The beach house was gorgeous.
Spencer couldn't help but think it was a tad bit small for seven people...okay...much too small, in fact; but it was still cute, and there were plenty of places for them all to sleep. One room even had two sets of bunk beds, a bit of an overkill for such a small room, but still.
"Thanks so much for picking us up from the train station," Emily thanked her friend, whose name was Miguel. He was tall, and lanky, his hands, and feet, almost comical in large size. "I hadn't quite come up with a plan of how to get from there to here, except to call a taxi, and we'd need multiple ones."
"It's no problem," Miguel responded, he looked around the beach house, as though he was checking to make sure everything was in place. "Haven't been here in awhile, but I brought a cleaning service in when I was told you were coming." He was MUCH older than all of them, and Spencer wondered how Emily even knew him. He suspected she was the type of person who ran into some very different people.
"It looks wonderful," Penelope gushed, she was looking at the glass coffee table that sat in front of the tan couch. Different painted pictures were hung on the pale colored walls for decoration. Rather generic, actually. As though they just needed something random for decoration.
"I'm glad you think so," Miguel replied, but gazed up and down Penelope's colorful form in wonderment. "Anyway, you all get to share the one car I'm leaving here." He took the keys out of his pocket and dangled them in the air, he suddenly had everyone's attention. "You crash it? You pay for it. Who is the most responsible driver?"
"All of us do pretty well," Aaron replied, though he did a side eye glance to Derek, who Spencer was told drove a bit erratically. "Except, Spencer doesn't have his license."
"Not yet," Spencer muttered angrily, arms crossed over his chest, indignant. "But, I can drive."
"He's a genius," Emily explained to Miguel, who just looked at him in amusement. "He can do everything."
"Except carve a pumpkin," Derek quipped.
"Or play sports," David added.
"Or dance," Derek continued.
"Not going to get a record deal any time soon, either."
"Sucks with computers."
"ALMOST everything," Emily clarified to Miguel, and cast an annoyed look at David and Derek, who just held their hands up in appeasement.
"...Are you all going to burn my house down?" Miguel asked with dismay as he eyed the entire group.
"Of course not!" Emily assured him. "I promise you, we're all mature."
"Fine," Miguel agreed, but he still eyed the group with suspicion. "Just realize, like the stores say, if you break it, you buy it." He then groaned, head tossed back. "Of course, I'm saying this to a bunch of rich kids vacationing from a boarding school."
"No worries," Penelope assured him, and plopped down on the couch. "You won't even realize we were here." She then frowned. "Unless I replace that hideous dinosaur of a television, no offense."
"None taken," Miguel said dryly. He then turned to Emily, and placed the keys in her hand. "Take care of things."
"I will," Emily assured him firmly, and wrapped her palm tightly around the keys.
"Good," Miguel replied. He glanced around the room warily at all of the rest of the kids. "Be careful."
"We will," Emily said back to him. Miguel nodded his head, satisfied with the answer, then with a brief nod to all of them, exited the house.
"Where's the wifi password?" Penelope asked Emily instantly.
"Okay, so, I wrote down a list of everything we need," Penelope announced, then handed out pink slips of paper to everyone who sat at the table. "I photocopied it, so we could all have one. Since we have a car, we should be able to go out, and get the food whenever we please. I wouldn't recommend getting it today, though, since Thanksgiving is a few days away, but we'll still need food for the next few nights."
"Let's just order takeout," David suggested, and rolled his eyes at the death glare he received from the peppy blonde.
Spencer wasn't really listening too intently to the conversation, and only took a glance at the paper, he'd read it already. His mind was distracted as he thought about the events that lead up to Thanksgiving break. Apparently, his effort to defend Ella had truly won him some brownie points with Owen, who was still furious at Liam, and had his own table which only Ella, and Spencer, sat at. Spencer would have felt like a third wheel if the two had been more romantic.
Ella had started bringing her own food to meals, still claiming that the school's food was dangerous. She claimed that bad things grew in there. Owen had tried to excuse it to Spencer, and claimed that Ella had found mold on her food; but, Spencer could tell Owen was concerned, he was just blinded by his love, not to mention devotion, to Ella...Spencer could relate. Sometimes love for a person blinded you from seeing just how bad off they truly were. Or like his Father, you'd see it, but you wouldn't want to deal with it anymore.
Love made people fools.
There had been no more deaths, and Spencer didn't quite know what to think of that. They'd had a Thanksgiving football game, which would have seemed like the right event for it, and soccer games; but nothing happened. They were all baffled by it. Perhaps it was because the killer knew they were watching them, or as it may have been, if it was Ella, she hadn't felt the urge to kill again yet.
Ella had gone on an...odd...rant about bad sports, and evil players, one that had certainly caught Spencer's attention. She went on, and on, for awhile, not much of what she said made any sense, but she said it with such passion that he felt the need to listen. Owen just watched worriedly.
Even if Ella was the killer, though, Spencer couldn't help but pity her with all his heart. People may do horrible things, but that doesn't always make them horrible people. That's something movies don't always show you. They show you a killer ex-boyfriend, scorned by love, a psycho man who wields some weapon of choice with little motive, or more reasons of simple pettiness; but the most heartbreaking killers? Those are the ones that aren't evil. They aren't lead by cruel hearts, evil spirits, or bitterness from the past.
Some people aren't bad people, they're ill ones.
"Spencer?" Derek dragged him out of his stupor, a mask of concern covered his face, and Spencer tried not to meet his eye. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah." Spencer nodded, one elbow on the table, hand fisted under his jaw. "Just thinking."
"When aren't you?" Jennifer asked with humor, but she looked as worried as Derek did.
Spencer smirked a little and nodded his head a little. "I got Owen's number," Spencer told them, absentmindedly. "He gave it to me without my having asked."
"That's great," Emily said with a grin. "That means you're getting somewhere."
"When is the appropriate time to text someone making an inquiry concerning their day?" Spencer asked seriously. Penelope brought a hand up to cover the smile that formed on her face.
"Well, you could text him on Thanksgiving to wish him a happy holiday," Emily suggested, and looked up at Penelope, who stood over them at the table. "Penelope sends out a mass text every year."
