Author's Note:

This one took me a long time to finish…but I really like the outcome. The timeline is a little funny; I think it's sometime very very early season six. JJ is still there but he's beginning to have headaches. I kinda took creative liberties on this one. XD

Soo…I promise, I am working on my other stories. -brick'd- The muse to finish this hit me over the head recently so I finished. Now hopefully I can get back to other things.

No, Criminal Minds doesn't belong to me. ;~; -sadness-

The BAU was surprisingly quiet. Though all the team was present, seated at their various desks, the only sounds were the soft scratching of pens or occasional tapping at keyboards. It was already late and Reid was yawning by the time he had completed his first report. Setting it to the side, the young man took a moment to lean back in his chair, rubbing at his eyes. The slight squeak of the springs seemed unusually loud in the bullpen and Morgan glanced up before returning to his own paperwork.

The headaches were back. He was beginning to be unsurprised every time one came now. Even lights like his desk lamp were enough to trigger one and Reid had begun simply finding some excuse to slip into the bathroom or any other secluded place and find the darkest corner to rest in. He knew the team was suspicious, having caught a few of their glances on one such escape. He didn't blame them, really; the youngest member of the group didn't exactly have a clean record when it came to being secretive. Reid had considered telling Hotch about the headaches, but the thought of having to stay in the office until they figured it out was not one he enjoyed.

Footsteps caused the three agents to look up, papers and pens being lowered to the desks at the sight of JJ's expression. Only one thing brought that particular look across the liaison's face; a new case, and a bad one. The others stood as she shot them a confirming glance before striding to the briefing room. Reid ran one hand over his face, pausing very slightly before following the small group. He had to resist putting on his sunglasses, even indoors now, for fear of someone noticing his sudden aversion to light.

It's not that important, he told himself firmly. Just focus on the case. He instinctively reached up to push the hair from his face before remembering that it was short again and contented himself with simply trying to make it lie flat. The rest of the team was already in the room when he reached the door, though JJ stood just outside as if she were waiting for him.

"Bad one?" he asked her, hands going to his pockets. He was a bit surprised when the woman put out one hand, halting him before he could walk inside, but relented and gave her a questioning look. It was rare to see JJ this…distraught. She was far from heartless but the FBI taught one how to contain one's emotions fairly well. There was a short silence before she spoke.

"I think you should sit this one out." Another silence stretched out. Reid blinked once before breaking it.

"Sit it…wha-why?" The other agent winced, biting her lip and glancing away. It certainly didn't take a profiler to read her body language and the young man's frown deepened. "JJ, what is it?" She swallowed, carefully avoiding eye-contact - which was ironic, considering it was Reid she was talking to, who couldn't hold eye-contact with anyone but his team and his own mother for very long.

"I just…Trust me with this, Spence, it's not something you want to get mixed up with." His eyes had narrowed very slightly, though the look softened at the mention of his old nickname. The only person to ever call me Spence…With an attempted grin he folded his arms across his chest.

"I'll be fine," the resident genius told her. "I've dealt with my share of nasty cases. I doubt this one will be the one to finally unhinge me…" He trailed off as she shook her head, now looking pointedly at a spot just above his shoulder.

"It's not that, it's just…" JJ sighed, giving her friend an almost pleading look. "It's not that I don't think you could handle it. I just think you'd handle it a little too well." What little smile was left on his face faded and Reid blinked twice, glancing past her to the room where the rest of the team already sat. They were already looking over the file and he caught Morgan watching him for a moment before the black man turned away again. "Please, Reid." Brown eyes met blue ones for a moment as she continued. "Trust me on this one." Reid hesitated before sighing.

"I'm part of the team, JJ," he told her with a small shrug. "I can't just sit out on a case because it might effect me a bit more than the others." The agent made another attempt at a smile but gave up after a moment, striding past her into the room. The rest of the BAU were watching him rather closely, though everyone but Hotch glanced away as he met their looks. "What've we got?"

"It's a…a number of women have been found in Hollywood." They looked around as JJ walked in, carefully watching the screen. "Signs of torture and rape, but never severe enough to kill them at the time."

"They were found alive." Hotch got to his feet, passing the file to Prentiss with his face even more grim than usual. "Most were wandering the streets, one actually managed to call 911 from a payphone. None of the women were in the same area, though that may be because they managed to walk a few blocks."

