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“Has anyone seen Reid? He disappeared the second we got off the plane.” Hotch sounded unusually concerned and JJ cocked her head, suspicious.

“He probably went home,” she said, as if it wasn’t obvious.

“Without saying goodbye?” Morgan asked, automatically joining in.

“Sometimes he does that,” Gideon volunteered, shrugging. “Anything you have to talk about will keep till morning, won’t it?”

There was a general murmur of agreement, even though it wasn’t true. There was much about Reid that went unquestioned, unsaid. Not for his sake but for theirs.

***

Gideon let himself into his house and turned on the light. He hung up his coat and hat, stepped out of his shoes and into his slippers. Crossed to the foot of the stairs and called up.

“Spencer? Are you home, son?”

“I’m right here, Dad.” Spencer Reid stepped out of the bedroom at the top of the stairs, a thin, angular man dressed in pajamas with trains and airplanes on them. His feet were bare and he fidgeted unconsciously, rubbing one foot on top of the other in turn.

“Where are your slippers?”

“Under the bed, I think. I’m sorry. I was reading and I—I forgot.”

“That’s all right, son. Get your slippers and come downstairs. I really missed you today.”

Reid’s smile brightened and he hurried back into his room. When he came out again in his warm leather moccasins the foyer at the bottom of the stairs was empty. He padded down, holding tightly to the rail, and went into the den where Gideon sat in a deep armchair before the fireplace.

“Did you have a bad day?” he asked worriedly, perching on the arm of the chair and leaning against Gideon’s shoulder.

“I don’t want to talk about that. Tell me about your day, Spencer. What did you do?”

Reid slid into his lap and made himself comfortable, sighing in contentment as Gideon’s arms enveloped him.

“I finished reading The Fellowship of the Ring,” he said.

“You did? What did you think of it?”

“It’s wonderful, Dad. I really enjoyed the use of Hobbits and Elves to portray both pre-war racial sentiments and aspects of Judeo-Christian beliefs. Also, I can’t wait to see what happens next. It’s very exciting.”

“And what character do you relate to best? Which one reminds you most of Spencer Gideon?”

“I—I don’t like to say,” he murmured, a childish blush creeping up his cheeks.

“It’s Frodo, isn’t it? The brave little Hobbit who leaves everything safe and comfortable in his life for adventure and the chance to do the right thing?”

“Well, obviously everyone likes to think they would, you know, do the right thing. But I don’t know that I could be that heroic. Maybe if I had a friend like Sam…”

“I’m sure you do,” Gideon said quietly, his lips pressed to Reid’s hair. “I love you best, perhaps, but I’m far from the only one who would follow you into the mouth of Mordor.”

“I love you, too, Daddy.”

They talked of inconsequential things as the night grew late and the fire burned down. Then Gideon announced that it was past time for them both to be in bed. Reid stumbled to his feet with a yawn and a bone-cracking stretch, waiting for Gideon to rise. They climbed the stairs hand in hand, Reid a step behind, and went into his room. It was a child’s room in almost every way, painted in primary colors and edged near the ceiling with stenciled rocket ships. Only the bed and desk were large enough for a grown man. Reid’s messenger bag hung by its strap from the desk chair, his work clothes folded neatly on the seat. Gideon looked around in satisfaction without seeing those things.

“You did your homework, didn’t you?”

“First thing,” he said, taking off his slippers and crawling into bed. The sheets and comforter were a matching set, pattered with romping puppies and kittens to promote a peaceful night’s sleep. Reid had picked them out himself.

“Good boy. Don’t stay up too late, okay? You have school tomorrow.”

“I won’t. I just want to start The Two Towers. Maybe read the first couple chapters?”

“Not too late,” he said again, smiling indulgently. It was antithetical to him to tell anyone not to read. “Goodnight, Spencer.”

“Goodnight, Dad.” Reid turned on the bedside lamp and took up his book as Gideon turned off the overhead light. He closed the door with a soft click and Reid listened to his footsteps fading down the hall. Then he opened the book for real and began to read. It reminded him of his mother who read to him every night, and how much he’d craved the approval of a father. His own father had never paid him any attention beyond using him as a club against his mother. He was always the boy whom she was letting down. She had laughed with her son about it once, paraphrasing Terms of Endearment when she asked who she would be if she wasn’t the mom who was failing Spencer. He’d hugged her and told her she couldn’t fail if she tried.

Just as Jason Gideon could never fail.

