Epilogue: One Year Later
It's my birthday today. My friends are throwing me a birthday party after work. Derek told me Uncle Gideon won't be there, but everyone else will be.
Derek watched his brother tidy up the already-spotless house, nervously waiting for their friends to arrive. Sarah and Desiree had each called earlier. Desiree had teased him about being a whole year older overnight which had rightly earned her a twenty minute long lecture from Spencer about the relativity of time, the limitations of the English language, and something about the orbit of the Earth. Sarah was graduating from her MBA program in May which meant there was a lot of talk about them visiting Chicago again next month. They had sold their childhood home, thanks in huge part to Yvonne, and then money had gone a long way to helping Sarah pay her tuition and Desiree get back on her feet.
"Come sit down and read a book or something before you drive me crazy," Derek said. Spencer finished straightening out all the mugs so that their handles were perfectly aligned, then came into the living room where Derek was laying on the couch. He nodded toward the visual timer sitting on the bookshelf. "13 more minutes. So chill out."
As if in defiance, the doorbell rang.
"Thanks, Garcia," Derek said sarcastically, knowing exactly who would be too excited to wait to be on time, much less fashionably late.
Spencer dutifully checked the small closed circuit TV on the credenza before opening the door to a flurry of pink and yellow confetti.
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" Garcia shouted as she threw the confetti in Spencer's face. He sputtered and swatted the pieces of paper away like bees attempting to sting him. She waited expectantly for his reaction.
"That's littering," he finally sputtered out, still in shock.
Garcia burst out laughing. "Derek'll clean it up," she said, slinging her arm around Spencer and walking them both inside.
"What am I gonna do for you, baby girl?" Derek asked, sitting up off the couch.
"Ooh, don't ask questions you don't want to hear the answers to," she teased with a wink.
Somehow between the confetti and the hugging, she had managed to lug in two overflowing bags filled with presents. "I know, I know," she said before Derek could, "but come on. I have to spoil my boy."
Now that the door was open, Spencer was waiting on the porch, eagerly watching for the rest of his guests to arrive.
"Anyone heard from Gideon?" Derek asked as he helped Garcia arrange her presents on the table.
Garcia sighed. "No updates since you asked yesterday. I put a trace on his credit card – don't look at me like that, its just to make sure he's still alive. He's still in the area, but we're going on a week since we got back from Arizona. With Gideon gone and Hotch on suspension, well lets just say the BAU's never missed you more."
Derek felt the familiar longing in his chest stir yet again. After his leave of absence had ended, he had transferred to the Intelligence Branch, working as a liaison between police departments and the FBI, coordinating trainings, sharing information, clearing jurisdiction disputes. It wasn't a bad job by any means, but he certainly did miss the BAU.
"I told Spencer that Gideon wasn't coming today. Not sure what I'm gonna tell him if he never comes back."
Garcia put a supportive hand on Derek's shoulder. "He wouldn't do that to Spencer," she said.
But neither of them were too sure of that.
"Happy birthday, Spence!" they heard as JJ walked up the porch steps. She was followed in by Will, a recent addition to their crew. Spencer was bouncing on his heels as he showed them around the house. He had been in charge of his own party and had gotten a little too into the nerd theme. In Derek's opinion, the house looked more like a conference hall with graduate posters set up everywhere rather than a birthday party. A captive audience in a lecture hall – Spencer's version of heaven.
Hotch and Jack arrived next. Jack ran into Spencer's arms; they had forged a special bond over the last year. They both considered themselves junior FBI agents, though Spencer felt his role was quite serious and they were all just humoring Jack. And to be fair, that was almost true. Spencer was working two days a week as a clerk in the FBI Record Office. It was a bottom-of-the-totem pole kind of job that effected little to nothing in the bigger picture, but there was no more dedicated public servant than Spencer Morgan.
Emily had been the only one to insist on contributing to the birthday party itself. She proudly brought in a cake with the word "gebryddaeg" on top and put it on the counter.
"Emily, I think you need to get your money back," JJ joked, looking at the gibberish printed in icing.
"Geb-rye-de-day-egg," Garcia sounded out.
"Je-byrd-daj," Spencer corrected. "Old English, 13th century, gebyrd meaning 'birth' and daeg meaning 'day.' Its perfect."
"Only one person had to get it," Emily said, smiling at Spencer.
