Title: Mean Girls
Pairing: None, JJ-centric
Summary: The kindness JJ shows others isn't something that develops over time; it's inherent in her being. Post-ep 7.04 Painless.
A/N: When asked during the chat, Breen Frazier commented that the tension in this scene between Reid and JJ was largely on part of the actors. Regardless, I felt dismayed on JJ's behalf, and felt the need to build some backstory that our writers STILL won't touch. Thanks for reading! Comments appreciated.
"Someone with an ax to grind against the principal would, maybe as a surrogate for the tormentors in high school. Who were yours?"
"I don't even remember."
She's alone on the soccer field, welcoming the quiet. She squares the ball on the 18-yard line then thinks better of it and backs up until she's closer to the half. Taking a deep breath, she imagines the face of Lori Stetzer plastered to the ball. JJ has just landed a full-ride to college, while her teammate Lori will probably barely finish highschool and carry on her family's hardware business.
For those who so desperately want to leave, jealousy can't even begin to describe the tenacious resentment directed towards JJ.
Out of spite, Lori and a few others have left delightful presents for JJ over the past month: smashed eggs on her windshield, cow pies in her gym bag, her soccer cleats up a tree, letting the air out of her tires. Lori's crowning moment occurred when she had sex with JJ's now ex-boyfriend in his truck just after practice last week.
JJ kicks the ball with anger-driven precision, watching as it makes a satisfying swoosh against the net of the soccer goal.
"Stay classy, Lori," she mutters.
She kicks each of the eight practice ball with the bitter defiance of one who suffers the fate of crossing the supposed 'in crowd.' Those mere mortals somehow deemed greater than the rest either by genetics or sheer skill. JJ has both in spades, and yet, she never quite managed to fit.
JJ collects three of the balls and dribbles them up the field, racing only herself. She hears Megan Anderson's antagonistic voice in her head: What's wrong, Jenny? Did you get a B+?Everyone watch your razors! We don't want her slitting her wrists or anything.
Yes, because the suicide jokes never get old. She's only dealt with those for the past seven years.
As she starts her sprinting drills, she laments that her sister wouldn't have let them say and do such cruel things, that she would have stood up for herself. But when people are constantly watching, waiting for her to crack, JJ can only turn the other way and keep going. She can't risk any setbacks at this point.
So she runs. Runs from the pain, runs from the fear, runs from the small minds. She thinks she'll run from love someday, if it ever has a chance to catch up.
Besides, the least she can do is work hard to forget they ever existed, because the worst thing that can happen to a small town somebody is to become a nothing, an afterthought.
"You don't even remember? Wait, were you one of the mean girls?"
The first week of her junior year has taught JJ two things: guys are stupid and girls are mean. While working at camp over the summer, JJ underwent the metamorphosis of most girls around her age. Her acne cleared up, her braces were gone, and she was sporting a tan that was unhindered by her shin guards and soccer shorts. Up until then, JJ was known for her abilities on the field or for the loss of her sister. The opposite sex never gave her a passing glance and girls didn't see her as competition.
This weekend is no exception as JJ sprints over to the house of her best friend, Anna. Ringing the doorbell, she inwardly curses herself for not calling ahead. The door opens… and it's Brian, Anna's older brother. JJ's had a crush on him since she could crawl and he's never looked at her as anything more than a nuisance.
Except now he's leaning against the door and sizing her up appreciatively, his eyes lingering on her toned legs. "Hey there Jen, lookin' for Anna?"
JJ, completely tongue-twisted, merely nods.
"She's at the store with mom. You can come inside and wait with me for a while, if you want."
She should probably go home, but the thought of spending more than a minute with Brian is too promising. "Sure."
"Cool. I'll get us some pop." He leads her inside while she ignores the sweat forming in every crevice of her body. He tosses her a soda and hops up on the counter, grinning at her obvious discomfort.
Just before he says a word, his back door opens and in walks his girlfriend, the head cheerleader. She looks between him and JJ and her smile turns from something excited to a thin-lipped death threat. Before she can unleash unholy terror, JJ waves goodbye to the man of her dreams and heads out the front door. JJ can hear something akin to high-pitched shrieking all the way to the street.
