AN this tale begins just after the episode Proof season 7 ep02.

This is the one were just about everyone I know wanted to slap JJ very very hard.

The writers seemed to smooth things over too quickly for my liking and from there this story emerged.

Real life and ill health prevented it from being concluded.

So although I am publishing these chapters here I am still working on the middle and concluding ones.

Warning it is not going to be fluffy. And may or may not end up with a slash relationship involved. Since I'm still writing it I'm covering all the

it is a larger piece than `PERCEPTIONS` so posting will be spread over a longer period. And I'm still editing my NaNoWriMo project...argh!


BAU bullpen Thursday 1815hrs

The normal chaotic buzz of the bullpen had softened to a subtle hum as most of its denizens departed it for the night.

Outside the tall windows the dark grey skies seemed to echo the mood of the tall dark haired man as he moved purposefully down the stairs from his office, down into the bullpen proper.

"Morgan, have you seen Reid?" Aaron Hotchner's authoritative voice asked as his dark chocolate eyes sought out the young man he was seeking.

Derek Morgan glanced up from the latest file, taking in the forever stern visage of his Unit Chief.

"Sorry Hotch! You have missed him. He was out of here the second that clock struck Home-time," he replied with a grin, then taking in the two remaining files lying on his desk added. "With all of his files completed of course."

After taking another look at his boss he wondered just what Reid had done to encounter the force of nature that was a pissed-off Aaron Hotchner. But on closer examination he changed his mind. Anger wasn't the prevalent emotion on the handsome carved face.

To others it may have seemed that way, but Morgan had worked with this man for nearly 8 years.

No! Hotch wasn't angry.

He was upset...and nervous

`Well that's a first, Morgan mused.

"something I can help you with Hotch?"Morgan enquired, both curious and slightly worried. Things had been out of synch since Emily's return. Not that he blamed Emily...well not really. She was just trying to survive.

But still things were tense and awkward between the team.

Morgan sat back, wondering if his stoic boss would bend even a little. He could see every scenario run through the razor sharp intelligence of the older profiler.

Then with a sharp nod a decision was made.

"My office then."

And with a sharp turn on his well polished shoes he retraced his steps back to his eerie, with Morgan trailing seconds behind. The remaining files forgotten.


Hotchner's office

Normally Aaron Hotchner used the barrier of his large wooden desk to good effect. But in this instance that barrier could be counter productive. So he settled himself on one of the small couches that surrounded a small wooden coffee-table. He chose the one facing the door. Hyper vigilance, his brain screamed, but he ignored its cry and tried to relax.

But even though he had accepted Moran's offer to talk, he felt rather lost as how to ensure the best outcome for everyone, for the team.

He was just so tired, so very tired.

Morgan watched his boss in silence as he took the couch opposite.

The man moved slowly like he was in pain, and his face told of his total exhaustion and Stress. They were all stressed out, Derek admitted.

Derek took a deep breathe.

"So Hotch what's going on?" he softly enquired hoping that it was enough to get the ball rolling.

Hotch rubbed the bridge of his nose, which seemed to be the epicentre of his headache.

"Reid..." he finally announced and watched as the other man's posture alter dramatically. Gone was the semi-relaxed and interested pose. In it's place sat an on-alert protector, with thunder clouds brewing in the dark eyes.

"Reid is working it out Hotch!, and since his famous `blow-out` as Rossi calls it. He hasn't put a toe wrong, even in situations where he's been provocked to do so. His work has been excellent in my..."

Hotch held up both hands, interrupting the torrent of words from a pissed-off big brother.

"You are totally correct. His work has been exemplary...if anything he raised his personal bar," Hotch stated emphatically. And it was true Reid had taken on every challenge recently and worked his ass off to conquer it.

He watched Moran's posture relax just a little as if waiting for the other shoe to drop.

"But when was the last time you heard him spout off statistics, or babble about the physics of Star Trek or Star Wars? Just be Reid," he sighed sadly, he missed the younger man's diversions and rambles.

Morgan took another deep breath realising that his next words would wound the man opposite. For a second he was tempted to lie, but lies were what had brought them all to this impasse.

"Two nights ago. When he cooked a meal for Penelope and I," he announced taking no pleasure in the pain in his companions eyes.

Hotch's breathe caught in surprise at Morgan s soft words. While his stomach cramped down on the bile that wanted to rise.

"What?, he cried out in shock. "He's turned down every social request from everyone since..."

"Since Emily guilted him into attending Rossi's," Morgan snapped. He understood why Emily wanted Reid there. But he still thought that was a crappy ways to go about it. " Yeah Man that was the only reason he attended that farce. Seriously Hotch you thought a couple of glasses of wine and a cooking lesson, and Hey Presto! Everything is healed," he continued sternly glaring at his companion.

