Grief is the price we pay for love.
Queen Elizabeth II
Life is comprised from millions and millions—billions, even—of moments. Of pauses and seconds and thoughts that freeze the world around you for that one instant.
The moment Derek Morgan realized that his teammate, co-worker, surrogate little brother, best friend or whatever the hell you wanted to call him, was missing, he flew into full on panic mode.
When Reid didn't come back after ten minutes from his quick run for coffee, Morgan knew. He knew that something was wrong. He would swear that he had a sixth sense when it came to the kid, which was often useful seeing as he was practically a magnet for lunatics. And when he went to find Reid with Prentiss after twenty minutes, and found only the cooled over cups of untouched coffee and his cell phone, spidering cracks crawling on the screen, lying on the ground, coupled with the oh-so-noticeable similarities between Reid and the previous victims of their current bad guy, he knew that the day would not be a good one.
The team jumped into action immediately, it was the only thing they could do. But leads ran dry, until there were none at all, and hours slipped futilely through their hands. So they stopped, and started over completely. The profile. It was the only thing they had left.
"You what's bugging me?" Rossi had asked to no one in particular, scrutinizing the crime scene photos on the board. "This guy," he continued, "doesn't even see the victims die. He just buries them. Where's the gratification? Where's the satisfaction if never even gets to see the bodies? We know he revisits his crime scenes, we know he gets off on killing them. But how? He profiles as someone who needs to see the body, needs to know what he's accomplished."
A moment. A pause had settled on the room, blanketing over the buzz of worry that crackled between everyone.
Hotch broke it, snapping open his phone, and dialing Garcia's number.
"Garcia, I need you check and see if anyone who helped dig up the victims over laps on the cases."
Another moment had passed, filled with the fluttering clicks of her keyboard. And then, just like that, they had it. A name. A person. A human being to fill in for the previously invisible monster. The excavator on all the cases: Evan Nolan. He fit the profile. It was enough.
"Bring my baby home." Garcia's request was strong, even as it came through the speakers. A moment, and then a promise. A terrible, horrible promise that never came to be.
But Morgan didn't know that, not yet. He tightened his knuckles around the steering wheel, muttering a curse under his breath as he powered by a semi truck and to Reid. Hopefully, to Reid.
How had they missed it? How had they not found Nolan in the few days they were there? How had they—he—let him get Reid?
Tires screeched in protest at his violent stop, and the engine was still sizzling when his feet hit the ground, gun drawn, motioning to Prentiss to follow him around back as Hotch took lead through the front door.
Rocks crunched under his boots, completely unforgiving as he snuck low against Nolan's house.
Prentiss waited a second, before unlatching his back gate, letting Morgan shoot forward, eyes and guns raking the area.
Nolan glanced at the two agents in his yard, one leg still in his rusted red pickup. A moment, bubbling with tension and decisions. Nolan flickered his eyes to his truck, and back to the guns trained on him. A moment. A decision.
"Don't even think about." Morgan leveled his shot to Nolan's forehead.
The weasel of a man brought his hands up, and shifted out of the cab. Prentiss had him in cuffs before he could process what was happening.
Morgan pulled him up roughly. "Where is he?" His eyes were icy and his voice was biting, relentless steel.
A moment, in which Nolan's wide eyes softened, melted into a disturbing glee, and his thin lips curled into a feral, excited for all the wrong reasons, smile. Baring his gums, and his bilious teeth, stained in daisy yellow and ash tray gray, he breathed thickly straight into Morgan's face, "You'll never find him."
Morgan reacted in a flash, shoving Nolan back until he hit the rotting wooden post of his porch. He positioned his arm to Nolan's neck, and pressed down, hard.
"Is this what you like, Evan?" He hissed his name, almost spitting out like it left a bad taste on his tongue. "To suffocate them slowly?" Nolan's eyes were close to popping from their sockets as he clawed at Morgan's forearm. "Because I'm feeling extra nice today, I'm going to repeat the question, and this time? This time you're going to goddamned tell me where he is." Real, raw fear oozed from Nolan as his flailing slackened.
Prentiss was tugging at his side, but Morgan's cold eyes didn't leave Nolan's.
The bad feeling was getting worse in the pit of his stomach.
One word, one sharp bark of, "Morgan," from Hotch registered in his ears.
A moment. Morgan released Nolan, and clenched his fists, driving his fingernails into his palms until he felt a sharp bolt of pain jerk through his hand. He spun quickly, not daring to look at the man and risk setting off his temper again. It wouldn't help Reid. And that's all that was important: Reid.
Rossi was shoving Nolan in the back of a squad car, watching him carefully for anything that would be helpful in the interrogation room, when Prentiss called, "Guys, I've got something."
They all jogged back to her, squishing the hope that sprung within them. They knew better than to get their hopes up. They knew it would hurt that much more.
She was crouched next to Nolan's truck, ghosting her finger over the muddied tires. "False Solomon's Seal, or the Treacleberry. Reid pointed it out when we were out scouting possible dump sites."
She almost smiled at the memory.
