A Song of Their Own
There's a certain oddity to being glad to be back at work when that work involves serial killers. And yet both Reid and JJ felt it. They were welcomed with open arms by their colleagues when they returned after the New Year celebration.
"Oh, my genius, you look great!" Garcia was eyeing his biceps as she said this. JJ managed to both smile and roll her eyes at the same time.
Morgan joined them in the bullpen. "Pretty Boy! JJ! Welcome back!" He hugged JJ and gave Reid a male hug/back slap. The brightness of his smile told them exactly how much he had missed having them around.
Emily simply walked up to each and hugged them, saying only "So good, so good." They each returned her embrace.
Rossi gave them his old country double kiss, whispering to Reid as he did so. "How was the dinner? Delizioso, no?"
Reid smiled back at him. "Delizioso, yes. Thanks again, Rossi."
Hotch called down from upstairs. "Conference room in five, people. JJ, Reid, good to have you back."
They were used to his understatement, and knew it didn't reflect the man, or how he felt about them.
"We'll be returning to New Orleans, as you already know. This is a federal case that will be tried in Louisiana.
"What, exactly, is the case, Hotch?" Rossi realized that a great many crimes had taken place, and wanted clarity.
"It's a good question, Dave. There were a multitude of offenses. But with the death of Viera, the murders in Houston won't be tried, nor will the charge on Will LaMontagne's death…..or Reid's being shot." Hotch paused, studying JJ and Reid for their reactions. He'd called to inform them about this during their leave. Even though the perpetrator, Viera, had paid the ultimate price, he knew at least JJ would have difficulty letting it go. He trusted Reid to get her through it.
She was prepared enough not to flinch. Of course there could be no prosecution. Of course Viera was already dead. But it still felt unfinished, as though Will's life had been cheap, as though Spence hadn't suffered unspeakably.
Reid was reaching under the table to touch her hand. She grasped his, to tell him she was okay, to tell him he was important, even if the lack of prosecution seemed to say otherwise.
"The primary case is on the trafficking. So it will be aimed at the agencies, and the staffers and masterminds behind them. The federal prosecutor is open to considering conspiracy charges against them regarding the shootings and murders, if the evidence and testimony lend themselves. So feel free to provide any information, or implication, that you can." The former prosecutor in Hotch had risen to the surface.
Reid was concerned. "Hotch, will Minnow be testifying? And Rosalynn?"
Hotch nodded, but was reassuring. "Fortunately, with cases of child abuse, including sexual abuse, a video-recorded testimony obtained through a trained forensic interviewer should suffice. They won't have to face the accused in court."
Reid sat back, breathing a sigh of relief. He'd never met Rosalyn, but felt as bonded to her as he did to Minnow….or to any other child who'd been subjected to the unspeakable.
Hotch turned again to his youngest profiler. "Reid, how's your memory?"
"It's pretty much back, Hotch. I can remember all there is to remember. I can remember everything Will said to me, and the little I saw in the basement."
"That will be enough…I hope." Hotch was familiar with the vagaries of criminal prosecutions. He'd already reviewed their testimony with the rest of the team, and was feeling confident.
"Wheels up in twenty, people."
Since they weren't on their way to an investigation, the team members were free to pursue their own interests on the plane. Reid had, as always, brought several books, and now sat apart in the back of the plane to read. JJ was enjoying the opportunity to catch up with Emily and Garcia. But she kept an eye on Reid who, she noticed, was looking out the window more than at the pages before him. She excused herself from her friends and moved over to the seat next to her fiance.
"You don't seem to be reading very much."
He was still looking out the window. "I can't quite get my mind to settle yet."
"Are you okay?" She paused a moment, and then asked, "Are we okay?"
He reassured her by reaching over and taking her hand. "We're fine. And I'll get there…..some day."
They both knew they were talking about what happened on New Year's Day. After the wonderful evening before, they'd awakened lazily and eventually wandered out to the kitchen. That was when Reid again noticed the package that had been delivered the night prior.
"JJ, we never opened this." As he reached for it, he saw the return address. "Did you see it's from Las Vegas?"
