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hate (is only one of many responses).

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When Spencer first wakes up, he’s disoriented by the shrill ringing of his cell. He groans, reaching out and bringing it to his ear, all with his eyes still closed.

“Reid, what hotel room are you in?”

“Morgan,” he mumbles, “I’m in Las Vegas.”

“I know, at the Marriott by your mom’s. Kid, I’ll ask you again, what room are you in?” Morgan sighs simply, and he can tell from the rustling in the background that he’s moving.

“I’m in room eighty nine on floor six,” he says around a yawn, hanging up and setting down his phone as he snuggles back against the pillows beneath his head.

He’s jolted awake by a hand on his shoulder and he whips around to look at Morgan who has his fingers pointed like a gun.

“You know, for a kid who grew up and Las Vegas and works for the FBI you sure don’t put much protection into how easily someone could break into your room,” He scolds, flopping down on the space that Reid doesn’t occupy.

“Why are you here?” He brings his hands up to  his eyes, rubbing them roughly, and then returns his attention to Morgan.

“Everyone waiting for you downstairs, that was the third time I called you. Kids from your high school are disappearing and the cop is certain he knows who it is but he won’t tell us until we get there,” Morgan pats his shoulder, “Emily even has a bagel with your name on it, be down in ten.”

“Deal,” Reid grumbles, “now get out.”

“Touchy,” Morgan chuckles as Reid forcefully shoves him off the bed.

Keeping true to his assurance, Reid shoves himself into some slacks and a sweater, meeting them in the lobby where JJ hands him his badge and gun, “I also grabbed your go bag, you can get it later.”

Emily, as promised, hands him the bagel and he munches on it as they drive to the precinct, “You awake yet?”

No,” Reid complains through a groan, “I didn’t land until two, and I didn’t even get a coffee before I left.”

“After this briefing we can go grab coffee, okay?” JJ reasons, as if talking to a small child.

Spencer is not above being childish when it comes to his daily caffeine fix, so he simply utters, “Fine.”

They step out of the car at the precinct, and Spencer’s walking right next to Morgan as the older agent gives him a brief rundown of what’s been going on before he sees the physical case report.

The cops stare at the group as they walk past— but more specifically, they look at Spencer— who becomes increasingly unsettled in knowing that he recognises some of these people.

They finally find the the police chief, who is leaning over a desk as he points at spots on a map.

“Captain McCormick?” Morgan asks, and Spencer’s body turns rigid as he prays to God that it’s not who he thinks it is.

But when Sean McCormick turns around, it only takes one look at Spencer for him to hurl a punch at him, cuffing him as Spencer’s lip bleeds onto the tile below.

Spencer can barely process anything that’s happened, hoisted off the ground by the shackles around his wrists. He gasps at the pain, and it seems that it’s this noise that draws his team from their stupor.

“How did you get him so fast?” Sean questions, but when he looks up from Spencer, the team all has hands rested on their guns.

“You know it’s a class D felony to physically assault a federal agent, right?” Spencer blurts, looking at Sean with confused eyes.

“What do you mean?” Sean hisses, “You’re the one that’s been kidnapping all of our senior class.”

If he wasn’t confused before, he certainly is now. Spencer takes advantage of McCormicks loose hold pulling back from the precinct captain and stepping towards his team who immediately step in front of him.

Sean,” Spencer states, “I was in Virginia until early this morning. What are you talking about?”

“Likely story,” He snorts, glancing between the BAU team members, and his smile drops as he realises they don’t seem to get what’s so funny.

JJ takes the keys from his hand, freeing Spencer’s wrists from the restraints before handing them back to him.

“You just assaulted a federal officer who has record of his flights,” Rossi gestures wildly, “What evidence could you possibly have that would make you think Spencer did this?”

And it’s then that Spencer catches a glance of the case file and his jaw slacks, “You think that because you guys tied me to more flagpoles than I can count that I would murder all of you?”

As if it hadn’t been before, the tension becomes far more dense, and McCormick can’t seem to meet his eyes, while everyone’s are a focused on Spencer and his still bleeding lip.

JJ reaches to the side, grabbing a tissue for him. He takes it with a soft word of thanks, cleaning the blood from his lip and chin.

