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This Is, as They Say, the Darkest Timeline

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I

 

“There are times when the mind is dealt such a blow it hides itself in insanity. While this may not seem beneficial, it is. There are times when reality is nothing but pain, and to escape that pain the mind must leave reality behind.” -Patrick Rothfuss

 

The funny thing is that you’re a genius who took an interest in behavioral patterns, so it should be easy for you to use your knowledge of human behavior to engineer a perfect exterior.

 

It is, that’s not the funny part. The funny part, if you have that particular sense of humor, is that the rest of your team is so confident in their profiling abilities that they assume they can see through any act you put on. You can’t blame them because you’ve played into that misconception for years, but it does amuse you from time to time, however dark and sad that amusement might be.

 

It was just so easy. All you had to do was create a few fake tells and put up a facade of involuntary transparency. You chose which secrets to pretend to hide and which secrets to truly bury. And the team just believed it all.

 

To be fair, most people would consider their illegal drug problem a ‘secret to bury’, but you have far worse than dilaudid. Letting your colleagues believe that they had seen your best effort at lying and hiding something really helped solidify your cover.

 

It’s just. It’s funny.

 

You are fooling some of the best behavioral analysts in the country by doing exactly what they know you are best at.

 

And nobody has a clue.

 

Your active mind was always looking for ways to relax, and this is the best way you’ve found to calm down. The complete control and hyper focus that you need to constantly maintain to carry out the lie is soothing to fixate on.

 

The lie you’re hiding has grown so large that it now has almost as much control over you as you have over your behavior.

 

It isn’t a life-changer, really. Your secret. Or, at least, it wasn’t. It was just a secret that you’d rather keep to yourself, the kind of dark and lonely secret that everyone has but nobody shares.

 

Until, of course, they do.

 

Except you, Spencer Reid, the so-called genius, who developed an interest in behavioral analysis thanks to one SSA Jason Gideon. It started with him, back before the BAU. You decided to play a game because though the area interested you it was the application that really drew you in.

 

On it’s own it was far below your ability level and it would never have challenged your mind enough to keep you involved without your game. The game was simple: hide something from the profiler. Lie to the behavioral expert.

 

So you took your nothing-special skeleton in the closet secret and you buried it as deep as you could, and then you buried your whole entire personality too, so that nobody would ever be able to analyze the man with the secret.

 

And it was exhilarating. The complete control you had over yourself, over everyone around you, over everything.

 

For once, you got a taste of the power your father thrived on. And it almost made you understand him from more than a profiler’s point of view. You always did have a special way of sympathizing with criminals.

 

Oftentimes now in your work you find that they never even had a chance, and it occurs to you in a way that it never had before that if you were an unsub that your team was chasing you would be one of those criminals.

 

One of the ones so thoroughly beaten down by life that the team would be honestly surprised if you weren’t the killer they were after. The only reason they don’t already keep a close eye on you is because of the game, because they don’t have a clue what your life was like.

 

Nobody has a clue.

 

Because you have found some wrinkle in the universe, surely, where you can hide anything you want. You have to be some cosmic exception, because if it was this easy your whole team would be out a job.

 

If you stopped believing it was all a giant twist in space you would once again have to deal with the feeling of being the smartest kid in class, being the only kid in class.

 

You’ve learned that the most effective way to blend in, when you aren’t purposely playing the part of the awkward genius of course, is letting other people think that they are the smartest one in the room.

 

When people don’t know how bright you are they take in your appearance and get arrogant and allow themselves to be controlled even more easily than usual.

 

Hiding your brain is best, just like you hide everything else.

 

This one’s just a little funny, because you’re hiding the fact that you’re a genius with the fact that you’re a genius. It really just feeds itself, with the help of the alpha male ego.

 

It's a recurring theme in your life, but it's true: it's funny. They should know how good you are at this, but they're so damn confident in themselves, so reassured by your awkward young genius act that they forget to be worried, to keep their profiling glasses on.

 

Because, after all, your profile is so easy to gather from your own thick glasses alone, isn't it? That's the beauty of it, it's so damn easy. All the alpha males in the FBI let their guard down so quickly around you because you aren't a threat, but you're in complete control.

 

And you don’t mind this, because it’s so much fun to manipulate everyone from the least suspect position. At least, it’s much more fun than being outcasted for an asset that becomes essentially useless in solitude.

 

Even though you use these stereotypes and misconceptions to your advantage, there’s still enough at stake that you play your intelligence down in the first place. The team knows that you’re a genius, sure, but if they knew that your IQ of 187 that they loved to tease was from a test that you maxed out at age six, they might get a little suspicious.

