Spencer sighed, kissed Christine's neck, and rolled over. After a few deep breaths, he opened his eyes and smiled broadly. "Well, that was a wonderful way to say good morning!"
She said nothing but simply giggled and threw an arm lazily over his waist. After a few moments, he began to sit up, only to have her grip on him suddenly tighten. "No," she protested. "Not yet."
"Dear," he laughed, "I have to work today- remember? Vacation is over!"
"It's over when I say it's over," she grumbled. "Call in sick. Tell them you caught something tropical, like dengue fever."
"Chris, we literally saw everyone last less than 2 days ago! I think Hotch will see through the dengue lie…"
"Then let me talk to Aaron," she said, reaching over him and swiping his cell phone off the nightstand. "I'll tell him."
"No, you won't!" he replied, panicked. As he wrestled with her to regain control of his phone, he saw her flip it open and begin dialing. "No! Don't! Please, Chris, don't, I-"
"Hello, Aaron? It's Chris Arcangeli-" she was saying when he snatched it out of her hands. "Hey!"
"Hi, Hotch? It's Reid," he said, scrambling to get out of bed and away from her grasp. "Hi, so sorry to bother you. Yes, yes, I…I know it's early…no, nothing's wrong…well, I may be marrying a crazy woman, but otherwise I'm fine. Again, I'm so sorry…yes, I'll see you later. Bye." He shut his phone and turned to her, trying to be angry, but failing at the sight of her wearing nothing but a bedsheet and her impish smile. "You are positively incorrigible! You're going to get me fired, you know that?"
"Good! I hope I do! Then you can go on the road with me and live life as one of my groupies!"
"One of your groupies?"
"Okay, my only groupie. Ever. I promise. Hey," she said, as he started for the bathroom, "me first! You made a nasty mess of things this morning." He rolled his eyes as she darted past him into the bathroom and shut the door in his face. "Honestly," she called to him from within, "with all the bodily fluids you and I leave on those sheets, I'm shocked neither of us has developed some kind of serious chronic skin rash."
"Now you're just being disgusting, Christine," he answered as he laid out clothes for himself.
"Nope, just honest," she said as she came out the door. "It's simple biology- we screw, we secrete. You most of all. Bathroom's all yours, by the way. I'll go start the coffee. Oatmeal okay?"
"Yes, fine. Thank you."
After he'd showered, shaved and dressed, he walked into the kitchen just as a timer went off. Watching her pull a pan of muffins from the oven, he asked, "Are we out of oatmeal?"
"No, but I figured I had the time so I decided to make these instead for your apparently ungrateful self."
"Sorry, they look delicious, really."
"Good. I figured you could take the leftovers to Penny as a token of thanks for her willingness to help you out with this wedding mess," she said as she sat down. "Seriously, I don't think either of you has a clue how much work it's going to take to pull this off the way you want it. I still think we should just do it out back here in the yard. My family would be fine with it."
"As charming as your suggestion of a pig-roast and pitchers of beer was, I've always wanted something a little more elegant for my wedding."
"It's a funny thing, Spencer, and I really don't know how you do it, but somehow even though I know you're saying 'elegant', all I'm actually hearing is 'expensive'."
"I don't know why you're so worried about the expense," he said as he peeled the paper off a muffin. "You and I both have healthy enough incomes, and besides, your father is insisting on paying for it."
"You spoke with my father?!" Christine said with alarm.
"Well, of course I did. You told me to guest an estimate of the guest count from your mother, and when I called her, he was shouting in the background about who's going to be paying for this fish and duck soiree…why does he think we'd be serving fish and duck?"
"Eh, it's a line from The Shining- he thinks he's funny…"
"It seems to run in the family. As I was saying, he was asking about that, so your mother put him on the phone and he insisted on paying for it."
Christine gave him a perturbed look. "We don't need his money. I don't need his money. I'm not a little child anymore and it's no longer their responsibility to pay my damned bills! I work really fucking hard to pay my own way in this world, and by God-"
"Hey, calm down," Spencer said, raising his hand. "You father has worked hard his entire life for one purpose- to give his family every good thing he possibly could. Your wedding is one of those things he's worked for. Don't deny him the pleasure of giving you a gift he's waited your lifetime to give you."
