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Mothers and Sons

It was in the darkest hours of night that his mind betrayed him… assaulted him with never-ending questions of why and how; made the fear he kept buried creep up on him, leaving him feeling inadequate and frightened. During the day, he was too busy with work, inundated as they often were with cases, the hours spent in flying and profiling.

He clenched his trembling hands tightly, welcoming the small pain as his nails dug into his palms. He could still feel the sticky residue of Nathan's blood, smell the nauseating odour of it.

Derek had said he wasn't responsible for Nathan, but Spencer couldn't accept that. He knew what it was like to fear your own mind… had told Derek that, but only he knew how that fear consumed you, how you questioned every nuance of your behaviour, always wondering when the first signs would strike, knowing that even your keen intelligence was no cure for the insidious madness.

The shrill ringing of his phone startled him from his maudlin thoughts. He considered ignoring it, even as his hand stretched out automatically to snatch up the receiver. His friends, his team, had been a huge support in the aftermath of Nathan's attempted suicide, and while he appreciated their concern, right now, he wanted nothing more than to burrow under the covers of his bed and sleep for a year. It could be a new case, though, and even if it was just Garcia or Derek or someone checking up on him, his continued refusal to answer his phone would only have them breaking down his door. Since Elle's shooting, it had become an unspoken rule-to stay in touch, to look out for one another. He grabbed the phone, silencing its noisy jangle. "Reid."

"Doctor Reid? This is Doctor Malloy from Bennington Hospital. It's your mother. I think you should come."

He tensed, instantly on alert. "What's wrong?"

"She's been extremely upset all day. She's been asking for someone, but no one here knows this person, or has heard her mentioned before. She became so agitated, we had to sedate her quite heavily."

"Who is she asking for?" Reid asked tensely.

"Naomi. That's all we can get out of her. She just keeps saying she has to warn Naomi."

"Naomi?" That name brought memories from the past rushing back. "I'm on my way."

Slamming the receiver back onto the cradle, Spencer hurriedly booked the next available flight to Las Vegas online then packed an overnight bag. Waiting for the cab to take him to the airport, his mind whirled in confusion. Why Naomi? Why now? It had been years since his mother had had any contact with the woman, and Spencer didn't have the slightest idea how to get in touch with her. He strode out of his apartment, pulling his cell phone from his pocket as he went and punching in a number. "Gideon? It's my mom. I need to head out of town for a day or so. Will that be a problem?"

"No problem, you know that," Gideon replied. "Everything okay?"

"I don't know," Spencer admitted. "I'll call you as soon as I've got it sorted out."

"Go," Gideon instructed. "Take care of your mother. Let me know if there's anything I can do."

"Thank you."

By the time he was in the cab, on his way to the airport, Spencer was punching in another number. "Garcia, it's Reid, you busy?"

"Busy sleeping," Garcia replied, sounding decidedly pissed off, then her voice softened, "but for you, sweetie, anything. What do you need?"

"I need to contact a Naomi Sandburg, but I have no idea where to start, and I'm on my way to Nevada to see my mom-"

"Leave it with me, sweetcheeks," Garcia promised. "I'll get back to you."

"Thank you," Spencer replied fervently. He sat back and watched the scenery whizzing by, wondering what the heck had made his mother remember Naomi after all these years.

~o0o~ "Doctor Reid, thank you for coming so promptly." Doctor Malloy hurried up the corridor toward Spencer.

"Where's my mother?" he asked, handing the visitation book back to the nurse at the desk.

"She's resting in the infirmary. She's fine." Malloy rushed to reassure him with a pat to his arm. "We had to sedate her quite heavily; she was becoming extremely agitated and violent."

Spencer shook his head. "I've never known her to be violent-" He snapped his mouth shut as a bitter memory surfaced. His mother, out of control and raging, spewing epithets at her teenage son as she was led away from their home and into the ambulance. He'd been responsible for her incarceration in Bennington in the first place. He'd known then, deep down, that it had been the right thing to do, but still the memory of his mother's heartbroken tears, of her begging to be allowed to stay in her home surrounded by her precious books brought the old guilt to the surface. "Not for a very long time," he amended.

"Do you know this Naomi your mother is asking for?" Malloy asked as she led the way to the infirmary.

Spencer nodded. "She was an old friend of my mother's. I haven't seen her for years, and as far as I know, neither has Mom." He hesitated in the doorway of the infirmary. He didn't want to go in there. He just knew it was going to dredge up everything he'd tried so hard to forget.

Doctor Malloy gave him a gentle push. "I'll wait out here for you. She's restrained, but that's for her own safety as much as for anyone else's."

Spencer swallowed convulsively, unable to produce enough saliva to speak. He stepped inside, relieved to see his mother was alone. She lay quietly in the bed, her eyes open and staring up at the ceiling. She seemed unaware of his presence.

Uncharacteristically nervous, Spencer approached her. "Mom? It's Spencer." When there was no response, he reached out and touched her cheek. Her flesh was cold, her face pale. Dark shadows circled her eyes. "Mom?"

She turned her head slowly and looked at him. "Who are you?" she asked, her voice sounding hoarse.

He smiled, but it felt strained. "It's Spencer."

She nodded then. "Did you bring Naomi?"

"Why Naomi, Mom? Why do you need to see her?"

Her expression changed to anger. "I told them!" she shouted, one restrained hand waving toward the door. "Why did they send for you, when I asked for her?"

Spencer grasped her hand, stilling it. "They don't know who Naomi is, and I… I don't know how to contact her. We haven't seen her for ten years! Why is it so important to see her now?"

Her mouth tightened. "I'm not telling. You'll just have to find her. Ask Blair where she is."

"Blair?" Spencer frowned in thought. He remembered Naomi's son, a young man several years older than Spencer. The last time they'd seen Naomi, Blair had been visiting her from university.

Blessed with an eidetic memory, Spencer could pull up a clear picture of Blair's face in his mind's eye, but with the passing of time and all that had occurred in the wake of his mother's illness, his memories were somewhat blurred. Their visit with Naomi had been short. Even then, his mother had been spiraling down into her own personal hell of schizophrenia. His father had already gone away, and Spencer had wanted nothing further to do with him after he'd left Spencer behind, just nine years old, to cope with his mentally ill mother. It was a moot point; he'd never heard from his father since the day he'd walked out.

He vaguely recalled Naomi's concern at the time of their visit, attempting to convince his mother to leave Spencer with her, to seek help. His mother, of course, had been affronted by the very notion of mental illness and had hurriedly packed up their things, and they'd left.

He patted his mother's hand soothingly. "If I find Blair or Naomi and get them to come see you, you'll tell me?"

She stared at him for a long moment. Then she nodded and mimed locking her lips. "Not till then."

Spencer slumped down onto the chair by the bed and watched as his mother drifted off to sleep, seemingly comforted by his promise.

~o0o~ "So anyway, I stretched myself to my full height," Blair ignored Jim's rolling eyes, "and I got right in his face and said, "Who are you calling a dork, you moron?"

Jim's eyes fairly bulged, Blair noticed with some satisfaction. He pushed past his stunned partner and walked into the apartment, slinging his backpack onto the floor beneath the coat hooks, as was his practice.

"Are you nuts, Sandburg?" Jim finally said, following him in. "Frank Riley's got to be three times your size and weight! He'd crush you like a bug." He stopped suddenly and glared at Blair suspiciously. "You're yanking my chain, aren't you?"

Blair shrugged, then wandered into the kitchen and pulled two beers from the fridge. "Only a little. I did get right in his face, and I was going to call him a moron, and then my better judgment caught up with my righteous indignation, and I just turned on my heel and walked away." He screwed the cap off one drink and took a long swallow. Sighing with pleasure, he wiped the froth from his mouth and held the other bottle out to Jim. "I did stop and look back before I went into the men's room, and ol' Riley was still standing in the corridor with his jaw hanging to his knees."

Jim shook his head and accepted the drink. "I swear, Sandburg, you're gonna be the death of me."

"You think I should let those guys just get away with the name calling and snide little remarks?" Blair placed his bottle on the counter, suddenly serious.

