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Leading By Example
It had been three days. Three days of complete and utterly cold silence, Spencer Reid thought as he dimmed the lights in the BAU's bullpen and looked longingly toward the upstairs office. Wincing as his left arm jostled in the blue sling, he glared down at the appendage.
It had been an accident, getting winged by their unsub. Morgan was right; Reid had ducked when he should have weaved. At least his bald colleague could see the humor in the situation. No one else had seemed to.
Garcia, JJ and Emily had clucked over him like mother hens, chastising him for his foolish bravery while simultaneously trying to nurse him back to health. Hotch's jaw still tightened when he looked at Reid's injured arm...he'd made that condemning head shake into an art form. But, when it came to the man he most wanted to respond in some small way...David Rossi had only been icily silent, barely looking on him. And when he did, Reid could swear there was contempt in Rossi's gaze.
It couldn't go on. Sooner or later, and he had no doubt it would be later if Rossi had any say in the matter, they were going to be partnered together again. And the kind of resentment the other man appeared to be harboring could be more detrimental than any so-called foolish stunt he might be accused of.
It couldn't continue. And it was obvious that the elder profiler wasn't going to approach him. Therefore, his options were limited. With a heavy heart, he headed toward the metal staircase, silently dreading what was almost guaranteed to be an ugly confrontation. His sneakers slapped against the steel steps as his fingers tightened around the banister. Reminding himself that his intentions had been noble three days prior, he mentally prepared himself for Rossi's acerbic tongue.
Rapping lightly on the thick wooden door, Reid leaned slightly to the left, peering in past the blinds to Dave's dimmed office. Grimacing as he heard Rossi's gruff voice bid, "Enter!", Reid reluctantly twisted the metal doorknob and forced himself to walk into the din of the lion.
"Agent Rossi?" Reid's hesitant voice queried when the elder man didn't look up from the file he was studiously leaned over. Watching as Rossi stiffened, recognition of the soft voice etched on his tight face, Reid mentally groaned. This was going to be as pleasant as reading one of Sigmund Freud's misguided psychiatric analyses.
"What?" Dave snapped coldly, not looking up from the reports spread before him. Damn it, he thought irritably with himself, he couldn't seem to control his ire at the kid. No, he amended quickly, this was not a kid but a fully qualified agent that had taken an unnecessary risk with his life three days ago, thus getting himself shot in the fucking process. He could still hear the bullet whizzing past him to connect with Dr. Spencer Reid's body. Hadn't he told the kid to stay behind him?
"I need to talk to you, sir," Reid said bravely, hoping desperately that this conversation wouldn't be his last act of courage.
He had to admire the kid's fortitude, Rossi admitted silently to himself as he finally lifted his gaze and narrowed it on the lanky youth standing in front of his desk. The doc had balls; he'd give him that much. "So speak," Dave invited roughly, raising a dark brow as he wordlessly dared the other man to say something of interest to him.
Shifting nervously on his feet under the weight of the renowned agent's scrutiny, Reid stammered, "I...uhmmm...I feel like I need to apologize to you, but I'm not exactly sure what I should be making amends for."
Now, that cut it, Rossi thought angrily. The supposed genius standing there staring him down wasn't even smart enough to figure out why he was pissed? Taking a deep breath, Rossi's eyes gleamed in the dull light produced by his desk lamp. "How about disobeying the direct order of a superior, Dr. Reid? Does that sound reasonable?"
"But you aren't my superior," Reid blurted without thinking, immediately regretting his response. Waving his uninjured hand in the air, he sputtered, "I mean..."
"Technically, no, I'm not," Dave cut him off, his words bit out with far more power than any bullet that had ever been aimed at the younger man, "But, I think that about a lifetime more experience in the field than you qualifies me as your superior, wouldn't you? And when somebody older and wiser tells you to stay the fuck down, Doctor," Rossi sneered, emphasizing the title, "you fucking do it."
"Agent Rossi," Reid said quickly, taking an involuntary step forward as he realized just how badly he'd offended the other man, "Let me..."
Rising from behind his desk, Dave faced Reid squarely across the polished surface. "No," Dave replied dangerously, "YOU let me, Doctor. You may doubt my superiority. Fine. But I wouldn't make the mistake of doubting my knowledge on unsubs. You got lucky, Reid. Damned lucky. You took a bullet in the arm this time. But what about the next time?"
"The unsub needed to be distracted, sir. I wasn't trying to make myself a target deliberately. But can you deny that if there was a choice between an unsub taking a shot at you or the victim he was holding hostage, that you wouldn't choose yourself?"
"We're not talking about me, Reid!" Dave exploded, his brow furrowing tightly. "We're talking about the young, inexperienced know-it-all that almost got himself killed on my watch!"
"I'm not your responsibility," Reid denied, flushing.
"Who the fuck told you that bullshit?" Rossi asked harshly. Snapping his fingers, he growled, "Oh, that's right. You were the Lone Wolf's protégée."
"Excuse me?" Reid asked, stiffening as he heard David Rossi's unspoken condemnation for his former mentor, Jason Gideon.
"You heard me," Dave replied, seething with a boiling rage at the egomaniac that was Jason Gideon. "Maybe nobody else will say it to you, Kid, but, Jason Gideon seriously fucked you up."
"Agent Gideon has nothing to do with this," Reid denied immediately, his shoulder stiffening underneath his sweater vest.
"The hell he doesn't," Rossi snapped, rolling his eyes. "I worked with Jason for a lot of years, Reid. I know just exactly what he probably taught you about personal responsibilities. Let me guess," Rossi said, holding up a finger when Reid opened his mouth. "It went something like this: A man must make his own choices...take his own risks when he deems it appropriate. You'll know in the moment the choice you need to make...Tell me, Doctor Reid, am I close?" Dave smirked, the answer to his question written all over Reid's face.
"Y-yes," Reid replied, unsure now, his earlier denials no longer seeming to be the certainty they had once been.
"Thought so," Rossi muttered, experiencing a dark pang of satisfaction in being right. "Like I said...he fucked you up, kid."
"Okay, if his way was so wrong, what's your theory?" Reid asked, no malice in his voice, truly interested in the older man's opinion.
"Now you're interested in my theories?" Rossi asked sarcastically, pushing his hands into his pockets as he leaned a hip against his desk.
"Would you please refrain from mocking me and simply answer the question," Reid requested with quiet dignity.