Disclaimer: See chapter 1
A/N: This is it folks. I hope you've all enjoyed it. Thanks to all who took the time to read and review. I'm encouraged by the feedback. As always thanks to mablereid for her support.
"Morgan can't you drive any faster?" Reid asked from the back seat. They were traveling north along the I95 to Baltimore. "That's a stupid question, I know you can, I've risked my life with you before so why not today?"
"I'm going the speed limit Reid. Don't worry, we won't be late."
"The speed limit! When has that ever held you back?" Reid looked at his watch again. "Morgan, sometimes with rush hour traffic on the beltw…" He felt a soft hand go over his mouth.
Morgan's eyes left the road for a moment to glance back and see that Phoebe had her hand over Reid's mouth. "He he he, atta girl Phoebe."
"Morgan keep your eyes on the road," Hotch said from his seat beside Morgan.
"Don't worry, we'll get there," Phoebe whispered to Reid as she ran her silky fingertips up his leg which normally sent him into orbit but, in his present state, had little effect although he did feel stirring in his nether regions.
"Miss Coulter," he whispered, "are you trying to seduce me?"
"Well just a little, just to take your mind off things, of course and I'm kind of worried that it's not working. Maybe I've lost my touch."
"Believe me," he whispered again, "you haven't." He raised his eyebrows and it was all Phoebe could do to hold in the laughter.
"Well, thanks for the reassurance," she said as she cupped his chin in her hand, turned his head and planted her lips briefly on his.
"Daddy, 'Pencer and Phoebe are smoochin'," Jack, in his car seat beside Phoebe, informed Hotch and Morgan in the front of the SUV.
"Reid," Hotch said sternly from the passenger seat beside Morgan.
"Hotch," Reid squeaked. "I didn't do anything. Look," he held up his hands, "no hands," while Phoebe sat with her hands innocently on her lap.
"Reid if you don't behave yourself we're pulling over and Phoebe can go in the other car with the rest of the girls and you'll be stuck holding hands with Dave."
"Alright, I'll be good," he shot Phoebe a dirty look but she just winked at him in response. "I probably would have been of better use with the others."
"I know my man but the girls wanted to use this trip as a quiz session for Theresa. You know they been workin' hard helping her study for her GED. They felt you threw down a challenge and they're determined to beat you."
"So how are you enjoying your job with Ambassador Prentiss?" JJ asked Theresa as they followed the SUV in Emily's car.
"She has been so nice to me. When there is nothing going on, she tells me it is alright if I want to work on my studies," said the young Mexican woman who sat in the backseat between JJ and Garcia.
"Garcia held the GED quiz book in her hand. "Okay, question 29…"
It was warm; the sun radiated from the heavens combined with a slight cooling breeze, just perfect for a game of baseball. The bleachers were starting to fill when the group arrived at King's field. "See Reid, I told you we'd get here on time," Morgan said as they found an empty area big enough to seat everyone. "Reid was fretting all the way here," Morgan told the others.
"Hey Reid, you know what? You're becoming a soccer dad," Garcia informed him as she took the seat next to him.
"Now Garcia that's hardly plausible since I'm not Fletcher's dad and this is baseball, not soccer."
"I think you're splitting hairs Reid," Emily said as she took a seat behind Phoebe, Spencer, Garcia, Hotch and Jack, with Morgan, JJ, Theresa and Dave.
"I kind of wished he'd picked soccer," JJ interjected. "Then I could have given him some pointers."
"From the reports I get from the phys ed instructor, he's doing really well. I mean look at his position, he's the catcher. He gets to call the game. He's the man!"
"Baseball dad," they all said as one.
The kids started to come out on the field for warm up throws. "Look," Reid said, "there he is." He stood up when Phoebe grabbed his hand and pulled him back down.
"Don't you dare yell out anything to embarrass the kid. He needs his wits about him."
"Well, I uh…just wanted him to know we're here. I missed his last game because we had a case."
