"I'm sorry. I've done what I can to make your case to
the deputy director. He's not convinced you have enough new information to
divert your attention from the cases at hand."
David Rossi squinted at his old friend and lover as she gave the disappointing news to the BAU team. He had no doubt the words she'd spoken were true…but he also had to wonder how much she'd influenced them. Many years of experience had taught him not to underestimate Erin Strauss. Nor to make any assumptions about her agenda.
Reid could feel JJ twitch in the seat next to him, readying herself to confront her section chief. He put himself into the virtual space between them, hoping to preserve JJ's employment with the FBI.
"Ma'am, with all due respect…we've had a second threat made against a member of our team."
"Have you, Agent Reid? It's my understanding that Agent Jareau received a bouquet of flowers that have since proven to be totally innocuous. The card contained only a single word. A chess term, correct? How can the FBI be expected to interpret that as a threat?"
Morgan felt like he was about to explode. He wished that Prentiss was there to perform her usual subtle calming maneuvers on him. In her absence, he would have to find his own way to verbal restraint.
"Ma'am, there's nothing innocent about that word . It was said to Reid just before the events that led to Maeve Donovan's death."
Strauss didn't pick up on the silence that ensued, but the others in the room heard it. Morgan's statement had just objectified something that had been emotionally charged for the entire team. He'd mentioned Maeve's death, and put it firmly into their past. JJ's eyes flashed sideways to Reid, looking for a reaction. She was surprised to see that he was still fully engaged with the conversation.
Strauss responded to Morgan. "I'm aware of that, Agent Morgan. But I am also aware of the team's belief that the words weren't spoken by the person who took Dr. Donovan's life. Am I not correct, Aaron?"
In fact, but not in truth. "You are correct that we believe the unsub who gave Reid the 'zugzwang' message was not directly involved with Maeve Donovan's kidnapping." He wasn't about to mention the murder again. "But we also believe that the unsub…the person behind 'zugzwang'….particularly targeted Reid because he'd become aware that Dr. Donovan had been taken. We believe he wanted us to believe he was directly involved."
"He wanted to sound malevolent." Reid's voice was flat, emotionless. It was the only way he could deal with this objectification of Maeve's ordeal. "And he succeeded."
JJ was too worried about Henry to care what Strauss thought. "And now he's threatened my family. Ma'am, we can't ignore this!"
Strauss turned sympathetic eyes to the young female agent. "I sympathize, Agent Jareau. I am a mother as well, and I know what it's like to worry about your child."
Mother Bear JJ wasn't about to relent. As much as he worried about her continued employment, Reid admired the fire in her eyes.
"Ma'am, do you? Do you know what it's like to worry that your child is being targeted by a ruthless killer?"
Strauss had the grace to look uncomfortable for a moment. Then she remembered her position of superiority and exercised it.
"That's enough, Agent Jareau. The Bureau's decision is firm on this. There is simply not enough evidence to justify the devotion of a whole team's efforts to the case. Nor, I'm afraid, is there enough evidence to justify providing full time protection without a specific threat. We will maintain surveillance on all of your households, but I'm afraid that's the most we can do."
It felt like she was casually dismissing the serious threat to all those he loved...all those still alive, at least. Suddenly, Reid was in need of someone to save his job. He had his mouth open and was about to rebut Strauss when he felt JJ's hand on his arm. She shook her head at him. No.
The non-productive gathering ended when Strauss rose, charged them all to get back to their official work, and left the room. Hotch made certain to have a moment of eye contact with each of them, and then followed her. The rest rose slowly and exited back to their respective offices or desks in silence.
Soon afterwards, as he was hurrying out of the BAU to keep his appointment with Anna Hughes, Reid looked his apology at JJ. He knew she would need to vent about the meeting with Strauss, but he simply had no time right now. She understood, and waved him an 'I'll see you later.' He would be having dinner with her family, and then escorting her to the preschool social this evening. She hoped his session with the therapist wouldn't leave him in emotional turmoil.
"Dr. Reid, come in. It's good to see you again."
He shook her extended hand and sat down in the same leather chair he'd occupied the last time. Again, she sat across from him. He could see her visually taking stock of his mood.
"You look like you've got more energy now, Dr. Reid. Did going back to work help with that?"
"Yes, I guess so." But not as much as being under attack.
