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Crazy Doesn't Add- It Multiplies

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Spencer sighed, kissed Christine's neck, and rolled over. After a few deep breaths, he opened his eyes and smiled broadly. "Well, that was a wonderful way to say good morning!"

She said nothing but simply giggled and threw an arm lazily over his waist. After a few moments, he began to sit up, only to have her grip on him suddenly tighten. "No," she protested. "Not yet."

"Dear," he laughed, "I have to work today- remember? Vacation is over!"

"It's over when I say it's over," she grumbled. "Call in sick. Tell them you caught something tropical, like dengue fever."

"Chris, we literally saw everyone last less than 2 days ago! I think Hotch will see through the dengue lie…"

"Then let me talk to Aaron," she said, reaching over him and swiping his cell phone off the nightstand. "I'll tell him."

"No, you won't!" he replied, panicked. As he wrestled with her to regain control of his phone, he saw her flip it open and begin dialing. "No! Don't! Please, Chris, don't, I-"

"Hello, Aaron? It's Chris Arcangeli-" she was saying when he snatched it out of her hands. "Hey!"

"Hi, Hotch? It's Reid," he said, scrambling to get out of bed and away from her grasp. "Hi, so sorry to bother you. Yes, yes, I…I know it's early…no, nothing's wrong…well, I may be marrying a crazy woman, but otherwise I'm fine. Again, I'm so sorry…yes, I'll see you later. Bye." He shut his phone and turned to her, trying to be angry, but failing at the sight of her wearing nothing but a bedsheet and her impish smile. "You are positively incorrigible! You're going to get me fired, you know that?"

"Good! I hope I do! Then you can go on the road with me and live life as one of my groupies!"

"One of your groupies?"

"Okay, my only groupie. Ever. I promise. Hey," she said, as he started for the bathroom, "me first! You made a nasty mess of things this morning." He rolled his eyes as she darted past him into the bathroom and shut the door in his face. "Honestly," she called to him from within, "with all the bodily fluids you and I leave on those sheets, I'm shocked neither of us has developed some kind of serious chronic skin rash."

"Now you're just being disgusting, Christine," he answered as he laid out clothes for himself.

"Nope, just honest," she said as she came out the door. "It's simple biology- we screw, we secrete. You most of all. Bathroom's all yours, by the way. I'll go start the coffee. Oatmeal okay?"

"Yes, fine. Thank you."

After he'd showered, shaved and dressed, he walked into the kitchen just as a timer went off. Watching her pull a pan of muffins from the oven, he asked, "Are we out of oatmeal?"

"No, but I figured I had the time so I decided to make these instead for your apparently ungrateful self."

"Sorry, they look delicious, really."

"Good. I figured you could take the leftovers to Penny as a token of thanks for her willingness to help you out with this wedding mess," she said as she sat down. "Seriously, I don't think either of you has a clue how much work it's going to take to pull this off the way you want it. I still think we should just do it out back here in the yard. My family would be fine with it."

"As charming as your suggestion of a pig-roast and pitchers of beer was, I've always wanted something a little more elegant for my wedding."

"It's a funny thing, Spencer, and I really don't know how you do it, but somehow even though I know you're saying 'elegant', all I'm actually hearing is 'expensive'."

"I don't know why you're so worried about the expense," he said as he peeled the paper off a muffin. "You and I both have healthy enough incomes, and besides, your father is insisting on paying for it."

"You spoke with my father?!" Christine said with alarm.

"Well, of course I did. You told me to guest an estimate of the guest count from your mother, and when I called her, he was shouting in the background about who's going to be paying for this fish and duck soiree…why does he think we'd be serving fish and duck?"

"Eh, it's a line from The Shining- he thinks he's funny…"

"It seems to run in the family. As I was saying, he was asking about that, so your mother put him on the phone and he insisted on paying for it."

Christine gave him a perturbed look. "We don't need his money. I don't need his money. I'm not a little child anymore and it's no longer their responsibility to pay my damned bills! I work really fucking hard to pay my own way in this world, and by God-"

"Hey, calm down," Spencer said, raising his hand. "You father has worked hard his entire life for one purpose- to give his family every good thing he possibly could. Your wedding is one of those things he's worked for. Don't deny him the pleasure of giving you a gift he's waited your lifetime to give you."

"All the more reason to keep this whole thing minimalistic. It's ridiculous for him to piss away so much money on a one-time party. Who do we need to impress, anyway? Geez, the next thing he'll want is to walk me down the aisle…"

Spencer's mouth fell open. "And what would be wrong with that?"

"It's symbolic of a time when women weren't regarded as completely human, when they had such low legal and social status as to be handed from one man into the care of another as if they were chattel! I'm not his possession to give away, and much less yours to be taken, besides which I'm not exactly a blushing virgin anymore as you yourself know better than anyone- or have you perhaps forgotten how we spent this morning?"

"Oh, I remember precisely what we did this morning, and your argument is ludicrous- your father and I aren't trading you for ten goats and a couple of cows, Christine! It's simply a tradition, and a sweet one at that. But if you won't do it for him, then please consider doing it for me. Look," he said, wiping muffin crumbs from his lips, "since the day my grandfather gave me that ring, I've dreamed of the day I'd meet someone to whom I could give it. It was a dream that for the longest time I never had much hope of seeing come to fruition. But it has, and now I want to have my other dream come true- I want that one moment where I get to stand in front of all our friends and family and see the most beautiful girl in the world walking towards me on her father's arm, looking like the closest thing to an angel as can be seen on earth. Chris, I know it's not a big dream, but it's my dream. That's why I want to do this. I don't care any more than you about trying to impress anyone. I just want to have that one moment that I've always dreamed of having. Can't you please just let me have that one small dream?"

She opened her mouth to respond, shut it again, then said softly, "Yes. Okay, yes. For that, I can do it." After a sip of coffee she added, "So, how're the muffins?"

"Delicious, thanks, but I really do have to get on the road now. You mentioned I could take the rest for Garcia?"

"Yeah, sure. Lemme just get a box for them," she replied, getting up. As she rummaged around in a cabinet she suddenly stood and turned to Spencer. "Oh! I almost forgot! There's something I need to tell you about, but I suppose there's no time now…"

"I'll call you when I break for lunch, okay?"

"Actually, no. It's one of those things I'd really prefer we discuss face to face. Don't worry- it's nothing bad. Of course, it's nothing particularly good, either, for that matter. Let's just say it's some rather neutral news I have for you. But it's somewhat of a serious subject. Anyway, don't worry. We'll discuss it tonight or whenever you get back, okay?"

"Oooookaay," he said slowly.

"What? Don't look so suspicious!"

"I can't help it. Morgan's warned me that whenever a woman says, 'We need to talk,' it means the man is in trouble."

"You're not in trouble, for pity's sake," she laughed as she shoved the last of the muffins into a plastic container and handed it to him. "Trust me. And bring me back that Tupperware, okay?"

"Yes, Your Highness."

"Hey! I prefer Your Imperial Majesty! Get it right next time!"

"Yes, dear," he chuckled, kissed her on the cheek, and hurried out the door.

He'd only been at his been at his desk for a few minutes before he heard the familiar clicking of high heels on the floor behind him. When he turned and looked up, he saw Garcia standing with her arms full of books and magazines. "Alright, so…after we left yesterday I took it upon myself to do a little research and I've discovered that Christine may be right- pulling off this wedding in three months is going to be a massive undertaking. But never fear," she said, laying her burden on his desk, "with my impeccable taste and your…your…credit cards…we'll be able to accomplish it in style! According to this guide for planning a wedding, we're already, at best, six months behind schedule, so I took the liberty of calling my favorite bakery-" at this she paused abruptly and sniffed the air. "Speaking of bakery, what's in that?"

"Blueberry muffins. Christine made them this morning as a down-payment on your services," Spencer replied, removing the lid and offering them to her.

"Ooooh, I don't know who loves her more- you or I? Anyway- oh! Wow, these are delicious! Yummy! Anyway, I took the liberty of scheduling a cake tasting this Saturday for you and I, provided of course you don't get a case."

"Did someone say cake?" Emily asked as she walked in. "Is that what those are- cupcakes?"

"Muffins," Garcia replied.

"Oh, great! Can I have one?" she asked.

"You most certainly may not!" Garcia said, snatching the box out of her reach. "Christine made them for me, and they're delicious, so I intend to eat every last one of them! By the way, Reid- have I told you lately that I'm in love with your fiancée? Because I kinda am…"
"She loves you, too, Garcia," Spencer replied, "though I think she'd be greatly disappointed in you right now for not sharing your good fortune with Emily."

Garcia pouted for a moment, then held out the box to offer her one. "Fine. We'll do it your way. But I'll have you know these muffins aren't just my good fortune; they're in payment for services to be rendered."

"Ah," Prentice said, peeling the paper off her muffin. "You mean your foray into wedding planning…"

"Yes, and I was just telling the good doctor that I've already taken the liberty of scheduling a cake tasting for us. Oh, Em, it's going to be amazing! They're preparing us cupcakes with every combination of cake, frosting and filling they offer, and we just have to sit back like royalty and choose with one is most worthy to be their cake! Doesn't that sound fantastic? Hey- you should totally come with. Seriously. Because they have four flavors of cake, three frostings and five fillings, which means we're going to be sampling, like, hundreds of cupcakes!"

"Actually, Garcia," Reid said, "we'll only have to sample-"

"60 different cupcakes," Prentiss concluded. "Yeah, that's right- I've got skills, too!"

"Actually, I was going to say it'll be 24-30 cupcakes, because I assume that at least one of those cake and frosting flavors, and possibly one of the fillings, are chocolate, which we can immediately rule out."

"Rule out chocolate? But chocolate is the flavor of love!" Prentiss said with a laugh.
"Did somebody call my name?" Morgan asked as he strode over to his desk.

"Not this time, my tall, decadent, sweet one, no," Garcia cooed. "We're talking about the wedding cake tasting I've set up for this weekend. And to answer your question, Em, Chris. Chris doesn't like chocolate."

"What? Reid, you know you're marrying a crazy woman, right?" Morgan said.

"It's true- both that she's crazy and that she hates chocolate," said Spencer. "But that nevertheless leaves us with potentially 30 cupcakes to taste, so please come, Emily. I suspect there will be more than enough for us to eat."

"Ooh, and then there're these bartenders I wanted to check out- a bar service, really," Garcia said. "We can stop by there afterwards to do a wine and champagne tasting. I'll call them- we can make a day of it! JJ!" she called out to the office upstairs. "JJ! We're doing a cake and champagne tasting this weekend! Wanna come with?"

"Sure!" she said from the door of her office. "Sounds incredible! I just hope we don't get a case that spoils it!"

Morgan laughed. "Wow, Reid. Sounds like you're going to have a really fun girls' weekend! You ladies enjoy it, now!"

"Yeah, you laugh," Spencer said with a smile, "but I get to have a day of eating free cake and drinking free wine in the company of three beautiful women, and at the end of it I get to go home to the most beautiful one of all, who also happens to be in love with me. When was the last time you had a Saturday turn out that well?"

"Shut up, kid," he grumbled. "Don't you have some work you should be doing?"

As he stepped in the door that evening, he started call out, "Hey guys, I'm-" Just then, he was interrupted by Spud racing past him, a ridiculous bow tied around his neck and trailing his leash while Alex ran after him, calling his name.

"…back," he finally finished after Spud's master had chased him down the hall, apparently hoping to corner him in the library. "What was all that about?" he asked Christine, who had emerged from the parlor to observe the shenanigans.

"That's your ring bearer. And remember this moment, sweetheart, as being the one when I once again reminded you that it was a bad idea to let Alex have that animal participate in our wedding. Remember when he takes off with our rings that it was you who encouraged her by insisting that cats have been successfully trained as service animals while I was the voice of reason that said that thing was irredeemably bat shit crazy. Remember it!"

"Well dear, if I ever forget it, I'm sure I can count on you to remind me." He bent down to give her a kiss on the cheek and said, "So, shall we talk now?"

"After dinner. I've got chicken and dumplings on the stove and I just got some snickerdoodles out of the oven. Let's eat!"

After the dinner dishes were cleared away, Alex left to find Spud and attempt to continue to train him to walk on a leash while wearing a bow to which two rings could theoretically be fixed. "It'll never happen," Christine said after she left the room. "If she tries to do that, our rings will run away with that animal, and you'll only have yourself to blame, Sparky."

"Have a little faith in her, Chris. She can do it."

"There's a reason why we liken impossibly unmanageable tasks to being 'like herding cats'- because you cannot train cats. They only thing they can be counted upon to do is eat your corpse when they find you dead. Care for a cookie?"

"I'd rather we talk first."

"Fine. We can go in the library, but I'm taking my cookies with me."

After they'd relocated themselves, Spencer asked, "So what's so important?"

Christine sighed, pondered the cookie in her hand for a moment, and said, "Look. You know how the other day Diana and Jason spent, like, a really long time talking privately?"

"Yes, I noticed."

"Ever wonder what that was all about?"

Spencer studied her face, wondering at her meaning. "Well, as you know, Gideon just lost a lady friend who had been very close to him. I assumed that he simply didn't care at that moment to spend too much time around so many people, and perhaps Diana was able to provide a sympathetic ear…"

"Yeah, well, turns out the situation was somewhat reversed."
"I'm not sure I follow…"

Christine munched on her cookie for a moment and continued, "Did you know that Jason's ex-wife was hearing impared?"

"No, I never knew that. To be honest, I never even knew her name."

"Well, she was. I didn't previously know either. Anyway, Diana recently had an incident with Lizzy. I guess Alice was sitting behind her, making whatever noises a baby makes to get attention, then she reached out and yanked Lizzy's hair. Lizzy turned around and slapped the baby, which sent Diana into a fury."

"Understandably so…"

"Yeah. And she said, 'Why would you do that? She only wanted some attention!' Lizzy said, 'I didn't know she was there.' Then Diana tried an experiment by talking to her both where Lizzy could see her and where she couldn't-"

"Oh, god…"

"I think that was pretty much Diana's reaction. Lizzy could read her lips, but couldn't actually hear her until she was screaming. She's been diagnosed with a Waardenburg Syndrome, which causes moderate to profound hearing loss. It seems Jason's ex has the same thing. Lizzy's case is more severe, and she'll likely be completely deaf within a year."

"I'm so sorry to hear that."
"Well, so is everyone. But here's why it involves you. You and I both. As you know, I'm Lizzy's godmother. Now, of all Diana's siblings, only two are old enough to actually care for a child. Esther moved to Korea recently and Sarah is pregnant with her third- and they live in a very small apartment in Manhattan. So she and Stephen would like to name us Lizzy and Alice's guardians in the event that, God forbid, anything ever happened to them."

"Does her family know about this?"

"Yes. And they know me. They know in the off chance the worst were to happen, that I would never stand in their way of having a relationship with the girls. But now that we're getting married, they thought we'd be the ones best equipped to assume the responsibilities of raising them if we needed to. So I just wanted to know your thoughts on the matter."
"Well, of course, Chris," Spencer said quickly. "As long as her family didn't contest it, of course we'd take them. I have no problem with that."

"I told her I was almost certain that'd be your response, but I didn't want to have her go to her lawyer without first discussing it with you."

"What about you?" he asked. "You're the one who doesn't like children. How are you with all of this?"

"Hey, it's not that I don't like children. Let's be clear about that. I just have serious doubts about my ability to ever be a proper mother. But I would do anything Diana ever asked me to, as she would for me. And if those children ever landed in my care, I'd move heaven and earth to make sure they were cared for as she would want. You can bet on that." She began to eat another cookie and said, "Besides, the possibility is so remote that it would ever come to pass, but it's a decision I could not commit to without first discussing it with you. So like I said, it's neither a good nor a bad thing, since it'll hopefully never need to happen, but it's something that's out there now. So that's it. That's all I had for you. Wanna cookie?" she asked, holding out the plate.

"Don't mind if I do," he replied, taking one and tasting it. "Oh wow. These are delicious!"

"They'd better be- they're my Grandma Pete's recipe! The only difference is I didn't have her secret ingredient."

"What's her secret ingredient? Love?"

"No, you jerk," Christine replied with a laugh. "Of course they're made with love! What kind of a heartless harpie do you take me for? I was talking about butter-flavored Crisco. The woman uses that shit in everything!"


This chapter is the first of a sequel to Crazy Can Be Beautiful. If you haven't read it, that's the reason you didn't understand this chapter. Please go back and read the other one first. It is set in June 2007, between seasons 2 and 3. The only episode referenced is the season 2 finale, "No Way Out Part II: The Evilution of Frank," in which Frank Breitkopf murders Gideon's girlfriend, Sarah.

A very special thanks to the reader who provided the cover art for this volume and for Crazy Can Be Beautiful. Larger versions of both of her works can be seen by visiting the Instagram I created for these stories under the name, "thegingerpotamus". Please remember the "the" and don't bother the nice lady at "gingerpotamus." She is innocent of my literary wrongdoings.

Chapter Text

"Knock knock!" Garcia announced as she opened the door. "Anyone home?"

"Yes!" Spencer called as he hurried down the stairs. "I'm here!"

JJ looked around. "Where are Chris and Alex? Aren't they coming with?"

"Oh, didn't you know? Christine left Thursday. She did two shows in Cedar Rapids and will be performing in Des Moines for five nights, and then on to Omaha, Lincoln, Kansas City, Wichita-"

"Wait," Emily said. "So she's seriously not helping plan this wedding at all?"

"Well, she was planning this tour previously anyway, and after she had to cancel so many shows to help me while I was ill, I didn't have the heart to ask her postpone any more," he replied. "Besides, I can't image there'll be many decisions I can't make on my own. She's surprisingly easy to please when it comes to things like food and flowers."

"Well, when is she going to buy her dress? Does she have one already, or are you picking that out, too?" JJ asked.

Garcia looked horrified. "He can't choose her dress for her! It's bad luck for the groom to see the dress before the wedding- what kind of a noob are you?"

"Garcia's right," Spencer agreed with a shrug. "That's the one thing she won't let me do, though I don't know why. I've bought her clothes in the past and she's always been happy with them. People's superstitions are powerful things, I guess."

"Says the man who's afraid to wear matching socks," Prentiss pointed out.

"Well, if it's just the four of us, then let's get going," Garcia said, tugging at the scarf tied under her chin. "We don't wanna keep the nice cake ladies waiting!"

When they arrived at the bakery, Garcia proceeded to the counter, and announced as she untied her scarf with a flourish, "Penelope Garcia- I have an appointment for a wedding cake tasting."

"Ah, yes, Ms. Garcia!" exclaimed the sunny faced matron who stepped from behind the display case. "We had such a pleasant chat the other day that I've been looking forward all week to meeting you! And might I say congratulations on your engagement," she added as she eyed Spencer. "You certainly caught a handsome one, didn't you?"

"Who? What- him? Oh, no no no," Garcia said, blushing. "He and I are not together. My taste runs towards the darker, more muscle-bound type!"

"Oh, yes, well…how very modern, then, to count a gentleman among your bridesmaids!" replied the suddenly flustered baker.

"What?" Spencer whispered to JJ.

"No no," Garcia fumbled, "you see, him- he's the groom. I'm just not the bride. The bride is out of town, so we're simply here to help him in her absence!"

"Oh," sighed the woman with obvious relief. "I think I understand now. Forgive me, but times have changed since I first got into the business. But one thing never changes- everybody still loves cake! Follow me, madams and sir; we're all ready for you."

"Look! We get our own private tasting room and everything!" Garcia squealed happily as they were led to a table filled with treats.

"Can I interest anyone in a beverage- coffee or tea, perhaps?"

"Oh, coffee- yes please!" Spencer responded quickly with a sentiment echoed by the others.

After she'd brought them all their cups, the baker explained, "Well now, we have two frostings here, vanilla and lemon buttercream; our cake flavors are our traditional white, lemon, and caramel; and our fillings are lemon curd, peaches and cream, strawberries and cream, dulce de leche, and red raspberry. There are plates, knives and forks for you all to share, so please, help yourselves and let me know if you have any questions."

After several minutes of oohs, aahs, and oh-you-gotta-try-thises, Garcia said, "Mmm, wow. Those are amazing. Personally, I'd have preferred chocolate anything, but since we can't have that, I'm rather partial to the caramel cake with vanilla frosting and strawberry filling because, you know, it's pink! Any thoughts?"

"I'm all for the lemon frosting on lemon cake with raspberry filling," JJ said. "It's a nice balance of tart and sweet, I think."

Emily licked her fork and said, "No, it can't be sweet enough for me. "Vanilla, caramel and dulce de leche all the way, here. But let's ask the groom. After all, it's his cake. Reid? Thoughts?"

Spencer sighed a little and sipped his coffee, then said, "I agree with Prentiss- the sweeter, the better as far as I'm concerned. However, I know that if Christine saw either the lemon curd or the dulce de leche filling she'd make some comment about it resembling pus oozing from a suppurating wound, so in the interest of decency I think we need to stick with one of the fruit fillings."

"God, that was…unbelievably disgusting, Reid," Emily said. "I think I need to change my vote and give up custard forever."


"Well, can't you call her, Spence?" JJ suggested. "Maybe she can at least help us decide on the filling? I'm sure she can decide on a fruit without actually being here."

"Sure," he said as he flipped through a photo album full of pictures of cakes the bakery had made in the past. "I'll call her right- oh! Oh no! Garcia! Garcia, look at this!" he exclaimed, pushing the book over to her. "Can you believe it? Ma'am? Ma'am, did you really make this cake?"

The baker stepped over and bent down to look at the page he was pointing to. "Well, yes. Yes, we made that. Of course, that was for a child's birthday party."

"What is it?" JJ asked.

"A Tardis!" Spencer and Garcia responded in unison.

"A what?" JJ asked again, confused.

Emily rolled her eyes. "That's the big blue telephone booth-slash-time machine they fly around in on Dr. Who…"

"It's a Police Box!" they said, correcting her together.

"Spence, think about this hard for a moment," JJ warned. "Look at me. Do you really think Christine will be okay with you ordering a Dr. Who cake for your wedding?"

"She said it was my choice…"

"Okay, let me ask it another way," JJ said, trying again. "You and I have both heard all about what she thinks of your action figures. So think about this and tell me- would you prefer to eat your wedding cake, or wear it?"

"Eat it," he conceded dejectedly.

"Hey," Garcia said, putting a comforting hand on his shoulder. "I agree it would have been the coolest cake ever, but sometimes you have to pick your battles, Boy Wonder. Come on, I'm sure there's something else in here just as neat…" They leaned over the photo album together, flipping pages until they both gasped. "Oh. My. God. Reid! ReidReidReidReidReid! Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"

He stared at her, his eyes wide. "Yes, I believe I am! Ma'am, would…would it be possible to do a cake like this, one that's traditional on one side and, maybe instead of this, have the other side look like a dalek?"

"Pardon me?" the baker asked, blinking.

"A dalek," Garcia said. "It's a kind of robot that's sort of cone shaped with knobs on it, like…wait, I think I have a picture on my phone…wait…ah! Here!" she said, holding up her phone for the lady to see. "Can we make it like this one, where the frosting looks like curtains that are being pulled back to reveal this on the back side?"

"Oh. Well," she said, taking off her glasses to see the phone better, "I certainly don't see why not. We could make those knobs out of frosting or even perhaps chocolate dipped fruit, if you'd like. Yes. Yes, that would be quite easy to do- provided the bride is amenable to the general idea, of course."

"Oh, but no chocolate," Garcia corrected.

"Actually," Spencer said, "if they were on my half and not her half, Chris might be okay with that, and it sounds delicious…"

"Call her! Call her!" Garcia cried, clapping her hands. "Let's see if she'll go for it!"

"Okay," he said, dialing her. "But let me do the talking."

After a few rings, they heard a groggy voice on the other line answer. "Heeeeey, Sparky. What's up, sweet cheeks?"

"Sweet cheeks?" JJ whispered to Prentiss with a giggle.

"Hello, dear- did I wake you?" he asked, ignoring them.

"Uhhh, yeah…pretty much. Crazy night last night. You eatin' cake?"

"Yes, dear, but first I wanted to discuss with you the kind of cake we should get…"

"I dunno about you, but I'm leaning towards something with, you know, cake in it. Maybe with a little frosting on top. Can they do those there?"

"Well played, smart alec. Perhaps I should clarify- they can make these cakes in any shape and color we want, and they decorate them to look extraordinarily realistic…"

There was some muffled groaning and rustling sounds on the other end. "Great. You've succeeded in getting me awake. So what kind of goofy-ass cake are you trying to get me to sign off on?"

"Well, we saw a picture in their book of one they did that looks exactly like a scale-model Tardis, and-"

"Are you fucking high? What have you been sniffing- glue? Paint thinner? What, because the man I thought I was marring is intelligent enough to know he'd better not order a goddamned Dr. Who cake unless he is prepared to wear it!"

"I told you so," JJ whispered.

Spencer shushed her and spoke again. "But Chris, you told me that it was my responsibility to plan this wedding and that I could do it however I wanted!"

"Yes! And you should try planning a wedding, not fucking Comic-Con!"

"But I really like it! It's awesome and cool, and I really, really want it…"

"You know, if your idea of 'cool' wasn't so fucking weird, we wouldn't have these problems, Spencer!"

"But you said…"

"As the bride I retain veto power in these matters!"

"Well," he said with a sigh, "what if we compromised a little? I mean, it's still my wedding, too, is it not?"

"That depends on what kind of a compromise we're talking about."

"What if…what if they were able to do the cake half and half? I'm wondering, if there was some way for them to decorate the front of it- the part everyone will see- traditionally, would you be opposed to letting me have the back of it decorated as, say, a dalek or something?"

"Seriously? You want a cake that looks like a monster killer robot for our wedding?" The line went silent for a moment before she came back and said, "Yeah, alright. It's your wedding, too, so if you need to have some creepy-ass dalek on your half, I suppose I'm down with that. Seems fair, and strangely fitting."

Spencer raised his free fist victoriously in the air and high-fived Garcia. "Okay, dear, then how about flavors?"

"No chocolate."

"None? Not even if they only used chocolate-dipped strawberries on my dalek side?"

"Well yeah, if they keep that on your side, it's cool. But no chocolate frosting. That shit smears and I don't wanna be tasting it."

"Okay. I'll make sure that's clear. Now, we're having trouble reaching a consensus on the other flavor combinations. JJ liked lemon, lemon and raspberry, Garcia's partial to vanilla, caramel and strawberry, and Emily and I preferred all caramel."

"One question- is that dulce de leche, like, a caramel flavored frosting, or is it actual, real, oozy dulche de leche?"

"It's oozy."

"Then no. You know my dad has always called custard filled doughnuts, 'pus filled'. So I just…no. Can't do it. I'm sure it's delicious, but I've got a psychological aversion to opaque stuff oozing out of pastries. Just can't do it. Now, I actually like Jennifer's idea because I like the sour and sweet together, but I think some people might think it's too tart. So maybe split the difference. Vanilla frosting, raspberry filling and…does caramel work with raspberry?"

"I don't see why not…"

"Well, there you go. And just think- when you cut into it with raspberry filling, it'll look like the dalek is bleeding, or leaking motor oil, or whatever the hell they do."

Spencer and Garcia looked at one another, their eyes wide, and high-fived again. "Okay, dear, thank you- I think that's all for now."

"Actually," the baker said, "since we have the bride on the phone and are already discussing cake design- and it's my understanding this wedding is less than 90 days away, correct?- perhaps we can briefly talk about the design for the traditional side of the cake. Have you decided on colors or flowers yet?"

"Can you make little tulips out of icing?"

"Certainly. We can make any kind of flower you wish, dear."

"Can you even do lilacs?" Spencer asked.

"No! I know what you're doing, Spencer, and I already told you: NO PURPLE!"

"But you like lilacs, Chris," he whined. "Remember?"

"You can call it lilac or violet are periwinkle all you want, but we're not having a purple wedding! And I swear to God, Spencer, if you try one more time to slip purple into this wedding, I'm going to drop the hammer and issue an imperial decree stating that the wedding colors will be navy and orange! So unless you wanna wear a blue suit and orange vest to this mofo, you'd better think real long and hard before you bring the issue up again!"

"Navy and orange?" Prentiss asked JJ, making a face. "Why on earth would she want navy and orange?"

"They're the team colors of the Chicago Bears," JJ said. "She's a fan. And on that note, Spence, I recommend you don't choose green and gold, either."

"You're as wise as you are beautiful, Jennifer. Yes, listen to that one, Sparky. She knows the score. Besides, no one looks good in green and gold, anyway, and that includes Brett Favre."

"He's the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, the Bears' arch rivals," JJ explained to the confused Prentiss and Garcia.

"I think we'll content ourselves with white tulips at this point," Spencer said. "If that changes, I'll be in touch as soon as possible. We'll need a cake for about 120 guests."

"Need me for anything else? If not, I'd like to go brush my teeth now. I've got total dragon breath going on over here…"

"I think I have enough to start on a design, thank you," said the baker.

"Okay, dear. Thank you. Love you. Go brush now," Spencer said and, after she'd yawned and said good-bye, he ended the call. "So what do we do now?" he asked.

"Well," the baker said, "I'll get a design drawn up and email it to you-"

"Actually," Garcia said, "just email it to me. I'll get it to him. He's still communicating via smoke signals these days."

"Okay…I'll email it to you, and if it meets with your approval, all I'll need is a deposit- we can discuss colors in the coming weeks."

"That sounds more than acceptable to me," Spencer replied. "So, is everyone finished, then? Okay, Garcia- where to next?"

"It's good we have something in our tummies, guys, because we're off to the wine tasting now!" Garcia said giddily.

"I wouldn't get too excited, Garcia," he said as they stood up to leave. "At a wine tasting, isn't it customary to spit out the wine after tasting it?"

"What about you, Em?" JJ said with a sly smile. "Do you usually spit or swallow?"

"Well now, normally I spit, but when it comes to wine, I prefer to swallow," she giggled.

Garcia chimed in, "I am so totally with you. This afternoon I'm going to swallow. I'm going to swallow it all, baby! How about it, Reid? What's Christine usually do- spit or swallow?"

Spencer paused as they were getting in the car and looked suspiciously at the snickering women. "I'm missing something, aren't I?"

"Yes, Spence, you are," JJ said. "Ask Christine about it next time you call her. She'll explain."

"If you're really lucky," Garcia added, "she may even demonstrate for you!"

At the wine bar, they were listening to the sommelier teach them about the freshly poured champagne before them when Spencer reached for his pocket. "I'm so sorry," he said, looking down at his phone. "It's my soon-to-be brother-in-law. Hello, Joe?" The others watched as his mouth fell open and eyes grew wide. "What? Are you…really? Really? Oh, wow, I…yes…and what's…oh! And is everything…and, and everyone is all right? Really! Oh, gee, well…yes…well, thank you for the call! Yes…yes…okay, then. I'll see you then! Congratulations!" He hung up and noticed all eyes were on him. Picking up his glass, he said, "Well, perhaps we should all drink to me today! Congratulate me- I'm a new uncle!"

"Laurie had her baby? Well, yay! What did she have- a boy or a girl?" JJ asked.

"A little girl- Benedetta Celeste. 5 lbs. 8 oz. She's 18 days early, but mother and child are healthy, happy and resting comfortably!"

"A little heavenly blessing," Prentiss commented. "Aw, how sweet!"

Garcia touched her glass to Spencer's, drank it down and cried, "Another round, garçon!" then added, "By the way, this is super yummy. Which one is this again? Reid, you totally need to have this one. I love it! To the new uncle- and to little Benedetta!"

Monday morning, Morgan came in to work to find all the ladies crowded around Reid's desk, giggling and gasping over something on his computer screen. "So, I take it you ladies all found matching shoes and dresses this weekend."

"No, Captain Sassy Pants," Garcia said. "We shop for dresses in two weeks! Come here and look- Reid's got something even better!"

Morgan leaned in over Reid's shoulder and watched as he scrolled through pictures of himself and other smiling adults taking turns holding a tiny pink bundle. "Oh," he sighed, his voice and demeanor softening. "Who's the little princess? Is that- that's not Joe's baby already, is it?"

Spencer nodded and smiled. "Born early Saturday morning! Her name's Benedetta…"

"How pretty," Morgan said. "I guess that makes you an uncle- again, huh? Say, you look like kind of a natural holding her- you and Chris have any plans to make a few of those anytime soon?"

Before he could answer, Garcia said, "Derek! Shhh…that's none of our business, and besides, we don't even know if she can…" she stopped, suddenly embarrassed as everyone stopped to look at her, including Reid. "It's just that, I mean…what I meant to say is…um…" she fumbled.

She stood, wringing her hands for a moment before Reid said coolly, "No, please, Penelope- what did you mean by that? 'If she can'?"

"I…I just mean…" Garcia sighed heavily, dropped her hands and blurted out, "A few days ago, I was watching TV, and they had this ad for donations for St. Jude's and she was the spokesperson because…because she was a cancer survivor. So I thought, you know, maybe that's why she always says she doesn't want to have kids- because she can't…"

"Oh, Garcia," JJ moaned under her breath.

"What? I wasn't being nosy- it was right there on TV! I just put two and two together…"

"No," Spencer said, "it's okay, Garcia. Really. And that's not the reason- not entirely, anyway. We're both just focused on our careers at the moment, that's all. Besides, you're not telling me something I didn't already know." He looked at their concerned faces and realized they wouldn't be satisfied until he told them her story. "Look, she doesn't like to talk about it not because she's ashamed of it, but because it's simply a painful time in her life to deal with. Still today she says she feels as though she lives life as though her head is in a guillotine, and that at any moment God might let the rope slip and end her life, because the fact is if it did come back, it would be a death sentence. Just before her 18th birthday, she was diagnosed with urothelial carcinoma, which is a kind of bladder cancer. The treatment was successful and she's in remission, but it's true- they did remove one of her ovaries as a part of that treatment. She was told then she should still be able to have children, but we won't know until we try, which we're not doing yet."

"But, what happens when you do try and it turns out she can't?" Garcia asked, her voice barely a whisper. "I mean, don't you want children? Didn't…didn't holding her make you think about it?" she said, gesturing to the computer screen.

"Garcia!" Prentiss whispered.

Spencer shrugged. "Yeah, it was great, and sure, I think about it. But I also know that there's no one else I'd want to take that step with. If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. She's a cancer survivor, not damaged goods. She's not a toy that got broken and thrown back in the box to be forgotten- she's the woman I love. That's all. We'll worry about the future when the future comes."

Garcia opened her mouth to say something but shut it again and threw her arms around him. "You are a good man, Spencer Reid, you know that?" she said quietly before releasing him.

"She's a great lady," he said with a smile.

"That's why you two will be a success," said a voice behind them. They all turned around to see Hotch standing there. "You're a great team because you support one another in your weaknesses. You're both lucky. And speaking of teams, I need everyone in the conference room. We have a case…"

Days later, on their flight home, JJ felt her phone vibrate. She looked at it quickly then stood up to lean over the seat back to talk to Spencer, who was pondering his next move in a chess game with Gideon. "Sorry to interrupt, gentlemen, but Penelope has urgent matters to discuss with you. First, the cake lady sent her a sketch she'd like you to see…" She held out her phone for him, commenting, "You really need to ditch that flip phone, you know? Then she could send these pictures to you rather than me."

"You sound like Chris," he murmured as he studied the design on the screen. "She and Joe are determined to get those new iPhones when they're released at the end of the month. Sounds like a ridiculous waste of money to me. Why would anyone need one? Yes…that looks perfect! I love it!"

"So then, I'm supposed to ask you next what the colors will be?"
"Definitely not navy and orange, no matter how badly Christine wants them…"

"Are you serious?" Morgan asked, sitting up. "Your fiancée asked for a football-themed wedding and you refused? What kind of man would do that? Oh wait…never mind…"

"Blue and yellow," Spencer said, ignoring him. "Not navy, but a lighter blue, like the color of her eyes. And she's always liked yellow. She says it makes her think of sunshine and summer days…that dalek on the back is going to look amazing!"

"Just make it a white and gold imperial dalek, not the white and blue warrior dalek," Prentiss said. "What? Why does everyone look at me so surprised when I know things?"

"Okay, well now your switching series between the pre- and post-Davros eras, whereas the post-Time War-"

"God help me, I'm surrounded by nerds," Morgan complained as he sank back into his seat and put his headphones back on. "He won't have football at his wedding, but somehow Dr. Who shit is perfectly acceptable to him. Geez…"

"Anyway," JJ continued, "She's also wondering if you're up for a food tasting and venue walk-through this weekend. Also, have you decided on the ceremony? Will it be in a church?"

Spencer shrugged his shoulders. "I have to wait to hear from my mother on that. Christine has a pastor lined up, but I can't get married inside a Lutheran church unless I've been baptized, and I simply don't know if I was as an infant or not."

"Okay, I'll tell her we're waiting to hear on that one, but at least you're working on it. Are you available this weekend?"

He made a face for a moment and said, "Well, to be perfectly honest, I was planning to go to Wichita to see her…"
"Come on, you can see her anytime. We need to get some of this done!" JJ insisted.

"But that's just the point! I can't see her anytime! Although, I suppose I could wait until the weekend after next; she'll be back for a few days…"

"Yes, let's just get some of this done. When it's all over, you two will literally have the rest of your lives to spend together," JJ said.

Spencer threw up his hands in defeat. "Alright. I can go."

"Great. Penelope will be thrilled when I tell her!"

A few hours later, before they began their decent, Spencer felt his phone buzz and flipped it open. "Hey, dear! We were just talking today about…" he went silent for a moment, then stood up to move to the back of the plane. Before he was out of earshot, the rest could only make out, "I see…oh…yes, yes, I understand…" After he hung up the phone, he stopped himself and drew a few deep breaths before returning to the others.

"Is everything alright, Spence?" JJ asked quietly.

"Ah…not exactly," he said, struggling to keep his composure. "Christine…Christine's grandmother is ill. Hotch, I'm going to need some time off, I believe. I need to get to Chicago as soon as possible."

"What's wrong with her?" Prentiss asked.

"She, um…she has pneumonia. She was taken to the hospital a short time ago…"

"Hey, at least she's where they can take care of her the best, Reid. I'm sure she'll be fine," Morgan offered, reaching out to rub his shoulder.

Spencer shook his head a little. "Thank you, but no, she won't. The reality of the situation is that she's 90 years old. She won't be getting better from this. We're all just going to try and say goodbye," he said, reaching up to wipe away the few tears he'd tried not to cry, "and to attend her funeral."

Gideon reached up for his hand and pulled him gently to his seat. "Then go, and don't think about this work at all. Take all the time you need. There will always be more work, but there will never be enough time to spend with the ones you love."

Spencer paused for a moment and sat down before looking him in the eye and saying simply, "Thank you."

"Are you sure this is a good idea, guys?" Prentiss said as they pulled up the long driveway. "It seems to me they would want their privacy at a time like this…"

"It never ceases to amaze me how little you profilers understand of the non-homicidal maniac psyche," Garcia replied. "Trust me, Em- when you lose loved ones, sometimes you think that what you want is to be alone, but what you really need is to be surrounded by the people you know care about you. That was my problem. After I lost my parents, I completely isolated myself. I mean, like, totally cut myself off. But my problem wasn't that other people bothered me- it was that I had this hole in my heart that was so huge, I thought the pain of its emptiness would kill me. People need to know that there's still love in their life."

"I think I agree with Garcia on this one, Prentiss," Morgan said. "Christine seems like the kind that would want to stay busy and connected with people as a way of dealing with her grief. But Baby Girl, I gotta ask- just what the heck is in this picnic basket? What kind of army are you trying to feed?"

"There's a veggie lasagna because, you know, Italian. And there's some pie. I think. Kind of. I'm not really a pie chef, you know? But at least I tried because I know she likes her pie. I made some chili, too, but they can eat that later because it's always better the next day, anyway."

"Anyone know why JJ's not with us tonight?" Prentiss asked.

"Oh, you didn't hear this from me, but a little birdie told me she might have previously planned a romantic getaway this weekend," Garcia teased.

Prentiss gasped. "Get out! Really? With whom- anyone we know?"

"Possibly, but the important thing is she's not stealing my tall, hot, steaming cup of cocoa love from me, isn't that right, Derek."

"Hmmm, what? You talking to me?" came the voice from the back seat. "Oh, and Baby Girl, you got nothin' to worry about- this pie is perfect!"

"You can't eat that pie yet!" both women yelled at him in unison.

"Men," Garcia muttered as she parked the car and got out. "And get your hands out of my picnic basket- but bring it with you, please!"

"Looks like they're home already," Prentiss observed as she got out.

"That's weird," Garcia said. "We should have been just a little before them, according to the flight number Reid gave me…"

As they went up the steps, the front door opened. "Oh! Joe- it's you! Oh my God," Garcia exclaimed, and hurried to throw her arms around him. "I'm so sorry for your loss. Didn't you go to the…? No, of course you couldn't. Not with the new baby. Is she…oh, my! Look at her! Em, Em! Come look at her! Isn't she just the tiniest, sweetest little thing you ever saw?"

Prentiss reached out and took Joe's hand before going inside to gush over the little girl. "I'm so sorry. You have my condolences."

"Thank you, Emily."

"Hey man," Morgan said, extending his hand and pulling him in for a quick hug. "Sorry about your grandma. There's nothing in the world like the love of a good grandma, is there?"

"Aw, man, you're right about that," Joe said, stepping aside to let him in. "Looks like they've got you carrying their bags today, eh?"

"Yeah, you know women- they've got a way of always trying to heal us with food, don't they? Hey, is that her?" Morgan said, pointing to the baby.

"That's her! Our little Etta…"

"Wow, look at you- a dad! How's that feel?"

"Dude, it is both the greatest and most terrifying thing I've ever done! I tell you, when they finally let us take her home yesterday, man, I've never been so scared! It's amazing how suddenly you realize on the roads that you're completely surrounded by morons and idiots who all seem to want to kill your baby with their cars!"

"You shoulda heard him cussing at the other drivers when we came down from Baltimore this afternoon," Laurie added.

"Hey- they were the ones driving like maniacs, not me! Watch this," he told Morgan and reached out to rub the baby's cheek with one finger. "Come on now, peanut. Show everyone what pretty eyes you have. Uh oh! There she goes! Hi! Yeah, look at you! Look at those pretty blue eyes!"

"Aw! Can I hold her?" Garcia pleaded.

Joe turned back to Morgan and continued, "You know, props to you guys and what you do, but me, I just couldn't handle it. I mean, look at how precious she is! How could anyone hurt something like that, huh? They had to keep her in the NICU for a few days after she was born, and my heart never hurt so much as it did when we had to go home for the night without her. And then every time they had to prick her poor little heel to test her blood, I thought I was going to cry. God bless you, but I couldn't deal with people who hurt children. I'd lose my damn mind!"

Before Morgan could say anything in response, another set of headlights shone in the driveway. "I'll bet that's them," Laurie said.

Almost before anyone could open the door, Spencer, Christine and Alex were already walking through it. They all looked tired and sad, but none more so than Christine, who appeared strangely small and weak in her silence. She didn't say a word, but walked straight to Emily, who was now holding the baby, to bend down and kiss the little bundle in her arms. From there she turned to her brother and the two embraced for a long moment, silent sobs shaking their shoulders. Finally she turned around and said, "How kind of you all to come. We certainly weren't expecting this."

After receiving their hugs and condolences, she wandered off into the kitchen, where the others followed her. She began to reach into the cupboards, saying, "I'm pouring the good stuff tonight, folks. Who'll join me?"

Without waiting for their responses, she pulled out several glasses and a bottle of scotch, and Joe said, "I know I could use one. I'll get the ice."

After pouring the glasses, she turned and handed them out one by one. "How was it?" Laurie asked quietly.

Christine looked down at her glass and swirled it around before saying, "The saddest sound I've ever heard in my life was Grandpa crying over her…"

"How long were they married?" Prentiss asked softly.

"67 years," she said at length, finally looking up. "A good, long lifetime together for two of the finest people God ever saw fit to put on this green earth."

"To your grandma," Morgan said, raising his glass.

"To Grandma," Christine replied. As she held her glass aloft, she continued, "She was born in 1916 at the old home farm north of New Lebanon, Illinois. She was, as she always put it, 'English, Irish, Scottish and Dutch, which sure as hell doesn't amount to much.' But she meant the world to me. She had three brothers with whom she shared her only toy- a ball. She wore clothes made out of other peoples' old clothes. She canned the vegetables her mother raised, potted the meat from the hogs her father butchered, and learned to quilt, embroider, and tat lace. She attended school in a one-room schoolhouse until the eleventh grade, when her family moved to the farm outside of Hampshire. That summer, she met my grandfather who was two years younger than her- he said he always had a thing for older women. In 1934 she graduated and went to work in a cannery to help put her brother through college. In 1939, she married. She had two daughters, eight grandchildren, and now ten great-grandchildren. She baked her own bread, made her own ginger ale, and played a mean hand of gin rummy. She was gracious, kind, generous, loving and good, and on the rare occasion when we pushed her too far, she'd call us a bunch of little chicken shits. It delighted us to no end to hear such naughty words fall from her sweet lips. Best of all, there was no hurt in the world so bad that she couldn't heal it with a hug and a snickerdoodle. To Grandma," she said again and, raising her glass to her lips, drank it down. Her lip began to quiver as she held her empty glass and she said, "But the worst hurt of all is losing her, and now that she's gone, who's left to heal me?" She turned and pressed the forehead to Spencer's chest, who held her tightly as her tears soaked his shirt.

Chapter Text

He wasn’t sure what woke him up, but he was certain he’d heard…something. As his heart raced, he heard it again- a footstep in the hall. He slowly pulled open the nightstand drawer and was reaching for his weapon as the doorknob turned. When she stepped into the bedroom, she said, “Oh good Lord, you’re not going to try and murder me again, are you Sparky?”

He closed the drawer and fell back on the bed. “You’ve got to stop doing that to me!”

“Doing what? Coming home?”

“Sneaking into the house in the dark when I’m not expecting you! You know I’m not overly fond of surprises, especially ones that come in the guise of a late night home invasion!”

“Well, excuuuuuse me!” she laughed as she began to take off her clothes.

“I wasn’t expecting you until the morning.”

“Me neither, but I got myself put on stand-by for an earlier flight and made it on. I didn’t want to wait to see you.”

“A call would have been nice,” he replied, yawning.

“Oh, where’s the fun in that? Boy, you must have really been out cold if I made it all the way up here before you were able to draw your gun. Tough case?”

“Child abduction. We found her, but you know we work those around the clock until we solve them. This was going to be the first real night’s sleep I’ve had in four days.”

“Oh?” she said, climbing into bed. “So is this what being married to you is going to be like, then? ‘Not tonight, honey, I have a headache?’ I may need to rethink this agreement…”

“Oh, no you don’t,” he chuckled, pulling her astride him. “Let me show you what our married life is going to be like!” He ran his hands up from her waist to her breasts to fondle them as she pulled down his pajama bottoms. Then he ran his hands back down to her hips and grasped them firmly as he pulled her down onto him. He closed his eyes and smiled as she cried out happily, then pulled her down so that he could feel her warm breasts against his chest. As he got close, he flipped her over onto her back and groaned loudly as he reached his climax.

“Okay,” she said at length, still panting, “maybe being married to you will be fun, after all.”

He rolled over onto his side and laid one arm across her. “I intend to make sure of it.”

They lay silently happy for several moments before she said, “I really needed that. It’s been, like, weeks…”

“I know, but the last time we were together was for Grandma’s…it just wasn’t the right time then.”
“I concur.”

“So…I understand from Penelope that you ladies are all going dress shopping this tomorrow afternoon?”

Christine sighed heavily. “Ugh. Yes. Don’t remind me!”

Spencer chuckled. “Any other woman would be excited to go shopping for her wedding dress.”

“Then go marry any other woman! She’s got us an appointment at some fancy-ass boutique- the kind where they serve you champagne and petit fours to justify charging you tens of thousands of dollars for a dress you’ll wear once in your life. I’ll be lucky if I can avoid being smothered to death under all that tulle and pretension!”

“There’s no need to be overly dramatic about it! Maybe it’ll be fun- I know I’ve had a good time choosing the cake and wine and food- which reminds me, we should probably discuss the menu. I’ve decided on a caterer, but I’d appreciate your assistance in making the final decisions.”
“Food, I can handle. Clothing on the other hand…blech. Either I’ll end up looking frumpy or whorish. Or worse yet- a frumpy whore. Jesus. How did we ever get on this topic? Whatever happened to us just enjoying the after-glow?”

He pulled her close and chuckled. “You’re going to do just fine. Trust Penelope- she’s got a sense about these things.”

“She’s flamboyant, is what she is. Don’t get me wrong- I love her to death. But I have a sneaking suspicion she’s going to try and bury me under some enormous, frilly, sparkly monstrosity tomorrow that’s just…not what I want.”

“So what do you want- or aren’t I allowed to ask?”

Christine groaned and crossed her arms over her face. “You can ask all you want, but I don’t know. I just don’t know…”


“Well,” Garcia was explaining to JJ and Prentiss as she reached out to ring the doorbell the following afternoon, “that’s precisely what I’m prepared for! You didn’t think I’d make an appointment at just one boutique, did you?”

When a chorus of voices shouted for them to come in, they stepped in to see two air mattresses stacked, one on top of the other, in the middle of the foyer, Alex holding a small video camera and Carolyn standing off to the side saying, “I still say you’re too chicken to try it!”

“What the hell…?” Prentiss mumbled as their eyes followed Alex’s camera up to see Christine climbing onto the railing of the second floor hallway above.

“Hey, Sparky,” she said as she handed a bottle to Spencer, who stood beside her, “know what the redneck’s last word’s were?”

“I shudder to think,” he replied.

“Hold my beer, hon, and watch this!” With that, she leapt over the railing, crying, “Hooray for Shark Week!” hit the air mattresses, bounced up and into the foyer wall, then rolled across the floor until she bumped up against JJ’s feet. As soon as she came to a rest, she opened her eyes, raised a fist triumphantly in the air and yelled, “YES! Still alive!” After scrambling to her feet, she rushed over to Alex, saying, “Didjya get it? Didjya get it? Tell me you got that!”

“I got it!”

“Then play it back!” Christine ordered. Carolyn leaned in, as did Spencer, who had hurried down and handed back Christine’s beer. The three other women exchanged stunned, silent glances while the others cheered at the replay and congratulated Christine.

“Get that to Joe,” she told Alex, “and tell him I want it up on my website! That was fuckin’ AWESOME! Dudes, I now know how a Great White feels when it leaps out of the water into the air!”

“They do that?” Carolyn asked.

“You looked more like a great white whale, if you ask me,” Alex smirked.

“Uh, Carolyn, yes they do and Alex, fuck you,” Christine replied. After taking a long drink from her bottle of beer, Christine belched loudly and finally acknowledged the new arrivals. “Hey, ladies! You catch that one? Awesome, wasn’t it?” she asked with a grin.

“Um…what was that?” JJ said.

“That? That was me sitting around bitching about missing the kick-off to Shark Week tonight, and them asking me, ‘So, what do you wanna do about it?’ And, well, eventually we came up with me doing that to prove my love for all things euselachic. Cool, huh?”

“I’d just like to interject here that I attempted to be the voice of reason and dissuade her from jumping,” Spencer said.

“A killjoy is what you were being,” Carolyn corrected.

“I was not! I simply had no desire to be a widower before I even married!”

“Well,” Christine said gloomily, “you’re not out of the woods yet, Sparky. That didn’t kill me, but doing all this shopping is bound to either smother or bore me to death.” She sighed, finished her beer, belched again and said, “Alrighty, then. Let’s do this. Carolyn’ll drive- she’s got that Escalade out there. We should all fit. Diana will meet us there. So let’s saddle up and get this over and done with so I can get back to actually enjoying my weekend.”

Garcia stared at her for a moment then stammered, “Well, um, okay…let’s go. But…but I think you’ll like it. Have fun, I mean. This process should be fun.”

“I doubt that,” Christine said. “But I suppose it has to be done. So let’s get on with it.” After they’d climbed into the SUV and started off, she spoke again. “So we’re just getting bridesmaids’ dresses today, right?”

Garcia leaned forward from the backseat. “Chris, no! I mean, yes, we’re going to look at those, too, but mostly we need to get you a dress! You’re not planning to walk down the aisle in jeans, are you?”

“I dunno. Would white ones be okay?”

“Chriiiiiis…” Alex whined. “Come on. Be serious. This is a big deal. This is the first and last wedding dress you’ll ever wear!”

Christine groaned as JJ offered, “These aren’t big, impersonal department stores we’re going to. They’re full-service bridal salons! We’ve got appointments and their staff will be totally focused on pampering us. It should be a fun experience! It will be a fun experience!”

“And I’ve always understood that no matter how many layers of lipstick one applies to a pig, it remains a pig. That’s always been my relation to clothing. No amount of rhinestones, ruffles and silk is going to make me a beautiful bride. But whatever,” Christine said grumpily, “I’m here now, so I guess I’ll play along.”

“Good attitude, Boss,” Alex said. “Good attitude.”

“But what about these bridesmaids’ dresses. You ladies have anything in mind?” Christine asked, shifting the subject away from herself.

“Blue is an excellent choice,” Prentiss offered. “It photographs well and I think it’s a color we’ll all look good in. As for style, were you thinking long, short, very formal, semi-formal…?”

“You know, I’m not opposed to each of you picking out your own dress. As long as they’re all the same color, I’m cool with it. We’ve got a lot of body types to deal with. I just want everyone to feel comfortable, and maybe get something they can wear again, if they want.”

“Different styles?” Garcia asked. “Oh, no no no. Not in my wedding. No, I was thinking either tea or ankle length, and something with a full skirt- a sheath may look good on JJ, but I’m a little more on the luscious end of the spectrum…”

“You and my auntie, both. She’s also in this. She’s 6 feet tall and built like a brick shithouse. Funny as hell, too. You’ll like her. And don’t worry about Jennifer- she’s not actually a bridesmaid.”

“Oh,” JJ said, failing to hide her disappointment at the revelation. “Oh, I thought…well, I guess I just assumed that…that I…”

“Oh, no. Spencer has told me at great length about each of his colleagues considerable abilities, and there is a special position that has arisen that we agreed you would be best suited to handle. You see, my dearly beloved is an only child, so I don’t think he fully grasps the field of landmines that needs to be navigated when planning an event like this. Specifically, he thought it would look terribly sweet to invite both Diana’s daughter and my brother Wes’ youngest to be co-flower girls. But he doesn’t seem to appreciate that Wes is not my only sibling that has children.”

“Ohhhh…” the other women all said, knowingly.

“Right. I can’t let Hannah be in the wedding unless I also give a position to my niece, Kylie, whom I’ve asked to be a junior bridesmaid. To do otherwise would have gone over like the Hindenburg with my sister.”

“Well,” JJ said, “it seems like you’ve got a grasp on the situation. What do you need me for? Are the girls naughty?”

“The girls? No. The girls are all angels- particularly Kylie. She’ll do fine. Hannah’s young and easily wound up, but I think she can behave herself. Hell, minor shenanigans would actually be cute, I think. But Lizzy, Diana’s little one,” Christine said with a heavy sigh, “she’s, ah…well, there’s no euphemistic way of putting it- she’s going deaf. Literally. She’s already got severe hearing loss, and it’s getting worse rapidly. So two four year olds plus a disability equal a situation potentially sticky enough that they’d need an adult-type individual guiding them, anyway. Now, we add two more dimensions of difficulty on top of that. First, that someone had the bright idea to nominate her four-legged fur baby to be the ring bearer, and secondly, that my sister- Kylie’s mother- and I get along about as well as fire and dynamite. So I’m designating you the personality-slash-cat wrangler. Let me know if you come up with something catchier to put in the program. But basically I want you in white like me and the little girls and Carolyn- she’s not technically a bridesmaid, either- and you’ll walk with the little ones to, you know, keep ‘em in line and throw flowers and shit. Spencer said you shine in high-stress situations with difficult people, so you seemed the chick for the job. That cool with you?”

“Uh, yeah. Yeah, I can do that,” JJ said, still surprised. “I love kids. I can’t imagine your sister will be a problem…”

“Oh, I can imagine it quite clearly!”

“But a cat?” JJ turned to eye Alex. “Really? You’re having Spud in this thing?”

“Hey! He’s a member of this family, too, and I’m pretty sure I can teach him to walk on a leash in time!”

“Hear that? She’s ‘pretty sure’. I’m ‘pretty sure’ that means you may have to carry that damned cat yourself, Jennifer. Hope you don’t have allergies!”

“No!” Christine cried. “I said it, like, 28 times already- nothing sleeveless, and spaghetti straps are as good as sleeveless! I’ll look like some kind of cheap harlot, and don’t you doubt for a second that my mother won’t remind me of it every chance she gets!” She threw the dress onto a nearby armchair which she then kicked in frustration. “I told you people there’d be nothing here! It’s just like the last place. Everything is too princessy or too glittery or too gaudy or too trampy! I’ll find something on my own. I’m done!”

As she paced back and forth shaking with anger and on the verge of tears, a red-faced Garcia offered apologies to the shop’s staff. “I’m sorry- your dresses are all so lovely, really! She’s just been going through a lot lately…you know how it is…”

“What about those bridesmaids’ dresses? Here,” Christine said, grabbing one off a rack. “These are very pretty. Can we get these in a sky blue with maybe a yellow sash around the middle? Brilliant. And we’ll need some white ones with blue sashes. There. Try those on and get everything measured, ladies. Let me know how it goes. I gotta get outta here. I need a smoke…” She handed the dress to one of the clerks, grabbed her purse and hurried out the door as the others stared after her.

“Geez,” Prentiss said at last, “I could tell she wasn’t exactly enthused when we left, but I had no idea she’d have a full-scale meltdown in the shop!”

“Yeah, what is with her?” JJ wondered aloud. “Most women dream of the day they can try on wedding gowns. She acts like we’re torturing her.”

“I dunno,” Carolyn said from one of the dressing rooms. “Christine isn’t most women. I’ve known her nearly nine years now. It’s always been my job to make her look her best, and no matter how beautiful she is, she’s always the only one who can’t see it. She’s got such a low opinion of her looks that she practically hates mirrors. It makes me want to cry the way she talks about herself sometimes.”

“She was picked on a lot as a kid, I know that much,” Alex said. “I think she actually still believes some of that stuff.”

“It wasn’t just other kids that picked on her,” Diana said finally. “She caught a lot of grief from her mother and sister. But, whenever home got to be too much for her, she would run to her grandma’s house and feel better. So I guess I’m not totally surprised she’s acting like this,” she said as she stepped out of her dressing room, “the only person in the world whom she could count on to make her feel special just died, and now she thinks she’s doomed to feel like an ugly duckling forever. Somebody zip me up?”

Garcia stepped over and obliged her. “I know. And…and I get that. But still- this is a wedding! It’s supposed to be a happy time, a time for a bride to feel beautiful in every way! And she is- all except for her attitude. What do you guys think? Should we call Reid down here? Maybe he could make her feel better about herself…oh, Diana! I think this is the one! Look at you! Isn’t this just the cutest! If we can just get it in blue and change that bow to yellow, it’ll be perfect!”

Diana turned to her right and left, admiring herself in the mirror beside the others as they joined her, “Oh yeah. These are adorable, aren’t they? Chris was right- I think as long as we can get them all hemmed up properly, these will definite look great on all of us. Alex! Look at you!”

Alex blushed and spread out her skirt with a smile. “They’re darling, aren’t they?”

“Yes, and you’ll be able to run in that to catch the bouquet,” JJ said with a wink. Maybe we’ll be back here planning your wedding next.”

“Only if I can outrun you,” she shot back.

“Say, what’s going on with you and the dashing Agent Anderson, anyway,” Prentiss asked with a smile.

Alex blushed deeply. “Well, ah…you know…we hang out sometimes, when I’m in town…”

“Who’s this?” Carolyn asked as Garcia zipped her up. “You never told me about this!”

“Oooh, he’s another tall, handsome, and completely delicious young agent we all work with!” she said. “This girl thinks they’ve been keeping it on the down-low, but we’ve all noticed!”

“Noticed what?” Alex asked.

“Noticed how he’s always got a special spring in his step whenever you’re in town!” JJ giggled.

“Speaking of things on the down-low,” Prentiss said, “how’s your love life these says, cher? Anything going on you’d like to tell us about?”

“What? Who- me?” JJ stammered. “No. No…nothing to see here. Stop looking at me like that! Come on- let’s go back to teasing Alex about Anderson. Now that was fun!”

“Hey,” Diana said, “does anyone know how long it takes to kill a cigarette? She’s been out there a while, hasn’t she?”

“Huh,” Prentiss said, “now that you mention it- I haven’t smoked in 20 years, but I don’t remember it taking this long.”

Alex sighed and stepped into her shoes. “Alright, alright. I’ll go look for her. She probably just found someone out there to strike up a conversation with…”

A moment later she came running back into the rear of the shop, holding her skirt up. “Alright,” she panted, “Carolyn, Diana- check your purses. Make sure your keys are still there.”

“Oh, balls,” Carolyn said, “what’s she done?”

“I’ve got mine,” Diana said.

“Me too,” Carolyn said.

“She’s gone! She’s not out there!” Alex said.

Diana groaned and stomped outside. “Christ,” she muttered to the others who had followed her, “she’s ditched us, the grumpy little brat!”

“You think she caught a cab?” Prentiss asked. “She could be anywhere!”

“That’s it,” Garcia said. “I’m calling Reid. Someone needs to tell him we lost his fiancée…”

“Put your phone away,” Diana ordered, peering down the street. “She’s not that unpredictable. I know where she is. Everybody get back inside and get changed. Oh, for fuck’s sake…” As they went back in, she said to the clerk, “We’ll take these four plus the other one we discussed in blue. Those two need white. You have our sizes, right? We’ll be back when they’re in for fittings. Right now, we need to go drag the rat out of her hole…come on ladies, chop-chop! Let’s go get her before she gets herself into trouble!”

“Where is she?” JJ asked.

“You’ll see. It’ll all make sense, if you know her,” Diana said with a frown.

A half hour later, Diana held open the door to the bar. “After you, ladies,” she said, gesturing.

“You sure she’s here?” Prentiss asked. “It looks like kind of a dive…”

“Looks like fun,” Carolyn said, trying to adjust her eyes to the dim light.

“Don’t you hear it?” Diana asked. “The sign outside said it’s classic rock karaoke night. How little do you know of Chris if you think she could resist that? Come on.”

They found her sitting in a booth in a corner with an empty shot glass and a beer in front of her. “Hey! You found me! How were the dresses? They were perfect, weren’t they? Told you! Didja order them?” Before anyone could answer, she was on her feet, whooping and applauding the singer on stage.

Diana grabbed her by the arm. “You and I need to talk. Now,” she said sternly.

Christine wriggled out of her grasp. “No, not now. After. Listen! They’re playing my song; there’s $50 in it for the winner, and that’s going to me. See ya on the other side, bitches!”

She jogged up on stage, grabbed the microphone and began to strut around the stage. I want to break free! I want to break free! I want to break free from your lies; you're so self-satisfied I don't need you! I've got to break free! God knows, God knows I want to break free…”

Diana sat down with a scowl and waved to the waitress. “At least she’s really good,” Garcia said with attempted magnanimity.

“Don’t get on her side in this fight,” Diana said. “I know she’s got issues she’s dealing with right now, but this is neither the time nor the place. No matter how much it hurts, she needs to suck it up and get through this, not try to drink and dance it away!”

Moments later, the waitress returned with their drinks and set another shot down in front of Christine’s seat. Diana rolled her eyes. When she finished her song, Christine took a few exaggerated bows, bounded back to her seat, and immediately tossed back the liquor. She was reaching for her beer when Diana grabbed her arm again. “You. Outside. Now.”

As Christine protested, Diana dragged her through the bar and out the door. “First off,” she said, as she jerked Christine around to face her, “let me begin by expressing how absolutely infuriated I am right now at your treatment of us- most of all, of Penelope.” She held her hand up as Christine started to protest. “No. You need to shut up and listen for once. That woman works pretty damned hard- we all do!- all week long, and now out of the goodness of her heart, she’s helping you plan this wedding free of charge. Doing all the work for you, is more like it! And she set up this whole day just so you could find the right dress, and all I’ve seen you do all day long is completely disrespect her and everyone else who came here on our day off to help you. This is how you treat us? You throw a tantrum like a spoiled little brat and run off to get drunk? Now, I’ve tried to give you a lot of latitude here because I know you’re hurting, but I won’t put up with you shitting all over the efforts or decent, well-intentioned individuals who only want you to be happy. You’re about to become a married woman, and it’s high-fucking-time you learned how grown ups in the real world are supposed to behave! Now, I’m your friend, and you know I wouldn’t be saying this if I didn’t care enough to bother being honest with you, Chris, but-”

“May…may I say something?” They both turned and saw Carolyn had followed them out of the bar.