She had an odd look on her face, one that he couldn't quite make out. Hope? Apprehension?
"Go ahead and open it. We may as well find out."
Keeping his eyes on her, he pulled the tape and opened the box. It was topped with an envelope, addressed to 'Jennifer Jareau and Spencer Reid'. Below the bubble wrap was a plant. A cactus.
Reid lifted out the plant and then watched his fiancée as he opened the envelope. She hadn't said another word.
He read the short note to himself, and then abruptly handed it to her. Now she couldn't read the look on his face. Anger? Disappointment? Disgust?
The note read:
"Dear Jennifer and Spencer,
Please accept this plant as a token of my apology for having been so long silent, and absent.
Jennifer, thank you for informing me when Spencer was hurt, and for letting me know that he will recover fully. Thank you also for the gifts at Thanksgiving and Christmas. I am more sorry than I can say that I did not reciprocate. It somehow seemed more appropriate to do so at the New Year…..maybe to mark a new beginning.
Spencer, I don't have the right words. I didn't have it within me to be who you needed me to be back then, and I'm ashamed to say that I've never found it within me since. I'm sorry, Spencer. I don't expect your forgiveness, and I don't deserve to be in your life. But please indulge me this one opportunity to say that I admire the man you have become. I've followed your life, and your career, from a distance. And now Jennifer has told me your good news. It seems you are to marry a very smart and compassionate woman. Congratulations.
You are a much better man than I will ever be, Spencer. I would be proud to call you my son, but I know I don't deserve it. You have become who you are in spite of me, rather than because of me. I'm sorrier than you will ever know that I am who I am. But I am glad you have become the man you are. I'm sure your mother was very proud.
JJ's eyes had filled as she read the note, partly from the sentiment expressed and partly because she feared she'd upset Reid. It seemed like the right thing. Maybe it wasn't.
He'd moved to stand by the window, staring out into the yard. He hadn't made a sound.
"Spence?" She was tentative. He didn't respond.
"Spence? I'm sorry, maybe I shouldn't have. But I…..when they….when you…..were hurt, and I didn't know if…." She couldn't find how to put it. "It seemed like the right thing. It seemed like there might not be another time, that there might not be another chance….."
He could hear the distress in her voice and turned to look at her, expressionless.
"I thought if it was ever going to happen, it had to happen then."
Finally, he spoke. "If what was ever going to happen, JJ? You thought you would tell him his son was dying and he would hop a plane to be there?" The bitterness still ran deep. "Well, he didn't, did he? Did he even call you back?"
She could barely look at him. This was a Reid she'd seen only rarely, the one so filled with anger that his compassion was buried. It frightened her a little.
"No, he didn't," came out in a very quiet voice.
"And so you tried again at Thanksgiving?" When she nodded, he added, "And Christmas?"
"I wanted to let him know that you were all right. And because Thanksgiving and Christmas are for family…"
"The only family I have is with you and Henry, JJ. He's not a part of it."
She reached out to him, but dropped her hand before it touched him. "I'm so sorry, Spence. I didn't do any of it to upset you. I only meant it for the best. I love you and I thought…..I don't know, I thought it might be good for us to enter our marriage with all of the past firmly behind us. I just didn't think….well, obviously I didn't think too hard. I'm sorry."
Her voice was breaking by the end. She didn't ever want to be the cause of this much upset for him.
He'd been stiff with anger, but now his shoulders sagged. Relenting, he reached out both hands and pulled her to him. "I'm sorry too, JJ. I know you meant well. But you're comparing my experience with your own. You grew up with two parents who knew how to love you and each other. I didn't. It can't be magically repaired."
"Do you want me to throw it out?" She held on to him, using her head to indicate the plant.
He thought for a while before responding. "No, let's keep it. It's from Las Vegas, it's a little piece of home for me. It's not the cactus' fault that he sent it."
The words were light, but JJ heard something deeper in them. He wasn't discarding everything outright. I don't think you're done with this, my love.
As she sat now with Reid on the plane, JJ thought about the response he'd just given her. "I'll get there..someday." He's still working on it. I don't want anything to hurt him. But I know holding the anger and resentment inside can do nothing but cause him pain. Maybe I wasn't wrong...