"No. Tell me when it happens. Let me deal with it," Jim replied. "I like to think I'm carry some weight in the department these days."

"Yeah, fine. Okay," Blair agreed, feeling defeated. Every time he'd even hinted he was being given a hard time by other cops at the PD, Jim had stormed to his defence, only to have the harassment step up a pace or two for a few weeks. The snarky remarks, the not quite whispered comments in the elevator, not to mention the small shove in the stairwell just the other day that had nearly broken his neck-which he hadn't mentioned to Jim yet and probably never would. He took another sip of his beer.

Jim seemed to pick up on his disquieting thoughts, as he so often seemed to lately. "It's just jealousy, Sandburg," he said. He walked over and sat down on the couch.

"I know." Blair walked out and joined Jim on the sofa. He reached out and grabbed the remote, tuning the TV to the local news. "They think I got this easy walk into Major Crime, which to them stinks to high heaven, considering I was a fraud."

"That's not true, and you know it!" Jim grabbed the remote from Blair's hand and muted the sound. "If they knew half of what you've done since you signed on for your ride-along, they'd know you deserved that badge."

Blair smiled for the first time in what seemed like a very long day. "Thanks, man."

The phone rang, and Jim reached out and picked up the receiver. "Ellison." He listened for a moment then replied. "Hang on. I'll get him." He held the phone out to Blair. "A Doctor Reid from the BAU at Quantico. You holding out for a better job, Chief?"

Blair shrugged, puzzled, then took the phone. "Blair Sandburg."

"Blair? It's Spencer Reid. I don't know if you remember me or not. Your mother, Naomi was a friend of my mother, Diana, when they were young. We stayed with your mother, Naomi… well, a long while ago now. I was only fourteen at the time, and you were visiting from university." Blair thought back. A vague memory came to mind of a small, serious, bespectacled teenager with shoulder-length light brown hair. Smart, smarter than Blair, he'd had to concede, but with an aura of sadness surrounding him. He'd reminded Blair of himself at the same age. "Spencer! Of course! How the hell are you?"

"I'm good. You?"

"I'm fine. And it's Doctor Reid now?" Blair added. "So you got your doctorate."

"Three, actually," Spencer replied, and Blair's eyebrows shot upwards. The kid would only be in his early twenties.

"Congratulations. What can I do for the BAU?"

"It's a personal matter actually." There was a long pause. Blair looked over to see Jim concentrating fiercely on the muted news report. He did his best not to eavesdrop on Blair's phone conversations. Not easy, Blair knew, when it was an instinctive thing with enhanced hearing. "It's my mom. She's asking to see Naomi."

"Mom's out of the state," Blair said. "She won't be home for another two weeks, and I'm not sure if I can even contact her. She's in California on a retreat. Is there something I can do?"

"Could you come to Nevada?" Spencer asked in a rush. "I know it's a spur of the moment thing, and you probably don't even remember me that well, but she won't tell me what's bothering her until she speaks to either you or Naomi. She's… Mom's an inpatient at Bennington Psychiatric Hospital. She's been there for six years now."

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. You have no idea why she wants to see Naomi?"

"No, but she's fixated on it. That's the nature of her disease, of course. When she gets focused on something, she's like a dog with a bone." There was a pause, then Spencer spoke again. "Look, it's probably nothing. I'm sorry to have bothered you with this-"

"No, it's fine, really. Give me a minute, would you?"

"Okay."

Blair held his hand over the receiver and looked at Jim, who gazed back, his eyebrows raised questioningly. "I need to go to Nevada for a couple of days. You think you can manage without me? I've got a couple of days off owing."

"I'm in court for at least tomorrow on the Hollins murder," Jim said. "I'll be fine."

"Thanks, man."

Blair turned back to the phone. "Give me your cell phone number, and I'll call you when I know what flight I'll be on."

"Thank you," Spencer said. "It's probably nothing. Mom has… cycles of lucidity. These days, her breaks are fairly well controlled with medication. I'm not sure if this is something valid or just another break with reality." He paused for a moment, then went on. "I just wasn't sure what to do."

"It's not a problem, really," Blair assured him. "I'll see you soon." Blair jotted down the number Spencer gave him and hung up the phone. Standing, he looked around for a moment, unsure of where to start.

"Go start packing," Jim said. "I'll check on flights to Las Vegas."

"Thanks, man."

He had almost finished filling his overnight bag, when Jim came into the bedroom, holding out a slip of paper with the flight details on it. "First flight out in the morning," he said. "I'll drop you at the airport on my way to work."

"Thanks."

"So, who is Doctor Spencer Reid? It didn't sound like you knew him all that well, yet you're prepared to drop everything and fly out to Nevada for him."

Blair zipped his bag closed and sat down on the bed. "I think Mom and Diana, Spencer's mom, knew each other from one of the communes. Diana moved on, but they kept in touch over the years. Spencer's about ten years younger than me, and I only met him a couple of times. Diana was always a little weird though."

"Chief, your mother is the poster child for weird. No offence," Jim hurried to say.

Blair smiled at him. "None taken. Diana has schizophrenia. The last time I saw them, she was pretty bad, and Mom offered to keep Spencer with her while Diana got treatment. Diana got pretty pissed off about it, packed Spencer up and left. I don't think Mom's heard from her since. I remember Spencer's father deserted them when Diana's schizophrenia started to get out of control." He shook his head. "Left his nine-year-old son to cope with a mentally ill woman. Spencer said she's in Bennington Psychiatric Hospital, and she's asking for Naomi. I don't know why, but it feels important that I go…." Blair's words trailed off and he shrugged. "Still, I've got a few days off, and we never did get to Las Vegas."

"If I get through this court case quickly enough, maybe I'll join you," Jim said. "I think I can swing a few days of personal time."

Blair nodded enthusiastically. "That'd be great, man! I'm gonna turn in, seeing I've got an early start in the morning."

Jim nodded. "Me, too. Night, Chief."

"Night, Jim, and thanks." ~o0o~ Blair had to admit that young Doctor Reid carried some serious clout within the FBI. On his arrival in Las Vegas, Blair was met by an agent of the city's FBI office and driven to Bennington Psychiatric Hospital. He'd expected Spencer to meet him at the airport, so the change in arrangements increased his concern about the whole situation ten-fold.

Following the agent down the corridor, Blair mused about his willingness to fly out here so eagerly. His innate curiosity about everything, mysteries especially, had prompted Jim to add another nickname for Blair to his growing collection of monikers-'Sherlock'. Blair didn't mind. He'd long grown accustomed to Jim's being able to pull out a nickname for just about every comment Blair made. It was true he found it difficult to ignore intriguing clues, unsolved crimes. He certainly wouldn't have discovered his sentinel were it not for his boundless curiosity and imagination.

A tall, gangly young man with collar-length hair stood as Blair was ushered into a small waiting room. Blair recognized him immediately. He held out his hand with a smile. "Spencer, it's good to see you again."

Spencer took his hand and shook it firmly. "Likewise," he said. He seemed a little hesitant and unsure, his expression nervous. "Can I get you something? Coffee, soda?"

Blair waved the offer away. "I'm swimming in coffee," he said. "I have to admit I'm finding it hard to control my curiosity about your mom."

Spencer finally smiled a little shyly at that and visibly relaxed. "Me, too." He motioned for Blair to sit and then took a seat in the armchair opposite. "There are a few things you need to know about my mother first."

"Okay." Blair sat forward, resting his clasped hands on his knees.

"I committed my mother to this facility when I turned 18," Spencer began. "She had been deteriorating for some years before that, but with no close family members I could contact, I was powerless to do anything until that time."

"How did you… uh, how did you cope?" Blair couldn't help asking. His own childhood with Naomi had been somewhat insecure, and he'd learned to take care of himself from an early age, with Naomi often heading off to protests or retreats in various parts of the country.

