"When the sword of rebellion is drawn, the sheath should be thrown away." John Singleton Copley.
Life went on. Too quickly, Angeline was growing up.
She excelled at piano and singing, so much so that when Reid was upset about something, she could just play or sing for him and he'd be soothed. She excelled at dance as well, and it kept her growing body lithe and small. Most of all, she excelled at all the lessons Reid threw at her, remembering nearly everything he ever taught.
Darcy, too, was nice to live with. Those morning rituals, the quiet, casual conversations never stopped. If Reid wanted something, Reid got it—newspaper, coffee, new shoes, a haircut—the only limit was no cell phones and no laptops. Sometimes Reid would screw up—let Angeline fall and bruise herself, or forget to enforce good enunciation, or forget to clean something—and Darcy would knock him around a little for it. Reid always deserved it for his carelessness, though, so he never bore ill will towards Darcy afterwards. After all, Darcy did provide free food, shelter, and comfort.
Life was good, but Reid couldn't help but wish that Angeline would stay young and his forever. It felt like years had been stolen from him, somehow—he had only come into her life when she was six, so he had never been around for things like her first words, her first steps. He tried to make the most of the years he had, though.
When she was nine, she started becoming particularly fixated on his (still sanitized) stories about the BAU. She had him tell and re-tell them over and over. When she was nine and a half, she admitted she wanted to be just like him and be a profiler when she grew up. Reid warned her against telling Darcy about that, but he started working psychology into their lesson plans.
When she was ten, Reid got sick with pneumonia during tornado season. Even when a particularly bad tornado cut out all power for three days, Angeline refused to let him get out of bed and insisted on cooking and cleaning all by herself. Reid was proud of how she was able to do it all without any electrical appliances. When she was ten and a half, Reid started working in geographical profiling, psycholinguistics, and a little bit of criminology to the lesson plans.
When she was eleven…
Reid looked up from his place kneeling in front of the oven. He straightened up again to his full height, taking off his mitt and putting it on the counter.
She was chewing her lip, red starting to come to her white cheeks. Reid didn't remember ever seeing her embarrassed with him, so he was immediately concerned. "Is something wrong?"
She glanced away, pulling her braid over her shoulder and squeezing it nervously. "Dad, remember how you told me that I could talk to you about anything?"
Reid furrowed his brow, walking to the table and pulling out a chair to sit in. "Yeah. Of course I do. Is something wrong?"
"Well, it's not exactly…" She paused, still chewing her lip, her hands hovering in front of her as though she didn't know what to do with them. "I just had my period."
Her face was burning. So was Reid's. "I'm having my period! You know, that thing you said girls had and you gave me a book about!"
"Y-yeah, yeah, I know."
"Just… uh, alright. Alright." It was times like this when Reid wished he had a woman around to help him out with things like this. "Uh… why don't you go, uh, clean everything up. I'll talk to Darcy about sanitary napkins."
She nodded, pursing her lips, and spun around, scampering out quickly in a flurry of gangly white limbs. He shouldn't have been so surprised—after all, she was growing. Five foot, five inches. Swollen chest. Rounding hips. Awkward gait that Darcy disdained.
But despite all that, Reid still saw her as the same little girl who crawled into his bed at night because of nightmares.
Reid scrawled a note on a piece of paper, then slid it under the kitchen door, explaining the situation and requesting that Darcy get pads and tampons.
Reid was cleaning the kitchen after lunch when the door opened and Darcy stuck his head in, holding the note in the air.
Reid straightened from wiping down the counter, blinking owlishly at Darcy from behind his glasses. "No?"
"No." Darcy put the note on the table, giving Reid a small scowl. "I'm not getting those things myself. You will get them."
Reid blinked again, then threw away the paper towel he was using and set the cleaning spray on the counter. "Darcy, I can't. I'm not allowed out of the house, remember?"
"You are now."
Darcy only received a blank stare, but he continued.
"Once a week, I'll give you cash and keys to a car. You stay out for a maximum of an hour and a half. You only use that time for shopping at the local strip mall. You never go anywhere else without getting my permission first. Are we clear?"
Reid furrowed his brow, awkwardly pulling his hands closer to his chest, as if to defend against this strange, somewhat scary development. "But… who's going to be with Angeline for that time?"
"She's had her period." Darcy's eyes flicked towards the door leading to the hallway. "I'll be with her."
Reid wrung his hands, looking at the ground, his throat tightening with anxiety. "I don't want to leave her. I don't like being away."
"She's growing up. She doesn't need you like she did."
Something about that statement chilled Reid, but a small dismissive motion from Darcy made him flinch and bow his head. Better to just do as told. He didn't want to be knocked around. "May I have the keys, then?"
Darcy dug into his pocket, taking out keys and a hundred dollar bill. "And only get pads. No tampons."
He placed it on the table, where Reid picked it up and quietly made his retreat, not even bothering to ask questions since he knew Darcy was already impatient. Alright. Leaving his daughter at home for the first time to drive when he hadn't driven in five years.
What could go wrong?
Actually, not that much, apparently.
Reid had taken a moment to stare at the car in the driveway warily, holding his hands above his eyes to shield them from the unfamiliar sun. He couldn't stay outside forever, since he would surely be sunburned after so long of only going out at night, so he was forced to actually get in the car. He spent quite some time just sitting there with his hands on the wheel, remembering how the hell to work the damn thing.
Then he turned the vehicle on, switched it to Drive, and pulled out of the driveway.
In his haste to get Reid out of the house, Darcy had neglected to warn him about the snow on the ground. Or, for that matter, to tell him where the mall was.
Reid, luckily, had that blessed eidetic memory. He just recalled the things he'd seen out the window of the car during the few times he and Angeline were driven out of the house. That combined with his encyclopedic knowledge of American roads led him to the mall relatively easy.
