Author's note: So here's the thing guys! I was looking over Country Music Song Prompts in the forum, since I was in the mood to write one, and immediately got struck with a JJ/Reid storyline because I've never really written for JJ/Reid, and I actually, at one time (unfortunately, not anymore since JJ is gone) was a JJ/Reid shipper (then, overtime, kind of turned into Hotch/JJ.) Anyways, I saw Carrie Underwood's song title "I Told You So" and I had a great idea. It kind of went every which way while writing it, but I hope the heart of the story remains the same. I also hope you guys cut Reid some slack and don't hate him for what he's done. I tried to write it where his reasoning was understood, although he went along with it in an immature way. And MAYBE, if the story is liked, I might write a second chapter. I was unsure of how I wanted it to end (happy or sad. I was fearful it'd be too predictable if it was happy, but I didn't want to let people down if it ended with something sad) so I kind of left it open-ended. Hope you guys like it anyway!
Song Title Prompt: I Told You So by Carrie Underwood (Just in case you looked over the Author's Note ;))
A flame in the candle on the desk across the room sways and flickers. It's the only essence of light throughout the entire house. Reid is thoughtfully staring into the blue and yellow flame. The wax in the candle begins to melt and starts turning watery. The light from the flame reflects off the wet wax and it looks so pretty Reid considers searching everywhere for a camera so he could take a picture, write a small note and walk to JJ's house and leave it in her mailbox. She would find it the next morning, wonder why Reid would be sending her anything considering what happened, but she'd open it anyway out of curiosity and see that the candle she bought for him was at least getting used. Then, she'd toss the picture away and never think about him again. At least not the way she's been thinking of him. Or the way Reid assumes she's been thinking of him.
Sitting on the edge of the bed, the window cracked open halfway, his blanket feeling itchy and his whole body feeling uncomfortable, he keeps his eyes sealed on the flame. The flame is grueling. It's blaming him. The candle JJ bought for him fills the room with a faint scent of cinnamon, with a twist of something a little fruitier. Maybe lavender? Either way, it's a pretty feminine smell. But when she purchased it for him, she knew it was kind of girly. That was the point. He remembers it perfectly. They were walking around the football game arena during halftime, ordering expensive but not-so-tasty snacks at the lines and filling cupfuls of ketchup - because it turns out JJ loves it - and when they came across an area where merchandise was sold, she picked up a candle, smelled it and smiled. "It smells delicious," she commented, pulling it away from her nose to read the sticker label. Then, turning to Reid, she pulled out her wallet and put down a five-dollar bill. Reid gave her a look. Then, after the man at the stand accepted her payment, she handed him the candle. "It's yours."
"Seriously?" Reid said, smirking. He brought the candle to his nose reluctantly, inhaling the fragrance and smiling pleasantly. "Thank you." He said, smiling the boyish smirk he usually got when confronted by a woman possibly flirting with him.
"I think it'll brighten your place up a little bit." she said. And man, she was right. When he got home that night, he walked in, put the candle down on the desk and decided to not light it. At least not tonight, he thought. Then the morning came, and it still sat there, lonely and unlit. Then at work the next day, when things felt weird between them, he thought about the candle. What did that candle mean? It was just a candle, right? A friendly gesture to a man who had given her tickets to a football game? Or did the candle represent something? It occurred to him over coffee and six packets of sugar that maybe he was reading too much into it. He usually assumed women never went out of their way to do things for him.
Then, at work, she kept shooting him flirtatious smiles and little winks every now and then. It was distracting and occasionally, unnerving. He felt like things were changing between them. And not in the way he'd expected, or more accurately, in the way he'd wanted. That night, arriving back to his place, he looked at the candle with such fiery and anguish he just walked right past it yet again, and again denied it flame. That same night, JJ called. Her tone sounded excited to be talking to him, and excited to have a conversation being filled with topics not involving the word rape or mutilation. "What are you doing, Spence?" she asked him.
He sat on the edge of his bed, just like he is now, and watched the unlit candle sitting lonesomely in the corner on his desk. "Not much, I just got home." he answered honestly. Then he paused. And in the distance, while the air was filled with nothing but silence, he felt a sharp emotional pain. Like the JJ he knew wasn't the same JJ he was getting to know. That the buddy-buddy relationship with the occasional flirting that they shared was getting tossed in the dust. Now what would they become? Random dinner dates and awkward football games and silent phone calls? "Why'd you call?" he asked, kind of coldly.
