Chapter 34

By the time of Reid's next appointment two days later, the team was on its way back to Quantico. He hadn't seen Henry again, and he hadn't spoken with Will. But he had received an apologetic phone call from JJ the morning after he'd looked after Henry.

"Spence, I'm so sorry. I'm so angry with Will right now! I just called the house to see if you and Henry were doing okay getting ready for school...sometimes he finds a zillion other things to do besides getting dressed...and Will answered the phone. He tried to tell me he'd "relieved" you last night, but when I pushed him, he admitted that it was more like he'd "dismissed" you. And at two in the morning! I'm so sorry, Spence. When you were only trying to help us, too!"

"Don't apologize, JJ, you didn't do anything. I'm sorry I left Henry, after I'd told you I would take care of him, even if Will wanted me to. But he was getting so loud, and I was afraid he would scare Henry..."

"Hmphh. If only I could get Henry's father to worry about him the same way you do. Do you know he didn't even let Henry wear the profiler outfit?"

Reid wasn't surprised, but he was now even more angry with Will. Henry was looking forward to it so much. Will disappointed his own son, just to try to make a point to me.

He wasn't sure he should mention it, but he couldn't shake the idea that Will was trying to set JJ up for something.

"JJ, Henry told me about something that happened yesterday. It might be nothing, but I feel like you should know about it.". And he told her the story of Henry's missing lunch. And about his own parting shot to Will the evening before, and Will's response.

"I think you should be careful, JJ. I mean, it could be nothing, just an honest mistake. Or he could be trying to set up a pattern of behavior that says you're not fit to care for Henry. Or, at least, that he is more fit."

She was silent on the other end of the line, considering his words.

"Do you think I should mention it to my attorney?"

"I would. The worst he can say is that it's nothing. And if he thinks it's something to worry about, at least you can start strategizing."

She agreed. "Okay, I will. Thanks. And, Spence, thanks for looking after Henry last night anyway. He had a ball with you."

"No thanks necessary, JJ. He's my favorite godson."

"Isn't he your only godson?"

"True. All right, then, he's my favorite little kid. And his mom is my favorite as well." He could sense she needed cheering up, and was pleased to hear the smile in her voice when she responded.

"I'm your favorite what?"

"Gotta go, JJ. Bye. Hurry home!"

He wasn't exactly looking forward to his appointment with Anna Hughes today, but he wasn't trying to avoid it either. Reid recognized how good she was, and was grateful to Hotch for his recommendation. If he had to go through this painful process, he was glad he'd be led through it by someone he felt he could trust. And, especially after hearing about Morgan's close call, he wanted to get through things quickly and get back to helping his team.

I guess it means something that I'm trying to get better for that reason rather than because I can't function at all. That's got to be good, right?

Only a very small part of him realized that the fact that he wanted to get better at all, for any reason, was a good sign. He was becoming oriented toward the future again, and not mired in the incredibly painful recent past. He didn't think it had been the single session with Anna Hughes that was responsible for the change, as much as it was the affection and support he'd received from his friends...and his godson.

He arrived right on time for his appointment, without worrying if she would read anything into it. Her hand was extended, and he took it.

"It's good to see you again, Dr. Reid."

"Same here."

"If you mean that, I'll count it as progress."

"Progress is what I need, Dr. Hughes. I need to get back to work. I can't leave my team operating a man down."

She smiled. Motivation was more than half the battle in any kind of therapy.

"Then let's get to work, shall we? I have to warn you that this may be a more difficult session than our last one was."

He'd known it would be. In truth, it was still a little intimidating, but he knew he didn't have a choice but to do it. He sat once again in the leather chair, and she took her seat across from him.

Anna started in.

"We left off last session with you and Maeve planning to meet for the first time, correct?"

"Mm-hmm. We were planning to have dinner together. We were supposed to meet at a restaurant."

"Tell me about it, Dr. Reid."

This was it. The point in the story when everything turned. That fateful night when it had all started to go wrong. When the trajectory started downhill. When it had moved from a new, exciting, promising thing in his life, to its greatest tragedy. Reid started his story.

She was skilled enough to be able to tell from the expression on his face when they were approaching the painful time, but not quite there yet. She brought him gently through the missed dinner, through the wanting, but not being able, to tell her he loved her. To the planning once again to meet. To the phone call that began, and ended, with "Zugzwang". To the end, and the beginning, and the end again, of everything.

Reid heard himself say the word. Zugzwang. When he did, there was a responsive 'ping' somewhere inside his brain. Something was wrong about it. But he was immediately distracted when Anna asked him to tell the rest of the story.

As prepared as he'd tried to make himself, as determined as he was to get through this process and back to work, Reid found it overwhelming. Getting through it one moment at a time had been difficult enough. But reliving those moments, already knowing the outcome, was so much worse. Retelling his every decision, his every move, knowing that he'd failed the woman he loved in the moment that decided her life or death, was agony.

Anna Hughes had a gentle hand. She knew when to let him pause, and absorb, or regroup, and when to softly push him forward. She made sure he realized her presence, was aware that he wasn't alone in reliving the horror. And she gently prodded him away from the inevitable guilt and recrimination that surfaced in the retelling.

She asked questions that were meant to imply a need for clarification, when in reality they were meant to bring him back to a crisis point, to tell it over and over again, each time in a different way. In this, she gradually moved him from the narrative that declared him guilty, to the one that told of his selflessness in trying to save the woman he loved.

