Series: The Alphabet Game
Fandoms: Criminal Minds, NCIS, Supernatural, Bones, The Big Bang Theory, James Bond,
Year: Season 7
Tags: Pre-Slash, D&D Character Death, Spencer is THE DM!, Slow Burn, Total Party Kill,
Pairings: Aaron Hotchner/Spencer Reid,
Characters: Aaron Hotchner, Spencer Reid, Curiosity (The Cat), Kevin Lynch, Tim McGee (NCIS), Abby Sciuto (NCIS), Sam Winchester (Supernatural), Wendell Bray (Bones), Jack Hodgins (Bones), Leonard Hofstadter (The Big Bang Theory), Sheldon Cooper (The Big Bang Theory), Q (James Bond),
Spoilers: Up Through Season 7
Summary: Aaron sees a new side of Spencer and he wasn’t even one that he thought the young man would have. He also learns that D&D is not a game, it’s a way of life. Aaron also realizes that Spencer is a lot more devious than anyone on the team has ever thought he could be.
Notes: While there are so many crossover people in this, if you don’t know the show they are from it’s fine. It’s just easier to use other characters than make up a whole bunch for a D&D night.
Aaron stepped up to Spencer’s apartment door. The younger man hadn’t made any comments about the last two times he’d dropped by with no warning, other than asking where Jack was and make it clear that he could bring the boy by as well. Aaron wasn’t ready for that for a number of reasons, mainly that he knew that once he did, Jack would want to know why and he wasn’t going to lie.
“YOU KILLED MY KNIGHT!” someone screamed from inside the flat and Aaron knew it wasn’t Spencer. He’d never heard that voice before. Another voice spoke after and it was quiet, but Aaron was pretty sure that he was someone he knew. He reached up and knocked loudly, making sure that he was heard. The sound of feet moving closer had Aaron straightening. It wasn’t Spencer. A man with hair about as long as Spencer liked to wear it, opened the door. He looked Aaron up and down before turning back into the flat.
“It’s a G-Man,” he said before taking a step back. Aaron looked past him to see Spencer there as well as a man about his age who had a gun drawn but hanging loose at his sides. Spencer was smiling.
“Come on in, Aaron. Sam, Aaron, Aaron this is Sam. He’s in town for a few nights. The gun happy man to my left is Tim McGee. He’s Gibbs’.”
Aaron stepped into the flat as McGee put up his gun and nodded at him. He knew Gibbs but thankfully hadn’t had to work with him on a case in a long while. Fornell dealt with him on a regular basis. He also realized that Spencer didn’t give a last name for Sam. He was fairly certain that it was done on purpose but he didn’t ask.
“And over here we have Abby Sciuto, also from NCIS. Wendell Bray and Doctor Jack Hodgins from Agent Seeley Booth and Doctor Temperance Brennan’s team with the FBI.” Abby waved at him and looking at her, he figured that she and Garcia would be good friends. Her clothing was more towards Goth, but she seemed to be just as bubbly as Garcia. He wondered briefly if Spencer had ever thought about introducing them to each other. Aaron looked over and saw Kevin leaving the bathroom. “And you know Kevin.”
“And am I chopped liver?” a voice asked. Aaron looked around the flat but saw no one. Then he noticed that all eyes in the room were on a laptop that was on that weird table of Spencer’s.
“No, Leonard. I was waiting until I could turn around the laptop so that he could see your face instead of basically introducing him to the back of your head!” Spencer sighed and Wendell reached over and turned the laptop around. A youngish man in black glasses squinted at him. “And this is Doctor Leonard Hofstadter. He is an experimental physicist at Cal-Tech. He Skypes in for games when he can.”
“Games?” Aaron asked. He wondered at the introduction. He’d been introduced as Aaron and nothing else. He didn’t really want everyone there calling him Aaron.
“D&D. Everyone this is my boss, Aaron Hotchner. Hotch to all of you.”
Aaron waved at all of them and watched as McGee and Sam moved back to the table. Spencer though moved towards the dining room table and grabbed a chair. Aaron cut him off by taking it from him. The younger man smiled. That was when he noticed that Spencer wasn’t dressed like he had been before. He was dressed like he did for work, while most of the rest of the people gathered were in extremely casual clothes. Aaron was dressed much like Spencer except instead of a dress shirt, he had on a polo.
