I Have Them Too…
DISCLAIMER: I do NOT own Criminal Minds, nor do I make any profit off of writing this.
Baton Rouge Police Department
The team stood outside of the interrogation room, staring in at the young man who sat there, absently rubbing a hand up and down his left arm, betraying his nerves. His sleeves were rolled up to the elbow, and his lower arms were littered in scars in various stages of healing.
"… It's not him." Rossi said, walking into the room with the lead detective.
"What?" Morgan asked, turning. "But he fits the profile."
"No." Reid said softly. "He doesn't. He's lost and hurting and angry, yes. But not at the people around him. He's just angry because things don't make sense to him. He frustrated."
"That and we have new evidence." The lead Detective said.
Rossi looked at the interested eyes that all turned to him. He nodded, confirming what the detective had said. "A security camera caught a shot of the UnSub running away from the last crime scene. This kid doesn't fit the physical type. He's too slight."
"… Cut him loose." The Detective said with a sigh.
"Wait." Reid said, suddenly. "I want to talk to him."
"Why?" The detective asked. "It's not him."
"Yeah… why would we need to talk to him?" Emily asked. Reid looked down, refusing to make eye contact with anyone.
"We don't. HE needs it." And he sighed and looked at Hotch. "Please?"
"… Don't be too long." Hotch said gently, seeing the desperate look in Reid's eyes. "Just tell me why."
"… He needs answers. And I think I can give him those." Reid said, cryptically.
"… Go." Hotch said. Reid smiled and nodded, then opened the door and slipped into the room.
The boy looked up, blinking at the tall, lanky young man standing before him. The man closed the door and leaned against it, his handsw behind his back, still clasping the knob.
"… Hi, Landon." The man said, offering the boy a shy smile. "I'm Special Agent Dr. Spencer Reid. You uh… you can call me Dr. Reid… or just Spencer." Landon blinked again and eyed Reid, suspiciously. Reid sighed and reached up, brushing back his tangled brown locks and tucking them behind his ear. He stepped away from the door. "May I sit down?"
"… s'not MY place…" Landon snorted, leaning back and crossing his arms, looking away. Reid pulled out the chair and sat down.
"We know it wasn't you, Landon." Reid said, and Landon looked up at him. The boy's blue gray eyes bored into Reid's warm brown orbs, as if trying to see if the young man was lying to him. Reid just gave him a small smile.
"… I can go?" Landon asked, and Reid nodded.
"Yes." Reid assured him. "But first… there's something I want to talk to you about."
"… How long have you beet cutting?" Reid asked. Landon recoiled, twitching his sleeves down to cover his arms.
"Because I think I can help you."
"Yeah right." Landon snorted. Reid smiled.
"You've been cutting for a long time. You're ashamed of it, but you can't help it." Reid said, gently. "You want to tell someone about it but you're afraid to. Because no one would understand why you do it. They don't understand why you can't just STOP. It's not like that, is it?"
"… You profiling me too?"
"No." Reid said with a smile. "In my experience, cutters are often all very much the same. They all do it for the same reason. The problem is, they don't KNOW what that reason is. Cutting is a very… taboo subject. And more common than people realize. We're surrounded by people who want to help us and give us advice… about drugs. Alcohol. Sex. All these things that kids deal with… but no one ever mentions cutting. And because no one talks about it, we think we're alone. We never consider talking to someone about it. And so we're left to figure it out by ourselves. And we want to stop. We want to heal. But we can't until we can acknowledge why we started, and why we keep doing it."
The team listened in silently. Landon was staring at Reid with a strange expression on his face. He looked both frightened, and hopeful. Defensive, and curious. His posture was slowly relaxing as he hung onto Reid's every word. And seeing these words get through to this kid made the team hang onto every word as well… all were wondering where Reid was going with this.
Reid reached up with a sigh, and ran his long fingers through tousled curls. "As I said… cutters all seem to do it for the same reason. And they can't stop until they figure out what that reason is. And most of them have to do that by themselves. You don't have to."
"… You think you know the reason?" Landon asked, narrowing his eyes. "You can tell me why I do it?"
"… I think so." Reid said, nodding. He took a deep breath and launched into his explanation. "You're hurting inside. You can feel the pain in your mind and heart and soul… it fills you until it become physical." Reid said, and placed a hand on his own chest. "You can feel the pain deep in your core… And it grows stronger and stronger until it's overwhelming. And feeling a pain that… physically isn't there is more than our minds can comprehend. Something that strong HAS to be physical… It has to be seen. Touched. It's filling us. Just under our skin." Landon began to unconsciously rub his arm again.
"And so… you have to relieve the pressure. Set it free. And so you slice through your skin, not to create a wound, but to try and find the one that is already there, unseen. And then, suddenly, the wound in your flesh merges with the pain in your mind. You're bleeding your soul. You can suddenly see the source of the pain. The blood. And only then is it REAL. And it's a relief. It's as if the pain is being drained with the blood. And it's soothing. And it begins to heal. But eventually the pain inside begins to grow again. And you have to bleed it out once more.
