AN: JJ/Reid story AU. Reid does not graduate highschool at 12, so he and JJ are the same age when they meet and struggle through their senior year together.
"One must be fond of people and trust them if one is not to make a mess of life." E.M. Forrester
Spencer had grown 5 inches since the beginning of last year and because of it he had saved very carefully over the summer, out of his tight budget he managed to purchase some new clothes for the start of his Senior year. He had a feeling few people would recognize him as 3 of the inches he had grown had been over the summer, and that was quite alright with him. He intended his Senior year to be a good one, awaiting only one more college acceptance, but the most important, from Caltech he had his future now partially mapped out. He stirred some oatmeal on the stove and his cheerful mood faltered thinking that he would have to figure out what to do with his mother while he was off at college, yes that was the hurdle for this year and quite possibly the hardest challenge he had had to face yet.
After seeing to his mother's breakfast and early morning necessities he set off for the familiar half mile walk to the highschool. Chemistry, was first period and every other day a double period due to lab. He walked into the classroom greeted by one of his favorite teachers, Dr. Carter.
"Spencer…how was your summer?" He asked jovially.
"Very good sir." Spencer stopped at the desk to talk with well…really, his friend. Dr. Carter had been his Science teacher his very first year of highschool and had mentored and befriended the brilliant boy all the way through…if it hadn't had been for Dr. Carter Spencer knew high school could have been a horrible place for him. Oh he still had to contend with bullies and teasing but he knew he had a real ally in the building and it truly helped make things more tolerable.
Spencer took a seat at the first row of lab tables and started taking out his notebook and pens. The other students filed in taking up seats and settling in, the first day of school was usually pretty boring, uneventful. The bell rang and Dr. Carter pulled out his attendance list and then the door opened and a girl with blond hair walked in, she was late and she blushed as she approached Dr. Carter with some papers. Spencer recognized her from the Library, he didn't know her name but knew she was pretty studious, though they had never had a class together.
"JJ?" Dr. Carter greeted her.
"I'm sorry I'm late but my schedule got mixed up and I'd like to take your class." She stated expectantly.
"Yes I think I can arrange that Miss Jareau." He smiled.
Spencer noticed they seemed to know each other, he thought and remembered her coming into the Library a few times quite late wearing a soccer uniform, probably after a game, it had impressed Spencer at the time because not many of the jocks were that conscientious. He knew Dr. Carter coached the girls soccer team.
Before he knew it the blond girl was walking his way.
"Do you mind if I sit here?" she said shyly, and then her tone and voice went almost inaudible… "I have to sit near the board." She admitted.
Spencer just stared, he didn't interact with a lot of his peers and so was unaccustomed to conversation with them.
"No?" JJ answered what she thought he might be thinking and sighed.
Spencer snapped out of his trance and said, "Uh…the seats not taken."
JJ smiled and said, "Thanks…I'm Jennifer but all my friends call me JJ."
Reid placed the name in his mind…he had heard it shouted out at a few pep rally's he had to endure. She wasn't just a jock she was a star jock. His heart sunk a little, thinking that her taking up residents next to him would surely draw unwanted attention upon himself for the entire year. He wished he had been quick enough to make an excuse when she had inquired after the seat but she had seemed so polite and her shiny hair had distracted him he had been at a loss for words.
Once settled they began taking notes and then the inevitable lecture on safety. This was after all advanced Chemistry and they would be using some dangerous chemicals for more complicated experiments this year.
The rest of the day had gone quietly and wanting to get a jumpstart on his new classes Spencer headed off to the library right after school. He had been there only a quarter of an hour when a group of girls walked in together. They were giggling and talking and the librarian shushed them. They sat one table over and he noticed JJ was with them. He stole one glance and then put his head down to his book trying to become invisible.
"JJ you have to start wearing your glasses, it's gonna start effecting your game. You hit the goal post twice today when I know you could have made that shot."
Spencer could not help himself, he looked up to see JJ blushing furiously and bringing her finger to her lips to quiet her loud friend. "Sheila, please we have to be quiet. I can't get kicked out I have to study,"JJ pleaded with her friend.
Spencer put his head down again hoping that JJ's friend would take her sensible advice and be quiet, although he couldn't help but think of why his new lab partner wouldn't wear her glasses, his lay aside of his book now, not needing them for close work but slipping them on for anything further than 6 inches away, he suspected distance was her problem as well as the loud girl had mentioned it had started affecting her game which he had suspected was soccer, hence; 'hitting the goal post'. Spencer shook his head, chiding himself for wasting time thinking on the matter and coming to the conclusion that the reason was tied up with vanity. JJ was very pretty and she probably didn't want a pair of glasses spoiling her features, silly…another vain jock Spencer thought.
