Derek sat on the porch of the cabin - one of seventeen properties belonging to him - in the chair he’d built with his own hands from wood he’d cut himself, and closed the book he’d just finished. A real book, an actual first edition, leather bound, with paper pages, and an inked dedication from the author to his wife. He took the bookmark out and looked at the delicate sky-blue flower pressed between the laminate, the veins in the petals showing when he lifted it to the light. He turned it over in his big hands, seeing the man who had given it, and the book, to him all those years ago…
He’d never gotten over Maeve’s death. He had never been the same after that. JJ tried, for years she tried, but she couldn’t bring him back. They all had tried. Him most of all.
He left the BAU, traveling the world, sending his mother colorful postcards with vibrant descriptions of all the myriad places he’d visit. For over a decade he traversed the globe, He went through most all of Europe, making sure to visit Emily in London, then flying to the Congo, bringing books to people everywhere he went. He spent a lot of time in Asia – Thailand, Cambodia, Viet Nam, Japan, China. He rode out storms at sea and he jostled in ancient jeeps up mountainsides. He took pictures and dodged bombs and land mines in the Middle East left behind for decades, and he rested in the South Pacific islands where there was no such thing as time. And he wrote. He wrote journals of all his impressions, feelings, thoughts and decisions… and he left them where they lay when he moved on.
Derek missed him every day. There had been no other friend like him his entire life. More like a brother, really, and after he’d left, Derek never sought out that kind of friendship again. They kept in touch sporadically, but never vidded. His friend was old-school and refused to use anything newer than his reliable cell from clear back in the tens, 30 years ago.
Penelope Garcia came out onto the porch and touched his shoulder, pulling him out of his reverie.
“Call for you inside.”
“Baby girl I told you I didn’t want-“
“It’s JJ. She’s heard from him.”
“I’ll take it out here.” He flipped up the clear tablet hidden in the side table next to him, touched on JJ’s avi and smiled as she floated into view . It was so good to see her still-beautiful face. “Jay JAY, how are you girl?”
She rolled her eyes, a familiar gesture he remembered well. “Ugh, it’s Washington, you know? She smiled. “How are you? Pen tells me you’ve been quiet lately. That gets me worried.”
“I’m fine, just get to thinking about things sometimes, about people. Hey when was the last time we all got together?”
“Rossi’s funeral, I think…or was it Diana’s?”
“Yeah.” Derek hung his head for a moment at that. “Penelope said you’ve heard from him. Think he’d be up for a reunion? Are you?”
“Doubtful. He’s pretty ensconced up there in Alaska now. He’s doing his thing, you know? Teaching. He loves it so much, Morgan. ”
“How’s he doing, JJ?”
“I think he’s lonely. I try to keep in touch regularly, but we’re just so far apart, you know? I just… I can hear it in his voice. He’s not traveling so much any more and… I’m worried, Derek.”
JJ didn’t ever worry without cause, Derek knew. Their dear friend had never married (though JJ and he had explored a very intensely loving and deep relationship for four years and were still incredibly close), had no children, and even though he could’ve taught at any University in the world, chose a small college town outside Anchorage to put down roots. He was always unpredictable, but his increasingly hermit-like behavior just didn’t sit right with Derek. Or JJ, it seemed.
“JJ let me get with my beautiful wife about something and I’ll call you back. You have any time off coming?”
“Derek, I’m retiring this year, did you forget? A month or two won’t make that much difference. I’ll call Hotch.”
“Good. I’ll vid you back.” He broke the connection. “Penelope!” he called.
She came trotting back out to the porch, iced teas in hand for them both. “So, Alaska?”
He beamed at her and reached his arm around her shoulders, pulling her in for a kiss. The one woman in the world that understood him completely.
Doctor Spencer Reid always walked to work, even in the winter. He loved the way the outdoors smelled here. He’d never really gotten immune to it and every day he noticed it anew; air so sharp and clean, always the suggestion of pine lingering just outside detection.
As he walked along the road’s edge, his hands in his pockets against the chill, he noticed the clusters of hardy little forget-me-nots popping up here and there and imagined what passed for spring here in Eagle River must be close at hand. The bright, cheery blue flowers made him think of his friends. He’d sent each of them a gift containing the flower when he’d first landed here, charmed as he was by the name, because even though he wanted to be left alone, he didn’t want them to forget him.
Garcia had gotten earrings of course, JJ an oval white-gold locket on a thin, delicate chain, the tiny flowers preserved forever on one side, and a holo of them kissing on the other. Derek, the bookmark, Emily, a miniature geoglobe where they bloomed year-round, and Hotch, a heavy glass paperweight. Even though nobody used paper any more, it was a perfect gesture for the man who always had reports to fill out as the Director of the FBI.
