Casefile #1: The Frantic Friend
temporal note: This story takes place about a month after the end of "How to Fight Loneliness."
Part 1 (of 3)
Emily jerked awake, sucking in a startled breath. She wasn't sure what had woken her, but she felt Spencer sitting up next to her, so he'd heard it, too. "What the hell?" he muttered.
"What is it?" Then, she heard it. A loud pounding on the front door. She looked at the clock – it was after three. "Jesus Christ," she said, her heart hammering.
Spencer got out of bed. "Who is that?" he said, going to their bedroom window, which looked out on the street. It was pouring rain out, and just to add to the ambiance, a flash of lightning and a rumble of thunder outlined him in silhouette.
Emily got up. "Let's go see." He turned and they shared a look. "Yeah, I'm getting my gun."
"Right behind you."
She went to the gun safe in the closet and keyed in the combination. She handed him his revolver and withdrew her Glock. They went downstairs, flanking the staircase, the presence of weapons in their hands shifting their brains into tactical mode. Spencer stood to the side of the door as Emily cautiously put her eye to the peephole. What she saw stunned her, but it wasn't a threat. She handed him her gun. "We won't be needing these." He put both their weapons aside as Emily unbolted and opened the door.
Standing on the stoop was Germany. She was soaking wet, shaking, and looked like she'd just been shipwrecked.
Emily stared at her. "Germany, my God!" She reached through the door and pulled her inside. "What's going on? What are you doing here?" She shut the door and bolted it again. "What...what's wrong? You're soaked!" It was frigid outside, the rain an icy November downpour. Her lips were blue and she was wearing only a sweater and jeans.
"Emily, we can interrogate her later," Spencer said. "Let's get her upstairs and warm her up, get her some dry clothes."
"Right...of course," Emily said. The shock of seeing her best friend standing on her doorstep like a drowned rat had robbed her of common sense. "Come on." They each took one of her arms and she let them lead her up the stairs and into their bedroom, then through into the bathroom. Spencer started the shower running and heating up, then went into the closet, probably to get Germany some clothes. Emily helped her out of her sodden sweater and jeans, tossing everything into the bathtub for the time being. "Marv, what's going on?" she asked quietly, but Germany was still shaking too badly to talk much.
Spencer came back in holding a bathrobe. "Here, put her in this. I'm going to go put some hot water on and make some tea or something."
She took the bathrobe. "I don't know what's going on," she whispered, feeling a little scared.
He touched her arm. "It'll be okay."
Emily went back to Germany and helped her undress the rest of the way, then put her in the hot shower. Her friend's body shook violently at the warmth, then gradually relaxed. Germany seemed to recover herself a little and was able to wash her own hair. "I'm sorry, Em," she said.
"It's okay. Are you all right?"
She nodded. "I'll be okay. Just let me get myself together, here."
"There are the towels and there's a bathrobe for you right here. Come downstairs when you're done and we'll talk." Germany nodded, and Emily left her to finish her shower in peace.
Spencer had made cocoa. "Seemed like the thing," he said, handing her a mug. She sat down at one end of the living-room couch, tucking her feet underneath her. "Did she say what happened?"
"No. I think she must have had some kind of awful shock and came here without fully realizing where she was going."
"She drove here from Philadelphia in that state? It's a miracle she didn't drive off the road."
"I'm just glad she remembered where we live." She heard footsteps on the stairs and stood up as Germany came in, wrapped in the robe with her hair still in a towel and Emily's slippers on her feet.
"Hey," she said with a little wave, looking sheepish.
"Come sit down," Emily said. "Have some cocoa."
"Oh my God, that sounds good," she said. She came to the couch and sat down between them, accepting a mug and taking a few sips. Emily sat close to her side; Spencer a little further away but turned toward her. Germany shut her eyes and lowered the mug. "You guys, I am so sorry to just show up like this. I don't know what was going through my head."
"Can you tell us what happened?" Spencer said.
