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bear by san

March 2017



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criminal minds hotch and reid has your b

fic: Two Pair Of Aces

Here, because I promised. If anybody sues, you all promise to take up a collection right? (If I had time, I would give this an actual plot structure to support the wangst, but... book due April 15.)

Title: Two Pair Of Aces
Author: Bear
Rating: PG, possibly PG-13 for one mild swear
Pairing: Pairing?
Summary: A gambler will bet on anything. (also, there is a sequel, "Dead Man's Hand," written by cpolk and me.)
Spoilers: Yes
Disclaimer: legally useless, of course, but no, I don't own any of this.

Two Pair Of Aces

He's careful not to win too often.

He can't afford suspicion. Not that what he's doing is cheating--getting caught just once, cheating, would get his name in the Black Book, banned for life from every casino, and that's an unacceptable risk.

He needs the money too badly, for the same reasons he's needed it since he turned 18. A government job does not pay for top-tier mental health care. So he doesn't cheat, though he could. And even get away with it.

But what he can do, just by virtue of who he is, is still the sort of thing that the gambling establishments frown upon.

The eye in the sky is always watching. It doesn't pay to look suspicious.

He'd rather not be escorted to the street. Or worse, to a back room somewhere. Bruises would be difficult to explain at work, and Metro doesn't want to know anything about what casino security gets up to. Even if the victim of a little unnecessary roughness is an F.B.I. special agent.

In the old days, it would have been the mob, and he'd have been risking a kneecapping. That, too, would have hampered his ability to do his job.

He could play poker on the internet. It's statistics, after all; he could win there, too. He could play without the travel, though he'd come here anyway--to watch her from a distance, and try to get up the courage to walk over and see if she recognizes him today.

He could play on the internet. With much less risk. Without the smoke and the chime of slot machines in the background. But the likelihood of a conflict of professional interest is much higher. There are ethical implications.

But there's nothing even quasi-illegal about gambling in Las Vegas. Also, he's a profiler; it helps to read the faces and the body language of the men and occasional women he plays against. He knows his own face, his clothes, his quirks of manner work in his favor. People dismiss him.

And he's comfortable at these tables; he's been playing this game, in this fashion, for over seven years.

But most of all, he comes here to play cards because for Spencer Reid, Las Vegas is still the closest thing he has to home. And when they're not there, chattering in the background, he misses the sound of the slot machines.

That had been the hardest thing to get used to. Not the snow. Not the inexplicable lack of palm trees. Not even all the verdant green and the close, cluttered horizons that made him feel... caged... had thrown him for a loop the way the silence did.

A specific kind of silence: the supreme oddness of walking into a grocery store, a drugstore, a convenience store, a gas station, a bar... and not hearing the seductive tinkle of slots or of video poker. A silence so loud it was background noise, and the absence never quite stopped nagging at him.

He discards, draws two.


The scabs have come off his wrists. The bruising has flared red, violet, indigo; faded through greens and jaundiced yellows. You could mistake the last brown smudges in the hollows below the bones for the shadows on his sallow skin.

Normally, this is how he spends his two weeks of vacation. Two weeks to earn enough money to pay another twelve months of medical bills. Enough money, that is, after taxes: he is scrupulous about declaring everything. Another case of the opportunity cost being so much higher than the payoff that it's not worth cheating. And he knows--intimately--exactly where the kind of thinking that starts but I'm special and so the rules don't apply to me leads. Society is fragile; it only survives due to its own inertia, and a certain number of individuals who understand that banding together is their best defense.

And a few, who are willing to defend it.

Two weeks a year to stay solvent.

Two weeks.

No sweat.

He's actually about three years ahead, more if you count in his mom's disability checks. He doesn't need to be here, in a vaulted cream-colored room in the Bellagio, peeking under the bent edge of his cards to see the numbers, the cardstock tinted green by light reflected off the baize.

But what else is he going to do in Vegas? It's not like he has a lot of old high school friends.

And now he's on medical leave, six weeks, while the fractures heal (they say it will be six months at least before the cracked rib stops hurting) and there's really nothing for him to do in D.C., and at least, here, the discomfort is comfortable.


And the Bellagio's poker room is nonsmoking.

