Ten Minutes to Dawn
* * *
However long the night, the dawn will break.
A/N: Gosh golly gee, tfm. For someone who said that we'd have to wait a while for a sequel, you're sure posting this pretty soon. Yeah, yeah. Shut up. To those of you who are reading this without having read Midnight, I would suggest reading Midnight. If you don't want to (it's only 11 chapters long, seriously) then I'll give you a brief rundown of events: Reid, Prentiss and Morgan were kidnapped by a sadist who tortured both Morgan and Prentiss and then got Reid back on his drug thingies. Emily almost dies of hypothermia after falling backwards into a river. Now that I think about it, compressing it into two sentences makes it sound pretty lame. Also, you do NOT mess with Hotch, because he kills you. Oh well. Without further ado, here's Dawn.
He stands, surveying the rows of bodies. They stare up at him, mocking. Their mocking, he rationalizes, is the reason that he killed them in the first place. They deserved death, right up until the end.
He sees these new eyes, staring up at him. They are not dead yet. He understands that there is fear in them, and yet it has no emotional impact. The eyes might as well be shut, for all the good their pleading is doing.
'You all had it coming in the end,' the man holding the scalpel whispers. He's used this scalpel nineteen times before; on the seventeen bodies that are lying in rows around him, and the two bodies that have already been put into place. Their dead eyes mirror his.
He makes a careful, practiced incision in the chest, starting at the left pectoral. The man whose chest is being cut open tries to scream, tries to struggle from the bonds that keep him against the table.
He makes a second incision, this time from the right pectoral. The man on the table's eyes flutter. He's going into shock.
He looks up one last time with those pleading eyes.
Then, the eyes close.
* * *
He stares out at the sea of faces. He gets the feeling that they are judging him, criticizing him for having fallen so far. When he was here less than eight months ago, he had his one year medallion. He's on his second attempt so far; he knows that some people in this room are on their third, even their fourth. It does not comfort him.
'I…I was clean for eighteen months,' he tells them. He cannot help but watch their expressions; he sees some faces that look bored – they are only here to fulfill requirements. Others are feeling the pain of withdrawal; he can see the redness in their eyes, the way their fingers tap against armrests. They're trying to zone out, to distract themselves from the cravings. Others look genuinely interested; the ones that have their five year medallions, but keep coming back, because they know that they can fall off the wagon at any time.
'But then,' he says, 'I was kidnapped.' There is a small smattering of laugher when he attaches the addendum 'again.'
'He gave me Morphine first. Then Fentanyl. It only takes that one hit to make the cravings set in again. I've been struggling, trying to push them away. I haven't taken any, but the nightmares...I can't forget. I can't stop the cravings.'
'It's not just the addiction,' he admits. This is a topic he has not broached with anyone, not even the team. 'It's...I've always had an internal locus of control. I can't do this job with any other perspective. But it makes this hard. They say the first step is to admit that you're powerless, but I can't do that. Because admitting that I'm powerless...that's taking away any control I've got over my own life.' He jitters nervously. He doesn't think he has ever made such a personal speech. Facts, trends, statistics; he can rattle them off with ease. When it comes to the personal stuff, though, he has a little more difficulty.
He glances down and clears his throat slightly.
'It's been six months.'
In Washington D.C, the average summer high is approximately eighty-eight degrees Fahrenheit. It's a little above that now; ninety, and it isn't quite nine a.m.
Everything seems to be pushing the extremes this year.
She knows that she was supposed to be in at least half an hour ago, but she isn't rushing. It's her first day back, and she'll damn well be late if she pleases. She was up until two a.m, writhing, trying to find a position comfortable enough that she could drift into an uneasy sleep.
And when she did finally get to sleep, the nightmares came.
The psychiatrist had told her that nightmares after a traumatic experience were normal – as if she hadn't been having nightmares on a weekly basis since she joined the BAU. Both Morgan and Reid had experienced the same nightmares, but (though she would never admit it to them) she thought herself above that. She had been pushing away the bad stuff since she was born.
Then, she remembers that dreams are an expression of the unconscious mind, that maybe her nightmares are so bad, so vivid, because she pushes it all away, compartmentalizes it.
She sees herself drowning, sees herself dying in so many different ways. She knows what internal processes that her unconscious mind is mimicking. The fear, the doubt.
She slips her bra on, turning her head slightly so she can guide the clasp shut. She cannot help but notice the heavy scarring on her back. It still shocks her sometimes, to see something so horrific on her body. She knows that without the skin graft, it would look much worse, but she doesn't want to imagine it. Even this is a permanent reminder of her experience.
