A.N. Maybe you can already tell. But, when I get frustrated with the show, I write. It's therapy. (Which was almost the title of this story!) This will probably be just a few chapters.
'200' never happened, nor did any of the events referenced in it.
"Have you noticed…." Morgan stood looking at the back of Spencer Reid as the younger agent walked away from him.
"Yes. I mean, I've noticed, but I thought it was just me. But if you've noticed it too, then…" Alex Blake was equally perplexed.
"What do you think it is? Maeve? Is it that he's still in mourning?"
Morgan was aware of the distance that had crept into his relationship with Reid over the past several years, well-demonstrated by the fact that his erstwhile kid brother had chosen to share his grief with others on the team, but not with him.
Blake continued to stare in the direction Reid had walked off, pondering. "I don't know. Could be. But something tells me there's more to it."
As if there needed to be 'more to' grief.
Blake was familiar with loss. And she saw the signs plainly in Reid's face from time to time. But there was another kind of distance to the young profiler now, and she was having trouble placing it. Despite the fact that he was the only member of the BAU she'd known before joining the Unit, she felt she still didn't know him as well as those who'd been his colleagues, and friends, for years.
Morgan was clearly bothered, and had been for some time. He decided it was time to delve further.
"I'm gonna find JJ and see what she thinks."
Their former unit liaison was generally acknowledged to have the closest relationship with Reid. If anyone would know, she should.
Hours later, Rossi and JJ returned from a presentation at Georgetown, JJ's alma mater. Morgan eyed her entering the bullpen, and emerged from his office to motion her up to speak to him. He didn't want to carry on this particular conversation in her cubicle, which was immediately next to where Reid had his head buried in a file.
"Hey," she called to him as she topped the stairs, "what's up?"
She followed him into his office and took a seat. "Do we have a case?"
"Garcia's downloading some things now, so, yes, we do. Or we will, in a few minutes. But that's not why I called you up here."
Morgan thought about how to put it. "Reid."
"Spence? What, did something happen? Is something wrong?" With Reid, one never knew. If something could go wrong, it likely would.
Morgan shook his head, acknowledging his uncertainty.
"I don't know. It just seems like...like he's different. Quieter. Sometimes it seems like he's not even there. Hell, half the time you've been spouting the kinds of facts that I usually expect to hear from him."
JJ smiled, trying to deflect his concern. "Maybe we forgot to tell you. Spence and I had a brain exchange."
Morgan didn't think it was funny. "C'mon, JJ. You have to have noticed it. He's not himself. It's almost like…"
Now her eyes widened. "Like New Mexico? When he…" When he'd been caught in the middle of an unscrupulous scientific experiment. One that sent him quantum leaping, without his consent or recollection.
"Yes. Almost like that. But not quite. It's not like he totally disappears. It's more that he doesn't act like Reid anymore. Don't tell me you haven't noticed."
JJ was defensive." I don't have time like I used to, Derek. I'm in the field, with you, not stuck at some white board with Spence. I don't see him enough to notice changes in his behavior."
That got a reaction from Morgan. It was true that most of JJ's field time was spent with him, and he'd seen that she was determined to prove herself in her new role with the team. But I noticed. And she didn't?
He studied his female colleague. "Is something up with you?"
Defensive again. "How did this turn on me? I thought you were worried about Spence, now you're asking me what's up?"
Morgan began to wonder if he needed to be worried about both of his younger colleagues. He put up both hands in surrender.
"Whoa, sorry I asked. Never mind about Reid. I'll keep an eye on him."
Keeping an eye on Reid proved to be difficult for Morgan. The 'Springfield Strangler' seemed to have left bodies all over the county, and Reid and Rossi were visiting each of the sites to view things from a profiler's perspective.
Morgan gave a moment's thought to asking Rossi to probe the younger man, and even considered mentioning something to Hotch. But he knew the unit chief harbored a continued concern about Reid's recovery from the loss of Maeve, and Morgan didn't want to draw undue attention to something he wasn't sure was real. But he definitely had his suspicions.
He tried drawing out his companion as they made their way to the university where one of their victims served as an administrative assistant.
"So, you really don't miss the work you used to do? You and Reid made a pretty good team reviewing files. I thought you were even catching on to his geographic profiling back in the day."
JJ shook her head. "No, I don't miss it. Not that part, at least. I did like working with the families. Well, I guess 'like' is the wrong word, because it was pretty challenging, dealing with all that emotion. But…well, I guess I felt like I was helping them, in a way. More directly, more one-on-one."
Morgan chanced a look over at her. "More than now, you mean? We spend less time with the families, and more with the unsub."
"Right. And….no, I don't like being around unsubs any more than anyone else does. But it is kind of….satisfying, I guess…..to feel like I've actually helped put an end to something, rather than just comforting someone."
Morgan got that. "You like the action."
He'd begun to understand that about his oft-time partner.
She grinned. "Yep. I've always been physical. You just couldn't tell that when I was stuck in some office somewhere. But this is more up my alley."
Morgan thought a moment about what he wanted to say.
"You do realize that what they actually pay us for is the profiling, right? That the 'action'..," he took his fingers off the steering wheel long enough to make finger quotes…"is just a side effect? And the profiling happens inside our heads, whether we're in the office or in the field."
JJ rolled her eyes. "I know, Derek. But it just feels better, like I'm contributing to all aspects of the case."
Morgan was intrigued. He hadn't understood this about JJ. And what she was saying made him wonder if Reid….and, for that matter, his Baby Girl….felt the same way about their roles.
"Are you saying you felt…..lesser…..as the liaison? Because, after all, you're the one who picked out our cases for us. Hell, you talked us into a few of them. And you were right. All the work in the field wouldn't have mattered then, because we wouldn't have been there at all."
That seemed to deflate her a bit. She was silent for such a long time that Morgan wondered if she'd been hurt by his comment in some way.
"I'm thinking. I guess I knew that, at the time. But, somehow, it faded into the background. All I know is that, when I went to State, I was mostly cooped up in an office, or attending an endless series of meetings, when I wasn't announcing unpopular things and being grilled in press conferences. I couldn't wait to get out of there. So, I took the courses, and jumped at the chance to come back, when Rossi offered it. But the only thing open was the profiler position, and I was glad to get it."
Morgan remembered an overheard conversation between JJ and Emily Prentiss, before his Princess had left them for good.
"If you don't mind my asking….how did Will feel about that?"
She flashed him a look, then turned her gaze back out the window.
"I don't mind. And he wasn't thrilled. My hours weren't a whole lot better, day to day, when I was at State, but I did very little traveling. So he was happier that I was around more. And not so happy to have me out of town again. But, obviously, he got over it." She waved her wedding ring at her partner.
Morgan grinned. "So he did. Back to what I was asking before…..did you really feel like you weren't contributing? Do you think Pretty Boy feels that way? And Garcia?"
His companion shrugged. "Spence gets into the field some of the time. I've never had the sense that he's as confident there as he is in front of a white board, though. And Pen…..she's where she wants to be. She only tolerates coming along on cases when Hotch demands it. She's told me she's much more comfortable in her lair."
Morgan chuckled. "And quite a lair it is." He sighed his confusion about Reid. "I was just looking to understand what might be going on with the Kid. Maybe he's restless. Maybe he wants something more, or just different."
The thought silenced them both. Neither could fathom trying to do the work they did without the intellect and wisdom of Spencer Reid, even if neither was inclined to do that work beside him.
And neither wanted to think about the emotional void an absent Reid might impose on their lives.