Criminal Minds © CBS
Part six of the Shadows Within Saga, direct follow-up to Dangers of Courting Death
Everything Worth Protecting
It takes two weeks for Rossi to finally get up the guts to confront Reid. Hotch won't do it. Hotch likes to pretend that it never happened and his bullshit story is the truth. Rossi knows why, and he understands. It's part of why he's put this off for as long as he has.
Never does Rossi believe that Reid is a threat to them. Reid hadn't wanted to hurt them. He only stopped them the only way he knew how, then took care of the problem the only way available to him. He knows Reid fears being seen as the monster. That's not what Rossi wants to talk about though. He saw what happened to Reid when he was forced to use his gift to such an extent. Although he avoided the doctors this time, he is still injured. Rossi isn't going to let this go.
So he slides into the booth in front of Reid, sitting across the table from his youngest in some sleazy diner that's actually pretty quiet for the neighborhood it's in. Rossi nods to the waiter and turns his attention to Reid. "Nice place."
Reid grins faintly. "The owner is a former gang leader. He employs kids from the neighborhood so they have something to do that keeps them off the streets. It's probably the safest place around here – he's not afraid to kill to protect his property."
Rossi chuckles. "I like the guy already. So – you come around here often?"
"When I need to think and avoid people I know."
"Sorry, Kid – not getting rid of me that easily." Rossi leans back in his seat. The waiter shows up, and Rossi orders a soda. Reid asks for a slice of chocolate cake, and the boy smiles at him before darting off. Rossi can't help but grin. "Looks like you have an admirer."
"Well, I kind of pointed him in this direction instead of busting him for trying to steal my wallet." Reid admits. "He was trying to get money for rent. I told him he could earn it here."
"He thinks he owes you."
"He doesn't." Reid focuses in on him, and Rossi shifts. It's always an uncomfortable, though not unwelcome, feeling when he knows Reid is Reading him. "That isn't why you came here, though. You want to know about what I did to those people."
"Not really." Rossi smiles faintly. "I'm more curious as to what it did to you."
"Your nose was bleeding, a lot, I might add. Usually that's not a good sign, unless you had a massive allergy attack." Reid looks away. Rossi sighs. Before he can say more, the waiter returns with his soda and Reid's cake. They're silent for a few minutes. Rossi watches Reid devour the cake and chuckles. "What is it with you and sugar?"
"I have issues." Reid replies with a smile. "It's an addiction I don't mind fostering."
"At least it's a good addiction – until you get diabetes." Rossi chuckles. He abruptly sobers. "I still want to know about the nosebleed. What happens to you when you do that?"
Reid sighs. "I don't – I honestly don't know. When I was younger, I used to be able to push my father all the time. He'd come home drunk and still drinking, and I'd push him to sleep before he did something stupid and hurt somebody. I'd push my mother to pull her out of her sickness, but as time went on that didn't work anymore. Then I stopped being able to push Dad." He shakes his head. "I figured it was the alcohol – either that or I used up the push. Didn't realize I could still do it until then."
That worries Rossi even more than the massive nosebleed. "You didn't know you could do that until you tried? What were you planning on doing if the push didn't work?" he demands. Reid rubs the back of his neck and looks away. Rossi resists the urge to reach across the table. Reid's skittish to the point of bolting. He doesn't want to make the younger man run. "Reid – what were you going to do?"
"I didn't think that far ahead."
"What was he going to do?"
"Kill me first. Save the rest of you for later." Reid still won't look at him. "At the very least, I would have bought you some time." He rubs his arm. It's all Rossi can do to keep himself in his seat. At this moment, Reid does not want to be touched.
"What do you think we would have done if they had killed you?" he asks instead.
Reid finally glances at him. "Made them pay."
"Probably a bit more than that." The mere idea of losing their youngest is a knife in Rossi's gut. He knows the others feel the same. His own distress is starting to alert Hotchner to the nature of their conversation, but he ignores him for the moment. He has more pressing matters to attend to. "Sometimes I don't think you realize how important you are to us."
The younger man finally meets his gaze. "Just as important as you are to me." He straightens up a bit. "Tell me you wouldn't have done the same."
"You know damn well I can't." Rossi grumbles. He smiles faintly as he leans back. The intensity of the conversation dies a bit. "You take so much crap from this job. It doesn't seem fair that you should catch even more because of something we can't control."
Reid returns the small smile. "I've always caught crap. This isn't anything new to me."
"It damn well should be. Listen, Kid, we all know there's nothing we can do about what you went through growing up. It sucks it had to happen to you, but it did, and it's part of who you are. Trust me, we wouldn't have you any other way." He grins at Reid, and the younger returns it in full. "We just want you to be as safe as you can. Recklessly endangering yourself like that shouldn't come as part of the job description."
"But it does." Reid says softly. "Why is it so different when I do it?"
Rossi almost reaches across the table. Instead he simply reaches out with his mind. This kind of contact Reid doesn't mind. Because you gave us this. You did so much more than open our minds, Reid. You gave us each other. Do you think this kind of trust would have been possible without what you gave us?
Maybe doesn't cut it. It wouldn't be as strong, or as special. Reid – we can't give you that. We cannot possibly repay you for that gift. So we protect you. It's the only way we know.
Slowly, Reid smiles. So I'm a double standard.
Pretty much. Hate to break it to you, Kid, but it ain't going anywhere. Rossi smiles back. He watches as Reid stands and tosses a few bills on the table. Reid starts to walk off, then stops.
"You can touch me you know. I don't mind when it's the team."
Rossi's smile turns into a grin. "Only because we don't abuse the privilege."
He's aware he hasn't extracted any promises from his youngest, but that's okay. He can feel Reid's ease as the younger walks away, and he feels more at ease as well. It won't stop Reid from putting himself in danger to protect the team, and it won't stop the team from doing everything they can to keep that from happening, but at least now Reid knows it's not because they think he's weak, and Rossi knows it's not because he's trying to prove himself.
They're just trying to protect each other.