Disclaimer: I don't own Criminal Minds.
Summary: Spencer Reid doesn't hate many people but he definitely hates Harper Hillman. She was involved in one of the most horrible pranks in his High School days of horror and he's not going to forget about it. But when one all-normal after work party turns out completely crazy, he temporarily changes his mind. See now, just what happens when our favorite genius is thrown into a completely unexpected world and has to face decisions he'd never thought he'd have to make. Will he be a man and take responsibility for his actions or will he hold on to his grudge?
Author's Note: The name of Harper Hillman is the one also mentioned by Spencer when he tells Morgan about him being bullied in school (Season 3, Episode 16 Elephant's Memory). We only get the name and how she was involved in the incident, so her back-story, her personality and all that Jazz are my work and must not be accurate to what the writers intended with her. I doubt they'll bring her back though, so I suppose it's fine this way.
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Dr. Spencer Reid sunk yet deeper into his chair, stretching his arms behind his back and suppressing a yawn. They'd come back from their last case three hours ago and all the paper work he needed to go over wasn't half done yet. He'd had a lot piled up from the case before and saw himself drowning in a mass of papers and forms. So the distraction that came in form of SSA Derek Morgan was highly welcomed. The tall, buff, dark-skinned man towered over his – in comparison of built – rather pathetic young colleague and batted his shoulder to gain his attention.
Spencer looked up from hos note-book and pulled one eye-brow up, meaning 'yes?'.
"We're having a beer in the city, d'you wanna come?", he asked, his eyes traveling over the mass on Spencer's usually tidy desk.
"I don't know", the young agent replied uneasy. As much as he wanted to get the furthest away from this desk as possible his sense of duty hung over him, denying him the favor, "I still need to go over all of that" He vaguely let his hand trail above the files to illustrate his statement but Morgan didn't give up that easily.
"Hey, kid, it's not good to bury yourself in work like that, we don't have a case coming up, you'll have plenty o' time to take care of this", he said, "we're going out tonight, as a team and you come along"
Spencer knew for a fact that JJ for a start was not going to come, as she'd hurried home to her son, Henry, who was also Spencer's godson, a whole hour before. Also their supervisory agent Aaron Hotchner wouldn't be there either as he had retreated from any unnecessary activities that kept him away from his son Jack. After his wife died he now took care of him alone. Spencer didn't envy him. He couldn't imagine raising a kid, let alone raising it all alone. Not that he didn't like children, in comparison, they had a very special sincerity and honesty about them that wasn't to be found in many adults but they also required so much time and consideration, he just didn't think he could handle it.
"Fine", he heard himself say suddenly, discarding the thought of being a single parent. Tonight, he would go out because he could, because he didn't have any other commitments and as much as he might feel he needed to finish his work, getting away from it for a bit was too tempting to let it go.
As he stood up, he heard Morgan turn around and yell over to the gallery where he supposed Penelope Garcia, their tech-assistant, to wait for them: "He's on board"
"Now we have a party", said Emily Prentiss, who had obviously retouched her make-up, coming from the direction of the toilets, already wearing her coat.
Spencer smiled as he put on his jacket; this maybe wasn't what a duteous agent would do but it was definitely something a normal guy working a normal job, leading a normal life would be doing. Surely none of that applied to Spencer Reid but he was tired of feeling different from everybody else.
For as long as he remembered he was always singled out, peculiar to others because of his irregular intelligence and social awkwardness. Starting out at the BAU he'd felt even more alienated because there he'd been, physically incredibly weak, psychically often overstrained by the cruelty of men, frightened by the abysses his job forced him to look into on a daily basis and worried how much of his own possible abyss would gain power in his mind. Also he was surrounded by such content personalities that never seemed to have insecurities, weaknesses or inhibitions. He'd always felt pathetically irrelevant. But things had changed. Through his nine years in the bureau, of which five spent with this team, he'd grown up, gained self-confidence and security, he'd learned of his value and his strengths and had also witnessed his team-mates cracking down, showing they were only human as well. He was in a good place now, better than any time before in his life. The times were he always had to force himself past the apothecary so he wouldn't get himself dilaudid were long past him as well as his fear of speaking in front of people or the constant nightmares that tortured his nights. He still dreamed weird sometimes but it was less horrid and less frequent. His brain had built another barricade to secure him which maybe wasn't too good if you considered it psychologically but it allowed him a sense of normality.
