Disclaimer: I don't own these worlds, just this non-cannon tale.
Since Criminal Minds season one aired the Day of the Dead episode in April 2006, I decided that the episodes aired in fall 2005 took place in the spring of that year. Also, I've tweaked the ages of both Reid and Charlie, as they would otherwise be five years apart.

"Dad, it's Charlie. The problem turned out to be the charging port in my phone, so I went ahead and upgraded to a new model. Call my cell, not Spence´s if you need anything. Otherwise, I´ll see you in a few days. Love you, bye."

Charlie turned his phone off, and then walked back into the restaurant. Their tea had arrived while he had been outside. "That was fast," Spencer said casually as Charlie slipped into the seat across him.

"Dad should be at his book club," Charlie said as he poured himself some tea. "I just wanted to make sure he wouldn't bother you. And Don… well after that voicemail, I was only going to text him, anyway."

"Which one?"

Charlie scowled sourly at Spencer's amused tone. "They're all the same." Just a dozen different ways for Don to say it, Charlie thought. "So what's Edgerton´s story?" he asked. "You know much about him?"

"Anything in particular you want to know?" Spencer asked with a smirk.

Charlie shrugged as he took a sip of tea. "Not really. It just seems we should have had a longer conversation."

Spencer chuckled. "Isn't that the same thing you said about Stephen ten minutes before you two asked each other out?"

Charlie glared at his friend.

Spencer ignored the look. "He teaches sniper tactics and marksmanship at the academy and is one of the best shots in the country. An expert at wilderness tracking, he works fugitive recovery when the academy's not in session. He's good enough at what he does that he usually enjoys the luxury of choosing the cases he feels he'd be most useful on. He doesn't have a partner, which has led to a lone wolf reputation, but he isn't anti-social. He always works well with the local field offices and never hesitates to request whatever resources are required. He doesn't want to deal with the type of cases my team does regularly, but he's excellent at reading people, so he could. He's a talented artist, and I think he has some form of eidetic memory."

Charlie blinked at that last. "Oh?"

Spencer nodded. "I caught a glimpse of his sketch pad on the plane. He was drawing the airport park from memory. Very detailed memory, with more lifelike skill than I could ever manage."

"Your sketches are better than you give yourself credit for." Not that Charlie expected Spencer to suddenly listen.

"Trust me, Edgerton´s skill is exceptional. And though he doesn't advertise it, he takes pride in it. He pays for quality materials, he goes for the brands that are most likely to hold up under traveling, and takes care when packing them into his bag."

Charlie nodded, knowing better than to question Spencer on anything drawing-related. "And do you know if he…"

"Contrary to what Morgan seems to think, I don't care about my coworkers' sex lives or preferences," Spencer replied dryly. "Edgerton has paid attention to everything the team's asked and said about you, but I wouldn't read anything more into it than trying to suss out the team dynamics."

"Makes sense," Charlie said, shoving disappointment aside. With ninety percent of the world straight, the odds were against Edgerton even liking men, much less Charlie's type. "He wouldn't want to step on anyone's toes."

"Actually," Spencer frowned thoughtfully. "I don't think he'd hesitate, if he felt it necessary. But I do think he'd want to make each and every stomped toe count."

"That sounds a little Machiavellian," Charlie commented, taken aback.

Spencer shrugged. "He takes his job seriously and isn't the type to suffer foolish wastes of time. That said, he wouldn't argue calls he disagreed with if he respects the agent's expertise and abilities. And he gives everyone a chance to prove themselves. Not that he won't come across as challenging as he gives you that chance."

The arrival of the soup interrupted their conversation. Spencer muttered his thanks to the server and changed topics before Charlie could continue his questioning. "So, you and Garcia seemed to get along well."

Charlie chuckled. "She's… perkier than the student I remember, and more relaxed with herself." Charlie stirred his soup to cool it. "Larry´ll be glad to hear it." Spencer blinked up from his food. "He was her academic advisor," Charlie explained before Spencer could ask. "He said her parents´ death had hit her hard and worried that it taken something out of her. I think I understand what he meant now.

"And," Charlie added. "I think she and Amita would get along like thieves. Garcia´s ideas about Combinatorics… Even if she never pursues a doctorate, she should develop them. And given the direction Amita´s thesis is going… I have to put the two of them in contact. The things they could come up with deserve to be thought up."

"Sounds like quite the conversation."

