Path Towards The Breaking Point

Summary: What horrors linger within an extraordinary mind? What shield could possibly hold against such an onslaught? The cost of genius is a high one. A character study of Dr. Spencer Reid.

A/N: Well, I love Reid. So why not write a lil' ficlet about him? That's all, really.

Disclaimer: CM does not belong to me. Spencer Reid definitely doesn't belong to me. Darn.

Dr. Spencer Reid always knew he was different.

His mother had told him so for the duration of his entire life. Even from a young age, he had been sequestered from the other children – branded an outcast — right from the off. He never circulated within the typical social circles for his age group, never played the simple, generic games that children were supposed to play.

Spencer had always been far too intelligent for that.

He did not see the point in Hide and Seek. What was the outcome? The object of the game? Where was the reasoning? Spencer did not feel the need to hide somewhere that he knew he would invariably be found. To his young mind, that completely defeated the entire purpose of hiding.

Was he supposed to want to play these games? Was he meant to find pleasure in these simple stratagems?

Spencer much preferred chess. This was a game that required finesse, complex strategy and pure logic. Something no six-year-old child should have in too much abundance. Spencer often thought that his mind had robbed him of his childhood, that it had forced him out of the state of innocence into something far more confusing than a child ought to be considering.

Sometimes he cried at night. He wondered why he was so much younger than the others in his class, and yet so much smarter. Alone in his intelligence. He felt alienated, distanced from those who were meant to be his friends. He knew he wasn't meant to be like this, that he was supposed to be different. Knew that his mind wasn't supposed to work the way that it did. His mother always praised him for his mind – but no-one else seemed to share her view, and Spencer found himself wishing she would praise him for being Spencer, rather than worshipping his brain like some sort of deity.

Afterwards, he would always feel guilty that he ever had those kind of thoughts.

Spencer thought of his mind as a being, separate from the rest of him, but a being he was trapped with nonetheless, unable to get away from, not even in rest.

His one solace was total unconsciousness.

Spencer had discovered that the first time the school kids had gone a little too far. The football team had just won the last game of the season; and they had partied hard. The next day, they sauntered through the school, even more smug and full of themselves than usual.

And all Spencer had done was drop his books.

As soon as they slipped from his hands, he saw the whole thing as if in slow-motion. They hit the ground with a thump, drawing the attention of the football captain, who looked round in instinctual reaction to the noise. When he saw the young boy, his lips widened in a sadistic smirk. He nudged his friends, who snickered, before advancing on Spencer.

They paraded him outside, their hands rough and uncaring. A crowd of whooping children followed, yelling, a pack of bloodthirsty hounds chasing after the macabre parade like they were ensnared by the Pied Piper himself.

Spencer remembered the few minutes that followed with crystalline clarity: every sound, every cheer, every spurt of pain, until eventually, it all spiralled away, into the blank relief of nothingness. There was no memory, no sensory awareness, no warmth… but conversely, no chill. No feeling of being.

He just was.

He didn't have to think anymore.

But then he woke up.

Sometimes Spencer thought it would be easier if his whole life was that blissful state of nothingness. He pursued this line of thought from a purely analytical standpoint, however. Would it be easier to just cease to be? Would that make him feel better?

He decided not. In that state of not-being, he would be unable to notice the effect, precisely because he would no longer be. It was paradoxical, and yet somehow his mind was still able to process it. He could not explain it – and it was one of the few things he was unable to elucidate.

Another of those few things was his mother. Diana Reid was a mystery to him. He could process the facts well enough: she was his mother. She liked to read. She was a paranoid schizophrenic. Those were the cold, hard facts. He could name a thousand more like them, but the truth was… he just did not understand her.

That was one of the first times it crossed Spencer Reid's unique mind to study psychology.

He did everything he could to research her condition, of course. He thought that if he studied it enough, if he read just one more book on the subject… then maybe something would click in the pile of electronic signals flying through his brain, and he would suddenly comprehend why his mother was the way she was.

But such an understanding never materialised.

Things were getting more hopeless by the day. His mother was forgetting to eat, she was constantly on edge. Often she would go into trances, just sitting by her window, watching the rain fall. Spencer remembered one time she had stayed there for a week solid. He had tried to get her to eat, to go out, but to no avail. It was after that incident that Spencer's resolve to fix his mother just broke.

Along with his heart.

The only person who had ever shown him a scrap of affection was his mother. She was his world, effectively. How could he allow her to suffer like that? He couldn't. She needed help.

He cried for eighteen hours straight after they had taken her away. The house just seemed so much more hollow without her presence. He often wondered if he had really done it solely for her benefit. Maybe he was selfish. Maybe he didn't want to try and help her when she constantly refused to be helped.

The guilt was all-consuming some days.

So to bury his sorrow, Spencer plunged ever deeper into his own mind, further into his books. He raced through his doctorates, through his BA's. He decided to try and make some peace with the enigma that was his brain, and for a while, the volatile entity complied with his pleas wonderfully.

But ever did Spencer wonder. When would the day invariably come when his mind would turn on him? When would the day come that his brain would maliciously break, just to spite him? When would he start… hearing the voices?

Spencer was afraid. He was frightened of his own mind, of the one thing that was supposed to always be on his side, always work to his advantage.

That angered him.