“Please,” Diana said. “Be my guest.”

“Chris, look,” she said gently. “You remember I told you my mother died of cancer, right? What I never told you was that she was diagnosed right after Jim and I got engaged. At that time, I wanted to call the whole thing off. I didn’t want to plan my wedding while my mom was dying. I thought, how could it possibly be a happy thing for me? Weddings are supposed to be these perfect, happy moments in time, right? And you know what my mom told me? She said it was the exactly the right time to plan a wedding, because that’s what marriage is all about. It’s not about living in a happy little bubble for the rest of our lives. It’s about accepting all the trouble and sorrow and sadness that life throws our way- because it’s always going to throw it our way- and being able to find a way back to happiness because we have the right partner by our side, helping us get there. Now, believe me when I tell you, I know exactly how you feel right now. You feel like, because the woman who was always there at all the happy times in your life is gone, that you won’t ever be happy again. But Chris! Listen to me…come here,” she said, reaching out to embrace Christine as she started to cry, “you can still be happy. You will be happy again. Shhhhhh….it’s okay to hurt right now. Of course it hurts…but you are going to make so many more happy memories, and you’re going to get through this. You’ve got a good man beside you now! Whatever happens, you’ll help each other through it. That’s what marriage is all about! And you’re going to make so many happy memories together, I promise you. It’s okay. I’m here…just cry it all out. I’ve got you…”

As Christine sobbed helplessly on Carolyn’s shoulder, Diana spoke again. “You know, Chris- I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a mother’s job. I’ve realized that as moms, we don’t raise our kids for the sake of keeping them with us for the rest of our lives. We raise them so that eventually they will be strong enough and smart enough to go out in the world and find a way to do good things, great things, and be able to be happy when we’re gone. That’s the whole reason your grandma poured so much love into helping raise you- not so that you’d be helpless and miserable when she left, but precisely so that you’d be able to live a joyful life when she did leave! Not so that you’d have to hide in a bar and drink to forget the pain of losing her. She raised you to that you’d be fully equipped to carry on in her absence. Look, I know you didn’t like the dresses we looked at today, and that’s okay. There are plenty of other shops. Why don’t we all just get you home, get you some rest, and we’ll come back tomorrow and try this-”

“No!” Christine said, tears running down her face. “Don’t you get it? None of these are the dress she would have made for me. I’ll never find the right one now!”

Diana groaned. “Oh God…”

“She made her own dress,” Christine said, “and she made my mother’s dress and my aunt’s dress and my sisters’ dresses…and then I waited too damn long and now she’ll never make mine! Don’t you get it?”

“I get it now,” she said. “But Christine- we can’t change that. She can’t make your dress for you. But I promise you, there’s something out there, and we’ll find it. We will.” She put her arms around both of them, saying, “We’ll find it.”

They stood there hugging for a long moment until Christine said, “Damn, Ana! I forgot how short you are.”

“Look who’s talking,” came the response. “Bitch.”

“Both of you are midgets next to me,” Carolyn said.

“Thanks,” Christine said.

“Alright. Take some time, Chris,” Diana said. “Wipe your eyes and I’ll go explain to the girls what’s going down. Then Carolyn’ll get you home, and we can try all this again tomorrow, okay?”

Christine nodded as the women each gave her one last hug and went inside. “Hey, wait!” she said just as the door was about to close.

Diana caught the door and asked, “What is it?”

“Do ya think we can wait to see if I won my $50?”


“That’s what you think,” she said with a smirk.

Spencer sat in the front parlor in his pajamas and robe, trying to read. He’d been in the library, which he normally preferred, but as the hour grew later, he eventually made himself a quick sandwich and then decided to change for bed and wait closer to the door. He hadn’t expected them to take so long.

He looked up at his watch and sighed. For a woman who hates to shop, she sure is taking a her sweet time, he thought to himself. After fixing himself another cup of coffee, he settled back onto the sofa and picked up his book again. When he noticed the headlights coming up the driveway, he jumped to his feet. As he opened the door to greet them, he saw noticed that the windows were down on the SUV, and from within music blared as the women sang at the tops of their lungs, “Fat bottomed girls you make the rockin’ world go round!”

“Get on your bikes and ride!” Christine cried as she opened and slammed the door behind herself. “Heeeeey, sweet cheeks! You waitin’ up for me? Aw, what a big smexy sweetie you are, aren’t you!” she said as she went into the house, slapping him on the bottom as she passed.

Spencer pressed his lips together briefly, then said, “Alex, would you be so kind as to help your boss to bed while I have a talk with these ladies?” He waved to Carolyn as she pulled back out of the driveway then shut the door behind him.

He raised one eyebrow and gazed at Garcia and Prentiss, who stood giggling before him. “Now, do either of you care to explain to me how it came to pass that my fiancée, whom I entrusted to your care to be taken shopping, came home after dark, with no call, and obviously intoxicated?”

“Well, now, Reid…Doctor Reid…Agent Reid…Doctor Agent... Supervisory Special Doctor Spencer,” Garcia began, snickering, “that…I can’t be held responsible for that. The drunkening, I mean. See sharted it.”

“You mean she started it,” Prentiss whispered loudly.

“That’s what I said!” Garcia whispered back.

“No, you said see sharted it!”

“Because she did!”

“No, but you said-”

“What exactly did she start?” Spencer asked, folding his arms across his chest.


“And whiskey!”

“What about the dress? Did you buy her a dress?” Spencer asked.

“What?” Garcia said. “Ohhhh. Oh, the dress. No…no dress. We made her mad and then we made her sad. So she decided no more dresses! Then we went singing! And now we’re here!”

“She said we could spend the night,” Prentiss said. “Can we spend the night, pretty please, Reid?”

“Well,” he said, uncrossing his arms, “I can see neither of you is in any condition to drive. What happened to JJ?”

“Ooooooooooh!” the two women said, giggling again.

“Our little JJ has a special baebae, I think!” Garcia laughed.

“She caught a cab to the airport a few hours ago,” Prentiss explained. “We think she’s got herself a boytoy, even though she tried to deny it…”

“She lies!” Garcia said, her eyes wide.

“I know! Right to our faces, too!”

“She looked us right in our eyes and said we were being ridiculous. Us! Can you believe that? You don’t think you’re ridiculous do you, Reid?”

“Only a little, when you’re drunk. And you’re drunk- both of you. Alex,” he called as he spotted her coming back down to stairs, “can you show these two to the guest room and get them comfortable? Thank you. I’ll go see to Christine…”
“Don’t ‘see to her’ too loudly!” Prentiss teased.

“Yes! We heard from Alex all about how loud you two can be- please, our delicate, innocent ears can’t handle too much!” Garcia said as the two laughed loudly together.

Spencer’s face turned bright red and his mouth fell open before he quickly shut it and hurried up the stairs to his own bedroom.

Christine was just spitting out her mouthwash when he walked in. She opened the bathroom door to find him looking at her with a mixture of concern, reproach and bemusement, almost the way one would look at a naughty child. “So…what exactly happened out there tonight, because God knows you got those two were too drunk to make any sense!”

“I won $50!”

“I see. Singing karaoke?”

Christine nodded, smiling.

“But you didn’t find a dress?”

Christine looked down and shook her head.

He stepped forward and put his arms around her. “So what’s this I hear about you getting mad and then sad?”

She didn’t say anything, but turned, climbed into bed and curled up on her side. He climbed in next to her and took her face in his hands. “You know you can tell me anything, right? So tell me- what’s going on with you right now?”

She nestled her forehead against his chest and whispered, “I always thought she’d be the one to make my dress for me…”

“Ah. So now nothing else will ever be good enough, hmm?”

She nodded. “You know, it’s like…it’s like…for these last few years, I’ve always been too busy to see her. So I just built this little place in my mind where she always was. I always new she was there, waiting for me, whenever I wanted to go see her. And now…now that place is gone. I can’t ever go back and see her. This whole stupid dress thing made me see that, like someone took a hammer to that happy little box I kept her in and smashed it to bits and now she’s really gone…”

As he felt her tears soak through his pajamas, he kissed her forehead and said, “From my own experience, I can assure you that the day will never come when you stop thinking about her. But over time, you will find that when you think of her, you’ll think less and less about the pain of her absence and more about the joy you experienced when you were together. I can promise you that. In time, you’ll smile when you think of her, and every time she crosses your mind will be a blessing to you. But it’s okay to grieve now. Grieve all you want- just remember that I’m still here, and I want to listen and help you when you need it.”

She put her arms around his waist and snuggled in closer. “I love you so much, Spencer.”

“I love you, too.”

The next morning Garcia and Prentiss shuffled into the kitchen, lured by the smell of fresh coffee. “Morning!” Alex said cheerfully. “The mugs are in the cabinet above your heads, cream’s in the fridge, sugar’s on the table. Hope everyone’s okay with bagels and oatmeal with apples, ‘cause that’s what you’re gettin’!”

“Can you grab the cream, Em? My head hurts too much to think,” Garcia groaned.

“My liver hurts too much to eat,” Prentiss commiserated.

“Amatures!” Christine cried behind them. “Lightweights, both of you!”

“Sorry, I left my drinking days at college,” Prentiss replied.

“She’s so loud! Why does she have to be so loud?” Garcia grumbled.

“What you need is Gatorade,” Christine said, “not coffee. You’re dehydrated. Caffeine is a diuretic, which is exactly what you don’t want right now. There’s some on the bottom shelf of the- you get your goddamn dirty paws off that!” she said, turning to smack Spencer’s hand as he reached for one of the newspapers she’d just brought in. “No reading at the table!”

“Really? He does it all the time around us,” Prentiss said.

“Then you have my permission to holler at him. Just don’t go too far and spank him,” Christine said. “He likes that, and you don’t want to be sending mixed messages. Incidentally, Emily, maybe you should forgo the oatmeal and coffee and just stick to bagels, stewed apples and juice if your tummy’s not happy this morning.”

“I’ll be fine. Besides, I need my caffeine.”

“We’ve got tea, if you’d like it,” Alex offered.

“Actually, tea would be great this morning, thanks.”

“So, what are your plans this morning, ladies?” Spencer asked as he sat down.

“After breakfast, I’m going for a swim,” Christine replied. “Carolyn’s got mass at 10:00, then she’ll come over and we’ll all try this again. I’m not supremely hopeful it’ll go any better, but I’m willing to give it another shot.”

“Well, at least that’s something. I have to meet with the florist today,” Spencer said. “Any last requests?”

“Keep it simple. Just stick to white. Then we can have roses and gardenias and jasmine to make everything smell nice. You know what I want for my bouquet.”

“What about orange blossoms? Don’t you need orange blossoms?” Garcia said, sipping on her Gatorade.

“Yes. I think I’d like those in my hair, though. What about you ladies- you want some, too?”

They all looked at one another, shrugging and nodding.

“Alrighty, then. Carolyn will just have to put flowers in our hair. Order those, too.”

“I thought she wasn’t going to do your hair?” Spencer said.

“You thought wrong. I don’t care if her assistants do theirs, but no one touches my hair but her. Or me. And you don’t want me doing my hair, because then it won’t get done.”

“Why wouldn’t she want to do your hair?” Prentiss asked.

“Oh, something about she’s afraid that it’ll look bad and then I’ll hate her for the rest of my life for ruining my wedding. But that woman met me back when I was practically bald. She styled my wigs for me and helped me grow my hair back out. No matter how depressed I was over my hair, I always left her shop feeling pretty, which, like, never happens to me. That’s why I’m having her do the Bible reading at the wedding- she’s inspirational. That, and she attends regular services, so I’m pretty sure she won’t be struck by lightning, even if she is Catholic.”

“Hey! I’m Catholic!” Emily said.

“Sorry to hear that. Hope you like it warm.”

“She was raised Lutheran,” Spencer explained.

“I got 99 problems, but a pope ain’t one,” Christine said with a laugh.

“On that note, I heard back from my mother. It seems I was baptized.”

“No shit?” Christine said. “As what?”


“Dammit! They’re almost as Catholics. You know Harvey Korman actually ranked them with the dregs of society! ‘Rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers and Methodists.’ None of which means a thing, of course, if you’re still a devout atheist. You know you’re going to hell wearing gasoline panties, right?”


“Seriously, though, I think we should just do it outside. If we do this in a church, you’re just gonna have to stand in front of an altar and say a bunch of things you don’t actually believe. I don’t wanna marry a hypocrite.”

“That’s fine, but we’re still not having a pig roast in the backyard.”

“It doesn’t have to be a pig roast, and we could also turn it into a pool party!”

“No. Just…no. Garcia and I have already found a few places that are appropriate. We’ll be taking tours soon, and I’ll be sure to let you know where to show up on the day.”

“Whatever. Woulda been cheaper to have it out back, though.”

As they were driving to the bridal boutique, Christine suddenly said, “Stop!”

Carolyn slammed on the brakes, saying, “What! What was it? Did I hit something?”

“Oh no!” Garcia said. “Please tell me it wasn’t a squirrel! They’re so cute!”

“What?” Christine said. “There was no squirrel, and squirrels are only fluffy-tailed rats with good PR, anyway! I didn’t mean stop here! I meant pull in there!” She pointed to a farmhouse on the right. “They’re having a yard sale.”

“A yard sale? Oh, for Christ’s sake, Chris! Not now!” Alex whined.

“Chris, it’s Sunday,” Carolyn said. “Everything’s picked over by now, anyway.”

“Bullshit. There’s still some furniture out there, and I like old furniture. Dammit! Do as I say! I’ll only be a minute.”

Garcia and Prentiss rolled their eyes at one another. “Looks like we’re going yard saling, I guess,” Prentiss muttered at she unbuckled her seatbelt.

By the time she and Garcia got out of the car, Christine was already wandering amongst the tables. “Ooh, look at all the pretty old picture frames, Boss!” Alex said. “Here’s some flowers- wouldn’t that look cute in my room? Some of these might be nice in the guest room…”

Christine flipped through a box containing some smaller frames. “Personally, I’m more fascinated by the old photo…graphs…” Her voice trailed off, causing Alex to look up curiously. “Say,” Christine called out to an older lady who was sitting in the shade. “Is it just the frame that’s for sale, or can I keep this picture, too?”

The woman got up and came over to Christine. “Oh, that one? I’ve got a larger one of it. No, you can keep that one.”

“Who is she?”

“That was my mother. We lost her a few months ago, so Dad’s finally letting us clean out a few things.”

“She’s positively angelic,” Christine said softly. Turning to the others, she said, “Now see? This is the kind of dress I want. That’s the dress Grandma would have made for me. What do you think? If I took this to a dressmaker, do you think she could get it done in time?”

They crowded around to see the black and white photo of a young woman with large dark eyes smiling shyly up at them. She was wearing a wedding gown with a Peter Pan collar and little puffed sleeves that made her look like the very embodiment of sweet, simple, youthful innocence and exuberance.

Garcia smiled and nodded. “It’ll be cutting it close, but I’m sure we can find someone to do it. It’s very pretty.”

“If it’s the dress your after, I still have it. It’s back up by the house, if you wanna come see.”

Christine’s jaw fell. “You have the dress?” she asked as she followed the woman.

“Sure, but I have to warn you, there’s a few problems with it,” she said as she opened the box and pulled it out. “As you can see, it’s yellowed a little, but the biggest problem is here.” She lifted up the layers of skirts and pointed. “Back in the day, when I came along, Mom and Dad didn’t have much, so she cut up the underskirt to make a christening gown for me. She took apart the veil, too, to get the lace from it.”

Christine examined the garment closely. “Well, I don’t think it would be any trouble at all to fix that. I’d just have to have that layer replaced. Or taken off entirely. That’s an easy enough fix. How tall was your mother?”

“Just a tiny little thing. About 5’1”, but she would have worn heels with this. Not big heels like the girls today wear, though.”

“Well, I’m 5’2”, and I never wear heels.”

“If you want, I can take you inside and help you into it.”

“That would be super- would you?”

“Oh my God,” Garcia said as Christine followed the woman into the house, “what just happened? We’ve taken her to some of the swankiest boutiques in the city, and did she seriously just find her dress at a yard sale?”

“I dunno,” Carolyn said, “but let’s wait and see. Remember, you find the biggest diamonds by digging in the dirt.”

“But the sparkliest ones are cut and polished and in the windows at Tiffany’s!”

Minutes later Christine stepped back out onto the porch of the house. “Well, how is it? It’s a little tight around the tits, but I think there’s a little room to let it out, and it’s a little long, but if I get a good, stiff petticoat to put under it, I think it’ll be okay…” She stopped and looked at them all. “Come on. Somebody say something. Gimme some feedback here!”

“Chris,” Carolyn said finally, “have you even looked at yourself in the mirror yet?”

“No. Why? What’s wrong? Is it that bad? Where’s a mirror?”

“There’s a full-length one there in the yard, but just a sec,” Carolyn said, turning to Garcia. “Pardon me, I’ll give them back,” she added as she pulled some flowered barrettes from her hair. “Come here, you,” she said, beckoning to Christine. “Let’s see what we can do with this now…” She swept some curls back from Christine’s face and caught them with the barrettes. She smoothed her hair off her shoulders and down her back, then led her over to the mirror.

After staring at herself for a moment, a tear started to slip down her cheek. “Oh, Carolyn!” she breathed. “You…you made me pretty! I never thought I could be so pretty!”

Carolyn put her arms around her waist and kissed her cheek, saying, “No, you’re beautiful. You’ve always been beautiful. And every time Spencer looks at you, this is what he sees. You’re just finally seeing it for yourself.”

Christine wiped her cheeks and turned around and said, “Guys, what do you think?”

“That’s the one, Chris. You found it,” Garcia said.

“Yeah. Definitely,” Prentiss agreed.

Christine laughed a little. “I found it! Looks like we’re really doing this!” She turned back to the mirror and said softly to herself, “Oh God, we’re really doing this…”



The two songs Christine sings in this chapter are "I Want to Break Free" and "Fat-Bottomed Girls", both by Queen.  If you didn't already know that, shame on you.  You need to start listening to some better music.

Harvey Korman played Hedley Lamar in Blazing Saddles, which is where Christine got the "…ass kickers, shit kickers and Methodists" quote.


Chapter Text

Spencer held the test tubes up to the chart and recorded their relative colors in the small journal he kept for that purpose. After he was satisfied the pool was properly chlorinated, he pulled off his shirt, stepped out of his flip-flops, and dove in.

He was always thankful to be alone when he did the part- the diving in. He knew he did it rather artlessly, as was the case with any athletic activity he undertook. But their brief trip to the islands had reawoken in him a love for swimming he'd once known as a child. It was excellent cardiovascular exercise, of course, but that wasn't entirely why he did it. He did it because of the solitude it provided. The auditory and visual sensory deprivation it provided was relaxing and refreshing to his very core. He made a conscious effort not to count the number of laps he swam; he simply exercised until he felt tired and relaxed, then got out.

He toweled off and went back in the house to shower. He hummed happily to himself as he bathed, then turned off the water and grabbed a fresh towel. He was stepping out of the shower when he drew the towel away from his face and cried out in alarm. Even without his glasses, as myopic as he was, he could nevertheless make out the mass of red atop the pale-complected, green-clad figure that was sitting on the bathroom counter. He even thought he could make out the smirk he knew had to be on her face at that moment.

He quickly recovered from his shock, wrapped the towel about his waist and reached for his glasses. "What on earth are you doing here?" he asked testily. "Aren't you supposed to be out shopping with the girls?"

"I was," she replied. Now that he had his glasses on, he could indeed see the self-satisfied smirk on her face. As angry as he was at being caught off-guard and embarrassed in the nude, he found himself smiling back at her. He always found it impossible to stay mad at her when she had that impish, playful look on her face.

"So what did you do this time to make them give up on you so quickly? Did you even make it to the store before they threw you out of the car?"

"Nope. We went to a yard sale instead."

"Fantastic. So what junk- I'm sorry, treasure- did you bring home with you this time?"

She stuck her tongue out at him. "Everything I buy at yard sales is a treasure. Same goes for flea markets and thrift stores. But this time I also happened to bring home a dress."

"Wait- you mean a wedding dress?"

"Yep." She grinned broadly.

"A wedding dress. For our wedding?"


"You're kidding, right?"

"Not at all."

"And Garcia...what? She let you do that?"

"I don't know what choice she had. I am the bride, after all. Got a killer deal on it, too."

"I can only imagine."

"She told me she'd sell it to me for $25, and I told her I'd give her $500 and not a penny more."

He laughed and leaned against the counter. "You drive a hard bargain, dear."

"I know, right? Hey- it was her mother's wedding dress from 1952. I felt like I was stealing a family heirloom as it was, but she insisted she'd rather know it was being put to good use than stuffed away in a box gathering dust, so...I've got a dress."

"And I suppose I still can't see it, huh? I'm actually rather curious now…""

"Well, tough shit- you still can't see it. I thought a man who can't wear matching socks for fear of turning his ankle would understand that it's simply bad luck. Suffice it to say that it's not trashy, gaudy nor princessy. It's simple and cute, and I think it's lovely. That's all you need to know."

He leaned in a little closer to her. "Then it sounds perfect. Beautiful and unpretentious- just like you." He smiled at her for a long moment until his gaze shifted to her own smile. Suddenly, her lips looked irresistibly soft and sweet, and he gave her a long, slow kiss.

She laid her arms around his neck and blushed as she smiled at him. "This is actually happening, you know. There's no turning back now."

"Baby doll," he said softly as he moved to put his arms around her waist, "I've always known this was happening. The only fear I've ever had is that you would try and turn back."

She breathed deeply and raised her eyebrows. "Well, it's almost too late for that now, isn't it."

He nodded and kissed her again. "Yes," he murmured. "I'm not going to let you get away so easily now."

She giggled as he pulled her closer to the edge of the counter. "Careful," she warned playfully. "I'm gonna fall off. Speaking of falling off…what on earth is keeping this towel up, hmm?" She ran her fingers down from his belly and smiled. "Ah…mystery solved! I was wondering how you were holding this up, what with you having no hips and all. That's rather impressive, Sparky!"

"Oh?" he asked with a grin. "You think that's impressive? C'mere- I'll show you something truly impressive!" He moved his hands under her bottom and lifted her off the counter.

She wrapped her arms and legs around him nervously, saying, "Whoa, hey! Careful, now- Spencer! You're going to throw out your back!"

He laughed at her. "I'm not going to throw out my back!"

"Careful! I swear to God, Spencer Reid," she warned as he tried to maneuver the both of them out of the bathroom, "if you drop me, so help me God…ow! Hey!"

"What? What just happened?"

"I hit my funny bone on the door frame!"

"You hit your ulnar nerve?"

"That's what I just said, dork! Oh God, oh God! Be careful, Spencer! Don't hit me on something else, now!"

"I've got you, just hold still and-" Just then he stubbed his foot against the base of the bed and tumbled down on the bed on top of her.

"Ooof! Can't…breathe…think…you broke…my ribs!"

"No need to be so dramatic," he said, rather crestfallen. "We didn't land that hard- you are okay, aren't you?"

She laughed. "Yes, I think I'm still intact. What brought that on?"

"It seemed like something lovers might do in a movie- you know, I sweep you off your feet and carry you off to bed to ravish you…so much for trying to be daring and dashing and romantic…"

"Come here, you big, goofy sweetheart," she said, reaching up to draw him down for a kiss. "In case you haven't noticed, we live in real life, not in a TV set. And I love you precisely because I know you're not perfect. I find all your weirdness positively charming." She kissed him again and scooted over to make room for him on the bed. "Although," she said after several moments, "you know, if you want to try something adventurous and a little naughty, we could go do it somewhere else. We could run down to Alex's room and do it on her bed…"

"What? No. Oh God…how would we explain that- you know…the stains…?"

"Eh, she and Grant have probably dirtied up that bedspread already!"

"Oh, then definitely no!"

"Well, we've already done it in the parlor and library…how about the kitchen?"

He shook his head. "I eat there."

"The hot tub?"

"No. I soak there!"

She pouted for a moment. "The car?"

"Too cramped."

"The van?"

"It's too hot out. We'd have to run it for the A/C, but it's in the garage and the carbon monoxide from the exhaust could poison us."

"Are you saying sex with me isn't worth dying for?" She pouted again.

He chuckled and leaned down to kiss her. "Not at all. Sex with you is my favorite thing to live for, dear!" He sat up and look down at her, stroking her leg. After several seconds he said softly, "Christine, I love you very much."

"I love you, too!"

As she lay there, she lightly ran her fingers up his thighs to his groin, until they came to rest on his penis. He breathed in sharply when her hand squeezed him gently, and he proceeded to ease her shorts and panties over her hips and down her legs before tossing them aside. As he did so, she wriggled out of her t-shirt. He bent over to kiss her and fumbled briefly with her bra before finally successfully unhooking it and drawing it off her. He sat back and looked down at her again. She was smiling back at him as she yawned a little and folded one arm back behind her head. He closed his eyes for the briefest moment, hoping to fix in his mind forever the image of her and what he felt at this moment- this quiet, warm, lazy summer afternoon as his heart felt so full of joy and hope and promise that this beautiful young woman was soon to be his, officially, forever and for all time.

He opened his eyes again and smiled back at her before bending down first to kiss one perfect, pink nipple and then the other, thrilling at the sound of her happy little gasps and sighs as he did so. He laid down beside her to embrace and caress her, and lifted her smooth, bare leg up to his waist. His hand found the small of her back and pressed her to himself; she gave a soft moan of anticipation when she felt him pressing against her belly. He knew from experience that if he waited to take her until she was begging- almost demanding- it, that he could bring her to climax almost immediately. When she was kissing his neck and grabbing at him needily, he knew she was ready. He pushed her onto her back and thrust into her so that she cried out loudly. A moment later he was not disappointed, as her screams and helpless kicking confirmed he'd driven her to orgasm. After several long seconds her voice faded off into happy moans as her hands loosened their grip on him and wandered up and down his body.

He lifted himself up on his arms and smiled down at her. "Happy?" he asked softly.

She nodded as he bent down to kiss her forehead. "Are you?"

"I will be," he breathed, leaning in again to kiss her cheek. He found one of her hands, grasped it in his and stretched it up over her head, while with the other hand he lifted her thigh up until her knee was pressed back, nearly to her chest. Panting, he drove himself into her faster and faster.

"Harder, Spencer," she moaned. "Hurry now! Harder…!"

He obeyed with complete abandon, feeling the electricity rising within his body, growing at the edges of his mind until it had nearly blinded him to everything else that was happening.

"Hurry…" she gasped.

Suddenly her back arched and she writhed within his tight grasp. The sensation of her body, her every muscle, contracting around his own was more than he could endure any longer. He buried his face in the pillow beside her head and surrendered with a shout that slowly trailed off into a satiated moan as the waves of pleasure that had so suddenly crashed down on him subsided. At length he sighed and rolled over onto his back, still holding her hand in his. He brought it up to his lips and gently kissed her fingertips before holding her hand against his chest.

He closed his eyes and smiled. It was mid-day, still, and the afternoon breeze coming softly through the windows felt delicious on his damp, bare skin. If there could be a more perfect moment than this, he couldn't think of it- lying there, naked and perfectly satisfied, beside the woman he loved, the beautiful creature who in a few short months would be his bride. His thoughts drifted to daydreams of their wedding day, of visions of her in her bridal gown and radiant, floating toward him, one hand on her father's arm, the other full of-

His eyes flew open and his sat up. "Shit!" he cried. "The flowers!"

"What?" She sat up beside him, curious and bemused- it wasn't often she got to hear him curse.

He was already getting out of bed and heading for the closet. "The florist! I'm supposed to meet the florist this afternoon!"

She followed him and found him pulling on his underpants and grabbing clothes off hangers. He reached into a drawer for some socks, found two pairs Alex had folded and took one from each pair. "Hand me some panties," she said. I'm going with you."


"Underwear. I need it. I'd prefer not to go commando today."

"You're going with?" he asked as he buttoned up his shirt. "But why? I thought you hated this stuff. I can handle it…"

"Leave the tie off. It's kinda overkill if we're just going to buy some flowers, donchya think?"

"Fine," he said, putting the tie back. "I'll look like a slob if you wish. That'll fit perfectly, considering how late I'm going to be." He walked past her to sit on the bed and pull on his socks.

"What time was the appointment?"

"In 18 minutes."

"Oh, for Christ's sake, it's only a 20 minute drive- 15, the way you drive. We've got plenty of time."

He pulled on his shoes. "Don't bother," he said, as he saw her pulling on her shorts. "We don't have time. I'm ready. I'll go alone."

"Unbunch your man-panties, Sparky. I'm coming with. Flowers are something I actually care about. That, and making your life difficult. I live for that."

"No doubt," he said with a sigh as he watched her wriggle into an old t-shirt and step into flip-flops.

"Ready!" she announced, holding out her hands.

"You're going like that?"

"Dude, they're not going to refuse to sell us hundreds of dollars worth of flowers just because I didn't dress up. Chill! And we're not taking your Volvo, by the way."

"Why on earth not?"

"It's not nearly cool enough for me to be seen in. We'll take the Mustang. But you're driving. I'm kinda sleepy."

As they walked out the door he said, "You're sleepy? As I recall, I did all the work just now."

"Aw, it's cute that you think so. You're still driving."

"Fine. Whatever. Just get in the car." He moved his hand to put it in gear and looked up as her hand came to rest on his.

"What? I like being with you," she said, closing her eyes and leaning back with a smile.

He smiled and squeezed her hand before pulling out of the drive.

"Well, that was fun!" Christine proclaimed as they walked in the door.

"You just like getting things for free," Spencer replied, taking off his shoes.

"That too," she said. "Where's Alex keep the vases?"

"In the cabinet in the dining room, where they've always been."

He followed her from there into the kitchen as she went to trim the flowers and fill the vases she'd chosen. "Awful nice of them to just give these too me…" she commented.

"Not to mention upgrading our flowers for free."

"And do you recall why they did that?"

"Because they said they've never had a bride who was so easy to deal with."

"Easy to deal with, Sparky. Ha! And you thought I'd just go and muck things up for you. So much for being a know-it-all. Turns out, if you respect their profession enough to tell them to just do whatever they think is best, they like you and offer you full-size roses for the price of the baby ones. And tulips to bring home, to boot," she added, tapping him on the chest with one of the blooms.

"Well, just this once I'll concede you were right," he said with a chuckle. "But when you're done with that, I'd like your input on another matter."

"What's that?"

"I've got everything in the library…"

"Okay," she said, drying off her hands. "Show me."

In the library, he sat down at his desk and pulled a box from a drawer. "We have to decide on our invitations, and soon. Here are my favorites as far as the design, paper and font, but we still have to decide on wording. Do we go with the traditional, "The honor of your presence is requested…" or something more modern? And would you rather have your parents listed as Dr. and Mrs. Paul Archangeli or Dr. Paul and Mrs. Marie Archangeli?"

She felt each sample invitation in her hands, thinking for a moment. "I think," she said without looking up, "I think I like this card best. It looks simple. Clean. Now, as for the wording, I'd like it to say something along the lines of 'Dr. Paul and Mrs. Marie Archangeli, together with Mr. William Reid and Dr. Diana Reid, warmly invite you…'. Something like that. I think that's how you handle it, anyway, when you're referring to a couple that's no longer married yet still shares a name…what is it?" she asked, looking up. "I believe that's proper etiquette. Or should her name be mentioned before his? What do you think?"

Spencer's face was set hard as stone. "I think that man's name should not be mentioned on my wedding invitation. He won't be there in person, and I don't want him there nominally, either. That's what I think."

"Aren't you even going to invite him?" Christine asked quietly.

"How could I? I don't even know his address."

"I, um…I have it. If you want it…"

"What? How could you possibly know that?"

"Well, you have your sources and I have…well, it turns out Joe's not as dumb as he looks, so I asked him-"

"You asked him? To find my father?"

"Sure. I new you didn't have his address so I-"

Spencer stood up behind his desk, has hands firmly planted on the top of it to keep them from shaking with the rage he felt rising inside him. "Christine, you had no right to try and find him!"

"I just thought…"

"He is my father, not yours- it was not your place to make this decision!"

"Not my place? Excuse me, but he's about to become my father-in-law, and since we're all going to be family, it seemed…"

"We're all about to become nothing! He's not my family- not anymore! All he is is the man who used to be married to my mother and who then sent us child support for a few years. That does not make him my family, and frankly I resent you interfering in this matter, Christine. That was out of line!" He began to pace furiously about the room. "Why is it, do you suppose, that since the day he left her never once bothered to contact me- not once! Never did he give any indication that he remembered or cared that he still had a child in this world. What sort of man does such a thing? You know, I've often wondered why that was. I know I must have been some kind of disappointment to him. I was odd and awkward and clumsy. He always wanted ours to be a normal family. Instead he wound up with a mentally ill wife and a freak of a child. Do you suppose he remarried, and maybe…maybe he had another kid- one that was normal enough for him to love? Is that why he never bothered to even call me? I mean, what was it about me, Chris? What? Wait…what are you doing?" he said, squirming suddenly as she moved to put her arms around him.

"Shhh," she said. "Settle down and let me hug you…"

"I'm a grown man, Christine. I don't need you to hug me to make my boo-boos all better…"

"Stop fighting it, and yes, you do. Come here," she said, with tears in her eyes. "You need this. I know you. You couldn't possibly hate this man this much if you didn't desperately want to love him."

He finally gave in, accepted the gesture and began to sob. "How…how could I have been that much of a disappointment, Chris? How?"

"You weren't."

"But then why-"

"Shhhh…I don't know. Sometimes things go on between adults that their kids never understand. It wasn't about you."

"But I'm the one he forgot, Chris! Even if he stopped loving Mom…how could he stop loving me?"

She stroked his hair. "I'm so sorry, Sparky. This is all my fault. I thought this would be a good chance for you two to reunite, but I was stupid and I was wrong and I'm sorry. You're right. It wasn't my place to make that decision, and this is not the right time to deal with any of this. I'm so sorry, Spencer."

"You know, every time you complain about your family, all I ever think about is how lucky you are to have them. They may not be perfect, but at least they're there…you have no idea how it hurts to feel forgotten."

As she held him, she whispered in his ear, "All that's changing now. You and I, we're going to be our own family now. And I promise you, I will never let you feel unwanted, unloved or forgotten. Never."

He clung to her, kissed her head, and nodded.

Chapter Text

“So,” Spencer asked as the waitress delivered their drinks, “is anyone going to tell me now why we're here?”Morgan nodded towards Joe, who had just entered the bar and was making his way towards them. “There- that’s the one I was waiting for. Hey man! Good to see you again! Thanks for coming all this way to join us!”

Joe shook Morgan’s and Hotch’s hands and slapped Spencer on the back. “Hey, thanks for inviting me. Good to have an excuse to get out of the house for a change. Back at my place, we’re so sleep-deprived we’re starting to go crazy on each other. Like, seriously- we’re actually starting to fucking hallucinate!”
Hotch smiled. “Ah, I remember those days!”
“Holy shit. Like, just last night Laurie had me thinking I’d murdered the baby!”
“What?” Spencer asked. “What does that even mean?”
Joe sighed and took a long sip from the beer placed in front of him. “Okay, so here’s the thing. We’ve got Etta in the bassinet next to Laurie’s side of the bed, right? And we’ve gotten so used to waking up every hour or two with her that even when she’s trying to sleep, Laurie reaches out to feel the baby and, I don’t know, just make sure she’s not dead or something. Anyway, next to the bassinet there’s also this chair that I toss my clothes on before I get into bed. So last night, I’m dead asleep when all of a sudden I hear Laurie saying, ‘Where’s the baby? Where’s the baby?’ Next thing I know, I’m turning on the light, and I jump on top of the bed like a ninja yelling, ‘Where’s the baby? Where’s the baby?’”
“Aren’t ninja’s supposed to be silent?” Spencer said with a smirk.
“Shut up. Anyway, there I am, in my underwear, standing on the bed yelling, ‘Where’s the baby?’ when Laurie goes, ‘Shhh! Turn off the light! You’re going to wake Etta up!’ I’m like, ‘What? What the fuck just happened? Where is she?’ And she goes, ‘Oh, well…I reached out to touch her and only felt your clothes, so I thought you threw them on top of her and smothered her to death. Now, go back to sleep- you’ll wake her up!’ How the hell was I supposed to go back to sleep after she gave me a heart attack, huh? Jesus fucking Christ. The joys of parenthood, amiright?”
“Joe, you haven’t even begun to experience that!” Hotch laughed.
“Yeah, great. More to look forward to, eh? So anyway…has a decision been made as to what we’re doing for him, then?”
“A decision about what, exactly?” Spencer asked again. “I still don’t know why we’re here!”
“Kid,” Morgan said, putting his hand on Spencer’s shoulder, “we are here tonight to discuss plans for your bachelor party!”
“My what?” Spencer said, his eyes wide. “Oh, no…no, I really don’t think…I mean, you don’t need to…I’m not exactly into that sort of…for me?” he stammered, grateful they couldn't see in the dim light how red his cheeks had grown. “I’m…I’m just, you know…I wasn’t really expecting…”
“Oh no you don’t,” Morgan laughed. “You’re not getting out of this that easily. I’m you’re best man, and it is my job to make sure you have a party that sets the house on fire- literally, if necessary! And don’t worry about what Christine will think- I’ve already asked her permission, and she told me she was down with anything, as long as I didn't let you get so drunk you trip and fall dick-first into a stripper- and that’s a quote!”
Spencer frowned. “That does sound like something she’d say…”
“Man, lemme tell you- you have the coolest fiancée ever. You better watch your back, because if you don’t marry that girl, I just might!” Morgan laughed again and took another sip of beer. “So come on, guys. Let me hear it- what do you all wanna do, because as far as I’m concerned, we have a green light to do whatever we want! We could go on an epic bar crawl, but I’m more inclined to get a table at an off the chain nightclub…”
Joe threw up his hand. “Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait. No nightclubs. Trust me. He was at my wedding,” he said, pointing to Spencer. “I’ve seen him in action. And believe me when I tell you, you don’t want to encourage him to dance unless you really want to make everyone in the club feel super uncomfortable.”
“Hey!” Spencer said, dismayed.
“Look man, I love you and all, and yeah, you have a few ballroom moves, but the rest of them? Dude, you had everyone looking outside to see if a short bus had dropped you off because you looked, uh, kinda ‘specially challenged’. That’s the politically correct way to call him retarded, right? God knows I don’t wanna offend anyone…”
“And for God’s sake, Spinster, learn how to do the fuckin’ chicken dance, would ya? We don’t want a repeat of that at your wedding!”
“I…that’s not fair!” Spencer protested. “I’d never even heard of the chicken dance, and besides, we’re not going to be doing it at my wedding!”
“Oh, we’re gonna do the chicken dance,” Joe insisted. “There’s no getting around that, not if you’re marrying into this family, the same way you will be doing a keg stand if I have to hoist you up myself.”
Spencer groaned. “I don’t even like beer!”
“You’ll learn to love it. Hanging around my sister, believe me, it’ll drive you to drink.”
“So,” Morgan said, “if you don’t hit up a night club, then what? Should we just go to a strip club or should we hire the girls to come to us?”
“Girls?” Spencer asked, blushing. “No, I…I really don’t…it’s not a good idea, I don’t think, and besides, I…”
“Aw, come on, man!” his friend said, slapping him on the back. “Just this once, loosen up, you know? I’ve seen you- don’t tell me you don’t like to look at the honeys, and Chris even said we could! Besides, aren’t you supposed to be, like, from Vegas or something? Don’t tell me you’ve never been inside a strip club! Don’t you even try to lie to me about that one!”
Spencer sighed. “Come on. Except for Chris and the women we work with, I can hardly look a girl in the eye fully clothed. Don’t…just don’t put me in that situation, man. I’d just be really uncomfortable and I’d feel guilty, even if Christine said I could. No.”
They all sat in silence, pondering their beers for a moment before Joe snapped his fingers. “I’ve got it! I know what we can do! It’s perfect- it’s the kind of big-boy fun even Spinster will like!”
“Stop calling me that!” Spencer complained.
“Deal with it. Check it out,” Joe said. “We can go to Atlantic City! They’ve got cards for him, and when we get tired of that and we wanna check out some girls, all we gotta do is pour a couple of shots down his throat and leave him passed out in the room! I’m telling ya- the dude’s a total lightweight.”
“Check it out,” Joe said to Hotch and Morgan, ignoring Spencer’s dismay. “Last year at Christmas, someone found this bottle of tequila, right?””
“Oh no,” Spencer moaned, “please don’t tell this story…”
“I gotta, man. Tequila stories are the best ones! So anyway, him, my brother, my brother-in-law and my grandma, God rest her soul, decide to try and kill it.”
“Not you?” Morgan asked with a smile.
“Nah man. I’ll admit it. Tequila makes me it’s bitch every time. Every fuckin’ time. I can’t touch the stuff. But these guys start going shot for shot with my grandmother. My 92 year old saintly grandmother! Wait wait wait,” he said, fishing in his pocket. “Check it out. I got pictures of them all sucking on limes together somewhere…”
Spencer groaned.
“It was incredible,” Joe continued gleefully. “He never even came close to making it to the end with them…”
“I was at a serious disadvantage that night,” Spencer protested. “Kevin had 50 pounds on me, Jacob is huge-”
“He’s 6’6”,” Joe conceded.
“And your grandmother had 65 years more experience than I with it!”
“She drank him under the table,” Joe laughed. “We walked home because we parked at my parents house which is just a few doors down, and as we’re stumbling through the backyards he could hardly stay on his feet! Chris almost let you fall and left you laying out in a snowdrift. I honestly don’t know how she dragged your drunk ass back!”
“Kind of like the way she left you in the hallway in Vegas after you roofied yourself?” Spencer shot back.
“Exactly like that.”
“Whoa, wait. What?” Morgan asked.
“Yeah,” Joe said, “some guy tried to buy her a drink at a club after a show. She refused, I drank it, and I woke up the next morning in the hospital. Took one for the team, you know?”
“And I thought our jobs were interesting,” Hotch laughed.
“Oh, working with my sister is definitely interesting- and dangerous. Anyway, my point is, we can always leave him behind after gambling…”
“Yeah, well, there’s a problem with that,” Hotch said, more seriously. “Haley. She’d never let me get away for a whole weekend, let alone to gamble.”
“Aw, come on, man!” Joe said. “Who wears the pants in your family, anyway?”
“When I’m home? She does. And don’t look at me like that- you’re a married man, now. You should know how it goes,” Hotch replied. “And Reid’s gonna have to learn.”
“Great,” Morgan said, sulking. “No dancing. No strippers. No gambling. What the hell are we going to do?””
“We could hang out with the women,” Spencer suggested. “I know they’re planning something fun.”
Morgan groaned. “No. Just…no.”
“But Chris is a lot of fun!” Spencer said. “She’s the most fun person I know…”
“Kid, this is your bachelors party,” Morgan said. “It’s supposed to be a guys night out, because after you’re married, you have to spend time with her. This is your last chance to party with just us guys.”
“Well, to be honest, I’ve never partied with just guys, Morgan, and aside from the gambling, none of your ideas sound all that appealing. Just let me call her…”
As Spencer pulled out his phone, Morgan tried to grab it. “No! This is not…stop dialing! Come on- let’s have one last woman-free…aw, shit!”
After a few rings, a laughing voice answered. “Hello?”
“Hey, Alex, it’s Spencer. Is Chris there?”
“Dude, you realize she’s got a show in about 40 minutes, right?”
“Yes, but is she there?”
Yeah, she’s just putting on her make-up. What’s up?”
“Just let me talk to her…”
“Alright, alright. Just a second…Chris! It’s him! He needs to talk to you…no, he won’t tell me…I don’t know! Just come here, okay?”
After a moment, another voice came on the phone. “Hey, sweet cheeks, what’s up? You okay?”
“Yes. Yes, I’m fine, though I have a bit of a dilemma, and I was hoping you might help…”
“Oh, Christ,” Morgan moaned.
“Yeah, alright. What do you need?”
“I’m here with Hotch, Morgan and Joe, and we’re out of ideas for a bachelors party…”
“I told him I was okay with you guys going to a tittie bar! Why don’t you boys just do that?”
“Because I’ve no interest in seeing the rest when I’ve already seen the best, dear.”
“God,” Joe said, “could you, like, not say shit like that to my sister right in front of me? Jesus…”
“Is that Joe? For fuck’s sake, grow up and deal with it, Joseph!”
“Anyway,” Spencer continued, “we were wondering what you ladies are doing. I thought maybe it might give us some ideas…”
“Well, we’re having a shower in the afternoon with mimosas and petit-fours, if you’re into that sort of thing.”
“Um, no. Really? That’s it? I thought you guys would be up to something more exciting.”
“Well, after we’ve had a few drinks, we were going to go work out our pre-wedding jitters and aggression towards each other at a paintball field. I don’t think Penelope’s entirely on board with that idea, but Diana’s the maid of honor, so it was her call, and Penny’s gotta go with if she wants to go with us to the comedy show and karaoke afterwards.”
“Who are you going to see?”
“Fuckin’ Chris Rock, that who! Whooooo! I’m totally stoked!”
“Whoa. How’d you get tickets to see him? I heard they sold out really fast!”
“Joe made some calls and scored them for us.”
“Aw, come on, man!” Morgan said. “You got the girls those tickets instead of us? Haven’t you ever heard of bros before hos?”
“Hey, the head ho just happens to be my sister!” Joe retorted. “Besides, I thought you would have had this shit all figured out already!”
“Any chance we could get in to see that show?” Spencer asked. “I met him once at a festival. Maybe he’ll remember me…”
“Trust me,” Joe said, “he remembers you. He asked about you when I called to see about the tickets. That’s how I got them, because he was happy you two were finally taking the plunge. I’ll make another call and see what I come up with. No promises…”
“Fine,” Spencer said. “What about the rest? Anyone else interested in paintball?”
“With the women?” Morgan complained.
“Hey, who said you were even invited? As it stands now, we’re playing feebs versus civs, and I think my team’s gonna win, ‘cause we’re a bunch of rednecks and a scary little Korean, and they’re stuck with that puppy-hugging veg-head Penny who couldn’t shoot her way out of a wet paper bag. Although…if we made it girls versus guys…shit. We’d still win.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Morgan said. “You ladies against all of us? Not likely?”
“What’s that I hear? What? It sounds…wait a minute…it sounds…yes! I hear a chicken! Braaaawk-bawk-bawk-bawk! Braaaaaaaaaaawk!”
“You do realize Hotch, Gideon and myself are all FBI trained marksmen, don’t you? Garcia can’t even hold a gun properly!”
“Yeah, and neither can my fiancé, what’s your point?”
“Hey!” Spencer cried.
“Sorry, sweetheart, but sometimes the truth hurts. Anyway, Derek, I’d be willing to put my girls up against your guys any day- then we’d see who the real bitches are!”
Morgan leaned in towards the phone. “Little lady, you’d better be willing to put your money where your mouth is before you try and make any of us your bitch!”
“I’m down with a wager. What’ll we bet?”
“Name it.”
“Whoever’s team wins gets to be on top on our wedding night.”
Morgan laughed. “That may motivate Reid, but what’s in it for me?”
After a brief pause Christine said, “Alright. Loser team has to wash and wax the winning team’s cars.”
In bikinis.”
“Deal!” Morgan cried.
“Wait wait wait,” Spencer said. “What if we lose?”
“Then the ladies all get a little thrill,” Morgan said.
“I’m sorry,” Hotch said, “but are we absolutely certain we’ll win? Because if we don’t…well, I for one have no desire to see Gideon in a Speedo, and I’m sure none of us want to see Joe in one- no offense.”
“None taken. Hell, I avert my eyes when I get out of the shower to avoid seeing myself naked in the mirror,” Joe replied.
“Okay, so they’ll have Prentiss, and yeah, we’re stuck with Reid, but we’ve still got them massively outgunned!” Morgan insisted. “I say we go for it. I mean, come on,” he said, leaning in to the others, “this is a golden opportunity. When are we gonna get a chance to see this again?”
The four men looked at each other for a long moment and smiled. “Just remember,” Joe said finally, “two of those boobs belong to my sister.”
“I can hardly wait,” Morgan said with a grin. “It’s a deal!” he announced into the phone. “You ladies had better be ready, because I expect my car to gleam.”
“Don’t count on it, smart-ass. We’ve got a secret weapon, and we won’t go down without a fight! Now, I’ve got a show, but sweet cheeks, you still there?”
“Yes, I’m here,” Spencer said, his ears turning red as the others snickered at the name.
“We’ve gotta talk.”
“Um…okay…shall I call you later, then?”
“Yeah, or we can just chat when you come this weekend. You’re still coming, right? Aaron! Make sure this boy has the weekend off- no new cases!”
“Don’t worry, Christine. The only thing he has to do the rest of the week is give testimony at the Mill Creek Killer’s trial,” Hotch said.
“I’ll hold you to that. I’m out. Love you, Spencer.
“I love you, too,” he replied, still blushing.
“Hey, Reid,” Morgan said, after the phone had been hung up, “I love you, too, man.”
“Shut up and finish your beer.”

Spencer reached for his seatbelt as soon as the light was turned off and jumped out of his seat to grab his carry-on bag. As the aisles filled with his fellow passengers, he fished in his pocket for his phone. Just landed, he texted.
A minute later, he felt his phone vibrate in his hand. Show’s over. Doin the meet n greet. Just meet me at the hotel.
Spencer felt a strange relief come over him. Storms in the upper midwest had delayed his flight hours until it had finally been canceled. After scrambling at the gate, he had finally been able to find another flight to Boise but unfortunately had not been able to upgrade his coach seat to business class as he’d planned. He’d spent over four hours in a cramped seat, listening to a baby screaming despite it’s mother’s best efforts to soothe it. Now his nerves felt like a jumble of frayed wires; as eager as he was to see Christine, he was grateful he didn’t have to endure the added annoyance of hundreds of strange people crushing about him.
The wait at the cab stand was long, and the taxi ride into town was even longer. While he sat in the back of the taxi he felt his phone vibrate again. Back at the hotel. Where are you?
He responded simply with, In a cab. See you soon. He leaned back and sighed. It had been nearly a month since he’d seen her last. Every weekend had been consumed by wedding preparations- securing the venue, deciding on a menu, contracting photographers and a DJ and booking the honeymoon…. Now it all seemed to be done. Finally. He sighed again and smiled at the thought of their honeymoon and closed his eyes. Moments later the taxi came to a stop and the driver turned to announced they’d arrived. He hurried to pay the gentleman and picked up a room key at the desk. The elevator up to their floor couldn't move fast enough. He’d waited too long to see her again and could hardly bear to wait a second longer than necessary.
He grinned broadly when he found their room and hurriedly dipped the key card in the lock. He walked in, opening his mouth to greet her, but quickly shut it when he failed to find her. Clearly she had been there- the lights and radio were on and her clothes were strewn about. As he set down his own bag and started to tidy up her things, he heard the shower and smiled. He sat down on the bed and grinned again as he began to take off his shoes and socks. He stood again and continued to smile; as she began to sing, he began to unbutton his shirt and unbuckle his belt. When he was fully nude, he calmly put his clothes away and turned the knob on the door to the bathroom. “Good evening,” he called softly.
Within the shower he could see her jump as she cried out in surprise. She slid the door open and squinted myopically at him. “Well, hello there,” she said playfully.
“I finally made it,” he said, stepping forward.
She eyed him up and down, smiling. “Why, yes, you most certainly did, sir! I don’t suppose you need a shower, too?”
“As a matter of fact,” he said, stepping in, “that sounds wonderful. Oh my God! It’s cold!” He jumped back from the water and wrapped his arms around himself reflexively.
“Well, yeah it is!” she laughed. “I’ve just been running around like a fool on stage. I’ve been sweating like a French whore all night. Gotta cool down now somehow…there, how’s that? Warm enough for you now?”
“Yes, thank you,” he said, resting his hands on her hips. “It’s getting much warmer now. I don’t suppose you need any help washing up?”
She laughed again. “Actually, I’ve already lathered up…”
“Really?” he asked, reaching for the soap. “Because it looks like you may have missed a spot or two…”
“Oh? Now where would that be?”
He turned the soap over in his hands, set it down and ran his hands over her breasts. “It looks like you need to pay a little more attention here.”
She giggled as she reached her arms up above her head. “How on earth did I ever get along in life without you?” she joked as he ran his slippery hands down over her breasts to her belly.
He put his arms around her waist and pulled her against him. “I don’t know, babydoll, but I promise you- in two more weeks, you’ll never have to be without me again…” He bent down and pressed his lips to hers in a slow, deep kiss.
As he pressed his body to hers, she smiled again, and whispered, “Shall we, uh, go to the bed and get it a little wet?”
He shook his head and kissed her again. He moved his hands down under her bottom and said, “No.”
“But we’ve tried this before, you goof! It doesn't work!”
Still kissing her, he smiled and said, “Ah, but see, hotel rooms put non-slip strips in their showers.”
“You sure about this?”
“Mmm-hmm…” he murmured. “Come here…” He lifted her up and pushed her back against the shower wall, kissing her lips and face as he did so. She wrapped her legs around him and twined the fingers of one hand into his wet hair while using the other to guide him into her, then cried out loudly when he finally thrust into her. She clung to him so tightly her nails felt almost as if they were cutting into his back, a sensation he found maddeningly thrilling, and he pressed her harder against the wall as she whimpered and moaned with delight. He moved faster and faster as he heard her voice rise, and when she finally came, she stifled her shouts by biting down on his shoulder. He gasped in shock before being overwhelmed with need for his own release. When he surrendered, he did so with a groan, vaguely worried in some foggy little place at the back of his mind that his legs would go weak and give out beneath the both of them at just that moment.
He pressed his lips to her forehead and slowly released her from his grasp, lowering her until she stood and leaned against the shower wall on her own. He turned and leaned against the wall beside her, his eyes shut and breathing deeply. He shut his eyes and smiled as he took her hand and laced his fingers with hers. He slowly exhaled then said, “Hey, look at that- we did it!”
“Yeah! It’s finally worked,” Christine said, panting. “Well done, Spencer! Don’t ever stop learning…”
“Never,” he chuckled and turned to her, opening his eyes and reaching his arm around her waist. “So…you had mentioned you wanted to talk about something?”
“Yeah, but…do you, like, actually need a shower right now?”
“No. You know I prefer to shower in the mornings.”
Christine slapped him on the bottom. “Then get your sweet little ass outta here. I’ve still got conditioner to rinse outta my hair.”
“Alright,” he said with a chuckle, “I’m going, I’m going…” He stepped out of the shower, dried off, wrapped the towel around his hips and walked out of the bathroom. He stepped around to the far side of the bed, took the towel off, held it out at arm’s length, then let it drop in the middle of the floor before lying down on the bed. He crossed his arms behind his head and smiled up at the ceiling for a minute, basking in the after glow of their encounter. Suddenly, he frowned and sat up, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed. After staring at the floor for a moment, he sighed and picked up the towel, then walked to the bathroom. The water was now off; she was out of the shower. He knocked on the door softly and opened it a little. “May I come in?” he asked.
“Yeah, sure.”
He opened the door wider to find her sitting in front of the mirror. “Coming to bed?”
“I’m not in the mood to sleep in a puddle tonight. I’m gonna dry this mess a little first.”
He hung up the towel and turned back to her. “Well, why don’t you let me help?”
“Why not? I know how to dry my own hair. Hand my that dryer…” He went to work on her hair and after a few moments asked, “So…what was it you wanted to talk about?”
“You told me Tuesday you wanted to talk about something. What is it?”
“What? I can’t hear you over the hair dryer!”
He turned it off. “What was it that you wanted to discuss this weekend?”
She pointed to her hair. “Let’s finish this first- then we can talk…”
He sighed and turned the dryer back on, now more curious than before.
Eventually she reached up and rubbed her head. “That’s good enough. Go ahead and turn it off. The rest’ll dry on it’s own.” As he set down the dryer, she jumped up and grabbed his hand. “Come on! Let’s get to bed now!”
She ran, dragging him behind her, jumped onto the bed with a bounce and quickly scrambled down under the covers. He couldn’t help but smiled as he watched her- there was something in her silliness, her impulsive wantoness that he found incredibly sexy. He pulled the covers back and slipped in bed beside her. Reaching over, he pulled her, giggling, over to himself and kissed her, running his hand down from the swell of her breast and over her waist until it came to rest on her hip. “So now tell me,” he said, “what was so important that you couldn’t tell me over the phone?”
“Rough day in court?”
“It must have been a rough day in court. It was, wasn’t it?”
He pressed his lips together and said, “Yeah. It was a hard case. It was…it was difficult going through it all again. When someone hurts a woman, I can’t help but think…”
“I know. And I could tell it got to you. You’re always more, uh, adventurous when you’re stressed out.”
She shook her head. “Don’t be. I get it. Sometimes you just need to feel alive. That’s perfectly okay. You good to feel alive, sweetheart. You deserve it. Besides,” she said with a mischievous smile, “I really kinda super like it, too.”
He chuckled. “Now come on. I’m starting to think there’s something you’re avoiding saying to me. Stop dancing around it and tell me…”
She kissed him and sighed, then looked him in the eye. “I need you to move out of the house.”
He looked at her for a moment, his mouth agape. “Excuse me?”
She sighed again. “You heard me. I’ll be home on Thursday, so I need you gone by Wednesday night.”
He sat up on one arm, still staring at her. “What? Why?”
“Because…we’re getting married in, like, two weeks! I just don’t think it’s right for us to be screwing around right before. It’s gotta be, I dunno, bad luck or something. I don’t want any bad juju falling down on my head right off the bat- that’s no way to start a marriage!”
“But that’s ridiculous! I’ve never heard of any such superstition, and superstition is nonsense anyway, which you already know!”
“Oh yeah? Then why don’t you try wearing matching socks like a normal human being for a change?”
“Because the last time I wore matching socks I tripped and sprained my ankle, because-”
“Exactly. Now who’s being ridiculous?”
He groaned and fell back on the pillow. “This…this just isn’t fair…”
“It's still my house. You’re not on the title yet, boy. My house, my rules.”
“But you’re going to be home! Do you have any idea how hard it will be to be in close proximity to you and not…not…”
“Not hump me? Sweetheart, I know. Believe me, I know! That’s why you have to move out, because if you were in the house, I’d be jumping your smexy ass every chance I get! But I’ve made up my mind, so I need you out before I get home.”
He rolled over on his side and looked at her. “And just where am I supposed to go?”
“Wherever you want, sweet face. We can afford a hotel. Or if you need the company, why don’t you see if you can crash at Derek’s place? You’ve done that before…”
“Yes, when you threw me out. Thank you for reminding me of that painful episode in our lives.”
She laughed. “Oh, come on! We kissed and made up, and as I recall, you liked the way I apologized to you. I mean, you, like, really liked it.”
He smiled at the memory. “Well, of course I did. But still…”
“You want me to call Derek and ask him? I’m sure he’ll be cool with it. Where’s your phone?” she asked, sitting up and starting to get out of bed.
He pulled her back in a panic. “Oh, no you don't! I’ll take care of it. Besides, it’s late on the east coast, and I think he was planning on having some female company this evening, anyway.”
“Anyway,” she said, snuggling down against his chest, “it’s only going to be a few weeks. After that, we’ve got a whole honeymoon during which to screw like rabbits. Hey- where are we going, anyway?”
“It’s a surprise.”
“Come on- just a little hint!”
“But how will I know how to pack?”
“Alex will take care of it.”
“So she knows? Oh, then it’ll be easy to find out.”
He put his arms around her and held her tight. “No, she doesn’t know. All she knows is that I’ll tell her the day of the wedding so she can pack after the reception. I will tell you that we’re spending our wedding night at a very nice hotel.”
“Oh yeah?”
“I don’t suppose it's a jacuzzi suite?”
“You’ll just have to wait and find out.”
“Anyway, I’ll still be seeing you Saturday for the paintball battle royale. And then I’m sure I’ll be seeing a lot of you all on Sunday when you wash and wax every damned vehicle I own!”
“Oh yeah? You think so?” he said, tickling her until she squirmed. “I disagree! You may doubt my abilities, but I can assure you we have some very impressive marksmen on our team. What have you got- Prentiss? I hate to be the one to inform you, dear, but you’re going down next weekend. Hard!”
“Hmm…speaking of going down…we do still have this weekend together…”. Her voice trailed off as she disappeared under the covers. Spencer laid back, closed his eyes and breathed deeply as she crawled between his legs and took him into her mouth.

“Morgan! Come on! You’re driving like an old lady. Put your foot on the gas and move- I want to get this over with!” Spencer checked his watch again and shifted restlessly in the passenger seat as they neared the house.
“Get it over with? Kid, I’m gonna make sure this lasts as long as possible- especially after what those women put us through yesterday!”
“They were brutal, alright,” Spencer conceded.
“And where the hell did they find a fucking sniper?!”
“You mean Diana? Yeah, I had no clue she could shoot like that, either. I spoke Christine about it last night- well, we spoke as best we could, considering they were all well on their way to getting drunk by the time I called her. It seems that Diana’s a former nationally ranked competitive shooter. She was even an alternate for the 1996 Olympic team in the air rifle competition…” Spencer said as they finally pulled the car up to the house and got out.
“I knew it! They had a ringer!”
“Well, it doesn’t matter now. In the end, Gideon took her out with a headshot, so we still won.”
“Just barely. It could easily have been us in those bikinis today, man, and no offense, but I really didn’t wanna see your bony ass in a Speedo today.”
“Then consider yourself fortunate!”
“I do, but it’s you I don’t get- why are you so eager to ‘get this over with’?”
“Because in another week, one of those women you’re going to be ogling will be my wife, and I’m not exactly comfortable with you seeing her in this state of undress,” Spencer replied as he sat down in a chair on the veranda beside Hotch, who had already made himself at home.
“That reminds me,” Morgan said, reaching into his pocket and pulling out his phone, “I’ve got to take a few pictures to remember this day by!”
“Again, I’m not comfortable with you using photographs of my bride-to-be as your masturbatory aides!” Spencer said.
“You probably shouldn’t use pictures of your coworkers for that purpose either, Morgan,” Hotch said.
“Hey man, I don’t need any help in that area! I can get plenty of women to give me what I need!”
“Yeah, right,” Joe said, coming out of the door with a couple of drinks in his hands. “Is that why you acted like such a pussy yesterday, because you’re just getting so damned much of it?”
“Morgan,” Hotch said as Joe handed him a glass, “do you realize that Reid here is currently getting more sex than you? Statistically speaking, he’s getting a lot more, too.”
“What are you smiling at, kid?” Morgan said to Spencer. “You ain't getting nothing this week- that’s why you’re at my place!”
“And because I’m at your place I happen to know you’re not getting any either,” Spencer retorted. “Furthermore, one week from today I’ll be on my honeymoon, while you’ll be all alone at home, hoping the drunk girl who gave you her number at my wedding still wants to see you after she’s sobered up. Maybe she will, maybe she won’t. Frankly, I don’t care because I’ll be too busy getting as much as I want and then some.”
“You tell him, Reid,” Hotch laughed, slapping him on the back.
“Where is this woman of yours, anyway?” Morgan said, annoyed.
“Wait!” Joe called out. “Wait a second there, honey- what’s your name? Amy?”
“Emily,” the other three men said.
“Emily, sorry, but could you go back and get those wheels there again? Yeah, that’s it. Really bend down and get in there, darlin’. No need to rush, now. Take all the time you need, mmm-kay?”
Prentiss responded with a one-fingered salute before following his orders.
“Oooh, sassy! That’s kinda hot!” Joe said, laughing.
“Watch this one,” Morgan said. “Baby girl, you missed that whole area right there in the middle of the hood. Now go on- stretch a little…a little more…yeah, just like that. Scrub right there.”
“I’d try that, but I’d probably get fired and sued,” Hotch complained.
“I see you gentlemen wasted no time in holding the ladies to their end of the bargain,” Gideon said as he walked up and took a seat on the veranda.
“Jason! We owe it all to you, sir!” Joe cried when he saw him.
“Yes!” Morgan said, clapping. “Thanks for coming through for us, my man!”
“Well,” he said, sitting down, “I wasn’t about to get out there and do this myself. It’s a pretty little bonus that we get to enjoy this fine sight this afternoon…speaking of a fine sight, where’s Christine, Reid?”
“She’s coming down,” Melanie said, bringing some plates out of the house.
“Melly, how come you ain’t out there with ‘em?” Joe teased.
“Would you rather see my fat ass hanging out of a swimsuit out there, or bringing you drinks and sandwiches up here? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Shut up, smartass. Jason, can I get you a drink?”
“What are you having, Hotch?” Gideon asked.
“I thought, since we’re sitting on the warm veranda of a beautiful old plantation home on such a lovely, sunny afternoon, that a nice mint julep was in order.”
“I’ll take one of those,” Gideon said.
Just then they heard the screen door open and slam shut behind them. “Feast your eyes, boys- you’re in for a treat!”
They all turned to see Christine in a white top with a red bow and navy hot-pant bottoms. “Well, helloooo, sailor!” Morgan said with a smile. “Forgive me if I don’t stand and salute!”
“Careful, Derek- I think you already are.” Turning to Spencer she asked, “How do I look?”
“You look…like I wish our honeymoon was starting now, dear.”
The others laughed and slapped him good-naturedly on the back as she sauntered down the stairs to where the cars were parked on the lawn.
“Reid, you are a lucky man. A very, very lucky man,” Morgan said.
Spencer said nothing, but merely leaned back in his chair and smiled.



