"When we fear things I think that we wish for them… every fear hides a wish." - David Mamet, Edmond


WISH


"Elle. Elle!"

Elle finally blinks, glancing up from the cabinet from behind the bar with confusion, but Charlie only grins at her with his ridiculously good-looking face.

"You're doing that thing again," her co-worker says, setting a flat of new glasses beneath the counter.

"What? Oh," she says, shaking her head and mentally kicking herself for being so distracted. She looks down at the clipboard in her hands, skimming to find her place again. "Sorry, Charlie."

The man smirks, turning to lean his hip against the bar. "So who is he, anyway?"

Elle frowns, granting him a sideways glance. "Who's who?"

"Come on; the guy you're crushing on," Charlie teases.

"I'm not – there is no guy, Charlie." No, you could hardly consider Jason Gideon a 'guy'. The ex-profiler's a man, no doubt about it – maybe a little bit too much man, as far as Elle's concerned. Bossy, chauvinistic; it'd be a match made in hell, she keeps telling herself. So there's really no explanation for the smile that lit her face when she saw he'd called, or when he finally managed to catch up with her.


"Elle. You're a hard lady to get a hold of."

"I know, I'm sorry," she says with a small laugh, struggling to keep her phone between her shoulder and her ear as she drops her groceries onto the kitchen counter. "It's just been busy," she tells him, trying not to sound like a breathless teen whose just gotten a call from the high school's star quarterback.

"We need to talk."

Elle's forehead crinkles. "About?"

"The other night – it was nice. I mean, I had a nice time."

Oh. Okay. She smiles a little. Only Gideon could describe an evening of occasional hostility and hot sex as 'nice.' "Me, too."

"I'm glad." Elle can almost picture him scratching his ear. "I'm lousy on the phone; hell, I'm lousy in person, it's just - you're a beautiful young woman, and I'm…" He trails off in frustrated silence.

"Not?" she supplies, eyes narrowing with suspicion. This is sounding more and more like a brush-off; she's delivered enough of them to recognize the signs.

"Right." He takes a deep breath. "Look, I made a mess of my marriage, and I don't want to make those same mistakes again."

"Hey, Gideon, I get it," she tells him, before this can become more humiliating than it already is.

"You do?" Relieved, damn him.

"Yeah," Elle says, setting her keys on the counter next to her bags. "You really didn't need to send a greeting card. A simple "not interested" will do."

"Elle, that's not what I'm - "


She'd slapped the phone shut before he could utter another word. And she hasn't thought about the man in over a week, except for the two messages she deleted before even listening to them. At all. Really.

Charlie snorts. "Right. I have three older sisters; I know," he insists with a smirk. "You're all moody, and you got that glazed look to your eyes - "

"Just because your wife is eight months pregnant doesn't mean I won't harm you," Elle feels compelled to warn him, just as the tinny strains of Springsteen's Dancing in the Dark echo in the quiet bar.

"Okay, okay," he mock surrenders, holding his hands up under her steady glare. "Geez. Under fire from all sides," he mutters, drawing his cell phone from his pocket and flipping it open, effectively halting the musical stylings of The Boss. "Hey, Brenda, everything okay?"

Elle glances over, noting the immediate concern lining the man's face as he listens to his wife on the other end of the phone.

"How far apart are they?... Yeah, well, just try to relax, okay? The doc said this might happen; I'll be home in a couple of hours."

"Charlie," Elle says, and waits for him to glance in her direction. She tilts her head toward the door. "Go. I can handle things here."

Charlie cups his hand over the phone. "No," he outright refuses. Then before Elle can argue, "I'm not leaving you here by yourself. Abe would kill me."

Elle snorts. That's true – the old man is always going on that the neighborhood isn't what it used to be – but Abe isn't going to know. "I think I can handle Vic," she tells her co-worker, with an amused glance for the bar's only patron. Charlie follows her gaze, lips twitching as the out-of-work toll booth cashier snores into a bowl of pretzels. "Come on, Charlie, this place is dead on weeknights; you were just saying it yourself."

He's considering now, Elle can tell. "But you had that thing tonight, didn't you? With your friend?"

