“Pretty Boy,” Morgan calls, hand coming in contact with the top of Spencer’s knee, jolting him out of his thoughts. “Kid, did you hear anything I said?”
Spencer runs a hand through his cropped hair, slicking it back as he nods, “Got it. Pretend these people didn’t—“
“Reid.” Morgan starts, grabbing him by the shoulder— which in turn causes the younger agent to stiffen. “Breathe.”
It takes one moment, which slowly slips into two, two to three, fingers tapping a constant rhythm on loop before he nods.
“It’s been twenty years,” Morgan quells— cutting Spencer of just as his lips part with god knows what kind of statistic. “Kid. Listen. You’re going to walk in there, you’re going to save these assholes—“ Spencer’s lip quirks upwards on the right side, “and they’ll spend the rest of their lives knowing what they did.”
“And besides,” Emily murmurs, leaning between the two of them, elbows coming to rest on the center console, “I’ve seen those baby pictures Reid. It’ll take them at least fifteen minutes to figure out who you are.”
Spencer nods, smoothing his palms over his dark pants before coming to rest on the cool metal of the doorframe.
He clicks the door, once, twice, three times before pushing it open.
“Spence?” JJ calls, and he turns in time to see her holding out his ankle holster.
“JJ, I don’t—“ She pushes it into his hands, “It’ll make me feel better.”
He licks his lips, before wrapping the holster around his ankle— tucking it beneath the raven fabric.
“Boy Genius?” Garcia calls through his earpiece. “Be safe. Please don’t die, I can’t let you die before we watch all of the tenth doctor’s—“
“Garcia?” He cuts her off without hesitation,
“I wouldn’t dream of it.”
With a final sweep of his palms over his trousers, he finds his feet carrying him past the flagpole and into the gym doors.
He slips past the checkpoint— not without his former English teacher stopping him, cooing over how he’d grown into his brain before letting him slip past.
The gym has changed since he’d last been there— or rather since he’d last gotten waived from a physical education class.
“Oh my God!” A voice calls, heels clipping up to his frame, “Are you Jude Wood’s kid— we were making bets on if she’d bring you or...”
The voice trails off when Spencer turns, and his own jaw slacks. They stare at each other for a long, moment; their faces mirror one another’s— though they seem to be trending on an inverse graph.
The more Spencer begins to resemble a ghost, the more the woman begins to resemble a tomato.
And yes, Reid thinks, that was a horrendous analogy and a completely overused cliche but at the moment, his mind is drawing a blank.
It takes a few heartbeats, but eventually she responds, “Spencer... I— Oh, you’re certainly not twelve anymore.”
She glances him up and down— and though it completely lacks any sexual nature, Spencer’s stomach flips with disdain and he finds himself mildly concerned that he might look worse that he did when he died— literally.
“I...” She hesitates, coiling her fingers nervously around the solo cup perched in her grip, “do you remember me?”
Three breaths in, three breaths out.
“Harper,” he murmurs around a thick swallow, and he wonders distantly if Garcia can hear the pounding of his heart from the speaker on the underside of his tie. “I... unfortunately could never forget.”
Her face drops minutely, though she plays it off well, “Right... photographic memory.”
“Eidetic,” Spencer corrects, “and besides, you kind of... well, uh... I got incredibly familiar with vexillology, you know my body becoming a makeshift flag and all that.”
He hears Garcia gasp faintly on the other end of the line, but he barely processes it blinking to clear the haze.
“Spencer,” she breathes out after a moment, eyes clouding with so much guilt— and he wants to believe her— he does, but when the whisper of “I’m so sorry, we were just kids,” rolls off her tongue, he shakes his head faintly.
It’s a quick motion, once. Left, right; but it throws him off kilter as he tries to process.
He was just a kid too, his mind supplies, and for once the fact of the matter is rather unhelpful in the situation.
“Excuse me, would you?” Spencer offers a half smile, before darting off to the opposite end of the room.
He leans against the railing, returning his attention to the lowered center below. His fingers tap anxiously in a pattern of three, for fifteen minutes before he’s able to catch his breath and fully focus.
And then he sees it.
Walter Hendrickson is perched stiffly in the corner of the room, feet tapping to a rhythm other than the overwhelming music and anxiously checking his watch in intervals that are a bit to close for comfort.
Reid finds his feet carrying him down the stairs and onto the main gym floor, grabbing a solo cup and bringing it to his lips as he inquires.
