A/N: First things first guys; this is a Reid/Prentiss story. Because they need so much love it's not even funny. Be ye warned, however; there will not be much fluffyness, and no sudden falling-into-bed. I've tried to make this as in-character as possible. Let's hope it turned out okay. XD
This story is about 24 chapters long. I will be updating twice a week, Monday and Thursday. Because this story also features JJ, I will be mostly disregarding the events of Season Six. But all fanfiction is an alternate universe anyway, right? Right!
Disclaimer: I do not own Criminal Minds.
Hope you enjoy!
Chapter 1: Emily
It all happened so fast.
"Emily, cover me," he threw over his shoulder, and then approached the unsub, hands raised. Harriet Summers (paranoid schizophrenic; shot anyone she happened to find in an unmarked white van) was trying to stare him down. She couldn't, of course; one eye was being rubbed at by her left hand. Her right was preoccupied keeping her pistol aimed between his eyes. His own gun was strapped to his waist, a useless lump of metal and powder.
"Dammit, Reid," he heard Prentiss growl.
Looking back, it was hard to pinpoint his motives in those last few minutes. It was true Summers was cornered (in her own home even; the serial murderess was propped up against a dusty treadmill in what may have been a rec room in happier times), and it was true that, with the rest of their team on the way, she was outnumbered. But Summers was also something else; a very ill, very lonely woman. The towels duct-taped across all her windows were proof enough of that. She'd been abandoned by her husband and children. She was in her early fifties. Her eyes were the most desperate, and yet clearest shade of blue.
Later, Spencer Reid would remember and think, 'None of this would have happened if she hadn't looked so much like my mother.'
Somewhere in the street, someone was playing Low Rider on their car stereo.
"Mrs. Summers," he said. "My name is Dr. Spencer Reid. I-"
"Fascist!" she hissed, and the gun did a nervous jitterbug in her hands. "You work for Them. Came to finish all this ding-dong at last?"
"I'm here to help you. I know people who can work with your condition." Better than most, he added internally.
"With my condition? With my condition! Oh, I bet you can help those of us with MY condition!" she yelled at the walls, as if at eavesdroppers lurking within. Reid took another small step-forward and she jumped, shrieking. "Don't come any closer! I'll get a bullet in you before you get anything in me!"
"I'm unarmed, Mrs. Summers," he said softly.
Behind him, Prentiss sighed, because she saw what he saw -sanity, if only a glimmer of it, in Summers' eyes. She'd frozen, glanced him up and down -and then seemed puzzled. As if he'd pulled off a complicated magic trick instead of pointing out the obvious. Come one, come all to see the amazing Spenzini, watch in amazement as he makes government conspiracies disappear before your very eyes! Ta-da!
Summers lowered her gun.
"Get it off her, Reid," he heard Prentiss whisper. Outside, Low Rider was drowned out by the approach of sirens.
Summers spoke before he could: "If you're not gonna kill me, how could a commie string bean like you help me?"
The squad cars were parking; he only had to stall for a little while longer... "My mother is schizophrenic too, Mrs. Summers. She functions quite well, with the aid of doctors. I can get you into their care, if you wanted." Two lies and one truth, he thought dizzily.
She was eyeing him, "Your mama is like me?"
A loud crash; Morgan was breaking down the door. Summers ignored it, "And do you...love your mama?"
"...I..." he swallowed, and switched tacts. "I know you haven't seen your children in over ten months. Two daughters and a son? You can see-"
Prentiss saw his mistake before he did.
"Reid!" she yelled, at the same moment Summers was wailing "I KNEW IT! YOU'VE BEEN HIDING THEM FROM ME, I WANT MY BABIES BACK YOU GOVERNMENT PIGS!"
"Mrs. Summ-!" he gasped.
The gun was raised and fired; he was thrown backwards into the hallway.
But not by the bullet.
For Emily Prentiss, those last few moments were very clear. Almost choreographed, and she'd long since mastered all the steps. Reid wasn't even supposed to be here with her; he'd been told to work his genius mojo back at the police station. But he'd come out to play with the big boys yet again, and now here he was throwing himself in the line of fire...again.
Goddamn, it really was like choreography, wasn't it?
She heard the team coming, the unmistakable sounds of Morgan tackling something, and knew they would get there in time to catch the unsub, but not to stop what was about to happen. Reid mentioned children and Summers hopped right back on the crazy train. She was raising the gun; Reid and his motormouth hadn't noticed yet. He knew too much for his own good, but she knew some things too, and one of them was that if a bullet ever hit that skinny body it would probably shatter into a million pieces. He was too young, too vulnerable and too... Reid.