"So he's torturing them…and then letting them go?" Morgan inquired with a grimace. "How haven't they found the guy yet? Surely one of these girls got a look at him."

"If they did they aren't telling." JJ clicked through a few photos of the victims, most of them already in the hospital. "They've had two found in critical condition and one died in the ambulance. The local police assumed they were cases of domestic violence when the first two were found, but the husbands had solid alibis and they spotted a pattern after the fourth."

"It says this latest is number seven," Prentiss pointed out. "Why didn't they call us after the fourth?"

"It's like Morgan said; they assumed it would be easy enough to catch him if there were surviving victims." They glanced over at Rossi as he sighed, staring up at the screen with an unsettled frown. "The LAPD is a proud group. They don't like to admit they can't solve something. Besides that the tortures stopped for at least a week. This most recent was brought in just this morning; the one before her was found on the 11th. The detectives assumed it had just been a wild spree that had fizzled out."

"And because of that we've got six women in the hospital and one killed," Morgan growled. "Let's just hope the number seven is as lucky as they say."

Reid glanced around the group skeptically, eyes narrowed as he tried to discern what exactly it was they were keeping from him. The case was gruesome, sure, but they had seen worse than this. Why, then, would JJ try and keep him away from it?

"Who's the latest?" he asked suddenly, ignoring the wary looks he received. "Any connections to the original six?" JJ swallowed once before turning back to the yellow folder that Prentiss handed her.

"Unless you count that they watched her show," she said quietly. "A young actress, age 30..." The woman paused, glancing over her shoulder once at Reid with an almost apologetic look. She changed the picture on the screen before continuing, her voice strained. "Lila Archer, found in an alley on the west side of town this morning. She was in bad shape when they brought her in, but the doctors say she's stable and improving quickly now."

The silence this time stretched for at least a minute. After a few moments the others turned to look at Reid who's eyes were still locked on the screen. His expression hardened, but that was the only discernable change for a while. Prentiss and Rossi hadn't actually been on the team when they covered that case. They had heard about it, he was sure, but as far as he could tell Morgan was still the only one who knew exactly what had happened before they traced the call from Maggie to the house. The youngest agent forced himself to blink twice, finally turning away and looking down at the file that had been slid in front of him. It was still turned to one of the first victims and he felt no desire to flip through it to the details of Lila's case. Clearing his throat he looked back up at the team.

"Have the press gotten a hold of this yet?"

"Reid-" Hotch was cut off as Reid shook his head, one hand running through his hair.

"Just-do the press know yet?" The unit chief paused before replying, glancing back at the pictures.

"They found out about the first six," he said, "but Lila's manager is smart. Most think she's currently on vacation. By the time they learn otherwise she should be prepared for them." It went quiet again and Reid was the first to stand, closing the file and pushing it back toward JJ.

"I'll see you on the plane."

"Hey, kid, wait a second." Morgan's voice stopped him halfway to the door, though he didn't bother turning around. One hand tightened around the strap of his bag and he let his eyes fall shut for a moment. "We can handle this one. If you would rather stay behind-"

"I'll be fine." The young man swallowed once before closing the gap to the door. "It was four years ago. I'll be surprised if she recognizes our team at all after this ordeal." The door slid softly shut behind him and the BAU sat in silence for a moment longer before Rossi stood, gathering his papers.

"He'll be alright," the older agent told them quietly. "Just make sure he doesn't find this guy by himself." Hotch sighed as JJ shut off the computer, watching the screen fade to black.

"Wheels up at six," he told the others. "Try and get some sleep. This one might take a while."

Pull yourself together, Spencer. It's just another case. Another psychopath we have to profile and catch. The plane was quiet and the flight seemed far longer than usual, which - considering the fact that it was a four hour and fifty seven minute long trip - was saying quite a lot. They had reviewed the case again at takeoff but after that the team fell silent. Morgan was lost under his headphones, Rossi was writing something in a notepad - probably the start to a new book - JJ looked to be asleep and both Hotch and Prentiss were simply watching out the windows. No one had tried to confront Reid about the case yet, though he felt it was only a matter of time. For now he was reveling in the steady hum of the jet's engines, sitting in a far corner where the shadows were heaviest with his eyes closed. It wasn't bright enough to allow him to wear sunglasses without raising a few eyebrows but even the dim lights of the plane caused a very slight throb in the back of his head. That could also be attributed to the current dilemma with the reason behind this flight, however.

