...Mightier Than the Sword
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A/N: Alright, then… (clears throat)
This is my first ever ‘CM’-fic. And it was born out of my adoration towards Dr. Spencer Reid (although I’ve stripped him off the honorific in this fic, but that’s a minor detail). He’s one of my favorite fictional characters of all time, and a while ago I decided that I just had to write something about him. This fic wasn’t born easily, though. I started and interrupted the work several times before finally pushing myself forward until I’d come up with… well, this. (grins nervously)
DISCLAIMER: I, unfortunately, don’t own anything about ‘CM’ – most definitely not Reid, either. (pouts)
I really, truly hope you’ll enjoy this story!
Waiting was something Derek Morgan had always been extremely bad at. And that late night he was even more impatient than usual while sitting in the sterile-reeking waiting room of a hospital. He’d never been a particularly religious person, but just then he prayed, from the bottom of his heart and soul.
In the end he took a deep, shuddering breath while burying his face into his hands. That turned out to be a huge mistake, for in a flash he felt like throwing up when the sickening stench of blood found its way into his consciousness. Shuddering once, Morgan lowered his hands and was unable to keep himself from staring at the already dried blood caking them. He needed all his self-control to restrain a sound of discomfort and sadness.
~
/ It was almost midnight, and Morgan was practically dozing off while turning to a very familiar road that’d take him home. All drowsiness, however, disappeared when he saw something that definitely didn’t fit to the picture.
There were two police-cars parked almost in the middle of the street, lights flashing unnerving shades of red and blue. And not all that far away there were two cars that’d clearly crashed. It was easy enough to tell that the accident was a bad one – the second car had practically dived into the first one through the driver’s side.
And at the moment cold settled into Morgan’s body, although he couldn’t understand why. With a small frown on his face he climbed out of the car and began to make his way towards two of the police-officers. Seeing their mistrusting looks he pulled out his badge before talking. “What’s going on?” he demanded.
Another one of the police-officers – a dark-skinned young man with quite unfriendly eyes – nodded irritably towards his right. “A drunk driver, that’s what – blew nice 2,6 to our alcoholmeter. I don’t understand how it even crossed his mind to sit behind a wheel. He had drunk man’s luck, though. He escaped unscratched. Castro’s gonna take him to the station.”
Looking towards the gestured direction Morgan discovered a police-car driving off. Once more he felt a shudder, and labelled this one as that of disgust. All of a sudden a thought that made him feel even colder floated into his head. “What about the other car?”
The police-officer who’d talked to him before – Morris, as he studied from the man’s nametag – sighed. “Only one passanger, but he’s a pretty bad mess.” The man glanced towards the car that’d been assaulted by the other vehicle. “We called for an ambulance, but I doubt it’ll get here soon enough.” The chocolate-skinned man’s eyes flashed with revulsion. “He’s just a kid, you know? Not even thirty.”
Morgan unleashed a hiss through tightly grit teeth. “Shit…” He then glanced towards the vehicle as well, noticing that there was a female police-officer kneeling beside it, talking to someone. “’Anything I could do?”
Morris shrugged. “Talk to the kid, try to make him feel as comfortable as possible. But I’m warning you, he’s DOA.”
Morgan nodded, then took a deep breath to brace himself before starting to walk towards the car. He’d spent several years in the FBI, seen things most only saw in nightmares. This couldn’t be any worse than what he’d already faced, right?
Universe soon decided to prove him wrong. Because as he approached the vehicle he finally got a proper visual of the driver. And at that moment the bottom dropped from his world, making the little warmth that’d been in his body disappear.
Because there, sitting rather limply with his eyes closed, was none other than Dr. Spencer Reid. Judging by how still and pale the young genius was he could’ve as well been dead.
At first Morgan was absolutely frozen, nausea swelling in his stomach and his eyes stinging hellishly. But then something far stronger than terror pushed him into motion.
Later, he didn’t remember shoving the female police-officer further and showing his badge as she snarled who the hell he was, nor did he remember snarling back that Reid was his colleague – friend, hell, almost a family-member. All he remembered was Reid, so clearly that the sight was forever imprinted to his nightmares.
No, there wasn’t a lot of blood – just a small cut on Reid’s forehead where broken glass had harmed it, and a tiny trail of blood running from the younger man’s mouth. But that was where the good news ended. Because the car was utterly, hopelessly crushed, and Morgan had a dark idea that a lot of bones had broken from the side of Reid that’d taken the impact. The young brunet’s arm, at least, had twisted into a unnatural angle. And as Morgan looked down he felt like crying out upon realizing that the car’s front had practically crushed Reid’s lower abdomen and legs while bending in to fill the brunet’s lap. Morgan guessed sullenly that most of the damage was inside Reid. And judging by the looks of it, it was bad. The sight… was hopeless.
Morgan most definitely wasn’t one to cry easily. But at the moment he would’ve given anything to be allowed to shed a tear or two.
But that wasn’t the time to break down. Because just then a barely audible, heartbreaking mew of pain met Morgan’s ears.
Nearly startled he glanced towards Reid’s face that held a look of pure agony.
Not knowing what else to do Morgan reached out and touched Reid’s cheek, just to let the younger man know that he wasn’t alone. “Reid”, he called out, only getting a weak whimper as a response. Fear – such Morgan didn’t remember experiencing ever before – grabbed a hold of him, squeezing his intestines into a tiny ball. He tried to half-scream although his throat was practically blocked. “Reid! C’mon, Pretty Boy, open your eyes! Open your eyes and look at me!”
It seemed to take a small eternity. But then, very slowly, Reid’s eyes did open halfway. They appeared hazy, and it took long before they focused on him. The brunet frowned. “…’rgan?” The brunet then moaned, squeezing his eyes tightly shut once more. The man’s good hand seemed to try and wrap around his clearly injured abdomen. There was a whimper when the hand actually made contact.
