Sunlight woke him. The bedroom was filled with it. He blinked and oriented himself. Oh yeah. Swank penthouse. Wedding night. He turned and looked to his side and saw his brand-new wife lying on her stomach, her bare back smooth and pale, her hair a tangled mess around her head. He doubted his own looked much better.
They'd really wrung each other dry during the night, physically and emotionally. The bed was in total disarray. A few plates and glasses were on the floor and on the night tables, relics of a three a.m. room service call for sustenance. He vaguely recalled answering the door wearing nothing but a sheet wrapped around his waist, signing the bill for a smirky waiter who'd no doubt seen many such scenes in his career bringing people food at three a.m. The waiter's knowing look turned into an out-and-out grin when Emily had called Reid's name in a sexy, low voice. "I'm waiting," she'd said, sounding like something out of a naughty sex comedy.
"Gotta go," Reid had said, grabbing the tray and shoving the bill at the vastly amused waiter and slamming the door right in his face.
He was dying for a shower. He hadn't gotten much sleep, neither of them had. His eyes felt sandy and puffy; there had been some mutual weepiness around five, by which time they'd damn near rubbed each other raw, physically and emotionally, and words had come tumbling out, uncensored in their fatigue and the heightened emotions of the night. She'd said things he'd longed to hear but feared he never would, he'd confessed things he'd sworn he'd keep to himself for fear of scaring her off with the intensity of his feelings. But lack of sleep was hardly a pressing concern. They were on their way to a private cabin where they could sleep around the clock if they wished.
He got up and went to the giant twenty-foot window in the suite. It felt profoundly weird to stand naked in front of a window like this, although he knew it was one-way glass, and anyway they were on the fortieth floor. Sunlight wasn't kind to Vegas. It made what was nocturnally glamorous tacky, and cheapened the illusion which by night masked the essential phoniness of…well, everything.
He wasn't sure how long he stood there, looking out on his first morning as a married man, but the next thing he knew he was feeling her hands slide up his back, then around his waist. He leaned back into her and felt her kiss him between the shoulder blades. "This is a nice view to wake up to," she murmured.
"Yeah. You can see the mountains from here, almost all the way to…"
"That's not what I meant," she said, giving his ass a squeeze.
He blushed a little. "Oh." He pulled her around to his side and put his arms around her, kissing her forehead. "I was just going to come get you up."
"Funny. I was thinking the same thing," she said, a glint in her eye. One of her hands snuck down and wrapped around his cock, which immediately sprang to attention. He opened his mouth to say that they had to get going soon, but she shushed him. "I know. We have to shower and dress and eat and pack and go say goodbye to your mother before we leave, and then we'll be on the jet, and then in a car, and we probably won't get to the cabin until late afternoon. Come on, Mr. Prentiss. I'm a newlywed. You can't expect me to go that long without getting some from my sexy new husband." She kissed his chin, then moved her mouth down under his jawline.
Reid's eyes fell closed as she stroked him. "Come here," he finally choked out, moving her in front of him. He pulled her back against his chest, hands on her hips. Emily braced her hands on the window glass and arched her back; he bent his legs and thrust into her.
"Ohhhh, yeah," she groaned. "Like that. Hard like that."
He felt a little thrill of exhibitionism to be having sex with her here in front of this giant window with the whole Strip spread out beneath them. He could imagine that anyone in a nearby building could look across and see them, see her and how beautiful she was, and see that she was his and that he could do this with her because she was wearing his ring and he was wearing hers, so take a good, long look.
Of course nobody could see in. But it was still a bit of a thrill.
They moved together, gradually shifting closer to the window until she was pressed up against it, her breasts flattened against the glass, her fingers splayed on its clear surface, and he could only imagine what that would look like from the other side. She reached back with one hand and gripped his hip, holding him tighter against her, grinding herself down on him until she gave a jerk and a shudder and yelled, gasping and saying something that might have been his name or might not even have been English. He felt her body pulse and grow wetter around him and his pace quickened, his hands rising to cup her breasts and feel where they touched the window glass. He bent and sealed his mouth on her neck, sucking hard, wanting to leave a mark. She held his head to her tight and rode the tide of his thrusts until he came with a groan, his hands going to grab her hips and yank them back into his groin.