 

They might look at that genius image and question if it isn’t just a little too perfect, a little too predictable, a little too rehearsed.

 

So you’ve tried to build up even more defenses. You’ve played into their tendency to see you as a child, as a little brother, because nobody suspects their little brother.

 

Right now you are seen as a carefully crafted just-on-the-edge-of-society nerd. But if they knew how far from society you really existed they would question everything.

 

They’d wonder if you were actually putting your best effort into solving cases, they’d think in the back of their minds that you could just be playing along.

 

They’d think back on all of those cases you got too involved in, where the criminals were unstable and never had a voice.

 

They’d question if maybe the reason you got so involved wasn’t sympathy, but something more, like a carefully disguised opportunity that you took advantage of. A neat little hole for you to hide in.

 

They’d start to realize that you could have been using them the whole time. And that would ruin all of your fun.

 

Sometimes you consider the others. Sometimes you look at Emily and her nails. She bites them when she’s stressed, and everyone knows it, because they’re profilers.

 

But that’s just it. They’re all profilers.

 

They know what conclusions each one of them will draw from what observations. And if you can use that to your advantage, why couldn’t they?

 

So it gets you thinking sometimes, because Emily is also a profiler, and nervous nail-biting is so convenient. You think that maybe she fabricated this habit to cover up the real story. It could even be something silly like the fact that she needs to keep her nails trimmed to play guitar in a secret rock band.

 

But maybe she uses it as a way to disguise the unconscious movement of her hands to her mouth when her fingertips itch for a fix. Maybe the parts of Emily that draw her to this job, to the darkness, are the parts inside her that are clawing to get out, that end up with their own bleeding fingertips while she can do nothing but reach for a syringe to drown them out long enough to get a few hours of restless sleep at night.

 

That sounds a little too much like you, like your profiles give too much away. Maybe it means the profiles you build of killers are born from you too, just like the greatest lies are born from your own truths. But if your profiles are you, you don't want to profile their crimes. You can't profile yourself because you aren't ready to admit what that means to yourself, let alone the whole world. It doesn’t mean anything at all, it’s just a part of the game.

 

Besides, the person you’d be profiling doesn’t even exist.

 

And Doctor Spencer Reid sure wouldnt fit any profile that could be gathered from any crime, you’ve made sure of that.

 

So then everyone sees the final curve to the never ending circle when Emily can’t outstretch her hand and grab what she really needs and they just assume it’s nothing more than a bad habit. But Emily is biting her nails for a much different reason.

 

Maybe she bites her nails because she is a profiler, just like you.

 

You can’t help but analyze these details constantly, because it is what you do for your every move, and the control is important to you. It makes you feel so powerful, because you know that Emily really just can’t stop biting her nails.

 

You know that nobody else is a collection of fabricated lies sewn so carefully together like you are, no one else can hide quite as well. There is no greater rush. You’re so desperately lonely, but it’s a high that makes it almost worth it.

 

It doesn’t take long before you realize. You realize that the rush you feel is probably what your father felt, every time he got away with touching his four year old son.

 

Every time he took a risk for what he really wanted, threw his true ugly and battered self into the world’s open arms and got away with it.

 

Every time he would open his arms to you in a cruel mirror image and you ran right into them so nobody would question him and reveal his secret.

 

Every time he kept his complete control over your tiny little mouth; every time he won.

 

It worries you, in the far reaches of your mind, because it would be so easy to take that one extra step. And you know it would feel so good. But you don’t, because you have your secret. And that has to be enough.

 

You still think about it though. It comes creeping back in, because you love the rush, the power, the thrill of the lie, of winning the game when all you ever knew was losing. And you know addiction. And you know that even a great mind like yours, especially a great mind like yours, can fall victim to its clutches.

 

It would be so easy to let the craving take over. To experience the thrill of the chase. That would be the ultimate game. Hiding everything about yourself from people who live to see what you are underneath. Especially if what you are underneath is what they hunt every day.

 

They would have to hunt you, but you’d be right there. And if they still couldn’t see through you, well, that tempts you more than the narcotics ever did.

 

But your life has become an endless stream of careful and total control.

 

You’ll keep your control, because it’s the only thing you’ve ever really had.

 

 

II

 

You start having the dreams on a case. You’re all twisted up inside and you’re letting things through that you shouldn’t be and you can’t just go home and hide yourself away.

 

You feel like a child lost in a grocery store because when you sleep your control always gets left behind and you don’t know how to live without it. Only, in this grocery store, there are no kind people in the nearby aisles to hold your hand when they find you crying and help you reconnect with your parents.

