Series: The Alphabet Game
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Year: Season 7
Tags: Pre-Slash, Feelings, Dammit Dave,
Pairings: Aaron Hotchner/Spencer Reid,
Characters: Spencer Reid, Aaron Hotchner, David Rossi, Derek Morgan
Spoilers: Up Through Season 7
Summary: While on a stakeout, Hotch and Reid grow a little closer when the Rossi and Morgan are late to cover for them.
Spencer called his messenger bag his lifeline. The team had never asked him exactly what he had in it even though he knew they wanted to. As a high school student, he’d kept his school books in it. As a college student, he’d kept his books in it as well as anything else he thought he would need when he was away from his dorm.
When he’d been in the academy he’d carried everything he needed for the day. That way his time between classes could be spent in the library reading. Breakfast and a very late dinner were eaten in his room while lunch was whatever he threw in his bag that day. Crackers, fruit, a warm turkey sandwich, whatever he had the inclination to buy at the store. He stayed away from the mess hall just because he’d never really gotten used to eating in places like that after staying far away during high school and the first few years of college. After joining the BAU, he only ate in the cafeteria they had when Morgan or JJ dragged him. Otherwise he brought his lunch or ate out.
The BAU team was his family, but that didn’t mean that other agents liked him. He’d been brought into a unit that was one of the hardest to get into straight out of the academy and while he’d proven his worth a thousand times over in the eight years he’d been there, many still hated him for it.
“Reid?” Hotch’s voice carried over his thinking and drew him out of it. Spencer turned to him. “What are you thinking about?”
“Now that I don’t believe.” Hotch smiled at him and the humor went all the way to his eyes. Smiles like that were rare for the man since Haley had died. Unless he was around Jack. Spencer’s heart jumped in his chest because the man had been looking at him like that for the past few months. He wasn’t even sure that the man knew that he was looking at him like that. It was why he ignored the looks. “Tell me, Reid.”
“It’s nothing important. It’s not case related.” Spencer looked away from him and moved his eyes back to the house they were watching. He could see the reflection of Hotch in the glass and saw him frown a little.
“Just because it’s not case related doesn’t mean that it’s not important.”
“It’s just the past, Hotch. I can’t change it but I have accepted it. Telling you won’t make me feel better. I didn’t expect to think about it but my mind wandered there.”
“I know that well. We don’t have to talk about it. If it makes you uncomfortable.”
“No, it’s…I was thinking about my messenger bag. Or the ones I’ve had over the years. It just reminded me of some things.” Spencer still was looking at the house, pointedly not looking at Hotch in the reflection. He shifted in the seat and his leg brushed his bag.
“Strauss came to me. I guess there have been complaints on the food being served in the mess at Quantico.”
“I guess they have been looking at data over the years, trying to figure out how to get more people to eat there. I wasn’t aware that you never went there. Not at the academy, and after only when someone is with you. She asked me if I knew and I told her that I see you eating food from home more than anything else. Why don’t you eat there?”
Spencer thought about the truth and he wondered exactly what Hotch would read into the answer. Morgan was the only person he’d ever admitted being bullied to. Their friendship had been rocky throughout the years, Morgan’s own brand of trying to get to know him had been a kind of bullying. The case in Texas had given Hotch a good idea of exactly how bad the bullying had been for Spencer but he’d never said it outright, Hotch had never asked either.
“I stay away from all kinds of cafeterias. It has nothing to do with the food being offered and more to do with what I feel comfortable doing. HR can pull me from their stats.”
“I’ll tell Strauss that you like to make your own food. How does that sound? HR wants to start doing all the big things. You know gluten free and other bigger things that have popped up that people can’t eat. Did something happen at the academy?”
“No. High school, Hotch. The academy was fine. There were those that hated my intelligence there but we are watched so much that no one ever tried anything and if they did, I had my own back. I didn’t start the pranks on Morgan with no knowledge of it. Pranks were my specialty at Cal-Tech.”
“I noticed that Morgan kept going but I have no clue what prompted his sudden bowing to you.”
“The moment we got back to DC I started to tape nickels into his phone receiver at work. Just one a day every single day we were home. I had to do some quick upgrades on the phone to get enough to fit. Then one day while he was at lunch, I took them all out. He’d slowly gotten used to the weight needed to lift the phone. You were in court testifying and didn’t come back that day. It was three in the afternoon before he had a call. He picked it up and he clocked himself in the head with his phone. He didn’t get a concussion but it hurt. Garcia was passing by his office when it happened. I heard her yell and we all came running. There was Morgan on the floor the phone ripped from the base and his desk all messed up. Garcia was hovering over him worried and there I was laughing my ass off. I couldn’t breath I was laughing so hard. Prentiss started next and then JJ and Rossi started laughing as soon as he got there. I swear Garcia almost killed me for hurting him but that was the day he called it off.”
“That’s what the goose egg on his head came from?” Hotch asked with the smile back on his face. “He said that someone got the drop on him in the gym and he got elbowed.”
“It’s what he told everyone.” Spencer let himself laugh at the memory. It had been fun to prank someone like him. He’d been looking for more technological things from him and hadn’t even seen the old school prank coming. He’d done so many other things to keep him off guard. He hadn’t seen the phone coming and Spencer had relished in that.
“Remind me to never let you touch my phone.”
“I would never do that to you, Sir.” Spencer let his voice go soft. The subtle jerk of Hotch’s body at the Sir made Spencer smile inside. “I’d have to think of something else. You know about it.”
