SUMMARY: Epilogue for Revelations.
Betaed by Annie. Thanks, sis!
For Annie, for giving me my little bolt-hole to escape from RL for a little while, and for being there whenever.
I watch Reid from a distance, my relief that he's alive making me lightheaded. My heart's still pounding wildly in my chest and when he turns to Hotch, then JJ, and hugs them, it's all I can do not to grab hold of him and enfold him in my arms, yearning to shelter him from any more pain. I can't do that though. I don't have that right. I wasn't there when he needed me, should have been there instead of JJ. I would have given my life to save his.
JJ stares at me for a moment and I give her a small nod, giving her the forgiveness I know she seeks, but knowing my own burden of guilt will not be so easily released.
Reid's gaze flickers over to me and I can see even from here the unshed tears in his eyes, the lines of pain and exhaustion on his face, the bruises, the blood He disentangles himself from Gideon's support, saying something to him, the words too low for me to catch. Gideon nods though and turns away, joining the others.
I stay. I can't bring myself to leave him alone, even though that's obviously what he wants. He turns and hobbles back to Tobias' body and painfully lowers himself to the ground. He bends his head for a moment, as though giving benediction, his bruised and swollen hands reaching shakily to gently touch the man who tortured him. There is such a look of raw grief on his face that I momentarily look away, blinking burning tears from my eyes. When I look back, he's struggled back to his feet, though one is barely touching the ground and I look down and see the swollen, purple flesh around his ankle.
That bastard! That sick fucker! I glance at the gun on the ground and have to fight the urge to pick it up and shoot the prick again.
"Morgan?" Reid's voice is whisper-soft and I jerk my gaze up to him, curling my hands into tight fists, fighting against the rage that threatens to overwhelm me. His arms are wrapped tightly around his thin body and he's shaking like a leaf in the wind, but he smiles. That sweet, gentle smile that I know and love so much. "I'm so glad to see you," he says and takes a hesitant step forward.
I stride forward to take him in my arms and the tears flow then, from both of us. "Not as glad as I am," I whisper, my voice hoarse with remembered fear that we would be too late. "Let's get you out of here."
He nods against my shoulder and I turn him away from me, keeping a firm hold of him. He's close to giving in to the pain and exhaustion and sags against me. I want to pick him up and carry him, worried about his injured foot but he shakes his head, second-guessing my intention, and we walk together slowly toward the car.
I hand him over to Hotch, who gets him settled in the back seat, placing a blanket around him to ward off the shock and the chill of the night air.
"Derek?" Garcia is standing behind me, touching my arm, and I turn and smile, then pull her in for a hug. "He's gonna be all right," I tell her.
She smiles through her tears. "Go with him," she says. "He's going to need you." I know what she's not saying. She's the only one who knows of my true feelings for him. Sometimes I feel like she knows everything about me, even those things I've kept locked inside me for so long.
I shift and turn back to the car, scrambling in beside Reid, and he looks up at me, then leans over and rests his head on my shoulder, an unconscious gesture, a simple seeking of comfort on his part, I know, but it warms my heart, shores up my pain at his suffering all the same. "You're gonna be okay," I tell him, rubbing his arm gently, not entirely sure if it's just him I'm reassuring.
We're all silent for the rest of the ride to the hospital. Gideon's in the front passenger seat and keeps turning to watch us, his eyes dark and haunted. Hotch, JJ and Garcia follow in another car. The sheriff has stayed at the scene to organize the gathering of evidence and clean up.
Gideon has radioed ahead to the hospital, and a doctor and nurse await our arrival in front of the Emergency doors with a wheelchair. I reluctantly hand Reid over to their care and join the others in the waiting room where Garcia is already bustling around like the mother hen she is, handing out coffee.
"They'll probably keep him at least overnight," Gideon says. He slumps into a chair and wearily rubs his face. "He stopped breathing for quite a while."
"Did you see his foot?" JJ whispers to no one in particular. I know she doesn't expect an answer, so I sit down beside her and take her hand in mine, squeezing it gently.
