Disclaimer: This will be the only disclaimer for this story. I DON'T OWN IT. Goddit? Swell.
Full summary: "The mask," he dragged his fingertips down the sides of his face, "I can feel it slipping." Reid returns to the BAU from his mysterious two month vacation - but something is off. Withdrawn and battered, the Reid everyone once knew is slowly disappearing as he struggles to recover from a traumatizing summer while overcoming a seemingly endless amount of road blocks along the way.
Warnings: Heavy on the dark and twisty. There will be some talks of violence and mature themes, but nothing too graphic. Most of the story is pretty clean, but there will be some fruity language here and there. The rating may go up in later chapters. No pairings/romance; strictly friendship with plenty of Limp!Reid to go around. I apologise in advance for making Reid slightly OOC. This story is going to be a tad AU, so naturally not everyone will be completely in-character.
A/N: Story inspired, as you can tell by the lyrics present in the chapters, by the gorgeous Johnny Cash song, "Hurt". Also inspired by The Rolling Stones song, "Laugh, I Nearly Died".
Set in season two, before Revelations. Thanks to the awesome Becca for beta'ing and giving me the courage to post this. I tinkered around with it a bit before posting, so all mistakes are my own. Enjoy!
"I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that's real
The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember everything."
Drip. Drip. Drip.
Something wet hit his cheek. Something small and fast with too many legs to count scuttled across his bare leg. Long, dense lashes fluttered open briefly before coming back to rest gently on sunken cheekbones. One of his toes twitched and his dry, cracked lips parted slightly as another little critter ran across his skin and he gasped loudly, his oxygen starved lungs fighting for the air it had been deprived from for too long. His lungs rattled with every deep, shuddering breath he took and his injured ribs protested sharply at the disruption; but he was too pre-occupied replenishing his body with air to notice; or care. He cringed every time he drew in a ragged breath, the sound of his lungs wheezing pitifully sounding like bones clinking together.
He was too busy trying to get in as much oxygen as possible to notice his surroundings, or that the air he was so greedily taking in was quickly diminishing.
Something scuttled across his stomach and he stilled immediately; breath caught in his throat and his heart drumming loudly in his ears, drowning out all other noise. Another thing ran across his abdomen, followed by another and another until they came to a stop somewhere above his belly button. Barely breathing; his heart thudding against his aching ribs; his eyes wide with panic as he stared unseeingly into the pressing darkness, he couldn't contain his yelp of terror as the things suddenly sunk their small, sharp fangs into his flesh and started to burrow and dig into his stomach. At that point, all sense of logic and rationality left him and instead an indescribable wave of panic seized him as he writhed and clawed desperately at his stomach, using his too long finger nails to dig into the gaping hole in his abdomen and pull the horrid little creatures out. But the deeper he dug, the more there seemed to be. It felt like his lungs were on fire and acid rose up his esophagus; he swallowed convulsively, trying to wet his scratchy, parched throat.
He scowled darkly; someone was screaming. The screams resounded throughout his skull, making his head throb incessantly somewhere just above his left temple. Didn't they know that he was down here too, and that he very much enjoyed having his hearing intact?
It would be until later that he would realize that the screaming he heard had came from him.
He flailed and bucked on the hard surface he was lying on and it wasn't until he flung himself upwards did he realize that he was stuck in some sort of small, enclosed space when his head connected sharply with something hard and smooth above him. Momentarily forgetting about his stomach and the pain that engulfed all of his senses, he stared upwards, his mouth twisted downwards in a confused frown that soon turned into one of gaping terror once his eyes adjusted to the imminent darkness he was surrounded by.
He felt around himself and his breath hitched in the back of his throat when his hands brushed against something hard a few inches beside him, the same hard surface a few inches beside him on the other side as well. His breath quickened once more as he reached up and again, felt the same hard surface. He was in a box. A small wooden box.
He heard a small crack from above and a piece of dirt fell on his cheek, confirming his fears. Underground.