She turned around and kissed him wildly, her mouth hot and demanding and reckless. He grabbed at her, his hand getting tangled in her bed-mussed hair, pushing her back against the window again. Gradually they calmed, nuzzling at each other's faces, rubbing their cheeks together, his stubble rasping against her smooth skin. "Mmm," she said, smiling. "God, if people only knew what sex with you was really like – I'd have to keep you locked up in the basement."
"It wouldn't be like this with anybody else," he murmured. "It's only you, Mrs. Reid." He kissed her gently, feeling her smile against his lips. He looked into her eyes. "Only you," he whispered, his meaning a little different, as she could tell, no doubt.
She sighed. "Well, now we definitely need those showers."
When Reid and Emily got off the jet at the Reno airport, there was a man in a uniform waiting on the tarmac. "Dr. Reid? Ms. Prentiss?" he said.
"Yes?" Emily said.
"I'm to drive you to Mr. Rossi's cabin," he said, motioning to the limousine sitting nearby.
Reid rolled his eyes. "Dave," he muttered. "Leave it to Dave."
"C'mon," Emily chided him, as the driver fetched their bags. "I think it's sweet of him. And it'll be kind of fun to ride in style."
"It isn't my style. Or yours."
"Live a little. It's our honeymoon."
Reid gave in and climbed into the limousine. It was well stocked. Emily poured him a brandy. He eyed it suspiciously. "Little early, isn't it?"
"Not for us, our bodies are still on East Coast time, where it is currently six p.m."
"The general consensus is that it takes the body as many days to adjust as there are hours difference. It's a three-hour difference and we've been here four days, so we are acclimated to this time zone."
She was giving him her well-practiced "you are exasperating but I forgive you for it" expression. "Just take the damn brandy, Reid."
The drive took about an hour. They spent most of it making out in the back seat. Their clothing stayed on, but Reid did get hands up her blouse and she got hers down his pants. The sound of gravel beneath the tires signaled that they were getting close, so they separated and smartened themselves up.
They got out of the limo and found themselves in a dense pine forest. The air was so crisp and clear it felt like it could cut you, and everything smelled clean. Emily took a deep breath. "Oh, man, I miss that smell," she said.
Rossi's cabin was not as rustic as he'd made it sound. It wasn't huge, two bedrooms, a main room and a kitchen, but it was tastefully decorated and comfortable, with all the amenities. The hot tub sat on a wide wraparound porch. "This is nice," Reid said, after they'd gotten their bags from their driver and bid him farewell. "Not sure why people would spend millions of dollars for a place out here, though."
Emily came in and took his hand. She pulled him out to the porch. Reid's eyes widened, and he had a literal experience of the common and usually exaggerated idiom "it took his breath away." The view was spectacular. Lake Tahoe was spread before them like a mirror, reflecting the mountains and the trees and the intense blue of the autumn sky.
"That's why," Emily murmured.
They unpacked and fell into one of the beds for a nap, barely bothering to undress, the stress and activity of the past thirty-six hours catching up to them. The sky was turning purple by the time they woke up, hungry and stiff from traveling and their previous' night's exertions.
They made dinner in the cabin's small kitchen, finding sandwich fixings in the fridge along with a wide array of other foods, many of them suitable for grilling, and a fair amount of alcohol. "Looks like Rossi wants us to get plastered every night," Emily said, eyeing the cupboard full of wine. There was white wine in the fridge, and plenty of beer, with more waiting to be chilled.
"I'd prefer to take it easy on the booze," he said. "Alcohol has a negative impact on the human male's ability to sustain an erection."
"Well, we can't have that. Looks like it's Shirley Temples for you, Dr. Reid."
"On the other hand, in moderate amounts it can lower inhibitions and enhance relaxation, both of which are conducive to satisfying sexual activity."
"Lower inhibitions, huh? You thinking of conducting another of your experiments?" she said, her eyes twinkling.
He shrugged, smirking. "If my test subject is agreeable."
"She just might be." She bent and kissed him before joining him at the small dining table in the kitchen. "Too bad we can't do our thing here."
"I know. It's not like we knew we were going to be here on our honeymoon."