“I thought you were a genius?” McCormick tries to lighten the mood terribly, but upon swing Reid’s confused looks he clarifies, “you said we tied you to more flagpoles than you could count.”

“forty seven.” Spencer rolls his eyes, before sending Sean a pointed look, “it was forty seven but I didn’t want to tell your precinct that you bullied a kid who was seven years younger than you.”

Spencer lips pull into a tight line and Morgan has to bite back a grin at the snarky smirk that the kid is shooting at the officer. He never thought he’d see the day when Reid was actually acting out. He doesn’t blame him though, the second that officer punched Reid in the face he wanted to return the favour.

“Could you have one of your officers show us to a cleared room so we can make a board?” Hotch asks, and turns to look at Reid and JJ, “You two go get some coffee, we’re going to have to start from scratch because it looks like the prime suspect didn’t seem to pan out too well.”

Reid snorts at the remark, turning with JJ as they leave the precinct.



“So they tied you to flag poles?” JJ sighs, looking at Reid as they sit at the both near the window.

“Shouldn’t we be getting the other coffees and getting back?” Spencer murmurs, anxiously tapping the table.

“You and I both know that Hotch sent us out until you could at least look me in the eyes,” and Spencer sinks in the chair, letting out a heavy huff.

“I think I blacked out for a second,” He says after a minute, clearly trying to divert the topic, “also I don’t understand what the logic was behind punching me when I was surrounded by federal officers to start.”

“You definitely blacked out, I know because my heart stopped,” she hyperbolises, resting her chin on her hand as she takes a sip of her latte. “but that doesn’t answer my first question.”

“Yeah,” he grumbles, crossing his arms over his chest like a child who isn’t getting his way, “but that was definitely some of their more forgiving antics.”

“Spence,” JJ breathes, eyes softening as he continues rattling off facts from his past.

“They held me in the toilet and flushed it— but only after someone defecated in the bowl, they’d pants me— but they’d take my boxers down too. All of them were pretty big fans of treating me like a punching bag whenever they’d see me. Knock me over in the lunchroom, or pour their lunches onto my lap,” he sighs, “does that give you enough context or do you need me to keep going?”

JJ just shakes her head, bottom lip jutted out— apparently, without realising, “No, Spence. I’m sorry.”

“It’s water under the bridge,” He utters, licking his lips and grabbing a napkin when he tastes blood. “I don’t blame any of them for that— kind of annoyed that after all these years Sean McCormick tried to pin a crime on me for something I wasn’t even here to do— JJ, I don’t think he even looked at any evidence.”

“No,” she confirms, “neither do I. Do you know who it could be?”

“If we go down the path of kids that got treated like I did? Probably about fifteen others, but the problem is it could be anyone from the senior class— maybe even an officer,” Spencer takes a sip of his coffee, pushing his hair back from his eyes, “McCormick could be covering for someone, he was too confident for someone who didn’t have any evidence.”

“I think we should get back,” JJ says, “You get the coffee, and I’ll warm up the car?”

It only takes a simple nod for them to spur into motion.



Reid walks in, setting the coffees on the table. Emily takes his face in her hands, tipping it from side to side.

“Jesus, Spence,” she grimaces, “you’re already turning black and blue.”

Spencer just sends her a half smile, “I’m fine, Em. I’ve been hit harder.”

“I know, kiddo,” she murmurs grimly, matching the energy of his own grin, “You’re a tough cookie.”

“Okay, you and I both know that being condescending to me hurt more than the punch,” there’s a glint in his eyes that tells her she’s joking, and she lets out a short laugh.

She pats his cheek, which in turn makes him wince imperceptibly before she pulls away, “You’ve had eyes on you since you walked in.”

“I know,” He sighs, turning around only for the gazes to shy away. “I think I’m going to go talk to McCormick.”

Emily nods, “be careful. If he tries to cuff you just holler.”

Spencer’s already halfway out the door, file in hands as he stops in front of McCormick’s desk. The urge to sit on the his desktop just to bother him is incredibly strong, but Spencer is civilised— or so he convinced himself.