“You can sit by me and help me try and kill another character while Hodgins creates a new one.”
“Hodgins? Since when have you started calling me that?” The curly haired man asked while grabbing a book off the shelf behind him.
“Aaron’s son is named Jack.” The was no more said than that. Spencer sat down and Aaron set his chair beside him. Unlike the other spots on the table there were no sheets of paper in front of the younger man. Open books yes but no paper.
“Do you know D&D, Hotch?” Abby asked as she passed over a book to Hodgins. Sam reach to a shelf and grabbed another book but unlike Abby, he didn’t hand it to Hodgins. Instead he handed it right to Aaron. He took it and read the cover. Dungeons & Dragons for Beginners. Sam smiled at him and he nodded back.
“Now that I know what it stands for, yes. When I helped Spencer move in, the label just said D&D and I didn’t put two and two together.”
There was silence and Aaron watched the faces of all of them. Abby and McGee seemed a little put out while Hodgins and Sam were smiling. Wendell was focusing on his paper and Leonard wasn’t even looking at the camera.
“Did Sheldon come home?” Spencer asked.
“Good. So just for Aaron. The group is in a maze trying to get to Excalibur. The Knight is now dead, head removed after answering a riddle wrong.” Hodgins scoffed and flipped through the pages quicker. “Our mages have been teleported to the far side of the maze. That leaves Aleister, Selene, and McTrigger alone to wait for the Knight to come back.”
“Ten minutes. Don’t die,” Hodgins said as he scribbled on his paper.
“Aleister, same riddle.” Spencer looked at Sam who smiled.
“Correct. The door opens and it’s a long hallway with no end in sight.”
“Wait! That’s not possible! That would intersect the hallway we came through!” Abby said. Sam and McGee looked at the map in front of them. Then the three leaned together to chat. Aaron kept his mouth shut but he did start flipping through the book. It looked like a game right up Spencer’s alley. He listened as Spencer shifted focus to the mages. He skimmed the introduction to get a feel for what was going on. It reminded him a little of a game that Dave had tried to explain to him on the Playstation.
“We are going left,” Kevin said.
“I’m opening the door,” Leonard proclaimed. Aaron looked up to see Wendell and Kevin texting. A chime sounded from Leonard’s speakers. “While Brickaxe and Nightingale hide around the corner.”
Spencer smirked and nearly the whole table groaned. Aaron closed the book after figuring out that Spencer was the Dungeon Master or DM and that shirt he’d been wearing made so much sense. He wondered what other t-shirts he had like it.
“Nightingale and Brickaxe, which corner are you around?”
“Left. Both of us.” Wendell looked nervous. Aaron watched as Spencer dug around in a folder for a sheet of paper. Next he drew out dice. He set both in front of Aaron on the folded out section of the table. A pencil was already there. It was a list of characters listed for each player. It looked like they had been playing the game a while. Sam had lost the least amount. The writing was all in Spencer’s neat script. He laughed internally at the names of characters. It wasn’t hard to find McGee’s as all the names started with Mc.
“This is our pick up game for when Sam is in town. We have a more detailed game that everyone else plays.”
“Don’t forget the Brit. The pompous assed Walmond from London,” Kevin said. “And we play Rifts for it.”
“Rifts?” Aaron hadn’t heard of that one. He also wondered who the Brit was and exactly who had brought him into the game. None of them seemed very intercontinental people.
“Another paper dice role playing game. That is the shelves to the left.” Spencer picked up a die and rolled it. “So Coldheart, are you going in or waiting for the other two?”
“Last time Sweetcheeks fell into lava,” Abby offered. Aaron looked at the lists and it was the name of one of Leonard’s characters.
“Time before that nothing happened.” Leonard sighed and rolled a die. “Even. I’m going through.”
“Excellent. Brickaxe, Nightingale roll.”
“Here goes nothing,” Kevin rolled and dropped his head down onto the table. Wendell rolled and then looked at Kevin’s.
“He goes first. He may have got a five but I rolled a one. Here’s to hoping it’s my last of the day.”