"Maianthemum racemosum, it's a Native North American flowering plant. Did you know that they're in fact edible? The young shoots taste kind of like asparagus. The plant, however, is too fibrous and bitter to be very appetizing. Though, the Ojibwa Indians would harvest the root of it and cook it in lye water overnight to remove its bitter taste and laxative powers."
"Thanks for the tidbit, Reid, but I don't think our unsub is going to change his MO to death by laxative anytime soon."
"Look, it's the same plant, and it's fresh mud stuck with it. It's got to be the same location." Please, please let it be the same place.
Hotch eyed the tire and then her skeptically. "I'm sure there are many locations where it grows."
Prentiss straightened, and leveled him with a slitted stare. "There was only one place where he pointed it out. Only one location where I saw it. A location where we also collected a lot of fresh mud on our tires." She recalled Reid specifically complaining about it. "That and the fact it was already a possible dump site are enough."
"It's thin." Hotch stated dryly.
"It's all we have. Do you have any better ideas, sir?" Her eyes flashed, challenging.
They broke at least a dozen laws collectively on the drive to Prentiss' lead. There was no time to waste, not when Reid was losing so much of it.
The SUVs hadn't even rolled back from the sudden and jolting stop when the BAU's finest, sans a genius, were hitting the ground, barking orders at the search party, and dividing almost instinctually to find their missing teammate.
The world felt like a giant Tetris game, with pieces falling into place, and others obstructing their plan. Dogs yipping, people yelling, feet thundering, hearts worrying, everything stopping and starting and meshing and colliding and desperate as they looked for Reid.
A moment. A silence that trapped everything in a glass bubble for just a moment, just a moment where everything was clear.
"I've got a fresh spot!"
The team was running, racing to whoever had spoken. Shovels hit the dirt, and the hound that had led them to the mound of wet soil was happily slobbering over his trainer for a job well done.
Thick earth buried itself beneath fingers, snuggling into the loops of their prints and the concave shelters of their nails. There was so much dirt; Morgan never realized how deep, how solid the ground was before.
Dig, dig, dig, and then dig a little more. It was fading to hopeless, that they were at the wrong spot, that Reid was somewhere else, that they'd never be able to find him in the forest. He'd rot in the ground, never seeing—
The faintest glimmer of wood stood out drastically in its comparison to the dirt.
A moment. Morgan looked over at his teammates who seemed as frozen as him. They did it. They found Reid.
They found him. He had really been gone. The fact that he had been buried alive hadn't become a reality until that moment.
They were all elated to find him.
They were all crushed to find him.
A moment where something shifted from horrible dream to very real nightmare.
They all started shouting at once. Yelling to Reid, for Reid. Screaming, shouting, yelling, wailing his name out. Begging his name. It was like a plea.
Please answer us. We're here. Please be too.
A crowbar appeared in Morgan's hands and he was wondering what his body was doing as the beautiful sound of wood cracking vibrated across the sky. Splintering and crying out in agony as the dense material was pulled apart.
A moment, in which something that was so unyielding and firm became withered and broken to nothing.
Then they saw. Reid. There, lying. Eight arms shot out, grasping his body and hauling him to the soft grass ground that had previously been his ceiling.
A moment where the world was right again.
Except that… he wasn't moving. He was so still that Morgan could have mistaken him for asleep if his chest had been rising and falling to signify life flowing in and out of him.
Morgan pressed his fingers against Reid's neck, and tried to ignore the quiver in them.
His skin was smooth and unmoving. But then… there!
Sluggish and all wrong but he wasn't gone.
Morgan shifted his sitting position so that he was looking down at Reid. He placed his hands over his chest and pushed. Steady.
He couldn't give up. Reid would never give up on him.
Just come back, he wanted to say. Come back, because didn't Reid understand? Come back, because he's not allowed to die, because Morgan's best friend couldn't die. Come back, because he never got the chance to tell Reid how much he means to Morgan. Come back and he promises to never ever ruffle Reid's hair again because he knows how much it annoys him. Just come back and he'll buy Reid coffee for a month—no a year—for the rest of Reid's goddamned life, he promises. Come back, please, and he'll never tease Reid again, never laugh at his expense, and always, always be there for him.
"Reid, please, wake up. Oh God, buddy wake up. Please, kid, I'm begging you."
Rossi watched, refusing to feel helpless. Reid was going to be fine. He wasn't going to do that to the team, he'd never break them up like that. Everything would go back to normal, and Rossi wouldn't have to deal with losing someone else. He couldn't worry. He couldn't panic. Reid just needed help, and he'd be fine.
"Medic! Where's the goddamned medic?"
JJ felt a chilling tingle dart down her spine and knew it had nothing to do with the weather. Reid was sprawled out on the fallen leaves and broken blades of grass, and it reminded her of those times when Reid would baby sit Henry and fall asleep on the couch with her baby curled up on his chest, the blue light of the television flickering on their faces. Her body was flowing ice through her veins, and tears slid silently down her cheeks and she thought of Henry and she thought of her sister and she thought of Reid and it hurt.
