Criminal Minds. Episode 8.12. Zugzwang.

That was the worst episode ever. The writers of that show did the meanest thing possible to the nicest character. Honestly, killing off the only woman that Spencer has ever fallen for? Low. Very low. I knew the episode could have ended differently. With so many crack shots on the team, someone could have shot Diane before she took herself and Maeve out, thus, I write this.
Any dialogue you recognize is from the show. I claim nothing but my own genius - and displeasure for the canon ending of this episode.

Spencer's mind was blurring in ways he never imagined it could.

Is this what my mother feels like? he wondered in a split second before his thoughts split into tangent upon tangent.

The onset of schizophrenia occurs most often in males between sixteen and thirty years of age, often manifesting itself in hallucinations and delusions.

Delusion: an idiosyncratic false belief that is firmly maintained in spite of incontrovertible and obvious proof or evidence to the contrary.

Idiosyncratic, from the Greek sunkratikos, meaning"mixed together".

"Reid." Penelope's deliberately soft voice broke into his thoughts. He looked up, suddenly, shocked into a fascimile of focus. "I have a picture of her here: do you want to see?"

Spencer couldn't blink; couldn't move. This isn't how I want to see her. I want to see her full of life, smiling at me, in person. Dead, cold, unreal on a laptop; it isn't proof. I can't. He looked up at Garcia solemnly mind beginning to whirl again.

"No." he responded, shortly, but he couldn't bring himself to care, turned on his heel, and followed Hotch out the door.

I'm useless.

He knew he was overreacting: knew his emotions were spiraling out of control, but he couldn't help but fixate on one thing.

"Fiance?" he asked, almost running through the building. "She had a fiance?"

"Spencer, slow down." Hotch's calm voice rang from behind him as his boss's long legs still had to stretch uncomfortably to catch up with him. Spencer tried to slow his steps but found himself propelled forwards.

"She had a fiance, Hotch."

"Let us handle it." Hotch was still utterly calm and professional, but his concern for Spencer bled through his tone. Spencer caught the indicators of emotional reaction in Agent Hotchner, and his ability to continue to profile in the midst of his distress left him grasping for the feeling of control.

Derek was knocking on Robert Putnam's - the fiance - door, and Spencer leaned forward to see as it opened. A slip of a girl was standing there.

"Diane, his girlfriend." she was saying in response to Derek's query. A young man appeared coming from the back of the apartment, and halfway through a standard spiel

"Robert Putnam, we'd like to ask you a few..." Spencer's mind made a connection, and he recalled having seen the man before. Robert blurted out that he knew Spencer, and Hotch was hustling Spencer out the door, agitation in his manner. Hotch demanded to know how they knew each other, and Spencer blurted out the story of being in a restaurant, waiting for Maeve, when he saw the man; felt something off about him.

"Reid, if he's the unsub, you are a material witness. You can't be in there; you know that. Stay. Out. Here." Uneasily, Spencer subsided, still trying to catch a glimpse of the apartment as Hotch went back inside. He paced a few times, mind racing through every possibility of what could be occurring, before he let his restless feet carry him outside.

He'd stood there a few moments when a girl...the girl...Diane...came out behind him.

"Doctor Spencer?" she went on to ask him what was going on, but he didn't pay much attention. Just the first line stuck in his head. He barely noticed Derek coming out behind him and dismissing her with a few curt words. She disappeared back inside and Derek turned to face him; Spencer couldn't meet his eyes.

"All right kid: talk to me. I can tell you're hiding something up in your head. What is it?" Spencer blurted the first thing to come into his mind.

"Two thousand, four hundred and twelve." Derek looked confused. Spencer paced around him; put the building to his back. "It's the number of hours we spent communicating." Spencer continued, still moving. "Including phone calls, and letters."

"That's about a hundred days...?" Derek said, doing the math and letting his declarative sentence trail off questioningly.

