It had been a virtually sleepless night. He'd picked up and
put down his phone repeatedly, until it was far too late to call her. When his
land line rang at 6 AM, he ran for it, hoping. Then remembered that it couldn't
possibly be her, that she only had his cell number. Even when they were
exclusively using the phone booth system, he'd made sure she could reach his
cell, so she could find him, wherever he was, whenever she needed him. It
couldn't possibly be her now.
He lifted the receiver. "Hello?"
Emily. He was surprised, as well as caffeine-deficient, and he couldn't get his mouth moving fast enough.
"Reid? Are you there?"
"How are you?"
He took a beat too long to answer, causing Emily's profiler antennae to go up.
"I'm fine, how are you? Is everything okay?"
The call concerned him. They'd had a few conversations since she'd been gone, but this one was taking place at a most unusual hour.
"Me? I'm fine. Everything's fine, why…..oh, the time. Yeah, I forgot, it's like, what, 6 AM there?"
"Oops, sorry. I'm taking an early lunch today, that's all. I just wanted to catch up with you."
Reid's profiler antennae were up now, too. He knew exactly why she'd called.
"You've been talking to JJ, haven't you?"
A beat of silence, then, "Busted. Yeah, she told me about the big date. I was excited, you getting to meet Maeve after all this time. It's like my baby brother just went on his first date."
She heard him clearing his throat in protest, prompting her to add, "Well, you know what I mean. So, how did it go?"
Now she heard a sigh. "It didn't. I mean, it did, it started, but we had to call it off before she even got there."
She could hear the disappointment and frustration in his voice. All traces of humor were gone from hers when she responded to him.
"Reid, what happened? Are you okay? Is she okay?"
He loved Emily. Across the expanse of the Atlantic, he could feel her love and concern. He was reminded of just how acutely he missed her presence.
"We're both okay. It was just that…." And he explained about his sense of the stalker's presence, and then his frustration when he realized he'd been wrong.
"I don't know, Reid. You're usually right when you get those feelings, you know? Could the stalker have been there, but maybe just not been the guy you noticed?"
He was shaking his head. "I don't know, Emily. I don't think so. No one else seemed to fit."
"Well, could it have been him, anyway? Could he have arranged to have someone else meet him there, to throw you off? Or could there even be two of them?"
He was still disgusted with himself, and Emily could hear it in his voice. "I don't think so. I think I just blew it. Maybe I was just so worried about her, I don't know."
"Well, what does Maeve think?"
She knew from his delay in answering that he was being Reid-like about this. Bearing the responsibility, assuming the blame.
"I don't know. I haven't called her since then."
Now it came pouring out in an emotional tumble of words.
"Emily, I read the situation wrong, and chased her away. She thought she was free of her stalker, and I made her feel afraid of him again. All for nothing. I'm an idiot. How can I ask her to talk to me? I don't even want to talk to me!"
There was a definite disadvantage to being over 3,000 miles away. She was going to have to commission someone else to give him a hug for her. For now, she would have to settle for soothing words.
"Reid, stop. You care about the woman, right? Maybe you even love her?"
Very, very small answer. "Maybe."
So like him. Her eyes traveled all the way across the Atlantic, seeing the shy smile she knew was on his face right now.
"Well, she has to know that. She'll know you were only trying to look out for her. Call her, for God's sake. Talk to her. She'll understand. You can set up another time. This was just a little blip, it's not catastrophic. Call her. You'll work it out."
Somehow, when Emily said it, he found it almost believable. Maybe it could be all right. Maybe they could put this behind them.
Big sigh. "All right, I'll call her. But I think we're probably back to using the phone booth now, so I'll have to do it on my way to work."
She was smiling as she looked out at the London rain. "Okay. That's more like it. I'll let you go now. But, Reid…call me. I want to know how it comes out. I want to know how you are. Okay?"
He smiled, wishing he could send his gratitude through the phone. "Okay, I will. Sis."
In London, after the connection had been broken, Emily just stood and stared at the phone in her hand. Sis?
He paged her, and then waited. And waited. And wai…..the phone rang!
"Spencer, are you all right? I was so worried."
