It was cold in Minnesota, much colder than in DC. Reid
hopped back and forth from one foot to the other, trying to stay warm while he
waited for the phone to ring. He blew on his hands, wishing he'd thought to
Maeve was usually prompt in answering his pages, but that was only when he sent them at their appointed time. He had no idea how difficult it might be for her to return the call this time. Because she'd told him, he knew she ventured out only rarely, and even at those times, in disguise. But it was possible she could be out now.
As he waited longer and longer for Maeve to respond, Reid began to envision other scenarios, other things that might keep her from responding. Could she be in danger? Could the stalker have found her? Taken her? Hurt her? He realized he was starting to get worked up, and did his best to calm himself with some deep breaths.
Finally, just as he was prepared to give up and return to the hotel, the phone rang.
"Hello?" He practically shouted the word.
"Spencer?" He could hear her anxiety. "I wasn't expecting you. Is something wrong?"
No, thank God. He breathed a sigh of relief at the sound of her voice.
"No. No, Maeve. I'm sorry if I worried you. No, I was calling to see if you might be able to help me with a case."
As serious as her danger was, as serious as his business was, they both smiled at the thought of her helping him. Holmes and Watson, working together. They'd been reading through the stories and discussing them on their weekly calls.
"Thank goodness. I was frightened when I saw you were calling me apart from our usual time. But I'm always happy to hear your voice, Spencer. You have me intrigued now. What is the case? And how is it that you think I can help you?"
He explained about the genetic testing of Marcia Lounsbury and her 'son', without revealing details of the rest of the case.
"Is there any way, Maeve? Short of the lab mixing up their specimens, is there any way she could be his mother, but the test doesn't show it?"
"If the test confirms her husband as the father, it's unlikely that the specimens were confused at the lab. But as to whether there could be an explanation….it's unlikely, Spencer. Genetic testing has come a long way since….oh! Wait a minute!"
And he did. Waited a minute. Two. Six. He could hear typing on the other end of the line. She was on her computer, researching.
"Here it is….yes! Yes! I remembered reading about this, it's very interesting. There have been several case reports."
"Of this kind of problem? Of genetic testing proving that a mother is not the mother, even when she is?" He was surprised.
"Yes, exactly that. It's called chimerism. It's fascinating, Spencer. It's actually postulated to be much more common than was realized, although most people wouldn't know if it affects them. Have you heard of resorbing twins? Or, more popularly called, the 'vanishing twin'?"
He had. "Is that where the second twin dies early in the pregnancy, and then is absorbed somehow by the surviving twin?"
"Exactly!" Maeve loved being able to have conversations with someone who was her intellectual equal, or more. "The one twin dies in utero, and then there is a process called fetal resorption, where the surviving twin resorbs the cells, and the genetic material, of the twin who died. It can happen with triplets and other multiple pregnancies as well, but it's most common with twins."
"So how does that cause the genetic test to be wrong?"
"If the original twins weren't identical, then the surviving twin now has some of the non-identical twin's DNA, but only in some of their cells."
Reid was getting excited. Science and his friends' intuition might, indeed, be able to exist side by side.
"So Ms. Lounsbury could have absorbed some of a non-identical twin's DNA, and the test might have been done on the cells with that foreign DNA." Which raised another issue. "So how could she be proven to be the mother?"
"They'd have to sample other cells, from other organ systems. In one case, the cells that proved the woman was the mother came from the cervix, while her blood cells seemed to disprove it. It's hard to say exactly what should be tested, but they might want to start by sampling things that are easy to reach."
He thought about that for a while. As he was also thinking about how he would explain to Hotch how he'd come upon this new information.
"Thank you, Maeve. That was an incredible help to us."
He shifted on his feet, wanting also to shift the conversation. "So, how are you doing?"
Quiet. Then, "I'm doing well. I even went grocery shopping today."
He ached for her, so constricted by her stalker that a visit to the grocery store was a reportable event.
"I know that tone of voice by now, Spencer. Please, let me do this my way." She paused, and resumed with a more upbeat note to her voice. "Besides, I haven't received any strange messages for a week now. I think maybe he's getting tired of me."
"Really? No phone calls, no letters?"
"No letters. I had a couple of hang up phone calls. But they could have been anyone."
