Title - Whittled - Part 6
Author - Kourion
Summary: For two months, Spencer Reid had been missing. And now he had been found. Abducted by a man called the Hunter Moon Killer. And like all of the HMK's victims, Reid had been brutalized. But unlike the others, he's the only one to have ever been found alive. / Reid-pain. HC/ Morgan-Reid friendship fic.
Author's notes: I've been working around the clock lately, and I am now working at a secondary job in addition to a full time job. Not the greatest combination with my insomnia. XD
That said, the words are not coming easily these days. I think it's partly sleep deprivation. Maybe I need to quit kick boxing and swimming? (Sleep has taken a back seat space, which is ridiculously myopic of me. I need to get more sleep. That's not in question).
However, right now my time is extremely limited these days, which is one reason why my stories are not getting updated as often as I'd like! Please bear with me while I work out the kinks with my 'social' life ;)
Also, if this chapter sucks - again, I apologize. Often writing is a lot of fun for me. Lately it has been feeling less fun. I think it's the tiredness kicking in. It's hard for me to 'know' if what I'm writing makes sense, or holds any emotional power. I just don't feel it these days.
But perhaps you do.
I hope so.
IMPORTANT: this is partly AU. (Obviously).
So, not to be a spoiler-freak, all I can say is that this fic will not feature Maeve, and all that goes along with her addition to the show, in canon. Please keep that in mind.
Nor will it be or become a Reid/other-character romance. I really don't know how too great I'd be with that genre, as I've never written a romance before. (My first attempt to do so will be, undoubtedly, with The Mentalist).
But, I'm all for Reid branching out and developing a true friend with someone outside of his team at the BAU. This chapter deals with that subject a little more fully.
I'm in such a rush today that when I finally get to the hospital, I end up slamming the car door on my fingers.
Despite my best efforts, I let out a string of expletives.
Gingerly grabbing my hand to my chest, I survey the damage. Miraculously - nothing looks broken.
I hold Reid's book bag in my good hand, and debate if I should hand him these materials. I don't want to make him feel more exposed...
...and if he's getting books on dealing with schizophrenia
when he's already memorized all the best literature already...
then he's not merely concerned...
really, really scared.
Even so, I decide that I must bring the books. That if I don't bring in the materials - well, I'm doing exactly what he doesn't want me to do. What he's accused me of doing, already. Of walking on eggshells around him.
He's called me on it.
He's called the whole team on it; that facet of treating him like he "would lose it." And of course, by many peoples guidelines - he already has. But to critique his behaviour now would be the epitome of unfair. He's gone through more horror in the last three months than most people experience in their entire lives.
If anything, he's handling things exceptionally well.
And he has a point. A very good point.
He didn't attempt suicide because he was clinically depressed. No chemical imbalance swayed his decisions. Not that there is any shame in that, of course. Not that I wouldn't have his back as much as I do now, if that had been the case. But the origins leading to his decision to take his own life were completely different.
And as much as I want him to get treatment, to get better, and to be more like the Reid I'm used to, I admit he has a point. He shouldn't be here.
It's not fair.
Of course, none of this is fair.
Not for him.
Not for anyone else that finds themselves in such a place.
How could it be?
What's more; he has a near phobia of mental hospitals. If anything, I've seen him become more rigid in how he holds himself, his posture, his words...since his arrival. He seems brittle now. Clean, efficient. No rushing, no immense or expansive rambling. No postulating, no philosophical questioning. No tantalizing facts that, at one time, I'd pretend to find aggravating but secretly found amusing at worst and fascinating, often.
What I wouldn't give to have him behave like that once more.
Passionate about everything. Wanting to share every interesting factoid with the team.
Wanting to learn and grow even more than he already has, in his mind, his heart.
Even when the rest of us could never catch up with him...
But he would never hold it over our heads. Because he never did that.
For all his brilliance, he was never a snot about it.
He just wanted to share with us.
The things he loved.
