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Black Misery Painted on a Blood Red Heart

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He first gets a crush when he’s five years old. He doesn’t quite know how to identify the feelings so he pushes them away, having no one to talk about them with or to tell him what love feels like.

 

He goes to the library and reads as many books about love as he can in 45 minutes (a lot). It doesn’t tell him much. Love is scary and confusing. It’s being red hot and freeing cold simultaneously. It’s baring your soul and hoping the other person feels the same.

 

Its taking a dive into a bottomless ocean and hoping he comes up breathing.

 

He hopes he never feels like that.

 

***

 

Spencer is ten years old. One night he says goodnight to his father and the next day he’s gone.

 

Spencer watches as him mother tries to pick up the pieces of herself that broke the day William left.

 

It’s like she’s trying to glue a smashed plate back together; the cracks will always be visible.

 

That night he locks himself in his room as his mother points a knife at him through the door and calls him an imposter.

 

She’s just hallucinating, he whispers to himself. It doesn’t make it okay.

 

This is the first time he truly understands how love can destroy someone.

 

***

 

He’s fourteen and listens in on conversations that happen around him at university. He’s yet to make any friends, despite being four months into his first year. The four-year age difference alienates him from the rest of the crowd.

 

He hears people talk about their girlfriends and boyfriends and gets vaguely curious at the idea of being in a relationship.

 

He remembers thinking love was like jumping headfirst into a bottomless lake and praying you resurfaced. He wonders what it’s like to love someone enough that you’re willing to take the plunge.

 

***

 

Spencer first kisses a girl when he’s fifteen years old, sat on the bed of their neighbour. She’s seventeen, likes reading and thinks he’s cute. He should like her. But he doesn’t. He kisses her anyway.

 

It tastes of cheap beer and cherry lip gloss and feel so so wrong.

 

***

 

He kisses his first boy the same year. He’s older, just turned eighteen, and tastes of the scent of aftershave and the vodka they’ve been drinking. One moment, they’re laughing about something their teacher said

 

Spencer likes it, enjoys the rough scraping of stubble against his own face, likes the desperate press of lips on lips the boy has to offer. The hard, angular lines of his face and chest an entirely different experience

 

Later on, Spencer realises he doesn’t remember much about the kiss, not even the boy’s name; an odd sensation for someone with an eidetic memory.

 

He decides it doesn’t matter anyway.

 

***

 

He turns sixteen and Ethan is the only one to buy him a birthday present. It’s a worn copy of his favourite book, Alice in Wonderland. His mom used to read it to him when she was lucid. He had never told anyone before and wonder’s how Ethan managed to figure it out.

 

When he asks, Ethan smiles at him, leans forward and plants his lips against Spencer’s. It’s a slow, gentle kiss, but it still takes Spencer a second to react.

 

He stands, holding the book, mutters a quick thank you, before walking off towards his dorm.

 

When he reaches his bed, he lies down and tries not to cry with how confusing everything suddenly is.

 

He thinks of meeting Ethan when they both were fifteen and in their second year of university. They immediately became friends, bonded by a desperate need to stick together based on being the youngest in each of their classes.

 

The next year, they both took the same maths class and sit together. Spencer finally felt like he had found a friend.

 

He thinks of Ethan trying to teach him to skateboard, and failing (Spencer fell and cut his leg and needed stiches. He tells people the scar is from a dog attack.) He remembers them sharing books, coursework notes and theories. He remembers the feeling of finally finding someone who understands the way his brain works.

 

He thinks that he won’t ever find someone like that again.

 

The next time he sees Ethan, Spencer kisses him.

 

***

 

They go on their first date a week later. Spencer wears a button up and skinny jeans and tries not to wipe his sweaty palms on his jeans too much. When he reaches Ethan’s house, he spends a good five minutes standing on the steps, wondering if this is the right choice.

 

He knocks and Ethan opens the door immediately and comments on how long Spencer was stood outside for.

 

Spencer laughs and wonders what he was ever worried about.

 

***

 

Three months later, a gentle make-out session turns into desperate kisses and their clothes are tugged off. Whimpers and moans fill the air as sweaty bodies press against each other, moving in perfect harmony.

