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Title: Life Ain’t a Dream (It’s Just a String of Jokes, All Connected)
Author: nevcolleil
Fandoms: Criminal Minds/Inception
Characters Spencer Reid, Aaron Hotchner, Derek Morgan, J.J. Jareau, Emily Prentiss, Penelope Garcia, David Rossi; Arthur, Dom, Eames, Ariadne, Yusuf
Pairings: Spencer Reid/Arthur
Rating: PG-13
Word count: 2871
Spoilers: all of the tv show and the movie, with specific references to Revealations in Season 2 of Criminal Minds
Warnings: AU
Disclaimer: Criminal Minds and Inception belong to their respective creators
A/N: Unending thinks to iluvaqt for the beta. Any remaining mistakes are mine.

Summary: Arthur’s team is hired to work with government extractors. More than just dreams are likely to recur.

Arthur was an army brat. No matter that neither of his biological parents had served in the military; Arthur's mom had a thing for Admirals, and Admirals - at least three of them by the time Arthur turned eighteen - had a thing for Arthur's mom.

Arthur said hello to his second Admiral Step-dad when he was eleven. Mom had divorced Admiral Step-dad # 1 six months before, after one year of marriage. Before that, she'd all but resigned herself to a life as the wife of a lowly Captain, so Arthur was now warned, with each new set of nuptuals, to be on his best behavior in the presence of his "father".

Only, Admiral Step-dad # 2 wasn't present around Arthur very much during his marriage to Arthur's mother. Arthur had only met the man twice when he and his Mom moved to Nevada to live with him. Or...

When Arthur moved to Nevada, to live with the Admiral's house staff while the "happy couple" honeymooned in Hawaii. So Arthur saw no reason to be on his best anything, except mobility. Do you know what it takes for an eleven-year-old to make it from the Air Force Base in Nellis to Vegas on his own without being picked up or reported missing?
Arthur does. He made the trip in twenty-six hours.

Spencer Reid was a child prodigy. He was eleven years old when he entered into his junior year of high school. Spencer's mother was a Literature professor at the University of Las Vegas until she went off her meds again, and - like Arthur - Spencer's father wasn't around.

Unlike Arthur, however, Spencer knew more about his Dad than what he'd gleaned from the odd photograph and his mother's less-than-glowing descriptions. Specifically, Spencer knew his Dad's full name and social security number. He also knew all of his mother's banking information. (And not by accident. Diana couldn't keep what day it was straight most of the time, so she could hardly be expected to stay on top of bill paying and managing their savings accounts.) Every other weekend, as soon as his Mom was asleep, Spencer would take a bus to the edge of the city, informing whatever well-meaning bus driver who happened to ask that he was visiting a fictitious aunt or uncle.

Using one of several strategies, Spencer had managed to make thousands off of the casinos of his hometown over the years since his father split. Child support checks and ULV retirement pay-offs couldn't quite keep the electricity on in the Reid household - as well as put food on the table - and Diana refused to touch the savings, disregarding Reid's assurances that scholarships could send him to whatever college he wished to attend.

Spencer was up by twelve-hundred dollars the night Arthur crashed into him in a lobby, on the run from the nearby casino's security. He knocked Spencer's headphones off, and exposed the modified walkie talkie Spencer had been using to communicate with a man he'd paid to sit in at a craps table and make bets for him.

Neither of the boys was charged with anything. (Due largely to the part that Arthur had been bandying about the fact that his "father" was an Admiral, and nobody wants it to get around that an eleven-year-old has just made two grand at their craps table.) But, locked in a room for several hours with nothing else to do but anticipate their fate, Arthur and Spencer got to know one another. At least well enough to know that Spencer would so not get picked on if he had a friend like Arthur with him at school, and Arthur would totally prefer having Spencer teach him how to build a "micro processing relay sensor" from scratch to watching Mrs. Greenmason (the Admiral's cook) prepare a roast duck.