Perhaps that's how he showed loved.
Perhaps it's as simple as that.
No. Reid's not here for the classic reasons.
He's not here because of a chemical imbalance. Although those possibilities, within his heavily tormented life, would have been understandable in their own right.
Instead, he had lost hope. He had lost hope in our abilities to find him, as sad as the thought makes me. He had been left with a sadist 24/7 for more than 2 months. And he honestly believed that was it, for him. But before his foreseen end at the hands of Daley, he made the decision to end things on his own terms. By his own hands. No one in the world can blame a person for attempting what he tried to do.
Not if they knew, as we did - as he did - what the end game scenario was. Suicide, in that situation, was possibly the sanest thing he could have done.
And how much of what he is feeling now is simply the feeling of shame? Of guilt? Of situations and decisions that he has absolutely no reason to feel guilty about?
Reid's always carried too much guilt.
He's always taken on way too much.
Too much ownership, for experiences and deeds which he never should have owned in the first place.
Belinda - one of the main desk nurses - buzzes me through.
"How's it going Agent Morgan?," she asks warmly.
I give her a grin. A grin that probably looks sheepish, if the tension in my facial muscles is anything to go by.
So I hold up my hand by way of explaination, and make a slight waving motion with my hand. The limb throbs and hurts as I bend my fingers.
'Good job there, Mr. F.B.I.'
I won't even be able to hold my weapon properly for the next few days...
Let's hope you don't get called out on a case.
"I had a little...accident with my car door. Obviously."
Belinda's eyes travel from my eyes to my hand in 0.1 seconds flat. She quickly rises from her chair to examine the injury.
"It's okay, Belinda," I try to assure her, in my calmest profiler voice. "I'll just get some ice on it when I get home."
She gives me an irritated look. "It's going purple now. By the time you get home, you won't be able to bend your fingers. You go on in - but head to the break room first. Get some ice on that hand!"
Belinda is, I suspect, only slightly older than I am. But she sometimes talks to me as if I am her son. She most likely is the eldest sister in a long line of brothers, and most likely played a critical role in raising them. Or she may be the eldest child to a younger brother considerably younger than she is, as her protectiveness is astounding.
She buzzes me through, and I give her a nod.
"Yes ma'am," I drawl, which earns me a good natured shake of her head.
But I keep my deal.
I head to the break room, and survey a bowl filled with tangerines, frosted water glasses and a station that dispenses different fruit juices. My eyes then fall on a tea kettle and a coffee maker. Lined up tidily are saltine crackers, individually packaged, and chocolate granola bars, small containers of single serving peanut butter and jam, and other snack selections.
A sign on bright yellow paper reads, "If you have a snack, please tidy up after yourself and wash your own dishes! Signed, Your Friendly Neighbourhood Nurses."
Underneath the sign is a big smiley sticker that reads, "You're super!"
Yes. You got it. The type of sticker that you'd see in a stationary store that teachers buy for their 6 and 7 year old students so that they can affix sticker-encouragement to a child's 'Math Minute' addition tests.
No wonder Reid feels so frustrated.
He's already sensitive enough about being treated younger than his age (although in the last few years the overt condescenion from other agents has markedly diminished). Still. It's a sore spot.
I know that. Most people, in a relatively short period of time also know that.
I open the break room freezer. Not much here, save for canisters of frozen orange concentrate.
Meals are fairly well regulated, I supposed. After all, about half of this ward alone is filled with those suffering from various eating disorders, never mind depression.
As case in point, when I shut the black freezer drawer a mussed up face of one of the residents swims into view. Abnormally thin, the girl. Petite. Not more than 5 ft. If that. She looks incredibly young for the ward, but it's hard to tell how much of that is natural, and how much of that is emaciation and the resultant stature of a bone-child that is left behind in the wake of self-starvation.
The girl gives me a cautious examination, trying to place me, as I divert my eyes away from her.
I don't want to stare at her. She's probably already self-conscious.