"Of course! I left you behind at the restaurant…with him!"
Somehow, in the space of time between leaving his apartment and finding the phone booth, he'd forgotten she didn't know.
"He wasn't there, Maeve. I was wrong. The person I thought was him…wasn't."
"What?! How do you know?"
"He was meeting someone else for dinner. The other person came right after you…..right after I sent you away. I'm so sorry, Maeve. It's all my fault. I blew it. And I worried you for nothing."
She was silent, processing. Reid felt like he needed to fill the void.
"I wouldn't blame you if you wanted to forget about it all together."
She'd recovered, and now recognized the self-recrimination in his voice.
"Forget about it? Of course not, Spencer! I meant what I said yesterday, I can't wait until we can be together. Why can't we just plan it again? Why not tonight?"
His mood was brightening by the second. Emily had been right. Maeve understood. She forgave him. She still wanted to meet him.
"Tonight? Sure, I can make it tonight. Same place?"
"Why don't we change our location. It will feel more like starting over, won't it?"
After setting up a new time and place, Reid had one more thing to say.
"Maeve….I got your gift."
Pause. "Did you like it, Spencer?"
"I loved it. And I loved what you wrote inside it. You were right to quote Thomas Merton. Truer words were never written."
"I think I was letting him speak for me."
"Well, he spoke for me too." There, that was almost like telling her he loved her, wasn't it? Then he remembered the other way he'd planned to tell her.
Oh, and Maeve, I had a gift for you, too. I'll bring it again tonight."
He could hear the brightness in her voice. "Until tonight then, Spencer."
JJ was sitting on his desk when he arrived, a cup of coffee in her hand. She'd already poured his, and added just the right amount of sugar and cream. I think I could become diabetic just from handling this much sugar.
She could tell when he spotted her as he entered the BAU. It was obvious when his step slowed just a little, and his head went down.
Uh-oh. This doesn't look good.
He approached. "Spence, hi. I brought your coffee for you."
"So I see. Thanks."
He gave her a look. "You mean Emily hasn't called you yet?"
"Emily? Ohhh….sorry, I thought it was okay to talk to her, since you said she already knew. But, wait, are you saying you talked to her already today?"
"Six AM. She 'just had to know'." He used finger quotes.
"Oops. Sorry, Spence. But, since we're on the subject…..how did it go?"
He explained, watching her face fall as she realized what had happened. He loved her for that. For being so much on his side. For wanting it so much for him.
"Oh, Spence, I'm so sorry. I know how much you were looking forward to meeting her."
"It's okay, JJ, we're doing it tonight. We rescheduled."
She smiled, glad for him. Then took stock of what was now his 'date attire', and realized her sartorial advice had gone for naught. Today he was in his usual white shirt and awkward, buttoned sweater. Oh, well, she may as well know from the beginning…
It seemed like it would be a relatively quiet day for the team, all of whom got to work on the consults piled on their desks. Quiet or not, it seemed there was never a shortage of hideous crimes and serial slayings requiring their expert advice.
Around two, Morgan emerged from his office for a BAU walkabout. He'd been granted the privilege of the office when he'd briefly taken over the reins from Hotch, but he missed the camaraderie of the bullpen. He could often be found visiting his colleagues on the floor. Today, he was parked on Alex Blake's desk, across from JJ and Reid.
"So, what's up, guys? Pretty Boy, you've had a spring in your step lately." He moved over to Reid's desk. "What's her name?"
He gave a little school boy chuckle and a brows up wink to Reid, including JJ and Alex in the exchange. Despite a conversation they'd had during a case years ago, Reid often wondered if Morgan hadn't been just a little bit of a bully all those years ago.
Reid blushed and shot his eyes in JJ's direction, obviously looking for help. Both Morgan and Blake noticed, but had different reactions. Morgan was truly intrigued.
"Kid, for real? You've got someone? You've got a girlfriend?"
Alex had a prior professional relationship with Reid, who had guest lectured in her course at Georgetown any number of times. She recognized his youth, and his lack of sophistication, but she also sincerely respected both his expertise and his commitment. She'd grown fond of the young man. Now, seeing his discomfort, she came to his rescue.
