"What are you doing back?" Hotch asked from his office doorway.
"Garcia told me to come in and finish my paperwork so I can have a couple of days off." Morgan replied while grabbing another form.
"How did the appointment go?"
"The steroids have kicked in, and he is feeling much better. The doctor said his immune system is going to be weak for quite some time, and it might not get better. He's always going to have to be careful about his lungs and watch for high pollution days, cold weather, cigarette smoke, and things like that."
"How did he take it?"
"He was a little depressed; I think that is why Garcia wanted to stay with him. I'm glad though; she somehow manages to make him feel better." Morgan went back to his paperwork when Hotch turned into his office.
Spencer dried the last dish from breakfast and folded the threadbare towel over the dish strainer. Morgan was still spending the night to make sure he didn't wake up having trouble breathing. The bout with pneumonia had given them all a little scare. Nevertheless, he was doing better. While not physically being able to return to the office yet, his mind was going stir-crazy without anything to stimulate it. It had been bearable when someone was staying with him, but now he didn't even have anyone to talk to.
He walked into the living room, stared at Garcia's computers, and hesitated for only a moment before walking over and flipping on one of the systems. Reid logged in and waited for the webcam to connect him to Quantico.
"Hi, Sweet Pea. What are you up to?" Garcia asked.
"Nothing. Everyone's already cleaned my apartment and I'm bored out of my mind. Is there anything I can do to help?"
"Hang on, Sugar." She was gone for about five minutes before returning. "Hotch says he'll check in with you soon. He'll probably come up with something you can help out on." Garcia looked to another monitor and continued typing. "I've gotta go, Kitten. Take care."
"Thanks." He sullenly replied.
Two hours later, his phone rang. "Hello?"
"Hi, kid. I'm coming by for lunch. What do you want me to bring you?" Derek asked.
"Whatever is easiest for you."
"Come on, cheer up. Hotch is sending me with some paperwork you can do. He got the message that you were bored and figured this would be right up your alley since you are the only one that actually enjoys doing the tedious paperwork and it guarantees that you won't be straining anything."
"Hey, I can tell you that my mind works pretty darn hard on that paperwork."
Derek chuckled on the other end of the line. "Okay, I'll see you in about thirty or forty minutes."
A week later.
Reid stepped out of the bathroom and hurried over to answer the ringing phone. "Hello?"
"Hi, Reid. Hotch is making me go out on a consult with Prentiss so I can't make lunch today."
"No problem." He tried to hide his disappointment.
"Hotch said to make it up to you he is taking us out to dinner. You're to decide and find out if they take call ahead seating. I'll call you when we know what time we'll be leaving."
"Okay. What do you feel up to?"
"Hey, Hotch is treating, make it some place nice."
"I heard that." Hotch shouted in the background.
"I'll be ready. See you then."
Spencer was sitting on the couch, tying his shoes, when Morgan opened the door. "You ready to go?" He asked.
"Yeah, just tying my shoes give me a minute to grab my sweater."
"No problem, Hotch needed to use the bathroom before we head out."
They waited at the door and Derek helped Spencer put on his sweater. Hotch came out of the bathroom, "I can't believe Derek talked you into Romalloan's. I did say I owed you but did you have to take me to the bank?"
"Don't worry, Hotch. I still don't eat much."
"But leftovers make a great lunch." Derek piped in.
"You stay out of it. You are already costing me a fortune."
"You don't really have to pay for my meal Hotch." Spencer looked at his feet.
"Yes, I do. Now I'm only teasing with you. You can have whatever you want. I'm not rich, but then again I don't spend a lot of money on myself so I can afford to treat you." Hotch wrapped an arm around Reid's shoulders and drug him out of the apartment.
"So how was your day?"
"Lonely." Reid replied.
Derek locked the door and followed them out.
The three men returned to Spencer's apartment after a full meal, carrying leftovers and desserts. Hotch carried Reid's items and Morgan kept an arm around his friend's waist--adding extra support for the exhausted young man who looked like he was asleep standing up.
"I think we wore him out. Shouldn't have let him party so much."
"Very funny." Spencer mumbled. "I'm going to go ahead and take a bath. In case you are gone before I get done, thanks for dinner, Hotch. It was really good and it was super nice to get out of the apartment."
"No problem. We'll work you up to getting out more. We need you back at the office." He watched his youngest agent move into his bedroom.
After Reid stepped into the bathroom, Morgan brought Hotch a beer from the kitchen. "What's on your mind, Morgan?"
