Title: Definition of Love
Fandom: Criminal Minds,
Year: Season 8/9
Category: Soulmates, Trope Bingo, First Time,
Pairings: Aaron Hotchner/Spencer Reid, Maeve Donovan/Spencer Reid, JJ Jareau/Will LaMontagne, Alex Blake/James Blake, Derek Morgan/Penelope Garcia,
Spoilers: Up Through Season 9
Summary: Spencer always knew that his two soulmates would define him. He was just not sure when he was going to meet them. When his first is taken away before he could even touch her, he tries his hardest to never find his second.
Warnings: Canon Character Death,
The two soulmarks on Spencer Reid’s wrists marked him as different. It was like he needed something else to mark him as different, everything else in his life was different, and why would his soulmates be any different. He was one of the unlucky ones whose marks were on their wrists and not their inner arms. There was no way to hide them unless he wore long sleeves all the time. By the time he’d been on the BAU team a year he’d figured out a way to cover them with makeup that stayed at least most of the day so he could wear short sleeves when he wanted.
The first and brightest mark was on the inside of his left wrist. It was full of color and beautiful in the shape of a faerie. As he grew up the mark became brighter and brighter with each year. Spencer remembered his college years of falling asleep looking at the mark.
The second mark was faded. It had bothered him for most of his childhood but he’d long since stopped wondering about it. It was so faded that unless one was looking for it, no one ever noticed it. It wasn’t monochromatic like the marks that said that his second soulmate wasn’t born yet. No, this was full color. He could tell that the rose when it bloomed was going to be a deep red color. He never asked about the mark and why it was different. He didn’t want to draw attention to the fact that he was different.
He never thought that the reason his mark was faded was because his first soulmate was destined to die. He could have lived without ever knowing that. It wasn’t until he’d started talking to Maeve that his mark started to get even brighter but it stopped at a pastel shade.
When the blindfold was ripped from his face and he looked at Maeve for the first time, he felt the surge of heat on his soulmark. The faerie was so warm that it was almost a burn. He was so overcome with the burn that he was barely paying attention to Diane as she kissed him. Before he could do anything, Maeve was being held in Diane’s arms and Spencer watched as the mark on the side of her neck became a full mark. The burn on his wrist stopped the second that the gun went off and he watched as they fell.
The pain burned across his wrist anew as he fell to his knees. He didn’t raise his arm to look. He knew what the pain meant. His team tried to talk to him but he never responded. The pain in his arm from where he was shot didn’t faze him. He didn’t want to see what the mark looked like in full bloom. He didn’t want to know what he would never be able to see again. He didn’t want that memory.
The only thing he felt was the breaking of his heart and the pain in his wrist. It meant that he’d lost one of his soulmates. He wanted to make sure he never met the second. He couldn’t take the pain a second time.
Aaron watched the team interact at dinner. It was their second case without Reid, following the death of Maeve. He’d insisted on the team dinner when he’d noticed how JJ was acting. She seemed out of sorts and he hoped that the dinner would help. He wasn’t prepared for her remarks though as dinner was winding down.
“Did you guys know that Spence has two soulmarks?” JJ asked.
Everyone paused what they were doing and looked up at her. No one had ever gotten a good look at his soulmark, the one they knew he had much less a second one. Aaron had seen one briefly after Georgia. He’d made a point of seeing it. When he’d hugged the younger man in the graveyard his own mark had heated up but the faerie on the genius’s wrist hadn’t showed a single bit of becoming bloomed. That there was another mark on his body was a shock. Aaron’s own mark was still faded. He didn’t need to remove his watch to know that.
“Two?” Morgan asked.
“So someone else lost Maeve as well? Oh, God. How horrible.” Blake sounded broke in that statement.
“No. Maeve only had a single soulmark on her body. It was in the report. I…” JJ looked ashamed for a second. “He showed them to me after Emily’s ‘death’. The one for Maeve was a green faerie. It was beautiful. The other one is a rose but it’s faded.”
Aaron felt his heart break a little. He knew that feeling well. To know that your mate wasn’t born yet.
“NO! Not faded like the person isn’t born yet. It was different than that. He said it had been that way his whole life. It has color.”
