Universe:Born to be Mild (Part 10)
Characters/Pairing:Team, Kevin, Henry & Jack – gen/background canon pairings
Summary:In which Kevin and Garcia make an impulsive life choice, JJ and Reid try to resolve some tension, and Hotch and Prentiss have a heart to heart – and that's before they set off the rocket.
Author'sNote:Set sometime post 7x02. Started off because I missed physics magic, ended in a veritable angst-fest.
'Awesome profiling fiends of awesome: I have fantastic news,' Garcia announced by way of welcome as she stepped into the bullpen.
'World peace was declared?' Emily asked, without looking up from her paperwork.
'Okay, so maybe not that fantastic,' Garcia conceded. 'But I still think it's pretty great.'
'Go on, baby girl, don't leave me hanging.' Morgan swiveled his chair around to face Garcia, who was sporting a wide smile on her face.
'Kevin and I are moving in together,' she told them.
'That's great, mama. So you've already picked out a place?'
There was a slight hesitation on Garcia's part. 'That's the other part of my news,' she said. 'We bought a farm.'
There was a beat of silence.
'Seriously?' Morgan asked, incredulous. 'A farm?'
'Aren't you a vegetarian?' Emily asked, with a raised eyebrow.
'Semi-vegetarian,' Garcia corrected. 'And we don't have to farm animals that way.' She dismissed the concern with a wave of her hand.
'You gonna learn how to drive a tractor instead?' Morgan asked, grinning. Garcia gave him a look.
'Oh, come on, guys. It's not as though we bought it specifically to farm. It's just a nice place with a lot of land that we can use to raise our future minions on.'
'Alright.' Morgan backed down. 'I won't give you any flak for this.'
'Good. Because I'd have to have to uninvite you from our Barn-raising Party this Sunday. Emily, you can check your Facebook invites, but since Morgan refuses to join the modern age, I'll have to write it down for you.' She gave a dramatic sigh, as if it was the most inconvenient thing in the world.
'Hey, don't single me out; Hotch and Reid don't have Facebook either. And for good reason – privacy is practically non-existent with that thing.'
'Only if you don't know how to use it,' Garcia countered. She grabbed a purple post-it note from Reid's desk, and scrawled the date, time and address. 'Food and drink provided. Feel free to bring a plus-one.' Morgan didn't bother to point out that anyone he would have invited was going already, save for maybe Clooney, who usually got just a little too over-excited to warrant bringing him along. Even if there was someone in his life, any team-related event seemed somehow too intimate to invite just anyone.
It would have to be someone special, someone that he loved.
That was a person that he hadn't met yet.
JJ stirred a healthy amount of sugar into her morning coffee. It had been an exhausting weekend; all she'd wanted to do was sleep, but with Will working, and an overly energetic three-year-old to entertain, that had been something of a pipe dream.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Reid hesitate on his way over to the kitchenette. In spite of the team-building cooking session that Hotch had all but mandated, things were still tense between them. JJ wasn't exactly surprised; it wasn't as though she'd covered up a surprise party, or drunk the last of the coffee without making a fresh pot.
'Hey, Spence,' she greeted him, broaching the possibility for some civil conversation.
He gave a strained, 'Hi,' in response, head ducking down to avoid her gaze. Reid might have been a veritable genius, but he was terrible at hiding his feelings.
'Can we talk?' she asked, before he had a chance to run away.
Reid's eyes widened, and he opened his mouth to respond, but at that moment an individual of the "blond pigtails and bright red lipstick" variety descended upon the scene, oblivious to the importance of the conversation (JJ hesitated to even call it that) that she had interrupted.
'Boy genius! Are you busy this weekend?'
JJ had been the team communications liaison for long enough to know when to back away from a confrontation.
She tried to approach Reid again over the next five days, but he was surprisingly good at avoiding confrontation. The week seemed to go surprisingly quickly for a paperwork week. As an official profiler, rather than a media liaison, there was actuallyless paperwork, even if it was a different kind of paperwork.
