Reid was looking better. He'd thrown himself into his work just as Morgan expected him to, tackling profiles and even recruitment lectures with the same determination that Morgan usually tackled – well, unsubs – but he didn't have the manic energy or haunted expression he usually sported when he was using work as an escape. The framed picture on his desk might have helped – JJ holding Henry, with Will, Reid, and Garcia hovering around her. Morgan liked to think that his conversation with Reid at the hospital also had something to do with Reid's recovery, but they hadn't talked about it since, so he could only guess.
Reid was looking better, and Reid was looking at him. He'd been doing a lot of that, lately. Morgan usually let him, spotting him from the corner of his eye and not letting on that he'd noticed, but this time he looked up quickly and caught him in the act. Reid blushed slightly but didn't look away, which was interesting.
"Something I can do for you, pretty boy?" Morgan asked.
"No, sorry, just thinking about this case," Reid frowned, holding up a file. "I've been staring at these crime scene photos for so long my eyes are starting to hurt."
Morgan smirked. "Wanted something a bit nicer to stare at?"
This time Reid did break eye contact, turning back to face his desk. "Maybe just a change of scenery," he said with a cough, barely loud enough for Morgan to hear.
"Come on, I need some more coffee anyway," Morgan said, standing up.
"How much coffee do you drink in a day?" Reid asked, sighing but following Morgan anyway.
"Less than you," Morgan laughed, "so does it really matter?"
"That's different," Reid said with a slight frown.
"Oh? Why's that?"
Apparently the genius couldn't find a good answer for that. "Because it is."
"That brain of yours powered by caffeine or something?"
Reid slipped into lecture mode, "Actually, while caffeine has been shown to have beneficial effects on focused mental performance, it's thought to decrease broad-range thinking abilities. They've done studies – "
Those three words were always a cue for Morgan to interrupt. "You could have just said 'no'."
Reid smiled, very slightly. "That would be oversimplifying the matter."
"Which would not be the end of the world," Morgan reminded him. "You don't need to over-think everything, kid."
"I don't know what you're talking about; I don't over-think things."
"Oh really? So I suppose when you take forever to order food in a restaurant or when you get all tongue-tied talking to girls, that's, what, you being spontaneous?"
Reid glared, though his tone of voice was playful when he conceded, "I suppose, on occasion, I might analyze something slightly more than the situation calls for."
Morgan smirked and tousled Reid's hair, but he was curious whether Reid really was over thinking things, or whether he hadn't made a move yet because he wasn't interested and Morgan was simply reading too much into things.
To distract himself, Morgan asked, "Why are you such a caffeine junkie, anyway?"
Reid either didn't want to talk about it or just thought it would be more fun not to give a straight answer. "It's not that unusual; about ninety percent of American adults consume some form of caffeine on a daily basis."
"Yeah, but I'm not interested in that ninety percent of American adults," Morgan grinned and watched as Reid poured his coffee and started stirring in sugar. "I want to hear about you."
Reid smiled in response to Morgan's sweet-talking, but the gesture was tinged with melancholy. "I started drinking coffee in college, which in itself isn't so unusual, but since I started college when I was twelve…" he trailed off with a shrug. "I didn't really like it at the time. I knew that most people don't like the taste of coffee in childhood and grow into it, and, well, I didn't want to seem even more childish than I already did. It made me feel mature." He laughed and made a face. "Although I didn't feel very mature when the owner of the coffee shop near my house used to fuss over me and say that drinking too much was going to stunt my growth."
Morgan let his gaze travel slowly down Reid's lanky frame and back up to his face again. "I don't know about that," he said, "but maybe if you didn't drink so much coffee you wouldn't be so damn skinny."
"You sound like my mother," Reid complained.
That wasn't anywhere close to the attitude that Morgan intended, and it made him wonder if Reid was being this difficult on purpose. It was exasperating, particularly since things had been going so well, and left Morgan uncertain how to respond. He settled for simply watching Reid, who seemed suddenly fascinated by stirring his coffee and examining the swirling patterns that caused until his reverie was rudely interrupted.
"We've got a case." Neither of the profilers had noticed Hotch entering the break room and were startled when he addressed them; Reid jumped and splashed coffee over the side of his cup. "Briefing in the conference room in five minutes," Hotch continued, as Reid grabbed a handful of paper towels and started cleaning up, and he was gone before either of them could reply.
"Damnit," Morgan swore, less than thrilled by reality's intrusion into his otherwise pleasant day.
Reid seemed surprised by his emphatic response; of course, he had been too distracted to pay too much attention to Hotch. "What?"
"He didn't make eye contact."
Reid winced. "Always a bad sign," he murmured, before saying more loudly, "I don't suppose there's any chance it was just because he was in a rush."
