Some people are just meant to be artwork.
I realized this when I was in the courtroom, sketching random people in the audience to warm up before the trial started. Bald man, tired woman, a crying baby—they were a family, I realized, not just three strangers sitting by each other. Oops. But it was normal. It was what I always saw as a courtroom artist. They were probably friends of someone who had a stake in the trial, come to support.
Two teenage boys sitting near the windows, leaning into each other, slipping their hands under the jacket tossed over their lap. Sneaking glances at the other one when he wasn’t looking. Careful eyes darting around the room, maintaining their cover as careless teens. I drew them in short, faint strokes, trying not to look at them too hard. I barely pressed my pencil to the paper for them. Two invisible boys, hiding by the wall. They were meant to be artwork, but only together, when their feelings combined to create scenes like this. Quiet. Caring. Sweet, but sad.
The defendant, I drew in curvy, shaded lines. I didn’t break out my colored pencils yet. I was saving those for a person who screamed color, not whispered it as she did with her red hair and dramatic eyelashes. She was speaking to her lawyer quietly. Probably reviewing lines with him.
The doors to the courtroom opened, and in came a group of seven. They walked in a single file line down the rows until they sat in the front, nodding at the plaintiff.
I knew by first glance that this was a group meant to be artwork. My pencil was moving before I fully realized it, already sketching their outlines. I started with the one closest to the aisle. He was, despite not looking like the oldest one there, clearly the man in charge. His face was unmoving and stoic, suit unwrinkled, hair perfectly styled. The only time I saw him move was to scold the people next to him—so I drew him as that. The boss, but also unwilling parent of the group. The ones he scolded were a pair, one dark skinned man and one bright woman wearing cat ears. She screamed color. I used green. Green dress, green eyeshadow, green stockings matched with green heels I would never be able to walk in. Purple for the accents and the streaks in her hair. She was drawn not quite laughing, nudging the man next to her, eyes wide and open in her joke. The man, I drew more toned down. He leaned into her, whispering in her ear, holding onto her wrist, a sly grin on his face. A moment of conspirators and their mirth captured forever.
Next to them was a trio. A blonde, a dark-haired woman with bangs, and the oldest looking one with a goatee. They all seemed to draw together, shoulders curving to form a bubble without realizing it. They didn’t have to be scolded. Their lips barely moved when they spoke. I drew them as one continuous outline, shoulder-to-shoulder-to-head-to-head-to-body-to-body. The blonde one was reaching across the woman with bangs, hand open for the older man to pour some trail mix into. He brought snacks. That was cute. I drew the middle lady as serious, analytical, one hand on the blonde’s back to support her and her eyes cutting across the courtroom. Though her lips were turned in a smile, it did not reach her eyes. She was the silent assassin of the group, I decided. And the goatee man, I drew smiling, sharing his food with his friend. He fake-scowled at her. I erased his smile and drew that, instead. The humor was clear in his eyes. Even though he was wearing what I could tell to be an expensive watch, he kept snacks in his suit. The co-parent of the group.
The last member was not meant to be drawn in a group. He was a singular strike against the paper. Drawn in long lines and quick shading, detailing the pattern on his tie. He crossed one leg over the other, knee sticking out, elbows pointed, all spikes and personal space. His hair was curly, almost wild, pushed out of his face. I added color for him, too. Dark purples and blues. His pants rode up enough for me to see that his socks were mismatched. One red and green, the other yellow with blue spots. His leg shook, nimble fingers turning the pages of a small book he had quicker than I thought possible.
When the judge entered and started speaking—I didn’t have to pay attention quite yet, it was the normal boring beginning information—he glanced up, eyebrows furrowed. I started a new sketch of him, to capture the expression.
The voice was a low murmur from besides me. My assistant, Marissa, was leaning over my shoulder, her owlish eyes looking between my muse and my rendition of him. My colors were held in the supply bag on her lap.