Could have been, he thought, but not likely. He decided not to push her. "All right, Maeve, we'll do it your way. So, I have to go, but …..please stay safe. I'll talk to you on Sunday."
"I'm sorry to be so stubborn, Spencer. But it comes of long experience. I will ask you to stay safe as well. And I'm already looking forward to Sunday."
So am I.
What Maeve had told him meant that it was just possible the Lounsburys were telling the truth. The police would need to keep an open mind about suspects before another child was taken. Reid phoned Hotch with the news as he walked back to the hotel. His superior seemed to assume Reid had researched it himself, and Reid let him do so. He would, in fact, research it completely, later.
Arriving back to the hotel, Reid was still digging his room key from his messenger bag when the elevator discharged another passenger.
She was in sweats, a wool cap, gloves and running shoes.
"You went running? Tonight?" Reid knew she only ran at night when she was upset. It was her way of working out her anxiety. But it was freezing outside.
She was still catching her breath. "Yeah." Pant. "I needed to blow off some energy, you know?"
He didn't. His energy level was always just right for reading. But he nodded anyway.
As she pulled out her own room key, an internal voice, one that sounded very much like Maeve's, prodded him.
Now or never, Reid. He decided on 'now'.
"JJ, do you have a minute? Can I talk to you about something?"
She looked puzzled. "Sure, Spence. Come on in."
They both entered her room. Reid took a seat on her small sofa while JJ got a glass of water, and then settled herself cross-legged on the bed.
"What's on your mind?"
He was wishing that little voice would come back and give him the words. But apparently he was on his own.
JJ could see he was getting flustered. "Spence, I won't bite. What is it?"
He gave her that sideways shy look that always seemed to disarm her. "Don't be so sure. You might want to do more than bite when you hear me out."
Now she was intrigued, but wary. She thought she knew what might be coming. She started to erect her wall, but he got his words out before she'd finished.
"I'm worried about you."
He watched her expression. Now that he'd said it, she didn't look surprised, or even puzzled. She knew exactly what he was talking about. He could see her start to bite her bottom lip. She hadn't stopped him, so he continued.
"I'm worried about you and Henry. About how you seem to be so isolated from all of us." Time to be honest. "How you're both isolated from me. About how you seem to be unhappy. You've lost your smile, JJ."
He'd been worried she would be angry with him. Now, when he saw the expression on her face, he longed for that anger. It would have been far easier to handle than the look of helplessness and loss that was there now. This wasn't his JJ. This was a woman who had been changed.
He hurried on before she could think to stop him. "I know I said I wouldn't interfere. But, JJ, you're my best friend, and I care about you. I know you're not okay. And if you're not, then neither is Henry. Your marriage may not be my business,….but you are. Please, can I help?"
She'd held herself together until he mentioned Henry. At that point, he could see her face completely crumple before she hid it in her hand. Now she sat, silent, curled in upon herself. She looked so small and pathetic that Reid wouldn't have recognized her. Part of him felt like he'd done it to her, just by speaking it. But he knew all he'd really done was to release something long held in. It had been so close to the surface that even the peeling back of this one layer caused all of it to spill out.
Reid moved over to the bed and sat beside her. He reached an arm behind her and started slowly rubbing her back.
Still hiding her face, she leaned into him. He could feel her shaking, and knew she was crying. Reid stretched both arms around her and held her, resting his chin on her head. Any awkwardness he might have felt about it disappeared in the face of her distress. Holding JJ felt like the most natural thing in the world.
After she seemed to have quieted, Reid reached down and lifted her chin. He was more than willing to comfort her, but they still needed to bring the issues out into the open. They needed to name them, and face them.
"JJ." Said softly.
She lifted teary eyes to him.
"We need to talk, don't we?"
She nodded, slowly uncurling herself. Then she stood, and walked a few steps away. She needed some distance for this.
Interrupted every so often with a hiccoughing sob, she began. "I don't know what to do. I just don't know what to do. I feel so alone, I can't talk to anyone about this. I can't tell my mother, she'd be too upset. And I..."
She stopped, tears flowing once again.
Reid stood and walked over to her. He wasn't about to give her the distance. Taking her shoulders, he pointed out, "You're not alone now. And you're talking to me..."