Sorry it took me so long to publish this latest chapter.  The holidays were busy and stressful.  I hope to get back on a more normal writing schedule now that they're passed.  Thank you for your continued readership.

Also, I apologize for the single-space formatting.  I'm currently experimenting with writing everything in Word for my iPad instead of on my soon-to-be-deceased laptop, and that's one of the small hiccups I appear to have encountered.  The other problem is that italicized words are not being copied and pasted in their intended form.  I went back in and added some formatting to this, but honestly I'm simply too tired to do them all at this point.  Wish me luck in getting this all straightened out for future posts.

The Mill Creek Killer appeared in "The Last Word", which originally aired on November 15, 2006.

Chapter Text

“Hey Reid,” Morgan said, “remind me again why I have to be your chaperone this morning.”
Spencer sighed. “I might remind you that I never actually asked you to accompany us. I merely asked if I could borrow your truck to have breakfast with Christine before work, and you told me that I could drive it when I pried your keys from your cold, dead hands. Then you decided that you wanted a free meal as a reward for being my best man, but I could have just as easily called a cab. Don’t blame me for forcing you to cut your beauty sleep short.”
“I suppose it seemed like a good idea to me at the time, but right now it just feels like it’s too damned early for this. By the way, what is this place called again?”
“It’s the Eggsculsive Café. That’s with an e-g-g-s, like eggs that you eat, not e-x, as in every woman who’s ever dumped you.”
“Yeah, thanks Reid, I got it the first time.”
“And you should consider yourself fortunate to be going there! They have this fascinating machine that squeezes orange juice fresh to order, and they have french toast that’s made from cinnamon-swirl bread and served with cinnamon-maple syrup. They even give you whipped butter with cinnamon in it to put on top. It’s amazing, though I suppose you can’t have it…”
“Why not?”
“Because it’s exceptionally high in carbohydrates. You are watching your carbs, aren’t you?”
“No…why would you think I’m watching my carbs?”
“Well, because you’re getting older now, so it’s got to be increasingly difficult to stay in shape and maintain your perfect abs. I mean, it comes easily to me because I’m lucky enough to have a naturally high metabolic rate, but average people such as yourself really need to keep a much closer eye on how many empty calories they consume from simple carbohydrates as they age- oh look! There it is, right on the southeast corner over there. Do you see it? Take that right into the driveway just past the light.”
“Hey Reid, do you ever talk to Chris like that?”
“What, are you asking if I give her directions? No, not often. She says it makes her feel like I think she’s an idiot if I try to tell her where to go.”
“Try lecturing her about her carbohydrate intake sometime, kid. I’m sure she’ll love you for it.”
When they got inside, they made their way to a booth in the back where Christine sat, crossing her eyes and sticking out her tongue for the amusement of a little boy in the next booth who had stood up to look at her. A waitress set a glass of orange juice in front of her, and as they were sitting down, she blew the wrapper off her straw and hit Morgan in the forehead with it. “Glad to see you’re keeping it classy, Christine,” he grumbled as he took his seat.
“Don’t pay any attention to him,” Spencer said. “He’s just grumpy because I pointed out that, now that he’s getting older, he may want to start paying more attention to his carbs if he hope to keep his physique.”
“Ah yeah,” Christine said, “what are you now, Derek? 38? 39?”
“35,” he answered, picking up a menu with an air of annoyance.
“Actually he’s 36, and he’ll be 37 in three weeks,” Spencer corrected.
“Wow, congratulations! Another step on the long, slow march towards decay and death. Just think- pretty soon you’ll be 40. Then you’ll really have to start watching you weight,” Christine said.
“And worrying about your joint health,” Spencer added.
“Losing your hair…”
“Diminished sex drive…”
“Oooh,” Christine said gleefully, “and then you’ll have to start getting prostate exams! Now that’ll be fun- having to drop trou and grab the exam table while a stranger sticks his finger up your ass! That’s gotta be even worse than when you hit puberty and the doc grabbed your nuts and told you to turn your head and cough! Shit. Sometimes I feel pretty damned lucky I’m not a guy.”
“Oh yeah?” Morgan shot back. “Well at least we don’t just suddenly start bleeding once a month out of our…our…”
Christine looked him in the eye for a long, awkward moment before saying, “Vagina. It’s called a vagina. We bleed out of our vaginas. It’s what makes girls different from boys, Derek. We have vaginas and breasts, and you guys have penises and testicles.”
“Oh Jesus. Please stop…” Morgan groaned.
“Honestly, I never had you pegged for such a prude, Derek,” Christine continued.
“Is this what you two normally talk about when you’re eating? Is this honestly normal table conversation for you guys?”
“I suspect very few of our conversations would fit the standard definition of ‘normal’,” Spencer replied.
“Now, you may find this hard to believe,” Christine said, “but no, this is the first time Spencer and I have ever discussed your sack and crack, Derek.”
Morgan buried his face in his hands while Spencer smiled and said, “And that’s yet another reason why I love you, dear. Usually I’m the only one who seems to make normal conversations awkward. But I can always count on you to step up for me and make a perfectly fine chat exceedingly uncomfortable for someone, can’t I?”
“Awww, that’s the nicest thing anyone’s said to me in days, sweetheart! I love you, too!”
Just then a waitress came over and asked, “Is everyone ready to order?”
“Oh yes, please!” Morgan said, looking up. “Thank you for saving me! I heard you had some wonderful cinnamon french toast, yes? Good, I’ll have that. And a side of bacon, too, please.” He glared at the other two.
“Hey man, don’t look at me- it’s your waistline,” Spencer said.
“Don’t bother the man, Spencer. Clearly he’s already balding; that’s why he shaves his head! He has enough to worry about without you bothering him about his weight, too.”
“You know I hate you both, right? Please give me a glass of that orange juice, too. Thank you,” Morgan said, annoyed.
“I’ll have the same as him,” Spencer said. “And coffee too, please.”
“I’ll take the bacon, avocado and tomato omelette with swiss, please. And another juice when you get the chance.”
As the waitress was leaving, Morgan said to Christine, “Now who’s worried about carbs, hmm?”
“Hey, I don’t give two fast fucks about carbs- didn’t you see that thing comes with a side of pancakes?”
“Aren’t you worried you won’t fit into your wedding dress?” Morgan teased.
“Nope. It’s got a little room to it. And as for Spencer, he knows I’m a pancake and waffle eater; if he doesn’t love me with a little jiggle, he doesn’t deserve me.”
“I love every bit of you, soft and firm,” Spencer said reassuringly. “So is there anything new to report, dear?” Spencer asked as the waitress poured his coffee.
“Well, Mom and Dad landed safely in Vegas yesterday,” she began.
“Wait- your parents went to Vegas instead of coming here for your wedding?” Morgan asked.
“Oh, they’ll be here. They just went to Vegas ‘cause his mom doesn’t like flying. Mom decided to let Dad gamble for a few days while she takes his mom shopping to find her a dress and get their nails done, then they’ll all take a train back.”
“Her father’s a physician,” Spencer explained, “and her mother recently retired from nursing, so they’ll be able to care for my mother along the way.”
“It’s a long trip,” Christine said, “but it should be a bit of an adventure. They leave Vegas tomorrow, arrive in Chicago on Wednesday where they’ll hit up the Art Institute and grab some pizza, then they’ll meet up with my grandpa and Aunt Norma-”
“Aunt Norma’s coming?” Spencer asked.
“Yeah, isn’t that cool? 92 years old. God bless her- she’ll probably bring cookies, too. Maybe even a casserole. So anyway, they’ll arrive early Friday morning, just in time for a shower, and then off to rehearsal. Sounds like a nice little trip for them all.”
“How’s your mom doing with all this, Reid?” Morgan asked. “It’s not too much for her?”
“She’s met Christine. She stops in to see her every time she’s in Vegas.”
“Yeah, we’re old friends now. Hell, I kinda feel more comfortable talking to her than I do to my own mother. She’s very open-minded and non-judgmental. Mom and Dad saw her yesterday and she’s all excited to go shopping. She wants to find a nice lavender dress so she looks pretty in the pictures with her special little man…” Christine stopped suddenly and looked at Spencer with wide eyes. “Oh my God! I just realized something we forgot. Dude, I totally spaced!”
“What’s wrong?” Spencer asked.
“We forgot to get rings! Holy shit! We can’t get married without rings! Oh my God,” she said, digging in her purse for her phone. “Do either of you know of a decent jeweler who can get it done for us ASAP? I swear to God, I will not get married with a ring we picked up at fucking Walmart!”
Reid stared at her, his mouth agape. “Oh my God! You’re right- we forgot to get rings! Lucky for you, I did not forget them. You’re not getting out of this that easily…”
Christine gave him a look of indignation. “What? How could you go ring shopping without me?”
“Sometime’s there’s just no pleasing you, dear. First you were upset that we had no rings, now you’re mad at me because I got them without you? Besides, there was really nothing to pick out- the engagement ring came with a band, and I merely chose one for myself that matched it. And no, it did not come from Walmart, so settle down.”
“Did you get my music list to the DJ?”
“Yes,” Spencer said, giving her a dubious look, “I did. It had a little too much AC/DC on it for my liking…”
“Come on! It’s supposed to be a party, baby!”
“…and I’ve already voiced my opposition to the chicken dance, but it was generally acceptable.”
“And you made sure to let them know the first dance would be…?”
“I told them what it would be,” he said with a smile, “but you won’t be able to get me to tell you in advance, dear. Nice try, though.”
“Damn. Anyway, the other thing is vows. Have you written yours yet?”
“Yes, I have, and you won’t be hearing those in advance, either. What about you? Have you written yours yet?”
“No, and I don’t intend to. I’m planning on just winging it.”
“Christine, this is our wedding! You can’t just ‘wing it’!”
“Why not? It’s called improvisation, sweetheart. It’s what I do for a living. Take a pill, dude.”
As Spencer glared at her, Morgan spoke up. “Chris, I’m kinda on Reid’s side on this. Are you seriously not planning to prepare anything?”
“I’m still trying to tell if she’s joking or not,” Spencer said as the waitress delivered their food. “When she’s on stage, everything if fully rehearsed. Even the parts that seem like they're completely spontaneous are things she’s gone through in her mind hundreds of times, simply because she’s so good at predicting the audience’s reactions. Or she could actually be planning on making it up on the spot just to make me uncomfortable- I wouldn’t put that past her, either…”
Christine shoved a forkful of omelette in her mouth and said, “If I’m any good at my job, you’ll never know the difference.”
Spencer sighed. “Well, I hope you take it seriously, dear,” he said as he cut into his french toast. “Please don’t turn our wedding ceremony into stand-up.”
“Where’s the fun in that?” she laughed. “You don’t expect me to slip into a rut of tired predictability before we’re even married, do you? Suspense, speculation and the possibility of silliness are the spice of our relationship, Spencer!”
Spencer pressed his lips together then said, “Well, at least try- just try- to keep a lid on the crazy, okay?”
“I make no promises other than that my vows will be a promise, and I intend to keep it.” She took another bite and said, “Well, I think it’s all pretty well covered, then. Can you think of anything we left out?”
“Who, me?” Morgan asked, surprised. “Hey sister, I’m just the best man. All I know is where I gotta show up and when. All the rest of it, that’s women’s stuff- no offense, Reid.”
“None taken. I am fully confident that if you ever find a lady with whom you manage to maintain a relationship past the third date and then decide to settle down, you’ll find these things suddenly seem rather important. And on that day, Morgan, I will happily assist you,” Spencer said.
Later, as they were leaving the restaurant, Christine said, “Well, I guess that’s it, then. Everything looks like it’s done. So unless something comes up, the next time I’ll see you will be Friday, huh?”
Spencer reached out and took her hand. “Yes, it looks that way.”
She sighed. “I’m kinda regretting kicking you out right about now,” she said slyly.
He leaned in and replied, “Me too.”
After looking into one another’s eyes for a moment, they embraced to share a long, slow kiss. After a few moments, Morgan called out, “Alright, you two. Don’t make me get some cold water to throw on you! We’ve still gotta work today, kid!”
“Well, I suppose that's it, then,” Spencer said. “I have to go to work.”
“Until Friday, then.”
“Until then!”

Morgan put the truck in park and turned off the engine. Turning to Spencer he said, “Well kid, this is it. The next time you show up here, you’ll be getting married. Are you nervous yet?”
Spencer shook his head and laughed as he walked across the parking lot to the church. “Morgan, you’ve been asking me that question, or some variant thereof, all day long, and the answer is still no! I mean, I have some minor anxiety regarding certain aspects of the celebration, such as whether the caterer will be able to accommodate guests who failed to RSVP, but by all accounts everything seems to be in order. There’s really nothing logically I should be worried about!”
Morgan reached out and grabbed his friend by the arm to stop him. “Then stop and think a little harder, Reid- just for a minute.” He moved to stand in front of Spencer and looked him in the eye. “Do you realize that tomorrow, when you walk out of here, you’re gonna be a married man?”
“Of course I realize it!”
“I don’t mean up here, man,” he said, tapping on Spencer's forehead. “I mean down here, in your heart.” He put his had briefly over his friend’s chest and continued, “I know you know it all rationally and intellectually- but are you really letting yourself feel it? ‘Cause you know, after tomorrow, you won’t just be you anymore. You’ll be one half of something a whole lot bigger, and I’m not sure you’ve figured that out yet! For the rest of your life, your life will no longer be about you- what you want, what you need. It’s gonna be about her, too. A wedding- hell, all that is is a ceremony. And believe me, I know you’ve thought about that. For three months that’s all you and Garcia have talked about! But being married is something a whole lot bigger than that, I don’t think you really get it!”
Spencer chuckled a little. “What, are you trying to scare me or something? You think I’m making a mistake?”
“Nah, man. Not at all. I know you- you’re ready for this, and you’ve found the right girl. There is no one in this world happier for the two of you right now more than me. But you’re about to start a new family, man! Think about that! You and her…maybe in a few years there’ll even be more. Who knows? But I do know that tomorrow a whole new life is gonna begin for you. It might not even feel that way at first. But 50 years from tomorrow, the two of you are gonna look at one another and realize that that was the day your whole lives changed. So do me a favor, Spencer- starting now, try to think about all this a little less, and try to feel it a little more. I don’t think the memories you want of these moments are gonna be about who stood where or who ate what. They’re gonna be of how you felt the day it all changed.” He reached out to tousle Spencer's hair; for once he didn’t duck, but just nodded and let Morgan do it. “Okay? Think you can do that for me?”
“Yeah,” Spencer said quietly. “I’ll try.”
As they walked through the parking lot, Morgan asked, “So you two decided to have it in a church after all?”
“In the end it was logistically easier than having the ceremony and reception in the same space, because the staff would have had to-“
“That’s enough. I don’t need to know all the details,” Morgan said, waving his hand. They walked a little in silence until they opened the doors. Christine was standing just inside telling her brothers loudly, “Are you both out of your goddamn minds? No, I don’t want any of that! Are you fucking kidding me?”
“Christine! Watch your language!” her mother said sharply.
“Have you even heard these two?” she shot back. “Do you have any idea what your sons are up to, Mother?”
“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it, Chris,” Wesley laughed. “If it bothers you so much, forget I even offered!”
“Ugh, you two are disgusting- both of you!” Christine said, pointing at them.
“What’s going on here?” Spencer asked.
“Oh, hey sweets,” Christine said, finally noticing him. “Listen to this and tell me who’s out of their mind- me, or these two bastards. So, Tweedledumb over here,” she said, gesturing to Wesley, “was on his way over to the house to pick up the folks for some sightseeing when he hit a deer…”
“Oh, that’s terrible!” Spencer exclaimed. “At least you look okay, though. How’s the van?”
“Pretty fucked up, but not totaled. Insurance will cover it,” he said with a shrug.
“Well, thank goodness for that, then,” Spencer nodded.
“Yeah, but the deer wasn’t so lucky, if ya know what I mean,” he replied.
“So anyway,” Christine said testily, “he limps his van back home and calls Tweedledumber over there to get Alex’s truck and come pick him up. Mind you, I’m out running errands all day and have no idea any of this is going down. So Joe goes and gets him and they go back out to where he hit the deer and what do you think they do, hmm? Call the highway department to come and remove the carcass? NO. They load it up in Alex’s truck and take it to a butcher to be turned into venison steaks.”
“And roasts,” Joe added with a snicker.
“Shut up, you monster. He murdered Bambi’s mother, and you aided and abetted him in the concealment of his crime. And then,” she said, turning back to Spencer, “after committing these heinous acts, they had the audacity to show up here and ask me if I wanted some of the meat! Can you believe that? So I ask you, Spencer, who’s truly the crazy one here- them, for collecting roadkill, or me for refusing to dine off their rigor mortis stew?”
“That’s a lie,” Joe said. “Rigor hadn’t even set in yet!”
“I said shut up, you monster!” Christine cried. Then, turning back to Spencer she moaned, “Oh dear God, save me, for I am surrounded by idiots. Ah! I’m so disgusted I can hardly function right now!”
“Well,” he said, putting his arms around her, “I have to say, I’m on your side, dear- and I’m not just saying that because I still want you to marry me tomorrow. Wes and Joe, I must say, it is rather disgusting, and I’m more than a little disturbed the two of you would even think of doing such a thing.”
“But it’s perfectly good meat!” Joe insisted.
Wes added, “Joe’s right, and don’t you think that it would have been a terrible waste of that animal’s life if someone didn’t consume it’s flesh after it died? It’s the circle of life.”
“You killed Bambi’s mother!” Christine cried again. “Monsters!”
Spencer sighed and hugged Christine. “There there,” he said, patting her head like a child’s. “Just settle down. You’re strong. You can get through this.”
“I’m not a baby,” she mumbled into his shoulder.
“Then stop acting like one,” he whispered in her ear. “You don’t have to take any venison from them if you don’t want to. Did my mother come tonight?”
“Yes,” she said, looking up at him. “I think she went in to sit in the sanctuary.”
“Okay. If you can get everyone lined up out here, I’d like to go in and say hi to her quickly.”
“Will do,” she replied. As Spencer reached for the door to the sanctuary, he heard Christine call out, “Alright, everybody- shut up and listen up!”
“Christine! Manners!” her mother complained.
As the doors fell shut behind him, he felt a sudden quiet and stillness envelop him. He saw his mother sitting alone in the large space, just a few rows up, and he made his way towards her. Sitting beside her in the pew, he leaned over to kiss her cheek and said simply, “Hi, Mom.”
She turned to smile warmly at him and placed her hand on his knee. “Spencer! There you are! Oh, but it’s good to see you. I’ve had such a delightful little adventure coming here, but you truly are the prize at the end of my quest. Stand up and let me look at you!” He obliged his mother and she looked him up an down. A look of tenderness passed over her face and her eyes got misty. “You grow taller and more handsome every time I see you. I hardly recognize you anymore, Spencer! The little boy to whom I once read is gone, and in his place now stands a grown man. I can hardly believe it,” she said, with a little shake of her head. “But I suppose you have to run off right away. You have to rehearse now!”
“No, Mom, I have some time. Tell me about your trip. Was it okay?”
“Oh, it was wonderful! Your in-laws are lovely people, and Christine’s grandfather was fascinating to speak with. He’s so well traveled, and had an interesting story to tell about everywhere he’s been. Did he tell you about the time he spent with a voodoo priestess in Haiti?”
Spencer smiled. “All I know about their trips to Haiti is that in the 70’s, to drive there was to take your life in your hands.”
“You should ask him about it. Oh! And we went on a boat ride in Chicago! It was with a gentleman from the Architecture Foundation and very informative. I understand we were lucky to have a warm day to do it…”
“Yes, this time of year the weather can be unpredictable.”
“The weather here is just perfect, though, isn’t it? You’re going to have just the most beautiful day for your wedding…” She dabbed her eyes with a tissue. “It reminds me of my own wedding. It was just a small affair, but I can still remember the smell of the flowers, the warmth of the sun on my face as we stepped out of the church, and how very handsome your father was on that day. You look so much like him…oh, that was a lovely day…”
Spencer felt himself stiffen at the mention of his father. “You know, Mom, I’d really rather not talk about him on a day like today- and especially tomorrow. That man broke his vow to you, to us. He left us, and there’s no excuse for that! I mean, my God, Mom- he knew you had schizophrenia when he married you, but then- what? He got tired of dealing with it? After he’d built a life and had a kid, he just got tired of it all? What kind of man does that, just gives up on his family and walks out? If there’s anything I’ve learned from Christine it’s that you don’t give up on someone when they have problems- if you love them, really love them, you help them! You don’t just throw people away like they’re garbage when you see they’re not as perfect as you think they should be! Don’t mention him any more, Mother!”
“Baby, it wasn’t about that.”
“About what?”
“You weren’t there. You don’t understand…”
“Wasn’t there? Mom, I was 10 years old when he left. I was there, and I understand very clearly why he left- because we weren’t good enough for him!”
She shook her head, “No, Spencer, no! You…you don’t understand! You-”
Spencer’s heart rose in his throat as he saw his mother become agitated. “Mom! Mom,” he said gently, putting his arms around her. “I’m sorry, Mom. I- I shouldn’t have brought it up. Shhh…I’m sorry. I won’t do it again, I promise.”
She clung to his arms for a moment and said quietly, “Spencer, you’ll know soon enough- when you’re married, things happen between the two of you that no one else knows about. You weren’t there. You don’t understand….”
“Okay, Mom. Okay,” he said. After a few seconds he said, “So why don’t you tell me about your train ride, Mom?”
“Oh, baby, it was wonderful- so much better than flying or driving. Very scenic and relaxing-“
“I’m so glad to hear that, Mom,” he said, standing and kissing her on the forehead. “I can see Christine waving maniacally to me back there, so I think it’s time to practice lining up. Come on, Mom. We can practice me walking you in.”
She took his arm and opened the doors to the vestibule to hear Christine ordering everyone about. “Alright, so this is how it’s gonna go down: one of the boys- dammit, Deer Hunter! Where’d the trips go? Well, find one of ‘em- just one, we don’t need all three- to escort Mom in…”
“What about me?” her father asked.
“Dude, you’ve been through this before. Didja forget the drill? You need to chill and hang out with me, okay? Actually, wait- no, Spencer and his mother enter first, so you two get in line, then my mom- oh, you found one of ‘em. Well done. Which one are you? Petey? Alright, my man, you’re on deck for tomorrow. Then it goes like this: Emily and Russ- Em, that’s my uncle. He’s also my godfather. You’ll love him. Then it’s Penny and Joe, Alex and Jason, Melly and Aaron, and finally Diana and Derek. Aw, don’t you look so cute together? He’s like a foot and a half taller than you!”
“It’s more like barely a foot, and I’ll be wearing heels tomorrow, anyway,” Diana said curtly.
“Whatever. Better you than me in those things,” Christine said with a shrug. “After them comes Jennifer with the girls and…and…where’s the fucking cat?”
“CHRIS-TINE!” her mother cried. “LANGUAGE!”
“Oh my God! There’s supposed to be a cat and Alex didn’t bring it and- Alex, baby, we gotta be able to rehearse with the cat!”
“I’ve got him right here, Chris,” Alex said, pulling him out of his carrier. “Calm the heck down! He’s good to go!”
“Well, toss the leash to Jennifer…so, yeah. You’ve got that thing and the flower girls so…good luck with that. Then comes Emmie and then it’s show time for you and me, Dad. Dad? Dad! What on earth are you doing to my flower girls?”
“I’m simply telling them,” he said, “that I’ve placed dollar bills on the floor where they're supposed to stand. If they stand still, they can keep them. Tomorrow there will be real silver dollars up there, but you have to stand very still. Can you do that, girls?” He held up a pair of shiny coins for them as they nodded, wide-eyed.
“Bribery works. Alright folks, line up and cue the music. Let’s get this show on the road, ‘cause the sooner we finish, the sooner we get to eat!”
“Are you ready for this, baby?” Diana whispered to Spencer.
“Mom, I’ve been ready for years.”



In the season two episode "Revelations", viewers are lead to believe that Spencer's father left the family because he couldn't handle dealing with his schizophrenic wife's condition.  In the season four episode "Memoriam", however, we learn that there were other reasons of which Spencer was previously unaware that lead to his father's departure.


Chapter Text

Alex pushed open the bedroom door and padded silently across the floor. She stood looking down at the sleeping figure for a moment before pulling back the covers and climbing in. When she reached out and laid her arm over her, Christine murmured a bit and rolled over. She blinked and stared, uncomprehendingly at first, at Alex before saying simply, “Coffee.”
“It’s downstairs. The whole family is up, waiting on you.”
Christine sat up, rubbed her eyes, and reached for her glasses. “How much time do I have?”
“Enough time for you to shower and get dressed before we need to leave for brunch.”
Christine yawned and stretched and then let one hand fall on Alex’s shoulder. “You’re a good girl. I mean that. Now go see about that coffee. I’ll be down in a few.”
Once the door shut behind Alex, Christine threw back the covers and stood up. After she got out of the shower, she wrapped a towel around herself and stumbled, still groggy, into the closet. There on the floor stood two pieces of luggage. She opened the larger one to find it still empty and scoffed a little. Spencer still hadn’t told even Alex what to pack for their honeymoon. She knew the other one, an overnight bag, was empty, too. She turned to her lingerie chest pulled out the box she’d been given. She opened it and laid it’s contents inside the bag, then pulled pants and a shirt down to put with it. She zipped up the bag hastily and dressed herself in sweats before heading downstairs.
She could hear the whole family gathered in the kitchen. She stopped just outside the door and took a deep breath. She’d always been happy to play the hostess, and it gave her immense satisfaction knowing that she’d done well enough for herself that she could even house many of them under her own roof. The night before, she’d sat up late with her grandpa, pouring over old photo albums and listening to his stories. “See this one? Look at it,” he’d said, pointing to a picture of himself and her grandmother with their family and friends gathered on the steps of the farmhouse that now belonged to her aunt Melanie. It had been taken just after their own wedding. “I just noticed this a few nights ago- look at both our mothers. They’re both looking at her, but her mother looks so sad while mine looks so happy. I think her mother knew what she was losing, and mine knew what she’d just gained.” Christine swallowed hard and walked into the kitchen.
“There she is!” someone cried, followed by a chorus of good-natured greetings. She submitted herself to all their hugs as she made her way to the coffee pot and poured herself a cup.
“So,” she asked, “what time do we leave for brunch?”
“As soon as you’re dressed and ready to go,” her mother replied.
“I am dressed.”
“Oh, no you’re not! Go on, now, and put on something presentable!”
“Oh, for Christ’s sake, mother!”
“Watch your language! You’re going to a church today!” her mother scolded.
“I’m going to have to side with your mother on this one,” a voice said from the doorway. It was Garcia. “About the clothes, I mean, not the whole church thing. Well, I mean, we are going to church and all, but it’s just…I don’t think…oh, you know what I mean. You really should go change.”
“Aw, come on! It’s just pancakes! It’s not like I’m planning on walking down the aisle like this! For fuck’s sake, who’s wedding day is it, anyway?”
“LANGUAGE!” her mother said.
Christine groaned loudly. “I just don’t see why I have to get all dressed up just to eat some bacon! I’m gonna be dressed up the whole rest of the day- can’t I just chill now?”
“Oh, my little carrot cake,” Garcia said, “there’s going to be a photographer there, and, I mean, years from now, when you look back on this day, are those the clothes you really wanna see?”
“Whoa. Wait. What? There’s going to be a what there?”
“A photographer.”
“Oh no. No no no no no. I swear to God, if there’s a photographer there, I’m not leaving this house. Go have brunch without me!”
Garcia leaned in and said in a panicked whisper, “Maybe we can go talk about this somewhere else?”
“Yeah, fine. Whatever,” Christine huffed as she walked down the hall towards the library. After the door had closed behind them, she turned to Garcia and said, “So who’s cockamamie idea was it to have a photographer taking pictures of me shoveling pancakes into my face this morning? Was that you or Spencer?”
“It’s included in the package we agreed upon. I thought he-”
“What the hell kinda dumbass package is that? No one wants pictures of stupid shit like that- especially not me!”
“Christine, it’s intended to be sweet- you know, so that you can look back someday on your wedding and remember all different little things that led up to the big moment…that’s sweet, isn’t it? Doesn’t that sound sweet?”
“It sounds fucking psychotic! I’ve only got a few hours left to spend in peace and freedom, and I don’t want it all ruined by some cocksucker with a camera counting how many slices of bacon I have on my plate!”
Garcia tilted her head to the side a little and after a moment said, “Now, I’m no profiler, but I know enough to hear you saying your more interested in mourning the loss of your single-status than you are in celebrating the new life you’re about to start. Which makes me wonder, Chris- are you having second thoughts? Are you, like, just not ready for this yet?”
Christine’s mouth fell open. “What? No, I mean…what? No, that’s not it…not really…”
“Not really? Then what is it really, Chris? No, don’t you turn away from me,” she said, reaching out for her arm. “We need to talk about this, and I mean, like, right now.”
Christine put her hands to her head and leaned back against the sofa. “It’s just…I…I don’t know if I can do this. Not the wedding. The wedding I can handle. It’s the whole part that comes after that. My grandparents, they were married 67 years, Penny! 67 YEARS! Do you have any idea what it takes to stay together 67 years? I know I sure as hell don’t! And my grandma…” she shook her head as tears started to form, “I don’t think my grandma once ever doubted she could do it. She could do anything. She could fix anything. Me, I don’t even have a firm grasp on being an adult on my own yet- that’s what I had to hire Alex to do for me. Every fucking houseplant I’ve ever bought in my life has died. All except that stupid cactus over on the window sill, and I’m actively trying to kill that ugly motherfucker and it just won’t die!” She snatched a pillow off the sofa, threw it in the general direction of the cactus and missed it. “Why won’t you just die already? Die!”
Christine was reaching for a second pillow when Garcia grabbed her arm and stopped her. “Noooo, no no no no no. Leave the poor cactus alone and tell me what’s going on, because right now you’re not making any sense.”
“I hate that stupid cactus. Look at it- it just sits there looking shitty day in and day out, mocking me. It doesn’t matter if I never water it or if I try and drown it. It just won’t die!”
“Then throw it out, Chris!”
“I can’t, because it’s a perfectly good cactus. But every plant I actually like, those I all kill. No matter how hard I try, I can’t keep any other house plants alive. Now, my grandma, she could grow anything. She always knew how to love and nurture everything around her, but me, I can’t do anything right! Now I’m getting married. What the hell am I doing, Penny? You know, my brother once told me I was nothing but a professional fuck up, and damn if he wasn’t right. I don’t know what it takes to be married 67 years, but I don’t think I’ve got it. How can I be a good wife if I can barely be a good me? Oh, god,” she moaned, bending over and putting her hands on her knees. “I think I’m gonna be sick…”
“Ohhhh no,” Garcia said nervously. “Oh no, oh no. No, no, let’s not be sick. Are you hyperventilating? You look like you’re going to hyperventilate. Maybe…maybe you can put your head between your knees? Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do when you hyperventilate? Maybe I should get a bag for you to breathe into. That’s what I always see them doing in cartoons, breathing into a bag. Does that work? Is there a bag in here we can use? I don’t-”
“Please,” Christine said, interrupting her. “Just be quiet for a moment.”
“Yes. Yes, quiet. I can be quiet.” Garcia stood looking at her for a few seconds and said, “Can I say something now?”
“Yes,” Christine said without looking up.
“I think…I think you’re looking at marriage all wrong. I mean, I know I’ve never been married so who am I to talk, right? But I do know why Spencer’s marrying you, and it’s not because he expects you to be perfect. It’s because he loves you. And that’s going to be how you make this thing work- not by always doing everything right, but by doing it together. Even your grandma, Chris- she didn’t know everything when she started out. Who does? But I think it’s like a journey: you guys start out hand in hand, and you take one step together. Then you take another, and another, and you just keep going. And if you ever fall or hit your toe, then you help each other up, kiss the boo-boos away, and keep going. Does that make any sense, or am I just rambling here?”
Christine stood up and looked at her. “No…no, that makes perfect sense.” She exhaled heavily and crossed her still trembling arms across her body. “Can I ask one huge favor of you, though?”
“Of course you can! Anything- you name it!”
“Can…can I have a hug?”
Garcia threw her arms around her and held her tight. “Of course you can, you little pumpkin muffin! You can have as many hugs as you want. You’re lucky, too, because I’ve been told I give, like, the best hugs ever!”
“Yeah, it’s pretty awesome,” Christine said through a sudden mixture of laughter and tears. “I think I’ll probably still prefer it when I get one from Spencer later…”
Garcia joined her in laughing. “Hey, all I offer are hugs. Count me out of anything else you’re planning on doing with him later. These arms are where I draw the line!”
“But you will cancel the photographer this morning, won’t you?”
“If it means that much to you, yes. Now, whenever you’re ready, take a breath, go change your clothes, and let’s go have brunch.”
Minutes later, she rejoined her family in the kitchen only to hear her mother groan again. “Really, Christine! I wouldn't mind so much if you wore any other t-shirt, but that one? It’s just not appropriate!”
“What’s so inappropriate about it? I happen to agree with the sentiment that ‘Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms should be a convenience store, not a government agency.’ What, have you suddenly turned communist on us, Mother? Hey, y’all- Mom hates the Second Amendment, which means she hates America!”
“Oh, calm down! All I’m saying is I don’t think it’s right to call for the death of a federal agency on the day when your marrying someone who happens to be a federal agent!”
Christine groaned. “Oh, for pity’s sake, Mother! I know exactly what Spencer does- he’s employed by a huge bureaucracy that over-works and under-pays him because he finds it altruistically fulfilling. That doesn’t mean I have to forfeit my right to fight overreaching government power, and I’m not changing my shirt. Power to the people, Mom!”
“Aaaaand, on that note,” Joe said, grabbing Christine’s arm, “let’s go get something to eat- I’m starving!” He leaned in and whispered in Christine’s ear, “And try, just for today, to resist the urge to start a fight, wouldja?”
“Oh, pooh. You’re no fun,” Christine whispered back and, shaking off his grasp, walked out of the kitchen.
She was standing on the front lawn, gazing at the house, when Alex came out and joined her. “Next time you go back inside, you’ll be a married woman, boss!”
“Yeah,” she said somewhat absently, “I suppose you're right. I guess that means I’m gonna have to talk to my lawyer now and change my will. Right now, if I die, you get it- the house, I mean, and enough money to keep you comfortable in it. But I guess I’ve gotta change all that. Now you’ll have to wait for both of us to drop dead before you get it.”
Alex stared at Christine, her mouth open. “You were going to leave it to me? Not Spencer or your family?”
“You’ve given up your whole life to take care of me, and this is your home as much as mine. No one in my family needs or would even want it, and I always figured Spencer could take care of himself. Besides, he knew about the arrangement, though I guess I have to change it now…”
“I…I don’t know what to say…”
“Just don’t start making plans to off us in our sleep.”
“Now you're just being silly. But thank you, and you're right- this is my home. I kinda feel like today my mom and my dad are getting married. Ha! About time, too!”
“Come on, you two!” Joe yelled from the driveway. “I wanna get there before they run out of bacon!”
“Meat candy, here we come!” Christine called back, putting her arm around Alex’s shoulders.

Spencer got out of Morgan's truck and reached into the backseat for the garment bag he’d hung there as Joe’s car pulled up along side of them, followed by Hotch’s and later, Gideon’s.
“Hey, Derek,” Joe called out as he climbed out of his car. “Thanks again for lunch. That was killer, man!”
“My pleasure,” he replied. “It’s not every day my best friend gets married.” He reached out to ruffle Spencer’s hair, while the later tried to duck out of his reach. Spencer then stopped and stared at another corner of the parking lot. “What is it, kid?”
“Nothing. It’s just…she’s here already,” he replied, nodding towards where Christine’s car was parked.
“She’d better be,” Joe said. He belched loudly and added, “I know they were gonna get their nails done after we had bunch, and that doesn’t take that long I don’t think…”
“So you ate brunch with them before coming out for lunch with us?” Morgan asked.
“Hey man, free food is free food. I take it wherever I can get it, and I plan on getting a lot more of it tonight. Oh! That reminds me…” Joe reached into his pocket, pulled out an object and shoved it into Spencer’s hands.
“What’s this,” he asked, “a flask?”
“Yeah, pre-filled with tequila ‘cause I know how much you like it. The old folks say it’s good for digestion, but I figure it’ll also be useful in getting you down the aisle once it hits you just what kind of crazy bitch you’re about to marry. By the way, it’s cool if I call her a crazy bitch, but if I hear you say it, I’ll have to cut your nuts off, Spinster. Family honor and everything, you know.”
“Yes, well, thank you for the flask- and for the warning,” Spencer said, removing the cap, sniffing it and making a face. “Oh, and Joe? There’s one thing I’ve been meaning to tell you for a while now…”
“What’s that?”
“I HATE BEING CALLED SPINSTER!” he yelled, then smiled at the look on Joe’s face. “But at least I can take comfort in the knowledge that, after today, you cannot justifiably call me that anymore.”
“Come on, you two,” Morgan said. “Let’s get in there and finish getting ready.”
Stepping into the church, they each stood blinking, allowing their eyes to adjust to the dimmer light. Soon they heard footsteps coming towards them from the long hallway to their right. “Oh, thank goodness! I was beginning to worry we’d lost the groom!” Garcia panted as she hurried over.
“Baby girl! You look…absolutely delicious!” Morgan exclaimed as he took off his sunglasses.
“Not too bad yourself, mocha grande! Come on, you boys can finish getting ready in here,” she said as she led them to another room.
“Hey, Garcia,” Spencer said quietly as the others filed into the room, “how’s my mom doing?”
“Oh, cupcake, she's fabulous! They’re doing her hair and make up now, and she’s just so excited to see her special little man on super special day!”
“Good…very good. I’m glad she’s doing well. As long as her stress level is kept low, she should be fine. When do you think I can see her?”
“I’ll send her down as soon as they’re done with her. And I have to say, I can see now where you got your gorgeous good looks- wait till you see her smile!”
“I can’t wait. Thank you, Penelope.”
“Ooh, you’re so very, very welcome. Now, I need you boys to finish getting dressed and, sweetie, please do something about that hair! I’m sending Carolyn down in a little bit to make sure you’re all looking picture-perfect, okay?”
“Yes, okay. Thank you,” he said, and shut the door after her. He turned, found a chair to sit down in and balled his fists before spreading his fingers out over his knees.
“So the nerves are finally hitting you?” Gideon asked.
Spencer smiled weakly. “Yeah, I think so, though it…it’s not logical, really. I mean, I’ve wanted this day to come for so long, everything is ready and I’m sure I’m making the right decision…”
“Of course you are,” Morgan said. “You two are perfect together!”
“So then why are my palms sweating, my throat dry, and I feel like I’m about to vomit?”
“The three most important days in a man’s life,” Gideon said, “are the day he’s born, the day he dies, and the day he marries, and the day he marries is the only one he truly has control over. The only thing that would be unusual is if you weren’t nervous right now!”
“And if all else fails,” Joe said, “there’s tequila. Or, if you prefer, I’ve got some root beer schnapps,” he added, as he patted the pocket of his jacket.
“Root beer schnapps?” Morgan asked. “Who the hell drinks root beer schnapps?”
“What? It’ll get you drunk and it tastes like root beer. I like root beer. But if you want, I can go grab someone. I’m pretty sure Wes's has some scotch and I know Dad and Grandpa have gin on ‘em. And I can tell that one right there has a flask,” he said, nodding towards Hotch. “Whatchya got? You a scotch or Irish whiskey man?”
“Bourbon,” Hotch replied. “And I’m with Morgan. Joe, the only people who carry around flasks of root beer schnapps are teenage boys on prom night.”
“Pffft. Maybe it was that way in the 50’s when you went to prom. Nowadays kids sneak Jaegermeister.”
Morgan made a face. “Oh, god. Don’t even mention that word. Just thinking about that stuff makes me sick.”
“Hey!” Spencer said. “It’s still my wedding, and I think I can get through it without liquid courage, guys!”
“And we both know my sister’s crazy and maybe you could use something to take the edge off, that’s all I’m saying,” Joe replied.
Spencer just smiled and shook his head. “Does anyone have a comb I can borrow?” he asked. “I seem to have misplaced mine…”
After a few minutes of good-natured joking, a knock came on the door. Joe opened it and said, “Oh hey, Dad- we were just talking about you…yeah, of course he’s here. Come on in.”
At the sight of Dr. Archangeli, Spencer stood up, quickly wiped his damp palm on his trousers and extended his hand. The older man seemed not to see it, but rather walked just past Spencer clutching something in his hands, sat down, and gestured for him to do the same. After clearing his throat softly, Dr. Archangeli said, “I believe it’s necessary to be very clear with you about something today, son. You see, I know how young men think on their wedding days. It wasn't that long ago that I was young myself. And I know the two of you are feeling very grown up today and are ready to start your adult lives together. And when I walk her down the aisle, you’re going to see a beautiful young woman. But I want you to remember that when I give her away, this is what I’ll be losing…”. He held out a picture for Spencer to take. It appeared to have been taken at another wedding, long ago. Christine was in a green dress with a white ribbon in her hair- she couldn’t have been more than six or seven years old. She stood on her father’s feet, smiling as he held her hands to dance. The father pulled out a handkerchief, wiped his nose and said, “Remember that today. As beautiful as she is to you, she was my littlest treasure first. Soon, she’ll be all yours. But always remember how precious she is…”
Spencer smiled. “I think we both know that Christine is and always will be all her own person. But I promise you I do treasure her, and I will cherish her always.”
He handed the photograph back to Dr. Archangeli, who rose and put his hand on Spencer’s shoulder. “Good,” he said, choking up. “You’re a good man, Spencer. You put my mind at ease.”
As he reached for the door, there was another knock on it. He opened the door for Carolyn and left. “Alright, gentlemen, I’m here for your final inspection,” she said. “Especially you, Joseph.”
“Me? Why me? Worry about his hair,” Joe said, gesturing toward Spencer.
“Because he falls out of bed looking gorgeous, while you always look like you just got mauled by a wild animal. Your sister was worried you may have done something stupid like stop in to Super Cuts for a bad trim right after brunch, but looking at you now I kind of wish you had. You’re looking like a shaggy dog, Joe! Damn. I should have brought my clippers,” she mumbled, fishing in the pockets of the smock she wore over her dress. “Just because we’re in church doesn’t give you an excuse to look like Jesus. I’d cut a little over your ears if only I had a towel…by the way, the rest of you look perfect. Spencer, try to tame that curl at the back of your head there a little better. I’m going to get a little gel in Joe’s hair and then I’ll be right with you. How are we doing on time?”
“It’s 2:23,” Spencer answered.
“Oh God, another few minutes and you boys will have to get out there and start greeting the guests,” Carolyn replied. “Don’t worry- I work fast.”
A moment later, they heard raised voices down the hall, a slamming door, and feet pounding down the hallway. Carolyn reached for the door and stuck her head out, whispering furiously to the runner in the hall. When she closed the door again, Spencer asked, “What happened? What’s going on?”
Carolyn drew a breath and looked from face to face before finally saying, “Well, it seems Christine is having a meltdown and is, ah…threatening to call off the wedding.”
“What?” Spencer asked, his eyes wide.
Joe sighed. “So, Spinster- you want that drink yet?”


Thank you to all who have waited patiently for this chapter. It was nearly completed two weeks ago, but I accidentally deleted it. Before I could rewrite it I got a horrible cold and spent my time sleeping, coughing and generally feeling sorry for myself rather than writing. I don’t like this reconstructed version as well as the original, but unlike Spencer Reid, I do not have an eidetic memory. This was as close to it as I could get. The next chapter shouldn’t take so long. Thanks again for your patience.

Chapter Text

“Well,” Christine said as they filed into the room, “that was an experience!”
“I still can't believe you've never had a manicure before,” Prentiss replied.
“Nope, nor a pedicure. Not sure I needed that, though, because I still don't know if we're going somewhere that'll require flip-flops on our honeymoon.”
“Don’t look at me like that,” Alex said. “I don’t know where you’re going, and you know I couldn’t tell you even if I did know!”
“Where’s that other skinny little blonde? She’ll know. He tells her everything.”
“Jennifer’s outside with Spud, trying to practice with him and see if he’ll go potty,” Alex said.
“Don’t you have his travel box with you?” Christine asked.
“I’m just telling you what she told me. Besides, it sounded like a good idea. God forbid he tries to pee or poop in the church.”
“Yeah, I suppose you’re right. I can just picture Spud getting away from her during the ceremony and dropping a deuce right by the baptismal font…”
“Okay, ladies,” Carolyn said, interrupting. “These are Lindsey, Amber, Mindy and Angie. They’ll be doing your hair and makeup. So I need you all to sit down and let them work their magic. Chris, what am I doing with this?” she asked, sinking her hands into Christine’s hair. “Are we putting it up? Half up? What’s the story?”
“No, not up. Just back from my face and loose down my back. Do you know Botticelli’s Birth of Venus? Spencer likes that. I want it like that.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about...”
“It’s the one with the naked lady standing in a clam shell,” Alex said.
“It’s not a clam shell,” Christine corrected. “It’s a scallop shell.”
“Whatever. It’s a sea shell with all the tasty bits removed,” Alex retorted.
“Penny- you brought a laptop, right? Can you pull up a picture of that?” Christine asked.
“Your wish is my command, my dear,” Garcia replied, pulling her computer out of one of the many bags she’d brought with. “Ah, here it is…are you sure you want to go with that? I don’t know about doing the messy look for your wedding…” She turned the screen around for Carolyn to examine.
“No, see?” Christine said. “There won't actually be wind inside the church, duh. But just pull it back from my face…”
“Maybe leave a few tendrils loose to kind of frame your face?” Carolyn offered.
“Yes, exactly. Then gather it at the back. That's where you’ll stick the flowers and veil. Does that make sense? Shit! Do we even have the flowers yet?”
“Watch your language, young lady!” Christine’s mother said. “And yes, I have the flowers here. Have you seen the sanctuary? Oh, it smells wonderful.”
“Ooooh, let’s see, let’s see, let’s see!” Garcia exclaimed, opening the large box of bouquets. “Wait a second…how come the one labeled ‘bride’ is smaller than the rest?”
“Because I wanted you guys to have jasmine, gardenias and orange blossoms for the scent, but I only wanted 11 tulips for me.”
“Why only 11? Why not the full dozen?” Prentiss asked as she and Garcia lifted them up to admire them.
“Because Spencer gets to wear the twelfth one. Don’t look at me like that. It’s kinda our thing.”
Garcia gasped. “Do we all get flowers for our hair?” she asked giddily.
“That was the plan. I asked for plenty of extra so you all could have as many or as few as you want.”
“Christine,” Lindsey asked, lifting Prentiss’ hair in her hands, “are we doing all their hair the same?”
“I don’t think you could even if I wanted you too, which I don’t. Diana and Melly have hair that’s shorter. Just do them as they’d each like.”
“Maybe we should have done hair trials after all,” Garcia fretted.
“Nah, there was no time,” Christine said. “Besides, all of Carolyn’s girls are awesome, and you people are naturally gorgeous, anyway. Mine is the only unmanageable mess in the bunch…”
“What about the moms,” Amber asked. “Are we putting flowers in their hair, too?”
“Oh, I think Momma Reid will look beautiful with a gardenia in her hair, don’t you?” Garcia said with a smile.
“I think so, too, but it’s up to them…” Christine said as Carolyn began putting rollers in her hair.
“I just adore gardenias,” Mrs. Reid said, picking one up and tucking it behind her ear. “What do you think, Marie?”
“If there’s enough for everyone, I think it’s a great idea,” Christine’s mother replied.
“There’s plenty, Mom. Go crazy. Get tropical looking- it’ll be fun! Hey,” Christine said to JJ as she walked in the door with the cat his leash, “how’s it going? Is that thing behaving for you?”
“Oh, he’s being a very good boy, aren’t you, Spud?” she cooed as she bent down to pet him.
“Did he make a boom-boom for you?” Alex asked.
“Boom-boom? Seriously- how old are you, Alex?” Christine teased.
“He did,” JJ replied, ignoring her. “He should be able to hold it for the next few hours now, right?”
“He should. He’s a good boy. Yes,” she prattled to the cat, “you’re a very good boy, aren’t you? You’re my bestest little Spuddy-Buddy, aren’t you? Yes, you are!”
“Good lord,” Christine groaned. “Hey, Alex- before they start working on you, would you be so kind as to get me a cup of coffee?”
“Coffee? Are you sure,” Alex replied. “You don’t wanna kiss Spencer with coffee breath, do you?”
“Oh, for pity’s sake, have you even met Spencer? Talk about coffee breath! Just go get it, please. Besides, I brought my toothbrush like a big girl for just such an occasion.”
“Now,” Angie asked as Carolyn put the last roller in Christine’s hair, “what are we doing with your makeup?”
“Just do it light,” Christine said. “I don’t wanna walk down the aisle looking like a $20 whore.”
“I dunno,” Alex said. “It works for you when you’re on stage…”
Christine turned to her, her mouth agape. “Are you saying I look like a cheap tramp on stage?”
“No! I’m saying you do your makeup heavy for the lights and it looks better that way because you’re too pale otherwise! Maybe it’ll look good for the pictures!”
“Are the rest of you people hearing this? Alex just called me a whore!”
“Hype down,” Diana said. “She’s not calling you a whore, she’s just saying you wear whorish makeup.”
Christine snatched a brush from Carolyn’s smock and threw it at her friend. “Bitch! Remind me again why we’re even friends?”
“Because I’m one of the only people in your life with the guts to tell you the truth,” Diana laughed. “But on a serious note, I don’t think you need heavy makeup today- the lighting’s going to be totally different. Just make her look soft and romantic. You know, as in not like herself at all.”
Christine laughed. “God, you’re such an asshole.”
“And that’s why you love me,” Diana replied.
After everyone else’s hair and makeup had been done, Carolyn said, “Now, before I take these rollers out, why don’t you go ahead and get your gown on, Chris. Do you need some help?”
“Oooh, I can help!” Garcia said. “Look, I have helping hands!”
“Gee, thanks,” Christine said, “but I don’t know how comfortable I am being seen in my underwear…Mom, I don’t suppose you’d be willing to help me?”
“Well, I mean, you’ve changed my diapers, so I don’t really have anything left to hide from you…”
Her mother looked at her for a moment and said softly, “And you haven’t need my help with anything since.”
Christine’s eyes started to swim. “That’s only because I’ve been too proud to ask. But I need your help now, Mom.”
“Well then,” her mother said, turning to Mrs. Reid. “Diana, will you come and help me get our girl gowned up?”
“I’d be honored,” she replied, standing up and following Christine and her mother into a small adjacent room.
After they’d closed the door behind them, Mrs. Archangeli unzipped the garment bag and fingered the dress. “This is the first time I’m seeing it…you never even described it to me…”
“And…?” Christine said, as she self-consciously began to slowly undress.
“It’s beautiful. Perfect.” She turned to Christine and touched her face gently. “It seems I raised you like a lady after all.” She turned back to the dress and pulled a second hanger out of the garment bag. “What’s this- a petticoat?”
“Yeah…I had to have that one made and the underskirt on the dress replaced because they were damaged…”
“Here, Diana. Help her get into this,” her mother said, handing the petticoat to Mrs. Reid.
Mrs. Reid laid the garment out on the floor as Christine pulled off her jeans. “Just go ahead and step into this for me,” she said. Christine obeyed, and Mrs. Reid pulled it up over her hips and tied it at her back.
“Alright,” her mother said, unzipping and holding the gown out to Mrs. Reid. “Now we’re going to lift this one over her. Christine, keep you head down so you don’t get your makeup all over it, now…” Christine held her arms out as they eased it over her and pulled the sleeves up her arms. Her mother zipped up the back while Mrs. Reid fastened the bow at her hips. The two older women stepped back to admire her.
“Well,” Christine said hesitantly, “how is it? Do I look okay?”
Christine’s mother pressed her lips together and put her hand to her breast. Spencer’s mother looked at her for a brief moment then said to Christine, “My dear, you look absolutely angelic. Truly, my son is a lucky man.”
Christine smiled shyly. “Mom?”
Mrs. Archangeli cleared her throat. “Well, that shade certainly compliments your skin tone beautifully.” She dabbed her eyes a little and continued in a small voice, “I just…I can hardly believe my littlest girl is finally a bride…”
“I guess that makes two of us then, Mom,” Christine said, awkwardly avoiding eye contact. “I can hardly believe it myself…”
Christine opened the door and went out to the other women to the sounds of their oooing and aahing. She sat back down and let Carolyn finish her hair. When she was finished and the flowers and veil were pinned in Christine’s hair, she said, “Now, do you want to see yourself?”
Christine took a deep breath and nodded, then stood and allowed herself to be led to where a long mirror hung on the back of a door. She didn't say a word, but stood staring at herself until tears started to spill down her cheeks.
“No no no!” Garcia cried, hurrying to her with a handful of tissues. “Don't do that! You’ll ruin your mascara!”
Mrs. Archangeli took the tissues from her and handed them to her daughter. “Don’t scold her for that now. It’s okay for her to cry. There’s something sacred in the tears a bride sheds on her wedding day.”
Christine turned to her mother, drying her eyes. “You know, Mom, you don’t always say much, but sometimes your words are like gold.”
Her mother said no more, but merely patted her daughter on the shoulder. “Come, Diana,” she said to Mrs. Reid. “It’s almost time. Let's see if we can’t round up those flower girls- I heard them running and giggling in the hallway…”
Carolyn stood behind Christine, lifting her hair and spreading it out. “Well,” she said, “you know how I hate doing wedding hair, but it came out beautifully, didn’t it?”
“It’s perfect,” she said finally. “Thank you, Carolyn. Really.”
“Okay, now you just relax in here for a bit. I’m going to run down and see how the guys are doing.”
“Check on my brother, would you?” Christine said. “Make sure he didn’t do something stupid like get a cheap ass trim at Super Cuts or some dumb shit like that.”
“When would he have done that?” Alex asked.
“If there’s a way to look dumb, Joe will find it- trust me.”
“Don’t worry,” Carolyn laughed as she put a few things in her smock. “They’ll all be picture worthy, I promise. Careful!” she warned as she saw Christine sit down again and lean back in her chair. “I worked hard on that hair! Don’t smash it!”
“Don’t worry,” Alex said, lifting the hair and veil from behind Christine’s back. “I won’t let her.”
After the door had closed behind her, Christine let out a deep sigh. “Nothing to do now but wait,” Prentiss said.
“How are we doing on time?” Christine asked.
“About 2:25, it looks like,” JJ replied, squinting at the old clock on the wall. “Less than 40 minutes to go!”
The women all stood or sat in silence for a moment. Suddenly Garcia spoke up. “Ooh! I almost forgot! I brought champagne and orange juice- would anyone like a mimosa?”
“Yes, please,” Prentiss said as JJ and Melanie raised their hands.
Garcia reached into the little cooler she had amongst her things and started pouring out the drinks into plastic cups. “Nothing for the bride?” she asked.
“No,” Christine said as she sat with her hands over her eyes. “At this point my stomach is feeling like I’d probably just throw it up, anyway.”
“Come on, boss,” Alex said, rubbing her shoulders. “Don’t let the nerves get to you now. You can do this!”
Christine sat without responding, breathing slowly and deeply.
“Oh! I almost forgot!” Garcia said as she was distributing the drinks. “OMG, how could I forget! I have the most important part of your ensemble, Chris- the shoes!”
“Oh yeah,” Christine said without opening her eyes. “Thanks for doing that. How’d it go?”
Garcia placed the shoebox on her lap. “Look and see for yourself. They’re absolutely darling! Look! Look! They’re soooo cute!”
Christine let her hands fall and opened her eyes. Taking the lid off the box she took a long look at the shoes inside and finally said, “You’re kidding, right?”
“What? No! Look- aren’t they fabulous?”
“They’re heels.”
“Yes, and they’re darling!”
“But…they’re heels. I said no heels.”
“But…but…they’re not very high heels,” Garcia said, suddenly cowed. “They’re not, like, painful high or anything…”
“But I told you,” Christine said, raising her voice, “no fucking heels, did I not? I can’t walk down the aisle in those! I’ll fucking trip and fall and break my ankle! I’m not wearing any fucking heels!”
“Christine,” Melanie warned, “lower your voice!”
“I will not lower my voice!” she cried, leaping to her feet and hurling the shoes across the room. “I swear to God, this is a sign- it’s a goddamned sign! I’m calling this off! I knew it was a mistake to have a big wedding! I knew it! Me, I wanted to get it all done down at the courthouse, but no! Spencer and this one over here told me they could handle all this shit! Well, you couldn't, could you? No! I had one thing I asked you to do- just one goddamned thing I needed- and you fucked it up! You stupid, incompetent bitch!”
As Garcia burst into tears, Christine felt a hand on her arm, spinning her around to face Diana. Christine barely had time to register her friend’s face before Diana's other hand flew up and slapped her so hard across the face that she staggered back. Diana raised her hand again and said furiously through her clenched teeth, “How dare you! Just who the hell do you think you are that you can talk to Penelope like that? No! Shut your goddamned mouth and listen- a grown-up’s talking now! That poor woman has done nothing but slave away at this wedding for months just to make you happy, and that’s how you act? You scream and call her names? Who the hell do you think you are? Huh? Answer me, now! Who..the hell…do you think…you are? Answer me! Nothing to say, huh? Maybe you should start by apologizing to poor Penny and thanking her for doing every damned little thing for you before I put those shoes on myself and plant one of them up your ass!”
Christine stood with her hand still to her face and meekly said, “I’m sorry, Penelope. Please forgive me. I was wrong to seem ungrateful.”
“Boss!” Alex said from the doorway, panting. “Boss, look at these! I ran and got them from my truck! Wait- what happened to your face?”
“I just taught her what happens when she behaves like a spoiled, ungrateful bitch,” Diana growled.
“Really?” Alex asked, her eyes wide. “Daaaaang! I’m sorry I missed that! Anyway, look, boss! They’re the shoes you and Spencer gave me for my birthday! I’ve only worn them, like, twice, and we’re the same size! I brought them to dance in, but you can wear them if you give me yours. And, you know how they say: ‘Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue?’ Well, they’re borrowed and blue! It’s okay if you wear blue shoes, right?”
“They’re perfect, Alex,” Christine said quietly, putting her arms around Alex. “Thank you,” she sobbed.
“Oh, stop. You’re going to make me cry, too! But can I keep your shoes? ‘Cause Penny’s right- they’re super cute with those little bows on them!”
Christine nodded and went to embrace Garcia. “I’m so sorry. I can’t believe I did that. That was so unfair…”
Garcia patted her back. “Oh, no worries, my little love muffin. You’re entitled to a bridezilla moment or two.”
Alex held up the shoes Christine had thrown. “Eeeeeee! I love them! Penny, don’t listen to her- these are perfect, and she’s just crazy. Clumsy and crazy. But I could dance in these all night! Yay! I’m gonna look like a princess!”
Christine sat down heavily in her chair again. “Oh, holy shit. What is happening to me?”
Garcia sat down across from her and patted her lap. “Oh, you’re just nervous, that’s all. Come on- put your feet up here and let’s try on these shoes. Don’t smash your hair,” she reminded Christine as she slipped Alex’s shoes on her feet. “See? Just like Cinderella. They’re perfect. Wait,” she said, peeking under Christine's dress, “do you have thigh-high stockings on? Oooh, you do!”
“Hey! Stop that,” Christine laughed, smoothing down her skirt. “I can be sexy, too, you know!”
“She’s got on lace panties, too!” Garcia whispered loud enough for everyone in the room to hear.
“Oooooh!” “Naughty girl!” “Lucky Spencer!” the others teased.
Alex gasped. “Oh no- Spencer! I have to go,” she said, jumping up.
“Why, what’s wrong?” Christine asked.
“Oh…I kinda told everyone that you were freaking out and threatening not to go through with the wedding…I should go tell them it’s back on. Wait- it is back on, isn’t it?”
“Oh my God,” Christine said, hiding her face in her hands.
“Well, is it?”
“Yes, of course it’s on!” Christine said.
“Okay, I’m just gonna go let them know, then.”
As the door shut behind her, Christine sighed and said, “Hey, I think I’ll take one of those mimosas now…”
“Coming right up, buttercup!” Garcia said with a grin.
Alex trotted down the hall and knocked on the door where the men were getting ready. “Oh shit,” Joe said when he opened the door. “What is it now?”
“Can I come in?” After Joe had stepped aside, she walked over to where Spencer was sitting nervously. “You should probably thank me,” she said, with her hands on her hips. “Alex just saved the day again!”
“What the hell just happened?” Spencer asked, exasperated.
“Oh, you know…Chris had asked Penny to buy her shoes, and Penny got her these,” Alex said, holding out a foot.
“But Christine hates wearing heels,” Spencer said.
“Yeah, I know, that’s why she freaked out and said she wasn’t going through with the wedding. But I gave her my shoes- the blue ones you gave me for my birthday- and that calmed her down. That, and Diana smacked her around, like, literally, I think.”
“Good,” Joe said, “I’m sure she had it coming to her.”
“Yeah, pretty much. Anyway, it’s all over now, and…you’re welcome.”
“So that’s it?” Spencer said, letting his hands fall to his sides. “All of this was over shoes?”
“Man, I told you she was crazy,” Joe said, laughing. “Don’t say I never warned you!”
“Unbelievable,” Spencer groaned, shaking his head. “Only Christine…”
“Oh, and by the way,” Alex said as she was standing in the doorway to leave, “Penny got a look under her dress.” Alex smiled broadly, winked, and gave him a thumbs up before walking out the door.
The men all roared with laughter. “And the crazy ones are the best in bed, you know,” Morgan exclaimed, slapping Spencer on the back.
“Dude, she’s still my little sister!”
“Joe,” Spencer said, holding out his hand, “let me see that flask now. Root beer, you say?” He unscrewed the cap, tipped it back, and made a face. “Ugh. That is vile.”
“That’s why I was planning on mixing it in with actual root beer tonight, genius. Come on, let’s go say hi to the guests.”
“Don’t you dare leave this room till you’ve straightened that tie, Spencer,” Carolyn cried.


I have an Instagram account set up under the name, "thegingerpotamus" that has, among other things, a picture of Christine's wedding gown.

