Author's note: This is a very long chapter, to make up for the very long wait.
P.S. Warning: cavity-inducing levels of fluff.
"It's never too late to have a happy childhood." -Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker
Spencer squinted at the sudden sunlight as they emerged from the library after a few hours of intense research and data compilations, armed with a to-do list freshly written in Hermione's neat penmanship, which he mentally went over again as they headed down the steps.
Hermione was reading it over herself, absently humming a tune that he didn't recognize. "Weasley is our king…" She sang in a soft breath, which tapered back off into humming which then turned into a hum of thoughtful concentration. "Hmm." She said, frowning at their list. "I'm not sure about some of these things."
"Like what?" Spencer asked, peering over her shoulder.
"This one." She pointed.
Spencer laughed. "I knew you would chicken out about this. You're a librarian and a former government worker. You guys are hardly known for rule breaking."
She gasped, offended, and spun around to face him with one finger pointed sternly at his chest. "Excuse me? I'll thank you kindly to remember that this whole adventure was my idea to begin with, doctor. Pardon me for wanting to go about this in a way that means we don't get killed, or worse, fired."
"Hermione, that's not going to happen." He reassured her, trying his hardest to sound sincere and not at all amused by her order of priorities. "These are hardly death-defying acts. The worst that will happen is some sleep deprivation, a little overspending - but not too much if we're thrifty about this - and some damn good memories." He finished with what he hoped was a charmingly persuasive smile, channeling his inner Morgan.
Inner Morgan? Now that's something you definitely don't want to analyze further.
He mentally shuddered and then switched over to some verbal reverse psychology. He casually shrugged and said airily, "But, hey, Hermione, if you want to back out on some or all of these, that's totally fine. No one would blame you, least of all me, if you just wanted to spend a quiet normal day at home or take a calm simple stroll in the park. Those sound nice too. Besides, I never care what we do as long as I get to spend time with you." He finished with another smile.
Her eyes narrowed. "Don't think I don't know what you're doing, Spencer Reid. You're not the first boy that's tried to accuse me of not being fun to get me to be more fun."
It took him a second to follow her thought, but at the end he smiled sheepishly. "Well, is it working?"
Her glare intensified, and she muttered under her breath something like 'a plague on every tall boy with messy hair and pretty eyes', which Spencer's newly discovered boyfriend side suspiciously filed away to address later but he currently took to mean that he won this round.
"I'll have you know I can have just as much fun as the next person." Hermione informed him primly. "But it would be much easier for me to have fun if I wasn't constantly worrying about my companions dying or destroying the world while we do it."
"What kind of fun did you have as a kid?" Spencer wondered.
"Oh, you know, the usual." Hermione said with a shrug that was too perfectly timed to be casual. "Fighting monsters and ghosts in the bathroom and trying to stop evil villains from taking over the world, and our school." She glanced away as she said this, but her voice was light and playful.
Spencer blinked, then grinned. "...Wow, I wish I had been your friend when I was a kid. I could have used a friend with such an insane imagination."
Hermione let out a short laugh. Spencer wasn't quite sure he got the joke.
"Okay then, I propose adding a condition to our list." He said. Hermione's face was neutral as she waited for him to explain. Spencer took a quick deep breath and said, "If we're going to do this over the next two days, we need to be fully committed. It's all or nothing." He said seriously.
"All or nothing?" Hermione repeated dubiously.
"Yep." He nodded firmly. "We're not allowed to back out of anything." Hermione looked reluctant, so he challenged, "Unless you want to chicken out after all…?"
"Hmm." Hermione glanced back down at the list warily, then looked back up at him with fire in her eyes. "Alright, deal." She laughed a little. "I mean, I did make backup lists that have the first list organized in alphabetical order, in order of money required, how much time needed to do each thing, and then in order of general plausibility. Might as well put those lists to good use."
Spencer just looked at her silently.
She flushed slightly. "...I may also have already researched where the closest supermarkets and hardware stores are so we can stop there on our way back to your flat to pick up supplies." She admitted.
Spencer chuckled. "You're such a nerd." She just gave him a look that clearly meant look who's talking, so he quickly leaned down to lightly kiss her cheek and assured her, "It's cute."
She tossed her hair, more to get it out of her face than to be sassy. "Damn right it's cute." Then she squared her shoulders and stuck out her hand. "Let's make this official. Do you solemnly swear to adhere to the aforementioned condition to the document, or face a consequence to be decided at a later date?"
Spencer took her hand. "I do." Then, realizing how he had worded that and to whom, hastily corrected, "I mean, I do solemnly swear."
Hermione's face seemed to be slightly pink, but her voice was steady as she said, "I too solemnly swear."
She moved to let go, but Spencer held on a moment just long enough to look into her eyes and reiterate: "No backing out."
"No backing out." Hermione repeated strongly. "All or nothing."
"All or nothing." Spencer nodded quickly, before mentally rescanning the list and amending, "Well, maybe not all. I mean, this one probably is a bad idea, and some of these things are scientifically impossible to do over the next two days." He remarked.
Hermione smirked. "Scientifically impossible, perhaps." She retorted cryptically. "Who knows what other resources we might have at our disposal?"
She turned around and skipped down the rest of library steps, once again humming that strange song.
He snorted. "Resources beyond science? What, like magic?"
Hermione didn't turn around to face him, but Spencer got the impression she was smiling.
"Hermione, I can't do this!" Spencer hissed.
"Yes you bloody well can!" Hermione hissed back. "It was your idea to add this to the list anyway!"
"Yeah, but I thought we both agreed this was a bad idea! This was the one that made you want to back out of the list entirely!" Spencer said, trying not to panic at the stubborn look on her face. He had been in negotiations before and had seen that look on the face of zealots ready to die for their cause.
"You said all or nothing!" Hermione said fiercely.
"Okay, okay, Hermione, I was only teasing you earlier about not being fun. Believe me, you are plenty fun. You don't have to do this to prove it."
"Me?" She snorted. "Oh, no, doctor, this is going to be all you. I'm beginning to doubt your commitment to The List. This is a loyalty test, and so far you're failing!" She said, eyebrows raised high in a challenge.
"Hermione!" Spencer whispered desperately. "I am a federal agent!"