She turned from him. It was hard to open herself up to his concern, no matter how genuine. "You don't understand, he'll be upset with me. Talking about our 'private business'."
Reid's antennae were up, listening and watching for any signs of mistreatment. Was this one of them?
"Will doesn't want you talking to anyone? About what?"
"Spence, I was so stupid. I was so stupid. I asked him to propose to me, that last time. I knew it wasn't right, and yet I asked for it. How could I have been so stupid?" JJ rubbed her face, brushing away the tears.
She turned and faced him, eyes pleading. "It's all my fault. I was being emotional that day. And then the surprise..."
Reid closed his eyes. He'd known the surprise wedding was a mistake. He'd known she didn't want it. And he'd known she couldn't bring herself to say so. I should have helped her. I don't know how, but I should have found a way.
"I created this. How can I expect anyone to help me? I just feel so alone…"
It's how he wants you to feel, so you'll be dependent on him.
"I knew he was needy. But he was also sweet. Now I wonder if that was just his way of trying to win me. Because, ever since we got married, all I see is the neediness. He needs to know that he's the only one. He needs to have his perfect little family at home. He hates that you and I are friends. He hates that Henry loves you."
Reid's distaste for Will LaMontagne was longstanding. And he'd had the sense that Will returned it in kind. But although Reid had put his distaste aside for the sake of JJ and his godson, it seemed that Will had simply masked his, for the purpose of deceiving them. And now he no longer needed the deception.
JJ was still pouring it all out. Even as she did so, she realized how out of character it was for her to be so open, even with Spence. But she couldn't have stopped herself. It had overwhelmed every internal barrier she knew how to place before it.
"He knows I'm unhappy. He knows I feel like I've lost my friends,...my life, for that matter. And he doesn't care. He just wants me to be his wife, and Henry to be his son and he wants..."
Now she did stop. Reid noticed that she'd shut off her flow of words precipitously, and looked...fearful.
That worried him more than anything that had happened so far. JJ might be wary, she might be cautious...but he'd never seen her fearful. Even in the face of the people they hunted on a regular basis. He felt his concern turn to a slow, burning anger as he realized that Will LaMontagne had accomplished something that had stymied any number of serial killers.
"JJ." Now his voice was stern. But, not wanting to sound like Will, he softened it immediately. "JJ, you need to tell me. This is wrong, whatever it is. It needs to end. Please tell me, so I can help you."
She cast her eyes downward, wouldn't raise them. "He wants us to have another baby. Wants me to have another baby. Thinks it will solve all our problems. Because then he wants me to quit the FBI and stay home, "like a good wife."
He wasn't surprised that she didn't like the idea of staying home, but he was puzzled at her body language. She still hadn't made eye contact with him. "And you don't want to..."
"Not now. Not into this. But he's insisting. He won't take no..."
It clicked in Reid's head. Will wanting something that JJ didn't. Will getting used to having his way. Will wanting another baby. Will not wanting to take 'no' for an answer.
"JJ...did he...he didn't…" He couldn't bring himself to say it.
She raised her eyes briefly enough to flash him a look, but couldn't maintain the contact.
"JJ?" His voice was shaking now, even in those two short syllables.
The voice that responded was so soft, he could barely hear it. "I thought he was going to, the other night. But it didn't happen."
Reid breathed an audible sigh of relief. "Thank God."
But JJ wasn't relieved. "It didn't happen then, but...oh, God, what do I do? I don't know what to do!" She was sobbing again.
He pulled her to him, and she cried against his chest. Holding her head against him, he began stroking her hair. It soothed her. When she'd calmed, he sat them both down on the bed again. This time, he leaned back on the headboard, and rested her against him. They had work to do.
"JJ, tell me why you can't just leave him."
He knew there had to be something. She was too strong to have stayed in the situation. Even if she once might have entertained thoughts of fixing it, she would have realized by now how untenable it all was.
"Henry. What about Henry?" Was she still thinking that she needed to stay with this man, for the sake of her son? Was she still thinking Will LaMontagne was 'father material'?
"He'll take him."
"He'll sue me for custody, and he'll win. I'm away so much, and he's in town. He makes sure everyone at the preschool knows when he's taking care of Henry by himself. He's got them all convinced he's superdad. Even though he works as well, he's the 'at home' parent. And he's got Henry so wrapped up in him... Spence, if I leave him, he'll take Henry from me. I'm so afraid I'll lose my son!"
