Title: At the Edge of Insanity
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Characters/Pairing: Reid - gen
Summary: There is no strait jacket for the mind.
Author's Note: Thanks to yellowsmurf6 for the beta job.
It's dark, the only light coming from the stars in the sky, and there are so many of them. Bright, twinkling things. Burning balls of gas.
Spencer Reid can tell you a lot about the stars.
He can tell you that the largest known star in existence is VY Canis Majoris, measuring almost 2 billion miles across. He can tell you that the recently discovered R136a1 star was once around 320 times as massive as the Earth's sun. He can tell you that Polaris, the North Star, appears to be in a fixed position because it lies in a direct line with the axis of the Earth's rotation above the North Pole. He can tell you that we will never be able to see all the stars in the universe, because even the speed of light can only take us back so far.
This far back, the galaxies are redshifted, to the point where they can't be seen without the right filters. Sometimes he geeks out about the future deployment of the James Webb telescope, but he gets the feeling only Garcia, and sometimes, Emily, is really paying attention.
More than anything though, the stars mean one thing: endless possibilities. Billions of stars, billions of worlds, billions of possibilities.
Sometimes he wonders if he could calculate all those possibilities inside his mind.
He doesn't know how right he is.
I know what it's like to be afraid of your own mind.
The road stretches for miles in either direction; if it were daytime, he might be able to see the horizon on both stretches, unimpeded by hills, or buildings, or trees.
Where is he?
"Why is he?" is the real question, but it's not one that he's ready to ask yet.
There's a flash of white, a flash that looks almost like…wings. He blinks.
Tries to remember.
All he can think about is the vial. The vial that has brought him to this point in his life, though that's a simplification. It's a different vial every time, but the symbol remains the same.
A symbol of weakness.
He rolls up his sleeves and frowns. There are no track marks. No tiny scars to remind him of one of the lowest points of his life. They're not there, only suddenly they are, and so is the pain in his knee, and the aches in his feet, and the feeling that he can't quite string the right words together.
By all rights, he should be falling to the ground, with this sudden, overwhelming pain, but he isn't.
He sees the flash again. Wings, only this time they look a little more solid. The figure materializes before him. He recognizes the image, but that doesn't mean he has to accept it.
There is no such thing as angels.
He can't quite describe the features that he sees. There are no concrete words like blonde, or chiseled, or handsome, as though his visual receptors are having trouble interpreting the data. The being definitely seems angelic, but that's no conclusive proof.
Spencer Reid is an empiricist by nature. He believes in facts, things that can be tested, falsified, observed. He understands the concept of faith, but he can't quite believe in something that he can't put a statistic to.
'I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who enter and serve before the Glory of the Lord.' the Angel says, and for a single split second, Reid flashes back to the cabin, with the chairs, and the needle and the vial. Everything has brought him to this point. Book of Tobias 12:15. 'I am your Spirit Guide.'
It's a ridiculous concept, really – Raphael, archangel. Healer. Even the concept of a spirit guide seems a nebulous concept – lucid dreaming and drug abuse combined with insight into one's own unconscious. Of course, he can't be entirely sure that he isn't under the influence of Dilaudid right now. But no – side effects of Dilaudid include lightheadedness, dizziness, sedation, constipation, nausea, vomiting and sweating. He isn't feeling any of those things in significant amounts. Of course, that doesn't overlook the possibility that he's jacked up on something else entirely.
'Where am I?' he manages to choke out.
There's no answer. Maybe that's because he isn't actually anywhere.
And crawling on the planet's face
Some insects called the human race
Lost in time
And lost in space
Rocky Horror has nothing on Spencer Reid.
Sometimes, Raphael doesn't look like an angel at all. For a split second the light shines on him a different way, and he looks more like an alien, or even just a human. More evidence to the theory that this person – this thing, whoever he is – isn't a spirit guide at all.
'Close your eyes,' says Raphael. 'Remember.'
He closes his eyes and remembers fire and damnation.
But no. That's not right.
'Why are you here?' Reid asks.
'Why are you here?' the angel counters.
'I'm here because this is where I woke up,' he says, a little angrily, because while he enjoys mind games that have a purpose, this just seems pointless. 'I'm here because…'
There's a flash of memory in his mind, and he sees blood. There's something more than blood there, of course, but that bright crimson is all pervasive. A symbol of life. A symbol of death.
This isn't the same blood he sees every day; this isn't the blood of a woman with a slashed throat, or the blood of a man who had been bludgeoned to death. This is so much more. This is the blood of a dozen gunshot wounds, the kind of wounds that not even Kevlar could prevent.
This is the blood of his friends.
'I'm here because they died…' He stares at the angel. 'Am I dead too?'
Lost in time
And lost in space
Those words tell Spencer Reid absolutely nothing at all. He looks down at his hands, and he can almost see those dark stains. It flows so quickly, never stopping, no matter how hard he presses down. He wishes that he had three times as many hands, just so he can try to help them all.
But in the end, it doesn't really matter.
'Reid! Reid!' the words are screamed inside his mind, here, and yet somewhere else entirely. A long, long time ago.
In a galaxy far, far away, says the part of his brain that's still lucid. He stares down at his arms again, and this time he sees the scars; not just the ones in the crook of his elbow, but the ones that criss-cross his wrists.
Vertical cuts are most effective at slicing open the vein. There's not logical reason for the wounds to be so haphazard.
Sometimes, he wishes he had been born a different person. A person with a normal mind. Algernon, eat your heart out.
He's tied down, arms strapped against his chest. A strait jacket. Unsurprising, considering the boundaries of this universe that seems to have been created for him. There could be a herd of cattle stampeding across the plains, and it wouldn't have really surprised him. It would have intrigued him.
The strait jacket, like the blood, has a meaning. A physical, corporeal representation.
And then it all makes sense.
'This isn't real, is it…' he asks. Frowning he adds. 'It's real, but it's not…This is all happening inside my mind, isn't it?'
The angel doesn't answer right away. 'Some minds need more guidance than others. Lost…confused.'
He blinks, and the world around him is gone, and there's another world instead. The real world, his mind says, only he's not so sure what real is anymore.
Maybe that's the problem.
The world is white, and the endless halls are instantly recognizable. Even here, the strait jacket is constricting him, but that doesn't matter. It's never been about his body, anyway. He's never really fit it, all lanky limbs that don't do what they're supposed to.
There is no strait jacket for the mind.
There are pills, and lobotomies, and all different kinds of therapy, but that's about the brain, not about the mind. Once upon a time, he hadn't really thought there was a difference. Now, he's not so sure.
Here lies Spencer Reid. Genius, friend, son.
All that's left is one man at the edge of insanity.