Disclaimer: I do not own Criminal Minds or its characters.
This is a one-shot in response to a challenge by TheSundayBlues. So, thanks goes to you for the story idea!
Warning: mentions hurting a child.
Enjoy! ...Hmm that sounds kind of bad after the previous statement, but I can't think of a better word...
I appreciate any reviews and comments!
Three weeks. That was how long Reid had been avoiding the use of an elevator whenever and wherever possible. On a few rare occasions, he had been unable to, for fear of his teammates asking unwanted questions, and had been forced to endure a few minutes of silent, but well-hidden panic.
This was one of those unlucky times.
He would never be able to use the excuse of wanting to take the stairs for health reasons; he was already plenty skinny. That would definitely earn him some worried looks. He couldn't think of any other viable excuse, except for the lame explanation of forgetting something at his desk, but he had already used that one a couple of times. If he kept saying that, surely they might think the genius with an eidetic memory was starting to lose it.
He almost felt like he was losing it, though. Taking any and all possible precautions in order to avoid having to take the elevator took a lot more effort than he would have thought. But that effort was mainly multiplied by the fact that he also tried to make sure none of the members of his team saw him taking the stairs. They would be quick to notice the change. A couple of times he had been caught, but thankfully not by the same person, so he just shrugged it off and told them he had just felt like taking the stairs.
In his nervousness, he realized he was unconsciously hesitating to enter the elevator. If he didn't move his legs soon, the rest of the team would notice his pause and question it. He might be able to brush it off and make up an excuse, but he wasn't sure he would be able hide the fear and worry from his eyes, especially from a group of profilers.
He forced himself to clear his thoughts and took the few steps needed to enter the elevator. Fortunately, the rest of the team was too preoccupied to look at him too closely. His entire team was in the elevator with him, and he briefly wondered when last time was that they had all left at the same time at the end of a regular work day. His mind quickly recalled the last time that had happened, and it made him realize just how rare this actually was.
The doors of the elevator closed.
He could do this. He'd done it before. He could make the short, though seemingly long, trip down to the ground floor. He was grateful for the fact that his input didn't seem to be needed in the conversation around him, though he was sure he felt a watchful eye on him. He looked up to find that he was right. It was Hotch's scrutinizing gaze that he felt. The older man didn't even move his gaze away as Reid looked up at him, which made Reid feel all the more nervous. Clearly, he wasn't hiding this as well as he thought.
But he knew Hotch wasn't going to say anything, maybe keep a close watch on him in the future, but he wouldn't say anything to him right now. Especially with the rest of the team right next to them. For now, Reid just needed to get off the elevator, and he would be in the clear for at least a little while longer.
He had expected riding in the elevator would cause memories and flashbacks to come up, but so far, he had been able to keep them at bay in the few short rides. What he had not been expecting, however, was being stuck in the elevator for more than a few minutes at a time. A few minutes, he could handle. Any longer? Well, apparently, it was time for him to now find out.
The elevator suddenly lurched, before stopping completely. At first it was a nice distraction from his worrying thoughts, his concern shifting to everyone else in the elevator. But after a quick assessment that everyone was fine, his thoughts turned back to the major problem at hand: he was going to be stuck in here for longer than the normal couple-minute ride. The thought of how long that could possibly be outright scared him.
It could be a minute to hours, even. He was hoping – praying – it was the former. He may be able to hold off the fear quelling up inside him for awhile, but he really didn't want to test out just how long he could last, not with an audience of close friends in a small, confined space.
He tried to put all of his attention on the conversation around him to distract himself. From what his mind was allowing him to take in, the emergency phone was not working. Great. No one's cell phone had service either. Even more great. Just how long would it be until someone even realized the elevator was stuck? It was later in the evening, so there wasn't an abundance of people in the building. And even then, when someone did finally realize it, it could still take a while to get them out.
Eventually, the others started to sit down. Even Hotch and Rossi got comfortable on the floor, and Reid followed suit, though he felt better standing. When he was standing, he could shift his weight, dig his hands deep into his pockets, and he felt more in control. Sitting down, however, he was afraid his nerves would come to light. In a space this small and crowded, the others would be sure to notice.
