Spencer lay back in bed and stared up at the ceiling not caring about the time. He thought back to his date with Aaron, which was both one of the best and worst dates he ever had. Spencer knew he couldn’t, or rather shouldn’t go back no matter how much he wanted to. Pushing all thoughts of Aaron from his mind Spencer finally got himself up and out of bed. He looked over at the picture that he had in his room of Aaron and remembered the sock. Turning back, he dived onto the bed and searched it. Finding nothing he threw the covers off completely and there, at the end of the bed was the sock he had held onto so tightly. Smiling to himself he ran down to the converted basement and into one of the darkrooms. He hadn’t even bothered to change out of his pajamas he was so excited. Carefully taking the rolls of film out of the sock Spencer began to diligently process each roll.
Several hours later he was looking at several pictures of Aaron Michael Hotchner. He reached up a shaking finger and slowly ran it across the models face. His breath hitched as his emotions boiled over and the feeling of losing something before it even began filled his heart. He sat heavy on the stool near his work space and stared. He lost all track of time and was startled by the knock on the door. Getting-up he walked to the door and opened it.
“Hey bug, thought I might find ya’ down here.” Spencer moved aside to let Rob in. Moving back to the stool he sat down and didn’t even try to hide what he was feeling.
“You wanna tell me now what happened between the two o’ ya’ that night?” Rob had grabbed the other stool and sat down in front of Spencer.
Spencer frowned as he looked down at his hands that were twisting tightly together.
“How long have you been waiting to ask me that question?”
“As long as I’ve known ya’. I been waitin’ for the day you found that damn amulet. I knew I shoulda warned ya’ but I also knew I couldn’t screw with those events.” Rob gave him a mischievous smile as he watched Spencer, “Ya’ also cost me the article of a lifetime kid.”
“What?” Spencer gave his Uncle a confused look when it dawned on him, “Oh, the Kennedy assassination. Well I wasn’t sure what I could and couldn’t tell you. Didn’t want to alter your own timeline too much.”
“I think ya’ watch too much of that Dr. Who ya’ like so much.” Rob teased him. Spencer was quiet as he looked up at the photos and frowned. He hesitated for quite a while to say anything about that night, but he knew he could tell his Uncle anything.
“After the photo session he had taken me to a little beatnik café. Lew Welch was there performing. I didn’t connect them at first but when I woke the name came to me. We just talked. He bought me coffee, smiled when I rambled too much and really listened. I don’t know if I can truly recall anytime that Maeve stopped to listen to me. Maybe in the beginning, when we were younger, and she thought I was going to do something different with my life. She was so upset when I turned down Gideon and the BAU. But, this,” Spencer waived a hand around the room, “This is cleaner, purer. I somehow think that if I had joined the BAU all they would have cared about was my mind. I think they would have used me up, as much as I admired Gideon there was something rather,” Spencer was trying to find the right word for how Jason Gideon had made him feel, “predatory about him. I don’t think I could have lived with that.”
Spencer licked his lips as he stood and took down one of the window shots. It was one of his favorites, the double exposure with another Aaron filtered through a brown tone filter against the last brightness of the day just before dusk had Spencer smiling.
“He walked me back to your place then pulled me into the little alley that was just down from your apartment. He asked if he could kiss me and I let him.” Spencer clipped the photo back-up on the drying wire and wiped his hand down his face. He wasn’t going to let himself cry. Not over something in the past that he may never be able to have again.
He felt Rob watching him and was grateful for the momentary silence. When his Uncle finally did speak it was to try to get him to out of the darkroom and upstairs.
“Come on Spencer, ya’ forgot to eat and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but ya’ haven’t had a cup of coffee all day. It’s almost three in the afternoon.” Spencer wasn’t shocked at the time. He often got lost in the work. Exposing film was its own art. He could really enhance the pictures as they were being exposed. He chuckled to himself as he followed his Uncle out of darkroom and back upstairs.
After fixing himself a couple of sandwiches and a cup of fresh coffee Spencer sat down with his phone not really wanting to hear the slew of messages Maeve had left but knew he needed to. He took a moment to steel himself against what he knew was going to be an onslaught. Slowly he lifted the phone to his ear and heard the voice of his wife.
<i>“Spence I’m sorry I didn’t mean what I said. Please, come home.”</i> 12:45 p.m.
<i>“Dammit Spencer don’t ignore me. Please, just come home.” 1:15 p.m.