Elle shrugs. "So I'll call him and have him come here instead; he won't mind." Reid's always been sweet that way. Charlie looks skeptical, though, and Elle scoffs. "He's a federal agent, Charlie; you can't get much safer than that."

The man sighs, finally uncovering his phone. "Brenda? I'll be home soon, okay?" Charlie waits for some kind of reply, then deftly shuts his phone. He slips his apron over his head, shooting her a worried look. "You're gonna call him, right?"

"Yes, Charlie," she says patiently, returning to her clipboard and locating the last item she'd checked off. "Right after I finish inventory."

"Okay." He makes it half way to the door before he turns around. "And Elle?"

Her brows rise. "Yeah?"

"I owe you."

Elle's smile curls with satisfaction. "Yes, you do."

# # #

It doesn't take long for Elle to finish her task and call Reid. She listens to the phone ring, waits for him to answer.

"Hi, Elle." Elle can almost see Reid's shy, earnest grin, his hands shoved into the pockets of his chinos.

"Hey, you," she volleys in return, even as she hears the jangle of the door bells. "There's been a change of plan; would you mind coming here instead?"

"Sure, I'm, ah, just finishing up a game with Gideon."

Of course. Elle tamps down on an unexpected twinge of envy. She's never begrudged Reid his place as Gideon's favorite; she's not about to start just because Gideon doesn't want to go steady with her.

"Liam in tonight?"

Elle turns toward the man hovering at end of the bar. Thirties maybe, with a few days worth of stubble and a worn flannel shirt. He sniffs loudly, blood-shot eyes darting agitatedly over the room.

"Hold on, Reid." She shifts the cell away from her face. "Haven't seen him," she tells the customer, making sure to keep it casual and to the point. The guy reeks of stale sweat and alcohol, and unlike Vic, doesn't seem to have lovin' on his mind.

The man laughs, a short, harsh bark in the nearly empty establishment. "Well, ain't that the shit. You wanna pour me a Jack?" he asks, sniffing again.

"I think you should go home, sleep it off," Elle advises.

"Now, see?" he says, drawing a Ruger from the back of his waistband and cocking the gun in Elle's direction. "That's where you're wrong; hang up the phone."

Elle moves the phone back to her mouth. "Reid, I have to go," she says calmly, her eyes still leveled on the weapon and its owner.

"Elle, what's - " Elle cuts short Reid's query by flipping the phone shut.

"What's your name?" Elle asks the man, hoping to establish some sort of rapport.

"Fuck you; that's my name," he snaps, his knuckles whitening where he grips the gun.

"You don't want to do this," Elle reasons, just as a flicker of movement to her right catches her eye. Vic, then. Shit. "You're having a bad night."

"Lady, I'm having a bad life." He sniffs, rubs his sleeve across his face the best he can while still keeping the weapon trained on Elle. "Your friend Liam laid me off. Me. And I got the bastard that job."

"That's terrible," Elle agrees sympathetically. "But it's not worth going to jail for."

"How would you know?" The man scoffs, jerks the gun in the direction of the register. "Open the register and get out the cash," he directs her, moving through the bar's swinging gate and wrapping his free arm around Elle's neck as he thrusts the muzzle of the revolver intro her ribs.

"You leave her alone." A quick glance confirms that Vic's woken from his bowl of pretzels. The old man pushes himself up from his chair, shuffling over with a blustering fist raised.

"Stay out of it, old man," Elle's new friend warns, shifting uncomfortably as Vic approaches the bar. The man's body language is setting off all kinds of internal alarms, and Elle swallows down panic and bile. She remembers what a bullet feels like entering soft flesh, that sick freak rooting his fingers in her wound so he could write on Elle's walls with her own blood.

"Look, I'm getting it," she promises, managing to keep the tremor from her voice as she slowly pops open the register and beginning to pull out the stacks of bills. "Just relax." The words are meant as much for Vic as they are for the gun man, but apparently subtext is lost on the old regular. Well, lost or ignored.

"You got no business coming in here making trouble," Vic rails, his face ruddy with outrage. "You take your hands off her - "

The man with the gun shifts instantly, leaning over the bar and bringing the butt of the pistol down sharply against Vic's temple. The toll booth operator staggers, then crumples to the ground.

