one month later

Emily was driving home from her mother's house in Baltimore on auto-pilot, the icy silence from the passenger seat contrasting sharply with the sunny Indian-summer day, warm and pleasant for late October. She was pretending she didn't notice the waves of irritation radiating off of him. She knew if she was quiet long enough, he'd start talking about it, because he couldn't help himself. The silent treatment was not a weapon in Spencer Reid's arsenal. Talking was how he entered the world.

"I can't believe you told her," he finally said, when they were about ten minutes from home.

She sighed. "She's my mother."

"We should have discussed it."

"It's not that big of a deal! It's not as if I told her we were picking out names, I just said we were talking about it."

"I should have been in on that, shouldn't I?"

"You told your mother without asking me first."

"She's thousands of miles away and has limited phone access. She's not going to be calling us every day now wondering if we've decided and if I've managed to impregnate you yet."

Emily was quiet. She had to concede that he had a tiny point there. "My mother won't do that."

"Care to lay odds?"

"You were the one who was all partners-in-crime with her when we went up to the summer house. I thought you'd want her to know."

"See, this is the problem. You just assume things about me without talking to me about it. You assume I'd want her to know, you assumed I'd be fine spending an entire afternoon with her and her boring friends on our anniversary, you assumed I wouldn't be able to go to that concert with you…"

"That's two weeks ago, I cannot believe you are still mad about that! You hate jazz and you had a deadline!"

"I would have liked to have been asked! Suddenly you're on your way out the door to meet Rossi and Garcia and I'm left at home like the last kid picked for tee-ball."

"It's our anniversary, can we please not fight? I have a splitting headache."

"An afternoon with your mother has that effect on me, too."

"Advil all around when we get home, then."

"Oh god, yes. With a Scotch chaser."

She glanced over at him. He had a slight smile lurking at the corners of his mouth. "I thought you were mad."

"I am. Very mad. Very very mad. Grrr."

She smirked and poked him in the ribs. "You're smiling."

"I am not smiling," he said, although he was and hiding it badly.

"C'mon. You love me."

"No, I don't. No love. I don't know what I ever saw in you."

Emily grinned. "You think I'm gooorgeous, you want to kisssss me, hug me and maaaaarry me," she teased, doing her best Sandra Bullock impersonation (which he claimed to hate but which never failed to get a smile out of him), continuing to poke him in the ribs as he slapped at her hand. She pulled into their driveway and put the car in park.

Spencer grabbed her poking finger, pulled her across the shift lever and kissed her hard, then suddenly tickled her under her arm, where he knew she was most vulnerable. She yelped and twisted away but he followed her. "Hold still and take it like a woman," he said. Emily laughed, writhing as he got her good on her sides, but the tickle soon turned into a caress. He leaned in and brushed his nose against hers. "I do want to kiss you," he said, doing exactly that.

She kissed back. "And do you want to marry me?"

He nodded, looking in her eyes. "All over again, in a heartbeat."

She melted. "I'm sorry I told her without talking to you first."

He shrugged. "It's done. But you have to answer the phone when she calls a million times."

"I guess that's my penance." She looked over his shoulder and something that had been puzzling her suddenly became clear. "Uh-oh," she said.

He was still nuzzling at her face. "What?" he said, distracted.

"I think I know why my mother kept us at her house forever." She nodded out the passenger window. He turned and saw the big sign posted in the yard. It was nothing but a large arrow pointing around the side of the house. "There seem to have been some busy bees plotting something here in our absence."

He sighed. "Do we have to go? Let's sneak upstairs without them noticing."

"They're our friends. They obviously went to a lot of trouble. And we haven't exchanged our gifts yet," she said, smirking. She couldn't wait to give him his gift.

"All right," he said, but she knew his exasperation was a put-on. He was just as touched as she was that their friends would have gone to the trouble of throwing them a party. Despite his long association with their BAU family and all the evidence he had that he was a valued and loved member of the team, Spencer still had more than just a touch of wallflower syndrome, never quite believing himself accepted, never thinking that anyone actually cared about him.

