A/N Please be warned that this story will get very emotional at times, especially right at the beginning.
Spencer rubbed his eyes, knowing the images in front of him would not allow him to get any sleep that night. He often read case studies to hone his skills, using the information in the convicted suspect's file and the information about the case to build a profile. He was generally able to remain detached when he did this, to the point that he knew it worried everyone else. Even if he weren't so perceptive, he still heard them whispering in the break room. Occasionally, they confronted him about it:
"Reid, you have to be careful doing this," Prentiss had said. "If you take these things home with you, there's no escape."
"Kid, you have to leave that stuff here," Morgan had said. "Home should be a place this doesn't follow."
"Rest that mega-brain, wonder child," Garcia had said. "We need you fully functional."
Spencer hadn't listened and he knew now that he would pay for it. He took a shaking breath in and turned off his desk lamp. The room was bathed in darkness, but he could still see it in his mind, the haunting images of a child trafficking ring. It had been one of the largest ones to ever be discovered, that's what had interested Spencer. He hadn't anticipated those pictures, frame after frame of bloodied and broken children that were gone forever, killed by men who would rather commit murder than see those children return home. He shuddered and turned the light back on. He had come too far to quit.
He put the pictures and papers he'd already looked at back into their manila folders and then slid the last unopened folder in front of him. There he read the story of the only child that had survived.
The sun was rising, but Reid hadn't noticed. He was enthralled by the survivor, a boy that hadn't even been reported missing. He felt some sort of attachment growing. The boy was estimated to be about four or five years old and was still recovering from his injuries four months after being rescued. No family had stepped forward.
Perhaps it was the lack of sleep, but as he looked into the green eyes of the child in the picture, it was almost as if he was being summoned. He glanced at the clock and then picked up the phone.
The boy knew the nightmare was coming. He knew, but couldn't fight it. The dead eyes stared at him, blood was on him and it felt grimy and warm.
"Why did you survive?" a girl's voice asked. The girl had been almost like a friend during the bad days, but now she was always asking him a question he couldn't answer. "Why did they let you live? Why couldn't I go home?"
The boy tried to wipe his face clean, but his hands were dirty too. "I don't know," he whimpered. "I'm sorry." He wanted very much to wake up. The guilt was overwhelming.
He was a ghost. He had no family, no life before the bad men. That life was all he'd ever known. The others weren't like that. They called out for "Mommy", "Daddy" etc. People missed them. People wanted them back. No one wanted the boy, no one missed him. He was the last one that deserved to live.
The boy stared into each pair of dead eyes and started to cry. "I didn't mean to," he said. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry." All the eyes were on him, accusing him.
He was ripped from the nightmare as suddenly he shook. His eyes flew open and he saw the form of one of the nurse ladies. He was still crying and shaking. The eyes lingered in the edges of his vision.
Reid's phone buzzed in his pocket and he answered it quickly, darting out into the hallway. "This is Dr. Reid," he said.
"Hello, this is Rose Crispin," a smooth voice with hints of a Southern drawl replied. "I was calling to let you know that you've met our initial criteria. I'd like to confirm that you are still interested in foster parenting with intent to adopt."
"Yes, yes," Reid said. He'd been a bit worried when filling out the application. While he knew his salary and education were definitely in his favor, he'd worried that his unmarried status and demanding job would ruin his chances.
"Alright, well I'd like to make an appointment for a home inspection," Rose replied. He could almost hear the smile in her voice. "I'm available tomorrow afternoon, if that works for you."
"That's fine," Reid said. He was grinning widely as he returned to the office. He sat down, still in a victorious stupor. Shortly after, it all came crashing down. He hadn't yet converted his office into a bedroom. He bolted away from his desk and rushed to Garcia's office.
"Ever learn to knock, boy genius?" Garcia teased, setting down one of her flashy pens.
"I need your help," Spencer said.
"Ask and I will attempt."
Spencer took a deep breath. "It's a bit of a long story…I was looking at a case file the other night and I think I found an opportunity to do something great."
"There's this boy and I think I'm supposed to be the one to take care of him."
"Wait a minute, back up. Do you even like kids?" Garcia was on the verge of laughter.
Spencer forewent debating the definition of 'like' and responded, "I have no idea. I'm largely indifferent but that's how I know that this is really something I need to do. He doesn't have anyone in the world to be there for him and after all he's been through I think that I'd be the best person to take care of him."
Garcia nodded. "I'm so proud of you," she said sincerely.
"Good, so will you help me?"
"What do you need?"
Spencer bit the corner of his lip. "I have no idea what four year olds need."
Rose followed the nervous man through the house and surveyed each room, noting that each room was suitable. Everything was childproofed, every gun required for the agent's work was stored away in a safe, the kitchen was sanitary and well stocked. The agent had even provided a completed FBI background check for the nanny he had selected to provide care for the boy.
