"Reid. Hey. Reid."
Reid blinked his eyes open.
"Okay, that's better. Are you with me?"
Reid began to nod, and had to screw his eyes tightly shut again as something inside his skull smashed into the front of it with the moment. Not that he had been able to see much before. Twilight, and patches of shade.
"Kid. Reid! Don't do that, you need to stay with me. Look at me."
The tone was commanding enough to force his eyelids open again, despite whatever weight was trying to keep them pressed down. This time his eyes worked a bit better, letting him see who was peering into his face. "Hi, Morgan," he said. His voice came out scratchily.
"Nice to see you too." Morgan's half-lit face relaxed somewhat. "Do you know where we are?"
"Um." Trying to use his peripheral vision made him dizzy, but a small part of the background was in his line of sight. "In a wood?"
Morgan sat back, letting more trees come into view and confirming Reid's guess. "Yeah, that's called cheating."
"Is it a test?" His voice was still a croak. He swallowed several times, moistening his throat.
"Reid, don't mess me around right now. I want to know what your mental state is, not whether you can recognise a tree."
Morgan looked at him for a while, expectantly, until he sighed. "You still haven't answered my question. Do you know where we are?"
"Oh. Right." Reid considered the question. They often seemed to end up in woods, or in the semi-abandoned city districts which he supposed were the urban equivalent. He blinked, and tried to sort out the faces of everyone he had searched in woods and forests for but they blurred together, victims and killers alike.
Something was tapping his face, and he opened his eyes to see. Morgan. "Eyes open," he insisted.
"Stop apologising, too." Morgan rubbed his hand across his scalp and sighed. "We need to get you back to town, or at least into an area with signal coverage. These aren't circumstances I feel like meeting our unsub under."
"Um," Reid said, "Give me a minute?" He suspected that he really needed a great deal more than that, what with the bass rhythm thudding in his head and fogging his senses, but Morgan would probably guess that. He was finally beginning to slot bits of his recent memory back together. He was hazy on the unsub's name, but rather nauseatingly clear on his methods of dispatching his victims. Being somewhere safer seemed like a rather good idea.
Morgan slid an arm under Reid's shoulders before he could think to ask and slowly levered him up to a sitting position. "You're doing great," he said, his voice lowered in reassurance.
"I haven't really done very much."
Morgan sighed. "Reid, I know this is hard for you, but just for once stop being pedantic."
"Sorry." He reached up to touch his head. There wasn't much of an increase in pain, but the receptors in that area of his body were probably overloaded already. Apparently there was quite a lot of blood.
"Hey." He belatedly realised that Morgan was talking to him. "I said, are you ready to try standing?"
Not really. I'd much rather lie down and go to sleep. "Uh, I guess so," he said. He balled his hands, leaf litter crunching beneath his knuckles. Vaguely he registered Morgan saying something about things being alright, but he was too busy bracing himself against the prospect of movement to pay much attention.
Standing was indeed just as bad an idea as he'd suspected. Patches of blackness bloomed in his vision and the world tilted in unreasonable and horrible ways. Without Morgan's support he would have toppled over again immediately. He clung tightly to his arm and swallowed thickly, desperately wishing for the vertigo to pass.
Eventually it did. Reid unclenched his eyelids, noting with relief that the trees had stopped moving. His pulse was pounding in his head.
Morgan was looking worried, and was evidently stopping himself from speaking.
"I'm okay," Reid said, shakily.
Morgan nodded, probably about as convinced as he was going to get. "How do you feel?"
"Sick." He hadn't while he was safely horizontal, but now he was having to fight the urge to throw up. He really hoped that he wouldn't. The tilting that it would require would probably do him in.
"Yeah, you look pretty rough," Morgan said sympathetically. "I wish I didn't have to make you walk, but we don't have much choice."
"I know." Reid swallowed again. "I'll be fine."
"Of course you will. Lean on me, okay?"
Reid gritted his teeth. "Let's go."
The first couple of steps were the worst, his balance off and the ground dipping and rolling beneath him. Morgan steadied him as he stumbled and adjusted his arms so that Reid's body was close against his and he could take much of the weight. After that Reid managed to develop a sort of rhythm. His eyes closed and he allowed his head to loll against his chest.
Morgan shook him gently. "Hey, kid, don't do that. Keep your eyes open."
"No point," he muttered. He had been aiming for a longer sentence but it got lost somewhere on the way to his tongue.
"There's plenty of point. I need to know you're not about to drift off and collapse. You've shaken enough brains out of your head already."
Reid looked down at the forest floor. It was all brown, and motion-blurred enough to be indistinguishable, but he watched it obediently until his feet stumbled and suddenly Morgan was arresting his fall before it could properly begin. He moaned, practically hearing his brain thud against the inside of his skull. Since he was now bent forward, his body apparently decided that it was as good a time as any to give in to the steadily building nausea.
Once he had finished retching Morgan guided him away and down onto what was probably the trunk of a fallen tree, but he couldn't say for certain because his eyes were squeezed tightly closed. He pressed the palms of his hands against the bark, grounding himself with the rough ridges solid and steady against his skin. Morgan rubbed his back, speaking soothingly. "Take it easy, now. You're doing great."
