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It’s freezing cold and his head is spinning and his left foot hurts so bad (and two little glass vials are hidden in his pocket). He thinks he’s walking with someone familiar, but the adrenaline is starting to wear off and he’s having a hard time paying attention.

He just wants to sleep, but every time he starts to drift off a stranger starts shouting, then shines a light in his face when he ignores them -

Spencer? I need you to stay awake for me, honey. I know you’re tired, but you hit your head really hard and your friends tell me you had a seizure earlier

Wh’reamI?

You’re in an ambulance - we’re going to the hospital and the doctors are gonna take care of you. Your job is to stay awake for me, don’t worry about anything else, okay?

Mmm

- he forgets what she said almost as soon as she finished speaking, letting his eyes drift closed again -

Can you hear me? Spencer?

There you are, keep your eyes open for me, okay? I know you’re confused, you just had another seizure. We’re almost to the hospital, you’ll get something to help you feel better soon

- Then he’s being jostled and rolled and new faces are swimming above him -

Tonic-clonic in the ambulance, uneven pupil dilation, confusion and limited responsiveness, fresh injection sites on the right bicep

Is he the kidnapping victim the feds called about?

Take him to room 14. I’m ordering a CT and a rush on his bloods because of the seizures - I want to start him on anticonvulsants as soon as we know we can safely give him. Start him on saline too - the feds said he was missing for over 48 hours, he’s bound to be severely dehydrated.

Spencer, we’re gonna move you into a new bed, okay? 

Can you get me a patient’s belongings bag? Great, thanks. We’re gonna change you into a gown so I need to take your clothes off, but we’ll leave your underwear on for you, okay Spencer? 

Roll him this way. Yep, you’re fine, I’ve got him 

We’re gonna clean you off with some wipes. It’s going to be a little cold, but I promise you’ll feel better after

I’m just gonna take some blood, okay? Quick pinch - all done

Hey Sash, I’m having a hard time finding a vein for the IV

Um, lemme see. I think we can get it in his hand…

- He’s being wheeled into a big white tube and it’s scary and he doesn’t like it, but he’s too tired to move -

This is an anticonvulsant, it’s gonna help keep you from having more seizures while we wait for the swelling in your brain to go down, alright? Quick pinch - all done

I’m just gonna take a quick look at your foot, okay? Ankle and toe mobility looks fine - keep an eye on it, but I’m fairly certain it’s just badly bruised

My name is Charlene - I’m a nurse and I’m going to stay with you, okay?

- no one ever actually waits for him to tell them yes, that’s okay (and no one ever asks him if he’s okay). In the back of his (foggy) mind, he knows this is necessary - being in the hospital, that is 

(his team keeps telling him he needs to wait for the doctors to clear him medically before he can go on the plane, because he keeps trying to get up and leave). 

but he’s tired and frightened, and he doesn’t like strangers. He wants his mom. 

He wants to go home. 

He’s having a staring contest with the little glass vials again. It’s been three days since he got home and he’s alone because he can’t go to work, and he’s exhausted because nightmares have been keeping him awake. Tobias didn’t have him for long enough for physical dependance to develop, but god it only takes once for the mental cravings to set in -

It made it all stop. You were so scared and everything hurt so bad, then the drugs made it all stop I’m in pain and I need it to stop

- Before he knows it, he’s walking into the nearest needle exchange, coming home with a couple sterile hypodermics and alcohol wipes and gauze. He wants to cry because he can’t stop himself anymore, can’t fight it anymore -

Just this once. Never again, I’ll dump it after

- he cleans a spot on his left arm, uses a shoelace as a tourniquet. Uncaps one of the vials, draws back the syringe, flicks out the air -

Quick pinch - all done

- Shoots up and pretends he doesn’t sound like just another addict. 

