He knew it didn't make any sense. It wasn't like he'd been
seeing her every day anyway. She was still just a phone call away. But,
somehow, he was unsettled, knowing that JJ was out of town. He'd come to rely
on her so much emotionally that it was almost as though he had a cellular sense
of her distance.
His neurons knew where she was, had calculated it down to the mile. He wasn't all that surprised by that. It was something he'd done often, though without JJ as the object of his calculation. It wasn't what his neurons knew that surprised him. What surprised him was what his myocytes knew. They knew, and remembered, the feel of her leaning against him, the way they'd made the fibers of his arm curl around her, how they measured the weight of her. They conspired with his neurons to remind him of how it felt when she touched his fingers, or squeezed his hand, or breathed against his neck. It all gave new meaning to the term 'muscle memory.'
Reid shook his head, trying to reclaim himself. Between the nightmares, and the empty days, and this unexpected attachment to JJ, he felt like he didn't know himself any more. He knew he'd been changed by his relationship with Maeve, and by her loss. But this felt like something different altogether. If he couldn't regroup by the time of his appointment with Anna Hughes, he was sure she would advise Hotch to find a permanent replacement for him.
He was loading his messenger bag, taking his latest philosophy text, a couple of 'filler' books, and, as had become his habit, his copy of The Narrative of John Smith. He'd been carrying it with him everywhere, a talisman of sorts. Then he decided it would imply his unreadiness for duty, and took it out again. Then felt guilty about leaving behind his last concrete reminder of Maeve, and packed it again.
Don't even tell her about this. If you do, she'll think you're crazy. And she'll probably be right.
He was nervous about the psychological evaluation. He knew Hotch was calling it therapy, but he also knew it for what it was. Evaluation. To decide if he was fit for duty. And to find him wanting.
He decided to leave early, not wanting to appear to be delaying, and thereby avoiding, the appointment. But he'd also decided he would wait outside until the appointed time, not wanting to appear anxious. Or would arriving right on time indicate a form of compulsion, another piece of evidence against him?
Before he had time to further overthink the simple act of keeping an appointment, Reid was rescued by the sounding of his cell. Without looking at the display, he pressed the 'talk' button and put it to his ear.
"Reid? Is that you?"
It had only been a few weeks, but it seemed like a lifetime. It has been. It's been Maeve's lifetime.
"Reid? Oh, Reid, I'm so glad I caught you. And I'm so sorry." Pause. "I was so close to being able to come over there. So close. But then we had a terrorist threat to the underground and….well, you know."
He could hear the emotion in her voice, loved her for it.
"Sounds like you're pretty busy over there."
"Tell me about it. But no, don't. I want to hear about you. How are you? Oh, Reid, I'm so sorry for what happened. For what you lost. For who you lost. I'm so sorry. I can't…I just can't….."
He could hear her voice breaking up. This unexpected phone call, the outpouring of sympathy, was breaking him up as well. He had to take several deep breaths before he could speak.
"Thank you. Thanks, Emily." His voice wouldn't carry him any further.
She'd gotten control. "How are you? Really, how are you?"
He struggled. She'd always been the one to notice and call him out whenever he was covering up. He doubted she could have the same power of discernment from three thousand miles away. But, then, it was Emily.
"I'm okay." Non-committal, little to challenge him on.
"Yeah, I'm okay." Pause, knowing on some level that he'd never be able to keep things from her. "You know, considering."
"Considering." She'd said it almost to herself. "Are you eating? Sleeping?"
Why is everybody so concerned with my bodily habits? But he'd gotten used to it, and gave his patent response.
"Yes, and no."
"Yes, you're eating, no, you're not sleeping?"
"It's not as often now, but it used to be that whenever I slept, I'd have a nightmare. Some version of the same thing, some horrendous way for her to die. I guess I have a bigger pool of ideas to choose from than most."
She could hear the wry, self-deprecating Reid in there somewhere, even confessing this awful circumstance. I wish I could wrap you into a hug, my dear, dear friend.
"I'm sorry." Again. "But you're eating?"
"JJ and Garcia are making me. If I don't show up at JJ's, she shows up here within a day or two. And I've never seen so many cookies in my life. My fridge has never been so full."