It was so blatantly untrue that Reid let out a shaky laugh.
Morgan squeezed his shoulder comfortingly. "Well, you're doing great for someone with a concussion who just tripped over the most obvious tree root in this forest. I did tell you to keep your eyes open."
Reid frowned, stopping immediately as it increased the tension in his forehead. "I was."
"Reid, look at me."
He complied, finding that Morgan had scooted a little way down the trunk and was holding up a hand. "How many fingers?"
It was twilight, and Morgan's dark skin was already becoming lost in it. Reid squinted. Surely in this light he wasn't being expected to actually be able to tell? "Two?" he hazarded.
"Dammit." Morgan moved back almost instantly. He must have been much closer than Reid had thought. "Your vision's blurry? How much?"
"It's getting dark," Reid hedged. "Everything's shadows."
"Dammit," Morgan repeated. "Reid, it's not that dark yet. You should have said something. I mean, I should have asked you. But still —"
Reid rubbed his forehead with both hands. He tried looking into the distance again, but the surroundings had no more distinction than before.
Morgan tapped his cheek, his face close. Dark, with light contrasts in his eyes. "Hey. Are you listening?"
"We need to get going again."
Reid nodded absently, and winced.
His face was tapped again, more urgently this time. "Reid! Stop closing your eyes, and pay attention. You have to get up now."
"In a minute," he protested, but Morgan caught hold of him beneath his arms and hoisted him to his feet, not releasing his tight grip until Reid's dizziness from standing had somewhat receded and he had stopped swaying.
"Okay?" Morgan asked cautiously.
Reid couldn't think of an appropriate response. He made a sound that was somewhere between a grunt and a moan.
Apparently that was taken as affirmation because Morgan started walking, so Reid had to walk too.
"What did I tell you about looking where you're going?"
"I don't want to," Reid said. "Please. It makes it worse." His eyes struggled to change their focus in accordance with the slightly different view each step brought. He couldn't register his surroundings properly, only managing to become more disorientated.
Morgan sighed heavily. "Alright, since it doesn't seem to be working for you you can keep your eyes closed. But you need to talk to me instead, deal?"
"Deal," Reid agreed, relieved. Although he couldn't really think of anything to talk about. His thoughts merely skittered on the surface of his mind, seemingly repelled by the pain and sickness from getting any deeper. Finally he settled on something which he was surprised not to have thought of asking earlier. "What happened? To my head?"
To his surprise Morgan chuckled. "You fell down a bank."
"Oh." Somehow he'd assumed there would be more to it than that.
"Yeah, you got too close to the edge, the earth gave way, and you tumbled down and bashed into a rock." Morgan paused. "I can make up something more heroic to tell Hotch, if you like."
It was probably a joke. He was finding it difficult to tell. "You shouldn't lie to Hotch," he said, just in case it wasn't.
"Relax, kid, I'm just messing around."
"Sorry." He thought of something else. "Where is everyone?"
"JJ's at the station, or was when we left. Everyone else split up to scout the forest. Hardly anyone lives out here, which is why there weren't enough people to be in larger groups than pairs." Morgan paused. "Any of this sound familiar?"
"Bits… What state are we in?"
There was a slight jolt in the smooth rhythm of Morgan's steps. "Are you sure you can't remember? Come on, try for me."
Reid tried, but his most recent memories were fragmented, mixed with too many others. "Colorado?" he guessed.
Morgan sighed. "Wisconsin."
"Huh." That was a pretty big thing to forget. A whole state… "Morgan, I think I should be able to remember that."
"Hey, hey, it's alright." Morgan's hand squeezed reassuringly. "Some memory loss is perfectly normal with head traumas and it usually returns within a few days. You know that."
"No, you don't understand." Reid heard his voice crack. Why hadn't he be concerned earlier about the gaping wounds in his memory? This was wrong, it was terrifying.
It was suddenly hard to breathe. He tried for faster, shallower breaths. His heart was pounding.
He felt his knees buckle and couldn't do anything to stop them. He vaguely registered hitting the floor with less force than expected, Morgan's arms guiding him down. He felt as if he was spinning very fast, his senses overwhelmed, and then failing.
Someone was speaking from a long way away. He strained to make out the words.
"…swear, if you don't answer me soon I'll just leave you here to get eaten by bears —"
"Morgan?" Reid tried to ask, although it came out as more of a groan.
"Reid? Are you with me?"
"Don't you dare do that again." His voice was shaking.
"Speak to me. With words."
"Tired," Reid mumbled. He looked up. Against a fading sky black branches waved down at him.
"I know you're tired, but this really isn't the time or place to take a nap."
Branches. That was strange. "Where're we?" The syllables slurred together, heavy on his tongue.
There was a catch of breath, a pause, and then Morgan loomed into his sight-line, the wrong side of the moon fallen out of the sky. "We're in a forest in Wisconsin, remember?" He spoke clearly, enunciating each word. "We were looking for signs of our unsub, and you fell and hit your head."
That sounded familiar. And not especially interesting, for all that Morgan sounded as if he considered what he was saying to be important. He turned his head to the side, the silhouetted trees dipping and swaying. "Who's that?"