Anna Hughes was good. She was aware he'd just had an internal conversation, but chose not to confront him on it. She was confident it would come out eventually.
"How has the work been going? Have you been able to concentrate?"
"Yes, mostly. We've just had the one away case, and I think I was able to contribute to its resolution."
He nodded as he spoke. "I still wasn't sleeping all that well, so I wasn't quite as sharp as usual. But JJ helped me with that."
"With being sharp?"
"With sleeping. She read me to sleep one night, and I slept right through the next morning's meeting. But it helped a lot. I'm sleeping better now, although…"
She caught his hesitation. "What is it, Dr. Reid? Something about the sleeping?" She saw the truth on his face. "A dream, maybe?"
It was a common enough circumstance, they'd both known it might come up.
"Well….yes, I've been having dreams. JJ thinks I should tell you about them."
"Does that mean you've told her about them?"
He nodded again. "I pretty much tell her about everything. Even when I don't plan to, she manages to get it out of me."
He seemed befuddled by JJ's skill, making Anna smile. "Sounds like she knows how to make you feel comfortable, and …."
"Secure. She makes me feel secure. Like I can tell her anything, and she'll just listen, and not judge me. Like she'll support me, no matter what."
"A good friend, then?"
"A very good friend."
Anna sensed something more to the relationship, but didn't think it the right time to bring it up to Reid. Instead, she pursued the original subject.
"Do you want to tell me about the dream, Dr. Reid?"
"Well, it's not just one dream. Not the same dream, anyway. But there's a common theme, I think."
"Tell me, please."
"It's always about me trying to communicate with Maeve. Sometimes I've tried to page her, and she calls me back, but I can't answer the phone. Or I get to the phone, but she's not there. The only time I actually heard her say something in the dream…well, I think it was her, I couldn't see her, I could just feel her there with me…..that time, all she said was "The book." That was it."
Anna had been leaning forward, and now sat back, studying her patient.
"Does it surprise you to be having dreams where you try to communicate with the person you've just lost?" The expected answer was obviously contained within the question.
"No, of course not. I'd imagine it's a pretty common thing. But there's more to this. I mean, I can just sense it. I know it means something beyond the obvious."
She decided to go with it. "Any ideas what it might mean, then?"
He shook his head in frustration. "No. No, I even went though the entire book…..'The Narrative of John Smith', the book she gave me. I went through it page by page to see if she'd written anything else, or highlighted something. I'd completely missed the second inscription she put in it until JJ found it. I thought maybe there was something else, and she was trying to get me to look at it. But I haven't found a thing."
Anna leaned forward and put her hand on Reid's knee. "Be patient, Dr. Reid. These things take time. Be patient, and let the meaning come to you when you're ready."
"When I'm ready?"
"Yes. It's been my experience that these kinds of recurrent dreams are messages that only become obvious when the patient has enough distance to see it from a different perspective. You may be too close to it now. Be patient, and let time do its job, Dr. Reid."
He was disturbed. This wasn't what he wanted to hear. He wanted the answer now. He needed the answer now. He felt trapped. He needed the answer to move on, and yet Dr. Hughes was telling him that only moving on would bring him the answer he sought.
He started to open his mouth to make a snarky remark when the words she'd said hit him. The idea that he was too close, and couldn't see. That he needed distance to gain perspective. It was what Maeve had said about not being able to see her own situation with Bobby, what she'd said about JJ not being able to see her situation with Will. He'd trusted it from Maeve. Now he felt challenged to trust it from Anna Hughes. Maybe he really was too close. Maybe he would just have to wait, and live his life, and have faith.
"Uncle Spence, you're late!" Henry tried to imitate his mother's 'stern' look as he opened the door to his godfather.
"Sorry, Henry, I got held up. Are you hungry?"
"Yep! Meme made lemon chicken! Mmm…" The little guy comically rubbed his stomach and licked his lips as he spoke.
Reid followed him back to the kitchen. "Lemon chicken, huh? Is your grandmother as good a cook as your mom is?"
JJ and Sandy were both smiling at the remark, JJ for the compliment and Sandy that it had been said of her daughter. Although….
"Where do you think Jennifer got it from, Spencer?"
They'd met a number of times, and she'd always been friendly. Tonight, she was maternal. JJ had told her all about Reid's recent loss. Sandy put her arms out and wrapped him in a hug.