"This would be his room," Dr. Reid said, gesturing to a semi-open door. Rose pushed the door open and looked around.
The blue paint on the wall was fresh and everything inside looked brand new. Toys lined one wall, each one serving some intellectual purpose: a miniature xylophone, building blocks, puzzles, and books. A solid oak bed frame supported a twin mattress with navy blue sheets and a matching quilt. Resting on a pillow was the only thing that wasn't new, a worn teddy bear with a missing eye and a drooping bowtie.
Rose picked up the teddy bear and examined it.
Dr. Reid stepped over and reached for the toy. "If that's inappropriate, I can remove it. I thought…I thought that he would enjoy it. It was mine as a child."
Rose smiled. She could tell that this was a very smart, logical man, but also one that would be very caring. "It's perfect," she said. "I think I've seen all that I need to."
The FBI agent nodded. "Thank you for your time," he said.
Rose smiled knowingly. "I know I'm not a profiler, but I think I know what's on your mind and my answer is, I can't tell you for sure yes or no if you'll become the child's foster father. What I can say is, it is evident that you want to be and that you've put a lot of care and thought into this and that will go a long way."
Dr. Reid seemed to relax a little. "I was wondering if perhaps you knew the boy's name. I can't find it anywhere."
Rose sighed. "He won't tell us what it is and we still haven't been able to find anything about him. We're still searching."
Spencer stepped the break room and stored his lunch in the refrigerator and then went to pour himself his third cup of coffee of the morning. When he turned around, he found the entire team staring back at him.
"Garcia," he groaned.
"I swear, they tortured it out of me," Garcia said, holding up her hands in mock self defense.
"When were you going to tell us you wanted to be a daddy?" Morgan said, giving the young Ph.D. a good natured shove.
"Careful," Spencer said, smiling through his charade of indignation. "I don't know for sure yet if I'll be chosen. I'm sure others that are a lot better than me have shown interest."
"There's no one better than you," J.J. said in her caring way. "You'll be great."
"You're going to have to put in your request for time off now, Reid," Hotch added. Only those that knew him could see past the cool exterior. The team's leader was just as proud as the other members.
The boy could feel something different about that day from the moment he woke up. The nurse who brought him breakfast seemed very excited. "Miss Rose is going to come see you today," she said.
The boy kept his hands folded neatly while the nurse pulled his bedside table over his lap and then set his breakfast before him. "Why?" he asked softly.
"She has some good news."
The boy picked up his spoon and carefully took a bite of oatmeal. "Thank you," he muttered.
The nurse left, muttering to herself about how polite the boy was.
He finished half of his food, knowing that any less would earn him a scolding from the doctor. He pushed the tray away and stared down at the slight roundness of his tummy. He wasn't used to seeing that. He poked it and wondered if he was going to get a big fat pot belly like some of the bad men had. He felt ashamed, remembering the dream. It hadn't come that night, but it didn't matter. He would always remember, awake or asleep.
Rose parked her car in front of Dr. Reid's home and went around to the backseat to open the door for the boy. His green eyes were wide with terror behind his straight, blond bangs. The brunette caseworker wanted nothing more than to take his tiny little hand in hers, but the boy generally shirked away from shows of affection. She led the way to the door and didn't have to ring the bell or knock.
"Hello," Dr. Reid said, smiling nervously.
The boy looked up at Rose and then at Dr. Reid. He seemed confused, but didn't speak. He took a small step backward. "It's alright," Rose said. "Come inside and look around."
The boy followed her, still afraid, but he trusted her. Dr. Reid's eyes never left the boy. The young man seemed all an once excited and terrified. "I, uh, I made a snack. I wasn't sure if you'd be hungry," he said to the boy.
The boy stared up at him silently.
Rose gave Dr. Reid a reassuring smile. "Come on, let's go see what he made for us. This is Dr. Spencer Reid. He wants to take care of you."
The boy remained silent and climbed into a chair without assistance. He stared down at the table as Dr. Reid set down a tray of sliced apples and cheese.
"Wasn't that nice of him?" Rose said. Leading by example, she took a slice of cheese from the tray.
The boy hesitated and then took a piece of apple. He was scared of this strange place, but he trusted Rose. He snuck another glance at the man who was standing across from him. He didn't look like any of the bad men and Rose had called him a doctor, but the boy still wasn't sure.
Once he started eating the bit of apple, he realized he was in fact very hungry. He ate as much as he could, but felt the familiar guilt once all the snacks were gone. He looked down at his stomach, how it poked out a bit, and he felt ashamed again.
The grown ups stood and the boy followed them. He got up on the couch and sat close by Rose. He could sense that she was about to say something and he was a little bit afraid.