He had usually been left in the care of a friend or a neighbor, but once he turned 12, he'd insisted that he could take care of himself, and Naomi had acquiesced. She'd always had faith in Blair's common sense and keen intelligence and had encouraged him to be independent. It was Naomi who'd pushed Blair to apply for a scholarship at Rainier University when he was just 16. A child caring for a mentally unstable parent, though, was far different-regardless of just how much of a genius that child was.

Spencer's eyes became haunted, and he stared down at his hands, knotting his fingers together. "It wasn't always easy. She was… is a loving mother when she's lucid. At other times, I became the parent, speaking to her doctors about her treatment, bullying her to get out of bed, to take her medication." He grinned suddenly, his face taking on an even younger appearance than his 24 years. "It was lucky I was so smart. I had to tell some pretty inventive stories to keep the Child Services people away."

Blair nodded in empathy. "I know how that goes. Once Mom started leaving me alone, I had to come up with some stories myself to avoid being placed in foster care."

Spencer stared at him sharply. "I remember you telling me about when you were a kid." He rubbed at his nose with a forefinger. "Hearing that helped a lot at the time."

"I was luckier than you," Blair said. "Naomi wasn't exactly Donna Reed material, but she did the best she could, and, like you, I never doubted her love for me." He hesitated a moment before voicing his next question, not wanting to offend Spencer. "Wouldn't it have been easier, though, to have contacted the authorities back then?"

"In hindsight, yes," Spencer agreed, "but at the time, I guess I was thinking more of myself than her. I didn't want to be placed in a home full of strangers, and my father had already left. I had no idea where to find him, and he'd made it abundantly clear when he left me behind, even though my mother begged him to take me, that he wanted nothing to do with me. I think I intimidated him, knowing so much so young." He took a deep breath. "Anyway, it wasn't until I was 16 or so that I realized she was never going to get better at home, and, genius that I was, I was doing her no favors, allowing her to stay there."

"It must have been hard for you to make that decision."

"Hardest thing I've ever done." Spencer stood suddenly. "Anyway, we should go see her. She was very excited when I told her you were coming."

Blair followed Spencer out of the room and down a short corridor. They stopped outside a closed door. "She still hasn't told you what this is about?" he asked.

"No. She said she'll tell you and you alone."

"Then we'd better not keep her waiting."

Spencer nodded and tapped on the door, then opened it. "Mom, I've brought Blair to see you."

"About time." The woman seated in an armchair in front of the window turned to face them. She looked about Naomi's age, and Blair surmised she must have had Spencer late in her childbearing years.

Blair stepped forward. "Mrs. Reid, it's a pleasure to see you again."

Diana ignored his outstretched hand and turned her attention to Spencer. "Is Naomi coming?"

Blair dropped his hand and crouched down beside Diana's chair. "She's traveling, out of the state. I'm sorry. I couldn't reach her. Can you tell me what's so important?"

She nodded. "It's probably a good thing. If she were here, she'd be in grave danger."

Blair glanced up at Spencer who gave a small shrug. "Why is that?" he asked.

"Oscar was here," she whispered, leaning closer to Blair. "I saw him last week and again this morning."

"Oscar?" Blair wracked his brains for any familiarity in the name and came up blank. "I'm sorry. I don't know any Oscar."

"Of course you don't," she chided. "You were just a baby when Naomi left him, and she was so terrified of what he might do, I doubt she would have ever mentioned his name. Oscar Milton. He was an evil man, though Naomi didn't know that when she first met him. He was an activist like her, and they were so passionate about their beliefs…. Until the night Oscar bombed a factory and a security guard was killed. Naomi said they'd discovered the guard was inside the building, and she begged Oscar to call off the bombing, but he refused. She said she saw it then, in his eyes. He wanted to kill someone."

Blair was sure his mouth was hanging open. "Are you sure about this? I mean, I can't imagine my mother wouldn't have told me about this or turned him into the police at the time."

"Oscar threatened her," Diana said. "You were just a few months old. She adored you. Oscar told her if she went to the police, he'd take you from her and kill her. Besides, back then, none of us wanted anything to do with the pigs. She packed you up a couple of nights later and managed to escape. Why do you think she moved around so much? It wasn't just to satisfy her wanderlust."

"Are you sure it was this Oscar you saw?" Spencer asked.

"I'm sure. I'd know that evil man anywhere."

"Why…?" Spencer stepped closer and rested his hand on his mother's shoulder. She reached up and clasped it. "Why wouldn't you tell anyone except Naomi or Blair? This man is a wanted felon."

"Because he recognized me," she said. "Of course, being that I'm in the loony bin, he probably thinks I don't know who he is, or that no one would believe me anyway. But you believed me the last time, didn't you, Spencer?"

"Yes, yes, I did. I need to speak with Blair for a moment," Spencer said, "and I'm going to organize someone from the Bureau to stay with you."

Diana waved his suggestion away. "It's not me he's after," she said.

"You don't know that," Blair put in. "If he even suspects that you've recognized him…. What was he doing here?"

"He delivers the laundry," Diana said. "He's certainly come down in the world. Always fancied himself as a world leader back in the day." She shook her head, looking disgusted. "I never liked him. I warned Naomi about him, but she wouldn't listen. She was head over heels in love with him."

Blair stood, then a worrying thought hit him. "Was he… did Naomi ever tell you who my father was?"

Diana looked surprised by the question. "Oscar, of course. That's why she knew he meant what he said when he threatened you."

Oh god! Blair felt himself go hot and cold all at once, and he was sure he was going to be sick. "Is there a bathroom?"

Spencer grabbed his arm and led him out of the room, steering him toward a door just down the hall. Blair nodded his thanks and rushed inside, barreling into the first vacant stall.

By the time he'd gotten rid of the breakfast he'd eaten on the plane, he was sweating and shaky. He staggered to his feet and headed out to the washbasin, sluicing his face with cool water. Some semblance of equilibrium returned, and he was already formulating a plan of action by the time he exited the bathroom. It answered one burning question for him. No wonder Naomi hadn't wanted to tell him who his father was.

Spencer was waiting for him outside the door. He looked Blair over critically. "Are you all right?"

"Not really, no. I'm just…. Naomi never told me who my father was."

"You never asked?"

Blair shrugged. "It was pretty obvious she didn't want to discuss it. It never seemed that much of a big deal to me, most of the time."

"I'm sorry," Spencer said.

"Do you think your mother's telling the truth about this guy?"

"She always tells the truth," Spencer said immediately, but he didn't look affronted by the question. He sighed and leaned back against the wall. "In her own mind, at least, it's always the truth. I don't know why she'd do all of this if there's not at least some truth in it, but again, that's the nature of her illness."

"Is it possible this guy just looked familiar and sparked a memory?" Blair asked.

"Of course. I thought of that myself." Spencer straightened and motioned down the hallway. "You'd probably like to clean up after the flight. I have an apartment in town where I stay when I come to visit Mom. Why don't we go there first and discuss what to do then?"

"Sounds like a plan. I'd like to call Jim, too."

Spencer looked confused for a minute then nodded. "Right, your partner. I'm going to call one of the team at the BAU, see what background I can get on this Oscar Milton."

Blair couldn't help smiling.

"What?" Spencer asked as he led the way to the exit.

"I just keep thinking you and I are the last people I'd expect to be working in law enforcement."

Spencer grinned back at him. "Actually, I wanted to be a psychiatrist, but after Mom…." His smile faded as quickly as it had appeared. "Profiling seemed a natural progression. I was handpicked by Gideon…."

"Gideon?" Blair asked.

"Jason Gideon, head of the BAU on the profiling side. The man's a genius."

Blair reached out and patted Spencer's back. "It's good seeing you again, man."

"You, too, Blair." ~o0o~ The shower had refreshed Blair, but he still felt somewhat shaky and out of sorts when he joined Spencer in the living room. Spencer had his laptop powered up and was studying the screen closely. "You got something?" Blair asked.

"I'm waiting for one of my team, Garcia, to send me some pictures and history on the guy." Spencer sat back. "Have a seat. Can I get you anything?"

"No, thanks, I'm fine." Blair sat on the couch opposite Spencer. He looked around. The apartment was neatly kept, a far cry from his own room back in Cascade. "What did your mom mean about you believing her the last time?"

