This is more of a ficlet than an actual story - another little bit of a snapshot of Dr. Reid and his team mates in the aftermath of two-part episode "The Big Game" and "Revelations" that's been pes...
The three men stand in a defensive circle around the unconscious and badly beaten form of their young colleague, staring challengingly at one another. (The EMTs - understandably, given the heightened protectiveness of the three men towards their young charge, all but palpable "hands off" attitude, and status as members of the FBI's B.A.U. - give them a wide berth, even though the young man laid out on the ambulance's stretcher looks as if he's been in serious need of medical attention for at least a day, if not longer.) Only one person will be permitted to ride in the ambulance with their boy, and all three of them know it.
They all want to be that one person.
Finally, after a handful of precious seconds have ticked away without anything being accomplished, the youngest of the three breaks the deadlock by giving himself a full-body shake. "Alright. We're getting nowhere here. And Reid needs to get the hospital. We all know that we can't all fit in there with him. But we all want to be there for him. So somebody's going to have to drive the rest of us. JJ's in no shape to try it. Prentiss looks like she might shatter if somebody bumps into her too hard. Hotch would probably wrap the SUV around a tree if he tried it. And I have got to call Garcia and tell her about Reid or she will have my head on a platter when we get home. That leaves you, Gideon. Process of elimination. You've got to drive the rest of us in, man. I'm sorry. I know you don't want to leave him. But we need to let Hotch go with him this time. Somebody's got to stay with him. And Hotch can keep people at the hospital and any vultures from the press who might be stupid enough to try to show up there from getting the wrong idea or doing anything that might damage Reid more than he already is. Hell, Hotch can invoke power of attorney, if he has to, to keep anyone who might try from messing with our boy. Reid's been through hell, here, and he doesn't need a lot of strange people poking around, touching him. We'll have to process his clothes and everything anyway. Better it be one of us than some stranger. Alright? Agreed?"
The eldest of the three men looks as if he wants to argue the point - badly. And loudly. To a very great extent. Instead, though, he closes his eyes tight and bows his head for a moment, his hands closing painfully tight around the protective railing (though, since it's not yet been raised into place and locked, that designation could be considered debatable) at the stretcher's edge. After a few heartbeats of relative silence (given the amount of cacophony and confusion in the still somewhat chaotic background of the crime scene), though, his shoulders slump and he raises his left hand. A tremor catches him unawares, his hand hovering a minuscule distance above Special Agent Doctor Spencer Reid (the youngest on their team at the B.A.U. by nearly a handful of years, as well as the brightest, and, through some cruel chance of fate, the one most often physically threatened or hurt in the line of duty, since he began working with them in the field). Strobing red and blue lights from the ambulances, police vehicles, and warning lights hooked up to their own SUV catch on the golden wedding band and jitter a chaotic dance of bright sparkles off the polished metal. Sighing, Jason Gideon lets his hand fall the remaining distance to Reid's forehead, gently smoothing away the perpetually overlong (but now far more tangled than normal) forelocks back out of his badly bruised and much too pale face. "Aaron. I don't want any unnecessary personnel touching him. In fact, I don't want anyone looking at him who doesn't need to be doing so because of his actual injuries. We can and we will do all of the processing, gathering, and cataloguing ourselves. With the exception of the EMTs and the admitting doctor, if there is one, unless he is in imminent danger, I don't want you to let anyone touch him until we get there. Do you understand?"
Special Agent Aaron Hotchner is widely known, by those who aren't close to him, as an extremely self-contained, strait-laced, and serious - some might even say (and many often have, in the past) grim and humorless - man. Few of the individuals who would characterize him thus would recognize the broken open and completely raw soul who instantly nods his understanding and agreement. "Completely."
"Good." A nod, and then Gideon steps back, the pads of his fingers trailing lightly over the right side of Reid's face as he moves away, and turns his attention to the EMTs (who by then have taken care of the body and removed it to the other emergency unit, for separate transport to the hospital's mortuary), who are standing in a nervous huddle between the stretcher and the open back of the ambulance. Raising his voice, he calls out, "Alright, people. Let's get a move on, here! What is this? An ambulance or a taxi service? Get over here and take care of our boy! This is Special Agent Doctor Spencer Reid. He's been knocked unconscious, kidnapped, beaten, methodically tortured, beaten again and again - nearly to death - inexpertly resuscitated, and who knows what else? The unsub had him digging his own grave when he was forced to shoot the man in order to rescue himself. He shouldn't have had to do that and he definitely shouldn't have to do anything else this evening to take care of himself. Come do your jobs! Please. This young man means a great deal to everyone on his team. Agent Hotchner is coming with you and we will be following directly behind you. Understand?"
Morgan is already getting his cell phone out as the cowed EMTs rush to crowd up around the stretcher, carefully rearranging the B.A.U. unit's unconscious teammate on the stretcher and strapping him down (a precaution for the patient's safety, as all three men well know, though it doesn't make the restraints sit any easier with any of them) so they'll be able to load him into the ambulance and get him to hospital as quickly as possible. Punching the buttons by route, he turns to signal a wild-eyed and oddly ragged looking Prentiss (standing awkwardly halfway between the cluster of emergency vehicles and the treeline, with her hands extremely gingerly placed on the shoulders of a sobbing JJ, who is clinging to her for dear life). Jerking his head back towards their own vehicle, he waits only long enough to see her nod (a surge of relieved understanding making her momentarily go limp against JJ) before hitting the send button and raising the tiny cell phone to his ear.
"Please, God, just tell me you found him in time."
