Chapter 9: Ill With Want
Pull me closer to your breast;
I need you finally, I confess.
I'm drifting; I'm drifting.
I love you but I hate you, too.
God only knows what I could do.
-Better Than Ezra, "Daylight"
Jackson had managed to doze off despite the cold, hard cement she was forced to lie on. Sheer exhaustion eventually won over comfort. Something had woken her, though, some noise in the cell. At first she was afraid it was the UnSub, returned, but a quick glance told her that she and Reid were alone. The sound, she realized, was coming from Reid: small whimpers, accompanied by chattering teeth. Her brow creased, and she moved closer. "Spencer, this is no time to bite my head off. Are you ok?"
Sweating, shuddering, he managed to shake his head. "I don't think so," he gasped out. How long had they been here? Surely not a full day, surely only a few hours... He had hoped they'd be out of here before withdrawal started in earnest, but he should have known better. He'd been hiding it from her - the pain, the chills - but now he felt like he'd been racked (not that he'd ever been racked, but the excruciating pain in every joint was probably pretty similar...), and he couldn't control the tremors. Nausea came in waves, and the sweat poured off of him.
Jackson looked around the cell, searching for something she could use to cover him. Of course there was nothing. "Hey!" she called. "Hey, guy! He's sick. We need some help in here. I know you can hear me, and I know it doesn't do you any good if he's sick."
Silence, like the world holding its breath.
"Hey!" she cried again, louder, as she beat both hands against the cell door. "Listen to me! I know you're there!"
"It's ok, Jack," Reid said. "I'll be fine. Don't provoke him."
"You need help, Spencer. He'll come; he doesn't want one of us dying without the other's help." She sat down next to him and pulled his thin, shaking body against hers. He put up token resistance, but not enough to stop her. "Hush," she whispered. "You need to keep warm, and it appears the hotel is currently out of blankets."
"Don't read me," he said in a small, strident voice.
"I won't," she assured him. "Just try to sleep. I'd sing you a lullaby or something, but that would probably just make you feel worse."
"Your voice can't be...any worse...than mine," he managed between clacking teeth.
She smiled and smoothed the hair back off his damp forehead. "Don't believe it, kiddo."
"You know you're...only like...two months older than...me...right?"
"It's more a term of endearment than an actual statement on your age. Don't try to talk anymore; I'm afraid you'll bite your tongue off." She was only half-joking; his teeth were chattering so hard she worried they might break. She held him tighter and tried not to think about the cause behind his sudden illness.
Eventually they both must have slept, because it seemed like only an eye-blink later the door was swinging open on silent hinges. "Spencer, wake up," she whispered into his hair, shaking him. He stirred and she carefully lowered him to the floor before getting to her feet. "He's sick," she told the man. "He needs medicine."
The man smiled, a dark, chilling grin that sent a bolt of fear straight through her. "He's not sick, exactly, but I did bring medicine."
Reid wasn't sure if he was more relieved or more horrified by the sight of his kit in the man's hand. It would end this pain, but then Jack would know...
The man tossed the small bag to Jackson, and she fumbled to catch it. "Open it," he told her. "Ask him why he's shaking like a leaf and sweating like a pig. Ask him what he was doing in that bathroom, and why it was so easy for me to get a jump on him, big FBI man that he is."
She stared down at the bag and tried to keep her face blank. It was true, then, everything she'd worried about, everything she'd feared. He'd gone into that bathroom to get high, and the man had taken advantage of his drug-induced fog—
She slammed the door on that line of thought. No blame games. She'd already said it, and she had meant it.
"Ask him!" the man barked.
Jackson looked down at her partner. Back at the man. Carefully, deliberately, not taking her eyes off their captor, she knelt and set the bag on the floor by Reid's elbow. "No," she told the man in a quiet, firm voice. "If he wants to explain himself to me, he can. Otherwise, it's his business."
"His 'business' got you into this mess, little fed."