Spencer looked away for a moment. When he turned back to Blair, his expression seemed guarded. "We had a case last year. The UNSUB, that's FBI-speak for Unknown Subject, targeted each member of the team, leaving clues for us, challenging us to find his victim before he murdered her. One of our team was almost killed. She… she left not long after."

"I know how that goes." Unwanted memories of the drowning flooded back, almost engulfing him, surprising him with the strength of his reaction after so long. He remembered questioning if he wanted to go back and whether he was better off just getting on with his academic life. Only the strength of his friendship with Jim and the bond that had formed between them-not just when Jim had revived him, because Blair was certain it had been there from the first day he'd made the commitment to help Jim with his senses-had convinced him to stay.

"So, how did your mom fit into the case?" Blair asked, pushing down his emotions, forcing himself to concentrate on the here and now.

"The UNSUB left one of the clues-a key-with my mother. He'd been a patient at the hospital at one time. She identified him."

"That must have been terrifying for her."

"And for me," Spencer said. "Anyway, that's why I want to check this guy out first. I need to know for sure that he isn't just a figment of her imagination."

His email notifier beeped and he looked down at the screen. "Here he is… Oscar Milton."

They'd just started reading through the file when Spencer's cell phone rang. Picking it up from the coffee table, a small smile appeared on Spencer's face as he checked the caller's number. "Morgan," he said. "Why am I not surprised?" He waved away Blair's questioning look and answered. "Reid. Morgan, I'm glad you called."

Blair focused on the computer information while Spencer took his call. He had an overwhelming urge to phone Jim, apprise him of the situation, and get him to fly to Nevada on the next available flight. He glanced at his watch. Jim would possibly still be in court, and there was no guarantee he'd be able to leave and join him anyway. He stared at the photo that accompanied the file. Oscar Milton, 25 years old. He had long, curly hair, not unlike Blair's, though his was reddish-brown in color. A bushy beard covered much of the lower part of his face, but it was the eyes that drew Blair's attention. They were almost the exact same shade of blue as Blair's, but with a coldness to them, a hint of malice. Blair could see exactly what had frightened Diana Reid.

Spencer ended his call and turned back to the computer, one finger reaching out to trail down the information listed. "Two more bombings linked to Milton after the security guard died in California, and four more deaths. The police traced his last known address to a commune in Arizona, but by the time they got there, everyone had packed up and left. He hasn't been spotted since."

"So, this…." Blair tapped at the list of bombings on the screen. "What does this make him? A serial bomber or a serial killer?"

Spencer glanced at him sharply. "Does it matter?" He sighed and shook his head. "Sorry. I know what you're asking. It might have been that your mom's leaving was the stressor that urged him into killing, or he might have been hoping for that all along."

"Do you think he's insane?"

Spencer shook his head immediately. "Very few killers are. They may be anti-social, narcissistic, possessing any number of psychopathic symptoms, but that doesn't make them insane. Milton knew what he was doing, and he wanted to kill someone."

Blair shook his head, feeling queasy again. "Could I have a glass of water? And I need to phone Jim… let him know what's going on."

"Sure." Spencer stood and headed into the kitchen.

Blair took a final glance at the computer screen, then pushed it so it faced away and pulled his cell phone from his pocket. He doubted he'd get hold of Jim, but it was worth a shot, and at least he could leave a message for him. Spencer had returned long enough to place a tumbler of water in front of Blair, then had left again, obviously wanting to give Blair some privacy. The phone was answered on the third ring. "Cascade Police Department, how may I help you?" "Detective Ellison, Major Crime, please. This is Detective Blair Sandburg." "Detective Ellison's desk, Detective Brown speaking." "H, it's Blair. Is Jim there?"

"Hairboy!" Brown responded with his usual enthusiasm. "How are the casinos, man? You winning?"

"Not yet, H. Is Jim there?" Blair asked again.

"Still in court. He figured he should be done by lunchtime. We're gonna hit that Mexican restaurant you were telling us about. You want me to leave him a message?"

"Yeah, tell him to phone me as soon as he gets there, and see what you can pull up on an Oscar Milton, wanted for bombings back in the late 60's, early 70's, if you can. Give it to Jim."

"Don't tell me you flew all the way to Las Vegas and walked right into a case?" "Something like that. I may have a lead on the guy."

"What's it got to do with you, Blair?" Henry asked, sounding puzzled. "It's not our jurisdiction. Besides, wouldn't the FBI or the ATF be handling it?"

Blair wracked his brain for an explanation. They still weren't certain they had the right guy. "It's kind of a personal thing, H. I'm doing a favor for a friend. Look, I have to go. Make sure Jim calls as soon as he gets there, okay." "You got it. See you soon." Blair hung up the phone and looked up as Spencer came into the room with a jacket slung over his arm. "What's up?" he asked.

"One of the other members of my team is flying down here to meet us, but I thought maybe we should check this guy out first. If it isn't Milton, we can save him the trip." He sighed and pushed his glasses up his nose. "And make sure my mother wasn't just imagining all this."

Blair stood, eager to get to the bottom of the whole thing, needing to forget about the implications of having a notorious bomber for a father… and his mother's betrayal of the truth, at least for a while. There'd be time to deal with that later, when Jim arrived and he could talk it through with him.

"My mother hated me becoming a cop," Blair said as they walked out to the car. "When I was a kid, I wasn't even allowed to play cowboys and Indians."

"What about you?" Spencer asked as he unlocked Blair's door. "Are you happy with the choice you made?"

Blair waited until they were both settled in the car before replying. "Never liked guns," he said. "Still don't."

"Yet?"

Blair sighed. "I can't go into a lot of it. Let's just say I didn't have a whole lot of options to choose from."

"I heard about your dissertation," Spencer said as he steered the car onto the street. "You didn't lie." It wasn't a question.

"No, I didn't," Blair said after a long pause, "but if you ever tell anyone, I'll have to shoot you." Spencer flashed him a quick grin and a sloppy salute. "So, where are we going?"

"I got the name of the laundry company the hospital uses. Thought we'd go there first, see who does the deliveries to Bennington on the days Mom says she saw Milton." ~o0o~ The middle-aged woman seated at the desk in the outer office of the laundry company looked up from her knitting when Blair and Spencer walked in. "What can I do for you gents today?" she asked.

"I believe you handle the laundry run for Bennington State Hospital."

"Yes, yes, we do."

"I was wondering if you could tell us who does the run on Thursdays and Sundays?"

The woman looked from Spencer to Blair warily. "Who wants to know? Someone make a complaint? Because if they did, you should talk to Mike. He's in charge. I just handle the phone and the accounts."

"No complaints, ma'am," Blair put in, flashing her his most charming smile. "Someone we know thought they knew him, that's all."

She didn't look convinced. "Dave Morris does that run. Been doing it for a couple of months now, since Harry Foster had a heart attack."

Spencer held up the photo of Milton he'd printed from the computer. "Does this man look familiar?"

She squinted at it for a moment, then glared up at them. "You cops?"

Spencer held up his FBI shield, and she looked taken aback. "Bit young for a Fed, aren't you, son?"

Spencer gave her a disarming smile. "I started early. About the photo?"

She studied it again for a moment. "Could be Dave, I suppose, though he hasn't got a head of hair like that. Totally bald."

"Is he working today?" Blair asked. "If he is, we'd like to ask him a few questions."

"Called in sick this morning."

"Could we trouble you for his home address?"

"I think you'd better speak to Mike."

"No, that's fine," Spencer put in before Blair could respond. "Thanks for your time."

Blair waited till they were back in the car before speaking. "What did you do that for? If we speak to the boss, we might be able to find more out about this guy."

Spencer held up his hand and pulled his phone from his pocket. He punched in some numbers, then waited for a moment before speaking. "Garcia, it's Reid again. Can you do me another favor? Thanks. I need a Nevada address for a David Morris." A few minutes later, he smiled. "Thanks, Garcia, I owe you one. Yes, Mom, I'm being careful. Pass the information onto Morgan for me as well. See you soon."

