Trigger warnings of almost every kind apply from here on out. If you are easily triggered, back button it like there's no tomorrow. This chapter isn't bad yet, though.
A trumpet was blaring in F sharp...Reid grimaced and blinked, but everything was dark. God, why was someone playing so loudly? Morgan must have somehow convinced him to go out to one if his jazz clubs again. Surely he'd learned his lesson from the other night, he thought blearily. They were on a case - weren't they - wasn't it about something important? He shuttered in a breath and could taste something gritty coat the back of his throat. Coughing in surprise earned him a sharp stab of pain that ricochet up his sternum.
His head swam and he felt like laying down. Or was he laying down already? Reid blinked again and a flicker of light started to come into focus. Something warm was dripping onto his cheek. Please tell me it's raining, it hasn't rained in weeks.
The trumpeter somehow persisted in playing , and in fact had surpassed the average human lung capacity's vital ability - 3400 cm³ - no one could play a note this long. Reid heard the high pitch squeal of metal rubbing together, and suddenly everything shifted, light glinting off the crystalline spider web splayed out on glass in front of him.
Not a trumpet.
Not laying down - but definitely not vertical.
Reid flinched as a spatter of wetness dribbled down from above again, and he gritted his teeth against the pain it took to turn his head to the source. His eyes watered from dust in the air - talcum powder emitted from the deployment of air bags - his mind futilely supplied.
Someone's arm dangled only a foot away from Reid, blood running dark tracks past a watch and down the fingers.
He was suspended by the driver's side seat belt, left shoulder jammed in the twisted metal and small pieces of glass spiked into his face like some gory Halloween get-up. It wasn't clear if he was breathing. The side window that framed his profile was jagged with glass like a monster's mouth, gaping open into the dark sky beyond.
"Morgan?" Reid choked out weakly, surprised that his voice didn't sound like his own. "Derek , wake up."
Spencer was halfway through his fourth coffee when the rest of the team filed into the conference room. He, along with Hotch, had been up long enough to rake over all the files the senior agent had brought home. After he'd nearly skewered his gracious host with a tv remote in his sleep. Reid scowled and gulped a particularly large swallow of the sweet liquid down.
"Wow, have a little too much fun at the sleep over, boys?" JJ deadpanned.
"No kidding." Rossi added, easing into his seat.
Hotch caught Reid's eyes briefly, sending him weighted glance. It was true that they both looked closer to the side of terrible, and the doctor couldn't help but feel wholly responsible. Finally a case ended up being close enough for everyone to sleep at home, yet somehow he'd become the wrench in the gears for his team.
Hotchner cleared his throat, "we had some time to look over the case files this morning. Garcia, where are we with Ms. Schaller?"
The tech analysis, who's hair was adorned with fake red extensions and pulled up into braided pigtails today, twirled a pom-pomed tablet stylus between her fingers, "Not as much as our merry band would like. I did some digging though and despite her frightening and super weird lack of online presence, I was able to conclude that she recently got out of a fairly serious relationship. Boyfriend-turned-ex's info has been sent -" she smacked a glitter enameled finger to her tablet, issuing a discordant twitter of alerts from the team's devices, "obviously...now. Oh! And that included her background info, but it all seems pretty normal. Normal student, normal GPA, normal home life, minus the parents being deceased as of 2008 from a boating accident, sadly."
"We also need to talk to the friend that was out with Angela Schaller at the bar." Hotch shot a pointed look to Morgan, who suddenly seemed to be taking particular interest in flattening out a crease in one of the papers in front of him. "Rossi, go talk to her and the ex-boyfriend."
If Morgan was relieved to avoid a run in with the recent fling, he did well to not show it. Reid knew his friend wasn't truly a player and if what had likely happened, had indeed happened, both parties had agreed it would be a onetime thing. He imagined that didn't make it less awkward in the long run, though.
"JJ and Morgan, toxicology and autopsy results came back on Brant Myers. Go to the coroners and take a look at the body. The more we can find out about how the unsub killed him, the better chance we have at finding Angela."