She swallowed hard and her chin trembled. Emily reached out and took her hand. "Simon left me," she croaked out. She put down the mug and her free hand went to her face as it creased into miserable tears. Emily pulled her head down to her shoulder, exchanging an alarmed glance with Spencer over Germany's head. Simon and Germany were one of those forever couples, the kind that seemed immutable and so perfectly suited that it was impossible to imagine one without the other. Simon had been part of their group at Yale and particularly close to Germany; the two of them had spent the five years post-college being roommates and best friends until one day they'd had one of those romantic-movie moments when they looked at each other and realized they were in love. They'd married six months later and had never looked back, living like the free spirits they both were, traveling and having adventures. They were childless and wealthy thanks to Simon's real estate savvy and Germany's gift for investment planning and their life was...well, it was out of a magazine. And always, they had been so in love. Simon doted on Germany and she worshiped him.
Emily couldn't imagine Simon leaving her. "I can't believe it."
Germany straightened up, nodding. "I can't, either. I was in Denver last week and I got home tonight and his clothes and suitcases were gone. He must have been watching because I wasn't home fifteen minutes before he came in and said he was sorry, it was over, he couldn't stay with me anymore and he'd send me the papers."
Spencer looked just as suspicious as Emily felt. "He didn't give any indication of this before?" he asked.
Germany sighed, her eyes on her lap, her hand clutching Emily's. "We'd been having some...problems. I even thought he might be seeing someone else. But nothing that made me suspect he'd just up and leave me like this! He hugged and kissed me goodbye when I left for Denver, and we talked on the phone a couple of times, he said he missed me..." Tears rolled down her cheeks. Emily hugged her again.
"It's going to be okay," she said.
"I don't know why I came here," Germany sighed. "I wasn't thinking straight."
"Well, I'm glad you did. Did you bring any clothes or anything?"
"I threw some stuff in a bag...it's in the car."
Spencer got up. "I'll get it." He headed up the stairs.
"You can stay here with us," Emily said, rubbing Germany's shoulder. She'd never seen her like this. Germany was always the one fixing things, comforting people, and being a rock. "We have plenty of room."
Spencer came down the stairs with Germany's wet clothes in one hand and her keys in the other. "I'm just going to put these in the laundry," he said, disappearing around the corner.
"Can I have your husband?" Germany said, with a tiny smile.
Emily smiled back. "No, sorry, he's mine. Anyway, you wouldn't want him. You want yours."
She nodded, the tears starting afresh. She turned and hugged Emily hard. "I don't know what to do," she sobbed.
Emily held her tightly. "Right now you just need to get some sleep. We'll figure things out tomorrow, okay?"
Germany nodded. "I'm so sorry I woke you guys in the middle of the night," she said.
Emily flapped a hand. "Tomorrow's Sunday, we can sleep in. You are going to get some rest and let us take care of you and we will figure this out, okay?"
She looked at Emily, her lower lip trembling again. "Thanks, Truff."
Emily smiled to hear her old college nickname. "What are friends for?" Emily gathered her up and hugged her again. She hoped she'd sounded confident, because she didn't know what she could do to fix this – if it was fixable.
Once Germany was tucked into the guest bedroom, Emily and Spencer went back to bed. She locked their guns back in the safe and crawled under the covers. "Man," she said, settling close to him. He wrapped one arm around her shoulders. "I'm in shock."
"I only met Simon that one time, but it sure seemed like they were happy."
"They were. They've always been. I would have bet my life on it."
An uneasy silence fell between them. Emily's mind was racing. Germany and Simon were happy and in love. Spencer and I are happy and in love. If it could just suddenly end for them, could it be me someday showing up on Germany's doorstep?
He pressed his lips to the top of her head. "I'll never leave you, Em," he whispered, like he knew what she was thinking.
"I'm sure Simon said that to Germany at some point."
"Let me rephrase. I'd never leave you without a fight. If we were having problems I'd try to fix them, I'd claw and scratch and do battle for us as long as I had to."
Emily propped up on one elbow and looked down at him. "We can't know what'll happen in ten years or twenty years. We could be where they are someday. I can't imagine it now, but no one ever can when it's new and they're in love."
"So what do we do?"
