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A Quick Reminder

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When he comes to, the first thing he’s aware of is the delicate grass underneath his body. Dotted with a few dandelions, the dense grass is nearly soft enough to be a mattress. 

He sits up, and immediately regrets his decision. His head pounds steadily, like another heartbeat to accompany his fast one. Bracing himself with his arms, he’s able to sit up a bit straighter, and look around. 

Although he doesn’t know where he is, he thinks it’s beautiful. A few trees line a meadow of grass, and the sun peeks out between fluffy clouds. He thinks it’s like something from a picture book.

Voices catch his attention, but he groans when he whips his head to the side. He brings a hand up to his temple, but that just causes him to lose balance, and suddenly he’s on his back, squinting at the sun. 

A head floats into his vision.

“Sweetheart? Are you okay?”

Eyes focusing, he sees an old woman, eyebrows pinched with concern. “Hm?”

“Can you hear me?”

He nods, and tries to sit back up. The woman helps support his back, and he’s all too grateful for it.

With a gasp, the woman questions, “Sweetheart! What happened?”

He blinks a few times in confusion, before settling on, “What?”

“Your head’s bleeding!” She cries out.

He figures that would explain the pounding of his head. “Oh. That’s, that’s not good.”

The woman shakes her head, “No dear, that’s not good at all. C’mon, the farm’s not far from here,” She soothes, attempting to help him stand up. “What’s your name, sweetheart?”

“What?”

“What’s your name?” She asks again after getting him upright.

He blinks at her a few times. “I- I don’t know?” Panic settles on his chest like a familiar friend. “I don’t know. I don’t know my name.”

His breathing picks up, but the woman seems to notice, and she quickly shushes him and gently guides him to walk forward. “That’s okay sweetie, we’ll get this all figured out, got it?”

“Yeah,” He nods. “Yeah.”

The duo begins the short trek back to the aforementioned farm, and the blades of grass tickle his exposed feet. He’s extraordinarily glad the ground is flat, and figures that with any more stumbling he’d fall flat on his face.

Once they reach a half stone half wooden building, the woman grabs a key from under the mat and opens the door with a creak. She gently pushes him towards a kitchen chair, and he falls into it less than gracefully.

He must’ve zoned out, because the next thing he hears is, “Sweetheart, can you hear me?”

“Mm. What?”

“Can I take a look at that head of yours?”

He gives a puzzled look at her before he remembers the wound behind his ear. “Oh. Yes.” A damp cloth finds its way to his head, and he flinches, causing the woman to quietly shush him.

“Sorry sweetheart,” She starts, trying to clean some of the blood off his matted hair. “This looks awfully nasty.”

He blinks a few times. “Oh.”

The woman continues to clean his head, occasionally running the rag through warm water, until she’s decided that it’s been cleaned sufficiently enough. She then sits down at the kitchen table next to him and folds her hands together. “How are you feeling, dear?”

Taking a few seconds to digest the question, he eventually answers, “Good? I think? I don’t really know.” He eventually confesses.

“That’s quite alright. You must’ve hit your head pretty hard.”

“Where am I?” He asks, cursing at himself for not asking earlier.

“Ukiah,” She answers.

He furrows his brow. “Northern California?”

Chuckling, the woman notes, “I’m surprised you’ve heard of it. You must be around here then.”

“Must be.” He echos.

Continuing, the woman adds, “You stumbled upon a bit of me and my husband’s property,” She holds up a hand when she sees his worried glance. “Now now, don’t fret. I’m just glad someone found you. Is there someone I should call?”

“How did I get here?” He asks, easily avoiding the question he doesn’t have an answer for.

The woman sighs. “I was hoping you were going to be able to answer that.”

“Do you know me?”

She shakes her head. “No, sweetheart. That’s why I asked what your name was earlier.”

“My name?”

The woman doesn’t bother to hide a concerned look. “Do you remember me finding you?”

After a beat, he answers. “I think so. What’s your name?”

“Finally,” She starts with a chuckle, “Something I can answer. I’m Harriet. My husband, Edward, is out and about in the town somewhere, but he’ll be home soon enough.”

“I should leave,” He concludes.

“Oh, no, no, dear! I can’t let you leave on good conscience. You’re not in good health.”

“Oh.” He remembers. “Right.”

She tuts softly before asking again, “Is there a name I can get from you?”

“A name you can get?” He feels as if his brain is moving slower than it ever has before.

“What can I call you, sweetheart?” Harriet clarifies.

He thinks about it for a second before answering, “You should call me John.”

The old woman smiles and asks, “Is that your name?”

John shakes his head and answers, “No. When victims can’t be identified they’re referred to as either ‘John’ or ‘Jane Doe’ based on their sex.” John looks down at his hands, as if they’ll tell him where that information came from. It’s like it just came out of his mouth before he realized what was happening.

“‘Victim’?” Harriet questions, “What happened to you?”

“I don’t know.” John admits. “I can’t remember.”

Harriet puts a gentle hand on his own and soothes, “Listen sweetheart, I think I’m gonna take you down to the clinic, okay?”

“Because of my head.” John notes, proud of himself for making the connection.

Giving him a hand out of the chair, she adds, “And maybe we’ll figure out who you are, yeah?”

“Yeah.”

Leading him back to the door, Harriet senses his discomfort. “You don’t have to worry, sweetheart. My daughter works there, I’ll have her see to you.” She helps him into the passenger side of her truck, frowning when he struggles to click his seatbelt into place. 

Minutes later, John asks, “Your daughter?”

“Oh yes,” Harriet says without missing a beat. “I have four children, but she’s my favorite daughter,” Laughing as if she just told a joke, Harriet continues, “She’s my only daughter, of course!”

John nods. “You have three sons.”

“That’s right, dear. Looks like you’re unscrambling your noggin!”

“My noggin.” He absentmindedly echos, leaning his forehead against the window. After what feels like seconds, but was probably minutes, the truck stops, and John jerks his head up from the window. He’s able to get out of the seatbelt a fair bit easier than getting in, which soothes Harriet’s worries a bit.

She guides John inside, opening the door and closing it for him, watching as he takes in the waiting room with lazy eyes.

The receptionist recognizes the older woman, and with a cheery tone that’s a bit much for John, she exclaims, “Harriet! Is everything alright? Need me to fetch Ellie?”

With a sad smile, Harriet answers, “Actually, yes dear, if you could. This handsome fellow,” She motions to John, “Got a bit of a hit on his noggin and needs a bit of a looking to.”

The receptionist shakes her head in pity when she looks at John. “Poor thing. I’ll go find Ellie for you two. I don’t think she’s with anyone right now.”

“That’d be lovely. Thank you Anne.” Turning to John, she asks, “Do you want to sit down?”

John absorbs the question faster than he previously was, and quickly shakes his head. “I’m okay.”

“Alright, sweetheart.” Harriet concedes. 

A minute later, a young woman comes out, and smiles. “Mom!”

“Hi sweetie.” Harriet says, hugging her daughter. John watches the two, storing away information about their relationship, without really knowing why.

In the blink of an eye, the younger woman appears in front of John. “Hi, I’m Elanor, I’m a nurse, Mom said you got hit in the head?” While she introduces herself, she holds out her hand to shake.

John looks down at the offered hand, and his palms itch. “Um. I don’t- I don’t shake hands?” He isn’t sure why. 

“That’s quite alright,” Elanor says with a smile. “Why don’t we get you in an exam room, yeah?” John gives a jerky nod in response, and they head down a hallway with aggressive fluorescent lights.

He finds himself sitting awkwardly on an exam table, while Elanor wipes down the blood from his head with more grace than her mother. 

“When was the blood still wet?” She asks after tearing her latex gloves off.

“I don’t remember.” John answers, getting the feeling that this will be the answer to most of her questions.

“Mom when’d you find him?” Elanor asks, turning to the older woman.

Thinking about it for a second, Harriet answers, “Only about half an hour ago, I believe. Not long.”

Nodding, Elanor questions, “And was blood flowing from the wound? Or even wet or tacky?”

Before she can answer, John murmurs, “In a single drop of blood, there will be no discernable smear after approximately sixty minutes after hitting a surface. This can vary between forty five and seventy five minutes depending on the outside air temperature, outside environment, and surface.”

When John looks up, he’s greeted with the astonished stares of both of the women.

He quickly clasps his hands together and looks back down at them. “I don’t know why I know that.”

Elanor sits down on a chair with wheels, and rolls up to the examination table. “Let’s just put a pin on that for a second, okay?” John nods, letting her continue. “Now this is a small clinic, mostly run by nurses, with only a couple doctors. We don’t have any CT or MRI machines, but I’m fairly certain that something else is going on.”

“Something else?”

“Other than a concussion.” She clarifies. “Can you tell me your name?”

John shakes his head. “I figured John Doe would suit me for the time being.”

Elanor bites her lip before settling on her next question, “Do you know how you hurt your head?”

“No.”

“Do you know where you are?”

“Only because Harriet told me.”

“Do you know how you got here?”

John’s eyes squint, “In the clinic or in the town?”

“Either.”

“I remember getting in the car here. I don’t know how I got to California.”

Elanor nods, and writes something down. “Do you live outside of California?”

“I don’t-” John looks down enough for his hair to cover his eyes. “I don’t know.”

“Okay, that’s okay.” Elanor soothes. “Do you have a phone or anything on you?”

Patting his pockets to confirm, John answers, “No.”

“Were there any belongings next to you when you woke up?”

“I don’t think so,” John shrugs. “I don’t think I checked though.”

“Mom?” Elanor asks for confirmation.

Harriet gives a soft sigh. “Poor thing didn’t have anything with him. Not even shoes.”

With a soft smile Elanor replies, “Okay. Mom, can you go back to the waiting room?”

Harriet nods, gives a few pleasantries, and the door clicks behind her.

Once her footsteps fade away, Elanor sighs and sets her clipboard down next to an ancient computer.

“Okay John,” She starts, “I need to know that you’re not lying about your memory.”

Although he thinks that he should feel offended, John honestly answers, “I don’t know what happened to me. I remember waking up on a field. And then your mom found me.”

Elanor nods, and John can tell that she believes him.

He doesn’t know why he knows this.

Taking a deep breath, Elanor tells him, “Okay, so here’s the deal. This is the only clinic in the nearest hundred miles, and we don’t have much.”

“Like an MRI machine.”

“Like an MRI machine.” She confirms, nodding. “But we also don’t have any labs on standby like many hospitals do. The closest lab we have is at the station, but if I’m being completely honest, I wouldn’t trust any of their equipment. I’m pretty sure they’re older than I am.”

John cocks his head to the side, curiosity pulling at his brain. “Why would you need a lab?”

“I think you were drugged, John.”

“Drugged?”

She opens her mouth twice before actually answering, “I think so. It could explain your memory. The only thing I’m stumped on, is the fact that you have no long-term memory either. That’s what’s worrying me.”

Not knowing what else to say, John settles on, “Oh.”

Elanor lets the information settle in for a few moments before continuing, “John, I’d like to do a full physical on you.”

“Why?”

“My mom told me you got hit on the head. Do you remember getting hit?”

Shaking his head, John answers, “No. I don’t remember anything.”

“When you woke up, did you notice your head was hurt?”

“No.”

Elanor gives him a gentle smile. “I want to do a full physical to make sure you’re not hurt somewhere else and you just don’t realize it yet.”

John finds himself nodding, but looks at her in confusion after a second. “That’s not all?”

“What?”

“There’s something,” His eyebrows pinch together, “There’s something that you’re not telling me. I can tell. Why can I tell?” He softly asks himself, “I don’t know why I can tell.”

Along with a nervous chuckle, Elanor agrees, “There is something else.”

“What is it?”

“Many drugs that cause short-term memory loss are used to sexually assault or rape someone.” She plainly states. “I normally see it with women, but the confusion that you’re exhibiting-”

“I wasn’t raped.” John interrupts. He swallows before continuing, “I wasn’t raped. I know I wasn’t. It-” He takes a quick gulp, “It doesn’t hurt. Only my head.”

“Okay, okay,” She soothes. “I believe you. I still want to make sure you’re not hurt anywhere else, is that okay?”

“Yeah. That’s okay.”

Elanor leaves to grab a gown for him, and asks him if she can talk to Harriet about him while he gets changed. Surprised that the older woman is still waiting on him, John nods.

When she comes back in, the two of them methodically check each of his limbs, his back, and his chest. John is just as surprised as she is at his dirty body.

Besides being covered in a thin layer of dirt, he has scars littered across his body.

Looking at the sole of his foot, Elanor notes, “You have quite a bit of scar tissue here. Out of everything, this looks the oldest. Can you remember back to when this happened?”

John looks at her blankly and answers, “No, I don’t think so.”

“Are you sure?”

Raising his eyebrows he replies, “Yes I’m sure. Why?”

“John, some of these scars, well,” She shakes her head, “ Most of the scars on your body are from serious trauma.”

“How serious?”

Gently palpating his knee, Elanor answers, “You have four scars here. Two are from surgical incisions,”

“And the other two?”

Pointing, the woman answers, “They’re on opposite sides of your knee, and likely came from something round.”

“Something round?”

“John,” She keeps her voice steady, “This is evidence of a bullet wound.”

“I’m fine, help him!”

“John?” She questions when he gives no reaction to the knowledge. “John? Are you alright?” She asks, noticing his wince.

The man swallows and closes his eyes in a grimace. “Yeah I’m- I’m fine. Just a headache.” He groans and presses a palm into his eye. “So I got shot?”

“It looks like that, yes.” She pauses before asking, “Is there a chance that you’re a veteran, or have a career in some sort of police work?”

“I don’t know. I can’t remember.” John’s headache blooms and travels through the rest of his head. “Why can’t I remember?”

Sensing his discomfort, Elanor quickly says, “It’ll be okay. I’m sure that your memory will come back, alright? We just need to give it some time.”

John nods, and Elanor puts his clothes next to him. As much as she hates to see him change back into the filthy things, it’s at least better than walking out in a gown.

Making an executive decision, Elanor tells him, “Okay, here’s what we’re gonna do. You’re gonna get changed, and my mom’s gonna take you back to her place, okay?” At John’s nod, she continues, “After I get done with my shift and pick up my kids, I’m going to swing by and see how you’re doing. How does that sound?”

“Are you sure?” John asks, pulling his clothes onto his lap.

“I’m sure. I’m gonna let you get changed and talk with my mom, okay? She’ll be happy to know that you’re okay.”

“Okay.” John replies, not exactly sure of how to respond.

When the door shuts after Elanor leaves, John quickly pulls on his clothes, the old button up shirt bringing him more comfort than warmth. When he gets back into the waiting room, Harriet coos over him like a child, and promises her daughter to take good care of him. She smiles when John’s able to click in his seatbelt at a reasonable speed.

On the drive back, John’s able to memorize each of the buildings they pass, and he knows he can recall the route perfectly when they get back home.

Maybe he has lived here before?

Harriet settles him down on the couch, along with the promise to find clean clothes for him. She brings him water without him asking, and for a reason he doesn’t know, John knows he isn’t used to this level of care.

“Do you want to rest, sweetheart?”

“I’m actually not that tired,” John answers truthfully.

“Well then, do you want anything? Curse my money, but I have cable on the TV, you’re welcome to watch that.”

Something inside of him doesn’t feel right watching TV. Before he realizes what he’s doing, John asks, “Actually, do you have any books?”

“Of course, sweetheart! What would you like to read?”

“Reid?”

Chapter Text

Harriet gives John a couple of Agatha Christie books, and an old copy of Gone With the Wind. The books give John a strange sense of familiarity, but it’s short lived.

He’s finished with all three of the books before the next half hour is up, but there’s still an itch in his brain that he can’t catalogue. It’s something about reading that John can’t quite put his finger on. The more he thinks about reading, about the way Harriet asked what he wanted to read, the more confused he becomes. 

John knows there’s something there, but when he tries to dig through his head, his seemingly never ending headache grows. Even though he feels like he’s inches away from figuring something out, the incessant throbbing forces him to stop.

Pressing his palms into his eyes, John leans back into the couch and sighs. Without trying, John’s asleep within the minute.

*

“Hey, Reid,”

“Reid? Reid!”

*

John wakes with a gasp when a slamming door pushes through his unconscious mind.

He looks down, and finds his body under a knitted blanket. He’s comfortably nestled in Harriet’s loveseat couch, even though he doesn’t remember lying down. 

Yawning and rubbing his temples, John hears a squeal of, “Grandma!” The tiny voice sounds young, and the pronunciation is closer to “gramma” than anything else. Harriet replies, but John’s distracted by Elanor coming to crouch in front of him.

“Sorry for waking you,” Elanor apologizes with a smile. 

Squinting, John looks at the front door to see two blond haired children. “Are those your kids?” He asks, sleep still muddling his voice.

Elanor laughs and replies, “Oh, yeah. Thalia’s my older one,” She notes, motioning to the girl, “And my younger kid is George.” She shakes her head and adds, “He’s just started kindergarten, and hasn’t exactly learned the words, ‘inside voice.’”

Thalia stands on her toes to look over to the couch, and John subconsciously curls in on himself. “Who’s that?” She asks, pointing to the mystery man.

“Thalia, don’t stare.” Her mother chastises. “Don’t you have some homework to do?” The girl mumbles a response that John can’t decipher, but based on Elanor’s look, she can.

“A mother knows.”

Following his sister’s interest, George presses, “But who is he?”

“Go upstairs, kids.” Elanor sighs, and keeps her eyes on the duo until they begrudgingly make the trek. Turning back to John she mutters, “I’m sorry. They’re too curious for their own good.”

John just smiles and replies, “It’s okay. They seem,” He pauses, trying to settle on an adjective that’s on the tip of his tongue. “Cute?”

Snorting, Elanor replies, “Oh definitely. Until you live with them. Can you sit up for me?”

Along with Elanor’s help, John complies and they push him up before moving the blanket from his chest.

“Were you able to sleep?” Elanor asks.

John nods, “Yeah. I don’t know how long I was out for though.”

“Okay. Any pain?”

“Little bit of a headache,” John answers, partially truthfully.

“How bad is a ‘little’ headache? Scale of one to ten.” The nurse asks, frowning at John’s answer.

With a shrug he replies, “Maybe a four? I’m not really sure.” He presses his lips together before adding, “I think I’ve had worse?”

“Have you been able to remember anything yet?”

“Not really,”

“What does that mean?” She asks with a chuckle.

“I think,” John starts, “I think I’m trying to remember, but it’s like something is blocking the memories. I don’t know how to explain it.”

Elanor smiles at him and replies, “That’s a good thing. I’m sure after no time that block will be gone and you’ll be able to remember everything about yourself.”

John gives a sheepish smile at her optimism, but he can’t say he agrees.

“Still nothing about your name though? Maybe a phone number you remember?”

Shaking his head he replies, “Nothing. Although I think I’m around books a lot of the time,” He notes, thinking about the voices in his head telling him to read.

“What do you mean?”

“Honestly? I don’t know. Something about reading just sounds familiar to me.”

Elanor gives a little hum, and motions to the books, “Did my mom give these to you?” After John nods, she asks, “Which one did you decide to read?”

“Oh I read all of them.” John replies.

If he didn’t sound so sure of himself, Elanor wouldn’t believe him for a second. She chuckles and sighs, “I guess you didn’t get much sleep then?”

Frowning, John answers, “It didn’t take me that long,”

“‘That long’ to what?”

“To read the books.” John murmurs, shrinking in on himself from the woman’s questioning.

“You read all three of these?” She confirms.

“Yes. Why?”

Pulling on her patented ‘nurse smile,’ Elanor answers, “Just making sure.”

John can tell she doesn’t believe him. So far, he’s always been able to tell when someone’s keeping something from him. When he thinks about it, the itch in his head comes back.

Elanor pats his leg lightly and requests, “Why don’t you get a bit more sleep? I can wake you up for dinner, does that sound alright?”

“I’m not that tired.” 

“Just try, okay?” She asks, putting the blanket back on him. “Holler if you need anything, got it?” She adds, standing up and heading into the kitchen.

John makes a noise of confirmation, and lies back down on the couch. He closes his eyes, but doesn’t fall asleep. After a few minutes, his head feels a bit better, but he keeps his eyelids closed to continue blocking out the light.

He can hear a bit of stomping from the second floor, undoubtedly Elanor’s kids. Occasionally he’ll hear a “shut up!”, which makes him smile. Maybe he has siblings too?

A door opens, closes, opens again, and John can hear the voices of the two women.

“Did you see him reading the books?”

“No, no,” Harriet replies, “I made sure he was settled and then went out to check the coop. You know that the wire is coming out, and I didn’t want anyone to get cut on it,”

“Mom,” Elanor interrupts, “I don’t really care about the chickens right now. Did you see when he fell asleep?”

“Oh, not quite, but when I came back in he was dead to the world. I made sure he was breathing, of course, and then put your brother’s old blanket on him. He’s so skinny,” She adds, clicking her tongue, “Probably freezing.”

“How long were you out with the chickens?”

“Couldn’t have been more than an hour.”

Elanor scoffs. “He said that he read all three books.”

“All three?”

“Yeah.” She pauses before asking, “Why would he lie? About reading of all things.”

“Oh sweetie,” Harriet begins, “Maybe he was just nervous. Don’t look too much into it.”

Grumbling, Elanor answers, “It’s kinda hard not to, mom.”

John frowns, face hidden within the blanket. Why don’t they believe him? The two women continue the conversation, but John’s still stuck on the books.

Was there something wrong about reading all three? Maybe it was a test about what book he would read first?

He hears Elanor walking, asking something about her dad and when he’s coming home, and John evens his breathing. Sure enough, she pokes her head in the room, confirming that John’s asleep.

In reality, his brain is firing on all cylinders. 

His headache grows when he thinks about the books, and the only thing that seems to help his suffering is thinking about what has happened the past few hours. The memories he can actually reach are the only things that don’t cause him pain.

Mentally, he reads over each of the books, finding differences in diction between Christie’s and Mitchell’s style of writing. 

Within the next hour, heavy boots join the party, and after Harriet greets him as “Edward,” John can only assume that he’s her husband. John wonders about what Edward will think about a random stranger sleeping on his couch, but he doesn’t seem that fazed.

Elanor and her parents make quiet small talk, and they explain the reasons for the man on the couch. Surprisingly, Edward doesn’t seem angry or even annoyed. John can’t help but wonder if finding random people on his couch is a normal occurrence.

Sure enough, when dinner comes around, Elanor puts a gentle hand on John’s shoulder to wake him, and he does his best to act like he was still sleeping.

Sitting at a dinner table with five other people feels wrong on a spiritual level, and John isn’t really sure why. Isn’t this how all families eat? Even if he doesn’t have kids of his own, he’s pretty sure that he would’ve at least eaten with his family as a young boy.

Speaking of kids, when John looks up from his plate, both of the children are looking straight at him. Thalia attempts to look away when John raises his head, but George doesn’t even try to look sneaky. John’s not exactly surprised when the questioning begins.

“So who are you?” George blatantly asks, smacking his fork on the plate.

“Georgie!” Edward chastises, “That’s no way to treat a guest, you know this.” Chuckling to himself, Edward adds, “Though I do have some questions for you, son.”

John ducks his head but agrees, “I’ll see if I can answer them.”

“Harriet gave me the quick run down, but I’ve got to ask for myself. Do you really not remember anything?” Edward’s voice is low and friendly, a strange but familiar combination.

“I don’t have any recollection of, basically everything, before I woke up in your field,” John confirms. “Sorry about that, by the way.” Before Edward can either accept or reject the apology, George interrupts.

“So you don’t even remember your mom?” He practically shouts.

“Georgie!” Harriet scolds, a second before his mom does the same.

John’s eyebrows crease, and he squints into his potatoes. “My mom?” He remembers having a mom, he thinks. “I don’t,” He quietly trails off.

“You have to have a mom,” Thalia chimes in, much to her grandparent’s distaste. “Everyone has a mom.”

George’s eyes get wide as he faux whispers, “That’s where babies come from, Evan told me!”

“Eww!” Thalia complains, “Why do you know that?”

Elanor shakes her head in defeat, “Why do you know that? You’re ten!”

“Well I’m not a baby!” Thalia replies back, and hastily shoves potatoes in her mouth.

“Oh lord,” Elanor groans, not having enough energy to continue this conversation with her kids. John gets a clue about what she deals with every day.

“So John,” Edward starts again, “How’d you end up in our little slice of the town?”

“I’m not sure,” John admits, “I’m not even sure how I got to California,”

“Are you not from ‘round here, son?”

John shakes his head. “I don’t think so.”

“Where are you from then?” George asks from across the table, not quite understanding the fact that John has literally no memory.

Effectively ignoring her son, Elanor notes, “That’s already more than you knew earlier today,”

“Hm?”

“Earlier you said that you might be from California. Now you’re pretty sure that you’re not. That’s great!”

John blinks a few times. “Oh. Oh! Yeah, that is good, isn’t it.”

Harriet smiles. “Look at this, you’re already remembering things! Oh it’s wonderful! And we know that you like books! Pretty soon you’ll know everything, I just know it.”

Thalia looks up from her plate and asks, "You like reading? So do I! What do you read?”

“Reid, c’mon, we don’t got all day,”

“Reid, my office,”

“Can someone go grab Reid?”

“John, are you alright?” Jerking his head up, John’s fork clatters onto the plate, and he’s suddenly pulled from his head.

“What?”

“Has anyone seen Reid?”

“You look as pale as a ghost, son.” John has to look around before he matches the voice to its body. Edward’s face is pinched together, a little too familiar for John’s liking.

“What’s up with you, Reid?”

John blinks a few times, muttering, “I don’t- I don’t-”

“John?” He hears a chair scrape across the floor, and suddenly Elanor is beside him, a gentle hand on his arm. “John, can you hear me?”

“You with us, Reid?”

Groaning, John closes his eyes as his headache increases in severity ten fold. 

“What’s happening?” He hears a timid voice ask, but it seems to be coming from all directions at once.

The young man presses both of his hands to his temples, to his eyes, and then back again when nothing helps. Distantly, he can tell Elanor is speaking to him, but he can’t decipher any of the words floating through space.

It feels as if a knife slices through the side of his head, and John can’t help a pained hiss escape his lips.

Another hand finds itself on his back, and John uses it to ground himself, just barely enough to hear Elanor’s voice beside him. “John, I need you to tell me what hurts, okay?”

“Wha’?”

Slower and more deliberately, Elanor repeats, “I need you to tell me what hurts, John.”

“Head,” He chokes out, the words sending needles down into his skull.

“Okay,” Elanor quietly acknowledges. “We’re gonna get you back to the couch, okay?”

John doesn’t know if he replies, but there are suddenly hands all over his body, forcing him to move. When his knee hits a soft cushion, he collapses down into it.

Even after he’s horizontal, fingers continue to poke him, no matter how much he curls his lanky form. A few of them find his wrist, and others prod his head wound. The only thing that he can really focus on is the hypodermic needles that are surely being plunged into his temples.

Eventually, a blanket snakes its way up to his shoulders, and John quickly sticks his head under it.

As the voices continue to swim, John falls into blessed unconsciousness.

*

“What’cha readin’ there, pretty boy?”

“Reid, what are looking for?”

“What do you see, Reid?”

“Reid?”

“Reid.”

*

When John wakes up, he doesn’t know how much time has passed.

This seems to be a theme since he’s found himself in California.

Elanor must’ve been watching, because she’s suddenly in front of John, asking him questions that his mind is too tired to catch up with.

“What?” He awkwardly asks, pushing himself into a sitting position.

“How are you feeling?” Elanor repeats.

“Oh. Good. I’m good. Better.” He finishes.

She makes a face and John can tell she doesn’t believe him. “Is your head still hurting?”

“No.” Yes. It’s not bad, but John can still feel a low throb behind his eyes.

“Do you think you’re up to eating something?”

After rubbing a palm over his face, John nods. “Yeah. Something small maybe?”

Elanor smiles, and a few moments later brings him a plate with an apple cut into eighths. “Is this okay?”

“This is great,” John quickly smiles, feeling guilty for a reason he can’t place. As he eats the apple, Elanor stays the entire time, watching him take bite after bite. It’s a little unnerving, but John can’t find it in himself to say anything.

When he’s finished he awkwardly asks, “Is there a library here?”

Giving him a strange look, Elanor answers, “Yeah. Just over on Grove Street. Why?”

“I think I’d like to go,” John admits. “I think books will help me remember.”

Elanor crosses her arms and warns, “John, I don’t know if that’ll be good for you,”

“What do you mean?”

She sighs before spelling it out, “You get these intense headaches when books are mentioned.”

“But I think I’m remembering,” John points out.

“Remembering what?”

Looking back down at his hands, John mutters, “I’m not quite sure.”

“Guess.”

“I think I might be remembering people. Well, their voices specifically.”