Arthur and Spencer spent a fair amount of time together while Arthur and his mom lived in Nevada. In fact, when Mom grew ready to begin hunting for Admiral Step-dad # 3, the only reason Arthur threw such a fit was because it meant leaving Spencer behind. (He couldn't feel too badly for Admiral Step-dad # 2. By that time he'd still only seen the man a total of twenty-three times.)

It should come as no surprise that Arthur got his diploma from a military academy. Arthur's military career is practically a matter of public record; his mom saw to that. 'Well, look at you, my handsome soldier,' Mom said, the first time she saw him in a uniform. (Which was not at all creepy.) 'I know you're going to make a fine officer one day.' (Okay, it really was.)

Arthur was only actually concerned with one person's opinion on the subject, anyhow, and while Spencer didn't exactly support Arthur's recruitment immediately upon graduation (Arthur'd been getting letters from Spencer since they were kids, once a week like clockwork, but that week he received only a postcard, on which Spencer had written: 'The most successful war seldom pays for its losses. Thomas Jefferson.') neither did Spencer question Arthur's decision to accept a posting less likely to advance Arthur in rank than one his mother would have chosen for him.

"Dreamsharing is a fascinating study. If I got offered an assignment in that field, I would take it," Spencer said the day Arthur called him up and explained his options.

"Spencer, if the Army had you, I doubt they would have made it a choice," Arthur snorted, making fun, but the thought of Spencer being at the beck and call of the military made Arthur uncomfortable for some reason.

Spencer graduated high school at twelve. He'd gotten his first Ph.D. before Arthur had attended his first prom. (Spencer got it from Cal Tech; he got his second doctorate from MIT.) Spencer's career needed no maternal meddling to make headlines... In scholarly journals, anyhow, and other publications read mostly by the intellectual community. And if he hadn't already been fond of her, Arthur would have loved Spencer's mother just for the way she talks about Spencer's accomplishments. Spencer could make millions with a mind like his, but he's only ever wanted to help people. His Mom, too, seemed unaware of the potential profit Spencer could gain from his genius, that time she and Arthur discussed his paper on "psycholinguistic markers in pre-adolescents".

Taking the Reids' cue, Arthur tried not to let his reservations show when Spencer decided that the way he wanted to help people most... Was by joining the FBI.

"Statistically speaking, the average federal agent rarely has to use a firearm, much less engage in some sort of hand-to-hand combat, so I don't think you have to worry," Spencer said, seeing right through him.

"The average federal agent isn't twenty-two fucking years old," Arthur replied, feeling like a hypocrite but not being able to help it. "Also? The BAU isn't exactly a desk job. Is there a more dangerous position they could have given you?"

The FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit handles serial murders, abductions and other crimes too complex or heinous to be solved through standard FBI procedures. Spencer worked in the BAU of the FBI's DC office for two years before transitioning into the Bureau's lone Thought Crimes Division.

"Arthur, last Tuesday you were impaled by a misfired Gatling gun..."

"In a dream, Spencer," Arthur felt it was important to note. "Getting shot in real life is a whole other thing."

"Well. It's a good thing federal agents wear vests then," Spencer said, as if that ended their discussion.

Which it actually did. Because Spencer followed up his words with a kiss and he and Arthur saw far too little of one another during those years. Arthur found himself easily distracted by the press of Spencer's mouth to his.

An important thing to note is that this was all more or less in Arthur's past when Dom walked into the abandoned office space functioning as their part-time base of operations with a stack of file folders in his hand, conspicuous for both their breadth and lack of general messiness. Dom never does his own research.

"TCD? As in, Thought Crimes?" Eames was quick to react when Dom told them that he'd gotten them a job. "As in, the people who's life's work it is to lock us all up in eight by sixteens?"

Arthur was more reticent. Something in the way Dom was looking at him said there was a reason that this "job" hadn't crossed Arthur's desk before Dom brought it to the team. And that made it impossible for Arthur to tell how he felt about it.

