Reid was still suspicious of contentment. He waited for it to be shattered, for the inevitable insecurity or frustration to seep in and taint it. He was learning to take the moments of pure contentment when he could get them, because life intruded and they didn't last.
Now, for example, lying in the hotel room bed spooned up behind his wife after having made love to her, their dressy clothes strewn about the room, feeling the rise and fall of her chest as she dozed and how she snuggled close to him in her sleep, he was content. Yet his brain insisted on twirling, looking for a reason for him to worry, searching for a seed of trouble.
This reflex had been the root cause of one of the worst fights he and Emily had ever had. About six months into their marriage an offhand comment he'd made about her inevitable dissatisfaction with him had led to a shouting match and three days of anxious, angry tension before finally, on the third evening, they'd sought each other out and made up. Loudly, and several times in a row. He smiled now to think of that. The reconciliation had almost been worth the fight.
He glanced at the clock. Just after one. Gently, he shook her shoulder. "Em? Wake up."
She stirred, making a distressed little noise. "Hmmm."
"We have to go soon. It's just past one."
She turned over in his arms and he felt her lips on his neck, then her hand wandered up to stroke his face. "Hafta?" she mumbled.
"Well, if we don't, this will have all been for nothing."
She sighed. "Gimme a kiss."
He nudged her face with his own until he could reach her lips, then dove between them, kissing her with more gusto than she'd probably expected. She made a surprised little mewl before returning the kiss, her mouth opening to his and her arms snaking around his neck. When he finally let her come up for air she looked much more awake, if a little distracted and aroused. "Damn," she breathed. "You are one sexy bitch, Dr. Reid."
He chuckled. "It's a well-kept secret."
"Good. More for me." She kissed him again, less intensely. "I love you so much," she murmured.
He sighed. There was that pesky contentment again. "I love you, too. But now we have to get up."
Reluctantly, they rose from the warm, cozy bed and dressed in jeans and sweaters. They put on their coats and went out into the freezing November night, huddled into their scarves, walking as fast as possible across campus to the Beinecke.
The head security officer was waiting for them at an inconspicuous side entrance. "Is Dr. Fordham here yet?" Emily asked.
"Just arrived, ma'am. Didn't look too happy."
"Well, we'd rather be warm in bed, too," she said.
They stole down the corridor the back way into the security office. Fordham was there, clutching a cup of convenience-store coffee. "Now can you tell me why I'm here?" he grumbled. "And what's all this?" he said, gesturing at the several laptops hanging out on the security desk, showing views of the vault's interior corridors. "We don't have cameras in the vaults."
"You do now," Emily said. "Just some strategically-placed webcams. Pretty low-tech but the best we could do no short notice."
Fordham sighed. "The suspense is killing me."
Reid cleared his throat. "Dr. Fordham, the Voynich Manuscript is delicate and old. It requires controlled conditions to maintain its integrity, correct?"
"Whoever took the pages has not sold them. Which means they still have them. If they want to maintain their value, they'd need to keep them in controlled conditions. If you wanted to steal these pages but keep them somewhere secure, what would be easiest thing to do?"
Fordham's face went slack with astonishment. "Keep them here."
"We suspect that the thief stashed the pages somewhere else in the vaults. Given the difficulty in sneaking them out without folding, spindling or mutilating and the necessity to maintain their condition, it's the simplest explanation."
"So when I sent a memo that the missing pages had been found…"
"The thief would immediately suspect that their stash had been located. They would have to sneak in here and check. The most logical time to do that is at shift change, two a.m., and this entrance is the only one without a camera monitoring the keycard access panel. Someone could sneak in unobserved."
Fordham nodded. "Absolutely right. I still don't understand why anybody would take these pages in the first place, especially if they don't want to sell them."
Reid grinned. "Well, I think we can ask him," he said, nodding toward the laptop. Fordham and Emily looked. On the screen, Chase Gregory was skulking into the vaults through the side entrance, pocketing his ID card. Reid took a radio from the security officer and slipped it into his pocket. "Come on," he said.
The three of them went down to the vaults through another stairwell, the officer keeping them apprised of Gregory's whereabouts. "Are you two armed?" Dr. Fordham hissed as they crept through the corridors.
Reid just looked at him. "Yes, we are, but I don't think we'll need weapons to resolve this situation."
"Just checking," Fordham said, flushing a little with embarrassment.
The radio crackled. Reid had it turned almost all the way down; he had to hold it right up to his ear to hear. "He's gone into the restoration room."
