Chapter 27

Eventually their tears subsided, but JJ continued to hold Reid, unable to let him go. She felt like she was anchoring him. That, if she let him go, he might forget that his place was here, in this world.

After a time, he pulled his good arm away and leaned back. She stayed close to him, cupping his face in her hand, keeping his gaze. They sat like that, looking at one another, each lost in thought.

JJ could see the pain in Reid's face. She held her hand there, wishing she could absorb some of it. My Spence. How life has hurt you, yet again. It's so unfair. Please trust that it can be better. Please be willing to wait until that day.

In Reid's mind, JJ's face blended with that of Maeve. I looked at her like this. Just hours ago. I looked at her for the first time. And the last time. Why?! Why is she gone?

JJ thought she knew what he needed to hear. "Spence, there was nothing you could have done. That woman had already made her decision. She just wanted to hurt you more by doing it in front of you."

He broke eye contact with her. "She wanted to hurt Maeve more. It wasn't enough to take her life. She wanted her to hurt before that. She wanted Maeve to know I'd be watching."

It sounded to JJ like he was agreeing with her. That it wasn't his fault. That he couldn't have saved the woman he loved if only he'd been just a little bit smarter, a little bit more cunning. But she was wrong. He hadn't forgiven himself. Not yet. Maybe not ever.

JJ looked down at the floor as she spoke again. "Spence…I know I'm being selfish now. I know I shouldn't ask you for anything. But I need you. I need you in my life. And Henry needs you. I know you want to be with Maeve. I can feel it. But you need to stay here." She finally lifted her eyes to his. "I want you to promise me that you'll stay here."

He just looked at her, bottom lip quivering.

She started to break down again. "Please, Spence. Promise me. I need you to promise me."

He swallowed thickly. He knew that she didn't really understand. That she couldn't know how badly he wanted to be with Maeve. But he couldn't be with her. Not yet. He didn't know where she was. He had to understand it first. He had to find her. Then, maybe, he could be with her. For now, he could humor JJ.

"I promise."

She eyed him. "Do you mean that? Spence, I can't leave you without knowing that you'll be safe."

"I'll be safe. I won't do anything."

He kept his eyes on hers, wanted her to believe him, but he could tell from the way that she was looking at him that she was still unsure. Maybe she understands me better than I think.

He asked her to leave him by himself for the final few hours of the night. Reluctantly, JJ went to the sofa again, still wanting to be near if he should call out. When she opened her eyes again, it was to the soft light of early morning, and the smell of coffee.

"Spence," she had a tendency to sound croaky in the morning. "I thought I was supposed to be taking care of you."

"I couldn't sleep, and I thought you might need a cup before you go home."

She got it. She was being dismissed. Gently, perhaps, but dismissed nonetheless. This time, after exacting his promise last night, she felt like she could give him the solitude he craved.

"Well, thanks, then. Is there anything I can do for you before I go? Anything you'll have trouble doing one-handed? Maybe make you some breakfast?"

He just looked at her. "I'm not hungry, JJ. And no, I think I can manage on my own. But thank you." Pause. "For everything."

After coffee, she called a cab to take her back to the BAU, where her car was parked. "They'll be here in a couple of minutes. I guess I should wait outside."

Reid stood with her as she prepared to leave. Still worried, JJ went to him and took his face in her hands. "I mean it, Spence. I need you here. I love you too much to lose you."

He gave her a small, sad smile. "I love you, too." God, if only I could have said it to Maeve. Maeve!

"And I'm going to call you. And if you don't answer me, I'm coming back."

He looked put out at that. "I need some time, JJ. Please give me some time."

She knew he was right, and relented. "All right. I'll restrain myself. But every morning and every night, okay? And make sure you eat something. You can't live on coffee."

"I promise I'll do my best." She recognized the attempt at semantics, but chose not to argue with him.

JJ let go of him and turned to leave. "Can I come back in a day or two? Just to check on you?"

He really only wanted to be left alone. But he would argue that point later. Maybe he would have more energy for it then. Today, he answered, "Okay."

It worked as planned for the first few days. JJ called him every morning and every night. He answered, uttered a few words, and escaped the conversation as quickly as he could. He begged off on having her come back to his place. "I'm fine, you don't need to come."

Hers were the only calls he would answer. Morgan filled his voice mail with messages, Garcia filled his hallway with gift baskets. Rossi and Blake each sent a plant and a few cards. Rossi made a generous donation to genetic cancer research in Maeve's name. Hotch left a single brief message, telling him they would talk whenever he was ready. "Take your time, Reid. It takes time."

When the ME released Maeve's body, and her services were scheduled, JJ called Reid to let him know. His noncommittal response caused her to push.

"Don't you want to go, Spence? I can pick you up. I can stay with you the whole time."

She thought he was uncomfortable at the thought of being around the Donovans, especially given the circumstance. He didn't handle any kind of new situation well, and this was easily the most challenging of his life.

"I'm not going. I don't need to see her in a casket. And I don't need to be there to say goodbye. To get closure."

