Disclaimer: Criminal Minds and all its characters belong to CBS. I own nothing. I do not own anything you recognize.
AN- Thank you for being so patient with me and for all the wonderful reviews! Y'all are better than a million awards!
Previously on Criminal Minds- Spencer dashed over to the game he had played mere minutes ago. Flying around the side of the machine, he patted down the empty seat. Thinking his toy may have fallen, the toddler got down on his hands and knees and crawled under and around the bench seat and then the entire game. Finding no trace of his treasured toy, he pushed himself up and ran to JJ. Throwing his tiny arms around her neck, Spencer cried, "It's gone! My Ewot's gone!"
JJ wrapped her arms around the toddler and hugged him close. "Oh Spence, it's okay" she soothed, rubbing the little boy's back. "We'll find your Ewok."
'Yeah" Prentiss agreed. "It probably got knocked off the seat and someone accidently kicked it away as they ran past."
"You weally fint so?" Spencer asked, his wide eyes and woebegone expression melting the raven haired beauty's heart.
"Absolutely" Emily replied, giving her worried friend a smile.
"But, but what if someone finds it and tates it out of the wawehouse?" Reid questioned, turning pale at the thought.
"Calm down Pretty Boy, I'll handle that. I'll go talk with the greeter and let him know what's happening. I'll let the other workers know too. That Ewok's not getting out of this place." Morgan told him.
"See? We've got it all under control." JJ said, kissing the top of the toddler's head.
"That's right, Short Stuff. We'll have that Ewok back in no time." Emily added, ruffling Spencer's hair. "Now come on. Let's go find your friend."
Spencer glanced at each of his friends before slowly nodding. "Otay" he answered. He pulled out of JJ's embrace and tottled over to the memory machine once more. The mini profiler critically scanned the rectangular game and the area around it. After rapidly running through various scenarios, he took off running towards the east side of the building where people were happily playing putt putt on a huge indoor course. "Fis way!" he yelled over his shoulder.
Aaron winced as he walked into the crowded warehouse. The noise level was worse than those blaring radios some cars had. It took scant seconds for the beeping, buzzing games and rowdy children to awaken his headache. Pinching the bridge of his nose in an attempt to quell the increasing pain, he walked up to the young, blond man standing at a roped off turnstile.
Robert gazed quizzically at the two old men. He was used to fathers coming in to meet up with their families but these two were different. They looked dangerous. Making a mental note to radio the security room and have them keep a close eye on the suspicious men, the teen pasted a bright smile on his face. "Good afternoon, gentlemen. Welcome to the Fun Factory." He rattled off, managing to keep his voice normal. "Is it just the two of you today?"
"No, we're supposed to be meeting my wife and son here." Aaron informed the young employee.
"Oh, okay" Robert said, waving them through the turnstile. "Have fun!"
Dave and Aaron pushed through the bar and stepped into the giant game room. Scanning the sea of people, they saw no sign of the rest of the team. The two profilers carefully scoped the arcade for the most likely place Spencer and the others would be. Spotting a sign announcing the little children's section, the two hurried that way.
"Excuse me" Morgan called as he walked up behind the young man greeting guests.
Robert turned and unconsciously took a step back as he stared at the intimidating, African American man. "Y-yes, can I help you sir?" he asked.
"I hope so. My step-son lost his stuffed Ewok over in the little kids section and we need your help." Derek explained as he pulled out his cell phone. Flipping it open, he swiftly brought up a photo that contained the prized toy and showed it to the factory employee. "If you see anyone trying to leave with this stuffed animal, I want you to stop them and call me. Can you do that for me?"
"Sure" Robert agreed, taking Morgan's business card. His eyes widened at the FBI logo on it. "Wow! A real FBI agent! Wait till my friends hear this! They'll never believe it!"
"Kid, you find that stuffed toy and I'll go with you to see your friends." Morgan promised.
