No warnings or spoilers yet.


A shrill cry broke through Spencer Reid's light sleep, and even before he could clear the sandman's grains from his eyes, he was out of bed and on his feet. Spencer went to his door but stopped just short of opening it, standing stock-still and listened for the next sound; the next cry would indicate his mother's location in the house and from there he could reasonably determine the rest of the information. Was she lying down? Was she stalking the hallways looking for intruders? Were They back? The fine-boned boy, too -short for his years, stood anxiously at his door, his chest rising and falling as if he were listening for someone that was not his mother - he looked, as if he were the one listening for the intruder – like he was the patient.

The next cry came from inside Diana Spencer's room, and as fruitless as it may sound, that was something encouraging. Her new sleeping medication had been giving her nightmares, but the sedating properties of the drug were strong enough to keep her fretfully asleep. When Spencer didn't hear footfalls, or the crash of furniture, he knew he was, most likely, safe to venture out into the hallway.

He crept down the hall, approached his mother's door, and did his best to noiselessly push open her bedroom door. Slowly, he slipped his head through the opening in the door and looked inside. Diana's room was pitch-black, but as his eyes adjusted to the room he could see her moving restlessly about on the bed. Another anguished cry and a moan of pain, as Diana turned to her side, trying to struggle away from whatever phantom haunted her dreams tonight.

Spencer had learned this pattern by heart; sleeping all day, followed by a night of screams and sobs, and the next day, a rush of manic paranoia. She had neglected her afternoon pills and now she's spiraling into 'an episode.' Spencer knew it was selfish consider what he was considering but - with enough thinking on the matter - he could reason away the pangs of selfishness, via the understanding that if he intervened now there was a slight chance that they would be able to keep this 'episode' at bay; he needn't feel guilty for the sense of relief that he would feel at her silence and the opportunity it would afford him the next day.

The next loud cry caused Spencer to jump, making more noise than he would have liked. Before he could risk waking his mother a second longer, he pulled himself out of the room and headed into the kitchen to make some warm milk, and gather up a small saucer of pills. With each pass the spoon made thru the warming milk, Spencer weighed the idea of the impending day and his mother's illness. She would awaken the next afternoon feeling better and could hopefully be steered back onto the course of her medications; if all went in fortuitous manner than Spencer would be home in time from downtown to oversee the next dose, himself.

Then with the warm milk and a saucer filled with the promise of peace of Diana's mind, Spencer headed back toward her bedroom.

"Mom," He whispered as he neared the bed. Her thrashing stilled and he approached her nightstand slowly, setting down the milk and the saucer.

"Mom, it's Spencer," Diana's motions stilled but she kept her arms tight over her chest and her eyes clenched shut.

"Open your eyes, Mom. It's Spencer, I promise." He prompted in a soothing whisper, his voice still sounding sweet, young, and vulnerable. Spencer was getting older, spending his time with children who could be mistaken for adults, and yet he still sounded like he belonged back in the younger grades – reciting his memorized analysis of an elementary chapter book.

"Spencer?" She whimpered, keeping her eyes tightly closed. "How did you get in here?"

Spencer sat down on her bed and took her shaking, clenched fist into his small hand, trying to pry her fingers open so he could slip his inside. "You were crying, Mom. I brought you some warm milk."

Diana's brow wrinkled and then he could see her forcing her face into a mask of relaxation. She opened her eyes slowly, "You're so sweet, Spencer. I'm sorry if I woke you up."

"It's okay, Mom. I wasn't really sleeping. I was reading. If you drink your milk, I'll read to you. Will you eat these for me?" He asked holding out the saucer.

She looked down at the saucer with a weary eye but when she looked fearfully up at Spencer and he didn't smile, just looked at her with the face of a pleading child - hoping to please his mother with something mysterious he'd made in the kitchen. He could see Diana trying her best to stifle her fear and paranoia as she took the saucer from him, still trying to conceal her shaking hands. He kept his small hand under hers and guided the saucer to rest up against her bosom and then she slipped each pill, one by one, into her mouth. Spencer pulled the warm milk off the nightstand and guided it up to her lips. She placed her hand over his and slowly took control of the glass on her own. If a later crying fit didn't result in her vomiting the pills back up, then they were both guaranteed a good night's sleep and a calm and peaceful day tomorrow.