“Coldheart are you turning to see if they are following?”
“You see five Dread Wraiths appear between them and you. What do you do?”
“I pull the door shut.” Leonard’s voice was strong despite what he was doing.
“As soon as you do, you appear behind Selene in the never ending hallway. Brickaxe and Nightingale, what do you do?”
Wendell and Kevin looked at each other then at Spencer. Kevin sighed and handed over his paper while Wendell just slumped in his seat before waving his hand. Kevin handed over his as well. “Suicide by Wraith.”
“Okay. Since we have three out, let’s break for dinner. Text the order, Kevin and get my normal without pineapple on half.” Everyone scattered from the table with Kevin picking up his phone and sending off a text before he joined McGee and Abby in the kitchen. Leonard’s screen was empty of Leonard. Sam, Hodgins, and Wendell gathered around one of the book shelves on the far side of the room, picking up books and flipping through them. “Didn’t want to hang out at home alone?”
“No. Where is Curiosity?” Aaron had been expected to be accosted by the kitten by that point.
“He wandered to my bedroom twenty minutes after the game started. I haven’t heard a peep since then. I don’t think he likes game night. It’s the first since you gave him to me. So are you going to stay?”
“Sure. Explain to me what is going on.” Aaron looked over the table and could understand where a brain like Spencer’s would revel in it.
“We started this game one year, three months, twenty two days, twenty three hours and nineteen minutes ago. The group’s goal is to find the center of the maze. There are one hundred and sixty four rooms. Twenty of those are safe rooms where if the characters make it to them, they go up a level. Each room has it’s own riddle, trick, or enemy in it. Each of them picked a base character to start the game and each time they die they are allowed to change a single trait about the character. They start again at the beginning of the maze and have to try and make their way back to the rest of the group with no outside help.”
“So it’s an impossible quest?”
“No. There are eleven ways to win and one way to go through every single room without tripping a trap, having to answer a riddle, or fight an enemy, they just haven’t found it yet. I thought that list might help you. If you want to take the book home just don’t bring up D&D in front of Garcia. She will talk your head off about it and you don’t want that.”
“It’s an odd group you have.” Aaron tried to think how he had found a group as varied as he had.
“Not really. I know McGee from Gibbs and he brought on Abby. Hodgins I know from Tempe. We used to have another from that team but he can’t play anymore. It took a while for Hodgins to bring in Wendell. Sam, I met through a friend who went to Stanford. Leonard and I met at Cal-Tech through another friend.”
“Yes,” Spencer smiled and laughed. “I hope that he does get home before you leave. Sheldon and I share IQs and an eidetic memory.” The look on Spencer’s face was different than he’d ever seen before. It was like he knew that someone had a worse life than him and he was reveling in it. Aaron really wanted to meet this Sheldon. “Any questions on the game?”
“You know I was looking through this and a few of these types of characters don’t exist.”
“We’ve modified some. Like Hodgins’ Knight is a fighter. The mages are modified Sorcerers and Wizards. Also not all are from the same edition. This is a game where they were allowed to pick anything from any edition. It took me six months to prep this game and they spent a week each prepping their characters. They were kitted out with everything they needed to get through this place, including weapons needed to kill the monsters they come across.”
“Sounds fun. I might be able to get into a game like this. So this Sheldon, what else do you share?” Aaron turned in his chair to face Spencer more. He never talked about his academic fiends. Aaron had been able to get him to talk about a few in the first two years after he joined the team but after that, it just stopped. He was pretty sure that he knew why and he hadn’t liked it then and he still didn’t like it now. No one on the team knew about this side of him and while Aaron loved that he got to see it, Spencer wasn’t doing himself any favors hiding it.
“That’s pretty much where the similarities ends. We became friends mainly because of a love of science. He takes a bit to get used. I hope we are done before he gets home or the game is going to end there for the night no matter what.”
“What degrees do you have, Hotch?” Abby asked as she sat back down at the table. Aaron looked at her before he answered. There was something strange in her eyes. It seemed possessive but not really at the same time.
“I obtained a law degree before joining the FBI.”
The look in Abby’s eyes brightened and Aaron felt like he’d given her exactly what she was looking for.
