The loud noises that seemed to be even louder considering Spencer was just sleeping, echoed throughout the room although the agent beside him didn't seem to flinch. He was thankful for that. He picked up his cell phone to find a new message from JJ. He feared opening it in case it indeed was a new murder or set of murders or an abduction or anything that could relate to or be a new case.
'PPW Day :)' read the message. He sighed a heavy, relieved sigh and fell back onto the pillow. Paperwork day. Beside him, she stirred slightly and he cursed at himself internally for not being more sensitive and quiet. She rolled over and snuggled into his chest, listening intently to the sound of his heartbeat. He rubbed her back slightly, still not as comfortable in the role he was now playing. He liked her, he truly did, but he didn't know how to act or what to do. He hadn't been in this situation enough times especially not with a friend and co-worker. However, he was determined to figure things out and to make it work. He couldn't let her slip away. Spencer wanted to be everything she wanted and needed, because already she had proved she was that to him.
Still laying on his chest, she looked towards his face and pecked his jawline quickly. He turned his head to smile at her. She took this opportunity to kiss his lips like she had before in the parking lot. As usual he was a bit shocked, but eased into everything. She pulled away and sat up against the headboard of the bed, causing him to do the same.
"What time do you want to go in?" he asked setting a hand on her leg very cautiously. She paused, staring at him in bewilderment. He quickly glanced towards his phone and she immediately turned to grab hers. After reading the message for about a second and a half, a smile coated her face. He watched her fill with excitement, but watched it fade as well. It was like her entire world had been built and destroyed within seconds in front of his eyes.
"What's wrong?" he asked after witnessing that kind of transformation.
"It's just...it'll probably be today." she sat cross-legged and held her head in pure frustration. Her stomach grew uneasy. He was about to ask what she was talking about, then it hit him. Her reaction was so powerful. She was afraid today would be the day Strauss brought her in to discuss her position at the BAU and with her current team. He forgot about it for a while. He hated how he had the luxury of forgetting such things that she just didn't have. He lightly rested a hand on her back as she quietly sobbed to herself.
"You know what? Let's go. I mean I'd rather get it over with than kill myself by prolonging this. I'm sorry, Spencer, but I can't do this anymore." she said, wiping at her eyes and crawling towards the edge of the bed. He nodded, but watched as she collected herself, then traveled to get herself ready. It killed him to see her like this, but there wasn't anything he could do to take away the fear she had at this moment. There were no cases in the way. Strauss had opportunity and it wasn't like her to deny opportunity. Not to mention the agent in question had already confronted the woman and threw her concern back in her face. Strauss had to be furious.
She walked around the room grabbing her things and headed to the shower. Spencer watched helplessly. He needed to do something. Instantly, he took out his phone, dialing Morgan.
"Hey Pretty Boy. Everything alright? You got JJ's text, right?" Morgan asked answering the phone.
"Yeah I did. Listen, that's kind of the problem. Nicole - she's freaking out. She thinks Strauss might try and conference with her today and I think she might too. We need to do something. If we don't, she's going to be kicked out the FBI or at the least to another team." Spencer spoke in a quickened, whispered tone in fear she might hear him. He wanted to keep everything on the down low. She told him she didn't want the team interfering with this one, but he couldn't sit and watch her face consequences that were undeserved.
"Alright I'll talk to the rest of the team and get back to you. We'll sort this thing out Pretty Boy. You can count on that." Morgan hung up and Spencer felt slight relief for the moment. He knew Morgan was the one to talk to. He wasn't one to give up, especially when it came to this girl. His best friend.
After her shower, she walked out to see Spencer sitting on the bed, seemingly lost in thought.
"Spencer? Spence are you okay?" she asked, hurrying over towards him. At her touch, he seemed to snap out of it immediately, touching her hand which laid on his cheek.
"Y-yeah. Yeah I'm sorry. I'll be ready in five." he stood up pretending as if nothing was wrong, and readied himself. She was upset at this, but couldn't let anything else get to her at the moment. His approximation was dead on and within 6, they were out the door and on the road.