Finally regaining his ability to function Morgan grabbed Reid’s hand, afraid that it’d cause even more damage. “Hey, hey, easy! You’re… You’re a bit banged up, okay? So take it easy.”
Reid winced and breathed sharply. Morgan didn’t like the wheezing side-tone he caught. “…Hurts…”
Morgan nodded, feeling helpless and lost. What the hell was he supposed to do?! “I know. I know”, he muttered in the end, although in reality he couldn’t possibly have the slightest clue. He squeezed the younger man’s hand in a feeble attempt to offer comfort. “But… You’ll be okay, got that? Just… Stay with me, Spence. You’ll be okay.” It was a command, or perhaps a desperate plea.
Those words did something, at least. Because Reid blinked once, appearing utterly exhausted, and managed to look at him with apparent difficulty. Did Reid… try to smile? “I… I don’t feel my legs, ’rgan. ’Can’t feel anything. So ‘op lying.”
Not knowing what else to do and not bearing to watch the younger man’s suffering any longer Morgan swallowed thickly and blinked, thrice. His eyes felt hot and moist. “I’ll… go and see what’s taking the damn ambulance so long, ‘k?” He took a breath, but it didn’t calm him at all. “Stay awake in the meantime, understood? Stay awake.”
He was about to leave when Reid suddenly squeezed his hand, faintly but still. Looking towards the younger man’s eyes Morgan found pain and fear, such he’d never seen before. “Stay”, the younger man pleaded in a voice he barely heard. “Please.”
Morgan felt like there’d been ice in his veins when he looked into those clearly terrified eyes, finally understanding.
Reid… He was sure he was going to…
Breathing was suddenly a hard task when he squeezed Reid’s hand once more, as though the hold alone would’ve been enough to keep the young genius holding on. “I won’t leave you, okay? I’m not going anywhere.” Good god… Was that his voice? It was shaking. “And neither are you.”
Reid’s eyes fluttered, barely having the energy to stay open. All of a sudden the fear was gone, replaced by something else. Something that startled Morgan. “Hmh.” And then the eyes closed completely. “’ell Hotch I’m ‘rry, ‘k?” It was quiet for so long that he was almost sure the younger man had fainted. “Looks like I ‘n’t be coming to work ‘morrow.” The brunet pulled in a breath that wheezed painfully and winced. “’m sorry.” And then it was quiet. Too quiet.
To Morgan time stopped as he stared at Reid’s nearly colorless face, his eyes widened and filled with emotions he could usually hide. “Reid?” He squeezed the hand that was still in his but it remained limp, unresponsive. “Reid!” he cried out again, without any success. “Spencer, open your eyes! Don’t you dare…!” For some reason the rest faded out.
And then, so suddenly that he screamed of surprise, Morgan was pushed out of the way as a group of medics rushed in, starting to work frantically. Morgan caught a word here and there, such as ‘broken pelvis’, ‘ruptured organs’, ‘internal bleeding’ and ‘patient’.
Morgan felt a flare of rage, although he knew it was uncalled for. His mind seemed to want to wrap around something trivial.
It felt infuriating that the young man laying there, with his life in the hands of strangers, had reduced to nothing more than a patient. This was their Spencer Reid – their young genius, prodigy, who always rambled statistics and most often pointless facts only Reid could possibly know. This was their friend, a member of their weird family. Spencer Reid was not just a patient.
Anger, however, shifted out of something far stronger’s way when he heard a medic’s words that made his whole world still for a few seconds. “Shit! He stopped breathing!”
They kept talking, barking out commands and medical nonsense, but none of that registered to Morgan’s chaotic head. All he could see was Reid, how the young man’s face grew paler by the second and how the man’s chest was much too still. It took everything in Morgan to convince himself that Reid wasn’t dead, that there was still hope. Had his whole body not been paralyzed by something beyond terror he would’ve…
Yes, what? What the hell could he have done? Morgan had never felt so utterly helpless in his entire life, not even when watching Reid being tortured by Tobias Hankle. And he hated feeling helpless beyond everything.
Morgan was fairly sure he also stopped breathing for a moment when the medics paused their efforts for a while, and one of them listened to signs of life. A cold fist squeezed around his heart when the medic shook her head with a grim expression.
Morgan’s legs were dangerously close to giving in, and he had to lean against a nearby wall, dark eyes wide and filled with a storm of emotions.
That was the same Reid who’d survived through so much, who’d surfaced from under a ton of things that would’ve crushed anyone else. He couldn’t be giving up now – Morgan refused to believe that he would just…
Morgan fought with his all to hold back a scream, and most likely failed because soon there was a rough hand on his shoulder. The hold was so firm that he was surprised to hear a woman’s voice. “Hey, breathe.” Those words were so unexpected that he looked to side – and blinked twice with surprise the cause of which he didn’t quite understand. Stood there, looking at him with stern brown eyes that seemed to have a hint of gold, was a young female police-officer. She was at least a head shorter than him, but there wasn’t a doubt that her voice would’ve controlled even a full army. Her hold on his shoulder tightened before she spoke again. “You’re going into a shock, do you understand? So calm down and breathe. The last thing your friend needs I you collapsing on us. Breathe.”
In some other situation Morgan might’ve laughed, or at least snorted, at the irony of it all.
Wasn’t she supposed to tell Reid that? Morgan wasn’t the one who…
He opened his mouth, not sure what was about to come out, until a medic’s voice claimed all his attention. “I feel a pulse! It’s faint, but it’s there.”
Feeling dazed and breathless, Morgan turned his gaze towards where the medics were still working on Reid. The young genius was still a lot paler than he should’ve, and there was a bit of blood just below his lips. But he was breathing – he was alive. There was still hope.
In a flash Morgan was moving towards where Reid was transferred swiftly into a ambulance. One of the medics stopped him with an apologetic expression. “I’m sorry, but we need all the room we can get, just in case.”
His mouth opened for a loud storm of objections when the same police-officer who’d attempted to soothe him spoke. “It’s okay. I’ll drive you.”
