Title: Obsolete

Author: Kuria Dalmatia

Rating: FRM, R (adult themes, profanity)

Pairing: Gideon, the BAU (Hotch/Reid)

Summary: For the first time in thirty years, Jason Gideon vomited upon listening to a voice mail message.

Word Count: ~3,500

ARCHIVING: my LJ... anyone else? Please ask first.

SERIES: Criminal Minds

Feedback always welcome.

DISCLAIMER: The Mark Gordon Company, ABC Studios and CBS Paramount Network Television own Criminal Minds. Salut! I just took them out to play and I promise put them back when I'm done. I'm not making any profit just trying to get these images out of my head.

TIMELINE/SPOILERS: Proudly AU to the 5th season opener, follows directly after "To Hell... and Back" because it's not like they're ever going to physically bring back Gideon.

COMMENTS: Part of the "Letters" series. Sequel to "Struggle", "Vellum", "Correspondence" and "The Curtains Flew".

Original concept May 2009, shortly after the original airing of "To Hell... and Back". Shelved due to an insane workload and when I finally got back to it, the S5 premiere had basically blown most of this to bits.

/***/

For the first time in thirty years, Jason Gideon vomited upon listening to a voice mail message.

Hotch was abducted from his home ten hours ago by George Foyet. It won't be on the news.

Spencer's tone had been distant, cold. Angry. God, he had sounded so damn angry.

As Jason emptied the contents of his stomach into the toilet, he sourly wondered if a fortuneteller could predict the future based on the swirls that the linguini made in the bowl. Wanting them to say, Hotch will be fine. Foyet will be caught and stay behind bars and never hurt anyone again, was downright pathetic.

Jason wasn't sure if he was happy or sad that - despite being almost three years removed from the BAU - he could still grab his go bag from the closet and know that he had enough clothes for four days and that he didn't need to pack toiletries. He wasn't sure if he was happy or sad that the nearest regional airport was less than twenty minutes from his cabin. He wasn't sure if he was happy or sad that he could call in an old favor at said regional airport and be on his way to Quantico within forty minutes of receiving the message.

Oh God.

No.

He couldn't do this again.

He just couldn't.

But this was for Aaron Hotchner. And Jason knew absolutely that if the situation were reversed, Hotch would put everything aside in order to help him.

He still had Aaron's letter. He coveted it more than he should.

Three hours later, Jason barreled in to the FBI headquarters at Quantico, flashing his expired credentials - the same ones Reid had tossed at his feet before leaving after their first discussion about Foyet those months ago - and was given a guest pass. He had a feeling that Garcia was paving his way, because there was no way he should have been able to get so far, so easily, without inside help.

Still. Walking into the BAU's conference room was a special kind of hell.

JJ. Morgan. Prentiss. Garcia. Reid.

Rossi.

That was a surprise.

The Springfield .45 holstered on the man's hip and the Bureau ID clipped to his belt meant that Jason's former co-worker wasn't here as a consultant; Rossi had been reinstated. Jason briefly wondered just how long the other man had been back and also why Reid failed to disclose that particular tidbit during his visit.

It probably didn't occur to him.

"Gideon," JJ said, head tilted slightly as if she couldn't believe he was here. She looked different, cheeks a bit more rounded and her shirt untucked. There was a stain on her shoulder. He smiled softly. JJ as a mother. It suited her.

Prentiss rounded the conference table and clasped his hands warmly. "Reid said he called you." There was that little edge in her voice that said, I had no idea he knew how to contact you. "I wish this could be under better circumstances."

"So do I," Jason replied, which - he supposed - was the appropriate response. He made sure he met Garcia's eyes as he tapped the guest badge, because without her intervention, he wouldn't have been allowed back in the building, much less whatever role he was allowed to play here. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," she replied as her fingers stilled over her keyboard, but she didn't tack on the 'sir' that she would have three years ago.

It stung more than he expected it to.

Morgan stood by the victimology board, the picture of a smiling Hotch with his son posted just over his shoulder. "Good to see you, man," but there wasn't the relief in Morgan's voice or the rush forward to shake his hand that Jason's ego was hoping to hear and to feel.

Then again, Morgan had never been that close to him after Boston.

Reid glanced over - he was facing the map where he was working on the geographical profile - and nodded once before returning to his work.

What did you expect? Jason chided himself. Reid gushing how great it is to have you back and how it's now a slam-dunk for them to get Hotch back, unharmed?

"Nice of you to stop by," Rossi said, getting in the verbal jab before he extended his hand in an offer of peace. Expected, of course, because they never had really gotten along. They shook.

Regardless, Jason knew his place. He met Rossi's inscrutable gaze. "Tell me what I can do."