"It makes people feel included," Penelope defended slightly.
"Or you could text him any time before that," Jennifer added. "Asking him how his break is going."
"Just not right away," David put in his two cents seriously. "You don't want to look like a stalker girlfriend."
Derek gave him a look of bewilderment. "You texted me the first day of summer break!"
"I can do that," David dismissed with a wave. "We're friends."
"He's really concerned about Ella," Spencer said sadly. "He won't say anything, but I can tell."
"Well, considering his girlfriend might be killing people, I can't say I'm shocked," Derek replied.
Spencer glared at him, and Derek held his hands up in submission. Things between them had been...okay. Every time they gathered in the fort he knew Derek was waiting for him to say something, admit to something, but Spencer just...he just couldn't bring himself to talk about it.
Derek never pushed him, either, which Spencer couldn't figure out exactly what that meant. Derek was obviously curious, but never even mentioned it once after the night in the fort. The questions all stayed in his eyes, so Spencer avoided his gaze.
"Do you think he suspects something?" Jennifer asked. "From Ella or Liam?"
"I think he thinks Liam is a jerk, and that Ella is...ill," Spencer attempted to explain, but the words weren't coming along with the fluidity he would have liked. "When you love someone who is ill, you either take it upon yourself to be their saving grace, or you...just can't handle it," Spencer continued to go on, anyway. Just because his words weren't fluid didn't mean they didn't hold meaning. "Sometimes you'll ignore the flaws you see in a person because you love them so much, sometimes you don't even see how bad they're truly getting. Or, if you can't handle it, you'll ignore how good they really are. Sometimes, you'll even think they can just handle themselves, even though you know they can't. A thousand things will go through your head. Right now? I think he's in denial about how bad it is. He won't see her flaws."
The looks Spencer got were ones of contemplation and concern, it was then made obvious to him how much his words reflected his own musings from when he took care of his Mother. It must have shown through, and the whole group had taken notice.
"So you think he suspects nothing," Jennifer replied slowly, carefully, as though she wasn't sure what she should say.
"Maybe subconsciously he does," Spencer replied reasonably. "But, he won't bring himself to see it." Spencer paused. "He can't. That'll make it all real." He wrung his hands in a nervous gesture. "He'll either lose her, or worse, realize she's been gone."
There was silence in the room, and Spencer just continued to stare at his hands. Nothing in the world was worse than looking into the eyes of someone you loved and seeing no recognition. Or seeing something worse.
"So, if it is Ella." They always made sure to say "if", or else Spencer would begin to become upset. "Then he won't truly realize until she's in handcuffs."
"That, or he won't realize until the verdict, or until she's been in jail for ten years," Spencer replied seriously.
"It's true what they say about love making people fools, isn't it?" David mused, very little humor in his words, they just about fell flat. Harsh realism.
"At times," Spencer answered, eyes still focused on his hands as memories from the past surrounded him. Surrounded him within them, threatened to drown, and suffocate him. Eidetic memory. Every memory forever there, unable to vanish.
"We'll figure out something," Penelope said, she attempted to sound cheerful, despite the obvious doubt in her own words. "I know we will. But for now? For now it is getting close to Thanksgiving, and you all are my minions," she informed them, and Derek chuckled.
"Ten days of vacation," Emily mused out loud and shook her head. "Away from school, parents, and any type of authority figure."
"All that, and we're not even drunk," David said with disappointment, and Derek whacked him on the arm. "Ow! Enough with the violence!"
"I am NOT sharing a room with Spencer," Derek announced, arms crossed over his chest like a stubborn child. He glared at Jennifer, who held the room arrangements on a piece of pink stationery. The words in some tiny, fancy font, that no one else could possibly read.
"You share a room with him all the time," Emily reasoned, she looked at Derek like he was a complete moron.
"Derek snores," Spencer whined.
"I do not!"
"Yes you do," Aaron cut in from his position on the couch next to Jennifer.
"If I share a room with them I'll have to listen to this all night," David complained and gestured to all three of them. The room arrangements were going to be that David, Aaron, Derek, and Spencer shared the room with the bunk beds. Jennifer and Emily were going to share the other room on the second floor, and Penelope was going to get the room on the first level. "Why does Penelope get her own room?"
"Because my wonderful self wrote up the arrangements," Penelope replied simply, a smile painted pleasantly on her face. "Not only that, but I'm organizing Thanksgiving dinner, and cooked this evening. If it weren't for me, you would have been having greasy old pizza."
"I like greasy old pizza," David replied back to her with a frown. Penelope proceeded to shoot him a look that could freeze a burning flame. David threw his hands up immediately. "Though I'd prefer your food any day!"
"You're cooking tomorrow," Penelope informed him.
"What?" David whined out.
"David is cooking? I might be ordering greasy pizza," Emily cut in with a grin, Jennifer tried to smother a laugh with the palm of her hand.
"Everyone silent, Penelope Garcia in charge," Penelope ordered, and silence was swept across the room. "David, Aaron, Derek, and Spencer, you're all sharing a room. You're all boys, boys share rooms with boys. Now, Derek, if you would like to come down for a few hours a night to spend a little time in my bed, that is totally okay." Derek snorted. "But you sleep upstairs."
"Babygirl, come on, I don't get any special treatment?" Derek asked in faux hurt, one hand clutched his chest as though he was a dying man.
"Oh, my sweet, you get the most special of treatments." Penelope winked. "Slink into my bed sometime in the next ten days, and I'll be happy to show you just how special."
"Suddenly I am thrilled at the prospect of staying upstairs," David stated.
"Suddenly I'm regretting the fact that I'm putting these two in the same house for ten days with no parental control," Emily added in. Her eyes skeptically fell between the two teens in question.
Penelope just winked at Derek, who grinned back at her flirtatiously.
"Come on, now, we must calm it down," Penelope said as she collected herself, her eyes suddenly switched to Spencer, who took a hesitant step back. "There are children watching!"
