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Familiar Strangers

Chapter Text

Elle usually avoided bars like the plague. They were crowded, noisy and tended to be full of drunk guys who had no concept of personal space.The bar in the hotel where she frequently went for meetings was an exception, it was usually quiet apart from the guy playing the piano, the patrons were more often than not people on business in DC who wanted to avoid the more salacious venues, content to sit on their own or in pairs and nurse a drink or two. 

Elle had a habit of grabbing a booth in a dim corner and passing the time with a G&T while she indulged in a little bit of people watching. It made her feel safe to sit and observe while simultaneously being invisible.

Except tonight she wasn’t. When Elle’s gaze had moved to a guy ordering a drink at the bar he must have felt her eyes on him and he turned slowly and fixed her with a confused look. Elle dropped her gaze and quickly as she could but when she glanced up again he had taken a seat but was still staring at her. It wasn’t an intense stare, he wasn’t leering at her or scowling in fact he looked…puzzled. 

There was something oddly familiar about him but Elle couldn’t put her finger on it. He was dressed fairly smartly in a well fitting suit but his hair was slightly unruly. Definitely not a politician. Maybe he was on TV?

Suddenly his mouth dropped open and his eyes widened.


So he did know her. Elle cocked her head to one side as the man scrambled to his feet and headed her way with his drink. Geez, this was all she needed. All she had wanted was a quiet drink and now this guy with his puppy dog grin was…wait…


“Oh my God it took me a moment to recognise you” he laughed, setting down the drink 

“Yeah…same” said Elle. She couldn’t help the laugh that escaped as she rose to greet him. She bit her lip but he didn’t seem offended at all. God he’d changed.

“May I?” Reid gestured to the seat.

“Please!” said Elle “How are you? You’re still with the bureau right? Oh! How’s your mom? And the team?”

“Wow I thought I talked fast” teased Reid 

“God sorry I just can’t get over how different you look and you even sound different!” Elle’s gaze swept up and down

“It’s been over a decade” said Reid softly. Elle nodded, a lump forming in her throat. A choice had been made and she had never second guessed it, even in the really dark days that had followed immediately after, when she had wanted to crawl into a deep hole and let the world rot away. It would be a lie to say she hadn’t missed them though and Elle’s mind immediately flashed back to the night before the shooting. That had been the last real conversation the two of them had.

“I’m still at the bureau” Reid said, voice still soft but strong enough to bring Elle back to the present “Well, sort of…I also teach now! So every three months I go and teach a month of seminars which I really enjoy.” Reid nodded enthusiastically but something seemed a little…forced there. 

My profiling skills are kind of rusty

“Hotch must hate having to share you” said Elle

“Hotch left” said Reid “He’s a full time Dad now, I think he’s making up for lost time with Jack.”

“I….I heard about Haley when it happened I just…I couldn’t…reach out at the time and then when I was well again it felt like…too much time had passed you know?”

Elle knew that Reid had clocked her unintentional use of the word well but he glossed over it. She was surprised at how understand he was being, half expecting him to get mad and say it wasn’t an excuse but he merely nodded.

“I know how that feels”

God he’s not a kid anymore. 

“So is Morgan in charge?” Elle asked

“Morgan left before Hotch did” explained Reid before launching into the saga of Giuseppe Montolo, the Dirty Dozen and then Savannah’s pregnancy and shooting.

“Morgan got married? Derek Morgan? Seriously? And he has a baby?”

“Yeah Hank’s walking now” said Reid proudly “Godson number three, JJ has two boys. Garcia joked I’m a lucky charm.” Elle couldn’t picture Reid being entrusted with one kid, let alone three but the second she thought it she scolded herself.

“So you and JJ aren’t together?” Elle would have put money on the two of them ending up together back in the day.

Reid burst out laughing. It was a lovely sound.

“No. No way. As much as I love her, no. She’s like my sister. Her husband Will is really nice though”

That was interesting. Elle knew they had been out once but neither of them had ever spoken about it. Derek had been desperate to find out what had gone on. Elle herself had never cared and as far as she could tell they had never gone out again but it was never awkward between them. She had always assumed an unrequited crush on Reid’s part though but as she listened to him speak she was remembering how little she had known about him when they had worked together.

Last time she had seen him he was 25, struggling to find his place not only on the team but in the world in general and she had shot a man in cold blood. Elle took a large gulp of her drink. She had no right to judge or make assumptions.

Reid was looking at her slightly concerned now and kept talking.

“It’s only JJ, Garcia and I left from your time. You heard Gideon left and then was killed?” Elle nodded mutely “David Rossi came out of retirement and your replacement, Emily Prentiss is Unit Chief now. We’ve got a forensic psychologist on the team and two ex-army guys. We’re stable for the first time in a while.”

“That’s great Reid. I’m glad. But what about you? How are you doing?”

Reid gave a small shrug and a fake smile that made Elle’s heart break.

“I’m good. It’s been a rough couple of years. My Mom…isn’t doing well and I…had some personal stuff last year but I’m back at work and my Mom is settled so I’m just…” he gave another small shrug. They fell into an awkward silence.

Elle’s gaze swept overt the patrons in the bar. The pianist was playing something gentle and almost melancholy now, it sounded like something you would play in the final scene of an old movie where the lovers are separated for ever and one of them is left standing in the rain. Elle was suddenly struck by how many people there were drinking alone. Were they waiting for people? Did they have friends and family to go home to? Maybe they just wanted some peace, to shut out the world for a little while and pretend everything was okay.

“I owe you an apology” mumbled Spencer after a moment. Elle looked at him in confusion.

“What for?”

“That night I came to your room. The night before…your last case.” Spencer could see Elle stiffen, her hand tightening on the glass as she struggled to keep her face impassive. He didn’t want to bring up painful memories for her but at the same time this was something Spencer needed to say. He took a deep breath.

“What I said was insensitive” Spencer began “I disregarded your pain and I brushed aside your feelings. You were going through something terrible and for me to say ‘You won, get over it’ wasn’t only unhelpful and irrelevant but it was also cruel and not a day has gone by when I don’t regret saying that to you”

Elle’s eyes widened and her brain struggled to pull words together to convey how she felt. It was like the all the thoughts in her head were drowned out by white noise. The sounds and smells of the bar faded away and it was just the two of them over a decade ago in a shitty hotel, trying to drink the pain away.

“It wasn’t on you” Elle croaked out finally when the words returned to her “I was in a really bad place and I came back to work way too soon. I shouldn’t have volunteered for that op.”

“That was Hotch’s choice” said Spencer.

“That was a tough one for you” said Elle with a wry smile “Talking smack about the boss.”

“It’s true” said Spencer, his shoulders slumped slightly “It was…it was a bad call  but you should know that it weighed on him for a long time. He changed a lot over the years, not just when he lost Haley but…we all went through a lot. I think we would have done things differently if we could go back. I’m really sorry you had to go through all that.”

“It’s in the past” said Elle “I’m…healed? That doesn’t sound like the right word but it’s all I can think of. As cliche as it sounds I’m in a better place. I got a lot of help after that case.”

“I’m glad” Spencer smiled “What do you do now?”

Elle pulled a business card out of her purse with a flourish and handed it to Spencer.

“The Ford-Green Foundation for women and girls” Spencer read aloud “Wow Elle, that’s amazing.” Green not Greenaway. Harder for someone to google and connect her to her past, Spencer noted.

“It’s been four years of blood, sweat and tears but honestly I wouldn’t do anything else” said Elle, the pride radiating off her.

“And Ford is?”

“Charlie Ford my partner. Just business partner” said Elle, answering Spencer’s silent question.

“I don’t mean to pry” he said, rubbing the back of his neck. Elle waved him off.

“It’s fine. Charlie and I were married for eight years and I love him to bits still but we’re not in love with each other. We work on the foundation together and I’m still at his company. We also have our girls.”

Spencer’s face lit up.

“You have kids?”

“Natalie and Robyn” beamed Elle, pulling out her phone and showing Spencer the home screen. Two girls, dressed in dungarees and smeared with paint and glitter grinned at the camera. 

“They look just like you” said Spencer “How old are they?”

“Natalie’s eight going on twenty-one and Robyn is five” said Elle “They are so precious and I’m so proud of them. I’ve turned into a total cliche but they are really my whole world. What about you? Anyone special?”

“No, I er nope” said Spencer. The smile never left his face but Elle could tell that  she had hit a nerve. Guilt settled in her stomach. It had been so long she wasn’t sure what the right questions were anymore, what were scars and what were open wounds.

“Are you in DC for long?” asked Spencer. Last he’d heard she had moved back to New York.

“I split my time between here and New York” said Elle “It’s easier for work now”

“Well I have to head back now but I’d like to do this again. Still a lot of catching up to do if you want?”

Elle was taken aback by how casual the invitation was and for the umpteenth time that night she had to do a double take. This wasn’t the Spencer Reid she knew. It wasn’t as if he was asking her on a date or anything but still.

“I would really like that” said Elle “Are you free next week? Same place?”

“Absolutely” said Reid. He downed the rest of his drink and stood. For a moment Elle thought he was going in for a hug goodbye but thought better of it.  “I’ll see you then”

“See you then” said Elle “Keep the card, it has my number on it.”

Spencer gave a small wave and hurried out into the night, leaving Elle alone with her drink and memories. 

Chapter Text

“Is this seat taken?” The woman speaking was stunning, glossy hair, bright blue eyes and full lips. Spencer blinked, brought crashing back down to earth by her lilting voice. He swirled his glass, the soft clink of ice cubes sounding almost musical to him. Maybe he’d had too much already.

“Be my guest”

“Thanks. I was supposed to be on a blind date tonight but he never showed”

“Sounds like you had a lucky escape. He sounds abominably rude.”

She threw her head back and laughed, far harder than his comment warranted. He began to feel uneasy, a familiar anxiety creeping up on him. He knew she wasn’t laughing at him, she was doing an awful and over the top job of flirting with him. He could tell from every micro expression, every fractional movement that she wanted to devour him right then and there not make fun of him or judge him. 

He swallowed.

“You’re very sweet” she said, peering up at him through her lashes “I’m Nina.”

“Aaron” he lied “Aaron Hotchner”

Oh fantastic, of all the names he could have though of, he had to go with Aaron Hotchner. It was borderline freudian. Not that he thought of Hotch as a father or anything. Plus Freud was largely discredited, maybe he should have gone with Derek Morgan instead. Nope, still weird. 

“Aaron Hotchner” she repeated the name back to him as if she was trying the weight of it in her mouth. Spencer took a sip of his bitter drink and watched the smile spread across her features. “What do you do Aaron?”

“I sell art” the second lie fell just as easily from his lips as the first. He turned towards her, setting the drink down. Nina raised an eyebrow.

“Art? What type?”

“Early 20th century European art is my main field” Spencer said with a small shrug as if it was everybody’s. A monograph on Boccioni was sitting under papers on his desk at the exact moment and that should be enough to see him through. It wasn’t as if Nina was in the mood for talking anyway. 

Neither was he. Was he? Spencer waved the bartender over for another drink as he drained his. Nina ordered the same, fluttering his lashes at him. He wanted to scream. He wanted to go home. He never wanted to go home, the apartment his mother had been snatched from was as cold and alien to him as the first night in a prison cell. The feel of the place was still on him, on his skin in his hair. It was like he’d breathed it in and it was sitting in his body like an infection, invading every cell.

“I know nothing about art” giggled Nina and just like that he was back. The cell seemed to clang shut somewhere in the distance behind him but it was still there.

“Neither do I” said Spencer, resisting the urge to wink “That’s the secret.” Nina laughed at that, a breathy laugh as she threw back her head, her neck extended and her chest thrust out. Spencer wanted her to leave so he continue drowning his sorrows in peace but he was also desperate to keep the non-sensical conversation going.

He should call someone. JJ? No she would baby him and the thought of going back to her house and being surrounded by her family, as much as he loved them, as much as he would die for them, made his chest ache with loneliness. Garcia then? No, she was too happy and full of light, he didn’t want to dim that. Prentiss had her own problems. Tara had a lot of work outside the unit. Luke was out with his new girlfriend and though he would probably invite Spencer to hang out with them the thought of being in the orbit of someone else’s happiness when he felt this way was gut wrenching. Rossi had booze at his place but also a family and Matt was still half a stranger to him.

Nina it was then. At the very least he didn’t have to be himself here. He could be art seller Aaron Hotchner instead of Agent Reid who got himself arrested, who wasn’t strong enough to help his mother, who was stupid and reckless and-

“I’m sure you’re teasing me” said Nina as their drinks arrived. Spencer smiled as her, the blush creeping up her cheeks. 

“Just a little. What about you, what do you do?”

“I’m the head of marketing for a pharmaceutical company” That was all she needed to launch into a long, inane explanation about her work and day to day life. To be honest is was almost soothing to listen to, not to mention the relief he felt as holding a conversation with someone who wasn’t looking at him like a wounded bird.

“That’s so fascinating” said Spencer “My work is nowhere near as important”

“But to be surrounded by beautiful things all day must be nice” Nina leaned forward and a wave of perfume, sweet yet spicy, flooded over him.

“It has it’s perks” he nodded, his voice low now “I don’t think I could survive just seeing violence or ugliness day in and day out”

“Who could?” said Nina, leaning back. Her face was open and contemplative, as if she really couldn’t imagine.

Who indeed?

The room seemed to contract at her words and Spencer drained his drink, his grip on the glass tightening. An ugly stab of jealousy loomed large within him but he quelled it. It wasn’t her fault. He wished he could go back to thinking and feeling that way but then again it’s part of what had kept him alive. 

“You’re very pretty” said Spencer honestly, trying to keep the note of melancholy out of his voice. Nina looked up in genuine surprise then dropped her gaze just as quickly, face reddened. He wasn’t flirting, it was an objective fact. ‘Aaron Hotchner’ probably would have said something more eloquent, enticing even.

He needed to leave. The walls were closing in. Spencer slipped down from the barstool and grabbed his coat. Nina’s face fell.

“I’m afraid I have an early start tomorrow” he offered by way of an apology “It was lovely talking to you though.” Nina offered her hand and he shook it after only the slightest of pauses, as he pulled away she pressed her card into his open palm.

“I really liked talking to you too Aaron” she said softly “Let me know if you want to talk again”

Spencer smiled and then fled into the night. It was cold but he didn’t put his coat on and he allowed the chill to caress his skin, to cut to his bones. The wind was almost painful on his face.

He didn’t know where he was going. He rarely did when he ventured out nowadays. He just wanted to forget everything, or better yet reset it so the past year had never happened. He wanted to be happy again or at least not feel as empty and bereft as he did now.

Eventually he found himself outside a nice hotel. A few years back Ethan had dragged him there when he visited to hear a pianist. He’d never been back but it was quiet and anonymous and that’s what he wanted right now.

As Spencer stood at the bar waiting for his drink he allowed his gaze to float over the patrons. It was mostly men and women in suits, some flashy and some understated. At the back there was a beautiful woman in a smart dress drinking alone and at the bar were two guys that sounded like they were old college friends catching up. 

The hairs on the back of Spencer’s neck began to stand up and he glanced back at the woman. There was something familiar about her. He would have thought he would remember seeing a woman like that before but wracked his brain and nothing was coming up.

He was aware that he should look away but he couldn’t. 

Then it hit him with the force of a car crash.


Chapter Text

It was like no time had passed. Sure Elle had her own foundation and children now and Spencer was teaching alongside case work and exuded more confidence than he ever had when they worked together but as he left her his number to meet up again it was almost as if the last ten years hadn’t happened.

The way she looked at him wasn’t the way you looked at someone who carried all the sorrows of the world on their back. 

She didn’t look at him or talk to him like JJ, Garcia and the rest of the team.

Because she had no idea.

The following morning at work Spencer just kept going over and over the meeting in his head. He had been blown away by how at ease she was sitting there, how her entire face lit up when she spoke about her family and the passion with which she told him about her work.

The fire had always been there. Spencer had seen it first hand on cases when she had taken down unsubs. Men who targeted women and girls always caught the worst of it. At the time Spencer had just assumed that it was a natural consequence of working in sex crimes but as he’d become a more experienced profiler he had wondered if it had been something else.

“Hey boy wonder!” Garcia materialised at his desk “I’ve been calling you, we have a case.”

“Huh? Oh right, sorry I was miles away”

“Everything okay?”

There was that look again, Spencer noticed, his heart sinking slightly. He was grateful for their love and support, he truly was, but sometimes he just wished that support could come in a slightly less infantilising form.

“Oh yeah I just stayed up too late last night” said Spencer

“Trouble sleeping” Garcia was really on edge now

“I started this biography of an Italian painter and I just had to see how it ended” said Spencer. Garcia’s eyes lit up at the familiarity of his tone. It was a seductive prospect, getting their friend back. He only wished he had the same hope for it.

“That sounds really interesting” said Garcia as they headed towards the briefing room.

“I’ll lend it to you”

Elle knew the look straight away. It was look of someone who had endured far too much and was faced with the choice either to stay and die or run for their lives. 

It was a look Elle had seen far too many times over the years and each time strengthened her resolve.

“Tell me how we can help you Moira” said Elle gently. The woman in front of her played with the sleeve of her sweater. In the entire 90 minutes since she had come in she hadn’t made eye contact once. 

“If I say” Moira began in a quiet voice, barely above a whisper “He’ll kill me”

“Your husband” asked Elle. Moira nodded, screwing her eyes shut. “Okay Moira, I’m not going to let that happen okay? I promise.”

Moira opened her eyes in surprise and finally glanced up at Elle.

“Y-you promise?”

“On my life” said Elle “We are going to do everything in our, not inconsiderable, power to keep you safe and get you away from that man.”

Moira’s mouth dropped open, her eyes shining.

“Tell me everything from when you first met him up until today” said Elle “We can take as long as you need. If you wanna stop at any point let me know. We have a great canteen here, we can get a bite to eat, a drink or we can go for a walk if you need to clear your head. Then we’ll just start right back up again when you’re ready.”

“After I tell you everything?” asked Moira, playing with her sleeve again “Then what happens?”

“Then we come up with a plan for your new life” smiled Elle.

Elle had already been the office an hour before Charlie dropped by, plopping himself down in a chair opposite her.

“The bid for the new security contract is nearly finished” he explained as Elle leafed through papers “Carter’s team is double checking all the numbers but we should be ready to pitch by the end of the week. How’s it coming with the new clients at the foundation?”

“Good” said Elle “The expansion was tough but we can help more people now. It feels like things are finally slotting into place.”

“That’s really good Elle” smiled Charlie. He was one of those people whose smiles lit up their whole faces. It’s had been the first thing Elle had noticed about him.

“You didn’t come here just to ask me that though did you?” said Elle with a grin, though she was also bracing herself.

“Bethenny didn’t want a baby shower right? So instead we’re doing this laid back, barbecue party type thing in the back garden this weekend. Wanna come?”

“Of course” said Elle “As long as no-one uses this as an opportunity to set me up.”

Charlie affected a look of mock indignation, throwing his hands up.

“We had no such intentions. Sure Bethenny invited a few old college friends who are handsome, accomplished, hilariously funny-”


“But we had no intention of engineering situations where you would be forced to sit with them for extended periods of time and get to know them.”



They both started laughing. Bless his heart, Elle knew he was only concerned about her being happy. All through their marriage and even through their divorce that had been his number one priority, both her and the girls being happy and healthy.

“Actually I met up with an old friend last night if you must know - No! It wasn’t a date” Elle added quickly seeing the look on Charlie’s face “But it definitely counts as socialising.”

“Well if you want to bring them to the barbecue…”

“We haven’t seen each other in a while, I just ran into him” Elle gave a small shrug “We just talked”

“Uh huh” Charlie was trying and failing to keep the interest out of his noise. Elle resisted the urge to roll her eyes.

“Anyway, I’ll be over at 6 tonight to pick up the girls” she said quickly, shooing him out. As she returned to her work she couldn’t help but glance down at her phone, noting the lack of messages. Elle shook her head, stashing the phone in a drawer before getting back to work.

The case lasted three days and they were able to get back to Quantico quite quickly but it had been intense. A young man had taken out his family before going on a spree and the entire case had ended in a shoot out with the locals. 

“O’Keefe’s?” suggested Tara as grabbed their stuff from the office.

“I need to see my kids” said JJ, “Rain check?”

“Me too” said Matt.

“I’ve actually got a date with Lisa!” said Luke brightly.

“Garcia you’re up for it right?” asked Tara. Garcia looked away from Luke and gave a small shrug.

“No I think I’ll go home and veg out” she said.

“I’m cooking my world famous Carbonara for Joy and Kai” said Rossi, giving her arm a squeeze “Fancy a plate? I can do a veggie version, only for you mia bella ragazza.” At this Garcia perked up and they headed out with linked arms.

“How about you Spencer?” asked Emily. He blinked, having not been listening. He’s been staring at his phone as the others were talking and he’d finally come to a decision.

“Actually I’m meeting up with a friend for a drink” he said and for a moment he could have sworn Tara and Emily both looked relieved but a second later it was gone.

“Just you and me then boss” said Tara as they headed towards the elevator.

“Don’t call me boss!” said Emily, but there was a warmth to it and Tara couldn’t help but chuckle.

Spencer watched them leave and then dialled Elle’s number.

Elle tried not to be nervous as she headed towards the bar. It was only Reid after all. Cute, goofy, sweet Reid who had failed his shooting qualification and talked down an unsub on a train to save her life. If she was honest for a little while after that case she’d found herself looking at him differently. More than a little while actually…

God she was being ridiculous.

When he saw her he waved and then got up to give her a hug. He looked more tired this time though he was trying to hide it.

“How was the case?” Elle asked. In reality she wanted to talk about anything other than the BAU but she had no idea how to start this conversation.

“Fine” said Spencer, equally ill at ease. He was so sick of pretending everything was okay. “Actually, it was awful. Really awful.”

“I remember that” said Elle softly “Sometimes it seemed like nothing we ever did helped.”

“Yeah” said Spencer bitterly “Sometimes I wonder why we bother”

“Really?” Elle asked in shock. She knew that eventually the job go to everyone in one way or another but to see Spencer Reid of all people like this…

“Why did you do it?” Spencer asked suddenly.

