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Leading By Example
Sighing heavily as he noticed the hurt shining in Reid's expressive eyes, Dave nodded. "Sorry," he apologized grudgingly, the unaccustomed word stiff on his tongue. "Gideon and I never saw eye to eye on much, Reid."
"So I've gathered," Reid said faintly, holding himself still under the weight of the older man's gaze.
"Look, Reid, my philosophy is simple. You go into the field every time like it might be the last. And you guard your partner's back like it's the only thing that matters. And if you do that, you should both walk away relatively unscathed. At least, that's been my experience and it's worked out pretty well. I know I shouldn't blame you. Gideon walked away and left a half-formed agent in the making. That was his screw-up. Not yours."
"You left the Bureau, too," Reid replied softly, the correlation coming quickly in his suddenly confused mind.
"I did," Rossi nodded, not denying the calmly spoken statement. "But I damn sure didn't just up and cut bait without making sure the kid I was mentoring was fully capable of taking care of himself. And, let's face it, Reid. You might be brilliant, but you still have a lot left to learn when it comes to the practicalities of being an agent."
"I never said..."
"No, you never said anything. But somebody has to disabuse you of a few notions. Jason Gideon was just as brilliant as you are. But, look what happened to him," Dave said, gesturing toward his door with one hand. "He broke under the strain because of his inability to depend on the people around him. Because he couldn't put his faith in anyone other than himself. Is that what you want for yourself?"
"Of course not," Reid frowned, his bottom lip twitching. "But, I still don't think..."
"That's right, Reid. You DIDN'T think. You didn't pause and analyze why I told you to stay behind me. Do you want to know why? It was because I'm the better shot. But when you moved, you blocked that shot and you could have gotten yourself hurt a lot worse than a bullet in the arm," Dave said tightly.
"And that would have mattered to you?" Reid asked, the words escaping before he could call them back.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Dave asked, cocking his head as he stared down the younger man.
"It's been blatantly obvious since you rejoined the BAU that you have very little use for someone like me, Agent Rossi," Reid muttered, dropping his gaze to the floor, unable to face that piercing stare.
Well, hell, he'd never meant for the kid to feel THAT way. But, damn, he wasn't used to a twenty something year old kid outthinking him on a regular basis. And the reality had stung more than he cared to admit. Honestly, there were moments where Spencer Reid's presence on the team made him feel like a dinosaur. But that was his problem…not the man standing in front of him.
"Look, Reid," Dave sighed, scrubbing a hand over his jaw, "it's nothing personal. Standing next to you in the field, I feel like the old man I'm becoming. My feelings have nothing to do with you on a personal level despite how it may have seemed."
"But you're a legend," Reid countered, raising his head slowly, his forehead furrowing as he tried to process Rossi's explanation.
"Even legends are allowed to feel old, Reid," Dave replied uncomfortably. "The truth is, I admire you. Your mind works faster than any I've ever seen. And quite frankly, you're one of the Bureau's brightest shining stars. But," he stressed, "you've got to hone and sharpen your practical skills before you can truly soar."
"I see," Reid stated softly, blinking as he stared at the older man.
"No, you don't," Dave said wearily. Focusing his penetrating gaze on Reid's less than relaxed face, he said, "Reid, Jason Gideon and I were cast from two very different dies. He was an intellectual that analyzed every move he made, good or bad. I'm not saying he was wrong. He was just as effective as I was. But, his...hesitance...it cost him a lot. My purpose is simple. Find the bad guy. Stop the bad guy. By any means necessary. I don't care if I ever understand the bad guy's motivations. I just want the son of a bitch off the street. I'm a hell of a lot more in your face than Jason Gideon ever thought about being. But, what I can promise you is that you'll always know where I stand. I won't lie to you. I won't desert you. And I won't leave a fucking letter to say goodbye."
"There really aren't any secrets that you aren't aware of, are there?" Reid asked, swallowing tightly as memories of that dark night in Gideon's cabin once again came to mind.
"I make it a point to know about the people guarding my back, Reid," Dave replied without regret. "I won't apologize for that. But, on the other hand, I am sorry you got a raw deal with your previous mentor."
"He wasn't all bad, you know," Reid stated quietly, some part of him needing to defend the man he'd once held in the highest esteem.
"Most human beings aren't entirely one thing, Reid. We're each a combination of good and evil, right and wrong...but each man must decide for himself what percentage of each he's going to be. And, I've got no doubt that Gideon taught you some valuable lessons."
"I suppose so," Reid agreed. Tilting his head to the side, he said, slowly, "I'm sorry for taking a risk with not only my life, but yours as well, Agent Rossi. I see my error now and I'll endeavor to never repeat it. However, I feel the need to point out that we all have to make split second decisions occasionally. And, this was one that I did feel, at the time, was necessary."
"I can accept that," Rossi shrugged, not entirely satisfied. But, progress was progress, after all.
"Are we okay now, sir?" Reid asked, looking for some sign of forgiveness in the hard man ahead of him.
"We will be, Reid," Dave replied evenly, nodding once as he watched the young man's eyes darken for a moment, his mind attempting to process the entire conversation.
Nodding, Reid backed away from the desk. "Okay. Thank you for seeing me, Agent Rossi. I learned a great deal today."
"No more than I," Dave nodded, watching as Reid slowly slipped out of his office.
And as Spencer Reid calmly gathered his jacket and keys from his desk, he took one last glance at the office above. In that second, he realized that it just might be possible that David Rossi would be an even better example than any that Jason Gideon could ever provide.