It’s three in the morning and the team is huddled around the table, teetering varyingly in the realms of consciousness, Panda Express takeout boxes and drink cups littered across.
Spencer replays the last phone call in his head over and over, trying to find anything of substance but there’s nothing. Everyone’s brain is utterly fried and they can feel the hope slipping with each passing minute, fear ebbing it’s way into a concrete feeling somewhere in their minds.
“What if— nope, it’s gone,” Garcia mumbles, sinking back into her chair with a sigh, brushing her bangs back so they stand straight up behind her hands.
If Morgan wasn’t so tired, he would’ve laughed.
From across the room, JJ manages to crack her eyes open, before landing on Spencer. They’re focused on the clear board covered in his hand writing, glasses perched back on his face and lips moving silently.
“Spence?” She mumbles, and his jaw slacks as he rises to his feet, snatching a stray magenta marker from the table.
“Reid?” Morgan echos, sitting up straight as they all focus on him.
Tired eyes, suddenly more awake, follow his hand as he writes out the phone conversation.
‘So Penelope executes nonstop, completing the tasks effectively, too bad you can’t seem to read between the lines. I am the only one that can help now.”
And it’s in the moment that Spencer underlines the letters, pulling them into a comprehensive line that Prentiss grabs the green marker from the board as Reid steps back, circling the words ‘read’ and ‘I’. She jots down what she sees, sharing a look with Spencer before moving out of the way.
The team blinks, staring at the messy letters on the board, and in marker, the name Spencer Reid stares back at them.
“It was so obvious,” Spencer finally mumbles absently, more to himself than anyone else, “But I didn’t think—“
“To read between the lines,” Aaron finishes, blinking at the words.
“Pretty Boy,” Morgan breathes, “Who the hell did you piss off?”
Spencer blinks, mouth opening and closing as his gaze returns to the victims. He finds himself dead silent.
“Garcia?” He manages hoarsely, as the case comes together at an unsettling pace, “Can you compare my Caltech ID picture to the picture of Joshua Waters.”
She taps on her keyboard rapidly before stopping, they all turn to find her staring at the screen in horror.
“What? Baby girl, what?” Morgan asks, freezing when he sees the image. Spencer counts three key taps; and they they follow her eyes the the screen.
The kids almost identical to Reid.
“Reid,” Morgan repeats, earlier joking tone gone. “Who did you piss off?”
“No,” Penelope breathes, pulling up a frame of the crime scene pictures, and the Medical Examiners report, “I think the question is who did he not get off.”
The next day the team stumbles in, barely more rested than they had been a few hours ago, far too stirred up by the situation present at hand.
Spencer lies on the couch in the corner of the room face buried in the crevice where the cushion meets the back rest. Garcia’s fluffy pink Tardis blanket is draped around him and a case file is flipped over, pitched upwards like a tent, ends curling on the floor.
His glasses are discarded on the table, along with a few markers and his extra cardigan resting on the back of the chair.
They stand for a minute, before they catch sight of the board that’s been covered in Reid’s chicken scratch, made even messier with exhaustion.
He’s clipped his name and the comparison of photos to the corner of the board, but everything else is new.
They all sit down, quietly reviewing what’s been written until Reid shuffles from his spot on the couch, rolling over, eyes opening when a lithe arm slips off the couch and onto the floor.
Once his eyes focus on the table of agents he startles, before relaxing, “How long have you—“
“Not long,” Hotch says, “We were looking over what you did— you didn’t go to the hotel or take up JJ’s or Morgan’s guest room offer.”
Spencer nods, gratefully accepting the coffee that Penelope hands him, with a soft ‘thank you’, before responding, “I couldn’t... it feels like—“
“It’s not your fault,” Rossi says, before he can finish the line of thought. “This is a stalker case, someone clearly in a psychotic break. Those kids are not your fault.”
Reid doesn’t make any acknowledgement of the the words, instead rising to his feet, walking to the board, sipping at the coffee.
