a/n: First, a few caveats.
This prologue actually takes place at the end of the story, so don't get confused. Events Reid refers to will occur throughout the story to follow.
Obviously this takes place in the same AU as my story "Endgame," and is, in fact, a sequel to that story. It's not 100% necessary to have read "Endgame" first, but there are things that will confuse you if you haven't.
Some continuity explained: this takes place several months after my story "Endgame," in season 2 after 2x17 "Distress" but before 2x18 "Jones." I wasn't really satisfied with the resolution of Reid's drug problem in "Jones," so I decided to rewrite it.
I think that's pretty much it. Please drop me a review with any questions/criticisms/praise/cookie recipes you may have. Thanks!
Disclaimer: Not mine. Not one lil bit. Thanks to Jeff Davis et al. for creating them and letting me play. :D
Prologue: The End is a Beginning
I stuffed myself sick
On the beautiful mess that we made.
But I'm so tired of being inspired
Only when things slip away.
-Matt Nathanson, "First Time"
The bottle felt heavy in his hand. Heavy and light, wrong and perfect. He stared at the little vial full (or half full, to be honest) of liquid heaven, and he wondered.
If he hadn't gone into that bathroom to shoot up, would the UnSub have had an opportunity to grab them? If he hadn't been so out of it, would he have observed the man in the bathroom more carefully? Jack told him - repeatedly - it wasn't his fault, but they both knew everything might have fallen out differently if it weren't for the Dilaudid.
His Dilaudid. His habit. Addiction, that nasty word.
The vial mocked him. Called him. Seduced him. He wanted it more than he'd ever wanted anything, but he just held it. And stared.
Standoff between man and vice was abruptly broken by a knock on the door. Surprised, guilty, he stashed the vial and hurried to answer. He checked the peephole and suddenly forgot how to breathe.
"Spencer? Open up," she called. "I know you're not asleep."
He choked a little, and then recovered enough to open the door. "Jack," he managed, "what, um...you look...um..."
"Oh," she said, glancing down. "Yeah, I have a date," she explained. "What, too much? I don't want to look desperate. Or slutty."
He swallowed and used the question as an excuse to examine her more closely. She'd done something to her eyes, some sort of mysterious female magic with dark, smudgy makeup that made the green intense, verdant; spellbinding. The dress was strappy and cut low in the front, with a skirt that flared out and stopped well above the knee. Her shoes looked impossibly high; he worried for her balance in those shoes. He looked up from her footwear, realizing she was waiting for an answer, and cleared his throat. "Not desperate or slutty," he confirmed.
She smiled, green eyes glowing with warmth. "Excellent. Listen, I just wanted to stop by and check on you. I know you don't need a babysitter, but..." Her expression clouded, the smile fading. "I worry, that's all."
Despite her clever hand with makeup, the faint tinge of a bruise could still be seen along her cheek. Her lip was still swollen. "I'm surprised, after everything, that you felt up to going out tonight," he said rather than addressing her concerns.
"He's a friend," she explained, raising a brow. "We used to work together at the Agency. I told him I had a hard few days at work; he knows me well enough to understand that generally means bloodshed."
"A friend," he said, sliding his hands into his pockets. "In that dress?"
Her nose wrinkled a little. "Someone I've known a long time. We were involved, then...not. Now that I've left the Agency, I think we might give it another try." She waved it away, looking up into his deep-set hazel eyes. They looked even deeper than usual, and they were rimmed in bruise-like darkness. "You've never cared about my personal life before."
"Your personal life never showed up on my doorstep in four inch heels before," he replied mildly. He was being unfair; cruel, even; but that defense mechanism had been working quite well against her well-meaning attention since Henkel.
She opened her mouth, but then snapped it shut again. Glass-green eyes narrowed in a strange combination of hurt, anger, and disappointment. "Fine. Forget I came by," she finally managed. "I won't bother you anymore." She turned in a whirl of skirt and spicy scent and stalked away.
He watched her go, thinking of that vial hidden in his couch cushions. Every cell in his body ached for it. "Jack, wait," he called, hurrying after her.
She paused, but didn't face him. He reached out a tentative hand and lightly touched her bare arm. She gasped, turned, and he let his hand fall away. They stood facing each other on the dark, rain-slick sidewalk. She looked ethereal in the sodium-colored light. He just looked...ghostly. A ghost of a man. The woman and the ghost watched each other warily. Silently.
"Thank you," he said at last, his voice a bare whisper.
She gave him a small, wavering smile. Skimmed the tips of her fingers over his cheek with a feather-light touch. Sighed softly. "I really have to go."
He nodded and took a step back. "Have fun," he said awkwardly, lips twisting.
"Thanks," she replied gently. "Take care."
"I will," he promised her.
Her smile flickered again, a brief brightening of the dark, before she turned and walked away from him for the second time that night. He watched her until she was in the car, then he hurried back inside.
He retrieved the vial from beneath the cushion. He stared at it a few heartbeats more before he tore through his home collecting every one he could put hands on. With a cathartic shout of rage, he threw the glass bottles into the bathroom sink and watched them shatter. Watched, too, as the poisonous ambrosia drained away. Regret pinged through him like keys struck on an out of tune piano, but he ignored it. Grimly, determinedly, he turned the tap and let water wash the basin clean.
Let me know what you think with a review, kind readers!