/***/

Admittedly, Jason was surprised that Rossi had asked him to profile the crime scene. "Fresh eyes," the other man had said in response to the curious stares the rest of the team had given him back at the BAU. Only Reid seemed singularly perturbed.

"We know it's Foyet because Morgan's credentials were found at the scene," Rossi told him. "At first, we thought he had a partner because, let's face it, Foyet isn't exactly Mister Muscle. Getting Hotch out of his apartment, down an elevator and out to and into a vehicle without any witnesses? Challenging, even if Hotch was unconscious."

Jason grunted in an agreement.

"But... Foyet's too much a narcissist to share the glory. He got away with it for ten years, stringing that cop along..." Rossi shook his head. "He had a best-selling author in his pocket that kept him warm at night. And when we took him in? He bragged about being the most famous of the all. He's not gonna share this with anyone." He paused, running a hand through his hair. "Realistically, we're all too close to this. We shouldn't even be touching it. But you know those kids. Hell. They're all going to have their thumbs in the pie so might as well make it official." He had let out a sharp, short laugh. "And before you say anything, Jason, I know damn well that I'd have my thumb in it too."

Jason didn't reply, just followed Rossi until they reached Hotch's apartment. He absently fiddled with the wedding band he still wore, wondering why he wasn't more surprised about Hotch's marital status. He suddenly remembered the conversation with Rossi after they had both met Haley, back when Hotch had just joined the team. Rossi's assessment had been grim: Sure, it's all sweetness and light now because he's part of an elite unit, but… women like that? She's got an agenda and God help Aaron if he doesn't follow it. Jason had countered with, Not every marriage ends up like your two. Rossi had shrugged, But for someone in the FBI? Most of them do.

He really hated it when Rossi was right.

Now, Jason closed his eyes, forcing conversations and feelings away so that he could concentrate on the scene. Objective. He prided himself on being objective.

Just another crime scene. Just another victim. Just another UnSub.

Yeah. Right.

The residence looked barely lived in, but that was par for the course when it came to the living alone and being part of the BAU.

No forced entry at the door.

Furniture relatively new, casual yet slightly modern. Décor distinctly masculine. Taupe, navy, pale cream and beige. Solids and stripes. No florals. A few framed European art pieces on the wall.

Keys carelessly tossed on the credenza by the door.

The sharp smell of liquor. A near-empty decanter on the wet bar, bullet-hole in the wall above it. Crystal highball on its side on the ground. Blood soaked into the carpet. CSI markers all over the place, but nothing to indicate Hotch had been dragged anywhere.

There had been a struggle, but not much of one given the blood pattern and how the papers on the desk seemed undisturbed. Hotch's phone and gun looked as if they had been tossed there, not arranged. Foyet wouldn't have taken the time to straighten the desk after the fight. The desk chair was tipped over.

Rossi had dismissed the partner theory. Seeing this crime scene, it made sense. True, Hotch had put up somewhat of a fight. Foyet had to disable him somehow. And if Foyet had wanted him dead, the body would be here. Perhaps Foyet wanted to torture him. Jason recalled the comments about Hotch "not taking the deal", which resulted in those deaths on a pubic bus.

He looked over at the desk again. More CSI markers. Morgan's credentials opened with a single, unspent bullet.

Jason wandered into Hotch's bedroom. Tidy, except for the bed, King-sized left unmade. Too many pillows. A space clearly shared by two people, at least the last time Hotch had slept there.

Jason edged closer to the nightstand with the bedside lock box on top. Obviously Hotch's side. Reading glasses next to the alarm clock. New. Finally, an admission of age after all these years of teasing Jason about his. Jason wanted to smile. He couldn't. A dog-eared copy of The Firm by John Grisham, near the lamp.

He worked his way to the other side of the bed, noting the psychology journals face down on the nightstand and the leather glass case with the name of the optometrist embossed on the front. This wasn't a one-night stand. This was a relationship. People just didn't leave prescription eyewear casually.

A ghost of a smile crept across his face. Good for him. Yet... this particular aspect had been absent from the briefing. He raised an eyebrow and glanced over his shoulder. Rossi was standing in the doorway. "Don't tell me he's sleeping with his therapist."

Rossi smirked. "Nah. It's a little more complex than that."

"You didn't mention this before," Jason snapped, remembering exactly why working with David Rossi could be such a pain in the ass. Anal retentive neat freak. Held everything too damn close to his chest so he could solve the case single-handedly. Arrogant. It made Jason spit out, "Does the team know he's been seeing someone? Has she been contacted?" Jason forced the images of Sarah out of his head, ignored the chills racing down his spine as his stomach churned. "You know that Foyet kills in pairs!"

"Foyet kills heterosexual couples," Rossi clarified, smug as always.