"This way," Fordham said. They tiptoed down another corridor. "That'd be a good place to hide something. The storage areas aren't really catalogued or inventoried, everything there is waiting for authentication or reconstruction."
Fordham used his keycard to get them into the room. They could hear movement in the stacks. They just stood there and waited. Within a few moments, Chase Gregory emerged, looking relieved – but that relief fell off his face when he saw them. He drew up short, blinking and going pale. "Dr. Fordham," he said. His eyes fell on Reid and Emily. "Who are you people? You were at the meeting today."
Emily stepped forward. "We're with the FBI, Mr. Gregory. I'm Agent Prentiss, this is Agent Reid."
"I warned you not to involve the authorities!" Gregory said, looking at Fordham.
Reid and Emily turned to look at Dr. Fordham. He spluttered and stammered. "I don't...I don't know what you're talking about!"
"Yes, you do," Reid said. "He's been holding those pages over your head for months now."
Fordham looked on the verge of indignant denial, but then he just sagged like the air had been let out of him. "How long have you known?"
"Almost since we met you," Emily said.
"My first clue was when you said that my mother-in-law had spoken well of me," Reid said, smirking. "Have you ever actually met her?"
Fordham sighed. "Once. At a cocktail party."
"She wouldn't brag about me to a near-stranger."
"Come on, she likes you fine," Emily grumbled.
"We do all right, but she wouldn't go around telling random people how awesome I am."
She had to concede the point. "True."
"We also already knew that it was not you but Cynthia Mershon who approved my researcher's pass," Reid said. "You didn't even know who we were or what I was doing here yesterday."
"Not until Rosemary explained it to me when you asked to see me."
"You would never have let me see that manuscript if you knew who I was," Reid said. "You couldn't risk the theft becoming known, not because of the library's reputation but to protect Mr. Gregory here, who'd made it very clear that there'd be consequences if you made the matter public. But once we were there, you couldn't get out of it, so you took the opportunity to have us deal with it for you. What did Gregory threaten you with?"
Fordham nodded. "He said he'd burn the pages and that he'd take something else, I wouldn't know what until it was too late."
"Unless you gave him the job he wanted. Cynthia's job."
"I was promised that job when I was hired here," Gregory sneered.
"You were not!" Fordham said, leaping to his feet in indignation. "You were promised opportunities for advancement when merited! What, you think everything's just going to be handed to you?"
"Yes, he does," Emily said. "Because it always has been."
"Did you figure out it was him at the staff meeting?" Fordham asked.
"We had a pretty good idea it was him just from the background checks," Emily said. "But the staff meeting wasn't really for the staff. I was watching them, true, but Dr. Reid was watching you, Dr. Fordham."
He frowned. "But...you were behind me."
"I was watching your reflection in the window across the way," Reid said. "You knew that Emily and I would be looking for signs on the faces of your staff. Someone who really didn't know who'd taken the pages, as you claimed not to, would have been looking, too, to try and see what we might see. You never so much as glanced at anybody. You didn't have to. You already knew who we were looking for."
"We wondered if you'd taken the pages yourself," Emily said. "But it became clear that you were the victim in this scenario. Rosemary Battelle isn't someone who'd willingly conceal a theft, so if she was doing so, it was either to help you or because she was afraid you. You don't have a menacing bone in your body, Dr. Fordham. She must have been trying to help you."
He nodded miserably. "That poor woman. This has been very difficult for her. She's quite attached to that particular manuscript. I feel awful that it had to be her who discovered the theft."
"And when she did, she went right to you and reported it, and you had to tell her the truth."
"She just kept saying we had to report it," Fordham said. "But she was horrified at the idea that something could happen to those pages, so she went along with it."
"But she also went to Cynthia Mershon," Emily said. "Cynthia decided to take one for the team. Rather than risk the destruction of the pages and the library's reputation, she'd leave the library and open up the position so you could promote Mr. Gregory here."
"I had no idea she knew anything about this," Fordham said.
Emily walked over to Gregory and put her hand in his coat pocket, withdrawing his ID. She showed it to them; it was Cynthia's. "She gave him her ID so he'd avoid being implicated by a keycard entry record. The most insidious thing about blackmail is that it forces its victims to become accomplices. They have to make sure the perpetrator succeeds, or face the consequences."
Fordham hurried over to Gregory. "Where are the pages?" he demanded.
Gregory sighed. "Underneath that box of loose diary pages we got from the guy."