Aaron rubbed at his own mark on his inner arm. His had been faded like that his whole life and when he’d been younger he believed that it meant something great was going to happen. Before Haley he’d never looked into why his wasn’t black like it should have been. Before the death of Haley he didn’t know what a faded, colored soulmark meant. He hadn’t looked at his mark in years. He had made a point of it. Everyone at the table was touching their own marks. Aaron and Dave were the only ones who hadn’t ever found their mate. Aaron gave into the small whisper of temptation and looked down at his wrist. He removed his watch and looked. What had been a faded, green infinity symbol was now vibrant. Dave leaned over and looked at the symbol, smiling. Dave had known about the symbol.
“When was the last time…”
“That I really remember looking at it? After Haley died. It was still faded then. Three years. It’s been three years.”
“What’s going on?” Morgan asked, his question had JJ and Blake looking at him.
“Aaron’s soulmark has finally unfaded itself. Problem is, it’s been nearly three years since he’s looked at it.”
No one at the table knew what to say to that. Most of them were taking it that his soulmate had been born in the past three years but he knew the truth of it. Somewhere out there was someone who in the past three years had lost their first soulmate and was searching for their second or not searching for their second. He’d loved Haley with all he was and he loved another but now he didn’t think that Reid would ever look at anyone again. Especially him. He’d lost his chance at the genius before he’d ever really gotten a chance at him.
The loss of Maeve was falling on him hard. If his second mark had bloomed, well that meant that he was always destined to lose Maeve and what kind of world was that?
Reid’s voice had been something that Aaron had longed to hear over the two weeks he’d been gone but he wanted to hear it over the phone. With Reid safely in his apartment grieving like he should have been. Not in the middle of a police station. JJ was the first to start moving. She pulled him into her arms and hugged him. The rest of the team hovered while Aaron talked.
When the UnSub had been narrowed down, Reid accepted a pat on the back from Dave but with his cardigan on there was no chance of the older man touching him. Yet he kept back from Aaron and Dave the rest of the time. The rest of the team was bonded.
For two months after, Aaron watched him. He’d always waved over shaking hands but this was worse. He was hypervigilant about everything around him. The only time he was settled was when he was alone with people who were bonded. It wasn’t a way for him to live.
So Aaron went out of his comfort zone and invited him out to a late dinner after working late one night. At first it seemed that he was going to turn it down but when his stomach growled, Aaron just raised an eyebrow and the younger man agreed to the meal.
Getting Reid to talk about a subject that wasn’t work related was fairly easy and Aaron was surprised when the topic turned to fiction books with the delivery of dessert. A long discussion on Grisham books at that. When Reid rubbed at his eyes, Aaron started to worry. He hadn’t done that in a while.
“The headaches aren’t back are they?”
Reid looked at him in shock. “No. I’m just tired. Filling my belly seems to have made me sleepy.” Reid did look tired.
“It usually does.” Aaron smiled at him. It was a quirk that the whole team found rather endearing. “I’ll drive you home.”
“You don’t have to. I can catch a bus.” His words were punctuated with a yawn. There was no way that Aaron was going to let him catch a bus. If he did, they’d be helping him catch whoever beat him up or mugged him.
“I’m driving you home or you are coming with me. If you get on that bus, you’ll pass out.” Aaron knew he would. The genius did it on the jet and in the SUV if not stimulated enough when tired. “I mean it.”
“I live across town from here. I know you have to get home to Jack.”
“Then you better come home with me.” It was Friday night and his team was supposed to be off rotation. If he got Reid home with him, he’d be able to get Jack to help keep him there. The whole team knew he wasn’t getting enough sleep. When it looked like Reid was going to fight him, Aaron pulled out a guilt trip. “The quickest way to get me home to Jack is for you to come with me.”
Reid stared at him up until the waitress brought the bill. The genius snagged it quickly and handed his card over to the waitress. Aaron let him pay. He didn’t fight it or even grab for his wallet.
“You brought a go bag with you.” Aaron pointed out as they stood when the waitress brought back the slip for Reid to sign.
“Dirty clothes from my locker and spare go bags. There isn’t a single thing clean in there except socks. You want me to run around in socks?”
If those words had come out of anyone else’s mouth, Aaron would have taken them for a come-on. The genius wasn’t even blushing so he hadn’t realized how his words would sound.
“You can wash them at mine. I have a washer and a dryer that work.” That got a small smile out of the younger man.
