AN: I started writing this over Christmas break. I had to write the middle section first – I can't tell you why without spoiling things – so it's taken me this long to get the beginning written. Frankly, I've missed getting reviews, so let me know what you think.
If I owned Criminal Minds or any pieces or persons therein, I wouldn't need reviews to make me happy.
Special Agent Derek Morgan checked his watch for the third time in fifteen minutes. Then he pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and checked the time there, just in case his watch was running fast for some inexplicable reason. Seeing that the times matched, he then made sure that he hadn't accidently set the phone to vibrate, and verified that he hadn't received any new text messages or phone calls in the half hour since he'd arrived at work. Taking a deep breath and letting it out in a huff, he headed out of his office toward the break room down the hall, his eyes anxiously scanning the bullpen beneath him for a lanky form that simply wasn't there.
JJ Jareau and Kate Callahan were standing by the coffee pot discussing the latest episodes of The Big Bang Theory, a television series that JJ had convinced Kate to try out. "Don't tell me what happened on Thursday night," JJ insisted. "Will DVR'd it for me, and I'm going to watch it the first night we don't have a case and Will and Henry don't need me to do something else."
"In other words, you might get around to watching it sometime in the next three months," the brunette agent laughed.
A look of consternation came across the blonde's face. "You have a point. I still haven't finished watching all of the first season of Orange is the New Black, and the third one is scheduled to come out in a few weeks. This is why I try not to start watching new television series. I just end up getting frustrated."
"The Big Bang Theory," Morgan said casually, walking over and filling his own mug from the coffee pot. "Isn't that the show about the genius scientist?"
"Yeah," JJ answered eagerly. "It's my newest favorite show. Don't you think it would be hilarious if we could get Reid together with Sheldon Cooper?" Then, seeing Morgan's blank look, she clarified, "The genius scientist. They could discuss quantum physics or Star Trek or whatever else is the nerd topic of the week. He'd have someone who understands whatever the heck he's taking about most of the time. I bet they'd be best friends."
Kate punched JJ lightly on the shoulder. "Be nice," she admonished.
"What do you mean?" JJ asked, honestly puzzled.
"Sheldon is a fictional character, and Reid is a real person. I don't think he'd appreciate you implying that he has more in common with someone from a made-up TV comedy than he does with those of us in real life."
JJ scoffed. "You haven't known Reid as long as we have, Kate. He's used to us teasing him. It wouldn't hurt her feelings."
"Yeah," Morgan agreed. "Besides, you're assuming that Reid IS a real person."
"Oh, yeah," laughed JJ. "Remember when Emily poked him in the cheek and talked about how almost life-like he was? You would have loved it, Kate. Spence didn't know how to react." She realized Kate wasn't laughing. In fact, she was looking at them with a slightly disgusted grimace. "I guess you had to be there," JJ concluded.
Luckily at that moment Penelope Garcia came into the break room and interrupted them before things could get any more awkward. "Greetings, prince and princesses of lightness," the bespectacled technical analyst proclaimed. "Has anyone laid eyes on the Boy Genius yet this morning? Our fearless leader is requesting his presence posthaste."
Morgan was pleased that someone else had brought up Dr. Spencer Reid's absence before he had to. "No, I haven't seen him yet," he answered casually. "Is he late?" And he glanced at his watch as if he had no idea what time it was.
"Uh oh," JJ intoned, also looking at her watch. "When Spence is late, that's a bad, bad thing."
Kate was again confused. "He's twenty minutes late," she said. "What's the big deal? Hotch isn't going to get mad at him for that, is he?
"Of course not," Garcia declared, as if shocked that Kate could suggest such a thing. "It's not the wrath of Hotch that we're worried about."
"Then what?" asked Kate.
Morgan put his arm around Kate's shoulders and drew her aside, as if sharing a secret. "Reid has a bit of a tendency to get himself in trouble," he explained.