Finally Spencer Reid felt almost like every other citizen, like the next guy and so there was absolutely nothing wrong with joining his friends on an evening out.
They took Morgan's car for the 45 minutes ride to the city center of D.C., with Garcia always leaning back from the passenger's seat to discuss with Emily, who sat beside Spencer on the rear seats who their favorite Muppets were.
Penelope's was inevitably Miss Piggy, whom she attested a great sense of style and great ways of self-producing, whereas Emily remained faithful to her teenager Goth-years and declared she'd always hold a soft spot for the Count.
"Who's your favorite Muppet, wiz-kid?", asked Penelope after she had her giggle. Spencer had never really heard of the Muppets in his kid-years, his mother had him read books instead of parking him in front of the television but eventually, you couldn't get past the Muppets, could you?
"Kermit", he replied and had both women throwing him questioning looks, "he's got a very distinct sense of humor" He shrugged and then smiled wryly when they started chuckling.
He didn't get what was so funny about it but he decided not to show them another episode of 'Reid's not getting the joke' so he just smiled along.
"So, Penelope, where's Kevin?", asked Emily when the laughing slowly ceased to make it stop at once, at least on Penelope's part. Her face momentarily lost all jolliness to be replaced by a strict mask. Spencer looked at the change to her features because that always interested him, seeing the sentiments appear on ones face before the words explained them, Emily held her breath, knowing she'd touched an icky subject. Spencer could have sworn that even Morgan, who'd been concentrated on driving before, slightly turned his head to be in better ear-shot of Garcia's answer.
"We're constantly fighting", said Penelope finally, "I'd never thought it could be so annoying being with someone that's so much like me"
"Sorry to hear", said Emily, lingering on the sorry as they exchanged a perfectly typical female look of sympathy and understanding.
"Yeah, well", Garcia waved it of with a swing of her hand, "I guess it's after all true what they say, opposites do attract more than similarities"
While the women found their way to lighter subjects fairly quick, Spencer's thoughts rested on Garcia's statement for a little while longer.
If opposites truly attracted about every woman he'd met should have been deadly attracted to him, which they – of course – hadn't been.
Apart from few exceptions he'd never found a lot in common with women he met because he liked unusual stuff, classical music and comedies from the twenties, he loved Halloween and chess and so far he had met more women that had opposite interests and none of them had been overly attracted to him. Neither had the ones that had similar interests. The laws of attraction obviously didn't work well on him. He was the furthest away from being a ladies man one could be, he had virtually no experience with women, if you didn't count the embarrassing loss of his virginity at age sixteen with fellow chemistry student Lizzie Albert at college or the weird kiss starlet Lila Archer had given him when the team was working a murder case down in L.A. which had 'Transference' written all over it. He was unskilled in flirting and most of all presenting himself in the best light. He had theoretical knowledge of course, from all his studies of psychology and with that also female psychology. Theoretically he knew perfectly which buttons to push once he'd seen through a woman, most of them ridiculously easy to read but he felt a) unfair to be using his training to 'pick up chicks' as Morgan would put it and b) too insecure about his own appeal to even try it on a real woman in praxis. Although meanwhile he had at least taken the hurdle of speaking to beautiful women without stuttering until everything that left his mouth was a weird mix of syllables and awkward coughs. To be accurate, when he did his voice still skipped about sixteen octaves and he sometimes tripped over his own words but not half as much as it did when he'd been younger. Spencer Reid just wasn't laid out to be lady killer and he'd learned to accept that. But that didn't take away the loneliness he felt underneath it all. He'd never cared much about a companion, always thinking someday it would all fall into place when he met the right one, but now he was twenty-seven and he was slowly beginning to worry if he'd be a loner for the rest of his life. There was no miracle-lady in sight that would suddenly change his life and he'd never learned how to look for her. Maybe his time was running out and he did not like the idea.