“Do what?” asked Elle, even though she knew. A chill cut through her like a knife.

Not here, not now. I can’t do this.

“Why did you kill that unsub?”

Chapter Text

Elle stiffened and her eyes seemed to cloud over. immediately Reid regretted asking the question. The seconds seemed to pass agonisingly slowly.

“Lee ambushed me. Then he pulled a gun on me. It was a clean shooting.” Every word was as pitch perfect as the night it happened. Elle still knew the script off by heart. An irrational burst of anger bubbled in Reid’s chest. How could she brush him off of all people? Treat him like a child?

Because she doesn’t know, he told himself, She doesn’t know what you’ve done.

“Elle, listen to me-” Reid started, carefully but Elle cut across him.

“No you listen” she snapped “It’s been over a decade. You have no right to sit there and judge me over something you know nothing about.”

“Who says I know nothing about it?” Reid fired back “You don’t know me. You didn’t know me back then, you sure as hell don’t know me now. You have no idea what I had to do for three months trying to survive in pri-” he managed to stop himself before blurting it out. Elle’s eyes narrowed.

“Survive where?”

Elle watched his eyes go wide and the colour drain from his face. All of a sudden he looked so young and vulnerable. His gaze dropped and something within Elle tugged at her, urging her to stop him from leaving and he moved to grab his coat.

“This was a mistake” Spencer mumbled and Elle sat there frozen “I’m sorry I-”

“Aaron?” a lilting voice cut across him like a knife and Spencer stiffened. Elle glanced at the elegant looking woman sashaying towards them. Her blonde hair was swept up and immovable as she cocked her head to one side trying to work out if she had got it right. Elle’s eyes flicked between the two of them as her eyes lit up in recognition.

“Aaron Hotchner! I thought it was you. It’s Nina, we met the other night.”

Spencer smiled tightly.

“Nina, yes. Sorry I was distracted. How are you?”

“Better for seeing you” smiled Nina and Elle had to take a sip of her drink to stop from scoffing. Nina hadn’t noticed her yet and Spencer was doing everything in his power to avoid looking at her.

Aaron Hotchner…

Spencer Reid was have you been up to?

There was a story here… No, that wasn’t the right word. Spencer’s face was relaxed, his smile easing up now but the knuckles of the hand gripping his chair had turned white. 

He was afraid.

He was afraid Elle was going to out him.

There were hundreds of possibilities why Spencer was going around and talking to women under their old boss’ name but Elle recognised that look in his eyes. She had seen it in the mirror enough times.

“Aaron” she said softly, calling both Spencer and Nina’s attention to her “Are you going to introduce me?”

Nina looked uncomfortable. Spencer’s reaction was harder to place. First there was gratitude that she was keeping up the ruse but there was also wariness. Somethings never changed, thought Elle sadly, he was still so concerned about people humiliating him.

“I’m Jennifer, Jennifer Jareau” said Elle, extending a hand shyly “My friends call me JJ.”

“It’s nice to meet you Jennifer” said Nina, taking her hand as Spencer’s mouth fell open “How do you two know each other?”

Elle gave a breathy laugh.

“Oh Aaron’s my boss!”

“So you work in art too?” said Nina, “I was telling Spencer the night other how envious I am. It’s such an exciting world”

“That’s certainly true” Elle smiled “Would you like to join us for a drink?”

“Oh” Nina looked between the two of them, Spencer had thankfully recovered and wore an easy smile “Um, okay, yes! That would be nice actually.”

“Maybe you could tell me where you two met?” said Elle as Nina sat in the chair that Spencer pulled out for her.

“Oh we ran into each other at a bar across town. I was stood up on a blind date and Aaron kept me company.” Nina fluttered her lashes at Spencer.

“He is a gentleman isn’t he?” gushed Elle “Aaron can always be relied on to come to the aid of a damsel in distress can’t you Aaron?”

“It’s what anyone would do” Spencer said then took a sip of his drink.

“He’s so modest!” exclaimed Elle and she clasped Spencer’s arm tightly, ignoring both his and Nina’s surprised glances.

“So what area of art sales did you work in again?” said Nina after a moment.

“Early 20th Century, we specialise in European Modernist artists” said Spencer. Elle’s hand was still on his arm and he felt her give a subtle squeeze. He wasn’t sure if it was meant to be comforting (that would be strange right?) or she was chiding him (but then she wouldn’t have played along…) 

Fuck it, go with the flow. The night started off as a disaster, who cares if it ends in one too? Spencer knocked back his drink, resigned. 

“I’m a fan of the Italian Futurists myself” sighed Elle happily, “Balla, Prampolini, Severini. It’s all so vibrant and kinetic. I think their work makes you feel alive just looking at it.”

“I’m not familiar I’m afraid” said Nina, biting her lip.

“If you ever get a chance to see any of their work do” said Elle, “It’s magic. Now Aaron here prefers Surrealism.” Elle had no doubts that Spencer would be able to keep up with her play acting.

“Dali is a genius” said Spencer, nodding and Elle could feel him relax “Every time you look at one of his works you see something new”

“And non-sensical” countered Elle, “Isn’t the point of art to say something? To mean something.”

Elle had gently begun to stroke her hand back and forth on Spencer’s arm and her gaze was intense. Spencer swallowed.

“Perhaps” he countered “But sometimes something can be beautiful just to be beautiful”

“Dali’s work isn’t what I’d call beautiful.”

Spencer was enjoying the motion and his heart beat seemed to sync with Elle’s movements.

“Well, Jennifer, isn’t beauty subjective?”

“Dali designed the chupa-chups logo!” added Nina, brightly. Spencer tore his gaze away from Elle, blinking.

“Yes he did! He also worked on films and even a novel. Anyone else want another drink?”

“I’ll get them” said Nina, bounding towards the bar.

“That was…”

“If you say impressive I’m going to kick you…Aaron” said Elle but her tone was teasing. Her hand stilled on his arm but to his relief she didn’t move it “Are you going to explain why you’re seducing women using Hotch’s name?”

“I’m not seducing anyone!” protested Spencer. He glanced at Nina to make sure she hadn’t heard but the woman was happily chatting to the bartender, “I just…wanted to be someone else for a moment.”

“What’s wrong with being Spencer Reid?” asked Elle. Spencer just shook his head, “Okay, I’ll play along…for now.”

Elle’s voice was soft and soothing, like a therapist or a priest taking confession. 

“Thank you” said Spencer breathing a sigh of relief. 

Nina came back with drinks and the conversation resumed. Elle and Spencer had a number of playful fights about art and they asked Nina about her work and her family. Spencer then went on a long tangent about the house full of brothers and sisters he grew up in while Elle talked about visiting her parents every other weekend. It was fun and Elle found herself enjoying the charade, apart from “accidentally” kicking Nina in the shin for trying to initiate a game of footsie with Spencer. Luckily she was able to pass it off as a mixture of clumsiness and alcohol.

It was gone midnight before Nina shakily got to her feet, apologising but she had a big meeting in the morning. Spencer insisted on calling her a registered cab and walking her outside where he gave the driver strict instructions to make sure she got inside safely. The woman nodded and drove off.

“Well that was fun” laughed Elle when he made his way back to her.

“It was” said Spencer “How come you know so much about art?”

“You know there are like, a trillion art museums in New York right? My Dad would take me every weekend he wasn’t working.”

“That sounds nice” said Spencer, sitting back down next to her. He was slightly closer than he had intended to be but he felt slightly fuzzy from the drinks but Elle didn’t seem to mind.

“It was nice” said Elle “When I went back to the city after I…left the bureau I would spend hours wandering around galleries. Big ones and small ones and even little art shops. I just wanted to surround myself with things other people had created.”

She turned towards Spencer and he could feel her breath rush past his jaw.

“I wanted to be consumed by other people’s stories so I didn’t have to focus on my own. Do you understand?”

Spencer nodded, not trusting himself to speak. 

That sat in silence for a long time. The ice in their glasses melted and the bar staff were calling last orders. Spencer closed his eyes, counting the seconds as they ticked away. Elle waited.

“Prison” said Spencer. His voice was so quiet Elle was sure she had misheard.

“Did you say-”

“Prison. I was framed for murder and I was in prison for three months before the team managed to prove I was innocent.”

“Fuck me” 

Spencer gave a hollow laugh. Elle clasped his arm again.

“I’m not going to bullshit you with platitudes Spencer”

“I know” Spencer smiled at her but it was a sad smile “That was never your style”

“It took me a long time to figure out what I need to start healing after I was shot” said Elle “I’m still figuring it out some days. It won’t necessarily be the same thing that helps you. All I can guarantee is that running away from it doesn’t help”

“You ran away” Spencer’s tone was accusatory “You left” You were the first to leave, after that it never stopped.

“I left the bureau sure” said Elle with a shrug “But I mean you can’t run away from whatever demon’s chasing you up here” she tapped her temple lightly.

“I’m talking to people about it” said Spencer “All I seem to be doing is talking about it.” With the Bureau assigned therapist. With his NA group. Even with Emily once or twice. 

“Well if you ever want to not talk about it with someone who gets it you know how to contact me” said Elle. She rose from her seat and scooped up her coat.

“Bye Reid”

“Bye Elle” 

Chapter Text

“Moooommmmmy!” Elle braced herself for impact as a small body hurtled towards her. She scooped up a wriggling five year old and swung her around. Robyn squealed in delight, a sound that never failed to make Elle’s heart leap.

“Hey baby! How was school!”

“I saw a bird!” said Robyn happily as Elle let her back down. Natalie came hurrying up to them, checked none of her friends were looking and gave Elle a quick hug.

“What about you kiddo? Good day?” asked Elle as they bundled into the car.

“We had a spelling test today and I got all of them right except one but I still got a dinosaur sticker”

“That’s great baby. I’m so proud”

Animated chatter about the test, the bird and various school bits and pieces filled the car as they made their way home.

Spencer glanced at the clock for what felt like the millionth time that day. Each second seemed to drag by. He wasn’t even sure what he was going to do when he left work but it had just been one of those days when everything seemed a little louder, a little more chaotic and overall just a little more uncomfortable. 

Three weeks had passed since his second meeting with Elle and…

…and what? Spencer had turned every moment over and over in his head a hundred times since that night. Every word Elle had said had rolled around his brain and sometimes he swore he could still feel her hand on his arm, still smell her perfume from when they had been so he could see himself reflected in her eyes.

The whole thing was distracting him and he didn’t know why. 

“Mommy you’re not listening” Robyn pouted, hands on her hips.

“I am sweetie, I’m just trying to get dinner ready before Daddy arrives to pick you guys up.”

Charlie was due in a about an hour to pick up the girls ahead of a weekend away. He and Bethenny were taking them down to the coast while she was still in the first half of her pregnancy. It was her first and Elle knew she was worried, she had been the same when she was pregnant with Natalie. Elle had given her all her old baby books to reassure her and there had been many nights on the phone when she’s listened to the other woman’s fears and concerns. Charlie had always joked that Elle loved Bethenny more than she had ever loved him. Elle always joked back that was true.

“I won’t be the littlest anymore when the baby comes” said Robyn, clambering up on a chair beside her mother as she chopped vegetables.

“Does that bother you?” asked Elle. Robyn gave a little shrug as she snatched a stray piece of carrot.

“I don’t think so” she said slowly “I think it will nice to have someone I can teach stuff to and show things to.”

“I think that will be really nice” said Elle “Natalie loves being a big sister to you, I’m sure you’ll enjoy being a big sister to the baby.”

After a long pause Robyn spoke again.

“Why don’t you have a Bethenny of your own?”

“Any plans for this weekend?’ Matt was asking JJ and they made their way through the paperwork from their most recent case. 

“Will and I are going to take the boys to the zoo” said JJ “You?”

“Just hanging out at home, maybe I’ll get out the barbecue” shrugged Matt. Spencer heard them both pause and could feel them looking his way, trying to decide whether to ask him or not. He braced himself, his brain cobbling together a patchwork answer while trying to suppress his frustration.

“Hey Spence, are you doing anything this weekend?” asked JJ.

“Ethan’s coming up from Las Vegas” Spencer lied. JJ frowned. “Jazz musician. We went to school remember?”

“Oh yeah!” said JJ as she was hit by a wave of recognition “What are you guys gonna do?”

“Dunno” said Spencer, eyes dropping back to his paperwork “We’ll probably play it by ear, Ethan isn’t much of a planner.”

“Must be difficult” laughed Matt. Spencer glanced up, confused. There was an awkward silence.

“Hope you guys have fun” smiled JJ before the two of them returned to his desk.

Why couldn’t he just say he was relaxing all weekend? Or catching up on reading? Or doing math puzzles or visiting a museum or going to see his mom?

 Why on earth did he feel the need to lie every time?

“What’s up?” asked Charlie as he helped Elle with the washing up after dinner. The girls were packing away the last few things for their trip. Elle opened and then closed her mouth, struggling to fit together the jigsaw of thoughts in her head.

“Robyn asked why I don’t have a Bethenny of my own and I didn’t know how to answer” admitted Elle. The truth was always the best option in the end.

“What did you say?’ asked Charlie.

“Just that love happens when it happens and that kind of love hasn’t happened for me yet” said Elle “But it just nagged at me though.”

“You think maybe it’s something else? asked Charlie “Something to do with handsome Dr Reid maybe?”

Elle had ended up explaining about meeting with Reid again. She hadn’t gone into detail about what they’d done, the pretending aspect, just that they’d met by accident and then arranged to meet up again. Initially Charlie had been on high alert, all too aware of Elle’s history with the FBI. Elle had explained their particular relationship, how he’d saved her life, how he’d been the last person to reach out to her before….it all happened. It seemed to ease Charlie’s worries somewhat. 

“Wait! How do you know he’s handsome?’ asked Elle.

“You agree right? He has that hot teacher vibe, at least in the photos I saw online.”

“You googled him?”

“Yes, nothing more than that. I was curious, you have that photo from when you were at the FBI but nothing recent. Guy got handsome.”

Elle opened and shut her mouth again, turning her attention back to the sink full of dishes. What the hell was she supposed to say to that?

“He was always kind of handsome” probably wasn’t the answer.

Finally he was free. As soon as the clock hit five Spencer started shoving things into his messenger bag as fast as he could.

“Got a train to catch kid?” asked Rossi, who was hovering by Tara’s desk as they chatted about cars.

“Just got plans” lied Spencer again before racing to elevator. A mixture of guilt and something else gnawed at him as he jabbed at the buttons. He could hear snatches of a conversation through the glass doors.

“Plans? Really?”




Spencer’s heart sank as he stepped into the elevator. He wished he was meeting someone, he wished he could call someone he didn’t work with and have a conversation about something boring and normal. Ethan was actually in Europe playing some jazz festival so that was a no go.

There was Elle.

Spencer had lost count of the number of times he had sat willing himself to call her and take her up on her offer to talk. It was like he was paralysed, unable to press the button and actually talk to her.

Why? he kept asking himself over and over why he couldn’t do it and he still hadn’t come up with an answer that satisfied him.

What was he so afraid of?

“Call him” said Charlie as he and Elle lifted the last of the bags in the car. His voice was just low enough so the girls wouldn’t hear.

“Who?” asked Elle. Charlie gave her a pointed look that a lesser person would have shrunk under.

“He’s a friend right?” said Charlie and Elle nodded “Don’t over think this. Friends are good. Hell, friends are great and if it’s something else then that’s great too. Please don’t sit here stewing all weekend okay?”

“I won’t” promised Elle before turning to scoop her two babies into a bear hug. They giggled, squeezing back. “Be good for daddy and Bethenny okay?”

“We will” said Natalie “Love you Mommy!”

“Love you too”

They waved frantically as Charlie drove away and Elle stood on their doorstep until the car went round the corner and they were out of sight. Inside the house felt quieter than usual.

Here goes nothing.

“Hey it’s me” said Elle when Reid answered the phone “You busy this weekend?”

Chapter Text

“Me?” asked Spencer.

“Yes you” smiled Elle “Are you free this weekend? It’s no big deal if you aren’t, I don’t want to disrupt any plans you have”

“I don’t have any plans, at all” Ever, Spencer wanted to add but he figured that it was better to leave that part out. It felt oddly freeing to be able to talk to her like this and not have to worry about her getting overly worried about him. 

Spencer felt a stab of guilt overwhelm the feeling of relief. He had the kindest, most supportive friends a person could hope for and he was lying to them and resenting how much they cared for him.

Elle’s voice cut through the tumult.

“Okay, well funnily enough there’s an exhibit on Italian Modernism in town. I figured it maybe useful for “Aaron and Jennifer” to brush up just in case”

There was a teasing tone in Elle’s voice then sent a spasm through Spencer, as if something warm began to unfurl in his chest. 

“I swear to god I don’t usually make a habit of that” said Spencer “But that does sound fun”

“Great, text me your address and I’ll pick you up at ten?”

“See you then”

Spencer didn’t sleep well that night though whether it was from excitement of trepidation he didn’t know. All he knew was he felt like a kid again when getting ready for Elle to pick him up the next morning and he hated it. 

First he struggled with what to wear, something he barely ever thought about. Then he was too nervous to eat breakfast or concentrate of anything so he ended up pacing his apartment until he heard Elle’s car pull up outside. 


He felt God damn butterflies in his stomach like a love struck teenager as he watched Elle get out of the car. She was wearing a floaty summer dress, so unlike anything she had ever worn on the job and the sun was glinting off of her hair.

He was being ridiculous. Spencer considered faking being sick then and there. 

Why? It was just Elle for Christ’s sake? 

Suddenly there was a knock on the door, making Spencer jump. Then he winced. It was embarrassing actually, he’d taken down psychopaths, he’d endured three months in prison, he’d been drugged and tortured. All of that was way more daunting than spending the day with an old co-worker. 


It hadn’t taken Elle long at all to drive to Spencer’s apartment building but she ended up driving round the block three times before parking. Not because she was nervous or anything. Nope. Definitely not. 

Elle just liked being in control. It was something almost primal inside her and no matter where she went or what she did there was no getting rid of it, there was only living with it. It was worse when she was with the FBI, the need for control was a monster making it’s home in her chest and when Randall Garner had shot her in the one place she should feel safe it had reared it’s ugly head and taken over. Everything after that point had been about regaining control but the monster had won time and again. 

This wasn’t the same thing. Elle took a deep breath as she parked the car. Reid wasn’t a threat but he was coaxing some long buried feelings to the surface and Elle hadn’t spent years crawling along the road to recovery to slip up now. 

Elle caught a glance of her reflection in the rear view mirror. She’d wanted to wear something pretty today and she’d put on a little bit of make up. Then Elle had felt silly because that was what you did for a date and this wasn’t a date. In any case didn’t care about stuff like that…did he?

Elle rolled her eyes.

“You’re being an idiot Greenaway” she told the reflection “Reid needs a friend right now. He was your friend when you needed it. Repay the favour and get over yourself.”

There, control reasserted. 

Elle felt safe striding towards the apartment building, and with each step some of the tension ebbed away.

“Ready to go?” she asked as Spencer opened the the door. He blinked and Elle could see him making a conscious effort not to look away from her eyes.

“You look nice” he said “I couldn’t decide what to wear”

“Honestly me neither” said Elle as they headed back to the car. The truth was refreshing and she had an inkling she wasn’t the only one feeling that way. “But it’s warm so I figured I should dress accordingly”

There was little conversation as they drove but it wasn’t awkward. Elle found that she liked the silence between little stories about the gallery they were visiting and enquiries about her girls. When she snuck a glance or two at Spencer he looked at ease staring out the window. How long had it been since he felt this comfortable?

How long had it been since she was this comfortable around someone who wasn’t a work friend or family?

“Can I confess something?” Elle asked after they parked.

“Of course”

“This feels really weird. Not in a bad way” she added hurriedly as Reid’s face fell “A nice weird. Like going back to a familiar place and finding out the layout or the structure was completely different but it still feels the same. Does that make sense?”

“Not really…but also yes?”

They looked at each other for a moment. Spencer burst into laughter first and suddenly he looked so free and young and familiar again that Elle couldn’t help but join in.

“I’m not asking for anything Reid, I swear” she said softly after the laughter had subsided. 

“You can use my first name you know” said Spencer “And I know you aren’t asking for anything. It means a lot. I don’t think I can talk about prison now, not just yet.”

“It took me years to talk about being shot” said Elle “Literally years. I should have spoken to someone sooner but I felt so…”

“Vulnerable?” offered Spencer

“And weak. The thing is you aren’t weak Spencer, you’ve never been weak.”

“You have no idea Elle. I-”

“Actually I do. I know the guy who got on a train without his FBI vest to save me. I know the guy who was with me for my first case back after being shot. I know the guy - the only guy on my team, the only one - who came and made sure I was okay that night.” said Elle “I know a fuck ton of stuff has happened since then. I know you’ve done stuff. I don’t need details but I know that at your core you’re strong and you’re a good person with a big heart. I don’t need anything else.”

Spencer was stunned. His brain was filled with white noise as he studied every inch of Elle’s determined face. He tried to get his mouth to at least form the words “thank you” but he couldn’t even manage that. 

Elle laid a hand on his, and the look on her face, the gentleness in her eyes, caused something to fracture inside him. It was painful and healing at the same time. All the fears and worries from earlier had subsided for now and Spencer felt lighter.

“Wanna go look at some art Aaron?”

“I’d like that”

Chapter Text

The museum wasn’t busy, just a handful of people milling around and looking at the art. The gallery showing the Italian Modernism exhibition was light and airy and Spencer and Elle took their time moving from piece to piece, whispering to each other and trying to suppress giggles.

If they had been more alert they would have caught another couple watching them from the other side of the room.

“Do you know her?” Tara whispered to Emily. When they had seen Spencer and Elle walk in she had nudged Emily round the corner. Neither of them were ashamed of their relationship but they were aware of the increased scrutiny the unit was under at the moment - scrutiny neither of them wanted the other subjected to.

“No” Emily whispered back “JJ said Spencer was meeting an old friend from Vegas this weekend, that must be her. She’s pretty.”

“And he definitely looks like he’s enjoying himself” nodded Tara “He keeps brushing his arm against hers and leaning in close. Really close. ”

“She looks at ease too. See how how she’s always angling her whole body towards him?” asked Emily excitedly “God I wish we could hear what they’re saying!”

