Transitions

Chapter 26

Blinking is a reflex. The body does it to protect the eye. To shield it from, among other things, the sudden flare of a gunshot and the particulate debris that ensues. In the instant Diane fired the gun, every member of the BAU team blinked…..save Reid, who'd given up trying to shield himself from anything. He'd once described himself to Garcia as 'a blinker'. But he was a blinker no more.

His eyes, and his brain, had taken in every nanosecond of the bullet's work. His convoluted network of synapses had been able to differentiate the fall of Diane from the fall of Maeve. But it hadn't been enough. Not enough time, not enough grace, to save her. To push her out of the way. Maeve had fallen. She was gone. And now, Reid fell too.

Hotch watched as the young profiler went to his knees. He could tell from the way his body was shaking that Reid was sobbing. But he could hear nothing. He thought it was because the noise of the gunshot muted everything else. But then, suddenly, there was a sound. The guttural whoop of breath entering Reid's body. He'd simply ceased to breathe in the same instant as had Maeve. His sobs had expelled every molecule of air from his lungs until now his body, in battle with his mind, forced his inspiration.

The sound prodded Hotch to move. He took a hesitant step forward, and then let Morgan move ahead of him. Morgan, who had experience with this. Who had already once held a colleague in visceral mourning for a loved one.

Reid knelt before the incomprehensible sight of the body of the woman he loved, murdered before his eyes. Morgan came up behind him, and enveloped the younger man in his arms, sparing the injured shoulder. He said nothing, but simply held him, grounding him to the reality of the world in which he was still living. Even in those first few seconds, Morgan could tell that most of Reid was trying to go with Maeve.

JJ was still motionless, trying to take it all in. Diane had taken her own life and, by plan or not, had taken Maeve's at the same time. And she's taken Spence.

She knew it. She knew him too well, had heard too much of his love story. If Maeve was gone, Reid had gone with her.

She didn't even move to be with him. Instead, she watched as Morgan, and then Hotch, tried to lift him. They tried to get him to move, to put some distance between himself and the two bodies. But it was as though he was already dead weight himself. As light as he was, neither of them could get him to move.

That was when she stepped forward. She knew. She had to bring him back first. To remember that he still lived in this world. JJ moved herself in front of Reid, and knelt down before him.

He'd stopped sobbing. She could see that he was staring without really seeing. His eyes were directed at Maeve. They were conveying the image of her lying there, dead. But his brain couldn't process it. He couldn't take it in. He'd never known her by sight. He'd only known her aura, her persona, the personality inside. Looking at a dead body meant nothing to him now. He was probing for her, to reach out to the person of Maeve. And, for the first time in their relationship, she wasn't reaching back.

Morgan was still holding him when JJ extended her hand and cupped his cheek in her palm.

"Spence." Barely whispered. "Spence."

When she brought pressure against his cheek to turn his face to her, he finally moved his gaze.

"Spence. You're hurt. You've been shot. We need to get you taken care of. It's time for you to come with me. Will you do that?"

Now his eyes were on her face. She knew how he must have felt looking at Maeve, because the eyes she was looking into were lifeless. I've lost him.

He made no acknowledgement that he'd heard her, but he had. He wasn't capable of processing her words, but the sound of her voice connected with something deep within. A sense of trust. Without any glimmer of recognition or volition, Reid began to follow JJ's direction.

"Spence, I need you to come with me. Let's go now. Come with me."

She reached her arms out and lifted him with her as she stood. Morgan and Hotch simultaneously released their grasps. When he was standing, JJ turned Reid gently away from Maeve and Diane. She kept a hand on his back, and one on his good arm. His left arm hung limply at his side, blood slowly seeping down and soaking into the sleeve of his shirt. He left a trail of droplets as he let her lead him outside.

Rossi had called the EMTs. A pair of them raced past JJ and Reid in the opposite direction, to perform what she knew would be a futile attempt at resuscitation. A second pair awaited them at an ambulance. JJ walked Reid over and sat him in the open rear doorway of the vehicle.

"He's been shot. He's in shock."

The EMT was confused. "It doesn't look like he's lost that much blood."