“Garcia. Bottom left, north floor bleachers.”
There’s swift tapping, the only acknowledgment for the time being until Morgan’s voice replies, “You know him?”
“We got... well acquainted in the nurses office,” Reid mutters, dropping the drink into a nearby rubbish bin as he heads over to his fellow childhood punching bag.
“Wally,” Spencer says, and for the first time the man’s eyes snap away from his watch and his feet stop tapping.
Wally pauses, blue eyes blinking at Reid as if he was a figment of his imagination. He takes a few step forwards, only for Wally to grab his collar and yank him, successfully choking him with his tie.
An arm wraps around Spencer’s throat, and shooting three warning shots up. Bits of plaster fall to the floor and everything in the gymnasium comes to a screeching halt.
“Of course!” A voice that’s just a little to familiar for comfort calls, “Of course, it’s little Spencer Reid and Walter Hendrickson that have to be the ones to lose their minds. You little whack jobs were—“
Jared is silenced by a shot to the shoulder, and gasps from the crowd.
“Does anyone else want to add anything?” Walter cackles manically, and Spencer runs through probabilities in his mind. Right now— it’s not looking particularly well.
“Reid,” Hotch returns him to the present, “Can you hear me?”
Spencer looks at the camera above, probably further cementing Jared’s psychosis theory.
“Do you need backup?” Spencer shakes his head, almost imperceptibly— the unspoken, ‘not yet’, easily implied.
Walter points the silver barrel to Reid’s head and the room is so silent, Spencer’s own heart beat is almost drowning it out.
“You never loved me,” Walter murmurs, voice crackling, “You never loved me like, I loved you! You disappeared!”
“Wally,” Spencer tries to settle him, “Killing me isn’t the answer.”
“And how would you know? Huh?!” There’s deep cuts in the mans voice, and Spencer can tell he’s crying. “You’ve killed men! You know how it makes you feel!”
Hushed and panicked whispers break out among the crown and Walter’s head swims with the noise.
He raises his gun firing at the ceiling, bellowing out, “Shut up!”
But Walter never could calculate like Spencer.
Spencer brings his eyes up the the camera, nodding briefly. In his ear he can hear Garcia confirming the signal and Morgan distantly commanding they move in.
It’s in the moment that Walter’s hand waves wildly in the air, that Spencer attacks two rather important areas, before snapping the firearm away from Walter, bringing him to the ground as he kicks the gun away.
“Walter Hendrickson,” He starts, opening the cuffs as Hotch and Morgan come screeching down the steps, “You are under arrested for assault and attempted murder. You have the right to remain silent—“
Spencer brings them both to their feet, allowing Morgan to take over, Hotch starts reciting his Miranda rights from the beginning as he checks for other weapons.
The room watches as Spencer makes his way to Jared, wadding up the jacket that had been wrapped around him and pressing it to the still bleeding wound in the former jock’s shoulder.
“Can you hear me?” Spencer asks, and when he doesn’t get a response he glances up at Jared’s face to see him staring. “Dressel, can you hear me. How much pain are you in? One to ten?”
This time, his response is much faster, eyes welling with tears, “Seven.”
“Okay,” Spencer soothes, “You’re going to be fine. I’m going to put a little more pressure, I think he nicked your Brachial Artery—“
“Am I going to bleed out?” The words fall out of Jared’s mouth before he can stop them, “Have you ever been shot?”
Spencer pauses for a moment, skimming his tongue over his lips— he debates lying.
“Have you?” It’s a different voice, and for the first time, he realises Harper was the figure sifting besides them the whole time.
“Yeah. And no, you won’t bleed out. We’ve seen worse. Just keep your eyes on me— or Harper, or anyone else. Stay awake.”
“Little Spencer Reid,” Jared mumbles woozily, “A fed, who would’ve thought.”
He can hear the paramedics rushing in, and they take over, with far more equipment than Reid’s simple jacket.
He rises from his position on the ground, smoothing out his button up shirt, turning on the heels of his black converse.
“Spencer?” He hesitates, considering sprinting away before they can pummel him— they’re nothing if not creatures of habit.
But something makes him turn to face the crowd, and then?
Then, they start clapping. It’s then that Reid realises, compared to Harper’s tomato he was an undocumented shade of crimson that lurked somewhere in the electromagnetic spectrum.