“Oh yeah they are definitely more than friends” 

“Question is do they know that?” asked Emily before she was interrupted by two elderly women shushing them, causing the pair to move further out of sight. 

“I never actually asked if you liked art” Elle whispered as the pair moved from painting to painting “I just assumed”

“I don’t have your level of expertise but yes” Spencer whispered back “I was reading a book and that’s partly why it came to mind with Nina. Plus it’s a far cry from FBI profiler”.

“Have you pretended to be anyone else?” asked Elle “Is there a whole roster of alter egos you bring out for pretty women?”

“I wasn’t flirting with her” laughed Spencer “And no, Aaron the art dealer was an on-the-fly creation. I haven’t come up with anyone else. Though I guess when I teach I feel like I’m being a slightly different version of myself. Does that count?”

Elle considered for a moment, she linked her arm through Spencer’s, neither of them noticing. Slowly they meandered out of the gallery, unaware of the other couple watching them. Emily turned to Tara, eyes wide with excitement and happiness for their friend.

“How different is Professor Reid from SSA Dr Reid” asked Elle as towards the cafe. There was an outdoor terrace and they took a seat in the sunshine.

“Not very” admitted Spencer “Better at public speaking in any case”

“Teaching suits you. I can picture you in front of your students, them hanging off your every word” said Elle after ordering two coffees for them. Even after all this time she remembered how he took it.

“I think they enjoy it” said Spencer “I know I do. I basically get to cover whatever I want which is fun. Can I ask you something?”

“Of course” said Elle, setting down her mug.

“I’m…not what you were expecting am I?”

Elle paused, head cocked to one side as she considered his words.

“I honestly don’t know what I was expecting” said Elle finally “I know you’ve been through things but you look good. Stronger you know, more confident?”

Sexier? Shut up Greenaway.

The only thing that stopped Elle from feeling too embarrassed was the multitude of emotions that passed over Spencer’s face. Bashful, flattered and just plain surprised all at once.

“Thanks” he mumbled, his gaze dropping to where he was turning the mug nervously in his hands.

“I didn’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable” said Elle quickly

“You didn’t!” said Spencer “I just don’t get those kind of compliments a lot.” He looked up in shock when Elle scoffed.

“This from the guy who got hot and heavy in a pool with a movie star?” That teasing tone again. With anyone else it would have made Spencer wary but with Elle it was like an invitation to share in something secret. He could feel his face getting hot and he placed the mug down gently, sure he would drop it with his shaking  hands.

“That was once” he protested 

“You never called her?” asked Elle. Spencer bit his lip and looked away, giving Elle all the answer she needed. “Oh my god you did” she said gleefully. 

“It wasn’t…a thing, really” said Spencer, gesturing out with his hands “I went to LA a few times. Wrote to her a couple times. More as a friend than anything else.”

“You keep in touch?” Elle asked, leaning forward. There was a small spark of something deep in the back of her mind. Not strong enough to be jealousy but a kind of…longing to take someone’s place.

“Birthday and Christmas cards” said Spencer with a shrug “She needed someone who was around all the time and then there was this case in Atlanta…can we talk about something else.”

“Of course” said Elle, sitting back. Another no-go subject. That was interesting. How many more things in his past was he keeping locked up. “There is one thing I’ve always wanted to ask you Spencer”

“Okay” he said slowly.

“You and JJ? How did your date go?”

Spencer rolled his eyes.

“You sound like Morgan”

“Rude! But seriously, you went to a football game and then neither of you ever spoke about it afterwards. I’m surprised Gideon even gave you the tickets, given the rules on fraternization” Elle dropped her voice. The rest of the team had speculated for weeks after it had happened but both JJ and Spencer had remained tight lipped. Derek had always assumed that Spencer had made a move and struck out but Elle wasn’t so sure. Looking at him now she was even less sure.

“Yeah well I figured that Gideon gave me the tickets for a different reason” said Spencer carefully. 

“What do you mean?”

“I told Gideon a lot about growing up and the…stuff I dealt with. School stuff, teasing and bullying, that kind of thing. I never…got to do stuff like hang out at games. I didn’t have any friends” 

Spencer’s voice got quieter as he told his story and Elle’s heart ached. It hadn’t been a date, at least not for Spencer. It had been a chance to spend time with a friend, someone who liked him for him.

“Did JJ know that?” asked Elle slowly. Spencer shook his head.

“No. I think she thought…what everyone else thought” said Spencer “I don’t know why. I mean, who takes someone to a football game as a date? You can’t talk or get to know someone, it’s ridiculous. I took her home after the game had finished and we were sitting the car in front of her apartment and I told her much fun I had-”

“At a football game?”

“I was being polite. Then I told her how much it meant to me to spend the day with my best friend and I turned and her face was just…there!” Spencer held his hand up an inch from his face, eyes wide.

“She was leaning in for a kiss?” Elle half whispered. Spencer shrugged.

“I…think so? She looked a little shocked at my words and her pupils were blown. Her mouth was all…pouty.”

“So what happened!”

“She said she had a nice night and then got out of the car” Spencer shrugged again “We never really talked about and we never went to another football game.”

“You sound sad about that” said Elle gently, leaning forward again. Spencer wasn’t looking at her anymore. He shifted in his seat and the smile had long dropped from his face. Elle was struck by the odd notion that she would do anything to put it back.

“We’re better friends than ever but at the time I figured I messed up” said Spencer “Everyone just assumed that I’d made a move and got shot down and I wanted to let them think that. I figured if people knew JJ…”

Elle reached out and took Spencer’s hand before she realised what she was doing. For a moment they both looked at each other in surprise. Spencer could have sworn that her touch sent a wave of electricity across his body.

“You thought if people realised you’d turned JJ down she’d be embarrassed and you’d lose your friend?”

“It’s stupid” said Spencer. Elle’s hand was so warm. “I guess she was the closest friend I had at the time. Derek and I weren’t really friends until later. I didn’t know Penelope that well. I had Gideon but he was more of a mentor than a friend.”

“And me?” Elle asked. Did she feel hurt? It was irrational she knew, it was more than ten years ago but there was something nagging at her.

“You were new” Spencer replied softly and Elle felt his gaze drawing her in “I didn’t know you well. You were paired off with Derek a lot at the beginning”

“I was so desperate to be in the BAU” said Elle. It seemed like a lifetime ago. Two lifetimes she realised as she studied the lines and curves of Spencer’s face. “I was…”

“You were perfect” said Spencer who then immediately realised how that sounded. “You were settling in and we became friends later” he added quickly.

“Yes we did” smiled Elle. Her hand was still resting on his and she didn’t want to move. Was that weird? Spencer didn’t seem to mind, he was smiling at her. The smile did strange things to her, completely screwing up her perception of time. A decade ago was simultaneously yesterday and a century ago. There was almost a sense of triumph in getting him to smile.

“Listen” said Elle slowly “I have kind of a crazy idea. You said you teach now right? Do you enjoy it?”

“Yeah I do” said Spencer brightly “I get to talk about whatever I want. The other agents seem to enjoy it. Why?”

“Charlie’s company is Silvertree Security. I still work there as a consultant and I think that our people in the New York office would really benefit from a talk from a seasoned profiler if you’re interested. The women who work for the foundation too!”

“Silvertree?” Spencer racked his brain, the name was familiar. “Didn’t it used to be a military contractor?”

“Yeah under Charlie’s Dad it was kind of a Blackwater-style outfit” said Elle, pulling a face “After he died Charlie took over and made they whole thing more…legit.”

“I read about that” said Spencer “It was a huge deal, didn’t he fire most of the top people there?”

“Yeah, he scrapped everything old and tainted and basically rebuilt the whole operation from the ground up. Total transparency, 100% accountability. Charlie called it “putting on the white hat”” said Elle with a grin “I went in as an ex-profiler and I know that everyone would go crazy if you came and taught a seminar!”

“If you’re sure” said Spencer “I’d like that. I just need to clear it with Prentiss but then we could come up with some kind of plan based on what you guys want.”

“Just let me know dates and I’ll arrange a hotel and get everything you need for the seminar” said Elle excitedly “This is going to be great Spencer!”

Yeah, thought Spencer, it was.

Chapter Text

Spencer had gotten so used to using the jet to get everywhere that commercial travel was almost refreshing.


Nevertheless he was relieved to see Elle waiting for him as he touched down in New York. She threw her arms around him immediately and then stood back, looking slightly sheepish.

“Sorry I’m just really excited. Do you want to go to the hotel first or straight to the office?”

“Hotel but just to leave my bag. I can’t wait to see what you’re doing at Silvertree” said Spencer as they headed out.

Emily had been enthusiastic about the whole idea when Spencer brought it up. More so than Spencer expected. It had been slightly odd honestly.

“A friend of mine has asked me to give a seminar on profiling at a company she consults for” Spencer had caught Emily chatting with Tara in her office at the end of a pretty slow work day “I know that I usually teach at Quantico but I think this would be a great opportunity”.

Emily and Tara glanced at each other with an odd look on their faces.

“A friend’s company?” asked Emily “I mean sure. Sounds good. More than good really. A great opportunity. For you and profiling as a whole…thing.”

Tara coughed.

“Thanks Emily” said Spencer, slightly puzzled. He let it go though, his thoughts were in an entirely different place.

Apparently Silvertree had a number of suites permanently booked at the hotel for when they flew in consultants or for when Elle was working in the city. Some where even used for the women seeking hep from the foundation. The hotel was far more luxurious than Spencer expected but they didn’t linger long, instead heading straight to Silvertree’s headquarters. It was a slick, modern looking building inside and out. Elle briefly greeted the immaculately put together receptionist before leading Spencer to the executive elevator.

Everything in the building seemed to gleam while still seeming warm, every surface exuding a sense of wealth and power. Honestly Spencer found it slightly intimidating and the feeling was only heightened when they were greeted by Charlie as they stepped out of the elevator.

Spencer very rarely looked up to people in a physical sense, Simmons at the BAU was pretty much the exception, but he felt dwarfed by Charlie. The guy was also muscular and, Spencer noted to his irritation, handsome. He was the kind of guy that Spencer knew well, having suffered at the hands of many of them during high school. His heart sank. Of course Elle had been married to a guy like that. 

His eyes lit up when he saw the two of them and he pulled Elle into a quick hug before offering Spencer his hand to shake.

“Charlie Ford, I’ve heard a lot about you” Charlie’s smile looked genuine but Spencer still felt wary, “Elle tells me great things”

“Spencer Reid. I’ve heard good things too” Spencer ignored Elle’s raised eyebrow as Charlie led them down the hall.

“All lies” he said cheerfully “You want a tour of the place? We’re setting up the conference room as some of the heads of department wanted to sit in on your talk if that’s okay? Plus we have a pool of interns who would love to hear from you.”

Spencer felt like he was being set up in some way but he couldn’t see how. It must have registered on his face because he felt his hand being squeezed. He glanced at Elle in surprise and was met with a wink and a grin. Immediately the doubt flooded away and he felt safer. Elle wouldn’t bring him here to be ridiculed. 

The company was huge and it seemed like Charlie and Elle knew every single person than worked there personally. The three of them stopped and chatted with everyone from the rough, ex-army guy running recruitment to the girl doing the copying and filing for the HR department, both of whom to Spencer’s surprise, were coming along to his talk. Elle and Charlie enquired about people’s families, their recent vacations, their pets and a whole range of things they were doing outside the company in their spare time.  It was amazing really.

“You’re really invested in the people who work here” Spencer couldn’t keep the awe out of his voice. Charlie beamed at him.

“We are” said Elle “The only reason this place works is because of our people.”

“Elle completely redesigned the hiring protocol and our code of conduct when I took over” Charlie explained as they reached his office “If we want to do our best for our clients then we need to do our best for our people too.”

“That makes sense” nodded Spencer taking the seat offered to him on a plush sofa. Elle settled next to him, a comforting presence and Charlie took another chair. There was a wall of bookshelves behind a cluttered desk with files and knick knack and photos all over the room. 

Spencer recognised Robyn and Natalie in a lot of the pictures and some of the people they had seen around the building. Elle too featured in a lot with the girls and a dark skinned woman with a dazzling smile, and in one photo a baby bump. There was photo of all five of them grinning at the beach, Elle had her arm around the woman’s shoulders.

“Bethenny, my wife” said Charlie as he saw Spencer looking “She’s a journalist, our paths crossed in New Zealand.”

“It was love at first sight” teased Elle “Or would have been if Charlie had gotten his act together sooner”. Charlie rolled his eyes and Spencer was struck how easy they were with each other, there was none of the awkwardness or lingering feelings he would have expected. They clearly cared about each other deeply but in a platonic way. He wasn’t sure why, but Spencer felt relieved at that

“Elle asked her out for me actually” said Charlie, rubbing the back of his neck “Always looking out for me”

“Someone has to” snorted Elle. “Actually you’ll meet her later. She jumped at the chance of meeting an FBI profiler when I told her you were coming”. The easy conversation carried on for another hour and Spencer found himself laughing and chatting along with them. It was almost a disappointment when an assistant poked her head round the door to say that everyone was waiting.

Public speaking didn’t daunt Spencer anymore and as he spoke the audience was giving him all their attention. Elle cast her eye over the rapt spectators, a smile on her face. The allotted time for the talk came and went and they asked so many questions that Spencer ended up talking for another hour and then another hour passed as he fielded questions one on one and people excitedly went over their notes.

“They love him” said Charlie giving Elle a nudge as they watched Spencer in deep conversation with the head of Cyber Security.

“They do, it was a good idea”

“They aren’t the only one” Charlie continued, pointedly. Elle gave him a look. “Elle he’s attractive and brilliant. Like an encyclopaedia and a renaissance painting had a baby.”

“Sounds like you’re the one who’s interested”

“I’m married not blind” said Charlie “And I see they way you two have been looking at each other. Elle” Elle tore her gaze away from Spencer and looked at Charlie who was staring down at her in concern.


“You know him. Even after all this time you know he’s a good guy and you can trust him.”

Elle watched him as Annie, the middle aged secretary for the R&D team shyly held open a well worn copy of a psychology text book and Spencer leaned down to explain something to her. He glanced up briefly and smiled at her, causing her stomach to flip, before returning to the book. 

Spencer was a good guy, he made her feel safe and of course she found him attractive and funny and…

Oh shit

“Look how about Bethenny and I take the two of you out to dinner after this?” suggested Charlie.

Elle opened her mouth to protest but couldn’t find the words. Charlie looked irritatingly triumphant.

“I’ll go tell him” he said happily and bounded off. Elle sighed, unsure of the warring thoughts that were over taking her. 

Spencer felt bad for his initial impression of Charlie. He was nice, almost aggressively nice and he seemed fascinated by everything Spencer had to say. He had taken extensive notes during the lecture, asked questions, and enthusiastically wrote down the articles and books Spencer recommended afterwards. Then he insisted that Spencer join him, Bethenny and Elle for dinner. Spencer couldn’t say no but strangely he found he didn’t want to.

“That was fascinating” gushed Bethenny as they headed into the restaurant of the hotel “I’d be interested in picking your brains for a series I’m writing on human trafficking.”

“Sure” said Spencer, slightly overwhelmed with the seemingly unceasing praise coming his way. Elle leaned in to him slightly, her presence reassuring him.

“Our old boss used to call him our expert on everything” explained Elle “It saved us more than once.”

“Have you heard the train story?” Charlie asked his wife excitedly, pulling out a chair. Spencer did the same for Elle.

“No tell me!” said Bethenny and Elle launched into the story of how she was travelling to interview a killer in prison and there ended up being a hostage situation on the train. 

“Spencer was unarmed, no bullet proof vest and he managed to talk down an armed man suffering from delusions” said Elle proudly.

“It was no big deal, anyone would have done the same thing” said Spencer.

“But not anyone could have done the slight of hand to convince someone that a microchip was being removed from them” said Elle.

“That is the most badass story I ever heard” said Charlie, sitting back.

“So how did you get into the FBI Spencer?” Bethenny asked as their plates arrived at the table.

“When I was at MIT one of the founders of the BAU came and did a lecture on behavioural analysis and I was hooked” said Spencer.

“This is Agent Rossi, the guy whose book you recommended?” asked Charlie.

“No” said Spencer slowly, “It was Jason Gideon.” Elle noticed the slight drop in his shoulders and a swell of anger bubbled up inside her. Gideon had been like a father to Spencer and had turned out just as useless as his actual father. 

Bethenny and Charlie noticed the change in Elle and thankfully changed the subject. They spoke some more, though not with quite the same lightness as before and Charlie and Bethenny made their excuses, but not before Charlie insisted on paying despite both Elle and Spencer’s protests. As they said their goodbyes Charlie leaned down and whispered something in Elle’s ear when he hugged her goodbye. He and Bethenny left with a slightly conspiratorial grin that left Spencer bemused, it must have been some sort of inner joke.

Elle sighed and turned to him once they were alone.

“Night cap?”

“Sure” said Spencer brightly, his spirits lifting again. They wandered to the hotel bar and picked a secluded booth at the back. For a little while they drank in and talked about old times,laughing and joking. The bar grew steadily quieter and midnight came and went. Spencer told stories about prank wars with Morgan, Garcia organising cake tasting evenings and accidentally giving the team food poisoning. Elle recounted misadventures with Charlie and other members of Silvertree’s initial team in the company’s early days. There was the time they got stranded in the Himalayas, Charlie falling overboard while sailing near the Great Barrier Reef and Elle being stranded in the Alps and spending the weekend with an elderly French couple who got her drunk and convinced her to sing karaoke until the others found her. She sparkled when she spoke and Spencer was the calmest and happiest he’s been for the longest time. He didn’t want the night to end.

Finally Elle stood, an idea had been rolling over and over in her mind since dinner and now she felt brave enough to voice it.

“I’m going up to my room” she said, her voice low and soft. it sent a shiver down Spencer’s spine. “It’s the room next to yours, I’m going to leave it unlocked for a little while okay?”

Elle didn’t wait for him to respond, she just turned and left, heart pounding. Spencer blinked, his brain trying to rapidly process what she was saying and everything it implied.

He couldn’t.

Could he?

Why the hell not?

Because he didn’t do that sort of thing.

What sort of thing? Maybe he should have asked her to be more explicit with what she was suggesting. He thought she was beautiful, to be honest he always had but it was a different kind of beauty now. There was softness there with the strength and something inside him that she shared. 

Spencer bit his lip and drained his glass.

Chapter Text

The knock at the door made Elle jump. She was half expecting to go to bed, not hear from Spencer at all. Her heart was pounding as she opened the door, Spencer standing there with his hands jammed in his pockets.

“Hey’ he said softly.

“Hey” Elle breathed. 

For a moment they just stood there, taking each other in. Then Elle took his hand and gently pulled him in to the room, pushing the door closed behind them.

Tentatively, Elle reached up to brush a loose strand of hair out of his eyes. Before she could pull her hand back, Spencer caught it, pressing a kiss to her palm. Elle bit her lip to steady herself and stepped closer to Spencer, her free arm snaking round his waist. They both swayed slightly and Spencer tilted his head to kiss Elle’s cheek, and then her jaw and then finally pressing a chaste kiss to her lips.

“I always wondered what that would feel like” Elle murmured as they broke apart.


“Yeah. I don’t know if you’re aware of how much time you spend biting and licking your lips but it was very distracting when we were trying to do paperwork” laughed Elle. Spencer looked bemused, and Elle took the opportunity to pull him down for a deeper kiss, pressing her entire body against his. There was only the briefest period of surprise before Spencer began to kiss her back harder, lips parted, the taste of the sweet cocktail she had drunk on his tongue.

“Elle” her name came out breathlessly when they pulled apart. Elle only hummed in response and pressed butterfly kisses down his neck. Spencer hooked two fingers under her chin and tilted her head up to face him while simultaneously missing the sensation of her lips on his skin. “I really want this.”

“That’s a relief” Elle quipped, but there was something else, Elle could sense it. There was a hesitancy mixed in with the want in his eyes and Elle gently took both his hands in hers and sat down on the bed, guiding him to sit next to her. “We don’t have to Spencer. That kiss alone was worth it. If you want to call it a night or even if you want to pretend this never happened-”

“No” said Spencer quickly “That’s not it, I meant it when I said I want this. I just want to be clear, I don’t do one night stands.”

His stomach was churning, that familiar sense of dread and embarrassment clawing at him. 

“I like you a lot Spencer” said Elle softly “I’m not quite sure what this is but I know that I want it to last longer than just tonight.” 

How did she always know what he needed to hear? The relief flooded his body and he allowed Elle to pull him close, his forehead resting against hers and her fingers dancing along the skin exposed at the neck of his shirt. Slowly, she began to undo the buttons one by one.

“I know I want to kiss you and then I want to explore every part of you and in the morning I want to have breakfast in bed with you and do it all again” she whispered. It sent a shiver rippling across Spencer’s skin and he didn’t trust himself to speak. Instead he shifted and eased Elle back on the bed, the rest of their clothes quickly discarded.

“Tell me what else you want” he said as she lay back, pulling him down with her.

Elle expected him to gentle and she was unsurprised that he was meticulous and attentive to every single reaction no matter how small and she was thrilled he was thorough in coaxing her to the edge and over. What Elle didn’t expect is for Spencer to have a teasing side and a smirk that made her legs weak. She fell asleep utterly spent, cradled against Spencer’s chest, lulled by the thud of his heart.

Spencer didn’t fall asleep straightaway. Instead he scanned the patterns in the ceiling and stroked Elle’s hair, revelling in the sense of calm and safety that up until meeting Elle again, he thought he had lost forever. The rhythm of her breathing was soothing and he found it syncing with his own as his eyes grew heavy.

The first thing Spencer was aware of as he drifted towards consciousness the next morning was that the weight of Elle sleeping on his chest was gone. The second thing was the brilliant sunshine streaming into the room as he tried to open his eyes. He turned over, burying his face in the pillow.

“You really aren’t a morning person are you?” came Elle’s lilting laugh from across the room. Spencer could only grunt in response. The soft pad of footsteps was followed by the bed sinking slightly and Elle’s soft lips on his shoulder blade. Her breathed tickled him as she spoke.

“I’ve ordered room service for breakfast. Lots and lots of coffee.”