"All the more reason to keep this whole thing minimalistic. It's ridiculous for him to piss away so much money on a one-time party. Who do we need to impress, anyway? Geez, the next thing he'll want is to walk me down the aisle…"
Spencer's mouth fell open. "And what would be wrong with that?"
"It's symbolic of a time when women weren't regarded as completely human, when they had such low legal and social status as to be handed from one man into the care of another as if they were chattel! I'm not his possession to give away, and much less yours to be taken, besides which I'm not exactly a blushing virgin anymore as you yourself know better than anyone- or have you perhaps forgotten how we spent this morning?"
"Oh, I remember precisely what we did this morning, and your argument is ludicrous- your father and I aren't trading you for ten goats and a couple of cows, Christine! It's simply a tradition, and a sweet one at that. But if you won't do it for him, then please consider doing it for me. Look," he said, wiping muffin crumbs from his lips, "since the day my grandfather gave me that ring, I've dreamed of the day I'd meet someone to whom I could give it. It was a dream that for the longest time I never had much hope of seeing come to fruition. But it has, and now I want to have my other dream come true- I want that one moment where I get to stand in front of all our friends and family and see the most beautiful girl in the world walking towards me on her father's arm, looking like the closest thing to an angel as can be seen on earth. Chris, I know it's not a big dream, but it's my dream. That's why I want to do this. I don't care any more than you about trying to impress anyone. I just want to have that one moment that I've always dreamed of having. Can't you please just let me have that one small dream?"
She opened her mouth to respond, shut it again, then said softly, "Yes. Okay, yes. For that, I can do it." After a sip of coffee she added, "So, how're the muffins?"
"Delicious, thanks, but I really do have to get on the road now. You mentioned I could take the rest for Garcia?"
"Yeah, sure. Lemme just get a box for them," she replied, getting up. As she rummaged around in a cabinet she suddenly stood and turned to Spencer. "Oh! I almost forgot! There's something I need to tell you about, but I suppose there's no time now…"
"I'll call you when I break for lunch, okay?"
"Actually, no. It's one of those things I'd really prefer we discuss face to face. Don't worry- it's nothing bad. Of course, it's nothing particularly good, either, for that matter. Let's just say it's some rather neutral news I have for you. But it's somewhat of a serious subject. Anyway, don't worry. We'll discuss it tonight or whenever you get back, okay?"
"Oooookaay," he said slowly.
"What? Don't look so suspicious!"
"I can't help it. Morgan's warned me that whenever a woman says, 'We need to talk,' it means the man is in trouble."
"You're not in trouble, for pity's sake," she laughed as she shoved the last of the muffins into a plastic container and handed it to him. "Trust me. And bring me back that Tupperware, okay?"
"Yes, Your Highness."
"Hey! I prefer Your Imperial Majesty! Get it right next time!"
"Yes, dear," he chuckled, kissed her on the cheek, and hurried out the door.
He'd only been at his been at his desk for a few minutes before he heard the familiar clicking of high heels on the floor behind him. When he turned and looked up, he saw Garcia standing with her arms full of books and magazines. "Alright, so…after we left yesterday I took it upon myself to do a little research and I've discovered that Christine may be right- pulling off this wedding in three months is going to be a massive undertaking. But never fear," she said, laying her burden on his desk, "with my impeccable taste and your…your…credit cards…we'll be able to accomplish it in style! According to this guide for planning a wedding, we're already, at best, six months behind schedule, so I took the liberty of calling my favorite bakery-" at this she paused abruptly and sniffed the air. "Speaking of bakery, what's in that?"
"Blueberry muffins. Christine made them this morning as a down-payment on your services," Spencer replied, removing the lid and offering them to her.
"Ooooh, I don't know who loves her more- you or I? Anyway- oh! Wow, these are delicious! Yummy! Anyway, I took the liberty of scheduling a cake tasting this Saturday for you and I, provided of course you don't get a case."
"Did someone say cake?" Emily asked as she walked in. "Is that what those are- cupcakes?"
"Muffins," Garcia replied.
"Oh, great! Can I have one?" she asked.
"You most certainly may not!" Garcia said, snatching the box out of her reach. "Christine made them for me, and they're delicious, so I intend to eat every last one of them! By the way, Reid- have I told you lately that I'm in love with your fiancée? Because I kinda am…"
"She loves you, too, Garcia," Spencer replied, "though I think she'd be greatly disappointed in you right now for not sharing your good fortune with Emily."
