A/N: This follows on from my story "Let it Snow", but you don't have to read that to understand this. I've since been told that my statistics are a bit out – apologies to expert readers!
This was also a challenge to include a list of unusual words, all of which are in the story. The list is at the end.
Over the Wine
And some I call my friends, and make believe
Their spirits grieve,
Brood, and rejoice with mine;
I talk to them in phrases quaint and fine
Over the wine;
From Behind the Arras by Bliss Carman
Oak Tree Bar
The bar was warm, a wonderful contrast to the freezing weather outside. Gideon pulled his hat off, shaking the snow from it and clapping his gloves together. The others were similarly snowy; Elle's dark hair was mottled with white, and Reid's hat sat at jaunty angle where he'd tried to knock the worst off before it soaked through. The effect wasn't helped by Morgan, who managed to catch the hat with the end of his scarf, pushing it even further awry. Gideon smiled to himself.
"I'll get the first round," he told the others as they shed coats and scarves. "Everyone having the usual?" When he got nods all round, he let them pick a table while he headed over to the bar. They'd come here because it was the closest to the hotel, and in this kind of weather, no-one had wanted to venture far. It was almost empty, and the barman looked relieved to have so many people come in all at once.
Gideon ordered, turning to run his eye round the group as he did so, making sure he hadn't forgotten anyone. The others had taken a booth near the back, making the corners of Gideon's mouth twitch. Sitting where they were, Morgan and Hotch had a good view of the front door, while Elle and JJ could see the back. As usual, Reid had taken a single chair rather than piling onto the benches with the others.
Balancing the tray of drinks carefully, Gideon made his way over, slipping onto the seat next to JJ. Morgan was shaking his head, laughing in obvious disbelief.
"You're seriously telling me that you've never had root beer? How?"
"What do you mean, how? I just haven't." Reid reached out and took his glass of coke. "Besides, this stuff has got more caffeine."
"How would you know, if you've never had it?" Morgan asked, earning him cries of protest from Elle and JJ.
"You really have to ask that?" Elle said, laughing. "Is there anything you don't know, Spencer?"
"I know that root beer is made from sassafras, which is a member of the mint family," Reid said with a half-smile. "It's a deciduous tree and the root has mild carcinogenic properties."
"We've been feeding our kids cancer?" Morgan said.
"Mildly carcinogenic," Reid repeated, taking another swig of coke. "But then, most things are."
"Everyone likes to live dangerously." Hotch, who'd nominated himself to be one of their drivers, considered his own coke thoughtfully.
JJ raised her drink in salute. "Maybe we should have that adopted as the BAU motto."
"I'll drink to that." Gideon touched his glass to hers, waiting as the others joined in. "Here's to living dangerously."
The conversation ebbed and flowed after that, as it always did. The people they'd met during the last case were discussed, dissected and joked about, the unsub was re-analysed and every minute of the investigation was relived. Then, again as it always did, the conversation came round to past cases, with everyone trying to out-do each other on the strange things they'd encountered. JJ, as the relative rookie, was usually called on to play the part of unbelieving audience and unofficial judge.
Inevitably, after about ten minutes, she nearly choked on a mouthful of wine and had to be hit hard on the back by Elle.
"I swear!" Morgan, who'd been the one responsible for her near-suffocation, looked to Reid for support. "Tell her."
"I'm afraid it's true," Reid said, mock-seriously. "There he was, surrounded by all these bodies and all this mess, saying that he couldn't help it."
"He said he was suffering from a poultry fetish," Morgan told her. "I mean it. Feathers everywhere. Never seen anything like it. He said that they were his – what was the word?"
"Kerfurkle," Reid said.
"That was it. Kerfurkle, and if he couldn't have them, no-one could."
"Kerfurkle?" Elle asked.
"Collective noun for kiwis," Reid supplied, adding, "The bird, not the fruit."
JJ's mouth was still open. "And he killed them all?"
"Said if he couldn't have them, no-one could. Never seen anything like it," Morgan said again.
"We only managed to find him because he forgot to pay a feed bill," Reid explained. "The debt collectors went to the address he'd given them, but he wasn't there and they thought there was something a bit strange about it. The floor was really sticky, foul smell and feathers all over the place. The power had been cut, and all the, um, perishable goods in the fridge – mostly livers – had started to rot. When they tracked him down, and one of them tried to move a chicken that was in his way, he snapped. Tried to beat the man to death with a tyre iron."
"He attacked four policemen before we caught up with him," Morgan added, turning serious. "He was convinced they were following him."
"How did you catch him?" JJ asked.
"He was still using his parents' farm," Mogan told her. "Our lives would be a lot harder if these guys were smarter. But you know," he added thoughtfully, "for the life of me, I can't remember his name. Something scary sounding."
"Edvard Radnock," Reid supplied after a moment's thought.
