A New Road to Follow
Summary: Jason Gideon knew there would be a day when he could no longer travel the countryside with Faith. He planned for that day. That day has arrived.
Note: This story takes place a couple of years after my story, Road Trip Psychology, where Jason Gideon happens upon Faith just as she is slaying a child vampire and he can see that Faith needs someone to look out for her, so he essentially becomes her unofficial Watcher. It will be part of the Down the Road series.
Pairings: Faith/Spencer (non-romantic)
Disclaimer: I definitely don’t own any of these characters. Criminal Minds is owned by Jeff Davis/The Mark Gordon Company and BtVS is owned by Joss Whedon/Mutant Enemy.
Thank you to MaraLiz for your beta assistance. It is much appreciated!
Dr. Spencer Reid weaved through the corridors of the hospital to the room number he had been given. He remembered the phone call that had him dropping everything to race to a hospital in New Jersey.It was an ordinary day at the BAU when they were between cases. Spencer was splitting his time between paperwork and working toward his next PhD when his cell phone rang. It was an unknown number and he almost let it go to voicemail, but at the last moment, he decided to answer it.
"This is Dr. Reid," he spoke quickly.
The woman who answered him didn't sound like anyone he knew. Her voice was smoky and, for a moment, he thought it might have been Morgan playing a prank on him by getting one of his 'dates' to call him, but her voice was more subdued than sexy.
"Spencer?" she asked.
"Yes, who is this?" he returned, his mind actively trying to place her voice.
"My name is Faith," she told him.
"You don't know me, but we both know Jason Gideon."
"Gideon?" he repeated, catching the attention of several of his colleagues who all came to surround his desk. "Is something wrong with Gideon?"
"He's in the hospital. It was touch and go last night, but he turned the corner this morning and they think he'll make it. They can't say for sure, though. He told me not to call anyone, but I have a habit of not listening to him when I know he's being a self-sacrificing idiot. He really wants to see you, but he doesn't want to interrupt your life or some shit like that. I would personally move mountains for this man, so I know what kind of loyalty he inspires and I thought you deserved the chance to decide for yourself if you wanted your life interrupted."
He could hear her heels clicking on the smooth tile floor of the hospital. They sounded heavy, like boot heels. She seemed to be pacing and he could hear the emotion in her voice. Her tone suggested a familial relationship with Gideon, but Spencer knew that Gideon only had one child--a son that he was estranged from. He wondered for a moment if she was an UnSub or related to one and this was a trap, but then he dismissed it because Gideon wouldn't allow himself to be used like that, so that left him with the reality that Gideon truly was in the hospital and could actually die. His decision was made nearly instantaneously.
"Which hospital? What's his room number?" he asked.
That was why, six hours later, Spencer found himself standing on the cardiac floor outside of Jason Gideon's room, trying to calm himself down before he saw his former mentor for the first time in over five years. Finally, he took a deep breath and stepped through the doorway. His eyes were immediately drawn to Gideon as he lay sleeping on the narrow bed. He looked smaller than Spencer remembered, but he supposed that was to be expected, given that he also looked so vulnerable at the moment.
He was so focused on Gideon that he didn't notice the woman he assumed was Faith until she spoke. Surprisingly, she was right next to him.
"He looks better than he did," she told him. Her voice still had a huskiness to it and she looked rather provocative, but everything about her screamed that she was more like a lost child at the moment than a seductress.
Spencer nodded, unable to trust his voice right away. He swallowed hard and tried again, "What happened?"
"We've been travelling," Faith replied. "Jason wanted me to see the country as a 'get back to basics' kind of thing. It suited me just fine. I get twitchy if I’m in one place for too long. We were on our way to upstate New York for some apple festival that he wanted to go to, but I could tell he wasn't feeling well. He didn't want to admit it, though. We got a motel room and he told me to go out and have a good time. He never went out with me, but I knew something was wrong and I shouldn't have gone. I just didn't want him to be sick. He's the only one that really ever gave me a chance and I don't know what I'd do without him. I'm not who I was when he met me. I don't want to go back there. He told me once that if anything happened to him, I was supposed to call you, and give you this letter. I'm pretty sure he meant when he kicked the bucket, but it was his bright idea for me to leave him alone at the motel and go out, so I'm doing this my way."