I pull out a can of orange juice, feeling a little bit stupid as we continue to eye one another without words. Me, less obviously, of course. After a moment she clears her throat.
"I know you. I've seen you around. You're Spencer's friend, aren't you?"
She sounds...congested. Her voice is a little bit raspy, as if she has a sore throat. It's not unpleasant, the sound. It just sounds as if it hurts her to talk.
Thoughtlessly, my eyes drift to her throat, and I force myself not to turn away when I realize why she sounds the way she sounds. Her throat looks like it has been excoriated. The flesh looks as if it has bubbled up from her esophagus, then scarred over again in thick, pinky patches.
What the hell caused that?
She seems to realize where I'm staring, and takes a few steps backwards.
I see her then haphazardly pull at the sleves of her shirt - a plaid yellow and black sleeved top, drapped over a thin pea green tank top. The bones of the girls' chest rises in hollowed, nub format against fish-white skin. Her hip bones jut out enough to take her past being thin. Past skinny, even.
It almost looks as if claws are gripping at her from the inside, trying to break through very thin outer flesh.
Idiotically, for a second...I wonder if it hurts. That thinness. That level of thinness.
I wonder if it hurts Reid.
Not just the lack of food.
But also the contortion that his body is going through, now.
Does it physically pain him?
Or does the pain merely exist in the realm of the psychological?
"You can ask you know," the girl mutters, breaking me from my thoughts.
"My throat," she clarifies. "You're curious."
She doesn't seem angry, or defensives. Merely studious.
I feel a warmth infuse my face, and I wonder why I feel like this. I've spoken to countless people about countless ugly things, but this is different.
This girl is not a criminal.
This girl is a victim.
In some horrible way, she is. I don't know how, of course. I just know that she is.
"I'm sorry. It's none of my business."
White eyelashes blink against pale cheeks, as if in slow motion. As if she's terribly exhausted.
She looks like an albino, too - though I suspect that's simply malnutrition. Anemia, merged with a tendency to hide out under covers for warmth, away from light and people and life. That would make anyone very pale, indeed.
And the fact that she's even thinner than Reid is now, even post-weight loss, has me reeling.
Her eyes almost test me. Will I, or won't I ask?
That's what she wants to know.
She smiles then. Suddenly. As much as she can with a throat that scarred.
I still have no idea what would cause scarring like that.
But the rest of her face and torso isn't burned. Not like that.
In the end, she decides to speak on her own.
"I drank a bottle of Drain-o. When I was a kid. Well, sort of a kid. 13. Not a whole bottle, really. The skin started to come off before I could get that much down. And my body rejected it, so I brought it back up again. By that point, I didn't have that much of a throat left. The doctors say it's a miracle I can talk at all. I'm actually very lucky."
I close my eyes and try to stop the sense of swirling anger. And horror.
What the hell happened to you?
How could you have DONE that to yourself?
"I'm sorry," I state solemnly, when I've found my voice again.
The girl nods, lightly, and continues to study me. In her alien-way, as if she can't grasp my sadness.
As if she doesn't understand why I would be sad. For her.
"Don't be. I'm not. Life got better after that. It took me to the edge. Edges aren't always bad. Sometimes they tell you things about yourself. About who you are and what you'll do and what your life means to you. Pain can wake you up."
I nod, numbly. What can I say to a girl what such a present need to talk about things I can't even fathom? About emotions I may have never experienced myself.
Because I know about shame and self-loathing.
I know what it feels like to have that sort of darkness inside.
And I still would have never done anything to myself like what this girl did to herself.
"I'm sorry, I-uh," and I never stutter. Not with suspects. Not with anyone. "I'm being rude. But yes, I'm Spencer's friend."
She nods her head, slants her small skull, and hollow eyes stare back at me.
In another world, another time...she'd be beautiful.
Petite, always. But elfin.
Now she looks almost grotesque. It's a horrible thought, but it's true.