"And you only found out about him because he didn't pay a food bill?" JJ shook her head.
"Serendipity," Gideon told her. "The fortuitous conflation of circumstances. It's amazing how many criminals are caught that way."
Nodding, Reid ticked them off on his fingers. "There was George Russell, arrested on suspicion of burglary, who was later found to have killed three woman and abused their bodies after death. Ted Bundy was also arrested for burglary, and it wasn't until the second round of investigations that Gary Ridgeway became a serious suspect for the Green River killings."
"Then on a totally different scale, you get Edvard Radnock," Morgan finished off. "That was before you were allowed to carry, Reid, wasn't it?"
Reid pulled a face. "Yeah, thanks for that."
"You passed when it mattered," Hotch reminded him. "Nothing to be ashamed of there."
"But I've still got the whistle, just in case." Morgan grinned over the rim of his drink.
"Nope, I've learned the lesson," Reid said, draining his coke. "Front sight, trigger press, follow through, therefore proving I have more intelligence than a Dalmatian. Right, Hotch?"
Before Hotch could answer, there was the unmistakeable beeping of a cell phone, ringing loud in the quiet bar. As Gideon, along with everyone else, fished in his pockets, he tried to remember what it had been like before the things had become ubiquitous. It had been much easier to hide, for one thing.
Hotch won the draw, flipping open his phone with a rueful smile at the others.
"Hotchner." His expression changed, and he slid out of the booth, pulling his coat from the wall-hook.
"Must be Haley," Morgan said. "So come on, Elle. What's your best psycho story?"
Gideon stepped out into the freezing porch, pulling his scarf tighter against the cold. The wind was rising now and the dying light cast strange shapes across the snow. Hotch was leaning against the side of the porch, hands stuffed in pockets, staring out at the darkening sky.
"I thought you could use these." Gideon held out Hotch's gloves and scarf.
"Thanks." Hotch took them with a nod, pulling them on quickly. They stood in silence as the light dimmed further and the details of the landscape faded from sight under shadows and snow.
Eventually, Gideon said, "Was that Haley on the phone?"
Hotch nodded, and Gideon waited a while longer, knowing his companion would speak when he was ready.
"Her sister rang," Hotch said at last.
"Maria, the older one. She went for an amniocentesis."
Gideon sucked in a breath. "The baby?"
"Those things have a one percent chance of causing a miscarriage. She was the one in a hundred." Hotch looked down at his feet.
"I'm sorry," Gideon said softly. "Is Haley-"
"She's heading up there." Hotch shook his head. "And I'm stuck here."
"How was she?"
"Vexed." Hotch gave a mirthless snort of laughter. "Upset."
"Resigned. Which makes it worse." Scuffing the ground with the toe of his boot, Hotch shrugged. "Not much I can do about it here and now."
"True. Doesn't mean you don't want to." Gideon leaned back, mirroring Hotch's posture against the porch frame. "Is that all you're out here brooding about?"
Hotch looked up. "What do you mean?"
"You've just been out here a long time, that's all."
Raising an eyebrow in a 'yeah right' gesture, Hotch half-smiled. "You profiling me, Jason?"
"Just asking a friend if he's ok." Gideon met Hotch's eye, raising his own eyebrows questioningly.
After another pause, Hotch said, "Did you hear what Reid said?"
"The Dalmatian comment?"
"Even when he's being kicked in the stomach, he just can't turn that brain of his off, can he?" Hotch looked away, his eyes scanning the disappearing horizon.
"I don't think he can help it." Gideon frowned. "Are you still beating yourself up about that? He's not a child, however much we might like treat him like one."
"I know that," Hotch said, a little too quickly. "And he did a great job-"
"And so did you." When Hotch didn't say anything, Gideon went on, "But it's never pleasant to hear things like that from an older, respected person, no matter how much you tell yourself it's not true."
Still staring out into the night, Hotch shrugged. "It's getting colder."
"It will do. Hotch." Gideon's tone made the other man turn to him again. "Reid's fine. You saved both your lives, and so did he. Give yourself some credit. He does."
"Right," Hotch said again, but this time there was just the hint of a smile behind it. "You know what he said to me afterwards?"
"That too." The hint blossomed into a full smile. "He told me I kicked like a nine-year-old girl."
Gideon considered this for a moment. "Well," he said at last, "he went to a rough school."
The laugh that followed was a free, easy chuckle; a sound that made Gideon smile and undid the knot in his stomach. "Come on," he said, rubbing his hands together. "It's freezing out here."
The conversation seemed to have moved on from crime to grammar by the time they got back.
"That is so not a word!" Morgan pointed at Elle with his empty glass. "It cannot be a word."
"It's a word!" Elle said, grabbing the glass. "Tell him!" She looked at Reid, who nodded.
