It was cold, so cold that it was almost hard to take a breath. Moist air billowed around them, each exhale immediately visible as they walked deeper into the small wooded area. The fresh layer of snow that had fallen in the early morning had already covered the footprints of the rest of the people who had come to visit the crime scene during the previous two days. Derek had always thought it was strange how everyone came around death: to stare and observe, document with pictures and words, and examine the scene from every angle. Dozens of personnel from a range of departments gathering to perform a single specific function. All of them there because of death; more specifically, because of murder.
"You're quiet today," Reid said.
The words came out of nowhere. Hotch had sent them out to get a sense of the dumpsite, maybe figure out how the unsub had arrived and left. They hadn't needed a local guide to find the location, so they'd drove past the edge of the town by themselves. Derek had fallen into a quiet lull, his thoughts only punctuated by the crunch of their feet against the snow.
"You're thinking about what the police chief said yesterday?" Reid asked, not seeming to understand that Derek had purposefully avoided the topic of the local police chief and the rest of the team had let him. Except for Reid, because Reid either didn't know or didn't care that Derek didn't want to talk about it. Given that it was Reid, Derek gave about fifty-fifty odds on either possibility.
The near silence, the snow beneath their feet and the flutter of winter hardened birds overhead, lasted for almost a minute.
"He's wrong, you know. Hotch doesn't believe a word of it. No one on the team does." Reid stepped too close to a tree branch and sent a small flurry of snow down upon himself.
Derek didn't dignify that with a response other than to glance back to make sure Reid hadn't managed to tangle himself in the tree or otherwise endanger himself. It wasn't that Reid would likely do that, but Derek wasn't requiring himself to be particularly charitable in his thoughts to anyone that morning.
"That's why Hotch sent us out here, most likely. I don't think he really felt we needed to look over the scene again, but having you out of the way of the chief could ease the tension between the department and our team." Reid had caught up with him again, with snowflakes caught all in the mane of hair that surrounded his face. Derek was quietly anticipating the day when one of the directors actually saw Reid's hair and ordered him to get it cut to fit with bureau standards. With any luck that would happen before the length made a pony tail necessary.
"And Hotch probably sent me, because next to you, I was the one that seemed to attract the most of Chief Roberson's ire," Reid added, apparently warming to the subject since there was no one stopping him. "Which doesn't make sense. If anyone, Hotch should appear the most threatening to his competency and masculinity, with you and Rossi as close contenders. Emily is certainly threatening in her own way, as is JJ, but neither of them present as obvious targets except for in cases where misogyny becomes a significant factor. In most situations, unless there is a current of academic competition, I'm not seen as a threat at all. In fact, quite the opposite."
Derek pulled the zipper of his jacket closed a little further, the skin on his neck reminding him that he needed to remember to pack a scarf in his coat for when they went on cases in cold weather regions. He heaved a small sigh, watching the air crystalize in front of his face as they arrived at the dumpsite.
"It's because you stood up for me," Derek said, speaking for the first time since Hotch had sent him and Reid on this fool's errand.
Reid turned from where he was standing next to where the body had been discovered, a puzzled expression on his face.
"Chief Roberson sees me as a threat because I challenged the way he'd been running the case and Hotch wasn't there to stop me. When you stepped in and provided statistics and examples as to why I was right, Roberson realized that he wasn't dealing with just one opinionated hot-shot FBI agent. He realized that people would listen to you instead of him," Derek explained, feeling a small surge of pride in remembering Reid delivering his statistics with a cold and almost menacingly detached tone.
Reid nodded once, his mouth ghosting a barely there smile, and then turned back to where he was looking before. "I think we might want to call Hotch."
Derek walked over to where Reid was standing, because when Reid said something like that it meant he had an idea of some kind. "How did we all miss that yesterday?" Derek asked as he stared out into the gradually sloping landscape at the evidence of small burned-out fires that had been placed at regular intervals.
"I don't think that we did," Reid said, already pulling his cellphone out with his mittened hand.