Echoes

Chapter 11

Saturday dawned gloomy, but with a promise of sunshine to come. Reid roused himself slowly. He wondered if the few hours of sleep he'd managed were a help or a hindrance. Maybe they'd only made him more groggy. But after many nights without it, he was grateful for every minute of rest.

His nose followed the smell of coffee to the kitchen. He mentally thanked Garcia for convincing him to invest in a programmable coffeemaker. It had saved him on many a morning.

He was at a loss as to how to handle seeing JJ and Henry today. He'd been prepared to offer the superficial, pleasant persona he'd been bringing to work all week. It may not have worked all that well, and he didn't expect to fool JJ, but he could always hope it would be effective with Henry.

And then he'd read his mother's final letter and been completely thrown. All throughout his reading of her journals, Reid had found evidence that she'd known him much better than he'd thought. Known him, in some ways, much better than he knew himself. But to have encountered that letter, at this specific time in his life, seemed like so much more than coincidence. It seemed, somehow, like a plan.

How could she have managed that?

Last night, after the letter, Reid had examined himself through the eyes of his mother. She was so right about him. He was too willing to let life happen to him. Even his relationships with JJ and Henry had come about because JJ had initiated them. When it had gotten difficult between them, he'd pulled back. Once, he would have pulled back to avoid being hurt himself. Now, he'd pulled back so his presence wouldn't hurt them. Or so he hoped.

Well, I guess that's progress. He hadn't left cynicism behind.

Progress or not, it still left him alone, and the ache inside hadn't diminished. It flavored every part of every waking moment…..and there had only been waking moments, for days. He did his best to rehearse what he might say when he and JJ had their 'talk', but his brain wouldn't cooperate, and his heart wasn't in it. He felt like his heart had other ideas.


JJ had been having her own dilemma about seeing Reid. She'd grown so close with him before Henry's accident that she might have predicted what happened when Will went home with her and Henry. She'd been stuck in a situation she couldn't avoid. She couldn't deny Henry the presence of his father and, especially in the circumstance, she couldn't send Will to stay in a hotel.

Still, she hadn't been quite ready for the degree of devastation she'd seen on Reid's face. She felt she'd hurt him in a way she'd never intended, and didn't fully understand. When he wouldn't answer her calls in the days following, she's needed Penelope to help her process it.

"Jayje, didn't he grow up without a father? He probably thinks he's coming between Henry and Will. And you know Reid, he'd never allow that. He probably thinks he needs to step aside." She gave JJ a direct look. "And he thinks Will has stepped right back into his family."

Realization dawned. "Spence thinks he's lost us," and then, almost as an aside to herself, "and lost himself in the process."

Garcia was nodding. "Give my girl a prize. I really think that's it. And if I know my baby genius, it's killing him."

A sorrowful look crossed JJ's face. The last thing she wanted to do was to hurt Spence.

"But I thought we were so connected, Pen. He was as strong as steel for me when I needed him in the hospital. He literally held me together. How could he think I'd want him gone just because Will was there?"

"Because he doesn't want to stand between you and your happiness."

"What does that mean?"

Penelope was patient. "JJ, honey, I don't know if either of you realize it yet, but he's crazy in love with you. All of us…well, except Hotch….had a pool going about when "it" would happen."

JJ was astounded. "You were betting on us? For or against?"

Garcia had the grace to look embarrassed. "For, of course. The bet was about when, not if."

For a moment, JJ was speechless. As good as they were in the field, the team hadn't exactly learned subtlety when it came to personal relationships. Some of them had dropped comments indicating they were aware of her growing relationship with Reid, but she hadn't any idea they were finding it a source of entertainment.

Garcia was watching the progression of expressions on JJ's face and thought she needed to head off an explosion.

"We're all rooting for the two of you, JJ. We love you both, and we want you to be happy. And until this week, you looked like you could be happy together."

JJ seemed appeased. With a rueful look, she told Garcia, "I was beginning to think so too."

She gave a wry laugh. "Who would have predicted? He was so young and naïve when he first joined the team. I was only two years older, but you'd have thought it was a lifetime." Looking into the distance as she reminisced. "But so much has happened. He's changed, I've changed. Neither of us are the same people we were before. I have so much respect for him, Garcia. He cares so much, even when it hurts him. He's gentle with my little boy, and I love watching them together. And, get this, he listens to me, he actually asks my opinion on things and thenlistens to the answers. And I find myself always wanting to know what he thinks…about everything. It kind of crept up on me when I wasn't looking, but I think it might be real."

