Authors Notes: I borrowed a little bit for some inspiration from Revelations, so if some lines sound familiar that should be why. Also, later on Gideon will mention some things that will refer to a fic that I have yet to write that is about the beginning of Reid and Gideon's mentor/friendship while Reid's at the academy. Hopefully I will have time to write that one day. There will be notes at the end of this fic about the sleep disorder that Reid experiences here. I may also consider doing a companion piece to this in the future if there's interest around. I'm thinking maybe a Rossi or Hotch/Reid pairing after Gideon's departure. Any thoughts?Leave a review and let me know :)
Disclaimer: I do not own Criminal Minds, nor any thing affiliated with it, characters included, darn it. I do not profit from this. I own nothing, la la la.
There's a moment, right before you fall asleep, when the world fades away, when you become completely prone and at the mercy of your own mind. This moment of awareness doesn't last long, only long enough to let you know that, yes, you are indeed falling out of touch and, at the same time, delving deeper into yourself. When you enter that world of dreams, a place you can barely touch when you're awake, you see things, you hear things, from memories, and from pieces of memories patched together to keep you stimulated. Your brain never rests, even in sleep, so it conjures alternate realities and brings back old ones so you won't have to experience the frightening and static nothingness of when your brain stops thinking.
Dreams, in all sense, should be a comfort.
But then there are the nightmares, dreams of a different nature that do more than console and excite. Nightmares are the reasons why we fear sleep, why we fear losing control of our conscious minds. Spencer Reid was no different. In that sense, he was a normal person with common fears, common enough for any person with the job that he had.
Some nights he slept well. Some nights he didn't dream at all, too exhausted from a case to even take the time to change out of his work clothes. But most nights he would wake in a cold sweat, words or screams of fear muffled behind his jaw that felt glued shut when he finally woke.
He had done his research. There was something different about his. Disturbing and new. He knew it the first time it happened because normally he was able to wake himself from these nightmares.
Sometimes it happened right when he was starting to fall asleep. Other times it would happen when he was waking up from a long period of sleep. But the most important and frightening thing about them were that he always knew when they were happening. And this was the first time that it had ever happened on the way home from a case.
He was lying down, head propped up on the arm of the long couch, on the plane. His arms were draped across his waist and legs askew, both covered and twisted in a soft smothering blanket. His body was breathing evenly with sleep, slower than he normally did when he was awake. He wanted to take a deeper breath. He needed to take a deeper breath. He wasn't getting enough air. Traces of panic began to ebb at the edge of his consciousness as he sluggishly took in his surroundings. It was familiar, but something wasn't right. He was afraid because he wasn't alone. There was someone here. Someone…watching him.
He tried to move. He needed to move. He needed to get away. But his body refused to listen to him. He was frozen. The tiniest movement, convinced by his mind, took a Herculean amount of energy. Had he moved at all? He tried again. And again. And again. He lost count of the times that he tried to move, tried to wake himself up. By now the frustration and panic had made a permanent home in his chest. He was trapped in his own body…like his mother was in her own mind.
He wanted to wake up. Why wouldn't Morgan or Emily wake him up?
He tried to call out to them, tried to shout or scream for help. But all that came out to his ears was something that could barely pass as a whisper. Just as he was starting to feel hopeless, something whispered back to him, something more terrifying than the paralysis he was feeling.
"It's God's Will…"
Sheer terror. Recognition. Suspense for the horrors that would surely follow if he didn't warn his friends, if he didn't try to stop it from happening again. He couldn't let it happen again. The first was bad enough. He doubled his efforts, trying to move (even the tiniest bit just to get some attention), trying to cry for help, to keep him away. But he could only listen and watch as a familiar shadow with a face stood in his line of vision, a face of malicious intent that refused to let Spencer's eyes go.
"It's time to confess," Rafael hissed.
Jason Gideon sat under the only light on in the entire plane, perusing a past case file in the corner. His eyes flicked from page to page. His fingers separated the edges with expert speed, until he found what he was looking for. A picture of the young man they didn't save stared back at him, horrific injuries painting a two-dimensional picture of what they had been powerless to stop. The case file gave him a better understanding of what they couldn't initially see in the remains, of what had happened while they spent precious hours trying to solve the puzzle, trying to find the Unsub. The sad thing was that they weren't God. Sometimes they were wrong. Sometimes they had no leads. Sometimes they were too late.
