A.N. Follows immediately upon 'Identity' my post-ep story to the season 12 finale, 'Red Light'. That story stayed (mostly) true to canon. This story, being written during hiatus, will only be in canon in the unlikely circumstance that I have become clairvoyant.
By late afternoon, Reid had dismissed Anderson. There was no longer any discernible threat to either himself or his mother and, now that the nurse had arrived, Reid was comfortable she wouldn't wander off undiscovered. He'd thought to ask Anderson to drop him off to pick up his car, when he realized he had no idea where it was. He'd left it at the airport when he'd flown to Mexico, and knew JJ had retrieved it for him since…but he'd no idea where she'd left it, and it hadn't come up in conversation before she'd gone off with the team. She hadn't responded to the texts he'd sent earlier, so he'd tried Garcia instead.
CAN'T REACH JJ. EVERYTHING OKAY? DOES SHE HAVE MY CAR? MY KEYS?
A minute later, he'd received a reply.
ON MY WAY.
It was unlike Garcia to text instead of call, especially when it was to only one of them. But the oddity of it paled in comparison with the current state of the rest of his life, so he dismissed it. He assumed she was bringing his keys, and would transport him to his vehicle. Then he could check on the status of his apartment, to determine its suitability for his mother. He knew what a freshly-processed crime scene could look like, and assumed he'd have a fair amount of cleaning up to do before he could even think about bringing his mother home. And beyond the cleaning up, there was the issue of what might have actually taken place there, and what Diana would remember, and how she would react.
One hurdle at a time.
Without Anderson to alert him, Reid situated himself near the window in Rossi's front study, brightly lit in the afternoon sun. A short stack of newspapers reminded him that it might start to matter again what was going on in the rest of the world. For the past three months, the entirety of his world had been defined by the concrete walls and barbed wire of Milburn. Without a future, and with a past that had no longer mattered, he'd lived in an interminable present. Without freedom or choice, there had been no point in thinking further.
Now, back in the world, he thought maybe he should become reacquainted with it. He picked up the top paper and scanned the front page. Political unrest. War. Poverty. Oppression. Disaster. Tragedy. Crime. Some of the names and places had changed, but the content hadn't. The world was still a dangerous place to live. Maybe even more dangerous than prison.
He hadn't the heart for reading beyond the headlines. The paper fell to his lap, and he simply sat, and stared out the window, too tired to think, too tired to feel, too tired to do anything but to continue to sit, and stare.
In time, he caught movement in the distance, and watched as Garcia pulled slowly up the driveway, stopping beneath the large portico. Reid got up to meet her at the door, opening it before she had a chance to ring the bell.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, caught off guard.
"Hi." Then he got a better look at her face, and the residual wetness of her cheeks. "What's wrong?"
Garcia shuffled past him, into the foyer. "I have news….bad news…well, not the worst, but….bad. And I didn't want to tell you on the phone, you know, after…everything."
I didn't think you could bear even one thing more. And here, I am, with six!
If nothing else, prison had steeled Reid for 'the next bad thing'. So he stood straight, and looked her in the eye, and waited for it to come at him.
She took a few seconds to steady her voice, and then started.
"You know how Morgan got that fake text that was supposed to be from me, and they all knew right away it must be from Mr. Scratch. They assumed there would be a trap, so they planned to have SWAT meet them there. But…."
Reid misunderstood. "It was a trap? Did Scratch hurt them?" Anxiety already creeping in.
"I don't know if there was a trap. They never even got there. Well, technically, I guess it means there was a trap, but it wasn't at the cabin. It happened on the way. SWAT went to the cabin without them, and it was empty."
Both alarmed and confused, Reid begged for clarity. "Garcia, what happened to them? Where? What kind of trap?"
"They had an accident. Well, not an accident, really, because it was on purpose. But that's what they call it, right? When you lose control of your car, and…"
"Oh, sorry, I'm just so upset, and I didn't want to upset you, but I can see that I have. I….oh, all right…"
She told him what the state police had reported back to the FBI. They hadn't found the hard evidence, but the tires of both SUVs had become shredded, as though they'd been driven over 'stop sticks'.
"Are you saying they went off the road? Who, Garcia? Who was in the SUV that went off the road?"
"They all were! It happened to both of them, and then the truck, and oh, my God, I can't believe they weren't all killed!"
"What truck? Are they all right? Were any of them hurt?"
"All I know is that they were taken to different hospitals, and Emily is in surgery."
His heart caught at the name. Emily!
"Where is she? Where are the rest? Can you take me there?"
Not waiting for her reply, Reid was already headed off to tell Roy, adrenalin having brought his brain back from fatigue, if not his body. He would have to leave, immediately. At least Diana would be looked after while he was gone, for however long that might be.
"I'll text you when I know where I'll be. Can you stay until…"
Reid knew it was likely a replacement had been planned for the overnight. But he didn't want his mother trying to connect with another new person in his absence.
