Chapter 15: We See a Darkness
The world spun, or Morgan figured, maybe it was all in his head. Too many thoughts that didn't quite fit, tumbling around before he even had a chance to grasp on to one. All he knew for certain was that he'd left Reid somewhere upstairs. With Dean Winchester. With a possible second unsub. And that he'd left Ricky Trapp bleeding in the basement with Sam Winchester. He didn't have time to question the move or think about protocol. It was too late.
He'd heard the sound above, a struggle, a gunshot: Reid.
And that was all that mattered right now.
He'd crossed the kitchen, found himself back into the front foyer. Morgan skidded to a stop, almost tripping over the pile of debris in front of the main staircase. Even in the dim light, he could make out chunks of rotted wood and crumbled insulation. He glanced up in confusion, and he could see a gaping black maul in the tall foyer's ceiling. A hole, punched out in the attic, and how he hadn't heard that happen, he wasn't sure.
"What the hell?" he asked.
Footsteps had him spinning toward the stairs with his weapon up, but he immediately recognized the shadowy figure hobbling toward the top step, and he lowered the gun.
"Morgan!" Reid called out, relief in his voice. He quickened down the steps, before Morgan could run up to meet him. "Morgan, I heard a gunshot. Trapp?"
Morgan nodded. "Downstairs. Wounded. Sam Winchester's still alive, too. Did you fire your weapon?" he asked, confused.
Reid nodded, touching the gun at his side gingerly. "A warning shot. I have Dean Winchester detained upstairs."
Morgan took another quick step up, but Reid reached out to grab his arm, holding him in place. He shared a small, cautious smile with the man, and Morgan leaned in on instinct, wrapping his arms around his teammate in a fierce hug. It might not have been the most professional gesture for a federal agent, but Morgan thought it felt long overdue when Reid squeezed him back.
"Thought I'd almost lost you again," Morgan said. "Gotta put a bell on you or something."
Reid huffed a laugh against his shoulder but looked somber when he pulled away. His fingers tightened on Morgan's sleeve. Morgan shook his head, thrown by the anxious look on Reid's face. He met his eye, and Morgan wondered what it was his instincts were picking up on. It almost felt like Reid was keeping him put, keeping him from taking another step upstairs, but Morgan brushed off the thought. Shock. Reid was in shock, that's all this was.
"Just…" Reid opened and closed his mouth, as if unsure of what to say. "I need to talk to you. Something happened."
Morgan's brow furrowed in worry, but a sound behind him cut off any reply he had. The front door splintered at the frame, the slab swinging open hard enough to slam against the adjacent wall. He let out a breath of relief as he watched familiar faces file in, Hotch, followed by Rossi, a line of the sheriff's men close behind with their weapons drawn. Prentiss brought up the tail, a bright smile flashing in her eyes when they met his, even while her lips remained tight.
Morgan moved to meet them, and the tension on their faces lifted slightly when they noticed Morgan and Reid, both relatively unharmed.
"What happened?" Hotch greeted. "Took us a moment to get in. We thought the door was barricaded."
Morgan shook his head. "It was rigged to lock or something. We were stuck inside. Got two suspects in the basement, one upstairs. I had to put Trapp down, but he's breathing. Sam Winchester, too, and Dean Winchester's in the attic."
Agent Rossi and the sheriff were already rounding the staircase, toward the kitchen in search of the basement door before Morgan could even finish, and Prentiss moved off to the opposite hall, sweeping the first floor for any unknowns. Morgan glanced over his shoulder, realizing Reid hadn't added to the assessment.
"Did Trapp have a partner?" he asked.
Reid blinked at him. "I don't know," he answered after a beat.
Morgan noticed the strange, narrow look Hotch gave the younger agent, and he was glad he wasn't alone in recognizing the hesitation in Reid's answer.
"There's no one else here," Reid amended, and stepped aside as Hotch rushed past, toward the second floor hallway, a deputy at his heels.
Reid stared after him a minute.
"We need to talk about what we're putting in our report," Morgan said, his voice hushed. "Man, what happened after you came inside? I was right behind you and you just disappeared."
Reid made a face, like he'd tasted something sour, and Morgan was ready to call him on it when he heard Hotch coming back at a near run.
"Winchester's gone," Hotch said, an open pair of cuffs in one hand. Reid's cuffs, if Morgan had to guess.
Morgan groaned, trying hard not to punch the bannister against his side. "Please tell me you're joking, Hotch."