I can't sit still for long though, and after a couple of minutes, I stand and prowl the hallway that leads to the examination rooms. On my fourth pass back in the direction of the waiting room, I see Gideon standing, leaning against the wall, his arms crossed over his chest.
"Don't beat yourself up over this," he says, grasping my arm and pulling me to a halt in front of him. "There's no guarantee it wouldn't have still happened even if you'd been there."
"They shouldn't have been sent out there alone," I hiss. "Neither of them are seasoned agents."
Gideon merely shrugs. "Maybe not. We got him back alive though, and he's going to be fine. I'm not adding to what we've all been through by apportioning blame, and Reid wouldn't allow me to. You know that, probably better than I do."
I stare at him for a long moment, allowing his words to sink in, knowing he's right. I turn my head and glare back at the examination room. "What's taking them so long?"
Gideon smiles that slow smile of his and takes my arm again, leading me back to the waiting room.
I follow without an argument, my own exhaustion catching up with me now I've stopped, the adrenaline that's kept me pumped throughout the long night, waning and leaving me feeling weak.
"It's only been fifteen minutes," Gideon says, pushing a cup of coffee into my hands. "We've done our job, now let the doctors do theirs."
"We need to get your clothes off and get you into a gown," the nurse says as she reaches out a hand and helps me to stand.
My eyes dart toward the bathroom. "I need to go to the bathroom first," I say. My hand touches my pants pocket and I feel the vials, still safe. I have no idea why I felt the overwhelming urge to take them. Tobias is dead now. No reason for anyone to care about the drugs that kept him going in his darkest hours. I have no idea either, if the camera caught him injecting me with the narcotics, if the others know, if they saw my composure dashed by the haunted memories they dragged up. It doesn't matter. I have an unreasoning need to hold onto them.
"We'll need a urine specimen anyway," she says kindly. She takes a small plastic specimen jar from the tray next to the bed and holds it out. "Let me give you a hand."
"No!" I sigh and stare down at the floor, seeing for the first time the purple, swelling flesh of my foot. It throbs painfully in time with my heart. "I can do it. I'll just be a minute."
She nods and takes my arm then turns it palm up, running a finger over the needle marks inside my elbow. "Do you know what you were injected with?" I shake my head. "That's okay. The urine test will tell us. Let me help you over there. You're probably still a little shaky and that foot's got to be painful. Lean on me and try to keep your weight off it."
"I'm no lightweight," I say, just because she's being so nice and I feel I owe her that much.
"I'm stronger than I look," she snorts. "And you look like a strong wind would blow you away." She places my arm around her shoulders and together we manage an inelegant shuffle to the bathroom. She hands me a gown and a brown paper bag for my clothes. Once I'm safely inside, she turns back to the examination tray, rearranging items. "Leave the door open, all right?"
I don't answer, just do what I need to do, trying to keep my mind detached from it all, which isn't really that hard since my thoughts seem as flimsy as gossamer right now. Finished, I wash my hands and stare at my reflection in the mirror. Carefully, I touch the blood that cakes the side of my face.
I'm alive, I'm safe, I tell myself, but the mournful eyes of the stranger who looks back say something else.
I stand in the doorway, and suddenly the urge to get out overwhelms me. My chest feels tight and there's a lump in my throat I can't seem to swallow around. "I don't need to see a doctor," I say. "Really, I'm fine."
The nurse turns to me and shakes her head. "It's better if you let us check you out. I'm sure if the doctor doesn't find anything seriously wrong, he'll let you go home. We were told you stopped breathing for several minutes."
I touch my chest, suddenly feeling the deep ache come to life at her words. I'm certain there are bruises too, but I don't want to look, don't want to make this more real than it already is. "Are my friends here?" I ask. I allow her to help me back to the examination table and I hoist myself up onto it, looking longingly at the door.
"They're in the waiting room. Would you like someone to be here with you?"
"Morgan," I say without hesitation. He's the only one right now that I think I can bear to touch me. I hope the others will forgive me for that. "Derek Morgan."