He looked down and kicked his booted foot at the ever-present snow clumps as he negotiated his way around the dirty burms, always stacked high right before “break-up”, as the locals called it; the first thaws of the coming spring. Those people were never far from his mind, his heart, so it really came as no surprise as the whine of the big electric SUV drove up beside him, its window rolled down and a voice he knew as well as his own said “Hey, pretty boy, you need a lift?”
Spencer stopped. He closed his eyes and smiled to himself, dropping his chin to his chest. He turned to look at the driver, folding his arms. “Oh, you think you’re going my way?”
“Well you look kinda sad and skinny, just walkin’ down the road.”
“Yeah I thought I’d be a good guy and offer you a ride, but if you don’t want it…” Morgan started to roll the window up and Spencer reached for the door, grinning.
“Wait!” he said as he hopped in. Derek said ‘park’ to the car and laughed as Spencer’s sudden hug knocked the wind out of him a little. He embraced his slight friend in return and there was much squeezing and back pounding. “What are you doing here, man? It’s not like Alaska’s just a stroll around the corner!” Spencer asked.
“Oh, you know how the women get. Enough time goes by and they get all worried if we don’t check in.”
“The women, huh?”
“Yep. I myself couldn’t care less about you, but you know how it is…” he flashed his huge smile at his friend.
Spencer smiled back at him in his tentative way and said “It’s really good to see you.”, meaning it. “Did you bring Garcia?”
“You think for one minute that woman would’ve let me come visit you without her? Not only that, JJ and Hotch are in a hotel in Anchorage, and Prentiss is on her way.”
“What?” Spencer stared at him in disbelief. “Morgan, am I dying and nobody told me? What’s all this about?”
“Fishing, man. We all needed a trip anyway and we thought we’d come see you. It’s about time all of us saw each other in real-time. You know, that thing people used to do before vids?”
“Fishing’s protected, nobody’s allowed except subsistence fisheries and once a year-“
“Hotch got us all permits.”
“JJ…” Spencer said, his head spinning. He loved her deeply, of course, he just never thought of her in terms of them all being in the same room again.
Morgan reached a hand to his shoulder. “It’s hard on her, man. Being away from you is hard. She tries. She wants to respect your boundaries but you know how much she loves you. Has always loved you.”
Spencer was serious as he said “I know. Morgan I love her too, more than anyone. I’m just… I can’t… I’m just this weird old man now, living here. It’s quiet and I have my work and my books and my students and it’s safe and it’s-“
“Lonely.” Morgan interrupted.
Spencer pressed his lips together and looked down.
“You seeing anyone?” Morgan asked.
“Is that what this is about? You guys are worried about the lonely hermit up here in Alaska hibernating with no family or friends? No wife, no girlfriend?”
Derek looked up at him, a little sheepish.
“Morgan I’ve had two really great, really epic loves in my life and I count myself lucky. A lot of people don’t even ever have one. Don’t feel sorry for me. Just because a wife and kids… grandkids even, was in the cards for you doesn’t mean it is for me.”
Derek looked down, nodding. “Alright man, if you say so. I’m not gonna push it, but we ARE here and we ARE gonna fish and we’re all gonna have a great BAU reunion, if it kills Penelope.”
Spencer smoothed his figurative feathers and said “Okay. Take me to work so I can arrange for a sub these next few days. How long are you here?”
“Almost a week I think. Ask Pen.”
“Thanks for coming.”
Derek smiled and said “manual” to the car, setting the wheels in motion once again.
They came up the steps of his wide porch, one by one. Aaron, smiling freely and warmly at his former agent, dropped his bag and embraced him as he got to the top, rocking him back and forth for a second. His hair was completely white, shocking Spencer, but they were all in their 60s now, and Hotch was 70. Seventy. He looked fifty.
Modern nutrition, medicine, and self-care had progressed by leaps and bounds in the past two decades and people weren’t dying of old age any more. One hundred fifty was the new ninety, and the word “senior” took on a new meaning, one of health, vigor, and mental acuity. More people died of disease and accident than old age, and disease was on its way out, too. There seemed to be nothing they couldn’t cure any more.
He took Spencer’s face in his hands. “Reid.”
Spencer looked him in the eye and put both hands on his shoulders. “Hotch. I kinda can’t believe you’re here…”
“Move over, lady with a baby coming through,” Emily huffed her way up the stairs.
