Stars had always been beautiful to him. Some nights, he stared up into the dark sky and just looked at them, in awe over how bright and how small they seemed, over how they blinked down at him, listening, watching.
Logically, he knew they were trillions of miles away, and they were just balls of gas and light, but even he had to take time out of his life to just appreciate the simple beauty of them.
Now, though, as Spencer's lidded eyes gazed upon the stars, where there was usually a small smile, a look of wonder, there were tears. He didn't know when they'd started or even when they would stop, but he knew they were there, could feel them trickling down the sides of his face.
He always hated crying when he was lying on his back, the droplets always trailed to his ears and annoyed him. This time, it didn't bother him. Not like it should have. Not like it would have if it were his only problem.
But it wasn't his only problem. Reid couldn't even consider it a problem, not when he could feel his soaked hands clasped tightly on his abdomen, a searing ache just under his ribs. His wound drenched the ground beneath him, blood staining the forest floor red, and Spencer began to wonder how he would ever be able to get the sight of his hands pressing down and crimson seeping through his fingers out of his head.
And then, as a shuddering breath left him, his blurring gaze still aimed right up into the stars, he wondered if he'd ever get the chance.
It goes like this: Spencer hadn't been sleeping well for weeks, and his friends were starting to notice. Hotch and Morgan confronted him, he snapped at them that he was fine, and then he left the hotel.
He still had his gun and badge on him, had never had the chance to take them off because they'd only gotten to the hotel less than an hour ago, so when he saw someone looking at him from behind the curtain in a window, he approached the house.
Raising his hand to knock, Reid tried to push his last conversation out of his mind, despite knowing he could never forget it, could never forget anything.
"Is anybody home? I'm Dr. Spencer Reid with the FBI, I have a few questions for you," he called, his mind already running through the possibilities of why this person had hidden the second he saw them.
They could have seen something, or they could know something but were too afraid to go to the police. Maybe they just heard a random man walking around at night and peeked out.
When he heard the unmistakable sound of the person darting through their own house, though, he drew his gun. They were either the unsub or knew who was, and he couldn't just let them get away. It was stupid, Spencer knew it was stupid, but he took off around the side of the house anyway and watched as the man sprinted ahead of him into the trees.
"FBI! Put your hands in the air!" Reid yelled, though he knew it was pointless. The profile told them that the unsub would never willingly get locked up.
His slightly worn converse pounded against the dirt floor, twigs and rocks digging into his feet as he ran but only enough to make him slightly uncomfortable, and he nearly dropped his gun when the unsub skidded to a stop and spun, aiming a gun at him and pulling the trigger before Reid could even process it.
The doctor leapt to the side, behind one of the too-thin trees as two more shots went off, and then ducked out of cover to return fire. Horror flooded him, though, as he tripped on his own fucking shoelace and began to fall forward. He pulled the trigger one more time, unanimous with the bang of the unsub's gun.
By the time he was on the ground, all his breath had left him, and his wide eyes peered up at the sky. The unsub didn't make a sound, not even a breath. Reid knew then, he'd killed him, but he couldn't move at all, couldn't crane his neck to see where he'd shot the unnamed man. He couldn't even breathe, not with the absolute agony in his stomach, his trembling hands finding where the bullet had met his skin and coming away bloody.
"Oh," Spencer whispered, and then he tried to reach one hand into his pocket for his phone, before remembering exactly where it was. It lied next to JJ on the couch of the hotel lobby because as he'd gotten more heated, more snappish with Hotch and Morgan, he hadn't wanted them to be able to call him or have Garcia trace the call because they were worried.
"Don't wait up," he'd snapped as he left, and now he lied alone in the dirt, bleeding out, his friends still back at the hotel.
Reid knew when he started to shiver that he was in danger. Real, absolute danger. His breaths billowed in front of him, white in contrast to the pale lips flecked with red that they escaped from, and his tears stopped coming. They were drying on his cheeks, uncomfortable and sticky and wrong, so he reached one hand up to try to wipe the tear tracks away.
He realized his mistake as blood smeared across his face, his hand falling away limply. He probably should have kept pressure on his wound, but the strength it would take to lift the limb up again; he just didn't have it.
A weak cough left Spencer's lips, followed by a cry of pain as the pain in his side intensified. Copper filled his mouth, dark red rolling down his ashen skin, and the doctor genuinely feared for his life.
He'd felt like this before, with Hankel, with Cyrus, countless unsubs and countless situations, (They weren't countless, not really. He could list every single time he'd almost died and not miss a single one.) but he'd never been truly alone before, not like he was now.
And as he hoped for someone, anyone to find him, he could almost convince himself that he could hear sirens. He could almost convince himself that doors were slamming and there were footsteps coming right for him. He could almost convince himself that his teammates staring down at him were real, not some near-death apparitions he'd conjured.
He could almost convince himself that Hotch was pressing down on his wound because he couldn't anymore, and Emily was holding his hand, speaking worriedly to him as his hair was brushed out of his face by JJ.
Still, even though he knew they weren't real, he blinked away tears anyway, and gurgled out, "I'm s'rry."