He virtually spat the final word, revealing the bitterness behind it. JJ's concern began to rise. She tried a different tack.

"Do you think maybe the Donovans might like to meet you?"

"Me? The man who got their daughter killed?"

Holding the phone, JJ closed her eyes. She'd expected this, but that didn't make it any easier to handle.

"Spence, you know it wasn't your fault. That woman was mentally ill. She was not controllable."

"We deal with these people every day in our jobs, JJ. I've talked them down before. Why couldn't I do it then? Why couldn't I save her?" She could hear despair creeping into his voice.

She hesitated. "Spence, can't I come over? Can't I just stop in for a few minutes to see you?"

She knew he was dealing with his anger now, and she knew how he tended to turn it all inward. JJ wanted to see for herself what kind of state he was really in.

"You don't need to come over, JJ. I'm fine. I've answered the phone every time you've called, haven't I? Isn't that what I promised to do?"

The anger was being directed at her now. She held her tongue. It hurt, but she would rather have him pointed at her than at himself. It was far less dangerous that way.

"All right, Spence. You're right. You've done what you said you would. I'll call you again tomorrow, okay?"

"If you want."

When the day came, the rest of the BAU team attended the funeral for Maeve Donovan. The sky was darkly overcast, occasional downbursts wetting the streets. It felt like the heavens were crying tears for Maeve. And for the man who loved her.

In her phone call the evening before, JJ mentioned to Reid that they were going, hoping to hear him ask to join them. All he said was, "Good."

She called again in the morning, as per her routine. This time, he didn't answer. JJ hoped it meant he'd changed his mind and was planning to be there, was maybe even on his way. She scanned the congregation at the church, but didn't see the tall, lanky figure anywhere. She even started looking in the darkened corners of the sanctuary, wondering if he simply didn't want to be seen. No sign of him. Nor was he at the cemetery, for the final commitment of Maeve to her eternal rest.

At the reception following the funeral, JJ approached the Donovans. Knowing that they were both scientists, she'd expected them to be somewhat formal, even reserved. So when she introduced herself, and Mairead Donovan pulled her into an embrace, she was completely thrown.

"Jennifer Jareau….JJ. Maeve told us about you. You were always so kind to her Spencer. She was so grateful that he had you in his life. You're Henry's mother, aren't you?" JJ's eyes widened. How does she know Henry?

Seeing her surprise, Mairead explained. "Maeve told us many stories about Henry. Spencer loved to talk to her about him."

JJ was shocked, unable to speak. She simply hadn't expected this connection between herself and Maeve. Nor one between Henry and Maeve.

It was obvious the Donovans had been a close family. Enough for Maeve to have shared about people she'd only met through the ramblings of the man she loved. Whom she'd also never met, until moments before her death. JJ felt suddenly, strangely, connected to Maeve, and to her family.

When she found her voice, she told them about Reid. "He's not back to himself yet. You know he was shot…." She was hoping to have them focus on his injury as the reason for his absence.

"We know. And we understand. We know he tried to save her, Agent Hotchner told us about it. But we wonder if he might be blaming himself for not succeeding."

Maired Donovan was a very wise woman, who'd raised an equally wise daughter. She watched JJ closely. Her statement had been a test. And now she knew.

"You tell that young man that he couldn't have done anything more than he did. We've spoken with your team, and with the police. And we've spoken with the people at Maeve's lab. They knew that...that woman." She wouldn't personalize Diane by using her name.

"And they all said there was something wrong with her from the beginning. What she did to Maeve started long before Spencer knew her. He couldn't stop it. You tell him that. And tell him that we know how happy he made our daughter. The last part of her life was so hard…"

Mairead had to stop, to choke back tears. But she had a message she wanted transmitted, and she was determined to get it out.

"It was so hard, and there were times we thought we would lose her to depression. She was so isolated. But then she met Spencer. And she became the daughter we knew again. You tell him that. Tell him he gave us back our daughter. He didn't take her."

Tears were on JJ's cheeks now. She hugged Mairead tightly.

"Thank you. He so needs to hear this. I'll make sure he does."

"Do. And, if he's ever ready, we would love to tell him ourselves."

Before she began the drive home, JJ tried Reid's number again. Still no answer. I told him. I warned him. I'm going over there.

Arriving, she parked on the street and looked up toward what she knew to be Reid's window. There was a light on, and almost immediately she saw the shadow of a figure walk slowly across the room. It was unmistakably the form of Reid. She would know him anywhere. She'd had her hand on the door handle, prepared to go up to the apartment. Now, seeing that he was at least upright and moving, she thought better of it.

This was a hard day for him, either way. Even if he didn't go. Maybe he just needs more time. But if he doesn't answer me tomorrow…..

He didn't. She called him repeatedly, left messages, then stopped leaving messages and just kept hitting redial. Hoping to annoy him into answering. Nothing.

All right, Spence. I've given you time. I've even given you more time than I promised. But too much time alone isn't good for anyone. And especially not for you. She knew that his mind could bring him to places where no one else could go. And she knew some of those places could be dangerous. She might have to save him from himself.

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