 

Here, there is a bad man just around the corner and a spiteful sibling in control of the light switch. Here you are bathed in only dark and nothingness after you look up to see your parents are gone, and anything that happens next will surely alter your life forever and not in any way you’d ever want.

 

Here, when you lose your control you have no idea what will happen and no matter how hard you strain your eyes against the darkness you find it always wins. In this battle of control that is your life, you cannot conceal anything better than the darkness can, and that is why you’ve never liked the dark.

 

So here you are, lost in this grocery store with no parents in sight, no clue what to do, because in the darkness of sleep your powers of manipulation fail.

 

It’s kind of funny, how you’ve always gone to the grocery store by yourself anyways.

 

They’re noticing something is up, the team. You’re so frustrated by the fact that your control failed so completely that you barely have time to make decisions. You have to build a lie now, one that explains all this and then you’ll let it out slowly so it looks like you’re trying to hide.

 

The problem is that you aren’t sure what it all really means, which makes it hard to construct a lie that will benefit you most in the long run. You do your best with what you have, and even use some of your genuine distress to deliver your lines. After all, the best lies are the ones born from truth. You’re off the hook for now, but you know how important it is to regain your control as soon as possible.

 

Of course, it’s never that easy, for you.

 

You have another dream in front of Morgan, this time about your father. You’re screaming, “Morgan, get him off me!” and you’re sure that he’ll figure it out. You’re caught and this is it. Because your control is slipping and everything you’ve ever counted on is failing you, so why shouldn’t your whole life crumble down with it?

 

Except Morgan doesn’t give you that look like he knows too much. And the family’s interruption gives you time to pull yourself together enough to look very much not put together. You continue the story line you wrote on the jet but it’s not good enough for you.

 

You need to be better, be perfect, it’s just that you still have no idea what’s going on. Nothing new has happened with your father but you’re dreaming about him out of nowhere and it doesn’t make sense. This can’t happen again.

 

Once you figure out the cause of this you’ll be back to your old self. The self that is so beautifully not you at all. Dr. Spencer Reid will reluctantly share what’s wrong with him and you’ll go back into hiding.

 

And everything will work out, because you’ve always been adept at hiding.

 

But then you hear the name Riley Jenkins and your dreams start honing in on one place and you realize it isn’t going to be that simple.

 

You go visit your mother, secretly, because the team doesn’t know anything about her, doesn’t even know you’re from Las Vegas. And then you finally realize exactly what it is you’ve brought to light. Your father didn’t just hurt you. Your father may have killed some other boy. You could have stopped it.

 

It’s funny. How much your whole life starts making sense after that.

 

But before you take the implications to heart you have to be sure.

 

You now see the holes in the lie you came up with to explain everything. And you used to enjoy the exercise your brain would get trying to fix your mistakes, to strategize with only what you had.

 

But now that you have to play into the framework to get the information you want and you realize that your team has to know something is up and your father has to get involved, it doesn’t seem quite as fun, quite as relaxing. It’s become an endless chore attached to the end of every to-do list.

 

You don’t really want to involve your father, but you have to because of the string of lies that have been leaving your mouth since the day you were born. It worries you, because your father is the source of it all and your game should be more fun with this risk but really it just weighs you down. Your father doesn’t come with good memories.

 

He’s had plenty of practice lying though, and you’re confident enough that your little corner of the universe you hide in was built off of his to let your teammates watch you two dance around each other in a sea of lies. Your teammates, because of course they inserted themselves into your business. This is one of the drawbacks of your cover, the way they always want to protect you, but you can live with it. The situation is still salvageable.

 

Some of your team is here, so you have to work the case. And you have to keep playing the game. Because losing isn’t an option.

 

It’s just. Suddenly it doesn’t seem so funny, your life. It just seems pointless, all the time and effort you have dedicated to keeping these fucking secrets. What’s the point of it? And now, now it’s too late to turn back.

 

This game that was once relaxing is now a chore, one that weighs so heavily on your soul like a blanket of the darkness you’re still afraid of yet you pull into your life so freely. You’ve learned to cohabitate with the darkness, because all your life it has followed you and you have followed it. It’s less like a companion, and a little more like you’ve melded into the same being.

 

Like Dr. Spencer Reid is the light blocking out you and the darkness, pushing you and the darkness into the corner to occupy the same space. Like you couldn’t really differentiate between the two of you even if you tried, and nobody is. You’ll never be pulled apart but somehow you think it’ll be okay.