"Until the rest of your team finally got there, and she needed to work."

Spencer scowled. "Can't say it would have been better to fly across the country with the team and been stuck in the local prescient or field office for the duration, but I hated being told Hotch and I would teleconference from the BAU. Not that I like the road trips involved in local consults—two team members tied up with driving the SUVs, while the rest of us try to review the case. It's bad enough talking over a cell's speakerphone in a moving vehicle, but I hate sitting that still." He sighed and took a spoonful of his soup. "At least the team's willing to accept that I don't want to be distracted thinking of the case while driving."

"You don't discuss it while you drive?"

Spencer chuckled. "I don't drive. There are plenty on the team that like to do it. As deep a thinker as you are, I wouldn't think you'd like the distraction of driving, either."

Charlie frowned at his bowl. "I don't have a license. Remember?"

"Still?" The surprise in Spencer's voice grated. "Look, if your family stresses you that much, pay for lessons. That place in Pasadena I went to was wonderful."

"It's not just that."

"That was nearly ten years ago, and not your fault." Charlie shrugged and took a spoonful of his soup as Spencer continued, "I've been wanting to visit LA. I can always come along for moral support."

Charlie frowned as he swallowed the soup. It was not bad, but did it not quite match the flavors he had come to expect. "I think we both can come up with better things to do. Including treating you to some real Chinese…"

Spencer sighed and dropped the marker onto the table. He had read through all the e-mails that Garcia had managed to retrieve from the missing mens' systems and found a set of printouts that had a consistent writing style. They had a different name and e-mail address for each victim, but they were clearly the same writer. Spencer had just finished marking up the proof.

He looked up as Hotch entered the conference room. "Lewis´ hunch was right," Spencer spoke without preamble. "These men had more in common besides a past employer. In the weeks leading up to their disappearance, they were all wooed by the same online acquaintance. This individual is a chameleon, changing hobbies and gender based on each man's tastes and preferences. The e-mails would feel genuine to a casual reader. But deeper analysis reveals otherwise." Spencer hastily stacked the printouts and handed them to Hotch.

"Good work, Reid," Hotch replied as he started looking through the stack. He pulled the chair next to Spencer out from the round table and sat down. "Did you find any evidence of contact between the victims?"


Hotch nodded as he continued flipping through the stack. "The employment can't be a fluke, even though there's no overlap with the employment times or departments.

Spencer nodded. "I know, but there's nothing yet." He picked up his coffee mug and chugged the last of the now-cold sugared coffee. "I also found no e-mails, IMs or texts about a meeting place, which implies they were lured over the phone or in person."

Hotch looked up at that. "So a team?" he asked. "Or someone who can pass themselves off as the opposite sex?"

"That's easier said than done. Unless the individual in question has an androgynous bone structure, there tend to be subtle differences that people pick up on up close."

Hotch nodded thoughtfully. "But not necessarily over the phone… A midrange voice, and an isolated meeting spot… All these men were young and fairly fit. They might not think to be cautious when meeting someone they think they know for the first time."

Spencer agreed. With nothing else to say, he just nodded his head.

"Have you shared your results with the team, yet?"

"No. I had just finished the analysis when you walked in." He stood and grabbed his coffee mug. "I'm going to grab some more coffee. Would like anything?"

"I'm good," Hotch said as Spencer walked to the conference room door. "Reid," he called as Spencer touched the door. Spencer turned to face him. "Relax. They just want to give us chance to talk through what happened. Being held at gunpoint, shooting someone… It can have an impact."

"I know. I'm glad your session went well."

Spencer left the room before Hotch could say anything else. He actually felt relief from Hotch´s assurance, though he had known all along the reasoning behind the Bureau's shooting procedure. Still, Spencer did not feel particularly eager to talk.

At least not beyond what he opened up to Charlie about.

And not to someone who could declare him unfit for the field.

Spencer sighed and rubbed his head with his left hand as he poured the coffee into his mug with his right. He knew the meeting with the psych was not a status evaluation, but his uncertainty with everything he felt about the shooting made him uneasy. The session was supposed to help him work that out, but… he supposed that he did want to face any unpleasant surprises in the session. Spencer put the pot away and grabbed the sugar.