Those last two words hit Jason like a Mack truck.

"What?" Jason stared and then suddenly, anger took over. "Do not play coy with me, David! We need to know everything about the... victim." The last word was bitter on his tongue. Flashbacks of Chicago and Georgia and those horrific hours in the ICU with Elle played in his mind. "That means who he's seeing. How long he's been seeing... him." Jason wasn't sure why he was so surprised at the gender. He wasn't judgmental but he had worked with Hotch for years... This was… not what he expected at all. "Has his... What? Lover? Boyfriend? Has he been warned? Placed in protective custody at least?"

"You're a crafty old profiler, Jason," Rossi retorted smoothly. "It shouldn't be that difficult to figure out."

And when Jason did, all the little breadcrumbs he'd observed when Reid had visited him in his cabin after Foyet's escape, the phone call about Hotch, and then the briefing in Quantico, all made perfect sense.

/***/

Jason wanted to feel admiration and pride for Reid's stalwart professionalism, for how the younger man made valuable contributions to the discussions all the while knowing some lunatic held his lover captive.

Instead, Jason felt pure jealousy, followed by the nagging voice in his head that said, When you found Sarah, you rabbitted from your apartment like a pathetic criminal. You couldn't handle it. You cried on the phone to Hotch like a baby. You did the worse thing in the world: you ran. You ran.

He tried to reason that Sarah was different, that it had come after a series of particularly bad cases. That the sanctuary of his cabin had been violated by Randall Garner's delivery. That he had not given up the guilt of Elle's shooting or that she had left. That he still felt responsible for what happened to Reid at the hands of Tobias Henkel. Seeing Sarah butchered, having his journal of those he'd saved in the hands of a vindictive madman… It wasn't the same.

This is worse, that same little voice sneered. Far, far worse. You never had to deal with anything remotely like the pig farm in Sarnia. You never had to deal with something like this on only four hour sleep. Funny, that little voice sounded a lot like Rossi.

Jason wandered up to the boards, examining the Reaper's first set of victims from 1998 and the second from earlier this year. Bloody. Oh so bloody. The bus. The blood painted on the windows. The eye.

There were no messages at Hotch's apartment besides Morgan's credentials and the bullet. No bloody letters or symbols painted on the walls.

Heterosexual couples.

"Are Haley and Jack in protective custody?" he asked, then realizing what a phenomenally stupid question that was. He wasn't sure who snorted derisively. Perhaps it was one those collective "group" ones. He wouldn't put it past the Kids.

"They've been moved to a safehouse in Fairfax along with Haley's sister," JJ said, with that patient tone he had heard so many times with the local police. "We have field agents assigned to Hotch's mother and his brother."

He glanced at the whiteboard that listed Foyet's profile. The man wanted to be famous.

Famous.

Had Hotch made some comment about how he would make sure that wouldn't happen? Triggering Foyet to focus on him? To make Hotch the star of his next perverted killing?

Jason circled back to the Reid's map, tuning out the discussion the other six were having. Boston. The Greater DC metro area. Another look over at the whiteboard. Morgan's distinct scrawl: No recent unsolved murders match. NONE!

None. Foyet was a ghost. Garcia had said as much, a freak skilled enough to operate off the grid. He wasn't going to be found unless he wanted to be found.

Which was complete and utter bullshit, in Jason's opinion. One of the few philosophies he did share with Rossi was the belief that an UnSub is still an UnSub. The greatest weapon we have is a profile. What does it tell us?

The insight was blinding, the thrill shooting down his spine and rousing in a way that it shouldn't have been. It was this that he missed, that feeling when his mind made a connection that someone else could rarely reasonably, logically could make.

"He's going back to Boston," Jason announced suddenly. "He's taking Hotch back to Boston." He glanced at the rest of the team, expecting to see the usual raised eyebrows and slightly gaping mouths they got whenever he had done that.

Instead, there were exchanged glances. Rossi's expression was that mix of masked embarrassment and pity, one he had used to use on aging cops who blurted out the obvious. His voice was still gruff, but had the undertone of sympathy as he stated, "Glad we're all in agreement. Wheels up in thirty."

/****/

It was almost like Jason had never left the BAU. JJ dealt the local LEOs. Garcia hunted down the smallest wisps of information via cyberspace. Prentiss and Morgan were out scouring potential locations for Foyet to hold Hotch captive (the term 'dump site' tacitly being ignored). Reid was in the field office's briefing room with a large mug of sugar-laden cop shop coffee doggedly working the map. Rossi played the role as conductor, keeping everyone up to date and directing new tasks once one trail had been exhausted.