"It's a grape. A type of Muscadine. There's even a special way of eating them."
"Hah!" Thumping his glass down on the table, Elle gave Morgan a triumphant smile. "Scuppernongs. I told you."
"You know, I cannot abide know-it-alls," Morgan said in a disgusted tone, shaking his head, but he was smiling just the same. "Present company excepted, of course. And I think that means I have to get the next round. Same for everyone?"
"Need a hand?" Hotch asked as he slid past.
"I got it. You just watch them," Morgan said, pointing at Elle and JJ. "They're going to get all persnickety now."
"Persnickety?" JJ said, looking at Morgan's retreating back.
"Probably a corruption of 'pernickety'," Reid said. "It's a Scots word, originally meaning tidy and prim."
Elle smiled at him. "Spencer, how many times have you read the dictionary?"
"The concise edition or the full one?"
Laughing, JJ shook her head. "I think all families have words that only they use. My grandma's was footle."
"Footle?" Hotch was loosening his tie, leaning back on the bench seat. "Is that a real word?"
As ever, everyone looked at Reid, who nodded. "It's in the dictionary." His eyes flickered as though reading it from a page that only he could see. Which, of course, Gideon realised, he was. "It's probably originally from the French, middle ages, but it only appears in written English in the nineteenth century." His face relaxed again, and he smiled at Elle. "I got up to 'f' at least," he told her.
Hotch and Morgan brought the drinks back, and the conversation drifted through families to traditions, and on to more strange words, most of which Reid supplied. When Gideon looked at his watch again, he was surprised to see how much time had passed.
Looking round, he saw that everyone was winding down, JJ and Elle talking quietly to each other, while Morgan debated with Reid about the moment when a person became 'svelte' as opposed to just 'skinny'. Hotch was cradling his drink, staring down into it, his face as unreadable as ever.
Morgan seemed to have noticed Gideon's glance at his watch, because he pushed back his sleeve to see his own.
"Getting late," he observed.
"Need your beauty sleep?" Elle teased.
"Do I look like I need beauty sleep?" Morgan asked. "It's more for Gideon. These old guys get cantankerous if they don't get their forty winks."
"These old guys have the power to bust you down to paperwork for the next sixth months," Gideon pointed out. "So just watch it. You ready to go, Hotch?"
"Huh?" A little startled, Hotch blinked a few times, processing the question. "Sorry. Yeah, all set."
It took them a while to pull on coats, gloves and coats, and Gideon drifted over to Hotch as they made their way to the door. "Have you spoken to Reid?"
"What?" It seemed to take Hotch a moment to figure out what Gideon meant. "We talked right afterwards."
"And since then?"
"There's nothing to say."
Gideon slowed his pace as they followed the others. "You can't do anything for Marie or Haley here and now. Tomorrow, if it's clear, we'll see about getting you a flight. But this? This is a problem right in front of you that you can solve. For yourself, even if not for him."
"It's not a problem." Hotch had regained control of his expression and he frowned at Gideon. "It was necessary."
"And you know that, rationally. But there's a part of you asking what kind of person uses his position to verbally and physically assault a younger, more vulnerable boy."
"You're the one who told me he's not a boy."
"That's because I can remember that."
They'd reached the porch and watched in the light from the bar windows as Elle and Morgan starting lobbing snowballs at each other again. JJ yelped as she got caught in the crossfire while Reid, who'd judged the angles a little better, beat a hasty retreat behind one of the SUVs.
Gideon looked over at Hotch. "I think I'll ride with Elle."
"Don't trust my driving?" Hotch asked, smiling just a little.
"I don't trust Morgan not to fill the inside of the car with snow. See you there." Without looking back, Gideon waded through the snow to join the others.
Morgan gave him a questioning look. "You coming with us?" he asked.
"If having the old guy in the car won't cramp your style too much."
"I'll cope." Morgan swung the car door open, taking the front passenger seat next to Elle. Pausing by the rear door, Gideon looked across to where Reid and Hotch were getting into their car. Following his gaze, Morgan smiled. "Not often that Reid gets to ride in the front."
"No," Gideon agreed. "Maybe we should let him do that more often."
Meeting Gideon's eye, Morgan nodded. "Maybe we should."
"Are you coming?" Elle asked, starting the engine and turning the heat up. "You're letting all the snow in."
"We're here," Morgan said, pulling his door shut. Gideon did the same, still looking across the parking lot. As he watched, the lights went on in the other car, and he could see the two men sitting in the front seats. They were still sitting there as Elle drove carefully out of the lot and pulled onto the main road back to the hotel.
Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.
Words included: Footle, amniocentesis, svelte, Edvard, sticky, kurfurckle, sassafras, perishable, ubiquitous, serendipity, fortuitous, persnickety, cantankerous, scuppernongs, abide, jaunty, poultry fetish, vexed, awry