Her days had been completely consumed with the terrorist threats, so Emily had only had minimal contact with JJ. Just enough to hear of the tragedy, and the devastation visited upon her friend. JJ herself had sounded lost, making Emily wish she could teleport herself across the oceanic expanse to take care of both of them.
She knew he hadn't returned to work yet, and her last conversation with JJ had left her with the impression that he was far from resuming his duties. The two woman had commiserated over where Reid's unoccupied mind might lead him.
"You haven't gone back to work yet, have you?"
"Not yet." Not volunteering any information.
"So, what are you doing with your days?"
Not anything you need to worry about, not that you'll ever ask.
He knew what they all feared. He'd briefly feared it too. But then he'd realized that he didn't want to feel better. He didn't want to forget. He wanted to remember her, forever. He wanted to feel the loss, because it reflected the love.
"Reading. Walking. I've been to JJ's a few times, hanging out with Henry."
Emily smiled. She knew the bond between godfather and godson. If anyone could ground Reid, it was Henry.
"I start therapy this afternoon."
She caught the flatness of his voice,and was certain it hadn't been Reid's idea. She thought she knew where it originated.
"He thinks I need to talk to someone. He thinks I won't be ready to come back unless I do."
"It sounds like maybe you don't agree." She could picture the frustration on his face.
"I don't see how talking to a therapist will change anything, Emily. I mean, she doesn't even know me. And, let's face it, I'm not like other people."
"I'm weird. 'Odd', isn't that what people say? So how can she try to compare me to other people? She'll be trying to decide when I'm 'normal' enough to work, and I'll never get there. How is that supposed to help me?"
She had to admit, he had a point. But she also felt like he'd just insulted one of her closest friends.
"First of all, you're not 'weird'. Or, at least, no more so than the rest of us." She tried to say it with a smile in her voice, hoping to elicit his.
"And I'd like to think that Hotch would have chosen someone he trusted before he sent you to see her."
She'd been foundering, now felt like she knew the right tack to take with him.
"Reid, do you trust Hotch?" She was sure she knew the answer to this one. She'd often felt that Hotch had a closeness with Reid that he had with no one else on the team.
"Do I trust…of course. Of course I trust Hotch."
"And do you think he's on your side with this?"
"OF course I do. I know where you're going. He wouldn't have arranged it if he didn't think it was the best thing for me."
"Righto, partner. Now promise me you'll cooperate. Don't get snarky with her, and don't hold back."
"Snarky? Me?" He gave a snort.
"Yeah, right, never." She returned his sarcasm. "That would be some other Spencer Reid who doesn't want to get back to work."
He realized the truth in her words. He did want to get back to work. He wanted anything that would occupy his mind, break through the endless loop of thoughts and images that constantly played within. And he realized that, just a few weeks ago, he couldn't have conceived of it. Couldn't have conceived of letting go of it. He couldn't have conceived of anything. He couldn't think at all. But that was then, and this was now. Is this how healing starts? Is this how it feels?
He was quiet so long that Emily became worried.
"Reid? Are you there?"
He smiled, though she couldn't see it. "I'm here. I'm going to have to go, Emily. Otherwise I'll be late for my appointment. But thank you for calling."
"I promise you, as soon as I can leave here, I'll be knocking on your door. It's just these damned terrorists…."
He laughed, causing her to do the same. "All the damned terrorists."
"Ah, you know I love you, Spencer Reid. You take care of yourself. And, you know, planes fly in this direction, too."
"Thanks, Emily. I mean it. It was ….great…so great…to talk to you. Thanks."
After all of his earlier deliberations on how to present himself, now he had to hurry not to be late to the appointment with Anna Hughes. He made it with three minutes to spare.
She contracted to the FBI, but was not an employee. Her office was small and bright, with only a single couch located in her waiting area. It appeared there was no office staff.
He could hear a door closing on the hallway as she came out of her office to escort him inside.
"Dr. Reid?" She looked to be about Emily's age, petite, dark-haired, smartly attractive. Her hand was extended toward him.
He took it. "Yes, Spencer Reid."
"I'm Anna Hughes. I'm very pleased to meet you. Have a seat, won't you?"
