Alright, this is the last chapter! Thank you so much to everybody who has been reading this story until the end, despite it's depressing nature, and extra special thanks to anyone who left reviews. This ends very ambiguously—I know I said that for my last story, as well, but this ends really ambiguously. Some people will probably find this annoying…but oh well. I kind of wanted to leave it up to interpretation. So, whether you like it or hate it, please leave a review and tell me why! Or tell me any thoughts you have, in general, because I'd love to hear them.
Morgan couldn't sleep.
He sighed, rolled over onto his back, and looked at the clock. It was only nine, but he hadn't properly slept since Reid had disappeared; and now that he could sleep, he couldn't.
He folded his arms on his chest, then closed his eyes. He couldn't get Reid's blank expression out of his head; he couldn't stop seeing his ashen covered figure, lowering the child's body onto the ground; the expression of polite apathy in the hospital, and the strange look of hatred he had given Morgan as he'd tried to stop him from leaving the car.
I don't feel guilty.
The strange thing was, the words had sounded sincere; but something was wrong. Something much worse than guilt. Something that had changed.
He sighed, rolled his eyes, then turned over onto his stomach. You're being melodramatic, he told himself. He let out a sigh, then slowly began to drift off to sleep.
His phone rang.
Letting out a moan of irritation, he reached out for the phone, groping blindly in the darkness. "Hello?" he answered groggily, once he had finally managed to locate it.
"Reid just quit."
Morgan blinked slowly; the information took several moments to sink in. "Huh? Just now?"
"Well, earlier today. I tried to call him a couple times—I kept knocking on his door—but he kept ignoring me. I went home and decided to call you." Instead of sounding confused or frustrated, Hotch's voice sounded slightly frightened; in the oddest way, it reminded Morgan of a child who had seen a glimpse of something he'd rather like to forget about.
"Oh," Morgan muttered. "Well, so he quit. Maybe he'll change his mind. It's alright, Hotch. He just needs time to think. That's all."
"I don't know, Morgan," Hotch said. "It was just…it was the way he looked at me."
Morgan frowned. "What do you mean?"
"He looked at me like…like he hated me."
"Well…" Morgan trailed off, wondering why Hotch was suddenly so concerned with whether or not people liked him. "He's a bit upset. That's understandable. I'm sure he'll be fine, Hotch."
There was a small silence on the other end of the phone. Finally, Hotch spoke. "I'm a profiler, Morgan," he said softly, "And I don't think he will be."
Reid had decided that he hated all of his books.
He wasn't sure exactly how it had happened. He had been standing in his apartment; after Hotch had finally left and he had cleaned up the broken glass. He hadn't been sure what to do; so he had opened a book and started reading. But something about the text had irritated him; there was something fake about it; something superficial that he couldn't quite place. He had opened another book, but gotten the same feeling; he had tried for four more, but eventually gave up; he could hear the words of the books already whizzing around in his head, and he was powerless to stop them. He couldn't pinpoint exactly why, but it almost seemed as if the books were serving as imposters for the authors who had written them. Frustrated by the irrationally of this statement, yet unable to dispel it, Reid put on his coat and decided to take a walk.
It was dark out by this point. He passed several coffee shops, but didn't go in; the atmosphere was bright and cheery, with dozens of happy people with their faces lighted up and their mouths opening and closing with words that were meaningless for Reid; and were probably meaningless for them, as well. Without being completely aware of where he was going, he turned down a deserted alleyway and started walking.
He was overwhelmed with a feeling of a desolate, numb, peacefulness. The dark road felt safe; it felt as if he could empty his head, for once, and enjoy the presence of nothingness. He didn't want to think. He felt as if he were standing at the very edge of a precipice, and that thinking might be the one thing that would push him over the edge.
Eventually, however, became aware of a small, bright light; as if one from a fire; and heard two voices speaking to each other softly. He approached the light as in the trance; and came face to face with two men; fifty or so years old, with dirty clothes and long beards. They were obviously homeless; and as Reid stared at them, they stared back with the same level of concentrated silence.
Eventually, one of them spoke. "Can we help you?" the one on the left asked.
Reid blinked. "What is the meaning of life?" he asked.
They stared at him.
"Forty-two," the one on the right said.
"Don't be an idiot," the one on the left said. "That's a goddamn number." He turned to Reid and rolled his eyes. "He's a bit affected."
"I'm sorry," Reid said.
"What for?" the one on the left asked.
"For asking," Reid said. "It's one of the stupidest questions invented. I guess it deserves a stupid answer."
"Damn straight it does," the one on the left said. "Well, did you want anything else?"
