Title: Duct tape

Rating/Warnings: R/M [AU; profanity; references to past cross-dressing; references to past assault; not beta read]

Pairings: Hotch/Reid (pre-slash/friendship), Reid/Elle (friendship)

Summary: "I think that Elle wasn't exactly truthful in her psych evaluation," Reid said quietly. "And I think that sending her undercover, even with the heaviest backup possible, especially when she will have to be on her own…" he stammered.

Spoilers: Season 2 up until Aftermath.

DISCLAIMER: The Mark Gordon Company, ABC Studios and CBS Paramount Network Television own Criminal Minds. I just took them out to play and I promise to put them back when I'm done. I also don't own anything else you can recognize from other places.

AN: Once upon time I asked myself what would happen if Elle didn't shot William Lee and that was supposed to be the answer. I found it again today when I was fooling around in my drafts folder. I hope that some of you will find it at least a little enjoyable.

Duct tape is like the force. It has a light side, a dark side, and it holds the universe together.

~Carl Zwanzig

Duct tape

"You think Elle is ready?" Aaron asked.

"We will be there for her," Jason answered.

The door opened and a very uncomfortable Spencer Reid showed in the doorway.

"Can I?" he asked nervously. "Speak with both of you, sirs?" he asked.

"How much you heard?" Jason asked with a grimace.

Reid grimaced and in that grimace Aaron saw all of his doubts and all of his worries concerning Elle.

"What's your assessment?" Aaron asked.

"In Muskegon, Michigan had been committed a murder which is consistent with two unsolved murders in Lansing. Older ladies with their throats slashed, no valuables were taken. I would like to ask for a permission to drive there with a partner of my choosing, if I may?" Reid asked nervously.

Aaron swallowed quietly and motioned with his head at the corridor. Reid turned on his heel and stepped outside, Aaron quickly followed him and closed the door.

"Reid?" he asked pointedly.

"I think that Elle wasn't exactly truthful in her psych evaluation," Reid said quietly. "And I think that sending her undercover, even with the heaviest backup possible, especially when she will have to be on her own…" he stammered. "Hotch, I know that I have no saying in how the team is run…"

"You have because you are a part of this team, Reid," Aaron said quickly. "What do you propose?"

"I'm sure that Detective Callahan can obtain an undercover policewoman," Reid said quickly. "At the moment any properly briefed officer that fits the victimology would do. Just not Elle, yes it's her area of expertise but this, Hotch, William Lee is too close to home and she is scared already, I'm worried about her, professionally and personally. I'd rather have her elsewhere, I'd rather have her pissed off at me but…" Reid paused to take a breath.

"I'll ask Callahan for the undercover officer," Aaron nodded. "How fast you can get the files on the case in Muskegon?"

"I pawed them off from JJ, she doesn't even know that they are missing," Reid answered nervously. "I have them in my room."

"How fast you can get there?" Aaron asked.

"If you will kick us out in fifteen minutes, we will get there by half past two, to three o'clock in the morning, nap at the hotel, crime scene at seven in the morning," Reid said pensively.

"Let me take a look at the files first," Aaron said. "And gear up."

Reid nodded, turned on his heel and lead Aaron to his room.

She could feel it in her bones and it terrified her. They spent all day pouring over the victim pool and it was a matter of time before Hotch and/or Gideon would come knocking on her door to inform her that she was going undercover.

She had done it before, many times and God, she succeeded every single time. No rapist walked away on her watch if he decided to follow her. Except never before she felt so terrified.

Old Elle would have suggested the idea before they would leave the station. New Elle wished that the bastard have completely different victimology. She knew that it was cruel and low, but she was terrified.

She needed a drink but she couldn't have one yet. She couldn't drink before they would come and tell her that she was going undercover, after they left yes, two shots, three shots would do, they should knock her out enough to allow her to sleep the night but…

The knock on the door almost made her jump from the chair.

'Come in,' she mouthed and when she realized how inaudible she sounded she quietly cleared her throat and with a silent prayer 'Here it comes' she said loudly, "Come in."

"Elle? Are you decent?" Hotch asked through the door.

"No, I'm wearing bikini and hula skirt," she retorted.

"Dress up then," Hotch said. "Gideon, Morgan and I have the case covered, I need you and Reid to drive up to Muskegon, Michigan for an urgent consult, third murder victim turned up and all other teams are in the field. You two will manage on your own and if not we should wrap this case in two, maximum three days and we will join you if you will decide that's necessary."

She opened the door as he finished speaking 'necessary'.

"Gear up, you are going to drive and the sooner you will leave the sooner you will get to sleep, I'm sorry for profilers standard nap but if you will alternate at driving you might get additional few hours of sleep on the way," Hotch said.