Still, if someone can look past it - look past those scars and that pallor - she's still very pretty.
"Spencer isn't...he's not up for seeing anyone today," the child-voice breaks me from my thoughts; the girl then proceeds to pull invisible lint pills from her tank top.
"He said that?," I clarify, holding up the Indigo book bag by way of explaination.
The girl shrugs.
"He didn't have to. I knew this morning, when I saw him - that'd he'd be no good to anyone today. Least of all himself. He didn't even go to group."
I hold in a sigh. I hold in the restless scurrying of my anxiety, churning out adrenaline and tension and blooming in my stomach, making me weak. I roll the canister of frozen orange juice over my hand, trying to focus on something potentially productive.
"What happened?," I test, not really expecting a response.
The girl shrugs yet again. Her white-blonde eyebrows barely raise in response. Her face remains impassive, almost disinterested.
"He threw his breakfast against the kitchenette wall. Mashed potatoes and creamed corn everywhere. Not that I should tell you that. He'd probably kill me if he knew I told you that."
I close my eyes.
This isn't Reid.
Reid's never acted like this.
I don't even think Reid would have acted like THAT as a toddler.
"Where's he at now?"
She ignores my question.
"Your hand looks like shit, Spencer's-friend. Did you break your fingers or something?"
I look down, and try to ignore the cut marks of where the door tore my skin.
"I don't know. Hope not."
"Mmm," she breathes, "can't really chase down fuck-holes with a bad hand like that. You should get that scanned. If it's fractured, and you ignore it - you're just going to fuck it all up for good."
I exhale. Hopefully not too harshly. I have a sinking suspicion that Reid's going to be swearing like a sailor by the time he leaves this place, if his choice of acquaintances is anything to go by. As from what little I've seen...Reid likes this girl.
"I came to give him his books. He...likes to read. I thought he might want to see me."
I sound like a moron. A complete dullard.
Reid likes to read?
No shit, Sherlock.
The girl now grabs a dixie cup from a wall extension, and fills the floral paper cup with distilled water. Takes a prolonged sip. Swallows.
"Want me to give it to him for you?"
I eye her carefully.
"Uh, okay. But I don't even know your name."
She holds out a small hand, with expectation that I'll hand the items over.
"It's Katyn," she adds impatiently. "And he's not up to seeing anyone. Believe me. If I were you, I'd leave it with me and come back to see him later. He's a grouch when he's having an off day."
Ridiculously, I feel like laughing.
Completely inappropriate, but it's true.
"Uh, well...thanks. But I think Reid would prefer I give this to him personally."
The girl - Katyn - eyes the bag then, a small smile tugging at her mouth. Just at the corners. As if she finds something about what I've just said utterly hilarious, but is keeping the thoughts to herself.
Not for long, as it turns out.
"Naughty boy, Spencer," she whispers, almost with a laugh. "Hold your fucking horses then, I'll go get him. You can give him his dirty boy-mags in a second."
She's gone before I can say anything further.
I whisper to the air.
I sit against the counter, orange juice canister now completely defrosted.
My hand feels sticky and hot with juice that has - somehow - oozed out along the seal.
Suddenly, I hear him.
The shuffling. Something about the step. The way he breathes.
It sounds insane, but somehow I've catalogued his distinct sounds. The way he walks or breathes or moves. The slight swallow that resounds loudly in the room before he attempts to speak.
He sounds like Reid.
But then I look up, and the image before me - the expecation...it warps.
Because, from a distance, it still feels like he's here. With us. With me.
But up close, this man, this man-boy...doesn't seem like Reid at all.
"Katyn said that you were demanding to see me."
His voice seems guarded. In fact, his whole body language seems guarded - his arms crossed in skinny-stick fashion over his sweater-vested torso.
"Now that's a bit of an exaggeration," I grin, then hold up the bag of books. "You just left these in my car."
Confusion, and then - suddenly - awful recognition. Reid takes the bag gingerly, curling up the top of the bag as if I do not know what contents lay within.