Fordham dashed into the storage room. Reid looked over at Emily and smiled. "Nice," he said. "With the ID badge."
"I thought it added a little dramatic flair."
"How'd you figure that? That one got by me."
"I saw them do a little dead drop at the staff meeting. Figured she was helping him get access without leaving a trail. She wouldn't do it out of altruism since she clearly hated his guts."
"You two are awfully pleased with yourselves," Gregory grumbled.
"Yeah, I know, you would have gotten away with it if it weren't for us meddling FBI agents," Emily said. "It's time for you to go to jail now."
The sky was going gray with the dawn by the time the police left with Chase Gregory in tow, arrested for grand larceny and blackmail. Cynthia Mershon had been notified that her job was still hers if she wanted it, and Rosemary Battelle showed up in tears after Fordham called her. She wouldn't go home until she'd been allowed to see the pages with her own two eyes. "Dr. Reid, you must think I'm so silly," she said, touching them through the protective sleeves Gregory had put them in. "But I swear it kept me up nights wondering where they were, if they were safe. Like they were people or something."
"I don't think that's silly, Rosemary. They're not people, but they're the only record of one particular person, and I think he or she must have been someone amazing." Emily watched his face as he said this, knowing that he really believed it.
Rosemary smiled and nodded, tears in her eyes. "Thank you for getting them back."
"It was my pleasure," he said.
Dr. Fordham came walking up. "I can't thank you two enough for your help. I wouldn't have thought to trick him into revealing where he kept those pages."
"Well, we're professionals. Don't try this at home," Emily joked, lacing her fingers through Reid's.
"Gregory didn't put up much of a fight," Reid commented.
"Oh, he probably thinks that his fancy family connections will be able to get him off with a slap on the wrist. Bugger of it is that he might be right."
"If it looks like it's going that way, give us a call. We know some people."
Fordham smiled. "I'll remember that." He reached into his pocket. "Dr. Reid, I have something for you." He handed Reid a badge. Not a temporary paper one, a laminated one. It said "Consultant" on it. "This is a permanent research pass. You can come back anytime you like and spend as much time as you like with the Voynich, or any of our other volumes that interest you."
Reid looked overwhelmed. It was like watching a kid get the Christmas present he'd always wanted. "I don't know what to say," he stammered. "Thank you!"
"You're very welcome. Although I ought to be apologizing to you, Agent Prentiss," he said, with a little bow at her, "if this means you're going to be regularly deprived of your husband's company on the weekends."
She grinned. "You let me worry about that, Dr. Fordham. I have ways of keeping him home."
later that night, after a train ride followed by a plane trip followed by a drive home from the airport courtesy of a grumpy Morgan
"You're going to miss it!"
"And wouldn't that be a tragedy," he grumbled.
"Reid! She's your friend!"
"No, she's not," he said, coming back into the den with a cup of coffee. "She's someone I once dated and lost touch with."
"Still, how often is someone you know on Letterman?"
He sat down next to her. "Rossi's been on Letterman twice. Charlie Rose four times."
"Stop being obstinate."
"I just can't figure out why you're so keen to watch this."
"You don't talk about her."
"What's to say?"
"Did you love her?"
He looked down at her. "Is that what this is about?"
"I'm not jealous, I'm just interested. Not in her, in you. She's part of your history and I'm interested in your history."
"No, I didn't love her. I liked her a lot. I was infatuated. I was twenty-four years old and she was...well, you saw her."
"What was she like, though? Besides blonde and pretty."
He sighed. "She was – fresh. She was enthusiastic about things in a way that appealed to me. She liked art and photography. She was obsessive about yoga and pretended to like bubblegum pop music while secretly she listened to Megadeth and Jacqueline du Pre cello concertos. She worshiped Rita Hayworth. She wanted to have a career like Meg Ryan without the tragic plastic surgery. Like a lot of young girls with daddy issues, she just wanted to be universally adored. Why she chose to start with me, I'll never know."
Emily smiled. "See, with just that little bit of information, she became a person. And she was someone who could have had any hunky slab of Hollywood beef she wanted, but you were the guy she went for. I respect women who see your appeal. And I say this with vast affection, but I've seen pictures. You're much hotter now than you were then."
He blushed. "I guess it won't kill me to watch her segment. But then I'm going to bed because I'm exhausted."
They settled in and sat through Letterman's monologue and all the fooforaw that went with it until finally, after a commercial break, Letterman sat behind his desk and introduced his guest.
