A/N: This is my first Criminal Minds story, so please don't be too harsh on me if I've mixed some of the canon up. Please excuse my grammar mistakes, too, as English is not my first language. Thank you, guys!
From what I've gathered from the show so far, I know that Emily's parents are upper class. I wasn't sure if they would have a vacation home anywhere – they seemed pretty busy to me; so I just made that up.
I mention some people from rural Tennessee – please don't be offended! I've been to Tennessee and people there are just as educated and modern as people everywhere else. Just needed some state to pick…
Disclaimer: Unfortunately I don't own Criminal Minds, characters, places, etc. Maybe someone would lend me Matthew Gray Gubler, though…I promise not to be too harsh on him *g*
Wise beyond His Years
'It's quiet,' she thinks as she slowly lets herself relax into her chair at her desk. Hardly ever is she in the bullpen at this early hour in the morning, but she could not sleep tonight, and as tossing and turning in her bed became almost as exhausting as the thought of getting up and having a busy day ahead of her, she decided it was not worth it anymore and made herself come into work.
The steaming coffee cup in her hands spreads an intoxicating smell in the empty, dimly-lit room, but she is almost too tired to really enjoy the aroma. Absentmindedly, she wonders how you could be so sleepy and not be able to sleep at the same time, but if she is honest she does not really care about this question, it is rather the fact itself that bothers her. 'Well, can't change that now,' she thinks and decides to make the best of these early hours and get ahead on some files that have begun to fill all the free space that she once thought of as her desk. Work never seems to get less, new cases pop up as soon as they have closed others.
She knew that, though, before she started to work at the BAU, and while most of the time she enjoys her job, sometimes the sheer thought of the enormous number of cases that are still unsolved and waiting for them in some criminal's psychotic mind exhausts her.
Almost Emily makes a move to reach for the topmost folder in the highest stack on her desk, but before she can even consciously think about it, she aborts the move and settles back into her chair. Work can wait for a few more minutes, now she is going to enjoy her cup of coffee. The world will not change for better or worse if she spends a little more time not hunting criminals.
If she were not as tired, she would almost consider coming to work so early a little more often. She likes the quiet, none of the computers buzzing, none of the hustle-bustle that fills the bullpen with life at any other time of the day. The lights are off now, with just a clear, early morning peeping in through the windows, lending the room a blue-ish color that reminds her of quiet childhood mornings spent at their vacation home in the Adirondacks when she would rise before her parents and from their patio watch the world come to life.
She breathes in deeply, a faint smile curling the corners of her mouth. These times are long gone and her life has turned into a direction neither she nor her parents could ever have imagined back then. She loves it, though. Even if all the cases, all the people that suffer sometimes make it impossible for her to sleep – for she supposes it was them who were subconsciously haunting her dreams tonight.
The absence of any noise fills her with a surprisingly positive feeling of solitude. Even though on the lower floors some people are already at work – she heard the subdued murmur of their voices when she got here – none of the others in the team have yet come in. Way too early for them, although under Hotch's leadership no one would ever dare to be late.
Somehow, though, Emily has the indistinctive feeling that at least one of them will appear soon. She has not yet been on the team long enough to know all of their habits but she has heard people talk, and sometimes even rumors or half-heard words and sentences are true enough to be believed in.
And yes, only a couple of minutes later – she has not yet made some real progress on her coffee – she hears him coming. The low sound of footsteps on a floor recently cleaned, or is it rather that she feels him coming? An almost indiscernible shift in the silence and solitude?
It does not matter: the door opens and here he is, shuffling in, a cup of coffee in his hands, tie slightly askew, his hair not quite as immaculately parted and tucked behind his ears as she has gotten used to expect.
Astounded, his right eyebrow rises for a second, but otherwise he does not really show that he must be surprised at her being here.
"Good morning, Emily," he says, his voice still a little gravelly from sleep, something which she finds inexplicably endearing. 'He's only a kid,' she thinks, even though she knows that it is not so.
"Good morning, Reid," she replies, and that is all they speak for the next couple of minutes. Somehow it seems as if both of them do not want to disturb the quiet and peace of these early hours. Or maybe he is just as tired as she is and does not really care much for talking now. Whichever way, all she does is watch him as he crosses the bullpen till he gets to his desk, takes his ever-present messenger bag from his shoulders, puts it next to his chair, and settles down.
'He looks tired,' she thinks, and as if to make her words true, he leans back and closes his eyes. She cannot help herself, she need to continue watching him, as this is probably – hell, yes – the very first time she has ever seen him in such a relaxed state. Usually he is always a little tense, a little too awake – too energetic, she amends – and talks as much as three people will talk.
Hardly does she know him like this as he seems to be particularly guarded around her. She is still the new one, she understands that, and she will probably remain 'the new one' even longer for him as she has heard that he was especially close to Elle whom she has come to replace.