But the mall was a beast all unto itself. When Reid took one step inside, he almost sprinted out again.
There were people. And noise. And more people. The light was bright and the smells were overwhelming and people were brushing against his arms and the unfamiliar touches by strangers made his skin crawl and his chest get tight. He quickly scurried away from the entrance, lurking near the wall to avoid the Minnesota crowd, and he just stayed there, staring at the area like a spooked animal and trying to even out his breathing.
No one took notice of him. His eyes ached and his ears hurt and he was chafing in the presence of so many people he didn't know. He wished that Darcy had come with him; the man knew how to command a room, and Reid would have been safe from all these foreign signals.
He spent five minutes backed against a wall, just observing the place and trying to cope with all the sensory input.
Then he took a deep breath, ducked his head, and wandered through the building. Find a drugstore. Find a goddamn drugstore, get the feminine hygiene products, then get the hell out of this place.
He wandered for fifteen minutes, but he never asked anyone for directions. Never engaged. He didn't really remember how to talk to someone he didn't know. He avoided looking at anyone's face, preferring to keep his head down and his eyes flicking to store displays.
Finally, he found a CVS. He bought what he needed, was oblivious to the strange looks he got from the female cashier, and then made a beeline for the exit. Out. Out out out out out out out out out—
And then he was out, back in the freezing winter and the sun burning his ghostly pale skin. He got into the car, started it up, and drove out of the parking lot, his heartbeat finally slowing down and his anxiety waning. He had spent forty minutes away from home, and he felt exhausted. And he would have to do this again next week?
He shuddered at the thought, but pushed it aside. The important part was that it was over now.
When he came back home through the backdoor (as the front of the house was still forbidden from him and Angeline), he knew that his absence had been felt. There was the skittering of feet against the floor, and then he was suddenly tackled, long white limbs wrapped tight around his waist.
"You didn't say you would leave!"
Hearing his daughter, he felt the last of his anxiety bleed out. "Sorry, Angel. I had to get something for you."
She looked up at him, her lower lip stuck out in an expression she would insist wasn't a pout. "You didn't say you were going, though."
Anyone else would have said that he had only been gone forty minutes.
Reid just stroked her hair, soothed by her presence, until she finally let him go. He pushed the CVS bag into her arms, giving her a smile. "This is all for keeping clean during your period, alright? I wish I could explain how to use it, but I don't exactly have any practical experience. The instructions are on the side of the pack, I think."
She pulled away, glancing into the bag. "Thanks, Dad. I'm sure I'll figure it out. I'm smart."
"You certainly are."
As he watched her walk away from him, he thought. And then he dragged himself to his room, where he just lay in the bed and stared at the ceiling. He hadn't been outside alone in years; he had utterly forgotten how bewildering the world was. He didn't know if he'd be up for doing it again, but he supposed if Angeline needed it, he would make himself.
Then he took the time to consider why he had to go out in the first place. His girl was growing up. She was almost the age he was when he—
He closed his eyes and willed the thoughts of his old life away. The memories were really only whispers now, and whispers he didn't dwell on much. He didn't want to tell Angeline stories of his childhood. She knew little—she knew about his father, his mother, and the vague outline of cruelty. Reid didn't want to show her that dark side of the world yet. She was too young.
He fell asleep without realizing. And then he woke up to elbows in his stomach and a big white face up against his.
"Dad, there's plenty of time for sleep during nighttime."
Reid jerked at the rude awakening, pushing the elbows off his stomach before their pointy-ness punctured an organ. "Angeline!"
"Daddy!" she said, imitating his tone before pushing him closer to the edge of the bed and then lying next to him. "You wake me up from my naps, so yours are fair game."
"You never sleep at night when you've had a nap."
"Oh, and you do?"
"Hey, who's the parent here?" Nonetheless, Reid smiled, and slid his arm under Angeline's neck so he could rest his hand on her head and tilt it towards him for him to kiss. "Besides, I wake you up nicely. I don't jam my elbows into you."
"Oh please, they weren't that bad."
"Oh, yes they were. You're a bony girl, believe it or not."
"You're one to talk!"
He looked down at her, and he couldn't help but chuckle softly at her sardonic look. Apparently, adolescents were universally obligated to point out their parents' flaws. "Well, you have a point, but I'm still the parent. Were you able to put on the pad alright?"
Any other girl would blush at their father asking them that. Angeline only nodded her head, resting her temple against his shoulder. "Yeah. It looked like they printed those instructions for idiots."
"Well, they're meant to be understandable for the lowest common denominator. Not everyone is as smart as you, Angel."
Angeline poked him gently in his side. "Lucky I have you around, right?"
Reid didn't answer. He just smiled and lightly ran his fingers against her hair, pulled into her usual white braid. She relaxed against his side, her breath evening out a little. "Oh, and while you were gone, Darcy said that he was going to eat dinner with us tonight. He wants me to cook."
"Disaster in the making, I can already tell." It was strange for Darcy to want to spend time around Angeline, but Reid didn't think too hard about it. "Why don't I drill you a little on cooking before tonight, then?"
"That requires you actually getting up."
"Hey." He whacked her head gently with his hand despite the fact he was smirking. "Don't be sassy. Go to the kitchen. I'll be there in a minute."
There was a soft laugh, a kiss on his cheek, and then she withdrew, jumping off the bed and running. Even as an adolescent, he hadn't been able to break her of her 'run in the halls' habit. At a certain point, he just decided to pick his battles.
Reid lay there for a bit. Then he got up and went to the kitchen. That brief taste of the outside was burned in him, and kept tugging all throughout the day, even as he slowly began to bury it again. How would he do that every week?