Saturday was a family day, meaning that JJ had spent most of it watching SpongeBob Squarepants and playing Candyland with Henry and Will.
Today, though, there was one thing that Henry LaMontagne was more excited about than anything else.
'Spence!' The boy jumped out of JJ's arms no sooner than JJ had shut the car door. He had taken a real shine to his godfather – partially because of the fact that Reid seemed to be able to make anything explode using only the equipment he had at hand.
Amusingly enough, Reid had taken to the duties like a fish to water, even if he'd kept his distance from JJ since Emily's return.
Satisfied that her son was in capable hands (Reid would probably wait until at least after dinner before starting his science experiments) JJ made her way over to the door of the farmhouse, where Garcia and Emily were talking.
They caught sight of JJ's approach, and Garcia ran over to wrap her in a tight hug. 'Hey, sugar plum. What do you think?'
'You know, it's not exactly the same as playing Farmville,' JJ commented, staring out over the huge expanse of land.
'Which reminds me,' Emily interjected, turning back towards Garcia. 'Will you please stop sending me neighbor requests? I am never going to play that game.'
'Right, because Mafia Wars is so much more respectable.'
Emily ignored JJ's comment, instead following Garcia into the farmhouse. It wasn't huge, but then, it wasn't as though there wasn't room to expand. Something like this was a serious long-term investment. A "rest of your lives" kind of investment.
'So where are junior and the boy-toy?'
'Junior is outside with Spence. The boy-toy,' she said, rolling her eyes at Garcia's terminology, 'Is working tonight.'
'Well we wouldn't want you rubbing our faces in it, would we?' Emily said, laughing, but JJ detected the slightest hint of bitterness. She wouldn't have said that things had been strained between them since Emily's return, but she definitely detected some barely masked melancholy from the other woman over the last couple of weeks.
Garcia gave a quick tour of the farmhouse, before leading them out the back where Kevin was setting up the barbecue. Morgan and Rossi were both already there, drinking beer in the light of what looked like at least half a dozen free-standing garden lanterns.
'Alright,' Kevin announced, digging through the cooler at his feet. 'We have tofu burgers, vegetable shish-kabobs…'
'This is a no-meat barbecue, isn't it?' Rossi interrupted, with the tone of someone who had come to a sudden realization.
'I'm sure I mentioned that,' Garcia said, with a frown.
'You didn't,' Morgan provided, clearly a little disgruntled by the turn the evening had taken.
'I'm sure eating tofu instead of steak for one night won't make you any less of a man,' Emily told him pointedly.
'Wanna test that theory, princess?'
Emily gave him an incredulous look, and laughed. 'In your dreams, stud.'
Morgan's grin transformed into a mock pout. 'I'm wounded.'
Still, neither he, nor Rossi complained any further, and any discussion on the matter was halted by the sound of another vehicle, heralding Hotch's arrival.
The Unit Chief had chosen khakis and a sweater over his usual suit, with Jack in jeans and a t-shirt. 'Sorry we're late,' Hotch said, in the voice of someone that had dealt with a stubborn six-year-old. Jack hid behind his father's leg, even though he was far too tall for such a method to be effective anymore.
'Now we can get cooking!' Kevin said, excitedly. JJ wasn't sure she'd ever seen someone so happy about tofu dogs.
The food and the drink and the conversation flowed, and anyone who wasn't a profiler wouldn't have noticed the heavy air of tension that had sunk over them. It had been over almost a month since Emily's return, and they were no closer to the status quo than they had been while Emily was in Paris.
Maybe they never would be.
After they'd finished eating, the group had fallen into an uneasy silence. Jack curled into his father's side, giving a slight whimper.
'What's wrong, buddy?' Hotch looked down to where his jacket was being used as a pillow.
'Can we go home, Daddy?'
'Not just yet, buddy.'
'Do you want to play with Henry? He tells me that he and Doctor Spence have a surprise for us soon.'
'I don't wanna,' Jack mumbled.
