Aaron stepped up onto the porch of Reid’s large but simple house. It was a single story house with a basement, Aaron could see lights on in the basement front section. Aaron really hoped that Reid wasn’t down there with his knee. He knocked and turned to the agent that had been posted out front. The man had said that the house had been quiet and that Reid had brought him out coffee, a sandwich, and chips a few hours before.
“Hotch,” Reid said as he stepped out onto the porch, pulling the door mostly shut. He set down what looked like a baby monitor on a stand by the door. “Jack is in the basement in Henry’s playroom. He wouldn’t go to sleep until he saw you.”
“Thank you.” Aaron smiled at him and he hoped that his gratitude was written all over his face. It had been so long since he’d needed to show emotions like that. “The situation is under control. They wanted Jack as a bargaining tool. It was a small cell of homegrown terrorists. They wanted their friend out of prison who I had put in there and kept in there the past decade. It was a case right before you joined the unit. He was up for parole six months ago, and when I spoke at it, he was denied. They were hoping that the attack on Quantico would have me going there while they got Jack out of the school. They didn’t do enough looking into the staff and weren’t expecting you.”
“I’m glad I was there.” Reid smiled at him but Aaron knew that there was a reason that Spencer wasn’t allowing him into the house. He didn’t press to enter. It was cold out, but the wind had died down some. He shivered a little. “I’ll get Jack and get him dressed. The Deputy Headmaster dropped his things off to me.”
“I was hoping we could talk.” Aaron watched Reid’s face and there was nothing there. His poker face was firmly in place. It was like Reid was talking to an UnSub and not him.
“We have nothing to talk about,” Reid said turning back to his door.
Aaron knew that if he let him go now, he’d never get a chance again. After this all of their interactions would revolve around New Haven. Reid would have the ability to throw him out and ignore him. He couldn’t let his opportunity pass him by.
“We have a lot to talk about,” Aaron said as he reached out and grabbed Reid’s shoulder. Stopping him from leaving. He made sure to not grab his hurt shoulder, or to not jerk him so that he hurt his leg. He noticed that Reid wasn’t using the crutches that the doctor had given him but was using his cane. He wasn’t shocked by that at all.
“Let the past stay in the past, Hotch.” Reid’s voice was strange and Aaron stepped up closer to him. He could feel the tension in Reid’s body, but also could feel how much he relaxed at his touch. He was a mess of dichotomy.
“Jack’s not an idiot and you know it, Reid. You probably know it better than most. He’s going to notice the tension and he’s going to ask. Are you going to lie to him? Do you want me to lie to him?”
“No.” Reid hung his head down and sighed. “I was happy.”
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry that my life has messed yours up. I had no clue that I was being targeted.”
“I was happy at the school. Before Jack. Or I thought that I was. I realized on the first day of the school that I was just content. I can’t do this, Hotch. I can’t go back there. I can’t start to depend on anyone just to be let down.” Reid sounded tired and Aaron could understand that.
“We still have to talk. You know the past haunts. Everyone in the BAU knows that. Can you tell me you can move on without talking about it?” Aaron squeezed his shoulder and he felt more than saw Reid shake his head.
“Jack’s more than entertained down there. Books, TV, games, toys.”
“I’d adore some of your coffee. We can move over to the enclosed area and have a seat and talk.” Aaron knew that he wasn’t going to be allowed in even to talk. Spencer’s house was his territory and Aaron was more than happy to not invade it, this time.
“I’ll be right back,” Reid said and then moved into the house. The door was left slightly ajar. Once he saw Reid go into the kitchen through the sliver of door, he moved towards the enclosed area. The door was open and it wasn’t until he got into it that he saw the heater. He kicked it on and sat down in the chair farthest from the heater, giving Reid the one closest. He could tell that it was the one that Reid sat in the most. It also faced the rising sun. This is where Reid relaxed in the mornings. He’d bought a house instead of renting in Dumfries. He was settled here.
Being allowed in the house would give Aaron a chance to profile it. It also allowed an alpha male in his territory which would tell him that he was allowed back. Aaron relaxed back into the chair, trying to make himself small. Reid was strong, but after a day like today, he would be vulnerable. He would be on edge from the damage that could have been done to his students. Reid had stayed strong and protected them. He’d directed a deaf student and her best friend into making smoke bombs without the hostage takers knowing that they were even there. It had been a sloppy job from the start. More emotion than planning. But if Reid hadn’t been there…It could have been devastating.