"I'm sixteen!" Spencer complained. Penelope seemed to think sixteen meant six, and if her hand flip meant anything, she didn't really care to correct her mistake, either. Spencer really wanted that growth spurt.
"Sorry squirt." Derek had the nerve to give Spencer's head a condescending pat. Spencer glared up at him, and Derek's lips trimmed to withhold his laughter.
"In my dreams you're the size of an ant, and I step on you," Spencer deadpanned seriously, and both of Derek's eyebrows shot up.
"Okkaayyy," Emily trailed off. "If we're done taunting the children-." Spencer glared at her, which had made her laugh. "Then we're back to the sleeping arrangements. Back to it as in, everybody deal with it."
"Spencer, if the boys are all nasty and mean to you, just come right down here to Mama Penelope to handle it," Penelope told him, and Spencer tried to resist rolling his eyes. He could handle the three others boys, especially since Aaron was harmless.
"Or just come in and spend the night with us," Emily said, and to the looks she got continued, "No offense, but I'm not too worried about spending a night in a room with Spencer Reid."
Spencer frowned deeply, in between his eyebrows crinkled, and he looked down at the ground to ponder for a moment. "I can't tell if I should be insulted."
Jennifer smiled kindly at him, and Spencer just cocked his head curiously. "Don't be, it means you're trustworthy."
"...What does that say about us?!" David cried out, and looked at Derek and Aaron in astonishment, they had similar looks of insult on their faces.
"It means you're perverts," Emily replied immediately, and the three boys continued to look insulted, while Spencer fought back his own smile.
"You know, the whole too short, with oversized glasses." Spencer frowned deeply at the oversized glasses remark, and instantly brought his hand up to them. "Look can be deceiving," David completed.
"Yeah, okay, sure, but I've never seen Spencer glance down my top," Emily drawled out, and took the time to glare at the three boys, who in turn looked sheepish.
Spencer just shook his head, and focused his attention down to the carpet. He didn't want to admit the fact that he was actually partially scared to be spending the night in an area he had no familiarity with, in a house he'd never been in, without anyone besides the kids from his boarding school to help if anything went wrong. The whole thing just screamed the start of a horror movie, and they already had the killer. The whole idea seemed to grow worse in his mind as the sun had set. In the dark of night, every plan seemed to turn ominous.
Not to mention the fact that staying in a strange location where you didn't know anybody when you had a killer after you was possibly one of the most stupid, and most teenage, thing he'd ever done in his entire life.
"Come on, kid." Derek whacked him lightly on the back, he'd gotten increasingly more gentle about it, especially since one time when Spencer was so tired, and off balance, he actually fell over. "Let's hit the hay. Doesn't seem like we're winning any battles down here." He gave a pointed look to the girls, who all looked extremely smug.
"I think I did fine," Spencer replied with a grin, and Derek glared at him.
"Mom, come on, get up," Spencer urged his Mother softly, he nudged her shoulder. He was only ten years old, and his Father had been away for over two weeks. Neither of them knew where he was, and Spencer had to take care of his Mother all by himself. "Mom, come on," he demanded once more. His too large glasses were slipping off his nose, they weren't quite the right size for his face, before his Father left he'd pointed that out.
It was Thanksgiving that day, Spencer knew that for a fact, he also knew that they didn't celebrate it. They didn't celebrate holidays in general, his Mother always refused to. No Christmas, no Thanksgiving, no Easter, none of it. Her reasonings consisted solely of delusions, but his Father never put much of an effort into fighting for the holidays, either.
"Spencer?" His Mother inquired softly, voice filled with fatigue as she slowly scooted up in her bed, and cast a look down to her son, who looked expectantly at her. "It's much too early for you to wake me, Spencer. Did you have a nightmare?"
"It's the afternoon," Spencer said dryly, and tried not to let sadness leak into his voice. He was annoyed, he'd tried to wake his Mother up hours early, but she'd only groaned in response. "You need to take your medicine. You didn't take it yesterday, the cup was full."
"I hate that medicine," Diana complained as she rubbed at her tired eyes. Dark blue was painted on light dry skin, and her eyes were rimmed with red. No matter how much sleep she got, she was always exhausted. "It makes me unable to think right."
"The doctor says you have to take it," Spencer reminded her, arms crossed over his chest, and feet firmly planted on the ground. Diana's lips quirked up slightly, though Spencer couldn't fathom why.
"Doctors aren't always right," Diana reminded him, and Spencer felt frustration bubble up. It was her same excuse for everything. "Besides." Diana shook her head, and suddenly her whole demeanor seemed to change. Spencer stiffened, and wondered if it was the start of another delusion. "You can't work properly with the medicine, Spencer," she said. Her voice was...weird. Almost...twisted. "You can't do what you want to do with it. Have to shove it down deep. Have to get rid of it to complete what you need."
"...Mom?" Spencer asked hesitantly, unsure of what his Mother meant, of what was going on. He felt numb, he didn't know why, but he felt totally numb and afraid.
"It has to be shoved down deep, Spencer, it has to be-." His Mother choked, and Spencer instantly ran over to her bedside to help her.
She coughed violently, hacked away, one hand reached up in an attempt to cover her mouth, and Spencer tried to rub her back, tried to comfort her through the coughs. Yet they continued. Harsh, body wrecking coughs that shook her entire frail form, and Spencer with it, just because he was in a close proximity. He still continued to rub her back, until finally she stilled, and when she turned to face him, her eyes were totally black and dead.
"Mom!" Spencer cried out. That's when his Mother opened her lips, and pills begun to pour out of her mouth."MOM!" He shouted in distress as more and more pills tumbled from his Mother's open mouth. He screamed at the top of his lungs, covered his eyes with his fists, but underneath it all he could still see it, it was everywhere, he couldn't escape it!
He continued to scream, he tried to move, tried to put his hands to his Mother's mouth to stop the flow of pills, but he couldn't move. He was immobilized. Stuck in a horrific nightmare, and all he could do was scream and cry, praying for it to soon be over.
Suddenly, his Mother reached out for him, and Spencer screamed louder as her palms touched his shoulder. Warmth collided with the cold of his body, and he screamed in fear as she begun to violently shake him.