"Cheers, then you know some people who can get you out of jail if the job goes south!" Hermione whispered back eagerly, a glint in her eyes.
"Calm down, Irene Adler." He retorted, trying to bat her hands away from where she was trying to surreptitiously stick a candy bar in his pocket. "We're not going to steal something."
"Stop being such a goody-goody, Sherlock." She teased. "I thought the point of this day was to recreate some authentic adolescent experiences? C'mon, you're a behaviorist. Isn't it common for people to experiment with shoplifting in their youth?"
"Did you?" He shot back, thinking he had caught her.
Her lips twitched. "I'll admit that I've never stolen a sweet from a shop, but I could be quite the rule breaker back in my day… although perhaps that could be more attributed to my life circumstances and my friends' influences rather than any latent desire for anarchy in myself."
"Really. You were a rule breaker?" Spencer asked skeptically.
"How are you surprised by this? I'm currently trying to convince you to steal a candy bar!" She laughed quietly.
"Yes, you're clearly a professional thief because this is obviously going so well." He rolled his eyes, whispers dripping with sarcasm.
"I'll have you know I once stole a dragon from a bank!" Hermione said hotly, hands planted rather adorably on her hips.
Spencer stared blankly at her. "A dragon?"
Hermione froze, then smiled too widely. "Don't you remember? I was a very imaginative child. I stole many dragons from many banks, Spencer. It was just a regular Tuesday afternoon for me; stealing a dragon… from a bank..." she laughed awkwardly.
Spencer shook his head, "I think that's the result of Tolkien's imagination, Hermione." He laughed. "Okay, Bilbo. Put back the candy bar, it's time to go back to the Shire."
She glared mulishly at him, but Spencer wasn't swayed… until she switched gears and started to pout. Spencer tried really very hard not to be swayed by her big brown eyes and trembling lips. Honestly, he did.
"...okay, fine, put in my pocket quickly."
Her face lit up.
"But!" Spencer quickly added, "I get to pick what we do next."
She smiled smugly and promised. Then with entirely too much mischievous glee she managed to wrestle the candy into his cardigan pocket with lots of unsubtle snickers as Spencer impatiently stood there, anxiously keeping watch for employees or police officers coming to arrest them, and pitying the parents that had to raise a young Hermione who was probably smarter than them with the adorable face of a freckled, curly haired baby angel and the stubbornness of a seasoned federal prosecutor.
"Now let's go get the rest of the stuff and get out of here." Spencer said when she managed to finally hide the candy in his sweater, grabbing Hermione's hand and dragging her down the aisle, trying and failing not to smile at the adorably excited expression on her normally serious face.
A little while later, they were walking through the parking lot laden down with bags of supplies for their planned adventures when Spencer slightly tripped over a cracked piece of pavement and as he staggered to catch his balance, something fell out of his pocket with an unceremonious plop.
Hermione and Spencer stared quietly down at the forgotten stolen candy bar, its plastic wrapper shining brightly in the sunlight.
Spencer glanced up at his girlfriend, who was squinting down at the candy bar with a conflicted look on her face. "We should go back and pay for it, shouldn't we?"
Hermione frowned, chewing on her lip, then sighed.
"Yeah. Let's go."
"I don't know about this, Spencer." Hermione said with just a hint of panic in her voice, frozen stiff in her perch on the bicycle which still managed to wobble back and forth underneath her. "It seems unwise."
"Hey, no backing out!" He reminded her, readjusting his grip to help balance her. "This one is a requirement! Literally every child in the world should know how to ride a bike. Besides, you promised I could pick the next activity. This is my choice."
She frowned fiercely at him. "I know how to ride a bike, Spencer Reid. Why are we even doing this?"
"Do you really know how to ride a bike?" He retorted. "Because I think that if you did, you definitely wouldn't walk everywhere, especially in nice weather. You're the type of environmentally conscious, but impatiently efficient person that would bike everywhere if you knew how."
Hermione looked away, but her scowl turned petulant and he knew he was right. "My parents taught me how to ride a bicycle when I was quite young, but they drove me to school every day and then when I went to boarding school, cycling became sort of… obsolete. Then when I graduated and went out into the world, other means of transportation were more convenient and I just never got around to buying a bike and… here we are." She sighed heavily. "So yes, I do know how to ride a bike, I've just… sort of… forgotten."
"All the more reason to do this!" Spencer insisted. "If you learned once, muscle memory should kick back in and it will be smooth sailing from there. Besides, I'll be right with you every step - er, pedal of the way." He said earnestly.
Her face was conflicted, her gaze trailing back to the bike beneath her.
"We could go biking together…" He cajoled.
Hermione huffed. "Alright, fine. But don't you dare let go, Spencer Reid!"
He placed his hand over his heart. "I swear on the Declaration of Independence."
"That doesn't mean anything to me, you prat! I'm not American!"
He grinned unapologetically. "Oh, I see Britain is still sore about that little document, huh?"
She glared dangerously at him. "Spencer…" In his name was a hundred unpleasant promises.
"Okay, okay, I swear on… on libraries everywhere." He swiftly corrected himself.
Her features smoothed at the gravity of his vow. "That's sacred ground you tread on, Dr. Reid," She straightened her back bravely and lifted her chin regally. "You may proceed, but do so carefully." She warned.
Behind her back, Reid rolled his eyes fondly and smirked in excitement. "Okay, get ready…" He said, bending his lanky body down to steady her. "Here we go!"
His shoes scuffed the pavement as he began to pick up pace and there was a loud metal ticking as the gears turned. Her knuckles whitened on the handlebars
"Spencer!" Hermione yelped, "Why are you going so bloody fast? Slow down!"
"Relax, Hermione!" He laughed. "You're doing great!"
"I am doing terrified!" She snapped back.
"That sentence doesn't even make sense."
"I don't care!"
"Hermione, you need to pedal."
"I know that!"
"Okay, okay, just relax. You're doing great!" He said again. "You're practically a pro!"
"Don't patronize me." She griped, but sounded less panicked. Until… "Wait! Why is your voice so far away?" She glanced back over her shoulder and seeing him standing a few meters behind her, hands in his pockets, grinning at her, she shrieked, "Spencer you swore on libraries everywhere!"
