When she gets the call, the ID says "Restricted", and so, because she was foolish enough to give work her own cell number instead of telling them to get her a work cell or deal with not being able to reach her on lunch-break or any other off-hours time (never again, never never again) she answers the phone with, "Austin Streckner." And she scans the parking lot as she answers it, looking over her shoulder and quickening her steps to the car, so she can get in it and get the doors locked.
"Hi, Austin," says Spencer's voice from the other end, knocking her all the way out of work mode.
"Hey," she says. She unlocks the car door, gets in, and locks it again before she sticks the keys in the ignition so she can turn on the AC. "Where are you calling from? Your cell didn't come up."
"I'm kind of in the hospital," he says, in the tone of voice that tells her Spencer Expression #3 (acutely uncomfortable with what he has to say) is the order of the minute. "So my cell isn't allowed."
"You're in the hospital," she says. It's not a question. She reminds her heart-rate that he's calling her, and he sounds apologetic and preoccupied instead of . . . anything else, and that means whatever he's in the hospital for - "Spencer, why are you in the hospital?"
His voice is even more uncomfortable when he answers her, and she now knows why, because he says, "I kind of got shot in the leg."
Austin stares at the license plate of the blue Ford in front of her in the parking lot and absorbs that. "Kind of?" she says, finally, because she refuses to be totally incoherent, and frustrated arm-gestures don't travel well through cell-towers. "How do you kind of get shot in the leg, Spencer?"
"Well, I mean, I got shot in the leg. Just above my knee, actually. It hurts a lot."
"I would kind of expect getting shot to hurt, Spence," she says, and this is one of those rare times she really, really regrets the long-distance part of their relationship, because knowing this over the phone is full of awkward, pent-up energy from adrenaline that didn't have anywhere to go now that it had suddenly shown up. "But you're okay? I mean, you'll be okay?"
"Yeah, apparently it was a really clean shot," Spencer says. "In the scale of luck that assumes the premise of being shot in the leg at all, I apparently got lucky."
"Okay," Austin says, and takes a breath to let that settle in and hopefully start calming the panic. "Anthrax and now getting shot, Spence," she says.
"I really don't do it on purpose," he points out, and she winds up with a laugh that's half nerves.
"Okay," she says again. "So now my question is, why did you get shot in the leg, Spencer?"
"We had a case," he said, unnecessarily stating the obvious, "and the unsub wound up devolving. Pretty cut and dried."
And then, in the background, Austin hears a female voice go, "WHAT? Oh no. No way, Reid, give me that phone - " and then three syllables of Spencer-protest and the sound of a (presumably hospital-room) phone being dropped and battled for, before Emily's on the line saying, in her brightest voice, "Hi, Austin. Your boyfriend's being unnecessarily modest."
"Oh no," Austin says, and in the background she can hear Spencer saying, no seriously, Emily, give me the phone.
"Oh yes," Emily says. "Dr Reid saved our intended victim at the expense of his leg."
"Oh my." And in the background, more Spencer, this time saying, you are making a way bigger deal of this than it is -
"There was, I'm told, a flying tackle," Emily goes on. "Out a doorway. And then, while wounded on the field -" (Spencer, and that's the voice for Spencer Expression #10, saying Emily, that's ridiculous, "- Dr Reid then very nearly talked the unsub down, and when it became absolutely necessary, managed to non-fatally incapacitate him just in time for the ambulance to arrive, whereupon he deferred treatment until after the unsub was stabilized by the EMTs."
"Of course he did," Austin sighs, because that's Spencer all over, and she's incredibly proud of him and wants to kick him all at once. She notes, "He's giving you the look that says you are the worst person in the world and he has no idea why he hangs out with you, isn't he."
Emily replies, "Yes, yes he is." And then both voices, Emily's friendly laughter and Spencer's sour, Right, now will you give me the phone back? are in the background, as Emily hands Spencer back the handset.
"It's me again," he says. Austin realizes she's smiling when she glances in the rearview mirror.
"I thought flying tackles were Derek's job," she teases, gently.
"He can have it back," Spencer replies, still sour as hell overtop of the uncomfortable.
"I'm really proud of you, Spence," she informs him, and then, so he doesn't have to find a way to respond that isn't awkward, she says, "So what's your prognosis?"
"Several weeks of unending misery," he says, with a bit of wry humour. "I can't take the stronger NSAIDs." And, unspoken and taken for granted: and I won't take narcotics. "Which means I'm going to make friends with the higher doses of acetaminophen and hope my liver doesn't give out."
"Yeah, because of all that heavy drinking you do," Austin retorts, in the same tone. "How long do you have to stay in hospital?" Which carried the question, how long do you keep needing to tell nurses you don't want morphine, no, you really really don't?
"I should be out by this evening, actually, I just wanted to call as soon as I could, because I knew it might get forgotten, otherwise."
And it's probably a sign she has spent too long around him and that profiling rubs off, but she swears there's a shade of something in his voice, and she can't think why anyone would forget (with the anthrax Agent Hotchner called her, for Christ's sake, and this had an even better story attached to it) - "Spence? Is everyone else okay?"
But he wouldn't be calling and making jokes if someone had died, would he? Spencer's coping mechanisms are, like, intellectualizing things and putting them in context of statistics, but in the pause of silence, she wonders.
Then he says, "That depends on how you define 'okay'. Nobody's dead," he says, a little carefully.
"What happened?" she asks, sitting up. (She wonders suddenly if anyone is looking out their window and asking themselves why the hell she's sitting in the parking lot with her engine running, but this conversation would have to count as a driving hazard.)
"The Reaper got into Hotch's condo, somehow," Spencer says, and she thinks holy Jesus, and Spencer goes on, "He dropped Hotch off at the ER as a John Doe, but he left a pretty clear threat to Hotch's son and ex-wife, so they're going into protective custody, and it'll be at least a month before Hotch can come back to work."
"Jesus," Austin breathes, and pulls her mind firmly away from trying to fill in with imaginings what Spencer delicately stepped around.
"Yeah," Spencer says, and then adds, in a wry voice again, "And we just got back from a really great time in Canada. So I wanted to make sure I called as soon as I remembered, because if Garcia hasn't gone home and gone to sleep then Morgan needs to kidnap her, and everyone else should be asleep instead of hovering around me in the hospital," and that was obviously for Emily, who was clearly still there, "and Rossi wouldn't remember."
"Babe?" she says, after that, and when he makes a noise that says he's listening, she says, "You sound like shit. You need sleep, too."
" . . .yeah," he says, and there's a kind of a sag in his voice.
Austin almost says, I love you, which would be a first, and it's right behind her teeth, but she swallows it. Because it would feel weirdly cheap, after what he just said, and because it's coming from fear, and she doesn't want that. Instead, she says, "Call me tonight if they let you out, okay?"
"Okay," Spencer says, and then they say good-bye, and she flips her cell closed.
She sits for a minute with her hand on the shift, ready to take it out of park and into drive, before she stops and reaches over to her purse to pull out her agenda, to see whether she could move her visit to this coming weekend, instead of next one. If Spencer would be okay with that.