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Coffee and Accidental Vibes

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"You want to go grab some coffee?"

Elle said it casually as she put on her jacket, but she'd been watching Reid covertly since they'd come back from the field. She'd noticed that the whistle was gone, and she wondered if he'd thrown it away. He'd proven he didn't need it anyway. Head shots were difficult, particularly in stressful situations. She doubted she could have done it.

Spencer looked up, adjusted his glasses. He had almost forgotten the annoyance he'd felt before the team had left. Almost. Morgan had apologized, sort of, and he supposed that would have to be good enough. 'I'm sorry' had never been something he'd heard that often, and unlike his high school days, he'd been able to get a little of his own back.

Elle's invitation surprised him. They were friendly, but not friendly-friendly. Hotch's earlier question about if she'd been the one to teach him to aim for the groin had made him smile a little, but he'd forgotten it later amid the embarrassment of Morgan's teasing. He put aside his pen, the report he'd been working on only half finished. "Me?"

"We're the only ones still here, so I guess so." The brunette pulled her long hair out from under the collar of her jacket, snagged her car keys with her other hand. She saw the dubious look on his face. the way he tried to shutter his expression. Still nettled from earlier, she supposed, and maybe even irritated with her, since she'd brought up that he hadn't passed his firearms test. She hadn't meant for Morgan to 'gift' him with that damned whistle, and had they gotten a minute alone she'd have had some words for him on the subject. But now all she wanted to do was put the incident behind them.

"You don't have to feel sorry for me."

The profiler's tone was a little peevish, and he'd gone back to writing. Elle looked at the top of his head, his close-cropped hair, and she replied, "You know me better than that by now. I don't do the 'pity' thing, least of all with you." Not that she wouldn't apologize, but she'd do that in her own way.

The scratch of the pen against the Bureau-issue paper stopped after a minute, and Spence4r looked up at his co-worker across the short distance between them. It wouldn't have been the first time he'd been set up for a fall, and the part of him that was still painfully insecure cautioned him against trust, but Elle was just looking back at him, jingling her keys in her right hand and waiting. He was considering what he knew of her, that he'd caught a flash of annoyance in her expression when Derek had put the whistle over his head. So no, it would not have been the first time....but the frank openness in the way the brunette was looking at him now said that this time, it hadn't been a set up.

"Okay," he said finally. "Just let me finish this, and then we'll go."

Elle felt as if she'd passed some test, that Reid had been measuring her up. She suspected that skinny, too-smart-for-their-own-good boys did not have an easy time of it growing up, but that he had never mentioned it said the subject was off-limits. But she felt as if she at least owed him a coffee for the incident with Derek. Had she known that Morgan would make a joke out of it, she'd have thought twice about bringing it up.

She waited around while Spencer finished his paperwork, and once they left the building it was nearly eight o'clock. He'd put on a jacket against the slight chill in the air, and he hovered uncertainly at the bottom of the stairs before saying, "We can take my car if you want. I think we live pretty far apart, so we can come back for you to get your car later."

In the smaller confines of his vehicle, Spencer felt self-conscious about the close proximity. Elle was still relatively new to the team, and he knew what it was like to still be looking for your place. Not that he could picture the brunette being uncertain in the way he so often was, but with her being the newest member of the BAU, there were similarities. He coughed quietly into the silence.

"You shouldn't mind Derek. He's okay most of the time, but he can take things too far. He told me I should show Gideon some leg. I told him I'd kick his ass if he wanted to see some leg."

She said it as she watched the streetlights flow past, looking through the window, and she felt rather than saw Reid direct his attention toward her before returning to looking at the road. She faced forward, saw one of his narrow shoulders go up and down. They passed under the sodium glare of a streetlamp, and his features were thrown momentarily into sharp relief.

"I really don't think he meant anything by it," he answered, and he hoped he believed that. Beside him in the passenger seat, he could feel Elle watching him. When he was tired of the silence, he said, "I really don't want to talk about it, okay? It's over, and the sooner I stop thinking about it, the better."

Touchy, she thought, but the notion was both sympathetic and the smallest bit amused. If anything, she'd been a little proud to hear he'd been able to take that shot, the way you'd be proud of a younger brother. A young man rather than a kid, and steady-handed enough to make the shot under pressure. "Okay, Reid. Although I did want to say you did good out there."

The words warmed Spencer in a way he hadn't expected them to, and his irritation subsided to a low rumble. He had no reason to snap at Elle, if only because he didn't want her to think he was too thin-skinned to take what was probably a joke. Besides, he had hit the mark, even if he hadn't been trying for a kill shot. They reached a stop light, and he tapped his left thumb on the cool plastic of the wheel.

"I'm still not used to the idea," he said, his voice lowering. "The shooting. I mean, it feels like it should have been a bigger deal, you know? A single loud noise, and that was it." He'd tried to explain it to Gideon on the plane, but he didn't feel he'd been very articulate. He did feel as if it should have made him feel something. Something other than blankness. A person's life was over, and he was the one who'd ended it. And it was so hard to even bring it up without worrying that someone would think he wasn't tough enough to do the job. The light had changed to green, and he took his foot off of the brake.

"You'll be okay after a while," Elle said. She was looking out the window again, and it occurred to her that Reid could be a valuable friend. Not just because he was vulnerable, and not even because he was so smart. She was still trying to find her place in the Bureau, and maybe getting to know him better would give both of them someone to lean on. "If you ever feel like you're not, come talk to me. I can give you my cell number. Even if it's late, you can use it. I'm used to being woken up in the middle of the night by now."

Spencer laughed, and they'd almost reached the lot of the place he usually got his coffee before work. No Starbucks for him, but it wasn't quite one of the trendy places the college crowd hung out at either. He'd been so young when he'd graduated from college that he never developed a real taste for alcohol, but caffeinated beverages, hot or iced, were his kryptonite. The door clunked shut, and he put his hands in the small of his back and stretched.

Elle had trouble with her seat belt, and when she finally got it unlatched and exited the car Reid was in mid-stretch, his tall frame arching backwards as the yellow light from the lamp above the car shone down on him, reflecting off of his glasses. He looked younger than he did in the office, but for a few seconds, the way the light haloed around him had her stomach oddly fluttery. She went up on her toes for a second, trying to see more of him over the car's roof. It was something she couldn't articulate, the feeling, although years later she would reflect on the incident.

And then he looked at her, and the moment passed because he was just Reid again. He pushed his glasses higher, up to the bridge of his nose. He looked a little uncomfortable.


"Nothing." Elle frowned imperceptibly, then shrugged off the whatever-it-was. "Just staring into space, I guess. Been a long day." She closed the car door, moved around to the front of the vehicle. "Remember, I'm buying," she said as the two of them began to cross the parking lot. It was time she and Reid - Spencer - got to know one another better.