"It can be really annoying hanging out with profilers."
Hotch just smiled. "So tell me already."
"I was just wondering, even though Reid is getting better and has started spending the day by himself, would it be possible for Garcia to still come over and stay with him when we are away on cases?"
"Her computers are still set up, I don't see why not." He took a drink from his bottle. "You're worried about him."
"Yeah, he doesn't handle being alone well. I know he likes to make you think he prefers it that way, but he doesn't. In fact, I even suggested he get a pet."
Aaron smiled, "You make a great mother."
Derek threw a pillow at his boss who deflected it easily.
"I'm going to head home. Make sure he doesn't fall asleep in there and drown."
Two weeks later Morgan walked up to Hotch's office and knocked.
"Come in." Morgan walked in, took a seat and crossed one jean-clad leg on the other. "What's up?"
"I'm really worried about Reid. He's getting depressed. This weekend he didn't want to do anything but sit on the couch and watch TV. I really think he would have just sat there without the TV if I hadn't been there."
"The doctor hasn't cleared him even for part-time work yet so I'm not sure exactly what I can do." Hotch said.
"I know. I guess I was hoping you could come up with something."
"Maybe we can get him to do more video conferencing with us and participate in our consult conferences."
"Great; I'll talk to Garcia." Morgan said.
"Okay, I'm going to arrange a courier to send some files over to him."
That afternoon Morgan watched a courier come into the bullpen carrying files. Hotch came back from the conference room and intercepted the courier. "Morgan, Reid refused to answer the door."
"Damn." The black man ran a hand across his closely shaved head. "I'm going over there to see what is up."
"Call me and let me know what is going on." Hotch called to him as Morgan grabbed his jacket.
Derek thought long and hard on his drive back to Reid's apartment. He didn't know what he would find when he got there but he vowed that something would change today.
He unlocked the door and walked in. "Reid?" He went into the kitchen and found breakfast dishes lying in the sink. "Reid, where are you?" Morgan stepped back out of the kitchen and looked into the darkened living room. The shades were still down so he went into the bedroom. He found Spencer lying in bed curled around his other pillow. The shades were also drawn in this room and the lamp beside the bed was on.
Derek walked over to the bed and placed his hand on Reid's shoulder. "You're freezing."
"What do you mean, so?"
"Who cares if I am freezing?"
He realized this was going to be a lot harder than he wanted. Morgan slipped off his jacket and placed it over the thin body. "I care. Talk to me, Kid. What's going on?"
Morgan watched him snuggle under the coat trying to absorb the residual body heat. After several moments of silence, "Why haven't you gotten out of bed today?"
"What's the point?"
"The point is you need to build up your strength so you can come back to work. Everyone misses you."
"Get real, Morgan. Look at how long it's been; do you really think I'm ever going back to work?"
He rubbed his hands across his face; then he grabbed his coat and pulled the covers back. "Come on, you're getting up and we are going for a walk."
"This isn't up for discussion. Now get your skinny ass out of bed and get dressed." He grabbed the younger man's arms and began hauling him up right.
"Stop it! Let me go!"
"No!" Morgan yelled right back at him. "I am not going to let you lay there and wallow in self-doubt. You are going to get up, get dressed, and we are going for a walk and to talk." He proceeded to haul the other man to his feet but was careful to handle him without leaving bruises.
He gave the young man ten minutes to get dressed before going back in and grabbing shoes and socks. It still tickled Morgan that Reid matched up his mismatched socks. They were all neatly folded together with opposites matching. He watched Spencer sit down on the bed and then went over and grabbed a foot, pulling the autumn striped sock over the long high-arched left foot and then tying the black converse tightly. Derek gave the other foot the same treatment and then pulled on his coat and Spencer grabbed his own coat from the cluttered closet.
They walked for a block and a half without saying anything. Morgan kept taking quick glances at his friend, wondering what was going through that brilliant mind. "Talk to me."
"What about?" Spencer pushed his hair back and scratched the side of his nose. He kept tucking his hands in his pockets and bringing them back out nervously.
"Did you bring your inhaler?" Morgan suddenly realized he hadn't checked and they were meandering farther than Reid had been going at one time.
"Yeah," the young man pulled it out of his pocket and showed Morgan.
"Let's cross the street up here; there are some benches just around that corner facing the street vendors."
After taking a seat, he asked, "What are you afraid of?" Morgan watched Reid's face. The kid knew he was surrounded by profilers that could see through the facade he tried to project.