He didn't think about much as he drilled his daughter, though. What memories that might have wriggled their way to the surface if given the chance were gone again.
He was happy here. Why jeopardize that?
Despite his apprehension, he came to be able to tolerate the weekly outings, and even sometimes took advantage of them to drop by the book store in the mall and flip through whatever had come out in the last five years. He knew that Darcy would be upset if he spoke to anyone he didn't have to, so he refused to talk to anyone who spoke to him save the cashier at whatever store he went to. If he was asked a question, his response was concise and then he would quickly move away. It earned him a few stares, but the employees at the stores he frequented learned quickly and just left him to his own devices when he came along on the weekends.
The part he was happiest about, really, was that the crowds started to become less and less overwhelming, and Angeline became less and less anxious when he left. So long as he was back within about an hour, she didn't worry about him leaving, but he still felt bad for leaving at all.
So one day as snowdrops pushed their way through what little snow was left, he decided to get her a present, just to make up for being gone. Maybe it would have been best to get her something girly, like a barrette or a pretty necklace, but he didn't know how Darcy would react to much more color than the occasional flower in her hair. Instead of that, he chose to get her a book. One that she would want to read over and over because she loved the story. Reid never reread books except a few special ones, but Angeline didn't have an eidetic memory, and he knew well enough how she liked to have the same story told to her over and over, no matter how well she knew it.
So he sat in a little corner of the bookstore, far away from regular customers and in between shelves full of fiction, surrounded by a big pile of young adult fiction. They were all pretty easy to whiz through on their own, but he wanted to pick something Angeline would really like, so he was doing his best to pay attention to the stories and how they were written despite the fact he wasn't generally one for fiction.
Chatter floated around him, quiet and easy to block out.
"Do you have this in paperback?"
Unfortunately, most stories didn't have albino girl protagonists; if anything, people with albino characteristics were usually the villain of a story. He couldn't exactly tailor the books to make Angeline included the way that all the art in the house did (over the years, he had become used to the paintings, but they still were a little creepy in their repetitive, obsessive subject matter).
"I really just want him to enjoy reading. Harry Potter's good for that, right?"
When he read a book with a 'ghostly pale, red-eyed' villain, Reid quickly put it aside. Due to his and Darcy's efforts, he knew that Angeline didn't have a problem with her albinism, and now that she was an impressionable adolescent, Reid didn't want to start engendering body image issues.
He would have to settle for a regular female protagonist without an albino villain, then. Maybe one day he'd be able to find a young adult book with an albino protagonist.
"Reid…? Is that you?"
She liked magical realism, so Reid started moving onto books like Beloved by Toni Morrison. Looking at that, he frowned, wondering exactly how much adult subject matter he was comfortable showing Angeline. She knew about slavery, but did he really want to expose her to things like graphic rape?
That book went into the 'no' pile. Maybe he'd give it to her for her sixteenth birthday or something. She'd enjoy it when she was old enough.
Most of the newer books weren't particularly well-written, and while she would have fun picking apart the sentences and plot holes, Angeline generally turned her nose up at poor quality artwork. It made her hard to shop for, but maybe if he—
"Hey, boy genius."
Someone flicked his head. Reid jumped, and in less than a second, he had gone from sitting cross-legged to standing up, swinging around to see who was touching him.
His breath caught in his throat.
"Whoa, easy, it's just me. I almost forgot what the BAU does to your startle reaction." Elle laughed, crossing her arms and thrusting out her hips in the way she always did when she was teasing him. "Well, you don't have to worry. No serial killers here."
His mouth felt like dead leaves—delicate, dry, and ready to crack to pieces if it moved.
After a moment, Elle's brow furrowed. "Hey, you okay?"
His mind was utterly blank. It felt like a dream, like he was living out one of those stories he told Angeline, like—
He didn't realize he was doing it. For the first time in five years, he reached out to someone who wasn't Angeline. He reached out, grabbed Elle by the waist, and pulled her into a tight hug, resting his face in the crook of her neck.
"Oh! Oh, uh…"
She smelled like autumn, like dying leaves and brushfire smoke, just like he remembered.
"Hey, hey, it's okay." She wrapped her arms around him. Her chin was resting on his shoulder. Her hair was grown back to how it was before Randall Garner, and it was soft against his cheek. "Whatever it is, it's okay. Bad cases—it's okay."
Bad cases. A bad case. A bad case with a bad person to profile.
He didn't know how long they stood there. It felt like the woman in his arms would dissolve and slip away like smoke at any moment, but she was there. She remained solid.
His common sense started to filter back in and he pulled away, quickly taking off his glasses and wiping his eyes without looking at her face. "I'm sorry. I, uh, I didn't mean…" He shoved his glasses back on his face, glancing up at her concerned expression. "It was a bad case, yeah. A bad series of cases, actually. I came up here to get my mind off things."
The lie came easily. It didn't even occur to him to tell the truth.
Some of her concern seemed to ebb. Not all, but some. Anyone who had ever been part of the BAU understood needing to get away every once in a while. "Well, you picked the perfect spot. No one comes to Minnesota. No one except me, of course." A small sardonic smile tugged at her lips. "I'm here to visit some cousins. I didn't think I'd meet you here."
She started towards the door and jerked her head for him to follow her. Instinctively, he did so. Teammate. He listened to his teammates. Unless he didn't. But he was now. "Oh, and tell Morgan that he's going to get an earful next time he shows his face around California."
"O-oh? Why's that?"
Elle looked over her shoulder at Reid, her eyes sparkling with her smile. She looked so much happier. Better. Her Fisher King wounds had been healed. "Because I've been freaking out for years over nothing. I dunno how well you remember, but you went missing five years ago? The team was calling everyone you might have contacted, and when they called me, I made Morgan promise to call if they found you. And here I've been thinking you were dead."
