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Beautiful Sorta

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Elle had a single freckle on her left shoulderblade. Spencer had seen it the morning after the night they'd slept together, the sheet falling away from her back, and he'd kissed it before she'd woken up. He supposed that had been a mistake, him attaching more importance to things than was warranted, but she'd been his first, and you never forgot your first.

It was summer, and he'd been clean for a year. Elle was the one who'd gotten him to his first NA meeting, where she sat in the back of the room and drank bad coffee while he gave his testimonial. And if she'd hugged him for just a second too long when they'd said goodnight, he was probably the only one who noticed. He didn't want things to be weird between them, for the fact that she'd invited him into a rented bed to change their relationship. If she had been less in need of someone, if he had been less willing to be that someone, the possibility of change wouldn't exist. He'd created a conundrum for himself, a frustrating one.

But his mind kept going back to that damned freckle. Not to mention the rest of her. And he kept wondering, What if....?

For Elle's part, it wasn't as if she never thought about it. Spencer had been responsive that first time, wanting to please her. Eager to learn, which probably shouldn't have surprised her as much as he did. Intellectual curiosity could certainly apply itself to the physical, couldn't it? And if he'd been a little quick on the trigger, it had still given her something she'd needed, both physically and emotionally. So yeah, she thought about it.

She'd gone into counseling a short time after she'd left the BAU, then joined a survivor's group. Reid was the only one she still had contact with, and sometimes she wondered if that was what was fueling this....whatever it was. She didn't want to be dependent on him, or for him to be dependent on her. Relationships were tacitly forbidden for the first year of sobriety, it was discussed at length in the NA literature, and her therapist had advised her to avoid entanglements. But she and Spencer still hung out together, at least when he wasn't out of town on a case. She wondered if the others knew, then decided she didn't care if they did or not.

But she didn't want to hurt him, for him to take on her baggage just because she thought of the way his hands felt. It might not have been love, at least not in the conventional sense, but there was a whole hell of a lot of 'like' involved, and she didn't want to fuck that up. Sex was a complication, one she'd introduced into the equation because the world was sliding out from under her feet. Now that she was (mostly) back on solid ground, she alternated between wanting to see what it would be like to try it again and wanting him to run like hell to get away from her.

She was picking him up from the office one evening due to his car being in the shop, and her thumbs tapped a rhythm on the steering wheel as she studied the familiar building from the outside. She hadn't been inside since she'd left, as if there was a force field in place that kept her out, and she made a face as she killed the engine and got out. What did she think was going to happen, that she'd get struck by lightning? The day was hot, like a heavy blanket, and Elle drank some water from the plastic bottle she carried as she crossed the parking lot.

The inside of the building felt icy in comparison, the AC turned up, and she stood just beyond the threshold of the revolving door with her eyes closed until the security guard at the desk cleared his throat. "Ma'am? Is there something I can help you with?"

'Ma'am'

Elle looked down at herself, from the tops of her brown Timberlands to the dark blue T shirt she wore, then gave Joe Security a bland look after taking off her sunglasses. They must have hired this one straight out of high school.

"No, thanks. I know my way around."

She took the elevator, and the bullpen was almost empty. Empty except for the woman sitting at her old desk, that was. Elle stopped short, watched the other woman filling out some paperwork. Her name started with an 'E' too, but right now she couldn't remember it. The former profiler coughed into the silence, and the other brunette looked up. Pretty in an off-kilter sort of way. They looked one another over for a minute, and then Elle broke the silence.

"Where is everybody?"

"Elle, hey."

The voice directed their attention towards the stairs, and Spencer descended to the lower level from Hotch's office. He was surprised to see that his former co-worker had come in, but glad nonetheless. His satchel bounced against his hip as he approached Emily's desk. What had been Elle's desk, and he ignored the inquisitive look on Prentiss' face. If there were questions, they could wait. He certainly wasn't going to field them in front of Elle.

Emily watched as the younger profiler gathered some papers, surreptitiously studying the other brunette. Hotch had told her that she'd replaced an agent who'd been involved in a suspicious shooting, and not having met any of Reid's social circle outside of work, it left few options as to who else this could be. It crossed her mind that the other woman didn't look homicidal, but in this line of work it wasn't always easy to tell the difference.

The two women locked eyes just as Spencer was finished collecting his completed reports, and after a second the seated brunette nodded very slightly. Elle's mouth almost lifted at the corners, the threat of a smile, but her eyes remained solemn. Not that there wouldn't be questions later, probably, but it would be up to Reid to either answer them or not.

"You hungry?" Elle asked as she and Spencer stepped out into the heat of the waning day, and he replied, "I had a big lunch, but if you haven't eaten we could stop off somewhere."