Through the fountain of pills that fell from her mouth she screamed two words: "WAKE UP!"
"SPENCER!" He could open his eyes again, and he could move. He immediately used that ability to push at the hands on his shoulders as he continued to scream, and flung himself across his Mother's bedroom. "Jesus Christ!" A voice, certainly not his Mother's, cursed.
He closed his eyes again, this time he wasn't forced to look at the horrible imagery that haunted him, he was just able to curl into himself, and enjoy the dark black that came from the closure of his eyes. The images still ran rampant in his head, but they weren't there. They weren't right in front of him. They weren't there.
Where was his Mother, though? Was she okay? Should he search for her?
"Spencer," a soft voice said his name, but once again, it wasn't his Mother, and he would not open his eyes. "Spencer," the voice was slightly more demanding that time. "Spencer, you need to open your eyes, okay?"
"Should we call an ambulance?" Another voice asked almost nervously.
An ambulance, an ambulance was probably a good idea. They could help his Mother. They could get the pills out of her.
There was the sound of footsteps, and then the sound of a door being flung open. Had his Father come back? Who was that talking to him? How had they gotten into the house?
"We heard yelling," one of the voices said with concern. It was a female voice, but once more, not his Mother's.
"Spence," another voice said softly, that voice, at last, made him open his eyes. It was light in the room, certainly not his Mother's room, and he certainly wasn't ten years old.
"I'm so sorry," Spencer apologized immediately, and shot up to his shaking legs. A big mistake, considering Aaron, who had been knelt in front of him, had to catch him before he tumbled to the ground. "I just-it was just a dream! I'm so sorry!" David stood by the bottom bunk which Spencer had slept on, Spencer assumed he was the one who woke him up.
"You have nothing to apologize for," Aaron assured him softly, and rubbed his back with one of his hands once he was certain Spencer could stand on his own. Spencer shrunk away from it.
"Um." He glanced around the room. The only two missing were Penelope, and Derek. Everyone else stood in the cramped up room, with the dark blue walls, and the horribly cliche paintings of the beach, and lobsters. "Happy Thanksgiving?"
David snorted out a laugh, and grabbed onto the metal side of the bunk bed, as if the force of the reaction was going to knock him over. "Happy Thanksgiving," he replied dryly.
"Do you need to sit down?" Jennifer asked him in concern, she took hesitant steps towards him, and Spencer allowed her to put a hand on his forearm.
"I'm fine," he assured her with a tight smile. "Where are Derek and Penelope?"
"They went for a lover's walk on the beach," David replied to him easily, he seemed to be the least fazed, meanwhile the rest of the room still seemed to be staring at Spencer as though he was a ticking time bomb. "Probably for the best, you'd be wrapped in blankets right now if Penelope was here."
"No kidding," Spencer replied with a forced smile. He tried to rest his posture slightly, loosen up, appear less petrified, ignore the images that floated through his mind. He smelt the air slightly. "Is she already cooking?"
"We're eating early, apparently," Emily said dryly, she seemed to have recovered, as well. Spencer wasn't surprised, Emily wouldn't bother him on the topic unless she thought he wanted to talk about it, much like David. Aaron, and Derek, on the other hand, might push. But luckily, Derek wasn't there. "Derek had to take her out for a walk before she had an aneurysm."
"An aneurysm is a localized, blood-filled bulge that has a balloon like appearance in the wall of a blood vessel. An estimated 6 million people in the United States have an unruptured brain aneurysm. That's 1 in 50 people." The facts flooded freely from Spencer's lips, it had almost felt like a relief to speak them. Facts, statistics, they were comfortable, they made him feel better, more in control. It was just what he needed. "Brain aneurysms are most prevalent in people ages 35-60. Some children do get them, but most aneurysms develop after the age of 40, so I think she should be fine," he informed them logically.
"Right," Emily replied instantly, obviously she hadn't really listened to a word he'd said. "Well, anyway, as soon as you get cleaned up we could use some help with the vegetables."
"Unless you want to go back in bed for a bit," Jennifer cut in instantly, and shot a short glare Emily's way. Though, Spencer was more thankful for Emily's approach, nevertheless, he appreciated Jennifer's concern.
"No, I, uh, think I got quite enough sleep," Spencer replied with a quick smile, he brushed past Jennifer to grab his clothes from his bag, he hadn't put them away, didn't see the point.
"If you're sure..." Aaron trailed off, he looked at Spencer warily. Spencer really wished Aaron would tone down the soul searching gaze, it was unsettling, not to mention weird.
"I'm sure," Spencer assured him with another tight smile. "Just need a shower, then I'll be happy to help with everything."
He brushed past both Jennifer, and Aaron, before another word could be said.
The water pressure sucked at the house.
Spencer cursed it every single morning he got up to take his shower. He'd turn the water on, and this pathetic little dribble that they dared call a "shower" would drip down upon him. It surely wasn't enough to keep your body from getting freezing cold from the outside breeze, and it took him twice as long to wash his hair. When he'd complained about that last fact, David had thought it would be amusing if he turned on his electric razor, and offer to help with the hair. Penelope had hid him behind her while yelled at him to shut it off.
Spencer twisted the shower knob, so that the pathetic stream stopped, then grumbled grumpily. It wasn't just the shower that annoyed him, it was everything. The whole group tended to treat him like an infant, then, of course, he has a horrible nightmare to show them they were right.
He swallowed down burning bile as the memory of his Mother resurfaced in his mind. It had taken him gripping the edge of the sink with the shower running for ten minutes before he was sure his stomach was settled, and it started to become worked up again once he shut the shower off.
He tried to focus on his indignance, it was a lot easier to deal with. Though, he just knew that as soon as Derek, and Penelope, had gotten back, he heard them come in through the door, that they'd been informed of what had happened upstairs. Penelope would baby him, and Derek had already been staring at him for weeks with the same intensity as Aaron. Between the two stares, Spencer was worried a hole would be seared through his head, but that was impossible.
Or, unlikely, anyway.