“Why did you think it was me?” He questions, not waiting for Sean to look up. “I get the obvious, you bullied me and that creates a lust for revenge but you had nothing. No circumstantial evidence.”

“I’m sorry for punching you,” Sean says, and Spencer can tell it’s not genuine.

Which time?” Spencer fires back before continuing, “You didn’t answer my question: why me?” 

“Your name was at the crime scene,” he growls, slapping down a picture on the table.

Spencer leans over, picking up the picture. He’s right, the Spencer’s first name is written across the wall of the first victims apartment.

“You should know that typically criminals, especially suspects with an IQ of one hundred and eighty seven aren’t usually stupid enough to write their name across the crime scene. I think you just wanted a reason to get one last punch in,” and on that note, Spencer turns on his heels, disappearing down the hall.

He slaps the picture down on the table, running his hands over his face when the team looks up at him.

“He thought that I was the Unsub because someone wrote my name on the wall of Alexa Lisbon’s apartment,” he says in lieu of an explanation, rolling his eyes as he flops down onto the chair.

When they all look at him, he shrugs, grumbling, “my thoughts exactly.”

“You know, Reid,” Hotch starts, “technically we could get him arrested for punching you.”

Reid lets out a snort, easing the tension, “thanks, Hotch. I’ll pass, but I appreciate the display of affection.”

“It wasn’t—“ but they all look at him and he sighs, “fine, I kind of care about your wellbeing.”


“Can’t I ask him questions? Interrogate him? His name wasn’t at the crime scene by coincidence!” McCormick huffs, gesturing at Reid as he writes on the board.

“Why are you so convinced it’s Spencer?” Emily asks bewildered, and if she’s being honest, offended on her friends behalf, “what did he ever do to you to make you this angry?”

McCormick opens his mouth, but closes it, glancing away.

“No, say it. You’re too heated,” Emily demands, arms crossing across her chest.

“The kid just pisses me off. I don’t know why, but he does,” McCormick hisses, “and I know he had something to do with this—“

“Hey, Em?” Spencer turns to look at her, sending a short, but pointed glare at Sean, as if saying ‘I can hear you, fuckwad.’

“Come look at this,” he lowers his voice, “So, what McCormick failed to mention is that all the kids he harassed, but two, have had their names written on the wall. When you pull the letters, you get these.”

He draws lines, writing out the letter O O A P S X B, “when you rearrange them, you get soap box.”

“Do you think the Unsub is alluding to making a platform?” She asks, but Spencer shrugs helplessly.

“The meaning clearly refers to making a point, but from the twenties to fifties, children would make racing cars out of it. It could either be a clue as to who were looking for, or some metaphor,” his voice sounds as lost as she feels.

“Okay, that’s it!” McCormick breaks into the room, clearly fed up with being left out of the loop that Spencer isn’t even sure is a full circle yet, “you, come with me. We’re going to have a little chat.”

Spencer rolls his eyes, complying. Emily rests a hand on his arm, but he just looks at her, clearly expressing, ‘I’ll be fine.’

She watches them leave the room, and sighs, going to gather the others.


Spencer sits on the opposite end of the interrogation table, watching McCormicks movements carefully. He can’t see the team filing in on the other side of the glass, but the look in Emily’s eyes told him that they would be.

“Sean, just so you know, if you hit me again I will arrest you on sight,” he sighs, “You may be a precinct captain, but you’re not immune to the constitution— despite what you may think.”

Spencer leans back in his chair, lackadaisically resting his legs in a loose cross.

“Why did you do it?”

Spencer’s reply is simple, “I didn’t. I physically could not of, and if you want to look through my browser history and phone calls be my guest.”

“You said it yourself, you’re too smart to get caught,” he’s so confident in himself, it makes Spencer want to scream.

“No,” Spencer denies, “I said that no one would write their own name on the wall. You are clearly trying to pin something on me that you know I couldn’t have done. Sean, you beat me to a pulp every single day growing up. I don’t know why you’re so set on putting this one me, but it’s making me think maybe you had a part in this.”

“You can’t just flip this on a decorated officer!” He hisses.