 

Because one day you know you’ll invite the darkness in anyway.

 

But now, these secrets, all the lies, it’s not how you imagined this playing out, back when you used to laugh at the obliviousness. Back before you got lonely with just the control for company.

 

So maybe now the only thing to do is to up your control, to give in to the cravings for an escape and chase the high of a game expertly won. You could do it so easily, and then maybe the control will be enough to drown out the loneliness inside.

 

You’ll become a killer, because your control is all you’ve ever had and maybe you need to give a little bit up to gain back more than you can even imagine. It’ll come back to you in the end with interest, because you’ll have demonstrated just what you can do with it.

 

As you move forward in your investigation Rossi stops you. He asks you if you’re sure, if you understand what kind of person this would make your father.

 

And. It’s not funny.

 

It’s really, really not.

 

But it makes you want to laugh, a hysterical laugh, the kind that once you started you don’t think you could ever stop.

 

Because your father was exactly the kind of person you should be looking at, and they have no clue. You can’t tell him the truth, so you don’t laugh, but it’s so goddamn funny. (Ironic, it’s ironic and you don’t find that funny anymore because crying isn’t the same as tearing up from laughing.)

 

You know exactly what your father is; you could tell Rossi exactly how many times he snuck into your room at night. You could tell him every last detail. But you don’t. You can’t really do it. So you just pull your face into a gentle frown and you tell him you’re sure you want to look into it.

 

Your brain is scattered in a way it’s never been before so you channel your control, you pull it all together and focus on stopping the tears from falling down your cheeks; you fight with your body like a little boy, like that boy, like the one whose father hurt him every night no matter how hard he kicked, no matter how loud he screamed.

 

Like the boy who never had a chance, because his father was a killer and his whole life was designed to make him into one too.

 

Because that’s what this means, if your father really did it.

 

It means you’re bound to be exactly what your team hunts every day. You learned to hide from them because of your father, without ever really knowing why, and now here it is. This is your why.

 

And now you’re going to see your father and you’re barely able to keep yourself from crying. It makes you feel like the boy you were the last time you said “Dad”. Like the boy who had no control and always lost his game.

 

You’re not that boy anymore. So you get it together. You’re in control now and you’re going to win. You’re going to show your father that you’re keeping his secret because it benefits you. That you can let it slip at any time and you have control over him now. You pick up your messenger bag and you walk out the door.

 

When you talk to your father you try to let him know. You need him to be in on the game, you need to get the truth underneath the surface out and let him come up with a cover to keep up appearances. You dance around each other, dropping subtle hints in your conversation that go unnoticed by the team members. You hate your father, but this isn’t him, so you use Dr. Spencer Reid’s emotions to guide your surface interactions, because Dr. Spencer Reid’s father abandoned him and he’s not over it yet.

 

You can’t use your own hatred, because William Reid never hurt Spencer Reid. It was the nameless and faceless creatures you became in the dark, the ones hidden behind those magic lies that raised you to be the man you are more than your father ever did. They were the ones who hurt and were hurt and lived secret lives, not Spencer Reid, the genius, and William Reid, the father who left.

 

And really, you’re too good at separating them, because looking at your father should make you sick, but really it just makes you want to fucking laugh. Your real father isn’t there. Your real father is as abstract as the lies.

 

He exists as much as you do.

 

When you get back to the hotel you find a file on a man who fits the profile perfectly. You know it’s from your father, it’s his cover. Then Garcia searches his computer and shares more information on your father and you pay close attention; you know he will have given you everything else you need to put his cover into action. They list off what they found and Dr. Spencer Reid gets upset and angry and dismisses himself.

 

You use the space to analyze everything your father thought was important enough to let Garcia find and everything he didn’t let her find, all the information he wanted passed to you.

 

You go play the machines because Dr. Spencer Reid would go play the machines, and you talk back to the girl who talks to you and you realize- hypnosis. If you can remember what really happened you can find out the truth about your father like you came here to do, and you can do it so it easily fits into your cover and allows you to focus on your act for the remainder of the case.

 

You just have to be careful because Rossi wants to sit in and you know exactly what you might see.

 

The hypnotherapist guides you to your room at night. Your parents are fighting. You know what happens after this and you know that you can't let yourself go there but you’re open to suggestion because you honestly wanted to try this so you’re thrown back into your four year old self.

 

Your control is gone and you say, “I don’t want to be here,” because you don’t. There’s no more thought than that. You’re four and you don’t want to be there and you want your daddy to leave and you don’t want him to hurt you again. You’re scared you’re scared you’re scared.