She nods and pats my shoulder. "Lay down and try to rest. The doctor should be here any minute."
I don't want to but I do as she asks. The drugs must still be active because I find myself drifting slowly toward sleep.
Something touches my foot and I can't stop the moan of pain that scrapes from my throat. I twist on the bed, bringing my legs up close to my chest, my heart pounding, my breath catching in my throat, but a firm hand encircles my injured foot gently and pulls it back down.
"I'm sorry, Spencer," a deep male voice says. "I'll be as gentle as I can."
Hospital. The memory of my rescue comes back slowly, still feeling more like a dream than reality, but the throbbing of my foot convinces me what happened was only too real.
Other hands scrape my blood-matted hair back from my face, causing the gash on my head to sting and I feel a wet warmness dribble across my forehead.
"Just some water," someone else says when I gasp and flinch away from the unexpected sensation.
"Hey " Morgan's welcome voice comes from beside me and I turn my head and look at him. He smiles back but there's an indefinable sadness in his eyes. He reaches out a hand and strokes his fingers down my cheek. "How you doing?"
"Be all over soon," he says. "Then we'll get you home to rest."
"Back to Virginia?"
"Yeah, soon as the doctor gives the okay. You just rest easy and let him do his job."
"You going to stay?" I ask, letting the mesmerizing touch of his fingers soothe me, grounding me to the here and now, keeping the past back to be dealt with later... or not. Maybe I'll never want to revisit it, especially now that Tobias' drugs have dredged up everything I tried so long to bury.
"Not going anywhere."
"Good." I reach up with one hand and wrap it around his, squeezing tightly as the doctor probes a particularly tender spot on my foot. "Did you Did you see everything?"
His voice is tight and raw and I look over at him and nod. "It wasn't really Tobias," I say. "Not his fault."
He shakes his head. "I saw what he did to those people, Reid, saw what he did to you. He could have stopped it."
"He tried," I reply, wanting him to understand and knowing he can't. I look away, feeling tears sting my eyes. "He felt he'd disrespected his father. Let him down. I know how that feels."
"Hey." Morgan's hand tightens around mine then disengages and both hands frame my face, turning me to face him, a frown lining his forehead. "What are you talking about?"
I shrug, wishing I hadn't spoken aloud. The drugs are screwing with my emotions, making me feel fragile and despondent when I should be relieved and grateful.
"Let's not worry about it right now, okay?" he says, a soft smile upturning his mouth. "Let's get you fixed up first."
Before I can respond, the doctor pats my shoulder and gives me a small frown. "You're pretty bruised and battered, and I want to get an X-ray of your foot. I don't think there are any broken bones -"
"There aren't," I interrupt. "I was able to stand on it -"
"That I can tell," the doctor continues. "An X-ray will show for sure. I want to run an EKG too, check everything out properly, and we're waiting on your tox screen. So, barring any complications, we'll let you go home tomorrow -"
I struggle up, his words sending me into a panic. I don't want to be here tonight, among strangers. "I'll get it checked out at home."
Morgan presses me back against the pillows. "If the doc says you're staying, you're staying," he says sternly. "No arguments."
"We need to get back to Virginia," I protest.
"The others can go back," he says. "Someone will stay with you until you've got the okay from the doc."
He smiles widely at that. "I'll see if I can persuade Hotch." He stands, crossing his arms over his chest and I see for the first time, how exhausted he looks, how the strain of all this has worn him down. I feel guilty that I'm the cause of that, and perversely, warmth at knowing that he cares about me. "How about I go talk to the others, let them know how you're doing while the doctor sets up those tests?"
"Sure." I smile back, feeling it strain my cheeks, feeling all that has occurred in the past day come crashing down on me, leaving me floundering at just the thought of him leaving.
The doctor pats my shoulder comfortingly as Morgan turns and walks out of the room. "I know you've been through a lot, son, but you're going to be fine."
I make my way to the waiting room, my footsteps suddenly lighter now I know Reid will be okay, the weight of worry lifting from my shoulders enough that I feel a smile on my face as I greet our anxious team. Emily has arrived after helping the sheriff tie up the loose ends at the crime scene and I give her a nod of greeting.