Spencer took in all of what she said and automatically began profiling her. When she handed him the letter, she didn't look him in the eye, but watched Gideon instead. She seemed uncomfortable with such a long speech, but at the same time, she looked grateful to have someone to share it all with her. She clearly cared for Gideon. She was wearing tight black jeans, and he had been right about the boots, but her top was from a hospital set of scrubs. When she moved and reached to disentangle Gideon's IV line, he could see a thorny vine-like tattoo circling her bicep. He could also see that she was strong and able-bodied, but something inside her seemed broken and her hands shook as she worked. He recognized the strung out feeling and wondered if she was craving a hit of her drug of choice. Maybe he would see if this hospital had an AA meeting that they could both go to.
"Is he really going to be okay?" Spencer asked.
"That's what they say, but his travelling days are probably over," Faith replied quietly and Spencer realized that no matter what, even if Gideon did pull through, Faith was going to lose her travelling companion.
Suddenly, it was very important for him to read Gideon's letter. When Gideon left the BAU, he had left Spencer a letter, knowing it would be the youngest BAU agent to go to his cabin to find him, so it seemed fitting now that he receive another letter. As he tore open the letter, he appreciated that Faith retreated into the hallway, saying something about going to the cafeteria to bring back something to eat.
As soon as he was alone in the room with Gideon, he pulled the chair closer to the bed and unfolded the letter. It was written in the same handwriting he had long ago memorized and Spencer felt the warmth in the older man's words as he read them.Spencer,
If you've received this letter, I'm sure the circumstances were dire. By now, you've met Faith and you've realized that she is dear to me, as you have always been. She has been my travelling companion for the last few years and we have learned much from each other. If you look up her education history, you'll see that she never graduated high school, but what that won't tell you is that she has an affinity for profiling that I have only seen in the BAU. What started out as her need to learn about her own pathologies grew into the desire to understand the world around her in a deeper capacity.
When I first found her, Faith was on the precipice of falling back into the darkness she was born into, but with time and patience, she fought her way free and has been doing good in the world. She has been comfortable with me and I have been telling her about you with the intention that I could prepare her enough to join the team once I could no longer travel with her. Everything you'll need to successfully argue that an exception needs to be made for her lack of formal education as well as her criminal record is in a package that was mailed to Aaron Hotchner marked only to be opened upon receipt of the passcode. Faith will know the code.
Although I never told her my intentions, she is an incredibly smart woman and I know she will exceed my expectations given the right encouragement and a lot of patient motivation. She'll pass any profiling exam you give her and she will surpass every physical exam the FBI could even think to create. Spencer, if you have to lie about her past to get her in, do it. For me, if not for her. As a friend, I tell you now: Faith is not a woman you want on the wrong end of a profile.
And, Spencer, there will be things that Faith will tell you that will seem entirely outlandish—impossible, really. Understand now that they are 100% true. I have seen them with my own eyes, and when I say that Faith has been hunting monsters for a long time, please know that she has not been out for vigilante justice. The monsters she hunts are not ones that the BAU could ever catch on their own.
I'm entrusting her safety and sanity to you because I know you won't let me down. Faith is both the strongest and the most fragile person you will ever meet.
Think of me fondly and know that I continue to think of you as well.
Warmest regards, Jason Gideon
Despite Spencer's eidetic memory, he read and re-read the letter several times. On the fourth pass through, Faith returned with several carry out boxes. She pulled over the tray for the bed and plopped them all down on top of it.
"I didn't know what you would like so pick what you want. I'll eat pretty much anything," she said, moving to the other side of the bed so she could check on Gideon.
He was still sleeping and Faith wasn't whispering, so he wondered at why he didn't wake up.
"He's on some pretty heavy painkillers," Faith answered his unasked question. With Gideon's newly imparted information in hand—literally—he began to look at Faith with new eyes. She had read him well, both a moment ago and also knowing that he hadn't stopped to get anything to eat in his haste to get to Gideon's side.