A half an hour went by and Spencer had gotten lost in his Chemistry text, finishing the first three chapters . His reading speed had increased proportionally to his height and he had learned to scan pages, using just one finger to anchor is vision. He put his glasses back on and was going to get up and stretch when he noticed JJ was all alone now, the loud girls had left and she was quietly taking some notes out of what looked like there Chemistry book. She looked up when he had pushed his chair in and to his surprise she waved to him. He looked behind him thinking it was someone else she was saying 'Hi' to. He heard her giggle and he turned back around.
She was standing just feet away now and it had startled him.
"Ooh, I didn't mean to startle you." She smiled. "You're Spencer right? I think I saw it on your notebook today in Chem…" she said
"Um yeah…Spencer… Reid." He stated. He felt the top button of his short sleve oxford constricting as he spoke, his throat all of a sudden felt like a desert.
"I hope you don't mind I took the seat next to you today…I know that probably means we'll be lab partners…is that okay with you?"
Spencer stood confused, he wasn't used to someone talking to him so kindly, most kids would draw him into conversation to make fun of him or use him for his knowledge…sometimes he was taken by surprise by the sleight and sometimes he felt it coming but obliged anyway…just lonely for someone to talk with.
He was wary and his answer came out a little mean, "Well you have to sit close to the board and all the other people were paired off , so I guess it doesn't really matter what I think." He finished.
She looked a little hurt and Spencer felt uncomfortable, maybe he had been wrong about her, but it was so hard to tell sometimes.
"Okay." She said softly, the smile replaced with no expression. She walked back to her seat and flipped through her textbook not looking up again.
The month of September had flew by and school was in full swing. Spencer had been having a harder time than usual settling his mother in for a morning of reading before he left for school and so worried long after the morning bell rang. One morning in mid October he thought he would have to call in sick when his mother was so agitated she spilled her hot coffee all over his arm, it burned and he rushed to the sink to douse it with cold water, knowing that it was the proper first aid for such a burn. His mother settled down not even realizing she had burned him. By the time he had gotten her resettled and changed his shirt to long sleeves he had to walk at a clipped pace. He had made time by taking a short cut to school and collapsed in his seat in Chemistry thankful the class was empty for a few minutes so he could calm his nerves and collect his thoughts. His arm stung and the feeling of the material pained against the red skin. He lifted up the sleeve for some relief before anyone entered when JJ walked in quickly.
"Hi Spencer." She was always so nice to him even though he barely spoke to her, but he had gotten used to her cheerful chatter over the last month and had begun to like her, she was quick minded and very studious.
She saw the red mark on his arm as he tried to quickly slip his sleeve over the burn, but his wince gave it away.
"Spencer, you hurt yourself…" she said softly. Spencer grew hot with embarrassement.
"Are you in pain?" She leaned in from her seat next to him. "Would you like to go to the Nurse?" Her head tilted and her voice sounded worried.
He would have to explain, "I just spilled some coffee on myself this morning." He tried to sound fine but the throbbing in his arm was distracting him.
"Awww." She cooed softly. She got up and went into the lab closest and got a towel. She ran some cold water on it and came around to Spencer on the other side. "If you roll up your sleeve I can place this on it very gently and it will feel better."
Spencer was at a loss, no one was so kind or gentle with him and for the first time in he didn't know how many years he rolled his sleeve up and let her help him. She gently wrapped the cloth around the angry red burn and then walked to her backpack and retrieved a little packet of Tylenol from her bag. "This will help with the pain so you can focus on class." She smiled. She then found a cup in the closet and filled it with water from a bottled water she had in her bag. On complete auto pilot Spencer took the cup and the medicine.
"Thank you Jennifer." He whispered.
She took the cup back, "You have to call me JJ now Spence." She laughed.
He smiled, "Thank you JJ." He said.
By the time Dr. Carter had started the lesson Spencer felt better, the pain medicine had kicked in and the cool cloth felt soothing under his shirt sleeve. JJ watched and when Spencer had to use two hands for the experiment they were working on JJ would anticipate and she would help him with the other beakers. Dr. Carter commented to the class that they showed real team work in doing their work together.
The fall was in full swing and with it soccer season. Spencer hadn't seen JJ at the library in about a week, he had heard that coach Carter was training them very hard. Sometimes, if Spencer left the library late he would take the side door to exit, it backed up right on the soccer field. He tried not to be obvious but he would sometimes glimpse her blond hair flying out on the field or hear her name being called by one of the other players.