"Hey kid", Morgan's deep base broke through his lacking-love-life-contemplation, "get ya head out of the clouds, will you? I was just saying that you three get a table while I park the car"
"So get you're tiny white ass out of here", joked Garcia, imitating Derek's voice.
"Easy there, poppy", he warned but he lost the battle to hide the wide smile spreading on his face.
"Sorry", Spencer mumbled and got out of the car to join Emily on the sidewalk in front of a shabby looking bar that was so much better than its outward appearance. He heard the car door being slammed and a second later Penelope stood beside them, who opened her mouth to say something but her words were drowned by Morgan driving off.
"Didn't catch that", Emily said.
"Nothing important, I was just saying that we need to make sure that our boys take the stage tonight", the blonde replied with a bright grin. The bar had a karaoke-set and it happened to be Karaoke-Thursday, Spencer recalled.
"No way", he said immediately when he felt their glares on him, "I don't sing"
"Oh you will", smirked Emily and at that, both women linked arms with him and pulled him inside the bar.
Inside it was remotely full, with only three spare tables and one in far corner that promised enough privacy for the four while still being close enough to the bar. It smelled of a mixture of sweat, cologne and beer and a pudgy white male in his thirties stood on the stage, presenting his horrible out-of-tune rendition of "These Boots Are Made For Walking".
Garcia laughed aloud as they sat down and whispered something to Emily who still stood up.
"I'll get drinks", she announced.
"Appletini", Penelope ordered.
"I'd like a coke", Spencer said but neither of the women were having it.
"You're getting nothing without alcohol in it today", Emily smiled devilish, "We want you on that mic, remember?"
"You can't make me drink everything else than coke, I'll go and order myself", he said stubbornly.
"Oh no, my dear, because we snook your wallet,you will drink nothing at all or what we'll buy you"
"Yeah, right", he said, believing they were joking but he noticed their faces were just a little bit too smug, their expression a bit too confident, "no you didn't, I'm completely dehydrated, you can't do that to me"
"Oh come on", Emily mourned, "once in your life take a ride on the wild side, Dr. Reid"
"Exactly", Garcia joined in, "When was the last time you had fun?"
"I can have plenty of fun without getting drunk", he talked back.
"No one's saying you should get drunk, we're just talking of loosing inhibitions, enough to make you sing", Emily laughed, "I'll get you a beer" That was not a question, it was a statement.
Spencer didn't like it much but he figured if he had one beer, they'd let him off the hook and stop their childish game, so he slightly nodded and watched his dark-haired colleague make her way to the bar.
"Hey Reid", Penelope said, "how are you? We haven't talked in a while...you're good?"
"Yeah...I...um...I'm fine", he replied truthfully and smiled.
"I thought so, you seem happier", she wrinkled her forehead, "is there a specific reason for that? Maybe...a change in the 'luv'-department?" She stressed the 'luuuv' making it sound slang-like and stupid, like school-girls would.
"Uh...no...no, I'm...I'm still single", he admitted with his head wobbling uncontrolled in somewhat of a nod, looking at his hands. Why was everyone so keen on always talking about relationships?
"Someone will come along", she said and gently lay her hand on top of his, "when you least expect it"
"Hey, baby-girl, you tryin' to make me jealous?", the husky voice of Derek Morgan growled over their heads but he wore the widest grin as he sat down beside Garcia.
"Is that possible?", the tech-expert said cockily and they laughed together and with a sting of envy Spencer realized he didn't have anyone whose company came so naturally, so easy, no relationship worked so well for him like the one Morgan and Garcia had with each other.
"The beer is here", declared Emily as she came back with the drinks shortly afterwards. She was pretty loaded with three beer and Penelope's Apple Martini, "Derek, I got you a beer, thought that was alright"
"Sure, thank you", he answered taking the bottles from her hands, "and – wohoo – you've got the kid to order a beer" He chuckled as he passed on the drink to Spencer.
