Chapter Seventeen

Almost Lover

A Fine Frenzy

All eyes were on Riley as she strode into the round table room at the BAU. Garcia greeted her with a hug and the others stood to welcome her. Although she was happy to see them all again, the one face she really needed to see was absent. Reid was not here and Riley knew her face had wilted a little in disappointment when she realized it. But she quickly regained her smile when Rossi came to her. The bruises had not quite healed yet and her ribs hurt like hell sometimes but she was able to get up and move around with little limping now.

"You shouldn't be out and about yet Palmer. Come sit down." Rossi said, guiding her to a chair as they all took their own places. As much as she hated to admit it, he was right. She had been ordered to bed rest for the next few weeks but the waiting was killing her much faster than her wounds ever could. She had no contact with Reid since they escaped, nor had she tried. Instead she stayed at home and made up arguments and conversations and apologies, but none of them felt right.

"Yeah I know I just…" Riley sighed but she knew she couldn't lie. They all knew why she was here. What she was here for. "I needed to see Reid again. Even if he doesn't want to see me, I need some sort of closure."

The others looked at each other, Hotch closed his case file and leaned forward on the table. The look of pity and worry that marked Garcia's face told Riley that something just wasn't right. Morgan tapped his pen on the table, raising his brow at Hotch as they waited for him to explain.

"Reid is taking personal time. He didn't want to but I made him and now he's cut contact with all of us. He's not been out of his apartment since he left here and he's not been answering his phone. I was about to send Morgan over there to check on him, if you want to go with him."

Riley wasn't about to pass up the ride and yet, something in her didn't want to move. No matter how many conversations you had with yourself it never really prepared you for the moment.

"C'mon. Let's get moving." Morgan picked her shoulder with his fingers as he passed, waiting for her at the door in case she needed his help. After a moment she stood, said her goodbyes and limped to join him. As a gesture of good will, Morgan extended an arm to escort her from the building. Riley gladly took it but declined to speak to him. She hadn't seen Morgan since he helped in her transfer from Omaha to New York City. It wasn't a gentle goodbye but there was no true bad blood between them. Reid had unintentionally made it difficult for both of them and now neither knew what to say. All Morgan could do was help her into the SUV. She didn't look so good now.

"Are you sure you're up to this?" Morgan shut the door behind him, shifting the keys in his hand as he watched her rubbing her leg. She was obviously still in pain but deep down he knew she was as stubborn as Reid and he would have no chance of convincing her to turn around and go home. Hell, Morgan didn't really want her to turn around and run like Reid had done. The situation wasn't even his own and still he couldn't help but feel like he wanted to get some closure, see how it would pan out.

"I need to talk to him Derek." She said gravely. "I need to know what happened. Why he walked away. I don't think I can really rest until I know."

Morgan started the vehicle and prompted her to put on her seatbelt as they turned out of the lot and out onto the road. He had no answers for her, just ideas of what he thought Reid's reasoning was. He had known Reid long enough to have a damn good guess as to why he was doing all of this, and the shame that had undoubtedly driven him into solitude. Perhaps Riley could lure him out.

"All this time I've been wondering…why? Did he protect me because he felt it was his duty as an FBI agent to get us out alive? Or did her really care about me? The cycle is vicious. Seems like I keep going in circles and I don't think I can rest until I get answers. And Reid…he was so torn the whole time we were in captivity. I truly felt for him. I care about him and I guess a part of me wants to think that he needs the closure too."

"Reid does things sometimes that he thinks is best, but he doesn't always seems to get that it may not be. Just…don't read into it too much. Honestly, I'll be surprised if we can get him to open the door today. When Maeve died, it took a long time for us to get in there to him and help him. You may not get to talk to him at all." Morgan thought it only fair to give her a warning as they pulled up to Reid's apartment building. Riley stared up at the brick building like a tower hiding away a treasure. Only, she didn't know what was guarding that treasure.

Trekking to the second floor proved more challenging than either of them had expected and once they reached the landing, Riley had to rest for a moment before approaching Reid's door. Morgan rapped on the door with his knuckles and at first got no answer. Then he tried again.