"We could always drive into Reno. I'm sure there's a shop that would have what we need."
He looked across the table at her. "There are other things. Things that don't require a supply excursion."
She grinned. "Keep talking."
They finished the evening in the hot tub, its hot water and jets soothing their frazzled nerves and sore muscles. Emily leaned against his chest and they let their feet float, tangling their legs together. "Three more days of this," she murmured. "I may never want to leave."
"By the time three days have gone by, you'll be itching to get back to work."
"Hmm. Probably. But we should plan a proper honeymoon. Someday."
"I like this. It's – appropriate. Last-minute wedding, thrown-together honeymoon. Planning never seems to go so well for us. There always seems to be a case that comes along or some kind of crisis that messes it up."
She was quiet for a moment. Reid could feel a little tension come into her body, and he knew that she was going to talk about something she didn't particularly want to discuss but felt she had to. "Reid – I know we were both relieved when Strauss let us stay on the team together."
"I know I was."
"Oh, so was I. Don't get me wrong. But we've never really talked about how we're going to do that. We just assumed we'd have to split up, and then we didn't, and then we had cases and then this trip and now we're married and we've never talked about it."
"About what, exactly?"
She shifted around so she could look at him. Her face was flushed from the hot tub's heat. "I have nightmares sometimes, you know. Where I see you get shot, or kidnapped, or when I see you again in that hospital bed when we were afraid you'd die of anthrax…" She trailed off and swallowed hard.
"I have those nightmares, too. About you, I mean," he said, holding her hand underneath the bubbling water.
"I know we've been working together and dating for awhile, but – I don't know, everything's different now. It's going to be hard watching you go into dangerous situations."
"Are you saying you'd rather us not be on the team together?"
"No! That's not what I'm saying."
"If you were, that would be okay. If you think it'll be too hard to stay on the team together, then maybe we ought to voluntarily separate. At work, that is."
She shook her head. "I don't want that. At least when we're together I know what kind of trouble you're getting yourself into," she said, a little smile on her face. "If I was in another department, knowing you were out there but not knowing what was going on, always wondering – that would be worse."
He nodded. "We just can't let it affect our work."
She sighed. "I don't think I can pretend that I don't love you, that you aren't important to me in a different way than the others."
"No one's asking you to. We just have to do our jobs as we always have."
She slid a little closer. "I will. But you ought to know that if it ever came down to a choice between you and doing my job – well, you win, hands down. I can get another job. I can't get another Spencer Reid. They only made one," she said, a rueful smile creasing her lips. Reid just looked down at her, feeling a lump rising in his throat. She caressed his cheek. "They only made one," she repeated, in a low whisper. "And I feel like the luckiest woman in the world, because he is mine."
"Emily," he murmured, pulling her close to kiss her. She slipped onto his lap, her arms going around his neck as she kissed him back. He drew back a little. She saw his thoughtful expression and waited for him to speak. "You know me. Better than anyone ever has, better even than my mother. You know I don't believe in – well, much." She nodded. He met her eyes. "You're the first thing that ever made me want to take anything on faith. And that's hard for me. Harder than you know."
"I know," she whispered, her hand gently stroking his chest.
"I wish I could tell you that it'll be easier now that we're married, but I'm afraid it's going to get harder, because every day that goes by I remember less and less how I ever lived without you, and every day the thought of losing you is more and more intolerable. I'm trying to hang on to that faith, but I'm not used to trusting that." He sighed. "But I do trustyou. And I trust what we have."
She nodded. "I know you do. You know how I know?" He shook his head. "Because trust is the scariest thing in the world for you, and you fought that so you could be with me."
"I would have done whatever I had to do to be with you," he rasped, hearing himself a little hoarse with suppressed emotion.
Emily smiled and touched his face. "All you ever really had to do was be you."
He didn't know how to respond to that, so he just pulled her into another kiss. She came into his arms gladly, tucking herself close. He felt the world fly away, leaving them to their solitude, and he knew that he'd never have to be truly alone again.
four months later
Reid stood third back in the row of groomsmen, behind Will's best friend Marcus and Morgan. He felt like some kind of painted action figurine in a role-playing game, outfitted in the same exact tuxedo as his fellow groomsmen, and wondered again whose brilliant idea all these nuptial trappings had been. He suspected that the bridal industry had a nefarious hand in it somehow.