Watching the doors of the ambulance being closed – sealing Reid from his line of vision – and just observing the vehicle driving off was one of the hardest things he’d ever done. It took longer than it should’ve for him to turn around and rush over to where the police-officer was waiting for him by a car.
The drive to the hospital was utterly silent and seemed to take ages, and almost half of it was lost to Morgan later. When they finally made it to the hospital he gave the woman a hasty wave of thank you before dashing inside. It wasn’t until months later Morgan realized he didn’t even know her name.
In the hospital he glanced at his hands with a frown, wondering why they felt strange. What he found caused a shiver that went all the way to his spine.
Apparently he’d been wrong about Reid not bleeding. Because his hands were covered in blood from when he’d taken Reid’s after the brunet had touched his stomach.
/
~
Morgan took a deep breath and closed his eyes for a moment in a rather futile attempt to calm himself as those events played themselves over and over again in his head.
He wanted to believe that Reid wouldn’t die today because of some idiot, that the last time he saw the young genius wouldn’t be on that street with the younger man struggling so very hard to stay awake for just a little bit longer. Morgan needed to believe, because otherwise he would’ve gone inside. Because at the moment that belief – that childish determination that there was some justice left in this world – was all he had.
He took another breath, so deep it made him feel dizzy.
It was deviously easy to sneak into the path of ‘should haves’ and ‘what ifs’.
Morgan didn’t manage to snap out of his thoughts until he heard steps. His eyes flew open, darting demandingly for a doctor to finally show up with some news. Instead he found a sombre faced Aaron Hotchner walking towards him. It took a moment before he remembered that he’d called his superior while on his way to the hospital. “I called the others. They should be here soon”, the dark-haired man told him. “Any news?”
Morgan shook his head, then turned his gaze towards the door through which Reid had been wheeled. It didn’t budge. “I’ve been trying to ask whenever someone comes out of there, but they won’t tell me anything.” It took several moments before he managed to talk again, a sharp edge in his voice. He could’ve definitely used something to punch. “What the hell is taking them so long?”
Hotch looked at him for almost a minute – he could feel it although he didn’t look – before talking. “There was no way you could’ve seen this coming. You do understand that, don’t you?” The man’s eyes shifted towards the door he’d been glaring at for the past few hours. Morgan had never seen those dark eyes carry the look they did then. “Even you can do only so much to protect him.”
Morgan didn’t know what to say to that, so he pressed his lips together tightly and looked back towards the goddamn door that wouldn’t open. He felt choked and his narrowed eyes stung like hell while he sat there helplessly, vaguely realizing that he was shivering.
Time seemed to stand still as they waited there in utter silence.
Perhaps the hectic night had taken its toll on Morgan, after all. Because he was almost dozing off when Hotch placed a hand to his shoulder, squeezing unnecessarily tightly. Morgan’s chest shifted uncomfortably when he saw a grim-faced doctor walking towards them.
Although his legs barely supported his weight Morgan got up, biting his teeth together so hard it could be heard and attempting to steel himself for anything.
Although he appeared frail and was the baby of the bunch they all fought to protect, Reid was also a tough kid, one of the toughest either one of them had ever seen. They’d almost lost him several times, but somehow Reid had always fought his way back to them. At the moment they could only hope that Reid would manage to pull a one more miracle for them.
~
/ Morgan felt tempted to chuckle as he ruffled Reid’s hair in the jet, making the young genius wake up with a jolt. “Time to wake up, Pretty Boy. We’ve already landed.”
Rubbing his face Reid mumbled something incoherent. “I had… a weird dream.”
Rossi’s eyebrow arched. “You’ve had quite a bit of those lately.”
Reid only managed to yawn as a response.
In the end Morgan spoke out. “Reid, seriously, go home. You need rest.”
Reid frowned, still appearing sleepy. “What about the paperwork?”
“There’s nothing about them that can’t wait until tomorrow”, Hotch pointed out.
“Yeah.” Prentiss poked Reid’s forehead gently, then spoke in a voice that sounded softer than usual. “We wouldn’t want that hard drive over there to tilt.”
Reid grinned faintly, then got up, stretched and took his bag. With a tiny wave the genius headed towards the nearby door. “See you tomorrow, guys.”
With their brief responses the door closed between them and Reid. And somehow the jet felt much colder than before.
/
~
A heavy, suffocating silence still lingered in the hospital’s waiting room half an hour after the doctor’s visit.
Morgan’s slightly widened eyes didn’t seem to have any life in them as he sat heavily on a bench, shivering without even noticing it. The words Reid’s doctor – whose name he couldn’t even remember – had said kept playing over and over again in his head.
~
/ The doctor – of whose looks Morgan later remembered only those horribly sad grey eyes – had been very kind. But he couldn’t lie. “I’m really sorry, but… You need to understand that the damage was extremely severe – it’s a miracle that he’s managed to struggle this far. You asked me be frank, so…” A deep breath foreshadowed what was to come. “Dr. Reid has a broken pelvis, which caused massive internal bleeding. Several of his ribs were also broken, and it appears one of them punctured his lung. I’m no orthopedic specialist, but I’d dare to say his spine was severely damaged. The accident also damaged his kidneys, bladder and large intestine to a point where, unfortunately, there isn’t much we can do to fix them. Along with those there was a broken arm with other minor problems. I’m afraid operating is out of question, because fixing any problem simply causes another. There’s no way his body would endure any medical procedures.” Morgan could still feel the endlessly long pause that followed. It’d been like a black hole that swallowed up absolutely everything. “I really am sorry – I wish from the bottom of my heart that I’d had better news for you. Right now we’ve managed to make him feel comfortable, and he’s as awake as medication allows. I’d suggest you go and see him, while you still can.” /
~
“Morgan.” It took more than it should’ve of him to focus on Hotch’s voice. In any other situation he might’ve noticed that the man’s hard eyes were suspiciously reddened. “I’m… going to go, and see Reid. Stay here in the meantime.” The last sentence could easily be translated as ‘Don’t do anything stupid’.