Alive was implied, but it seemed no one in the room had the confidence to say it aloud.
Aaron rose and paced over towards the window, attempting -and failing- to hide a yawn from the team. "Garcia, keep tabs on Angela's cell phone in case we get any activity on it and let me know what you find about the teeth from the box and recent dremel tool purchases. I'm going to the evidence warehouse to see if they have any record of the generator being tampered with. Reid, stay here try to work on the geographical profile with what we have right now. We'll check in with you when we know more."
With that, the team filed out, bracing themselves for the harrowing warmth of another August day.
A wave of recycled air and filmy bleach stench washed over JJ and Morgan as they escaped the blinding sun from outside and swung open the doors to the morgue. The windowless building was empty as usual, save for a balding receptionist behind a squat desk that was almost flush along the wall. JJ's heels clacked against the white tile in front of Derek, her pony tail bobbing, and she flashed her badge for only a moment.
"We were called about Brant Myers. I understand the evaluation is finished?"
"Ah yes," the man, deemed Frank C. by his crooked name tag, shoved a pair of thick glasses up his hooked nose, "yes Mister Myers. The coroner is in a meeting with another...client." Frank's face broke into what Morgan assumed was meant to be a smile.
The darker skinned agent cleared his throat, "right...well, we'll be just over here when he's done. Hopefully that's soon, as this is extremely important."
"Oh certainly!" Frank slurped in saliva around his tongue, still openly smiling. "Won't be long now, this client looked like a heart attack if you ask me. You're HIPAA compliant right? I'm sure you are. You just hold tight now Agents, you hear?" He stood and slicked his chapped lips, humming something up-beat as he rounded the corner to the examination room.
The two crowded in the corner by a dispensary of pamphlets that ranged from everything like 'Grief and You, How to Walk Hand in Hand' to 'Malpractice? Make Money!'.
JJ pulled a face and rubbed her arms in an attempt to reheat herself from the icy air conditioning, "I know it's a good thing to take pride in your job, but yikes..."
Morgan ran his finger along the top of one of the especially untouched pamphlets 'Gastrointestinal Perforation, the 38th Silent Killer', thumbing at the gray dust. "JJ, can I be honest with you?" He barely paused, intent on being so anyway, "What's the chances this woman is still alive? If he wanted to taunt Reid, he's already done that. What's to stop him from unloading dangerous cargo?"
JJ perched on the arm rest of a nearby chair and folded her hands together. "Part of the point was to make Spencer feel like he could save her, I think. Maybe that's enough reason to keep her alive?" She shook her head, "I don't know, Morgan. Right now we can't think like that."
"You hoo!" Frank startled both of them, waving them over excitedly. "The appointment's all...wrapped up as neat as a bow. The coroner will see you now...and I was right."
"Right?" Morgan wanted to bite his tongue immediately after he'd asked.
The receptionist's crook-teethed smile broadened proudly, "heart attack, I knew it was a heart attack. Love it when I'm right."
JJ clutched her arms around her lithe frame, a chill from more than just the cold.
"You wanted to see me, Garcia? Did you find something?" Reid tapped lightly on the techie's door with one hand, the other wrapped around a regrettable sixth cup of coffee. His stomach was starting to ache from the acidity of it and he could feel the tremors starting bone deep.
"Yes - well no - JJ and Morgan did if you're going to get nitpicky. But, first, Reid - Spencer, you're okay right?"
Reid shifted awkwardly under her soft gaze and his voice came out higher that he would have liked. "Yeah, of course, totally fine." Very convincing. He set down his coffee on her back table and decided forgetting it there was wise.
"Because well yesterday, with the meeting, and um, now how tired you look." Garcia paused and seemed to collect herself. "Look, I know how awful and stressful and just" She waved her hands around, balling them into fists, "gut-wrenchingly terrifying feeling it to have someone targeting you and you don't why."
