Nothing about this was right. It just wasn't right. It wasn't fair. It shouldn't happen.
He didn't know how it could happen. That's right, the resident genius Spencer Reid didn't have an explanation for something. No answers this time. Morgan would laugh his ass off.
That didn't make him feel better. It didn't give him an answer. An answer as to how they could all be like this. He wanted to get up and stop each and every one of those carefree people and ask them how in hell they could be this way.
But he couldn't. Because if he did that, he wouldn't be able to keep to just asking a simple question. His voice would gradually rise, become higher and strained in hysteria, as his already aching and thick-with-bile throat was telling him.
He would start to shout and scream. And then he would start to cry. And he didn't think he would be able to stop.
He didn't think that a fit like that would be appreciated in the middle of a busy workday at FBI HQ.
He didn't think that that was how FBI officers were supposed to behave.
Maybe that's why they were all being this way, he thought frantically, desperate to come up with some other explanation for their behaviour than the inevitable.
They've forgotten. They've moved on. They don't care.
Spencer vehemently told that little wisp of a whisper in the back of his mind to shut up. And this time he didn't even take a moment to worry about the fact that he was arguing with himself. He didn't even take a moment to feel the terror of possible encroaching insanity.
He didn't think he could do this any longer. He knew that he had to, that he couldn't let go, but he wasn't sure if he could keep hold.
And that's a frightening feeling. A feeling of helplessness. Akin to the feeling of terror one might experience if you knew that you needed to vomit right this second, because if you didn't you would cause yourself severe physical damage. But you were at work, there were people all around, and you needed to hold onto this just a little longer, you can do it – but the bile is already rising up your throat and the people around you aren't helping at all. You can't get the bathroom, if you move, you'll explode. You just need to wait until these people are gone. You need to sit so still and just hold on.
And Spencer was sitting still. Clutching that small, hard object like a lifeline and sitting still. So very still, because his eyes were stinging, and if he moved an inch they might go from stinging to streaming.
His throat was thick with a burning layer of bile and tears and screams, and if he moved one inch he may start to gag and cry and moan like an infant.
But nobody seemed to care. They were all going on about their business, they were laughing and smiling and acting as though this were a normal day and it was so far beyond his comprehension that he felt like throwing himself onto the floor and curling up until the confusing mass of people went away, or until they started to act like they should be acting because this –
"I know it's not fair, honey."
Spencer slowly closed his eyes, because then this person might get the picture and go away. And he needed them to go away. Because if they stayed he would have to talk to them. To move and speak and act like everything was okay.
"It's okay, sweetie, you don't have to talk. You don't have to move yourself. Just sit. Auntie Pen can talk enough for two."
And he had to admit, the words surprised him. And as Garcia sat down next to him in the break room, he actually found that he was comforted by her presence. The fact that she had made it clear that she would not make him act like he was okay was soothing. It was so good to know that someone else realised that everything was not alright. So good that he almost choked.
"Honey, it's not fair, and it's not good, and it sucks." And now that he listened, Penelope's voice did seem thin, a little scratched. Still uniquely her voice, with all it's normal beauty and comfort, but...not alright. Like a thin piece of glass that has been chipped.
"I know that, Spence. I know it's not decent." He squeezed his eyes shut against the tears. "But maybe it's natural."
He did choke this time, on a sob, and turned his head very slightly, away from Penelope, away from her sensible and horrible words.
"Maybe, in the long run, it's right." He was glad to hear her voice tremble like the tears on her lashes. But she wiped them away, and her voice lost none of its compassion and conviction. It lost none of its logic.
He couldn't stand that.
"But it was last year." He protested weakly. "Last year, on this day. It's been a year."
"I know, honey." Again that tremor in her voice. As if trying to tell him that it was okay to let go. "And that's why it's right. A year isn't a long time for someone to be dead, but it's a long time to keep grieving."
He made a pathetic whimpering noise that he hated, and Penelope slowly leaned over, draping her arms around his shoulders like a blanket. He flinched his head away for a moment, wanting to get away from her, wanting to get away from her words. Because he knew they made sense.
"A year is along time for people to hold onto that hurt. And they do hurt, Spence, trust me, they do. But they can't hold onto it for too long without drying up. It's just not possible. And I'm sorry, Spence, because I know it sucks." Her voice was thin and high with tears, and for a split second there was a quiet whispered sob from her, gusting against his ear, before she quieted again.
He wished he could find even that momentary peace. She seemed able to let go of herself for a little while, and then shroud herself with acceptance and quiet again.
He wanted that. He really did. If he tried, though, it would not be a quiet and dignified outpouring of grief, and he didn't think he would be able to pull peace from out of thin air and quiet down again.
He wanted to. But -
"But they've forgotten Pen. How could they forget? All of them." He had known that his voice would sound high and whiny. "They all knew him. They spent time with him. Good times. JJ and Prentiss would always dance with him when I never would. Hotch would drink with him and talk about sports, Rossi would talk about cars – have they all just forgotten? Have they just - "
It was almost hissed gently in his ear in quiet desperation, her forehead pressed against his wet cheek, her breath hitching, arms pulling his head tightly closer to hers, sharing the grief that the others wouldn't. Couldn't.
"They've forgotten. They haven't forgotten him, of course they haven't. They never will." She took a fortifying breath and kissed his cheek gently. "But they've forgotten that day. They've forgotten seeing him like that, and they've forgotten all the awful details. Because they have to. Because otherwise they'll never recover." She shook his shoulders gently as he emphasised the word, as if trying to erase the word 'forget.'
"They can't remember the details, because if they do, all they'll remember is him as he was when he died. They need to remember him as he was before." She manages a fragile but genuine smile. "They haven't forgotten all those good times. It's the opposite of that, Boy Wonder; they're trying to remember the good times. All they're forgetting are the bad ones."
He closed his eyes against the painful understanding.
And understand he did. His protest sounded weak to his own ears.
"But you can't just forget that he died - "
"I know." Penelope interrupts gently, stroking his hair lightly. She whispers conspiratorially and affectionately and most definitely sadly in his ear. But with ever-present acceptance.
"But we can remember enough for all of them, hon. Maybe this means we are more awesome than all of them after all." She manages watery laughter, he a smile.
"That's why he adored you so much, Pretty Boy." She smiles again.
She strokes the silver whistle in his hands, and he wonders why a practical joke from the man means so much to him now.
"We've just got to forgive the forgetful, honey."
He closed his hands on the whistle.