Morgan felt himself nod mechanically, although the burning in his veins and eyes were bound to make obeying the command impossible. He opened his mouth but in the end changed his mind.
Honestly, what use were any words when…?
“Hotch? Morgan?” Cold shivers ran through him when he heard Emily Prentiss’ voice, then lifted his gaze slowly to find her entering along with Jennifer Jareau. There was a frown on the brunette’s face for a moment before she froze, all color draining from her face. After a couple of stilled seconds she shook her head vigorously. “No. NO.”
Morgan saw tears shimmering in JJ’s rapidly widening eyes as she brought a hand to her mouth, appearing just about ready to throw up.
As Hotch began to speak words that didn’t even register to Morgan, the dark-skinned man decided that he just couldn’t take this anymore. The weight on his chest, the blockage in his throat… He had to do something about them.
Upon leaving he banged the door without even noticing, so loudly that he startled a nurse who’d been passing by.
As soon he made it out of the hospital his legs, apparently, decided that they’d had enough. He was sent down to the nearest bench, head buried into his hands.
The breeze of cold wind that picked out of seemingly nowhere was almost enough to smother his scream.
~
Penelope Garcia was a woman of action, especially when she was upset. And that’s why after Hotch’s phone-call – of which she later remembered only words ‘Reid’ and ‘there’s been an accident’ – she was sitting in a taxi in less than five minutes. Later on she had no idea what she’d said to the cab firm to make them operate so fast.
She would’ve been in the hospital in twenty minutes if there hadn’t been a block on the road. Wrecks of two cars which were investigated by police-officers, to be exact.
Call it a sixth sense or whatever, but Garcia recognized Reid’s car right away. And the moment she saw all the damage a bout of intense nausea washed through her.
The driver – a rather nasty looking elderly man with rat’s eyes – gave her a sharp glare through the mirror as she grabbed the door. “Hey, what the hell do you think you’re going? Running off without paying?”
She glared back the best as she could with how badly her eyes stung. “Unless you want me to throw up all over your backseat let me out, now”, she growled.
The driver gave no more objections as she dashed out and threw up as soon as she made it to the street. Once she’d emptied all there was in her stomach and more she stood there for a couple of minutes, fighting to control her wheezing breath and panicked thoughts.
There was nothing to fret over, she told herself with a little girl’s conviction. Reid was going to be fine – he had to. The universe couldn’t be cruel enough to allow it otherwise.
Garcia was known for being fast to answer her phone. That dark night, however, she broke all her former records with how fast she picked up once realizing that the caller was Morgan. “You better have some good news for me, Chocolate Bear.” Her voice was unusually stiff and hoarse. Quite briefly she wondered if she’d been crying without even noticing it.
The silence lasted too long. And she had hard time believing the deep, quiet voice she heard belonged to Derek Morgan. “I really wish I could.” It was the first and last time Garcia ever heard Morgan cry.
The cell-phone dropped as she buried her face into both hands. Soon enough sobs broke through the darkness.
~
After spending several years with the team David Rossi knew well that Hotch wasn’t one to show emotions easily. That’s why a shiver crossed his body as he entered Reid’s almost dark hospital room and saw the unit chief beside the too large bed. Hotch was pale, almost to a sickly extend, and appeared several years older than usual while standing there with folded arms and a hard, almost steely expression. The man’s eyes were so red that Rossi felt tempted to wonder if he’d been crying.
Rossi’s eyes stalled on Hotch’s face, because they were reluctant to move downwards. But eventually he decided that he couldn’t be a coward any longer. Very slowly his gaze moved towards Reid. He was able to keep his expression close to neutral, but his heart broke at the sight.
Granted, the hospital-staff had done decent job with attempting to fix the visible damage. But nothing could erase that facts that Reid’s face didn’t have almost any color anymore, and that the young man appeared hopelessly small and fragile in the bed. It looked like even the most careful touch could crack the brunet to pieces. The man appeared… almost dead when resting there with a chillingly peaceful expression.
It didn’t occur to Rossi until then just how… alive Reid’s eyes had always been – so different from the ones of those who’d been in the force much longer. The young brunet’s eyes had been full of emotion, young. Rossi found himself missing them.
Rossi didn’t wake up from deep musings until he heard Hotch’s surprisingly scratchy voice. “He woke up moaning a while ago, so I asked them to give him more medication.” Something flashed in those dark eyes before disappearing. “There’s no point in being cautious, anymore.” To most that would’ve sounded harsh. A careful ear knew better.
Rossi nodded, not having anything intelligent to say. It didn’t feel like words would’ve been all that necessary, anyway.
Silence stretched but didn’t turn heavy because they both failed to notice it. Time also lost its meaning completely.
Rossi blinked once with some surprise when Hotch spoke all of a sudden, in a voice he didn’t recall hearing ever before. “I’m… supposed to call his mother, and tell her about this.” The man’s eyes were fixed on Reid’s chest, which was rising and falling unevenly with the aid of slightly wheezing, shallow breaths. “I have no idea how the hell I’m supposed to do that.”
The silence that followed was so thick thick that they both blinked with surprise when a young male nurse opened the room’s door and peered in. “Aaron Hotchner?”
The team leader cleared his throat and nodded. “Is something wrong?”
“I’m sorry to disturb, but there’s a phone call for you”, the nurse explained apologetically. “They said it’s urgent.”
“Go”, Rossi urged. “I’ll keep the kid company.”
Hotch nodded sharply, an unreadable look in his eyes. Once more the man’s eyes drifted towards Reid, and lingered on the brunet for a long time before the team leader finally managed to convince himself to leave.
As soon as Hotch had left Rossi turned his gaze towards Reid and slumped rather heavily to the chair that’d been brought beside the bed. He couldn’t help noticing that there was a light frown on the brunet’s face. “Don’t worry, we’re not leaving you alone.” Rossi tried his best to ignore how foreign his voice sounded. “If you need anything, at all, just tell me.”