"That person." He tried to point, but it required too much effort. His limbs felt weighted with lead. "Over there."
Morgan looked round and then leapt up, moving so fast that Reid couldn't focus on him. He was a blur. "FBI!" he shouted. "Hands up and stay where you are!"
Reid blinked, and suddenly the man had stepped out of a patch of shadow. He held something that glinted in the last of the light.
"Put that down." Morgan's voice was dangerously calm.
The man took a couple of halting steps forward. The gun wavered, splitting into many and reforming, over and over. "I'm not going back to prison," he said, his voice wavering too. "I can't. I won't let you."
"Easy," Morgan said. His gun was in his hand — when had that happened? "We can talk about this. Drop your weapon and we'll talk. No one has to get hurt."
Reid struggled to move. Morgan nudged him with his foot. He stopped.
"Just — just let me go," the man — the unsub — begged.
"I'm sorry, but you know I can't do that," Morgan said. "But you don't have to get hurt here. Just put the gun down, please."
Moments stretched out like treacle while Morgan spoke calmly and Reid blinked, trying to keep the images steady.
Slowly, unbearably slowly, the muzzle of the gun was lowered, and then dropped. It hit the ground with a soft thud. Reid breathed out shakily, tension still thrumming through him.
"On your knees!" Morgan barked. "Put your hands above your head!"
They had a prisoner. That was vaguely amusing. Reid almost chuckled.
There was still a source of worry, though. Something felt wrong; something about the profile, although he couldn't actually remember the profile on a conscious level.
Then the second man stepped out from beneath the trees, second gun in his hand and aimed at Morgan's head. Morgan's hands had been occupied with the set of handcuffs, and were empty.
For a moment, the world seemed to drop away into a pit of ice-cold fear.
Reid felt himself move without thought, adrenaline overcoming pain and every other miserable symptom of his concussion, one arm pushing him upright, the other hand going smoothly to his holster.
Ready, aim, trigger press.
The retort of the gun was like a physical hammer smashing into his head. His vision blacked. When it cleared Morgan was there, hands firmly around his trembling wrists.
"Reid, it's okay. You can let go of the gun now. You did good."
"I did?" He blinked several times, and stared. The first unsub was apparently handcuffed to a sapling. The second was nowhere to be seen at first, and then he noticed an unmoving heap on the ground.
"You did. That was nice shooting." Morgan pried the gun from his fingers. "Maybe you should get one of us to whack you on the head before your next proficiency test."
"Not funny," Reid croaked. The moment of clarity he'd had was rapidly draining away. He was still shaking and couldn't seem to stop. There was the sense that he was spinning, even though his eyes told him he was still.
"Hey now. Focus. Reid!"
He blinked some more and suddenly he actually was moving, tilting forwards. Morgan caught him once again, which he didn't feel in the least surprised by.
"Please, kid. Don't do this to me again."
There was leaf dirt and the taste of copper in his mouth. And, faintly, there were voices.
Waking was initially much like falling unconscious had been, with his senses muffled and the confused sounds of people somewhere at a remove from him. Then Reid registered the dry antiseptic taste to his mouth and the comparative lack of pain.
He cracked his eyes open with a groan. It took a lot of effort.
Morgan was leaning back in a chair, his feet propped on the bed near Reid's knees. He lowered the book he was reading. "Nice to see you again," he drawled, but couldn't hide his grin. "Had a good nap?"
Reid rubbed his eyes, registering the IV line in the back of his hand. "What happened?"
"How far back do you want me to go?" Morgan passed him a cup of water, still with his feet resting on the blankets. Reid drank thirstily.
"I remember shooting the unsub," he said, happy to find that his voice sounded stronger already. "After that, not much." He pushed absently at one of Morgan's shoes, but didn't have the strength to move it. Morgan ignored his efforts.
"Some of the other guys including Hotch and Prentiss heard the gunshot and came to investigate. We carried you back to the station and drove you to the nearest town with more than two people in it, which is where you are now."
"I don't remember any of that."
"Yeah, I'm not surprised. You didn't end up needing surgery, but it was apparently a close call. You've been out for nearly an entire day."
"Huh." Reid reached up to finger the bandage on his head. Morgan slapped his hand away.
"Leave that alone."
"Get your feet off my bed."
Morgan grinned lazily. "Hey now, I half-carried you for miles. I'll put my feet where I damn well like."
Reid scowled, but it somehow turned into a yawn. "It wasn't miles."
"Keep telling yourself that, but you still owe me."
Reid yawned again, and Morgan finally swung his feet to the floor to scoot his chair closer. "Go back to sleep," he said quietly.
"Mmm." It was an alluring idea. "Just woke up."
Morgan chuckled. "Yeah, and you're already struggling to stay awake. Get some rest. One of us will be here when you decide to join us again."
"Mm-kay." He relaxed back into the pillows and let his eyelids fall closed.
Just before he drifted off, he felt Morgan's hand on his arm. "You did real good," he said again, gently and sincerely. And he rested his feet back onto the bed, nudging Reid's shins through the blankets