For a moment, Reid thought he'd gone blind. The anger actually took away his sight, and he could see only a black rage.
"No." His voice was low, and controlled, and sounded so foreign from his own that JJ looked up at him abruptly.
"No, JJ. He won't. We won't let it happen."
I won't let it happen. Reid was not about to let the little boy he loved so much be raised in the image of Will LaMontagne.
"I don't know how to stop him, Spence. If I quit my job to stay home with Henry, I can't pay my bills. And if I keep my job...this job...then he has the upper hand. I would have to leave the BAU, and maybe the FBI, to find something that let me support us and stay home with Henry. Any way it goes, I lose."
He was quiet, trying to squelch the anger so he could think. That she should be in this position was intolerable. That Henry might be caught in the middle...almost beyond his very considerable ability to grasp.
I know what Morgan would do. Maybe...
Remarkably, he was actually giving it consideration. But he knew their better bet would be their unit chief. He'd been a practicing attorney before he joined the FBI.
"JJ, we have to tell Hotch."
She pulled away from him, trying to sit up. "No, Spence, I can't tell anyone else. This was hard enough. Please."
"He'll know the legal steps to take. He might even know a good divorce attorney." He realized she hadn't said it yet. "Provided that's what you want."
She turned to look at him. "What I want, I can't have. I want a happy marriage, and a happy family for my son. No matter how this goes, I won't have it."
He reached out and held her cheek, a gesture of apology for what life had dealt her. He knew she was right, and he was sorry.
"Then, for Henry's sake, and your own, you need to make a hard decision. Living like this is killing you, a little bit at a time. I don't even have to ask if that's true, I can see it. And I'm not willing to lose you and Henry to this. You're both much too important to me."
She smiled at that, her first smile of the evening. Now she returned Reid's gesture and caressed his cheek. "As you are to us."
"Then please tell me you'll think about it."
With a huge sigh, she turned around and settled back against him. "I know I can't live like this." Pause. "All right, I'm willing to think about it. Talking to Hotch, I mean."
He squeezed her shoulder. "I'll take it."
They sat in silence for a little while, and then JJ, remembering something from earlier in the evening, asked, "So who is she?"
He was immediately on alert. "What? Who's who?"
"Who is she? Who were you talking to on the pay phone?"
"Spence, I was out running. I saw you talking on the pay phone. Who uses those anymore, anyway? Is your cell broken?"
"No, I was just..." She'd caught him off guard, and his genius brain wouldn't work fast enough to give him an excuse.
"Don't even try it. I saw the look on your face. It was definitely a 'she'. So, tell me, who is it that's making my best friend happy these days?"
She was genuinely curious, but maybe also a little jealous. She'd never known Spence to have a girlfriend before.
He was quiet a moment longer, deciding. He was happy about Maeve, even while also worried about her. And he wanted to share it. But he wasn't sure this was the time to share it with JJ. After all, they were talking about her dissolving her relationship, was it right to bask in his good fortune?
It was almost as if she could read his thoughts. "It's all right, Spence. I'm happy for you, that's all. I can be happy for you no matter what's going on in my own life. So, tell me. What's her name?"
He hesitated a moment longer. "Maeve."
"Maeve. It's an unusual name, isn't it? She must be very special, your Maeve."
He was wearing his shy smile again. "I think so."
She smiled at his blush. "Well, she's a very lucky lady. I hope she knows that."
"I'm the lucky one, JJ. She's amazing, and smart, and kind, and gentle. And she has the most beautiful voice."
JJ sat up and studied her good friend. She could see it in his expression. "You've really fallen for her, haven't you, Spence?"
He looked at JJ, thinking. He'd never fallen for anyone before, except the woman sitting next to him. And now here he was, telling her about Maeve, as her own life was falling apart. The irony was intense.
"I guess. I just know I want to learn everything about her, to know what she thinks, and what she feels. Every time we hang up, I can't wait to talk to her again."
JJ longed for the time when that might have been true in her relationship with Will. But she couldn't recall it. Turning her attention back to Reid, she asked what she thought was a simple question.
"So, how did you two meet?"