Chapter Text

Spencer stood patiently while Carolyn fussed over straightening his tie and pinned a lone tulip on his lapel. She fixed his hair with her fingers one last time, wished him good luck, and left. After taking a deep breath and wiping his damp palms on his pants, he nodded to Joe, who stood and opened the door.
“Hope you're ready to shake a lot of strangers’ hands,” Joe teased. “But if it’s any comfort, after today most of those strangers will be family.”
Stepping into the vestibule, they looked and saw that a few guests had already arrived and taken their seats. Joe led him in to greet them before going back to the entrance to the sanctuary and receiving the rest of the guests as they arrived. Joe made all the introductions; he seemed to know everyone intimately. Spencer was struck by the odd sense that he was an outsider at his own wedding, and he felt his throat go dry. He heard his own voice crack as he was being introduced to some of Christine’s fellow comedians and his cheeks flamed with embarrassment when Joe teased him for it. He quickly excused himself to get a drink of water at the fountain he spied down the hall. When he’d had his fill, he stood for a moment smiling at the two little flower girls who were spinning around, giggling and admiring their dresses, just a few feet away. They seemed completely oblivious to his presence or the importance of his role in the day’s festivities. His mind began to wander just a little and long for the day when a little daughter of his own and Christine’s might play so charmingly and innocently. He tried to force the thought down in his mind almost as soon as it had formed; children might be a joy he’d never have for his own, and today had enough concerns to get through already. But still…
“Well, hello, handsome!”
Spencer turned at the voice and smiled at JJ. “Do I really look alright?” he asked shyly.
“You look more than alright. Shouldn’t you be down there with Joe, though,” she said, nodding in his direction.
“I, uh, came to get a drink of water.” He stepped forward and leaned in to add quietly, “Is it strange I feel so awkward with him? JJ, I don’t know anyone here!”
“Uh oh,” JJ said, looking through a window to the parking lot. “There’s someone you know. You invited Chief Strauss?”
“I invited everyone from the Bureau I knew, especially her. Christine said she might be offended if she didn’t get invited.”
“She’s probably right. You’d better get your butt down there and say hello when she comes in then. God knows what your brother-in-law will say if you leave him alone with her.”
“You’re right. Thanks.”
“Oh, and Spence?”
“Good luck!”
Spencer took his place by Joe’s side again, and now more people began to arrive that he did know- mostly members of the FBI, as well as a few from the Metro PD with whom he’d worked closely over the years. Even a few of his own family arrived, as well. Of course, he’d seen that his uncle George’s family had RSVP’d, but he hadn't fully expected them to travel so far to see him. His cousins Charlotte and Geoffrey were grown so that he hardly recognized them. They hadn’t all seen one another since they were pre-pubescent children. He was grateful that through all of this, Joe was on his best behavior. While often crude and slovenly in private, he, like his sister, was a highly intelligent, educated man with the ability to be gregariously charming when the occasion arose. For this Spencer was happy, that he was setting aside his own comedian’s act for the sake of making a good impression on Spencer’s friends and family.
Soon everyone had been seated and Joe pointed to the watch on Spencer’s wrist. “It’s time,” he whispered. “Here come the ladies now. Good luck!”
Spencer looked down the hallway to see the bridesmaids, led by Garcia, coming to join them. He had to cover his mouth to stifle a laugh at the sight of JJ walking Spud on a leash while trying to marshal the two little girls. His mother came to his side and immediately reached up to touch his hair. “Oh, baby. Just look at how you’ve grown!”
“You look beautiful, Mom,” he said. He leaned in to whisper in her ear, “And thank you for wearing purple. You know how I love it.”
“Anything for you, baby. Anything.” He felt a wave of relief wash over him. It had been almost too much to hope for that his mother would remain in a healthy mental state throughout the week. He’d been particularly worried that Christine’s outburst might have upset her, and while he wondered why it hadn’t, he was now too happy that she was still well to think any further on the matter.
At the pastor’s signal, he led his mother to her seat. He turned to look at her as they walked; she was beaming. Before she sat, she reached up to touch his cheek and kiss him. Impulsively, he embraced her for the first time in years and kissed her back, before taking his place to watch as the others joined them. The last to come was JJ with the flower girls. He smiled; he’d been right, of course- if anyone could handle all the little girls and a cat besides, it was JJ. Suddenly, halfway up the aisle, Spud began leaping and batting at the air, as if at some unseen butterflies. The girls both turned and stooped to pet the kitty, forgetting their flower-spreading responsibilities. JJ bent over and whispered something to them, and they started to proceed until Lizzy dropped her basket of rose petals to pick up Spud and carry him to the end of the aisle. Remaining admirably calm, JJ scooped up the basket and spread the petals herself until they reached the end and took their places amidst the chuckles and snickering of the guests.
The music changed and Spencer exhaled deeply. He could already see two figures getting into position behind the door to the sanctuary. On some unseen cue, the doors opened and Spencer felt his heart leap into his throat. She was everything he’d dreamed of and more, for she was real. Her hair- her beautiful long, red hair- seemed to be lit as from within, like a sunset sky on a warm autumn evening. She looked at her father and smiled shyly as she looked from him to the guests and finally at their attendants. But she wouldn't look at him. He watched her every move intently as she clung to her father and her flowers, silently willing her to look at him. Finally her gaze shifted, and she stared first at his feet before slowly raising her eyes. When their eyes finally met, his heart seemed to stop in his chest and he forgot to breathe. He watched as tears welled up in her own eyes and her lips began to tremble ever so slightly as she smiled. He closed his eyes, struggling to fix this moment in his memory forever and to contain his own tears. He felt a hand fall gently on his shoulder and he turned to Morgan who was smiling broadly. He silently mouthed, “Wow,” to Spencer, who smiled even broader and turned back to look at her again. She was stunning, striking, and sublime all at once. Now, at last, she was to be his. He quickly wiped the corner of his eye with a finger, knowing Morgan was watching him but now not caring. His bride. At last she was before him, hugging her father, who then turned and shook his hand. Dr. Archangeli then placed his daughter’s hand in his before moving to take his place beside her mother. Spencer marveled; he hadn’t noticed how small her hands were until this moment, nor how strong they were as she seemed to cling to him for dear life. As they stepped forward together, he watched her. She kept her eyes straight ahead and stood perfectly still, except for the flowers which trembled almost imperceptibly in her hand.
The music stopped and the pastor began to speak. Spencer could hardly hear him above the sound of the blood rushing in his ears. His hand began to ache from Christine’s grasp. Finally, the pastor said, “Who gives this woman to be married to this man?”
From behind them her father answered, “Sir, she gives herself. Her mother and I are just here for moral support.”
At his words, Christine let go of Spencer's hand and hid her face in her flowers. Her shoulders shook with smothered laughter as she glanced sideways at Spencer. “Seriously?” she whispered. “Right on, Dad!”
Spencer smiled back at her and reached for her hand again. After she and the guests finished chuckling, she stood up a little straighter and smiled broadly back at him. His Christine- beautiful, bold and always a little silly. There she was.
The pastor continued, and soon it was time for Carolyn, who walked to the lectern and read, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
After she spoke, they turned to one another and the pastor asked, “Spencer, will you have this woman to be your wife, to live with her in holy marriage? Will you love her, comfort her, honor her and keep her in sickness and in health and, forsaking all others, be husband to her as long as you both shall live?”
“I will.”
“And Christine, will you have this man to be your husband, to live with him in holy marriage? Will you love him, comfort him, honor him, obey him and keep him in sickness and in health and, forsaking all others, be wife to him as long as you both shall live?”
Christine drew a deep breath, raised her eyebrows and said, “I will.”
The pastor then directed them to join hands and announced, “The bride and groom have elected today to write their own vows.”
With that, he nodded to Spencer who said, “Christine, since we met, I’ve found a joy and a happiness unlike any I thought could be mine. The best moments of my life I have spent with you by my side. But you have also seen me at my worst. At the lowest, darkest and most hopeless moments you were there, too. And in those moments, you saved me. You had a simple faith in me that I could be more than I was, and that I could be a better man than I thought I could be. In a very real sense, I owe you my life. I vow today that I will live every day with you striving to be a better man- that man you believe I can be, that man you make me want to be. And I promise you that I will strive all my life to be the husband you deserve, and give back to you the love, joy, laughter and happiness you have brought into my life.”
The pastor nodded to Christine to speak, and she opened her mouth to do so, but her voice failed her as tears started to form in her eyes. At that moment, Spud leapt and pulled his leash away from JJ’s lightened grasp. The sunlight streaming through the stained glass windows had begun to play across the skirt of Christine’s gown and Spud ran to bat at the colored spots that now shone upon it. At once there was a flurry of motion as the flower girls rushed to struggle with one another for control of the kitty while JJ, jumping to her feet too quickly, fell forward onto her knees as she attempted to regain control of the situation. JJ rose again and whispered to the girls as they wrestled over Spud, but Christine, suddenly laughing, bent down and whispered to JJ to sit and let the girls play with the cat.
Turning back to Spencer and still chuckling as the little ones played by her feet she said, “Spencer, all my life I’ve never felt like I quite fit in anywhere. Until I met you, I never knew where I belonged. But by your side, everything has become clear to me. You make me feel safe, secure, at home and loved in a way I never imagined was possible. Spencer, you are and always have been my superhero. You’re the finest, strongest, bravest man I’ve ever known. I may never understand why you love me the way you do, but I promise you I will spend my life trying to repay the debt of gratitude I owe you, and I will work every day to make sure you feel just as safe and secure in my love as I have always been in yours.”
The pastor nodded to Morgan, who then stepped around to where the girls sat playing with Spud and untied the rings still held fast in the bow around his neck. Spencer grinned; for all of the animal’s antics, he was grateful that at least those had not been lost. Christine slipped Spencer’s ring on his finger easily and squeezed his hand gently as she gazed up at him afterwards. But when it came time for him to put the ring on her finger, it got stuck, just above her second knuckle. He smiled at her nervously as he twisted it a little. From behind him he heard Joe say in loud, laughing whisper, “Go on, boy! Push it in there hard, now!” He felt his ears turn red at the chuckles around him until in desperation her grabbed her hand with his left and finally shoved it into place. Christine put her free hand up to her face in a failed attempt to hide her laughter at the look on his face as he exerted such effort.
They turned back to the pastor, holding hands and chuckling as he began to lead the guests in the final prayers and hymn. After they were all finished, the pastor stood silently, looking from groom, to the bride, then back to the groom again. Spencer and Christine exchanged a questioning glance before the pastor announced, “The best man promised me $20 if I could drag this part out a little.” Spencer turned to stare at Morgan, who by now was laughing out loud and slapped Spencer on the back. The pastor looked at his watch and spoke again, at last saying, “Son, you may kiss your bride.”
Spencer turned to her, and with one hand on her cheek, he drew her face towards his own for a slow, sweet kiss. When they had finished, she looked at him for a moment before bursting into tears and throwing her arms around him. They hugged like that for several long seconds until Christine pulled back, her eyes wide, and said something to Spencer that made him burst out laughing.
After JJ had gathered the girls and Spud, they started back down they aisle again. Offering his arm once more to Diana, Morgan asked, “Hey- did you catch what she said to him there at the end?”
Diana rolled her eyes and looked at him. “Yeah.”
“She said, ‘Whoa. Shit just got real!’”




The Bible passage read by Carolyn is 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a.
The pastor’s words come (with minor modifications) from the Order of Worship for Holy Matrimony for the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, though I’m uncertain if, in an LCMS ceremony it would be permitted for a bride and groom to write their own vows. Personally, I’ve never heard it done, so I had to take some artistic license here.


Chapter Text

“There’s Garcia!” Prentiss said, nodding towards the door.
“Baby Girl, come have a drink with us!” Morgan called, waving her over.
“Oh, it was a beautiful wedding,” Garcia said, hurrying over to where the others were standing. “It went off perfectly! Wasn’t that the most perfect wedding you’ve ever been to? It was like a dream!”
“A dream?” JJ said. “Try telling that to my knees! I still can’t believe I let that cat get away from me!”
“Oh, JJ,” Prentiss laughed, “it was sweet! And hey- at least she didn’t call you a stupid, incompetent bitch!”
“Christine would never say that,” Morgan said with a chuckle.
Garcia put her wine glass down, “She would and she did!”
“To whom?”
“To me, Mocha Grande, right before she threw the shoes I bought her at my head!” Garcia exclaimed.
“No way! I mean, I can hear her saying it as a joke or something, but…”
“Seriously, Morgan,” Prentiss said, “she used those exact words. I don’t think anyone has ever called Garcia stupid, incompetent or a bitch ever. Penelope, believe me, I almost cried when she said that. I felt that bad!”
Garcia waved at the air. “I’m over it. She didn’t mean it. I get where all that was coming from. She told me that morning she was upset because she didn’t think she’d ever be able to be as good a wife as her grandma had been…”
JJ sighed. “Oh, that actually explains it, then. Because I was with Prentiss- I couldn’t figure out how she could be so nasty to you…”
“She was just hurting,” Garcia said, sipping her wine. “Seeing her grandpa without her grandma there, too? I totally get it.”
“Hey guys,” Joe said, butting in. “Just so you all know, we’re getting together tomorrow at Chris’ place. We’re gonna have lunch and open presents.”
“Presents?” Morgan said. “It said right in the invitation that they didn’t want any presents! Did you guys get them presents?”
“I made a donation to the American Cancer Society,” JJ said.
“Yeah, I gave to the National Alliance on Mental Illness,” Prentiss said.
“I gave to St. Jude's,” Garcia said. Then after a pause she added, “and I got them a present, too.”
“Baby Girl! You’re breaking the rules and making us look bad!”
“What! It’s just a few things I made that I can’t tell you about because they’re a surprise. Okay, you twisted my arm, I’ll tell you! I knitted them matching hats and scarves- blue for her, purple for him- and I made a batch of my mormor’s pepparkakor. They’re Swedish ginger cookies, you know, because, like, I’m Swedish, and she’s a ginger…hey! I thought it was cute!”
“They’ll love them, Penny,” Joe said. “But you are precisely the reason why we’re getting together tomorrow, because it was ridiculous of my sister to even suggest that my family not give her gifts. So, mom and the aunties will be making lunch. Bar’s open at 11:00am. Be there, okay? My grandpa’s coming in so I gotta go help him. Be there!”
“Gideon, you didn’t get them a gift, did you?” Morgan asked.
“No, I did as they asked and made a charitable donation, which I thought was an excellent idea. It would have been ridiculous for them to get eight toasters and seven blenders they don’t need.”
“Speaking of ridiculous,” Garcia said, “what did you guys think of those pictures we took?”
“Oh my God,” JJ said, “I hope they make that last one their Christmas card. That is going to be awesome! ‘Alright now, everybody,’” she continued, mimicking Christine, “’lean in and stare creepily at Spencer!’ Did you see his face? He looked genuinely scared when we did that!”
“I just want a copy of the one we took with them and the team pretending like we were all holding guns,” Prentiss added.
Garcia laughed. “Only Hotch wasn’t pretending! He actually pulled out his own gun! Seriously, who brings a gun to a wedding?”
“Apparently you don’t know Hotch as well as you think you do,” Gideon said. “I’m just surprised that he was only carrying one.”
“Did I hear someone using my name in vain?” Hotch said, as he walked up behind them.
“Hey, you made it!” Morgan said. “Can I buy you a drink? Haley- where’s my little man Jack?”
“He is with my sister today,” Haley replied.
“Aw, there’s a lot of little kids here tonight,” Garcia said. “Don’t you think he’d like to play with them, or is he still too little for that?”
“He’s still to little,” Haley said, “and frankly, I just want to enjoy myself tonight instead of worrying about where he is. I have a feeling this is going to be the party of the century tonight!”
“Hey, can we all just stop for a minute,” JJ said, “and appreciate what an amazing statement that was? I mean, think back to when we all first met Spence. Who among us ever imagined that he would ever even be getting married, let alone that we’d be fully expecting his reception to be the best one any of us have ever been too? Just let that sink in for a minute.”
“I think when we first met Reid, none of us were even sure he liked girls, not to mention that his taste in women runs toward the crazy side,” Morgan said.
“Oh, but they’re just perfect together, aren't they?” Garcia said.
“That they are,” Hotch said, lifting his glass. “To Spencer and Christine!”
After they all clinked glasses, Prentiss asked, “So, where are they now- does anyone know?”
“Mmmhmm,” Garcia said as she set down her glass. “They went to the National Mall. Christine wanted to lay her bouquet at the Vietnam War Memorial. I guess she had an uncle who died. She wanted to go visit his grave up at Arlington, but then they decided that they didn’t want to risk interrupting a burial there, so they went to the Mall instead.”
“Well, that’ll be nice, though,” Prentiss said. “They’ll be able to get some gorgeous pictures over there. I mean, they couldn’t have asked for nicer weather for it, you know?”
“Wait,” said JJ, “so if she’s leaving her bouquet there, what are we supposed to catch later?”
“Why, did you have big plans for catching that?” Prentiss replied with a laugh. “Because if you did, you’d have had to fight me for it, anyway!”
“That is one fight I’d pay good money to see,” Morgan said.
“Me too,” Hotch added. “I know I wouldn’t want to get in Emily’s way!”
“I dunno,” Morgan said. “I think JJ could take her…”
“Don’t worry your pretty little heads, dearies,” Garcia said. “The florist gave her a throw-away bouquet just for the toss. And besides, I’m getting it, so the two of you might as well just sit it out.”
“What about Alex over there?” JJ said, nodding in her direction. “Looks like she’s got some plans of her own with Anderson.”
“So they’re still a thing?” Prentiss asked. “I wasn’t quite sure. Who’s that lady they’re talking to?”
“To answer your questions,” Garcia said, “yes, they’re still a thing, although I think they’re taking it glacially slow at this point, and that is Alex’s grandmother.”
“Oooh,” JJ said, “meetin’ the grandma already, hmm?”
“Aw, isn’t that nice?” Prentiss said. “I’ll bet her nana just adores him…”
“Especially after the last guy she dated,” Hotch said, taking a sip from his drink.
“You know about him?” Garcia asked. “What’s his story?”
“His story,” Hotch said, putting his glass down, “is that’s he’s currently doing time in Joliet Correctional for aggravated domestic battery. Against Alex.”
The women all gasped. “Are you serious?” Garcia asked. “But why? What could Alex possibly have done to make someone hurt her?”
“Baby Girl, to these guys,” Morgan said, “nothing is about what their partner did or didn’t do. For them, it’s all about their own sense of power and control. Alex could have done everything he ever demanded of her, and he still would have hurt her.”
“Well, that explains the scars, now,” JJ said grimly.
“I don’t know anything about scars,” Hotch replied.
“Yeah,” Prentiss said, “but to get an aggravated charge stick there has to be permanent disfigurement or disability, correct?”
Hotch only nodded. They all fell silent until Haley said, “Hey, come on, guys. Enough shop talk. We’re here for a wedding!”
“She’s right, guys,” Prentiss said. “Say, does anyone know who the blonde was in the first row?”
“That was Christine’s oldest sister, Patsy,” Garcia said, “and that was her husband, the balding one with glasses, next to her.”
“Oh, I didn’t know she had two. I thought Cori was her only sister. So, JJ, you had to deal with Cori- what’s the deal with her?”
JJ put down her drink. “Well, she was nice enough to me, but clearly there’s some kind of tension in that family. Did you notice the way she and Chris avoid one another?”
“Oh, I totally got that vibe,” Garcia said. “Awkward! So what’s the deal there?”
“You know, I’m not sure. The one time it got weird when I was talking to her was when I asked her, ‘So where did you go to school?’ And all she said was, ‘I did two years at Elgin Community College.’”
“That explains a lot,” Gideon said. “Think about what it must be like to be in that family. The parents are both health professionals, the oldest brother is a military officer married to a CPA, the other daughter has an MBA and is married to an aerospace engineer…”
“How do you know all this?” Garcia asked.
“I talk to people,” he replied. “Joe studied software engineering and graphic design at MIT and he’s married to another accountant, and then of course there's-”
“Spencer and Christine,” Prentiss finished. “Yeah, that’s gotta be some pressure to be under, especially if you’re not particularly academic.”
“One thing I can say,” JJ said, “is that she is an incredible mother. I mean, I have never seen such well-behaved children in my life! Even the baby was a perfect angel! And that’s with two of them being flaming red-heads. Let’s be honest- Christine is kinda living the red-headed stereotype, right? But the little boy, he was just as quiet and polite as you could ask for, and did you see the hair on that baby? Oh my God, she is just the cutest little thing I’ve ever seen!
“Oh, isn’t she just scrumptious looking?” Garcia said. “I wonder if the Reids’ babies will get that gene. Did you guys hear that? The Reids! I can’t believe it! There’s officially two of them now!”
“Okay,” Prentiss said, “now, I’ve just gotta say, there were two things that shocked me about this wedding. The first was that she had the pastor leave in the promise to obey him-”
“Yes!” Haley exclaimed. “I noticed that, too!”
“And second,” Prentiss continued, “was that she had him introduce them as ‘Dr. and Mrs. Spencer Reid.’ So does anybody know what the deal was with that? She’s not actually changing her name, is she?”
“Ooh!” Garcia said, “I know this one! Actually, yes, she’s legally changing her name to Reid, believe it or not, but she’ll continue to use Archangeli professionally.”
“Really?” JJ said. “I’m surprised she’s changing her name at all.”
“It’s not so surprising when you think about it,” Gideon said. “I think Christine is insightful enough to recognize that, in many ways, she is the more dominant one in their relationship in terms of personality, emotional strength…even with their careers, her earning potential vastly outpaces his. But this whole wedding, for her, has been an attempt to show her deference and respect for him and his wishes. And I think we can all acknowledge that in their relationship, her support and edification of him has been invaluable. He’s grown much more bold, confident, self-assured…that’s no coincidence. That is, in large part, a direct result of their relationship and because she truly loves and supports him. And it’s lucky for all of us that she does- can you imagine the weak, broken, shell of a man he’d be if she actually tried to dominate him? I know I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of an argument with her!”
“No, you wouldn’t,” Hotch said. “I’ve been there, and I can assure you it was not pleasant!”
“Oh, come on, Hotch,” Morgan said. “When have you and Christine ever actually had a fight?”
“During the Fisher King case, when she insisted on bringing that ridiculous cat into the BAU. I thought she was just trying to get under my skin with that stunt. I didn’t realize at that time that Alex was using it as a kind of service animal to deal with her emotional issues. I tell you, that woman backed me into the corner of my own office and gave me an absolutely brutal tongue lashing.”
“Yeah, and she had Garcia in tears today!” Prentiss added.
“What did she say to you, Penelope?” Haley asked.
“She called me a stupid, incompetent bitch,” Garcia said with a chuckle.
“What? No!”
“She didn’t like the shoes I bought her. It’s okay. She apologized. We're good now. Ooh! Joe’s waving to me. I’d better go see what’s going on!”
As Garcia hurried away, Haley said, “Well maybe as long as Spencer never tries to buy her shoes, they’ll live a long, happy life together.”
Soon after, Garcia came scurrying back. “Oh my God,” she said breathlessly. “They’re here. Their car just pulled up. Yay! It’s finally party time!”
Moments later, guests near the entrance began to clap, and the members of the BAU craned their necks to see the happy couple. Amidst the well-wishing, Spencer led Christine by the hand to where they stood. “Hey guys,” Spencer said, grinning, “how’s it going? Is everyone enjoying themselves? Is anyone getting hungry?”
Beside him Christine raised her hand and jumped up and down. “Me! Me me me me me! I’m hungry!”
“Nobody eats till I’ve gotten a hug!” Garcia commanded, throwing her arms first around Spencer, then around his bride.
After the others- even Gideon- had gotten their hugs, Spencer turned to Christine and said, “Well, are you ready to see what we’ve done?”
“Lay it on me, Sparky!”
Spencer opened the door from the lounge to the banquet room and Christine gasped. “It’s gorgeous. Oh no,” she said dropping his hand and walking away. “I gotta check out this cake!”
After her initial inspection, she moved around to the back of it and rolled her eyes at Spencer. “You just had to have your dumb killer robot, didn’t you?”
“You said I could!” he laughed.
She shook her head at him then suddenly stopped and pointed. “What’s that?”
“What’s what?”
“That table over there!”
“I dunno,” he said. “Maybe you’d better go check it out.”
On a long table to the side of the cake were huge platters of cookies and treats. “Snickerdoodles, peanut butter roundups, ice box lemon bars…Sparky, where did you get this idea?” Without waiting for him to answer, she picked up a snickerdoodle and shoved it in her mouth. Suddenly, her eyes grew wide and she turned to Spencer. “Oh my God,” she said, her mouth still full. “What have you done?”
“Your aunt Melanie gave me your grandma’s recipes and I found a baker who was willing to bake them for us- hey! Easy now! You’re getting crumbs on me!” he laughingly chided as she threw her arms around his waist and buried her head in his chest. “Shhh,” he said, stroking her head. “I know you miss her. I thought maybe this way she could be here with us today.”
Christine mumbled into his chest, “What did I ever do to deserve a man like you?” She sniffed and turned from him to face the wall. “Do you have a handkerchief on you? I think my mascara is gonna run.”
He fished in his pocket and held it out to her. “Keep it,” he said with a smile. “I don’t have any mascara to worry about.”
After she dried her eyes, she called to her cousins and siblings who had filed into the room with the other guests. “Come here,” she said, “look what Sparky’s done! They’re Grandma’s!”
As they began to reach for the table Spencer put his arms out. “No! Not until after dinner,” he said. “You all will ruin your appetites!”
They were laughing and pleading with him when they heard a loud tapping coming the speakers around them. They looked to see Joe standing at the front of the room, holding a microphone. “Hello! I’m going to ask everyone to take their seats now. If you don’t know where you’re sitting, the table number is located on your place card. If you don’t like the people you’re seated with, then just try and pretend to get along until we get the champagne out here and you all become friends. Spencer, Chris, you two are up here. Now, most of you know me, and for that I apologize. For the rest of you, my name is Joe, and I’m Chris’ brother. While you take your seats, I’d like to tell you a story. If you’re old enough, you’ll remember exactly where you were on February 22, 1980. Probably, you were crowded around a TV set, because the Winter Olympics were being played in Lake Placid, and on that night, the American hockey team played the USSR. Maybe you were at home or in a bar. Me, I watched that game in the waiting room of St. Joseph’s Hospital. Of course, Team USA wasn’t supposed to win that game. But they came from behind and at the end of the game, we all remember Al Michaels screaming, ‘Five seconds left in the game! Do you believe in miracles? YES!’ I was five years old, but I still remember how my brother, my sisters, all the nurses and I collectively lost our freaking minds. We won! And it was right then, right when we were all screaming and crying and cheering, that my father came in and told us we had a baby sister. We went to go see her, and I got to hold her first. And I’ll always remember I looked at her and thought, ‘Wow, you really are a miracle, aren’t you?’ She was so cute with her fuzzy orange hair and I was so happy we’d won that hockey game that I totally forgot to be angry that I didn’t get the baby brother I wanted. Over the years, I’ve done my best to show her just how much I love her by teasing her, tormenting her and pulling every prank on her I could think of, just like any good brother would do. One time I even forced her against her will to go on a blind date. Now here they sit together and I finally have the chance to say this: Chris, you are still my miracle. Thank you for being the best little sister, the best friend, and best coworker I could ever ask for. And most of all, thank you for giving the one thing I wanted since the day you were born- a little brother. I love you both.” After he had hugged both of them, Joe said, “Now my father has something he’d like to say.”
Dr. Archangeli stepped up to the microphone and said, “My daughter just told me, ‘No one gets to eat until you’re done talking, so make it fast, old man!’” He paused and smiled shyly as a smattering of laughter rippled through the crowd of guests. “I’ll try to be brief. Something happens to you when you become a father- and any man here who is one can tell you this is true. From the very first moment the nurse places that new little bundle in your arms and you look down into her sweet, innocent face, you start to dream. You dream dreams that go on for years, and in your dreams, you can see the future. You can see all the fascinating things she’ll learn, the amazing places she’ll go, the wonderful people she’ll meet and the grand adventures she’ll have along the way. Most of all, you can see her- you can see her so clearly it’s as if with your waking eyes!- and you can see just how brilliant, beautiful, bold and talented she’ll become. And you can see, too, that she’ll be also good, kind, thoughtful and generous, someone of whom you can not only be proud, but also admire.
“And as time goes by, you hope that, when the time is right, she’ll meet a young man. You hope that he’ll be the sort of man who will treat her well, who will treasure her as you do, who will put her needs before his own and who will treat her with the respect she deserves. And you hope that someday, when the time is right, she’ll ask you to walk her down the aisle to put her hand in his.
“And after all this dreaming and hoping, you pray- oh, God! How you pray!- that when you get to the end of that aisle, that the young man standing there is even half as fine a gentleman as the man to whom I gave my littlest treasure today.
“Spencer, I suppose now is the time when I’m supposed to welcome you to the family. But I cannot. The fact is, just like Christine, we’ve loved you from the moment we met you, and we’ve always considered you one of our own. I cannot tell you how happy we are that it’s finally official, and that at last we can call you son. Diana,” he said, raising his glass towards Spencer’s mother, “thank you for raising this young man. You’ve done a helluva job. And to the happy couple, congratulations. May your days together be long and filled with peace, joy, love and many, many grandchildren for me! Cheers!”
After glasses had clinked and the toast had been drunk, the sound of knives tapping on glasses could be heard. Spencer leaned over to Christine and asked, “What are they doing?”
“That sound means they want us to kiss, silly! Haven’t you ever been to a wedding before?”
“No, not that I can recall. Are you serious, or are you just teasing me now?” he asked as the sound grew louder.
“I’m as serious as a heart attack. But I suppose if you’re not man enough…”
“What? Chris, I…” he stammered. “Are you sure?” He looked out at their laughing guests who, by this point, were making a tremendous racket. Finally he leaned in to Christine, but she leaned away, putting her hand on his chest to hold him at a distance and making a face.
“Stop it!” he whispered as their guests whooped and cheered. “If we’re supposed to kiss, then let me kiss you!”
“I’m gonna make you work for it tonight, boy!”
He leaned in again, but again she pushed him away. Finally, in a fit of desperation, he stood, took her face in his hands, and planted a kiss firmly on her lips as she played at fighting him off. A roar of approval went up from their guests when he did so, and he said to her, “Woman, why can’t you ever do anything easily?”
“Because there’s no humor in easy! Haven’t you learned anything from me?”
After their dinners had been served, Joe stepped back to the microphone. “Hey, is everybody enjoying their meal? Yeah? You know, y’all have Spencer to thank for that tonight; my sister’s not much of a hostess, so she pushed that responsibility off on him. He did a helluva job, too! Thanks for the free food, brother! Anyway, it’s that time of the night, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, so why don’t you all put your hands together for the best man’s speech. Ladies and gentlemen, give it up for Mr. Derek Morgan!”
“Thank you,” Morgan said as he took the microphone. “I met Spencer Reid about four years ago when he was hired to join our team at the Behavioral Analysis Unit. If I had to choose one word to describe how I felt when I met him, it would be, ‘unimpressed’. He was skinny, he was clumsy, he dressed like just stepped out of the 1940s and he most definitely did not have a way with women. This guy had so little game that we all started to wonder if he was even interested in women at all. I mean, come on, look at him- he’s prettier than most women I know, and he carries a purse!”
“It’s a messenger bag!” Spencer said.
“Listen man- I’ve got two sisters. Trust me, I know a purse when I see it. Then, to top it all off, I found out he couldn’t shoot, he had zero self-defense skills, and he was the most annoying know-it-all I’d ever met. One time we got stuck in an elevator together and he freaked out so badly that he had to change his pants afterwards. Over the years, however, I came to know another side of him. He’s brave, he’s loyal, he’s honest and he’s the most trustworthy man I know. I not only learned to like him, but I came to respect him as well, and he became my best friend and the brother I never had.
“Then one day, while we were briefing a case, in walked this girl, and it became real obvious real fast that Spencer had been keeping a secret from us all- he had a girlfriend. And once more, I was unimpressed. I mean, sure, she was hot, but she dressed like a slob, cursed like a trucker, and she had this inability to shut her mouth! I had never met such a rude and obnoxious woman in my life. I thought there was no way this woman was good enough for my friend. But over the years, I’ve learned that she is also sweet, kind, generous, and despite what Joe said earlier, she’s a very gracious hostess. Most of all, she shares with my friend- my brother- a kind of genuine, selfless love that I can only dream of finding some day. In all seriousness, Spencer, Christine, it is an honor to know the both of you, and there is no one here who could possibly be happier for you than I am right now. May you share a lifetime of love and laughter together, because you both deserve it. I love you guys. Cheers!”
As the guests drank a toast again, Morgan turned to hug Christine and Spencer. “Lemme guess,” Christine laughed. “My brother helped you with that, didn’t he?”
“How’d you know?”
“The bit about the man-purse was pure Joe.”
“It’s a messenger bag!” Spencer said.
“Baby, I love you,” Christine said, “but it’s totally a purse. No, don’t be like that! If anyone’s pretty enough to pull off that look, it’s you!”
After they finished eating, Spencer and Christine got up to talk with their guests. Slowly they made their way to the table where the BAU had been seated. “Hey,” Christine said, “so how’d Sparky do with the party planning, guys?”
“Fantastic,” Prentiss answered. “Everything is absolutely delicious!”
“Did you get any of that smoked brisket?” she asked.
“Oh, I’m in heaven!” Morgan replied.
“Yes, Chris,” JJ chimed in, “everything was just perfect! Those blue crabs were outstanding!”
“Yeah,” she said, putting her arm though Spencer’s and snuggling close to him. “My man did a good job. He knew I wanted to have a barbecue, and he gave it to me. Even the barbecue chicken was delicious, and they never do chicken right at banquets. But I’m with Derek- the brisket was the one to write home about. How about you, Penny- were the raviolis good?”
“I knew they would be, Garcia answered, “I went with Reid to all the tastings!”
“Great, and how are we doing on the champagne?” she asked, reaching over the table and lifting the bottle. “Ooh, looks like you need some more! I’ll get you some…”
Before anyone could stop her, Christine walked off in search of a waiter. “So how are you hanging in there, Spencer?” Haley asked.
“Who, me? I’m doing great. So far, everything had gone wonderfully, and I couldn’t have done it without Garcia. She’s tonight’s true hero,” Spencer replied.
“Ohh,” Garcia said, pushing up her glasses and blushing. “You’re just saying that ‘cause it’s true!”
“Found it!” Christine cried, as she hoisted a bottle in the air. After uncorking it loudly, she commanded, “Glasses!” and proceeded to fill those offered. She set the bottle back on the table and hugged Spencer, smiling up at him.
Once more, Joe’s voice came over the speakers. “Hello again! I hope everyone enjoyed dinner and saved a little room for dessert. We’ve got an amazing sweets table up here with some of my grandma’s very own treats, so I’d like to invite you all to help yourselves in a minute. But first, I need the bride and groom to come over here so we can cut the cake!”
“Ooh, I’m gonna need pictures!” Garcia exclaimed.
“I’ll come with you,” JJ said, reaching in her purse for her own camera.
Spencer and Christine posed with the cake knife for a moment before cutting two slices. Christine fed Spencer a slice, after which he paused and listened. From their guests he thought he heard a few boos; one person even called out, “Boooring!”
“What’s going on?” he asked Christine. “Did I do something wrong? What are they chanting about now?”
“They’re trying to get you to rub the cake in my face”
“That’s terrible! Why would I do that?”
“So they can see me get arrested for assaulting you tonight,” Christine said. “Be smart about this now, Sparky. You don’t wanna get hurt.”
Spencer looked around the room, blinking for a moment before picking up the cake. After he’d let Christine take a bite, he smeared the rest upwards, getting frosting and raspberry filling all over her mouth and up her nose.
Their guests roared with approval, but Christine let out an angry howl. As she reached with an open hand to grab at the cake and exact her revenge, Joe leapt forward and quickly pinned her arms behind her back. “Calm down!” he said, laughing. “That man didn’t do anything the rest of us haven’t dreamed of doing for a long time now. Stop fighting! I’m not letting you go until you call down. I swear to God, Chris, if you go after him, I’m gonna make you wear that entire cake!”
Christine stopped struggling and was released into Garcia and Alex’s custody to go find a damp cloth with which to clean her face. While she was gone, Spencer received congratulations from Christine’s friends and family and helped pass out cake. After she returned, Joe stepped back to the microphone. “Let’s have a round of applause for the groom, who had the guts to do what everyone in this room has dreamed of doing for years, shall we? Way to go, bro!” He glanced back at the couple and chuckled when he saw the bride holding up her middle finger down to her side. “Now that the cake is finally being passed out, it’s time to really get this party started! To kick things off right, let’s welcome the bride and groom to the floor tonight for their first dance. And to make the moment truly memorable, we’re going to be having a special musical performance by none other that me!”
As Joe pulled out a guitar from behind the cake table, Spencer led Christine to the dance floor. “Oh no,” she moaned. “What have the two of you cooked up now?”
“You’ll see…”
As Joe began to strum the opening bars to the song, Spencer watched as Christine’s eyes grew wide and tears began to well up in them. Joe sang, “Why are there so many songs about rainbows/and what’s on the other side?/Rainbows are visions, but only illusions/and rainbows have nothing to hide…”
“How did you know?” Christine asked as they started to dance. “How did you know this was the song I wanted to hear?”
“Actually,” Spencer said with a smile, “I just tried to find a song we could waltz to. But seriously, you sleep with a Kermit the Frog by the bed every night. I knew.”
“Spencer, you really are my superhero, you know that?” she said. “You’re my very own superhero.” She put her head on his shoulder and murmured, “You couldn’t have made this a more perfect day.”
“Even in spite of the cake?”
“Even so. All is forgiven. Besides, it was funny.”
He laughed. “Well, thank God I’ve married a woman with a sense of humor.”
“Just don’t ever try it again.”
“Dually noted.”
She lifted her face up, beaming at him, and sang along, “Have you been half asleep?/ And have you heard voices?/ I’ve heard them calling my name/ Is this the sweet sound/ That called the young sailors?/ The voice might be one in the same…”
He smiled back at her and sang along with her, “I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it/ It’s something that I’m supposed to be/ Someday we’ll find it/ The rainbow connection/ The lovers, the dreamers and me!”
As the music ended, she put her arms around him and said simply, “I love you, Spencer.”
“I love you, too, Christine.”

The door to their room had hardly shut behind them before he grabbed her about the waist and pushed her back, pinning her against the wall.
“Sparky,” she giggled as he smothered her with kisses, “slow down!”
“Not tonight,” he panted as his hand fumbled to find it’s way under her skirt. “You’ve made me wait weeks for this, and I just spent the entire day staring at you in that dress, waiting for the moment I could get you out of it!”
“But Sparky, I…there’s something I have to tell you!”
“You can tell me in bed,” he replied, planting a kiss hard on her neck before carrying her the short distance to the bed.
He fairly tossed her, still giggling, on the bed and watched her as he began to unbutton his shirt. He pulled it off and threw it on the floor before running his hands up her legs and tugging at her panties.
“No, seriously,” she said, “I need to tell you something!”
“What?” he asked, exasperated, as he pressed her body into the bed with his own.
She put an arm around his neck and whispered in his ear. Immediately, he stopped moving and sat back on his knees, looking at her.
“Are you serious?” he asked.
She nodded.
“Are…are you sure?”
She raised her eyebrows and shrugged her shoulders.
A smile spread across his face. He held a hand out to help her sit up, cleared his throat and said, “Well then, I supposed we should do this properly then, shouldn’t we? You do whatever you need to to get ready; I can wait.”
“Well, good, because I have a new nightie and I didn’t want it to go to waste.”
“Oh, it’s still going to go to waste,” he joked. “Because I can guarantee you’re not going to be wearing it long. Do you need any help?”
“Yeah, can you get the zipper on this thing for me?” she asked, turning her back to him.
“What about…do I just untie this bow, then?”
“No no,” she said, “it’s got a little hook over here. There you go; now you can get the zipper down.”
After he had unzipped her all the way, he slipped his hands in under her bodice and ran them up her sides. He leaned down to bury his face in her fragrant hair as his hands reached forward to cup her breasts and draw her body back against his own. She closed her eyes, entranced by his touch, until he whispered, “Sorry. I’ll let you change.” She turned to kiss him, and he added with a mischievous grin, “but leave those stockings on, okay?”
He walked out of the bedroom of their hotel suite and paced as he stripped off his clothes and uncharacteristically left them to lay where they fell. He felt electricity coursing through his body as he anticipated the night to come. There she was, just in the other room, finally his bride and soon-
The sound of the door opening broke his reverie. “I’m ready,” was all she said.
He stepped through the doorway, his excitement evident on his body. His hands fell on her hips as his lips found hers, and they shared a long, deep kiss. He stepped back and sat down on the bed before telling her, “Turn around. Slowly.”
As she obliged, he studied her, filing away in his mind the memory of every bit of lace and silk, every luxurious curl flowing from her head, and every perfect, alabaster curve of her body. When at last she faced him again, he stood and sank his fingers into her hair and kissed her tenderly. Slowly he let a finger trace down the side of her face, over her neck, and down between her breasts to where a single bow held her negligee together. He pulled on it gently and pushed the nearly weightless garment back over her shoulders and let it float to the ground. He moved both hands to cup her breasts, his thumbs caressing her erect nipples. She moaned softly as he bent down to place kisses on each of them before moving around behind her. He slid his hands from her breasts to her hips and lowered himself to his knees. He pulled her panties down over her shapely bottom and legs, lightly kissing her curves as he did so. Finally, he stood, pulled the covers back from the bed and led her to it by the hand. He laid down beside her, pushed her legs apart, and knelt between them, gasping as she reached into his underpants and squeezed his erection. He quickly discarded his underwear and stretched out his body against hers. Grasping her leg and holding it tightly to his side, he thrust into her with all his might, reveling in the loud cry of delight he elicited from her lips.
He buried his face in her neck and groaned, “Oh, my wife! At last, my beautiful, wonderful wife!”


The song played at their wedding was, “Rainbow Connection,” which was written by Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher and was first performed by Kermit the Frog (Jim Henson) in The Muppet Movie.

Chapter Text

“Holy shit,” she panted as she fell back into her pillow. “That was amazing.”
He leaned on his arm and gazed at her as he twirled one of her tousled curls around his finger. “You’re amazing.”
She turned her head and looked towards the heavily curtained window from behind which light was streaming into their room. “Sparky, it’s morning already! When was the last time we went all night long?”
He smiled. “You say that like it’s a bad thing, dear. But we’re married now, and if I wanna fuck my wife all night long, then that’s what I’m going to do!”
Christine laughed loudly. “Listen to you, dropping the F-bomb! Oh no, I’m a terrible influence on you, aren’t I?”
“Yes, you are,” he said, leaning in to kiss her. “But in the best possible way.” He moved his hand down to her hip and caressed her thigh. “So…” he asked, “do you need a break, or are you ready to go again?”
“Again?” she laughed. “I think I married a machine! But seriously, Spencer- aren’t you hungry? I’m not sure what time it is, but something tells me we’re going to miss our free breakfast downstairs if we don’t get up soon.”
“Then we’ll order room service,” he said, kissing her neck. “And I’m already up…”
He moved on top of her again, spreading her legs with his own. He pressed his hips down against hers and rocked gently on top of her until she began to writhe and kick beneath him. Soon she was begging him, “Please, Spencer…please!” He slid all the way into her, closing his eyes as he felt her back arch and her sweet voice moan once more. After he felt her body relax, he began to thrust rhythmically into her, faster and faster until soon her nails clawed at his back and her thighs pressed tightly against his own. She opened her mouth to scream, but he pressed the side of his hand into her mouth to stifle her cries. He continued to drive into her until he once more felt the familiar throbbing of her body around his own. Her muffled cries died off into happy little moans, and he removed his hand to kiss her lips. Then he caught her wrists in his hands and stretched her arms up over her head. He paused to stare in wonder at her perfect, ample bare breasts before resuming his rhythm. She drew her knees up high, allowing him to penetrate her as deeply as possible. He groaned and spread her arms out to the side, pressing the full length of his body against hers. Soon he felt that familiar, delicious electricity rise in his body, and he moved to embrace her. He pressed his lips to her cheek and moaned in her ear, “Oh God, Chris…oh…fuck, yes!” He closed his eyes tightly as his orgasm rushed over him like a tsunami. At the sensation of him ejaculating within her, Christine cried out, climaxing once more.
After a long, blissful moment, he rolled off her, his arm still over her shoulders, and he planted little kisses on her cheek as she giggled happily. “Maybe marriage isn’t such a bad thing after all,” she chuckled.
“Mmmhmm,” he murmured, his eyes closing drowsily. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you…making babies can be fun, too.”
Christine groaned. “Again with the babies!”
He pulled her tighter. “I know you don’t like to talk about it, but be honest- didn’t you feel anything when you saw those flower girls yesterday? You looked so perfect with them sitting at your feet as you said your vows.”
She rolled her eyes. “Spud was sitting there, too. Does that mean you want to start hoarding cats also?”
“No, no cats. I’d be happy with just a little girl.”
“A girl? Why on earth would you want a girl?”
“Because…just think of it. We could have a pretty little red-headed daughter with big blue eyes and a laugh just like her mother’s. I can’t think of anything more wonderful in the world…”
“Bah. No one wants girls. Girls make no sense. Even I don’t understand girls, and I am one!”
Spencer laughed. “You’re just being ridiculous.”
“I’m dead serious. I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating…if- and that’s a really big if!- we ever have kids, it had better be a boy. At least when boys fight, they punch each other and settle things. Girls get angry and stay angry and no one even understands why. They just stay bitchy for no reason. No. Definitely no girls for me, end of discussion.”
“And what if we did have a daughter- what would you do then?” Spencer asked, still laughing.
“You’d have to raise her. I ain't walking through that minefield. So if we ever do have kids- IF we do- you’d better make sure you’re shooting with the right caliber, Sparky!”
He chuckled and squeezed her. “Okay. I’ll be sure to look into that.”
“You do that.”
They both fell silent for a moment, then Christine sat up and swung her legs over the side of the bed and surveyed the room. She sighed and picked something up off the floor. “Well,” she said, “it looks like I’m never wearing these stockings again.”
Spencer yawned and said, “At least they died for a noble cause.”
“Died…or were murdered? I thought you liked them!”
“I did, but I like your lovely legs more, so I took them off.”
“More like you mauled them off like a hungry bear!”
“I’ll buy you new ones. I promise.” He rolled on his back, stretched his arms over his head and yawned. “So what time is it, anyway? I could use some coffee.”
“We’ve got time for breakfast if you get up now and get in the shower. Of course, we’ll be cutting it close, so we may have to shower together to save time.”
“You know as well as I do that it always takes longer when we shower together!”
“Ohh,” she whined, “you never wanna have any fun!”
“Excuse me? Did I just spend last night alone?”
“No, you can’t do that- you can’t bank past fun and count it as towards present or future fun. That’s not how fun accounting words, Sparky!”
“I thought you were in a hurry to get downstairs and eat…”
“Oh, you know me. I always wanna eat. I had to satisfy myself with getting you in my mouth last night, but now I want real food.”
Spencer stretched again and smiled broadly. “Yeah, you did do that, didn’t you? Thanks for that, by the way.”
“You’re welcome. You’re also welcome for me letting you pull off that move…”
“Ah yes, the move. I’ve been wanting to do that for a while!”
“I know you have. You know, you gotta give a girl some warning if you’re going to try shit like that!”
“I suppose you’re right. Thank you, nevertheless, for letting me do it…”
“Yeah well, I figured if I’d let you do it for your birthday or Christmas, I might as well let you do it on our wedding night.”
“Really? I can do that on my birthday, too? That’s only a month away!”
“Easy there, tiger. Remember, give me some warning first.”
“Consider this conversation your warning.”
“Gee, super,” she said, reaching over to tickle him. “Come on now. Up. I wanna eat and still have time to digest before lunch.”
“What’s the hurry? We don’t have to go out for lunch. We can just order in if we want something. Our flight doesn’t leave until this evening.”
“Flight? So we’re flying somewhere for our honeymoon? Interesting. Anyway, we do have to go out for lunch. Mom’s putting something together back at the house, and knowing her, she’ll have food on the table at the stroke of noon.”
Spencer sat up with a groan. “We’re having lunch with your family? Why was I not told of this earlier?”
“Not just my family- yours was invited, too. And I never got around to telling you before because we were just so busy the whole day, and then the whole night we just got…busier.”
He sighed and stood up, running his hands through his hair. “I wish I had known. I only packed jeans and a polo shirt because I didn’t know we were going to be seeing people today. I certainly can’t wear this,” he added, picking his wrinkled white shirt up that he’d discarded the night before.
“That’s alright,” Christine said. “You look hot in jeans. Woo!” she cried, reaching out to slap him on his bare bottom.
“Hey, you can’t treat me like nothing but a sex object! I need you to respect me for my mind, too!”
“Mind, schmind. It’s not your brain I like to screw!”
“Really? You seem to love screwing with my mind every chance you get. Did you want to get in the shower first, or shall I?”
“Ohhh,” she complained, “if you’re not going with, I guess I’ll go first. So much for keeping the excitement in our marriage…”
Spencer grabbed her about the waist as she passed and kissed her hard. “Madam,” he said, sinking his fingers into her hair, “if you hadn’t made plans for us, I promise you I’d be busy exciting you all day long.”
She giggled and grabbed his backside. “Well, let’s fuel up at breakfast quick, then, and you can get busy exciting me until it’s time to leave.”
“As I said, it’s a promise.”

Garcia climbed in the backseat and slammed the door. “Coffee,” she moaned. “I need coffee. Please tell me you guys brought me coffee!”
“Right here,” Prentiss said, turning around to hand her the cup. “Exactly the ridiculously complicated way you like it.”
“Excellent,” she said. “You guys just saved my life.”
“How late did you stay last night, Garcia?” JJ asked.
“To the very end,” she replied. “Joe and I were the last ones out the door.”
“Okay, so here’s a question, because I’m sure you noticed,” Prentiss asked. “Did Morgan end up hooking up with any of the single ladies or not?”
JJ laughed loudly as she drove. “That man was on a quest last night, wasn’t he?”
“What a hound!” Prentiss burst out. “When I was leaving, though, he looked like he was almost getting somewhere with some brunette…”
“You mean the tall, gorgeous one in the red dress with the perfect bone structure?” Garcia said. “Don’t you know who that was?”
“No,” Prentiss said. “Why, should I?”
Garcia leaned forward towards the others. “You didn’t see the resemblance? That was Reid’s cousin! So no, that one was a swing and a miss, too, because once he found out he said it would have felt like kissing his sister!”
“What about the one who played violin at the ceremony?” JJ asked.
“Diana’s sister. Married.”
“And the blonde?” Prentiss asked. “She was cute and seemed pretty into him…”
“Christine’s cousin’s daughter. And trust me, she wasn’t into him. At all,” Garcia laughed.
“Oh, I don’t know…they had some pretty dirty dancing going on last night!” JJ said.
“You know how I know? Because Alyssa’s a lesbian. Her girlfriend was even there last night!”
“Poor Morgan. He finally got his apartment back to himself and he just got shot down all night!” Prentiss laughed.
“You know who didn’t get shot down last night?” JJ said. “Did you guys see the look in Reid’s eyes as he watched Christine dancing? Wow. I’ll bet those two had a real rodeo last night.”
“Oh, but did you see Boy Wonder dancing with his mom?” Garcia said. “I cried- I really did! I couldn’t help it, I just got all puddly…how sweet was that?”
“What a beautiful moment for them both,” Prentiss agreed. “And ‘Teach Your Children’ was the perfect song for them. Did he really pick that out himself?”
“Yes, that was all on him,” JJ said. “Trust me, I had to practice with him for hours on that!”
“I think we can all agree, though, that the most memorable dance of the night was when Hotch actually did the chicken dance,” Prentiss said.
Garcia grabbed the seat backs, laughing. “Oh my God! All I can say is thank heavens for camera phones! How many drinks did he have to have before he did that?”
“I don’t know,” JJ said, “but at one point I did see him and Gideon doing shots with her dad and brothers…”
“I was a little disappointed he didn’t loosen up more,” Garcia said. “Gideon, I mean.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” JJ said. “He seemed to have a good time chatting with her grandpa. Some people just aren’t much for dancing, especially to the kind of music they had last night.”
“Yeah,” Garcia said, “I guess it was too much to ask of him to jump in with Joan Jett…say, what’s in the pan back here, J? And careful! There’s the turn off, there!”
“I know where I’m going, Garcia! And those are just some brownies I made this morning.”
“Ooh, are they the ones with caramel in them?” Prentiss asked. “I love those ones you make!”
“They are,” JJ said, “and I just get the mix from a box. You could make them, too, you know.”
“Me, bake? I don’t think so,” Prentiss said. “I could almost burn water trying to boil it. Looks like the Hotchners made it this morning…” she added as they pulled up.
At the sound of their car doors slamming, the front door opened and Alex came out to greet them. “Good morning! Sleep well?”
“Ugh, what little I got, yes!” Garcia moaned. “Is the blissfully wedded couple here yet?”
“Who, them? No. No one even knows if they’re out of bed yet, though if I know my boss, she’ll be here on time to eat! Come on in!”
As they stood in the doorway to the parlor, the three women exchanged glances; only men were in the parlor, talking and laughing, already with their drinks in hand. They followed Alex through to the kitchen, where Mrs. Arcangeli had mustered her troops and was barking out orders. “Patsy, check on that ham for me- I don’t trust the thermostat on her roaster. Cori, I need you to finish frying those meatballs and get them in the oven because the potatoes need to go on the stove. Oh! Hello, girls! Does that pan need to be kept hot? No? Then go ahead and put it right in the dining room on the buffet, and tell Emmy I need her and Kylie to set that table.”
Prentiss leaned in and whispered in Garcia’s ear, “Listen to that- remind you of anyone we know?”
Garcia giggled. “Ma’am,” she said, “is there anything I can do to help?”
“Get yourself an apron over there and- wait, is it you that’s the vegetarian? Okay, then maybe you can take those beans over there and work on them. Just snap the ends off and snap them in half.”
“And what can I Emily and I do?” JJ asked as she came back into the kitchen.
“Oh…” Christine’s mom said, looking around. “I think we’ve got everything covered…Aunt Norma, why don’t you put those potatoes down. We’ve got enough, don’t you think? Go sit with the girls in the parlor and relax. Take some mimosas with you, if you’d like. We have plenty in the fridge. Glasses are in the cupboard.”
“How about you, Aunt Norma?” JJ asked as she took down the glasses. “Would you like one, too?”
“Oh, I’ve already got a glass here, dear. Just top me off, please.” She put her arm in Prentiss’ and asked, “What’s your name?”
“Emily,” she said. “And this is Jennifer.”
“Emily and Jennifer. Such pretty names for pretty ladies.”
The women proceeded to the parlor, where Wes quickly stood and found them seats by the window. “These two were damned lucky they had me to set them up,” Joe was saying. “I went on one blind date. This was right before I met Laurie. So I meet this girl for drinks. She seems cool, looks nice. A couple of drinks in and I have her laughing, so it’s going great. We have a few more drinks, and then she suggests we go back to my place. And I’m thinking the gods have finally smiled on me, because things never go that great with the ladies, right? So we get out of the cab and we’re making out in front of my apartment and all of a sudden she stops and points to this huge toad on my front steps and is like, ‘What’s that?’ And I go, ‘Oh, that’s my toad. He likes to hang out there at night sometimes because I knock bugs down of the porch light for him.’”
“Oh, gross,” JJ interrupted. “I’ll bet that killed the mood!”
“Wait. So she goes up on my steps and, while making eye contact with me, brings her foot down on my toad and stomps it to death. And I’m like, ‘What the fuck is wrong with you?’ Sorry, Aunt Norma. ‘The fuck is wrong with you? Why did you just kill my toad?’ And she goes, ‘I wanted to make you mad so you’d fuck me really hard tonight!’ I’m like, ‘I’m not fucking you after you murdered Stanley, you fuckin’ psycho! Get the hell off my stoop before I call the cops!’ So I have to spray her with the goddamn garden hose to get rid of her, and I go inside thinking it’s over. Then, like, 20 minutes later there’s this pounding on my door. It’s psycho bitch and now she’s topless. I don’t even know how she got in that building; it’s a locked building. Anyway, I had to call the cops on her. She cried her way out of trouble and they let her go. But that’s why these two were lucky I set them up. I mean, I know they’re both a little crazy, but at least they’re not, like, toad-murderin’ crazy.”
Just then, a car pulled up the drive. “I think they’re here!” JJ exclaimed.
That was enough to bring Garcia scurrying out from the kitchen. “Aw,” she said, “isn’t that cute! He’s opening the door for her! He’s such a gentleman!”
“Is she walking funny?” Aunt Norma asked, craning her neck for a look.
Joe laughed. “I think the better question is, is he?”
“Look at him rubbing her back,” Garcia giggled. “He can’t keep his hands off her!”
Christine’s grandfather laughed and slapped the arms of his chair. “That’s the tune he’s been singing all night!”
Alex ran to the door and threw it open to them. They entered to a chorus of welcoming cheers. Spencer’s mother stepped forward and put her hands on their cheeks. “Oh, my two babies,” she gushed. “You look positively radiant! Spencer, doesn’t your bride look lovely?”
“She’s the most beautiful woman in the world, Mom!”
“No,” teased Alex, “you look like hell, boss. Kinda like you haven’t slept all night!”
Spencer blushed deep red while Christine rolled her eyes. As he followed his mother into the parlor, Alex grabbed Christine’s arm and leaned in to whisper, “I’m right, aren’t I?”
“You’re nosey, is what you are,” she replied with a chuckle.
“Oh, come on, boss! I want details!”
“Hey, now,” Garcia said, as she crowded around with Prentiss and JJ. “We’re nosey and want details, too!”
“Well,” Christine said, “if you must know…after we got back to the hotel, we got to our room, and he helped me out of my dress, then he started to take off his own clothes…then, I think he meant to say, ‘Who’s your daddy?’ But he accidentally said, ‘How’s your daddy?’ So then we both put our clothes back on and spent the next few hours discussing my father’s recent health concerns.”
“Seriously?” asked Alex.
“No, you dolt. We got naked and humped like rabbits all night long. What do you think we did?”
From the other room, Christine’s grandfather called out, “Crystal! Come here, girl!”
“Yes, Grandpa?” she said, coming into the room.
“Be a good wife and run along to the kitchen. Your man needs a drink!”
Christine looked at Spencer with one eyebrow raised. “Oh?”
Spencer shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “No, Chris, it’s okay. I never said-”
“Nonsense, boy. Our little girl was raised right!”
“What would you like, husband?”
Spencer looked from her to the old man and back to her. “Just a Coke, please,” he said weakly.
“Bah!” Grandpa said. “Get him a man’s drink! Put some whiskey in that Coca-Cola!”
“No, really, Christine, you don’t-”
“Nope,” Christine said, raising her hand. “You heard the man. I was raised to be a good girl. One Coke and whiskey, comin’ up!”
“So,” Grandpa said, placing his hand on Spencer’s arm as she left, “did you have some fun with our girl last night?”
Spencer blushed again. “Yes, sir, we did.”
“Hear that, men?” Grandpa said, slapping him on the back. “My grandson had a historic evening last night! I trust that means I’ll be getting some great-grandchildren soon?”
“Ah…” Spencer stammered, “that, um, that’s up to Christine. I’m only one variable in that equation.”
“A willing participant,” Grandpa said. “Well, you’re young still. You’ve got plenty of time. You just have fun trying to make them.”
“Your beverage, my liege,” Christine said, returning with Spencer’s drink.
“Thank you,” he said quietly, taking it.
“So what’s for dinner, Crystal?” Grandpa asked.
“Mom’s baking a ham,” she replied.
“Ham!” Grandpa exclaimed. “You can’t serve your husband ham the day after his wedding! This young man has worked up an appetite! Fry him up a proper steak, girl!”
“No, really, it’s okay!” Spencer protested. “I like ham!”
“Hogwash! When women get married, they get treated like a queen for a day. But the day after, that’s when a man should be treated like a king! Girl, run to the store and get him a nice thick one,” Grandpa declared.
“Christine, really, you don’t have to do that,” Spencer said.
“No no. You’re king for a day. If you want a steak, I’ll get you a steak.”
“Hey, while you’re out, get me one, too,” Joe said.
Christine turned and bent down until her nose was just inches away from Joe's. “You sure about that, Joseph?” she asked in a low voice.
“On second thought,” he said, “I really like ham.”
“That’s what thought.”
“Hey, boss,” Alex said. “Why don’t I run to the store, okay? We need more dinner rolls, anyway.”
“We need more bourbon, too,” Melanie called from the kitchen. “And champagne!”
“Got it! What kind of steak do you want me to get?”
“Get him a ribeye,” Christine said.
“Oh, don’t be so scotch,” Grandpa said. “Get him a big porterhouse!”
“But his favorite is ribeye, Grandpa!”
“’s true, Grandpa,” Spencer said. “I prefer ribeye.”
“Well, I suppose there’s no accounting for taste, if that’s what the man wants,” Grandpa conceded.
“Grant,” Alex said, “are you coming with?”
After Alex and Anderson had left, Grandpa said, “That girl of Margaret’s is a real peach, isn’t she?”
“I couldn’t get along without her,” Christine agreed.
“Are you paying her enough?”
“Yeah,” Christine said, sitting down by Grandpa’s feet. “I think so. Plus she’s got room and board, a truck, a retirement plan and a percentage of what I make…”
“That’s good. That’s good. People always say that in business, the most important people are your customers. That’s a lie. The most important people are your employees. Always remember that. Who’s that young man she’s with?”
“His name is Grant. He works with Spencer in the same office. It’s how they met.”
“Is he a good man?”
“Yeah, I think so. Spencer thinks so, too. He treats her well, brings her home on time, and he has kind of a healthy fear of what Spencer will do to him if he ever gets out of line.”
“He’d better fear me, too,” Joe interjected. “No one had better mess with our Alex while I’m around.”
“I think Christine’s the one he’d really better be worried about,” Spencer said, taking a long sip from his glass. “She’ll maul like a grizzly bear protecting her cubs any man who tries to hurt that young woman.”