His mouth went dry again and his throat constricted, but Elle was looking forward again. "While we're here, let me treat you. I know this really great café a little walk away from the mall. We need to catch up; we don't even need to talk about work, but just tell me how your life's been."
He followed her like a ghost. She could have walked off a cliff. He would have followed.
"So, let's hear it. Have you cured cancer? Solved Global Warming? Become the next Bill Gates?"
"I had a daughter."
She stopped so fast he almost crashed into her. Then she spun around, her eyes almost popping out of her head. "Wait, what?"
He backed up to give them both some room, his mouth running of its own accord. "I had a daughter. Soon after I was, you know, captured that time five years ago. Her name's Angeline."
"Angeline?" Elle blinked, then her mouth broke into a grin, which she hid behind her hand. "Angeline. Oh God, if you have kids, that means I really need to hurry up. Who's the mother? Do I know her?"
He shook his head automatically. He didn't know why he was spilling all this out. Darcy would be so mad at him. "N-no. Her mom's not in the picture. It's just us. I was actually looking for a book for her to, you know, make up for needing to be gone a lot."
She gave him a strange look, but she tactfully didn't ask about the mother, probably assuming she was dead. She started to walk again and Reid once again was following, pulled along by an invisible string. "Well, no wonder those books were so thick. I bet she's a genius too."
That made Reid smile to himself, no small amount of pride in his voice when he said, "She can hold her own in a game of chess with me."
Elle whistled, leading him out of the mall. "Remind me to never try going up against her, then. Can I meet her?"
Reid kept his eyes focused on her shoulder, not wanting to look her in the eye but unable to look away. "N… Not right now. She's with me, but she's really sick and she gets fussy when she's sick. I'll, uh… I'll call you. If you ever come by, I bet she'd love to meet you."
"Can't wait." She glanced at Reid, and he couldn't help but look at her face, even with all the lies spilling out of him. It felt like he was being shocked right through his spine every time she spoke, he saw that familiar smile, the sarcastic smirks. "I'll take her out to get her nails done. I bet you never do that."
Reid gave her a strange look. "Why? Is that something you're supposed to do with little girls?"
She just smiled and shook her head. The smell of exhaust permeated the parking lot, but then they stepped on grass, just walking, and the cars were soon behind them.
"What about you, Elle? What's happened in your life? I'm—I'm sorry I lost contact with you, but—"
"No, I get it, Reid. The job gets in the way of things. But we can always start over." Her smile became mischievous. She was smiling more in this little meeting than she ever had when they were working together. "Guess who got engaged five days ago."
"Wait, seriously?" Reid looked at her face again, and for a moment, his smile matched hers exactly. "That's great! I'm really happy for you. What's his name?"
"Darren. I came up here to tell some family in person. Now that I know you're not rotting in a ditch, you and Angeline are getting an invitation when we set the date." She crossed her arms in front of her chest, looking forward to see where they were going. "You still live at the same address, right?"
It was such a simple question.
Yet all of a sudden, Reid felt sick. Completely and utterly sick. "Uh…" Another lie. Another lie. Same address. The place he used to live. Before. Before. There was a before. "Yeah. Yeah, I do."
Elle glanced back, then stopped in her tracks, peering at his face. "Reid? You okay? You're looking a little green."
He had to go. Get away. Too much. Dream pulling him in—he was in the wide open outdoors, the unfamiliar sun beating on his pale skin, and he felt claustrophobic.
It wasn't a dream. Life before Angeline wasn't a dream. There was a before.
"I… I don't feel well. I must have gotten what Angeline has. Do you, uh—why don't I call you later? Catch up when I'm feeling better?"
Elle's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Sure…"
Get out. No. No. It wasn't safe. He could feel himself waking up from something blissful, and it was terrifying. He used to own his own home. It was barren and neat, but his, and he used to flop onto the bed without getting undressed and sleep and then wake up when—
He struggled against the realization. He didn't want it. He knew that something was happening to him, and once it was over, it wouldn't go back to the way it was.
Reid backed away, staring at the grass under his feet, when Elle was in front of him again, craning her neck and looking him in the eyes. Her eyes.
He remembered. He remembered sitting in her hotel room, drinking with her, listening to her talk about fingers in her wound.
"Are you sure you're okay, Reid?"
His heartbeat roared in his ears, and he felt words spill out without knowing what they were. "I don't know. I don't think so. But I'll be okay. I just need some time, okay? I'll be okay."
Another moment of her staring at him. He felt like he was going to explode.
"…If you need to talk, you have my number. See you, Reid."
She walked past him. She was gone. And then he was gone, barely seeing where he was going, just needing to get to the car. Darcy's car.
When he got there, he sat in the driver's seat, locked the doors, closed the tinted windows, and rested his forehead on the steering wheel. His mind was vibrating so hard that it felt like it was going to fall apart.
It was a struggle. He fought it, the feelings and memories bubbling to the surface, because they were dreams, there was no before, he was Angeline's father and Darcy provided them with food and shelter and comfort out of the kindness of his heart, and life was good. It was good. The worst he had to fear were Darcy's punishments, and they were always lenient.
It took Reid a while to realize he was repeating under his breath, over and over—"Life is good. Life is good. Life is good."
His knuckles were white on the steering wheel. He was late for going back home. Darcy was going to be angry. Angeline was going to be upset. He had to get back.
His hands shook as he started the car and pulled out of the lot. Good. Good. Life was good.
He didn't pay attention. He couldn't. Every time he would begin to think again, he'd just—there were memories.
"Emily, I really don't know what to do in dances. Why are you taking me?"