“And books are triggering this?” She asks with her eyebrows raised.

“They’re telling me to read.”

“What?”

Shaking his head, John agrees, “I know it sounds weird- I do. But I swear there are all these people that are just telling me to read. I don’t know why.” He adds, voice trailing off at the end.

“Maybe you work in a library?” Elanor fishes.

John can’t help a scoff escape, “I have a bullet wound. What kind of librarian has bullet wounds?”

“I don’t know,” She admits with a sigh. “Are you sure you want to go to a library?”

“Positive.” John answers, even though he’s most definitely not.

“I can take you, but I’m gonna bring my kids too, is that alright?”

Before John can answer, George’s high voice suddenly appears. “I can sit on the beanbag!” He shouts in glee.

Elanor whips around, hissing, “George! What have I told you about listening in on conversations you’re not a part of?”

“But I’ve already eated breakfast, and now I’m bored,” He whines.

“You’ve already ‘eaten,’ Elanor corrects, “And that’s not an excuse to eavesdrop. You know better than this.”

Ignoring his mother, he asks, “Are we going to the library?”

Elanor turns back to John, defeat in her eyes. The man quickly requests, “I’d like to.”

Before she can think better of it, Elanor looks back to her son. “Is your sister done eating yet?” She asks.

George fervently nods. “Should I go get her? Can we go now?”

With a long suffering sigh, Elanor smiles and says, “Sure sweetie. Just give me and John a few minutes, okay?”

“Okay!” He shouts, running up the stairs.

“I really don’t think this is a good idea,” Elanor blatantly says. “If memories are causing you this much pain, maybe you should just wait?”

John gives her an incredulous look. “‘Wait?’ How can I wait?” He questions, a bit of bite sneaking into his voice. “I don’t know anything about myself! God, I don’t even know my own name,” He runs a hand over his face. “I just want to know something.”

With a pitying smile that looks a little too familiar to John, Elanor acquiesces, “Okay. I understand. I just don’t want you in pain for no reason.”

“It won’t be for no reason,” He points out.

“That’s not exactly comforting.” Elanor mumbles.

Thirty minutes later finds the four of them walking into a public library on a late Saturday morning.

George immediately runs over to the children’s section, presumably to sit on a beanbag chair. Thalia stays with her mom and John, flashing a smile to the librarian behind the desk. 

“Hi miss!” Thalia says, and the woman immediately comes from outside the desk to give her a hug. John wonders if this is how the whole town is. It seems like everyone knows everyone. “Do you have more of the Harry Potter books?” She continues, looking at the old woman with big eyes.

“I’m afraid not, sweetie,” The woman says, “But I’m sure we can find you more books.”

“Yeah, I guess.” Thalia mutters, dragging her feet to the children’s section.

Once both of the kids are out of sight, the librarian takes a long look at Elanor and John, causing him to shift on his feet a bit. The shoes that Edward gave him fit awkwardly, so John can just chalk it up to that.

“And who is this handsome fellow?” The librarian asks, eyebrows raised.

Elanor sighs and answers, “Maudie, I really don’t have time for this today,”

“Shush, child. Let an old woman have her moment.” Turning to face John she asks, “Haven’t ever seen you around. What’s your name, pumpkin?”

Why is everyone in this town intent on giving him a nickname? John supposes that he can’t really blame him when he doesn’t even know his own name. “Um,” He elegantly starts, “John? I’m not really, not really sure-”

Luckily, Elanor saves him from his ramblings with, “It’s a very long story, Maudie.” Quietly, she adds, “A very long story in a very short time.”

“You can’t bring a new man in here and expect me to not be curious, Ellie. You know you’ve deserve a good man after Owen.” Maudie nags, barely taking her eyes off of John.

“It’s not like that,” Elanor quickly covers, “It’s definitely not like that.”

John mentally frowns. Should he be offended?

Undeterred, Maudie mumbles, “Well it should be. You don’t get a fellow looking like this every day.”

Maudie ,” Elanor exasperatedly groans, “I love you, I really do, but can we not do this right now? Please?”

John looks between the two of them, not really understanding what’s going on.

“Fine, fine,” Maudie concedes. “What are you looking for, pumpkin?” She asks John. “If it’s a woman, you have a wonderful one right next to you-”

Maudie. ” John can feel the younger woman’s patience wear thin, her years of nursing being the only thing stopping her from snapping.

The older woman waves her hand and sighs. “Ellie, I’m just helping you out,” She snickers when Elanor sighs. “Alright pumpkin, really, what brings you to the library?”

“The 100s.” John blurts out before he realizes it.

“Why the 100s?” Elanor asks.

“I don’t know,” John confesses. “The 150s.” He specifies.

“Why?” Elanor asks again, concern written all over her face.

Maudie also makes a face, and replies, “150s? ‘You interested in psychology?”

“Psychology?” John asks.

Maudie nods, “That’s what’s in the 150s.”

John laughs in relief. “Yeah, yeah! That’s right. Psychology is in the 150s.”

“Does that mean something to you?” The younger woman questions.

“I’m not sure yet,” He murmurs. “But I can find out!” Maudie points in a direction, and John is off, nearly as fast as George was to his beloved beanbag.

There’s two other people milling about the 100s, but John doesn’t pay any mind to them. Instead he traces his finger along the spines of books until he reaches 153, General Psychology. 

Flipping through pages, he takes book after book out of the shelf, and sets them down in a semicircle around his cross legged form. He has two thick books balanced on his knees, open to pages halfway through, and there are four books beside him, one of them open as well. 

Reading through, John flips page, after page, after page, only stopping when he switches books. Something about the content feels like home. He reads about cognitive psychology before moving on to developmental and behavioral psychology, taking all of the books with him.

After an hour goes by, John’s cocooned himself in a pile of books haphazardly stacked among each other, some of them propped up to stay open on a single page. His finger trails down each page, a muscle memory that he can’t remember how it came to be.

His finger pauses when he reaches schizophrenia.

Pain blossoms behind his eyes, but John’s determined to figure out why schizophrenia specifically triggered this. Closing and opening new books, John creates a ring around him, all pages on information about schizophrenia.

The pounding begins, and John knows that if he doesn’t get more information now, it will be awhile until he gets this chance again. After a few minutes, he has to squint to see the pages in front of him. After ten, the auras begin and soon after he’s nearly blind in his left side.

Pushing against his temples until he can’t breathe, John forces his eyes back open.

Something is here, he can tell.

A strange feeling in his head tells him to find all of the pages about paranoid schizophrenics, and John complies.

There’s a door in his brain that he’s pounding on, and he knows that it’ll open in just a few more seconds, as long as he keeps at it. Balancing three books on his criss crossed knees, the young man’s eyes flirt between sentences and paragraphs, desperate for knowledge.

John’s so absorbed in the writing that he doesn’t notice when a whine elicits from his mouth, causing Maudie to poke her head through the shelves. He doesn’t hear when she calls him, and he doesn’t notice when she leaves to go find Elanor.

The lights above him burn into his eyes, and he’s forced to cover them with the crook in his elbow. Even without his eyesight, John continues to recall any and all information, desperate to find out why schizophrenia is so important to him.

Suddenly someone’s next to him, and their body heat feels like he’s only a couple feet from the sun. When he tries to back away from them, another body blocks him. Panicked, he moves his arm and opens his eyes to see the blurry face of a concerned Elanor.

She’s asking him something, but he can’t tell what it is. Elanor glances down at all of the books around him, before turning back with a gaze that’s now capturing worry. She sets her hand down on his own, and John flinches away, groaning at the contact that’s surely made of hot coals and needles.

Giving up on touch, Elanor sits down right in front of John, forcing him to look at her. John watches her mouth move.

“Why schizophrenia?”

“Schizophrenia?”

John closes his eyes once again, but too much light peeks through his eyelids.

“Paranoid schizophrenic?”

John ignores Elanor and pulls everything from his brain that he possibly can.

“...Paranoid schizophrenic.”

“...is a paranoid schizophrenic.”

Nausea rolls through his stomach, but John ignores it.

“My... is a paranoid schizophrenic.”

“My mother is a paranoid schizophrenic.”

John’s eyes shoot open. “Mom.” He mutters, before the light assaults him all at once, and he’s hurled straight into unconsciousness.

Chapter Text

John comes back to consciousness slowly.

It starts with the habitual pounding of his head that he’s sure will be with him for the rest of his life. 

Following soon after, he feels hands over his body, making him grimace. John doesn’t think that he likes it when people touch him. 

When John opens his eyes, his hearing slams back into him, and all of the people around him are clear as a bell.

“John, can you hear me?” Elanor asks him, voice clinical and detached.

Along with a few sluggish blinks, John replies, “Yes.” He tries to sit up, but Elanor gently puts her palm on his chest, preventing him from doing so.

“Are you in pain?” She asks, eying his body for any injuries that he could’ve gotten in the past hour. She doesn’t know how he could’ve gotten hurt in a library, but she’s not exactly taking any chances after her patient was unconscious a second ago.

After pausing as if he was also taking stock of his own body, John settles on a simple, “My head.”

“How bad?”

“Dunno,” He tumbles out, trying to sit up again.

“John,” Elanor questions, keeping him flat, “How bad does your head hurt?”

“‘S okay.” John replies, and Elanor can feel a headache of her own grow at his vague answers.

“Mommy, is he okay?” A voice cuts through, causing both John and Elanor to look over.

Frowning, John mumbles, “Henry?”

Elanor’s face is pinched with worry when she corrects, “That’s my son, George. Do you remember him?”

John nods. “Yeah,”

“Who’s Henry?”

“Who’s Ethan?”

“What?” John’s frown folds deeper.

Elanor clarifies, “You called George ‘Henry.’ Who is that?”

“I don’t know,” He mumbles, pressing his hand into his temple. “I feel like I should know.”

“Don’t stress yourself out right now, okay? Take some deep breaths for me,” Elanor requests.

When John tries to push himself up yet again, Elanor finally lets him, carefully balancing him against one of the bookshelves. Giving him a few more moments to collect himself, Elanor shoos away her children who are looking at them in awe. Getting the picture, Maudie clears out all of the other bystanders. John looks up and sees a brown haired man lingering for a few more seconds before he’s left alone with Elanor.

“What triggered this?” Elanor presses.

John glances at one of the open psychology textbooks next to him, and the past hour comes flooding back all at once. Pushing himself off of the bookshelf he exclaims, “Mom!”

Eyes wide, the woman questions, “Do you remember your mom?”

“Kind of?”

“John, you’re going to have to elaborate on that,”

“I think she’s sick.” He adds quietly.

Glancing back down to the books, Elanor replies, “I’m gonna take a wild guess that she has schizophrenia?”

With a nod, John agrees, “She’s a paranoid schizophrenic. I was starting to remember,” He tries to pull a book back on his lap, but Elanor quickly closes it and pushes it away.

“Nope, you’re taking a break from these.” She declares.

Sputtering, John pleads, “But I was remembering!”

You fainted ,” Elanor points out, and moves the rest of the books further away.

“But I was remembering my mom!” He tries again. “She’s sick, I need to know what happened!”

“You can’t destroy yourself trying to remember everything, John!”

“Why not? Why can’t I? Huh?” He counters, voice raising.

Sighing, Elanor replies, “I’m not going to argue with you in the middle of a public library John, but look at yourself! You were literally unconscious a few seconds ago! And before that, you couldn’t hear me, you weren’t even looking at me. You couldn’t look at me.” Rubbing a tired hand over her face, she mumbles, “Coming here was a mistake.”

“No,” John says, shaking his head, “I’m remembering!”

“You’re hurting yourself, for Christ sake!” Bringing her voice back down she adds, “I’m gonna grab my kids, and I’m taking you back to my mother’s house. And then you’re going to rest, and we’re going to have a long conversation, got it?”

John gets the feeling that this is what it’s like to be chastised by a teacher.

While Elanor finds her children, John places the books back in their respective places on the bookshelves, without thinking twice. He frowns a bit when he realizes he completely remembers where each of the books are filed without even glancing at the numbers on their spine, but shakes the thought before he can get caught up in it.

The car ride home is quiet and awkward, and John feels George and Thalia’s stares in the back of his head. He settles for looking out the window, memorizing the shops and streets as they pass by.

As soon as they get back to Harriet’s house, Elanor nearly pushes John into the couch, and gives him a look that tells him to stay down. 

George climbs back upstairs, but Thalia stays down and asks, “Mom, can I go feed the goats?”

John frowns. They have goats?

With a smile, Elanor replies, “Sure honey. Let’s go find grandma and grandpa to make sure it’s okay.”

“Got it!” Thalia agrees, opening the back door.

Before Elanor follows, she looks back at John and threatens, “You need to rest. This is non-negotiable.” John nods, swallowing. He knows that she’s one hell of a good nurse.

The back door closes behind her, and John runs a hand over his face. While he’s attempting to rub the headache out of his eyes, George tumbles back down the stairs, and sets his eyes on John’s frame.

As soon as John sees him, he sits up and looks back at him. The kid is resilient, and grows the courage to walk all the way up to John, and after a moment’s hesitation, sits down next to him.

“Hi.” George declares with confidence.

Smiling, John replies, “Hi.”

“Why’d you call me Henry?” He blatantly asks, which John can appreciate, even from a five year old. “My name is George. I can spell it, look! G-O-E-R-G-E, George!”

Chuckling, John replies, “I think you might’ve spelled it wrong, bud.”

The child’s grin fades, and he defensively replies, “Well, I can still spell it. It’s easier on paper.”

“That it is.” John agrees. 

“Do you know how to spell ‘Henry’?” George asks, swinging his small legs against the couch.

John nods and complies, “H-E-N-R-Y.”

“Cool! So who’s Henry?”

John looks away from the boy and shrugs. “I’m not exactly sure. I think he looks like you, though.” He adds.

George’s eyes grow wide, “I could have a twin!”

“I-I don’t think you have a twin,” John quickly clarifies.

“Hmm.” George looks right into John’s eyes, and the older man ducks his head. He thinks that he doesn’t like eye contact. “Is he nice?”

“Who?”

“Henry. Is he nice?”

John thinks about it, but he has no clue. Something in his brain tells him to say “yes,” and he complies.

“Cool!” Doing a fast 180 in a conversation that only younger kids seem to manage, George asks, “What’d you read at the library?”

“Hey, Reid,”

With a pinch in his brain, John answers, “I read about psychology. Do you know what that is?”

“‘Sie-’ what?”

“Psychology,” John repeats. “It’s about people’s minds.”

George huffs, “That sounds boring.”

Laughing, John replies, “I think that I really enjoy reading about it.”

“I like reading on the green beanbag chair,” George declares.

“Reid? ‘Naw, we all like him.”

“Is green your favorite color?” John asks, effectively ignoring his own head.

“Yep! I really like bright green! Like a lime! What color do you like?”

“Purple.” John says before he can think twice.

George smiles and replies, “That’s Thalia’s favorite color too! She has a purple backpack.”

“Do you have a green one?” 

“Nope!” George replies, popping the monosyllabic word. “Kindergarteners don’t need backpacks yet. But I’m getting one for next year! Isn’t that cool?”

Nodding, John agrees, “That is cool.”

The door swings open, and Edward walks in, making an effort to get dirt off his boots before walking to the living room. 

“Grandpa!” George smiles.

“Hey there, Georgie,” Edward smiles back. “Getting to know John?”

Nodding vigorously, George replies, “Yeah! Did you know his favorite color is purple?”

“I did not,” Edward replies. Directing his attention to John, he quietly notes, “Ellie told me what happened at the library. Are you alright, kid?”

“You okay, kid?”

With a flash of pain, John murmurs, “Say, say that again,”

“I asked if you were alright-” Edward starts, but John’s shaking head cuts him off.

“No, no, repeat the exact words. Please.” He adds as an afterthought.

“Are you alright, kid?”

John looks up and exclaims, “Someone’s called me that before. I swear someone’s called me that before!”

Edward smiles, showing off teeth that definitely need a dentist, and replies, “That’s great, son! Do you know who?” Before John can answer, Edward muses, “I should get Ellie in here. Hold that thought, son, I’ll be right back.” With that, he swiftly turns, door shaking the frame as it closes.

“Did you remember something?” George asks, curiosity filling his wide eyes.

Smiling back down at the child, John replies, “I think so,”

“Cool!” 

A second later, Elanor comes in with a concerned face. “Dad told me you remembered something?”

With a bit of a blush, John replies, “Nothing big,”

“Any memory is a bit of a big deal,” She points out.

“I think that I’ve been called ‘kid’ before.” John says, wincing when it sounds childish and stupid to his ears.

Luckily, Elanor doesn’t agree. “That’s good, that’s really good. Does your head hurt?”

“A bit,”

“You’ve gotta stop with the arbitrary levels of pain, John. One to ten, how bad does your head hurt?”

“Four?”

Elanor makes a face before replying, “You said that last time as well. Are you just saying the same number to get me off your case?”

John just blankly stares at her as a response.

Already knowing the answer to her own question, Elanor continues, “Do you know who called you a kid? Or when?”

Shaking his head, John replies, “I don’t know. I think it was a male?”

“But you’re not a kid,” George points out, and John gives up on ignoring that obvious point.

“I know. It just feels familiar. Like I hear it a lot. All the time.” He mumbles in short bursts.

Elanor cocks her head to the side, “‘All the time’ like people telling you to read?”

“Yeah, exactly like that, actually.” John answers, musing over his own thoughts. “I wish I knew who was saying it,” Eyes wide with realization, he continues, “Hold on,”

“What is it?” Elanor asks, already preparing for another headache.

“It’s gotta be someone close to me,”

“How do you know?”

Still connecting the dots in his own head, John answers, “Your dad called me ‘kid’ kindly. Like he cared,”

Beside Elanor, Edward crosses his arms, “That’s because I do care, son.”

“Exactly!” He jumps at the connection. “That triggered a memory, or something, not quite a memory, but at least a fraction of one-”

Elanor waves her hand, “Continue,”

“Right. This mystery person who calls me ‘kid’ must also care, otherwise it wouldn’t have triggered a memory, right? If it was derogatory, I probably wouldn’t subconsciously recognize it as familiar,” He looks up to Elanor. “Right?”

Thinking on it, Elanor settles on, “That could be true. I don’t have anything else to base it on, but it certainly sounds plausible. I’d never be able to make that connection though,” Eyes scrunching, she asks, “How bad is your headache?”

Shrugging, John replies, “Honestly, not that bad.”

“Not like the library?”

“Definitely not like the library,” John confirms.

“And this memory just came out of the blue, right?”

“Well,” John starts, “After your dad called me ‘kid.’”

Grinning, Elanor points out, “You weren’t digging for it,”

“What?” 

“At the library you kept trying to find a memory, right? That’s why you were looking at all of those books about schizophrenia?” Edward makes a face at that, but John ignores it.

Nodding, he replies, “Yeah, it was my mom.”

Happily smiling, George cuts in, “You remember your mom!”

Chuckling a bit, Elanor notes, “This time, the memory just came to you. I imagine that’s why your head doesn’t hurt as much.”

“Yeah, that actually makes sense.” John agrees.

“And if you kept trying to push and pull that memory,” Elanor finishes, “Then you’d get one of those terrible headaches. Right?”

“I’d imagine so.”

Seeing a look on John’s face, Elanor quickly tells him, “Don’t go searching for this memory, John. Things are coming back to you naturally, you’ve just got to give it time.” Deciding that they need some privacy, Elanor turns to her son and requests, “George, why don’t you and grandpa help Thalia feed the goats,”

Crossing his arms, George counters, “But the goats don’t like me,”

“The only reason they don’t like you is because you’re intent on chasing them, honey.”

Understanding the unspoken words, Edward holds out a hand to his grandson and promises, “C’mon, Georgie. We’ll have fun out in the back. I bet Thalia needs some help,”

Hopping off the couch, George turns to John and clarifies, “Thalia always needs my help.” Before walking out the back door with Edward.

Elanor snorts and mutters, “Thalia would kill me if she heard that.” Clearing her voice, she notes, “We need to talk,”

“About?” He asks, feigning ignorance.

Elanor doesn’t take the bait, and plainly states, “The fact that Maudie came running to me in the middle of her beloved library, rambling about the man I came with, and how he’s, and I quote, ‘going crazy in the 100s.’”

John winces and replies, “Sorry about that.”

“You don’t need to apologize,” Elanor quickly notes. “Just tell me what was going on in your head. Why the books about schizophrenia?”

“I told you,” John starts, “It’s about my mom. I was remembering.”

“But why so many? You had nine books, John. Nine. All thrown around and open to random pages-”

“They weren’t random.” John interrupts.

“Then enlighten me. Why does a man need nine books about paranoid schizophrenics?”

Giving her a look of disbelief, John clarifies, “I was reading them,”

“I’m not an idiot, John. You can’t read all of those at once.”

That throws John for a loop, cutting off his previous train of thought. “What?”

Grumbling something under her breath, Elanor sits down next to him on the couch and reiterates, “You can’t read nine books at once. Hell, you can’t even read one of those books in an hour. I have no clue what you were doing.”

“I was reading,” He reiterates.

Patience wearing thin, Elanor blatantly spits it out, “No you weren’t.”

“What?”

“You literally can’t read that fast!” She exasperatedly groans, trying (and failing) to keep her anger out. “Why start lying now? Why start lying about reading books? Yesterday you told me you read all three of these,” She says, motioning to the books still on the floor beside the couch, “And I know for a fact you weren’t able to.”

John stares at her, stunned into silence. Not knowing what else to say, he mumbles again, “I read them,”

“John-”

“‘The next morning Scarlett’s body was so stiff and sore from the long miles of walking and jolting in the wagon that every movement was agony,’” He interrupts.

Elanor’s face pinches in confusion. “What?”

John ignores it and continues, “‘Her face was crimson with sunburn and her blistered palms raw. Her tongue was furred and her throat parched as if flames had scorched it and no amount of water could assuage her thirst.’”

“What the hell,” Elanor mutters, to no one in particular.

Looking back at her, John presses, “See? I read them, yesterday, before I fell asleep. I wasn’t lying!”

Swallowing, Elanor asks, “Are those exact words from the book?”

With a nod, John confirms, “They’re the first few lines of chapter fifteen, which is on page  four hundred and fourteen.” He awkwardly looks away when Elanor blankly stares at him.

Slowly, she asks, “John, can you tell me what the beginning of page six-oh-five says?”

“The top of that page starts in the middle of a sentence. Would you like me to start at the beginning of that sentence?”

Stunned, Elanor just nods.

“‘After all, a man had to make some concessions to his bride,  especially about the wedding, for women set such a store by sentimental things.’”

Elanor picks up the book beside her, flipping through until she finds the right page. John watches as her eyes grow wide and she whispers, “Holy shit,” Turning to a random page, she asks, “Can you start reading from the first full paragraph on page, um, two-thirty-six?”

To her absolute astonishment, John nods and easily recites, “‘Aunt Pitty knew nothing about men, either with their backs up or otherwise, and she could only wave her fat little hands helplessly. As for Scarlett-’”

“That’s good, John,” She interrupts, only partly out of fear.

Seeing her concerned face, John asks, “What’s wrong? Did I do something?”

With a fast beating heart, Elanor’s a little too quick to respond, “No. You’ve done nothing wrong,” After a quick pause, she asks, “Did you read the Agatha Christie books?”

“Yes,” He confirms

“Both?”

“Both.”

Shakily picking up one of them, she asks, “Can you tell me how chapter eight starts in ‘A Carribean Mystery?’”

Although he’s not exactly sure what she’s getting at, John complies, “‘“This place isn’t what it used to be,” said Mr. Rafiel irritably as he observed Miss Marple approaching the spot where he and his secretary were sitting.’ Would you like to hear more?”

“What page is this on?”

“Fifty seven.” John answers easily.

“Right, right,” Elanor flips through a few more pages. “And can you tell me what happens in the, um, second section of chapter fifteen?”

Without hesitation, John answers, “‘Evelyn Hillingdon, calm and composed as usual, sat down in the chair indicated. She considered the few questions asked her, taking-’”

“Oh my God.” Elanor interrupts softly. “You really read all three of these books?”

Frowning, John replies, “Yes. Didn’t I just prove that?”

With a nervous chuckle, Elanor continues, “You proved a whole hell of a lot more than just that.”

“What?” John’s brows knit in confusion.

“John,” Elanor swallows, “People can’t just,” She waves her hand to accompany her, “recite passages of books,”

“Oh it’s not just passages,” John quickly says, “I can recite the whole book if you’d like,”

Elanor covers her face with her palm and mutters, “Holy shit, holy shit,” Taking a shaky breath, she looks at the man sitting next to her. “John, people can’t do that.”

“What do you mean?”

“People can’t recite entire books,” She clarifies.

Frowning, John replies, “Oh. They can’t?”

“Oh God no,” She mumbles as a response.

As if on cue, Harriet and Edward, along with their grandchildren come inside the house. Harriet smiles at her daughter and John, but it falls a bit when Elanor quickly jumps out of the couch and says, “Mom, dad. Can we talk outside real quick?” The smile on her face is so obviously plastered that Harriet doesn’t think twice before heading right back out.

Watching the adults, Thalia turns to John and asks, “Jeez. What was that about?”

Looking between her and the books, John honestly replies, “I’m not sure,”

Failing at following the conversation, George hastily announces, “One of the goats bit me!”

Rolling her eyes, Thalia corrects, “It bit your shirt, George. Stop being so dramatic.”

“Whatever,” He shrugs, before walking over to John to show the small hole in the hem in his shirt. “Look!”

With a smile, John replies, “That’s super cool, George.”

Eyes wide he replies, “Yeah! It is!” Thalia rolls her eyes again, but George doesn’t see it. Completely changing the conversation, the younger kid announces, “I want sausages today!”

Thalia scrunches up her face and counters, “We had sausages a few days ago.”

“So?”

“So I don’t want them again,” Thalia spells out. “I want hotdogs.”

Crossing his little arms, George replies, “That’s like sausages! Let’s just have sausages.”

Looking between the two, John offers, “They’re actually quite different. Do you know what hotdogs are made out of?”

Before he can answer, Harriet comes back in and asks out of the blue, “John, what’s the seventeenth word in the third paragraph on page five-thirty in ‘Gone With the Wind?’”

Without taking an extra second to think, John answers, “Gloom.”

Harriet then scoops up the book from beside the couch and skips to the right page. After counting a few words, she nearly drops the book in shock. “Oh lord. Ed, Ed, look at this,” She mutters, pointing to the page.

Curious as ever, Thalia questions, “Wait, John, do you remember all the words you read?”

“...Yes?” Turning to Elanor he adds in, “You said that wasn’t normal, right?”

Laughing, Edward notes, “We have a genius on our hands!”

Crinkling his eyes, John replies, “I don’t believe genius can be quantifiable, but I have-” He cuts himself off, surprised at his words. “Whoa,” He murmurs.

“What?” Elanor questions.

“I think I’ve said that before,” He pauses before continuing, “No, yeah, I’ve definitely said that before.”

Edward gives a hearty chuckle and notes, “Then you must’ve been called a ‘genius’ before as well! Guess we really do have one!”

Letting something akin to muscle memory take over, John reiterates, “I don’t believe genius can be quantifiable, but I have an IQ of 187 and can read twenty thousand words per minute.” Letting his own words sink in, he adds a quiet, “Wow.”

“I’m sorry, what? Did you just say one hundred and eighty seven? ” Edward questions at the same time as his daughter.

“‘Twenty thousand’ words per minute? Are you serious?” Elanor asks, although at this point she guesses that she already knows the answer.

“The conscious mind can only absorb about…” He trails off, scrunching his eyes.

Concerned, Elanor takes a step forward and asks, “John? Are you okay? Headache?”

Abandoning his last train of thought, John looks up and questions, “What’s the ‘Reid effect?’”

Chapter Text

“What’s the what now?” Harriet asks.

Despite the question, John’s face stays scrunched up, as if he didn’t even hear it.

“We call it the ‘Reid Effect.’”

Quietly enough that the other people in the room can’t hear him, John mumbles, “It happens to babies too,” His head pounds in agreement. “It happens to babies too.” He reiterates, this time loud enough for the family to hear.

Now it’s Elanor’s turn to speak up. “What?”

“Reid, c’mon, man,”

Breathless, John mumbles, “Oh my God,” A couple of needles lodge themselves near John’s temples, but he doesn’t spend a second thinking about it. 

“Are you okay?” A timid voice asks, making John wonder what Henry’s doing here.

“Can you open your eyes for me?”

John hadn’t even realized he closed them, and when he complies, he sees the familiar face of a concerned Elanor.

Wringing his hands together, John mutters, “I-I-”

Elanor quickly grabs his hands, in an effort to silence their anxious energy. “John, what’s happening?”

“What’s happening in that big ol’ head of yours?”