What followed was a stream of increasingly creative and unflattering curses. Spencer's eyebrows rose. "Are you cussing me out in Bulgarian?" He asked incredulously.
In her anger, Hermione managed to maneuver the bike in an inelegant u-turn to make her way back to her chuckling boyfriend, who took hold of the handlebars once she reached him, smiling innocently at her truly ferocious glare.
"Spencer Reid -" She began hotly. He swiftly leaned down and lightly kissed her nose. "Oh, don't you dare think that you're getting out of a good throttling just by being cute, doctor!"
"I would never presume." He responded seriously, but couldn't hide the twinkle in his eyes. "You know why I let go, right?" He asked, bending over to look her right in the eyes.
She huffed, blowing an errant curl out of her eyes. Despite her protestations, her expression had softened greatly. "Besides an appallingly sacrilegious attitude towards the sanctity of libraries?"
Spencer ignored that. "Mya, you never needed me to hold on. You totally rode the bike all on your own. You didn't even fall over!" He encouraged her, the nickname sliding easily from his lips as if he had always called her that.
Her eyes had widened. "What did you just call me?"
He blinked, quickly rewinding his words, then felt his face heat up slightly. "Oh - er - sorry, it just came out… I love your name, but it's sort of long and I - I meant it as an endearment, but if you don't want me to call you that, I totally understand and this time I swear for real that I will never ever -"
This time, Hermione cut him off with a kiss. "Oh, Spencer; you wonderful, thoughtful man. You know that I would be the first one to tell you if I was unhappy with anything you did. I'm not exactly non confrontational." She confessed with a sheepish smile.
"True." Spencer nodded sagely.
"It's just, no one has called me that since my parents…" She cleared her throat. "My mum and dad called me Mya all throughout my childhood; they were the only ones who ever did actually. My friends at school called me Mione, or often just Hermione."
"Mione." Spencer tested the name out. "I like it," He decided. "But I gotta say, I kind of like Mya better… but if that was just special for your parents…"
Hermione was quiet for a long moment, her face thoughtful but not hostile. Then she calmly got off the bike and set up the kickstand. She took Spencer's hands in hers and looked up into his face. When she spoke, her voice was gentle and soft, as if she was letting the breeze carry the words out of her mouth for her. "I love my parents dearly and deeply," She began, "and my childhood memories are precious to me. But, I've had a hard life, a life that my parents never understood and... I don't know if they'll ever truly understand the person I've become. To them, I haven't been their little Mya in a very long time."
Spencer hated how distant and sad her eyes had become. He would give anything to take back what he had said now.
"But…" She glanced back up at him, a nervous hope blooming in her eyes, chasing out the ghosts. "I'm still that little girl, deep inside my heart. No matter what I've gone through, where I come from is still so important to me. I think I'd love to be called Mya again, by someone who knows who I am now."
Spencer laced their fingers together, "And I would love to know you, Hermione-Mya-Mione Granger." He grinned, then cleared his throat and glanced away, because if she kept looking at him like that he was going to kiss her and they would never finish their to-do list.
Then she stood on her tiptoes and he was overwhelmed by the fragrance of her shampoo and he decided, what the hell, they had plenty of time.
After a few long, beautifully breathless minutes, Spencer remarked, "You know, since we're already in the park, we might as well knock a few more things off our list…"
Hermione was immediately suspicious of the playful grin on Spencer's face. "Like what…?" She warily prompted, then immediately leapt backward as Spencer lunged for her. Fast as she was, he had caught her slightly unawares and his long arms caught her with a light contact of his palm against her arm.
He lingered there for just the space of a heartbeat; long enough for his face to split into a wide toothy grin as he crowed, "You're it!" Then he spun around and took off as fast as his long legs could take him.
It took her a moment to catch on, staring after his retreating form blinking in shock, before her competitive nature took over and she grinned with all the ferocity of a lioness on the hunt.
Spencer glanced over his shoulder just long enough to see her hair flying about wildly as she gave chase, which also happened to be just enough time for his mind to be completely distracted by her and forget where he was going, and he ran full speed into a tree.
Next thing he knew, he was staring up at the blue sky trying to figure out where his lungs were when his vision was full of Hermione's lovely face tight with concern. "Spencer! Are you okay?"
"Fine." He wheezed. "Produce oxygen, intercept airborne particulates, reduce smog."
Her concern intensified. "Did you hit your head? You're babbling."
"I hit my whole body, actually." He corrected. "I'm not babbling. I'm trying to remind myself that trees are non-sentient, immobile plant life-forms necessary for the overall environmental health of urban communities and that they're not malicious bullies actively trying to kill me."
Hermione's face relaxed into a smirk and her voice was full of mirth when she spoke. "Oh. Of course."
Spencer tested his fine motor skills by wiggling his arms and legs, then groaned as he began to sit up. "Sequester carbon dioxide, reduce overall concentration of atmospheric greenhouse gases, promote beneficial water quality." He muttered.
Hermione couldn't hide her laughter now. "Oh, I don't know, I think 'tries to kill Spencer Reid' can be added to the list of positives when the man in question unfairly ambushes his girlfriend with a game of tag." She said. "Speaking of…" She leaned in close, and grinned wickedly before lightly tapping the top of his head. "You're it."
"Why do I have to count out loud, exactly?" Hermione called out, frowning at the bark of the tree inches away from her face (not the same tree that had become so intimately familiar with Spencer earlier, at his insistence).
"For authenticity." Spencer replied as he backed away from her. "Remember: no backing out, Miss Granger." She turned around to give him a flat glare. "Hey! And no peeking!" He said, freezing in place.
"Alright, alright." She sighed sharply, obediently facing the tree again and muttering under her breath, "I feel foolish."
"You need to cover your eyes!" Spencer instructed, and he could practically feel her rolling her eyes but grinned as she put her hands over her eyes and leaned against the tree trunk. He heard her grumbling and deduced what she was saying would be inappropriate for polite company. "I can't hear you counting!" He called out, being purposefully obnoxious.
She tapped her foot in endearing irritability, and ground out just loud enough for him to make out, "Unus… duo… tres… quattuor… quinque…"
Spencer smiled as he walked away, looking for a place to hide his lanky six-foot-one frame.
