Spencer sat in the dark. He rarely left the couch these days. He ran his fingers over the page in the open book… her note, her message. Thomas Merton. He closed the book and held it to his chest, dropping his head back, eyes closed. Agony. His stomach, his head, his arms and legs. And his chest. His chest was the worst. Right where his heart was. A searing soreness that made it hard to breathe. A dent, a bruise, a gaping hole lit on fire. It felt like all three. It was all three.
He hadn't spoken in weeks. He couldn't. He'd refused all attempts at contact. They'd reached out every day. His friends, his… family. He didn't want them. He didn't want anything.
He jerked his head up as he heard a noise. A scraping sound. He looked as if in a fog at the direction of the sound and he saw the curtains move. Was he dreaming? He couldn't tell. It didn't matter if he was awake or asleep any more, the pain was always there. He blinked away as a shaft of light shot into the room, the curtains pushed aside. A dream. It had to be. He watched with detached interest as a booted foot appeared through his now open window, followed by another. Someone come to kill him then? An UnSub?
A tiny body rolled into the room, springing up just as quickly, gun immediately poised to fire at any threat, blonde hair flying. Her eyes darted around the room and as they landed on him, she lowered her weapon. They looked at each other in silence.
"Hi, JJ." He croaked. If it even really was her, he wasn't sure. But if she was a dream, he still didn't want to be rude.
Her shoulders sagged in relief, but her words were angry. "Don't you 'Hi JJ' me, you little shit! Do you know how worried we've all been? How – "
Spencer ignored her and slowly stood, looking for all the world like a man of ninety instead of thirty. He walked down the hall heading for his bedroom and closed the door behind him.
JJ watched him go in disbelief, then holstered her gun and followed him, slowly opening the bedroom door and taking it all in. His room in such disarray, books and clothes everywhere, his thin, folded body in his dirty robe on the unmade bed, his back to her.
A lump rose in her throat as she looked around. None of this was Spence. This person was barely alive. She moved to the bed and gingerly sat on the edge. She reached out to touch his arm, but decided against it and said in her quietest voice, "I'm sorry, Spence. I'm sorry I yelled. I just needed to see you, to know that you're alive."
He visibly flinched and then she did reach out to touch him. She gently moved him onto his back and pushed his dirty hair from his eyes. He looked at her then, knowing she was there and she suppressed a gasp at the visible grief, the agony in his red-rimmed eyes. They were dark, sunken hollows… holes in his face. They gleamed dully with tears, but none fell. Purple bruises ringed them, far darker than was his usual, and they tore into her heart.
"Oh, Spence…" she tilted her head and pressed her lips together in a grim smile as she reached up to smooth his tense brow. She hadn't expected this. She really hadn't known what to expect, thought herself ready for anything. Not this, though. Not this. Not this shell of a person masquerading in her dear friend's body. It's like he was empty.
She didn't know what he would want so she just took charge. She'd be damned if she'd let him just lie there in his own filth, so she slid one arm under him, forcing him to sit up. JJ was strong, but she was surprised at how light he was, like he hadn't eaten anything in days. He still hadn't said a word to her and continued his silence as she stood him up, guiding him into the bathroom and turning on the shower. She started to take off his clothes and he stopped her, avoiding her gaze as he slowly disrobed.
She moved slowly out of the bathroom, giving him privacy and said "Spence, I'll be right here-" then she heard a loud THUD as he hit the floor and she opened the door to see him on his side, naked, bleeding from his shoulder.
JJ went into emergency mode then. This wasn't working as is and he needed help. She found herself thinking she should've brought Morgan, but he wasn't here, only her. She made a decision then and quickly started removing her own clothes, leaving her undergarments on. She bent down and tugged at Spencer, surprised when he began to get up on his own, but she still didn't trust him in the shower by himself, he was too unsteady. She wrangled him into the shower and pushed his head under the spray as she reached for the soap. He braced his arms against the tile, and gasped as the water ran over his long-neglected skin. She made soft, reassuring small talk as she washed him, paying special attention to the cut on his shoulder, and for the most part he cooperated… he just didn't say anything, didn't look at her. She reached for his shampoo and he stopped her hand.
"I'll do it," he said. JJ nodded as the water cascaded down them both and took the soap again, rubbing it all over his back as he washed his hair. She started to come out of emergency mode and she couldn't help but notice his well-formed backside, and the way the muscles in his back played against his slender frame as his raised hands worked the shampoo into his hair. She'd glimpsed the front of his body and had tried to avert her eyes but what was there was impressive, and unexpected. She chided herself for thinking that way and bent her mind to the task at hand. She reached around him and after making sure he was all rinsed, turned the water off. She stepped out and opened the linen closet, unsurprised to find perfectly stacked, untouched, fluffy white towels at the ready. She wrapped one around herself, tucking the end in, then opened one for Spencer to step into, which he did, slowly.