Well, she could take it. She could always take it.
Springing up from her crouched position in the hall, she grabbed her young team member by the collar and tossed him behind her with enough force to make him choke. He landed on his back with a yelp that was eaten by the sound of Summers' pistol.
A black and splintering hole opened up in Emily's chest. Pain hit her like a sudden overwhelming light -and then there was darkness.
The team made it up the stairs just in time to see her crumple in the rec room door.
It was as if the world had become a really cheesy montage.
For the most part the darkness stretched on, but sometimes she was able to draw enough strength to force open her eyes. Light hit them like shards of glass, but still she struggled to focus. She had to see. She had to know that Reid was okay.
The first thing she saw was an EMT...and she felt herself being carried, lifted onto a stretcher...or was she already on the stretcher? She didn't know. Her eyelids dragged down like weights.
"Are you awake?" A young, panicky voice asked. "Miss Prentiss, you're going to be-"
The next time she was able to force herself awake, she saw Hotch. He was sitting somewhere to her left, and from the way his body was slightly rocking she knew they must be in an ambulance. His arms were crossed and his scowl was just as present as ever. The image was so familiar it was almost absurd. She could have laughed.
Waving her hand a little, she caught Hotch's attention. He leaned in close enough for her to smell his aftershave, and she managed to whisper: "Feels like I'm drowning."
The lines in his face deepened.
"Doctor," he said to someone she couldn't see. "My agent's lung has just collapsed. Would you mind getting off your ass and doing your job?"
Prentiss stared. Gee, she thought, Hotch said a cuss. He must really care.
The young EMT -too young, why were all these fricken young people in the field?- let out a flustered yelp, and scrabbled to find the right tube or needle or whatever it was he was going to stick in her. Her superior agent loomed overhead, and it was under his dark but protective stare that she slipped away yet again.
"Hold on, she's awake...Emily, can you hear me?"
She was definitely on a stretcher this time. Inside too...the overhead lights bounced off the white walls with obnoxious heat. A hospital, then. How could anyone think so much white could be soothing? It was like being trapped inside a light bulb.
Hotch again, leaning into her line of vision. "You're about to go into surgery. You're going to be fine."
There was a tube down her throat. It was making an awful sucking noise, and it hurt like hell, but hell apparently wasn't as painful as a bullet to the chest. Still, she had to know.
"Reid's fine. He was totally unharmed." Hotch said at once.
For a brief moment, relief overcame the pain. But only briefly.
Hotch's head seemed to fading; she was being rolled away.
"I'll be here when you wake up."
She wanted to say thank you.
Reid kept waiting for someone to blame him. At first with dread -Rossi's disappointment, Hotch's cold but passionate disapproval, he awaited them like a child awaits admonishment from their parents.
Two ambulances were called, one for him (what a joke...he'd barely hit his head on the way down. The EMT just gave him a flat look and an ice pack), and one for her...Hotch announced he would be the one to ride in, and the team watched in silence as they were loaded up and driven away.
But the speechless moments became minutes, and when no one started pointing the well-earned finger, his dread changed first to confusion, and then to a strange breed of anger. Why weren't they angry with him? He'd clearly fucked up...or were they really going to baby him so much as to let him get away with it? As if it wasn't bad enough he was always kiddy-cornered...
"You did the best you could," Rossi said, interrupting his thoughts.
"Yeah, don't go all emo on us now kid," Morgan added, wearing a ghost of his usual smirk.
Reid gaped, blinking at both his fellow agents. The three of them were perched in the back of the second ambulance, waiting for JJ to finish up with the press. "Wha-?"
Morgan shook his head, "Profilers, remember? Listen, Prentiss is going to be fine. She's a tough lady. You remember that, okay?"
"And what if she's not?" his voice broke. "Then what am I supposed to do?"
"Then you deal," Rossi said, without a missing a beat.
"That's another thing us profilers do," Morgan stood, fixing his gaze somewhere out in space. "We deal."
Eventually JJ managed to fight off the crowd, and they all piled into their black SUV to meet with Hotch at the hospital. When they arrived she was already in surgery, and he was folded into one of the waiting room chairs, his hand hanging clasped between his legs. Nurses and doctors rushed all around, barely paying the odd group anything more than a few curious glances. How is she, they asked. Not good, he said, but there's no reason to believe she won't pull through. The rest of their conversation was stilted and seldom, and during Reid realized that he was not the only BAU member bearing guilt. Though she tried to hide it, JJ blamed herself.
It was easy to deduce her thought process. If she hadn't let him leave the station, this wouldn't have happened.