“’Kay. I’ll wake up after that” grumbled Spencer, trying bury his face further in the pillow.

“Or you could join me in the shower before the food arrives?” Elle suggested softly. That got Spencer’s attention and he rolled over taking in the loose robe, lazily wrapped around her and hanging off of one shoulder. 

“You look beautiful” he mumbled sleepily. Elle looked down at her hands, fighting to keep the grin off of her face “C’mere”

Elle shuffled forward, slipping under the covers and cuddling up to Spencer. They lay there for a moment as he traced the lines of her face with his fingertip - the line of her jaw, the curve of her cheek, the outline of her lips. Elle watched, holding her breath as Spencer studied her intently, his eyes roaming every inch of her face. Her tongue darted out as his finger reached her cupid’s bow and he paused. Elle’s lips parted and Spencer leaned down, their lips almost brushing when there came a rapid  knock at the door and an entirely too chirpy “Room service”.

“Hold that thought” whispered Elle. She bounded out of bed, and returned a moment later with a tray loaded with fruit and pastries and a large pot of coffee.

They ate mostly in comfortable silence. Elle could feel Spencer’s unbroken gaze on her as she nibbled at her food. When she glanced up he smiled but it was almost sad.

“What are you thinking?” Elle asked softly.

“Your company and your foundation” said Spencer slowly “Your work…you work with a lot of people who you would have worked with as an FBI agent, but in a completely different capacity”

Elle shifted on the bed and nodded slowly, wondering what he was getting at.

“Is it easier? No, that’s not what I mean. Does it….does it feel better?” Spencer ran his hands through his hair in frustration “That’s not really what I meant either. I guess…you’re happy right? And your work is part of the reason?”

There was something in Spencer’s eyes that Elle couldn’t quite place. This was a discussion about prison, that much she knew.

“I am happy” said Elle “And I’m also at peace after…what happened. Work is part of that but there was so much more. Honestly Spencer after I left the BAU I wanted to crawl into a hole and die and it took years of therapy and work and dragging myself out of the dark before I could even begin to function as a normal person again. Even when I met Charlie and I was doing better we were two very broken and very co-dependent people and again it took years to understand that.”

Spencer couldn’t imagine Charlie being broken but then again he would never have put himself in that category either. Sure he’d had a tough upbringing and he had lost so many people but before prison he would never have described himself as broken…

And now?

There were nights he would wake up in a cold sweat, clawing at the sheets. He shouted for Luis and Maeve and his mother and Gideon and when he jolted awake in a still unfamiliar room he couldn’t get back to sleep. Truth be told he was afraid to sleep and then during the day he felt disconnected from everyone and everything around him. His friends, his work, the things he used to do to relax all felt alien to him.

“It will take time” said Elle “A long time. We never stop growing and changing and that what this is. It hurts and it sucks but you’ll adapt and you’ll be stronger for it.”

He wanted to ask how she was so sure but that was a stupid question. He looked at her, really and truly looked at her and took in every inch. It was like he could see under the surface and for the first time Spencer felt a tiny flicker of hope. Elle had been through hell and emerged reborn on the other side, maybe he could too.

“I’m kind of in awe of you” said Spencer with a tired smile “You were always amazing but…”

“What I did…” Elle said slowly “The shooting-”

“You don’t have to justify yourself to me” said Spencer quickly. He didn’t want her to have to confess but at the same time even the possibility that she would to him was like an ache. Elle nodded and took his hand. He didn’t blame her. He blamed the pressure Hotch and Gideon were under, he blamed their naivety and ignorance but he didn’t blame Elle. She seemed to sense that. Her hand came up to his cheek and her thumb grazed Spencer’s lip. There was a softness in Elle’s eyes that made his breath hitch.

“Forgiveness is…an odd thing. It’s for the person doing the forgiving rather than the person saying sorry ” said Elle carefully “If you forgive someone for hurting you on some level you’re doing it for yourself. You’re cutting yourself free of what’s weighing you down and it doesn’t mean you think they were right”

“Did you forgive Hotch?” asked Spencer, unsure of where she was going.

“Eventually” nodded Elle “And when I did it allowed me to forgive myself. What I did was wrong, I know that but…and this isn’t an excuse, it’s a reason…I was traumatised and had no business being in the field. I forgave myself for the shooting, for feeling weak and stupid for being shot in my own home, for pulling away from everyone and I left that burden behind. One day you’ll be able to forgive yourself too Spencer.”

Spencer nodded, not trusting himself to speak. Coming from Elle it sounded plausible, not easy but achievable. He pulled her close, wrapping his arms around her small frame and burying his face in her hair. Elle leaned into the embrace, enjoying the sensation of his skin against hers. Spencer pushed the robe off of her with no resistance, letting it slide off of the bed and onto the floor. The cool morning air gave her goosebumps and he pressed kisses to every inch of exposed skin to warm her up. Elle sighed, eyes fluttering shut and she revelled in the sensation.

“Good night?” Charlie asked chirpily as Elle answered the phone. Spencer had gone back to his own room to shower and change.

“Don’t tease her!” Bethenny’s voice could be heard in the background. 

Fantastic, an audience.

“It was nice” said Elle as she tried to keep her voice as casual as possible.

“Only nice? That’s disappointing to hear”

“Charlie!” Elle and Bethenny both exclaimed at once.

“How are the girls?” Elle asked.

“They’re getting ready for Bethenny’s birthday meal” Charlie laughed “Decorations are going to be…interesting”

“God yes”

Elle grinned as she heard Charlie call for them, followed by excited squeals and a chorus of “Mommy, mommy!”

“Are you having fun with Daddy and Bethenny?”

“Yeah we’re painting flags and blowing up balloons and we’re going to make a big banner with everyone’s faces on it” yelled Natalie. They launched into a long detailed explanation of everything they were going to make and how excited they were to see everyone. Bethenny’s parents were coming over as well as Elle  and some of her journalist friends. 

“I miss you guys so much, I can’t wait to see you. I love you!” Spencer had slipped back into the room, smiling at her as he leaned against the wall.

“Love you too Mommy” the girls cried before handing the phone back to Charlie.

“So we’ll see you soon?”

“Yeah, I’m going to drive Spencer to the airport and then I’ll head your way” said Elle.

“I won’t expect you too soon then” said Charlie and Elle could hear the smirk in his voice, the heat rising in her face.

“Bye Charlie”

“Wish handsome Dr Reid a safe trip for me”

Elle hung up, shaking her head.

“Charlie says he hopes he have a good journey home” she said, as Spencer came and sat beside her on the bed.

“You don’t have to drive me, I’ll take a cab. I don’t want to stop you if you’ve got family stuff to do” said Spencer, Elle rested her hand on his.

“It’s fine, it’s all in the same direction and I want to make sure I see you off. I don’t know when we’re going to be able to do this again. Serial killers are never considerate of pre-made plans”

“That’s true” said Spencer, kissing her softly “We should made the most of it.”

“I’m here for a few days and then I’m heading back to DC with the girls.” Elle explained “If you don’t have a case I’d like to show you a few more galleries, maybe a restaurant or two”

“Like a proper date?”

“Uh-huh” Elle answered, her voice low and full of promise “Like a proper date.”

She kissed him again, pulling him close and wrapping her arms around his neck. It was soft yet insistent, and when they reluctantly broke apart, both were hesitant to move. 

Time was against them however, and eventually they had to make their way to the airport. Neither said much but they held hands up until the gate and each had the same feeling as they said goodbye. It didn’t hurt, they knew they were going to see each other soon. It felt more like a longing to close the distance between them as soon as possible.

Chapter Text

“How did the talk go?” Emily asked as casually as she could as she and Spencer took the elevator up to their floor.

“Good” said Spencer equally casually “Everyone was really enthusiastic. I got emails from a few people afterwards wanting extra information. It was nice”

“That’s so great Spencer” said Emily, forgetting for a moment she wasn’t supposed to know that Spencer’s mysterious “friend” who organised the talk was much more than that “Honestly after everything that’s happened it’s so nice to see you happy”

Spencer looked at her quizzically as they arrived at their floor.

“And teaching obviously does that” Emily added quickly “Hey Tara, how was your weekend?”

“Oh you know” Tara waved non-chalantly as she approached. Spencer murmured a good morning and headed to his desk, slightly perplexed but his good mood meant he didn’t dwell on it. The two women looked after him, each with a small smile.

“He definitely got some” said Tara approvingly.

“I told him how nice it is to see him happy” said Emily.

“Happiness looks good on all of us after so long” said Tara softly, causing Emily to blush before scurrying off to her office, a spring in her step.

Moira hovered by the window, peering through the blinds.

“All the windows in the building are one way glass” said Elle softly “No one can see inside. There’s 24/7 security. In our residential building we have top surveillance, the security guards are all ex-special forces and we have panic rooms. It would take a highly trained army to get in and we have one of those inside if by some miracle someone actually does”

Elle had been adamant that any place that a vulnerable woman or girl had to stay when the foundation was helping them, needed to be more impenetrable than Fort Knox. Elle knew as well as the clients did what it felt like to be vulnerable in the places you should feel safe.

“Damian…knows people” said Moira, arms wrapped tightly around her “He has ways of getting what he wants. If he wants something then nothing can stop him.”

“What kind of people?” asked Elle. After working on cases like this for so long she knew not to dismiss anything.

“His brother is a cop and they have a lot of family friends in law enforcement” said Moira. “I-I’m not sure I can-” her voice broke before she could carry on.

“I used to be an FBI agent a lifetime ago” said Elle “I know how those guys work, the good ones and the bad ones. Knowing this means we can prepare better, we can protect you more effectively.”

“I just want to feel safe” sobbed Moira.

“I know” said Elle gently.

The rest of the meeting was spent making plans. Moira had arrived with a small suitcase and was adamant she didn’t need anything from home. The police would be notified of course but Elle and her people were going to arrange the safe house and they were going to brief Moira’s part time job where she helped out at a school. If they were lucky they could get them to give Moira a leave of absence while they had Damian dealt with. Elle was pretty persuasive.

Moira seemed to be standing a little taller as she headed off with one of the case workers. She pulled Elle into a surprising but welcome hug.

“What you’re doing is really brave Moira” said Elle, “Always remember that”

Moira nodded, eyes watery again but there seemed to be a tiny glimmer of something there that gave Elle hope.

It was something she held onto the whole way home until she could scoop up her girls in a bear hug.

“Mommy you’re smooshing us!” protested Natalie, Robyn on the other hand seemed to enjoy it, giggling wildly.

“Sorry baby, I’m just so happy to see you” grinned Elle, kissing both of them.

“Bad day?” Natalie asked, her face suddenly falling.

“No just hard baby” Elle reassured her. Natalie wrapped her arms around Elle’s neck anyway and Elle pulled her close with Robyn burrowing between them after. 

“You know what helps on a bad day?” asked Elle with a grin.

“Pizza!” yelled Robyn

“That’s right, kitchen now squad”

The girls hurtled away, a ferocious debate about pepperoni vs chicken erupting en route. Smiling Elle sent a quick text to Spencer, fingers nervously dancing across her phone as she worked out what to say.

Spencer had been hoping for a quiet Monday filled with paperwork but instead the team were summoned to Oklahoma for an equivocal death investigation of three young men. 

He’d spent most of the day at the second casualty’s apartment, an architect by the name of Chuck Depestel. The guy had been a bit of a hoarder and it had taken him and Tara hours to sort through everything only to determine there was nothing that could help them.

“I just got off the phone with Emily” said Tara “Apparently there’s nothing at home of vic number one, Kelvin Morrow, but Garcia has dug up some interesting financial stuff. Rossi and JJ found wads of cash hidden under the floorboards of Ben Watling’s home”

“Wait a sec” Spencer spun and around and frantically leafed through one of the many piles of scrap paper “Got it! It’s a flyer for gambler’s anonymous. I didn’t think anything of it because it’s over a year old but maybe it’s what ties these guys together?”

“Could be!” agreed Tara “Emily wants us to meet at the station so we can all go to the motel together. We’ll fill her in the way.”

Even a shitty motel shower was heaven after the day Spencer had and he was pleasantly surprised to see a text from Elle on his phone when he got out.

E: Hey, hope they aren’t working you too hard. Thinking of you xx

A warm feeling spread through Spencer’s chest. He settled down on the bed to reply.  It had been sent a few hours earlier but he wanted to reply. The idea that she would think he was ignoring her made something tense inside him.

S: Called away on a case but hoping I’ll be able to finish soon. 

He paused before adding I miss you. Spencer hit send, his heart hammering.

The girls were curled up in the makeshift fort, eyes drooping as they struggled to stay awake. Elle smiled down at them cuddled up against her. Her phone buzzed and, as carefully as she could so as not to wake the girls, Elle grabbed it, hoping for a reply from Spencer.

There were butterflies in her stomach as she saw his name and she tried to tell herself to stop being silly but she couldn’t wipe the smile off her face at those three words.

I miss you.

“Mommy?” Natalie mumbled. Robyn had lost her battle with sleep, snoring slightly

“Hey kiddo” whispered Elle “Did I wake you?”

“No” Natalie yawned “Was that Daddy?”

“No it was my friend who came to the company the other week to talk to everyone” said Elle. Friend felt such a small word for it but it wasn’t time to get into that with the girls yet.

“Handsome doctor?” mumbled Natalie. Elle blinked.

“What was that?”

“Handsome doctor….something. Daddy was telling Bethenny about it. They really liked him.” Elle was going to kill Charlie. Or at the very least she was going to remind him to be careful around young ears.

“Well he’s a nice friend” said Elle, unsure of what else she could say.

“Good” smiled Natalie and she went to mumble something else but it faded into a soft snore. Elle moved very gently, laying Robyn down first and then Natalie. They’d enjoy waking up in the fort in the morning and Elle grabbed a blanket to curl up on the sofa.

She bit her lip, wondering what to text back to reply before deciding just to be honest. Spencer was the last person she was going to play games with.

E: I miss you too. Stay safe and I’ll call you tomorrow if you’re free. X

The reply came back almost instantly

S: I’d like that a lot. Xx

The case dragged on for a week to Spencer’s frustration. They quickly established that the men all used the same bookie but when he too ended up dead they had to rethink their whole profile. They were led down twists and turns, followed false leads and it seemed to take ages to piece the evidence together. Finally though they had their man.

Spencer and Elle texted everyday and true to her word she had called him on the second night of the case. They had ended up talking for hours after the kids were asleep. Spencer hadn’t been able to go into details about the case but he had been able to tell her how frustrated he felt. In turn Elle couldn’t talk about her clients but she could say how worried she was for them and how determined she was to keep them safe.

Neither had realised how much they had needed to hear each other’s voices. the only thing they needed more was to see each other face to face and so Elle suggested dinner at hers. The girls were going to be with Charlie for the weekend and Elle had an idea to cook and get in some fancy wine. 

“You seem eager to leave” Rossi remarked as Spencer was the first one on the plane and in his seat, leg bouncing on the ground.

“Isn’t everyone?” Spencer answered, flippantly.

“True” said Tara, slumping down opposite him “This case took way too long”

“And now we can have a weekend off!” added Spencer. JJ slid down next to him, eyebrow raised.

“You have plans?” It came out slightly more incredulous than she intended. Spencer looked hurt but pushed it down.

“I plan to not deal with any unsubs”

JJ opened her mouth to say something but Emily cut in.

“I’m going to have the longest bubble bath known to man” she declared “What’s everyone else going to do?”

“That sounds nice” said Tara, keeping her face straight “I think I might do the same”

“I’m taking the kids to the zoo” piped up Matt “If you want to bring yours too JJ we could make a day of it”

“Uh yeah sounds good” said JJ. She was still staring at Spencer who had pulled out a book though his phone was laying between the pages as he typed out a text.

“Poker game tomorrow. You want in Luke?”

“Sure why not” said Luke with a small shrug. Lisa had called in quits a few weeks before and Rossi had begun inviting him over to drown his sorrows in wine and pasta. 

“Great. Penelope will be coming too. We’re having a rematch and I am not losing to her again”

“What happened last time?” asked Matt eagerly.

“It’s a long story” began Rossi. It was long, it lasted most of the flight back. The only two people who weren’t listening were Spencer, texting most of the trip and JJ who kept sneaking a look sideways. He’d angled the book so she couldn’t see who he was texting but the messages kept going back and forth and he had a small smile on his face.

Back at Quantico Spencer ran off before anyone had a chance to say goodbye and JJ had a chance to corner him.

“It’s fine Jayge” said Emily. JJ jumped at the sound of her voice and Emily continued “Spencer’s fine. You don’t need to worry.”

“Yeah but-”

“He’s your friend not your son” said Emily, a touch more firmly now. JJ shook her head and mumbled a goodbye. Emily sighed as she stared after her.

“She may not let that go” said Tara, sidling up to her.

“Yeah that’s what I’m worried about. The last time Spencer was seriously involved with someone…” Emily trailed off. She didn’t want to spill all of her friends secrets though she had a suspicion that either JJ or Garcia would have filled everyone else in at some point. Emily couldn’t do that to Spencer, she knew sometimes you needed to keep things private. 

“Maeve” Tara nodded.

“We can’t treat him like he’s broken” said Emily “Because he isn’t. I’m afraid if he thinks that we view him like that we’ll drive him away.”

“Spencer knows you don’t look at him like that” said Tara “You can’t control the others. All you can do is lead by example.”

“You always know what to say Dr Lewis”

“I do” grinned Tara “Which is why I’m saying we should head to mine and run a bubble bath”

“Elle that was amazing” Spencer sighed happily as he finished the last bite. 

“My Dad used to make it when I was a kid” she smiled “It’s my go to pick me up recipe and after the week we’ve both had I figured we could use it”

“Definitely” agreed Spencer as they cleared the plates together. The washed up in silence but it wasn’t awkward. Instead it felt comfortable and honestly, even a little domestic. The thought should have scared both of them but instead they revelled in it.

When Elle was drying the last plate Spencer leaned down and pressed a soft kiss to her temple.

“What was that for?” asked Elle, blushing furiously. Spencer gave a small, shy shrug.

“Want dessert?” Elle asked softly after a moment and at Spencer’s nod she took his hand and they made their way upstairs.

Chapter Text

There was something about waking up with his arms around another person that Spencer found incredibly grounding. There was always a split second after waking when he had forgotten about prison, his mother’s abduction and all the other stuff that had happened to him and there was the briefest moment of peace before he came crashing back down to earth.

Lying there with Elle though was different. He hadn’t forgotten about everything but it couldn’t touch him, it was like he was protected from it. Spencer watched her sleep trying to work out how he felt. Happy obviously but also safe and…satisfied? Content? None of the words he reached for fit but as Elle began to stir he let it go focusing instead on her eyelid fluttering open and the sleepy smile that spread across her face.

“Of course you’re the kind of guy who would watch someone sleep”

“You make it sound creepy rather than romantic”

“Depends on the context” said Elle rolling over and kissing him on the lips. It started soft and became more firm, more urgent as he pulled her close, her hands tangling in his hair, bodies flush against each other.

The weight of him as he shifted over her was comforting and she couldn’t help the little whimper of protest as he pulled away. Spencer grinned at Elle’s pout, revelling in the feeling of her hands dropping to his shoulders.

“How about I take you out?”

“Where?” Elle asked. One hand moved up so she could trace his jaw with her fingers tips.

“The park just outside town where they have the lake” He dipped down to press a kiss to her cheek, his breath on her skin causing her to shiver “We can take a picnic. Sit and watch the world go by.”

“Are you asking me on a date?” Elle asked, a wry smile on her lips. Spencer smiled back, stirring something within Elle.

“Yeah I am” he said, his voice low and breathy. Elle couldn’t form a coherent answer so settled for pulling him down for another long kiss.

They showered together, to save time Elle said but they both knew that was a lie. They had slept late so they skipped breakfast and filled a bag with fruit and two thermos of coffee, stopping to buy pastries at a little bakery on the way.

The sun was shining as they walked down to the lake hand in hand. It felt so right, as if that had been doing this for years. It was almost frightening Elle thought as she watched Spencer lay out a blanket and arrange the food. he glanced up seeing the expression on her face.

“Hey” Spencer clambered gracelessly to his feet and took her hand “What’s wrong?”

“I…it’s nothing”

“Elle” he said gently “Talk to me”

“ you think this is going too fast? Us I mean?”

There was an unmistakeable flash of hurt across Spencer’s features and Elle immediately felt the sting of regret in her chest. He was going to leave, she wasn’t going to see him again. 

Spencer watched a million emotions flash across Elle’s face and he fought down his urge to turn and run. This wasn’t a rejection, objectively he knew that but at the same time he could almost feel it slipping through his fingers.

For a moment the two of them just stared at each other. 

“You didn’t answer” Elle said finally, her voice quiet.


That wasn’t the answer she was looking for, Spencer thought, or at least not the tone she was looking to hear it in. She looked so afraid, he realised and that’s when the tension left his body. Spencer took her hand and settled down on the blanket, Elle following.

“I think we’ve done things in the wrong order a little bit” he said “There’s so much history here that we aren’t starting from scratch but it’s still new”

“It’s good” Elle protested “Honestly, so good but…”

“The better it is the more there is at stake” said Spencer. A cold familiar feeling was coming over him, a sick deja vu.

“I’ve never been this happy” said Elle miserably, gripping Spencer’s hand tighter. She felt so vulnerable saying it out loud.

“So I’m happy and you’re happy and we’re both on the verge of tears” said Spencer “Good to know.” They both laughed and Spencer drew Elle close so she could rest her head on his shoulder.

“We can go as fast or as slow as you want” he said, kissing the top of her head.

“I’m just afraid that we’re going to get into something and all that stuff from the past is just going to come up and…” Elle trailed off, her voice was tight, eyes screwed shut.

“Then we air it now” said Spencer “We throw it all out there and see if it changes anything because I’m willing to bet it won’t”

“You don’t know that” said Elle, sitting bolt upright and staring at Spencer wide-eyed. She had never confessed to killing William Lee in cold blood out loud before. Charlie knew but it had taken years to communicate to him what had happened without ever actually saying.

“I have a pretty good idea” said Spencer “You think you’ve done terrible things but I’ve done worse”. Elle scoffed. “I mean it. Starting with the most recent and going backwards I choked a pregnant woman because she held my Mom hostage and tried to convince me the baby was mine.”