Garcia pouted for a moment, then held out the box to offer her one. "Fine. We'll do it your way. But I'll have you know these muffins aren't just my good fortune; they're in payment for services to be rendered."
"Ah," Prentice said, peeling the paper off her muffin. "You mean your foray into wedding planning…"
"Yes, and I was just telling the good doctor that I've already taken the liberty of scheduling a cake tasting for us. Oh, Em, it's going to be amazing! They're preparing us cupcakes with every combination of cake, frosting and filling they offer, and we just have to sit back like royalty and choose with one is most worthy to be their cake! Doesn't that sound fantastic? Hey- you should totally come with. Seriously. Because they have four flavors of cake, three frostings and five fillings, which means we're going to be sampling, like, hundreds of cupcakes!"
"Actually, Garcia," Reid said, "we'll only have to sample-"
"60 different cupcakes," Prentiss concluded. "Yeah, that's right- I've got skills, too!"
"Actually, I was going to say it'll be 24-30 cupcakes, because I assume that at least one of those cake and frosting flavors, and possibly one of the fillings, are chocolate, which we can immediately rule out."
"Rule out chocolate? But chocolate is the flavor of love!" Prentiss said with a laugh.
"Did somebody call my name?" Morgan asked as he strode over to his desk.
"Not this time, my tall, decadent, sweet one, no," Garcia cooed. "We're talking about the wedding cake tasting I've set up for this weekend. And to answer your question, Em, Chris. Chris doesn't like chocolate."
"What? Reid, you know you're marrying a crazy woman, right?" Morgan said.
"It's true- both that she's crazy and that she hates chocolate," said Spencer. "But that nevertheless leaves us with potentially 30 cupcakes to taste, so please come, Emily. I suspect there will be more than enough for us to eat."
"Ooh, and then there're these bartenders I wanted to check out- a bar service, really," Garcia said. "We can stop by there afterwards to do a wine and champagne tasting. I'll call them- we can make a day of it! JJ!" she called out to the office upstairs. "JJ! We're doing a cake and champagne tasting this weekend! Wanna come with?"
"Sure!" she said from the door of her office. "Sounds incredible! I just hope we don't get a case that spoils it!"
Morgan laughed. "Wow, Reid. Sounds like you're going to have a really fun girls' weekend! You ladies enjoy it, now!"
"Yeah, you laugh," Spencer said with a smile, "but I get to have a day of eating free cake and drinking free wine in the company of three beautiful women, and at the end of it I get to go home to the most beautiful one of all, who also happens to be in love with me. When was the last time you had a Saturday turn out that well?"
"Shut up, kid," he grumbled. "Don't you have some work you should be doing?"
As he stepped in the door that evening, he started call out, "Hey guys, I'm-" Just then, he was interrupted by Spud racing past him, a ridiculous bow tied around his neck and trailing his leash while Alex ran after him, calling his name.
"…back," he finally finished after Spud's master had chased him down the hall, apparently hoping to corner him in the library. "What was all that about?" he asked Christine, who had emerged from the parlor to observe the shenanigans.
"That's your ring bearer. And remember this moment, sweetheart, as being the one when I once again reminded you that it was a bad idea to let Alex have that animal participate in our wedding. Remember when he takes off with our rings that it was you who encouraged her by insisting that cats have been successfully trained as service animals while I was the voice of reason that said that thing was irredeemably bat shit crazy. Remember it!"
"Well dear, if I ever forget it, I'm sure I can count on you to remind me." He bent down to give her a kiss on the cheek and said, "So, shall we talk now?"
"After dinner. I've got chicken and dumplings on the stove and I just got some snickerdoodles out of the oven. Let's eat!"
After the dinner dishes were cleared away, Alex left to find Spud and attempt to continue to train him to walk on a leash while wearing a bow to which two rings could theoretically be fixed. "It'll never happen," Christine said after she left the room. "If she tries to do that, our rings will run away with that animal, and you'll only have yourself to blame, Sparky."
"Have a little faith in her, Chris. She can do it."
"There's a reason why we liken impossibly unmanageable tasks to being 'like herding cats'- because you cannot train cats. They only thing they can be counted upon to do is eat your corpse when they find you dead. Care for a cookie?"
"I'd rather we talk first."
"Fine. We can go in the library, but I'm taking my cookies with me."
