Criminal Minds © CBS.
Another one-shot tribute to the badassery that is Spencer Reid.
It had been a heck of a case. Five women had died, but in the end, they had caught the one responsible. In celebration, the local cops took the BAU out for a few drinks. As Morgan expected, Reid excused himself early and walked down the street to the used book store at the corner. The local cop they worked with – Sheriff Hall – blinked as he left. "Agent Reid doesn't drink?"
"Not often." Hotchner said fondly. "He's more of an intellectual. The bookstore will keep him occupied until we decide to leave."
"You sure about that?" Morgan laughed. "Considering how fast that boy reads?"
Rossi chuckled. "We should make this quick then. It'll take him half an hour to get through the entire store."
Reid made his way through the bookstore, taking his time for once. He was capable of reading slowly, when he felt like it, mostly in places like this, where he wanted to feel the rough pages and smell well-worn books and just be at peace. He liked places like this. There was a feel of history – personal history, non-violent history – to used bookstores. It made him happy, trying to imagine the people who had once owned these books. For a while, he could forget about everything and be still.
He stayed there longer than he had expected, but that was okay – the others had probably forgotten about him at the bar. He didn't take it personally. Morgan would probably meet him halfway down the block and walk with him back to the team, and they would go back to their hotel until the morning. So with a wave to the bookstore owner (and about five new novels that had caught his attention tucked under one arm – at a buck a piece, who could pass that up?) he exited the store and headed down the street.
He made it five paces before trouble showed up.
"Hey, look at the bookworm." Three guys, all taller than Reid, all built like Morgan. They wore lettered jackets and baggy jeans. Probably basketball jocks from the local community college. One had dark hair, while the others were blond. That was all Reid could see of them in the darkness. "Hey, nerd – look at me when I'm talking to you!"
"I'm sorry, I wasn't aware you were looking for conversation." Damn it, but his mouth was going to get him in trouble. The dark haired one got in his face, while the others spread out behind him. Reid recognized this formation all too well. Dark Hair was the leader, the others the followers, and Reid was the poor schmuck they were going to beat up tonight to make them feel good about themselves. How many times had he been caught in this situation before?
"You think you're funny, nerd?" Dark Hair sneered. "How funny do ya think ya'll be once we pound ya into the pavement!" The others were laughing at them now, fully anticipating a good show.
Rossi stood in the shadows just out of Reid's sight. He had been the one to volunteer to go get their resident genius from the bookstore, and he wasn't liking what he had come across. He fully expected Reid to raise his hands, assure the boys he wanted no trouble, and try to talk his way out of it. Maybe he'd let them rough up his books, just to avoid getting roughed up himself. Rossi had been bullied before in high school – he knew the drill.
What he wasn't expecting was Reid to shift one foot back, turning his body ever so slightly, and issuing his own challenge.
"Touch me and you'll regret it."
"Oooh! The nerd thinks he's tough!" Dark Hair laughed. "Come on, pretty boy! Throw the first punch! I dare you!" He reached out to shove Reid. Rossi took a step forward, ready to call out, but Reid moved faster than either of them.
He dropped his books and punched Dark Hair in the face with enough force to break his nose. The boy stumbled back, cursing and spitting. Reid shifted his stance entirely, body sideways to his opponent and fists raised. Dark Hair didn't even notice the sudden change, although his companions did. The two blond haired boys broke rank and ran. They were the smart ones.
Dark Hair simply charged again. This time Reid had enough distance to land a solid side-kick to the boy's ribs. He doubled over, coughing and gagging. Reid dropped out of his stance and knelt in front of him. "Are you okay?"
"You broke my ribs!" the boy cried out. "What the hell, man? You freak!"
"You know, considering the fact that you started this, I really don't think you have the right to complain to me about it." Reid said calmly. "I did warn you. Once your friends come back they'll take you to the hospital. I'd advise you come up with a better story than you tried to bully an FBI agent." What color there was left in Dark Hair's face drained completely. Reid nodded, satisfied, and gathered up his books.
Rossi was standing beside them by the time Reid stood back up. The younger agent looked at him guardedly. "You saw?"
"Everything." Rossi said. He slapped Reid on the back as he guided him towards the bar. "When did you pick up Tang Soo Do?"
Reid flushed. "Not too long after high school. I was sick of getting bullied." He didn't bother to glance behind him when he heard footsteps. With Rossi around, it wasn't likely the other boys would try for revenge. "Don't tell the others."
"Why not? That was impressive."
"It's my secret. I don't want them to know." Reid refused to look at Rossi, and suddenly the older agent understood.
"You know, no one will think less of you because of it." he pointed out. "If anything, it's sad that there's still bullies in the adult world, that you even have to defend yourself over something that stupid. The fact that you can is commendable."
Reid shook his head. "I used to think that. But every person I've told has made me prove it – and I do mean made me. No one thinks I can be as scrawny as I am and still be able to fight, and I hate fighting. Well, I like sparring, but that's different."
"That's controlled, and you know you won't get hurt." Rossi agreed. "Still, let me tell them. Let me show you. We're your team – we won't be that way." Reid shifted. "I won't if you say no again. But I would like you to trust me."
Reid took a deep breath. "Hotch. He can know. Not the others."
When the other agents asked what had taken them so long, Rossi blew it off as Reid having his head in a book. No one missed the grateful look on Reid's face, but no one questioned it either.
It wasn't until they were on the plane and everyone had fallen asleep that Hotchner actually asked the question. "So, what exactly held you two up?"
Rossi grinned. "Our resident genius landed himself in some trouble with a few local bullies."
Hotch frowned. "Is he all right?"
Rossi's returning smile was nothing short of vicious. "Oh, he's perfectly fine. In fact, he probably taught them a thing or two about underestimating tall nerdy-looking guys. He's got a mean side-kick."
Hotch stared at him. "Reid knows martial arts?"
"Yep. He's very good at it too."
"So why didn't you say anything earlier?"
"Apparently, in Reid's experience, admitting he can fight is the same as offering to fight. No one believes him until he can prove it, and I imagine they weren't gentle if he found himself outmatched." Rossi shrugged. "Besides, he's, what, 27? How many 27 year olds do you know that are still getting bullied? He thinks it reflects badly on him."
Hotch closed his eyes for a moment. "Yes, I can see that." He opened his eyes and let his gaze slide over to the sleeping Reid. One of his books was laying open on his chest. He smiled. "It is nice to know he has something to defend himself with."
Rossi nodded agreement. "Yes, it is."
Sprawled on his seat facing the window where he was faking sleep, Morgan grinned. So Reid could fight. He should probably be thinking of why Reid would keep that a secret from him (after all, Morgan had offered to teach him several times), but all he could imagine was the look of shock on that bully's face when he realized scrawny little Reid could pack a punch.
He was almost sorry he had missed it.