I quietly shushed her, snuck a glance to make sure no one was looking at us, and whispered, “I’m just warming up.”
“Sure, you are. Lots of practice, there.” Her voice was too smug. I elbowed her. I had to do so discreetly, as we were sat in a designated sitting area of the courtroom for sketch artists, and anyone could see us. The stenographer sat not too far away, fingers flying like a blur. I started with the outline of her messy bun, working my way down to her ankles, daintily crossed.
“Can you draw this one again? I like her.” Marissa pointed at the silent assassin one.
“Shut up. I need to focus on the trial,” I hissed.
She fixed me with a pouty look. Before she could open her mouth again, I kicked her under the table. Her responding kick was more painful than mine was, because of her Doc Martins. She dug around in my supply bag before pulling out a pencil and scribbling on the edge of my paper.
Draw the cute one again.
You can decide between bangs or him, I won’t do both.
Yes, you will. You can’t help it.
Damn the girl, she was right. Art demands to be created. I glared at her before quickly doing the silent assassin. She was leaned forward in her seat, eyes deadly focused on the judge while he spoke. The woman looked like she was ready to jump out of her seat. Maybe the trial was more personal for her, or maybe that was just her normal look. Marissa added a thought bubble over her head and wrote in, Blood…death…FLESH!
I honestly don’t know why I bothered with her sometimes.
Well. She accepted low payment and weird hours, and she carried my stuff for me.
I drew the skinny man next. His arms were crossed, leaning back in his seat. Defensive, for whatever reason. Still hot. I paid more attention to his face this time, adding in little details like a nose scrunch he did, and the errant strand of hair that fell in front of his eyes. I used the fact that he was sat near the defendant as a disguise, so it wouldn’t be too obvious.
After that, I had to actually focus. I made my money selling courtroom sketches to local newspapers and magazines. If I didn’t get something good, I would be shoplifting microwave meals again.
For the next twenty minutes or so, I focused on the defendant and her lawyer. These drawings would sell for more, since it was a more high-profile murder case. I drew her as the public would like to see her: cunning, dangerously calm, every inch the prolific killer she was known as. Her red hair shone in the light. It was curled. Was it natural, or did they allow her time to get herself ready while in custody? I drew her lawyer as a balding, sweaty man, playing into the caricature of an intimidated male in the presence of a black widow. He wrung his hands a lot.
When the trial went underway, I tried not to pay too much attention. I didn’t have the guts for all the gory details—cruel irony for someone in my profession. I drew the plaintiff, eyebrows raised, lips twisted in a sneer as she threw herself into tearing apart the defense. The judge, bored and mighty above everyone. Whenever the back and forth slowed into a lull, I sketched random audience members.
Marissa doodled on my paper every now and then. She liked to make her characters very exaggerated, dramatic. I had to bite back a snort when she drew the man on the aisle seat biting the head off the woman with cat ears next to him. When I looked up, I saw that he was indeed talking to the woman, almost but not quite scowling. The dark-skinned man on her other side had a face of perfect innocence, but couldn’t stop himself from glancing over at her and snickering.
When the judge called for a recess, I got up to walk around a bit and stretch my legs. Marissa followed, talking endlessly about everything she couldn’t while paying attention to the trial. I got some water and took my seat quickly, taking the chance to draw more people while they were relaxed.
No matter how hard I tried to focus on other people, my attention always went back to the team of seven. They had relaxed more now, were joking around and talking quietly. I went through a few pages doodling them, giving each their own portrait. Marissa kept adding comments on the edges, until we started a full conversation on the one of the tall guy.
He looks cute. You should ask him for his number.
That didn’t stop me from dating someone when I worked at that restaurant.
You got fired for asking for the customers number’s so often.
Not the point. Get his number.
He looks nerdy like you. I bet you guys would do cute nerdy things like watch Star Trek and talk about everything they got wrong.
They actually didn’t get a lot wrong science wise, I’ve told you this, they did
My pencil left a long scratch mark as she yanked the paper out from under it.