Tonight he had decided to take the side entrance, the weather had turned rainy but as soon as he opened the door he could see the team was still on the field. As he was walking by Dr. Carter had blown the whistle for the girls to leave, suddenly Spencer's path was filled with girls in purple shorts running to avoid what looked like might turn into a downpour. Spencer tried to see if JJ was in the crowd, why he didn't really know but he had taken to checking up on her, just to see if she was ok that was…
"Hi Spence", he heard from behind him. She came around, flushed from the running, perspiration on her sleeveless shoulder, her hair tied back in a pony tail. Spencer swallowed trying to seem like he hadn't been looking for her…checking on her.
"Oh Hi JJ," His voice squeaked on the JJ and he berated himself.
The wind had kicked up and it was colder. He saw JJ shivering from sweating.
"You'd better run ahead JJ it's cold and you're damp from running." He said with a serious tone.
JJ nodded and ran on ahead, following Spencer's advice. The heavens had held off from opening up until Spencer was only a quarter mile from home but when it did it was tremendous. Spencer pulled up his collar and scrunched down into his jacket, it was raining so hard his glasses where getting blurry, he had to slow down and wipe them off every few seconds.
"Spence." He heard a voice and turned to look next to him, it was JJ in a sedan, on the passenger side.
"Come on, you're getting soaked, my mom can give you a ride." She smiled out the window.
Spencer hesitated for a minute but at the rate he was going he'd be drowned by the time he got home. He ran to the back door and hopped in the back seat.
"Mom, this is my friend Spencer, we take Chemistry together. Spencer this is my Mom." JJ said.
"Very nice to meet you Spencer." No sooner had JJ's mother greeted Spencer than hailstones started hitting the car. JJ let out a little shriek.
"Don't worry JJ it's just hailstones," Spencer reassured her, they were unaccustomed to them in Las Vegas. "The air is experiencing a cold front, so all the water molecules in the clouds are forming ice pellets and well essentially falling due to gravity."
JJ had her hands over her head, the noise of them falling on the car was disconcerting, even for Spencer and JJ's mother. Spencer could see they were small and probably wouldn't damage the car.
"It will be over soon." He tried to soothe JJ.
It stopped as quickly as it started and JJ's mother headed back on the road. They dropped him off at his front door and waved goodbye. JJ's mother had that pretty blond hair too and Spencer could tell she was where JJ got her gentle nature, before he had left the car her mother had made him promise to change his wet things as soon as he got inside and have something warm to drink. He smiled at the thought of it, but as soon as he walked in the door he was met with a flying book. He sighed knowing that his mother was on a tirade. She believed the government was trying to steal things from her and she would practically tear the house apart looking for cameras and wire taps. Tears welled in Spencer's eyes and he felt so very guilty for wishing that he could have gone home with JJ and her mother and just had a peaceful evening for a change. Instead he walked into the apartment and dutifully calmed his mother down and started to clean up.
JJ and her mother double backed to elm street.
"He seems like a sweet boy…very polite." JJ's mother offered.
"Yeah…Spence is great." JJ smiled and unwittingly didn't see her mother's knowing glance.
By Thursday everyone had had enough of the bad weather and Spencer watched the rain pelt at the windows in the Chemistry room. The bell rang and Spencer looked around, not sure why JJ wasn't in her seat, then in a flash she strode in quickly and managed to be seated before Dr. Carter came out from the back room.
As their teacher wrote out the lab procedure on the blackboard Spencer looked over to JJ.
"Hey…" he said.
" Hey..ugg…", she said in a nasal alto.
Spencer turned to get a better view and saw that she looked pale, was clutching some tissues and was rummaging for something in her bag.
"JJ, are you alright." He asked worriedly.
"Yeah I'm OK, just forgot my water bottle." She said and then coughed , moving away from Spencer.
"Here you can have mine…I didn't open it yet." He handed it to her, trying to smile.
He didn't see JJ again until he was heading for his locker at the end of the day, she was at her locker with her head resting on the metal.
Spencer approached, "JJ are you alright?"
She looked up to him and was about to shake her head no when a crowd of girls came by.
"Cmon JJ we have to suit up, let's go the scouts from the local colleges are out their today, we have to make each other look good." Sheila said.
Spencer didn't move, the other girls trailed off toward the gym.
"You're not playing today?"
"I have to, no choice." She croaked, her voice now only a whisper.
"But your ill, and the weather is bad out JJ, I don't think it's a good idea."
JJ smiled but waved him off, "I'll be OK Spence, I just have to have some gator aid…just a little tired." She said weakly.
