Title: The Ring
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Year: Post Season 10 (Summer 2015)
Tags: Angst, Men Should Just Talk,
Pairings: Aaron Hotchner/Spencer Reid, Past Spencer Reid/Maeve Donovan,
Spoilers: Up Through End of Season 10
Summary: Aaron found the ring one afternoon cleaning. It should have made him happy, it didn’t. It was too soon.
Notes: Beth ended earlier than show.
Aaron pulled opened Spencer’s sock drawer. Somehow one of the genius’s socks had gotten mixed up with Jack’s. His heart stopped at the sight of the jewelry box hidden in the corner as he laid the striped socks with the rest of the like socks. Spencer’s drawer might look like chaos but Aaron had learned long ago it wasn’t. He picked up the box and opened it. Inside was a beautiful ring. He expected it to be masculine but this was pretty gender neutral.
Shock flooded Aaron’s body. He hadn’t thought that they were anywhere near ready for that. Even if it was just an exchange of rings without an actual wedding. Aaron loved Spencer, he knew that but he wasn’t ready for that kind of commitment. They’d only been living together for a month. He put the ring box back where he had found it. Everything exactly the way it had been. He shut the drawer and left the bedroom.
When Spencer and Jack came back from a day out shopping, Aaron had dinner ready. Jack regaled him with stories of what he and Spencer did that day. His son didn’t notice how silent he was but the looks that Spencer gave him told Aaron that he noticed. He said nothing though.
Aaron didn’t want to admit that to Spencer though. They were happy and he didn’t want to lose that. He was truly happy for the first time in a while and he just wanted to hold onto that.
It was three months of nothing. Aaron watched as Spencer tried to get him to talk, tried everything but Aaron kept the distance. His lover stopped asking after a month what was wrong. Aaron wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or not. He didn’t know how to bridge that gap though. He didn’t want to bring up the ring but now they were both hurting so much and it was his fault.
Morgan and Spencer were in Mississippi doing a custodial. Aaron was taking the weekend to figure out what he wanted to do. Spencer hadn’t asked to marry him. The ring was never brought up. Spencer was practical. If he’d seen the ring out somewhere and liked it, he would have bought it, just to have it on hand. Having the ring didn’t mean that he was ready for that level of commitment either. Aaron felt so embarrassed for his reaction.
Aaron moved to the bedroom to look at it again. He opened the drawer and the ring box wasn’t there. He didn’t know what he thought about that. He stood there staring. If Spencer didn’t even have it on hand anymore, what had he done with it? Had he gotten rid of it, had Aaron pushed him that far? Or had he found a new hiding spot for it.
“Is that what this is all about?” Spencer asked from behind him. Aaron spun around. Spencer had his go bag in hand. He set it down and moved closer. “That ring?”
Aaron looked at him. He couldn’t lie, not now. “Yes.”
Pain blossomed all over Spencer’s face and Aaron’s stomach started to churn.
“I took that to my safety deposit box three months ago. I only had it here because I hadn’t had a chance to take it there after I found it in one of my boxes. We were so busy during that time and every day I had planned to get rid of it, we got called on cases.” Spencer took another step towards him. “I would never disrespect you like that.”
“Disrespect?” Aaron was lost. He didn’t understand what Spencer was talking about. How would asking him for that level of commitment be disrespectful to Aaron?
“I’d never keep the ring I bought for Maeve here.” Spencer’s voice cracked on the word ring.
Maeve? Aaron looked at the man he loved with new eyes. He remembered now the ring that Spencer had said he had gotten for her, during one of his visits to his place. He’d never told the rest of the team that he’d been allowed inside the apartment when they had been denied. That his calls were answered. Aaron had Haley’s ring set in the safe in the office. To give to Jack when he was old enough to think about marriage. Maeve’s ring didn’t need to be locked so far away.
It hit him all at once. Spencer thought that he was upset because he’d had Maeve’s ring in the house. Aaron felt like shit. Spencer was afraid of having anything in the house that reminded Aaron of Maeve. Haley was everywhere in the house. Spencer had never once brought that up. He put himself in Spencer’s shoes. Jack.
