Lately I've realized I have an enormous propensity for not finishing what I start—and in this case, not even starting it. This story—as it's written—takes place in the middle of another, because I realized I just didn't have the time or patience to write the whole thing, which, if I were to give it the time of day, would probably be at least two novel-length fics. Nevertheless, it's been bouncing around my head for weeks and I had to write down the scenes that just wouldn't go away. So I'm posting this as a series of one-shots. That way there's no beginning, no end, and no disappointment when I inevitably stop posting. All you need to know: The team just finished a case where the unsub was lobotomizing victims a la Hannibal Lecter. All medical facts are courtesy of Wikipedia, so they're probably all wrong. Whatever.
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Dr. Hansen was sitting at her desk, her glasses perched at the end of her nose as she pored over some unknown patient's chart. The lights in her office were all off save for the dim lamp on her desk, indicating that she was probably getting ready to leave when he popped in, making Reid feel even more foolish than he already felt. He already knew what was going on, he'd been preparing for it his entire life. So this was…what? Affirmation? Yes, that sounded right. He knew what she was going to say, he just wasn't going to believe it until it came out of her mouth. He swallowed hard, and forgot to feel guilty over his interruption, so grateful he was that the lights were dim. God, his head…was this going to last the rest of his life? The ibuprofen he had taken an hour ago was doing nothing, and he was not going to take anything stronger, not going to compound the misery of a life spent alone and insane with a relapse into his drug addiction.
Addict, said the voice inside his head. Just the one word, but it was so…accusatory. Spencer wanted to punch himself in the head, to punch the voice, but that was irrational. Irrational.
Addict, the voice said again and Reid closed his eyes.
When he opened them, Dr. Hansen was inches away.
"Dr. Reid?" She was looking at him with an expression of concern, reaching into her pocket for her penlight, but Spencer managed to force a little smile onto his lips and took a step back before she could do anything further.
"Hi," he said. "Sorry, I must have startled you, I didn't mean to walk in on you when you were uh, finishing your paperwork."
"That's not what startled me," she said, withdrawing her hand from her pocket. "I was calling your name for thirty seconds, didn't you hear me?"
"What?" Reid swallowed a lump of panic which had swelled in his throat. How had he not heard her? What else had he missed in the past days, weeks, months? "Oh—sorry I was just thinking about the case—um, can I bother you for a second? I know you're busy…"
"No, come right in," said Dr. Hansen, frowning a little but stepping aside to open her office to him. "I was just thinking about your case as well…I'm here late because I haven't been sleeping well, actually, ever since…" She trailed off, swallowing hard. "I take it this means you haven't found him?"
"No, actually we did," said Spencer as he stepped around her. The chair in front of her desk was beckoning to him but she hadn't invited him to sit down yet, and for some reason, this prevented him from doing anything, made him nervous.
You can't even take a chair for yourself? Pathetic.
"Can I sit down?" he said, a little too loudly, squeezing his eyes shut again.
"Of course." Dr. Hansen crossed the room again, and took her own seat across from Spencer as he dropped into his, then gazing at him through her glasses. "Thank God you found him. I thought I was never going to be able to rest easy again."
"Well it was actually the information you gave us that led to his arrest," said Spencer. "It was incredibly helpful, I wanted to thank you. And let you know we caught him, of course." He laughed nervously.
Dr. Hansen nodded slowly. "But that's not why you're here, is it?"
Reid swallowed and then almost backed out, his brain reeling with a hundred different excuses for why he came; he told himself just to say, Yes, that is why he came and then excuse himself, he even smiled as if that was what he was about to say, but then tears welled in his eyes unexpectedly and he dropped his head in shame.
"Is this about the headaches?"
Spencer was so surprised by this that his head snapped up, letting a tear fall down his face. He wiped it away hastily, and if Dr. Hansen saw she didn't say anything but held her gaze steady on his face.
"How did you know?"
"Sensitivity to light, nausea, constantly rubbing your head…I'm a neurologist, I know a migraine when I see one. How long have you been getting them?"
Reid took a deep shaky breath.
"I used to get them all the time when I was in college but they went away…they went away for a long time. Then about three weeks ago I started getting them all the time. I haven't—I haven't told my boss, but it's starting to affect my performance so I was wondering if I could talk to you."
"Of course," said Dr. Hansen. "You all did this community a huge favor by tracking down that man, I can give you the courtesy of a consult. What have you been taking for the headaches?"
"Well, I started out taking acetaminophen when I thought they were just headaches, and I've been alternating that with ibuprofen, but those haven't really helped. I was going to get a prescription for some sort of triptan, but…I haven't really had much time," he concluded lamely.
"Has the acetaminophen helped with the spasms at all?"