 

She lets you leave. You skip over all the hurt and you go to the next morning, where you find all you need to know. Your father killed Riley.

 

You saw it; you were there too. And you were the one that your father smeared with the little boy’s blood and you were the one that he stared at while Riley drew his last breath and yours was the name your father groaned out while you held Riley’s cold stiff hand because you were the one he really wanted to kill but couldn’t. You’re scared you’re scared you’re scared.

 

But you pull yourself out of the flashback and you see Rossi worrying about you and you gather all of your control that consciousness has returned to you and coil it around yourself like a blanket.

 

You have everything you need now. Really, as much as you saw your father killing Riley Jenkins you saw your own first kill, too, and your soul kind of feels like it has hardened in cement because your father made you, he made you, you never had a choice, but for now your job is to carry out the lie you and your father are living, just like it always has been.

 

So you suck it up and share this story about some bloody clothes, the explanation that’s just enough to cause this big fuss but not enough for anyone to look any further and get themselves caught in this delicate web of lies being strung.

 

And everyone believes you because that’s what they always do.

 

You play out the rest of the investigation. You want to stop and scream because your father made you to be a killer and all of your control was a lie and it isn’t fair but you can’t.

 

So you pretend to be this stupid boy who is convinced his father is a killer, who almost wants it to be true. Because that’s what you have to do to keep living your life. Because that’s what you’ll have to do for the rest of your life once you follow in your father’s footsteps.

 

You can’t seem to connect to reality quite right because it suddenly seems as if everything you thought you knew was just another lie.

 

Like maybe there never was such a thing as truth in the first place. Like maybe the biggest lie was that you were lying at all and that truth existed, like there was a distinction and it wasn’t all just for show.

 

It’s overdramatic and so unlike you but you can’t get past it. Because all this time, this game you started, you did it all to show how much control you had.

 

All you’ve ever done was search for the control your father stole from you and the funny thing is that you thought you had it. You thought everything was under your control, you probably would have even said you had more control than most people, an abundance of control so carefully kept that it was the only thing keeping you alive.

 

But it turns out it was all one big joke, where everyone is laughing at you, not the joke you thought it was where you were laughing from the inside. Because your father was a killer. And everything he did to you shaped you into one too.

 

So all this time you were acting under his guidelines, and he’s been controlling you, really. Not the other way around. And if you weren’t the one in control then there was no reason for you to keep his secret, so he manipulated you into doing that too. It’s all playing out exactly like he wanted.

 

You feel everything and nothing.

 

When you go to interview your father you pull it together. You can’t be sad when Dr. Spencer Reid is so angry, so frustrated with all of the lies around him. You could almost laugh at the irony, but it’s not the time.

 

You need to kill that part of you that thinks your father has won somehow. He hasn’t. You will kill that part because you want to kill that part, just like you wanted to kill it before you ever knew about your father. If you’re a killer you’ll be a killer because of the rush, the thrill, the game, your game.

 

And maybe it wouldn’t have happened if not for your father but it wouldn’t have happened without you either, if you hadn’t taken control of yourself. If you hadn’t been so good at keeping it.

 

So now you’ll go in to see your father and you’ll show him just how much control you do have, because you’ve got power over him and he knows it. Because he doesn’t matter to you anymore, not even enough for you to lock him up. But he knows that you could.

 

You’re in control. That’s all you need to get out of your funk. You know exactly what you need to do.

 

Sitting in interrogation across from your father is intense. You hate him and this isn’t him but it is and you’re both lying with every word out of your mouths, but you’re spilling so much truth between you. You can see through everything he does, but you’re not sure he can see through you, past what you give out.

 

He sees everything you let him see, more than the others, but still nothing you don’t want to give away. He taught you well, but the students always pass up the teachers eventually.

 

With that the last of your worry is let free. Your father isn’t calculated enough to have planned this whole thing out behind your back. It’s okay. You’re okay.

 

The end of the story plays out. Your father reveals that he saw Gary Michaels talking to some of the boys after little league practice. He talked to Riley’s father, Lou, about it, and he seemed like he could use a few drinks, so later that night he went over to Lou Jenkins’s house with a case of beer.

 

What he found was a mess of blood and some garbage bags, a frantic Lou standing in the corner with a baseball bat. He tried to pry the bat out of his hands and ended up covered in blood. The next day he burnt the clothes to protect himself and the grieving father.

 

The elaborate lie wraps up the investigation, and soon you are on a jet with Morgan and Rossi back to Quantico.

 

When you hold your godson for the first time you can almost see the blood on your hands stain his little blanket.