Hotch's glare said he didn't plan to ever do any such thing. "I called it in. The sheriff's men are circling the house and blocking off the neighborhood. He couldn't have gotten far. We think he went out onto the roof."
"Hotch!" Rossi came around the corner of the staircase, nearly breathless. "We got a problem."
Morgan already felt it in his bones. He'd known it, when he'd looked down at Sam Winchester, clicked the cuffs into place. Tortured victim or not, Morgan had known leaving Sam alone wasn't going to be a good choice.
"Winchester's not down there," Rossi said, his frown deep. "Took half the staircase with him getting loose, but he left Trapp breathing."
There was a whirlwind of activity as the EMTs arrived, the sheriff calling for a manhunt, Hotch spitting out orders, and Morgan took it all in as if he were on autopilot. He found himself hustling out the front door, onto the porch, staring across the darkened yards of the closest neighbors, watching the shadows for movement. But he didn't feel it in him, the drive, the anger that had pushed him after the Winchesters just hours earlier.
He didn't want to say what was on his mind. He didn't want to say that the Winchesters were already in the wind.
The porch planks squeaked as Reid stepped up behind him, settling at his side. The younger man winced at the bright flashing lights from the ambulance parked on the street.
"It's over," Reid said.
And it shouldn't have been. Because the Winchesters were still out there. And Morgan was more and more sure there was probably a second person working with Trapp. But there was something definitive in the way Reid said it, like he was certain he was right.
Morgan nodded once, despite himself. "Sure."
"I'm fine. I just need a moment to breathe. Hotch approved." Reid shifted the phone against his ear. "Plus air travel always gives me a migraine when I'm healing from a concussion. I can get a doctor's excuse if you'd like."
He smirked to himself at the statement, knowing that his friend would be displeased at the reminder that Reid had taken severe blows to the head multiple times over the years.
Morgan sighed, and Reid could almost picture the man's expression as he gave up on the discussion. Less than two days after Trapp's capture, the team was headed home to a heap of inquiries and painstaking reports. Well, the team minus Reid. He was glad he'd gotten Hotch to approve him taking a bus back, or his plan wouldn't have worked. Conveniently, the ticket he'd bought wasn't valid until tomorrow.
"Fine, boy wonder," Morgan finally relented. "Just promise me you'll stay safe. I don't want to go back to Alabama again for at least another decade."
"I'll be careful," Reid assured, killing the rental car's engine. The headlights stayed on a moment longer, shining out into the darkened woods. Past the brush, the treeline broke away to rolling land, neatly trimmed and dotted with low, silhouetted figures. Tombstones.
He couldn't help but remember Tobias Hankel, the hunting shed, the graveyard. There was a tingle in the fold of his arm, the phantom touch of a needle. Reid swallowed hard, trying to bite down the anxiety that came with that memory, and the urges.
"Promise," Reid added. He hoped Morgan couldn't hear the lie in his voice.
"Yeah, yeah," Morgan chided. "Just make sure you call Miss Garcia before you tuck yourself in tonight. She had a come apart when you weren't on the flight."
Reid muttered his farewell without much thought, his focus on the view outside the car window. He was already out, crossing into the brush before he'd ended the call. He hoped he wasn't too late.
The drive hadn't been a long one, but it had spanned from one end of the county to the other, and he'd set out right after leaving the hospital. He'd watched Ricky Trapp for most of the afternoon, expecting at any moment to feel a threatening chill in the air around him, but it never arrived. Trapp hadn't regained consciousness since his arrival, and though he was stable for the moment, his doctor wasn't confident he'd ever leave the hospital alive. The man had already been weak, and Morgan's bullet had only hastened the inevitable. Despite his excuse that the man might awaken, might be able to give them more information, Reid had really stayed on watch in expectation of another member of the Trapp family.
If the nurses had noticed the salt scattered around the room, they hadn't mentioned it. As foolish as it had made him feel to pour it, he'd been confident that he remembered the Winchesters doing the same at the cabin, and it comforted him to know he wouldn't feel icy fingers against his skin if he dozed off in his chair.
Mostly, though, Reid had spent those wasted hours trying to convince himself he didn't need to do exactly what he was currently doing.
He pushed aside a rather persistent bush and stumbled over the first in a line of flat granite markers. Resisting the urge to pull out his flashlight, he hesitated, letting his eyes readjust to the moonlight and listening for voices. He thought he heard something, a faint, muffled conversation, past the next slope.