Robert grinned from ear to ear. "Don't worry sir. I'll make sure no one takes it out of here." He declared with a nod. "I'll even let the other workers know to be on the lookout for it."
"Thanks Robert" Morgan said. "I appreciate it."
"Umm sir, there's just one little problem." The teen hesitantly told the profiler. "Disneyland is only four hours away from here. A kid could have one that's actually theirs and not your son's."
"They might have one but it won't be exactly like his." Morgan replied. "See, Spencer's aunt wanted to make sure no one could take his toy so she used a fabric paint pen to write his name on the top inside of the Ewok's cape. All you have to do is flip the cape over. If you see the name Spencer Reid Hotchner, the Ewok belongs to my step son."
"Spencer Hotchner, got it!" Robert stated. "Consider the exit on lockdown, Agent Morgan sir. Go on back to your family. That Ewok won't get past me."
"Thanks kid" Derek said before turning and walking back towards the kiddie section.
Dave sighed as he and Hotch walked around the corner of the latest row of video games. They'd been in the Fun Factory for half an hour now and they had yet to find their team mates. After the trip through the kiddie section had yielded no results, the two had started a grid search of the building, starting with the restaurant part of the warehouse. He was beginning to think they were in the wrong place. Surely they would have found them by now if they had been…his thoughts ground to a halt as a mop haired toddler raced around the corner and slammed into his legs. Grunting, Dave swiftly caught the boy before he toppled to the ground. "Whoa there, k…Spencer?"
Spencer's tear filled eyes snapped up to the older man's face. "Wossi!" he squealed, hugging his friend's leg.
Puzzled by his son's actions, Aaron squatted down beside the clearly upset youngster. "What's wrong, Spencer?" he questioned. "Where are the others?"
The familiar, comforting voice was Spencer's undoing. "Daddy! Daddy!" he cried, throwing himself into his surrogate father's arms. "I, I lot my Ewot! I fowgot and left it by a 'chine and I wan bat to get it but it wasn't fewe and I, I tan't find it!"
"Aww buddy" Aaron said. He adjusted his hold on the sobbing toddler before slowly standing up. "Calm down, buddy, it's going to be alright. I promise."
"No buts, kiddo. We'll find your Ewok for you." Dave told the boy.
"Hotch? Rossi?" Emily gasped as she screeched to a halt in front of the two men. Seeing Spencer safely cradled in the younger man's arms, she let out a relieved breath. "Man, am I glad to see you. We've been trying to catch up to Reid for the past half hour."
Aaron immediately pulled the toddler back a little so he could see the boy's face. "You ran away from them?" he angrily inquired.
Seeing Reid's face crumble, JJ quickly stepped in. "Spence didn't run from us." She fibbed. "We've been trying to find his Ewok together. But he's small enough to slip through the crowd easier than we are so he's accidently gotten ahead of us a couple of times. Right, Em?"
"Yeah, right" Prentiss agreed, nodding her head.
Dave didn't believe them for a minute but he didn't call them on it. Spencer was going through enough right now. He needed comfort, not punishment.
Hotch raised an eyebrow at the two fibbers. It was clear from their expressions and body language that they were covering for the littlest agent. And that was something he wouldn't…the shrill ring of Prentiss' cell brought him out of his thoughts. He listened to the one sided conversation, frowning at the obvious trouble Morgan was in. Knowing there was nothing he could do at the moment, Aaron waited until Emily flipped her phone closed before pouncing. "What's going on?" he demanded.
"That was Morgan. He said they caught a kid trying to leave with a stuffed Ewok. The greeter attempted to check the toy out but the boy's mom is refusing to let him touch it. He called security and he and Morgan are detaining the family until the guard gets there." Emily recounted.
"I better go up there." Aaron sighed. He passed Spencer to Dave. "Take Spencer to the pizza buffet and wait for us there."
"Will do." Dave answered, wiping the tears from his charge's face.
Aaron smiled at the sniffling toddler. "Hang in there, son. Daddy's going to get your Ewok back for you." He softly said. He lovingly palmed Spencer's red cheek before turning and striding away.