 

Spencer wonders why he’d never even thought of doing this before.

 

***

 

When he’s seventeen, Ethan takes him all the way. Supporting him as he thrusts his fingers in and out of Spencer, before finally inserting himself.  It’s perfect, and Spencer finds himself captivated by the way Ethan moves within him. It’s everything he ever expected and more.

 

Spencer sees stars without even opening his eyes that night.

 

***

 

At the start of their third year, they move in together. Telling the university that it makes sense to put the two youngest males in a dorm room together, and it does.

 

Spencer doesn’t ever remember being that happy.

 

***

 

When he’s eighteen, Ethan celebrates both his birthday and their two-year anniversary by using a fake ID to buy enough tequila to drink them both into an alcoholic grave.

 

The play never have I ever with shots and Spencer is surprised by exactly how much Ethan admits to doing. Eventually, Spencer ends up drinking anyway just to get as drunk as Ethan is.

 

They stay inside their room, laughing and drunkenly making out, until Ethan realises exactly how much he drank by throwing up all over the carpet. Spencer laugh and calls him an idiot. They both know it’s not true.

 

At four am Spencer finds himself sat outside in the cold air, staring up at the stars, Ethan long ago passed out.

 

He remembers thinking that love was like diving headfirst into a bottomless pool. With Ethan, he thinks he finally found someone he would dive for.

 

***

 

Ethan turns 19 before Spencer does and they celebrate by smoking weed and eating pizza. Spencer remembers saying that he would never do drugs and laughs. Look at him now.

 

***

 

Spencer gets his second doctorate when he’s 19 and he finds it doesn’t quite have the feeling of satisfaction he hoped it would. Ethan hugs him and the proud look in his eyes is all the encouragement he needs.

 

He thinks of his mom, hidden away in a sanatorium. The last time he went she had no idea who he was.

 

He writes her a letter and tells her everything, thinking she should know.

 

***

 

Two weeks later, he has his first argument with Ethan. It is loud, both of them screaming at each other, so loud that the people living next door could probably hear every single word. He tries to pretend it doesn’t hurt when Ethan’s fist hits his face.

 

Ethan storms out and returns at 4am, smelling of booze and a flowery perfume that definitely doesn’t belong to either of them.

 

The next morning Spencer pretends nothing is wrong, and so does Ethan. However, it’s hard to ignore the bright purple hickey on Ethan’s neck.

 

***

 

The next night, he goes to the local club where he’ll hopefully get served and sips a cocktail until someone sits next to him. A girl, he doesn’t recognise her so probably not from any of his classes. She introduces herself as Kira and buys him a drink, something definitely stronger than what he had before.

 

He takes it.

 

Later, he ends up in her bedroom looking down at her naked body.

 

He thinks, If I’m going to do this, I might as well do it right, and kisses her hard, listening to her moans and sighs, letting her tell him what she wants.

 

When he wakes up, at about six am, the bitter taste in his mouth has him grabbing his clothes and practically running out of the room. He pretends that the bitter taste isn’t disgust at himself.

 

He arrives back at his own room about an hour later and pretends those aren’t tear stains he can see on Ethan’s cheeks.

 

He’s doing an awful lot of pretending lately.

 

***

 

They spend the next two weeks arguing constantly before Spencer places an ultimatum.

 

They fix this between them, or he moves out.

 

That night, Ethan never comes home.

 

Spencer feels like he dived into that bottomless lake, but never came back up to breathe.

 

***

 

Three days of icy silence later, Ethan comes home drunk. He smells of a different cologne and the smell makes Spencer feel sick.

 

Ethan apologises for cheating. Spencer asks him, if he was really sorry, would he continue to do it over and over again?

 

***

 

Four days later, Spencer places a deposit on a local apartment. The next day, his stuff is gone before Ethan even returns from his class.

 

He tries to tell himself that walking away is the right thing to do, he just wishes he believed it.

 

***

 

Two weeks later, he meets Ellie in his abnormal psych class. She’s pretty and funny and Reid thinks he could fall in love with her.  

 

They meet for drinks at the bar and spend all evening flirting. When it reaches around twelve am, she grabs his hand and drags him outside with her. She calls a cab and asks if he wants to go back to her house.