She gestured toward a comfortable leather chair, and took the one across from him. When she didn't immediately pick up a folder and start reading from it, he realized that she'd already prepared herself for his visit.
"I understand that you've suffered a very great, loss, Dr. Reid."
He immediately broke eye contact, stared at the floor. He could feel her eyes on him. His best intentions to cooperate had abandoned him.
"I'm so sorry for what you've been through." Pause, as she watched him. "I can see that you're still struggling quite a bit."
He couldn't find his voice. Despite his assurances to Hotch and to Emily, he didn't think he could do this. It was one thing to share Maeve with JJ. She'd been there when Maeve was alive. She'd been there for the excitement, the anticipation, the good days. But this person only wanted to know about the loss.
"Dr. Reid? Would you rather start with something else?"
Without looking at her, he nodded. He would have bolted, but he'd made promises….
"All right. Let's start with your job. Why don't you tell me about your job? And your team?"
Was this supposed to be easier? Where should he start? At the beginning, I guess.
He told her about being recruited for the FBI at such a young age, and the skills Jason Gideon had sought to cultivate in him. He told her about the kinds of cases they handled, summarizing the depravity they faced rather than giving her details. One had to become inured to those types of details. He told her about the loss of Gideon, and of Elle. And the loss, so brief and yet so deep, of Emily.
Another loss. Funny Aaron didn't mention that one.
"So you've got a team of seven, is that correct? Six of you travel and handle the cases directly, and the seventh is a technical analyst?"
"Garcia. She travels with us sometimes."
"And the others….you mentioned Blake as the newest. And then there's Rossi, and Morgan. And, of course, I know Aaron Hotchner. And then there's JJ."
He was sure there was a point to naming JJ last. Have I revealed something to her? What? What is she trying to say? Or did Hotch prime her? Then he realized that he was counter-analyzing his analyst, and willed himself to stop.
She did, indeed, have a purpose in naming JJ last. "Did you say that JJ is a profiler? Because I've heard her name before, and I thought she was a unit liaison."
Reid studied her as she studied him. If she'd heard of JJ before, perhaps she was the person Hotch had seen after Hayley had been murdered. That made Reid consider her differently. If she'd been able to help Hotch, maybe she really could help him. He became determined to give her the chance.
"She was a unit liaison, but….but she was taken away from the team for a while, and while she was gone, she qualified."
"Taken away. Interesting way to put it."
"Well, she was. She didn't want to leave, but she was forced to transfer to the Pentagon. I…we…..the team, I mean, didn't have any say in it."
"That must have been very difficult. To feel as though none of you had control of the situation."
"It was awful. She was….she's like the heart of us, you know? She's a mother, and she has this way with people, and….and when she was gone, nothing was the same."
"So you must have been very glad to have her come back."
He flashed a quick look at Anna Hughes. Did she know? He remembered that time when JJ had come back to the team. When they almost simultaneously got her back, but lost Emily. And then, when they regained Emily, but he lost his friendship with both of them. It was one of the most painful times of his tenure with the team. One of the most painful times of his adult life.
It had called forth from him a maturity that he hadn't possessed before that time. A realization that relationships change, and that there is a constant give and take within them. And that they can still be healthy, strong connections even when they've undergone transformation. He'd never had quite the same relationship with either woman since then. But the ones they'd grown into were stronger, more stable, more steeped in the stew of love, and hurt, and forgiveness. From the perspective of time, he regretted nothing about it.
But he also didn't want to go through all of it with Anna Hughes. So he simply answered, "Yes, it was good to have her back."
The psychologist watched him. "Do you have any relationship with team members outside of work?"
He shrugged. "We socialize once in a while. And Garcia and I are godparents to Henry. He's JJ's son."
She gave him a raised brow look. "She must feel a certain closeness with you if she asked you to be godfather to her son."
"We are pretty close. Very close. We count on each other. I try to be there for her and Henry, and she's been there for me, all through this…."
"All through…..the loss? The relationship?"
He flashed her another look.
"I'd only told two people about Maeve, about how we knew each other, and loved each other. One is three thousand miles away. JJ was the other."
They were there. It was time.
"Would you tell me a little about Maeve now, Dr. Reid? It must have been a very special connection you two had with each other."
Slowly, reluctantly, but knowing this was something he had to do, he began.
