Cold, bitter and clawing, had settled over New York. Jack Frost coated the streets in slick ice, the winter sprite no doubt sneering in the dark as he watched the chaos his mischief caused and layers and layers of cold white covered every side walk, disturbed only by the footprints of those hurrying by. Trudging through the snow, nineteen year old Spencer Reid kept his head down, ratted coat just about keeping out the evening chill, not that the boy appeared to notice. Determination kept him moving, only one destination in mind.
Down side streets, mindful of drunks and junkies reaching out in the dark, the teenager slipped by the hands that promised pain and violence. They stalked forward, still intent on their prey, but something about him kept them from approaching and the teenager continued on, unmolested.
Hearing laughter, Spencer smiled to himself, turning the last corner into an abandoned car park where several now sadly called home, he laughed when a horde of children ran straight for him.
Variations of his name filled his ears and Spencer crouched to receive the onslaught of hugs that went with it. The youth listened to the happy babbling with a patient smile, answering each one calmly and when he heard a familiar crunch of boots, he turned his attention toward the leader of the mish mosh of homeless.
Tall and broad, shaggy brown hair billowed about a face hardened by rough times. Blue eyes held the secrets of so many horrors and yet a warm smile contradicted them. “About time ya got your ass back here kiddo.” The musical lilt of Ireland blended in with the words when he spoke.
Grinning, Spencer straightened dusting snow from his threadbare clothing. “You look good Aidan.”
Howling with laughter Aidan threw an arm about his shoulders, the children moving out of his way. “Ya were always a bad liar Spencer!”
Guided by the bigger man, the teenager followed him toward the centre of the cluttered encampment. A year previous these many faces watched Spencer with suspicion and some hostility, but now, smiles greeted him, hugs and relief blended through and with the wind blustering fiercely, Spencer reached out as he had so many times before and just like that within their little circle the temperature rose by several degrees. Sounds of delight and joy followed. Spencer flushed at the gratitude, it was, after all, never necessary.
But then, Spencer had always thought about his powers as a curse, where others saw them as a gift.
Maybe if his father had looked past it, maybe if his X gene mutation hadn’t been present from birth...But Spencer would never know beyond what he had grown up with and there was no point in dwelling. A premature baby, he had been tiny. His mother often spoke of his creamy skin, tufts of chocolate hair and then, what had shocked the doctors and horrified his father...a set of wings fluttering at his back, with a mix of black, orange and yellow plumage and when he had eventually opened his eyes the sclera were ink black and the irises were the colour of flame.
His mother had called him her little Phoenix. It wasn’t until he was fourteen they realised just how fitting a title it was. He had always had amazing agility, strength, enhanced senses and of course the ability to fly, but it was only during puberty did Spencer learn his full potential. Such as the ability to conjure, control and manipulate fire as well as the temperature around him. A rapid healing factor, something he could pass to others if he really concentrated and what could only be called a sonic scream.
Of course whether or not he could be reborn from the ashes like a true Phoenix, well, it was something yet to be tested.
For his mother it had been just another reason to praise him, for his father, it was the reason William Reid turned his entire world upside down.
Jolted from his dark thoughts. Spencer smiled sheepishly up at Aidan. “Sorry, drifted.”
Scowling, Aidan shook his head. “Know that face kiddo. Don’t let that bastard wiggle in, he’s not worth a shit to ya.”
If only it were that easy. If anything, everything he was now was down to the cruel mutant hating son of a bitch William Reid. Figuring to shove it down, Spencer waved it away. “Forget it. I’ll eventually get over it. Anyway, Nathan got word to me. Some of your people are disappearing?”
“More than just some,” Aidan scoffed. “Since you left a month ago, we got ten more no longer here.”
“What?!” Spencer exclaimed, eyes wide. “But...How is that even possible? What about the cops, an investigation?!”
“Yeah, they started coming around since yesterday. Some swank feds.” Aidan shook his head with a rough laugh. “Local brass were clearly not happy.”
Heart clenching Spencer reigned in his own nerves. Over the years he had his run ins with every form of law enforcement, including the FBI and it was the latter he distrusted the most. At least where mutant affairs were concerned. Of course no authority figure tended to be pleasant.
Crossing his arms, Spencer kicked at a hunk of snow. “And their opinion on this?”
“Serial killer according to the feds. Something tells me the locals disagree, but then, the smarmy fucks think very little of us anyway.” Aidan’s eyes narrowed. “Ya ain’t gonna play cop are you?”
“Do you have a better idea?” Spencer grouched.
“Yeah, leave the boys in blue to it and stay the hell out of it.”