He could tell Hotch was still watching him, probably even closer now, and he could also tell he had gained another unwanted watchful pair of eyes. Rossi was starting to glance his way every now and then, though much more subtly than Hotch had been. His quietness was what probably had alerted Rossi and earned Hotch's deepening gaze, he reasoned. He hadn't said a word since entering the elevator, which would have gone unnoticed if it had been a regular, quick ride.
But this obviously wasn't a regular ride, and it wasn't going to be quick.
"Are you okay, Reid?" Rossi's voice broke into his thoughts. He apparently felt the need to finally voice his concern.
"Yeah. Fine. Why?" Reid responded, trying to keep his voice as calm and normal as he could.
"You just seem kind of quiet," Rossi answered simply, while Hotch silently watched the interaction between the two.
"Just tired, I guess," Reid said in what he hoped was a believable manner.
Rossi didn't comment any further, indicating that his answer had been acceptable. Either that, or he was just letting it go for now, which Reid guessed was much more likely. He wasn't going to be able to fool a group of well-seasoned profilers; it was just that simple.
After a while, he noticed his hands were trembling slightly. He clasped them together in an effort to stop them, or at the very least, keep it from getting worse. He hoped nobody had noticed this before he had. He glanced around, but no one was giving him curious looks, so he felt he was safe for now. It took a lot of concentration to keep the tremor from moving to some other part of his body. His hands, he could hide; his legs shaking, on the other hand, would definitely be more visible.
He was beginning to realize that Morgan's attention, though still staying involved in the conversation at hand, was shifting towards him, too. Ignore it, he told himself. He wasn't going to do himself any good by worrying about what was going through everyone else's mind. He needed to focus on clearing his own.
He leaned his head back against the wall of the elevator, trying to shut away all of the images that were creeping into his mind and making their way to the forefront. It was like his mind was playing some sort of sick game with him, taunting him with the images he was trying so hard to keep out. He was beginning to come to the problematic conclusion that it wasn't going to be a matter of if he lost it, but when.
Despite this realization, when he opened his eyes again, he felt a bit better, a bit more in control. But that feeling was quickly taken away as he realized with dread that everyone's eyes were now on him.
He debated whether or not he should comment, but decided against it in fear that his voice would betray him. Instead, he pretended like nothing was out of the ordinary, though clearly, everyone saw that something was. They kept watching him and silently talking to one another with concerned glances.
Maybe he had closed his eyes longer than he had thought. The conversation had either finished off, or was cut short by their worry. He waited for someone to say something to him; it was inevitable now.
But if they had been planning on questioning him, they were interrupted before they could. The lights in the elevator suddenly went out. The emergency backup lights kicked in after a moment, but it was too late. Reid's mind was already someplace else entirely.
The small eleven-year-old boy held his mother's hand, for her sake more than his own, and led her towards the elevator.
"Spencer, you know I don't like confined spaces," the woman complained.
"It'll be okay," the young boy encouraged as he pressed the button and waited. "It's only two floors up."
As the doors opened, the woman reluctantly followed the boy inside. She did nothing to hide her nerves as the doors closed, and the boy continued the comforting gesture of holding her hand. As the elevator started moving, the woman began ranting.
"Spencer, you got me to come here with you. You could at least me take the stairs."
"We're almost there."
The elevator reached the desired floor, but as they waited, the doors didn't open.
"Why aren't the doors opening, Spencer? What's wrong? I told you we should have taken the stairs!"
The little boy began pressing buttons on the wall, but nothing happened. A few seconds later, they were succumbed into darkness.
He was confused. The name resonated within the small space, but it was not the voice of his mother. It was a male voice. Through his confusion, he could feel the air of worry around him. He could also sense the people. He didn't like small spaces, but he had never reached the point of being claustrophobic. Now, however, he felt as though the walls were closing in on him. Coupled by the fact that the space was also being occupied by six other people, the unknown fear was manifesting itself inside him.
As Reid tried to tear his mind away from the flashback, he noticed two things: one, every one of his team members now knew that something was very wrong, and two, complete silence filled the elevator, apart from heavy breathing. And that heavy breathing, he realized, was his own.