To top things off, Spencer was all ready scheduled for his gun rectification. He knew, even before the Dowd mess, that Hotch had nailed it when he attributed Spencer's failure to a subconscious reluctance to shoot to kill if necessary. But he also knew the nerves he got before his gun tests could just as easily be impacted by the shooting. He did not want people saying Dowd was a fluke. Sure, Spencer had sniped about it himself. But Hotch had deserved the crack for what he had said, even if he had had to say it. Spencer did not want anyone saying such things seriously.

And he really did not want those nerves impacting his psych interview.

Spencer glanced at the clock. As much as he dreaded the upcoming session, he also wished it were over.

At least he was able to do something useful while waiting for it. Spencer grabbed his mug and walked back to the conference room. Though if he had been completely benched, at least he could have given Charlie that tour they were hoping for Monday. With a sigh, he entered the room, ready to dig back into the case.

Charlie sat in the Courtyard Café and smiled at the latest text from Don. Don was clearly still pissed and more than a little overprotective. Charlie conceded that Don did have some point. It was important to let people know where you were going. But Don seemed to think Charlie needed his permission to take a trip. And from references to "academic bubbles" and "fellow eggheads", he had clearly made erroneous assumptions about Spence. He smirked as he locked his phone and put it back in his pocket. What Don did not know, would only prove more amusing later on.

Charlie turned back to his coffee and sandwich, debating what to do with the rest of the day. It had been a while since he had been to DC, much less visited the Smithsonian Museums, so he could easily spend the rest of the afternoon and tomorrow walking through them. Yet he felt restless. He had gotten used to jumping into any FBI cases in progress whenever he visited Don. As a friend, he should be concerned with what Spence was going through—and he was—but he also felt left out.

Charlie was not completely comfortable with that realization. Or the things it could say about him.

Well, nothing he could do about this case. He did not know Spence´s boss from Adam, and any mathematical applications he could provide, Spence could.

Well, most applications.

That bookstore adjacent to Spencer's apartment said they had free wireless, and had some benches outside. Perhaps he would spend the afternoon downloading stats for a few ideas he had running through his head.

As the breeze picked up, Charlie took another bite of his sandwich. Just as he bit it off, his phone rang. He hastily chewed as he pulled the phone to check the number. Spence. Charlie washed the food down with a gulp of his coffee. "Spence. What's up?" He asked as he glanced around. None of the other customers looked disturbed by his conversation.

"Talked to the Bureau shrink about the Dowd mess and got my gun back," the younger genius replied sounding lighter than he had that morning. "Can't say I was eager about either the interview or the retest, much less back-to-back. But the session did help me work through the shooting some more. Which makes sense given the statistics, and I knew that, but—Anyway, it's done and I nailed my gun quals."

"Good for you!" Charlie could not help but grin. "I knew you could do it." Then he frowned. "I thought you couldn't retest until next week."

"They made an exception in light of my hitting Dowd." Spence´s tone dropped. "I think Hotch was behind it. He wasn't surprised when I told him it had been scheduled, and he's in a position to remind people that a show of confidence after a traumatic case can help."

"You don't sound happy about that."

Spence sighed audibly into the phone. "I'm glad to have my gun back, but sometimes I feel that my career's been a series of exceptions. They let me into the Academy below the minimum age based on my academic achievements. Then I got into the BAU with less than the minimum field experience. I do feel I'm where I belong, and have made the most of the opportunities they've given me, but sometimes I think all the Bureau sees is my big brain."

Charlie snorted. "If that's all they wanted, they'd have made you a consultant. Obviously, they thought you had potential as an agent."

"Thanks," Spence replied. "Anyway, Baltimore PD got a promising tip, so our involvement's on hold until they run it down, if you still want to tour the academy?"

"Of course I do," Charlie answered. "But are you sure it's all right? It's the middle of the workday, not early morning. "

Spence laughed lightly. "Anybody who wants to give us trouble will run into your security clearance, and I do my share of the work."

"So what time should I come down?"

Don scowled as he read Charlie's terse text. At least he knew Charlie was all right. The message was typical of Charlie in a snit, and he would not have used that language if he were under duress. Though Don still intend to talk to Charlie about the importance of keeping people informed of his travel schedule before he traveled. Don shoved the phone into his pocket and turned his attention to David's brief of the bank robbery/homicide: a straight-up robbery gone bad, and the guy was not the brightest bulb in the box of criminals. Apparently no one had told him that a clear (if pale blue) plastic bag over his head did not make an adequate disguise, and the security cameras got a good view of his face. Once they circulated the images to the media, they should get plenty of leads.