He hadn't a clue what to do about Derek. Derek knew. Or at least, knew some part of it. The rest of the group suspected his Mother dead, and that was awful, but the truth...he couldn't speak of it. Not yet, anyway. If he was to correct them, tell them his Mother was alive, he'd have to tell them everything. He'd be forced to explain, and he couldn't do that. He just couldn't.
There was a killer hunting for their lives, and Spencer Reid was worried about family secrets, in his mind it was absolutely pathetic.
He looked down at his clothes. a button down shirt, and a pair of khakis. Derek, and David, had mocked him for the fact that he dressed like a miniature businessman when they were supposed to be relaxing. Penelope had even said they really needed to work on his style. He didn't get what was so wrong with his clothes, they were nice. His Mother used to love it when he'd dress nice, maybe it was one of the reasons he did it so often. On the rare occasions they went shopping together, he really only remembered doing it when he was much younger, she always bought him dress clothes. Naturally he owned jeans, and naturally he wore them to his old school, and such. Why would he wear khakis to school when they were just going to either get ripped or dirtied? Besides, it was better to wear comfort clothes when locked in a locker for over an hour.
"Spencer?" There was a tiny knock on the door that startled him out of his thoughts. The khakis slipped from his hands, then fell onto the ground as he spun his head towards the source of the noise, flecks of water flung off his hair, and hit the mirror. Not that he could see it well, without his glasses on everything was blurry. "Are you almost done in there? The potatoes need peelin'!" That was Penelope's chipper voice, though it was laced with concern. Someone told her. He knew it.
"I'll be out in a second," he replied, and knew he sounded irritated, but he couldn't help it.
"People who like mashed potatoes move faster," Penelope sing-songed, which had made Spencer have to try to fight back his smile.
"I like baked ones more."
"You know, recipes for mashed potatoes start appearing no later than 1747, with an entry in The Art of Cookery by Hannah Glasse, an English cookery writer, she's best known for the book, which was reprinted within its first year of publication, appeared in 20 editions in the 18th century, and continued to be published until 1843," Spencer informed her as he dropped his towel and pulled his shirt over his damp head of hair. "She later became bankrupt in 1754, and while she was discharged from bankruptcy in 1754, she later was consigned on the 22nd of June in 1757 to the Marshalsea debtors' prison."
"You learned all this about a potato lady why?" Penelope inquired, and Spencer smirked.
"I like to read," Spencer reminded her, as he picked at a stray piece of string on his shirt. "You can actually get the book on the internet."
"Mmm, now he begins to speak my language," Penelope said, and Spencer finally let out a small breath of a laugh. "Can you imagine how shocked she would have been in 17...whatever, if you'd told her that one day her recipes would be available on magical devices with light up screens that can take money instantly out of an account, then proceed to deliver the items to your door without you having to leave your house?"
"Might have made bankruptcy easier," Spencer mused. "Or sent her into a mental institution if she spoke of it." His jaw stiffened slightly, and he quickly went to put his khakis on.
"Ugh. That would have been awful." The fact that Penelope was still speaking to him from outside the door occurred to him might be a tad bit weird. Especially since the bathroom was so close to the kitchen, and everyone could probably hear their conversation.
"You should read Ten Days in the Madhouse by Nellie Bly. It was published in parts in 1887, and details all the disturbing happenings that used to occur. It's a quick read, and it's very informative," he recommended.
"Quick read to someone who can read 20,000 words per-minute, or to us normal folks?" Penelope joked.
"It's 96 pages," Spencer replied with a grin. "Pretty quick for most people."
"I don't know if I'd enjoy reading that," Penelope confessed sadly, and Spencer zipped, and buttoned, his khakis. They hung a bit too loosely on him. "Reading about sad things impairs my ability to skip, and giggle."
"Just skip, and giggle more solemnly," Spencer joked lightly, and heard Penelope giggle a little as he opened the door, damp towel in hand to pluck into the blue wicker hamper that sat right outside the bathroom door.
"Your hair looks adorable all wet," Penelope cooed, then brought up a manicured hand to shake it out. "Pretty curls."
"Well, it's good to know it's not at all weird," David's voice trailed from down the hall in the kitchen, and Penelope and Spencer followed it to the source. David was making homemade stuffing. "To talk to Spencer while he's naked in the bathroom."
Spencer's cheeks heated up, and Penelope rolled her eyes. "He was behind a closed door, I didn't sneak a peak of anything. I respect his virtue."
"Good job, Penelope." Derek walked up from behind her, he was previously seated on the couch which made Spencer wondered how he got out of cooking, and pecked her on the cheek. "You should at least take him out on three dates first." He winked at Spencer, who crossed his arms and glared.
"The three date rule is bogus," Emily said, she was chopping up vegetables for the stuffing. "Now guys know just to take a girl out for dinner three times before hopping into bed. You want a keeper? Make him sit through five."
"Unless you want a fun-time buddy," Penelope said, and waggled her eyebrows. "Then you just put the number on speed dial and go."
"Penelope!" Derek exclaimed in surprise, and she just winked at him response. "Does my name happen to be on speed dial?"
"Digit numero uno," Penelope replied suggestively.
"I'm still just feeling lucky that I haven't heard any furniture moving down here," Emily said dryly, and Jennifer laughed from beside her.
"No kidding," she agreed.
"I...uh...think I'm ready to peel potatoes now," Spencer said in a rush, and hurried over to the table where there was a batch of potatoes, a peeler, and paper towels to peel over.
"You can't peel away the layers of our love," Penelope said dramatically, one hand held to her chest, most of the people in the kitchen rolled their eyes.
"I know some other layers I'd like to peel away," Derek purred, then wrapped one of his arms around Penelope's waist, and grinned at her.
"Mmm," Penelope purred in return, and brought one hand up to pinch at Derek's cheeks. "As much as I would love to take this into the back bedroom, m'dear, I'm afraid I have a kitchen to run."
"Always did love a woman hard at work," Derek flirted, then kissed her hair before he pulled away, his arms slowly unraveled from her waist.
"Yeah, and I love a man at work, so how about you get your ass over here and do something," Emily suggested, and Jennifer laughed from beside her.