Elle leans as far over the bar as the man's grip allows. "Vic! You didn't have to do that," she says accusingly, anger momentarily eclipsing her apprehension.

The man shrugs, sniffs. "You're right – should have just shot him." The faint wail of distant sirens filters through the bars closed doors, and he scowls. "What the fuck…"

"You can still get out of here – just take the money and go," Elle urges, shoving the cash toward him.

"What? So they can shoot me out in the street? Bet you'd like that, wouldn't you?" he asks, hauling her out from behind the bar and shoving her into a nearby chair. "No, no one goes anywhere until Liam gets here."

# # #

They come through delivery. Elle's expecting Reid – he's never given up on her, even when she's wanted him to – but she blinks when Gideon appears behind the younger man in FBI vest, shadowing Reid effectively as the young agent keeps his gun leveled on the target. Elle wonders where Gideon buys all the damn pullover sweaters, anyway.

"FBI; put the gun down," Reid commands, carefully moving into the room.

"I'd do what he says, Irwin," Gideon advises over his own weapon.

"Irwin?" Elle snorts, as Irwin's arm tightens around her ribs. "No wonder you wouldn't tell me your name."

"Shut up," Irwin growls, shaking her once for emphasis. "I'm not putting down anything. I want you to call Liam Cunningham, and get his ass down here!"

"Captain Davis already told you that wasn't possible," Reid reminds the man, for all the good it does. Throughout the hour of off and on negotiations with Captain Davis, Irwin's been erratic and unpredictable, and attempts to establish rapport or garner cooperation have only fueled his agitated state.

"Captain Davis is a fucking liar. Now, get back – get back or I'll shoot her," Irwin vows belligerently, sniffing again.

"You don't want to do that," Reid counsels, lifting his left hand in a staying gesture.

Gideon shrugs. "Maybe he does."

This time it's Irwin that blinks. "What?"

"You heard me. What kind of moron shoots the collateral?" Gideon huffs in disbelief. "Tell you what; I'm gonna make it easy for you," he tells Irwin. "I'm even gonna set my gun down." The ex-profiler slowly uncocks his gun and places it carefully on a nearby table. "Come on, her for me," he pushes. "Who do you think is gonna get you the better deal, Irwin? Some barmaid or a genuine federal agent?"

Elle's suddenly back on that dock in Seattle.


"I'll shoot her."

"I wouldn't. If I were you, I'd aim the gun at me; you shoot the girl, you got nothing. Shoot me instead. Come on, what are you, a lousy shot?" Gideon goads. "I'm eight feet away, you got a perfect shot – shoot me!"


"He's lying," Elle says quickly, taking advantage of Irwin's momentary confusion. She ignores the brief surprise she sees on Reid's and Gideon's faces and twists her head to meet Irwin's gaze. His eyes dart between the agents and Elle.

"What are you talking about?" he demands warily, and at this angle Elle can see the spittle flecking his chapped lips.

"They're not going to shoot you," Elle maintains, injecting her voice with all the authority she can muster. "We can get my keys and walk right out of here; I'll drive you anywhere you want."

"That's not gonna happen," Gideon warns, although Elle's uncertain whether he's speaking to Irwin or to her.

"Your car nearby?" Irwin asks, glancing toward the doors, the idea of another chance to locate Cunningham evidently growing on him.

"Right on the street," Elle promises. She needs this guy out of here. Away from Vic, away from Reid, and away from the ex-federal agent who seems to want another bullet put in him.

Gideon spreads his hands placatingly. "You're making a mistake."

"Sir, I'm not going to ask you again," Reid orders sternly. "Put your weapon down."

Irwin gives that strange, barking laugh again, jamming the muzzle further into Elle's side as his gaze cuts to Gideon. "She's right; you're not gonna shoot me as long as I got her," he taunts, edging Elle in the direction of the doors.

"No, I'm not," Gideon agrees, as Reid fires, plugging a bullet into the man's forehead.

Elle releases a shuddering breath as Irwin slumps to the floor. She doesn't recall Gideon making his way to her side, or how Reid's come to kneel by Vic, speaking to the elderly man in low tones as local LEOs quickly file their way into the bar.