Reid didn’t respond, didn’t even have the energy to open his eyes. And as he sat there, unable to do anything but watch, Rossi had a sinking feeling that he’d never see the kid’s eyes again.
~
Apart from the loud barks of some ‘clients’ the police station was rather quiet as Hotch entered twenty minutes later. It didn’t take long before he noticed Morgan, who’d practically slumped to a nearby bench with balled fists and slightly widened, smouldering eyes.
Morgan didn’t know how long he’d been sitting there, or what exactly he was planning on doing, when a grim-faced Hotch was suddenly stood before him.
He blinked twice. “What are you doing here?” As though it hadn’t been obvious.
“One of the officers who saw you before called me, said that I’d probably want to take care of… this before one of them would have to.” Hotch’s voice was cool and collected, but Morgan’s careful ear caught all the undertones swirling in it. Without a doubt this had been a long, hard night for all of them.
Morgan balled his fists so tightly it hurt, his eyes narrowing against emotions even his training didn’t allow him to hide. “I want to kill that son of a bitch, Hotch.” It was surprising that his voice was quiet, although that didn’t make the tone any less dangerous.
“I know.” Hotch held a pause when a couple of officers passed by, giving them questioning looks. “But do you honestly think this is where you’re supposed to be now?”
Morgan didn’t have anything to say to that, so he remained quiet.
Clearly noticing the opening that’d appeared to Morgan’s defence Hotch went on. “Reid wouldn’t want you to do this.”
The jolt inside was much more harsh than Morgan would’ve ever expected, made him shudder visibly and brought a stinging sensation to his eyes. It took a mighty while before he managed to speak. His voice was far more quiet than usual. “How is he?”
Mercifully Hotch didn’t make him repeat. “As stable as possible.” ‘Alive’, went unsaid. “He’s asleep most of the time.”
Morgan closed his eyes and breathed in deep, which had successfully calmed him down once upon a time. Now it didn’t help him feel any better.
“I’m heading back to the hospital”, Hotch announced all of a sudden, his voice somewhat harsh. “Either you’re going with me, or I’m telling one of the officers here to keep a close eye on you. Which one do you choose?”
Somehow not finding the energy for words, Morgan simply got up and walked out of the building by Hotch’s side. It wasn’t the first time that night he thought – hoped – that he was inside of a mere bad dream.
~
Emily Prentiss had always hated hospitals, yet she suspected that wasn’t the only reason she was shivering when approaching Reid’s room. Glancing to the side she discovered that JJ – who was walking beside her – didn’t seem to be doing any better. The blonde was shivering even worse than she was and her face had a chalk white complexion. Prentiss suspected that if she’d said even a single word the other woman would’ve jumped with startle. In any other situation Prentiss migth’ve thought they looked ridiculous.
As soon as she’d heard the extend of Reid’s injuries Prentiss had prepared herself for absolutely anything. Still she froze by the doorway and blinked thrice at what she found.
The small, quiet room was shadowy due to the late hour. The only thing providing light was a rather adorable, pineapple-shaped lamp that’d appeared to the table next to a clearly much loved Bonsai Tree.
Prentiss paused to wonder who’d brought those items before her eyes landed on Garcia, who was huddled to the chair beside Reid’s bed. The woman appeared pale, which made the redness and puffiness of her eyes stand out. She’d obviously been crying.
Or scratch that. She was still crying.
“Hey.” Garcia was a woman of big emotions, which made the quiet tone sound off, out of character. The blonde glanced towards the items on the room’s tiny table. “I… thought I should bring something over, the cheer this place up.” Like anything could’ve done that.
JJ tried to smile but failed miserably. “I think they’re nice.”
Still trying to avoid looking at Reid Prentiss frowned, feeling that something was amiss. There was always that beeping sound in the movies and TV-shows. “Why…” She cleared her throat. “Why isn’t he connected to a heart monitor?” She knew it was pointless to wrap her head around something so stupid, but couldn’t help herself.
Garcia blinked twice, as though having difficulties hearing, before answering. “He… It was bothering him”, the blonde explained, wiping her eyes swiftly. It was clear she was avoiding saying Reid’s name. “They said… that it’s not necessary, at this point.”
JJ’s whole body convulsed under something Prentiss could only guess. Prentiss didn’t know what to do with herself, so she just stood there stiffly and balled her fists. She’d never felt as helpless in her entire life.
Just then there was a silent, barely audible groan. It took a blink before the three women realized that the sound came from Reid.
It was beyond Prentiss how Garcia managed to smile, although the woman’s eyes shimmered. “Hey, sweetie! Are you awake?” The blonde kept coaxing when Reid frowned, trying to focus. “Open those pretty eyes for me. I know you can.”
Reid licked his lips before finally obeying. The young genius frowned once more before recognizing. “…’cia?”
Garcia nodded, clearly at a loss of words for a moment. “Yeah, sweetie, it’s me. You managed to lure us all into a hospital.”
Reid appeared slightly embarrassed for a moment and tried to say something before breaking into a fit of wheezing, visibly painfull coughs. The brunet winced when bringing a hand to his mouth. The women didn’t fail to notice that some droplets of blood stained the back of the man’s hand. Garcia’s delicately created smile shuddered and JJ seemed ready to break down to tears. Prentiss was feeling so much at one go that she couldn’t even name everything.
Obviously needing something to distract herself with JJ took a breath and grabbed the small cup that’d been left to the table. “Is your throat dry, Spence?” As gently as only a mother can she helped Reid to a better position, then gave him some gulps of the liquid. “Did that help any?”
Reid’s eyelids drooped as the brunet relaxed once more. “Hmm.” The man’s barely open eyes scanned through their faces. “Go home. I’m fine.” As though he would’ve fooled any of them.
Prentiss opened her mouth, determined to say something – anything. She never got the chance.