Reid set his phone alarm for four o’clock and read another hour before falling into a deep, dreamless asleep. When the alarm roused him in the cold hour before dawn, he rose feeling more rested than he had in weeks. He dressed in yesterday’s clothes, folding his pajamas and leaving them on the neatly made bed. He slipped downstairs and out of the house, locking the door behind him. When he saw Gideon in a few hours it would be as if this had never happened. But it had, and it was good.

***

Reid got out of the cab in front of Hotchner’s classy, understated home and opened the gate. He had his keys in his hand as he climbed the front steps but the door was already unlocked. Haley had been gone a month, had been cheating much longer than that, and everyone knew she wasn’t coming back. On the surface, Hoch was handling it very well. His friends were all impressed, in fact. Underneath was a situation that only Reid could understand. That only Reid could manage in a way that kept Aaron whole.

“There you are,” Hotch said, stepping out of the kitchen with a glass in one hand and a smile on his face. “You’re late.”

“Sorry,” he said, his voice soft and a couple of octaves higher than usual. “I was dropping Jack at the sitter’s.”

“It’s okay. Here, I made you a drink.”

Reid took off his bag and laid it on the table by the door. Hotch proffered the glass, a brightly colored concoction that looked cold and sweet. Something that Haley liked and that Reid didn’t mind, though he didn’t know what it was called. He took it, smiling gratefully, and went to the sofa where Aaron joined him with a glass of scotch. Soft music was playing, contemporary pop at a very low volume, a background hum to fill the silence before Aaron began to speak.

He told Reid about the case he’d been working all week, as if Reid hadn’t been beside him the whole time, and the young man listened attentively, nodding in all the right places. He smiled when Hotch mentioned him, praised his quick thinking and steady nerves, as he so often had to Haley. Aaron refilled Reid’s glass once and his own three times over the hours it took to satisfy his need to share. Aaron had never been able to tell all of it to his wife. He’d wanted to, needed to, but she never wanted to hear. His isolation, the requirement that he keep his home and work totally separate, had torn his marriage apart. He took the blame she threw at him, the traveling and the nightmares and the horrible photos he brought back day after day, but half the blame was hers. If she had ever allowed those things rather than fought him at every turn, they might have had a basis for trust and communication. But with his entire work life cut out, their shared life had been all about her.

Reid kept smiling and nodding, speaking as little as possible. The fake voice was hard to maintain. Aaron eventually talked himself out and suggested they go to bed. Reid took their glasses to the kitchen and then went into the hall bathroom while Aaron went upstairs. It was a new routine, but a routine nonetheless. Reid liked routines. He undressed, showered quickly, and put on an ankle length black silk robe. His hair hung down to the collar in wet curls and, looking at himself in the mirror, he knew he was pretty. He applied a little dark brown eyeliner, smeared a mix of gray and purple shadow over his lids, and used just a touch of dusky blush to further accentuate his cheekbones. Now he was even prettier. Aaron would be pleased.

Upstairs, Reid entered the master bedroom without knocking. Aaron was already in bed, his face planes of shadow in the dim light of the single lamp. He pulled back the covers and Reid went to him, dropping the robe on the way. Aaron pulled him close, kissed him slow and deep, murmured Haley’s name as he sank into him. Reid moaned and sighed beneath him, high breathy sounds of pleasure that he didn’t have to fake. He took himself in hand and cried Aaron’s name as they came together.

When it was over, Reid turned off the lamp and snuggled against Aaron’s shoulder, warm and safe in his arms. There was a little more talk, nothing he needed to listen or respond to, and then Aaron went to sleep. Reid slipped away cautiously, making sure that, though Aaron snorted and rolled over, he didn’t wake. That had happened before, and when it did Reid climbed back into the bed and spooned against his back until he slept again.

But he got away clean this time, picked up the robe, and tiptoed downstairs to shower again. There were small bruises on his neck and shoulders, signs of approval that he cherished. Still, turtleneck tomorrow for sure. Everyone’s secrets were safe with Reid.

***

The team was flying back from a five day stint in Ft. Lauderdale, the kind of ugly case that made them shudder at the words Spring Break for months afterward, when Reid got a text. Are you busy tonight? He smiled to himself and texted back, What’ve you got in mind, baby girl? It had been a long time since he’d gotten this call and it brightened his prospects considerably. Everyone needed a little fun after a week like this.