"I was forced", he stated, taking it on reluctantly. He wasn't the biggest fan of beer, he'd never drank much anyway and if so, just a sip of brandy or whiskey, something that tasted decent and not bitter. None the less he hadn't really had a drink in about a year, so his stomach rumbled when the fluid hit his system. He had no idea why he didn't put it aside, it tasted ghastly but then he had been so thirsty the whole way to the bar. And while the others were discussing the vocal talent of a large breasted blonde, he finished his first beer.
"You want another one?", Emily asked as he put the emptied bottle down.
"Or a whiskey?", Penelope grinned, "See, we're leaving you the choice"
"Thank you", he pursed his lips, knowing his irony would've came through anyway, "I think I'll have another beer"
He didn't know why but halfway through it had stopped tasting like dead cat and although he hadn't planned on having another one he'd just ordered it. After all, what was so wrong about it? So what, he would have a little fun tonight. There was no way in hell he would sing though, never ever.
"Good boy", Emily joked and made her way over to the bar to get replenishments.
"She was cute", said Morgan nodding his head towards the stage behind Spencer who didn't bother to turn to check and Garcia eyed Derek disapprovingly.
"She couldn't have held a straight note if her life depended on it", she said only half-joking, "but all the guys see is her tits"
Morgan laughed a little and patted her arm, "I bet once your on there you'll stun us all with your amazing talent"
"Oh you bet", she snapped and was getting up but the chords of a new song told them someone else had been quicker. The common base line of Ben E. King's "Stand By Me", an old time classic Spencer enjoyed, but he'd expected to hear a male voice singing the song; wrong he'd been.
It was girl singing, she had a nice voice although the tune was a bit too low for her, anyway she wasn't singing alone, everyone in the bar knew the song and even Morgan and Emily were humming along. Funny enough, the girl pronounced her words like people in Vegas did and that was not the only thing common about it. He felt he'd heard this voice before and just out of curiosity he turned around.
He regretted it the second he did. He had heard that voice before, even singing precisely that song at his High School graduation ceremony.
Harper Hillman. Bloody Harper Hillman, it was her. Of course she wasn't the little eleven year old anymore with the glowing red cheeks and the even brighter red hair but it was undeniably her. She'd used to sing on every possible occasion, so she naturally did when her bigger brother Adrian Harper, head quarterback of the Schools football-team graduated. He'd been in Spencer's class, Spencer being twelve and more the age of Adrian's baby sister than his. He'd jumped several grades to graduate so early and even though he was about five years younger than his classmates, he was still the smartest kid in the room. He wore glasses, had weird clothes and the air of a nerd. And the other kids let him pay for it every passing day. And Harper Hillman, innocent looking as ever had played her part in it. One day, not far from Spenser's graduation, she'd searched him up in the library, twisting her curls, unknowingly or not, in a Lolita-like-manner through her tiny fingers and told him Alexa Lisbon wanted to see him behind the gym, making it sound like an invitation. Little Spencer's mind had bloomed. Alexa was one grade below him, although four years older than him and easily the most beautiful girl in school.
He'd went there, his heart beating like crazy and the rest was history. He'd only told one person in his life, Derek Morgan, what they'd done to him on that day.
Alexa Lisbon had been there...and she'd brought the whole Football-team, also little Harper's brother. They'd stripped him naked and tied him to a flag-post with half the school watching and laughing at him. He'd begged them to let them go, called out for help but everyone was just watching, hauling over the pathetic little genius-boy, the stupid nerd that deserved all of this by simply breathing. Little Harper had come around later, he'd seen her fiery hair through a gray mist of tears. They eventually got bored and trailed off but still left him tied up. It was late when he got home, about midnight, but his mother didn't even bother, having one of her episodes. He'd tried so hard to forget that day but seeing grown-up Harper now brought it all back to his memory; the humiliation, the pain, the disappointment, it was boiling up his insides like acid. He grabbed the half-empty bottle on the table and emptied it in one large gulp while his eyes were still locked on the woman.
She was beautiful, glowing red, bouncy curls going up and down as she swayed with the rhythm, her voluminous lips caressing every word she sung. She looked like the most friendly and beautiful angel but it was treacherous. He would never forgive her for being an accomplice in a prank that made one of the worst days in his life.
