Same diner, different sandwich. Gideon gave a fleeting thought to his cholesterol levels before picking up his Monte Cristo and taking a large bite. Across the table, his companion stared at him with a mixture of horror and amusement.
"You gonna eat it or make love to it?"
"What, you jealous?"
David Rossi poked at his salad without enthusiasm. "As a matter of fact, I am. This isn't food. It's what food eats."
"So order something else."
Rossi's eyes followed the path of the sandwich as it rose from the plate to Gideon's mouth. For a moment his resolve seemed to waver, but then he stabbed a piece of lettuce resolutely. "No. I refuse to give up on several thousand dollars worth of custom suits because I can't stay out of the donuts."
"I admire your fortitude. I'm still getting pie."
They ate in silence for awhile, lulled by the ambient noise of the diner and the sounds of the street that seeped in through the frequently opening door. Gideon was down to the last of his fries, the undersized burnt bits, before Rossi spoke again.
"So. Not that I'm not happy to see you, given that no one knew if you were dead or alive for awhile, but I sense there's an ulterior motive to this reunion."
Gideon leaned back in his seat, his belly full enough that he began to reconsider the pie. Wiping his mouth, he tossed his napkin on the table and met Rossi's eyes. "I had lunch with Spencer last week."
Rossi nodded. "And?"
"You don't seem surprised."
"It makes sense that you'd see him first when you finally surfaced."
Gideon nodded. "There were things I needed to say to him. Things I should have said long ago."
"And now you've got things to say to me?"
"I have a favor to ask of you."
"Typical Gideon. Not a word between us for ten-plus years, and the first thing you do is ask for a favor." Rossi's tone was light, though, and he glanced up with a smirk as he added artificial sweetener to his iced tea.
"I know. And this is a big one, as favors go."
"Does this favor have to do with a certain genius of our mutual acquaintance?"
"It does." Despite having run through this conversation in his head almost constantly for the past week, Gideon was having trouble expressing his thoughts. Five years ago, even three, he would have delivered a concise analysis of the situation along with the optimal solution and several acceptable alternatives. But this was personal, and important, and he found himself gripped with the uncertainty that was his frequent companion these days. "David, all his life, Spencer has never had someone put him first. Every adult in his life has abandoned him, ignored him or leaned on him since he was a little boy. He's never had someone he can rely on unconditionally. I…I tried to be that for him, but I failed. One more person that let him down." Gideon took a deep breath and tried his best to let go of that failure, the one that hurt the most, the one he didn't know how to make amends for. He made himself look up and capture Rossi's waiting gaze. "I'm asking you to be that person. The one he can always count on. The one that puts him first."
Stirring his tea slowly, Rossi didn't answer at first. Gideon knew that look from years of working together, knew the thought process going on behind the goatee. "Jason," he finally said, ever so gently, "He's not the kid you remember. Reid's thirty years old. He doesn't need or want a father figure."
"I realize that. He's a two-time loser in the father figure lottery. He'd have to be a masochist to go down that road again."
"So if you're not asking me to adopt him?"
"I'm asking you to be a stable point in his life. I'm asking you to commit to him, to be his…true north."
Rossi made a frustrated noise and dropped his spoon on the table top, sending drops of iced tea scattering. "All the kid's been through and you want to inflict me on him? I'm not exactly mentor material."
"Bullshit. Don't make excuses if you're not up for it, Dave."
A frown crossed Rossi's face. "Damn it, Jason, you act like I've been ignoring him. I've been helping as much as I can, as much as he'll let me. Did you know that kid was living in an apartment building I wouldn't leave an unsub in?"
Gideon nodded sadly. "All his money goes to his mother's hospital."
"Yeah, well, I've got a few ideas on that score. But I gave him a ride home one night when his car wouldn't start, and it was all I could do to leave him there. Not long after that, I made sure he got word of a very nice, very affordable apartment in a building which happens to be owned by a friend of mine."
"You're subsidizing his rent?"
Rossi nodded. "That's the thing with helping Reid. You can't do it directly, you've got to come at it sideways. That's why it's taking me so long to work something out with Bennington. The kid's sharp, he'll see through my devious plans if they're not tight."
"I appreciate all of that –"
"I didn't do it for you."
"I know. But Dave, he needs more than money."
"He needs what? Hugs and kisses? I should take him fishing, take him to the park and throw him a baseball? Jason, you need to face facts. You don't know him anymore. You don't know what he needs."
Gideon opened his mouth to argue, then closed it again. Rossi looked genuinely angry for the first time since he'd sat down.
"God, how did I forget that enormous ego of yours? You honestly think that losing you was that traumatic? Yes, it was hard on him, from what the others tell me. But he wasn't exactly set adrift without you. He had Hotch and Morgan and the others, and yes, he had me. His world did not stop when you left. He moved on. And if you haven't, you have no one to blame but yourself."
Maybe it's this place, Gideon thought absently. Maybe I'm destined to be 100% wrong every time I talk to someone in this diner.
Rossi stood and pulled out his wallet. His voice was firm, but had lost its angry edge. "Jason. If you want to be a part of his life, then work on that with him. But don't try to run his life. He doesn't need it and won't thank you for it." He dropped two twenties on the table and paused before walking away. "And Jason. It really is good to see you."
Gideon stared at the empty bench across for him for a long time after Rossi left. The words he'd written to Spencer so long ago suddenly ran through his mind. I just don't understand any of it anymore…