There's another scar – this one she can see without turning. It runs from her wrist to her elbow, and it too is a reminder; just looking at it, she can see the bone poking through the arm, feel the agonizing pain of something being so drastically snapped out of place.
She puts her arms through her jacket sleeves. She doesn't care how warm it is outside.
She knows she doesn't want to feel the cold again.
He pours himself another cup of coffee. He's been back on the job almost four months, and yet he knows he still hasn't quite recovered. Physically, he has a few scars, but mentally, he can't get over the guilt.
He knows that he had antagonized the unsub with his last ditch attempt at ensuring their escape. Had antagonized the unsub into almost killing Emily and sending Reid into a spiralling new addiction. That they can't speak to him for too long, can't look him in the eyes for more than a second, that is his fault. He knows he deserves it.
If he were to talk to any of the others – to Hotch or Rossi, to JJ or Garcia – they would tell him that he was being paranoid. That Emily and Reid are avoiding him (in his eyes) because they're still dealing with their own issues.
But then, he thinks those issues are his fault.
And he isn't going to stop any time soon.
No-one seems surprised when Emily comes in a few moments before ten o'clock. Technically speaking, she isn't late – ten is the designated briefing time – but they've drawn themselves into a routine, where they do paperwork and consults before ten, killing time that would have otherwise been wasted.
She glances at the table quickly. JJ is standing, so there are two free seats; one between Hotch and Morgan, and the other between Rossi and Reid. She hesitates, and then takes the one closest to the back of the room. At least this way she can tell if anyone is watching her with too much interest.
'Welcome back,' says Rossi. She gives him a forced smile, but it isn't as forced as the one she gives Morgan and Reid. Even after six months, she still wonders what they think. Do they think that she's helpless, that she couldn't even stop herself from almost dying? God - she had fallen into a fucking river. The unsub had been at least twenty feet from her at the time. If that wasn't a sign of weakness, then she didn't know what was.
'What do we have?' She flips open the file in front of her, silently aware of at least two pairs of eyes that are yet to return to the front.
'Two bodies found in Santa Monica,' JJ explains. 'Wounds suggest that the victims were autopsied by the unsub while alive. At least, they started off alive. There are also signs that the bodies were kept in cold storage before being dumped.' She delicately avoids the word "frozen," and relaxes slightly when Emily does not seem to perceptibly flinch at the thought.
Reid stares at the images on the screen. 'The preciseness of the wounds could indicate a medical background,' he says. Then, he gulps slightly, and continues. 'Were the victims noticeably drugged?'
'Tox screen shows traces of rohypnol in the blood stream, but there are no signs of any painkillers.' She turns her gaze to Reid now, and notices that he does not seem overly perturbed by the mention of painkillers. He straightens slightly, but she does not see it as an immediate cause for concern. She would mention it to Hotch, but she knows that after Reid's first stint with addiction, Hotch is already on the ball. Though he does not say it, she knows that Reid is grateful for the help. He had not accepted help the first time around, and it had almost ruined him.
She just wishes that Morgan and Emily would do the same.
He watches as Morgan, Emily and Reid enter the jet, unconsciously maintaining a good distance from each other. Morgan sits at one end of the plane, Reid at the other, and Emily in the middle. They will linger closer reluctantly once the in-flight brainstorming begins, but they will be courteous, he knows. They will do their best to not let their personal issues encroach upon a case.
Psychologically speaking, he knows they are damaged. The baseline for BAU mental stability is different than that of other departments, he knows. It is almost expected of them to be broken in some way. It is supposed to make them better at doing their jobs, better agents.
It is so much easier to get inside the mind of a killer when you've been at the mercy of one.
He knows that this will be a long journey. That if he wants his agents to maintain some semblance of sanity, then they will need his help. They will need the help of Rossi, JJ and Garcia. They will need the help of each other.
Getting to that stage might take a while, he thinks.
But he'll take it one step at a time.
A/N: Since I can't put an injury list for this one (yet :D), I'll just remind you that the more reviews I get, the more I'll be encouraged to write. I've got only the vaguest idea of what I want to do so far, and I've taken the suggestions I've been given so far into account (for reference, our list is: Hurt/Comfort, No Pairings, Friendship (eventually), Morgan not letting people in, someone hugging Reid, slight Hotch-whump, refusal of help and Emily talking with someone) and I'm pretty sure I can fit them all in in some way or another. To the one person that did ask for a pairing, I do want to keep this pairing free, but, as I said in Midnight, it will be written in such a way that you can imply a pairing if you really want to.