Reid felt like it would be a personal failing, to admit to himself that he actually was having a migraine after managing for so long without. Usually he was the first person to object when illness or physical pain was positioned as a moral flaw, but it was somehow never so easy to apply the same clear-cut logic to himself.
So when he lied instantly, automatically, to Morgan, it felt like the right choice. He was getting flickering auras in the edges of his vision and the beginnings of stabbing pains in his head, but it was possible that if he ignored them hard enough they might not build up to anything serious.
For a while it even seemed like it was working.
But sitting in the jet, without fierce urgency keeping the nagging pain suppressed, what had merely been the threat of a migraine abruptly bloomed into one which was all too real.
It had probably been triggered by talking with Morgan, ironic for something which had in other respects made him feel much better. The smile the conversation had left him with was still on his face when he was suddenly assaulted by the sensation of having an ice-pick hammered sharply through his left eye and into his skull. He slammed his eyes shut and went rigid, but it was far too late. The metal spike in his brain was rapidly becoming red-hot. Even breathing was making it worse.
There were measures he could have taken earlier to prevent it from getting this bad. Could have, should have. Reid clenched his teeth and his fists and tried to ride the pain out as best he could.
Breathe, eyes closed. In and out.
A hand touched his shoulder and he startled, biting down on the cry which tried to escape him as he re-emerged into the lit cabin.
"Spence?" JJ smiled at him, her expression somewhere between amusement and motherly concern as he blinked her into focus. "Time to wake up."
"Huh?" he croaked, bleary and disorientated. They had hours left on the flight…
"We just landed," she said. "You must have been sleeping pretty heavily."
"Oh." His head was still pounding, and full of fog, but his state of half-awakeness was providing perfect cover. Reid struggled to his feet, forcing himself to keep moving even as his head swam and his vision was momentarily full of black fragments. Only a few steps… and then he was out into the blessed darkness of the night and had a handrail to guide him down to the tarmac.
The cars were already waiting, although it seemed to take forever to reach them. Reid was utterly exhausted by the time he did so. He could feel himself shaking as he climbed into the backseat of the car which had Hotch and Rossi in the front. They were engrossed in a discussion about Jack and sports, rather than paying inconvenient attention to him. Which was what he was looking for. Reid pressed his forehead against the cool glass and tried not to think about the prospect of having to ever move again.
He managed to zone out again for most of the ride. Or, at least, it passed in a blur of pain and nausea wherein he lost track of time completely. But he woke with a jolt when Rossi banged cheerfully on his door in the parking garage. He might as well have thrown a brick at his head — it took all of Reid's self-control not to cry out.
"You look kind of pale," Rossi said.
"Tired," Reid replied, screwing up his eyes as much as he thought he could get away with as he climbed gingerly out. He was swallowing firmly in an attempt to keep the nausea damped down.
"Make sure you sleep in tomorrow."
He was pretty sure that he was going to spend most of the next day unconscious whether he liked it or not. He managed to summon a wry smile and a couple of words of agreement and hefted his go-bag onto his shoulder. Just the debriefing, and then he could go back to his apartment where earplugs, aspirin and darkness awaited him. He'd pushed through before, and he could do it again, paying the cost later. That was fine. He could do that.
They joined up with the rest of the team at the elevator and rode up together. Morgan was frowning at him, but wasn't going to say anything in front of the others. So as long as Reid didn't let anyone get him alone, he'd be safe.
His resolution held together until he stepped out into the bullpen.
If the dim lights he'd previously been exposed to had been like a pick to the skull, the glare of the bullpen was like a flash-bang grenade going off right behind his eyes and he staggered, clapping his hands against his face. He lurched to one side.
Someone was shouting. He tried to press his elbows to block his ears, stumbling further. He started to fall, but arms caught him before he could hit the floor, holding him tightly.
"Reid," someone was saying, over and over. "Reid. Spencer. Can you hear me? What's happening?"
There was a horrible, whimpering sound coming from somewhere that was making his teeth ache.
"Reid, are you having a migraine? Is that what this is?"
"Did he tell you he was?"
"Of course not. Hey. Reid."
It was him who was whimpering. He wanted to stop but couldn't work out how to stop until he at last ran out of breath.
"Reid, if you don't start responding right now we're taking you to the hospital. I'm serious."
He struggled to vocalise. "I'm — 'kay."