Garcia gave her a knowing smile. "Yep, my girl's been bitten." Shifting subjects, she asked, "Didn't you feel that way about Will?"

"Will." JJ rubbed her face. "Will. Will is a good man, Garcia. He's wonderful with Henry, too. But it never felt…solid. When I met him, there was an excitement that I hadn't felt in a long time. He's a great flirt and I was flattered that he was interested. And yes," she noticed a smirk on Penelope's face, "he is a great lover. Fireworks galore."

She shifted position. "But fireworks have their moment, and then they're gone. I don't know if we would have lasted this long if we hadn't had Henry to think about."

"Why did you split, JJ?"

JJ sighed. She'd never quite put it into words, even for herself. She'd just known it was the right thing to do.

"I guess a better question is 'why were we together?' I'd never planned to get pregnant…..not that I would ever regret having Henry in my life….but when I did, it felt like we had to do something about it. When Will quit his job, I guess I was hoping it meant we would be able to make a family for our baby. And, for a while, we did. But it's one thing to try to make a family for the sake of a child, and another to bring a child into a loving adult relationship."

"And you didn't think you were bringing Henry into that kind of relationship," Garcia finished for her.

"Henry was the reason for the relationship. That's too much pressure on a child, and it's not a strong enough basis for a life together. I was afraid it wouldn't hold, and I didn't want Henry in the middle of it."

"So you broke it off?"

"Mostly, I held back. Will wanted to get married while I was still pregnant, but something in me knew it wasn't right. It was a long time before he asked again. I think he knew it wasn't the right thing for us either, but he thought quitting felt like failure. One night, we had a long talk….a pretty tearful one. Both of us love Henry so much, we knew we couldn't let our issues hurt him. And we knew the only way to avoid that was to part, still friendly, and still able to be supportive of one another. We wanted to set that example for our son."

"Jayje, have you ever told any of this to Reid?"

"Only that Will and I parted as friends."

"Girlfriend, you don't have to take my advice, but here it is anyway. I think Reid needs to hear this from you. He needs to know that you and Will are not going to get back together as a family, that he is not in the way of Henry having both of his parents together. Because until he knows that, Sir Galahad will be determined to absent himself from the picture."

JJ pondered the wisdom of Garcia as she prepared for Reid's visit. She hoped it wasn't too late to have that conversation.


The door opened before Reid could ring the bell. JJ held a finger to her lips.

"He's sleeping." At Reid's questioning look, she added, "The doctor said he'd be more sleepy for a few weeks, from the concussion. He'll probably be out for a while. I'm sorry, Spence."

"It's okay, I can see him another day." Turning to go, he was trying not to look as relieved as he felt.

"Spence." There was a command there, and it stopped him in mid-stride. "We were going to talk."

He turned and faced her. Now that she'd gotten a better look at him, she was alarmed. The only word that came to mind was 'haggard'.

"Spence, have you been eating? Have you been sleeping?"

Time for truth. "Not much….of either."

"Come in and sit down." She nodded him to the sofa. He felt too weak to disobey.

"Spence, please look at me." When he did, she saw the familiar brown eyes, made strange because they were absent their usual light.

"Last week, when Henry was hurt, I was a mess. The only way I got through it was by holding on to you. You were so strong for me, and I was…and am….so grateful. But then Will came, and you disappeared. What happened?"

He was afraid to begin. He didn't trust his voice to carry him through it.

"JJ, I'm glad I could be there for you and Henry. I was afraid for him too. I probably needed you just as much as you thought you needed me. But when Will came….." he swallowed, "….when Will came, you didn't need me anymore. Henry needed his father and his mother, not me."

She stared at him. "I didn't just think I needed you, Spence. And Will's being there didn't change that at all."

JJ tried hard to keep a note of recrimination from her voice. "Henry has been looking for you. Even before Will went back to New Orleans, Henry was wondering why his Uncle Spence wasn't coming to visit him. Everyone else had been to the house by then….and he was missing you."

Reid had expected this to come up, but it upset him none the less. He turned to face her directly.

"JJ, the very last thing I ever wanted to do was to hurt Henry. But he has a father. How could I be in the way of that?"

