A/N: I can't believe this is it! I started writing this crazy project back in March and I'm finally done! I still have plans for a companion story, but for now (and probably for a few months) this is it… Here we go…
Disclaimer: For the last time, I do not own anything recognizable. Including, but not limited to: Criminal Minds or the characters. Alexander and Juliet Reid are, as ever, characters of my own design. And I love them more than I expected…
Chapter 40: The End and The Beginning
JJ entered the apartment and locked the door behind herself, a habit she'd picked up long before moving in with Spencer. She could smell something she was positive was pasta sauce coming from the kitchen and the sound of voices floating out into the hallway. "Hey, guys, I'm back." She called to the occupants of the kitchen.
Spencer stuck his head out of the kitchen and quirked a small smile. "Hi. How'd it go?" He asked.
Sighing, JJ shrugged out of her suit jacket. She had been out to the office to deal with a police officer who was attempting to bypass the chain of command and get the BAU to come down to Mississippi. "He was frustrated, but I got through to him. I am putting serious consideration into his case, though." She paused and shook her head. "It's pretty bad…"
When she looked up, she saw Spencer frowning, looking worried. "But it can wait until tomorrow." JJ said with a smile as she walked forward and grabbed Spencer's hand, leading the way back into the kitchen. "What's for dinner?"
"Spaghetti." Spencer replied, giving JJ's hand a gentle squeeze before releasing it and turning to the stove.
"Smells good," JJ said, looking towards the table where, to her surprise, both younger Reid siblings sat.
"Hey, Jayje, how're you doing?" Alex asked, looking up from his sketchbook on the table.
"Oh, not bad… And is it just me, or have you not moved out of this apartment at all?" She asked with a smile to let him know she was kidding.
"Of course I've moved out." Alex said, his tone quite serious. "Why would you suggest otherwise?"
"Because you're here almost every day for dinner." Julie cut in, looking up from the book she was reading.
"Untrue," Alex said, poking at the air with his pencil. "I haven't come over any day Spencer and JJ have been out of town."
Julie shook her head and JJ smiled. "Okay, so every day they've been here, then." Julie amended.
"Now that's not fair… I haven't been here more than twice a week since I moved out." Alex crossed his arms over his chest, feigning hurt.
"You came over three times a week in February." Spencer pointed out, leaning against the counter by the stove.
"That was right after I moved out. I forgot stuff and I kept forgetting to go grocery shopping."
Everyone around the kitchen shared a quick smile, sans Alex, and allowed the subject to drop. "So how is life going at your bachelor bad?" JJ asked with a small smile.
"Good… Good." Alex said, nodding slowly. "My neighbors were giving me some trouble, but I told 'em my brother and his FBI friends would come and kick their asses and they calmed down."
Spencer's head snapped in Alex's direction, his eyes going wide. "You told them what?"
Alex laughed. "Relax, I didn't really. My neighbors are nice. Then girl from C7 brought me brownies."
"Really?" Julie asked, peering over the edge of her book.
"Yeah… and she also has a boyfriend." Alex told her.
"Oh." Julie frowned. "Well, is there anyone who has dating potential?"
Alex shrugged. "We Reid men are late bloomers when it comes to dating." He said with a joking smile. "Isn't that right, Spencer?"
"Hm?" Spencer looked up from the pot of noodles he was stirring. "Uh- yeah, sure."
"So is that the excuse you guys are going with?" JJ asked teasingly.
Alex heaved a theatrical sigh. "Y'know, I miss the days where I was the one teasing people… like Spencer. That was a good system. Whatever happened to that?"
JJ and Julie laughed a little and Spencer frowned at Alex, who shrugged unapologetically. "For that, you'll be lucky if you get to come to dinner again." Spencer murmured as he moved to dump the pot of water and pasta into a strainer.
The middle Reid at least had the decency to feign repentance after that.
After dinner, the four occupants of the apartment sat around the living room, occupied with various projects. Spencer sat on one end of the couch rifling through a few folders, his desk having been moved to Alex's vacant room about a month ago after his brother had insisted it was alright to do something with the empty space. Alex sat in the chair, watching television and simply enjoying the opportunity to spend time in the place he had left behind a few months ago. JJ sat on the couch, as near to Spencer as his folders would allow, reading a book and occasionally glancing at the TV. Julie watched the program from her desk chair and kept pulling her phone out of her pocket to send a text message. There was a contented air about the room that the four felt loath to disturb. And, yet… "Hey, Spencer?" Julie asked, looking up from her most recent text.
