It was late, two or three o’clock in the morning, and Spencer was wandering through the streets of Washington D.C. It wasn’t necessarily safe, but he couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t stand the thought of being cooped in his apartment.
He had started wandering like this a few days after he got out of jail. The idea that he could go wherever he wanted, whenever he wanted was inconceivable. Each night, the walk began with the feeling he would be stopped.
He could go for miles like this. The freedom propelling him forward. They hadn’t quite let him back on the team, so it didn’t matter that he could never sleep. It didn’t matter that his brain hurt and he felt sluggish from sleep deprivation. It didn’t matter that he could always hear Cat’s voice in the back of his mind.
Spencer, It’s Maeve. It’s okay. I’m here. Spencer… Spencer…
He shook his head, curls bouncing off his cheeks, and kept walking. It wouldn’t do to think about that. There was no way he could get a straight answer from Cat or Lindsey. There was no point in dwelling on it.
Usually, he would walk in circles until a coffee shop opened in his path. Sometimes, he walked right into one that was open. Sometimes, he would alter his course as the sun rose so that he would find one. Either way, he ended his long walk with a cup of coffee inside, warm. Listening to the normal world calmed him, and kept him away from his thoughts.
He used to read to distract himself, but he found it harder and harder to focus on the written word. Some part of him was terrified by this. The other part was too exhausted to care. He hoped that if he kept running himself ragged, he would one-day crash and sleep it all off. It hadn’t happened yet.
That morning was different. As he trudged numbly down the street, he saw that it wasn’t empty. A young woman sat curled under a blanket by a closed coffee shop. She was bundled up against the cold well, but her cheeks were bright pink from the sharp winds. Her eyes were closed and she looked at peace. The excess fabric puddled in front of her, and he eyed it a little. It was pretty cold, but if he kept walking, he would warm up.
He was going to walk right by her. He didn’t think she was homeless (she smelled good and looked clean), but even so… She could be anyone. Sure, he was wandering the streets in the middle of the night, but he didn’t trust himself either.
Her eyes flew open as he walked past. She eyed his silhouette, and her eyes stopped at his gun. She made herself smaller and backed into the wall.
“No, no!” he countered (though he was not sure why he felt the need to explain), “I am an FBI agent. I wouldn’t shoot you unless you were going to shoot me or someone else.”
“Then I will try as hard as I can not to shoot anyone. At least, not in your line of vision.”
Spencer laughed. “I have very good hearing. Might want to make sure you are out earshot too.”
He couldn’t see her mouth through the blanket, but her eyes crinkled from a smile. “Aren’t you cold, Mr. FBI Agent?”
“Actually, it’s Dr. FBI Agent. Or you could call me Spencer. What’s your name?”
“My name is Y/N. But you still haven’t answered my question. Aren’t you cold, Spencer?”
“Very, but that’s because I am not walking anymore. Why are you sitting here?”
She pulled the blanket tighter around her, as if talking about the cold was making it worse. “I’m waiting for this coffee place to open up.”
Spencer peered at the hours sign. “It doesn’t open for 3 hours.”
“I know, but this is my favorite coffee place, and I don’t want to be at home right now.”
Spencer… Spencer, it’s okay… Spencer…
“I can understand that,” Spencer replied. He started to feel antsy, like he could out walk Cat’s voice and its false sultriness.
“Do you want to wait with me? I’ve got extra blanket here, and we can help keep each other warm.”
“That truly sounds tempting, but I think I am going to keep walking. I could use the exercise. Will you be safe on your own?”
She eyed him, as if his lean form couldn’t use muscle mass. “People leave me alone, but I can defend myself if I need to. If you find yourself getting cold, you know where I am.”
“Be safe, and have a goodnight.”
“Thanks, you too.” She closed her eyes again, and leaned against the wall.
Spencer had a moment surge of emotion, a desire to reveal everything to this stranger, a need for comfort. He walked those feelings off. Something in him said that she might understand. What other kind of person waits in the dark for coffee, avoiding the empty judgement of their home? It didn’t matter, he couldn’t make himself go back.
He walked for several more hours, eventually coming across a Starbucks that was just opening its doors. Starbucks wasn’t the best coffee, but it was better than no coffee. He bought a sweet latte with an extra shot and waited.
The coffee was warm in his icicle fingers, and it fueled his walk home. He didn’t drink it, though. He could feel exhaustion coming and he needed to sleep. He didn’t even know when the last time he slept for a full night was. Had he known how to sleep before prison?