After dinner, they all gathered back in the parlor. Garcia was in a huff with Alex. “I can’t believe you had the audacity to place the flowers you stole from me right in the middle of the table!”
“Stole from you?! I caught that bouquet fair and square!”
“You did not! They were in my hands and you wrestled them away from me!”
“Hey, it’s not my problem you’re getting slow in your old age.”
“Old age? Old age?” Garcia fumed. “If I weren’t a lady and if this skirt wasn’t too tight, I’d plant one of my fantabulous shoes right in your skinny little butt for that!”
“It’s those shoes that did you in,” Alex laughed. “Those aren’t the kind of shoes you wear to full-contact bouquet catching! That kind of thing you gotta do in sneakers or barefoot, like I did, and I won, fair and square. So there!” With that, Alex stuck her tongue out at Garcia.
“Ooh!” Garcia exclaimed, frustrated. “Did you see that? Are you all watching this? I tell you, this younger generation has no respect! Kids these days- sheesh!”
“Mom!” Christine called out. “Leave the dishes and get in here! That’s Spencer’s job, anyway!”
“Let me just start the dishwasher first…” After a pause, her mother appeared from the kitchen. “Honestly, Chris, I don’t see how you’re even ready to have a household of your own with your attitude! And don’t you dare make that young man do all your dishes for you! He works very hard. He should be able to come home to a clean house and relax.”
Spencer turned to Christine and smiled broadly. “Did you hear that? You have to clean house from now on- your mother said so!”
Christine leaned in and said, “Oh yeah? I’d like to see you try and make me. I dare you!”
“Well,” said Aunt Norma, “before the two of you get into a fight over the dishes, maybe you should open this.”
Christine took a box from her hands. She pulled the bow off, stuck it on Spencer’s head, and opened it. “Aw, dish towels,” she said, holding them up to show them off. “You embroidered these yourself, didn’t you? They’re too pretty to use!”
“Nonsense. You both put them to good use, and maybe when you see them you’ll remember not to fight about who does the dishes.”
“Thank you, Aunt Norma!”
Spencer nudged Christine. “There’s something else in that box,” he said.
“Oh, I’ve seen it,” she replied.
He smiled. “Maybe you should hold that up for everyone to admire, too.”
“Come on, Chris,” Joe said. “Show us what else you got!”
Christine looked from her brother to her husband and slowly lifted the other items from the box. “It’s a baby bonnet and booties,” she said somewhat bashfully.
“And a blanket,” Spencer added. “That’s so sweet! Thank you, Aunt Norma- these will come in handy.”
“Maybe,” Christine said.
“Definitely,” Spencer corrected.
“Hey,” Christine said under her breath, “just who’s side are you on, anyway?”
“My own,” he replied.
Garcia looked at them both for a brief, tense moment and said, “Here! It’s time for my present! Open it! Open open open!”
Christine took the bow off it, pressed it hard onto Spencer’s chest, and opened it. “Hats and scarves! Ooh, and they’re so soft, too! These will come in handy this winter!”
“Yes, thank you, Penelope,” Spencer said. “Now she can stop stealing mine when the weather gets cold!”
“You’re both so very welcome,” Garcia said with a grin.
“I guess I’m next,” Haley said, standing up. She placed a large box on Christine’s lap.
“Look, sweetheart, another bow,” Christine said, pulling it off and sticking it on Spencer’s head.
“Why do I have to wear them all?” he asked with a frown.
“Because it’s tradition,” Christine said, tearing the paper off the box.
“She’s full of shit,” Joe said. “It’s not a tradition.”
“You’d better leave them,” Christine warned as she saw Spencer starting to pluck at them. “Yay!” she suddenly exclaimed. “It’s a couple of pecan pies!”
“Look underneath them,” Haley advised.
Christine gasped as she handed the pies to Spencer. “Is this really…oh my God… it’s THE RECIPE!”
“Careful now,” Haley warned as Christine waved the notecard in the air. “That is for your eyes only. My grandmother is probably turning in her grave as we speak because I’ve given it to a Yankee…”
“Ooh, sorry,” she said, clutching it to her chest. “I’ll guard it with my life.” She pulled it out to take a little to peek at it. “Whoa, that’s a good healthy snort of bourbon in there, isn’t it?”
Haley made as if to snatch it away from her. “You’ve said to much. I should have known you couldn’t be trusted!”
“Oh, no you don’t! You can’t have it back now! Alex, be a lamb and put these pies in the dining room, would you?”
After Alex had taken them away, Grandpa said, “Crystal, come here and give this box to your husband.”
“Oh my God,” she said, lifting it up. “What’s in here, lead bricks?”
Grandpa laughed. “Just about.”
She set it on Spencer's lap. After playfully sticking the bow in Christine’s hair, he unwrapped it to find a polished wooden box. When he opened the box, both he and Christine gasped. “Well?” Garcia asked. “What is it?”
“A pair of Colt Single Action Army pistols,” Spencer said.
“You know what they call those?” Grandpa asked.
“Peacemakers,” Christine said.
“That’s why I gave those to you,” Grandpa said. “Now, I want you two to think. When you have an argument- and believe me, you’re gonna have a lot of them- before you go to bed angry, I want you to pull out those pistols. Then you’ll find a way to work out your problems, because there’s nothing life will give you that’s so hard you have to settle it with those.”
“Can I see them?” Hotch asked.
As Hotch admired the pistols, Morgan asked, “What’s the caliber on those?”
“.357,” Christine said, “which is good, because I think the .45 would break my wrist.”
Spencer stared at her. “He just said we’re not supposed to use them, and you’re already making plans?”
“We’re not supposed to use them on each other, dork,” Christine said. “But there’s no point in having a gun if you don’t shoot it at something!”
“Well, of course,” Grandpa laughed. “Melly’s got some cartridges there for you. “Take ‘em out back and try ‘em out! Crystal, be a good girl and run along upstairs. Get some hearing protection for your man!”
“Wait, Pop,” Melanie said. “They can do that after. I still haven’t given them my gift!”
“Oh! Oh, yes. By all means, let’s see that first,” the old gentleman said.
“Just a second,” Melanie said, standing up and walking to the other room. When she came back, she was carrying an enormous box that she set across both of their laps.
“One more for you,” Christine giggled, pulling off the bow and sticking it on Spencer’s head. “Here, help me open this.” They both tore off the paper and lifted the lid together. “Oh…my…God…” Christine said as she let the lid slip to the ground. “What on earth? How…is this what I think this is?”
“What is it?” Prentiss asked. “Let us see.”
“Help me out here, Sparky,” Christine said, standing up. From the box they drew an enormous hand-made quilt. They spread it out for everyone to see; it was blue on white with little patches of yellow. In the center was the monogram, ‘SRC’. Christine’s hands shook as she held it up.
“I found that when I was going through Mom’s sewing room,” Melanie explained. “It was almost finished. I just bound the edges and put your wedding date on it down at the corner. Chris, she always knew you two were meant for each other,” she continued, with tears in her eyes. “She knew you’d be together- that’s why she made this.”
Christine let go of the quilt and put her hands to her face. “I…I’m sorry. I just…I just can’t right now…”
She ran out of the room. Spencer started to follow her, but Melanie stopped him. “Let me talk to her,” she said. She found Christine in the kitchen sobbing.. “Come here,” she said, putting her arms around her. “See? She found a way to be here. This whole time, she was already here. Shhh…she would have been so proud of you yesterday. She was always so proud of you. Come on. You can do this. Let’s go back out…”
“No. Just give me a minute. I need this hug,” she sobbed into her aunt’s shoulder.
They stood for a moment while Melanie stroked her back. “Okay now?” she asked quietly.
Christine nodded. “Yeah,” she said, reaching for a tissue to wipe her nose. “I can do this.”
Returning to the parlor, she stepped over to hug Spencer. “You see that?” she said, gesturing toward the quilt. “She loved you, too.”
“She was a wonderful grandmother,” Spencer said. “And she found a way to be there for both of us.”
Christine picked up a corner of the quilt and held it to her face, kissing it. “Thank God I’m not wearing any makeup today,” she laughed through her tears. “This is the most beautiful quilt I’ve ever seen. I love it. It’s perfect.”
Spencer crushed her and the quilt to him. “You’re right. It will be beautiful in our room. Thank you so much, Melanie.”
“Here, help me fold this,” Christine said, sniffling. “We’ll put it upstairs in a bit. First, we have something to give you guys. Sparky, do you have those envelopes?”
“I’ve got them right here in my ‘purse’,” he said with a smile. “See how handy this thing is?”
“Stay awesome, baby,” she said with a smile. “Okay, as a token of our thanks for putting up with us, we got each of you attendants a little something. Actually, we got the same thing for everyone but Aaron and Jason,” she said, passing them out, “so you can all open them at the same time…”
“Whoa!” JJ exclaimed as she opened the envelope.
“Oh, wow,” Prentiss said. “This is seriously cool.”
“I’m going to Vegas, baby!” Morgan said.
“Chris,” Melanie said, “this is really too much.”
“No, it’s not. Really, it’s not,” Christine said. “You guys stood with us on the most important day of our lives, and we want each of you to go, relax, and have a good time on us. Think of Spencer and I while you’re having fun in Sin City. We really want you to. Here, this one’s for you, Aaron…”
“Disney World?” Haley said, looking over her husband’s shoulder.
“Or Disneyland,” Spencer said. “You can use that voucher at any of their properties. You can even go on a cruise if you’d like. They sail all over the Caribbean, if Jack’s too small to enjoy the park.”
“A cruise,” Haley said dreamily. “Oh, Aaron, we haven’t been on a cruise since our own honeymoon!”
“This is very thoughtful, you two,” Hotch said. “Thank you very much.”
“And finally, Jason, we got this one for you,” Christine said, handing him an envelope.
“Yellowstone National Park,” he said, reading it’s contents.
“We know you’re a nature lover, and the geologist in me just had to send you there. You’ve got a private cabin right inside the park any time you want to go and get away from the world,” she said with a smile.
“Peace, quiet and nature,” Gideon said softly. “It sounds wonderful. Thank you both.”
“There’s one last thing,” Christine said. “Sparky, can I have that?” He gave her a small box he’d taken from his messenger bag and she walked over to Garcia. “Penelope…hoo, I’m gonna cry again…Penny, we couldn’t have done all this without you. You are such a huge reason why we will remember yesterday as one of the greatest, most beautiful days of our lives, all of our lives. You worked so hard and poured so much heart into every aspect of that day so selflessly, that we wanted to give you this little extra something as a small token of our gratitude.”
She handed Garcia the box. “Guys, you didn’t need to give me anything! I did it because I love you!”
“No, we did need to. We so totally needed to,” Christine said with a chuckle. “Especially me.”
She took the paper off, and her eyes grew wide. “Oooh, Mikimoto!” she gushed. She opened it and put her hand up to her breast. “Oh, be still my sparkly, fabulous little heart! It’s beautiful! My lovelies, this is simply too much!”
“Well, let us see it, Garcia,” JJ said.
On her finger she slipped a ring with a large pearl surrounded by tiny diamonds and sapphires in blue, pink, orange and yellow. She held her hand out for the other women, who all fawned over it.
“I wanted to go with something simpler,” Christine said, “but Spencer insisted we get the most colorful one they had.”
Garcia jumped up and stamped her feet in joy before throwing her arms around Spencer and Christine. “Thank heavens for you and your gorgeous gray matter, Boy Wonder. You profiled me better than I could have profiled myself. And you, my sweet little Gingerpotamus- thank you thank you thank you! Don’t you ever lose this man! He has the best taste in jewelry ever. I love it!”
“You are so very welcome,” Christine laughed as she extricated herself from Garcia’s embrace. “Wear it in good health.”
“Yes, and thank you again, Garcia,” Spencer added. “Truly.”
After she’d sat down again, Christine turned and stared at Spencer for a moment. He shrugged his shoulders a little and asked, “What?”
“Oh, I think you know what.”
“No, give me a hint.”
“Is that really the last thing you have there in your magical man-purse, my dear?”
Spencer picked up his bag and set it on his lap. “Yes, that seems to be all of it…oh…no, wait…there is this one thing left in here- and it’s got your name on it.” He offered her the final envelope with a smile.
“What is it?” Prentiss asked.
“Their honeymoon,” Garcia said.
“Wait- is this, like, a surprise to you?” JJ asked incredulously. “Spence, you planned your honeymoon without her?”
“That’s what she wanted,” he said.
Christine held the envelope to her forehead. “Let’s see,” she said. “It can’t be Hawaii, because we’ve already done that…Jamaica, maybe? Mexico?”
She looked to him, but he merely smiled and shrugged.
“Hmm…oh! You like snorkeling, so we’re going to Australia to see the Great Barrier Reef! No, that’s not it…the Mediterranean, maybe. Greece or…no! Morocco! I’ve always wanted to go to Morocco!”
“Really? You’ve always wanted to go to Morocco?” Spencer asked. “You’ve never told me that!”
“No, but I have told you how much I wanted to see the pyramids at Giza. We’re going to Egypt! Or Mt. Kilimanjaro! You know I want to see that, too! We’re going to Tanzania! Yay!”
Spencer laughed. “Sorry, dear. You’ve got the wrong continent.”
“Ah-ha!” she cried. “But it is on a continent!”
Spencer laughed harder. “Yes, my brilliant, beautiful bride. You’ve narrowed it down to somewhere on planet Earth.”
“Except Africa,” she said.
“Yes, except Africa.”
“Oh, for God’s sake, Chris,” Joe burst out. “Just open the damned envelope!”
“Alright, alright,” she muttered. “Jesus, who peed in your little pool of happiness this morning? Let’s see, what amazing adventure has my husband planned for us? We are going to…oh. Oh, wow,” she said, flipping through the pages of the itinerary. “Oh, holy shit!”
“Christine!” her mother said. “Language!”
Christine leapt to her feet, leaned over, grabbed Spencer’s face and kissed him for a long moment before sitting down in his lap and wrapping her arms around him. “Sweetheart, you really are the best, you know that?” She planted little kisses all over his face and neck, heedless of the chuckles around her. “I’m not squishing your legs, am I? Oh God, I love you so much! Thank you!”
“So, where are you going?” Garcia asked.
Between kisses, Christine answered, “Germany and Austria!”
Spencer’s cheeks blushed red from the attention, and he said, “She’s spent time there and loved it, and I’ve always dreamed of hearing Mozart and Beethoven performed in Vienna…”
“And we’ll be in Munich for Oktoberfest! Yay! This trip is gonna have a little crazy for me, a little classy for him, and it’s all going to be just as wonderful as the man I married, isn’t it?” Christine said.
“And it’ll be as beautiful as my lovely wife,” Spencer said.
“Oh God,” Joe moaned. “Put a lid on the sugar over there before we all slip into diabetic comas, wouldja? Come on, man. Let’s try out those pistols!”
Christine stood and picked up the quilt. “I’ll just run this upstairs and get you that hearing protection.”
“While they get their things together,” her mother said, “why don’t you all come back to the dining room and get yourself some dessert?”
Christine was in her bedroom, bending over and smoothing out the quilt with her hands when she thought she heard a sound. She turned to see Spencer closing the door behind him. “Oh, sorry,” she said lightly. “I was just admiring it all spread out. I’ll get those earmuffs for you…”
He shook his head and smiled as he wrapped is arms around her from behind. “The only thing I need right now is you,” he said in a soft, low voice.
“Spencer,” she whispered, “we have a house full of guests downstairs!”
“And they’ll all be none the wiser if you can stay quiet, dear,” he said. He ran his hands up her back, under her shirt, and unfastened her bra before moving them forward to cup her breasts. He pinched her suddenly-hard nipples lightly before moving his hands down over her belly to the waistband of her jeans. Burying his face in her neck, he quickly unbuttoned and unzipped her jeans before pulling them and her panties down over her hips. “Bend over,” he whispered in her ear.
She knew this was madness, that they were bound to be caught, but she obeyed him and grasped the quilt with both hands. She heard him unzip his own pants before feeling him grab her hips tightly and press his erection against her bare bottom. He moved behind her, positioning himself to enter her. She could feel the tip of his penis find her and linger for just a moment before, with a soft groan, he thrust into her roughly. He held her tightly against himself before moving one hand to the hair at the back of her head as the other moved forward and down, between her legs. “Isn’t this how you like it?” he whispered. “Yes, this will make you cum for me…” With one finger he found her clitoris and began rubbing it gently. She bit the quilt and moaned as she felt the familiar electricity rising within her. He thrust into her again and again until at last her climax crashed over her. She tried to raise her head to cry out, but he forced her face back into the bed as she clawed helplessly at the bedding. As her orgasm subsided, he moved his hands back to her hips and pulled her hard against him. “Oh, my sweet little baby doll,” he moaned in a whisper. “My beautiful little wife…” She felt him pull her back hard one last time and hold her as he throbbed and ejaculated into her. At last, he released her, and she fell helplessly onto the bed, panting.
After a long moment, she stood up and pulled up her pants. Turning, she saw him grinning at her, adjusting his fly and buckling his belt. She reached back to adjust her bra, then stood gazing at him, smiling and smoothing her hair as he tucked in his shirt. Finally he said, “I, uh…I should probably get back downstairs before everyone becomes suspicious…”
She nodded, smiling, and said nothing. He turned to leave and suddenly turned back, grabbed her face and kissed her firmly. He pressed his forehead to hers, their noses touching, and said breathlessly, “You are every sweet dream I have ever had, Christine.”



The song to which Spencer and his mother danced was “Teach Your Children” by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

Garcia’s ring is on the @thegingerpotamus Instagram account.


Chapter Text

Before he had a chance to open his eyes, Spencer felt first her hands and arms and then even the full-weight of her torso pressing down on his head and shoulders. “Hey, just…hey!” he said as she tried to crawl over him. “What on earth are you doing?”
“That alarm clock,” she said groggily. “I’m going to kill it…”
He struggled to catch her arms, saying, “You’re not killing anything this morning.” Holding her wrists in one hand, he slapped the alarm with the other. He turned to her; her eyes were closed again. He kissed her on the forehead before releasing her arms and said, “Go back to sleep, now, babydoll.”
She murmured something as she pulled the quilt up to her nose, and he sat up. He swung his legs over the side of the bed and sat yawning for a moment before standing up to stretch. He turned around to look at her one last time, curled up and snug in bed, before padding off to the bathroom. As he shaved and showered, he reflected on the honeymoon they’d just taken and smiled. He wasn’t entirely ready for it to be over. But two weeks had passed and it was time to get back to work. After finishing his routine, he left the bathroom for the closet and dressed himself carefully. As he pulled on his socks, he remembered the night they went to see the Vienna Philharmonic. He’d spent the day shopping with Christine, searching for just the right dress to wear. She’d finally settled on a deep sapphire number that set off her fair, freckled shoulders and lovely figure beautifully.
He’d even bought her new lingerie to wear with it- including real silk stockings. He had watched her get ready that evening with fascination. But when she pulled those stockings up her shapely legs…he’d been unable to control himself. He had lifted her up, laid her across the bed and taken her whilst standing, caressing those silken legs. He blushed now at the memory and hurriedly pulled on his other sock. He crossed to the doorway of the closet, hoping to find her still in bed, starting to wake.
She wasn’t there. But true to her nature, she’d left the bed unmade. He sighed a little before making it himself. After stowing his cell phone and credentials in his pockets, he opened the door and discovered where she’d gone; though their room was at the far end of the house, the hallway was redolent with the scent of bacon and coffee waiting below.
He found her in the kitchen, fishing bread out of the toaster. He slipped his arms around her and kissed her head. “Good morning,” he said softly. “You really didn’t need to do all this, but thank you.” He looked at the one plate of eggs and bacon on the table. “Aren’t you going to have anything?”
“No,” she said, yawning. “I just finished two weeks on a pretty strudel-heavy diet. Yogurt and a banana for me. And coffee. Sit.”
He sat and waited as she set his toast before him and filled his coffee cup. She sat down beside him and sipped her coffee. “Did you sleep well, dear?” he asked between bites.
“Yeah, what little sleep I got,” she replied, giving him a little kick under the table.
“What can I say,” he said with a smile. “Your charms are irresistible.”
She reached up and tried to run a hand through her hair. “Ugh. It’s going to take me all morning to untangle this mess,” she complained.
“You look radiant,” he assured her. “I can’t tell you how much I’m going to miss waking up next to your beautiful red head.”
“Yeah, well,” she began, yawning again, “you have to get back to your work, and I have to get back to mine tomorrow. Blah…I so don’t wanna go...” She sat contemplatively for a moment, then slapped the table and said, “Enough of that now. What must be, must be. So, what do you want for lunch- turkey or roast beef?”
“I can make my own lunch…”
“Hush. Just answer the question.”
“Turkey, please.”
As he ate, he watched her moving about the kitchen, making his sandwich and packing his lunch. He popped the last bite of toast and jam in his mouth just as she finished and reached to take his plate away. “Another cup?” she asked, pointing to his mug.
“No, thank you. I’ll get more coffee at work.” He stood and looked at her for a moment before pulling her in for a long embrace. Kissing her on the cheek, he said finally, “I’ve gotta go, babydoll.”
“I know,” she said dejectedly, handing him his lunch. “Don’t forget your souvenirs- the bag is by the door.”
She followed him to the door and watched him put on his shoes. “Okay then,” he said. “Have a good day, dear.”
“You, too,” she said. “Stay safe, Sparky.”
“Always,” he said. He turned and smiled when she slapped his bottom as he was walking out the door.

"Well, this is nice," JJ said. "It's not often we all get to sit down for lunch together. Well, most of us, anyway."
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Garcia said. “Come on, you newly wedded wonder boy. I see that bag of goodies- what did you get me?”
Spencer laughed as she clapped her hands in anticipation. “I was thinking you might want to wait for this until after lunch,” he said, reaching in his bag, “but since you can’t wait…here you go.” He handed her, JJ, Prentiss and Morgan each a box.
“Oooh,” Prentiss said dreamily. “Chocolates.”
“Yes, well,” he said, “the pretzels and beer from Oktoberfest proved too difficult to pack. We also got each of you some coffee,” he added, handing them each a package. “They serve coffee in the most amazing way there, in little pots with dishes of whipped cream you can put on top…”
“It’s about time you repaid me for drinking all my coffee,” Morgan said, looking at the bag. “Do you guys have any idea how much of this stuff this kid goes through in a week?”
“Hey,” Spencer said, “I bought you plenty of coffee to replace everything I consumed while I was living with you!”
“Yeah,” Morgan conceded, “you did. Ladies, if Chris ever kicks him out again, don’t be afraid to offer him your couch. As long as you can deal with the mountains of newspapers and books he brings with him, he’ll clean your house for you, top to bottom.”
“Us?” JJ laughed. “Why can’t he stay with you next time?”
“Who says there’s going to be a next time?” Spencer asked.
Morgan ignored him, saying, “Because I couldn’t bring a lady home for two weeks!”
“And you think we don’t have personal lives? I don’t need him hanging around when I have a date!” Prentiss said.
“She’s not going to kick me out, guys!” Spencer said.
“You hope,” Prentiss said. “But if she does, just make sure you bring the Pine-Sol with you.”
“I clean with vinegar, anyway,” Spencer said.
“Oh my God,” Morgan said. “So that’s why my place always smelled like that! Here I just though you had an addiction to pickles or something.”
Spencer sighed. “No, but the acetic acid in vinegar is excellent for-”
“We don’t want a chemistry lesson, oh brilliant bridegroom,” Garcia interrupted. “Tell us about the honeymoon!”
“Not all of it, though,” JJ said. “I think we all know already how most of it went.”
“Ew, no,” Garcia said. “Definitely leave out the NC-17 parts. Thanks, JJ- now I’ve got most unwelcome mental images threatening to corrupt my normally serene cerebellum.”
“Don’t worry, I wouldn’t want to make Morgan any more jealous of me than he already is,” Spencer said with a smile. “We started out in Germany. We climbed to the top of the Cologne cathedral and visited Beethoven’s birthplace in Bonn. Then we took a train to Regensburg where we ate a place called the Wurstkuchl, which is a 862 year old tavern that sells only sells bratwurst, sauerkraut and beer- all of which were delicious- and then we went to Munich to visit Oktoberfest. The beer tents were too crowded for my taste, so we didn’t stay long, but then we visited Marienplatz and the Nymphenburg Palace. The next day we toured the Dachau Concentration Camp-”
“Wow,” Prentiss said, “what a romantic thing to do on your honeymoon…”
“It was actually very moving,” Spencer said. “After that we went further south and toured Neuschwanstein Castle-”
“Oh!” Garcia exclaimed. “I know that one! That’s the Cinderella castle, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” Spencer said, “Cinderella’s castle was inspired by Neuschwanstein. And it was every bit as scenic as you could possibly imagine. Then we rented a car and crossed the border into Austria, which was nerve-wracking because she made me drive over those mountain roads, some of which are quite narrow. I’m sure she enjoyed the view tremendously while I was busy trying not to kill us both. We did, however, find an absolutely breathtaking spot to pull over to stretch our legs and have a picnic-”
“Did Christine get out and spin around and sing The Sound of Music?” JJ asked with a laugh.
“No, but we did find some edelweiss, and she had me take a picture of her with it,” Spencer said.
“Okay, so, I’ve heard the song and everything,” Morgan said, “but what exactly is edelweiss, anyway?”
“It’s a small, white flower that grows in the Alps,” Spencer said.
“So the Alps- those are the mountains you were in?” Morgan asked.
Spencer stared at him for a moment, his mouth agape. “Yes, Derek,” he said slowly. “The mountains in Austria are the Alps. I’m sorry. Did…did you ever actually graduate high school? Because right now I’m finding that a little hard to believe…”
“Oh, shut up,” Morgan said as the women started to giggle. “That wife of yours is turning you into a real smartass, you know?”
“If that wife of mine were here, she’d be roasting you like a Thanksgiving turkey right now,” Spencer said, putting his face in his hands and laughing. “Honestly, how could you not know the Alps are in Austria? By the way, Austria is a landlocked country in Europe, not a large island in the South Pacific filled with koalas and crocodiles. No one puts shrimp on the barbie in Austria…”
“You know what, kid?” Morgan said, standing up. “If there weren’t ladies here, I swear to God I’d-”
Garcia grabbed his arm, giggling. “No, don’t leave me now, my Dark Knight! Reid’s sorry- Reid, tell him you’re sorry.”
“I’m sorry,” Spencer said, trying to hide his smile.
“That’s better,” Morgan said, sitting back down.
“Sorry the Chicago public school system failed you…”
“That’s it, man! Yeah, come at me! Let’s go!”
“Enough, you two!” JJ said. “Play together nicely, now, or I’m putting you both in time out! Derek, take your hands off him. Spence, just tell us the rest of your story.”
“So anyway,” Spencer said, smoothing down his shirt and tie, “we visited Innsbruck, where Christine wanted to see the zoo, then we went to Salzburg and saw Mozart’s birthplace, we stopped briefly in Linz for coffee and pastries- well, actually everywhere we went we had to stop for coffee and pastries at Christine’s insistence- and we rode the tram up to Pöstlingberg, and finally we made it to Vienna. And Vienna was…well, I can’t imagine a more beautiful city. We shopped and dined. We saw the Kunsthistorisches Museum and Schönbrunn Palace, and we went to the symphony. That was my favorite part- to see one of the world’s best orchestras perform some of the world’s finest music in one of the world’s greatest orchestra halls. It was breathtaking. And I did it all with the most amazing woman in the world by my side. It was, as she would say, epically awesome.”
“I’m glad to hear you enjoyed yourself, Dr. Reid,” Hotch said, behind him.
Spencer turned. “Yes sir, I did- very much.”
“I apologize for not welcoming you back earlier; I’ve been in meetings all morning. I trust you’ve seen the files we’ve been leaving for you?”
“Yes sir, I’ve been through them all. I should have the paperwork for you by the end of the day. Oh, and sir? We have a few small souvenirs for you,” Spencer said, handing him the chocolate and coffee. He reached once more in his bag and pulled out a small plush toy. “Also, we got a little mountain goat for Jack.”
“This was all very thoughtful of you,” Hotch said. “Give my thanks to Christine. Again, welcome back.”
After he had left, JJ said, “Yeah, thanks again for all of this, Spence. It’s great. And I’m really glad you had such a good time.”
“Me too,” Garcia said. “Thanks. Now I wish I could find someone to whisk me away on a romantic trip to a far-away land…” She batted her eyes playfully at Morgan.
“Don’t look at him, Garcia,” Prentiss laughed. “He’ll take you to the wrong continent!”
“You know,” Morgan said, “I hate you all. Not you, baby girl, just the rest of them.”

When he got home from work, it was Alex who greeted him at the door. “Thanks for picking up the take-out,” she said, taking the bags from his hands.
“No problem,” he replied. “Where’s Chris? Is she alright?”
Alex shrugged. “I dunno. She was in her office all morning, then she just went to her room and told me she wasn’t going to make dinner. She seemed like she wanted to be left alone, so I really haven’t been up there.”
“Oh. Okay, thanks,” he said absently as he looked up the stairs. He took off his shoes and hurried up to their room. He knocked gently on the door and opened it. Poking his head in the dim room he asked, “May I come in?”
Christine was lying in bed with her back to the door. At the sound of his voice, she rolled over and said simply, “Yeah.”
“What’s wrong, baby doll? Are you okay?” he asked, sitting down on the edge of the bed.
“No. I’m a lazy, useless piece of shit,” she said, setting the pen and paper she’d been using on the nightstand.
“No, don’t say that! You’re wonderful! You work so hard, and you know I’m very proud of you…”
“Aw, thanks for the pep talk, sweetheart, but today I just got this monster headache- a sinus one, here on the left side of my face- and the drugs kicked in about an hour ago, but I couldn’t get bring myself to get out of bed because the pillows smell like you. So I’ve just been laying here writing and thinking about how much I don’t want to leave tomorrow.”
He leaned across the bed to kiss her and said, “Well, I’m glad your head doesn’t hurt any more. And as for the separation…I don’t like the idea of it either, but it’s nothing we haven’t been through before.”
“I know. You’re right,” she said, putting her arms around his neck and kissing him back. “But the last two weeks have been heavenly haven’t they? Nothing to do must eat and sightsee and screw…damn, it’s been good.”
“Mmmhmm. But how about this,” he said, touching his forehead to hers, “I’ll go downstairs and get the food. We can set that little table there in front of the fireplace and have dinner in here in front of the fire. How does that sound?”
“Amazing,” she said with a grin. “You go, and I’ll drag the furniture around and set shit on fire.”
“That’s my girl,” he said with a chuckle.
After dinner, they sat holding hands and staring into the fire. “So, I never did ask you,” she said, “but how was your day?”
“Thankfully, we didn’t get a new case. Huh,” he said, turning to her with a smile, “I never really thought I’d say that, that I was thankful not to have a case. The excitement of having a new puzzle to solve is one of my favorite things about my job. To be honest, my head wouldn’t have been in it; mentally, I’m still on our honeymoon, too. But everyone seemed to like their gifts and told me to pass along their thanks…”
“Did you tell them about how I caught you trying to yodel in your underwear?”
“No, I most certainly did not.”
“Dude,” she said, laughing, “what were you even thinking?”
“I was thinking that we were the only people staying at that inn, and that when I stepped out on the balcony to enjoy the view there would be no one to see me. I assumed you were downstairs getting something to eat; how was I to know you’d gone outside for a walk? What more can I say? That view was inspiring!”
“And did you tell them you lost that strength contest at Oktoberfest?”
“Hey, I might not have won it, but neither did I lose, madam. You try holding out two one-liter steins of beer like that, and let’s see how long you last! At least I wasn’t the first to quit.”
“No, you weren’t. You’re my Superman, aren’t you,” she teased, leaning over to feel his biceps.
“You know what else I didn’t tell them? I didn’t say anything about how you freaked out when that goat tried to nibble your shirt at the zoo so you fell and walked around the rest of the day with grass stains and mud on your butt. Would you have liked me to tell them all about that?”
“No, dick, what I wanted you to do was tell me, ‘Chris, you’ve got mud on your ass,’ so that I didn’t go around all day looking like an idiot!”
“But then we would have had to leave early so you could change, and you had been so excited to go to that zoo! I didn’t want to disappoint you!”
“You wanted to see me walk around looking like a fool- that’s what you really wanted.”
Spencer smiled as he took a sip of wine. “I’m going to go ahead and plead the fifth on that.”
They both laughed then sat in silence for a little while, gazing at the fire, until Christine said, “Hey, I want some ice cream. Can I get you some?”
“Yes, please,” he said, standing to clear away the food.
“No, sit, sit,” she insisted. “I got this.”
After she’d left with the dishes, he stood and went to find a cloth to wipe of the table. He put another log on the fire; it was now late in September and the nights were growing cool. He then retrieved a file from his messenger bag and sat down to wait for Christine.
Moments later she returned to the room and set a bowl down in front of him. Closing his file and looking at it he said, “What, no moose tracks left?”
“No, Alex must’ve found it. It sure wasn’t me. But Neapolitan has everything a growing boy needs- chocolate for chocoholics, vanilla for boring, and strawberry for perverts. See? It suits you!”
“Hey, are you calling me a pervert or saying that you want me to be a pervert? Don’t you normally eat strawberry?”
She shoved a spoon in her mouth and said proudly, “I have peach, because it’s sweet and wholesome!”
Spencer looked at his dish again. “Well, would you like to have my strawberry?” he asked with a mischievous grin.
“If you want me to suck your dick tonight, all you have to do is say so. No need to force feed me…”
“And once more you’ve eliminated all subtlety from the conversation.”
“Ah, subtlety. Is that what you’re going for when you snuggle up behind me and stick your boner in my back every night? Or is that what your doing when you push my head down to your crotch? I’m not sure I’m grasping the concept here,” she chuckled. “Oh, don’t go and blush on me, now! Come on…I know you work cases every day that have some kind of sexual motives behind them. You and I, we’ve been sleeping together for two years now. Hell, we’re married now! Don’t you think it’s strange that you can talk about sex at work but somehow with us it gets a little weird? I mean, don’t get me wrong- it’s not all you. I’m totally like that, too. I guess I just wonder sometimes why that is, you know? Why is it that I can make a joke to your boss about letting you bring handcuffs home so we can get naughty with them, but I’ve never actually had that conversation with you?”
“Well,” he said quietly, putting his spoon down in his bowl, “I think that it’s because when you and I have sex it’s so incredibly intimate. And I mean that it goes far beyond physical intimacy. It’s such a deeply mental and emotional experience for me that it’s hard for me to express that. I think that by the time any human being reaches adulthood, he or she has already been hurt and damaged in some way that it becomes difficult to truly trust others and share ourselves fully with them, even though we all very desperately and fundamentally long for this. And of course, I’m no different from anyone in this regard. I love every aspect of sex with you, but sometimes, yeah, it is very difficult for me to speak plainly about it with you. I mean, as for the handcuffs- is that just a joke, or is it sincerely something you’d like to try?”
Christine took a final bite of ice cream and put her spoon down. “Yeah,” she began slowly, “I think I actually would. I don't have a desire to do the full role playing thing, you know. We don’t need costumes and a script or anything. But I think one of the things I like most about sex is when you’re in charge. I like the fact that I can be totally and completely vulnerable with you, knowing that you love me and that you always care enough about me to try and please me. That gives me such an overwhelming sense of safety, of being loved and being in love that I want to just completely lose myself in you, even for those few short moments, and I know I can abandon myself to you because when it’s over, you’ll still always let me be wholly me again.”
He reached out to put his hand behind her neck and drew her in for a kiss. “That has to be the sexiest thing you have ever said to me, babydoll.”
“I love you, Spencer. And I am so happy you love me, too.”
“I do.” They sat for a moment quietly before he stood and moved the table aside. Turning and holding his hand out to her, he said, “Stand up. I have an idea.”
She took his hand and stood with a quizzical smile. He put his arms around her waist, kissed her again and lifted her t-shirt up over her head and cast it aside. “Oh, I think I know where this is going,” she giggled.
“Shhh,” he said, pressing his lips to her neck as he undid her bra. He pulled the covers back from the bed and gestured for her to lay down. She did so, and he disappeared into the closet. When he reemerged, he was holding two of his ties. Bending over her, he took first one arm and then the other, gently tying one end of the tie around her wrist before stretching out her arm to secure the other end around the bedpost. Then, as she watched, he slowly undressed himself, observing her smile as her gaze ran over the length of his body. He moved to the end of the bed and pulled her sweatpants and panties down over her hips and off her before spreading her legs wide before him.
He watched as she sighed and closed her eyes at his touch. Climbing onto the bed, he ran his hands over her feet and up her calves and thighs before bending down to kiss her belly. Finally, as he sat on his knees before her, he lifted her hips onto his lap and pulled her back onto him, delighting in her moan of pleasure as he penetrated her. He sat, moving her hips against him until he felt the familiar rush of electricity run up from the base of his spine to his brain, and he pulled back. He kneeled over her and lowered his face to kiss her body, from her taut belly all the way up to her full breasts. “I love you, Christine,” he whispered as his lips reached her neck. He raised his head once more, marveling at how beautiful she looked, with her hair spread out on the pillows like the rays of a setting autumn sun around her sweet face. Finally, when his mouth met hers and he lay down on top of her, she raised her legs to wrap them tightly about his narrow waist. Pressing his cheek to hers, he thrust himself into her again, listening to her moan even louder than before. Soon she was writhing beneath him, her back arching at every thrust, until he voice rose to a scream. She kicked and struggled against her restraints, tossing her head back and forth. At the sensation of her body contracting around his, his self-control fell away and he was driven to climax with a loud groan. When his body had finished, he raised his head and undid the ties. Her arms immediately wrapped around him tightly, and they laid there for a moment together, waiting for their breathing and heart rates to come under control.
When he rolled off her, she rolled over, too, her arms still around him. She nestled her head under his chin. “Thank you,” she murmured. “That was…amazing.”
He kissed the top of her head. “You’re amazing, my love.”

Four days later, he came home from work, heartsick and weary. He was too tired to feel hungry, but he knew he must be; for days their team had worked day and night, and the last time he’d been ordered to take a break to eat, he’d curled up in a chair in the police department and napped instead.
She was gone. It was Friday night now, which he knew meant she was in Detroit, which would soon be followed by a stop in South Bend, Indiana, before continuing on to Milwaukee, then Green Bay, Eau Claire, Minneapolis…he tried not to think about that. He didn’t want to think about all the places she was if she wasn’t here with him.
He dropped his bag, took off his shoes, and wandered through the silent house to the kitchen. He already knew every item that was in the freezer, but he opened it and stood staring for a minute anyway before grabbing a microwave dinner and tearing open the box. He threw it in to cook it and sat down heavily at the table to wait. When the microwave beeped, he stood and grabbed it out and sat down with it. He sighed as he poked it with his fork. Swedish meatballs. In his single days he had liked this one. Now, he could scarcely stand the idea of putting it in his mouth. She made Swedish meatballs. By comparison these were mealy and bland, with watery gravy over mushy noodles. He forced himself to eat it anyway, and after he had done so, he dragged himself to the library where he flopped down onto the sofa with one of the stack of newspapers he’d brought in that night.
He had no idea how long he’d been asleep when the phone rang. He reached in his pocket and flipped it open, already knowing who it was without looking at it. “Hello?”
“Hey, Sparky! Got your text- you still in the Land of Enchantment tonight?”
“That’s New Mexico. We were in Arizona. And no, I’m home now.”
“Gotchya. How are you? You sound exhausted.”
“I am,” he said flatly.
There was a slight pause before she said, “So…rough case?”
“So like, did…did the guy get away or something?”
“No. No, we caught him, but we didn’t have the evidence to hold him.”
“Aw, sweetheart, that sucks. Well, at least you gave the locals the right guy, right?”
He sat up and ran his free hand through his hair. “We did. But…but he was murdered by a student, who then took her own life.”
There was another pause before she said softly, “I’m so sorry to hear that, dear.”
He swallowed hard. “She was so young. She was disturbed, that’s all. We should have seen it, Chris. We should have known and we should have stopped it. They were all so young…”
“Sparky, baby, you can’t…you can’t expect perfection of yourself every time, you know? That’s simply not how life works! Look at me- God knows, I screw up all the time-”
“Yes,” he said kurtly. “But here’s the difference, Christine- when you screw up, people don’t laugh. When I make a mistake, people die.”
Alone in her hotel room, Christine bit her lip. His words stung, and she knew he knew it. She took a deep breath and continued, “I understand. The stakes are incredibly high for you. But darling, that’s why the best agents in the world work cases like this. And you are the best of the best. Some problems are simply unsolvable. I wish it weren't so, but it is.” After another pause she said, “Can’t you come see me tomorrow? Or even tonight, for that matter? You shouldn’t be alone right now.”
He sighed again and said, “No, I have that seminar tomorrow.”
“Then skip it.”
“I can’t. Morgan, Emily and I are presenting together.”
“And they can’t do it without you?”
“Okay. Alright, then. Well, then I want you to talk to me. Tell me everything that’s going on in that head and heart of yours. I think you need to get it out, and I’ve got nowhere to be all night but here with you, so lay it on me.” Before he could speak, she said, “No, wait. First, go make yourself some coffee, and go find the cookies I hid in my right hand desk drawer. I have a feeling we’re going to be here a while.”
A hint of a smile crossed his face. “What kind of cookies?” he asked.
“Walkers Scottish Shortbreads.”
“And you don’t mind my eating them?”
“Oh, I mind, but I’m willing to make that sacrifice because I love you, you dork.”
He smiled again. “Hey Chris?”
“I love you, too.”


The case referenced at the end is in season 3, episode 1, “Doubt”, which originally aired September 26, 2007.




Chapter Text

Spencer turned the corner and stopped running. He looked about himself in the dimly lit alley; to his right and left, the brick walls of the decrepit buildings rose high. Looking up, he saw no stars in the black sky and the wind howled over the rooftops. A storm was coming. Ahead of him he heard the sound of a door shutting. Slowly, he began to follow it, drawing his weapon as he advanced. At the end of the alley, he turned to his right, and to his amazement he saw a small garden. Taking a few steps further, he could see it even more clearly in the growing sunlight. How had the sun risen so quickly? Something within him told him the suspect he’d been chasing was gone. As he holstered his gun, he caught a whiff on the air of something clean and floral. He turned at the sound of something on the bench beside him and opened his eyes.
He hadn’t realized he’d been able to finally fall asleep. He’d crawled into bed just after 1:00am, exhausted and heartsick. He couldn’t immediately gauge what time it was; behind the curtains the sky was overcast. But that smell- it was still in the room. And then he placed it. He rolled over and saw her sitting in a chair by the bed, watching him with a worried look.
“Morning,” she said simply.
“Morning,” he replied, sitting up. “Is it still morning?”
“For a little while yet.”
“What are you doing here?” Looking around the room, he cringed a little inside; his clothes were still hanging on the back of the chair she sat in after he’d pulled them off last night, newspapers were spread over her dressing table and case files were stacked on her side of the bed.
“When you didn’t call me back, I called Aaron. Sweetheart, I heard about him getting suspended. He said he’s going to transfer to another unit…”
Spencer shook his head. “No, he did join us in Milwaukee, just a few days late.”
“When I tried to talk to Penny about it, she just got a cagey on me. Then you texted me that the case was over but you still wouldn’t pick up the damned phone! Spencer, what the hell was I supposed to think?”
“That I was doing dilauded again?”
She looked at him steadily, saying nothing.
“I wasn’t,” he said with a sigh. “I can’t say I didn’t think about it, though. That may sound terrible to hear, and I hate myself for thinking it but…the fact is, I just didn’t know what to say about it. Emily and Gideon were gone, too…”
“What?” she asked in disbelief.
“Yeah. Emily joined us eventually, together with Hotch. But no one knew where Gideon was. So when we got back, I decided to drive up to his cabin last night, thinking he might be there. I couldn’t call you about that, then, because I was out of cell range, and it was so late when I got back. He wasn’t there, but, well…look in my jacket, the right side.” She turned and reached into the pocket of the jacket that hung on the back of the chair. From it she drew an envelope and looked at him questioningly. “It’s okay. Read it,” he said.
She opened the pages, read the opening lines and closed her eyes. After a moment, she read on. When she’d reached the last page, she folded the letter together and returned it to the envelope. She stood up and held her hand out to Spencer and said, “Get up.”
“That’s all you have to say, ‘get up’? What if I don’t want to get up? What if I just want to lay in bed all day and forget…everything?”
“I said get up. Here, put your slippers on and come with me.”
He followed her out of the room and into the hall, where she stopped and retrieved a large blanket from the linen closet. They went downstairs and finally out the door to the veranda, where she pointed to the porch swing and commanded him, “Sit. The fresh air is good for you.”
He did so, and after tucking the blanket around him, she sat down beside him and pulled the corner of it over herself. They sat in silence, watching the dreary autumn rainfall until at last Christine said, “Good for Jason.”
Spencer turned and stared at her, his mouth agape. “What? How could you…Christine, he’s gone!”
“Yeah. I got that from his letter. And I’ll say it again, good for him. Look, Sparky, if you look at objectively, you have to know that he and that job were in a totally toxic relationship. He lost his wife and kid years ago to the job, and not even 6 months ago he lost a dear friend. How much more should he have lost before getting out of it, hmm? Look, I know he was more than a colleague, mentor or even a friend to you. He was like a second dad. And him leaving, for you it’s like having your dad walk out all over again.”
“It’s nothing like that,” Spencer said bitterly.
“Yeah, it is. It totally is. And I know that when a marriage breaks down, no matter what the reason really is, somehow the kids always find a way to blame themselves. Jason knew what he meant to you. Hell, you may be the only reason he stayed at the job as long as he did. He tried to make it work, but he just couldn’t. At least he did you the courtesy of trying to explain it, because he knew what his leaving would do to you. It may be not have been much of an explanation, but it’s all he had left to give you. It was the decision he had to make for his own sake, Sparky, and it had nothing to do with you.” Under the blanket she reached over and squeezed his thigh. “But, for what it’s worth, I’m sorry for your loss. I truly am.”
As they both fell silent, she put her arms around his waist and nestled her head down against his chest. At length he put his arm around her shoulders and felt them shaking; she was crying. “What’s wrong?” he asked softly.
“I know you’re hurting, Sparky,” she said between sobs, “and I wish to God there was some way I could make it stop. I wish I could reach down into your heart and take out all the pain and make it my own instead of yours…”
He pulled her close and kissed the top of her head. “I know you would, baby doll. That’s what I’d do for you.” After a moment had passed, he said, “Can I ask you something? Have you ever lost someone- besides your grandmother, I mean. Have you ever lost a friend?”
She thought a little. “When I was eight, I had a friend named Danielle. Danielle Kennedy. She was one of only two kids in my class at the time whose parents were divorced. She lived with her mom, who had multiple sclerosis. I didn’t know it at the time, but she must have had the progressive-relapsing phenotype, because she couldn’t have even been 40 years old and was reliant on a walker. Anyway, Danny was, like, the only real friend I had at school since my cousins all went to Catholic school. She would come over every Wednesday after school and my mom would give us money to go bowling. Oh!” she gasped. “We should do that sometime- go bowling! Wouldn’t that be fun?”
“I don’t know how to bowl.”
“It’s easy. I’ll even have them put the bumpers in the gutters for you to make it easier!”
“Don’t you have to rent shoes when you do that? I’m not wearing used shoes- God only knows what germs and fungus they could be harboring.”
“Ugh,” she moaned, rolling her eyes. “You and your OCD. We’re doing it, and you’re gonna have fun, trust me. So anyway, back to Danny. We bowled together, had sleepovers, she even let me sit with her in the lunchroom, and she never made fun of my lisp. One time at my house, we were in my room and I made her laugh and she said, and I swear this is true, ‘Chris, you should be a comedian- you’re the funniest person I know!’ You know, I kinda forgot about that until just now. But looking back, she was the first person to ever really believe in me, to think I could do it. Anyhow, after the third grade her mom was so bad off that she went into a nursing home and Danny went to live with her dad in another state. I never saw her again.” She started to tear up again. “You know, I wish…I wish I could see her just one time and thank her for being my friend. She meant the world to a lonely little kid like me.”
“When I was in the second grade,” Spencer said, “the most popular boy in our class was Andy Harris. One day he fell off his bike and sprained his arm. I still remember that the sling he had on his arm had Snoopy on it. Our teacher gave me the job of helping Andy while his arm was in that sling- helping him with his coat, tying his shoes, putting his books in his backpack, that sort of thing. Well, because we spent so much time together, we became friends. And it was the greatest feeling in the world to know that finally, someone actually got to know me and thought I was a nice kid to hang out with. He even invited me to his birthday party, which was the first children’s birthday party I'd ever been to. There were nine other boys there, and for once, I was part of the group. Eventually, Andy got his arm out of the sling, but we continued to be friends until one day at recess. I was going out to play kickball with the other boys when Andy stopped me halfway across the playground. He said that his other friend, Brock Hartmann, who was, like, the second most popular kid in class, said that if Andy stayed friends with me, Brock wouldn’t be his friend anymore. So Andy couldn’t be friends with me. After that, no one would play with me at all. I guess I wasn’t cool enough to be friends with, after all.”
Christine hugged him tightly. “That’s just proof that kids are dumb, because you’re the coolest guy I know. Don’t laugh! Spencer, listen to me, and I mean this in all seriousness: not only are you a great partner, lover and husband, you are a really great guy. I’m really glad you’re my friend, and I will never leave you.”
He hugged her back and said, “I’m glad you’re my friend, too.”
They sat together in silence, holding one another and watching the rain for a long time. Eventually, Spencer could tell by her slow, rhythmic breathing that Christine had fallen asleep. The poor thing; after her show on Saturday night, she must have flown in the wee hours of the morning to be there for him when he woke up. He knew she was off tonight, but would have to fly out again on Monday for her next show. He tried not to disturb her as she slept, but his whole left arm fell asleep. When the pain and numbness started to creep into his shoulder, he tried to extract his arm without disturbing her, but she started and opened her eyes. “Oh, Lord,” she said, yawning. “How long was I out?”
“About 20 minutes,” he guessed. “Sorry. You looked so sweet sleeping, but my arm fell asleep…”
“Here,” she said, raising his arm above his head, “this will help. Guess I was more tired than I thought. Oh! Guess what! When the tingling is gone, come inside. I have a surprise for you!”
“Oh? What?”
“Rice Krispie treats! I know how much you love them…”
“You picked me up a box? That was thoughtful.”
“No, silly. I didn’t pick you up a box. I picked up fixins for ‘em. We’re going to make them ourselves.”
“Wait- you know how to make Rice Krispie treats? Why haven’t you ever told me this?”
“Dude, Rice Krispie treats are the easiest thing in the world to make. Haven’t you ever read the back of the cereal box?”
“No…I never buy plain Rice Krispies. Are they really that easy?”
“Yeah. There’s only, like, three ingredients.”
“Then why have you never made them for me before?”
“Oh, I dunno…maybe it’s because I spent all my time making you much more complicated things like cookies and pies, you ingrate. Come on- I’ll show you.”
Spencer stood, folded the blanket and followed her into the kitchen. “Okay, so what do we do?”
“First, get out my good, heavy sauce pan…no, the other one. Yeah, that’s it. I’m gonna have you melt the marshmallows while I measure out the Krispies.”
“Melt the marshmallows…won’t they burn?”
“Only if you don’t stir them. Here, take this butter and put it in that pan over a medium heat, then dump in that whole bag of marshmallows I bought there. You stir that until it’s all smooth.”
As he stirred, he looked over his shoulder at her. “Just for future reference, how much Rice Krispies are you using?”
“The recipe calls for six cups, but I always go a little light on that. Makes for gooier treats that way. Then you need a greased pan to put them in- here, hand me that cooking spray there- and whenever your butter and marshmallows are nice and smooth, bring the whole mess of it over here and dump it in the cereal.”
“Okay, I think they’re ready,” he said, taking the pan off the stove.
“Sparky! Turn off the burner!”
“Oh, sorry…”
“Christ on Friday…and to think they let you spend years in a chemistry lab…alright, now pour it all in and stir it until all the cereal is coated. Be quick about it, because all that sugar will cool and harden quickly. Good. Now, dump it in this pan…no, don’t worry about spreading it. We’ll press it down with waxed paper. Okay, so then we just smooth it all out like this and…voilá! Rice Krispie treats! Now, you’re supposed to wait until their fully cooled to eat them, but I’ll let you in on a little secret,” she said, leaning in to whisper. “If you eat them while they’re still warm, they’re even yummier.”
He smiled at her broadly. “Okay,” she said. “Then get me a knife. You get yourself some coffee.”
After he had his coffee in front of him, she set a little plate with a large treat in front of him. “Oh, wow,” he said, the first bite still in his mouth. “They’re even better fresh!”
“Most things are,” Christine replied as she poured coffee for herself. Sitting down, she said, “You know, I’m only here for one night, so I was thinking I should make you a special dinner tonight. So whatever you want, just name it, and it’s yours.”
“Meatloaf,” he said quickly.
“Think bigger. Crab legs, lobster, filet mignon- hell, I’ll even find some caviar if you want it. Anything…”
“I want meatloaf. Alex’s is good, but I’ve always liked yours better. And mashed potatoes, too.”
“Meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Okay. Well then, what else? Green beans?”
He shook his head. “Baked beans. Not the ones from a can, either. I mean your baked beans.”
She stared at him for a moment. “Dude, you realize that recipe makes a lot- and I mean, a LOT- of beans, right?”
“I can save them in the freezer and eat them while you’re gone.”
“And it takes me about six hours to make them…”
“I can wait,” he said, smiling winningly at her. “Besides, you said I could have anything I wanted…”
She sighed. “You’re going to be farting all night in your sleep,” she complained.
“I don’t fart in my sleep.”
“Everyone farts in their sleep. And you’re particularly noxious after you gorge yourself on beans!”
“Oh yeah? Well, sometimes, when you fall asleep on your back, you snore.”
“I know, that’s why I never sleep on my back.”
“Yes, you do. You just don’t realize it because I wake up and roll you over during the night. And I still want baked beans. You said I could have…”
She threw her hands up in defeat. “Alright. Whatever. You’ll get your damned beans. But I swear to God, Spencer, I’m gonna Dutch oven you tonight and force you to smell ‘em.”
“Do your worst, woman,” he said with a smile.
She sighed again and shook her head. “Finish up your coffee, then, and hop in the shower. If I have to put up with being gassed tonight, at least you’re going to have to go to the grocery store with me.”
“If you insist, my dear,” he replied, standing up.
“Leave your dishes. I’ll wash them. What? I’m serious, I will! Get on upstairs, now.”

Spencer closed his eyes as he rinsed the last of the shampoo from his hair, thankful for the warm, refreshing water and to have the even warmer company. He never would have asked her to come to him like she did, but her presence filled the gaping void in his heart when it was at it’s most painful. He turned off the water, stepped out of the shower, and shouted, “Hey!” in surprise at the figure seated on the counter opposite him. “Do you ever knock?”
“I couldn’t resist,” she said. “You’re just so damned sexy naked. Besides, I have a job for you.”
“Can you hand me my glasses, at least?”
“Here,” she said, giving them to him. “I need you to engineer the shit out of something for me.”
“Can it wait until I’ve dressed?”
“No need. Put your hand out.”
He did so, and she dropped a few small metal objects into it. “Your nail clippers?” he said. “Seriously, Christine, you could have fixed this yourself.”
“Oh, I know how, but I don’t have the strength to pinch it together whilst inserting all the pieces. That’s why I married you- you’ve got those long, nimble spider-fingers and a degree in this kind of shit.”
“I did not go to grad school for this,” he grumbled. “There, it’s done,” he said, handing them back.
“Excellent. See? I knew you were the one for me!”
“Now can I dry off in peace?”
“I prefer to watch…”
“Oh, get out,” he laughed as he playfully pushed her to the door.
When he came out of the bathroom, she was laying on the bed, grinning. He went into the closet, pulled on some clothes, and came out. “You look like the Cheshire Cat,” he remarked as he sat down on the bed to pull on his socks.
She reached out a finger and snapped the waistband of his underpants. “Meow.”
He shook his head and chuckled. “You're ridiculous.”
“I try. I can purr, too, if you want me to.”
He leaned over to kiss her. “Maybe later. I thought you wanted to go to the store?”
She sat up with a groan. “Alright, alright. Let’s go. But while those beans are boiling, I expect you to take me on a trip to Pound Town.”
He threw his head back and laughed. “Okay,” he said. “Who am I to say no to a wild ride with you?”

Spencer laid this fork by his plate and pushed his chair back from the table. “Oh, baby doll,” he said, putting his hand on his stomach, “that was delicious. Thank you for that.”
Christine stood up and gathered the empty plates from the table. “I’m glad you liked it, sweetheart.” She turned, ruffled his hair and kissed his head before loading the dishes in the dishwasher. “Looks like there’ll be plenty of leftovers for you to take for lunch tomorrow and Tuesday…oh? What’s this?” she asked as his arms crept around her.
“Leave the dishes, dear,” Spencer said.
“So that you can do them later? No, just let me finish up these last few…there. They’re all in.”
Spencer bent down to reach the soap and put it in the dishwasher. After he’d started it, he said, “Come with me. Let me make you an espresso.”
“I prefer cappuccino.”
“Fine, a cappuccino,” he said. “Come on.”
She sat on the sofa in the library and leafed through a newspaper as he fixed their coffees. “You want some cookies with that?” she called over her shoulder. “I think I have some cookies in the kitchen…”
“I certainly don’t need any- I’m full, but you go on ahead and get some, if you’d like them.”
“No, none for me. Oh, thank you,” she said as she took the mug he offered her. She took a sip and said, “Damn, but you like your coffee strong, don’t you?”
“I do,” he replied. “Just like I like my women. You know, I never could have asked you to come here just for a day, Christine, but…I’m glad and grateful you did.”
She sipped her coffee again and said at length, “Well, if I’ve learned anything about you, Sparky, it’s that when you won’t talk to me, that’s when you need me the most.” After another pause she asked, “So, do you really think you’re good to go back to work tomorrow?”
He nodded. “Yeah, I’ll be fine. Work will be the best thing for me.”
“Funny, that’s kinda what Jason wrote in his letter. Turned out he was wrong.”
Spencer looked at her sharply. “I can handle it, Chris.”
“I know you can, sweetheart,” she said softly. “But maybe it wouldn’t hurt to talk to one of the Bureau’s shrinks. You’ve suffered a loss, and that’s what they’re there for.”
He sat back and shook he head. “Something like that would go in my file. If I can’t handle a colleague’s retirement, they could take me out of the field.”
“Then maybe give your therapist a call. You haven’t seen him in a while. And if you really won’t do that, there’s always me. Hell, you can talk to Joe or Alex, even. But if you go back and have a hard time, talk to someone, please. Let all that shit out. The worst thing you could do is bottle it up.”
He reached out, took her free hand and pressed it to his lips for a long time. After he put it down, he said, “You know, you’re father called you his littlest treasure. But to me, you’re my greatest one.” He moved to the sofa beside her and set her coffee down. He wrapped his arms around her tightly and sat in silence for a while, his face buried in her hair.
After several minutes, his lips found hers. “I love you,” he murmured. “I do.”
“I love you, too, Spencer,” she whispered, kissing him along his jawline and back to his ear.
He gasped when she sucked on his earlobe, and he pushed her back on the sofa. As he kissed her, he began to fumble with the button on her jeans. He sat up quickly and pulled them down and off before stretching out again over her and kissing her deeply.
Her fingers found his belt, undid it, and unzipped his pants. She slipped her hand into his underwear and squeezed his erection, eliciting a soft groan from his lips. She moved her hand, stroking him, slowly at first, but gradually faster, so that his mind became cloudy and he felt himself on the verge of losing control. He sat up again, breathing heavily now, and took off his pants and underwear as she wriggled out of her panties and then hurriedly unbuttoned his shirt. He pushed her t-shirt up and reached behind her to undo her bra. “Front hook, Sparky,” she giggled.
“Even better,” he said with a smile and unhooked it. He bent down and suckled each of her rosy little nipples before briefly burying his face between her ample breasts. She wrapped her legs around his waist and raised her hips up to his, so that her vagina just touched the tip of his penis.
He laid down again, and, planting his feet against the arm of the sofa, thrust into her as hard as he could. She cried out happily as he did so and dug her nails into his back. “Oh, God, Spencer!” she moaned as he moved quickly and forcefully in and out of her.
“Cum for me, baby doll,” he commanded, as he wrapped his arms tightly around her. He knew she was close. “Cum for me now…”
Her thighs tightened around his torso as her back arched and her face contorted in ecstasy. “God, yes! Yes!” she screamed.
He felt her vagina contract deliciously around him as he continued to drive into her. After a long, blissful moment, her body relaxed, and she giggled happily. He reached down and lifted one leg over his shoulder, continuing to thrust into her until soon he was overcome and surrendered to his own climax, ejaculating deep within her.
He released her leg and laid on top of her, panting. She ran her fingers through his sweat-damp hair and giggled to herself as she kissed his neck and shoulders. He raised his face and pressed his forehead to hers. “I’m really glad you came home,” he chuckled.
“Me too,” she replied. “Maybe more than you know.”
After a moment he stood up and offered her his hand. “Let’s continue this upstairs, shall we?” When he saw her reaching for her jeans he added, “Leave them. You won't be needing them the rest of the night.”
She laughed and took off her t-shirt. Throwing it aside, she took his hand and followed him to their bedroom.

Christine sat up suddenly in bed. She looked at her husband sleeping beside her and glanced at the time. Her eyes moved to the window, where the earliest rays of sunlight were just beginning to stream through and drew a deep breath. As she sat staring out it at the rain dripping from the eaves, her arms crept around her flat belly. Slowly, Spencer began to stir beside her and sit up. As he kissed her shoulder he asked, “What time is it?”
“Your alarm is just about to go off,” she replied.
He reached over to turn it off and stood up.
“Something on your mind?”
“I was just thinking…did you know that when he was a young man, Buzz Aldrin-”
“Ah. Again with the space program…”
“When he was a young man,” she continued, “Buzz Aldrin twice applied to be a Rhodes Scholar and, of course, twice he was rejected. I read recently that, at the time, that rejection was the greatest disappointment of his life. But looking back, he realized that, had he been accepted, he never would have joined NASA. He never would have become and astronaut and he never would have walked on the moon. He said that bitter disappointment became the greatest opportunity of his life. Maybe…maybe this is like that. Losing Jason, I mean. I know losing him hurts, Sparky. But maybe life has something better in store for you. Something bigger and grander that you haven’t even guessed at yet.”
He turned back to the bed, leaned over and kissed her cheek. “Thank you again for coming home,” he said.
“Mmmhmm,” she murmured. “Say, I don’t suppose you can give me a ride to the airport before work this morning?”
“Yeah, sure, baby doll. If we both hurry.”



This chapter takes place immediately following season 3, episode 2, "In Name and Blood," which originally aired October 3, 2007.  In it, the team takes a case minus Hotch, Prentiss and Gideon.  Hotch had been suspended and, at the urging of his wife, was looking to transfer to a different unit.  Prentiss was considering quitting the FBI rather than conspire with Chief Strauss to undermine Hotch's career.  Both end up joining the team in Milwaukee eventually, after learning that Garcia has somehow blocked their transfer and resignation paperwork from going through.  Gideon remains missing until after the case, when Spencer visits his cabin and finds only his gun, credentials, and a goodbye letter addressed to him.

Chapter Text

"Oh, thank God," JJ said as the elevator doors opened. "It feels so good to be home, even if home is only the BAU."

"It's good to be home from Texas, anyway," Prentiss concurred. "That was not how I pictured spending my Halloween. Those masks were way too creepy for my taste."

"At least we got to pass out candy and see all the kids in their costumes," Spencer said cheerfully. "If I were at home, I'd have spent the whole night alone eating candy. We never get trick-or-treaters out when I live."

"Your sweet little wifey still isn't home yet? How long has it been since you got yourself some lovin', kid?" Morgan asked with a smile.

"It's been two weeks since I visited her in Minneapolis," he replied. "She's coming home today, but I'm a little worried about her, though."

"Uh oh, trouble in paradise already?" Prentiss laughed. "Morgan, is your spare bed made up?"

"No, no. It's nothing like that," Spencer said. "It's just…I haven't talked to her in four days. All my calls go to voice mail, which in and of itself is not unusual, but when she responds to me, all I've been getting are short texts, like, 'Got you message. I'm fine,' or 'At the airport.' Usually she calls me back and talks for an hour about her show and the tour. I'm not entirely sure what to make of it."

"Maybe she's just really busy," JJ offered.

"She is, but it's still unusual for her not to make the time."

"Yeah, Reid," Prentiss said, "JJ's probably right. She's just busy, that's all."

"It's just…when I'm upset, that's what I do. I stop communicating, especially with her. She's upset about something, I just don't know what."

The doors to the elevator opened on the sixth floor and they got off, just as Hotch and Rossi were getting off theirs. "Hey, Baby Girl," Morgan said. "Did you miss me so much you just couldn't wait for me any longer?"

"Oh, my love, you know I long for you every moment we're apart," Garcia said. "But no. I came to warn him," she continued, gesturing in Spencer's direction. "There's a copper-topped storm brewing in the bullpen."

"She's here?" he asked. "Has she said what she wants?"

"She hasn't done anything except ask for you and rearrange everything on your desk," Garcia replied. "Even Alex doesn't know what's up."

Spencer sighed. "Fantastic."

As they all stepped into the bullpen, Christine stood up and started towards them. Turning to Rossi, Spencer said, "Sir, there's someone I'd like you to meet. Christine, this is Agent David Rossi. Sir, this is-"

"Goddammit," Christine said. "Aaron!" she called to the man who was starting up the stairs. "The fuck are you doing hiring guineas around here? Don't you think you should do better than some lazy, hairy, little garlic-eater? They can't be trusted!"

"Madam," Hotch said, "the only Italian-Americans I don't trust are the blue-eyed, red-headed, female variety. I can assure you Agent Rossi, however, is extremely well-qualified for the job."

"-my wife," Spencer concluded softly.

"Well, I suppose if the Chief Asshole In Charge says you're cool, then you're cool," she said, eyeing the dumb-struck Rossi. "As for you, Spencer, you and I need to talk. Now."

"Okay," he said, his hands moving to grasp the strap on his messenger bag, "I'm listening."

"No. I mean, in private."

Hotch started back down the stairs. "Dr. Reid, why don't you and Christine use my office if you need to speak."

"Bitchin'," she said.

"Thank you, sir," Spencer added, following her up the stairs.

Below from the bullpen the others watched as they disappeared into Hotch's office and closed the door. "And you have no idea what this is about?" JJ asked Alex, who was standing there, looking worried.

Alex shook her head. "All I know is she hasn't been feeling well. Then…then today when we landed, she said she needed to go to the hospital. She was tired, so I drove her. She got her blood drawn and I'm thinking…you know, she has to go every six months to have her blood checked. For the cancer, I mean. And it's about that time of year she goes…" She put her hand to her mouth as tears formed in her eyes. "Oh God. What if it's back?" she asked in a shaky whisper. "What do we do then?"

Prentiss put her arms around her and pulled her close. "Then we fight like hell. All of us. Shh, don't worry. It won't win."

"Oh no. No no no!" Garcia said softly, her eyes on the office window. Between the blinds they could just make out their figures. Spencer leaned back, his arms on Hotch's desk, before stepping forward to embrace Christine, whose face was in her hands. "This can't be happening!"

After a long moment, the door opened and Spencer stepped out. He stood for a moment, looking out the windows, oblivious to the worried faces below. Then he turned back to the door, said something to Christine as she stepped out, and hurried down the stairs.

At the foot of the stairs, the others gathered around him, waiting. Finally, Alex said, "Well? What is it? What's wrong?"

"Wrong?" Spencer said, turning to watch his wife as she slowly came down the stairs to join him. "Nothing's wrong at all. Well…I think she's a little worried that she won't be a good mother, but I have full confidence in her." He smiled as he took Christine's hand. "She'll be the best."

The others looked at one another, speechless. At length Garcia said, "Mother…? Oh my God. Are you…are you guys saying what I think you're saying?"

"Boss- you got a bun in the oven?" Alex burst out.

Christine only looked at Spencer, who smiled broadly and said with a laugh, "Yeah, Alex. I'm going to be a dad!"

"Reid!" Prentiss cried, "that's incredible! Congratulations!"

"Yeah, congratulations, Spence," JJ said. "Congratulations to both of you!"

After everyone had had a chance to embrace the couple and wish them well, Hotch said to Christine, who had been standing silently, a step behind Spencer, "How are you feeling, Chris? You look pale…"

Christine rolled her eyes and her lip trembled. "I…I'm scared. Terrified, really. Overwhelmed, sick, tired…" She looked up at him, on the verge of tears.

He put his hand on her shoulder. "All understandable. You should go home and get some rest. You look like you need it. Spencer has some case notes to finish up here, but I promise I won't keep him too late."

"Come on, Hotch," Morgan said. "Let my man go home early for once!"