These boys, this last case in Seattle, had been a rough one. And, Gideon thought to himself, that was probably why he was the only one who was still awake. It was late. Early morning hours, maybe somewhere around two considering how late they had boarded. And it wasn't a short flight by any means. It would probably be morning by the time they returned to Quantico, hours left before they were due to report for work if it hadn't been for Hotch's empathy. A day off would be good for the younger members of the team. And Gideon was looking forward to it, not for sleep, but for the chance to take his mind off of humanity's worst, if even for a short time.
He put the file down by his feet and took a moment to rub his eyes. Sleep never came easy to him, not since he started this job all those years ago. And yet, all around him, the team was living proof that sleep wasn't a thing that needed chasing after. Hotch sat across from him in his own chair, having dozed off ten minutes ago. Morgan and Prentiss both took chairs next to the table, across from the couch, with mp3 players plugged into their ears. JJ was, unfortunately, absent and nursing a cold at home.
Reid had been the first to grab his sleeping spot on the couch, earning groans from both Prentiss and Morgan, but no one debated the genius's quick reflexes. Gideon almost smiled at the way the boy had gotten himself twisted up in the spare blanket. But his worries for Reid kept that smile at bay. Instead, disjointed thoughts and fears over the past few weeks took the place of that happiness, reminding him that it hadn't been that long ago that he'd watched the young doctor endure torture and…dare he even accept it, momentary death.
A shudder that crept up his spine pushed that sick realization to the back of his mind because there was no use in dwelling on something so morbid. Reid was, thankfully, alive and with them still. That's all that matters, he told himself.
The father in Gideon longed to get up and free the poor boy from the tangled blanket, to recover him and smooth out the edges, tucking it in-and securely, to ward off the chill from the cool temperature. A brief thought of Stephen nearly made him give up on that impulse, but eventually he gave in, giving himself the excuse that it was far too late to deny himself a small comfort at the expense of someone else. As quietly as he could, he set the files down on the floor by his seat, along with his reading glasses, and stood up.
Evil eyes, red and bright, full of malice and hate. Not human. Never human. It throws rationalization and logic out the window. It steals the fight from Spencer's body, reduces him to the child ballooned with fear at the sight of an unfamiliar shadow in the night. Back then those shadows disappeared with the light. But this is more than a shadow. This shadow has definition. This shadow has eyes. This shadow has a mind of its own and is soulless.
"They're satans," Raphael spoke. "Every one of them. It's God's Will that we eradicate them from this good world."
Something shines in the darkness, rises above the gloom, above Morgan's head, above the head of his seat-ready to fall. The man's asleep. He can't sense the danger that Spencer can see. Terror seizes his heart in a different place because he knows what will come of that knife-what has come of that knife.
No, NO, you're wrong-don't, please!-
"The arguments of men are flawed. They have no meaning."
Raphael moves in close, lowering the shining metal to the throat of his friend.
Morgan! MORGAN-wake up!
He isn't heard.
"The ears of sinners are closed. They hear nothing."
Please, you can't. They're good-
"Good is a gift from our Almighty Lord, God in heaven, that must be given. You're a liar. Lying's a sin. Redeem yourself and choose one to die, in the name of our Lord."
Me. I choose me.
It's too late to take it back, because the shadow moves the second he makes his decision. Raphael takes the invitation for what it is and comes closer, changes, softens. And all of a sudden it's not Raphael but Tobias standing over him, leaning down with hopelessly lost eyes and a different instrument in his hand.
No, no, no, no, no-
"It makes it better." The voice is softer, sickeningly comforting. And too close. "You know it makes it better."
There's a prick.
Please. Someone, help me. Helpme-Ineedto-butIcan'twakeup. WAKE UP!
It's the last thing Gideon is expecting when he leans down and accidentally brushes Reid's arm as he untangles the blanket. The young doctor wakes up with a loud gasp and a violent jerk. He scurries as far back as he can get with a look-even discernable in the dark- of sheer terror.
Giving comfort is familiar. Human. It's a small part of the job, a compensation for all the mind-numbing psychoanalytical work he does, tearing people apart and putting them back together to fit a profile. He purposefully keeps his voice low, despite the urgency pushing that volume higher with each passing moment that Spencer doesn't return to him. This scared little boy is not the Spencer Reid that Gideon is familiar with, and he quickly decides that he never wants to see this part of his young protégé ever again.
"Reid," he says. "Reid? Calm down. It's okay. You're okay. Look at me."
He watches small fragments of recognition piece back together behind those glassy eyes, and it eases the tension in his chest only a little. Reid is no longer looking at him as if he were some horrible murderer about to deal the final blow, because he has ceased to see Gideon all together. He is looking through the man, still tense but disturbingly still. It's then that something else, something important, registers in the profiler's mind.