He just kind of stood there, unshy, and he tilted his head toward her. "Thanks." He said. She looked up at him, and lifting her hand to his bearded face said, "What are friends for?" and she smiled a tiny smile. "Do you want to shave?" she asked him. He looked into the mirror and said, "I guess."
She thought the shower had revived him a little, and his shoulder cut was superficial so she left him then to his ablutions. She went into his room and removed her wet underthings, dried off and got dressed back into her clothes, pulling her wet hair back into a ponytail, then looked into his bedroom closet for fresh sheets for his bed. After getting that done she went back into the hall and knocked on the bathroom door.
"You okay?" she asked.
"Yes." He answered, and she could tell he was brushing his teeth.
She went into his kitchen, dirty dishes everywhere, and marveled again at how unlike Spencer this all was. She found a clean bowl, then got a can of soup from the pantry and heated it in the microwave. She was getting it ready when he suddenly spoke, startling her.
"I'm really tired."
She recovered and said "I know Spence, but when was the last time you ate?" He shrugged and she gently pushed him down into one of the kitchen chairs. He started to protest and she said "Just a couple bites, for me?"
Spencer obediently picked up the spoon and took one, two, three spoonfuls before setting it down and pushing up from the table, moving slowly back down the hall to his room and crawling into bed, towel and all.
JJ followed him then, pulling the clean sheet up over his sore shoulder, and bringing up his comforter waist high. She couldn't help but run her hand over his still damp head, smoothing his hair and tucking a piece behind his ear. She bent over and planted a tiny kiss on his temple and whispered "I'll be right in the other room."
"You can leave now," he whispered back, the effort of full voice too much.
"I know, but I'm not going to."
"You can go," he whispered again, as he slid into sleep.
"Not a chance," she thought. She went out to the kitchen and started cleaning, starting the dishwasher before moving into the trashed living room. "Not much 'living' going on here lately," she thought as she picked up empty pizza boxes, unopened mail, and discarded clothing. She made a pile of his books, not wanting to put them back out of place, and sat on the couch, pulling out her phone. "Hey Garcia. I'm in."
"OMG did you have to break in?" was the immediate response.
"No, but I did have to come in through the window."
"Alive. Not good though. I'm really worried, Pen. Can you tell Hotch I won't be in for a day or so?"
"Sure, but how is he? I mean did he talk to you, did he tell you what-"
"No. I managed to get him in the shower and he ate a couple bites but he can still barely speak. I'm staying here tonight."
"OMG OMG should we come? Derek and I?"
"Honestly? I think it would be too much for him right now. Give it a day or so. He's been isolating and I'm not even really welcome here as it is."
"But you're not…"
"Leaving? No way."
Penelope smiled at that and felt relief on Reid's behalf for the first time in weeks.
"It's like he's underwater, Pen. Like nothing is real to him. He's like an old man…and his face, his eyes…"
Garcia's own eyes started tearing up at hearing this and she said "Oh JJ… what can I do?"
"Just… leave it to me for a little bit. I'm going to see if I can get the ball rolling. If not, I can always call for reinforcements. Have you gotten hold of Emily yet?"
"Left messages at all her numbers, but she's on assignment. I didn't tell her why, didn't want her to worry but I know she'll call as soon as she gets back to London."
"Good, okay, and thanks. Only tell Hotch all this, alright? Nobody else needs to know his private details right now."
"Derek needs to know, JJ."
"Okay, but just those two. Let's keep this Spence's business for now. As much as we can, anyway."
"Roger, chica. Give him my love, ok?"
"Will do." JJ closed the connection and looked around. She reached back and turned on the side-table lamp as she noticed night approaching. What a comfortable home he had, really. It was just so him. Warm color on the walls, soft lighting, books everywhere you looked, sturdy, comfortable furniture, classic lines. All Spence. She smiled as she looked on the other side table and noticed a corded, rotary phone. Of course. She was surprised it wasn't wall mounted, with a horn-shaped mouthpiece to speak into. She loved that he had an old but pristine stereo on one of the shelves, and an entire bookcase dedicated to his vinyl record collection.
What an enigma her dear friend was. Blessed with the sharpest, most capable mind she'd ever known, yet he preferred things from a much simpler time, eschewing technology whenever he could, though still easily mastering and adapting its benefits for certain uses. She loved that about him, and cherished his uniqueness above all other things. She would see him right. There's no way he would suffer alone any more. Enough was enough, whatever he needed, she would give him. She went to the kitchen to put on a fresh pot of coffee when she heard him scream.
Author's note: Unfortunately guys, if you want to see what happens next you'll need to go over to my "Willowy" account on AO3. They no longer allow adult scenes here and there is a doozy in the next chapter. It's really wonderfully intimate and lovely and sexy and I hope all you wonderful readers will follow me over there, where my entire catalog (thus far) resides.