Status: complete

All the Madness in the World


"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it." – Helen Keller


My feet were taking me faster than my mind was, the realization not completely settling in my conscious mind—but my feet, they knew. They tried to slip past the police but when they tried to hold me back my hands took over, flashing the badge, the magic key. The password. My eyes, they focused on the door to the house, ignoring Derek who was coming closer. He reached out but my hands, they had business elsewhere and they pushed him away. Ears ignoring his voice. It still didn’t hit me as I walked through the house, down the stairs, into the basement. It wasn’t until I stood in front of the glass, with Spencer on the other side, and placed my hands on the cold surface that my mind finally let me understand.

He was going to die.

This weaponized strand of anthrax that attacked the respiratory system, this odorless and invisible poison that had killed 17 out of the 25 people in less than twenty four hours, and Spencer had made it onto the hit list. It was different, somehow, having a case so dangerous so close to home. It was strange knowing that at any point the unsub saw fit another wave of victims could be targeted and we weren’t allowed to publicize the knowledge; an attempt to prevent the mass panic that would ensue.

When someone has a specific title it’s like those words define you, they rob you of the chance for human error or lashing out or thinking inappropriately. When a doctor tells the family of a patient that there’s nothing he can do, it’s completely unfathomable. You’re a doctor, they say, this is what you’ve trained for! But everyone is human, no matter how many years you spend in school. So even though there was a strand of anthrax floating around with someone that had the potential to kill off the entire country, even though I was a Federal Agent whose duty it was to protect the citizens of America, all I could think about was saving Spencer Reid. In that one moment that I looked at him through the locked glass door, I would have sacrificed a thousand people if it just meant saving him. Because people will always play favourites. Always.

Fingers, palms, wrists, all trembling against the glass as he turned to face me. He gave me that guilty look, because he knew he’d messed up but this wasn’t something that could be fixed. There was no band aid or second chance or change of heart or apology and forgiveness. Only the unidentified strand of anthrax in his system and absolutely no hint of a cure.

I did my best to hold it together because I didn’t want him to see how scared I was. He couldn’t see how much this was killing me—he knew it deep down, he didn’t need a reminder set before his eyes. I wanted to yell at him, to hit him, ask how he could have been so stupid as to do something like this, how on earth he thought it was a good idea to come down here alone—but none of this would change the fact that he was infected. All the yelling or the crying couldn’t save him, not now.

“We’ll fix this.” I promised, resisting the urge to smash through the glass myself and go to him. I knew what he wanted to say: that there wasn’t a cure, that people were dying from this in the hospital at that moment—but neither of us had the heart to acknowledge that. “We’ll find a cure, Spence.”

“You should go to Morgan.” He said with a small smile. “He’s probably beating himself up about this.”

“I’m not going to leave you.”

“You can come back, Tash. I’ll still be here.” It was his turn to make a promise: neither of us was guaranteed to keep ours. With a deep breath I took a step back and he turned from me completely, rifling around the papers and belongings in the room. After a moment I left the house, catching sight of Derek and going over to him. He had a tortured look on his face that made me feel even worse.

“I shouldn’t have let him go.” My eyes began to water as my breathing elevated. “He’s all I have left and now he’s going to die. Derek, we can’t let him die.”

“C’mere.” He pulled me into his arms and I started hyperventilating, the tears working their way out of my eyes. A psychopathic serial killer out to get me, willing to take down even my closest friends and family in the process, and Spencer was going to die because of an unchecked crime scene. “It’s my fault, I was with him.”

“Shut up, Morgan.” I cried, trying not to dig my nails into his back. I heard a car pull into the driveway and I knew who it would be: the rest of the team, the ones who would be analyzing my every move for the first sign that I wasn’t able to handle this in addition to what was going on. Hotch was asking Derek what happened as he began to loosen his grip, but I held him tighter and tried to wipe at my eyes and steady myself. “Don’t let go—not yet. He can’t know I was crying.”

“Doctor Kimora’s suiting up and going in with Reid.” Derek reported as I finally got a hold of myself and turned to face the others. I shut the worry out, forbade the panic and grief from creeping into my system. As far as I was concerned, Spencer Reid was just a stranger stuck in an unfortunate circumstance. I would try to help him, but it wouldn’t destroy me. It couldn’t.

“Are they getting him to the hospital?” Emily asked. The military men were storming the ground, going on about setting up gray zones and quarantine areas and sanitizing stations.

“Nichols is dead, looks like he has been for a few days. There’s signs of a struggle—Reid was saying he thinks if a cure was made then it’ll be hidden somewhere in the room, so Kimora’s going to help him look.”

“Okay, I’ll suit up and go in with Spencer and we’ll try and find out who killed Nichols.” I ripped the hair tie off of my wrist and pulled my hair into a ponytail.

“No way, T-Bird.” Derek grabbed hold of my arm. “You can’t go in there.”

“Morgan’s right, I don’t know if that’s the best idea.” Hotch said, eyes glued to the house where Spencer’s life ticked away.