"Reid, it's Morgan. Hotch wants me to check on you. You doin alright kid?" He listened hard and he could hear a faint shuffling on the other side. Then he could feel pressure on the door. Reid was looking through the peep hole. Morgan's dark eyes glanced over his shoulder to see Riley fidgeting with her nails nervously. Reid knew she was there. Morgan heard what sounded like Reid leaning against the door and sliding down to the floor. He wasn't about to come out or even speak to them but Morgan knew he was alive and safe at least. "Sorry Palmer. Not today." Morgan stepped away and tried to lead Riley away from the door, then he started on without her, plodding down the stairs.

Riley did not follow. Brow set in determination she strode to the window at the end of the landing and raised it. Wind blew in around her as she looked out and down. The ground seemed to plummet below her and for a moment she thought she would be sick, but the other window was in sight. It was far away but she had to get to Reid. He was in the, all alone and all Riley could think about was him sitting in the darkness, tormenting himself for the things he had been forced to do to her. With a deep breath she put herself through the window. Morgan realized she wasn't behind him anymore and raced back up on the landing, but Riley was already out on the tiny ledge outside, shimmying her way across on fingertips and toes, her leg throbbing so hard she could feel her heartbeat in every appendage. It was only the second floor but the high ceilings in the building made the drop sickening.

"What are you doing Palmer?" Morgan leaned out the window, frantic at the thought of her falling. The fall might kill her and he would have a hard time explaining to Reid and Hotch why he let her traipse on out the window and shimmy across the side of the building.

"I told you…I have to talk to him. Go back Morgan. I'll be fine." Riley had reached the window and pushed up on it with the palm of her hand. The window slid open wide enough for her to slip in feet first. Morgan breathed a sigh of relief, his eyes closing as his head dropped. He hardly realized how hard he was gripping the windowsill. But she was safe inside with Reid and it seemed they would both get what they wanted. Closure. Morgan pulled away from the window and closed it quietly. One last look at the door marked 23 and he turned and left, deciding to wait in the lobby for her.

Inside the apartment Riley was in a little room, too dark to really tell its purpose. Nothing was making a sound in the apartment so she wondered if Reid even knew she was in here. Who would really expect someone to come through a window?

Quietly she padded across the floor to a cracked door. Outside she could see tall windows with curtains drawn. They were thin and didn't block much light but it was enough to make the room dim, a few strands of pure light drifted around the edges of the curtains, dust motes falling like snow through the light and down onto stacks of books. The apartment was disheveled, books and papers littered every surface and then Riley saw him.

Hair a mess, clothes wrinkled, wrapped in a blanket and sitting against the door with his head back and eyes closed. He always had dark circles under his eyes but now they were exaggerated with lack of sleep and paling of skin. The cut under his eye had all but healed and a pale green bruise encircled it. He didn't hear her. A bottle was clutched in his hand and Riley thought of his dilaudid addiction. Surely he hadn't turned back to the drugs to ease his pain? Her heart caught in her throat as she watched him.

Stepping from the shadows, she wished she knew what to say. Instead she rushed toward him, dropping to her knees before him and leaning over him as she pulled the bottle from his hand and threw it away from him, sending it skittering across the hardwood floor, glancing off a chair leg before coming to rest next to the wall. "Reid" She whispered through tears as she braced on her hands and laid her forehead on his shoulder, waiting to see how he would react. The motion from the door to here was so fast that Reid hardly had to time to speak her name before her head was on his shoulder. What was going on? Why was she here?

"Riley?" He questioned, pressing his cheek against her dark curls, remembering the scent like it was just yesterday that he last saw her. The weeks had been long and he had not fared well. He had become careless in the field and Hotch had forced him to take some vacation time but he took no vacation. He locked himself away, stuck in a sea of grief and remorse, not just for Riley but for Maeve. Riley was alive and he had saved them but in his mind he had been the one that almost killed her. He chose to do those things, whether it was for the best or not.