… 

His hands are shaking as he tries to fill out his last few reports - it’s about an hour later than he usually leaves work and he’s definitely feeling it. He thinks it must be so obvious - the way he sneaks off once or twice (or thrice, as happened on a particularly shameful day) during the workday, trembling and irritable and beginning to sweat, only to return calm and dazed, pupils constricted to pinpricks because he’s gotten too dependent to wait until he gets home -

 He has a whole story constructed incase anyone catches him with the paraphernalia at work, but he’s not sure if he would use it or just break down and confess

- He catches them sending worried glances in his direction, trading pointed looks behind his back when they think he’s not looking. They know. And he knows they know. And no one ever tries to intervene, to offer assistance, or even to deliver an ultimatum - sometimes he wishes Hotch would pull him into his office and tell him he needs to get off the drugs or lose his job, but Hotch is as stoic and hard to read as ever and Spencer is having a hard time believing he even cares -

If he didn’t care he would have fired you instead of covering for you.

- He doesn’t want them to cover for him, he wants them to help. To grab him by the shoulders and shake him back and forth, rattling his brain against his skull, and beg him to stop, and tell him they’ll be there for him, that they’ll help him detox, that he’s more than just his brain and his job -

you’ve tried to ask for help, but can’t seem to make yourself admit the real problem out loud. And Morgan didn’t understand when you tried to tell him, and Gideon just gave you platitudes and self-serving reassurances

- But they don’t, they’re more concerned about plausible deniability and keeping him from getting fired than keeping him alive. Because he may be a genius, but he’s abusing prescription narcotics -

Too afraid to say the word ‘addict’

- that he doesn’t have a prescription for, and there’s always a chance of him getting sold a tainted supply, no matter how hard he tries to steer clear of the shadier dealers. 

(And he’s come pretty damn close to overdosing, especially since he stopped having the patience to be careful, though he’s loath to admit it)

His life has become cyclic: wake up, take a hit, go to work, force himself to wait until lunchtime to sneak away for another dose, work at a slow pace through the high, maybe sneak off again once it wears off, struggle through to the end of the work day, go home and pick at some food, fail to take a shit, try to sleep, have a nightmare, inevitably end up shooting up again to force down the fear, try not to think about how he’s taking more than five times as much as he was when he started and how it satisfies him less and less every day

(and how much it’s costing him - he started shamefully digging into his savings a while ago to fund his habit)

Sometimes, the team gets a case and the cycle is disturbed - he has to navigate between his drugs and being in a new place and the compulsion to keep his addiction problem hidden. The local LEOs write off his jitteriness and pallor and attitude as just part of being a genius because he’s already so different from them -

They forget he’s just a man, not a machine. The teachers during his primary and secondary education were guilty of this too - always expecting him to be able to complete everything they threw at him, and to do it with a smile and a ‘perfect’ little obedient demeanor. 

Yes, the schoolwork was easy. But he had so many other things to think about, a sick mother and a father who kept going and coming back and going and coming back (until one day he didn’t)

- His friends teammates are waiting for him to ask for help; he’s pretty sure they’d come if he called them. He’s barely functioning and he knows it, he needs help (he wants help) but doesn’t know how to ask for it -

He told the teachers about the bullying, the first few times, but they just said they’ll stop if you don’t react. And when they didn’t stop he told them again, so a few of the worst bullies got suspended. Then they came back angry at him for getting them in trouble and spitting out keep quiet, or else. Spencer didn’t know what or else meant exactly, but he was a little kid and he was afraid. Afraid of the older boys who towered over him and afraid of it getting worse if he kept trying to make them stop.

Spencer Reid learned early on that the best way to deal with the problems in his life is to pretend they don’t exist, to grin and bear it. Because he can’t make his mom better and he can’t make his peers accept him and asking for help only makes it worse and part of him has started to think he deserves all the bad things in his life. He loves logic, so there had to be a reason these things keep happening to him, right? 

- He lashes out at his friends and stops trying to hide his shaking hands - feels like he might as well be shouting from the rooftops I’m struggling and I can’t do this on my own please, someone, please help me. 

And still, they don’t come.