"I think Reid will tell us about his personal business if and when he thinks we need to know it, Derek."
Reid was about to open his mouth when Garcia rushed up to the foursome, and brought his world crashing down.
"Sorry, crimefighters, we have a case. In Cleveland."
He had to pray she would answer a call from his cell, as there was no time for him to find a phone booth. Please, please, please…..
He released his breath. At least he would be able to explain. "I'm so sorry, Maeve. We'll have to try again when I get back."
He could hear the disappointment in her tone, but not in her words. "Of course, Spencer. You have to help those families. We'll have all the time in the world when you get back."
A week and a half later, it hadn't seemed so. Cleveland had gone on for five days, and then they were called directly to Memphis. Suddenly, it seemed to be the height of serial killer season, if there could be said to be such a thing. Reid began to think he would never meet Maeve.
Finally, almost two weeks after the failed date, the case in Memphis was over and they were on the plane, headed back to DC. With the team having gone directly from one case to the next, Hotch was able to successfully procure a few days off for them. Reid hoped he would finally be able to meet the woman he loved. But he'd begun to doubt the entire plan.
He was sitting at the back of the plane, rambling about it to his best friend.
"I don't know what I was thinking, JJ. How can I be in a relationship with someone when I'm called all over creation without warning? How could I expect someone to put up with that?"
Seeing the look on her face, his stomach plummeted. "I"m so sorry, JJ, I didn't mean anything by that. I didn't mean that you and Will….."
She'd held up a hand to stop him. "Forget about it, Spence. You didn't say anything that I haven't already said to myself a thousand times over. The truth is, it wasn't all Will's fault. It was unreasonable of me to expect so much of him."
Reid recognized the lingering self-doubt for what it was. "No, JJ, it wasn't. He knew what you did. He knew what he was getting into. He met you on a case, for God's sake. No, you don't own that responsibility. "
He could tell she didn't completely agree with him.
"Can I hear you say it?" He surprised himself by pushing her. But he cared too much about her to let it go.
He could tell she was surprised as well. Pleasantly surprised. With widened eyes, she said it. "I'm not responsible."
He looked at her, looked right into her brain. He'd come to know her so well. He was sure he knew what she was thinking right now. He pushed her again.
"Now, you just need to believe it."
She was sarcastic this time. "Yeah, well, that's another story."
They'd gotten in very late, so he waited until the next day to call her. He was still kicking himself over the incident in the restaurant. It had definitely stirred up her anxiety again. While she was willing to answer an identified cell call from him, she was back to preferring the pager/phone booth routine.
"Just for now, Spencer. I haven't heard anything more since that day. That makes almost a month without contact from him. No photos, or letters, or e-mails. And no phone calls."
He could still hear the uncertainty in her voice, despite the content of her speech. And it was all because of him. Don't blow it again, Reid.
And thus it came to be that he was on his way to a phone booth on a fine, early spring morning, enjoying the air and the promise of the cherry blossoms. He put in his coin and entered her pager number. When the signal came, he entered just the final four digits of the number to the phone booth. They'd long ago decided to break the pager message into pieces, just in case. Now, Maeve knew he was back in DC. She knew the area code, and the prefix. So when she got the final digits, she would call right back.
Reid paced a bit, enjoying the spring air, and even enjoying the anticipation. He intended for them to try again tonight. After what seemed a longer time than usual, the phone rang and he picked it up.
The delay immediately concerned him, even though it was only a matter of a second or two. Was she upset? In trouble?
Finally, a voice came through the line. But it wasn't Maeve's. It sounded like an operator.
"If you will accept a collect call, please deposit two dollars."
This was new. She'd always called him back directly. Maybe she was at a phone booth as well. Had he frightened her that much, that she would add a new security measure? Reid was finding a whole new level of disgust for himself.
"Yes. Yes, just a minute." He emptied his pockets, and then turned out his messenger bag. He'd not been prepared for this. Will they take a credit card?
Finally, providentially, he found the right amount of change and put it into the slots.
It wasn't Maeve's voice that came through the phone this time, either. It was mechanized, unidentifiable. The voice provided only one word, but it was enough to drive Reid's heart through his chest.