It happened every time. Every single time he punched in the
numbers and then hung up the receiver, his whole body tensed. What if she
didn't call back? What if something had happened to her? How would he know? How
would he ever know? What if this was that time?
And then, after what always seemed an eternity, the phone would ring, and he would leap at it. And it would be her. He would hear her voice, and relax.
This time was no different. When the phone finally rang, and he heard her voice, Reid breathed an audible sigh of relief.
"Spencer? Is everything all right?"
When listening was all you had, you became expert at it. Maeve was able to pick up on every nuance of her conversations with Reid.
"Everything's fine, Maeve. I was just relieved to hear your voice, that's all." He'd long ago given up trying to employ any kind of artifice with her.
"How did your case go?"
He'd almost forgotten. It seemed like so much had happened, and yet it had all happened in this same week. Even though she'd helped him with the case, he could answer only in vague terms.
"Actually, it was kind of a first for us. We got all the victims back alive."
"And yet I sense a sadness in your voice."
"There was a family member of the unsub who was very, very ill. It's not clear he'll survive. At least, not intact."
She could tell he'd somehow bonded with this victim. "I'm sorry, Spencer."
He knew she meant it. It wasn't just a polite statement. He'd come to understand that she felt it when he was hurting, or unhappy. But he wasn't used to being so deeply probed. On some level, he was still struggling to become accustomed to the kind of sharing that so many others took for granted.
He tried to shift the focus of the conversation. "How was the rest of your week?"
He hoped that meant what he thought it did. "No more contact? No e-mails? No letters?"
There was a smile in her voice. "None."
"Maeve, have there been any calls? Any hang-ups?" She'd been dismissive of these before, but he wasn't so sure she should be.
Pause. Then, "Just one."
His heart sank. It had sounded so promising.
She tried to downplay it. "But that's all, Spencer. And it may not have been him. Anyone can dial a wrong number."
"Still, Maeve. I need to ask you again. Won't you let me help you?"
They'd been over this so many times. Clinging to the idea that an unsuccessful stalker would eventually lose interest and move on, Maeve resisted any offers of help. She was convinced her stalker would become aware of any investigation, and realize his success in frightening her. She was convinced an investigation would prolong her situation.
"Spencer, I know you're impatient. But it's almost over. I can feel it. Can't we give it a few more weeks?"
Faced with no other choice, he relented. They were in danger of this becoming their only topic of conversation, and he treasured their talks too much to let that happen.
They went back and forth for a bit on his latest field of study, philosophy. Each of them was opening up the other to a different world view, a new way of experiencing all that surrounded them, and they both relished it.
Finally, they turned to a subject that had been a source of common interest for a long time.
"So, did you finish reading it?"
"Yesterday. I'll bet you finished by dinner time last week." Instead of irritating her, it amused Maeve that it could take her a week to read what Spencer could digest in an hour.
"And I think it's revealing of the relationship between them. Look at how Watson virtually celebrates being shot, because it brings out the caring in Holmes. Sherlock was so reluctant to express it otherwise."
Partly because of their unique way of communicating, partly because he was a profiler, Reid was always attuned to both the text and the subtext of what Maeve said. They'd joked many times about her being Watson to his Holmes. Was she saying something here? Was it because she'd said, "Love you," and he'd not yet reciprocated?
"I don't know, Maeve, that seems pretty extreme on Watson's part." And don't you dare follow his example. "But I don't disagree that Holmes felt deeply for Watson."
She couldn't see him gulp, trying to get up the courage. He was about to say it to her. If only he could get his mouth to move. But it was suddenly so dry…..
Maeve picked up on his struggle. She knew, from what he'd shared of his life, that he'd been shielded from love more often than he'd been shown it. Rather than being upset with him for not expressing it, Maeve marveled that he was able to know it at all. She sympathized with him, and rescued him by changing the subject.
"So, how is it going with JJ?"
Amazingly, for almost the entire the time he'd been speaking with Maeve, he hadn't thought about it. Such was her power over him. Now, he told her the whole story, ending with the fact that JJ and Henry would stay with him until it was safe for them to return home.
