Letters for Diana
A/N: MAJOR SPOILERS FOR AMPLIFICATION AHEAD!
Thank you so much to everyone for their overwhelming and continued support for this fic. You've made writing it so much more joyous and every one of you is very important to me.
Please forgive my tardiness. I've been very busy: Christmas on one side of the family, Hannukah on the other, organising for end of school year, and I'm maid of honour at a January wedding. Searching for a new job through all this and… yes, I've been extremely busy. Extra long one to reward your patience.
Ever since he had locked that door between himself and Morgan – that stupid glass door – Reid had felt increasingly isolated and lonely. He had managed to distract himself through his work, but it was becoming less and less enjoyable the sicker he became. It was hard to focus with a fever, and whenever his attention did waver it always went to the same place.
He'd read the government reports of the 2001 anthrax attacks on the drive over, and he was heartily regretting that now. He'd read, amongst other things, how the survivors of inhalation anthrax – that most harmful strain which he now had – suffered multiple health problems even years after they had officially been cured. Reid didn't want to die, but would he really want to live after this? Would he want to live if he could never work again? If he had trouble remembering the most simple things, like whether or not he'd showered that day? If for the rest of his life, he couldn't stay awake longer than five hours?
He had to hold out hope. This strain was different. The fact that he was feeling sick at all this early on in the infection told him that. Perhaps it would hurt him hard but fast; getting it all over and done with and leaving few complications for later in life. He just had to stay positive, and work on finding the cure.
Hotch didn't tell Morgan Reid had found a scanner next to a computer sitting on the desk in the room the young man was now trapped in, and had quickly scribbled out a letter to his mother on a piece of paper before emailing it to the unit chief. He didn't tell Morgan that the letter had contained the words "I love you" far too often of Hotch's liking, or that the letter contained far too many references to events long past that the mother and son had shared together. All in all, it felt far too much like goodbye.
Hotch had no time to mail the letter. He wouldn't even take the twenty minutes out of his day to do that. He wouldn't allow his attention to waver for a moment while Reid's life, and really, the lives of all the members of his team and his family, were hanging in the balance. He simply printed the letter off from a computer and placed it in an addressed envelope, giving Anderson some money for stamps and asking him to post it.
He certainly wouldn't tell Morgan Reid had written more personally to Hotch, asking him to make absolutely sure his will was honoured and all his assets went towards ensuring his mother lived a long and comfortable life.
Hotch wouldn't let himself get distracted later on, either, when he heard Garcia tell Morgan how sick Reid was getting. Was it naïve of him to have hoped that somehow, Reid was miraculously immune to the disease? It was, but he couldn't focus as well if he was picturing Reid choking on his own blood or – God forbid – sputtering out random syllables because his brain was failing to find its words. If he listened to Garcia saying how poorly off Reid was, he'd lose his ability to compartmentalise, and he wouldn't be able to focus and catch Brown before he managed to kill hundreds of people.
Hotch tried to ignore Morgan's broken expression as he stopped them talking about Reid and directed the focus back to the case.
Several hours later, Hotch had finally finished all the paperwork that had needed to be completed immediately after the case. He wanted nothing more than to go home and go to sleep; the day had been tremendously exhausting and the unit chief had not even had time to have a lunch break. But there was somewhere else he needed to be first; and it was likely he wouldn't sleep for several hours more.
And so, after a quick phone call to his son, Hotch drove himself to the hospital, and after flashing his badge, was given directions to the top secret anthrax wing. The nurse who told him about it didn't even know what it was – it was just another section of the hospital that had been taken over for use by the CDC. Minimal hospital staff really knew what was going on here – most of those who were aware had been working in the ER and ICU the night it started, and they had been sworn to secrecy.
Sworn to secrecy… what would Hotch tell Reid's mother if the worst should happen?
But the worst wouldn't happen. Morgan had called Hotch a couple of hours after they caught Brown while the unit chief was still doing paperwork and dealing with the departure of the army, and he had told him that the lab had come back with the results – the contents of Nichols' inhaler was not a bronchodilator but was the cure for this strain of anthrax.