"Oh come on, you've got to be kidding me." He growled quietly, ignoring the searing pain that came with using his damaged vocal chords. He swallowed down the lump of fear that had risen in the back of his throat and focused on getting the hell out of that damn box, pretending not to notice the panic that churned unsteadily in his gut - he could be scared later, but now was not the time to be a wuss. "Suck it up, you dolt." He muttered, too caught up in the moment to notice the way the air seemed noticeable thinner, or the way his heart faltered unsteadily ever few seconds. He took in a deep, steadying breath and lifted his arms; placing his hands against the ceiling of the box, palms flat against the cold surface. He counted to three as slowly as he could, drew in a deep breath, and pushed with all of his might against the solid wood, letting out a primal cry of frustration as his efforts were thwarted by the thick wood that refused to budge an inch.
"Fuck!" He cursed, slapping the roof of the box angrily. Tears blurred his vision and he let out a growl that sounded more panicked then angry as he threw all of his weight upwards. He punched, and kicked, and slammed his body against the box until his already blooded hands were littered with cuts and slick with the fresh crimson substance; and his bare feet ached and burned. Falling against the floor of the coffin, he let a single tear slip out of his eye. It sparkled in the dark and carved a clean, jagged track down his filthy face before he wiped the salty liquid away roughly, leaving a smear of red in its wake. He couldn't cry. Not now. Something twitched in his stomach, just underneath the wretched skin, but he barely took heed and instead, in a last ditch effort of desperation, he threw all of his weight against the board and barely had time to let out a gasp of relief as the wood caved in before a torrent of damp dirt came tumbling down upon him.
He couldn't breathe. He couldn't see. The dirt was all around him, suffocating him, pressing against him like the darkness had done just seconds earlier. The grime clung to every crook and crevice of his body; he could taste it on his tongue and feel it underneath his eye lids. His limbs refused to cooperate with him as he tried to dig his way through the muddy earth, and his arms felt like dead weight to the rest of his body.
The air continued to thin as he clawed and dug his way through the dirt, and his heart soared with glee when the tip of his finger broke through the ground. He could feel the warm August air against his skin and it gave him a jolt of determination that helped him gain control over his fatigued limbs. He got the first eight inches of his arm out when he realized suddenly, with an uncertain pang of fear, that something wasn't right. He couldn't move. His limbs were frozen in place and he was beginning to lose feeling in his fingers and toes. He couldn't feel the fresh air against his finger tips anymore and his lungs burned as they demanded for oxygen that he didn't have access to.
Everything felt detached and distilled, the empty blackness threatening to drown him. As the darkness continued to close in on him, the only thing he was left with was the feeling of bugs squirming underneath his skin and the weak, unsteady drum of his pulse as his world quickly grew dimmer with every dull beat of his waning heart.
The low, throaty rumble of the vintage Cadillac sounded distinctly like metal and metal rubbing against each other, muffling Reid's startled, strangled gasp of panic as he sat bolt upright in his seat, his breath coming out in heavy heaves as he struggled to slow his rapid heartbeat that hammered stead-fast against his rib cage. Blinking owlishly, he took a deep, calming breath and leaned back against the hot, sticky leather seat, trying to discreetly regain his shaken composure.
'It was a dream. Just a dream. Nothing but a dream...' He continued repeating the mantra in his head until he had calmed down somewhat and his heart beat returned to its slow, rhythmic pace. He leaned his elbow against the arm rest on the door of the sparkling clean gold car, resting his chin on his hand and staring wearily out of the window, watching the scenery slip past him in a blur of gray with growing disinterest.
His reflection in the window did nothing to reflect the dull, listless ache in his chest and he was left hoping not for the first time that summer that the endlessly blue, sunny sky would cloud over and just rain. His thatch of tousled, sun bleached brown hair flopped softly over his hooded, bloodshot eyes that were still rimmed with sleep, and his normally deathly pale skin had a dewy, sun kissed glow from spending the summer in the sun and was pulled taut over his sharp, sunken cheekbones.
He looked somewhat healthy; his exotic features and large, expressive eyes that usually clashed against his sallow skin and dark hair were off-set by the healthy glow of his skin. Even the dark circles that usually rimmed his eyes were noticeably less prominent. He looked... normal. Well, as normal as one can look with a dark smudge slashed across his cheekbone and a poorly stitched gash running through his left eye lid.
Feeling eyes on him, Reid's gaze flickered across the car to rest upon a pair of piercing blue eyes sparkling with poorly masked concern. "How long was I out for?" He asked quietly, his voice thick with sleep and hoarse from lack of use. Clearing his throat, he redirected his gaze back to staring numbly out of the window.