She would be counting in Latin.
"No." Spencer said stubbornly, glaring at the tree that had clotheslined him earlier.
"Oh stop being such a baby, Spencer Reid." Hermione said. "You wanted to climb a tree, and this is the best climbing tree we could find!"
"There are lots of trees in the world." He retorted. "Approximately three trillion. That's roughly four hundred trees to a person. That means I have three hundred and ninety nine other trees to choose from - if this tree is one of my four hundred, which I'm pretty damn sure it is not." He finished emphatically.
"Yes, and almost half of all the trees in the world live in tropical or subtropical forests." Hermione replied. "Of which this park is neither." Her expression changed from mild exasperation to amusement. "Besides, it's not the tree's fault you ran into it like a pitch from a professional cricket bowler." She countered. "And besides, I rather think this tree is one of my four hundred, despite how utterly ridiculous that notion is."
"Ridiculous?" Spencer said, affronted.
"Trees shouldn't belong to anyone." Hermione said with a passion he hadn't expected. "Imagine how fantastically lovely the earth would be if we applied half as much resources into environmental conservation and rehabilitation as we did into urban progression and commercial expansion!" She argued as she dragged him closer to the tree by his arm, before turning around and with businesslike precision linked his fingers together and pulled his hands down near his knees, talking all the while.
"Hey, I am all for saving the environment." Spencer protested as Hermione placed her hands firmly on his shoulders and placed one small foot in his entwined hands. "I'm a chemist, Mya," He grunted as she pushed down on her shoulders to propel herself upward, quickly grabbing the lowest tree branch that looked appropriately sturdy. "I know exactly what too much carbon dioxide and chlorofluorocarbons can do to the atmosphere." He said, holding onto her ankles until she had found a safe perch in the tree.
"But," He added, circling the trunk until he found a slightly lower branch he could climb up on without assistance (probably). "Regardless, I'm pretty sure all trees do belong to someone, and I'm not talking about my definitely-not-ridiculous statistic. I'm talking about the acquisition of property; private, state, and national."
"I know what you mean, Spencer," Hermione said, her voice hardly reflecting her physical exertion as she carefully maneuvered herself higher up in the tree. She was having an easier go of it than Spencer, being considerably smaller and lighter than he was. "And I said that trees shouldn't belong to anyone, not that they didn't."
"Why, Miss Granger," Spencer remarked with a grin. "I had no idea you were such an activist."
"Oh, my good doctor," She said primly, with a contrary wicked sliver of a smile. "You have no idea."
Spencer watched her climb for a moment as he struggled to unsnag his sweater from a broken piece of bark. "This isn't fair." He complained. She paused to look back down at him quizzically. He explained with what he hoped was a flirtatious (but most likely just goofy) smile, "No one should be so attractive debating conservationism while climbing a tree." She promptly turned pink, and pleased with the success of his compliment, he switched back to their discussion. "Besides, I don't think trees can take care of themselves, so land ownership is arguably a good thing. It encourages environmental responsibility and accountability." He finally untangled his sweater without unraveling it and impulsively stripped it off and left it hanging on the branch to retrieve on their way down. He also rolled up his sleeves to minimize further wardrobe malfunctions on their deciduous expedition.
"I rather think they were taking care of themselves just fine for the billions of years before humans started slashing and burning…" Her voice trailed off as she glanced down to watch him, a strange look crossing her face. Her lips curved up appreciatively. "Believe me, doctor, the attraction is quite mutual."
He nearly fell out of the tree.
The world turned into a jarring blur of start-stop blue, green, gray, and brown and Spencer began to deeply question his current life choices and mental stability as his three-decades-old body began to loudly protest its treatment as it was jostled and rolled into contortions it found entirely unagreeable.
"Her - mi - o - ne -" The syllables of her name were punched out of him with each awkward rotation of his body against the ground. "Why - are - we - do - ing -" With an abrupt jolt his momentum came to a halt against a flat but unpleasant rock while the world continued to spin in his vision until his brain caught up with his body. "- this?"
He sat up too quickly to avoid the rock digging into his spine and turned to find his companion while blinking away the vertigo. Hermione was still rolling down the small hill they had found, seemingly in a slightly more effective and enjoyable way than he had, given her surprised and breathless spurts of laughter as she descended.
She came to a gentler stop than he did at the proper bottom of the hill and lay on her back, smiling dizzyingly at the sky. "I don't think my back will thank me for that tomorrow." She remarked. "I've spent far too many years bent over books and parchment to escape rolling down a hill unscathed."
Spencer carefully clambered down to lay beside her, his arm opening to let her nestle against his side in such a natural gesture he didn't even think of how easy such things came to him with her when it took him literally decades to be able to even have normal conversation with other human beings, let alone ones he was actually romantically interested in. "Yeah… I think now that we can safely cross 'roll down a hill' off our retroactive childhood memories bucket list, we should probably never do it again."
Hermione laughed a little, leaning her head against his shoulder and resting one arm across his abdomen. He was intimately aware of her every shift and movement against him and his throat constricted in anxiety, because how could she be real? How could she be here? He had seen and done such violence… how could he deserve something as beautiful and bright as she?
He held her slightly closer to him, as if she would fade and float away like her laughter on the breeze.
...But then the moment passed and she stayed solid and warm and soft against him, and whatever fears had knotted up inside him loosened up and a liquid warm spread through him soft and steadying as sunlight. He was able to relax and simply enjoy the wonder of being in her presence without fearing her absence, and their lungs breathed and their hearts beat together in a sweet sort of silence until her voice said in a normal octave that unstopped time and brought them gently and happily back to their reality;
Spencer hmm-ed, mentally going over their bucket list as he had dubbed it, and came across the perfect idea with a grin. "Now," He said, "We're going to look at the clouds."
"Oh," She said in the usual matter-of-fact way her practical and logical nature confronted all things fanciful and frivolous. Then she smiled. "Okay."
They didn't get around to looking for shapes and animals in the formless aerial puffs of cumulonimbus for a few good minutes, entirely too enthralled with looking at each other.
Spencer found many wonderful, impossible things in the skies of her eyes, and it was entirely the opposite of fanciful and frivolous.