 

He says yes.

 

Her touch is electrifying. The soft curves and her fruity scent make a completely different experience than with Ethan or when he’s completely drunk.

 

He falls asleep in her too soft bed and wakes when the sun starts to shine through her curtains. When Spencer first opens his eyes, he wishes it was Ethan laid next to him.

 

He gathers his clothes and starts pulling them on, getting to his t-shirt when the girl stirs. He starts trying to pull on his jeans when the girl rolls over and asks where he’s going.

 

Spencer sighs before turning to face her. He mentions his breakup and says she was only a rebound and he doesn’t want to stay and hurt her feelings anymore. She laughs at this, long blonde hair tossed over her shoulder.

 

“I just got out of an abusive relationship and I’m seeing what the world has to offer. You were – no offense – just a rebound to me too, I guess.” She says. Spencer stares at her for a second, until she sits up;

 

“Are you going to stay for breakfast or not?” He decides it can’t hurt to stay for a while.

 

***

 

He doesn’t see her again, other than in class. Spencer thinks about what might have happened, he thinks about how they could have been in a relationship, truly loved each other.

 

He wonders whether at the end of it, he’d still be left alone with the taste of disgust in his mouth.

 

***

 

Two weeks later, Ethan sits with him in a bar. They go home together and Ethan leaves little bite marks all over Spencer’s neck and chest.

 

It’s a show, Spencer belongs to him now.

 

The way it’s always been. The way it always will be.

 

The next morning, they agree to retry their relationship. Setting boundaries and promising to tell the truth to each other.

 

Spencer can’t help but wonder how long it will last.

 

***

 

They return to the joy seen at the height of their previous relationship. They fall in love with each other again. Spencer finds himself asking how he could have ever walked away from this.

 

He doesn’t forget everything though, he never can.

 

***

 

When he turns 20, Spencer is approached by someone called Jason Gideon, who promises a bright future at the FBI if Spencer is willing to apply to the academy.

 

He gets home and immediately starts his application. Spencer thinks that maybe it’s time for a change.

 

***

 

Spencer tells Ethan, he isn’t sure what to expect; arguments, anger, disappointment. He tries to ignore the slight fear twinging in his stomach, he is instead left shocked when Ethan says “well I’ll join too, I’ve already got no idea what I want to do, why not make it this?”

 

Spencer smiles and helps Ethan finish his application.

 

***

 

They both get accepted for the academy on the same day.

 

***

 

Spencer feels excited about his first day at the academy, his heart never seems to stop racing the entire journey from CalTech to Quantico. Ethan spends the entire journey staring out of the window.

 

Spencer brushes it off as nerves.

 

***

 

Eventually, their first day comes around, and it starts with a vigorous training session that makes every single part of his body burn. Then the classes start, he enjoys them the most. He soaks up the information, never wanting the lessons to end.

 

The day ends and he goes home content with his choices.

 

He arrives to a silent apartment and a letter left on the table.

 

It contains five words.

 

This was your dream not mine.

 

Spencer always knew loving Ethan would hurt him like this.

 

He feels like he’s drowning. Perhaps he is.

 

***

 

Spencer moves out of their apartment as soon as the lease ends.

 

***

 

He finishes the academy and graduates. At the ceremony, holding his shiny new badge and gun, he meets Jason Gideon again. This time, he offers Spencer a job with the Behavioural Analysis Unit.

 

Spencer says he will consider the offer. He doesn’t even think about it before sending Gideon the acceptance email.

 

***

 

He starts the next week. Wearing clothes that purposefully hide his lithe frame and he wears glasses too big for his face and purposefully plays up to the genius nerd role they expect him to fill.

 

He meets Derek Morgan, Elle Greenaway, Aaron Hotchner, Jennifer Jareau (call me JJ) and their tech analyst, Penelope Garcia. They all welcome him with open arms, loving him for who he is, not his intelligence.

 

He finds himself looking at how JJ’s hair flows so beautifully, how her eyes are gorgeous.

 

For his 22nd birthday, a year into his time at the BAU, Gideon gives him two tickets for the Washington Redskins football match and tells him to ask JJ to go with him. He does, she says yes, and together, they go.