"Yeah, what are the odds of that?" Morgan scoffed as they started toward the conference room.
"I'm afraid I lack sufficient data to do the calculations. Get back to me in a week."
"What are you going to do, follow Hotch around, taking notes?"
"Could be an interesting line of research," Reid mused. "Patterns of communication among experts in the field of human behavior."
"I'm pretty sure that would break the ban on inter-team profiling."
"You're one to talk!" He sounded indignant. "What, you don't want me observing you?"
Reid probably didn't mean that to be as suggestive as it sounded to Morgan. He shook his head, trying not to dwell on it.
"It's in the interest of science. Think about it – some habits are pretty universal, but there are bound to be anomalies, right? I mean, we aren't exactly a representative sample of the population. You don't find that interesting at all?"
He did, but he was having more fun stringing Reid along. "Not really, no."
Reid rolled his eyes dismissively and opened the door to the conference room – they had beaten the rest of the team there. "Think if I wrote an article on the subject, anyone would publish it?"
"Reid, man, when are you going to learn?" Morgan asked, taking a seat at the round table. "Forget academic journals, the real money is in those self-help books."
"I'm not sure we're really in a position to be offering advice."
"That was harsh, man."
"That's not what I meant," Reid backpedaled. "Well, it is, but it wasn't my intention to be malicious."
"You, with malicious intent?" Prentiss asked, walking in on the tail end of their conversation. "I can't even imagine such a thing."
"Oh, but you didn't hear what he was saying a minute ago," Morgan winked, making Reid blush and rush his words.
"It wasn't anything bad."
"Don't worry about it, Reid," Prentiss assured him. "I trust your word over Morgan's any day."
"Are you saying I'm a liar?" Morgan challenged jokingly. "Emily, babe, I'm hurt. How could you say such a thing?"
"Because you have just a little too much fun causing trouble," Prentiss said sternly.
At that, Reid looked insufferably smug, but the discussion was put to rest when Hotch entered, trailing the rest of the team, and the mood shifted swiftly from jovial to serious. Morgan had correctly interpreted Hotch's demeanor in the break room, although he wouldn't have minded being wrong – four seemingly arbitrary murders in one week meant the situation was dire. Even if they did their best, it was likely there would be more bodies before all was said and done.
Hotch dismissed the team, giving them half-an-hour until wheels up and leaving them to gather their things. Although the case was already weighing heavily on their minds, they were not completely distracted, and Prentiss noticed that something was off with her teammate. "You okay, Morgan?"
"I hate flying out to the middle of nowhere," he complained, in lieu of providing a real explanation.
Prentiss rolled her eyes in mock disgust, "City boy."
"And proud of it," Morgan told her. "At least in a city we don't end up crammed into a tiny police station, or a hotel with only one free room – remember that case?"
Jordan looked skeptical. "What, that really happened?" When Reid nodded, she laughed. "Okay, that sounds like a story I want to hear sometime."
Prentiss shuddered. "Ugh. I'd rather pretend it never happened. Let's just focus on the case."
"Because that's a happier thought," Jordan commented drily.
"Look on the bright side," Reid chimed in. "We're dealing with a disorganized killer. Maybe he'll make a mistake and get caught before we even get out there."
"Yeah, that'll be the day," Prentiss sighed. "I going to grab some things before we leave – give me a minute?"
"Sure, we'll be right here," Reid promised her.
"Actually, I need to make a few calls," Jordan said. "I'll see you guys on the plane."
They set off, leaving Morgan alone with Reid, who was glancing at his watch despite the fact that Hotch had told them the time just a few minutes ago; that, and the slightly absentminded grin on his face, made Morgan suspect that his thoughts were focused on something other than their upcoming investigation.
"You know, you're pretty optimistic today," he remarked.
"Is that a bad thing?"
Morgan shook his head. "I'm just curious. Something going on you haven't told us about?"
"Maybe." He seemed to grin a little wider at Morgan's dissatisfaction with his vague answer.
"Come on, Reid, don't hold out on me."
"I'm not, really," Reid claimed. "I'm sure you can figure it out for yourself."
Morgan hated cryptic comments, but he wasn't going to get anything else out of Reid so he decided to accept the challenge. "Fine, I will."
There was something downright mischievous about the way Reid replied, "I'm looking forward to it," something that made Morgan want to try to get a more definite response; but Emily was walking back to meet them and the plane was leaving soon and there were four dead women in Middle-of-Nowhere, New Mexico.
This whatever-it-was with Reid was going to have to wait; there wasn't time now to think about what, exactly, was changing between them, or whether he even wanted things to change at all. What should have been a very simple decision – "no" – somehow became a little more complicated every time Reid smiled at him, every time he accidentally called the genius some silly nickname.
But for a split second before Reid turned away, the answers all seemed so easy.