Christine held up her hand. "No, really, it's fine. I've said what I had to say. You stay and get your work finished, sweetheart. I'll have dinner for you when you get home."

Spencer put his hands on her shoulders and kissed her forehead. "Alright, babydoll. Go home and take it easy. I'll see you in a few hours."

Garcia looked at the others and mouthed with a smirk, "Babydoll?"

At the end of the day, Spencer stood and put a few files in his messenger bag and headed for the door. "Finally ready to bounce, kid?" Morgan asked, looking up. "Me, too. Let me walk you out."

They walked in silence for a moment until Morgan spoke. "So, how you doing, kid? What's it feel like, knowing you're going to be a father?"

"I think I can honestly say that, up to this point, this is the greatest day of my life." He gave Morgan a smile and continued, "You know, I've been thinking about something Christine said after Gideon left, about our bitterest disappointments turning into our greatest opportunities. I kind of hated her inspirational little story at the time, but now I realize that weekend was the weekend we conceived this child. You know, at this point, our baby is only about a half a centimeter long, but it's brain, it's heart, it's bones are already starting to develop. I never imagined I could love something so small this much, and it'll be another eight months before I even get to see it…"

"Well, there's no one in the world happier for you than me, man," he said, reaching out to rumple Spencer's hair. "But how about Chris? She, ah…seemed less than enthusiastic about the news. Is she okay with this? What it a surprise to you guys?"

"A surprise? No. Well…maybe it's surprising it happened so fast. We weren't entirely sure she'd be able to conceive. I've never made it a secret to her that I wanted children. But she was the one who decided to try. She told me on our wedding night that she'd gone off the pill. That's the real reason she had me stay at your place before the wedding- her brother's wife got pregnant before their wedding, and their family is pretty traditional. She didn't want to risk shocking her mother like that again, you know? But Chris is okay, or she will be, anyway. She's just overwhelmed right now by the enormity of what we're undertaking. In a way, I think that's healthy. So many people put no more thought into having children than they do into choosing a…a tie to wear. They think of children as mere accessories to their lives. Christine understands that we're going to be responsible for raising a happy, healthy, well-adjusted, functioning member of society to adulthood. There's no job in the world that is as important- or as daunting- as this. Add to that she's already experiencing morning sickness and fatigue. It's enough to test any rational person. Perhaps I'm the one you should be worried about. Right now, I'm not scared at all. I'm too busy thinking about all the bedtime stories I'll read, about teaching him or her to play chess, buying that first microscope and chemistry set…well, I suppose Chris will insist we start a rock collection, too…and all the Saturday mornings we'll spend together in front of the TV, eating cereal with little marshmallows and watching Dr. Who." He laughed and shook his head. "Ah! I can't wait!"

"Well, I'm no expert in this field," Morgan said, smiling, "but I think you're going to have to get through a whole lot of diapers and sleepless nights before you get there, Reid. Anyway, here's my car. Congratulations again, man. I mean it. Come here," he added before embracing his friend.

"The scallops were delicious, dear," Spencer said, laying down his fork.

"Yeah, they're really good, Boss," Alex said, nodding. "We should eat like this every day."

"Scallops should be on as good a sale every day," Christine replied.

"My only concern is whether it's safe to eat shellfish while pregnant," Spencer said.

"Aaaaand…I'm going to take that as a sign to leave you two to talk alone," Alex said, standing up. "Besides, I've gotta call Grant. Leave the dishes, Chris- I'll do them later."

"Tell him I said hey," Christine said, watching Alex leave the room. Turning to Spencer she added, "finish your spinach."

"I ate most of it," he whined.

"Then you can eat the rest. Come on now. Get some vitamins in you."

"Did you hear what I said about shellfish?"

"I did, and I was ignoring you. There's nothing wrong with eating shellfish while pregnant as long as it's properly cooked. Besides, it's low-cal compared to what we usually eat, and I need to watch my weight."

"Dear, now is not the time you need to watch your weight…"

"Look, Sparky, I know myself. I gain weight easily and take it off hard. The weight will come when it comes. I want to do it in a healthy manner for both our sakes, and I don't want to gain too much. Too many complications can come of that. I know all the risks from what I eat and don't eat, almost certainly better than you, so please, spare me the lecture, alright? And finish that damned spinach!"

Spencer looked unhappily at his plate. "Green beans have vitamins, too…" he said, picking up his fork and pushing the greens around.

"You know these have folate in them, which I need. Oh, for pity's sake, you big baby," she said, grabbing her own fork and scooping the last of the spinach off his plate. "There. Done. But you're going to have to get used to this because there's going to be a lot more of it in this house."

"Have you thought about getting prenatal vitamins yet?"

"Already done."

"When will you go to see an OB?"

"In a month."

"In a month? Why are you waiting so long?"

"Dude, first, don't treat me like a child, because right now you're really starting to piss me off. Second, I made the appointment at their suggestion. That's their normal time frame, not mine."

"So you've already made the appointment? That's good. I should be there."

"That's not necessary, Spencer. All they're going to do is take my vitals and tell me a bunch of stuff I already know. I can give you the low-down afterwards."

"Then let me rephrase that: I want to be there. It's my baby, too. I may have questions."

Christine rolled her eyes. "You're determined to be unbearably overbearing throughout this pregnancy, aren't you?"

"I prefer the term 'involved'." He stood to clear the table and started loading the dishwasher. "So tell me about the morning sickness. How bad is it really?"

"Leave that for Alex, dear."

"It's no trouble. But how are you feeling?"

"Eh, I'm pretty nauseated in the mornings. I called Diana. She suggested getting some protein in my belly first thing in the morning, so my strategy tonight is to sleep with a plate of crackers and peanut butter by the bed."

"Crackers in bed?" he said disapprovingly.

"Look, buddy. I didn't get into this situation alone, you know. If I've gotta suffer, you're coming right along with me so I can make your life miserable, too."

"Fantastic," he said, shutting the dishwasher. "Can I make you a cup of herbal tea?"

"I'm pregnant, not helpless, Sparky. I can make my own damn tea."

"But I want tea, too, and we only have one kettle. So as much as you would like to prove some ridiculous point, I'm making you tea, alright?"

"Fine," she said, leaning back in her chair and crossing her arms.

When the tea was made, he handed her a mug. "Would you care to go to the living room, library, or upstairs?"

"Upstairs, I guess."

Spencer closed the door to the bedroom behind them and, setting his tea down, said, "Maybe I should make a fire tonight…"

"That would be great."

Once the fire was built he asked, "So how are you feeling? I don't mean physically. How are you?"

She took a sip of her tea. "I'm wondering why in the hell I ever decided to do this. I mean, what business do I, of all people, have being a mother? And what kind of an idiot are you for going along with it?" She reached over and slapped him playfully on the arm.

"Me? I'm just a fool in love. But why are you second guessing it, Christine? What is it exactly that has you so scared? If this is about time or money, well, we'll make the time and we have the money. But you know that already. So what is it?"

Christine sighed heavily. "We're about to embark upon this adventure for which nothing can fully prepare us. There's no book in the world that can adequately prepare us to raise a child, because every child is wildly unique. Oh God, and they're infinitely impressionable. I mean, look at me- once every week or two I fall asleep with my contacts in, I cuss like a trucker, I laugh at fart jokes…even my whole career is basically me telling embarrassing stories to drunks! Oh, and just yesterday I got out of the shower and was toweling off before I realized I still had conditioner in my hair. How's that, hmm? I'm so incapable of being an adult I've had to hire someone to do it for me. And I'm supposed to be an example for this kid? Uh uh. There's no way."

"Dear, you are all those things but so much more! You're brilliant, creative, talented, but most of all you are a good person. You're kind. You're generous. You're honest and hardworking. You're a great boss, a loyal friend and a loving wife. I can't think of any woman I'd rather have as an example for my child. And as for the rest, well, we'll have plenty of help…"

"Not Alex."

"What do you mean, 'not Alex'? Christine, you know as well as I do that that woman is going to want to play a role in raising this child. She will want to be there to help you in any capacity you need…"

Christine shook her head. "No. I need Alex helping me run my life. Shit, I'm so incompetent at life I can't get along with out her. I can't ask her to do more than that- it's just not fair."

Spencer reached out and took Christine's hand. "Then we'll hire a nanny if we need to, as well."

Christine burst into tears. "Listen to this. What kind of a royal fuck up am I that I can't handle a kid without the help of two people besides you? Jesus, my mother had five of us an she never had anyone to help her! Where the hell have I gone wrong in life?"

"Now just stop right there, because your mother had plenty of help, and you know it. Besides having your older siblings practically raise you, who else helped? Well, there were, from just what you've told me, your grandparents, your aunt Melanie, your cousins from your father's side, and that babysitter who used to take you fishing and to piano lessons every summer…Christine, she had a lot of help. Everyone needs help. It's not a sign of weakness. It's a sign of being human. And I can promise you that you're going to have many, many volunteers to help you. Need I name them all? There's your brother and Jenny, plus their four teenage kids, and I know that JJ and Prentiss will ask to babysit. As for Garcia, well, today she already started calling herself Aunt Penelope, and you don't want to disappoint her, do you? Then there's Carolyn, and Diana and Joe's girls will be almost the same age as our daughter, so of course they'll all play together…"

"Our daughter?" Christine asked with one eyebrow raised.

"I have high hopes," Spencer said with a smile.

"Well, you've got about eight months to prepare for them to be dashed."

"Never. Come on Chris, just think- think about how brilliant our daughter will be! Maybe she'll be a neurologist like her grandfather and unlock the mysteries of the human brain. Maybe she'll find a cure for cancer…"

"Maybe our son will be the first man on Mars," Christine said teasingly. "But seriously, Spencer- what if our kid doesn't do any of these things. What if, you know, he just doesn't want it? What he doesn't want to have anything to do with the sciences?"

"What, like if she wants to be an writer or a musician? I think that would be incredible." Spencer chuckled. "But God forbid she should want to be a comedian!"

"Or what if he wants to be a farmer, Spencer? Or an auto mechanic? Or maybe a carpenter? What if that's what he finds to make himself happy? Will you think less of him because he doesn't want to change the world?"

Spencer's mouth fell open. "No…no, of course not! How could you even think that of me?"

"It's just…Sparky, I know you're an ambitious man. But your ambitions are yours. I want this kid to be supported for exactly who he is and who he wants to become. I want…this kid needs to know, and never forget, that his parents think nothing in the world is more important to us than him, and that we love him just the way he is, you understand?"

"Christine, I will love this child- no, I already love this child- totally and completely because it is our child. I know what it's like to grow up without a father in my life. He or she will never want for a father's love and acceptance, no matter what they choose to become. You should know me well enough to know that of me."

Christine sat back in her chair. "I suppose I just wanted to hear you say it. I don't want my kid ever thinking that in someway he failed to measure up to his parents' standards. I know what that feels like, and it's a shitty way to go through life."

He leaned over to take her hand. "Babydoll, I love and respect your parents, and I know they love you, even if they couldn't always make you feel it. But we are not going to be them, okay? I promise you this child will always feel my love, will always have my attention, and will never feel they have failed to meet my expectations. But I also know that this child will change the world. I have no doubt about that, because it has already changed my world, in the best possible way."

She squeezed his hand.

"You know, Chris, I don't think I ever told you," he continued, his voice shaking with emotion, "but there was a case about a two and a half years ago that ended badly for us. While trying to apprehend the suspect, he fell from the roof of a four story building. Surprisingly enough, he didn't die. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and to the best of my knowledge remains in a persistent vegetative state to this day. But during the investigation, I became acquainted with the father of one of his victims. He was a good man, and she had been his only child. I'll never forget the grief he expressed at learning of his daughter's death. It was palpable. And as hard as it was to witness that, I knew that no man could feel such great pain had he not also felt great, unspeakable love. And that day, that day when we had no real closure, no satisfaction from being able place our suspect in custody, I began to wonder why. Why do I do it? What do I, Spencer Reid, have in my life that keeps me…keeps me living? What's the point of it all? What love do I have to help me make sense of the world? On that night, I decided to get off the train a few stops early and walk to my apartment. That was the night I met Joe. After seven years, I met him and he set me up on a blind date that I did not want and was convinced would be a disaster."

Christine chuckled. "I was sure it would be, too."

"Yes, I could tell from Joe's end of the conversation that you were even less enthused at the prospect of meeting me than I was of you. It didn't help, Chris. But Joe was relentless, and he forced me to go. Four days later, you made me laugh all night and then at the end of it all, you kissed me."

"And you kissed back."

"I did. And I had never felt so alive, so…so full and complete in all my life." He wiped his eyes quickly. "And then today, when you told me you were pregnant, I felt as though my heart would burst. You told me once that crazy doesn't add, it multiplies. I can't speak to that. But I know for certain that is exactly how love behaves."

"Well," she said softly, "you know about love, but I know about crazy. And believe me, this kid is gonna bring plenty of it. Can you just imagine what he's gonna put us through? I can already see him falling out of a tree out back and breaking his arm, putting breath spray in Spud's mouth to make him drool, or bringing a toad to school in his pocket to scare the little girls…I don't even want to think of the hell he'll raise as a teenager! Can you imagine how terrifying it's going to be, teaching this boy to drive?"

"Our daughter will be sweet, gentle and demure," he said, giving Christine a little smile. "Okay- maybe not demure. She will be half you, after all…"

"Damn straight."

"But she'll love books and music- oh! We can get her a little violin! We'll start her on lessons when she's four just like Yo-Yo Ma…"

"He's a cellist, Sparky."

"Ah, then I know something you don't, because his parents started him on violin. He didn't switch to the cello until he was six."

"A four year old scratching away on a violin? Yeah, 'cause that won't drive everyone in the house nuts…"

"And she'll love nature. We can collect leaves and look at them under a microscope. You can take her rock hunting, and I'll take her to the annual daddy-daughter dance down at Vets Hall. She'll be your pride and joy and the apple of my eye. You'll see."

Christine shook her head and chuckled. They sat for a long time, holding hands and staring at the fire. Finally, Christine said, "Maybe we should get ready for bed."

"But I'm not tired."

"Good, because I'm not tired either. Not yet, anyway."

Spencer looked at her in the firelight and saw the impish grin on her face. "Are you sure you're feeling up to it? I thought…"

"I've got food in my belly, I got some rest this afternoon, and, well, maybe it's the hormones or maybe it's just looking at you, but I'm feeling like I need to slip into something more comfortable. You should, too."

She gave him a wink and disappeared into the closet. When she reemerged, she looked at him on the bed and frowned. "Seriously?" she said. "I got all dolled up in fancy lingerie and you just put on your Ward Cleaver pajamas? Way to make a girl feel special, Spencer."

"I don't know," he said, shrugging. "I just feel a little weird about doing it now that you're…you know…"

"Pregnant," she said. "You know, it's what happens when you stick your dick in me, ejaculate, and then one of your little swimmers finds an egg. Don't you dare go thinking that your job here is done just because you knocked me up, boy."

"Yes, I know that, but, well…"

"Oh my god. You're afraid of hurting the baby, aren't you? Because you know you can't right? It's not like you're going to be poking the kid in the face or anything."

Spencer rolled his eyes. "You're unbelievable."

"Yes I am," she replied, climbing onto the bed and sitting astride him. She began to unbutton his shirt as she kissed his chest. Suddenly, she sat up. "Ooh, you know what might make this more fun? Maybe I should run and get a couple of neckties to tie you up with!"

He laughed and grabbed her hips as she started to get off the bed. "No, dear. That's your fantasy, not mine."

"Well then, lay back and relax, because I'm going to have my way with you, regardless." She finished unbuttoning his shirt and he closed his eyes as her lips moved over his belly. She began to stroke his groin and then kissed him through his pants. He sighed at the sensation of her warm breath on him as he began to grow hard. Slowly she pulled his pants down past his hips and played with the waistband of his underwear. "Ah," she said with a smile. "Red today, hmm?"

His eyes remained closed as a smile played at the corners of his mouth. "Of course. You saw my tie…"

She lowered his underwear. With one hand, she stroked his erection, and with the other, she gently cupped his testicles. She bent down again to kiss them lightly before slowly running her tongue up from the base of his penis to the tip and back down again. Then she took him into her mouth, sucking gently at first, and then increasingly stronger until he groaned and began to clench the bedsheets in his fists. At the sound of his voice, she stopped, and his head fell back on the pillow. He opened his eyes, breathing heavily. "Not yet," she warned playfully.

Quickly he pulled her negligee off over her head, pushed her panties aside and tried to pull her down on top of him. "Wait, wait, wait," she giggled, and rolled over onto her back to wriggle out of her panties. As soon as they were gone he turned over and got on top of her, jerking her legs into position around his waist. "No, sir," she laughed as she pushed him away. "Get on your back!"

He rolled back over and struggled to wait patiently as she once more climbed astride him. She held his penis in position against herself for a moment before slowly lowering herself onto him. She laid down, her bare chest on his, and wrapped her arms around him. He flexed his hips and thrust into her, even as her squeals turned into screams and she bit down on his shoulder as her thighs pressed hard against his. When the contractions of her body around his had passed and her breathing began to slow, she sat up straight again. He opened his eyes again and watched her breasts bounce as she moved up and down over him. She reached behind her head, lifted her hair up and spread it out over shoulders and breasts. As his hands moved up her body to caress her breasts, her hands met his and their fingers interlaced. His breathing quickened and she increased her pace. Soon, he pulled her down against him, groaned loudly, and held her tight as his orgasm swept over his body. Slowly his grasp on her loosened and she moved off him and snuggled up to his side.

They laid together quietly as he stroked her arm. At length he asked, "Is it too soon to talk about names?"

"We've got about 35 more weeks to go before we have to decide on this, Sparky…"

"What about Madeleine? I think it has a nice ring to it: Madeleine Reid."

"Nah. It's too trendy right now. There will be nothing short of three other Madeleines in kindergarten. The same goes for Makenzie, Mikayla, and Kayleigh. Besides, I know you. A madeleine is a cookie. You wouldn't want to name our son Oreo, would you? No. Definitely not."

"Technically it's a small cake. Then how about Anise?"

"It's a cookie, and you can't name our daughter after something you put in a cookie, either."


"Holy shit, no. I had a roommate once, this Turkish girl named Deniz. She was batshit crazy. I mean, like, clinically. She needed to be medicated. One time, we went out for dinner. It was a Greek place. We had these roasted sardines that were outstanding…"

"Of course, you remember the food."

"They were fabulous. And I thought we had a lovely time. But we get home and I'm in the bathroom flossing my teeth, getting ready for bed and I hear her crying! Wailing is more like it. Then she starts slamming her closet door again and again and again. Then I hear a crash, so I come running out…she's torn the door off her closet and she's screaming at me that I'm a liar, that I don't really like her and we're not friends after all. She needed serious help and I tried to get her to see my therapist, but he just accused me of thinking she's crazy- which she was- and she refused. So no. Not Denise. Personally, I always liked 'P' names. But Peter and Paul are already taken. So is Penelope. Persephone, maybe?"

"Now you're just thinking of Greek names because you're thinking of Greek food."


"Let's make a deal. If it's a girl, I get to name her, and if it's a boy, you get to name him."

"Deal." They laid in silence for a moment, each lost in their own thoughts. Finally Christine said, "You know what I could go for right now? Ice cream."

"Then let's get some."

"But I don't want to get fat."

"So let's don't."

"But it would taste so perfect right now…"

Spencer sighed, stood up and started to pull his pajamas on. "Strawberry or peach?"

"Butter pecan, please."

"Your wish is my command."

"You're the best."

"Yes I am."


This chapter takes place immediately following season 3, episode 6, "About Face", which originally aired on October 31, 2007. On the show, the team is shown returning in the evening after the case, but in the scene immediately proceeding that they are shown handing out Halloween candy to children. So I wrote it as though they returned the next day rather than flying from Texas to DC during the middle of the night, thus returning around midday.

Chapter Text

Aaron Hotchner closed the case file in front of him and filed it. He took a sip from the long-neglected coffee on his desk and grimaced; it was already cold. As he was standing up to get himself a fresh cup, his phone rang. When he saw the number on the caller ID, he sighed and picked it up. "You have my cell phone number. How on earth did you get my direct line?"

"I have my ways," Christine said. "Besides, it's not exactly a state secret."

"Well, if Dr. Reid isn't answering his own phone, it's likely because he's driving. He left a short while ago. It was my understanding he and some of the others were going out for dinner."

"I know. He texted me. But I wasn't calling to talk to him. I was calling to see what you and Haley were doing for Thanksgiving."

Hotch pressed his lips together then said, "Haley and I are currently separated."

There was a brief silence on the line before Christine said, "Oh. I…I'm so sorry to hear that. Well, this is awkward, isn't it? I suppose I should be asking what your plans for Thanksgiving are…?"

"Haley has Jack for the early part of the day. I'll be picking him up for the evening."

"Well, in that case, I'm thinking of doing this: we can pre-game it at our place…oh! I know! I'll set up, like, a taco bar or something so everyone can just graze, you know? You can come or not, as you please, and then I'll have the bird on the table in the evening, so you can bring Jack over for dinner. How's that sound?"

"That all sounds very nice, Christine, but really, you don't need to change your plans to accommodate me."

"No no. Actually, it works out perfect for me. I'm not exactly on my A-game first thing in the morning these days, so this way I can chill a little before I have to start working on dinner."

"Speaking of mornings, how are you feeling these days? Spencer was telling us you were having a hard time before you left…"

"Oh, he told you about how he had to hold my hair while I barfed up my orange juice and oatmeal? Yeah, that was a pretty scene. That was real love, right there. But yeah, I'm, well…I'm managing it. I just need to remember to try and keep something in my belly. That morning I was running around packing before breakfast. Tried to do too much, and it bit me in the ass. Lesson learned. But now I only have one more day of work and the rest of the week is mine."

"Must be nice to have a job that takes you to Hawaii."

"I'm living the dream, man. I have to host this corporate conference for three days and in return I get a paycheck, two tickets, and and all-expense-paid week in paradise. This morning after breakfast I stumbled out of the hotel directly on to the beach, then walked down the street in my bikini, got a mango-stuffed malasada and took a nap under a palm tree. Too bad you wouldn't let Spencer come…"

"He never asked, but it's just as well. We just got him back after his last vacation, and he is a tremendously valuable member of our team, Christine. I can't afford to let him go so often. Hell, he's taken more time off this year than I have since I joined the BAU."

"Speaking of time off, when are you gonna take a vacation? You've got one already paid for, you know…"

"Actually, Haley and I have discussed that. We'll be taking a cruise to the Caribbean after Christmas. We've booked separate rooms, but we thought it would be best for Jack if we could all still enjoy the trip together."

"That's big of you- of both of you. I'm glad you're still on speaking terms, for Jack's sake."

"Yes, well, there's certainly no animosity, at least not on my end. And they've got a nine-hole golf course on board the ship, so I'll finally have the chance to work on my game while we're away."

"I'm so happy. So, can I count you in for next Thursday?"

"Yes, you certainly can. I'll be there. Thank you for the invitation."

"You are most welcome. See you then. Bye."

"Goodbye, Christine."

The next day, Morgan walked in to find Spencer staring at his computer, his nose just inches from the monitor. He leaned over his friend's shoulder to get a peek at what had caught his interest. "Hey, Pretty Boy," he joked, "can't get enough of the girlfriend- I'm sorry, the wifey- when she's gone, huh? I see you trolling her website!" He looked a little closer and let out a low whistle. "Now that is what I call one hot Hawaiian mama, right there. Bet you wish you were playing on that beach along with her, huh? Hey, look, there's a video. 'Fun Karaoe Times in K-Town…'" He took the mouse away from Spencer and clicked on the link and started laughing. "Looks like mama doesn't need you for a good time, does she? Who's that guy she's dancing with?"

Spencer sat in silence for a moment as Christine and the man sang, "'Cause I'm a picker, I'm a grinner, I'm a lover, and I'm a sinner, playin' my music in the sun. I'm a joker, I'm a smoker, I'm a midnight toker, I get my lovin' on the run…"

Suddenly, Spencer snatched the mouse back from Morgan and stopped the video. "Don't you have anything better to do than to ogle my wife?" he asked curtly.

Morgan gave him a look, but backed away. Just then JJ walked briskly through the bullpen with an armful of case files. As she left one on each team member's desk, she said, "Hey, we got a bad one."

"How bad?" Morgan asked.

"Florida," JJ replied, without stopping.

Two days later, Christine was sitting laying on a towel on the grass of Kuhio Beach Park in the shade of the palm trees, watching Alex get a surf lesson. Alex came up from the water holding a round, black, spiky ball in her hand. She held it out to Christine and asked, "Hey Boss, do you know what this is?"

"Yeah, it's a sea urchin."

"Is it alive?"

Christine looked up at her with an impish grin. "Yes…"

"Really? How can you tell?" Before Christine could answer, Alex looked down at the urchin in her hand and saw some of the spikes moving. She shrieked, turned and hurled it back into the ocean.

"Oh, now go and find that poor thing and move it over by those rocks before someone steps on it, Alex!"

"Gross! You go find it. I'm not going to look for it. It's scary!"

"You big baby! If I had a knife, I'd have cut it open and eaten the innards- they're delicious."

"God, you're so nasty, Chris!"

As Christine laughed, she heard her phone buzzing in her beach bag and fished it out. "Aloha, baby! Good to finally hear from you. You won't believe what Alex just…what? Shot? Shot where? By whom?" Christine looked up at Alex and reached out to take the suddenly terrified girl's hand. "Okay…okay…I understand. We're on our way…I said, we're on our way…I don't care…we'll be on the next flight to DC…I know that, but we're coming home anyway. Okay. Love you, too. Bye."

Christine stood up and started picking up her things. "Get your shit together. We're going home."

"What's going on? Was Spencer…?"

Christine shook her head as tears started to form in her eyes. "No. It's Penny. Someone shot Penny."

Morgan leaned back against the wall of the corridor. "We're not going to get anything off that sketch. That could be anyone…"

"Maybe we'll have better luck with her once they dial back the morphine," Spencer said. "Right now it's clouding her memory."

"Reid," Morgan said, nodding toward the door.

Christine was walking briskly towards them with Alex close behind. "Well," she said as she approached them, "what's the word?"

"She's out of surgery, obviously," Morgan said. "She's been awake and talking, but she's resting again right now. You can go in and wait for her to wake up, if you'd like."

"I think I'm going to run down to the cafeteria first and grab something to eat first. You guys look like you've been here all night- can I get you anything?"

"Nah," Morgan said, "but thanks. I gotta get back to the BAU. Reid- call me when you're on the way, okay?"

"Will do," Spencer said. After Morgan had left, he turned to the women and said, "Christine, I'll go with you. Alex, why don't you go in the room and wait with Penelope until she wakes up again?"

Alex knit her brows at the odd direction from Spencer, but said, "Um…okay? Grab me a coffee, wouldja, Boss?"

As they walked to the elevators, Christine said, "So, what's up?"

Spencer sighed and ran his hand through his hair. "The doctor said that if the bullet had been a centimeter to the left, it would have torn through her heart."

"Christ. Well, thank God for that centimeter…"

"Yeah. How was your flight?"

"Long, exhausting and cramped. With crap food. You know- the usual. Generally I'd prefer to take a flight that made a stop so I could deplane and stretch my legs, but under the circumstances, non-stop worked out well."

"Sorry to make you come back a day early."

"You didn't make me do anything. I'd have been pissed if you hadn't told me, and I couldn't stay knowing, you know that."

They stepped on to the elevator, and after a moment Spencer said, "So, I saw your website…"

"Aw, how sweet! At least I have one fan!"

"Do you really think it was wise of you to put pictures of yourself in a bikini up for the whole world to see?"


"And exactly who was that man you were…were…dirty dancing with?"

Christine stared at him as the elevator doors opened. She stepped out then stopped and turned to face him. "Ah, I get it now," she said, her hands on her hips. "You're not really walking me to the cafeteria; you're trying to start a fight, hmm?"

"Christine, I just think that-"

"Spencer, do you really think this is the time and the place to be having this discussion? I'm done. You can go. Run along back to Derek and make yourself useful there, because you have nothing I need to hear right now."

As she turned to walk away, Spencer said, "Christine, please. Can we just-"

"No," she said without turning around, "we can't," and raised her hand to extend her middle finger.

She marched back out of the cafeteria, munching on a granola bar, and was thankful to see that Spencer was gone. Hopping on the elevator, she rode back up to the ICU wing and made her way to Garcia's room where she found Alex sitting and knitting. "Geez, just what all do you carry in that purse of yours?"

"Just enough to keep me busy," she replied without looking up from her work.

Christine shoved the last bite of granola in her mouth and took a sip of juice. "Sorry, I didn't get you anything. Spencer pissed me off and I forgot…"

Alex turned and looked up at her. "Pissed?"

"Yeah, a little bit. It's stupid. Why don't you go get something to eat? They have an omelet bar…"

"No thanks, I'm good. Thought you were gonna get something…"

"I did, see?" she said, opening her mouth.

"God, could you not be so gross once in a while?"

"Never!" Christine said, raising her fist in the air.

From her bed, Garcia murmured. "Great job, Boss," Alex said crossly.

"Shit! Oh no! Well, you made me do it!" Christine said, covering her mouth.

"I did not!"

"I know that voice," Garcia said groggily. She blinked and added, "And I know that hair…Where are my glasses?"

"Hear you go, darlin'," Alex said, standing to put them on her face.

"Oh, Alex! You're here, too! You're both here…. How long was I out? Is it Saturday already?"

"No no," Christine said. "It's still Friday. We just came home a little early, is all."

"Oh no," Garcia groaned. "You left early because of me? I'm sorry. You shouldn't have left."

"We couldn't lay on a beach when you're laying here," Christine replied. "How are you feeling?"

"Like a piece of hot lead tore my chest open," she replied.

"Well, if you're lucky it'll leave a cool scar," Christine offered.

Garcia started to chuckle and grimaced. "The doctors say I might be able to get out of here in time for Thanksgiving," she said.

Christine shook her head. "No. You take all the time you need. Thanksgiving will happen when you're ready for it to happen, and not a moment sooner. We can't have you eating tofurkey later by yourself, you know. Everyone needs Thanksgiving with family."

"You're making tofurkey this year?"

"If you want it, it'll go in the oven right next to my tom-turkey."

"I don't want it. Tofurkey is disgusting. But I'll take some of that mac and cheese you make," Garcia said with a smile.

"Anything for you, my dear. As far as I'm concerned, you're gonna be Thanksgiving Day Queen this year."

Garcia smile. "Then my first decree is that the entire meal will be vegetarian."

"I'm going to go ahead and assume that's just the morphine talking," Christine said. "You can have anything but that."

It was late when Spencer opened the door and stepped into the house. From the parlor, Alex called out, "Welcome home!"

"Thank you, it's good to be home," he replied, setting down his bag and taking off his jacket. He poked his head into the room and looked around. "Any idea where Chris is?"

"Upstairs in her office last I checked."

He walked down the hallway to set his bag by his desk in the library then started up the stairs. Outside her office door he took a deep breath, then knocked lightly and entered.

Without looking up from her computer screen, Christine asked, "Have you caught the guy?"

"Which guy?"

"The one who shot our Penny."

He sighed quietly as he sat down across from her and said, "No, not yet."

"Then what are you doing home?"

He pressed his lips together tightly, then said, "I'm home because even I need to rest sometime."

"Then go lay down and rest."

"Christine, we need to talk."

"I can't imagine what we have to talk about."

"Christine, look at me." She looked up at him, her face cold and hard. "I'd like you to take down those photos of yourself at the beach and the video of you dancing with that…that strange man."


"I find them highly provocative and inappropriate, and I want to to take them down."

"Apparently, you didn't hear me, so I'll say it louder- no."

"For God's sake, Christine," his voice growing louder, "we're married now- you're going to be a mother! I think I deserve some respect and deference in these matters!"

"Don't you dare bring God into this! You're correct- I am married to you. I am your wife and your partner, not your property, and you have no right to dictate to me how I can portray myself on my own goddamned website just because your feel the need to stroke your tiny little male ego!"

He stood up and put his hands on her desk. "I may not believe in God, but you do. You vowed before him to obey me, and I'm saying, as your husband, I want those pictures taken down!" He regretted his words almost as soon as they had escaped his mouth, but he was still furious.

Christine stood up to face him. "God saw me butt-ass naked the day I was born and every day since. I'm quite sure he has no problem with me in a bikini, and I'm damn sure he doesn't require that I submit to being ruled by a megalomaniacal dictator!" She moved around from behind her desk towards the door, but he stood to block her. She pointed a finger at his chest and in a low snarl said, "Get…out…of my…way." He stepped aside and she stormed past him and down the hall to their bedroom.

He followed her and found snatching pillows off the bed. "What are you doing?" he asked.

"I'm going to sleep in the spare room," she replied without looking at him. "I will not spend the night with you like this."

She pushed past him into the hallway. He followed her out to the door of the spare bedroom. As she tried to shut the door, he put up his hand to stop it. "We're not done here," he said.

"That's exactly what we are, Spencer," she snapped. "We're done!" She shoved the door shut in his face and locked it against him.

He raised his fist to pound on the door but restrained himself and went back to their room. After he shut the door behind himself, he began tearing his clothes off, hurling each piece to the floor as he paced. He wasn't wrong. She was his wife now. His wife. She should have more respect for him than to flaunt her body for all men to ogle. And, my God, she was pregnant! She had no business gyrating on stage, letting some strange man touch her, while she was carrying his child. How could she be so careless? Didn't she realize the signals she sent to men? In the closet, he pulled on his pajama pants and shoved his arms into his pajama sleeves. He knew how men looked at her, what they wanted to do to her when she looked and acted like that. He knew, because he knew how he felt when he looked at her and felt her touch. It…it drove him mad. Didn't she understand that? No, he wasn't the one in the wrong.

He scooped up his clothes and shoved them in the hamper. He wasn't wrong. But…what if he was? Had she changed at all since they married? In all honesty, no. She hadn't changed. She was and remained the beautiful, fun-loving, vivacious woman he'd fallen in love with. Hell, that's precisely why he'd fallen in love with her in the first place. Was it fair of him to expect her to change now that she wore his ring on her hand? And was she truly being careless, putting herself in harm's way? He was certain she hadn't been drinking in the karaoke bar, not now. She'd never do that. And she'd taken Alex with her; who else would have been behind the camera? So she hadn't been out on the town on her own. But who was that man she was with, that she'd had her arms around? He laid down, punched the pillow, and rolled over on his side. She was maddening. She drove him absolutely crazy. But was she wrong?

He didn't know how long he'd been asleep when he heard the door to their bedroom open. He turned over onto his back and watched in silence as she crept in the dark to her side of the bed. Tossing her pillows down, she said simply, "Move." He made room for her, and she added, "Mattress was too firm in the other room. Couldn't sleep."

He said nothing when she laid down beside him and pulled the covers up to her nose. After a moment, he turned and tentatively reached out to put his arm around her waist. "Don't even try it," she warned, and he drew back. He listened for a few minutes until he heard from her breathing that she was asleep and then, sighing, he rolled over and went back to sleep himself.

The sun had risen when he set the tray down and sat on the edge of her side of the bed. When she stirred, he reached out tenderly with one finger to sweep a red curl back from her face. Her eyes opened and she stared at him, saying nothing. "I brought you some breakfast," he said quietly. She reached out for her glasses, which he handed to her and added, "Come on. Please eat something before you get sick."

She pulled back the covers and walked over to the chair by the table. He sat opposite from her and watched her begin to eat. At length he said, "I'm willing to speak calmly if you are." Still, she said nothing but watched him as she picked up a slice of bacon and began to munch on it. So he began, "The reason I was upset at seeing those pictures and that video yesterday is because I know precisely what every man who looks at them thinks. I know, because I know what seeing you like that inspires in me. It drives me crazy knowing that there are men out there who want to be with you and do to you same things I do in the privacy of our own home. But then I remembered that the things about you that make me so jealous are precisely the reasons why I love you. You're an incredibly beautiful woman, Christine. Beyond that, I love that you are so exciting, so spontaneous and vivacious. I…I never quite know what you're going to do or say next, and it drives me absolutely insane at times, but I never feel as purely alive as I do when I'm with you. And so I realized that asking you to behave any differently than you do is not only unfair to you, but it would also fundamentally alter the very things that make you so precious and special to me."

Christine popped the last bite of bacon in her mouth and wiped her fingers on her napkin. "You know, Spencer, my whole life, I've never been happy with the way I look. I've always been too short, too freckled and too gingery. You, you're just effortlessly gorgeous when you fall out of bed, and for a long time I just felt dumpy next to you. But being with you, you've made me feel comfortable in my own skin for the first time in my life, and when you tell me you love just the way I am, it's made me start loving myself, too. Right now, at this precise moment in time, I feel like I look the best I've ever looked, and that's something I'm pretty damn proud of. It simply feels good to like the way I look! But pretty soon, that's all going to change; I'm going to lose this body. I don't know if I'll ever get it back. So I'm not sorry at all that I took those pictures and posted them for the world to see. I'm proud of them! And, you know, I'm not so stupid as to be unaware that sex sells. My career demands that I promote myself. Sure, I'd rather people come to my shows for my sparkling wit rather than to see my tits, but I am in the public eye and the public is curious. Once I start to show and can't hide it any more, I don't think I'll tour any more. Not until after the baby comes, I mean. No one wants to see a fat pregnant woman lumbering about on stage. But you need to let me have this moment to be happy with who I am, Sparky. I need this.

"As for that video, clearly, you don't know who that gentleman was, but everyone in Hawaii does. His name is Augie T, and he is, like, Hawaii's reigning rock-god of comedy. And he contacted me to tell me he loves my work! Holy shit! So when he asked me to go out, of course I said yes, and of course I had to get it on video tape. And just so you know, he, like me, is happily married. So what if we put our arms around one another's shoulders as we sang? What's the big deal, really? It was just karaoke. I'm still entitled to have some fun, you know.

"I'm not unsympathetic to your feelings. Look, you work with absolutely gorgeous women, and you spend more time with them than you do with me. God, how it used to drive me crazy! And it was never enough for me to just be able to trust you. Sure, I've always trusted you to keep your pants on. But eventually I had to learn to trust your love for me. Every time you told me you loved me, I had to decide to believe it. And putting my faith and trust in your love for me gave me a sense of security with you. Of course you don't think of those other women like that, because you love me. So you have to make that same decision. Either you trust me, or you don't. Either you believe that I love you, even when you get all pissy and bent out of shape, or you accept the fact that you made a terrible decision making me the mother of your child. There are no other options here. But just to say it again, I do love you, Spencer."

He stood and planted a lingering kiss on her forehead, then said softly. "I believe you. I love you, too."

He sat back down and watched her as she continued to eat. After a few more bites she said, "Thanks for the bacon and eggs, by the way. Who knew you were so handy in the kitchen?"

He chuckled. "I did survive for years on my own, you know. So, what are your plans for the day?"

"Oh, I was thinking that maybe Alex and I could go over to the hospital and see if Penny was up for a game of Monopoly."

He rolled his eyes. "As long as you promise no shouting, no overturning the board when you're angry, and no cheating. And by cheating I mean paying for property with real cash."

"Aw, you take all the fun out of it!"

"Promise me, Chris."

She sighed. "I promise. What are you up to?"

"I've gotta get to the office now and catch the son of a bitch that hurt her."


This chapter takes during after season 3, episode 8, "Lucky" (original air date November 14, 2007), and episode 9, "Penelope" (original air date November 21, 2007). The action in "Penelope" begins immediately following Garcia's shooting. During that episode, Hotch at one point mentions, "it's been four days and no leads," before Garcia is able to leave the hospital. Thanksgiving Day was November 22 in 2007, so if we assume she got out of the hospital on November 19, she may have been able to make it to Thanksgiving dinner that year, but that will be an issue for the next chapter.

The song Christine and Augie T were singing karaoke to was, "The Joker" by Steve Miller Band.

Augie T is a real Hawaii-based comedian. You can follow him on Twitter AUGIET

Tofurkey is a vegetarian turkey substitute made from tofu that is sold in America around the holidays. I don't actually know if it's any good or not.

Chapter Text

Christine sat on the edge of the bed and leaned down to kiss her husband’s nose. As his eyes opened, she said in a whisper, “Wakey wakey!”
He reached out to put his arms around her waist and pulled her to him so that she fell on top of him, giggling. “It’s too early to wake up. Why don’t you come back to bed with me?”
“Because it’s nearly 9:00 already,” she laughed. “The guests are going to start arriving at 11:30 and I need you up and ready to perform your host duties.”
“I am up and ready to perform other duties,” he said, pulling her farther under the covers. He fumbled with the button and zipper on her jeans before pulling them down and off. Flinging them aside, he began to slip out of his own pajama bottoms. As he pushed her on to her back, he pressed his lips to her neck and complained, “Why did you have to invite everyone over so early?”
She pulled off her t-shirt. “11:30am is not that early, Sparky. That’s when the football pre-game show starts!”
“But aren’t the Packers playing today?” he asked as he switched from kissing one breast to the other. “You hate the Packers.”
“Which is precisely why I have to root against them,” she replied, closing her eyes as his hands moved up her legs and spread her thighs.
“What are we having for lunch, then, if the turkey is not until later?” he asked, stretching out on top of her, catching her hands in his.
“We’ll have a taco bar,” she said, biting her lip as his erection pressed against her.
“And my Rice Krispie treats?” he asked, kissing her neck.
“Oh God, yes!” she cried as he thrust himself into her. “And yes to your Krispie treats, too,” she added with a giggle.
“Krispie treats are good,” he murmured, grasping one of her thighs and pulling it up to his side. “Very, very good…”
He held her tightly in his grasp as he thrust harder and harder into her. She squirmed and struggled to kick underneath him, digging her fingernails into his back. Her little sighs and cries grew louder until she leaned forward and sunk her teeth into his shoulder. He gasped and pushed her head back, covering her mouth with his hand to stifle her scream as her orgasm swept over her body. When she began to relax again, he pushed her knees back and drove himself as deeply into her as he could until, with a groan, he came deep within her.
He rolled off her and pulled her to himself. “Mmm,” he said quietly, “that was even better than the dreams I had last night…”
“Dreams?” she said with a laugh. “But we did it last night- twice!”
“What can I say? I can never get enough of you.”
She sat up, chuckling. “Well, we’ll count that as part one of your birthday present.”
He propped himself up on his arm, watching her as she redressed herself. “My birthday was a month and ten days ago, Christine.”
“I know,” she said as she hooked her bra and reached for her t-shirt. “But I wasn’t with you to give you anything.” She shimmied into her t-shirt and went to her dresser. Opening one of the drawers, she pulled out a small box and turned back towards him. “Here, this is part two.”
“Wow,” he said with the giddiness of a child. “This day just keeps getting better and better! And you even wrapped it in real wrapping paper and everything!”
“Yeah,” she said as he pulled off the ribbon and tore at the paper. “Every now and then I surprise even myself.”
His face fell a little when he saw the box. “Gee, it’s…it’s an iPhone.”
“You hate it.”
“No no, I don’t hate it! It just seems like it’s a lot more phone than I really need.”
“Ah, well, a couple of things about that. First, Joe, Alex and I all got them, so I couldn’t leave you out, but most of all, it has this awesome camera and huge screen, which you’re gonna want for taking and receiving pictures and videos in about seven months.”
He looked at her and smiled. “Excellent point. It’s perfect.”
“Aaaand,” she said dramatically, “it’s got Bluetooth, which means you can use it to play music with present number three.”
“There’s more?” he asked.
“I saved the best for last.”
“I think you gave me the best first, babydoll…”
“Come on, put your pants back on- we have to go downstairs for this one.”
He got dressed and followed her down into the parlor. She pulled back the curtains and pointed out the window. “There,” she said.
“Oh! Someone’s here! Chris, why didn’t you tell me someone’s coming? I’m in my pajamas!”
“No, genius. No one’s here but us chickens. It’s the car. That’s your third present.”
He stared at her dumbfounded for a moment. “A car? You bought me a new car?”
“I couldn’t have you driving the baby around in your old bucket of rust, so I-“
“Where is she? Where’s Dyrbara? What have you done with her?”
Christine rolled her eyes. “Oh, good lord. I didn’t do a damn thing with her. I probably wouldn’t have gotten $50 on the trade-in, anyway.”
“So she’s still in the garage?”
“Yes, but look! It’s a new car! Aren’t you excited?”
“We should have discussed this first, Christine. It’s a major purchase.”
Christine put her hands on her hips. “Honestly, Spencer- you’ve been talking about getting a new car, anyway, but when were you ever going to make the time to go car shopping? Never, that’s when. So I took the liberty of going myself. See? It’s a Volvo, even. It meets the highest safety standards, and the back seat is roomy enough for you to maneuver a car seat in and out of it. Debbie doesn’t even have a middle seatbelt in the back. Besides, I loaded your phone up with classical music; you can use the Bluetooth to play it through this car’s speakers.”
Spencer scratched his head and smiled. “You’ve got a point about safety. I hadn’t been thinking about car seats…”
“Well, you’d better start thinking about it, because all that shit is coming sooner than you think.”
“Hey, I’ve got an idea- how about tomorrow we go shopping and-“
“Whoa,” Christine said, putting her hand up. “Tomorrow’s Black Friday, and I do not want my last newspaper headline to read, ‘Pregnant Comic Trampled to Death in Shopping Melee at Walmart.’”
“I wasn’t going to suggest going to Walmart, and we can go Saturday, if you prefer. But let’s go out and start looking for things we’ll need,” he said, putting his arms around her waist. “Car seats, strollers, cribs…”
“Ugh. Because you know how much I love shopping,” she said sarcastically.
“…and maternity clothes. We can buy you everything you’ll need, because it won’t be much longer now before-“
Christine groaned. “Oh, don’t remind me! Let me just get by in sweats and t-shirts!”
“You’re going to be beautiful, Christine! Don’t you find it amazing what your body is doing right now?”
She squirmed out of his grasp. “I find it terrifying. Come on, now- don’t you want to take your new car for a spin?”
“I’m in my pajamas!”
“Just put your shoes on. I wanna show you how the Bluetooth works!”
“Alright, alright…hey now, quit pulling my arm! I’m not going out there barefoot!”
She finally dragged him outside and opened the door for him before running around to get in the other side. “Alright. Now, turn the key…okay. Now turn Bluetooth on on your phone. You push right there on the gear looking thing…no, there…oh, just give it to me! Okay, see this? It’s on now. I’ve already synced it with this car, so we just push the media button there, and then on the phone we-“
“This is a lot of steps, Chris…”
“Trust me, it’s simple. Now you push the little music icon- see all the music I’ve already put on here? And I’ve made you playlists of some of your favorites so it’ll just play them without you having to select them. So now we press play and…”. Beethoven’s piano concerto no. 5 began to play through the speakers. “See? Isn’t that cool? I got you a little holder here for the phone, so you can just put it there like that when you drive. And if you get a call while you’re driving, it will automatically pause the music and you will hear it right over the speakers. Can’t do that with Debbie, can you?”
“It’s great, really,” he said, as he adjusted the seat to accommodate his long legs. He turned his attention to the buttons on first the steering wheel, then the console before turning to the back seat. He looked back at Christine, smiling broadly. “Can you imagine? There’s going to be a baby back there soon!”
“That’s why I had to get you leather seats- they’re easier to clean spit-up off of.”
“I love it, Christine. It’s perfect. You’re perfect. Thank you.” He leaned over to kiss her, and they both got out of the car. As they walked back into the house he said, “Can we go shopping tomorrow? Please?”
“Saturday, and not a day sooner.”

As they passed the food around the dinner table, Wes held the platter out. “What’s wrong, Penelope? Try some turkey- there’s still a leg left there with your name written on it!”
“You must be reading the writing on that turkey wrong, then. I’m a vegetarian,” Garcia explained. “The only turkey legs I eat are the kind Spencer makes. Did you get one of those?”
“Oh, Garcia,” Prentiss said, “we polished those off two hours ago!”
“You should have seen them, Wes,” Garcia said, “they were adorable! He used Rice Krispie treats for the meaty part, and then he stuck pretzel rods with white chocolate in them for the bone part. So cute! Well, as cute as mock-dismembered animal parts can be…”
“Spencer,” Wes called to the end of the table, “I hear you’ve become quite the little cook!”
“Hmm?” Spencer asked, his fork in his mouth.
“The turkey legs,” Prentiss prompted.
“Oh yeah! Those turned out pretty neat, didn’t they?” Spencer said. “Sorry- we ate them all this afternoon.”
“Christie- you know, our cousin Dan’s wife?” Christine chimed in. “She made them and put a picture up on Facebook. Do you have Facebook?”
“What on earth is Facebook?” Wes asked.
“Oh, all the kids have Facebook,” Jenny said. “I even have Facebook. It’s kind of like MySpace.”
“You really should get an account, Wes. The whole extended family is on it. Even Uncle Jerry has an account,” Christine said.
“Wait a second,” Garcia said, “you’re on Facebook and you haven’t friended me yet? Frankly, Chris, I’m hurt!”
“Have you liked my fan page yet? Nooooo, you haven’t have you? Anyway, look me up- my fan page is under the name Chris Arcangeli, and my private page is Christine Reid.”
“Okay,” Garcia said, pulling out her phone and playing with it. “Done! Liked and friended! You’ve really gotta get yourself one of these little morsels- they’re amazing,” she added, holding up her phone.
“Christine gave me one this morning,” Spencer said, “as a belated birthday gift!”
“You have an iPhone?” Prentiss asked. “Seriously- you? You’re practically a troglodyte!”
“I prefer the term ‘luddite,’ myself,” Spencer replied.
“What does any of this have to do with my sister turning Spencer into her housewife?” Wes interjected, laughing. “Did she buy you a pretty pink apron to wear while you’re cooking her dinner?”
“Whoa! Wait- what?” Christine said, nearly shouting. “Dude, you do realize it’s 2007, right? Men are allowed to do things like that now. Jesus, talk about a caveman! Jenny, how do you put up with him?”
“Personally,” Garcia said, “I think it’s cute. Chris is the one who’s pregnant, but Spencer’s the one who’s nesting.”
“Wait a second,” Wes said, suddenly serious. “What did you just say?”
“I, uh, said Spencer is nesting,” Garcia replied timidly.
“No, I mean, before that,” Wes said. “Never mind. I heard what you said. Chris- what’s this about you being pregnant?”
The whole table fell silent and all eyes turned to Christine. She wiped her mouth with a napkin, dropped it in her lap and set her face calmly. “Just that,” she said. “You heard correctly.”
Wes looked from her to the others at the table and back. “And you thought to tell your friends about this before you told your family? Joe- did you know about this?” Joe nodded his head somewhat sheepishly. “How long have you known?” Wes persisted.
“Um…three, maybe four weeks. I dunno.”
Wes turned his attention back to Christine. “Have you told Mom and Dad yet?”
“No,” she replied, “and I’d appreciate it if you didn’t, either.”
“Well gee, Chris, I have a news flash for you: pretty soon, they’re gonna find out. You know, like when you suddenly have a baby on your hip?”
“I’ll tell them when I’m ready to tell them.”
“I see. So you’ll share this momentous, life-changing news with the people your husband works with, but your own family just isn’t important enough to be part of your life, hmm? What about him?” Wes said, gesturing to Spencer. “I’ll be you’ve told your mother, haven’t you? Of course you have, because you actually love your family. But the rest of us, we just don’t rank as high with Chris. Have you even told Grandpa yet? No.”
Christine picked her plate up and slammed it down on the table. “How dare you!” she shouted. “How dare you come in to my home, sit at my table and accuse me of not loving my Grandpa! I would die for that man!”
“He doesn’t want you to die for him- he wants to be part of your life!”
“Don’t you fucking lecture me-“
“Watch your language,” Wes shouted, “and start learning how to speak around children!”
“I’ll speak however I goddamn jolly well please under my own roof, but I will not sit here and be lectured by you regarding my own personal affairs!” With that, she stood up and stormed out of the dining room.
Spencer rose to follow her, but was stopped by Jenny. “Sit,” she commanded. “My husband is going to go to her and apologize to our pregnant hostess for behaving like a sanctimonious jackass in front of her guests.” She gave an icy stare to her husband, who opened his mouth, shut it, and rose to follow his sister out of the room.
“She’s in the library, I think,” Spencer offered. “Down the hall, first door on the left.”
After Wes had left the room, Garcia fretted, “Oh god. I’m so sorry. I didn’t know…”
“Don’t be sorry,” Jenny said, smiling gently. “Those two have always gotten along like fire and dynamite.” Turning to Rossi across the table she added, “You’re new here, so take it from someone who's been around the Arcangelis a long time- it’s not really an official family gathering until someone’s in tears. Care for another roll?”
Wes knocked on the library door softly and entered to find his sister pacing. “Not now, Sparky. Just give me a few before I have to go out and face that asshole again.”
“I am the asshole,” Wes said, causing Christine to whirl around. “You call him Sparky?”
“Yeah, ‘cause he’s, you know,” she snapped her fingers, “quick about things.”
“Look, Chris, I was out of line to lecture you in front of your guests, but I stand by what I said- Mom and Dad should have been the first ones you told.”
“I didn’t plan on telling anyone. I just…I told Spencer while he was at work, and he took it upon himself to make a grand announcement.”
“Well, congratulations, anyway. It is congratulations, isn’t it?”
“For him it is. He’s over the moon about it. I think I’m still too much in a state of shock and terror to be excited.”
“That’s all the more reason to tell family, Chris. You need all the support you can get. Besides, don’t you think Mom and Dad would want to know?”
Christine sighed. “Jesus Christ, Wes. Mom never talked to me about anything like this! She never told me about any of the things moms are supposed to talk to their daughters about, like getting my period or boys or, god forbid, sex. How can I talk to her about having sex and getting knocked up now? It’s just…it’s weird. I don’t even know where I’d begin.”
“Good lord, Chris. You don’t have to give her the blow-by-blow account of how it happened. But the woman has been married over 40 years and had five kids. I think she knows where babies come from. And it’s a good thing, right? How far along are you?”
“About eight weeks.”
Wes let out a low whistle. “Wow, a honeymoon baby.”
“Well, almost. They tack on two weeks from the date of actual conception. I think I’m due in early July. That’s part of the reason I haven’t told Mom. I just know that as soon as I do, she’s gonna try and pencil out when I conceived to see if it was before or after the wedding. Ugh. I so don’t need her judgement right now!”
Wes smiled. “And since when have you ever given a rat’s ass about other people’s opinions?”
“I care about Mom’s. She’s always judging, and I’m always falling short. It’s the story of my whole fucking life.”
“You know, you’re not the only one who has a hard time to talk to that woman. But you’re never gonna change her. The only person you can change is you. So butch up, be an adult, and talk to her like a grown woman. If you want her to respect you, you’re going to have to be the one to demand that respect.”
Christine put her hand to her forehead and rubbed her temples. “You’re right…”
“Excuse me?”
“I said you’re right.”
“I heard you. I just couldn’t believe those words came out of your mouth. I can’t believe all the crazy things I’m hearing today!”
“Just please don’t tell her. Let me do it.”
“Oh, I have no intention of telling her. That’s your job. But get it done, and I mean before Christmas, or I will tell her, you hear me?”
“Now come back to dinner and eat before your gravy goes cold and all your friends think our whole family is psycho.”
“Oh, I’m pretty sure they already know we are.”
“It’s good gravy, by the way. Don’t tell Jenny, but yours is what better than hers.”
“Oh, believe me, I know it’s good. You know what Chris Rock says about keeping a man happy- ‘anybody can suck a dick, but gravy’s a whole ‘nother story.’”
“Too much information, Chris. Too much.”

“Sparky, it’s freezing out here,” Christine said, rubbing her arms. “Do we seriously have to do this now in the parking lot?”
From inside the backseat of the car Spencer answered, “I want to make sure I can secure this properly before we leave in case I have questions for the sales staff.”
“Oh, for crying out loud. It’s a car seat, not rocket science. Do you have any idea how many stupid people there are out there who know how to buckle a car seat?”
“Do you have any idea how many children died or were seriously injured last year in car accidents due to improperly secured car seats?” he asked, getting out of the car to face her. “Because I do.”
“Of course you do,” Christine said, rolling her eyes.
“I’ve got the base in. Please hand me the carrier so I can make sure it locks in place.”
She held it out for him. “It fits, right? Bitchin’. I’m getting in the car before I get frostbit.”
He slid into the driver’s seat beside her and started the engine. “This car really was an excellent idea, dear. It’s not only safe, but roomy enough to move around back there. The baby will love it. Perhaps we should get a second one for you.”
“The Jetta will do just fine, thank you.”
“I’d like to do some more research into it’s safety features.”
“You should be most concerned with the way you drive. We both know you’re way too aggressive on the road.”
“You’re right, and I’m working on that. You’ll have to help me put a playlist on my phone that is tranquil and calming. I know you like Beethoven and Dvorak, but the music can get one a little overwrought, emotionally. The baby will also benefit from more soothing music, I think.”
“Beethoven’s music explores the depths of human emotion and exults the soul. Besides, you just bought more than enough toys to keep the kid’s little mind occupied, don’t you think? Honestly, Spencer- don’t you think you went a tad overboard? The he’s not even born yet and you’re already spoiling him!”
“It’s not spoiling her to provide her with an abundance of visual, tactile and auditory stimulation. I want to provide her with every opportunity to grow both mentally and physically, which brings up an important issue. We need to decide on the type of stroller we should get. I want to see her get as much time in the fresh air and sunshine as possible.”
Christine sighed. “Again, it’s a little early, don’t you think? But if you’re that concerned about it, why didn’t we just pick one up back there?”
“They didn’t have the one I want. I was reading online that Britain’s royal family uses Silver Cross prams and strollers, and I think-“
“Oh, dear God…”
“…I think our child deserves to have the best as well.”
“What is this going to cost?!”
“The one I was looking at is about $1700. Are you okay?” he asked as Christine started coughing, choking on the juice she’d been sipping.
“Are you out of your fucking mind? What the hell is wrong with the ones that cost $50?”
“Why should their babies have something better than ours?”
“Well gee, I don’t know if you’ve noticed but, uh… WE’RE NOT ROYALTY, SPENCER!”
“Wow, you don’t need to shout!”
“But you’re being ridiculous!”
“What is wrong with wanting our child to have the best we can give her? We can afford it!”
“Because it’s unnecessarily extravagant, Sparky.”
“No, extravagant is the matching cashmere-lined bedding they sell for it.”
“Don’t even think about it, Spencer,” Christine warned.
“Well, I wouldn’t want to chose a color before I know the baby’s gender for certain…”
“Oh, come on, Chris! A newborn’s skin is so delicate! Don’t you think it would be best to provide the baby with the softest possible fabric to snuggle in?”
“Cotton is soft enough for our kid.”
“You’re heartless,” he chuckled, pulling into a parking lot. He put the car in park and announced, “Well, we’re here!”
“We’re where?” Christine asked, looking around.
“Come on,” he said, unbuckling his seatbelt and opening the door, “I’ll show you.”
He took her hand and led her across the parking lot into the bustling, Christmas-time mall. “Ugh, this crowd!” Christine complained. “It’s enough to make me positively agoraphobic. Why did we have to come to the mall?”
“Because they have this,” he said, stopping in front of a store and smiling broadly.
“A Pea in the Pod?” she said, reading the sign aloud. “Seriously?”
“It’s a maternity store!” he replied happily. “I understand they’re very fashionable.”
“Just how fat do you think I am?”
“Dear, you don’t appear to have gained an ounce,” he reassured her. “But soon, you will. It’s not often our schedules allow us to spend time like this together, and I want to make sure you have everything you need. Don’t look so glum! You're already the most beautiful woman in the world to me, and you’re only going to grow more beautiful through this.” He bent down and kissed her cheek before pulling her inside the store.
Christine looked about uncomfortably at all the eager, joyful, visibly pregnant women browsing the racks around her. She felt hopelessly out of place among them and felt a growing urge to flee the store as tightness rose in her chest. But Spencer held her hand fast in his, pulling her along and rifling through the hanging clothes with his free hand. He pulled out one top and held it up for her to admire. “Isn’t this pretty?” he asked of the soft, fine-knit sweater with a crocheted edge. “I know how you love blue, and it matches your eyes perfectly…”
A pert, rosy-cheeked salesgirl approached them. “Welcome to A Pea in the Pod! Is there anything I can help you find today?”
Spencer grinned and said, “My wife and I are expecting our first, so we need to buy some of everything.”
“Oh, how exciting for you,” she replied cheerfully. “Well, we have our casual clothing here, business clothing is on the other side, athletics are over there, and lingerie is in the back. Here, sir, let me take that from you and get a fitting room started. I’ll put a tummy in there for you as well, ma’am.”
“I’m sorry,” Christine said. “A what?”
“A tummy. For our newly expectant mothers we provide tummy-shaped pillows that you can wear under the clothing to see how they’ll fit after you start to grow.”
“That sounds perfect,” Spencer said, handing her the blue sweater and quickly grabbing another blouse. “We’ll try this, too. Thank you so much.” After she’d left, he turned to Christine and, squeezing her hand, said, “Isn’t this exciting?”
“It’s rather overwhelming, actually,” she replied. “Really, why do we have to do all this today? We’ve already spent so much time and money today on the car seat and toys- why can’t we just go home and relax now? You know I hate shopping…”
“Because I want to see how you look, babydoll! It’s going to be amazing. Here- you go try on those I already picked out, and I’ll find and bring you some more, okay? Maybe some pants…you’d like jeans, right?”
“Whatever,” she said quietly and walked towards the back of the store. She found the room with the clothes Spencer had chosen and locked the door behind her. She stared miserably for a moment at the flesh-colored pillow with the Velcro strap the salesgirl had left for her on the bench before taking off her top with a sigh. Tossing her shirt aside, she picked up the ridiculous “tummy” and strapped it around her waist, purposefully avoiding looking at herself in the mirror. She reached for the second blouse Spencer had grabbed; it was white on top with a small bow under the bust and a navy blue bottom. After slipping it over her head, she struggled to bring it down smoothly over her breasts. That morning she had had a hard time to put her bra on. Now she was spilling out of it, and even the damned maternity shirt was too snug. She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror and started to cry; she looked like an over-stuffed sausage ready to burst from its casing. As she was about to pull it off, a long-fingered hand reached over the top of the door with a few pairs of jeans.
“How’s it look?” Spencer asked. “Can I see?”
Christine quickly wiped away her tears, but her voice was still shaking as she answered, “No, you can’t.”
“Babydoll, what’s wrong? Let me see,” he said. She could hear him try the door. “Please, you don't have to come out. I just want to see.”
“Christine, open this door.”
She reached out slowly, unlocked it, and he pulled it open. “Dear, you look beautiful!” He reached out to touch her cheek and asked again, “What’s wrong? Have you been crying?”
Her tears started to flow again and she leaned against his chest. “Take me home,” she pleaded between sobs. “Please, I’m not ready for this. I just want to go home…”


Chapter Text

“Sorry I’m late,” Spencer called out as he walked in the door.
“It’s okay,” Christine answered from the kitchen. “I just finished my dinner. Come get your own while it’s still warm.”
He set down his messenger bag and followed the sound of her voice. He sat at the table as she fixed him a plate. “Nothing special,” she said. “Just spaghetti and meatballs.”
“I love spaghetti and meatballs,” he replied, smiling at her. “How did the appointment go? I wanted to be there, but-“
“You got a case,” she finished. “I know. It was all over the local news. Desecrating a Civil War battleground…he oughta get the needle just for that,” she added, sitting down across from him as he began to eat.
“He should get the needle for the abduction and rape of three women and murder of one,” Spencer replied. “But his wife shot him before we could arrest him.  Now she'll be the one charged with second degree murder, which will probably get plead down to manslaughter. Anyway, how was the appointment?”
“Is it true the guy you caught was related to the suspect in the 1980 murders? There was an unconfirmed report on TV…”
“It was his son. And speaking of children, what did the doctor say about ours?”
“Wow. That was a rather gruesome segue, don’t you think? So this father- did you catch him, too?”
Spencer put down his fork. “He’s deceased. And you're starting to annoy me. I’ve had a very long day and I’d like to talk about something pleasant over dinner. So please, Christine, just tell me what happened at the doctor’s today. Even if you think it’s mundane, I’d still like to hear about it.”
She reached out to the center of the table and started spinning the salt shaker. “There’s nothing to report. Really. We’ll know more next week after, ah…after the ultrasound.”
“Ultrasound? They usually do that around 20 weeks. Why do they want to do one at 13?”
She batted the salt shaker back and forth between her hands. “They did some further analysis of my, you know, my blood work and, uh, I had, um, slightly elevated levels of a protein- PAPP-A, it’s called. It means pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A. So anyway, they just want to check to make sure the fetus is, like, developing normally.”
Spencer’s heart thudded in his chest. “What are they looking for, specifically?”
“Oh, you know…everything’s probably fine, right? That’s the most likely scenario.”
He reached out across the table and caught her hand. “Chris, what are they looking for?”
She looked up at him, her mouth trembling and her eyes filling with tears. “There’s a possibility the baby may have chromosomal abnormalities.”
“You mean Downs Syndrome?”
“I mean trisomy-13. Patau Syndrome.”
He suddenly felt as though his heart had stopped in his chest and shattered into a thousand little pieces. In a voice that didn’t even sound like his own he asked, “What is the prognosis?”
“Miscarriage,” she said weakly. “Or stillbirth. Of babies that are born alive, 80% die within 12 days.” With those words, the floodgates of her tears broke. She dropped the salt shaker and buried her face in her hands.
He wanted to cry, but his wife was already there. Adding his tears to hers would be unbearable to her. He had no words to give her, so he silently got up and moved around the table beside her. He knelt on the floor and put his arms around her. She bent her head down to his shoulder and sobbed, “I’ve been so worried about myself, I wasn’t even sure I wanted this baby. But now, I…l love him more than I’ve ever loved anything. God, I just want him to be healthy!”
He wordlessly put his hand on her belly and silently prayed the same.