"Are you sure you're okay?" she asked breaking the silence they had become so accustomed to. They could never say the wrong thing when they said nothing at all. For a while that seemed pretty good, but only temporary. At heart, they both knew this to be true.
"Yeah, fine." he said, no hint of deception in his voice. She nodded and folded her hands in her lap. Minutes passed and the silence once returned, but not for long.
"What about you?" he asked, concerned and curious at the same time.
"Hmm?" she knew what he meant. Of course she knew. But she needed time to ready her voice and emotions to give a good performance.
"Are you okay?" he asked, knowing exactly what she was trying to do. He wasn't happy at that. It just showed how bad it really was - how afraid she was.
"Oh, yeah. Fine. Just fine." she said, seemingly so sincere. He had to admit that she was convincing, but she wasn't fooling him. Another few minutes of silence passed and they arrived at the place that was like a second home to them.
She quickly stepped out of the car and he followed her lead. They met in the middle of the parking lot, and he took her hand - careful not to interlock fingers. He had to appear he was just a friend giving support to a friend rather than a boyfriend supporting his lover. He couldn't irritate matters if he wanted to keep her on their team. He hoped to himself that Morgan came up with something good.
To his surprise, Hotch was the first to meet the two as they entered the building.
"Reid, may I speak with you in my office?" he didn't seem to be asking, but it didn't matter. Reid wasn't going to refuse on a day like this. Nicole stood, watching the two head to Hotch's office and soon disappeared inside.
"It'll be alright." Derek said placing a hand on her shoulder. She gasped and flinched, but this time because of the element of surprise. She was jumpy and he couldn't blame her.
"I'm sorry. You alright?" he asked, watching her clutch her chest.
"Yeah, yeah. You just nearly gave me a heart attack though" she laughed slightly. He smiled. He missed seeing this side of her - seeing and interacting with who she really was. That girl he knew was still there, buried underneath scars and pain and fear. Seeing it surface gave him reassurance in his own words - maybe it was going to be alright after all.
"You need to calm down" he laughed with her, his arm resting around her shoulders, pulling her in to his side.
"But that's the thing! How can I be calm when I know...when I know what I know?" she was seriously asking him. She needed a way to cope - something to give her hope and to hold her together.
"You don't know what you think you do. This team isn't going to let that happen to you, I promise. You're safe with us, baby. Trust that. Trust us. And trust yourself. It's all going to be fine. I promise you that." Trust was something that wasn't easy for Derek considering everything that happened when he was a kid. She knew because of that, he meant every word. She allowed herself to trust him, which was a huge step for her emotionally. The change was obvious.
"I think I forgot to hug you" she smiled playfully. The smile on his face was unable to be contained. He picked her up in his arms, laughing and smiling brightly. She clung to his neck tightly, remembering how much she missed moments like this with her best friend.
"Thank you." she whispered. He set her down and kissed her head gently.
"Anytime." he leaned in, whispering into her ear. Now she was the one who couldn't control her smile. He took her into another hug before walking with her to her desk and to assist her with paperwork.
"This isn't necessary for you to do, you know." she chuckled as he took the liberty of completing half of everything she decided to start.
"Exactly. I want to." After sharing another smile, they worked through more of the menial papers together, completely and utterly content.
"Is Morgan actually helping with paperwork? He usually gets me to do his let alone someone else's." Spencer joked walking over to catch up with the two he had left earlier.
"What did Hotch want?" she asked, biting her lip anxiously.
"Oh it was, it was nothing. He just asked that I keep my cool if Strauss decides to - uh well you know." he lied, glancing at Morgan who nodded subtly. She nodded her head and looked back down at her paperwork. Derek rubbed her back gently, letting her know that everything would be fine eventually.
"I'm gonna go get something to drink. You guys want anything?" Nicole asked standing up, hoping to clear her head. Both men shook their heads and watched her walk away far enough so that she wouldn't hear anything they said.
"So, who's today?" Spencer asked Derek, still in a hushed tone although he knew she couldn't hear him.
"Prentiss. Next week is Rossi I think." Derek answered casually, speaking in his normal, inside voice.
"How about you?" Spencer was quite curious and didn't know how the other man would react when put in the position they needed him in. They each had to sacrifice in order to save their beloved member.