"A hundred point five." Spencer clarified, then, "What if that's all I get?" real fear was in his tone.

"Well it's not." Derek said, and Spencer couldn't let himself trust in that assurance.

"You can't say that."

"Yes. I can." Derek was somehow simultaneously soothing and firm. "Because when we find her alive, and you finally get to lay your eyes on her...what's the first thing you're going to say to her?" Spencer swallowed, and a glimmer of happiness leeched through his fear.

"A couple of months ago when we got off the phone, she said "Bye: love you."" he swallowed again, perilously close to tears. "Just like that."

"And you didn't say it back."

Spencer shook his head. "I was waiting for when we first met." Derek's eyes were understanding, but he left it at that, and Spencer was overwhelmingly grateful for the reprieve the conversation had given him from his all-encompassing anxiety.

They were back at the BAU in moments. JJ was flying out of Penelope's office with a photograph, and for once, he was scrambling to catch up to someone else's leap of logic, but it made perfect sense once he wrapped his scattered thoughts around JJ's revelation.

"The unsub is a woman!" and then the entire team was scrambling to re-write their profile, Spencer overflowing with grief and determination - a terrible combination in his case - until he shocked the entire team with his bitter profanity. Alex took him shortly after to the park to sort through his memories of talking with Maeve to find bits of evidence and proof he had previously overlooked.

Alex was leading the conversation masterfully; her every question and statement fed right into Spencer's thought processes and their leaps of logic led to the very inevitable revelation that Diane was on a murder-suicide mission to be recognized.

"Me for Her." Spencer held the sign up desperately to Diane's video camera, thanking every possible force in the universe that Hotch was letting him go through with this - admittedly insane - plan.

A riddle. Simplistic and childish. A mockery of the Penrose Triangle repartee that he had shared with Maeve.

A blindfold. A mockery of Maeve's tender promise to make blindfolds fun again.

Finally, he was being slammed into a chair, and here in the most danger he could possibly be in, his analytical mind was kicking back in, fueled by desperation. He talked to Diane. Tried to convince her, all the while hiding words in his sentences as a message to Maeve. He knew he was close to her. Possibly even facing her. Certainly in the same room: Diane wouldn't be able to let her prisoner out of her sight - not with her pathology.

"Say it again." Diane demanded, and pulled off the blindfold. Spencer was frozen: Maeve was sitting, bound in a chair, directly across from her. She was so beautiful; Spencer drank in the sight of her, cataloguing everything she was. Uneven bangs, swollen, red eyes, sweat sticking strands of hair to her face, rumpled clothes: she was the sight he needed, the strength he lacked in this moment, but the words Diane needed to hear were sticking in his throat. He said them anyway, voice higher from the stress. He met Maeve's eyes.

"I don't love you. Sorry." he made it sound as flippant as possible, but his voice and heart were cracking as he tried to say the opposite with his eyes. Maeve swallowed, teary, and he knew she undertood.

"I understand." she said, deep brown eyes capturing his as she noddded slightly to him. Diane was triumphant, lovely even, with the cracked look in her eyes and tears ruining her perfect mascara.

"I don't need her anymore." she said, viciously, and stalked over to Maeve, nine millimeter pointed at Maeve's head.

"Wait!" Spencer tried to make himself sound nonchalant. "If you kill her, she doesn't have to live with the knowledge that you won." he was suddenly eerily calm. "Let her live with her irrelevancy." Diance stared at him, trying to divine truth from his calm composure, though inwardly he was shattering and reforming in defiance of his utter terror for Maeve's life.

Then Diane was kissing him, he was trying to kiss back, but she could apparently tell that he was repulsed by it. Spencer focused on her face as she opened her eyes mid-kiss and glared at him.