As Diana took in slow, long drinks of the warm milk, she looked at her young son appreciatively. "Will you be able to sleep tonight, Spencer?" Diana asked with a yawn, the second sleeping pill already doing its job, piggybacking well with the previous medication.

"I'll read some and then I'll fall back to sleep." He said, smiling contentedly.

Diana patted the space next to her, the empty pillow that marked what was his father's side of the bed, "I'll tell you a story; will you stay?"

After the previous day's events, Spencer allowed himself to wallow in the small sense of relief and slipped under the covers. Instinctually, he turned away from his mother and she slid down in bed next to him, wrapping her arms around him as a child would cling to a teddy bear after a night terror. "Once upon a time," She whispered fondly, and Spencer allowed himself to be comforted as he drifted off to a sound sleep, Diana clinging to him tightly throughout the rest of the night.

Spencer was startled awake many hours later, he'd been dreaming that he'd arrived at the hotel ballroom, only to find it filled with angry boys, zooming about, jumping off fixtures, popping wheelies, and then when he walked through the door, zooming toward him, all of them armed with bats and weighted backpacks. In his dream, they'd swarmed around him like sharks fighting over hunks of chum; Spencer, in this instance, being the chum to be devoured. Spencer's eyes sprung open and in the perpetual darkness of his mother's room he was motivated by another kind of fear – had he missed today? Had he missed the day he was excused from school to hunt for a way out? For a moment, it was he who was filled with crushing despair and heart-hammering fear.

Thankfully, Diana had released him from her hold and turned to the other side of the bed. She was sleeping so soundly that she was actually snoring softly and Spencer took this as a sign that it was the perfect time to slip from the bed and into his room to get ready for the day.

Spencer went into his room, quietly closed his bedroom door, and turned on the small light beside his bed. Spencer didn't even bother to examine his khaki pants from the previous day; he knew they'd have to be thrown out. There was no way to salvage blood-soaked anything and if his mother found them anywhere – well, god only knew the roads that could lead down. He'd had such a nice rest that to imagine coming home, finding his house empty, and his mom in the ER once again, was enough to get his pulse racing as he tried to stifle his mind's slide down the slippery slope that always ended with him crash landing into a State-run group home.

Spencer pushed the thought aside along with a clump of empty hangers in his nearly barren closet. He pulled out a short-sleeved baby blue collared shirt, a brown vest, and a pair of khaki pants that he was sure he'd only worn, at best, once. Spencer had learned how to iron, and some of his clothes had benefited from his efforts, but most of them still had the sour tinge of something that had been left sitting in the washer too long in hot weather. He'd set his clothes to wash in the morning before school and would consistently forget to take them out, leaving them until the evening, or the next morning, before he could throw them into the drier. By the time they hit the drier they were sour but Spencer had become so accustomed to the smell that he could barely detect it anymore. And if he did notice it, what was he to do? There were more important things to be concerned with that doing every load of laundry twice – there was barely time for a consistent once-over.

He showered, dressed, changed the bandage on his aching hand, scribbled out a note for his mom and left it by her bedside table with a new saucer filled with pills, and then headed out the door.

It was a short but terrifying bus ride to The Strip and the hotel hosting the college fair. Spencer knew that between the tourists, families, and scads of high school kids in the hotel, he could easily blend into the crowd. And blend into the crowd did he ever! He'd been stopped by security twice as he attempted to traverse the seemingly never-ending rows of slot machines. Each time the towering wall of man that was hotel security wanted to know if he had lost his parents or needed help finding his way back to the room, or the arcade. They'd each looked at him strangely when he asked for directions to the ballroom that held the college expo, and he would have sworn that each had pointed him in the opposite direction. Spencer also knew that it was only matter of time before another floor-walker caught him, and instead of pointing him in another direction, would escort him out of the hotel, and watch as he got back on the bus. Even a small boy in business-casual attire could be a con to be suspicious of, and security was not about to take that kind of risk, no matter how slight or pale it might be.