Hotch wondered just what Emily had said to Reid to get him to attend. Whatever it had been Morgan was obviously furious over it.

But he hasn't said anything to Prentiss about it, he thought. Reid must have called him off, he concluded.

"Of course not," he denied ." I just hoped that the `family` setting would get people comfortable to discuss the purple elephant in the room. And maybe just maybe jump-start the healing process." he finished, rubbing his eyes again.

"First mistake,"Morgan declared ,"Was assuming that Rossi is the Master Chef of the Team. I would put Reid's goulash or Chicken in White wine against any of Rossi's pasta any day of the week."

He grinned as he thought of the Bourbon Glazed Salmon with all the trimmings that Reid had served two nights ago. And which he and Penelope happily helped Reid devour.

Even Miss Garcia, who was no slouch in the kitchen had been totally impressed. Although she did admit her culinary skills lay more in the creating of yummy cakes and sugary confections.

"And my second?" Hotch questioned wondering just what had brought that satisfied gin to Morgan s face.

At his bosses question the smile faded as he tried to find the best way to explain, without breaking any confidences.

"Hotch...I am angry, furious, right royally pisssed off with the whole situation. But I will work through it..with Emily, with You and With JJ," he stated clearly.

"Reid however...Reid is devastated. Yeah he is furious, but that is only a release valve for all the other thoughts and emotions he's dealing with. You have to have realised that this situation has raised the ugly ghosts of every single abandonment and self-esteem issue he has ever had. Two of the most important people in his life...people he believed would never lie or hurt him. Just did both. How the hell did you think he'd react Hotch? Seriously what were you and JJ thinking?" Morgan questioned loudly, his emotions now pushing each and every angry syllable. He hoped that Hotch understood that this wasn't some Boo~Boo you could put a plaster on and forget about it.


Hotch shook away the phantom words. Suppressing the agony that followed each time he heard them.

He had taken the deal offered at the time, arrogantly believing that he could handle any fallout that would occur. But over the seven months following Emily's `death` the pain of lying to his team, his family and to Reid in particular had ripped at his soul every day.

Until the assignment in Pakistan had seemed to be a Godsend.

But you cant escape your own head. Your own Guilt.

"Derek how would you handle this situation?" he finally asked his voice horse and rough sounding.

Morgan knew that for Hotch to ask this, he had obviously reached his limit.

And he did want to help him.

He had been placed in an unenviable position during the Doyle chaos. He understood that with his head, but his heart screamed that there had to have been another way.

The pain and anger they all felt would be dealt with over time.

But that special trust that bound them all together as a team...he wondered if that could be regrown.

"I'm sorry Hotch, I really am. But I am not treading anywhere near your minefield. I'm still tending to the injuries from crossing my own," he explained sadly, not liking seeing his friend so exhausted and pained.

"What do you mean?" Hotch quizzed not understanding Morgan comment.

"What you didn't think he wouldn't tear me a new one for keeping him in the dark about my activities regarding Doyle and Declan," Morgan clarified with a grimace and an embarrassed shift of posture.

Hotch felt his lips twitch at the thought of the skinny Genius getting up into the face of the Teams `muscle`.

" I am presuming from your tone that the conversation didn't go too well?"

Morgan couldn't prevent the wince at the thought of the uncomfortable event.

"Penelope and I decided to go see him, after he had turned down every invitation from everyone We were worried. We didn't tell him we were first he wasn't going to let us in. But me being me pushed it..."Morgan swallowed deeply before continuing. " Within seconds he had Pen in tears. He never raised his voice or swore. He just laid it all he felt and how he intended to handle it. Then...then when Pen was in the bathroom cleaning up...Man I have never realised how truly vicious that intellect of his could be...There wasn't one lie man. Not one thing I could catch him on...he dissected me like I was a victim on the ME slab Hotch," Morgan fell silent as the horror of that night ran amok through his brain.

They...HE had nearly lost his little brother for good!

"Trust me when I say this Hotch. I would rather do a solo custodial interview on Jack the Ripper than face Spencer Reid in that mood again," he finally declared with obvious honesty.

Hotch stayed silent as he reviewed his colleagues words.

There was no point in asking for specifics of what Reid had said. Morgan wouldn't give him them. And to pressurise Penelope Garcia for more, would just be cruel.

He gaze wandered around the office, as he tried to organise his thoughts and plan his next words.

He found himself looking at two very different photographs that sat next to each other on the unit behind his desk.

The first was a casual snap of Jack and himself when they had visited the Zoo. They were both wearing the identical happy grin and carrying giant lollipops. Reid,he reminded himself. Reid took that and gave me it as a birthday gift.

