This is the thing about HIV that hurts more deeply than anything else does: it is preventable. Reid thinks about this a lot, because if Dr. Barton had just stopped for a second and thought about what he was about to do before coming to Reid's aid, he would not be in this situation right now. However, just as quickly as Reid can place blame on the shoulders of Dr. Barton or Patrick Meyers, the man whose blood was on the doctor's hands…well…Reid can just as quickly blame himself. If he had just taken a moment thought. If he had just stopped the doctor before he insisted on touching Reid's open wound, then he wouldn't be in this situation either.
As easy as it may be to place blame, it is not productive. Reid's life is what it is. Good and bad. Uninformed and educated. Diagnosis and DNA and everything that makes Reid uniquely himself. He doesn't want to stand on a pedestal and tell the people in his life how to live theirs. Therefore, instead, he lets his life speak for itself. He shows up to work. He makes choices based on what is best for everyone involved. He puts his health first. He never stops being there for those who need them.
In the quiet moments, Reid writes. It has taken him a long time to adequately grasp how he might choose to say goodbye to his family and friends, whenever the time might come. To Reid, this isn't morbid, it's simply being prepared for all life's possibilities. As likely as it is that he will live long and prosper, it is also possible that he might not. The same is true for everyone, he is just more aware of it. Therefore, Reid writes letters to his mother, to his father. To Gideon, and of course, to his current team. One, he gives to JJ when she returns, and is healthy again after Houston. He asks her to read it in the event of his passing, at his funeral, so that it's as if he's there. She's not to open the envelope unless and until this comes to pass. He cannot share them all because that would be redundant, but a letter he leaves goes something like this:
You have touched my life in so many ways - it would be impossible to adequately quantify them all. For the purposes of this letter, I will name just a few. I appreciate your patience and your understanding. Thank you for the friendship, hope and support you have shown me. Thank you seems so small, but it is all I have to give, so please accept this gift of a few words. I know you will do many wonderful things with your life. You have it to live, and you can do whatever you want with it. Go wherever your dreams take you, just don't waste the time you're given. It is such an amazing thing that we don't often pause to consider. Take care, and please keep me in your heart as you embrace your future.
It hurts to leave behind such tangible proof of his existence, but it feels right, also. Reid finds he likes the feeling of putting his affairs in order. Though he is not dying from HIV, he is living with it, it seems logical to do these things while he has the time and the faculties to do them.
When that's complete, he leaves the letters in the bottom drawer of his desk and locks it. He gives JJ the key, and the unenviable task of retrieving the letters someday.
"It better not be anytime soon," she insists, trying to laugh in spite of the serious job she has been given.
"I'm not planning on dying, but as it's definitely in my future, I thought it best to be prepared," he says serious.
"Of course you did," JJ nods, the smile on her face suddenly forced. "I hope to God I never have to use this," she says, tucking the key into her pocket.
This is exactly why Reid loves his friends. Because he can count on them to do the things that he needs to have done. The things he cannot entrust to anyone else. He also loves that they embrace him and treat him, largely, the same as they did pre-diagnosis. The only difference is that they are more aware of the impact of their health on his own.
After the Houston case, they all get together. Rossi cooks and does his best to cater to Reid's shrinking appetite. The result is nothing short of miraculous. Reid has expected something spicy and Italian, but Rossi has surprised him and made a tame but flavorful soup with chicken and vegetables that is nothing short of delicious. Reid consumes two bowls hungrily.
When they finish, they do not rush to get up from the table. Instead, they sit. Morgan suggests a game, and JJ pleads for anything but Charades, because of Garcia's penchant for cheating with long, impossible titles. Morgan produces an intriguing - if primitive-looking game - called Fact or Crap. Facts are Reid's specialty and he is certain he will beat everyone soundly at this. Until he learns that the nature of some of the facts. Some focus on hockey teams and some on popular culture.
Garcia somehow wins by a large margin. Then, it is time for dessert, which is just as delicious as dinner was. A frozen raspberry concoction with a graham cracker crust. Reid doesn't know where Rossi managed to find fresh raspberries out of season, but has a suspicion that he has a supply of various ingredients in his basement freezer.
Reid excuses himself abruptly, because even the most satisfying foods have a tendency to cause havoc to his sensitive digestive system. No one hovers, and when he reemerges, Emily is there, with a smile. She squeezes his shoulder, and together the two of them find a seat in Rossi's spacious living room.
"You know, you and I are probably the only people on this team who have actually thought about what will happen after we die. In a concrete sense," she offers.
He appreciates her frankness. Some people might be frightened at the prospect of discussing death, but it has become such a part of his every day life, that he brings it up continually. It has gotten so that his team can almost laugh about it when he makes a joke about how he should have had a bigger birthday celebration, because his 30 was like everyone else's 50. It's easier to deal with the inevitable thought of death if he embraces it. If he does his best to learn about it and not let it intimidate him. Discussions are a vital part of this.
"JJ told you…" he hedges, casting a furtive glare in JJ's direction. She is laughing and eating raspberry dessert.
"JJ didn't tell me anything. I can see it in your eyes," Emily tells him honestly. "You deal with this however you need to," she tells him. "And we'll be here for you. You know that."