'You don't have to,' Hotch assured him. To say that Jack had been reluctant about coming was an understatement. Things had evidently been difficult at school lately, and Hotch was determined to ensure that his son had healthy relationships with the members of his team.
'How about we go for a walk instead?' he suggested, feeling the up and down movement of Jack's head against his stomach.
'I'll come with you,' Emily offered. She paused. 'If that's alright, I mean.'
Hotch deferred to Jack, as he suspected that Jack's refusal to stay had less to do with boredom and more to do with the amount of people that were around. Surprisingly, he nodded quietly.
'You should go up towards the hillside,' Reid told him. 'It might not be safe otherwise.' Hotch wasn't sure he wanted to know why it wouldn't be safe, but he took the flashlight that Garcia passed him, and they started their short trek.
It took less than five minutes to reach the top of the hillside. It wasn't tall by any stretch, but Hotch imagined that it would be a good vantage point during the daytime.
'You can see way more stars here than in the city,' Emily commented. She sat down on the dewy grass, leaning back on her haunches. 'I always wanted to get a telescope, but there's nowhere I could really use it.'
'Do they all have names?' Jack asked.
'Not all of them,' Emily told him. 'Sit down, I'll show you the ones I remember.'
She pointed out Polaris, and a few of the more well known constellations, but the stars were plentiful enough that Jack had some trouble tracking Emily's finger.
Still, he didn't seem to be bored anymore, which was something.
'I can't imagine that Paris had very good opportunities for stargazing either,' Hotch commented.
'Not really,' Emily agreed. 'I suppose I didn't have to stay in the city, but part of me thought that being surrounded by two million people might make things seem less lonely.'
'Some days,' she admitted. 'But on others, it made things feel a hundred times worse.'
'I'm sorry that we couldn't do anything to…' He hesitated, not because he couldn't think of anything to say, but because he didn't want to bring it up in front of Jack. 'I'm sorry.'
Emily shook her head. 'Don't be. I was stubborn enough, and stupid enough to try and sort out my problems without asking for help, and I paid the price for it. Now Doyle is…gone, and I'm…I'm coping.'
'It's strange. All things considered, everyone's been incredibly understanding, but sometimes I feel lonelier now than I ever did in Paris. I don't know. Maybe my life is just catching up with me.' Her tone of voice told Hotch that she was disinclined to discuss the matter further – in any case, it was a conversation that was better suited to another time.
'So what's in the crate, Reid?' Morgan asked conversationally, gesturing towards the box that Reid had been strangely secretive about for the entire evening.
Reid looked towards Henry. 'What do you think, should we tell them?'
Henry nodded excitedly. 'Can I tell?'
'Sure,' Reid agreed.
'Are you sure that it's safe?' JJ asked, raising an eyebrow. The last thing they needed was for the BAU to make the front page after having perished in a fiery explosion.
'Of course it's safe,' Reid said dismissively. 'I did this all the time in college.' JJ could only imagine the kinds of trouble that an eighteen-year-old genius studying for his chemistry doctorate could have gotten into.
'I think there's been a mad scientist hiding behind this sweet, innocent doctor,' Garcia said, smile quirking on her fuchsia lips.
'Mad scientist just isn't a lucrative career choice for someone with a strong moral compass,' he answered, matter-of-factly, as though he'd actually been considering the option at one point. Of course, it being Reid, it was just as likely that he was kidding.
She hoped he was kidding.
He started pulling things out of the plastic crate: a lot of PVC piping, some kind of valve, and what looked like a bicycle pump.
'The history of the rocket goes back to Ancient China, where they were used to frighten enemy's horses,' Reid told Henry, as he started to prepare the rocket. At least, that's what JJ figured he was doing.
'Is this what I can expect from you, too?' she asked Garcia, half-exasperated.
'You know, between the two of us, we could probably teach him how to build and program a killer robot,' Garcia said, thoughtfully. JJ could feel her eyes widening in horror.
'I made a really big mistake, didn't I?'