When he got to his screamingly empty apartment, he set his coffee on the counter and collapsed onto his bed. Sleep came moments later, but it didn’t last.
The nightmares started with him being back in jail. He was in his old bunk, but he was tied to the bed. Shaw would saunter past occasionally, to inform Spencer that he would be beaten shortly. Spencer tried to escape, but couldn’t. His futile struggle against the bindings just made him panic more.
Then an angel came through the cell door. Maeve would always look like an angel to Spencer. She straddled him and kissed his cheek. Everything would be alright if she was here.
But her voice was Cat’s. “Spencer, it’s me, Maeve. It’s okay.”
Her kisses became forceful, and he couldn’t stop her. Her face flickered between her own, Cat’s, and Lindsey, and her voice echoed. Shaw wandered past again, reminding Spencer that he was not free. He would be beaten soon. Maeve seemed to be excited by that news. She whispered in his ear that he deserved it.
He woke with a start, panting. His bed clothes had become tangled around him in the night, and he felt trapped. He tore the blankets off and lurched to his feet. The clock told him that only two and a half hours had passed.
He swore under his breath, and went to the kitchen. The coffee was waiting for him on the counter, and he took a cold swig before setting it in the microwave.
He managed to snag a few more hours of the course of the day, but he found himself wandering the streets that night. He told himself that his path was random, but he ended up in front of the coffee shop Y/N had been at the night before. She wasn’t there this time. He looked up at the sign and committed the name to memory. The Morning Roost.
As he walked away from it, he cursed himself for not getting more than her name. During his long day he realized that it had been stupid to turn her down. He had been isolating himself for days now, and meeting another troubled sleeper could have been beneficial, even he didn’t tell her anything else.
He passed The Morning Roost on his way home as well, surely on accident. He also accidentally peered inside. She wasn’t there, not that he was looking for her. He went home to start the process all over again. Maybe disappointment would help him sleep.
Walking past The Morning Roost became a part of his nightly walking routine. He tried not to get his hopes up as he walked past each night, but they would still fall when he didn’t see her. He even got coffee there a few times to no avail. It was an entire week before he saw her again. A long week, since his sleep was a few hours sprinkled across each impossibly long day.
His hopes were actually low today, as it was the seventh day of walking past the coffee place, but there she was. A familiar blanketed bundle huddled against the cold.
“Hey, Y/N,” Spencer said.
Her eyes flew open, but she calmed when she saw who was addressing her. “Hello, Dr. FBI Agent, aka Spencer.”
“How have you been?”
She shrugged. “Can’t complain. Wish I could keep my sleep schedule on track though.”
Then it hit him. It was 2:34 a.m. on Sunday morning. A week ago, it had also been early Sunday morning. He hadn’t seen her for a week because she probably had a job. She needed to keep her night owl tendencies at bay.
He didn’t share these revelations with her, instead saying, “I understand. I can’t sleep well to save my life.”
“Do you want to wait with me? It’s even colder today.”
He tried for nonchalance. “Sure, why not.”
She opened her blanket to him, and he saw she was wearing sweatpants and a hoodie. She was much better prepared for the cold than he was.
He hurriedly slipped inside and brought the blanket around them. Warmth bathed him immediately, and he chided himself again for not accepting it last week. When they were all settled, and the blanket covered their legs, he was toasty. He hadn’t felt this warm in a while. Maybe it was the comfort of a stranger, maybe it was her arm lightly touching his. Either way, he felt better than he had in a long time
“Why can’t you sleep?” Y/N asked, casually.
Spencer almost spilled everything, but thought better of it. “Nightmares.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, my dear. Is there anything I can do to help?”
Spencer shook his head. “I don’t think so.”
“You don’t have to tell me what they are about. I understand not telling some random woman on the street. But sometimes, talking helps. If you keep it locked inside, it will eat away at you, Spencer.”
Spencer, it’s Maeve. It’s okay.
“I just…” He trailed off. He had never been good at this. How could he tell a stranger if he couldn’t tell his friends, who were like family?
“I won’t push, but you can talk to me if you want.” She gently squeezed his shoulder, and changed the subject. “So, FBI huh? What’s that like?”
“Intense, but rewarding. What about you? Why are you awake?”