The other photograph was the Annual Unofficial Team Photograph that Garcia had pouted and whined about until everyone agreed to be in it.

It had been taken just before...

Just before the Reaper raised his evil head again.


"I cant let this go on much longer Derek. The Team..."

his words were stopped by the bitterly unhappy laugh that came from the now standing Morgan.

"What Team? Hotch THERE...'IS... NO... TEAM..," Morgan carefully articulated each word as the volume of his voice got louder in his anger.

"The Team got destroyed, blown to pieces by the choices the Brass, JJ and you made for us, without our knowledge or consent

Hotch's reply was never to be heard, as with a perfunctory knock Senior Profiler David Rossi entered the Room.

"Just as well the Bullpen is empty," he grumbled taking in Aaron's exhaustion and Moran's bristling anger.

He too had hoped that by now the healing would have at least begun.

But looking at Aaron in particular, he could see the wounds beginning to fester.


Moran's anger grew at the other profiler's throw away remark.

"Why?" he snapped. " its not like anything I am saying is a Secret Rossi. You don't think that every one of those Agents hasn't noticed the cracks in our Team. `Cause I can assure you they have. They've noticed Reid's time on the Range; They've noticed that Garcia only comes into the Bullpen when she has no choice; that we all take our breaks at different times. That Pretty Boy spend more time with Beta than his own team. Christ! He's been invited to the christening of Davidson's new kid," He finally yelled as he paced the length of the office.

Rossi and Hotch shared a quick glance. They had to calm Morgan down before he totally lost it.

"I didn't know that Reid and Davidson were friendly outside the office," Rossi stated as he pulled over one of the office chairs, totally ignoring the attitude pouring off the younger man.

Hotch stayed silent, waiting to see if Rossi's ploy would work...or earn him a bloody nose. He hoped it would work. He really didn't want to get into a physical altercation with Morgan.

Morgan glared at the senior profiler as he sat back the picture of calm. He knew exactly what Rossi was doing. Didn't stop it from working though, he thought as he drew in several deep breathes.

"Nicely played, he offered when he was centred enough to retake his seat.

"He helped Davidson with his dog, or rather to find the right dog. And they both swim at the Pool everyday," he explained as he settled.

"So the `Reid Effect` is no more," Hotch declared hopefully. He had often felt rather guilty about the phrase he had coined early in the young man's career. And that others quoted frequently.

"To be honest," Morgan chuckled." I think that it never really existed. Clooney loves him and his home-made treats. And apparently the kids in his building adore his magic tricks and adventure stories."

"That does surprise me," Rossi stated not really seeing the shy genius and a mass of boisterous kids mixing.

"Me neither," Morgan admitted with a sheepish grin. " But Garcia got talking to one of the mums on his floor. And she raved about how her twins loved the time Reid spent with them."

Hotch smiled as Moran's words dredged up a forgotten memory. Of him dragging a very annoyed Jack away from a story Reid was telling him.

"He's a good story teller according to Jack," he announced quietly. And received some very odd looks.

"What? Reid kept an eye on him one-time while I answered a call from Booth at the Hoover building."he explained wondering just what had run through his colleagues twisted minds. Honestly !

"I suppose its just a part of his private life that he wants to keep Private," Rossi said understanding that need too well.

Hotch and Morgan both nodded. For they all held their `outside` life's close to their chests.

"So Morgan," Rossi began. "Just why does the Kid have a multitude of bruises in weird places. The one on the back of his neck today looked pretty bad. But when I tried to talk to him about it. He shut me down...I jokingly even said I would need to bring it to Hotch's attention ..."

"Bet that went down like a lead balloon," Morgan growled not liking where this was heading.

"I was just checking up on the Kid..." Rossi got no further.

"For a start Rossi he is not a Kid. He is nearly Thirty," Morgan snapped at Rossi's surprised face.

"Morgan!" Hotch began just as Rossi snipped back over the top of his warning. "You call him Pretty boy all the time for Christ's sake."

"Yeah I do," Morgan agreed. "But I have made my peace with him..and we are working on our friendship. Both in and outside this building. Have you?" Morgan demanded, knowing full well that he hadn't

"What did I do?" Rossi blustered, not liking the direction this was going. He needed to stay clear of the debris if he was going to be able to mediate between the hurt parties.

"Stow it Rossi," Morgan instructed with a bitter laugh. "Nobody is buying the I-Knew-Nothing bullshit you've been shovelling. Yeah I will give you that Hotch didn't tell you directly. But as the `Kid` pointed out you're too nosey and too well connected not to have known," he finished up, his glare daring Rossi to lie.

Rossi read the challenge in the younger profiler's dark eyes. It would have been hard not too.

