Still sitting on the sofa, still trying to take in the idea
that he'd gotten a final message from Maeve, Reid suddenly let out a huge yawn.
JJ felt heartened, realizing that he was probably allowing some of the tension
in his body to relax for the first time since the events in the loft.
"Spence, why don't you see if you can sleep a little? I can stay for a while, in case you need me. In case you have another nightmare. She hadn't even asked if there had been any more since that first night. She'd seen the hauntedness in his eyes when she arrived.
He was, literally, exhausted. He'd been wound so tight from his unyielding search for answers, from the constant flashing of images of Maeve lying on the floor of the loft, from his guilt at not having saved her, from his dread of being alive without her. The very first uncoiling of the tension triggered a tidal wave of response and he suddenly felt the full physical weight of all the emotional turmoil he'd been through.
"Come on, I'll fluff your pillows for you." She'd said it in a teasing way as she got up and pulled him with her. He followed her to his bedroom, where she did just as she'd said. As she fluffed, she told him, "You know, you've got a bunch of people who would really like to see you, Spence. Do you think you could let them come over?"
When she saw a look of trepidation cross his face, she took pity. "Maybe just one or two at a time, then? How about Morgan and Garcia?"
Reid swallowed. He knew how much his two colleagues loved him. He'd been tripping over Garcia's baskets for days now. And, the very small part of him that was still functional missed them.
"Okay? They can come over?" She grinned at him. "Great. I'll let them know. Maybe once you've had some rest you can call them?"
He nodded. "Okay."
JJ looked at him, not sure she should push her luck. Then decided to go for it anyway.
He looked at her expectantly.
"There's another person who'd really like to see you. And I think you might really like to see him."
He didn't think he was quite ready for that. "JJ, I don't know...I'm afraid I might scare him."
She shook her head. JJ had benefited from Henry-therapy herself. "You won't. Just let him love you, Spence. You'll be amazed."
She hadn't expected to, but JJ ended up staying hours more. Reid seemed soundly asleep...no moans, no startles. She'd gone in to check in on him, just as she would for Henry, and seen a peaceful expression on his face, bringing a smile to hers.
While he was sleeping, she went about accomplishing a small task she'd thought might help him, taking care not to make too much noise. When she was done, she found herself perusing his bookshelves. Even when she'd stayed there with Henry, JJ had left Reid's books alone, not wanting to intrude on him even further. Now, having helped him to reshelve them, she'd become aware of the breadth and depth of their content. And she'd become curious. She went to the 'Ms", and found the autobiography of Thomas Merton. She pulled down "The Seven Storey Mountain" and began to read. Within a few minutes, she was sound asleep on the sofa.
It seemed like she'd been dreaming for only a few seconds, but it had been several hours. JJ wakened when her phone went off. Henry's sitter, wondering if she should plan on feeding Henry dinner.
"Oh, my gosh, I didn't realize the time. No, I'll pick him up. I need some time with my baby boy."
Reid stumbled out of his bedroom, having heard the last of her conversation on the phone.
"Oh, I'm sorry, Spence, did the phone wake you?"
He was rubbing his eye. "You're still here? It's getting dark, JJ. It must be late."
"I fell asleep. I was reading, and I just went out."
He saw the book still tented on the sofa. "Yeah, it's a little dry at the beginning, but it gets better." Pause. "I heard you say you need to go."
She didn't know if he was asking her to stay. "I don't have to, if you need me. Henry loves to stay with Karen."
Reid shook his head. "No, JJ. You've done enough for me. And Henry needs his mom. Give him a hug for me, okay?"
She grinned. "With pleasure. Spence, remember you said you'd call Morgan and Garcia. Maybe they can come and visit you in the morning? Tomorrow's Saturday." She had a sense he'd lost track of time. "And then maybe you can come to dinner?"
He couldn't see that she had her fingers crossed.
"I'll call Morgan and Garcia. Can we talk tomorrow about dinner?" He still wasn't in a solid emotional state, and he didn't want to make a promise he might not be able to keep.
She was understanding. "We can. Spence, I want you to promise me you'll have something to eat, and then rest. Can you do that?"
Shy smile in return. "I can. Now. Thank you, JJ. I….just, thank you."
She went to him, and put her arms around his neck. His arms encircled her, holding her waist, his hand rubbing the small of her back.
JJ tiptoed up so she could whisper into his ear. "I don't think she would want you to give up on life, Spence. And not on love, either. You know she'll always be with you. Even if you love someone else someday, what you had with each other will still be with you. It will just make that new love sweeter, and deeper."