"He's okay," I say, turning to Gideon, knowing the deep attachment Reid and Gideon have for each other. Gideon can be a terse, gruff son of a bitch sometimes, except where Reid's concerned. He has a special place in his affections for Reid, just as I do, though I know hope his affections are paternal and nurturing. "Doctor wants to keep him overnight. He's bitching about that, which must mean he's okay, right?"
Gideon beams and shakes his head in fond exasperation. "I'll make it an order," he says.
I grin back at him. "I already did. Doc's waiting on a tox screen but I guess we already know what they're going to find."
"Dilaudid and a hallucinogen," Hotch says. "Let's hope he didn't give him too much."
"He's lucid," I tell them. "He's sleepy and tired, but he knows where he is, remembers what happened."
"Not necessarily a good thing," Gideon says. His eyes are haunted, and I know he's blaming himself as much as I am for not getting to Reid in time.
My memory flashes back to seeing Reid convulsing on the floor of the cabin, his lips blue, his eyes rolling up, his chest stilling as vomit dribbled down his chin and I shudder as though a ghost has walked over my grave. I clench my eyes closed in a vain effort to shut out the horrifying vision. A hand touches my arm, squeezing, and I open my eyes to see Gideon staring me at me, his eyes worried. "You said it yourself," he says kindly. "He's okay."
"Yeah." I scrub a trembling hand over my face, suddenly feeling exhausted as the adrenaline of the past day and night abates. "He's okay."
Gideon nods. "We need to get back but someone needs to stay with Reid. I'll organize for a pick up as soon as he's ready to travel."
"I'll stay!" Dual voices speak up at once and Garcia and JJ give each other an embarrassed smile.
"Actually -" I begin but Gideon cuts in before I can continue.
"Morgan, you're staying." He gives Garcia and JJ a small apologetic smile. "I need you both at Quantico and Morgan's better suited to giving Reid whatever physical support he'll need."
I nod, feeling immense relief that I don't have to explain why I need to stay. "I'll call you tomorrow. Let you know how he's doing."
"So," Gideon rubs his hands together and then gestures toward the examination room, "we should go and check on him. I know you're all anxious to see him."
As exhausted as I feel, it lifts my spirits to see my friends again. I feel a little embarrassed remembering how I hugged Hotch so tightly at the cemetery but he just ruffles my hair and gives me one of his very rare smiles.
"You're so damn smart sometimes, Reid, it scares me," he says.
"Sometimes?" I say with a cocky grin, my lassitude and pain receding in the presence of those I consider my family. I'm feeling a little dizzy, relief and elation after so many hours of terror warring with grief over what I know Tobias suffered in his all too brief life, and the pain of knowing I was responsible for his death. I brought his torment to an end but still his life has ended too soon. I hope his tortured soul finds peace.
Garcia hovers over me, pressing a tumbler of water to my lips and demanding that I drink, fluffs my pillows and tucks my covers up under my chin. Her eyes glisten with unshed tears, and she presses a kiss to my cheek before she leaves, turning back at the door to wave goodbye, her mouth turning up in a wide smile as she wraps an arm around Emily's waist and leads her from the room. I grin as Emily looks over her shoulder at me, a bemused expression on her face before she shrugs and goes with the flow.
JJ has been silent the entire time and only now do I see the bandage wrapping her arm from elbow to wrist. I lift her arm gently and raise questioning eyes to her.
"It's fine," she says. "The the dogs."
"I'm so sorry," I whisper, echoing her words to me at the graveyard. "I shouldn't have left you."
She shakes her head. "We did what we thought was right." A tear snakes down her cheek and she wipes at it with the heel of one hand.
Morgan steps up beside her and wraps an arm around her shoulders. "You need some rest, JJ," he says. "You did a great job."
The words only prompt more tears to fall and she turns away and walks out the door, leaving my consternation for her mounting. Hotch gives me a quick nod and follows her out. He can be a stern taskmaster at times, but he cares for his team. That's why I know I was right in choosing him to get my message.
