Death does not concern us, because as long as we exist, death is not here.
And when it does come, we no longer exist.
Knowing you're going to die is a funny thing.
It's like having an ominous storm cloud above your head, never quite knowing when the lightening will strike, only that it will.
Yes, Spencer Reid thought that knowing you're to die is a funny thing. But that thought didn't come till much later.
Reid's mind was far too worried to have such darkly humorous revelations.
He blinked slowly, his brain running to catch up with the world as everything snapped back into focus, like a camera struggling to capture a photo.
He inhaled sharply, hot air pinging against his throat.
He was in so much trouble.
Honestly, which deity had he pissed off? What was it about him that made him such a magnet for psychopaths?
Sure he brushed off his teammates jokes with indignant scoffs, but he sometimes wondered if there really was something wrong with him.
He knew enough to be sure that he would get some serious shit about this one. Really, how had he managed to get buried alive?
They were in Corvallis, Oregon, a relatively small town with around 50,000 residents.
54,462, his mind corrected automatically.
And, of course, they were chasing a bad guy. Five men, all in their late twenties to early thirties, brown hair, slight figure, had been kidnapped, put into coffins, and buried, to die a horrible, suffocating death.
The first three victims were actually buried at cemeteries, and the only reason anyone noticed anything to be wrong was the freshly overturned dirt. When security was beefed up around all cemeteries the unsub started burying bodies at random locations. He escalated too, panicking and killing two men in the course of a few days.
Tracking the coffins was no help, as, of course, they were hand made. The unsub had eluded capture at every turn but now he was devolving.
Which was very good for the team of profilers, as he was sure to slip up now.
And he had.
It was just very bad for Reid, because he was in fact the unsub's mistake.
Reid reached blindly out at his surroundings, tracing the rough walls of his prison. His heart knocked against his ribcage, and he willed his pulse to slow. He needed to conserve air, not having the slightest idea of how long he'd been trapped.
He pushed fruitlessly against the gnarled wood. He pounded his knuckles, and tried to heave the ceiling with his knees. He knew it was useless, the unsub built the coffins himself out of sturdy, ugly wood and very sturdy extra ugly two inch nails—the only way to open them was with a crowbar—but he had to try. Kicking and screaming as much as he could, Reid realized that the skin of hands were being rubbed raw. Maybe, just maybe someone would hear him…
Reid flinched, startled at the noise.
Oh god. He recognized the sound.
The very distinct sound of dirt smacking wood—he was being actively buried.
No. He couldn't panic. His team would find him. He would be okay.
Morgan would smack the back of his head, affectionately telling him that the next time he got himself kidnapped by a psycho he'd strangle Reid himself. Rossi would nod, and maybe grin a little at his expense, but his dark eyes would be intense, and convey everything he'd never say aloud. Hotch would appraise him with an equal amount of intensity, but would keep his words short and meaningful—perhaps even reprimand Morgan. Emily would place her hand on his arm, and smile beautifully. JJ would hug him, slip in a Spence or two, and tell him how glad she was that he was okay. Garcia… well she'd have a field day and alter between spoiling him and threatening implant a GPS tracking device in his skull.
He'd been so consumed by his thoughts, that he hadn't notice the lack of light. His breath quickened, and he immediately berated himself. Panicking was not an option.
Still… the chilling darkness. Reid he literally couldn't see his hand in front of his face.
Proprioception, he thought with a small snort.
The darkness was suffocating. Like it was its own substance, seeping into every crevice of Reid's sight. It was everywhere and everything and being deprived of one of his basic senses scared Reid, a lot more than he liked.
Pushing against him, the darkness was slowly invading his body. He was becoming apart of the darkness. He was slipping away into the horrible terrible never-ending night of black. The obsidian sea was pulling under, and he could feel his chest tighten and—
No! he commanded himself. Stop thinking like that. You'll drive yourself to hysteria and use up the limited oxygen supply you have. Think of something, anything to distract yourself.