In fact, he didn't think he would ever be able to discover a better use of his time.
He didn't think he would ever want to.
Spencer frowned uncertainly, tilting his head. "Is it supposed to look like that?"
Hermione rolled her eyes. "It's a fort made of blankets and pillows, Spencer, it's not supposed to look like anything."
Spencer shrugged. "Okay, but shouldn't it at least be structurally sound before we try to get inside?"
"Blankets and pillows, Spencer, not wood and metal."
"Okay, but -"
"Oh, just be quiet and get in the bloody fort already, you ridiculously tall architectural critic!" Hermione said, unceremoniously pushing her boyfriend into the extremely precarious assemblage of bedding which promptly collapsed on top of him with an anticlimactic muffled fwump.
"Hmm." Hermione studied the struggling tangled heap of limbs and blankets at her feet. "You may have had a point about the structure."
A muffled sound came from somewhere within the pile that could've been a sarcastic ya think?
She tried not to giggle and failed spectacularly. "Hold on, you big oaf, you're going to strangle yourself. Just hold still and let me help you." The writhing mass obligingly stilled and Hermione poked and prodded at it with practiced efficiency until she said, "Aha!" And seized one seemingly random corner of a quilt and tugged sharply.
Instead of neatly unraveling the mess like she had expected, however, the quilt she had pulled was firmly stuck under Spencer's six-foot-one frame and with a startled yelp she toppled over, hopelessly entangling herself in the pile as well.
After a few supremely awkward and hilarious moments of wriggling around trying to get free, Hermione and Spencer found themselves face to face.
"Hi," Spencer said dryly.
Hermione smiled sheepishly, eyes sparkling. "Hi."
"You know, if this is how all fort building ends up, consider me a convert." He joked, using their position to wrap his long arms around her and draw her closer. Hermione shook her head at his awkward flirtations but smiled anyway.
"You do realize we're going to have to get up and build it again, right?" She said, but laid her head against his chest. "...Well, perhaps not quite yet."
"This doesn't seem safe, Mya." Spencer pointed out even as he dutifully helped her put out supplies. "It seems kind of hazardous. And messy. Which are two words I don't think should be used together in any situation, particularly one taking place inside my apartment."
"Stop being such a worrywart, Spencer." Hermione said with a fond laugh. "Besides, we're doing this in the safest way possible, because someone didn't want us building a real campfire."
"Yeah, I can't imagine why." Spencer said drily. "It couldn't have anything to do with my floors being made of flammable materials and not wanting to die a fiery death, could it?"
"No, I think it has more to do with him being a spoilsport." Hermione grinned back.
"You know, you've been calling me a lot of names today, Miss Granger." He remarked. "Is this part of getting reacquainted with childhood practices?"
"Not quite," She laughed. "It's just fun."
"Alright!" Hermione clapped her hands together decisively before gathering up her mass of hair and twisting it up out of the way on top of her head. "First things first," She chirped, reaching out and with one quick twist of her wrist one of the burners on the stove flared to life with the hiss-and-spit of gas igniting, first bright orange before settling into a calm blue flame.
Hermione turned to him. "Alright, take it away, Yankee, this is after all your area of American expertise." She teased, sweeping her hand towards the efficiently dancing flames in a grand gesture of deference.
He straightened his shoulders and took to his task with the seriousness it deserved. He stuck one hand out, palm up. "Miss Granger. Marshmallow." He ordered solemnly. Hermione nodded once and carefully placed the squishy sweet in his hand, which he then promptly popped into his mouth with a childish grin.
Hermione's delicate brows lifted skeptically, a smile playing on his lips. "I don't quite think that was the point of this exercise."
Spencer shrugged as he chewed, eyes bright. "I couldn't resist." He mumbled around his mouthful of marshmallow. "You always gotta have at least one plain." Hermione shook her head doubtfully but her eyes twinkled. Spencer finished eating the marshmallow and returned to the task at hand."Okay, give me another one. For real this time." She regarded him suspiciously but dutifully dispensed another marshmallow.
She handed over the long thin metal picnic fork, another one of their purchases from the store, as neither of them had ever had need for such things in their adult lives so far. Spencer carefully skewered the marshmallow with the tines and adjusted it minutely until he was ready. "You don't want it to be too close to the end of the fork, or it will fall off when the insides of the marshmallow melt in the fire." He explained her perfectionism.
Hermione nodded, watching his every move closely with studied anticipation.
"Okay, here we go. Three… two… one… roast!" Spencer plunged his marshmallow straight into the flames, and it immediately caught fire and was turned to ash within seconds.
Hermione gave him a dry look. "Did you mean to do that?" She asked, in such a tone as to convey she already knew the answer.
"No." Spencer sighed, turning off the burner and using his picnic fork to pick the charred remains of his marshmallow off of the stovetop. "I guess it has been about twenty years since I last did this; I'm hardly an expert. My mom never really let me have much sugar, I only did this the one time my dad tried to take me camping." He cleared his throat, banishing the memory, and said louder and in a bit of a defensive tone, "Besides, I think it goes without saying that campfires are a lot different than stove burners and so you can't roast a marshmallow in the same way."
"Of course," Hermione agreed seriously, obviously trying not to smile. "Well, given that I was raised in Britain and therefore did not eat melted sugary garbage such as this -" she rolled her eyes at his offended look, " - I'm obviously not an expert either. So I suppose we shall both have to approach the this learning curve at the same speed." She said bravely, spearing a marshmallow with her own fork and popping another into her mouth with only the slightest hesitation.
Her mouth twisted slightly. "Very… sweet." She remarked. Spencer huffed a laugh. She peered into the bag, picking up the package of chocolate bars and examining the nutritional facts printed on the side. She made a face when she read the sugar content. "I don't suppose we have a more bitter kind of chocolate to balance out the marshmallow?" She asked hopefully. "Or another type of biscuit to use besides graham crackers?"
"S'mores aren't supposed to be gourmet, Mya," Spencer pointed out. "They're supposed to be… well, melted sugary garbage."