It had been years since the case with Lila. He had been what, 24 then? After everything that had happened since it seemed like a totally different person had dealt with that particular case, as if he had simply been a bystander. Granted, he could still remember every detail - an eidetic memory wasn't selective as to what it remembered - but now it felt like he had never actually been there. It wasn't often they saw previous victims while working with a different MO and it was even more rare to have them become a victim again. The odds against it-

"Hey, Pretty Boy." Reid jumped, barely keeping himself on the seat as the sudden voice broke into his thoughts. Blinking a few times to get the area in focus he was a bit startled to see Morgan sitting across from him, elbows resting on his knees. He hadn't even heard the other man move; either Morgan was getting extremely stealthy or - what seemed far more likely - Reid was even more unfocused than usual. Rubbing one eye quickly he straightened and attempted to appear his version of 'normal'.

"Are we, uh…we almost there?"

"Nah, still got about an hour and a half. I figured I'd just come over and see how far you've come on that cold fusion project." Brown eyes lifted briefly toward the ceiling and the young agent almost laughed.

"You know if I'd been working on cold fusion every time I take a chance to consider a few things, you'd think I'd have it planned out by now." Morgan chuckled, shaking his head.

"And that's why every other agency is cursing themselves for missing you," he pointed out. "You're even learning how to joke. Now come on," Reid flinched back as Morgan aimed a light punch at his arm. "What's goin' on in that brilliant mind of Dr. Reid's, huh?" He sighed, one hand lifting to run idly through his hair.

"Just…" There wasn't really any good way to go about lying to someone like Morgan. Even if he hadn't been specifically trained to profile human behavior, he would still be able to pick out falsehoods in an instant. "Thinking about the case," the genius said finally. It was vague and though his coworker obviously noticed, he didn't say anything. "I-it's…" Reid licked his lips unconsciously as he shook his head, pointedly looking toward the opposite side of the plane, "not exactly an average unsub, is he?"

"No he's not." Morgan frowned as he glanced over his shoulder quickly, apparently trying to see what it was the younger man was looking at. He paused after turning back and the look in his eyes was one every person on the team knew all too well.

"What happened to not profiling each other?" Reid finally muttered with the corners of his mouth twitching in what could have been an attempt at a grin. "It's not like I'll, uh…I don't know, start shooting up the plane or something."

"Maybe not the plane, but that's not what I'm worried about." There was a short silence before the black agent sighed. "Reid, what would happen if you were the one to catch this guy alone?" Another pause in which the question was considered. What would he do? The correct answer was obvious, but there was a very soft nagging in the back of his mind - something he could only assume wasn't part of the chronic headache - that he chose to ignore for the moment.

"He'd be arrested." Obvious correct answer, though it didn't appear to satisfy Morgan. What would he do…?

"You sure about that?" That man could really drill a person with his stare. "Look kid, I know you; you're level-headed, you can take a hit and keep going better than people twice your age…but there are cases for all of us that would just be too personal. What if this guy got one of my sisters? If it involved Will or Jack? You think everyone could be really focused on what needed to be done?"

"I barely know her, Morgan!" Reid's expression was one of perplexity - fairly common for him when he didn't see how someone couldn't understand the obvious - and he sat up straighter now. "It was almost five years ago. I-" He cut off, glancing around quickly to be sure the rest of the team was still engrossed in their various activities before continuing in a low voice. "I kissed her once. That's it. I'm not-not 'emotionally attached' or anything." His colleague almost chuckled, shaking his head for a moment.

"You can keep telling yourself that, Reid," he said. His voice was low now as if a general consensus to not alert the others had been reached. "I'm sure you can convince JJ and Rossi and maybe even yourself. Honestly though, do you really believe it?" They fell silent, the younger agent watching the floor carefully. After a while Morgan got to his feet again, clapping Reid on the shoulder before he slipped back down the isle to his previous seat.

The buzz of the engines accompanied the steady buzz in his head as Reid leaned back against the wall once more, eyes closing. There was still over an hour left on the flight before they separated at LAX, each small group heading to the various crime scenes, police stations, or to interview victim's families.