"Because I'm teaching you how to deal with dances."
"I really don't think—"
"Just because you won't be great doesn't mean you can't function. You said you wanted to learn how to talk to girls, so I'm teaching you."
"I didn't really mean—"
"Shhhh just let the teacher talk. Now pretend you're flirting with me. That will make you seem a lot more attractive to other girls."
"Just do it, Reid."
He shook his head roughly, narrowly avoiding the motion traveling to the wheel. He could feel his eyes getting wet. He remembered straight, glossy black hair. Keen eyes. Teasing. She loved teasing.
He wanted to see that face again. Wanted to hear that voice. The thought made it harder to keep tears back. Visions of others—purple lipstick, soft smiles, eyes that never blinked—prickled in the back of his mind, but he outright threw the memories away. He didn't want them. They had to go away again. No more. He needed sleep. Damn that woman for doing this, for being at that mall, for—
Home loomed as he drove further and further into the woods, far from the town. Reid pulled into the driveway. The sound of gravel calmed him down, but only a little. Home. Home. He pushed the door open and stumbled out, squinting at the light.
"What are you doing here?"
Reid looked up, his entire body hunching over to make himself seem smaller. The mansion was blinding, with the sun reflecting off the white paint. Next to that, the big men in black suits approaching him from the front door were striking.
The contrast hurt Reid's head. He shoved his hands into his pockets, looking down at his feet. The men were reaching into their jackets.
"I live here," he mumbled softly, making the men pause. Reid averted his eyes, barely taking in the information around him. Cars. Nice, expensive cars parked in the driveway. Shades are drawn. Darcy was having a meeting.
There was the barest flicker in Reid's mind. Something bad, something he had to get rid of.
He didn't have to listen.
Reid chewed the inside of his cheek and looked up anyway.
Two men. Shaved heads. Sunglasses. Expensive suits. All an attempt to give the image of uniformity, and thus, of numbers. Showing that their employers were wealthy enough to afford good clothes for even their guards, and the sunglasses were meant to have a dehumanizing effect. If you can't see a person's eyes, they're not a person.
But they are people. The one on the right—tan line on ring finger, recently divorced, with an old fake front tooth that looks just a little brighter and whiter than his others, implying growing up with siblings, most likely brothers, who liked to roughhouse. The one on the left—scars along the top and bottom lips (he has a habit of chewing on them when he's concentrating) that seem to be fading a little bit (he recently started trying to stop himself), and standing slightly in front of the other (alpha personality, probably trying to work himself up the ranks).
All of that information ran through his head with shocking clarity, frighteningly familiar, as if the skills had simply slept for five years and now were awakened refreshed.
"What's your name?" asked the alpha personality. Their hands were still in their jackets, their arms tense. It didn't take a genius to know what they were ready to do.
"Spencer." Reid ducked his head again, making a vague gesture towards the side yard. "I'm going through the backdoor. I don't know what your bosses are here for. I don't know what you're talking to Darcy about. I'm just here to go home."
The men both looked at him hard, because regardless of divorces or scarred lips, they would kill him without batting an eye.
He wasn't scared.
Reid wasn't scared.
Finally, the alpha relaxed, moving his hand out into the open again, which prompted the other to do the same. "Cordova said you were coming. He's not happy."
"Of course he's not. I'm late." Then Reid ducked his head again and trudged around the house until he stepped into the backdoor and kicked off his shoes.
His footsteps were light. He didn't want to see Angeline. Not like this. Too much to think about.
When he went into his room, he left the door open. He always did. It would get too dark otherwise, but this time, he didn't even think about it.
He slowly lay down on his bed and closed his eyes, focusing all his energy on his internal struggle.
"Here's to winning."
No, no, no, why would she be there, why would she do this to him, he's happy, he's happy, he's happy—
But he's not.
His throat constricted, and he put his palms over his eyes. With the memory of Elle's face, he couldn't stop the memories of other faces tumbling into his mind. Gideon. Hotch. Rossi. Morgan. Emily. JJ. Garcia. They weren't just names. They weren't just characters in stories he told a little girl. They were real people, and—and—
"My name is Supervisory Special Agent Dr. Spencer Reid. I'm a profiler."
And with that, he remembered.
He had never agreed to be here. He tried to escape, but then Angeline made him promise not to. Before that, he had a life. A job. His mother was Diana Reid and she was in a sanitarium. His father was William Reid and they were estranged. He had friends—Lila, John, Austin—and his family… his family was the people he worked with, the people he loved, and….
…And he had forgotten that they were real.
He had forgotten that anything was real.
It felt like his chest was in a vice. He could feel tears overflowing beneath his palms, and he couldn't stop them, they had been stopped for years and they refused to be any longer, and—
"Dad?" came a soft voice. "Do you have a migraine?"
Reid snapped back into the present, removing his hands and opening his eyes to look at the door, seeing the little waifish adolescent hovering there.
For one brief, terrifying moment, she was a stranger. Worse, a chain that had tied him to his prison and brainwashing. She wasn't his daughter.
The feeling was gone in a flash, but she saw the change. Her eyes went wide and her hands grasped the frame of the door, as if she were about to be torn away from him forever.
He wiped his tears and sat up on the edge of the bed, then reached out his arms for her. "I'm sorry, Angel. I'm sorry."
She paused, drifting just beyond the threshold.
Maybe this was his choice. Maybe he had to pick between his memories and his daughter.
But she crept into the room, her brow knitted together, and allowed him to wrap his arms around her waist.
One white hand drifted up, fluttering against his cheek. "Why are you crying, Daddy?"
"Nothing. Nothing." He held her close, letting his face rest against her shoulder. He wanted to know she was there, and he didn't want her to see the tears. "Thoughts."