"No worries, Dr. Reid. I always pack for overnight, just in case. You never know when someone will have to call out. I'll just call and let them know they won't need to replace me for now."
Reid smiled his appreciation. "Thanks."
As he headed back down to the foyer, he heard Roy call after him, "Godspeed to your friends!"
Garcia glanced over at the figure in her passenger seat. He'd tried texting JJ three more times, but she'd still not responded. Now he sat, silent and stony-faced, unresponsive to all of her attempts at conversation.
The most they'd been able to find out from the Virginia State Police had been that six passengers in two SUVs had suffered injuries. Five had been transported to local hospitals, while the sixth had been airlifted to the trauma center at Inova Fairfax. There were parts of a third vehicle, apparently a truck, strewn along a short stretch of road adjacent to the accident scene, but no sign of the truck. With their new understanding that this had likely not been an accident, the police had issued a BOLO for the presumed make and model of the truck, looking for significant front end damage.
"I have my laptop in the car. As soon as we're set up at Inova, I'll be able to track the others down. It's got to be good news that they were all able to be treated at local hospitals, right? Probably just a few cuts or bruises." When he didn't respond, she added, "Please tell me it means just cuts and bruises."
Reid wasn't actually ignoring her. He hadn't even heard her. He couldn't focus enough on a single thought long enough to process it.
Team. Accident. Hurt. Emily. Surgery. JJ. Rossi. Tara. Luke. Stephen. Emily. Surgery. JJ. Scratch.
Part of him realized how addled he'd become, how off balance since the events in Mexico, and then prison, and then the near loss of his mother to the machinations of Cat Adams. Part of him realized it, and longed for the power his brain might once have brought to this situation. The rest of him was still mired in a quicksand of turmoil, bombarded by one emotion after another, after another, in a rapid fire that made it difficult to even name them.
What good am I? I can't even help myself! How can I help them?!
Fearful of not being enough, of letting the others down when they most needed him.
I can't do this. Please, don't make me do this!
Begging whatever power was in charge of the universe to let this cup pass. He'd already swallowed enough misery in the past four months. Any more, and it would poison him, surely. Neither his will, nor his mind, nor his body, would withstand the assault.
Reid closed his eyes for the remainder of the trip, fantasizing the possibility of waking into an alternate reality, where his life was still intact, and his team….and Emily. Reality intruded when he felt Garcia slow the vehicle, and turn off the engine, and he opened his eyes to see the 'Emergency' sign in front of them. Once inside, they were directed upstairs, to the Surgery waiting room, where they found Mateo Cruz pacing as he spoke into a cell phone. He saw them and raised a finger to indicate he'd be off in a moment.
Once his call was ended, Cruz approached the two uninjured members of the BAU team.
"Spencer, I'm glad to see you."
Reid shook the hand offered to him. "Thank you. What can you tell us?"
Looking on, Garcia wondered if either of the two men remembered that Reid's status with the FBI was in limbo. Regardless, she wasn't about to remind them right now.
Cruz made eye contact with both of them as he reported what he'd been told.
"They were en route to the address Scratch had given Morgan as the location for the safe house where you were supposedly taking your mother."
Reid nodded impatiently, waiting to hear something he didn't already know.
"They were traveling in caravan, and something shredded their tires. They each went into a spin, but managed to avoid each other. It looked like the worst that would happen was that they wouldn't be able to meet SWAT at the address. But then a truck came out of nowhere and T-boned the SUV carrying Prentiss, Rossi and Lewis."
"Oh, my God!" exclaimed Penelope. "What happened to Emily? Were the others hurt, too?"
The section chief tried to calm the technical analyst. "Lewis is a little banged up, cuts and bruises, but otherwise all right. Rossi is still being evaluated. Prentiss…. she took the brunt of it. She was critical at the scene, so they airlifted her here. She's got internal bleeding, but they aren't sure where it's coming from. They took her to surgery almost immediately. So far, the report is that they're keeping her stable, but I'm waiting for a nurse to give me another update."
Both relieved and not, Reid had to ask, "What about the other vehicle?"
The one with his so far non-responsive best friend in it.
"The truck hit the driver's front fender and spun them off the road. They rolled a few times down the embankment."
Reid couldn't quite bring himself to ask the next question, but Cruz told them anyway.
"So far, all three seem to be in one piece, apart from concussions. They should be released soon."
Reid closed his eyes in thanksgiving. At least this one thing had been granted him.
Garcia babbled nervously. "I tried to call Morgan. I thought, maybe, if his flight had been delayed, or something, but…."
Reid stopped her with a hand on her arm. "He's better off at home. He can't do anything here, but he can take care of Hank, and Savannah. Besides, this isn't his job anymore."
I'm not even sure if it's my job anymore.
"I know, I just thought…."
"I know, I get it. And yes, he'll want to know. Let's just wait until we have something to tell him."