"I need a shot", he said loudly and because he didn't turn his eyes away from the stage he couldn't see his friends exchanging suspicious glances.
"Shots for everyone", Garcia shrugged after a second and went to get some.
Harper was dancing along with the music as the guitar solo of the song played, smiling at her friends who sat near the stage and cheered her up.
"Reid?", Garcia said sitting down, finding him hypnotized by the girl on stage when she came back, "your shot"
Spencer just took it without saying cheers, or turning around to look at the others, he just swallowed it down and then, on a whim, took Emily's just before she could take it.
"Hey", she protested but Morgan just laughed.
"Let him get brave, Em'", he chuckled, thinking Spencer fancied Harper in some way, maybe wanting to hit on her. Thinking wrong.
Spencer just needed something to calm his rumbling stomach, rumbling with rage that was a rare feeling for him. He couldn't stop starring at her, thinking how unfair it was that she was both so beautiful and so happy. That Karma hadn't had her messed up until now. Life wasn't fair at all. A dim voice in the back of his head was mad at him for thinking such things, for seeking some sort of revenge but he had had too much alcohol to be reasonable. He hated her truthfully this very second with a well deserved hatred that didn't care about reason.
The song was finally coming to an end and she said "Thank you" into the microphone and got down the stairs from the stage, her curls bouncing, her cheeks blushing from the applause and her dimples deepening. She waved at her friends, grinning, starting to make her way back to them as she suddenly turned her head and -
All the blood in Spencer's face went away, being replaced with fluid ice. She'd caught his eye and for the hint of a second he saw recognition cross her features. She knew who he was.
He rapidly turned around, eager to pretend he hadn't seen her but it was too late.
"Spencer", he heard her approaching, making all the heads of his friends turn in surprise. He stared at his newly arrived beer that Emily must've ordered in advance and acted as if he hadn't heard her. But it was too late, she already stood beside their table.
"Spencer Reid", she said again and he reluctantly looked up, her green-brown eyes piercing him, he couldn't remember the last time he'd seen such a beautiful woman from that close and hadn't felt anything but anger. Probably because this was possibly the very first time, apart from seeing her old friend Alexa Lisbon back in the days.
"I'm Harper...Hillman? You probably don't remember...but...", another winning smile on her side.
But he kept his feelings under a mask of composure and shook his head vaguely: "I don't know what you're talking about"
"Oh come on, I know it's you, Spence, I googled you", she grinned happily and apart from just half a second of a twitching mouth, completely ignorant to his obvious rebuff.
His team-mates eyes jumped from one to the other, their faces nothing but big question-marks.
"Hi, I'm Harper, I know Spencer from school", she said into the round when she caught them starring at her and Spencer didn't seem like he was going to say 'hello' or anything.
"Hey Harper", smiled Derek charmingly and offered her a chair.
Traitor, Spencer thought, his friend obviously didn't remember her name from his horror-story.
She sat down radiantly and started babbling at Spencer.
"So how you've been? You've been in the news in Vegas quite frequently, that's so cool, I'm just doing my degree in psychology so I've read almost all of your publications, I told everyone I knew you from school, but no one believed me, they said I was just a show-off", she giggled nervously because she started to notice that she was practically talking to herself.
And as much as Reid would have wanted her to make a giant fool of herself talking to a wall, he was just too nice to not reply. So he turned round to her and forced a smile onto his face.
"Hey Harper, I'm good", he said dryly before taking another sip of his beer. She just wouldn't go away; soon, she was so engaged in a conversation with the women, it didn't look like she would disappear so soon. Spencer didn't talk any more unless he was directly addressed and if so he just replied curtly, only to drink more later. The others mistook it for his famous shyness and didn't bother much, unaware of his true sentiments towards the red-head beauty.
She just wouldn't leave and at sometime after his first whiskey-coke the lights became blurrier and the music drowned his ears. She was really beautiful. He despised her. The lights were too bright. He wasn't used to so much alcohol.
He needed another drink. And another one.
And another one.