Of all the things Elle thought Spencer was going to come out with that wasn’t one of them. She just stared at him, mouth hanging open.

“Baby wasn’t mine by the way” Spencer continued, almost frantically “But she told me that it was and that she had her girlfriend drug me in Mexico order to do it. That’s why I was arrested, because that girlfriend, who the BAU saved a decade ago by the way, murdered a doctor friend of mine and planted coke and heroin on me. To rescue my mother I had to go to that…bitch, hours after being released and sit in an interrogation room while she fed me all this BS about having my baby and I had to tell her I was in love with her”

When he finished he was breathing heavily. Elle was half worried he was going to pass out, he hadn’t stopped to take a breath.

“She thought we were the same because I poisoned a bunch of other prisoners when I was inside. They killed my friend in front of me and I was going to die next so I spiked their drugs. Elle” he put his hands on her shoulders “Believe me when I say that nothing you say will make me look at you differently.”

“I shot him in cold blood Spencer!” Elle choked out, her eyes filled with tears 

“I know” he said. He threw his arms around her, holding her close as she cried.

“I wanted to die afterwards. When I left” Elle continued “I tried too. I did some really stupid things because I just wanted to feel nothing. To black out and die. I was too scared and disgusted with myself. It was all too much.”

“You got through it” Spencer said “You took all of that and you built something amazing. You have two amazing girls and you fight for people everyday.”

“When I met Charlie we were both…it’s not my story to tell but I was surprised to find someone more fucked up than me” said Elle “For the longest time when we were first together it wasn’t…healthy. When I found out we were we both decided things had to change. It’s still there though, that darkness inside me.”

“I don’t care” said Spencer “We all have that inside us. The test is whether we let it consume us”

“I nearly did” 

“So did I” said Spencer “Several times actually”

“What the fuck has been going on since I left?” asked Elle.

He told her. 

He told her about Tobias Hankel and his dilaudid addiction, about going into the dangerous parts of town where a federal agent had no business being in order to score drugs, he told her about the pretty girl with no name who’d helped him score and about waking up alone in a strange bed and realising his wallet was missing. 

He explained about finding his father again and then his phone calls going unanswered. Spencer told her about trying to get clean and wishing he was dead. He told her about Emily’s death and driving round for hours to see if his old dealer was still in town. 

He explained about his mother’s illness, raging against the world because she deserved so much better than she’d been dealt and finally, with tears in his eyes, he told her about Maeve.

Elle told him about taking too many pills to end it all, lying in the dark for days, about meeting Charlie and having someone else who needed to escape reality. She told him about calling her mother when she found out she was pregnant with Natalie and telling her to drop dead, that she was done, that she was going to spend the rest of her life trying to be a better mother than the one she had. 

Elle explained about the series of bad relationships that her mother had thrown herself into after Elle’s father had been killed. Each man more violent or manipulative than the last. In a shaking whisper she explained about the worst of them, who had taken to coming in to her room at night, how she had begged her mother for help, how when that had failed she had gone to the cops and her mother had called her a whore, called her selfish.

“Is that why you went into sex crimes?” Spencer asked. They lay side by side on the blanket, fingers entwined and faces tear stained.

“Yeah” said Elle “I just wanted to keep it from happening to anyone else. I wanted to be strong and brave and save the world and then I got shot and I felt so weak, so helpless. What right did I have to stand up for anyone?”

“You weren’t weak” said Spencer “The opposite actually. You are amazing Elle”

“You do what you gotta do. I don’t think I could have survived what you’ve been through”

“You do what you gotta do” Spencer repeated, a small smile on his lips “The question is what are we going to do now?”

“You know all my secrets” said Elle, a tired smile playing on her lips “Can’t let you go now.” Elle let out a shaky sigh and pushed her self into a sitting position.  Spencer followed suit, a worried look on his face. He was afraid that she still had doubts.

“I won’t betray that trust” he said, brushing away a stray strand of hair that had fallen in front of her eyes. Elle found the contact reassuring, the warmth of his skin on hers, grounding her to the here and now.

“Two survivors” Elle murmured, leaning in to Spencer’s touch. 

“I like that” grinned Spencer “We can go at whatever pace we need to. Take whatever next steps feel right.”

The sun was high in the sky now, the park was full of people but they’d chosen a spot where no one could hear them, where they were in their own little bubble. Spencer scanned the couples, families that surrounded them.

First the time in a long time he felt like he had a sliver of what they had.

“You’re afraid too” said Elle

“Always the profiler” smiled Spencer “Yeah I am, but I’m tired of being afraid and I’m tired of being unhappy. I’m not saying this because I think we need to rescue each other or anything but we have a pretty good idea how each other feels.”

“So you want to give this a go properly?”

“I do” he said, pressing a chaste kiss to her lips “So how about we start my eating this food because emotional confession make me really hungry”

“Oh my god, I almost forgot” laughed Elle.

The ended up spending a couple of hours at the park, eating, talking and enjoying each others company. Eventually, as it started getting later they reluctantly packed up, heading back to the car arm in arm.

“I have an NA meeting tonight” said Spencer as Elle dropped him home.

“You still go?”

“For nearly ten years” nodded Spencer.

“That’s amazing” said Elle “It must have been hard when…” when you were drugged, when someone used what scared you most against you.

“It was” said Spencer. They were pulling up to his house now. He was reluctant to leave her, for the day to end “But I’m getting there again. Could I call you after?”

“I’d like that and maybe we can do this again?”


They kissed one final time before Spencer climbed out of the car, turning back twice to give a small wave that Elle returned. Finally, once she saw he was safe inside, she drove away feeling lighter and more hopeful.

Chapter Text

Six months. Six months of days like the day in the park. Sometimes it was awkward or clumsy but it was always genuine.

Spencer and Elle would speak everyday. He talked about his cases, how everyone on the team was doing and he told her all about the lectures and seminars he was giving to other agents on his mandatory leave. A couple of times he even practiced on Elle before hand. Elle would tell him about the foundation and sometimes her work at Silvertree and she would gush about how the girls were doing at school.

When Spencer didn’t have a case and Elle wasn’t in New York or looking after the girls they would go out. Elle kept her word and they visited nearly every art gallery in DC, big and small. Her knowledge of the artworks would rival his own and she would whisper about her favourite pieces. Sometimes Spencer found himself getting lost just gazing at her as she spoke and Elle would nudge him playfully, doing the exact same thing whenever he would reel off facts about a certain artist. He took her to film screenings, a book launch and he knew every Indian restaurant in town and exactly what to order. Elle watched his eyes light up and she realised that he probably didn’t get to share any of these things with anyone else. It made her sad but it also made her feel special.

She was falling hard and she knew it. Twice in those first six months it nearly spilled forth. The first time was when Spencer had taken her to a jazz club and Elle had finally managed to convince him to join her on the dance floor. Spencer had only relented because it was a slow song, the singer’s smooth tones easy for his awkward limbs to keep up with. He’d held her close, much closer than she was expecting, resting his chin on her head as they swayed backwards and forwards.

“This is nice” said Spencer, a note of surprise in his voice. Elle looked up at him with a smile.

I think I love you.

As she parted her lips the song had come to an end and the band had struck up a dizzyingly fast tune that made them retreat to their seats.

The second time had been when Moira had called the office one day and said she no longer needed the foundation’s help. Elle had pleaded with her, she knew something had happened but couldn’t get Moira to tell her what and eventually the woman had just hung up. Every time Elle had tried to phone or text her after that she couldn’t get through. 

Elle had ended up at Spencer’s apartment in tears and he had held her all night. She fell asleep with him stroking her hair, whispering that it was all going to be okay. It had been her last thought before drifting off…

I love you.

There hadn’t been any doubt at that point but it hadn’t felt right to say it out loud.

Charlie was bugging her about it every other time Elle saw him.

“Teeeeell him” Charlie whined for must have been the hundredth time. That day Elle was at Silvertree, helping with some recruitment issues. Charlie was perched on her desk, more of a hindrance than a help.

“You have your own love life to be concerned about stay out of mine” warned Elle.

“Mine is taken care of, Bethenny's Mom is taking the baby this weekend so Bethenny and I can have some alone time!” said Charlie gleefully. Baby Antony had come into the world four months ago and Natalie and Robyn were head over heels for their new baby brother, desperate to spend as much time with him as possible.

“That’s great” said Elle “But-”

“Elle are you serious about him?” asked Charlie

“Yeah I am but-”

“So tell him. He isn’t the type to play games is he?”

“No but-”

“So tell him how you feel!”

“It’s only been six months. I haven’t even introduced him to the girls. Hell I don’t think I’ve actually called him my boyfriend” said Elle, running her hands through her hair.

“Do you trust him?” asked Charlie.

“Trust him?”

“With your heart? With the girls? You trust him with your secrets right?”

Elle had told Charlie how much she had revealed to Spencer though not how much he’d told her in return. If Charlie hadn’t been Spencer’s number one fan before he certainly was now.

“I do” said Elle softly. The girls knew that Mommy had a special friend, that she was happy. Maybe she should talk to Spencer about coming over and meeting them officially.

My boyfriend.

The man I love.

Charlie grinned at her as he watched the cogs in her brain whirring. God he was insufferable sometimes.

“Go away I have work to do” Elle shooed him, amusement and frustration battling as Charlie practically skipped from the room.

Spencer was battling with some frustrations of his own. 

“What do you think they’re talking about?” Tara asked.The two of them watched as Linda Barnes had strode into Emily’s office. They had been in there half an hour already. 

“I don’t know but Emily can face down anyone” said Spencer reassuringly “Barnes won’t stand a chance”. Tara smiled at him but it was strained.

Everyone else was trying to a greater or lesser extent to get on with their work. Matt was sitting tight as a coiled spring but his face was blank. JJ was stress eating Cheetos like they were going out of style. Luke had a permanent scowl on his face and Rossi had taken himself off to the batcave to comfort Garcia. 

“Emily’s had a tough time of it since becoming Unit Chief” said Tara “She doesn’t need Barnes breathing down her neck.” Tara’s eyes widened as she realised how that could be interpreted . “Oh God I didn’t mean that you and-”

“I know” Spencer reassured her “With me being prison, Scratch, and everything else, Emily’s had steer the ship through a lot.”

At that moment Barnes strode out of Emily’s office. Her gaze swept over the bullpen and she fixed Tara and Spencer with a distasteful look before stalking out.

Emily stood in the doorway to her office, her face was a mask but there was a flicker behind her eyes before she closed the door. 

“Maybe you should check she’s okay. You always know the right thing to say” said Spencer and to Tara it seemed like he had raised his voice ever so slightly so the team could hear. So the suggestion came from him. Tara gave a small nod. It took everything to stop from running straight to the office and enveloping Emily in her arms and never letting go.

Spencer slumped down at his desk, dashing off a quick text to Elle asking if she was free that evening. He desperately needed to be with her right now. When he looked up JJ was staring though she tried to hide it, her gaze dropping down to her paperwork.

Since he and Elle had been seeing each other Spencer was waiting for the inevitable confrontation. He hadn’t told the team he was seeing anyone but he knew they had noticed he wasn’t staying late at work anymore, he was constantly answering messages and he wasn’t coming along to O’Keefe’s as often. No one said anything, which relieved Spencer. He had never been comfortable with sharing his private life and though he knew that had contributed to people treating him like some innocent child or a hermit, it at least maintained some distance between his team and the things he felt were too special to submit to their scrutiny.

JJ was a worrier though. It touched and frustrated him in equal measure. On the one hand Spencer knew she always had his back but on the other hand JJ’s worrying sometimes veered into the patronising territory. 

His phone buzzed again.

E: I was hoping you’d ask. I really want to see you

Then it buzzed again.

E: :)

Spencer read the first text again. I really want to see you. Work and the foundation had been rough recently so maybe she wanted comfort after a bad day? Part of him hoped it was something else, a clarification on their relationship.

Spencer suppressed a smile. Elle really wasn’t the type to use smiley faces in a text but he knew that she was aware of how Spencer sometimes overthought about her messages so she would add them in, albeit awkwardly, to let him know he had nothing to worry about.

He had spent a lot of time recently biting back three little words out of fear of pushing Elle away. 

When she had first joined the team he’d nursed a small crush and suppressed it as hard as he could, keenly aware that he wasn’t her type. This was different though. This was love, he loved her. He was desperately, completely, wonderfully in love will Elle Greenaway. 

“Someone’s happy”

Rossi’s voice made Spencer jump. He stood there, a sniffly Penelope by his side.

“Is this from the doctor who assessed your Mom?” Rossi asked.

“Oh please say she’s doing okay!” said Penelope, her voice husky from what was undoubtably a major crying session.

“Uh…” Spencer looked between them and the phone “No, no he gets back to me next week. They have some follow up stuff to do….I was just chatting to a friend”

There was a split second of confusion on both Rossi and Penelope’s faces before Rossi grinned and Penelope’s eyes grew wide. Spencer shuffled nervously in his seat. Luke and Matt had glanced up and he already knew JJ was watching him. 

“A friend we know?” asked Rossi innocently.

“No, just someone I used to know. We ran into each other a while back.” None of that was technically a lie.

“A friend from Vegas?” asked JJ

“A female friend?” asked Penelope.

“No and Yes” said Spencer, struggling to keep the frustration out of his voice. Rossi grinned even wider. Everyone else was smiling too except JJ who looked like she’d just uncovered a bomb.

“So an old friend not from home” said Matt, leaning back in his chair “From college? Or from the academy…”

“Can we please not play twenty questions?” said Spencer

“Answering a question with a question!” said Penelope “That’s deflecting right?”

“Yes it is” said Rossi “So who’s the lucky lady?”

“No one” sighed Spencer “She’s just an old friend”

“Someone we know?” asked JJ, brow furrowed “How well do you know her? I mean with everything that has happened to this team recently, and now with Barnes-”

“There’s nothing to worry about” Emily’s voice cut sharply across the group, causing them all to sit up straight “Barnes will be observing the work of the BAU but if we all do our jobs as normal we have nothing to worry about. This team has faced down worse than Linda Barnes.”

“Hear hear!” said Penelope. 

“Spence” insisted JJ.

“JJ” said Emily. It was instructive rather than aggressive. JJ shrugged. 

Emily gave Spencer a small nod and everyone headed back to work.

“Listen Spence” JJ leaned across the desk, her voice lowered so only he could hear her.

“No” said Spencer “I don’t want to sound rude but this is private. At least for now.”

Without waiting for a reply he headed up to Emily’s office, knocking softly.


“I just wanted to say thanks” said Spencer, closing the door behind him “For cutting the conversation short. I know you were speaking mostly about Barnes but…”

“I know how you value your privacy” said Emily “And I know that JJ loves you and worries about you and sometimes she’s a little…intense. She means well though”

“I know”

“Hey Spencer? A few months back I was at a gallery in DC, I spotted you with…I guess your friend?” said Emily. Spencer felt himself tensing up again.

“It was really nice to see you so happy” finished Emily “I hope it carries on”

Spencer smiled.

“Me too. It’s good to see you so happy too by the way”

“I’ve finally settled into my role” laughed Emily.

“That’s not what I mean” said Spencer “I meant Tara”

Emily’s eyes widened.

“Don’t tell me everyone knows” she said.

“No I think it’s just me and maybe Rossi. Neither of us will tell though”

“Thank you Spencer” said Emily “Your secret is safe with me too”

At five exactly Spencer was out of the door and on his way to Elle’s. The girls were at an after school club and then Charlie was taking them out for food.

“I’ve missed you” said Spencer, gathering Elle into his arms.

“Me too” said Elle “I’ve wanted to talk to you about something”

“Good or bad” said Spencer with a frown.

“Good I promise!” laughed Elle “I wanted to know if you wanted to meet Robyn and Natalie this weekend?”

Her face was relaxed but Elle’s heart was hammering so hard that she thought it  might burst from her chest. Spencer looked at her stunned and she bit her lip. He was going to say no, this was too much, he was-

“Really?” Spencer’s voice was soft but he couldn’t stop the smile spreading across his face “You want me to meet your children?”

“Yes!” said Elle “I really do!”

“I’d love to”

Chapter Text

This was definitely the most nervous Spencer had been in his entire life. He’d conducted interviews with psychopaths, he’d faced down killers and rapists and all manner of monsters but this scared him more.

Two little girls were more terrifying than any unsub.

What if they hated him dating Elle?

What if they hated him full stop?

Spencer took a deep breath before knocking on the door. He passed the packages he held from hand to hand, biting his lip. Time seemed to stretch out before him.

Finally Elle opened the door, a bright smile on her face.

“Don’t look so worried”

She stood on her tip toes and pressed a kiss to his lips. It did a little to assuage Spencer’s nerves.

“I really want them to like me” he confessed. Elle stepped aside, ushering Spencer in.

“They’ll love you I promise”  she said, closing the door “How could they not?”

Spencer followed Elle into the sitting room. The girls were lounging on the sofa, Natalie was playing a video game and Robyn was whispering to a worn out looking stuffed rabbit.

“Girls this is Spencer” said Elle and Spencer noticed how soft her voice had gotten “Spencer this is Natalie and Robyn”

“Hi” said Spencer. He tucked the packages under one arm and gave a small wave with the other.

“Hi” said Natalie, looking warily between her mother and Spencer. Robyn meanwhile had spotted the packages under Spencer’s arm.

“What are those?”

“Robyn!” hissed Natalie.

“These are for you” said Spencer, suddenly remembering they were there. He handed one to each of them. Robyn’s eyes lit up, the bunny was placed to the side as she tore the paper off. Natalie opened hers more carefully.

“Books” said Robyn happily “It’s a rabbit book Mommy!”

“That’s really nice. What do you say?”

“Can we read it now?”

“What else do you say?” said Elle, hands on hips. Spencer fought to suppress a smile. Robyn turned the pages of The Velveteen Rabbit extra carefully. Spencer had managed to find a large hard back edition with beautiful watercolour illustrations. Robyn looked mesmerised.

“Thank you” she whispered.

“What did you get?” Elle asked, sitting next to Natalie. Spencer hovered nervously.

Natalie held up the book, dumbstruck. An Encyclopaedia of Dinosaurs.

“Your mom said you love them” said Spencer. Natalie stared up at him, nodding.

“Thank you” she breathed as Elle put an arm around her shoulders and smiled up at Spencer. He breathed a sigh of relief. He hadn’t been sure how his gifts would go down and he hadn’t wanted the girls to feel like he was trying to bribe them into accepting him.

“What’s your favourite dinosaur?” asked Spencer, sitting opposite them.

“Diplodocus” said Natalie, she flicked through the book and found a picture “We saw one at the museum”

“And we saw a whale hanging from the ceiling” said Robyn, clambering over to sit beside Spencer to his surprise “And bugs, real ones”

“But the dinosaurs were best” said Natalie shyly.

“Spencer loves museums” smiled Elle “Maybe we should take him sometime?”

Spencer had already been to the National Museum of Natural History in DC many times but he wasn’t about to pass up that opportunity.

“I’d like that” said Spencer “They have lots of meteorites there, I’d like to see and I hear they have a T-Rex now?”

“Oh yeah!” said Natalie, her eyes lighting up “It was so cool. That’s my second favourite dinosaur...what’s your favourite?”

“That’s tough” said Spencer pretending to think “The T-Rex is pretty cool but I also really like the Ankylosaurus”

“I like bunnies” said Robyn “Dinosaurs are scary” She plopped the soft toy into Spencer’s lap. His fur was slightly matted and he was missing an eye.

“What’s his name?” asked Spencer.

“Flower” said Robyn, suddenly nervous, the word was muffled as she jammed her fingers into her mouth. 

“Very pleased to meet you Flower, I’m Spencer” he said shaking the toy’s paw. both Robyn and Natalie giggled. Spencer handed the toy back to Robyn as reverently as he could. Elle caught his eyes, the smile on her face made his heart dance.

“I’m going to finish up lunch, can you girls take care of Spencer?”

It turned out they could, though their idea of taking care was to bombard him with questions (Important things like his favourite flavour of ice cream and how long could he hold his breath for), tell him stories about school and get him to read out parts of the books he had brought. 

"Mommy says you saved her with a magic trick once” said Natalie “Is that true?”

“She told you that?” asked Spencer in surprise. How much had Elle told them about her days in the FBI?

“She said you tricked a man who saw things that weren’t there so everyone could get away” said Natalie.

“That’s true I guess”

“Do it! Do it!” said Robyn, bouncing up and down “Do it now!”

“Okay but first I need a....hey wait a sec what’s that behind your ear? Spencer leaned forward and plucked the coin out from behind Robyn’s ear. Her mouth dropped open and her eyes were as big as dinner plates.

“Is it real?” asked Natalie.

“Have a look” Spencer moved to show her the coin but he curled his fingers up. On opening his hand the coin was gone “Hang on it’s a tricky coin, gimme a sec” Keeping his hand open he clicked the fingers of his other hand twice and the coin appeared again. Both girls squealed in delight. He made the coin move from hand to hand a few more times then appear behind Natalie’s ear, then underneath Flower before making it appear inside Natalie’s dinosaur book. 

They applauded enthusiastically and Spencer responded with a sweeping bow.

“Bravo” smirked Elle, appearing in the doorway “Lunch is ready guys, wash your hands first.”

The girls charged into the kitchen, leaving them alone.

“Told you there was nothing to worry about” said Elle.

“I love you” Spencer blurted out. It hung in the air for a moment, and for a split second he thought he had made a mistake. Then a small smile crept onto Elle’s face.

“I love you too” 


“Yes really!” she laughed, giving him a playful shove “Now go wash up”

The rest of the afternoon was spent laughing and playing and when Spencer finally got up to leave, very reluctantly, both girls tackled him into a hug, making him promise he would come back soon.

“I promise” he swore.

Elle walked him to the door and she couldn’t help wondering what it would feel like if he never had to leave.

“Thank you” she said.

“For what?”

“Being your wonderful self” grinned Elle. She kissed him gently, ignoring the muffled “yuck” from the living room.

“Thank you for coming back into my life” said Spencer, squeezing her hand.

Chapter Text

For everything good in Spencer’s life it seemed that the laws of balance dictated that there needed to be a bad. The day he spent with Elle and the girls had been amazing and a weekly dinner had become a habit. He was even teaching the girls how to do the coin trick themselves.

