A/N: The brief Doctor Who quote comes from the episode "Doomsday" Post ep for "Elephants Memory"
Disclaimer: I don't own Criminal Minds.
"In all things it is better to hope than to despair"
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe-
Spencer Reid stifled a yawn as he turned another page in his book. He didn't spare a glance at the clock, though he knew he should turn in for the night relatively soon. He'd been avoiding it, though, his mind too caught up in the events of the case. Thinking too long and too hard about what he'd done, profiling his own actions to find some deeper reasoning that he knew was not there.
So he kept reading because it distracted him. Escaping into books was one of the only ways he knew to deal with the things he saw everyday. Reading kept him from thinking about Rossi's look when he'd showed up late to the briefing, the disappointment, annoyance, and anger all rolled into one glance. And it kept him from over thinking Hotch's advice. All in all, reading was his therapy.
He turned the next page, punctuating the thought, but as his eyes began to flick across the page, a knock at the door interrupted him. With a sigh, he glanced at the page number, memorizing it, and the paragraph he was on, before shutting the book, setting it on his coffee table, and rising from the couch to go answer the door.
He pulled it open without bothering to ask who was there and found that his late night visitor was none other than on David Rossi. The same disappointed expression that Reid had received earlier was on the man's face, and the memories that the book had chased away rushed back into Reid's mind.
"Rossi," he said with a nod. "Can I help you?"
"Yes," Rossi said simply. "You can explain yourself."
Reid sighed. He stepped aside and motioned for Rossi to enter. The agent barely spared the young doctor a glance before walking into the apartment. He reached the couch in a few strides and stood by it, turning to face Reid as the younger man closed the door.
"Look, Rossi, I'm sorry I was late," he said. "But I was, uh…" he trailed off and Rossi nodded his head slowly.
"Right," he said. "You were at a movie, is that it?" Reid shrugged, wanting nothing more than to end the confrontation as soon as he could. Rossi shook his head. "No, Reid. I may not have been around as long as the others, but I've been around long enough to know that you would never be late on account of a movie." He sat down heavily on the couch. "Now, explain."
"Hotch kno-" Reid began, but Rossi interrupted him with a raised hand.
"I'm not Hotch," he said. "But I am your superior."
Reid thought for a moment, watching Rossi scrutinize him with that intense gaze. He wondered how well the man could profile him from what little they knew about each other; and though he hoped Rossi wasn't reading his expression, he knew Rossi's reputation better than, perhaps, even Rossi himself.
There was no way out of this.
Reid slipped his hands into his pockets and shifted his weight slightly, trying to act as casual as he could. Rossi, he noted, leaned back against the couch cushions, glancing at the book on the coffee table out of the corner of his eye.
"It was…a. personal issue," Reid stated, casting his gaze away from Rossi for the few seconds it took to speak, then returning to watching the other man as soon as the final word left his mouth. He was nodding.
"Did it have anything to do with the way you handled the case?" Rossi queried. Reid stifled a groan. He'd hoped only Hotch would confront him about his unprofessional actions, figuring Rossi felt distanced enough from the team to leave him be. He should have known better.
If it had been Gideon, he wouldn't even have expected Hotch's confrontation, just Gideon's, though he knew he would have gotten both. Now, he found, he had misjudged Rossi. Apparently he'd been there long enough, been through enough with all of them, to feel like a part of the team. A part that was Reid's superior.
"Did it?" Rossi prompted again, his voice harsh, as it had been in the conference room at Reid's mention of a movie. Reid shook away his thoughts and focused on getting Rossi out of his apartment without feeding his annoyance and suspicion.
The movement shocked him. He had been set to shake his head, to deter any other inquiry on the matter. Instead, Rossi leaned forward, hands clasped and face unreadable. Reid inwardly cringed at the coming questions.
For a moment, he debated heading them off, giving a brief explanation and ushering Rossi out with some excuse; but, instead, he found himself rounding the coffee table and sitting in an armchair at the end of it, trying to ignore Rossi's gaze as it followed him. Once he'd sat, he glanced at the other man and saw that his gaze had fallen to the table, to the book.
He lifted it slowly, running his hands over the cover and Reid found himself captivated by the act. He slipped his hands from his pockets and set them lightly on his thighs as he watched, wiping a small amount of nervous sweat from his palms as he slowly calmed down.
"How many times have you read this?" Rossi posed, Reid shrugged.
"A few," he replied. Rossi nodded. He looked up, catching Reid's eye.
"Why?" he asked.
"It stays interesting," Reid replied.
"Do you profile me?" Rossi asked, his voice lighter than it had been since he arrived, almost amused. "When you read it?" Reid laughed.
"No," he said. "Not every time." Rossi nodded and set the book back on the table. He ran a hand through his hair and sighed. He let his gaze settle on the door, his hands clenched together as he leaned forward.
"Was the movie good?" he asked, conceding that the issue was Reid's to deal with. The young doctor, however, didn't answer right away. He stood and sauntered slowly back around the coffee table to a bookshelf that stood against the wall opposite him. He ran a finger over the bindings before pulling one out. He didn't open it, simply held it in his hands, gazing down at the cover.
He heard the couch creak, but he didn't turn his head, he listened to the footsteps crossing the floor and only moved when the stopped. He turned his head slightly to the side, catching sight of Rossi standing a few steps behind him.
A hand landed gently on Reid's shoulder and he turned his gaze back to the book shelf. He had memorized the order of it, but he silently read through the titles while he listened to Rossi's quiet breathing.
"Why did you do it?" Rossi asked; Reid shrugged. "You let your emotions get in the way?" Reid shook his head, then stopped and nodded. He gazed down at the book in his hands, searching for words.
"'I quite like hope,'" he recited. "'Hope is a good emotion.'" Rossi glanced down at the book.
"Chaucer?" he asked.
"The Doctor," Reid replied, he slipped the book back in its place and turned around, chuckling lightly as he saw Rossi's eyebrow raised in confusion. The smile fell and he continued, "I didn't want to see another kid die," he said. "I just hoped that I could keep that from happening this time." Rossi nodded.
"That still doesn't excuse what you did," he said. Reid sighed.
"Hotch has been through it all with me," he said quietly. "Next time, I'm out, I know." Rossi lifted his hand and returned it to Reid's shoulder, where it had fallen from when the younger man had turned around, and Reid watched as his expression softened. No longer that of a boss, now that of a friend.
"You did what mattered to you," he said. "No one can ask for more." Reid shook his head.
"I wasn't thinking about the team," he retorted. "I was being selfish, trying to get rid of my own nightmares." He thought for a moment then sighed. "Someone could have died."
"But no one did," was Rossi's reply.
Reid started to shake his head in protest, but Rossi lifted his hand from the younger man's shoulder to catch his cheek, halting the man's motion. Reid tilted his head in confusion as Rossi let his fingers catch in the young man's stringy, brown hair.
"You're still here," Rossi said, gesturing slightly with his other hand. "We're all still here."
"But someone could've-"
"There's no point dwelling on could've's and should've's," Rossi interrupted with a shake of his head. Reid tried to protest again, but the look in Rossi's eyes choked his words. He blinked as Rossi's hand slipped back to his shoulder. He looked up into Rossi's face, once again unreadable.
"Never," he said. "Give up on hope."