"I don't actually know if I'd want anybody there with me at the end…maybe my mother…but other than that…I'm not sure I'd want anyone there… What about you? Were you glad Morgan was there?" he asks, referring to last March in the warehouse when she almost bled out due to a traumatic abdominal injury.
Emily considers this. "There wasn't time for me to consider what I wanted and didn't want. I just had to deal with what was. At the very end, I can tell you that I was…very afraid…and very lonely. While I couldn't speak, my thoughts were full of everything I hadn't said to the people I love. That's the biggest lesson I took from this. I don't want to live with regrets, if I can help it."
"That makes sense," he nods. "I guess, in a way, it's good to be able to really ponder what I want out of life, instead of simply existing day to day," he paused, noticing as she cocked her head. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to get philosophical on you."
"Go ahead. Feel free…I just…wanted to tell show you this…" she trails off, producing a tiny folded square of paper from her pocket.
Carefully he unfolds it and recognizes what it is immediately.
"It's negative. I just…I thought it would be foolish to not know my status, especially now," Emily says, uncomfortable. Reid can see on her face that this hasn't been a spur-of-the-moment decision. It's one she has considered - not just the taking of the test - but sharing the results.
He looks her in the eye. Reid doesn't say he's glad she did it - that's her own business - but he hopes his gladness is implied. HIV is preventable. It all starts with knowing your status, positive or negative. Instead of saying all these things, Reid chooses something altogether different.
"Did you know there's a girl who was born in Las Vegas? She was born approximately three years after I was. She was born positive. Diagnosed as a toddler, and not expected to live past the age of five."
"I'm guessing she beat the odds?" Emily asks.
"She's 27," Reid emphasizes, his own eyes shining. "Can you imagine? If the same fate was true for me, and I had 22 years attached to my life-expectancy?" Reid calculated quickly. "That would put mine at 82. Which is actually higher than the average life expectancy for a man in the United States by seven years. And higher than the overall US life-expectancy by two years."
"Sounds promising," Emily encouraged.
"Oh, it is," Reid answered, excited already by the possibilities this allowed for his future.
"What sounds promising?" Morgan asked, coming in and sitting as close to Reid as he possibly can. Morgan is followed by Hotch, Garcia, Rossi and JJ, who have been cleaning up the mess in the kitchen. Occasionally, the four of them, minus Morgan, could be heard singing Sinatra's "The Way You Look Tonight." JJ and Hotch had sung softly, with some reserve, while Garcia and Rossi sung with lighthearted abandon. Reid hadn't considered the mess and briefly feels guilty for not helping in the cleanup. However, right now, Reid has bigger problems.
He is momentarily distracted by his fortuitous calculations he glares at Morgan. "Have you ever heard of the concept of personal space?" Reid asks.
"I've heard of it-" Morgan begins, a playful glint in his eyes.
"But I don't believe in it," he and Emily chorus together. Her tone is clearly mocking, but Morgan doesn't mind. He has come with a cup of tea for her, made, Reid knows, just the way Emily takes it. It is in all these small ways that they take care of one another, and it lets Reid know that, should anything happen - to any of them - the rest will be okay because they take care of each other.
"We're discussing my life-expectancy," Reid explains. "Which you are shortening considerably by compromising my oxygen supply, please move your cologne-soaked body somewhere else," Reid chokes, laughing.
"Oh, man up, will you?" Morgan ribs good-naturedly. "Now, enough about you. What's the life expectancy of a totally toned man. Late thirties. Doesn't smoke. Athletic," Morgan relaxes on the couch, continuing to list his best traits.
Reid smirks. "75.6 years."
"And what's yours, did you say?" Morgan asks.
"Eighty-two," Reid says, enjoying all the possibilities his future holds. Nothing set in stone. Nothing written anywhere that indicates the end will definitely come for him at 32 or 47 or 60. The future is wide open to him. Shining as brightly as the sun. His words to JJ come back to him. He had told her he would be okay, but it might just be a little bit harder now. At the time, it felt like a lie, spoken to ease the mind of a friend. Now, he thinks, it just might be the truth.
"No shit! Are you sure?" Morgan asks and Reid catches Emily's eye as he speaks.
"I'm positive," he says, and smiles.
Author's Note: I want to thank everyone who takes the time to read this story. It is a subject very close to my heart. I had a friend who was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. The time between diagnosis and death was very short, but no life is too short to have an impact. My friend's E-mails were invaluable in the writing of this story. Below you will find other sources of information on HIV/AIDS I've read/watched/searched over the years. Many of them are somewhat dated, but the personal perspectives in each offer insight that is unparalleled.
If you would like to learn more about real people with HIV/AIDS, search:
Pedro Zamora (The Real World, San Francisco, 1994) - my earliest education about HIV/AIDS came from this amazing young man. Go MTV's Website to and watch his season of Real World. Be inspired.
Hydeia Broadbent (HIV/AIDS activist, who was born HIV-positive in 1984 and not expected to live past age 5.) Today, she is 27 and continues to inspire the world. Check out her Twitter, and her Website for more information. I'd also recommend searching her on YouTube. That, in particular really helped me determine what I wanted to focus on for each portion of this three-shot.
RENT - Live on Broadway (1996 musical by Jonathan Larson)
RENT the film (2005 movie adaptation of the musical)
It Happened to Nancy - by: An Anonymous Teenager
You Get Past the Tears - by: Patricia Broadbent and Hydeia Broadbent