 

III

 

You've slowly been letting more of yourself out, your real self.

 

Dr. Spencer Reid grows up, grows into himself, enough. He stops being so childlike, hesitant, and awkward. Those attributes are self-sustaining by now.

 

He lets his hair go wild, he lets a few social skills come through, his clothes start to fit a little better, start to flatter him a bit more, he can handle himself in the field now. It's overlooked by the team; they still see you as a kid.

 

They still see exactly what you want them too and nothing more.

 

It makes you think that maybe the real you can evolve a little bit too. It gives you a thrill, but you still have a demanding act to keep up, an unimaginable level of control to maintain. You still have to be that gawky genius that never quite fit in.

 

You can do it, though, because it's worth it. And it always will be. That's the game, after all.

 

Your mother dies. You get the phone call around 3 a.m. one morning.

 

You have to go to work. And you have to keep playing the game. Because losing isn’t an option. But your heart feels empty and your eyes start to burn because you can’t make them blink and you don’t know when your mouth went slack but no matter how much you want it too it won’t snap itself back shut. You don’t know why you have no control over your body but for a while you’re absolutely certain that somebody else has taken it over and rendered you completely helpless in your own skin.

 

But your memory reminds you that that feeling is just an echo of what you felt all those years when your father touched you and you swore your mom was gone, because how could she let this happen to her little boy, if she were here this wouldn’t be happening, mommy please.

 

Sure, your mother was there, she existed among the darkness, but she was never there, never herself when you needed her. This household snuffed you all out in it’s grip and your mother was there and she never saved you but all those times she would read you Valentine’s poems it almost seemed like a soft glow emanated from her palms and. And you’ve always loved your mother best.

 

Just like she always loved you, the times when she was herself. The darkness hid the lies but it also hid the truth. Your mother was good, she was so good and she was there but she couldn’t save you and that doesn’t make her bad it just makes you a little broken.

 

You know you’re not there at home and you’re in your apartment and you have to go to work but you can’t move again because this time it’s the panic that’s taken over. You try to breathe but everything is fuzzy and far away and you can’t close your eyes or your mouth or suck in a damn breath and you think you’re going to die as you sway there alone. And then you get control.

 

Because, really, no matter what you tell yourself your mom was never there to save you, and the control, well. That’s the only thing you’ve ever really had.

 

There’s no doubt that it was suicide, they say, but you know better.

 

Someone killed her. There’s no way your mother would do that.

 

Someone killed her, and if someone else murdered your mother you can find them. You can delude yourself into killing just like the hundreds of unsubs you’ve caught.

 

But you’ll be different, because you’re so very good at not getting caught.

 

The team doesn’t know anything about your life, they didn’t know your mother, so they don’t even need to know that your mother is dead.

 

She’s- your mother is dead. But her killer isn’t so you are going to catch them. You will catch her killer and you will kill them.

 

You are going to kill. And you’re never going to get caught, because this killer doesn’t even exist.

 

No no no no no. That’s not right. You’re going to kill but not because of your mother.

 

Your mother killed herself because she was sick. Because she was a paranoid schizophrenic and they never could get her medication just right again after she went off them to have you. Because 15% of people diagnosed with schizophrenia commit suicide. Because in this family of darkness nobody was spared.

 

You are not going to kill because your mother committed suicide. You are going to kill because you want to kill, because it will up the stakes in your game. Because your control needs to be exercised, because of the high you will feel from the chase. Because it’ll amuse you to watch your team of professional profilers fail to realize that one among them has been lying to their faces all along. And it is the amusement that you need to get back so you can enjoy your game once more, find peace in everything you do, enjoy how much strategy you get to put into your life. You need to gain the amusement back.

 

You’ve always found irony to be a particularly satisfying form of humor.

 

That is why you will kill.

 

You are better than the unsubs you catch. You’re a profiler. And you can’t get emotional, can’t sacrifice your control. You’ve never been the angry type, anyways. You just need to play out this game you’ve started.

 

When you step into the elevator to go to work you think of your mother for no reason other than the fact that you’re alive and she’s not. But when you think about your mother you keep your palms open and your head tilted like a child and you keep your eyes wide like your mind is light and empty.

 

You even add a breath count in the back of your mind like it is as empty as you’re making it look, because you know you’ll need to be analyzing averages all day to prevent any noticeable signs of distress when you inevitably panic at the thought of your mother, the only person who’s loved you at all without loving you too much.

 

You start constructing your fake internal narrative for the day for when you need to project preoccupation that isn’t what you’re actually preoccupied with, for when you need to pretend to get side tracked, for you to keep up appearances as always.