Rose put her hand on his shoulder and smiled at him. "Alright, I'm going to go now. This will be your home and Dr. Reid will take care of you. I'll be back to check on you, I promise."
The boy felt his jaw drop a little bit. He didn't quite understand what she meant. Rose stood up and waved good bye. "Be good," she said. And then she left.
The boy pulled his knees up to his chest and looked around. Rose had really left, she was gone. He heard her car drive away. She'd left him in this house with this strange man. The boy's lip started to tremble. He wondered what was going to happen to him. He started to cry.
It was strangely cathartic to see the boy as more than just a picture. Spencer had spent so long focusing on following his calling to help the child and now that the boy was there with him, he felt vindicated.
Reid hadn't been nervous until the door closed and he was alone with the boy. When the child started to cry, Reid wondered if it wasn't too late to call Rose back. He still wanted to help the boy more than anything, but he had no idea what to do.
"It's alright," Reid said. He sat down next to the boy, but wisely chose to keep his hands to himself.
The boy was sobbing into his tiny hands and stopped once Spencer spoke, looking at him through spread fingers.
"I'm not going to hurt you," Spencer said in his best reassuring voice. "You're here because I'm going to take care of you."
The boy dropped his hands and continued to stare at Spencer, but he still hadn't spoken.
"My name is Spencer," Reid said. "I work for the FBI. I catch the bad guys."
The boy seemed intrigued. Reid's throat was dry from nervousness and he coughed. The boy jumped, looking as if he might cry again because he'd been startled.
"My friend Penelope helped me make you a really cool room, do you want to see?" Spencer said.
The boy nodded and followed silently. Spencer opened the door and immediately looked down to judge the child's reaction. The boy looked around and Spencer could see a bit of a spark there. He walked over to the closet and indicated a shelf that was low to the ground. "You can take your shoes of and put them here," he said.
The boy followed directions, sitting down on the floor and carefully undoing the Velcro fastens on his tiny tennis shoes and then pulling them off slowly. He put the shoes on the shelf and then wrapped his arms around his shins, looking up at Spencer. Spencer moved over to the toys and gestured to them. "These are all for you," he said.
The boy just stared and Spencer moved away, standing in the door way. The boy then reached out for one of the blocks and examined it. He placed the block back exactly where he'd found it. The process was repeated for each toy and Spencer got a bit nervous. Maybe he should have bought the colorful dinosaur thing Garcia had suggested. The boy didn't seem to like any of the toys.
The boy moved away from the toys and over to the bed. He climbed up onto the mattress using the footboard and crawled over to grab the teddy bear. He hugged it to his chest and Spencer was relieved. At least there was one good decision. The boy fell asleep after a while, still hugging the teddy bear. Spencer stayed and watched him for the longest time. He felt joy at helping the boy, but he was still terrified that he wouldn't do well.
Spencer finally moved away from the doorway and went back to his living room. Something felt different about the house. It felt warmer, more like a home. He grabbed a book, sat down, and smiled with satisfaction as he read while his future son slept.
The boy tried to scream, but he couldn't. The hand over his mouth stopped him. He shook with terror, realizing it was a dream. That offered little relief. He knew what came next, what the bad man in his dream was going to do to him. He knew it was going to hurt. He knew how disgusting he would feel when it was done. He started screaming into the man's hand when the pain started. He tried to kick his legs, to fight back somehow, but it was like a weight was crushing him.
Spencer dropped his book and rushed to the screaming boy. He flipped the light of the room on and saw the boy thrashing on the bed. He knelt beside the boy and gently tried to wake him. The boy was whimpering, sobbing in his sleep, and there was a urine stain on the front of his pants.
"Wake up," Spencer said in his best soothing voice. "Wake up now." He wished that he'd been able to find out the boy's name.
The boy's eyes shot open and he stared up at the ceiling, his body still heaving from the exertion of his terror. He sat up in the bed, carefully setting down the teddy bear on the pillow behind him. He looked down and saw that he'd had an accident. He started to cry and tried to cover himself up.
He felt so ashamed and wondered if he was going to be punished for making a mess. It was hard to talk after all the crying, but he managed to look at the man next to him and squeak out, "I'm sorry."
Spencer felt like he'd been punched. He'd never heard the boy speak before. "I'm sorry," the boy whispered again.
"It's alright," Spencer said. "Come and let me help you clean up. It's alright, I'm not mad." Reid stood and picked the boy up. The child started to cry a little but remained still.
Spencer was still terrified that he was going to do the wrong thing, but it was almost as if he was on auto-pilot. He carried the boy to the bathroom and started to fill the bath tub with warm water. He made a shushing sound and reassured the boy, "I'm not going to hurt you." He helped the boy out of his soiled clothes and into the warm water.