Since 2000 the number of suffocation-related injuries has increased to more than 20,000 annually.
In the 17th century there were 149 cases of actual premature burial.
T. M. Montgomery reported in 1896 that 2% of all exhumed were victims of suspended animation.
In 1984, a pathologist was conducting a post-mortem examination in New York. At the first incision, the "corpse" jumped up and grabbed him by the throat. The pathologist died of shock.
The constant and steady steam of facts calmed him, but didn't completely block out the stomach twisting fear. He thought back to how exactly he'd gotten into this mess.
Everyone was stretched thin. It had been a long couple of days, and they knew that the unsub would strike again soon because of his spiral. Prentiss accidentally spilled coffee on Reid's arm, soiling his watch and partially scalding his arm. He shrugged it off, and offered to make a coffee run for everyone—the police station crap was as drinkable as liquid tar, and about as appetizing.
He was making his way back from the café just down the street, when his phone chirped, distracting him for just the second the unsub needed to knock him out from behind, unread text message and trays of boiling liquid clattering to the ground.
Reid smiled despite his situation. He could almost imagine his epitaph.
Spencer Reid: coffee lover to the end.
Or perhaps, Spencer Reid—Friend, Son, And Socially Awkward Prodigy Who Was Murdered By A Deteriorating Serial Killer While On A Latte Run.
No. Too poignant and lengthy.
At least his last meal, Was one of sugar and appeal.
Too vague, he shook his head.
A genius he was, till the end, If only you'd tell it to his friends, Who only saw an idiot in he, As he wasted his last breath on cries for coffee.
Maybe. It had possibilities. Something shorter, though?
Here's to hoping the afterlife's got an espresso machine.
Wait, he had it: Here lies a genius, Who meant more to his family than he could ever gleam, Who smiled and laughed, And was a proud addict of his one true love: caffeine.
Reid laughed. He grinned and laughed until he had to swipe at the tears in his eyes with the bloody stubs of his fingers.
The eerily creepy fact that he was contemplating what his tombstone would say didn't register anywhere in him.
The tossing of dirt to his coffin ceased, which meant either that the unsub was done, or he was so far underground he could no longer hear any external actions from beyond his grave. As illogical as it seemed, Reid actually missed the noise. It was preferable to the cold feeling of being alone. The silence was icy, contrary to the thick, steaming air.
Reid sighed. He had always been a patient man. But the kind of waiting he was doing was… nothing short of torturous.
Every sliver of wood, every thread of the fabric of his shirt, every cell of his skin was saturated in darkness. It was stealing away every bit of him, wiping him from existence, banishing him to the shadows.
Come on, Reid. Don't give into the fear. Not now. Focus on something. He chastened internally.
Okay. Focusing on something. He could do that.
His eyelids drooped, and the whoosh of breath into his lungs calmed.
He curled his fingers in reflexively, as the warm, earthy scent of wood soothed his mind.
The last coherent thought that swirled in Reid's head before he drifted to sleep was how his teammates would never let it go if they came to rescue and found him napping.
A smile flitted across his unconscious face.
Reid blinked at his harsh white surroundings. He tried to focus on something, but nothing but bright, excruciating white lights hit his eyes. Light and…
"Prentiss?" He asked incredulously. She brushed a few runaway raven locks from her face and smiled at him.
"Hey there, we were wondering when you'd zonk out on us. Morgan said you wouldn't last five minutes, which, considering the air you had was generous. But you held on, nice going genius."
"What? Am I… dead?"
She laughed brilliantly. "Of course not. You're dreaming."
Reid turned to see Morgan as well as the rest of his team grinning at him.
JJ moved closer, her baby blues smiling at him. "Nothing's wrong. Why would you ask that?"
Reid frowned. "Hotch is smiling. It's… perturbing."
Prentiss laughed again, and everyone else followed suit. "We're smiling because we're happy to see you."
"Happy? I thought you just said you're all manifestations of my unconscious."
"Well yeah, Boy Wonder." Garcia practically flew to him, pinching his cheek lightly. The white was now far more colorful. "But we love you."
