A/N: Thank you all for your encouragement and prayers, Dewayne is now back at 100 percent, back to work, back to being senior medic as well as mine and PJ's babysitter, back to kicking our butts at our weekly Phase-10 tournaments. I had intended this to be a one-shot, but I just had to write the follow-up. We're all so happy to have him back, and so thankful. It could have been so much worse. This is for him and Revelle.
Five weeks after waking up in the hospital, Gideon was on the jet with his team returning from his first case back. It had been stressful, as all their cases were, but not overly trying on either the physical or mental resources. All in all, it was a good case to get him back in the saddle. There was only one problem: Reid was driving him absolutely insane.
Thrombolytic drugs had thinned out his blood and dissolved the blood clot that caused his heart attack, so thankfully he had not needed open-heart surgery. Just a drug regimen and some time off. He was fine. Really. He just could not convince the young agent of that. Reid had insisted on carrying his suitcase, which was not that big, but between that, his own suitcase, and the ever-present messenger bag, it was almost enough to topple the skinny man. Fortunately, Morgan was there to catch him when he stumbled, and to take Reid's suitcase, evening things out a little.
Gideon just shook his head. He didn't need to be fussed over, but the strange new role as protector seemed to be helping Spencer deal with the events of over a month ago. It had taken almost as much a toll on him as it had on Gideon, especially when you added the fact that they had finally said to each other how they felt. But still, he was a grown man, and it was getting a little tiring to have Reid comment on his choice of food every time they sat down to eat. When Spencer had asked the waitress at the diner before they got on the plane for a sodium-free salt substitute, Jason knew he had to do something to return the team dynamic to normal. So when he stepped into the Rite-Aid next door, telling his teammates and his new-found mother-hen that he was getting low on aspirin. He found the card game he was looking for with no trouble, one that he was certain Reid had never played before, and slipped the purchase into his jacket pocket. It was just the way to convince them (Reid) that he was back at 100 percent, and to have a little fun on the two hour plane ride back.
They were settled in, and after twenty minutes the post-case debriefing was over. JJ was asleep, Prentiss deeply involved in the novel she had pulled from her carry-on, Hotch was looking through some paperwork, Morgan was listening to his iPod, and Reid was staring off into space. Now was the time. "Hey!" he called out, loud enough to get everyone's attention, but not loud enough to wake the sleeping agent. "Any of you guys ever play Phase-10?"
Morgan and Hotch nodded. "Me and my sisters used to play all the time. You got the cards?"
Gideon nodded. "Picked them up at the drug store. You in?"
"Definitely." He moved to the table beside Gideon. "Hotch?"
The team leader shrugged. "Sure, why not?" He moved over beside Reid. "Emily?"
She looked up from the Lisa Jackson novel. "No thanks. Have fun, though."
The youngest agent looked at the colorful cards Gideon was shuffling. "How do you play?"
"Well, you're dealt ten cards-" Morgan began, but Gideon shook his head.
"Just do it the easy way." He handed Reid the instruction card, and thirty seconds later he knew what he was doing.
"Okay," said Hotch. "Who's partners?"
Gideon smiled. "I thought us grown-ups could teach these kids a thing or two."
Hotch nodded, and graced them with a rare smile. "Sounds good to me."
"Hey, now!" Said Morgan with mock-seriousness. "You two old-timers better watch yourselves before you get in too deep. I happen to be the king of this game!"
"Oh, really?" said Hotch. "Well, Your Highness, care to make it a little more interesting? Say, fifty bucks each?"
"Only fifty?" Morgan replied. "I thought you were confident!"
"How's this?" Suggested Gideon. "Loser buys dinner every night on our next trip. Winner's choice."
"Sounds fair," said Morgan. "Reid?"
Reid thought it over. Had Gideon said that to tell him that he was crossing the line watching what he ate? Was he annoying the older man? Was he going to drive him away too? As he couldn't come right out and ask, he simply nodded mutely.
The next hour was passed in a very companionable rivalry. They really had fun. Hotch relaxed enough to take off his suit jacket and roll up his sleeves. Reid came out of whatever was bothering him and even began making jokes in his own brand of humor. Morgan, who usually picked on Reid exclusively, turned it around and began taunting the older agents. Gideon just smiled. They should do this more often. It was good for his blood pressure.
Morgan made his play, assuring that he and Reid moved on to the next phase. Reid took to the game quickly, as he did with every card game, and quickly made his play and discarded his last card, leaving Hotch and Gideon a phase behind. "I think they're stacking the deck!" Hotch stated.
"Or Reid's doing some of his card tricks," Gideon said. Reid blushed, but held his hands up, long fingers spread.