He was feeling so many conflicting emotions in the moment. Gratitude, for the woman in his arms. Grief, for the woman who never would be. Regret, for knowing that JJ was wrong. That he wouldn't ever love again. Too many emotions to express. He simply buried his face into her hair.
They stood like that, holding each other, for what seemed a long time, neither really wanting to let go. Then JJ released him, but only partially. As she stepped back down, still in his arms, she lifted her hands to his face.
"I know you can't even think about it right now. And you don't have to. But, if it should happen one day, don't run away from it, Spence. She wouldn't want that. I'm sure of it."
She meant it. JJ didn't know how she felt so connected to this woman she'd never met until the final seconds of her life, but she did. Later, much later, she would understand…. she was holding the connection in her hands.
He was caught off guard, surprised that she seemed to know what he'd been thinking. He started to open his mouth, but JJ shushed him, brushing her thumbs across his lips.
"Don't say anything, it's all right. Just take care of the man she loved, okay?"
He could do nothing but nod.
Just before she let go, and slipped out of his apartment, JJ added, "And remember you have other people who love you, too."
After she'd gone, after he'd done his best to down a bowl of soup, Reid sat on his sofa, staring into the now starlit sky. He knew he was seeing light emitted billions of years ago, just now striking his retinae.
His mind was back to trying to analyze everything. On the scale of time, he thought, a human lifetime isn't even a speck. So why does it seem like such an immense thing, especially when it's come to an end? How is it that we are so small and inconsequential, and yet when one person is missing, it seems like such an enormous rift has been created in the universe?
He found he couldn't work through this without his emotions rising again. These questions wouldn't behave themselves. They wouldn't allow themselves to be handled intellectually without bringing forth waves of sorrow. They wouldn't let him think. He was going to have to find another way to sort through the turmoil inside.
A flash of light, the beacon of a passing plane, brought his eyes to the right. When he brought them back in from the window, Reid noticed his keyboard set up in the corner. It must have been JJ. He knew it had been in the closet.
Without understanding why, without even questioning it, the part of him that trusted in the wisdom of his best friend pushed him in the direction of the instrument. He sat, and pushed a tentative finger against a key. And then another, and another. And finally, his whole hand, and then the other. He began to play in earnest, letting his fingers, and the music, articulate what his mind could not.
In the apartment next door, Mrs. Cavanaugh could hear the sound diffusing faintly through the walls. She'd grown accustomed to the light, airy melodies he'd played in the many months prior. Now, she heard a tune in minor key, plaintive, sad, longing, sometimes echoing the lightness of before, then becoming melancholy. No matter the emotion, it evoked a sense of beauty. She wondered what had happened in the life of her young neighbor, to have so transformed his music.
Reid had long ago recognized music as his respite from incessant rumination. Now, he also realized it as a release, as a way of expressing the inexpressible. His fingers moved over the keyboard of their own volition, his thoughts quiet at last. He poured his emotion into his music as he played an elegy for Maeve.
"Baby Girl, I know you. I know you want to squeeze the life out of him. But try to restrain yourself. JJ says he's still pretty fragile." They were walking into the lobby of Reid's building.
She was miffed. "Derek, when have you ever known me to overdo?" Pause. "Okay, but not recently. Not this week, right?"
He gave her a raised brow smile. "I don't know. How many baskets did you send him, exactly?"
"Seven. But they were small. And healthful. I sent him foods with magnesium in them. It helps with depression."
They were at the top of the stairs, approaching the apartment. Morgan gave Garcia's shoulders a squeeze in understanding. "I know you just want to take care of him, Baby Girl. Just make sure you don't smother him."
She had to smile in acknowledgement of her proclivity. "I promise, I won't. And if I start to, you'll pull me back, right?"
"Right." Morgan rang the bell. After more than a week of unresponsiveness, Reid answered right away.
"Hi guys." Shy smile.
"Pretty Boy, how you doin'?" Morgan cuffed Reid around the neck to pull him into a half-hug, and patted his back.
Garcia virtually pushed Morgan out of the way so she could get at the junior agent she loved so much.
"Reid." She pulled him into a tight embrace, but kept it short when she saw Morgan's warning look. "How's my baby genius doing?"
"I'm okay. Thanks for the baskets, by the way. Did you know that most of those foods were high in…"
"Magnesium. Yes, but I read that it works best if you sprinkle the nuts over the bran cereal and then have it with milk. The milk has.."
"Tryptophan, also good for depression, I know. Thanks, Garcia." He hugged her again.