Unable to respond, John just shakes his head and clenches his fists.

Without taking her eyes off of him, Elanor requests, “Mom, take the kids outside,”

“What’s happening to him?” John hears Henry ask, but when he turns to look, there’s a different kid heading out the back door.

“Oh my God, Reid!”

Elanor attempts to get his attention back, “John? John, I need you to look at me,” When he doesn’t comply, she gently takes his chin in her hand.

The reaction is instantaneous: John jerks back with a gasp, hands coming to protect his face from a threat that doesn’t exist. He pushes his back into the couch as far as the cushions will allow, and even then his muscles still strain to go further away.

“Reid?”

“John?” Elanor asks, putting her hands up in a surrender motion. “It’s just me here, okay? It’s just me, Elanor,” After he doesn’t react, she tries, “Can you hear me?”

“Can you hear me, Reid?”

John shakes his head, but she doesn’t know what he’s reacting to.

And then, for a few horrifying seconds, John goes completely still, eyes blank and glossy, as if he’s not even taking in anything in front of him.

Elanor reaches to grab his wrist to check his pulse, but lets go as soon as he begins to move again. It takes her a fraction of a second to realize what’s happening. A fraction of a second too late.

He’s seizing.

It’s not anything too dramatic, it’s far from a grand mal seizure, but the fact that he is even seizing at all means something’s very wrong. From the moment he came into her life, she knew that something wasn’t quite right with John’s brain, and past few hours have solidified that fact. Now though, she’s worried that it’s something far above her pay grade.

For nearly two minutes, she’s completely powerless as John absently looks at his knees, muscles contracting without his input. 

The only reason she knows that it’s ended is when John’s eyelids flutter close, and he collapses against the old cushions of the couch. 

Nursing instincts kicking in, Elanor quickly makes sure he’s breathing correctly, and double checks his pulse. Despite what’s just happened, both his breathing and heart rate are low and steady, leading her to believe that he’s honestly just fallen asleep.

Which would be fine, if John didn’t just have a seizure in her mother’s living room.

Despite how peaceful he looks, Elanor puts a light hand on his shoulder and gently tries to rouse him. Moments later, his eyes try their best to look up at her.

“John?”

“Reid?”

Groaning, he turns to his side and covers his eyes with his arm.

Half the tension in Elanor’s body dissipates now that he’s conscious. “John, I need you to look at me, okay? I’ve gotta make sure you’re okay.”

As an answer, he just curls up tighter.

“Hey Reid. Reid? You okay?”

“Are you in pain?” She tries.

There’s a small grunt of approval coming through his forearm.

“Is it your head?”

John grunts again, and Elanor’s relieved that he’s able to communicate with her. Even if said communication isn’t exactly ideal.

She draws the curtains in the living room, which unfortunately only block out about half of the natural light. Elanor then fills up a clean glass with water, and sets it next to the books when she comes back to John.

Quietly, she nudges him. “I have some water here. I’d like you to drink some, okay?”  She frowns when he doesn’t respond. “John?”

“Reid?”

“‘S not John.” Comes the muffled response.

“What?”

“Not John.”

Trying, and failing, to keep her excitement down, Elanor asks, “Do you remember who you are?”

Swallowing, John confirms, “They weren’t telling me to read.”

“Who’s not telling you to read?”

“The voices.” He vaguely replies. When his pained groan turns into a whine, Elanor puts her hand on his shoulder.

“Can you drink some water for me please?”

Rather than replying to her request, John mutters, “My mouth tastes bad.”

Elanor decides to keep the seizure to herself for the time being and replies, “Water would help that taste.”

“My head hurts.” He replies instead.

“How bad?”

“Nauseous.” Is his response that most definitely didn’t answer the nurse’s question.

Nodding, Elanor soothes, “Okay, I’ll make sure to grab a trash can. Can you tell me how bad your head hurts?”

“Mm.”

“John?”

“Don’t feel good,” He mumbles, barely enunciating enough for Elanor to understand him.

With a speed that only nurses seem to possess, she scrambles for a trashcan, and barely gets it beside the couch as John turns over and vomits. The few bits of apple that he was able to eat earlier that day are discarded, as well as the couple glasses of water Elanor made him drink before the trip to the library.

John keeps his eyes closed the entire time, and as soon as he’s finished, he covers them up again with his forearm.

Setting the small bin back down, Elanor asks again, “How bad does your head hurt?”

Without looking back at her, John asks, “Where ‘m I?”

Biting her lip, Elanor answers, “You’re in my mom’s house. Harriet’s house. Do you remember?” When he doesn’t answer, Elanor swallows. “John?”

“‘S not me.”

“Who are you, then?” She asks, heart beating fast.

“They keep calling me ‘Reid.’”

Elanor can’t help a relieved grin break out on her face. “That’s your name, then? Reid?”

Reid slowly nods. “‘S what all the voices ‘ere telling me,” He sniffs and continues, “They weren’t telling me to read , they were telling me that I am Reid.

“They were calling out your name.” Elanor finishes for him.

“Mm.”

Sitting back onto her haunches, Elanor asks, “Is that your last name? It doesn’t sound like a first name,”

“Dunno,” Reid replies, bringing his lanky legs to his chest, wrapping an arm around them. Elanor watches with worry as his shoulders roll up, creating a small circle of a human.

After a few seconds deciding what to do next, Elanor announces, “I’m going to make sure we have the house to ourselves, okay? And then we’re going to figure this out. Does that sound good?” When he makes no indication that he heard her, Elanor adds, “Reid?”

“‘S my name,” Reid says, and Elanor can practically hear his smile.

Patting him lightly she announces, “I’ll be right back.”

“You ‘been here all night, Reid?”

“Hey, c’mon now, Reid.”

The more Reid tries to get his thoughts straightened out, the more they seem to jumble up. A cacophony of voices fill his head until he can’t even hear his own thoughts. Voices, male and female, young and old, all try to catch his attention, but he can’t understand any of them.

Eventually, one cuts through the fog.

“Reid? Can you hear me?” 

Relief at a voice that’s real, Reid forces his eyes to crack open. “Elanor?”

Smiling, she nods, “Yeah, it’s just me. My kids and parents are out getting lunch, okay?”

“‘S happening?”

Worry coming back full force, Elanor requests, “What can you remember?”

Cryptically, he answers, “The ‘Reid effect.’”

Playing along, Elanor asks, “What’s that?”

Even though he doesn’t quite know, Reid answers as truthfully as he can. “Dunno. Something that happens to dogs and babies.”

If anything, his answer just makes Elanor more confused. She takes a deep breath to collect her thoughts. “Okay, we’ll figure that out later. What else do you remember?”

“What?”

“After you remembered the ‘Reid effect,’ what happened?” She clarifies.

Finally making eye contact with the young woman, he answers, “My head started hurting,”

“What next?” She coaxes.

“Everything got fuzzy. Where’d your kids go? Did they leave?”

“Yeah,” She nods, “They went out to get lunch with their grandparents,”

“Oh.”

“What happened next?”

Shrugging, he mumbles, “Dunno. Woke up. Was I asleep?” He makes a face and adds, “Mouth tastes bad.”

Holding up the glass, she offers, “Water?” When Reid takes it up to his lips, Elanor keeps her hand on the glass, ensuring that it doesn’t slip and fall out of his shaky grasp. “Better?”

“Mm. Much.” Blinking a few times, he asks, “What happened?”

After setting the glass back down, Elanor sighs, “You had a seizure.”

His calm reaction isn’t what she expects. “Oh. That’s not good.”

Frowning at his nonchalance, she agrees, “No, it’s definitely not.”

“How long?”

“A little under two minutes,” She responds.

Reid makes a quiet noncommittal noise before announcing, “There were approximately eighty-four thousand eight hundred people with an active epilepsy disorder in the state of Virginia based on a report from the CDC in 2015.”

Elanor raises her eyebrows, “Is that so?”

Nodding, Reid adds, “Eleven thousand are aged seventeen or younger, leaving approximately seventy-two thousand eight hundred adults with a seizure disorder in Virginia.” Taking only a second to breathe, Reid continues. “The CDC believes that approximately three-point-four million people across the United States have an epilepsy disorder.”

Elanor doesn’t exactly know how to respond to this information. She isn’t even sure how to make sense of the entire situation. One second ago, Reid was barely able to follow her questions, and now he’s spouting out facts like he’s a human Wikipedia.

They sit in silence for a few moments, before Elanor speaks up. “So. ‘Reid.’ How do you feel knowing your name?”

Reid scrunches his brow together before answering, “I- I honestly don’t know. I thought it would be a bigger deal, you know?”

“Not that I’m an expert or anything,” Elanor starts, “But I’m pretty sure a seizure counts as a ‘big deal.’”

Shaking his head, he clarifies, “No, I mean, I get that. But mentally? All I remembered is my name.” He purses his lips. “Actually, I don’t even think I remembered it,”

“What do you mean?”

“I think I just made the connection. And afterward everything just sort of clicked.”

Elanor thinks on that for a second, before deciding that she can’t really decipher what he means. “C’mon, you should drink some more water,” She settles on, bringing the glass back up to him.

This time, Reid has enough energy to actually push himself halfway up before reaching for the glass. Elanor keeps her hand on the glass just for good measure.

“How’s your headache?” She asks when he’s done.

“Not too bad,” He lies.

Seeing straight through it, Elanor requests, “Listen, why don’t you get some rest, okay? Seizures take a lot out of people. You need to rest your brain, not just your body.”

Already ready to argue, he pushes himself into a fully seated position and denies, “I’m not tired.” At her incredulous look he insists, “Really. I’m feeling fine.”

Elanor just scoffs. “Uh huh. Nice try. Are you even hearing me? You literally just had a seizure. Most people wouldn’t even be conscious by now, you know.”

Reid shrugs. “I’m not most people-”

Elanor gently pushes his chest down and replies, “Yeah, that’s not a very good excuse. I’m not wavering on this, got it? You need rest. And if you really don’t want to sleep, at least lay back down.” When he doesn’t reply she bargains, “I’ll even stay on the couch with you. Deal?”

As if pondering his options, Reid cocks his head to the side before agreeing, “Deal.”

With a cheeky smile, Elanor pats his leg and mutters, “Scootch. I need some room too,”

The duo sit in silence for a few minutes, and Elanor watches Reid with a keen eye the entire time. He’s suspiciously still, but Elanor relaxes a bit when he eventually draws his arm away from his eyes.

Even then, she waits a few more minutes before trying, “Feeling better?”

Leaving his own thoughts, Reid responds, “Yeah. I feel less,” He pauses, trying to think of the right word, “Cloudy.”

Elanor smiles, “Good. I’m glad,” They sit in an awkward silence before she gains the confidence to continue, “So. I know I’ve mentioned this already but, how does it feel knowing your name?”

With a long exhale, he confesses, “It feels like I have a bit of my identity back,”

“I’m sensing a ‘but,’”

“But,” He complies, “There’s still so much missing. There’s still so much of my life that I don’t know about.” Reid wrings his hands together, “Why would I remember my last name first?”

Elanor cocks her head to the side and questions, “So you do know that ‘Reid’ is your last name?”

“Statistically speaking, there’s a much higher chance that Reid is a last name, but...”

“But what?”

“But if it was my last name, why don’t I remember a prefix for it?” He finishes.

“What do you mean?”

Rubbing a hand into his eyes, Reid clarifies, “If it was my last name, why don’t I remember a ‘Mister’ in front of it?”

Although that hadn’t occurred to her until now, Elanor nods in understanding. “There’s still a lot you don’t know about yourself,” She soothes, “I’m sure you’ll figure this out soon.”

“Yeah.” He says quietly.

“Hey now,” She lightly punches his shoulder, “Don’t be so mopey. It’s basically only been a day, and you’re making amazing progress. You gotta be proud of yourself.”

With a sigh, Reid questions, “How can I be proud of myself if I don’t even know how I’m remembering these things? It feels like I’m just remembering random things.”

“So?”

Reid’s taken aback by Elanor’s response. “What?”

“So what?” She clarifies, “Even if it’s random, which I don’t think it is, it’s still remembering. This is way better than knowing nothing,”

Reid only bites his lip as a response.

Frowning, Elanor asks, “What’s wrong? Do you not want to remember or something?”

“What?” Reid sputters out, “No, not at all! Of course I want to remember. It’s just-” He cuts himself off with a frustrated sigh, “I dunno.”

Elanor puts a gentle hand on his own and muses, “You can tell me, you know,”

“Why can’t I remember my mom?” He asks, voice nearly trembling.

Taking a few seconds to make sure she doesn’t make anything worse, Elanor insists, “You are remembering her, Reid. You’re making progress-”

“Why do I only remember the fact that she’s sick?” He interrupts.

“What do you mean?”

“The first, and only thing I remember about my own mother is that she’s sick. Why don’t I remember anything else? Any happy memories, or even her name,” He shakes his head, “God, I don’t even know her name.”

“Reid-”

He shakes his head, “What kind of son thinks of his mom’s sickness before anything else?”

“Reid.” She sternly interrupts, “You’re being too hard on yourself. You remembered your mom before you were even able to remember yourself. You’re not a bad son.”

“But that’s the thing!” He hisses, “How are you supposed to know if I’m a bad person or not? I have bullet wounds!” He motions to his knee.

Taken back by his outburst, Elanor tries to soothe him, “Reid, good people have bullet wounds! You could be a veteran, or work in police force-”

He jerks his sleeves back and snaps, “Then why do I have this?” Even though Elanor knows what he’s referring to, she looks anyway.

The crook of Reid’s elbow is dotted by old track marks. She’s seen them a hundred times before, and she knows that those scars never, ever, leave. “Reid-”

He keeps his eyes trained on his arm when he quietly asks, “What do you think my poison was?”

“What?”

He gives a grim smile, “What do you think? Heroin maybe-”

Elanor places her palm on his chin and quietly interrupts, “Reid, stop. Take a breath,”

Reid looks up at her, uncertainty shining in his eyes. Nevertheless, he swallows and complies. 

Elanor keeps her hand on his jaw even after he’s calmed down, and informs him, “These are old. Old enough to be a decade old, Reid. You’ve been clean for a long time, okay?”

Shaking his head, he tries to argue, “But-”

“No. No buts.”

Voice cracking, he murmurs, “I want to remember,”

Elanor’s heart breaks a little, and before she quickly draws him into a half sitting, half laying hug. “It’s okay,” She soothes, “You’re gonna be okay.”

Surprising her, Reid wraps his shaking arms around her as well.

After a few slow seconds, Elanor pulls apart, before making one of the biggest mistakes of her life since marrying Owen.

The kiss is small, really only a peck, but Reid instantly jerks back.

Elanor herself shifts to the end of the couch, regret instantly painting over her face. “God, Reid, I’m so, so, sorry, I shouldn’t have-”

Sad eyes interrupt her. “Maeve?”

“What?” Elanor wants to punch herself in the nose. God, she messed up so bad. What was she thinking? What kind of person kisses someone in their weakest moments?!

Tears fill Reid’s eyes as he mutters to no one in particular, “No, no, not again,”

“Reid-”

“Maeve.”

Not knowing exactly how to catalogue the situation, Elanor tries, “Who’s Maeve?”

Silent tears making their way down his cheeks, Reid replies, “I only knew her voice,” His head throbs, but he welcomes it. He thinks that it’ll feel better than whatever emotion is forcibly placing itself in the middle of his brain.

“What do you mean?” She asks softly.

“We used to call,” He whispers, but his eyes aren’t focused on Elanor.

She frowns when he presses his palm into his eye. “Is your head hurting?” 

Rather than answering her question, he replies with a broken voice, “Zugzwang.” Silent sobs wrack his body, and all Elanor wants to do is hold him in her arms, but she figures that she’s lost that right.

“Reid?” She tries, “What’s that mean?”

He presses both palms into his head, and Elanor doesn’t know whether it’s to help his headache or hide his tears.

She figures that it probably won’t help either one.

Embarrassed and at a loss of what to do, Elanor awkwardly stands up from the couch and quietly announces, I’m going to go to the kitchen and clean up a bit, okay?” She takes the soiled trash can and adds, “Try to drink some more water. It’ll help.” Before leaving.

Reid stays on the couch, his only movement being curling up more.

Maeve.

God, he loved her.

He loved her more than he had ever known was possible. Reid continues to cry when he remembers the butterflies in his stomach when they were first going to meet. He remembers the excitement when every Sunday would roll around, and the first day that their entire conversation was just about each other. The first time they didn’t even try to make excuses via medical jargon. He remembers how he felt the first time he heard her laugh, even if he doesn’t remember the laugh itself.

Reid remembers the first time he saw her, in perfect clarity, as if it was yesterday.

Tied to a chair.

Worry and awe etched on her face.

He remembers the single gunshot.

Reid remembers the last time he saw her.

From the kitchen, Elanor can hear the quiet sobs echo, and her heart clenches with sadness and guilt. Did she cause this? She’s not even sure Reid knows who this ‘Maeve’ character is, but whoever they are they sure seem important to him. She hopes that whoever Maeve is, she’s out there looking for him.

Elanor takes a peek into the living room when the cries have quieted down, hoping to see Reid feeling better. Instead he’s laying down facing the inside of the couch, knees pulled up into his chest. His breathing is too even, and Elanor knows that exhaustion has won over this time. She can only hope that it’s not all from emotional exhaustion.

Unbeknownst to Elanor, Reid’s dreams are plagued with a brown haired woman. Every time he tries to get closer to her, she takes another step back. 

“Maeve?”

She smiles at him in response, but when she opens her mouth, no sound comes out.

The puzzle pieces click a second later. “I can’t remember what you sound like,” He deduces, sadness taking over once again.

Through a void of white, Maeve leads him to a chair, and Reid doesn’t know what to do other than comply and sit down. It’s a wooden chair with a high back, and something about it doesn’t feel quite right.

When he looks up again, Maeve mouths the words, “I’m sorry” before turning and leaving.

“Wait!” Reid calls out, trying to follow her. But when he tries to take a step forward, something stops him from doing so.

When he looks down, he sees his ankles bound to the chair. He tries to undo them with his hands, but they’re bound between his legs, forcing him to stay hunched over.

His breathing begins to pick up before he can even rationalize the events happening.

Sickeningly sweet blood drips down the left side of his face, and he can feel it slowly congeal, pulling at his skin.

Footsteps catch his attention, and when he looks up, he sees a figure. He doesn’t know how, but he knows that it’s an angel. 

“Raphael?”

The angel snickers and cocks a revolver that he didn’t have a second ago.

“Choose one to die,” He commands, but when he looks up to see what he’s motioning at, all he sees are strangers. He squints his eyes, as if that will help, but he can’t place any of the strangers’ faces. 

With what can only be described as an instinct, Reid begins to try and catalogue the similarities between these people. They all have different hair colors, they’re all different genders, and they’re all different races.

“Choose one to die.” Raphael hisses again, holding the revolver up to Reid’s forehead. 

Reid shakes his head, and Raphael pulls the trigger. Reid jerks his eyes closed, but when only a “click” echoes in the void, he slowly opens them again.

Raphael isn’t there anymore.

A dirty man stands in front of him, arms crossed, and looks down as if Reid is nothing more than scum. Reid watches silent as the man curses at him, before taking a seat down in a chair that wasn’t there a second ago.

“Confess your sins.”

“I haven’t sinned-” Reid tries to explain, but is cut off when he’s greeted with a sudden sharp pain in his foot. He calls out for the man to stop, but he does the opposite. 

Pure pain laces up his foot into his ankle, and it doesn’t stop no matter how much Reid begs. Finally, he turns away from the man and clenches his eyes shut.

Not even a second later, the pain ends. He looks up once again to find a new person.

This time, it’s a young man, young enough to still be a boy. He smiles sadly upon Reid. “I’m sorry,”

“For what?” Reid asks. When he looks past the boy, all of the strangers are gone, as if they were never really there in the first place.

Instead of answering Reid’s question, the boy announces, “I can help you,”

“Untie me, please,” Reid begs, but the boy only shakes his head.

“Not like that. I can’t help that.”

Reid swallows and tries again, “Please, help,”

“I will,” The boy assures him, squeezing the top of his arm. “This will help.”

A second later, a needle appears in the boy’s hand, and slowly sinks into Reid’s skin, despite his jerking. After depressing the contents into Reid’s blood, the boy leaves the needle in, before disappearing himself.

Reid looks to the right, to the left, but the boy is nowhere to be found. When he looks back to the center, a woman is there, smiling at him. She looks disheveled, old clothes and dirty blonde hair filled with knots.

“It’s okay, baby,” She whispers, “You’re okay.”

Invisible arms hold him down, and Reid jerks back to consciousness.

“Stop, stop!” He cries out, scrambling to get away from the hands.

Elanor’s voice greets him. “Reid, calm down!”

“Stop!”

“You’re hurting yourself!” She counters, but still releases his arms.

When Reid looks down, he sees angry scratch marks up and down his forearms, a few of them drawing blood. He looks to his own fingernails, and sure enough, bits of his own skin and blood are trapped underneath them.

“Reid, I need you to breathe.” Elanor insists in her best nurse voice.

After realizing that he wasn’t doing so, Reid complies, and feels his chest tighten with every inhale. “Can’t,” He wheezes out.

“Yes, you can,” Elanor notes. “Reid, I need you to listen to me, okay? You’re having a panic attack right now, but you can breathe, okay? Just follow my breathing. Nice and slow. Nice and slow,” She coaches, deliberately taking long breaths.

It takes nearly ten minutes, but eventually Elanor’s satisfied with Reid’s breathing. 

He’s too pale, looking closer to a ghost than a man. His hands are shaking, and sweat continues to collect in his palms.

Surprising both of them, Reid’s the first one to break the silence.

“S-Something happened to me,”

“What?”

“Something bad happened to me.”

Chapter Text

Elanor spends the next ten minutes trying to get Reid’s breathing under control, but it’s easier said than done when the man keeps telling her that he’s not a sinner.

After he woke up, she thought that the panicking was over for whatever he was remembering, but it came back full force not even a minute later. She tried to decipher the mumbles going from his mouth, but it just seemed like religious jargon. 

All she does know is that whatever Reid went through, it was traumatic.

Extremely traumatic.

If she didn’t know better, she’d say it’s like the men over at the VA clinic that she worked with a few years ago. She decides that it certainly makes sense regarding his bullet wounds. But what doesn’t make sense, is how a veteran ended up in Ukiah without his memories.

She figures that she’ll deal with that in a second.

Reid switches between furiously rubbing his hands and scratching at his elbows, and Elanor doesn’t exactly know what to do. It’s just her luck that Reid’s nightmare started as soon as her family came back, so she quickly shoos them back outside.

After it’s clear that Reid isn’t going to calm down by himself, Elanor takes his hands in her own, gently laying it down on his knees.

“Reid? Reid, we’re going to continue breathing, okay?”

He makes no indication to show that he understands, but that doesn’t stop the nurse.

Making exaggerating breaths, Elanor continues, “We’re just going to breathe for a few minutes, got it? In, two, three, four. Out, two, three, four,” She continues the pattern for minutes, until Reid’s shaking has ceased, and he slumps against her.

“Reid?” She tries, “Are you back with me?”

He nods against her shoulder, tears from exhaustion slipping out.

“I’m- I’m going to let you rest now, okay?” She says, peeling him off of her, placing him against the back of the couch. 

He absent mindedly nods, and almost melts into the couch. Elanor retrieves the glass by the couch, and quickly fills it back up from the tap. When she sets it back down next to the books, she frowns when Reid’s eyes are still open and glazed over.

However he must’ve sensed something, because he sluggishly blinks over and tells her, “I’m okay.”

Elanor wants to laugh at that statement, but instead settles for a quick shake of her head. “You don’t have to be okay right now, you know?”

Frowning, Reid replies, “I want to be okay,” He says it in such a matter of fact way, and it breaks Elanor’s heart.

“Reid, you’ve obviously been through serious trauma, no one’s expecting you to bounce back-”

“I just want to know what happened to me,” Reid interrupts, looking at the palms of his hands. He pauses before adding, “None of my memories make sense.”

“What do you mean?”

Reid makes a noise of frustration. “Everything that I’ve remembered, it doesn’t seem too far fetched to you?”

“What?”

“I mean, think about it-”

Elanor gives a shaky laugh. “So what? You think that the things you’re remembering are fake, or something?”

Along with a half-hearted shrug, Reid replies, “I think it’s a little ridiculous that my mother’s a paranoid schizophrenic, I have multiple bullet wounds, I’m a junkie, and,” He scoffs.

“And what?”

“And now suddenly I’m in a random town in northern California, and my memory is wiped!” He groans and pushes a hand to the side of his forehead.

Elanor’s eyebrows knit together as she asks, “Are you okay, Reid?” She wonders if his headaches ever end.

“No!” He takes a quick breath to try and curb his outburst. “No, I’m- I’m not okay. Okay? Because right now? It just feels like I’m part of a bad movie or something.”

“Reid, I’m sure we can figure out what’s happening,” She tries to soothe.

“People don’t just lose their memories, Elanor,” Reid points out. “And if they do, it doesn’t make sense that now I’m remembering these crazy scenarios. None of this makes sense,”

Elanor nods in agreement, surprising the other man. “You’re right.”

“What?”

“None of this makes sense,” She agrees. “But that doesn’t matter, because it’s happening anyway,” She shrugs and adds, “I have no clue what happened to you, and yeah, I’m confused. I’m confused as shit, but there’s really nothing we can do. Other than just wait it out.”

Dropping his face into his hands, he mutters, “I need to know what happened.”

Elanor smiles softly, even though he can’t see it, and replies, “I know. But right now, there’s nothing we can do. So, we’re gonna stop stressing about it, and just,” She shrugs, “Let things happen when they feel like, okay?”

Reid glances up from his hands with an unamused look.

“I’m serious!” Elanor says with a smile, “We’re just going to put a pin in this whole, memory problem, and take a few hours to just stop stressing out.”

“It’s not just a problem, it’s my life,” Reid points out.

“And we will stress about your life in the future. But right now, the last thing you need is more stress, and more headaches-”

Interrupting, Reid deadpans, “And more memories?”

With a wince, Elanor mutters, “Well,” She looks to the side and continues, “No offense, but your memories aren’t exclusively helping you.”

“What?”

“You’re literally hurting yourself,” She points out.

“Headaches aren’t-”

“Look at your arms.” She cuts off, giving a voice that can’t be argued with.

When Reid obliges, he sees drying blood on his - Edward’s - shirt in the crooks of his elbows. “Oh.” He softly murmurs. Why didn’t he notice that before?

Elanor nods. “Yeah. Listen, I’m gonna grab my kit, and clean up your arms, and then you’re going to take a nice walk around the property, without any triggers, okay?”

Getting the feeling that he’s not going to be able to refuse, Reid nods. “Okay.”

“Great!” She says, slapping her legs. “I’ll be right back!”

As she leaves, Reid rolls up his sleeves and looks at his elbows. He wonders if that strange dream he had was real. He knows that at least some part of it must’ve happened, he’s got enough scar tissue on his feet and elbows to prove it, but the rest just seems too implausible. After all, he was dreaming of an angel with a revolver.

He quickly pushes his sleeves back down. It feels like he’s looking at private memories that aren’t even his own.

When Elanor comes back, she has two children in tow.

George looks absolutely amazed and excited, and Reid has no idea what’s on his mind. Thalia, on the other hand, is perfecting a look for her angsty teenage years.

Running up to the older man, George squeals, “C’mon, c’mon! Mom said I could show you to goats!” Reid has no idea why the boy is so enamored with the goats that he seems to have a love/hate relationship with.

Thalia sighs and points out to her mom, “See? They’re fine on their own. I don’t need to go with them.” She crosses her arms for extra measure, but Elanor isn’t having any of it.

“Thalia.” She begins sternly, “I’m going to bandage up his arms, and then you will go make sure your brother doesn’t do anything stupid, okay?” Her daughter grumbles something, but Reid isn’t sure what.

“Fine.” She concedes.

Elanor rolls up Reid’s sleeves, and he cringes when he thinks of her kids seeing this. Luckily, George is too young to really understand, and Thalia is kind enough to look away.

After cotton balls with rubbing alcohol and a few square bandages, Elanor rolls his sleeves back down and pats him twice, like a boxer tapping out. “I’ll have my dad get you another shirt, okay?”

“Can we go outside first?” George interrupts, full of energy.

Before Elanor can shoot that down, Reid looks to her and says, “It’s fine. Really. Don’t worry about a shirt,”

Elanor opens her mouth to argue, but George had already been enabled, and begins pulling on Reid’s wrist.

“C’mon George,” Thalia starts with a sigh, pulling her brother off of Reid. “Let’s go see the goats again. Maybe they’re still hungry.” She takes his hand, and Elanor raises her eyebrows at Reid until he stands up.

