Chapter 1: Arrival
It’s been years.
Rube opens the door to be confronted with a face from the past. In his life, that isn’t unusual. Reapers live for generations. The world is filled with friendly faces. It’s filled with unfriendly ones too. Rube has never been certain where Mason falls on that scale.
He looks different. His eyes aren’t foggy with a chemical high. “Hello,” Mason says, barely above a whisper. Rube blinks at him like an accusation. “You said not to come back ‘til I got myself cleaned up.” He shrugs sheepishly. “I’m clean now.”
Rube takes in the sight of him. He’s wearing a suit that actually fits him, rather than clothes stolen from a dead man’s closet. It makes him look healthier than Rube has ever seen him, but he still sighs. “What do you want? A sticker?”
Mason shifts, a nervous twitch that Rube remembers. “I was thinking I could maybe come in. I mean, maybe come back. Eventually. It’s a thought.”
It’s a thought that Rube has spent a lot of time dwelling on. His little group is fractured and the waffle house is gone. Everything has changed since those old days, himself included. Reaping isn’t what it used to be. The group dynamic has vanished as the internet has grown. Death has gone digital.
So maybe it’s nice to see an old friend.
Maybe that’s why he opens the door.
“I’m making dinner,” he says. “You can watch.”
“I could help.”
“Don’t touch anything,” Rube answers, heading back to the kitchen while leaving Mason to close the door and follow. It feels good to have someone in his apartment again, to have someone there to share food with. He’s glad he has his back to Mason.
He wouldn’t want Mason to see this stupid smile.
Chapter 2: Office Space
Written at my Tumblr.
“So what’s this mean, then? Are you a detective now?” Mason asks, as he pokes around Rube’s office as if he actually belongs there. He stares at the crime scene photos on the board without batting an eyelid; they’ve both seen worse. They’ve both been present at some of the strangest deaths in recent history. The life of a reaper involves a lot of dry-cleaning bills. “Do you solve crimes? You’re the dead batman.”
Rube stays seated behind his desk, trying to read through the latest files from the FBI. While Mason seems to have slipped easily back into his life, there are times when Rube finds that the best coping strategy is to pretend that he isn’t there.
“Do you carry a gun?” Mason asks. “Can I carry a gun?”
It’s like having a toddler in his office.
“No,” Rube says, without looking up. “You cannot carry a gun. No, I am not the dead batman. Yes, I solve crimes. No, I’m not a detective - I’m an agent for the FBI.” He finally allows his gaze to leave the writing on the page and peers up at Mason. Mason seems to be preoccupied with squinting at one of the crime scene photos on the wall. Rube doesn’t want to think about what one that is. “What do you want, Mason?”
“Can I be an agent?” Mason asks.
“No,” Rube says. The very thought of it is almost alive. Mason has been away a long time, but for all that he has cleaned up his act he’s still the same man. He’s chaotic and that makes him dangerous. “I can’t start to explain all the reasons why that isn’t going to happen.”
“Fair enough,” Mason says. “But I can meet your new friends, right?”
Rube doesn’t want to think about what the others might think of Mason; he thinks that Reid might need to sit in a quiet room to recover from the experience.
This time, however, Mason doesn’t wait for an answer. He leaves Rube’s office before Rube has a chance to explain to him why exactly he doesn’t want to introduce someone like Mason to the team of very professional, very intelligent agents in the office. Rube has survived in this particular lifestyle for this long by remaining suitably mysterious. Having someone like Mason wandering around is an invitation for his coworkers to look closer than they should.
The door to his office swings closed in Mason’s wake. Chasing after him, Rube’s heart is already beginning to sink.
Chapter 3: New Friends
Written at my Tumblr.
Rube stays at a cautious distance as he watches Mason infiltrate his team. There’s a fracture between his memories of what Mason is like, and the man he sees now. He remembers Mason as a chaotic whirlwind, destroying everything he touches even while charming those around him accidentally. Mason had been like an untrained puppy, constantly in trouble without knowing why.
Now, Mason is able to shake hands with the B.A.U. and listen raptly to their conversations without twitching throughout the entire ordeal. Morgan seems taken in and JJ is at his side as well, listening to half-true tales from his past. It’s like seeing his two identities, Rube and Gideon, reaper and analyst, colliding in one place.
Reid walks into place at his side, leaning against the wall as they watch the scene before them unfold. “He’s an interesting guy, your friend,” Reid says. “I can’t get a read on him.”
That’s for the best. Rube has little doubt that a lot of Mason’s traits would make anyone with an eagle-eye think of him as a psychopath. Sometimes he even thinks the same thing about himself. He gets too close to death. He always has.
“Mason’s complicated,” is all that he says.
“How did you guys meet?” Reid asks.
Rube doesn’t usually like it when the team ask him too much about his past. Mason’s sudden appearance in his life must make them curious. He sees the way that eyes track them when they are talking together, the way that their body language is automatically analysed for any hint of what their history might be.
“We met through work,” Rube answers, and it’s almost true.
There are just certain gaps in his employment records that he isn’t ever going to allow the team to discover.
He can tell that Mason is nearing the end of one particularly scandalous story, so he takes a step forward and gives a short whistle to get his attention. “C’mon, kid, we’re going home.”
Mason offers him an unapologetic grin, and leaves the team with more enthusiastic goodbyes than Gideon ever gets when he goes home. Rube is aware of the questioning eyes that linger on them as they leave together. It’s almost enough to make him smile. Let them stare; let them wonder. He’s going to hold onto his secrets, and to Mason, for as long as he can.