He remembered Gideon's words that he would have to be careful not to let Faith fall back into the darkness and he certainly didn't want to get off on the wrong foot, so he opened the containers and found a sandwich that he liked. Strangely enough, as he took a bite, he realized that he had never even considered going against Gideon's request.
"This is good," he told her. "Thank you."
"Yeah, I don't think I ate anything yesterday, so I figured you probably hadn't eaten on the way either," she told him with a tentative smile. She saw the letter peaking out of his bag and nodded toward it, "So, did Jason bequeath me to you?"
Spencer started to deny it, but then realized that Gideon had been right. She was well versed in profiling and she knew her mentor well. He pursed his lips as he swallowed a bite of his sandwich and met her gaze, "Kind of."
"I figured as much," Faith shrugged and pulled over the other chair so she could start eating from one of the other boxes.
"And you're just okay with that?" Spencer asked.
Faith looked at Gideon for a long moment before turning to Spencer. "I know I don't do well on my own. Call it the 'buddy system' or whatever you want to, but I know I need someone to help me keep myself walking on the right path. If Jason trusts you to do that, then I do too. I'm guessing, though, that he didn't tell you everything."
Spencer shook his head, "No, he left out the details."
"Well, you know what they say about the devil and details," Faith told him, one corner of her mouth lifting in a half-smile.
Spencer remembered Gideon's words about patience so he just sat there and finished his sandwich, giving Faith the space she needed to get herself together and tell him her story. After he finished, he reached into his bag and set up his chess set, content to play against himself while Faith continued to eat the rest of the food. She had brought a lot of food in and he honestly wasn't sure where she was putting it all, but despite his limited experience with women, he had learned that commenting on something like that was never a good idea, no matter who the woman was, so he kept his mouth shut.
Finally, she dropped the last of the containers into the trash and washed her hands in the adjoining bathroom. She sat down again, but fidgeted for a few minutes and then stood up again to go look out the window at the lovely view of the rooftop of a lower part of the hospital. When it became apparent that she wasn't ready to speak, he re-set the chess board and enclosed two pieces in his hands. He held his closed hands out to her and gestured to the set, explaining, "Gideon and I always played chess. I could teach you if you want."
One side of Faith's mouth curled up in a hint of a fond smile. "Glad to know it wasn't just me he tortured with that game," she told him as she sat down again and tapped one of his outstretched hands.
"You play chess?" Spencer asked, surprised, as he opened his hand to reveal a white chess piece. Given her attire and the way she seemed to be vibrating in her chair, he wouldn't have thought she would have the patience for setting up the game, let alone actually playing it.
"I do now, but it took a hurricane so powerful that we were stranded with no electricity for almost a week to make me bored enough to actually learn the game," Faith replied. Then, she shrugged, "It's okay. He lets me win sometimes."
Spencer realized then that Gideon really had changed in his absence. In all the years that Spencer had played chess with Gideon, the man had never let
him win. For all his genius level IQ, Spencer had only ever beaten Gideon at chess a handful of times. But, then again, Spencer realized, perhaps Gideon knew that he didn't need an empty victory if Gideon let him win. Where he would have been insulted, Faith seemed indulgent, as though it was a joke between friends that he sometimes handed her the win. Their relationship was an enigma. He knew Gideon well enough to know that there was nothing sexual going on between them. It didn't really surprise him that Gideon would look for someone to mentor, but his chosen mentee was certainly not someone he would have suspected of being a Jason Gideon prodigy.
"How did you meet Gideon?" Spencer asked, his curiosity getting the better of him.
After a long moment where Faith studied him, she must have found what she was looking for, because she put the chess piece onto the board in its 'starting' place and turned her chair around to straddle the seat. He recognized the effort to hide herself for what it was—a fear of rejection—and he resolved himself to be open to whatever Faith had to say to him. Finally, she leaned on the back of the chair as she met Spencer's eyes steadily.
"Tell, me Spencer," Faith smiled humorlessly. "Do you believe in Vampires?"End story