“Are you sure, Hotch?”
Putting his car in park, Aaron looked at the sleeping man in the seat beside him. Reid had fallen asleep within two minutes of buckling his belt. Aaron got out of the car, grabbing both bags from the backseat and hurrying over to the elevator to set them inside. He hit the hold button to keep the doors open and the car from going. Then it was back to the car, as soon as he opened the passenger door, Reid was awaking blinking up at him.
“Come one, sleepy head.”
Reid smiled at him as he pulled himself from the car seat. It was a smile that Aaron had never seen before. It reminded him why he loved the man in front of him. After Haley, he’d not wanted to love anyone else but Reid had slipped under his skin.
“Where’s my bag?” Reid asked as he slung his messenger bag over his shoulder and looked into the backseat.
“I’ve got it in the elevator. Come on.” Aaron reached out and grasped the younger man’s elbow to help keep him steady. He was slightly shocked when it was allowed and Reid didn’t jerk his arm free. It took little prodding to get the genius moving.
Jessica met them at the door, shock on her face. Reid leaned into her instantly when Aaron gently pushed him into the apartment. It was known on the team that Jessica’s mate had died when she had been twenty. She helped Reid onto the couch, helping him lay down. When she had him covered, she followed Aaron to the kitchen.
“He’s not been sleeping well since Maeve and well, we ate dinner and he passed out in the car.”
“Is he going to stay the weekend?”
“If I can get him to.”
“Jack will like the company.”
“I’m prepared to use him to get Reid to stay,” Aaron admitted.
“Aaron,” Jessica said as she stepped closer to him. “I’ve watched you. I see sides of you that you don’t let others see. You need to tell him.”
“I know.” Yet again Jessica showed she knew him better than others. Dave was the only one who knew him that well but Dave didn’t know about Reid.
Reid stayed the weekend, only once bringing up going home before Sunday night. The crestfallen look on Jack’s face had been enough to stop him. After a month, Aaron had seen a bracelet at a fair with Jack that had all kinds of mathematical symbols on it. It looked wide enough to cover the genius’s mark and Aaron bought it. There was no metal on it which he knew could bother the genius. He bought it and had Jack give it to him. The younger man had put it on as soon as he could and sighed in relief at the mark being covered up. Aaron’s heart swelled at that but he made sure that Reid saw none of it.
Three months passed with Spencer coming over every weekend because he was Jack’s new favorite thing in the world. Aaron had been shocked when he realized that in his mind he was Spencer and not Reid anymore. There were no fights about it either. Spencer just waited until it was time to pick up Jack. The guest room had a dresser that was full of several outfits of Spencer’s. It was normal. It was routine.
The first touch of skin on skin was an accident. Aaron had been reaching for a wooden spoon to stir the chili at the same time that Spencer had been reaching for something else in the utensil holder. Aaron jerked his hand back but the younger man hadn’t noticed at all. There was no flash of fire. No connection. Aaron was upset but happy. It took Spencer five minutes to realize what happened. He turned and looked at Aaron until he felt his eyes on him.
Aaron watched as he reached out again, fingers trailing down from Aaron’s elbow to where his shirt cuff was rolled up to expose his forearms. Nimble fingers closed around his wrist and Spencer’s face lit up. He rode a high all night from that. Aaron wanted to feel really upset that they weren’t soulmates. That they weren’t perfect for each other but as the night wore on, Spencer had relaxed so much that it wasn’t odd for them to touch at all.
It was another month before anything else changed. Jessica was taking Jack out to a farm early on a Saturday morning so the Friday night routine stayed in place just without Jack. The week had been a catch up week. All cases went to other teams and consults were done by Aaron and his team as well at getting caught up on any and everything they needed to do. Dinner was take away from the Thai place near Spencer’s and a bottle of wine. They rarely drank anything more than a single beer when Jack was there. Neither man was drunk from the half a bottle of wine but inhibitions were lowered.
The first kiss happened because while they were playing chess, Spencer kept biting at his lower lip. He’d feel horrible later, but he grabbed thin wrists and then Aaron was hauling the younger man over the chessboard, knocking pieces everywhere, then into his lap. Protests died on Spencer’s lips when Aaron pulled him into a kiss. It was hot and heavy and Aaron was right on the edge within moments. He let go of wrists and instead gripped hips, thrusting up into the body above him. Spencer moaned in his mouth as their tongues tangled.
