Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.
- Rainer Maria Rilke
The last thing Spencer is able to comprehend is Dr. Kimura's question in the ambulance. She asks how he is feeling and he responds the way he has since the beginning.
"My throat's a little dry? But other than that I feel fine."
Except that isn't what comes out. The words get tangled in one another. What comes out doesn't make sense, and he is terrified. Scared to the deepest part of himself that this might be it. The patients exposed to this strain all experienced aphasia shortly before they died.
It's becoming harder to draw breath. He coughs and something wet is there. Blood. He is bleeding. He is dying. Still, he tries to stay calm. He tries to listen. To pay attention. To make himself understood.
When the techs on the ambulance come toward him with a mask, he fights them out of reflex. It feels like he can't possibly get enough air.
"Please. I can't breathe. Please, help me..." he says, gripping Dr. Kimura's shirtsleeve.
"Need knock eat not inside dare see... Not inside dare see..."
And then he can't get anything else out but a round of wracking coughs. It feels horrendous, as if he is expelling lung tissue.
Then, they speak, and he cannot understand. It's worse than a foreign language. He is so confused that he can't even rely on tone or facial expression. He is lost. He is lost and there is a mask taking away all his air, and he might choke, and he can't speak.
He squeezes his eyes closed and hopes this is over soon. Hopes it's all just a dream, and he'll wake up and be okay.
He hopes this, but knows it isn't likely.
The lights are blinding and every sound is amplified. Spencer is desperately trying to drag in air, and trying to fight off the hands. So many hands. So many voices. Nothing makes sense.
Then, he sees it. The needle. He thinks he was exceedingly clear back before this thing stole his speech that he does not want any narcotics but maybe he wasn't making sense then, either, and just hasn't realized it.
He writhes and fights against this, knowing they can't understand anything about him, just as he cannot understand anything about them. How did he get here? What is wrong with him? How did he get here? Was he kidnapped? He was before, there were needles, and he can't have this.
"I don't want any narcotics!" he screams, but of course, it isn't that.
"I run you free lampostingest key seek arc in me!"
"Dr. Reid, just relax. This is the cure. You'll feel much better."
But all he hears is gibberish.
Dr. Kimura slides the needle into his arm, with so many people restraining him. A tear slips down his cheek, and he curses his own weakness.
It takes much longer than it should. It's frustrating. He can breathe but still cannot say anything intelligible. He isn't worried about himself. He will be fine. The cure is here and he just has to wait for it to work. He can even understand most of what others say to him now. It's especially helpful if it comes from a familiar face.
And Morgan is here. He hasn't left. Spencer is thinking very hard about what to say to get Morgan's attention, when Morgan makes it easier. He looks at Spencer, eyebrows raised.
"Reid. What?" he asks, and Spencer appreciates his efforts at keeping the question short, even though it simultaneously irritates him and makes him feel like a lesser person.
"Save the meat in the box? And inside then eat around durtatious extend to very you," he tries, feeling like the words are intrinsically wrong somehow, but unable to get the correct ones to come out.
Reid watches Morgan carefully to see if he got the message somehow in spite of this, but the look in his eye is clear enough. He is confused as Reid was when this began. So Reid tries again. Tries to enunciate.
"Save the meat?" he asks, anxiety showing clearly in his eyes. He grips the blankets tightly.
"Save. Did you mean to say 'save'?" Morgan asks, picking up a pen and a notepad.
Morgan is scared shitless. Reid has never once been at a loss for words and he thinks it's pretty damn cruel to leave the smartest kid in the room with his intelligence but no way to express it. They say they hope it's temporary, but there is no way to know for sure. They say, give it time. But they don't have to sit here and see this look in a friend's eyes.
Reid is nervous. Angry. Afraid. So, Morgan starts there. He makes the choice that isn't really a choice at all. He chooses to listen. To figure this out. To not ignore what he cannot understand just because it doesn't make sense. Just because it makes him uncomfortable.
Morgan accesses every mindset and skill set he has ever known to help Reid: protector, victim, athlete, delinquent, detective, profiler...and he gets to work.
"Are you worried about something?" he asks, stating everything simply, because as messed up as it is, Reid's comprehension might still be impaired.
"Yes." Reid manages, relief flooding through him that at least this one word has come out as he intended.
"Because you want to save something?" Morgan guesses.
"This kind of yes, and kind of around about between..." Reid rambles, clenching his teeth in frustration. "Terrible words..." he says, sounding disgusted with himself.
Morgan gets the idea. He knows his first guess was close to what Reid means to say, but not close enough. And it's clear now that the kid is either starting to panic or starting to get impatient. Neither is a good option, as far as Morgan is concerned.
"Okay. Look at me. They're not terrible words," Morgan reassures. "I'm not leaving. We'll figure it out."
Reid lies there, exhausted, yet somehow, wearing his own defensiveness like a shield. He is hurting. He is wishing like hell that Morgan will help tell him what he wants to know.
Morgan glances down at the words he's copied. The message Reid is trying to get across. He keeps coming back to the second word. Keeps remembering when the doctors came in, and asked Reid to repeat things. How they sometimes came out mixed up, but more often than not, the syllables and sounds were all there.
He remembers one of the doctors asking Reid to say "Keys."
Reid had said "Seek." It was close.
So, Morgan sets to work unscrambling the four letters in front of him.
"Reid, are you asking about the team?" Morgan wonders, after staring at his notepad for an obscene length of time.
"Yes," Reid answers, relief clear in his tone. He is grateful that he still has this one word and he is grateful that Morgan has not stopped trying to understand him.
"Is the team safe?" Morgan asks, and, Reid nods emphatically. There are so many things he wants to know, but he cannot figure out how to say them. Perhaps, if he knows the answer to this one question, the rest won't matter.
"Yes. We're all safe. Okay? Now, will you relax?"
"Here and very much instead not leave around the perimeter of my situation, and it doesn't work-"
"-Hey," Morgan interrupts, unscrambling and dropping unnecessary words until Reid's sentence is clear. "I'm staying right here. Okay? Right with you. I'm not leaving and we're all safe."
Silent now, Reid nods, his eyes falling closed.
Spencer wakes again. It could be days later. It could be a week. He doesn't know. He feels extremely hung-over, but somehow better. He blinks a few times, taking in the sight of Morgan.
"Are you eating Jell-O?" he croaks.
"Hmm... Hey, kid. Doc, look who's back," Morgan calls softly.
But Spencer has one thing on his mind.
"Is there anymore Jell-O?"
Dr. Kimura denies him that, but gives him something better. She tells him the last few victims are going to be okay. The cure worked, not only for him, but for them, as well. She leaves, reassuring him that he'll be out of here and good as new soon.
The time he could not make himself be understood floats through his mind like a bad dream. He remembers the helplessness viscerally, but somehow it does not make him scared. Probably, he muses, because he was never left alone.
"Thank you. For not giving up," Spencer says, looking him in the eye.
"Why didn't you?"
"Youngster, giving up isn't in my vocabulary..." he answers lightly.
"And?" Spencer prompts, knowing by the look on Morgan's face that there's more to it than that.
"That…and it could've been me. And I know you wouldn't have stopped trying to figure me out."
"Hm. Well, anyway. Thank you," Spencer says, unable to think of anything else to say.
"You're welcome," Morgan responds, nothing but sincerity on his face.