'In making the two biggest nerds of the BAU your son's godparents? Absolutely not. This way you know he'll grow up to be a rocket scientist.'
The thought was somewhat terrifying, but JJ had to admit, she would prefer Henry become a rocket scientist than see him following in his parents' footsteps. Maybe that was just because she was still intent on protecting him from the kind of horrors that she saw every day.
Still, she'd prefer something like Microbiologist to Rocket Scientist. At least then, he'd only be exposed to deadly viruses instead of explosives.
Totally a good trade-off.
'This rocket is powered by compressed air, so it's highly unlikely that anything will actually explode.'
'Good,' JJ said resolutely. 'I do not want my son turning into a pyromaniac.'
'Considering the fact that we're not setting fires to relieve tension or for gratification, I don't think that he will.'
'Highlyunlikely?' Morgan repeated, completing ignoring JJ's grievance. She didn't blame him – "highly unlikely" as defined by Spencer Reid was not the same as "highly unlikely" as described by everyone else.
'Well this is made out of PVC, which will break down after repeated usage. The ones I put together in college were usually made out of galvanized steel, but then, we also utilized equipment from the Chemistry department to ensure a more dynamic display.'
'So it could explode,' Morgan concluded.
'Well, yes, but at the same time, we could also die from a freak meteorite striking the Earth at this exact location.'
'You'd think we would've heard if something like that was gonna happen.'
'Not necessarily,' Reid offered. 'Some studies suggest that between eighteen thousand and eighty-four thousand meteorites larger than ten grams fall to Earth every year. Fortunately, most reports of meteorites actually killing people are unsubstantiated.'
'Well that's a relief.'
'Meteorites have also been the subject of religious worship; many ancient cultures and civilizations saw them as sacred objects, most probably due to the spectacular way in which they burst through the Earth's atmosphere.'
Henry tugged on Reid's shirt sleeve. 'Can we do the rocket now?'
'Of course,' Reid said, and JJ could have sworn that he was beaming. 'What I need you to do is step on this bit here over and over again like you're pumping up a bicycle tire.' JJ didn't bother pointing out that Henry was three, and had never pumped up a bicycle tire. She half-wondered if Reid had been that kid that was riding his bike without training wheels two years before everyone else.
'Okay, that's enough. Stand back.' Reid pressed the launch button, and the rocket shot into the air. JJ had been expecting a bang, or some kind of light, but there was only a loud whoosh.
'Whoah,' Henry said, eyes widening as he watched the rocket soar through the sky, only to be swallowed by darkness.
'I didn't want to do anything too drastic without knowing how much of a fire hazard the area was,' Reid explained almost apologetically. 'Admittedly, it'd probably be easier to find if it was on fire.'
'I'd give you the flashlight, but Hotch took it,' Garcia told him.
'I'll help you look,' JJ offered, not even bothering to disguise the fact that she had ulterior motives. 'My phone has a flashlight. Henry, stay here, okay?'
'Aw,' Henry pouted.
'Don't worry, we won't let him get into any trouble,' Morgan said, half-grinning. JJ didn't exactly like the sound of that.
'You didn't have to trap me, you know,' Reid said, once they were a respectable distance from the rest of the group.
'Well I've been trying to talk to you all week, so it kind of seems like I did need to trap you.'
'I'm not ready to discuss this right now,' he said, a little defensively.
'Come on, Spencer. You can't just ignore me forever.' Reid didn't answer, as if he was deciding in his mind exactly how long he could ignore her for. 'Henry misses your visits.'
'Henry's not the one who lied to me.' JJ shone the light from her phone around in front of them, hoping to catch a glimpse of the rocket. 'We haven't gone far enough yet,' he added, matter-of-factly. He'd probably calculated the distance and trajectory of the thing.
'I didn't lie to you because I wanted to,' JJ shot back. 'I lied because I couldn't run the risk of Doyle finding out that Emily was still alive.'
'That wouldn't have happened.'
