Summary: It's a warm summer night. Rossi makes a spontaneous decision, and Reid's along for the ride.
Author’s Note: I really am so thankful for my artist, sexycazzy, and my beta, pumpkin_pixi, without whom none of this would have been possible.
Link to sexycazzy’s Art: Here!
“We got one last chance to make it real,
To trade in these wings on some wheels;
Climb in back, Heaven’s waitin’ down on the tracks.”
~ “Thunder Road” by Bruce Springsteen
The first time he asks Reid to go out with him, he's not quite sure what he means to do once he has him.
But he's on the front porch of the house Reid's renting rooms in anyway, and there's a window open upstairs blaring Bruce Springsteen. Rossi's a sentimental bastard, and this is too damn crazy, too damn perfect.
He raps sharply on the screen door's wooden frame, and then Reid's standing there, staring at him.
"No," Rossi says, almost too quick. "I want to take you out."
It's the truth, bare and simple, with no other way to phrase it. He wants to take Reid out right now, just as he is -- Rossi hadn't known before this that Reid even owned jeans, much less wore them, but there they are -- and drive. Maybe it's Bruce singing from upstairs about the night bustin' open, but he wants to take Reid away with him for tonight and just go, the way he used to when he was young.
Reid cocks his head to the side, inquisitive and curious. Then, to Rossi’s utter surprise he relents. "All right."
Rossi steps back and Reid steps out. Rossi appreciates the sight: Reid in denim and cotton, the white t-shirt doing more for him than any dress shirt ever has. His hair is mussed and his movements are unsure but determined.
They walk down to Rossi's car, an old green Chevrolet he's had forever because it's comfortable. Reid, to his surprise, can appreciate a good car, brushing his fingertips across the door to the old-fashioned lock. He looks at Rossi and smiles, shy, like he doesn't know that Rossi's wanted to get him alone like this for years now. "Nice car."
Rossi nods and smiles himself. "Great minds have good taste in cars."
"Actually, Albert Einstein hated driving." Reid's on the verge of a rambling discourse about transportation and genius, Rossi knows, but all he winds up saying is, "But he was an exception."
Rossi can't help but laugh. Reid can have a wicked sense of humor, and this is definitely a manifestation of that, judging from the glint in his eyes. It's one of the things Rossi likes about him, that unexpected humor that so few people get to see.
He pulls open the passenger side door and gestures for Reid to slide in. Reid does, folding up awkwardly. Another thing Rossi likes -- the way this mathematical genius can sit in ways where the lines and angles of his body defy every mathematical concept ever. Rossi walks around to the driver's side and sits down, closing his door the same time Reid closes his.
"Where are we going?" Reid asks, conversationally curious.
"Don't have a destination in mind." Rossi looks over at him. "On nights like this, I just drive. Could last the weekend," he warned.
Reid stills. "And if we get a case?"
"Then we meet the team wherever they're going," Rossi says easily, hoping it's enough. Tonight he feels young, and he wants to enjoy it with Reid.
Reid settles after a moment, the impossible geometry of his limbs relaxing into something more fluid. "So I'm being kidnapped, possibly for the weekend, with only the clothes on my back, by one of the greatest profilers who ever lived. I'm strangely okay with this."
"Good," Rossi says, and hits the gas.
They drive in silence for a while, the top down on the old Chevy, and Rossi wonders what it would've looked like if he'd managed this a year or two earlier, when Reid's hair was still long. As it stands, the wind ruffles the shorter cut and presses Reid's shirt to his chest, and Rossi wonders how Reid isn't drowning in women.
They're headed west toward the setting sun, which is a great red fireball hanging low in the sky, painting the clouds gold and pink and purple.
Reid has his hands resting gently on the dashboard, eyes watching the sunset with a kind of reverent curiosity -- looking toward the future, it seems, as much as toward the sunset. He leans back in his seat, trailing his hand to the radio controls, fiddling with the radio, and there's Springsteen again.
Reid laughs softly. "Springsteen seems awfully apropos."
"He did write a lot of songs about people running off on spontaneous road trips," Rossi agrees.
"We got one last chance to make it real," Reid hums along to the radio, voice sharp over Springsteen's radio-scratchy rumble, "To trade in these wings on some wheels."
Rossi glances over at him. Reid doesn't have the loveliest voice, but he's pitch perfect -- something that doesn't surprise Rossi at all. Reid continues, barely audible over the rush of wind around them as Rossi breaks the speed limit intentionally. He looks good, the sunlight gilding the edges of his skin and threading through his hair, almost leonine.
Rossi is a profiler, but he is also a writer, and, as much as he hates the cliché, he could write sonnets about the gilt-ivory curve of Reid's throat in the dying light.