"Oh, Spencer, I'm so sorry for all that's happened to them. I pray it will be over quickly. But I know you'll love having your little godson with you."
It was true. Even in the few hours he'd been awake, Henry had made the apartment seem so much more alive. He'd filled it with four year old vivacity, bringing color and life to everything around him. Reid couldn't help but wonder what it would be like to be surrounded by it all the time.
"Hotch thinks the lawyers may be able to work out something that would allow them to stay at the house without interference from Will, but, of course, that's all dependent on him cooperating."
"Is that likely? He sounds like someone who likes the upper hand. Why would he cooperate?"
"It's all show, Maeve. Guys like Will are mostly insecure. They're very dependent on the opinions of others, especially authority figures. So, in public, they tend to want to make a favorable impression. It's when they're behind closed doors that they compensate by trying to dominate in the household. It's likely Will will cooperate. And, once they're past this crisis stage, and if he stays sober, they won't in any physical danger."
"But?" She could hear it.
"But he's also a master manipulator. He'll play it well enough to be allowed time with Henry. And then he'll use Henry to get back at JJ."
"Oh, no, not poor little Henry!" Even though she'd never met him, Reid had provided her with vivid pictures of Henry and his antics. But, mostly, she knew how much Spencer loved the little boy, so she loved him too. "What do you think he would do?"
"I have no idea. That's why I have to be alert to anything. I'm not sure JJ can distance herself enough to see it."
"Is there anything I can do, Spencer? Anything at all?" She hated to hear the frustration in his voice.
"I guess you can pray, Maeve. Neither Henry nor JJ deserve this. Somebody has to help them."
"Then I shall pray that you will be able to help them. Or that it will turn out they don't need your help."
He decided to try one more time. "I sure do wish I could help someone else….."
"I'm praying that you won't need to do that either, Spencer. But I am so grateful that you want to."
"Say the word, and I'm there." Realizing he didn't know where 'there' was.
"Actually, I was thinking that I might be able to come to you. Or maybe we could meet. You know, if this really is the end. If he's really gone away."
He gulped. Wanting to meet Maeve was one thing, but actually having it happen, exposing himself to her measure, was another.
"O-okay." He couldn't see it, but she was smiling. She could hear the anxiety in his voice. Her hero FBI agent, nervous to meet her.
"So maybe this week we can both be thinking about where we'd like to meet. And maybe, in a few weeks, or a month, it will become a reality."
He'd recovered himself. "I hope so, Maeve." Mostly, he wanted her free of her stalker. He wanted her free to live her life as she pleased.
"Until then, Spencer, please be careful. And, if you like, tell Henry and his mother that I am rooting for them."
"I will, Maeve. And I want you to be careful, too. And, if anything happens, if he contacts you again….please call me. Please consider letting me and my team help you."
"I will, Spencer. Consider it, that is. Goodbye, until next time. Love you."
Oops. She hadn't meant to let it out again, since she knew he was having so much trouble reciprocating. But she did love him, and it had just slipped by her. She hung up quickly, to ease the dilemma she knew she'd just put him in.
He came home to a most unusual circumstance. There was a delicious aroma emitting from his kitchen. Reid actually knew how to cook, had learned it as a child, since his mother so often forgot about meals. But he rarely took the time.
"Mmmmm…I smell something incredible. What is it?"
"It's your favorite, Uncle Spence! Apricot chicken!"
He looked at JJ. "I had all this stuff?" He couldn't believe he'd owned the ingredients of such delicious fare.
"Henry woke up, so we took a little run to the grocery store. You were probably gone a little longer than you thought." She grinned at him.
Reid looked at his watch. He was surprised to see that he'd been talking to Maeve for almost two hours. The time had flown.
"Sorry, JJ, I didn't mean to leave you alone for so long. Were there any calls?" They needed to speak in code in front of Henry.
"A text." When she saw Reid's brows go up, she added, "I'll tell you about it later."