“Sean, listen,” Spencer’s eyes narrow, face impassive as he leans in, “you have virtually no evidence, because there is none. Every second you refuse to accept that I believe in forgiveness, the more likely it is that whoever is doing this takes another one of you.”

“Is that a threat?” He sounds manic, and Spencer can’t believe that this is truly happening.

“No, now I’m going to go do the job that you invited me to finish.”

He rises to his feet, and McCormick follows in suit. Spencer opens the door, turning to the officer who is breathing down his neck, “If you so much as touch me again, I will press charges. I suggest you take three, incredibly large steps backwards.”

And it seems as though this time, McCormick has half a brain to listen.

Chapter Text

Spencer walks into the precinct at five in the morning, coffee clutched in his hands. The third shift is still doing their last rounds of the shift, and he’s the only agent in the room.

“It’s it true?” Spencer turns away from the board, clapping his marker to look at the woman who’d spoken, “Oh, are you alright?”

“It’s just a superficial wound, I’ve been through worse,” Spencer responds, turning back to the board.

“You didn’t answer my question,” she says softly, “is it true? Did Sean bully you in high school?”

There’s an odd tone quality to her voice, but Spencer assumes it’s probably due to the fact that it’s five in the morning on a Thursday.

“Yeah, but it happens. People change.”

Captain’s an asshole,” She says, and Spencer refuses to look at her, scared she’ll see the amusement he’s barely suppressing.

Instead he just shrugs, choosing to ignore her. He hears her walk off, and he lets out an sigh, dropping his forehead to rest against the board.

“Have you been here all night?” Spencer jumps, sending a glare at Emily who is biting back a grin.

“No, shut up,” Spencer mumbles, crossing his arms over his chest as Emily laughs to herself, sitting down to review the case file. “Hey, Emily?”

“What’s up, kiddo?” She looks up from the file as he turns.

“Did you see who was in here before you walked in?” There’s something in his eyes that makes her sit up straighter.

“No, why?”

“I just... it’s nothing.” She nods, allowing him to let go of it.

But he doesn’t, because something about her just doesn’t sit right with him.




“Has anyone seen Reid?” Hotch asks, sighing as he sets down a thin stack of papers on the table.

“He left this morning to check out some leads,” Emily responds, eyebrows furrowing, “is something wrong.”

“Did he say where he was going?” Hotch pushes, “anything about it?”

“No,” she can feel herself getting more nervous with each second, and her feelings are reflected on everyone else’s face, “is something wrong?”

“I have bad news and worse news,” Hotch sighs, sitting in the chair behind him, “McCormick is gone, and so is Reid.”


Spencer wakes up with a raging headache , and standing above him is the girl from the office. She’s stroking the side of his face with a grin that leave Spencer more unsettled than he’s felt in a long time.

“What are you—“ she cuts him off, pressing her finger to his lips and he startles when he realises her hand is covered in his own blood.

“I didn’t want to have to take you, but you got too close, Spencie,” she whispers, clearly trying to soothe him but it only serves to fill his stomach with anxiousness.

“Why are you doing this?” He questions, brows furrowed, he’s beginning to fear that once again, someone is causing others pain to get his attention, “I don’t understand—“

She hushed him again, trailing a knife down his cheek.  Oh, and there it is, he thinks distantly. There might as well be flashing signs above her head that scream sexual sadist with a side hobby of extreme voyeurism.

She presses the knife into his cheek to draw blood, and pulls away, running her thumb down his cheek and sucking the blood off her fingertip.

Spencer can hears Penelope’s voice in a head clearly, telling him, “oh boy, she took a turn at crazy town and landed in insanity village.”

“Don’t you want to save some for later?” Spencer asks, somewhere between trying to play into her fantasy and also spare his life long enough to get the hostages out of this situation alive.

She giggles manically, before getting uncomfortable close to his face, “Don’t you want to know my name, baby?”

“I want nothing more,” he responds, swallowing nondescriptly, “tell me it.”

“I’m Annabelle Jackson.” She coos, “It’s okay if you don’t remember me, you’ll be able to explore soon enough.”

He watches her walk away and once the door closes he shivers, forcing back a gag as he looks around.

“Okay, so you still expect me to believe that you’re not—“ it’s the unmistakable voice of Sean McCormick.

