Disclaimer: see first chapter
Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides. ~Lao Tzu
"It's him!" he crows proudly, pointing a finger in the vague direction of the screen.
There's an advertisement playing for a local real estate agency. I've seen it before and nothing caught my attention, but it wouldn't be the first time the doctor has seen something I couldn't.
A huge guy with shoulders like a linebacker is standing on a lawn shaking the hands of a young couple with a baby. Everyone's smiles look forced; which, of course, they are.
It's supposed to be heartwarming and make the company look family oriented, but all I notice is the hulking realtor- a Neanderthal clad in what has to be a custom suit. Add a ski mask and put a bat in his hand, and voila- you have my attacker.
The realtor opens his mouth and I can almost smell the halitosis. He's spouting some cheesy line about "finding homes, not houses" but there's no mistaking the voice.
Realtor by day, caveman by night- the twisted double life of a superhero villain.
The number for the agency flashes on the bottom of the screen as the camera pans out to show a nice house in a cookie cutter neighborhood. The family is frozen in a demented nativity, grinning like idiots as the canned jingle plays.
A minute later I'm still gawking at the set (now playing an infomercial for a kitchen knife that can cut through aluminum cans) in disbelief.
Things move pretty quickly after this, like Reid has fed quarters into a machine that was previously out of order. Penelope finds names and dates, and tracks business transactions between Lombardi and the caveman, Pierce Chalmers. Lombardi isn't named on the company's payroll, but there is a title with a salary that disgusts me and I'm pretty sure that "consultant" is a euphemism for "hit man".
Chalmer's company, Chocolate City Realtors, was planning to buy all the buildings on Reid's street for several blocks. The property of land and businesses had been secured, with the exception of Winchell's Laundromat and Mrs. Lombardi's apartment complex.
The project couldn't move ahead until they agreed to sell.
It's like one of those dot to dot puzzles on a paper placemat- it's easy enough so the kids won't get frustrated, but time consuming so they're busy until the food arrives. The cat's nose and whiskers are drawn in, just in case the kid isn't very bright.
The PD connects the dots that Reid and Garcia have plotted as they reopen "their" investigation.
It all takes way longer than it does on CSI so it's sort of anticlimactic when they finally take Chalmers and Lombardi into custody. Maybe I'm naïve or just watching too much TV, but I'm a little disappointed that everything isn't wrapped up in forty-five minutes.
Some questions remain- there is no forensic evidence of an intruder in Charles Morales' apartment so the reason for his death is still unknown.
My money's on the snake.
The doctor doesn't get any credit publically- which might not be a bad thing. It probably wouldn't help the community's confidence in law enforcement if they knew the case had really been solved in a blind man's spare time.
The people who matter know what Reid has done, and that seems to be enough for him. Chalmers and Lombardi are behind bars.
Good people one, bad people zip.
Garcia and Morgan throw a surprise party at Reid's place on the evening of the arrests. Dozens of people pop out from behind furniture, apparently forgetting they don't need to hide from the guest of honor.
Everyone makes a lot of noise, and I'm pretty sure the doctor is only pretending to be startled when they shout "Surprise!"
He stands there grinning as he's showered with confetti (painstakingly hole punched by Penelope) and everyone rushes over and starts talking at once.
Simon spends the night with the dust bunnies under Reid's bed, but everyone else has a pretty good time. Neighbors pop in and out like gophers, expressing their relief that the killer has finally been caught.
The doctor receives fruit baskets for weeks. A cornucopia of good will and appreciation, fruit baskets are the gold standard in versatility.
Congratulations, gratitude, sympathy... They do it all.
Had a baby?
Your parakeet died?
Caught the murderer terrorizing my apartment complex?
(Slightly larger) fruit basket.
Justice has been served, but Reid still isn't hungry.
The thrill of the arrests fades and Reid's spirit just seems flat. One week passes, and then another; the doctor's still upset, but now he doesn't even have the case to distract him.
He leaves his briefcase at the office, and for once I wish he would revert back to his workaholic tendencies.
Instead he spends evenings and weekends on the couch pretending to watch science fiction marathons on the big screen.
He locks himself in his study listening to classical music at top volume, like he wants to be deaf as well. It's only because of his hero status that no one complains.
Hotch starts dropping by, always with an excuse- relaying an office memo that could have been emailed, returning an ugly cardigan that Reid left on the jet…
The doctor loses his temper with me over a pill.
His weight has improved marginally, but his diet is limited and I'm worried he's not getting all the proper nutrients. A daily multivitamin would give us, well me, peace of mind but he snaps at me like I'm an idiot when I suggest it, like I've proposed the use of asbestos to soundproof his study.
He's been crabby a lot lately, but as far as I know he's been feeling okay- or at least not any worse than usual. I'm getting tired of being treated like crap, so I finally say something.
"You solved the case pretty much single handedly, Reid. You should be happy, not sulking around and being mean to everyone," I blurt, the last part tumbling out by mistake.
He's silent for a long time, turning my words over carefully like a delicate crepe.
"I should be happy that my friend is dead?"
There's an awkward silence in which I mentally berate myself for my lack of tact. I'm supposed to be helping Reid, not making him feel even worse.
"Bad things happen… it's hard right now, but things will get better."
"It's just unfair that she's gone. It's like, if we can't keep each other safe, then why are we even doing any of this?" his voice is cracking now, and I want more than anything to make everything okay again.
"You can't save everyone, Reid. It's terrible to lose a friend, but you've done all you can to get justice for her."