She was beginning to understand, and now she had to find a way to make him understand as well.

"You know, you're right. Will is Henry's father, now and forever. He's a good man. He loves Henry and Henry loves him. But Henry also has a very big heart. He has plenty of room for loving you, too."

She paused for effect. "Which he does, very much."

Reid swallowed and JJ noticed a little light coming back into his eyes.

"When Henry says his prayers at night, he always includes you and Garcia. But last night, he wanted to add a special prayer just for his Uncle Spence. He asked God to make you happy again." JJ's voice broke at the last few words.

Reid looked away as he blinked back tears. He shook his head.

"I don't know what to say. And obviously I don't know what to do. I never wanted to worry him and I don't ever want to hurt him." Looking back at her, he added, "or you."

JJ sat back against the couch and sighed. "You know, Spence, for two people who don't want to hurt each other, we do a pretty good job of just that."

He didn't understand. "What do you mean?"

She looked at him, and then away again. Got up to flick on the fire, more to have something to look at than because she was cold.

"When we didn't hear from you …..and when you didn't answer any of my calls," she started.

Reid's eyes hit the ground. He'd not taken her calls to try to avoid saying the wrong thing. Now it just seemed petty.

"I didn't know what to think. I could see you were upset when we left the hospital with Will. I thought I understood why, but I clearly didn't understand how much. I felt like I'd hurt you in a way I'd never intended. And I didn't know how to make it right."

Reid continued his stare at the floor. He was looking almost as devastated now as he had then. JJ wanted to reach out to him, but remembered how skittish he'd been yesterday. She picked up a pillow and hugged that, instead.

She looked briefly at him. "Penelope helped me work it out. She thought I should tell you what I told her." She looked the question at him, do you want to know?

He eventually looked back at her. He wasn't sure he did want to know, but he nodded at her to continue.

And so JJ explained to Reid what she'd explained to Garcia, about how her romance with Will had both started and ended…..but leaving out the part about the fireworks. "He'll always be a part of my life, Spence, but he is not the center of it. My doubts are about how it will affect Henry. But I have no doubts about whether I should be with Will."

Watching him now, she added, "I just thought you should know."

Reid let out a held breath and stared into the fire. His mind was a jumble of racing thoughts. He'd just been told that the woman he loved was free to love him. But he couldn't assume that she loved him. Maybe she just didn't love Will. But then, why would she tell him this? How could he know?

His memory brought out his mother's final letter. Seek what you want. Take a chance on it. He was pretty sure he knew what he wanted. But he was terrified to take the chance. There was so much at stake.

Just then they heard the padding of little feet.

"Uncle Spence!"

Reid stood and Henry leapt into his arms. They hugged each other tightly, Reid grateful to feel again the weight of holding his godson and the clasp of the little arms and legs wrapped around him.

"Henry, my little man! I've missed you."

"Are you sick, Uncle Spence? You don't look so good."

"He's just kind of tired, Henry. Maybe you and Uncle Spence can play inside this afternoon, while I make us some dinner." She looked to Reid for his agreement to stay, which he granted with a small smile and a nod.

"That's right, Henry. Maybe you can beat me in a game of chess. And I just might have a new card trick for you….."

"Yay! I love card tricks!"

Reid hadn't realized how much he'd missed Henry's "Yay!" until he heard it again. Something was becoming right in his world.


The two most important men in JJ's life played the remainder of the afternoon together. At dinner, Reid almost fell into his plate from exhaustion. But JJ made sure he ate two helpings first.

Henry 'fooled' JJ with the same card trick four times in a row after dinner. Before he could start on a fifth, she reminded him that the doctor wanted him to have an early bedtime.

"Uncle Spence, can you read me a story?"

Reid yawned before replying. "Sure, Henry. What will it be?"

"I like this one, Uncle Spence." And he handed Reid one of his favorites, given to him by his godfather.

Later, JJ finished up in the kitchen and went in to say prayers with Henry. He sat up in his bed, looking at her with a grin on his face. "Shhh, Uncle Spence is asleep," Henry giggled. And indeed he was.

JJ was tempted to cover him up and let him sleep there, but Reid roused to Henry's giggle. After he'd spent a few moments orienting, he leaned over and kissed Henry good night, then got up.