Spencer held tightly to his messenger bag and rushed along on a decided path that Spencer wasn't entirely sure would lead him to his destination. Spencer sped along the brightly-colored carpeted aisle ways driven with each metallic ping, or sudden shrill run of computerized notes. Diana smoked and he'd never gotten used to it, and in this environment it was if the thick gray haze had it in for him personally.

After what felt like several city blocks, Spencer found himself in a large open room, more like claustrophobic-yet-large hallway, that led to several other, large rooms each with open double doors. Spencer was shaking with uncertainty and the exertion that now had him out of breath; he removed his bright yellow inhaler from his pocket, uncapped it, two quick squeezes, and a deep, held breath. Spencer closed his eyes as he exhaled a thin vapor of the drug.

In front of each set of double doors was a golden easel that held a large poster of each event being conducted behind each group of doors. Spencer didn't need a golden easel or a loud poster to indicate which room-hall held the college expo. It was just like being back in the halls of his new school, being bumped and jostled by loud groups of teenagers, and at times their parents too, as he tried to make his way inside the double doors that he hoped contained something to keep him moving forward. Inside the event, he didn't fare much better. Spencer tried clutching the flier that Ms. Ramsey had sent him, to remind himself that he too belong there just as much, if not more, than the others pushing their way into the crowded ballroom.

Spencer made it halfway in, before he was pushing his way back out again, feeling crestfallen and dreading the trip back on the bus.

Then something caught his eye, well more correctly, something caught his ears. Naturally, Spencer had gravitated toward the quieter end of the bank of double doors; the few people that were trickling into the infinitely more soothing space were well-dressed in navy blue suits, and most of them baring briefcases. Without thinking, he slipped in behind the last man to slide noiselessly through the double doors, and then suddenly Spencer pressed himself into the wall. The room was much darker than the foyer and Spencer didn't even bother to look up as he tried his best to find a space at the back of the room where he could go unnoticed, maybe catch his breath, anything to get him out of the noise of the looming casino and the shoving, over-eager, upper-classmen. And it wasn't until this moment of relative peace, that also necessitated stealth, that Spencer fully understood how much he was deficient without his lenses.

Yet when he finally looked up, the man behind the podium was looking directly at him. Spencer felt his stomach fall with the idea; one of the men in the navy blue suits pulling him out of the cool, dark room, and thrusting him back into ringing, dinging, loud and bright casino floor, and the pushing throngs of high school kids. Spencer was sure that all of the blood he had, he could feel pounding in his head or radiating from the surface of his face. Spencer was certain that he was glowing so brightly with fear and embarrassment that even the man behind the podium could see Spencer's features well-illuminated in the darkness.

The middle-aged man with the kind eyes, cleared his throat and turned his focus back to the projected image on the large screen next to him. The words jumped off the screen at Spencer, "Federal Bureau of Investigation,"-the corresponding print was far too small or contrasting for Spencer to make it out without his lenses but the insignia was relatively clear, lest he forget or doubt the words above it. Spencer's eyes grew as wide as saucers when the man with the kind eyes summoned up the next image – a photograph of a very real crime scene. The picture displayed what looked like a shoddy off-the-Strip hotel room, the comforter had been pulled from the bed, the dingy beige sheets were stained red, a wine glass on the bedside table, another broken glass lying beside the bed, and the large mirror that hung next to the bed had been broken into several pieces. "They didn't like looking at themselves," Reid thought, surprising himself with the idea.

Step by step, the man with the kind eyes explained the nuances of the scene. The next image the man with the kind eyes brought forth was presumably the corpse that had shed all of the blood that had stained the dingy beige sheets. Step by step, he explained her wounds and their potential meaning. He brought up three photographs of arrested men and asked the people in the audience to, 'please look at the dossier we've provided on each of the potential suspects.' They brought the lights up slowly in the large room and then the man with the kind eyes asked the audience some questions – in between each lull in activity, those kind eyes were unnervingly resting on Spencer. The man behind the podium was asking them to make inferences from the single-page bios that they had in front of them. Instantly, Spencer wished that he too had a packet so that he could follow along – possibly provide something useful since the guesses he was hearing were far more intellectually culling than anything he could have come up with. It would only take him a second to review the information, and if he'd not been so afraid of being escorted out into the cacophony of sound and bodies that lay outside the double doors, he would have welcomed the chance.

