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Loving and Losing

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“JJ’s still in there?” Garcia asked.

“And Strauss,” said Prentiss, just as Reid, who was sitting on her desk, reached for her antacids. “Oh, again with the dairy?”

“I can’t help it. I love dairy.” He popped two pills in his mouth without looking away from Hotch’s office.”

“It’s been like, what, twenty minutes?” Garcia asked worriedly.

“Well, ten more minutes, we’re in the air.” said Morgan, joining them.

“I don’t think it’s about the case,” Prentiss said.

Garcia looked at her. “Do you know something?”

Prentiss looked surprised. “Do I know something?”

“She just repeated the question,” Garcia told Morgan. “You always say that’s a sign.”

“Do you know why JJ’s in there?” Morgan asked.

“I have no idea.” Prentiss said honestly.

“What is going on?” asked Garcia again.

“Maybe she asked for a raise,” Reid offered, earning an annoyed look from Prentiss.

Garcia ignored Reid. “Have his blinds ever been closed?”

Strauss came out first, leading Morgan to make a getaway to his desk - but she didn’t notice Garcia, Prentiss and Reid still watching Hotch’s office as she bustled back to her own. JJ emerged a moment later, and the three of them quickly looked away, pretending to be occupied.

Reid picked up a file from Prentiss’ desk and pretended to be discussing it with her. After a moment, he returned to his own desk. He had a bad headache, and he wasn’t sure where it had come from. It was possibly the milk he’d had that morning, which was why he’d taken the antacids. Still, dairy didn’t normally give him headaches this bad.

They briefed on the way to the jet. It was only a thirty minute flight to Atlantic Beach. There was a missing female college student, who had last been seen with a pair of boys the same age as her. Local police hadn’t been able to get any information out of them - and they would be forced to release them in twelve hours.

Reid knocked on the door of the restroom on the plane.

“Hey, you okay?” he asked as JJ opened the door.

“Uh, yeah. You?”

“I just feel kind of sick. Excuse me.” He slipped past her as she came out, ducking his head.

Reid tried to stay as quiet as possible as he vomited into the toilet. His head was spinning and he knew it had nothing to do with the dairy. It took him a moment to get his body to stop shaking from the retching. Finally, he stood up, drank some water from the faucet, and flushed the toilet.

He didn’t feel any better, but a glance in the mirror said he looked fine. He took a deep breath, wiping his mouth as he left the restroom. His head still throbbed, in his frontal lobe, but it was pain he could deal with.

He sat down next to Morgan, across from JJ and Prentiss, at one of the tables. Rossi and Hotch joined them a moment later and they began discussing the case.

Reid had overheard JJ’s conversation with Prentiss and Morgan, and he vaguely wondered why no one was telling him. JJ, his best friend in the entire world, might be leaving the BAU and nobody thought he should know?

Reid did his best on the case, but thoughts of losing JJ plus the pain in his head drowned out the case. After hours of digging, they realized that only one of the two boys was responsible for the missing girl.

He’d thrown her to a frenzy of sharks in the middle of the ocean after she’d rejected him in favor of his friend. Thankfully, the coast guard found her. She was a strong swimmer and had been clinging to a buoy for three days.

And it was JJ who had solved the case. How could the Pentagon take her away? They would never have found the girl if it wasn’t for her. She was irreplaceable.

Reid’s headache had subsided a bit as they returned to Quantico. He sat in the bullpit with Prentiss, Rossi, and Morgan. Just waiting.

The team had finally told him about JJ, apologizing for keeping it from him. He tried not to show how upset he was about it - about everything. They were still waiting for her when she left the roundtable room.

“No,” Prentiss said, standing up.

“Wait a minute,” Morgan said. “I thought Hotch was supposed to-”

“It’s above his pay grade,” JJ told him. “Strauss’, too.”

“They can just take you away?” Reid asked quietly, not caring if he sounded a little childish.

“So, we do nothing?” Prentiss asked.

“It’s done,” JJ said. It felt so final, and it hurt so much.

She embraced each of them, one at a time, hoping they understood how important each of them was to her. She was sure Reid was holding back tears, and she hoped he would be able to sleep tonight.

“I’ll still see you, Spence,” she promised. “You’re still Henry’s godfather.”

Reid nodded, but said nothing.

Finally, she had to let them all go, and turn in her exit interview to Strauss. After that, she made one last stop in the office of their technical analyst.

Reid drove home as calmly as he could. But the second he was in the house, he dashed up the stairs, grateful that Paisley was asleep for once. At least, she wasn’t in sight.

It took all of his self-control not to slam the door shut. He just made it to his bed before the tears came. His headache returned in full force and he buried his face in his pillow to keep from screaming. His body was shuddering uncontrollably.

He wasn’t sure how long he stayed like that, but by the time he regained control of his body, light was streaming through the window. He wasn’t sure if he’d slept at all. From downstairs came the sounds of the girls talking and the TV playing, and from the smells, they were cooking breakfast.

Reid sat up and moaned. His head didn’t hurt anymore, but his body was sore from shaking all night. He glanced at the clock.

Seven o’clock.

“Shit.” He had to be at work in an hour.

There was a knock on the door. “Hey, Spencer? Are you up?”

“Yeah, yeah.” Reid said. “I’ll be downstairs in a bit.”

“Alright, just making sure.”


He stepped into the shower, and his aching muscles begged him not to leave. But as soon as he washed Atlantic Beach off him, he was out, drying off, dressing, and checking the mirror once to make sure he didn’t look hectic.

He ran down the stairs, grabbed his coffee, kissed Emma, and was out the door before Paisley could chide him for skipping breakfast.