They'd taken a very long, roundabout route, but finally they were on the necessary path. The one that would bring him to talk about his loss, and, eventually, to his healing.
He didn't know how or what to feel when he left. Dr. Hughes had brought out so much about his relationship with Maeve, and how it had affected them both. She'd paused from time to time, letting him hear his own words. The ones that told about the excitement, the shared interests, the anticipation of talking again, of what the future might hold. The ones that, ultimately, revealed the love she'd declared to him, and the undeclared love he returned. Anna Hughes was expert at her job. She ended the appointment with Reid focused on what had been gained from his time with Maeve, and not what had been lost. That would be for the next time.
She's good. Hotch was right. I needed this.
He was too intelligent, too knowledgeable about the human psyche, not to be able to see where they were going. It was, after all, the reason they were meeting in the first place. But he allowed himself to wallow in the goodness that comprised his time with Maeve, before he had to inevitably turn to that time when he'd lost her.
He'd decided to walk home, despite the seven mile distance. He did his best thinking on his feet, and the exercise was doing him a world of good. He was halfway home when his cell sounded. JJ.
"Spence, hi. How are you?"
He didn't think she knew about the appointment, since he hadn't seen her before the team left.
"I'm okay. Just out for a walk."
"Oh, good! I'm glad you're getting some fresh air."
"You know, so am I."
She smiled into the phone. He was gradually sounding more and more like himself.
"Spence, I found the rose. And the card. Thank you. It was….. Well, you didn't need to do it. But thank you."
"Yes, I did. Need to do it, that is. That and so much more, JJ. It was just a token. But I meant what I said. And what Henri Nouwen said as well."
"You know I love you. I couldn't have been anywhere but by your side in this, Spence."
He was smiling as well. "Wouldn't have you anywhere else."
Short pause on the other end. Then, "Spence, I hate to do this, but I need to ask a favor."
"Anything, you know that, JJ."
"Well, it's kind of a big one. Will was supposed to stay with Henry while I'm away this time, but he's been called in for tonight. Some big event, they've called in everyone. And Garcia's play opened last night. Do you think you could possibly take Henry? Just for the one night?"
He actually laughed, that she would think taking Henry might be a burden. "Are you kidding? My buddy? Of course I'll take him."
"Whew. Now for a bigger favor. Will just now let me know about this, and preschool is out in twenty minutes. Is there any possible way you could pick him up?"
His arm was already up, hailing the next cab.
"Uncle Spence!" Henry ran from Miss Amy and into Reid's arms. The teacher smiled at them.
"Well, I guess I don't have to wonder if you're Dr. Reid. Mrs. LaMontagne called to say you'd be picking him up."
Profiler Reid was curious. "How did you know it was her?" He hoped they wouldn't let Henry leave with just anyone, based on a simple phone call.
She understood the question. "We have security questions that must be answered. And we require the person to be on the list of 'possibles' for pick up. Parents update that list annually."
It was the first time Reid realized he'd been on the 'possibles' list, and he was touched to know that he was.
"Sorry I was late. I was out, had to take a cab home so I could get the car with the car seat." Reid proudly owned his own booster seat for Henry.
"Not to worry. We have a lot of parents in unusual jobs here. It happens."
Reid signed Henry out as Miss Amy said goodbye to the youngster. "And remember what we talked about today, Henry. Talk to your mom when she gets home."
As Reid helped Henry buckle himself into the car, he inquired. "Did something happen today, Henry? That you and Miss Amy talked about?"
The little boy looked uncomfortable. "We had our show today. Mommy and Daddy came. And then Mommy had to go to work. She 'minded Daddy to get my lunch from the car. But he didn't. He told Miss Amy Mommy forgot to make it. But she didn't, Uncle Spence. Daddy forgot to get it. So I didn't have any lunch."
Reid was concerned. "You didn't eat anything all day?"
"No, Miss Amy gave me some of her lunch, and Joey shared with me too. And Missy."
"Good, that was nice of them."
Reid was finding it hard to concentrate on his conversation with Henry when his hackles were up. Was this just an innocent absent-mindedness on Will's part? Or was he trying to manipulate again? To gain advantage regarding custody?
JJ, watch your back. And I'll watch it as well.