Eye of the Hurricane
Summary: As the BAU team deals with a killer who doesn't seem quite human, Reid must deal with the aftermath of being raped, and sort out his relationship with Hotch. Sequel to one-shot "Shelter from Storm".
Disclaimer: I do not own Criminal Minds, nor do I make money from writing about it.
Un-beta'ed – any mistakes are my own.
Warnings: References to non-con Reid/OC. Rated M for the slashy stuff. Supernatural plot-elements.
Chapter 1: Minimization
The acute stage occurs in the days or weeks after a rape. Durations vary as to the amount of time a survivor may remain in the acute stage. The immediate symptoms may last a few days to a few weeks and may overlap with the outward adjustment stage.
There is no "typical" response amongst rape victims. In most cases, a rape survivor's acute stage can be classified as one of three responses: expressed ("He or she may appear agitated or hysterical, [and] may suffer from crying spells or anxiety attacks"); controlled ("the survivor appears to be without emotion and acts as if 'nothing happened' and 'everything is fine'"); or shock/disbelief ("the survivor reacts with a strong sense of disorientation. They may have difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or doing everyday tasks. They may also have poor recall of the assault"). Not all rape survivors show their emotions outwardly. Some may appear calm and unaffected by the assault.
Survivors in the outward adjustment stage seem to have resumed their normal lifestyle. However, they simultaneously suffer profound internal turmoil, which may manifest in a variety of ways as the survivor copes with the long-term trauma of a rape. The outward adjustment stage may last from several months to many years after a rape.
RAINNidentifies five main coping strategies during the outward adjustment phase:
Minimization (pretending 'everything is fine')
Dramatization (cannot stop talking about the assault)
Suppression (refuses to discuss the rape)
Explanation (analyzes what happened)
Flight (moves to a new home or city, alters appearance)
Spencer sometimes curses his eidetic memory. And his almost physical need to research. And his inability to not know every little detail of everything he, for whatever reason, finds interesting.
It's one of those days where Spencer just feels like cursing anything, really.
He glares at his own reflection in the mirror, and has a childish urge to stick out his tongue. Instead, he inspects his face closely, as he does every morning. He tentatively touches his throat, as if he can't quite believe without touching it that the finger-shaped bruises have disappeared several days ago. As always, after a night of too-real dreams, he needs the physical reassurance.
He's returning to work today, after a forced two-week leave of absence. Of course, he argued. Tried to negotiate it down to one week. But Hotch wouldn't budge. And in the end, the threat of Strauss and a lifelong ban to the local library – the former by Hotch and the latter by Garcia - he resigned. And sulked behind closed doors for exactly twelve hours, refusing to answer his phone – which led to Morgan pounding at his door at 1 am. He'd yelled at Spencer for ten minutes for "worrying me sick, man, sick!" – and then they'd watched a rerun of Babylon 5 and shared the six-pack Morgan brought. Spencer'd had two, and Morgan had woken up on the couch with a headache and a bad attitude.
Spencer knows he's somewhere between the first two stages of 'rape trauma identification', and coping by minimization with a dash of suppression thrown in.
He doesn't want to think about Harris and what happened in the basement. Not so much because of Harris, or the… incident. But because thinking of that invariably leads him to think of Hotch and that… incident.
Spencer scowls at his own worried mirror-face.
Hotch. Damn the man.
After their talk in the hospital, Hotch had let him know that he'd let Spencer take the lead on whatever should happen next. That he didn't want to push Spencer into anything. And he's called Spencer every day, to check up on him. Even stopped by once, which was awkward seeing as Prentiss had decided to stop over the same night, and Hotch went all business on Spencer, instead of just relaxing and acting like a concerned boss/colleague. Which would've been perfectly normal.
Glaring daggers at Emily and telling Spencer he needed to pass his psych eval before he could even think of returning, and then leaving in a huff, was not normal. Emily had snorted when Reid smiled weakly and passed off Hotch's behavior with a shrug and a "PMS?".