"Reid. Come on, man. You need to breathe."
Another male voice, but a different one this time. He held onto it. He tried to grasp his mind on it in an effort to bring himself back to reality. The only problem was, in reality, he couldn't breathe. The narrowing walls had finally reached him, allowing no give as they pressed down on him.
Logic told him that the walls were not, in fact, crushing him. No one else felt this heavy weight; therefore, he should not feel it either.
No one else was panicking – if they were, it was for an entirely different reason – therefore, he should not panic either.
But no one else had been through what he had been through before.
It was hard for him to wrap his brain around it. He could keep arguing with himself, filling his mind with arguments and counterarguments, but the lightheadedness that was starting to creep into him told him he should start to focus on his breathing. Apparently, his body was beginning to agree with the voice that was still talking to him.
The voice. Focus on the voice.
"Come on, Reid. Breathe with me."
He did as instructed, trying as hard as he could to breath in time with the owner of the voice. His 'breathing coach' was emphasizing his own breathing for his benefit only, Reid knew, and he was grateful for that. Again, it was something to hold on to.
The lightheadedness slowly began to fade, and he was starting to become more aware of his surroundings again. There was a hand on his shoulder. It belonged to the voice, his breathing coach: Morgan. Morgan was on one side of him, while Hotch was on the other. He could tell the others were all watching the scene unfold before them with undoubted concern.
When his breathing had apparently reached Morgan's satisfaction, Morgan returned his breathing back to normal. Reid stayed focused on his own breathing, though, until he felt it safe to relax slightly.
"Are you okay now?" Morgan asked.
Reid nodded. He wasn't sure if he would be able to speak. But he was obviously not okay, and he knew that Morgan and the rest of the team knew that. They'd probably allow him a few more minutes to collect himself before they would start asking questions. He didn't want to think about the now wholly unavoidable questions. Too much thought and worry into how he was going to answer them was almost enough to cause a repeat of the previous episode.
Morgan's hand left his shoulder, and he and Hotch backed away a little, giving him some much needed space. Reid was still trembling slightly, and he felt as though his heartbeat was never going to return back to normal. He spent the next few minutes with his eyes closed, trying to force his mind blank. When that wasn't working, he opened his eyes again, not at all surprised to find everyone watching him.
Then came the first of many unwanted questions.
"Reid, what's going on?" Hotch asked.
"Can it wait?" Reid answered in a vain attempt to prolong the inevitable conversation. He was met with a stern gaze. Though the gaze was filled with concern, it also reminded him that they weren't exactly going anywhere anytime soon.
"Reid." This time it was Morgan. His tone was commanding, yet concerning, just as Hotch's gaze had been. "Talk to us."
"I... I don't even think I know where to begin," Reid said slowly and quietly.
"Why not start with what just caused you to have a panic attack," Hotch suggested.
Reid took a deep breath before speaking. "Being stuck in here," he glanced around the small space, "I guess it brought up a bad memory."
"About what?" Morgan encouraged, seeing his hesitation.
"When... when I was eleven, my mother and I went to the library." Reid could feel the tension increase in the room. The others knew any mention of his mother, especially in this situation, couldn't be something good. They knew it was a touchy topic for him.
"It was one of the rare times I got her to leave the house," he continued. "We went in the elevator even though I knew she hated them. We got stuck. The lights went out, and she... she freaked. She started having an... an episode."
"It's them. I know it is."
"It's no one, mom," the small boy encouraged as best he could through the darkness. "It's just a malfunction."
"That's what they want you to think, Spencer. I told you, we should have never left the house. We shouldn't have come in here. We walked right into their trap!"
"Mom, it's not a trap. Someone will come and fix it." The boy reached into his pocket and pulled out a small pen light he had made a habit of carrying with him. Turning it on seemed to set the woman off even farther.
"You're in on this, aren't you?"
"Don't lie to me, Spencer!"
"I'm not lying!"
"They've corrupted my son!" The woman's voice was becoming more hysterical, emphasized by the echo off the walls of the small space. "No! No! No! You're not my son! My son wouldn't turn against me!"
"Mom, please calm down," the young boy pleaded.