The man with the kind eyes entertained questions and assumptions for at least an hour before concluding the sample case. After taking several more generic questions, he concluded with information and encouragement to the members of the audience to take his contact information if they needed the Behavioral Analysis Unit's expertise on a case or if they, and then he turned his kind eyes to focus on Spencer, if they were interested in apply for an internship or one of the Bureau's training programs. After taking a few more questions, the man with the kind eyes departed the stage and another man took his place behind the microphone, and a new presentation came up on the projection screen.

Spencer had been spotted and now the man was probably headed straight to security – no, he wouldn't get off so easily this time. The man with the kind eyes was probably alerting his fellow FBI agents and they would stop him at the door. Spencer told himself that he couldn't wait any longer to try and sneak out of the darkened ballroom and he begun to make his best attempt to stealthily leave the ballroom.

He'd made it all the way out the door and a few steps into the foyer before, "Future career consideration or should I ask to take a look in that bag of yours?" The voice was light, jovial, fatherly, even, but with all of the man's seemingly trustworthy qualities, Spencer's back tightened with fear. He didn't know what to do and so on his first instinct he tightened his good hand on the strap of his messenger bag and began to head back into the sea of color and sound that was the hotel casino floor.

"How bad is it?" The voice was serious now, calling out to Spencer in a firm tone that was loud enough to be heard through the heightening volume of the area. "I'm not going to chase you like they do. You don't have to run away." The man with the kind eyes said with a sweet, calm frankness that had Spencer's eyes welling up with tears, and it was those tears that allowed the man to close the short distance between them. Spencer froze in place but made no attempts to turn around. He could feel him drawing closer. The kind-eyed man needed the proximity to whisper so very unkind words to the boy, "It looks like your sprinting abilities failed you recently. How did they corner you when that happened?" The kind-eyed man never deviated his gaze from Spencer but those words were enough to have Spencer shifting with discomfort and attempting to hide his wounded hand.

The kind-eyed man walked in front of Spencer with a few long strides and then, unexpectedly, sunk down onto one knee in front of Spencer. He reached out to Spencer's wounded hand which Spencer was acutely aware of since he'd mentioned it – mentioned the accident as if he'd been there. The older man turned over Spencer's bandaged hand in his warm, open palm. Spencer squinted at the older man trying to take in every bit of his visage - trying to figure out why he was touching him and why he wasn't pulling away. Something about the man's warm hand underneath his, made his body feel like it was suddenly submersed in a bath – calm but no longer really grounded. The older man smiled at the troubled face. "You did a pretty nice job fixing this up without the use of your spectacles." The kind-eyed man said smiling, and Spencer could have sworn that he actually saw the man's eyes sparkle. He'd heard people described as having laughing or twinkling eyes. but this man's eyes truly gleamed when his face reflected happiness.

"I-I-I'd, I g-gues I-I'd," The older man's smiling warmth was disconcerting –trying to interact and discern this man's motives were exhausting - and try as he might, Spencer couldn't make the words come out in one piece, that coupled with the memories of yesterday, and the overwhelming scene of today; all of it ran together and Spencer began to cry.

"What's your name?"The man asked softly.

"S-S-Spencer Reid." Spencer forced out between sobs.

The man with the kind eyes reached inside the breast pocket of his jacket and took out a black leather wallet-like case. "Here," He said dropping it into Spencer's good hand. When Spencer let it fall open he was face-to-face with a badge and FBI identification card. "My name," the kind man said with a tone of clinical seriousness, "is Jason Gideon. I work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Are you here with a group?"

Spencer just shook his head to indicate a negative, not trusting himself to form a complete or coherent response. It had taken Spencer moments to read and confirm the leather case held what Jason had promised, even without his spectacles. That left Spencer's eyes just enough time to catch sight of Jason Gideon's sidearm. Spencer couldn't help his reaction, as he began to slowly back away from Gideon.

