Author's Note: This is my first fanfiction ever. I've read a lot of stories over the years, but I never really had the guts to try my own. So I'm giving it a shot. If you have the time, please give me some feedback, praise or criticism. Let me know if you'd be interested in the next chapter. I'm mostly writing this for me, so I'm not going to beg for a certain number of reviews to get the next one out. If even one person is interested, I'll keep posting. Also, I don't have a Beta yet. I'm making all the corrections myself so I'll probably miss a few. If you spot any, point them out and I'll take care of it. Thanks!

Disclaimer: The original characters and any borrowed plot ideas belong to Mark Gordon Company, and the writers of Criminal Minds.

What Makes Purgatory?

Ignore the laughing, Spencer. Ignore it. At least they aren't lingering.

Spencer Reid shifted on his toes, trying to twist his lanky arms into convoluted angles behind his back. He winced as his shoulder blades ground harder into the flagpole pressed against his spine, but kept twisting. If he could just lift his left shoulder a little bit higher… Spencer's calf cramped and he slowly lowered his heels to the ground. The key to this whole process was not to move too quickly (keep all unintentional wiggling and bouncing to a minimum)… And try to forget the burning flush in his cheeks. And the humiliation of being presented to the entire student body of Stewart High naked and tied to a flagpole.

It wasn't fair. He was born this way. Spencer's brain wasn't his fault. Logically, he understood this and knew that he needed to keep himself challenged mentally. That's why he'd finally agreed to skip two grades back in elementary school. Both Spencer's counselor and principal had tried to cajole him into higher grade levels, but Spencer had stood firm in wanting to have at least a semblance of connection with his peers. It's hard to find that as an eight year-old in 7th grade. So the school officials settled with his move up to the 5th grade and Spencer's parents supported his decision.

This situation had worked out well at first. The fifth grade was full of kids who had known Spencer since he was just a toddler. Half the kids in his new class lived on his street. Rode bikes with him. They teased him, sure, but they were jokes made in good humor with no malice. Any bite was taken out of the words when seats were saved for Spencer at lunch. It could have been a ploy to team up on projects or pick his brain later for homework, except each classmate made a point of pulling his or her own weight somehow.

Thinking back from his current position, one might note that his first school had been almost frighteningly idyllic. ...Ok, it was at least way out of the norm.

But Spencer didn't learn that until his father got a big promotion that called for a move to Quantico, Virginia.

Middle school in Quantico was Hell. Yes, Spencer could explain all the cruelty of children away with a few well placed quips on psychology and the incomplete formation of the human brain during the pre-teen years. How it varies based on genetic background, home-life, and peer pressure.

Or he could suck up the cover of intelligence and just admit that it hurt. Enough so that his mother had finished his middle school years with home-schooling, the hope being that a twelve year-old would have more luck with fourteen year-olds in a high school than a nine year-old in a middle school. She was almost right.

Stewart High was purgatory. And why was that?

Shit shit shit! Spencer's head dropped and his burning flush spread down his neck and he just knew it went lower, but he had to focus on disgusting thoughts.

Vomit-worthy scent of the locker room. In the locker room. Boys in the locker room. One boy in the locker room. Der-… NO!

Giggly girls with too much make-up and too-tight clothes. Giggly girls massed together in the lunch room all giggling at the same time. Sitting at the same table. Sitting close for a reason. For a guy. Dere-… NO!

Grandma's underwear! Not enough. Grandma without underwear! Too much! Too much!

But he'd gone. The saving grace of Stewart High stopped laughing at the skinny little nerd roped to the flagpole just long enough to make a dash to the football field before authority figures showed up.

Spencer heard running footsteps and recognized the sharp staccato of Principal Prentiss' heels on the cement walkway and the gruff shouts of Security Chief Gideon. Prentiss untied him and Gideon threw a blanket around his shoulders, which Spencer clutched tightly closed. He barely heard Prentiss' soothing murmurs and Gideon's firm demands to know who had tied Spencer up.

They knew he wouldn't cave. He hadn't in two years and they never understood why. Spencer attended his mandatory weekly meetings with the counselor to monitor his emotional status in a group of judgmental peers, and that was all that his educators could require.

At Spencer's mumbled request, Gideon retrieved Spencer's gym clothes from the locker room. He and Prentiss sighed as they watched the boy grab his bag from his hall locker and head home. They'd done all they could really. Reported all incidents to his parents, who had no better luck with getting any answers, except that Spencer refused to be pulled out. Put his locker as close to the front office as possible. Kept him in the eye of most all the teachers. But the school couldn't afford cameras for the halls or entrances yet, and bathrooms and locker rooms were matters of privacy anyway.

Spencer would have to find a few protectors in the students, or give up the names of his tormentors. Neither of which seemed to be likely.

Spencer scuffed his shoes against the pavement as he started the two block walk home. He should have been in more of rush to escape his daily nightmare, but his feet slowed involuntarily as he passed by the fence at the edge of the football field.

Mistake. The team was running laps. So yes, he got to see a trim, sweating, glory of masculine perfection in the form of Derek Morgan jog by in his partial uniform and shoulder pads. But the whole team saw Spencer just as clearly. Their personal toy geek.

Most of Spencer's torture was at the hands of these over-grown halfwits. This afternoon's spectacle being a prime example. On the way out of the bathroom, right before the last bell ending homeroom, four of the football players had accosted Spencer and carried him out to the flagpole.

His protests were muffled by one assailant's hand as they laughed and detailed the staged fight taking place on the opposite side of the school as a distraction. As first time offenders, the fighting pair would get off lightly so long as they hugged, made-up, and wrote an essay on violence in schools. For halfwits, these guys were devious.

Whistling, jeering, cat calls, general derogatory remarks and sexual innuendos… And the saving grace. "Hey, Pretty Boy, barely recognized you under all those clothes!" Derek Morgan called him Pretty Boy again.

Ok so it was an insult aimed at his baby face, complete lack of muscle tone, and long wavy hair. And it was carefully highlighted by the gasping guffaws of his brutish teammates, but it was a nickname just for Spencer.

Of course, Spencer couldn't fight the bright red blush that arose at the mention of his recent humiliation. In the back of his mind he kept a running physiological explanation for the constant blushing, while in the forefront he couldn't seem to force his body to move.

The coach hollered across the field for the team to stop loafing and get their butts to the coolers. That was all it took to break Spencer away and he turned to flee. He'd barely managed two steps when a hand snagged his shirt and hauled him backwards against the fence. When had he let himself get so close? The thought was forgotten as hot breath ghosted across his ear.

"I have a proposition for you, Pretty Boy," Derek chuckled softly in his ear.