A very pregnant Emily Prentiss beamed at the both of them. “Damn, you two are still as good-looking as ever.” She said, wrapping her arms around the both of them.
Spencer delighted in seeing her, and she was pregnant! “WHAT? Emily, what made you… who?” He reached his arm around her too.
“None of your business, handsome. And I finally figured it was about time. Well aren’t you going to congratulate me?”
Derek and Penelope stood at the bottom of the stairs, arms around each other, watching this all with great glee. He kissed the side of his wife’s head as he saw her tear up, her hands clasped in front of her face, taking everything in.
Spencer ushered everyone inside. They walked into a lodge-like environment, high beamed ceilings of diamond willow, cracking fire in the hearth, and sturdy leather sofas set around in a rectangle for maximum conversation potential held pillows galore. Floor to ceiling bookshelves dominated the walls, and soft, solar ambient lighting welcomed them into his home.
Morgan loved it. “NICE place you’ve got here, pretty boy. You’ll have to give me a tour later.”
“Sure, Spencer said as he poured wine for everyone. “Emily… you?”
“I’m into my third trimester and I’m pretty safe so yeah. Pour me a red, please. THIS is a cause to celebrate. Only one though…”
Garcia looked up from her phone. “Oh… Reid, JJ says her shuttle service from Anchorage has a power supply problem and they can’t get her for another few hours, maybe not until tomorrow. Do you want me to…?”
“That’s crazy, Anchorage is literally twenty minutes away,” he said. “I’ll get her, tell her I’m coming. You guys will all be okay ‘til I get back, right?”
Nods all around, as they looked at each other and smiled.
“Garcia,” he said, put a tape in my VCR, pop some popcorn, and open another bottle of wine and I’ll be right back-” he said, lifting his coat off the rack by the door, “-with JJ.”
He fairly flew out the door and just as he got to the bottom of the steps a black lozenge pod whirred up. The door gulled open and out jumped the love of his life, his dearest friend in the world, Jennifer Jareau, ripping off her helmet and throwing it down as she ran at him.
“Fuck that transport bullshit. Come HERE!” she said as she crashed into his open, waiting arms. He fell to the ground with the slight weight of her and their lips met, his hands tangling in her hair and her arms wrapped around his neck. They kissed and kissed, and neither remembered where they were, just that each was there. In arms, legs, and lips, entangled bodily and ferociously.
Derek lifted the blinds and looked out the window. He saw them and was about to call the others over but simply smiled instead. He had known nothing would keep JJ away from this gathering, but he’d underestimated her determination. He dropped the blind, giving them their privacy, and happy for them, as always.
He’d always supported them, especially in their relationship, but ultimately it had brought heartbreak to the both of them. The job wasn’t letting Spencer heal. It wasn’t any fault of hers, and Derek knew how deep their love ran for each other, but Reid had needed to leave. JJ had gone back to the Pentagon, and Derek wondered now, that she was retiring, was Alaska a possibility? They had never really let go of each other, neither marrying anyone else, but time and distance had conspired to keep them apart, and had succeeded. Or so he thought.
They broke apart and JJ laughed, breathless. “GOD, beautiful man I cannot breathe when we’re apart!” She began kissing down his neck and Spencer flipped her over on her back, covering her with his lean frame and baring his throat to her kisses.
He lowered his head and nibbled all the way up from her clavicle to her earlobe and said “We have to tell them, ahhhh…” he sighed.
“In time,” she whispered, gently biting him back, her hands sliding up under his shirt, raking her nails lightly against his skin. “Let’s give it a day or two.”
“JJ…” he said, lifting his hand to her face and catching her blue eyes with his hazel. “We’re not kids any more. This is serious… important.”
“I know, Spence. And they are our best friends in the world, all here at your house. You want to tell them now? I’m in.” She jackknifed up and pulled at his hands, seeing all of him upright.
“I may need just a moment,” he laughed softly, holding her against him.
She held him close too, looking up into his sweet, beloved face she said, “So who’s going to tell them we’ve been married a year already – you, or me?”
“We probably both should. I put on a pretty good ‘lonely hermit’ act with Morgan earlier. He’d probably punch me if I told him by myself.”
JJ grinned and slid her arm around her husband’s waist as they climbed the steps together. “They’ll be on our side, Spence. They’ve always been.”
“I know.” He bent to kiss the top of her head as they opened the front door.
“Heyy!! They all shouted in unison, and the round of hugs began again. Spencer stood back, hands in pockets, and fingered his holo keyring with the little blue flowers. The forget-me-nots had worked. They hadn’t forgotten him.
They were all here.