It wasn't long enough by far.

"I'm still not sure about this."

"He'll be fine. He's kept a level head during much worse situations."

"But on something like this…"

Reid closed his eyes for a moment, his grip tightening on the strap over his shoulder. The voices behind him were low but the drone of cars and people around them weren't loud enough to drown out the entire conversation. Prentiss seemed to be the only one who had any confidence that he could handle the interview. JJ had kept the same worried look since Hotch had split them up into the groups. Everyone had been rather surprised that the young doctor had been with those interviewing the victims themselves. It wasn't the most conventional one, true but that's why he was in the BAU in the first place. Their cases weren't conventional. None of them ever were...

The agents pulled out their badges nearly simultaneously, letting the receptionist glance them over before she picked up the phone and punched in a number.

"We've got four people to see here," JJ reminded them. "Rossi is visiting the two that are already home. If we take one each we might be able to get back to the station before midnight."

"We can always come back." Prentiss now led the three as they were taken down the main hallway and into an elevator. Their escort - a young nurse who had a clipboard clutched in one hand - seemed to be attempting to ignore the conversation but by the way her eyes kept darting toward the agents, Reid doubted that she was successful in that attempt. "If we need any more information, I mean. This is mainly to confirm their stories than anything else."

The door gave a soft ding as it slid open again on the fourth floor and the group stepped out, all of them turning to the nurse as she glanced down at the clipboard.

"Lila Archer is in room 436. Rachel McCoy; room 427," she told them, one finger running down a list. "Harriet Scott is 453, Mary Westing in 433." There was a small frown on the woman's face as she looked back up, her arms crossing. "They've been through a lot," she said in a low voice. "I doubt you need reminding, but don't get too persistent with the questioning. Just hit the call button if you need anything." The nurse was gone quickly, apparently eager to be out of the presence of the FBI. JJ watched her stride away for a moment before turning back to her coworkers.

"I can go to Harriet's room; she's the furthest away. Prentiss, can you take Mary?" The dark-haired agent nodded briefly. "Reid, you can go to Rachel and we'll meet up before talking to Lila. She's the most recent, so she might remember more details." There was a short pause in which Reid could feel both women watching him closely as he pointedly avoided their eyes. After a moment JJ offered the young man a small smile before turning and starting off down the hall. Prentiss blinked once before following, leaving the other agent standing to the right of the elevator with his bag gripped tightly in one hand.

It took almost a minute for him to convince his feet to cooperate and Reid finally strode past the various doors, some of them open enough to reveal glimpses of the room's inhabitants. If the press had gotten wind of this, the entire hospital would be crawling with reporters attempting to get any sort of picture of the actress that they were so eager to write about. Brown eyes glanced quickly to one side as he passed 433, barely catching sight of Prentiss as she pulled a chair next to the young woman's bed. She, at least, believed that he wasn't too 'connected' to this case. She seemed to be the only one, really. Everyone else was overly paranoid, overly worried about something that had happened almost five years ago…

Despite the fact that it was still quiet in the hall, there was a man stationed outside of 436. At a glance he would seem to be a doctor reading some file but the constantly sweeping gaze told otherwise. Stern eyes examined Reid critically as he approached and the 'guard' took a little longer than most did while examining the badge handed to him. After another glance-over, he stepped to one side and nodded curtly, ignoring the agent's quiet thanks as he slipped inside.

The room was dimly lit and quiet apart from the steady hum of the monitors that were tucked away to one side. Reid paused in the doorway, one hand running fairly nervously through his hair. She was stable, the doctors had said…but that didn't really give any hints as to what condition she was stable in. Managing a steadying breath, he let his hands slip into his pockets and crossed the room in a few strides, standing beside the bed in silence. It was easy to see that the woman had been tortured; her face was lined with various cuts and bruises, some hair seemed to be missing and there were bandages almost covering both arms. At first glance Lila appeared to be asleep, but she stirred suddenly and gave a slight gasp, flinching away as her eyes shot open. Reid put up both hands, stepping back quickly in an attempt to appear non-threatening.

"It's okay," he said hurriedly, looking back at the door. It would be just his luck to be tackled by some overly-paranoid bodyguard. "It's okay, I-I'm…" Based on the look he was receiving, the woman didn't recognize him at all. It wasn't surprising really. "I'm with the FBI."