Her tone changed almost drastically, like his boldness took her by surprise. His heart pained by his harshness, but ultimately he felt that if he seemed off-putting, she'd get the point. "Oh, nothing really," she said, her tone sounding sad and disheartened. "I was just wondering if you weren't doing anything..."
"I'm not," he said. Then quickly recovered, "But I really should sleep. Stressful case today."
He could almost picture her nodding sadly. As the other end of the call reached dead silence again, he pictured her glancing at the phone, wondering why on earth suddenly Reid was being very downhearted. Eventually she asked. "Right, it definitely was," she said. "But you're okay, right? I mean, I think we had a good time at the game the other day."
"Absolutely," he piped up sincerely. Unfortunately, his next words totally discarded the previous reassuring comment. "It's just that..."
"I just think it's not a very good idea, you and me..." When he said that, he hated himself for wording it that way. That wasn't at all how he intended it to go. At all. But once the words were said, he had to keep it going. "I think it's just a bad idea."
"What?" she asked, her tone sad. The heavy disappointment in her tone was enough to make Reid hate himself completely. He wanted to take it all back. But even if he hadn't said it, he'd still feel it deep inside, and that mattered too. He still felt like beginning a relationship with her was a horrible way to go. He'd lose that comforting friendship they shared. "I thought we had fun?" The fact that she sounded like she might cry may Reid want to slam his head into his desk drawer.
"We did!" he exclaimed. He really did have fun. He enjoyed sharing fries and dipping them in ketchup and ordering sodas and her explaining the game to him and how cute she looked in her hat. "I totally had fun. I'd never imagine I could have fun at a football game; but I definitely did."
"I don't understand." she said, sighing heavily.
"I can't really explain it," he paused. And the inner weak part of him told him: Just run. And so he did. "I've gotta go, JJ. I'll talk to you tomorrow." And with that - with one harsh click - he ran away from her. That way, he wouldn't have to look pathetic. He wouldn't have to explain his fears or his weaknesses. He could just be another douche-bag guy who turned down a beautiful woman who had potential to complete his life. He had nothing to lose. After all, cutting her off early in the relationship would only save them pain later on. That was Reid's philosophy, anyway.
But it didn't go that way at all. The next day, he avoided her. And thankfully, she did her utmost to speak as little to him as possible. Days turned into weeks with very little contact. Sure, they discussed cases at work, but now he'd really done it. Now he caused exactly what he was afraid of all along. Now, after two long dreadful weeks of misery and guilt passed, he came back home from work. He put his bag down, took off his jacket, slung it on the couch armrest and the candle spotted him. Then, he took a pack of matches and finally lit the candle. Instantly, the aroma guilted him into thinking about her. Now he was sitting on the bed. Hating himself.
His forehead met his palms. He was still thinking about her. How long had it been since he sat down? An hour and a half, according to the antique roman numeral clock on his nightstand. He tried to convince himself that he was better off. But another sharp emotional pain surfaced and informed him that, no, he was not better off. He was depressed and lonely and ridiculously stupid; something he thought he'd never, ever be. He always thought, at the very least, he had his intelligence.
Then, for the first time in weeks, he saw hope in picking up the phone and calling her. He imagined apologizing. He could envision the words escaping his mouth. I'm so sorry, JJ. I miss you. But darkness boggled his mind when he had a hard time envisioning her response. Would she take a long pause, then take a sharp breath and say, Sorry, Spence. It's too late. You made your choice. And she'd mimic his move, by with one harsh click, she'd run away from him too. Or would she start crying and say, You really hurt me, Spence. I thought I could love you. More than I do now. I thought we would be great together. I thought we felt something. I know I did. He didn't know if he could handle that. Just picturing the words burned him, as if he was taking the candle and pouring the wax all over his heart. He rubbed his eyes. He didn't want to see the candle anymore. But he'd stared at it so long, when he closed his eyes, it's all he saw.
With his eyes squeezed close and his mind trying to forget the sight of her in a ball cap and standing on her tippy-toes in the order line and her buying the candle and smiling and saying, It's yours, he was still picturing what she'd say. His heart kept racing at the thought. God, Reid, how pathetic are you? It wasn't that big of a deal. You're making something out of nothing. I barely remembered that night. Maybe I felt something for a glimpse of a second, but it went away the second you turned me down. All is well though, because I've got someone new. The thought of her smiling at another man the same way she smiled at him, the candle in her hand, broke his heart. Not only did it crack in his chest, but it felt like it'd been trampled on, then torn into tiny bits. Then stomped on.