There was a shimmer in her eyes Reid didn't know what to do with.
She persisted in her ill planned speech, "I do, and I can't stand to think you're feeling that way right now and not try to do something about it and what if you end up in the hospital again! I just wish this was me instead of -"
"Penelope stop. Stop." Reid crouched down and grabbed her now only trembling hands with his own. "Not a moment passes where I am not thankful this is me and not someone else, okay? If it was you ending up in the OR again I would end up right next to you from an aneurysm from stress. Then who would make sure Morgan doesn't eat all my Jello?"
Garcia sniffed over a smile and squeezed his hands in response.
"I can handle this, I promise. Now you can help stop this guy, okay? What did JJ and Morgan tell you?" Assured she wasn't going to burst into tears, he stood and returned to his coffee, deciding more caffeine probably wasn't a bad thing at all. In lieu of alcohol, it would have to substitute as courage.
You remember that, uh well that," She hushed her tone like she was telling a secret, "That doll case?"
Penelope noticeably shuttered, "Guhh, oh God! I forgot there was more than one. No no, the one with the clothes and make up and tea cups?"
Reid nodded, poking at one of her various squeeze toys cautiously.
Garcia slapped his hand away in jest, "So I remembered that they were paralyzed right? JJ sent over the toxicology results and said that the coroner noticed needle marks on the hands. Aaaaand," she spun over to a secondary monitor, fingers lightning fast across her keyboard, "does Doxacurium chloride sound familiar to you or does Doxacurium chloride sound familiar to you?"
"That explains how he was able to subdue someone as strong as Brant." Which changes the profile a little, Reid internally noted.
"Exactly! So why is there also vercuronium bromide in his system, and a lot of it at that, you ask? No idea! My research says it does the same thing."
Reid squinted at the report on the screen, murmuring, "Not quite. Vecuronium bromide is only used as a neuromuscular non-depolarizing blocking agent with the use of a tracheal ventilation system. It's a lot more common than doxacurium and much more potent if injected."
Garcia leveled a exaggerated glare at him. "Okay I get that and yet at the same time I feel like a don't, poobear."
"It's used in surgery with a breathing machine, without it the patient would suffocate within thirty minutes. The only time it's used without one is during lethal injection for death row inmates. This was an execution shot, he knew he was taking him to kill him."
"So you're saying either the unsub stopped somewhere along the way to subdue Brant Myers or he injected him where he was keeping him before he left, somewhere within half an hour of the cafe?"
Reid's eyes widened, surprised he hadn't worked out the timing, "yes! Garcia you're brilliant!" He snatched a purple marker from her bear mug and rushed out, bee lining for his maps.
She pouted to cover a grin from his praise. "Hey! I better get that back or I'm taking...I'm gunna take...your stapler! Then what will you do, G-man!"
"Guys, conference room." Rossi leaned by the railing, calling over the team from across the bullpen.
"Hotch not back yet?" Morgan mopped his brow with a wipe JJ had provided him. They both still smelled faintly of bleach and death, and it was bad enough he could never erase the vision of the victim's body. The wounds had been grotesque, even by his standards, and the coroner had noted Brant actually hadn't been dead when the first two cuts were made, just incapacitated.
"No, guess Narcotics had some big bust and evidence is swamped trying to catalog it." the eldest agent flipped through a file.
They reviewed the details of the autopsy, and Reid rolled out the map he'd constructed from the drug's half life. Unfortunately, the circle encompassed most of D.C.
"Well that narrow's it down," Rossi carped. "Not to mention the friend and the ex could barely give me details on Angela's behavior, let alone her whereabouts. Seems to me she was an unbelievably private person. How can you date someone for a year and not know anything about them?"
Reid clenched his hands subconsciously under the table, wincing as his nails cut into the half moons he'd left there the day before. She had a fiancé. The hurt came back as sharp as if it were the same moment of discovery. How could she have had a fiancé? He swallowed thickly, ignoring how tightly his adam's apple bobbed in his throat.
