This is a work of fiction. Any names or events relating to actual persons or circumstances are purely coincidental. The characters of Criminal Minds belong solely to their creators and their network(s) – no copyright infringement is intended. All original characters are the sole property of the author and may be used by others with the author's written consent – no notification of the author, then no consent.
Also, I reserve the right to increase/upgrade the rating of this story. At the moment, I do not foresee it going above its present rating but that is always a possibility.
I do not consider this story to be of an 'alternate universe' but the first six or so chapters will be dealing with prequel-type events. As the story grows so will my uses of events that are aired in the first few seasons of Criminal Minds. I will warn you when possible spoilers or objectionable material comes up. Because of the light rating of this first chapter I will assume that most of the audience is unfamiliar with my other works – so the warnings may be a bit heavy handed when we reach material that is warning-worthy.
Ideally, if you spot a glaring error, formatting issue, or something that dramatically decreases your enjoyment of the piece, you'll email/message me with your observation and I will correct it as quickly as possible. If you choose to post your edits to the message board and I make the corrections, I will then delete your comment if it is only edit/format-related. Thank you in advance your readership, thoughtful contributions, and constructive criticism.
Spencer Reid hadn't even reached the end of the block and already sweat was pouring down his face and wetting the sides of his short-sleeved plaid collared shirt. His legs were cramping and his large glasses were beginning to fog with the sudden exertion in the unrelenting sun. The little boy's slender legs tried desperately to propel him out of their reach but he knew it wasn't any use. By the time he'd reached the corner they were upon him! Spencer cried out as the first bicycle slid to a stop in front of him, blocking him from crossing the street. He made a quick decision and swerved to the right. Another screech of rubber bicycle tires and they had him boxed in even before he could look up and confirm his fate.
Spencer had never been to the mountains but he'd read that when you encountered a bear the best thing to do was to curl up into the fetal position and exude complete and total submission and that was exactly what he felt like doing at the moment even if the sidewalk was hot enough to fry an egg on.
Though Spencer didn't need to curl up on the hot Las Vegas sidewalk to demonstrate his perpetual submission to the ring of tall shadows that surrounded him. The group of boys that towered at least a foot above the little boy didn't wait to taunt him or for him to cower in fear. Spencer was panting, could barely catch his breath, forced each hurried breath into a barely audible plea. "Ple-" The young boy heaved out but before he could utter another begging breath they were upon him. The boy on the red bike that had cut him off from crossing the street, now sat on his left side and was the first to strike. A clenched fist struck the little boy at the side of his head, sending his glasses to the ground. Spencer fell to the ground to retrieve them but before he could dive for them, another boy on a royal blue bicycle rolled over the left lens and snapping them at the bridge.
"Where you running to, stinky?" The boy on the royal blue bicycle taunted before rolling back over the young boy's glasses – there would be no repairing them this time.
The boy on the red bicycle had dismounted and allowed it to fall to the ground on the young boy's side. Before Spencer could regain his feet or retrieve his glasses, the older boy planted a swift kick to the side of the boy's ribcage, flattening him back onto the scalding hot sidewalk.
"That was a really stupid thing to do, Stinky," The red bully said, his voice thick with rage, as he toed his victim onto his back, staring down at him pleased as the little boy squirmed on the hot sidewalk. "You think you actually helped yourself, Stinky?" He punctuated his question by landing another kick into the young boy's ribs. The Spencer couldn't help it – he yelp in pain and rolled toward the blue bicycle, coming face to face with the spokes of the wheel and feeling a sense of relief when he saw that his broken frames were now within reach. The blue bully had rolled off of them and the fragments of is glasses now sat behind his front wheel. The boy yelped again when, after he'd stuck a hand underneath the bicycle to retrieve them from between the two wheels, the blue bully boy rolled forward – trapping the young boy's hand between his bicycle wheel and the glass and plastic of his eyewear. Spencer howled in pain when he felt a shard of the broken lens enter his finger.
The bullies laughed and pulled back from their prey. The red bully spoke again, "Listen Stinky, the next time you think of going to that douchebag counselor for help you, think again!"
When the boy drew his bloody hand close to his body the blue bully kicked him again for good measure, landing the blow square with their prey's chest and the hand that Spencer was beginning to coddle. "Stinky the snitch! You know that they say, stinky? Snitches get stitches!"
Their prey was crying and panting in earnest now as they made a good attempt at driving the breath from his lungs with the last kick. Spencer's tears mingling with the sweat that was already rolling down his face. "I'm sorry," he whimpered, struggling to a sitting position and bringing his knees to his chest, "I'll go tomorrow," the young boy panted, "I'll tell him I lied. I'll serve your detention, instead."
