Morgan was worried. At the end of their last case in New Orleans, Reid was still off. Morgan could tell by the way he carried himself. He was less likely to jump into a conversation with facts and figures and more likely to find the floor more interesting than his coworkers. Reid was timid and tired. So much so that one morning, when Reid came into work during a thunderstorm, his drenched jacket and hollowed cheekbones reminded Morgan of one of those skinny, caged dogs you’d see on TV in the animal shelter commercials.
Morgan also noticed that since the New Orleans case, the young genius had been holding regular meetings with Gideon a few times a week. A few too many times, Morgan caught him floating in and out of the superior’s office with an emotional storm cloud over his head. He always pretended not to notice when Reid was in his line of sight, choosing to look at his desk whenever Reid walked in and out of Gideon’s doorway. The last thing he wanted was to make Reid feel like he was under constant surveillance from the whole team. He couldn’t, however, fool Hotch or Gideon. More than once he found himself staring at Reid only to look away and find himself under the watchful eye of one of his superiors.
Today was different. Reid was more subdued when he came in that morning. He was there earlier than anyone else and immediately buried himself in a pile of paperwork. When Morgan left to get lunch, Reid had gotten up to see Gideon. But after Morgan sat back down at his desk, he looked up to find Gideon alone in his office. Clearly, their meeting was over, but Reid had never returned to his desk. Morgan also knew he hadn’t gone home because his coat and briefcase were still sitting in the chair. He got back to work and tried his best to keep from looking at the door every time someone walked in their bullpen.
A little while later, Morgan sighed and put down his pen. He looked up at the clock. 'Ok, that’s it. I’m looking for him,' he decided. He hadn’t seen the boy genius in over two hours.
He stood and walked around the office, making his way down to the bathrooms, through the hallways, and back towards the kitchen, passing by Emily twice without making eye contact. Thankfully, she pretended not to notice. He then walked up the stairs towards Gideon’s office. When Morgan leaned into the doorway, he saw that Gideon was deeply concentrating on a thick file folder with his glasses low on his nose. “He’s in the conference room,” he said, not even looking up to glance at the man in his doorway. Morgan rolled his eyes, muttered a low “thanks” under his breath, and walked out.
When he cracked open the conference room door, he found that Reid was sitting at the far end of the circular table. He had a few opened FBI folders on the table but it was clear that he was lost in thought and looking past them like they were blank.
Softly, Morgan said, “Hey kid.”
Reid jumped, startled at the presence of his best friend. Clearly, he was deeper in thought than Morgan had anticipated. Softly, again, Morgan spoke. “You ok?”
Reid grimaced. “Yeah, thanks.” He looked towards the files, pretending to find them more interesting than they actually were. Morgan didn’t buy the act for a second.
He pressed on. “You sure? I haven’t seen you in a second.”
“Yeah I wanted to do some work up here for a while, the office noise was getting on my nerves today,” he said, unconvincingly.
Morgan decided that he was going to push a little harder. “That’s never bothered you before. You’ve been in a mood today, what’s eating you?”
Reid looked up from his work, wearingly eyeing the strong profiler in the doorway. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to go there with Morgan today. He was in a particularly vulnerable mood and he could feel his normally strong walls faltering under Morgan’s stare.
Reid sighed and started picking absentmindedly at the papers on the table. Morgan closed the door quietly and walked over to Reid. He sat down at the chair closest to him but kept a good couple feet of distance and a small part of the table in between them.
Morgan rested his arms on the table and leaned forward. He tried to catch Reid’s eyes but failed. “You know… I’ve noticed you’ve been off, man. I didn’t want to say anything but I’ll be kicking myself if I don’t at least check up on you ever so often.”
Reid grimly chuckled. “It’s ok, Morgan. You don’t have to protect me.” Morgan could tell Reid was joking but the smile never reached his eyes. He kept his focus on the papers.
“It’s not protecting you to ask you if you’re alright. I’m just being your friend.” He smiled lightly at the young profiler. He could tell Reid was uncomfortable with the conversation.
“You don’t have to,” Reid muttered under his breath, “Gideon has been talking with me.”
“Yeah? How’s that been?” Morgan pressed, hoping to pull more information out of his awkward friend.
Reid moved to nervously click at his pen. “Good, I guess.” He was shutting down and Morgan wanted him to keep going.
“What did you talk about?” Morgan hesitated after that. He mentally cringed, assuming he had just overstepped. He waited for the kid to dismiss him and walk out. To Morgan’s surprise, Reid hesitated. He stopped clicking the pen and his hand stilled over the file folders. Morgan could almost see the gears working overdrive in Reid’s head.
After a second, Reid spoke again. “Do you remember that case in Texas a couple months ago? Right before Elle quit? The one with those kids and that creepy house on the hill?”