“No way in hell we’re leaving, Pretty Boy.” Glancing towards the door they saw Morgan stood beside a strained-faced Hotch. The dark-skinned man looked like he’d gone to hell and back. “You’re stuck with us, so get used to it.”
Reid blinked sluggishly, struggling to stay awake. “Hmm.” The brunet then remembered something and frowned, casting a surprisingly demanding look towards Morgan. “The other car… ‘t happened?”
In some other situation Prentiss might’ve laughed at the irony. Only Reid could possibly be worried about the other driver when he was the one in the hospital bed and…
The women noticed the meaningfull look Hotch gave Morgan. The younger man’s jawline tightened considerably before there was a response. “He’s… He’s fine. He escaped unscratched.”
“Hear that?” Garcia’s tone probably wasn’t as light as the woman had hoped. She poked Reid’s forehead gently. “It’s you you should focus on.”
Reid responded with the frailest of smiles, eyes drooping until they were almost closed. Prentiss wished from the bottom of her heart that she’d been selfless enough to tell him that it was okay to sleep.
Without saying a word they all fetched a chair, crowding around Reid’s bed as though the close proximity had offered them comfort.
Reid’s expression was that of slight discomfort when the young man let his half-open eyes dart around the room. “No doctor would approve this.”
Hotch ruffled the young genius’ hair, surprising them all. “Let us worry about that, kid.”
JJ took Reid’s hand and squeezed, which made a sharp jolt cross Prentiss’ body. She wished she’d had it in her to at least speak. “Stop worrying so much, Spence”, the blonde ordered in a soft, slightly cracking tone. Her eyes were moist. “We’re right where we’re supposed to be.”
They couldn’t be sure if Reid even heard her. Because while she spoke his eyes closed slowly and his hand went limp in JJ’s.
They all stiffened, but calmed down when JJ shook her head after a moment and relaxed, a couple of tears rolling down her cheeks. “It’s… It’s okay – his pulse is still there.” Her voice broke so badly they barely head. “He’s asleep.”
Prentiss folded her arms to her chest, looking at Reid’s face although her eyes were getting bleary. She wondered if she’d ever see him awake again.
The room became so quiet that they were all alerted when the room’s door opened. Rossi’s eyes were tired when the man entered with a set of several takeaway cups. They all noticed that there was one too many. “I thought we could all use some coffee.”
They accepted the offerings gratefully and drank, preparing for one of the longest nights in their lives.
~
As morning kept approaching the rest of the world managed to reach the quiet, sombre little room. The babysitter Hotch had called over on a extremely short notice couldn’t stay any longer. JJ was also needed at home – after all, she was the mother of a baby. In the end Morgan told the rest to leave as well when they began to doze off. They obeyed with utter reluctance, making Morgan swear that he’d call them if anything changed.
JJ squeezed still sleeping Reid’s hand and whispered something the rest of them couldn’t hear. Hotch and Rossi both squeezed the brunet’s shoulder and Garcia gave the young man’s forehead a kiss. Prentiss, on the other hand, stood there for the longest time looking at Reid with a lost expression before turning and half-hurrying out of the room.
And so it was just Reid and Morgan.
Morgan had been there for over an hour, half-asleep while flipping through channels, until he heard a moan. Turning off the TV he pulled in a deep breath before focusing on Reid. “Hey. Are you back in the land of the living?”
Reid blinked sluggishly, giving a sleepy “Umh” before wincing.
The sensation of helplessness that’d been present all night attacked Morgan once more. “I’ll go and find the doctor, okay? He can give you some more medication.”
Reid shook his head vehenemently, squeezing his eyes tightly shut for a moment. “’doesn’t help much.”
Morgan fought to control the turmoil that wanted to erupt. “Is there anything I can do?”
Reid licked his lips, fighting to concentrate on something other than the pain. “In my bag… There’s a book.”
Morgan stared at the young genius for a long moment in utter disbelief, wondering if the brunet was joking. “You want me to read?” But then again this was Reid he was dealing with. Deciding not to go against the younger man’s wish he got up and walked up to the closet where he knew Reid’s things to be. True enough Reid’s dear bag was there. Morgan noticed bitterly that it’d survived the crash unharmed.
Trying not to pry too much Morgan rummaged through the items, finally managing to find a book that looked like it’d been waiting for someone to read it for quite some time. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to smile, roll his eyes or shed a tear at Reid’s choice.
‘Critique of Pure Reason’ by Immanuel Kant.
“Sounds like something you’d pick, Pretty Boy”, he commented in a slightly uneven voice while sitting.
He couldn’t be sure if Reid even heard him. The young genius had a distant look in his eyes. “I… never managed to start.”
Morgan shrugged, focusing on the book so he didn’t have to look at those rapidly fading eyes anymore. “Well, now’s as good time as any, right?”
He managed to read twenty pages before Reid fell asleep, and five more before he followed.
~
Just before the dawn a one more person approached Reid’s room, almost as carefully as a thief. A nurse who was just typing something to a portable computer looked up when hearing steps. “Sir, I’m afraid the visiting hours are already over.”
The arrival shook his head. “No, it’s…” He steeled himself for a brief second. “I’m Jason Gideon. I’m here for...”
The nurse – a quite small young woman with shortcut black hair and warm brown eyes – nodded, interrupting him. “That’s right, you’re Dr. Reid’s emergency contact. I believe Dr. Hahn called you.”
Gideon nodded, feeling embarrassed and guilty. “I’m… sorry, that it took me this long to come.”
The nurse – Liana Polwich, as he studied from her nametag – smiled a bit, as though seeing something even he didn’t. “Well, you’re here now.” She nodded towards the hopelessly long hallway behind her. “He’s in room 3101. Dr. Hahn just gave him some more pain medication, so he should be resting now.”
Gideon nodded stiffly, muttered something he hoped sounded like a ‘thank you’ and forced himself to move. It seemed to take forever before he finally reached the correct door. Upon entering he felt the barely controllable desire to leave right away.