"No," she repeated. "You picked us the moment you set eyes on us. You would've had us one way or another."
He sneered. "You keep telling yourself that." As before he slammed the door behind him on the way out. She jumped at the sound, even though she'd known it was coming.
Silence filled their small cell like a dark, living thing.
"Jack," Reid managed at last. He wanted her to turn around, to look at him. He'd spent the last few months avoiding her attention, running from it, but now he just wanted one glimpse at her face.
"No," she said for the third time. "No, Spencer. I told him I wasn't going to ask, and I'm not. You do what you have to do, because I need you here. I can't do this alone. If what's in that bag will bring you back to me, then use it."
There was the sound of a zipper, then the clink of glass. She closed her eyes, unable to bear the thought...at his sigh of relief, she slowly turned around. The needle was still in his arm. His head was thrown back, eyes closed, and the familiar, finely-made face was smooth, calm; blissful. She shuddered. "You're a drug addict, Spencer," she said in a soft, still voice.
His eyes opened. He pulled the needle out, wiped it with an alcohol swab, and stowed it back in the kit. When everything was arranged again, he zipped it closed. He wouldn't raise his head to meet her accusing gaze. "You don't understand," he said at last. "Tobias—"
"I know," she interrupted harshly. "He gave you the drugs. We all saw. I know that, and I know how hard it is to come back from an experience like yours. But, Spencer, you made a choice. You're the one who kept using."
He looked up then, his expression raw and beseeching. "Jack, please—"
"No. You don't get to do that. You don't get to look at me like that." She spun away, struggling to breathe. Her hands were visibly shaking. She clenched them into tight, hard little fists. "I trusted you," she finally managed. "You're my partner and my friend, and I trusted you to keep me safe. You held my life in your hands over and over in the last four months." She raked tense, rigid fingers through her short dark hair. "You were getting high when you were supposed to have my back. You could have gotten us both killed."
"Turn around. Please."
"I can't!" she whispered savagely. "I can't look at you right now, Spencer."
He took a long breath. Let it out through stiff, numb lips. Rubbed the back of a long-fingered hand across his mouth. "What can I say to you?" he asked helplessly.
"Nothing," she rasped. "There's nothing you can say." She crossed the cell and leaned against the far wall. Sat with her back pressed against the cinderblocks. She still wouldn't look at him.
"I should have told you," he said at last.
"Yes," she replied dully.
"You would've helped me."
"Yes," she repeated, finally meeting his eyes, "I would have. Instead I watched you, and I worried, and I didn't say anything to Hotch or Gideon."
"I'm sorry," he said softly. "I was wrong. I shouldn't have put you in that position."
"And yet you did." She said it quietly, without any of her previous acrimony. Still the words burned.
Before he could form a suitable reply (perhaps another apology?), there was a metallic scraping at the door. Their heads pivoted toward the noise simultaneously, and they watched as a tray was slid through the small opening and into their cell.
Frowning, wondering, Jackson rose. What she saw made her go cold.
"What is it?" he asked, shakily gaining his feet and coming to join her.
"A gun," she murmured, "and a note."
"'I won't be back until you've used this,'" he read.
"There's only one bullet," she told him after checking the revolver's cylinder. "I guess he expects us to be better shots than the previous victims." They both stared at the weapon in her hand. Blood-shot hazel eyes met fear-widened green ones.
"Now what?" he breathed.
"Now we wait."
Once again I've taken some poetic liberties with the effects of hydromorphone. The severe withdrawal symptoms Reid's experiencing in this chapter wouldn't really happen for another 24 hours or so (withdrawal - ie, sweats - can start in as few as 5, but symptoms don't usually peak for 48 hours), but I wanted him pretty sick. Poor kid.
Also, those of you who've read Reid's chapter of "Just Breathe" might notice I stole the title of this chapter from the Avett Brothers song I quote there. It's too perfect to waste. :)