betwixt her lips and mine / There fell thy shadow, Cynara! thy breath was shed / Upon my soul between the kisses and the wine; / And I was desolate and sick of an old passion…
I cried for madder music and for stronger wine / But when the feast is finished and the lamps expire, / Then falls thy shadow, Cynara!
Reid is surprised when, emerging from a no-service zone in the middle of New Mexico, he retrieves a message off his cellphone and finds that it is from Nathan Harris's psychiatrist. Nathan hasn't wanted to see or talk to him since the night Reid saved his life.
"I'm calling on behalf of my patient Nathan Harris," Dr. Pattinson's message runs. "I admit I was thrown when he asked to see you, but I contacted his mother, and she confirmed that he knew you."
Reid feels a spike of irritation. Of course Nathan knows him; he's is a sexual sadist, not delusional. Certainly dishonesty hasn't been among his vices. Reid wonders whether a psychiatrist so distrustful of his patients can be very effective.
"As you may know, Nathan's an inpatient here. I realize you must be very busy, Dr. Reid, but if you'd be willing to make time, I do think it might benefit his treatment. I'd be personally grateful. You can contact my assistant to set something up. Also, if you're ever in the District and you'd care to grab a cup of coffee, I'd love to hear your perspective on—"
At this point Reid deletes the message. Garcia can probably find the assistant's direct line in three seconds, anyway.
Morgan is driving. He glances over at Reid. "That Hotch?"
Reid stares out the window. Fat, muffling flakes of snow are falling, clinging to evergreens and adobe and greying out the twilight. It's April. Taos joins Georgia on Reid's list of places never to visit again.
"No," he says. "Just personal."
* * *
D.C. statutes allow for the involuntary commitment of an individual whose judgment is so impaired that he or she is unable to understand his or her need for treatment and whose continued behavior as the result of mental illness or a documented personality disorder can be reasonably expected, on the basis of competent clinical opinion, to result in significant physical harm to himself or herself or others. Nevada requirements are roughly the same.
Springwood seems to be a good facility. Public areas are orderly, but not regimented; there's a good in-house library; and judging by the bulletin board outside the main patient lounge, the hospital's stated commitment to community reintegration isn't just lip service. Reid's internet research showed that all of the physicians on staff are experienced and well regarded, including Dr. Pattinson, and Springwood ranks third for lowest number of allegations of institutional abuse in the southeast. Reid doesn't doubt that Nathan's mother's money and professional connections have everything to do with the quality of care he's receiving, but it's still nice to know that the system is capable of good work.
A pleasant-faced woman in pastel scrubs comes down the wood-paneled hall. "Hi, I'm Jenna; I'm the RN on duty. You're here to see Nathan, right?" Reid flips his hand up in a salute and nods. "Follow me. Dr. Pattinson said you were welcome to stay as long as you like."
"How's he doing?"
"Coming along, I think. Dr. Pattinson mentioned you're familiar with the circumstances of Nathan's admission, and I think you'll be encouraged when you talk to him. He's seemed more positive lately, and he's been consistently nonsuicidal for about six months now. Nathan's so quiet, it should be nice for him to get to chat for a bit; it's usually just his mother—"
Jenna starts as she turns into the lounge and nearly collides with Nathan just inside the door.
"Hi, Dr. Reid."
He's still wearing that same ghostly, vaguely apologetic half-smile. Reid nods slowly back.
Nathan turns to Jenna. "Could we, um, do you think we could talk alone?"
"Sorry, Nathan. That's really not..."
Reid finds himself reaching into his pocket for his credentials. He watches the RN take in the behavioral sciences endorsement and stares her down, for all five seconds that takes. She smiles forcedly and gestures back down the hall. "You can visit in the quiet room," she says, "but you'll need to leave the door open."
"That's okay," Nathan says. "Thanks."
Nathan follows her out with his characteristic shuffle. Reid follows Nathan at a lag.
The quiet room is like any interrogation room, only without a table. The window looks out onto a small courtyard garden and has five parallel tool marks on its frame, freshly painted over. Reid and Nathan take opposite chairs as Jenna props the door open forty-five degrees and leaves them.
There's a silence. It's probably an awkward silence, but Reid doesn't think it's any more awkward than any of their other interactions. He uses it for observing Nathan. Outwardly Nathan hasn't changed a lot: He's gained a little muscle mass, but he'll probably look adolescent well into his twenties. Like Reid. He still dresses much the same way, in pressed shirts and creased khakis that would make a mother's heart glad, and Reid is relieved that Nathan has not slid appreciably down the scale towards lounge wear, eroded by hospitalization. He still slouches. Actually, when Reid looks closer, his posture does seem subtly different, but Reid can't put his finger on how.