"Bit of a tendency?" JJ questioned. "He's a trouble magnet, and you know it, Morgan."
Kate pulled away from Morgan's arm. "You're teasing again," she admonished. "Why can't you all leave the poor man alone, especially when he's not here to defend himself?"
"Au contraire, mon amie," Garcia insisted. "While it is true that my Chocolate Adonis and his Vanilla Cohort do enjoy playing with young Dr. Reid as if he were the mouse to their cats, in this case teasing has nothing to do with it. Reid really is a trouble magnet. And he is never, ever late to work. If he's not here by 8:30 in the morning, something is definitely wrong."
By this time JJ had her cell phone out and had punched the speed dial button for Reid. She held it by her ear for a minute, then shook her head as she put it away. "Not even voice mail. It must be off."
Kate still wasn't buying into the hype. "Is it really that hard to believe that he turned his phone off and overslept? Or he forgot to charge it and traffic was bad coming into the city? There are a million explanations for why he isn't here and he's not answering his phone."
Searching for a hit of caffeine to help him face the day ahead, Special Agent David Rossi came into the break room. "Who isn't answering his phone?" the older profiler asked.
"Reid," JJ and Morgan answered together.
"Oh, no," Rossi proclaimed, half joking, half serious. "Do we think he's been poisoned, shot, drowned, or merely kidnapped?"
"Not you too, Rossi. I expect these two to pick on Reid, and Penelope seems to honestly think there might be a problem, but I didn't think you'd join in." Kate was exasperated with the whole group of them.
Rossi placed a comforting hand on her arm. "You're new, Callahan. You don't know Reid like we do. This is not us picking on him. This is real concern. Spencer Reid is the epitome of Murphy's Law: if anything can go wrong, it will."
Kate threw up her arms, dislodging Rossi's hand. "I give up. You all treat him like he's a toddler instead of a thirty-three year old certified genius."
Before she could finish her tirade their boss stuck his head in the door. "So this is where everyone is," Aaron Hotchner commented, "except said certified genius. Where's Reid?"
"He's late," Kate stated. "Just late. Not dead in a ditch, not abducted by aliens. He's just late for work."
Hotch gave her what was for him a quizzical look. "All right. " He blinked once and his usual stoic expression was back. "I need everyone in the round table room."
"Do we have a case, sir?" Garcia asked. "I haven't seen anything."
Hotch's gaze lingered on Kate a moment longer before he responded. "No, not a case. Chief Cruz has asked us to consult with Labombard's team. They are in their second week of tracking a serial killer in Montana. They thought they had a profile down, but there have been some developments that have them questioning themselves. Cruz thought talking it through with us might help them clarify. They'll be Skyping us in ten minutes."
The team finished getting their coffee and filed out of the break room. As he went by, Morgan stopped his boss. "Hotch, I really am worried about Reid. You know he's never late."
Hotchner glanced at his watch. "He's only half an hour late, Morgan. It happens to the best of us. If he still hasn't come in when we're done with this consult, then you have my permission to worry."
Morgan nodded, knowing it was the best he was going to get, and followed the others toward the conference room.
Before they crossed the threshold, Hotch's cell phone rang. He put it to his ear. "Hotchner . . . yes it is . . . yes he is . . . is he all right?"
"Hotch?" Morgan asked. "Is it Reid?"
Hotch put up a finger, indicating for Morgan to wait. The other team members started back out from the conference room, unabashedly eavesdropping.
"I'll have someone there in half an hour. Thank you for calling." Hotchner clicked his phone shut and put it back in his pocket, shaking his head.
"Morgan, get over to GW Hospital."
"Reid?" Morgan asked again with trepidation.
"Reid," Hotch acknowledged. "They said he's going to be all right, but he needs a ride home. He was mugged last night."
"Told you," Morgan declared, looking toward their newest member as he ran down to his desk and grabbed his keys out of his jacket pocket, but Kate didn't detect even a hint of gloating in his tone.