"In twenty years I'll remember your name, but you won't remember mine."
It shouldn't have mattered. The words of a killer. But a killer's tongue can tell the truth as well as a righteous man and it was truth that nailed those words to Reid's heart.
There was no way of knowing if his memories would soon begin to fade. He was too young for the tests and although there was no way changing that fact, it still seemed unfair. Morgan, Garcia, and Savannah tried to keep him distracted. Keep his thoughts away from what he might someday lose, and on what he had right now. Riley had sensed that something wasn't right when he returned from visiting his mother, but she had been unable to get him to talk about it. Still she tried her best to keep him level but she wasn't always around and when she wasn't he found himself not only dwelling on it, but building walls against them.
It was his nature after all. No matter how much he cared for them, loved them, he didn't place as much value in his own life as he did in theirs. Time and time again he had put himself in danger for them and he would gladly die for any of them. Riley included, he thought as he glanced down to her.
The movie she had come down to watch had long since ended, leaving Reid in the dark of his apartment, listening to her soft breathing as she slept beside him on the couch. The stress of the case had left her exhausted and he knew that he was the cause of that stress. He had put himself in precarious position with Miss.45, divulging a secret that he had kept from the rest of his team. Finally Riley knew why Reid had been distant, distracted.
After the case was over, he had sat alone in the park until he had no other choice but to return home. When he did, all was quiet. He had opened the door to his apartment, stepping into the darkness and his own deepening depression. Riley had been a surprise in this scene however, joining him on the other side of that door with a hug, clinging to him in silence.
Without hesitation he dropped his bag and held her close, burying his face in the soft dark hair that cascaded down around her shoulders. She didn't say a word but he didn't need words. There was nothing she could tell him that would help him, but that didn't mean she couldn't. Her very presence may have caused him to breakdown in tears, but she also crumbled a part of his wall with her embrace.
Riley had put on a movie for them, made him some dinner and promptly fallen asleep on the couch, her legs taking up the space between them, her head on the other end where he normally slept. He usually didn't like people on his couch. Germs. But with Riley it was different. She did it often and when she would leave to go upstairs to her own place, he would lay down and take in the scent of her as he drifted off to sleep.
Tonight would be no different, but for now he would let her sleep. He didn't want her to go yet. Even if she was asleep, he didn't want to be alone. Carefully he reached out to touch her thigh where her shorts had ridden up to reveal the scar that Tucker gave her. Reid still remembered it as if it was yesterday, in full and vivid detail. Every word spoken between the two of them, every word spoken by Tucker. Gently he drew his fingers across the scar, wondering which would fade faster; the scar, or his memory of it.
Reid inhaled a ragged breath and pulled his hand back to himself. His mother was forgetting him. For three whole seconds she looked upon the face of her son and saw only a stranger. It was scary. In a way he felt he deserved it. As if karma had finally caught up to him for sending her off to a sanitarium in the first place.
Scarier still, he would be at risk of losing everything. If his mind deteriorated, he would no longer have his job. Hunting down killers with his team would be impossible. If he didn't have his mind, if he couldn't remember details like he did, he would be useless and then everyone would know that he was nothing. Nothing hiding behind a mask of random facts. Even the memories that held them together would be gone.
Playing pranks on Morgan, chess with Gideon and Rossi, Dr. Who conventions with Garcia.
Holding his godchildren.
The first time Riley kissed him.
The tears came in a flood and there was no stopping it. Riley woke to the sound of him sobbing and immediately her arms were around him.
"Let it out Spencer. Just let it out." She whispered, petting his hair to calm him. It hurt her to see him this way, but she understood that he needed someone to be there. If she hadn't have been waiting for him, she was certain he wouldn't have let her into the apartment. Not that it would have done too much good; she had scaled the side of the building before, she would do it again to get to him. There was no way of telling if he would even suffer early onset dementia like his mother, but there was no sense in telling him that. He was worried. Scared, no, terrified for his future. One thing he seemed to be forgetting, as was his way, was that they all loved him. From the bottom of their hearts they loved him and he was a part of their world that none of them would dream of giving up on.
"I don't want to forget Riley. I don't want to forget." He said, his voice trembling, his arms wrapped tight around her, as if holding her would keep the memories from slipping away.
Riley continued to stroke his hair as she laid back down on the couch, pulling him down with her gently. Tears in her eyes, she held him close as he cried himself to sleep.