“There is nothing wrong with a law degree.” Sam sat down beside him, Giving both him and Spencer a bottle of water each.
“There isn’t. Especially when Hotch finished out a Doctor of Juridical Science while in the FBI.”
Aaron looked at Hodgins. He could feel Spencer’s eyes on him as well. It was something that only Jason had known. Dave had been gone when he’d finished it and he’d not asked about it. “And how did you know about that?”
“Booth talked about it once. I didn’t connect Agent Hotchner with Hotch until Spencer introduced you. And I can tell by the look on Spencer’s face that he didn’t know you had it.”
“No one on the team does.”
“Why do you hide it?” Wendell asked.
“I don’t. No one has ever asked. It interested me while I was in SWAT and didn’t take me long at all to get.”
Discussion turned to the game but Abby’s eyes tracked back to him a great deal. If he had been anyone else he would have sworn that she was jealous but it wasn’t that. She kept trying to get McGee and Spencer to talk while eating. Aaron took note that Spencer kept trying to bring Aaron into the conversation but it was turned to things that he had no care to even want to talk to anyone about. When the pizza was gone, he wandered to the couch close by with the book and settled in to read.
The sounds of the game lulled him into a half doze.
“How does it feel to work with someone with such a lower IQ than you?” Abby’s voice woke him up but he didn’t react.
“Excuse me?” Spencer’s voice sounded cold. There was a squeak and weird feedback from the laptop.
“Abby, don’t.” The voice was low but Aaron was sure it was McGee.
“You had yourself tested again two years ago, yes?” There was a small groan from several people and Aaron wondered exactly what the look on Spencer’s face was.
“One fifty right? Never mind. I know it. I’ve wondered for years about Aaron’s IQ. It bugged me. There was never an issue with him and my genius. He accepted it, made sure I never had issues. Especially in the beginning with Morgan. He was tested in junior high. His test then was higher than your current so don’t ever IQ shame here. My decisions on my friends are my own.”
Aaron didn’t react. He wasn’t aware that Spencer had looked up his IQ. He wasn’t upset but he wanted to know exactly how he had missed seeing his degree on there.
“LEONARD!” A new voice yelled over the computer.
“Shit,” several voices exclaimed and Aaron heard Spencer groan.
“Well, the night’s game is over,” Spencer said. There was the sound of papers shuffling. Aaron was tempted to open his eyes to see what was going on.
A set of three knocks on a door through the computer. “Leonard.” Another set of knocks. “Leonard.” And still another set. “Leonard.”
“Come in, Sheldon,” Leonard sounded resigned.
“Run for cover,” Hodgins whispered and then the sound of chairs scraping told Aaron that everyone was getting up.
“Oh, Spencer! It’s game night?”
“We were just stopping for the night. How are you doing?” Spencer’s voice sounded much like when he talked with fragile victims on cases.
“I’m doing fine. I had to hide in my office for twenty minutes so that I wouldn’t run into Kripke.” The voice sounded calm and it was a little shock to Aaron. Normally, hiding from someone meant that one was scared or embarrassed to be around them.
Aaron cracked his eyes open and looked. He had perfect view of the computer screen from behind Spencer. He was looking at a very thin, tall man with a short hair cut. He was leaning over Leonard’s shoulder.
“That had to be horrible.” While Spencer’s back was to him, Aaron was pretty sure that he was smiling.
“It made me late and Penny was horrible on the ride home. I wondered why Leonard wasn’t there to pick me up but now I understand. It’s horrible that I missed another game night.”
“You could try just passing him in the halls and not talking to him. Or ignoring him.”
“I can’t not comment on his lack of scientific understanding. I still don’t understand why he still has a job at Cal-Tech.”
“Just like you can’t understand my job.”
The man on the screen seemed to huff and it looked like he was gearing up for a long winded tirade when Leonard glared at Spencer and ended the link.
“A personal best,” Hodgins said. Aaron turned his head to see that Hodgins was holding his phone up. “Two minutes and three seconds. Still Sam holds the record of forty five seconds.”
“No one is beating that for a while.” The sound of a vibrating phone told Aaron that someone was getting a message. “That’s Dean. I’ve got to go.”
“Be safe!” several called out.