The bark of laughter from Hotch wasn’t expected but Spencer puffed up inside for it. Making Hotch laugh was a rarity. He actually leaned into the steering wheel as he laughed and Spencer let himself chuckle.
“You constantly surprise me, Reid.” Hotch leaned back up, his eyes on the house again. The cab of the car was silent for a few minutes until Hotch’s stomach growled. He patted his stomach and muttered something too low for Spencer to hear. “Where are Dave and Morgan?”
“Maybe something happened on the case? It’s not like they can get a hold of us. There is no cell signal and that radio that the LEOs gave us isn’t working.” The house they were watching was in the middle of the woods with no neighbors anywhere close. They had started their watch over six hours before and Morgan and Rossi were supposed to have relieved them half an hour before. It was dark so instead of swapping cars, they were just going to take the car that the other two drove up. “Or they got lost in the woods. Morgan is a city boy and it’s been awhile since Rossi has went hunting.”
“Don’t let Dave hear you say that. Should have stopped for snacks like you said. There is enough tree coverage here that the bathroom wouldn’t be an issue.”
“One should always stop for snacks,” Spencer said with a smile in his voice.
“Who taught you that one?”
“Mom. On her good days over summer before I started college we would take day trips. We’d leave before the sun rose and pick a direction. We’d stop wherever we wanted. See what we wanted. Eat anything that struck our fancy. It was just her and I.”
“Sounds like fun.”
“It was.” Spencer shifted in his seat again and when his leg brushed his bag, he remembered the apple he’d grabbed at breakfast that morning and shoved inside. He dove down for the bag, scaring Hotch as he did. He pulled out the knife he carried in the bag and handed it over to Hotch before he pulled out the apple. “Here.”
“No, Reid. It’s your apple. They will be here soon. You eat it. I know that you’ve not eaten since breakfast. I grabbed a sandwich at lunch.”
“I did eat a sandwich. JJ went back and got one that I would like when she realized they’d messed up on my order. I ate it while working on the geographic profile. I think you were at the ME’s office at that time. Just take the apple Hotch.”
Hotch reached out and took it, pulling the blade out on the pocket knife and cutting the apple in half. He rolled down the window on the car and threw the stem out. Spencer had realized long ago that no one cut up an apple the same way. Hotch cut each half in half and then started to work out the core. The core went out the window in pieces. When he had one quarter of the apple de-cored he took a bit, smiling at he did. A drop of juice ran down his chin and Spencer had to look away as he used his knuckle to remove it before using his tongue to get if off his finger. Spencer kept his breathing even. He listened as the older man ate the apple, only turning when he thought he was done. He heard the rolling up of the window.
“Ho…” Spencer stopped when he felt something being shoved into his mouth. He immediately raised his hand to grab it and pull it out but Hotch’s fingers were tight on the bit of apple. He settled for trying to move Hotch’s hand by grabbing his wrist.
“Bite,” Hotch said and Spencer did as he asked. He started to chew but made sure to keep his mouth closed so that Hotch couldn’t shove more fruit inside. His eyes were locked with the other man’s and he wasn’t sure that he wanted to look away. “Open.”
Spencer shook his head and kept his lips sealed.
“Either you eat the apple, Spencer or I’ll make you. I know your weak spots. Henry showed me that last time we all ate over at JJ and Will’s remember?”
Spencer scowled but opened his mouth and let Hotch put the other half of the slice of apple in his mouth. He’d never eaten from someone’s hand other than his parents when he was little. Hotch’s hand came back with another piece and when it was an inch from his mouth he opened again. They repeated the process until the apple was almost gone. The last slice proved to be Spencer’s downfall as when he bit into it, juice ran down his chin. He reached up to wipe it away but Hotch beat him to it. He felt the brush of knuckle on his skin and then it was being offered to him. Spencer swallowed the apple in his mouth and licked the drop of juice from Hotch’s finger. Neither of them said a thing. Instead Hotch just offered up the last bite of the apple. Spencer felt himself start to harden.
The knock on the window on Hotch’s side made them both jump and Spencer looked out his window to see Morgan standing there. Rossi was on Hotch’s side. Hotch rolled down the window again.
“A little late aren’t you?”
“He attacked a store in town. He was hiding in a buddy’s basement without the buddy knowing he was there. That’s where he was storing his trophies as well. After we got him booked and settled in a cell we came to get you. Sorry you missed the action.”
“This is why I hate out in the woods places.” Hotch slumped his head back onto the headrest of the car and sighed. “Did you find where he’s killing them?”
“No, we have more than enough cause to enter the house without a warrant but we have one anyway. Chief woke a judge and all but ordered him to sign it. CSU is just behind us, we didn’t want to spook you two so we didn’t drive up.” Morgan opened Spencer’s car door and stepped back to let him out.
Rossi was pulling Hotch towards the house. “So how is your training with Beth going?”
Spencer ducked his head and chastised himself. He reached down and grabbed his bag settling on his hip to give his hands something to mess with. He kept his mind firmly on the case and not the moment or whatever the hell that was in the car with Hotch. He was reading too far into something that was innocent. Pushing his wants into Hotch’s actions. He needed to step back.
“So, did I tell you that I got approved for the flat?” Spencer forced a smile on his face and talked to his friend about the new place he was going to be moving into. Thankfully, he had over a month before he had to be fully out of his apartment. He’d have plenty of time to move in and make the place his own. Unlike the rest of the building the flat wasn’t space that could be rented. He actually bought it outright. He had the security of having neighbors and being in a building that had security but the freedom of having a place that was all his own. It was just luck that he’d had the money to put in an offer on it when it came up. He was looking forward to living in his flat.