"I'm never going to get any better than I am right now." Spencer wrapped his arms around his torso tightly.
"You don't know that. You have come a long way and now you are only improving a little at a time." Morgan turned so that he was facing his friend. "Look at where we are. You've already walked farther than you ever have and you haven't used your inhaler once. You aren't even out of breath and we even talked a little while you were walking."
Derek was amused when he saw the startled expression cross Spencer's face.
"But I want to go back to work."
"I know. Hotch knows, too. We all want you back, but not at the risk of your health. Hotch and I were talking today and trying to come up with a way to get you back in the loop without breaking your doctor's orders."
Morgan smiled at the silly young man. "Yes, really. We were thinking about using the equipment that is still set up and bringing you in on our consultations."
"Now if that is all that brain of yours can come up with, we may have to reconsider if you are well enough for that."
"I am, I am."
Morgan let out another laugh at the excitement he could see in Spencer's eyes. "Come on then, let's get back and call Garcia to see what we need to do. I bet we've already missed today's consults."
"Oh." Spencer replied.
"Well, Hotch did send a courier to your place with the files but you chose not to open the door. He may be having second thoughts."
"No, I'm sorry. I'm ready, I promise."
Morgan wrapped an arm around the bony shoulders and pulled out his cell phone to call Hotch while they made their way back.
Three months later.
"Pretty Boy!" Morgan stood up from his desk. "You know, I have actually missed you. Give me a statistic."
Reid grinned from ear to ear. "The number of co-workers that actually miss each other is only 0.01%."
"You're making that up." Morgan accused.
Derek reached over and pulled the younger man into a headlock. "Hey, Prentiss. Do you want to beat him up while I hold him?"
"Nah, it's his first day back. I'll wait until tomorrow."
Garcia walked up behind Morgan and smacked him on the arm. "You let him go. Come here, Kitten." She wrapped Spencer up in a tight hug.
"How long are you here for?" Hotch asked from the catwalk.
Still held in Garcia's embrace, he said, "I don't know; until I get too tired, I guess. Half-day, maybe longer." She finally released him.
"Okay, just make sure you don't over do it."
Hotch grabbed his empty FBI mug and stepped out of his office. He looked down and saw Reid with his head tilted on his arms fast asleep. "Morgan," when the other man looked up he nodded his head at the kid. "How long has he been like that?"
"About fifteen minutes."
The senior profiler went over to the young agent's desk, grabbed a thin shoulder, and gave it a shake. "Reid." He had to shake the young man a couple of more times. "Reid." He said a bit louder.
Spencer lifted his head and ran a tired hand across his face. "W-what?"
"Go lay down in my office. You know where the pillow and blanket is."
"No, I'm fine."
"That's an order. There's only a little over an hour left any way. Go rest and then Morgan can take you home." Hotch watched the confused man keep looking around and then slowly got up and climbed the stairs.
"Do you want any coffee?" He asked Morgan.
Hotch walked to the break room and finished his original goal.
Two weeks later.
Morgan looked up from his paperwork when Garcia walked in with Emily. "Hey my Mocha Java, we are going dancing tonight. Do you want to go?"
"Sure. Reid, what about you?"
The young man lifted hazel eyes to stare at the trio. "What, what about me?"
"Isn't he cute?" Morgan said to Garcia with a touch of sarcasm. "Oh, Kitten—" He was cut off.
"Shut up, Morgan."
Derek just laughed. "We're going dancing. Do you want to come?" He watched a flicker of something skim over the young man's face but it was gone before he could recognize it.
"Uh, no." Reid turned back to his paperwork.
A little while later, a thought suddenly hit Morgan and he went to Garcia's office. "Baby Girl, we are so thoughtless."
"What are you talking about handsome?"
"Reid, he can't go dancing with us at a smoky club. Can you find one that is smoke free?"
"Oh, no. You're right, hang on." She began typing furiously on her keyboard. "Here's one. It's thirty minutes away though."
"I don't mind. Send Emily a text and see if she cares." He waited why the tech whiz sent off the message and waited on a reply. "She's okay with that. You going to talk him into going? He doesn't usually dance but I figure he could hang out with us."
"Sure. Plan on it, he'll be there even if I have to drag him." Morgan left her office forming a plan in his head.