"I heard you got beat up on a case," Nathan says.
Reid freezes. Nathan looks up at him briefly, then drops his eyes again.
"How did you hear that?" Reid says at last.
"The shrinks talking in the hall. A lot of them have stuff that's like a hobby for them. Like, mine likes psychopaths, he's got a big book collection. He let me read some of them, and about the MMPI."
"Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory," Reid murmurs automatically.
"Yeah. He said it was good I'm curious. 'Know thyself.' Then he spouted some crap about Oedipus and Greek tragedy for half an hour, but hey."
Reid realizes belatedly that Nathan has maneuvered the conversation away from his question. Distantly, he's surprised it took him this long to notice. "Private hospitals don't get personnel information about Bureau cases, Nathan," he says pointedly.
Nathan smiles almost exactly the way he did when Reid first found him in his home. I knew that if you were really good, you'd find me. "Dr. Choudhary said the FBI had found a serial killer with multiple personalities."
"And you Googled the rest."
"Yeah." Nathan suddenly looks at him, the most direct eye contact he's made in the course of the entire conversation. "What was it like?"
There's a prickling along Reid's scalp. "I'm not going to talk about it, Nathan," he says gently.
"Right, of course. Sorry."
Reid gestures toward the moleskine Nathan is fiddling with in his fingers. "Keeping up with school?" Show interest in his progress, show him he isn't angry over his faux pas.
"Yeah, there's some classes here 'cause there's a lot of kids in for drugs and things, and my mom got me some tutors. I really like the guy who teaches me chemistry."
Reid can't help smiling. "I loved chemistry."
That dissolves into another silence, and this time it is uncomfortable; even Reid can tell. He never knows what to feel about Nathan. He feels apprehensive, he feels worried for this boy, he feels worried for others, he feels compelled, he feels protective and he doesn't know of whom, he feels wary and he doesn't know why. Most of all, though, potently and involuntarily, he feels responsible.
It's sick. Reid never even noticed until after Gideon left, but these are the emotions a mentor is supposed to feel for a protégé, and God knows what it says about Reid that the first person he instinctively latched onto in that way is an evolving sexual sadist. Little wonder Gideon never stayed in touch.
It's also illogical, because there is no why to Nathan's broken wiring. All the numbers Reid has seen have told him that sexually motivated serial killers are no more a spontaneous occurrence than diamonds; perhaps the original material has to be pure carbon, but only tremendous pressures—perceived pressures at least—can crystalize a human being into a rigid lattice where only the kill can grant release. At the heart of male-on-female sexual homicide is a lethal collision of misogyny and need. Yet Nathan has never been abused by his mother, sexually or physically or verbally; Reid has checked. Dr. Harris works a lot, but she scarcely neglects her son. Their relationship truly is close. They're a lot closer than most teenagers and parents, really, like Reid and his own mom. If Nathan was ever abused by another female family member or acquaintance, he's given no hint of it in two years of inpatient therapy and assessment. No equation that Reid has seen can be solved for Nathan Harris. There is no genesis or genealogy. Nathan is a naked singularity, and Reid can't look away.
"Nathan," Reid says, haltingly, "you didn't want to talk to me for two years. I'm happy to come, you know that… but why now? Why did you ask me here?"
Nathan's fingers are laced together in his lap, his shoulders drawn in and down. "I just wanted to tell you that I don't blame you anymore. I mean, I know you just did what you had to do." He shrugs, still not meeting Reid's eyes. "That's it, I guess."
Reid pauses. Whatever he expected, to be called in so that Nathan can say he forgives him for saving his life two years on isn't it. Not for the first time where Nathan is concerned, Reid has a bad feeling that he's missing something.
It takes him barely a second to read the other sentence underneath the one Nathan said aloud, and it makes him feel sick. "You don't blame me, but you still think I shouldn't have done it."
Nathan's cuff still has its crease. It's buttoned, one small plastic-pearl disc pinching the grid pattern against a bony wrist, and looking at it makes Reid think of the knife he chose. Nathan's weapon of choice is an exacto-knife.
Nathan's smart and directed; he's used to achieving. If he decides to kill, it'll be clinical and efficient.
Nathan smiles brittlely, the widest smile Reid's ever seen on him. "I'm a psycho, Dr. Reid."
Reid leans toward him. "No. Listen to me, Nathan. You can't just reduce this to checklists. Psychopathy is a concept with multiple components, usually ranged along two axes, but its hallmark is lack of empathy. And that isn't you. Psychopaths don't try to kill themselves because they'd rather die than hurt somebody. Psychopaths take what they want however they can, and they take out anyone or anything that threatens that. I told you, it's the part of you that came to me to understand how not to harm people that's most important."
Nathan's mouth twitches. "Things change."