They got out of the car and linked hands, walking around the front of the house in the direction the arrow indicated. They came around the corner into the backyard and were nearly knocked backwards by the giant shout of "SURPRISE!" that burst over them.

Emily grinned. "Holy cow," Spencer said. "They went all out."

And they had. There were at least thirty people in the backyard. Tables had been set up, the grill was going, someone had set up a passable wet bar on the deck and there were balloons and streamers everywhere. But that wasn't what caught her attention the most.

In the corner of the yard was a ginormous bounce house. An actual bounce house, like you'd see at the fair. "Is that a bounce house?" Spencer said, shading his eyes.

"It sure is," Emily said. "Leave it to Garcia."

Speaking of Garcia, she was rushing up to hug them, the rest of the gathering trailing behind. Emily saw their team, plus assorted spouses and children. She grinned with surprise to see Germany and Kate and their husbands. Their neighbor friends, some other agents from work, the team from down the hall including Spencer's friend Chaz – it was quite the eclectic gathering. "Oh, my babies!" Garcia exclaimed, enveloping them both, one in each arm, kissing their cheeks. "One year gone already!"

"Let them breathe, baby girl," Morgan said, coming up to hug Emily and chuck Reid on the shoulder.

"Unca Spence!" came an excited little boy's voice. Henry came rocketing up to them and attached himself to Reid's leg. "Can I go inna bounce house now?"

"Well…I guess so…" Reid said, looking up in puzzlement.

"JJ said he couldn't go in until you guys got here," Garcia explained. "He's been asking if you were here yet every two minutes."

Reid leaned down to Henry's level. "You want to go in that bounce house, Henry?"

"Can I can I can I?" he said, excited.

"Sure. Let's go check it out." He took his hand to walk there with him.

"Happy anniversary," Rossi said, coming up to Emily and handing her a drink. Her favorite, gin and tonic.

"Thanks, Dave," she said. "I thought it was going to be less than stellar after my mother's luncheon that wouldn't end. At least now I know why every time we tried to leave there was suddenly something she just had to show us or tell us."

"She was my co-conspirator," Garcia said.

"I can't believe you went to all this trouble," Emily said.

"Garcia and JJ arranged everything," Hotch said. "We were just manual labor."

JJ came up for her own hug, and Emily was borne over to the rest of the gathering en masse. She looked past the guests at Spencer, who was taking off his shoes and Henry's. She grinned as they both climbed into the bounce house and began jumping around, Spencer's hair flying and Henry cackling with glee.

Spencer's willingness to discuss having a baby was a warm little glow in the back of her mind. Her cautious self kept her from getting too invested in the idea, but she knew her husband. Once he started processing and talking and thinking, she knew where it would lead, because once he started examining them, his objections and fears would start to seem less scary. But she wasn't rushing him. He had to do his own internal work. All she could do was give him the emotional reassurance he needed to make that leap to seeing himself as a father.

And what a father he'd make. He might not think so, but she knew better. His single-mindedness was childlike in itself. She didn't know another man who she could picture spending three hours on the floor assembling a complex Lego castle with the same determination that a six-year-old might display. She didn't know another man who she could picture reading endless books aloud and not getting impatient. She didn't know another man who would be downright gleeful at the idea of maintaining a carefully organized household schedule of the kind kids needed, with times and dates and lists and Post-It notes and synchronized Google calendars, never forgetting a doctor's appointment or a soccer game. Spencer had an image in his head of what a dad was supposed to be, and it didn't look like him. She would have to show him that the kind of dad he'd be was even better.

Pretty soon, there was a significant crowd in the bounce house. Jack Hotchner and some of the other children present joined in. Morgan and Kevin couldn't stay out for long, both of them popping out just long enough to drag Garcia in. Spencer emerged, his hair wild and his face flushed, laughing and waving off the entreaties for him to stay. "Hotch, you take my place," he joked.

"Uh…some other time," Hotch said.