"Hotch hasn't said yet. He wants to see how things go first. Can't blame him. Angry is an understatement." Derek was ready to fume and Spencer backed off. He knew Derek's anger wasn't directed at him, but he didn't need to pry anymore.
"Who's angry?" Nicole asked, sitting back down with a water in hand. Both men jumped slightly not realizing she was back already.
"Oh...you know he just kept going on and on about something smart. The usual." Derek joked and tried to laugh it off. She nodded, playfully punching Spencer's arm. They both breathed a quiet sigh of relief, thankful she didn't suspect a thing. After they knew the coast was clear with her, they began light conversation with her while finishing up the paperwork together as well.
Several weeks passed and the agent in question began to grow more and more anxious as time went on - the exact opposite effect Spencer imagined this would have on her. She still had no idea what the team was doing or what was going on. He wanted so much to tell her and to end the lying, but they were too close at this point. He couldn't jeopardize their mission that Hotch went through Hell with Strauss to get her to agree to the idea. It hurt Spencer even more so to see her try to cover everything up. He knew that it would at one time get to a point where she couldn't hide anymore, and came to the consensus that tonight was that night.
He watched her hug the pillow tightly to her chest, clinging onto her emotions. He gently touched her shoulder and watched as her tear-filled eyes turned to find his.
"I'm scared." she whispered her voice completely shaken and broken. As the last word escaped her lips, she couldn't hold her tears in any longer and finally let everything out that she'd been holding in for so long. He took her into his arms although he didn't really have a choice as she collapsed into him. He held her tightly, almost ready to cry himself. This had to end. The second he got the chance he would call up Morgan or Hotch and get everything sorted out. Any longer and none of the team would be able to function.
He recalled how she interacted with the team so lovingly back at the BAU during the past few weeks - clinging tighter during hugs, still joking around and being silly, having physical contact more often than usual, but she also kept it entirely and perfectly professional. He had to admit he was extremely proud of her and her bravery during these times. It was hard though to watch the team struggle as well. They always had to rehearse what they were going to say and when and to see her act perfectly normal killed them knowing she was dying inside.
After holding her while she sobbed for at least an hour, she calmed down and soon fell asleep in his arms. She was exhausted in every way possible and he was glad knowing she should be able to sleep through the night. He removed her from his lap very gently, slowly, and cautiously. As soon as he knew he was in the clear, he headed to the other room to make the call. He didn't care what time it was - this was extremely important. Hotch would understand.
After four rings, he picked up the phone, the tiredness evident in his voice.
"Reid? It's 2 AM. Is everything okay?" he had a slight urgency in his voice, concerned as to why the call couldn't wait.
"I know Sir and I'm sorry, but it's important. I know we can't do anything about it now, but I still need to talk to you about it." As usual, Spence spoke quickly and distinctively.
"What is this about?" Hotch had calmed down, but was somewhat frustrated knowing that it technically could wait.
"Has every member of the team met with Strauss? I know Nicole and the team aren't going to make it any longer. This has to end." Hotch knew he was right.
"Yes they have. I'll speak with her today and my best guess is that she'll call her in to discuss the matters. I can't promise a specific verdict, but you know we've done all we can." Spencer swallowed, then nodded.
"Thank you, Sir. Goodnight. I'm sorry to have woken you, but I couldn't wait to tell you. Thank you." Hotch hung up and Spencer finally breathed a sigh of relief. He headed back to bed in a more comfortable state although not a worry free one, and curled himself ever so gently into the woman he was beginning to be more comfortable and open with. Everything seemed to be falling into place.
Spencer was anxious to hear the ping of his cell phone for another morning and sprung up at the sound. He clicked 'open' very cautiously and a smile spread across his lips. Paperwork Day. This whole dilemma could finally end and everything could be normal again, but everything could also get much worse. He reminded himself at his neglect Aaron's words "I can't promise a specific verdict". Regardless of all that the team had done, the decision was still Strauss's to make.