They sat holding hands for a while, until his squeeze told her that he'd settled enough to concentrate on his reading. Having her present always seemed to do that for him.
They arrived in time for lunch, but the prosecutor couldn't start meeting with them before three. That meant at least one overnight for the whole team. Your tax dollar at work, thought Hotch, who would have scheduled things differently. He granted JJ and Reid the time to take care of some personal business.
"I can't help but wonder If they're becoming a couple. He's been so supportive of her. I think part of me is rooting for them to get together. Will would love it, I'm sure of it. He loved Phil so, he talked about him all the time." JJ was chattering as they drove to meet with Phil and Charlene.
"Will you be okay, seeing the baby?" Reid realized they were going to meet another offspring of the man with whom JJ had created a child….the one Reid loved beyond his wildest imagination.
She turned from the passenger seat to look at him. "Will was a very important part of my life, Spence. He gave me the most precious gift I could ever have. But he is a part of my past. You are my present, and my future."
He reached a hand across to touch her. "I know that, I count on that. But I guess I just thought it might be difficult….remembering."
"It's the New Year, Spence. I'm trying to focus on the positive. And Phil being there for Charlene and the baby is as positive as I can come up with right now."
They'd arrived at Charlene's condo. JJ carried the gift they'd brought for the baby as Reid led the way to the door. Phil answered the bell.
He opened the door and reached out to JJ. "Come in. JJ, you look great." He gave her a tight hug and a kiss. Then he reached his hand out to Reid. "Spencer, I'm glad to see you looking so well." He caught Reid's eye. "I really mean that."
Reid smiled as he returned the handshake. "Thanks, Phil. I'm pretty much back to normal now."
None of them mentioned the unseen fourth person among them. Will was present just because those who'd loved him were.
Phil led the way into the living room, where Charlene was sitting and holding her infant son. JJ bent to kiss her hello, and Reid followed. They offered their congratulations as Charlene turned the baby so they could see him better.
JJ's hand had gone to her mouth. "Oh, Charlene, he's beautiful. And he looks so much like Will!"
Charlene was teary. "He does. Will would have loved him. Wouldn't he? Wouldn't he be happy?"
JJ was teary herself. "He would." She was torn. Should she share with Charlene how Will had been when Henry was born? Would that fill in a hole in Charlene's birth experience? Or would it rub salt in an open wound? She reflected that all of her good intentions didn't seem to be keeping her from hurting the people she cared about lately.
JJ was spared her dilemma when Phil entered the conversation. He inserted himself at Charlene's side, causing JJ to notice his protectiveness of her. "Will was excited about the baby coming, he told me every time he saw me. He would have been thrilled, Charlene."
Emotion made the air heavy. Reid decided it was time to change course a little bit. "Phil, I understand you were able to be there at the delivery."
Phil looked at him gratefully. "Yep. I think I almost passed out, but I was there." He'd brought out a giggle from Charlene.
"You did great, Phil, I couldn't have done it without you." She turned to the others. "Phil came to all of my Lamaze classes with me, and even took the courses on infant care and bathing. He's been an incredible help."
JJ and Reid noticed Phil's squeeze of Charlene's shoulders, then heard him say, "I couldn't have done any less, Charlene. You're family."
Reid felt like he was hearing his own voice, reassuring JJ as he'd stepped in to help with Henry so many months ago. He wondered if Phil was having an experience similar to his own. Idly wondered how Will would feel about being responsible for these two new relationships.
They shared more small talk, many memories and a few more tears, and then it was time for JJ and Reid to go. Phil jumped up when they announced their need to get back to meet with the federal prosecutor.
"I almost forgot, the letters." He left the room briefly and then returned with two envelopes, one addressed to JJ and one to Henry.
"You should open yours first. I think he meant Henry's for when the boy is older."
Phil looked meaningfully at JJ, but she didn't understand his intent. "Call me when you've read your letter."
"Okay," JJ replied with uncertainty. She embraced Phil and Charlene, and kissed William the third goodbye, Reid following with the same. Promising to keep in touch, they left.