He stays quiet, though, clamping down on the unhelpful and writerly words and ideas that try to flood him.
Reid lapses back into silence when the song ends, and the quiet is companionable as the sun finishes setting and Rossi is spared the sight of gilded white skin and gold-threaded hair. They're deep into Virginia now as the stars come out, bright points of light spangling a dark purple sky, unpolluted by human lights.
"'S nice," Rossi murmurs.
Reid seems to understand. "I grew up in Vegas, where it never really got dark, but, once you got out into the desert, it was impossibly beautiful. Quiet, cold, dark, with those brilliant stars -- the diametric opposite of daytime, or even a Vegas night."
Rossi laughs, imagining a little Reid out in the desert, watching the stars. "Commack was practically rural when I was a kid."
"When there were still woolly mammoths roaming Montauk Point?" Reid asks, voice far too innocent.
Rossi shakes his head and grumbles, snatching another glance, and Reid is actually smirking in the dark. Something about the situation is cutting down the walls Reid puts up around people -- even around the rest of the BAU.
This is the moment when Reid's stomach rumbles, loudly.
"Dinner?" Rossi asks.
"Uh, yeah." It's light enough for Rossi to be able to see that Reid's blushing. "I kinda skipped lunch."
Rossi shakes his head, laughing. "And you wonder why your mom's always telling you you're too skinny?" He pauses, looking for the next exit; when he finds one, he takes it, turning onto a two-lane highway with cotton stretching out on both sides.
They find a diner on the outskirts of some nameless one-horse town, staffed by a lone, middle-aged waitress with candy-apple-red hair teased into a bouffant. She gives them a once-over, eyes lingering on Reid's long, lanky form appreciatively, and ushers them over to a corner booth.
Reid glances around the diner, nervous, before sliding into one side. Some memory must be trying to fight its way forward, but Reid won't let it.
"Something wrong?" Rossi asks him.
Reid blinks, and the nervousness fizzles out. He is quiet for a moment, and then says softly, "Gideon."
Rossi's not sure at first, and then the UnSub that broke Gideon comes to mind -- Frank. They'd met in a roadside diner, hadn't they? Of course they had, so Rossi nods, wondering if maybe somewhere else would have been better.
Reid seems okay, though. Maybe saying it helped, because the fluidity to his posture is back; he's relaxed enough to smile. And ask difficult questions of his own, it turns out.
"Why did you do...all of this?"
Rossi doesn't have to answer right away, because the redheaded waitress chooses that moment to ask them what they want. They both order hamburgers -- Reid adds bacon and subtracts onions, and Rossi adds pickles and subtracts mustard.
But the waitress has to give their orders to the kitchen, and Rossi knows precisely when he's fucked, because that's the moment her eyes stop lingering on Reid.
He doesn't know how to explain himself without sounding like a sap, and, however sappy he could get with his ex-wives, he can't do that when he's sitting across the table from a man he works with, who he's heard explain, without mincing words, exactly what kind of fucked-up bastard can slaughter families, or commit brutal rape-murders and take pictures to jack off to later, or kill Emily Prentiss.
But Reid is looking at him, mild and clearly expecting an answer from Rossi-the-brilliant-profiler, not Rossi-who's-been-over-the-moon-for-him-s
Thus, Rossi is fucked sideways.
Reid is quiet, though, nonjudgmental, as though whatever Rossi says is just fine. It isn't fair, that this kid has the patience of a goddamn mountain.
Finally, he gives in, and says the stupid thing, the pick-up-line thing: "To seduce you." He hates the word seduce -- you use that word with women you never intend to see again.
Reid tilts his head, weighing the words. Rossi thinks that he knows exactly why he fell hard for Reid, plummeting down like Alice in the rabbit hole, because when Reid tilts his head like that, thinking at the speed of light, he's beautiful like a long string of just the right words.
"Okay," Reid says, as if testing the word.
It's not a rejection, and that's enough for Rossi. The conversation moves on to safer topics -- fuck, discussing Tobias Hankel or Adam Jackson would be a safer topic tonight.
They're talking Timothy McVeigh when their burgers come, and they tuck in. The food is perfect -- Rossi loves diners, a side effect of being Long Island-born-and-raised -- and the conversation is the same, the way it always is when they talk about the one thing they've both devoted their lives to.
Rossi thinks they've scared the shit out of the waitress by the time they start in on Aileen Wuornos, and it's midway through that conversation when they pay their bill and leave.
Rossi's not sure if he's imagining it, or if Reid is standing just a little bit closer when they're up at the counter, but it's a nice thought.