“Shut up, Sean!” Everyone else in the room is clearly just as fed up with him.

“Did anyone see where she took my gun?” Spencer murmurs, working into moving the chair, “Or alternatively do you know how long she’ll be gone?”

“Little Spencer Reid?” Spencer doesn’t spare a glance up.

“Yes, but ID’ing isn’t helping me get you out of hear. Gun or amount of time?” He sighs.

“Um, she disappears for about an hour,” Alexa Lisbon offers, look rather guilty, “And she took it from your waist and disappeared. It’s somewhere outside.”

“My waist?” He grunts, pulling his legs up to one of the hands that’s tied securely to the chair. He still has the gun that he’d secured to his ankle.

He looks around for anything he can get himself out of this mess in an hour. He pulls at his wrists which are tied so tightly with rope that his fingers have turned white.

And then his eyes catch how loose the bolts on his chair are. He starts kicking at them, ignoring the voices of the other people in the room. He kicks one set off and moves to the other side of the chair, kicking the metal off before throwing the chair backwards.

It breaks with a loud crack and he struggles to catch his breath as he pushes himself up, freeing himself of the rope, throwing the wood to the side.

That was too easy, he thinks anxiously.

“Scale of—“ he stops, realising these people probably don’t have to much experience with people going through psychotic breaks. “Never mind. Was anyone remotely conscious when they came in?”

“You’re bleeding,” Alexa says as he unties her wrists and legs.

“Yes, she took a knife to my face and already had blood on her hands when I woke up,” he says slowly, moving on to Garrett Setter who sits to the side of her.

There’s eight others, and he realises it’s going to take him too long to untie them all, “Alexa, start untying on the opposite end.”

“You remember me?” She gapes and Reid has the sudden urge to slap her.

“It’s hard to forget the girl who tricked me into being tied naked to a flag pole,” He hisses, “Start untying.”

He works around the circle, sighing as Sean insists on taking over the situation.

“I’m going to open the door, stay behind me,” Reid mutters, taking the grin from his boot.

“No, I’m going to lead this— you’re still apart of this.”

Spencer turns around, and it’s only then that Sean seems to realise how much taller Spencer is.

“Stay in your place. I would not have a knife wound in my cheek or one that’s bordering on infected in my thigh if I had any part of this you imbecile,” he growls, turning back around.

“When did Spencer Reid get cool?”

Spencer turns, looking affronted. His face clearly reads, ‘shut up, I’m saving your ass.’

Spencer breaks through the door, walking through before there’s a loud grunt. He turns around to find Annabelle holding a gun to Sean’s head.

“Me for him,” Spencer offers without hesitation, “let him go, and you can have me.”

She looks him up and down, licking her lips and it takes everything in Spencer to fight back a gag.

“How did that go for you last time? What was her name? Maeve?” Annabelle hisses, and everyone watches as Spencer nods, emotionless.”

“Yeah,” he replies simply, “but Annabelle, you’re forgetting I’m not even remotely emotionally invested in anything you do to any of these people.”

“So you want me to kill them?” She grins sadistically, readjusting her grip on the gun.

“No, I want you to kill me,” her eyes widen with lust at the idea. “You can even kiss me while you do it. Let McCormick go, and you can have me.”

“Put down the gun.”

He sets it down, kicking the firearm out of anyone’s reach. He watches as she lets go of Sean and he’s scrambled towards the gun.

Don’t!” Spencer roars, “Stop trying to be a hero, you just make things worse.”

Sean slinks away and Spencer walks up to her leaning in and presses his lips to hers. When she moves the gun to his head, he slips his hands to his cheeks— and within a fraction of a second, he’s moving the firearm up towards the sky.

He breaks her hold from it, shoving her down and pressing his knee to her back. He sees spare zip ties dangling from his pocket and he pulls one around her wrists as she cries hysterically. He rattles off the Miranda fights, searching her pockets for a cellphone, flipping it open and typing in Hotch’s number as she starts to move around.

“I did this for you!” She screeches, kicking her legs wildly.

