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To try to find the answers

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It takes him a while to get used to the schedule, but eventually Spencer falls into a routine.  Work some, stay home some, teach some.  Then start the cycle again.  He highlights the days on his calendar in yellow and orange and green to keep himself on track.

It’s nearly midnight when he gets home from working the most recent case, and Spencer barely has the energy to pick up a pen and scratch off the day’s square.  He’s scheduled to be in the office again tomorrow.  And the next day.  And the next.  Spencer usually looks forward to working, but all he wants to think about now is getting in bed.  A throb’s been going above his right eye for the better part of the day.  He’s glad Emily’s not strict on start times when the team’s been out late.

Spencer wouldn’t mind sleeping straight till noon, but his body jars him from sleep at 4:30.  His headache is worse, he’s sweaty, and it’s all he can do to lurch into the bathroom before he throws up last night’s dinner in a sour rush.

Spencer’s body aches, and he feels feverish.  He means to take some ibuprofen when he’s done vomiting, but the thought slips from his mind, and he flushes the toilet and stumbles back to bed.  He’s already leaving Emily a crackly, poorly-worded voicemail when he remembers the painkillers, and he decides it’s not worth it.  He’s too attached to the igloo of blankets trapping his body heat.  He’ll medicate later.

But when later rolls around, Spencer’s in a haze.  He knows where he is (his apartment) and roughly what time it is (morning), but the rest of the details remain fuzzy.  What’s he supposed to be doing?  Is he going to be in trouble if he doesn’t get to it?

Spencer’s phone starts buzzing on the bedside table.  He should probably get that, but he’s going to freeze to death if he snakes his arm out of his burrow.  And what if the line is bugged?  He can’t risk it.  It’s too dangerous.

Spencer drags his pillow over his head and tries to forget about it.  Or maybe remember.  He’s not quite sure.  What’s safe, and what’s not?  If he’s running a fever, he should probably be trying to cool down.  But if he slips out from under the covers, he’ll be exposed, he’ll be seen…

There’s a tapping on the door.  It’s muffled under the cover of his pillow, but the sound is unmistakable.  That’s it, Spencer thinks.  He’s been found out.  Goosebumps prickle up his spine as he braces himself for whatever bad thing is about to happen.

“…kid?  Reid…?”  The person outside the door knows his name.  Panic flares in Spencer’s chest.

But…wait.  The only people who call him ‘kid’ are his friends.

“I know you’re sick, but you have to open up.”

Is it safe to do that?  Spencer isn’t sure.  But whoever it is raps on the door again, and the sound makes the pain in his head ramp up to an eye-watering pitch.

“Coming,” Spencer grunts.  He throws back the covers, anxiety and cold combining to set a tremor alight in his limbs.  He pads across the living room and pauses a foot from the door.  Spencer looks at the doorknob, then to his holstered gun hanging from the coatrack.  If this is an intruder, someone out to manipulate him…

“Come on, kid.”  Spencer knows that voice.  What is he thinking?  He reaches up to undo the chain, then turns the deadbolt and pulls the door open a crack.

Spencer can only see a sliver of Derek’s face, but he watches it break into a smile.  “Hey, Reid,” he says.  “I’ve been meaning to come say ‘hey.’  Then Emily texted and said you’re sick, so…”  Derek hefts a plastic shopping bag.  “I figured you could use some cans of soup.”

The panic evaporates so quickly it makes Spencer’s knees weak.  Adrenaline he didn’t know he was storing up releases in a wash.  His heart hammers, and his throat gum up.  It takes a moment for Spencer to remember how to move his lips.  “Th-thank you,” he stammers.

“Anytime, kid,” Derek says.

Spencer pulls the door all the way open to show him in.