"Yeah, remember it, Pretty Boy. We love you."
"Exactly. You're our family, Spence."
"You're like our little brother. And I'm the awesome older sister."
"Psh, awesome. Keep dreaming. There's only ever one awesome sibling, which is me, sister."
"Both of you be quiet. This is about Reid."
"Yeah okay… dad."
"Where exactly do I fit on this family tree?"
"Grandpa for sure."
"Um, cool uncle?"
"Mhm, that's what I thought."
"What part of 'This is about Reid' don't you people understand?"
"Lighten up pops, we're only having fun."
"… What did you just call me, Morgan?"
"Uh, I—Sorry Special Agent Hotchner, uh, sir."
"Reid, we just want you to know that you're our family. Always. Don't forget it, okay?"
"Yeah, man, really, we love you."
"We love you Spence."
"We're proud of you Reid. Best little brother I never had."
"Sweetie, you're the sexiest little genius there ever was."
"Fine! Jeez… Look, you're strange. But, you're a good Agent. And… and a good man. It's been an experience working with you—as well as a privilege."
"Aw, that was so sweet."
"Grandpa my ass…"
"Come on, do you not hear yourself? You're so crabby-old-man-shooing-kids-off-his-sidewalk-esque. Right Reid?"
"Reid." Reid's head snapped up and with a start he realized he was in what looked to be some kind of field. Long, willowy shards of grass swayed gently against a breeze. The green stretched on for miles, an open field of the sage-colored blades to dance. He was sitting on a smooth, mahogany stool staring at a chessboard that was in the middle of a complex looking game.
"Reid. It's your move." Gideon said, eyes fixed on the pieces in front of him.
"Gideon? W-What are you doing here?" Reid's eyes imitated saucers at the nonchalant stance of his opponent.
The corners of his mouth twitched. "How am I supposed to know? You said it yourself; I'm merely a manifestation of your unconscious mind. I couldn't possibly know why you brought me here. But it is your move still."
Reid glanced down at the board. It was beautiful, the intricately carved wood… gorgeous.
He paused, stealing of glimpse of his former mentor, and then resigning back to the table. He reached forward, hesitating for just a moment, before sacrificing his pawn for the life of his queen.
And so they played. Calculating. Methodical. It was so real, Reid had a hard time imaging it was really a dream.
Reid moved his bishop in place.
"You're dying, you know." Gideon spoke conversationally.
Bishop dances with his knight.
"At first you were dreaming. But you're dying now. Suffocating, slowly losing all your oxygen. Until your breathing becomes even slower, and then suddenly it's your last."
Bishop strikes. Decoy. Takes out the queen instead.
"It's probably better you fell asleep, actually. Your breathing is more controlled. It might have bought you more time. Not that it matters now."
Knight slays Reid's bishop. Necessary loss. Rook is now on the hunt.
"Your team is looking for you. They're worried. They caught the unsub, but he won't say where you are. They're trying to find you."
Rook takes out his rook. Reid is winning but in a game like chess you can never really win until the end.
"It won't work. You're so far gone that they won't be able to save you. You're dying and when you're dead they'll feel like it's their fault. It isn't of course, but it'll be curious to see how it affects everyone."
Rook knight and bishop are after the king. Only the rook survives. Worth it.
"Team dynamics… the hierarchy of a family is such an interesting thing. They go through so much together. Give and take. Push and pull. Laughter and tears. Such opposites in such unity are so very curious, don't you agree?"
His king is now vulnerable. Rook and queen stalk together. Lionesses and gazelles. Dancing. Fighting. Living and dying.
"I had a family. At many different times, in fact. They were all different, but the structure was the same. I left most of them. That's one of the things I'm best at—leaving. I'm also quite inept at being regretful."
Rook slays pawns. Queen comes from behind. King is being cornered.