She opened the door in a red bustier and panty set, a short black robe that matched her high heeled slippers, and a leopard print blindfold. Reid stepped in quickly, shed his bag and jacket, and took her by the hand.

“Hey, gorgeous,” he said in a voice that was low and silky and nothing at all like his own. This was one of the hardest to pull off but he put his whole heart into it. She deserved the best or, lacking that, the best he could do.

Garcia giggled, stretching up on tiptoe so he could kiss her. He did so urgently, hard and hungry, one hand on the back of her head, the other planted firmly on her ass. She wanted passion—wild, unbridled, frantic sex that left her breathless and shaken. Reid had watched videos to learn how to do that and her reaction indicated that he had learned well.

He led her by the hand into the bedroom, guiding her swiftly around her own furniture, her head too swimmy for her to find the way. He let her get within a step of the bed before pushing her over backwards and she squealed with surprise even as she landed safely. Then he was on her, pinning her down and nimbly undoing the hooks on the front of her bodice, kissing and licking every inch of flesh as it came to light. Her hands fisted in the sheets as he bit and sucked, wanting to reach for his head but unwilling to break the fantasy. Reid, who knew her mind as well as he did her body, compensated by applying the force she would have demanded. In a minute it wouldn’t matter. By then she would be so deeply entrenched in her mental image that even finding his sharp, angular body under her hands wouldn’t be enough to break it. By the time he got her panties off, she was there.

Garcia’s brightly colored nails dug into his bony shoulders and soft ass, but to her it was hard muscle and dark chocolaty skin. His size was sufficient, his technique a flawless combination of her requests and his inferences, and he didn’t mind in the least that she cried out for Derek every time she came. That only meant he was doing it right.

Reid came twice, not speaking, only showing his satisfaction with a throaty sound halfway between a growl and a purr. When he could do no more he kissed her goodbye, soft and sweet and honest, thanking her for her love in the only way he could. She returned the kiss honestly, loving him as well as the man he represented, but kept her mind closed to reality nonetheless. If she didn’t see him, she could hold onto the fantasy all night.

Reid dressed as swiftly as he could and let himself out. For Penelope, he would shower at home.

***

JJ wasn’t the first to know of Reid’s strange ability to be anything to anyone, but she was the first to take him to bed. It was his shyness that drew her, his physical grace and steadiness that was so at odds with his pleading eyes and eternally questioning tone. She realized she wanted him, badly, the first time she saw him take point. Leading the team down a darkened hallway with his flashlight in one hand and his pistol in the other, wrist over wrist as they’d been taught at the academy, his arms had been straight and sure with no hint of a tremble. She had seen Gideon’s flashlight tremble, and even Hotch’s, but never Reid’s. Once his course was set he was unshakable.

After she agreed to be his first date, she knew she would also be his first lay. He needed a strong woman. Someone who wouldn’t expect him to take charge when he didn’t know what he was doing. He needed someone to teach him. And JJ? She had needs of her own.

“Hi, Spence,” she said cheerfully, opening the door. “How’re you doing?”

“Fine. I’m fine,” he said, his smile twitching a little nervously. She liked that. They’d made a lot of progress, but he knew it would take the fun out of it if he dropped his nerves entirely. He could be a little confident, but she had to be in charge.

“Have you eaten yet? I could make you something.”

“No. No, thank you,” he said, fumbling the strap of his bag off over his head. “I’m fine. I—I ate on the way over.”

“Good,” she said with a mischievous grin. “I love a man who comes prepared.”

“Well, I try,” he mumbled, ducking his head to hide his own grin and the faint blush that crept up his cheeks. JJ grabbed his hand and pulled him quickly through the living room and into the guest room in back. This was a separate part of her life, not something that crossed over with either her private life or her work, and she’d never taken him to her own bedroom. Reid didn’t question these things. As with all of his arrangements, it was mutually beneficial and he had no reason to complain.

She dragged him over to the bed and shoved him down roughly, laughing at his almost frightened squeak. His glasses slid up his forehead and he reached for them, only to have her pounce on him and grab them first.

“You can read Braille, can’t you, Spence?” she teased, straddling his hips in her loose, flowing skirt. “You don’t need to see.”

“Um…actually I can sight-read Braille more efficiently than manually, but my sight isn’t all that bad, uh, even without my glasses.”

“Shut up,” she laughed and tossed them onto the bedside table. He looked to see where they landed and she grabbed his chin, turning his head back toward her. “If you want to look at something, Spence, look at this.”