Hermione narrowed her eyes at the innocent bag of powdery white marshmallows for a moment, before sighing and shrugging, "Well… alright. For the sake of authenticity." She said, picking up another uncooked marshmallow. "Cheers". She said bravely, and popped it into her mouth. She chewed slowly, valiantly trying and failing not to make a face. "I suppose... it's not all bad." She offered.
"They taste better once you roast them." Spencer promised. "You should try one plain like that, then we'll put it all together in a s'more and then you'll totally get it."
Hermione seemed doubtful of this outcome, but devoted herself admirably to her s'more making education. Spencer was partial to the blackened marshmallows with impossibly gooey insides, while Hermione soon discovered she liked hers golden brown on all sides, not too burnt and not too soft. Spencer didn't know how she had the patience for it, when all it took was a few seconds in the fire for a perfectly good and burnt marshmallow.
After consuming an ungodly amount of s'mores (they even managed to scrounge up a bag of salted caramel chocolate Emily had given him long ago to create some 'gourmet' s'mores that Hermione much preferred to the original recipe. Hermione called them s'mourmet, and was incredibly amused by her own cleverness. Spencer just called them an abomination), Hermione found herself standing in the middle of Spencer's messy kitchen, holding a rag and staring with wide eyes as her suddenly extremely hyperactive boyfriend zipped around the kitchen, talking a mile a minute about what sounded like how to prove string theory using the molecular structure of a marshmallow.
"So that's why his mother didn't let him have sugar." She said to herself. "...She's definitely smarter than I am."
"We have to stay up all night?" Spencer asked from where he was sprawled in their newly reconstructed fort, watching as Hermione unloaded their supplies for the night. "Aren't we a little old for that?"
"I'm going to ignore the 'old' comment, mister." Hermione said airily, "And don't act like our careers don't call for a ridiculous amount of overnight shifts."
"Yeah, exactly, which is why I try to sleep as much as I can on my nights off." He pointed out.
"All or nothing," She said in a sing-song voice. "And may I remind you that staying up all night was your idea."
"Are we going to have this argument before each item on the list?" Spencer muttered under his breath. Louder, he replied, "I know it was my idea, but I kind of thought we would be staying up all night doing something else."
She whipped around with such a look of shock on her face Spencer realized with the force of having a bowling ball chucked at your face exactly what he had said. "No no no no no!" He stammered, flailing his arms around wildly as a physical manifestation of his denial. "That is not what I meant. I mean, er, I do like you so much and you're like insanely beautiful so uh sure, maybe someday, but we barely know each other and I just want you to know that I definitely did not have an ulterior motive for inviting you over -"
"Spencer - "
"- I mean look at me! I'm so awkward and I have no idea what I'm doing, I've never been someone's boyfriend before and I'm almost thirty years old, and I still haven't gotten over the fact you ever looked at me, let alone kissed me, or actually agreed to be my girlfriend -"
"Spencer." His stream of words that he just couldn't stop was abruptly cut off by Hermione covering his mouth gently but firmly with her hand. Her face was serious but her eyes were twinkling. "Calm down." She said soothingly. "I'll admit I was a bit shocked when you said that, but if you had just given me a moment I would have immediately realized that's not what you meant, without all the nearly incoherent rambling." She laughed as his ears reddened, then said more earnestly, "Spencer Reid. You have been nothing but kind and thoughtful and respectful of me. That is the man I agreed to have a relationship with, and that is the man that I want to get to know better." She vowed, then smiled, "And that's all we need to think about for now. Let's just enjoy where we're at, and you don't need to worry about me thinking you have ill intentions. If I suspected you did, I would talk to you about it." Her smile took on a sharp edge. "Or I would just kill you."
Spencer swallowed hard. "Uh... ha ha ha…" He laughed nervously. "...Yeah…"
She grinned at him. "Oh my, I do scare you a bit, don't I? Ron and Harry will be pleased to know that. When it comes to physical harm, I should be the one you're frightened of, but my best friends are no jest either. They may be halfway across the world but they are rather protective of me."
"Duly noted." Spencer said with another nervous laugh. "So… can we pretend the last few minutes didn't happen and go back to our previous conversation?"
Hermione rolled her eyes but laughingly agreed. "Yes, I do believe you were about to come around to my way of thinking."
"I kind of thought we would just read or do a crossword puzzle or something." Spencer suggested. "Then, you know, fall asleep and pretend we didn't mean to even though we both knew we were totally going to fall asleep. Kids do that at sleepovers, right?"
"Actually, I think my version is more accurate." Hermione said. "Having a film marathon and relentlessly policing each other to stay awake all night long, under threat of humiliating pranks involving permanent markers and bowls of warm water." Spencer gave her a weird look. "Don't worry, we won't do the pranks." Hermione reassured, patting his arm. "But I rather think we should commit to trying to stay up all night. It could be fun! Besides, we only have about thirty more hours before you have to go back to work, and who knows when we'll be able to do this again?" She added.
"You mean when we'll have another chance to marathon Disney movies and binge on junk food?" Spencer corrected her, taking visual stock of the pile of stuff she had plopped next to him in the fort.
"No, I mean, who knows when you'll get another chance to spend some quality time cuddling with your girlfriend, especially if you keep being so bloody difficult about this." She shot back.
The genius didn't have to think too hard about that. "...which movie do you want to watch first?"
Spencer was abruptly awakened by something dense and soft smacking him hard in the face. "Huh? What?"
"You fell asleep!" Hermione accused, scowling at him and brandishing a couch cushion as her weapon.
"No I didn't!" An extremely disoriented Spencer protested, trying to gather his bearings. It was dark outside, and there were colorful animated cats playing instruments paused on the TV screen. "Um, what time is it?" Hermione hit him with the cushion again. "Hey! Quit it!"
"We're supposed to be staying up all night, Spencer Reid!" She said sharply, punctuating her words with more smacks from the pillow. "Don't you fall asleep on me!"
"Well I'm not asleep now - oof. HEY! Hermione, if you don't stop hitting me with that pillow -" He warned.
"What?" She challenged, fire in her eyes. "What are you going to do, Mister Badass FBI Agent?" Her accent made it sound like she said bard-arse, which was pretty funny but Spencer didn't think laughing at her would do him any favors right then. Then she continued, "With your eidetic memory and doctoral degree in mathematics? Ooh, I'm getting the jitters." She taunted.