“How did they get into the school?” Reid asked as he appeared with a tray in his free hand. Aaron didn’t jump up to help him, he stayed seated. He knew what he would be allowed to get away with. He was sure that it hadn’t changed over the years.
“Recruitment. Brainwashing of sorts. The three guards who allowed them in were unaware of the true reason for the hostage situation. The three guards were found dead in the boiler room of the school.”
“That’s disturbing.” Reid set the tray down on a table. There were two full cups as well as a carafe. Hotch’s cup was undoctored while Reid’s was pale. Reid sat down carefully, using his cane to pull over a stool to prop his bad leg on. Aaron waited for him to get settled before he reached for his own cup of coffee. Reid grabbed his once Aaron had sat all the way back.
“Yes. I figure that the school will be closed for a few days to get everything taken care of and start the process to hire more security.”
“Will Jessica be able to watch Jack?” Reid looked apprehensive.
“I’m sure that she will be able to. If not I have a neighbor who can watch him throughout the day. He doesn’t like her as much as Jessica but he goes to her place without fighting me.” Aaron knew that Jack didn’t like to go to her, but it was either it or daycare, and he didn’t want to go to daycare. “Reid, I want to explain my side of what happened years ago. I’m not going to beg for forgiveness but I want explain. Can you let me do that and not interrupt me?”
Reid took a drink of his coffee and waved his hand at him.
“I woke up angry and upset that I had let Foyet get the drop on me. I was upset that I’d not been there for the case, and I felt horrible that Haley and Jack had to go into hiding. Then you didn’t come by. All I could see was that when I needed you, you weren’t there. Prentiss was telling me that it was just a flesh wound and no one else was offering another explanation. If it was a flesh wound why were you staying away? Had you looked at what getting with me would mean, the baggage I was bringing and decided that it wasn’t what you wanted? Then I came back from leave and you were gone, just gone. The team tried to get a hold of you but nothing. I wasn’t aware that JJ was lying at the time. You’d left all of us. King of Abandonment Issues had left us first. I thought that you couldn’t hack it. You’d heard what happened to me, then got shot and decided that it was too much. I painted you a coward, and I let my own anger rule what I’d done. Then Haley died and I started to blame you. If you had been there I could have saved her. I could have saved her for Jack. When I saw you at the funeral on crutches my whole world shifted in that moment. I saw the truth of myself and then JJ rocked my world even more with the truth of what happened. It took a long time for the team to trust each other again, much less ourselves. Then JJ left for the state department. Prentiss’ death. I just pushed more and more away. I dated a woman but it fizzled.”
“Beth. JJ told me about her. She didn’t say that you two had broken up.” Reid was looking at his cup, hadn’t looked up at all. If one didn’t know Reid, they would think it was a sign of grief or apathy, but Aaron knew he was thinking. He was processing and taking it all in.
“The thought that you’d been alone to face what I knew, later, was an injury that would have put you behind a desk, I was ashamed of myself and the team. You had Will. A man that, while you knew him, at the time were more attached to JJ. You ran and I can’t fault you for it, but I want to understand why.” Aaron leaned forward, clasping the mug between his hands and resting his arms on his knees. “Why did you have JJ keep her mouth shut?”
“I didn’t want anyone knowing anything. You say that they said flesh wound. No one had seen me since I’d been shot. How did they know what was wrong with me? I only knew what JJ had told Will, and she kept most of it quiet until after Haley and Jack were in Witness Protection. I knew that you’d been hurt, but at no point did anyone even ask about me. JJ said that no one was asking her, so she thought that someone else was talking to me. We were too close to see how badly we messed up, until much later. All I knew was that I was alone. When I figured out the whole truth of it all, I thought about calling you, but I needed to take care of me.” Reid sighed and leaned back in his chair, tilting his head up to look at the ceiling of the porch. “No one on the team except for JJ has ever asked me about my childhood after dad left. What happened? No one. Because it’s normal for a father to leave a schizophrenic woman alone with a ten year old kid, and for everything to be happy and wonderful.” Reid looked at him. Rolling his head to the side but never lifting it.
“I assumed that an aunt or uncle helped. Or grandparents.” Aaron hated that he’d never asked. It hadn’t even crossed his mind seeing Reid’s mother. He’d known something was up after helping him through his withdrawal. The words he’d said. But he’d ignored it. He looked down into his cup of coffee, worried about what was going to come out of Reid’s mouth next.