Ariadne rolled her eyes. "The US government doesn't lock people up in eight-by-sixteen cells, Eames," she said. Although, she wouldn't sound as certain later when she'd ask, "Do they?"
Depending upon whether or not they knew that Dom's team had successfully performed an inception, Arthur thought that they just might, but Dom preempted any complaints with a six-figure number and a guarantee. "Could I finish telling you why the TCD contacted me before you start freaking out because they contacted me, please?" he told them all. "I've been promised immunity for myself and for everyone on my team if we decide to do this. I think it’s worth it.”
Arthur asked a question. And, this time, when Dom looked at Arthur with a strange look… Arthur knew that he wasn’t going to like the answer.

“What’s the job?”

“The Thought Crime Division’s lost one of their own… He went undercover to do recon for an extraction and never came back. The TCD wants us to extract his location from a man they have in custody. Apparently, this guy’s organization was the one the TCD were targeting before their agent disappeared.”

Arthur didn’t have to ask who the agent was or if Dom was aware of his personal significance to Arthur.

Dom’s silent apology as he passed Arthur the files in his hands said everything.

Spencer Reid was the agent the TCD was missing.

“I say good riddance,” Eames was saying, and Ariadne was slapping him in the arm. “Well, it means one less worry on our plate, doesn’t it?”

“We’ll do it,” Arthur answered for them both.

Ariadne looked surprised. Eames did more than look, and with a colorful Welsh vocabulary, but Arthur couldn’t afford to spare either reaction his attention. Dom said that they needed to be in DC as soon as possible.

Arthur didn’t have much time to make a quick trip back to Vegas.

Arthur and Spencer’s… relationship, for lack of a better word, didn’t really begin on any set date, so it’s hard for Arthur to say when it ended. Slowly they began to drift apart, as most childhood friends do.

If the distance between them stung Arthur more sharply than the loss of a friendship normally does – from what Arthur has heard spoken of by other people – Arthur put that down to the fact that Arthur’d never had many friends to lose. Plus, Spencer was the first boy Arthur had ever felt more than friendship towards, and as much as it continues to boggle Arthur’s mind that Spencer’s never understood this: Spencer’s never been average at anything.

Arthur can say for sure when he knew that it was over between him and Spencer.
It was the day that Arthur fled the States to aid and abet a fugitive.

Spencer’s weekly letters had long before stopped materializing, they hadn’t seen one another in over a year and – even before that – their sexual encounters had begun dwindling to fewer and farther between.

It wasn’t just the miles that did it; it wasn’t just the demands of their respective jobs. It was all that Arthur had seen during his service for the military and couldn’t tell Spencer, wasn’t authorized to tell him. It was all that Spencer had seen in the field, hunting serial killers and human monsters, and wouldn’t tell anyone.

It was the fact that Arthur had waited two months to tell Spencer that he’d let his contract with the Army expire (because he wasn’t sure how technically legal Spencer would consider his new line of work) and it was the night that Spencer died in a small cemetery in Georgia, the night Arthur wasn’t there to protect his oldest friend, his lover, and Spencer suffered for it.
It was the pallor of Spencer’s skin the next time he and Arthur saw one another, the suspicious scarring to the inside of Spencer’s elbows, and Arthur’s inability to address his concerns with anything approaching tact.

And it was surprising to Arthur how little all of that mattered when he and Dom, Eames and Ariadne and Usuf walked into a conference room in the TCD’s wing of the DC FBI headquarters and he saw Spencer’s photo pinned onto an evidence board near the front of the room.

“I’m SSA Aaron Hotchner, and these are Agents Jareau, Morgan and Rossi; Agent Prentiss, our projection modification specialist; and Penelope Garcia, our chemist and re-entry specialist,” the TCD’s unit chief (“Hotch”, Arthur remembered from Spencer’s letters) began right away. “Our subject is highly militarized, so Agent Morgan is going to take point on this operation. He's our specialist in de-militarization strategies.”