"It gets better," David continued. "He put his 'mask' on in the vestibule. Not only did the highly visible camera there catch his non-'covered' face, it showed him place a deposit envelope in the drop. The manager's emptied it for us. We have a few different names to run down, but it should not take us long."

It took Don a minute to absorb the news. The nature of the cases his team specialized in meant they did not often get the dumber criminal element. It made solving the case easier, but unfortunately for the federal prosecutor who had spooked the gunman by walking out of the restroom at the wrong time, stupid crime could still be deadly.

"Such a waste," David commented as Don's gaze drifted over to where the ME zipped the woman's body into the bag.

"You got that right."

Spencer smirked as he ended the call and put his cell back into his pocket. He stepped back through the doors to the BAU. He stopped just inside the door, and scanned the room. Spencer quickly spotted his target firmly occupied at the computer he had snagged to check e-mail. Spencer strode directly to him. He tried to calm his excess energy; Spencer knew his tendency to twitch with too much caffeine made him look timid.

Come to think of it, he should make a habit of not drinking so much coffee before his gun qualifications.

"Agent Edgerton," Spencer said softly. "We need to talk."

Edgerton pushed away from the desk and leaned back in his office chair. "Do we?" he asked dryly, with a raised eyebrow. "About what?"

"Charlie." Spencer folded his arms over his chest to keep his hands still. "And all the little questions you've paid attention to since yesterday. Is that just your way to get a hold of the team dynamics, or are you interested for other reasons?"

Edgerton's eyes narrowed. "Like what?"

"Like two years ago I saw you on a date with the red-haired Michael from Counterterrorism." Edgerton's posture stiffened and his expression hardened. Out of the corner of his eye, Spencer saw Morgan stand and turn their way. "Charlie's bi," Spencer quickly continued before Morgan could make his way over. The last thing this conversation needed was his input. "Single, and going to be here within an hour for me to give him a tour of the academy. If you're attached or not interested, this conversation never happened. Otherwise, you can come along. But if you do anything to hurt him, you'll find that I'm not just highly intelligent, Agent Edgerton. I'm creative enough that I can make your life… interesting and you'll never prove a thing."

Edgerton stared at Spencer a moment with no change in expression. Then just before Morgan reached ear-range, Edgerton broke into a grin in chuckled. "It's a pity you're blatantly straight," he said as he picked up the coffee mug on his desk.

Reid blinked and glanced down at himself. Of all the comments he had received over the years about his manner or dress sense, that was unique. Not that he was not straight, but blatantly so? Wait, pity? Does that mean he—

"While Charlie made an impression, and might be my type, if you knew when and how Michael and I ended, you'd probably want to wait a few months before offering me your friend—if at all."

"Charlie makes his own decisions," Spencer snapped. "I don't offer him to anyone. I'm just trying to determine what your interest might be, and give you a chance to get to know him." He frowned and tilted his head. "Things ended badly?"

"For me," Edgerton answered, a tinge of raw honesty to his voice. "I'm not out to hurt anyone, though if your friend's looking for serious, we might want to stick to becoming friends this afternoon."

Edgerton stood and strolled over to the break room as Morgan reached them. "What's going on?"

"Private conversation." Spencer turned and walked to his desk. After all, if the commuter trains were running on schedule, he had time to do one simple analysis. He grabbed the relevant file and ignored Morgan's attempts to further question him.

"It doesn't bother you?"

"What?" Aaron looked up from his desk at Gideon. The older man stood staring out the window of Aaron's office at the bullpen. His eyes followed Reid as he left the floor with his friend Charlie, and for some reason, Ian Edgerton.

"Reid's evasiveness about his friend. It's not like him."

"His grad school days were closer to the typical undergrad age. He probably doesn't want embarrassing stories floating about the office when he all ready feels pressure to prove he belongs here."

"Reid's not the type to have experimented with drugs or alcohol," Gideon said firmly. "He's way to smart."

Intelligence and drugs were not mutually exclusive in Aaron's experience, though Aaron was inclined to say that Reid wouldn't have tried anything other than alcohol. "Trust me, my most embarrassing college days had nothing to do with drugs or alcohol." Well, four out of five, but Aaron was not about to tell Gideonthat. "And no, you're never learning what they are."

Gideon just grunted as he continued to stare out the office window.

I apologize for the delay in this chapter. Real life's a hassle sometimes, and I flat-out screwed up when I made my original outline.