A.N. Post-ep for 9x07, Gatekeeper. Spoilers.
TO HAVE AND TO HOLD
"Hey." Reid pushed his chair back, glad for the distraction. JJ had brought him a mug of coffee, sweetened to his satisfaction. Her perch on his desk told him she was in the mood to chat.
"That was fun last night, wasn't it?"
He smiled, remembering. "It was. I'm kind of sorry the bar's going out of business."
They'd been part of a celebration that was virtually an Irish wake for a bar Rossi had frequented over the years. And, while it wasn't all that unusual for the some of the others, the event had been marked by the rare appearance of both David Rossi and Spencer Reid on the karaoke stage.
"I think Hotch got it on video."
"He did, I saw. What he didn't see was that I got a photo."
"A photo?" Reid had been next to her on the stage. JJ didn't see how he could have gotten a photo of them. Except he's got some really long arms. Did Spence take a 'selfie'?
"Of him. He may have thought it was memorable to have me and Rossi on the stage…but I got a memorable photo too. Hotch was smiling."
"Ooh, let me see!" She stepped behind Reid so she could look over his shoulder, and both of them laughed at the sight of their often dour unit chief doing the same.
"It looks good on him. And it's been way too long since I've seen him that relaxed and happy."
JJ's close work with Hotch during her stint at the unit liaison had given her a unique perspective on the man. She'd known him first as a dedicated crusader for justice, lived through his happily becoming a father, and mourned with him through the loss of Hayley, first through circumstance, and then through death. She was glad to see the reemergence of the person she'd once known. And happy that Jack would get to know him as well.
As she resumed her seat on Reid's desk, she saw the wistful smile on her friend's face. Though all of them had suffered loss in one way or another, she knew that Reid felt bonded to Hotch because of the similarities in their circumstances. And that he measured his chances of healing against whether or not the older man was accomplishing it.
"Spence," she said softly. When he raised his eyes to her, she continued, "You'll get there too. You will."
The smile stayed on his lips, but the sadness returned to his eyes. JJ realized it had been absent for a little while. Ever since….
"You did great, yesterday. I couldn't believe how calm you were."
He gave a small snort. "Me either."
"Well, you were amazing with the unsub. You got him to just hand you his weapon. Just like that. No one had to get hurt."
JJ made more of it than she probably should have, wanting to help restore a confidence that she knew he'd lost. It was still undermined by the failure with Maeve's stalker and a subsequent case. Since then, there'd been a few times when he might once have assumed the lead in talking with a distraught unsub. But he'd held back. And, JJ had noticed, Hotch had also held him back, given the assignments to others. Even when it was just interviewing a victim. Now she wondered.
"Spence….did you…..did Hotch…..did you ask him to hold you back?"
He might have felt challenged if the inquiry had come from someone else. But he knew JJ's heart. He knew she wanted the best for him.
"We talked. It was a while ago. After I told that one guy the truth and he killed himself right in front of us….remember?"
She nodded. How could I forget?
Hotch told me he thought I was being affected by what happened to Maeve. I was in such turmoil over it that I couldn't even talk to him then. I just walked out on him."
JJ's brows went up. "That couldn't have gone over well."
He chuckled. "It didn't. I got home to a text telling me I was expected to meet with him early the next morning." He shook his head, remembering. "I don't think I slept a minute that whole night. I was sure he'd tell me to shape up or ship out. And…" He had to swallow something back down before continuing. "I don't think….I know…I know I wouldn't have made it if I hadn't had work. If I hadn't had all of you."
He'd been staring off, but raised his eyes to hers as he finished the sentence. JJ smiled back at him.
"Not that I want to ever think about coming to work without you, Spence…but you'll have us in your life no matter what. You'll have me."
He smiled back at her. "I count on it. You and Henry."
Which reminded her of what she'd really wanted to talk about . But before she had a chance to bring it up, Reid was back to the story with Hotch.
"So I came in early and met with him. I don't think he'd even said 'hello' before I was apologizing. But he cut me off. He reminded me that Morgan had stepped in for him when Hayley died. That Rossi had led a couple of cases as well. That they both did it because they wanted to give him the time and space he needed, without losing him to the team. And then he said he wanted to do the same for me. So we agreed that I would do what I thought I could. And….and this was so important to me, JJ…..he trusted me to know what that was. He said he knew I wouldn't just hold back to hold back."
He was struggling for the right words, but JJ knew what he was trying to express. That their unit chief, the man they all respected, and whose esteem they valued, saw the honesty and dedication in Reid, and trusted the young man to form his judgment based on that, rather than personal comfort.
"Hotch is a good man. And he knows a good man when he sees one."
She got the smile she was going for. Now she would get back to her original quest.
"Spence, when I was saying how calm you were…it wasn't really about the unsub. It was about the baby. You did that like a pro! You delivered a baby!"