It's too quiet, though. Too isolated. You can't really hear the slot machines.

The two he drew were the wrong two. Jack high.

He folds without regret.

It's just statistics.


When he plays with friends, he makes up his own rules. His team--Hotch, in particular--expect him to cheat.

He expects them--Hotch, in particular--to cheat right back.

It's part of why he loves them. The other part is being accepted, and valued, and treated like a human being rather than a sort of useful parrot.

Cheating and teamwork are what keeps them all alive. Once you understand the rules, you can avoid them when it's necessary.

If you're special enough to get away with it.

Except when the rules are rules you can't avoid.

Like the ones Elle broke. Not just broke.


This is why Gideon insists on teaching him chess. Because whatever else is wrong with Gideon--and the list is at least as long as the list of What's Wrong With Spencer--Gideon knows people. And both of them know that some things appear on both Lists of Wrong.

One of those things is risk-taking behavior. Gambling. The higher the stakes, the better.

Gideon gambles with lives. His own. Other people's.

Sometimes Spencer gambles that way, too.

The drawback of being a psychologist--and even more specifically, a profiler--is that if you are in the least bit self-aware, you also know exactly what's wrong with your own brain.

Physician, heal thyself.

He waits, self-effacing, while the final two play out the hand.


Reid never watched a lot of television--his mother thought it rotted brain cells. But he could catch old shows, sometimes, syndicated, in the afternoons when she was sleeping. One of the things he watched was Star Trek, beautiful escapism. And it fits the geeky image, doesn't it?

But another one was Columbo.

It was the first thing he ever saw in which the good guy's only advantage was that he was smarter than the enemy.

Spencer was entranced.

It's not much effort to seem gentle and unassuming and cooperative and fumbling. He is, in general, gentle and unassuming and cooperative and fumbling. And awkward. And kind of a wuss. Not to put too fine a point on it.

He's neater than Peter Falk was, though. But fussy neatness can be just as deceptive as a false sloppiness.

People assume if you are tidy, you are reluctant to get your hands dirty. Unworldly. Inept. They assume that you have a tidy, effeminate little mind.

The stereotype is useful to him.

None of the women he works with, none of the women in his family, affect effeminate little minds. Elle--

He misses Elle.

He failed Elle. The same way he failed his mother. The same way he failed Tobias.

He wonders if he's going to fail himself, also.

His tie is crooked. He straightens it, smooths his sweater. He orders a coffee. They keep these places near freezing. They keep the liquor flowing. Harder to think when you're cold. Harder to think when you're intoxicated.

He stops himself before he can push his hair out of his eyes. Too much fidgeting at the table is a bad idea.

Really, he knows, it's a reaction to his upbringing. The clutter. The impossibility of keeping the house and himself and his mother presentable, meeting the expectations of his schoolwork, and hiding everything. If things--like him--are tidy (not filthy, caked in blood and piss and vomit, reeking of rotten fish and wood smoke, sweating in unclean clothing) then things are under control.

If it disarms people, so much the better.

New deal.

Pair of aces.


He walks away from the table twelve grand ahead. Another four hours of work; another month paid for.

It was a lousy night.

It would be so easy to walk away from the B.A.U. Should be even easier. He's not in it for the money. He can gamble anywhere.

He catches a cab home. He has to give directions. The cabbies don't know anything about Vegas if it's off the Strip. None of them grew up here.

Home is an empty house, just another off-white, red-roofed, California-style stucco, identical to all the others on the street. Once he came back to find it had been broken into, but there's nothing here to take. When the television died, he never bothered buying another.

He should sell the house. He should have sold the house while the market was high. That would pay for a few years of--


An ugly word, but his mom would have insisted on precision.

There's no saving Diana Reid. But he could bring her home. He's not eighteen any more. He could make her take her meds.

Her books are here.

Except the ones the vandals destroyed, which he never told her about. There's a painfully precious metaphor there, the vandalism to her incredible mind and the vandalism to this abandoned house.

His mom would say it was a pathetic excuse for poetry.

So, a lousy night at the poker table, and he's still twelve grand ahead. He might have gotten too good at this, he thinks, as he walks to the door, key in hand, puts his key in the lock, lets himself inside. Disarms the security system. Re-arms it in occupied mode. Puts the messenger bag with his winnings and his pistol in it on the table, takes the money and the holster out, clips the latter to his belt. He lets himself limp, since nobody is looking.