"Either way," Rossi checked his watch and glanced at the dark windows, "it's getting late. We'll be useless without some rest."
Garcia's personal device suddenly chirped something the sounded suspiciously like a tardis. "Oh! Oh, looks like we got a ping off Angela's cell phone!"
Everyone in the room straightened.
"Oh, oh no." Garcia slouched in turn.
Morgan leaned over, staring at the tablet, and nearly snatched it from her hands, "Baby girl, what?"
"It went away. I only got a marker off one tower, down by Alexandria. It must have only been turned on for a minute or so."
"So no location?" JJ bemoaned.
"It's probably just a ghost ping, with one tower it would be almost impossible to locate."
The room deflated again, rapidly more wearily than before.
"Well, that settles it. I suggest everyone go home, eat, and catch a few hour of sleep till we hear back from Hotch. We'll go from there."
Reid dragged his mug across the surface of his desk like a zombie. As much as he wanted to sleep, a girl he had met but two days ago had somehow gotten sucked down his hole of bad luck, and any information he could put together would help. He'd hid in the bathroom for about ten minutes, hoping it gave him enough time to be left alone in the office for the night.
He was wrong.
"Nu uh, pretty boy." Morgan popped from around a corner, clasped a warm hand around the back of Spencer's neck, and steered him away from the break room coffee pot. "You have to put up with me and my gourmet DiGiorno tonight."
"I'm really fine staying here," He tried to break out of Derek's hold, but his muscular partner effortlessly pulled him to his side till he was physically ushering him back to the go-bag at his desk and consequently near-dragging him to the elevator.
Reid tried to protest, "I think someone left some Chinese from Thursday and you should know, Rossi's couch is definitely not building regulation. I'm ninety six percent certain he had a memory foam pad installed under the leather-"
"No way am I missing Clooney drooling all over you in your sleep." Derek ruffled the back of Spencer's clipped hair and firmly pressed the button to the basement.
"I thought you didn't let him on the couch?" Reid whined.
"Couch no," he laughed abruptly, pearly whites glinting from the fluorescents of the lights above. "Guest bed is fair game, Doc."
Morgan flipped on the radio and tuned it to an R and B station the doctor had unsurprisingly never listened to, tapping along to the rhythm on the steering wheel. They were coming up on the city now, lights shimmering like the last of a sunset on an ocean. The building rose like waves, till they were exiting off into the warehouse district that lead to the neighborhood of one of Morgan's renovated homes.
"I can't believe Hotch is still stuck at that evidence locker. Guy looked half asleep at 8AM." The driver frowned, turning down the music's volume.
Reid flushed hotly with guilt. "Hey," he fiddled with the sleeve of his jumper, "can you do me a favor and put away your knives if you keep them on the counter?"
Morgan side-eyed him with a disturbed look, taken for a loop by the abrupt change in topic.
"Just, uh, phobia of mine - I know it's weird." The lanky agent clarified.
"Sure, kid." He shook his head and smiled good-humoredly. "Whatever helps you sleep better."
You have no idea.
God he was tired. He couldn't even imagine what Hotchner was feeling right now.
Reid pointed the direction of the a/c vent away from him, even though his stomach churned from the careening of the vehicle off the highway and over abundance of coffee from the day prior.
"I have to admit, this music is actually catchy." He shifted in his seat self-consciously, "Gideon always said listening to popular radio stations was like sucking your brain out through your ears."
Derek balked out a derisive laugh, "I'm sure he did. Popular media is never a good way to teach someone about current social communication. Didn't he tell you to stick with opera instead for that one?"
The sarcasm in his voice was easy to detect, and Reid bristled under his insinuation, suddenly on edge again, "you obviously disagree with his judgment."
Morgan ran his hand over the back of his shaved scalp, swallowing, "Look, Reid, that isn't something we should be taking about. The team's been under way too much stress with the tooth guy. Forget I said anything."