"Hadn't thought of it," he said, then smiled impishly. "But maybe I should!"
Gideon dealt the next hand, then sorted through his cards. "I think someone needs to shoot the dealer!" Morgan exclaimed.
"I'd have to disagree with you on that," Gideon replied.
"Yeah, well, you're prejudice!" Morgan grumbled, trying to make sense out of the mess that he had been dealt.
"Actually shooting him inside a pressurized jet wouldn't end well," Reid pointed out.
Hotch and Gideon won the next three hands, giving them a significant lead, but it dwindled down as they lost the next two badly. Reid was holding out for one card, hoping Hotch would discard it on accident. "C'mon, Hotch! Throw the right card. Don't make me tap into the Force!" He closed his eyes and put his hand out palm first like on Star Wars.
The corner of Hotch's mouth twitched as he fought to reply with a straight face. "Bite me, Young Jedi!"
Reid's eyes popped open in surprise. A broad grin split his face, and soon they were all cracking up. It wasn't that it was so funny, even though it was funny, but the fact that it was so out of character for Hotch to say something like that, it took them all by surprise. Even Emily was laughing, having abandoned her book to watch the card game. The laughter woke JJ up. "What's going on?" She asked sleepily.
"Hotch made a joke!" Emily told her.
JJ looked at them for a moment. "Yeah," she replied. "And I'm the Queen of England!" She turned back over and went back to sleep.
Reid looked over at his sleeping friend. "God save the Queen!" This brought a fresh burst of laughter from them all. And in all the humor, Hotch accidentally threw the card Reid needed anyway. They won the hand.
But it didn't matter in the end. They were one phase behind when Gideon and Hotch were on the last one. If one of them went out, the game was over. Reid looked at Gideon and noticed with some alarm that he was sweating. "Gideon, are you-"
He was interrupted when the older man put his spreads on the table, and discarded his last card. "I'm out. That's game."
Morgan dropped his cards, muttering an expletive, and Reid placed his face down in the pile. He looked again at his mentor. He was still sweating, but the pulse was not visible in his neck. After a moment, Gideon held his arm out, offering his wrist to Reid. Smiling sheepishly, he took the pro-offered wrist and checked a pulse. 85, steady, strong but not too much so. Perfect. "Am I going to live?" He asked Reid jokingly. Hotch and Morgan discretely left them alone
The question was an innocent joke, but it brought tears to his eyes. "As long as I have anything to say about it."
The shakiness in his voice hit Gideon hard. He knew how hard it had been on him, but somewhere along the way, he had forgotten how hard watching him die had been on Reid. He should know, he had been forced to watch helplessly as Reid had died once. Who was it that once said "It's easier to die than to watch someone die"? He felt guilty for being exasperated by the boy's hovering. "I'm not going anywhere, Reid. I'm taking my medicine, being careful, I'm going to be fine."
Reid nodded. "I know. It's just scary, knowing that there's other stuff to worry about than killers and unsubs and things that you can shoot to protect your friends…"
"Your family," Gideon finished from where Reid trailed off.
"Your family," Reid agreed. "I mean, it's scary enough with all that's out there, but when you add the fear that a person's own body, their blood, can turn against them…That's what attacked you, Gideon! Not some unsub, not Henkle, not even Frank! Your own blood consolidated and nearly killed you! How do you fight that?"
Gideon once again cursed Reid's biological father. This was the kind of talk he was supposed to have with his son when he was young, say fifteen and his grandfather died or some normal progression of events. "You can't fight it, Reid. You can't shoot a blood clot the size of the head of a pin. Even Hotch, with all his marksmanship awards, couldn't do it. Everyone dies when their time comes. It wasn't my time. And chances are it won't be for a long time."
Reid nodded, staring at his hands in his lap. "So if you can't fight it, what do you do?"
Gideon stared at him until he looked up and met his eyes. "You play cards with your friends. You read. You take walks in the woods. You do what you can to enjoy life while you're here. You laugh when you can, cry when you should, and remember to take time to breathe. That's how you fight it. Not by using sodium-free salt substitute on your baked potato without butter." He smiled at Reid like a father proudly teaching his son an important life lesson, and Reid finally returned the smile. "And speaking of food, I believe you and Morgan lost the bet. You guys are buying dinner next trip."
Putting the whole conversation together in his head, Reid picked up the cards and began shuffling them idly. "And the first night we're there, I'll buy you the biggest cheeseburger I can find, how's that?"
Gideon could see how much worry even the statement had cost Reid. He reached out and patted the young man on the shoulder. "You know, I think I'll settle for a grilled chicken sandwich."