"Okay, that's it." He said, fully awake now. "It is on." With surprisingly reflexes, he snatched a pillow from behind his back and started attacking his girlfriend with it, who yelped and took off like a petite brunette rocket.
Spencer grabbed all the cushions his long arms could hold and chased her, tossing pillows at her with an accuracy that would have made his firearms instructor at the FBI proud. She ducked into the kitchen and, since she only had the one pillow, began throwing whatever safe objects she could grab: leftover marshmallows, a paper towel roll, a sponge, and finally a lone banana that had been minding its business on his kitchen counter.
"Whoa!" Spencer dodged the flying fruit. "Okay, that could have seriously hurt me!"
The battle paused just long enough for Hermione to give him a flat stare.
"...Nevermind." Spencer muttered, then yelped and held up a cushion to protect himself from the grapes she began lobbing at him like tiny reddish-purple grenades.
"I surrender! I surrender!" Spencer finally cried, waving a white paper towel over his head after he ran out of pillows. The grapes stopped flying, but Hermione was silent and didn't come out of the kitchen.
"Mya?" Spencer called out cautiously, creeping closer to the doorway before the silence began to concern him and he quickly stepped into the kitchen.
"Ha!" Hermione crowed triumphantly and pressed the trigger on the kitchen sink faucet sprayer she was aiming at him, dousing him with a surprisingly forceful spray of cold water.
Spencer let out a somewhat unmanly shout and tried to twist out of the way of the water, but Hermione only laughed evilly and followed him with the hose, calling out, "No mercy! All's fair in war! The British are coming!" She attempted a threatening step forward, but the hose attached to the sink pulled her up short and she was yanked off balance and lost her grip on the sprayer.
She laughed nervously up at her soaked, scowling boyfriend and held up her hands placatingly. "Um, I surrender?"
Spencer grinned. "No mercy!" And tackled her in a cold, wet hug. Hermione squealed and struggled, but Spencer held her captive with one long arm and used the other to grab the hose and turn the sprayer on her.
Hermione screamed and wriggled her way around to use Spencer as a human shield with him also twisting to try and keep up with her. Soon they were a hopelessly wet and tangled mess, the hose stretched beyond capacity and the water slowed to a weak trickle.
Spencer and Hermione blinked at each other before they fell apart laughing, in hysterical fits that trailed off before one of them started back off, setting the other off. It was a hopeless cycle that left them sitting on the kitchen floor, propped up against each other as they struggled to catch their breath.
Hermione sobered first, her giggles fading into a thoughtful silence. As Spencer regained control of his own mirth, she said, "I've never done this before."
"What, had a pillow fight that turned into a food fight that then turned into a water fight?" Spencer snorted. "You know, that's three things we can cross off our list." He grinned proudly. "...although, I'm not sure the food fight counts if only one side has the proper form of ammunition." He thought outloud.
"I think it counts." Hermione countered predictably, before addressing his original question. "And no, that's not what I meant, even if it's true that I've never done those specific things in that specific order either." She was quiet for a moment, seemingly trying to gather her thoughts into the proper words. Spencer sensed the somber shift in her mood and waited for her to speak in silence.
"I've never been… this sort of person," She said haltingly. "The sort of person who spends a whole day doing all sorts of ridiculous, spontaneous things like climbing trees and building forts and the like."
"I don't know if spontaneous is the right word." Spencer commented. "We did make a list. You made several." He grinned. Hermione didn't even respond to his teasing, still caught up in her train of thought.
"I said earlier today," She glanced at the wall clock, "Or rather, I said yesterday that you weren't the first boy who accused me of not being fun."
"Yeah." Spencer remembered, then sat up a bit straighter. "Which reminds me, you said something about 'tall boys with messy hair and pretty eyes' that I think we should talk about -"
"Oh, please. Not now, Spencer." Hermione shook her head, but she was smiling a little so Spencer took the win and let it go (for now). "What I'm getting at is… I've never gotten to be fun with someone. I've never really gotten to have fun, not for a long time… not until I met you." She said softly, and something began to shimmer inside of him. She sat up and turned to look into his eyes, and what he saw in hers made his breath stutter. "When I was a little girl, I was too smart and too serious for other children my age to enjoy my company. Despite my apparently insane imagination." She said dryly. Spencer managed a smile.
"It was very lonely, but I preferred my books and my solitude to conformity and bullying." She continued. Spencer's chest ached at the businesslike tone that did nothing to hide her old pain that he knew all too well. He would have given anything for someone who understood him as a kid, but he would also sacrifice everything to have kept her from the same fate.
"I told myself that I didn't need other people; that I didn't need fun." Hermione was saying. "I just wasn't meant to have fun, fun was for children who didn't know how to read and weren't very smart." Her lips twisted in self-deprecation. "It's a horrid thought to have, I know, but arrogance is the salve of the insecure." She sighed. "When I went to boarding school, I made friendships and gained memories that I will treasure forever, but… I still didn't get to have fun." Her beautiful brown eyes were dark and conflicted with admitting things she had never allowed herself to give voice to before. "I spent all those years at school being afraid for my friends, for my family. I spent so much time worrying over them, that I never got to relax. And even though I know Ron and Harry and my family love me for who I am, books and all, they thought that's all I was. They also seemed to think I wasn't meant to have fun, and they let me worry and mother them for years with constant complaint," She said with a shake of her head, "But no real effort to take any of that responsibility from me."
Spencer frowned, imagining Hermione's friends as people who only used her for her intellect, and Hermione seemed to sense his offense on her behalf and quickly spoke up, "I will never regret or resent for a single thing I did for them," She said fiercely, "I know they needed me to be that person. I'm quite sure they would have died without me." She said bluntly, but without conceit. "But they got so used to being taken care of, and I got so used to taking care of them, that… it wasn't until years later," Her voice grew distant and strained, "when I found myself in a job and a relationship and a life that had turned that sad, lonely little girl into a sad, lonely woman." Her shoulders trembled slightly but she soldiered on so bravely into her pain that the ache in Spencer's chest grew in response. "The whole world had changed, and I had helped it change." Spencer didn't know the context for her words but he thought he knew what she meant.
