"Beautiful," Steve says as he snaps another picture of the dirty blond-haired model, Natalie, earning a smile and head shake from Ryder as she looks down at her camera. He's had a crush - is it still called that when you're adults? - on her for a while now, Ryder knows, but he hasn't done anything about it.
"That's great Nat, we still on for breakfast tomorrow?" Ryder asks the older girl as she struggles to untangle the cords in her hand.
"Definitely," Natalie nods with a fond smile. She's been a model for a long time, since she was a teenager, and it's rare to find photographers that make you feel like yourself, like you're not wearing a mask. She's always found she feels comfortable in her skin around these two rather than feeling like she has to be someone else with other photographers. And Ryder's always been so sweet and kind to her.
"Great. Would you mind if Steve comes along?" Ryder questions with a glance at the older man from the corner of her eye.
"No, of course not." The model quickly says, smiling towards Steve.
"Oh, no, I couldn't impose," Steve was saying as he discretely glares towards Ryder.
"No, you wouldn't be, I'd love to have you there, Steve." Nat shakes her head, sharing a look with Ryder.
"Oh, alright," Steve gives in after clearing his throat, excusing himself to grab something for his camera.
"One sec," Ryder tells Nat with a smile before rushing after Steve. "C'mon Steve, she'd love to have you there." She repeats with a teasing smile once she catches up to her friend.
"Shut up." Steve tries to say sternly but couldn't quite keep the smile off his face.
"I mean, you come and we all sit down and I may or may not get an important phone call and have to leave you two alone..." Ryder trails off, lifting her brows with a smile as Steve gives her a look.
"I don't know, Ry." He says, suddenly serious.
"Oh Steve, I know things didn't work out with your last relationship but that was a while ago, you can't think that all relationships are going to turn out that way, you deserve to be happy, whether that's single or in a relationship," Ryder tells her friend, hating the thought of him not being happy. "And I know for a fact that this little crush isn't one-sided." She adds with a smile, lightening the mood.
"Crush? What are we, twelve?" Steve's asks rhetorically, trying to shift the attention off the topic.
"Oh but you didn't deny it." Ryder says with a laugh, nudging Steve's shoulder as they make their way back towards Natalie, a buzzing in her back pocket catching Ryder's attention. Now normally she wouldn't take phone calls while with a client but with Steve here she decided it couldn't hurt. "I'll just be a second." She mumbles to Steve when she reads Spencer's name lighting up her phone.
"Uh-huh, sure." Steve says sarcastically, also seeing Spencer's name, before continuing the walk back to Natalie.
"Hey, Spence," Ryder answers her phone, a smile on her face as she turns her back on her two friends, taking a few steps away.
"Hey." Spencer responds in a hushed voice.
"You're whispering," Ryder tells him in her own hushed voice. Why? She wasn't sure, she just found herself doing it.
"Uh, yeah. We just got done with a case, I didn't get the chance to call you before we boarded the plane." He informs her, wary of his team members not far from him.
"You landing soon?"
"Yeah, shouldn't be too much longer," Spencer hums, giving a shy smile to Emily as she walks passed him.
"Well I'd say let's grab a late dinner but I'm sure you're tired," Ryder says, looking down at her feet as she kicks the ground. She wanted to see Spencer but it really was late, she didn't want to keep him up.
"No, no, well I mean yeah, a little bit, I-I mean," Spencer stumbles over his words before pausing and taking a breath. "I would really like to get dinner with you."
"You sure?" Ryder asks him, happy she could possibly see him but not wanting him to miss out what she thought was some probably much-needed sleep.
"Yeah, I'm definitely sure," Spencer says, already feeling better just by talking to her. "Just, maybe we could skip dinner and just get ice-cream or something?" He suggested tentatively, thoughts of the cannibalistic killer causing him to lose his appetite.
"Yeah, sure. I know a place, open late, has the most amazing milkshakes." Ryder nearly gushes, a fond smile on her face as she thinks of the small diner she discovered a night many years ago, a night that had started out awful but ended with one of her favorite memories.
"Sounds amazing. I'll ah, I'll call you when I'm leaving the office."
"Okay, sounds good. See you soon."
"See you soon," Spencer repeats, waiting a few moments before hanging up the phone, Ryder following soon after.
"Okay, sorry about that guys." She says once she catches up with Natalie and Steve, the two sharing matching smirks as they look down at the shorter girl.
"What is this Steve tells me about a boyfriend? How could you not tell me?" Natalie asks her friend, no real malice in her words.
"I know, I'm sorry, just, hadn't gotten around to it yet." Ryder tells her friend with a sheepish smile.
"Well, you can run on off now." Steve tells her, drawing her confused glace towards him.
"We were basically done anyway and I know you got your shots already, go run off to be with your guy." Steve shrugs, only acting annoyed as he waves her off.
Biting her lip, Ryder turns her attention towards Natalie. "I better see you at breakfast tomorrow." She tells her, pointing a finger at her before moving to hug her.
"Of course, you guys are the best." Giving Steve a quick hug, Ryder turns away from the two before making her down the sidewalk and towards her car.
Finally arriving at her apartment, Ryder parks her car before making her way inside, the buzzing from her pocket catching her attention for the second time that night.
"Hey Spence, I was just-" Ryder starts before Spencer's voice interrupts her.
"Ryder, I am so, so sorry but I can't go out tonight."
"Oh, okay, that's alright, is everything okay?" Ryder questions with furrowed brows. She may not be a profiler like Spencer, but she can easily tell something was off by his voice.
"Um, yeah, no, um I'll call you back, okay?" Spencer rushes, feeling bad about canceling but not knowing any other way around this, having just received a call he never thought he would've.
"Yeah, yeah, okay, be safe." Ryder nods even though he can't see, worried about whatever was going on, many thoughts going through her head. She just hoped Spencer was okay.
"Okay, I'll call you later." Spencer says one last time before hanging up the phone, leaving Ryder standing in the hallway alone, phone held limply in her hand.
Finally snapping out of her thoughts, Ryder walks the last few steps to her apartment door, sliding the key in and opening it up. "I'm sure everything is fine." Ryder tells her self aloud in hopes of making herself believe it. It didn't work.
Lying her belongings on the kitchen table, Ryder makes her way into the bathroom and turns on the shower. Before entering the water, Ryder turns her ringer up as loud as it will go in case Spencer called.
The steam starts feeling the bathroom as Ryder tries to let the hot water relax her. It doesn't help. Her mind is racing, to many thoughts flying around her head. She get's out quickly
"I need a dog, or a cat." Ryder states to herself as she looks around her empty apartment, the silence sounding oddly loud. Shaking her head, Ryder turns to the kitchen, the sudden loud ringing sound causing her to jump and yelp, her phone falling from her hand and onto the hardwood floor. "Holy mother of-" She says, hand over her heart before another loud ring sounds throughout her apartment. Bending down Ryder quickly retrieves her phone, answering soon after she sees Spencer name light up her screen.
"Spence?" She asks, worry seeping from her voice. "Are you alright?"
"Um," Spencer mumbles after a moment. No, he wasn't fine in all honesty. One of his team members was fighting for her life after being shot. "Yeah," He finds himself saying instead, taking a deep breath as he leans his back against the wall, sparing a glance down the hall towards his other team members.
"I'm um, I'm at the hospital-" Spencer starts to explain, only to be cut off by Ryder as her heart drops to her stomach at hearing those words.
"No, I'm fine, I promise." Spencer hurriedly assures her, sliding down the wall until he's seated on the cold, hard ground.
"Spencer please talk to me." Ryder begs as she falls onto the couch.
Closing his eyes, Spencer takes another deep breath, hating the way Ryder's voice sounds. Confused and worried rather than her normal happy, cheery voice. "Um, one of my team members, she ah, she was shot." Reid finally forces out.
"Oh my- Spencer, I am so sorry. Is she-" Ryder says, sadness flooding her systems as she cuts herself off, not sure how to voice her question without causing Spencer more hurt.
"She's in surgery now." Spencer informs her, understanding what Ryder was thinking.
"Oh Spence, I am so sorry, do you need anything? Can I do something? I can come to the hospital or something?" Ryder spits out, wanting nothing more than to comfort him.
"No, no, it's getting late. You should just stay at home. My team and I are going to work the case." Spencer tells her, turning down her offer no matter how much he wanted to take it.
"You sure?" She questions softly.
"Yeah, I'm sure. Th-thank you though, I appreciate it." Spencer says as he looks down towards his team, catching Morgan's eye.
"Yeah, sure, just call me if you need anything, okay? And keep me updated?" Ryder asks hopefully, shifting in her seat and pulling her legs under herself.
"Yeah, yeah, I will," Spencer nods once he breaks eye contact with Morgan. "Don't stay up though, get some sleep, I'll text you when I know something."
"Okay." Ryder reluctantly agrees. "She'll be okay Spence, I'm sure of it." She tells Reid after a moment. She wishes she could tell him in person. Be there with him, to comfort him.
"Thank you, Ryder." Spencer says, wishing he could just be with her, wrap his arms around her and hide his face in her hair to escape from the reality he was currently living. But he couldn't do that now, he had to be strong and he had to be present if he was going to help Penelope.
"Of course. Call if you need anything, okay?"
"Yeah. Bye." Spencer ends the call after hearing Ryder's soft 'bye', afraid that if he didn't do it now, he'd never hang up. Taking one last deep breath, Spencer stands from his spot on the floor and walks back over to the rest of the team.
"Who was that?" Morgan asks him, nodding his head towards Spencer phone as he slips it into his pocket.
"Uh, no one." Spencer poorly lies, saved from any more questions as an old man in scrubs walks over to them, gaining the whole team's attention.
"Penelope Garcia?" He asks, looking down at a chart in his hands.
"Yes." Emily and Hotch say in unison.
"The bullet went in her chest and ricocheted into her abdomen. She lost a lot of blood. It was touch-and-go for a while, but we were able to repair the injuries." The doctor informs them.
"So what are you saying?" JJ questions.
"One centimeter over and it would have torn right through her heart. Instead, she could actually walk out of here in a couple of days." The doctor tells them, earning relieved sighs from everyone. "And I'd say that's a minor miracle. She needs her rest. You can see her in the morning."
"David and I will go to the scene, I think the rest of you should be here when she wakes up. I don't care about protocol, I don't care whether we're working this officially or not. We don't touch any new cases until we find out who did this." Hotch tells his team, earning nods of agreement from everyone.
Feeling as if a weight had been lifted from his heart, Spencer once again steps away from his remaining team members and pulls out his phone. It hadn't been that long since he talked to Ryder but he didn't want to risk calling her and waking her up. So instead Spencer writes out a text letting her know that Penelope was okay, smiling when she texts back almost immediately.
"Nobody?" Morgan's voice sounds from behind him, causing Spencer to jump slightly.
"What?" Spencer asks, sliding his phone back into his pocket.
Giving Spencer a small smile that didn't quite reach his eyes, Morgan decides to drop the subject for now and instead asks, "I was gonna go get coffee for everyone, want a cup?"
"Uh, yeah, sure. Thanks, Morgan." Spencer nods, glad he didn't push the subject anymore. Call him selfish, but Spencer wasn't ready to share Ryder with the team. Hotch already knew about her by accident, but Reid knew he wouldn't say anything to the rest of the team.
He would tell them, one day. Today just wasn't that day.
It was a few days later that Ryder really heard from Spencer. He had sent her texts when he got that chance, letting her know he was okay and that he and his team were still working on the case, until they finally caught the guy. He had called her earlier that day and Ryder suggested they go out for those milkshakes they never got the chance to, promising him they'd make him feel better.
That's how Ryder finds herself walking down the sidewalk in the direction of the diner.
Hearing a ding from her phone, Ryder removes it from her back pocket and looks down at the screen, but before she was able to see who it was, Ryder bumps shoulders with someone passing by, causing her to drop her phone. "Oh, I'm sorry.." Ryder tries to apologize, trailing off when the man keeps walking passed her like nothing even happened. "Okay then." Bending down, Ryder picks up her phone and continues on her way, glancing over the shoulder to where she could still see the hunched form of the man she had bumped into.
Shaking her head, Ryder slips her phone back into her pocket, the message she had received long forgotten as she continues her way to the diner, catching sight of Spencer as she neared it. "Hello, stranger." She greets him with a smile that only grows when he takes hold of her hand before kissing her.
"Hey." Spencer greets back, smiling down at the shorter girl, studying the way her smile lights up her beautiful face.
"Rough few days?" Ryder asks him, smile gone from her face as she gives his hand a light squeeze.
"Yeah, better now though." Spencer tells her, successfully bringing the smile back to her face as Spencer leans down for another kiss.
"Wanna go in?" Ryder questions once they pull away.
Nodding his answer, Spencer holds tight to Ryder's hand as she leads him inside the diner and over to a booth where she sits across from him. "I love this place, actually did a photoshoot here once. I used to come all the time with my brother." Ryder tells him, smiling fondly as she looks around the retro diner.
"What's your brother's name?"
"Tommy." Ryder quickly says before correcting herself. "Well, Tom I guess, I'm the only one who calls him Tommy. Do you have any siblings?"
"Um, no, no, I'm an only child." Spencer tells Ryder right as an older waitress comes over to take their order.
"Ryder, dear, haven't seen you in a while. How are you doing sweetie?" The strawberry-blonde lady asks the younger women, the wrinkles around her eyes more prominent when she smiles.
"I'm good Ms. Linda, just been busy, how about you?" She kindly asks the older women she's known since she was a teenager.
"Oh you know, same old same old. How's Tom doing? You heard from him recently?" Sitting back in his seat, Spencer watches the scene in front of him, noticing the way Ryder's smile drops slightly as she answers the older women's question.
"No, not recently." Ryder shakes her head with a small frown.
"Oh that's alright sweetie, I'm sure he's just fine." Linda says while placing a comforting hand on Ryder's shoulder for a moment before turning to Spencer. "And who might this handsome young man be?"
Chuckling at how uncomfortable Spencer suddenly looks, Ryder's gaze shifts to him as she answers Linda's question, her eyes not leaving his. "This is Spencer, my boyfriend?" She hesitates slightly and it ends up sounding more like a question. She and Spencer never talked about it, she had mentioned something that one time but they never actually used the words boyfriend and girlfriend.
"Yeah." Spencer agrees, nodding his head.
"Oh, how wonderful." Linda says with a big smile. She's known Ryder since she was a teenager, having known her brother since he was little as their mother liked to bring him here growing up. Ryder and Tom were almost like grandchildren to her. "Well, what can I get the lovely couple today?"
"Well I know I said milkshakes but I'm actually a little hungry." Ryder admits to Spencer with a sheepish smile.
Chuckling, Spencer agrees and they both end up ordering a burger and fries with their milkshakes.
"If you don't mind me asking," Spencer starts once Linda walks away to prepare their order. "Where is your brother?"
"No, that's okay. Tommy is in the army. He ah, he got deployed about five months ago." Ryder says as she plays with a napkin to distract herself, Spencer's hand soon finding hers as he reaches across the table. "I mean it's not the first time, you know? He enlisted when he was twenty, he's been gone before and he's always come back but it doesn't make it any easier."
"I'm sorry." Spencer's voice is sincere when he gives Ryder's hand a comforting squeeze.
"Thanks Spence." Just then Linda comes back with their food and milkshakes, causing the two to break contact to allow her to set down there plates on the table. "Thank you, Ms. Linda." Ryder says with a smile towards the older lady before she walks off, leaving the two alone once again.
"What about your parents?" Spencer asks after a few minutes, looking over at Ryder as she twirls a French fry around in some ketchup.
"Oh well, you see that answer is a bit more complicated." She tells him, looking down at her food.
"You don't have to tell me." Spencer quickly says. He knows very well what it's like to not want to talk about something.
"No, no, it's okay. Just..." Ryder trails off, looking up at Spencer and giving him a smile that didn't reach her eyes. She liked talking to Spencer, she found it oddly easy, but she didn't want to unload all of her baggage on him, what if he decided to leave her for it? No, Spencer wouldn't do that. With this in mind, Ryder takes a deep breath before she starts speaking.
"My mother, Eleanor was her name, uh, she passed away three years ago." She says while avoiding Spencer's eyes, speaking again before he could say anything. "And don't get me wrong when I say this, Eleanor was a great mother and I loved her but she wasn't my real mother."
Feeling Spencer's confused gaze burning holes into the top of her head, Ryder looks up to meet his eyes. "She adopted me when I was fifteen. Um, her husband had died a few years prior and she'd always wanted another kid, but she was getting older and without her husband around she didn't think she could raise a baby so she decided to adopt older." Ryder shrugs while gesturing to herself, letting out a small laugh that holds no humor.
"Tommy was actually adopted too, just when he was a baby. Mom and her husband tried for years and couldn't have kids so they decided to adopt." Ryder continues before rubbing her face, letting out another laugh. "I'm sorry, that was a lot and I just kind of dumped it on you."
Quickly standing from his seat, Spencer moves to sit next to Ryder and gently grabs hold of her wrists and pulls them away from her face, holding her hands in his lap. "Please don't be sorry." He tells her, removing one of his hands from hers to gently turn her head towards him.
Feeling Spencer's feather-light touch on her jaw, Ryder slowly turns her head up to meet his eyes, smiling softly when she sees the look in his eyes. Not judgmental or annoyed but acceptance and understanding.
"You can always talk to me." He tells her with his own soft smile, happy she was able to open up to him.
"Thank you." Ryder mumbles, her heart swelling with happiness at the amazing man sitting across from her. "You don't know how much that means to me."
"Come here." Spencer places his arm around Ryder's shoulder and pulls her into his side. Wrapping her arms around his waist, Ryder rests her head against Spencer's chest, the sound of his heartbeat relaxing her. Placing a light kiss to the top of Ryder's head, Spencer asks, "You ready to go?"
Nodding, Ryder pulls away from Spencer and smiles at him, sliding out of the booth after Spencer, grabbing his offered hand before leaving the diner, paying on their way out which Spencer insists on doing.
"So, I'm free for the rest of the day if you're not tired of me yet." Ryder tells Spencer as they walk down the sidewalk, one of her hands in his, the other resting on his arm.
"I'll never be tired of you." Spencer responds, looking down when he feels a pressure on his shoulder, seeing she's leaned her head against him.
"Well, we'll see about that." Ryder jokes. Slowing to a stop, Spencer turns and looks down at Ryder, and gently places his hands on either side of her face before leaning down to kiss her, Ryder's own hands coming to hold his wrists as she returns his kiss.
"Did you know that you are a really good kisser?" Ryder asks him with a smirk after pulling away.
Blushing, Spencer smiles as he looks down, lowering his hands to take hold of hers. "Can't say I've ever been told that before."
"Well, you are." Ryder tells him, smiling at how cute he looks when he became shy. "C'mon." Tugging on his hand, Ryder starts leading him away. "You willing to stick with me a little longer?"
"Always." Spencer answers, the smile never leaving his face.