In the near darkness, the woman turned towards the boy, as if just now realizing he was there. "What have you done with my son?" she shrieked accusingly.
"It's me, mom," the boy tried to get the woman to recognize him, tear streaks now staining his face.
"What have you done with Spencer?"
He felt his own hands crawl up to his neck as he once again struggled to breathe. At some point in his story telling, a few tears must have fallen down his face. He could feel the wetness there. His trembling had increased, and dark spots were beginning to cloud his vision. The memory was too much for him right now, and judging by the sudden movement around him, the others had also realized this.
Hands were grabbing his arms, trying to move them away from his neck while holding him steady. The voice was back, telling him to breathe once again. Even with as much effort as he put into it, though, he could not focus on the voice this time. He shook his head, trying to shake away the images.
Logic. Logic. Logic.
He was with his team, not his mother.
The hands on him were trying to help, not hurt.
The voice he heard was Morgan's, not his screaming mother's.
And he could breathe, despite the fact that his body seemed to completely disagree with him.
Find the voice.
"Reid, listen to me. You're not there."
Good. He found it. Now he needed focus on it.
"You're stuck in an elevator, but not with your mother. It's Morgan. You're with me."
He vaguely wondered if he had been voicing his logic out loud.
"And Hotch, Rossi, Prentiss, JJ, and Garcia. Focus on us, kid."
Morgan. Morgan was on one side of him, one hand on his shoulder, the other holding one of his arms.
Hotch. Hotch was on the other side, holding his other arm.
Rossi. Rossi was across from him, clearly wanting to help but also wanting to give him space.
Prentiss. Prentiss was standing, worried, but calm.
JJ. JJ was standing, too, though looking as though tears were about to fall at any moment from worry alone.
And Garcia. Garcia had already let the tears fall.
His mother was not here. He was not the eleven-year-old boy trapped in an elevator with his schizophrenic mother while she was having a violent episode.
He could breathe again. The hands released his arms, though the hand on his shoulder stayed.
"I'm sorry," he whispered as he wiped the tears from his face.
"Reid, we of all people understand," Morgan responded. "You have nothing to apologize for."
Reid was quiet for a few minutes before he spoke again. He kept his gaze to the floor. "Did you... did you know that violence is not a symptom of schizophrenia?"
The rest of the team was staring at him. By the looks on their faces, he knew they understood what his statement was leading to.
"Reid, you don't need to tell us the rest," Hotch said. "We shouldn't have pushed you in the first place."
Reid didn't look up, and still continued. "The most common type of violence is usually to one's self, but if their delusion is strong enough, they can... they can become violent towards others. She... she..."
"Reid, look at me," Morgan ordered gently, and Reid obeyed. "You don't need to tell us."
"No. I think I'm okay now," Reid answered. "Talking about it helps... I've... I've never told anyone before," he added quietly. "She," he swallowed slowly as he continued, "she choked me, almost to the point that I blacked out."
"Why didn't you tell anyone, Spence?"
Reid looked up towards JJ. She had stopped trying to hold the tears back, and they slid slowly down her face. "I... I don't know," he answered. "She doesn't even remember it happening. I would have been taken away from her. I didn't have any family to live with, and I had no idea where my dad was... I think... I thought I could handle dealing with my mother better than I could the foster care system. And it was just a freak incident. I was sure it wouldn't happen again as long as I avoided situations like that... And it didn't," he answered before they could ask.
"Reid," Morgan began slowly. "No offense, but in all the years we've known you, I think we would have noticed a fear of elevators."
"Three weeks," Reid answered.
"They haven't really bothered me until three weeks ago," he clarified. "I've been avoiding the elevator whenever I could for the past three weeks."
"What happened three weeks ago?" Prentiss asked.
"The case in Wyoming," Rossi answered before Reid could.
Reid nodded. A woman had strangled her own child before they even had a chance to stop her.
"You should have said something if the case was getting to you," Hotch told Reid.
"It didn't really get to me until after we came back, after I actually got into an elevator."
"I'm sorry, kid," Morgan said. "I knew it must have been tough with your mom, but I had no idea."
