Chapter 12: Wounded; Saved; Redeemed?
I cannot disguise
The weight I feel inside;
Some great ocean.
But if love could be blind,
With no more compromise,
What might happen?
Could you make the choice to live?
Or to forgive?
-Better Than Ezra, "Wounded"
He was sitting in the corner, his back to her. His thin body was rocking back and forth and his arms were wrapped tightly around his chest. He was shaking, and his shirt was adhered to his wracked frame with cold sweat.
It was time.
She took a deep, fortifying breath and stepped toward him, trembling hand outstretched. "Spencer," she murmured, touching his shoulder gently.
He whirled around faster than should have been possible. The gun seemed to absorb all the light in the room, and in his elegant, long-fingered hand it looked alive, malevolent. She fell back, glass-green eyes wide. "Spencer, what—"
"Shut up," he spit out. "Hey!" he cried. "I'm ready to do what you want! I want to see what you're offering!"
"Spencer, please," she whispered. "You don't have to do this. You can fight it. Together, we can—"
"Save it, Elliot. Believe it or not, not all problems in this world can be solved by holding someone's hand and hoping really hard."
She didn't recognize the man who stood before her, the creature who glared at her out of Spencer Reid's eyes. The features were still his - fine-boned; gracefully made; attractive in a slightly awkward, almost androgynously pretty way - but she'd never seen them twisted into such an expression of disdain, base desire, and borderline hatred. This face was that of Spencer Reid the addict, not Reid her partner, Spencer her friend.
A tear slipped down her cheek, leaving a glittering trail in its wake.
Before either of them could move or say anything further, the door swung open. Jackson sank deeper into her corner, shrinking back from the man she thought she'd known and the man who held them both captive.
"You rang?" the man at the door said in a heavy, ironic voice.
"Let me see it," Reid told him, still training the gun on Jackson. "I'm not going to kill her unless I know you have it."
A slow grin unfurled across the man's bland features. He slid a hand into his pocket and they could clearly hear the tinkle of glass. "It's right here," he assured Reid.
"No," he insisted. "You're talking about me killing my partner. I want to see the bottle. Come closer. Show it to me."
The man let out a little huff of impatience, but he did as Reid demanded. He took a few steps into the room, positioning himself between his prisoners. He pulled out the little glass vial and held it up to the light. "There. Happy now? Watch where you point that thing, kid; if you shoot me and I drop this, that's it."
Reid obligingly lowered the gun, and Jackson leapt.
The team, accompanied by St. Augustine P.D. and agents out of the Tampa Field Office, roared down Highway 1 with lights and sirens blazing. They reached Daniel Burns' rambling property in record time, but they parked the convoy well away from his driveway. As they all piled out and assembled on the side of the road, Hotch began barking orders.
"Gideon, Morgan, you're with me. J.J., Rodriguez, assemble your team and back us up. S.W.A.T., I don't want to see you anywhere near this damn place until we radio for you, got it? This man is very likely holding two FBI agents somewhere on his property. We're going to hit the house first, then the outbuilding. Everyone keep your head and don't do anything foolish. Our main objective is to get Reid and Jackson out of there alive and unharmed. Getting the UnSub out alive is secondary. Everyone clear on that?"
There were nods and affirmatives all around.
"Good," Hotch said. "Let's go get our people."
Vests donned, but weapons still holstered, they approached the house carefully. When Hotch's knock met with no answer, he nodded at his team and at the one following. Weapons were drawn, and Morgan kicked in Daniel Burns' door.
It was a surprisingly small house for such a large property, and the team soon pronounced it all clear. "Outside," Morgan said grimly.
"S.W.A.T.," Hotch said into his radio, "we're hitting the outbuilding. Be ready."
"Affirmative," the disembodied voice replied.
They were hurrying across the back lawn, weapons lowered, eyes alert, when a gunshot shattered the incongruously tranquil day.
Jackson had Reid's tie stretched between her hands, and as she landed on the man's broad back, she looped the length of silk around his neck and held on like a monkey. The man struggled against the noose, choking and spluttering, but she pulled it tighter, muscles straining.
"Shoot him, Spencer!" she demanded through clenched teeth.
His hands were shaking, palms sweating. He was afraid he would hit her, or that the bullet would go through the man's body and into hers. He wasn't a great shot at the best of times. "Jack—"
"Do it! I can't—" Her words were interrupted as the man slammed her back against the cinderblock wall and her breath left in a whoosh. The pain was staggering; she might have felt something crack; and her arms were going weak. Struggling to breathe, ignoring the blazing, blinding flashes arcing across her vision, she reasserted her grip.
He bashed her against the wall again. She let out a strangled grunt of pain and knew she couldn't hang on any longer. She began to slip. Small, clenched hands still clung to the tie, and the man's head jerked back, his face going from livid crimson to desperate magenta.
Reid watched the struggle through wide, disbelieving eyes. He couldn't seem to keep up with what was happening, it was all so fast... But as she started to crumple to the floor, he knew he had to act or they'd both die. Aiming as best he could with quaking hands and blurred vision, he pulled the trigger.
"Hold! Do not approach!" Hotch screamed into his radio. "Wait for my order."