His eyes widened as she pulled off her shirt, revealing a pink lace bra. He reached for her instinctively, then paused as if needing permission. She took his hands and placed them on her breasts, encouraging him to squeeze as she arched into it. He loved this part, the tentative exploration of her body combined with the occasional show of force on her side. Like when she ripped the buttons off his shirt and nearly strangled him pulling his tie over his head, too impatient to loosen it properly.

She spread his torn shirt open wide and leaned down to kiss him, ravaging his mouth until he pulled free, starey-eyed and gasping for breath. For a moment she rested against him, feeling his heart race and reveling in his excitement. The she rose up a little, inviting him to unfasten her bra. His hands were shaking now, the way they never shook when they were holding a gun, and that made her want him all the more. As hot as she found his steady composure, it was even hotter when he lost it.

He worked the little clasp with trembling fingers, but they didn’t slip. They were magician’s hands, used to performing nimble tricks under pressure. That was another thing she liked about him. Not only was he good with his hands, he learned very quickly. He’d also learned when to take initiative and he did so now, sitting up and pushing her back on his thighs. He slid her bra off her shoulders and down her arms, grazing the skin lightly with his fingertips. JJ shuddered, breaking out in goosebumps, her nipples now irritatingly hard. He bent and took one in his mouth, sucking it gently between his teeth, growing tentative again until her left hand found the back of his head. Her fingers twisted painfully in his hair, pulling him closer, moaning her need even as her right hand found his belt.

“Don’t you dare come, Spence. I mean it,” she said seriously. The back of her hand pressed his erection as she worked the buckle free, drawing pained whimpers of doubt and need. She unzipped his fly and rose up on her knees so he could scramble out of his slacks. When they caught on his shoes, she turned easily, her body flowing like water, and in just a few seconds stripped him bare. She turned back and met his lips in a gentler kiss. He was still shy about this part, poor thing. The actual joining of their bodies was difficult for him to watch, but he was equally ashamed to be caught looking away. She had to be gentler with him here.

JJ undid the buttons on her skirt slowly from waist to hem, using one hand and keeping the other arm around his neck. His kisses were eager but still hesitant, needing to be coaxed a little further. His hands were braver, stroking down her back and over her hips, tugging subtly at the soft lace of her panties. She threw the skirt aside and pushed lightly off the bed, divesting herself of her panties without breaking the kiss. When their bodies came into contact again, she warned him once more not to come and swiftly pushed him inside herself. His hands tightened on her hips, his eyes and mouth forming perfect Os of wonder. JJ loved that expression, loved pleasing him so much while she took from him so selfishly.

Reid felt everything, her passion, her need, the amazing heat and softness of her flesh, and his expressive face reflected it in great detail. JJ marveled at his self-control as she achieved her fourth orgasm and collapsed, panting, on his bony chest. He hadn’t been this good in the beginning. He’d never been bad, his short recovery time assured that she always got what she needed eventually, but he was definitely getting better.

“Your turn, Spence. Want to be on top?”

“Are you sure?” he asked, and it was impossible to tell if he was joking.

“I’m sure. You’ve about worn me out, baby.”

“I think you wore yourself out,” he said, raising one eyebrow so she’d know this one was a joke.

“You helped.” She kissed him, then threw herself down on the bed. Reid pushed his hair back with a dramatic sigh and laughed when she elbowed him in the ribs.

“Hey, no fair. How am I supposed to perform at peak capacity when you’re deliberately injuring me?”

“Shut up and fuck me, Spence,” she laughed back.

Reid obeyed.

***

In many ways the evenings with Morgan were his favorite. Morgan had the most complex need, but also the simplest. At least so far as Reid’s part in it went. He showed up at the front door in jeans and a casual dress shirt without a tie. Sometimes, like tonight, he brought wine.

“There’s my favorite boy genius,” Morgan said in greeting. He took the offered bottle and whistled softly over the label. “You broke out the good stuff, huh? I hope dinner’s worthy.”

“I’m sure it will be,” Reid smiled. He stepped in and put his bag on the nearest table while Morgan shut the door.

“How’re you doing, sweetheart? You looked pretty tired today.”

“I—I’m all right. I guess I haven’t been sleeping very well lately, but it’s okay. We’ve just been working so hard, you know?” His pale face and the dark purple circles under his eyes belied his words, but Morgan didn’t argue. The last thing the poor kid needed was someone ragging on him.

