Disclaimer: And the madness lives on!
A/N: Why hello you lovely people, you!
This one-shot is inspired by the only enjoyable part of the 100th episode: Spencer Reid's face-off with Erin Strauss.
At first, she is amused. It had been a while since she'd been addressed like someone's schoolteacher. By now, most of the agents she works with have gotten into the habit of calling her "Chief Strauss" when speaking to her. (Some-namely a certain Italian agent who is thankfully no longer in her hair-even call her Erin.)
But most of them have definitely moved past the urge to address her as "Ma'am," and so this nervous young man with the too-long hair and the very odd style of dress is as amusing as he was anxious. (Which was to say, very.) She finishes welcoming him to the agency and sends him off to find Agent Gideon, his probationary agent. He disappears remarkably fast for a rather tall young man.
Dr. Spencer Reid does not Deal Well with Women.
Twenty-two years of age, fresh out of the Academy-from which he graduated top of the class, in spite of his somewhat lesser capabilities in the physical aspect of the education-and he has no idea how to talk to a woman when she wasn't a psychotic wretch trying to claw his eyes out.
Erin Strauss supposes that it's a sort of maternal instinct that makes her want him to be comfortable with her, so she truly means the offer to call her simply by her last name. She knows as soon as his brown eyes go wide that he will be doing no such thing. And he doesn't. To Spencer Reid, she is "Ma'am," unless he is talking about her to someone else.
She'll never tell anyone, but she finds this somewhat flattering.
Three years into his status as a BAU agent, and Spencer Reid is starting to develop some startling and strangely disconcerting qualities.
Namely, it is discovered that underneath the intelligent, rational exterior, Dr. Reid has an Attitude.
It doesn't show often. When he is extremely worked up, in pain, or very angry, it will occasionally rear its head. Other than that, it comes out in odd twitches around his mouth, salt in Agent Morgan's coffee, and an inexplicable lilt to his voice when he addresses her. "Ma'am" is sounding less and less like a schoolteacher's due and more closely comparable to a tolerated mother-in-law.
Dr. Reid isn't afraid of her anymore. It's oddly upsetting. There aren't many agents in her section that don't at least have a healthy respect of what she could do to them. Reid doesn't seem to know. Either that or he doesn't care.
She's beginning to suspect the latter. It comes to her that perhaps telling a budding psychologist and a profiler how valuable he is had perhaps not been the smartest of strategies. If she'd hoped to cement his loyalty to her with flattery, she obviously didn't know anything about him. Spencer Reid would not be bought with pretty words; he had already been taken in with friendship and family.
Suddenly, every greeting has another meaning, a double entendre that she finds herself always trying to pick up on but can never seem to decipher.
"Good morning, Chief Strauss," Agent Morgan says as she passes them on their way into the bullpen. She nods to them both. "Agent Morgan, Dr. Reid."
The younger man nods back, politely, the barest hint of a glimmer in his brown eyes. "Ma'am."
Erin Strauss likes being In Charge. When a situation is out of her control, she doesn't tend to deal well with it. (This had led to a series of incidents during her college years that she'd prefer never to remember, after which she privately sought counseling. Her therapist suggested she try allowing the stressful situation to simply run its course, without her interference. It had seemed like sound advice, and for minor instances such as college exams, it worked.)
Unfortunately, attempting to reuse a college student counselor's techniques on an FBI profiler with an IQ of 187 doesn't really go as well.
Dr. Reid is scrupulously polite with her, always accommodating, responding to her wishes quickly and efficiently, all without seeming annoyed, exasperated, or even the slightest bit put out. It's unnatural.
She's beginning to suspect that he's teasing her.
Every shyly helpful smile, every Ma'am is a test, a prod, a sharp poke at her tolerance and a jab at her intelligence. He's pushing to see how far he can get.
The first time his team becomes aware of what's going on is when she strides into the bullpen and bears down on his desk like a flaming ship. It occurs to her later that she probably should have been more selective in choosing her battleground. Coming onto his turf, surrounded by his people was not a brilliant strategic move.
She pauses by his desk and gives him her best Mom glare. (What she doesn't know is that Reid growing up was far more likely to be the one giving the reproving Mom look rather than receiving it, and as a result, it has little to no effect on him.) When he registers her presence beside him as one that would not be moving on, he looks up quickly. When he sees that it's her, he says, "Ma'am?"
She grits her teeth, because flying off the handle in the BAU bullpen is a good way to get yourself seated on a sofa having Aaron Hotchner conducting your psych evaluation, and while she knows she can be heinous, she doesn't think she deserves that level of cruel and unusual yet.
"Dr. Reid," she starts, and then she stops, because what exactly is she accusing him of again? Being polite to her? She may not be a profiler, but she'd have to be either stupid or blind not to see how the other agents feel about and act towards Dr. Reid. Since Erin Strauss is neither blind nor stupid, she knows exactly how yelling at the young man will end for her. (Stony glares from Morgan and Prentiss, even-cooler-than-usual civility from Aaron, and most likely total snubbing from Agent Jareau-and all of it could last for an incredibly tenacious amount of time because nobody could hold grudges like these men and women.)
She deliberately gentles her voice and says, "I'm sensing some hostility from you, and I was wondering if there was anything you wanted to say to me?"
He's staring at her, huge brown eyes wide and innocent, and for one second, she thinks that he really, truly has no idea what she's talking about. Then his eyes shift from her face to some point behind her where she can hear his friends holding their breath and a spark ignites and she knows he knows. (What Strauss can't see is what Reid can, and what Reid sees is Morgan and Prentiss staring at the back of Strauss' head with matching incredulous expressions clearly saying did she really just go all high school counselor on the whiz-kid?)
His eyes come back to her and for an instant, they're just a smidgen darker. And then the corner of his mouth turns just the tiniest bit, and those eyes light up with a sparkle that hints of a smirk fighting to get out. Spencer Reid leans back in his chair, just enough to be nonchalant without being disrespectful, looks her right in the eye, and answers her question with that drawled inflection that always leaves her feeling unsure of whether or not she's being mocked.
A/N: You know, I actually like Erin. She's got issues, but then, so do all of them, and it's not like she's actually evil. She's pretty decent when it comes down to it. That being said, watching her go up against Dr. Reid is pretty much one of the funniest things I've ever imagined for this fandom.
He called her "Ma'am" in Episode 100, when she questions them all about Hotch and Foyet. And the way he said it, full of barely civil disdain… As horrible as that episode was, I found myself returning simply to listen to that perfect drawl.
So, yeah, I'm nuts, but in a fun way!