As the three of them walk out the door, Elanor adds, “Holler if you need anything. I’ll be around,”

Once they’re outside, George quickly runs past the coop, and points out a few of their hens. “This one,” He says, motioning to a particularly fluffy looking chicken, “Is named Butter, and this one’s named Spider Web, and this one’s named Fettuccine Alfredo, and this one’s-”

“George, shut up,” Thalia mutters, reaching her hand in to stroke a few of them.

George turns to Reid and counters, “But how will John know their names? See, this one’s named Eraser, and-”

This time, Reid’s the one to interrupt. “Actually, that’s not my name.” His lips turn up in a miniature smile. It’s a great feeling knowing his name.

Instantly withdrawing her hand from the coop, Thalia turns around and questions, “Really? You remember your name? What is it?” She looks amazed, as if she assumed he’d never learn his real name.

He can’t really blame her.

“Reid.” The man answers, and both of the kids’ faces frown in confusion.

“What?”

“Like reading books?” Thalia asks.

Reid nods. “Yeah. But, uh, it’s spelled R-E-I-D.” He frowns before adding, “At least, based on statistics, there’s a much higher chance of it being spelled with an ‘I’ than an ‘A’.”

“How do you know?” She presses.

Watching a few of the chickens pluck at their feathers, Reid answers, “Approximately one hundred twenty eight thousand and one hundred twenty nine people in the United States have the last name, ‘Reid’ with an ‘I,’ while only twenty thousand, six hundred and eighteen people have the last name, ‘Reid’ with an ‘A’.”

Both Thalia and George’s eyes grow wide.

“Whoa,” George mutters. “That’s so many people!”

“Actually,” Reid points out, “That’s only a small percentage of the population that are currently citizens of the United States-”

“Wait, wait, wait,” Thalia interrupts, “How do you know it’s your last name?”

“I don’t.” Reid states plainly. “But there are only eleven thousand, six hundred and thirty-one people with ‘Reid’ as their first name, so statistically there’s a higher chance of ‘Reid’ being my last name.”

Thalia’s mouth opens a bit in disbelief and mutters, “Why do you know that? Did you like, look it up?”

Reid shakes his head, and nonchalantly replies, “No, I just knew it. Why?” He then frowns, and remembers what Elanor told him about memorizing books. “This is one of those things that most people don’t know, isn’t it?”

With a scoff of disbelief, Thalia replies, “‘Most people?’ Dude, nobody knows that stuff!”

“Oh.” Reid frowns. “Really?”

“Uh, yeah.”

Ready to take full advantage of this, George asks him, “How many people are named ‘George?’”

Only having to think about it for a second, Reid answers, “One million, five hundred and forty eight thousand, six hundred and-”

“Whoa! One million!”

Much more quietly than her brother, Thalia replies, “For real? You just know that?”

“Yeah.” Reid replies.

Giddy with excitement, George adds, “That’s so cool! Do you know how many chickens are named ‘George’?”

Reid shakes his head. “No, but I’m sure there’s a few.”

“Do you wanna feed them?” He asks, dragging over a bucket full of chicken feed.

“Uh, I’m fine.” Reid replies, hands up in a surrender motion. “Chicken’s carry deadly viruses and diseases such as salmonellosis, campylobacteriosis, and a strand of avian influenza, just to name a few.” As soon as he sees the kids’ faces, Reid knows he made a mistake.

With wide eyes, George asks, “Are they gonna die?”

Thalia’s quick to reassure him, “What? No no no no, they’re fine, George. They aren’t sick. I promise,” Then with a hushed tone, she turns to Reid and mutters, “He’s five! Don’t tell him that!”

Reid gives a sheepish smile and apologizes, “Sorry. It just sort of, came out.”

Thalia gives him a look and replies, “You’re weird.”

Taking a handful of chicken seed, George tosses it inside the coop and coos, “Here Tomato! Here’s some food for you!”

“George don’t give them too much, they’ve already eaten,” Thalia replies.

Reid just frowns and asks, “Wait, did you say one of the chickens’ name was ‘Tomato?’”

“Yeah! That one!” George replies, pointing to a chicken that looks disconcernable from the rest.

Seeing his confused look, Thalia murmurs, “Grandma lets George name all the chickens, ‘cause they’re his favorite. He pick stupid names.”

Reid’s slightly inclined to agree when the younger kid calls out for ‘Eraser.’ Instead, he shrugs and replies, “I think it’s cute.”

“Yeah, well, I get to name the goats,” She boasts, “And I actually give them good names.”

Turning around, George tells them, “The goats hate me!”

“For the last time, George,” Thalia mutters, “They only hate you because you’re mean to them.” Then, facing back to Reid she asks, “Do you want to see them?”

Reid holds his tongue on diseases goats carry, and answers, “Sure.”

“Great! They’re this way,” She says, pointing to the side. “Sometimes they hide, but they were out earlier today so I bet they’re still hanging around.”

It’s a farther walk than Reid was expecting, and part way through Thalia not-so-subtly asks him, “So,” She pulls the hem of her shirt, “Are you and mom, like, a thing?”

Reid frowns at the wording, and tries to decipher what she means. A few seconds later, it clicks and Reid’s face grows hot. “Oh, no. No, no, no.” He gives a shaky laugh, and Thalia doesn’t look convinced. “Really. Your mom’s just,” He clears his throat, “Helping me. While I’m still remembering things.”

“Hm.” She replies, obviously not believing him.

Continuing kicking a pinecone, George adds, “It’s been awhile since we’ve had a dad.”

Reid nearly chokes. He forces himself to take a breath and asks, “What, uh, what happened with your dad?”

George responds with a quick, “I dunno,” As Thalia actually answers him.

“He left.” She plainly states. “His name is Owen, and he left when George was super little. Even I barely remember him.”

“Oh.” Reid replies quietly. Something nags at his brain.

It’s almost like a strange deja vu, and he couldn’t place the feeling if his life depended on it. He hopes he didn’t abandon any children.

Covering her tracks, Thalia switches the conversation and asks, “So, do you like goats?”

“I’m not sure,”

Thalia’s eyes get bigger as she observes, “Right, right, that was a stupid question. Do you even remember the things you like?”

Reid frowns and replies, “I don’t think so.”

“That sucks,” Thalia notes, and Reid agrees with her. “Well, I’m sure you’ll like our goats. They’re super nice, unless you’re George. Just don’t chase them.” She finishes, glaring at her little brother.

“I wasn’t planning on it,” He says with a chuckle.

The goats are, in fact, nice when Reid meets them on the side of a fence. He’s a bit unsettled by their eyes, but they don’t seem like they’re out to get him or anything.

Thalia gently pets their noses as George tries to scare them from outside their pen.

Reid very quickly realizes why the goats have very little trust in him.

Once the younger kid has gotten bored of attempting to terrorize animals, he finds a new pinecone to kick, before pointing at the horizon. “Thalia, look!” He nearly shouts.

Both Thalia and Reid turn to see what he’s pointing at. There’s a line of smoke slowly billowing out, and it couldn’t be more than a few miles.

“Whoa,” Thalia says, craning her neck in an attempt to get a better look. 

“Do you think it’s more of the same fires?” George presses, standing on his tippy toes.

“Same fires of what?” Reid questions before Thalia can answer.

“I dunno,” The girl replies to George before turning to Reid. “The past few days we’ve got these like crazy fires all over the place. The shop next to McGregor’s burned down like two days ago, and mom said no one knows what started it.”

Reid isn’t sure where it comes from, but he feels yet another headache begin to blossom. “Who’s McGregor?” He asks, hoping to possibly uncover another memory.

“Oh I don’t know,” Thalia starts, “I don’t know if it’s a person or something, but it’s the little fish restaurant that we go to all the time. We went there for lunch today, and we got to see the neighbor’s shop all burned down.” Amazed, she continues, “The back part of McGregor’s was also kinda burnt, it was really cool!”

“And there’s been a lot of these fires?” Reid questions when something in his head tells him to get a good time frame.

“Oh yeah,” Thalia nods. “There’s been like six in the past week, it’s crazy! First the fires, and now you?” Awe coming onto her face, she muses, “What if you have to do with the fires?”

“What?”

Excited, she continues, “Wouldn’t that be crazy? But like, it almost makes sense! All these strange things are happening in Ukiah, including you!”

Frowning, Reid replies, “But I don’t know what’s happening,”

Thalia just shrugs. “So?”

Before Reid can think of a response, he hears Elanor call out, “Thalia!”

Whipping around, she calls back, “Yeah, mom?”

A few moments later, Elanor makes it over to them and says, “C’mon, let’s go back in,”

“But why?” George whines, still looking out at the fire.

Motioning to the smoke, Elanor mutters, “That’s why,”

“But it’s far away,” He counters.

“It’s not that far away,” Elanor counters, taking her son’s hand. “We should get inside just to be safe.” Seeing Reid’s frown, she asks, “Reid, are you okay?”

He nods and quickly replies, “Yeah. Just a bit of a headache.”

Elanor makes a disapproving noise, and says, “Okay. We definitely need to get inside though. C’mon Thalia.”

“Bye, Missy.” Thalia says to one of the goats, giving her an extra pat on the nose.

The four of them hustle back, and once they’re inside, Reid can’t help but wonder, “So when did the fires start?”

Groaning, Elanor replies, “Like a week ago, and all they’ve caused is trouble.”

“Do they know who’s starting them?”

Wiping her hands on a kitchen towel, Elanor answers with a question of her own, “How do you know someone’s setting them?” It’s not accusing, but Reid still feels like he’s been put on the stand.

It bothers him that it’s such a familiar feeling.

“Thalia said there’s been six fires in a week,” He explains, “That’s too often to be random chance. Someone has to be setting them.”

Elanor shrugs and replies, “I’m sure it’s just a teenager. School’s just started up again, and you know how kids are. They’re probably just angry about summer ending.”

Smiling, Reid muses, “You don’t seem that concerned about it.”

Elanor agrees, “I’m not. I’ve lived in this place my entire life. When things happen in Ukiah, they just fizzle out on their own.” She grumbles something and starts again, “Besides, this one’s getting a bit of overkill as far as ‘fizzling out.’”

Cocking his head to the side, Reid asks, “What do you mean?”

Taking a breath Elanor says, “Listen, I’ll find my dad and get you another shirt, and then he can tell you what he heard out at lunch.”

Reid frowns at the obvious hearsay, but stays put until Elanor tosses him a shirt a minute later. “You know where the bathroom is,” She says, motioning to a hallway. As he heads down it, she warns, “And don’t pick at your arms or the bandages!”

Reid quickly strips the button-up shirt off his lanky frame, and puts the clean one on with muscle memory only. He catches himself grinning. He knows he must’ve worn dress shirts before. After splashing a bit of cold water on his face in an attempt to curb his headache, Reid comes back out to find Elanor and her parents talking.

With a boisterous smile, Edward claps Reid on the shoulder and asks how he’s doing.

“Better,” He answers truthfully. “It’s nice knowing my name.” Curiosity taking over, he quickly asks, “Elanor said you heard something about the fires earlier today?”

“Oh yes,” Harriet interjects. “Down at McGregor’s,”

Nodding, Edward confirms, “See there’s this rumor goin’ ‘round, ‘cause apparently some folks died last fire,”

Reid knits his eyebrows together, “That’s terrible,”

“Oh yeah,” The older man agrees, “But you know, our own cops don’t have a clue of who’s settin’ them, so I heard that they called in some extra help,”

“Extra help?” Reid questions.

“I heard they called in the feds.”

Chapter Text

The pounding in Reid’s head continues, and Elanor banishes him to the couch once again, threatening full on bedrest if he doesn’t try to get at least a bit of sleep in.

Although he closes his eyes, Reid spends the time listening to the family around him. There’s something about being an outsider that feels so familiar to him. Staying with a family that’s not his own gives Reid a sense of security, and he isn’t really sure why.

Listening to George ramble seems so natural, and Reid’s convinced that he must’ve heard this kid talk before.

As the kids go upstairs, the conversation turns towards fire among the adults. Elanor’s sure that it’s nothing to worry about, but both Harriet and Edward think otherwise. The younger woman continues on, convinced that it’s just some kids who messed around a little too much, but shuts her mouth when Harriet reminds her that two people have died, and another four were injured.

It’s only when the three begin to muse out loud about who it could be, that Reid makes his presence known. He stands up, and on his way to the kitchen he mentions, “It’s most likely a white male,”

All three of them turn around, and Elanor’s face contorts into exasperation. “Reid, all I’m asking for you is to get some rest. It hasn’t even been an hour, and you’re already up, talking about people who set fires,”

“Serial arsonists,” Reid corrects, awkwardly sitting down in a kitchen chair next to the other three adults.

Muttering, Elanor asks, “I’m sure I’m going to regret this, but why do you know that?”

Looking as confused as Elanor feels, Reid answers, “I’m not sure. But I know that 94% of serial arsonists are male, and 75% are white. So, statistically speaking, it’s probably a white male.”

“I need coffee,” Elanor replies. While pouring herself a cup, she asks, “Why would a veteran know something like this?”

“Veteran?” 

Sitting back down at the table, she explains, “Well, yeah. You have bullet wounds and display symptoms of PTSD. I made the connection.”

“Where’d you serve?” Edward asks him.

Reid’s face scrunches up as he says, “I don’t know. I don’t think I did,”

On the end of her rope, Elanor mutters, “What, are you suddenly able to remember or something?”

He shrugs and confesses, “Some things just feel familiar,”

“What do you mean?”

“Sometimes being around people, or even hearing certain things, just feels, I dunno, right . There are things that just make sense. I can’t even place the feeling.”

“Maybe you’re a cop?” Harriet offers.

With a shrug, Reid replies, “Yeah, maybe.”

“Still doesn’t feel right?” Elanor asks.

Shaking his head, the younger man echos, “Still doesn’t feel right.” Not for the first time, Reid wishes he knew what the hell happened to him.

“How do you know all these things about arson?” Harriet asks, looking more than a bit concerned.

Squinting, Reid replies, “I don’t know,” He rubs a hand over his eyes and continues, “It just comes out, before I can stop it.”

“What do you mean?”

“I think, if you had asked me what percentage of serial arsonists are males, I wouldn’t be able to tell you,”

Elanor takes her coffee away from her lips and questions, “But you were literally just able to tell us,”

“Exactly,” Reid explains, “I was able to tell you because I wasn’t trying to think about it. I don’t know where the information came from, it just, I don’t know, happened?”

The three others all pause, before Edward speaks up, “Do you remember everything you come across?”

“I think so.” Reid answers honestly. Right after, he gives a self-deprecating chuckle and adds, “Well, at least before whatever happened to me.”

Elanor’s eyebrows pinch together. “It doesn’t make any sense,”

“What doesn’t make sense, honey?” Harriet asks.

“The fact that you have this nearly, if not completely, perfect memory, yet you’ve lost everything else.”

Reid runs another hand over his head, causing Elanor to give him a look. “There are a few drugs that could possibly keep me subdued, maybe without memory even, but not if they weren’t continuously being administered,”

“I thought you were hit on the head,” Harriet puts in, motioning to his head.

Nodding, Reid agrees, “I think my memory problems stem from both of those things happening at the same time.”

Elanor interjects, “Not that I’m complaining, but why are your memories coming back so,” She pauses, trying to find the right word, “Broken?”

“What?”

“All the things you’ve remembered are in pieces, and don’t make much sense. If your memories were to come back, shouldn’t they come back in full chunks?”

Deciphering her musings, Reid takes a few seconds before responding, “There’s still so much we don’t know about brains. There could be multiple reasons for this, and not all of them are even physical,”

“‘Not physical?’” Harriet questions with worry.

“PTSD.” Elanor states, and Reid shakes his head.

“Not completely. I mean, yes, PTSD can cause repressed memories, but there’s plenty of other reasons,”

Edward frowns and asks, “Such as?”

“Certain types of schizophrenia, as well as dissociative disorders,”

Elanor shakes her head, cutting Reid off. “That wouldn’t erase all of the memories from the rest of your life though.”

“Yeah,” Reid agrees. “I guess I don’t really know.” He blinks a few times as his vision sways. He’s glad he decided to sit down before starting this conversation.

Elanor takes a few more sips of coffee, and the only thing to accompany her is the muffled cacophony of noises from her kids upstairs. After there’s a thunk and a scream, Elanor sighs and mutters, “I better go check up on them,”

Harriet puts her hand out and counters, “Oh honey, finish your coffee. I’ll go see what those rascals are up to,”

“You sure, mom?”

“Oh yes,” She confirms, moving to stand up from her chair.

When the wooden legs of the chair scrape against the kitchen floor, Reid can’t help a wince escape. He must’ve not hid it well, because a second later Elanor is questioning him.

“More headaches?”

“Still getting those headaches, kid?”

Quietly, he answers, “Yeah. Well, it’s not new. The first one never really ended.”

She nearly throws up her arms and hisses, “Why didn’t you tell me? Reid, I need to know these things!”

“There’s not really anything you would be able to do about it,” Reid points out, but Elanor isn’t having any of it.

“That doesn’t matter! I can’t help you if you aren’t truthful,”

Sighing, Reid argues, “You can’t help me anyway,” He regrets the words as soon as they come out of his mouth.

Edward gives a “Son-”

But Elanor quickly interrupts him with, “I’m trying, ‘kay? Yeah, you might be right, there’s probably not much I can do to help, but, God, at least I’m doing something!”

Reid bows his head, partly in shame and partly because of the headache and replies, “I know. Sorry, I just,” He cuts himself off for a few seconds before continuing, “I just want to know what happened to me,”

“I know,” Elanor says softly. “And I want to help. I do.”

Reid nods, pressing a few fingers into his temple.

“How bad does it hurt?” Elanor asks.

“How bad are you hurtin’?”

“Kinda bad,” He answers vaguely. “I don’t know what caused it this time though,”

Setting down her coffee cup she offers, “Here, I know you’ll hate me for this, but let’s get you back to the couch. I still have the curtains drawn, so there won’t be too much light.”

Knowing better than to argue with the woman, Reid nods and stands up, with a white knuckle grip on the table.

“Reid?”

“Reid?”

“‘S fine,” He waves her off. “Little dizzy,” He murmurs softly.

“Shit,” She mutters. “Dad, can you get on his other side?”

Edward quickly stands up and agrees, “Yeah, of course. C’mon son, short walk to the couch,”

Half leaning on the two people, Reid makes it to the couch, and collapses onto it. His eyes close on their own accord.

“Where did this come from?” Elanor asks, even though she thinks she already knows the answer.

“I dunno,” Reid mumbles, and Elanor sighs. “‘S only started a few minutes ago,”

“Shit.” She says again. “What were we even talking about a few minutes ago? My kids?”

This time Edward speaks up, “Y’all were talking about memories,”

With a sigh, Elanor rolls her eyes to no one in particular. “Great. That really clears it up on what you were trying to remember.”

“I wasn’t trying to remember anything,” Reid protests, although it’s only half his usual energy.

Sitting down on the edge of the couch Elanor nods, “I know. I think you were subconsciously though.”

Reid groans in response.

“Here,” Elanor says, pulling up the since abandoned blanket to his shoulders, “Just, don’t worry too much about it, and try to-”

“Get some rest?” Reid finishes for her, a tired sigh accompanying it.

Elanor gives a guilty smile and mutters, “I’m sorry. I don’t know how else to help you, aside from taking you into town to the hospital,”

“No hospital,” He insists, and Elanor isn’t that surprised.

“Right. So just get some rest for me, yeah?”

With a light pat on his leg, Edward echos, “Get some rest, son.”

“C’mon Reid, get some rest. The case’ll still be here tomorrow.”

Reid’s eyes stay firmly closed, and the headache gives confirmation that there’s no way he’s going to be opening them any time soon.

Part of his brain is exhausted, and is absolutely begging for him to sleep, but the other part is too curious, and just wants to pick out new memories. The two sides clash inside his head, and much to Reid’s dismay, neither side seems to win.

Instead, he’s stuck with a headache that just seems to grow and grow.

Stabs of pain travel from behind his eyes to his sinuses, before blooming through his forehead and settling down on his head wound. The entire thing feels like a modern type of torture.

Pressing into his temples and the sides of his head does nothing to alleviate the pain, and Reid is sure that this is how he’ll die.

The worst part about all of it is the fact that there’s no memory to accompany it. At least the other blinding headaches he's had held answers to a slice of his life. At this point, he’d even take a confusing insight on his memory.

Slinging an arm over his eyes, Reid can hear the rest of the family have a muffled conversation. Every so often he can pick out words, but his eavesdropping abilities aren’t exactly up to par. 

The pounding in his injured head prevents him from sleeping, but eventually, it becomes worth it. Nearly thirty minutes later, he hears voices.

“C’mon, pretty boy,”

“Reid, up and at ‘em,”

Finally, a memory from this wretched headache.

Each of the voices seem oh so familiar, but they’re behind a brick wall, and no matter how hard he tries, Reid can’t find the faces to match.

“There’s three things you need to know,”

Reid frowns. He knows that voice from somewhere. It’s obvious his subconscious recognizes it, because he’s overtaken with pride and joy. A second later, it turns into a somber feeling, and right after that, it’s painful.

His heart aches from the voice from a man he doesn’t even know.

“I have my agents here-”

Reid’s own brain pushes away the memory.

He claws at his own head, desperate to get it back. Something is there, he knows it. Fingers scrape against his scalp, but God, he’s so, so close to something. He knows it’s important.

“...guest speaker today…”

Reid pulls at his hair, but nothing will bring back the thoughts that his fingertips are brushing against. 

“...of course not, William…”

Nails scrape against his fragile skin, and when they rake against his hair, a few strands come with it. There’s a million needles poking into his brain, and Reid thinks that doesn’t even make sense because his brain doesn’t have nerves-

But God does it hurt.

He can’t think anymore.

The only thing going through his mind is that fact that he must be dying. 

There’s something wet on his face, beading up and rolling down to his mouth. When he tastes salty metal, fear courses through his veins. 

He wants to call out to Elanor, but instead only a hoarse whisper comes out.

When he opens his mouth, blood drips in, pooling underneath his tongue. The viscous liquid makes him gag, and when he turns on his side the blood drops off his cheek into Harriet’s couch. 

Bringing a hand to his nose, he tries to call out again, “Elanor,” but it’s still quiet and muddled.

The blood from his nose goes from a steady drip to a faucet, and then to a waterfall. Ignoring his headache, Reid opens his eyes and looks down. Blood seeps from between his fingers, down his cheek and chin, creating a gruesome, and slightly horrifying, puddle.

He sits up, and grimaces at the vertigo that’s determined to keep him down. With gravity now on its side, the blood falls down his chin with a vengeance, catching on the buttons of Edward’s clean shirt. It turns red, despite Reid’s best effort to staunch the bleeding.

When a particularly bad burst of pain makes itself known, Reid bows his head, bringing one of his bloody hands to his temple. Now with only one hand to hold his nose, an inexplicable amount of blood flows toward the carpet. Looking down, Reid thinks that he’s seen crime scenes with less blood than this.

Crime scenes?

Crime scenes.

Why does he know what a crime scene looks like?

He calls out for Elanor once again, and winces at his own volume. Reid’s a few seconds away from crying of happiness when he hears feet thump down the stairs.

“Jesus! Reid?” He cringes at her voice, but forces himself to look at her. “What happened?” She demands, looking uncharacteristically frazzled.

“Head,” He mutters, not having enough energy to expand on that.

“Shit, okay, how long have you been bleeding?”

Reid gives a half hearted shrug and murmurs, “‘Minute?”

Elanor sucks in a breath. “Only a minute? Christ.” Turning her head away from Reid she calls out, “Mom! I need a towel!” She quietly apologizes to Reid when she sees his obvious discomfort from the yelling.

Reid hears a loud gasp, before someone moves his hands and a fluffy towel replaces them. Exhausted, Reid leans into the towel, closing his eyes.

“Hey, hey,” Elanor says, snapping a finger in front of him, “Don’t sleep on me just yet, okay?”

“Mm,” Reid absentmindedly answers.

From his side, Reid can hear, “Oh sweetheart. Ellie, what should I do?”

With practiced ease, Elanor quickly directs her, “Go back upstairs, grab me a few more towels and my kit, and then make sure my kids don’t see this.”

Reid can’t tell if the older woman responds, but he hears feet on the stairs once more. 

Pinching his nose a bit harder, Elanor questions, “Okay, you need to tell me what happened, don’t leave anything out,”

Groaning, he replies, “Head started hurting,” She frowns at his slurred words, but Reid doesn’t notice, and continues, “‘Was remembering,”

“Fuck,” She mutters under her breath. “Okay, okay, I can work with that,” She turns to retrieve extra towels from Harriet, before moving to see if the blood has slowed down at all.

“‘S it bad?” Reid asks, crossed eyes attempting to look down at his nose.

With a shaky scoff, Elanor answers, “It’s one hell of a bloody nose, that’s for sure.”

Reid nods, and his head falls forward into Elanor’s hands, holding the now soiled towel. He mutters something so quietly that Elanor can’t hear it, despite her only being a few inches away.

“Nope,” She says, “No falling asleep. You need to stay awake, okay?”

“Mm.” Reid confirms, but Elanor’s pretty sure he doesn’t know what she just said.

She nudges his shoulder, satisfied when Reid’s eyes open back up to a sliver. “Good, good, that’s great,” She says with a worried smile.

“Ellie what’s goin’ on?” Reid tries to turn towards the voice, but Elanor keeps him facing forward.

Taking a quick breath in, Elanor answers, “Dad, keep my kids upstairs,”

“They’re fine up there,” He confirms, “Your mom is with them. Christ, what happened?” He questions, as soon as his eyes lay upon Reid’s face.

“I don’t know,” She answers, before pushing up Reid’s head once again, “Hey! Reid, we just talked about this, you gotta stay awake,”

With a pitiful whimper, Reid croaks, “Hurts,”

“Where?” She instantly demands, “What hurts?” Elanor can feel her heart rate increase tenfold when he doesn’t answer. “Reid? Reid, tell me what hurts.” When he falls a bit more limp, and still doesn’t answer, Elanor begins a bit of a freakout of her own. “Shit shit shit! Reid!”

“Ellie,” Edward starts, “We gotta-”

“I know, I know,” She quickly interjects, “Can you carry him?”

“I ain’t that old,” He replies, although his knees beg to differ when he crouches down next to his daughter. 

“Get him to the car,” She requests, handing off the bloody towel to her dad. “My car, I don’t want him in the pickup-” Patting her sides, she mutters, “Fuck, I need to grab my keys.”

Scooping Reid off of the couch, Edward soothes, “I got him, Ellie. Go grab your keys. He’ll be fine.” Looking down at the man in his arms he murmurs, “You’re gonna be fine, son.” He frowns when he begins walking. “You’re too skinny. Have you even been eatin’?” He muses to himself.

Reid’s arms fall limp, letting gravity take over as they swing. He’s not quite unconscious, and occasionally Edward will see his eyes flutter open and closed, not ever finding a place to focus on.

Elanor appears a second later, jamming her keys into her car, and opening the back door for her dad to deposit Reid in.

“Can you drive?” She asks her dad, although she’s already tossed the keys to him.

“‘Course. I got it,” He confirms.

Elanor nods, and slides in the back next to Reid. She replaces her hand over the dirty towel, and puts on a shaky smile when Reid looks up at her. “Hey there, you with me?”

“Hm?” He mutters, eyes sliding closed.

Sighing softly, she replies, “I guess that answers that.” She buckles her own seatbelt, but keeps Reid horizontal, head haphazardly balanced on her lap, legs curled up on the other side of the back seat. “You better not crash, dad.” Elanor jokes, a sad attempt to soothe her own worry.

“Just worry about him,” Edward replies, already racing down the street.

Lightly tapping his cheek, Elanor soothes, “Hey, Reid? C’mon, eyes on me, okay?”

“Eyes on me,”

“There you go,”

“Hey, stay with me.”

Reid mumbles when the car drives over a pothole, and squints his eyes when Elanor tries to talk with him.

“Dad, can you go faster?”

“Driver, faster.”

“I’m already ten over,” Edward replies from the front, but still presses down a bit more on the gas, furiously switching between lanes.

Elanor takes a quick look out the window and curses. “I don’t care. I’ll pay for the ticket, just go faster.” She’s surprised when she looks back down and sees Reid’s eyes open. It’s not quite normal, by any sense of the word, but it’s better than the slits he was sporting before.

“Reid,” She greets, “Hey, are you with me?”

He blinks up at her a few times, and his face scrunches. “Whhhu?”

Elanor slowly pulls the towel away, and sighs in relief when the blood flow is much slower than it was when they left the house. After replacing the towel once again, she smiles, “Hey there. Can you tell me how you feel?”

After mumbling something unintelligible, his eyelids fall back down.

