Author's Note: We're excited to announce our Round 3 of our Fanfic Challenge on Chit Chat on Author's Corner forum. The Dealer's Choice August Challenge is a great way to stretch your writing muscles! Please see the forum for further details. We'd love to have you! And please visit the forum to read our latest interview with the simply amazing Mingsmommy! And, please remember our fellow author, Angel N Darkness, who was in a serious car accident on Sunday. Visit the discussion thread to leave your best wishes. Updates on her condition will be posted there as we receive them. We've also added four new discussion threads, "Let's Play, "NameYour Beta"" for those of you that want to publicly recognize and recommend your beta and "Chit Chat with the Authors" for those that have questions related to writing and Criminal Minds fanfiction, "The Art of the Well Written Sex Scene" for those of us that struggle with those intimate moments in our stories and "Let's Take a Good Thing and Make it Better" to gather suggestions on how to make this forum even bigger and brighter. Please drop by and check it out.
As he watched the second person in his life he'd allowed himself to rely on slowly packing up the personal items from her office with meticulous care, Spencer Reid tried to ignore the growing ache in his chest. He was past this, wasn't he? This longing for what might have been...what could have been, if only he'd been a little less afraid and a lot more stubborn?
He was the godfather of her son, for crying out loud. He liked her fiancé.
This slow dull throb in the area of his heart was just a reaction to the sudden change, a psychological response manifesting with physical symptoms. A simple matter of excitation created by expectation.
Although, he mentally amended, her departure hadn't been entirely unexpected. For the last several months, each member of the team had watched JJ grow more and more dissatisfied with the amount of time she'd spent away from her small family. He almost thought he'd seen a glimmer of relief in her eyes when Strauss had announced budget cuts for the BAU and its staff a week ago.
At any rate, he'd thought he'd buried these feelings he had for their communications liaison so deeply that they'd never reemerge without antiquities-level excavation. Evidently, he'd thought wrong.
Because, as he watched her graceful, methodical movements, he couldn't help but wonder about what might have been. What if he'd made that move on one of those long ago cases? Would she have welcomed the advance or shied away, crying off that they were friends? Gideon had warned him back then that curiosity could kill a cat...now, he knew what his mentor had meant. God knew, he felt as though he were dying now.
Of course, his former guide had also been an advocate for the belief that the truth would set you free. And as he turned to stare at the snapshots of their team still gracing her half-empty credenza, he wondered if that epithet was truly as reliable as Gideon had seemed to believe.
His eyes glued to the picture of him and JJ at that long ago Washington Redskins football game, he murmured, "JJ?"
"Yeah," she replied absently, diligently wrapping her crystal butterfly collection, pulling another delicate piece from the top shelf of her bookcase in the corner.
"Do you ever wonder about what might have been?" he asked, swallowing past the sudden thickness clogging his throat.
"Sure," she shrugged, her hands never faltering as she folded another piece carefully into bubble wrap. "Who doesn't?"
Glancing over his shoulder, he saw JJ's head bent in concentration. When better to get an honest answer from someone than when they were distracted by a mundane task? "Do you ever wonder about us, Jayje?" Spencer asked, trying to keep his voice light and carefree as he watched her face.
"What about us?" JJ asked vacantly, reaching for another butterfly, her fingers sure as she wrapped her hand around the outstretched wings.
"You know. US," Spence said, stressing the pronoun with a tone that sounded strange to his own ears. "Do you ever wonder what would have happened if I'd asked you out for another date after that football game you went to with me?"
Smiling fondly as she remembered that distant afternoon, JJ kept her eyes glued to her packing materials. "You mean that was a date?" she asked lightly, lifting her head to wink at him.
"Gideon seemed to think so at the time," Spence hedged, shuffling nervously behind her desk, his hands suddenly twitching as he began to uncharacteristically doubt his memories for the moment.
"So did I," JJ confided, finally meeting Spencer's uncertain gaze, her eyes kind as she glanced across the room. "And for the record, it was a date, Spence. And, yes, I've wondered."
"Really?" Spencer's eyes widened in amazement.
"You never have learned to recognize your own appeal, Dr. Reid," JJ said sadly, shaking her head at his obvious surprise. "That's probably my biggest regret about leaving."
"What?" Spence asked, confused now, his head tilting to the side in question.
"I'm not gonna be here to watch you come into your own. I won't be around to watch you realize all the wonderful qualities that you have to offer someone," JJ replied sincerely, the honesty evident in her tone as her fingers rubbed against the gossamer wings of the elfin reproduction. "We wouldn't have worked, Spence. Deep down, I know that. Destiny had other plans for me," she said, smiling sweetly at the picture of her son still resting on her desk. "But it'll never stop me from wondering what might have been."
And watching, speechless, as JJ returned to her packing, the normally placid Dr. Spencer Reid, not for the first time, silently cursed Jason Gideon and his pithy platitudes.
The truth didn't set you free from the past. It only had the power to cripple you for the future.