A/N 1: Written for nevcolleil's prompt at comment-fic at LJ. A look into backstory; Spencer + Morgan and/or Hotch, the first time they met/Reid proved he's worthy of the BAU. This is what came out. I own nothing other than my cat - and you can't have her. She'll eat you if you try.
A/N 2: Awesome wishes to be as awesome as my beta catko. I suck at Hotch. She doesn't.
Morgan entered the small observation room and walked over to Hotch. His unit chief was standing in front of the one-way window, overlooking the classroom on the other side. Morgan saw the class was packed with cadets, leaning attentively over their desks, pencils moving rapidly. Noticing the very thick packet of papers each student was slaving over, he grinned.
"Rawley's test day, huh?"
Hotch folded his arms, still intent on watching the class. "Midterm."
Morgan groaned. "Oh man, they'll be in there for hours."
Turning to him, Hotch smiled wryly. "I believe the shortest record is two hours, eight minutes. I managed two forty-nine."
"Damn. Mine was three twenty-two."
A rare chuckle escaped his boss. "Still not bad."
Never one to waste time, Morgan got to the point. "You wanna tell me why we're here?"
Hotch's smile turned serious. Nodding towards the class, he said, "The record's about to be broken. Smashed, in fact."
Understanding dawned. "Ah. I'm about to meet the famous Dr. Reid?"
"You're the profiler." Hotch shrugged. "You tell me."
Focusing, Morgan moved closer to the window. He'd thought the task might be challenging, but with a quick glance around the room he immediately spotted the newest addition to the Bureau that had everyone abuzz. Every agent had heard about the youngest cadet in FBI history, but Morgan knew more than most. The senior BAU profiler, Gideon, was instrumental in recruiting the barely twenty-one year old certified genius. Hotch and Gideon had been extolling his virtues ever since.
Morgan was aware of the accomplishments of the young doctor who was specifically being groomed for the BAU – had even tried reading his dissertations – but as yet hadn't met him. Spotting the tall, reed-thin kid with the questionable fashion choice and even worse haircut near the front of the room, he immediately knew why.
"Oh man, you've got to be kidding me," he groaned.
"Are you basing your opinion on his physical appearance, or what you know of his abilities?"
Morgan carefully considered before answering. He knew his boss was testing him, wanting an honest evaluation. "I'll admit, his physical appearance. He doesn't look a day over twelve. A newborn fawn looks more intimidating."
Hotch chuckled again. "It's a point. Something we'll need to deal with when he starts meeting LEOs when we're out on cases. Don't judge him by his cover though."
"I know. Between you and Gideon, I feel like I've already read the book several times over." Watching the kid's pencil fly over the paper, Morgan just stared. The other cadets were still struggling with the first pages, but it was clear Reid had reached the final essay section. "Impressive."
"He reads at a superhuman speed. They give him a word limit for the essays. It slows him down by forcing him to prioritize what to put in his reports. Jason's suggested I may want to continue that once he officially joins us and starts writing up case files. Apparently, if given the opportunity, he'll empty an entire forest of paper to answer just one question."
Morgan continued to watch the pencil speed across the paper. "I can believe that."
"Wait 'til you speak with him."
"Like you would not believe. Kid knows everything, and that's no exaggeration. Useful, but it will take effort to keep him reined in when it's needed. He does respond to redirects well."
"Is he autistic?"
"Officially? We haven't located any documentation. Unofficially? Without a doubt. Probably Asperger's. He's high-functioning, but it does affect his behavior. You'll notice immediately. He'll struggle to maintain eye contact, and don't offer to shake his hand. He'll wave to you instead." Morgan's eyebrows raised and Hotch chuckled. "It's one of his more endearing quirks, one of many. We might even need to remind him to breathe when he talks, particularly when he's excited. Assuming you understand him, that is. He's extremely pedantic."
"No wonder Gideon loves him."
At that, the unit chief gave an outright laugh. "You have no idea." Turning serious, he said, "Jason thinks he refuses a diagnosis because he doesn't want to be labeled. Given what we uncovered during the vetting process, what he goes through with only the genius label is more than enough. I wouldn't suggest bringing the subject up."
"Wasn't planning on it, but it's good to know what to expect."
"Understandable. Jason's taken to working with him on his social skills." Hotch didn't need to look to see Morgan's disbelief. "I know, I know. The blind leading the blind. But trust me, compared to Reid, Gideon's a positive social butterfly."
"Now that I have got to see," came the wry response.
Hotch smiled. "You will. The goal is to have him field-ready no more than a year after graduation. He'll be twenty-two then, almost twenty-three. We'll still need to mentor him, no doubt, but at least we'll be able to take him on cases. In the meantime, he'll work the archives, assist Jason – whatever he can do from here. We just need to get him through the Academy first. Jason is already mentioning waivers, but Reid keeps insisting on taking and retaking the classes. He has it in his mind he can pass. Given his unusual methods, Jason's doubtful." Hotch paused. "So am I."