They're back on the interstate when Rossi realises that Reid hasn't asked any of the awkward questions yet, as if he's reached his awkward questions quota for the night, or the questions don't really matter at this point.
It's incredibly dark now, aside from the stars and the Chevy's headlights, and the conversation wanes away once they try and fail to make sense of Wuornos's "sailing with the rock" comment. By ten o'clock, they've gone quiet again, and Rossi finds himself yawning despite himself. He's tired, yes; it was a long week, yes; but he doesn't want to stop driving.
"Don't fall asleep at the wheel," Reid whispers softly, impishly. "I'd hate to be pulled over without my credentials."
Rossi laughs, awake now, and shakes his head. "Why aren't you more like this with the rest of the team? You've got a wicked sense of humour."
"It kicks in at awkward moments," Reid explains, "And joking at crime scenes and in morgues is kind of poor form."
"And humour is more Morgan and Garcia's department, after all." Reid has one hand on the dashboard, and Rossi can practically sense his focus shift: "You know, I always imagined you'd drive domestic cars."
"I thought there was a moratorium on inter-team profiling, as per the ruling of Aaron "Hotch" Hotchner," Rossi pointed out.
Reid laughs, and Rossi loves the sound. "I seem to remember one David Rossi telling the aforementioned Unit Chief that 'it's not something we can turn off, Aaron, and you know it.'"
Damn that eidetic memory.
"And you wear horn-rimmed glasses and don't drive," he deadpans in reply. "Should I be surprised to find out you're a Whovian?"
"You know the terminology." Reid's tone of voice is thoughtful. "Dare I suspect that you DVR’d Torchwood?"
"Guilty as charged. Not my fault American TV's shit."
"Indeed." Reid is clearly a BBC devotee, as evidenced by his next statement: "Have you seen Sherlock?"
Rossi nods. "The Granada's better, but it's good."
They argue for a while about which actor played the best Holmes, before concluding that Robert Downey Jr.'s too broad and scruffy, and you can't really compare the Granada Holmes series to Sherlock, due to the changes in setting and addition of regular characters, so why bother?
By midnight they're both yawning, and decide that they need to find a motel before Rossi passes out and crashes them into a ditch.
They almost don't, though.
"It was on her list," Reid murmurs when they pull into the parking lot. Rossi knows exactly who he's talking about, and grief flares, brief and icy, in his chest.
Rossi almost reaches out. "We can probably find a Holiday Inn -- we don't have to stop here," he offers, clumsily.
"No, it's fine. We both need sleep." Reid unlocks his door and steps out of the car quick as an escape artist, in one flowing motion that's just a little bit heartbreaking -- Reid is always doing things for others, never for himself.
"Get back in the car," he says. "We'll find somewhere else."
Reid just stands there, looking at him like he's grown another head, hand tight on the open door of the Chevy. It's a deer-in-the-headlights look, and Rossi's just this close to sliding over to pull Reid back down. He doesn't, though, because he's the crappiest kidnapper ever and can't force Reid to do anything.
Then Reid sits down, quietly, swinging his long legs back into the car. He looks unbearably sad.
"I really am the shittiest kidnapper ever, aren't I?" Rossi asks, trying to lighten the deathly tone the night had taken and flooring the gas pedal. It's half-past midnight on an interstate; the only people out are going to be truckers, really dedicated RVers, and serial killers. Or some combination of the above, really. Nobody that's going to care, anyhow.
Reid huffs a half-chuckle. "You can pick up your award in custody at Quantico after Garcia tracks us down."
"Hey, I brought my phone. No tracking down necessary."
The Holiday Inn they're looking for is in the next town over, fifteen minutes away, and by one a.m. Rossi is at the desk, signing out a room for "just tonight yes leaving in the morning thank you no we don't want room service yes we would like the full in-room minibar now can we get a key please."
When he gets back to Reid, who's sitting impossibly still in the car, he drops the keycard into Reid's lap.
There's tension in the air, but Reid stands up with the key and gets out of the car. Rossi hopes that the tension will fade, because he doesn't want this to end badly. He's surprised when Reid enters his personal space, close enough to touch. He almost does, but isn't sure if Reid has even noticed.
They are silent as they find the room and step inside. Two beds; Rossi had been insistent on that with the receptionist.
Reid sits down on the bed nearest the window, which is covered by a thick, heavy curtain. He looks carved from sorrow again, and Rossi can't help himself this time; he crosses the room and grips Reid's shoulder. He doesn't speak, because words are failing, and when it comes to Reid, it has always been the deeds that matter.
"I'm sorry," Reid starts, looking at Rossi's hand and fiddling with the comforter of the hotel bed.