"We've got him, sweetheart," Morgan immediately replies, wishing he could be there to hold their computer specialist when she instantly whispers a heartfelt Thank you and breaks into a bout of relieved sobbing. He waits a few heartbeats before continuing, a bit more loudly, "The unsub's dead, hon. Reid was actually well on the way to rescuing himself by the time we got to him. He had to shoot the sonuvabitch. But we've got him. They're loading him in the ambulance now. We're going to follow the ambulance and do all the evidence gathering and documenting ourselves, to help cut back on the strangers."
"Is - is he - ? H-how bad - ?"
"Penelope. He did not break. He played those personalities off against each other like a pro and he did not break/," Morgan repeats, deliberately stressing the words, not bothering to hide either his own sense of desperate relief or the near-awe he now has for Reid, to've been able to get through something like this. Taking a deep breath to steady himself, he continues, explaining, "He's been hurt pretty badly - I'm pretty sure his left foot will need a cast - but he knew who we all were, and he was lucid, sweetie. That is a /very good sign. Reid is incredibly strong. I really do think he'll be okay. Eventually. He's hurt and he's hurting, but it's still our Reid. I don't think we're going to lose him over this."
"Elle - Elle called. She caught Reid's name in an announcement after news of the kidnapping broke. She was . . . pretty frantic. I - I told her what I knew and where you were," Garcia admits between bouts of sniffles.
"For once, I don't think Gideon or Hotch will mind an unexpected visit, hon. And Reid will probably want to see her. You know he still blames himself, a little, for that whole mess, even though it's not his fault." Hearing the distinctive sound of an ambulance door slamming shut, Derek Morgan glances up in time to see Gideon turning to sprint towards the SUV while the last EMT moves to close the other door (he'll ride in the front, next to the driver). He promptly reaches for the passenger door on the SUV, slipping inside so Gideon will be able to take off after the ambulance the second he gets inside and the key in the ignition.
"Derek, sweetie, I hate to tell you this, but we have a serious problem. Maybe twenty minutes after I got off the phone with you, earlier, Henkel sent another video file. As far as I can tell, he directed it to us specifically, like before, but he also uploaded it to the computers he'd set up for his own personal use. One of Henkel's personalities edited together a lot of different footage of Reid. I think he was planning on uploading it to the 'net, when he was . . . done with Reid. He's edited out most of the parts where Reid's lucid enough to talk, so it's mostly just - the beatings, but Derek? The Tobias personality is on there, drugging Reid with something. You can tell that Reid doesn't want it, whatever it is - he keeps saying 'no' right up until the moment the needle goes in - but it's not like he can get away from the bastard. Derek, there are marks all over his arm. At least half a dozen, from what I can tell. I - I would've called, but it was mostly just more of the same of what we've already got, and then I didn't know if you'd be somewhere that the phone call might give you away or not."
"I appreciate the head's up, sweetness, but we knew, coming into this, that there was a pretty good chance Reid would've been drugged at some point. We all knew that the son was an addict. And the Charles personality kept raving about Reid being weak like his son, so it was pretty obvious he thought Tobias was corrupting Reid. I get the feeling the confirmation isn't the only thing that's got you upset. What else is wrong?"
"It's really bad."
"And I'm sure it'd be worse not to know, whatever it is. Come on, doll-face! Lay it on me. Forewarned is forearmed."
"Okay. Just don't say I didn't warn you, alright? I've been watching the news, and somebody, somewhere, leaked stills from that last file to the media. They've been featured in at least half a dozen different 'breaking news' segments in the past ten minutes."
"I know! Reid'll flip. The press is going to have a field day with this. It's just half a dozen stills, so it could be a lot worse, but one of them is a shot of Henkel injecting Reid. It's a clear shot and you can tell Reid doesn't want it, but the marks on his arm are pretty obvious and those damned harpies in the media might not see it that way. And even if they do - "
" - it might not make any difference. In fact, it might be worse, because they'll want to follow him through rehab or whatever the hell. Fuck. As if the poor kid didn't already have enough to deal with on his plate!" Morgan slams his right fist against the frame of the SUV (in between the doors) /hard/, for the moment too angry to care if it's going to hurt or not.
"I am /so /sorry. If there were anything I could do - "
"No, no, it's not your fault, sweet-cheeks. Thanks for the heads up. I'll tell JJ. Maybe she can do something with the media." He isn't at all sure he really believes that, but can't think of anything else to say, and can't quite bring himself to promise that it'll be alright when he's not rally sure it will be. Sighing, he brings his now bruised and aching hand around to pinch at the bridge of his nose, instinctively trying to stave off the headache he can already feel building up there. "Look, I need to go, hon. I need to tell the others before we get to the hospital."
"Good luck. Call me as soon as you know anything concrete about Reid's condition!"
"I promise. Call if there's anything that comes up on your end."
JJ manages to beat Gideon to the punch. "What's wrong?" she demands the instant Morgan lifts the phone away from his ear to shut it off.
"We've got a media problem."
He never should've let JJ and Reid go out together alone like that.
There are times when Aaron Hotchner wonders if he truly learned anything from the whole godawful mess with Elle. He'd been so sure, afterwards, that he'd never make the same mistake - any of the same mistakes - again. And yet, what did he do? As soon as they caught another truly difficult case, he not only repeated the worst of his mistakes with Elle, he doubled it by partnering up probably the two most vulnerable members of his team in the field and then sending them out, without backup. What the hell could he've possibly been thinking, sending those two out together, alone? JJ's not even a field Agent. And Dr. Reid, well . . . Reid is . . . /Reid. /He's fearless enough, when it comes to his own safety, but then, that's part of the problem, isn't it? Reid is far too young for this kind of job and his upbringing didn't exactly fit him to be able to regard himself as anything less than expendable. He has a sacrificial streak about a mile wide and it's not like the Bureau's careful grooming has really done anything to change that. Not when compared to what they could have done for him. No. Reid is essentially just a test subject, part of an experiment the Bureau is running to gauge the potential effectiveness of expanding its recruiting criteria, and it would be counterproductive, in regards to the trial, for the Bureau to really work at making him more well-adjusted. The higher ups want to know if he can do the job and survive it without what amounts to any special training or extra effort on the Bureau's part. Members of the team are allowed to give Dr. Reid whatever extra help and support they can get the young man to accept, but there's only so much that coworkers and supervisors can provide, in terms of potential for personal growth and stability.