'I don't need to be a statistics genius to know that it wasn't worth the risk. I did everything in my power to make things as safe for her as possible, and if that meant lying to you, then I would rather that than finding out that he'd tracked her down and killed her.' JJ stopped, realizing how heated her voice had become.
Reid didn't respond, instead walking just a little bit faster to get ahead of her. A minute or so later, a sudden yelp cut through the air. JJ started forward. 'Reid,' she called out, uncertain. 'Are you okay?'
'I tripped.' His voice was tinged with pain. Following her ears, she walked towards him cautiously. The ground was a little uneven on this part of the property. She didn't imagine that it would be particularly useful for crops. 'I think I may have broken my ankle.'
She found him sprawled across the ground, his expression looking more than a little bit sheepish. 'So you can mix dangerous chemicals with your eyes shut and your hands tied behind your back, but you trip over a rock and break your ankle?' JJ asked, not even bothering to hide the tone of exasperation in her voice.
'It's dark,' Reid said, as if that explained everything. She pushed aside any argument that might have been between them, and helped him up from the ground. 'Put your arm around my shoulder,' she instructed. They hobbled forward uncertainly, the rocket entirely forgotten.
It took almost ten minutes to make it back to where the rest of the team was congregated. Henry's eyes were wide with concern.
'What the hell happened to you two?' Rossi asked. He was halfway through a second tofu burger, and he didn't seem to be enjoying it.
'Nothing happened to me,' JJ said defensively. 'Spence, on the other hand…Well let's just say we're going to have to cut the night short to take a trip to the emergency room.'
Realistically speaking, they didn't need an entourage, but without even discussing the matter, everyone started to get ready to leave.
'What are we going to do with all of these tofu burgers?' Kevin lamented. With He took them back to the farmhouse, along with their rubbish bag.
'I'll give Hotch a call,' Morgan announced; there didn't seem to be any question that they would all be accompanying Reid to the hospital, no matter how relatively minor the injury might have been. It could have been a paper-cut and they all would have gone with him.
'Oh, sweetie, what are we going to do with you?' Garcia seemed less upset about the night coming to an end than she did about Reid's accident. 'I swear you've been in hospital more times than everyone else put together.' Ducking underneath his other arm, she and JJ helped him towards JJ's car. Rossi lifted Henry up into his car seat, buckling it tight.
'Thanks,' she offered.
'Mommy, where are we going?' Henry asked, words tapering off into a yawn.
'We have to take Spence to the hospital so he can get his leg checked out.'
'It doesn't feel too serious,' Reid offered. 'I can't be certain without an X-Ray, but—'
'Spence, Ph. D is not shorthand for M.D. Let the people with the Medical degree take a look. No "second opinions" this time.'
'Fine,' he acquiesced.
'We'll follow you there,' Rossi told her. It took JJ a few seconds to realize who "we" was – Garcia had squeezed into the back seat of his Audi. Morgan, it seemed, was going to wait around for Hotch and Prentiss to return.
If there was one thing that the BAU was good at aside from profiling, it was coordinating.
Half an hour later, the team was sitting in the waiting room of the closest emergency room, Reid scribbling quickly on the clipboard that a nurse had given him. It was surprisingly quiet for a Sunday night, but with ten of them there as well as a stroller, it still felt as though they were crowding the room out. In spite of all the excitement, Henry had fallen asleep on the ride over.
'I don't mind waiting alone,' Reid said. He was trying not to wince with each word, but none of the team was falling for that. 'It might take a while.'
'It'll take at least half that to list your medical history, won't it?' Morgan ribbed gently. Still, he and Emily were the ones that offered to stick around and wait while everyone else went down to the hospital cafeteria.
JJ would have stayed, only she figured that if Henry stirred, there was a little more room to be disruptive in the cafeteria. Since the next day was a school day, though, Hotch made his apologetic departure, with the proviso that he be updated with hourly text messages.
They crowded around a small, Formica-covered table. Rossi went to get coffees, and returned with a hamburger.
Garcia gave him a look. 'I'm not going to be one of those semi-vegetarians that scolds you and throws red paint on your leather jacket, but seriously? I thought Catholics were supposed to abstain from meat on Fridays.'