FOR GOD’S SAKE YOU LOSER I’M SICK OF YOU DRAWING ALL THE HOT GUYS AND THEN NEVER TALKING TO THEM
I DO NOT ASK PEOPLE OUT WHILE I AM WORKING.
WHY ARE YOU DRAWING HIM IF YOU DON’T FIND HIM ATTRACTIVE???
I’M BORED AND HE MAKES AN INTERESTING CHARACTER STUDY.
FUCKING HELL HE IS TALL AND CUTE AND YOU KNOW YOU WON’T SEE HIM AGAIN UNLESS YOU TALK TO HIM NOW
FUCK YOU LET ME WORK
I HATE YOU YOU NEVER DO ANYTHING FUN
I JUST WANT TO GET THIS DONE AND GO HOME YOU NEVER LET ME DO THINGS NORMALLY
ALL I WANT TO DO IS GET YOU LAID WHY CAN’T YOU LET ME HOOK YOU UP WITH SOMEONE WHO IS CLEARLY AS SOCIALLY INCOMPETENT AS YOU
Okay that’s rude.
I’m beyond caring.
I kicked her in the shins and grabbed my sketchbook back. “Shut up.” The court was slowly coming back together, returning to their seats.
She shoved her elbow into my gut, glaring. “I just want to see you ask out one guy, just once!”
“No! I don’t even know him, Mar, I’m not going to fucking waltz up to him in front of all of his oddly attractive friends.” I wasn’t wrong. They were a very pretty group. It was intimidating to look at them for too long.
When you don’t pay that much attention to a trial, it passes pretty quickly. From the few things I picked up, I gathered the defendant had killed several people, but refused to give up the location of her partner. Her lawyer argued that it was Stockholm’s Syndrome, the plaintiff said she was clearly the dominant one in the duo and was more than likely the one who brought the partner into it. I zoned out after that, focusing on the small cluster of reporters in the back of the courtroom.
Some people are meant to be artwork. The guy picking his nose and wiping it on the bottom of his seat wasn’t one of them, but I drew him anyways.
It was Emily who figured it out. “The court sketch artist!” She blurted, sitting up just a bit higher in her seat.
When they all turned to look at her, she continued excitedly, already getting up. “We can’t see who was there because there weren’t any cameras allowed, but the court artist saw the entire audience. I saw her, she was drawing the entire time. I mean, it may not be likely, but it’s a possibility that she could have drawn the partner without knowing about it. We should contact the court, see if they have any record of her.”
“We don’t need to do that,” Spencer said. “I saw one of her drawings in the newspaper, we have her name, we just need Garcia to give us a phone number.”
Hotch stood, pulling out his phone. “Good work, Prentiss. We should get her in here with her sketchbook as soon as possible. Morgan, Reid, keep crossing names off the list. She might not have noticed him at all.”
They were able to get her in quickly. She was obviously nervous, clutching her sketchbook to her chest. Her eyes darted around the room, never landing on one thing for too long. There was another, younger looking woman with her, who seemed excited. She kept leaning in to whisper in the artist’s ear.
Spencer and JJ were the ones assigned to talk to her. He approached first, gesturing towards the chair set up. “Hi, you’re Y/N?”
“Uh, yeah, that’s me. This is my assistant, Marissa, she wanted to tag along. I mean, she was at the trial, so she might have seen something too.” She hesitantly sat down while JJ pulled up another chair for Marissa.
Marissa plopped down, right on the edge of the seat, legs bouncing up and down. “I honestly can’t believe you guys called her. I mean, this is so exciting. I mean, I know someone died and all, but on the other hand—wow, you know? Little ol’ Y/N and Marissa, helping the FBI catch a serial killer!”