The red bully popped him on the back of the head and rolled in front of him, now on his bike, feet dragging along the hot asphalt. "You just keep your fucking mouth shut from now on. Got it, stinky?"
"I'm sorry," The boy cried, beginning to rock as he clutched his knees balling himself around his wounded hand and crushed lenses.
"Oh you will be if you tell anyone about this!" The boy yelled already peddling away from the broken little boy, "You'll be really sorry right before we kill you!"
Before the blue bully pulled away, he took his own swipe at the boy and yelled out, "Be good, stinky. Your batshit crazy mother needs you alive to change her diapers!"
The boy sat there on the hot ground; rocking himself and crying as the boys disappeared in the distance. He sat there until the burn of the sidewalk on his bottom forced him to his feet. He stuffed his bleeding hand into his pants pocket and scooped his satchel, loaded down with books, from the hot ground.
The walk home was only a few more blocks. In fact, he had been foolish enough to think that he'd made it home-free until the boys had come racing around the corner of the otherwise quiet, neighborhood block. He'd hoped that by telling the counselor he'd bought himself some time to run to freedom, that somehow he could make it the little less than a quarter mile to his house in safety. As Spencer walked home he silently longed for and simultaneously cursed the woman that had fought for his early admittance into the Las Vegas high school.
In middle school his teacher had babied and adored her little genius. Spencer had been sent to Ms. Ramsey's Special Education classroom after three failed attempts to turn in a coherently written paragraph. It had all started with a simple book report. His first teacher had assigned them a simple chapter book that Spencer had devoured in a matter of minutes after she had distributed them to the class. He'd feigned reading along when class read together and struggled to keep his eyes focused when his turn had been called. The words leapt in front of Spencer's eyes as if they were three-dimensional characters dancing out from the page. When he wasn't being forced to read aloud this made even the longest tomes go by in a heartbeat. After the words had leapt from the page and into his mind it was as if he could enjoy them eternally from that point on. Spencer could recall them line by line if need be and with the really good books that served as one of his greatest sources of solace. However, when words leapt off the page and ran quickly through the channels of your brain it was almost impossible to record them. Writing by hand, at times, felt impossible. Spencer's hand would shake as the words bounced about in his mind, bored and squirming with the comparatively slow pace of his hand.
Spencer came to the conclusion that the only way that he could compensate for his stuttering attempts to read aloud and his indecipherable writing was to disregard the page altogether. He'd read the book cover to cover as soon as it was in his hands and when it came time to 'read with the class', he would hold the book in front of his face and allow the page to blur as he brought forth the line-by-line memory of the text. When it came time for his turn to read a paragraph he would just recite the words already imbedded behind his eyes.
This all worked very well until the day he decided to apply the same technique to his, as his teacher dubbed it, 'chicken scratch handwriting.' It was true, he couldn't decipher his own words after they had been committed to the page and so when it came time for a book report 'in his own words' he froze in place in front of the class, squinting, stuttering, and eventually dissolving into bundle of tears as nerves and his teacher's anger and his classmates ridicule overwhelmed him.
This time Spencer was sure that he'd found a solution for the problem. If he could commit to memory and discuss one of his mother's Middle English texts with her on one of her coherent days then providing an on-the-spot analysis of 'A Colonial Girl's Diary' would not present even the slightest challenge. So the night the book report was due, he filled several lined pages with double-spaced scribbling – to give the appearance of having completed the assignment – put the pages in one of his homework folders and went to class the next morning with an unfamiliar feeling of confidence. When it came time for him to give his presentation, he plucked the faux report from his homework folder and proceeded to the front of the class. And there, for the first time in his life, he delivered the most-succinct, 'A-worthy' analysis of his young school career. He'd pretended to stare long and hard at those pages filled with double-spaced scribbles as he spoke freely and confidently from the information that he had yet to find a way to pull from his mind and communicate in any other way than orally.
Spencer was so proud of himself, so invigorated by the actual chance to communicate, that like Icarus, his hubris and elation got the best of him. Somewhere in between his perfectly recitation of entire paragraphs from the book and insertion of knowledge far beyond the mind of a 'normal' fifth-grader, his teacher had risen from her desk and walked noiselessly behind the small Spencer Reid. He was deeply engrossed in his new freedom when unexpectedly the double-spaced scribble pages were plucked from his hands and held tightly out of reach in his teacher's hands.