I resist an impulse to sigh. To pull him towards me and hug him, and let him know that everything will be ok.
Maybe not right away. Maybe not even for a long time. But eventually. It will be.
It has to be.
He swallows again, but doesn't speak, and I realize that this low level constant state of anxiety is starting to drain me almost as much as it is undoubtedly draining him.
"Thank you," he mutters, not sounding all that thankful, but also sounding desperately like he's trying to sound like he's always sounded.
Trying to be polite, normal and whole. Like he was before.
When we could talk about things.
"You're welcome. I, look Reid, it's not as if-"
He starts to say something, but stops - and his voice hitches. I wait for him to finish, but he doesn't. Instead, his eyes dart to the TV room as if he wants to be anywhere but here, anywhere but with me.
"Let's not talk about this. Let's not make this more serious than it is. Let's not make this anything. I don't have...schizophrenia. I'm probably never going to develop schizophrenia. I just-I..."
I quell a distant memory of fear - for him - and force myself to nod.
"I know that."
Reid takes the parcel, his back rigid.
"Do you, uhh," he stutters, slightly, "do you want to watch something on tv?"
He seems lost. Little boy, lost.
"Sure," I grin. "What do you have in mind?"
"I'm not sure. I don't even know what's on."
He walks ahead of me by a few paces, waves his arms around as if he's a tour guide.
"TV room. It's better than nothing," he laments, suddenly seeming embarassed.
"It's nice," I offer stupidly, not knowing what to say. Wishing, desperately, that Penelope was here. She's find something to chatter on about.
Either that, or she'd take one look at Reid, and burst into tears...
Reid nods to my last response, then slumps down into a seat and offers me a side seat.
"I have no idea what's on," he reiterates, anxiously. "Uhh, what's on Katyn?"
I notice, immediately, that two other residents are lingering about. A boy of about 19 or 20, and the girl I met earlier.
She gives Reid a falsely sweet smile.
"Nothing that you'd want to watch," she states definitively and snickers.
I realize that I'm completely lost, while Reid rolls his eyes and glances over to me.
"What did you tell her?," he whispers as he leans into my space. "She's acting strange. Stranger than normal."
He speaks just loudly enough that the girl can hear.
"Oh shut it, Mr. Bookworm," she grouses good naturedly, while Reid smiles. Just a bit.
A tiny little bit.
But he seems relaxed as he does so.
He seems relaxed with a girl who, at the age of 13, drank a bottle of pipe cleaner to kill herself.
I hold up my hands in confusion, playing dumb - while Reid's sight zeroes in on my injury. Just as I know he'd do.
He can't help it. He can't help but be concerned when others are injured.
It's who he is. It's in his blood.
"What did you do to your hand?," he sympathizes, softly. "Damnit, Morgan - your hand is blue. What the hell happened?"
Oh yes. The transformation is already starting...
He'll be swearing up a storm within a week, I can see it now.
"I slammed a car door on it," I get out, trying not to wince when Reid pokes the skin gently with his index finger.
"How did that happen?"
"I just wasn't paying attention, I guess."
"Don't do that. Slam car doors on your hand. That hurts," the girl quips up at me, settling in on a station and raising the volume. "Everybody shut up now. Movie's about to start."
Reid glances over at me while I mouth, 'bossy,' and his eyes suddenly look familiar again. And when he smiles, he could almost pass for happy.
And it almost seems real.
When he lets himself lounge back in the futon, his eyes at half mast with sedatives and sleep deprivation and, hopefully, diminished anxiety - I try to convince myself that all of this is completely normal. That Reid, being here, acting as he's acting - is completely on par with what constitutes a typical trauma response. That everything will start to improve now. That it has to improve. Because he has friends, wherever he goes. He has the team. And he has me.
And I'm not about to give up on him.
I decide that before tonight ends, I'm going to speak to Reid's doctor about the possibility of getting him out of the clinic.