"I guess we take it one day at a time. No other choice." She lay back down and he drew her into his arms again.
"Maybe there's something else going on here," he murmured after a few minutes, one of his hands softly stroking up and down her back.
"What do you mean?"
"Seems awfully sudden."
"That's for sure."
"What if Simon's in some kind of trouble? What if he had some other reason for needing to get away?"
Emily sighed. "Is it horrible to hope that he is in some kind of trouble? It'd be a less confusing explanation for Germany."
"If he is, maybe we can help."
"I'll call Garcia tomorrow and see what she can find out."
"We should get more information from Germany about how he's been acting and why she thinks he was seeing someone else."
She turned her head so her nose brushed his. "Thanks for caring. She's my friend, after all."
"Well, all my friends are pretty much our friends, so why not her, too?"
Emily angled her jaw forward and kissed him, drawing it out slow. She held his gaze for a moment, a wordless conversation going on between their eyes. He turned on his side and they wound themselves tightly together, slow kisses turning into hard ones, their hands on each other beneath the covers warming their skins. He eased her over onto her back, his lithe body pressed against her from toes to chest. "Oh, Spencer," she sighed, pushing thoughts of Germany out of her mind.
Reid wasn't very good at sleeping in, a fact that caused Emily no end of consternation. "Get some extra sleep," she'd say. "It's the weekend, relax." And then she'd roll back over and snooze happily. He couldn't do it. Once he was awake, he was awake. There was always something he could be doing.
This morning Emily didn't stir at seven thirty when his eyes snapped open, right on schedule. He sighed. His brain could have given him an extra half hour after the interrupted night they'd had, but noooo, it was up and at 'em, Dr. Reid. He looked over at Emily, asleep on her back with her hand curled near her face, the morning light illuminating each tiny hair on the smooth skin of her bare breasts. His hands itched to touch them. His morning wood helpfully suggested that he kiss her awake and get them both started on their day with smiles on their faces, but it was overruled. They'd had some very satisfying sex just hours ago, after settling Germany into the guest bedroom. No need to get greedy.
He got up and put on cords and a button-down, his usual weekend uniform, and headed downstairs to make a pot of coffee, the first of many. He was just filling the percolator when he heard footsteps enter the kitchen.
When he turned, there was Germany, cocooned in the robe they'd given her with an afghan wrapped around her shoulders for good measure. She looked like hell. Spencer had always thought Germany was beautiful, in a vaguely intimidating Olympic-swimmer sort of way, but right now her face was blotchy and puffy and her hair was standing in alarming whorls around her head. "Good morning," he said.
"I heard you get up. I thought coffee might be a possibility."
"In this house, it's not a possibility, it's a guarantee."
She took a seat at the island. "I'm a little disappointed in you, Spencer. Here I thought you were a real coffee drinker. Just a regular old percolator?"
"I'm trying to convince Emily that we should get an espresso machine installed. With a dedicated steam line."
"She doesn't want one?"
"No, it's not that. She's afraid if we have one, I'll never leave the house again." He turned on the coffeepot. Germany sat at the island, fiddling with a loose yarn on the afghan. "How did you sleep?" he asked, gently.
She sighed. "About like you'd expect."
He nodded. He didn't know what else to say.
"You're an expert on human behavior, right?"
Reid leaned forward, elbows on the counter. "I am. But I don't think behavioral analysis is what you're looking for right now."
"I know. I just want to know why. I want to know what happened to us."
"Well...Emily and I are going to do everything we can to help, you know that, right?"
Germany nodded. She finally looked up and managed a small smile. "You're a sweet guy."
"Thanks," he said, his face reddening.
"You know, we used to worry about Emily. Well, not worry, exactly. She was fine on her own. But we wondered if there'd ever be anybody for her. She's amazing, and she deserved someone who appreciated her. Some of the guys she dated..." She shook her head. "When she told me she was dating a man she worked with, I thought oh boy, here we go again. But she said no, he's different, he's special."