Time lost all meaning as more and more skin was revealed. As a pair, they stumbled into the bedroom and then Aaron was pressing a naked Spencer down onto the bed. It was a blur after that up until the moment he slid inside of Spencer’s warm heat. He felt better than Haley ever had. For a first time between two people it lasted longer than Aaron thought it would. Spencer’s hands were all over him and his hips thrust onto Aaron, matching Aaron’s own. The genius came first with Aaron following just a few thrusts later.
While Aaron was catching his breath, Spencer padded to the bathroom naked and cleaned up, bringing a wet rag back for Aaron and cleaning him up as well. It was then that Aaron realized that he hadn’t used a condom.
“Spencer, I’m sorry.” Aaron forced Spencer to look at him.
“You don’t have to be. I’ve not had sex since before getting shot in the knee and since the doctor had another patient’s blood on his hand while treating me; I was given a full spectrum run for all kinds of blood borne diseases. You would have never not used a condom if you thought that you might be carrying something. You trusted me to tell you if I even thought I was carrying something.” Spencer shoved him back onto the bed, grabbing the shoved off the bed blankets and covering them up. He settled with his head on Aaron’s chest, face tucked almost in his neck. Nothing was said. Nothing needed said. It was perfect.
Aaron waited for Spencer to fall asleep, his hand trailing up and down naked skin under the blanket. Spencer seemed to want to touch as much skin as he could. When Aaron drifted off to sleep, he could feel the smile on his face. He was happier than he’d been in a long time.
Aaron knew the other shoe had to fall. Happiness seemed to be something that he had to lack in his life. The team had been called to a case in Vermont. Five dead before they were called in but since victims three, four, and five were found at the same time, Aaron felt that the cops had done all they could about the first two. When they found the last three, they knew they were in over their heads.
After a week and no new bodies, no leads, and a team that was frustrated, Aaron sent Spencer to re-interview the man who had found the second victim. There was something that the genius just couldn’t let go from JJ and Morgan’s interview of him. Blake, Dave, and JJ were at the hotel sleeping after being awake all night so Aaron sent Spencer with a LEO.
The hum of the station was interrupted with a radio blasting about shots fired and officer down. Aaron’s heart froze when he heard the address given. He looked right at Morgan who knew. Morgan’s phone was in hand, calling JJ as Aaron tore out of the station. The officer calling it in was the one that Aaron had sent out so officer down could only mean Spencer. He’d got three happy months with him.
Dave, Blake, and JJ pulled up to the house at nearly the same time. Vests strapped on. Aaron was pulling his on as he exited the SUV. The ambulance pulled up just seconds later but Aaron didn’t care. He made his way to the house with the team on his heels.
“In here!” Spencer’s voice called from the kitchen and Aaron turned that way, gun drawn. He didn’t know what to expect but to see Spencer holding pressure on a bleeding man while the officer did the same for another wasn’t it. Both downed men were in suits but the badges at their waist showed them to be detectives. Something tickled at the back of his mind at that. “I need a towel.”
Morgan was first to start ripping open drawers with Blake on his heels. Blake found a drawer of tea towels first and pulled out several. When Spencer lifted his hands for the two seconds it took to slip the towel in place, Aaron saw that the man wasn’t clotting.
“UnSub is dead in the basement. Three to the chest. We dragged the detectives up after I killed the UnSub. I wasn’t aware it was him until I realized they weren’t clotting. Going to need lanterns. There are no working lights down there. Officer Heath is uninjured but I sustained a knife wound to my right inside wrist. It clotted fine so I don’t think that’s an issue. Officer Heath could only pull off long enough to send out that call. I’m sorry that you guys were worried but…”
“The detective lives are more important.” Aaron dropped down and covered Spencer’s hands with his own. When Spencer nodded, Aaron pressed down and then the genius’s hands were gone. As they pulled away, Aaron saw that his bracelet wasn’t on his wrist and his mark had bloomed. He looked down at the detective. Was this man his soulmate?
Aaron looked up at him and Spencer’s eyes were on Aaron. He looked down at the detective for a few seconds before he shook his head.
