Criminal Minds © CBS.
Part 15 of Shadows Within. Direct follow-up to On the Outside, Looking In.
For All These Times
Reid's been allowed to go home. The others insist he stay and rest. He can't. He paces the empty mansion – it may as well be empty anyway; Rossi's the only other one there and he's dead to the world in his own room – and tries to calm the shaking in his hands.
This. This was close. His only reassurance that this whole deal wasn't just some sort of dream – that Morgan really did survive – is the steady thrum of muted thoughts coming from the unconscious agent. Normally Reid doesn't eavesdrop on dreams. Dreams are strange things that are way too easily influenced, and Reid has his own nightmares to contend with without inadvertently accepting someone else's. Still, he watches as Morgan dreams.
"You should rest."
Reid doesn't even flinch. He turns to face Castiel. "I can't." he whispers. "If I close my eyes, I'll lose him." The angel shakes his head. Reid continues. "What brings you here?"
Castiel reaches out, like he's going to touch Reid, then changes his mind and lets his arm drop. "You are hurting. I check in on my charges when I can, when they hurt." He fixes Reid with that intense blue stare. "What happened to Derek Morgan?"
Reid chokes on a bitter laugh. "Unsub got too close. He almost gutted Morgan. We would have lost him if we hadn't been able to hold on."
"Your unsub got you too."
"Not as bad as him."
"But close." Castiel watches as Reid resumes pacing. The young man hurts. The ache is so deep it cuts into the angel. It hurts Castiel just to be close to this kind of pain. Finally, he speaks. "You fear what will happen, should you lose one of your family."
The young man nods. "We're too close. I just don't know."
Castiel tilts his head to the side. "What if I told you there is a way to protect your family from such a loss? That if you were to do one thing, the only way to kill one of you would be to kill all of you?" he asks quietly.
Reid snaps to attention. He stops his incessant pacing, wide gaze locking directly on to Castiel. The angel knows he's resisting the urge to Read his intentions. "What's the catch?"
"The catch is that you would cease to be seven individuals bound by your ability. You would become seven parts of one whole, incomplete without each other, unable to leave each other, for the rest of your lives." Castiel sighs. "Your teammates may see it as too great a price."
"The hell we would." Rossi appears in the doorway of the kitchen, looking a little disheveled but completely awake. He's staring at Castiel with an odd kind of hunger Reid can't place. "Reid can do that?"
"If he wishes."
Reid won't look at Rossi. "I can't ask that of you." he says softly. He doesn't look up until he feels Rossi's hand under his chin, and the older man gently forces him to meet his gaze.
"You won't be asking it. We'll give it." Rossi says. "Ask the others. I'll eat my shoes if they say no."
Reid chews on his lip. "When Morgan wakes up."
Castiel makes a motion as if to leave, and Reid's voice stops him. "I wish I could find some way to repay you." he says, turning to look at the angel. There's something odd in his posture, and this time Reid gives in to temptation and Reads him. There's not much, just a flash of longing and the image of two men.
"Spencer Reid, I do not believe you can give me what I want." Castiel says quietly. "But I appreciate the offer."
Then Castiel is gone, leaving Rossi and Reid alone. For a moment, they just stare at the place where the angel stood. Then the exhaustion catches up with Reid, and he collapses in the kitchen. Rossi catches him before he can hit the ground and calmly carries him back to his room. He pulls the covers up over the younger man and leaves the room, being sure to keep a light on for him.
Morgan gains full, continuous consciousness within a week. He's going to need a lot of physical therapy before he's ready for field work again, but he's alive, and that's what the team cares about. He's allowed to come home a few days after he fully wakes. It's the day after that Reid finally get up the guts to ask his question.
No, actually – that's when Rossi gets tired of waiting for Reid to do it and does it himself.
"Reid has something he wants to ask us." He leans back in his chair, satisfied, while the rest of the team turns expectantly to Reid. Luckily, Jack and Henry have already gone to bed. Reid gives Rossi a filthy look.
Thanks a lot.
I think I hate you now.
"Reid." Hotch's calm voice catches his attention. "Ask."
The youngest takes a deep breath. "Castiel told me about this way to make it impossible to kill us off one at a time, but it means we'll no longer be individuals. We won't be able to live separate lives if we do it."
There's the briefest pause before Morgan speaks. "I'm game. How does it work?"
Reid gapes at him. "Morgan – "
"I almost clocked out on you once, kid. I'm not leaving my family so easily." Morgan lifts his chin. "So tell me, how does it work?"
Reid's gaze flickers across the room even as he reaches out, sensing the reactions from his team. He swallows hard. "You – you would do that? For me?"
Garcia reaches out and touches Reid's hand. "Sweetie – we protect what's ours."
With that said the teams moves to the living room. They look at Reid expectantly, and the youngest just reaches out. I need contact. he says. I need – everyone to touch me at once.
Now it's Hotch's turn to hesitate. Reid has never made it a secret that he does not like to be touched. Are you sure?
They gather around him, and Reid has to swallow the instinctive need to get away from everyone. He lets them touch them, and when he feels all hands on him, he reaches out further than he ever has before.
There are two levels that Reid can touch – the superficial one, the thoughts and emotions that everyone always thinks about, the level that the team is connected on, and a deeper one which houses the soul. This is where hopes and dreams come from, the source of all things that makes us who we are. Reid reaches past the surface thoughts and deep into their souls.
He's never tried to reach into six people before. He falls to the ground, but the others fall with him, just as affected as he is. Still, he reaches further, and when he's in deep enough, he opens himself to them.
Castiel couldn't tell him what would happen after this point, and Reid's glad for it. He can feel himself slipping away as the others fill him up, and it's terrifying and glorious and no words can ever describe it. He can feel the world slipping away, and distantly he knows that, when they wake up, they'll all the on the living room floor.
It's the best feeling in the world.
Outside, Castiel watches as the team – the family – binds themselves together in ways only imagined. He smiles to himself.
"You are lucky, Spencer Reid. I would give anything for those I consider my brothers, and they do not even think of me."