The older man spoke again before Spencer could take a second step away from him, "It's really loud out there," Jason said gesturing over Reid's shoulder. "Is it bothering you? Are you okay?"

Spencer nodded in vigorous affirmation.

"The one positive about that, for you," Jason reached into the breast pocket of his suit jacket again and pulled out two fat yellow cylinders that were attached by a thin orange cord – earplugs. "I am never without a pair of these, they help in conjunction with the range-issue ones. Where are you supposed to be right now, Spencer?"

Spencer's lip was shaking with uncertainty and the wholly overwhelming situation. "Out-"Spencer stammered, then sucked in tearful breath and tried again in a hurry, "Ou-out-outside."

"Alright," Jason said, patting the young man's good hand, taking his credentials out of Reid's trembling hand and putting the earplugs in their place. "You put those in and I will get us outside, and from there you can tell me how we get you back to your folks."

Jason's soft, soothing voice and shining eyes helped diminish the flow of tears from Spencer's tired and strained eyes. Spencer folded Jason Gideon's credentials and handed them back to him, Spencer secured the earplugs, and then grabbed tightly to the older man's hand when Jason had held it out in offering. Gideon had come to a standing position, offered his hand to Spencer, and walked them seamlessly out of the overwhelming, smoky environment of the casino.

Once they were out onto the sidewalk, Jason took an immediate left turn and led Spencer to a bench in a small green space at the side of the hotel. In the distance, Spencer saw a young couple taking wedding photos in front of a palm tree. Jason held an open hand in front of Spencer's view and the boy realized he'd still been wearing the earplugs. He'd been so lost in the welcomed stillness that in a way he didn't want to give them back.

"Does anyone know you're here?" Jason asked, his voice still soft and reassuring but markedly more clinical.

Spencer shook his head in denial and just like that, tears began to course down his cheeks again.

Jason Gideon knew what stupid questions to avoid. The young boy's worn shoes indicated that he was either local or homeless. The shoes had put in a lot of mileage, the kind of mileage that one could only clock in a major city. Spencer's clothes indicated that he was prepared for something formal, something that he had been looking forward to but the bandage, the deep circles under his eyes, and the readiness to tears had Jason worried that he may have been wrong about the bullies. The deprivation of sleep, the slightness of the boy's stature, and the absence from school in the middle of the week could have also been a strong indicator that Spencer was being abused. Yet Spencer did not seem to be afraid of him and did not shy away from his touch, which led Jason to believe that he hungered for, not feared, the attention of a father figure.

"Two," The tired and nervous boy said with a sigh. "T-there," He stopped and took a deep breath, "There were two of them. They broke my glasses yesterday after I'd gone to my guidance counselor for permission to come here today for the college expo." Spencer began to ramble, taking full advantage of his free-flowing speech.

Jason Gideon still held the boy's good hand in his as they sat on the bench and he made no moves to pull away until the young man released his hold first. "You found me because it was quiet in there?"

Reid nodded in affirmative and smiled up at the older man. When those kind eyes remained placid and reassuring Spencer felt the emotion welling up in his throat again, "They pushed me. They pushed me and I-I-"Jason squeezed the young man's hand reassuringly.

"Spencer," He said looking directly into the boy's red, tired eyes, the older man took in a deep breath, "In through your mouth, Spencer. Four counts, in. Then release it slowly," Jason spoke on the exhale, "out through your nose in four counts."

Spencer could help but mimic the older man's breathing pattern as he held tightly to the larger, warm but rough hand.

"I can't go back in," Spencer said smoothly yet his voice was no less thick with emotion; emotion that threatened to bubble over if he ceased his focused breathing. "I can't get back on the bus to go home." No matter the meditative breathing, Spencer still had a strong grip on the older man's hand.

"Okay," Jason said, "Would you feel better about it if I took bus with you to your stop?"

Spencer's shoulders and his grip on Jason's hand relaxed immediately. "Do you live here?" Spencer asked looking down at his hand that was still inside the older man's grasp and presently his brain was drowning in anxiety. Should he let go? Would the man get angry with him? Would he be angry because he'd have to report Spencer's home once he saw inside it? Would he have Spencer taken away?