"Spencer, you need to breathe. Take a breath."
Reid is fighting him because it's still dark and he can't see, Gideon knows that. But he won't leave for that, and he also doesn't want to wake anyone else up and risk overwhelming him. So he decides to stay by Reid's side until this passes. Because it will pass. It has to pass. Even if the tremors were growing worse due to lack of air.
"Just breathe, kid. Okay?"
Gideon takes a chance and slowly lays a warm hand on the side of the boy's face. He does it because taking chances is what gets results. Ultimately, the world boils down to extensive periods of waiting and instances of actions followed by reactions. Without taking risks, without making choices, the stagnation remains. Until that moment the mystery keeps everything painstakingly covered. Making those moments come alive, by taking chances is how answers are found. Trial and error with limited repercussions due to age and experience on Gideon's part. He initiates the physical contact because he's weighed the options. A couple of tears leak out and fall down Reid's face, wetting Gideon's hand, but he ignores it because Reid is finally looking at him again.
"Breathe in," Gideon urged. "It's alright. You're safe, I promise you-Just. Breathe."
And, to his immense relief, Reid does. His first attempts are more gulps and gasps than breaths, but it's music to Gideon's ears. He manages to coach Reid through it and wipe the evidence of those tears clean at the same time. At the momentary absence of his hand, Reid latches his own onto Gideon's arm, and the older profiler obliges the silent request, replacing the lost contact. When he thinks the young genius is out of immediate danger, he chances a look around and finds everyone still asleep with one exception.
Hotch is awake. Concerned. Ready to spring from his recent place of rest and right back into the job for the sake of the team, of one person. This is why Gideon has hope for the BAU, for the rest of the team, for the future of it.
"That's it," Gideon whispers. "Keep it up."
Being or having a good leader to follow, in his experience on things, is the best mode of survival in any aspect of life. A good leader not only cares about the security of his followers and himself, but he knows when to take risks and when not to. It's why Gideon isn't a leader of this team himself anymore. And it's why Hotch is saying, without words, that all Gideon needs to do is give him the signal to help. But Gideon doesn't, not when Reid makes a sudden noise in his throat and leans forward.
"You feel sick?"
Reid nods with a miserable face.
"Alright, come on," he says as he pulls the boy to his feet.
Reid pulled his head away from the toilet seat and managed to lift a weak hand to flush the mess he just retched. Task completed, he rested his chin against the seat and watched the water swirl down. In retrospect it probably wasn't a very good idea, but he was afraid that if he tried to move the dizziness would be worse. Luckily, Gideon had sense enough for the both of them. Reid felt the older man scoot or half-lift him over to rest against the adjacent wall, thankfully away from the nauseating sight of spinning water. Dirty water. Water that he made dirty. Sinners made things dirty-
A wet washcloth came into his line of sight.
Reid looked up, gave the strongest thanks he could, and took the offered comfort. After he cleaned his mouth he kept the cool fabric in his hands because it was a nice feeling against his hot skin. Gideon sits down next to him after closing the door, but Reid doesn't have the strength to talk first.
"You alright?" Gideon asked, softly.
Nodding the affirmative in response won't get him the deflection he's looking for, but he does it anyway, as some last dash of hope that he can put this embarrassing part off for later when he feels like talking. But Gideon is never one to be deterred. He is a man with eyes sharper than a hawk, someone with an intellect as stubborn and persistent as Reid's mind.
He knows that deep down it's done out of concern and maybe genuine care for him as a person, but he stays as detached as he can for his mentor's sake. As much as Reid needs comfort at the moment, he knows, from being a profiler-because Gideon is the only one he's ever broken that no profiling rule with-that Gideon has needs too, built up from personal matters that he rarely ever opens up about. Reid admires Gideon because he is an intensely private man, one who respects and sees far too much for his own good. And always looking for something that Reid can never seem to have the right answer to.
"Talk to me, Reid."
"They're," he says, clearing his throat at the ragged sound of his own voice. "Th-They're usually not that bad."
"They're not nightmares. Not exactly."
"What do you mean?"
Reid takes a deep breath before continuing. "It's more of me trying to wake up when I can't. The uh, the brain, it releases a chemical that immobilizes you when you go to sleep, to keep you from acting out your dreams. Sometimes that carries over…when I'm trying to wake up, but I can't. Not on my own, at least."
Gideon narrowed his eyes, saying but not actually saying 'What aren't you telling me,' so Reid knows he has to continue, that he won't get away with a vague explanation.