Spencer put his hand to her head, he tingled with the feel of her under his palm but he shook off the distraction and continued. "You feel warm." He said worriedly.
"I have to go…it's our most important game." She tried to sound convincing but knew she hadn't been. She grabbed her bag and trudged down the hallway.
Spencer shook his head. He would never understand the jock mentality. He left for the Library determined not to think about JJ, if she was going to be reckless with her health there was no way he could stop her…
He sat in the library for two hours trying not to think about JJ and doing nothing else but think about her. While he was sitting there a couple of boys came in and were talking about the game.
"To bad that was cancelled for the weather that was awesome…I love seeing girls in shorts slide in the mud." One of the guys had exclaimed.
"Yeah, did you see JJ go down, she is one sweet piece of meat."
Spencer felt rage in his blood. How could they talk about her like that, not even caring if she was hurt. Spencer couldn't just sit there, he did care if she was reckless about her health and there was something he could do about and he would. He stormed out of the library and followed the hall towards the gym. The halls were deserted, he figured he had missed her but was relaxed by the idea she was with her mother and probably on her way home to bed.
He turned the hall to head out to the main entrance and there she was leaning against the wall, presumably waiting for her mother.
"JJ" Spencer ran to her, not caring about being nonchalant or cool.
Her eyes were glassy and her forhead had little bead s of sweat forming on it.
"Spence," As she said his name she slid down in a heap on the floor.
Spencer gently took her bag off her lap and checked her forhead, "JJ, you're burning up."
She looked up at him, her eyes had tears in them, "I don't feel well Spence."
" I know JJ," He took her hand and squeezed it gently, "Is your Mom coming soon?" he asked, hopefully.
JJ nodded and shivered.
"Where's your jacket?" Spencer searched her things and looked in her bag. She shook her head not sure where she left it.
Spencer took his own jacket and put it on her front, she seemed to be dozing and then her eyes opened.
"Spence is my mom here?" JJ whispered, her throat Spencer imagined was raw by the way she was swallowing hard.
He checked outside and saw Mrs. Jareau's car heading down the school entrance.
"JJ she's here." Spencer announced but JJ was resting. He knelt down and tried to shake her.
"I don't think I can get up Spence…Mom needs to help." She said sluggishly. Spencer could see the fever had spiked, and with a little panicked adrenal he scooped her up in his arms and hurried out to the car.
"JJ!" JJ's mother leapt out of the car and ran around to the other side, she opened the passenger door and Spencer laid JJ down on the seat.
"She's very ill Mrs. Jareau, fever, chills, I think a bad throat…she needs a doctor." Reid spoke quickly, genuinely worried about his friend.
"Yes, I'll take her right now." JJ's mom assured him.
Spencer was about to close JJ's door when she called to him.
"Spencer, your jacket." She was about to take it off.
"No..no…JJ, you need that to keep you warm…I have a sweater in my bag, don't worry your Mom is taking you to the Doctor." Spencer spoke gently, remembering how she had only a few weeks ago spoken to him when he had burned his arm. He readjusted the jacket, tucking the sleeves around her so it wouldn't shift and he closed the door.
All weekend Spencer thought about what had transpired, sometimes he couldn't help replay the sensation of holding her, the fragrant smell of her hair or the vulnerable look in her eyes when he had placed her on the front seat of her mother's car. He blinked hard to get rid of the images, they were distracting him from work and responsibilities. He knew he was being foolish, she would never like him as more than a friend. He had worked to hard and endured to much to think of letting something so irrational as a pretty girl interfere with his plans. That was it, he told himself, no more worrying, no more dwelling, she had a family and friends, well her friends weren't much, leaving her at school so ill she couldn't even walk out to the car, but none the less she had her mother to look after her and she would be fine.
Monday came and Spencer prepared and did his Chemistry experiment alone, no JJ. He tried to convince himself it was better this way, no distractions, no extra talking he could focus on improving his method, take extra notes on the ingredients. He finished up and was walking out when Dr. Carter stopped him.
"Spencer…Can I ask you a favor?" He held some folders with papers in them.
Spencer stopped at the desk, adjusting his messenger bag.
"I know you and JJ are lab partners and I was wondering if you could drop off these assignments at her house, I think it's on your way home." Dr. Carter looked up.
"Is JJ alright?" Spencer asked. His brow furrowed and all the emotions and worry he had been blocking came to the front of his mind.
"She will be, her mother called the school today…looks like the doctor wants her in bed for a day or two." He supplied.
Spencer thought about the idea of seeing her, going to her house, his stomach clenched but he agreed and took the folders from Dr. Carter and slipped them into his bag.
