And this one's for tonnie2001969, who wanted to know how Rossi and Hotch got him to finally pass.

Standard disclaimers apply.

The fire was warm, the snow was falling like a thick soft sheet over the frozen ground, and the merlot was breathing nicely.

"Reid, are you okay?" Rossi asked. "You haven't said a word since we got back."

The younger agent was staring at his plate. The onion-soup potatoes and the salad had gone down okay, but the steak…

"This was breathing, not five hours ago."

"Yes, it was."

"And now we're eating it."

"That's kind of how it works, Reid."

"It's a lot easier to eat meat when you go through life blindly thinking it comes already packaged on those little Styrofoam trays," the younger man pointed out.

"True. But you learned a valuable lesson today."

"That medical school would have been a mistake?"

"Well, that too."


"Something about 'patience'?"

"Yes. The shot in your mind is not the shot you will necessarily take."

"Mmm-hmm." Rossi cut into his steak, swishing a large mushroom into the stock gravy that dressed it.

"And that shooting has consequences."

"From what I understand, you already knew that."

Reid sat back in his chair a moment. "I do."

"Let me ask you this: when you made those two particular shots, what were you thinking about?"

"Thinking about?"

"Yep. What was going through that mind of yours, just before you pulled the trigger?"

A long silence reigned. Rossi started into his salad, liberally applying the red wine vinaigrette dressing and taking a sip of his wine.

"The first time, I was thinking that I didn't want any more people to die," Reid said finally. "If I just wounded him, that might not happen."

"Way I hear it, you shot between the eyes."

"I missed."

"Hell of a 'miss'."

Reid took another bite of potato.

"What about in Georgia?"

"There, that was different. I knew he'd kill me."

"You hit the aortic valve, or so the autopsy report reads. Pretty precise."

"That was luck."

"Are you sure?"

More silence. "I only had one shot. One bullet against a carving knife. And he was in a lot better shape than I was after those three days."

The two finished their dinner relatively quickly after that.

"So, how did you like hunting?"

"There's a certain 'something' to it, and I don't think I have it."

"On the contrary—you knew when to keep quiet, you took direction, and you were able to see the target. All of that is part of being able to shoot; it's not all about the technique you learn in a book."

"Hotch tries to teach me that every year."

"And now?"

"Shooting paper…it's almost as if there's no consequence. It's paper. My mind sees that it's paper, my conscience says that it's okay to shoot it."

"So the deer…"

"Is a living thing. Just like those people were."



Rossi got up and began clearing the small table. "Okay. I know how to solve your problem. Oh, and Reid?"


"Put me at five thousand to pass."


Two weeks later, the entire team was sitting at the most expensive place in Washington D.C. proper.

"I feel underdressed," whined Morgan, looking at the jackets and ties that surrounded him.

"You?!" cried Emily. "I've been eating in places like this since I was a kid, and I feel underdressed!"

Garcia sat quietly, a definite first for her. Her blonde highlights were in perfect order; her gold skirt and jacket a stunning compliment.

"You look great, baby girl," Morgan assured her.

"It's not that," she said. "I don't know what to say…"

"I'm still wondering how Rossi won that pool," JJ said. "I mean, I thought I had a lock this year…"

"You didn't bet the right way," Rossi said, signaling the waiter.

"All right, spill it," Morgan said finally. "How'd he do it?"

"Do what?" Hotch asked, the faintest hint of a smile flickering on his face.

"Reid is, like, the worst shot in the history of the Bureau," Emily said. "No offense…"

"None taken. We can't be good at everything."

"So how, then, did he pass? It usually take him, like, two months!"

"Well, he just needed the right motivation," Rossi said.

"And a giant ballistics-gel man with a weapon in its hand to shoot," Hotch muttered, half audibly.

Reid just smiled quietly. "I think I'll have the chicken," he told the waiter as the man started taking orders.