The festivities commenced – games, the cutting of the birthday cake, presents. Garcia, JJ, and Emily created a drinking game: one drink of beer for every time Spencer shared some factoid or corrected someone else, two for every time Derek got sentimental, and a shot if Hotch smiled. After an hour, the ladies were decidedly louder than the men when it came time to play Trivial Pursuit, Spencer's favorite game. Two teams formed – Garcia, JJ, Emily on one side of the living room, and Hotch, Derek, Spencer, Will, and Jack on the other.
"This hardly seems fair," Emily remarked dryly.
"Well maybe if you guys had paced yourselves," Derek teased, mimicking tossing back a shot.
Emily reached over and playfully whacked him on the arm, then froze as she realized what she'd done. After they'd moved back from Virginia, they had discovered pretty quickly that Spencer reacted terribly to violence of any kind, even playful whacks on the arm. Derek didn't remember it being a trigger growing up; it was likely caused by the repressed memories Spencer was now having to work through. Derek had gotten Spencer a great therapist as soon as they'd gotten settled in Virginia.
"Sorry," she muttered.
"Its okay," Derek said. "Actually, he's come a long way with that particular trigger. I'm really proud of him."
The girls looked at each other, then took two swigs of beer each.
Predictably, Spencer was carrying his team during Trivial Pursuit, when there was a knock at the door. They all paused; nobody was missing from the room. Despite the party atmosphere, the knock at the door had put each of them into "FBI mode." Spencer, either ignoring or not feeling the tension in the room, got up to answer it. Derek could hear Spencer turning on the closed circuit TV, and then after another second, opening the door.
"Uncle Gideon!" Spencer said excitedly. "Derek said you weren't coming."
"I couldn't miss your birthday, could I?" Gideon asked. As they came into the living room, all eyes were on Gideon. They hadn't heard from him since they'd arrived home from their last case in Arizona, which according to the director had been so mishandled that Hotch was in the middle of a two-week suspension. It was just like Gideon to hold his cards close to the chest, to dip in and out in his own pre-occupied way, and in any other circumstance the team would probably write his disappearance off as just another example of their teammate's behavior. But with the brutal murder of Sarah Jacobs at the hands of Frank Breitkopf in his own apartment…
"Gideon!" Garcia exclaimed, the first to recover from the surprise.
"Come join us," Emily sputtered out.
Gideon surveyed the room, looking at the game like it was a foreign object. "I think I'll pass," he said. He looked expectantly at Derek.
"Uh, I'll be right back," Derek said, getting up. "Don't start losing without me," he teased.
"Yeah, you're definitely the ringer on your team," JJ joked as he walked out of the room and followed Gideon into the kitchen.
Gideon leaned against a counter and grabbed a beer. "Looks like a fun party," he remarked.
"Spencer planned it, so, 50/50," Derek joked. "But in all seriousness, it means a lot that you came. I know you've been going through –."
"A few days ago, I got in my car and started driving. Didn't have a plan. No destination in mind. Just got in and hit the freeway," Gideon said, cutting him off as though he hadn't been talking. "I wasn't planning on coming back. I drove about an hour, thinking about Sarah, thinking about what she meant to me, what we used to believe. I'm such a different person now than when we first met in college." Gideon took a swig of beer. "We used to believe in happy endings. Do you believe in happy endings?"
Derek leaned forward to look around the wall that separated the kitchen from the living room. "Life's not perfect, but I'd say I've gotten pretty close," he said.
"But it could be better," Gideon commented.
Derek wasn't sure if he should be insulted, defensive, or curious. "What are you getting at?" he asked.
"You miss the BAU," Gideon said.
"I didn't. For that hour while I drove, thinking I wasn't coming back. Sure I'd miss the people, but the work? It doesn't make sense to me anymore, not with Sarah gone. You know what made me turn the car around?" Gideon put his beer down on the counter. "Happy endings."
He pulled a folded piece of paper from his pocket. "This is my resignation letter from the BAU. I haven't told Hotch or Strauss yet."
"So why are you telling me?" Derek asked.
"Because this is our happy ending," Gideon answered. "With my resignation, there's a spot for you on the BAU. And I'm going to need something to do in my retirement. Can't think of anything I'd rather do than help take care of Spencer while you're gone. If there's one thing that still makes sense in my life, its being Uncle Gideon."
Derek's eyes welled with tears and he cleared his throat, not sure what to say, if he could even speak.
"Deal?" Gideon asked, picking up his beer again and holding it out.
"To happy endings," Derek said, clinking his beer against Gideon's.
"And to the good life," Gideon added.
"To the good life."