In the car, Reid turned to JJ. "You okay?"
She nodded. "I am. It's so strange, but seeing them again, with Will gone….it made it seem so….permanent. Like this really is our new reality. Before this, I guess, some part of me just pictured Will being away in New Orleans while we were in DC, just like before. But now we're in New Orleans….all of us, you and me, and Phil and Charlene…..and the baby…" JJ's voice broke a little at that. "and it just makes Will's absence so real, so obvious. He should have been there, and he wasn't. And that's how it will always be, from now on. It just feels so strange."
Reid reached a hand across and held JJ's. There was really nothing to be said, so he just held her hand all the way back to the city.
The federal prosecutor met with each of them individually, making for a long afternoon that lasted until mid-evening. Hotch, Emily and Reid had the most personal testimony to offer, given their contacts with the agency and Will. Garcia had to spell out, step by step, how she'd uncovered the data in the computers, but the data then spoke for itself. The trial was still many months away, but the prosecution now had what it needed to craft its case.
When they were done, the rest of the team planned to meet for a late dinner. But JJ was concerned that Reid not wear himself out so soon after his return to duty. She'd been able to go back to the hotel early, and arranged a special dinner to be brought in for the two of them.
Reid was exhausted, both physically and emotionally, from having relived so much of the time that had led to his injury and Will's death. He arrived to the hotel and went straight to JJ's room, seeking comfort. There he found wine chilling, cheese and grapes on the side, and a couple of dishes of jambalaya under warmers. But none of those items elicited the same level of response as did the sight of his fiancée in her negligee. "I know we promised Hotch, but…."
Her words were stifled by his kiss. Then he finished for her. "But it's been a hell of a day, and it's just gotten a thousand percent better."
She could see the exhaustion. "Spence? I know there's a lot we need to talk about."
On top of the testimony, and seeing Charlene, Phil and the baby, she knew they still needed to deal more with her ill-fated attempt to achieve reconciliation between Reid and his father.
"But can we leave it all for another time? For tomorrow? For tonight, can we just be us? Can we just be two people in love?"
He was holding on to her, using her strength to hold him up. "There's nothing I'd rather be. I need you, JJ."
He'd so rarely actually said it. But she knew the truth of it. Bringing him to the bed, she began to massage his back and shoulders. She could feel the tension begin to melt as he turned to her and took her in his arms. They spent the next few hours holding one another, and making love to one another. Trying to overcome the depravity of the world they lived in with the nobility of a love deeply shared.
Reid awakened early the next morning. The plane was due to leave at ten, and he had something important to do before that. He slipped quietly out of bed, showered, dressed and left JJ a note telling her he would meet her on the plane.
She awakened an hour later to an empty bed. She assumed he'd gone back to his room until she found the note. He hadn't said what the task was, but she knew. She decided to meet him there.
JJ dismissed the cab driver. She could see their rental car parked at the curb. She knew where it was located, so was able to find Reid right away. She could see him sitting on the ground, not moving. Should I give him more time? But time was running short, and the plane would be leaving. She decided to approach him.
It was chilly enough for him to hear the grass crunching under her feet. Even though he didn't turn to her, she could read something in his body language that told her he was aware of her presence.
"Good morning, JJ." He hadn't turned around yet. When she continued walking and stood in front of him, she could see the tear tracks on his cheeks.
"I knew you would be here."
"I didn't get to go to the funeral." He was speaking the obvious.
"Are you okay?"
He was giving a very slight nod. "There were some things I needed to say to him. It's funny…..I don't know why I thought I needed to be here to talk to him. It's not like he's really here…."
She understood. "But it just feels more concrete, doesn't it?"
"I guess." He reached a hand up so JJ could help him rise. "He was a good man, JJ. I needed to tell him that. And to tell him that I would take care of you, and Henry." He turned to her. "It's silly, isn't it?"
She moved into his arms. "Not silly at all. And he would be happy."
Each of them ran their hands over the marble gravestone, bidding farewell to a man who'd impacted so many lives, in so many ways, grateful for the ways he'd impacted theirs.