"Don't be," Rossi replies. There's nothing to be sorry for.
Reid shakes his head. "No, no. You've done all of this, and you're trying to do everything and I'm just making it more difficult for you because I can't forget and I..." Reid takes in a rattling breath, and Rossi wants to throttle whoever it was who convinced Reid that he isn't worth the effort.
"It's all right," Rossi hushes him. "It's all right."
But Reid is floundering now, under the weight of grief and the unnecessary shame that the grief causes. He hunches over, leaning his forearms along his thighs, and Rossi's hand slides over his back.
Rossi wonders what has held Reid together for so long, through everything he's been through, what mechanism is failing now.
Rossi does something that, before tonight, would have been unthinkable: he sits down next to Reid on the edge of a bed in a Holiday Inn just east of the Tennessee/Virginia border and reaches out to hold his hand. It is shaking and slender and pale and maddeningly soft; Rossi isn't sure he'll ever be able to let go.
"She left," Reid whispers. "To protect us. Instead of letting us help" -- Reid lets out a sudden fierce and mirthless laugh -- "she sacrificed herself to save us."
Rossi squeezes Reid's hand. "She was that way, I think. She'd rather risk herself than us."
Reid nods and, to Rossi's surprise, turns his hand to lace his fingers with Rossi's. The gesture is soft and sweet and so utterly, disarmingly Reid that Rossi wants to do something more. He isn't sure what, but he wants to do something, right now.
"Thank you," Reid whispers, a sincere, shattered sound.
"You're welcome." Rossi tacks on a silent always and goes quiet for a long time, holding Reid's hand and waiting for him to stop shaking.
Presently, Reid straightens up and turns enough to meet Rossi's eyes. Reid's are tawny in colour and dark with sorrow, and Rossi loves them like he loves everything else about Spencer Reid, with a reckless abandon he hasn't felt since long before his third divorce. Reid is searching his eyes, and Rossi wonders what he's looking for.
A long moment passes in silence, and then Reid whimpers and leans in to bury his face in the juncture between Rossi's neck and shoulder. He is sobbing now, the floodgates finally opening. Rossi brings his other arm up to pull Reid close.
He's not sure when exactly he falls asleep, but he wakes up with Reid still wrapped around him. They're half on the floor, and Rossi's back and neck will be screaming when he tries to move, but he can't really be fucked to care. Reid is leaning on him heavily, face still buried in his neck, and his hand is still entangled in Rossi's. He's still asleep, breath coming long and slow and deep. Rossi doesn't think he's ever seen Reid looking so peaceful. It's as breathtaking as the sunset-tinged Reid from yesterday was, in a slightly different way.
Reid's eyelashes flutter against Rossi's throat. His arm is still slung loosely around Rossi's waist, and Rossi goes stock-still, realising for the first time that holy shit he is holding Spencer Reid.
The implications are staggering. He just let Reid cry himself to sleep on his shoulder and is still holding him -- the next morning -- like a romantic old fool.
The fact that he is a romantic old fool does not escape him, but being and acting like are two very different things. He is rather unable to let go, and rather loath to, actually, because God only knows if he'll ever get the chance to hold Reid again.
He is lost in trying to convince himself to move when a sleepy "Good morning" nearly makes him jump a foot in the air.
"Good morning?" He hadn't meant that to sound like a question, but his pulse is thundering because Reid's arm has tightened around his waist and it seems that the genius is not a morning person, as he doesn't seem inclined to move.
"Thank you," Reid murmurs again. "I'd rather like to stay like this for awhile." It is quite clear that Reid is still half asleep and a fucking cuddler, and if Rossi hadn't been thoroughly lost before now, the sleepy way Reid seems so comfortable around him would completely undo him. As it stands, Rossi finds himself thinking that this is possibly one of the top five mornings of his life, along with several poetic endearments that he most certainly will not be spouting off anytime soon.
"Fine with me," he manages, and Reid hums contentedly.
A long moment passes before Reid seems to realise the position he is in and straightens up so fast he bangs his nose on Rossi's jaw.
"Oh my God," Reid says, flushing. "Oh God, I'm so sorry."
Rossi raises his eyebrows. "Don't be," he says, reminded uncomfortably of last night's conversation.
"Did you sleep at all?" Reid looks terrified.
Rossi can't help but laugh. "Yes. Just woke up, actually. My back'll kill me when I move, but it'll make for a damn interesting obituary."
Reid grins, a welcome sight. "Looks like old age is calling," he says impishly. "Though it will likely take quite a bit of explaining -- I don't think death by backache has ever occurred before."