Tapping on his cheek, Elanor tries, “No no no, not yet. Reid, you’ve gotta look at me, okay?”

“Look at me, you’re gonna be fine,”

“Blake?” He whispers, trying his hardest to open his eyes back.

Elanor swallows. “Can you tell me what hurts?”

Ignoring her question, Reid looks around asks one of his own, “Where?” He pushes the word out at the end of an exhale, so quiet that Elanor almost misses. 

“We’re on our way to the hospital,” She says, holding his head straight when they hit another pothole. “You’re okay.”

“Hosp…?”

“Yeah,” Elanor smiles. “You’re gonna be okay. I just need you to stay awake for me, yeah?”

“Yeah.” He agrees, before promptly closing his eyes.

“Reid? Reid!” Her breath catches. “No. No, no, no. Dad, go faster!” Hearing the panic in his daughter’s voice, Edward once again picks up the pace. 

In what would normally be about an hour ride, Edward makes it to the hospital in nearly thirty minutes, and miraculously, he was never pulled over. He stops in front, shooing his daughter out with the promise to park and come in right after.

With a strength she didn’t know she possessed, Elanor hauls Reid up in her arms, silently wishing that she could grow another one to hold the towel down. With a mental thanks to whatever deity decided to make hospital doors hands free and sliding, she calls out, “I need help!”

Everyone in the ER waiting room turns, a few of their faces pale from the horror of seeing blood completely covering Reid’s shirt. Luckily, the working staff aren’t too fazed, and pull a stretcher out of what must be thin air. Elanor gently lays him down, and a swarm of people instantly crowd around him.

A few of the nurses make notes of vitals, but Elanor doesn’t hear any of it. She watches between tall shoulders as Reid’s eyes flutter, attempting, and failing, to open.

“Sir? Sir, can you hear me?” One of the doctors asks, before turning to Elanor. “What’s his name, ma’am?”

She blinks a few times before the question catches up, and quickly answers, “Reid.”

“What’s his last name?”

“No, no, no, that is his last name. I don’t- I don’t know what his first name is.” A few of the nurses exchange looks, and Elanor can’t really blame them. She knows she’d react the same way if she was working.

When they push the stretcher through a pair of double doors, a hand on her shoulder stops her from continuing. “Ma’am you’re going to have to wait out here-”

“Wait!” She interrupts, “I’m- I’m a nurse,” She takes quick breath, “I’m a nurse, and I’m the only one that knows what’s happened.” Elanor swallows before confessing, “He doesn’t even know what happened, okay?”

The nurse takes his hand off her shoulder, and weighs his options before allowing, “If you’re going to come with, you need to stay out of our way.”

Elanor quickly nods. “Of course.”

Jogging to catch up with Reid and his plethora of staff, she ignores the rest of the ER. They pull him to a wall, connecting him up with a pulse oximeter, sphygmomanometer, and prying open his eyes to shine a penlight in.

Elanor listens to their initial assessment, attempting to take in all of their readings. One of the nurses moves her farther away, and although she wants to argue, she knows that they need room.

With a shaky breath, Elanor looks around the ER, reminding her why she prefers the calm clinic to a hospital. There are beds across all four walls, with a station in the middle. A few people away from Reid is one of the burn victims from one of the fires, and Elanor frowns in sympathy. 

It feels odd to her being in a place with patients and not being able to help any of them. It feels wrong on a physical level.

There’s two people in suits talking with the burn victim, looking far too official to be in the busy ER. One of them has a pad of paper, taking notes.

Elanor turns back to look at Reid, but her view is almost completely blocked. The nurse from earlier asks her a question, and it takes her a few moments to digest it.

“What?”

“What happened to him?”

Swallowing, Elanor answers, “He, um, he said his head was hurting.” She curses herself. She’s a nurse. She can do better than this. “He had a, a seizure, a couple hours ago, it wasn’t long,” She quickly adds. “Less than two minutes. He has a head wound on the left back side of his head,” She gulps before continuing, “There was minimal swelling a few days ago, and it’s only gone down since then-”

The nurse interrupts her when one of the suits peers her head towards Reid. “Ma’am, you can’t go near him,” He says, holding a hand out to deter her.

The woman effectively shuts him up when she digs out a badge, shoving it in the nurse’s face. Elanor’s eyes widen when she sees it. This woman is FBI?

Although that surprises her, it’s absolutely nothing compared to the bewilderment she feels when the woman looks down at Reid and gasps.

“Spence?”

Chapter Text

Reid feels ghostly hands touch his body, but he’s not even quite sure they’re real. Voices fade in and out. 

His eyes flutter closed, and he fades out as well.

“Spence?”

Elanor’s eyes go wide in a fraction of a millisecond, and it takes her a few seconds to even breathe before she asks, “You know him?”

Ignoring her, the woman turns to the doctor and demands, “Why is he here? Where’s he hurt?” With a face that seems like it could mean seconds away from tears in a lesser woman, she turns back to Reid and tries again, “Spence? Can you hear me?”

Annoyed by the extra person in his space, the doctor gives a curt, “Ma’am-” but Elanor quickly takes over the question.

“Do you know him?” She asks again.

Finally, the woman takes note of her. Suddenly, the FBI agent’s face turns from worry into a take-no-bullshit demeanor. Elanor can appreciate it. “Who are you?” She asks, but it’s more of a statement than anything.

Still flustered from the man in the bed, Elanor answers, “My name is Elanor, but please, tell me, do you know him?”

Ignoring her question yet again, the agent counters with, “Were you the one that brought him in?”

Before Elanor can answer, a man in a suit, presumably another FBI agent comes over, before looking at Reid. “Fuck,” He mutters. “How the hell does he always get himself in these situations?”

“Do you know him too?” Elanor questions.

Turning to her, he asks, “Who the hell are you?”

Exasperatedly, Elanor replies again, “My name’s Elanor, and-”

This time, the doctor interrupts, “How long was the seizure?”

“I told you, less than two minutes. Tonic clonic, I think.” The doctor nods before turning back to Reid, carefully inspecting his head wound.

The female FBI agent bites her lip and asks, “He had another seizure?”

“Does he have a history of seizures, ma’am?” The doctor questions.

Elanor wants to scream. She could’ve done so much more back at her mom’s house if she knew Reid has had seizures before. If Reid himself knew that he had a history of seizures.

The agent rubs a hand over her face and quickly answers, “He’s had two, maybe three, about a decade ago. He hasn’t had any since,” She cuts herself off before adding, “Oh, shit, shit.” Ignoring the nursing staff trying to push her back, she rolls up Reid’s sleeves, and loudly curses when she sees the bandages. “What did he take?” She demands to Elanor.

“He didn’t take anything,” Elanor quickly answers. “He was scratching at his arms, so I bandaged them up earlier today.”

“You bandaged them?”

“I’m a nurse,” Elanor quickly clarifies.

The doctor frowns, before asking the agents, “How long were his seizures ten years ago?”

“All less than four minutes,” The female answers, “He was never hospitalized for them.” and Elanor feels a bit of relief. However it’s short lived when the woman changes her answer with a shaky laugh. “All, all except one,”

Frown depending, the doctor asks, “How long did that one last?”

Elanor couldn’t have guessed the answer even if she had a million tries.

“Until he died.”

Elanor opens her mouth like a fish for a few seconds before exclaiming, “I’m sorry, what?”

This time the male agent is the one to softly confirm, “That was with Hankel, wasn’t it?” 

“We need to get him to an MRI,” The doctor declares to the nursing staff, and in a second the stretcher with Reid is already moving away.

Watching in confusion, Elanor sees the FBI agents each give a quick squeeze to the unconscious man’s hands. The female one takes a long, shaky, breath, before putting on her best ‘official’ face and turning back to Elanor.

“You have a lot of explaining to do.” The nurse just wants to scoff and tell her the same thing, but instead she just nods.

“So, Elanor,” The man starts, “You’re a nurse?”

“Yeah, I work up in a clinic in Ukiah,” She quickly answers. “So you guys know him?”

“Oh I know him,” The woman agrees. “And I know for a fact that you don’t. So you’ve got a few seconds to explain yourself before I take you in for questioning.”

“‘Questioning?’” Elanor sputters, flabbergasted. “Who the hell are you people?”

Puffing out her chest and holding out her badge, the woman answers. “Supervisory Special Agent Jareau. From the FBI.” She adds, just for extra measure.

“SSA Rossi,” The man answers, holding out his hand with equal skepticism.

Elanor slowly shakes their hands. “Wait, FBI?”

“Did I stutter?” The woman barks out, before SSA Rossi puts a hand on her shoulder, a silent warning to calm down. “What’s your full name?”

“Elanor Truman.” She answers.

“How do you know Agent Reid?” SSA Rossi asks.

Elabor furrows her brow and softly repeats, “Agent Reid?” A few seconds later she puts a hand over her mouth and mutters, “Of course! That makes so much sense!”

“What makes sense?”

“The bullet wounds! The fact that he knows how long it takes for blood to dry,” She replies.

SSA Rossi scoffs and murmurs, “Oh he just knows things like that for fun.”

“Rossi.” SSA Jareau chastises.

“What? You know it’s true.”

“So Reid’s an FBI agent? Like you guys?”

Rather than answer the nurse’s question, SSA Jareau asks, “When did you meet him?”

“On Friday,” She trails off before continuing, “Jesus, that was only yesterday, wasn’t it?”

“And he didn’t tell you he was an agent?”

Elanor winces. “We, uh, need to talk.”

“Oh, we need to do a lot more than just talk,” Rossi replies. “We also can’t be milling around the ER. There’s some plastic chairs in the waiting room with our names on it.”

Jareau looks unhappy about it, but she follows Rossi out the doors, while Elanor trails in the back.

The three sit in awkward silence for a few seconds, and Elanor decides she can’t take much more of it. “So,” She starts, “Are you guys co-workers?”

With a wet laugh, Jareau answers, “We’re more than just co-workers,”

Elanor blanches. Did she kiss a married man earlier today? “Oh. Oh, are you guys married?”

This time Rossi laughs, but Jareau’s the one to reply, “No. He’s,” She swallows, “Spence is like my brother.”

She hopes they can’t see her relief. “Oh. Is that his name?”

Rossi frowns. “You don’t know his name?”

“No, I know his last name. Reid, right?”

Jareau gives her a curious look. “Yes,”

Elanor takes a deep breath, and then another. She has to get over this at some point. “Listen, there’s something you guys need to know,”

“Yeah no kidding, we don’t know anything about what happened to him-”

“No, it’s not that.” Elanor quickly shakes her head. “I mean, it is about that, but it’s also something more, and-”

“Just tell us,”

Elanor doesn’t look at their faces when she answers. “He doesn’t remember anything.”

Rossi frowns. “He doesn’t know what happened to him?”

“He doesn’t know anything about himself.” She clarifies, and holds her breath.

Unsurprisingly, both of them look more than a little confused. Jareau speaks up, “What do you mean?”

“I mean when I met him, he didn’t even know his name. He has no idea how he got to Ukiah, and he has no idea how he got hurt.”

The two agents look at each other, having a silent conversation that Elanor can’t decipher. It lasts for a few moments until Jareau suddenly announces, “Shit, we need to call Emily.” She digs out her phone, but Rossi puts his hand on her leg.

“Stay. I’ll call her.”

“Are you sure?”

“‘Course,” Rossi answers softly, standing up from his chair.

Elanor turns away when Jareau puts her head in her hands. It’s obvious that she cares a lot about Reid, and Elanor feels like she’s in the way.

Of course, it’s just her luck that her dad comes nearly running through the doors a second later. Edward’s eyes scan the disheveled looking crowd before settling on his daughter.

“How is he?” Edward asks.

Before Elanor can answer, Jareau is back in defensive mode, and quickly asks, “Who are you?”

“Edward Truman, ma’am,” 

“He’s my dad,” Elanor replies right after. “He drove us to the hospital.”

Jareau nods before sighing. “You need to walk me through what happened. How did he get hurt?”

“Are you here investigatin’ him?” Edward asks.

Elanor shakes her head. “Dad, she knows Reid.”

A smile breaks out on his face. “You do? Oh, I’m so glad,” He lets out a relieved chuckle. “What’s his name? I’ve been dyin’ to know,”

However before Jareau can answer, Rossi comes back and announces to his colleague, “Prentiss is on her way. Alvez, Lewis and Walker are all staying at the precinct, still working the case.”

Jareau nods before introducing, “Uh, this is Elanor’s dad. He also knew Reid the past couple days, I guess.” 

“SSA Rossi,” He greets, giving a hand.

After shaking and giving his own, “Edward Truman,” he asks, “So y’all are FBI agents?” He pauses before making the connection that his daughter made a few minutes ago. “The Reid kid is FBI, isn’t he?”

Jareau nods. “Yes. And to answer your question earlier, his name is Spencer. Supervisory Special Agent Doctor Spencer Reid.”

Edward whistles, receiving a nasty stare from someone in the waiting room. “Goddam. That kid has one helluva title.” Rossi snorts in agreement.

Frowning, Elanor’s stuck on a part of his name. “He’s a doctor?”

“PhDs.” Jareau clarifies. “Three of them.”

“Damn.” Edward muses.

Jareau bites her lip before requesting, “Start from the beginning. When did you first find Spence?”

Elanor and her dad share a glance before she begins. “My mom said that she found him out on her field. They um, they own a farm on the outskirts of Ukiah. I’m not exactly sure what happened, but he had that gash on his head,” She motions to her own head to show the placement. “And he was really disoriented. At some point she asked him what his name was, and he didn’t know.”

“He didn’t know what his name was?” Rossi confirms.

Elanor wants to snap, but she knows how incredulous this story sounds. “Yeah, he just had no idea who he was. And, as I said earlier, he didn’t even know where he was either.” She takes a breath before continuing, “So my mom brought him to the clinic where I work. I disinfected and put some gauze on his head, and then did a full physical. That’s when I found everything else.”

“Everything else?” Jareau questions.

“He has so much scar tissue on his body. I worked at the local VA when I was younger, and he had more scars than any of them. He has multiple bullet wounds, and-”

Jareau cuts her off, “I know. Did you do a drug test?”

Elanor shakes her head. “I couldn’t. There’s no lab at the clinic, and the local station that we have, is, well,”

“Pretty crappy.” Rossi finishes. “We set up there earlier today. Looks like a station from the seventies.”

“Yeah.” Elanor nods. “In order to get blood work there, it takes days to even get some qualified,” she makes finger quotes around the word, “And by then, there’s usually no drugs left in the system.”

“You said you were a nurse?”

“Yeah.”

“So in your opinion, do you think he was drugged?” Jareau asks her.

Pausing, Elanor answers, “I think so. He was disoriented, but a few hours later he seemed more alert, which wouldn’t make sense if his symptoms were from a concussion. But even when the drug wore off, he still didn’t know anything about himself.”

“He’s not from ‘round here, right?” Edward asks.

Rossi shakes his head. “He lives in Virginia.”

“How the hell did he get here?” Elanor murmurs, and Jareau softly sighs.

“He was given a week of leave,” She starts.

Rossi gives her a look, “The kid willingly took a week of leave? You sure it wasn’t mandated?” He ignores Elanor’s concerned look.

Turning to her friend, Jareau admits, “He was going to visit his mom. A few weeks ago he told me she was getting worse.”

“Poor kid.” Rossi softly says.

Cocking her head to the side, Elanor asks, “Wait, his mom?”

“Why does that matter?”

“He’s remembered a few things,” Elanor explains, “One of them being his name, but the first thing he remembered was his mom.”

“Is she okay?” Jareau asks.

“I have no idea.” Elanor confesses. “Reid - well, Spencer - didn’t exactly remember her as a whole.” She gulps before continuing, “All he remembers is that she’s sick. With, uh, schizophrenia.” When Jareau sighs, she asks, “Does she really have schizophrenia?”

Rossi confirms, “His mom is a paranoid schizophrenic. She lives in Nevada.”

“A helluva lot closer to Ukiah than Virginia,” Edward points out.

Jareau wrings her hands together, a similar nervous tick that Elanor also saw in Reid. “I still don’t understand. Spence didn’t remember anything about himself?”

“No.” Elanor replies. “He had begun to remember a few things, but it seemed like with every new memory he reacted worse and worse.”

“What else has he remembered?” She asks shakily, no doubt wondering if Reid remembers her.

Elanor furrows her brow to think back of the past two days. “He remembered his mom had schizophrenia first, but he doesn’t even know her name. And then we figured out that he can- Jesus,” She cuts herself off, “Did you know he can read ridiculously fast? He read three books in less than an hour,”

Rossi laughs. “Oh those are rookie numbers for him.”

“How does he do it?” Elanor questions.

“He has an eidetic memory,” Jareau starts to explain, “It's a bit confusing. Basically, he can remember everything he sees, so he just,” She waves a hand, “Takes everything in subconsciously, and then can think back to the information whenever he needs it.”

“Wow.” Elanor mutters.

Jareau nods for her to continue, “What else did he remember?”

“Um, well, at first, he thought he was remembering a bunch of people that were telling him to read, but-”

Rossi cuts her off, “But it’s actually his name.”

“Yeah.” She nods. “He hasn’t really remembered much at all. That’s basically it, except for a bunch of random facts,” She adds, shaking her head. “It’s really strange, sometime we’ll just be talking, and he’ll just spew out all of these statistics.”

Jareau gives a laugh that sounds like she’s about to cry. “Good to know that that’s stayed the same.”

“He does that normally?” Edward asks, although he thinks he already knows the answer.

“Yeah,” Jareau confirms. “He has statistics for probably everything in the world.” She shakes her head fondly, and Rossi puts a comforting hand on her leg. A few seconds later she questions, “Is that all he remembered?”

Elanor nods softly. “That’s all, except I think he was really close to remembering someone.”

“Who?”

“I’m not sure,” Elanor admits. “Maybe a kid? He fainted yesterday, and when he woke up, he called my son Henry.”

Jareau jerks her head up. “Henry?”

“Yeah.”

Jareau smiles for the first time that Elanor’s met her. “He called your son Henry?”

Elanor gives her a look. “Uh, yeah, that’s what I said,”

Pulling out her phone, Jareau unlocks it and shows the other woman her lock screen. “Does he, by any chance, look like your son?”

A blond haired boy, a few years older than Geroge looks back at her. “Yeah,” She says. “A lot, actually.”

Grinning even wider, Jareau tells her, “That’s my son, Henry.” She clicks off her phone and smiles, “Spence is his godfather.”

“Oh,” Elanor breathes. “Wow. So you’ve really known him for a long time?”

“Yeah,” Jareau smiles. “Yeah.” She takes a deep breath and rubs a hand over her head. “God. He’s gotta be okay, Rossi. I mean, Morgan just left, and now this?”

Elanor frowns. She wonders if Morgan was a girlfriend of his or something. 

“You know he’s bounced back from worse,” Rossi soothes, but that just depends her frown. How the hell does someone go through something worse than this?

But after remembering what Jareau said earlier, she quietly asks, “So, that one seizure you mentioned,” She starts awkwardly, “He died from it?”

Jareau swallows. “It’s, it’s not really my story to tell. He had- there were drugs in his body, and he was in a lot of pain. He fell to the ground, hitting his head, which triggered a seizure and- yeah.” 

“And you guys were able to resuscitate him.” Elanor concludes.

Much to her surprise, Jareau shakes her head. “Not exactly,” Before Elanor or Edward could ask any questions she quickly concludes, “Like I said, it’s not my story to tell.”

Suddenly, a phone rings, and Rossi stands, putting it to his ear. “Rossi.” He pauses, listening to whoever is on the other end. He frowns, and turns to ask Jareau, “JJ, when was the last time you heard from the kid?”

She gives him a weird look. “Before all of…”

“Yeah.”

“Saturday. A week ago. He sent a text letting me know that he got to Las Vegas that night, and he was going to wake up early to see Diana, so he probably wouldn’t call me in the morning.”

Rossi murmurs, “That’s what I was afraid of,” before uncovering the microphone and continuing the conversation on the phone. “Do CSI agree? Yeah.” He sighs. “No, thanks for letting me know.” Elanor awkwardly looks down, feeling like she’s intruding by watching him. “Yeah. Did Prentiss call you both?” A pause and then, “We don’t know yet. Mmhm. Yeah.” He pauses once more before ending, “Just keep at it there. One of us will call with updates. Yeah. Bye.”

Shoving the phone back in his pocket, Rossi gives a look to Jareau that Elanor doesn’t understand, but based on the other woman’s expression, she assumes she can. 

Not a second later, Jareau stands up to find someone entering the ER.

“Emily,” She breathes, bringing her into a hug. 

Rossi gives her a hug as well, before asking, “How’d you manage to get here that fast?”

The woman, who Elanor assumes is Emily, answers, “What’s the point of having sirens if you’re not going to use them?” Eliciting a snort out of the man.

She then turns to Elanor and her dad, holding out her hand. “SSA Prentiss. I’m Reid’s Unit Chief.” After shaking, she continues, “We’re going to need to interview both of you.”

“Uh, okay.” Elanor answers, getting the feeling that no matter how she answered there would be only one outcome.

“Who found Reid first?” She asks with an air of confidence that made Jareau look like a little kid.

“My mom.” Elanor answers quickly.

“Okay, we’ll need to bring her in too,”

Elanor puts her hands up, “She’s watching my kids. And she lives about an hour out.”

Prentiss doesn’t seem fazed at all. “Tell her to bring your kids then. We need her here as soon as possible.”

Elanor narrowly stops herself from rolling her eyes, and luckily Edward quickly offers, “I’ll call her. Don’t worry.”

“Thanks, dad.” She replies.

After Edward steps away, Elanor awkwardly looks at the three agents around her, all in varying levels of worry and anger. She’s never felt so out of place.

Jareau is the first to break the silence. “Where did Spence stay?”

“What?”

“You said that your mom found him yesterday. Where was he after he saw you at the clinic?” She clarifies as the other two agents stare her down.

Clearing her throat she answers, “At my parent’s place. He had no idea where he was, and my mom and I both agreed that he needed to be somewhere safe until we figured it out.” The agents continue to stare her down. She tries, and fails, to not think about it. “I was still worried about him, but I had to finish the rest of my shift, so we - my mom and I - just figured that it would be best for him to stay with her. After my shift I picked up my kids from school and went over.” She continues. “I wanted to stay that evening to make sure he was okay, but I ended up staying the night, and when he got worse today, I knew I couldn’t just let him leave.” She gives a shaky laugh. “Plus, you know, my mom would kill me if I let that happen.”

“You stayed with him this entire time?”

“I mean, it’s only been a day and a half, but, yeah.” Elanor answers truthfully.

Jareau’s face crumples with relief. “Thank you.”

“What?”

The agent smiles at Elanor and continues, “Thank you. There’s terrible people in this word, and maybe I’m just hyper aware of them because of the job,” Prentiss raises her eyebrows in agreement, “But thank you for staying with him. You don’t know the things that could’ve happened.”

Elanor smiles at her genuinity. If she didn’t make the connection earlier, it’s painfully obvious that Jareau cares deeply for Reid. “It’s no problem, Agent Jareau.”

She gives a smile of her own and corrects, “Call me JJ.”

Chapter Text

Reid wakes to cotton in his head.

He doesn’t quite feel anything around him, and when he opens his eyes nothing around him registers. He takes a few seconds, slowly blinking, taking in everything around him.

He feels like he’s wrapped in a paper cocoon, far from comfortable, but not outright uncomfortable. His arms itch, his legs are cold, and his head must be floating above the rest of his body.

Suddenly, a hand snakes out to feel his own. Reid follows up the arm to see where the warmth is coming from, and is greeted with a worried smile.

“Hi,” Elanor starts. “How are you feeling?”

Reid squints and looks around. “I’m in the hospital?”

Nodding, she replies, “Yeah. What do you remember?” Her voice seems uncharacteristically soft, but Reid’s aching head appreciates it.

Thinking back, Reid answers, “My head was hurting. Did I get a bloody nose?”

Another nod. “Yeah. It was pretty bad.”

“Am I okay now?”

Elanor sucks in a breath, and looks away from his eyes. Choosing to avoid the question for now, she asks, “Were you able to remember anything more?”

Reid squints. “Some voices.” He bites his lip, “It reminded me of your dad. Whoever it was, they were nice.”

“I’m glad,” Elanor says, too sweet for Reid to not be suspicious.

“What’s going on?” He asks, grimacing when he moves his head to see the rest of the room. “Am I in a private room?”

Elanor takes a shaky breath before beginning her explanation. “Reid, um, I-” She gives an anxious laugh, “There’s someone here to see you.”

“What?” Reid looks as confused as Elanor felt a few hours ago. “Is it my mom? Did you find her?”

“No,” She replies quietly. “It’s someone who knows you though.”

Reid’s eyes grow wide, and Elanor watches the heart monitor speed up a few notches.

Confirming, she asks, “Do you want to see her?”

“‘Her?’” He asks to himself, before replying, “Um, yes. Yes. I’d like to see her.”

Elanor gives one last squeeze to his hand, before standing up. “Okay,”

His heart rate continues to climb as Elanor leaves the room, closing the door behind her. Reid can hear voices, but can’t decipher what they’re saying. 

Finally, the door opens once again to reveal a blond haired woman. She’s ridiculously familiar to Reid. When he sees her, Reid’s sure that she’s been in his life the entire time.

She looks like she’s a few seconds away from tears when she greets him. “Hi, Spence.”

With wide eyes, Reid stares at her for the next few seconds, eyes never leaving her own. Finally, he quietly notes, “You’re the only one in the whole world who calls me ‘Spence.’”

She breathes out, “Yeah,”

Reid looks away, frowning. “Is that my name?”

The woman smiles. “Spencer.” She chuckles before continuing, “You’re Doctor Spencer Reid.” She shakes her head before adding again, “Well, technically you’re Supervisory Special Agent Doctor Reid.”

Reid looks up to her, just to make sure she’s not lying. Somehow, he can tell from her face that she isn’t. “Wow.”

“Yeah,”

“Spencer, huh?”

Smiling again, the woman replies, “Most people just call you ‘Reid’ though.”

“That’s my last name.” He confirms.

“Only a couple people call you by your first name,”

Reid nods, slowly making a connection. “And you’re one of them.”

“Yeah,” She swallows, just barely keeping her tears away from falling.

“We must be really good friends then.” He frowns, and looks back up to her. “Right?”

She bites her lip before answering, “We’re best friends.”

“Oh.” He looks back down, cataloging the fibers in the thin sheet covering him. He knows there’s something that’s so achingly familiar with this woman, but he can’t quite put his hand on it. He wracks his brain, but all that he gets are vague flashes of voices and reminders. He picks on a loose thread as he quietly murmurs, “I’m sorry. I don’t remember you.”

He feels terrible as the woman loses her battle with her tears. “It’s okay,” She soothes. Drops slowly collect and fall down her face, but she still comforts him. “I heard about what happened. You didn’t even remember yourself.”

Spencer swallows. “I’m sorry,” He says again.

This time, the woman comes to sit next to him, and gently grabs his hand. He feels like they’ve done that before. “Don’t apologize,” She says softly, wiping her tears with the sleeve of her other hand. “I’m JJ.”

“JJ.” He echos softly. She just smiles. “I’ve known you for awhile, haven’t I?”

JJ nods. “About twelve years.”

He stares up at her, and for a few moments, JJ thinks that she’s done something wrong. He seemed to be frozen in time, and she doesn’t let out a breath until he talks again.

“I didn’t know what football was,”

“What?” She asks, wiping another tear.

Blinking a few times, Spencer attempts to clarify, “It was you. You, you, taught me what football was.”

JJ ducks her head and gives a laugh that’s nearly a sob. “Yeah, that, that was me.” She laughs again and continues, “You took me to a game, which was weird, because it was your birthday, and at the time, I didn’t even realize that-”

Breathlessly, Spencer finishes, “It was supposed to be a date.”

She continues the half cry, half sob, and holds on tighter to his hand. “I didn’t know that until later, and God, I felt so bad once I realized,” She rubs her thumb over the top of his hands.

“I get the feeling,” Spencer starts, “That I’m still happy with us being friends.” 

Nodding, JJ confirms, “We’re best friends.”

Spencer looks back down, smoothing out the sheet over his body. “How’d you find me? Why am I even here?”

Freely crying at this point, JJ answers, “We found you by accident,”

“What?”

Swallowing, she just replies, “It’s a long story.”

Reading between the lines, Spencer knows that she doesn’t think he’s going to be able understand said story. “Oh.”

“Do you feel up to meeting someone else?”

With a frown he asks, “Meeting someone else I should already know?”

She gives a sad nod. “Yeah.”

“Is it my mom?” He asks, before frowning. “I think I’m worried about her.”

JJ smiles at him. “You love your mom so much, Spence. You’re always worrying about her.” From anyone else, it would seem rude, but from her it just feels like a compliment.

