A/N This fic was inspired by the scene in The Instincts where Spencer has his nightmare and screams for Morgan and the scene in Memoriam when he's under hypnosis. Of course it spins spectacularly away from canon after that. Also it needs to be noted for the purposes of this fic Rossi knows about Carl Buford. And JJ is still with the BAU because CM without JJ is just all kinds of wrong.

I'm still working on Wicked Games, just had this rolling around in my brain so I let it out. This was meant to be a one-shot and grew from there.

Mild Spoilers for The Fisher King, The Boogeyman, Sex Birth Death, Profiler Profiled, No Way Out, The Big Game, Revelations, No Way Out II, In Name and Blood, Elephant's Memory, Lo-Fi, Mayhem, The Instincts and Memoriam.


Disclaimer: I don't own Criminal Minds or any other recognizable characters and I' m not making any money from this, *checks pockets* dang it, still broke. :)

Chapter 1 Stop and Stare

Derek stood off to the side and watched as Reid offered words of comfort to the UnSub's latest-and thanks to them-last victim.

It had been an emotionally draining case; four boys over the course of ten weeks had been kidnapped, raped and murdered. They'd all been young, gifted and enrolled in the same private school. The fifth victim, Jason Cooper, stood off to the side, clinging to SSA Dr. Spencer Reid, refusing to let him go and insisting he was not a victim. Jason apparently hadn't been kidnapped. The fifteen year old had been telling anyone who would listen that he loved the UnSub, had gone willingly and the sex had been consensual and there was no way his "boyfriend" had hurt any of those other boys as he loved him and would never "cheat" on him. Derek's stomach was churning at the boys claims and Reid was attempting to calm the boy enough so that the EMT's could check him over.

Derek knew the team's youngest agent had an incredible amount of empathy and compassion, but he was surprised Spencer was the one interacting with the victim. Rossi had pulled him from the station and insisted on his presence at the scene. Derek couldn't help but wonder why.

It wasn't that he doubted Spencer's abilities. He'd proven himself over and over again and Derek trusted him with his life. In fact if this had been a case of trying to talk down an UnSub then Reid's presence would have been a no brainer and Derek probably would have been the first one insisting on letting the kid run point. But this, Rossi insisting on Reid out in the field and Reid being given kid duty, was a break in the pattern, a shifting in not only the roles they usually took within the team, but in the team dynamics as well, especially where Rossi and Reid were concerned.

Rossi's interactions with Reid had raised Derek's suspicions the entire case. The usually gruff profiler had all but coddled Reid during the case. He'd been overtly protective of and attentive to Spencer, even snapping at Emily when she'd casually teased Spencer about a remark he'd made. For his part, Spencer was grateful for and actually seemed to take comfort in Dave's change in attitude and that was not typical of the good doctor. Spencer hated being the center of attention. Years of being either a target or a novelty had made him perfect the art of fading into the background, which was why the way he'd reacted to Rossi's attentions caught Derek by surprise.

That was what had cinched it for Derek, the break in well established patterns by both men. Usually Derek was the one the team took extra care of when dealing with cases like this. Because of that, he understood why Hotch and Rossi had kept him on the perimeter of the actual arrest. Once they'd found out the UnSub was a highly sought after private tutor who had been molesting his students for years Derek's rage had, on several occasions, nearly overcome his professionalism. He knew the senior profilers were, in their way, protecting him. What he didn't understand was why after Hotch had broken the UnSub and he'd given up Jason's location Rossi had insisted on Reid going with them and on Reid being the one to stay with Jason. Derek hadn't understood the undercurrents going on between Rossi and Reid during the case and it was troubling him.

"Something bothering you Morgan?" Rossi's firm but gentle voice interrupted Derek's musing.

Derek debated whether or not to let Rossi in on his thoughts. In the end his curiosity won out and he turned to the older profiler and simply asked "Why Reid?"

Rossi didn't pretend to misunderstand. He looked over to where Reid was helping Jason into the ambulance and then up towards the inky night sky. He had suspected that Reid never told Morgan while they were in Vegas more than one traumatic childhood memory had clawed its way to the surface. Rossi didn't want to betray a confidence but at the same time, his instincts were telling him that even though it wasn't his secret to tell, it was one Morgan needed to know, especially if his two co-workers were as involved as he suspected they were.