Spencer’s sitting criss cross applesauce on the cracked leather chair of the hospital, the smell of anaesthetic and athletes broken dreams filling his nose as he scoops his third cup of strawberry jello down his oesophagus.
“Reid?” Jared asks, and Spencer looks up from the plastic cup, pulling the current scoop gelatine into his mouth. “Why are you here?”
“Well I figured,” He states bluntly, continuing his words after swallowing, “You’re too incapacitated to tie me to a flag pole and you seemed pretty scared earlier— also I couldn’t remember you ever talking about anyone but your sister so I wanted to make sure you didn’t wake up alone with a gunshot wound.”
The way Jared’s nose crinkles unattractively at the mere mention of the hellish flagpole tells Spencer that Jared feels bad— even if it was only because he totally just saved an utter asshats life.
“Hey!” Jared refutes, “I’m not an—“
Oh, so he had said that out loud. Spencer’s eyes narrow, and Jared sighs, conceding, “Okay yeah, I’m an asshat.”
Spencer nods curtly, shoving down more jello.
“So... uh, how bad did it hurt you got shot?” Jared asks.
“Which time?” Spencer shoots back, and this time, Jared has the decency to look horrified.
But Spencer just turns his head to the side, “I think the neck was the worst, but when I shattered my knee I couldn’t walk for... oh, I’d say a whole season— but at least it was summer.”
They exchange stories, until finally Jared’s sister arrives and Spencer rises to his feet to leave.
Spencer turns to face him, motioning vaguely foe the asshat to proceed.
“I’m sorry. I probably gave you nightmares.”
Spencer pauses, walking out again, but not before saying, “Dressel, the nightmares you have me don’t even make my top ten compared to this year alone.”
It’s just as the team is getting set to leave that a hand taps Spencer’s cardigan covered shoulder. He halts his movements, internally grimacing at the germs that now sit on his shoulder.
“Doctor Reid?” Spencer turns to face not only Harper Hillman, but Alexa Lisbon and about fifty other kids who were at the reunion.
“We just wanted to say we’re sorry.”
He wants to tell them that sorry doesn’t erase the memories or the pain, but instead he finds himself nodding faintly and managing to force out, “It’s okay. I forgave you all a long time ago.”
And then, without another glance back he heads to the airstrip.
It’s only after he’s settling onto the couch, back pressed against the fusion and knees raised, leaning against the back of the seat that the space between his socked feet— one cloaked in dinosaurs and the other in pineapples— dips with Morgan’s weight.
“How you doing, kid?” Spencer’s eyes open, and he glances lazily at his best friend.
“Peachy,” he retorts dryly, loosely crossing his arms over his stomach, and adjusting his head against the arm rest.
“You know, they were staring after you until I had to break them up. You short-circuited them, Pretty Ricky. I don’t blame them kid. You took down an unsub unarmed.”
”Someone once told me you don’t need a gun to protect yourself,” Spencer mumbles, through a pointed look at Hotch, who quickly pretends that he hasn’t been eavesdropping.
Morgan chuckles, watching the interaction before adding on, “Sounds like a smart guy.”
Reid hums, rolling his eyes before letting them close again. But then, a stack of paper lands on his chest and he opens his eyes, finding a picture of him hunched over, attending to Jared Dressel printed across the front page of the Las Vegas paper.
It reads, ‘Holding Out for a Hometown Hero’.
“Oh,” Spencer murmurs dumbly, blinking once, twice three times, “Did you know newspapers are the reason there’s discrepancies in the United States versions of words and essentially every other English speaking nation in the world. They would charge—“
“Give me the newspaper, Reid.”
Spencer obliges, only to get smacked with it once Morgan rolls it up in his hands.
“You were rambling, kid,” Morgan stops, face falling when he sees Reid’s furrowed brow, “Oh, don’t go crying on me now, Pretty Ricky.”
“It’s just—“ Spencer sighs, running a hand through his hair as he stairs at the jet’s ceiling, “I forgive them, but a paper and some kind words aren’t going to change seven years of torment.”
“I know kid,” He says, patting Reid’s knee, “I’m sorry.”
Spencer shakes his head, and continues to stare at the ceiling until his eyes slowly drift shut— eyes only fluttering with the movements of REM.
”I’m proud of you, Reid,” Morgan says, but it falls on deaf— or in this case, dead asleep ears.
and if he hadn’t known any better, he would’ve sworn he’d seen Pretty Boy smile.