"I'm telling you my boy ain't stole nothing! I bought that animal for him last Christmas!" the irate forty something mother yelled. The short, rotund woman who barely came up to Morgan's shoulder was standing toe to toe with the muscular profiler. "You ain't got no right to keep us here! Now get outta my way! I'm taking my boys and going home!"
"I'm sorry miss. I can't let you do that." The hulk of a security guard said, stepping up beside Morgan.
"Ma'am if you'd just let them see the toy for a moment, you'd be on your way." Robert suggested, trying to appease the furious female. He hated conflict, especially when it involved children.
"I will not let them see it! They ain't got the right to so much as touch it!" Fran screamed. "You idiots don't know who you're messing with! I'm gonna sue the pants off you! I'll own this place by the time I'm done!"
"Ma'am, do you mind keeping your voice down?" Mike, the security guard instructed.
"No, I won't keep my voice down! I demand you let us go! My boys ain't done nothing wrong!" Fran hollered.
"Excuse me, is there a problem?" Hotch asked as he walked onto the scene.
"We've got things under control. Move along Mr…"
"Supervisory Special Agent Aaron Hotchner" Hotch greeted, flashing his badge.
Noticing fear flash across the angry woman's face, Morgan decided to up the pressure. "Agent Hotchner, I'm glad you're here. We could really use your help." He said. "My step son lost his stuffed Ewok and we've been looking all over for it."
Nodding, Robert picked up the story. "He told me what happened and I've been watching for it. When I saw this boy with it, I explained the situation and asked to see the Ewok to confirm it wasn't the missing one. But she went ballistic when I asked her."
"That's what drew me over here." Morgan told the BAU leader. "When I saw how the mother and son were acting, I knew we had the culprits. So I kept them from leaving while he called security."
"I told you my boy ain't stole nothing! I gave him that toy!" Fran shouted.
"There is a simple way to determine the stuffed animal's owner. We can look at the security tapes of both families coming into the building." Hotch suggested, pointing to one of the newly installed cameras.
"Those ain't real!" the eight year old Frank scoffed. "Them are just there to scare kids."
"Wrong" Robert sang. "Those are as real as they come. After that kid got taken from that store down the street, the boss decided to put up working cameras and hire security to watch the feed so it didn't happen here."
"Frank did it! He took the stuffed animal off that bench!" the younger of the two boys yelled.
"Shut it, Stupid!" Frank growled, raring back his fist.
"Don't even think about it, kid." Morgan sternly warned, stepping between the two children.
Seeing the boy's grip on the toy loosen, Robert swiftly snatched it away. "I'll take that." He stated. Lifting the cape, he found Spencer's name written in purple paint. "I think this belongs to you."
"Thanks" Morgan said, taking the toy from the teen. Glaring down at the defiant eight year old, he huffed. "You better be glad you didn't damage it or I'd be pressing charges."
"You should. It'd probably not the first time the kid has taken something." Robert told the profiler.
"Probably not but…" Morgan glanced down at the tug on his pants leg. Seeing the tiny, blond haired boy looking up at him, he knelt down to be on the child's level. "Yeah, kiddo?"
Luke fiddled with the collar of his too big shirt for a moment before asking, "Can you take me back to my daddy? I miss him."
"Your daddy?" Derek questioned. "Does he live with you?"
Luke shook his head. "Nuh uh" he answered. "He used to but then mama taked us away. She said daddy didn't love me no more but she's lying. Daddy told me not to believe anybody that said that."
"Don't listen to the little brat! His dad was a worthless bum! He left us high and dry a year ago!" Fran shouted as she struggled to break the security guard's hold.
Morgan and Hotch shared a look before focusing back on the child. "Kiddo, can you tell me your name?" he softly asked.
Luke shook his head. "I'm not a'possed to tell anybody my real name." he replied.
Hotch squatted down beside Morgan. "It's okay, buddy. You can tell me. I'm an officer, see?" he said, showing the boy his badge.