When the flames rose, he saw their orange glow against the far grove of trees and followed it. He was almost transfixed by the faint light, but he found himself glancing over his shoulder, looking for any signs of life down the cemetery's main drive. He knew for a fact that local law enforcement wouldn't be out this way quite yet, their efforts having turned in a different direction. Which was why Reid had been certain that, if the Winchesters were going to show up to finish their job, tonight would be their chance.
"You know, for a smart guy, you do your share of stupid things."
Reid froze at the sound of the voice, turning slowly to find Dean Winchester leaning against a worn and weathered limestone obelisk. Sam joined him a second later, shaking his head when he realized whom his brother was talking to.
"You've got to be kidding me," Sam breathed, raising a brow at his brother.
The moonlight was bright enough for Reid to see the abashed look on Dean's face. "What? It's not like I invited the guy," he defended.
"You told me about salting and burning the body, remember?" Reid offered, as a welcome, and Sam snorted, like it was a confirmation of his suspicions. "When I researched Glenn Trapp's final resting place," Reid continued, before the brothers could interrupt, " I had a feeling you wouldn't be able to leave without completing your job. This is how you stop Glenn Trapp from returning, correct?"
"Yeah, well, still not a great reason to be wandering a graveyard at night." Dean tilted his head, gesturing for Reid to follow them.
Reid watched them carefully, the way they turned their backs to him, letting him trail behind. To an outsider, it might have looked like they were running ahead of him, but he understood the movement to be one made in trust. They trusted him not to shoot them in the backs, and were willing to let him run back the way he'd come if he was having second thoughts. Reid didn't take advantage of the opportunity, though.
He followed them past the older graves, and onto the flat half acre leading to the newer additions. The orange glow was still burning bright from the sharp rectangle carved into the earth. Reid raised a brow.
"Did you use a backhoe? You must have been excavating for hours."
Sam huffed out a short laugh. "Let's just say, our dad taught us that marines carry shovels and how to use them properly."
"Yeah, thankfully most spirits are of the old timey variety," Dean cut in. "Modern graves are kind of a bitch, but lucky us, this cemetery doesn't require burial vaults. Makes our lives a lot easier. But you didn't really come here to learn how to dig up a body. And I have a feeling that if you were going to arrest us, we'd be swarmed with feds by now. So what's on your mind, Dr. Reid?"
Reid opened his mouth, and promptly closed it again. He'd spent most of the day thinking about what he wanted to ask the Winchesters, but he was suddenly drawing a blank on how to start.
Sam did it for him. "Judging from how talkative you were at the cabin, I'm sure you have a list of questions for us. Can I give you a piece of advice? Don't ask."
"But - "
Dean raised a hand, a sad smile on his face. "I realize this might be killing you on the inside, but Sam's right. You'll sleep better at night without those answers, Spencer. You already know enough to put you in therapy. You've got a job to do, man. You take out the human monsters, remember? That's enough to keep you busy until you earn a nice cushy retirement."
"I'm assuming that's not something hunters can look forward to," Reid commented. He frowned at the dim look in their eyes, wishing he hadn't made the comment, but he couldn't take it back. "You could stop," he said, his voice quieter. He could hear the pointlessness of the words, their hollow ring, but he couldn't stop himself from airing the sentiment. "Serial killers, the other need-based offenders we go after, they can't. They have to keep doing what they do, but you're not wired like them. You're like us. You call this a job for a reason. You can quit."
Dean's smile was self-deprecating. "But the pay is so good. And you can't beat those benefits."
Sam rolled his eyes at his brother's attempt at sarcasm. "It's not really an option for us, Spencer," he answered, soberly. "But I think you already know that."
"You can't quit," Reid agreed, "because you have the knowledge and skills to help people. And not using that knowledge would make you feel like you were contributing to their deaths."
Reid could see it in the way they held themselves, the reflective glances they were trying to abstain from, that there was more to it than helping people. That he had simplified something complicated. There was something personal there, some drive that maybe wasn't entirely about hunting, but he couldn't ask them. He couldn't bring himself to question what they were afraid of, deep down. They mentioned monsters and ghosts without flinching, but there was a bigger picture, and that chilled Reid to the bone.
"This is you trying to find a round-about reason why we should fill you in on everything about everything, so that we don't feel guilty about you feeling guilty, isn't it?" Dean huffed. "What? I might not be a profiling genius but I know when someone is working up to a guilt trip."
Sam gave him a sideways glance at the comment, but ignored it otherwise. "What Dean means is, we're not folding on this. Not right now. Stay away from this, until you can't anymore, alright?"