Gideon practically adopted the young doctor the moment he discovered him (he was the one who brought Reid to the Bureau's attention in the first place); however, that relationship was strained nearly to the breaking point in the aftermath of the disastrous Adrian Bale case. Even though Gideon has retaken his self-appointed position as the young man's mentor, there's an underlying fragility to the dynamic caused by that temporary role reversal (as Reid, naturally, strove to be there for Gideon during his . . . episode) that has strained their relationship and made Reid less likely to simply trust Gideon unconditionally. Morgan has essentially made Reid his honorary little brother, but then, so did Elle, after that near-catastrophe on the train, with the very delusional Dr. Bryar. Losing Elle has strained their relationship far more than the revelation of what Morgan suffered, as a child, at the hands of Carl Buford, ever could have. Reid has never been very comfortable around JJ, obviously unsure what to make of her tendency to vacillate between taking an almost motherly tack with him and behaving as if he's just another one of the Agents - someone who's almost but not quite a genuine friend. JJ regards Reid in much the same one might a much smarter and more vulnerable than normal little brother of a best friend. Reid's essential lack of a stable home life, as a child, in combination with a serious dearth of almost any kind of more normal social interactions, hasn't exactly given Reid a reason to recognize that kind of pattern of behavior. The "date" Gideon set up between the two accustomed Reid to her enough that he finally stopped watching her with the kind of wary fascination more normally reserved for a potentially dangerous animal, but if he knows Reid, the young man is going to blame himself for any and all damage JJ comes away from this case with, and the strain of that plus JJ's guilt over Reid's kidnapping will break the tentative trust between them.
Prentiss hasn't been with the team long enough to really earn anyone's complete trust. Her fascination with Reid seems genuine enough and fairly harmless - under more normal circumstances, it might even have been a good thing, serving as a safe way to build up the young man's precarious (at best) sense of self-confidence, guiding him towards a relationship where he could assume the mentor's role, the role of the guide rather than that of the perpetual student, the one in need of aid and protection from his elders - but Reid will likely reject any attempted offer of aid or support from that direction instantly, fearing to find her motivated by pity born of disappointment. Garcia isn't close enough to them to be of any help even if Reid trusted her enough to think her capable of helping him (and Aaron is pretty sure he doesn't. Garcia has been visibly shaken too many times by recent cases, and he's observed Reid going out of his way to try to either distract her or protect her from some of the worse aspects of the job, lately). And as for Aaron, well . . . Aaron is well aware of his failures. He's been failing Reid consistently since at least as early on the L.D.S.K. case. He has no idea why, out of all of them, Reid so faithfully believed that he would be able to understand what he was trying to say, to help lead them to the unsub. Reid should have trusted practically anyone on the team but Aaron Hotchner, given their history. The only constant in their relationship seems to be Aaron's seemingly endless ability to fail and to hurt the young man.
Gazing in bewilderment down at the badly battered and barely semiconscious form of the youngest member of his team, Aaron Hotcher shakes his head. Reid looks so damn young and helpless, lying there like that, with the two EMTs swarming around him, trying to gauge how badly he's hurt and see to his needs while also keeping him awake. They'd had a devil of a time, getting him to come around after they'd gotten him in the ambulance, and Aaron doesn't blame them for the frantic edge to their efforts to keep him conscious. As many blows as he's taken to the head, they fear concussion, and rightly so. It's a miracle Reid was as lucid and aware as he had been, when they'd found him. The boy's skull must be stronger than granite, to survive so much violence intact. Aaron would rather not think about the forty-nine seconds he went without breathing, his heart apparently failing in its rhythm, after the seizure that the beatings induced. Despite everything, Reid had remained coherent enough to track everything happening around him and manipulate at least two out of three of the unsub's personalities, so that he'd be able to stay alive long enough to help guide the team to him. He'd been painfully lucid until they finally convinced him it was safe enough that he could relax some of his rigid control. He'd slipped into unconsciousness almost instantly, and nothing the EMTs have done, since, have been able to do more than induce an extremely uncertain sort of semiconsciousness, where Reid's eyes flicker intermittently and his head twitches weakly from side to side as he tries (and mostly fails) to follow their movements and words. One of the EMTs - the younger of the two, a woman in her late twenties, still young enough that all of her emotions show on her face as clearly as if they've been etched there in acid - finally breaks down and turns to Aaron, demanding to know what's been done to their patient so that they can help him.
