Cross to Bear

A wretched soul, bruised with adversity,
We bid be quiet when we hear it cry;
But were we burdened with like weight of pain,
As much or more we should ourselves complain.

William Shakespeare


It's close to midnight when they finally find themselves flying back to Quantico.

Reid's fingers are twitching as he turns the page of his book. He's reading a little bit slower than usual tonight. His mind is elsewhere.

He'll never get over that urge. That's the thing with addiction – it isn't an isolated incident. Once you cross that hump, you're addicted for life. He tries to keep the urges under control, but in a job where he deals with stress, and chaos and everything in between, it isn't easy.

That's his cross to bear.

If JJ's the one that identifies with the majority of the victims, then he's the one that does the same for the unsubs. He knows that he's lucky to be where he is today. It could so easily have gone the other way. Broken childhood, schoolyard bullying, family history of mental illness, drug usage. All things that have turned people into serial killers.

This one had been no different.

He's being watched, he senses.

He lifts his gaze to meet Emily's, sitting across from him. He gives a forced smile, but he knows it isn't fooling anyone.

She hasn't been staring at him the whole time; he knows this because he has looked up from his book half a dozen times already. It's not so easy to get immersed in a fictional world when you can zip through it in under ten minutes. She's been gazing out the window for the majority of the flight; it's her contemplative look, Reid has come to realize.

Spencer Reid isn't the only one lost in thought.

She gives an inquisitive expression, as if to ask "how're you doing?' He shrugs noncommittally. She isn't the first to inquire about his wellbeing. It's been happening more and more often lately. It's not that he purposely keeps putting himself in the position to relate to the unsub. It's an accident of birth.

Every moment in Spencer Reid's life has made him the man he is today.

But that doesn't make it any easier.


Her eyes track his fingers. They way they fidget. She's seen it in users before; in spaced-out users in Chicago. She's seen it in psychotic serial killers. She saw it in her best friend, who couldn't be pulled free from that downward spiral.

She's determined not to let anyone else fall again.

Even if it means becoming his verbal punching bag, the way she did during his first round with Dilaudid, she's willing to help pull him through unscathed. Maybe then she won't have to add another name to the list of people she's failed.

'He had dyslexia,' Reid says finally. His voice is low; that tone of voice that lets everyone know he's feeling troubled. Emily says nothing. Reid has something to get off his chest, and she isn't about to interrupt him and ruin it all. 'It's estimated that 95% of dyslexics are unaware of their condition. A lot of people attribute their learning difficulties to stupidity, or stubbornness. Such misdiagnosis can have a highly detrimental effect on a child's social standing.'

But that's not the only thing that can have a detrimental effect. Isolation is something that both Emily and Reid are very aware of. It's something that they both grew up with, in one way or another. Both had a parent that didn't seem to know what was going on, though for vastly different reasons.

'Not every bullied child grows up to be a serial killer,' she reminds him pointedly. "You didn't," she wants to add, but thinks that it's probably too much.

'But still,' he says. 'It makes you wonder whether some of us are just destined for destruction.'

Us. He had said "us." As if he is including himself in the prediction.

And in that moment, she realizes just how young he is. For all his genius, for all his maturity, for all his experience of the world, he still has a long way to go. He is still burdened with doubt.

'How are the cravings?' she asks, softly. The rest of the team is mostly asleep, but it's still not something she's interested in broadcasting.

He doesn't say anything.

He just fidgets.


Finally, he says something.

'They're manageable. I know I can control myself, but I just can't help but get that feeling that I'm going to end up crashing.'

'You'll always get that feeling,' she says darkly, and he then can't help but feel that she's had a lot more experience with addiction than she's willing to let on.

He admits, he's curious. He's seen the High School yearbook photo. He knows her friend had been a cocaine addict until his death. 'Did you ever…' he starts, stopping abruptly when he realizes just how personal a question it is.

She gives a twisted smile in response. 'I OD'd on coke when I was sixteen. Spent a week in hospital.'

Reid's eyes widen. He had known of her somewhat sordid past, but the image that her words conjure up is a stark contrast to the sleek, professional woman he sees today.

'It was enough of a wake-up call to keep me off the stuff for the next ten decades.' She pauses, and turns back towards the window. 'I just wish I could've…' She trails off, and he knows that she's thinking about Matthew Benton. 'He pushed me away,' she says. 'I thought it was because I kept trying to pull him out of the darkness, but now I realize he just didn't want me to get hurt. I don't know. Maybe it was both.'

The statement has something of a profound effect on him. As capacious as his mind is, as good as his memory, he will never forget the way he treated her during his own experience with drugs. It had seemed so simple at the time – to take it out on the one person he didn't know very well. Now he realizes how much damage he could have caused.

That's the burden of keeping secrets. But then, he's sure that they've all got secrets that they aren't ever going to share. They're all damaged in some way. All broken, even if they pretend not to be.

And that's their cross to bear.

A/N: Betaed by Windy City Dreamer