I Would've (Post Ep 9X1)
He immediately wished he could take it back. And she wished she could take back the words that had prompted it.
He'd said it with a virtually flat affect. But she knew. No matter that he'd looked away. No matter that his mouth was set in a straight line. She knew.
This wasn't something that was emotionally void for him. Quite the contrary.
This was something so deeply felt that he feared connecting with it, feared being overcome. Especially in public. He couldn't let it happen again. Not after that one time it had washed over him without warning, a tidal wave of such immense feeling that it had blown through any and all defenses he'd owned. Not since he'd broken down in front of all of them, at seeing everything lost. His love. His life. The life he'd planned and would never live. The children he 'would've' had, but wouldn't. Before, and since, he'd kept it in check. He wouldn't let anyone see. If they couldn't see, perhaps he wouldn't need to feel.
But she knew. She'd figured it out. Figured him out. What others read as 'disconnected' was simply an attempt at self-defense. At protecting himself from himself, and the emotions that so often threatened to derail him. And protecting him from the ridicule he'd come to expect, should he reveal those emotions to another. So he restrained his emotions, bound them within.
In those times when his feelings loosed their bindings, in those times when he was caught in an impulsive moment, having let slip a statement, he immediately covered. She'd become aware of that as well. She'd come to recognize his 'tells'. The times he failed eye contact, until he was looking for her reaction, to see if she'd noticed. To see if she'd accept it.
He'd done it just now. His words had just come out, and he'd not been able to look directly at her as he'd said them. But his eyes sought hers immediately afterward.
Not 'I could've'. Not a 'maybe', but a given.
Two words that spoke volumes. This was the first time she'd realized the full extent of his brokenness. That it encompassed more than the loss of the relationship with the woman he'd loved. That it had been about the rest of his life. That his relationship with Maeve had opened him up to the possibility of having a 'rest of his life'.
That relationship. It had all been so strange, so unorthodox, so….antiquated. A relationship achieved through correspondence. So Victorian. Even when they'd progressed to phone calls, it had been dated. There was no video chatting, no attempt at exchanging photos. Just words, and ideas.
JJ smiled as she thought about it yet again, for what seemed an obsessively large number of times, given that it wasn't her relationship. Something about it seems so perfect for him. So 'Spence'. Something naïve, but not immature. Something innocent, maybe even pure. Something I would expect from Garcia's gentle genius.
Something I wish I had.
Her own path had been far more conventional. Meet, flirt, date, sleep together, fail protection, get pregnant, make a decision. Her first decision had been to fall in love with the little one she'd not yet met, and give the world a chance to see what he would make of his place in it. The next decision she'd put off for almost four years. Or, maybe, she had made that decision, repeatedly, for four years. And then terror, and relief, and gratitude, had changed the answer.
I guess none of our lives moves in a straight line, does it?
Her thoughts returned to Reid. His simple statement revealed to her something she'd not quite realized before. That he'd been planning for a time when he and Maeve would be together, dreaming of a future that didn't involve phone booths or stalkers. That he'd been able to see it. To visualize the family, the home, the children they would have shared together. A winding path with unlimited twists and turns, and forks, leading in so many directions that the possibilities were limitless.
She realized that, unlike her, he'd been sure of what he wanted. And that, in the moment Maeve died, he'd lost his entire future. He'd lost the path altogether. He'd lost hope. He'd lost the possibility that his life would be anything more than it was now. Solitary. Small. A single lane, offering no detours or diversions. A life with no potential to expand its parameters.
JJ cared too much about him to let him stay on that path alone. Not if she could help it. When his eyes sought hers, she caught them.
"Spence, you still will."
It was the only, the most natural, thing to say. Words to render comfort, if only in the moment. Because she couldn't make them true. Couldn't make them come true. She wasn't even sure she believed them herself. After all, he was in his thirties, and had only managed this one serious relationship. This one, serious non-physical relationship. Maybe it wouldn't happen for him.
JJ couldn't help wondering if he really meant it anyway. She could easily picture him with Maeve, sitting in their reading chairs, sharing their intellectual pursuits. But it was more difficult to picture him pursuing a tirading two year old around the house, or cleaning up spilled milk, or kissing a scraped knee. She wondered if he was simply mourning the lack of an option, even if he would never have chosen that option. Until she remembered…..