With far too many statistics running through his head regarding the dangers of head injuries and oxygen-deprivation, Aaron finds himself telling her everything he knows, far more slowly and in far greater detail than the rapid run-through that Gideon directed towards the EMTs when they'd turned Reid over to their care. As often as he's failed Reid or caused him pain, the odds are good that he'll somehow manage to bungle this, as well. Reid might not be able to hear him, now, but with that eidetic memory of his, if he has, by some miracle, managed to escape from Henkel as undamaged as seemed to be the case, earlier, then his brain is probably recording everything for playback later. Reid is a very private young man. He's not exactly shy, but he is nervous around others, and he desperately dislikes being the center of attention. But if Aaron is going to do something wrong, he'd just as soon fail Reid by causing him embarrassment than by doing something - or failing to do something - that might cause him actual physical damage. So he is very careful to describe not only what they saw done to Reid, in the video clips, but also everything they suspect has been done to him, including the fact that the unsub, the kidnapper, suffered from an unheard of form of DID, three distinct personalities - including his own, that of his fanatically religious father, and also that of the angel Raphael - sharing his body, one of them a known opiate addict who may have drugged Reid to keep him insensate to the pain that the other two personalities had inflicted on him to try to get Reid to confess his sins.
Both of the EMTs look horrified, pushing back Reid's sleeves to examine his (too thin) arms and gasping over the hideously bruised injection marks showing all over the inside of his right arm, the elder (a solidly built and yet somehow motherly-looking woman in her early fifties) instantly getting on the horn to warn the ER personnel at the hospital that the head trauma victim they're bringing in might also be suffering from a forced overdose of a homemade opiate-based drug, probably some form of dilaudid. Reid twitches weakly on the stretcher at the word, his (far too thin. Didn't Henkel feed him at all?) body instinctively trying to curl in around its center and so present a smaller target, and Aaron is suddenly reminded first of the aftermath of another case - the Lila Archer case, and the way Reid had been kneeling so protectively by and over the tight-curled weeping ball of misery and confusion that was the unsub, Maggie Lowe, when they'd finally (belatedly) come bursting into the house, the tiny .22 dwarfed in his left hand, his right hand curled in a calming gesture, reminiscent of forgiveness or of benediction, around the unsub's bowed head. Lila had crept up behind him, crawling across the room to huddle at his back, almost but not quite touching him, another tight knot of misery curled in around herself - and then, vividly, of the hospital during the L.D.S.K. case, the way Reid had folded in around his foot, his long body curling around his leg, something oddly graceful about the movement even as Aaron did his best to convince the unsub, Phillip Dowd, that he truly wanted to inflict damage on the young man, that he really was trying to kick hard enough and often enough to give Reid a "lesson" he'd never be able to forget. "Oh, God. Reid - Spencer - you're not a dalmatian. You're not - " I /knew /you would understand! "Oh, God!" I got your plan the minute you moved the hostages out of my line of fire . . . You kick like a nine-year-old girl.
Staring. Staring. He knows he's staring. And Reid doesn't like to be stared at. But dear God, if that is why Reid chose to direct his ploy and his plea for help at /him /- !
"Honey? Are you alright?"
Aaron startles, body flinching back instinctively from the unexpected touch, looking up from Reid to find the older EMT standing near him, crouching down to keep from banging her head on the ambulance's ceiling. "Am I - ?"
"You were muttering something about a dog?"
Good God, did he say that out loud? /Jesus/, man, get a grip! He needs to calm down, to get a hold of himself. He's supposed to be here for Reid, watching out for him, watching over him, not drawing in on himself and indulging in his own guilt, damnit! "I'm fine. It's nothing. I just remembered that the unsub had dogs. Three of them. Almost feral. But not exactly wild. Deliberately made vicious, rather. But Reid never came into contact with them. They were in the barn, and Reid never made it into that building. JJ took care of them. I don't think you need to worry about the dogs."
"Well. We'll tell the ER doc just in case. They can run a few extra tests when they do his blood work and make sure your unsub and his dogs didn't pass on any nasty parasites. Alright?"
"Sounds good. When should we reach the hospital?"
"Another fifteen minutes, tops. Sorry, hon, but we're pretty far out. Don't worry. We'll get there soon. And the docs all know we're coming in and who we've got. They'll be waiting for us when we arrive," the older EMT promises him reassuringly.
"I know. I just - worry."
"Why don't you come over here and help us try to wake him up a little bit more? We need to keep him away and things will be a lot easier if he's lucid enough to answer questions when we get him to the hospital. Here, come sit down. Talk to him some. He'll recognize your voice and be more likely to respond."
Aaron lets her guide him back around to the head of the stretcher, more than close enough to touch Reid - put a hand on his shoulder, brush the tangle of hair back away from his face. He clenches his hands together tightly in his lap to keep from reaching out, asking, a little helplessly, "What should I talk about?"
"What do you normally talk about when you're together?"
"Ah. Well. You might want to, erhm, avoid anything that might trigger a flashback. We want him aware of what's going on around him, not trapped in his own head."
The two EMTs look at each other across the stretcher for a moment, then, silently weighing their options, before the younger of the two shrugs slightly and, turning towards him, asks, "You're married, aren't you, sir?"
"I'm sorry?" Aaron finds himself blurting, body wanting to recoil from the introduction of his private family life in such a venue.
"Married?" The younger EMT simply raises her eyebrows and looks pointedly down at Aaron's right hand, with its golden band.
"Yes. Yes, of course."
"Then talk to him about things at home. Tell him about your family. Remind him that he still owes you and your family a visit. Remind him that he's your friend and let him know that this isn't going to change that. Trauma survivors often blame themselves for what happened to them. They can even convince themselves that they deserved it. Don't let him start that. Let him know that this wasn't his fault. Let him know that he has friends who care about him and who'll keep on caring about him, no matter what. Make him feel safe. He'll be more likely to surface the rest of the way and stay with us if he feels safe," the earnest young EMT informs him.