"She's okay," Morgan assures me, resting a hand lightly on my shoulder. "She's exhausted and still in shock. The guys will look after her."
"I know they will," I say though there's a lump in my throat and I can't help but feel as though there's some unease here, despite my rescue.
Gideon is standing over by the window, gazing out silently at the night sky. He hasn't spoken to me at all yet but once the others have left, he turns and approaches the bed.
Morgan hooks a hand over his shoulder. "I need to go check everything's sorted," he says. "Reid and I will see you back Quantico sometime tomorrow."
"Make it the day after," Gideon says, giving me the smile I know he reserves just for me. He's been more a father to me than my own ever was and a lump rises in my throat as I realize once again how close I came to dying, to never seeing him or any of them again. "Spend a day relaxing."
There's an ache in my chest and I reach up a hand to touch the place where Tobias pressed, bringing me back to life. At the same time, a spear of pain shoots up my foot as I shift in the bed and I can't bite back a gasp of pain, any more than I can fight the flash of memory that hits me, of Raphael slamming the wood against my foot and demanding I confess.
Gideon's hand covers mine, squeezing gently. He leans forward and shifts his hand to cup my chin, his eyes boring into mine. "It's over now," he says firmly. "You made it. I knew you would."
"I wish I'd been as optimistic as you," I say but he shakes his head and gently taps my temple.
"You're not just the smartest man I know but the most resourceful. You learned as a child how to take care of yourself, how to survive." He pulls back and crosses his arms over his chest. "I never had any doubts you'd get through this."
The words cheer me but there's a haunted look in his eyes that tells me he's not telling me everything. I open my mouth to ask him but a yawn ambushes me and Gideon laughs.
"Time to switch that genius brain of yours off for a while and get some rest," he says. "I'll get Morgan, and I'll see you in Virginia day after tomorrow."
"You might need us before then," I protest but my eyes are fighting a losing battle against sleep and I feel myself drifting off with Gideon's chuckle echoing in my ears.
The night was a rough one. Reid had drifted off to sleep by the time I said my goodbyes to the rest of the team and I slumped into the chair at his bedside, feeling as exhausted as he looked. It seemed like only minutes later that I was jarred awake by his screams.
I got him calmed, waving away the doctor who ran in, armed with a syringe loaded with sedative, but after that, it was a seemingly never-ending cycle of nightmares. Reid would finally go back to sleep, my hand clutched in his, my eyes would close and scant seconds later, or so it seemed, the dreams would begin again.
He's sleeping now, and has been, finally, for an hour or so. I carefully extricate my hand from his surprisingly tight grip and head into the adjoining bathroom to sluice cold water over my face in the vain hope it might wake me up. I dry my face and hands and look into the mirror. It's like staring at a stranger, years older than I know I am. I don't think even my own arrest affected me quite as much as Reid's kidnapping did. And that thought just reinforces the feelings I have for him.
He's safe now, I tell my reflection firmly, but can't help peeking around the door to check on him, and drink in the sight of him lying in the bed, deeply asleep, his mind for now unfettered by horrifying memories.
Feeling marginally better, I walk back into the room and sit down to wait for the doctor to arrive and give Reid his marching orders.
The motel room is comfortable and clean, and the bed looks inviting, even though I have slept the clock around and should be feeling as fresh as a daisy. My feet are throbbing painfully by the time we enter the room, in spite of the crutches taking the weight off the most badly bruised one.
I hover in the doorway, allowing Morgan to enter and take a cursory look around.
"This okay?" he asks, his forehead creasing with a frown. "I can find another-"
I shake my head and hobble inside, leaning my crutches against the wall beside the bed and lowering myself down with a sigh. "It's fine. Great."
A silence stretches between us and Morgan looks a little discomfited. He walks into the tiny kitchen and opens the refrigerator, pulling a beer and a bottle of water from within. He walks over and holds the water out to me. He begins to screw the top from the beer then hesitates. "You mind?" he asks. "I know the doctor told you no alcohol for a week but I could really use a beer."