 

You mentally catalog every inch of your body and start position graphs in your head for them, for you to refer to throughout the day. You can’t let revealing behavioral patterns show through.

 

Today is especially important. It’s a bigger test than you’ve ever passed before, a bigger test than you’ve even attempted. It’ll be particularly satisfying to know your control is truly yours, and on a day like today you need that, because today the real Spencer Reid is feeling emotions that resonate through the masks, and you can’t let that change anything.

 

Morgan slaps you on the back when you exit the elevator and engages you in conversation and you take off on a rant about something inconsequential and you play your character and nobody notices a damn thing.

 

Your mother isn’t dead. Doctor Spencer Reid saw a Russian film last night that led to reading a stack of research materials which kept him up. His phone was silent, as usual.

 

You read the files and you solve the case, but not too fast. Doctor Spencer Reid isn’t really that much more useful than any other agent unless there is a need for obscure information or a fast reader.

 

The world keeps turning.

 

You're used to being underestimated, especially when it comes to your lying skills. Your social skills, too. Nobody will suspect that the awkward stumbling stuttering genius is controlling every word of their conversation, because why would he choose to be painfully awkward if he was capable of stopping it? That's exactly what you count on.

 

You use your image as armour that you've built up specially fitted around yourself. Sure, at one point you may have genuinely ended up that way. Perhaps you’d be a little less cliché, but you’re a genius either way, so you still would have played it up because the advantage it gives you is too great to give up.

 

You can’t be sure how much of it would be fake or how adept you would be at acting in this alternate universe, though, because when your father started forcing himself on you you learned how to force your will on others, how to act just so to get everyone to bend to your will.

 

You use that alternate reality where your father never touched you, that unthreatening and dazzlingly genuine personality, like a shield.

 

Even when you tell the truth, you've learned how to hide behind facts. You keep talking, talking, talking but you never say anything and nobody bothers to get you to share anything important because they're too busy trying to get you to stop.

 

In college you used to make coins disappear during exams. It's like they didn't even listen when you let that one slip in front of the team, because that's exactly what you're doing now and they've already forgotten you confessed.

 

You let out all the facts, the knowledge, the stolen words in your head onto the test, let them explode across the paper, turning heads because you're the freaky genius kid. And all the while the coins, the things of value, just fade away unseen. Nobody even knows they existed in the first place because they can see everything out on the page in front of them, right? So why bother looking anywhere else.

 

And they know your strategy, and they still don't watch close enough. It's funny, is what it is.

 

You've said before that you don’t believe in quantifying intelligence. So when they don't question how often you wear it on your sleeve, they must just assume it’s Doctor Spencer Reid, the innocent, helpless young genius being oblivious to what he projects into the world yet again.

 

It's so obvious if they would just look. You lay out exactly what they expect from you, the resident ‘genius,’ and let them twist you into something non threatening, make their assumptions about you so they can feel better about themselves. But they never pay attention.

 

They're profilers and they don't notice a damn thing. One lie flows into another flows into another. The killer disappears behind the smokescreen.

 

You get home and you’re high on a day well played. But your mother is dead, and all you want to do is retreat into your game, the one that you've mastered, the one that has to end every day when you go home alone.

 

You wish you’d had to fly out somewhere for your case, so you could continue the game, so you could lose yourself in the turns and the twisted rules and the fluid motions that you’ve created. So you could let your thoughts all turn around themselves and get tangled up in each other and come out a little not right.

 

You want to have an excuse to give in to the cravings you’ve faced right now, and it isn’t fair that you’re a killer who still can’t kill even when his mother dies, it isn’t fair that you have to stay so sane. But that’s the price that comes with your control, so you tell yourself it’s worth it.

 

You know you’re going to make the game more interesting, a little more risky, a little more exhilarating, and you know that you’re going to do it soon. Now you need to do it not only to for the exercise in control, for the reassurance that your father didn’t win, but also to try to replace what you’ve lost.

 

But no matter how much you want to kill the one who killed your mother, no matter how much you want to take this as an opportunity to step up your game, you know you can’t. Because her killer is dead; she died with Diana Reid. You aren’t one of your unsubs; you have better sense than that. You can’t let this be your trigger.

 

When you kill you have to be cold, calculating. It has to be monitored by the blank eyes that appear to be molded out of pure darkness, has to ignite a blaze of humor within the blackened depths that are hidden too easily behind the kindest eyes you team has ever seen. You can’t give yourself away. It has to be out of nowhere and it can’t be personal. The first kill is always personal.