Only the siren call of food emptied the bounce house, and soon everyone was chowing down on burgers and ribs from the grill. Garcia and JJ had engineered quite a spread, including a huge cake with "Happy Anniversary Emily & Spencer" written on it. The gathering settled into comfortable eating-and-talking-and-milling mode. The kids were back in the bounce house or playing on the lawn. Morgan and Will were tossing a football around. Designated bartender Rossi kept the drinks flowing. Their neighbor Carol was getting amusingly tipsy, as she always did at neighborhood parties.

"Present time!" Garcia crowed when everyone had eaten their fill. Emily only now noticed the table of gifts.

"Oh, you guys…you didn't have to get us presents," she said.

"I hope everyone followed the rules," Garcia said. "First anniversary's paper!"

She made them move to a more visible spot on the deck and everyone gathered around to watch. People had gotten creative with the "paper" theme. JJ gave them a handmade scrapbook for photos, with a few already in place. Hotch gave them a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant. Morgan gave them a book that Reid had to quickly hide from the eyes of the children present. Garcia gave them each their own gag calendars – Emily's was "Studs of the FBI" and Reid's was "Babes of the FBI." It wasn't until they opened them that they realized that every month of Reid's calendar had a picture of Emily, and every page of hers had a picture of Reid.

"This is going up in my cubicle first thing tomorrow," Emily said.

"I will divorce you right this second," Reid deadpanned, flushed red with embarrassment.

Finally all the gifts were opened. "But I think we still have two to go," Garcia said. "Our Steed and Mrs. Peel still have gifts for each other, I believe."

Emily jumped up. "I'll be right back!" she said. She dashed into the house to get her gift for Reid, excited. This gift had taken some doing, but she was sure it would be worth it. When she came back outside, Spencer had a wrapped box on his lap. She handed him the manila envelope containing his gift, and he handed her the box.

For a moment neither of them made a move to open them, just looked down at them. It was hitting her that it had really been a whole year, and here they were. She looked up at him. "Happy anniversary, Spencer," she murmured.

He gave her a sweet smile. "Happy anniversary, Em." He leaned forward and kissed her. Emily heard a few "aww"s coming from the guests.

"You first!" she said, holding on to her gift.

"Okay," he said. He opened the envelope and pulled out a few papers. Frowning, he looked at them. "It's…um…plane tickets and hotel reservations. We're going to New Haven, Connecticut?" he said.

"Yep," she said, grinning. He'd figure it out in a minute.

"Why are we going to Yale?"

"There's something else in there."

He reached in and pulled out a laminated badge. He looked at it, then his whole face went slack and his eyes went wide. "Emily! This isn't…"

"It is!" she said, grinning.

"Oh my God!" he exclaimed. He grabbed her and hugged her hard. Before she could hug back he had drawn away and was looking at the badge again. "You know how long I've wanted this?"

"Of course I do," she said.

"I can't believe it!"

"Okay, clue in the mundanes here," Garcia said.

Emily looked out at them. "The badge is a visiting researcher's pass to the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale. They own the only original copy of the Voynich Manuscript. It's a hobby of Spencer's. The manuscript isn't normally made available to researchers, it's kept in their closed collection." She turned toward him. "My mother knows some people at Yale. You'll have two full days to examine the original manuscript in their vault."

He was shaking his head like he couldn't believe it. "This is so amazing. I can't believe you did this. It's the best present you could have given me." He grinned at her, and she knew she'd done well. "Thank you," he said, and hugged her again, a little less spasmodically.

"You're welcome, sweetheart."

He pulled back and kissed her with enough emphasis that a couple of wolf whistles floated toward them.

"What's this manuscript?" JJ asked.

Reid cleared his throat. "It's a medieval text written in some kind of code that no one's ever been able to crack. It might just be a hoax, but if it is, it's a very elaborate one. There are a lot of theories but no one knows what it is or why it was written, or by whom. I've been trying to decipher it since I was a teenager. It's something my mom and I used to work on together." He put the tickets and the badge back in the envelope. "Well, my gift is going to seem pretty paltry after that."

"Don't be silly," Emily said. She tore the wrapping off and opened the box.

For a moment she just stared at the contents, tears filling her eyes. She could feel Spencer watching her. "What is it?" Garcia prompted.