“I think I made a dent, but I just... I’m missing something. I don’t know what it is and it’s—“
His words halt with the knock on the door, and Anderson stands with the deputy who’d found the first boys body at the door. “Sheriff Patton found a note on his desk this morning.”
“I reckon you’ll want to see this,” he murmurs, extending the note to Hotch who opens it. He slips it to Reid who snatches a pen from the cup on the table.
“Reid what does it—“
But Spencer is miles away, “Morgan grab my— thank you.”
Confirming the first line of the riddle, he trudges onwards, walk over to the small space left on the white board.
He speaks softly to himself as he writes, and the team tries to keep up behind him.
“How much was this?” The sherif mumbles, under his breath.
“The... whiteboard?” JJ asks, not quite following.
“No,” He replies, “the cyborg.”
“Garcia,” He breathes, “Who’s in apartment 18 of my building.”
Garcia does silent for a long moment, before mumbling back, “Oh no.”
“What?” Prentiss asks, eyes concerned.
“Sheriff, how tight are your background checks?” She breathes.
“Does the same person own an address with the numbers 702 in it?” Spencer’s worst fears are confirmed when she pales considerably.
“Doctor Reid?” One of the temps from the reception desk in the bullpen barges in, eyes wide, “There’s a call for you.”
He follows her, nodding absently, and the cluster of agents follow him. He picks up the phone, hearing erratic breathing on the other end.
“I’m gonna kill him,” The voice murmurs, and Spencer opens his mouth to respond, “Such a shame he’s not as smart as you are, Doctor Reid.”
“Don’t.” Spencer finds himself staring sternly, and Hotch sends him a warning glance that clearly reads, ‘don’t do it.’
“And why wouldn’t I? You remember what happened with your little friend Maeve, don’t you?” He asks, and Spencer hears a cry in the background, followed by a hard slap that makes him flinch.
“Why are you doing this?” He asks before he can help himself, even though he already knows the answer. “He’s just—“
“I’m in love with you!” The voice cuts him off harshly, and the whole bullpen has gone silent, staring at the conversation. “I’m in love with you, and you never noticed me!”
Spencer’s silent, “You have an hour, or the kid dies.”
And with a click, the unsub’s voice is gone, and Hotch is grabbing their vests and guns, and Morgan is pulling Reid to the SUVs.
“Hotch, I’ve got this under control, let me go in,” Spencer breathes, tightening his vest under his cardigan.
“Reid, as much as I would like to believe that—“ but Spencer cuts him off before he can push further.
“If I don’t go in that kids odds of survival drop—“
“Reid.” Morgan abridges, concern clearly overwhelming the frustration, “If you go it the survival chances of you drop.”
“I’ll be fine. I’ll call for backup. You hear gunshots you come in.” Morgan stares and Reid shakes his head, “We’re wasting time, if I don’t go now this kid—“
“Let him in,” Rossi says, nodding at Hotch.
It takes a moment, but finally Hotch nods, shoving a clicker into Reid’s inner cardigan pocket, “You signal us the second you need us.”
“And Reid?” Rossi calls, “For the love of God and all things holy, do not take off the goddamn vest.”
Spencer’s is creeping around the warehouse, when he catches sight of Joshua.
Unfortunately, it seem that this is the exact moment the Peters finds him. A serrated machete is held to his throat and Reid finds himself being backed further into a dark corner.
“Drop the weapon.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Spencer gasps, pressing down on the end of the clicker. “I’m unarmed. I’m going to hold up my hands, and you can check.”
Peters free hand run down Spencer’s body, lingering for a moment too long to be just a pat down. Spencer squirms as the stray hand finds his... well, his hand was somewhere it definitely shouldn’t have been for a pat down.
“I’m not hiding a gun in my—“
“Shut up!” Peters roars, trailing just hand down Spencer’s cheek, before lowering his voice to a raspy whisper, “Let me have this. Let me have you.”
The doors bang open and Peters eyes open wide, before he hisses out, “Snitch!”
The next few moment pass in a blur, and Spencer barely registers them.
Morgan and Hotch run up to him, but they can’t see him in the shadows where he stands.