Reid wasn’t alone, completely at least. Morgan was sitting on a chair right beside the younger man’s bed, fast asleep after the turmoil of the night.
Carefully making sure he didn’t wake up the dark-skinned man – not eager to answer any questions that night – Gideon pushed himself to motion, managing to make his way to the other side of Reid’s bed. Guilt, almost like such of a parent who’d abandoned their child, took a hold of him as he looked at the young man resting in the bed. To anyone looking it was much too clear that Spencer Reid was fading away.
Although he probably should’ve, Gideon hadn’t expected the ache that washed over him like a stream of cool water. It was almost enough to make him want to walk away once more, but this time he decided to stay firm for Reid’s sake.
In a couple of minutes he didn’t have the choice, anyway. Because Reid’s eyes first fluttered, then opened just a little bit to look straight at him. At first the younger man didn’t seem to really see anything as the brunet frowned, but then Reid’s vision obviously cleared.
Gideon expected Reid to hiss at him, to tell him to leave. That’s why a shudder crossed his body when, once again, the young genius did something unexpected.
Very slowly a tiny smile appeared to Reid’s lips. Despite the situation at hand Gideon found himself responding to it, albeit even more feebly. Reid’s smile was always contagious. Quite vaguely Gideon realized that he’d taken the younger man’s hand and now squeezed. Reid responded the best as he could.
And then, just as unexpectedly as everything else had happened, Reid’s eyes closed again.
It took several moments before Gideon realized that Reid’s chest wasn’t moving anymore, that the brunet’s face had become far too relaxed.
At that moment a part of Jason Gideon’s world ended.
Gideon didn’t remember leaving the room after a mighty while, nor did he manage to recall telling a nurse of Reid’s passing and walking to his car. But he did remember that as soon as he slumped to the driver’s seat of his car he did something unexpected.
For the first time in years Jason Gideon broke down to tears and cried.
~
It was half past six in the morning, Morgan discovered although barely even vaguely, when he woke up from his sleep to the sensation of pressure on his shoulder. His eyes first fluttered halfway open, then opened completely as he realized that there was a hand touching him. With a somewhat confused blink he shifted his gaze to find a young, black haired female-nurse looking at him. Her expression immediately chilled him to the bone. “I’m sorry”, she half-whispered, giving his shoulder a surprisingly firm squeeze. “But… You have to move, so we can take care of your friend’s body.”
For the longest time Morgan didn’t understand. Then, inevitably, those words seeped through. For a couple of seconds he could’ve sworn his heart stopped before it came to life with a jolt of pain. Slowly, unwillingly, his gaze moved downwards towards Reid’s face. Even without any medical training he could tell much too clearly that there was no life in the brunet any longer. The young genius’ lips had already gained a hint of blue.
Reid… While he’d been asleep…
“He passed away in his sleep”, the nurse explained, clearly not understanding that he couldn’t process any more information. “He didn’t feel any pain.”
For some reason Morgan’s eyes shifted from Reid to the badly unfinished book that lay abandoned on the bed. It wasn’t until at that moment the pain actually settled in, filled his stomach and chest with ice.
Reid would never get the chance to finish that stupid book.
The nurse’s voice claimed his attention, snatched him from a dangerous trail of thoughts. “… understand, but you need to let us do our job.” Her voice was gentle and filled with empathy, but he couldn’t bring himself to look at her. “We’ll take a good care of your friend, I promise.” At least she wasn’t talking about Reid like the young genius was – had been – just a patient, Morgan noticed like it’d been important.
In the end a nursing student escorted Morgan out of the room and all the way to his car, visibly wondering if he was really in the condition to drive. Morgan didn’t even notice that there was someone with him.
That morning, sitting all alone in his car and shaking violently, Derek Morgan didn’t cry or whimper. He grabbed the steering wheel with both hands, so hard that his knuckles turned white, and became utterly quiet.
Suddenly the world felt like a much colder place than before. Empty.

Five Years Later

No matter how convinced the team was of the opposite, time didn’t stop to that endlessly long night. Whether they were ready for it or not life went on.
After fifteen months of considering Garcia finally gave in and got married to Kevin in a ridiculously bright and loud ceremony that screamed out her personality. Less than four months before the fifth anniversary she announced with a bright flush on her cheeks that she was finally pregnant.
It was hard to tell what’d been going through Rossi’s head during the past five years. The rest of the team, however, did know that he’d disappear every evening of the anniversary to who knows where, to emerge in a couple of days looking worse for wear.
As from two months after the first anniversary Prentiss had spent three years away from the team, and up until today none of them knew where she’d been. Only JJ knew that since Prentiss’ return she’d given the brunette a ride to psychiatrist Thompson’s private practice every other week.
Hotch was still their leader, their solid rock and assurance that at least something could still be trusted in their battered world. It was a secret between the leader and Rossi that those nights when Hotch couldn’t be so strong the older man was with him, ignoring the reek of alcohol.
Morgan had worried them all for the first couple of years. Whereas the rest of them went through all the stages of grief Morgan got stuck on anger and silence. After a particularly bad night – during which Morgan had almost beaten a drunk driver to death – Hotch had been forced to make the man take six months of sick leave along with anger management. That, as it turned out, had done miracles. Not only had Morgan recovered, but he’d also finally found the woman of his life. He was to get married soon enough.
Two years after the horrible night JJ found herself suffering from very familiar symptoms. A home pregnancy test proved her assumption to be the correct one. Eight months later she gave birth to her second son. She immediately named him Spencer.
And all that happened without Spencer Reid, because the world had stopped making sense five years ago. JJ was fairly sure that not another day passed without them wishing silently that their youngest had been there to see where life had led them. He’d never had the chance to build a proper life, a family of his own.
“Mommy?” JJ finally woke up from her somewhat gloomy thoughts at the sound of Henry. Her son was looking at her with a frown from the passanger’s seat. “Are you okay? You looked sad.”