But Morgan had said the cure couldn't be given right away; it would still take time for the lab to figure out just how much needed to be given to each patient, and how to duplicate the cure so there would be enough for each person affected. That conversation had taken place an hour ago, and Morgan hadn't called since. Would it take too long for the lab to come back with a usable cure? Reid had put himself at risk for everyone here, staying in the house longer than he should have and breathing in more of that poison so he could figure out who had done this and where the next attack would be. It would be tragic if he died because the lab was just a little too slow.
Morgan looked up and then straight back down at the floor as Aaron Hotchner walked in. Garcia had one hand resting on his back supportively. She held eye contact for longer, but there was a suspicious hardened quality to her gaze that Hotch was unaccustomed to seeing. Prentiss was sitting in a hard plastic chair beside Garcia, her legs stretched out and crossed together at the ankle and her arms crossed over her chest. Her head was raised, but her eyes were lowered and staring into her lap. Rossi had been standing next to her, but he walked over to meet Hotch as the other approached. He stopped him when he was still about fifteen feet from the others.
"I should tell you before you see," said Rossi gently, and for a brief moment, Hotch's heart leapt into his throat as he finally processed the scene he had just witnessed with his colleagues in the hallway, and he realised Morgan had been crying. Derek Morgan didn't cry.
"Is he –" Hotch began, fixing Rossi with a penetrating stare.
"No – he's still alive," reassured Rossi, and Hotch looked away with a barely perceptible sigh of relief.
"Why is Morgan…" Hotch finished the sentence by gesturing towards his subordinates seated on a row of cheap plastic chairs attached to one side of the hallway.
"You know Morgan," muttered Rossi. "He feels guilty. He still thinks he's supposed to help Reid cross the street, and now he thinks he failed his job." Rossi gave a half-hearted smile before getting to the heart of the matter. "They gave him the cure not long ago."
"Then what's the problem?"
"Let me finish. I don't think 'cure' is the best word for it… his doctor will be able to tell you better, but the cure apparently just neutralises the poison. It's already done significant damage to his lungs… basically right now it's waiting and seeing if he's strong enough to recover on his own."
"Wait and see?" Hotch demanded in an angry but quiet voice. "The best they can do after he stuck his life on the line to save everyone in this city is supportive therapy?"
Rossi shrugged. "They're giving him some ungodly amount of antibiotics but apart from that… yeah."
Hotch grimaced. "When will we know?" he asked.
"The doctor says a little more than a week," Rossi said, and Hotch let out another frustrated huff. "There's been complications… his lungs filled with blood on the way to the hospital and he couldn't breathe any longer. He's on a ventilator; as well as about five hundred other things I couldn't name if you paid me. He's also been unconscious since they started him on morphine."
"Morgan told them not to, but Kimura said he'd die of pain if she didn't," Rossi explained. "What's the big deal about morphine anyway?"
Hotch grimaced. "If Reid wants to tell you he will," he said.
"Yeah," muttered Rossi, "if he's ever awake again."
Hotch chose to ignore that last sentiment. "Where's JJ?" he asked, having noticed the media liaison's absence.
Rossi gave a wry grin. "She had a family to go home to," he said. "Honestly, we all thought Reid would be fine. We didn't realise this was how it worked. We thought we'd drop in and have a bit of a chat with him… tell him what happened with the case and he'd be out by morning. JJ struggled with this one… she misses her family. I'd just like to give her one night of peace before we have to tell her the truth."
Hotch might have argued, might have told Rossi that JJ had a right to know her friend's condition. But he didn't. He knew JJ would be devastated if Reid died in the night, but she'd be devastated anyway. Dragging her away from her family and away from the only restful night's sleep she'd have for the next few days didn't seem to be the right thing to do. Besides, Hotch had to have faith in Reid. He would get better.