“Mom’s parents died before I was born. A car accident not long after mom married dad. Dad’s parents died when I was three. When dad left mom and I, his family left as well. There was no one to help me. Mom had no siblings and and dad’s siblings never cared. Not one of the Reids ever liked mom. I was alone. I went to Cal-Tech because a neighbor checked in on mom. She knew that if I went into the system, I’d never survive and have a future. She helped as much as she could, but she was getting older as well. I put my mom into Bennington and there was no support. I was abandoned once by family.
“I sat in that hospital bed and I looked at my life. I realized that I needed to take care of me. I’d sacrificed for mom, and I will never regret that but if I had stayed, even just to stay in office and do consults and help on cases, I would have been doing it for someone other than me. I cut out everything from my life that I didn’t need, and that included the man who couldn’t even ask why a man who said he loved him never even asked about him. I couldn’t. I didn’t know how to get a hold of you, and it wasn’t until long after that I figured how tight of a hold Prentiss has on your safety. The only thing that kept me out of your hospital room was that if I had left mine, I could have damaged my knee more. I tried to call your cell, but it went unanswered. You were in under an assumed name, and even Prentiss wasn’t answering me on you the last time I talked to her before I was taken to the hospital in McLean. I didn’t know that you didn’t know that I was in the hospital too. I was cut off from everyone and no one was answering me. Was I supposed to beg?”
“No.” Aaron knew that he was right. He could understand JJ a little better as well. Her willingness to do what Reid wanted. She’d trusted that the team was doing what they should have been doing while she was doing what she was supposed to be doing. It wasn’t any wonder that when she came back she wanted to be a profiler. In the thick of things, not to be relegated to the sides anymore. “There were so many screw-ups in the aftermath of that. I’m sorry that you were pushed to the side, and I can understand going away so that you could save your own mental health.”
“I’m not ready for the team to crash into my life, Hotch. I’m happy right now. I teach, and I read, and I do what I want. I don’t want the horribleness of that in my life. You crashing it is enough.” Reid’s words were harsh but he didn’t say that he didn’t want Aaron in his life. He hadn’t shut that door yet. Aaron felt hope swell in his chest for the first time in a very long time.
“Yet, you haven’t demanded that I leave.” Aaron set his cup of coffee down and scooted closer to Reid. He laid his hand on his good knee, familiar yet could be innocent or intimate. Reid didn’t react at all. Aaron took it as a good sign.
“I don’t know why,” Reid said as he turned his head away again. Aaron moved to prop his knee on the edge of Reid’s chair and leaned over him. Reid looked up at him with a frown on his face.
“Inviting me and Jack into your life isn’t going to bring the rest of the team into it. I won’t tell them, and Jack has been calling you Doctor Cane. Hell, even I thought that Cane was a last name.” Aaron took the cup from the younger man and then cupped the side of his face. He felt Reid’s heart rate pick up. Aaron didn’t look a gift horse in the mouth and leaned down. Reid’s eyes fluttered closed and Aaron took it as permission. He pressed his lips to Reid’s and waited. Reid’s hands came up slowly, starting at Aaron’s arms and moving up. The heat from the cup was still on the palms of Reid’s hands, so when they touched his neck, he shivered. Reid was the first to open his mouth, inviting in Aaron’s tongue. The kiss was what it was. A soft exploration. A test to see how they were together. Aaron thought that it would be arousing but it wasn’t. He pulled back before he was ready, but he could feel Reid’s body getting tenser.
“I don’t think that I am ready for that either,” Reid whispered. He swallowed harshly. “Not yet.”
“But you aren’t saying that you don’t want it.” Aaron kissed his cheek before pulling back enough to be able to see his whole face. It wasn’t a yes but it wasn’t a no either. “I don’t want more than you are willing to give, Reid.”
“I don’t know what I am willing to give.”
“You know my number. It’s well past Jack’s bedtime. I need to get going. I am going to have a lot of paperwork to fill out over the next few days. Jack will see you when school starts again. If you don’t call me before that.”
Aaron righted himself and only held out a hand for Reid to use to right himself, and offered nothing else. Within ten minutes, Aaron was buckling a very tired Jack into the backseat of the car and they were leaving. Reid stood on the porch watching them leave. Aaron really hoped that wasn’t going to be the last time that he saw the younger man outside of New Haven.