The urge to snap at her, to inform her that he is a profiler for the FBI's B.A.U. unit and that he's probably forgotten more about the psychology of trauma victims than she'll ever know, is briefly all but overwhelming. But Reid shifts on the stretcher again, his hands moving weakly against his sides, fingers curling in a gesture that might have been protective (long fingers curling in a cupping motion) or defensive (wrists pushing outward against the safety restraints keeping him secured to the stretcher), and the impulse passes, swallowed in a sudden upwelling of grief. God, that this should have happened to Reid/, the one person on their team least able to simply forget the details of their cases - ! Aaron's head bows involuntarily to hide the betraying signs of emotion, hands spasming against each other, clamping down around one another painfully tight, eyes widening and then held that way, reflexively trying to drive back the tears that are trying to come, gaze locked on Reid's battered face. /I got your plan the minute you moved the hostages out of my line of fire . . . I /knew /you would understand! It's no good, though. He's too close to the source of his pain. And the EMTs are right. Reid needs to hear the sound of his voice. He needs to know that someone from the team is still with him and that the others will be with him, too, once they get to the hospital. Shoulders hunching futilely in a warding gesture, knowing that both the pain and the shame of being unable to hide that pain are inevitable, now, Supervisory Special Agent Aaron Hotchner untangles his hands and gently (carefully!) reaches out to place his right hand on Reid's shoulder, curling the fingers cautiously around the thin (too thin! Far too thin, even if Henkel didn't feed him. The joints between neck and shoulder and shoulder and arm much too articulate, nothing but skin and bone and a layer of wiry muscle between the two, delicate and prominent in a way that makes him remember being five and holding a baby chicken in his hands at Easter, all fragility and rapidly thundering heart, so easy to crush) scapula, trying to avoid bruises that might be hiding beneath Reid's clothes.
A breath to calm himself. Two. Just to acclimate himself to the idea, help him regain his center, redirect his thoughts without losing his equilibrium. Another, deeper breath, the fingers of his left hand twitching restlessly, wanting and not wanting to brush the snarled hair back away from Reid's face, and then he forces himself to stop stalling and to start speaking, deliberately forcing his voice to take on both the calm, deeply soothing cadences that he normally reserves for the victims and witnesses of violence and the much brighter, warm tone that he usually uses only with his family and friends, a tone that Reid will have heard, before, but only out of context with work. Hopefully, it will counter any potentially damaging associations Reid's mind might draw from the cadence . . .
Am I still alive? Sensation of body - awareness of terrible thirst (his throat feels packed with sand), a hollowness at the core of him that might become hunger (but only if not left alone too much longer. If ignored for too long, the sensation will simply vanish), warning signs of a looming migraine, exhaustion so great that it feels like a form of suffocation, with the only real relief to that dullness the agony currently spiking along bruised ribs, the left foot that's been remade as a knotted throb of pain, and a face that feels like a jumble of broken glass.
Yes. Way too much pain present for death.
Mental checklist. Dr. Spencer Reid. Born in Las Vegas, Nevada. Currently twenty-five years of age. Three PhDs and thrice as many supporting graduate certificates, plus one. Special Agent (well. Profiler) in the Behavioral Analysis Unit of the FBI, in spite of youth and . . . other potential barriers, apparently due to the championing and patronage offered up by one Special Supervisory Agent Jason Gideon. History of paranoid schizophrenia in the family, by way of his mother, former university professor of fifteenth-century literature Diana Reid. Father William Reid - well. That's probably enough. He still knows who he is.
Inventory. Okay. Fact. He's in a lot of pain. High probability of broken bones in left foot, with accompanying wrenched ankle. Possible concussion and skull fracture. Definite bruising of ribs, with possible accompanying fractures, from a less than professional application of CPR. Ah. CPR. Received after a fall while tied to a chair, during a beating, which had precipitated a seizure - a seizure likely also due, in part, to a highly probable (accidental? Possible. Equally possible subconsciously deliberate) overdose of forcibly injected drugs. Drugs - some mix of homemade opiate (high probability of dilaudid) and hallucinogen (possible tryptamine-based compound or tryptamine alkaloid) - administered for the pain from the beatings. Beatings. Oh. Uhm. Possible traumatic brain injury from beatings and possible damage to the brain from lack of oxygen due to choking during seizure, resulting in temporary asphyxia. No real loss of consciousness, though. Continued awareness during the act of seizing and following failure to find a way to breathe around the obstruction blocking all airways. The CPR hadn't really been necessary - removing the blockage, though, was. And it had worked. Obviously. Otherwise, he wouldn't be running through a mental inventory right now, would he? Hmm. Conclusion: hypoxia more likely than anoxia, due to the apparent continued functionality of said possibly damaged brain. Concussion and overdose symptoms are more likely to blame for any symptoms that might seem to mimic more serious signs of brain trauma. Naloxone might be necessary for the overdose. Diazepam could also be indicated. It depends on the extent of the damage. How many blows did he take to the head? Oh. Upwards of seven. Not good. Indication of some loss of consciousness during earlier beatings, before the videoing (or at least before awareness of being filmed). Knowledge gaps. Definitely not good. Concussion and overdose are still more likely than actual permanent damage, but still . . . a trip to the hospital might actually be a good idea, right about now.
Alright. Time to try surfacing another layer, then.