He grimaced; leave it to JJ to assume responsibility for his actions. It was good that Diana had talked William Reid out of having more children; he had all the brothers and sisters he could stand right here in the workplace.
At some point Garcia and Kevin joined them, the former nearly beside herself.
"What's going on? What happened?" she demanded, and they explained. He didn't miss the quick look Garcia shot him out of the corner of her glasses -logically, she only did so out of concern for his well-being, but he could not fight down the sudden intuition that she, like all the others, was secretly blaming him.
Hours passed, until finally a doctor with a clipboard approached them. Hotch and Reid were the first to stand.
"The surgery?" Hotch said, getting straight to the point. Reid wished he was able to speak without his voice cracking.
"It went well," the Doctor said. Behind him, Reid heard everyone sigh. "Of course she'll have to stay here for a few days yet, and rest at home will be crucial. You people are her..." he gave them a sweeping glance. "...work buddies, I assume?"
"Work buddies? We're the FBI and we're reduced to 'work buddies'?" grumbled Rossi; but the relief was clear on his face.
"Can we see her?" Reid finally managed to blurt out.
The doctor gave him a hard look, and then: "Not just yet. It is best you all return tomorrow. She won't be fully awake 'til then anyway."
"I'll stay overnight with her," Hotch announced. "You all go home and sleep for tomorrow. That's an order." He added when he saw Garcia and Morgan open their mouths.
The group sighed again - this time of regret, and began to disperse. Reid stuffed his hands in his pockets and headed down the hall, speaking to no one.
His apartment building was old. The brick was faded and the neighbours still hung their laundry out their windows, but Reid didn't especially mind. He thought it was almost picturesque; a photograph of a time he hadn't been a part of. Morgan could have his four properties, but Reid? All Reid needed was a roof over his head and a place to put his books.
It was just dark when his old car chugged to a stop in front of the apartment. Even without rolling down his windows, he could hear a TV blaring somewhere (one woman on his floor was practically deaf, and always had her stories on at full volume). Otherwise, the street was quiet. He twisted his key out of the ignition and slumped in the dark, squeezing his eyes shut.
He was aching for the needle.
It was a weary sort of ache...one he supposed he might have for the rest of his life. That was just the way dilaudid worked. It stayed with you forever. A lot like images of the dead. A lot like guilt.
"Get over it," he muttered. It wasn't like he even had the drugs anymore anyway. They'd been flushed down the toilet long ago. He remembered it well; the shaking had lasted all night. Besides, even if he COULD shoot up, getting high wouldn't make Prentiss...
The car door crashed open without him even being aware that he was touching it, but still he didn't get up. He didn't want to go inside until the craving had passed. That would contaminate the place, somehow. He breathed deep...and caught the scent of a nearby barbeque.
His stomach rumbled.
He breathed again, salivating as the smell of roasting meat filled his lungs. The ache began to subside...replaced by an equally urgent one in his stomach that coffee would not subdue. He was so hungry...how had he not noticed before?
Food, he thought, and was able to push all else aside...for now. He dragged himself out of the car, into the building and up the stairs, barely taking in the latest graffiti in the stairwell. The hall was barely lit, as usual. The landlord never changed the bulbs. The smell of the barbeque was long gone, abandoned in the darkening night, but still his thoughts lingered on the leftover chicken he had in the back of the fridge. Or maybe he felt more like noodles...shame he didn't know how to barbeque because a steak really sounded-
He almost tripped over his own feet as he skidded to a stop.
The hall was silent.
"I wondered when you'd get here," said the bulky figure sitting at his apartment door. The shadows of the evening concealed the man's face, but Reid knew that soft, insinuating voice anywhere. It was all but always present in his dreams, underscoring the loneliest of his nightmares. He was vaguely aware that his jaw was hanging open, but found he didn't care.
"I forgot how the hours at the BAU are," the man continued, forcing as much wistfulness into the words as they could stand. Beefy but oddly delicate hands were tucking a paperback in his jacket, making a show of the simple gesture.
"When did you...get back?" said Reid.
He waved off the question as if it were a bothersome fly. Heaving himself to a standing position, he stepped into the light. The lopsided smile Reid knew so well was plastered on his face, his arms spread as if in welcome.
"Good to see you again, Spencer," said Jason Gideon. "You going to invite me in?"
A/N: If you've seen the episode where Gideon leaves, you'll see that Spencer has a way old-school car. So I gave him a way old-school apartment to go with it. Hope no one minds that.
Reviews make my day, so please leave one if you've read. See you next Thursday!