“...But it’s not her, is it?” Spencer deducts.

Shaking her head, JJ confirms, “No. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” He quickly comforts. “Oh, and um, yeah. I’d like to meet someone else.”

“Is it okay if I bring in two people?”

“Yeah.” Spencer says quietly. May as well get through all of the people he’s supposed to know as quickly as he can.

JJ gives one last squeeze to his hand, and leaves with a smile. The hospital door clicks behind her, sending a shudder through Spencer even though he isn’t really sure why.

He looks around the white room, and his skin begins to itch. There’s something about being in a hospital that doesn’t feel right to him. It’s not quite a fear, but it’s definitely close.

Luckily, he’s pulled from his thoughts when the door opens once again.

JJ walks in first, and two people quickly follow suit. Both of them wear the same concerned face that JJ had, and Spencer feels guilty just looking at them.

“Hey, kid.” The man greets, and Spencer’s eyes grow wide.

“It’s you!” He looks right at him and continues, “You’re the one that’s called me ‘kid’ before.” Spencer gives a short chuckle. “I remembered that.” The man smiles back, but Spencer’s falls as quickly as it arrived. “I don’t know your name.”

“That’s okay,” He answers, and Spencer knows that he’s heard that voice somewhere. “David Rossi, kid.”

Spencer sheepishly waves, nervous energy suddenly appearing in his veins.

The black haired woman waves to him as well, and introduces herself, “Emily Prentiss.”

In a single instant, Spencer’s entire demeanor changes. His shoulders rise up, his eyes widen, and his breathing picks up.

JJ’s the first to notice. “Spence? You okay?”

With a shaking arm, he brings it up to Emily’s direction. Although confused, Emily finds it with her own. But as soon as they touch, Spencer jerks it back as if touching a hot stove.

With glazed eyes, he asks, “How?”

“Spence?”

Barely above a whisper, Spencer answers. “You’re dead.”

Emily takes a sharp breath in and sends a worried glance to the others in the room. To her credit, Rossi and JJ look about as concerned as she does, if not more.

“Do you remember who I am?” She tries.

Spencer shakes his head, “I don’t know who you are. All I know is that you’re dead.”

Emily gives a sheepish smile and replies, “I’m pretty alive right now.”

“That doesn’t make sense.” Spencer pushes. “You’re dead. You can’t be alive. Be-because you’re dead.”

Making a sudden connection, JJ sighs, “Oh my God.”

“What?” Rossi asks, eyebrows knit in confusion.

“He’s only remembering the most important parts of us. Or at least, what he considers the most important part.” She points out.

Emily gives her a look, attempting to ignore Spencer’s increased heart rate. “How do you know?”

Gulping, JJ answers. “When he saw me, the first thing he said was that I’m the only one in the world that calls him ‘Spence.’”

“But, that’s not true,” Emily starts, “I call him that too,”

Nodding, JJ explains, “But he doesn’t know that. All he remembers about me is what’s important to him. The fact that I was the first person in his life to call him ‘Spence.’”

Emily looks up to the ceiling. “Oh fuck.” JJ nods, knowing what she’s just figured out. “And when Spence saw me, all he could remember was my death.”

All of their attention gets pulled back to Spencer when he mumbles, “How are you alive?” Tears falling from his eyes, he asks no one in particular, “What did I forget?”

JJ quickly comes to his side, clutching his hand in two of her own. “Hey, Spence, it’s okay. You’re okay.”

Breathlessly, he keeps mumbling, “I don’t, I don’t even, I don’t know who you are. But I know you’re dead.”

“Spence, hey, take a deep breath for me,” JJ softly commands. Turning to her Unit Chief, she quietly asks, “Em, I’m sorry, but can you-”

Emily nods and interjects, “It’s okay. I understand. I’ll be back, Spence. Don’t worry.” She says, leaving the room. 

Rossi takes one look at the other two people left, and quickly excuses himself. It doesn’t take a profiler to realize that the two of them will need some time.

Outside the room, Elanor is anxiously pacing, phone to her ear. After she takes it down, she turns to Emily. “My parents and kids are at the precinct.”

“You should be there too,” Emily points out.

Shaking her head, Elanor mumbles, “I can’t.” Louder, she continues, “I don’t want to leave Spencer until I know he’s okay.” His name feels so foreign in her mouth. “Oh,” She begins again, “The neurologist came by,”

“What’d she say?” Rossi asks.

Swallowing, Elanor asks, “Do you know who Spencer’s medical proxy is?” Catching their attention, both of the agents’ spines go ramrod straight.

“Why?” Emily demands. “He’s awake and conscious.”

Sighing, Elanor explains, “He doesn’t remember anything. We don’t know what he’s allergic to, if he even is allergic to something, and,” She gulps.

“And what?”

“They don’t think he’s fit enough to make his own medical decisions.” She finishes, all in one breath.

“What?” Rossi asks. “The kid’s smarter than all of us put together. Why wouldn’t he be able make his own decisions?”

Elanor sighs again. “Listen, I didn’t choose this. I’m just repeating what the neurologist said.”

Rubbing a tired hand over her face, Emily nods. “I get it. JJ’s his proxy.”

Elanor scrunches up her face. “She is?”

“Spence doesn’t really have any family. He has his mom, but she’s not exactly the best person to be making decisions, even on her lucid days.” When Elanor nods, Emily continues, “At first it was an older agent, he was like Spence’s pseudo father. And then he… left.” She settles on, figuring that Elanor doesn’t need to know everything about Spencer. “And then it was our old Unit Chief, before he also left.”

Elanor frowns, but doesn’t say anything.

“And then it became JJ. They’re family in everything but blood.”

Rossi holds out a hand. “Go back to why he needs a proxy again?”

When both of the agents look at Elanor, she finds a spot on the floor. “The proxy, JJ I guess, needs to decide whether or not Spencer needs brain surgery.”

Rossi curses in a language Elanor doesn’t understand, but Emily just stares at her.

“Brain surgery?” She knows she heard it right, but she’d do anything to make sure that it wasn’t true.

As expected, Elanor nods. “Yeah.” Looking down, she adds, “I’m not sure why exactly. His neurologist wouldn’t tell me. JJ needs to talk to her.”

Back on the decision making train that her career is built on, Emily decides, “We need to tell JJ and Spence as quickly as possible.” Elanor nods, and Emily continues, “I don’t think I should really be the person to tell them.”

Scrunching up her face, Elanor questions, “Why not? I thought you were their boss or something?”

“Spencer isn’t exactly remembering me too well.”

“Spencer doesn’t remember anyone.” Elanor points out.

Not in the mood to argue, Emily plainly states, “I shouldn’t be the one to tell them. Either you or Rossi.”

“I’ll go,” Rossi offers, hand already reaching for the doorknob. “Can one of you find the neurologist?”

Elanor nods. “I got it.”

Interrupting her walk, Emily puts a hand on Elanor’s shoulder. “I can find her. You need to get to the station. I’m having one of my agents hold interviews on your family.”

Exasperated, Elanor argues, “I’m not going to leave Spencer!”

“The best way to figure out what happened to him is by getting the full story. Right now, we need to know what you saw.”

“I already told JJ,” Elanor tries, but Emily just shakes her head.

“It needs to be on the record.”

Elanor glances at the door to Spencer’s room, and sighs. “Fine. Can you at least keep me updated?”

“Yeah. I’ll let the rest of my team know if anything happens.”

Still looking rather unsure of the whole situation, Elanor takes one last glance at the door, and turns to leave. 

Emily scoffs at no one in particular, and heads off into the hallway to find a certain neurologist.

Inside the private hospital room, Spencer rubs his non IV ridden hand over his eyes.

“You okay, Spence?” JJ asks worriedly.

“I don’t have any other family, do I?”

JJ frowns. “What?”

“That’s why you’re my medical proxy. I don’t have anyone else?”

Rossi slides into another chair, scooting it up beside JJ. “You’ve got plenty of family, kid. The BAU, we’re all family.”

Spencer nods, but it’s obvious to the two other profilers that he’s not convinced. 

“Listen Spence, we’re going to get your neurologist in here, and then we’re going to talk. I won’t make a decision without your input, okay?”

Spencer nods, but quickly changes the conversation, throwing JJ and Rossi for a loop. “Do the fires have anything to do with me?”

“Wait, what?”

With a swallow, he expands, “Elanor told me about all the fires in Ukiah. When did I go missing?”

“Spence, you don’t have to worry about-”

“I’m a profiler, right?”

Rossi nods. “You’re a damn good one.”

“I need to know what happened. The profiler inside of me needs to know what happened. It’s been driving me crazy.”

“We’ll figure out what happened, Spence.” 

Ignoring JJ’s comforting words, he reiterates, “When did I go missing?”

With a soft sigh of defeat, JJ answers. “You texted me Saturday, a week ago.”

“That’s not a coincidence,” He replies.

“We don’t know anything yet, Spence.”

Spencer shakes his head, and years of experience tells JJ that he’s getting frustrated already. “No, we know that-” He cuts himself off with a groan.

“Spence you okay?” JJ asks, right as Rossi questions, “Kid?”

Pressing a hand above his eye, he continues, “The fires started the day after, ngh, the day after I went missing,”

“Spence, hey, hey, is your head hurting?”

“‘S fine,” He angrily mutters, but he’s not fooling anyone.

Certainly not the new person in the room, whose voice causes all three agents to turn. “I wouldn’t lie about that, Dr. Reid.” She holds out a hand to Rossi and JJ, introducing herself. “Doctor Bailey Laing.”

When she holds her hand out to Spencer, JJ quickly notes, “He doesn’t really shake.”

However Spencer’s not paying much attention to anything but his head.

“What’s your pain on a scale of one to ten, Doctor Reid?”

Out of what surely must be habit, Spencer answers, “Four.”

Dr. Laing doesn’t seem convinced, but she doesn’t comment on it. Instead, she asks, “Can you tell me where it’s localized?”

Motioning to his head, Spencer answers, “Back middle-ish?” Another pained groan escapes him, causing JJ to frown. “Do I need surgery?”

With a long sigh, Dr. Laing replies, “That’s what I’m here to talk about. Agent Jareau is your medical proxy, correct?”

Both Spencer and JJ answer, “Yes.”

“Are you comfortable with,” She pauses, obviously doing her best to remember names, “Agent Rossi being in the room while we’re discussing treatment options?”

“He can stay,” Spencer mumbles, breathing through the pain.

“Alright.” Pausing, Laing begins. “I’m sure you don’t remember, but you had an MRI earlier today, which showed significant swelling. It’s almost completely internal, which is why your nurse friend didn’t suspect anything earlier.”

“Where’s the swelling?” JJ asks.

Before Laing can answer, Spencer asks, “It’s near the hippocampus, isn’t it?”

“It’s not just near the hippocampus,” Laign corrects, “The swelling is almost exclusively from the hippocampus.”

“That’s why I can’t remember anything.” Spencer concludes.

“We think so, yes.”

From beside the bed, Rossi pipes up. “For those of us who are not doctors, care to explain?”

Laing nods, and easily answers his question. “The hippocampus, among a few other things, stores memories. Doctor Reid’s hippocampus was inflamed and swollen, which we could clearly see from the MRI, but you’d never be able to notice it by just looking.” 

When she pauses, Rossi and JJ nod, digesting the information.

“After, Elanor, I think her name was, explained to me the pain you were getting when you attempted to retrieve your memories, I was able to make a connection.

“What is it?” JJ asks.

“Whenever you’ve been stimulating the hippocampus,” Laing says to Spencer, “It’s been creating extra pressure in a brain that’s already swollen from your head wound, which is causing your headaches.”

Spencer frowns. “And the more I thought about my memories,”

“The more pressure was put on your brain, resulting in more pain, and later, seizures.”

“Oh.” Spencer swallows.

JJ bites her lip at the information. “What can you do to fix it?”

“We’d have to go in, surgically, and release the pressure.”

Frowning, Rossi confirms, “So, brain surgery?”

Laing nods. “It’s different from what you may think of when you hear the words ‘brain surgery,’ but at its core? Yes.”

“Will I be able to remember everything afterwards?” Spencer asks from the bed, lowering his hand from his forehead back to the sheet.

“Honestly?” Laing breathes out, “I don’t know. There’s still so much about brains that we don’t understand yet. My best guess is no. I don’t think this surgery will get you your memories back.” Watching as her patient turns a few shades paler, she quickly adds, “But I do think that you’ll be able to continue remembering your past, just this time painless, and without other physical complications.”

Turning to JJ, he tells her, “I want to do it.”

Before she can answer, Laing advises, “There are a lot of possible complications.”

“There are possible complications with any surgery,” Spencer counters. “I could name a thousand different types of bacterial infections I could get, even before you start prodding in my head.”

Laing nods. “I assure you, we’re very careful with sterilization and post surgery antibiotics, but that’s not what I was referring to.”

“What were you referring to, then?” Rossi asks, giving her an uncertain look.

“To be frank with you, brain surgeries are incredibly dangerous. This one,” She bobs her head to side to side, “This one would be even more dangerous than others typically are.”

“Why?” Rossi demands.

Laing patiently explains, “We need to relieve pressure from the hippocampus. That part of the brain is nestled safely deep inside the brain. It’s incredibly dangerous reaching it, especially because there are still inflamed parts of Dr. Reid’s brain because of the head trauma he sustained earlier.”

JJ rubs a hand over her face. “Well, shit.”

Taking a deep breath, Laing continues. “And that’s not all.”

“What a joy,” Rossi grumbles under his breath.

“The hippocampus is right next to the brainstem.”

Unnaturally calm given the situation, Spencer interjects, “One wrong move, and I’m paralyzed. Or brain dead.”

“Yes.” Laing bluntly confirms. 

JJ feels her heart stutter for a few moments, before choking out, “What are the other options?”

“I won’t lie to you, there aren’t many.” Laing answers. “If we don’t perform surgery, the best option would just be for Dr. Reid to avoid attempting to regain his memory, until the swelling goes down. If the swelling goes down.” She adds. “There’s no guarantee that it would go down by itself.”

“What would happen if it continued to stay swelled?” JJ questions

“Between the swelling and inflammation?” Laing gives her a sharp look. “More pain, more seizures, longer seizures,” 

JJ feels nauseous at Dr. Laing listing possible outcomes like a grocery list, but doesn’t dare interrupt.

“Other parts of the brain could get damaged as well. If things continued to get worse, Dr. Reid could fall into a coma, or even die.”

The three agents are silent, until Rossi eventually speaks up, seconds later. “You never knew how to do things by halves, did you, kid?”

JJ watches Reid swallow, weighing his options, before asking, “What’s the better option for me? In your opinion.”

“Ultimately, it’s yours and Agent Jareau’s decision, but if it were me, I would go for the surgery.” Spencer nods, and Laing gives him a smile. “I’ll let you both decide on what you want to do. If you have any questions, just have a nurse page me.”

“Thank you,” JJ genuinely notes as she leaves the room.

As soon as the door clicks, Spencer turns to his family. “I want the surgery.”

“Spence, you heard the complications,”

“And you heard the problems with not having the surgery.” He counters. 

JJ nods, rubbing a hand over her face. “I know.” She takes a few deep breaths. “I’m just worried.”

Rossi gives a comforting pat on her leg. “How you seem to get yourself in these situations every time, kid, I’ll never know.”

Spencer smiles back at him. “I want to be able to remember,” He confesses. “And I won’t be able to do that without the surgery.” With a shaky hand, JJ runs her fingers through Spencer’s hair. The touch is so familiar, he can’t help but lean into it. Quietly, Spencer adds, “I want to be able to remember my mom. I want to be able to remember you.”

“I know, Spence,” JJ replies, breathlessly. “I know.”

“I want the surgery.”

With tears staining her cheeks, JJ supports him. “Okay,” She whispers. “We’ll do the surgery.”

Chapter Text

Despite Spencer’s urgent brain surgery, there was still a serial arsonist at large. Emily and Rossi went back to the station, continuing their work, albeit slower than usual.

Armed with a large coffee, JJ stayed in the hospital, nervously biting her nails, a habit she thought she had gotten rid of years ago. Taking careful sips of the coffee, JJ debates on who she should be calling about this.

Morgan? He’s happy with Savannah and Hank, and from personal experience, JJ knows he already has his hands tied from taking care of a baby. 

She considered calling Hotch, but she knew he was happy with Jack, living a life that everyone in the BAU once dreamed about.

Next was Diana, but JJ had no clue of how she would react. At best, she’d be lucid, but still worry out of her mind. At worst, Spencer’s memory loss would play perfectly into her schizophrenic delusions, and JJ knows her doctors wouldn’t appreciate that.

Who else should she call? JJ knows Blake would care, but she’s finally living with her husband, happy in New York. She knows Spencer wouldn’t want to interrupt her.

JJ takes another long sip of coffee, sighing. Other than Diana, there’s no family members that need to be informed of this. It breaks her heart, knowing that Spencer wouldn’t really have anyone without the BAU.

Her chirping phone pulls JJ from her thoughts. “Jareau.” She answers without checking the caller ID.

“Hey, JJ.”

“Emily?” JJ frowns, putting her coffee on the floor beside her chair. “Is everything okay?”

“There’s been another fire,” The Unit Chief reports with a sigh.

JJ runs a hand over her face. “Escalation?”

“Yeah. Four deaths.”

“Dammit.” She ignores a nasty look from someone in the waiting room, and asks, “Did you get anything useful out of the Trumans?”

“About Spence?”

“Yeah.”

Emily sighs. “Not much else from what you already told me.”

“Did you…?”

Reading her mind, Emily confirms, “I told them Spence was taken into surgery. The kids are sleeping on the break room couch, and Elanor looks like she’s about to explode with nervous energy.” She reports.

JJ gives a nervous laugh. “Well then she looks about how I feel.”

There’s a beat of silence, before Emily answers, “He’s going to be alright.”

Nodding, even though the recipient can’t see it, JJ confesses, “I know. He’s got to be. He’s just,” She tapers off, frowning. “So many things have happened to him, and now this, I’m just-”

“Jayje,” Emily cuts her off. “Spence is gonna be okay.”

“I know.” She quietly answers.

“Don’t worry about the case.” Emily instructs. “Just stay with him.”

“I will.”

“Call me when he’s out?”

“‘Course.” JJ answers with a smile. 

“Thanks. Bye, Jayje.”

“Bye. Stay safe.”

With a chuckle, Emily replies, “Oh, you know me,” before hanging up.

Smile falling from her lips, JJ sighs, slipping her phone back into her pocket. She picks up her coffee, cradling it to her chest as a half-assed piece of comfort.

It’s going to be a long couple of hours.

It was late in the night when Spencer went into surgery, and by the time Dr. Laing comes back out, it’s nearly four in Sunday’s morning. 

JJ immediately stands up, meeting Laing halfway, all tiredness instantly dissipating. She can nearly feel her blood pressure go down when Laing has a smile on her face. 

“Everything went really well,” Laing starts. “It took about an extra hour than we were originally hoping, but everything turned out okay.”

With a smile, JJ asks, “Spence is gonna be fine?”

“We were able to drain the pressure in his brain, but we won’t know for sure until he wakes up. We’re also going to do another MRI scan, just to double check that everything is how it should be.”

Nodding, JJ can’t help but ask, “Is he going to be able to remember things now?”

With a deep breath, Laing answers, “Honestly? I don’t know. What I can tell you, is that if he continues to remember things, he shouldn’t be in any danger. Hopefully he won’t even feel a prick of pain.”

“‘If?’” 

“I’m sorry,” Laing genuinely confirms. “I wish I could tell you that he’d be able to remember everything, but I can’t.”

Rubbing a tired hand over her face, JJ understands. “I know. I get it.” She then takes a quick breath and asks, “Can I see him?”

“He’ll be in post-op recovery for about an hour, and then I want to get him in the MRI. If everything’s good after that, Dr. Reid will be moved back into his room, and ready for visitors.”

“How long will that be?” JJ presses.

Tilting her head to the side, Laing reports, “Probably another couple of hours. If you’ve been here all night, I really recommend going somewhere to rest. There’s a hotel not far from here,”

JJ shakes her head. “I need to meet with my team. Two hours, you said?”

“Give or take.” Putting her clipboard under her arm, Laing requests, “You should get some rest. You can have another one of your agents be here when Dr. Reid wakes up.”

Ignoring the last comment, JJ replies, “Thank you for, for, everything, really.”

“It’s no problem,” Laing comments. “It’s just my job.”

“Still though, thank you. I’ll be back in two hours.”

After one last handshake, Laing adds, “At least take a nap, Agent Jareau.”

“I’ll see what I can do.” She calls back, phone already in her hand, Emily’s number half dialed.

When Spencer wakes, his head feels heavy.

“Hey there, Doctor Reid. Can you tell me how you’re feeling?”

Taking a few seconds to decipher the question, Spencer frowns. “Tired?”

Dr. Laing smiles. “That’s understandable. You’ve just gotten out of brain surgery.”

Spencer nods, without actually taking the information in. A few moments later, it registers. “Oh. Oh!” He brings an uncoordinated hand up to his head, but Laing gently brings it back down to the mattress.

“How’s my…” Spencer frowns again, searching for the right word. “Hippocampus?”

With a grin, Laing responds, “I am pleased to report, that there is considerably less swelling in and around your hippocampus, and, with a bit of time, any inflammation will also go away.”

“That’s good.” Spencer murmurs. He scrunches his nose before asking, “Did you shave my head?”

“Only a little bit, and technically it was a nurse,” Laing chuckles. “Can I ask you a few questions? You’re definitely more responsive than you were earlier.”

Spencer squints. “I was awake earlier?”

“Briefly, on your way to a second MRI. I’m not surprised you don’t remember it. You were barely conscious, and only for a few seconds. However we were able to confirm that your cognitive functions were pretty much up to par.”

“Oh.”

Bringing up her clipboard, Liang asks, “Can you tell me your name?”

“Spencer Reid.” He answers, and then frowns. “Wait, I think I’m a doctor?” Frown deepening, he adds, “But I don’t think I’m a medical doctor.”

“You’re not,” Laing agrees. “You have PhDs.”

Nodding, Spencer confesses, “That sounds familiar.”

“Are you in any pain right now?”

Spencer scrunches up his face, deep in thought. “I don’t think so.”

Laing gives him a look. “Are you not sure?”

“No, I don’t think I’m in pain. But…”

“But?”

“But that feels weird.”

Hiding a concerned look, Laing questions, “It feels weird to not be in pain?”

“It feels unfamiliar.” Spencer clarifies.

Not knowing what to do with that, Laing just notes, “Well, I’m glad that you’re not in any pain, especially after recalling information about yourself.”

Spencer nods in agreement.

“I’ll ask a few more questions intermittently, or have an attendee do so, but for right now, are you feeling up for a visitor? You have a couple of agents vigilantly waiting to see you.”

“Do they have Jell-O?” Spencer asks, eliciting a chuckle out of the doctor.

“I will go check,” She promises with a smile. “Is that a ‘yes’ for sending them in?”

He nods again. “Yeah.”

Laing smiles, and adds, “I’m glad to see you’re feeling better, Doctor Reid,” Before leaving the room.

The door doesn’t even have time to close before two women file in.

“JJ.” Spencer notes, proud of remembering his old co-worker. He scrunches up his face, but eventually deduces a bit of information to the other woman. “You gave me a stress ball.” He muses. “When I first met you. I was nervous. And you gave me a lime green stress ball.”

The woman nearly squeals, and replies, “Aww my Junior G-Man, you remember!” She then turns to JJ and seriously asks, “Wait, am I allowed to call him nicknames? Is that going to confuse him?”

Spencer answers. “It’s okay. I already know my name.”

Nervously chuckling, the woman replies, “Oh, good.” She quickly makes herself comfortable in a bedside chair, and smiles at him. “JJ told me you might not remember my name, so I’ll just give you a quick refresher. Hi, my name is Penelope Garcia, but most people just call me Garcia, and we’ve met before!”

With an understanding nod, he asks, “You like glittery stuff, right?”

JJ snorts. “You would be able to tell that without being a profiler.”

With faux defensiveness, Garcia counters, “You absolutely cannot!”

“You’re wearing a pink blazer with sequins,” Spencer points out, and he can’t help but find himself smiling.

Garcia just smiles and murmurs, “Damn profilers,” with a wink. 

Turning the conversation, JJ reports, “Doctor Laing said she gave you the go ahead to start remembering things? Are you up for that?”

Spencer nods vigorously. He’d been ready to remember since he woke up in Harriet’s field. “I don’t know where to start,” He confesses.

“Do you remember when you came back to the BAU? When you were really little?”

“Why did I ever leave?” Spencer asks, furrowing his brow.

With a sigh of understanding, JJ explains, “Gideon went on medical leave for a few months, and you ended up going back to the world of academia,” She makes a dramatic show of her hands, “to finish one of your PhDs.”

“Yeah,” Spencer agrees. “I have three of them, right?”

Garcia squeals. “Our little genius remembers!”

Frowning, Spencer murmurs, “I had to get my requalification for carrying a firearm.” JJ and Garcia send each other a nervous glance, but Spencer notices it. “Someone gave me a whistle. Who gave me a whistle?”

With a smile, JJ answers, “That would be Morgan.”

“Morgan,” Spencer quietly echos. “I think I remember him. Is he here?”

Garcia sadly shakes her head. “No. He left. To be with his family.”

“Oh.” Spencer quietly replies. He then looks up and questions, “Did Gideon also leave?” The two girls don’t say anything, but that’s enough for Spencer to make the connection. “He died, didn’t he?”

While biting her lip, JJ gets out, “Yeah. A couple years ago.”

Looking back down at the thin hospital sheet, Spencer admits, “I think I remember him, but I don’t remember him dying.”

The three sit in awkward silence, before JJ breaks it, nearly a minute later. “Spence, do you think you’d be able to remember what happened in the past week?”

“I, I think so. I can at least try,” Spencer nods. “Why?”

“Emily wants to try a cognitive with you.”

“A cognitive interview.” Spencer confirms. “We typically use it with witnesses that went through a trauma and may have repressed their memories.” He frowns. “Oh.”

Setting a hand down beside Spencer’s own, JJ asks, “Do you think you’d be up for that? It would really help us figure out what happened to you.”

Spencer opens his mouth to reply, but closes it a few moments after. His face scrunches up as he points out, “I could do a cognitive, but, why would Emily interview me? She’s dead.”

JJ withdraws her hand and softly sighs.

But before she can explain it, Spencer continues. “It’s one of the few things I know I’ve remembered. I remember burying her.” 

After ignoring an alarmed look from Garcia, JJ swallows and tries, “Spence, do you remember what happened a few weeks later?”

“No,” He shakes his head.

With a deep breath, JJ confesses, “She came back,”

“What?”

“She was never really dead.”

“Oh.” Spencer looks nearly as broken hearted as he did a few years ago. Garcia is helpfully looking anywhere but the bed, occasionally picking at her nails. Spencer’s the first one to break the silence. “It had something to do with Doyle, didn’t it?”

Nodding, JJ asks, “Do you remember?”

“I don’t think so. I don’t know who Doyle is,” Spencer mutters. “I only remember bits and pieces. I remember buying street dilaudid.” Both JJ and Garcia suck in a breath, eyes going wide. “Hey, JJ, why am I addicted to heroin?” 

Garcia quickly stands up, fast enough for the chair to nearly be knocked down behind her, and announces, “Okay! I’m going to get some coffee. JJ, would you like some?”

“Yeah sure,” JJ says quickly, not really paying attention to the other woman.

“Great!” She says with faux enthusiasm, and quickly leaves the room.

Frowning, Spencer looks up to JJ and asks, “Did I… Say something?”

Rubbing both hands over her eyes, JJ murmurs, “Oh my god,” Before looking up at her friend and replying, “No, you’re fine, Spence.”

“Okay.” He concedes. “So why am I addicted to heroin?”

Narrowly avoiding choking, JJ quickly says, “Let’s just,” She waves a hand, “Coast over that for the time being. It’s a long story.”

“Why am I still in the FBI if I’m an addict?”

“You’re not an addict!” JJ barks out, and immediately swallows, calming herself down. “Sorry. I just,” She looks around the room. “I promise, I’ll tell you later, if you don’t remember, okay? I just don’t want to get into this right now.”

With a look that could rival a kicked puppy, Spencer nods. “Okay.” 

JJ regretted the words as soon as she said them, but she can’t deal with Hankel right now, and she has no idea how he’d react. She sighs, and attempts to explain, “Emily is alive,”

“Then why do I remember burying her?” Spencer pleads.

“She was in danger,” JJ starts, anxiety crawling up her chest. “She had to fake her death.”

Frowning, Spencer finishes her thought. “And she didn’t tell me.”

“I’m sorry, Spence,” JJ apologizes.

Frowning at her diction, Spencer spends a second making a connection he didn’t know he could make. “You knew, though. Right?”