Surroundings? Noise. Not quite familiar wail of sirens. Not a B.A.U. vehicle. Not enough depth for a fire truck (and he has no memory of any recent fires, in any case). And too shrill for a police siren. Ambulance? High probability. Good. Warmth. Layers of blankets, wrapping him in a partial cocoon. Even draped carefully across his feet. Nothing but the stale-metal residue of used up endorphins and adrenaline in his too-dry mouth. Nose too clogged to smell much of anything, besides himself. He reeks. Literally. Not just because he's filthy, but because of the stench of Charles' warding measures in that infernal shack, too. Well. Nothing to do about that, now, at least not yet. So. Moving on, then. Noise - no, wait, that's been catalogued, already. Except . . . wait, is that Hotch, talking to him? And like he's a witness in need of being coaxed into giving testimony? Except . . . no, wait, back up a moment . . . he's heard Hotch sound like that, before, and it had been the day Haley stopped by the office, with Jack, for an unexpected visit. Hotch had spoken to his son, to Jack/, with just that tone of voice. And that means . . . what, precisely? That Hotch is on the phone with Haley? With a hand on his shoulder (familiar shape, familiar weight, less familiar lightness of touch, but Hotch's hand, all the same. He's sure of it. Well. Nearly sure. At least ninety percent sure) and fingertips gently brushing the hair back out of his face? Not likely. Could someone else, someone Hotch knows from outside work, be in the vehicle (probably an ambulance) with them? Hotch has family in the south. Sort of. His mother went to Mary Baldwin and hails from Manassas (or so he told Mary Gwathmey Mays, during that anthropophagy case). But that's a fairly good ways from the Atlanta, Georgia, area. And he's - Oh. Wait. He's saying Reid's name, now. He's - Oh. /Oh.
Eyes flying wide with shock, Spencer Reid finds himself gazing up at the wet (tear-streaked? Quite possibly, all expectations to the contrary) face of the younger of his two bosses, S.S.I. Aaron Hotchner, who is gazing at him with a kind of fixedness that would be frightening under almost any other circumstances. (Heck, who's he kidding? He knows the cause of the stare, and he's still a little bit terrified by it.) Wishing he could reach up and pat the hand Hotch has curled so carefully around his right shoulder (this would be much easier if he could do that. His face hurts. It's going to sting more than a little, to try to smile), Spencer Reid heaves a mental sigh (a real one would hurt too much), clears his throat (a laborious process that hurts far more than he likes. Perhaps one or more of those ribs are broken, and not merely bruised and possibly fractured), and then tells Hotch (noticing and frowning, internally, over the breathy, slightly spacey-sounding quality to his voice, first revising his estimate about that possible drug overdose to an extremely strong probability, given how much of it still seems to be in his system, and then acknowledging the fact that his body is quite possibly hurt much worse than it feels like it is, given the opiate in the drug Tobias injected him with so many times that his body apparently still hasn't burned it all off yet), "Hey. It's alright. I know you don't just think I'm a dalmatian. And this wasn't your fault, either. We should've waited for backup before we tried to approach the barn. I just - I didn't want him to get away. I thought there was more than one unsub and I thought Tobias Henkel would be willing to lead us to the other two, since he sounded so unhappy about what was happening, on those 9-1-1 recordings. I'm sor - "
"Don't you dare say that you're sorry, Reid! This was not your fault. We all assumed that there was more than one unsub. And I never should have sent you and JJ out somewhere alone like that where there was no cell phone service." Hotch's response is so fierce that he automatically tries to recoil, jerking against the safety restraints and making both his chest (ribs) and head ache at the sudden motion.
"But I - I'm the one who spooked him. And I'm the one who went off alone, to try and head him off, when he fled into the barn."
"And JJ let you, even though she's fully qualified as an Agent and knows better than to split up, in a situation like that."
"She didn't - we weren't - I wasn't - "
"Reid. The point is that we all made mistakes, on this case. And even though you're the one who's had to pay for most of those mistakes, you still managed to lead us to the unsub. After all you'd been through, you still managed to outwit all three of the unsub's personalities and let us know how to find you. And you took him down when he finally left you with no other choice. That is an incredible feat, my friend. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the media decided to make you a hero, for this."
"Wait, hero?! Hotch, I killed him! My hands - I - I couldn't hold the gun steady. I was aiming for his shoulder - for his collarbone, so he'd have to drop the knife. I hit his chest and took out a lung, instead, and he died. He/ died/, Hotch. I wanted to help him. I - "
"You don't think you helped him? You don't think he was thanking you, with his last breath, for finally freeing him from his father's shadow?"
"But I - I - I wanted to - to help - !"
"Reid. Listen to me. No. Wait. Listen. This is important. Sometimes the victims aren't the only ones who need to be saved. That's true. But we can't save everyone. You know that, Reid."
"I know." The whisper is barely audible, so he clears his throat (triggering an explosion of pain in his overly dry throat that feels rather like what he'd imagine gargling glass shards would) and tries again. "I know. But I - I still wanted to save him. Tobias has to - had to - have been abused by his father for years, to become that dissociated from reality and not even suspect it. He deserved better than that, Hotch!"
"I'm sorry, Reid, but whether Henkel deserved it or not is irrelevant at this point. You deserved better than being kidnapped and tortured by the Charles and Raphael personalities, but that doesn't mean we get to ignore what happened. We have to move forward from this, Reid. We can't go backwards, no matter how much we might want to change things. We can only go forward. All of us. We need to keep moving forward, Reid, so we can get past this. You. Me. JJ. Gideon and Morgan and Garcia and even Prentiss. We need to and we can do it. But not without you. You've been hurt the most by this case. We need you to want to through this, Reid. For all of us. The team can't lose you to this."
The urge to giggle is so strong that he has to fight it off by concentrating on how much it hurts just to talk. (And, coincidentally, ends up revising his estimate of just how much of that drug must still be in his system, again.) He can't quite keep the hysterical edge out of his voice when he finally notes, "Ah. Guilt as a goad for recovery. Not too subtle. Powerful stuff, though."
"Is it working?"
"That depends. I still think you need to stop thinking that I think you think of me as a dalmatian. But for someone who kicks like a nine-year-old girl, I guess you can fight pretty dirty, when you have to, Hotch."