It stood to reason that something would come along and ruin it. Or someone.

Spencer had meant it when he told Emily that life was too short to worry about people like Linda Barnes but he hadn’t expected for her to break the team apart or to end up being sent to teach at a local university for two weeks. As much as he loved teaching, he loved doing it on his own terms and working with other FBI agents. He loved his team, his surrogate family.

That night they hadn’t wanted to sit and commiserate. Rossi had invited everyone over to his but JJ and Matt had left to explain things to their families instead and there was only one place Spencer wanted to be.

He had practically fallen into Elle’s arms as soon as she had opened the door.

The girls were with Charlie for the week so they had the house to themselves. The two of them had curled up on the sofa, Elle running her fingers through Spencer’s hair, his head on her shoulder and he spilled his fears and worries for the future. 

“I’m so sorry love” Elle murmured softly “I know how hard this must be for you”

“I thought standing up to her would work” 

“God, I wish I could have seen her face when you walked out of the conference room” smiled Elle “People like that have fragile egos. You must have devastated her.”

“It didn’t help though” said Spencer “Emily’s going to get reassigned to some random department and I can’t help but feel it’s my fault”

“Don’t say that” said Elle firmly. She shifted to face Spencer, her hand cradling his face, forcing him to look straight at her. “This is Barnes’ fault. Not yours. You stuck up for your boss and friend. That shows tremendous loyalty.”

“I don’t know what I’m gonna do Elle” said Spencer, his voice cracking slightly.

“Your going to be an amazing teacher and when the time is right you guys are going to bring back the BAU and take that bitch down okay?”

Spencer nodded, not trusting himself to speak. Elle pulled him close and held him as tight as she could.

“Stay with me tonight okay?” she whispered.

“Thank you”


“So the class is 95% female students who are just auditing his class” Elle told Charlie “He can’t figure out why. He thinks they’re all really interested in profiling”

They were walking back to Elle’s office at HQ after grabbing coffee. Elle had asked Spencer if he minded Silvertree discretely looking into Linda Barnes. Charlie had contacts in high and low places that could be useful. It had necessitated filling Charlie in but Spencer hadn’t minded. The two of them were quite friendly now. Unfortunately nothing usable had come of it so far.

“That makes me love him even more” sighed Charlie “Of course he’s oblivious to his own cuteness. But apart from that how is he holding up?”

“The whole team is secretly working a case behind the AD’s back” said Elle with a shrug “I think it’s helping”

“He knows he’s always welcome here right?” said Charlie, his tone turning serious “A consultant profiler would be a major asset, we could even try and get a department up and running, he could staff it how he wants.”

“The BAU is his family, he’s going to fight for them first” said Elle, a note of pride in her voice “But maybe one day?”

The idea of working with Spencer again was an exciting one, she’d always been enthralled by the way his mind worked, even if she had never shown it. in fact she wished she had told him that more when she was an agent. Elle was trying to make up for that now.

Elle worked in the Silvertree offices until lunch time, after which she headed over to the foundation. Her assistant Siobhan was hovering anxiously in the corridor as Elle arrived. A feeling of dread crept into her stomach.

“Who?” Elle asked.

“Moira” The two women marched down the hall to the shared office space. “I’m not sure what’s going on but something feels off. We haven’t heard from her in weeks and then she phoned this morning. I couldn’t get a read on her tone and then she just...freaked out and hung up. I’ve been getting the girls to keeping ringing her back but it’s going straight to voicemail”

“Okay I’m going to need you to try and remember as much of your conversation as possible” said Elle calmly. Siobhan nodded, her eyes were getting watery.

“I tried Elle, I promise I-”

“I know” said Elle, touching her arm gently “I’m going to do a cognitive interview with you and then we’re going to come up with a plan”

It took hours of going over and over the less than two minutes Siobhan had spent on the phone with Moira for Elle to be satisfied. 

Moira has sounded calm at first, asking to speak to Elle directly. Siobhan had explained she was out of the office but was due back in the next hour.

Every time Siobhan repeated that Elle felt like she was being stabbed in the stomach.

If only I had been there to pick up the phone

“Then what?” Elle asked for what like the hundredth time.

“That’s when her voice changed, she sounded scared” said Siobhan.

“What did she say exactly?”

“She said that she needed to speak to you again and I repeated that you were out. She started saying something and then it got muffled and stopped. I thought she was gone.”

“What happened next?” asked Elle

“I kept saying hello into the phone and I could hear creaking. Then she said thank you for helping her, she would call back later. It was different, she sounded calm.”

“Okay, can you find her address for me? I’m going to go over to her house” said Elle standing up.

“Is that safe?” asked Siobhan, eyes wide. Elle fixed her with a pointed stare she shrunk back from.

“More safe for me than Moira. I’ll be fine. Call Charlie and give him an update. Let him know I’ll call when I have something.”

Elle strode out of the office, pausing only to glance at a report on the news. A senator was appealing for help finding his daughter “a victim of the opioid crisis in this country”.

It sent a shiver down Elle’s spine. Monsters were on the loose today, she could feel it.


“She moved out about three weeks ago” said the landlady, not looking up from her phone “Didn’t say anything just dropped the keys at the front desk and when I went up half her stuff was gone”

“What happened to the rest of it?” demanded Elle. That caused the woman to look up through narrowed eyes.

“She owed me a month’s rent”

“You sold it?”

“Some of it, rest of it’s in storage waiting to go on ebay”

“I’m going to need to see that” Elle said. The landlady scoffed and began to turn away before Elle pulled out a roll of cash. “I’m also going to need to know what you sold already and if she had any visitors the past few weeks”

After that the woman was much more accommodating. It turned out that the same man had been by to see Moira twice before she had left. Moira hadn’t seemed scared, just depressed when he left. Not the ex-husband then, Elle deduced.

“Did you find anything in the storage locker?” Elle called Charlie from back at the foundation’s offices. He had taken a team over as soon as Elle had the address.

“I think she just took the personal items, jewellery, paperwork and maybe a change of clothes and some toiletries” said Charlie “She mentioned she left a lot of belongings behind when she left her husband?”

“Yes she just ran away one night” said Elle, her voice cracking “Most of her belongings are things she bought since. She only had a shitty part time job. I think she was struggling.”

“Looks that way from what’s here” said Charlie “What’s the plan?”

“We can’t go to the police, her ex’s friends were cops. Fuck! If I had gotten her to tell me more-”

“Elle this isn’t your fault” said Charlie.

“We need to go over all the interviews I did with Moira, see if she mentioned a safe place” said Elle. Her eyes were beginning to sting. “Something happened Charlie, I can feel it”

“It’s going to be okay I promise” Charlie said “I’ll meet you back at the foundation”

After he hung up Elle finally let the tears fall. It wasn’t going to be okay. Something deep in her bones told her it definitely wasn’t going to be okay.

Chapter Text

Walking into the bullpen had never felt so right to Spencer as it did the morning after Prentiss was reinstated as Unit Chief. It felt like the world was finally back on the right track.

After putting everything back in his desk the next thing Spencer had done was ring Elle but it had gone straight to voicemail. He wasn’t worried, things at the foundation had been busy and he left a message saying he and the team were heading to O’Keefe’s but as soon as Elle was free he wanted to celebrate with her. It felt nice, having someone outside of the team to share things with.

“No rest for the wicked guys” Emily called from the doorway of the briefing room “We have a case”

“We couldn’t have a day to settle back in?” groaned Garcia.

“I’m just glad it’s you delivering the briefing and not Ned” said Luke, grinning at her. The expected snarky quip was not forth coming, instead Garcia just smiled back at him, a slight blush on her cheeks. Spencer wondered how long that would last.

“A Jane Doe was found in an abandoned building here in DC in the early hours of this morning” Garcia explained when they were all seated.

“That’s not a federal case” frowned JJ

“It used to be federal building. US Marshal office to be exact” said Garcia “They just want us to have a look. COD was strangulation but before that she endured…hours of torture. Burning. Cutting. Beating. ME thinks she’s been dead around 24 hours.”

“The other reason we were called in was because when local PD looked through her pockets they found a business card” said Garcia. Spencer looked up and his blood ran cold.

“Ford - Green Foundation for Women and Girls” Rossi read out “Never heard of them”

“It’s a charity that provides resources for women and girls who are victims, survivors or at risk of domestic violence or sexual assault” explained Garcia “It’s connected to Silvertree, a former military contractor that was rebranded as a high tech security company about twelve years ago when the CEO died and passed the company on to his son”

“Charlie Ford” Prentiss cut in to Spencer’s surprise. Charlie’s picture filled the screen, a photo from the society pages of a magazine. Spencer wondered if they knew about Elle. 

If they knew about their relationship.

“What is a security company doing setting up a charity?” asked JJ, the distaste clear in her voice.

“Ford did some interviews when he took over, swearing to make Silvertree a force for good yadda yadda” said Penelope “They’ve had some good press. They managed to get aid into places the official military can’t, they’ve done rescue missions and they even negotiated the return of hostages. By all accounts Silvertree is clean and from what I can find out about the foundation they’re doing good work”

“We need to get an ID on her. If she was asking for help then her killer could be someone she knew” said Luke.

“We should approach Ford-Green too and see if they can help ID her” said Rossi.

“Dave you and Tara head to their office, it’s here in DC” said Emily “JJ, you and Matt head to the ME’s office.”

“I can go over crime scene photos and look at geography see if that gets us anything” Spencer cut in quickly “there may be significance to the area”

“Sure” said Emily “Luke and I will head to the crime scene, we’ll call you when we get there. Let’s move out.”

Everyone got to their feet and headed out. Spencer waited impatiently for them to leave but JJ hung back.

“Everything okay?” she asked “You seem awfully keen not to go out there”

“I’m not sure what you want to hear” Spencer replied, more harshly than he intended “I’m doing my job”

“I know but-”

“No JJ you don’t know” said Spencer “Everyone else seems perfectly capable of not treating me like I need round the clock supervision. You have two kids already - stick to babying them.”

JJ reeled back in shock. The silence hung heavily in the air. Spencer began gathering up the file, not looking up as JJ finally left without a word. 

Spencer shut the door to the bullpen before pulling out his phone. This was so wrong and he knew it but he couldn’t help himself. Elle picked up on the second ring.

“Spencer I saw your missed call I’m so-”

“Elle I need to tell you something. Or ask you something. I’m not sure. It’s important. Can you get to Quantico?”

“I’m not sure” Elle said slowly. Spencer could hear the reluctance in her voice.

“It can just be the parking lot” said Spencer “You don’t have to come into the building. It’s just important I see you”

“I’ll be there in twenty”

Those twenty minutes felt like lifetime for Spencer but finally Elle pulled up in the parking lot of Quantico. Without a moment’s hesitation Spencer slid into the passenger seat.

There were dark circles under Elle’s eyes, fatigue hung heavily over her. 

“What’s wrong Spencer?” she asked “I’m glad to hear from you but there’s stuff going on at the foundation and I can’t spare a lot of ti-”

“A Jane Doe was found in an abandoned building the morning” said Spencer. He reached out and laid his hand over Elle’s where it gripped the steering wheel. “She had no ID on her but she did have one of of the foundation’s business cards on her”

“One of my clients has gone missing” said Elle is a voice barely louder than a whisper “She called the office yesterday and I can’t find her”

“Do you have a photo?” Spencer asked. Urgent and gentle tones warred in his voice. Shakily, Elle pulled out her work phone and fumbled around for a moment. 

A picture of Jane Doe showed up on the screen. Spencer didn’t even have to say the words, the look on his face told Elle everything she didn’t want to know.

“Oh God” she sobbed “I promised I’d keep her safe”

“This isn’t your fault” said Spencer, gripping Elle’s hand tighter “Was she afraid of someone? Is that why she needed your help?” Elle nodded.

“If you give me her name I can tell the team and we can find out who did this”

“Moira Alston” sniffed Elle “Her husband was called Damian and his brother was a cop, they had friends in law enforcement. She was convinced if she left him Damian would track her down no matter what. About three months ago she called the foundation and said she didn’t want any help anymore, she moved out of the safe house I set up for her and wouldn’t answer my calls”

“I’ll tell Emily. Garcia will be able to track Damian down. I swear to you we’ll find him” said Spencer. He reached up to wipe away Elle’s tears and she pressed her cheek into his palm.

“The team are heading to the foundation and the crime scene” said Spencer. He stroked Elle’s cheek with his thumb, feeling the rhythm of her breathing even out as the tears slowed.

“Should you be telling me that?” Elle smiled weakly.

“Probably not” said Spencer “But that’s not my problem right now. I need you to go somewhere safe.”


“Whoever killed Moira had a lot of rage” said Spencer “If it’s Damian and he blames you for convincing Moira to leave then he may come after you. Warn your staff and make sure you can get somewhere safe.”

“The foundation is the safest place there is” said Elle with a nod “I’ll be fine”

“I love you” said Spencer. He pulled Elle close, kissing her fiercely as if the heat of it could burn away the pain she was feeling right now.

Reluctantly they broke apart and he slipped out of the car, promising to call her soon.

To his surprise Garcia was making her way out of the building. the look on her face told Spencer she had at least seen the last part of his interaction with Elle.

“You snuck out to see a girl?” she said bewildered, peering after the car. Thankfully she hadn’t recognised Elle at a distance.

“We need to find out everything about Moira Alston. She’s our Jane Doe” said Spencer, striding past her.

“Wait how-”

“Her husband is Damian Alston, Moira went to the foundation to get help leaving him. He could be our unsub. Are you coming?”

Garcia blinked, frozen to the spot but when Spencer carried on walking she hurried after him.

“Give me ten minutes and I’ll tell you how long his teeth are and how he takes his morning coffee” she said “But when this is over you’re telling me everything about mysterious car lady because you don’t kiss old friends like that”

“So Silvertree is the company that you went and spoke at in New York?” Emily asked. She had left Luke at the crime scene when Spencer had called. He was trying to read the look on her face.

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you” said Spencer.

“You went straight to your friend” Emily folded her arms, her tone gaining and edge. Spencer’s heart sank.

“I just wanted to ask if the victim was a client. I couldn’t hide the death from her. In my defence we got an ID faster this way”

“Cut the bullshit” said Emily “That was a major breach of the rules and you know that. We’re going to have to deal with this once this case is over”

“I know and for what it’s worth I never meant to put you in this position” said Spencer.

“So your friend works for the foundation and Silvertree?”

“Elle was a consultant for Silvertree when Charlie took over” explained Spencer “The foundation was her idea” Emily raised an eyebrow “They used to be married” Spencer added. 

“Garcia told us that Charlie Ford used to be a Navy Seal” said Emily “He has priors for drugs possession that his father seemed to sweep under the rug. His mother died in suspicious circumstances, there were rumours of domestic violence but nothing was ever proven, Ford Sr, was proficient at deflecting suspicious though teachers at his sons’ school raised concerns for years. In 2002 Charlie was committed to a psychiatric facility because he drove his car into a lake about six months after leaving the navy, probably deliberately. ”

Someone as lost as Elle

“He’s a good man” said Spencer firmly “Elle is a good person too. She’s devastated over Moira, thinks it’s her fault.”

“So the foundation already knows Moira’s dead” said Emily “Great”

“I am sorry but they’ll help us, I know it”

“I hope you’re right Reid because otherwise we’re in big trouble”

Chapter Text

After a terse dismissal Spencer drove all the way to the foundation’s offices. Spencer had no doubt that he was in big trouble but Emily was good at compartmentalising. He wouldn’t have to worry about that until the case was over and more importantly until Elle was safe.

Back at Quantico Emily headed to Garcia’s lair.

“What do we know about Damian Alston?” she asked “Metro PD have just rung and confirmed our vic’s identity thanks to Reid”

“Thanks to Reid’s mystery lady” grinned Garcia. Her smile dropped at Emily’s expression.

“He’s a small time defence attorney and looking at his win rate, he isn’t a very good one. He has two brothers, one is a cop down in Florida and the other is with Metro PD. Damian applied for the police force three times, as well as the army but he failed the psych eval. He-”

Garcia stopped abruptly. Re-reading the messaging on her screen over and over.

“He isn’t our unsub Emily”

When Spencer got to the foundation a woman he presumed was Siobhan waved him through to one of the meeting rooms. A slightly bemused Rossi and Tara was sitting opposite Charlie who had pages of files and photographs spread out in front of him. He paused when Spencer entered to shake his hand.

“Always good to see you Spencer” Charlie’s voice was missing it’s usual cheeriness “I just wish you weren’t seeing the foundation like this.”

“You guys tried to help Moira. This is the unsub’s fault” said Spencer. He shot Rossi and Tara an “I’ll explain everything later” look before letting Charlie continue. 

“We went to the address Moira gave when she first came to the the foundation for help and the landlady told us she’s been gone for three weeks. We assumed that Damian tracked her down or did something to her and she took a few essentials and valuables and ran.”

“Does she have any family?” asked Spencer.

“Garcia couldn’t find anything. She’s originally from California, was an only child.” said Tara.

“Moira didn’t give us an emergency contact or the names of any friends that could be trusted.” said Charlie “When clients arrive we usually ask them about their existing support networks and Moira didn’t have anything like that. She was totally isolated.”

“We were the only people she could count on” Elle’s voice cut in. Spencer spun around and suppressed the urge to pull her into his arms. Her eyes were red and puffy but her face was set into a determined expression. 

“You must be Agents Rossi and Dr Lewis” said Elle, shaking both of their hands “Your reputations precede you both. Thank you for helping with this. This is a transcript of my introductory interview with Moira. She mentions the names of a few friends at work but they weren’t close. She was very isolated by the time she came to us.”

“It seems this is turning into a joint investigation” said Rossi, taking the file from Elle “But you’re civilians.”

“We understand” said Charlie smoothly “We just want to catch whoever is responsible.”

“Looks like we’re all on the same page” said Tara with a grin directed at Elle in particular. The atmosphere lifted slightly and the trilling of Rossi’s phone brought them back to the matter at hand. He excused himself to answer it.

“I had to explain to Emily” Spencer said to Elle “About Moira and giving the talk at Silvertree.“ He took Elle’s hand and was too absorbed in making sure she was okay to see the looks of glee on Charlie and Tara’s faces.

“I understand” nodded Elle, giving Spencer’s hand a squeeze “This must have been an uncomfortable situation for you.”

“Emily will get over it” said Tara “Anyone making Reid this happy is a good guy in our books. Plus the work you do here is impressive.”

“I used to work at the bureau” said Elle taking a deep breath “Sex crimes and then the BAU. I learnt a lot about protecting people”

“You were in the BAU?” 

Before Elle could respond Rossi returned.

“Damian Alston has been dead for three months. He’s not our unsub.”

“You didn’t tell them about me specifically?” Elle asked Spencer later. Tara and Rossi had headed back to Quantico and Spencer had volunteered to go through all of Moira’s files despite knowing Emily wouldn’t approve. Tara promised to smooth things over, she understood wanting to make sure Elle was okay.

“I figured you didn’t need to deal with right now” said Spencer. 

“You’re too perfect you know that? It’s going to come out eventually though” said Elle. Spencer pulled her close, cradling her against him. It was as if the earth stilled when they were like this, everything became calm.

“How can Damian be dead? Moira must have known but she was still afraid. And if he’s dead who killed her?” Elle asked. Her face was still buried in Spencer’s sweater. His raised a hand to caress her hair.

“I don’t know” Spencer admitted “But we’re going to find out and we’re going to catch whoever did this.”

“I know you have to, but I don’t want you to go” said Elle, looking up at him. He leaned down, his lips brushing her gently.

“I don’t want to either. But the sooner I go and help the team the sooner this will all be over”

Tara and Rossi arrived back at Quantico in record time.

“Reid stayed behind? Really?” Emily was exasperated.

“He’s going through their files to see if there’s anything that can help us find out who killed Moira” said Rossi.

“In the meantime Elle gave us a transcription of the interview she did when Moira first came to them. It has a detailed history of her relationship with Damian, her fears about his cop friends, and the measures the foundation wanted to put in place to keep her safe”

“Did you say Elle?” asked Garcia. Without waiting for an answer she took The file from Rossi’s hands and frantically looked through, her gaze falling on the interviewer’s name and signature. “Elle Greenaway? Holy moly”

“You know her?” asked Rossi 

“She told me she used to be at the BAU” said Tara “She was in sex crimes before that”

“She was Emily before Emily was Emily!” said Garcia. Three blank faces looked back at her “She was the agent that Emily replaced.”

“Wait you mean the one who was attacked in her own home and left because of a questionable shooting?” Emily asked “That Elle Greenaway”

“The very same! One day she freaked out on a case and then she confronted the guy in an alley and then BAM!” The file nearly went flying from Garcia’s hands.

“So she’s Reid’s “old friend”” said Tara.

“And Charlie’s ex” said Prentiss “From what Reid said she helped Charlie restructure Silvertree and the foundation is her project.”

“I can’t believe Reid started dating Elle freaking Greenaway and didn’t tell us about it!” said Garcia. This time she was faced with three incredulous looks. “Fair point, secrecy is kind of boy wonder’s USP nowadays.”

“Whatever the reason it has no bearing on the case” said Emily “We need to chase up Moira’s friends, family and see if we can track her movements since she told the foundation she didn’t need help. Dave, Tara can you go to to Damian Alston’s last known address?”

“On it boss”

“I’m going to tell Luke to meet Spencer at the foundation and JJ and Matt can-”

Emily’s phone started to ring.

“Dear God now what?”

“She was very hesitant to tell us anything but that’s not unusual” Elle watched Spencer cut through the files like lightning.

“She was terrified” said Spencer “Damian had her convinced there was nowhere she could turn”

“I’m not sad he’s dead that’s for sure the slimy son of -”

Elle was cut off by the unmistakable sound of a gunshot. 

“Stay here” Spencer told her.

Before Elle could protest, Spencer was out of the door, weapon in hand. He sprinted down the corridor to the source of the gunshot.

“FBI drop the weapon!” he bellowed as he rounded the corner. The shooter had a mask on, a handgun raised towards a cowering Siobhan in the corner. The receptionist was unmoving on the floor, the blood fanning out across the tiles.