<i>“Stop being selfish here Spencer. You need to come home now. We can’t fix this if you’re hiding out wherever you are.”</i> 1:25 p.m.
<i>“You know what? Fuck you, be a damn coward. Hide out at your Uncle’s for all I care. You don’t seem to really want to fix anything. You just want to sit in you goddamn darkroom and brood.”</i> 1:40 p.m.
Spencer stopped listening after a while because the messages just turned more and more spiteful. He decided it just wasn’t worth it to put himself through that and deleted the messages. Sitting back in his chair he threw the phone on the table and scrubbed a hand down his face. After finishing his coffee, he leaned forward on the table and lay his head in his hands and fought down his rising anger and resentment. He didn’t want to be angry at Maeve, he didn’t want to feel resentment towards her, but he knew there was something very broken between them. He wasn’t even sure if counseling would work at this point; too much time and too many cracks in the foundation of their tattered marriage. Spencer had come to the hard truth, but he didn’t know what to do about it.
“Hey bug,” Spencer heard his Uncle moving to sit next to him and when he looked up all he saw was compassion and understanding.
“Hey,” Spencer said as he sat back his chair, an air of defeat surrounding him.
“Ya’ know ya’ always got a place her Shutterbug, but I think maybe you need to go home. You need to figure out what it is that you need. If it’s trying to repair your marriage or not you’ll always have me.”
“Thanks Uncle.” Spencer cleared his throat as he looked down at the table. “Uncle, tell me about the amulet.”
Rob pressed his lips together as he watched his nephew for a few moments.
“Why do ya’ wanna know Spencer?” Spencer noted the concern in his Uncle’s voice, but he just couldn’t help it, his curiosity was peaked and the pull back to 1963 was strong. Spencer lifted his head and Rob was shocked to see the pain in his eyes. He hadn’t seen that kind of pain in his nephew since James’s death.
“I need to go back. I need to see him again. I,” Spencer bit his lip as he traced the pi symbol across the table with his finger. “I don’t know why, don’t ask me but I just really need to see him again.”
Rob shoved away from the table and Spencer frowned as he watched him walk away. Getting up from the table Spencer followed wondering just what it was that he said to make his Uncle upset.
“Uncle, what’s wrong?”
“Spencer, forget the amulet. Just go home and figure out what ya’ wanna do. Live the life ya’ have here and now. That thing could destroy you.”
“Please Uncle. I just,” Spencer huffed out a breath as he stood there staring down his Uncle, “I need to know. I need to know if there is something there. I’m dying here Rob. My marriage, James, my work. Everything is going wrong and it’s taking little pieces out of me. The first peace I have had in a year was sitting in a small café drinking coffee with someone who really listened to me. Please give me the chance to find out if there is something there.”
“And what are ya’ gonna do if there is? What are ya’ gonna do if ya’ find ya’ care for this man? Will ya’ stay? Change yer whole life? Ya’ have to understand Bug, the type of relationship yer contemplating, back then, it’s hard and dangerous.”
“I know Uncle, I know that but, but I have to try I have to find out. Please, if you know how it works, I need this. I need to go back.”
Spencer stood watching the play of emotions on his Uncle’s face, “Uncle,” Spencer was cut off by Rob when he sat down in a chair in the living room.
“Bring it to me.” Spencer practically ran out of the living room to go his own room to grab the amulet and quickly came back. Handing the amulet over to Rob he dropped down on the arm of the chair and waited patiently. Rob took the amulet and showed Spencer how to use it.
“The most important thing to remember is to keep it in yer mind exactly where and when ya’ wanna go. While it looks like a sundial it ain’t. Though it is Aztec in origin. Ya’ move this little ball to the year ya’ wanna go and hold the image of where ya’ wanna go in yer head. That is most important. Don’ wanna hear about ya’ wakin’ up in alleyways again.”
Spencer couldn’t help the chuckle as he took the amulet back and held it in his hand. He wanted to experiment with it but he wasn’t sure if it would be safe. He would wait until he got back home. Holding onto the amulet Spencer went to his room and packed-up his bag, showered and changed. He went to his darkroom and gathered up all the photos and secured them in his portfolio and took that with him too. Now he had something to show the gallery owner. He still had work to do, some photo manipulations he wanted to try but now he had a direction and felt for the first time in over a year that at least one thing in his life was finally going right.
“Ya’ leavin’ Bug?” Spencer was putting his things down near the front door when his Uncle came into the room.