 

A profiler knows that.

 

IV

 

When you start getting headaches you worry that it’ll interfere with your control. You’re not going to hide them for real, you’d rather play it off as something Spencer Reid failed to keep from the team because he doesn’t hide pain well. Because if he can’t hide pain and later down the road they can’t tell he’s in pain, well, then obviously he isn’t in pain. It’ll help your cover in the long run.

 

Then again, maybe these headaches will hurt your cover, because sometimes the pain explodes so sharply and suddenly behind your eyes that you can’t think straight. In those moments you’d do almost anything if you thought it would make it stop.

But your worries are for nothing and in the end what you gain from the whole ordeal is worth every second of blinding agony.

 

Because you get in contact with a geneticist named Maeve, who just so happens to have a stalker. And she fits so brilliantly into Dr. Spencer Reid’s life that you can’t help but start planning for the future. Those plans are more than slightly different from what the team will imagine they were, but that’s no matter. Your plans are better.

 

You start writing her and talking to her and building trust with her.

 

It’s funny (soon you’ll be able to appreciate the irony again), how you can see yourself in another world genuinely falling in love with her, but here you are planning to kill her. You suppose you’ll love her in this world too, because she will always be your first victim, if all goes according to plan.

 

You start planting the seeds with your team. You smile a little more, act a bit more distracted. You get weird about payphones and exaggerate your hesitation to include others in your business. Finally, you tell Alex outright.

 

Meanwhile, you were building a profile on Maeve’s stalker, learning everything about her, yes, her, because it is actually one Diane Turner who has been causing all the trouble.

 

You thank her in your head before you sleep at night; she’s your unwitting accomplice.

 

The name Diane seems like a sign, because your mother’s name was so similar, and your mother turned out to be a killer, too, in the end. It seems to you as though she sent this partner to you from the grave, to be by your side when she no longer could.

 

Your whole family was the same. The darkness lived and breathed and grew in your household.

 

This Diane, you have to learn everything about her. You need to be able to predict her moves exactly, to construct a situation in which nobody deviates from your plan.

 

You feel like a puppet master, a marionnettiste. Except, unlike the unsub your team caught in Arizona, you don’t need to incapacitate your puppets. In fact, the puppets never even realize that someone was holding their strings. You’re a subtle unexpected manipulator, your control is beyond what most could even imagine.

 

This is why you have to hide, so you can execute these beautiful story lines. Turn your team into actors in your own show. And in addition to being the writer, you are also the inspired director. Everything must be anticipated, planned for.

 

Finally, you are ready for action. You give Diane the small push she needs to trigger her attack, and everyone tears away from the starting line.

 

You feel about 10 feet tall with all of the control simmering right on the surface of your skin, with the excitement of the game warming your cheeks, the impending victory brightening your eyes. You feel giddy when you pull all of that inside and give an award winning performance for Hotch and then for your team. But the reason you feel even better is because of how horrible you look on the outside.

 

Your hair is unwashed and untamed, your eyes are dark and sunken and haunted and wild, your clothes are rumpled and old, and your voice is weak and unsteady. Your thoughts are scattered and sad, and your focus is gone. At least, as far as the team can tell.

 

From the outside, you look every bit like the young doctor struggling with his emotions while the love of his life is in danger. On the inside, though, you are thriving, growing.

 

So you lead your team out on a chase, from the sidelines, of course, and everything goes beautifully according to plan. When you finally meet Maeve face to face she is the most beautiful girl in the world to you, just like you said she would be. Because she’s the first girl you are going to kill, and everything is working out exactly like you pictured, and that makes her perfect.

 

V

 

It’s funny, how easy it is to fool a team of trained professionals. You know that one day something will go wrong and you’ll draw the wrong person’s attention and you’ll become just another unsub to your team, one that doesn’t remain unknown for long.

 

You'll have to run and the team will have to profile you, and you might help because by then you won’t have to care anymore. You’ll let all of your secrets out then, and only then. You’ll let yourself laugh then too.

 

The funny thing will be that you’re a genius who took an interest in behavioral patterns, and you’ve used your knowledge of human behavior to engineer a perfect exterior right under the noses of the BAU. Eventually, they’ll have to go looking for you, but you’ll never be caught.

 

Because you are fooling a room full of some of the best profilers in the country about an entire human being, this Dr. Spencer Reid you’ve created, every single day.

 

And you’ve been doing it for years, and nobody has a damn clue.

 

“When truth is buried underground it grows, it chokes, it gathers such an explosive force that on the day it bursts out, it blows up everything with it.” -Emile Zola