Hotch's introduction to Spencer Reid's brand of magic was courtesy of an Alka-Seltzer film canister rocket bounced off his FBI-issued name badge. His first reaction was to glare the young agent, of course, because that was what he was supposed to do as the second-in-command of the BAU. He picked up the canister and strode over to Reid's desk, watching as the rest of the unit (whom he suspected had cheered their newest profiler on) hastily went back to work.
Reid apologized profusely, hands wind-milling as he stuttered through an explanation. As Hotch wordlessly placed the canister on Reid's desk, he caught sight of the photos strewn across the surface.
The Malvern, Arkansas case. Three ten-year-old boys tortured and murdered. What made it particularly horrifying was that the UnSub targeted the children's pets as well. The photos were gruesome, making Hotch queasy every time he saw them.
It wasn't surprising that Reid needed a break. Hotch was about to say something, but the other man had seen him look at the photos. Reid immediately stopped apologizing and then shook himself a little. He cleared his throat and opened a file, flipping to a specific page. "I…ah…I asked the local veterinarian to do a necropsy on one of the dogs. He found this." Reid pointed to a specific paragraph and then handed the folder over for Hotch to read. "I think that's why there are no signs of sexual abuse with the boys. And…I think…I think that the UnSub may make the victims watch."
Three words on the page stood out. Hotch's stomach rolled hard. He swallowed rapidly as he closed the folder and handed it back to Reid. It had been a long time since he wanted to vomit upon reading a report. Hotch wanted to say, If you need a break, then take it. Just don't set off rockets in the bullpen, but he couldn't. Hell, if it were him, he knew he would be at the firing range shooting targets until his arms ached.
He looked down at Reid, expecting to see outrage or horror, but he just saw unadulterated sadness in the man's eyes. The rest of Reid's face was stunningly neutral. Reid then nodded solemnly and reached for the file. Quietly, the younger agent asked, "Is there, ah, a reason we're not in Malvern?"
It was a bold question.
"The flight plan hasn't been cleared yet," Hotch answered, surprised that his own voice was so low, so haunted. He handed the folder back to Reid. "Since you have the most familiarity with the case, you should take the lead when presenting to the team."
Reid's mouth dropped open.
Hotch then tapped the end of the film canister. "And maybe save the 'magic' for outside."