“Killing people isn’t the way to get anyone’s attention, especially not mine or the kind you want,” he rolls his eyes, sighing in relief when Hotch picks up, “hey, we’re at—“

“Yeah, she made some calls from your phone before throwing it in the lake.”

“Man, I had pictures of Henry’s second birthday on that.” He hears relieved laughs on the other end.

“Are you alright, kid?” Morgan asks, and he can’t seem to mask the concern.

“Awe, do you care about me?” Spencer teases, before sighing, “I’m fine. I have a concussion, more likely than not it’s mild. I also have some sort of wound in my thigh, and the adrenaline is definitely starting to dissipate— but you watched me die once so I’ve definitely been worse off.”

He glances up, giving a once over, covering his mic as he ask, “is anyone hiding any injuries— besides the very obvious psychological ones?”

They shrug and he adds, “They seem fine, but I would bring another ambulance just to be sure.”

“You died?” It’s Alexa, with her perpetually guilty face.

“Yeah, but it’s not a big deal. I’m alive now.”

If he’s being honest, he only brought it up to scare them a little bit.

“How?” She gasps, and Spencer just shakes his head as the cars slid into the lot.

JJ breaks through, securing cuffs around Annabelle, before cutting off the zip tie. She takes Spencer’s face in her hands, “You’re cut, in like four places. Did you know that?”

“I knew about one— I watched her lick my blood off her fingers,” he says calmly, and even if Reid’s not taking pleasure of the terror in all of these asshole’s faces, the team certainly is.

“Someone read a little too much Twilight, huh?” JJ mumbles as she hoists the girl off the ground.

The reference flies right over Spencer’s head as he rises to his feet, his knees start to buckle but Morgan catches him.

“I’m fine,” He pants, “I just got dizzy for a second.”

He starts to walk, but he only makes it a few steps before Hotch and Morgan have to help him to the ambulance.

He’s sitting on the bed in the back of the truck, all of the (bullies who managed to become) victims taking their turns gawking at who little Spencer Reid grew up to be.

“You didn’t let her shoot me,” Spencer looks up from where the paramedic is securing an IV into his vein to see Sean staring at him.

“No,” Spencer confirms, “My job is to save people, and besides, I don’t hold grudges.”

“Then what was that in the—“ the words die on his tongue, and he nods in understanding, “Yeah, okay, that’s fair.”

“I’ve seen so much worse than you, but I’m a profiler Sean. That means I know everything that’s going on inside your narcissistic head,” he states, without missing a beat, “My job is to protect everyone, no matter how poorly they treated and continue to treat me.”

He opens his mouth, but Prentiss moves him out of Spencer’s line of sight, “Leave him alone, I can physically see his blood pressure rising from having....” the words die out as they disappear from view.

“You did good, kid,” Morgan says, hopping into the van, “They need to give you a better check up at the hospital, but we’re going to stay the night so you can be with your mom.”

“Can I eat something?” Spencer inquires, turning to the paramedic.

“Yeah, you’re not going to need surgery,” he says, “I have some lollipops up front if you want one?”

Morgan snorts, but upon seeing Reid’s expression he nods for him, thanking the paramedic as he disappears to grab one.

“I’ll have Hotch bring you something besides jello.”

“You brought me jello?” Reid gapes, “Morgan, you cant lie about— oh my God you brought me jello.”

“You lost a lot of blood, huh?” Spencer nods, opening the cup as the paramedic closes the door, putting two suckers in front of him.

“Lost so much blood,” Spencer says before thanking the paramedic, continuing to slurp down his jello, “Morgan, can you drive me to my mom’s?”

“Sure kid, can I ask—“

“I really need a nap.” He blurts, looking at morgan with desperate eyes.

Morgan chuckles, “start now.”

Spencer slurps the last spoonful of jello, laying down on the bed. He’s asleep almost as soon as he’s prone, and the paramedic looks at Morgan with a bemused look.

“How old is he?”

“Twenty eight, but if you factor in the blood loss and sedative, seventeen.”

“I figured he’d need rest, we’re going to have to get that thigh wound cleaned and the antiseptic is going to hurt like a bitch,” he grimaces.

“He’ll be alright,” Morgan says, ruffling the kids hair, “He always is.”