"I learned to focus on the good memories. There were enough of those to keep me going and make it worth it." Reid paused. "I... I, uh..."
"Reid, what's wrong?" Morgan asked.
"Dizzy..." Reid mumbled. Though he was sitting down, he felt himself swaying slightly. Once again, the people around him suddenly shifted. If he had been standing, he was sure he would have fallen to the ground. And even now, he felt the hands on his shoulders, gently guiding him the short distance to the floor.
Reid closed his eyes, urging the room to stop spinning above him. He was only vaguely aware of the people around him. When he opened his eyes again, he wasn't completely sure if he had actually passed out or not. If he had, it wasn't for very long. Everyone's worried faces were staring down at him.
"I'm okay," he encouraged to try to lessen their worry. He tried to sit up but was pushed gently back down by Morgan.
"Relax, Reid. Just lie down for awhile, alright?"
Reid obeyed and gave up on the effort. Resting his head back against the floor, he sighed and closed his eyes for a moment, just now realizing how embarrassing the situation really was. But none of his teammates seemed to care. They only seemed concerned for him.
"Thank you, guys," he said, eyes still closed.
"For what?" Morgan asked.
"Kid, you know if something is ever bugging you, any one of us is listening, right?"
"Yeah," Reid answered slowly. "Some things I'd rather just not think about at all, though."
"Oh, I hear ya, honey."
Reid opened his eyes and looked up at Garcia, as did everyone else.
"What? Did I say something wrong?"
"No, baby girl," Morgan answered, shaking his head. "I think we all have some of those things."
Reid watched from his position on the ground as everyone turned quiet, and their minds fell into thought. He had an idea what some of them were thinking about, but others he had no clue.
"Am I allowed to sit up now?" he asked, bringing them all out of their reverie.
No one objected, so he took that as an answer that he could. He sat up and shifted himself so he was sitting in the same position he had been before. They sat for quite a while in silence, which Reid was grateful for. He was beginning to feel tired, though, while still feeling restless at the same time.
"You doing okay, Reid?" Morgan seemed to see it on him.
Reid nodded. "Just tired, and wanting to get out of here."
"I think we all do."
Reid leaned back and closed his eyes again. He knew he would drift off to sleep soon if he didn't open them, but he kept them closed anyway. He was tired, and all he wanted to do was sleep. It was something that could wait until they got out, but then again, he didn't know how much longer they would be stuck in here. He let himself slowly drift off, letting the knowledge that he was safely surrounded by his team comfort him.
He was jolted awake by the elevator moving. He was groggy, but still aware enough to realize he was not in the same sitting position he had fallen asleep in. He was lying on the floor again, though this time, there was something under his head as a make-shift pillow. A quick glance around told him that it was Hotch's suit jacket.
No one seemed to notice he was awake since they all seemed to be focused on the fact that the elevator was finally moving. It wasn't until he started to sit up that they had noticed.
"Feeling better?" Morgan asked.
Reid nodded. "How long was I out?"
"Over an hour."
"Oh..." Reid responded, amazed that he had been sleeping that long. It only felt like he'd been out for a few minutes at most. He let Morgan help him stand, latching onto him as an anchor as he swayed slightly. He closed his eyes for a moment, letting the feeling pass through him.
"Reid? You okay?"
"Yeah," he answered as he finally dared to open his eyes again.
"Come on. Let's get you out of here."
Until Morgan said those words, he hadn't even realized that the elevator had stopped, the doors were open, and they were finally free to leave.
The next hour was a bit of a blur for him. He refused to take a trip to the hospital, insisting that he just needed some rest. Morgan gave him a ride home, only leaving him alone reluctantly. All in all, he felt better that this burden was off his chest. He went straight to bed, his unusual exhaustion quickly getting the better of him.
As he slowly drifted off to sleep, he decided that he would listen to Hotch's suggestion of taking a couple of days off. He wasn't exactly sure what he would do with the extra time, but he knew he needed it.
Besides, it was the logical thing to do. And right now, logic was exactly what his mind needed.
The past is our definition. We may strive, with good reason, to escape it, or to escape what is bad in it, but we will escape it only by adding something better to it. ~ Wendell Berry