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If It Be Well Used
Stepping outside on David Rossi's wraparound porch, Jennifer Jareau took another gulp of her wine, steeling herself to take one more shot at having a discussion with Spencer Reid. Squaring her shoulders and taking a steadying breath, she stepped out of the shadows, forcing herself to enter the light.
"Spence, you out here?" JJ called more to announce herself than to ask a question for which she already knew the answer. She'd been keeping one eye on Reid for months, and rarely did she not know where he was. Sighing as she watched his shoulders stiffen in the white wicker chair to her right, JJ tightened her fingers around her wine glass as she moved forward. Stopping just beside him, she asked quietly, "May I sit?"
Watching his jerky shrug from the corner of her eyes, JJ slid past him, taking the chair to his left. Silently counting to ten before she spoke again, JJ reminded herself that Spence had perfected the art of being uncommunicative and distant for a reason. Too many disappointments...too many assaults against his unguarded heart had forced him to develop a method for dealing with the pain. And that method had evolved in the form of a thick shell he placed between himself and the rest of the world.
Once, she could have penetrated the barrier. Once, he would have simply let her in without fuss or muss. But, too much had transpired for her to expect that now.
She only hoped that she could once again possess that secret password that would let them be friends again.
"Spence," JJ began softly, needing to at least attempt to breach the divide between them.
"JJ," Reid said tightly, cutting her off with a hard look, "Look, I came tonight because Emily asked me...my presence wasn't some kind of peace offering to you."
"I didn't think it was," JJ acknowledged bleakly, her fingers tightening around the stem of her wineglass. "I knew it wouldn't be that simple."
"Well, that's the first rational conclusion you've had regarding me since you commenced your deception," he replied sarcastically, staring into the darkened yard, refusing to meet her gaze.
"I know you're angry," JJ whispered, letting out a deep breath as she waited for his response.
"No, I'm not," Reid denied evenly, one hand pressed against the woven arms of the chair. "Mere anger is a descriptor far too mild to be utilized now, Jennifer. I would have been angry if you'd told me the truth six weeks ago. The time for my anger has been and passed," he informed her bleakly, shifting his gaze to the ruby red liquid in his glass, watched as it swirled against the lip of his goblet.
"I see," JJ breathed, licking her lips as she shifted slightly. "So, can you tell me where your head is at, Spence? I've never been any good at guessing games."
"I'm not playing a game of any kind with you," Reid replied, his lips curling into a sneer. Turning his head to stare hard into her pain filled eyes, Reid continued caustically "You weren't so naive as to think that truth didn't have consequences, were you? You're a bright woman. You couldn't have been that foolish."
"No," JJ acknowledged as she shook her head, "I knew there would be fallout. I just thought the reward was worth the risk."
"Was it?" Reid asked with a hollow laugh, the sound echoing on the otherwise silent porch.
"Emily is alive," JJ said bluntly, staring hard at him, "so, yeah, I think it was."
"Emily's survival could have been assured even if you and Hotch had chosen to be honest with us. Or, was it only you two that could be trusted with her secret? You disgust me, Jennifer. Do you want to know why?"
Biting the inside of her cheek in an effort to avoid crying, JJ nodded jerkily. He had to purge himself, her mind whispered. None of us can even begin to heal until he does. "Go ahead."
Leaning forward, he narrowed his gaze on the pale woman sitting beside him. "Because you think what you did was actually noble. You and Hotch. You walk around piously spouting that every action you chose to take was for the greater good. But, what you both refuse to recognize is that this wasn't nobility at work; it was treachery."
"I have never felt any sense of nobility or pride in lying to you, Spencer," JJ replied truthfully.
"And yet you don't regret it." Spencer shook his head as he smiled bitterly. "Neither of you do. And whatever repercussion might have come from it...you never thought of those. Tell the truth, JJ...when you sat beside me for ten weeks...holding my hand while I cried...did it ever occur to you that I might be slipping?"
"I thought about it, but I trusted you to tell me if you were sliding," JJ said hoarsely, her eyes burning as she remembered how many nights he'd spent on her couch, his body quaking with sobs as he'd grieved. She had done the only thing she could then…which was to be his friend and Emily's protector at the same time. And she had justified it to herself every single time that she was doing exactly what she had to do, no matter what the consequences.
"And if I had?" Reid said, his eyes boring into hers. "You never answered the question the other day...answer it now," he demanded. "Would you have ever told me the truth?"