Her fingers wove into his hair. His ear was against her neck, and he could hear her heart beating, reassuring him that she was real and alive. "Something happened outside, didn't it?"
He hesitated, then pulled away, keeping his arms firmly around her but fixing his eyes on her face. Still so young. How much had she changed since he had come here? A little, but… not as much as children should. She was still sheltered, still only able to really communicate with Reid, tutors, and Darcy, never having even spoken to a person her age in her life. Reid had been a party to that. Hell, he had encouraged it.
He had kept her locked away from the world.
Reid had to blink away any more tears, reaching out and tucking a lock of bright white hair behind a white ear. No. Not anymore.
Her eyes were concerned. He cupped her face in his hands, bringing her down and giving her a gentle kiss. "I love you, Angeline."
He could feel her eyelashes against his face as she blinked in confusion. "I love you too, Daddy. But really, what—"
"So you decided to show up."
Both Angeline and Reid nearly got whiplash from looking up so fast, and Reid instinctively held his daughter closer.
Darcy loomed in the doorway, mouth in a straight, grim line, and eyes hard.
"Angeline, leave. Now."
Reid released the girl and she scampered out immediately. She was used to Reid's punishments. She knew that she wasn't wanted there when they were happening.
Reid felt his heart begin to race. He stood up, turning his eyes to the ground and approaching Darcy meekly. He felt defenses go up. Memories began to fade again, dangerous to hold onto at the moment. "I'm sorry I'm so late. I-I lost track of—"
The hand on his cheek cracked like a whip. He recoiled with a yelp, instinctively covering his face.
Fingers clenched in his hair, and then a fist was pounding him. Reid yelped again, trying to pull away, but his hair kept him in place and strained his neck, forcing him to stay still for the pain.
"That is not—" Kick in the stomach. "—losing track of time!"
At a certain point, Reid just cleared his mind. He went limp in his master's grip, accepting the punishment. He deserved it, after all. He had known what would happen if he was late. He had been late anyway.
The taste of blood spread through his mouth. His lip had cut itself on a tooth. He focused on the coppery tang, and not the pain.
And then the pain was over. He was thrown on his bed. He curled up, focusing on breath.
A moment passed. Two. Three. Four.
Then he felt the weight of Darcy sitting down beside him.
Reid immediately obeyed. He pushed himself up with his hands, then slowly sat up beside Darcy, his head bowed. Every spot where he had been struck hurt. He knew that he'd have bruises for a few days.
Carefully, a gentle finger brushed against his lower lip, wiping away the blood. The gesture surprised Reid since Darcy was such a clean man, but it was soothing in its intimacy.
"You know I don't like doing that."
Reid wasn't entirely sure if he believed that, but at the very least, he knew that Darcy didn't want to hurt him. He nodded, lacing his fingers in his lap. "I'm sorry, Darcy. I won't be that late again."
"I know." Darcy's hand rested on his shoulder briefly, and then it was gone, the man standing up and smoothing himself out. "Go clean yourself up. I'll be having dinner with you and Angeline, so make sure she doesn't burn herself when she cooks."
"I will. Thank you, Darcy."
Then Darcy was gone.
As Reid stood up, slowly wiping blood from his mouth, he realized that he had thanked a man for beating him.
Well, it was a very lenient punishment, the part of him that had developed over five years said. He had been late. He should have had much worse.
That doesn't give anyone the right to hit you.
Yes, it does. Darcy provided food, shelter, and comfort, all for free.
You never wanted him to.
Why does what Reid wants matter? The point is that now he's… he's…
You have Stockholm's.
Reid took a deep breath, his hands beginning to shake.
It's not like that.
Yes it is.
He licked his dry lips, bowing his head and walking to the bathroom. He struggled with himself while he dabbed on concealer to hide the bruises. Flecks of a life he had forgotten rose to the surface. He didn't know how to put on any kind of makeup before. He had learned after three months of being in this house, because he hadn't… he hadn't wanted to frighten Angeline with bruises.
His face was tender. He winced when his fingertips brushed against the black and white splotches growing on his face. He tried focusing on the pain, anchoring him in the present. These were marks he had earned through carelessness. They would heal up, and eventually, he would make another mistake, and they would be back.
Battered person syndrome. The psychological condition of a person who suffers persistent abuse of some kind, often by a family member or lover. Usually called battered wife syndrome, battered child syndrome, or battered woman syndrome, depending on context. Characterized by a period of denial, then of guilt and self-blame, then of a desire to leave the unhealthy relationship.
Reid's hands started to shake. He tried to ignore the niggling in his head.
Don't let the unsub win. You know, now. You know.
He didn't want to know, though.
Reid did his best to push away the thoughts, the ideas, the memories, and just concentrated on concealing the wounds inflicted by Darcy.
Some things are better left forgotten.
The niggling wouldn't leave him alone, but it was getting quieter. Reid was certain it would be buried again if he just forced it for a week.
He didn't have that chance. He only had two days to try.
"No, no, you forgot to derive the inside function before multiplying it with the derivative of the outside function. Let me show you." Reid had to wrap his arm around Angeline's shoulders to take the hand holding her pencil, guiding her in rewriting the original trigonometric function. Lunch cooked in the oven, the smell of chicken wafting around the room as they worked at the kitchen table. "It's the chain rule. You see, multiply G—"
The kitchen door slammed open. Reid only looked up in time to be punched in the face.
"What the hell did you tell her?!"
Another punch, this one in the back of his head, causing him to bash his forehead against the table. That one provoked a shriek from Angeline, and a clatter of her jumping from her chair.