She let her head rest on the building behind her. “I rarely have nightmares, but I have trouble falling asleep. Thoughts swirl around in my head, making it difficult to relax. I usually have to exhaust myself before I can finally pass out. It is harder on the weekends, without the threat of an early morning to force me to push through.
“Swirling thoughts can definitely make it difficult to sleep. Luckily, I haven’t gotten enough sleep in weeks. I can fall asleep easily. It’s the staying asleep that is difficult.”
“Well, if you fall asleep, I won’t be offended,” she murmured, “Maybe you could use a before coffee nap?”
“No, I couldn’t. I don’t know you, and I am on a public street,” he replied, though he could already feel himself getting sleepy. The warmth, the softness of her body, the lack of brisk walking, it was all affecting him. He felt his eyes get heavy.
She didn’t say anything. She just adjusted herself against the wall (and Spencer) until she was comfortable. Her head slid back, and her eyes slipped closed.
Spencer didn’t think she was falling asleep, but her lack of conversation was making it hard to stay awake. He worried for a moment that she would try to rob him, or worse, but that felt silly. It was hard to convince himself to stay alert when he was so tired and so comfortable. Despite it all, he trusted her a little bit. Enough that his head came to rest on her shoulder, and he fell asleep.
He had a period of dream-free bliss, but the nightmares always came back. Cat’s voice echoing in his head. Feminine arms hold him back as Luis was murdered before his eyes. He tried to fight Cat off, tried to save Luis, but she was stronger than she looked, stronger than him.
Spencer, it’s okay. Spencer…
He pulled away, and the hands changed position. Cat was then grabbing his hair, and pulling on his shoulder. The pressure eased and she started to pet him? Comfort him? Cat’s voice echoed away, and became Y/N’s.
“Spencer? Spencer, it’s okay. Shhh… You’re having a nightmare, but I’m here.”
He woke with a start. Unfamiliar surroundings clawed at him, and he struggled against the hands on his body.
“Spencer,” Y/N said, “I know you don’t know me very well, but it’s okay. We are waiting at the coffee shop. You fell asleep.”
Spencer’s brain cleared, and the relevant information clicked into place. He relaxed gradually, unable to look at her.
Y/N adjusted the blanket so it covered both of their bodies again. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah, fine. Was I… Did I, um, talk in my sleep?”
“Yes,” she confirmed.
His blood ran like ice. What did he say? Did she know? Some part of him wanted it to be out in the open, but he was so scared to talk about it.
“Don’t worry, my dear! You just said ‘no’ over and over again. I tried soothing you, but that might have been a mistake. I’m so sorry.”
Spencer realized they weren’t touching anymore. Even with this small blanket, she was trying to give him space. He carefully reconnected their shoulders. “It wasn’t that. Your attempts to calm me did come through. I was more alarmed by the unfamiliar surroundings and the fear that I had said something… else."
“No secrets revealed. Don’t worry.”
He turned to look at her, and she was smiling at him. “Thank you, Y/N.”
The door to The Morning Roost swung open, and a someone said, “Morning Y/N. Happy Sunday! What time did you get here today?”
Y/N stood, taking the blanket with her. “1:30 a.m. But I made a friend today.” She held her hand out for Spencer.
Spencer took it, and pulled himself to standing. “Hi, there, I am Spencer,” he said to the voice.
The voice belonged to a short, young man, “Hello, Spencer. I am Alberto.”
“I’ve heard you make really good coffee.”
Alberto grinned at Y/N. “We do!” He led them inside.
Alberto got behind the counter and started a drink right away. He assumed this must be Y/N’s drink. She left exact change on the counter and sat at a booth. He wondered if that was her regular spot.
When Alberto was finished, he brought the drink to Y/N, and called out to Spencer, “What will you be having?”
Spencer eyed the menu, and picked the sweetest looking drink on it, with an extra shot. He ordered it to go.
Y/N’s face fell ever so slightly.
“Wait, don’t feel bad. I’ve had a lovely time, but this is my routine. I buy a cup of coffee, go home, sleep, and drink it when I inevitably wake up from the nightmares. But here.” He pulled out a business card and put it on the table in front of her. “Text me anytime. I might not reply right away, but at least we can talk now. Maybe even meet on purpose?"
She smiled. “That sounds wonderful.
He took his coffee from Alberto. “Please, don’t hesitate to text me, okay?”
He headed out the door. It was still cold outside, and he longed for the warmth of the cafe, of her, but exhaustion was taking hold. That nap on her shoulder had been helpful, but he needed more.