Morgan was looking around the apartment. JJ had described to him the state of it when she'd arrived yesterday. He was pleased to see it was still in order. Apparently Reid's frantic search for answers was subsiding. Or at least there are no visible signs of it.
"Can I get you guys something? I don't have much, except what was in the baskets."
"You're offering me a bowl of cereal with nuts?" Morgan teased his good friend.
In spite of himself, Reid laughed. "I guess. Maybe I can just put out the nuts."
"I'll take care of it. You guys visit for a bit." Garcia bustled to the kitchen.
The men stood, quiet, not knowing how to start. Finally, Morgan broke the silence.
"Reid, I haven't seen you since that night. And….it wasn't the right time. But I want you to know how sorry I am. It shouldn't have happened. Not to anyone, but especially not to you. I'm sorry, man. I just want you to know that."
Reid alternated between looking at Morgan and looking at the floor, composing himself. "Thanks. And thanks for…..helping me….helping JJ….that night. I'm sorry if I was….if I've been…."
"Don't, Kid. You lost somebody you love. There's nothing to be sorry about."
Garcia returned with a tray of mugs and a bowl of nuts. "Coffee will be ready in a few minutes."
They settled themselves around the coffee table. From Morgan's seat, he could see the keyboard. He nodded in its direction.
"Pretty Boy, you play?"
Reid was always shy when forced to reveal some new information about himself, even to his friends and colleagues. Now, he blushed.
"A little. Ever since we had that case where the boy with autism sort of 'talked' to me through his piano."
"Oooh, I'd love to hear you play sometime." Garcia realized she'd been borderline gushing, and pulled back. "When you're up to it, I mean."
He wasn't, just now. "Someday, maybe. But I'm not very good. You may regret it."
"Somehow I doubt that." Apart from sports, Morgan had the sense that Reid was good at anything he put his mind to.
"Oh, it's so good to see you-I've missed you so much! It's just not the same, without you there. My last batch of cookies lasted two whole days without you there to eat them!"
Both men laughed at Garcia, who'd apparently given up her avoidance of gushing.
"Do you know when you'll be back?" she added. She purposely hadn't asked 'if'. But she was afraid that it was a very real question.
Reid felt a sense of panic rising at the thought of resuming his duties. It hadn't even been a day since he'd had any sense of peace, and he knew the BAU caseload would only subject him to daily reminders of the devastation that had taken place in his own life.
Morgan saw the look on his friend's face, and read it correctly. "There's no rush, Reid. You take all the time you need. When you're ready, you're ready."
Garcia felt bad at having precipitated Reid's discomfort. "I'm sorry, my gentle genius. I didn't mean to push. It's just that I miss you. And I worry about you."
She reached a hand out and patted his leg as she spoke. Reid took her hand and squeezed it in thanks.
"I know. I know you guys just want what's best for me. I just need some time to figure it out. But I promise I won't turn you away like I have been. It's just…"
Garcia got up to get the coffee and kissed the top of Reid's head on the way. "It's just that you're human. We understand. And we still love you."
An hour later, Morgan could see that his young colleague was fading fast, both in energy and in emotional capacity. Reid clearly needed his solitude.
"Baby Girl, I think we should get going. Pretty Boy here looks like he's about to fall face first into his mug." He stood, and Garcia stood with him.
"Don't get up, Reid. Why don't you just stretch out here on the sofa? I'll fluff the pillows for you."
Reid's mind absently wondered if pillow fluffing was part of the female DNA. But he was too tired to argue. He'd gotten a few solid hours last night, the first in well over a week. But he still had a lot of catch up sleeping to do. He stood long enough to give each of them an embrace, and a promise to see them again soon. Then Garcia pushed him back to the sofa and made him lie down. She wanted to cover him with an afghan before she left.
"I'll feel better if I leave you tucked in."
Reid and Morgan both smiled.
"Guys, thanks for coming by. It was…..it was good to see you. Thanks. Just…thanks."
Morgan nodded his acknowledgement. "Likewise, Kid. It was good to see you, too. And we'll see you again, real soon."
"Real soon!" Garcia echoed.
Hours later, Reid awakened to his cell going off. He looked at the caller ID display.
"Hey. Are we still on for dinner?"
He'd sat up slowly, was rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
"I guess so. Can I bring something?"
"Just yourself. Come early if you want. Henry will be up from his nap soon."
"I thought he didn't take them anymore."
"He does when Mommy needs one too. I know how to wear him out."
He smiled. "Is there no end to the wisdom of Jennifer Jareau?"
She was smiling as well. "Not that you'll ever see."