Jack was the reason that Spencer never said a thing. How could he bring up that he was upset by the pictures of Aaron’s dead ex-wife when the child of said dead woman was in the house. Spencer would even sit with Jack and talk about the times that Haley had gone out with the team. Spencer didn’t want memories of his father and it was understandable but Jack, Jack had lost his mother in a horrible manner, long before he’d be able to remember her without help.
“I’m sorry.” Aaron stepped up and cupped the side of Spencer’s face.
“Sorry? What do you have to be sorry about?” Spencer asked, his face a picture of confusion.
“Where are the letters from Maeve?” Aaron asked. He’d explain everything later.
“In the safety deposit box.” Spencer took a step back. “I just came to drop my stuff. Harolds was in a riot in the prison and so we had to come back. His jaw was broken. Morgan, Garcia, JJ, and I are going out for drinks.” He leaned in and kissed the side of Aaron’s face. “Don’t wait up for me.”
Then Spencer was gone from the room. He wanted to get mad. As Unit Chief he should have known about the change. Spencer though had called him twice and texted three times. Aaron had ignored them all, pushing away what he thought was personal. He moved to the living room where he’d left his phone. He picked it up and scrolled through the messages. All three were about Harolds. He listened to the voicemails. The end of the second one had Spencer telling him that he had plans with some of the team. That Spencer had told him about everything in person told Aaron that he knew that he hadn’t listened to the voicemails.
“Dad was that Spencer?” Jack asked as he came out of his bedroom. “I thought he was in Mississippi.”
“The interview had to be put off. He was just dropping all of his stuff off.”
“What’s wrong, dad?” Jack sat down on the arm of the couch and looked at him.
“Spencer and I are just going through a small rough patch. We’ll be fine. You don’t need to worry.”
“Do you remember a month ago, you went with Uncle Dave out for the day?” Jack looked around the room and then got up from the couch. He moved to the bookshelves of Spencer’s in the corner. Reaching behind a set of books on physics, he pulled out a sketch pad. Aaron was shocked. The small sketch pad he used was sitting on the kitchen table, open to a page with various Doctor Who characters on it. Why was this one hidden? “I saw him looking through this.”
Jack handed it over, open to the first page. It was a drawing of Diana Reid. The date was five years ago, days after he’d been shot in the leg. He flipped to the next page and it was Morgan, set a few months after the last. Instead of the weird drawings all of these were done perfectly. Captured like pictures. JJ with Henry was next. Aaron found a picture of Jack with Jessica and recognized the day. Jessica had taken Jack three years before to the zoo. Jack had made mention that he’d run into Spencer and Henry. He knew the shirt on Jessica because he’d bought the shirt for her in LA while on a case and it had been the only time she wore it as Jack had spilled his red slushie all over it and ruined it. Spencer had given her his light jacket to cover up the stain.
Maeve’s picture was next. It had to have been a creation of his mind as Spencer had only seen her in person the one time. Maeve was smiling and was sitting in a coffee shop. It was dated two months before Aaron had asked Spencer out on their first date. The next image was of Maeve, pregnant. There were more. The book was filled up with images of a life with Maeve. The last one of her, a drawing of the casket from Maeve’s funeral was dated for the day that Spencer had told Aaron he loved him. The next drawing was Aaron, asleep in bed, curled on his side with his arm thrown over a pillow that was tucked to his side.
The rest of the book was filled with drawings of Aaron and Jack or of Aaron or Jack. Instead of made up things, it was all things they had done together. As a family. Aaron flipped back to the image of Maeve, the first one and ripped it out. He was careful and he was gentle. He looked up at Jack.
“Want to go on a few errands with me?”
It was late when Spencer came home. Aaron was in the kitchen. He didn’t want for it to seem like he was waiting to jump him. The only sound was the disarming and rearming of the alarm. That told Aaron that while he’d gone out, he hadn’t drank much at all. His lover rarely drank, except for wine. The thud of messenger bag on the side table and then soft padding feet towards the bedroom. Aaron didn’t move but he watched as Spencer stopped and turned towards him.
“I said you didn’t have to wait up for me.” Spencer’s body was tense, Aaron could see it in his lines.