"It's called Sleep Paralysis. I'd say it sounds worse than it feels, but…it uh, it's not really all that pleasant."
"Go on," Gideon encourages.
Reid nods, and keeps his head down as he bolsters through what he knew. "Typically, hallucinations are common. It's like dreaming while you're waking up. I've done some research and it's not at all uncommon for people with irregular hours of sleep, bad eating habits, or…"
He hesitated for a few seconds, unsure if what he was about to say would be worth it in the long run, if it wouldn't be better said only to himself in his head, but decided against it for honesty and trust purposes. Despite everything, he trusted Gideon more than anyone else at the moment. After all, it was Gideon's voice, his face, his earnest eyes he saw in the lowest place he'd been in his entire life, out there in that cemetery shed with guilt threatening to choke the life out of him.
"Or," Reid continued. "Stressful work."
Gideon doesn't hesitate. "What's it like?"
Reid frowns for a second and shakes his head at the fresh memory of it. "Frightening. Disturbing. I try to move, to wake myself up, but I never do. I want to breathe deeper but I can't. I just…lay there and watch. It's like being a prisoner in your own body. Makes me think…"
"Makes you think of what?"
He forces the corners of his lips to remain neutral, to not fall. "My mom," he whispers.
"Hey," Gideon says, draping an arm across Reid's shoulders. "Remember what I told you back at the academy? You trust me don't you?"
Reid nods, certain and unwavering.
"Was it Tobias you saw?"
He couldn't say the names. He didn't want to for fear that saying them aloud gave them more power than what they had in his head. "Both of them."
"You won that fight, Spencer. You didn't give up. You didn't lose sight of what was important."
He looks up, curiosity pushing some of the shadows away. "What was that?"
"You," Gideon said.
He doesn't know, Reid thought. Gideon doesn't know the number of times he doubted himself, wanted to give up, pleaded for mercy and went against all of his training just to make sure he lived to see the next second.
Did that make him a coward?
Did that mean he was as useless as he had felt back then?
…He wasn't sure.
If it hadn't been for Gideon's words…
Reid smirked a bit, with a humor that didn't quite fit all the empty spaces he wanted to fill. "I had some help."
"Everyone needs help now and then, Reid."
He turns and looks at his mentor, and this time he is the one searching for an answer. "Even when they shouldn't?"
"Yes, because we will always have those moments, no matter how much we don't want them. They teach us some things that few of us have the strength to learn in one lifetime."
"Humility. Perseverance. Faith. There's more to a person's worth than what he can do. This," he said, laying a couple of gentle fingers above Reid's beating chest. "Always matters more. You don't need to be a genius or a profiler to know that."
Reid nodded, feeling better than he had since he woke up. But once he'd gotten to his feet, the thought of returning to sleep so soon kept him from settling down like Gideon urged him to. Instead he stayed awake, re-reading a copy of Milton for the sake of giving his hands something to do. They both knew he wasn't up for a serious game of chess, so Reid was happy that Gideon didn't ask. His mentor had, however, moved his work next to him on the couch for the rest of the flight.
Gideon nodded off sometime before dawn, but Reid didn't disturb him. The young doctor looked around at the rest of the plane and its sleeping occupants. He let himself smile as he heard a rather loud snore come from Morgan. A wave of peace washed over him like a warm blanket, because he finally knew that he'd always had what he'd been looking for these past couple of years. The security, the support, and the love. It was here, among the colleagues and friends who fought for him, with him, and beside him every day. He wondered if Gideon ever saw it the way he was seeing things right now...Reid hoped his mentor did, even if it had only been once and a very long time ago.
A/N: Sleep Paralysis is something I occasionally experience and thought would be a good segue way into this pairing. It's not necessarily a neurological condition but is most often associated with people who have narcolepsy or people who just don't have a healthy sleeping/eating/exercising routine. It's rather disturbing and scary when it happens because of the chemicals that your brain sends out to keep you from sleepwalking and acting out your dreams.
Normally what happens, in my experience, is being conscious but unable to move either certain limbs or my whole body for either a few seconds or several minutes. It does wear off, and for those who don't suffer from narcolepsy it can be helped by managing stress, eating right, sleeping eight hours a night, exercising, etc. Simply put, you're dreaming while you're waking up-like Reid said. I'd recommend wiki-ing it for a better understanding. I am no expert, but I'm just writing from my own experiences and perspective.
Do review if you have time :) Not entirely sure how I felt about how it came out, but either way it was a pleasure writing for you all, and hopefully there will be more from me in the fandom in the future.