"You okay?" Gideon asks, presenting Elle with a chair, but she's always been more comfortable on her feet.

"Fine," she replies, a little light-headed, the sound of Reid's shot still ringing in her ears.

He nods grimly, motioning for a paramedic. "You got a bad habit of hanging up on people."

"Come on, Gideon, is this really necessary?" Elle protests, as one of the young men approach, doubtless eager to make his poke and prod quota for the day.

"Yes," Gideon retorts, unsympathetic, and Elle sighs. For the next several minutes, she's subjected to numerous inane questions and a routine examination, her compliance encouraged by the weight of Gideon's hand on her shoulder. She can't quite contain her grin of relief when Reid finally approaches again, always looking somewhat out of place with his thin frame and youthful demeanor.

"How are you?" he asks, concern lighting his brown eyes. He's taken off his bulletproof vest, and Elle's amused to note that even with his shorter cut, Reid's hair still manages to look like he's just rolled out of bed.

"Medically if not mentally sound," Elle quips, and Reid curls a small smile, some of the tension leaving his shoulders. "How's Vic?"

"They think he has a concussion; they're taking him in for some tests," Reid says, almost apologetically, fingers tugging at the purple tie he's wearing with his sweater vest. Then, "Hey, we're still waiting for the owner, so it looks like I might be a while?"

"I'll take her home," Gideon says from somewhere behind her, like Elle's not even there.

"I have my car," Elle puts in quickly. The last thing she wants is Gideon to feel obligated. She didn't ask him to come here tonight, damn it.

"We'll have someone drive it home," Gideon counters.

"I'm fine to drive; really," Elle insists.

Gideon's brows knit together over narrowed eyes, and he rubs absently at his left hand. "When did you get so pig-headed?"

"When'd you get so bossy?" Elle wants to know.

Reid's forehead crinkles. "Are you kidding?" he asks, earning him a sharp look from Gideon. "Ah, yeah, well, I'll just get back to work here," he rambles awkwardly, shoving his hands into his pockets. "I'll stop by later, okay, Elle?"

Elle nods, offers the kid a reassuring smile. "Sure," she agrees easily.

"Now she's sure," Gideon mutters. Elle ignores him.

"Dr. Reid." Captain Davis motions from across the room, and Reid lightly touches Elle's arm before heading in the man's direction. Elle waits until he's out of earshot to turn to Gideon.

"You don't have to - "

"Where are your things?"

# # #

"What the hell were you trying to pull back there?" Gideon asks, skillfully navigating the few miles between the bar and Elle's apartment. Elle surreptitiously watches his hands guide the steering wheel of the Jeep, flushes as she recalls just how well they handle her. Whatever their differences, sex definitely hadn't been the problem.

"I was trying to keep you from getting yourself shot – again," she adds pointedly.

"Ought to have you charged with obstruction of justice," Gideon grumbles to himself.

"Just put it on my tab," Elle drawls, hoping for at least catch a glimpse of the man's humor, but his fingers only tighten on the wheel, and they pass the rest of the drive in tense silence.

# # #

"I don't know why you're making such a big deal out of this," Elle says, as Gideon walks her inside her apartment. She hangs her coat up, beyond frustrated with the man's ability to make her feel like a guilty child. She rubs her arms furiously as she wanders into the living area, staring out the large window and into the dark street below.

"Reid and I were handling him," Gideon says, following behind her. "It was you that volunteered to let him waltz you out the door and into a firing squad."

Elle frowns, glancing at him over her shoulder. "That's ridiculous."

He spreads his hands in question. "Is it?"

"Look, I don't need you to save me." If he thinks she's going to apologize for protecting him and Reid, he's going to have to think again.

Gideon's brows rise. "Don't need, or don't want?

Elle huffs her exasperation, finally turning to face him. "Is there a difference?"

"Yes; there is," he responds flatly, leaning forward to brace his hands on the back of her club chair.

"If anything had happened - I didn't want anyone hurt because of me." She couldn't live with that, not along with everything else.

"You weren't the one holding a gun," Gideon is quick to point out.