It was a bit of struggle, but she managed to create some sort of a smile. “Yeah”, she murmured, wondering if she managed to fool even a child. “I’m fine. I was just… thinking.”
Henry nodded, accepting her response with a child’s faith.
It was around then JJ happened to look out the car’s window – and felt her heart still for a second. Because there, sitting on the side of the pavement, was a boy with shortcut brown hair, huge brown eyes and equally big glasses. The child was holding a pile of heavy books that looked far too demanding for someone of his age. He was all alone and looked around as though fearing someone might attack him.
For a couple of moments JJ was almost sure she was looking at Spencer Reid as a child.
“Henry… Do you know that boy?” she inquired breathlessly.
Henry shrugged. “He’s Tyler, but I don’t really know him. He’s jumped over a lot of classes.”
JJ wasn’t sure if she wanted to laugh or cry – there was a turmoil inside her. Her decision was made long before she unbuckled her seatbelt and looked towards her son. “Honey, I’ll… go and make sure Tyler’s okay. Wait here.”
Henry nodded, focused on rummaging through his backpack.
JJ couldn’t really remember getting out of the car and walking up to the child. She did, however, remember for the rest of her life the terrified look that flashed by his face when he heard steps. “Hey, it’s okay. I just came over to make sure you’re okay.”
Tyler shrugged. “I’m just waiting for mom.”
It wasn’t until then, as the boy looked towards her, JJ noticed his black eye. Rage, almost like such of a parent, traveled through her. “Did the other kids do that to you?”
“It’s not that bad”, Tyler hurried to convince her, as though he’d just done something horribly wrong. One of his small hands moved swiftly to cover the bruise. “Thirty percent of American schoolchildren in grades six through ten have been bullied or have bullied other children sometimes or more often within a semester. Research also indicates that approximately 160,000 students avoid school every day for fear of being bullied. I’m not planning on becoming one of them.”
JJ had never been as gifted at hiding her emotions as the rest of her team. That’s why she was fairly sure tears shimmered in her eyes as she looked at the child who seemed painfully familiar.
The little boy frowned a bit and blinked twice. “Did I say something wrong?”
JJ shook her head quickly. “No, sweetie. You just… surprised me.” Realizing rather bitterly that there wasn’t much more she could’ve done for him so ruffled his hair and straightened her form. Gosh, how small the boy was…! “I hope your mom comes soon.”
Tyler merely nodded, his eyes fixed elsewhere.
Just before going JJ found herself stopping. Her mouth worked free of her will. “You’ll get through this, you know? You’ll survive – you’ll be happy, no matter how hard they torture you. I promise.”
Tyler was quiet for a long moment before asking. “How can you know?”
JJ wasn’t sure if it was a laugh or sob that erupted. Perhaps both. “Because… Because I once knew someone just like you. And he was happy, before he was stolen away from us.”
Had JJ looked back while walking away she would’ve seen Tyler’s baffled eyes looking back. When sitting to her car she barely managed to wipe the couple of tears that rolled without Henry noticing.
~
In her small car Emily Prentiss opened her eyes and took a deep breath before climbing out and beginning to move, right towards the huge gates that stood mercilessly before her. She pushed herself forward, refusing to hesitate, and forced herself to take a road she knew much too well.
After all – whether the others knew it or not – she visited here every week no matter what although she hated the place.
The sight she met would’ve surprised a sudden person passing by. There, gathered to a blanket before a tombstone with a picnic basket, was the team Prentiss felt ready to call her second family. Morgan and Garcia were sitting down and fooling around, looking like they’d been flirting. Rossi, sitting on a nearby bench, was watching the commotion with a slight smile. Hotch had a thoughtful look on his face as he stood a slight distance away with folded arms, eyes fixed on a target one can only guess.
Most people remembered the anniversary of a deceaced loved one with candless – they’d come up with a picnic to Reid’s grave, to let him know he wasn’t forgotten. But then again, BAU had never been exactly conventional.
Prentiss didn’t know how long she’d stood there until Garcia spotted her. The woman grinned and waved, so that her huge baby-bump could clearly be seen. (‘It’s gotta be twins in there’, she remembered Morgan announcing once.) “Hey – we were beginning to think you wouldn’t show up! Get your ass over here.”
With a slight weak smile Prentiss joined the others, and couldn’t help glancing towards the tombstone. Even after five years it felt chilling and wrong to see Reid’s name there.
Despite the inevitable sad sidetone they started talking and laughing eventually, Morgan even cracked a couple of jokes. It was… terrifyingly close to how things had been, once upon a time, when their team – family – had been whole.
Swallowing down a lump that’d appeared to her throat out of nowhere Prentiss lifted her gaze. In a couple of moments something inside her turned cold.
Because for a fleeting moment she could’ve sworn she saw Reid standing there in the sunlight, smiling at her.
She almost jumped when Morgan’s hand was laid to her shoulder. “Hey, what’s up?”
Garcia winced. “The mayo wasn’t expired, was it?”
Prentiss shook her head, blinking a couple of times to rid the stinging sensation in her eyes. Damn – she’d thought she was past this…! “No, I… I’m fine”, she murmured, glancing towards where the mirage had just been. She felt a sharp twinge upon realizing it was gone. “I just… thought I saw something.”
The others nodded slowly. Soon enough Prentiss was also swallowed up by the surprisingly light athmosphere. It was the first anniversary they managed to spend together without tearing open each other’s scars. They ate, talked, enjoyed each other’s company. Just like Reid would’ve wanted.
And somehow they could’ve sworn that Spencer Reid was also right there with them.
~
“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.”
From a headstone in Ireland

End.
Chapter End Notes:
A/N:
Soooo…. (gulps nervously) How was that – any good, at all? PLEASE, let me know! I’m still new to ‘CM’, so it’d mean A LOT to me!
Thank you so much for reading this!
Take care!


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