Stalking off, Aidan snatched up and mug from a nearby makeshift table. From the aroma that hit Spencer’s nose, they had gotten their hands on coffee and though he itched for a cup, he was only passing through. In his usual fashion Aidan drank and bitched. Some Irish was tossed in and Spencer could only assume it was nothing pleasant. Letting him vent, Spencer looked over the camp. Little had changed, but he noted more blankets were needed. Some of the crude homes needed repairs and making a mental list he promised himself to help with it all before moving on again. In all honesty he wished he could stay, never running, but as long as mutants were hated and hunted, he was more a hindrance to them.
“What if I told ya I knew what the bastards want?”
Frowning, Spencer faced Aidan. The man’s whole demeanour had changed. Riddled with guilt and resignation. Cold pooled in his gut. “What did you do?”
“I had no choice kiddo.” Aidan groaned piteously. “It was the only way.”
Heart in his throat, the teenager paled with horror. Aidan had been distracting him! The sudden screech of tires filled Spencer’s ears. The sight of a MRD van was enough to turn his blood even colder and throwing one last look of betrayal toward Aidan, Spencer bolted. Shocked screams filled the air. They had opened fire. Children fled and when the distinct sound of lead meeting flesh hit the air, Spencer hated himself. Down allies at random he ran. Whores snarled curses, their Johns shouting out drunken slurs, but none of it mattered to Spencer. Not when the prospect of getting caught was so much worse. He veered out into traffic and that’s when it all went to hell.
The SUV had been closer than he thought and well, boy meets car, it was obvious who was going to win. Thrown up violently Spencer’s body collided with the wind shield with a sickening crunch. He barely had time to register the pain when he was flung forward, striking asphalt with enough force to rattle his bones and for a moment everything must have shut down because the next Spencer knew two men knelt by him, one assessing and the other asking him questions.
“Kid, kid can you hear me? My name is SSA Derek Morgan with the FBI, I need you to squeeze my hand kid.”
FBI?! Sheer terror got his body lighting up. His healing was in no way finished putting him back together, but Spencer couldn’t wait for his mutation to hurry the hell up. Yanking his hand free, very much aware of broken bones, the teen got himself sitting up. Every muscle screamed in protest.
“No, don’t move...The EMT’s are almost here kid.” The man named Derek Morgan urged, hands settling on Spencer’s slim shoulders. “You need to lie back down.”
Defiantly, Spencer shrugged him off. “No.” He croaked, stumbling to his feet, every inch of him bellowed in protest, blood leaked from precarious places and he was very much aware of a gathered crowd gawking at him. Some backing away when they noticed his eyes. But to his immense relief the MRD were nowhere to be found. Swaying, Spencer blinked when hands caught him. Derek Morgan his misfiring brain supplied. The Agent was talking to him, mouth moving, but no sound. He couldn’t even find it in him to panic when his vision began receding, if anything when it all went away, it was bliss.
Derek grunted the second the kid collapsed against him. He was breathing, and at least less argumentative this way. Carefully he lay him back down. The sight of blood and the teenager’s ghostly pallour had his gut clenching. He may have run out in front of them, but it didn’t make Derek feel any less guilty.
Looking up, the Agent sighed. “Hey, Hotch...He’s out cold. I don’t even know where he got the juice to get upright.” Hell, he shouldn’t have been able to at all. From the lay of the boy when the agents had first reached him, his spine had clearly been broken and yet he had managed to get vertical.
Crouching, Hotch shook his head. “I doubt it matters. Once he’s conscious we’ll need to question him. Another homeless boy and he was clearly running from something.”
But what, was the million dollar question.
A mutant, Spencer was used to coming too on the full alert when needed, but this was insanity. His memory had the odd hole, but the gist of it he had involved a fight with an SUV and asphalt that obviously didn’t go in his favour, followed by passing out. Waking up in a hospital bed with the two FBI agents stood before his bed protectively while shouting back and forth with uniformed cops was the part he was a little confused about.
“He’s a monster!” One cop, hair greying at the edges, snarled in fury. He looked fit to lunge over the FBI and go straight for Spencer.
Spencer’s eyes snapped in the direction of the very irate Derek Morgan, the only one he recognised, and was surprised to find the Agent palming his gun. He wasn’t used to anyone beyond his mother coming to his defence. Panicked now, Spencer carefully began to extract himself from the hospital bed, realising to his horror his coat had been removed, wings out for all to see. When one of the cops bellowed suddenly and every one of the uniforms pulled a gun, the teenager flared his wings in defence, huddling between the great span of plumage, fiery eyes bright with fear.
“Every idiot intent on harming this boy, OUT!”