"You don't have to be a profiler to see the similarities." Rossi replied

Derek nodded. It didn't take a profiler to see Reid in all the victims. They may not have been child prodigies but they were all extremely intelligent young men, they'd all had trouble with bullying at the school, they all had troubled home lives that had left them vulnerable and a young Spencer Reid could have easily been Jason's twin. None of that answered Derek's question though. Reid was notorious for being awkward with children, save Jack and Henry, so much so the team had coined the phrase "The Reid Effect". Rossi knew all about The Reid Effect, had even seen it play out in all its awkward glory and yet didn't seem to have taken it into consideration when bringing Reid out to the scene.

"So the only reason you insisted on Reid's presence was that if he were 15 years younger he'd fit the victimology?" Derek questioned his skepticism apparent.

"Not the only reason." Rossi replied.

Derek sighed in frustration. It was clear Rossi had a reason for insisting on Spencer's presence. It was just as clear that he wasn't going to just come out and tell Derek what it was.

"Rossi-" Derek began, fed up with the psychological cat and mouse game they were playing.

"Derek," Rossi said holding up his hands, "I had my reasons, and given the results," Rossi gestured towards the ambulance that now housed Jason and Reid, "I'd say there's no question I was right. I know you're wondering why Reid and not you given your own personal connection to these types of cases but trust me when I tell you I knew what I was doing. Anything beyond that and you'll need to ask Reid."

Rossi's words did nothing but pile concern on top of Derek's curiosity. "What do you mean I need to ask Reid? What do you know that I don't Rossi?" Derek's tone was low and harsh, since he and Spencer had gone from being friends to lovers Derek was even more protective of him than he'd been in the past and he didn't like the implication in Rossi's carefully chosen words.

Rossi didn't respond immediately. When he finally spoke his voice was soft. "You said earlier that if Reid were fifteen years younger he would have fit the victimology. Think about that, profile it, Reid at Jason's age. He would have been at Caltech, thousands of miles from anything familiar and fresh off years of relentless bullying and torment by his peers. He would have been reluctant to socialize and hard pressed to find anyone in his peer group to form a bond with had he wanted to. He would have been surrounded by older, more dominant personalities. Reid had been abandoned by his father and his mother's mental illness rendered her unable to be an effective parental figure. He had an advocate whose interest in him began and ended in making sure he attended and passed his courses. He would have been young, isolated, lonely and vulnerable."

Derek felt his chest constrict. Rossi's "profile" of a young Spencer was painting a picture that wasn't the least bit pleasant and had Derek clenching his jaw so tightly it threatened to shatter. He took several deep breaths to get his emotions back under control. "Just what are you getting at Rossi?" Derek asked, afraid he knew exactly what Rossi was getting at.

Rossi wasn't fooled. He knew that Derek was too close to both Spencer and the subject matter and too good a profiler not to know exactly what Rossi's not saying. He looked at his friend, "Like I said before, anything else you need to ask Reid." He gave Derek's shoulder a squeeze and walks away.

The parents arrive on the scene and after a few minutes Spencer leaves them with encouraging words and his card. He made his way back over to Derek. Spencer was about to speak but something in Derek's body language is off. He seemed troubled, sad and a little bit angry and that unsettled Spencer. "Um, Derek? I-Is something wrong? I mean, other than…." Spencer trails off as he makes a sweeping motion with his hand to encompass the scene.

Derek sighed. The last thing he wants to do is upset Spencer. Besides he's not sure if he can vocalize just what he's feeling yet. He gives Spencer a small but sincere smile, "I'm good Pretty Boy. Just tired." Derek paused then continued, "You did good tonight, Spencer. Jason seemed to really take to you."

Spencer tensed just a bit, his breathing changes and there's a brief flash of something unrecognizable in his eyes, then it's gone. It's a blink and you miss it moment, over before it really begins and easy to overlook. Except that Derek didn't blink and he didn't overlook it. Before he can think about it too much Hotch calls with instructions for both of them so they part ways and get on with the business of wrapping up the case, his conversation with Rossi and the look he'd seen in Spencer's eyes playing over and over in Derek's mind. He resolved to ask Spencer all the questions that were rolling around in his mind.