Suddenly, as if he'd been burned, Spencer pulled his hand back from Jason Gideon's and put it protectively over the bandage on his other hand – the momentary feeling of ease was gone completely now.

"I live near where I work." Jason said, simply. "Have you been to the East Coast, Spencer?"

Spencer shook his head. Spencer began to speak but felt the words sticking in his mouth before he even made a sound. In through your mouth. Four counts, in. Then release it slowly though your nose. Four counts, out. "You're really nice and all," Spencer began, trying his best to affect the tone of a respectful, proper young boy that was fully at ease and respectfully in control, "but I think it would really scare my parents if an FBI agent brought me home," Spencer's voice wavered as his words began to rapidly follow each other. He never was very good at lying but with those kind eyes looking deep into the recesses of him it was even more challenging, "my parents had a hard enough time letting me go to this on my own," Spencer recognized his error instantly and tried to correct it, "I mean, not completely on my own. I got separated from my school group, I am sure they're back in there back in there looking for me," Spencer made to move from the bench but Jason was faster, firmly putting a hand on the young man's shoulder.

"Spencer, sit down please," Jason said, applying light pressure to the young man's shoulder as his other hand reach out and took the messenger bag and placed it between his feet.

Spencer's eyes grew wide with panic. "P-please g-give that back." Spencer could feel the tears welling up in his eyes, threatening to fall down his reddening cheeks but he obeyed and took a distant seat on the bench and Gideon didn't insist on keeping his hand on the young boy's shoulder.

"Spencer," Gideon said, smiling reassuringly at the fidgeting boy. "I know you paid attention to my presentation. I could tell that you even wanted to participate if you were sure it would have earned you a swift exit from the room. You know what I do for a living and how my colleagues and I can derive meaning from the simplest of characteristics, so this is your chance," Gideon was speaking to him now as if he was a peer that he was preparing for a case, "If you were an agent and had met you, a child of," Gideon hesitated knowing that his estimation had the potential to allow the boy to feign indignation and attempt to flee again, "How old are you, Spencer?"

"Fourteen," Spencer said without hesitation, even he knew it was far too rapid of an answer to bear any resemblance to the truth.

"In four years?" Jason said smiling at the young man who bared the look of someone who knew they were a terrible liar.

"In two year and three months," Spencer said, puzzled by the older man's lack of anger at his attempted deception.

"What's your grade-level in high school?" Gideon asked.

"I tested in as a sophomore but only because of my English scores. I was there for a month before my math teacher sent me back to test into another class. They've allowed me to test out of two classes so far," Spencer smiled genuinely for the first time, "I think at this pace they'll let me take Calculus by next year." Spencer beamed with pride when the older man's eyes began to shimmer with this new information, but because of the precedent Spencer had established he felt the need to quickly add, "I'm not lying this time."

"I know you aren't," Gideon said, scooting closer to the boy, fetching the messenger back from between his feet and placing it between them. "You're very well-spoken, why aren't they allowing you to test out of those classes? Slow reader?" Gideon teased but the joke was lost on Spencer.

"My reading is fine. It's my handwriting, that's the problem. I hate Cornell notes and they grade you on how you take them. My handwriting is nearly illegible. I don't outline what I write and it's not like it would matter if I did because they wouldn't be able to read it anyways." Spencer didn't exactly know why but he was beginning to rant, angrily. "My mom was a college professor. She taught 15th Century literature and other classic lit. courses, I've committed to memory things that my teacher's, I know, haven't even heard of. Is that really what the rest of life is going to be like," He looked Jason squarely in the eye with this question, "You can recite poetry in the original Middle English but you're failing because you can't write some one-page recitation of a chapter book or prove that you can make origami out of your class notes? Is the rest of the world placing such high importance on things that have absolutely no substance?"

Jason's face had smoothed into a look of deep empathy as he could understand the young man's frustration. So many of the men that he profiled held such high opinions of their mediocre minds and so many of them adopted the reasoning of them being a tortured genius in a society of clueless peons; their superiority was what allowed them to kill. If only, Gideon thought, they knew what true pain and frustration a great mind could experience.