Luke ghosted his fingers over the badge before looking up at Hotch. "Mama says my name is Luke but its not. My real name's Brandon Hickman."
Standing, Morgan yanked his cell phone out of its cradle and hit Garcia's number.
"Morgan, how's my baby bunting and boss man?" Penelope worriedly inquired. "Are they okay? Are you guys on the way home?"
"They're fine, Garcia" Morgan assured the tech analysis. Putting the cell on speaker, he added, "Listen, I need you to look up a name for me and tell me what you find. The name's Brandon Hickman. He's…" he looked at the boy in the baggy shirt and jeans for help, then said, "five."
Garcia's fingers flew over the computer keyboard. "Hickman, Hickman" she mumbled. "Oh my, according to records Brandon Hickman was kidnapped a year ago along with his half brother James. The boys were thought to be taken by their non-custodial parent, a woman by the name of Nadine Hickman. The police followed every lead but the case quickly went cold."
"Alright, Garcia I want you to send the case files along with photos of the missing boys to Captain Bellows." Morgan instructed.
"You got it. Garcia out."
"You little shit! You ruin everything!" Frank hollered, making a grab for the small boy. He was quickly subdued by Morgan. The belligerent eight year old ranted and raved as he fought against the agent's tight hold.
Seeing Brandon tremble, Hotch picked up the tiny boy, settled him on his knee, and pulled him into a hug. He then turned his attention to the security guard. "Officer Longworth, please escort Mrs. Hickman and her eldest to the camera room and hold them there until Captain Bellows and his men get here."
"Yes sir" Mike responded. Tightening his hold on the squirming woman, he started pulling her across the room.
"I'll go with him. He's gonna need help with these two." Morgan said before following the guard.
Robert gawked at the retreating group for a moment before bending to pick up the stuffed Ewok that had fallen to the ground during the altercation. "Agent Hotchner, I think this belongs to your son." he said, handing over the Ewok.
"Thank you, Robert." Hotch told the teen. "And thanks for all your help. We wouldn't have gotten this back without it."
"You mean it? I actually helped the FBI?" Robert gasped.
"You most certainly did." Hotch replied, smiling at the look of awe on the teen's face. "I was impressed with the way you handled yourself. Captain Bellows will be, too."
"Cap-captain Bellows?" Robert squeaked. "I'm gonna be famous! Cool!"
Shaking his head at the overjoyed teen, Hotch turned and headed for the restaurant. He wanted to get Spencer and get out of here.
"Come on buddy, one more bite." Dave urged, pushing the nearly full plate of pizza closer to his charge.
Spencer shook his head. "I'm full." He whispered. The toddler slid out of his booster seat, shuffled under the table to the other side of the booth, and climbed onto the bench beside the older man. Crawling into Rossi's lap, Spencer leaned back against the man's chest and closed his eyes with a sigh.
"You okay, Spence?" JJ asked.
Feeling the boy's head shake, Dave frowned. He gently placed the back of his hand on the tiny profiler's forehead, swearing at the heat he found there. "His fever's up again." he informed the others.
"Poor baby" Emily whispered, smiling as something across the room caught her attention. "I think I see someone that'll make him feel better."
Curious, Spencer drug open his eyes and glanced over at the doorway. Seeing Hotch walking their way with stuffed Ewok in hand, the boy reached out for them. "You found it!" he excitedly shouted.
Quickly closing the distance between himself and his friends, Aaron handed Spencer the stuffed toy before taking him from Rossi. He chuckled as the boy hugged the Ewok to his chest.
Yawning, Spencer dropped his head onto Aaron's shoulder and popped his thumb in his mouth. "Tan we go home now?" he asked around the digit. "I'm tiwed."
"Sure buddy" Aaron answered, his forehead crinkling as the boy's actions set off the BAU leader's daddy radar. Reaching up, he checked Spencer's fever and sighed. "Let's get you home."