She helped him to see that Maeve was not endangered because of him. That the danger that threatened her had preceded him, and that the ability to save her was never actually in his hands. Diane had targeted Maeve long before she'd ever heard of Spencer Reid. He'd simply become a pawn in her game, made to witness the carrying out of a maniacal plan that had been long in coming to fruition.

As the appointment moved on, there were longitudinal stains on Reid's face, evidence of the tears shed earlier in the session. He felt exhausted but, somehow, light. Unburdened. Still sad and longing for Maeve, but no longer feeling party to her loss.

"So you think Diane would have done it no matter what. That she was never going to let me give myself for Maeve."

"Not from what you've told me, no. It was clear that Maeve was her target right along. You were, forgive me, simply a convenience. A way to make it harder. As you said yourself, Dr. Reid, Diane wasn't interested in hurting you by killing Maeve in your presence. She was interested in hurting Maeve more."

"I was a pawn." He said it reflectively, repeating a phrase she'd used earlier. "But..."

That 'ping' happened again. This time he paid attention to it.


Anna didn't understand. Was there something he still needed to work out about that?

"What about it, Dr. Reid?"

He had that tone to his voice that he always had when he was attempting to solve a puzzle.

"Zugzwang. To Diane, I was the pawn, not the player. Zugzwang wasn't about Maeve. The voice wasn't Diane's. I'd always thought she used something to depersonalize her voice, but it could have been anyone. It wasn't about Maeve at all. But it was a message for me."

He rose and started to gather his things.

"Dr. Reid? We have a few minutes left..."

"I have to go, Dr. Hughes. I need to talk to Hotch. Thank you, thank you so much."

She wasn't going to argue with him. She could see that he was on a mission...a work mission. And she wasn't about to interfere with what looked like success. But she also didn't want him to take on too much, too soon.

"I think we should schedule at least one more appointment, Dr. Reid. Would you be willing?"

"What?" His mind was racing. "Oh, yes, of course. Can I call you?"

She smiled at him. "Any time, Dr. Reid."

Hotch agreed to wait for him at the BAU. The rest of the team was already dispersed to home after a long several days away. Both men remembered the last time they'd met like this, alone in the office, after hours. 'Zugzwang' had precipitated that meeting as well.

"Reid, you said it was urgent, What happened?"

"Hotch, 'Zugzwang' wasn't about Maeve. It couldn't have been. It wasn't Diane. It was a message for me, but it wasn't about Maeve. It was about me. Or us. The team."

Hotch stared at him with mixed emotions. It was clear to the unit chief that he was beginning to get his genius back. It was obvious the young profiler was starting to recover from the devastating event in his life. For that, the older man was profoundly grateful. But Reid's deduction jelled with the misgiving Hotch had experienced when he'd first heard about the oddly threatening phone call. It hadn't made sense to him that Reid would be targeted by Maeve's stalker. And now it wasn't making sense to Reid either. It could only mean one thing. His team was being threatened.

"Hotch, I need to come back. I need to get back to work."

The unit chief recognized the need in Reid's voice. And he recognized his need to have the young genius back. His team was under siege. They needed to face it with a unified front.

He nodded at the younger man. "I'll put the paperwork through. Be here in the morning."

"Pretty Boy! You back?" Morgan was beaming.

Reid had made it a point to arrive early. He knew it would be easier to greet them one by one as they came in, rather than to walk in to a fully assembled team.

"Starting today." He grinned back at Morgan, touched by how excited his friend seemed to be.

Morgan gave him a quick embrace. "It's good to have you back, Kid. I mean that."


Morgan was followed by Rossi and Blake, who each gave him similar greetings. Garcia had gone directly to her lair, but caught wind of Reid's presence and rushed down to the bullpen.

"Welcome back, my gentle genius! It's sooo good to see you!" She squeezed the breath from him and then stepped back, giving him a little punch in the arm.

"Why didn't you tell me you were coming back today? I would have baked cookies!"

"Well, I didn't know…."

He was interrupted by JJ's arrival. Her mouth fell open when she realized he was in the center of the group, and she broke into a wide smile as she stepped up to hug him. Only Reid was close enough to see that her eyes were red.

As they embraced, he whispered into her ear, "What's wrong?"

She whispered back. "I'll tell you later."

Hotch was hurrying from his office and motioning the rest into the round table room. They each grabbed a mug of coffee and followed his direction.

The unit chief had been in earlier than any of them. He'd already prepared the case presentation. As they sat down around the table, he brought it up on the smart board. Only Reid and Rossi had any inkling of what the photographs were showing them.

Hotch began. "Since late summer, there have been a series of killings, each reported to the FBI because of its unusual nature."

They saw slides of victims with their mouths sewn shut, victims with their limbs amputated, and unmatched limbs attached, victims with their heads removed.

Morgan recovered first. "These are our cases. Ones we've solved already. But they're not our victims. In every case, it's the same MO, but a new victim."

He turned to his superior. "What does this mean, Hotch? Were there victims we didn't know about in every one of these cases?" Even as he asked the question, he knew it would be virtually impossible.

Hotch shook his head. "They're unique murders, Morgan. Not related to the cases we solved, except by the method of killing. They happened in different cities, each time."

Rossi understood. "If these slides don't represent additional victims from each of the unsubs we've caught..."

Reid finished for him. "They're replicated. Someone is replicating the method of killing of each of the cases we've solved. There's a Replicator out there. And I think he may have called me."

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