"Is your mom sick, Spencer?" Jason asked softly after allowing a few moments of relative silence to hang between them.

"Yes," He said but rushed to explain, "She still takes care of me and she's a really good mom. She still wants to read to me at night but most time I tell her no. She doesn't have to work, so she's always at home to see me off to school, and she's there when I get home. She would have brought me today but she wasn't feeling well and she doesn't like to drive. She would have taken the bus with me but she's not been feeling well lately – her illness has been acting up again."

"We're venturing into half-truths again, Spencer." Jason said matter-of-factly. "I've heard your stomach growl twice since we've been sitting here. I bet if I were to look inside this bag I wouldn't find a lunch-" Spencer pulled his bag close to him protectively and used it to cover his stomach. He attempted to interrupt Gideon, but Jason continued undeterred. "Your clothes are beginning to show signs that you're growing out of them but your appearance shows meticulous care except," and Gideon placed a firm hand on Spencer's shoulder before driving in the final nail of his analysis, "Except for your clothes, they've been left in the washer too long which suggest that you're responsible for most of the household upkeep. Do they sit in the washer for, maybe, a day, before you find time between school and caring for your mother before they can make it into the dryer?"

All of Spencer's efforts to keep his tears at bay been swiftly erased with that remark and he began to shake with chest-heaving sobs. "S-st-stop," He whimpered, doubling over on his messenger bag.

Jason moved closer to the boy and reassuringly rubbed his shaking back and shoulders, "I'm sorry, Spencer. I really am. It's my job to notice these things and usually when I do, I don't have the option of correcting them or helping the person put them to rights. By the time I enter into the picture, the damage is done and the pain has already festered into a gangrene that has eaten away whatever integrity that the person once possessed. You know that every problem has a solution, and many have multiple potential answers, your circumstances aren't any different," Spencer's tears were beginning to abate with the kind words and soothing, repetitive touch and the boy's audible anguish was slowly beginning to dissipate; now it was just a steady stream of fat teardrop that wetted his day-old shirt that exposed his latent pain. Nevertheless, Spencer looked up at the older man with a sense of hope and a measure of incredulity. Then as if to only cement Gideon's observations Spencer's stomach growled again. Then unexpectedly Jason's stomach responded with its own moan of emptiness.

Gideon couldn't help but chuckle heartily and pull the boy into sturdy one-armed embrace. "Let's start by finding a solution this problem and get out of this heat. What do you think?"

"It is actually cooling down," Spencer said with a sniffle, the standard response for any long-time desert dweller. Gideon laughed again. "I'd like to add to your profile that you've also never left the desert," Jason made no move to distance himself from the boy. He then cleared his throat when his stomach rumbled again, "Though I have to admit my profiling skills are useless when it comes to children's eating habits - my son can attest to that - so help me out, Spencer and tell me, where are we having lunch?"


A/N: Well, first I guess I should apologize for taking so darn long. The next few chapters are going to be rather long and involved so that is why this one is rather short. I've finally been able to visualize how I see all of this going and what I want to mix up and what I want to throw in but like what happened with 'Bait and Switch' I kind of don't want to write it because I know what ideas and depths await me. Gosh, that's kind of a terrible thing to tell your readership but it is true so please be patient while I balance my hesitance with my increasingly busy work schedule. I promise, the next update will not take nearly as long. Also, after re-watching the two-parter in which Reid revisits the departure of his father I have renewed drive to see this story make some progress – this also means I will be working in a lot more Dylan references (LOL).

Before I sign off, I want to give a great deal of love and thanks to all of the commentors, follows, and lurkers out there. The personal touches in your feedback and the gift of your time is not something that I take lightly. This is by far, one of my more 'personal' stories so I value and appreciate each and everyone of your contributions and your presences are all that much more felt….if that makes sense. Thank you.

Confidential to readers of the 'Bait' series or 'Word Made Flesh': I am still sitting on a completed chapter for both each that is awaiting a final editing. I hope to have those up this weekend too.