When he got inside his apartment, he checked his phone as he set down his coffee. He had one message from an unknown number, that said “Hey Spencer, it’s me. :)”
He smiled, but lay down. He fell asleep immediately.
He and Y/N were walking together in a field. The sun was shining, and he could hear birds twittering in the distance. But the birds became the clanging of weights, and the field became the prison courtyard. Y/N stayed remained herself, and seemed oblivious to the change in scenery.
She was grabbed by a white gang member and thrown against the fence. He tried to rush to her aid, but someone was holding him back. He fought against the person harder, and managed to kick their knee.
“You’ll never get to have her!” Cat’s voice snapped, “Not while I’m here!”
The scene changed, and he was tied to his own bed. He was in his room, but there were bars on the door. Cat appeared at the entrance in a sexual approximation of a guard’s uniform.
“Don’t I look cute, Spencie?” she cooed.
She slapped him across the face, but he remained resolute.
“No matter,” she said, climbing onto his body, “I won’t leave you, even if you think I am ugly.” She sat on his groin and started to rub herself against him provocatively. Her face flickered between Cat, Maeve, and Lindsey. “You want this."
He struggled against the bindings, but the more he fought the tighter they got. He was getting aroused against his will. He wanted to scream. He wanted to cry. “Please, stop! Stop!”
Spencer… Spencer, it’s okay.
He woke up in a cold sweat. Thankfully, he wasn’t hard upon waking. He didn’t think he could stomach that. He still felt disgusting though. He shoved himself off his bed and staggered to the coffee cup. It was good coffee, good enough that he didn’t feel the need to reheat it.
He checked the time and saw he had been out for four hours. That was quite a shock to him, he rarely made it passed three. He took that as a good sign.
He and Y/N hung out every day for the following week, sometimes for only a moment, sometimes for hours. They talked about everything but their problems. They found they had a lot in common, besides sleep issues.
Slowly, Spencer started to sleep more. He still couldn’t sleep through a night, but he found himself getting closer to enough sleep. His brain started to clear, and he even started reading and studying again.
In the back of his head, he could still hear her mocking voice. It would pop up out of nowhere, sometimes even when he was with Y/N.
Spencer. It’s okay. I’m here. It’s okay. You want this.
He didn’t want it, and it made him feel like he would explode. He wasn’t ready to go back into that world. He knew it in his heart. He wanted things to back to normal, but they couldn’t ever go back. It was all too much.
Then, news from the Bureau came through. They told him on Friday, just before closing, that they were going to do a review, and assess his readiness to rejoin the team.
He wasn’t ready. He wanted it. He wasn’t ready.
He didn’t tell Y/N when he saw her on Saturday. She seemed to know something was up, but he couldn’t tell her. She didn’t know he was suspended. She didn’t know anything.
Sunday morning found him wandering the streets. He hadn’t done this since last Sunday, but he felt a strong need. The familiar streets were soothing to him, and he found himself in front of The Morning Roost. Y/N was there.
“Hey,” Spencer said.
“Hey,” Y/N replied, opening her blanket.
Spencer slid in, unafraid of snuggling into her for warmth. She said nothing, sensing he needed rest. He fell asleep soon after, soothed by her presence.
He was in Rosa aka Nadie’s house. She was on the floor, butchered. This was a familiar scene to him. He had spent a lot of time trying to remember this exact room and the events that occurred in it. It still sent a chill through him, especially as Lindsey sat next to him.
She became Maeve in his eyes, but she flicked back to Lindsey. He knew now who she really was, but he still felt the comfort of seeing Maeve. It tore him up. He couldn’t change his actions as she came to him.
Spencer, It’s Maeve. It’s okay. I’m here. Spencer… Spencer… It’s okay, Spencer. You want this.
He tried to say no, but he couldn’t talk. He couldn’t move. Her hands ran across his clothed chest. Please don’t. You’re not Maeve.
A rising panic filling him, spilling through his body. He was locked into place, and he wanted to scream. He couldn’t do this again. He didn’t even know if it happened.
Maeve/Lindsey’s hands became rough. She was shaking him.
“Spencer, wake up! Please, it’s okay! You’re okay.”
His eyes found Y/N’s hovering in front of him, painted with concern.
She wrapped her arms around him as soon as he woke.
Spencer broke, “I can’t do it, Y/N. It’s too much.”