"Oh…oh, honey," she sighed. She pulled out of the box what was clearly a vintage copy of "The Little House" by Virginia Lee Burton, her favorite book when she was a child. She hadn't seen it in many years, but she'd thought of it often. "My favorite book."

"I know," he said. "It's a first edition. And look at the flyleaf."

Emily opened the book and gasped out loud. The book was signed "To Emily, Home is where you are loved. Best Wishes, Virginia Lee Burton." She stared at him, at a loss as to how he'd accomplished this feat. "But…she died like forty years ago!"

He smiled. "I found a vintage copy that was inscribed to Emily."

She shook her head, tears running down her face. "This is so special. I can't believe you went to all that trouble." It wasn't just the trouble. The significance of him giving her a children's book was obvious, and looking into his eyes she saw that it wasn't lost on him, either. She hugged him. "Thank you," she whispered in his ear.

"This is so sweet," Garcia said, looking at the book. "Reid, this must have taken you forever to find."

"It was worth the effort," he said, smiling at Emily.

The gift-opening dispersed and everyone went back to milling and talking. JJ pulled her aside, as Emily had known she would. "He gave you a children's book," she said.

Emily nodded. "Yes, he did."

"Emily – are you guys…" She trailed off. "It's none of my business, I'm sorry."

Emily smiled. "We're – talking. That's all so far."

JJ smiled back. "That's a start. How'd you get him talking about it?"

"It was his idea."

JJ hugged her tight. "I hope you keep talking."

Emily chuckled. "You know Spencer. Once he starts talking, the problem is getting him to stop."

Suddenly Spencer appeared at her side and grabbed her hand, interrupting their laughter. "Come on."

"What?" she said, letting herself be dragged away.

"You're going in the bounce house with me."

Reid bent over and picked up Emily's foot, yanking off her shoe while she hung onto his shoulder, laughing. He pulled off her other one and kicked off his own, then grasped her about the waist and helped hoist her up into the bounce house, clambering in after her. "So I just bounce?" she said, looking unsure.

"You bounce!" he said, demonstrating.

She made a couple of experimental bounces, then a bigger one, and within a few seconds she was bounding up and down, her hair flying, laughing. "This is great!" she said.

He watched his wife flying through the air, unmindful of the tasteful clothes she'd worn to her mother's house, not caring if she looked silly. She reached out and grabbed his hands, whooping, and he pulled her around in a circle, bouncing the whole way. She beamed at him, her eyes sparkling with life and that look she had that was just for him, and Spencer Reid realized that he could no longer remember what it felt like to be lonely.


Well, that's it, faithful readers. I really appreciate all the kind comments and feedback I've received on this story. If you've been lurking, now's the time to pop up and give me a shout-out!

I have plans for additional stories, although none of this length. Again, I will not post anything until it's finished, but so far most of what I'm working on are short fics. Stay tuned. I advise you to put me on Author Alert if you want to get notified of future stories.

Chapter Notes:

1. The "the team from down the hall" and Spencer's friend Chaz are references to the brilliant CM-inspired web series Shadow Unit, which is about a BAU team which hunts paranormal phenomenon that are part of a pattern of anomalous genetic expression (it's not a fanfiction, it's 100% original). I highly recommend it. Chaz is sort of their analagous Reid character.

2. Emily's Sandra Bullock teasing is from the movie "Miss Congeniality." You can find the clip on YouTube if you've never seen it.

3. The
Voynich Manuscript is a real thing, and it is as I've described it, except I've exaggerated its inaccessibility a bit. I don't think any special dispensation is required to view it. But it's exactly the kind of thing Reid would really dig. It's on Wik if you're curious.

4. "The Little House" was my favorite book as a child too, and I give it to pretty much everyone I know who has a baby.

I hope you enjoyed this loooooong ride reading this story as much as I've enjoyed writing it. I have lots of ideas for Spencer and Emily, but long experience in writing fanfic has taught me not to make too many promises I might not be able to keep. I hope to have something new soon. Until then, happy CM fic reading, and if someone else were to write some more Reid/Prentiss, I'd be the first in line to read and comment!