"He's not in shock from blood loss."

Seeing the look on her face, he understood. "Oh."

JJ turned to Reid. "Spence, the EMT is going to look at your arm. We need to take your shirt off, okay?" And she began to unbutton it for him, much as she would do for Henry. Reid made no move to help her.

When she'd gotten it open, she slipped his good right arm out of the sleeve, and then gently turned her attention to the left. Reid made no effort to either help or pull back, but he grimaced in pain as she maneuvered the arm.

The EMT looked at the wound. "It doesn't look like it will need surgery, but they'll have to decide about that at the hospital. I can tell it's too deep for us to take care of here."

By now, Alex had emerged from the building. JJ asked her to tell Hotch she'd be going with Reid to the hospital. She would call them later with an update.

"Are you all right?"

JJ hadn't even thought about it. Her mind was totally focused on Reid. Now that Alex had posed the question, she thought, I just watched my best friend lose the most important person in his life. And I think I may have lost him at the same time.

"No," she replied.


"Did you see him? Did you see his eyes?" Morgan was standing next to Hotch. "He wasn't even focusing on anything. How could he? How does somebody get past that?"

Realizing to whom he was saying this, Morgan stopped himself abruptly. "Hotch, I'm sorry, I didn't mean…"

"He'll deal with it. He'll do it because he doesn't have a choice."

Hotch was looking into his own past as he said it. If anyone on the team could relate to what had just transpired, it was their unit chief. But even he couldn't know how Reid would respond. They were just too different. And he couldn't shake the thought he'd had this very morning…..even if it seemed like months ago. He'd thought Reid might have relapsed. Now, he realized the very real danger of just that.

"He'll be okay," he repeated to Morgan, mostly to convince himself.

Rossi joined the pair. He'd been with the medics who were declaring Maeve and Diane dead. Once they'd been at their victims' sides, they'd realized the futility, and made no move to resuscitate them. Both women had apparently died instantly.

"They're gone. Both of them," he said, unnecessarily. "Where's Reid?"

"JJ said to tell you she's going with him to the hospital." Alex was rejoining the group. "The EMT couldn't take care of his wound here."

"Will he need surgery?" Morgan was worried about his erstwhile little brother in more ways than one.

"They'll know when the doctors look at him. But the EMT didn't think so."

"How's JJ?" Hotch knew how close his two youngest team members had grown.

"Shaken. But I don't think it's quite hit her yet. I think she's too focused on Reid." Alex thought she'd seen more than collegial concern in JJ's face. "I wonder if one of us should go to the hospital. She may need us. And she may need help with Reid."

Morgan started to move, then realized he should probably have permission. "I'm on it. If that's okay with you, Hotch?"

His superior knew there was no way to stop him. But there was also an additional task to be assigned.

"Fine, go and meet them there. If he's not released by the time we're done with the scene, we'll join you. And Morgan? Someone needs to tell Garcia."

They all winced at that, but especially so Morgan, who knew the task needed to fall to him. "I'll call her on the way."


For a smart person, you sure do come up with some stupid things to do. Morgan was ruing his decision to call Garcia as he drove to the hospital. He was having enough difficulty keeping his mind, and his eyes, on the road just thinking about the events of the evening. But then he'd punched her number. When she'd last spoken with anyone on the team, they were all on their way to the loft.

"Hey Baby Girl."

She heard it in his voice. It was bad, she knew it.

"Derek?" She virtually squeaked it. No banter, no witticisms. Penelope Garcia lived on the phone. She could hear sorrow and despair in the space of only three words. "Tell me."

"She's dead, Penelope. The goddamn unsub killed her. She put a gun to her own head and the bullet went through both of them."

She'd gasped after the first sentence, begun weeping through the rest. "Oh, my God." Pause. "Reid?"

He was silent for so long that she became terrified. Had she lost her gentle genius?

"Derek?"

"He's alive. Shot in the arm. He'll survive. That. He'll survive that."

Morgan didn't even see it coming. His next sentence came with a sob, a totally unexpected, uncharacteristic reaction. Hearing it broke Garcia's heart completely.