"Not this time," she returns, and instantly wishes she could take back the words as Gideon drops his head to stare at the space between his resting hands.

"Oh." He chuffs softly, his mouth twisting into an ironic line, and Elle stiffens. "Oh. Now we're getting somewhere. This isn't about your pride, this is about William Lee."

Elle's eyes flash to his, arms crossing tightly over her chest. "Leave it alone, Gideon."

His face creases with irritation. "When are we gonna talk about this, huh?"

"How about never? Does never work for you?"

"What is it?" Gideon wants to know, straightening and moving around the chair into the living area. "You feel sorry for yourself, so you're gonna let some moron put a bullet in you?"

"It wasn't exactly my first plan, no," she shoots back defensively, lifting her chin as the man closes the distance between them.

"Then why not let us do our job?"

"Because you didn't belong there," she snaps, but Gideon isn't put off.

"Why?"

Elle shakes her head, takes a step backward. "Because."

"Why?" Gideon presses, and the words spring to her lips of their own volition.

"I don't have the right - "she blurts, cutting short when Gideon's eyes glint with sudden perception.

"The right to what? Protection? Help?" His brows draw together. "You think you don't deserve it?

Elle clenches her jaw. He's just trying to provoke her now. And it's working, damn it.

"You don't deserve help; you think you deserve another bullet?" he charges. "Because you happened to shoot a guy who was gonna keep raping women as long as he was free?"

"I didn't happen to shoot him," Elle fires back. "It wasn't an accident."

"You were cleared."

Elle scoffs. "So that makes it okay?"

"No." Gideon's hand wraps around her upper arm, towing her toward the sofa.

"What are you doing?" she demands as he takes a seat, even though it's pretty damn obvious what he thinks he's doing. By the time Elle thinks to balk, Gideon's already pulled her over his lap, providing her with an extremely uninteresting view of one of her sofa cushions.

"You wanna be punished? I'm punishing you."

Elle grunts as Gideon hauls her in closer to his stomach, his left arm anchoring her waist. Her attempt to push upward is rewarded by a sharp slap to the seat of her cotton slacks, and a strangled hiss escapes Elle's lips. "Is this your solution to everything?" she jibes, unwilling to reward the man's gall with an undignified struggle.

"No," he replies simply, and smacks her again. This time Elle is ready for it, automatically choking back a gasp at the smarting blow. "It's my solution for you. You're behaving like a child."

"I am not!" Elle denies hotly. Since when is accepting the consequences of your actions childish?

Gideon shakes his head. "Two years later, and you're still running away."

"Yeah, because you would never do that," Elle grits sarcastically.

He actually chuckles, the bastard. "If you think you can spank me, you're welcome to try," he invites cordially, just as his hand starts clapping against her thinly-covered seat in earnest.

Elle bites her lip, determined not to make a sound. What, does he think he's calling her bluff here, that she's suddenly going to see things his way just because he decides he wants to treat her some like some bratty kid caught stealing candy from the grocery store? She squirms over his jean-clad thighs, grimacing as Gideon continues to spank her thoroughly. His palm lands swat after stinging swat, its rhythmic cadence quickly warming her ass to thoroughly uncomfortable proportions.

Elle's forgotten how much this hurts. She suddenly recalls the last time – well, not that last time with Gideon; that one she'd written off to foreplay – but the last time she was spanked by her father. She was seven and broke Joey Halliday's nose, and she wasn't sorry about it, either; not until Dad got home. He hadn't been angry, but his disappointment was palpable. Lying over his knee, crying her way through her spanking, Elle had been unable to escape the realization that she'd done something terribly wrong.

As Gideon keeps swatting from side to side, that same wave of suffocating guilt threatens to overwhelm her, has Elle blinking back frustrated tears. She hasn't done anything wrong; she hasn't, she tells herself, as the flat of Gideon's hand delivers several smarting whacks to her already scorched sit spots. A groan rises in Elle's throat. Shit. He's just relentless, the asshole. And if he doesn't stop soon, she's going to embarrass herself.

"That's enough!" she cries, hating the frantic edge to her voice. "Just stop!"

