Chapter 22

The week seemed interminable to Reid. At first, he hoped they would be called out on a case, to make the time pass more quickly. But as the week progressed, he prayed they wouldn't, so he would be in town for Thursday night. For the time he would first meet Maeve.

JJ did her best to be patient with him, but it was trying. He'd taken to rambling, and was really only rambling to her, since he'd not yet shared his relationship with anyone else except Emily. And she's an ocean away.

"Spence, stop, please. I know you're nervous, but I need to finish these folders so I can try to get out early and get Henry from preschool. Will is working evenings this week, and I'd like to give Karen a break for a change." Will picked Henry up as often as his schedule allowed. It was one of the compromises they'd made.

He was chastised. "Sorry, JJ. I didn't realize." He turned to go back to his desk, then turned again. "It's just that I've never done this before. I don't know….."

She put her pen down. "Spence, I promise, if you'll just let me finish these, you can come to dinner and I'll talk you through it."

He looked relieved. "Deal."

"Hi, Uncle Spence! We're havin' meatloaf for dinner. I love meatloaf! Do you love meatloaf, Uncle Spence?"

Ever since JJ had told him she ground vegetables into it to sneak them into Henry, Reid had looked at meatloaf in a whole different way. It's not exactly meatloaf anymore, is it?

"He only loves it because he drowns it in ketchup." JJ handed Reid plates to set the table for them.

"Nothing wrong with that. Right, Henry?" Reid and his godson high-fived one another.

Between mouthfuls, Henry gave the adults a recap of his day at school, ending with, "and tomorrow we're gonna have a fire engine! A real one, Uncle Spence! And we can climb on it and everything! I'm gonna be a fireman when I grow up!"

Reid smiled at him. "I thought last time you said you wanted to be an astronaut."

"That was weeks ago, Spence. Then he wanted to be an FBI agent, like us. And then, last week, he wanted to be a policeman, like his dad."

Reid looked at his godson. "That's an awful lot of things, Henry. Which do you think you really want to be?" He loved the enthusiasm Henry had for everything, and often wondered exactly what he would end up doing with his life. The future lay wide open before him.

"I want to be all of them, Uncle Spence!" With that pronouncement, and done with his dinner, Henry scrambled down from his seat and went to play. He had a lot of pretending to do if he wanted to be good at his chosen professions.

After he'd gone, Reid observed, "Wow, the energy level in the room just plummeted. Not to mention the decibel level."

JJ laughed. "I hope he keeps up his enthusiasm for life for a long, long time. But I also hope he learns to whisper."

"He seems to be okay, doesn't he, JJ? I mean, with Will not being here."

"So far. We had some rough nights at the very beginning, but we got through them. I'm waiting to see if there's a little relapse after he spent so much time with Will last week."

Reid reached over and squeezed her hand. "You did the right thing, JJ. It will all be okay."

She squeezed back. "I know, Spence. It's just not easy getting there."

"Good thing you're strong, then."

"As long as I have good friends to lean on." A look passed between them as JJ rose.

"Go play with Henry. While he's busy pretending, see if you can make him pretend to be a millionaire who takes care of his mother in her old age."

"I think he's actually reading a little, JJ. Did you see how he was following the words in the book?"

She loved how excited Spence got every time Henry made an intellectual leap.

"He has some sight words, but I don't know that he's sounding anything out yet."

At hearing that, Reid made a mental note as to how he would spend his next Saturday morning with Henry. Reid's love of the written word was powerful, and he couldn't wait to share it with his godson.

They'd settled in the living room, on either end of the sofa. JJ picked up the glass of wine she'd poured.

"So, tomorrow's the big night."

He gulped. "I'm nervous about it. I used to worry that she might not like me, but that's not really it. She's not like that. She's sweet, and kind. She's beautiful."

JJ didn't understand. "I thought you hadn't seen her. Did she send you a picture?" Personally, I would have googled her.

Now he was puzzled. "No, I've never seen her."

"Then how do you know she's beautiful?"

"She's beautiful on the inside, JJ. Her mind, her spirit. Nothing else matters to me. I don't need to see her to know she's the most beautiful girl in the world."

JJ's eyes filled. She'd been blessed with external beauty. Not that she could see it in herself, but she'd been told so many times. And yet, this night, she wished she possessed the kind of beauty inside that Spence saw in Maeve Donovan. It was another thing JJ couldn't see in herself.

"Well, then don't be scared, Spence. She's just a woman. You're not scared of me, are you?"

He managed to combine guilty with shy in his facial expression. "I used to be."

"What? When?"

"Before." He was uncomfortable. "Before Will."

She squinted at him, thinking back. It was true, he'd seemed much more relaxed and open with her since she'd been with Will. Before that, he'd often seemed flustered when she spoke to him about anything but work. She'd suspected he had a crush on her. But then, after she was with Will, he was different. Easier, more outgoing. Was it because he thought there was no possibility of a relationship between them? Had that finally freed him to be himself with her? The first time Spence had ever told her she was beautiful was when she was holding another man's child. Since then, he'd told her many times. Was it because the stakes were lower? Because, having lost her once, even though he'd never actually had her, he couldn't lose her again?