There was little time after that for Arthur to reminisce. To ruminate on the fact that he was sitting at a table with six pieces of the puzzle Arthur had come to see as the part of Spencer Spencer had never shared with him.

Pieces that didn't fit together to form anything Arthur could make sense of with Spencer gone.
It probably didn't work in Arthur's favor that he was used to living on what people in the business call dream time. In dreams, there's always time to consider what you could have done differently.

The first time Arthur and Spencer kissed they were fourteen and Spencer seemed to have just taken it for granted that Arthur would be his first when Arthur asked if he'd ever kissed a boy.

Arthur's never said as much, but that moment - that moment Spencer blinked behind his coke-bottle-lens glasses and said, "Of course not," was probably the moment that Arthur fell in love.

Arthur grew very jealous of those moments he and Spencer had together. Perhaps too jealous. It wouldn't occur to him until later that Spencer might have mistaken Arthur's tight-lipped approach to discussing their relationship for shame or waxing interest.

By the time he met Derek Morgan, Arthur was aware that talking about what he and Spencer had wasn't tantamount to soiling it in some way, to opening it up for attack somehow.

Still, it raised all of his shackles when Morgan looked at him, that Spencer-like profiler's precision in his gaze, and said, "So you're the Arthur Pretty Boy told me about."

In fact, it took a considerable amount of reserve on Arthur's part to limit his responses to Morgan's attempt at a "friendly talk about our boy" to terse, careful answers and asking no more than one question. Not: 'What did he tell you?' or 'Who are you to him?' Not: 'He was my "pretty boy", asshole. Back off.' Just, "You know the Morelli's better than we do, even after all of this." Arthur gestured at the piles of research now scattered around the conference room designated their base of mission operations. "What are our chances?"

Derek just raised his chin. It was a very Eames thing to do, but somehow Derek managed to play it off as fierce and determined rather than cocky and a little bit unhinged.

"Of losing that kid to scum like Lorenzo Morelli? Man, that's just not happening."

And it didn't. Getting into their "subject's" mind - a low-level enforcer in Morelli's "family" - proved to be almost ridiculously easy with state-of-the-art, stationary equipment, the use of government facilities, and now need to structure their plans around frequent mobility to avoid being caught up to by either TCD authorities, spurner past employers, or potential rivals.

"Don't even think about it," Dom said, sotto voce, to each member of his team in turn, at least once by the end of the operation.

The successful end of their operation.

But with Spencer home safe, a dozen possible opportunities for reconciliation ahead of them, and a new dream in mind - one, at long last, not induced by somnacin...

Arthur, for maybe the first time ever, wasn't sure he could resist.


-alternate universes
-The BAU team is a government extraction team instead, and has to hire the Inception team for a job... THINGS GO AWRY. Suddenly instead of the dream world, they have to deal with a threat to their teams that could result in actual death.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 4th, 2011 12:06 am (UTC)
this is such a lovely gift, thank you so much! I love that they knew each other for years, and their history together is awesome. (Getting kicked out of casinos together, omg. <3333)

and Arthur's view of things, that talking about something opens it up to attack, and their drifting apart, and how none of that matters when Spencer's missing because it's Spencer and I also love that he thinks of Spencer by his first name. It's a wonderful touch.

Thank you so much for this!
Dec. 5th, 2011 04:08 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad you like this! :D I loved your prompts and actually started several ideas before settling on this one. If I finish any of the others up I'll drop by your journal and send them along :)
Dec. 4th, 2011 05:31 am (UTC)
Spencer/Arthur!!! Geniuses in love!! :D

I loved the idea of Spencer and Arthur meeting & bonding as kids, and then Arthur saving Spencer leading to their reconciliation. I love your writing style too, which has a lovely dreamy quality to it - perfect for Inception fic!

Dec. 5th, 2011 04:10 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the nice comments! I'm glad you liked this!
Dec. 20th, 2011 03:17 pm (UTC)
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )


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