"FBI?" Her voice was rough and still distrustful as she stared at the young man critically. "Why's the-the FBI-" Lila broke off suddenly with a loud cough, one hand going to clutch at her chest. Broken ribs…what is he doing to them?

"We're, uh…we're investigating the kidnappings in the area," he explained, warily approaching the bed again. At least she didn't try to run. Pale green eyes were narrowed and Reid hesitated before sinking into the chair. Had this really been such a good idea? JJ and Prentiss would nag him about it for hours if they had the chance and what little confidence he had possessed vanished the moment she looked at him. "There've been seven women including you who have been taken and we are almost positive it's the same man doing it." It fell silent after that. The agent swallowed, glancing down as Lila continued to drill him with a suspicious stare. He couldn't blame her for being paranoid, not after what had happened…

"Who are you?" she finally asked, one hand going to rub impatiently at the breathing tubes in her nose. "I can't…there's something about you-" The actress was interrupted by another coughing fit and she let her eyes remain closed for a moment before looking back at the young doctor. The expression on her face was more of curiosity than anything else now which provided a very slight comfort.

"I'm with the, uh…the Behavior Analysis Unit," Reid told her, unconsciously licking his lips as he glanced around the room. "The BAU, as most people know it. W-we try to catch the suspects by reading their behavior, psychoanalyzing them…" He trailed off, suddenly aware that the statement was eerily similar to one he had used when he met Lila in the gallery. Doesn't matter. She doesn't remember me. It's probably best that she doesn't; keeps things from getting even more complicated than they already are. After clearing his throat, he finished quickly. "We're looking for whoever did this to you, Miss Archer." The woman's face suddenly fell and her hands clutched at the bed sheets tightly.

"You won't catch him," she whispered, eyes frantically darting around the room now. "H-he's five steps ahead of them, all the time. I don't even-might as well psychoanalyze me for all the good it'll do." Lila hesitated then, her mouth turning down in a frown as she looked back up at the agent. There were a few seconds of near dead silence in which she considered his face intently.

Her breath suddenly seemed to catch and there was a brief moment in which she fought back a cough before managing to repress it. Both hands tightened even more on the sheets and the woman forced out a single word that took far more effort than it should have;


The sound of his name - his first name, no less; that wasn't often heard in the office - sent an odd reaction through Reid's chest. It was the same feeling he had noticed more than four years ago when he found himself being pulled into a pool at night despite the fact that he still had his gun strapped at his waist. He had assumed it had simply gone away after so long but apparently it had only lay dormant during that time. There hadn't exactly been time to consider such things in depth recently.

"Y-yeah," he finally stammered. "It's me." Yet another silence gripped the room. The murmurs from the hall outside seemed amplified but he ignored them easily. The genius started as he suddenly found his hand in a tight grip and leaned forward automatically as it was pulled over the bed railing. Lila had it clutched in both of her own hands and pressed her face into them with eyes tightly shut. She was shaking, tremors he first assumed to be more coughing. It was a bit of a shock, then, when the moist feeling on his captive hand proved it to be sobs.

"S-Spencer," she managed to choke. "I-I can't-" The words were lost quickly in an effort to get substantial air. Reid swallowed, blinking a few times before hesitantly laying his free hand on her shoulder.

"We'll catch him," he said quietly. "I promise."

In any other situation like this it would be normal for him to feel the all-too-common surge of awkwardness that seemed to follow him everywhere. Now, though, watching a woman he hadn't seen in almost five years break down, it was different. Seeing the bandages on her arms and cuts on her face, the monitors beeping away in one corner…Reid felt an unfamiliar surge of anger.

Maybe the team had been right to worry…

Soo…weird ending is weird. No, I don't know how the case resolves. The entire story was written around the idea for the last scene. X3 If you want to continue it, please feel free! I would love reading it! I just request that you give me credit and whutnot. And send me a link. ^^

It's a sorta cheesy story, but ah well. I loved this -short- pairing. Reid was adorable in that episode. Sorry if Lila's OOC. She didn't show up quite enough to get a grip on her character. Plus, traumatizing event is traumatizing and…Yeah. I'll shut up now.

I LOVE reviews so very very much! Let me know what you think, please! 8D

Many kudos!