JJ shook her head, to clear these thoughts that were getting in the way of their conversation. They would need to be put away for another time.

"Spence, are you afraid she won't like you?"

"No, that's not it. I know she likes me. She even…." He'd not told JJ yet. Not said it aloud to anyone. That Maeve had said "'Love you."

He couldn't bring himself to tell her now, either. "I'm just afraid that I'll…disappoint her, somehow."

JJ raised her brows in surprise. "How? How could you possibly disappoint her, Spence?"

He looked down, shook his head. "I don't know. Maybe I won't live up to the image she has of me."

Brilliant, handsome, kind, gentle, and yet he thinks he could possibly disappoint. My Spence.

"Spence. " He was still staring at the ground, lost in a vision of Maeve, eyeing him from across a crowded restaurant, and deciding not to stay. JJ waved her hand in his line of sight, to get his attention.

"Spence, there's absolutely no chance of you disappointing her. She knows who you are the same way you know who she is. And she's asking to meet you. She's already decided that she wants a relationship with you, hasn't she? Can't you see it?"

"I want to. I guess I'm just not used to seeing myself that way."

JJ put her glass down and sat back. "Well, if you're going to be in a relationship, you're going to have to learn to see yourself through someone else's eyes. "

He sat, thinking, for a while. He'd been tossing this idea around in his mind, but he had no real experience to go on.

"Is that it, JJ? Is that how it works? When you're in a relationship, do you keep the identity you've always known and become the person your partner thinks you are? Or do you lose yourself? I've been trying to figure this out. Since Maeve, I've felt different, but I haven't been able to figure out why. Is that it?"

She needed more wine. This conversation was taking her to a dangerous place. Had she been growing into some image that Will had of her? Was that why she'd felt so alienated from who she used to be? From the life she'd lived before? Had she almost lost herself? It was only recently that she'd begun to feel like herself again.

Gradually, she realized that she'd been quiet for too long. Reid was staring at her.

"JJ? Are you okay?"

She tried to make light of it. "Sorry, Spence. I'm just not used to such heavy conversation after dinner. Should we talk about what you're going to wear?"

"Wear? Oh, right. Well, I'm going right from work, so I guess I'll wear whatever I wear to work tomorrow."

JJ laughed, mostly at herself. She should have known. He'd wanted to prepare for the actual interaction, and she'd thought he wanted sartorial advice. Shallow me. But I'm giving it anyway. She's a woman, she'll appreciate it.

"If I can give a little advice, then?" At his nod, she continued. "Wear something dark. Blue or gray would work well, each of them bring out the color of your eyes."

"You notice the color of my eyes?" He was astounded.

JJ blushed, just a little. That and so much more, Spence.

"Is there anything else? Should I wear a sweater? Vest? Jacket?"

She felt the blush deepen, hoped he wouldn't notice. I might as well go all the way.

"Okay, real advice? I'd say wear the dark gray shirt with the light gray tie. Loose, like you usually do. If you wear a sweater, don't button it. You have that dark jacket though….that would work." JJ was starting to get invested in this. She was picturing her ideal 'Spence outfit' and prescribing it for him.

"Dark gray shirt, light gray tie, jacket or sweater, no buttons…" He was repeating everything she said, implanting it in his memory. Then he made a face at her. "Do you think the high tops will ruin it?"

She tried to keep from laughing. "If you were doing something formal, maybe. But mostly….I think they just add to the charm." As entertaining as the conversation was, JJ couldn't suppress a yawn.

"Oops, I've kept you up too long. Sorry, JJ. Thanks for dinner. And thanks for the advice."

She rose with him, and walked him to the door. "You'll be great, Spence. And she'll love you. How could she not?"

He grinned at her. "I hope you're right. Good night, JJ."

Reid was already at his desk when JJ arrived to work in the morning. She could see he'd followed her advice on his outfit. When he got up for coffee, her eyes trailed him.

He looks great. Sexy, even. JJ's eyes widened at the thought. Where is your mind at, girl? It's Spence! Seeing that he was about to turn around, she shot her eyes to the folder open on her desk, and kept them plastered there.

It worked, for a few minutes. But all day long, JJ found herself stealing looks in Reid's direction. Several times she caught him looking at her. Shortly before it was time to leave, she felt his presence beside her desk, and looked up.


"I don't know, JJ. Maybe I should cancel….."

"Spence, relax. She'll love you. I'm sure you'll have a great time."

He was having trouble swallowing. "Do you really think so? I'm not sure I'll know what to say…"

"Spence, haven't you two been doing nothing but talking? Of course you'll know what to say. Just pretend it's a phone call."

"Oh. Yeah, you're right. That's a good idea. Thanks, JJ!"

She stood, leaned up, and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Good luck, Romeo."

Blushing, he smiled at her. Then he picked up his messenger bag, slung it over his shoulder, and was on his way.

I'm going on my first date. Ever. With Maeve.

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