One day, a little after the increasing numbness has started building an illusion of I’m okay -

at least to your ‘friends’, who’d really rather forget any of this ever happened. They let themselves buy into it, into your false okayness, because they want to believe they did enough to help you. That they didn’t just leave you to drowning for months on end 

- he waits all night in Gideon’s office for chess night (something he’s held onto for it’s normalcy - when he’s playing chess he can half-pretend he’s not an addict going to shoot up as soon as he gets home) -

At some point he just knows what’s happening. But he cannot cannot deal with it right now, so he prepares the fix his veins are itching for and crashes right there in Gideon’s office (it’s not like he’s coming back, anyway)

Later, when he finds the letter and can’t lie to himself (he just caught up with something, he’s coming back he’s coming back) anymore, he shuts down -

What is it about me that pushes everyone away? Am I that much of a burden? He picked up and left as soon as he thought I was back to ‘normal’ - whatever the fuck that means because ‘normal’ is the last fucking thing I feel like I am - thought oh boy, I guess Spencer’s defective now, can’t be bothered to stick around and fix him up, can’t be bothered to love him when he’s not running at full capacity 24/7

- The fantasy of okayness is gone, but his teammates write it off as mourning the loss of Gideon in his life (which is also true, but it’s so much more than that. He’s been getting reckless with the dosage and he knows it. Throughout all of this, he hasn’t quite reached the point of wanting to end things - mostly because he doesn’t want to leave his mother behind - but maybe, in the back of his mind, he’s hoping recklessness will make the decision for him).

- llo? Sir? …you hear me? 

His name’s Sp…Reid, I’m…neighbor who called

…pupils are tiny…OD

We’re…do our best, ma’am…do you…took anything?

What? No, no…agent…wouldn’t have

- someone’s tugging up his sleeves and somewhere in the back of his mind he thinks no no can’t let them see, but he’s not really sure why and he’s tired and can’t be bothered to think about it anymore -

…track marks all…both arms

Ma’am…what he took? …not the police…won’t get in trouble…can treat him

…no idea, I’m sorry…help him!

…respiratory rate…administering naloxone 

- Something is poking into him and he tries to bat it away, but his arms don’t seem to be listening to him -

Okay…hospital now…call for him?

No, I don’t…only spoken… a few times…don’t know him very well…

It’s okay…once we get him…hospital 

- Then he’s being rolled and something is being slid underneath him. He’s rising into the air and it’s making his head swim and his stomach turn -

st’ppit

Mr. Reid…stay still for me, okay? …to the hospital…just want to help 

- The next thing he knows he’s blinking awake to beeping in his ears and increasing pressure around one of his arms. He starts writhing around trying to get away from the thing squeezing him, but it won’t let go and it’s scary -

Spencer, you have a blood-pressure cuff around your arm - that’s what you’re feeling. It’s almost done, see? It’s starting to deflate now

- A woman is talking to him and he doesn’t recognize her and he doesn’t know where he is or how he got here oh god, did I get kidnapped again? I can’t do that again I can’t I can’t -

Spencer, Spencer look at me, look at my chest. Can you see me breathing? I want you to try to breathe with me, okay? In and out. There you go, that’s good

- He can breathe again and he realizes she’s wearing scrubs and he has a pulse-oximeter clamped around his finger -

‘m I in the hospital?

Yes, you’re in the ICU. Do you know why you’re here?

- He doesn’t want to say it. He feels his brow furrow and lips tug into a grimace -

Um…I mean I don’t really remember, but I, um…

- He’s hoping she’ll leave it at that, but she’s still looking at him expectantly and he feels compelled to fill the silence -

D…did I, um…did I o - mmph - o-overdose?

- by the time he forces it out he can barely hear himself speaking, and he’s not sure if it’s from the blood rushing in his ears or if he started whispering. She gives him this look and shallow nod of her head -

You did. Your neighbor called 911 for you, you were unconscious outside your apartment. Do you remember any of that?