"But when it was all over, the bottom line is I hadn't changed at all." She said with a shift in her voice that Spencer knew meant she was coming to the end of her speech. "So… I left. I left my job, my friends; I left my whole life and came here to find not just a simpler existence, but a happier one. One where I could finally change and grow into the person I've always wanted to be. Not just the bookworm or the know-it-all or the mother hen, but someone who loves and lives and laughs loudly and often. Someone who is happy and herself." She said with blazing eyes and a bright smile, her words and entire being so full of emotion that Spencer could hardly believe how anyone could want her to be anything other than who she was right this moment, sitting on the hard tile with him, messy hair and wet clothes and with all her intellect and beauty and passion burning with a force that stole his breath and gave it back all at once.
Before he could attempt to put those feelings into words, she continued in a voice somehow stronger and softer than it was before. "Then I met you." She said eyes flickering down to where she had reached to take their hands, entwining their fingers and when she looked back up their eyes met at the exact time he felt her hands touch his. "And you…" She laughed, emotional and with trembling breaths, "Spencer, you make me so happy." She said, the words a fearsome caress. "But it's more than that, you make me more myself than I ever was before, and you don't even know everything about me!" She said, sounding as wonderfully disbelieving as he had ever felt in her presence. "You reflect every single part of me and show me how to be exactly who I've always wanted to be, and show me how to do it because I've found that person in you. Spencer…" His name a crescendo on her lips, "You are my joy."
Spencer felt those words crash against him and wash over him and he had never felt so intensely complete and also so unworthy at the same time. "Hermione." He began, not knowing how he could ever convey how he felt about her in such a way that could be even remotely adequate but knowing he had to try, "You… you're my joy too. I have a job I love, friends and family who love me, and I even have something like a purpose in life… a dangerous one. I have a dangerous life full of awful things and awful people, but someone has to do it and I know I can so I know I will." He said. "In some way, everyone in my life has been dangerous. I've also learned how to be less myself to be safe. At home, at work, in school, in the field… I've done what I had to do to survive. But Hermione, with you I feel like I have a life." He swallowed hard, but the next words that were the hardest he'd ever said came so easily when she was sitting there holding his hands, her heart laid bare before him. "You are quickly becoming my reason for everything, and it's kind of terrifying." They both laughed, brief and breathless. "It would be really cheesy and cliche to say 'you're my life' or, 'you're my reason to live' but it wouldn't be wrong." He said, his chest aching with the weight of his own words.
She took a shuddering breath, eyes full of something still left unsaid between them, but not unfelt.
Spencer continued, "Mya… Hermione. You deserve more than my awkward, stammering cliches," He gently squeezed her hands to stop her verbal protest, "So I will say this: you're not my reason to live, and you're not my life." He said, her face questioning but still open and soft. "I don't think anyone has ever understood me like you, Mya. They appreciate what I know and what I can do, when it gets the job done." He said without bitterness. "But when I'm not at work, even my friends and colleagues respond to me with eyerolls and dismissive headshakes, even if it's rooted in fondness." Hermione's face was awash with the empathy he had felt for her earlier.
"They joke about me being a robot, because teasing me is easier than trying to wrap their heads around how a human like me can exist." Spencer admitted, the words unearthing a hurt he had never allowed himself to feel until now.
Hermione's face was violent in its emotion. "Spencer Reid, you are more human than anyone I have ever met." She said with ferocity. "In fact, you are the best person I have ever met." She said, and her voice was such he could not help but believe her.
He smiled slightly. "Thank you." He acknowledged sincerely before continuing, "You're also the best person I've ever met, because you are just like me and you are so completely human. Your brain and your heart are the biggest and strongest I have ever encountered and they both are so you - you wouldn't be you if one was less than the other."
She beamed at those words and it bolstered his courage. His voice strengthened. "Ever since I first met you, I was so drawn to you. I was also kind of afraid of you, at first." He confessed to her immediate confusion. "I had listened to people call me a robot for so long I started to believe it." He admitted. "I hid from my feelings in facts and theories; I told myself it was for survival. But you were so bright, you shone a light right onto all the feelings I hadn't thought I had the right to feel. After all, why does a genius need feelings when he has an eidetic memory?" He scoffed, Hermione's heart breaking for him in her eyes. "But you looked right at me and it was like, 'of course you have a heart, of course you have feelings. Why wouldn't you?' and it was the first time anyone had treated me like that. Like I was a person, no footnotes or prefixes or suffixes. Just a person. You saw I had a brain and a heart... and - okay, this might also sound cliche and dramatic, but it was like you saw my soul, and now I finally believe I actually have one."
"Oh, Spencer." Hermione said lightly, as if she were reminding him of something simple he should never had forgotten. "You have always had a soul." Her face grew sharp with thought for a second before it relaxed in epiphany. " 'Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.'" She quoted.
"Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights." He supplied absently.
She nodded. "A dreadfully melodramatic book, but a cultural staple." She said. "I have always liked that particular quote, but never quite understood it until now. I too will not give you the cliche of saying we were 'made for each other' but I do think we were made the same. Made to be with each other, for however long we are." She smiled brightly at him. "We have both always had our souls, but I think only now are we seeing them for what they are, because we are seeing them in another."
And then, because there was nothing else that was needed to be said, Hermione kissed him once, brief but complete. Then she rested back against his side, hands entwined and hearts beating the same rhythm in different bodies.
After a period of time that was both endless and fleeting, Hermione looked at the clock again and lifted her head to look at Spencer and said,
"Let's take a drive."
"Once upon a time, there was a boy who lived in a house across the field from a girl. They made up a thousand games. She was queen and he was king. In the autumn light her hair shone like a crown. They collected the world in small handfuls, and when the sky grew dark, and they parted with leaves in their hair.
Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering."
-Nicole Krauss, The History of Love
Author's note: So, this was part one of Spencer and Hermione's Two Days Together. Hope you didn't get a heart attack from all the shameless romance. Fear not, angst will come!
Please review :) I've gotten some truly lovely guest reviews lately, so a thousand thanks to whomever sent those, but all of your kind words and suggestions have kept me going from the very beginning of this story, even though I know it's been a long road. We're not done yet! So thanks for sticking around, and keep speaking up! I treasure every word.