“Yeah, it’s been rough. Come on in and sit down. Dinner will be ready in about fifteen minutes. I’ll just go open the wine.”

Reid nodded and went into the living room. Classical music was playing on the stereo and he sank into the plush leather sofa with a sigh of relief. Everything here was designed to please him, to relax his tired body and ease his weary mind. The smell of rich food filled the room and he discovered he was hungry. Morgan appeared with two glasses of wine and Reid sipped his slowly, feeling his nerves unwind another notch. Morgan sat beside him, one arm stretched along the back of the sofa, giving him permission to do whatever he wanted. Whatever he needed. Because what Morgan needed most was to provide whatever Reid most needed himself.

After a moment Reid slid closer, tucking his angular frame into the muscular curve of Morgan’s body, putting his feet up on the coffee table as he sipped his wine. Morgan held him loosely, feeling the tension in Reid’s neck. He’d have to do something about that later. Reid, not terribly bothered by what was, for him, an everyday amount of stress, toed off his shoes and sighed.

“Is that better?” Morgan asked, nuzzling the top of his head.

“Everything’s better when I’m with you.”

They sat in peaceful silence until a beep from the kitchen called Morgan away. Reid kept his seat, drinking his wine very slowly. It was so nice here, so quiet and soothing. Morgan was a player, a man who had no trouble getting girls and getting laid, but that wasn’t all he was. Sometimes he needed someone to coddle and care for who wouldn’t measure him or the relationship by those moments. His tenderness had to be reserved for one who wouldn’t judge or expect too much. Reid, who enjoyed being coddled once in a while, was happy to help.

Morgan returned a few minutes later to tell him dinner was on the table. He offered his friend a hand up and then held it all the way to the dining room where the table was set with flowers and candles.

“Nice,” Reid said sincerely. “What are we having?”

“Chicken parmesan with steamed vegetables and butter-rolls.”

“No garlic bread?” he asked with dancing eyes.

“You don’t like garlic bread. Here, let me get your chair.” He let go of Reid’s hand and pulled out his chair, waited for him to sit and pushed it back. “Can I get you some more wine?”

“Just a little would be nice.”

Morgan went into the kitchen and returned with steaming bowls of food. He served both of them before going back for the wine and topping off their glasses. Then he sat down across from Reid and invited him to try the pasta. Morgan held his own fork in suspense over his plate, waiting to see how his friend liked it before digging in himself.

“Oh, that’s good,” Reid said, his eyes widening in surprised pleasure. He took another, bigger, bite and then tried the bread. It was baked with butter slices inside and lightly seasoned with oregano, basil, and parsley. Once he’d expressed his appreciation of its flavor and subtlety, Morgan relaxed and began to eat.

The conversation flowed more naturally now, though Reid did most of the talking. Unlike at work, Morgan listened closely and responded to everything he said. In this context it was all interesting. The science, the history, the random bits of trivia on everything from Sir Thomas Browne to innovations in proxy servers, was all fascinating tonight. Morgan enjoyed watching his lips move, the way he licked sauce from the corners of his mouth without missing a word. Normally it was unpleasant watching someone talk with his mouth full, but Reid brought a certain grace to everything he did. And besides, Morgan loved seeing him so relaxed and happy that he forgot his manners.

Reid knew he was being stared at but it was okay. He was perfectly comfortable under Morgan’s attentive gaze. His comfort was part of the deal, as was letting Morgan enjoy it. He ate as much as he wanted, drank until he was tipsy but not drunk, and had a very good time. It got even better when Morgan cleared away the dishes and brought out a chocolate lava cake.

“You didn’t,” Reid exclaimed. His expression was that of a man on the verge of clapping with joy and Morgan laughed as he dished it up.

“You bet I did. Watch out for the hard sauce, baby. You don’t want to overdo it.”

“Better go easy with it then, because I intend to eat a lot of cake.”

“That’s my boy.” Morgan put another piece of cake on Reid’s plate and lightly drizzled sauce over both. Again, he waited for Reid’s reaction before putting a healthy serving of sauce on his own piece and taking a bite. And again he wasn’t disappointed.

“Oh my god,” Reid moaned, sounding like a man on the brink of orgasm. “Did you make this? Because you’re already too close to perfect for your own good.”

“Look who’s talking,” Morgan grinned. But his heart lightened a little with the praise. “You’re the only one who knows I can cook. Did you know that?”

“No, I didn’t. I’m glad you share your secrets with me, Derek. It makes me feel special.”