When Spencer spoke his voice was soft. There was so much activity that Aaron didn’t think that anyone would hear him. “It was bloomed before. I sustained the wound while fighting the UnSub. The bracelet’s in my pocket. I don’t…I’ve had it for a while.” Spencer wiped his hands on a towel and then leaned over and removed Aaron’s watch from his wrist. His mark had bloomed as well. Spencer’s thumb pressed on the mark and pure heat shot through his body. The younger man rose to his feet, slipping Hotch’s watch into his pocket as the medics arrived. Aaron looked out and saw that Morgan had swapped places with Officer Heath. Spencer was talking to the medics, telling them about the blood thinner used on the previous victims; stating the name of it and the anti-clotting drug and then going into interactions between the two. As the first medic dropped beside Aaron, Spencer was detailing how much rohypnol he estimated the detectives had been given based on size as well as the dosage found in the other victims.
An hour later, Aaron was walking into the ER room where the team was gathered as Spencer finally submitted to having his wrist taken care of. The doctor was peeling the wrapped towel from his wrist just as Aaron was fully in the room. The gasp from JJ had everyone looking at his wrist. Aaron thought that it was going to look bad. He’d been so focused on the mark that he hadn’t looked at the wound but the cut wasn’t that bad. It would need a few stitches but it wasn’t anything to worry about.
“Reid, when did you…how…” Morgan stopped when he saw Aaron out of the corner of his eye. He’d changed out of his blood soaked clothes and had been allowed a shower in the facilities of the hospital. Morgan was fresh from a shower as well. Thankfully, his go bag had been in the SUV as they had to switch hotels due to room issues. He had a dress shirt and pants. Spencer was in a pair of light blue scrubs. He’d been allowed a rag wash, Aaron knew from the text from him. He wouldn’t be allowed to shower until after his wrist was looked at.
“I noticed it when my bracelet was ripped off by the knife when the UnSub cut me. I…I’ve made sure not to touch anyone in a while.” Spencer snuck a look at Aaron and that’s when Aaron realized that everyone would be able to see his mark as well. Lying beside Spencer on the bed was the bracelet and Aaron’s watch. Stepping up to the bed, Aaron grabbed the watch and instead of putting it on his left wrist as he’d wore it for years, not being able to take looking at his mark, he put it on his right wrist. That drew Dave’s gaze and his eyes widened at the now full mark on his left wrist.
The doctor was ignoring all the noise around him as he cleaned the wound and then looked up at Spencer. “This is really deep in one part.”
“It nicked the bone, I know. No pain medicine.”
“Doctor Reid, I need to do internal stitches on this and I recommend pain as well as numbing.”
“Numbing I’ll take.”
“I’m his medical power of attorney and I agree. No pain medication. He’ll be fine.”
The doctor huffed but did as asked. Aaron slipped down on the gurney to sit on the side the doctor wasn’t on and reached out, taking his uninjured hand in his own. Spencer turned the grip to where he could clutch at his arm as the doctor started to stitch it up.
Aaron didn’t need to say anything. Spencer locked their eyes together as Aaron laid a hand over Spencer’s and squeezed when he’d feel the younger man twitch. He knew that the numbing had to be working but the internal stitches still hurt when the wound was bone deep. The team was silent and Aaron was sure that it was just because of where they were and the shock. As soon as they were alone, it was going to be different.
“It was the two detectives that the Chief thought had gone AWOL to get married. Evidence that they had been held since reported AWOL. What made the UnSub keep them for longer than the other man?” Dave asked.
Spencer pulled his eyes away from Aaron to look at the older man. “They were chained to the wall. Still in the clothes they had been stated as last wearing when they left their shift two weeks ago. Unless more buried victims are found, I would posit that they were the first taken and whatever they were doing the UnSub was trying to recreate. We won’t know anything until they are awake. Doctors think that they will make a full recovery and other than a little malnutrition, they seem to be fine.” A painful squeeze on Aaron’s wrist had him pulling on Spencer’s fingers until he was touching the mark on his wrist. The flare was there again but this time less but he could tell that it helped to settle Spencer. There was no way that the others didn’t see it. It wasn’t hard to distract the genius with talk of the case while the doctor finished up.
When the wrist was wrapped, the doctor left muttering about obstinate people but the team ignored him. Dave followed him and shut the door. Aaron pulled the now wrapped in gauze wrist towards him and snuck his thumb underneath, far away from the wound and brushed over the mark. Calmness settled over Spencer as soon as he touched it.