Spencer got up from his desk and put his messenger bag over his shoulder. Looking up, Morgan said, “Hey man, you leavin’ already? Hold up- I’ll walk out with you.”
While Morgan stood to collect his own things, Prentiss asked, “Is everything okay, Reid?”
Without looking up he mumbled, “Yeah, everything’s fine…”
“Nah,” said Morgan, “something’s definitely up with you.”
“Yeah,” seconded Prentiss, “you haven’t tried to entertain us with a single fascinating vignette about Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica or Dr. Who the whole day. What gives?”
“Nothing,” Spencer said. “I just have a lot on my mind.”
Morgan put his hand on Spencer’s shoulder. “You know you can always talk to me, right, kid?”
Just then, JJ came, walking briskly through the bullpen. “Sorry to spoil your plans, boys. Hotch needs everyone in the conference room ASAP.”
Spencer sighed, adjusted his bag on his shoulder, and followed the rest of the team into the room. As they were taking their seats, Morgan leaned over and said to Spencer, “So much for my date tonight…”
Hotch came in the room and began speaking as Garcia displayed photographs on the monitor. “Earlier today, Sharla Covington went missing after a doctor’s appointment in Princeton, West. Virginia. Two hours ago, she was found across state lines along the highway at the edge of Jefferson National Forest. She had been eight months pregnant. Her baby had been cut from her womb. She managed to flag down a passing motorist and was airlifted to the hospital in Blacksburg…”
“Wait,” Prentiss said, “she survived?”
“Yes,” replied Hotch, “although I doubt that was the unsub’s intention.”
“What happened to the baby?” JJ asked.
“That’s why we’ve been called in,” said Hotch. “As of right now, we’ve got to assume that baby is alive, and that this is now a federal kidnapping case. I understand it’s late and everyone is already tired, but I cannot stress enough that time is of the essence in solving this case. During routine prenatal ultrasounds, this baby was discovered to have a congenital birth defect that will need to be surgically corrected within 36 hours after birth.”
“What’s the nature of the defect?” Spencer asked.
“That’s unclear to me at the moment,” Hotch said. “But right now we have to assume this baby is alive, and that whoever has him is unaware of his condition. I know this is not a serial case, but the clock is ticking and all available resources are being called in to locate this infant as soon as possible. We’ve got a four hour drive ahead of us; you can review the case files on the ride.”
Spencer remained silent for most of the four hour drive to Blacksburg; he’d read and memorized the case file before they’d even left Quantico. They were thin files, anyway. They had so little information to work with. He sat staring out into the cold, black night, lost in thought, hardly noticing the snow that was beginning to fall. A baby, stolen from its mother’s womb with a birth defect. It was heartbreaking to think of. But at least this baby’s birth defect could be fixed. Not his own baby’s, if it even lived to take it’s first breath. Microcephaly, polydactyly, cleft palate, heart and gastrointestinal defects…were these to be his baby’s lot in life? His heart felt frozen in his chest at the thought that his child- his own precious, loved and longed for child- should be dealt so cruel a hand by fate.
He shifted in his seat. He should be home right now. He needed to be home, to be in bed beside his wife, holding her, comforting her, sharing the burden of their fears. Instead she was all alone, as she would be in the morning when she went for the ultrasound and potentially heard the news no mother wanted to hear.
His thoughts returned to him at the sound of Hotch’s voice; he was on the phone. Spencer couldn’t hear much of his end of the conversation over the sound of the engine and the windshield wipers slapping. When he hung up, he turned around and said, “Sharla Covington is dead. Reid, I need you and Prentiss to speak with the ME when we arrive. See what her body will tell us. Rossi and Morgan are going down to Wytheville to profile the crime scene.”
Spencer only nodded. Their only witness was gone. A mother who never knew the joy of holding her own baby. And his wife was at home. Alone. Scared and uncertain if she would ever hold theirs. He turned and stared back out into the night.
They dropped Hotch and JJ off at the Blackburn police headquarters, and Spencer moved to the front seat beside Prentiss for the ride to the hospital. The snow was heavier now; when they finally arrived at the hospital, he got out of the SUV only to step directly into a puddle of slush. It spilled over the tops of his shoes and soaked his socks. He held his scarf close about neck and bowed his head against the weather as he followed Prentiss indoors, silently glad he didn’t have to meet the victim’s husband this night. Hotch and JJ would be doing that. He didn’t think he could handle it, not tonight.
He followed Prentiss down to the hospital morgue where they met the medical examiner. Spencer didn’t notice Prentiss looking at him, expecting him to ask the first question. Prentiss turned back to the ME and asked, “What was her official cause of death?”
At the sound of his friend’s voice, Spencer finally looked up and studied the ME. She was in her early 40’s, he suspected, with a tired, solemn, serious yet kind face. She wore a wedding ring and had a full bosom and wide hips. She was probably a mother herself. “Pulmonary embolism following massive blood loss.”
“What can you tell us about the Caesarean section?” Spencer asked.
“I can tell you it was crude. It wasn’t done by anyone with any real medical experience,” she said, pointing to the incision. “See how he-“
“She,” Spencer corrected.”
“Excuse me?” she asked, looking up at him.
“She. This type of crime is almost always committed by a woman,” Spencer said.
The pathologist returned her attention to the body before her. “See how she made these small cuts here? It also appears she stopped here before resuming cutting, as if she were uncertain of the length or direction of the cut.”
“Any idea what kind of knife she used?” Prentiss asked.
“Oh, it was a scalpel. She had all the right tools to use, she just didn’t know how to wield them correctly.”
“Do you have any idea how she was restrained or incapacitated during the act?” Spencer asked.
“Her hands were bound together,” she said, “but there’s minimal bruising around her wrists; I doubt she struggled at all. The slight blistering and rash around her mouth and nose indicated she breathed something in. My bet’s on chloroform.”
“No other cuts or contusions to her body besides these?” Spencer asked.
She turned the body over slightly so they could see. “She has some bruising to her upper back and the back of her head. I suspect she was dragged by her feet for at least a short distance. Otherwise, she was in perfect health.”
“Doctor, let me ask you one more thing,” Spencer said. “Have you seen her medical records, and are you aware of the nature of the fetus’ birth defect?”
“I have and I am,” she replied. “The baby has an intestinal atresia, which is to say there’s a malformation causing a complete blockage of his intestines. While in utero, he received his nourishment entirely through the umbilical cord. But now, that baby has no way to digest anything. If whoever has him tries to feed him, he’ll projectile vomit.”
“Thank you for your time, Doctor,” Prentiss said, and turned with Spencer to leave.
“Agents?” the pathologist said. They stopped and turned. “Please find that baby and get him help. She deserved a healthy baby.”
“Yes ma’am,” Prentiss replied. Spencer couldn’t speak. He could only think of another mother who deserved a healthy baby.
Back at police headquarters, Prentiss went to find JJ, who had just finished speaking with Sharla’s husband on the worst night of his life. Spencer found Hotch alone in a conference room, surrounded by crime scene photos. Looking up, he said, “Reid, we’ve got a block of rooms at the hotel next to Virginia Tech campus. We’ll be sleeping in shifts tonight. I want you to go and get some rest. You look exhausted.”
“Hotch,” he protested, “I’m no more tired than anyone else here, and that baby needs me- he needs all of us!”
Hotch moved around the table and looked Spencer squarely in the eye. “It hasn’t escaped me that this case has hit very close to home with you. It’s already almost 2:00am, and Morgan and Rossi aren’t back from Wytheville yet. We’ll meet again when they’re here, and I’m going to need your mind fully with us and focused when we do. But right now you’re of no use to me. Go try and get some rest. I don’t want to see you back here before 7:00am.”
“But Hotch, I’m-“
“That’s an order, Agent Reid.”
Spencer turned and stormed out the door. He found Prentiss and demanded the keys to the SUV from her without a word and headed back out into the night. He was furious. He hated that they- the whole team of them!- always treated him as if he were fragile, weak in body, weak in mind. Impotent. That’s how they made him feel now. He was a grown man, dammit! He had a man’s education, a man’s responsibilities, a man’s station in life- he could do a man’s job, too. They needed to stop treating him like a child…
He checked into the hotel and went to his room. He stripped off his cold, soaked, dirty socks and hung them over the shower curtain rod. He fumbled in his go-bag for clean ones and put them on, but his toes still felt like ice. He stripped off the rest of his clothing down to his t-shirt and underpants, crawled into bed and curled up in a fetal position, feeling as though he’d never get properly warm.
A fetal position. He groaned. Why had he had to think of that? Maybe he was weak, weak in his heart. These past few days he’d vacillated between feeling as if his heart were racing so fast that it might beat right out of his chest and feeling it stop dead with terror and dread. He longed to call Christine, but it was too late. She had gone to sleep hours ago. But she always had something to say, something to soothe him, something to make him laugh, something that could always put his whole life into perspective. Maybe he was weak. He’d seen her cry that one time, when she’d told him the news that their baby might be born with birth defects incompatible with life- or might not even be born at all- and in the days since he’d seen no sign on her, no hint that she was worried or upset. She was stronger than he.
Tomorrow she would have to be strong again. It was his job, his duty as her husband to be with her for that ultrasound, to be strong and a source of comfort for her. Instead he was 240 miles away, trying to sleep in yet another strange hotel room while she was left to bear their shared burden of fear alone. He felt pathetic, as if he were failing her.
He turned over with a sigh and curled up again. There was only one person for whom he could be strong now- a baby boy without a name. He tried not to think of his father, a man who only hours before had been preparing to welcome his baby into the world in a very different manner. But even that baby he was of no use to now, lying there, shivering in his underwear. He punched his pillow and tried to sleep.
When he opened his eyes, the clock showed 5:53am. He sat up and put his hands to his head, as if in doing so he could draw the fatigue and weariness from his body and mind. He swung his feet over the side of the bed and shuffled first to the small, in-room coffee maker before stripping down for a quick shower. When he got out, he looked at his face and frowned; he had his electric shaver with him, but Christine must have poached it’s batteries for something else. That woman- was it really so difficult for her to go down to the kitchen and get them out of the utility drawer like a normal person? He sighed. He’d just have to go about looking scruffy today. He poured a cup of coffee and frowned again; they never left enough sugar for his taste.
He carried the mug with him into the room and turned on the TV to watch the news as he dressed himself. They were talking about children’s letters to Santa. He’d spent the weekend before last zealously decorating the house inside and out, imagining that next year, he’d be the one to don the red suit and laugh as his little child tore into mountains of presents, no doubt more enthralled by the boxes and paper and colored ribbons than the lovingly chosen books and toys. He wondered if Sharla’s husband had had that same dream. The local news now came on, and their headline story was of Sharla and her missing baby boy. Spencer finished pulling on his shoes, clicked the TV off, gulped down the last of his coffee and headed out the door.
He was standing in the hotel lobby, buttoning up his coat when he heard, “Hey! Spence! Hold up!” He turned and saw JJ getting off the elevator behind him. “We’ve gotta wait for Prentiss and Morgan, too,” she said.
Spencer sighed to himself. “Morgan’s always late,” he complained. “Didn’t anyone stay and work the case last night?”
JJ shook her head. “Hotch made us all come back for a few hours. Man, it really came down last night, didn’t it? The snow, I mean.”
Spencer shrugged his shoulders. “I suppose.”
The elevator dinged again, and Prentiss got off. “Wow, look at it outside! Glad I wore my boots yesterday,” she said. “Do we have time for me to get a cup of coffee?”
“Go ahead. We’re still waiting on Morgan,” JJ said. She turned her attention back to Spencer, who stood staring silently out the windows of the lobby. “Don’t worry,” she said. “We can punish Morgan for being late by making him clean the snow off the car.” Her feeble attempt at a joke fell on deaf ears. She cleared her throat and tried again. “Who would have imagined the FBI would be back in this little town so soon…after the shooting this spring, I mean.”
She continued to watch Spencer. Her mention of the Virginia Tech shooting got some reaction out of him- he pulled himself up straighter and lifted his head a little. His lips moved almost imperceptibly and suddenly his head turned to face JJ. “Get Prentiss. We have to go. Now.”
“Emily!” JJ called as she started to chase Spencer out the door. “Reid, wait! We’ve gotta give Morgan a ride, too!”
“Let him call a cab,” he replied, as he started to brush the wet, heavy snow from the SUV windows.
“What’s going on?” Prentiss called as she hurried towards them.
JJ pointed at Spencer. “I don’t know- ask him.”
“Just get in the truck,” Spencer ordered as he slid into the driver’s seat.
While the ladies were still trying to fasten their seat belts, Spencer backed out of the parking space, threw the SUV in gear and started to drive off. As he turned left to get out of the hotel parking lot, they saw a figure immediately in front of them. Spencer slammed on the breaks and slid to a stop, just as Morgan threw up his hands and placed them on the front of the SUV. He ran around and climbed in the side of the vehicle. “What the hell, man? Are you trying to kill me?” he yelled.
“We just need to get to the police station,” Spencer said as he pulled out into traffic. He drove like a madman down the few blocks to the station, turned right, and started to slide through the snowy intersection into oncoming traffic. While the others shouted at him in alarm, he pulled up in front of the station and jumped out of the vehicle.
“Reid, you can’t leave this in a handicapped parking spot!” Prentiss yelled as he ran up the stairs.
“So move it,” he yelled back, tossing the keys over his shoulder to no one in particular.
Once inside, he tried to run towards the conference room, but started to slip on the wet floors and slowed his pace. He burst into the room to find Hotch and Rossi talking with the police chief and a couple of uniformed officers. “I’ve figured it out,” he blurted out. “It didn’t make sense before, but now I know why.”
“You figured what out?” Hotch asked coolly.
“It didn’t make sense. The ME said that she was cut using surgical tools, but by someone without medical experience,” he said, speaking quickly. “But then JJ mentioned the campus shooting. Seung-Hui Cho began his spree in a dormitory before crossing campus and opening fire in Norris Hall. That’s right next to the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, and what do architecture students use to make models?”
“Glue?” said one of the officers.
“Wood?” said Rossi.
“X-Acto knives!” Spencer said. “Small, extremely sharp modeling knives! Guys, I think our unsub could be a student!” He fished his cellphone out of his pocket and dialed a number.
“Good wonderful wintery morning, my fellow genius! Are you enjoying this glorious white wonderland of snow as much as I am?” Garcia gushed on the other end.
“Garcia, you’re on speaker,” he said, ignoring her greeting. “I need you to find a list of female architecture students with vehicles on campus who may have been pregnant recently.”
“You’re thinking she lost her own baby and is trying to replace it by passing Sharla’s off as her own?” Rossi asked.
“That’s exactly what I’m thinking,” he replied.
“How do I find someone who may have been pregnant recently?” Garcia asked. “You want me to check hospital records for stillbirths?”
“Check for regular visits to either the campus clinic or a local obstetrician’s office, Garcia,” Hotch said.
“I’ve got a Kelly Reynolds…she gave birth to a baby girl a month ago…” Garcia said.
“A live birth?” Spencer asked.
“Looks like it, yeah.”
“No good. Sharla’s baby is a boy, anyway,” Spencer said.
“This has to be a woman who miscarried, then,” Hotch said. “Dan Covington said no one but he and Sharla knew it was going to be a boy. They wanted to surprise their family.”
“I have a Rosalba Peña. She’s been making regular visits to New Beginnings Obstetrics for six and a half months now…”
“Garcia, see if you can get a photo of her,” Hotch said. “Is she Hispanic?”
“She appears to be, yes,” Garcia replied.
“Sharla’s blonde. She wouldn’t be able to pass that baby off as her own,” Hotch said. “Keep looking, Garcia.”
“My last hit is a Jill Perkins. Brown hair, blue eyes. She visited Blacksburg Women’s Health just this week.”
“How long had it been since her previous appointment?” Spencer asked.
“Four weeks,” she replied.
“Still no good,” Spencer said, placing his hands on the table. “Women in their third trimester visit the doctor weekly. Jill is too early in her pregnancy…”
“What if we’re looking at this wrong,” Rossi said. “Maybe she’s not a student. An older woman may have a harder time conceiving and might be more desperate to take a baby if she lost one.”
“A faculty member?” Spencer said. “Garcia, check for faculty members that meet our criteria.”
After a moment she said, “I have a Donna Evans, Associate Professor of Architecture, was visiting Dr. Laura Hudgins, OB/GYN weekly until…two and a half weeks ago.”
“That was just before finals at Virginia Tech. Did she take time off, Garcia?” Spencer asked.
“Gimme a second…she’s got a review on with a student thanking her for the B+ and wishing her good luck with the baby. Looks like she finished the semester.”
Spencer turned to the others. “She miscarried that baby at home and went to work, hiding the fact that she lost the pregnancy. She’s our unsub.”
“What do we do now?” the police chief asked. “This all sounds plausible, but we don’t have enough for a warrant.”
“Send Reid to go knock on her door,” Morgan suggested. “He could pose as a student with a question about his grade. If we see her with a baby in her arms, we’ll have probable cause.”
“She’ll know I’m not a student,” Spencer protested. “She’s never seen me before!”
“Look kid,” Rossi said, “Morgan’s idea can work. Of course all of your professors remembered you, but average students in a large lecture room? They’re just faces in a crowd.”
“Reid, Morgan and Rossi are right,” Hotch said. “Leave your tie here. Go knock on her door and get us probable cause. The clock is ticking for this baby. Garcia, you have her address?”
“I’ve already sent it to your phones.”
“Chief Faulkner, have a couple of squads follow and park around the corner,” Hotch said. “We don’t want to spook her and risk her disposing of that baby.”
“Devon,” JJ said.
“Excuse me?” Hotch said, looking up.
“Dan Covington told me his name is Devon,” she said quietly.
“Devon,” Hotch repeated. “Reid, we’ll put a wire on you. Chief, we're also going to need to have an ambulance ready to transport him if we find him there.”
An hour later, Spencer pulled a car up in front of Donna Evans’ address, put it in park and reviewed what he would say in his mind. He checked his rear view mirror; around the corner, just out of sight from the house was a squad car. He knew a second one was behind it, and somewhere, behind that, were Hotch, Rossi. He took a deep breath, got out, and went up the snowy steps to ring the doorbell of the house.
From somewhere inside, he heard the faint cries of a baby. His heart leapt in his throat. Then he heard footsteps coming to the door. After an agonizing pause, the was opened by a disheveled lady with a baby in her arms. “Can I help you?” she asked wearily.
Spencer cleared his throat. “Yes, um, hi, Professor Evans. I was in your Foundation Design class this semester and had a question about…sorry, I didn’t realize you’d had your baby. Congratulations, by the way.”
The professor studied his face for a moment before turning her attention back to the baby in her arms who had begun to cry again. “Thank you. I’m sorry, he’s so fussy this morning. He won’t take his bottle…”
“May I hold him?” Spencer asked, his heart racing. “I…I have a way with babies.” The professor looked at him again and when she hesitated he added, “Studies show that coming into contact with many people is beneficial to newborns. It strengthens their immune systems.”
“Okay,” she said slowly, nudging the door open for him to step inside. “Careful,” she warned as she placed him in Spencer’s arms. “Watch his head.”
“Yes, of course,” he said, rocking the infant gently in his arms. “They can’t hold their heads up until they’re at least two months old. How old is he- it is ‘he’, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” she said, smiling. “It's a boy. His name is Jackson. He’s just three days old. What was it you said you had a question about?”
“I’m surprised you’re out of the hospital so soon after your Caesarean section,” Spencer said, ignoring her question.
The professor eyed him sharply. “I didn’t have a c-section. I gave birth naturally.”
“No, that’s impossible,” Spencer said. “You see, if this baby had passed through the birth canal, his parietal bones would be elongated still. This baby's head is too round.”
The professor reached for the infant. “I think you need to give him back to me now and leave.”
Spencer took a step back. “You’re not getting this baby back. I’m a federal agent, and you’re under arrest for the murder of Sharla Covington and the abduction of her son, Devon.”
Donna Evans cried out and lunged for the child just as two uniformed officers rushed in to restrain her. As they put handcuffs on her and read her her Miranda rights, Spencer tucked the blanket around Devon and turned to go out the door. The ambulance had pulled around the corner. As Spencer walked toward it, Rossi and Hotch approached him. “Good job, kid,” Rossi said. “That couldn’t have gone any better.”
“Yes,” Hotch agreed, “well done, Agent Reid.”
“I’d like to ride with him to the hospital, if possible,” Spencer said.
“That’s fine,” Hotch said. He looked into the back of the ambulance and said to the paramedic, “Ma’am, this agent is going to ride in with him.” Turning back to Reid he said, “I’m going to have Morgan take Dan Covington to the hospital to meet him there. He’ll give you a ride back.”
Spencer nodded. Looking down at Devon in his arms, he kissed him tenderly on the forehead before handing him to the paramedic and climbing into the ambulance. Hotch and Rossi exchanged looks at the unexpected gesture.
At the hospital, Spencer climbed down out of the ambulance and walked behind as the baby was rushed through the doors. He stood back a few paces and stopped as the stretcher carrying the infant paused for a man who bent over it and stroked Devon’s downy little head. After a moment, he stepped back and the baby was whisked away behind closed doors. Morgan approached the man, said something in his ear, and the two of them walked in Spencer’s direction.
“Reid,” Morgan said, “this is Dan Covington. Sir, this is the agent who found your son.”
Mr. Covington eyed Spencer for a moment then threw his arms around him. Spencer was taken aback, unaccustomed to being touched by strangers, but he resisted to urge to pull away. Finally, the man released him, grabbed his hand and said, “Thank you. Thank you for everything. I owe you my son’s life.”
Spencer stood, slightly abashed, and said quietly, “You’re going to be a great father,” before following Morgan out of the hospital.
Spencer was silent during the trip back to Quantico- unusually so. He stared out the window continuously, stopping only to check his watch. As they drew closer to home, the others noticed that he pulled out his cellphone and held it in his hand, as if waiting for it to ring.
Hotch had given them all instructions to take the rest of the day off once they returned. After the others had all been let out in the parking garage by their cars, Morgan and Spencer were left alone in the SUV. “I parked on the third floor,” Spencer said quietly.
As they drove to his vehicle, Morgan spoke up. “Look, kid. I get it. This was a rough case for you. You saw yourself in Dan Covington, and it must’ve scared the hell out of you. But you did something pretty incredible today: you put that case together and found that kid in time. No one else could have done that.”
Spencer muttered something Morgan couldn’t hear. “What’s that?” he asked.
“I said you don’t get it. You really don’t.”
Morgan pulled the SUV up next to Spencer’s car and put it in park. He looked over at his friend. “Then explain it to me. Tell me what I’m missing.”
Just then, the cellphone in Spencer’s hand buzzed. He glanced at it and dropped his head. Morgan thought he might be crying. “Come on, man,” he said, more gently this time, “tell me what’s going on with you.”
Without looking up, Spencer sniffed and said, “Last Friday, Christine was told that there might be a problem with out baby, that the fetus might not even be viable. She had to go in for an ultrasound today so they could take some measurements. That was her- she just texted me.”
“Oh, god, Reid. What’d she say?”
He sniffed again and looked up. “Everything’s fine. The baby is perfectly normal and healthy.” With that, Spencer gave way and began to sob.
Morgan reached over and put one hand on his shoulder. “Reid, no one’s happier for you than me- you know that, right? But you don’t need to go around carrying stuff like this alone. I’m here for you, man!”
Spencer shook his head. “I…I couldn’t say anything. To anyone. Talking about it would have made it too real.”
“Well, it wasn’t real, but this is: you’re going to be a father, Reid.” He shook Spencer’s shoulder playfully. “This is really happening!”
Spencer now started to laugh. “Yeah, you’re right. I’m really going to be a dad!” He chuckled again and said as he turned to get out of the SUV, “Hey, thanks for the ride.”
“Any time, man.”
Morgan watched as Spencer walked around to his car and rolled his window down. “Hey Reid- is that a baby seat in the back of your car?”
Spencer turned back towards him. “Yeah. We, ah, bought it a few weeks ago. Christine said I couldn’t have it in my car until the baby was born, but when I found out last week that…Well, I put it back in. I didn’t want to give up on my child. I couldn’t do that.”
Morgan nodded. “And you never will. Get out of here now, kid. Go home to your wife.”
It was early afternoon when Spencer pulled up in front of the house, but Christine already had all the Christmas lights shining. He saw a curtain move in the front parlor window, and by the time he’d gotten out of the car, she was standing on the veranda. He looked up at her a smiled, which sent her bounding down he stairs before leaping into his arms. She clung tightly to him, her arms and legs completely encircling him, and buried her face in his neck. “I’ve never been so happy in my life,” she whispered as her tears wet his neck.  "I heard it's heartbeat."
At length he set her down, took her face in his hands, and lifted it to his own. After he kissed her, he said, “So, she’s okay? They measured her head and-“
“And limbs and spine. Yes. Everything’s fine. And it’s he.”
“They could tell?”
“No, but you’re wrong about it being a girl just because I know you’re wrong.”
He shook his head and smiled again. “Come on. Let’s get you inside; it’s freezing out here.” As he was taking his coat off inside, he remarked, “What is that amazing smell?”
“I just put an apple pie in the oven. I was so happy I had to bake.”
He hung up his coat and pulled her to him. “How much longer does it have to bake?”
“35 or 40 minutes, I think.”
“That should be enough time.”
“Enough time for what?” she asked.
He bent down and placed a slow, sweet kiss on her lips. “You really don’t know?” he said with a grin. “Come on, let’s go upstairs and celebrate.”
She giggled and followed as he took her hand and led her to the staircase.

The first case referenced in this chapter is from season 3, episode 11, “Birthright”. It originally aired December 12, 2007.
The Virginia Tech shooting took place on April 16, 2007.

Chapter Text

At the sound of the doorbell, Spencer put down his pen and opened the library door. “I’ve got it,” he called out.
“Good, ‘cause I’m elbow deep in dough over here,” Christine answered from the kitchen.
As he walked to the front door, he wondered who could be there so early; one of her brothers and their families would simply let themselves in the house, though they weren’t expected today- they’d all met to celebrate Christmas with Christine’s family in Illinois just days before. He opened the door just as the new arrival was reaching for the doorbell again. “Whoa, Rossi! Come on in. You’re early!”
He handed a dish and some bags to Spencer to hold while he took off his coat and replied, “I thought the lady of the house might appreciate an extra set of hands in the kitchen today.”
“Um…” Spencer hesitated.
“What?” Rossi asked. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s just…well, she tends to regard men in her kitchen with a suspicious eye is all.”
“I think I can handle her,” Rossi said. “After all, I-“
“Sparky!” Christine called from the other room. “Who’s here? Are you talkin’ smack about me behind my back in there?”
“No, dear,” Spencer called back. “I was just telling Agent Rossi how much I love and respect you!”
“Nice save, kid,” Rossi said with a smirk. “And you can drop the ‘Agent’. It’s Christmas Eve, and today I’m just Dave.”
“Alright then, Dave,” Spencer said, feeling very strange and somehow disrespectful at calling the man he considered a legend of the BAU by his first name, “she’s back here in the kitchen. Just remember- I tried to warn you. Dear,” he said, standing now in the doorway to the kitchen, “Dave came early. He’d like to help you.”
Christine looked up from the dough she was kneading on the table with one eyebrow raised. “I don’t get it,” she said after a moment. “Spencer, generally one has to tell the punchline to get the laugh.”
“No joke,” Rossi said, placing his dish on the counter and his bags on the floor. “How can I help?”
“I’ll, uh, leave you two alone, then…I guess,” Spencer said awkwardly before turning to leave.
Christine returned her attention to her kneading. “So tell me, Dave- can you be trusted around sharp objects?”
“Well, I am authorized to carry a gun. I can’t imagine you have anything in this kitchen that would pose greater danger than that, so yeah, I think I can handle a knife.”
Christine looked up from her dough. “Who said anything about a knife? Reach in the second drawer from the left over there and grab yourself a peeler. I have a sack of potatoes that needs attention.” Seeing the look on his face she added, “What, you have a problem with potatoes ?”
“I’m a retired Marine. I’ve spent my fair share of time on KP duty, so I’m not unfamiliar with a potato peeler. But come on, men can cook, too. What are you- sexist?”
“In the kitchen, you’re goddamn right I am. My own father could burn water trying to boil it, and my brothers ain’t a whole lot better. You know, one time my brother Joe tried to make a hard-boiled egg, but he fell asleep on the couch while it was cooking and only woke up after it had boiled dry and the damn thing exploded.”
“How about I promise not to blow anything up while I’m in your kitchen- would that make you trust me?” Rossi rolled his eyes as Christine eyed him suspiciously. “Hey, I’m Italian, same as you. I grew up in the kitchen at my mama’s apron strings. On her blessed grave I promise you I can handle anything you ask of me!”
“Hand me that bowl there, the greased one,” Christine said, pointing. She put her dough in it and held her hand out. “Saran Wrap,” she said. After she’d covered the bowl, she sighed and said, “I suppose, if you really want to, I could have you work on some raviolis for me.”
“Now you’re speaking my language!” Rossi said, snapping his fingers. “So, where is everything?”
“The dough is over there in that bowl to the left, I’m sure you see the pasta roller there, and the filling is in that saucepan on the stove,” Christine said, pointing. “I’ll get the cutter out for you when you get that far…”
“What is this?” Rossi asked, lifting the lid on the pan.
“Squash.” Christine gave a little shrug and added, “Eh, it’s seasonal, and I wanted to have something Penny could eat, too. She never complains, but I always feel like I'm leaving her out somehow when she’s over for dinner.”
“That’s thoughtful of you,” Rossi said, turning a knob on the pasta maker. “In my house, vegetarians are usually given two options: to make do or to starve. So tell me- where’s your shadow today? The little blonde one, I mean.”
“Who, Alex?” Christine asked, picking up a potato peeler. She sighed a little and said, “She’s not blonde anymore, now. She dyed her hair back to brown a few weeks ago. Anyway, she’s got the holiday off so she, ah, she decided to spend it with Grant.”
Rossi thought he heard the slightest hitch in Christine’s voice and turned to look at her. He couldn’t read her face; it was turned away and down, as she began to work on the potatoes. “And this Grant is some kind of boyfriend, I’m guessing?”
“Yeah, Anderson. You know- the tall guy from the office?”
“Anderson?” Rossi said with surprise. “Huh. I never knew his name was Grant. So those two are an item?”
“Yep. They’ve been a thing for about a year now, I suppose.”
“You, um, don’t seem exactly keen on the idea of them being a couple. Don’t you like him?”
“What? No. Grant, he’s a great guy. A really great guy.” Her voice trailed off a little, and after a moment she said, “It just didn’t hit me until today, really, that she’s really gone. On Christmas Eve, of all days.”
“It’s a lot of work to feed a crowd. If I’d have known you were alone in the kitchen, I’d have come over earlier.”
“No no. It’s not that. I mean, come on, it’s just you, me, Spencer, Penny and Emily today. That’s hardly a crowd. But somehow it just doesn’t feel right celebrating the holiday without her. The whole house feels wrong to me. Did you even see this place, the way it’s decorated?”
“What are you talking about? This place looks like it came out of the pages of a magazine!”
“That’s exactly my point! Do you think I had anything to do with that? I didn’t do a damn thing. That was totally all Spencer and Alex. And it’s fucking perfect. Perfect, except for the fact that a third of us is missing today.”
“So they’re not even coming for dinner?”
“Nah. He got tickets to see The Nutcracker, because she’s never been to the ballet, and then they’re having dinner and spending the night at some cozy little bed and breakfast with a fireplace in their room and…goddamn it!” she cried, raising her peeler in the air. “I wanted to see The Nutcracker this year! I would have paid for all four of us to go! But nooo…Spencer is always too busy, and then Grant swoops in and whisks her away from me for a perfect fucking little evening, just the two of them! Why the hell isn’t he back in Idaho or Wyoming or whatever the hell they call the god forsaken, barren wasteland he comes from? Montana. That’s where he’s from. It’s practically fucking Canada, you know that, right? How can he even work for the FBI if he’s practically from Canada? That’s a threat to our national security right there, I tell you what. And where does this all leave me? Pathetically peeling potatoes all by my lonesome, that’s where.”
“Gee, thanks. So what am I- chopped liver?” Rossi said with a smile.
“Aw, you know what I mean. But it would be like having to spend Christmas without Spencer, you know? Even worse, because I spend way more time with Alex than I do with him.”
“What?” they heard Spencer ask from down the hall. “What is it? What do you want? I don’t understand!”
Both Christine and Rossi stopped what they were doing and listened to him.
“Would you calm down?” he continued. His voice was growing closer in the hallway and they could now hear Spud meowing. “I don’t know what you want! Would you get off me?” Finally he appeared in the door of the kitchen, and Spud trotted off to sit in front of a cabinet where he continued to meow. “Chris,” he said, exasperated, “do you know what’s wrong with this animal?”
“Oh,” she replied, “he probably wants a pudding cup. They’re in the lazy Susan over there.”
“A pudding cup? Why on earth would he want a pudding cup?”
Christine shrugged. “I dunno. A few weeks ago, Alex let him lick one she had finished and he liked it. Just make sure you don’t give him a chocolate one. And set it on the floor in the mud room for him. I don’t want him to get used to eating in the kitchen.”
“Excuse me, Rossi,” Spencer said as he leaned over and opened the cabinet door. He held one of the treats up, and Spud stood up on his hind legs to paw at him. “Is this what you want, you goofy cat? Well, I’ll be damned. Pardon my language,” he said, looking from Rossi to his wife and back. “Everything okay in here?”
“Well, sure,” Christine said, “except I’m I little jealous of your friend over here. He gets to take my new pasta maker for a spin before I do.”
Rossi raised his eyebrows. “It’s new?”
Christine nodded. “An early Christmas present from Sparky here.”
“Yeah,” Spencer said a little sheepishly. “JJ warned me once never to buy a woman cooking or cleaning supplies as a gift unless I want to have them thrown at me, but Chris insisted she wanted and needed that, so…”
“I just can’t believe a woman like you never had a pasta maker before,” Rossi said. “Shame on you. What kind of Italian are you?”
“The kind that eats her macaroni with cheese and gets her pizza out of the freezer.”
“Oh, don’t be so modest, dear,” Spencer said. “She makes the best pasta sauce, Rossi. I mean, the best!”
Christine rolled her eyes. “That’s Prego, Spencer.”
“What?” Spencer said as he bit into a Christmas cookie.
“That’s the brand name of it,” Christine said. “It comes from a jar.”
“You’re kidding.”
“Far left cabinet, top shelf. Should be three jars in there now.”
Spencer turned and opened the door. “Well I’ll be…”
“I also have about a half dozen cans of Chef Boyardee on hand at any given time,” Christine said to Rossi. “I’m not proud of that, it’s just how we are. Alex likes the spaghetti and meatballs, he like the mini raviolis, and I’m a beefaroni kinda girl.”
“I…I can’t even…” Rossi stammered, clutching his chest. “You’re killin’ me here…”
“She makes an awesome tater tot pizza casserole, though,” Spencer offered.
Rossi groaned. “Oh my God…”
“Sweetheart,” Christine said, “I know you think you’re helping, but please, just stop.”
“Sorry,” he said, shoving the last of the cookie in his mouth. “I’ll leave you two to continue doing…whatever it is you’re doing, I guess. Come on, Spud.”
After they’d watched him leave, Rossi said, “I never would have figured Spencer for a cat-person.”
“He’s not so much a cat-person as Spud is a Spencer-cat,” Christine replied. “He’s technically Alex’s pet, but I think he gravitates towards Spencer’s aloofness and general disregard when he’s around.”
“They’re kindred spirits,” Rossi said. After a moment he asked, “So, I understand you went home for Christmas this past weekend?”
“And did you tell your mother the happy news before you went?”
Christine sighed. “Yeah. And it went over like the proverbial lead zeppelin. Incidentally, have you ever heard the story of how the band got it’s name?”
“Yeah. Legend has it Jimmy Page was telling Keith Moon and John Entwistle about his plans to form The New Yardbirds and they said the name would go over like a lead zeppelin. Now that was a legendarily fortuitous turn of phrase, but I’m guessing you're using it in it’s original crash-and-burn interpretation…”
Christine rolled her eyes. “I was like, ‘Hey, Mom, guess what? You’re going to be a grandma again!’ to try and put a good spin on it for her. But all she could bring herself to say was, ‘Oh no. Why did you have to go and do it so soon? Your careers are just starting to take off!’”
Rossi stared at her, his mouth agape. “See that?” she said. “That’s exactly the reaction I had. Like, Jesus, Mother! I could use a little fucking support right now! Of course, I didn’t say that to her, because intellectually, at least, I get where she’s coming from. The woman put her career on hold to raise us, but come on! You saw me the day I found out- I wasn’t exactly the queen of smooth reactions that day.”
“Has your mother even met Spencer? He’s gotta be the son-in-law of their dreams!”
“Oh, she adores him. She likes him better than she likes me. I’m not even joking. But it’s true that that guy has no clue what he’s in for. He’s so happy right now, he can’t even fathom how much work this is gonna be. He’s never even babysat before. You remember my brother, the one with the whole herd of kids? His wife got pregnant two months after she had their daughter. With triplets. Triplets that were born at seven months. In less than a year they had four babies. My mother sent me for a summer to help them, because God knows Wes was a whole fat fucking lot of help around the house. Now, I know having one won’t be the literal shit storm that was, but Spencer refuses to even come to some kind of agreement with me on the logistics of raising this kid. I mean, literally- who is gonna take care of it? Think about that for a second.”
“Neither of you has a very traditional job, do you?”
“Ya think? And who’s job pays to keep this money pit of a house standing? Good Lord, the upkeep on this place! The whole veranda needs to be torn off and rebuilt, the garage needs a new roof, I have to have some of those trees taken down because they’re rotten and I don’t want them coming down on the house in a storm and murdering us in our sleep, and we need a whole new A/C system because I will not be sweatin’ it out when I’m nine months pregnant with that underpowered piece of shit we have. You think his salary is going to cover that? We live here because of what I make. I pay for all this. The most reasonable thing for us to do would be for him to quit his job and be a househusband. Not like I can even discuss that with him, though. So what, then? I think he thinks that we’re going to find some nanny who will watch this kid 24 hours a day while I’m on the road and he’s on a case. But I’ll be damned if I’ll pay someone else to raise my child for me. So that leaves us with me taking the kid on the road with me. He’ll have a parent with him all the time except for the hour or so I’m on stage, but then Spencer will only get to see him on the weekends. It sounds like the least worst option to me, but Spencer doesn’t seem inclined to entertain it. I really don’t see a viable alternative, though, at least while I’m nursing, do you?”
Rossi pressed him lips together for a moment and said, “Look, I’ve got no kids of my own, so it’s not really my place to tell other people how to raise theirs. There is one other option, though- you could quit your job and sell the house, you know…”
Christine glared at him and said, “I may sell the house, but I’ll never quit stand-up.”
Rossi shrugged. “Well, the good news is you’ve got, what, seven months before you have to make a decision?”
“More like six.”
“Still, there’s time. You keep saying ‘he’. Have you found out the sex already?”
“That appointment won’t be for another month, and we’re still not sure we’re gonna ask. He’s in the ‘let’s be surprised’ camp, but I say what’s the difference if we find out early? We’re still gonna be surprised either way. As for me, I think it’s a boy. He want’s a girl, though.”
Rossi smiled. “I can already picture Spencer spoiling his little princess.”
Christine huffed. “That is one thing no one will ever call a daughter of mine- princess!”
“Oh, come on! What have you got against that?”
“Historically, princesses were miserable creatures who were bought, sold and traded as political pawns. But my main objection lies in the over-Disneyfication of the term. Little girls are being raised in our society to believe that happiness comes from possessions, and that their self-worth is found in the men they attract. And I refuse to raise a shallow, spoiled, useless child. No. My daughter may be a artist or an astronaut or may find a cure for cancer, but I promise you, people will pay attention to and respect her because of what she’s got going on between her ears, not for how she looks or whose ring she wears.”
“Listen, kiddo- I’m sure people will use many words to describe your kid, but shallow and useless ain’t gonna be two of them.”
Christine chuckled. “What about spoiled?” she asked as she put down her last potato and stood up to inspect Rossi’s progress.
“Now that,” he said, “is another matter entirely. Your husband seems like he’s going to do his damnedest to do just that. You’re going to have to be the voice of reason in the face of excess.”
Christine reached over Rossi's arm and picked up one of the completed raviolis. As she held it up, she asked, “Have you ever noticed how much raviolis resemble condom wrappers?”
Rossi snatched the ravioli from her hand and stared at her. “If this were my mother’s kitchen, you’d get paddled with a wooden spoon for a remark like that!”
“Hey, good idea! I’ll have to tell Spencer tonight I was a bad girl. I love a good spanking!”

One by one, they filed into the parlor after dinner and collapsed onto the chairs and sofa. “Oh,” Prentiss groaned, “that was delicious, Christine. Too much, but delicious.”
“Why, oh why didn’t I stop after one piece of pie?” Garcia moaned. She pointed at Christine. “I blame you for making more than one kind!”
Christine laughed. “Amateurs! And I had to have two kinds of pie, because you have to have pumpkin pie for Christmas, but not everyone likes a custard pie, you know?”
“They were both wonderful, dear,” Spencer said. “Everything was- as usual.”
“Aw, aren’t you the sweetest?” Christine said with a smile. “Just for that, I’m gonna have to take you out for a special meal sometime, just the two of us. You’ve just earned yourself a trip to Sizzler for a steak of equal or lesser value to mine.”
Prentiss laughed. “Sizzler! Do they even still have those?”
“As long as there’s horse meat to be fried, there’ll be a Sizzler,” Rossi said.
“Ugh, could you people try and disgust me less?” Garcia complained. “How can you even joke about eating a poor horsey?”
“If you wanna hear something really disgusting, you should hear Diana’s story about her grandpa and the monkey brains!” Christine said gleefully.
“Please, no,” Prentiss said, waving her hand. “No one wants to hear that story, not when we’re this full!”
“He was in the army back in Korea and his commanding officer took some of them out for a special dinner,” Christine began, “and her grandfather was the only one who didn’t understand what the little silver hammers on the table were for…”
“No!” Garcia cried, putting her hands up to her ears and closing her eyes as Christine pantomimed hitting Spencer on the head with a hammer.
“But that’s not as bad as in Malaysia,” she continued, “where they serve the monkeys up live…”
“Stop!” a chorus of voices yelled as Garcia came close to tears.
“They say part of the thrill is hearing-“
“For the love of God,” Rossi said to Spencer, “do something about your wife!”
Spencer clapped his hand over her mouth and quickly jerked it away. “You licked me!” he complained as he wiped his hand on his trousers in disgust.
“And you tried to silence me! But my point is…” Christine’s voice suddenly trailed off as she sat up straight on the couch. The others turned to see what she was looking at as she got up and ran to the front door. Throwing it open, she said, “Well, I’ll be…come here, y’all! Look!”
The others crowded into the doorway behind her to see fat, glistening flakes of snow floating silently down to the earth. “Oh,” Garcia breathed. “We’re going to have a white Christmas!”
Christine stepped out to the edge of the veranda in her stocking feet and looked up at the sky. After a moment, Spencer said softly, “Dear, come inside. You’re getting wet.”
Christine turned and did as she was asked. Brushing the snow from her shoulders and hair she said, “we’ve already got nearly and inch and it doesn't look like it’s going to stop any time soon. I think y’all should stay here for the night. The roads will be too dangerous.”
“I’ve got four-wheel drive,” Rossi said. “I’ll be alright if I head out now.”
“Yeah,” said Prentiss, “mine has the same. And Garcia came with me, anyway.”
“Not only will the roads be slick,” Christine persisted, “but there’ll be drunks on the road. Please, we’ve got plenty of room, and I’d love to make everyone breakfast in the morning!”
“Nah,” said Rossi, “I wouldn’t want to impose on you more than I already have. I’d love to have a plate of leftovers for the road, though.”
“Ooh, me too!” Garcia said. “A big plate. And pie, too!”
“Yeah, I’d like some of that, too,” Prentiss agreed.
“Are you sure? It’s no trouble for us to have you, and it would be so much safer,” Christine fretted.
“Chris,” Rossi said, putting his hands on her shoulders, “thanks for the offer, but really, we’ll be fine.”
“Yeah, Chris,” said Prentiss, “you’ve done enough already.”
“But I just think-“
“Dear,” Spencer said, taking her hand, “come on. Let’s go make up some plates for them.”
After seeing their guests off, Spencer gently pulled Christine back into the house and said, “Why don’t you go upstairs and change into something warm and dry now? Your feet have got to be freezing.”
Christine sighed. “Oh, alright,” she said before trudging up the stairs and down the hall to their bedroom. She pulled off her clothes- they had gotten damp from standing in the snow- and sat down on the edge of the bed to peel off her cold, wet, filthy socks. She looked at them in disgust for a moment before balling them up and attempting to throw them into the hamper through the open closet door. She missed, but she didn’t pick them up as she walked past them into the closet. She stood for a few seconds, naked and dismayed, looking over the shelves before grabbing a plaid, flannel pajama set and pulling it on. She buttoned up the top and dragged herself back downstairs to rejoin her husband.
He was sitting on the end of the sofa nearest the light, turning the pages of a book. She picked up a magazine from the coffee table and flopped artlessly down beside him to flip through it. They sat together silently until Christine closed the magazine, slapped it down on the sofa beside her and crossed her arms. Spencer turned to look at her. “Okay. I can take a hint,” he said. “So what’s bothering you- the weather, still?”
“It’s not safe out there,” she pouted, crossing her arms. “They should have stayed with us tonight. It’s not like any of them had family to rush home to. They should have stayed with us.”
“Christine, you don’t know what their holiday traditions are. Maybe they each enjoy the rare bit of solitude.”
“Holidays are for spending time with family. Yet here it is, Christmas, and we’ve got no one.”
Spencer moved his bookmark and set his book down on the side table. “I could point out to you that we have each other, but that’s not what this is about, is it?”
“You know damn well what this is about.”
“I do.”
“Then why aren’t you upset, too? She should be here. This is her home now, and we’re her family. Instead she’s out there right now, driving God-knows-where in the middle of a blizzard-“
“It’s hardly a blizzard, dear.”
“Who’s side are you on, anyway?”
Spencer put his arm around his wife with a chuckle and pulled her to him. “I’m on your side, of course,” he said, kissing the top of her head. “And you need to remember that part of loving Alex is being happy for her, because she’s having a wonderful time with a nice young man- a man you yourself like very much- and because you want her to have life that doesn’t solely revolve around you all the time. You want these things for her, don’t you?”
“Well, yeah, but-“
“No. You don’t get to say, ‘yeah, but’. Either you’re happy for her because you love her, or you’re not because you’re too focused on your own feelings of loss. So which are you going to be, Christine?”
Christine was silent for a moment and said, “I’m happy for her. I am.”
“Aren’t you the least bit worried about them being out in this weather, though?”
“Of course I am. But unlike you, I checked the weather forecast in advance and spoke with Grant about it before they left. I made sure both their cellphones were fully charged and made him promise to stop at the first hotel they came to if the weather got too bad. And like you said, he’s practically Canadian, so I trust him to know how to drive in the snow.”
Christine looked up at him. “Oh. You heard that part, huh?”
“Babydoll, I love you, but you’re about as subtle as a jackhammer at 6:00am on a Saturday morning.”
She wrapped her arms around his waist and squeezed. “Thank you for loving me anyway.”
He kissed the top of her head again and picked up his book. She continued to nestle against him for a minute or two before trying to reach into his pocket. “Hey! What are you trying to do?” he said.
“Your phone. Where is it?”
“It’s in my other pocket,” he answered. “Come on now,” he said, annoyed, as she stretched across his lap to find it. “Why do you need my phone?”
She found the device and sat back up without answering him. After a moment she said, “Seriously, you have the Barenaked Ladies on here? Oh…no, wait…and Celine Dion, too? Aaahahahaha!”
He tried unsuccessfully to snatch it back from her. “I’m a child of the 90s. What’s wrong with that?”
“What’s it with you and Canadian pop? Do you hate America, Spencer?”
He reached again for his phone, but she moved further down the sofa. “You hypocrite. What about all the British music you listen to? We fought a war to get away from those people!”
“Oh, go eat some poutine and apologize for something you didn’t do, ya maple syrup swilling moose humper. Wait. There…I think I got it…” Beethoven’s 6th Symphony began to play on the speakers in the room.
Spencer held out his hand. “Why couldn’t you use your own phone for that?”
She handed his phone back to him with a shrug. “Not sure where I left it.”
He laid his arm back over her as she snuggled back up against him and was about to pick up his book when she said, “You know, there is one good thing to being home alone on Christmas Eve…”
“Oh? What’s that?”
She looked up at him and smiled mischievously. “We’re alone.”
He smiled back at her. “Alone can be a very good thing. Would you like to go upstairs?”
She shook her head and tugged at his collar. “We can screw around upstairs any time.”
He raised his eyebrows. “Here?”
She nodded. He looked around and stood up to go to the curtains and close them. She laughed at him. “Just who do you think is lurking around out there at this hour?”
“What if one of our guests misplaced, oh, I don’t know, their cellphone and needs to come back for it?”
“It would certainly spice up conversation around the office, wouldn’t it? ‘So, uh, Agent Reid, came by your house the other day and saw ya stickin’ it to the old lady…’”
“Hotch was right about you,” he said as he moved to lock the front door. “You do pose a threat to common decency.”
“I try.”
“Would you like me to build a fire?”
“I’d like you to get naked already and get over here.”
“As you wish,” he said, unbuttoning his shirt and tossing it aside. She began to get undressed as well. He had just pulled down his pants and was about to climb onto the sofa with her when she suddenly jumped up and ran out of the room in her panties. “What? Where are you going?” he called after her, exasperated.
“To find a lighter,” she called back.
“I thought you didn’t want a fire!”
She came back into the room holding a lighter aloft. “I wanna see if these cranberry scented candles smell as festive as promised.”
He sat on the couch, naked except for his socks, and watched as she moved about the room, lighting the candles. After she’d lit the last one, he turned off the reading lamp so that the room was illuminated by the candles and twinkling lights of the Christmas tree. “Romantic,” he said with a smile as she reached out to stroke his hair.
“Lay down,” she said. “It’s my turn to be on top.” He did as he was ordered and held her hips lightly as she climbed atop him. She bent down to give him a long, slow kiss while her hand moved down his body and wrapped around his penis. She stroked him as her lips moved to his cheek and then his neck. His grasp on her hips grew tighter until she moved into place, allowing him to pull her down onto him. They moved together, and his hands wandered up her body to cup her breasts. He raised his head to kiss them, but she suddenly tumbled off him.
“God dammit!” she shouted.
He sat up. “What happened?”
“My knee slipped. Shit! Gimme a hand, wouldja?”
He reached out and helped her up. “Sure you don’t want to go upstairs?” he asked.
“No, let’s try this again. But scoot. You’re gonna be on top.”
He moved to one end of the couch so she could lie down and then stretched himself out over her. He thrust into her hard, causing her to gasp. He wrapped his arms around her tightly and continued to thrust into her until she began to cry out and her thighs pressed tightly against his own. Finally he felt the familiar contractions of her vagina around him; he closed his eyes to enjoy the sensation and listen to her happy moaning. When her body relaxed, he opened his eyes again and smiled down at her giggling face. He sat back on his knees and ran his hands down her legs to her ankles and lifted them up over his shoulders. He leaned forward on his arms and, planting his feet against the arm of the sofa, drove himself into her once more. She continued to giggle and moved enthusiastically beneath him, urging him on with her voice and caresses. He felt a wave of electricity rise within him as he thrust faster and faster until finally he surrendered with a shout and let his orgasm overwhelm him.
He lay atop her, panting for several seconds as she ran her fingers through his hair. At last he said, “Merry Christmas to me…”
“Merry Christmas to both of us,” she chuckled.
He kissed her and sat up, still breathing heavily. She sat up, too, and kissed his shoulder, then neck, then cheek. “Wanna continue the festivities upstairs?” she asked with a smile.
He kissed her back and said, “Absolutely,” before turning to blow out the candle beside him.

His eyes were still closed the next morning when he felt a warm little kiss on his cheek. “Mmm,” he murmured, stirring. As he rolled over he said, “Merry Christ- oh. It’s you.” He closed his eyes and scrunched up his nose in disgust as Spud tried to lick his face again. “Stop! Leave me alone. Go bother Chris- she has your pudding for you!” He shoved the cat off the bed and shooed him out the bedroom door. He turned and stood naked for a moment, staring at the bed; he never had the chance to put pajamas on last night. He guessed that Christine had been up for a while. There was a small fire burning low in the fireplace and a little plate of cookies sat on his nightstand. He helped himself to one and wandered into the closet to get dressed. He first thought to wear trousers and a red sweater he thought looked festive, but soon he eschewed them for pajamas and a robe. He stepped into his slippers, helped himself to a second cookie, and headed downstairs.
When he reached the bottom of the stairs, he heard her moving about in the kitchen, so he crept down the hallway to the library. He gathered the bags and boxes he’d hidden in and under his desk and throughout the room and began carrying them to the parlor to place under the tree. When he heard the mixer turn on in the other room, he ran back up the stairs and retrieved the last little box he had placed in the gun safe and snuck back downstairs to slip it into her stocking.
“What is that incredible smell?” he said as he tried to stroll nonchalantly into the kitchen. He walked up behind Christine and caught her about the waist. “Merry Christmas,” he added, kissing her on the neck.
“Merry Christmas to you,” she replied, turning to kiss him. She gestured towards the oven and said, “See for yourself.”
“Oh, wow. Are those cinnamon rolls? Awesome!”
“I got Grandma’s recipe from Melly. Actually, you’re supposed to start them the night before and let them rest in the refrigerator overnight, but we were a little too busy for that last night.” She threw him a little smile. “They’re going to be a while. Can I get you some bacon and eggs while we wait?”
“I had cookies,” he said. “Thanks for that. I’m gonna help myself to some of that coffee, though.”
“Wait,” she said as he reached for a cup. “First I think you need to check and see what Santa left you on the table there.”
“Why?” he asked with a smile. “Do you think it could be a mug?”
“I dunno…”
He tore off the paper and opened the small box. “Oh wow! Look, it says, ‘World’s Greatest Dad.’ I love it! Thank you!”
“Don’t thank me. Thank Santa.”
“Come on. I think Santa left something under the tree for you, too!”
“Get yourself some coffee, first, before you start to get the shakes.”
“Oh, right.” He fixed himself a cup, took a sip, then grabbed her hand. “Come on!”
“I’m coming, I’m coming…”
He had her sit on the sofa and brought her a box. “Open it,” he urged.
She gave him a look. “This says it’s for ‘Baby Reid’.”
“Oh, alright. We’ll open it together!”
After all the paper was off, Christine read aloud, “Babycook 4 in 1 Steam Cooker and Blender.”
“So we can make our own baby food for her! Everything will be fresh, healthy, homemade and organic!”
“Geez, even the grownups don’t eat like that in our home.”
“Nonsense. But we’re going to have nothing but the best for our baby.”
“Well, I hope you enjoy steaming and blending, because I have a feeling I’m going to giving this kid a lot of Gerber, myself.”
Spencer sighed and set the box down. “Fine. I’ll make all her food myself, happily. Now here, look at this one.”
“Gee, another one for Baby Reid.”
“Yep! Come on, open it!”
Christine untied the bow and reached into the bag. “Oh, wow,” she said as she pulled out the tiny garments. “Would you look at that?”
“Aren’t they cute?” Spencer asked eagerly.
“Well, yeah, but sweetheart, these are diaper covers. You see how their waterproof on the inside? They’re meant to be worn with cloth diapers.”
“Exactly! 4,250,000 tons of disposable diapers end up in landfills annually where they can take up to a 1,000 years to degrade! We’re going to raise our baby environmentally responsibly by using cloth diapers. It’s just one simple extra step to wash them, and besides, they’re adorable, aren’t they?”
“Spencer Reid, you are a brilliant man, but you have no clue how hard it’s going to be to raise this child- or how messy. You do realize you have to rinse the poop out of a cloth diaper in the toilet, then you can only wash a couple of them together at a time in the washing machine, and since this kid is going to be pooping four to six times a day, you’re going to be running the washer constantly. Then of course you have to line-dry these because a dryer will ruin then. And you’ll notice I’m saying ‘you’ now, because I just honestly don’t see me using anything but Pampers on this kid. Remember, I live part of the year out of a hotel room, and that lifestyle just doesn’t jive with using cloth diapers.”
Spencer looked crestfallen. “You know how I feel about my child being raised in a hotel room…”
Christine pressed her lips together for a moment to bite back her words. It was Christmas, after all. “We’ll table that discussion for later,” she said, and kissed him on the cheek. “They are very cute, though. And you know what they’ll be great for? We can use them as swim diapers!”
“Do you really think it’ll be safe to take her in the pool?”
“I think it’ll be fine once he starts to hold his head up on his own. He’s due at the end of June, so by the end of August we can probably try it and see if he likes it. Oh, don’t look so worried. He’ll probably love splashing around!”
“We’ll see. Here- here’s one more present for you. And this one is actually for you…and maybe a little bit for me, too.”
He set a package the size of a shirt box on her lap. “Let me guess- you got it from the naughty lingerie store?”
“You’ll see…”
She tore off the paper and exclaimed, “Cake Pops!”
“Yeah! You can make cupcakes in little ball shapes and put sticks in them like lollipops!”
“That’s awesome! I love it!”
“Really? Because I saw it on TV while we were on a case and JJ told me you'd hate it…”
“Are you kidding me? It’s perfect! You know, I have a confession to make- I saw these on TV, too, and I really, really wanted them. I’ll make some this afternoon! No, wait. We’re gonna have cinnamon rolls today. Well, I’ll make some really soon. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. Here- I have another one, and this one really is just for you.”
“Oh no, is this what I think it is?” she asked as she tore off the paper. “It is! You got me Dixies! Yay! Thank you,” she gushed, leaning over to kiss him on the cheek.
“I ate most of your last box of them because I had sugar cravings while I was detoxing,” he said, putting his arm around her. “Christine, I’ll never forget what I put you through this year, what you’ve had to endure with me, and how, in a very real way, you saved my life. I can never repay you for that, but I thought that at least I could replace your Dixies.”
She put her arms around his waist and nestled her head against his chest. “Moments like this, when I see you happy and healthy- those are all the repayment I’ll ever need.” After a moment she added, “Now go check your stocking and see if Santa left you any coal.”
He jumped up and went to the mantle where they’d hung their stockings. “Well, it doesn’t feel like coal,” he said, plunging his hand in. “It’s…socks! And more socks! And another pair of socks! Thank you, babydoll! You know I’m always looking to add to my collection.”
“Keep going. It looks like there’s something lumpy in the bottom there…”
He fished around a little more before drawing out his hand. “Ooh, chocolates. Swiss ones! Yummy! Now check yours!” He lifted her stocking off its hook and brought it over to her.
She reached in and pulled out a small box, which she unwrapped. “Spencer Reid, you better not have gotten me jewelry. I’ll never wear it…”
He simply smiled as she opened it and gasped. From the box she drew a pin topped with a little brass shield with the word “Union” emblazoned across it. “It’s from Lincoln’s second campaign,” he said.
“I…I know. Look,” she said, lightly fingering it, “it’s got all 34 stars on it. You know, less than a year before that election, Lincoln was sure he’d lose, and the Union would be lost forever. Where did you find this?”
He smiled coyly. “I have my sources.”
“Why,” she said, as tears started down her cheeks, “why do you always have to be so perfect?”
He put his arms around her and pulled her close. “You of all people know what a deeply imperfect man I am. In fact, I think the only thing I can truly say I’ve ever done perfectly is fall in love with you.”
She began to sob against his chest. “I feel like a total loser now,” she said. “All I got you were some clothes…”
He chuckled. “Well, you’re not supposed to tell me before I open them! And besides, you got me that awesome mug!”
“No,” she sniffed, “Santa got you that.”
“Oh. Oh, right. Chris, look. You’ve already given me your hand and now you’re giving me a baby. There is nothing else I could possibly ask for besides these. I mean that. You’re the best Christmas gift ever.”
He lifted her face and kissed her. Just then, in the other room, a buzzer went off. “The cinnamon rolls,” she said. “Let me go get them out of the oven.”
“Okay. You go. I’m gonna find those other boxes with my name on them.”
When she rejoined him in the parlor, he’d gathered a stack of boxes by the sofa. He waited until she sat down and opened the first. “Hey, it’s ties- and underwear! And they match! Aw, thank you dear. Let’s see, what’s next…oh wow! Cool sweater! I love it! It’ll go great with-“
“Shhh,” Christine said.
“I said shhh! I thought I heard a car…”. They sat in silence for a few seconds until they heard the sound of doors closing. Christine went to peek out the window. She turned around and said excitedly, “Oh my God, they’re here!”
“Who’s here?” Spencer asked, standing up and pulling his robe around him.
Christine didn't answer, but ran instead to the door and flung it open. “You came! You came home!” she cried, and ran out onto the veranda.
“Of course I came home!” At the sound of his mistress’ voice, Spud turned from the ornaments he’d been batting and trotted to the door.
Spencer walked to the doorway and hugged Alex as she came inside. “Merry Christmas,” he said. “Did you have a good time?”
“It was amazing! But I missed you guys. You, too, Spuddy,” she said, bending down to scratch the cat rubbing against her legs.
Grant followed her in with her bags. Spencer felt suddenly naked, standing before his colleague in his pajamas. They greeted one another awkwardly as the women chattered. “Are you hungry?” Christine asked. “I hope you haven’t eaten yet- I just got cinnamon rolls out of the oven.”
“No, nothing yet. We were gonna eat at the bed and breakfast, but I wanted to get home for presents. Aw! You started without me!”
“Don’t worry,” Christine said as they walked past the men and into the kitchen. “We haven’t opened any of yours yet. I thought you weren’t coming home until noon?”
Spencer followed them and stood in the doorway to the kitchen as Alex set the table and Christine spread frosting on the cinnamon rolls. He smiled as he watched Christine sneak up behind Alex and give her a hug. Alex caught sight of him standing there and said, “I see you found your mug. What do you think of it?”
“It’s perfect.”