"She said that?" he said. It was a little silly that he could get blushy and stammery on hearing that Emily had said nice things about him ages ago. She obviously had a good opinion of him or she wouldn't have married him, but he couldn't help feeling that age-old shimmer of excitement, the one that sounded something like hee hee, the pretty girl likes me, maybe I'll get to kiss her, all the guys are gonna be soooo jealous.
Germany nodded. "I took it with a grain of salt. The more she told me about you, the more I thought this might be different, because you aren't her usual type. When she told me she was going to marry you, it seemed fast to me. I told her to take a deep breath, to think about this carefully. She said she didn't have to. She said...she said you were her Simon. She knew I'd get what that meant."
Reid watched helplessly as Germany's face creased in misery again and she began to cry. She hid her face in her hands and turned partly away. "I'm sorry," she choked out. "I never do this."
He went around the island and hugged her, not knowing what else to do. He just knew that when Emily was upset, he couldn't go too far wrong with a hug. Germany leaned against him and wept, waves of self-consciousness emanating from her. She was a tough woman, self-possessed and resilient, and he knew she must really hate being seen at a low moment. What Simon had done had really cut the legs out from under her, as it would anyone. He couldn't imagine coming home and finding that Emily had left him. The very thought made him sick to his stomach.
It felt weird to hold a woman other than Emily. He was hyperconscious of the differences. Germany was much taller than his wife was, almost his height, and sturdier. It felt like if she leaned too far forward she'd knock him right over. After a few minutes, she pulled herself together and pulled back, swiping at her eyes. Reid handed her a paper towel and she blew her nose. "Thanks," she said, her voice thick. "I think I needed that."
He patted her shoulder and went back around the island to pour their coffee. "I'm very sorry about all this," he said, setting a cup in front of her and going to the fridge for cream and sugar for himself.
"It isn't your fault. Just don't ever change, okay? Simon used to be my evidence that not all men are shits, but now you might have to take over that job."
"I don't think I can stand up for the worthiness of my entire gender."
They drank their coffee in silence for a moment. Germany was eyeing him with a look that he recognized. She was done feeling sorry for herself for the moment, so now it was time to Work Shit Out, as she called it. "Just don't you ever do to her what Simon's done to me."
Reid shook his head. About that, he could be confident. "I won't."
Emily came shuffling in, looking sleepy. She went right to Germany and hugged her from behind, wrapping her arms around her afghan-draped shoulders. "Morning," she said.
"How's my girl?"
"Surviving. Your husband is helping restore my faith in the male gender."
Emily straightened up and smiled over at him. "Yeah, he's handy like that. Listen, Spencer and I were talking last night, and there might be something we can do to help figure this out."
Germany looked a little hopeful. "Like what?"
"Well...we have a friend who can dig into Simon's financials and maybe figure out what's been going on. And I'd like to do a cognitive interview with you. It's a technique where I'll help you get back into the situation so you can better recall exactly what Simon said to you and when, and how he acted, and we might be able to...well..."
"Profile him?" Germany said.
She squirmed on her stool. "I don't know, Emily. It's a little creepy. Spying on him, hacking into his life, profiling him? He isn't a serial killer."
Emily sighed. "No, he isn't. But if he's divorcing you, then you need to protect yourself by going into this with as much information as possible."
"You don't think Simon would try to cheat me, do you? He said he wanted a fair and painless divorce."
"I know he said that. But a week ago I would never have thought he'd leave you. I don't know what to think now. I just want to protect you."
Germany nodded. "You guys must already be suspicious if you're suggesting all this."
Emily glanced at him. Reid cleared his throat and chose his words carefully. "The way he left seems out of character. It makes me suspect that he's employing what we might term the 'pre-emptive strike' approach. Leaving you suddenly and without any warning, so that you'll be so off-kilter and shocked that you won't have the presence of mind to investigate or to contest anything, and once the papers are signed it's too late."
Germany looked stricken, like she hadn't considered this. "Maybe, yeah. I guess I ought to know the real score, huh?" She sighed. "Okay. You guys do whatever you think will help. I'm going to go upstairs and take a shower."
"Don't you want some breakfast first?" Emily said.