Reid looked terrible. Hotch had seen some sick people in his time; people whom he had interviewed who had been hurt within inches of death by an unsub, but they had rarely looked this bad. And all of them had at least been conscious, and without a too large tube going down their throat.
It was the morning after the anthrax scare had been dealt with and the city could rest in peace once more, but that luxury was still kept from the members of the BAU. Hotch had sent them all home around midnight, but Morgan, still feeling guilt for Reid's condition, had refused to leave, and Hotch, who did not have any family to go back to, had stayed to keep him company.
It was a Friday, but Hotch had managed to get some time off for the entire team; telling Strauss that they were far too concerned for their teammate to do any good working, and also reminding her that they were owed a few days off because of how many weekends they had worked in the past few months. She had been surprisingly understanding about it all, much to Hotch's relief.
Morgan was having serious trouble coping. He hadn't left Reid's side since he had been allowed in there, save for once when he went to the bathroom. He had been very snappy to the nurses and Hotch had been worried he was going to attack Dr Kimura when he asked her what Reid's chances were.
Hotch couldn't entirely blame him. He'd felt shattered when the woman had admitted to them he likely only had a forty to fifty per cent chance.
JJ had screamed at Hotch over the phone when he told her. She had said much the same things Morgan had said to him: why hadn't he made Reid come out of the house sooner; why didn't they at least bring him antibiotics while he was there – and of course, why was she, JJ, the last to know. She was in there now, sitting beside Reid on the opposite side of the bed to Morgan, hunched over so Hotch couldn't see her face from where he was seated in the hall. He was contemplating what to do next.
Calling JJ had been hard, very hard. But it had been the right thing to do. What was he supposed to do now? Was he supposed to tell a mentally ill woman that her son could be dead this time next week? Or should he lie, protect her, and hope the worst never happened?
He felt much the same as he had done over two years ago, when Reid had been missing and he had had no idea whether or not he would come back to them in one piece. He knew now that, no matter what he decided to tell her, it couldn't be the absolute truth. He might have been able to stretch the rules a little and tell her Spencer had anthrax if she had been any ordinary woman. But she wasn't, and if he told her the truth then not only would she tell everyone else in the hospital; it would also likely limit any progress the doctors were making with her. It wouldn't do to have her thinking about secret bioweapons the government was sticking in the water or something.
In the end, Hotch decided on part of the truth. Garcia walked in as Hotch was writing in Reid's handwriting, telling Diana he had come down with pneumonia and would be doing a stint in hospital. The unit chief barely noticed as she sat down next to him until she interrupted his thought process.
"What's that?" she asked curiously, and Hotch finally looked up. Garcia was wearing green framed glasses and make up, but it was obvious by the state of her hair that she had spent little time getting dressed this morning. She had probably gotten out of bed not an hour ago.
"I'm writing to his mother," Hotch answered honestly. "I can't really tell her the truth… not just yet. We'll just hope Reid makes it, and she doesn't have to know."
Garcia looked down at her lap. "He's not doing any better, then?" she asked him.
Hotch looked back up. He could see through the glass door to Reid's room. He could see the pallor of Reid's skin and how limp he looked. He could see just how many tubes and wires were snaking around his subordinate, tethering him to the bed. "No," Hotch told Garcia quietly. "No change."
"You know he called me," Garcia told Hotch, and the unit chief was only a little surprised to hear her voice tremble slightly. "When he was… there. He made me record a message to his mom. I had to basically listen to him say goodbye."
Hotch might have said something different had he been with Rossi, but because it was Garcia he said, "It won't be goodbye. We're not going to let it be goodbye."
Reid woke up for the first time the following morning at eleven o'clock. He wasn't very cognizant; he didn't even seem to notice the fact that there was a tube down his throat. He just opened his eyes briefly and looked around at everyone around him, watching them all before less than two minutes later, the drugs and exhaustion dragged him back to sleep.