Hotch, Gideon, and Morgan hit the outbuilding door at a dead run. They slammed through it, weapons raised, but the three agents stopped short at the sight before them.
Reid still held the gun in his wildly trembling hands. The UnSub - Daniel Burns - was sprawled on the floor. Jack was collapsed against the cinderblock wall; her breath came in short, pained little gasps. She was cradling herself with one arm, and a length of cloth - they recognized it, strangely enough, as Reid's tie - dangled from the other hand.
Gideon stepped forward, hands spread. "Spencer, put down the gun," he commanded quietly.
Reid started, and wild hazel eyes flicked from Burns to Jackson to Gideon. "Gideon," he choked, "Gideon...I..."
"It's ok, Spencer. Just put down the gun."
He swallowed through a parched, raw throat. Slowly, warily, he bent and placed the gun on the concrete floor well away from Burns' reach. "I shot him," he breathed, gaze fixed on the man's prone figure.
"Yes," Gideon agreed. "Well done, Spencer." He approached his young protégé and put a careful, protective arm around thin shoulders. "Let's get you out of here."
Morgan knelt next to the man and checked his pulse. "He's still alive. Hotch, get some medics in here."
Hotch radioed as he bent to examine Jackson. "E.J., talk to me," he said quietly. He didn't try to touch her; he wasn't sure how she would react.
She looked up at him with pain-dazed eyes. "I'm ok, Hotch," she gasped. "My ribs..." She shifted, winced.
"Don't try to move. The ambulance is on its way."
"Did you really attack him with Reid's tie?" Morgan asked, taking note of the livid redness around Burns' neck.
Her mouth twisted into something between a pained smile and a grimace. "Yes," she murmured. "It was Spencer's idea. I had to distract him so Reid could...Hotch, please don't be mad...I had to let him...don't be mad."
"Mad? Why would I be mad, E.J.? You had to let who do what?"
But she didn't answer. Consciousness had finally given up its tenuous hold on the young agent, and she was out cold.
Days had passed since their return from Florida. Jackson had spent the first night in a Jacksonville hospital, protesting vehemently the whole time, but despite aching ribs and lingering bruises, she was relatively unscathed. After all, she hadn't been the one to kill a man...though she had tried very, very hard.
Daniel Burns died in the hospital without regaining consciousness. No one mourned him, except, maybe, the young man who'd shot him. Reid had killed a man before, but it never got easier. That was a good thing, he knew, but still he struggled. He'd saved their lives. He'd done the right thing. Maybe he'd even redeemed himself a little?
Still he struggled.
That day, as the Virginia evening approached on silent cat's paws, the team was preparing to go home for the weekend. Morgan and Garcia joked quietly about some inside secret of their own before sharing the elevator down. J.J. was finishing up some last-minute paperwork. Gideon had already left for a quiet weekend at his cabin. Hotch was sequestered in his office, laboring over the St. Augustine report. He would be at it a while.
Reid and Jackson lingered at their desks, oddly reluctant to leave the relative safety of the BAU office. The bullpen was quiet for once, and each agent felt a strange sense of peace. Jackson sighed softly, looking over at her friend and colleague. He looked...fairly terrible. She'd told him a thousand times in the intervening days that none of it had been his fault. She was pretty sure he'd never truly believe her.
"How're...things?" she asked, her voice tentative, unsure. It was hardly adequate, but it was the best she could do for the moment.
"I'm still here," he replied vaguely.
Her mouth quirked. "Barely." She straightened some pens on her desk. Arranged papers. Avoided looking at him. Finally, "Spencer, you know I didn't tell Hotch anything."
"I know. I did."
Her head came up. Glass-green eyes widened in surprise before her expression smoothed. "I'm glad. What did he say?"
He cleared his throat, and finely-drawn brows came together as his face scrunched. "He told me to take care of it."
She relaxed a fraction. "And will you?" she asked carefully.
"I...yeah, I will."
"Good," she replied gently. "I miss you, Spencer."
He looked away, unable to bear the softness in her clear green gaze. "I miss you, too," he told her in that quiet, careful tone that had been missing from his voice since Henkel.
Her face lit in a smile. Grabbing her bag, she rose to leave. Neither of them would be helped by a long, drawn-out conversation tonight. "I'll see you Monday, then." She hesitated a moment, feeling awkward. What could she possibly say? He had saved her life; he was a drug addict whose problem had gotten them into the situation in the first place. He had saved her life, and he was her friend. "Listen to Hotch, Spencer; take care," she managed at last.
"I promise," he assured her.
She gave his shoulder a tender, uncharacteristic squeeze as she passed him. He watched her leave. A small, wistful, pained smile flitted across his features, and he wondered if, finally, he could live up to the faith she had in him.
I know that the tone of this final scene is quite a bit different from the prologue, which takes place only a few hours later, but I figure later Reid is wrestling with the decision to throw the bottles out, he's all alone, then she shows up...and the whole thing just pisses him off, so he falls back on his old defense mechanism.
Anyway, kids, that's it for this story! I hope you've enjoyed it. I'd love some reviews with your thoughts. :)
Thanks for reading!