"Hey, it's another day dedicated to paperwork" Spencer spoke quietly, gently shaking her. She rubbed her eyes and sat up slowly. He chuckled at her disheveled hair and her reluctance to get up. Whenever he told her this she was still as anxious as ever, but had taught herself to push back the feelings.
She climbed out of bed and readied herself, but he noticed how she tried to make herself up a little bit more on days like these. He knew she knew in the end nothing would truly make a difference such as how she dressed, but she couldn't help herself.
After they finished getting ready for the day ahead, they met up at the door, sharing a kiss. It had become routine and neither were going to complain or request a change. When it came to car rides, he held her hand the whole way and listened to her sing along to the radio station of his choice. It was the small things that gave them bits of joy on days where the tension was thicker than usual.
"Uh, I need to tell you something." Spencer said, trying to collect his thoughts after placing the car in park and removing his key from the ignition.
Her eyes immediately darted to his face and she stared awaiting.
"Hotch called me...he wanted me to tell you...We talked for a while and -"
"Please." she placed a hand on his knee, pleading for him to spit it out. After swallowing hard, he took a deep breath.
"Strauss has requested to meet with you." Spencer watched the wave of emotions consume her until she simply nodded and opened her door.
He followed her as she speed-walked towards the door to the BAU.
"Wait." he called, finally getting her to stop as he grabbed her arm.
"It's gonna be okay." he said quietly. Again she nodded without a word and continued to the door.
As she looked around the office, she found each one of her teammates socializing with one another, scattered around the office in little groups, but they focused on her.
She stared forward again, stopping in her tracks as she faced the office - the location in which her fate would be decided.
A hand was placed on her shoulder and she couldn't tell who it was, but she didn't look back to find out. Slowly, she walked towards the door, took a deep breath, and raised her hand to knock upon the door.
"Come in, come in" said the voice within the office. She opened the door and watched as Strauss finished the line she was writing and then looked up to make eye contact.
"Agent. Please, have a seat."
"Thank you" she said taking a seat in front of her commander.
"It's been quite a while since we've met like this. I don't intend to have it happen another time." The agent swallowed hard, afraid of what the Section Chief might be implying.
"Regarding last time - m'am, I'm sorry. I realize I was out of life and was disrespectful. I take full responsibility and apologize whole-heartily.
"I understand that. Now, I'd like to discuss your team's evaluations." Strauss began.
"I'm sorry, what? I'm confused."
"They didn't tell you, did they. I must admit that they keep secrets from you fairly well based upon what I've seen. Anyway, Agent Hotchner spoke to me for quite a while, finally convincing me to meet with a team member a week or whenever your team had time to discuss you and your role on this team and your place in this bureau."
Everything seemed to make sense. Spencer acted strangely and now that she thought about it, so did the rest of the team. It all was coming together.
"The first Agent I spoke with was Agent Prentiss. She said some powerful things and I'll admit she really did get me thinking about the matter."
"What did she say? Do you remember anything specifically?" Strauss gave her a look, but thought back anyway and nodded.
"She said you were brave. She mentioned how the entire time you were - well preoccupied, you didn't shed a tear. I really didn't understand the relevance of her statement until I spoke with the other agents."
She paused to allow the woman in front of her to take in this information.
"Agent David Rossi was the next I spoke with who said that although you were young, you were experienced. Agent Hotchner gave a similar statement. Hearing such words from such esteemed profilers, I did have a renewed faith in your abilities and skill in the field."
The agent in question felt a sliver of hope, but didn't want to get too excited.
"Your liaison also said you were very good at your job and that you were important. To tell you the truth, I didn't understand the relevance of what she said, but it still had an impression on me. Your tech girl, Garcia, said you had a way of holding your 'family' together. She said without you, your team wouldn't be the family you are now. Now Agents Morgan and Reid's sessions proved to be less professional."
Nicole snapped her head up, afraid of what the two men might have done.
"What happened?" she asked sheepishly
"Both men showed a great deal of protectiveness and were completely guarded and full of aggression. I wasn't surprised to see this behavior from Agent Morgan, but to see this from Agent Reid was not what I expected."
"W-What kind of things did they say?"