"Not long enough." Pursing his lips, Reid raised his eyebrows and gave the blue-eyed occupant in the driver's seat beside him a pointed look. "What? You barely get enough sleep as it is, Spencer, so forgive me for being a good friend and letting you get a few hours shuteye."
Reid stared at the person beside him for a few moments before, after a long pause, he let out a sigh and asked, quietly dropping the subject, "Where are we, anyway?"
"About three hours away." Was the curt, clipped respone. The tension mounted and hung thick and heavy in the air. It did nothing to ease the pounding ache in his head.
'Lovely', Reid thought sarcastically. Not only did he have to prepare himself for going to work the next day after an almost two month vacation, he also had to sit in a stuffy, humid car with a grouchy driver for the next three hours.
The scruffy old car let out a spluttering cough before jerking forward, leaving Reid in a cloud of exhaust fumes as the car barrelled down the road. Nervously gripping the straps of his decidedly light knap sack, Reid stood frozen by the side of the road, his eyes fixed on the Cadillac until it disappeared from his line of sight, enveloped by the darkening evening. He turned on his heel and walked up the step to his apartment complex, fidgeting restlessly with the hem of his shirt. He slipped inside the building silently, making a beeline for the stairway. He couldn't bear the thought of taking the elevator; not after the dream he had earlier.
He took the stairs two at a time and by the time he reached his door, he was out of breath and gasping, wincing as short bursts of pain shot through his chest, his tender ribs protesting against the straining effort. He took a few minutes to regain his composure before straightening. He rubbed his ribs absently with one hand as he fished for his keys in his knap sack with the other. Finding what he was looking for, he retrieved the set of keys from his bag and managed to unlock the door in record time, only fumbling slightly. He stepped inside warily, his face contorted into a grimace as if he were expecting someone to confront him on the other side.
He let out a barely audible breath of relief as the only thing he was met with when he stepped inside was silence along with the blessedly quiet, familiar hum of his refrigerator. "Home sweet home." He muttered to himself and the empty house as he observed the interior of the small apartment, shutting the door behind him and clicking the lock back in place. He eyes scoured the house nervously; making sure everything was in the same place as it was when he had left two months earlier.
The loft wasn't much, but it was a roof over his head so Reid really couldn't complain. A black fold out couch sat in the living room, positioned sideways against the corner of his room; it faced the rest of the open apartment. A plush, over-stuffed chair sat by one of the big, square windows, looking out over the smoggy city. The living room also doubled as a kitchen that was on the other side of the flat, by the door. It was complete with an island in the middle, a stainless steel fridge and three bar stools tucked neatly underneath the counter. Floor to ceiling shelving had been installed on the wall opposite to the couch, over-spilling with books on all kinds of topics.
Shrugging out of his black zip up jacket, Reid placed his bag on the kitchen counter and kicked off his tattered trainers, rolling his shoulders to ease the tension out of his sore muscles as he headed for the bathroom. The only thing he wanted to do was have a nice long shower to get all of the sweat, dirt, and who-knows-what-else off of him and then curl up in bed and sleep for the next fifty years. But Reid had a sinking feeling that not even fifty years would be able to erase the pain and fatigue that had hung heavy over his heart and engulfed his aching body for the past two months.
Maybe he'd have to up it to a hundred years.
Slipping into the bathroom, he slid his hands across the cool tiled walls until his fingers ghosted over something lumpy and hard. He flipped the light switch on, flinching slightly against the sudden and intrusive white light that bathed the room in artificial brightness. He avoided looking anywhere near the mirrors as he locked the door behind him (he learned the hard way to never leave a door unlocked) and crossed the small room in four long strides, bending over to turn the shower faucet on. He twisted the knob until it wouldn't twist any further and then proceeded to shed himself of his more-than-a-day-old clothes, scrunching his nose slightly at the foul smell of his soiled shirt. By the time he discarded the garments into the empty hamper in the far corner of the room by the door, the room had filled with steam and he didn't have to worry about avoiding the mirrors anymore as he strode quietly over to the shower door. Testing the water with his hand first, he nodded his approval of the temperature and slipped into the stall, letting the soothing jet of scalding hot water cleanse his body of the filth and dried sweat that had accumulated since he had last been able to bathe.