“I waited up because we need to talk.”
“Can’t it wait until morning, Hotch?” Spencer asked. He leaned against the doorway into the kitchen.
“No, because I can’t let you go to sleep thinking what you are thinking.” Aaron had caught the use of his work name. He just wasn’t going to bring it up, yet.
“And what am I thinking?” Spencer’s face went blank.
“I found the ring because a sock of yours was in Jack’s clothes. Stuck in the pant of a leg. I didn’t put it together that it was Maeve’s ring.”
“Then why did you pull away? I only had the ring in that drawer for two weeks. Days before I took it to the bank was when you started to act weird. If you didn’t…” Spencer stopped talking and his eyes widened. “You thought that I…Oh my. Aaron, no.”
Spencer moved over and dropped to his knees in front of where Aaron was sitting. “I bought that ring for Maeve but it was going to be a long while before I gave it to her. I was shopping around for books one day and the ring had caught my eye. It was at one of those flea market places. It was a family ring that no one wanted. It was pretty and it reminded me of her. I should have realized.” Spencer reached up and ran his knuckles down Aaron’s cheek. “Why didn’t you just say something? Why did you pull away?”
“I don’t know. I was just so shocked and I didn’t know what I felt at that moment. I was trying to figure out my own head and I pushed you away. That brings me to what I actually want to talk about. You’ve never once said a thing about everything of Haley’s in the house and I know that you are not jealous and I know that you don’t mind to talk to Jack about her. Why do you think that I would care that you have Maeve’s ring here in the house?”
Spencer looked at him like he was insane. “No one likes reminders of past relationships. Haley and you were over before she died. You reeled from it but it was done. Maeve and I were…”
Aaron covered Spencer’s mouth with his hand. “I do not feel threatened by Maeve. I did something after I got home that could be seen a major invasion of your privacy. You gave me the secondary key to your safety deposit box and I went there and got Maeve’s things. I put the ring where I have Haley’s set. It doesn’t need to be hidden away. The letters are at our bedside. The Narrative of John Smith is with the rest of the books in the bedroom. Maeve is a big part of your past, just like Haley is mine.”
“I…” Spencer closed his mouth and leaned forward to drop his head on Aaron’s chest.
“That’s not what I was talking about. Jack saw your sketchbook you had hidden in the living room. He showed it to me.” Aaron cupped the back of his head and felt the younger man jerk. He moved his fingers through the hair there. “I have pictures of Haley with Jack up to help him remember his mother. I know that you don’t need a picture of Maeve to remember her but Jack needs to know about her. Haley promised me that I would make sure he knows what love is. You loved Maeve. It wasn’t a conventional relationship but it was one. He needs to know that love comes in all shapes, sizes, and circumstances. You had a sketch of Maeve in there, in a coffee shop. I got it framed.”
“Aaron?” Spencer asked as he leaned up until he could see Aaron’s face. He looked around and then stood up so fast it kind of spun his head. He followed his lover to the other room and found him staring at the now hung up sketch of Maeve. There was enough moonlight coming in that no light needed to be turned on.
“Our past is what defines us and if we forget it, we will repeat it. I want you to be my last. Beth showed me what I was doing wrong. I may not be ready for the commitment of a ring but I don’t want a life without you. I’m sorry I pushed you away. Thank you for not leaving me. You held on longer than most would have.”
Spencer turned to look at him with a smile on his face. “You still kissed me. I could feel how much you loved me when we made love. You touched me the same. I could tell whatever it was you needed to work through on your own. I watched you more and you stared at me. I never thought it was about the ring until I saw you staring inside my sock drawer. I’m sorry I left I just…I needed space and I didn’t want to leave JJ, Morgan, and Garcia hanging.”
Stepping closer, Spencer leaned in and kissed him in a way he’d never kissed him before. He felt cherished and loved and it was heaven. He wanted to sink into the kiss and never come out. He could feel all the words that he’d rarely heard from his lover’s mouth. “I love you, Aaron Hotchner. I want you to be my last as well.”
Aaron fell asleep, hours later, wrapped around Spencer. Feeling safe and loved and his life felt perfect for the first time in a very long time.