“Spence-”

“Emily told you. Didn’t she?” Before JJ can neither confirm nor deny, Spencer continues, “That’s why you’re apologizing. She told you, but not me.”

Ashamed, JJ looks down. “I’m sorry.”

Sucking in a breath, Spencer just murmurs, “I don’t remember.”

JJ clenches her jaw, not knowing how to respond. After a few moments, she looks back at Spencer and starts, “Spence, I hate to do this right now, but are you really sure that you’re up for a cognitive?”

Spencer absentmindedly nods. “Laing said it was okay?”

“Yeah,” JJ replies, “She said that as long as you’re not getting any pain with it, doing a cognitive interview might even help you.”

“Okay.” He quietly notes.

“I’m going to let Emily know, okay? Get some rest, Spence.” JJ says softly, so much guilt pouring off of her that Spencer’s surprised he can’t physically see it.

Spencer nods, “Yeah,” But she’s already left.

Thinking back makes Spencer’s brain itch, but it’s not quite enough to be painful. It’s more of a reminder that he’s doing something that his brain doesn’t necessarily like.

Spencer ignores it.

Still exhausted from surgery, Spencer’s eyes flutter close within the minute.

He dreams of crying, day after day, night after night in JJ’s arms. He dreams of bloody hands and bloody wooden stakes. He dreams of panic attacks and white pills.

When Spencer wakes, he’s greeted with the face of his dreams. “Emily.” He notes.

“Hi, Spence,” She smiles. “How are you feeling?”

“I think good,” Spencer confesses. “You’re here for the cognitive.”

Nodding, Emily asks, “Do you feel okay enough for it?”

“Everyone keeps asking me that,” Spencer points out. “And my answer hasn’t changed.” He doesn’t mean it in a cruel way, but rather in the form of a fact, something that Emily’s gotten used to over the years.

“Well, what’s the answer?”

“I’m ready.” Spencer declares. “I want to remember.”

Emily pulls out her phone to record it, and instructs, “Close your eyes.”

With a smile Spencer muses, “I think I might fall asleep if I do that,” But nonetheless follows her guidance.

Chuckling, Emily promises, “I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen. JJ said that you texted her last Saturday. Do you remember that?”

“I’m not sure.”

“You were in your hotel,” Emily reminds him. “What does the room look like?”

Answering before he can even process the question, Spence supplies, “It looks like all of the other rooms I’ve been in. There’s one full bed, a couch, and a desk.”

“What’s on the desk?” She asks.

The shitty hotel desk has one short leg, making the phone slightly lean to one side. There’s a bible in one of the drawers, and a small coffee station on the top right corner.

Spencer clicks on his phone, quickly typing in his ten digit code.

He easily finds JJ’s contact, it’s the first on his list. ‘I’ve just arrived at my hotel. It’s late in Virginia, so I’m not calling you because Henry and Michael should be in bed,’ He smiles, thinking of his godsons before continuing the text, ‘I’m visiting my mom tomorrow as soon as visiting hours begin, but I’m meeting with her doctors beforehand, which will be early, in your time zone.’

He sends it, but quickly adds on. ‘I’ll call you at lunch, unless I’m still at Bennington or if a case comes in for you guys.’ Tired from flying across the country for the better half of his day, Spencer doesn’t wait for a response, just turns off his phone and plugs it in on the nightstand.

The hotel bedding is awful and scratchy, and not for the first time, Spencer wishes he had his own blanket and pillow. He usually keeps something in his go-bag, but he emptied it back out after the last case.

Spencer ends up making a cocoon to sleep in, using the copious amount of extra pillows that all hotels seem to have. Despite the uncomfortable sheets, he’s asleep within minutes. 

His sleep is nearly dreamless, which means that it’s nearly without nightmares, and Spencer takes it as a win. He wakes up around 4:30, body still in Virginia time. He tries to get a few extra hours, but it’s a sisyphean task at this point.

At 5:00, Spencer crawls out of the bed, before going through his daily routine. He always brushes his teeth first, eager to rid his mouth of the bacteria that collects during sleep. After a quick shower and shave, Spencer finds himself in front of the small coffee maker on the desk. He knows it’ll be tasteless and watered down, but that doesn’t stop him from pouring in all of the complimentary sugar packets.

All he’s been able to think about the past few days have been the phone calls from Diana’s doctors. More fits, more bad days, and more refusal to take meds. If it was a one time thing, Spencer wouldn’t be so concerned.

But he knows it isn’t a fluke. Something is wrong.

Too nervous to stay in the hotel room, Spencer grabs his wallet and decides to take his coffee on a walk around Las Vegas. It’s too late in the morning for the casinos to still be open, but he figures he might as well scope out a place that doesn’t have his seventeen-year-old face plastered on the wall with the label, “DO NOT LET HIM IN.”

The morning breeze tosses around the Las Vegas stench, but the trash and cigarette smoke just reminds him of his childhood. Avoiding the cracks in the sidewalk, Spencer turns a corner and-

Darkness overtakes him.

When he wakes, his head is pounding, and everything is dark, even when he opens his eyes. For a second, Spencer thinks he’s gone blind, but eventually he can see little pin pricks of lights. If he didn’t know any better, they could’ve been stars.

“Spencer?”

Spencer brings up a hand to inspect his head, but there’s something preventing him from doing so. It takes him far too long to realize he’s bound, ankles and wrists held together by a combination of old fabric and rope.

He lurches forward from an outside acceleration, and Spencer makes the connection that he’s in a car. Or rather, in the trunk of a car. He knows what to do in this situation (although he wishes he lived in a world where it wasn’t necessary to know what to do what to do when one’s kidnapped), but he can’t maneuver his body enough to kick out the headlights. He tries to roll over onto his side, but all that achieves is causing the ache in his shoulders to increase.

At what Spencer assumes is the next red light, he hears two voices.

“Fuck dude! You had to pick up a fed?”

“Aww c’mon imagine the fuckin’ glory we’re gonna get! It’s not everyday you get away with stealin’ a g-man.”

Spencer files away information for a profile. There are obviously two unsubs, both male. Most likely as a dominant/submissive pair. That’s good. He can work with that.

“Are you insane, Eric? There’s no way in hell we can get away with this. We just just, I dunno, dump him somewhere!”

Spencer can hear the other man scoff from the front seat. “Pussyin’ out me? I thought you were better than this.”

“I am.” The other man argues.

“Then don’t fuckin’ question me, ‘kay?”

“Whatever,” Comes the reply.

“Spencer? Are you sure you want to continue?”

Devising a plan, Spencer knows that he has to go after the submissive unsub first. Once he gets a better profile of the man, Spencer knows that he can manipulate him to let him go.

He has plenty of time to think about it, as it turns out, because he’s stuck in the trunk for another four hours after he woke up. One of the men opens the lid, and Spencer can instantly tell it’s the dominant one.

With a broken tooth smile, he draws his finger down Spencer’s chin. “You were prettier when you were asleep,” He notes with a wistful demeanor. “You can scream, Spencer, if you’d like,” He says, taunting him with his FBI credentials in front of his face. “No one’s around for miles,” The unsub flicks his tongue over his rotten teeth before continuing, “Just how I like it,”

“You know I’m an FBI agent,” Spencer starts, voice sounding too hollow from unconsciousness. 

“‘Course I do, beautiful,”

Spencer nods, feeding into his obvious narcissism. “You’re smart. You know that in a few hours, the Bureau, the government, will be after you.” Sure, it’s a lie, but the unsub doesn’t need to know that.

“Spencer, can you look at me?”

With a devilish grin, he replies, “Good. Everyone will know my name.”

“What’s your name?” Spencer tries. “I can make sure that everyone I work with knows you. I can get everyone in America to fear your name.”

Laughing, he replies, “Oh they’ll know my name! I’ll be right up there Antoine Lavoisier! I’ll be better well known than Alfred Nobel himself!” Spencer stops himself from shivering when he watches the man’s pupils dilate. “They’ll know the name ‘Barney Franklin!’” He laughs a bit more, before gently caressing Spencer’s cheek. He shudders away from the touch, but that doesn’t deter Barney one bit.

Eventually he gets bored, and shouts to his partner, “Eric, go watch the g-man, I’m gonna go piss!”

The submissive, Eric, shouts back, more curses than not. He looks like an average unsub: a white male with brown eyes and hair. He comes over with a plastic water bottle, uncaps it, and halfheartedly pours it on Spencer’s face. The agent is pretty sure that it’s closer to waterboarding than anything else, but Spencer’s parched enough that he’s grateful for it nonetheless.

After Eric takes the bottle away, Spencer attempts to appeal to him. “Eric, right?”

He huffs and replies, “What’s it to you?”

“You don’t have to do this, Eric,” Spencer starts, “Whatever Barney holds over you, I promise I can help. But I can’t do that if I’m tied up.”

Eric scoffs. “Who says Barney has anything over me? He’s protecting me, you dumbass fed,”

Spencer sucks in a breath. Before he can even think about appealing to Eric, he’s going to have to make him lose trust in Barney. “Eric, I can help you, okay? If you untie me, I swear I will.”

“Yeah? Nice try. I’ve heard it all before.”

Spencer sighs. This is going to be more difficult than he originally imagined.

Barney comes back, still zipping his fly when he barks out, “Eric, baby boy, you better not be making friendship bracelets with our little g-man,”

Figuring that the history of friendship bracelets wouldn’t help his cause right now, Spence opts to say nothing. He’s not going to get anywhere with either of them if they’re together. That’s just the psychology of partners.

Barney then opens a car door that Spencer can’t see, pulling out a syringe.

Control slipping, Spencer feels his heart beat faster and his breathing pick up in the matter of a few seconds.

Both Eric and Barney notice.

“Spencer!”

“Wha’s the matter, beautiful? Scared of a little drug?” Barney makes an overexaggerated pout, just to create more humiliation.

With a scoff, Eric adds, “Not much of a fed, huh? You look like you’re about to cry.”

Spencer feels like he’s about to cry, but he keeps that to himself. 

“Get on with it, Barney,” Eric mutters, “We still got more driving to do,”

Silently reminding himself that he’s not back there, he’s not with Tobias, or Charles, or even Raphael. He’s in the trunk of a car because he has spectacularly bad luck, and the needle means nothing. It’s fine. He’s fine. He’s completely-

The needle jabs into the meaty part of his thigh, and Spencer clenches his eyes shut.

“I’m not a sinner,” He whispers underneath his breath. He hears laughter, and the trunk slamming shut as the darkness overtakes him.

 

When Spencer wakes again, he feels like he’s in a swamp.

The humidity is almost suffocating, and he has to take a few measured breaths before he opens his eyes. 

It wasn’t dilaudid.

It wasn’t even heroin.

It was just a run of the mill sedative. Spencer wants to cry with relief. Instead, he takes account of his surroundings. 

His ankles are free this time, but he frowns when he notices his shoes and socks are off. Not only did he like those particular socks, performing an escape without shoes will make things exponentially more difficult. Spencer’s arms are tied behind a support beam that the rest of his body leans against, while his legs are straight out in front of him. The same binding material as before is used up to elbows this time. It’s tight enough that he can’t shimmy up to a standing position.

Spencer frowns. What was the binding material even made out of? He thinks he remembers seeing it, but he’s not sure.

A door opens, and when Spencer turns to look at it, he catalogues the rest of the room. The entire floor is concrete, and the walls are half-assed painted cinder blocks. There’s a puddle of… something… a few feet away from Spencer, and he quickly looks away from it. There are seven concrete steps to the only door in the room.

He’s stuck in a basement, but there’s no wooden chair, no russian roulette, and no fish guts. Spencer can handle this. He needs to be able to handle this, for Diana. His mom needs him.

“Spencer?”

Barney steps through, clutching a small satchel, almost a purse of sorts.

“Hi!” He says, tongue curling over his lips in anticipation. “I’m really glad you’re awake! Let’s talk.”

Spencer nods. “What’s your plan here? You can’t get away with taking a federal agent,” He points out.

Barney just claps his hands together. “That’s just the thing! I’ll be giving you back, don’t worry. I’ll be giving you back with a gift that no one else in the world could even dream about.”

Not knowing exactly what to do with that information, Spencer wonders, “You mentioned two extremely famous chemists earlier. Why?” He’s genuinely curious. Most unsubs are more of the Zodiac obsessed genre.

“Because I’m going to be one of them!” He shouts, eyes wide and manic. “I’m a fucking genius! ” He screams, which suddenly turns into a laugh. “Nobody paid attention to me, nobody noticed!” If Spencer could, he’d back away.

Instead, he tries to act as interested as possible. “What didn’t they notice, Barney?”

“I was smarter than all of them! And they didn’t give a damn just ‘cause I was from a poor-ass family!” He shouts as a reply.

“Who? Who didn’t care about you?”

Ignoring his captive, Barney booms, “And if they’re going to just forget about me, then I’ll make them forget about everything else too!”

“I can make sure everyone knows you,” Spencer promises, “I know people in nearly all academic fields, I’ll make sure they hear about you.”

Laughing, Barney replies, “Oh, they’re gonna hear about me, that’s for sure! Especially when they find you!”

“Barney,” Spencer pleads, “Don’t do this to yourself. You can go down in academic history, I promise. But not if you hurt a federal agent.”

“JJ, find Laing,”

Demeanor suddenly changing, Barney quietly points out, “I don’t want to hurt you, Spencer.” Stunned by the sudden calm, Spencer isn’t able to get anything out before he continues, “This won’t hurt. I promise you, it won’t hurt.”

He then goes to the satchel, and pulls out a small bottle of slightly cloudy liquid. Much to his surprise, Barney doesn’t retrieve a needle, but instead a small cup.

“It won’t hurt,” Barney assures him again, but that’s not what Spencer’s concerned about.

“You don’t have to do this,” Spence tries to remind him, but it has no effect on the man. 

Stuck with his back pressed up against the support beam, Spencer doesn’t have any room to fight when Barney brings the cup to his lips. “It might taste bad,” He warns him, “But only for a second.”

Spencer keeps his lips pressed shut, and tries his best to shake his head to the side. However Barney isn’t deterred. He just sighs, before pinching Spencer’s nose.

He lasts a little over two minutes, lips tightly pressed together, but eventually the lack of oxygen gets to him. His chest convulses, and his mouth opens on its own accord.

“Hey, Spencer, I need you to breathe, okay?”

Barney lets him take two gasping breaths, but right after, the liquid is being poured into his mouth. Spencer tries to spit it back out, but the unsub has already forced his mouth closed, keeping one hand over his lips. Barney uses his other hand to rub down Spencer’s neck, encouraging his muscles to swallow.

Already on edge from Barney’s touch and lack of oxygen, Spencer is only able to hold off for a few seconds.

Once Barney’s satisfied, he takes both his hands away and smiles. “You’re gonna be okay.” He says, lips curling into a smile. “I can’t wait!” He happily says, picking up and carrying the satchel away.

Spencer begins to blink as his vision sways. His head lolls to the side, and his last thought is that the liquid tasted like strawberries.

 

When Spencer wakes, he’s tied to what seems to be a support beam. He’s sitting on a cold concrete floor, and a puddle of something disgusting is next to him. 

“Can you hear me, Doctor Reid?”

A second later, Spencer jolts, knocking the back of his head against the beam. He’s been kidnapped. He remembers the car trunk, and the men.

Men. Plural.

He’s working with partnered unsubs, most likely a dominant and submissive.

One of them walks in, and Spencer can already tell that it’s the submissive. The way he holds himself is still shaky, like a baby bird’s first flight. He isn’t used to kidnapping, and he certainly isn’t prepared to kidnap a federal agent. He has a gun shoved between the waistband of his jeans and his hips.

He also carries a plate of what looks like brown mush, along with a plastic spoon. He sets the plate down, and fumbles with a pocket knife.

“No funny business,” He threatens, but it holds the same effect as if a toddler said it. The submissive cuts the homemade binding material, and Spencer makes a show, dramatically wincing and rubbing his arms. Sure, he feels a few pricks of pain as blood flows unrestricted, but it’s not too bad.

As soon as the submissive turns, Spencer grabs the gun.

He turns, eyes wide with anger, and then fear as soon as his eyes settle on the 9mm. 

“I don’t want to hurt you,” Spencer says slowly, but still cocks the gun.

“Barney!” The man shouts, trying to make a move up the stairs. “Barney!”

Spencer quickly places himself between his kidnapper and the door, determined to not let him out to catch up with what must be the dominant partner. Unfortunately for Spencer, the other man, presumably Barney, Slams open the door, with his own gun.

“Agent, I’m going to need you to leave the room,”

Without thinking twice, Barney pulls the trigger, aimed at his victim.

He’s obviously not confident with a gun, and it aims wide, while the recoil has him stumbling backwards. Spencer isn’t ready to chance his life with another bullet.

With a perfectly aimed bullet, Barney falls to the ground.

“No!” The submissive shouts, first in fear, but it quickly turns to anger when he lays his eyes upon Spencer. “You did this! You killed him!”

In the blink of an eye, the submissive unsub tackles him down, and Spencer’s head makes a sickening ‘crunch’ when it hits the ground. 

He quickly reaches for a satchel that Spencer swears he’s seen before, but can quite place it, before pulling out a bottle of liquid.

Spencer’s first fear is dilaudid, but something in his head tells him that it’s not that. 

Dazed from the head trauma, Spence haphazardly attempts to roll away from the unsub, but he doesn’t get far enough.

Fingers pinch his nose, and when he opens his mouth to yell, liquid is poured into it.

“Drink it!” The man screams, “Drink it!” When he covers Spencer’s mouth after a few seconds he doesn’t have a choice. It tastes like strawberries.

When the world starts spinning, Spencer’s glad he’s laying down. 

“What do I do?” He hears the unsub murmur. “Barney! What do I do? Wake up! Tell me what to do!”

“Can you look at me, Doctor Reid?”

Spencer’s eyelids droop, and he’s unconscious before he takes another breath.

Spencer wakes up, it’s to a man tapping his forehead.

“Who’re you?” He asks, voice slightly slurring.

Eye’s wide, the man replies quietly, “Holy shit. Barney was right!”

“Who’s Barney?” Spencer murmurs, attempting to look around at the unfamiliar room. “Where ‘m I?”

Gulping before smiling, the man assures him, “You’re alright. You’re okay.”

“Where ‘m I?” Spencer presses again. He’s awkwardly sitting against a beam on a concrete floor, and from what he can tell, the windowless walls are made of the same.

“You’re safe.” The man replies. “I’m trying to help you, okay?” Spencer can tell that his assurances are with faux confidence, but he doesn’t call him out on it.

“Shit. Danny, page my team.”

With a scrunching face, Spencer asks, “Tobias?”

“I don’t know who that is,” The man admits. “But don’t worry. Soon enough, you won’t have to worry about him. You won’t even have to think about him.”

Spencer frowns. Something’s off about his diction, but he can’t quite place it.

Holding up a cup, the man instructs, “You need to drink this.”

Shaking his head, Spencer asks, “What is it?”

“It’s going to help you,”

“What is it?” Spencer reiterates.

Looking down, the man confesses, “I can’t tell you that. But it’s going to help you.”

“I’m not going to drink it.”

“Then I’ll have to make you,” He says, reaching his hand up. Spencer shakes his head side to side when he pinches his nose, but it’s no use.

He runs out of oxygen after almost two minutes after clamping his mouth shut, giving Spencer the most powerful sense of deja vu he’s ever gotten. When his mouth is finally forced to open, a liquid is poured in.

Surprisingly, it’s almost sweet, like strawberries. 

When his eyes begin to feel heavy, he tries to demand, “What’d you give me?” but it ends out coming muddled and soft.

“We need to get him back to the third floor,”

The last thing he hears before the darkness wins is the man whispering, “I’m helping you,” and Spencer doesn’t know whether the reassurance is for himself or Spencer.

 

Spencer wakes up feeling confused.

His head feels like those cotton balls that… someone uses to take her makeup off. Who is it again? Which one of Spencer’s friends wears makeup?

“Hi,” He hears a voice say, and quickly turns his head to find it. “Glad to see you’re awake again.”

Scrunching his nose, Spencer asks, “Where am I?”

Smiling, as if he’s heard an inside joke, the man replies, “Don’t worry. You’re somewhere safe.”

Looking around, Spencer doesn’t exactly agree. There’s hard concrete covering the entire floor, and the walls are windowless. Looking closer, he’d bet that the walls are made of cinder blocks.

“CT first, then MRI,”

“I think you need to eat,” The man says, looking unsure. 

When Spencer thinks about it, he can feel how empty his stomach is. “Okay.” He simply answers.

Holding out a plate, the man offers, “I have a sandwich.”

Gingerly poking it, Spencer asks, “Are you stuck here too?”

“We’ll be okay.” He avoids the answer. “Eat. You need it.”

After Spencer eats a few bites out of it, he loses the small bit of his appetite left, and sets the sandwich back down on the plate. His eyes scan the room, frowning when they settle on a strange puddle a few feet from him.

“You need to drink this, too,” The man says softly, holding out a cup. When Spencer peers inside it, a strange liquid resides in it, not too cloudy, but not quite clear either.

“What is it?”

“It’ll help.” Is all the man replies. 

Spencer leans back on what looks to be a support beam and murmurs, “I feel weird.”

“Weird how?” He genuinely asks.

Frowning, Spencer answers, “I feel…” He trails off, trying to think of a word on the tip of his tongue. “...Just confused. I guess.”

“You’ll be okay.” The man supplies. Can you drink this, now?”

“I don’t want to,”

“He’s not hemorrhaging though,”

“It’s the only thing to drink. Please?” He asks, holding the cup up to Spencer’s lips.

With little control over his actions, muscle memory takes over, and Spencer opens his mouth. Part of his mind is screaming at him to stop drinking, but it’s too slow for him to even process.

“Thank you.” The man says.

“Tastes like strawberries,” Spencer mumbles, and he feels sleep pull at his body. “Wha’ was that?” He asks, closing his eyes.

“Nothing you have to worry about.”

 

A man wakes.

With slow eyes, he looks around the room to find himself in a concrete prison. The floors are old, and there’s a puddle of a strange liquid beside him. He thinks that the walls look like they’re made of cinderblocks. 

“Hi,” A man’s voice echos around. “I need you to drink this,”

The first man frowns. “Wha’?”

“Physically, he’s responsive,”

A cup is held up to his lips, and he doesn’t know what else to do other than drink.

“You can go back to bed now,” He hears a voice say.

He nods off, the taste of strawberries on his tongue.

 

A man wakes to an empty room.

He’s lying flat on the ground. He winces when he picks up his head. Rubbing a hand over it, he feels dried blood. It certainly doesn’t help that he seems to be resting on some sort of concrete floor.

Groaning, the man falls back into unconsciousness.

A man wakes up on hard concrete.

His head throbs, and when he touches it, something crusty flakes off.

He sits up and winces in pain.

Where is he?

The man crawls to the nearest wall, narrowly missing a puddle of some unknown liquid. After pulling himself up, he slowly stumbles to the stairs.

It takes all of his energy to open the door. After he finally gets through the threshold, more stairs tower above him.

“But mentally, he’s unresponsive.”

The man takes several minutes climbing up the stairs, and by the end of it, he’s more confused and lightheaded than when he started.

Finding another door, the man walks through, seeing sunshine.

Not knowing what else to do, he picks a direction, and walks.

He thinks that the grass feels nice underneath his bare feet.

The man doesn’t know how long he walks for, but eventually he trips and stumbles, before collapsing to the ground.

He likes how delicate the blades of grass and dandelions feel. 

As he succumbs to unconsciousness, the last thought he has is that this grass is dense enough to be a mattress. 

Spencer blinks.

“Doctor Reid? Can you hear me?”

Chapter Text

When Spencer looks around, there are too many people crowding around him, all in scrubs with concerned faces. Quickly, he attempts to push them away, but that just makes them inch closer.

“Doctor Reid, I need you to take a breath, okay?” 

Spencer frowns, taking a few seconds to find out who’s making that request. Eventually, he sees Dr. Laing’s face.

“Can you breathe for me, Doctor Reid?”

As if a switch was turned on, Spencer suddenly gasps, greedily sucking in air that he had previously prevented himself from receiving. 

“Try to take some deep breaths,” She instructs, dramatically doing so herself. “Just breathe, okay? I think you had a panic attack,”

Scrunching up his face, Spencer breathes out, “A panic attack? Where am I?”

“You weren’t responding,” Laing begins, “So we were going to get you into a CT scan, when you started hyperventilating.” Letting the information sink in, she continues after a few moments, “But I have a feeling that your unresponsiveness wasn’t a neurological issue, but a psychological one.”

“I’m not crazy,” Spencer defensively replies. He winces as soon as he says it, he knows it’s a slur, but at the moment, memories of doctors upon doctors telling him that there’s nothing physically wrong with him flood Spencer’s brain.

Laing raises her eyebrows. “I didn’t say that,” She sternly corrects. “Panic attacks are nothing to be ashamed of,”

“I’m not ashamed!” Comes the quick reply. “I need to talk to my team,” Spencer suddenly announces, attempting to push himself off of the thin mattress.

Putting a gentle hand on his shoulder to keep him down, Laing advises, “Whoa, there, Doctor Reid, take another breath,”

“No!” Spencer counters, pushing against her hand. “I know what happened to me! I need to tell them,”

A nurse sends Laing a worried look, but she waves him off. “Okay, okay, I can grab someone. But I need you to lay back down, okay?”

“I need to talk with them!” Spencer chokes out, before nearly flopping back down on the gurney. 

Turning to one of her nurses, Laing requests, “There’s an agent waiting outside of Doctor Reid’s room, I need you to get her. Bring her here.” The nurse nods without question, and Laing turns her attention back to her patient. “Agent Prentiss is coming, okay? But right now I need you to take a few more deep breaths for me,”

Spencer complies, murmuring, “My heartrate needs to go back down.”

“Yeah, that’s it,” Laing says with a smile. After a beat, she asks, “Is your head hurting?”

Shaking his head, he replies, “Not really, it’s just,” He pauses to think, “Fuzzy. Still.”

“I’m not surprised,” Laing soothes, “You have a lot to remember. I’m mostly concerned about whether or not you’re in pain.”

“I’m not.” Spencer quickly supplies. “But I remembered what happened to me,”

Cocking her head to the side, Laing asks, “Just pieces, or-”

“I remember all of it.” Spencer interrupts. “I remember everything from when I was taken. Everything. Word for word.”

Laing raises an eyebrow, but doesn’t opt to say anything. Seconds later, Emily arrives.

“Spence?” She questions, before turning to his doctor. “Is he okay?”

“He’s okay,” Laing confirms, “Just a bit of panicking.”

Sitting up to look straight at Emily, Spencer interjects, “I remember what happened to me, when I was in Nevada, I remember, and I know who-”

“Spence, slow down,” Emily says, setting a comforting hand on his shoulder. “Take a breath. There’s no rush.”

With wide eyes, he counters, “No, you need to know! Call Garcia,”

“Take a breath-”

“Tell Garcia to look up Barney Franklin- no wait,” He cuts himself off, furrowing his brow. “Not him. He’s dead. I killed him,”

Laing sends an alarmed look at Prentiss, wondering if she should be hearing this. “Do you want to go back to your room, Doctor Reid?”

“No- this is important!” Spencer presses.

Ignoring her youngest team member, Emily replies, “If we could get back to his room, that would be great.”

The short ride back to Spencer’s private room is full of nervous energy, though most of it is specific to the young agent. The second Laing puts the brakes on his cot, Spencer announces again, “You need to call Garcia,”

Emily nods, “I will, but first you need to explain to me what happened after you woke up,”

“Woke up when?” Spencer asks, not expecting the question.

“Before you began muttering and panicking,” Emily starts with a frown, “You had gotten to the place where the unsub injected you with something in your leg. You then fell back into unconsciousness in the trunk of a car. What do you remember next?”

Swallowing, Spencer explains, “I woke up in a basement. The dominant unsub, Barney Franklin, forced me to drink this liquid.”

“What was it?”

“I don’t know.” He honestly answers. “I think he developed it himself. He most likely had an extensive education in chemistry. All I know is that it tasted like strawberries.”

Emily gives him a confused look, but continues, “What happened after you drank it?”

“It put me back to sleep. At first, I thought it was just a sedative, but when I woke up the next time, I couldn’t remember the names of the unsubs who took me.”

Sucking in a breath, Emily questions, “Other than that, what happened when you woke up?”

With a frown, Spencer answers, “The submissive unsub, Eric, brought out a plate of food for me to eat. He was an ameauture though, and I was able to attack him and grab his gun.”

“What happened next?”

“He screamed for Barney. When Barney opened the door for the basement, he shot at me, and missed.” Emily can guess what happens next, but she doesn’t say anything. “I shot Barney. In the head, with Eric’s gun. He was dead before he hit the ground.”