"It's too bad," Rossi grumbles without venom, "I was thinking about ordering in some breakfast, but now I think I'll have you suffer without your coffee for that one." He tries to rise, realising after a moment that he is still holding Reid's hand.
"Um," Reid opines as both of them look down at their linked hands.
"Um," Rossi agrees, slipping his hand out of Reid's light grip and heading for the bathroom. "Feel free to order in, if you want."
He stares at himself in the bathroom mirror and wonders for the first time what the fuck he's doing. He honestly hadn't expected to even convince Reid to come with him, much less to have had spent the night just holding his hand. He's a little in awe and fucking terrified of what to do next, because this is Spencer Reid, who knows everything except how actual relationships with actual people work, and Rossi may have an impressive bedpost, but he's never actually been good at relationships either -- as three divorces can mightily well attest.
He stands there, leaning heavily on the bathroom counter and trying not to freak out completely. He can hear Reid on the phone -- probably with room service, because the kid can't survive without his morning cup of coffee -- and he has no idea what any of it means.
A long moment passes, and then Reid is knocking gently on the bathroom door. "Are you okay?"
Not remotely, but he can't hide in the bathroom forever. He shakes his head and opens the door. Reid looks rumpled and concerned, head tilted and posture still loose from sleep.
"'M fine," Rossi assures him.
It seems to placate Reid, at any rate, and Rossi vacates the bathroom. Reid is still inside when the room service arrives. The waitress is pretty and utterly vapid, chattering his ear off as he manoeuvres two trays into the room and onto the tiny round table that apparently is meant to serve as a dining surface.
Reid has ordered pancakes and a large Belgian waffle. The waffle appears to be meant for Rossi, as it is accompanied with a bowl of pineapple and a black coffee. The coffee cup next to the pancakes already has either milk or cream in it, and Rossi takes neither, while Reid is allergic to pineapples. Rossi does, however, have a weakness for a good Belgian waffle, and Reid appears to have remembered that.
Reid appears in the bathroom doorway, and his hair is damp. "Oh, good, breakfast."
Rossi grins. "I'm guessing the one with the pineapple's mine?"
"Unless I'm planning on blowing up like a balloon, which I'm not," Reid retorts. He crosses the room and takes the chair in front of his tray. Rossi realises that there are a couple of additions to the trays that generally don't turn up: whipped cream, chocolate syrup, and marshmallows.
Reid proceeds to add these things to his pancakes, which are already chocolate chip. Rossi shakes his head in awe.
"All right, scratch what I said last night; I have no idea how you're like a stick with eyes." Reid looks at him speculatively before starting in on the pancakes. Rossi looks at the whipped cream and thinks to himself, ah, fuck it, and douses his waffle in it.
Reid is silent, but Rossi can practically feel the waves of smug insolence radiating from him.
They finish breakfast in companionable quiet. Reid eats slowly, gracefully -- though, according to hearsay, chopsticks still make him fumble -- and Rossi tries not to watch him. He doesn't fail too miserably.
"So, what's the plan for today?" Reid finally asks.
"More driving, I guess." Rossi hasn't thought about it at all. He isn't even sure where they are, exactly. "Do you have anything in mind?"
Reid shakes his head. "We should probably get a map."
Right, a map. And then a plan.
"We're still in Virginia, but it's only a few more miles to the Tennessee line, I believe." Reid doesn't seem to notice that once again, his eidetic memory has saved the day -- and Rossi's pride.
They check out of the hotel, sliding back into the Chevy. Reid looks comfortable, and Rossi thinks that if he can keep Reid this comfortable for the rest of the weekend, he'll consider it a weekend well-spent. He glances at Reid, who doesn't seem to mind that there's no plan.
"Which direction do you want to take?" Rossi asks, because he honestly has no idea which way they ought to go.
Reid arches an eyebrow. "I don't have a preference. We've been heading west since we started, which will eventually put us in Nashville in a few more hours. That's as far as we can go and still get back to Quantico before tomorrow night." He pauses. "Do you want to keep heading west?"
"No reason not to. We've never been to Nashville, have we?" Rossi peels out of the parking lot and makes for the interstate.
Reid tilts his head. "Actually, we haven't."
"Good, then; it's someplace that won't have us reminiscing." Rossi tries to think of anything he can possibly remember about Nashville, but all he knows about the city is that it's like Hollywood for country music, which isn't going to help.
It is quiet for a long time, and Rossi tries to keep his mind off of the man in his passenger seat. Eventually, he gives in and breaks the silence. "So, what do you want to do when we get there?"
"I don't know. The 'tourist thing,' I suppose?"
[end Chapter One]
Link to Chapter 2