Reid could feel that the boy was watching him, but did his best to act like he was in control. He handed the boy a washcloth and the child immediately covered himself. Spencer grabbed another washcloth and started to wash the boy's back. The boy's tears subsided and he continued to study Dr. Reid.
Spencer went and grabbed the cup from next to the sink. He used it to pour water over the boy's head and then started to wash his hair with the baby shampoo that Garcia had insisted was still age appropriate. "Cover your eyes," Reid instructed as he rinsed the soap away. "You can finish washing yourself, I'm going to grab some clean clothes for you."
Rose had told Spencer the boy's sizes and he'd bought a few necessary garments, but Garcia had been adament about letting the child pick out the rest of his clothes. Reid grabbbed a pair of pajamas and underwear and then returned to the bathroom. Spencer took one of the towels off the shelf and held it by the corners. He remembered his father used to do this. The boy stood and allowed Reid to wrap him in the towel and lift him out of the tub. Spencer hugged the child tightly and set him on his feet, helping him dry off and get dressed.
The boy sniffled and wiped his eyes. "Thank you," he said.
Spencer smiled at his first completed act of parenthood. He felt safe calling that one a victory. "Do you want to watch a movie?" he asked.
The boy nodded and followed Spencer to the living room. He climbed up on the couch and sat there with his hands folded on his lap while Spencer grabbed one of the classic Disney movies donated by Garcia. Once the movie had started, Spencer went and gathered the boy's dirty clothes and the quilt from the bed and put them in the washing machine. Before he returned, he grabbed the teddy bear.
He sat down beside the boy and handed him the toy. The child looked up at Reid before accepting it with a hesitant smile. "I was wondering what your name is," Spencer said.
The boy hugged the teddy bear to his chest and stared ahead at the television. He took a deep breath and then looked back at Spencer. "My name is Mutt," he whispered.
"Mutt?" Spencer repeated. Spencer wasn't exactly fond of the name. "How did you get that name?"
The boy shrugged. "I dunno. 'S what everyone call me."
Spencer nodded. "Well, I'll call you that too then."
Mutt nodded his approval and then hesitantly asked, "What'm I 'sposed t' call you?"
Spencer thought about it before replying. He figured it was way to soon to ask for the title of 'Dad' and in fact, he didn't want to have to ask at all. "You can call me Spencer for now, or whatever you want to."
"Spencer," Mutt repeated slowly, carefully forming each syllable.
Reid smiled. "That's fine," he said. "Are you hungry, Mutt?"
The boy looked down at his stomach uncertainly. "Yeah, but what if I get fat," he said, eyes wide.
Spencer bit back his laughter. Mutt was far from fat, in fact most of the boy's ribs were visible. "You won't get fat."
Mutt seemed uncertain.
Spencer stood and then knelt on the floor in front of the boy. "Why are you worried about that?"
Mutt stared at a spot on the floor, refusing to look at Spencer. "Uhm, 'cause," he whispered. "I don't wanna be fat."
Spencer bit the corner of his mouth. He really didn't know what to do and hoped that he could convince the boy to eat. "You need food to grow and to be healthy. It's my job to make sure you get that. Try to eat at least a little bit, OK?"
Mutt nodded and hid his face behind the teddy bear.
Spencer stood up and went to the kitchen. He wasn't the best cook, but he was fairly certain he could make spaghetti. He cooked the meal and again felt like his home was complete. He heard Mutt giggle a bit at the movie and he started to grin. He was starting to feel confident.
He sprinkled a bit of parmesean cheese on both plates of spaghetti and then carried them to the table. "Mutt," he called. He still didn't like the boy's name, feeling that it was a bit too derogatory.
The boy came and climbed up into one of the chairs. He sat on his legs in order to get a better angle. He took a hold of the fork and managed to coax one noodle into his mouth. Spencer laughed a little to himself and leaned over to cut the noodles up. He still had some learning to do.
They ate together in silence and Mutt ended up finishing his whole plate. He leaned back in the chair and poked his stomach. "I got fatter," he said.
Spencer reached over and patted the boy's stomach. "No, I think you're about the same as you were before."
Fear flashed in Mutt's eyes, but then he smiled and reached over to poke Dr. Reid in the stomach. "So are you," he said.
Spencer started laughing so hard that his eyes watered. Mutt stared at him with one eyebrow cocked. "You're kind of weird," he whispered.
Spencer nodded. "Yeah, I know. I know."
The boy shrugged and returned to watch the rest of the movie while Spencer cleaned up the kitchen. When he finished, he went and found Mutt looking very tired and starting to doze off on the couch. He sat down beside the boy and reached for his book. As he read, he was careful not to move because he noticed that the boy's head was resting on his arm.
Spencer stopped reading and looked down at the boy sleeping beside him. He smiled and again felt that he had made the right decision.
A/N Be kind, review. If enough people want it, I'll write another chapter.