"Darcy! Darcy, what are you—"
Reid stumbled out of his chair, pressing his hands on the corner of the table to steady himself, and looked up just in time to see Angeline tugging at Darcy's sleeve, and Darcy lashing out to backhand her across the face.
Angeline yelped in surprise, recoiling, and Reid suddenly found himself in between his daughter and the larger man, pressing his hands up against Darcy's chest to stop him from advancing. "Darcy! Stop! Not her, you know that, not her!"
"You wretched—" a fist clipped Reid's temple, making his vision burst to black for a moment, "—ungrateful—" another clip sent Reid against the wall, forcing Angeline to run out from behind him with a yelp "—spineless—" punch in the stomach, making him double over "—womanly —" fingers curled in his hair, then roughly pulled him upright and bashed his skull against the wall "—bastard!"
Angeline screamed again. Reid wanted to wave her away, to tell her to get out of the room and go practice piano or something, but the world was spinning and his head was pounding and he hadn't even recovered from his last punishment, let alone gotten ready for another one. He reached up, resting his hands on Darcy's tangled in his hair, groaning softly in pain.
"What did you tell her?!"
Being held up by his hair felt like Darcy was trying to tear his scalp off. Reid squinted, choking out a soft "What do you mean?"
That was the wrong thing to say. His skull was smacked into the wall again, eliciting another cry from Angeline. The girl was backed up, pressed against the fridge, staring with wide, terrified eyes at her father.
"A little bird came and told me you met an old friend. What did you tell her?!"
Another smack against the wall. Stars burst in Reid's vision. In the back of his mind, he wondered if he was going to die tonight.
"I didn't tell her anything. I swear, I didn't tell her anything—"
He was thrown to the ground. The floor was cold against his palms, and his dying vision dimmed the light. He could hear his own breathing. Past the screams of his daughter, he could hear his breath.
And then his windpipe was being crushed, because Darcy grabbed the back of his collar, pulling him up to his knees, and just as his hands instinctively flew to his throat, the top two buttons of his shirt popped off.
"I didn't tell her anything, Darcy. I didn't tell her anything!"
He was beyond listening, and Reid knew that. Controlled demeanor, and icy calm under most circumstances, with an undercurrent of rage that Reid was finding himself the focus of.
"Angeline! Stop that screaming and get out!"
She didn't listen to Darcy. She didn't get out. Hopefully, he wouldn't consider the disobedience grounds to hurt her as well.
The pops of buttons flying away, skittering across the floor. His shirt wasn't there anymore. He was bare, trembling. He heard the clink of a belt buckle. He crossed his arms across his chest and bowed his head until his forehead touched the floor. It didn't take a genius to know what was coming next.
It was the first time Darcy had ever lashed him. As the belt came down on his back, Angeline shrieked, and his vision became white.
And then the white became filled with memories.
"You can be anything you want to be, Spencer." His mother's hand trailed through his hair, and his head lay at her breast, light filtering through the drapes and books surrounding them. "Anything at all. And no matter what you become, I'll be right there to support you."
"Don't look so puzzled."
Gideon leaned back from his seat across from Reid, a small smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye. Reid continued to stare at the chessboard, frowning at his own checkmated king.
"I haven't lost to anyone since I was six."
"Good thing I did it, then." Gideon leaned forward again, fingering the head of one of his pawns. "Losing is more educational than winning. If you lose, then that means there's still more for me to teach you."
Gideon reached forward and tapped Reid's king. The chess piece fell down, officially finishing the game.
"Oh, you are kidding me. That is not fair."
Reid looked up curiously from his place in the corner of the room, nibbling delicately on a donut.
While their teammates ignored them, preferring to review the files of their most recent case, Elle stalked over to Reid, scowling. "That is not fair."
Reid blinked owlishly at her, then shifted his weight from foot to foot. "What's not fair?"
"That's your fifth donut. I didn't even have one! How are you so skinny?!"
Blink blink blink. "I have a fast metabolism? I-I mean, it's not that—I mean, you're skinny too…"
"That's because I don't eat five donuts!" She brushed past him, huffing and grumbling to herself. Reid looked after her in puzzlement, and Morgan didn't even try to muffle his snickers.
"Come on, pretty boy. You're never going to be able to get out on the field this way."
Everything hurt. Reid pushed himself on his hands and knees, then looked up to scowl at Morgan. "You do realize that the Academy excused me from this, right?"
"Yeah, but Hotch and I haven't." Morgan offered Reid his hand. After a moment, Reid took it. "And you're not going out into the field until we know you're coming back alive."
"Oh, and Reid. Here."
Reid jerked in surprise when a big corn muffin was placed on his desk. He leaned forward, his eyebrows raised, and then looked at Hotch, who already had his eyes fixed on a file and was walking away.
"Wait, wait, Hotch, what is this for?"
Hotch paused, then turned around to face Reid again, his file lowering. "To let you know you're appreciated," he said simply. And then the file went back up and he was gone, knowing well enough that Reid doesn't like big fusses made over him.
Reid stared after him, then looked down at the muffin, breaking a little piece off of the edge and taking a bite, a hunch percolating in the back of his mind.
It's his favorite from the bakery he always buys from down his street.
He had no idea how Hotch knew, but he definitely felt appreciated.
So much screaming. Weakness. He's felt this way before, like there's a very thin membrane between him and something he's never seen.
He could die.
"Hey. You. Come with me."
Reid was just putting on his jacket when a blur of pink and fluff snagged his arm and started dragging him to the elevator. He made a surprised noise and instinctively flailed, although he knew better than to resist. "What? Garcia? Where?"
"To my kitchen!"
Reid's brow furrowed. "You know, that doesn't really make it much clearer…"
They stopped sharply in the elevator and Garcia spun around, punching the ground floor button. "It's Emily's birthday tomorrow, boy genius! And we're making her a cake."