The time when he'd 'magicked' Henry's sore elbow away. The time when he'd driven through a snowstorm to take Henry for a promised afternoon matinee. The time when he'd turned the Halloween punch into a 'potion' using dry ice, to the great, squealing delight of his godson and friends.
He wants it. He really does. He loves Henry so much, and he'd do anything for him. He already does. But he wants his own. A little one who's in his life every single day. The laughter, the tears, the hugs….even the tantrums. They're all part of the package. And I think he knows that. He knows how to love a child.
She knew he loved Henry, and Henry loved him. She also thought Henry had taught him. She thought Reid had learned to trust through Henry. That despite his friendships with members of the team, including the one he shared with her, he'd never felt that deep, unconditional acceptance that he'd learned with Henry. No matter how he looked, what he sounded like, what he wanted to talk about, or found fascinating….Henry adored him. Henry adored his father as well, but he had his own special brand of adoration for his godfather. He hadn't, after all, chosen to dress up as a policeman last Halloween.
How did I know? How did I know they would be so right for each other?
Her decision to marry Will hadn't been the first impulsive move she'd made. The first one occurred on the day Henry was born, when she'd asked Spence to be his godfather. She'd only talked about it with Will while in the throes of labor.
Right after I saw him run out of the house with that missing little boy in his arms. The way he cradled him. How troubled he'd been by the whole thing. How he'd dreamed of Henry being in danger, and tried to save him….even before there was a Henry. That's how I knew. That's why I was so certain Spence was meant to be in Henry's life. When I saw him with that little boy, I saw him with Henry. And I knew.
JJ's entire internal conversation happened in the space of the few seconds she'd spent running after Reid. He'd seen something in the folder handed to him, had an 'aha' moment, and raced back into the building, JJ close at his heels. Now he was voicing some preposterous hypothesis about the unsub trying to be like a praying mantis. Preposterous…and yet, Hotch was buying into every bit of it. As were the others. JJ found it difficult to follow suit. Newer to the profiler role, she still struggled to assume the distorted intellect of the serial killer. She was always trying to find the logical application of the evidence that came to them, when it was the illogical…the preposterous….that was more apt to be right.
Reid had given the case the catalyst it needed to get going again. Hotch made his assignments ….perhaps the last of his time as their unit chief…and they all dispersed to accomplish their tasks. Any further conversation with Spence would have to wait until later. Any attempt to retract the "You don't get it", or to soften its blow, would have to be postponed.
They'd been ordered to get some rest. Rossi made sure Hotch followed his own orders and accompanied the unit chief to the hotel, just behind the rest.
"Reid's worried," Dave shared, unnecessarily.
"He'll be all right." He won't have any choice. But Hotch knew his youngest didn't deal well with change. Especially since, for Reid, 'change' and 'loss' were interchangeable words. "I'd still be around, anyway."
Rossi nodded as they walked along. "You will. But you won't be in the field. He's afraid of that. He's afraid of not being taken seriously." Knowing that Hotch's reaction often set the tone for the others'.
"You'll look out for him. The others trust your judgment. And they trust his as well, even if they don't always know it. He'll be all right." Hotch, the profiler, knew he was trying to convince himself as much as he was his companion.
"We'll all be all right, Aaron. I just want to make sure you are, as well." Rossi patted his good friend's shoulder as they parted ways in the hotel hallway.
Ten minutes later, JJ crossed that same hallway, and hesitantly knocked on the door. She saw the peephole darken and knew she was being eyed. She smiled when she realized the door was being opened. Apparently she'd passed muster.
"JJ, is something wrong? Do you need something?"
She smiled at the lack of small talk. He'd only just opened the door, and was worried. He couldn't conceive that she might have just come to visit.
"No, nothing's wrong. I just wondered if we could talk….for a few minutes."
His brow furrowed, concern evident in his face. His memory flashed to a time, seemingly so long ago, when he'd made the same trek to another hotel room, to talk with a troubled colleague. Right before Elle had killed their unsub. Right before she'd left the team.
