AN: In gratitude of all the awesome reviews you guys have given me, here is the final installment of Never to Return Again. I hope you love this chapter as much as you loved the others.

Never to Return Again, pt 3

Rossi finds Gideon in a local park near Reid's apartment. That thought makes him scowl, but he sits down on the bench next to the man regardless. "I'm not used to my orders being ignored, you know." he says flatly. "I told you to leave."

Gideon just sighs. "I had to talk to Spencer."

"Yeah? How did that work out for you?"

That earns him a dark glare. "I wanted to try again." he says. There's something broken in the way he talks. It almost makes Rossi feel sorry for him – almost. "I thought he'd give me a second chance."

"Reid isn't big on second chances." Rossi says calmly. "You get burned twice by the people you're supposed to trust the most, you learn not to get close again."

"He got close to you."

"I'm different. I don't walk away."

Silence falls between them. Rossi finally speaks again. "Why is this so important to you? Why couldn't you just stay away?"

Gideon looks away. "We had a lot in common, Spencer and I. The only real difference was that my father was institutionalized when I was born and my mother didn't walk away."

Rossi feels his breath catch. It takes him a moment to speak. "Schizophrenia?"

"Yes." Gideon shakes his head. "Then, when I was five, I told my mother I could hear what other people were thinking. Naturally, she feared the worst – put me on meds until I was ten. After that I was fine. My mom figured I grew out of it." He shrugs. "I thought maybe I could help Reid. I know he was afraid of getting sick. I thought – "

"You thought you could help him if it happened." Rossi leans back against the bench and closes his eyes. He can't believe it. Out of all of the reasons he envisioned to explain the brick wall Reid describes, he never imagined this. He remembers Garcia describing how it felt when Tobias took Reid – how the drugs created a haze that they could barely see through. Perhaps enough drugs could create a wall.

Gideon nods. "I just want to help him."

"He doesn't need your help – Reid is not schizophrenic or autistic or anything else you can label him." Rossi snaps. "And maybe you weren't either. Maybe you just had a gift that no one could appreciate – a gift that Reid's mother could." He shakes his head. "Either way, it's not my problem. I want you to go away."

"I can't."

"You can!" Now Rossi's standing, towering over Gideon. If he wants to play being the alpha male, Rossi will show him what a real alpha male looks like. "This is my family you're screwing with – you come back and you hurt our youngest, and that's hurting us." He's dropped all pretenses. This is not a senior agent discussing the lives of his subordinates. This is a terrified, angry father who will do anything to protect his son.

Gideon knows it. He's still a profiler – he still knows how to read the signs. His eyes are wide. "I can't. Rossi, they're – "

Suddenly Rossi is in Gideon's face, eyes narrowed, only inches separating them. "No, they are not." he seethes. "They're mine, and I swear on everything sacred, you come near Reid again, I will shoot you, and to hell with the consequences!"

Rossi, stop. Reid's soft voice cuts through the red haze. He's suddenly aware of the entire team listening in. He's on the verge of sinking, and he's about to take Hotch under with him. He takes a deep breath and walks away, leaving Gideon still stunned and on the bench.

Sorry. I didn't realize.

It's okay. Hotch is quick to reassure him. Rossi knows Hotch thinks too much like him. Feedback is easy between the two of them, just like feedback is too easy with Reid and Morgan. Hotch sends him the impression of a grin. I think you told him.

And he'd better damn well stay told. Rossi laughs. Still no cases?

I've fielded all of them. JJ assures him. I say we should have dinner before we have to officially go back in tomorrow.

I'm all for it if Rossi's buying. Morgan teases. You always take us to the best places.

Rossi's anger has melted away. He means every word, but for now, it's in a small box shoved away in his mind, and he can walk out of the park with a smile on his face, as if he hadn't threatened to kill a former FBI agent. I'll buy, I'll buy. Sheesh, I think we've spoiled them, Hotch.

You have. I don't have the funds.

Gideon watched Rossi leave. The agent slipped up. Reid has a gift, one that Gideon himself might have shared, had he gone untreated? That sounds like Reid has the same illness he outgrew, and the others are indulging his fantasy. He could get back at Rossi, let it slip to Strauss. She would love the chance to pull apart the team.

But he won't. He can still protect his team, even if it's only from the discovery of Reid's delusion. Still, as he watches Rossi leave and thinks about the team's new dynamic, he can't help but feel a pang of longing for something he was never given the chance to have.

/-/

The teams meets at a fancy restaurant. Rossi no longer minds the looks he gets from the other patrons – after all, the BAU is hardly what one would consider polite company, and it's clear they don't come to places like this frequently. Still, this is Rossi's family, and he wouldn't trade them for the world.

Dinner is peaceful and mostly devoid of shop talk, as JJ calls it. Garcia and Reid keep swapping science jokes during the entire dinner until Morgan threatens to come across the table and whip them both. JJ and Prentiss tease the three of them about being put in time-out. Hotch and Rossi just exchange looks.

"I wonder what would happen if we did put them in time-out." Rossi muses.

"They would just annoy us more." Hotch says without missing a beat. "Nothing short of duct tape will make them be quiet." Rossi laughs at that.

They're being loud and a bit rowdy, and while they draw attention, no one says anything against them. They look like they're having too much fun.

Finally dessert arrives, and they all fall silent. The conversations switches to things best kept from the general public. Gideon was like me? Reid asks.

Rossi sighs. Sure looks that way, kid. he says. It explains a lot though. Best I can figure it, the drugs his mom gave him must have built up that wall, and he just never tore it down.

Maybe he couldn't. Prentiss muses.

Maybe he didn't even know it was there. Garcia counters. Gideon may be a profiler, but it's not like this is something they teach you in psych school.

Hear hear. Hotch says.

Reid nods. At least now I know.

They finish dessert and the conversation turns back to less important things – paperwork and the next weekend plans, and they each chip in on the bill as they start speaking aloud again. Once everything is paid, they leave the restaurant. Garcia expresses an interest in a new independent film that has just come out. Reid says he'll go with her, along with Morgan. JJ and Prentiss decide to head back to Prentiss's apartment for a girls' night in. Hotch and Rossi head out for a walk.

Before they all split up, Rossi suddenly finds himself being hugged by Reid. It's completely out of the blue, but Reid speaks before Rossi can even ask.

Thank you.

He smiles and hugs Reid back. Always, kid.

The End

AN: Whoo! An actual multi-chap fic done! Please let me know what you think, and until the next installment, I remain forever yours,

Shadowblade-tara