Reid's mouth twists into a frustrated pretzel before relaxing, his face blank.
"Putting those men in cages doesn't change the fact that a good person is dead," he retorts, his sightless eyes glitter with intensity and for once he manages to look me straight in the face.
"It's different than at work- I care about the victims, but I didn't know them. They didn't mend my sweaters or teach me how to cook something that didn't come out of a can," he laughs humorlessly before trudging on.
"They didn't sit with me for hours in the hospital when I was hurting so bad and afraid to be alone. They didn't treat me like a person instead of some kind of- some kind of useful freak of nature…" he stutters, trailing off and closing his mouth for a minute, like he's not sure he wants to say anything more.
"They weren't the closest thing to a…" he draws in a shaky breath before continuing.
"They weren't my friend," he finishes, but I can tell that this wasn't what he was going to say.
I'm kind of shocked by the disclosure, and I realize that this is the most he's said to me in weeks.
I try to think of something reassuring to say- even a cheesy greeting card sentiment like "she's with you in your heart" would be preferable to the silence.
My mouth opens and closes like a flounder, but my voice doesn't work.
How do you reconfirm someone's faith in their work- in humanity?
How do you tell someone that everything will be okay, when you're not even sure that it's true?
The doctor takes a leave of absence from work. He's having more pain than usual, and the narcotics barely take the edge off. Dr. Steele doesn't want to increase his meds; the painkillers suppress his appetite and food is already a battle.
At the end of one appointment, the physician says something cryptic about the mind/body connection which Reid interprets as meaning the pain is psychological and thus "imaginary".
Reid tells me to cancel their next appointment.
Garcia and Morgan float in and out of the doctor's home, relieving me at regular intervals so I can maintain some semblance of a normal life. We orbit Reid like he's a dying star, refusing to let him self destruct.
Hotch visits twice a week and the other agents float through the apartment like spores.
No one wants to lose a friend.
Reid is in what my dad calls "a funk". My mom would call it a crisis of faith.
The phone call comes at the worst time.
The team is over playing Trivial Pursuit- a clever ploy that actually works- drawing the doctor in like a magnet. He's laughing at something Prentiss just said, and nibbling at the sandwich I have strategically placed to his left.
Maybe it's just the momentary distraction, but the doctor is smiling and eating; he looks almost content- more like his old self.
Reid's cell starts playing Vanilla Ice (Morgan likes to play with the settings) and we all freeze, a herd of deer facing an impending semi. The doctor takes the call in his study; he's gone for ages and the game isn't any fun without him. The team wanders away from the table, flicks on a game and starts reminiscing about a kidnapping case they worked on in Denver.
I don't share the memory, and I get bored and drift away from the group. Somehow I end up outside the study.
Simon is parked an inch from the door, his tail swishing furiously at the insult of being shut out. I know how he feels, and bend down to scratch the spot on his jaw that makes him purr like an engine.
He leans in appreciatively, and winks at me like we're complicit in something; or maybe there's something in his eye.
Reid comes out, and we back away so he doesn't run into us.
"Noah, is that you?" he asks, and for a second I consider ducking into the bedroom like I didn't hear.
"Yeah. It's me."
He looks tired, like the conversation has drained his reserves, and I swallow the urge to ask him who it was.
"She left me everything."
There is a lot of legal mumbo jumbo and red tape before he finally gets the keys to Mrs. Lombardi's "estate". Lawyers hack away at the fortune, chiseling away fees and taxes, but there's still a tidy sum remaining.
His life doesn't change very much, even though Reid is rich by most people's standards.
He's generous to his friends, and makes sizable donations to the literacy club and a private hospital in Nevada. I get a bonus that makes my eyes bug out when I see the check and make Reid promise to keep a little for himself.
"I have everything I need," he says stubbornly.
The day of the party is scorching hot. The foyer is crowded and the guests have to use the elevator in shifts. Morgan carries little Doris Henderson up the short flight of stairs to the rooftop, Hotch following behind with a doll-sized wheelchair. The woman is in her nineties and doesn't appear to have been outside in years, but Reid insists that everyone be invited.
The rooftop patio has been transformed. What was once a barren expanse of concrete with a few deck chairs has become a tiny paradise.
There are rows of raised beds teeming with flowers and vegetables, Marvin Peebles grins toothlessly as he putters around the zucchini patch, raking the margins of soil evenly and stooping every so often to remove a slug or pick a weed.
The swimming pool is kidney shaped; smooth and glasslike before its surface is broken by the first cannonball. Soon the water is filled with kids- some are the tenants' grandchildren, and there are a few from the literacy club who helped plant the flowers.
People mill around, oohing and ahhing over the flowers and the pool, sipping vibrantly colored drinks with miniature umbrellas; everyone stops to read the plaque on the sundial which christens the space as the Gloria Lombardi Memorial Garden.
Reid's paleness is ethereal in the sunlight, head tipped back to properly worship sky. He dips his feet in the water; brown corduroys rolled to the knee, a striped orange sock and a yellow one cast aside his shed pair of Converse.
JJ sits beside him in a tasteful one piece that does nothing to stop men in deck chairs from ogling. She bends and whispers something in his ear and he laughs.
Prentiss comes to sit at the picnic table beside me, she offers me a fruity concoction of Penelope's with two straws and I take a drink. The sun is shining, and children are laughing.
On the rooftop, I forget about bad people, and the summer seems infinite.
A/N: Thank you for reading! This was my first multi chapter CM fic, please review and tell me what you think!
Unbetaed as always- please let me know if you find an error.