Like Morgan, and Garcia, and Rossi, Reid had already lived through the loss of Emily Prentiss once before. He could only hope that none of them would have to suffer like that again. But it was out of their hands, now. No need to put Morgan through the worry until they knew more. With Emily on the operating table, there would be no pleading for her to 'hold on' or 'hang in there'. Her fate was in the hands of the doctors, and the hands of whatever power might be out there, or not. Maybe her fate was in the hands of fate.
Reid turned to Cruz. "Have the families been notified?"
Cruz waggled his hand back and forth. "Some of them. Ambassador Prentiss is apparently traveling. And JJ's husband hasn't answered his phone. We think he might be on shift. But we've reached Rossi's daughter, and Walker's wife. And it turns out that Alvez only listed a first name as his next-of-kin, and no phone number."
Neither man could help staring at Penelope Garcia, whose features suffered through a succession of convolutions at Cruz' words, from confusion, to understanding, to shock, finally landing on tragic.
"Oh, my God, the name is 'Roxy', isn't it? That's the name on his form? That's who he listed as his next of kin? Roxy?"
The section chief eyed her uncertainly. "Yes. Is that his wife? Do you have a number for her?"
Garcia sank to the plastic-covered bench, dejected. "That's so lonely! That's even more lonely than…"
She stopped, remembering her present company, and the loneliness so recently housed within. Reid used the interval of silence to inform his superior.
"Roxy is his dog. They served together in the army, and he's had her for a long time. As far as I know, he isn't married. And I'm sorry to say that I don't know anything else about his personal life."
Having been in prison for much of Alvez' tenure with the team.
Cruz laid a hand on Reid's shoulder. "That's understandable, considering. Listen, I'm going to stay here until there's word on Agent Prentiss, and I could use some tech support, if Ms. Garcia can stay with me."
Ms. Garcia nodded her assent, and started pulling her laptop out of its bag, as Cruz continued, looking to Reid.
"But I think we'll need to debrief the others. Are you up for it?"
Garcia opened her mouth to remind Cruz that Reid had been freed fewer than 24 hours ago, not to mention that his status with the FBI was cloudy at best. But she closed it again at a look from her friend, one that told her that he wasn't about to abandon his colleagues when they'd all just been traumatized, no matter his situation.
"I'll go. I just need a way to get there."
"My driver's downstairs. He'll bring you over, and I'll send a second vehicle as well, to bring everyone to their homes. Doesn't sound like anyone will be driving any time soon."
A vibration sounded from the phone in his pocket, and Cruz pulled the device out to read the screen.
"Ah, okay. Text from Rossi. Guess he passed muster, then. Hmm… they're all being released…..Oh."
Both Reid and Garcia tried not to become alarmed at the raised brow on Cruz' face. Before they could ask, their section chief explained.
"They're all being released except for JJ. They want to repeat her CT scan."
Garcia turned panicked eyes to her boy wonder. "What does that mean?"
To Reid, it felt like he was trying desperately to swim up from the depths, trying to get his brain back into working order. He shook his head violently trying to get his thought processes back into gear.
"I don't know. It's her head?" Directing the question to Cruz.
"He doesn't say. But I think she only had a concussion. I thought she only had a concussion."
"Reid, what does it mean?" Garcia, so recently recovered from the return of her beloved genius, wasn't sure her heart could withstand another tragedy.
His brain now fully adrenalized, Reid thought he knew what it might mean. And more than one thing about it worried him.
"Where is she? Which hospital? There's no other level one trauma center in that part of the state!"
"She's at Reston. That's not a trauma hospital?"
"It's a level two. She needs a level one! We have to get her moved!"
Concerned at the level of emotion coming from the younger man, Cruz began to wonder at the wisdom of Reid's being involved with the case.
"Spencer, maybe it's too soon for you. Why don't you go and get some rest. I'll find someone else to do the interviews."
Shocked by the volume of his own voice, Reid closed his eyes, took a few deep breaths, and did his best to gather himself.
"I'm sorry. I'm just worried. I'll be fine…please…let me help." They're my friends.
Cruz considered the request, and the man before him, for a long moment. Truth be told, he was worried about JJ as well, especially if Reid was. And they would need their best mind on this….
"All right. But I'll still have my driver bring you. I don't want you behind the wheel tonight."
Reid could do nothing but agree. "All right. Thank you."
"And, Spencer….if you think she needs to be moved, you let me know. I'll make it happen."
Reid nodded his thanks, and made to leave, but was stopped by Garcia grabbing his arm.
"I need you to tell me. C'mon, if you don't, I'll just come up with a whole boatload of terrible things to worry about. Please tell me what you think is wrong with her, so I can worry about the right thing!"
Reid swallowed back his own concern as he prepared to help her target hers.
"When someone's had head trauma, they repeat the CT scan when they're worried about bleeding in or on the brain."