Yes, he's wearing the gun in the house now. Is it too soon to admit that he's putting it on his nightstand when he sleeps? When he pretends to himself that he's sleeping?

Someday, he's going to have a lousier night.

Someday, he's going to get somebody killed. Again.

He told J.J. it wasn't her fault. And it wasn't. It was his fault. He gambled.

He lost.

It won't be the last time. He's going to fail himself, his team, the victims. His mother. He's going to fail somebody who was so oppressed by an unbearable life that they shattered into a monster.

It's statistics. It's going to happen.

It's not gambling if you know you're never going to lose.

He's pretty sure Gideon doesn't sleep much anymore, either. Hotch might. But Hotch has his own issues. Heck, never mind issues: every single one of them has a subscription.

And Hotch isn't a gambler.


He opens the wall safe behind a framed Waterhouse print and puts the money inside. There are two transparent plastic vials in the safe, beside the money, his grandmother's wedding rings, important paperwork.

He concealed evidence. He stole it. The ethical implications are staggering. But it was a special case, he tells himself.

And the rules don't always apply.

He could walk away. He wonders what his mother would say of him squandering his gifts as a professional gambler. He knows what Hotch would say.

What Hotch wouldn't say.

The glue that holds society together is the people who are willing to fight for it.

He touches the vials with a fingertip, rocks the nearest back and forth. It ticks softly, like dog nails on a wooden floor.

A talisman. He's just keeping them as a reminder. That's all. Magical thinking; Tobias saved him once, and he couldn't save Tobias. Maybe the vials will save him again. Hole cards.

A pair of aces.

Denial and justification are, of course, how it starts. He remembers Gideon, when he came to retrieve his personal effects, a last lingering look around the bullpen before departing on indefinite leave. He remembers Elle, and the line of minibar bottles.

Gideon got an entire team killed.

Hotch nearly got Elle killed.

Spencer nearly got J.J. killed.

He is piteously glad that it's him limping on a foot that should probably still be in a brace, and not her.

He tidies the stack of hundreds. In the morning, he'll take it to the bank. And then maybe he'll go and visit his mother. Or maybe he'll try his luck at the Wynn Las Vegas this time. Like a smart killer, a smart poker player varies his hunting grounds.

But no. The Wynn is an ugly thing. Too quiet. The Palms. That's where the locals play. Better symbolism. He likes the wood floors.

He shuts the safe.

He'd rather be playing on the plane, for pennies.


That would be the unnecessary-explication-of-implicit-angst school of fanfiction, yes. *g* Also possibly the jigsaw-construction of backstory school.

And now, I have to go write a thousand paying words.


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See what happens when you leave me alone with a keyboard?

Next thing you know it's going to be William Shatner snuff fic.

Off Topic


Your post on epiphantic healing inspired me to write a response. Thank you. It's here: http://wyrdsmiths.blogspot.com/2007/02/lie-vs-myth.html
With some discussion and clarification in the comments. I sent you an email about it, but don't know if you got it. If you did and prefer neither to comment nor respond, my apologies, and feel free to delete this note as well.

Re: Off Topic

I did not recieve the email. Thank you.

I don't think your post requires my response, however. I think you said what you set out to say very well.
I really enjoyed this. I loved the symbolism of the vials at the end, and the details of Reid's poker playing. Everything felt absolutely right, especially his view on the team. Lovely stuff!

Is it ok if I add this to the rec list at my journal? I'm collecting CM-gen stories and there aren't many of them...
I don't mind at all; I'm flattered. Thank you!

I would love to see your rec list. I can't handle CM slash or het. My take on the relationships is too sibling/mentor, and it squicks me to add sex to the mix. I mean, other people are welcome to it, but I will stay out of the way!

I started wondering what he did on his medical leave. *g* And whenever he went home to Vegas and didn't visit his mom except to drop off books.