"Maybe we need a more exciting story for next time, Henry." Causing JJ to giggle.

Henry said his prayers, and this time thanked God for bringing his Uncle Spence to see him. And for making him happier.

Reid gulped back the lump in his throat.


When they closed Henry's door, Reid told JJ he thought he should be on his way. She stopped him.

"Spence, no, you're way too exhausted. You'll have an accident. Stay here. You can sleep in the guest room or on the couch."

His body was in total agreement with her, but the rest of him was uncertain. He knew there were still things left unsaid between them, and he wasn't at all sure how to go about saying them. Staying, he was sure, would lead to that conversation.

His mother's words, live actively, not passively, were running through his head. Was this the time to take action? Should he tell JJ how he felt? Could he? Was he prepared for the consequences if she didn't feel the same way?

JJ joined him on the sofa. "Thank you, Spence."

He wasn't sure what she meant. "For coming to see Henry. You made him really happy."

He was smiling and shaking his head. "You've got that all wrong, JJ. It's Henry who makes me happy."

"I love that you love my little boy."

"It's not just your little boy that I love."

Yipes! Did I just say that out loud? Am I that tired?

Apparently, he had. JJ was looking at him. "Spence?"

He could almost feel his mother physically pushing him. If he was going to take a chance in his life, it had to be here, and it had to be now. Still, what if it didn't work out…

JJ didn't think it would have been possible for Reid to get any paler that evening, but it was happening. She thought she knew what was coming. And she'd considered how she had to handle it.

Reid leaned forward, facing into the fire. Several times, he looked like he was about to start speaking, and then stopped himself.

She could see how hard this was for him. She wanted so badly to reach out to him. But she knew that, this time, he would have to come to her. If they were ever to have a real relationship, it needed to come from both of them. It couldn't happen by default,…..he was going to have to claim it, to actively declare that he wanted her in his life.

He angled himself toward her. "JJ, I…..It's….I treasure the friendship we have. I don't want to lose it. But…..". His eyes searched the distance for the right words. "There's something…" putting his fist to his chest "…..deeper, in here, that feels like it won't let me go."

Her knowing smile encouraged him.

His eyes kept moving, constantly searching her face.

"You know I've loved you for a long time…..you and Henry both." That made them both smile. "But I think I need something more from you."

She teared up. Seeing it, his insecurities reared up and he worried that it meant she was about to let him down. He pulled back, so it might be less awkward for her.

"It's okay, JJ. It's all right if you don't feel the same way. I put it aside once, I can do it again. I just don't want to lose what we do have."

Despite his words, she'd watched his face crumple as he'd said them.

How can one person be so endearing and so exasperating at the same time? My genius.

She hit him with a pillow. "You dork! Of course I love you!"

He stared at her, stunned. He didn't know whether to laugh or cry. "You love me?" competed with "Dork?"

But JJ did notice that the light was all the way back on in his eyes now.

Those eyes studied her for what seemed like a long time. "You know, I finished reading my mother's journals yesterday."

JJ wasn't sure where he was going.

"She actually wrote me a letter...apparently she planned that I would see it after she died."

JJ encouraged him with a look.

"She had some really good advice for me, and I intend to follow it. She said, "When you're ready, the right girl will come along. When she does, make sure you take her by the hand."

As he was saying this, Reid grasped both of JJ's hands in his. Her eyes filled.

His own eyes overflowing, Reid made his declaration, took charge of his life. "You are that 'right girl' for me, Jennifer Jareau. I love you, and I want to make a life with you. Will you take a chance on me?"

It was a moment before she could find her words.

"Take a chance on loving my best friend, my confidant, my solid foundation? I don't think chance has anything to do with it."

She put her arms around him, and they held each other close. All of the highs and lows of the past weeks and months were caught up in the embrace. The tension finally released, they melted into one another.

Reid pushed JJ back. Gently, he took her face in his hands. His gaze moved back and forth from her eyes to her lips. Slowly, he brought her near, and finally their lips met.

Their first kiss was sweet, soft, tender…flavored by the salt from their shared tears.

The next, and the next, and the next…. felt like something else.

Not fireworks, really...JJ found herself thinking…...more like a hearth fire burning. Something warm, and bright. Something around which to build a life.

Reid was thinking too.

Thanks, Mom.

FINIS


The story continues in 'Reverberations'.