The sketch artist set a hand on her friend’s arm. She was cute, Spencer thought. Seemingly embarrassed by her quick ramblings, but not annoyed as much as she acted. She smiled at her assistant fondly, but her fingers contracted to pinch her over her jacket. “I have the sketchbook here. It has all the drawings from the trial. The pages with the audience members, I dog-eared, to make it easier for you. So. Just go ahead and take a look.” She seemed hesitant to part with her drawings, but slid it across the table nevertheless.
JJ leaned in to ask more questions—did anyone look particularly nervous, jumpy, frightened?—while Spencer opened the sketchbook.
The drawings jumped out at him. It was obvious they were done quickly, but with care. He scanned the faces, looking for anyone who matched the meager description they managed to pull from their unsub. He went through two pages before something caught his eye—his own boss, Aaron Hotchner.
Spencer glanced up to make sure that the two ladies were kept occupied by JJ, then flipped to that page. It wasn’t dog-eared, so she obviously didn’t want anyone seeing it. A feeling of déjà vu hit him, staring at the page. It was his team, all sat in the front row, in their formal clothing and serious faces. His eyes tracked each line of the graphite, all the smudges from her hand clearing off eraser marks. Looked at himself and wondered if that was what the artist saw when she looked at him. Not quiet, moody Spencer. A contemplative, intelligent, secret-holding Spencer, that glanced at his teammates with eyes he didn’t recognize.
Before he knew it, he was turning exclusively to pages that weren’t marked, to see more of the world through this stranger’s eyes.
Hotch was drawn boldly, sternly. He looked dangerous. Looked protective. His eyes were two bottomless pits. Garcia and Morgan were drawn as they were—not quite serious, not quite there. Garcia’s eyes danced and Morgan’s lips twitched in an unwilling smile.
Spencer kept going, passing JJ and Prentiss and Rossi, flipping through the pages until he found his own portrait. His gaze snagged on the writing at the edges.
Urging, from what must have been Marissa, for the artist to ask him out—ask Spencer out.
Spencer, who was drawn half-smiling, half-looking away. A stray strand of hair was in his face. He remembered constantly having to fix it. Spencer who was drawn more handsomely than he could have thought possible. He looked up, looked at the sketch artist, who was looking at Marissa, who was telling a story with her hands to JJ, who looked taken aback. Wondered how he would draw her, if he knew how to draw. Would he include the pencil marks on her hands? The stray shavings on her sleeves? Would he even know to look closely enough if she hadn’t done so first?
He wanted to talk to her. He wanted to know if this was what she saw. Wanted to see how he could connect Real Life Spencer with this Disconnected, Confident, Collected Spencer. Did she draw him like this because this was how he truly presented himself, or because she saw him as just a guy in a suit who brought a book to a murder trial?
But he was a guy in a suit who brought a book to a murder trial. Did Spencer himself not see the way he looked to other people because his reflection was tarnished by knowing what went on inside his head? How could he ever see his eyes as soft as she did while knowing what horrors they were forced to watch?
“Spence?” JJ interrupted his monologue, nodding at the book. “Did you find him?”
He jolted, coming back to the present as if waking up from a long dream. “Oh, uh, actually, no, not yet. I just—give me one second….” He quickly scanned the rest of the pages and realized that they never had to bring in the sketch artist.
There was no brown haired, mustache having man with a crooked nose. At least not one that she had seen.
“Sorry, JJ. Looks like a dead end.” He shut the book and slid it back across the table. “Thank you for coming in,” he added to the two women. “I’ll show you out. JJ, will you let Hotch know?”
She nodded, getting up and leaving with a fleeting smile. His coworker looked remarkably relieved to be getting away from Marissa.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t be more helpful,” the artist said quietly. She held the sketchbook to her chest like he might try and steal it from her. “I really hope you find who you’re looking for.”
“That’s okay. It was a shot in the dark anyways. And thank you, I really hope we find him, as well.”
They fell into silence. It had been a while since Spencer didn’t know how to fill a silence. He stuffed his hands into his pockets while they walked, staring straight ahead and trying not to glance at the woman. He wanted to grab her and ask her, “Who do you think I am? Why did you draw me like that? Will you ask me out now that you’re no longer working? Do you really like Star Trek or was she just teasing you?”