"Pretty Boy, we've had a change in plans. We are not going to our usual spot. Instead, we are going to Pony's. Garcia said it's smoke free so you have no excuse not to come. Did you drive in today?" He watched his friend shake his head no. "Great, then you are coming with me and we don't have to take time to stop at your place. I've still got that pair of jeans at my house that I found in my laundry from when you were soaking wet and I've got a couple of t-shirts that got shrunk a month ago."
Morgan watched the stunned look on Reid's face. "Come on, get your bag. What are you waiting for?"
"I, uh, I . . . I don't really want to go dancing." Spencer stuttered.
"Too bad. Garcia said you have to go and it's my fault if you don't. So, get a move on."
Six months later.
"Wheels up in thirty. Are you coming with us this time, Reid?"
"Yeah, I've been healthy for a whole month so the doctor said he would release me to return to travel."
"Well, it's good to have you back with us. See you on the plane." Hotch said and patted his shoulder on the way out.
"We can't give a profile yet." Morgan said.
"We have nothing else to go on and the PD wants us out." Rossi added.
"I still think there is a connection between the victims that we are missing." Reid said.
"You've got an hour to come up with that connection. JJ, see if you can pacify them for now." Hotch picked up some of the pictures lying on the table and pinned them to the board. "What are you thinking?" He looked over Reid's shoulder and tried to help the young man connect the pattern he was seeing.
"Do we know if there was a connection between Lisa and Mike? I think we are missing something there."
Hotch picked up the information on the two victims. "Do you want to talk to the parents again?"
"No. Is there a list of friends?"
"There is a roommate here that moved away a month ago."
"What is the name?"
Spencer whipped around. "That's the connection. Everyone of the victim's are associated with him. Hotch, I think he is our unsub."
"Are you sure, Reid?"
"Okay, you stay here. You are not going in on this."
Hotch ran a hand through his hair. "Because I said so. We'll talk about this later."
"Hey kid. How are you doing?" Morgan asked.
Reid held up his finger signaling him to wait a minute. He pulled out his inhaler and took two puffs before leaning back against the side of the SUV. "Not bad."
"You look about ready to drop."
"No. The heat is really getting to me. Remember what the doctor said."
"Okay; as long as you think you are okay."
Spencer nodded his head in the affirmative.
Morgan reached over and took the bag from unresisting fingers.
"Come on." Hotch said, wrapped an arm around his lean shoulders, and pulled him toward the waiting plane. They all waited patiently while it took longer than usual for Spencer to get up the steps.
Hotch followed behind and sat down next to the young man.
"Reid, about earlier. I didn't want to put you outside in this weather. I saw how it was getting to you a couple of days ago. You don't have to push yourself. You are very valuable to this team; we can work around your limitations. It's not a big deal. I promise you."
Spencer kept his eyes on the floor. "I wish you didn't have to work around my limitations."
Hotch reached over, squeezed the bony hand, and then released it. "We all have limitations of one kind or another. We shield Garcia from the gruesome pictures. JJ is sent to help the families and away from scenes that deal with children. Emily is kept away from politicians and situations that would allow her to be used. Rossi is forced to stay on focus as a team instead of running rough shod on his own. You aren't the only one we make special arrangements for. And we are happy to go that extra step."
"Thanks." Spencer whispered.
"Now, try to get some rest. I've noticed that you are trying to hide the fact that the pressurized air bothers you."
"Uh, yeah, a little."
"Reid, it's okay to tell us you're having problems. We've helped you get through this so far; why do you think we would think you are weak for letting us know you are having a problem now?"
Spencer sighed. "It's not that . . . not really. I just want things to be normal again. I don't want to have to think about if the weather is going to be bad or worry about having enough medicine with me or deciding not to do something with the team because I won't be able to handle the air."
Hotch smiled at him, "I hate to tell you, kid. But, you're getting older and if it weren't your lungs, it would be something else that you would have to start making concessions over sooner or later. Now let's play cards."
Reid grinned at him and dug out a deck of cards from his messenger bag. "Morgan, are you up for a game?"
"Are you going to let me win?"
"Not a chance."
"I'll play, but I'm not betting and I want Hotch as my partner."
"Hey!" Prentiss protested.
"Sorry, but he's better at reading the kid than any of us." They all settled in to play a relaxing game.
A/N: Well, it has been a fun ride and I want to thank everyone that has reviewed and subscribed to story alert. I was really amazed at the response this received.
So, now that this is done, I can move on to some new stories. Look for those coming soon.
I am looking for a content beta that will look at the over-all picture for some longer on-going stories. Please send me a PM if you are interested.