She decides that she doesn't want to be a pretty girl, especially if other girls are going to look at her as a threat instead of the driven person she's always been. So she'll continue as she always has, determined in both her studies and athletics, hoping that it'll get her a ticket out of here. The last thing she wants is to get tied down by a boyfriend, or suffer the wrath of a scorned girlfriend.
It never occurs to her that her appearance will become an asset, another trading card in her arsenal. But until she learns how to use her looks to her advantage, she thrives off being underestimated as just a Soccer Barbie.
In the end, she meets up with Brian when she comes home from college one weekend. This time, he's the one who's tongue-tied.
"Valedictorian, soccer scholarship, corn-fed and still a size-zero. I think that you might have been a mean girl."
"I was actually one of the nice girls. Even to guys like you."
Walking home from babysitting two of the most repugnant children alive, JJ comes across a boy from her AP Bio class, Thomas Chapman. His dad got laid off months ago then took a liking to whiskey and throwing punches; while his mom is working doubles at the diner. He wears second-hand clothes that hang off his lanky frame, has a gentle voice, and is prone to frowning.
"Hey Thomas, how are you?"
He avoids direct eye contact and straightens his messenger bag over his shoulder. "How do you know my name?"
"We were lab partners a few weeks ago. Remember how you helped me with the Krebs cycle?" JJ walks with him past the small strip of run-down stores in town. She glances at him as he pushes his unkempt hair out of the way.
"Right, yes. I stayed up late last night finishing a paper, everything is a little fuzzy."
JJ spots the dark circles under his eyes and hopes he isn't hiding any bruises beneath his frayed flannel jacket. She was going to put her babysitting money into her 'get the hell out of here' bank, but as they come across the lone restaurant in town, she figures she could use some food.
"I was about to grab some dinner with my babysitting money, want to join me?"
He looks surprised and then disbelieving. "No thanks, I'm set."
"You sure? My parents aren't home and it's either this or cereal. It'd be nice to have some company." She smiles at him warmly, the one she saves for using on her dad when she wants to borrow his car keys.
"Okay, fine." He says it begrudgingly, but holds open the door for her as she passes inside. Once they're seated, they embark upon the stilted conversation of classmates, not friends. Still JJ keeps at him and finally discovers something he loves — animals.
"So you want to become a veterinarian?"
His eyes brighten as he smiles shyly then shares his plan with her. She tells him about her neighbor's horses and their pet cow, Stanley, earning another smile. She thinks that she'll try to take him out more often, just to see that smile again. When they finish dinner, they've agreed to meet the next day to do their bio homework together.
She can't say that she minds when Anna calls later that evening asking what she was doing with Thomas Chapman.
"Just having dinner… with a friend."
Fifteen minutes to touchdown and Hotch scans the jet. He's still wary of team dynamics and pays close attention to his team members. He spots Reid holding a book, head leaning against his fist, watching JJ. Hotch follows his gaze and sees that JJ is smiling at something Emily said, both shuffling through folders.
Curious, Hotch takes a seat next to Reid, waiting for him to speak.
"Do you ever wonder what everyone was like in high school?" Reid continues to watch the pair of women, his eyes sliding to Hotch briefly.
"Much the same as they are now, just less developed." At Reid's frown, Hotch can tell this is not what Reid wants to hear. "Why?"
Reid is quiet for a few moments, pursing his lips. "I accused JJ of being a mean girl."
Hotch nods, seeing Reid's struggle. "Do you really think that?"
"I don't know."
"Perhaps you don't know JJ as well as you think you do." Hotch sits a moment longer, reflecting on what he does know of JJ and her childhood, knowing the kindness JJ shows others isn't something that develops over time; it's inherent in her being. He rises and heads to the back of the jet, leaving Reid to ponder.
"That's the problem," Reid murmurs to himself, "I don't think I know her at all."
But then JJ looks up at catches Reid's eye and gives him a soft smile, and his doubt abates just enough. He acknowledges her and turns back to the comfort of his book.
JJ watches her friend escaping into the safety of words and theories, knowing that one day he'll understand what she did. She only hopes that when that time comes, it isn't because he's facing the same situation.
Just then, her phone hums. She glances down and sees that her opponent has made a move. Pulling up the screen, she glances at the scrabble board and makes a sound of discontent.
"Emily Prentiss. You did not just score that many points playing a two-letter word."
Emily smirks enigmatically and turns back to her briefcase. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
JJ crumples her bag of Cheetos. "Sure you don't."