His hands are wrapped around the steaming Starbucks cup he has brought with him, and with his eyes still closed he takes a sip from time to time. Whenever he does, she sees the muscles in his throat working, and she knows she should not watch him, but either he does not feel her glance or he does not care for the moment. Anyhow, she cannot tear her eyes away now because he somewhat intrigues her, and this seems like a chance to find out a little more. She is curious about him, has been for a while, to be true. Not in the same way criminals and the way their minds work intrigue her, of course not. But he still appears to be different from any other man she has ever known. So young, so intelligent, so unusual – or should she rather say, unique?
People talk about him. Emily has heard a lot, and not everything was as nice and innocent as the fact that he will come to work earlier than the others in Hotch's team.
Some things, though, were very nice, and the people who said them were well-meaning – admiring, even – and you could not really call that spreading rumors because they just wanted to talk, to spend their hours of lunch break, or to tell Emily what to expect on the job.
Over time, she has gathered that especially the younger women consider Reid attractive – 'beautiful,' was the word some used – and, looking at him like now, she finds she must agree with them. 'He really is attractive,' she realizes, or at least he has some appeal that women cannot overlook. However, she is not sure what exactly makes him so. It's not that other men do not have high cheekbones, a finely shaped mouth or dark eyes. Emily has seen her fair share of attractive men, and yet Reid seems different. A distinctive type of 'attractive.'
Still, she honestly acknowledges that she does not really care as she is absolutely not interested in him as a potential boyfriend candidate. Too young, and – well, yes – too strange. Inwardly grinning for as second, she however admits to herself that, now that she has realized it, it certainly does not hurt to have some eye-candy to look at while on the job.
An added bonus, of course, is the fact that others are not as immune to his looks as she is. Sometimes this helps them find their UnSubs faster: younger women that open up because they are attracted to him; older women that talk to them more readily because he brings out their motherly instincts with his distinctly boyish features and tall, thin frame.
Something else people for sure talk about is his intelligence, which truly is admirable – and maybe disconcerting, too. He does not look like a doctor, much less like having three . Her first day on the team she did not immediately believe that this 'kid' should be 'Doctor Spencer Reid,' and having not forgotten that experience, Emily is not as surprised as the others that people they meet for new cases will always glance at him two or three times, seizing him up, when they are introduced. A few of them ask if they have understood correctly, 'Doctor Reid?' – with very special emphasis on the doctor, and Emily has come to the point when she cannot feel other than sorry for him every single time that happens. No one would dare to question her proficiency as an FBI agent – although some men tried, years ago, in the most rural part of Tennessee – and thus she has come to hate to see him always having to explain himself.
His intelligence, his knowledge, his eidetic memory are amazing, she admits. Before she met him, she had only heard of geniuses and had had no real idea of how fast they – or at least him – could process information. It has been an invaluable asset to have Reid go over case files, memorizing in minutes what others could not do in years. His ability to come up with random facts, sometimes seemingly unconnected to their cases at all, has often given them an idea of how try a different approach or has given them a nudge to think in a way that has not occurred to them before.
Secretly, she has often been shaking her head in disbelief at what he knows. And yet, sometimes his abilities are more disturbing and – well, yes – annoying than useful. With him sprouting off random facts or babbling on and on when all she wants is to focus on a specific train of thought, she has frequently had the urge to just scream at him to shut up. Not giving in to that, of course. She would hurt him more than she could ever wish for him to be quiet.
He is deeply vulnerable, she knows. People have told her, but she would not have needed their warning; she has seen that the first minute they met. The dark eyes, which often seem to have a pleading look in them, have clued her in to that aspect of his character. His posture as well. Or rather his hands that never seem to be able to keep still, always warding off some unseen demon or enemy that is out there to hurt him. He fidgets a lot, and so she is even more surprised at his being so quiet and still right now.
She is still able to simply watch him relaxing back in his chair, not moving any further than is required by lifting his cup to his lips every couple of minutes. 'It's more than being tired,' she suddenly sees. 'It's deep exhaustion.'
And yes, that observance seems true. There is no trait of her simple tiredness in him – of not having gotten enough sleep for one, maybe two nights – with him it goes deeper, is more profound. Not only that his hair is not as immaculate as usual, there is also a certain quality to the paleness of his skin that is different from ordinary days. His complexion is always light, even though he is from Las Vegas, but today his skin seems even more translucent, and the dark circles underneath his eyes even more pronounced.
Emily has not yet known Reid for long but she recognizes that something must be wrong with him. With sudden conviction stemming from experience she is certain that his exhaustion does not have its origins in a couple of nights without sleep – all of them suffer from nightmares from time to time, so she knows how that feels and looks – so either he is sick or he is plagued by worse than the typical bad dreams that come with the job.
Knowing Hotch, she is pretty sure that Reid would never dare to come in when sick. Their boss would probably not hesitate to – well, not quite tear his head off – but at least he would send him back home immediately, not without making sure everyone would know exactly what he thought of disrespecting his explicit order not to show up sick. A dressing-down from Hotch was not something Emily would choose to experience, not at all.