She would have expected him to panic in such a situation, to pass it off to herself, or Blake. But he'd taken charge, and known exactly what to do and say. And, consequently, there was a new little 'Spencer' in the world.
He shrugged. "There wasn't really a lot of choice, was there? That baby was coming, one way or the other."
"Still…..you knew exactly what to do. Because you'd read about it when I was pregnant with Henry?"
She'd posed it as a question, wanting to talk about it more. But he'd told all of them last night, at the bar. JJ had been ruminating on it ever since. That, and the vision of Reid holding the newest little Spencer.
It was almost the identical look on his face. Wonder, and then joy, and back to wonder again. The same progression he wore after I handed Henry to him for the first time. He was so ragged then, so beat up by life in those days. Kind of like now. And it was almost like a switch had been flipped, a light turned on. He was afraid to take Henry, I remember that. He got all flustered and tried to tell me he didn't know how. But something told me to hand my son over anyway. And, what do you know….he was a natural. Long fingers holding Henry's little body, the other hand naturally cradling his head. Cradling my little boy. Like he's been doing ever since.
But when he was holding that baby...he brought me right back to that hospital room. He was so good with him! Holding precious cargo so gently, smiling down at him. Virtually gleaming.
When it was over, they'd done something that they hadn't been able to do when Henry was born. They'd held one another, and shared the joy of the moment. JJ had felt Reid trembling in her arms, felt him leaning on her for support. She realized, then, that it wasn't just intelligence he'd exercised for the sake of that mother and baby. It was courage.
The event had also brought her back to a conversation the two of them had shared weeks before. When he'd revealed to her that he wanted a family of his own. That he'd hoped he could make it happen with Maeve. When she'd watched him with little Spencer, JJ pictured him holding his own flesh and blood. And she'd had to turn away before the sorrow washed over her face. Now, she asked.
"Did you think about..." Not being able to finish, and knowing that she didn't need to.
He heaved a huge sigh. "Yes. But that baby was someone else's to love. I was just glad that I was able to help give her the chance to do that."
You'll get your baby to love, Spence. Please, God, let him have a baby to love. Forgetting that she'd already shared her own.
Last night, he'd revealed something more. She'd known of his obsession with learning everything about pregnancy when she was carrying Henry. But she'd chalked it up to his obsession with knowing everything about everything. It was just his newest topic of interest, she'd thought, prompted by what was happening with his friend. He'd regaled her with both useful and useless facts, unable to distinguish between the two, and assuming she'd find them as fascinating as he did. But she really hadn't wanted to know about the latest theory on morning sickness, or humongous weight gain, or swollen feet. She was having enough trouble experiencing all of those things.
She'd laughed when he'd been afraid of feeling Henry's kick's beneath the skin of her abdomen, been touched when he would seem to be able to find a pillow for her lower back no matter which police precinct or sheriff's office they'd been stuck in. But she'd never understood how truly invested he'd been.
Last night, he'd explained, "I read everything I could find on it, in case JJ went into labor when we were away. In case she had to deliver."
She hadn't known that. Not until he announced it. He was prepared to take care of us.
Now she asked. "Spence….did you really read about delivering a baby when I was pregnant with Henry?"
He didn't think there was anything unusual about it. "Of course. What if you'd gone into labor?"
They'd all received the news last night with surprise. All of them, including JJ, attributed it to his need for control. They all knew he'd had a certain unease from the time she'd announced her pregnancy. They thought he'd simply been trying to alleviate it. But, now, JJ wasn't so sure. There was something in his tone…
"Spence…..why did you really do it?"
He was compelled to look at her…and then broke his eyes away.
"Having a baby is the most natural thing in the world, JJ. But it's also dangerous. I couldn't take the chance…..I couldn't risk something happening to you. Or to Henry."
It wasn't about control. It was about love. Her voice was momentarily lost. Once found, it pointed out the obvious.
"You didn't even know Henry yet."
He looked back at her and smiled knowingly.
She was puzzled. "How?"
"I knew he would be half his mother. Half his father, as well, true. But I knew that, even if he was only half his mother…..I knew I would love him."
JJ found herself unexpectedly flooded with emotion. Love, for him. Gratitude for his in return, for both herself and Henry. Sorrow, for his loss. Hope, that his life would be full again.
Her hand went to her mouth in a vain, misplaced effort to stay her tears. She couldn't speak.
So she simply stood, and opened her arms. And Reid stood as well, and stepped into them. And they held one another and remembered, and celebrated new life, and long-held love.
When they broke apart, JJ saw tears on Reid's face as well.
"What are these about?" she asked, as she brushed them away.
"I...hope, I guess. They're about hope. You reminded me that I loved Henry even before I knew him. Do you think, maybe...?"
She grinned at him. "I don't think it, Spence. I know it. There's someone else you haven't met yet. And you'll love him...or her...just as much."
He grinned back at her.
"I can't wait."