'It's Sunday,' Rossi pointed out. 'And I never said I was good Catholic.'
They waited for around two hours, talking and eating to pass the time. Henry woke up at around nine o'clock, and asked for ice-cream. Considering how well-behaved he'd been, JJ wasn't inclined to say no.
'Oh, here we go!' Garcia announced just moments after JJ returned to the table with a bowl of ice-cream, and a slice of chocolate cake for herself.
'How'd it go?' Rossi asked, as Reid crutched his way over to the table, Morgan and Prentiss on either side of him. His pants were cut off at one knee, and the ankle had been encased in white fiberglass.
'Well, Morgan has a date with the triage nurse, so at least something good came out of Reid's clumsiness,' Emily said lightly, as they seated themselves.
'I wouldn't say that this accident was due to any inherent clumsiness,' Reid said matter-of-factly, though he couldn't quite quell the blush that had started to creep across his cheeks. He was eying the untouched slice of cake in front of JJ, which she slid over towards him without preamble. 'As a prestidigitator, I have impeccable dexterity.' After a moment's thought, she dug through her bag and found the tiny plastic bottle of Tums and passed that over, too.
'What's a presdigitor?' Henry asked, eagerly digging into his bowl of chocolate ice-cream.
'The word prestidigitation literally means "quick fingers" and is used to refer to the sleight of hand a magician uses to—'
'Reid, he's three.'
'It means that I'm good with my hands,' Reid said simply. Henry nodded, taking his godfather's word as gospel. A little more apologetically, speaking to Kevin and Garcia, he added, 'I'm sorry I ruined your housewarming.'
'Haven't you ever heard that expression, "home is where the heart is?" We don't give a baboon's behind about where we have our housewarming, as long as we're with the most awesome people in the universe.' Garcia pinched his cheek affectionately.
'Plus, Agent Rossi is glad that he can finally eat meat again,' Kevin added.
'I just don't get how you can call it a barbecue if you're only making tofu burgers,' Rossi said, clearly disgruntled at the very idea of such a thing.
'Anyway,' Emily added. 'I'm sure you could probably find a way to make a rocket out of whatever's in grabbing distance.'
There was a sudden glint in Reid's eyes.
'Oh, now you've done it.' Morgan rolled his eyes. 'At this rate he's gonna trip and break his neck on the way out to parking lot.'
Thankfully, though, he didn't. His previous experience with crutches meant that when they finally left the hospital, he was moving just as quickly as the rest of them.
'Thanks for driving me home,' Reid said, as he pulled himself into the passenger's seat of JJ's car. Rossi had already left, and Morgan was driving Emily, Garcia and Kevin back to the farm so that Emily could pick up her car, and Garcia and Kevin could do whatever it was they did on Sunday nights.
'It was the least I could do.' She buckled Henry into his car seat, tugging at the straps to make sure that it was secure. 'I'm sorry.'
'What?' he asked, frowning.
'I'm sorry I did what I did. You didn't deserve being treated that way, and you had every right to feel betrayed. I did it because I needed to, but that doesn't change the fact that you went through a lot of pain that I could have prevented.'
He didn't say anything for a long while. Eventually, though, he spoke. 'I can't pretend that things are suddenly going to be okay straight away.'
JJ nodded. She had expected as much. 'And I'm sorry about the ankle, too. You probably wouldn't have broken it if not for me.'
'That's ridiculous,' he said. 'I'm the one that went looking for the rocket without a flashlight.'
JJ was about to argue back, but she was interrupted by Henry, who was clearly uninterested in whatever conversation she and Reid had been having. 'Mommy?'
'What is it, baby?'
'Can we make a caddapultnext, Mommy?' he asked, putting his emphasis on the mispronounced word.
JJ gave Reid a look. 'Now this is your fault.'
'At least he didn't say "flamethrower."'
Stay tuned for the next installment in the Born to be Mild 'verse, AgeoftheGeek.