“He’s going to the balcony,” Spencer says, oddly calm, “Go around back and up the stairs. There’s stairs on the other half. Go, get emily and split, I’ll get Josh.”
They nod, not second guessing him.
Running on adrenaline, Reid manages to get over to Josh who stares at him with wide eyes, fat tears rolling down his cheeks.
Spencer clips the zip ties that line the young boys arms, sweat beading at the top of his head and the base of his neck.
When did it get so hot in there?
He slowly unties the rope around the kids feet, before helping him get the tape off his lips.
The kid launches into his arms, minding his left side. There’s struggle, and Reid watches as Morgan shoves Peters out of the sliding doors, JJ coming by and picking up the kid.
Taking a shuddering breath, Reid manages to get himself outside the doors. Everything goes stock still the second they see him.
“Reid?” Emily says warily, “What’s in your vest?”
Spencer looks down, and finally finds the blade he’d been looking for once Peters ran free.
“Oh,” He breathes dumbly, hand gripping the machete, brain failing to process that he shouldn’t pull it out, “That’s where that went.”
“No!” It’s a common word that leaves everyone’s mouth as the blade pulls free of the skin, kevlar, and the wool wrapped over him.
Reid glances up, just long enough to make eye contact and drop the knife before his knees buckle beneath him.
He blinks and suddenly Rossi is hovering over him, struggling to pull off the vest.
“No, don’t,” Reid breathes, and Morgan tries to catch his breathe because this is the version of Reid that regresses him back to when he was young, his long time outgrown lisp returning and his brain functioning at almost the same pace as everyone else.
“The hell do you mean?” Rossi breathes, “I’m taking the damn vest off.”
Reid’s lips quirk upward, “You said not to take off the vest.”
It’s in that moment they realise Reid can’t think of any statistics through the pain, and he’d been trying to diffuse the situation.
And as much as they hate to admit it, it works.
“Jesus, kid,” Rossi breathes.
“I’m not Jesus,” he mumbles, brows furrowing, “I’m Spencer.”
Or at least it did— until his eyes roll back and his head lulls to the left.
The first time Reid wakes up, Morgan is sitting in the corner, munching on blue jello and occasionally taking a break from looking out the window to look at Spencer.
“Are you eating my jello again?” Spencer’s voice is slurred, and dry. He’ll be back out any minute.
“No, you hate blue jello. There’s a cup of strawberry with your name on it.”
Spencer’s lips pull into an exhausted, but amused smile, and his eyes start closing on their own accord.
“Hey,” his eyes open, and he looks at Morgan— who must’ve moved to sit on the corner of his bed in the few seconds his eyes were closed. He holds up a cup of water with a purple bendy straw peaking up. “Before you conk out again, drink some of this. Slowly.”
Spencer obliges, realising how dry his throat is; he takes long slow sips, but seemingly falls asleep in the middle.
Derek pulls the cup back, and Spencer’s eyes eyes flutter open, “Thanks, Derek.”
“No problem, Pretty Ricky, get some rest.”
But it seems as though Reid doesn’t have to be told twice, breaths already beginning to even out.
The next time Reid’s eyes open, he’s barely coherent. He finds Garcia, Rossi, and Hotch looking at him. Morgan remained in the room, but he was passed out in the chair now. The room was darker than last time.
“It’s a sleepover,” He mumbles, and everyone turns to look at him. Even Morgan rises, blinking sleep from his eyes.
“What was that, sweetheart?” Penelope asks softly, tucking his hair back.
“It’s a sleepover. I’ve never had one of those,” he blurts, a little louder but his words are just as slurred as they were the first time.
“Kid, it’s not a sleepover. You’re in the hospital.”
“Yeah?” Reid challenges, thought its anything but stern, “Then why am I in this sick nightgown and rad pair of purple socks?”
Rossi glances around, finding a rare smile blossoming on Hotch’s lips.
“I....” Rossi sighs, “You got me there kid. Truth or dare?”
“Dare,” Reid grins woozily.
“I dare you to take this shot of grape Tylenol, and go back to sleep.”