Morgan nodded. “Of course I do.” Little did Reid know that he thinks about that case more times than he would like to admit. It sometimes seems like the team always had worse luck working in the southern states.
Reid sighed and folded his thin hands together on top of the files. He paused, looked up, and made brief eye contact with Morgan. He quickly looked away, still mindful of the man’s relentless gaze.
“I didn’t understand then. I didn’t get what it was like to try and live after being attacked like Elle was.” Reid gulped. “I knew what she was going through in theory but I didn’t understand what it felt like to recover personally. I thought I was helping her get through it when we talked in the hotel. Now, I keep thinking about that case in Ohio and how Elle reacted and then the case in Texas and our conversation after.”
A Few Months Prior
Gideon grimly walked out of the room, answering a phone call from Hotch with haste.
“It’s about Elle isn’t it?” Reid said curiously. He folded his arms and stepped closer to Morgan.
He looked up at Reid, still leaning against the counter. His face was open but looked apprehensive. He snapped his cell phone closed. “I don’t know,” he said dismissingly.
Spencer pressed on, “You know I talked to her in Ohio.” Morgan shook his head and frowned, “Reid, we all talked to her.”
“No, I… I talked to her before… I went to her room one night and, uh, she was drinking.”
Morgan nodded in understanding. His voice was low, “she almost died… I’d be drinking too.”
Morgan walked away from him to call Garcia. Reid turned and his eyes followed Morgan out of the kitchen. His face dropped and he looked at the floor. ‘Maybe I said something wrong’, he thought to himself. ‘Maybe I could have done something more to help her.’
Later, On The Jet
“I should’ve said something.”
Morgan, half asleep, perked up and the sound of Reid’s voice.
“What?” he asked, pulling out his headphones and furrowing his eyebrows.
Reid continued, “To Gideon or Hotch or any of you guys…”
Morgan looked hard at Reid over the table, knowing that this was deeply bothering the young genius.
“I talked to Elle that night and I knew she wasn’t right but… I should have told someone.” He shook his head, mentally scolding himself for not acting on it sooner.
Bunching up his iPod and headphones, Morgan leaned across the table and caught Reid’s eyes. He had that serious look on his face that showed he wasn’t kidding around.
“Reid? Listen to me. Do not do that to yourself. You were just trying to help a friend, you hear me? Don’t go there, kid. Elle made her own choice, that’s on her.”
They held eye contact and Reid broke it to look away. Morgan kept his eyes on him as he lost himself in thought again, tipping his heavy head back and closing his eyes.
“I remember thinking, before Ohio, that she was handling herself well for someone who was violently attacked in their own home. But then after Ohio, I thought that she went too far. Now I get it. I totally get it.” Reid’s face twisted in guilt.
“Reid, you two both experienced different things when you were attacked. You had to kill Hankel, he tortured you for days and was actively trying to kill you in that cemetery. We still don’t know what happened with Elle in Ohio, but I can tell you that your situation called for different actions… your situation was worse.”
Reid shook his head, dismissing Morgan’s logic. “But I didn’t handle it well after, I was slipping. I guess now I still feel guilty for judging Elle so quickly. I was all over the place and it started to impact my job in New Orleans, I should have had a better handle on everything.”
“Listen kid, you and Elle are two very different people. After seeing what it did to her, we knew we had to keep an eye on you like we failed to do for her. But even then, we knew that you wouldn’t have done what she did – even after everything you went through. And man, we saw what it did to you but… it’s hard to help someone when you don’t know what they’ve fully been through, what their triggers are. We also didn’t want to pry but we didn’t want to leave you alone either. It was a hard line to walk, man.”
Reid nodded, taking in Morgan’s explanation. He didn’t have ill feelings towards his team, he never shared his feelings and experiences. As far as he was concerned, it was a two-way street. He looked up at Morgan and caught the profiler’s eyes again. “I never told you guys what happened. I knew that the information didn’t matter after I killed Tobias. I figured a team of profilers could gather what I went through after you found the shed and after I was taken to the hospital.”
Morgan paused, tilting his head in confusion. “You know, we didn’t know everything... There was only so much that we saw on those videos and in that shed. None of us knew what happened in those two days between the filming. The team didn’t want to pry, Reid. I didn’t either. We know how you get about sharing your personal information. I think Hotch and Gideon were hoping you’d come to them if your, um, coping mechanisms got out of hand.”
Reid was surprised at that. “What exactly did you know?”
Morgan looked at the wall for a moment, then turned his attention back on Reid. “Well… The doctors at the hospital told us about the physical stuff. Like the concussion and head trauma, the bruising all over your body, the beating you took to the face, the starvation and dehydration, the seizure and crude resuscitation, and the overall physical toll on your body from all the drugs in your system. We already knew going in that you might have been drugged because of Hankel’s history and behavior. After flying the team back home, I think Hotch thought you were going to take the time off to get it all sorted out and come back physically healed.”