"Whatever it takes to get the job done, Reid."
"I know. Whatever's necessary. Believe me, I know. Doesn't mean I have to like it, though . . . "
"As long as you don't try to fight it, son, you can dislike it all you want."
The urge to snap that he's not Aaron Hotchner's son and that Hotch can wipe that far too self-satisfied smile off his face is briefly all but overwhelmingly strong. He concentrates on the wetness still shining on Hotch's face, though, and waits a few moments for it to pass before he opens his mouth to reply. "Alright, dad. As long as you remember you said that, later . . . "
The satisfaction of seeing the look of stunned consternation (first at the realization of his slip, in calling Reid "son," and then in understanding of what he's essentially agreed to tolerate, as long as Reid stays with them and fights his way through the aftermath of his kidnapping with the team - something Reid frankly had already been planning on doing anyway) is enough to make the pain worth it, when Reid finally does give in and smile (very carefully ever-so-sweetly) up at Hotch. It still hurts. Quite a bit, actually. But the knowledge that the team actually wants to be here with him, for however long it might take him to work his way out from under (most of) the shadow of his kidnapping . . . well, crazy as it seems, that just makes it all worth it, somehow.
There's a crowd at the hospital when they arrive. It's not just the media, though. There are dozens of grim-looking, mostly silent individuals - locals and semi-locals from Atlanta and the surrounding outskirts of the sprawling city and suburbs - standing together, waiting for Reid to arrive, holding candles and homemade signs offering up support for him, already holding a vigil in his name. There's a crowd of police officers and local FBI Agents, too, cordoning off the entire ambulance bay, an implacable wall between the hospital and the media, ranks closed as neatly and as impassably as if they were a line of military defense. Prentiss takes one look at the crowd and a noise catches in the back of her throat that might have been mistaken for a sob if not for the blank rigidity of her face. JJ falls back in her seat as if she's been sucker-punched, her face looking broken open, in the grips of emotions too raw even for tears. Gideon's mouth just flattens down into an even tighter slash of a line and drives right up into the bay beside the ambulance, not even bothering to turn off the engine before piling out of the SUV.
A familiar Agent from the Atlanta office - a tall man in his fifties, bearing and posture suggesting military training, blue eyes constantly scanning the perimeters - breaks away from the line of lawmen (and quite a few women) and trots up at once, purposefully heading for Gideon and the SUV. "I'll take care of that for you, Sir. We've got things covered. The media can wait. Go on with your boy. All of you."
Gideon spares enough time to nod at him, no more and no less, before striding over to the ambulance, watching carefully to make sure the EMTs don't jar Reid unnecessarily as they lower the stretcher down. The ambulance bay is part of the hospital proper, like a garage attached to a home, instantly accessible by door. A push of a button, and the doors slide back along their tracks with a faint whooshing sound, a doctor and a nurse coming out to meet them before they can even get the stretcher down to the ground.
The briskness of the medical professionals both is and is not reassuring.
JJ's legs try to fold under her when she steps out of the vehicle and Morgan has to catch her to keep her from falling. "Alright there?" he asks, worried but distracted by the sight of the stretcher being rolled forward to the edge of the ambulance.
"Sorry! Reaction. I'm fine," JJ insists, an unsettling edge to her voice that snaps Morgan's gaze back around to her.
She doesn't look anything like herself. Her face is frozen in such a twisted expression of grief and rage that she looks like a caricature, a mask for some modern-day Greek tragedy, and Morgan finds himself shifting his hold on her so that he's holding her by the shoulders, giving her a little shake, in hopes of breaking that facade and letting the real JJ back out. "You're not fine, girl. Give it up. You're not fooling anyone. And that's no good for Reid, JJ. You can cry and rage all you want to later, alright? I'll let you borrow my shoulder and hand you kleenexs, if you want to, but not now. Okay? We're here for Reid now and Reid does not need to see you like this. Get it together, if you want to come with us."
He has enough time to see her face crumpling but not quite enough to be able to tell for sure whether the motion is heading towards a total breakdown or a firm of resolve before Prentiss is there, interposing herself between them so smoothly and swiftly that he doesn't even have time to react before JJ has been shunted off behind Prentiss' body, Emily standing between them like a shield. "Morgan. It's alright. I've got her. You go on. We'll be right behind you."
He looks a hard warning at her, but she answers only with more of the same obdurate blankness of face (a smooth emptiness that's beginning to make him wonder exactly how often she's been present in the direct aftermath of a violent event and whether or not some of this apparent ease with trauma might not be more a product of personal experience rather than training) that's been masking her off and on ever since the realization came (too late!) that Reid and JJ had been sent unprepared into the den of the beast. In the end, he has to take her at her word. They're already lowering the stretcher down, Hotch following as closely as if he's been handcuffed to the metal frame, a look on his face that reminds Morgan uncomfortably of a look he saw once on the face of an unsub (a father, recently divorced and refused joint custody of his children, standing over the huddled form of his youngest son, a knife in each hand, the bodies of his slain family spread out behind him, the words, "This one is mine! None shall take him from me!" voiced in an almost inhuman snarl of possessiveness). Shaking his head, Morgan narrows his eyes at her in silent warning and then turns and sprints across the bay, joining Gideon.
The doctor looks familiar. Her lab coat says /Farraday /on the pocket, and Morgan has just enough time to wonder if she's related to the Detective Farraday who brought them in on this cursed case in the first place before she confirms it. "My brother called ahead to warn us, when he found out your boy was being beaten. We air-vacced in two leading specialists in the field from the other side of Atlanta and down from Nashville - neurology and neurosurgery - and they're upstairs waiting for him. The last one, Dr. Rynan, just beat you in. The EMTs say he's still mostly lucid. As long as he doesn't lose consciousness, you can get your evidence while we examine him, take care of any exterior wounds, get blood drawn for testing, and get him hooked up to an IV and glucose drip. We already have a room set up for him and you. Cameras, evidence bags, standard rape kit. Just in case."
