AN: Though the prologue and epilogue of this story will take place during the episode "Revelations" the bulk of this story takes place before the show starts. The prologue is on the short side but I hope it catches some reader's interest so they'll come back for more. The flashback scene in my one shot story "The Eternal Hope of Youth" inspired this story, but it does not need to be read to understand this story. Feel free to read it though!
Disclaimer: Criminal Minds and the characters depicted in the show do no belong to me.
The "lead" had produced nothing but more frustration. No one fitting Hankle's description was at the motel or had been seen at the motel at all that night. Inquiries in the area around the motel had produced the same result. After an exhaustive canvass of the area, both the agents of the FBI and the Georgia State Police had to admit defeat. The local and state police in the surrounding areas were still on high alert but it seemed as though Hankle had already gotten out of the area.
Knowing where their best chances of figuring out where Hankle had taken Reid were, the members of the BAU had returned to Hankle's house. The team had brain stormed for a while, going over the few things that they did know and what steps they needed to take. Afterwards, a search of the house had started uncovering Hankle's journals. Journals that Reid would have gotten through quickly but would take the rest of them a while to get through. Unfortunately, it was time that Reid might not have.
While Prentiss had started on the journals, the rest of them had continued to search the house to see what other secrets they could make it reveal. Time had seemed to crawl by. Weariness began to set in and yet they all continued to press on until reluctantly Hotch called their activities to a halt. The BAU unit chief ordered everyone to find a place to get a few hours of rest before they would pick up their search. As reluctantly as the order had been given, the team moved to comply.
As the house had fallen silent, the thoughts in Morgan's head wouldn't let him rest. The fact that he was laying on the floor, using an old blanket as a pillow probably didn't help matters. As quietly as he could, Morgan got to his feet and made his way to the front door, trying not to wake anyone else up. Just because he couldn't sleep, didn't mean the others shouldn't get some much needed rest.
Slipping out the front door, Morgan stepped onto the porch and sat down on the steps, staring into the night. As his eyes adjusted to the dark, the shadows that made up the cornfield became visible to them. The slight breeze made the dead stalks sway slightly.
~Why Reid? Why did you run into the cornfield without backup? ~ Morgan asked, cursing the kid for his foolishness. It was an unnecessary risk. Catching an UnSub wasn't worth risking his own life. They could have caught Hankle at another time. ~You should have just let him go.~
~"You would have done it. You would have chased after Hankle no matter where he went without a second thought."~
Morgan heard Reid's voice echoing in his mind. It was eerie how he seemed to know exactly what the younger agent would have said if he were here with him right now.
~You're not me, Kid.~ Morgan countered in his mind, cursing himself for the example he had set for his younger colleague. How many times had he chased after a suspect without a second thought as to whether his partner was behind him or not? How many times had Gideon or Hotch chewed him out for being reckless? Yet, that was just who he was. He was a man of action. Morgan knew he could never just stand there and let someone get away. He hated being stuck on this farm now without anywhere to go. At least the last time an UnSub had captured Reid, he had been able to take action. The UnSub had left them a clue and they had an area to search. This time the drag marks out of the cornfield were the only sign of what had taken place, and they gave them no insight as to where to look.
~And I swore the last time would be just that. That I'd keep an eye on him. Protect him. I failed him this time just like I did back then.~
"I'm sorry, Kid," Morgan said, his voice no more than a whisper, as he remembered the first time he had used that nickname for Reid. The younger agent had looked so vulnerable then, as he had held him in his arms, trying to be a source of comfort for his injured teammate, that the nickname had come so easily.
"This isn't your fault, Morgan."
Hotch's voice startled Morgan out of his thoughts. The dark-skinned agent looked over and up at his supervisor now standing against the porch railing. He had been so wrapped up in his own thoughts that Morgan hadn't heard Hotch come out of the house.
"Who says I'm blaming myself?" Morgan asked defensively.
"I've worked with you long enough to know but you can't blame yourself for this. You weren't with Reid this time."
"If I had been, maybe this wouldn't have happened? If I hadn't gone with Prentiss to pick up that dinner order, Reid might not have even been here with JJ."
"We can't dwell on what ifs. You'll just drive yourself crazy doing that. Believe me, I know," Hotch told him.
"The last time Reid was taken by an UnSub it happened because I made the choice to split up. The only difference is that this time Reid made that choice to split with his partner because of the example I've set for him."
"The example we've all set for him," Hotch told him. "Besides, I was his training officer back then. Ultimately, he was my responsibility then and as Unit Chief now, it's no different this time. I sent him and JJ here. It was my order that put him in the situation that lead to this outcome. Hell, I'm the one that pushed for him to be a member of this team."
Morgan held his supervisor's gaze. The light from the inside of the house that shone through the window illuminated Hotch's face in the rainy Georgia night. In the Unit Chief's eyes, Morgan saw the same guilt that he was feeling inside. The same inner demons that he himself was battling.
"You can't blame yourself for Reid being in the BAU. The Kid made the decision to join the FBI before he ever met you. If he hadn't joined the BAU, then he would have just gone to another department of the FBI."
Hotch broke eye contact with Morgan, his gaze looking out at the cornfield that one of his subordinates had been looking at only minutes before and from which another had been abducted from hours ago.
"The decision to join the FBI might have been Reid's but I was probably the reason he actually made it through the Academy," Hotch said, his gaze not wavering from the swaying stalks.
Morgan looked back at the cornfield. Both agents' minds were no longer on the present situation but on a time about five years ago, when Reid had first found his way onto the team and into their lives.