“What happened?” Blake asked.
“Officer Heath was in the living room. I went into the kitchen with the UnSub. He was offering me a cup of coffee and I went in to put the sugar in. He was out of coffee so he went into the basement. I heard something weird so I followed, afraid he’d hurt himself since there were no lights then I saw the two men. The UnSub turned and I shouted out as the knife came at me. He got my wrist but was able to get my gun out with my left hand and put three in him, center mass. Heath helped me get the chained men upstairs. What I’d heard was him stabbing the detectives. When we saw the badges he radioed in and that’s when I realized that they weren’t clotting. There wasn’t time to do anything but put pressure on the wounds and hope the call of officer down would get backup and medics there quickly.”
“How long?” Morgan asked.
“How long what?” Spencer asked, looking up at him. Aaron wanted to laugh. The genius’s mind was on the case and he wasn’t even thinking personal at all. Morgan just looked at Aaron and then down at their tangled hands and wrists. “Oh. I…Three months but…the first time we touched, this didn’t…there was no pain, no acknowledgement that we were soulmates. I didn’t even notice it until I saw my bracelet falling off. Aaron’s the only person though that isn’t bonded I’ve touched since Maeve and…” Spencer trailed off his cheeks heating up, looking at Aaron’s thumb under the bandage. They all knew what he meant with that.
Aaron could feel the pleasant buzz that he’d always been told was what it was like to touch of mark of one’s mate.
“But you two have touched over the years,” JJ pointed out.
“I was always meant to lose Maeve. I’ve been thinking. Aaron’s mark had to have unfaded when she died. That’s when I became his. That’s when we became each others.”
“What are you going to tell Cruz?”
“The abbreviated truth. That we didn’t realize until tonight. Our prior relationship won’t really matter. All it would do is cause issues. Of course that also means that he’ll probably handle all of Spencer’s performance evaluations or pawn them off on Dave.”
That got a small chuckle out of the team. Aaron released Spencer’s wrist and then stood up. He knew that Morgan and JJ wanted to talk to his lover alone. He was going to give them that. He was shocked when Dave and Blake followed.
“So…how long exactly has this whole thing been going on? I believe that Reid told us three months but…”
“I’ve been bringing him around to mine on the weekends for eight months now. He wasn’t lying. It turned sexual three months ago. His mental space eight months ago was not a good place to be. I couldn’t leave him alone and being around Jack helped. I could tell that after the first weekend. Jack wanted nothing more than what he could give and I think that it helped more than anything else. I stayed back unless he asked for me to join in whatever they were doing. Of course, there were nights where he was the designated bedtime reader. Jack still finds it fascinating that he can read a book from his brain.”
“He’s not going to have a problem with Reid being your mate when Haley wasn’t?”
“No. He…he saw Maeve’s mark on Spencer’s wrist on his second weekend over. Jack was hanging on every word about the different ways that marks are seen and made visible. He showed Jack his second mark. How it was vibrant but not bloomed. How that meant his mate was alive but they hadn’t met yet. He pulled up a picture on my phone of what the mark had looked like before Maeve had died. Jack showed him his mark. It’s above his heart. Whoever his mate is, he or she is alive.”
“You two are taking this a lot better than I would have thought.” Blake smiled at him as she spoke. He looked through the glass where JJ and Morgan were gesturing in the air. Spencer was laughing, his eyes fully alive for the first time since Maeve had died.
Aaron knew that it wasn’t going to be happiness and roses. Going from two households to one with Jack thrown in as well as the pressures of their jobs was going to be hard. Their relationship hadn’t been defined before then. It was something that both of them wanted but hadn’t wanted the pressure. Now there was a definition to it and a built in meaning. Though given how happy Spencer looked, Aaron didn’t think the new definition was going to be a bother to the genius.
Spencer had loved Maeve before he knew that she was his soulmate. Aaron had loved Haley despite the fact that she wasn’t. Aaron had fallen for Spencer before he’d even realized that it didn’t matter about the mark on his wrist. He knew that was part of why Spencer loved him. He was safe but after all the ups and downs of his life, Aaron could live with being safe. He’d given him a family and love and that was all that Spencer cared about.