“I said drop the weapon! I will shoot” said Spencer taking a step forward. The man dived to the floor as Spencer let off three rounds. Siobhan screamed. There was the sound of running footsteps behind him. The shooter leapt up, the first bullet hit the wall behind Spencer’s head. 

Spencer was able to fire once before the second bullet hit him square in the chest.

There was a shout that sounded like Elle. Spencer turned to tell her to get to safety but suddenly he was falling and he wasn’t sure why. The masked man was gone and there was a heaviness in his chest.

There were people above him. That was weird. or at least it was until he realised he was on the floor. The gun had slipped from his hand and his shirt felt wet. He tried to tell everyone he was fine but for some reason he couldn’t find the words.

“It’s going to be okay. Spencer? Spencer! You need to stay awake! Spencer!”

Chapter Text

The entire world seemed to slow down and speed up at the same time. One moment Elle was putting pressure on the bullet wound in Spencer’s chest. A lifetime later they were loading him into the ambulance and Elle was clambering after him, her hands and arms smeared with blood. She gabbled out everything she knew about Spencer’s medical history between sobs, particularly the fact that he would refuse any and all narcotics, and then suddenly she was alone in a hospital corridor as they ran him into surgery.

A kind looking nurse tried to talk to Elle but it was all white noise as she stared at the double doors they raced through wondering if she was ever going to see him alive again.

Elle’s legs gave way and everything was a mass of people yelling and trying to get her to respond. A single prayer ran through Elle’s mind over and over and over.

Please God let him make it

Everyone had wanted to rush to the hospital the moment Emily got the call from Charlie Ford. Hell, even Emily had wanted to run to his side but she needed to keep a clear head. She dispatched Rossi and JJ to the hospital to take a statement from Elle and then keep them informed. Rossi was the best at keeping a cool head and JJ worked with Elle so she knew her.

Matt stayed with Garcia, combing through every aspect of Moira Alston’s life to narrow down who would have wanted to kill her and who might be brazen enough to walk into a heavily armed office.

Meanwhile Emily met Luke and Tara and headed to the Ford-Green Foundation’s office, ready to have it out with Charlie Ford.

Her resolve quickly faded when she saw Charlie staring down at the drying pool of blood in reception. In the paramedic’s rush to get Spencer out and to the hospital the blood had been smeared outward like some gory snow angel.

Emily stared too. Suddenly it all felt too close to home, too real.

“Whatever you need is yours” said Charlie, bringing Emily back into the thick of it “All our resources, no matter how expensive are yours. Any files you need to see are yours.”

Emily looked at him in shock.

“I mean it” said Charlie “Spencer is like family to Elle which means he’s like family to us and we defend our family.”

“Thank you” said Emily “Crime scene techs are on their way to process the scene and our technical analyst will go through the camera footage from the street”

“She can run it through our system” said Charlie “The head of cybersecurity at Silvertree is ex-NSA, she built the entire system from scratch and it’s super fast. You need people to process the footage, I’ll pull some people out of the office.”

It should have sounded like a brag but it wasn’t, Emily noted, it was the words of a man ready to move heaven and earth and wasn’t going to take no for an answer.

“Let’s do this” said Emily.

“Elle. Of all people it had to be Elle Greenaway? How did this happen Rossi?” JJ threw up her hands as they walked into the hospital. Rossi shook his head.

“I think they’ve been together a while” he said “You know how Reid is with his personal life”

“But after Maeve? After prison? Surely he knows better by now?”

“He wasn’t doing anything wrong Jennifer. Their relationship isn’t what got him shot” said Rossi.

“It didn’t help” snapped JJ “Plus she’s dangerous Rossi. She murdered a man in cold blood.”

“If I remember right she was cleared and the guy was a prolific rapist” said Rossi. There was a soothing edge to his voice that was having the opposite effect on JJ, she could feel the heat rising in her face.

“And that’s okay?” snapped JJ. Rossi stopped with a sigh and turned to face her.

“Our concern should be finding whoever shot Reid right now”

“Of course that’s my priority!” said JJ “I just don’t think we can trust what Elle says.”

“That’s where the years of profiling will come in handy” said Rossi.

They turned the corner and found Elle hunched over in the waiting room. She was wringing her blood caked hands together, the heel of her foot tapping against the ground. It took attempts before she heard Rossi addressing her. Elle clambered to her feet in a daze, her eyes lingering on JJ for slightly longer than Rossi but her expression remaining blank.

“There’s no news” said Elle “They’re still working on him”

“Could we talk to you about what happened?’ asked Rossi, gently.

“Like a cognitive?”


Elle paused, not looking at either one. Rossi opened his mouth to speak again when Elle nodded slowly.

“I’ll do it. I mean, I’ll try”

“Good” said Rossi “Let’s find somewhere quiet”

“Honestly I’m kind of jealous of the set up they have here” Garcia phoned Emily when she was hooked up to Silvertree’s systems “I’m running facial rec on the four cameras on the street and we’ve been going through Moira’s life and honestly there aren’t that many people she interacted with.”

“I’m putting you on loud speaker” said Emily “I’ve got Tara, Luke and Charlie Ford here

“Can I just say Mr Ford that this system is the bomb I mean-”

“Later Garcia, we need to focus” said Emily.

“Right! So Moira had no social media accounts at all, her email inbox is surprisingly bare. The woman didn’t even get spam”

“Her husband restricted her phone and computer use” said Charlie “She had a part time job at the library but was too afraid to use the computers there in case Damian found out.”

“What about her financials?”

“Since she phoned Elle a few months ago and broke off contact it’s only been cash withdrawals, never from the same ATM twice” said Garcia “Before that she was really frugal. There’s a weekly purchase at the grocery store, a few odd homeware bits and pieces and then…”

“What is it Garcia?” asked Tara.

“She makes a couple of payments to a coffee shop on the opposite side of the city to where she lives and works. It’s every couple of weeks or so for about eight months and the last payment is about two weeks before her first appointment at the foundation” explained Garcia.

“Maybe a friend to vent to or confide in?” suggested Luke.

“Damian drove all her friends away” frowned Charlie “One of the hallmarks of coercive control is keeping the victim isolated, afraid to reach out right?”

“Absolutely” said Tara “Garcia does her phone activity show her using any helplines or services before she reached out to the foundation?”


“So it has to be someone that Damian didn’t phase out of their lives either because he didn’t know or he didn’t perceive them as a threat the way he did her friends and family” reasoned Emily “That can’t be a long list”

“Can you cross reference payments at the same cafe with the financial records of Moira’s work colleagues?” asked Charlie.

“With this system? Baby the things I’m capable of will shock you” Garcia laughed. The only sound for a few moments was the frantic clicking of keys “No, no work friends went to the cafe… oh hello…does the name Marcus Alston mean anything?”

“Moira mentioned him once I think” said Charlie “Nothing in depth though. Here it is: Damian didn’t want her going out on her own, there was some kind of car accident that he blamed her for. After that he drove her everywhere except for a couple of appointments where he got his brother Marcus to take her.”

“Is this the cop brother” asked Tara.

“It is indeed my fine furry friends” said Garcia “Marcus Alston is Damian’s younger brother. He is Metro PD detective and get this! He once worked on a joint task force with the US Marshals service which based in the building you found Moira in.”

“So he knew it was abandoned and figured because it was a federal building there would be issues over which force got to investigate, buying him some time” said Emily “What else can you tell us Garcia?”

“He has been reprimanded twice since joining the police force, once for ‘inappropriate comments to a female co-worker’ and once for ‘using excessive force on a suspect’” 

“So he has issues with his anger and with women” said Emily “Text us his home and work address Garcia”

“Already done boss lady”

The cognitive with Elle didn’t yield too much new information but Rossi noted that it did calm her down. He went to update Emily, leaving JJ alone with Elle. Elle still looked blank, staring off into the middle distance as JJ studied her face.

“This must bring back memories huh?”

Elle looked up at her in confusion. Then her eyes narrowed.

“Really? You want do this here of all places? Now? He’s fighting for his life JJ.”

“I know” said JJ. Elle clocked the defensive tone in the other woman’s voice and anger bubbled up within her.

“Do you?” demanded Elle “Do you actually care or is this just another opportunity to exert control? Does it make you feel better to come in and save the day?”

“I’m not up for being judged by a sociopath thanks” JJ yelled back “You don’t know anything about me, about this team or about him. I don’t know what game you’re playing but if you hurt him I swear to god-”

“You’ll what? Go running to whoever the fuck is in charge now? Because you sure as hell aren’t going to do anything to me, that’s not your style.”

“And what is my style exactly Elle?”

“You are a goddamn liar who will always put the job and her ambitions ahead of her friends and family. You would walk over anyone if ordered to.”

“How…dare…you?” JJ’s hands were balled into fists, knuckles turning white. Elle half expected a blow to the face. She half wanted it too, she already knew she had crossed a line but fuck it. The rage and the pain swirling inside her needed to come out somehow.

“I know the trauma you put your team through because Hotch told you to. I know you’re a goddamn hypocrite because you lie and keep secrets as easy as you breathe but you dig and scrape and pull at people’s inner lives until you’ve infantilised them because you think you’re owed something. You can’t bear when people aren’t wholly dependent on you. Now I know you haven’t been profiling as long as the others but you know how that reads right?”

“Better than being a psychopath” spat JJ

“Better than being a cold hearted bitch” Elle retorted.

“That’s enough!”

Both women jumped at the sound of Rossi’s voice. They were inches apart, the veins in their necks pulsing, red faced and breathing heavily.

“Reid needs you both right now” barked Rossi “He doesn’t need you at each others’ throat.”

“She-” both women began but were simultaneously cowed by Rossi’s scowl.

“We have a suspect” Rossi said after a moment “Marcus Alston”

“Damian’s brother?” said Elle “What motive does he have?”

“Not sure. They’re checking out his home and work now. Then we’re-”

He was cut off by an alarm sounding somewhere close by and then a shout of “Code blue” and a few hospital staff charging past them into emergency surgery. Elle’s blood ran cold and she forgot about JJ and how angry she was.

“What’s going on?” Elle demanded, grabbing the arm of a nurse running past.

“Who are you?”

“Elle Greenaway. I’m Spencer Reid’s emergency contact”

JJ looked at her, then Rossi, in shock. Neither of them noticed.

“He’s gone into cardiac arrest. We’re doing everything we can to revive him” the nurse said and then charged off. Behind the doors Elle could hear muffled shouts.

Please God let him make it.

Please God let him make it.

Please God let him make it.


Chapter Text

“Marcus Alston isn’t at home and Metro PD says he hasn’t shown up for work in a week” Emily told Rossi over the phone “They’ve had no luck tracking him down. Garcia is chasing down his financials, known associates, everything.”

“Two security guys from Silvertree just arrived ten minutes ago” said Rossi “Is this courtesy of our new friends?”

“Yup Charlie insisted” said Emily “How is Reid doing?”

“It was touch and go. He coded on the table and it took about an hour to stabilise him. I’ve had to spend all my time keeping Elle and JJ separated which has been fun. Each is blaming the other. I’d send JJ to you but she isn’t going to budge.”

“Is Reid awake?” 

“No” said Rossi and Emily thought she heard a slight tremor “They’re watching him closely. He’s still very weak”


Emily said nothing for a moment. It took every ounce of strength for her to collect herself. She wasn’t any use to Reid or the rest of the team if she broke down now.

“Please call me when he wakes up” was all she could manage.

“I will” said Rossi “We need to get this son of a bitch Emily”

“Oh we will”


Marcus Alston’s boss at Metro PD was less than helpful. His neighbours said he kept himself to himself but also that once or twice he had been seen having raging arguments with an ex-girlfriend. Said ex-girlfriend described him as controlling, with a hair trigger temper. Then some of his former co-workers admitted that he couldn’t handle his drink, that if called out on his boorish behaviour he had a tendency to get aggressive and that he liked to start fights but couldn’t finish them.

“But he’s never actually been arrested for violent behaviour” Matt finished summing up “The two disciplinary issues were dismissed. He’s good at downplaying his aggressive side, at least to the extent that those around him think it’s isolated incidents”

The team had gathered in the briefing room, sans Rossi and JJ. Charlie Ford had gone to collect his children from school as Elle was still at the hospital. He had kept his word regarding the resources he made available to the team. Garcia was bowled over by the tech on offer and the two Silvertree employees she had dubbed “the tech munchkins” (on was an ex-CIA analyst, the other had a PhD in Computer Engineering) but they still hadn’t managed to track Marcus Alston down.

“The question is why target his brother’s wife?” asked Tara 

“Maybe it was revenge, anger at his brother being rejected?” suggested Luke.

“They were meeting for months though” said Emily “Months of meeting in the same coffee shop, right at the same time that her husband is getting more violent.”

“What if she wanted help leaving?” said Matt “Damian probably wouldn’t have stopped his brother coming round and if the two of them struck up a friendship, Moira may have felt like she could reach out to Marcus for help”

“Then why kill her?” asked Garcia “This woman never did anything to anyone”

“Maybe-” Emily began but was interrupted by Linda Barnes shoving the door open and letting her bag clatter down onto the table.

“What the hell are you playing at Agent Prentiss?” she demanded, unfazed by the collective scowls of everyone else in the room.

“My job” Emily retorted “What do you want?”

“I want to stop the Bureau being exposed to ridicule and having sensitive information leaked to a shady military contractor. Why the hell is Charlie Ford’s Silvertree involved?”

“The victim reached out to Mr Ford’s foundation. He and his staff are assisting us with enquiries as they were the last people known to have interacted with her, they can help us with victimology” said Emily.

“Involving a private company to this extent is beyond inappropriate” said Barnes “Especially considering that company employs a disgraced former agent. An agent, I should add, who was involved in a questionable shooting while she was a member of this team and who has started a secret relationship with an active agent.”

Emily took a deep, steadying breath and swallowed before replying.

“Elle Greenaway was cleared of any wrongdoing by the bureau” she said steadily “No disciplinary action was taken. As for her relationship status, we can’t arrest civilians for dating. Now, if you don’t mind, we have a job to do”

“I told the director it was a mistake to reinstate you as Unit Chief” snarled Barnes. Emily looked at her, realisation dawning on her face and bringing with it a small smile.

“He doesn’t know you’re here does he?”

Barnes turned and stalked out without another word.

“Is that going to be a problem?” asked Tara quietly.

“No” said Emily, firmly “Let’s get back to work”


“Elle Greenaway?”

Elle’s eyes snapped open, her head jerking up from where it had been resting on Charlie’s shoulder. 

“Yes?” she asked the matronly looking nurse who had appeared from the ICU. The hours had stretched on and on with no news about Spencer beyond “He’s stable. He’s asleep.” Rossi and JJ got to their feet at the other end of the waiting room.

“Dr Reid is awake, he’s asking for you” began the nurse. Elle didn’t even wait for the rest of the sentence before charging through the doors. The nurse sighed and turned to the others. “He’s very weak. The doctors didn’t want to allow visitors in just yet but Dr Reid keeps insisting on seeing her. He can have other visitors once he’s more well rested”

“He didn’t ask for anyone else?” asked JJ. The nurse shook her head and returned to the ICU. Charlie and Rossi settled down to wait, JJ followed too after a moment, the confusion never leaving her face.

Elle ignored the shout to slow down as she raced to Spencer’s room, her heart fit to burst as she entered and saw him propped up. Charlie hadn’t managed to convince her to go home  or get some rest so instead he had brought spare clothes to the hospital and some soap so she could at least get the bloodstains off of her hands. She didn’t want to remind Spencer of that. Spencer’s eyes looked heavy as he took her in but a slow smile crept onto his face.

“Hey” he croaked “I swear it’s worse than it looks”

The young doctor flipping through his chart snorted.

“Do not over excite him” he warned Elle as he left. Elle nodded and hurried to Spencer’s side, taking his outstretched hand and kissing it fiercely.

“I thought...” Elle’s voice cracked “I thought I’d lost you forever” Spencer gently removed his hand from her grip to wipe away the freshly falling tears.

“But you didn’t” he said as soothingly as he could manage “I’m here and I’m okay”

“I don’t know what I would have done” whispered Elle “I love you too much to lose you”

“I love you too much to leave” smiled Spencer “Now tell me what’s happening with the case”

“Seriously?” Elle’s eyes went wide “That’s what you want to know?” Spencer nodded slowly, his head lolling slightly. Elle sighed.

“Honestly I haven’t been paying much attention” Elle admitted “Agent Rossi did a cognitive with me but Charlie has been helping your team while I’ve been waiting.”

Elle clasped Spencer’s hands in hers, her thumb gently brushing his knuckles rhythmically. She took in every line of his hand, the warmth and softness of him, the pale scar on his wrist and the flutter of his pulse under the skin. She committed every detail to memory, knowing she couldn’t stay long.

“I’m sorry you went through that” said Spencer, “It must have been hard having the team find out”

“JJ isn’t impressed” Elle hadn’t meant for it to come out so bitterly. She couldn’t look Spencer in the eye when she said it, instead keeping her gaze on his hand and he squeezed her own in reassurance.

“JJ worries” said Spencer “Especially in situations like this. I hope she hasn’t said anything.”

“No” Elle lied. Spencer frowned but didn’t pursue it.

“You’re tired” said Elle “I should go”. Spencer gripped her hand as Elle moved to leave, fear dancing across his features.

“Not yet please” he begged “Please wait until I fall asleep at least”

“Of course” whispered Elle “I’ll stay as long as you need. Charlie has sent two of our guys to stand guard at the hospital.”

“Damian Alston hasn’t been caught yet then” said Spencer. Elle couldn’t work out if it was fear for his life that kept him on edge or a desperation to go and help.

“Damian Alston is dead” said Elle “They think he was killed around the same time Moira called me. Your team is looking for his brother Marcus, but listen to me, you are totally safe here I promise”

“I know” mumbled Spencer “I have you with me”

The sat in silence for a little while, Spencer raising his hand to Elle’s cheek, soothed by the soft sounding of her breathing. After he had fallen back asleep, Elle waited a moment, it was almost physically painful for her to leave him like this.

“You call me the minute he wakes up” she told the nurse as she left.

Outside in the waiting room Elle found the three of them facing of with a woman she’d never seen before.

“You want to do this now?” JJ demanded, right up in the woman’s face.

“Back down Agent Jareau. Agent Reid’s conduct is in serious question once again. If I have to I will remove you from this case”

“You gonna fire me again?”

Before Barnes could respond Rossi jumped in.

“You have no authority to be here Linda” Rossi growled “You were ordered to keep your hands off the BAU”

“This isn’t about the BAU” she smirked “I raised concerns with the Director about Silvertree’s involvement with this case. Your company has a colourful history Mr Ford, as do you.”

“You have no idea” said Charlie with his usual, dazzling smile but Elle knew him well enough to detect the underlying steel in his voice.

None of them had noticed Elle was even there. Emotion bubbled up inside her; anger and fear and sorrow all threatened to burst forth and Elle wasn’t sure if she was going to scream or sob or break something - probably this smug bitch Barnes’ face.

“Why are you even here?” snarled JJ.

“I’ll be interviewing Agent Reid personally when he wakes up”

“Why?” demanded Rossi “He’s a victim in our case”

“He’s a person of interest in mine” said Barnes “I want to know what sensitive information he has passed to Elle Greenaway and how he has compromised bureau security”

“First of all it’s Dr Reid” Elle cut in, making Barnes jump “Second of all we don’t spend our time together talking about the bureau”

Barnes scoffed.

“You really expect me to believe that Ms Greenaway? Your file is very thick and it all suggests an unstable personality, a ruthless streak and a lack of respect for authority” said Barnes, squaring her shoulders “It makes me believe that you had an ulterior motive for pursuing a relationship with an active agent. How would that play in the media do you think? Wouldn’t be good for your company’s reputation”

A shocked silence hung in the air, Charlie moved as if to go to Elle’s side for comfort but he didn’t get the chance. Elle took a step forward so she was practically nose to nose with Barnes.

“Listen very carefully because I’m only going to say this once. You can do whatever you like to me. You can expose my past, drag my name through the dirt, go on every news show in the world and call me out but don’t you dare come after Spencer or I swear to god I will end you. I know people, very important people, and after I’ve spoken to them you won’t be able to get a job as a parking attendant” hissed Elle “The man I love was injured doing his duty and I am not having you go in and interrogate him like a common criminal. You have thirty seconds to get out of my sight.”

There was a look of shock plastered on Barnes’ face. Elle didn’t move an inch and everyone around them held their breaths.

“Twenty seconds”

Barnes swallowed.


Swiftly, Barnes turned a stalked out of the waiting room. Elle’s whole body relaxed and she turned to the others. Rossi looked impressed, Charlie’s mouth was quirked into a half-smile and JJ's was hanging open, her eyes wide.

“The doctor says he needs rest” said Elle, clearing her throat “He’s going to call once Spencer wakes up again” With a small nod she brushed past them all, Charlie following in a jog to keep up with her.

“I guess that answers the question as to her motivation” Rossi said softly once they were out of sight. JJ nodded.

“I’m going to head back to the office to update Emily again” said Rossi “Coming?”

“No I’ll stay here” said JJ “I want to see Spence when he’s awake and I...I want to apologise to Elle when she returns”

“He’s lucky to have two people who love him so fiercely” Rossi told her with a smile.

Chapter Text

Elle was shaking in the car as Charlie drove her home. Neither of them spoke though Charlie kept regarding her with a look that told her he was half impressed by her threatening Barnes and half worried for her.

She couldn’t bring herself to reassure him. Spencer was out of danger but the shooting had brought up long buried feelings and fears that she was having trouble managing.

“Thanks for everything” she said quietly as they pulled up “For helping the BAU, for taking care of the girls...for all of it”

“You’re going to talk to someone right? After this is over I mean”

Elle nodded, she knew how important that was. She wasn’t going to risk her family because of pride.


Both girls greeted them at the door as they went inside.


Elle fell to her knees and pulled them both into a hug, swallowing down the sobs that threatened to burst forth.

“Is Spencer okay?” Natalie asked as they were released. They headed into the living room, Robyn clinging to her mother for dear life. Elle scooped the little up into her arms.

“He is now” Elle reassured them “The doctors are taking really good care of him”

“Can we go see him?” Natalie asked. Elle bit her lip.

