Criminal Minds © CBS

AN: Part four of the Shadows Within saga.

Things a Mother Knows

When Reid goes to visit his mother, Hotchner decides to tag along. He's curious about Mrs. Reid. They now know that whatever allows Reid access to minds is connected to the gene for schizophrenia. Hotch is curious about that. Reid isn't shy about sharing his past. The team knows he had a weak bond with his mother until her sickness took over.

Hotch wants to watch them interact. He wants to know if that bond is still there, if he can sense Mrs. Reid the same way he can her son. Reid finds the whole thing amusing, but he allows Hotch to come regardless.

Halfway across the country, the others fade in his mind. He stiffens, but Reid's voice calms him. Distance makes it weak, but they can still sense you. You'll get used to it.

This is why you don't make the trip as often.

Yes. Mom understands. Reid shrugs. Hotch lets it go. His youngest is not comfortable talking about it, and he will not push it. They make the rest of the flight in companionable silence. Reid goes through three books. Hotch reads a little and takes a nap.

When they arrive at the hospital, Mrs. Reid is lucid. Hotch introduces himself, but otherwise does not speak. Reid handles his mother with delicate care, as if afraid she'll break with the wrong word. Briefly, Hotch wonders how long it's been like this, then decides it doesn't matter. Compared to his upbringing, Reid's is positively normal. Hotch contents himself to watch.

After fifteen minutes, Mrs. Reid's gaze slides to him. "Spencer, honey, may I talk to Mr. Hotchner in private? I promise I won't take long." Reid looks to his boss, who nods. He smiles.

"Sure Mom. I'll get us some coffee."

Be careful! The hospital's coffee sucks. Hotch knows the closest Starbucks is two blocks away. Reid sends back an affirmative. Hotch turns his attention back to Mrs. Reid. She smiles at him.

"I see you already now Spencer's gift." she says softly. "I was wondering if he told you."

"I found out first hand." Hotch admits. He feels safe talking about this here. He can always claim he was indulging her fantasy if anyone asks. "It's an amazing talent."

Her smile fades a little. "Yes it is. He's unique, my Spencer."

Hotch hesitates. "We found others."

"Oh, I know. I've found them too, when Spencer was little. But he is still one of a kind." She leans forward in her chair. "Spencer awakens others. He awakened you, if I'm not mistaken. You can sense him as easily as he can sense you."

Hotch frowns. "Awaken?"

Mrs. Reid nods. "Some people are meant to be connected. Some people need each other desperately to survive. They need to be able to feel others and have no secrets between them. I think you're one of those people, Mr. Hotchner. You can't see what you see every day and not have it eat at you. So Spencer woke you up. He's part of you now."

Hotch feels like he can't breathe. "That's not common?"

"No. None of the others I've met could do that." Mrs. Reid sits back in her chair. "I had a theory that he could only do it once, though. It must take effort to pull someone's mind open like that."

He thinks back to Morgan, Prentiss, Rossi, JJ, and Garcia, and a small smile quirks his lips. "Not him."

She looks at him. "How many?"

"Including Reid? Seven."

Mrs. Reid almost chokes. She looks at Hotch with wide eyes. "Seven. I don't know how you do it, Mr. Hotchner. Sometimes it was hard enough just having Spencer in my head. Sometimes it was too hard for him as well. He so badly wanted someone who would just understand." She sighs, and Hotch suddenly realizes that she looks exhausted. "Protect my baby, Mr. Hotchner. He's all I have left, and he's too special for you to lose."

Is it safe to come up?

Reid's voice breaks through the sudden tension. Hotch automatically turns to the door where he knows Reid will be entering in a few minutes. Yes, come in. He watches as Reid shows up with three cups of coffee. He hands one to his mother and one to Hotch, keeping the other to himself. Hotch smiles. How much sugar did you put in that thing this time?

For your sanity, I will not answer that.

I'm going to make you run laps before I let you into the hotel room.

They make more small talk, but another half-hour later the nurses chase them out.

/-/

They're settling in for bed by the time Reid finally asks the question Hotch knows has been burning in him. "So – what did Mom want to talk to you about?"

Hotch doesn't see the point in lying to him. "She talked about you. About your gift."

Reid almost flushes. "It's not a gift." he murmurs. He moves into the bathroom and changes into his pajamas. Hotch changes in the room. They've shared rooms so many times during cases that neither of them even think as they pick beds (Hotch always gets the one closest to the bathroom) and settle in. Hotch waits until the lights are out before speaking.

"I think it is."

"It's not." Reid stares up at the ceiling. "It's overwhelming, and sometimes it's not even useful. I don't like knowing how much people hate me."

"What?"

Reid sighs. "I told Morgan about what happened at high school, but I didn't tell him exactly why. I let him think it was because I was just smarter than everyone else. It wasn't. I told the wrong kid I knew what it was like to have your dad up and leave, but he hadn't told anyone else. That was why they came after me like that." He shakes his head. "Their anger – it was terrible."

Hotch flinches. He gets up from his bed and lays down beside Reid. It wouldn't be the first time he's shared a bed with his youngest, especially when nightmares are involved. Hotch doesn't like how Reid curls up with his back against his side, trying to absorb as much reassurance as he can. Reid has never been weak, but sometimes even the strongest need someone. Hotch pushes as much of himself as he can through their bond.

She said you were special, even more so than we thought. I for one am grateful for it. I would not have this gift otherwise.

Reid nods. I know.

Reid?

Would you have hated me if I couldn't?

Hotch pauses. It's a valid question. It deserves his consideration. I would like to think not. I would like to think I'd understand. Reid nods again. Hotch wishes he could say more. Instead he leaves it at that and changes the subject. Your mother seemed surprised that I wasn't the only one.

You told her about the team?

Yes. Should I not have?

No, it's okay. Reid smiles faintly. Mom always thought the trick could only work once. I never told her I used it on her too. It didn't work very well, not like the team. It surprised me when I realized you were responding to my thoughts the same way I responded to yours.

Building the team wasn't intentional?

No. I didn't even think I could do it until it worked on you. I didn't even realize what I was doing. Then Morgan – after that, well, you know the rest. Reid shrugs. Hotch simply nods. Reid continues. I've always been careful, Hotch. You have no idea how scared I was when –

I know. Reid, trust me, I know. Hotch sighs. Nothing is going to happen to you. I promise.

Maybe Reid was truly special, and maybe his mother just hadn't met the right people yet. Hotch didn't know. Hotch wasn't entirely too sure he cared, but he had already seen that there are people who want those like Reid dead. How much more danger will he be in if he is truly as unique as his mother believes?