"She's beloved of many frathouses from her years on 'Sandstorm Beach' but starting next week you can see her in her new film 'Tahitian Treat,' please welcome Lila Archer!"
Applause, applause. Lila emerged and waved to the crowd. She looked damn amazing in a swishy blue dress, clingy but modest, her hair loosely styled. She sat down in the chair and she and Letterman exchanged the usual pleasantries.
"So do you like New York, you come here often?" Letterman asked her.
"Oh, I'm a California girl, but I have a few friends here," Lila replied. "I came in yesterday morning to visit a college friend. Of course it's like a New York law that I had to bump into someone I know."
Emily elbowed him. "Reid, she's talking about you!"
"No, she isn't," he said, making a face.
"Oh, who'd you bump into?" Letterman asked.
She fidgeted a little and got a bit shy. "An ex-boyfriend of mine. Yeah," she said, off the audience's murmur of sympathy. "He was that one, you know? The one that got away?"
"Sure, sure," Letterman said. "Well, why'd you let him get away?"
"It was just one of those things. He isn't in the business, it was distance, you know. He lives out here, down in DC."
Reid harrumphed. "Okay, she might be talking about me."
"You think?" Emily teased him.
"DC, huh?" Letterman said. "It's the President, isn't it?"
Lila laughed. "No, no. Nobody famous."
"Well, was he at least broken down and decrepit and all heartbroken since you broke up?" Letterman said.
"God, no. In fact he looked better than ever." She sighed. "It was just like that song, you know? Meeting the man of my dreams and then meeting his beautiful wife?"
Letterman winced as the audience went "awwww." "Ouch, he was with his wife, huh?"
"Yeah! His gorgeous, amazing wife!" She shrugged. "But I'm glad he's happy." Then Letterman changed the subject and they were off in another direction.
Reid was just sitting there, stunned. Emily crunched up some popcorn. "Huh," she said. "I like her."
one week later
Office of Dr. Radikha Venkatesan
The waiting room was refreshingly neutral. He'd been afraid it would be chock full of baby propaganda, but then realized there was no reason for that. Genetic counseling was undertaken for a variety of reasons, not all of which had to do with childbirth.
Emily flipped through last week's Time magazine while they waited. They were due back at the BAU in an hour; he hoped this wouldn't take too long.
It'll take as long as it needs to, Reid. You want to be thorough.
Did he, though? What answer was he hoping to get from this woman? It was like that old psychiatrist's game when a patient was torn between two options. The psychiatrist offers to flip a coin, the patient calls it in the air, but then before revealing the results, the psychiatrist surprises the patient into the realization that there really is one outcome he's hoping for more than the other.
This wasn't quite a coin flip, but it was certainly bringing his murky feelings into stark relief.
The door to the office opened and a very pretty Indian woman came out. "Mr. and Mrs. Reid?" she said.
They got up and Emily shook her hand. "I'm Emily Prentiss," she said, subtly correcting the woman's nomenclature, "and this is my husband, Dr. Spencer Reid."
"Of course," she said, shaking Reid's hand. "I'm Dr. Venkatesan. Please come in."
They sat down in the chairs before her desk. "So you are a doctor, then?" Reid asked. "Most genetic counselors are not MDs."
"I have a PhD in clinical psychology, so in a manner of speaking, yes," she said, smiling. "Robbie Montrose referred you to me?"
"I was in a research group with Robbie at CalTech," Reid explained.
"She told me. She said you were the most brilliant man she'd ever met."
Reid squirmed a little. "That superlative is impossible to verify."
"Well, regardless, I'm glad she did. How can I help you?"
They exchanged a glance. Emily took a breath and spoke. "We're discussing the possibility of having children, but Spencer is concerned because his mother is a paranoid schizophrenic. There's also the question of my age. I'll be 41 in October."
Dr. Venkatesan nodded, making notes. "Well, those are concerns. Here's how this is going to work. Today I will take detailed medical histories from each of you and as much of your family history as you can give me. I'll send you home with assignments to get more family medical information, as much as you can. We may decide to do some blood tests. I'll have you back and we'll collate all the information and do whatever tests are required, and then we'll see where we are. Sound good?"
Emily nodded. "Sounds good."
The doctor looked from his face to hers. "So you're ready for some answers?"
Reid met Emily's eyes, then reached out and took her hand. "Yes, I think we are."
All right, y'all have been pretty stingy with the comments. Let me know you're reading. You must feed the beast if you wish it to write more fic for you!
Next up should be "Somewhere, It Hides a Well."