Summary: Reid stops talking after Tobias Henkel. After a while, Morgan can't remember his voice.
Notes: I haven't written anything for CM before, so I'm not comfortable writing the characters, but it wouldn't leave me alone. Apologies for inconsistencies and anything out of character. A few lines of dialogue are taken directly from the last jet scene in Fear and Loathing.
Constructive criticism is welcomed. This is a revised first draft that I'm not planning to write more of, but I'm not adverse to making corrections. About 2000 words, because I seem incapable of writing long oneshots. Originally, I was writing from Hotch's point of view, but Morgan kept interrupting… It was supposed to be genslash, but that's if you squint and tilt your head, otherwise it's just gen. (It was also supposed to be Hotch/Reid, but, yeah, not so much…)
It's not noticeable at first, easily dismissed as the trauma of torture still fresh in mind. Derek wonders if it's always like that for Reid - if the memories will ever fade. Prentiss has opened up a little more, and it seems she isn't such a stuck-up hard-ass as he'd first thought - he even finds a common ground with her, a surprising, but nice interlude in their work - so he doesn't notice anything out of the norm. In the corner of his mind he sees Reid hanging around the kitchenette, putting his usual amount of coffee in his sugar. He doesn't say a single word in the conference room. Derek sends him a glance, and he seems distracted, but not distressed, so he puts it out of his mind, making a mental note to check up on him after the case.
But even as they're on the plane, something seems wrong. He doesn't really think about it until Reid reaches for the threatening letter, and he just looks at it.
"Reid?" Hotch is frowning as he prompts him to speak. Reid has never needed an excuse to speak since he grew more comfortable with the team - even when he goes off on a tangent, it somehow brings him back to the case in some manner that goes way over their heads and gives them a clue.
They're all looking at him. Reid opens and closes his mouth a few times, before he makes a frustrated noise and snatches Gideon's pen right out of his hands. Gideon makes a faint grimace as the pen draws a long line down the page he's making notes on, but seems more concerned than annoyed. Reid writes something on the copy of the letter and turns it around for them to see.
Morgan can hardly make out the slanted, hasty letters.
"How do you know that?" Prentiss says, taking the sheet of paper to look it over again. Morgan thinks she sounds a little accusing, but figures it's the urge to understand, to prove herself, so he just sends her a warning look. She refuses to look down, but she's noticed, and that's good enough, even if she's too stubborn to look reprimanded.
Reid's hands are moving, almost shaking, just like they do when his mind is working faster than his mouth, but he still doesn't say anything. In the end, he grabs the paper and writes at such a speed that Derek thinks he might miss half the letters. From the look on Prentiss's face when he hands it back, it's fairly illegible. She hands it to Gideon, who reads it out loud.
"You think a teenage girl is the killer?" Prentiss says, a note of disbelief in her voice. Reid makes another note, in capital letters this time, to Prentiss's chagrin. Derek knows she's being sceptical for a reason - Reid's hard to follow when he's not leading them along his thoughts, step by step - but it's still a little frustrating that Reid's not defending himself.
When Reid turns the sheet of paper around, it says NOT KILLER.
Derek wonders when Reid lost his voice, but doesn't worry any more than he would anyway.
When they're giving the profile, Reid opens his mouth, only to close it again three seconds later. He looks at Gideon, at the team, and shakes his head, rushing out of the room as some of the police officers start whispering. Hotch takes over the moment he's out the door. Derek exchanges glances with the rest of the team, but there's just no time for breakdown support.
Only a couple of minutes later, as they're discussing what to do next, he can see Reid slinking back into the room, shaking a concerned Prentiss's hand off his arm. She looks a little forlorn, as if she wants to apologise, but his blatant rejection destroys her resolve, and her jaw clenches instead.
He's sitting in the car with Officer Ware. It's been silent for a little while, and Derek can tell he wants to ask a question, and sure enough, a few seconds later he breaks. Profiling isn't something he can ever really turn off, even if he tries to ignore it from time to time.
"That doctor of yours," Ware says. "Is he mute?"
Derek admits to himself that he's not surprised, even if he wants to be. "No."
"He hasn't said anything."
"Tough case a while back," Derek says. He feels a certain empathy towards Ware, but his team is family, and Ware's intruding. And yet, it seems important that Reid isn't perceived as weak. "He hasn't said much since."
Ware frowns for a while, and starts saying something beginning with "I think", but before he can say what he thinks, Derek sees the black car.
"There," he says, and while they're in pursuit, Reid is once more pushed to the back of his mind.
Ware never gets to say what he thought about Reid. Derek can't help but wonder what it was, and if it would have helped.
They're on the jet before he finally gets Reid on his own, or as much as they can be in a tin can.
"You all right?" Derek says. Reid doesn't even look up. "Reid?" he says.
Reid seems to jerk awake. "Hmm?" It's the first vaguely lingual sound Reid's made since they started the case, and Derek gives a mental sigh of relief. It's not even a word - but it's a start.
"I said, are you all right?"
Reid lifts his shoulders and draws his mouth into something that's half a grimace, half a smile - I'm fine, it says. Why?
"Hey, talk to me." Derek hesitates for a moment. Reid is holding his cards between them, staring at them as if Derek isn't even there. Textbook defensive. "Whatever you say to me in confidence is between us," Derek says. "You know that, right?"