Spencer and everyone in the room jumped. A harassed woman, mid to late forties, with a doctor’s coat stood in the doorway. A nurse stood with security at her back and neither looked any less peeved.
“Ma’am—” The greying haired cop began.
“Don’t you ma’am me,” the Doctor hissed, “I said OUT!”
In all honesty, it was amusing to watch a bunch of grown men flee from such a tiny woman. With a sharp biting remark left on their asses, and a gentle order to the waiting nurse, she shut the door and turned toward Spencer’s bed. The Agents hadn’t fully relaxed, but they had moved to give her access.
“Hey Kiddo. I’m Doctor Elizabeth Grey, but you can just call me Lizzie.” With a warm smile Lizzie turned her tablet and accessed the file they had started on him. “You gonna give us a name?”
From the seclusion of his wings, Spencer’s eyes watched her. When they darted briefly toward Derek everyone saw and taking that as a cue, the Agent approached with cautious steps. “Hey kid.” He began gently, smiling when he had his attention. “Easy now, no one is gonna hurt you. You wanna tell us your name?”
Guilt was a hard scent to miss, it clung to the agent in a thick cloud and Spencer cringed in sympathy. “It was my fault.”
“What was kiddo?”
“Y-You hitting me...It was my fault.” Spencer continued in a whisper. “I...I ran out in front of you.”
“Why?” Derek pushed gently while he had the opportunity. “Who were you running from?”
A sharp laugh, wings rustling a little, “I’m a mutant in case you haven’t noticed Agent, that’s a long list.”
Derek knew when a wall had been thrown up and immediately backed off. “So, let’s go back to the first question. What’s your name?”
A brief pause and then, “Spencer, Spencer Reid.”
Derek smiled. “Well hey Spencer. Listen, the Doc just wants to check you over, but I’ll be right here, okay?”
Spencer was reluctant, but after a moment, he retracted his large wings. Lizzie was gentle, professional and tried to keep her amazement over his healing to herself. It had been just over an hour since Spencer had been struck by the SUV and all that remained was some heavy bruising and even those were gradually fading before their eyes. It was remarkable!
“Well kiddo, according to the EMT’s you had several broken bones, lacerations, a possible internal bleed...” Amused eyes glanced over sky blue glasses. “Lucky for you, they seem to have poofed.”
Cheeks flushing, Spencer shrugged. There wasn’t much else he could say. He was well used to his regenerative powers. “So, does that mean I can go? Of course, you can’t make me stay...I’m nineteen...Not a minor, I can discharge myself.”
“Be that as it may, I still would prefer to keep you over night for observation.” Lizzie argued cheerfully. “Don’t worry sweetie, no one will bother you. You are perfectly safe here.”
Spencer doubted that. Safe was something he hadn’t felt in a very long time. Too tired to argue and still aching in places, the teenager lay back down, covering himself protectively with his wings, back to the adults in the room, a clear dismissal. Exhaustion weighed heavily and within minutes he was asleep.
With a brief gesture, Lizzie urged the Agents out. With a sigh, she turned to them, shrugging her shoulders. “Agents, I don’t know what he’s mixed up in, or if he knows anything about your case, but he is right, I can’t hold him here if he doesn’t want to stay and nor can any of you unless you have something to charge him with. Most likely, he’ll go back to the streets in the morning.” With a final glance in at the sleeping teen, Lizzie departed to finish out the remainder of her rounds.
“Hotch,” Derek began in irritation once the doctor had left, “We can’t just let him back out there. That kid was terrified enough to flee into moving traffic. Something spooked him badly.”
“What would you have us do, Morgan?” Hotch demanded exasperated. “We can’t force him to come with us.”
“At least convince him to go to a shelter or something.”
“And then what?” Hotch argued. “Most of those shelters are Church run and to most of those extremists mutants are just Demons trying to hide away. Spencer would be safer on the streets.”
Furious, feeling useless, Derek cursed colourfully. A sudden idea came to him, it was a long shot, but it was all they had. Taking out his cell he punched in the number to his favourite tech analyst and hoped for the best.
Spencer woke to soft covers and free of pain. It was nice just to lie there at first, listening to the machines and passing nurses, but Spencer was very much aware he was not alone and whoever the person was, they were an unknown. Sitting up, wings moving with him, Spencer frowned at the sight of a young man lounging in his visitor’s chair.
Long russet hair framed a sharp tanned face and he was dressed casually in jeans and a shirt, a trench coat thrown over the lot. Almost as if he had sensed him, he looked up, sunglasses dropping. A flash of red on black eyes and a radiant smile greeted him. “Bonjour sleepin’ beauty, ‘bout time y’ woke.”