A/N: Spoilers for 'Lauren.' I don't know if this has been done before, but the idea struck me after re-watching that episode and 'Hanley Waters.' Angst, Reid-centric, team, gen.
The key slides into the lock and a light 'click' echoes in the silent apartment. He throws his jacket onto the chair and thinks he's been to one too many funerals. In that moment, burying someone seems so unnatural; for a body to decompose beneath the soil is almost barbaric, yet if one were to ask him why, he could recite every single detail about the origins of burial and why the ritual started at all. It's ironic, he thinks, but he doesn't really care.
His cell phone rings and he figures it's probably Hotch or Morgan checking up but instead of answering, he pulls the device out of his pocket and places it on the table.
Out of sight, out of mind.
All he has is JJ's word and though he's never doubted her, it seems appropriate to start. It starts at the back of his mind before gradually fading into his head, growing to his temples and making his entire body hurt with the pain of contradiction and the weight of the truth he hasn't quite picked up yet, hasn't quite lifted.
He rolls up his sleeves and stands for a minute.
The phone rings again and he picks up after the third chime, if only to quiet the loud noise that's multiplying the pounding in his forehead. Garcia's voice floats over the other line, heavy with grief and hysterical; he can't get a word in, but he lets her rant until her voice rasps into scratchy tears and her words become laced with a hard, hard sadness.
"Reid, Reid," she chants, attempting to compose herself. He waits. "Can we meet somewhere? Please? I just… I need to see you guys."
They agree to rendezvous at the BAU, because there's a comfort in the place they all relate to each other. She quickly says goodbye with a promise to ask the others to meet as well, though it doesn't make a difference to him. When he finally stops staring at his reflection in the mirror on the other side of the room with a growing lump in his stomach, he picks up a different jacket from the closet and covers his dress shirt. He doesn't bother to change; it doesn't feel right, not yet.
By the time he manages to actually get to the BAU, there's already two familiar cars he can see. Walking into the room, he immediately spots Garcia standing with Morgan and Rossi, all looking worse for the wear but he knows he doesn't look much better. There's a bitter taste in his mouth when he approaches them.
"Reid…" Garcia says quietly, debating whether or not to pull him into a hug or avoid touching him at all. Reid tries to smile.
It doesn't come out as much more than a grimace.
Morgan shakes his head, leans against the desk. His arms are crossed and he looks contemplative and angry all at once. Reid feels the urge to throw something on the ground, if only to break the silence.
"What now?" Garcia asks, a tear leaving a streak of black down her cheek, though it's starting to all blend together. "What do we do…?"
"I don't know," Reid replies tersely. He doesn't mean to snap, but he hasn't spoken a word in hours and he briefly wonders if he's reaching a breaking point. He glances at the empty desk, not really sure what to expect; he definitely doesn't expect to ball his hands into fists. All the wood holds now is memories and the knowledge that once, an agent sat there, worked there, laughed and talked and joked.
He backs away slowly, only to bump into Hotch.
They keep saying his name, but they don't know where to go after that. They say any name, any one of them, and the words just leave like they had never been there before.
This isn't the first time, either. Gideon leaves and there's a raw, harsh tension that settles over them at the realization that brilliance can easily run away. Elle resigns and there's a sick, sad understanding in her actions that they can't explain. Then there's death, the most irreversible change to occur, and still, there are no words.
Reid wants to ask for help, ask for a second chance to go back and stop this from happening. Because in the end, she can't be gone; one minute she's there and the next she's not, and it just doesn't make sense.
Hotch looks around at the assembled members. He doesn't send them home.
His headache is becoming worse and he just wants to go home and sleep, to close his eyes and imagine that he's somewhere quiet and all is right in the world, even if he doesn't know what that means. Their job doesn't allow them to see the righteousness of people. With them, they are what's right and it's a blurred line that's difficult to decode.
Hotch places a hand on his shoulder and squeezes once before heading to his office. To the average worker, Hotch is just another employee filling out copious amounts of paperwork.
To them, Hotch is disappearing behind a solid door where he can grieve on his own, where the walls are silent as they scream at him for another one he couldn't save.
Garcia starts crying a bit heavier, Morgan places an arm around her shoulder. She pauses for a second, but then she's covering her mouth and going into her own area, where computers are filled with terror and the desk is covered with bits of herself.
Morgan looks partly defeated, Rossi follows suit as the other two members. It's Reid and Morgan, standing alone in the middle of the bullpen and neither know what to say or do because damn it, this wasn't supposed to happen.
Finally, Reid goes home.
He doesn't believe in the five stages of grief.
He believes everyone suffers in their own way, not on a set routine of different emotions. But there's an underlying truth to each 'stage' and it's a truth he chooses to ignore. He doesn't believe they're alright after what's happened; he doesn't think it's going to go away anytime soon. And while they're given time for grieving, the fact that Hotch doesn't smile anymore and stress lines have doubled on Rossi leads Reid to think that normalcy has just flown out the window, whatever normal was in the first place.
When Hotch does his grief assessment, Reid will wonder if it's all worth it. He once looked up to Gideon, and maybe Gideon really did have a point. They've seen death so many times, but it'll never be enough to erase the pain of losing a family member.
Reid opens his door, sheds his coat and shoes, splashes his face with water, falls onto the couch in the silence. And when he closes his eyes, his thoughts are consumed by Gideon's hasty departure, Elle's guilty resignation.
Emily's death and what it means for the rest of them when the time is up for dealing with the loss.