"Hm? Yes?" Spencer asked, looking up from a report he'd been reading over.
"Is it okay if I go to a movie with Mike tonight?" The teen asked.
"I don't see why you couldn't…" Spencer began.
"Great! Thanks." Julie said, jumping up from her chair and heading to her room.
Spencer blinked in surprise. "Where is she going? He can't be here already…"
JJ smiled. "I think she went to go get ready."
"Oh… right." Spencer nodded, mostly used to the odd comings and goings of his teenage sister in regards to dating by now.
10 minutes later, Julie came back into the room momentarily. "He's here. I'll be back by 10." She said quickly, putting her purse over her shoulder.
"If you intend on going anywhere other than the movie theater, you should call. If anything happens…"
"It's helpful if you know where I was last; I know. That's not really a comforting thought, you know." She said, but smiled anyway. "I'll call, though. Bye, guys!"
With that, the 17 year old was out the door. Another 15 minutes passed uneventfully as the TV show ended. Alex glanced up at the clock and sighed. "I should probably get going. There's a project I need to look over before tomorrow." He said, standing up and stretching.
"Procrastinating again?" Spencer asked with a small smile.
"No… I'm just strategically ignoring it." Alex replied with a grin of his own. "It shouldn't take too long anyway. I'll see you guys."
"So you'll be here for dinner tomorrow, then?" JJ teased.
"Oh, ha ha. Just for that, I'm cooking my own dinner tomorrow. If I come down with food poisoning, I'm blaming you guys." Alex said adamantly as he headed for the hallway.
"That doesn't make sense." Spencer said, his eyebrows coming together in confusion.
"It doesn't have to. Just go with it. Bye!" Alex called as he followed the path his sister had taken out the door 15 minutes previously.
JJ smiled, looking back to her book, and Spencer shook his head as the room fell silent again. He attempted to return to reading his report but found that, for some reason, his eyes kept drifting back up to some of the pictures hung on the wall next to the couch. No matter how many times he told himself to look back down at the papers in the folder, he found himself staring at the photos once more.
He could remember when JJ had helped him pick out the pictures of times she said they should hang up. She had noticed his penchant for glancing at the picture of his family on his nightstand, regardless of his eidetic memory, and had suggested they frame some pictures. There was one of Alex on his high school graduation day, dressed in blue robes, grinning broadly and holding up his diploma triumphantly, and Spencer was reminded that in less than a year there would be a similar picture of Julie to hang.
There was a photo of Julie and Mike dressed to go to their junior prom, Julie smiling shyly and Mike blushing slightly. Spencer could remember offering to take a picture of the two of them, glad to have been home that day, and Julie had finally convinced her bashful date to stand in front of the camera for a few minutes.
Another picture showed Spencer at the age of 12, standing in his slightly-too-large graduation robes, blushing but smiling and half-heartedly holding up his high school diploma. The picture next to it showed him standing next to Alex, who was wearing Spencer's graduation cap, and Spencer holding Julie. Both pictures had been taken by Diana, Spencer's graduation day being one of the few days she had consented to going somewhere outside the house.
One of Spencer and JJ smiling at each other and oblivious to the camera was among the frames. It had been taken at a barbeque hosted by Morgan a year ago, which all the BAU members had attended.
The picture taken on Thanksgiving had been restored to its hanging place on the wall as well, the original copy having been given to William.
Spencer was glancing over the other pictures when JJ's voice broke him out of his trance. "Feeling a bit of empty nest syndrome, Spence?" She teased gently.
He looked over at her, his brows drawn together contemplatively. "Alex and Julie are my siblings, not my children. I don't think that term is really applicable here…"
"I'm kidding, Spence… And it sort of is, you know. They're your brother and sister, but you've taken care of them almost all their lives."
Spencer seemed to consider her words for a moment. "It's just a little odd. I'm… used to them being here. I just have to readjust to them being gone, I think."
JJ smiled and shuffled some of the folders around so she could scoot over and lean up against Spencer. "They're not gone all the time. And look at this way," She said, looking up at him. "It's a testament to how good a job you've done."
"What do you mean?" Spencer asked, meeting her meaningful look with slight confusion.
"They're whole, functional people with their own lives and friends and things going on… and you helped them to become that way." JJ said, laying her head on his shoulder.
"I think you had a hand in it as well… if you hadn't been able to answer some of Julie's questions, I think I may have scarred her with overly scientific and/or informative answers."
JJ laughed a little. "I'm sure you would have been fine. But I'm glad to have been there." She said quietly. "You know, they might be independent now, but you can just look at this as a new stage in life."