"It's good to see you, Spencer. I'm so sorry for your loss. And so grateful for all you've done for my daughter and grandson."
The hug felt warm, and assuring…and awkward. He stepped back quickly, but was gracious with his words.
"Anything I've done for them is nothing compared with what they've done for me."
It was a serious exchange, and JJ gave it a proper moment, but then decided to lighten the conversation before dinner.
"Who has clean hands?" She looked meaningfully at Henry as she asked the question.
"I washed my hands, Mommy. Before."
"Before, after we fingerpainted at school." He held up palms still stained with green and purple paint.
JJ just pointed to the bathroom.
Reid held up his index finger to signal to JJ. I've got this one.
"Hey, little buddy, did you ever hear about the Germonster?"
He gently prodded Henry toward the bathroom with a hand to his back.
"No? Well, let me tell you about him. He's invisible. You can only see him with a magic machine called a microscope. Like a telescope, only different. And just when you think he's not there, you look through the microscope, and…..arrgghh!"
Henry laughed at the expression of horror on his godfather's face. He didn't even notice that he was washing his hands as Reid continued the tale.
"The Germonster is big, and dark, and ugly, and he has these tentacles…" Reid used his long fingers to grab at Henry's sides….."and they latch onto you and they get you!"
Henry was laughing as he was tickled. "Make him stop, Uncle Spence!"
"You already did, Henry. He hides on dirty things, and especially on dirty hands. And you can get rid of him just by using soap and water. Now, make way, my man. I don't want that Germonster getting me either."
Dinner was delicious. Afterwards, Sandy shooed JJ and Reid from the kitchen.
"Go, I can take care of this. Enjoy yourselves. You deserve it."
Neither of them had been particularly thinking of the preschool social as anything but an obligation, but they followed Sandy's direction nevertheless. Reid was sorry to have to leave before Henry's bedtime ritual. He'd come to love those times when he could read a story to his godson and then listen in on his conversation with God. His regret must have been written on his face….or else JJ knew him very well….because she laid a hand on his arm, and whispered, "Next time."
The school wasn't far away, leaving them only a few minutes to talk. Reid checked in on JJ's concern for her family.
"Did you say anything?"
She shook her head. "I'm not sure if I should. I don't want her to be unprepared, but….exactly how would she prepare for it? And I don't want to scare her. Really, Spence, I'm thinking of asking her to go back home. It's my problem, I don't want my mom hurt by it."
"Would she take Henry?" Knowing it might be safest for the boy, but dreading the thought of him being so far away.
She took in a deep breath, and blew it out. "My best guess is that it's Henry the unsub wants to threaten. I'm thinking my mom would be okay if he wasn't with her."
Reid shot her a look. She was speaking so calmly about the fact that her son's life was in danger. How?
"But what about Henry?"
"I think we'd just have to do what we're doing. Keep living life, going to school. We may not have full protection, but we've got surveillance. I don't know what else to do, Spence."
Neither did he. "What about Will? What will he say?"
"Hmmph. Well, he doesn't know about the flowers, and I wasn't planning on telling him. We have the hearing on Thursday. I won't make any changes before that, and I don't need to mention any possible change of plans until they become a reality. Mom was going to have to go home for a couple of charity events soon anyway, and Will knows that. So do the lawyers, and they don't seem to be concerned about it. So I don't think her leaving will have any immediate impact. It's just whether she comes back or not…"
"And you don't need to address that right away." He understood. "Okay, that gives us some time. We just need to find the Replicator before your mom's being away becomes an issue." And before he hurts you and Henry.
"Just." They shared a grim smile.
"This is Spencer Reid." JJ was introducing him to yet another couple. All of the faces and all of the names were beginning to blend together for him. He would have done better to read and memorize a roster before the social. As they were speaking with Mr. and Mrs. XXXX, another man joined their small group.
"Jennifer LaMontagne, it's so good to see you!" He leaned in to buss her cheek.
JJ stepped back, putting some distance between them. Reid thought she looked uncomfortable and his protection antennae went up.
"Hello, Stuart. Stuart, this is Spencer Reid. Spence, this is Stuart Rand…Toby's dad."
The son's name rang a bell. Toby was Henry's friend with the parents who'd separated. The one whose experience made Henry afraid about his own parents' separation.