To Elle's surprise, Gideon does exactly that, releasing her waist and somehow getting both of them back on their feet without further injury. Elle straightens on shaky legs, flushed and breathing hard. It takes all her self-control to keep her eyes from welling up as she pins Gideon with her most disdainful stare. The man doesn't even looked winded, damn him.

"Feel better?" he asks, fucking sincerely even, and for a split second Elle thinks she might burst into humiliated tears after all.

"I'd like you to leave now," she says coldly, turning her back on him to face the window again. For a long moment she doesn't think he moves, but then she hears his quiet footsteps crossing the hardwood floor, the soft creak of a door.

One minute passes, then another, and Elle's shoulders curve inward as she draws a quavering breath, her arms wrapping around herself for comfort. The events of the evening seem to rush her all at once; the gun shoved painfully against her ribcage, the sudden jump of her pulse when Gideon entered the room, that stupid, stupid spanking. Her feet ache from the eight hour shift, her ass is on fire, and somehow she's managed to ruin everything all over again...

Elle erupts in a sob, the tears coming hot and furious and ugly, and damn if she can stop them…

"Elle?" Gideon's voice says quietly from behind her, and Elle brushes futilely at her eyes. Why the hell is he back? She gradually turns to face him, tries to compose herself as much as she can.

"I thought you left," she says with strained dignity, willing the man to pretend he doesn't see what a mess she is.

"I had to make a quick call," Gideon explains gently, his dark gaze moving slowly over her face. Then, "I'm not going anywhere."

And it sounds like a promise, damn it, and all it takes is him opening his arms for Elle's resolve to crumble. She quickly steps into their promised comfort, burrowing into Gideon's chest, her fingers clutching his sweater. His hand strokes over her hair, pets her like an overwrought toddler as he murmurs soft, nonsensical words meant to soothe.

"I hate being like this," she breathes, the wet words muffled against his dampening shoulder.

"Like what?" he asks.

Elle's response is half-laugh, half-sob. "Weak."

Gideon's hands move to her shoulders, and Elle finds herself set carefully back in his embrace. He peers at her sympathetically. "Is that what you think?"

Elle nods. "I couldn't live with it," she tells him, dashing at her remaining tears with the back of her hand. "With those women getting hurt because I panicked on some routine assignment."

"You let your emotions get the best of you." His mouth quirks sadly. "You're one hell of a tough lady, but you were attacked in your own home; you don't walk away from that without a few scars."

"And that excuses killing a suspect?" She can't fathom why he's still here.

Gideon frowns. "No, it doesn't. You crossed the line, Elle."

The frank condemnation has her swallowing hard, and she shifts to shove her hands into her pockets, looks away.

"Hey," Gideon says, with a light shake of her shoulders. "There isn't a person worth his salt in law enforcement who hasn't considered taking the law into his own hands at one time or another."

Elle's shaking her head. "My dad didn't. He believed in the law, Gideon; being a cop made him so proud. He'd be so ashamed."

"No. Not ashamed," he assures her, a faint smile curving his mouth as his gaze sweeps her face. "Worried and guilty, maybe."

Elle's brow crinkles. "Guilty?"

Gideon looks almost rueful now. "A good father knows when his kids are in trouble, knows when it's time to step in. You had no business being out there."

Elle ducks his grip, suddenly suspicious. "Is that why you're here? Because you feel guilty?"

"I'm here because I enjoy your company, and I'd like to keep seeing you. Something you'd know if you'd pick up a damn phone," he tells her.

Elle frowns. "But that day; you said - "

"I said I didn't want to make the same mistakes; you didn't let me finish," he says. "I don't want to make the same mistakes with you."

"You want to make new mistakes?" Gideon's brows draw together in annoyance, and Elle clears her throat awkwardly. "You really want to – what? Date me?"

He purses his lips thoughtfully. "Go steady, date; whatever the kids are calling it these days… You got a problem with that, now's the time to speak up."

"No," she replies without thinking, then flushes. So much for being a woman of mystery.

"No, what?" he wants to know.

Oh, for crying out loud… "No, I don't have a problem with that," Elle recites longsufferingly.