Placing his palms flat against the wall in front of him to brace his weight, Reid sighed deeply as the water pounded his skin, smoothing out the tension in his cramped muscles and washing away all of the evidence from the events of the past few days away. He sighed once more before plucking a small, coarse loafer out of the soap holder and began to scrub. He was too distracted with getting rid of the grime and filth that was imbedded in his skin to notice the pain that laced its way throughout his body as he scrubbed his already tender skin raw.
He stayed in the shower, scrubbing blindly, until the water ran cold and he turned the faucet off, stepping out of the stall and wrapping a towel around his waist as he came out. His legs were shaky and unsteady as he walked (wobbled) over to the sink; he grabbed onto the marble counter for support and wiped the condensation from the mirror cabinet. He took a deep breath, gripping the edges of the sink tightly and forced his eyes upwards. He felt his heart jolt up into his throat and he swallowed convulsively. Now he remembered why he had refused to look at his reflection for the past few weeks.
The tanned and lanky person standing before him was a far cry from the scrawny, pale boy from two months ago. God did he wish he looked, and felt, like that person. Normally, he would have been happy that he looked at least half-alive, but as his eyes travelled further down he sucked in a breath and closed his eyes briefly. He waited a beat before opening them reluctantly, and let them flicker hesitantly over the top half of his uncovered body. He lifted his hand up to his stomach and prodded gently at the dark mark tattooed across his lower abdomen area; it wrapped around his bony hip bone in the shape of a boomerang. He winced visibly as he pressed a little too hard and removed his hand from his stomach as if it had burned him.
His eyes darted back down to his chest and he twisted his mouth to one side; he had rubbed his skin raw and it had pinkish tinge to it. He swallowed thickly.
He felt sick.
Turning away from the mirror and his offending reflection, he finished drying himself and dressed in a pair of clean flannel pyjamas. He pushed his mop of sopping wet hair out of his eyes, ran a towel through his locks and flicked the light switch off on his way out of the bathroom. He crossed the hallway into his bedroom, shut the door behind him and leaned heavily against the wall. It felt as if all of his determination that had fuelled his strength and kept him going for all those months had suddenly left him and he felt all of the weight and guilt and pain of the past two months hit him with a jolt.
Exhaustion wrapped around him in a death grip and it took all of his will-power to keep himself from letting his eyes drift shut and fall asleep on the spot; his limbs felt like lead and his head was too heavy to hold up. Slowly sliding into a sitting position, Reid rested his arms on his knees and folded his hands underneath his chin. He let his eyes slide shut for a beat before he shook himself, pinching the skin on his forearm sharply to keep himself awake.
No, he couldn't fall asleep. Not now. Not when he knew that if he fell asleep he would be right back in that dank, dark coffin, digging through the dirt only to get stuck right after his fingers broke through damp earth. It was torture; like someone dangling a piece of food in front of someone who hadn't eaten in months only to snatch it away right before they reached it.
Suddenly, Reid didn't feel all that tired anymore; the prospect of falling asleep only to be stuck back in that coffin not sounding too appealing to him at the moment.
He eye lids felt heavy and incredibly dry as they scoured lazily over his corneas. Holding his head up with his hand, he gazed tiredly around the small room, a tiny ghost of a small flitting across his mouth as he felt the tension lesson in his muscles and the stress of the past ease slightly, if not for just a few short moments as he let the comfort of his bedroom lull him into a warm sense of security. His bedroom was his solitude; the one place he felt truly safe and comfortable in. The walls were painted a smooth chocolate brown with black trim; a small closet with mirror doors stood in one corner of the room, facing the bed that sat up against the wall across from it. It was modest and sparsely furnished, but it was home.
He was home.
Yay! It feels so good to get the first chapter done! I've been working on it for quite some time now, and it finally feels ready enough to post. This is my first "official" story in quite some time, so constructive criticism and any other advice/thoughts/opinions/etc., are much appreciated!
As this is just the prologue, the chapter was respectively short. The following chapters should be significantly longer and more interesting. I cannot promise when I will be able to update, as this is the only chapter I have written so far (I'm starting to work on the second chapter, though, so hopefully it will be finished and I'll have it posted soon). Please be patient!
I have a pretty good idea of where this story is going, but I'm always open to new ideas so feel free to chip in if you'd like! And reviews always motivate me to write, so pretty pretty please tell me what you think of this chapter! All feedback is welcome. =D