Derek held up both of his hands. "I don't know if you want me touching anything that's going in the oven, gotta be honest with your ladies."
"Oh, so the great Derek Morgan can't do everything after all," Jennifer teased, and winked at Emily. "Guess we'll have to inform the school."
"Well you must be informing the school of something," Derek replied, he leaned up against the fridge, which earned him a glare from Penelope. "Your phone has been vibrating all morning."
Jennifer rolled her eyes, then shook her head. "No kidding. I'm stuck in a group text from hell."
"From Hell is right," David agreed. "I swear Satan invented those things."
"The first text message was sent December 3, 1992, but the Finnish engineer Matti Makkonen first conceived the idea eight years prior," Spencer informed them as he peeled the potatoes carefully. He tried to mainly get the skin, not peel off too much potato. Each section was peeled straight, and was done with great concentration. Though, with his knack for clumsiness, he was certain, would ruin it soon.
"I don't recall asking a question that would require such answer," David teased dryly, with an eye roll to match.
"Just helping with the education so you don't get rusty," Spencer quipped quickly, he smiled when David's eyes narrowed.
"You saying I'm not intelligent?"
"I don't recall initiating a response that would require such a question," Spencer answered easily, he heard Derek chuckle, and out of the corner of his eye saw the girls pressing their lips down hard as to try not to laugh.
David looked at him in disbelief. "You're turning into a smartass." Spencer looked up at him, and smiled. "I'm proud of you." Spencer's smile grew even more so.
"Great," Jennifer said sarcastically. "David is trying to create a mini-me."
"It's not just David," Aaron added in, he was simply sitting at the kitchen table next to Spencer, he, like Derek, wasn't really doing anything. "Derek was explaining to him what a rather...explicit...phrase meant last night." Spencer's cheeks heated up scarlet at the memory.
"He asked!" Derek defended himself with indignance, he gestured towards Spencer, who kept his head bowed. "Not like I gave him an instruction manual on how to do it!"
"Mainly because he asked you to stop talking nearly two seconds later," David added in with a grin.
"Derek Morgan," Penelope scolded, one hand on her hip. "Are you trying to poison the youth?"
"Wouldn't dream of it, Mama," Derek replied with his signature smile, which made Spencer glowered at him. "Just a little Q&A."
Spencer opened his mouth to say something, but he was cut off when an annoying vibration from the glass coffee table rattled its noise all the way into the kitchen. There was no wall to break the two rooms apart, just the change from hardwood to tile.
"I'm putting it on silent," Jennifer announced, and brushed her hands on the sides of her pants as she marched over to the table.
"What are they texting about, anyway?" David asked.
Jennifer had her phone in her hand, and a frown on her face. "Just...random stuff," she replied distractedly. "Wanting to know what everyone is doing for Thanksgiving, and apparently they all find complaining about family members very interesting." She rolled her eyes and pressed the screen of her phone a few times.
"Do they know where you are?" David inquired.
Jennifer shook her head in the negative, then gave him a look. "Please. You think I'm telling a bunch of teenagers I'm in a house with no adult supervision? This place would be filled in a day."
"It's Thanksgiving," Spencer pointed out with a frown. "Why would anyone want to party on Thanksgiving?"
"Because it's a house with no adult supervision, Spence," Jennifer replied with a small laugh, she set her phone back down on the table. "Holidays don't mean much."
"A bunch of drunk kids hanging around a beach house on Thanksgiving, giving thanks for the insane amounts of liquor," David mused as Emily handed him over chopped celery for the stuffing. "Damn. That actually sounds like fun."
"How about no?" Emily glared at him, and set the rolling pin David used to roll out the crumbs into the sink. "They would wreck this entire house, then we would have to pay for it. No thank you."
"No kidding," Derek agreed, large smile on his face, he was still leaned up against the fridge, and David tried to push him out of the way to pull out some butter. "Remember what happened that one summer when everyone met up at Tracy King's house?"
"Oh," Emily winced, but smiled soon after. "That was BRUTAL."
"We're just all lucky we got out okay," Jennifer said seriously, and walked back over to finish chopping the onion David needed. It was all in miniature squares, but he insisted it needed to be finely chopped. "The police were called twenty minutes after we left by an upset neighbor."
"Yeah, it's a good thing Emily got so wasted she couldn't stand," Derek agreed, he cast a smug grin over to Emily, who flipped him off. "Is that your go to reply for everything?"
"No," Emily said calmly, and then proceeded to hold up the giant knife she had been cutting up vegetables with. She looked at it contemplatively, before she switched her gaze to Derek, who was unfazed. "But this could be."
"That's why I like you, Emily Prentiss," Derek told her, smile still plastered on his face. "At least you stab people in the front."
"No kidding she does," Penelope said with a laugh as she took the eggs out of the fridge, Derek leaned up against the open door. "Remember when she told Cynthia in freshman year that she didn't want to be friends anymore in front of EVERYONE?"
Emily winced again, and looked away.
"Like that even needed an announcement," David agreed. "You were friends for what? Five minutes?"
"At least I'm not in an apron," Emily shot back at him. David just waved his hand at her, not affected.
"I look good in an apron," he said, he stepped away from the stove to gesture down to himself, he then winked. Emily made a gagging sound, while a lot of the kitchen snickered.
"You know," Spencer begun, and set aside another potato he had peeled into the pile. How many people did Penelope expect to feed with the feast?! "The history of aprons is actually kind of interesting-."
"Kid," Derek cut him off, and Spencer looked at him. He was leaned up against the finally closed fridge, arms crossed over his chest, but a grin still in place. "No offense, but I think we can live without it."
"Right," Spencer said sheepishly. "Sorry." He took his gaze away from Derek and back down to his work, his peeling accuracy had greatly suffered as the task got more annoying.
"Derek Morgan, you hurt him, you help him," Penelope ordered him, one finger pointed over to the table, and Derek held out his hands in shock. "You heard me! There's an extra peeler, and plenty of carrots. Chop chop! Let's get to work!" She clapped her hands together, and looked at Derek pointedly until he let out a sigh, then pushed himself off the fridge with both hands. The fridge shook a tad bit with the force, and Derek made his way over to the table and plopped himself down on the other side of Spencer. Aaron just sat there, and grinned as he held out the extra peeler in one hand, paper towels in the other, to Derek. Derek snatched them out of his hands with a glare.