And how he paid for that sanitarium on a cop salary....
Love it. I'm hooked on Criminal Minds, and Reid is my favorite character. Sometimes it can get a little stultifying to be trapped inside someone's head almost exclusively, but definitely not in this case. There's too much going on, too many crushing concerns ticking away inside his brainpan. Just as it should be.
Thank you!

yeah, he's... having a bad year.
that is so quietly, painfully good. I love this backstory -- Reid and Vegas, such an odd match but there is kinship.
I'm glad you like! And yeah, it just clicks, doesn't it? I lived in Vegas for seven years, and I have wanted to do this ever since we found out he's a card shark. *g*

Sometimes, the plot bunnies are tenacious!
Oh, this was good! I will happily contribute to the defense fund, in the unlikely event that it is necessary.

I think even if we find out tonight that it couldn't happen this way, it still happened this way. I'm not always very happy with the universe the writers hand us.
Thank you! *g* And, well, I VERY CAREFULLY left things, um, open.

And if I get jossed, well, my own fool fault for writing fanfic....
I really liked this. I liked the tone and the backstory. Nice and subdued.
Thank you!
This must have been the best Reid POV gen fic I've ever read. Your style of writing, the way you use the words, the way you manage to make a story in which nothing much happens (in an action kind of sense) feel so ALIVE and BRIMMING. This is simply wonderful. I hope to read more from you one of these days.
Thank you.

If the plotbunnies strike, I will give it my best, anyway....
Anyone mentioned lately that you're really quite amazing?

*buffs extra-long MGG-style fingernails*
I really liked this. It seemed just like Reid.
Great job =)
Thank you!
This is really good. I'm glad you gave in and wrote it! It sounds very much like Reid, to me. Especially the bit about using the stereotypes as a way to help himself. It fits very well with the overall care he takes with the gambling - how careful he is not to win too often, I mean, and how he's really not quite cheating, and using the expectations of others as pointers to help himself fit in and not be noticeable (and not just when he's gambling at Vegas), etc. I know you write for a living, but personally I'm hoping a non-paying bunny might strike again when you're not looking. I think your Reid is one of the more convincing takes I've read on the character.
You never know!

I, um. Over-identify with Reid.
This is wonderful. Many thanks to jadesfire for the rec. Terrific idea to have Reid gamble for his mother's care! Really a stroke of brilliance. It's nice that you were able to use your experience of Las Vegas that way -- I especially liked the line about taxis! *smile* Had a very real ring to it. So many thoughts and little touches in here, right down to wearing his gun in the house.

Also really loved the "useful parrot" line! Nice image.
Nice icon!

And thank you. It was just one of those things that clicked together like a Rubik's cube, you know?

And then would not leave me alone until I got it on paper.
I think my favorite part is your author's note at the end -- LOL!!

I did enjoy your glimpse inside Spencer Reid's mind. Nicely done.
Hee. There are four schools of fanfiction:

The total bogus making stuff up school; the unnecessary explication of implicit angst school; the jigsaw backstory school; and the patching white-space school. *g*

Thank you!
This is lovely. I'm always excited to see gen fic in Criminal Minds (I just can't get behind any of the possible pairings), and this was terrific. I enjoyed the sense of history that you imbued the story with, the fact that Reid wasn't just existing in a vacuum. The gambling theme was well executed, too.

I've also been quietly reading your CM meta, which I loved and agreed wholeheartedly with. I had seen a couple of episodes and went searching for discussions on it because there seemed to be something ticking along in the background of CM, far more than any of the others shows I watch. Lo and behold, you had pinpointed a lot of what I had seen but was unable to vocalize!

So, thanks for posting. I'll probably be lurking around here for awhile.
Thank you! Come visit any time. I like company. *g*

The thematic discussion is what keeps me hooked. It's so nuanced, and comes back on so many levels.

And I have a feeling I will be nattering on about this thing for a good long time. I haven't been this hooked on a TV show since, oh, S3 Buffy.

And this one makes me think more.
wow...ok...seriously, i read a lot of fanfic...a lot...and this is probably the best reid pov i have ever read. i can totally see him walking through the story. i can hear the thoughts ticking through his mind...wow...really really impressed...and addicted. more? please? ~jen
Thank you.

I was trying to find a way to show the kind of chained, intuitive way he seems to think--you know, every thought leading to the next one, sort of rattle rattle rattle.

There might be more, time permitting. *g* You never know!
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