The second time he woke up, three hours later, he seemed much better. Dr Kimura had lowered the morphine some in accordance with Reid's wishes to be on the lowest dose possible. Now, with the drug cloud slightly lifted, he seemed more aware of his surroundings, and it even seemed that a small smile began in the corners of his mouth.
Morgan still hadn't left his side, but the others had rotated keeping him company. They couldn't cram six people into the room even if they had been allowed: too many people would obstruct the doctors and nurses from doing their job. Right now Morgan, Hotch and Prentiss were in the room, and Reid's eyes slid over each of them, silently acknowledging their presence.
"Hey, kid," Morgan said. "How're you feeling?"
Reid gave a small shrug, then squeezed his eyes shut for a moment as he rode out a wave of pain. When it ended, he mimed writing with his right hand. Recognising the request, Hotch took a notepad and pen from inside his jacket and pressed them into the younger man's hand. Because he was unable to sit up, Reid could not see what he was writing on the notepad atop the bed sheet; he just did it by feel. When he handed it back to Hotch, the unit chief barely managed to hold in his dismay.
Garish tray evoke lax.
"Reid, I don't think the aphasia's been cured just yet," Hotch said gently, then he showed him the note.
Reid's face contorted into a picture of abject misery as he saw evidence that the worst part of his illness hadn't been fixed. His eyes screwed up, and he thumped the mattress with one hand angrily. He began struggling against the ventilator, and then an alarm sounded.
Almost immediately, the three that had been in the room were ushered out as Kimura and two nurses ran in. Reid calmed after a needle was held up to his IV line, and before long the obnoxious alarm sounds stopped.
"What happened?" Kimura asked as she exited the room, peeling off a set of gloves.
Hotch showed her the note. "He still has aphasia," Hotch explained. "I thought the cure would have taken care of that?"
Kimura shrugged. "So did I," she admitted. "It might take a little longer for the brain to heal, though. We'll just have to wait and see."
Wait and see. It really was all the doctors could come up with in regards to Reid.
After that incident, Hotch continued to write Reid's letters, while Reid, who was still sleeping at least twenty two hours a day, would check it over and either approve it to be sent, or point at a certain part he didn't like. Hotch would then have to guess exactly what Spencer didn't like about what was said, because his methods of communication remained very limited. He tried writing when he wasn't too tired, but it only ever came out a garbled mess of broken English.
They were still going down the honesty road in regards to what Diana was being told. Even though Reid had woken up, he wasn't entirely out of the woods yet, and they didn't want her to be completely blindsided should the worst come to pass. It was a hard line to tread: the line between preparing Diana for the worst and not sounding so macabre that she would become severely depressed.
Dear Mom, Hotch had written the last time.
How are you going? Have you been reading a lot? I hope you're continuing to read lots of different stuff – don't read the same thing over again too many times.
I'm still in the hospital. Apparently my pneumonia is quite bad. I'm getting a little more worried by it; I have terrible headaches and I haven't actually read anything in the past few days.
I don't want you to worry though; I'll be alright. The doctors have put me on the strongest antibiotics they have. But I hope you're focusing on your wellbeing more.
I'm really bored here. The team has no cases at the moment, so even if Hotch would let me help out (which he wouldn't while I'm sick) I couldn't do anything anyway. I can't read or watch TV because of my headache and at the moment I'm too sick to get out of bed so there's really nothing to do. Morgan has a few days off and he hasn't left me at all, which is really nice of him, but I'm still bored.
I don't have that much to tell you because I haven't been doing much. I hope you're doing better than I am. I love you.
Four days after Reid was admitted, Hotch was called to the nurse's station to take a phone call.
Hotch felt a sense of extreme trepidation as he picked up the phone: the person on the other end was claiming to be Diana Reid and was demanding to speak to her son, according to the nurse who had answered the call. "Mrs Reid?" he asked into the phone.
"What have you done with my son? Who are you?" the irate woman on the other line demanded immediately, and Hotch's heart sunk.