Once again Reid was surprised. He may not have been able to hide the headaches, especially once the phantom smells started, but he thought he had at least been able to conceal the painful tremors which had been tearing at his hands and quadriceps all week. Again, he swallowed hard.
"Are you in much pain from those?"
Once again he wanted to lie, to make this seem like less than it was, but when he opened his mouth the truth came out in one simple word: "Yes."
Dr. Hansen didn't miss a beat. "Have you considered taking something stronger to manage the pain?"
Too quickly, Reid said, "I'm not taking any narcotics."
At this Dr. Hansen leaned across her desk, resting her chin on her folded hands.
"How long have you been clean?"
At this Reid gave a short, incredulous laugh and couldn't help but break eye contact. "You really don't miss much do you?"
She smiled. "That's from being a psychologist. How long?"
"Almost four years."
"Good for you," she said softly. Then she leaned back, her expression observant, calculating. "Well, Dr. Reid, I can give you a prescription to treat these without narcotics, if you want, but I have a feeling you didn't come to my office at this hour just for a prescription for migraines. There's no shame in a headache, but you don't want your team to know that you're here. What's really going on, Dr. Reid? Why are we meeting off the record instead of just making an appointment? For that matter, why come to see me rather than your PCP? Migraines aren't exactly foreign to general practitioners; they're just as qualified as I am to give you a prescription."
Reid laughed nervously again. "You should be a profiler," he said. Dr. Hansen continued to stare at him, so he cleared his throat. "It's actually your degree in psychology that has me here, Dr. Hansen."
Dr. Hansen pressed two fingers to her lips and nodded for him to continue. Spencer's eyes found a scratch on the corner of her desk, on which he chose to focus to avoid the intensity of her gaze.
Don't tell the bitch.
"My mother's a paranoid schizophrenic."
Not another word, motherfucker.
"And I've been hearing voices."
Dr. Hansen didn't flinch.
"For how long?"
"Um…about as long as I've had the headaches, I think."
"And how long have you had the tremors and spasms?"
"Uh…just a week."
"Any phantom smells or visual hallucinations?"
"Yeah, I keep smelling rotting—rotting flesh. But I haven't seen anything, it's just the—the auditory hallucinations."
"Mostly in the mornings, but it's not as frequent as the other symptoms."
"Blurred vision, trouble concentrating?"
"Yes." Reid frowned. These were all his symptoms, and he knew they all matched up with schizophrenia, but there was something about hearing them all laid out like this which didn't quite add up, though his pain-addled mind couldn't put it all together, and trying just made his head throb harder. He forced himself back to Dr. Hansen, who was speaking again.
"Dr. Reid, I'm certain you've done a fair amount of research into schizophrenia, so I hope you won't mind that I ask you a few questions."
Reid shook his head.
"Dr. Reid, do you know what age most cases of schizophrenia present by?"
"Nineteen to twenty-nine, but—"
"And what's one thing that's almost certain to bring out a schizophrenic episode in a person who is prone to the disease?"
"Prolonged drug addiction, but—"
"And Dr. Reid, what is the very definition of a paranoid schizophrenic?"
"Inability to tell between reality and fantasy…"
"Exactly," said Dr. Hansen, leaning forward once more. "Dr. Reid, you just used the term, 'auditory hallucinations.' Not once in twenty years have I heard a paranoid schizophrenic use that phrase in my office. On top of that, have you ever heard of a case with such rapid progression of symptoms? It would be...extremely rare, Dr. Reid. Not impossible—and your symptoms do match up with those of a paranoid schizophrenic—but at this point it would be extremely irresponsible of us not to explore other options."
There was a sharp buzzing in Reid's ears, like someone had poured bees into his head. This was…not what she was supposed to be saying. He had come in here bracing himself for his life to be altered—inevitably, irreversibly altered—but she wasn't delivering the blow. So she was saying…he wasn't crazy? That didn't sound right, but his head was pounding, and the information was so hard to process. What, if not insanity?
"Dr. Reid," said Hansen, not mentioning his blank stare. "I'm going to schedule you for a CT scan right away—in fact, if you're available, I'm going to pull some strings and get you in tonight. The rapid advancement of the symptoms you're describing to me has me more than a little worried, to be honest. It's an outpatient procedure, of course, but is there anyone you want to call before we go down to radiology? These things can be a little scary, especially when the outcome is unknown. It would be good to have someone here with you."
Spencer lifted his head, which felt uncharacteristically heavy and dull.
"You're saying I might not be crazy?"
"I'm saying I want to rule out every other possibility before we come to that conclusion. Do you have someone you want to call?"
Reid still could not fathom the implications of what she's telling him, but through the haze and heaviness one thought managed to leave his mouth with some semblance of coherence.
"No," he said. "There's no one."