A/N: Because the show pretty much dropped this prompt in our laps tonight. How could I not take advantage of it? Total Reid angst. Major spoilers if you haven't seen the last half of season six (and, well, technically 7.01, but not really).
He shuffles up the walk slowly, pressure building behind his eyes as he approaches the quaint abode. He halts at the door; considers turning away and forgetting this. But the thought leaves soon. It's not like he has any dignity left, after all.
His hand comes up seemingly of its own accord to knock timidly at the door. It's too late, he chastises himself in his mind. I shouldn't be here. There's no sound from inside and he actually turns away and takes a step before the door opens. A short pause, then a quiet, only half-surprised voice.
Reid freezes for a moment; doesn't turn towards her. He can't. "JJ."
She pauses again, and Reid can picture her tilting her head, brows drawn together. A hand lands on his shoulder, and he tries to contain his flinch.
"Spence… come in."
He stares wistfully out into the night once more, watching the stars blur, before he turns around. JJ gasps softly as she catches sight of his tear-streaked face, eyes red and puffy, skin nearly translucent. She fights a tightness in her own throat as her arms snake around him and squeeze. Reid lets out a breath, unable to move his own arms to return the gesture. She pulls away and steps inside, leading him through her doorway with a hand on his elbow. The house seems empty. Judging by the silence and the late hour, Reid guesses Will is asleep with the baby. JJ makes him sit on the couch in her front room while she whisks through the adjoining kitchen, coming back out with tea before Reid is even settled. She sets it on the table and sits next to him, angling so they can talk. Nothing is said for a moment, then Reid leans forward, ignoring the drinks and putting his elbows on his knees. His hands run absently through his hair.
"It—it's only been a week. It seems… so much longer sometimes, but—but shorter all at once."
JJ grips her hot tea tightly, briefly closing her eyes. She knew this was coming, but that doesn't make it any easier to get through. Spencer's soft, agonized voice cuts through her chest like a weak but sharp knife.
"I don't know what to do. With my mom, it was… different. I mean, sh-she went away, but not… not forever, you know? And I haven't…. I can usually harness the ability to objectify situations; you have to be able to in this job. But I—I… it's somehow not the same." JJ starts to reach towards him, but he rises from the couch, pacing and continuing to run one hand through his tousled hair. "You know, there have been countless studies on the effects of grief on humans. I've read through forty-three essays, and seventeen books on the subject. What baffles me is the sheer number of different perspectives prominent figures have to say. It's like they can't even agree on the degree of stress a single person has to get to before they have a complete mental breakdown. You'd think they could work through statistics like that, it can't be too hard, can it, I mean they have subjects and tests for things like this and the research itself is tangible, why can't they even—"
JJ stops him with a hand to his bicep. Her voice is choked.
He halts his movements, stares at her for a moment. His eyes fill again. "JJ, I can't do this. First it was the headaches and now this… I can't… I'm going to end up just like…" He abruptly turns and goes back to the couch, elbows again on his knees. But this time, he buries his face in his hands.
It only takes a second for JJ to regain her bearings, and she follows him back to his perch, placing a gentle hand on his leg. There are so many things going through her mind she can't even keep track. What headaches? She supposes Spencer means he'll end up like his mother—who else would he be talking about? Guilt ravages her being, but she keeps all of it bottled, and merely moves her hand to his back, rubbing softly.
"It's okay, Spencer. It's okay. Everyone deals differently. Just because you're having difficulty coping with the loss of a friend doesn't mean you're going crazy, or losing your ability to profile. Emily was important to you; to all of us. It isn't wrong to let that affect you."
That seems to be all it takes. He sobs once into his hands before he turns to her, looking all of twelve with his face red and wet, and wraps his arms around her, face to her shoulder. She holds him tight, her own tears finally spilling over as his soak the back of her blouse.
"JJ, I can't… she's gone, and I didn't… I couldn't…" He gives up trying to talk, merely crying for all his meager frame is worth until JJ is afraid he's going to strain something.
She does the only thing she can: hold him, hold back the guilt, and stroke his hair, whispering sweet nothings into his fragile ear until he can breathe normally again. He pulls back, looking somewhat abashed. She lays a hand on his face, wiping away a last tear with her thumb. She gives him a knowing, emphatic smile before picking up their unused cups and taking them back into the kitchen.
When she comes back, he's gone. JJ has the feeling it won't be long before he's back again.