Reid shrugs, gives him a look that clearly says, I don't have anything to tell you, and looks down at his cards again.
Derek doesn't know how to have a conversation with Reid when he doesn't talk: he's always filled with restless energy, which won't let him sit still - or be silent, for that matter - and Derek just keeps expecting him to say something. "Reid, listen to me. What you went through out there, nobody expects you to rebound."
Reid finally looks up at him - he's angry, and there's a rising panic in his eyes that tells Morgan not to prod, that it's still an open wound - not to mention that his intellectual pride seems challenged, which Reid hasn't yet managed to divide from being attacked, even if he probably knows the difference. Reid clearly wants to tell him off, but can't seem to find the words.
"You're good at this job," Derek says when it becomes clear that Reid's gesturing hands is all the answer he will get. "We know that. But none of us are superhuman."
Reid picks a piece of paper and a small pencil out of his pocket, writes something on it. He hesitates for a few seconds, hands hovering a couple of inches above the paper, and shoves it over the table.
Derek picks it up, studies Reid for a few moments, who's studiously avoiding eye contact, before he looks at the note.
The photos. I know how they were feeling.
That's all it says, but Derek gets it. He can put himself in the mind of a killer, but knows the terror of being a victim - a survivor, he corrects himself. He knows it too well, sometimes, and even if it makes him a tiny bit more ruthless with an unsub, a tad bit more aggressive on some cases than he should be, he's learnt how to deal with it.
Reid will, too. He's more resilient than he seems, has been through more than anyone really knows, and he remembers it in Technicolor.
Reid doesn't pass the psychological evaluation. Derek drives him home, not sure if Reid tried to pass at all. They're profilers - they know how to run circles around psychologists. Reid just looks out of the window, staring at the passing cars without even seeing them, although he'd probably be able to recite the plate numbers of every Merc they've passed in the last ten minutes. When he sees Reid's face reflected in the window, he wished he hadn't, so he stays over on the sofa. Reid gives him half-burned scrambled eggs in the morning.
The last thing he remember Reid saying before he stopped talking is "I knew you'd understand," voice broken and pained as Hotch held him. It stays with him, and when he worries he's almost forgotten how Reid's voice sounds, it will blast at full volume in his mind - I knew you'd understand - until he just can't take it. It's stupid, and he leaves his door unlocked, but he just has to get there as soon as possible, make sure he's still there, that his heart won't be as silent as his voice. Reid had been dead for minutes on that computer screen, and he could almost feel the numbness spreading from his fingers, crawling up his arms and making the tiny hairs at the back of his neck rise.
He thinks about Ware's pointless death, wondering what he was going to say, if there was some wisdom in it that could have stopped anything bad from happening. It's irrational, but the team just isn't on the same wavelength as Reid, and when he can't adjust it to their frequency with words, the pieces of Spencer Reid just doesn't seem to fit the puzzle that is their team.
Reid's hands have been shaking. He doesn't want to think about it, but it's so glaringly obvious that he keeps looking - like a bruise that doesn't hurt unless you poke it, and he can't help but poke it again and again. At first, the unofficial opinion was post-traumatic stress, which undoubtedly played a major role, but he's starting to wonder why they didn't want to see anything.
To hell with it, he decides as he slams the car door and jogs up to the door. He needs to see Reid, whoever he might have turned into while he was looking the other way.
Derek signs the both of them up for sign language classes, mostly to give Reid something to do when he's not writing papers. Reid's apathetic at best, forgetting to eat, reading book after book without seeming to take it in, and Morgan has hardly left him when he's not on a case. He's told he's lucky to find open classes on such short notice.
He sends a text message to Hotch, knowing that calling will disrupt his family time. He also knows that the team will know a little signing by the time Reid is back.
Reid grasps it a lot faster than Derek does, but he's harder to understand, as he keeps gesturing wildly when he talks, like he's always done, and his hands are still shaky. When he gets eager, his hands go through the movements quicker and quicker before he forgets signing at all - while his mouth never could keep up with his brain, his hands are more disruptive, and distracts him from what he was going to say. It was a good decision anyway, Morgan decides when Reid's hands stop shaking.
Reid has never been particularly enthusiastic about being in the field, and his silence only makes him more apprehensive, but he seems relieved to be back, all the same.
'I can't protect myself with words anymore,' he's told Morgan with his hands. 'I doubt the unsub would bother learning sign language for my benefit.'
"Unlike the team," Morgan reiterates, a reminder that as much as Reid's inability to speak is a hindrance, it can also be of value. The team can communicate even around an unsub, if they make sure to be discrete. They've developed shortcuts - their own sociolect, influenced heavily by their work - gestures for unsub, gun, or talk him down, and the team dynamics has never been so good before.
Their next case is one of the good ones. Morgan falls asleep on the jet, and dreams of laughter in the sun.
When he thinks about Reid's voice, his own is the only one that comes to mind.
Whenever Reid has something to say, he'll gesture to Derek, who's become the best at sign language apart from Reid, and Derek will act as his voice. Sometimes he has to spell out words, and he rolls his eyes when Derek gets a sentence all wrong, but it works. He still wants to remember his voice.
That night, he watches Tobias Henkel kill Reid again in his dreams, and the sound of Reid's voice as he tells them about Hotch's narcissism is one of the most beautiful things he's ever heard.