"Nah, I'm fine." She glanced back towards the building as they reached the car, then unlocked the driver's side door. She turned on the air conditioner as soon as she started the car, and soon she was piloting the vehicle in the direction of his apartment. They talked amicably about his work, but just skimmed the surface of it. He often wondered if she missed it, but had never asked, and she hadn't offered the information.

"You want to come in? I've got soda and water. The day's still pretty hot, you might want to fill that bottle of yours."

Was he flirting with her? Elle looked at Spencer in profile, watched the orange rays of the late-day sun highlight his features, was unable to discern if he was or not. Probably just wishful thinking on her part. It was unlike her to be awkward in situations like this, at least before she'd been shot, but with Reid it was different. Sensing her attention, he turned towards her and made eye contact.

"What?"

Feeling as if she'd been caught in the act, which she sort of had, she fumbled for a second, then said, "I was just thinking that you need a haircut."

He ran his hand self-consciously over his hair, nodding. "I guess it is getting a little shaggy. You don't like it?"

Actually, I was thinking about running my fingers through it. Elle clamped down on the words before she could say them, because it would probably make him uncomfortable and she didn't want that. But when he smiled uncertainly, her stomach clenched, and she touched his shoulder. "It's just a little messier than I'm used to seeing on you."

The stairwell was dark and cool, because she'd decided to come upstairs with him anyway, and he picked up his newspaper on the way in. He dropped that and his satchel on the couch, saying, "There's a pitcher of water in the fridge. It should still have ice cubes in it, but maybe not."

"Jesus, Spencer, what do you live on?" Elle asked as she pulled out the clear plastic picture. There were some containers of Chinese food and a half-empty pizza box on the bottom shelf, but not much else other than condiments. "I order take-out a lot," he answered. "I can cook, but I don't always have time for it." She shook her head as she filled her water bottle. He shrugged at her expression, waited for her to move so he could get to the fridge himself.

"I'm domestic enough."

But he must not have waited long enough for her to shift her position, because he moved just as she did and then he was right in front of her, looking down into her face. She was still holding the bottle, but had put the pitcher back. He had the crazy urge to kiss her, just to see if she'd let him. First the sex, then the crush? Couldn't he do things in the correct order?

"Um."

"Um."

She only echoed him because he was looking right at her, and she remembered the way his mouth and his hands felt. She had a fleeting thought about her mother, wondered what she would think of this tall, thin gringo who knew big words and wore mismatched socks and had offered her his virginity, proving to be less timid than she'd imagined. Mom hadn't wanted her to become a cop, much less a federal agent, and after the incident with Garner they'd fought bitterly when Elle returned to the fringes of law enforcement. But the past was past. The water bottle was cold in her hand. The pitcher had had ice cubes in it after all.

Spencer leaned down, hesitantly fit his mouth against Elle's, because the air was disappearing from the room and if he didn't try he'd never know if she'd allow it or not. Her lips were warm against his, but he kept it soft. If she turned her face away, he could live with that. What he couldn't live with was not finding out if she'd let him touch her this way.

Don't humiliate him.

That was Elle's first thought, because she hadn't expected him to just...kiss her. Maybe-possibly wanting him to and thinking that he would were two different things. He was a little scruffy; not only was his hair getting too long, but he hadn't shaved in a few days. Beard stubble rubbed against her cheek as the contact lingered. She still held the bottle, but her other hand had somehow found its way to his shoulder.

Who has he been practicing with?

That was her next thought, because his kiss was a lot more assured than it had been the night she'd surprised him in her hotel room. Even with the three days' worth of beard, sampling his mouth again made her heart rate spike, and she made a noise low in her throat. The fingertips of his left hand brushed her jawline.

He made himself stop, stop and back off, because he knew there was a reason she hadn't initiated anything since that first night. His addiction, her lingering trauma over nearly dying, her leaving the job, the lack of everyday proximity. And if it still wasn't the right time, he'd put the matter on an impossible-to-reach shelf where neither of them could get to it until it might be.

"I...I like you." He'd even taken his hand away, and now it hung at his side. He wasn't ready for the bigger L word yet, and he even stammered his way through the word 'like.' "I like you a lot. I hope that's okay."

And whatever defenses Elle had had left went down like the Titanic, because she liked him a lot too. "C'mere, you," she murmured, and he inched back into her space. His hands found her forearms, and he leaned down close so that his breath fanned against the side of her neck, just below her ear.

"And I think about that freckle you've got." He punctuated the sentence with a kiss on her neck that was much less shy. Maybe he worked better at close range.

Elle laughed, and she squirmed closer to put her arms around his neck. The water bottle left condensation on the back of his shirt. Somehow, some way, this was happening, and it occurred to her that both of them were probably in a whole hell of a lot of trouble.

The very best kind of trouble.