"Liar!" she shrieked. "Liar!" and Spencer grabbed the gun that was pointed at his chest and tried to wrestle it from her grasp. He was wrenching it away from her when her trigger finger gripped more tightly, and a scorching hot line seared across his left bicep, and he was left sprawling on the floor, clutching at the bullet wound as Diane rushed over to Maeve, wrenching her from the chair where Maeve had just manage to get her wrist free from the zip tie, and had Maeve clutched against her, gun resting on Maeve's neck.

"You would die for her?!" Diane was crying, shaking, enraged beyond belief.

"Yes!" Spencer burst out, desperately, hands held out nonthreateningly. The rest of his team burst through the doors, weapons aimed at Diane, mostly shielded behind Maeve.

"No, no, no." Spencer was crying out, not thinking for once in his life, his thoughts all screamiing out Not Mave, not Maeve, please, not Maeve. Me for Maeve. Not Maeve. then Diane yanked Maeve back till their heads aligned, gun to her own temple, then a shot, and Spencer cried out as Diane fell backwards with Maeve, darting towards the fallen two.

He scrambled for Diane's gun, yanking it from her grasp and then went for Maeve's pulse, which was steady under his fingers. He began sobbing with relief as he saw Maeve's eyelids flutter, and noted that the bullet hole in Diane's head was the center of her forehead. Clutching Maeve's hands, he turned on the floor and saw JJ lowering her gun, looking saddened as she always did when she shot an unsub, and couldn't even mouth "Thank you." through his panicked relieved tears.

Maeve made a little sound, and Spencer focused all his attention back on her, running his hands over her wounded head from Diane's blow with a vase, checking her pupils for dilation, and still trying to stop the tears.

"Shhhh." Maeve was reaching up to him.

"I do love you. I do. I love you." he said to her, cradling her into his arms as they sprawled on the floor next to Diane's cooling body.

"I know. I know." she repeated, tucking herself under his chin and relaxing. Spencer closed his eyes and rocked her back and forth. He was barely cognizant of the team calling the paramedics upstairs. Barely noticed when they carried out the two corpses. Barely paid any mind to anything but Maeve's presence in his arms.

He was brought out of it by a tap on the shoulder.

"Hey man." It was Derek, looking jubilant and sympathetic. "The paramedics need to take her to the hospital. Treat that concussion, and you need that wound stitched up." he gestured to the bullet wound on Spencer's arm that was still sluggishly leaking blood. Spencer nodded and stood with Maeve, and they made their way downstairs to the ambulance and rode together in the hospital, holding hands even as Maeve was strapped to the stretcher and a paramedic attempted to tape gauze onto Spencer's arm.

He just couldn't stop looking at her.

"I'm taking a leave." Spencer told Hotch over the phone from the emergency room bed on which he was currently perched, head slightly fuzzy from the pain meds.

"Take all the time you need, Reid." Hotch told him, clearly frustrated with the ending of the case. Spencer understood: he was disappointed that they hadn't managed to save Bobby, but he was so deliriously happy that Maeve was alive that he could hardly bring himself to truly care. "You have some unused vacation time. Go someplace nice."

"I will." Spencer said, then hung up the phone. He turned to a rustling noise and saw Maeve standing by the privacy curtain, back in her own clothes. He smiled at her, feeling his exhaustion and panic bleeding away at the sight of her whole, well, happy. "You cleared to go?" he asked. Maeve nodded.

"Just a minor concussion." she said, touching the butterfly bandages on her head gently, then crossed the room to Spencer, still in his street clothes, although with the sleeve on his injured arm cut off at the shoulder seam.

"So you have some time off." she said, a bit coquettishly, then, "I still have two months left on that year long sabbatical I took." she let her sentence trail off, and Spencer leapt to the obvious conclusion.

"Where do you want to go?" Maeve smiled, and it was the loveliest thing that Spencer could ever imagine.

"With you?" he asked. "Anywhere."

A/N: This might stand as a oneshot, or I may end up writing more Spence/Maeve chapters to add onto this. Either way, I reject episode 8.12 and substitute this fanfic as reality.