Reid and Stuart nodded their acknowledgements of each other. The married couple drifted off, leaving the three singletons together. Stuart stepped sideways, inserting himself between Reid and JJ.
"Can I get you something to drink?" He put a hand on her back, planning to escort her to the refreshment table. Reid saw the look on her face and managed to move closer to her, crowding Stuart out. He answered in her stead.
"We're fine, thanks. We just finished dinner. Together."
There was an awkward silence, broken by JJ. "Stu, I think Miss Amy is trying to catch your attention, isn't she?" The teacher was, indeed, waving in their direction. JJ knew that Toby was still acting out at school and imagined Miss Amy might have a few things to discuss with his father.
"Oh, yeah. Okay, I'll be back. Don't go anywhere, now." He started across the room.
Reid followed him with his eyes, commenting to JJ. "That was bold."
"That's why I needed you with me. Come on, let's go ahead and get something to drink." She linked her arm through his and headed for the punchbowl.
"JJ, how are you!" It was Julia, Joey's mom, and JJ's best friend among the other parents. "And who is this with you?"
JJ introduced Reid, who added, "I'm Henry's godfather."
"Oh, yes, 'Uncle Spence'. You do magic, don't you?" Henry and Joey had frequent playdates, and Reid was a frequent topic of their conversation.
"I dabble. Henry likes it."
"Well, I know Joey is dying to see you do some of it. You should come to the classroom someday. I'll bet Miss Amy would love it. In fact...JJ, let's go and talk with her about it now." She took off, leading the way through the crowd, JJ in tow.
At the refreshments table, Reid was now alone….and unprotected. He was sipping his punch and surveying the crowd when he was approached by a striking redhead.
"Are you with Henry?" she asked him.
"Are you part of Henry LaMontagne's family?" She seemed to realize she'd spoken out of context, and explained. "I saw you with Jennifer, Henry's mom. I'm Toby's mom, Madelyn. The boys are good friends."
"Oh, yes. I think I met your….um...uh...….before." Husband? Ex? He wasn't sure.
She understood. "Actually he's more like my 'ugh'. Yes, you met Stuart, I saw him ogling Jennifer. But you're with her now, aren't you?"
"Uh, well, I'm here with her. I'm Henry's godfather, Spencer Reid."
"Oh." She seemed to take that in slowly. "Oooh. So you're not a couple." She not so subtly looked him up and down. "If you ask me, she's crazy. But lucky for the rest of us."
The blush started at his toes and reached the top of his head in record time.
Across the room, JJ and Julia were pitching the magician idea to Miss Amy, Stuart Rand hovering nearby. JJ turned to point Reid out and spied the attractive Madelyn Rand practically on top of him. She saw the blush on his face, but also noticed that he didn't seem to be trying to escape her.
JJ could feel herself reacting to what she was seeing, but couldn't quite put a name to it. It wasn't until much later that she recognized it as jealousy. Tonight, she only chided herself. What did you expect? He's the best looking guy in the place, it's only a wonder it took this long for them to start coming after him.
Reid felt her stare all the way across the room. He made his excuses to Madelyn, and headed in JJ's direction. As he approached, Miss Amy addressed him.
"Ah, Uncle Spence, we meet again." She remembered how excited Henry had been to have Reid pick him up after school. "I understand you have a talent that our preschoolers might like to see."
He was blushing again, shy as always. "I guess. I do a little magic now and then."
"He does great magic," JJ interjected. "Spence, it sounds like they've got an opening for you to come in next week. What do you think?" Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Madelyn Rand approaching them. She shifted so that she was right next to Reid.
He shrugged. "Sure, if we're not traveling."
Miss Amy was nodding. "Jennifer explained how it is with your jobs. Let's make a date, and if you're on the road, we'll just reschedule. You sound too amazing to pass up."
JJ grinned. "He is amazing. That's my Spence." She smiled at Miss Amy, and Julia...and Madelyn...as she linked her arm with Reid's.
"What did she want?"
"Who?" He knew who she meant. He was just surprised that she'd noticed.
"Madelyn Rand. She was all over you at the refreshments table."
"No, she wasn't. We were just chatting." He didn't see a need to mention what Madelyn had said.
"Hmm. Well, I'm sorry if it was awkward. I didn't even think about it. I was so concerned about the single dads being after me that it never even occurred to me that the single moms might be after you. But of course they would."