Criminal Minds © CBS.

Part 9 of the Shadows Within saga. No crossover this time. And the relationship depicted here may not be cannon (does Rossi know Gideon personally? do they ever say?) but forget it. This is more fun.

Never to Return Again

Jason Gideon watches from a distance. It's been years since he's set foot in DC, but his mind actually felt clear for the first time since the incident, and he needed to seek out his old team. Needed to make sure they were doing okay without him. Now he stands on the other side of the street, watching as they leave the restaurant, and he can see the changes.

David Rossi has taken his place on the team. That surprises him. He didn't think anything could bring that man out of retirement – he enjoys his book deals too much. Gideon wonders if Hotch appreciates Rossi's interference. No doubt the elder agent has thrown off the dynamics of the team. Gideon can already see it from here.

They're not talking. Gideon noticed the unusual silences started not long after Reid joined the team. Now he wonders if bringing the young man on was a good idea. Sure, he's brilliant, but it didn't take him long to see the signs of mild autism – an aversion to touch, the tendency to either stay silent or babble, the way social norms seemed to fly over his head. It was the first time he and Hotch had butted heads. Gideon wanted to have Reid evaluated. Hotch simply stated that, if that were to happen, Gideon would find himself off the team.

Gideon believed him.

Still, the team speaks very little. He watches them walk down the street, Garcia hanging on both Reid and Morgan, smiling happily, Emily and Prentiss leading the pack, Hotch and Rossi bringing up the rear. They look peaceful, but Gideon still has that sense that something is wrong. It's never anything he can put his finger on, nothing his profile skills can explain – it's an instinct, one that tells him there's something innately wrong with a group of people who can go all night, never speak a word, and yet seem to say everything in silence.

They walk past a book store. Reid's head perks up, his interest drawn to the displays. Morgan laughs, and the group redirects into the store, Reid practically bouncing on his heels.

Gideon smiles. Good to know some things don't change. Now if he can just get up the nerve to go talk to them. He'll never find out anything if he doesn't.

Inside the bookstore, with Reid lost in the back somewhere and the girls poking around the romance section, Rossi looks out the window. You can't tail an agent of the BAU and get away unnoticed. He turns to Hotch, who has a magazine in his hand. Hotch.

The senior agent joins him. What is it?

Out there. Rossi returns his attention to the window. He's been following us. He's familiar, but I can't place from where.

Hotch looks, and the peaceful expression he's worn all afternoon vanishes. Gideon.

That single word has an amazing effect on Rossi's new family. JJ, Prentiss, and Garcia immediately flinch and look up. Morgan automatically heads to the back of the store where Reid is. Their youngest surprises everyone. Instead of pain or confusion, white-hot anger flashes through him for just a moment. Rossi can sense him reaching out, trying to locate his former mentor.

I still can't sense him. he says quietly.

Rossi considers for a moment, then nods. Stay in here. I would like to have a word with Gideon. With that he turns and leaves the bookstore. Hotch tries to call him back, but Rossi has seen the effect this man has, and he's sick of it. He makes his way across the street.

Gideon watches him approach. "I was wondering if you'd noticed."

It takes Rossi a moment to find his voice. He hasn't spoken a word aloud all day. "I take notice of anyone following my team." he says darkly. There's an emphasis on the word my that Gideon doesn't miss. "You're just lucky I recognized you. Otherwise I may have decided to just shoot."

Gideon shakes his head. "I just wanted to say hi to everyone while I was in town."

"After you walked away with only a note to explain everything?" The venom in Rossi's voice makes Gideon subconsciously stand a little straighter. "I don't think you have the right."

"I explained it all to the only one who mattered."

"And a letter was enough. You didn't think to call him, let him know you were still alive. You thought a stupid letter would be fine." Rossi shook his head. "They told me about what happened. Morgan followed Reid out to your cabin, just in case you decided to off yourself instead of just abandon them. I'm not sure which would have been worse."

Something dangerous flashes across Gideon's eyes. "I did what I had to do." He sighs, and that something is gone. It leaves Rossi feeling cold inside. "I'm just going to cut to the chase here. I want to talk to Reid. I want to make sure he's okay."

In Rossi's mind, Reid snorts. Oh, now he's actually concerned? After all these years, now he bothers to check in? That rage is still simmering underneath, concealing a wound that Rossi knows runs deep. Tell Gideon I'd rather stay in here with Isaac Asimov.

Rossi smirks. "I don't think you'd be well tolerated. He found the sci-fi section."

Gideon just smiles. "You think you're protecting him. It's an instinct when it comes to that boy. I've been doing it for far longer than you have."

He can't help it – Rossi actually starts laughing. He can hear his amusement echoed by Hotch. "Reid doesn't need my protection or yours. He's survived hell again and again, and he's done just fine with a little backing. Just like we all do." Reid is still reaching out, trying to find his former mentor's mind. It's starting to bother Rossi. Why is this so important to you?

I can count on one hand the number of people I can't Know. Reid says. They were all unsubs and Gideon. I could even Know Elle, at least a little. With Gideon, it's like there's this brick wall I can't see through.

Rossi tilts his head to the side, studying Gideon. The older man waits patiently. "Am I going to have to push past you?"

"Try it. I'm Italian for a reason." Rossi turns away. There's something off-putting about Gideon. Rossi doesn't trust anyone Reid can't Know. He pauses. "Leave my team alone, Gideon. They don't need you anymore."

Gideon nods. "Then will you pass along a message?"

"If it's worth it."

"Tell Reid I'm sorry. I know how badly he wanted to connect with me – to have something other than a mentor – but I just couldn't attach to him the way I could to the others. I tried." Gideon shakes his head. "There's just something off about him. They way he'd look at me sometimes. It set me on edge." His shoulders slump. "Just tell him it wasn't his fault."

Rossi watches him walk away. The others are silent in his mind. He reaches out. Hotch?

Come inside.

The command is gentle enough, and that's exactly what Rossi does. The others have gathered around the window, watching the entire confrontation. Rossi joins them. What does that mean?

I don't know. JJ says softly.

Reid shakes his head. It doesn't matter. He closed himself off the moment he decided I was defective. At Hotch's sharp look, he added, Your office isn't as soundproofed as you think. I was standing outside. It was before this started, so you didn't know. Hotch nods.

It's Gideon's loss. he says.

Rossi grins. My gain.

Garcia looks at all of them. Can we pay for Reid's books before he decides to buy the entire book store? she asks. There's still things to do, my sweets!

Reid laughs. The tension eases out of the group. They pay for the books and leave, resuming their usual formation on the sidewalk. If they walk a little closer, no one seems to notice. All thoughts of Gideon escape from them as they resume their afternoon off.

Gideon watches them go before getting into his car and driving away. He has to talk to Reid. He'll do that before he leaves the city for good.


AN: Okay, so this didn't play out like I wanted. Instead of being a one-shot, this is going to be a little different. Maybe a few chapters. I feel like enough wasn't said. So be on the lookout for an update.