 

It’s fun, light-hearted and nothing serious ever grows from it. They remain friends and begin to form a brother-sister type bond.

 

Reid thinks he prefers it this way.

 

***

 

Elle Greenaway gets shot in her own home and struggles with PTSD. He seems to be the only one to notice. On a case, she invites him into her room to drink whiskey and he joins her.

 

They have sex. Its brilliantly hot, but Elle is a colleague and he knows this shouldn’t go any further.

 

One week later Elle shoots a man, it is unclear whether it’s in self-defence or not. Reid finds that he’d rather not know. She leaves the next day, he tracks her down to LA and emails her his phone number, telling him to text her if she ever wants someone to talk to.

 

***

 

It’s two months later when she finally texts him. It’s just a shame that at the same time as his phone receives the message, he’s tied to a chair in a shed watching Raphael hold a gun to his head and pull the trigger.

 

***

 

As Tobias injects the dilaudid into him, he thinks of the time he smokes weed with Ethan. As the high hits him, he finds it oddly comforting.

 

***

 

He shoots Charles, but it’s Tobias that dies. Spencer kneels by the body and pockets the two vials of dilaudid.

 

He waits until they reach the hotel and shoots up in the bathroom, he thinks of Elle before the high hits. He thinks of what she’s doing right now, he hopes she’s better off than he is.

 

***

 

Spencer returns to Quantico, spends three weeks leave at home shooting up every day. He spends his money on drugs and forgets to eat most days.

 

When he returns to work, he waits for them to notice, to help him. That’s all he wants. A little help.

 

It never comes.

 

***

 

Eventually, a case takes him to New Orleans and he finds Ethan. They sit and talk comfortably, both having matured enough to move past what happened between them.

 

Ethan tells Spencer he knows about his problem.

 

Spencer wonders how come a jazz musician managed to notice but a team of expert profilers didn’t.

 

He doesn’t realise until later that they were simply waiting for him to show that he wanted to get clean.

 

***

 

Spencer books a week off work, citing personal reasons when Hotch asks, and calls Elle. She picks up on the first ring.

 

He tells her everything.

 

***

 

She comes to stay with him for the week, clearing his place of drugs and helping him, even when he screams profanities at her for hours as the worst of his withdrawal symptoms hit.

 

At the end of the week, before he returns to work, they have sex. Spencer finds it makes him feel better than any dilaudid high could.

 

They both know the sex is just a mutual release, nothing more, nothing less. It makes it easier to say goodbye.

 

***

 

He returns to work a changed man. They all notice the difference in him and he sees their relieved faces. Spencer is glad to be one less thing for them to worry about.

 

Morgan hugs him, Garcia bakes him a full tin of cookies. He takes them home that night and shares them with Elle as they watch Doctor Who episode reruns.

 

***

 

The cravings never really hit, not until he stands there powerless watching as the father shoots the kid, cause, after all he is just a kid. He watches the blood splatter over the bathroom wall and has never before wanted anything as much as the mind-numbing sensation of the dilaudid.

 

He’s ten months clean and doesn’t want to throw that away, but in his mind he has no other choice.

 

Instead of injecting the small vial of dilaudid hidden underneath his bed (just insurance he tells himself), he writes a letter to his mother. Shaping everything that happened with Tobias into a fairy tale like story he knows she would love to read.

 

He texts Elle and says thanks, when she asks what for, he never answers.

 

***

 

He gets his one year chip and shows it Morgan, having no doubt now that the others knew about his problem.

 

It’s worth it when Derek wraps his arms around Spencer’s neck and gently kisses him. 

 

***

 

The next day, they go on a date. Three months later they move in together. Four Months later, they tell the team. Two years later they get married.

 

***

 

Unlike with Ethan, loving Derek is not like that worn-out quote about love being a bottomless lake. Loving Derek is like he’s floating, running up high on the clouds. It’s complete mutual understanding, knowing everything about the other, even their deepest secrets. Its trust and happiness and every single positively emotive word Spencer can think of.

 

It’s overwhelming and intense, it’s strong and powerful. But never once does he feel like he’s drowning.