was surrounded by federal officers to start.”

“You definitely blacked out, I know because my heart stopped,” she hyperbolises, resting her chin on her hand as she takes a sip of her latte. “but that doesn’t answer my first question.”

“Yeah,” he grumbles, crossing his arms over his chest like a child who isn’t getting his way, “but that was definitely some of their more forgiving antics.”

“Spence,” JJ breathes, eyes softening as he continues rattling off facts from his past.

“They held me in the toilet and flushed it— but only after someone defecated in the bowl, they’d pants me— but they’d take my boxers down too. All of them were pretty big fans of treating me like a punching bag whenever they’d see me. Knock me over in the lunchroom, or pour their lunches onto my lap,” he sighs, “does that give you enough context or do you need me to keep going?”

JJ just shakes her head, bottom lip jutted out— apparently, without realising, “No, Spence. I’m sorry.”

“It’s water under the bridge,” He utters, licking his lips and grabbing a napkin when he tastes blood. “I don’t blame any of them for that— kind of annoyed that after all these years Sean McCormick tried to pin a crime on me for something I wasn’t even here to do— JJ, I don’t think he even looked at any evidence.”

“No,” she confirms, “neither do I. Do you know who it could be?”

“If we go down the path of kids that got treated like I did? Probably about fifteen others, but the problem is it could be anyone from the senior class— maybe even an officer,” Spencer takes a sip of his coffee, pushing his hair back from his eyes, “McCormick could be covering for someone, he was too confident for someone who didn’t have any evidence.”

“I think we should get back,” JJ says, “You get the coffee, and I’ll warm up the car?”

It only takes a simple nod for them to spur into motion.

 

 

Reid walks in, setting the coffees on the table. Emily takes his face in her hands, tipping it from side to side.

“Jesus, Spence,” she grimaces, “you’re already turning black and blue.”

Spencer just sends her a half smile, “I’m fine, Em. I’ve been hit harder.”

“I know, kiddo,” she murmurs grimly, matching the energy of his own grin, “You’re a tough cookie.”

“Okay, you and I both know that being condescending to me hurt more than the punch,” there’s a glint in his eyes that tells her she’s joking, and she lets out a short laugh.

She pats his cheek, which in turn makes him wince imperceptibly before she pulls away, “You’ve had eyes on you since you walked in.”

“I know,” He sighs, turning around only for the gazes to shy away. “I think I’m going to go talk to McCormick.”

Emily nods, “be careful. If he tries to cuff you just holler.”

Spencer’s already halfway out the door, file in hands as he stops in front of McCormick’s desk. The urge to sit on the his desktop just to bother him is incredibly strong, but Spencer is civilised— or so he convinced himself.

“Why did you think it was me?” He questions, not waiting for Sean to look up. “I get the obvious, you bullied me and that creates a lust for revenge but you had nothing. No circumstantial evidence.”

“I’m sorry for punching you,” Sean says, and Spencer can tell it’s not genuine.

Which time?” Spencer fires back before continuing, “You didn’t answer my question: why me?” 

“Your name was at the crime scene,” he growls, slapping down a picture on the table.

Spencer leans over, picking up the picture. He’s right, the Spencer’s first name is written across the wall of the first victims apartment.

“You should know that typically criminals, especially suspects with an IQ of one hundred and eighty seven aren’t usually stupid enough to write their name across the crime scene. I think you just wanted a reason to get one last punch in,” and on that note, Spencer turns on his heels, disappearing down the hall.

He slaps the picture down on the table, running his hands over his face when the team looks up at him.

“He thought that I was the Unsub because someone wrote my name on the wall of Alexa Lisbon’s apartment,” he says in lieu of an explanation, rolling his eyes as he flops down onto the chair.

When they all look at him, he shrugs, grumbling, “my thoughts exactly.”

“You know, Reid,” Hotch starts, “technically we could get him arrested for punching you.”

Reid lets out a snort, easing the tension, “thanks, Hotch. I’ll pass, but I appreciate the display of affection.”

“It wasn’t—“ but they all look at him and he sighs, “fine, I kind of care about your wellbeing.”

 



“Can’t I ask him questions? Interrogate him? His name wasn’t at the crime scene by coincidence!” McCormick huffs, gesturing at Reid as he writes on the board.

“Why are you so convinced it’s Spencer?” Emily asks bewildered, and if she’s being honest, offended on her friends behalf, “what did he ever do to you to make you this angry?”

McCormick opens his mouth, but closes it, glancing away.

“No, say it. You’re too heated,” Emily demands, arms crossing across her chest.

“The kid just pisses me off. I don’t know why, but he does,” McCormick hisses, “and I know he had something to do with this—“

“Hey, Em?” Spencer turns to look at her, sending a short, but pointed glare at Sean, as if saying ‘I can hear you, fuckwad.’

“Come look at this,” he lowers his voice, “So, what McCormick failed to mention is that all the kids he harassed, but two, have had their names written on the wall. When you pull the letters, you get these.”

He draws lines, writing out the letter O O A P S X B, “when you rearrange them, you get soap box.”

“Do you think the Unsub is alluding to making a platform?” She asks, but Spencer shrugs helplessly.

“The meaning clearly refers to making a point, but from the twenties to fifties, children would make racing cars out of it. It could either be a clue as to who were looking for, or some metaphor,” his voice sounds as lost as she feels.

“Okay, that’s it!” McCormick breaks into the room, clearly fed up with being left out of the loop that Spencer isn’t even sure is a full circle yet, “you, come with me. We’re going to have a little chat.”

Spencer rolls his eyes, complying. Emily rests a hand on his arm, but he just looks at her, clearly expressing, ‘I’ll be fine.’

She watches them leave the room, and sighs, going to gather the others.

 



Spencer sits on the opposite end of the interrogation table, watching McCormicks movements carefully. He can’t see the team filing in on the other side of the glass, but the look in Emily’s eyes told him that they would be.

“Sean, just so you know, if you hit me again I will arrest you on sight,” he sighs, “You may be a precinct captain, but you’re not immune to the constitution— despite what you may think.”

Spencer leans back in his chair, lackadaisically resting his legs in a loose cross.

“Why did you do it?”

Spencer’s reply is simple, “I didn’t. I physically could not of, and if you want to look through my browser history and phone calls be my guest.”

“You said it yourself, you’re too smart to get caught,” he’s so confident in himself, it makes Spencer want to scream.

“No,” Spencer denies, “I said that no one would write their own name on the wall. You are clearly trying to pin something on me that you know I couldn’t have done. Sean, you beat me to a pulp every single day growing up. I don’t know why you’re so set on putting this one me, but it’s making me think maybe you had a part in this.”

“You can’t just flip this on a decorated officer!” He hisses.

“Sean, listen,” Spencer’s eyes narrow, face impassive as he leans in, “you have virtually no evidence, because there is none. Every second you refuse to accept that I believe in forgiveness, the more likely it is that whoever is doing this takes another one of you.”

“Is that a threat?” He sounds manic, and Spencer can’t believe that this is truly happening.

“No, now I’m going to go do the job that you invited me to finish.”

He rises to his feet, and McCormick follows in suit. Spencer opens the door, turning to the officer who is breathing down his neck, “If you so much as touch me again, I will press charges. I suggest you take three, incredibly large steps backwards.”

And it seems as though this time, McCormick has half a brain to listen.