"He's gone, Baby Girl. I could see it in his eyes. He's just not there anymore. How do you watch someone you love be murdered in front of you and come out the other side of that?"

Traditional gender roles attribute the strong, stoic personality trait to the male. But in the face of tragedy, in the face of devastating life circumstance, it is often the female who prevails. Who holds together to comfort, and heal. It was happening now with Garcia, as it was with JJ.

"He'll be okay, Derek. He has to be. He's Reid. He's our junior G-man." She wished she could really believe it.

"I hope you're right, sweetheart. I really do." Morgan was pulling into the hospital. "I'll call you later, Baby Girl."

"Give them my love, please. Both of them."


"It's deep, but not to the bone. I'll numb it up for you and wash it out, Then we'll give you a couple of layers of sutures, and you're good to go."

In unfortunately typical fashion, the resident hadn't even asked the circumstances of the shooting. He had absolutely no idea of the actual devastation that had taken place.

"Just do it." Apart from asserting that his name was, indeed, Spencer Reid, as JJ had told the admitting clerk, these were the first words Reid had spoken since…..then.

"Okay, this will sting a little." The resident held a syringe full of anesthetic in his hand. Reid quickly withdrew his arm, wincing as he did so.

"No. Just do it."

JJ was in the emergency bay with him, having won her battle with the triage nurse. The resident might not have understood what Reid was saying, but JJ did. And it frightened her.

"Spence…"

"I just want to get out of here."

"Let him numb it. It won't take but a few seconds."

He ignored her, and that concerned her even more.

"Doctor, do it now or I'm leaving."

The resident looked back and forth between the two agents until JJ gave in. "Do what he says."

"Okay….but it's gonna hurt like a son of a gun. Are you sure?"

When neither of them responded further, the resident proceeded. JJ had to turn her face away when Reid grunted his pain at the probing of his wound. I know, he just wants to feel something. I should look at this as a positive, right? That he wants to feel something? Because that means he's still on the side of the living. But, oh, Spence!

The resident tried one more time to convince Reid to let him use the local anesthetic before he sutured him, and again was refused. This time, JJ stepped outside the curtain. By now she realized that Reid wasn't just trying to feel something. He was trying to punish himself for not saving Maeve. She couldn't bring herself to watch it, but she could still hear an occasional grunt, and the sharp intake of breath.

As she waited, she spied Morgan entering. He'd badged himself right past triage and into the treatment area.

"JJ, you okay? You look pale."

She shook her head. "He wouldn't let them numb him up. He's feeling every bit of it."

Morgan's eyes went to the curtain, as though he could see through it. He had the same reaction as had JJ initially.

"Maybe that's a good sign, right? That he doesn't want to be numb? Because he sure looked like he wasn't really with us in the loft. I think he was in shock."

"He was. Maybe he still is. But I don't think he's trying to feel anymore, Derek. I think he's punishing himself."

"For not saving her? I know he tried, but I don't think it was ever really possible."

"For being alive." She was beginning to really tune in to Reid's emotions now. "For not having died with her. He's punishing himself for still being here."

Morgan understood the implication. It was one thing, maybe a positive thing, if Reid was trying to connect to his feelings. But it was another thing entirely, one with possibly dangerous consequences, if he was angry with himself for being alive. Because that fact, the fact of his being alive, was something he could change.

"JJ, do you think...?" He didn't finish the sentence.

"I don't know. But I know I'm not leaving him alone tonight."

"I can stay with him." Morgan said it hesitantly. He knew he could keep Reid from doing anything to hurt himself, but he wasn't sure he could offer the same kind of comfort that JJ could.

She looked at Morgan, her sad smile acknowledging that she knew how much he cared about Reid. "It's all right, Derek. Tonight, I think it should be me. But will you take us home?"

"You've got it, Blondie."


They were done quickly after that. Morgan called Hotch to let him know the plan. The rest of the team would finish at the crime scene and convene at the BAU tomorrow.

Reid was silent as they walked to the SUV together. He attempted to get in by himself, but with his left arm in a sling, it was difficult. Grudgingly, he let Morgan help him, and then sat meekly as JJ buckled his seat belt for him.