Chapter Text

Christine turned off the water and stepped out of the shower. She toweled herself off, wrapped her hair in the towel, and gazed at her reflection in the mirror. She turned sideways. She pulled her shoulders back and sucked in her breath as she ran her hands over her belly. She studied her midsection intently. Finally, she let out her breath and sighed. Her condition might not be guessed by a casual observer, but she knew. The changes in her body were becoming obvious to her. She began to brush her teeth, pondering once more the enormity of it all. He would look…human now, with ten fingers and ten toes, a tiny little face to make expressions and ears that could hear. As she brushed, she held out her free hand and examined the length from the tip of her index finger to her thumb. That’s how long he would be, this tiny human inside of her. She wondered about her own emotions. This thing inside her- this child- it was so alien to her and at the same time so very precious she couldn’t even find the words to describe it. She spit, rinsed her mouth, spit again, and began to comb her hair. It all still seemed so unreal, but, in truth, nothing in her life had ever been as real as this.
She wondered at some women. Her sister Cori, for example. When she was a little girl, she’d drawn pictures of herself as a bride, as a mommy. Cori had played with dolls and pretended with them. Not her. She played with cars and with Legos, had built entire little towns in the sandbox and then trampled them like Godzilla. But she had never imagined herself as anyone’s bride, much less a mother.
And then there was her husband. He had a simple bliss she couldn’t fathom, and yet she envied him. She had borrowed his hope and boundless enthusiasm and had volunteered for this, not ever entirely expecting it to actually happen. But it had happened. She was pregnant. She would forever and for all time henceforth be someone’s mother. Was she ready for this?
Was any woman ever ready, truly?
She shook out her hair and switched off the light. She padded quietly to the closet so as not to wake the sleeping figure still in the bed. She surveyed the pants, but conceded the need for sweats this morning. Her uterus had risen to her belly button now; jeans were simply too tight. She’d have to go back to that maternity store. She’d be damned if she'd wear that ridiculous strap-on belly, but it was time to suck it up, be a grown woman and take care of business. She had to buy new clothes.
She’d already had to buy new bras. Oh well. At least Spencer was enjoying that aspect of her changing body. He was hardly subtle in his admiration at the way she filled out her t-shirts these days- and even less so when her shirt was off. She’d splurged and bought pretty bras, at least. It was one thing that kept her feeling attractive, even as the numbers on the bathroom scale ticked upwards.
She crept out of the closet and stood looking at him. She couldn’t help but smile. Damn, he was hot, especially when his hair was disheveled as it now was. How did she ever wind up with a man like this? She bent over and kissed him lightly on the tip of his adorable little nose, silently praying that her child would inherit his father’s good looks.
“Ugh,” he groaned, scrunching up his nose. “Can’t you ever just leave me in peace, you filthy beast?”
“What did you just call me?”
At the sound of her voice, his eyes flew open. “Sorry. I…I thought you were Spud.”
“Thanks,” she chuckled.
He yawned and squinted. “What time is it?”
“6:58. I thought it’d be nicer to be woken up by me rather than the alarm,” she said, reaching to turn off the clock. “Guess I was wrong.”
“No,” he said, sitting up and reaching out for her. “Come here.” He kissed her and brushed her damp hair back lightly from her shoulder. “You’ve showered already?”
“Yeah. I’m done in there. It’s all yours.”
“Thanks.” He got up from the bed and walked past her to the bathroom.
She stared after him for a moment and went to the bedroom door. “Oh, no you don't,” she said, warding off the cat waiting in the doorway with her foot. “I think he’s had quite enough of you,” she added, shutting the door behind her before heading downstairs.
Spencer was fixing his tie as he left the bedroom. He paused in the hallway outside of Christine’s office where she sat at the desk, staring intently at her computer screen. “What’s so interesting?” he asked.
She mumbled something incoherent without looking up.
“Who…what?” she said, finally looking up. “Aw, look at you, wearing one of the ties I got you. It’s sharp, isn’t it?”
“Yes, I love it,” he said, smoothing it down on his chest. “What are you looking at?”
Christine rolled her eyes and sat back in her chair. “Workout videos. Pregnancy ones. Last time I was saw Dr. Tan she asked me how much exercise I was getting, so I was honest with her.”
“Oh no. What did you say?”
“I told her sometimes I eat so fast I get short of breath. So she got all indignant on me and asked me how I expected to endure hour after hour of hard labor if I wasn't physically fit. Of course, she suggested enrolling in a water aerobics class.”
“That sounds like it might be fun.”
“Oh yeah. Shopping for maternity swimwear was ha-ha-ha-hilarious. Every suit had a hideous little ruffled skirt to draw even more attention to my belly. Nope. No way, no how am I gonna squeeze my fat body into one of those to go play splash with strangers. But I figure I’d better do something, so I thought I’d buy a video so I could tell her next week that at least I’d done that much. They’ve got one here with Cindy Crawford that’s got good reviews…”
“Well, it’ll be good to buy it, but best if you actually use it.”
“Baby steps, Sparky. Baby steps. I made coffee. Oatmeal okay for breakfast?”
“Sounds great.”
“Good. I’ll follow you,” she said, and slapped his bottom as he turned to walk out the door.
In the kitchen, Spencer got his mug and helped himself to some coffee. “Say, uh…what are you doing?” he asked as he turned to look at Christine.
“I found the users manual for the rice cooker the other day and actually bothered to read it.”
“I’ll never understand how you can so cavalierly toss those aside when you get new appliances…”
“Oh, for Christ’s sake. What’s so hard about cooking rice? You fill it to the line and push a button. Anyway, turns out this thing can be used for cooking oatmeal, too, so now I’m putting it to the test.”
“You’d have known about that feature months ago if you’d read the manual when you bought it…”
She pushed the button on the rice cooker and turned to face him. “Wanna hear something that’ll rock your very being to the core? When I’m asked to acknowledge that I have read and understood user agreements online, I routinely click ‘yes’ without actually reading them.”
“But dear, don’t you realize that in doing so you open yourself up to-“
She threw up her hands. “What can I say? I like to dance on the rim of the volcano. You should try it sometime, Sparky,” she said, taking his hands and leaning in close. “Come, my darling. Join me, and we will live dangerously together!”
“No, thank you,” he said, withdrawing his hands.
“Aw, but think about all-“ She stopped when she heard a mechanical click behind her, and she turned. “Already? Yay, we’ve got oatmeal!”
“Hooray. I’ll get the milk out.”
They sat and ate in relative silence until she said, “You know, there’s something I wanted to ask you…”
“I’m listening.”
“I want a dog.” She looked at him, his spoon frozen in midair. “Well, don’t just stare at me- say something!”
“We’re not getting a dog.”
“But I want one.”
He sighed and laid his spoon in his bowl. “Why do you want a dog?”
“Because,” she said, “I realized that Alex is more and more going to want her own life. So I need a dog to follow me around and lick my face and keep me company while she’s gone. Preferably one with soft, floppy ears and a curly, waggly tail.”
“Have you forgotten that you’re pregnant? I mean, do I really need to remind you that in 25 weeks you’re going to have a small human being to keep you company?”
“No, but see, I’ve only got a few more weeks before I take a break from stand-up, and I’m going to be bored stiff until the baby comes. Honestly, I don’t know how housewives even exist. I would lose my fucking mind if I had to stay home permanently.”
“I think they keep plenty busy with housework, for starters.”
“Yeah, but that’s why I bust my ass to make money- so I can pay someone else to do that shit for me.”
“Maybe you need a hobby. Have Alex teach you how to knit.”
Christine scoffed. “I’ve tried that. Knitting requires perfection. Drop one stitch and the whole piece is ruined. I can’t handle an activity where there’s no do-overs allowed.”
“Then maybe try drawing or painting. Or how about writing? That’s what you should do, you know? Write a book.”
“For a book you need ideas, and I haven’t got any,” she complained.
“Are you kidding me? Write about your adventures as a comedian. You’ve told me more than enough stories to constitute a book. It would be a fascinating read.”
She picked up her spoon and played with her oatmeal. “A dog is more huggable.”
“Dogs also chew on furniture, dig in the garbage and poop in the yard. We have picnics in that yard, Christine. Do you really want to throw down a blanket on dog poop?”
He finished the last bite of his oatmeal and asked, “Was there something else on your mind?”
She sighed. “I’m going shopping today.”
“Please, not for a dog.”
“No, you don’t shop for dogs; you adopt them. I need to shop for pants. Mine don’t fit me anymore. Guess I gotta break down and get me some of those cool jeans with the elastic in the front.” She made a face as if she were gagging.
He smiled sympathetically. “It won’t be so bad. They make some very fashionable maternity clothes these days. How big do you think she is now?”
Christine held up her thumb and forefinger. “About yea big,” she said.
“Can you feel her move yet?”
“No,” she said quickly, then paused and added, “well…I don’t know. Sometimes stuff goes on down there and I can’t tell if it’s the baby or my own guts moving as I digest. I’ve never felt a fetus move before, so I don’t really know what it’s supposed to feel like. But I know he moves around- I could see it on the ultrasound they did a few weeks back.”
Spencer sat gazing at his wife for a moment. At length he said, “It must have been fascinating to see. Did you think so?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “It’s all so…alien still. It’s like it’s not even happening to me. Even when I saw it on the monitor, it felt like I was looking into someone else’s body, not my own. I dunno. Maybe that’ll change when I can actually tell it’s him moving in there.”
“I’m sure it will.” He pushed back from the table and took his dish to the sink. “She can hear now, you know. You should sing for her. And don’t forget to tell her that her papa loves her very much.”
Christine stood and followed him to the foyer, where he put on his shoes and coat. “If there’s one thing this kid will never forget, it’s how much you love him. Of that I’m sure.” As he picked up his bag and started out the door, she slapped him again on his bottom.
He turned and smiled. “Incorrigible,” he said.
“I try.”

Spencer closed the case file, put it to the side, pulled out his cell phone and dialed. “Hi, it’s me,” he said. “I was just calling to see how your day is going. Did you go to the…oh. Oh, of course…oh, don’t be ridiculous, dear…I’m sure that’s just something they say to all expectant mothers…no, you don’t look like…no, of course not! You’re beautiful! Me? It’s been a quiet day thus far. I’m still at the office. Did you have any plans for the rest of the afternoon? Oh, well, that sounds interesting…yeah, I should be home at a reasonable hour tonight…stew sounds great…okay, I’ll see you then…you too. Bye.”
He hung up the phone and looked up to see Prentiss and Morgan looking at him. “How’s the wife?” Morgan asked.
“Oh, she’s fine. Well, except that the sales associate at the maternity store guessed how far along in her pregnancy she is- accurately, by the way- which has her worried that she’s somehow too fat. Why are you guys staring at me like that?”
“Oh,” said Prentiss, “maybe it has something to do with the fact that you actually called her. You never call her. You text her, and then only when we have a case.”
“She’s right, you know,” Morgan said. “So what’s really going on?”
Spencer gave them a look of dismay. At last he said, “I was checking to make sure there was no barking in the background.”
Prentiss laughed. “What, like a dog? Are you guys actually considering getting a dog?”
“She mentioned at breakfast she wanted one,” Spencer said. “At first I said no, but then I realized that anytime she’s told no, she takes it as a personal challenge. So I decided to change tactics by discussing other activities with which she could occupy her time and trusting that she would make a sensible decision regarding a dog. So far, so good. God, I really hope there’s no dog there when I get home tonight.”
“Well,” said JJ, walking up to them, “you’re going to have to call her back and tell her you won’t be home tonight, after all.”
“We have a case?” asked Morgan.
“Chula Vista, California,” JJ replied. “Two teenage girls have been abducted.”
“Two? That’s bold,” said Prentiss. “Any ransom demands?”
“Hotch will fill you in,” JJ said. “He’s waiting in the conference room now.”

Christine pulled the razor up her left leg and stopped. She thought she heard the front door open and close. She put down the razor, dried her hands on a towel and picked up the phone that was laying next to the bathtub. No messages. She sighed, mildly irritated. He knew she liked him to text her when he was on the way home so she could have dinner ready. Oh well. Now he’d just have to wait for her to finish shaving her legs before he got his supper. Served him right.
She got out of the tub, toweled off, and put lotion on her legs. She took her time. It was his own damn fault. Let him be hungry. That’s what he got for not letting her know he was coming.
As she braided her hair, she began to feel a little guilty for ignoring him. She knew, or at least appreciated, how hectic and stressful his job could be. He’d had an abduction case on the west coast. They worked through the night on cases like that. He’d be tired and hungry. She sighed, went to the closet to pull on some pajamas, and headed downstairs.
She looked for him first in the kitchen. Perhaps he’d gotten into some junk food or leftovers. The light was on, but the room empty. She went to the living room and found Alex on the couch, scratching Spud behind the ears, and laughing at some ridiculous reality TV show.
“Did I hear Spencer come home?” she asked.
Without turning around, Alex said, “Yeah, a little while ago. He’s in the kitchen.”
“He’s not in the kitchen.”
Alex turned. “Really? I heard him go in there. He was in the cupboards. I thought he was getting himself something to eat…”
Christine went back to the kitchen and walked through it into the dining room. Why would he be in the dining room? He never ate by himself in the dining room. But he was such a neat freak- it wasn’t like him to take his dinner elsewhere in the house… She left the dining room without finding him and went to the library. Maybe he’d grabbed a cookie to eat at his desk.
She knocked on the door of the library and let herself in. The light was on, but he was nowhere in sight. She was about to turn out the light and leave the room when she heard the clink of glass on glass. She crept around to the other side of the sofa and found him sitting on the floor, his back against the sofa. In his right hand was a glass; to his left stood a bottle. He didn’t turn to acknowledge her.
Sitting down on the floor beside him she said softly, “Hey, Sparky. Whatchya doin’?”
He didn’t answer, but instead emptied the amber liquid in his glass. He winced at the taste.
After an awkward moment, she reached across him for the bottle, saying, “Have you even had anything to eat? You shouldn’t drink on an empty stomach…”
He moved the bottle out of her reach and said, “I’ll drink if I want. I’m a grown man.”
“I know you are, sweetheart. I’m not concerned that you’re drinking, but rather why you’re drinking.” After a little pause she asked, “Do you wanna talk about it?”
He poured himself another drink, sipped it, and winced again. She reached out to brush his hair back from his face and said, “What happened to you out there today?”
He shook his head slightly, still looking forward. “I…I couldn’t stop him. I tried. I just…I couldn’t.”
“The unsub?”
He shook his head again. “Her father. The victim’s father. I found him, but her father found him first. He shot him. He shot him, right in front of me.”
“The father got shot?”
“No! He shot the unsub!” Alcohol splashed from the glass in his hand as he gestured, wetting the leg of his trousers.
Christine was silent for a moment. Then she said quietly, “Well, at least it was a kind of public service, shooting the bad guy like that…”
Spencer turned to face her, furious. “How can you say that? He shot him. In the face. With a goddamned shotgun! Have you ever seen…do you have any clue what that looks like? You, with your three week rotation in an ER, do you have any idea what a shotgun does to a human head? No. You don’t! You have no idea, Christine! None! But me, I do.” He put his hand to his forehead and groaned, “I can’t close my eyes without seeing it. Again, and again, and again…”
She kept her voice calm and measured. “And what’s the bourbon supposed to do, hmm? Make you not see it?”
He emptied what remained in his glass without responding.
“Play that tape through to the end, Spencer,” she continued quietly. “Tomorrow you’re going to wake up with a sick stomach and a sore head, and you’re still going to see it. So what’ll you do then to make it go away? Dilaudid?”
She reached out to turn his face towards her, but he turned it away. “Spencer,” she said, her voice a whisper, “I can’t make it go away, but I can guarantee you that neither can this.” She reached again for the bottle, and this time he let her take it. “All this can ever do it compound your misery, not solve it. I wish it were that easy. But you’ll never find anything that will take away your bad memories. All you can ever do is accept them, and carry on.” She set the bottle down and sipped her arms around him. “You can’t drown it, but you can let it out. Talk to someone, please? Talk to your therapist, find an NA meeting, something. But this is not who you are. You’re better than this, and you’re worthy of help.”
He still said nothing, but leaned his head so that his cheek rested on her head, and closed his eyes. At last he said, “I just…want it to stop…”
“And I wish to God I could make it stop, darling,” she replied. After several seconds, she patted him on the leg and said, “Let me get some food in you. That liquor has got to be burning a hole in your tummy.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Yes, you are. Here, hand me that glass and come.”
He relinquished the tumbler to her and stood up. He stepped a little to the side as he did so and closed his eyes; he was still just sober enough to realize how drunk he’d become, and he was ashamed. He opened his eyes again to see her turn in the doorway and look back at him. She smiled at him and asked, “You coming?” In her voice he heard no judgement, nor did he see condescension in her smile. There was safety there, and peace. He nodded to her, and as she disappeared into the hallway, he resolved in his clouded mind to pull his shoulders back, hold his head up, and walk behind her as straight as he could.
Once he reached the kitchen, he stood for a moment by the table, trying to decide if it would be better to offer his help or stay out of her way. He swayed ever so slightly on his feet as she put a plate down in front of his place, and he sat. He watched her as she set a pan on the stove and lit the fire underneath it. She buttered some bread and opened a package of cheese. “What are you making?” His words came out thickly, strangely. He wondered at this, at the seeming disconnect between his mind’s will and his mouth’s obedience.
“Grilled cheese,” she replied. She turned to look at him as she said it and his eyes slipped down from her face to her belly. He thought he saw that it was growing rounder- or was he only imagining that? His gaze fell to the floor and he stared, wondering at himself, and wondering what kind of father he would be.
Suddenly, it seemed, she was placing the sandwich on his plate and cutting it in half. Had time really moved so fast, or was it all just another trick of the bourbon? He picked up one half, watching the cheese ooze out from the cut that had just been made. It had just been sliced, but had already melted together again. He wondered about the internal temperature of the sandwich, and wondered what the melting point of American cheese must be. Was it similar to mozzarella? It must be- pizza did the same thing. God, how drunk was he?
He took a bite. It was fucking delicious. He took another. This must be why they called it comfort food. It was just so…comforting.
“What’s that?” she asked with a little bemused smile on her face.
Had he said that aloud? “It’s comfort food,” he said, feeling a little foolish.
“Of course it is. You needed this. Want something to drink?”
“Coke, please.”
She took a can from the refrigerator, opened it, and set it before him before sitting down. He took another bite and looked at her. She seemed so calm. He loved that she seemed calm just when he needed her to be. He thought about thanking her for that, but instead he said, “I think I need to quit my job.”
“I think that would be a terrible idea,” she replied.
“Why? You think I’m too drunk to make this decision? I’m being serious, now. I think it would be best for the baby. Don’t you think I’d be a good father?”
“I think you’ll be exactly the kind of father you want to be, Spencer. But your job is…it’s who you are. Take me, for example. I’m a story teller. That’s who and what I am. I’m also a deeply insecure person, but at least I can laugh about it. And so I do what I do: tell stories to an audience in the hopes that by laughing along with me I’ll get the validation I need in life. You, you’re a puzzle-solver. That’s why your job is perfect for you. You’d have sucked as a professor. But as a profiler, you get to find all the pieces of a puzzle and fit them together, and in doing so, you solve problems that are literally life and death matters. You need these puzzles in your life; you’d be miserable without them. Also, let’s be honest, you’re a little drunk right now.”
He was coming close to finishing the second half of his sandwich now. He looked at it in his hands as he chewed. “You should be a profiler,” he said. “You’d be good at it.”
“Nah,” she said, “I’d hate it. You know, you’re the strongest man I know, Spencer. Stronger than you realize. It’s not just anyone who could stand up every day under the pressure you face, and see the things you see, and still be as fundamentally as good, decent and stable as you are. I know I sure as hell couldn’t do it.”
He put the last piece in his mouth and stared at his plate. “If I was so good, I wouldn’t be drunk right now.”
“You’re human if you make a mistake, and a fool if you willfully repeat it,” she said, handing him a napkin. “Wipe those greasy fingers, now.”
He obeyed her like a child, and she cleared away his plate. “Come on,” she said, standing before him with her hand outstretched, “let’s get you to bed.”
He got up and followed her, frustrated that he had to put mental effort into climbing the stairs he had successfully navigated hundreds of times before. In their room, he stripped down to his underpants and sat on the edge of the bed while she fetched him his pajamas. He pulled on the bottoms easily enough, but fumbled with the top. When he reached the last button, he found he had one too many holes. He didn’t object when she stepped over to undo them all and button him up properly. “That wasn’t the only reason,” he said.
“The only reason what, dear?” she asked as she pulled the bed covers back for him to slide underneath.
“The only reason I was upset. The gunshot, I mean.”
“So tell me the rest of the story,” she said, as she turned out the lights and climbed in bed beside him.
“This guy, the father,” he began, “he was in witness protection.” Should he even be telling her this? He continued, “He’d been a hit man for the mob. Before he shot the kid, his daughter, God, she begged him to do it. Begged him to kill that kid. And it got me thinking. This guy, he never took his daughter with him to work. He never killed people in front of her. But somehow, she knew. She knew exactly what he was capable of. And it got me thinking, you know, about what I do, and all the stuff I see every day. Chris, what if…what will that do to our baby? All this…this dark, gruesome, grisly shit I see every day, the inhumanity and brutality that I’m surrounded by, what if it affects our baby, or infects her, or is, you know, just, like, is some negative influence over her life? What if the universe actually works like that?”
Christine reached for his hand in the dark and twined her fingers with his. “I think this kid will be influenced by who you are, not what you do. He’s going to grow up watching you and learning how to be honorable, honest and kind. He’s going to know he has a superhero for a father, and he’ll be in awe of you. That’s how the universe really works.”
He turned on his side and pressed his forehead to hers. With a heavy sigh he said, “God, I hope you’re right.”
It wasn’t long before his breathing became a faint snore. She kissed his forehead lightly, rolled onto her back and stared up into the night.


The case mentioned in this chapter is from season 3, episode 12, “3rd Life”, which originally aired on January 9, 2008.

Chapter Text

Christine snickered to herself as her eyes scanned the monitor. She sat back in her seat and closed her eyes, envisioning herself pacing the stage, repeating those lines, pausing for the audience’s reaction. She chuckled some more, pleased with herself, before opening her eyes and leaning forward to touch the keyboard again. Her fingers hovered for a moment as she searched for a word, then fell to typing once more. She paused for a moment to look at her scribbled notes; they were a jumbled collection of thoughts, some circled, some underlined, with lines and arrows directing her about the page. She pulled out a pen and struck through the ones she’d already managed to wrangle into a coherent monologue before putting the end of the pen in her mouth to chew on as she thought.
She’d always wished she had a more organized manner of writing, but such was her creative process. She shrugged a little, without realizing she’d done it. Oh well. That’s just how she rolled.
She jumped in her seat when there was a tap at her office door. “Mind if I come in?” her husband asked as he peaked his head around the door.
“What? Oh sure, come on in. You’re home a little early,” she said. She glanced at the time and added, “Okay, so maybe not that early. Guess I just lost track of time. How was dinner with the gang?”
“Oh, fine,” he said, moving some books from the overstuffed old armchair that stood opposite her desk and sitting down.
“Uh huh,” she said, resuming her typing. “Whatdja have?”
“Cavatappi amatriciana,” he replied, shifting a little in his seat to get comfortable.
“Is that the one with the peas in it?”
“No, it has smoked pork. And tomatoes.” He reached out to straighten her pen holder, stapler and tape dispenser.
“Was it yummy?”
He reached towards her desk again and she caught his hand. “Don’t you dare touch my Post-It Notes,” she warned.
After she released his hand, she resumed typing and he sat back in his seat. His eyes wandered upwards to the wall behind her. He tilted his head a little as he looked at the frames that hung there, pressing his lips together tightly. Finally he stood, walked around behind her and straightened one of them. “What are you writing about?” he asked, turning to look at her screen. “’I don’t know what he’s so proud of. I’m the one who’s building a new human being inside of me. All he did was not pull out.’ Hey,” he whined and pouted. “I thought this was a collaborative effort.”
She raised her hands to cover the screen. “Could you, like, not breathe down my neck while I’m writing? God, it’s so fucking annoying!”
He went back and sat down again, still pouting. “Is it as annoying as being made the butt of your joke?”
“Come on, it’s funny. Besides, what about that is technically incorrect?” She laughed as he sat with his arms crossed, frowning. “Say, what is it with you tonight, anyway? You look dead tired. Why don’t you go get some rest?”
“I don’t want to go lie down,” he replied. After a long pause he added softly, “I don’t want to be alone right now.”
Christine removed her hands from the keyboard and folded them on the desk in front of her. She stared at him, and he lowered his gaze to the floor. “What’s this about, Sparky? Is this about about that kid from a couple of weeks ago, or did something else happen on this new case?”
He sighed a little and shifted in his seat. “You know, in addiction recovery they talk a lot about triggers, about people, places or situations that cause us to want to use again. And seeing that boy murdered- hearing that girl beg her father to do it- was exactly that for me. Ever since that day, I’ve felt this desire, this craving, that I can hardly explain. It feels like there’s something in my head, sitting at the base of my skull, gnawing at the edges of my brain. And this thing, it…it wants dilaudid. And I try, Chris- God, how I try!- to think, to, as you say, play the tape through to the end. I think about all I have to lose in this world. I remember that it won’t really solve any of my problems, it’ll only complicate and compound them. I know that it’ll cause me to lose my own self-respect and even my own life. I know all these things. But I also know that there’s a moment, one brief moment in between the itch and the dope sickness that is…it’s like the purest bliss. That one moment is like the warmest, most loving embrace you could ever feel in your life. And now, when I’m alone and everything is still, this thing gnaws at my brain, telling me that the only thing that will stop it is that moment. God, Chris,” he sobbed, burying his face in his hands, “what have we done? I’m an addict! How could we marry and make this baby? I’m never going to be anything more than an addict. I’ll never escape this!”
Christine looked at her husband for a moment and said, “I think you have a problem with the way you’re defining yourself. You’re defining yourself by the one thing you’re most ashamed of, by the biggest fuck up of your life. But Spencer, everyone in this world has something they’ve fucked up. I mean, just take the two most senior members of your team, two men whom you idolize. You people dissect and analyze other people’s screwed up relationships for a living, and those two have four failed marriages between them. I mean, I love them both, but let’s call a spade a damned shovel here- both of them are spectacular failures when it comes to healthy, adult relationships, and the rest of your little playmates aren’t much better. And that’s just the stuff we know about them! I guarantee your there is stuff about them that’s far worse, you just don’t know it because they’ve managed to hide it because they’re too ashamed for anyone to know about it. I’m sure of this because every single human being on this planet has something they’re ashamed of, and they pray to God that no one ever finds out about it. That’s why people pay good money to see me perform. I get up and talk about my embarrassing shit and they laugh because they understand, and they feel like they’re not alone in the world.”
Spencer wiped his cheek with the palm of his hand. “I hardly think overflowing the bathtub with bubbles during sex is as big a mistake as being a drug addict.”
Christine bit her lower lip for a moment. “That’s just one of the little mistakes I’ve made, one of the ones I’m willing to talk about. I’ve done things that…things you can’t even imagine. Things I’ve never told you about because I’m so ashamed of them, and I’m afraid you’d stop loving me if you knew.”
He put his hands in his lap and looked at her steadily. “Try me.”
She drew a deep breath and haltingly began, “When I was about 15, I had a fight with my mom. I mean, a real fight. We were screaming at each other. I can’t even remember what it was about. But I got up in her face, just inches away from her, and she slapped me,…and then I…” She stopped and stared up at the ceiling, trying to blink back the tears that were starting. “I reached up…and I…I put my hand on my mother’s neck. That…that’s what I’ve done. Whatever you’ve done, nothing is as bad, nothing comes close to being as evil as me. I laid hands on my own mother.” She stopped again, took off her glasses, and wiped her eyes. “I can’t believe I did that. That’s what I have to live with. I tried to choke my own mother. And nothing you’ve done compares to that. I’ve never told a soul about that in 13 years. I planned to take that one to the grave with me. But that’s me, an evil, angry bitch who laid hands on her own mother.”
Spencer leaned forward and took her hand. “That’s not really who you are, babydoll. That’s a mistake you made. And I still love you.”
She wiped her cheeks once more with her free hand, put her glasses on and said, “Then I hope you can see yourself in the same light. But Spencer, there is something cathartic in giving voice to your experience. Have you been to see your therapist?”
Spencer gently released her hand and sat back in his seat.
“And I take it you haven’t been to a meeting, either,” she said. She looked at him as he sat silently then said, “Sparky, talking to me can only go so far. I can’t speak on addiction because that’s not one of the problems I’ve faced personally. But the fact is that as many as one in nine Americans has a substance abuse problem. That means that every day you go into work, the chances are there is someone else in that office who knows exactly what you’re going through. Those are simple statistics, darling. Remember those? You love statistics. You know, Buzz Aldrin didn’t want to go to meetings because he thought he would find no one else who knew what it was like to be the second man on the moon. Of course, he was right, but when he went he did find combat veterans, just like himself, officers- he even found a general there. There were people who knew his struggle. And I’m sure if you try, you’ll find a meeting full of people who will tell stories just like yours- and they’ll also tell stories of how they’re beating it. Look. You have a life-threatening disease. A diabetic couldn’t take their insulin once and expect to be cured for life. It’s the same with me. I have to get checked every six months to make sure I’m still in remission. How would you feel if I stopped getting checked?”
“Terrified,” he replied.
“Because the cancer could come back and spread without you knowing it or being able to fight it.”
“Therapy and meetings are how you manage your disease. It’ll never go away. But doing these things are ways to fight it. So I want you to promise me that you’ll at least give meetings a try, okay?”
He sighed and said, “Alright. I promise I’ll at least try it.”
“Good boy. But I know there’s probably no meetings available right now at…oh, Lord. It’s 9:45 already. So what else did they teach you in treatment about avoiding temptation?”
He rubbed his temples and said, “We should stay busy. Schedule our free time with healthy activities. Usually I just work or read, but I haven’t had the chance to go to the library in days and I just…I don’t think I can stand to work on the files I brought home with me. Not tonight. Not this weekend.”
“So let’s think of something else you can do to keep yourself busy. Too bad we don’t have a dog. He’d keep you busy. But the shelter opens early tomorrow morning if you wanna go look around…”
“No. No dogs.”
Now it was Christine’s turn to pout. “Fine. Killjoy. Well, you like to doodle. Maybe we could find you a sketchbook and you can draw?”
“Hmmm, I’d need inspiration. Would you like to sit for a portrait?”
“No offense darling, but I’ve seen your figure drawing and it always looks like you’re tripping balls. How about baking together? I could teach you how to make bread!”
“No…I don’t get as much visceral pleasure from making a mess as you do.”
They both sat pensively for a moment before Spencer spoke. “You know, when I was detoxing, Alex taught me how to knit…”
“Knitting? You wanna knit?”
Spencer shrugged his shoulders. “Sure, why not?”
“Okay. Knitting is doable. I think Alex is still up. She probably has some yarn she can lend you…”
“No, let’s not bother Alex. If I’m going to do this, I should have my own supplies.”
Christine thought for a moment and said, “You know, there is a place that’s open 24 hours a day and sells knitting supplies.”
“Really? I’ve never heard of an all-night craft store before.”
“Oh, it’s real. I guarantee it. A little too real for my taste. But what do you say- we can go right now if you’re game.”
“Alright then. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but baby,” Christine paused and sighed before finishing, “let’s go to Walmart.”
Spencer raised an eyebrow. “But you hate Walmart.”
“This is true. Please accept this as proof of my love for you.” She shrugged her shoulders and added, “At least there’s bound to be some good people-watching there at this hour. I could use some new material. I’ll grab my coat.”
He eyed her as she stood up and said, “You might want to grab some clothes, too. You can’t go shopping in pajamas.”
“Dude. It’s 10:00 at night, and we’re going to Walmart. I guarantee you I will fit right in.” She reached out to take hold of his tie as she passed him. “You might wanna lose this, though. People might mistake you for a lost Mormon missionary.”

As they walked into Walmart, he in his work clothes and she in her pajamas, Spencer said, “You know, you’ve never explained to me why you hate Walmart so much.”
“Well, part of it is because they have pretty shitty employment practices, like keeping workers’ hours always just under the threshold that qualifies them as full-time, so they can avoid paying them benefits. Watch this,” she said, as she approached a man in a blue smock. “Excuse me, sir? I was here several times last week and I always saw you. I was curious- how many hours did you put in last week?”
“31,” the man replied.
“Thanks. Keep on truckin’, man!” They walked a few steps further before she leaned over to Spencer and whispered, “See? He’s being held back by the man, I’m telling you! But the main reason I don’t shop at Walmart is that I prefer to give my money to local businesses, to keep it in the community. I’m always rooting for the little guy. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any little guys that sell yarn at 10:30 at night. Ooh! Or socks! Over here, Sparky. They’re on sale!”
Spencer smirked at her and observed, “You can’t wait until tomorrow to buy your socks locally?”
“Hey, we fueled up at an independently owned gas station in order to get us here, so I’ve supported a small business today. Besides, I don’t know of anywhere in Bristow where I can find fuzzy-wuzzy socks with the little rubber grippy dots on the bottoms. Look, they’re stripey! Maybe I’ll get two pairs so I can mix and match them like you.”
“Get as many pairs as you like, dear, but frankly I don’t think you’ve achieved the level of coolness necessary to confidently wear mismatched socks.”
Christine stopped and stared at him. “Listen to you be a smart-ass!” Suddenly she gave a little gasp, clapped her hand over his mouth and whispered, “No, seriously- listen! Do you hear someone humming?"
He nodded and moved his eyes to look in the direction from whence the sound came.
She listened for another moment and said, “I think I recognize that voice! Come on!” She grabbed his hand, pulled him around the hosiery display and exclaimed, “Penny! Fancy meeting you here at this hour!”
Garcia jumped at the sound of her voice and turned, visibly flustered. “Oh…oh my god,” she stammered. “Look! It’s…it’s the, uh, it’s the Reids! Papa Reid, Mama Reid, and even little Baby Reid,” she said, reaching out to touch Christine’s belly. “What brings your lovely little family out here so late?”
“So late? Didn’t you guys, like, just have dinner?” Christine laughed. “We came out for knitting supplies and socks. Look! They’re fuzzy! Aren’t they cute? What have you got there?”
Before Garcia could respond, Christine reached around her to the hand she held behind her back and snatched the item from her. In an instant, Christine found herself holding up a lacy black bra and panty set for all three of them to admire. As Garcia’s and Spencer’s cheeks flushed, Christine exclaimed, “Well, wouldja look at that! The little pink bows are a nice touch. I didn’t know Wally World sold naughty knickers, too!”
Garcia grabbed them back from her and stuffed them in her basket under a few other items, grumbling, “There was a reason I had that behind my back…”
Christine laughed inappropriately loudly. “Aw, come on! They’re cute- cuter than mine,” she said, pulling at her pajama pants and looking down. "Is there someone special in your life you’re buying them for, or are you just in the mood to feel pretty?”
“Christine!” Spencer said in a hushed voice. “You’re making everyone uncomfortable!”
“Hey,” Christine retorted, “at least we know now she doesn’t go commando! I do that sometimes, you know, when I don’t get the laundry done on time…”
“TMI, Christine,” Garcia said.
“TMI?” Spencer asked.
“Too much information,” Christine explained. “And also, true.”
“I agree with Penelope,” he said, taking her by the arm and leading her away. “Sorry for bothering you tonight, Garcia…”
“I hope you two have fun avoiding eye contact at the office on Monday,” Christine called back over her shoulder.
“You just couldn’t leave her alone, could you?” Spencer whispered as they went back to their shopping cart.
“What? I was curious!”
“And your powers of observation should have told you that she was hiding something behind her back because she didn’t want it to be seen,” he scolded.
“And you blushing like a schoolgirl over a fancy pair of underpants. Geez, what kind of a prude are you?” Christine said, still laughing.
“It’s not prudish to believe that my colleagues are entitled to privacy regarding their underwear. Can we just buy the knitting supplies and get out of here?”
She put her hand on his cast to stop him as he walked and said, “Wait. Look over there- that lady with the kid in the stroller…”
“Yeah, she’s dressed just like you- in pajamas. What on earth is she doing with a baby out at this hour? He doesn’t even seem to have a coat!”
“That’s not what I’m concerned about,” Christine said, eyeing her. “What’s she doing with that bottle of Mountain Dew? Holy shit. She’s pouring it into the baby bottle!”
Spencer’s eyes grew wide. “Oh no. She’s handing it to the baby!”
“That has got to be the white trashiest thing I have ever seen…”
“We need to say something to her. We can’t let her do that.”
Christine grabbed his arm as he started off in the woman’s direction. “Sparky, stop. What are you going to do, arrest her?”
“She needs to know how unhealthy that is for her child!”
“But any reasonably intelligent person already knows that, and anyone who doesn’t won’t be open to listening to logic and reason. Let it go.”
“How can you just stand there and do nothing while this woman is abusing her child?”
“Oh, don’t be so dramatic,” Christine said. “Besides, we live in America, where freedom means we’re all as free to be as big an idiot as we wanna be. Come on, let’s go get that yarn.”
They walked in silence for a moment until Christine said, “You’re still thinking about that woman with the Mountain Dew, aren’t you?”
“Of course I am.” He fell silent for a few seconds and said, “You’d never give our child soda like that, would you?”
“If you’re speaking specifically about Mountain Dew, the obvious answer is no, because we never have that toxic waste in the house, anyway. But I’ll give our kid soda the same way my parents did me, which is to say at birthday parties and Christmas and a 7-Up when his tummy feels icky. But there’s a bigger problem than me in our house when it comes to soda, and I don’t mean Alex.” She turned and pointed at him. “You’re a Coke addict, boy, and you’ve got to be careful of the example you’ll be setting.”
Spencer made a face. “Next you’re going to tell me I need to give up coffee.”
“No, because coffee isn’t cool and fizzy and delicious to little kids. But if he sees you downing a Coke everyday, he’s gonna wonder why he can’t, too. And you’re going to have to get better about willingly eating green vegetables, too.”
He gave her a look of mild disgust. “I’m not much of an actor. She’ll never be convinced that I’m enjoying them.”
“You don’t have to enjoy them. You just have to not bitch about it when you’re served them. Ah, here we go- yarn. I told you they’d have it. Ooh, feel this one. Isn’t it soft?”
He took the skein of yarn proffered him and squeezed it. “It feels…luxurious. It’s perfect. She’ll love it.”
“Who’ll love it?”
“The baby,” he replied, putting the yarn back in it’s bin and looking at other colors. “I think I’ll make a little blanket.”
“Get away from that pink stuff,” Christine warned as his hand hovered over the color. “Even if we knew it’s a girl, which we don’t, I still wouldn’t allow that. You know I hate pink. Stick with yellow or green.”
“What about purple?” he asked, holding some aloft. “It’s gender-neutral, too.”
Christine crossed her arms. “You only threatened me with pink to get me to agree to purple, didn’t you?”
He smiled broadly as he reached out to brush her cheek with the yarn. “There now, isn’t that soft?”
She rolled her eyes at him. “Whatever. You do you.”
“How many do you think I’ll need?”
“I dunno. More than one, I’m guessing.”
“Huh,” he said, turning. “Look, pattern books. Aw, this one has little baby booties and mittens.” He flipped through the book and asked, "Do you think Alex has the skill to do something like that?"
Christine leaned over and looked at the page. “Yeah, probably. But this is supposed to be your project, not hers.”
“Of course. I was just wondering if I’d be able to ask her for guidance if I needed it.”
“I’m sure of it. Now let’s get you some needles and get out of here.”

They drove home in relative silence, each lost in thought, staring out the windows into the inky night. As they came upon the entrance to a forest preserve, Christine suddenly came alive and commanded Spencer, “Pull in there.”
“Just do it.”
He did as his wife asked and pulled off the road onto the narrow wooded drive. They followed it a short way to a small parking area where she told him to stop. He put the Volvo in park and turned to her questioningly. Before he could speak, she reached out and pulled him towards her for a kiss. Afterwards, he smiled and said, “Well, that was unexpected. What brought that on?”
Her hands found their way under his coat and around his waist. She smiled back at him and said, “I was just thinking about how much I love you and about how I think I don’t tell you that often enough. I love you, Spencer. And I’m proud of you.”
“You’re proud of me?”
“Yeah. I know you’re under a lot of stress, more than most men could bear. But you’re always determined to be the best version of yourself you can be, and I admire that about you. It’s kinda sexy,” she said, leaning in to kiss him again.
As she did, her hand wandered down his body. When it found it’s way to his crotch, he gasped and said, “Oh, no you don’t. We can’t. Not here.”
“Why not?” she asked playfully. “It’s nearly midnight and we’re in the middle of nowhere. No one’s going to find us.”
“Why can’t we just go home? We can do it in our own warm bed and in the privacy of our own bedroom!”
“Because if we do it here, it’ll be naughtier, and that turns me on.” She took hold of his tie with her other hand and pulled him towards her.
“No! We can’t. Really, Christine. Please, stop!”
“Oh, your mouth says no, but little Spency is telling me yes,” she sang, unzipping his fly and reaching inside. She stroked him slowly, kissing his neck, then said, “Come on. Just a quickie.”
She moved her seat back and reclined it fully before wriggling out of her pajama pants. She reached out and pulled him to her saying, “Come on. No one will ever find out. Please?”
He rolled his eyes and climbed over to the passenger side of the car. “How on earth are you able to talk me into things I know I shouldn’t do?”
“Because I know that underneath your respectable looking vest and tie you are secretly a naughty, naughty, horny little man,” she laughed, helping him pull his pants down.
She wrapped her legs around his waist as he planted his feet on the floorboard of the car and pushed forward with a groan. She giggled and squealed as he entered her and reached forward to grasp his bottom under his coat. He bent his head down to kiss her opened mouth as they moved together before moving his head to press his cheek to hers. He exulted in the sound of her little delighted cries in his ear as he thrust into her as hard as he could. The sensation of her fingernails digging into his buttocks drove him closer and closer to his climax, and he grit his teeth and closed his eyes tightly to try and reign himself in. He moved one hand up under her t-shirt and bra to cup her breast. In his mind he pictured the perfect rosiness of her pink nipple as he ran his thumb over it. He was so close now…he silently prayed for her to climax quickly, because he doubted he could restrain himself much longer. He pinched her nipple, lightly at first, but when she arched her back into the gesture he pinched her more firmly until she screamed, pressing her thighs tightly against his sides as her vagina contracted around him. At the sensation he buried his face into the seat back and surrendered to his own orgasm with a shout. As the wave of electricity receded from his body, he laid against her, breathing heavily, before lifting himself off her and falling back into the driver’s seat.
He zipped his pants up and ran his fingers through his sweat-damp hair as she laughingly pulled on her pajama bottoms. “Hot damn, that was good,” she giggled. “Aren’t you glad now you listened to-“
Just then there was a tapping on the driver’s side window. Christine froze as Spencer rolled his window down and was greeted with a flashlight shone in his face. “Sir,” a voice from outside said, “I’m going to have to ask you to step out of your vehicle.”
Without a word and without looking at Christine, Spencer buttoned his coat and got out of the car. Christine felt her cheeks flame bright red with the sudden flood of adrenaline that poured into her bloodstream. She found herself awash in a strange mixture of fear and hilarity, and she pressed her hands to her mouth, muttering to herself, “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit…” She turned to try and see what was going on outside, but couldn’t make anything out for a steam covering the insides of the windows. She noticed her hands shaking and clenched them in fists to try an steady them. After a moment, she gathered her courage to reach out, open the car door, and step outside.
At the sound of the door, both Spencer and the police officer turned to look at her. “Ma’am, I need you to remain in your vehicle,” the officer ordered. Spencer’s lips were pressed tightly together and his eyes flashed; he was furious.
She mumbled an apology and climbed back in the car. She clamped her hands over her mouth again. She knew she was in trouble, but she couldn’t stop herself from laughing. After another couple of minutes, Spencer got back in the car, refusing to look at her as he put the car in reverse and pulled out of their parking spot.
“Well?” she finally asked. “What happened?”
Through clenched teeth he angrily replied, “I could have been charged with indecent exposure and public lewdness, Christine. I could have lost my job over this.”
“Yeah, but you weren’t, were you? Did you tell him you’re FBI?”
“No and yes,” he replied, still furious. “I told you no, that we couldn’t, and dammit if I wasn’t right! Do you realize I could have ended up on the sex offenders registry over this?”
“Yeah, but you didn’t!”
“But I could have. I swear to God, Christine, it’s like you are on a personal mission to destroy my life!”
Christine couldn’t stop herself from laughing as they pulled back onto the road, “Yeah, but it was funny, though!”

Chapter Text

Spencer placed his messenger bag on his chair and put some files he’d gathered from his desk in it. He glanced hurriedly about to make sure he had everything he wanted to take with him for the night before picking it back up and strapping it across his chest again. His haste wasn’t missed by Morgan, who spoke up. “Hey, kid- what’s the rush? You runnin’ off to catch the end of that movie already? Come on, hang out here for a few minutes. I’m almost ready to go, too. A few of us were gonna get a drink.”
“I’ll have to take a rain check on that,” Spencer replied, adjusting the strap on his shoulder. “Christine’s home.”
“Home?” Prentiss asked from her desk. “I didn’t realize she was gone again.”
Spencer nodded. “Yeah, she’s been gone for almost six weeks. Her last tour before the baby comes. She came home yesterday.”
“While we were in Texas,” Prentiss said. “So you haven’t seen her in six weeks?”
“Oh, no,” Spencer said. “I’ve been visiting her on the weekends.”
“How’s she doing?” Prentiss asked. “How far along is she now, anyway?”
“28 weeks,” he said. He drew a deep breath and added, “And she’s doing…okay, I guess.”
Garcia, who had been walking up to them with JJ, stopped short. “What’s that supposed to mean? Is something wrong? What do you mean, ‘you guess?’”
“No no, nothing’s wrong. Nothing serious, anyway. It’s just,” he said with a shrug, “touring is tiring under the best of circumstances, and the pregnancy is…it’s taking a lot out of her. She’s exhausted, and…well, kind of moody. Maybe…maybe a little melancholy, too.”
Morgan shook his head a little. “I’ve only known that woman to have two speeds: loud and fast and louder and faster. I can’t seem to picture her tired and moody.”
“Give her a break, guys,” JJ said. “She’s building a new life inside her, and her hormones are probably on a rampage. You’d be moody, too.”
“I know,” Spencer said, “and I appreciate that. It’s just hard to see her unhappy.”
“You know what you should do?” Morgan said. “Bring her flowers. Women love that.”
“Ooh,” Prentiss said, nodding. “Flowers for no reason on a weeknight. Yeah, you definitely do that. Very romantic.”
“You know what?” Spencer said, smiling. “I think I will. It’s been a while. Thanks for the idea!”
“Anytime, kid. I got your back,” Morgan said with a wave as Spencer headed for the door.

Spencer put the car in park in front of the house, drew a deep breath, picked up the tulips on the passenger seat beside him, and got out of the car. He was reaching for the doorknob when the door opened. “Oh,” Alex said, disappointedly, “it’s you.”
“You were expecting someone else?” he asked, his eyebrows raised.
“Yeah. Grant. I asked him to come by and pick me up for dinner.”
“You’re going out on a weeknight? That’s not something the two of you usually do, is it?” he observed as he set his things down and took off his coat.
Alex crossed her arms and rolled her eyes. “I need to get out of this house. She’s driving me nuts. Do you smell that? All the Pine-sol and bleach?”
“That was her. She got down on her hands and knees and scrubbed the kitchen floor because she thought it wasn’t getting clean enough. And she’s calling in some professionals to wax the wood floors now, too. Apparently, I can’t do anything right.”
“Alex, I’m sure that’s not what she meant.”
“Isn’t it?” she asked, her lower lip trembling. “All day- all day, Spencer!- she’s been going around here talking about how she has to do everything herself, and…haven’t I done a good job for you guys? I mean, I try really hard, you know?”
“Yes, of course you do. I know that. We all know that!”
“Not her. She acts like I don’t do anything. She just cleaned like a demon all morning and then disappeared into her room in the afternoon. She only came out to cook, and she wouldn’t talk at all. Whatever,” she said. They both turned their heads slightly as they heard a door open above and footsteps starting down the upstairs hallway. Alex lowered her voice to a whisper and continued, “I’m done. I just wanna get out of here and spend time with someone who appreciates me. She’s all yours.”
Alex sulked away into the parlor as Christine reached the stairs and started down. As Spencer stood looking up at her, he felt his heart sink. Her face, affect and general demeanor all exuded a kind of gloom and dejection such that she seemed to be completely overshadowed by her own dark cloud. “Hungry?” she asked flatly when she reached the bottom of the stairs.
“Yes,” he replied, trying to smile. “Very much so.”
Without another word, she turned and walked towards the kitchen. He followed her, sat at the table and watched as she moved about, pulling dishes out of the cabinets and dishing up food. She set a plate before him and sat down, prompting him to ask, “Aren’t you going to join me?”
“Already ate,” she said, not making eye contact.
He took a bite, casting about in his mind for conversation topics. “So, I heard you were busy today…”
She kept her eyes fixed on the tablecloth she was playing with and shrugged.
He poked his fork at his spaghetti and said, “Well, the floor in here looks great. I can tell you worked very hard. Thank you.”
Still she said nothing. He took a bite of his food and reached across the table. Her eyes followed his hand as he grasped the salt shaker and sprinkled it over his plate. Suddenly she sat up straighter, her face darker than before. “What’s wrong?” she said.
“Wrong? Nothing’s wrong.”
“Then why are you doing that?”
“This?” he asked, holding up the salt shaker. “I just wanted a little- wait,” he said as she reached for his plate, “what are you doing?”
“Getting this out of here. Clearly it’s not good enough for you.”
He grabbed for his plate as she tried to take it from him. “Stop it! There’s nothing wrong with it. I just wanted a little salt!”
As they struggled for control of the plate, tears started to form in her eyes. “I didn’t do it right. I can’t do anything right…”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Christine. Would you…just stop! Give me my food! Stop!” He wrestled the plate away from her and held it out of her reach. “What’s wrong with you? For pity’s sake, if you can’t let me eat in peace, then just go!”
With that, she turned and fled the room. He listened as she stomped up the stairs and slammed the bedroom door, then sighed and turned his attention back to his rescued food. He felt a little guilty for snapping at her, but dammit, he’d had a rough day, too. The case had been an emotionally draining one, one that after the end of which he’d gotten chewed out by Hotch.
He heard the front door open and close. Anderson must have come for Alex. He took another bite. The food was fine. Her cooking was always good. She had been unreasonably over-sensitive. Geez. He constantly praised her cooking. She should know by now she is appreciated. There was no need for her to be so dramatic about it. All he did was add a little salt. A man’s entitled to salt his own food, isn’t he? Why did she even put it on the table if she didn’t want it used? He sighed. And was it too much to ask to have a little peace and quiet when he came home? Especially after the day he’d had. Getting rebuked by Hotch had only put the icing on the cake. The case had brought up memories, had forced him to relive experiences from his childhood he’d spent the last 15 years trying to forget. Memories so painful he hadn’t even told Christine about them. But even that hadn’t been the worst of it. The worst had been the emotional turmoil he’d felt at identifying so closely with the unsub, his loneliness, his alienation, his victimization by bullies. His heart ached for Owen. He wished he could have turned back time for him and rewritten his childhood, maybe parented him better and gotten him help for his learning disability. Owen should have had a happy life and a bright future with the girl he loved, instead of one in which he’d be caged like an animal…
The girl he loved. Spencer picked up a napkin, wiped his mouth and dropped it on his now-empty plate. He had a girl he loved, one who at that very moment was upstairs in their room, probably lying on their bed, crying. It wasn’t his fault. He hadn’t done anything wrong to her, and had nothing to apologize for. But it was within his power to at least try and comfort her. He pushed back from the table, cleared away his plate, and headed up the stairs.
There was no answer when he knocked on the bedroom door, so he opened it slowly. It squeaked on it’s hinges; he made a mental note to fix that- he didn’t want to risk waking a sleeping baby soon with the sound. The room was dark. As he entered, he said her name softly. She didn’t reply, but in the dim light he could see her hand creep up onto the nightstand, take a tissue from the box there, and bring it to her nose as she lay there. When he moved around the bed to stand in her line of sight, she rolled over to turn away from him. He bit his lower lip, went back around the bed and sat down on his side, but she rolled over again. He sat for a moment, searching for something to say, before reaching into his pocket and pulling out his phone. He scrolled through it briefly, then stood and walked over to her dressing table where her speakers sat. He connected the devices and sat back down. As the music began to play he sang along in his faulty tenor, “Turn around, every now and then I get a little bit lonely and you're never coming round, Turn around, every now and then I get a little bit tired of listening to the sound of my tears…”
“Hush up,” she said finally. “You’re embarrassing yourself.”
In the dark he smiled to himself and sang out a little louder, “…every now and then I get a little bit terrified and then I see the look in your eyes…”
“Stop it. Shame on you. You’re ruining a perfectly good song!”
He fell silent for a moment before singing even louder, “And I need you now tonight, And I need you more than ever, And if you only hold me tight-“
Suddenly she sat up and hit him in the chest with a pillow. “Stop it, stop it, stop it! What are you doing? You couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket!”
He caught the pillow between his hands and said, “Are you going to talk to me now? Because if you don’t, I’ll keep singing!”
She yanked the pillow back from him, put it down on the bed, and laid back down saying, “Fine. Talk.”
He laid down facing her and brushed the hair out of her face. “I know this isn’t about salt, Christine, so please tell me- what’s really going on? No, don’t,” he said as she started to pull the covers up over her head. “I can’t help you if you won’t talk to me.”
She said something that came out muffled by the quilt. He pulled it down below her chin. “What was that?”
“I’m just sad, and I don’t even know why I’m sad but I am,” she sobbed.
“Well, can you tell me what kinds of things are making you sad?”
She wiped her nose with a crumpled tissue. “You know, we got back really late last night, so I just went straight to bed. But I kept getting Charley horses all night, so that sucked, and when I finally got up I really wanted some coffee, and-“
“Coffee, Christine?” Spencer said disapprovingly.
“Well, I made the coffee and was just about to pour it when I remembered I can’t have coffee, so I went to put it back, but the carafe slipped out of my hand somehow and shattered on the floor. So I had to clean all that up. I’m still terrified that I didn’t get it all and that someone will go in there in their stocking feet and get cut on a shard of glass I missed. It even splashed under the refrigerator, and I had to move that big ol’ bastard. When I was moving the fridge I saw that it was all dusty behind there, so I started cleaning the wall, but that only made me sad because I’m too short to do a very good job and too scared of heights to get up on a step ladder. Then I was sad because I realized that when this baby comes, my mother is going to come and visit, and she’s going to notice the messy floors and half-washed walls and she’s going to judge me six ways to Sunday.” She sniffed and wiped her nose. “Even worse, she’ll judge Alex, like, wondering what the hell do I pay her for? Well, Alex works really damn hard, you know? But she’s not Wonder Woman and I don’t expect her to be, so I don’t need my mother judging her. Then thinking about my mother coming over made me think about all the guests we’re going to have who wanna see the baby, and that made me sad thinking about all the stress it’s going to be to feed them all, I mean,” she said as she began to cry harder, her voice rising, “I’m going to have to transform into basically a milk cow for this baby- when am I going to find the time to cook and feed a crowd when I’m busy feeding this kid? How do women do it? I don’t understand, Spencer? How?”
He stroked her hair again and started, “Dear, I understa-“
“But then I was so upset by all that,” she interrupted, “that I thought I was gonna throw up or something. So I crawled into bed with my laptop. At first I just wanted to know why koalas are sometimes called koala bears. I wondered if they shared some common ancestor with modern bears. Turns out, they don’t. But they’re so cute that I decided to watch YouTube videos of them. And the first few videos of them being held and petted at zoos were fine, so then I decided to watch a National Geographic special on koalas. But…but…it talked about how dramatically koalas are losing their habitat, which made me sad, and about how over 300 koalas die on the roadways every year, and about how in some populations of koalas as many as 90% of the animals are suffering from chlamydia- the clap, Spencer! The poor things have the clap!” she wailed. “And the ones that do survive to old age, do you know how they die? Basically, after they wear their teeth down too far, they starve to death! Oh, and then there’s dogs, too. They actually showed one female koala getting attacked and murdered by a pack of dogs. I thought I was going to have a mental breakdown. Why would they film something so horrible without trying to stop it?”
“It’s not the role of the documentary film maker to intervene with nature. And for better or for worse, dogs are a park of the koala’s ecosystem,” Spencer said. “At least the female didn’t have a joey with it.”
“But it did have a joey! The joey was on her back, but was able to run away when it’s mother went down. Oh! And you know how a group of kangaroos is called a mob?”
“Yes,” he said, “I’ve heard that before.”
“Well,” she said, “what do you think they call a group of koalas?”
Spencer stopped for a moment then looked at her, a little befuddled. “I…I’m drawing a blank. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the collective noun for koalas.”
“They call them nothing!” she cried, sobbing. “There is no collective term for them because they live lonely, pathetic little lives before dying from disease, dismemberment, or starvation. It’s all so tragic that I want to find a koala and just hug and cuddle it and keep it safe for a little while, but now with this kid it’s gonna be years before we can go to Australia and hug koalas!” She buried her face in her pillow and sobbed some more.
He was quiet for a moment, letting her cry. Then he said softly, “First, you of all people should know that there are koalas in several US zoos- Columbia, South Carolina would be the closest, but they also have them in Houston, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Albuquerque…the best place to see them, though, would be the San Diego Zoo. They have a very successful breeding program there, so you may even get to hold a joey if we go there. Would you like that?”
She sniffed and wiped her nose. “Yes…”
“Then we’ll go, anytime you’re ready, okay? Now, why do you think you were so drawn to koalas?”
“I dunno, because they’re cute. Why do you know so much about what zoos have them?”
He laughed a little. “I learned that from Garcia. She likes cute baby animals, too, and shows me pictures of them every time I have occasion to be in her office. I merely noted who had copyrighted the photos. But what is it about koalas specifically? Could it be that they’re marsupials? I mean, the way they carry and nurture their young is a very visible representation of what you’re experiencing right now…”
“Oh, I’ll never get over seeing that mother killed by the dogs,” she moaned, pulling the covers back over her head. She quickly pulled them down again and sat up. “And do you know what the koala father was doing during all of this? Neither do I, because koala fathers aren’t involved with rearing their own young!” she cried. “They do nothing but sleep, eat, and occasionally find a female to give the clap to, the lazy bastards!”
Spencer sat up beside her. “Ah. I get it now,” he said. “Dear, you do realize I’m not a koala, don’t you?”
Her eyes grew large with horror as she looked at him. “That’s not even the worst of what I’ve seen today. I heard on this video that male koalas have a bifurcated penis because females have two vaginas, and I wanted to know what that looked like, so I Googled ‘koala penis’.” She grabbed his shirt and shook him. “Do you have any idea what sort of images you find when you Google ‘koala penis’? Do you? I saw things today, Spencer. Filthy, horrible things. Drawings of people doing unspeakable things to large-breasted koalas. Koalas don’t even have breasts!” She released him and fell back on the bed, sobbing, “Why? Why did I go on the internet today?”
He had to wait a moment before speaking to her, to be sure he could do so without laughing. When he felt he had mastered himself he said, “Something you said at the start of your koala…discourse…you mentioned that you felt ill, but you’ve mentioned previously that you stopped experiencing morning sickness after the first trimester, so I’m wondering: was this an actual, physical symptom you were experiencing, or were you speaking in a non-literal sense?”
“No, I meant it, Spencer. I literally felt like I was going to barf. It’s this…this thing that comes over me lately when try and let my mind and body relax. I feel like…almost like there’s a tightness in my chest and my stomach turns over- a few days ago it got so bad while I was trying to go to sleep that I dry-heaved.”
“Okay. Now, I’m not the medical doctor here, but I have studied enough psychology to know that what you’re experiencing sounds like a panic attack. And that’s totally understandable, Christine. You’re going through a major life change which brings with it a tremendous amount of stress, and in addition you’re experiencing dramatic hormone fluctuations. It’s not hard to see how it’s happening. But, look at me,” he commanded, cupping her chin in his hand, “I’m not a male koala. I’m here to help you through this. It’s okay to feel sensitive and sad. It is not okay, though, that you’re driving yourself from one activity to the next because you’re afraid to be alone with your own thoughts. There are ways to manage your stress and alleviate your anxiety, and I can be a resource to help you with that. The first thing you should do when anxiety hits- and you know the kind I’m talking about, the sort that pops into your mind and paralyzes you and makes your heart race all at once- is to think calmly and rationally about a situation. For example, when your mother comes to visit, she is not going to be moving our large appliances to see if they’ve been cleaned behind. And she will, in all likelihood, forgive any little bit of dirt or dust while understanding your situation, having been through it five times herself. Also, when the baby comes, both Alex and I will be home. You’ve always trusted us to do the majority of the cleaning around here before, so you have no real reason to doubt we’ll be capable of handling it in the future.
“So then after you recognize those things that you can accept and be at peace with, you have to decide on a course of action for those things you genuinely wish to change. Take feeding guests- it’s true that’s something that should be done, and it’s also true that you’re probably going to be too busy or too exhausted to do it. So ask yourself what you can do about it? Of course, Alex will be a big help, but you’re overlooking someone who is ready, willing, and able to be of assistance.”
Christine sighed pitifully. “I can’t ask my friends to all bring a dish to pass. That’s just tacky.”
“I’ve never known you to shy away from being tacky…”
“I’m kidding!” he said, raising his hands to fend off the pillow she aimed at his face. “I was talking about me. I can help.”
“No, but seriously, Spencer, this is nothing to joke about.”
“I’m not joking! Look, I know you find this hard to believe, but I did manage to survive for years on my own before I met you.”
She rolled her eyes at him. “We’re not feeding our guest ramen noodles and TV dinners, Spencer.”
“I’m not talking about that.”
“We’re not feeding them frozen fish sticks or soup from a can, either.”
“Would you please put a little faith in me, dear? I’m talking about you teaching me. And stop looking at me like that! I’m a fast learner and I’m highly motivated. You’ve taught me how to make Rice Krispie treats. Who’s to say you can’t teach me how to make spaghetti and meatballs, too?”
“Oh!” she burst out. “So you can make them better than me, I suppose?”
“It was salt! I just added a little salt! Let it go!” She crossed her arms and sulked while he continued, “You can teach me whatever you’d like, but please, let me help you. Let me take some of these burdens off you so that you don’t feel so stressed and anxious. Because, well, look at yourself. You’re a young, healthy, beautiful woman who’s about to bring a new life into the world. You should be happy. You deserve to be happy, and to enjoy this time. So trust me to keep the house clean and let me help you cook. Take some time to focus on things that make you happy. If a trip to Carolyn’s salon would help, take it. If new clothes would make you feel better about yourself, buy them. If you need a night of laughter, go see a show- I’ll even come with, if you’d like. Whatever it takes to make you feel good about being you, do it.” He brushed back a bit of hair from he face and said, “But I have one request, and this one I want you to take seriously.”
“All this, what you’ve been experiencing- the mood swings, the sadness, the anxiety- a lot of that can be explained by your hormone fluctuations on top of the stress of touring and worrying about what comes next. And maybe now that you’re home and now that I can help you more it will get better. But you have to promise me, and I mean really promise me, that if you feel like this or worse after the baby comes, and you know what I’m talking about- if you feel hopeless, if you feel like you’re not bonding with the baby, if you can’t do anything but sleep all day- you have to talk to me about it. And you have to be willing to get help if you do.”
“I’m not going to go crazy, Spencer.”
“This isn’t about craziness, Christine. Postpartum depression is very real, and it really hurts as many at one in seven new mothers. You’re the one who insisted I get help when I had a problem, and I’m very grateful I did. Psychological help saved my life. Like I said, you deserve to be happy and to enjoy all these things in your life, and if you feel like you’re drowning, please, please, please reach out to me so you can get to a place where you can feel wonderful about all of the amazing things that are about to happen in your life. In both of our lives.”
“Alright,” she said softly. “I promise.”
“Hey,” he said, “I have something else to tell you. Something you’ll be happy to hear.”
“What’s that?”
“I went to a meeting the other day.”
She raised her eyebrows. “A meeting-meeting?”
He nodded. “Narcotics Anonymous. One specifically for law enforcement officials.”
“And you were right. There were a lot of people all telling my same story. It…it felt like a burden off my shoulders to know I wasn’t alone.”
“I’m really proud of you, sweetheart. Like, super proud right now.”
He leaned in so that their foreheads touched. “It works, Chris. Letting others help you works.”
They gazed into each others’ eyes until he closed his and kissed her. She put her arm around his neck and kissed him back, sinking blissfully back into the pillow. He paused for a moment to look down into her face and see her smiling back at him and kissed her again. He ran his left hand from her hip up under her t-shirt and caressed her breast. When he heard her murmur happily, he leaned back and reached down to unbutton his pants. As he did so, she gasped and jumped out of bed.
“What?” he asked, bewildered. “Where are you going?”
“Downstairs. To the kitchen! Come on!”
“You…you want to have sex in the kitchen?”
“Sex? No! I wanna bake!”
“Yeah,” she said, excitedly. “I took some butter out of the fridge early to soften. We can make peanut butter cookies!”
He sat up, exasperated. “Can we do that maybe after sex?”
She stuck out her lower lip and pouted. “But you said you wanted to learn…”
“And I thought you enjoyed sex!”
“I like baking more.” When she saw his jaw drop, she laughed and said, “Look. It takes 10 minutes to bake a batch. Let’s get one batch in and then you can take me to pound town for ten whole glorious minutes. If you can last that long.”
He shook his head a little. “You’re unbelievable.”
“Believe it, baby. You comin’ or not?”
He sighed. “I’m coming. Just…give me a moment to, uh, get myself under control.”
“The bathroom’s in there. Take a cold shower if you need to and hurry up! I’ll go get the measuring cups out…”
As he watched her turn and leave he said simply, “Super.”


This takes place after season 3, episode 16, "Elephant's Memory", which originally aired on April 16, 2008.

The song Spencer sings to Christine is "Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler.