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She loves Daniel.  They’ve been married for almost 22 years, having met at a party she was forced to go to for a friend she no longer knows.  Daniel was pressured to go by one of his friends and after some initial awkwardness, they spent three hours in a corner talking about their lives and their jobs and what ass-holes their friends are.

It’s been hard having him gone as often as he is, no matter how important his work is.  Sierra Leone was his first assignment in the late 90s and Alex went to bed scared for him every night.  Assignments since then had been easier, now they’re almost routine.  He gets assigned someplace and is gone for a few months.  Then he’s back home.  Over the years, they’ve gone from letters to occasional phone calls and emails and on his latest trip he’s able to Skype occasionally. 

Right now it’s even more difficult with everyone on the team feeling confused, hurt and a little fragile.  Spencer’s girlfriend was murdered in front of them and no one was able to do anything to stop it from happening.  Now it feels like they haven’t been able to help him again.  That’s probably not entirely true, everyone tries in their own way, but still there’s a pall over the group. 

He’s been back for a couple of weeks and they’re getting back into a rhythm, although Spencer’s usually staying in the office with the locals police department.  Alex had gotten used to having Spencer as her partner and it’s just another thing to adjust to and worry about.

She wishes she could talk about it with Daniel; she was able to talk with him for about 10 minutes a few days after it happened.  But the phone lines where he is now aren’t reliable, and as a “mission head” he spent most of the phone call telling people on his side “Not now, I need a few minutes” before finally telling Alex he has to hang up and put out what might be an actual fire. 

So she’s been working with Dave and actually, it’s kind of fun.  He’s smart (obviously) and charming in a way that many men don’t dare try to be today.   He opens doors for her and lets her get into elevators first, but treats her as an equal on a case and respects areas where she’s clearly the expert.  They’ve started talking a little bit in the car on the way to and from witnesses and he holds up his end of the conversation, and he lets her talk.  And he listens.  They’ll talk on a Monday and he’ll mention something she said later in the week.  She’s almost forgotten what that kind of attention is like.

She’ll admit, she got a bit of a kick when they went to the sex club in San Francisco and she surprised him talking about her former wild life in the 80s.  Not that she really was that wild.  Rumor has it that Dave had a bit of a wild side, too.

Daniel is a great listener when he’s home.   That was one of the first things that attracted her to him.  Well, that and his good looks.  Not classically handsome, a little too tall and thin, glasses with gold wire frames magnifying brown eyes that seem to study everything.  His hair is dark blond and even when she first met him, it had that thin, baby-bird look that let her know he’d be balding by the time he was in his 40s.  But there was something about his looks that struck her then and she knows that he’s only gotten more handsome over the years.

After one of their cases, Alex is sitting next to Dave on the flight home.  They’re both working, Dave on revisions to a book and Alex on a letter to Daniel.  Dave’s stomach growls loudly and Alex can’t help but laugh, especially as his expression of betrayal as he looks down as his stomach.  “I think there’s chips or something in the back if you can’t wait until we land.  Or Morgan has power bars.”

“I think I’d rather starve.   I’ll wait until we land.   Maybe we can convince Reid to grab dinner?”

Alex glances over at Spencer, who is staring out the window, book facedown in his lap.  He did some good work on the case this week and was really focused.   “Maybe.  I know that Morgan always asks him out, although I think he usually bails out on him.  I don’t think he’s quite ready for that much testosterone yet.”

Dave raises an eyebrow and smiles.  “Thanks.  Glad to know I offer a low T evening.”

“You know that’s not what I mean.”  She’s quiet for a minute and then says softly, “I don’t know how he’ll recover from this.  I know I wouldn’t be the same if something happened to Daniel…”

“Of course he won’t be the same, but maybe he’ll be something different, but good.  Like the restoration of the Sistine Chapel.  Changed the way we’re used to seeing it, but it’s good.”

She chuckles and replies, “Better that then the restoration of the fresco in Spain with ‘monkey Jesus.’”

“Is that they’re calling it?  I guess that’s pretty accurate, but I don’t think…”

Spencer comes over and sits next to Alex, smiling shyly.   “Hey, sorry to interrupt, but you two were kind of giggling, something funny?”

“Just talking about the fresco restoration in Spain where the woman…”

“Monkey Jesus?  Do you know she’s asking for royalties because of the people coming in to see it?”  Spencer looks more aware than he has for weeks, so they let him go on for a bit, smiling and nodding as he explains the history of the botched restoration attempt and that there had been funds offered to have it professionally restored. 

When he stops for air, Rossi jumps in.  “We’re thinking of grabbing dinner when we land.  Join us?”

“Oh?  With just the two of you?   Thanks, but I think I’ll skip, I have some things to do at home.”  Spencer smiles tightly and his eyes drift away from both of them.  “Are you still going to go?”

Dave’s stomach takes the opportunity to growl again and he says, “Yeah, I need dinner.  Preferably not Chinese or pizza.”

“I have some peanut butter crackers in my bag if you want,” Spencer offers, pointing vaguely over his shoulder to where he was sitting.

“No, that’s okay, I’d rather wait and get something good.  Want to try the Indian restaurant that’s by the air strip?”

“Sounds good to me.  Spencer, sure we can’t tempt you?”

He hesitates for just a minute, “No, not this time.  Tell me if it’s any good.  And thank you, though.”

The restaurant is, in a word, terrible.  The palek paneer didn’t have enough spinach, the butter chicken was dry, the samosas were oily, the lamb vindaloo was bland and the chicken tandoori was so spicy it was inedible.  The naan and bottle of Riesling are both perfect, however, and Dave and Alex end up eating a couple of baskets of the bread with their wine.  

Their conversation flows as easily as the wine.  Dave talks about his family, now mostly in New York and New Jersey and touches upon his ex-wives, keeping it funny and not too bitter.  Alex explains how she joined the FBI, and met Spencer while he was guest lecturing. 

“You touch him.  On the shoulder or arm, but he seems okay with it.  I guess because you’ve been doing it for awhile?”

Dave nods and shrugs.  “Yeah, I guess so.  When I started I think he thought I was hitting on him, but now I think he knows that I’m just a touchy person.  And I think he needs it more than anyone else on the team.  I always have, but I think even more now.”

That’s as far as work conversation goes, the rest of the evening is casual and relaxed and Alex can’t remember the last time she laughed as much.  When they leave, they agree to walk a block or so to a local hotel where they can both get taxis.  Dave says they’ll pick up their cars tomorrow. 

“I’m sorry the restaurant was so…”

“Horrible?”  Alex offers.  “Tragic?”  She laughs at his affronted look and says, “It’s not your fault, you’re not the chef, you know, and we agreed we’d try someplace new.  Now we know.  But good wine and good company.  Maybe you’ll need to do one of your famous dinners that I’ve heard so much about.”

“Yeah, I haven’t done that for awhile.  Might be time.”  They’re at the hotel and Dave opens the door for Alex to get into the first cab and waits until she drives off before he gets into his cab.  She waves good-bye to him as their cabs pull off in opposite directions.

Their wedding was small and private.  Just their closest family member and friends.  A civil ceremony and afterwards at her mother’s house for hors d'oeuvres, cake and a lot of champagne.  Daniel wore a dark suit and Alex wore a cream colored dress.   She carried a small bouquet of her favorite tea roses, many tiny little buds on a few stems.   They spent a week in a bed and breakfast in Maine and that was the longest vacation she’d had since joining the FBI at 24.  Daniel was in the process of signing up with Doctors without Borders, as they’d discussed.   They both wanted to do something more with their lives, something other than putting in a 40-hour week and being anxious for it to be done. 

Their next case is a man who steals babies to give his mother grandchildren.  If his mother doesn’t approve of the child, he kills them.  Everyone hates cases with children, you don’t need to be a parent yourself to feel the parents’ loss. 

Spencer excels on this one, both in helping to solve the case and also helping everyone keep their emotions together.  JJ has a particularly hard time, one of the victims is a young blond boy and Spencer partners with her and keeps her interviewing witnesses, running down leads and avoiding the parents.    When they find the killer, he has a six-month old girl and his mother wanted another boy.  He’s obviously upset this time, both at his mother’s rejection and the thought of having to hurt the baby.  It’s not long before they’re able to talk him into giving up the girl with no one getting hurt.

Hotch disarms him and Rossi takes the baby, giving her a quick check to be sure she’s okay before he carries her out to the ambulance so the hospital can give her the official approval.   Alex smiles at Dave, who is cooing and whispering to the baby.  “You look good with a baby, Dave.”

It’s just a half-second look, one of the micro-expressions they’re taught to look for, but the pain on his face is so obvious that Alex takes a step back.  Before she completely registers what she saw, he stands and says, “Babies and dogs like me, what can I say?  I’ll get her out to the ambulance, and let her parents know she’ll be at the hospital.” 

Alex and Daniel’s families expected her to be pregnant within a year.   She can’t take hormonal birth control and using condoms seems so … unmarried.   It’s not so much a decision they make as something unsaid that they’ll go without birth control and see what happens.  Because they’re married and that means they should start a family, right?  After a year when she hasn’t conceived and the families start to whisper, they both go to a doctor just to make sure everything’s okay.  The test results come back and they find that Daniel’s little swimmers are actually little sinkers.

Daniel feels terrible, as though he’s failed in his responsibilities.  Alex tells him that it’s not a big deal, Daniel has seen there are already too many children in the world and they can adopt.   Alex does some research and even gets some application forms from their church, but somehow they don’t get completed, it’s always something they’ll do the next weekend they’re not working.

On one of these weekends, while they’re strolling on the promenade by the Potomac, trying to decide where to eat, Alex suddenly asks, “Do you really want a child, Daniel?  We haven’t actually talked about what we want, how it will affect us.”

They walk in silence for a few minutes and Alex veers towards one of the few open benches.   “Is it bad to say that I do if you do?”  Daniel pauses, looking down at the sidewalk.  “Alex, I want you to be happy, I really do.  But yes, sometimes I think that things with just the two of us are so right…and I don’t know how we’d be with a child.  We both work so much that time for the two of us is precious and then you add a third – a demanding third – so maybe I’m selfish, but sometimes, no, I don’t want a child.” 

They sit quietly for a few more minutes, just holding hands.  “I’m okay with that, Daniel.  You’re right; we’re good with the two of us.  And if that’s selfish, I can live with being selfish.” 

They never mention children again.

It’s stupid, Alex thinks.  She’s not some teenage girl with a crush, but that’s what it feels like.  Picking out a suit that she knows flatters her coloring, taking a little more time with her makeup, wearing a necklace that Dave commented on.   All the time, telling herself how stupid she is, how married she is.  

She doesn’t remember feeling this way about Daniel, not the silly giddiness that she’s feeling now.  She was attracted to Daniel and wanted to spend every available minute with him, but not with the crazy emotional rush she’s been feeling.  Falling for Daniel was a calm thing, a calming thing.  This is like the insane hormonal high school honors chemistry girl who did a term paper for a football player, hoping  he’d take her to a dance as a thank you.  Of course he didn’t.  And of course, she’s no longer the only honor student; everyone she works with was an honor student.

The next week at work is quiet, with everyone catching up on files and reports.  Morgan and Reid have been tagged to do a recruitment trip at NYU Law School.  Reid’s still not comfortable doing these, but Morgan’s confident enough for the two of them.   They could fly in and out the same day and do the seminar, but Morgan’s talked Reid into flying back the next day, seeing a bit of the city.  In exchange, he’s agreed to spend a few hours at the Museum of Modern Art, Reid’s preference.

Alex finishes a profile to be sent to a small Texas town and decides to ask Dave to take a look, just as another set of eyes.  He smiles broadly when she comes in he takes the file while she sits on the couch opposite his desk, telling her that he can look at it while she waits, if she wants. 

“I like your earrings, they’re opals?” Dave asks, as he quickly reads her analysis. 

“Yes,” she says and tugs them gently.  Daniel had sent them while he was in Afghanistan.  “How did I do, did I cover everything?  These still seem strange, not seeing things in person.”

“I think so, just from a quick read.  If you really want me to go through it, I can, later this afternoon.”

“No, it’s okay, Dave.  I was just hoping for a quick look, to see if anything jumped out at you.  Thanks, Dave.”  Alex starts to get up to leave when Dave stops her.

“Hey, that dinner thing?  At my house?  I was thinking a week from Saturday, what do you think?”

“Oh.  Dinner at your house?  Yes, I think that would be nice, Dave.”  She smiles at him and tries to ignore the sound of her heart pounding in her ears.

Dave looks down at his desk and then back at her on the couch.  “Alex,” he says quietly, “I hope that I’m being stupid here and you’ll roll your eyes and laugh at me, but in case I was putting out any …wrong vibes, I’m sorry.  I mean, dinner next Saturday is with the team, you know?  Assuming we’re not called out of town.”

She hopes that she’s keeping her emotions off her face, other than a small smile.  “Umm, Dave?  I’m sorry if I’m the one who has been, as you say ‘putting out wrong vibes’ but I value your friendship and…”

Dave grimaces.  “Ug.  Kind of embarrassing, but it happens because I do think pretty highly of myself.  I just didn’t want there to be any misunderstanding, Alex.  You’re a very attractive woman, but an attractive married woman and I...”

“We’re good, Dave.  Sorry if I made you uncomfortable.”  Idiot idiot idiot, she thinks.

“So Saturday, if we’re in town.  I already mentioned it to Hotch and he said he’ll see if Beth can’t come out this weekend.”

“Oh great incentive!  Everyone will want to see how the boss and the girlfriend are doing.”  Alex laughs and it sounds forced to her ears, but Dave doesn’t seem to be reacting, so that’s good. 

“Okay, great.  Sorry about the earlier…”

“Don’t mention it again and thanks for looking at my report, I appreciate it.”  Really, please let’s never mention this again.

On Sunday, Alex is trying to relax, listening to music and paging through a cooking magazine.   The doorbell rings and when she gets it, it’s flowers.  Tea roses in multiple colors in a pretty glass vase.  She tips the delivery person and takes them inside putting them on the table next to her favorite chair.   These have a pretty scent and she sniffs deeply while opening the card.

“Dearest Alex, if these arrive on the 8th, it will be 26 years from the day we met at a horrible party where I spilled a glass of wine on you and you talked with me anyway.  Best worst first impression I ever made.  I miss you and love you and will see you as soon as possible.  Always, Daniel.”

On Monday, they’re on the plane again, on their way to another crime scene.  Garcia has done the briefing on-line and after discussing some possibilities to be explored, Hotch starts to give out assignments.  “Alex and Dave, I’d like you two to go to the first crime scene with Sheriff Parker.”

“Hotch?  Okay, if I take Dr. Reid on this one?  I think he’s familiar with the layout of that type of lab, it might be helpful.”  Alex can feel eyes on her; requesting a change isn’t an unheard of request, but it’s a little unusual.  Dave doesn’t say anything, but she sees the muscle twitch in his jaw.

“Fine with me.  Dave?  Reid?  Okay with you both?”  They both nod and Hotch goes on assigning team members to various locations. 

They have another couple of hours to fly and people break up into smaller groups or sit by themselves to review files or take a quick cat nap.  Spencer comes and sits next to her and smiles tentatively.  “Thanks, Alex.  For asking to work with me.”

“Of course, Spencer.  I do think you’ll be good at this lab, you should probably check out the other sites, too, of course.  You okay?”  She looks at him closely and he’s mostly looking out the window, eyes a little shiny.

“Yeah, it’s… this one feels hard.  Harder.  The girls, they remind me of Maeve.”

She looks at the pictures of the three girls again.  They all have medium length, light brown hair, but beyond that, there’s not a lot of resemblance.   These girls are all model pretty; that was mentioned in the profile, including one had been a local beauty pageant winner.  But of course, Maeve was the most beautiful girl in the world to Spencer before he’d even met her.  So of course, they’re beautiful like Maeve.

“Understood.  Let me know when you’re having a problem and we’ll get through it.  Together, okay?”  She briefly touches his hand and smiles when he doesn’t pull away.  “Okay, let’s talk about the lab.  The killer was obviously there for quite some time, because we can see…”