Closing the phone, he turned to Blair. "I don't want Morris-or Milton, if that's who it is-to be alerted to us." He turned the key in the ignition. "Why don't we just pay him a visit and see for ourselves."

"Shouldn't we call for backup?" Blair asked.

"For all we know, he may not be Milton," Spencer replied. "We'll ask him a few general questions, get a close-up look at the guy and take it from there. What do you think?"

"Sure, can't hurt." Blair settled back against the seat. His heart really wasn't in this. Was he ready to face the man who could be his father like this? ~o0o~ Derek Morgan tapped on the partly opened office door, then entered at Hotch's invitation. Hotch looked up from the paperwork on his desk. "You all signed off on the Indiana case?"

Morgan nodded. "Signed, sealed and delivered."

"Problem?" Hotch set aside his pen and pushed his desk chair back slightly.

"I've got a couple of days owing, and I was thinking about flying out to Nevada to meet Reid."

Hotch raised an eyebrow. "Something I should know about? He's visiting his mother, isn't he?"

"He called Garcia, wanting some intel on a guy called Oscar Milton. Milton was an activist back in the 60's. He's wanted on five murder charges and a series of bombings. Disappeared off the radar about 30 years ago."

"Why hasn't Reid reported in on this? It's not something he should be working alone."

"I talked to him this morning. Seems his mother said she identified Milton at the hospital. After what happened last year, Reid's concerned she might just be getting things confused."

"It's a reasonable assumption," Hotch said, "given her mental state. Still…."

"I just thought I could go, check up on him, see if there's anything to his mother's claims. If we bring the whole team in on this and it's a false alarm…." Morgan shrugged.

Hotch nodded. "He's already discomfited about us knowing about his mother. What did Gideon say? I assume you spoke to him first." When Morgan hesitated, Hotch prodded. "Come on, Morgan, I know I'm a hard-ass. I've gotten used to the team consulting Jason first, especially where Reid's concerned."

"Gideon's worried about him after the case with Nathan. He thought it was a good idea for me to go."

"Okay then. Can't let you take the jet, and, if something comes up here, you're going to have to get yourself and Reid back here or to wherever we are, pronto. Understood?"

"Gotcha. Thanks."

Hotch waved him off, already bending over his paperwork. "Stay in touch."

~o0o~ It was close to 1:30 p.m. before Jim finally arrived back at the station. Henry greeted him enthusiastically when he entered the bullpen.

"Jim! About time, man. My ribs are sticking to my backbone!"

"Sorry, H. Martin's lawyer is an asshole. Tried to intimate false arrest."

H shook his head. "Those guys will try anything." He stood and stretched. "I'll go get Rafe. Oh, before I forget, Sandburg called. Asked you to call him back as soon as you got in, and wanted me to get some background on a guy called Oscar Milton and give it to you." He frowned. "Wonder what Hairboy's got himself into. Milton looks like a real badass!"

Jim turned and headed straight to his desk. "Give me five," he called over his shoulder. Sitting down, he opened the folder in front of him and scanned the contents. Brow creased in consternation, he picked up the phone and dialed Blair's cell.

"Hello?" Blair's voice came over the connection, slightly muted by static.

"Sandburg, it's Jim. What the hell are you up to down there?"

"Long story, Jim. Did you read the file?"

"Yeah, just now. Talk to me, Sandburg." "Reid's mom… recognized the guy… not sure if it's him… going to check…." "You're breaking up, Chief. Where are you?"

"Outskirts… Las Vegas… fine… something else I need to tell you… wait." The phone abruptly went dead.

"Sandburg? Blair, can you hear me?" Nothing but the monotonous beeping of a dead line. Cursing, Jim hung up the phone and headed over to Simon's office. Henry and Rafe entered the bullpen at the same time. "Sorry, guys," Jim said, "I'm gonna have to take a rain check."

"Hairboy's landed himself in hot water again, hasn't he?" Brown said knowingly. He nudged Rafe. "I just knew it."

Ignoring their banter, his insides twisting with worry, Jim tapped on Simon's door and entered without waiting for an invitation.

"What's up, Jim?" Simon asked, hanging up his phone. "Testimony go okay?"

"Fine." Jim slid the open file on Milton onto Simon's desk. "Seems like Reid's mother may have ID'ed this guy in Las Vegas. That's the reason he wanted Blair there."

"What's this guy got to do with Sandburg? Why didn't this Reid just notify the authorities? He's FBI, after all."

"I don't know, sir. Seems his mother refused to tell him anything unless he brought Naomi or Blair with him. I just spoke to Sandburg, but the connection was dicey. They were going to speak to the guy she spotted."

"They'll have backup, surely?"

"I hope so." Jim sat down at Simon's desk and pulled the folder back toward him, studying it intently. "I'm just trying to figure out what this Milton has to do with Naomi or Blair."

He was silent for a moment, allowing his sight to zoom in and take in every detail of the photo. It wasn't a standard arrest picture. Milton had never been arrested on any charges, though the evidence linking him to several bombings was strong. This photo had been snapped by a news photographer at a rally, back in the late 60's. Jim could vaguely make out other human shapes in the background, though the features of most of the people behind Milton were blurred. A flash of red hair caught Jim's keen eyes. Slowly, he dialed his sight up further, filtering out any extraneous information. "Shit!"

Simon sat forward. "What? What is it?"

Jim pulled his sight back and massaged his temple while he tapped at the photo with his other hand. "There's a young woman standing behind Milton. It's Naomi, Simon."

~o0o~

Simon hung up the phone. "There's a uniform waiting downstairs to drive you to the airport. Call me as soon as you know something."

Jim nodded. "I will."

"And, Jim? You're going to have to defer to the FBI, the ATF, and the State police on this one, if there's anything to it."

"I know."

"And I know just how pig-headed you can be when it comes to Sandburg's welfare." Simon waved him out the door. "Keep me informed."

~o0o~

Reid pulled the car off the dirt road and parked it in front of a dusty trailer. A mangy dog bounded over to greet them, jumping up against Blair's leg and licking his hand joyfully. Blair fondled its ears for a moment, then shooed it off and followed Spencer to the front door. Spencer knocked and waited, but there was no response from within. A blue sedan that had seen better days was parked at the rear of the trailer. Blair tapped Spencer's shoulder and indicated they try the back.

Blair gave the car a quick check as they walked past it, but the interior was empty. He looked over and shrugged at Spencer, then turned the corner to come face to face with the muzzle of a rifle. Blair froze, raising his hands in the air. "Easy, man," he gasped.

The short, sturdy bald man holding the gun didn't budge. He jabbed the rifle at Blair's chin, then aimed it at Reid. "Who are you?"

Reid advanced slowly, his hands held out at his sides. "We were looking for Dave Morris."

"Why?"

"Just wanted to ask you a few questions about your laundry delivery run, Mr. Morris," Blair said. "Why don't you put down the gun?"

A slow, nasty smile crossed the man's face. "You're here about Diana. I was hoping they wouldn't believe her, being locked up in the crazy house."

"There are police on the way, Milton," Reid said. "Put the gun down."

"Not gonna happen." He jabbed the gun again at Blair. "Lose your weapon and then take your partner's. Toss them both over here."

"I'm not armed," Blair insisted. He held open his jacket and shifted slightly to prove it.

"Get his weapon; throw it over here."

Reid pulled his jacket aside, and Blair pulled his gun from its holster. He tossed it on the ground at Milton's feet.

"Turn around," Milton ordered. "Keep walking till I tell you to stop."

Blair hesitated. "You don't want to do this, man. Like he said, there are other cops on the way. You don't know who I am-"

The barrel of the rifle swung toward him, slamming into the side of his face. Pain exploded across Blair's cheek, and he sprawled in the dirt, fighting to stay conscious. He felt a hand on his arm and looked up into Reid's worried face.

Then Milton jabbed the rifle at Spencer. "Back off," he ordered. He glared down at Blair and spat in the dirt near his face. "I know who you are," he said. "Naomi's little bastard." He prodded Blair's shoulder with the gun. "Get up and start walking."