“Yeah. Maeve and I need to talk.” Spencer slumped against the wall trying to get his thoughts together. “I think we have a lot to talk about; that is if I can even get her out of the lab and actually talk to me.”
“If there is anything ya’ need just let me know.” Rob squeezed his shoulder in a show of support and Spencer was never more grateful for his Uncle than he had been in that moment.
“Thanks Uncle.” Spencer gave him a quick smile, but Rob could see it didn’t quite reach his eyes. Spencer picked-up his things and made his way to his car. Packing quickly, he was behind the wheel and driving back towards home. He was anxious and his heart was heavy, but this was a conversation that was a long-time coming. He just wasn’t sure if there was enough left of their dying marriage to be saved.
Two hours later Spencer was pulling up to his house. He had stopped for a light dinner before he made the rest of his way home. He sat in the car as he stared at the house, he and Maeve had bought together almost nine years prior. They both had been so young and idealistic. He wanted to take pictures that would make people think, she wanted to cure the world. They both had big dreams and big hopes back then. They had loved fiercely. Spencer had fallen in love with her mind and her passion first, her body second. Even their love making had been full of fire and passion when they were in the throes of their blooming romance. Then they had gotten married. It had been the happiest day of his life up until then. The awkward bullied genius had started to bloom and come out of his shell and marrying the woman he adored was his crowning glory.
Then two years later, James. Spencer took a shaky breath as he thought of the birth of his son. He had enjoyed the whole process, all nine months of it. Seeing Maeve heavy with their child had caught something so profound in his heart he didn’t think that there was anything in life that could top it. How wrong he had been. When Maeve gave birth and he held the tiny wiggling infant in his arms Spencer was overwhelmed. Their boy, their perfect little boy, he couldn’t have been any happier than he was that day.
It wasn’t until James was almost two that everything started to go wrong. The boy had been developing early. Early walker, early talker, even his teeth came in early and both parents couldn’t have been prouder. Then the seizures started. The doctor called them myoclonic seizures, short jerking motions. They started small and maybe only one then they increased in number and frequency. The drops came next. One moment they would be walking with the little boy in-between them and suddenly he would be on the ground. But he would just get off the ground and grab his parent’s hands and keep walking like nothing happened.
When they went to see the specialist that was when they finally got the diagnosis. A rare disorder they were told. The doctor wanted to do gene mapping on both parents to see who the carrier was. At first, they didn’t want to, they didn’t think it mattered but the doctor asked if they planned on more children. At first, they had, they were only children and they wanted to have three kids. The specialist reassured them that it was rare for a gene carrier to have more than one child with the disease but it would be good to know in case Maeve got pregnant again they could do tests early on to determine if the baby was going to have the same issues.
Spencer still didn’t want to do it, but Maeve, being a geneticist, saw the wisdom in it. So, they agreed. When the tests came back showing Maeve as the carrier the news was taken in stride and set aside. What they wanted to do was focus all their attention on James. The parents put everything of themselves into their child. They wanted to give him the best childhood they could. They knew they were living on borrowed time. When James made it to seven things started to worsen. Dementia set in, he started to forget things and people. When he forgot Spencer’s Uncle it was the beginning of the nightmare for them. They had to watch as their bright, eager and loving little boy started to slowly slip away from them. The day Spencer tuned off the life-support machines was the day the rest of his life had fallen completely apart. It was the day he had turned to Dilauded in earnest.
Though he had been taking the drug to escape the pain of the headaches, it also helped the pain at seeing his little boy hooked-up to machines and the doctors telling them James only had days, possibly weeks. James had been a fighter and he had lived for almost ten weeks after being admitted to the hospital for full-time care. Spencer wasn’t proud of the fact that there were days he had stumbled into his son’s room higher than a kite. It was a Band-Aid, a shield for the pain. And it just got worse after they lost James completely.
Spencer shook himself from those memories as he stared up at the house that was no longer a home. It was a place to sleep, eat, work but it wasn’t a home any longer. The cracks that had begun to show when their son was admitted to the hospital just kept widening and now Spencer sat and wondered if there was anything left at all.
Spencer walked into the house and slung his briefcase, laptop and portfolio on the couch before he went to look for his wife. When he didn’t find her in the house, he made his way downstairs to her private lab. Looking up he saw the light above the door on which meant she was in there working on an experiment. He knocked and waited to see if she was going to acknowledge him at all.
He steeled himself when he heard the click of the lock and saw Maeve opening the door, her lab coat pulled tight around her.