"Yeah, things do change. I ought to know. And the way you're feeling now could change, even if it doesn't seem possible yet."
"Don't you get it?" Nathan finally bursts out. "It wasn't just for other people! I wanted to die while I was still me! It wasn't your decision to make!"
Reid doesn't know what to do with that.
"You are still you," he says after a while, then feels silly.
Nathan shrugs, his fingers between his knees and his shoulders drawn down. "Are you still you?"
For just a second, the presumption of the question makes Reid see red. It's an emotion he can't remember ever feeling toward Nathan before, and part of him tries to analyze briefly whether it's Nathan that's changed so much or him. "Yes," he says, quietly.
"What about the guy who took you?"
Reid stares at him.
"Look, whatever," Nathan mutters after a while. "What I really needed to know was, if I ever got out and it turns out you're wrong, would you catch me?"
"You don't even need me to say that one out loud, Nathan."
"That's a promise, then?"
A promise that he can actually make Nathan is something Reid has wanted so badly it aches. "I'd be first in line."
* * *
He goes on a date with Dr. Kimura at the Kennedy Center. Reid likes her a lot and wants the date to go well; he even considers matching his socks (though he ultimately doesn't). She remarks on the phone when inviting him that it's safe to book tickets to the NSO again now that Leonard Slatkin's gone. Reid doesn't get it, but he is bemused by the evidence of her hidden brutalities.
The program is Mozart, Sy. 41 – Bartok, Concerto for Orchestra – Rachmaninoff, "Isle of the Dead." Reid finds the pattern mutations in the Mozart interesting and gets a general idea that the Bartok must be hard to play. The Rachmaninoff is low, slow and churning black-brown, and it triggers in Reid a humid, potent yearning for death like Dilaudid rising in his veins. He excuses himself five minutes into the piece and escapes to the lobby.
What he doesn't know is that late Romantic tone poems can clock in at a solid twenty minutes, and by the time that becomes clear, he's been away long enough that it would be awkward to return. So, he finds himself stuck, oscillating up and down the same three or four steps as he tries to understand what to do in this situation and the time he's been away from his seat gets longer and longer.
There's a ker-flush somewhere, muffled by red carpet and elegance as encoded in chandeliers like strings of glowy ice cubes. Absently walking backwards down two steps again, Reid barely hears it.
"You're Dr. Reid?"
The voice is male, a little familiar, pleasantly surprised and doubtful toward the end. Reid turns on the staircase, surprised himself.
"Surely it's Dr. Reid, right?" the man says again. He's slim and middle-aged, with an open face that Reid doesn't know. When Reid nods, the man steps over to the foot of the stair and extends a hand over the railing, which Reid is obliged to take. "Sorry, you must be trying to get back to the concert. I was just surprised to run into you—I'm Rich Pattinson; I heard you'd come to see Nathan, but I missed you."
"You're Dr. Pattinson?" says Reid, focussing on him differently.
"Yes, really pleased to meet you. Are you liking the, um—?"
"How is Nathan?"
Pattinson actually relaxes when Reid cuts off discussion of the concert (body language: relieved), saying happily, "Doing well! I'll tell him you asked after him at his next followup visit. He was discharged last week after the eval, seems to be adjusting—"
Reid stares at him, and Pattinson gradually shows signs of discomfort. "Didn't he tell you? He turned eighteen a couple weeks ago; he's outpatient now."
Eidetic recall shows him Nathan in the quiet room chair, twisting his fingers in his lap and slouching. Just like Nathan in an interrogation room in Quantico, but different, but not different, but wrong, and Reid's mind finally knows what was off: The body language was the same, was exactly the same, because Nathan was imitating himself.
"Why did you discharge him?" Reid demands.
"It's all right, he's doing great. We did an exit interview and evaluation, of course, but he hasn't tried to harm himself for over half a year… Dr. Reid, are you all right?"
Reid's gone white. "The books," he hears himself say. "You shouldn't have let him read your books."
* * *
Several weeks later, he comes back to his apartment from the hospital to find the neat stack of mail Garcia has been retrieving for him on his hall table. He got shot at the end of the month, so there are three periodicals, five bills, and one greeting card in a lavender envelope. There's no return address.
Reid plumps down on the couch and takes the card up curiously; the team had all hand-delivered theirs in the hospital, and anyone else who knows about his hospital stint would email. He rips the envelope open.
The card has a tree, a kite, and a duck on the front, and when Reid opens it something silver falls out. He picks it up carefully and holds it in his palm. The metal measures one-and-an-eighth inch long, a 30-60-90 triangle with a notched tab at one end. It's an exacto-knife blade.
There is no signature. There's only the pre-printed inscription in purple:
Because you're here for me,
I'll be there for you.