He looked across and caught Emily's eye; she winked at him. She was also in the third position, behind JJ's sister Carol and Garcia. JJ had considerately lined everyone up so that Reid got to walk his own wife down the aisle, a novelty considering that their own wedding hadn't featured any of the pageantry of this one, to his endless relief.
This one was a traditional American wedding extravaganza. Not as large as some. About a hundred guests. It still seemed enormous to Reid. Five attendants on each side. Behind Reid were two of Will's cop buddies from New Orleans, behind Emily were two college friends of JJ's. Henry sat in the front row with JJ's mother and father. Reid could see Hotch and Rossi sitting with the guests, Rossi beaming a proud smile, Hotch looking slightly less stern than usual.
He had to admit that watching Emily walk up the aisle had been – affecting. She looked jaw-droppingly beautiful in her strapless bridesmaid's gown, her hair up to show off her elegant neck and shoulders. She'd smiled at him as she walked to the front of the church, and for a moment he could imagine that she was coming down the aisle to marry him. Which she had already done, of course, but somehow in that moment, he almost got the point of all the pomp and circumstance. Morgan had elbowed him discreetly. "Mouth closed, pretty boy," he'd whispered. "Ogle the bridesmaids later."
The bride and groom were saying their vows now. They'd written their own, a task Reid had always been profoundly glad to have escaped – but now, listening to JJ and Will, he wondered if he'd been wrong about that. They weren't lapsing into treacly platitudes, but had each composed simple declarations that were heartfelt and meaningful. It might have been nice to stand before their friends and tell Emily exactly how he felt and why he was taking these vows with her. Then again, they'd had such conversations in private, and to his mind that was where they belonged.
Garcia was dabbing at her eyes. He looked at Emily again and found her gaze fixed on him already, her own eyes a little wet. He kept his eyes on hers for the rest of the ceremony. Hearing their friends take their vows and seeing them exchange their rings was a powerful reminder of their own wedding, the vows they'd been living with for a few months now, for better or worse, to love and to cherish.
Her lips moved silently. "522," he saw her mouth.
He smiled. "523," he mouthed back.
They sat together at the reception. Dinner, drinks, chatter, laughter, numerous glass-clinking kisses for the newlyweds. When it was time for speeches, JJ got up first. "I know it's not typical for the bride to talk," she said, "but what the hell. We've done everything else backwards." Laughter. "Some of you have asked Will and I why we finally decided to do this after all this time. I know there are those in this room who thought we never would – you know who you are." More laughter, good-natured and more boisterous than the joke really deserved. "Well, I'll tell you what made us decide – it was our friends, Spencer and Emily," she said, turning and pointing to Reid and Emily.
Reid sat up a little straighter, surprised. This was the first he was hearing of this. Emily glanced at him, eyes wide, looking just as surprised as he was.
"I can see that they're surprised to hear that," JJ said, grinning at them. Reid nodded, his arm around Emily's shoulders, and a light chuckle ran over the guests. "Those of you who don't know them, here's the short version. Spencer and Emily got engaged, and they went to Las Vegas to visit family, and while they were there, they decided they couldn't go another day without being married to each other, so they up and got married right then. I stood and watched them say the words, and they looked so happy, and so – decided. They'd chosen each other and it was a done deal. I started to wonder what was holding me back. I knew Will was the guy for me. I knew I'd chosen him. So what was stopping me from declaring it? From standing up and saying 'I choose you.'" She was getting a little choked up. Emily reached across Reid's lap and grasped his hand tightly. JJ cleared her throat and went on. "I guess I was afraid of it, a little bit. I don't know why. But seeing my friends do this made me realize I didn't want to go another day without being married to Will, either. So here we are. Thanks, guys. I love you both."
Emily blew her a kiss as she sat down again, but Reid was almost beyond response. "That's so sweet," Emily murmured to him. She frowned. "Honey, what? You look like you're about to cry."
"Oh, it's just – what kind of Bizarro World is this where I am a role model for other people's relationships?" he said, smiling ruefully.