"What the hell is he going to be doing?" Derek inquired, pointer finger pointed at Aaron.
"Aaron will chop the vegetables after they're done being peeled," Penelope answered, and Aaron held up his knife to show Derek. "So get your butts in gear."
Derek rolled his eyes, Spencer followed suit. Penelope gave each a pat on the back before she pulled away to help stir together the ingredients for the stuffing.
Derek and Spencer worked in silence for awhile. Derek was a lot more careless about the peeling, and hunks of carrot rest upon the napkin, which made Spencer's right eye twitch slightly. Derek seemed to notice, smirked, and did it even more. Spencer attempted to ignore him, not to mention his reckless peeling. He'd be done with the potatoes soon enough, though, he was sure they'd be eating leftovers for the next eternity. Well, for at least four days, anyway. Diana Reid never let her son eat leftovers if they were over four days old, it was ingrained in his brain.
"Hey, kid," Derek whispered quietly to him after awhile. So quietly, in fact, that not even Aaron could overhear his voice.
Spencer inclined his head to him slightly, he softly hummed to show his acknowledgement.
"You doing alright?" Derek asked, which caused Spencer to stiffen. He knew that Derek had probably been informed of his earlier nightmare, and he didn't feel like having a pity party thrown for him.
"Fine," Spencer replied, voice clipped, he then proceeded to give Derek a side eye. "You?"
The question seemed to alarm Derek slightly, and Spencer took note of it with a frown. Derek cleared his throat quietly, and turned back to his task. "Fine," he replied, just as clipped. Spencer had no reason to suspect otherwise from any of his earlier actions that day, but he did.
The dinner was insane.
The turkey was much too big, even for the number of them they had, and there was a giant mixing bowl full of mashed potatoes next to it, and even more on the stove. The stuffing was in another giant bowl, it smelled divine. David had made it completely homemade, and looked ridiculously proud of it. There was a bowl of chopped carrots, a bowl filled with peas, butternut squash, gravy, biscuits, green beans, cranberry sauce, and pears with mint jelly. The turkey was cooked perfectly, the skin a golden toasted color, just crunchy enough, with spices all along the top of it. It was cut by David and Aaron.
"Wow," Spencer said, stunned as he looked at the feast. He'd never seen so much food on one table. They never celebrated holidays, family rarely came over, he'd never really had a feast.
"No kidding, huh," Derek said. Something about him was still...off...and Spencer felt bad, like he had caused it, but the older boy jostled his shoulder from where he sat beside him. "Think that turkey had more meat on it than you."
"You better actually eat," Penelope warned him, one finger pointed at him. "If you only nibble at this I swear to goodness I will whack you over the head with a spoon."
"I'll eat," Spencer promised. How could he not? The food looked delicious. "Can...Can I have a leg?"
"Mhm, yes you may, in just a moment short stuff," Penelope agreed easily, and Derek continued to smile at him. "But, before we dig into what, if I do say so myself, will be a delicious feast, we must all go around the table and say at least one thing we're thankful for. I'll start!" She declared cheerfully.
There was silence at the table for a moment as Penelope pondered. Spencer knew it wasn't that she had nothing to list, it was that Penelope was thankful for so much, even the little thing, she wanted to pick something good.
"I'm thankful for my family," she announced at last, and smiled at the group around her. "Not just my family at home, though I love them dearly, I'm thankful for my other family. The family right here. The family that was completed this year." She smiled at Spencer, who looked at her, stunned. "I'm thankful for Spencer's arrival, and for Jennifer returning to us." She smiled at Jennifer, who returned it instantly. "I mean, the completion couldn't have come at a worse time, but it also couldn't have come at a better one." She raised her glass of cranberry juice. "I'm thankful for family." Everyone held their glasses up in response, smiles plastered on all their faces, and Penelope swiped a tear that had started to fall.
Penelope gestured to Aaron, who sat beside her, to go next. He sat still for a moment, he gazed down at the table in concentration, every once and a while his cheek would move to show he was biting it. "I'm thankful we got away from school, and for a short period of time, we're able to feel safe," Aaron decided.
Next was Jennifer, who thought it over for a moment before she looked at them all with appreciation and said, "I'm just thankful I was welcomed back."
"Always," Penelope assured her firmly.
Next to Jennifer was Emily, who let out a gust of wind, and tilted her head back to look at the ceiling. "I'm thankful you all agreed to come here. Where we can sit by the water, and talk, and not have to worry about school, or a killer. I'm thankful we get to feel like rebellious teenagers...to the point I almost hope we're caught."
The group snorted, and David was next. "I'm thankful for the fact that, for once, I have so much to feel thankful for, I can't pick a single damn thing out," he said with passion. "I'd say that's pretty special."
Next was Derek , who thought about it for a moment. He still seemed distracted, and Spencer still wondered if it was his fault. "I'm thankful for the fact that I shared the secret about the fort so now we have a safe place to hideout," Derek admitted hesitantly, and the group smiled at him.
Spencer knew what he was going to say, because it was something he'd been thankful for since he saw the feast on the table. "I'm thankful I get to celebrate Thanksgiving for the first time with all of you," he said softly, and everyone grinned at him.
"Well, then," Penelope said, her eyes watery. She lifted her glass once more. "Here's to a happy Thanksgiving."
"Here here!" David agreed, and they all clinked their glasses together.
"I think my body is on auto-pilot," Emily complained as she picked up another slice of turkey off the platter. "I can't stop," she whined as she plopped it down with her fork onto her plate. "Somebody stop me."
"Can't," David said, he was just about keeled over his empty plate. "Dying."
"Someone please put all this away," Jennifer pleaded. One hand held her head, her blonde hair skewed over it. "Just looking at it is going to make me sick."
"Just do what I do and close your eyes and pretend you're somewhere else," Penelope recommended, eyes firmly shut. "Where your belly is not so full."