"Knowing Garcia, when the action starts, he's definitely going to know we're here." She whispered to him. Phoebe turned to Garcia, "By the way thanks for all that you did for Jaime-Lynne. She's come out of her shell a lot since you took her under your wing."
"Hey don't thank me; it was fun, like having a little sister. We all did the day, she and Theresa both got their ears pierced." Theresa pulled back her hair to reveal the gold hoops that hung from her earlobes. "We practiced with different makeup at the salon. We all enjoyed ourselves. She's a great kid."
"She's got a lot more self confidence now and I think she owes it all to you. It's showing in her schoolwork as well."
"Well, if I recall correctly, it wasn't me that came up with the brainwave but Mr. I.Q. here." She jerked her thumb in Reid's direction.
"Shh, guys, they're about to start." Reid said from between the two women as the team from the Weinthorpe Academy took the field. The team from Kings Crossing was up to bat.
The first two batters were a strikeout and a fly to right field. The third hit a grounder to the shortstop and was thrown out at first. Phoebe had been right, Reid thought, Garcia was on her feet cheering for the Weinthorpe team in their wine colored jerseys and white and black pinstriped pants.
The Kings Crossing team took the field in their purple jerseys and white pants. "Hey Reid," Morgan said from behind him. "I see Fletcher's batting cleanup. He must be a pretty good hitter."
"He's batting .310 in the games he's played so far," Reid confirmed for his friend.
Jamal Henry, Fletcher's roommate was up to bat first. He and Fletcher had become fast friends. Jamal hit a grounder past the first baseman and was safe at first. The second batter struck out and the third hit a fly to the shortstop and then Fletcher came to the plate. He gripped the bat like he'd been born with it in his hands, Reid thought. "Go Fletcher," Garcia yelled from her seat beside Reid.
"Be quiet Garcia," Rossi said. "Don't interrupt the boy's concentration."
Fletcher let the first pitch go by, "Strike one," the umpire yelled. Fletcher choked up on his bat, took his stance once again and hit the next pitch foul in the direction of the Kings Crossing bullpen, "Strike two." The third pitch landed in the dirt at the catcher's feet allowing the speedy Jamal at first to take second base, "Ball one." As the fourth pitch got to the plate Fletcher sent it with a ping from the aluminum bat past the shortstop and into centerfield where it escaped the diving centerfielder and rolled to the fence. Fletcher rounded the bases, sliding feet first into third base in a cloud of dust, barely beating the throw from the outfield while Jamal crossed home plate.
The team along with Phoebe, Theresa and Jack all sprang to their feet. Garcia yelled, "Way to go Fletcher," while Morgan put two fingers in his mouth and whistled loudly. Fletcher waved to them from his perch on third base. The batter after Fletcher grounded out ending the inning and leaving Fletcher stranded at third base.
Weinthorpe took the field again and after a few warm up throws the first batter from Kings Crossing stepped up to the plate. The first pitch, a fastball low and inside, sailed by the batter and also missed Fletcher's mitt but made firm contact with his groin area. The boy let out a groan that was audible in the stands as he fell from his catcher's squat to his knees. There was a collective hiss from the men in the stands as two men in Weinthorpe jackets came out to attend to the boy.
"Oh man, that's gotta hurt," Morgan said behind Reid. "I hope he was wearing a cup."
Reid leapt to his feet, trying to make his way past people in the stands when Morgan and Rossi grabbed him by the shoulders and plunked him unceremoniously back in his seat.
"Leave him be Reid," Rossi said quietly in his ear. "The coach and the medic are attending to him."
"Yeah Reid, what are you going to do?" Morgan asked, "Run down to the field and check out his boys with all these people watching?"
"He's my responsibility," Reid said as he saw Fletcher stand, bend over and take some deep breaths. He paced a few times while the medic and the coach watched.
"And part of that responsibility is letting him get hurt," Hotch added. "He'll stumble, he'll fall, he'll skin his knees and he may even break bones. His first love will likely break his heart but he'll handle it."
"I know you don't want him ever to suffer," Garcia added. "You identify with him, you always have, and you don't want him to suffer like you did. Just remember, he's got one thing you didn't have."