"More like PITA," she had muttered, adding, at Spencer's confused look, "pain in the ass".
Spencer had almost knocked her down in his effort to rush into the kitchen to hide his furious blush.
Spencer leaves his mirror-image alone for now, and spends the next ten minutes worrying about what to wear for work that will lead to the least touching.
He doesn't really like it when people touch him, these days.
JJ and Emily always touch him when he's wearing his green tie with the yellow dots. They try to yank it off, and Rossi once called it 'the biggest threat to breaking the Geneva convention'. And whenever he's wearing one of his sweater vests, Morgan has to rub his hands all over it, while he shuffles his feet on the floor, and then he'll invariably try to give Garcia a dose of static electricity. She'll scream and hit Morgan on the head with a loose computer gadget of sorts, and then she'll seek out Spencer and whack him on the head with one of his case files, for 'encouraging that sort of lewd office behavior'. But her eyes will sparkle, and she'll saunter past Morgan, who'll grin and tell her it wouldn't work if she wasn't so hot. And she'll giggle and tell him to 'dare dream on, my chocolatey god'.
Spencer really hates working with profilers, sometimes. They're so predictable.
In the end, he dresses in his most neutral brown shirt and russet tie.
Hotch never touches him.
The first thing Spencer hears when he steps off the elevator is Garcia's infectious laugh, and an answering chuckle from Morgan. As he turns into the bullpen, he sees the familiar sight: Morgan is perched on his desk, Garcia in his office chair. Prentiss is standing next to Garcia, and JJ is lounging with a stack of files in her arms. Rossi is sitting at his own desk, pretending to not listen into what he refers to as 'the overflowing source of youthful hormones and boasting' – but they all know he's just waiting for somewhere to insert one of his dry, witty comments. Morgan, especially, is counting on it, so he can counter with a thinly veiled insult to Rossi's age. And Prentiss will become indignant on Rossi's behalf, and tell Morgan to respect his elders. And Morgan will say he already respects Emily as much as he can, to which she'll sigh and roll her eyes at Rossi.
Spencer is certain Emily has a big crush on Rossi. And he's even more certain that Rossi – and everyone else – knows, but that he – and everyone else – is afraid of what the consequences would be of taking it further. Partly due to Rossi's notorious past history with the FBI ladies – but also because no-one would do anything to compromise the tight relationship of the team.
Of course, Spencer's already compromised more than he ever thought he would.
He doesn't see Hotch anywhere. But Morgan sees him, and his face breaks into a big smile.
"Hey! Pr… err, party boy!" he calls, and Spencer cannot help but offer a small smile at the effort Morgan is making. Garcia squeals and rockets off Morgan's chair, and Spencer takes a hasty step backwards as she rushes towards him.
Even though she's not a profiler, Garcia probably senses that a crushing bear hug would be out of place, so she settles for giving him a peck on the cheek and a bright expression, before she hauls him to the team's cluster of desks.
Spencer discreetly retracts his hand from hers, and returns the smiles of Emily and JJ with a small one of his own. He has a feeling his face will hurt by the end of the day, from all that insincere smiling.
"Hey, guys," he greets, forcing himself to focus on Rossi's face to keep his eyes from flickering about to look for… oh, stop it.
Rossi offers that small, smug smile of his, and Spencer quickly looks at Morgan, who's trying to catch his attention.
"How you doing, Reid? You know, I think all the sugar's gone bad now that you haven't been around to inhale it." Prentiss snorts, and JJ laughs gently.
"All that's gone bad are your jokes, Morgan," Spencer can hear himself replying, and for a horrifying moment he's afraid he's made one of those awkward, embarrassing jokes that are only funny in his socially inept ears. But Garcia squeals with laughter, and Morgan is looking immensely pleased for someone who's just been taken down a notch.
"Hey, hey, Dr. Reid! I'm impressed! Did you spend your downtime reading 'Comebacks for dummies'?"
Spencer rolls his eyes. "No, but I will do when you finish writing it, Morgan."