"What's the main issue?"
"He needs more time and practice to perform the physical skills at certification level. More than the Academy expects, at any rate. It doesn't help that he can be very literal. You have to be very specific, otherwise he might react unexpectedly to what others would consider clear instructions. That's one concern we'll need to address to get him field-ready. Brunton still goes on about his hand-to-hand. Reid nearly broke Cadet Harrison's arm."
Morgan threw his boss a puzzled look. "Isn't that the whole point of the class? Sounds like the kid can handle himself physically."
"Except his hand-to-hand wasn't hand-to-hand, which is why he failed. He avoided Harrison's advances by staying just out of reach throughout. It annoyed Harrison so much, he went to Brunton to complain. The moment he turned his back, Reid attacked."
"Interesting. He's opportunistic; creates his own advantages."
"Not to mention shrewd. Don't get me started on the Hogan's Alley fiasco." Noticing Morgan's interest, Hotch sighed. "He tried to argue his times were within limits given the setup. That he had the extra time since there was no way any of the targets could shoot him given the angles they were turned at. Technically, he was correct." Sighing again, Hotch pinched his nose at the memory. "He calculated the angles, trajectories, speeds, and times for every single one of the targets at the Alley, Morgan. In his head, within seconds. Then he proceeded to diagram them right in front of the evaluators."
Morgan whistled. "Wow."
"Exactly. It's issues like that we need to work with him on. Finding his strengths and teaching him to exploit them to their fullest potential in the field. Reid can be effective, but we need to identify what works for him, rather than expect him to perform to Bureau cookie-cutter standards. It will also help us to know how he'll react when we finally do take him out, so we can adjust our own procedures if necessary."
"And that will be my job?"
Hotch nodded. "I'm focusing on some areas. His target shooting is improving, although that's not saying much. But you're the clear choice for the more physical requirements. Obviously we want to keep prepping him to meet the FBI criteria, even in the skills we know he won't succeed in."
"Yeah, I can't see the kid ever climbing a wall. At least, not in this decade," Morgan paused, then added, "or without a ladder."
Hotch inclined his head in accord. "Jason wants him around the office more, and I agree. It's time to introduce him to the rest of the team. We'll clear a desk in the bullpen for him to use."
Finally, Morgan seized the moment to voice his concerns. "Look Hotch, I know he's a genius. One in a billion smarts. It's also clear Gideon thinks the kid walks on water. And yes, I agree he'll be a great addition to the Bureau. But I gotta ask, is he really worth the effort for the BAU? Maybe it would be better to send him to one of the softer departments, one that doesn't require field work? Maybe come to us when he's more experienced?"
Hotch considered for a minute. Gazing back at the student who by now looked like he was on the last page of the test, he spoke. "He cracked the Watson Hill code, Derek."
Morgan looked stunned. An old, internationally known case. So far unsolvable, since the unsub had encrypted his communications. Nearly fourteen years after it had gone cold, it was still one of the cornerstone cases used for teaching purposes. "Seriously?"
"Last night. We're keeping it quiet - he draws enough attention, and one thing you'll see is that he doesn't like attention. He doesn't exactly fit in with his peers as it is. We didn't want it to cause a distraction. Reid will be on record for the profile though. We're moving on it. Expect to go to Oklahoma in the morning. Wheels up nine am. The decipher is so thorough, it's entirely possible we'll have a suspect by the end of the day."
"Derek, he's already going through the archives in his spare time, updating profiles for older cases. I've signed off on several now. They're not just good, they're exceptional. His statistical knowledge alone is staggering. Added to his other abilities..."
Morgan got the point. "He's worth it."
As if on cue, the attention of both men was drawn back to the classroom as the object of their discussion stood up. Hotch looked at his watch and noted the time. "Twenty-six minutes." Reid picked up his messenger bag and walked to the podium, giving his exam to Rawley. Whatever the instructor said made Reid smile, and the kid gave a small wave goodbye as he walked back up the aisle towards the exit.
...then proceeded to trip on the last step.
Emitting a snort, Morgan remarked, "Kid needs more than just help in the field."
"He'll learn. You'll like him once you get to know him. He'll be a good addition to the team. He's one hell of a profiler already, and he hasn't even graduated yet."
"You don't have to keep selling me on him, Hotch. I'm sold. I'll do whatever it takes to ease his transition and get him up to standards as much as we can. I'll treat him like the little brother I never had."
Hotch laughed. "Maybe you should call Desiree for advice then."
The mention of his oldest sister made Morgan grin right back. "Nah. I want him to like me, not run away in fear."
The unit chief started to walk to the door. Opening it, he lightly warned, "Oh, wait until you see him run. You weren't far off with your newborn fawn comment. It's the most awkward gait I've ever seen."
Stepping into the hallway behind his boss, Morgan laughed. "I can't wait."