"I can't give you an answer," JJ replied honestly. "I don't know whether I would have told you or not. I like to believe that I would have, but I just don't know."
Snorting, Reid leaned his head back against the chair. "At least you still know how to tell the truth. Even though it's far too late to serve any good now."
Remaining silent as the fall leaves blew across the sloping lawn, JJ pulled her sweater closer, their conversation more responsible for her chill than the autumn weather. "I know that you still haven't formally signed back on with the unit, Spence," she commented, keeping her voice low.
"So, you and Hotch are still sharing secrets, huh?" Reid questioned sulkily, his brow furrowing even deeper. "Why am I not surprised?"
"Actually, it was Dave that told me about you. Contrary to what you believe, Hotch and I haven't been in collusion for months, Reid," JJ retorted sharply, his unspoken insinuation rankling her. "If you want to know the whole story, Hotch and I were forbidden from discussing anything regarding Emily's cover once arrangements had been made."
"How difficult for you," Reid mocked, rolling his eyes as he pressed his feet flat against the planked floor. "Poor, Jennifer...it must have been so hard for you...not being able to share your burden."
"Actually, Spence, it sucked," JJ said flatly, her words harsh but true. "Yeah, I know, you think I deserve to suffer. Well, here's a newsflash for you: I did!"
"You knew she was alive," Reid bit out, ignoring the tone in her voice. "You had far more solace than any of us did!"
"Just add a "you bitch" there, Spence, if it will make you feel any better," JJ retorted, her lips tightening as she stared at the man that had once been her best friend.
"It was implied," Reid snapped.
Lips twitching at his rejoinder, JJ's face softened as she stared at him. "I may not be sorry for what I had to do, Reid, but I am sorry for what it did to you. I did everything I could short of telling you the entire story to make things easier for you. Can you at least see that much?" she begged softly.
Indecision flashed in his expressive eyes as he stared back at her. While he had no desire to make her life any easier, seeing as how she had not offered him that same concession, a part of him did realize that his anger was indicative of strong feelings that might be slightly misplaced. "I don't know," he finally offered. "Maybe."
Well, that was progress, JJ thought silently. "I don't want you to leave the team, Spence. If anybody goes, it should be me, not you."
'Wh-what?" Reid faltered, his eyes widening with sudden surprise as he comprehended her offer.
Nodding, JJ took another long sip from her wineglass, praying that old Shakespeare adage about alcohol being helpful if it was well used was correct. At the moment, she needed all the assistance she could get...even if it was in the form of liquid courage. "You heard me," she said huskily when she'd swallowed the sweet wine. "If anybody goes, it should be me. I'm the one that betrayed the team. Not you."
"You can't leave," Reid said automatically, rejecting the idea with alacrity.
"I can if it makes it easier for you to stay," JJ countered quietly.
"You'd do that for me?" Reid asked, slightly incredulous that after all the insults and barbs he'd inflicted on her in the past few days that she'd be willing to make the sacrifice of sharing a cab with him, let alone leaving the Bureau again.
Blinking back tears, JJ's throat swelled. Nodding, JJ whispered, "You're my family, Spence. My home. If that's what I need to do in order to have even a chance of salvaging our relationship, I'll do it. I want to make amends. I want to fix things."
"That's not the way to do it," Reid groaned, running a hand through his hair, absently noting that he needed another haircut.
"Just tell me what it will take then," JJ pleaded, ready, willing and able to do whatever penance he required if it meant getting her friend back.
Lips twitching uncertainly, Reid moved his feet against the wooden planks of the porch. "Time," he responded after a hushed minute, his heart answering when his mind suddenly seemed far more overwhelmed than he wanted to acknowledge. "It's going to take time. And I still can't promise that I'm ever going to be able to accept what you did. I think eventually I can forgive it...but understanding it...that's beyond me right now. And honestly, it may always be."
"I can accept that."
"Neither one of us should leave the team," Reid said, keeping his voice low. "We fought too hard to be together again."
"I agree," JJ said simply. "Fresh start?" she asked hopefully.
"That's impossible, JJ." H shook his head, offering her a look filled with sadness. "There's no way for us to pretend that things between us haven't changed. All I can offer you is an opportunity to go forward, but I'm not sure yet what capacity that can happen in."
Nodding slowly as she absorbed his offer, JJ bowed her head. It wasn't the forgiveness she'd been so eager to receive, but it was a lot more than she'd expected him to give.
And for now, it would have to suffice.