Spencer Reid did not have a naturally angry personality. His fight-or-flight response was heavily weighted towards fight, but he preferred the most passive route, the subtle solutions. He used his words to extract himself from difficult situations, but would admit that it was primarily because he was unable to use his fists. He would feel proud of himself whenever his – as Morgan called it, jokingly; 'psychobabbling' – freed himself from an explosive state of affairs, or helped to solve a case. He felt like it vindicated all those times in school when words had not saved him.

But unfortunately, no words – however subtle and clever, however logical, could save him from a singular, defining moment that would change the course of his entire life.

The name 'Tobias Hankel', when spoken out loud, provoked a strange reaction in Reid. Outwardly, maybe an involuntary twitch, a subtle narrowing of the eyes, a sudden, swift hand movement. But inwardly, an explosion of different emotions and thoughts.

Almost instantly, his mind would whirl though every blow, every thrill of fear and fierce adrenaline that had coursed through his veins, mingling with the accursed substance Dilaudid that poisoned him. But still Reid was conflicted. Tobias had been the one to administer the Dilaudid, it was true, but he had not intended to harm him, only to help him, to save him from his other personalities.

So Spencer faced a similar moral dilemma that Tobias himself had faced.

He felt a trickle of fear run through him as he thought of how that had turned out for Tobias.

He hated, with a supreme passion, Charles Hankel. He had hated Raphael. But they were connected in no way to Tobias himself, except that they shared his body.

Reid hated not knowing, that it was not simply cut-and-dry. It wasn't a simple case of, "This is the bad guy. Go ahead. Hate him."

Tobias was just a boy. A lonely, scared, conflicted boy.

Just like Spencer had been.

But still, the after-effects of those nights had been far-reaching: the consequences severe. Every second, Reid struggled with himself. He would reach out, to that tiny little bottle he permanently kept on his person. Habitually, he would slip his hand into his pocket and grasp it firmly, just for a few seconds, just to make sure it was still there.

It had been getting harder and harder to let go each time.

Eventually – inevitably – he slipped. He gave into the overwhelming temptation. He was at his weakest right after a case, that was the time the cravings reared their ugly head, pressing at him the hardest. He was just so tired… so drained… so…

He just needed to let go.

Spencer slipped the liquid fire into his veins with a bright, silver needle. As soon as he pressed the last of it out and into his system, shame washed over him. He barely had time to think, What have I done?, before he slipped into a myriad of jumbled memories. Some comforted him, others terrified him. Some weren't real at all – but how he wished they were. Some were his deepest, darkest nightmares… and it was always in that moment Spencer always remembered that the pleasure was not worth the pain.

But it was too late. The deed was done.

He wondered how long the cycle would continue, before something gave out. Would it be his body? His mind, perhaps? What would stop working first? What would forsake him first? Both were taking their own beatings. His thin frame could not handle the incessant abuse he was subjecting it to. But on the other hand, the congealed blood - not his, never his... that would be too easy - that trickled down his leg, staining the bath as he attempted to wash away the sins of that day, of a particularly horrific case… that was something his mind had to bear the psychological brunt of. His tears mingled with the drops of water… and his mind hurt with the horrific images it could not forget.

Those were the times Spencer cursed his eidetic memory. The images were literally burned into the back of his mind; contained in a little file labelled 'Things That Will Scar You Forever'. The more he tried not to disturb that little file in his mind, the more it cropped up when he least expected it… the more he dreamt of it, until eventually his dreams came to be nothing but images from that disgusting Rolodex of graphic and sickening human suffering.

He tried to bury those images in facts, to shower statistic upon statistic over them, but the weak struggles of numbers and percentages could not match the absolute power that a single image of a dead child held.

So Spencer struggled. He tried to compartmentalise these things… he tried.

He tried so hard… every, single day. But it was never enough.

Reid doubted it ever would be enough.

But still he kept on going, kept on living.

Because, really, what else could he do?

He just hoped that the next time, on the next case, the good would feel a little more satisfying, seem a little brighter, and the bad would seem a little less daunting, less cruel.

He hoped that one day – the nightmares would stop.

But Spencer knew that was as futile a wish as hoping that evil would suddenly disappear from the world. It was just never going to happen.

On his most dismal days, Spencer questioned how much good they were really doing. How much of a difference they were making in the world. It seemed like for every one serial killer they stopped, for every one life they saved, there were a million more serial killers murdering a million more people in a million different and increasingly horrific ways.

The more Spencer delved into the minds of the most disturbed people on the planet, the dirtier he felt. Like no amount of washing could scrub away the stains on his soul. Spencer didn't know how much more he could take before he came to the same conclusion as Gideon and had to run as far away as possible from the world.

If even the legendary Agent Gideon had given up, how could Spencer expect to withstand the weight of the evil in the world for much longer?

Alone in his neat, small, almost-Spartan apartment, Reid heard the ringing of his cellphone, chirping monotonously from his front pocket. He flipped it open, placing it to his ear.


"Hey, Spence. We've got a case. It's a bad one. How soon can you get over to the BAU?"

"I'm on my way."

The line disconnected.

Spencer placed the cellphone back into his pocket, and smiled bitterly.

He knew that the day would eventually come when he wouldn't be 'on his way'.

The day would eventually come when he would break, and no amount of psychological glue would be able to stick his shattered pieces back together.

Spencer locked the front door of his apartment and made his way to the elevator.

Though it was small comfort, Reid felt marginally better in knowing one crucial piece of information.

That day hadn't come yet.

A/N: That was my first Criminal Minds fic. Aw, it's all grown up now. *wipes away fictional tear*. Yeah... anyway, please let me know what you thought. Feedback on this would be appreciated. :)

Raven. x