Even Rossi laughs at that, and Spencer can feel the familiarity of it all washing over him, slowly relaxing the knot in his stomach that he hadn't really been aware of. Maybe the day won't be so bad after all…
"Did I miss something funny?" asks a familiar, deep voice behind him, and Spencer is sure they all notice the slight twist of his shoulders – which to a profiler is akin to jumping and screaming bloody murder.
"Hotch!" Garcia is still laughing as she jabs her finger into Morgan's ribs. "You only missed my little genius finally getting the last word in with Mr. Douchebag."
Morgan laughs and feigns pulling a knife out of his heart.
"Who you calling a douchebag, baby?"
Spencer vaguely registers Garcia making a flippant reply before she rushes off to her electronic cave, but he allows his attention to focus on Hotch for just a second.
Dark eyes stare into his own, and his stomach suddenly can't decide if it should tighten up again or explode with butterflies. Hotch's pokerface is completely blank and devoid of emotions, but Spencer lets himself think that there's a glimmer of… something in Hotch's eyes. He breathes evenly to keep his expression under control.
A second has passed, and Spencer settles into a polite expression.
"Hey, Hotch," he says, glad to hear his voice is even.
"Reid," Hotch replies, nodding slightly. "Glad to have you back. Come see me when you've settled in. I'm sure you remember where the kitchen is. Morgan tells me the sugar missed you."
With that, he turns around and heads for his office. Prentiss' eyebrows have almost climbed to her hairline.
"Hotch is cracking jokes and Reid makes witty comebacks. Something's not right here," she tells Rossi, before turning to her own desk. "Oh, and welcome back, Spencer," she adds with a smile. Spencer is quickly running out of smiles, and ends up making a grimace to her, which she seems to accept as a fair attempt. He really likes Emily.
"Told you, it's the overflowing…."
"… source of hormones and youthful boasting. Yeah yeah, Rossi," Morgan finishes, winking at Reid and JJ before he, too, turns to his desk and very pointedly picks up a file.
Spencer can feel the weight of Rossi's gaze and he meets the too-wise eyes for a moment. Damn it, Rossi knows too much. And has probably already deducted the rest.
"Coffee doesn't sound bad," Spencer says to no-one in particular, and slings his bag and coat over his chair. JJ places a gentle hand on his arm for a moment, and smiles softly. "Welcome back, Spence." It's a little bit easier returning JJ's smile.
Fortified by three gulps of too-hot coffee – an extra cube of sugar thrown in for good luck; Morgan asked him if the spoon would actually stand upright if he let go of it, which led Spencer to happily launch into a long explanation of physics and chemistry and the density of liquids to which Morgan slowly backed off – Spencer knocks on Hotch's open door and steps in.
"Have a seat," Hotch tells him and nods to the chairs situated in the other end of the room. Spencer sits in the one that will make him invisible from the bullpen.
Hotch takes the one across from him, and they stare at each other for a second.
"I did pass the psych eval," Spencer blurts out, Hotch's probing eyes making him squirm in his seat. Hotch raises an eyebrow.
"I know, Reid. But we both know you're clever enough to run in circles around the bureau psychologists. So I'm not letting you into the field unless you can convince me you're really alright."
Spencer opens his mouth, and closes it again. Then he gulps down about half his coffee. Hotch is staring evenly at him.
"I'm… getting there," he finally admits, knowing – wanting – that Hotch can see right through him. He has to admit to himself that he likes the idea of Hotch being concerned for him. "I have nightmares. And I really want to go back to work, to get something else to think about." Hotch looks skeptical at that, and Spencer hurries to explain. "I'm not… suppressing it. Really, Hotch! But just because something bad happened to me, I don't want to spend every waking minute thinking about it. Or every sleeping one, for that matter. Would you believe I'd rather dream of beheaded bodies and raging psychopaths?" He tries a grin, but can feel it coming out wrong. Hotch still doesn't say anything, and Spencer silently curses the well-known interrogation-technique of letting the suspect – and that would be him – babble on until he reveals something compromising. And then Spencer babbles on to reveal something compromising:
"I wanted to go see you. But I was afraid you didn't want me to."