Riley pulled back, holding his face in her hands, trying to inspect him for overdose. "Reid, are you alright? Please tell me you didn't take the pills."

"No, the bottle's been empty I just." He couldn't look at her. "What are you doing here?"

"I had to see you again. Reid….I know you blame yourself but I don't. You saved us. You saved me." She leaned back, lingering a few inches from his face, placing her hands back on the floor to support her weight. "I needed to tell you that I forgive you and that I'm not going anywhere. I'm here." Her blue eyes pleaded with his to accept her forgiveness and to allow her back into his life. But she was only met with confusion.

"But why? I don't…"He shook his head.

"For a genius, sometimes you're so clueless it hurts." Riley leaned in and kissed his lips, feeling the soft flesh as a of energy ripple through her body. She needed it so badly but she never expected to feel his hand on her face, fingers sliding under her hair to cradle her head as he returned her kiss. "I love you Reid."

"Riley…" His eyes closed as she pressed her forehead to his. What should he do? There was no denying that he cared greatly for her. She had haunted his dreams since they escaped and he knew he wanted her to be with him but…was he ready for that? A part of him screamed to return her love, but another part held him back and sadly, that part was too strong for him. "I thought I told you to call me Spencer." Was all he could manage to say. He could almost feel her retreating but it took a moment for her to withdraw from him physically. She wiped away her tears and composed herself.

Shakily she stood, offering him her hand. Her strength wasn't back yet but she wasn't about to leave him sitting in front of the door like that. Again his brow furrowed in confusion. He had denied her what she wanted most and she was still offering her hand.

"It doesn't matter if you return my feelings or not. What I said still stands." She spoke in a whisper. Her feelings were not going to fade so quickly but she knew she couldn't stay here any longer. Help him and leave. He took her hand and she helped him to stand, then find his way to the couch. Once he was laying down there she found his phone and a phonebook. He watched her with painful curiosity as she ordered him some food, paid with a card, and told them where to deliver it. Once she hung up she froze, took a deep breath, then started stacking books and papers around the couch and cleared the coffee table for him to have a place to eat. "Make sure you eat Spencer. I have to go now. Morgan is waiting for me." She couldn't force herself to sound happy. Walking out of this apartment now meant she might never see or speak to him again. It wasn't; like her to force people to stay in her life. She just needed to tell him how she felt. That had been done, so the ball was in his court now. It was his choice if he wanted her to stick around or not. She didn't look at him as she walked away, her hand touched the knob of the door and his voice stopped her.

"How can you forgive me so easily? How can you say you love me after all of that?"

Riley paused. "Spencer…when I first met you, I was so intimidated by your abilities as a profiler. Then when you showed me an act of kindness on the plane, I felt something for you. I don't know why. It was way too soon. But interacting with you before and during our abduction, I knew you were so much like me. A kindred soul. I watched you so closely, even when you thought I was sleeping, I was watching you. I knew you were in as much pain as I was, even if it was in a different way. You didn't want to do those things. I knew you didn't so I can't blame you like I blame Tucker. I don't believe in love at first sight. It just doesn't work like that and I don't know, maybe I just care about you a lot. I've never really been in love before but I do know that I want to be here. I don't want to leave here and never speak to you again. If you don't feel the same way, I understand but I want you to know…"She inhaled, her breath shaking as she forced back tears. "That you're my hero." The knob turned in her hand and she opened the door, only be to called back a second time.

"Riley, wait." Reid knew he couldn't let her walk away like this. "Call me when you get back to New York." This time she looked back at him and nodded, with no sign of a smile. She imply nodded and turned to leave again. "And tomorrow when you wake up." That halted her again. It was her turn to look at him in confusion. "And the day after that." A single tear ran down her cheek as she smiled at him, nodded, and turned to leave, a spark of hope in the both of them that someday things could be different. She closed the door and when he was sure she was gone, he spoke into the dim light of his living room. "I love you Riley. I'm just not ready."

"There is never a time or place for true love. It happens accidentally, in a heartbeat,

in a single flashing, throbbing moment."
― Sarah Dessen