"You're dying. Is it scary? To know? I suppose not. Fearing death seems like such an arbitrary thing, doesn't it? There's life and there's death. You're either alive or dead. When you're dead, you're not alive to worry about being dead. And when you're alive, you're not dead so why worry?"
Rook takes out the last bishop. Queen is steadfast. King is pinned.
"Your team is here now. But they're too late. It's a pity really. The world could use more exceptional chess players."
"Goodbye Reid. I enjoyed our game so." Gideon grinned, and Reid found himself smiling back. He wanted to reciprocate the sentiments, but suddenly Gideon was sucked away into darkness. A vortex of the black swirled everything around its mouth, pulling in the world as light crumbled to its will. Everything was spinning and someone pulled the plug on the sun, because the light was gone. Everything was gone, flying away like it was being drained down a kitchen sink.
He recognized his name, but couldn't seem to open his eyes. He wanted to open them but he was just so tired.
Louder. Closer. But not enough. Reid tried to draw in a breath, but everything was so wrong. His chest burned, and his mind was fizzing like a soda.
He heard scraping and desperate calls. They were coming; they were digging to find him! But his control over his muscles had faded to nothing, and he really was quite tired.
The darkness that he feared so much was oddly comforting now. It whispered in his ear, and beckoned him to it. It was so warm, like one of those sweaters his mother made him wear on chilly evenings.
His mother! He couldn't leave his mother behind. No, his mother needed him.
He tried to compromise with the darkness. Tried to reason with it, but the darkness only tightened its grip on him.
There was a loud snapping noise and lots of shouting. Honestly, people could be so rude sometimes. Couldn't they see how exhausted he was?
Things were pulling at him, yanking his limbs, and touching his neck. So invasive to a man simply trying to sleep.
Someone was crying. He was sure of it. No—two someones. Three maybe? Four even? Oh, who knew, anyway? It didn't matter.
"Reid, please, wake up. Oh God, buddy wake up. Please, kid, I'm begging you."
"Medic! Where's the goddamned medic?"
"Reid! Oh no. Oh, no, no, no, no."
"Reid, just hold on. Help is on the way."
But didn't they see? He was fine. He was just a little tired. And since when was that a crime? He just needed a quick nap. He was so very exhausted…
"Spencer, God, why? W-why?"
"No. No, no, no, no."
"Get the fucking medic over here!"
"One, two, three. One, two, three. Come on, Reid. Wake up. One, two…"
"… Morgan…. Morgan there's no pulse…"
Don't worry, Reid wanted to say, you'll be fine without me.
The darkness was snug around Reid's skin. It was surprisingly warm and comfotable, it trickled against him, staining him, and forever capturing his body in its clutches, just as he had suspected. He floated away into the darkness, falling farther away from the voices calling out to him and deeper into the wonderfully languid darkness.
He could dream, and dream, and dream in the darkness…
Family. Tears. Laughter. Team. Death. Life. Love.
The lightening had struck.
Because I could not stop for Death
He kindly stopped for me —
The carriage held but just ourselves
Disclaimer: I do not, nor have I ever, owned Criminal Minds. I do not even pretend to own it. I do however own my mind. And a laptop. And a TV. Also a bag of caramel corn-but that's neither here nor there. So basically: you no sue, I no copyright infringe, kay?
So, I am hesitantly posting this as it is my first published fic ever. Bah. Nerves.
Also, Corvallis, Oregon, is a real city. It is a lovely, beautiful place I imagine, though I've never been, and I apologize for letting a fictional serial killer loose in it. And, in case you didn't know, the number sequence Reid recited in his head was the beginning of the Fibonacci sequence.
I'm contemplating making this a twoshot and posting another chapter from the team's point of view. Thoughts? Feelings? Emotions? Pie?
I do hope you enjoyed it! This is unbeta-ed so any and all mistakes are mine-I try to edit as thoroughly as I can, but often times silly mistakes can fall through the cracks.
Pretty please review and tell me what you thought, yadda, yadda, yadda, funny Seinfeld references and such.
Thanks a bunches and a munches and a punches for reading!