Aaron closed his eyes as he heard the rest of those gathered talk in hushed whispers. The sounds lulled him back into sleep.
Waking when a weight pressed down into him, Aaron jerked his eyes open and grabbed the hand that was above him. He looked at Spencer’s face who was looking down at him with a faint edge of a smile. The younger man was crouched at his side. He had laid down at some point.
“I can go.”
“Don’t worry about it. My flat is yours for the night. McGee is staying in one room and Abby in the other but Abby offered to share with me if you want a bed. I was hoping to cover you up and not wake you.”
Aaron was glad that it was dark as that meant that Spencer couldn’t see what had to be a frown on his face that well. Why wasn’t Spencer offering to let him sleep in his bed? Why did Abby get to do that?
“I’m fine here on the couch.”
“Good. Abby is a good cuddler but it’s strange to sleep in the same bed as her. Do you need a different blanket?”
“No.” Aaron felt the one that was on him and it was the same as he’d used the last time he’d stayed the night. He wondered if Spencer thought of it as his blanket. “So do they stay after gaming?”
“McGee and Abby had a hard case and I think that anywhere that isn’t home and the base is a good place to be. If that means my guest rooms then it’s fine. I know what that feels like.”
“Yeah. I know that feeling well too. I’m just thankful that Jessica understands and is willing to keep Jack for those nights.”
“I know that I wasn’t able to give you a lot of attention but I hope you at least had a little bit of fun listening to us play.”
“I did. I’d heard of D&D over the years, it’s hard not to with Garcia but I’d never seen it played. I can understand why you like it. I’m shocked you don’t have notes, just to be safe.”
“They cheat. I keep it all in my head just to be safe. I’m sorry for Abby. She’s very possessive and doesn’t take to new people well.”
“It’s fine. I crashed your night.”
“I’m glad that you did.” Spencer moved a little and he wasn’t in shadow as much anymore. The look on his face was fondness and uncertainty. Like he was unsure of exactly what he was feeling. Aaron pushed a hand out from under the blankets and settled his on Spencer’s knee. He squeezed. “I’ll let you get back to sleep. McGee is an early riser but I’m unsure if you’ll be awake first. I set out that outfit you left last time. It’s clean and you are more than welcome to use my bathroom to clean up after your run. McGee and Abby will use the guest one. You know the shower won’t bother me.”
Spencer only smiled and stood up. Aaron’s hand only dropped off when his leg was fully straight. He didn’t know what to think about the fact that he was allowed to use Spencer’s bathroom. Last time he hadn’t been offered it. Was it just because of McGee and Abby or was it something more. He was too tired to think anymore on it. He rolled to his side and tightened the blanket around his neck before dropping back off to sleep.
Morning came too quickly in Aaron’s eyes. He knew where he was when he opened his eyes and found that the bedroom doors were shut. It was just after five a.m and he wanted a quick run. He cleaned up his bedclothes and put them on the table beside Spencer’s door. Grabbing the spare keys from the hook by the door, Aaron went down to his car where he kept spare running gear. The guard let him use a small storage closet to change. He stuck his dirty clothes in the car and started on his run. The neighborhood that Spencer lived in was a really nice one. It was a good mix of everything. He could see older couples, younger, families, and businesses.
On his way back, he spotted the coffee shop that he knew the cup of by sight as Spencer almost always arrived with a cup of their coffee. He had a little bit of cash in his running shoe, so he stopped in. The barista behind the counter smiled at him.
“Good morning. I know that this is going to sound really weird but I need a large black drip and a large of whatever Doctor Reid gets.”
“Oh, are you one of his D&D group?” The barista rang up the order and Aaron handed over cash, dropping the change into the tip jar.
“No. I’m a co-worker. He let me crash on his couch last night.”
The barista smiled and filled a large cup with black coffee from a carafe and then started to work on whatever Spencer usually drank. Aaron knew his case order and even his order when he indulged in a coffee at lunch but he had no clue what he ordered when he was at home. He took a sip of his coffee and found that it was a good brand. He’d have to see about Reid bringing him a cup. Maybe he could pick up the genius some mornings and talk him into stopping for a some coffee. It was much better than the shop by his apartment.