"Mrs Reid, my name is Aaron Hotchner; I'm a friend of your son's," he explained gently, hoping the word "friend" would cause her to trust him more than the words "boss" or "colleague" would.
"A friend? A friend? I know you! Spencer writes about you! You work for the government, and you've tricked him into trusting you! And now he's locked up in there like some animal! BRING HIM HERE AT ONCE!"
Hotch grimaced, pulling the phone a little further from his ear. "I can't do that," he said honestly. "But he's not locked up… he's just ill at the moment."
"He's too sick to talk to his mother? Ha! You're just afraid I'll discover what's really going on; how you and your fellow fascists have poisoned him! Well, you won't get anything out of him. Torturing him will get you NOWHERE so you had better let him go before I come down there and –"
"Mrs Reid," Hotch interrupted, in what he hoped was a soothing voice. In his line of work he had spoken to mentally unwell people many times before, but it was different when the person in question was related to somebody he cared about. "I promise we only want to help him. He's receiving the best care possible, and as soon as he's ready he'll be free to go wherever he wants. He's not a prisoner here."
"You expect me to believe that?" Diana's voice was angry, but Hotch could detect fear and desperation hidden below the fury. He felt a sudden surge of sympathy for the woman; if his own son were in Reid's position he would probably be kicking and screaming as well. "You expect me to believe a government agent's word? I am his MOTHER. I know when something is wrong. You put him on the phone right now!"
Hotch sighed deeply. "I can't do that, Mrs Reid. He needs his rest. But I promise he will call you as soon as he's able."
"I knew it. I knew you were hiding it from me. You want me to think he's dead, don't you? Well I know he's not. I know you're just hiding him, keeping him so he –"
Very suddenly, the line cut out. Hotch returned the phone to the nurse at the desk, realising that Diana's hospital probably had rules about how long the phone could be used for, and she had exceeded that time. He sighed, hoping he wouldn't have to receive any more of those phone calls. He wished Reid would suddenly wake up one day, aphasia gone, illness cured, and ready to go home. That wouldn't happen quickly. It may not happen at all.
Hotch looked back in at the room where Reid was sleeping before sighing heavily and turning to leave.
To Hotch's immense relief, Reid spontaneously regained the ability to write the next day. He was still extremely tired from pain and illness, and he couldn't sit up enough to be able to see what he was writing, so everything he did was slanted, and words on separate lines would run into each other. So Hotch continued to write the letters, although with less guesswork when he had included something Reid didn't like.
Finally, after eight long and difficult days and eight long and painful letters, Reid was finally judged healthy enough to be officially out of the danger zone. As the doctor sedated him one final time so she could take out the ventilator, the rest of the team as one breathed a sigh of relief. They didn't yet know if this strain had been completely cured by the powder found in Nichols' inhaler or if it would be like the Amerithrax of 2001 and leave its sufferers disabled for the rest of their lives, but they were only happy the youngest team member wasn't going to die. Exhausted after the long week, five of them went home to finally get the long, uninterrupted sleep they needed; while the sixth remained to keep Reid company when he woke up.
Derek Morgan, who had not left the hospital for more than an hour at a time since the team had apprehended Brown, who had slept in chairs and eaten only what other people had thought to bring him, was the one Reid saw when his eyes finally opened, now much clearer with no morphine at all dulling his senses.
"Are you eating Jello?"
A/N: It could've happened…
Reviews are really appreciated. As far as the show is going right now, this is the final chapter. If there should be another viable episode in the future, I may add more chapters. But for now, I really want to thank every one of you for taking the time to read this. Most of all I'd like to thank those of you who took the time to leave a review. You all made writing so easy and so much fun, and it was wonderful sharing the journey, so to speak.
If I could make one final request, I'd like to ask for prayers for my grandfather, who is a wonderful man and is seriously ill right now, both mentally and physically. I'm very worried for him and I would not normally ask, but if it is your custom to pray, please spare a thought for him to help get him through this difficult time. Thank you all very much.