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aesthetically pleasing

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It's chilly; not as cold as when Reid woke up this morning, dragged himself to work on the metro, only to be sent away by Hotch. But the temperature is still low enough to warrant a thicker jacket then the one Reid has on.

He ducks inside one of the university buildings. He's carried there by instinct alone, seeking refuge in academia. Reid blends in here better than the halls of Quantico. With his messenger bag and glasses, he could simply be another grad student.

While at Quantico, he is one of the youngest, here he is on the older side. He doesn't let it bother him as he walks through the halls, past lecture theatres. He ends up in an open corner of the university just around the corner from a coffee cart.

The coffee they serve is atrocious, but with the amount of sugar Reid pours in it, it doesn't make a difference. Morgan keeps a list of the most awful cups of coffee they've ever been served, but Reid's long since learnt not to care.

He looks around for a seat, of which there are precious few. The tables in the open plan area are occupied by various groups of students, all merrily chatting away. Reid won't intrude on any of them. But there's a table, off to the side, with only a guy his own age sitting in it, scrawling away.

Reid clears his throat as he approaches the table. The guy looks up, going “hey.”

“Can I sit here?” Reid asks.

“Sure,” the guy says. His eyes flick back to the pad of paper, and then back up. It's at this second glance he takes in the gun at Reid's waist before Reid manages to sit down. He raises an eyebrow, but doesn't actually say anything.

“Thanks,” Reid says, wondering if he should say anything on the matter of his weapon or not. The guy just turns back to whatever he's scrawling. His handwriting is awful, and Reid doesn't feel like taking the time to decipher it. He simply pulls a book out of his messenger bag and starts reading.

He's a few chapters in when the guy lets out a disgruntled sigh and pushes the pad away from himself. Reid lowers his book. “Everything alright?” he asks.

The guy sighs some more. “Dissertation,” he says, which explains it. “My best friend said seeing as how I'd finished one, I should think about finishing the other. No one's been murdered yet today, so it was this or cataloguing bodies in limbo.”

Reid is first impressed by the fact that this guy is doing two degrees simultaneously. And then thinks about the second part of what he said.

The guy seems to realise it as soon as Reid does. “Sorry. Angela tells me I should stop telling people I work with dead bodies for a living. She says it freaks them out.” The guy looks apologetic. “She's right.”

“I'm FBI,” Reid says. Whatever this guy does, it can't be worse than what he sees when a case comes in. “It's fine.”

“That would explain the gun.” The guy gives Reid a smile.

Reid smiles back. “Yes,” he said. “I should have mentioned it when I sat down.” He lays his book down flat on the table. “Where do you work?”

“The Medico-Legal Lab at the Jeffersonian,” the guy says. “We handle murder cases for FBI homicide.”

“You're Zack Addy.” The guy – Zack – looks startled. “I read your dissertation. It was excellent. Absolutely fascinating. To be able to identify murder weapons based on the marks left behind – it's gonna help us solve and prosecute a lot of cases.”

Zack blinks. “You read my dissertation?”

“Yes.”

Zack shakes his head. “I only submitted it a month ago.” Never mind the fact that it was exceedingly technical. Hodgins had read paragraphs over his shoulder and admitted to not understanding half of it.

“I try and make sure to read anything which could be relevant to my job,” Reid says, which is a severe understatement.

“Which part of the FBI do you work for?” Zack asks. It's only now that he realises the guy sitting opposite him is young for an FBI agent.

“BAU,” Reid says. “Behavioural Analysis. Profilers. We handle serial crime,” he explains. “I'm Dr. Spencer Reid,” he tags on, when he realises he's not mentioned his name in the conversation.

Zack studies him for a moment. “In what?” he asks.

“Mathematics, Chemistry and Engineering,” Reid says.

Zack leans back, letting his eyes scan over Reid. “Does profiling actually work?” he blurts.

Reid smiles when previously he was apprehensive. “We caught a serial killer here in D.C. just yesterday,” he says.

“Oh.” Zack relaxes. He hadn't even been aware he was tense.

“Dr. Brennan doesn't have much faith in the soft sciences, does she?”

Zack hadn't been expecting that comment. He looks at Reid, finding a soft, teasing expression on his face. “No,” he replies. “I don't understand how it works,” he adds.

Reid's eyes sparkle with excitement, but he's interrupted by his phone buzzing in his pocket. He draws it out, letting out a sigh of exasperation. It's a message from JJ, requesting his presence back at the BAU. “I'd explain it to you,” Reid says. “But I'm afraid I have to go. Someone might not have been murdered in D.C. yet, but that's not true wherever I'm going.”

Smiling in response to that is probably the wrong thing to do, but Zack can't help it. “It's fine.” He waves his hand. “I'll continue trying to redesign the car into being a safe vehicle to drive in.”

“I'd love to discuss that with you too.” Reid's standing tall now. “Let me give you my number – I don't keep regular hours, so just leave a message and I can get back to you.” He's grabbed the pen from the table and is scrawling digits on Zack's palm before Zack can point out that there's paper right there.

Zack does not stare at Spencer as he walks away. Not even the way his profile looks in the light when he stops to throw his coffee cup in the trash.

Reid's number is copied down to the paper just to make sure he doesn't lose it, but Zack doesn't bother scrubbing it off his hand either.

Which is why, when he returns to the lab later that day, he ends up accosted by Angela and Hodgins, both wanting to know the details.

(“Zack, you have a number on your hand,” Hodgins had said. “A phone number. Belonging to a person. That another person wrote there. What did you do?”

“I don't understand,” Zack had replied. “You get phone numbers off people all the time.”

Hodgins had sighed. “Not written on my hand, Zack, not these days.” He'd looked to Angela in despair.

“What Jack means, honey, is,” Angela had said, pausing over her words. “Who are they? Were they cute?”

“He has three doctorates and works for the FBI,” Zack had replied. “And I suppose that yes, he was rather aesthetically pleasing.”

Hodgins had simply stared at Angela after that one.)