“I’m not sure” Elle said honestly. She didn’t believe in lying to her daughters. “He’s still quite tired but when he’s stronger maybe you can go see him. I think he’d like that”

“We made a get well soon card” Robyn piped up. Natalie revealed the glitter caked piece of paper with a flourish for Elle’s inspection. The tears threatened to rise up again as she took it to look properly.

“He’ll love it” said Elle thickly.



When Spencer woke again JJ was sitting at his side with wet, red eyes.

“Hey” Spencer smiled, trying to push himself up “Have you been here this whole time?”

“Hell yeah” said JJ, tears falling “You had all of us worried”

“You worry to much” said Spencer “Do you know that the chemicals associated with stress can have long term effects on your body. Studies have shown that-”

“I’m so sorry”

“For what?” Spencer frowned.

“Scratch came after families. First Hotch, then Tara, then you were in prison and I spent every waking hour not knowing if you were going to make it but at the same time I was terrified he was going to come after my boys” JJ sobbed. Spencer laid his hand over hers as it gripped the sheets. 

“Even after he died it’s like I’ve been in constant survival mode. Every little thing feels like a threat and I have treated you so badly”

“Because you’re my best friend. You’re practically my sister and that’s what families do” said Spencer softly.

“I was awful to Elle” cried JJ “I mean, really terrible and I pushed you away and that’s the last thing you need. I’m so sorry.”

“Hyper-vigilance is a symptom that comes with our trauma” said Spencer carefully “Even once it’s over, even if we’re dealing with it. We both know that some scars from torture never heal. I forgive you JJ because I know why you did the things you did and I’m sure Elle will too.” JJ nodded, wiping her face with the back of her free hand.

“She really loves you” she sniffed “I didn’t see that at first but I do now”

“I love her too. More than anything. I think...I think she’s the one”

“That’s great Spence” JJ’s eyes began to water again “You deserve that. You really do.” She squeezed his hand, feeling lighter than she had for a long time.


“He’s awake” Garcia burst into Emily’s office “Spencer, he’s-wait am I interrupting something?”

Emily removed her arm from around Tara’s shoulders with a sigh. They hadn’t really expected to keep their secret this long. Tara looked at her with a grin.

“That’s great Garcia!” said Emily “We should go and see him as soon as we can. How is the search for Marcus Alston going?” Garcia’s gaze was flicking between the two of them like a pinball, Emily could hear the cogs in her genius brain going into overdrive.

“I, er..fine. No! Not fine, bad! It’s like he fell off the face of the earth two weeks ago. No phone, no credit card, no social media activity. The tech munchkins from Silvertree have been digging. The Alston family had no property he could be hiding in and he doesn’t seem to have a lot of friends other than his brother he could go to. He’s a ghost.”

“Have we figured out his motive for killing Moira yet?” asked Tara.

“Love!” Luke burst into the office triumphantly “He was in love with her. I went to the coffee shop they frequented like you asked and got chatting with the owner. Apparently she made conversation a few times with Marcus and he was odd enough that it stuck with her. He referred to Moira as his fiancee.”

“So when she started confiding in him about Damian’s abuse maybe Marcus thought he was in with a chance?” suggested Tara.

“He could have felt like Moira owed him” said Emily “He may have made a pass or something and that’s why she sought help from the foundation instead. It still doesn’t tell us where he is though”

“If he’s angry at Moira rejecting him he could blame the foundation” said Tara, slowly.

“He could blame Elle” said Garcia.

“Call them now!” instructed Emily “We need to get over there”


Charlie headed back to the office to check in on the investigation and to call Bethenny after making Elle promise she would keep him updated. Elle’s head was buzzing and she couldn’t sit still for more than a few minutes in spite of the aching tiredness that was marrow-deep. To compensate she ended up baking cookies, roping in Natalie and Robyn to help. She figured that they might be a nice change from hospital food for Spencer, particularly using the dinosaur cookie cutters he had gotten them.

It frightened her how close she had come to losing him, how deep that fear had run. As soon as he was well enough she was going to tell him, frankly and honestly, how much he meant to her and how much she wanted a future with him, a long term future.

“Twenty minutes in the oven guys” said Elle “Go wash up and you can watch a movie until it’s time to decorate”

The girls charged upstairs, playfully arguing about which movie to pick and Elle smiled at the sound. 

Then the hairs on the back of her neck began to stand up.

She swallowed but her mouth was dry. All the doors and windows were shut downstairs but she rushed round again, rattling them all. Her heart hammered. Something was wrong, very wrong. The sensors at the edge of the property would have alerted them to anyone presence but when Elle charged to her laptop to check the camera feeds they were all dead. Instinct kicked in and she charged up the stairs to Natalie’s bedroom where she and Robyn were bouncing on the bed.

“Go into the spare bedroom and lock the door” Elle demanded “Do not open it until I say so. Only me okay?” Charlie had thought she was being overly paranoid when she asked for a panic room to be built after she moved in. Elle had hoped never to use it but at least she would be sure her girls were safe.

“Mommy?” Natalie’s eyes widened.

“Go baby” said Elle, kissing them both on the head. Robyn started to cry. “I promise everything’s fine. I need you to be a brave girl okay?” She ushered them into the room, pausing until she heard the click of the lock before sprinting to her own room and diving under the bed. The box was heavy and it took two attempts to find the right combination because her fingers were shaking so much but eventually it clicked open and Elle was able to load and cock her gun. The phone in her pocket was buzzing like mad. With a steadying breath, and without taking her eyes off of the doorway she pulled it out. It was a bureau prefix. Hitting answer she didn’t wait for them to speak.

“He’s in my house."

“On our way” Prentiss’ business like tone was a small comfort but there wasn’t time to dwell. With a few steadying breaths Elle inched out of the room and into the hallway, gun raised.

It was deserted. The only sound Elle could hear was the blood pounding in her head, and her own rasping breaths. She took another step, and then another, and then another her eyes scanning every shadow and every corner.

There was the creak of a step.

Elle slipped off her shoes and padded to the end of the corridor as quietly as she could manage.

Another step creaked.

Then another.

Elle pressed close to the wall and took a deep breath. Then she peered round gun raised.

The wall above her head exploded as Alston fired straight at her from the top of the stairs.

Chapter Text

“Red jello or green jello?” JJ asked holding up the tubs of luminous goop.

“Both?” said Spencer hopefully. JJ laughed, dropping both onto a tray and settling back down beside him as he happily began scooping out a heaped spoonful of red, “The only upside to being in the hospital”

“Hey I gotta take this, save some for me” said JJ as her phone began to ring “Hey Emily!”

JJ darted out of the room but Spencer was still able to see her. He watched in confusion as her lips stopped moving, as the blood drained from her face and how she turned to look at him, terror etched in every feature.

Please not Elle, anything but Elle


“Hey Spence stop” JJ charged back into the room as Spencer tried to get out of the bed “You’ll rip your stitches”

“I need to go to her!”

“Spencer you can’t” said JJ. Two nurses ran into the room, summoned by the frantic beeping of the monitor.

“Get off me!” moaned Spencer, struggling. He started sweating, his skin pale from the exertion and he collapsed back down onto the pillows “JJ please I can’t lose her”

“Emily and the team are on their way” JJ said “I promise you we will save her”

“Please JJ” Spencer mumbled. The room was turning black and he couldn’t speak anymore.

“Look after him” JJ told the nurses. She took one last look at him, her chest burning with fear, before racing out of the door.


The sound of the gunshot was ringing in Elle’s ears but she tried to stay focused. She darted round the corner, letting off three shots that whistled past Marcus Alston’s head before ducking back for cover.

“Come out Greenaway” Alston roared “Face up to what you did!”


“How far out are we?” asked Emily as the SUV sped down the road, sirens blaring.

“Ten minutes out” said Matt.

“Elle may not have ten minutes” said Tara “He was in the house with her”

“She was a trained agent” said Rossi “She can hold him off”

“Yeah but the last time she was attacked in her home...” Emily trailed off. No one said anything after that.


“What did I do Marcus?” Elle called back. She thought she could hear the girls crying but she knew it was in her head. The panic room had a re-enforced door and walls, any sound would be muffled. It was her fear.

“You took Moira from me” Alston wailed.

Another shot was fired and Elle could hear him getting closer.

“Moira came to me for help” said Elle “She was afraid of your brother”

“I was helping her!” Alton screamed back “She told me everything Damian was doing. I saved her, I got rid of him. I killed my own brother so she could be safe and happy and then you interfered!”. Elle took a chance, peering around the corner and firing another shot. This one hit Alston square in the shoulder and sent him reeling backward. He slammed down the stairs and his gun flew from his hand.


“Come on move!” JJ practically punched the horn of her car “Can’t you hear the sirens asshole?”

“JJ can you hear me?” Garcia’s voice buzzed in her earpiece.

“Yeah. I’m about five minutes away from Elle’s house. I might be quicker if these assholes knew how to drive!”

“The team are ten minutes out but Metro PD are sending backup too”

“I can’t wait Garcia”


“There’s two little girls in the house and...and I made a promise to Spencer” said JJ. Now wasn’t the time to get emotional and she tried to blink away the tears pricking at the corners of her eyes “I’m not breaking that promise Garcia”


Elle stood at the top of the stairs staring down at Alston as he lay unmoving at the bottom of the stairs. Gun raised she raced down and nudged him with her foot. The gun was far from his reach but she wasn’t taking any chances and with a swift kick she sent it even further.

Alston’s eyes snapped open and her jerked up, his fist slamming into the back of Elle’s knee, causing her to stumble. As she struggled to regain her balance he twisted and managed to pull her down.

“You took Moira from me” he spat. Alston’s fist connected with Elle’s temple and she saw stars, the grip on her gun momentarily relaxing. A second blow and the gun slipped completely from her hands.

In desperation Elle aimed her elbow for Alston’s throat and his eyes bulged as she knocked the air from him. He coughed and spluttered and Elle took the chance to scramble for her gun but she couldn’t see where it had gone. The next thing she knew Alston’s hands were round her throat, forcing her head back as he squeezed.

“She called me a monster” Alston hissed “You poisoned her against me. When she saw what I did to Damian-”

A shrill wailing cut through Alston’s rant and his face went slack from confusion, as did his grip on Elle’s neck. Smoke was creeping out from under the door to the kitchen and the alarm was screeching. 

Elle took her chance and brought up hands up, jabbing her thumbs as hard as she could into Alston’s eyes. He yelled in pain and tried to get up, Elle brought her knee up and slammed her foot as hard as could into his groin. Alston collapsed with a strangled whimper. 

Everything was white hot through the haze of Elle’s anger. 

The gun was about a foot from her head and once she spotted it she lunged to snatch it up and clambered to her feet.

The one place I should feel safe

She pointed it straight at Alston’s head, his face still buried in his hands as he sobbed.

Where my children should feel safe

Her finger was on the trigger

Just like Randall Garner

One small squeeze and she could paint the wall with this bastard’s brains.

Somewhere under the ringing of the alarm the girls cries broke through.

No that was all in her head.

The cries were mixed with their laughter, with the sound of Spencer telling her he loved her.

No, not again. I’m not that person anymore.

Elle lowered the gun but didn’t take her eyes off of Alston.

“Elle! Elle it’s JJ!”

“In here” Elle croaked. She tucked the gun in the waistband of her jeans. JJ burst through the door.

“Oh my God are you okay?”

“I’m fine. Arrest this son of a bitch. I need to get my girls”

JJ nodded, pulling out her cuffs and starting to read Alston his rights.

Elle charged upstairs and pounded on the door to the panic room. 

"Girls, you can come out now" Natalie opened it, tears streaming down her face.


“I got you, I got you baby” Elle pulled her and Robyn into her arms “It’s okay, we’re safe now”

She heard the rest of the BAU enter downstairs and drag Alston away.

“Elle you good?” JJ called up the stairs.

“Yeah” she called back “Yeah we’re good”


They all headed straight to the hospital after the house was secured and left under the supervision of a few crime scene techs. 

The team wanted Elle to be checked out physically first and JJ sat with her while the others took the girls to see Spencer. Charlie had met them there and ended up going with them.

The two women sat in awkward silence while Elle was checked out but as they headed to the ICU JJ stopped. 

“I owe you an apology”

“Don’t worry about it” Elle shrugged “It was a tense situation. I know how close you and Spencer are. It was difficult for all of us to see him like that”

“Doesn’t excuse what I said” said JJ firmly “Doesn’t excuse how I treated you or how I treated you back them” Elle looked at her in surprise “We abandoned you when you needed us and I’m so sorry.”

It was an old feeling Elle thought, not a weight lifting but instead a tether being cut. She smiled at JJ, a genuine smile.

“Apology accepted” she said and stepped forward for an embrace which JJ received with grateful surprise.

“Now let’s go rescue Spencer from his visitors” grinned Elle.

The room was buzzing as they entered. The girls were sitting cross legged on the end of Spencer’s bed, animatedly explaining the ankylosaurus card they had made him.

Charlie was leaning against the far wall chatting quietly to Matt and Rossi. Luke and Penelope were on the seats by the bed, Penelope gushing over the glittery card and Tara and Emily were arm in arm behind them, Emily’s head resting on Tara’s shoulder. 

“Hey” Spencer smiled when he saw Elle and JJ arrive.

“Mommy, Spencer loves his card!” cried Robyn.

“Told you he would” said Elle. She settled down on the edge of the bed next to them, her arm draping round their shoulders.

“I’m so glad you’re safe” Spencer’s voice was still strained but his eyes told Elle everything she needed to know.

“Same” said Elle “Next time your thinking of running towards an armed lunatic please don’t. You have too many people who need you.”

“Promise” said Spencer “But only if you promise not to go beating up those same armed lunatics”

“You could have hidden in the panic room with the girls” said Charlie pointedly.

“You guys have an actual panic room?” asked Garcia. Elle wasn’t sure whether it was awe or horror in her voice.

“I’ve always been the right level of paranoid” said Elle drily.

“And badass” grinned Emily “We heard about what happened with Barnes”

“How do you manage to work with that harpy?” asked Charlie with a shudder.

“We don’t have to anymore” said Tara “That was Barnes’ third trike. Apparently harassing wounded agents doesn’t go down well with the brass”.

A cheer erupted in the room. 

“Can Spencer stay with us once he’s better?” asked Natalie, afterwards “To stay safe”

“It’s about time he moved in” said Charlie and Elle felt her cheeks redden. Spencer wasn’t sure how to respond.

“If Spencer would like” said Elle. Her heart was fluttering again as Spencer licked his lips, seemingly pondering the offer.

“I think I’d like that” he said softly “Very much”

“Then we could get another brother!” said Natalie happily and an explosion of laughter filled the room. Elle wanted to curl up into a ball and vanish.

“I’d rather have another sister mommy” Robyn whispered, looking up at her hopefully. Elle glanced at Spencer and look on his face told her that maybe it wasn’t such a crazy idea after all.

Chapter Text

Everything was still and quiet as Spencer watched his wife sleep, bathed in the hazy golden glow of the morning. The gentle rise and fall of her chest and the soft half-smile on her parted lips reiterated how remarkably lucky he had been over the past five years. Today they got to share that with the people who were most important to them.

Elle began to stir, stretching lazily as her eyelids fluttered open.

“Morning” Spencer leaned forward and gently kissed her forehead, her skin warm under his lips. Elle snuggled in close, tucking her head under his chin and nuzzling his neck.

“Morning” she murmured “How long have you been watching me?”

“Not long” he chuckled “I just didn’t want to get up”

“Mmhmm, good plan. Can we call off the party and just stay in bed all day?” Spencer shifted slightly so he could look at her face.

“Are you still worried?” he asked. 

“Not really” she said “I think Penelope has finally forgiven us for eloping and I know this isn’t the same as a wedding but it’s still presenting ourselves as a married couple to everyone”

“To Hotch and Morgan you mean?” Spencer prompted. 

After he had gotten out of the hospital Spencer had arranged to meet up with Morgan. Once Morgan had freaked out over the shooting (“Pretty boy is there a reason you keep going through this shit and not telling me?”) Spencer had explained about Elle. It had gone better than he expected but it had taken a few tentative dinners with him and Savannah for the tension to dissipate. Also for Morgan to be convinced that nothing had happened between the pair of them while Elle had still been on the team. 

“This is the happiest I’ve ever seen you man” Morgan had said afterwards “If you’re after my blessing-”

“I’m not,” Spencer had told him firmly “In the nicest way possible I am not looking for anyone’s approval over this. I’m going to spend the rest of my life with her and that’s it” 

Without another word Morgan had pulled him into a hug and he had embraced Elle too when he and Savannah were leaving. Though he whispered, Spencer still heard Morgan tell Elle how happy he was for them. She had only nodded but as soon as they were alone the floodgates had opened. 

With Hotch it had been harder. He and Spencer didn’t speak often and he knew Emily had told him all about the case and by extension his relationship with Elle. Outwardly their old boss was happy for them (in his typical reserved way) and when the team got together at Rossi’s, Hotch had come along and told Spencer so in person. Spencer had sensed the hesitation though and for the past five years he had patiently been working to build a fragile bridge between Hotch and Elle. They were civil to each other the few times they had come face to face, both acutely aware of how much it meant to Spencer and Elle understood why he wanted him there today.

“I want today to be perfect for you” whispered Elle. Spencer drew her close again and kissed away the worry on her face, fierce and tender and the same time. Her skin tingled at the contact as she hungrily kissed him back, only to be interrupted but the crackling of the baby monitor.

“I’ll get him” Spencer bounded out of bed and left Elle to snuggle back under the warm covers as she listened on the monitor to Spencer in the nursery.

“Morning little man, ready to get up?”

“Up, up!”

“Okay here we go, oof, you’re getting so big. Wanna go say hi to mommy?”


“That’s right, let’s go see Mommy”

Spencer appeared later with a wriggly two year old in his arms, setting down on the bed next to Elle who pulled their son into an embrace. He giggled wildly as she pressed kisses to his chubby cheeks, his little fists waving about.

Alex hadn’t been planned but it was the best surprise Elle could have hoped for. Spencer had been terrified at first though. What if Alex had a schizophrenic break when he was older, what if Spencer turned out like his own father, what if, what if?

“Daddy!” he shuffled in Elle’s arms and made little grabby hands towards Spencer.

Sitting here now all Spencer felt was pure unadulterated happiness that nothing could take away. When Alex was about six months old he had made the decision to limit the amount of time he spent in the field, instead consulting with Garcia from Quantico so he could go home to his family every night.

His family.

Alex wobbled towards him, half falling into Spencer’s open arms. 

“Big day ahead, we should get a move on” he said swinging Alex up into the air so he squealed with delight “When are the girls and Charlie coming over?”

“About noon, they’re going to help set up the garden” said Elle “Bethenny’s coming later, I think she and her Mom are shopping for baby clothes this morning. Oh and good news, Robyn is finally getting that little sister she wanted”

“She’ll be thrilled,” laughed Spencer. There was a short pause and then he quietly added, “Though I was going to suggest that if it was another boy maybe we could try again?” Elle raised an eyebrow “If you’d like that I mean”

“Yeah” she leaned forward and kissed him “I think I would”


It was the sound that got Spencer. Laughter mixed with music and the wind in the trees. It was the sound of family, of home. He made his way round their friends, making sure everyone’s glasses and plates were full.

“This is wonderful Spence!” said Emily, pulling him into a hug.

“It almost makes up for no wedding” said Penelope with a pout “I still can’t believe you and Elle snuck off to Greece and we weren’t invited”

“It was spur of the moment,” said Spencer “Planning a wedding while working and with the baby was a little too much. JJ offered to take Alex so we could have a week away and when we were there we just sort of did it”

“I’m glad you did,” said Tara, her fingers entwined with Emily’s “Happiness suits you”

“Plus I still have these two to fulfil by BAU wedding dreams” said Garcia. Emily’s eyes widened as Tara and Spencer tried not to laugh. 

They had done a wonderful job of the garden with bunting and banners hanging from every tree. It felt so vibrant and so alive. The kids were playing hide and seek, lead by Robyn who hadn’t yet decided she was too old for that sort of thing. Natalie on the other hand stood to the side with Henry and Jack, enthralled by Jack’s stories about college.

“That will be Natalie in a few years” Hotch appeared at Elle’s elbow making her jump slightly. She had Alex on her hip, who gazed up at the newcomer with interest. Hotch smiled down as the baby and Elle felt something catch in her chest.

“He has your eyes” he said “But I can see Spencer in his mouth and chin”

“Also the hair” said Elle and she gently stroked the downy curls that were already showing signs of unruliness. The smile faded from Hotch’s face and he became the team leader she knew so well.

“I just wanted to say I’m sorry” That wasn’t what she was expecting at all and for a moment Elle just stood there stunned, her mouth open and her eyes glassy.

“I…” she swallowed “Me too” Hotch nodded and raised his hand to her shoulder, giving it a small squeeze before moving across the garden to talk to Rossi who had brought Joy and Kai along.

Elle sat down to watch the on-going game, Robyn roping Luke and Penelope into helping her look for everyone. The pair of them were rowdier than the kids she thought. Spencer sat down next to her, pulling the two of them close.

“I saw you talking to Hotch, everything okay?

”“It’s perfect Spencer” Elle said softly “Really perfect”

Alex clambered from Elle’s lap to his and Spencer ruffled his hair playfully, causing Alex to giggle and then try and mimic the movement on Spencer though his arms couldn’t reach. 

Elle pressed a kiss to his head and then leaned up to meet Spencer’s lips.

“You’re happy?” Spencer asked.

“The happiest I’ve ever been” said Elle, kissing him again.

Happiness seemed to be in the air Spencer thought, and about time too. He looked at Garcia collapsing down next to Luke pretending to be exhausted from searching. The kids all rushed out from their hiding places and dog-piled on top of them. Matt playfully scolded his own brood but couldn’t keep the laughter from his voice. Rossi and Hotch were behind them, having an intense catch up by the looks of things.

JJ cheered from the sidelines with Will’s arms wrapped around her. They were seated next to Charlie and a heavily pregnant Bethenny who were admiring Tara’s glittering engagement ring and commending Emily on her good taste.

“Good” smiled Spencer “It’s my life’s mission to make sure that never changes”

“We have plenty of time to work on that”