Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to. ~George Seaton
The jeep pulled up to Spencer's apartment building. He grabbed JJ's sweatshirt he had promised to wash and made to open the door. He looked back and waved, seeing JJ smile and wave back. It had been a fantastic evening even though Taylor had been annoying and he was unsure how the events that took place might cause him some discomfort at school after the holiday.
All was quiet as he entered, his mother had put herself to bed and all he needed to do was clean up a few random books and start the laundry. He shivered as he passed through to the washer and dryer. The desert had been so cold but he had ceased to notice his own low temperature until now, having been heated since JJ had kissed him. He stripped down to his boxers, throwing all his clothes in along with the beer stained sweatshirt and turned on the machine. He hurried to his room to find some warm pajamas and some slippers. Their landlord froze them in the winter and broiled them in the summer.
After changing he laid down on his bed, waiting for the clothes to be finished and reviewing the evening. He liked most of JJ's friends and he believed that she had kissed him in the desert but with each passing hour he was less sure. He knew he had held her and she had brought his face down and he was almost positive she had made contact with his lips. Could it have been a mistake? An accident?...he drifted off to sleep, forgetting about the laundry.
The rest of the Christmas holiday had passed quietly, without incident and on the night before school he was taking out the trash he saw JJ in the parking lot of his building.
"Hey, what are you doing here?" Spencer nervously eyed his front door and felt a sense of dread that JJ was so close to his house.
"I was worried. I tried calling you for days and I just kept getting a weird beeping sound?"
"Really?" Spencer put the trash can down and covered over his knowledge that his mother must have pulled the cord out of the wall again. She occasionally did this and he wouldn't realize sometimes until days later. He rarely used the phone and they rarely received calls.
"Sorry, we have problems with our line sometimes."
"I'm just glad you're alright. I wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas."
He hadn't noticed she was carrying a package. It was brown paper tied with a red ribbon.
"I made something for you." She walked closer and handed him the package.
Spencer took the package and didn't know what to say. He knew he should invite her inside and open his present, he should introduce JJ to his mother and offer her a cup of hot chocolate but he was so afraid, he had never let anyone in that far.
"Spence, it's just some baked goods, don't freak out." JJ laughed.
"What…Oh…thank you JJ." He saw no way out, he would have to at least let her in, fix the phone and call Mrs. Jareau to come pick her up, it was getting dark and he couldn't let her walk home alone.
"Would you like to come in and warm up?"
"Sure." She smiled.
They walked to the apartment door and just before the front stepped he stopped.
"I have to tell you something. It's my mother…she…uh…isn't well."
"Oh…I'm so sorry Spence…is there anything I can do?"
"Uh…no." He hesitated, this could be enough to make her leave, if she walked quickly it wouldn't be too dark by the time she got home….No, he mentally chastised himself, he wouldn't leave her again because of fear.
"It's not like a cold or flu JJ, she is mentally ill." His chest heaved, it was the first time he had admitted it to someone besides himself.
"Oh…" JJ had a distant look on her face. Spencer's head went down, he was ashamed of his situation, his home, his mother and of himself. Then he felt a hand on his back and realized that his friend was putting her arm around him and rubbing his back.
"Hey…it's ok…can I still meet her, I'd like to." JJ looked under to catch a glimpse of Spencer's expression, her own was a questioning smile.
"Please don't tell anyone, I just like to keep this private." Spencer spoke quietly.
"Of course." JJ put her other arm around him and brought him into a hug. He was stiff at first as he had been in the library but after a few seconds he loosened up and hugged her back.
He stepped up, heart pounding and opened the apartment door. His mother was sitting at her desk writing and referencing a book. Spencer hoped that her calm demeanor meant she was having a more lucid evening.
"Mom, I'd like you to meet someone." Spencer kept JJ slightly behind him, just in case, it had been a long while since anyone knew had come over.
JJ stepped from around him and greeted his mother.
"Hello Mrs. Reid. I'm JJ, I go to school with Spencer, we're lab partners in Science class."
Mrs. Reid pushed back from her writing and looked at the girl and then looked at Spencer.
He really is equally good in all the subjects but of course my hopes were always for English, but if it is to be Science that's alright. Can you too work in the kitchen I'm just in the middle of a lecture for my class and I really do need to finish."
"Of course we can." Spencer breathed a sigh of relief at that interchange going as well as it had. He tugged JJ back towards the kitchen and positioned himself with his back to his mother.
JJ looked up to him, catching the expression in his eyes.
She shook her head back and forth and whispered, "There's no lecture….is there?"
Spencer could only get out the quietest of "no" and then sighed, half from shame and half from relief.
JJ not being able to process all of these emotions she was feeling for Spencer blurted out "I should probably get back."
Spencer nodded in agreement, he knew it would end this way all along, he knew she would find out, it would be awkward and frightening for her and she would flee. He didn't blame her, it almost felt good, dependable. He could go back to being himself, student and caretaker for his mother.
"Let me fix the phone line and we'll call your Mom to come get you." Spencer knelt down to where the wire had been pulled out of the jack, funny he hadn't even noticed.
JJ called her Mom and the two stepped outside to wait. JJ felt awkward about broaching the subject of his mother but she couldn't help worrying about Spencer and how long he had been dealing with all this.
"How long has your Mom been…uh…"
"Mentally ill, not sure, her symptoms reached a peak when my Dad left and then it's been all about getting the medication correct and getting her to take it and well…", he trailed off not wanting JJ to know how he had to make her seem better than she was for the Doctor's appointments so the social workers wouldn't come calling.
JJ reached down and covered his hand with hers, "…and what else…you can tell me, Spence, please."
He had never told, not even Dr. Carter but now with College approaching he didn't know if he could do this alone anymore. He ran his hand threw his hair and crossed his arms in front of his chest.
"I…I have had to, at times report less symptoms or downplay behaviors she's had in the past, in order to stay together and not be removed to foster care." His eyes welled with tears and his chest burned with guilt for being a coward. He knew his mother would have had better treatment if she had been removed from their apartment but he also knew he would have been thrown into foster care and all the statistics weighed out that he had a better chance for himself if they stayed together and he took care of her. He had been selfish all along and now the sweetest and most beautiful person he had ever met knew all about him.
"Oh Spence…JJ put her hand up to cup his cheek. She looked deep into his eyes. "You have done such a great job of taking care of your mother and…yourself." JJ's eyes teared up as well.
They both heard her mother's car and wiped at their eyes. JJ turned and went up on her toes and at the same time tugged Spencer down and kissed him on the cheek.
"Happy New Year, Spencer Reid!"
Spencer smiled down at her drinking in her scent and smile, feeling giddy with having released a secret and gained.