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The Girl Next Door, and the Boy Who Needed Her

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It was a common occurrence in the beginning months, to come downstairs and see Spencer laying on the couch, fast asleep, with Penny napping on his chest. At first, you didn’t quite understand why Spencer felt the need to get up early, get Penny up, and go downstairs, just to do what they had already been doing, sleeping.

You watched as Spencer’s chest rose and fell calmly, remembering back to the beginning of your relationship when he rarely got to sleep so unperturbed. Now he was nearly silent, only slightly snoring. Penny was fast asleep, rising and falling on his chest with his breaths. His hand was on her back, protecting her even in sleep.

You would make breakfast for Spencer as he slept, and gently wake him up with a kiss. If it was a work day and he had to go teach, he would eat, get dressed, and grudgingly leave after breakfast. If it wasn’t a work day, he would help you clean up from breakfast and sit with you on the couch as you fed Penny.

Watching Spencer change a diaper, was still almost as hilarious as the first time. He said “ Meconium” so much after her first poop, you thought it might end up being her first word. For some reason, perhaps out of nervousness or something of the kind, he sang while he changed her. Not any particular song, just what he happened to be doing at the moment.

“And we’re gonna powder that bum, yes, powder that bum,” he’d sing to her quietly as she stared up at him from the changing table.

You had to stifle your giggles even after months of this.

You watched the clock turn to midnight on the night of her first birthday together. You had promised him every birthday, and this was no exception. You stared silently at each other before turning your gaze to your now one-year-old baby. Somehow, through the sleepless nights, you’d made it this far.

You’d come into the room sometimes to find Spencer reading a range of age-appropriate books like, “The Theory of Everything,” and “A Brief History of Time.” When you subtly mentioned that perhaps books like “Corduroy” or “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” might be more apt titles, Spencer insisted that she could understand it already, he just knew.

And when her first word turned out to be entropy , you guessed he was correct.

It was surprising how much effect Penny had on you, but even more surprising to see her effects on other people. You remembered the night when Prentiss had told you about her abortion vividly, and when she told you that she was thinking about adoption with Amy, it filled that part of you that had been hurting for her.

“I think we’re ready,” she’d said. “I’ve been on the move my entire life. Whether it was for a job, or as a kid moving with my mom, I’ve never wanted to settle down… And yet with her… I don’t see my suitcase packed by the door like I did with everyone else. I see a home.”

And Prentiss had plenty of opportunity to be around children at your house. Joy often brought Kai around, and JJ and Will brought Henry. Jack, too, was known to come over with Haley and Hotch. They were widely different age ranges, but somehow it worked. You had no doubt that however Prentiss chose to welcome a child into her and Amy’s life, she would be a fantastic mom.

Amy had taken night courses while she worked at the coffee shop that Prentiss had met her in, and was now a registered nurse working at the local hospital. Her speciality was in pediatrics.

You and Spencer learned to take the good with the bad. While Penny flourished, Spencer’s mother suffered. She was lucid most of the time you video chatted with her, but sometimes she would forget who Spencer was, or be convinced that the nurses were trying to poison her through her oatmeal. You flew out with Penny when she was about three. Diana was confused at first, but after she realized who she was looking at, she took to Penny like she’d always been a grandmother.

Looking at Spencer as he watched his mother with his child filled you with enough joy for four lifetimes. You knew he must have thought for most of his life that this moment would never come, yet here it was.

When you let Garcia do her hair, Penny wouldn’t want to shower for days for fear of ruining the unique creation. Garcia taught her the magic of her ways, and soon Penny was looking like a miniature version of her namesake. You’d never told Penny that she was named after Garcia, but somehow, she took to the analyst more than any of your friends. You’d find her watching Garcia as she freshened up her lipstick, or as she typed code when she had to work while she was over.

You’d left Morgan alone with her to babysit one night as you and Spencer went out to a movie, and when you returned, he had a pink crown on his head, sparkly blush on his cheeks, and bright purple nails.

“Not a word of this to anyone,” he said as he was caught smiling at Penny when you walked in.

Spencer took out his phone and snapped a picture.

“Only everyone we know,” he promised.

“Morgan is a pretty lady now,” Penny announced. “Isn’t that right?” she prompted him.

Morgan sighed, defeated.

“That’s right, angel,” he said.

Gideon’s babysitting wasn’t one of the usual methods you remembered from your teenage days. When you got home, Penny knew what a Wood Warbler, a Vireos, and a Starling were.

His favorite thing to do after you’d had him over for dinner, was to dance with Penny. When she was old enough, he’d put on old jazzy songs, sometimes classical music, and waltz with her around the room. She gladly rode with her little feet on top of his shoes as he guided them around the room. You and Spencer would often dance slowly beside them, more keen to watch than to dance.

When the adoption papers finally went through, you got to meet Alexander, the young boy that Prentiss and Amy had adopted. He was just about Penny’s age, and the two formed an immediate friendship that would last them their lifetimes.

Dropping her off at her first day of school, you and Spencer both cried. But when she came back with a huge smile on her face and relayed everything that she’d learned that day, you were both happy. You could tell already that she loved learning as much as you both did. She’d already started displaying some of Spencer’s abilities. Her memory was sharp, and she read quite a few grades above what most children her age could.

You had to stop Spencer from doing her homework for her, though. He was so excited to see what she was learning, he’d give her the answers without thinking.

She didn’t know quite what her father taught when he went to “his school.” And you and Spencer tried your hardest to delay that for as long as you could.

You managed to wait until she got into middle school, before “Daddy teaches students about bad men” wasn’t enough of an answer anymore. It was then that Spencer told her of his time in the FBI, and what it was he really taught about now. While perhaps most children this age might consider this a novelty, something to gasp at, or ask to see pictures of dead bodies and murderers, Penny did not. She sat quietly, considering everything Spencer had told her.

“And what if I wanted to be in the FBI?” she asked timidly.

Your first thought was absolutely not, no baby of yours was going to be put in front of flying bullets and madmen. Spencer glanced at you, and you knew he knew what you were thinking.

“It’s very dangerous sometimes,” he warned.

“I’d be careful,” she promised. “More than careful, I’d be smart.”

You couldn’t help but smile.

“I want to work with Uncle Morgan,” she said.

“He would be lucky to have you,” you grinned.

And true to her word, she went to Yale, studied up, went to graduate school at Stamford, and was welcomed into the FBI.

As for you and Spencer, you were happy. Simply put, you had everything you wanted out of life. You got to read, and love, and laugh and grow with the man of your dreams. You watched your beautiful daughter grow up, you watched Spencer become an acclaimed professor and scholar, you were published in huge magazines, and even managed to publish a book of short stories to raving reviews.

While your story was far from over, the first volume had been sublime. Your mantle was overflowing with framed photos and nicknacks, representing the different chapters of the story of your life together so far. There were pictures of soccer games, graduations, scholarly acclamations, framed articles and stories, and a mess of other memorabilia. And, true to your word from the day you swore it, you had been together for every birthday. And so you would be for the rest of your lives.