I wave his concern away and unscrew the cap on my water. "It's fine. You deserve it."
We both sip at our drinks, watching each other as we do so. Finally, the awkwardness of the situation seems suddenly funny and I can't help smiling.
Morgan grins back at me. I've always loved his smile. It lights up his whole face.
"What?" he asks. "What's so funny?"
I put the bottle of water on the bedside table. "Us." At his raised eyebrow, I continue. "We're acting like we're on a blind date or something." My face heats when I realize what I've said and I shift my gaze to the bedspread, stroking my hand over the cotton weave. I feel the mattress dip as Morgan sits beside me.
"Maybe we could pretend we are," he says softly, but before I can tell him that I'd like that very much, he stands abruptly, looking suddenly stricken with guilt. He scrubs a hand over his face and I see how very tired he is. "What a stupid thing to say!" he growls. "After what you've been through." He waves a hand in the air as though by doing so, he can eliminate his words. "Just forget what I said. I'm just tired, okay?" He takes another swig of his beer then looks at the bottle with disgust and strides into the kitchen and pours it down the sink.
I struggle up onto my feet, and ignoring the crutches, hobble out into the kitchen, stopping just behind him. "I'd like that," I say.
He doesn't react for a few seconds then turns to face me. "I shouldn't have said anything."
I reach out and take his hands in mine. "I'm glad you did."
He doesn't look convinced so I lean forward and press a feather-light kiss against his lips. "So glad."
He looks a little shell-shocked when I step back, something I never thought I'd see. Morgan's so cool, so in control of his emotions, then he reaches for me, pulling me into his arms, hugging me gently as though I'm a fragile treasure. "I thought I'd lost you," he whispers against my neck. "I've never been so angry and so afraid in my life."
I hug him back, harder than he's prepared to hug me, wanting him to feel me. "Me too," I say then turn my head to kiss him again. This time, I don't hold back my feelings for him, deepening the kiss until we're both panting for breath. I pull away from him and smile. "This is not the way I hoped to tell you how I felt about you. I kinda envisioned a romantic restaurant, dinner for two " I shake my head, hardly able to believe that I'm here in his arms now. "Not that I expected it to ever happen."
My feet choose that romantic moment to remind me that I shouldn't be on them, sending shards of white-hot pain blasting up my legs. My leg muscles seem to suddenly melt and the next thing I know, I'm in Morgan's arms, being carried back to bed.
"Lay down with me?" I grab Morgan's hand as he straightens. "Just hold me for a while. Keep the nightmares away?"
To my relief, he doesn't hesitate, stripping off his jeans and t-shirt and laying down beside me. His arms wrap around me, drawing me into his embrace, and I feel a sob working its way up my throat, tears spilling down my cheeks before I can hold them back.
Morgan presses a kiss to the back of my head. "It's okay, Spencer, I'm here."
The sound of my name is enough to break the dam and I cry for a long time while he holds me, while I grieve for Tobias, for my mother, and for a little boy called Spencer forced to grow up too soon.
Raphael stands over me, demanding I confess my sins. My mother stands at his shoulder, her face twisted with grief as she begs me not to desert her. "I love you, Spencer," she sobs. Tobias steps forward, a small sad smile upturning his mouth. "Will I see my mother?" My arm drips blood onto the floor from the punctures in my veins and sadness and euphoria overwhelm me in equal measure
The room is dark when I wake with a start. Morgan is snoring softly beside me, his arms still wrapped loosely around me. I want to stay here, enfolded in his loving embrace but the lure is too strong.
Slipping out of bed, I pause and look back to check I haven't awakened him, then limp as quietly as I can to where my clothes are draped over the armchair next to the bed.
I reach into the pocket of my pants. My hand closes, just for a moment, around the vials, feeling relief mixed with shame that they're still there. My salvation or my damnation, I'm still not sure. Pulling them out, I unzip my overnight bag and place them inside. Then I turn and gaze at the sleeping man who waits for me, he who is my lifeline, and, I hope, my future.