Blair struggled up to his knees, closing his eyes for a moment as dizziness overwhelmed him. "You're… you're my father," he stuttered.

Milton snorted. "Those were the days of free love, boy. Naomi was never sure who the father was, and I didn't care, except where it meant it gave me some leverage over her. Now get up!"

~o0o~

Jim parked the rental car outside the three-story block of apartments. He'd had no idea of where to even begin searching for Blair, then he had remembered that his partner had said his friend, Spencer's mother, had been committed to the State Psychiatric facility. Diana Reid refused to see him, but the nurse at the desk had been happy enough to give Jim Spencer's address, once he'd showed her his badge.

Jim entered the foyer and headed up the stairs to the first floor. Reid's apartment was the second one along the hallway. Jim knocked and waited. A moment later, the door was opened by a tall, muscular black man who scowled suspiciously at him. "Who are you?"

Jim pulled his shield from his pocket. "Detective Jim Ellison, Cascade PD. I'm looking for Blair Sandburg… Detective Blair Sandburg."

The other man shrugged. "Don't know him myself, but he's Reid's friend, right?"

"Yeah, he is. Blair flew down here yesterday to talk to Reid's mother."

The other man held the door open. "You'd better come in." He closed the door after Jim entered and held out his hand. "Derek Morgan, BAU. Reid's a member of my team."

They shook hands then Jim looked around the neat apartment. "Any idea where they went? I got a message from Blair, saying they were checking on a guy called Oscar Milton. Seems he was wanted back in the late 60's for a series of factory bombings. Sandburg told me they weren't sure if they had the right guy."

Morgan nodded. "You're about as up to speed as I am." He shook his head. "Damn Reid! Kid's a freaking genius, but he doesn't have a whole lot of common sense. Just rushes off, trying to handle it himself." He sighed. "You know about his mom, right?"

Jim nodded. "As a matter of fact, that's where I got this address from. Mrs. Reid refused to see me, but the nurse at the desk gave it to me. I can imagine Spencer wanting to handle this quietly, just in case it was a mistake. So, any idea where this guy lives? I got a phone call from Blair this morning, but the reception was pretty bad."

Morgan held up a slip of paper with an address written on it. "Let's go. I tried Reid's cell too, but no dice."

He led the way out of the apartment building and over to a dark sedan. "Leave your car here," he said. "You can ride with me."

Jim settled himself into the passenger seat. Morgan started the car and steered it out onto the road. "I've got the State Troopers on their way as well, and we've set up roadblocks, just in case he slips by us, if it is Milton."

~o0o~

Oh, this was so not good! Blair had never felt quite the same about enclosed spaces since that time in the mine when he'd been shot and Quinn had smoked him and Simon out. His chest tightened just thinking about it. His cheek still stung where Milton had hit him, and he reached up and touched the still oozing cut. He looked over to Spencer, who sat on a large rock on the other side of the abandoned gold mine. "What are we gonna do? We can't let him get away."

"He could be waiting out there, ready to pick us off when we come out," Spencer said.

"What about a diversion?" Blair searched the darkened area desperately for a weapon of some kind.

"What sort of diversion?" Spencer was silent for a moment then held up a finger. "What if there's another way out? We might be able to get the drop on him, or, even if he's already gone, we can drive till we're back in cell phone range and call for backup."

"Which we probably should have done in the first place," Blair added pointedly.

Spencer stared at him for a moment, but there was no anger on his face, just a resigned acceptance. "You're probably right," he said. "I'm a little too protective of my mother sometimes."

"You have a right to be," Blair said, leading the way further into the mine, "but you did what you had to do when you had her committed, Spencer. Don't take more than your share of the guilt." He glanced behind him, ensuring Spencer was still with him. "Keep to the side," he advised. "That way, you can feel your way along the wall. Maybe we'll find an old lantern or something."

"I wonder why he didn't restrain us?" Spencer mused. "I mean, he's got to get going some time soon before anyone notices we're missing and comes looking for us."

Blair stopped dead in his tracks, realization punching him forcefully in the gut. He turned and grabbed at Spencer's arm, dragging him further into the mine, pushing him close up against the wall. "He doesn't need to-" he gasped, and then the world exploded.

~o0o~

Jim's eyes burned from his enforced enhanced scan of the desert abutting the road. His ears strained for a sound of voices or some indication of Blair's proximity, and he knew he was skating on the edge of a zone out, hanging on to consciousness by the skin of his teeth. He cast a quick glance over at Morgan in an effort to refocus. "How much furth- Aaahh!"

An explosion of sound battered his eardrums, and he clamped his hands against them in a vain attempt to drown it out. He bent double, his eyes watering, his head feeling as though it would burst. He felt himself slammed forward, prevented from hitting the dash by his seatbelt as Morgan slammed on the brakes.

A hand touched his shoulder, and he flinched. "What is it? What's wrong?"

Jim took a slow, deep breath. His ears were ringing now, but the pain had dissipated to a dull ache. He massaged his pounding temples with his fingertips. "Explosion," he gasped. "Up ahead."

"I didn't…." Morgan started the car as Jim straightened in his seat, his eyes straining to see into the distance. "Maybe a bit of a shudder," he said finally. "I figured we hit a bump in the road."

"There." Jim pointed through the windscreen. "Dead ahead. Smoke."

~o0o~

With the window wound down and his sense of smell dialed up, the acrid stench of explosive stung Jim's nostrils and made his eyes water.

A car appeared in the distance, traveling toward them at high speed, its rear end fishtailing wildly as the tires fought for purchase on the dirt road.

Morgan glanced over at Jim. "Milton?"

"One way to find out," Jim replied tersely.

As the other car closed on them, Morgan turned the steering wheel sharply, expertly steering into the spin and jamming on the brakes as the car slid sideways, blocking the road. Jim could hear the wail of police sirens behind them now.

The other car bore down on them, and Jim scrambled to get out of his seatbelt and out of the car, aware of Morgan doing the same thing on the other side. He wrenched open his door and took shelter behind it, ready to dive out of the way if the other driver decided to try to go through them. Morgan was crouched behind the open driver's door, his weapon up and at the ready, and Jim wished he'd been able to carry his own gun.

For a split second, it seemed the driver would indeed attempt a suicide run, then he wrenched the steering wheel at the last minute, and the car slid off the road and bumped crazily through the dirt before coming to rest headfirst against a large bush.

Jim was at the driver's door instantly, pulling it open and unsnapping the man's seatbelt before dragging him from his seat and slamming him against the body of the car.

"Hey, hey," the man protested. "I didn't do anything! Who the hell are you?"

Morgan pulled handcuffs from his belt and slapped his badge onto the roof of the car. "FBI. We need to ask you some questions." He pulled the man's arms around to his back and snicked on the cuffs, then turned him to face them. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a wallet and flipped it open. "David Morris, huh?"

The man nodded. "That's right. What about it?"

Morgan gave him an evil smile. "The David Morris with this social security number died ten years ago in suspicious circumstances."

"I don't know what you're talking about!"

"Sure you do," Jim said, crowding the man on his other side, "Oscar Milton. Now, where are Blair Sandburg and Spencer Reid?"

Milton's eyes narrowed, but he shook his head defiantly. "Never heard of them."

Morgan grabbed Milton by his shirt collar and slammed him against the car again. "Where are they?"

Two police cars arrived at high speed, their sirens winding down as they skidded to a stop. "Let the patrols take care of him," Jim said, already striding back to the rental car. "I can find them."

Morgan stared at him for a brief moment, then handed Milton over to the troopers and hurried after Jim.

~o0o~

"Not here," Jim said when Morgan slowed the car as they approached the trailer. "Further on."

Morgan gave him a puzzled look but obeyed instantly, pressing on the accelerator and sending the car barreling past the dwelling and along a track half-hidden by sand.

Jim had his hearing wide-open now, despite the zone out risk. The car engine thrummed gratingly in his ears, and he fought to strain past it, to filter out the extraneous noises and find what he needed to hear.

There! Straight ahead. Two heartbeats, rapid and somewhat muffled. The creaking of old wood.