"And when I can't stay away?" Reid offered.
Dean rolled his eyes. "I'll text you a number. It's a burner. Try not to use it. Though I have a feeling that if you really needed us, Penelope could hunt our asses down in no time. Really hope she's not pissed at us enough to try."
Reid's cheek twitched at the comment. "I think my colleagues are still trying to figure out why she isn't, actually. I couldn't blame them for being confused when she looked relieved to hear you'd escaped unharmed. Not that she said as much."
"She was?" Dean grinned, elbowing Sam. "I still got it."
Sam brushed him off with a small smile of his own. "We've got to fill in this grave and hit the road, Dean... Spencer, uh, it was good meeting you, and sorry about the whole...abduction thing." He reached out a hand, almost hesitantly, and Reid took it, giving it a squeeze. "Kind of hope we don't see you again, though," he finished, lightly. He nodded at his brother. "I'll clean up and move the car around."
"The car you immediately stole from the police impound while being the subject of a county-wide manhunt," Reid commented, in return.
"What? We were supposed to leave Baby behind?" Dean scoffed.
Sam shook his head and walked off, scooping up a duffle bag of supplies as he moved, and Reid realized Dean was still standing in place, waiting for something. Reid thought he knew what it was, but the other man was suspiciously quiet, glancing over his shoulder at the receding flames from the grave. Sam was at the treeline before he opened his mouth again.
"Whether he's cremated or not, I don't think Ricky Trapp's going to be much of a problem when he passes, so you don't have to worry about him," he mentioned, clearing his throat. "Glenn's spirit was still MIA when we dug up the grave. Think he was mostly using the old class ring Sam torched and his brother as his links to the world, ya know? But, on the off chance Casper was still around, we needed to make sure he didn't build up his strength again, start haunting the old homestead, or whatever."
Reid tried not to get distracted by the questions that statement brought to mind, even if he wanted more than anything to ask how all of it worked. He recognized Dean's rambling for what it was, and he brushed it aside. "It was real then," Reid finally said.
Dean raised a brow at him.
"Not just the ghost," Reid quickly amended. "What you told me in the cabin. What happened to you. That was real."
Dean wiped a hand over his lips, but he didn't look Reid in the eye when he answered. "If I say no, you'll know I'm lying, won't you?"
"Dean, I think you should try to reach out to someone about it." Reid moved to take a step forward and hesitated. "I wasn't trying to play on your emotions when I told you that you were traumatized. Bottling up an experience like that…"
"What? It's a one way trip to crazytown? You afraid I'm going to have a mental breakdown?" Dean snorted. He shook his head, his eyes distant. "Trust me, I got enough on my plate right now to keep me together. I can't afford to stop and think too hard about it, alright? I can't afford trauma. Forget I ever told you about it."
It. It being his death. It being Hell. Neither of them could manage to say those words aloud, Reid realized.
"That's highly unlikely." Reid was quiet a moment longer before he held out a hand, the same as he had when he said goodbye to Sam. "You can call me, if you need to talk. You don't have to bury it."
"I really do," Dean replied, but he reached out, taking the offered hand. "Bye, Spencer."
He'd gotten the update on the drive back to civilization, a simple message from the attending physician, noting the time of Ricky Trapp's death. Reid knew the rest of the team had gotten a similar update, and he figured they'd be calling him soon, so he wasn't surprised when Garcia's name lit up the front of his cell phone. It was late now, well into the night since he'd spent longer than he wanted to admit sitting in his car, contemplating driving after the Winchesters to insist on more answers, and he realized the team would already be home by now, some of them probably already settled into bed. He had a feeling Garcia was already at her apartment from the way she spoke.
"You were supposed to call me, Dr. Reid," she greeted, and it sounded almost like a threat.
Reid winced. He'd ignored her text when he was leaving the graveyard, his nerves too on edge for him to trust himself to answer. He opened his mouth, planning to make an excuse, and was interrupted before he could begin.
"I'm going to ignore the fact that you sent Derek to tell me you weren't flying back with us and forgive you for keeping me out of the loop while you stayed at a serial killer's death bed all day, because a super distraught Kevin was here to greet me when I came home, and we were barely through my apartment's door before he said he had something he'd been dying to show me."
"I don't know if I want to hear this part," Reid commented, making a face.