He is looking at his coffee as he says it, but at the silence he looks up just in time to see Hotch school his shocked expression back into neutral.
"Reid," Hotch finally says, and Spencer feels the butterflies bouncing around in his stomach as Hotch slowly reaches over and covers his hand with his own – everything but Hotch's profile hidden from the bullpen.
"I'm sorry you felt that way. I wanted to come see you. Every day. But I didn't want you to think I wanted more than you…"
"I know, I know," Spencer cuts him off, slightly annoyed. But he doesn't take his hand away from Hotch's warm grasp. "After you turned up that night when Emily was there, I thought you were mad at me," he admits. "That maybe you changed your mind about… the whole 'trying again under different circumstances'-thing." He looks up at Hotch, and doesn't even bother trying a smile. His quota is filled for the day.
Hotch looks as close to chagrined as Spencer has ever seen him.
"I'm sorry, Reid. Spencer."
Damn those butterflies.
"We'll talk more later. After work," Hotch says, squeezing his hand before letting go. Spencer nods, understands. But there's still another matter to discuss.
"Hotch, please let me back in the field. I promise, if I feel like I can't handle it, I'll let you know. I'd really like to get back to work. Besides, you know you'll miss me the moment a hard case pops up."
Spencer has no idea how much he'll come to regret those hopeful words.
He gets an inkling, however, when there's a knock at the door and JJ enters without waiting for an answer.
"Hotch," she says, and Spencer has never seen that particular expression on her face. It catches Hotch's attention as well, and makes him stand up.
"There's a new case," she says, her smile weak. "I'll get the others."
She leaves, and Spencer looks at Hotch, who's looking at him.
"Alright, Reid, you're coming on the case. But if I suspect anything, I'm confining you to the police station and the hotel. Understand?"
Spencer can barely contain his delight as he nods in agreement.
The rest of the team is around the table when Hotch and Spencer enter the meeting room. JJ is fiddling with the remote, and as they sit down, she turns on the screen. Spencer is faced with a fairly disgusting picture of a man – he thinks – who's had his torso ripped open, the intestines falling out. His neck is an open wound. Almost looks like…
"Did the unsub let an animal attack him?" he hears Morgan asking, echoing his own thoughts. JJ nods to the case file, and Spencer's already done reading by the time Morgan exclaims next to him.
"Both human and animal saliva in the wounds? So what, he let his dog rip out the throat, and then continued himself?"
Spencer frowns in thought. "Well, it's not unheard of. The killer might identify more with an animal, and wants to explore his primal side. He's probably fascinated with the order of nature, where the strong prey on the weak. I mean, it says in the file that the victims were shredded by something that could only really be animal claws – even if tools were used, it would take almost inhuman strength to rip open a body like that," he muses, sifting through the pictures looking like they belong in a low-budget horror movie.
He looks up, and discovers that no-one is paying attention to him – everyone is looking at JJ. She's pale, and she tries to laugh it off.
"I talked with the chief of police, Dexter Brown. He says they know who the killer is."
Everyone sits up straighter and their expressions range from incredulity to impatience. "If they know who the killer is, why do they need our help?" Morgan asks pointedly, his hands hovering over the case file as if he's already on his way to dismiss it.
"They know who the killer is, but they don't know how to catch… him," JJ is saying. "They know the killer is going for certain victims, but they can't make the connection. Chief Brown told me his predecessor almost caught the killer forty-three years ago, but then… he escaped."
"And has been in hiding for forty-three years?" Rossi asks, looking pensive. "Could it be a son who's taken up the killing, as we've seen before?" Prentiss nods at that suggestion, but JJ shakes her head.
"No, it's the same… person. Chief Brown told me. The whole town knows."
She takes a deep breath, and Spencer feels an ominous chill race down his spine.
"The killer is a werewolf."