His conniving, devious little stunt, as she had called it, would earn him a trip to the principal's office and several day in In-School Suspension because Spencer had been caught 'cheating.' His teacher was more than happy to look the other way as the other students taunted and abused the freaky little boy with the perpetually sour clothes. However, the constant disruption of her otherwise 'perfect' classroom management gave his teacher the perfect excuse to have him removed from her classroom and sent to the 'stupid kid room', as his classmates called it, or the Individualized Instruction room as it was formally called.
That was when Spencer met Ms. Ramsey and he'd unknowingly been set on the path to this current state of perpetual bullying and pain that was otherwise known as, high school.
The instructor for the students with Individual Learning Plans was named, Ms. Ramsey. Ms. Ramsey was a short, jolly woman in her mid-thirties that still dressed as if she was joyful child; pastel sundresses –never shorter than knee-length, khaki pants and brightly floral tops, and other energetic manners of dress all in exciting colors or patterns. She'd taken to calling Spencer, 'squire' when she was sure it would only be received by his ears – after Spencer had accidently let some of the knowledge his mother had imbued him slip. Ms. Ramsey only needed to see Spencer walk into the classroom once, hair and clothes dripping wet, a fresh cuts on his arms, and a scraped knee to know that he tormented mercilessly when he was out of her sight. After that day, the young squire's head would never again see the inside of a toilet bowl on her watch – he would eat lunch with her.
When he'd come to school with an empty lunch pail, Ms. Ramsey was more than happy to heat up half of her sandwich, made from a roast that she'd served the night before. She'd studied English Lit. in college and so he'd repay her kindness by reciting whatever he'd read the night before and Ms. Ramsey never failed to flatter him with open-mouthed look of astonishment. "My, young squires, you have a memory like steel trap!" She'd exclaim as she poured him whatever juice she had in her thermos – she was fond of a raspberry peach concoction from a local health food store.
After she'd all-but-solved his perpetually empty tummy, the bullying, and his nervous stutter – the next hurdle to overcome was his writing skills. It was back to the very basics, tracings words, phrases, and then entire paragraphs. Still Spencer's hand would shake and his writing would become blurry and indecipherable as the time and effort of his assignments expanded. It was highly unorthodox but Ms. Ramsey's next step was to sit the young man down at her desk, in front of her District-issue typewriter and have him complete his assignments that way. Once Spencer had mastered the ability of fairly error-free typing he was able to conjure up the same feeling of intellectual release and elation that day that he'd spoken from memory in his previous classroom. From that point forward, Spencer was able to work on actual academics rather than the constant barrage of criticism over his writing and 'poor grammar.'
He'd spent two years in Ms. Ramsey's classroom; enjoying the individual attention, filling meals, and high praise as often as he could get it. Ms. Ramsey had been the one to push him into testing into the local high school. She'd promised him that the shorter he could make his remedial school years, the better. She'd advocated for him in ways that his mother was never coherent enough to do. She'd arranged for special testing with the school district and when the eve of the test arrived she'd sent him home with a big meal to help him relax and sleep before the big day. His mom was hungry that evening so he'd given it to her instead – letting her enjoy the warm dish of thick noodles, white sauce, and grilled chicken while he warmed up a can of soup.
When the morning of the test arrived, Ms. Ramsey was waiting outside his house to take him to his test at the district office in the 'old' part of downtown Las Vegas. The young squire didn't need to be too old to know that nothing in Vegas was every truly old and if it did get there it was either abandoned or demolished for something better to occupy its space.
Before they walked through the door Ms. Ramsey stopped him, knelt on one knee, checked his face for remnants of his breakfast that he'd eaten in the car on the way to the test, and smoothed down his already flat sandy brown hair. "You slay this test, young squire," she began, squeezing his small clammy hand in hers, "and you'll be on to richer adventures than this town could ever offer. You slay this test and it will be less than four years before you're out of this heat and into the cool, sweet halls of university. You can do this, Spencer."
Spencer. His mom would forget or muddle his name frequently and when it was lucidly upon her lips it was usually cried out to him or mumbled sleepily. The sound of his name never made him as happy as when Ms. Ramsey said it.
As Spencer approached the door to their house, he dropped his bag at his feet, and fished a string from inside his shirt, and at the end of the threat, a key. He removed the thin string from around his neck and stuck the key into the lock. As he crossed the threshold he hoped that his mother would still be in bed and not prowling the house, securing it from intruders, or throwing out what little food they had because she was certain that They were trying to poison them again. They were always after them and her constant vigilance and sporadic purges were the only think keeping them safe.
Spencer looked down at his shorts, his wounded hand had turned one side of them a dark brown that indicated the drying of the blood that had leaked from his hand. He knew he had to get to the bathroom and clean it before his mother could see it. She'd no doubt would see it and launch herself into a state of manic paranoia. They were responsible for his injury, for sure. As soon as Spencer walked through the front door he felt a sense of relief. The house was darkened. All of the curtains had been drawn and it was relatively cool in the house even though his mother was constantly suspicious of the mysterious, and seemingly spontaneous, bursts of cool air from their air conditioning system. Some days her paranoia would forbid even the operation of the air conditioning and those days were literally, as close to hell as Spencer could imagine – trying to sooth his mother's tears and screams of terror as their bodies were glazed in a glistening layer of sweat.
Spencer walked quietly down the hall and peered into his mother's room. She was asleep – still in the floral nightgown from the night before and surrounded by a nest of notebooks, dusty books, and stray papers. She had been conducting class today, no doubt, holding court in her bedroom that in her mind expanded out to a vast lecture hall populated by eager graduate students. Spencer knew he should wake her and try to convince her to eat something but fixing his hand was the first priority.
Spencer pulled his head from his mother's room and walked silently across the hall and into the bathroom. Spencer noiselessly closed the lid to the toilet and sat down, gingerly pulling his hand from his pocket and resting it on the counter. The remnants of Spencer's glasses slipped from his pocket and fell to the bathroom floor with more noise that he would have liked. He froze waiting for his name to be called in the distance or to hear the rushing footfalls of his mother running toward the noise as she crafted her own fantastical explanation for the sound. He waited for her to throw open the bathroom door armed with some sort of defense, like a rolling pin, his old little league bat, or a kitchen knife, but nothing came.
When he was sure it was safe, Spencer quietly opened the bathroom cabinet and pulled out a small first-aid kit that he'd assembled over the years. Between his mother's injuries –self-inflicted or otherwise- and his classroom war wounds it was one of the things Spencer knew he had to keep well-stocked. Spencer retrieved a couple of gauze pads, steri-strips, a bottle of 90% pure rubbing alcohol, tweezers, and some sports bandage wrap. He forced himself to look at the gash in the palm of his hand and felt his center begin to numb as he took it in with a clinical sense of detached observation. He held his hand over the sink and poured some of the rubbing alcohol over the cut, biting down on his bottom lip to stifle a cry as the burn shot straight up his arm. He quickly sterilized the tweezers and pulled the few short shards of glass from his palm and then turned faucet on to the hottest water he could stand, and then thrust his bleeding palm beneath the running water. Spencer cringed as he forced his other hand to scrub in some antibacterial soap to cleanse the dirt that he was sure was ground into his flesh from the bully's bicycle wheel. When Spencer's palm was an angry red he felt satisfied that it was clean. He dried it and then applied the steri-strips to the wound, trying his best to pull the gaping flesh together. After several steri-stips, Spencer wrapped his hand with the sports bandage wrap, cleaned up his improvised Emergency Room, and headed into the kitchen to find something to eat.
As was typical, the cupboards were nearly bare and Spencer did his best to improvise a meal that would fill the aching knot in his stomach.
As he ate his lukewarm soup, he thought about Ms. Ramsey and her rich beef stew and big, wet tears of joy on the day that she told Spencer of his test results. "You're on your way to knighthood, young squire." She said one day as they sat down to lunch.
The look on Spencer's face must have reflected his feelings of panicked confusion because she rubbed her hand along his back and then smiling, set a bowl of stew in front of him. Spencer stared down at the stew; the warm, thick brown gravy-like broth, the gleaming orange carrots, the bright green onions, the multi-colored rice, the sweet dried cranberries, and the large pieces of shredded beef that melted on his tongue. He knew what Ms. Ramsey was about to tell him, well, she felt it was good news but Spencer knew better. He knew that this rich stew was as good as his last meal. His test results meant that he would be leaving the warm protection and nourishing care of his youthful teacher and he'd be making his way in a lion's den of near-adults. Spencer was slight for his age as it was but being in the company of children, who at their youngest, were already several years older than he, meant that he was a dead prodigy walking.
Ms. Ramsey had asked him to come by her classroom, his old home, after his first day in the new school and for the first few weeks Spencer had relished the opportunity. She'd brought him dinner – dishes that were warm, rich, and filling much like the woman's presence. Ms. Ramsey was a short, jolly, pink-cheeked woman that had a plump figure that she carried as if it was not a burden but a greater accentuation of her presence and personality. She didn't have children or a husband but Spencer couldn't imagine her as anything other than a mom, a caregiver. She was the kind of teacher, the kind of person, that even the most raucous of children felt bad for disappointing. Her voice was a contagious melody of happiness and encouragement and when it did soften to express disappointment or concern; her students couldn't help but feel their stomachs sink a little. It was this immediate sense of empathy and shared understand that made Spencer back away from their visits.
It only took Spencer two weeks before he came to her concealing an injury that he'd acquired walking through the halls of his high school. His face had come into sharp contact with the door of a locker and a deep bruise was forming on his cheek. Ms. Ramsey wanted to take him to the Emergency Room when he'd arrived a few days later with a matching black eye. If the pain hadn't been enough to send him into hysterical tears it was the threat of the ER that pushed him over the edge. Yes, Ms. Ramsey had the best of intentions but if he'd gone someone would undoubtedly want to dig deeper; a call to the Department of Children and Families, a social worker (a member of the Government – the They) darkening their doorstep unexpectedly, his mother flying into a paranoid fit, and Spencer knew he could say goodbye to any hope of seeing an end to his pain. Spencer knew if he could only go a few weeks without a beating in a public high school that his chances in a group home would be even more abysmal. Ms. Ramsey had the best of intentions but Spencer knew all too well where good intentions led.
Good intentions are what had him playing doctor in the hallway bathroom as his mom slept soundly in the other room. Good intentions are what sent him to that public high school. And it was good intentions that lead him to belief that he would find an escape from this city and a solution to his problems – a promise that gnawed at his insides with hopefulness that hurt more than it helped him. At best, he could wait until he was eighteen, spend a few nights in the off-The-Strip casinos, counting cards and raking in enough money to hire live-in assistance for his mom and enough freedom for himself so he could find a job to keep them both afloat. It was nice to watch Ms. Ramsey as she crafted the big dreams that he knew he never could entertain for himself on his own.
Spencer finished his soup and left the cup beside his bed. He was too emotionally exhausted from the day's events to consider reading himself to sleep so instead he turned on his radio to the Classical station and let his mind drift along with the slow, soothing violins. Spencer had long convinced himself that not having someone to tuck him in at night was only strengthening him for the adult world. He knew it was a thin line between failure to thrive and letting a child cry out their fears at night alone but on nights like tonight he wanted something, someone other than Prokofiev, to send him into slumber.
To aid in his comfort, Spencer tucked his good hand under his pillow and felt for a paper that Ms. Ramsey had sent to his home along with a note laced with kindness and concern over his diminished appearance during her after-school hours.
Spencer tucked the sweet-smelling, pastel colored stationary under his pillow –he knew it by heart and it just broke him into more despairing pieces to read it again. Her concern and care could only go so far before something stood in their way either a sense of propriety or other social barriers. Spencer knew distancing himself from Ms. Ramsey was inevitable and he wanted to release himself from the pain, and the want for nurturing, before it was forced from his life or she tired of him and forgot.
Spencer unfolded the flier and held it out in front of him as he lay on his side. He knew it by heart, of course, but it never hurt to see those driving words that practically screamed off the page. It was supposed to academic but the tone was totally and completely the barking of a used-car salesman beckoning from the Vegas Strip.
Come see what YOUR future holds!
TEST PREP! UNIVERSITIES! RECRUITERS!
Looking for YOU!
The expo was being held in one of the new hotel's grand ballroom. The flier boasted no RSVP required but business attire was a must – that must be what it meant to 'bring your best.'
Spencer closed his eyes and gently slid the flier back under his pillow. The seniors at his school had been excused to attend the event as long as they brought back proof of their attendance. Spencer's meeting with the school's guidance counselor had been to receive his own absolution from classes the next day but had rapidly deteriorated into a quasi-interrogation over the treatment Spencer was received in the hallways. He never meant to divulge what those boys had been putting him through but it had come out in a rush of tears and confusion as the counselor had applied the right pressure on all the wrong emotional nerves. The counselor had actually threatened to withhold Spencer's day-pass from school if he didn't in a McCarthy-esque fashion, 'name names.'
In the end though, Spencer had left with the permission to skip his classes tomorrow and head to the Grand Ballroom of the glitzy new hotel and had inadvertently earned the high school triumvirate of terror three weeks of In-School Suspension. Only tomorrow would tell what exactly this road he had paved for himself led to, his peace of mind or continued pain.
A/N: Work is beginning to heat up (isn't always? LOL) so updates may be a bit infrequent and I apologize in advance for any aggravation this may cause you, my dear readers. Also if you have read any of my other works you may enjoy knowing that I am in the process of editing a third installment of 'Word Made Flesh' and a epilogue to 'The Restored Life.' Both installments are completed, it's just your author is dragging her feet a bit.