"No, okay, yes, that warm welcome might have delayed me calling, but also...there was a book." Penelope's voice hushed slightly as she whispered something to Kevin to keep him from interrupting in the background. "I, by no means, read as fast you, but from what I've gleaned, this book has a super familiar storyline. Like, okay maybe not the actual plotline, which is kind of wacky and the writing itself is a bit sub-par, but the main characters…You're not going to believe the characters. You have read it."
Reid blinked, confused by the conversation. "Garcia, I hate to interrupt, but it's been a long day, and I still need to check into a hotel. My bus leaves early tomorrow. Could we talk about this later?"
Kevin's muffled voice said something, and Penelope shushed him, then sighed. "Fine. Fine… There's probably a bizarre explanation for it anyway… Speaking of bizarre, do the locals have any leads on the Winchesters?"
"I'm sure they're long gone by now," Reid assured, and he hoped his voice didn't sound as pitched over the phone. He pulled the car off the road when he realized that she wasn't ready to end the conversation.
He hated lying to his work family, especially since Penelope, out of all of them, might hope the Winchesters would get away, might believe they were innocent of most of their crimes, even if she still thought they were delusional. He hoped she at least didn't notice - Morgan, Reid was sure, had definitely noticed that he wasn't getting the full story, and for some reason, even Prentiss seemed rattled by the case. Reid wondered if maybe she'd seen something, too, something her rational brain wanted to explain away.
"Plus, they're not our problem anymore," Reid added, as an afterthought.
"Oh, I know," Penelope said, with a slight chuckle. "The entire team was eavesdropping when Strauss called to tell Hotch we weren't going to be handling any further search for Sam and Dean, and they were baffled, to say the least, but I was relieved, at the time, because, well."
"Because you know you'd find them without breaking a sweat?" Reid wondered.
He smiled to himself. "Something tells me the Winchesters would agree with you."
Penelope was so quiet that Reid was afraid he'd given something away. When she finally replied, he heard pages turning. It sounded like she was flipping through the book she'd been rambling on about.
"Reid, we were terrified we were going to die for over twenty-four hours, and now we're just brushing it off like this happens every week, and here I am, trying to attribute all of the weirdness to some paperback pulp fiction." She paused, then laughed nervously. "Is something wrong with us? Because I know everyone is looking at us like we're off our rockers for shrugging off the whole thing like it's a typical Thursday. Not that it's Thursday, but you know what I mean. Laughing in the face of death is not my usual jam, as I am fully aware."
Reid raised a brow, not completely sure why she was so fixated on the book she was reading, but he understood the rest. The part where they were far too okay with what they'd been through. "There's nothing wrong with you, Penelope Garcia," he assured. "It just turns out you're as much a hero in the field as you are in the office."
"You're making me blush, and in front of Kevin, too," she chided. She sobered slightly. "Text me when you get into your hotel room," she ordered, after another moment. "Just so I know you made it inside. And don't talk to any strangers. Because, you know where that path leads. I'll see you soon."
Reid ended the call and stared off into the darkened wilderness past his headlights, wondering what else was waiting in the shadows, and if any of those unseen dangers were what kept the Winchesters on the road, hunting and hunted. He knew he should look away, because looking meant he was all the more likely to find what was waiting there.
"If you gaze for long into an abyss," he quoted, softly, "the abyss gazes also into you."
Tonight, at least, he'd follow the advice of the Winchesters, and looked away.
Final notes: Deep breath here, as we have now reached the conclusion. I know it wasn't what everyone was looking for necessarily, but better to be imperfect and finished than perfect and untouched for another decade, right? I want to give a huge thank you to my readers. I know a handful of you have been with me since I started this fic in 2011. I appreciate your reviews and your private messages, even when I haven't always been the most diligent in replying. You are the reason this story is now finished.
I had a few side-bar scenes that, despite being in my outline and filling in a few plot gaps with side characters, just didn't fit into the story, and I might write those out at a later time. If I do, I'll just post them as a bonus chapter on this story, so feel free to subscribe to this fic even though it's completed, if that sounds interesting to you.
As a parting "gift" to you for reading… I know several fellow readers have mentioned that they wish there was a "if you liked this story, then read this" type area after a fic they enjoyed. So, here's my recommendations. If you enjoyed, I See a Darkness, seek out some of these Supernatural/Criminal Minds crossovers I've read and enjoyed on various sites over the years:
The Time has Come to be Gone by jujuberry136
Defect by kikkimax
Sour Cherry Pie Life by FaithDaria
This Bitter Earth by art_savage
Eat It Twilight by liliaeth
Monsters are Real by whiskeygalore
Point of Know Return by inkandpaperqwerty