"No, you aren't. Reid, what the hell?"
"Maybe now isn't the time."
"Yeah. Sorry." Morgan slipped his arm under Reid's shoulders. "Okay, save that thought for later. Let's get you lying down."
Reid struggled weakly. "Just need to go home. Be okay."
"A moment ago you said you were okay, and that still isn't the point. Right now you're in no condition to go anywhere."
Reid shivered suddenly. It went all through his body, and his knees nearly gave out again.
"Enough arguing." Hotch's voice was suddenly firm. "Reid, let's go. If you can't walk you need medical attention."
As a threat, that worked well. Reid began walking in obedience to Morgan's pull, his movements stiff and uncertain, but Morgan's arm was around him and Hotch's arm was steady on his shoulder, guiding him. He still couldn't see clearly, and he couldn't keep his eyes fully open against the light. He thought he heard Garcia's voice, and JJ shushing her, but even after only a few steps the act of walking was taking all of his concentration.
He was about ready to pass out by the time he got to the top of the stairs, shaking and sweating. "Stop," he croaked. "Please, please, have to stop."
"Shh, we're almost there. You can do it." Hotch was using the voice he usually saved for Jack. Somehow that was nice, even though it would usually have been embarrassing.
Then the glaring, piercing light was mostly shut away and he was being eased down onto a couch. He wasn't even sure whose office he was in, but it didn't seem to matter. He opened his eyes in the dim light to see Hotch frowning down at him, and gently stroking the hair out of his face. "Reid? Are you with me?" he asked, pitching his voice low.
"Yeah," Reid whispered. The pounding in his head had momentarily receded in the lack of light, but now it began to redouble. He hoped they weren't planning on moving him again.
"I'm going to take your shoes off, make you more comfortable," Morgan said. "That okay?"
"Mmm." Like his head, his stomach had begun roiling again, and it was getting harder to ignore. "Feel sick."
"You going to puke?" Morgan asked.
Reid didn't trust the consequences of opening. Fortunately, Morgan and Hotch appeared to recognise the signs without his help. Hotch crouched beside him and supported him as he leaned over the side of the couch as Morgan slipped a lined garbage can onto the floor. He vomited, and then moaned through a series of dry heaves, each jarring agonisingly through his head and neck.
"No migraines, huh?" Morgan said softly, once Reid had finally finished retching but was still hanging over the garbage can.
Reid couldn't summon more than another moan in response.
Hotch helped him carefully back onto the cushions. "Morgan, go see if you can find a blanket somewhere. There might be one in first aid."
"Got it," Morgan said.
Hotch continued to crouch next to Reid, watching him. "Am I in trouble?" Reid mumbled, finally.
Hotch sighed. "Reid, I don't know what you think's expected from this job, but pushing yourself into this state certainly isn't."
"Provisionally accepted. But we're going to have a talk about this when you're feeling better." He didn't look annoyed, at least. Just tired, and worried, a combination which set off wriggles of guilt in Reid's insides.
"I thought I could handle it," he said.
"You're allowed to get sick, you know. It isn't a character flaw."
That was so unnervingly accurate a shot that Reid couldn't come up with a response to it.
Fortunately, the door re-opening provided a distraction. Morgan was back, Garcia trailing him. "How's he doing?" Morgan asked.
"Hanging in there," Hotch said, which wasn't the answer Reid would have given, but was considerably more truthful.
"I bring gifts," Garcia said. She unfolded a fleecy blanket. Its colours were muted in the dim light, but Reid had seen it before and his memory filled in its bright purple with an orange fish motif.
"Thanks," he whispered, as she tucked it around him. It was wonderfully warm and soft, and it still held Garcia's scent. Having it over him felt very much like being hugged, and he managed a real smile.
"Oh, honey. Anything for you."
"Close your eyes," Morgan instructed. Reid obeyed, and a moment later the cool press of a damp cloth was laid across his forehead and eyelids. "There. See if you can sleep for a bit."
"You should go home now," Reid mumbled, already on his way to drifting off. "I'll be fine."
Morgan chuckled, while Hotch made a noise which was definitely less than impressed.
"What, leave you all alone?" Garcia just sounded mildly offended. "Don't be ridiculous."
"One of us will be here when you wake up," Hotch said. "No room for arguments. Now, sleep."
Really, he didn't at all want to argue with that. With them. "Thanks," Reid mumbled.