“Shhhhh. It’s okay, Spencer. I’m here. It’s okay.”
For the first time in a long time, those words gave him comfort.
The coffee place opened shortly after. Alberto said nothing about their embrace as he invited them inside. Spencer wasn’t crying, but he was shaking, even under the warm blanket. Y/N carefully led him inside.
Spencer waited for Y/N to say something, but she remained strangely silent. Finally, he couldn’t stand it. “What changed? Did I say something in my sleep? Something more than no?”
Y/N couldn’t meet his eyes, but quoted, “No, no please. I don’t want this. Please, don’t.”
He was thankful that she had at least said it quietly. “That is more than no.”
Y/N didn’t say anything else, and Spencer was glad. He was really tired of people pushing him to talk, pushing him to heal. He was so tired. He wasn’t getting better. What could he possibly do about it?
He decided to drink his coffee with her, and she seemed happy. They sat in a comfortable silence for a few moments before Spencer felt it rising in his throat, like bile: word vomit.
“Can I, uh, talk to you about something?” he asked, quietly.
“Of course, Spencer,” Y/N replied. She gave him a reassuring smile and gently took his hand in hers.
He started with the night he met Cat Adams in the restaurant. How he tricked her, how he subdued her, how he saved Garcia. He then told her what he hadn’t told anyone else. ‘In 20 years, I’ll remember your name, but you won’t remember mine.'
Then he covered his arrest, the drugging (and what it meant), and being in prison. He talked about his eventual release, and how he had to go right back into prison talk to Cat again, so he could find his mother. He talked about the baby, the secret she wanted him to find out, how she almost killed his mom.
Then, Maeve, and how Cat had perverted the one good person in his life. His brain echoing with “Spencer… It’s okay… It’s me, Maeve. Spencer, it’s okay. I’m here. You want this.” How the only memories he had of her now were her death, the dreams, and the nightmares.
She listened with rapt attention, and he found he couldn’t contain himself. The floodgates were open. He talked about Scratch, being shot (twice), his headaches, his fears of mental health issues, anthrax poisoning, Tobias Hankle, dilaudid, being abandoned by father figures, watching people die, having to commit his mother, extreme bullying in his youth, and everything else. He told her his life story, and he couldn’t stop himself.
Finally, he ran out of steam, and petered off. He was breathing a little harder, as if he had been physically exerting himself, and he had a death grip on his coffee mug.
Y/N squeezed his hand gently. “That is quite a life to have led, and it seems like you don’t open up to people. Holding all that inside was torturing you.”
“It was, but why am I stuck on Cat’s voice whispering my name? I don’t even know if that happened, or if she planted it in my subconscious, and there is no way to find out.”
“That’s why you are stuck on it. You are a problem solver, Spencer, a genius. When a situation comes about, you fix it. You can’t find a definite answer, so your brain keeps restarting the problem, trying to find the solution. It’s why schizophrenia was so scary, and Alzheimer’s too. You can’t know. All your other traumas are more definite, and you have corroboration. You went to the hospital when you were shot, your team rescued you from Tobias, people visited you in jail. Your biggest fear is not knowing, and these issues are that fear manifest.”
Spencer leaned back in his chair. “Wow, you’re right.” He took a sip of his neglected coffee. “Well, what can I do?”
“You have tried to deny that it was traumatic, because it might not have happened. However, whether or not Lindsey did something to you while you were drugged, it still affects you. Cat perverting the memory of Maeve is traumatic in and of itself, and you are allowed to feel that.”
Spencer felt like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. Y/N knew everything, and did not judge him. And now he was not alone in the knowledge. He listened for Cat’s voice echoing, but he couldn’t find it. He could remember her speaking, but it didn’t float about freely in his mind.
“Thank you so much, Y/N. I feel much better.” He tried to take another sip of coffee, but instead yawned.
“I think you should try getting some sleep, my dear,” Y/N said.
“I think you’re right,” Spencer replied, “I’ll see you later?”
“Definitely.” She gave him a beaming grin.
“Bye, Alberto! You make great coffee by the way,” Spencer called as he left.
He walked home on air. He felt lighter, and the world was brighter. Everything was going to be okay.
When he got home, he fell asleep immediately. His dreams had nightmares, but they passed through him, and he continued sleeping.
When he finally woke, it was pitch black. He was momentarily disoriented by this, and he pulled out his phone.
He had slept for almost twelve hours.