The two sat there in silence for a few minutes and JJ noticed Spencer had stilled completely. "Spence? You alright?" She asked, lifting her head to look at him.
The look on his face gave away that he had been thinking hard about something. Before she could ask what, he began to disentangle himself from her and stood before the couch. "I- I've been attempting to plan the perfect way to do this for nearly two months and… I honestly don't know if I'd ever do it quite right…"
JJ quirked an eyebrow at him. "Spence…"
"But," He continued as though she hadn't spoken. "I do believe it's traditional to kneel."
Spencer got down on one knee in front of the couch, albeit a little awkwardly as the table was in the way, and JJ's hand came up to cover her mouth in surprise. "Of course, nothing else about… us or our lives is really traditional, but I thought I should at least try this traditional method." Spencer paused, seeming to collect his thoughts. "JJ, you are one of the most amazing… wonderful people I've ever met. I don't know exactly where I would be right now without you, but I am almost positive it wouldn't be nearly good as where I… where we are now."
JJ watched him as he spoke, her hand still over her mouth, covering her growing smile. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she wondered how she hadn't seen this coming. "I have been thinking about this for a long time… I wasn't sure at first, but I realize, now, it's probably one of the best things I could ever do." Spencer dug into his pocket and pulled out a ring box- probably been carrying it around for months, JJ thought. "I would like to ask you to stay in my life for the longest possible quantifiable measure of time and… marry me?"
He opened the box, producing an engagement ring. The band was a little thicker than was the norm and was composed of swirls of silver. The top of the band was fitted with a traditional, princess cut diamond. "Yes." JJ heard herself saying before she even realized she'd opened her mouth.
"Yes?" Spencer repeated, as though he hadn't been expecting her acceptance.
"Yes!" JJ repeated, laughing and standing up off the couch, pulling Spencer off the floor as she did so. "Yes, yes, yes."
She punctuated each agreement with a kiss, smiling the whole time. Spencer found himself smiling as well as he fumbled with the ring for a moment before pushing it gently onto JJ's finger. They both took a moment to admire the sheer enormity of the simple act before Spencer put his arms around JJ's waist and pulled her close, pressing a passionate kiss to her lips. JJ returned the kiss whole-heartedly, filling it with their mutual passion, promises and pure… happiness.
That was the exact feeling they both had. They were happy. They had each other, they had JJ's family, they had the team, they had Alex and Julie and that was more than either had ever hoped for. It wasn't perfect, nor was it a "happy family" in the traditional sense, but it was a family and they were happy and, to everyone involved, that was all that really mattered.
When you look at your life, the greatest happinesses are family happinesses.
A/N: …That's it. I can't believe it. 40 chapters… eight months… and it's done! I suppose the ending may have been a bit predictable (a few of you guessed at it), but it seemed right. Hope it wasn't too sappy for you all!
I enjoyed writing this so, so much… a lot more than I thought I would. I'm glad I'm done with this huge project, but I'll miss it… which is why there's going to be another story (more like a series of oneshots) involving this universe which will almost positively be called "Bonding Moments." I just don't know how to let things go, do I?
Anyway, I really, really hope you guys enjoyed the last chapter and the whole story… everyone who has read and reviewed and put this on their favorites and alerts has made this story worth writing, so thank you!
Criminalxxxmindsxxxfeak, Lunalike, brenners, FishieGurl, CRIMINAL-MINDZ-FANZ, KASEY64, morgo7kc, LadyRogueTiger, donttouch, clt, Shadow Mistress-of death, xXxOtAkU-444xXx, AgnesSophia, Eriks angel 15, Tahreh the Blind Ninja, Laura Beth loves Jesus, SlasherrGirl, fallfromreality, rinswan, RockerChild1987, cmwinner, SSAFunbar, 92, Rasgara, Daisyangel, juniper294, Red K 5, DreamerChild88, twilightgirl00000001, xXxFailingDreamsxXx, Nymphadora-CullenBAU, softxdxlllxball, the overcomer, hudson911, Bindie, bellesandwhistles, Noel Ardnek, Hopeful Writer, thatsrebeccatoyou, Skyler1510, jesusfreak100percent, The little Cullen, angeleyes 46, creative-writing-girl13, , lallymoon, mcskywalker, 1xadzy3dgftw1xLSNx3dglxMGG, 67Chevy, NegativeFan666, Jaye Black, and Rori Potter, you guys all are freakin' amazing! Thank you so much for your encouragement and patience with this story!
See you guys around!