"I'm not hungry," Germany said, shaking her head. She got up and shuffled out of the room, her steps dispirited. Emily watched her go, her fingers tapping on the counter.
Reid put his hand on her shoulder. "She'll be okay," he murmured.
"Dammit, I could kill Simon," she said. "How can he do this to her? What isn't he telling her?"
"I don't know."
"Well, I'm going to find out." She took a deep breath and let it out, then turned and smiled at him, putting Germany's troubles aside for a moment. "Good morning, Dr. Reid."
He kissed her. "Good morning, Mrs. Reid. You're up earlier than I thought you'd be."
"I was hoping to be up before Germany, but no such luck." She put her arms around his waist and hugged him. "You're the best husband ever."
He hugged her back with one arm, his other hand still holding his coffee cup. "I don't think your one data point is enough to make that judgment. How do you know?"
"Because I stopped being envious of Germany the day I married you."
By ten o'clock everyone was dressed and fed. Germany had been persuaded to at least have some toast, and Spencer had slipped a poached egg onto her plate too, which she'd eaten without comment. She'd then gone upstairs to make some calls, leaving Emily to plan her cognitive interview. "How far back should I take her?" she wondered aloud, sitting in the leather recliner in the library, making notes on a legal pad.
"I'd go back a month, at least."
"I'm going to go back stepwise, one day at a time."
He nodded. "That'll help her remember."
"Did you call Garcia?"
"Yep. She's having lunch with her brother but she said she'd be over right after."
"Oh, her brother? Which one?"
"Tony. He's in town for a convention. She and Morgan are taking him to Hamburger Hamlet."
"Oh, man. One of those burgers sounds really good right about now."
"Wanna go later? Maybe Germany would appreciate getting out of the house."
"Hmm. Yeah, maybe." She craned her neck. Spencer was sitting at the table with his back to her. "What are you doing?"
She smiled. "You're doing Voynich stuff, aren't you?" The anniversary gift she'd given him, two days' access to the mysterious Voynich Manuscript at Yale University, was coming up in a few weeks. He'd been trying to be cool about it but she could see that he was getting more and more impatient.
"Umm...I might be."
She got up and leaned over him, sliding her arms around his shoulders from behind. "It's okay to be excited," she murmured in his ear, placing a quick little kiss on his cheek.
"I'm supposed to be working on my article," he said.
"You've got a month until that's due and we both know you could finish it in six hours if you decided to."
He smiled. "I am excited about the manuscript. I've been making a plan of exactly which pages I want to examine more closely and what I want to look for."
"What do you hope to see that you can't see on the high-res online images? Or the copies?"
"I don't know. That's the exciting part. Maybe nothing, but maybe something." He twisted in his chair, pulled her around and down onto his lap. "I'm glad you're coming with me," he said, his hand stroking her hip.
"Someone has to mind you and make sure you come out of that library long enough to eat something and sleep."
He grinned. "Oh, you think you're going to get any sleep while we're up there? That's so cute."
Emily wasn't quick enough with a snappy retort before he swooped in and pulled her into a deep kiss. Her toes curled and she drew up closer to him, grasping his shoulders and pulling herself tighter onto his lap. His arms went around her back and she plunged her tongue into his mouth, tangling one hand in his hair. His hand that wasn't supporting her back wandered up and down her side, around to cup her ass, then up to her breast for a quick grope, then back around and over again. It was maddening.
Predictably, a footstep in the doorway made Emily jerk away. Germany jumped back. "Oh, geez...sorry, guys, didn't mean to interrupt your making out."
Emily scrambled off Spencer's lap. "No, you didn't – it's okay, we weren't, uh..."
"You were just talking, right?" Germany said, a hint of a smile coming to her lips.
Emily glanced down at Spencer, red-faced and suddenly fascinated by the book in front of him. "It's no big deal. We can make out anytime." She nudged him in the shoulder with her elbow. "Right, honey?" He just gave her The Eyebrow. "Come on, I need some more coffee," she said, steering Germany back toward the kitchen. "The one constant in this house is that there is always coffee."
"Spencer told me he wants an espresso machine," Germany said, retaking her earlier seat at the kitchen island.