Prentiss ran, she flew through the mess of branches and leaves that scratched at her face, but she didn't notice. She was the farthest away from Reid when she got the call on the radio, and she hadn't slowed since. Her breath came through heavy wheezes, to thick, tight lungs made of lead. Her legs burned and bargained and pleaded for her to just stop for a second, but she pushed them harder and fought off the foliage. Finally she stumbled through the clearing and called out Reid's name before she even saw him. He was pale. And not his usual pale that she often made vampire jokes about in her head, but he was a nauseating pale that she knew all too well. Images flashed in her mind, of all the dead bodies she'd crouched over and examined, and she felt it before it was ever declared. Because he was just so pale. And it wasn't right. Not Reid. Never Reid.
"Reid! Oh no. Oh, no, no, no, no."
Hotch's hand curled around Reid's neck, staying and praying to feel the tiniest hint of movement, and he glanced at everyone. Morgan, who was letting steaming tears drip down his chin and stain Reid's shirt. Rossi, who was doing everything he could to not look at Reid. JJ, who was crying calmly and had something dark and glinting in her eyes that frightened him. Prentiss, who was shaking her head and muttering to herself. He turned back to Reid, who looked so motherfucking serene it melted all of his walls to a pitiful puddle of nothing. He was supposed to be the rock, the leader. He was supposed to hold it together. So he did exactly what he was supposed to. He was comforting, and strong, and reassuring. He lied.
"Reid, just hold on. Help is on the way."
JJ choked on a sob, and her heart became an arctic wasteland just like the rest of her. Reid was barely even gone and she already missed him. Nothing would be okay again. "Spencer, God, why? W-why?"
Prentiss shook her head, and squashed her palms against her temples. It wasn't supposed to end like that. Reid was the good one, he was the innocent one who was so horribly contaminated from his past, he was kid that was stronger than everyone else. He couldn't go. Not him. It wasn't fair—it never would be. He was so pale. "No. No, no, no, no."
Rossi tore his eyes from Morgan. He was failing. Reid was… fine. Reid was going to be fine. Everything would be fine. It had to be. "Get the fucking medic over here!"
Morgan was trying. He was trying to save Reid, he was trying not to break his ribs in the process, he was trying not to snap, to crumble right there and then. Don't take him God, he tried in his head, I'll do anything, but Christ, not him. "One, two, three. One, two, three. Come on, Reid. Wake up. One, two…"
Hotch released Reid. He knew he wasn't supposed to, that he was supposed to keep the promise of more, of the sun coming up and of light and of life, alive. But he couldn't. He couldn't lie anymore. They needed to face it. Even if it felt like someone had punched him in the gut. "… Morgan…. Morgan there's no pulse…"
Rossi signaled to the medic. Fine. Everything would be fine.
JJ was backing away. She couldn't watch. Everything was so cold and it just hurt.
Prentiss was running away. It was wrong. It was all wrong, and she couldn't fix it.
Morgan ignored the medics, and kept trying and kept begging Reid to come back. He didn't care about Reid's ribs anymore, he just couldn't give up. Push, push, push, and push and nothing changed, and he didn't stop.
Hotch was pulling Morgan off of Reid who was gone and they both knew it. Hotch decided that truth wasn't worth seeing his agent so broken, and so he told him that everything would be okay, he told him of promises of sunrises, and they both accepted his lie for the moment.
A moment where the world was imploding into millions of razor sharp pieces that no amount of super glue would ever fix.
A moment where Reid was there.
A moment where he just… wasn't.
There are billions—trillions, even—of moments that make up life.
But most of the time it's not the moments that matter, it's the way that they string together. It's the way one predetermines the next. How moments can change, can alter the fabric of life so easily.
How a moment, a minute, an hour can change fact from life to death.
The most important thing about moments, however, is how they never end. How they fall, one after another, constantly swaying and changing and staying the same.
A moment and a family is shattered.
A moment and the wounds scar over until they become a painful memory.
A moment where sunlight floats down, bouncing across dense forest leaves and catching particles in its honey rays, and plays on the snow white, pure petals of a Solomon's plume.
A moment. The world is horrible ugly place.
A moment. And it's beautiful again.
In three words I can sum up everything I've learned in life. It goes on.
Disclaimer: Still don't own Criminal Minds. *wistful sigh*
So. . . ta da? I'm still nervous about posting this, but I can only really hope that everyone got the sudden and then slowed successions of the story, and that the correlations pleased you.
Humongous giant wonderful cinnamon scented thank you to everyone who reviewed, read, alerted, and favorited this story! I do hope the end pleases you!
I saw a lot of you did not want the lovely doctor to really meet his demise, but, alas and as it was forewarned in the summary, he has.
Although thankfully not for real! BAH! Who else loved, loved, loved, loved the season premiere? Especially Reid's face off with the senator. All I could think was how I never knew that you could bitch slap someone from across a room, but once again the genius proves me wrong. Ah. I love badass Reid.
Anywhoozle, please review and tell me what you thought of the ending. I apologize for any and all mistakes, they're on me no matter how much I try to edit them out.
Thank you so much for reading!