Um, maybe a little bit? But no, not really

That’s alright, don’t worry too much about it, okay? 

- He hums his affirmation, then starts looking at all the things he’s hooked up to: the pulse-ox and blood-pressure cuff he’d noticed earlier, but also some leads on his chest monitoring his heart and an IV in the back of his right hand (he’s not surprised - his arms are littered with injection sites, more-so on the left than the right, that would make it near-impossible to place an IV there). He can’t quite read the label on the infusion bag from this angle, but the nurse sees him looking at it -

That’s just saline - saltwater - to keep you hydrated 

Oh, yeah I know what saline is. Um, can you tell me what other treatment I’ve been receiving…?

The internist will be in to speak with you soon, now that you’re awake. His name’s Dr. Pang, he’ll inform you about your care. Oh, and I’m Cindy, one of your nurses. 

Okay, um, I’m Dr. Reid - um, maybe Spencer is better for now. And I’ll be fine on my own, you don’t have to wait here with me

- He knows what she’s going to say before she says it -

I’m just here to keep you safe

I’m not - I’m not suicidal, it wasn’t an attempt I just misjudged - um, anyway I’m not gonna try to hurt myself or elope or anything, I’ll be fine alone

You’ll have a psych consult in the morning and we’ll see after that, but until then you’re gonna have someone with you all the time, okay?

- He takes a deep breath and closes his eyes, sinking back into the bed and trying to make himself smaller, pulling down the sleeves of his gown when his arms start to feel too exposed. His eyes start watering so he brings his hands up to cover his face, pretending he’s alone so that he can allow himself to cry. Cindy can tell he doesn’t want anyone to witness this, and right now, right after he’s regained consciousness, isn’t the time to start pushing him. 

She listens as his breath hitches with choked back sobs - even now he can’t let himself fully let go.

By the time the psych consult happens it’s around nine in the morning, and he should be at work -

Hey, Cindy um…would it be possible for me to make a call?

Oh! Yes, I’ll ask the charge nurse to bring a phone in for you, hold on

Hotch? Yeah it’s me. Listen, um, something’s come up and I need emergency leave. I’m fine, it’s just something with my mother? No, um, I mean I don’t really know how long I’ll need, so…yeah, thanks Hotch

- He wonders if Hotch knows the real reason he can’t come in, if he’ll have Garcia look even though his medical records are protected by Hipaa, if he knows how nausea and sweating and anxiety and cravings are already starting (hydromorphone is many times more potent than morphine or heroin, and the half-life is much shorter, he thinks, that’s why withdrawal is setting in so quickly) to set in

Anyway, the psychiatrist believes him when he says it was an accident, and the internist starts talking about transferring him to detox -

We’re looking for an open space in a detox unit; it’s going to be much safer than doing it on your own, and they’ll be able to give you some medications like antiemetics and sleeping aids to help you through it

Okay, and what happens after that?

They’ll tell you more once you get there, but it’ll take around 5-7 days for the physical symptoms to fully subside. After that, they’ll talk to you about a relapse prevention plan. You’ll probably get a referral to a rehabilitation program - they’ll help you decide if inpatient or outpatient treatment is best for you

- He doesn’t fight them because he’s tired of all this, and these doctors and nurses actually seem invested in him getting better and being okay, even though he doesn’t know them. That’s all he wanted (needed) - for someone to notice him struggling and actually do something about it, actually make him deal with what happened to him instead of burying it in opiates. Yeah, he wishes it would have been his friends, that he wouldn’t have ended up in the hospital being treated for an accidental overdose. 

But it’s the first time he’s felt like someone (other than his mother, who cannot know about any of this) cares about him since Georgia, and it doesn’t quite feel good because nothing’s felt good for months (not even getting high, really). He feels relieved, though, that someone is making him get clean and offering continued care to keep him that way. 

It feels like someone’s thrown him a rope to try and pull him out of the water. He’s still wet and flailing and afraid, but now there’s hope.