Henry grabbed Reid's hand and dragged him to the living room. There was something he wanted to know.
"What's this, Uncle Spence?"
Reid smiled. He'd harbored hopes that he would be able to share this with Henry in the years to come.
"That's a chessboard. And these," he picked up a figure, " are the players."
Henry was familiar with checkers. But all of those playing pieces looked the same. "But these are all different, Uncle Spence. Why?"
"Well, Henry, that's because they all do different things. But all of them try to protect this one, the king." He was holding that figure, and now put it down to pick up another. "This one, for instance, is a pawn. It goes out and explores what's going on, and sometimes it has to let itself be captured."
"Captured?" That didn't sound like fun.
"So the king will be safe. And the queen."
Henry knew about kings and queens from the fairy tales his mom would read him. He knew they were important.
"What's this one, Uncle Spence?" Henry was holding what looked like a little black horse.
"That's the knight. The knight protects the king and the queen."
Henry had heard of knights before, too. "Does he save them, Uncle Spence?"
"He does his best, Henry."
"When I grow up, I'm gonna be a knight. I'm gonna save people. Just like you, Uncle Spence."
That caught him unaware. "Like me?"
"Mommy says you always try to save everybody, even the bad guys, she says. Uncle Spence, why do you try to save the bad guys?"
Reid sent his gaze toward the kitchen, but JJ was out of sight.
"Mommy told you that?"
"Mm-hmm. She said it when I was mad at Toby."
The genius felt like he was bobbing in an ocean, out of his depth.
"I don't understand, Henry. What does Toby have to do with it?"
Henry just stared at him, as though Reid was trying the patience of the four year old.
"She said I shouldn't be mad at him. Because sometimes people are bad because they're sad. And she said you always know when the bad guys are sad."
"She did? Hmm." Then he remembered that Henry was telling him a story. "And you think Toby was sad?"
"Yeah, when he broke my lunch box."
"When he broke your lunch box." Reid made a face at him. "I still don't understand, Henry."
A loud, dramatic sigh. "He wanted to take my cookies, and I wouldn't let him, so he took my lunch box and throwed it on the floor. And it broke."
Reid had a glimmer of understanding. "So he was acting like a bad guy?"
Henry nodded. Finally his godfather was following the conversation.
"And Mommy said maybe he was having a bad day. She said maybe he was sad."
Something told Reid to ask. "Why would he be sad, Henry?"
A very small voice responded. Reid regretted recognizing the wisdom behind it. Henry shouldn't have had to know about these things.
"He was sad because his mommy and daddy didn't want to live in the same house any more. Mommy said."
Reid looked again toward the kitchen. Now, JJ was standing in the doorway, leaning on the jamb, listening. He had trouble reading her expression as she explained.
"Toby told him that his mommy and daddy were mad at each other, and were yelling at each other all the time. Right, Henry?"
Her son nodded vigorously, glad to have his mom take over the task of making his Uncle Spence understand.
"So they decided to live apart. And Toby was upset about it. And instead of telling anybody how sad he was, he started doing mean things. Is that about right, Henry?"
The little blonde head nodded again.
"But it would have been better if he'd told someone, right?"
Reid stepped in, performing a godfatherly duty.
"Henry, if you are ever upset about something, or even if you're just wondering about something, you know you can talk to me about it, don't you?"
Again, no reaction.
"Even if I'm mad?"
Reid squinted at him. JJ watched intently. Like so many moments in life, this one had crept up on them, yet seemed so important.
The wisdom Reid was praying for came to him. "Especially when you're mad, Henry. Or sad. It's okay to be mad, you know. We all get mad sometimes, even if we think we shouldn't. It's just how we feel. But it doesn't feel very good to stay mad, does it?"
Small voice. "No."
"So it's good to talk about it, because sometimes that helps it to get better."
Reid watched JJ's hand hold her heart as Henry responded. "But am I 'lowed to be mad at grown ups? Am I 'lowed to be mad at my mommy and daddy?"