by Skinner Box
Spoilers/Timeline: pre X-Files
Disclaimer: The X-files and these characters belong to Chris Carter and Fox Broadcasting. I play with them out of love and for no profit.
Summary: Jeffrey as an undergrad at the University of Virginia. A background story to the 'Leedsville,' Spender/Krycek stories.
Warning: Gen, as in no actual Slash content. No het content either. Math content.
Notes: Thanks to drovar and the fine folks of the Spenderfic List, and as always, to Meir, who actually took math classes.
Archive: please ask first.
by Skinner Box
Ted pushed his chair away from his overloaded desk and gave his torso a vigorous twist, left then right. The aged desk chair creaked alarmingly but his vertebrae rewarded him with a series of satisfying pops. 2:05, give or take. His next advisee was due in ten minutes.
Time to put the coffee on. He filled the carafe at the fountain down the hall and poured carefully into the top of the Mr. Coffee balanced on a milkcrate next to the precariously stuffed UVA standard issue metal bookcase. A transplanted Detrioter, Ted did his best to marry Southern hospitality to his more straightforward Midwestern ways. In other words, he offered coffee and cookies when his math majors came in for advisement. And with this next kid they were both going to need it.
A damn shame. Not enough serious students in math these days. Damn few with the stamina, smarts, and essential enthusiasm to go on for advanced study. Tough just filling seats with bodies beyond multivariate calculus. It hurt like hell to have to tell any of them to get out of Dodge- even for his own good.
Ted's door was open, it was a scheduled pre-registration appointment, and Jeffrey-not-Jeff Spender's knock on the doorframe was still hesitant, deferential, as if he might be interrupting the man he persisted in calling Dr. Nugent at something vitally important.
"Come on in, Jeffrey, sit." Ted indicated the folding chair by the desk, specially unfolded for each visitor, scheduled or unscheduled. "Black coffee, right? Have a cookie- don't worry, I didn't bake 'em." The gawky junior smiled weakly at his attempt at a joke, and had a cookie. This was going to be hell.
Ted bought time hunting around for paperwork he usually had ready for his advisees, poking through folders and drawers. Odd duck, this Jeffrey. Part Black, though he didn't really look it, apparently raised by his Afro-American aunts and uncles in South Carolina. At least they were the ones he mentioned when talk of grades and vacations and the reason for taking pre-law coursework along with a demanding schedule of general reqs and upper level math came up. A few offhand references to his mother, with the kind of weary affection Ted often heard creep into his own voice when speaking of his teenaged sons. Dad seemed to be long gone, if he'd ever been there in the first place. Unless he was the one behind the phone calls. Ted suppressed a shudder.
He produced the necessary forms with a flourish and plunked himself down across from his charge. Jeffrey found an empty piece of floor for his cup and pulled a neatly printed list from the binder on his lap. "Here's what I was thinking of, Dr. Nugent," he said in his oddly accentless voice.
Ted scanned the list, cleared his throat. "Um. Jeffrey. There's some thoughtful choices here, but before we look at courses for the fall I think we should discuss your," how the hell had he decided to put it? "your overall plans for the future."
The boy's eyes widened. "Grad school, of course," he said, not quite as softly as usual. "I'm really thinking algebraic geometry is the way I want to go. Dr. Chang said she thinks with my grades, and getting to give that paper at the Arbeitstagung I might have a shot at Princeton." His eyes were bright, the paper-bag plain face lit with the grin of true love.
God, Ted wanted to tell the kid to go for it, grab at the dream with both sweaty hands. Embrace a future of cramped offices and Precal classes full of inattentive English majors, but with the glorious dance of mathematics filling his head and his heart and the chance to add a few measures that were truly his own. How could he do this to the kid? Ted looked at the picture of Ellen with Stevie and Ron on his desk. How could he not?
"Um. That may not be in the cards, Jeffrey." Brief astonishment flashed across his student's face, replaced all to quickly with the beginnings of- no twenty year old kid could wear a look of resignation with that much familiarity. Ted felt lower than low.
"Look, Jeffrey. Very few people are cut out to theorize in math. You've got excellent skills and a fine mind- Dr. Chang sees that, and the folks at Max Planck did too." Something in Jeffrey's eyes was starting to look as old as Ted felt.
"Are you saying I can't do it?" his student asked, maybe a touch of steel to the soft voice.
"I'm your advisor. It's my job to help you. You've got a good mathematical mind, and it's obvious you love the subject... but I think you're setting yourself up for heartbreak if you try to go into pure math." Ted raised a hand to still the incipient protest. "You have a future in math, Jeffrey. In applied mathematics you could go as far as you wanted. I've been looking around. A... colleague passed some information on to me about a field I think you should consider." Ted pulled the packet he'd been sent-anonymously- out of its folder.
"The FBI?" The poor kid said it like he'd suggested zookeeping.
"Why not, Jeffrey? It's not all cops and robbers." He indicated the papers between them. "This is material on the ISD, the," he checked a pamphlet, "Investigative Services Division. They do statistical analysis of crime trends, come up with algorithms to predict future criminal activity. It's not just number crunching- and you'd be helping people. My, my friend thinks you'd be outstanding."
The boy gave him a dubious look, his brows crunching together almost exactly like Stevie's did when faced with less than welcome options. The comparison stung. But the caller had threatened 'young Spender,' too, if only vaguely. "What are your plans for the summer, Jeffrey?"
Ted said it gently, but his student's look was wary. "I've applied for funding to go back to Bonn for the Arbeitstagung in June. Other than that, I'll be back in Columbia. Work in my uncle's office, save up for school."
Ted pulled the material on the FBI internships from the stack. "I think you should consider this. It's called the FBI Honors Internship. It runs from June through August, and the interns actually spend their time working on criminal investigations in their particular unit or division. It's quite competitive to get in, but with your grades and skills... and..." Another delicate question, "are you considered Black? For affirmative action purposes- I gather they're looking to increase minority participation in the program."
Jeffrey shook his head. "I'm not sure. I... don't think so, it's only my one set of great grandparents. I know it counted for Jim Crow and voting laws back in the sixties, but we lived in California so... I don't know." If anything, the question seemed to have upset him more. At least he hadn't taken offense.
"Tell you what, Jeffrey," Ted gathered the papers back together. "Take these with you. Read them over, then call your family. They seem like a real source of support for you." And they made him take pre-law classes. With any luck they'd see FBI statistician as a compromise between practicality and their nephew's love of math. He handed the bundle into his student's shaky hands. God help them both, his own were less than steady. Ted grabbed a gulp of nearly cold coffee.
"Let's look at your course selections. I'd really recommend Stochastic Processes with Hain."
Archived: June 03, 2001