"What about the case?" she heard herself asking.

"I need you in Muskegon," Hotch stressed. "Callahan will supply us additional hand if we will need it. Reid is already packing, you are taking the Suburban, here are the keys," he held out his hand. "Reid will brief you on the road. See you in few days. I've got to get going."

She took the keys out of his hand and gripped them tightly.

"We will call tomorrow," she said.

"Reid can pack under five minutes," Hotch said as he started walking away. "He promised to draw it out to ten… but you know…"

She watched him disappear in the door to Gideon's room and felt immediately ashamed by the relief that surged through her veins. She wasn't going to be locked up in a house waiting for…

But wait a moment, Hotch sent her out on a consult… with Reid…. That was it, the twerp was dead as a doornail because as soon as she would get her hands on him she would wring his scrawny neck or better, she should shoot him into genitals or put laxative in his coffee or…

'You can think about most painful and embarrassing retribution as you pack,' she scolded herself.

An idea for potential retribution occurred her just as Reid knocked on her door, one bag in hand, the other on the floor. But she smiled bravely, grabbed her bags and went past him to get to the garage.

To her relief it wasn't completely empty though the few cars that were in it could stand closer to the Suburban. But she decided to not think of it as she quickly crossed the barking, opened the trunk, deposited her bags in it and settled in the passenger seat.

It was a part of embarrassing retribution, make Mr I Drive Just Fine, I Just Don't Feel Like Fighting For The Steering-Wheel drive.

The trunk slammed down and Reid opened driver's door.

"You don't feel like driving?" he asked cautiously.

"Nah," she shook her head. "I don't feel like fighting for the steering-wheel and you should have some driver-time in the field, it's not that Hotch or Gideon or Morgan will remember to let you drive once in a while."

"I drive more than you think I do," Reid said as he slipped into driver's seat.

"I saw your car," Elle said pointedly.

"Yes, I know that I drive most adorable soap-box," Reid said sweetly.

"Morgan is forgetting that cars are phallic and men use them to compensate or overcompensate their impotency or physical deficiency," she said simply. "Look at him, when he doesn't drive one of the Bureau's SUV, he is driving the old Firebird or his bike. You are driving a 1965 Volvo Amazon that would make any self-respecting collector faint from shock for blatant disregard of a classic."

"Using that logic you are saying that I have nothing to compensate for, do I?" Reid rolled his eyes as he turned the engine on.

"You can pretend that you don't have a car or even driver's license but you cannot pretend that you aren't wearing small shoes," Elle quipped.

Reid had a decency to turn as red as his sweater vest and part of her inwardly cheered for the win.

"Have I ever told you that one of the first off the clock outings I had with Morgan was car hunting?" Reid asked simply, obviously knowing the answer. "I saw it happening, Morgan and the Firebird, love from first sight. I didn't have a heart to tell him that too me his precious Birdie looked like splashed out frog," he said and made splashing sound.

"It's black," she said.

"It was green when he bought it, not bottle green but light green, very frog-like," he said. "Hotch summed it up better," he added. "There is a disturbingly big part of me that wants to get down there with red, yellow and blue sprays and paint flowers on it because it reminds me too much of the Pontiac I ended spending my first three salaries on."

"Why he bought it?" she asked pensively.

"It was cheap and he was going through retaliatory phase. I heard that somewhere out there exist a photo of him sporting a mullet and even with my very vivid imagination that's one of the things I cannot imagine," he shrugged.

"I can't imagine him going undercover as a drag-queen," Elle said.

"And I can," Reid smiled as he looked at her. "Morgan was laughing so hard that he almost died from asphyxia when he saw Hotch for the first time. He almost died from asphyxia again three days later when Hotch and his most unfortunate companion had bound him with a red boa, threw him in the trunk of the undercover car he was using to observe 'the girls' before he was subjected to a very butchered versions of 'Tu Vuo' Fa I'Americano', 'Time of My Life' and 'La Luna' through the entire ride back to the hotel."

"It was you," Elle observed. "You've gone undercover as a drag-queen?"

"Hotch did, he has a better singing voice, I tagged along as his supposed lover. It was in times of much frowned upon, as Morgan calls it: sausage club. That's how we got JJ to travel with us occasionally, Donovan's idea was having me wearing a dress on permanent basis, I refused vehemently and suggested that since it was his idea he should wear one," Reid clarified. "The only reason I wasn't suspended was because we all looked like zombies on not enough sleep and way too much coffee, but that was before Strauss came along, these days I most definitely would end at the very least with a verbal reprimand."