Those eyes that had seen so much yet somehow still shone with pure innocence looked intently at Garcia, "What's that?" he asked.
The car and SUV stopped in front of the school. Dinner at a nearby steakhouse had been fun. Theresa seemed to be fully at home with the team; she and the other women had become good friends. Fletcher had suffered through some mild teasing from Morgan about getting back up and carrying on after the assault on "his boys."
Reid and Fletcher exited the vehicle and hurried into the dormitory. They had only a few minutes until Fletcher had to be up in his room. A couple of boys Fletcher's age were leaving the lounge as the pair was entering. They high fived Fletcher, praising him for playing a great game. Beating Kings Crossing had been a huge coup for Weinthorpe and a message to others that the academy students could be known for more than their brains.
"You were quiet at dinner," Reid said as he took a seat on one of the wine colored leather sofas throughout the large room which contained bookcases full of books, computers, puzzles, board games such as chess, backgammon, scrabble and go and a large plasma screen. The room had everything to stimulate the young mind.
"I was not!" Fletcher exclaimed in his defense.
"Are you in pain?" Reid asked.
"No," he paused for a moment as Reid raised his eyebrows, "okay, maybe just a little."
"Only physical pain?"
"Spencer, what are you talking about?"
"You were quiet at dinner. You hit those baseballs like you were trying to hit them out of the stratosphere. You took a hard hit to the testicles yet you smiled all through dinner like a person who wants others to believe there's nothing wrong. I'm a profiler, remember."
"Yeah," Fletcher said as he sat gingerly on the couch and winced slightly. "I had to get a guardian who's a profiler. Why didn't I get stuck with a plumber?"
"Just your rotten luck, I guess. Is it something here at school that's bothering you?"
The boy was silent for a few moments, then shrugged in resignation. "No, I like it here. It's a good school and I get along great with Jamal and the other kids."
"Okay, I emailed my mom and dad and my dad sent back an email that was like a business letter and nothing from my mom. They must be really glad to be rid of me so I'm going to be happy to be rid of them. I have you and Theresa," he wiped a stray tear from his cheek. "That's all I need."
"I know how you feel. That's how I felt about my father. I despised him so much that I thought he could be guilty of a heinous crime. He wasn't. My father claims he's always loved me and been proud of me but I don't know if I can ever trust him again."
"Family is important. You might not think so now that you're angry but it's true. Maybe your parents don't know how to respond because they don't know what to say. They've been hiding their true selves and maybe they don't know how to explain that to you. They don't understand that you and I know exactly what that's like. How many times have we not answered questions we knew the answer to because we didn't want to appear as smart as we are? We wanted to fit in. Sometimes the team will say 'what, no statistic!' when I'm really just trying to be more conversational and trying to fit in."
"That's why your parents originally did what they did, to fit in. Was it wrong, probably? But their error in judgment did one thing. It gave you to the world and for that I can't hate them. I think if they're given the chance to be who they are, they may eventually come around. You have every right to be hurt and every right to be angry. Just don't close and lock that door just yet. Leave it open a crack and give it some time. I'll always be here to talk to."
"Promise?" the boy said hopefully.
"I promise," Reid confirmed. "You better get off to your room. You don't want to get in trouble."
"Okay, I'll see you next week," he raised his hand as Reid was about to open his mouth. "I know, if you don't have a case. Bye," the boy said as he gave Reid a quick hug, turned and ran from the room. Reid stood alone in the silence of the large room and watched Fletcher disappear into the dormitory. He had promised to be there for Fletcher. He would not let Fletcher down, he now promised himself.
"You were in there a long time," Morgan remarked as Reid got into the car. Jack, he noted, was asleep in his car seat.
Phoebe squeezed his hand, "Is everything okay?"
"Yeah," he replied quietly as he nodded. He hoped he'd given Fletcher the right advice. Morgan started the SUV and as they began the trek home in the darkening night the words of a Frost poem popped into his head.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep.