Disclaimer - I don't own the characters in this work of fiction and make no profit from them.

This starts early Season 3, around the time of 'Doubt' and 'In Name and Blood', with a tiny bit of canon twisting to suit the story. I know that Reid falling asleep in Gideon's office happens at the beginning of Doubt however for my purposes I have moved that scene post Doubt.

We begin with Gideon's disappearance and Hotch and Prentiss, having stuck to their guns with Strauss, returning to the BAU. Reid has never officially worked for the BAU at this point but is a friend of Gideon's and an acquaintance of Hotch's. Gideon still arranged to play chess with Reid and, just as it occurs in canon, Gideon didn't turn up.

The Consultant

Chapter One

Emily Prentiss kicked off her pumps and grabbed the nearly full bottle of scotch and a short tumbler from the kitchen worktop. Dangling them between her fingers she padded over to the huge window that gave her apartment a stunning view of Capitol Hill. She liked this view, the bible-black sky providing a perfect backdrop for the illuminated walls of the White House, a perfect tableau to contemplate whilst she pulled her mind from the train wreck that had been the last few days.

Working the BAU was a tough gig. The very nature of the work was wearing on the mind and the long, antisocial hours were gruelling on both the body and the social life. Given this, the last thing the team needed was Erin Strauss on their backs and Gideon doing a disappearing act.

Emily shook her head and knocked back a finger of scotch. Thinking of Erin Strauss made her skin prickle with injustice. How that woman could undermine one of her own teams was beyond Emily and how she could target Aaron Hotchner in particular left her speechless. Almost. She hadn't been speechless when she'd stepped into Hotch's office and handed him her letter of resignation. She hadn't been speechless when she'd taken her dig at Strauss and she didn't regret it. She really did hate politics, especially Erin Strauss' brand.

Thinking of Jason Gideon made her stomach sink and her eyes sting. She felt so conflicted over him. She understood the horror of what he had been through and the turmoil it had unleashed in his mind but to abandon them all and leave Hotch to fight the battle with Strauss alone was unforgivable. Hotch had steeled himself. He had stepped up to the plate when it would have been easier to step away from it, better even, for both his soul and his marriage, but he hadn't stepped away. He hadn't given in. She herself had been close. But then Hotch had turned up and stoked the fire of injustice burning in her gut and as usual Emily ignored the internal voice of common sense that rang suspiciously like her mothers' and followed him back down the rabbit hole.

Gideon should have done the same she thought ruefully as she poured another glass. They were already a man down before he'd ditched and he knew how hard they had to work to compensate for their odd number. It was strange really. Theirs was the only team that had five members. All the other teams had six plus an allocated Technical Analyst. Over the years they occasionally had a new body drafted in with the hopes that they would settle and stay but it never happened.

The last try had been Jordan Todd. Emily got on with her well enough but Jordan never really fit. She tried and the team tried, but in the end the job simply beat her and she went back to the safety of Counter Terrorism. Emily laughed into her glass. When you started to think of other departments in the FBI as the safe option it spoke volumes to the horror of what the BAU saw each day. Maybe she shouldn't have followed Hotch. Maybe she should have stepped back. She couldn't though. She was part of the team. Hotch, Morgan, JJ, Garcia and Emily. And Gideon?

Emily didn't need what was going to happen spelled out for her. Wearily she closed her eyes against the emptiness of her apartment and held the glass up in a mock toast to the night sky.

'And then there were five.' She whispered.

Despite limiting her drinking session to three small glasses, mainly so she didn't start to feel maudlin over her consistently empty bed, Emily still felt the effects of the scotch the next morning. Her stomach burned and her head felt fuzzy enough to make her glad to get off the lurching elevator. As she pushed her way through the glass doors that opened into the bull pen she almost walked into JJ.

'Woah! You ok?' Emily asked.

'What, oh sorry. I'm ... have you seen Hotch?' JJ asked.

'No. I just walked in. Are you ok, you seem a little ... flustered?' Emily said.

JJ shook her head. 'There's this guy.' She started.

'Ooh, tell me all about it.' Emily said.

'No. Not a GUY, guy. I mean there a guy, in Gideon's office. Asleep.' JJ said.

'Asleep?' Emily repeated.

'Asleep, and I have no idea who he is. Should I call security, should I wake him up or wait and see if Hotch knows if Gideon is expecting him?' JJ shot a worried look up toward Gideon's office door.

'I have no idea, although I doubt Gideon will show.' Emily raised her eyebrows and followed JJ's gaze. 'Does he look ... ok?'

'Ok?' JJ said.

'Yeah, you know. Ok, not dangerous, or anything.' Emily replied.

'He's asleep Emily, I can't tell. And anyway how many UnSubs do we come across that look completely normal.' JJ said.

'Point taken. Come on. We'd better go see who he is.' Emily dumped her coat and purse on her desk, straightened her jacket and headed for the stairs.

'Let's make it quick.' JJ said, waving a fist full of files in the air. 'We've got a bad one.'

'Great.' Emily rolled her eyes, making her head throb a little more.

'Sir? Excuse me, Sir, are you OK?' Emily leaned forward and raised her voice a little as she took in the sight of the young man sprawled in one of Gideon's uncomfortable office chairs. He was pale and thin with a tangle of brown hair and had dressed, as far as Emily could see, in his grandfather's clothes.

'He has a security pass, look.' Emily gestured toward the pass that was slung around the man's neck.

'No calling security then.' JJ said.

'I don't know about that. We may need them to carry him out, apparently he sleeps like the dead.' Emily said as she pressed her hand firmly on the strangers shoulder. 'Sir?' Emily gave the shoulder a small shake.

Abruptly the stranger shifted back in the chair and screwed his eyes up. Both Emily and JJ stepped back as the man shoved his hand through his unruly hair, tugged his sweater straight and blinked furiously.

'What time is it?' He said, as if it weren't unusual for him to wake up in a strange place.

Emily bit back the urge to laugh at his puzzled expression. The urge passed when he gazed up at her. He had the warmest eyes Emily had ever seen and as he licked his lips and blinked again Emily felt her stomach give a little flip.

'It's a little after eight thirty. Are you expecting Agent Gideon?' Emily asked.

'What?' The man rubbed his eyes again and attempted to push himself up straight in the chair, his face twisted in a pained grimace.

'Did you sleep here all night?' JJ asked over Emily's shoulder.

'Umm, I guess so. I was supposed to meet Agent Gideon here. We were supposed to play chess and he wanted me to ...' The man stopped abruptly as if he suddenly seemed to realise that he didn't know to whom he was talking. 'Sorry. Please excuse me, I had an appointment and I must have dozed off, I ...' He rubbed his eyes again and shifted awkwardly where he sat.

'JJ, I've been looking for you. I thought you were gathering everyone?' Hotch said from the doorway making both Emily and JJ jump.

'Hotch, yes. I have the case files here, I just...' JJ gestured behind her toward the young man.

'Professor Reid?' Hotch said.

'Agent Hotchner. It's good to meet you again.' The young man replied giving Hotch a small wave.

Hotch stepped into Gideon's office. 'It's been a while Professor, the last time we spoke was during the Bale case.'

'It was. I was saddened by the outcome of that particular scenario.' Professor Reid replied.

Hotch nodded slightly. 'I never got the chance to thank you for your help with that and for providing Jason with some welcome distraction whilst he got himself back together afterward.' Hotch said.

Professor Reid flushed and shook his head. 'It was an honour to have him co-teach with me. My students loved him and in any case he returned the favour when he set up the cadet lectures for me.'

'Do you have an appointment with Jason?' Hotch asked.

'I think I may have slept through it.' Professor Reid huffed a small laugh. 'He's been chasing me for an answer on that proposal and your Section Chief Strauss has been applying pressure also. She isn't one for employing subtlety or patience is she?'

'No. No she's not.' Hotch replied.

There was a moment of awkward silence before JJ cleared her throat.

'I should gather the team.' She said as she waved a handful of manila files in front of her. 'It was nice to meet you Professor.' She smiled and turned to leave grabbing Emily's arm as she moved toward the door.

'Good to meet you also Miss ... um...,well, thank you both for the wake-up call.' Professor Reid called after them.

Emily turned in the doorway to see the man give her a small, awkward smile. She would have smiled back but Hotch chose that moment to step forward and close the door.

'Who and what was all that about?' Emily said as she and JJ walked briskly to the round table room.

'I have no idea.' JJ replied as she started sliding the files around the table.

'What proposal and what does it have to do with Strauss?' Emily said as she pulled out her chair.

JJ raised her eyebrows at her.

'What? I don't trust her and if she's got something going on with Gideon we need to find out about it. Maybe she's trying to strong arm him out, maybe ...' Emily stopped at the look on her friend's face. 'What?'

'I'm just wishing that I was a profiler so I could identify the look you gave Sleeping Beauty back there.' JJ said, smiling.

'What look? There was no look.' Emily said.

JJ patted her arm reassuringly. 'Sure there wasn't.' She smirked.

Professor Reid pushed himself forward in the small armchair and gritted his teeth against the pain that flared in his lower back.

'You're not surprised that Gideon missed our meeting.' He said, giving Hotch an appraising glance.

Hotch sighed. 'No.'

'What happened?' Professor Reid asked.

'We had a case that ended ... badly, on a personal level for Jason and afterward he threw himself back into the job but ...' Hotch shrugged. 'I have no idea where he is or if he'll be back. I'm in the dark here.'

The Professor cleared his throat. 'Do you think he'll contact me?' He asked.

'If anyone, I think it would be you, or Stephen maybe.' Hotch said.

'It's been some time since he spoke with his son.' Professor Reid replied. 'If he contacts me I'll let you know and Agent Hotchner, if you could do likewise?

'Of course.' Hotch nodded.

Professor Reid leaned forward and grabbed a battered messenger bag from the floor and looped it over his shoulder and across his chest before he twisted in the chair, his eyes searching the floor.

'Sorry, do need some help?' Hotch asked. 'I notice you're not using your wheelchair. I take it you're feeling well at the moment?'

Professor Reid smiled up at him. 'I remembered that Jason's office required the negotiation of a flight of stairs, but even so, I have been doing rather well recently so haven't felt the need for it, although, spending the night in this chair might change that. Actually I have my canes around here somewhere. I think they must have slipped to the floor behind ...' The young man twisted back to search the floor behind him.

Hotch stepped forward and stooped to pick up two identical dark wood canes from the floor behind the chair.

'Thank you.' The Professor said as he took the canes and braced them on the floor, pushing himself up stiffly.

'Alright?' Hotch asked.

Professor Reid looked up, blowing a strand of hair out of his eyes. He grimaced, his face paled and he shifted his weight as he rested his hands on the tops of both canes. 'I'm good, thanks. I can find my way out Agent Hotchner. You'll be missed at your briefing.'

He moved slowly past Hotch and toward the door, turning before he reached it.

'You'll call if you hear from him?' He asked worriedly.

'I will.' Hotch said.