"It's okay, you're okay, Spencer," Emily did not say, and Morgan wasn't yelling something a bit farther away, and Hotch wasn't looking at him with red, shining eyes.
It wasn't real, they couldn't be, but he pulled his hand away from not-Emily to grab not-Hotch's white shirt anyways.
"Please," Reid gasped.
Real or not, they had to know he was sorry. He didn't want to die when they didn't know.
"Reid, Reid! Stay with us, come on," Spencer heard as the stars began to fade, and one last tear rolled down his cold skin before the eyes that once looked up in awe did not see at all.
The genius' eyes flicked up from where they'd been on the twenty-third word of the seventy-eighth page of a book he'd read enough to recite in his sleep. Without even looking, he knew what his boss was going to say.
"I'm fine, Hotch," Spencer said, looking back to his book, but Derek spoke next, making him tense visibly.
"Really, kid? Fine? Those eyebags say differently," Morgan said from his spot leaning against the door frame, his arms crossed over his chest in a classic alpha male gesture.
"I'm fine," Reid insisted, closing his book and setting it beside him. "I've just been sleeping weird for the past few days. It's nothing."
"Reid, you know you can talk to all of us, right?" Hotch questioned, his voice softer than normal.
He did know that, and he was glad he had them all. But he didn't want to, not right now, not about this, and not while the whole team watched the conversation go down.
"I'm fine," the doctor snapped one more time, his voice taking on an agitated tone, but they didn't back off, they just kept pushing.
"Pretty boy, you're very obviously not fi-"
"Will you stop? I told you I'm fine, just drop it."
The whole room fell silent, his family all watching him with scrutinizing gazes, stares that seemed to look past him and right into his soul.
It was suffocating.
Abruptly, he stood, not bothering to grab his phone or his coat, too angered and embarrassed to linger. "Spence, where are you going?" JJ called after him, worried.
"Out," he didn't bother to look back. "Don't wait up."
"I'm sorry," Reid panted, his eyes screwed shut. They needed to know, they needed to know he forgave them, he wasn't even mad. He'd just been tired and stressed and he didn't want to die with them thinking he was mad.
"Please, I'm sorry," he croaked, twitching, and he felt a hand in his.
"Spence, Spence, hey. It's okay, you're okay. You're in the hospital, you're alright," JJ's voice found his ears, and when he finally managed to peel his eyes open, she was there, looking at him with red eyes.
"Don't cry," Reid attempted to soothe her, frowning, and then he realized why she was crying, memories of the past hour or so coming right to the forefront of his mind. Or was it just an hour? Likely longer.
"Oh. I'm okay?"
The blonde nodded, a tearful smile on her face. "You're okay."
"You almost weren't."
Spencer turned to his other side, finding Hotch sitting beside him, his elbows resting on his knees. For a moment, he didn't know what to say, how to approach the topic, but eventually he swallowed, the lump in his throat clearing.
"I'm sorry, Hotch. I know you guys were just worried. I'm sorry," he said, his eyes pleading.
The man sighed. "I'm not mad, Reid. Not about that, anyway."
"You left your phone and then took off at night in a town where people people were getting killed. We're all mad," Rossi spoke from the doorway, two cups of coffee in his hands.
Even with the man's words and the severity of the situation, seeing the coffee made him practically salivate. "Do I get some of that?" He asked hopefully.
"No," Emily denied as she came in, Derek in tow, and she promptly slapped him on the arm.
"Ow! What was that for?"
"Are you an idiot? Why on Earth would you go after the unsub alone? If we hadn't heard the shots, you'd be dead, Spencer," his friend glared as he rubbed his arm, glaring right back at her.
"Well you did hear them, and that's another near death experience to add to the list," he shot back, wincing when he shifted and it sent a flare of pain through his torso.
"I can't even tell if he's joking. That's bad, right? Like, that is not funny at all?" Morgan butted in, looking to his other teammates for support.
"I don't know. It is kinda funny," Reid said indifferently, a smile forming on his face.
"It's really not," Hotch argued, but a grin pulled the corner of his lips up anyway.
Blinking for a bit, Spencer began to notice that his eyes felt heavier and heavier every time he closed them.
"Sleep, Spence. We'll be here," JJ murmured softly, her hand still in his.
"'m fine," the doctor argued weakly, even as his eyes began to close.
"No, kid. You're not," Morgan told him.
"But you will be," added Emily, watching him.
They were all watching him, he could tell even with his eyes closed, but he didn't quite mind.
"L've you guys," he whispered.
He was asleep before they could return the words, and he would never know that JJ had placed a kiss on his forehead, or that Derek had given him a gentle hug to confirm that he was really there, really alive, or that Hotch stayed there the entire time he was out because the image of his blood and tear stained face wouldn't quite leave his head.
He wouldn't know, but he would at the same time.
"I'm fine," he would tell them later, and he would mean it.
"To bring me down, some people would anchor my soul to the forbidden abyss of time. They would nail my feet to the ground and tie my body with chains of lies. If they find out; or just imagine--that the wings of your dulcet love, take me high above the stars."
Above the Stars -- Clairel Estevez.