After they'd relocated themselves, Spencer asked, "So what's so important?"
Christine sighed, pondered the cookie in her hand for a moment, and said, "Look. You know how the other day Diana and Jason spent, like, a really long time talking privately?"
"Yes, I noticed."
"Ever wonder what that was all about?"
Spencer studied her face, wondering at her meaning. "Well, as you know, Gideon just lost a lady friend who had been very close to him. I assumed that he simply didn't care at that moment to spend too much time around so many people, and perhaps Diana was able to provide a sympathetic ear…"
"Yeah, well, turns out the situation was somewhat reversed."
"I'm not sure I follow…"
Christine munched on her cookie for a moment and continued, "Did you know that Jason's ex-wife was hearing impared?"
"No, I never knew that. To be honest, I never even knew her name."
"Well, she was. I didn't previously know either. Anyway, Diana recently had an incident with Lizzy. I guess Alice was sitting behind her, making whatever noises a baby makes to get attention, then she reached out and yanked Lizzy's hair. Lizzy turned around and slapped the baby, which sent Diana into a fury."
"Yeah. And she said, 'Why would you do that? She only wanted some attention!' Lizzy said, 'I didn't know she was there.' Then Diana tried an experiment by talking to her both where Lizzy could see her and where she couldn't-"
"I think that was pretty much Diana's reaction. Lizzy could read her lips, but couldn't actually hear her until she was screaming. She's been diagnosed with a Waardenburg Syndrome, which causes moderate to profound hearing loss. It seems Jason's ex has the same thing. Lizzy's case is more severe, and she'll likely be completely deaf within a year."
"I'm so sorry to hear that."
"Well, so is everyone. But here's why it involves you. You and I both. As you know, I'm Lizzy's godmother. Now, of all Diana's siblings, only two are old enough to actually care for a child. Esther moved to Korea recently and Sarah is pregnant with her third- and they live in a very small apartment in Manhattan. So she and Stephen would like to name us Lizzy and Alice's guardians in the event that, God forbid, anything ever happened to them."
"Does her family know about this?"
"Yes. And they know me. They know in the off chance the worst were to happen, that I would never stand in their way of having a relationship with the girls. But now that we're getting married, they thought we'd be the ones best equipped to assume the responsibilities of raising them if we needed to. So I just wanted to know your thoughts on the matter."
"Well, of course, Chris," Spencer said quickly. "As long as her family didn't contest it, of course we'd take them. I have no problem with that."
"I told her I was almost certain that'd be your response, but I didn't want to have her go to her lawyer without first discussing it with you."
"What about you?" he asked. "You're the one who doesn't like children. How are you with all of this?"
"Hey, it's not that I don't like children. Let's be clear about that. I just have serious doubts about my ability to ever be a proper mother. But I would do anything Diana ever asked me to, as she would for me. And if those children ever landed in my care, I'd move heaven and earth to make sure they were cared for as she would want. You can bet on that." She began to eat another cookie and said, "Besides, the possibility is so remote that it would ever come to pass, but it's a decision I could not commit to without first discussing it with you. So like I said, it's neither a good nor a bad thing, since it'll hopefully never need to happen, but it's something that's out there now. So that's it. That's all I had for you. Wanna cookie?" she asked, holding out the plate.
"Don't mind if I do," he replied, taking one and tasting it. "Oh wow. These are delicious!"
"They'd better be- they're my Grandma Pete's recipe! The only difference is I didn't have her secret ingredient."
"What's her secret ingredient? Love?"
"No, you jerk," Christine replied with a laugh. "Of course they're made with love! What kind of a heartless harpie do you take me for? I was talking about butter-flavored Crisco. The woman uses that shit in everything!"
This chapter is the first of a sequel to Crazy Can Be Beautiful. If you haven't read it, that's the reason you didn't understand this chapter. Please go back and read the other one first. It is set in June 2007, between seasons 2 and 3. The only episode referenced is the season 2 finale, "No Way Out Part II: The Evilution of Frank," in which Frank Breitkopf murders Gideon's girlfriend, Sarah.
A very special thanks to the reader who provided the cover art for this volume and for Crazy Can Be Beautiful. Larger versions of both of her works can be seen by visiting the Instagram I created for these stories under the name, "thegingerpotamus". Please remember the "the" and don't bother the nice lady at "gingerpotamus." She is innocent of my literary wrongdoings.