Again she looks at Reid. His posture has not changed at all, he is breathing deeply and regularly, yet she feels he cannot have fallen asleep: his cup is still in his hands.
As usual, she thinks, he looks sad, the emotion coming off him in waves even though she cannot see his eyes with their inherent darkness. The early morning light baths him in an eerie glow, soothing away many of the angles, curves and hard shapes that dominate his looks.
She remembers that people have also told her that Reid is innocent. At first, she did not know any better than to believe them, even though she had a hard time imagining how one should remain innocent with as hard a job as this was. Now she knows better.
In the first days she had supposed that Reid would stay behind in Quantico when they went away for cases so as to leave the field work to them. Quickly, she learned that he did not keep to his desk to do the analytical work he had specialized in; he came with them, a full-fledged member of the team.
And so it had come about that only a couple of weeks after she had joined the team Reid was abducted and kept prisoner for three days, during which he had to endure what she would not want anyone to suffer from. During his ordeal and in its aftermath he had lost any remaining innocence that he might have still had before, and now Emily knows that all the talk about him being 'so young and innocent' cannot be true anymore. Well, he may still be young, but she saw the expression in his eyes when they came to rescue him from the old abandoned graveyard, and anyone who once looked like that cannot be innocent any longer. She knows and she does not like it. She would rather that he still deserved the label so many of their co-workers have so readily assigned to him, but it is not hers to change that.
'Wise beyond his years,' her mother would say, but can you truly contrast innocence with wisdom? Maybe it is possible, maybe it is not, and whatever one would like to call the expression that is always present in his dark, dark eyes now, she for her own part would choose to call it sadness.
Suddenly a yawn of his disrupts her thoughts. She looks up – or rather tears away her glance from him – only to notice that his eyes have opened and he is watching her. She would like to say something; however, she does not know what. How can she explain that she did not want to offend him or intrude into his private sphere that he guards so closely?
She is saved by him yawning again, and when she smiles at him then, she can see the corners of his mouth curling up slightly. She seems to be forgiven, no words needed.
'He's sweet,' she thinks as he goes back to dozing in his chair before the others arrive. The past weeks since the horrible Hankel case could not have been easy for him and he certainly looks worse for the wear. Others may still think he is innocent, but they did not see him all bloody, his foot so badly injured that he could barely put any weight on it, and most of all they did not see his face smeared with tears he had been trying to hide but could not because he had lost so much.
Now he is different. More prone to snapping at people, less attentive to their cases, and no longer as good-natured as he used to be. She would not even know for sure but even she has certainly noticed some of the changes, and she also talked to JJ, who told her many things about Reid and how he was before. Nothing that would hurt him if he knew his friend had told her – JJ would not have done that – just things that were important if you worried about someone.
So all Emily knows is little things – what she has seen herself, what JJ said, what little Reid has offered in various small talks strewn in over the weeks she has been here. They have not really talked yet. To many people he appears as open and easy to read as no other person in the world – a book, so to say, for anyone to take and leaf through – but he is not. Not anymore at least. He guards himself closely, and if anyone might be able to really understand him, it is not her. And even less it is the people who like to talk about him.
And yet, even though she cannot say she knows him, she can still detect a faint trace of how he is – or of how he was. His inner being is not completely closed off, and even less has it been lost or changed for good after all that has happened. Just now – just by being here with her in these quiet morning hours, drinking coffee, dozing, and not talking – he has shown her a little of who he is, and she likes this person.
She really does. And she swears to herself in this very moment as the door of the bullpen opens and Hotch walks in that she will get to know him better. No longer does she want to have to rely on information others are ready to disclose, and Reid will give her the chance.
Of that she is sure because in this quiet morning hour, in which nothing was said really, an understanding has been reached. He has given her the chance to think, has not tried to be as 'Reid' as possible – the Reid the others want to see and believe that he still is; and she has begun to realize that something is wrong with him, something he might need a friend for in order to overcome this burden, and maybe it is just her as the 'new one' who can be that friend for him. She, who never really knew him other than he is now and who thus cannot expect something he cannot or is not prepared to be any more. And so, maybe, they can make each other whole – him getting better and her getting fully integrated in this team.
Tossing her now empty coffee cup in her trash can, Emily smiles to herself and sits up straight. A full day of work lies ahead. Opening the first file of many, she steals another glance at Reid. He is just about to finish his own Starbucks, getting ready to face whatever fate will throw at them today, when he notices her looking and fixates her with the dark, sad eyes she has gotten so used to seeing. A faint twinkle is in them, one she has never noticed before.
Footsteps, and the sudden arrival of the familiar hustle-bustle, interrupt this exchange of thoughts.
"Good morning, Hotch," they say when their boss finally comes round the corner. In unison.
A/N: Thanks for reading! Would be great if you told me how you liked it! Open for suggestions, too!