Reid chuckled grimly at the thought of bouncing back so quickly. If only they knew what he went through following his kidnapping and release. The detox he could never get himself through and the mental breakdown he had alone in his apartment after the reality of the case set in. Those recovery days were the loneliest.
There was a pause in their conversation. Morgan was looking at Reid and Reid looking at his hands. He had been dealing with this heavy trauma for months alone and had only just begun telling Gideon about what happened. Hotch wanted him to seek professional help but they both knew that it wouldn’t do him any good if it was forced. They had an unspoken agreement that Reid would go to Gideon when he felt the need to talk. He decided that now was as good a time as any to reach out to Morgan too. After all, Morgan is his closest teammate and here he is, listening and asking to help him. Reid took a breath and gathered the courage to keep going.
“I was digging,” he muttered after a minute. His voice was hardly audible.
Reid gulped. “I was digging right before I shot him. There was a shovel next to us, did you see it?”
“I don’t understand, Reid.”
Echoes of tears stung the backs of his eyes. “I was digging my own grave, Morgan. He gave me a shovel, made me dig, and told me he was going to bury me alive. He said I needed to ‘think about what I’ve done.’ That’s one of the reasons why I couldn’t handle seeing those dead girls in the leaves even weeks after my kidnapping. I kept picturing how I had felt knowing I was going to die, the terror of fighting for my life on the ground, in the leaves. I knew what those girls went through, I knew what Elle felt in her living room. I became the victim and it was far worse than I could have ever thought possible.”
Morgan sighed, closing his eyelids tight. He reached across the table and held Reid’s clasped hands between his, which were now tight and shaky from the memories of Georgia. “Ah, kid, I’m sorry.”
Reid sniffed, tears welling up. “It’s ok. It’s not your fault.”
“Just because it isn’t my fault doesn’t mean I can’t still be sorry.” The corner of Reid’s mouth ticked up and quickly fell back into its frown. Morgan continued.
“Kid, you mean so much to me, to all of us. I hate seeing you like this. The rest of the team, they hate seeing you like this. We can see what’s it doing to you on the day to day, man. Tell me what I can do to help you feel more like yourself.”
Reid looked back down at their hands and loosened his grip, allowing the warmth to radiate between them. He turned his palms up and clasped Morgan’s hands in his. Their eyes met again and a wave of comfort and understanding radiated from Morgan to Reid. Suddenly, Reid was overwhelmed by Morgan’s presence and kindness. Hot tears broke free and rushed down his face. Morgan squeezed his hands tighter.
“I need help, Morgan.”
“Morgan, I…” He gasped. Reid was choking on his words now. His dam had been broken and all of his pent up sadness, anxiety, and hurt were rushing out at once. He pulled his hands from Morgan’s, feeling an overwhelming rush of embarrassment by this sudden lapse of self-control. He moved back in the chair, crouched down to his knees and held his face in his hands. Morgan got up, quickly walking around the end of the table and pulling Reid into his arms, sinking down to the floor. The younger man was openly sobbing now. Morgan rested his back against the wall and held Reid to his chest, letting the younger man rest his forehead into his best friend’s collarbone.
They lost track of time on the floor of the conference room. Reid was just glad that the blinds were pulled shut and that the room was far away from their desks. Morgan ran his hand through the messy locks of hair on the back of Reid’s head and held him until the tears had run dry. After a while, he stopped crying and just let himself be held.
Softly, Reid spoke again. “I never kicked the drugs. I’ve been using on and off since Georgia. I’ve never done it at work or during a case but I’m not sober, Morgan. It’s killing me. Tobias still has a hold of me even after I got out of that shed and killed him.”
Morgan took this in, resting his cheek on the top of Reid’s head. “Ok, I’ll help you get clean. I’m going to support you through this.”
Relief washed through Reid. And guilt followed. “Morgan, you don’t have to.”
“Kid, get this through your thick skull. I want to. Let me help you, please.”
“Ok,” he whispered into his best friend’s shirt. “Ok.”
Through the far wall, Gideon smiled to himself at his desk. He was able to hear bits and pieces of the conversation that was happening next door to his office. Although he couldn’t hear exactly what the two profilers were talking about, he did know, however, that Reid had finally allowed his friend to support him. Secretly, he was hoping that Reid was going to come to him on his own but he never spoke about Georgia during their meetings, they only talked shop. He finally let down that first wall to let someone in to help. Gideon was glad it was Morgan.
The road ahead was going to be daunting and difficult for the young genius, but he knew that Reid was going to make it through stronger on the other side.