"Why did you all eat so much if you knew you'd regret it later?" Spencer inquired seriously. He'd eaten a fair amount of food, but once he had begun to feel uncomfortable he'd stopped.
"Shut up, Spencer," Derek replied, and Spencer frowned.
"The meal was fantastic, though," Spencer announced pleasantly. He gazed at the potatoes. They were tempting, but they'd end up being painful. "Did you know the potato is the fourth largest food crop in the world?" He inquired, and despite the lack of interest shown, he continued, "Following rice, wheat, and maize."
"Is he learning even more facts?" David asked in annoyance. "I think he's learning even more facts."
"He knows too much potato history," Penelope added in, and opened her eyes to look at Spencer. "Why did you decide to learn so much about potatoes?"
"Because they're delicious," Spencer replied simply, and gazed at the bowl. "Maybe one more helping wouldn't hurt..."
"It will," the entire table said at once.
"Though, to be fair," Emily begun, and was promptly cut off by a groan. "It's your first Thanksgiving, you should be able to feeling the sickness." she then pushed her hand up against the potato bowl, the tips of her fingers turning white during the press as they folded back. The clear glass bowl nudged towards him. "Have at it."
"Nuh-uh," Penelope said, one finger held up sternly at Spencer when he looked as though he was about to reach for the bowl. "I'm not having his first Thanksgiving memory being him puking."
Spencer wrinkled up his nose. He did have a bit of a...fear of puking. It was brought on by a really bad stomach bug he'd gotten when he was younger. His Father wasn't home that night, and his Mother was having an episode. When she realized he was puking she was convinced it wasn't a bug, and that someone had placed something in their food, she continued to go on a delusional rant about poisons. At one point, she had wanted to take him to a hospital, and he had to swallow down the sickness that rose up his throat and try to calm her down and get her back into bed.
He let his slightly raised hand fall to his side.
"My Mama would have had you filled up by now," Derek told him. His voice sounded reminiscent but also almost...haunted. Spencer immediately paid attention, though, it wasn't often that Derek ever spoke of his Mother. "She filled everyone up on Thanksgiving. Would have thought you were too skinny."
"Your Mama was a Thanksgiving day champ?" Penelope inquired with a grin, and Derek actually returned the smile.
"Hell yeah, she was." His smile suddenly dropped, and his eyes got the haunted look back in them. "She loved Thanksgiving," he said sadly. "Wanted the whole family together every holiday. If people couldn't show up she was heartbroken, even if we didn't have the space." Derek bit his lip. They all knew where he was going with it.
His Mother must have been miserable every Thanksgiving since her children had been taken.
"What's your Mother's first name?" Penelope asked suddenly, and Derek looked at her in confusion, they all did. The question didn't really seem relevant.
"Fran," Derek replied hesitantly. "Her name is Fran Morgan."
"She lives in Chicago?" Penelope inquired, and suddenly stood up. She held her stomach as her face showed a twinge of pain at the movement.
"Probably," Derek answered, confused as his eyes followed Penelope's movements. "Can't see her moving. We...uh...still have family there."
"Gotcha." Penelope swiftly grabbed her laptop off the coffee table. It was perfectly cleaned up. Never a spot of dust on it, no decorative stickers, no stains, scratches, nothing. She was an extremely decorative, and energetic person, but she liked her technology to be clean.
"Penelope," Derek said slowly, and rose up from his chair. "What are you doing?"
"Giving your Mother an, at least slightly, happier Thanksgiving," Penelope replied as her fingers pressed down on the clean keys rapidly. "Gotcha," she announced. "Someone get Derek a phone."
"What?" Derek asked, he moved to stand above Penelope, and looked down at her laptop screen. "Why? What are you doing?"
"It's not what I'm doing," Penelope responded, and Emily dug her phone out of her purse that sat in front of the back door. Plain black purse with some texture to it, she claimed it matched every outfit. "It's what you're going to do."
"You want me to...call her?" Derek asked, almost in fear. "Penelope, I haven't spoken to my Mama since I was taken."
"No time like the present," Penelope replied, and Emily placed her phone in Derek's palm, as he continued to look around the room anxiously. "Look, you don't have to call. I get it, okay? Or...well...maybe I don't, but still, you're scared, that's okay."
"I can't just..." he trailed off and continued to look around the room for some type of support. "I could have called at boarding school, but I never did."
"Part of you was worried they would find out," Penelope told him. "But if you use one of our phones, they won't."
"I'll be eighteen soon, anyway," Derek continued on. "I can visit her then."
"Yes, visit. But right now? Right now you could call her and let her know her baby boy is doing well for Thanksgiving," Penelope said to him, and Derek bit his lip and turned his head. "I know you like your privacy, Derek, but don't you think it'd make your Mother's day to hear your phone on one of her favorite holidays?"
"Yes," Derek said, his voice slightly choked. "It would."
"Then do it," Penelope urged him on. It was odd, to see Derek so vulnerable. Spencer had been too busy thinking of what Thanksgiving meant to him, that he'd almost forgotten what it must have meant to Derek. "For her, if not for yourself."
Derek looked down at Emily's phone, and slowly, hesitantly, placed his finger on the keypad. "Read me the number," he requested. "I can't...I've blocked it out."
Penelope slowly, carefully, read him each digit as Derek even more hesitantly pressed his finger down on the screen. The rest of them were still seated at the table, besides Emily, who stood beside them, and they watched him.
Derek slowly pressed the phone up to his ear, and sucked in a deep breath. Penelope reached up, and grasped at his palm. He accepted her hand, and squeezed it firmly.
"Hello?" He said into the phone, and sucked in another deep breath as he bit his lip. "Sarah? Is that you?" He paused for a moment before he said, "It's Derek."
"Come on," Aaron said in a hushed tone to the rest of the table, and he stood up quietly. "Let's give him some privacy."
They all slowly walked up the stairs, and the last thing they saw was Derek collapse on the couch. They could hear babbling words come through the other end of the phone, and then, at last, they heard,
"Mama? It's Derek."