Thought after thought poured into his mind. Each time, his heart broke a little more. Eventually he came to a conclusion - one that seemed most rational. Most sincere. Most heartfelt. Everything he lacked the first time he took matters into his own hands. With his dignity left sealed shut somewhere in his apartment and every ounce of confidence he had hidden somewhere within his soul, he grabbed his car keys, which felt cold and distant in his hands, and unlocked his car. He was going to drive to JJ's. Not call her. But physically visit her in person. Maybe the pain and guilt apparent in his eyes would be enough for her to at least let him inside to explain. Even if she still, at the end of the visit, would say that she didn't want to give it another chance.
His heart raced the whole drive there. When he finally reached her house, he wished the drive had been longer. He needed more time to prepare. But the preparation process would only be dragged-out and take much longer than necessary, and eventually he'd turn around and call it a day and procrastinate for eternity. He couldn't afford to do that. He boldly walked right up her porch. He unlatched the handle on the screen door and pulled it away from the wood one, then held his knuckles to it. He paused.
He kept repeating lines in his head. JJ, I'm sorry. I was just scared I'd lose you. I was so afraid that if things didn't work out between us that permanently our relationship would be severed. The truth is, losing you hurts a lot more than I imagined. I know why I was scared. But being scared made me run away and running away made me lose you anyway. He gulped nervously. I felt something too, JJ. I love the candle, by the way. Can I come inside? I'll talk all night if I have to.
"I'll talk all night if I have to." he said aloud, standing on the porch, hand still raised to the door. Then in the distance, he heard soft giggling. He let his hand fall to his side, because it started to cramp from holding it up so long, and tried listening to the sound more intently. After a couple of more laughs, he was certain it was JJ's. He stepped off of the porch and walked to the side of her house. Past the trimmed bushes in front of the kitchen windows. Then finally, he met the living room window. Like most nights, she kept the blinds open because she liked the night sky while she quietly read a book in her sweatpants. This time, she was sitting like she usually did. Pillow propped up on her back, knees brought up to her chest, sweatpants on with no socks, pink toenails. But there was no book. Just a glass of champagne and a cordless phone pressed to her ear. She was laughing. Big, exposing-every-single-tooth-in-her-mouth laughs. Laughs so loud you heard it from outside her house. He was careful not to get spotted as he watched her for a second. Who was making her laugh so hard? His mind burned to know. But worst of all, it was obvious she wasn't missing him nearly as bad as he missed her. He was careful not to get spotted again as he crept back to the front of the house to pull away. He was also careful not to step on his heart that he left on the porch.
Driving home, his whole body felt heavy. Part disappointment for never telling her the truth. Part hatred for losing her. But most of all, the insanely tortuous pain filling him head-to-toe that another person made her laugh as hard as he had two weeks ago at the football game.
The candle's flame welcomed him back to his dark house. Tossing the keys on the counter; he didn't bother taking his jacket off this time. He feels too weak. Dragging his sore and tired feet to his bedroom, he pulled out a camera hidden underneath piles of clothes in his top drawer. It was a super-old camera. One of those cameras where you take a picture and instantly the polaroid comes slipping out. He doubt it even still works. But aw hell, it's worth a shot. He brought the camera to his face, squinted into the hole and aimed it directly to the burning candle. By now there's a small pool of wax underneath the flame. The light from the flame reflected on the wax and luckily, it was caught in the frame. He focused it and it flashed. A picture soon slipped out. He picked it up off the floor and looked at it. He tried again, this time turning the flash off. The second picture was exactly what he wanted. Darkness all around the candle. Just a single flame and glistening purple wax.
Sighing, he put the small picture on the counter, next to a pen and a piece of yellow paper. JJ, he paused. No words that he could think of was good enough. I still remember the way you looked at me when you handed this to me. It's all I can think of. I finally lit it. It smells like you, if that makes sense. It just smells like something you'd buy. Anyway, if you ever have time or if you ever stop hating me, you should stop by and see it. It's really something in person.
At the end of the paper, he scribbled Spence and with a small slick of Scotch tape, he stuck the picture to the paper. He took his time driving to her house. He needed a little more time to prepare. But he showed no hesitance as he opened the creaky mailbox door, slid the paper in and drove off back home.