Reid didn't even bother asking why he had been drafted into this. He just resigned himself to his fate. "I thought she didn't want a cake?"
"Oh, honey, you have so much to learn. When a woman says she doesn't want a cake, you make her a cake."
Garcia glanced back at Reid's baffled expression.
"Just trust me on this one."
His entire body went limp.
Lashes still tore his back apart.
Blood trickled down his spine.
He didn't feel the pain anymore.
"Oh, don't look at me like that, Reid. You'll like it, trust me."
"Somehow, I seriously doubt that, Emily."
Reid grimaced at the salt on the back of his hand and the lemon wedge he held tight between his thumb and forefinger. He was sitting on Emily's couch across from her, a bottle of Tequila and two full shot glasses set in between them.
"What can I say? I'm contractually obligated to teach my friends how to do Tequila shots." Emily gave him a playful smile, picking up her shot. "Now I'm going to count to three, and then we both lick the salt, swallow the shot, and suck on the lemon in one breath."
Reid had a distinct feeling that he would end up passed out on Emily's couch tonight.
"One… two… three!"
He held his breath, licked the salt, and then took the shot.
With every lash, with every moment closer to simply closing his eyes forever, he found that he loved the belt all the more. The belt was a punishment he had never had, a real, honest to God risk to his life. Pain he had never dealt with before lanced across his body, and finally, the scars that had previously been invisible on his mind were making their way to his skin, and now he could finally see them again.
There is no reason to bury himself anymore. Now he knows.
He knows that he'll never be content here again.
The belt may take his life, but it gave him his soul back.
"Reid. You need to show off more."
"Hmm?" Reid looked up from the piano. They had found it in the same building that they had found the bodies of three men in, and he had been checking to see if it worked by playing a song on it. "What do you mean?"
"I mean what I said. You need to show off more." Rossi strode past the old furniture covered in white tarp, weaving his way closer to Reid. "I mean, you don't mind showing what you know, but you're not showing off, you're just trying to be helpful. You're so talented at all these things that are usually useless in cases, so we never get to see you do them."
Reid followed Rossi's path with his eyes, cocking his head curiously. "So… you want to know what I'm good at?"
"Kid, I know you're good at a lot of things. I want to see it." Rossi made it to the piano, and he leaned against it, light filtering in from a window behind him and casting his shadow across the storage room floor. "Why don't you play the piano at the Christmas Party we're having at my place?"
Reid frowned, shifting nervously on the piano bench. "I only started to learn a little while ago. I'm not sure how good I am."
"You're great." Rossi smiled at him. "And don't worry…" he gave a wink, "it'll only be the team and the kids."
Reid hesitated, but with that smile aimed at him, it was really hard to not be reassured.
"Okay. I'll do it."
"Please! Please, Darcy, stop, you're killing him! Oh God, oh God—"
Crying. She's crying. He wants to reach out to her.
Wants to wipe the tears away and tell her that it's okay. It doesn't hurt anymore.
"Well congratulations, Reid. After playing with that chemistry set you got him for Christmas, Henry wants to be a scientist." Reid leaned back in his chair to watch JJ walk up to his desk. "At this rate, you're going to turn him into a prodigy by sheer force of will."
"There is a theory that one can cultivate genius by spending ten thousand hours on something. So really, he'd turn himself into a prodigy by his own sheer force of will." Reid couldn't help but smile to himself, though. He was glad that Henry enjoyed his gift. He wasn't used to buying things for children, so he hadn't been sure what to get.
"I think he's just trying to turn himself into you by sheer force of will. You're his favorite profiler, you know." Her eyes were warm, and her smile was genuine. "You should babysit him more often. He keeps on begging to hear you read to him."
The memory ended abruptly.
There was no noise save for the sound of his own shallow breathing and the choked sobs of Angeline. She must have stopped him. Must have held his arm. Otherwise, Reid was sure that Darcy would have continued to beat him long after he died.
He had no idea how many times he was lashed. He had no idea how long it had taken. It felt like only a few minutes, but it must have been longer. A few minutes did not do this much damage.
Stumbling footsteps. Light thump of a girl kneeling beside him. Gentle fingers running through his hair, wet from his sweat and blood. His eyes were closed, but he could imagine his blood staining her white fingertips red.
"Get away from him, Angeline. You're soiling yourself."
And the fingers were gone.
Reid tried to force his eyes open, but his vision swam. White going away. Darcy was holding Angeline and taking her away.
"No! Daddy! DADDY!"
Open door. Locked door. Angeline pounding and screaming from behind it. Darcy would get angry.
"Why did you make me do this to you?"
Honest regret. Even grief. Reid's never heard that from him before.
"Why would you make me do this to you?"
Reid's eyes drifted closed again.
Hands on his back. He flinched, hissing, because the hands makes all the pain rush back, so it is no longer a far away ache but sharp and real like a thousand knives embedded in his skin.
"Stop that. You can't fall asleep here."
Arms wrap around him. Pick him up. He writhes weakly, trying not to whimper, but the arms would be too strong for him under normal circumstances, let alone now.
And then he's put down again. A bed.
He heard the clicking before he felt the shackles latch around his ankles. He was beyond caring. He was so close to dying that it felt like he was rolling dice. It's all chance.
"You'll stay in here until I think you've had enough."
The blanket was pulled over him. Cloth rested on his back, sticking to the blood.
Left in darkness.
A promise to all the people he loves:
He'll escape and see them again.
One way or another.
N/A: First of all, sorry about the slow update, but with the presence of school, my beta and I both have stuff to handle. But don't worry, I have no intention of abandoning this story, but schoolwork is my priority. This work was beta'd by nutella4ever. Please review.