And he does.
The third time is the charm.
That’s the only thought that occupies Morgan’s mind when Spencer opens his eyes with a groan, hand reaching up to his side. He hisses through gritted teeth, when he makes contact pulling away.
The glazed over look fades, and Spencer looks at everyone in the room. He startled when he realises where he is.
“Did they give me—“
“No, no. That’s why it hurts. You’re basically only on the liquid Tylenol and water right now.” Reid visibly relaxes at Hotch’s words.
“Are you missing time?” Emily asks after a few moments of concentrated breathing.
Reid hesitates, eyes closed and brow furrowed, “Just a little. I don’t remember taking Tylenol, but I remember... blue jello?”
His face scrunches at the words and Morgan lets out a snort, picking up the up of strawberry jello and a spoon, smiling when Reid reaches for it.
“Is there any—“ JJ places the water with the bendy straw in his hand and he grins, thanking her as he sips slowly, setting aside the jello cup.
“Do what do you remember from the arrest?”
Reid breaks his lips away from the straw, “I was really hot. Except when Peters....” he trails off.
“When he stabbed you?” Reid shakes his head before jolting.
“Did we get Joshua?” He relaxes when they nod.
“You cut him free and brought him out. When we saw the knife, you seemed like you noticed it too. You pulled it out and dropped,” Rossi grimaces.
Reid’s hand finds the bandages, “Oh, yeah. I was thinking that I should get it out, I wasn’t thinking about...”
“You’ve been in an out for about a day.”
Reid nods, taking in the information, “I still feel... slow.”
“You hit the ground hard, mild concussion,” Garcia adds softly, “Shouldn’t be more than a month.”
He nods thoughtfully, taking in a bit of jello, and Hotch continues, “One of us is going to stay with you, or alternatively you’re going to stay with us for another day. Just need to make sure you’re in the clear.”
Reid’s lips turn downward, and Morgan sighs, “Kid, we know you’re capable of taking care of yourself. We just need to make sure your concussion is all in the clear.”
“Hey,” Reid retorts, “No profiling.”
Morgan raises his hands defensively.
“Henry really wants to see his uncle Spencer,” JJ says softly, laying a comforting hand on his, “Jack is coming over too. We could have a sleepover.”
Reid blinks, clearly lost, “What?”
Rossi snorts and the memory hits Reid like a bus, “That never leaves this room.”
“Sure it won’t,” Hotch grins, “But if someone from the bullpen brings it up I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.”
“Hotch, the minute I don’t have a hole in my body, I’m going to murder you.”
“Pretty Boy,” Morgan states, “He could snap you like a twig.”
All Spencer responds with is a glower while he frame another spoonful of jello in his mouth.
He kinda looks like a chipmunk, Rossi thinks.
When Will makes his way upstairs to check on Spencer and the boys, he finds Reid and two of the three boys knocked out cold on the bed.
Henry is in the process of covering his cousin, brother, and uncle in a Pokémon blanket when Will heads downstairs to get the team. When the return to the guest room, Henry too has joined the other boys in the land of the snoozing.
“Oh that’s precious,” Penelope coos, one hand pressed to her heart and a wine glass in the other.
Henry’s head is resting on the shoulder of Spencer’s injured side, Jack’s on his chest and Michael tucked between Jack and Spencer, his head resting on Spencer’s thigh.
They snap a few pictures, before turning off all but the night light. Hotch sits on the foot of the bed, stirring Reid awake without disrupting the kids around him.
When his eyes flutter open he looks at Hotch, “Hey, what are your Godson’s names, Reid?”
“Henry and Michael,” He mumbles, moving to sit up before he realises that the two aforementioned children were snoring against him.
“Good. We just had to check. Go back to sleep, Reid.”
He doesn’t argue, sinking back down onto the bed, and returning to sleep in record time.
“I forget how young he is sometimes,” Will says, leaning against the door.
“Tell me about it,” it’s not one voice, but the whole teams before they all fall into a soft round of laughs.
And with one more glance at their friend, they make their back to the kitchen for another round of wine.