"You feel a pain that is not there physically. By cutting yourself, you make it physical. And once you can see it and feel it… you can allow it to heal. That's why you cut yourself. To make the pain… the wound REAL. So that it begin to heal. Once you acknowledge that, you can stop. Just because the pain isn't physical, it doesn't mean it's not real. You need to find another outlet for the pain; one that doesn't hurt anyone. And then, when you do, you can start to heal the wounds that run deeper than your flesh." Reid finished. Landon was staring at him, tears on his face. Behind the glass the team stared in silence, all wondering the same thing. It was who voiced the question.
"… How do you know that?"
Reid gave him a sad smile. "It took me years to figure that out. And now I'm telling you, so that you don't have to struggle as long as I did to find the answer." Landon just stared, mouth hanging open in surprised shock. On the other side of the glass, the team mirrored his expression. No one every knew that about Reid… none of them had ever guessed.
"… You?" Landon asked, softly. Reid smiled and nodded.
"Me." He said. "In college. I uh… I was twelve when I started college. Got my first BS when I was sixteen. Then I went on to get three PhD's. I was fifteen when I started. It… continued for almost five years."
"… Why did you do it?" Landon asked.
"The same reason you do." Reid replied. "The emotional pain got to be too much. I was always all alone. My mom was sick. My dad was… not in my life. I had no friends… I was totally and utterly alone. Simply because of who I was. I was a High School Age kid getting the highest honors in college and grad school. I was isolated. Because of who I was. And I grew to hate myself. And hate that because of who I was, I was alone. And I believed that I would… always BE alone. I also didn't really KNOW who I was. I didn't know where I was going. The pain grew exponentially until it was more than I could handle. The relief that came with cutting was strong. At my worst, the relief was comparable to a… narcotic or even… sexual high." Landon fixed an intense look at Reid and nodded his understanding of that statement.
"… You have scars?"
"… where?" Landon asked.
"I, um… around my ankles… a couple around the sides of my knees… a few on my thighs… I was careful to put them in places that people wouldn't see…" Reid explained.
"Yeah… I didn't really care." Landon snorted, looking away. "… Is it hard? You know… to stop?"
"Sometimes." Reid said softly. "Once I figured out why I did it, and what I wanted to do with my life… who I wanted to be… it was a lot easier. But sometimes, I needed someone to talk to. But…"
"It's hard to talk to someone who doesn't understand." Landon finished. Reid looked at him, then nodded.
"Yeah." He said. "So. You ready to get out of here?" He asked, and Landon looked up. Reid smiled, and a moment later, so did Landon.
"Yeah. I am." He said, and the pair stood. They walked out of the room, and Landon stared at the team, nervously, then walked over to where his parents stood waiting. They looked relieved that their son was being released, but angry that he had been taken into custody in the first place.
"Landon." Reid called. "It's been ten years since the last time. But I still feel the itch sometimes." Landon blinked and turned away from his parents to look at Reid.
"What do you do?" Landon asked.
"… I talk to someone." Reid said, glancing at the team. "They don't know WHY I need to talk to them. They don't know why I need their help. But they always know WHEN I need it, even if I don't know it. And they're here for me." He fumbled in his pocket, and pulled out a card. He walked over, handing it to Landon. "Remember this; just because the pain isn't from a physical wound, it doesn't mean that it isn't real. And when you realize that, you suddenly find that you don't have to MAKE it real. If you ever get the itch, you can call me. Day or night. Anytime." He offered the boy a smile. "I understand." Landon paused, then took it. He stared down at it, taking in the name, and FBI seal on the card. Then he smiled and looked up, nodding and sliding the card into his pocket.
"Thank you. I will." He said, and Reid nodded, offering his hand.
"Take care of yourself." He said, and the boy clasped his hand in thanks, then turned and walked out with his mother, who had her arm around him. Landon's father eyed Reid for a moment.
"Itch?" He asked.
"… You wouldn't understand." Reid said softly. "Not unless you've been there yourself."
"And how do you know I haven't?"
"Because." Reid said. "You had to ask." The man blinked, then just shrugged and walked away, following his wife and son.
The young profiler watched them go.
"Reid?" JJ called, and Reid turned to face his team. "… Why didn't you ever tell us?"
"… Because you wouldn't understand." Reid said with a small smile.
Three Weeks Later…
The team stumbled across the parking lot to their hotel. It was almost three am, and they were exhausted. They hadn't slept in almost four days. As they reached the doors, a cell phone rang. A moment later, Reid jumped and fumbled in his pocket. He frowned at the number, then a look of slight surprise crossed his face and his lips formed a silent 'oh!'.
The team watched as he flipped the phone open. "Landon? Hi." He paused a moment, then a sad smile crossed his face. He glanced at the team and waved them inside, turning and sitting down on the bench on the sidewalk. "It's okay. I said day or night and I meant it." He said, making himself comfortable. "Okay. So talk to me."
Hotch smiled and herded the team inside, letting Reid alone, happy to be there for a young man, the way no one had been there for him.
A new beginning…
This is to all those out there who hide their scars the way I used to hide mine. Hopefully I can be to you what Reid was for Landon. Because there was never someone there for me. And it's hard to find your Reason alone.