“You are special, sweetheart. You’re the only one I trust.” He dropped his eyes as he spoke and Reid smiled. He felt Morgan glancing at him as they ate, looking for a reaction to the words that had been so hard to say. But Reid’s expression remained one of simple pleasure in the cake, the company, and, no doubt, the words that he knew better than remark upon.

“Do you want help with the dishes?” he asked when Morgan took the plates away.

“They can wait until morning. Do you want some more wine? Maybe in the bath?”

“Yes, I think that would be nice. You’re so good to me, Derek. Did you know that you’re my best friend?”

“I’m glad, Spencer. You don’t know…” He trailed off and Reid hopped to his feet.

“I’ll bring the wine. You go start the bath, okay?”

A few minutes later Reid was up to his armpits in hot water and bubbles, nestled between Morgan’s legs while his friend massaged his neck and shoulders.

“I was wrong,” he said in that same I’m going to come now moan. “You actually are perfect. No wonder Garcia’s in love with you.”

“I’d have her over for lava cake and a bubble bath but she’d probably get the wrong idea.”

“Probably. And I’d be sad.”

“You would?” Morgan seated his left fist in the curve of Reid’s spine and ran his right hand up the slender throat until he was cupping Reid’s jaw. Pulling back with gentle pressure, he made Reid’s neck pop three times, then turned his head with both hands for one more.

“Do you think I wouldn’t miss this? No, you can’t replace me. It’s out of the question.”

“Out of the question?”

“Absolutely,” Reid said with satisfaction, easing back against Morgan’s chest as his friend’s strong arms wrapped around him. “No one can make me as happy as you can.”

“That’s good, because I’d rather watch you be happy than just about anyone else.”

“Except Garcia.”

“Yeah, except Garcia. But what can I do?”

“Don’t worry about it,” Reid said, yawning lazily. “I’m sure she’s fine.”

“Everybody’s fine,” Morgan agreed, running his hands lightly over Reid’s chest and belly. The skin was soft and silky with fine hair, even softer than the wet curls that lay on his shoulder. He held the slender body tightly, caressing every ounce of love and devotion that he possessed into the one person who truly understood.

Reid moved subtly beneath his hands, nuzzling Morgan’s throat and pressing against his growing erection in a barely perceptible rhythm. It didn’t always go like this, but tonight Morgan seemed to be in the mood and Reid decided it would be the perfect end to a perfect date. He’d probably sleep better, too.

He signaled his readiness by reaching back and clasping his hands behind Morgan’s neck. He straightened up a little, fitting Morgan’s cock between the cheeks of his ass, and sighed as Morgan took him in hand. They rocked together in unhurried pleasure, and when Reid moaned through his climax as he had over the chicken and dessert, Morgan hugged him fiercely and came against his back.

Reid slept that night in Morgan’s arms and rode to work with him in the morning, equally comfortable in the role of eccentric genius sidekick. A part of him looked forward to their next session, but until Morgan called again he was quite content with this.

***

“Emily, can I talk to you a minute?”

She turned and saw Hotch behind her, his face serious. The others looked away with raised eyebrows and smothered curiosity. It sounded like she was in trouble and they were all glad it wasn’t them.

“Is something wrong, sir?” she asked when his office door was shut behind them.

“You tell me. You’ve been distracted lately. Off your game. I’m not the only one who’s noticed, either. Now, I want to ask you one question and I expect an honest answer.”

“Sir, I’m sorry, but I—”

“Is this something related to your job? To a recent case, maybe? Or is it a personal matter?”

She looked into his serious-bordering-on-angry face and swallowed hard before speaking.

“I assure you it’s purely personal, sir, and I—I’ll get it taken care of. It won’t be a problem.”

“Tell me one more thing, if you don’t mind,” he said, his tone gentler. “Is it a passing matter or a—a missing piece? By which I mean a consistent—loss. Something that can’t be replaced.”

“I—I guess it would be the second one. But, sir, I really don’t feel comfortable discussing this with you.”

“No, nor should you,” he agreed, suddenly businesslike. “You should discuss it with Reid.”

“Reid? What—why would I do that?”

“Just trust me, Prentiss. Whatever the problem is, Reid’s the answer.”

“Um, thank you,” she said uncertainly. “I’ll talk to him.”

“Be sure you do,” Hotch said and it sounded enough like an order that she knew she would. Why was still a mystery, but she guessed she’d find out.