Nodding, Emily continues, “What did Eric do? How did he react?”

“Exactly how other submissives react when their partner leaves. He tackled me to the ground, and I think that’s where I got this,” He says, motioning to his head wound. “After that, he poured the liquid down my throat, until I fell unconscious again.”

“What happened the next time you woke up?”

With a frown, Spencer answers, “I couldn’t remember who he was. And I couldn’t remember what happened to me. My head felt fuzzy, and I was more confused than I’d ever been in my entire life.”

Smiling, Emily jokes, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you confused, Spence.”

“Yeah, it was weird,” Spencer replies with a smile of his own. “Every time I woke up, Eric would make me drink more of the liquid, until I eventually woke up, and he wasn’t there.”

“Where did you wake up?”

Shaking his head, Spencer answers, “I was still in the basement. I don’t know where Eric was though. I was able to stand up and stumble out of the house, and from there, I just kept walking until I couldn’t anymore.”

“And you ended up on the Truman’s farm.” Emily finishes.

“Yeah.” Taking a deep breath, Spencer requests, “You need to tell Garcia to find Barney Franklin. I never got a last name from Eric.”

Emily nods, and replies, “I’ll tell her. You need to stay here though.”

“Wha- why?” Spencer whines. “I’m feeling fine.”

Rolling her eyes, Emily mutters, “You just had brain surgery. You’re not working a case. That’s final.”

“But it’s my case!” He sputters.

“Even more reasons why you shouldn’t be working it.” Emily points out.

Not ready to give up, Spencer tries, “But I can help!”

“You have helped,” She counters. “You’ve given us so much information, Spence. But right now, the best thing you can do, is rest.”

If Spencer was a lesser man, the face he made would look like a pout. But Doctor Spencer Ried does not pout. He merely frowns. “Can I leave the hospital at least?”

Emily gives him an unamused look. “So you can go work the case?”

“No?”

At least that elicits a snort out of the woman. “If Laing says you’re good to go, I’ll send you home with Elanor. Deal?”

Quickly nodding, Spencer agrees. “Where is Elanor?”

“I can check with Rossi, but last I saw here she was at the station. The rest of her family went home a few hours ago.”

“Why is she still at the station?”

Sighing, Emily explains, “After you went into surgery she came down to give her official statement, along with the rest of the Trumans. But she ended up staying, just to learn more about you.”

“Oh.”

“She really cares about you,” Emily says softly. 

Spencer just nods, “Yeah.” Not exactly knowing how to reply. 

“If you promise to rest,” Emily starts, “I’ll go talk to Laing about discharge, and tell Elanor that she can come see you. ‘Sound like a plan?”

Another nod. “Sounds like a plan.” He echos.

“Okay,” She says, putting a hand on his covered leg, “But you better hold up your end of the deal, ‘kay?”

“Got it,” Spencer mumbles, dramatically pulling up the sheet and closing his eyes. “I promise I’ll rest. But tell Garcia about Barney Franklin, okay?”

“I will.”

Despite Spencer’s best effort he actually does end up falling asleep, and he dreams about Alfred Nobel, of all people. He wakes with an itch in his brain, and a furrowed brow.

 

“Hi,” A quiet voice comes from behind him, “Are you awake?”

Blinking until Elanor’s face comes into focus (or at least relative focus, Spencer is pretty sure he wears glasses or contacts usually), Spencer replies, “Mm. Yeah.”

Elanor smiles. “I’m glad you got some more rest.”

“How long was I out for?”

“A few hours,” She answers. “It’s Sunday evening.”

Spencer frowns. “It’s been a day since I got my bloody nose?”

With a nod, Elanor confirms, “Almost exactly, yeah.”

“It feels like it’s only been a few hours,” Spencer admits. 

“You were unconscious for a lot of the past day,” Elanor points out. “And you did get full on brain surgery.”

“Can I go home?” He asks, pushing himself into a sitting position on the bed.

Although she doesn’t look happy about it, Elanor replies, “Actually, yes. Agent Prentiss and your friend JJ talked to Doctor Laing, and she thinks that you’re okay to go. But she did warn us about remembering too much at one time.”

Spencer winces. “You heard about that?”

“The panic attack? Yes.”

“Sorry.”

“Why are you apologizing?”

Frowning, Spencer replies, “I’m not actually sure. Can we go now?”

With a shrug, Elanor observes, “I don’t see why not.” Holding up a bag, she continues, “I have clothes for you,”

“Thank you,” Spencer genuinely notes, holding out his arms like a child about to receive a present.

“Oh!” Elanor suddenly exclaims, “I also have this for you,” She tosses a phone at Spencer. “Agent Prentiss said that she carries an extra for some reason.”

Nodding, Spencer muses, “I think it has something to do with Doyle,”

“Who’s that?” Elanor asks.

“I have no clue.” Comes Spencer’s response. “But it’s someone important in Emily’s life.”

Elanor makes a short noise of confusion, before declaring, “Okay. I’m going to go wait outside while you get changed. Holler if you need anything though. Or I can grab a nurse. Or someone else,” She internally winces. “Just let me know if you need help, okay?”

Smiling, Spencer replies, “I got it. Thanks.”

With an awkward smile from herself, Elanor murmurs, “Okay, I’m just gonna,” She motions at the door, “Wait out there.” After sending one last grin, the door closes behind her.

Getting dressed isn’t as difficult as Spencer was expecting, but it’s still more work than he thinks it’s usually supposed to be. The clothes are too big, and he recognizes it as more of Edward’s, though he doesn’t mind that.

After Spencer calls Elanor back in, they talk a bit more to Doctor Laing, who had apparently already alerted JJ of the situation, as his medical proxy. With the promise to rest as soon as he gets back to the Truman farm, and not overexert himself for the next few weeks and possibly months, Laing signs the discharge paper, and sends Spencer off with a smile.

“Call if anything, I mean anything happens,” Laing informs him. “I won’t lie and say I’m not curious about how your memory is going to turn out. So give me a call, yeah?”

Taking her card, Spencer agrees, “I’ll call. Thank you. For everything.”

“It’s just my job,” Laing replies, smiling. “Take it easy, Doctor Reid.”

With one last wave, Elanor and Spencer make their way through the sliding glass doors, this time with Spencer on his feet.

In the car, the duo sit in comfortable silence for a few minutes, until Elanor can’t help but ask, “So. Can I call you Spencer?”

Scrunching his nose Spencer questions, “Why wouldn’t you?”

Keeping her eyes on the road, Elanor replies, “Well it’s just, I started with John, and then went to Reid, and now you’ve figured out what your real name is and it’s just,” She interrupts herself with a deep breath. “Sorry. I know this is probably more confusing to you than to me. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that you were having an identity crisis or something,” She adds with a smile.

With a smile of his own, Spencer admits, “Yeah, it’s strange. But either Spencer or Reid works. I don’t really have a preference.” He looks down at his lap. “Or maybe I do. I don’t remember.”

“It’ll come back.” Elanor quickly replies.

“Yeah.” He quietly muses. “I hope so.” 

After ten minutes of passing mile markers, Spencer’s new phone rings. He squints at the phone number, which looks eerily familiar. He answers with a “Hello?”

“Spence, hey,” JJ’s voice floats over. “You’re on speakerphone by the way. We have the whole team here.”

“What’s going on?” Spencer asks, and Elanor sends him a split second worried glance.

“We just have a few questions for you, junior G-Man,” Garcia speaks up, and Spencer can nearly hear her smile. “Emily said that you remembered Franklin mentioning scientists?”

Even though they can’t see it, Spencer nods. “He was idolizing them,” He begins, “Barney wanted to be known as much as they were.”

“Who?”

“Antoine Lavoisier and Alfred Nobel.” Spencer easily supplies.

After a pause, Lewis asks, “Do those two have any connection to each other?”

“Other than being famous scientists, they were both known for their contributions to chemistry.” Spencer replies, although he isn’t exactly sure why he knows that. “I figured that made sense, due to Barney’s homemade drugs.”

Stopped at a red light, Elanor doesn’t bother to try and hide her alarmed look.

Luckily, the BAU can’t see it, and Garcia questions, “Did either of their work have to do with fire?”

Without having to think, Spencer easily answers, “Nobel invented different types of combustive reactors, such as dynamite, but before that he began his studies regarding general combustion. Lavoisier almost exclusively studied chemical reactions involving oxygen, which, of course, includes combustion,” He pauses, frowning, “Why?”

“In his adolescent and teenage years, Franklin was a bit of a junior arsonist,” Garcia starts, “And even went to juvie after setting fires to a few of his friends’ houses.”

“And you think that has to do with the fires in Ukiah,” Spencer finishes.

With a sigh, Emily replies, “That’s what we originally thought, but we hit a bit of a wall when we remembered the fact that dead people can’t set fires.”

Eyes widening, Spencer whispers, “But living people can,”

“Uh, yeah?” Emily confirms, confused to why her smartest agent is pointing that out.

“It’s Eric,” Spencer says quickly. “Eric is setting the fires,”

“The submissive unsub?”

Taking a deep breath to get as much out as fast as he can, Spencer answers, “Barney died in front of Eric, but Eric wasn’t about to give up Barney’s wishes. That’s why he continued to give me the drug. We’ve seen it happen before!” Spencer exclaims, causing Elanor to glance at him. “When the dominant unsub dies or leaves, the submissive one can’t handle it, so they try to take their place.”

He hears Emily’s sharp intake of breath on the other end. “And Barney debuted with arson,”

“So now Eric is setting fires, trying to follow in his footsteps.” Spencer finishes for them.

“Do you have any idea about the pattern he’s doing to set the fires? We went back and checked with all of our witnesses, and not a single one knows an ‘Eric.’”

Frowning, Spencer replies, “If he doesn’t have any friends here, then he couldn’t follow Barney’s past. Which means that he’s probably setting them at random.”

He hears a sigh on the other end, and then Lewis’, “Great.”

Spencer keeps the phone up to his ear, but doesn’t say anything. The itch is back in his brain, and he doesn’t know why. There’s something his brain wants him to know.

“Well, that’s all we’ve got for you, Spence.” Emily says with a sigh. “Get some rest, okay?”

“Why does everything keep telling me that?”

“Because you need to rest.” Comes a chorus of replies.

Smiling, Spencer responds, “Yeah, I guess. Call me if you get anything else?”

“Will do!” Garcia promises. “Be good.”

“Bye.” Spencer says softly, before taking the phone away from his ear. But rather than putting it away, he keeps it on his lap.

Elanor sends a look over and asks, “Everything okay?”

Spencer nods. “Yeah.” A few seconds later, he corrects himself. “Actually, no.”

“What’s going on?”

“My team thinks that one of the people who kidnapped me is setting the fires,”

“And you don’t believe that?” Elanor asks.

Shaking his head, Spencer replies, “No, no, that makes sense. I was the one that made the connection. I just can’t figure out where he’s going to strike next.”

With a frown, Elanor points out, “You don’t need to, though. You just need to worry about resting, remember?”

“Yeah,” Spencer murmurs. “It’s just bothering me, I guess.”

“They’ll figure it out,” Elanor promises, and Spencer can only nod.

Something still doesn’t feel right to him, though. Barney would set fires near and at the houses of his friends, except according to Barney himself, no one paid attention, or even remembered him, which would mean he didn’t have any friends.

Spencer knows how police reports work. The witness reports that they record are only a small fraction of the truth. If they heard from two or three people that Barney was friends with his victims, that could’ve just been from an outsider’s perspective.

He bites his lip, trying to make a connection that he knows is there. What type of relationship would look like friends to an outsider, but in reality be toxic?

An abusive one, that’s for sure, but it wasn’t between adults, and there was no romance. Barney mentioned that he was poor, so there’s a chance he could have underlying anger towards peers that could’ve been more wealthy than himself? But even that might be a little much for a young adolescent.

Spener’s eyes widen as his shoulders drop.

Abandonment issues. Fear of abandonment. For his entire life, Barney had the fear of being forgotten. He set fires so he wouldn’t be forgotten, and set them at his ‘friends’ houses to get even more attention.

“You okay, Spencer?” Elanor asks, watching his demeanor change out of the corner of her eye.

Absentmindedly, he replies, “Yeah,” 

Elanor doesn’t look convinced, but she doesn’t press.

If Barney set fires to get the most amount of attention possible, how would Eric find a way to get his own attention? Where could he strike, that would cause a spotlight? Where in Ukiah would be the most popular?

“No,” Spencer breathlessly whispers.

“Spencer?”

Spencer learned it the first day he was in Ukiah: Everyone knows everyone else. Word spreads fast. Even Maudie, the librarian, seemed to gossip to Spencer, a complete stranger. And once everyone saw a strange man pass out in a library?

He’s the center of attention right now.

The Truman’s have the spotlight on them.

And their farm is flammable.

Spencer feels his next breath catch in his chest.

“Hey, Spencer,” Elanor soothes with a soft voice, “Take a deep breath, everything’s okay,”

He shakes his head, choking out, “Drive,”

“What?” She asks, understandably confused.

“Drive faster!” 

Elanor takes her eyes off of the highway for just enough time to give him a worried look, “Spencer, what’s happening?”

At the end of an exhale, Spencer chokes out, “Your kids. They’re in danger.”

Her knuckles turn white on the steering wheel. “What?”

“The fires,” Spence quick explains, “He’s hitting your farm next,”

Pressing down on the accelerator, Elanor whispers, “My whole family is there,”

With a tense, white knuckled grip Elanor speeds down the highway, weaving between the left and second most left lane. “You can get me out of a speeding ticket as an FBI agent, right?” She asks, attempting to soothe her own anxiety.

Spencer answers, “Yes,” But doesn’t get into the semantics of it, when a second later he realizes that the question was probably rhetorical.

Elanor gives a nervous chuckle that  sounds like she’s about to cry, and Spencer doesn’t know how to help her. He hopes that he’s wrong, he hopes that the family that’s taken care of him without question is safe, but something tells him that his assumption is correct.

When they’re ten miles out, they see the smoke.

Giving exactly zero fucks about the speed limit, Elanor presses down as far as her gas pedal will go, and sends a prayer to a god she hasn’t thought about in over a decade. In the passenger seat, Spencer calls for the fire department, and a plethora of paramedics. Something about it sounds familiar, which does nothing but unsettle him further.

Elanor’s car screeches to a stop outside of the house she grew up in, tears freely falling down her face. Leaving the ignition in the car, both of them jump out, and Elanor doesn’t even close her door.

When Spencer stumbles on the grass, Elanor pushes her arm out and warns, “Spencer, your head!”

“Your kids are in there!” He shouts back, ignoring any sense of self-preservation he could’ve had before.

Pulling open the unlocked door, Elanor quietly requests, “Just be careful.” After Spencer nods, she calls out, “Thalia! George!” When no one replies, she screams. “George! Thalia! Mom, dad!”

Before pushing his shirt over his nose and mouth, Spencer calls out for the kids as well. “I’ll go upstairs!” He shouts at Elanor, not giving her any time to argue.

The air is thick with soot and ash, and Spencer feels his eyes begin to water. The wound on the back of his head stings, but at the moment, he couldn’t care less. “Thalia!” He shouts, “George!”

Mutely, he thinks that he probably should’ve stayed downstairs, given the fact that he has no clue what the layout is on the second story, but ignores that for the time being. Fire licks around a hallway, curling into doorways, and cackles when Spencer tries to step around it.

“George! Thalia!”

Spencer hears coughing, so quiet and broken, that he’s sure he had imagined it. It isn’t until he hears a high pitched, “Help!” That he takes off in a broken stagger to the noise.

Clenching his eyes shut, Spencer ducks through a flaming doorway. When he opens them, he sees orange, taking over every inch of the room, even the air itself. But huddled on the back wall sit Thalia and George, holding onto each other for dear life.

“Reid!” Thalia calls out, and when she picks her head up Spencer can see where the ash has made itself a home to her face along tear and snot tracks. “Help!”

“Pull your shirt over your noses!” He instructs from the otherside of the room, mentally going through hundreds of different routes through the flames.

“Help!” George calls out, and Spencer’s heart nearly cracks. He sounds so little and broken, and it’s just what Spencer needs to nearly launch himself over a pile of flaming bedsheets.

When he finally gets to them, the two kids cling on to his torso, sobbing into Spencer’s stomach. Spencer turns around and wastes precious oxygen in a curse. 

“Get low!” He instructs, “Crawl to the door!” He drops to his knees himself, wincing when they hit the ground. Spencer gives a bit of a push to both of the kids, making sure they get out of the room first.

As it turns out, all they’ve managed to do is get out of the frying pan.

Eyeing the end of the hallway, George sobs, “What do we do?” Spencer looks over their backs and swallows.

The entire end of the hallway leading to the stairs is engulfed in flames. They can’t make it out that way, they’ll quite literally be burned alive. But they also can’t stay where they are either. Spencer’s already dizzy from smoke inhalation, and he knows the kids must be even worse. Wincing at his burning palms, Spencer turns around. At the end of the hallway lies a window.

After sucking in a breath and coughing, Spencer announces, “We’re gonna jump!”

He hears Thalia shriek, “What?!” behind him, but right now, they don’t have any other options. And they sure as hell don’t have time to feel fear.

The trio shuffles to the end of the hallway, all shaking with exhaustion.

“Reid,” Thalia sobs, and not even she knows what she’s asking for.

Breaking open the window with his elbow, Spencer soothes, “You’re gonna be fine, I promise.” After brushing out the lingering pieces of glass on the sill, he turns to Thalia through the smoke and instructs, “Thalia, you’re going to go first-”

“No!” She cries, shaking from fear, exhaustion, and a hundred more things.

Coughing, Spencer explains, “I’m going to lower you down, okay? It’s not gonna be as far of a drop as you think, but we have to do this now!” He shouts, George’s sobbing reminding him that they’re on an extraordinarily short timer.

Thalia nods after a moment, and Spencer helps her shimmy out of the window, holding on tightly to her wrists. She dangles down, and Spencer leans forward as far as he dares, giving her the shortest distance to fall from. “I’m gonna let go, okay?”

The only thing he gets in response is crying. With George behind him, tiny lungs filling up with smoke, Spencer has no choice but to release the girl, hoping that she doesn’t get too injured from the fall.

He quickly turns back to George and scoops him up, letting the young boy rest on his hip. “Hold on to my neck!” Spencer tells him, vision blurring. He doesn’t even want to think about how bad George is hurting right now.

Attempting to take a breath to gather his composure, Spencer reminds him, “Hold on tight!” Before swinging his legs out of the window, and dropping a story.

Spencer collapses when he lands, but his first thought is relief that he didn’t land on Thalia. He hears two sets of high pitched coughing, and Spencer counts it as a win.

Groaning, Spencer chokes, “We have to get ‘way from the house!”

Both children effectively traumatized, Spencer ends up half carrying half dragging them through the once soft grass of their grandparents’ farm.

He carries them as far as he possibly can, before collapsing to the ground himself. Spencer makes sure to cushion George’s fall from his hip, and lets his head loll to the side.

The kids continue to cry around him, and every few seconds they get interrupted by dirty coughs. Spencer wants to comfort them, but he can’t even pick his head up.

He tries to greedily suck in fresh oxygen, but his lungs spasm every time he inhales, and he breathes out fire in every exhale. Closing his eyes, Spencer can only hope that the kids don’t feel the same way.

Slowly, the world begins to mute around him, and he wants to care, he wants to care so bad, but he can’t. The ground beneath him becomes mush, and the kids’ coughs become quiet. 

Spencer swallows, and throws up. He feels uncharastically lucky that his head’s already sideways, because if it wasn’t he knows he wouldn’t have enough energy to stop himself from suffocating. His entire chest burns even worse when he retches, and Spencer begins to wonder how he even still has enough water in his body to keep crying.

He doesn’t know how much time passes. It could’ve been seconds, minutes, hours, even days as far as Spencer knows. But at some point, a gloved hand finds his head.

The world slams back into focus as soon as he feels the touch, and eyes shoot open. Everything hurts. “‘Ids,” He wheezes out, which does nothing but send shards of glass through his lungs.

“Sir, the kids are being treated,” A calm voice tells him. Spencer thinks that he sounds a bit too calm for the situation.

The gloved hands turn his head, and Spencer vomits again. He ends up coughing out bile that tastes like it’s made of poblano peppers. 

When the fit is finally over, he lets his eyes slip shut. 

Plastic is slipped over his nose and mouth, and for a reason Spencer can’t remember, he knows that it’s an oxygen mask. 

“Look. He has a preexisting head wound,” A new voice says, which also sounds far too calm for the situation.

Spencer figures that if the kids are being treated, he’ll be fine passing out now.

So he passes out, finally surrendering to unconsciousness.

When he wakes, he can tell that he’s moving. His first thought is that he’s been kidnapped again, but opening his eyes tells him that the trunk of a car looks a fair bit different than the inside of an ambulance.

Spencer wishes he knew why he knows what the inside of an ambulance looks like.

“Sir, can you hear me?”

“Fffffs,” Spencer replies breathlessly, which, unsurprisingly, does not satisfy the EMT.

They try again, “Sir can you tell me what happened to your head?”

Spencer closes his eyes, but still answers. “‘Hurgery,”

The EMT sounds extra alarmed when he confirms, “Sir, did you have surgery on your head recently?”

“Mm.” Spencer agrees. “Supposed to take i’ easy,” He slurs, a ghost of a smile on his lips. “‘S not gonna be happy,” He murmurs. As he falls unconscious once again, Spencer wonders if it was rude to not say, ‘Goodnight.’

 

The next time Spencer wakes, he nearly launches off the bed, almost giving JJ a heart attack, and taking a few precious years off of Rossi’s life.

“Spence!”

“Kid, calm down!” 

Spencer's eyes are wide and panicked, and it’s obvious that he’s not actually taking in anything in front of him. 

JJ grabs his left hand, and runs her thumb over the top of his wrist, avoiding the bandages on his hand. 

“JJ,” Spencer whispers. “JJ,”

Exhaling, she confirms, “Yeah, Spence, I’m here.”

“The kids,” He requests.

Smiling, she reports, “They’re okay. They’re also in the hospital, but they’re gonna be okay.” Giving a nervous chuckle she notes, “Everyone’s going to be okay. Elanor’s parents too.”

After a single nod, Spencer collapses back into the bed. “Thank God.”

From the doorway, he hears, “And now that we’ve got that out of the way, what the hell were you thinking?!”

“Em-” JJ tries to do damage control.

“Nope!” The Unit Chief interrupts. “You don’t get to defend him. Spencer Reid, you had brain surgery less than twelve fucking hours ago! What the hell is wrong with you?”

“‘S was her family,” Spencer points out, but it’s a weak argument.

Grinding her teeth together, Emiliy continues, “God Spence! Do you know what it’s like to get yet another call from the hospital?”

Wincing, Spencer tries to apologize, “I-”

“Oh I’m not done,” Emily hisses, “ I was the one that thought it would be fine to let you rest outside of the hospital, Spence! If you died, it would’ve been on me!”

“I’m sorry,” Spencer finally gets out. “Emily, I’m sorry.”

Emily drops her face in her hands and replies, “I’m really glad you’re okay.”

“Me too, kid,” Rossi chimes in.

Nodding, Spencer asks, “And everyone else is okay?”

“Everyone else is okay.” JJ confirms.

“Can I see them?”

Yet again, a new voice comes from the doorway. “Absolutely not,”

“Wha-” Spencer looks up to the door and winces. “Hi, Doctor Laing,”

JJ makes a face and faux whispers, “Look who just got caught by the principal herself,”

Putting a hand on her hip, Laing cocks her head to the side and muses, “You know, I heard from some of your friends, Doctor Reid, that you have an IQ of 187. Is that true?”

“I think so?” Spencer responds, not quite sure what she’s getting to.

“I would think that a genius would know what the words, ‘take it easy’ meant.”

Rossi snorts from Reid’s beside. “Oh lord, we’ve been trying to teach that sentence to the kid since he was still in diapers.”

Spencer frowns at him. “You didn’t know me in diapers,”

Rolling her eyes, Laing mutters, “Well, your cognitive function seems to be fine. How bad is the head pain?”

With a shrug, Spencer answers, “Just a normal headache,”

“Spence, your normal headaches are migraines,” JJ hisses. 

“Do you want anymore pain meds?” Laing asks him, still looking rather angry.

Opening and closing his mouth like a gaping fish, Spencer eventually answers, “I don’t take narcotics,”

“Do you want any tylenol?” She asks. “We can still give you a bit more before it becomes dangerous.”

Spencer just shakes his head. “I think I’ll be fine. Can I see Elanor?”

Shaking a finger at him, Laing states, “ She will be seeing you , not the other way around, and only when you’re both up for it. You, on the other hand, will not be moving from this bed for the next two days.”

Her eyes let Spencer know that she’s telling the truth, so he looks to JJ and Rossi. Both of them know what he’s thinking, and both of them shake their heads.

“Nice try, kid,” Rossi offers.

Sighing, Laing requests, “Go back to sleep, Doctor Reid. You need it.”

Spencer scrunches up his nose. “Are you making fun of me?”

“If you aren’t sleeping within the next hour, I will be.”

“That’s a threat,” Spencer points out, slipping down the pillows, “You can’t threaten a federal agent,” He continues with a smile. “So I’ve got you there,”

Unable to hide a smile of her own, Laing mutters, “Just go to sleep, Doctor. The world will still be here when you wake up.”

Spencer nods, “Got it,” And his eyes slip close.

 

Two Days Later

 

Spencer sits sideways on his cot, while Elanor lounges in a comfortable chair that a nurse brought in sometime during the night.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Spencer questions for the third time that hour.

With a smile, Elanor scolds, “Spencer. I told you. I’m fine.” Motioning to his own face, she points out, “I’m not the one that needs cannula to breathe,”

“I don’t need it to breathe,” He counters defensively.

Elanor just snorts, “I think I’m gonna trust the doctors on this one.”

“Yeah, well,” Spence responds weakly, knowing that arguing is futile. 

The two of them sit in comfortable silence, until Elanor sighs. “Are we gonna talk about the elephant in the room?”

Spencer grimaces. “I guess we probably should,”

“Are you sure you’re cleared to fly?”

Perking up, he replies “Surprisingly yes,” Then, with a frown, he adds, “But Emily is making me use the buddy system now.”

Elanor chuckles. “The buddy system? Like what George has to use when he goes on field trips?”

Groaning, Spencer confirms, “Exactly like that. And no one disagreed with her!” He claims, tossing his hands up for dramatic effect.

“I mean, I can’t exactly blame them,” She says with a smile.

“Aw c’mon, you too?”

Leaning her head back and forth she points out, “The amount of trouble you’ve gotten yourself into the past two weeks is kind of insurmountable. Just saying.”

Spencer makes a noncommittal noise. He’d like to say that Emily’s overreacting, but at the same time, he knows that everyone isn’t exactly wrong. He does seem to find trouble wherever he goes.

Features softening, Spencer asks, “Are you sure your family is gonna be okay?”

With a long suffering sigh, Elanor replies, “Spencer, I told you, everyone is going to be fine. My kids are young. They’re already bouncing back.”

“And your dad?”

After biting her lip, Elanor answers, “His old smoking habits certainly don’t help, but it’s not like he’s on his death bed or anything.” When Spencer makes a face, she continues, “I’m serious, Spencer. We’re all okay. Are you going to be?”

“What? Okay?”

“Yeah,”

“Yeah.” Spencer nods. “I’m gonna be fine. It’s a long flight home, but I can just sleep on the couch.” They both know she’s not talking about the flight, but neither of them mention it.

Laughing, Elanor remembers, “Oh, right. You guys have your own private jet.”

Spencer also laughs. “Yeah, I don’t know how we got the funding for that,” Furrowing his brow, he adds, “I’ve seen the budget reports, in fact I’ve read all of them since the ‘80s, and I still don’t know how we have a jet.”

“You’ve read all of the budget reports since the ‘80s?” She’s skeptical, but after all she’s learned about Spencer in the past week, she isn’t about to put anything past him.

Smiling, Spencer easily answers, “Oh, yeah. I was bored one afternoon.”

Elanor scoffs, and then questions, “So I guess you’re getting all of your memories back?”

“Yeah.” He confirms. “They’re coming back. Slowly, but I’m just glad that I’ll hopefully be able to remember everything.”

Elanor smiles softly, but it quickly drops.

“Are you okay?” Spencer asks, attempting to catalogue what could be the cause of her sudden sadness.

Instantly, Elanor smiles again. “I’m okay.”

Looking up, Spencer replies, “Good.”

“So,” Elanor starts, but doesn’t continue.

“So?”

“Are you going to remember me?”

Spencer’s eyes crinkle. “Right now, I think I remember you better than anyone else.”

“Really?”

Spencer nods. “Yeah. And I don’t think that’s going to change for a long time.”