Reid shrugged. "I quit my job today," he said.
"Well, that sounds mighty pretentious of you, doesn't it?" the one on the left asked. "Sharing your employment troubles with a couple of bums."
Reid blinked, then reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. "Do you want some money?" he asked, in a strange and desperate kind of voice. Before either man could answer, he started taking money out of his wallet and tossing it in their general directions.
"Jesus Christ!" the one on the left said, scrambling for the bills falling onto the ground. "How much have you got in there?"
"I don't know," Reid said, "Why don't you take it? Take all of it." He threw his wallet at the homeless man on the left, who caught it with wide eyes and trembling hands.
Suddenly, a high-pitched, eerie laugh started coming from the one on the right. Reid eyed him warily; the one on the left seemed too busy counting the money to notice.
"Do you think that will make you feel better?" the one on the right asked, after he had finished laughing. "Do you think giving away all your money will make you into a better person?" he grinned toothily; Reid felt a strange chill deep in his chest as he looked into the man's eyes. "Do you think that will fix it?" The grin disappeared, and he looked at him solemnly; almost tragically. "It won't."
Reid stared at him. "What will?" he asked, softly.
He looked up at Reid; and for some reason that Reid could not place, he looked strangely familiar; not as if Reid had met him before, but as if they had some kind understanding that linked them together.
"Don't give them your sanction."
Reid froze, fixing the man with a horrified stare.
"The only difference," the man said, "Between the good and the evil, is that the good will ask for your sanction. But once you give it to them, they are just as dangerous as the evil; perhaps even more so; because there is nothing left to stop them."
"Don't listen to him, sir," said the one on the left, who was still counting the money. "Don't let him upset you. I told you he was affected." But his voice sounded strange and far-away; Reid was only looking at the one on the right.
"Evil requires the sanction of the victim," Reid whispered softly.
"If you don't want to be a victim," the man said, "You can't give them that sanction."
"If we value our lives…" Reid muttered. He shook his head slowly. "I have to get out of here," he said suddenly, his chest filling instantly with the overwhelming feeling of dread and panic. He turned and walked down the alleyway, away from the men and into the night.
One Week Later
"I'm telling you, Hotch. He just needs more time. This is a mistake. We shouldn't be going to see him until after his month of paid vacation time is over." Hotch and Morgan were standing outside of Reid's apartment complex, arguing heatedly.
Hotch shook his head. "He hasn't answered his phone in a week," he said. "He hasn't bought anything with his credit card since then. Something's wrong. We have to check on him."
Morgan sighed. "Lead the way," he muttered, "But you know he won't answer his door."
Morgan was right; Reid didn't answer the door. After several minutes of futile knocking, Morgan and Hotch returned to the lobby. Hotch approached the receptionist's desk.
"Have you seen Spencer Reid at all this past week?" he asked.
The receptionist glanced up. "No," he said. "He left."
Hotch blinked. "What?"
The receptionist sighed in irritation, then looked up once more from his computer. "His landlord was telling me. He showed up a week ago with the money to pay the rest of his lease. He said he was leaving the city. Haven't seen him since."
"Is there…is there someone else in his apartment, now?" Hotch asked, a tone of disbelief in his voice.
"No, the lease has still got about four months on it. But he hasn't come back."
"Could you let us into the apartment?" Hotch asked. The receptionist stared at him suspiciously.
"Sir, I can't just let you into someone else's—"
"FBI," Hotch said solemnly, holding out his badge. "It's for an investigation."
"Oh," the receptionist's eyes widened, as Morgan shot Hotch and irritated look. "Alright, then."
Once they had gotten into the apartment, the receptionist muttered something about needing to get back to his desk, then turned and walked away rather hurriedly. Hotch stepped through the door, looking around.
The apartment looked unchanged; all of the books had been left behind, in a pile on the floor. A mug of coffee had been left on the counter; inside his bedroom, clothes had been haphazardly pulled from the drawers, most of which were still open.
"Somebody left in a hurry," Morgan said wonderingly. "Where did he go?"
"No idea," Hotch muttered darkly. It was at that moment that something caught his eye; it was a piece of paper, lying on the counter, held down by an empty glass; a message had been scrawled there, in Reid's strange and loopy handwriting.
Man is the only living species that has the power to act as his own destroyer—and that is the way he has acted throughout most of history. We can evade reality, but we cannot evade the consequences of escaping reality.
There is nothing to take a man's freedom, save other men. To be free, a man must be free of his brothers.
Evil requires the sanction of the victim. I need no warrant on my being, and no word of sanction upon my being. I am the warrant and the sanction.