In the morning she woke, Reid still fast asleep beside her. Gently she slid from the couch and kissed his cheek softly so not to wake him, before she left his apartment. One last look at his sleeping form in the early morning light and she whispered quietly into the silence. "I won't let you forget." Then she was gone, racing upstairs to her place. There had to be a way to keep his memories safe, just in case he was ever diagnosed with dementia.
Riley paced the floors of her apartment, chewing the necklace Reid gave her. There had to be something she could do. She plopped down on the floor by her coffee table and opened up her laptop. The very first thing she read frightened her.
"Mid-to-late stage dementia and Alzheimer's disease often presents challenging behavior problems. The anger, sadness, paranoia, confusion and fear that people with the disease are experiencing can result in oppositional, aggressive and sometimes violent speech or actions." - .com
Not only would he forget them, he wouldn't even be himself any more. It was enough to bring tears to her eyes but she only wiped them away and continued on. There had to be a way to help him and if he changed, she would just deal with those changes if and when they came.
The more and more she read, the more she became afraid for Reid. By the third web page she was sobbing, her hands on her face. Reading about dementia wasn't bringing the kind of peace or hope about his situation like she thought it would. Instead she felt she was fighting a losing battle. Still, she had to try.
If any of them were in his situation, Reid would do everything imaginable to help them. He deserved that kind of care. He deserved to remember.
In her bedroom she dropped to her knees and pulled out a shoe box, flipping open the lid and removing stacks of pictures. One stack was just of the BAU, many of them being just her and Reid. She flipped through them all, some being Reid in candid poses, when he wasn't paying attention. He may not even know she had these pictures.
She traced her fingers over a favorite; a photo of him reading on the jet, brow set in concentration as he devoured the book, late afternoon sun casting a warm golden light over him.
Then it clicked. Pictures. Quickly she dialed Garcia, who mumbled a groggy 'hello?'
"Penelope, I need your help. I think I have a way we can ease Spencer's fears."
Garcia immediately perked up and offered to meet her at a coffee shop down the street in a half an hour. Riley packed a bag with a notebook, pens, index cards, and the stack of photos.
Reid woke a little after noon to a knock on his door. He glanced around to find Riley had gone. He rubbed his eyes, trying to wake himself a little more before he opened the door.
When he looked out, no one was there. Confused, he glanced around, then down, to find a basket at his feet. Slowly he lifted it, then brought it inside and set it down on the coffee table next to the uneaten meal Riley had prepared for him the night before.
Inside the basket was a small photo album. He opened it and flipped through pages upon pages of pictures of himself, and the members of his team, each with a memory behind it. His eyes filled with tears but some of photos brought a smile to his face. Once he reached the back of the book, he saw some he didn't remember at all. The smile faded from his lips as he flipped through the last few pages, which were photos of him that Riley had taken. Pictures he didn't know she had.
Mixed in with the photos were colored index cards with funny quotes or brief summaries of stories, cases, and other things the group had been involved in.
On the last page was a DVD. He flipped it over in his hands, then popped it into his DVD player. Immediately a video of Garcia and Riley popped up and he could tell it had been filmed at the coffee shop he and Riley frequented.
The girls smiled and waved to him and he sat down, leaning forward to watch intently.
"Hey there Wonder Boy and fellow crime fighter! We thought we'd make you a little something to help ease your fears because we love you very much and we want to see you all smiles." Garcia began. "So, we made you a little photo album and this DVD, and we'll be starting a blog to keep up with everything so that if anything ever happens, you'll be sure to remember us." She said, her eyes beginning to tear up. "Oh my gosh I'm so sorry, I told myself I wasn't going to cry." She said, waving her hands frantically in an attempt to dry her eyes.
"Spencer… I know you're afraid. I know I would be. But I also know that if it was me in your shoes, or Penelope, or Morgan… any of us… you would do whatever you could to make it better. That's why we love you." Riley said. "In times like this, you shut us out. You isolate yourself and lock yourself away but you can't do that this time. We need you Spencer. We need you and we know you need us. You are such a huge part of our lives and none of us could bear it without you. So do us a favor… and don't build that wall up." Riley said, then the image faded away.
Reid wiped away a tear and smiled at her words. Another knock at the door and he spanned the room in just a couple of strides. He swung the door open to see Riley and Garcia, standing there with tears in their eyes as well. He threw his arms around them and they held him as well. He did love them, and he did need them. His girls. Garcia and Riley, always there to help him up when he felt too low to do it on his own. The whole team was like that. They were family. And this family never forgot.