"Stop! They're here."

Morgan slammed on the brakes, and Jim was out of the car and running toward the collapsed mine before the vehicle had fully stopped. "Oh god!"

The entrance to the mine was caved in completely. Broken timber hindered any entrance. Smoke billowed in thick tendrils into the air. Jim hurried forward and pressed close, hoping to see a way in. Morgan was beside him now, one hand resting on Jim's shoulder as he craned his neck and peered through the meager cracks of space.

"Sandburg!" Jim yelled. "Blair!"

Morgan's voice joined his own. "Reid? You in there? Reid!"

Jim was certain he heard a soft sound, a groan. He grabbed hold of Morgan's hand and squeezed it. "I need you to trust me. Just stay quiet for a minute."

"You hear something?" Morgan asked.

"Maybe." Jim held a finger to his lips, then concentrated on the interior of the mine. He was certain of it now. Another groan, followed by a hacking cough. Someone shifting restlessly…. Timber shifted, and someone shouted in fear.

"Help! Somebody… help us!"

Blair!

"Blair, it's Jim. You need to stay as still as you can, Chief. The structure's not too stable. Stay calm, and we'll get you out of there."

"J-Jim?"

Jim felt relief wash over him. "Yeah, Chief, it's me. How you doing?"

"M-my leg's pinned under something," Blair panted, his voice sounding tight with pain. "I can't get out. Spencer's unconscious. He's… he's bleeding from his head."

"Okay. You just hang in there, and we'll have you out in no time," Jim reassured him.

"It was Milton, Jim."

"We know, Blair. We got him."

Jim rested back on his haunches and looked up at Morgan, whose expression was deeply troubled. "How the hell do we get them out without the whole thing coming down on them?"

"I'm working on it," Jim said. "Get on the phone and get a couple of ambulances here. I want to take a closer look, scout things out."

Morgan stared at him for a moment. "He said Reid's alive, right?"

"Yeah. He's unconscious, but he's alive."

Morgan's gaze didn't waver. "How did you know…?" One hand waved aimlessly in the air.

Jim shrugged. "Just a hunch. Get on the phone, huh? Get us some help."

Morgan nodded, galvanized into action. He straightened and pulled the radio he'd grabbed from one of the rangers, tersely issuing information.

Jim paced across the entrance of the mine, then stepped back and surveyed the structure. An idea formed in his head. He waited until Morgan rejoined him. "Sandburg and I worked a case a few years back," he said. "We got trapped in an old mine. Perp tried to smoke us out. I was able to find a back entrance to the mine, probably used as an escape route if anything went wrong."

Morgan nodded enthusiastically. "Rescue and Ambulance is on the way. Let's take a look."

~o0o~

It took them a half hour to find it. By then, daylight was starting to fade, but Search and Rescue had arrived and set up spotlights around the perimeter. The Search and Rescue people were looking at trying to find a way in from the front, without collapsing the already fragile structure.

Jim was finding it more difficult to pull his focus away from the interior of the mine and Blair's panicked, pain-filled breathing. He bypassed the bush-strewn entrance on his first pass, then stopped for a moment and resolutely pulled back his hearing. A breeze wafted the bushes in front of him, and he smelled smoke. "Over here!" he called.

Morgan was at his side in a second, eagerly parting the bushes crowding the small back entrance and peering into the darkness. "You sure this is it?" he asked, pulling back to look at Jim.

"One way to find out." Jim hefted the heavy-duty flashlight he'd grabbed from the Search and Rescue team and pushed his way inside. "Stay close behind me," he said over his shoulder to Morgan. "We don't want to bring any more of the roof down."

He could see perfectly well without the aid of the flashlight but knew he'd need Morgan's help and that of Search and Rescue to get both injured men out safely. He played the beam along the ground in front of him and slowly made his way forward.

Finally, a dark shape in front of him shifted and moaned, and he quickened his step, reaching behind to grasp Morgan's hand and guide him along. Behind him, he could hear the steady tramp of other feet and knew help was close by.

"Blair!" Dropping to his partner's side, he felt for a carotid pulse, reassured to feel it thrumming steadily, if rapidly, against his fingertips. "Jim?" Blair's voice was hoarse and breathless, and, as he struggled upward, Jim pressed him back with a gentle hand on his chest.

"Easy, Sandburg. Just relax until we see what we've got here."

He looked over and saw another man lying a few feet from Blair, his arms flung outwards, blood streaming from a deep gash in his forehead. "Morgan," he said. "Check Reid." He handed Morgan the flashlight and quickly turned his attention back to Blair. "Let's check you out, Chief."

Blair lay still under his questing hand, though Jim could feel his body shuddering in shock and pain. Trailing his hands over Blair's body, he was relieved to find no major injuries on his head or torso. A solid piece of timber pinned one of Blair's legs to the ground, and Jim struggled to raise it then gave up for fear of doing further harm. "Cavalry's on its way, Chief," he said, stroking a hand down Blair's dirt-encrusted cheek. "We'll have you out of here in no time."

Blair nodded and closed his eyes, huffing out a silent breath. Jim looked over at Morgan, who was crouched over his own partner, checking his pulse and then pressing a handkerchief to the bleeding wound on his forehead.

"How is he?" Jim asked.

Morgan looked over, his brow creased in concern. "Breathing, but he won't wake up."

"He'll be okay, won't he?" Blair asked, his eyes opening wide. "I tried to get us out."

"He's gonna be fine, Chief," Jim assured him, wishing he felt as confident as he sounded. There was a touch on his shoulder, and he looked up to see a paramedic standing hunched over behind him. "His leg's pinned by a stanchion. I need some help to get it off."

~o0o~

It took all of Jim's self-control not to shoulder the Rescue workers aside and free Blair himself every time he heard his partner moan in pain as they worked to shift the heavy beam trapping Blair's leg. Reid, he noticed with relief, had regained consciousness, though he was still somewhat dazed. Across from him, he could hear Morgan murmuring reassurances to Spencer as he was carefully loaded onto a stretcher and carried from the mine.

An hour later, he was ushered out of the way, and he scrambled backward, watching as Blair was loaded onto another stretcher, his neck secured with a collar, and an air splint safeguarding his injured leg.

Blair's face was white beneath the grime in the harsh glare of the floodlights. As soon as the stretcher cleared the mine entrance, Jim was back at his partner's side, reaching out to grasp Blair's filthy hand as he was carried carefully to the remaining ambulance.

"Sorry, you'll have to meet us at the hospital," a paramedic said.

Jim thought about arguing but instead gave Blair what he hoped was a reassuring smile. "I'll be right behind you, Chief."

Blair nodded and closed his eyes. Jim looked around and saw Morgan waiting by his rental car, his arms crossed but his body language anything but relaxed. Jim walked over to join him. "Wouldn't let you go with Reid either?"

Morgan shrugged. "I figured you'd need a ride in, anyway." He opened the passenger door for Jim, then walked around and climbed into the driver's seat. "Your friend going to be all right?" he asked as he started the engine.

"Yeah, looks like it." Jim felt his body winding down as the adrenaline rush subsided. "Leg's broken, but he'll be fine."

"Reid, too," Morgan said. "I knew the kid had a hard head." He smiled for the first time since they had met, and Jim responded with one of his own. "Now, let's go chew them out for trying to handle this on their own."

Jim held out his hand, and Morgan gave it a high five. "I'm down with that."

~o0o~

Reid cracked open gummy eyelids and licked at his dry lips. The room was in semi-darkness; only a soft glow emanated from somewhere to his right. It took a moment for his addled brain to catch up to current events.

Hospital. He closed his eyes again, remembering the mine falling down around them, of a crushing pain in his head, then nothing. At least that explained his pounding headache. Carefully, he reached up to touch his temple, but his hand was captured and lowered to his side before he could complete the motion.

"Leave it alone, Reid."

"Morgan?" Reid opened his eyes again and carefully turned his head, squinting in the light. "What are you doing here?"

"Saving your skinny ass, as always," Morgan groused, but a small, gentle smile took the sting from his words. "Good to see you awake and partially compos mentis," he added. "How you feeling?"