Gideon smiles, rubbing his hands together. "Good; that's very good."

Elle reaches back, gingerly rubbing at her still-smarting ass. "You got some weird ideas about romancing women," she tells him.

"You needed to let your guard down; I thought a spanking might help."

"Right," she drawls. "So that was for me, and not because you were mad about earlier?"

He shrugs. "I didn't say it was only for you."

Elle rolls her eyes. "Just do me a favor, and don't make a habit of it."

"Entirely up to you," he agrees amicably. Before Elle can make heads or tails of that remark, Gideon's hands are reaching out, pulling her close again. Elle rests her cheek against his chest, comforted by the thrum of his steady heartbeat. "You scared the hell out of me, you know," he tells her, his warm breath stirring the hair by her ear.

"I'm sorry," she murmurs. And she is. Not that she would change anything.

"And Elle?"

"Yeah?"

"Don't ever hang up on me again," he warns gruffly.

"Yes, Dad."

"You just can't stop yourself, can you?"

Elle hides her smile in his sweater and doesn't reply. After all, there are some things a profiler just has to figure out for himself.

# # #

Elle's only half-asleep when she hears the persistent buzz of the doorbell. She glances to her right, where ex-SSA Jason Gideon is sprawled on his stomach, his arm still wrapped possessively around Elle's waist, even in sleep. Smiling at his soft snore, she carefully eases the limb back to the man's side and drapes the sheet over his naked form.

Slipping silently from the bed, Elle pads out to the entry in her old, over-sized tee, pauses with her hand on the lock.

"Reid?" she queries, raising her voice just enough to be heard through the door.

"It's me," Reid's voice verifies, and Elle promptly lets him in, switching on the light as she closes the door behind him.

"Hey," she says, feeling a little guilty as she notices the circles under his eyes. "Not exactly the evening we had planned, was it?"

"Not really," Reid replies agreeably, cheerful mood intact despite the late hour. Elle can't imagine what she's ever done to deserve him.

"Thanks for coming to save me," she says, smiling and bumping his shoulder with her own.

"You're welcome. I think I'm getting better at it," he adds, sounding pleased with himself. "Although I'm pretty sure offering to give the hostage taker a ride wasn't part of our training."

Elle rolls her eyes at the mild censure. "So I've heard."

"Elle?" Gideon's voice calls from the bedroom, and Reid glances in that direction.

"Gideon's still here?"

"It's just Reid," Elle calls over her shoulder to Gideon, before the ex-profiler can decide to arm himself. She turns back to Reid, just catching his smirk before he ducks his head. "What are you smiling about?" Elle wants to know.

"Nothing," Reid tries to deny.

"You don't seem surprised," Elle observes.

Reid brightens, eyebrows rising with enthusiasm. "Actually, it makes sense? Anthropologically, older men are respected as having survived because of superior strength and mental skill sets," he informs her, warming to his material. "Women have historically been inclined to seek more mature partners, seeing older men as better able to provide social and economic security, and also as a means of retaining someone of experience to initiate them sexually - "

"Reid!" Elle interjects, because, okay, they are so not going there…

"He also insisted on coming with me when I thought you might be in trouble," Reid admits sheepishly.

"I'll bet."

"You might want to get used to it?" Reid suggests, scratching at the side of his neck. "Gideon's a great guy, but he's not exactly easygoing."

"Who says I'm not?" Gideon wants to know, shuffling out from the hallway in Elle's terry bathrobe, much to her amusement.

"Hotch," Reid supplies automatically.

"Garcia," Elle adds.

"Anderson," Reid returns.

"Who?" Gideon frowns, but doesn't wait for an answer. His gaze fixes on Reid. "Everything go okay?"

Reid nods. "Shaw's history of violence is well-documented; there shouldn't be any inquiries. I just need to write up the report…" He trails off, eyes moving over his mentor's fluffy white robe. "Nice bathrobe."

Gideon looks downs, brow furrowed. "I can take it off if it makes you uncomfortable."

"No," Elle replies quickly, stifling her smile at the deadpan remark. Reid misses it entirely.

"That's okay," Reid says. "I should get going, anyway, and let you guys get back to, uh…" His cheeks pinken noticeably, making him appear much younger than his twenty-seven years.