Almost like Jason had never left. But he had. And this team, this incarnation, had an entirely different dynamic than before. He didn't fit in. He was there as a courtesy, perhaps. No. The only reason you're here is because Spencer's playing the odds.

It wasn't because of some pettiness on Reid's part; that just didn't fit in with who Spencer Reid was.

The person you once knew as Spencer Reid, the little voice corrected. And you know damn well the others won't forgive you until Spencer does. Which given Reid's cool demeanor and clipped tones when addressing him meant it wouldn't be in the immediate future. Even if they got Hotch back, safe and sound.

Which they would, of course.

They would. They, as in: Reid, Morgan, Prentiss, JJ, Garcia and Rossi.

Jason was just along for the ride, just like Max Ryan had been for the Keystone Killer. But Ryan had retired with accolades and grace, turning to the lucrative book deals only after Rossi had hit the top ten with Deviance. Ryan hadn't run away. Ryan hadn't simply disappeared. And when Ryan had come back for that case, he certainly was a hell of lot more helpful that Jason was.

"Foyet's taken him to East Boston," Reid declared with a passionate certainty that Jason had never heard before. It left him momentarily stunned as Reid charged out of the room.

Rossi grabbed his phone, taking a few steps towards the door before glancing back at Jason. "What the hell are you waiting for?"

/****/

The Sig Sauer felt heavy on Jason's hip, as did the Kevlar vest on his chest. Morgan and Rossi had taken the lead. He wanted to be surprised that Reid was right on their heels; the Reid Jason had known had never been especially eager to charge into the fray. Then again, the Reid he had known never had been involved in a serious relationship.

Conventional wisdom dictated that there was no way in hell Reid should have been allowed to accompany Morgan and Rossi. Experience said that there was no way in hell Reid would have sat in the car and waited to hear if his hunch was right.

Experience also said that Reid was a magnet for trouble. Jason followed them, telling himself he was their backup, while Prentiss and JJ fanned out with the others on the scene.

Then…

They heard muffled sounds coming from the detached garage. The windows had been painted black, so they had to go in blind. Morgan, of course, kicked down the door and yelled, "FBI!"

Reid tore in after him followed by Rossi. It was Rossi who shouted, "Foyet! Put the gun down!"

There was a defiant howl followed by a single gunshot.

Jason didn't need to cross the threshold to know exactly who had fired the shot. It had been the closure Jason hadn't been able to achieve with Frank. Envy flared up as he entered the garage and took in the scene.

Rossi was comforting a woman covered in blood. A man was slumped in the corner to their left, part of his face bashed in. Morgan and Reid were cutting the bonds that held Hotch to a St. Andrews cross.

Oh God.

Foyet had made Hotch watch him torture two people, killing one of them.

Hotch was bloodied, shirtless with deep cuts and bruising across his torso and arms. It didn't stop him from slumping into Reid's arms, with a hoarse yet clear, "I knew you would figure it out"—an echo of Georgia that made Jason wonder just how long Hotch and Reid had been together. He didn't let go of Reid as he was gently lowered to the ground.

Morgan shouting for the paramedics. JJ and Prentiss charging in, "Thank God" blurted as JJ yanked out her cell phone and made the call to Garcia.

George Foyet sprawled on the ground, blood oozing from the bullet hole in the center of his forehead courtesy of a scrawny kid who, at one time, had trouble passing his firearms qualification.

Jason slid his gun back into his holster and shuffled past the EMTs.

It wasn't his life any more.

It wasn't supposed to hurt this much.

/***/

The ivory envelope had a high cotton rag count, the type of paper usually reserved for formal announcements and invitations, not general correspondence. The handwritten script declared confidence, self-discipline, independence and self-reliance. Jason smoothed his thumb over the letters, the (unnecessary) confirmation that the author had used a fountain pen instead of ballpoint.

Old school. Respectful. Very Aaron Hotchner.

Jason carefully opened the envelope, pulling out the single sheet and knowing that the note would be to the point. Aaron rarely wasted words, something Jason had always appreciated. He scanned it briefly, ignoring the pleasantries that etiquette demanded because Aaron was raised to be a proper gentleman. He swallowed hard when he read: If you want to talk, I'll be here to listen.

The same sentence from Aaron's letter almost three years ago.

The desperate part of Jason, the idiotic part of him, was crushed that there was no post-script about Reid or from Reid. There was no second letter from Reid tucked in with Aaron's thank-you note—God, the man had written a thank you note!—offering absolutely or making amends or whatever.

I hope the next time we meet will be under less pressing circumstances.

It prompted Jason to snort, as his inner-Rossi voice chimed in with, His invitation, not Spencer's.

He sighed as he walked over to his desk, pulling out the vellum and doing something he should have done three years ago.

Dear Aaron...

/***/ Finis /***/