He swung the door wider. "Of course, anything you need. Come on in."
She looked around as she entered, noticing his messenger bag tossed on the desk, several books spilling from it. She recognized the one book, 'The Narrative of John Smith', and her hand went to her heart. He'd told her the significance of that book when she'd helped put his apartment back to rights, after….. It was the one book he wouldn't let them shelve. And here he was carrying it. She'd never seen it in his hands. He'd never taken it out on the plane. He evidently just carried it with him. All the time.
"Don't you want to sit?"
Apparently she'd been too distracted to hear him. "What? Oh, sure, of course."
She made her way over to a small settee near the window. Instead of joining her on it, Reid sat on the bed, across from her.
"Is something wrong?"
Now that she was here, she was having trouble starting. Truthfully, she wasn't even sure what she wanted to say. She'd just been certain she couldn't punctuate the day without acknowledging what he'd told her with those two words.
"You would've what?" He didn't get it.
She looked away for a long time, and then back at Reid.
"I would've. That's what you said today, you said "I would've". You would have had children with Maeve, is what you meant, wasn't it?"
Now he looked away, embarrassed. The words had been out before he'd had a chance to stop them. He was wishing he could retract them now. But he'd been wounded by what she'd said just before. 'You don't get it.' As though being alone had been his choice, and its consequence, his fault.
She could see she'd upset him all over again, and was immediately rueful that she'd even come.
"I'm sorry, Spence. I'm sorry I brought it up again. I'm sorry I said what I said today. I'm sorry she's gone. I'm sorry you lost the future you were planning. I'm sorry…..I'm sorry…"
The unsteadiness in her voice brought his gaze back to her. He could see the apology in her eyes. But it was misplaced.
"Nothing for you to be sorry about, JJ. You were right. I don't have children, so I don't understand how it feels to be a parent. I can't know it. I won't know it. But…..in spite of what a lot of people think….I am capable of empathy. I don't think I have to live something to understand it. I know a lot of people say you don't know what it's like to be a parent until you are one. But I can't help but think those people didn't spend a whole lot of time wondering about it. If they had, I'll bet they would have known. If they'd spent as much time as I…"
He cut himself off abruptly, realizing too late that he'd nearly revealed something he'd rather leave unrevealed. He'd also tried to squelch the edge of anger trying to creep into his voice, but he was sure he'd failed.
JJ tried to read him, but he was studiously avoiding her eyes now. She ended up sliding over, and twisting around, and bending her head to force herself back into his line of sight. She smiled when she saw him notice her position, and was rewarded with a half smile in return.
"Can I sit up straight again, please? I'm not as flexible as I used to be."
He conceded, and moved back to face her. But he couldn't keep his eyes on hers. Or rather, he couldn't let her keep her eyes on his. Couldn't stand the scrutiny.
"Spence." Her hand closed the space between them as she rested it on his knee. "I am sorry. I shouldn't have said it. It was flippant and dismissive. And it was wrong. Of course you don't have to be a parent to understand how it feels to love a child, and want to be with him. It doesn't even take being a godparent. But you are one. And you do love a child. And, believe me, I know how much that child loves you."
Now Reid's smile was genuine, but his gaze was still averted.
"In fact, said child wanted me to put you on the phone to say good night earlier, but you were tied up, so I told him I would tell you. But he didn't like that idea, so….."
JJ pulled out her phone and found the right app. She pressed it on, and held up the device so both of them could hear.
"Hi, Uncle Spence! Mommy said she can't find you, so I can't say 'goodnight, sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite'!" Giggling. "But I said it anyway! Can you call me when you're going to bed, Uncle Spence?"
In the background, Reid could hear a whispered, "No, he can't young man. You're supposed to go to sleep!" He smiled at JJ, recognizing her voice.
"Oh, all right, Mommy. Can Uncle Spence bring me to the park on Saturday? Uncle Spence, can you bring me to the park on Saturday? And can we go to the liberry?"
Reid smiled again. He'd introduced Henry to the idea that there were, literally, millions of books at his disposal. And he'd introduced the youngster to the joy of turning a page, instead of pushing a button.