"Sleep, Spencer," Gideon reassures him, mouth curving indulgently. "We were sleeping."

Elle steps forward and kisses the genius's smooth cheek. "Dinner tomorrow?" she asks, hoping to make the evening up to him. "I'll call you."

"Sure." Reid reaches and opens the door to leave. Gideon catches it before it closes, leaning to watch him depart.

"Drive safe," Gideon tells him. "Don't get distracted."

"Yes, sir," Elle hears Reid reply, obviously used to the man's parental dictates.

Satisfied, Gideon walks back inside the apartment. Elle carefully closes the door behind her friend and former colleague, sighs when Gideon wraps an arm around her as they head back to the bedroom.

"He's growing up so fast," she says, switching off the lights again.

Gideon hmm's in agreement. "Tell me about it."

# # #

Elle wakes to soft, filtered sunlight. Her eyes flutter open, finally focusing on the other occupant of her queen-sized bed. Gideon, already showered and dressed, lies on the sheets next to her, chin propped in his hand as his dark eyes study her face. His lashes are ridiculously long, she notices.

"You're watching me sleep," Elle says, staring as he rewards her with one of his enigmatic smiles.

"Yes."

"It's a little creepy."

The man chuckles. "Elle?"

"Yeah?" she asks.

"Stop talking," Gideon advises gruffly, leaning to capture her lips with his own. The kiss is firm, passionate, and Elle's almost regretful when Gideon finally pulls away.

"Mmmm. I could get used to this," she murmurs, mouth tingling pleasurably. The corners of his eyes crinkle, and Elle suddenly realizes how that might be interpreted, "I mean, the sleeping in, not - "

"I could get used to it, too," Gideon admits, effectively neutralizing any awkwardness.

Elle offers him a grateful smile before getting up and beginning her morning rummage through her dresser. "I'd offer to make you breakfast, but I'm not much of a cook," she confesses. When other girls were inside baking cookies, Elle had been out in the street playing baseball.

"I'll cook." The man doesn't miss a beat.

Elle snorts as she rifles for a clean shirt. "Good luck. I probably have a carton of spoiled milk and three yogurts in there."

"Then we go out."

"To breakfast?" Elle doesn't usually eat breakfast. Not that she's about to tell Gideon that and endure the inevitable lecture. Besides, he's already rolling from the bed and heading out to the living area, doubtless to fetch her coat.

"Have to feed you, don't we?" he calls. "Saw a diner around the corner."

# # #

"You're thinking awfully hard this morning," Gideon says as they walk in search of Gideon's diner. The morning air is crisp, and Elle breathes out a visible puff of air.

"Sorry. Guess I'm not used to having to company in the morning." Elle doesn't do sleepovers at all, actually. Any sex she's had these last two years has been of the strictly get in, get out variety; no promises, no regrets. But Jason Gideon isn't some stranger she met in a bar, someone she can keep at a safe and reasonable distance. They have a past, a history; they share friends. Things will get messy.

"Having second thoughts already?" Gideon inquires dryly.

Elle's mouth twists ruefully as she allows him to steer her across the street, his arm a steady warmth around her shoulders. "Not second thoughts, exactly. I just want to be realistic about where this is going." And where it's not. The man has a way of making her forget herself, of making her wish for things a smarter woman wouldn't wish for.

"Are you enjoying yourself?"

What? "Yeah. Of course." Elle tucks a stray wave of hair back behind her ear. "I'm just - "

"Afraid you'll find me irresistible?" Gideon asks.

A reluctant smile tugs at Elle's lips. "Try impossible. I'm just saying; I'm not expecting anything here," she continues, standing aside as Gideon opens the door to Lem's for her. "We're both adults. So we share a few dinners, spend a few nights together. No one says it has to mean something."

Gideon shrugs. "What if it does?"

Elle blinks.

Gideon smiles, offering her a wink before brushing past her to find a seat at the diner's long counter. "What do you think about the special?" he asks over his shoulder.

Elle chuffs softly, shakes her head before moving to join him. Sometimes she even surprises herself.

She might end up liking breakfast after all.


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