“With all due respect sir, if Doctor Kimora is safe in the suit then I will be as well; and I think we all know that two Reids work better than one.” It took everything in me not to storm away immediately and suit up myself, but I knew that to be in control was to wait for approval, to wait for confirmation that my request was okay. He stared at me with that stern look on his face for what felt like an eternity before he finally nodded. His phone rang and after checking the id he put it on speaker.


“Hotch I really messed up this time.”

“We need to get you to the hospital as soon as possible.” Hotch said.

“I’m already exposed, it’s not going to do me any good to stop working the case.” I rubbed my forehead at his words. Here he was, victim of a silent killer, and he insisted on being the hero.

“I’m coming in with Dr. Kimora in a few minutes.” I said as I peeled off my bulletproof vest.

“What? No, you’re staying out there.”

“Shut up, Spence.” I said weakly, handing my vest to Morgan and going off to find the doctor. There was a tent set up and she was stepping into the big white suit that looked exactly as it should: as if we were walking into a bio-hazard site. I quickly filled her in and she helped me into my own suit before following me into the house. When I stepped into the room Spencer was still on the phone with Hotch, shooting me a look before continuing talking.

“I see cages filled with dead animals, I see signs of a struggle—probably before Dr. Nichols was murdered—equipment’s missing, there’s a large desk with clutter all over the surface but in the corner there’s a smaller desk that’s organized and functional. He has a partner, maybe even a protégé.”

The orders were given and the jobs divided and when he finally ended the call I wanted nothing more than to take off the stupid, bulky, ugly plastic suit and just hold him. After everything, this could not be the end. But I settled for what little contact I could make, ignoring his feeble requests for me to leave and assuring him that I was safe inside this whale of a suit.

“You can start looking around I just…I need to make a phone call.” He said quietly. I nodded, giving him some space and wandering around the room, searching for some place that looked like a good hiding spot for the cure that had to exist. I listened as he called Garcia, asking her to leave a message for his mother in case anything went wrong. My heart shattered more and more with every syllable he spoke.

“Dr. Nichols is a former military scientist, which means he’s secretive and probably a little paranoid.” I said to get things moving along, to avoid at all costs the horrific elephant in the room. “He probably would’ve hidden it from his partner, don’t you think?”

“Yes, so we should look for something innocuous,” Spencer said to Kimora, chest heaving as he started to cough. “Something you would least expect.”

I kept focused on finding this while Spence got a call from Derek. At his request he started to wander around the room, picking up things off of Nichols desk. He started to piece together things like lesson plans spanning decades and a thesis paper that looked to be graded—things that pointed to a student as the probable protégé. Garcia was set to look up local PhD students and as they refined the search I rummaged through the desk drawer of Dr. Nichols. There wasn’t much—a couple of pens, a broken stapler, an inhaler, a calculator—but my eyes were drawn back to the inhaler and I grabbed at it with my big gloved hands as Spence coughed even more.

“Spence, what do you think?” I offered up the inhaler and he nodded quickly as I handed it to Kimora to bag for the lab. She said that Spencer had to go get hosed down so they could take him to the hospital and he promised to be up in a moment, asking for a second to talk to me. “Whatever it is, save it for later. We need to get you to the hospital.”

“There might not be a later, Tash.” He said seriously, rooting me to the spot. I tried to tell him that he shouldn’t say things like that, but the words caught in my throat. “Listen to me, if things don’t end well you’re with the only people in the whole world I’d trust to find Ares. You’re going to make it, okay? You’re going to be fine. I promise.”

“Don’t.” I choked out, eyes welling up. “Please don’t start saying that.”

“I know I don’t say it as much as I should, but I love you, you know that right?” He said as I brought him into my arms. He coughed horribly. “You’ll make it through whatever happens.”

Pulling away, I tugged him up and pushed him outside towards the washing station where Dr. Kimora waited. I squeezed his hand as he went off to meet her. Derek came to my side, helping me strip off the stupid protective suit and allowing me to crush his hand in mine.

“Derek, I can’t do this without him.” I admitted, turning to face him. There was a panic in my heart that was taking control of my entire body. “For the first month I was home after Ares I didn’t speak to anyone except him, not even my mother. He was the one who stopped my suicide attempts, he was the only reason the doctors didn’t put me in a goddamn psych ward—Derek if he dies I know that I will too.”

“I won’t let him.” He said quietly, his grip on me the only thing keeping me upright as the worst case scenario flashed in my mind. Dr. Kimora told us when they were ready to leave for the hospital and I promised to keep Derek up to date as I clambered into the ambulance.

“How are you feeling, Dr. Reid?” Kimora asked as she fiddled with the medical equipment. I kept a death grip on Spencer’s hand, pressing a towel to his head to mop up all the sweat.

“My throat’s a little dry, but other than that I feel fleb…I feel fly…I feel…” He struggled to get out the proper words, a symptom of the virus’ progression. Kimora told him to relax and the driver to speed up as blood tricked down his chin. I kept my face void of all emotion; it would do nothing to make him better, only make him feel worse.

I tried my best to stay out of the way as they loaded him into the hospital room, doing all they could to help but ultimately being of little use. Dr. Kimora offered to give him some morphine to help with the pain he was no doubt concealing but I politely declined, knowing damn well how close he came to addiction after the Tobias incident. I stayed with him for a while until he fell asleep, and begrudgingly left the room to call Derek.