"Actually, I'd love to get one, but I'm fighting the good fight. It's bad enough we have a Viking stove and a SubZero fridge. I don't want to be one of those homeowners, you know. With the gadgets and the yuppie toys."
Germany laughed. It did Emily's heart good to hear it. "Truff, I think that ship sailed when you moved into a house with its own library."
"Yeah, maybe so."
"And are you a homeowner? I thought you said this was his house."
"He's my husband, what's his is mine and vice versa, although I'm sure he doesn't care about his half-ownership of my comprehensive collection of The Cure's albums on vinyl." She cocked her head and peered at Germany, who was examining the countertop with great interest. "What is it?"
She sighed. "Emily, I – I feel like I owe you an apology. Not just you, Nora and Kate, too."
"Because all these years, in my heart of hearts I've been – oh, what's the word? Smug. I've been smug about my life. Kate makes six figures, but she's been married three times and it looks like she's going to go three for three on messy divorces. Nora's husband is a waste of skin but she can't be bothered to get rid of him, and her kids are – sorry, but they're horror shows, both of them." Emily nodded, privately agreeing. "And you have a great job you love, but you were single so long and kept dating losers. I hate to be so blunt, but you did."
"Hey, no argument from this quarter."
"I love and support all of you, but in my secret self I felt just a little bit superior about my life, my perfect husband, my wonderful marriage, everything was just peachy keen. I'd get off the phone with Kate after she'd had another blow-up with whichever husband or with Nora when she was at her wit's end with her kids and I'd think, thank God my life's in such good shape." She sniffed. "I guess I'm being punished for thinking so well of myself. You'd be perfectly justified in lording it over me now. I mean, look at you. Here you are fighting evil and catching bad guys and living in this gorgeous movie-set house with your thirty-year-old genius FBI agent fashion model of a husband and my supposedly perfect life is in shambles." She met Emily's eyes. "I don't mean to sound bitter. I'm so happy for you, you know I am. But seeing you guys look at each other, it's so obvious you're so in love – all I can think about is that I had that. I thought it was forever. But in the course of one day, it all fell apart."
"No, it didn't," Emily said, leaning forward to take her hands. "Not for Simon. This didn't happen in one day, you just weren't aware of it happening. We're going to figure it out, okay?"
"Maybe I don't want to know. Will knowing why somehow make it right again? I don't even know what 'right' is anymore. Do I even want him back if he could do this to me?"
"The more I think about it, the more I'm sure there's something else going on here, Germany. This just isn't like Simon."
"Not like the Simon I know, anyway. But what if I don't really know him? What if the man I thought I knew and loved was just some kind of a mask?" She swiped at her eyes. "I'm sorry, I'm being defeatist."
"Yes, you are. And that isn't like you."
"I guess I've never faced down this kind of defeat." She looked up at Emily. "Can we just talk about something else for a minute?"
"I haven't talked to you since your anniversary party. Any progress on the kids front?"
Emily sighed. "I'm letting him come around to his own decision."
"I can't help but think you should have some say, too."
"He knows how I feel. I can't dictate how he feels or try to force him around to my opinion. I wouldn't want to."
Germany nodded. "That sounds very mature, very adult, very thoughtful. Except that I know you desperately want to have that man's little genius babies."
"I can't let my emotions take over in this situation."
"Emily, if ever there was a topic to get emotional about, this is it."
"Not if I want him to be in this with me." She refilled her coffee cup. "I'm trying not to get my hopes up, but honestly? I think it's going to happen. I think he's going to eventually decide that he wants it, too."
"How do you know?"
"Because he already does, secretly. He's just covered it up in fears and misgivings and self-doubt. He's never really had to consider it before, because it wasn't an option for him until we got together. Right now my job is to stay out of his way until he gets used to the fact that he's not actually the guy the world made him believe he was."
Author's Note: I have at least four of these short Casefile fics started up. I will be posting them all under this umbrella series title so they'll be easy to find. I also have a few more substantial followups to "How to Fight Loneliness" in the works. These Casefiles are more for fun.