"You bet," the profiler murmured.
"Okay, I gotta go to bed now, Uncle Spence. Mommy says we have to pray first, so you can pray with me. God bless Mommy, and Daddy, and Uncle Spence, and Auntie Penelope. And all the people who don't have enough to eat, or a place to sleep. And Theodore….he's our turtle in preschool, Uncle Spence…..Miss Amy says we should pray for him because he has to go home with Toby this weekend."
Both adults laughed at that.
"Good night, Uncle Spence! See you Saturday!"
The recording ended. Both of them sat in silence, envisioning a little blond head that seemed to be in perpetual motion, except when it was on a pillow. Reid was touched by Henry's words, and by the fact that JJ had thought to bring them to him.
"Thanks." He chanced a look in her direction.
She was ready. She caught his eyes and held them. "You're welcome. He really does love you, you know. Someday I'm going to record one of his running conversations about what his Uncle Spence says about this, or what he thinks about that."
"He talks about me?" Reid's surprise was genuine. He could never believe that anyone thought about him at all. Save Maeve. Who no longer thought.
"All the time. To whomever will listen. He loves you, Spence. And he's proud of you. To hear Henry, you'd think you were a one man BAU team, taking down the bad guys all on your own. In fact, he even plays it. He dresses up as you, and acts out catching bad guys, all with his messenger bag and his brain."
Reid was a little unnerved by that. "JJ, he doesn't really know about unsubs, does he? I mean…"
She smiled. "No, Spence. I think this is just your bread-and-butter cops and robbers stuff. But he definitely saves the day as his favorite profiler. To the point where I think Will is a little bit jealous."
Reid made a face. "That's probably not good." Not a major fan of Will LaMontagne, for a host of reasons, but recognizing the importance of not getting between the boy and his father.
JJ brushed it off. "He'll get over it. He can impress Henry with his lacrosse skills."
Reid was willing to cede the athletics to Will. He watched as JJ tried to stifle a yawn, and stood to let her know it was all right to go.
She stood as well, and started for the door. He followed her until she turned to face him. She took his hands to make sure she had his attention.
"You'll make a great dad, Spence. I mean that. You will. It will happen for you. Even if you can't believe it now…." She could see it in his face…"…I can. And, just from what you've told me about her, I think Maeve saw it too. She'd want you to go on and find those kids, Spence. She'd want you to have a family. Don't be afraid of it. Don't be afraid of losing them. They're not gone. They just didn't get here yet. It's not a 'would've'. It's a 'will'."
He appreciated her concern, and her encouragement. In fact, he loved her for it. And he loved her for so willingly sharing her son. But he knew she was wrong. She was talking about her life, not his. People like JJ formed relationships so easily. They were comfortable taking chances, risking rejection. But not people like him. He'd taken his chance. It had required everything he'd had in him, but he'd taken it. And lost. He couldn't see himself taking another.
But he could see she was earnest. She wanted this for him. And so, he wouldn't dash her hopes, even if his were nonexistent.
"If you say so. Thanks, JJ."
"I say so. And now I need to say goodnight. I'm exhausted. Henry had another monster nightmare last night, and neither of us could sleep afterward."
Reid was familiar with Henry's nightmares.
"Tell him I'll bring my "Anti-Monster Spray" over on Saturday. We'll use it on his closet, and under the bed."
"How did you know….."
He tapped his temple. "The Great Reid knows all. Especially how to get rid of monsters from little boys' bedrooms."
She laughed at him. "I'm guessing you were one of those little boys once upon a time?"
His smile flattened. "Not exactly like that." The monsters in my house were real. "But I learned a bit along the way."
"Okay, then. I'll tell him Uncle Spence is coming to fend off the monsters. Will wouldn't even let Henry tell the whole story. He says we shouldn't feed into the fantasy, that Henry needs to learn that monsters aren't real."
But we both know they are. Neither had said it aloud.
She turned again to leave, but stopped in the open doorway.
"Will wouldn't even let Henry sleep in our bed." She shook her head, still wishing she'd put up a better argument. But it was too late. All she could do now was to shrug it off as she said a quick "Goodnight."
Reid watched her until she was safely in her room.