"Cheer up. We've only been married four months. You have plenty of time to be clueless and unfortunate."
"Oh, good. I better get going on that." He leaned and kissed her smiling lips. He drew back slightly, staying close. "I'd do it again in a heartbeat, you know. Marry you."
She rubbed her nose across his briefly. "Me, too."
seven months later
Emily turned around from packing her own suitcase and looked. "That one," she said, motioning to the one he was holding in his left hand.
"Oh," Reid said, frowning. "I like the other one."
She sighed, exasperated. "Then why did you ask me?"
"I don't trust my own judgment."
"Wait, for which sweater? The one with the argyle?"
"No, the one with the stripes."
"Oh! In that case yeah, the other one."
"Maybe I ought to wear a suit."
"No one would recognize you. Sweater and jacket, that's your – what's the word? Your signature look," she said, putting air quotes around the term with her fingers.
"I have a signature look?"
"You've given this talk a million times."
"Twenty-six times. That's not remotely a million."
She rolled her eyes. "I was employing hyperbole to make my point."
"Emily, I have told you a billion times not to exaggerate."
He waited. She paused and then looked at him. "Did you just make an ironic joke?"
He grinned. "See what I did there? Liked that, didn't you?"
She laughed. "Yeah, I see what you did there."
Reid zipped up his carry-on, sighing and sitting on the edge of the bed. "I'm so glad you're coming with me, Em. I hate these conferences. The stale air and the bad coffee and the generic hotel rooms."
"Of course I'm coming. I come with you whenever I can. You come with me when I talk."
"It isn't fair, though. I give talks more often than you do."
"Well, anyone who claims that marriage is fair never had to live with a man who never forgets anything."
He frowned. "I thought that was a point in my favor."
"Ironically, it only makes me feel that much stupider and more inadequate when I do forget things because of my lack of a superbrain." He must have looked downcast at this because she came over to him and ruffled his hair, then kissed him warmly. "I love you anyway, don't give me that kicked-puppy look."
Reid picked up their travel itinerary. "I hate Dallas. It's so…Dallas."
"I know. Can't they hold these conferences somewhere awesome, like – oh, I don't know. Sedona? Or Aspen?"
"That one in Seattle wasn't so bad."
"No, it wasn't. I still have nightmares from the one in Cleveland, though. I wake up shaking in terror of being trapped in a never-ending convention center that goes on forever and I can't find the door." She zipped up her bag and set it next to his by the door. "We better go to bed. You know you get cranky when you travel without enough sleep."
"Don't talk about me like I'm a toddler, please."
"How else would you describe it? You get cranky. Own it." She took off her t-shirt and jeans and put on her nightshirt.
Reid glumly started undressing. "If I'm cranky it's because I'm imagining all the other things we could be doing with this weekend. Fun things. Relaxing things. Things that don't involve a PowerPoint presentation."
"C'mon, we always work in some fun at these conferences. We may have to spend our days attending lectures where nothing of consequence or interest will happen, but then we'll go out and have a nice dinner and profile the other diners. I'll sex you up in a hotel room, that's always fun."
He brightened a little. "It's fun at home, too."
She smiled flirtatiously at him. "Then hurry up getting naked, Dr. Reid, get your cute ass in this bed and service your wife. Chop chop."
"Yes, ma'am," he smirked, tossing off his clothes with a little more urgency. Tomorrow they'd have to get on a plane and fly to Dallas, where, as Emily predicted, nothing of interest would likely happen, and they'd come home and normal life would resume, but right now it was just them in their house and his sexy wife was holding out her arms to invite him into their bed, and Reid thought that, conference or no conference, his life couldn't get much more perfect.
Emily Prentiss had been to so many conferences that they were all a blur…
How to Fight Loneliness, chapter 1
Thank you all for all the kind words and comments. I'm glad so many of you were interested in Hobart and Mack; I may incorporate them into a Casefiles story in the future.
But here's the brutal honesty part. I don't know how much more CM fic I'll be writing. Other demands on my time are encroaching, I've got other things going on. I do have some more stories begun but I can't promise that they'll be finished, and I won't post an unfinished story. So I still have hopes to finish more CM stories but I don't want anyone to be waiting on tenterhooks. No promises, but still hopes.