"I - we - appreciate that, Dr. Farraday. If one of us could be with him at all times - "
"We're going to be doing X-rays and a whole battery of neuroimaging tests. You'll have to content yourself with observing from the next room for some of those. You'll be able to keep talking to him while he's having his tests, though. All of our rooms have comm units."
"Good enough. Morgan!"
"Right here, boss."
"I want you and Prentiss to handle evidence collection."
"Done." Prentiss answers before Morgan can, speaking from just behind him, the suddenness of her voice almost making him jump.
Morgan instantly nods agreement to hide his jumpiness. "We'll be as quick as we safely can and work around the good doctor."
The doctor is the one to nod this, time, already turning away as they start to wheel the stretcher in. "Good. Come on, then, gentlemen, ladies. We have work to do."
Reid looks like he's been held hostage and starved for weeks, perhaps even months, not days. Emily Prentiss is reminded of a stack of photos she found on her father's desk, once, when she was very young, and the betraying tightness of her mother's face when she claimed that they were historical pictures of concentration camp victims, not photos of anyone or anything recent, current. He looks like a bloodless carving of marble, dressed up to look like a man, against the hospital sheets. Or perhaps a magnificent life-sized doll, perfectly articulated, all long attenuated limbs and silken hair. (He'd begged them and the doctor not to cut his hair, to get at the scalp wound. Since most of the damage had turned out to be high on his left temple, they'd obliged him as much as they could, even the doctor cooperating with his request, in the end, since the wound had mostly already closed over and didn't seem to be infected.) She feels as if she could count every bone by name, simply by looking at him. Even the bones of his too-pale face are clear, stark, like stone under a think layer of water, still and silent and secret. The slender long hands (Reid should have been a real doctor. Or a musician. Someone in a profession where those infinitely clever long hands would have been put to skilled work, day in and out, dancing their way lightly and swiftly through impossible amounts of labor), the bones outlined in every curve and joint, lay motionless at his sides, limp against the mattress of the bed. They had not been able to transfer him from the stretcher to the bed without hurting him, but that is not why Spencer Reid is lying there motionless but for the rhythmic (but eerily slow and shallow) movement of his chest, impersonating a piece of unliving artwork (a statue, damnit, and not a corpse! She will not think of him as a corpse). No. His too-still silence is a response to the examination, itself. Reid had taken one look at the contents of the room set aside and prepared for him, with the rape kit and two cameras (one for capturing the surface details and obvious wounds, and one for ferreting out the deeper hurts, the underlying patterns of bruising) waiting on the table by the bed, sighed, whispered (as if trying to remind himself, or convince himself, of something he once knew), "'That which submits rules. The willow submits to the wind and prospers until one day it is many willows - a wall against the wind. This is the willow's purpose,'" and then vanished behind his eyes.
The doctor had been worried, but enough of Reid remained to answer every question she put to him, and so she had not been able to keep them from executing their duty and collecting the evidence, carefully touching Reid's battered face, his hands, scraping under his fingernails, combing dust and dirt from his hair, touching swabs gently against open wounds on his feet and trying not to notice how badly broken his left foot looks, stripping his filthy clothes and bagging them for later processing, and documenting every injury thus revealed for inclusion in the Henkel case file, everything carefully recorded or preserved for posterity's sake, movements swift but thorough, gentle and efficient. Every movement is an intrusion, every action a violation. Little wonder Reid has chosen to hide behind his own eyes, rather than participate in this methodical assault against what remains of his privacy, the integrity of his control over himself! Prentiss can't keep a muscle underneath her left eye from twitching. She forces herself to concentrate on Reid's words, trying to distract herself long enough to get through with this without breaking by focusing on the oddly familiar words, attempting to place them. Albert Schweitzer and Sir Walter Scott have both spoken of the resilient strength of willows, which bend before a storm rather than standing firm and breaking in the first strong wind, but the comparison with the souls of human beings in those words isn't the same. And she can almost place the words to a book, something she read once that lingers at the edges of her mind, prompting faint echoes of a remembrance of spice and desert sands. She focuses on that, fiercely, when they are finally done, stepping back away from Reid to let the doctor finish her physical examination, confirming that the rape kit is (thank all that's holy!) unnecessary.
"Emily." Reid's voice startles her so badly that she moves before she can help herself, an involuntary little leap forward that puts her close enough to him that he can reach out his left arm and just brush the backs of her tightly clasped hands with his fingertips, his touch oddly cool (but not clammy. A good sign, the lack of clamminess. Means he's not going into shock) against her skin. She steps forward on purpose, then, unfolding her hands to let him slip his hand between her palms. "It's alright. It's the job. Remember? 'I must not fear.' Just . . . help JJ, okay?"
'I must not . . .' Oh! Dune. Of course. The Litany Against Fear. Sayings meant to teach and to calm. Typical of Reid, to think of something like that at a time like this. And surprisingly useful, too. 'I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.' Clever. Clever child! "Of course! I understand. And I will. You just . . . hang in there, okay? I know that sounds stupid. But we're all here for you, Reid, okay? We'll be right outside whatever room you're in, while they run their tests. And we'll get you out of here and back home just as soon as it's safe, okay?"
"I know. It's okay. I trust you all. I trusted you to find me, didn't I?"
It doesn't occur to her until a long time afterwards that the movement of Reid's mouth just then might have been meant as a smile.