“Last night was D&D night though right?” The barista asked and Aaron nodded. She pressed another button on the espresso machine and Aaron watched as another shot of liquid started into the cup. She swirled the cup for a moment after it was filled with espresso and then poured in the steamed milk. She topped it with some whipped cream and then swirls of chocolate and caramel. “This’ll wake him up. He usually doesn’t get to sleep right away, trying to out plot the rest of the group.”
“Thanks.” Aaron took another drink of his cup and raised Spencer’s in a wave of sorts. She smiled and waved goodbye. Aaron didn’t miss that it was getting busy in there. Early workers were getting their fix.
The guard waved at him as he entered the building again. Aaron waved back and moved right towards the elevator that was thankfully fixed. He stacked the cups as he exited the elevator and dug out the key. He let himself into the apartment to see Abby and McGee sitting at the island drinking coffee. They both watched him as he hung up the key and then moved and grabbed his clothes before slipping into Spencer’s room. The look of utter shock on Abby’s face as he did so was worth it. He sets Spencer’s coffee on his bedside table.
The genius wasn’t visible except for a tuft of hair, just like when they shared rooms on cases. He slipped into the bathroom and found toiletries laid out for him but he didn’t shut the door. His brand of shave gel and disposable razor. Shampoo and body wash as well. A towel and wash rag were beside all of that. It wasn’t that much of a shock given that Aaron knew his, Morgan, and Dave’s. He was sure that JJ and Prentiss knew exactly what each of them used as well. It was years spent rooming together. What was surprising was that he had it already there. He hadn’t the last time.
Grabbing what he needed to, he got into the shower after stripping out of his running clothes. The glass around the shower was frosted from about two foot above the floor to about where Aaron’s neck started. He was about halfway through the shower when he heard Spencer come into the bathroom. The water was turned on long enough for him to wash his hands and then Aaron could see him, in his head, putting in his contacts. The soft click of the door told him that the genius was out of the bathroom. It was the normal routine for anyone who roomed with Spencer. He didn’t like wearing his glasses on cases and so they got used to letting him get them in when they were in the shower.
Getting dressed took little time and when he exited the bathroom, dressed for the day, Spencer wasn’t in there anymore. He stepped to the bedroom door and stopped when he heard raised voices.
“Why did you not wake me up? I would have moved beds.” Abby’s voice sounded upset. Aaron wondered what had her so upset.
“What do you mean? I found no need to wake you up when Aaron slept on the couch.”
“He’s very meticulous. He put up his blanket and pillow on the table beside my room when he woke up. Abby, my friends are my business.”
“He’s your boss. Not your friend.”
“Abby,” McGee said.
“It’s fine, McGee. I know what is going through her head. You two need to go. I need to get to work.”
The sound of shuffling feet told Aaron it was okay for him to leave the bedroom. He pulled open the door and stepped out. McGee and Abby were on their way to the door. Spencer had the cup of coffee in his hand and a smile on his face when he looked at Aaron. Aaron just smiled and waved at Abby and McGee as they left.
“Want a ride today?” Aaron asked as the door was shutting.
“Sure. Thanks for the coffee. How did you know what I drank?”
“The barista was very helpful. I do like their drip coffee. Did you want to stop and get another cup before we head in?” Aaron moved back to the bedroom to grab his running clothes.
“Just leave them. I’ll wash them and give them back to you at work.”
Aaron stopped just inside the bathroom to find Curiosity curled on top of his clothes on the floor. He heard Spencer come in behind him.
“That’s where he went. I wondered why he wasn’t trying to get me to give him treats.”
Curiosity was curled in a ball and dead asleep.
“Where did he sleep last night?”
“At my feet like he normally does. He was at yours until I finally went to bed.”
Chirps from two different phones had them both turning towards the living room.
“Got to be a case,” Aaron said.
“I’m ready. Do we need to stop and get a suit for you?”
“No. I have a few at the office and I can go in like this.” Aaron was wearing a nice pair of slacks and a nice dress shirt. It would do well for the start of a case. He had two go bags at work with everything else he needed. He was ready for the case.
Spencer grabbed a go bag and started towards the door. Aaron smiled and crouched down to pet at Curiosity before he followed the genius out of the flat.