"Lie to me now. And we are through,"

it couldn't have been clearer if it had been written 10feet tall in neon green.


"I am more interested in the origin of Reid's bruises," Hotch intervened before the hackles started to rise yet again. Rossi and Morgan were quite similar and very volatile.


"Saved by the Boss," Morgan quipped as he through a smirk in Rossi's direction.

Rossi growled at the other man. Not likely the implication one bit. But before he could retaliate..

"Morgan?" Hotch barked out. Sometimes wrangling these two felt very close to being a Kindergarten teacher's duties. Thankfully without the requisite toilet visits, he mused tiredly

Morgan pulled back whatever smart mouthed comment had been on his tongue upon hearing that tone. As tired as Hotch looked, he would still take chunks out of him if he pushed it too far.

"He started training in some kind of mixed martial art. He wasn't that forthcoming when I asked about it. But he seems to be enjoying it."

Rossi knew he could be pouring oil on a bonfire, but the thought of the skinny genius in a dojo just was too bizarre.

"So you're telling us that the ki...Reid is paying someone to beat him front of a class. What he doesn't get thumped enough on the job?"

"You are an ass Rossi," Morgan stated calmly. He really couldn't blame the older man for his laughing disbelief. It was his own first reaction too. It just wasn't a Reid thing to do.

But then who knew what was a Reid thing to do.

"He is getting one-on-one private tuition...and it seems to be working. He will never be the Hulk, but he is developing muscle mass and memory. And seems to be having fun doing it."

Hotch seemed particularly stunned by Morgan s revelation.

"That really makes no sense Derek," he complained. "How many times have we all heard him moan and whine about the yearly physical re-qualification, firearm fact any re-qualification that didn't involve his brain. I don't understand this big change. Okay we all knew about his time on range when Emily was `away` but Doctor Spencer Reid in a Gym, never mind a Dojo makes no sense to me." he concluded shaking his head. He did not like it when things didn't add up for him. Especially about people he cared about.

"I guess," Morgan laughed understanding the latest twist in his friends activities was going to blow everyone profile right out of the water. "I guess you will just need to put it down to the continuing evolution of the genius known as Spencer Reid."

he knew that his bosses didn't do it consciously, neither did he. But they did do it. No matter what the rules said they did profile each other.

It wasn't written down or even spoken of , but it was there.

"Hotch he is not that kid. He is a thirty year old man who has seen and done things he would never have contemplated when he walked through those glass doors for the first time," he fell silent as memories of some of those things tumbled through his minds eye without rhyme or reason

*Looking at the young string bean of a kid standing with a box inside the engraved glass doors, and wondering if this was someone's idea of a joke.

*watching the Kid walk away after tossing him the whistle.

*Running through the trees after hearing that single gun shot. Seeing his friend climbing out of his own grave.

*Reid's cold eyes and venom in his hallway.


"Sorry Hotch...I was just thinking," he excused. " Look I am as guilty as everyone else, if not more so of forgetting just how strong he really is. But I have just got my best friend back by the skin of my teeth. And I am gonna work my butt off to earn his trust back again. So I am sorry Hotch...but I cant screw up this one chance on the oft chance that he will even listen to you about the rest of this mess."

Hotch nodded sadly.

But he couldn't really blame Morgan he should guard that friendship dearly.

He would if it was on offer to him.

But the likelihood of that occurring was pretty low...if not into negative figures.

Rossi had to grimace at Morgan s description of the situation. THIS MESS.

Succinct and accurate.

A mess indeed, and one that cant be swept away with a million I'm -sorry's.

Confidence in, and trust off each other had been destroyed.

Not just Reid's, although admittedly he seemed to be the most damaged by the fallout. Or maybe he was just the worst at hiding his pain from those he had considered his family.

Where they still Family?

All the bands that interwove their disparate identities into a team had been stretched to the limit. While the corrosive acid of betrayal burned at every turn.

Morgan took in the expressions, usually hidden by his superiors and came to a decision as he stood to take his leave.

It may help It may not ,he thought But the hope that it would lift some of the pain evident in Hotch's dark eyes, and the worry from Rossi was motivation enough to speak.

"Hotch there is one positive note about my night facing Reid. Although he didn't say much about anyone else. He did let it slip that You are no where near the top of his `Little chat` list," Morgan announced to the startled men. Then with a half-smile he wished them Goodnight and was gone.

The room stayed silent as the two men considered their conversation with Morgan. And especially his final words.

"Well that's good news," Rossi finally stated quietly, while watching his friend closely.

Aaron Hotchner, former prosecutor, hard headed negotiator, Unit chief of the elite Behavioural Analysis Unit could only nod his thumping head.

While his tired brain produced two heartfelt words.

"Thank F##K!