Dr. Carter handed him a slip of paper with the address and told him he would call Mrs. Jareau and they could expect him around 5.
Spencer nodded his head in agreement and left for his next class.
When he got to the Jareau's house it was starting to get dark. The air was clear, all the bad weather had been blown out by the wind.
Spencer smoothed down his hair and checked his shirt to see if it was tucked in under his sweater. He rang the doorbell and his heart thundered in his chest. He was surprised when JJ, herself, answered the door, she was clad in pajama pants and a longsleeve t-shirt. She looked so much better that Spencer's shoulders sagged with relief.
"Hi Spence, come on in." she smiled.
"Should you be out of bed?" He queried.
" Oh I feel so much better, I don't know why I have to stay home." With that she turned her head to cough, it sounded a little deep and loose.
"Jennifer Katherine you know you're supposed to be resting." JJ's mother came in from what Spencer could see was the kitchen. The house was very small but had a cozy feel and smelled like lavendar. JJ walked over to the couch and climbed under a blanket that lay rumpled on top.
"Hello Spencer, thank you so much for staying with JJ at the school and helping her out to the car." Mrs. Jareau said earnestly.
Spencer felt a lump in his throat and he wasn't sure why. He didn't trust himself not to squeak out an answer so he just shook his head.
"Excuse me I have to check on dinner." JJ's mother walked back to the kitchen to stir a pot on the stove.
Spencer walked over to JJ and sat on a rocker near the couch he rifled through his bag and handed her the folder with her assignments in them.
"Thanks." JJ took the folders and started to look through them.
Spencer sat quietly next to her, happy to be near her again, he was relieved but a little angry that she had put herself in such a position and he couldn't help himself he had to say it.
"JJ,", he was looking right at her and when he called her name her head came up from the papers. "Why did you play in that game when you were so sick...I mean you could have told Dr. Carter, he would have understood."
"I had to Spence, the whole team was relying on me...I couldn't let them down." she reasoned.
Spencer stared off thinking that she had no idea what those kids were really like, they didn't care about her, they just wanted JJ to make them look good for the college scouts.
"I can see you don't approve, but Spence you don't understand, soccer is my ticket to college, I do well in school, yeah, but I'm no genius like you, I have to work really hard and if you haven't noticed we don't have a lot of extra money lying around. If I don't get a hefty scholarship, I can't go." Her voice went hoarse and she started to cough. Spencer looked up with concern and guilt, he was always so consumed with his own problems he realized he barely noticed others struggling.
JJ's mother came in with some water for JJ and turned to Spencer. "Spencer I made a casserole, would you like to stay for dinner?" she asked him.
Spencer didn't know if JJ still wanted him there, he looked to her and she was smiling, inviting him with an expectant look.
"Yes, thanks Mrs. Jareau."
On his way home after dinner Spencer thought about the evening. It had been so calm, the house was small but neat, the dinner was tasty and their was even cookies homemade for dessert. JJ and her mother had talked and laughed about an old T.V. show JJ had watched while she was getting better on the couch. He had even done a little magic trick for them at the table while they had their cookies, they seemed to like it very much. Tears came to his eyes halfway home, how could he be angry with JJ for trying so hard, wasn't he doing that every day but in a different way, sitting in JJ's house tonight made him see so clear what he didn't have and probably never would and it hurt down deep, he swatted at the tears coming down, feeling desparate that one of the best nights of his life had to be ruined by these thoughts. He would have to enjoy what he had and move on, there was no sense in wishing the hours away. He unlocked the door to his apartment and all seemed quiet, his mother had gone to sleep reading in bed, he lifted the book from her chest and covered her with a blanket. He got ready for bed and slipped under the cover but before drifting off he thought about leaving JJ's house that night.
"Thank you for the dinner Mrs. Jareau, it was very good." He had been honest.
"You're very welcome Spencer." She had said on her way in to the kitchen to do the dishes.
"Spence, thank you for everything, and for the homework too. I better do some tonight before I fall behind to far." she said as she yawned.
"I...uh...I can help you with it...if you like...on Saturday at the library if you want?" He asked tentatively.
JJ looked up to him, a little surprised. "You will?"
"Sure." he looked away unable to meet her gaze.
He couldn't help himself, "You should get some rest."He smiled as she nodded her head, acquiesing. He felt a sense of he wasn't sure what diffuse through him and he really wanted to kiss her, to walk her over to the couch, see to it that she was safe on the couch and then kiss her good night, but he didn't and he knew he probably never would, but it had been enough and he could use the image of her standing there when he needed it, when he was lonely and needed to think of a friend.