“You decided to come back.” Spencer wasn’t surprised by the tone in her voice
“We need to talk. Really talk and not yell at each other.” Spencer stood staring at his wife and tried to find the bright, idealistic girl that he fell in love with. At that moment, he couldn’t. All he saw was a broken, obsessed woman and it hurt more than he ever thought it would to finally realize what his wife had become.
He watched as realization dawned on his wife. They hadn’t had a real talk since their son’s passing.
“Okay, just give me a few minutes to close down my work and I’ll be right-up.” Spencer nodded and to keep himself busy he grabbed his portfolio and came back to his own studio and hung the pictures of Aaron. When he was done, he went back upstairs and waited for Maeve in the small den.
“So,” Maeve came in the room and Spencer just watched her. He knew this was going to be one of the hardest conversations he ever had with her.
“So,” Spencer frowned deeply as he looked down at his hands in his lap. “What are we doing Maeve?”
“I don’t know what you mean Spencer.”
Spencer looked-up sharply at her, “You know exactly what I mean Maeve. We do nothing but yell and hurt each other. We don’t talk, we don’t go anywhere together. You stay holed-up in your lab here or at your work. I’m out trying to find something to give Gabriela for the installation I owe her. We are so far apart from each other that I don’t know if we can be fixed.”
“Well whose fault was that? Where were you when I needed you? Oh, let me see, shooting up god knows where. Then when you did decide to come home you were high and how were we supposed to talk then?”
Spencer’s eyes went flat as all emotion drained from him. He could have gotten angry; he could have yelled back but he didn’t. Anger hadn’t gotten him anywhere in the past.
“Right, bring that up. I got help Maeve, I’ve been clean for almost nine months, but you just can’t let it go can you?”
Maeve kept her eyes on Spencer, and he saw when she deflated, when the fight went out of her and he hoped that they could finally move on, one way or another.
“I’m sorry, I just,” Maeve looked up at him and he couldn’t quite interpret the look she was giving him. “I don’t know what I’m doing anymore Spencer.”
“Thank makes two of us. We lost ourselves Maeve. Losing James, it broke us, individually and as a couple. We need to figure out now what we are going to do.”
“Do? What do you mean do? We work on this; we try to fix this.”
“Can we? Do you really think there is anything left here Maeve? We keep circling back to the same conversations, doing the same things over and over, hurting each other and it needs to stop. These cracks, they just keep getting larger and larger.”
“What are you saying? You don’t want to even try?” Spencer furrowed his brow and thought of Aaron for a moment. That kiss had branded him in a way Maeve never had. He had to ask himself if he wanted to try with Maeve or was there a possibility that he could go back and see what Aaron had to offer.
“I honestly don’t know Maeve.” Spencer stared at his wife as uncertainty pooled in his gut. He was torn between the woman he once loved and the possibility of something new and clean in the past.
“Who is she?” The words were said with such venom and hate that Spencer was taken aback.
“There is no other she Maeve.” Spencer knew it was a partial lie but how could he tell her what he was feeling?
Maeve stood up and came over to him and slid in his lap. Months before he would have given anything to feel this, to have his wife in his arms once again. But too many rejections, too many nights spent alone had jaded him.
“What are you doing Maeve?”
“Come on Spencer,” She leaned in and kissed the side of his neck and damn him to hell his body responded to the attention. “We haven’t touched each other in so long. Please,” She moved her lips to places she knew gave him pleasure. Closing his eyes, he fought against the attention, there was still too much unspoken between them and he knew this wasn’t the way. He didn’t stop the tears that fell as he grabbed her by the shoulders and gently pushed her away.
“Not like this Maeve. There is still too much we have to talk about-“The sting of the slap across his face was unexpected.
“Fuck you Spencer,” She yelled as she left him sitting there in the chair. He didn’t go after her, he didn’t see the point. He waited until he could get himself under control then left the house. He didn’t even realize where he was going until he pulled-up into the cemetery. He sat there for a long moment before he decided to get out of the car. It was late, but he didn’t care he felt like he needed to be there. Slowly he walked to the gravesite and sat cross-legged and stared at the headstone. He could just barely make out the words in the waning light. Reaching out a hand he traced the letters <i>James Matthew Reid, the brightest spot of sunshine, in the briefest moment of time.</i> Lying down in the grass Spencer didn’t care about getting dirty. He knew his own cracks were showing but he didn’t know how to heal them. Tracing the pi symbol repeatedly on the top of his son’s grave he let himself break.
“I miss you Jamie,” Was all he said.