"Umm Agent Morgan mentioned much of what happened to you in the moment as opposed to what accomplishments you've had in the field. As far as Agent Reid, he spoke about your emotional condition and from a doctor's perspective spoke about your resiliency and improvement."
"Agent, you must understand that your team has gone to great lengths to try and protect your position here at the BAU. You've risked their lives, the reputation of this agency, and overall caused quite a stir throughout the media. You acted poorly in your situation and risked yourself in ways and times unnecessary. Everything I've learned tells me to fire you immediately, regardless of what your team had to say about you."
The woman swallowed very hard, feeling the tears welling in her eyes.
"You're absolutely right. I could've handled everything much better and I apologize. Thank you for allowing me to work here and to honestly have the greatest job with the greatest people I've ever met. My friends. My family. Thank you." Nicole stood up and reached out a hand to say goodbye to her Section Chief.
"Agent, after reviewing everything, I'm allowing you to keep your job here in this Unit with your team. These few weeks I've watched you interact with each and every member and it's clear you all have made bonds that I can't understand. Normally, with just that, you still would no longer have a job here. However, your team has successfully solved almost a record number of cases in such a short time. You've handled them cleanly, with a minimal amount of death as well as error. It's exceptional. I can promise you if another incident were to occur and I was to find you here in my office for a third time, you would not be as lucky and you would leave your team. Are you clear on that?"
Nicole stared in awe at the woman in front of her and immediately burst into a bright smile.
"Permission to hug you, Chief Strauss?" the agent asked lightly. The Chief stared at her a moment, then nodded slightly. She squeezed her elder thankfully.
"Thank you. Thank you so much. I promise you that you won't regret this." With a smile, the young girl bound out of the room, tears cascading down her face.
"You did it. You guys did it." she smiled, her voice breaking. The team smiled, each taking turns hugging her after Derek had his long-lasting hug in which he lifted her off the ground and refused to set her down. After making her way through hugging each of her team members personally, she finally made it to Spencer.
She wrapped her arms around his neck and he buried his nose in her shoulder, holding her tighter than he ever had before. She pressed her lips to his cheek and suddenly froze. The room went silent besides the other few people walking through the area as a means of travel to get to their destinations around the building. A woman cleared her throat and in an instant, the agent knew it wasn't a member of her team, but none other than their superior. She slowly removed her lips from his cheeks which had turned a bright red shade and turned to meet the eyes of Chief Strauss, standing outside her office, looking down upon the team.
"There's one thing we neglected to discuss, which you just engaged in a moment ago." the woman said, her eyes not as warm as before.
"Relationships such as the one you two seem to share aren't to be tolerated. There have been many cases in which one if not both of the members were transferred to other teams and also in some cases fired completely from the bureau." The team looked back between the authoritative woman and the two members in love.
"Chief I understand how much leeway you've granted me already, but you've got understand. I've never loved anyone more in my life. We're completely professional in the field. What you just witnessed was entirely my fault and again I accept full responsibility. Please don't blame my team or punish them for my careless actions. The reason all of this came about was because of me and if a transfer is in order I understand. I confessed my true feelings in the tape and I-"
Erin Strauss cut off the young agent to speak her mind
"That's exactly why you're so lucky. I've seen the tape after convincing from your team and I saw everything. You've gone through a great deal and you handled it fairly well. I trust you and Doctor Reid will keep everything under wraps. If this gets out, not only will you two be out of jobs, but so will I for neglecting to report such a thing. Please be smart about this."
"Thank you, Chief. Our team appreciates and will never forget your generosity." Aaron Hotchner said, turning to face the couple, a smile pulling at his lips.
"Thank you. Again, you won't regret it." the agent smiled, hugging each of her members again. They were glad to have her back.
Over the next week, her anxiety disappeared almost entirely, and her focused returned in the field while off hours, she spent time with her lover, basking in every moment they could possibly have together, even if only a car ride.
It's funny how things work out.
Funny when the last person you expect to - the person you perceived as the villain all along - saves the day.
It just goes to show how even the best in the business can't get everything right all the time.
For the record, no one could have predicted such a happy ending - not even the talented profilers at the BAU in Quantico, Virginia.
Thoughts? Please send feedback! I hope you enjoyed! :D