"Honestly?" Reid licked again at his lips. "Lousy." He could really use a drink of water right now. He moaned softly as the mere thought of anything hitting his empty, sore stomach caused nausea to surge.

Something hard and cold touched his lips. "Open," Morgan instructed. He did as bid, and blissful cold ice was slipped onto his tongue. He sucked at it carefully, relishing the refreshing sensation. "Nothing but ice chips for a while," Morgan said. "They want to make sure you didn't crack that skull of yours first."

"Is Blair all right?"

"Got a busted leg," Morgan said, "but it's a clean break. He's gonna be fine, though once his partner gets through with him…."

He shook his head then fixed Reid with a stern glare. "Speaking of which, what the hell did you and Sandburg think you were doing, handling this without backup? You knew I was on my way! Why the hell didn't you wait?"

"We weren't even sure it was him," Reid protested. He looked away and stared at the window on the other side of the room. "My mom…. I couldn't be sure."

Morgan's hand touched his shoulder and squeezed gently. "We got him," he said. "Your mom was right. Next time, just wait for me, okay?"

Reid nodded. There was a tap at the door, and he swiped at his damp eyes before calling out, "Come in."

The door was pushed open, and a red-haired woman stepped inside. She smiled at them both, then looked over her shoulder and drew Diana into the room.

Reid struggled to sit up, gasping when his headache surged with a vengeance.

"Easy," Morgan said. "Here." He pushed an extra pillow behind Spencer's shoulders then carefully helped him to shift up and back.

"Mom! What are you doing here?"

"Naomi brought me. Blair's friend was able to contact her." Diana held tightly to Naomi's hand as they walked over to the bed. Her lips pursed in disapproval, and she gently brushed a strand of hair from his eyes. "You could have been killed," she said. Tears sparkled in her eyes. "My fault," she muttered. "I'm not a good mother."

"Hush now," Naomi said. She gently pushed Diana into the seat Morgan vacated. "You're a wonderful mother," she said, squeezing Diana's shoulder. "And if it weren't for you, Oscar would still be out there."

She looked over and smiled at Spencer. "It's good to see you again, Spencer. How are you feeling?"

"Okay, I guess. Have you seen Blair?"

"He's just going back to his room now. They had to set his leg. Jim's with him. I wanted to bring Diana to see you before I go see him. I knew she'd be worried about you."

"And then I have to go back," Diana put in, her chin trembling. "Back to the hospital."

Spencer nodded. "I know. I'm sorry. But I might be able to stay for a couple of days and visit with you." He looked up at Morgan.

Morgan nodded. "I need to phone Gideon and the others anyway and let them know you're okay." He reached out and shook Diana's hand, then Naomi's. "It was good to meet you both."

"I'm going to see my son," Naomi said. She rested a hand lightly on Diana's clenched ones. "I'll come get you in a while. Why don't we go shopping before I take you back? We've got a whole day to spend together."

Diana nodded. "That would be nice." She looked at Spencer and smiled. "I'll buy you a book to read."

"Thanks, Mom," Spencer replied with an answering smile. "I'd like that."

~o0o~

"How's the leg?" Jim asked once Blair was settled into his bed.

"Not too bad," Blair replied. He shifted a little, and winced. "As long as I don't move."

Jim tapped Blair's head gently. "Then don't move." He bent and lifted Blair's leg, positioning the supporting pillow more comfortably. "Better?"

"Yeah, thanks." Blair was silent for a moment. "Spencer's okay? You told me already, right?"

"I did." Jim nodded. "No thanks to you two cowboys going off on your own."

"We didn't have a choice," Blair protested. "If he'd gotten away… if he'd found my mom-"

"He didn't," Naomi said from the doorway, "and now he'll be put away for good. Hi, Jim." She stepped into the room and reached up to kiss Jim's cheek. "Thank you for saving my son… again."

"No problem," Jim said, giving Blair a wink. "Someone has to do it."

"I am here, you know," Blair groused.

Naomi gave her son a beaming smile. "Hi, sweetie. How's your leg?" She bent down and kissed Blair's cheek, smoothing a hand over his disheveled curls. "I'll bring you a pick for your hair. It looks like a bird's nest."

Blair rolled his eyes. "Thanks, Mom. And my leg hurts… a lot."

Naomi went into instant mother hen mode. "Oh, poor baby. I'll talk to the doctor about some herbal pain relief. Let me get you some water. Why didn't you say something?"

Blair gave Jim a self-satisfied smirk. Jim just rolled his eyes. Blair accepted the drink his mother offered him then settled back on his pillows. "Mom, I need to ask you about Oscar."

"What about him?"

"Is he…?" Blair broke off and tried again. "Is he my father?"

Naomi sank into the chair next to the bed, her eyes haunted. Jim rested a hand on Blair's shoulder. "I'm going to get some coffee and check on Reid."

Blair nodded. "Thanks, Jim."

He waited until Jim left before prompting Naomi. "Mom?"

Naomi stared down at her hands. "He could be. I just… I'm not sure." She looked at Blair, tears streaming down her cheeks. "You have to understand, Blair. It was the 60's. Free love, peace. I didn't think so, but when he threatened you, I couldn't take the chance. That's when I left."

Blair reached out and took her hand. Bringing it up to his lips, he kissed her palm. "It's okay, Mom. I understand."

"Do you?"

"Yeah, you needed to protect me."

"If I'd known what he was going to do-" She broke off, shaking her head.

"Come here." Blair patted the side of the bed, and Naomi moved to sit beside him. Carefully, he levered himself upright and pulled her into a hug. "I know," he said softly. "It's okay."

~o0o~

Jim spotted Derek Morgan seated at a table on the far side of the cafeteria. Paying for his coffee and Danish, he walked over to join him. "Mind if I sit?"

Morgan seemed lost in his thoughts, and he looked up, startled. "Oh, hey. No, man, be my guest."

Jim seated himself and took a much-needed sip of his coffee. "So, Reid's okay?"

Morgan nodded and scrubbed a hand over his close-cropped hair. "Yeah, they'll probably discharge him tomorrow. He's staying in Las Vegas for a couple days to visit with his mom." He gave Jim a small smile. "I just got the go-ahead from my boss to stay as well. 'Bring him home in one piece,' Hotch said." He shook his head, looking rueful. "Kid surprises me all the damn time. I mean, he looks like a stiff wind would blow him over, and he's so damn young! But he can handle himself when his back's up against the wall. Just can't help feeling like I need to look out for him."

"I know what you mean," Jim concurred. "Even after all this time and everything Sandburg and I have been through, I treat him like I did when I first met him, and he was this geeky little anthropology grad student. Still, after one particular case when Blair got kidnapped by a serial killer, he called me his 'Blessed Protector', so I tend to get away with it most of the time."

He finished his coffee and pushed his half-eaten Danish aside. "I'd better get back there. His mom's there, and, knowing how Naomi's always felt about Blair joining the department, I want to make sure there's no blood shed."

"Reid's having a heart to heart with his mom too," Morgan said, standing. "Poor kid feels guilty somehow for his mother being committed. I know it scares the hell out of him that the schizophrenia might be inherited. I've never really been able to get him to open up much." He snorted. "Then again, I've got enough skeletons in my own closet."

"I know the feeling." Jim stood as well and reached out to shake Morgan's hand. "It's been a pleasure."

"Same here. Tell you what. I'm figuring you'll be here till Blair is able to travel." Jim nodded. "How about we get together for dinner and a couple of drinks tonight, once we get our respective partners settled?"

"I'd like that," Jim said with a smile.

"Great! Reid's champing at the bit to see Blair. Doc said, if his vitals looked okay, I could take him to Blair's room in an hour or so."

"Sounds good. I need to find a hotel room and get unpacked. We could head out for a drink around six."

"Works for me." Morgan grinned. "We can compare notes on thick-headed partners."

Jim laughed. "You bet. Thank you again, for what you did."

Morgan clapped Jim on the back. "Ditto, Jim, ditto."

End

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