But he didn’t do that.
Not even Marissa said anything as he led them outside. She dragged her feet and hummed loudly, glanced between the two extremely conspicuously, but she made no more effort to start a conversation than either of them.
When they reached the doors, the assistant was the first one out, already darting across the parking lot and throwing over her shoulder, “I’ll meet you at the car!”
The artist watched her go. She lingered in the doorway, lightly kicking the floor. “So… what are you gonna do now?”
“Huh?” Spencer asked dumbly.
“What are you gonna do now that this angle didn’t work out? Is it just to ground zero again?”
He let out a long breath. For a moment, he thought she was about to ask him out, and wanted to see what his plans were. But that wasn’t it. Which made more sense, to be honest. “Pretty much. Listen, uh…” He winced, looking away from her. “I kind of saw your other sketches. The ones you did of my team.”
Her face twitched, shutting itself down from any expression he might have been able to glean. “Oh!” She exclaimed, voice too high. “I—I’m sorry about that, that must have been uncomfortable for you.”
“No, not at all—”
“I was just warming up, and you guys were so there—”
“I completely understand, they’re all so good—”
“No one was really supposed to see them, you know—”
“Do I really look like that?” He blurted out, cutting off her sentence again. He started up before she could. “In your drawings, you drew me so… I don’t know, so much different than how I think I look. So, do I really look like that?”
She looked frightened, like he was mad. “Do… you dislike the way I drew you?” She asked carefully.
He shook his head, hair falling in his face. A trim was in order, as JJ loved to remind him. “No. That’s the thing, actually. I really, really like the way you drew me. I’m just worried that it isn’t entirely true to life.”
The corners of her lips turned downwards. “I’m so sorry, I don’t understand. I draw realism. I drew you as I saw you.”
“In theory, yes, I understand that.” Spencer leaned back, glancing inside to see if anyone was close enough to be listening in. “But it just feels so… wrong. Like we’re looking at two completely different people, and I’m liking the way yours looks more than mine.”
At that, he winced. There was no way to say it without sounding entirely spastic. “I like the way I look through your eyes,” he explained carefully. “When I saw that drawing, it was like I was looking at someone else, someone… cooler, more confident than I am. And I just wanted to know… is that how I look?”
Her nose scrunched up a bit before she replied. She didn’t look at him, instead choosing to examine the ashtray at his elbow. “No,” she said bluntly. “You don’t look like that at all. I’m sorry, that was rude. I only mean to say that I drew you the way you were. I don’t see you any differently than you are, you do. Does that make sense?”
“No,” he admitted.
For a moment, there was silence. Then they both laughed. Maybe about the oddness of it all, maybe about the fact that neither of them could quite say what they wanted to.
Feeling bold, the image of her scribbled conversation with her assistant still fresh in his head, Spencer abruptly said, “I want to know more. About how you see me, I mean. I think that would be really fun. Do—do you want to get coffee, or something? Sometime this week?” He fumbled over the last bit. It had been ages since he needed to worry about rejection.
The artist blinked once, twice. Her lips twitched, before breaking into a full grin. “Yeah,” she said. “I’d love to talk to you more. Thursday work?”
“Thursday’s great,” he breathed.
Spencer didn’t know if Thursday worked or not. He couldn’t remember anything past the fact that he might have just successfully asked someone out on a date.
She beamed and nodded, heading down the steps. “Okay then.”
“I’ll see you later.”
He didn’t breathe again until she was fully out of sight. Then, he slumped against the wall and ran his hands through his hair.
Spencer didn’t typically like hearing what other’s thought of him. Most of the time, it was insulting, or teasing, or just a fumbled explanation for why they thought he wasn’t fully mentally capable. But this time, he would make an exception.
He couldn’t wait to meet the Spencer his artist saw him as.