“Where are we with the case?”

“Garcia got a hit on a student named Chad Brown, he’s our unsub and we’re pretty sure he’s planning an attack at the Frederick stop of the DC train line, that’s where we going now.”

“Let me guess, it’s a site of rejection?”

“He proposed to a girl in the park and never moved up in the book store where he first tested the strain. How’s Reid?”

“He’s…he’s getting worse. Kimora said she’s doing everything she can but…” A nurse told me that I couldn’t use my cellphone because it messed with the machines so I told Derek to say anything he had to quickly.

“Hotch and I are going down into the subway to stop him, he’s transporting the anthrax in lightbulbs.”

“Derek Morgan, I swear to God if anything happens to you Hotch down there—”

“I’m not going anywhere, baby girl. And neither is Reid.”

“Be safe.”

A sigh escaped me and I pocketed my phone, pulling out a few bucks to buy a coffee with, praying it would calm me down a bit having something in my system. I laid my head against the cold metal of the machine and breathed in and out, in and out, in and out, until the cup was full. I finished half of its contents before returning to Spencer, trying to remind myself that we might have a cure. Trying to forget the worst case scenario.

I took a seat beside him, slipping my hand into his, sipping away at the coffee until it was empty. His hair was plastered to his forehead and every now and again he would cough, even in slumber. Part of me wanted to rouse him, to prevent any possibility of him leaving me for good on a ship of sleep—but it was too cruel a gesture. At least unconscious he couldn’t feel any pain.

It wasn’t until I got up to throw away the coffee cup and went to reclaim his hand did I notice it. At first I thought it was a lesion, the kind that other victims were presenting in the worsening stages of the virus, but of course I wasn’t that lucky. There in plain sight on the back of his hand was Ares’ symbol, drawn on with the unforgiving black of a permanent marker. My heart jumped into my throat and I looked around the room, clearing it and running into the corridor to look for any signs. When I couldn’t find anyone I grabbed the closest male that looked relatively free and strong, flashing my badge and ordering him to guard the room.

“I don’t give a damn if they say they’re a doctor or FBI or anything, if it’s a man you don’t let them into that room without telling me, understood?”

He nodded despite the confusion and I immediately set off to sweep the floor. I hadn’t left Spencer for more than ten minutes. Long enough, I supposed, for Ares to strike. I asked a few of the nurses and even some of the visitors if they’d seen anyone who fit the description. Of course no one had: Ares had spent his life learning how to appear painstakingly normal. To be blissfully forgettable. To make his face appear honest, guiltless, the last person you’d ever pick out in a lineup.

Knowing Spencer would’ve been dead if Ares wanted it so, I calmed down for the moment and retreated into the bathroom to try and figure out what my next move should be. Resting my head on the wall behind me, I slid down it and drew my knees up to my chest. I was powerless. Completely and utter useless. I was the ant challenging the boot, the deer chasing the cheetah, the morphine battling the anthrax. My phone buzzed in my pocket and I collected myself before answering.

“Natasha Reid.”

“We got Brown,” Hotch began. “Have you talked to Dr. Kimora?”

“Not since we got here, why?”

“She was looking for you, they did find a cure and she’s going to give it to Reid. I’m assuming you aren’t with him at the moment, then?”

“Aaron…he came here.” I said quietly, biting the inside of my cheek to keep from crying; partly from relief that Spencer would be okay and partly because one fear had only been replaced with another. “Ares. I left Spence to get a coffee and when I came back he had the mark drawn on his hand. I did a sweep but I couldn’t find anything and no one remembered seeing him and I just—I can’t lose him.”

“Morgan is on his way to the hospital, we’ll go at this again tomorrow from the top.”

“Hotch…Is he targeting Spence?”

“I don’t know, Natasha.” He admitted. “We’ll fix this. For now, just make sure you’re there when Reid wakes up.”

We exchanged brief goodbyes and I took a minute to compose myself before finally getting to my feet and leaving the refuge of the bathroom. I heard the unmistakeable voice of Derek booming through the hall as I edged closer. He was yelling at the kid I’d assigned as guard duty, preparing to get physical as I called out to him, thanking the kid and telling him he could leave before explaining everything. He sighed, taking my hand as we walked inside. Dr. Kimora came in shortly after and administered the cure. I thanked her before she left to move on to the few patients still alive from the day’s initial strike.

I got some paper towels, lathering them up with soap and watering and rushing to scrub the mark off of his hand to the best of my ability. His skin turned red from all the scrubbing, and even so there was still a faint mark there. There would be no hiding it.

When Spencer finally came around I barely gave him a moment to breathe before wrapping my arms around him, struggling to keep composure as I thought about what a life without him would have meant. He let me hold him, let me make him my surrogate, let me baby him despite the fact that he would in fact be fine and healthy and ready to go home in no time. When we left I thanked Dr. Kimora a thousand times over.

Despite Hotch’s promises, I knew that if it came down to it I would give myself up if it meant saving Spence.