"Do you have something at home that you can take for the pain, Spence?" JJ had witnessed Reid refusing a prescription for narcotic pain killers. She'd uttered a prayer of thanks that his mind hadn't headed in that direction...yet.

"I don't need anything."

She had some ibuprofen with her anyway, so she didn't argue with him. He might think he wanted to embrace the pain, but she was sure it would only drain what energy he still had. She would manage to get something into him.

Reid didn't understand until they were already in his apartment that JJ intended to stay with him.

"All right, Kid. I'm gonna head out. You take care of yourself, all right? Be good for JJ." Morgan was at the door.

Reid was instantly alert.

"What do you mean?" He was looking from one to the other.

"I'm going to stay with you tonight, Spence. I don't think you should be alone."

"Don't I get to say what I need and don't need?"

The snarky side of Reid had a tendency to come out when he was upset, and especially when he felt like he was being tended to. He'd had literally no control of the events that had so drastically changed his life earlier this evening. He desperately wanted to control something now.

JJ knew him so well. She knew exactly what was happening inside him. And she understood it. And how to work it.

"How about if it's what I need, Spence? Can you just let me stay with you? Please?"

Any other time, that would have worked. He'd have given in immediately. He could never refuse her anything. But tonight, he knew he needed release. And he was afraid it would be explosive. He didn't want anyone around for that.

"I want to be alone. I need to be alone."

"I'll stay out of your way, Spence. You can be alone as much as you want. But just in case you need something." Just in case you need someone.

Morgan chimed in. "Come on, Kid. You just got shot, you just lost..." He caught himself. He couldn't say it. Not out loud.

For a moment, none of them spoke. They'd all heard the words that hadn't been said. JJ broke the silence.

"Spence, you don't have to talk to me. You don't even have to be in the same room with me. But I should be here, just in case. I'm not leaving."

"What about Henry?" As much as he loved Henry, his comment tonight wasn't about concern for the little boy. He was trying to argue JJ out the door.

"He's staying with Karen."

He couldn't spare the emotional energy to fight her. Reid walked over to the window and kept his back to them. Morgan and JJ shared a look, and then Morgan made to leave. Before he went through the door, he turned around and made eye contact with Reid's reflection in the window. They gave each other the slightest nod of acknowledgement, and Morgan was gone.

JJ was true to her word. She went to his sofa and picked up a journal that was lying on the coffee table. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Psychology. Of course. Now I have to pretend to be reading this. Why couldn't it be Cosmo?

Reid had been watching her reflection in the window as well. Apparently she wasn't going to try to make him talk. He turned and spoke to her anyway.

"The bed is made up in the guest room. I kept it that way for you and Henry, in case..."

JJ was biting her cheeks. She'd been so focused on Spence, on keeping him grounded, that she hadn't taken the time to process her own emotions about what she'd witnessed in the loft, and in all of the hours since then. It was beginning to hit her. She'd watched an innocent woman be killed. An innocent woman who loved her best friend, and who had been loved by him in return. His pain was so acute, and so deep, that it was filling the space around both of them. JJ knew he'd wanted to be alone because he needed privacy for his release. She was feeling the same thing now.

Two people, hurting with and for each other, and yet we're afraid to hurt together. How sad are we?

She lifted the journal higher, trying to hide her face from him. She didn't think she'd be able to hold her features impassive any longer. With the journal obscuring her, JJ replied to him.

"Thanks. Would you like me to go in now? Do you want to be out here?"

She could hide her face, but not her voice. He could hear that she was near tears, but he didn't have it in him. He needed to isolate himself.

"I'll go in. You can stay here."

That put her immediately back into caretaker mode. She would deal with her tears later. Getting up, she said, "Spence, let me help you. You've only got one good arm. You'll have trouble getting changed."

"I don't need to get changed. It's not like I'll be sleeping."

"Well, would you at least lie down? I can help you get settled. And I'll get you some water and some ibuprofen." She put up a hand when she saw he was about to protest. "You don't have to take it. But it will be there in case you decide to, later."