"Really?" Reid back talked, feeling warmth in his throat rising, "because you seem to have a lot to say. Clearly he's not going to stop you - so go ahead."
The ex-cop's body tensed, as if wavering on the edge of giving in. "I won't speak ill of the dead. This conversation isn't one you want to handle right now." He attempted to dodge the ire from his friend's rapidly developing glower.
"Handle right now? " The genius snapped, leaning forward in his seat. "At what point do you think I will be at my best to handle it? A year after his death? Ten? Why can't you just say what you mean, Agent Morgan?" Reid childishly mocked.
His recipient flinched noticeably before quickly collecting himself. The traffic light before them shifted to yellow, and they rolled to a stop.
"Okay, fine," Morgan rolled back his shoulders, fanning an arm out like a shrug. His voice knocked up an octave polemically, "Because Gideon was an idol to you? A figure you projected in your head that you looked up so much to that you never looked down to the see his flaws? " Morgan shook his head, then looked at Spencer square in the eyes. "You still want to know my opinion about him? You want to know what I think?"
They both breathed, tension drowning out the babble of a fast food commercial on the radio between them. Reid's eyes were narrow, but he nodded once, only minutely, and looked away.
Derek ran his palms down his thighs to his knees and exhaled noisily, reeling back his temper for the sake of his friend. His tone was carefully low and his head ticked to the side as he spoke. "Gideon was selfish and he exploited your intelligence for his own benefit."
Reid felt himself go taunt, jaw clenching, but Derek reached out to grip his wrist, deep coffee eyes meeting tawny ones.
"No, you asked. And, kid, I am going to tell you what I've been wanting to tell you for years. Whether you want to hear it or not, I'm gunna say it."
Reid glared at him defensively for a moment, only to resolutely focus his gaze at the ridged pattern of his corduroy pants. Morgan squeezed his boney wrist just slightly.
"I think that Gideon picked you out to study your behavior. I think that he'd profiled individuals of your intelligence all over the country, and while he obviously saw potential in you, initially he exploited your need for a father figure in order to use you for his own research."
Reid snatched back his hand from Morgan and tucked his arm protectively across his chest.
"Yeah, I know. You don't want to hear that. In general, Jason Gideon was a good man. He fought for what was right in an unjust world." Morgan glanced up at the now green light and pressed down the gas, shifting his eyes forward again and allaying his tone. "But you keep ignoring that he was just as imperfect as any man just so he lives up to your imagined idea. Everyone on the team saw him put you in situations you weren't ready for, in part to see how you would react."
Reid stared out the window, still mute, but Morgan continued, "Yes, you learned from those times, but - and I'm going to be honest here, Reid - Gideon trying to teach you social etiquette was like a blind man telling someone who's deaf how to waltz. Wasn't the best artistic direction, okay?"
Reid's knee bounced anxiously, "he was doing what he thought was right...he was teaching me the best he could. You don't understand what he did for me." He dragged his finger nail over the valleys and peaks of his pant fabric, "I wouldn't be here."
They rolled to a stop at another red light.
"Reid," Derek sought his eyes and caught them with an intent look, "Him bringing you to the BAU was the best thing he ever did. I can promise you that. There's a chorus of voices from people you've saved that can back that up-"
"'-No, it's not that-"
And suddenly it was like the sun was rising, casting an ever brightening gold halo around Morgan's profile. He watched as his friend squinted into the light just before impact and they were lurching at a sick bearing and flipping, bits of glass blasting like rock salt and a noise so loud it was possible their ear drums were shattered.
"Morgan? Derek, wake up." He reached up and nudged Morgan's slick fingers feebly. "Please?"
Blood just kept dripping on his cheek.
My medical knowledge is nonexistent! Just FYI!
This chapter was the longest to date and is likely riddled with errors, so if you see something please let me know so I can fix it.
Tumblr: wakingsparrow. It's mostly a Reid blog, though, so you're aware.
Please (for the love of god and all that is holy) let me know what you think!