She led the way into his room, and turned on the light. He followed and watched as she set up his pillows. She noticed he'd picked up a book from the coffee table before he came in. He laid it on the nightstand next to his bed. The Narrative of John Smith.

He looked exhausted, emotionally, physically, spiritually. As though there was nothing left to him. JJ stood aside and patted the bed.

"Sit while I get the water and pills. Then I'll help you lie down."

He did as he was told. When she came back, she found him in precisely the same position as when she'd left him. Sitting, head down, right arm resting on his leg. He looked up when she came in.

"Here, let me help you." She supported his back while he swung his legs up, careful not to let the left arm come in contact with anything. Even so, he grimaced as he turned.

"Spence, it wouldn't hurt to take these, would it?" She held out the tablets. He said nothing, but took them and swallowed them down with the water.

He was settled now, and JJ was sitting on the bed next to him. She felt like she should ask permission, but the instinct was so strong that she simply followed it. She reached out and stroked her hand through his hair, brushing it away from his face. For the first time, she spoke about it.

"I'm so sorry, Spence. So sorry. I would give anything if this hadn't happened."

He looked straight ahead, blinking rapidly. He couldn't bring himself to give her a verbal response. She knew enough not to wait for one. He'd asked to be alone, and she needed to allow him that.

JJ rose, and bent over him. She kissed the top of his head and then lifted his chin so she could kiss his forehead as well. "You know I love you. I'll be right outside in case you need me. I love you, Spence."

He caught her hand as she swept it back down, and squeezed it. It would have to suffice for thanks.

JJ kissed him once more, said "I love you," once again, and left him alone.


In the quiet of the living room, deep into the evening, JJ sat alone, the events of the day washing over her. She began to feel as though she could drown in them. Spence looking so broken when he realized Maeve had been taken. His telling her he would be willing to sacrifice himself. His trying to carry out that promise in that godforsaken loft. Hearing the gunshot, and fearing that she, JJ, had lost him. Realizing that she had lost him, when Maeve was lost. Spencer Reid was in the other room, but only in body. He'd left his spirit on the floor of a loft, miles away.

Spence, please stay here with me! She knew how much he wanted to be with Maeve. It wasn't something she'd experienced in a relationship, but it was so strong coming from Reid that she could feel it herself. Her mind, and her heart, reached out to him in the other room, sending comfort, hoping not to be rebuffed. She was frightened for him, and for herself. She was frightened that he would try to join Maeve.

Despite her worry, exhaustion overtook her. She stretched out on the sofa and fell into a fitful sleep. An hour later, maybe two, she awakened. Her maternal antennae were acutely attuned to any sounds of distress in the night. Here, in Reid's apartment, they pointed her in the direction of his bedroom. She could hear him moaning, and muttering, "No, no." JJ oriented herself to her surroundings and made her way toward Reid.

In the bedroom, Reid roused abruptly from a nightmare in which he'd seen Maeve Donovan struck down by a train. They'd seen each other for the first time, and she was making her way across the tracks to meet him. Why are there train tracks? Oh, the train! Maeve, the train! He'd called out to her, to warn her. But she'd had her eyes only on him. She'd been crossing to him, and she'd been struck. She was dead. He'd watched her die.

Reid woke in a cold sweat, his heart racing. When he realized he was in his own bedroom, on his own bed, he felt relief. It was just a dream.

He was startled when someone walked into his bedroom. JJ. Why is JJ here? Then realization struck him like a boulder.

"No!"

"Spence? Are you okay?"

"God, no! It's real, isn't it? You're here!"

She didn't understand, but she could see that he was panicked. JJ moved slowly to the side of the bed and sat down.

"That's right, I'm here, Spence. I'm here with you."

"But she's gone, isn't she?" He was crying now, crying hard, having realized that he'd only dreamed what had already occurred. Maeve had been taken from him.

His tears broke her down. JJ brought her hands to her mouth in an attempt to restrain her sobs, but she couldn't. Not in the face of his.

"Spence..." She could barely get it out.

They reached out for each other at the same time, burying their faces in one another. There were no more words. There was only sorrow, and brokenness, and grasping for an understanding that would not come.


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