Title: Santa’s Little Helper
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Year: Season 10
Pairings: Aaron Hotchner/Spencer Reid,
Characters: Aaron Hotchner, Spencer Reid,
Spoilers: Up Through Season 10
Summary: Spencer had no clue what to get Rossi for Christmas so he asks for Hotch’s help. What follows in one of the best days in Spencer’s life.
Prompt: Spencer gets assigned Dave for their Secret Santa and he has no idea what to get him. He asks Aaron to help him find something and they spend the day together shopping, but have so much fun enjoying each other’s company that they don’t actually get Dave anything.
Spencer fidgeted as he looked up from his book, scanning the people around him for the one face that he wanted to see before going back to the book. The mall was packed, and Spencer would rather be anywhere else, but he had to get a gift for Rossi. It was the first time that he’d ever pulled the man’s name in the seven years since Rossi had joined the team. Spencer knew that statistically that it was bound to happen, and should have happened before then. He just had no clue what to get him. So, Spencer had bit the bullet as Rossi liked to say, and asked for help. Hotch knew Rossi best so he was the one to go to.
Hotch wasn’t late, but Spencer had been so nervous that he’d left his apartment early, and had arrived over two hours before the appointed meeting time at the mall. He’d gone to the bookstore, and found many books that looked interesting to read before heading towards the small coffee shop that Hotch was supposed to meet him at. The barista at the shop had kept his cup full, and he made sure to smile at her, and was going to leave her a big tip. Though the place was packed she made sure that his cup never ran dry.
“Reid,” Hotch said from behind him. Spencer spun around in his chair, his book falling to the floor. Hotch had a cup of coffee in his hand, and a smile on his face. Spencer felt himself blushing. He hadn’t seen the man enter the shop, nor heard him place his coffee order.
“Hotch, when did you get here? Why didn’t you come to me?”
“I wanted coffee. and you were so engrossed in your book that I didn’t want to interrupt you until I had to.” Hotch set his coffee down across from Spencer and leaned down to pick up the book that had fallen out of Spencer’s lap when he’d been startled. Hotch didn’t give the book over though. Instead, he sat down with it and looked at it. Reading the summary on the jacket before turning to the first pages and sort of skimming them. Spencer felt like pulling the book out of his hands and hiding it. He said nothing though. “Not your usual reading.”
“I find that books in the fantasy genre in the adult section tend to have a lot of sex. while the ones in the juvenile. and even young adult section have little to none. Obviously, the writing is geared toward younger minds. Most adult fiction books bore me with the writing and still I read them, and love them, so this is no different. I had this book recommended to me by one of the kids I teach chess to at the park so I thought I would give it and the sequel a try. Plus I love stories about faeries.”
Hotch handed the book over, but the look on his face was one that Spencer had never seen before.
“We can go whenever you want to,” Spencer offered as he found the page he had been reading, and slipped the bookmark inside. He looked back up at Hotch and realized that he was dressed like Spencer had never seen him before. The jeans that he had on were faded and old. The long sleeved t-shirt that he had on was just plain black, but still very new, like Hotch didn’t wash it at all or that it was new. He’d never seen Hotch wear a long sleeved t-shirt before.
“I’d like to sit and enjoy my coffee. And I see that you are just drinking drip so I ordered you a latte. Ah, here it is now.” Hotch smiled at someone behind Spencer so he turned his head to see the barista standing there and in her hand was a large latte, in a ceramic cup, and not in a to go cup. Hotch’s coffee was in a ceramic cup as well.
“Why?” Spencer asked after his latte had been set down and the barista gone from ear range.
“I figured that you would be more than ready to get this over with.”
“Jack is with Jessica doing last minute Christmas shopping at some of the smaller shops around where we live. I have no plans for the day except helping you find a gift for Dave. I’d rather enjoy that than rush around.”
Spencer didn’t know what to say to that, so he looked down at his coffee before he finished it off, so that he could drink his latte. The foam on top of it was thick and there was no discernable scent,he just quirked an eyebrow up before he took a sip. He hummed in happiness as it was a chocolate hazelnut latte. One of his drinks that he didn’t get much on cases as he liked to savor them, and not just drink them down really fast.
“I thought that it was what I smelled that one time in Nebraska when we were in the shop at the airport when we had to wait a few hours to leave because of ice on the wings.” Hotch smiled at Spencer and his heart stopped a little.
“You have a good nose as well as a good memory.”
“Little things like that are important.”
Spencer didn’t let the comment go to his head, Hotch had to mean that it was important as a boss to at least know a few personal things like that about his subordinates. Spencer looked back down at his drink and didn’t look up until he was done because if he did, and Hotch was looking at him, he was going to blush even more. He’d always had a crush on Hotch. It had started out as just a passing thing. but since Maeve’s death it had turned into something more. Hotch took more time with him in various things. and even had started to room with him on cases when they had to share. There wasn’t a chance that it was more than just Hotch being friendly. so Spencer tamped that down every single time.
“What’s wrong?” Hotch asked.
“I’m just…” Spencer stopped because Hotch would be able to tell an outright lie. “I have everyone else on my list bought for and the party is tomorrow at Garcia’s and I don’t like not having a gift for him.”
“And I know that we’ve had this planned for three weekends. but Jack being sick and cases have messed that up.” Hotch drained his coffee and stood up. Spencer pulled his wallet from his bag and laid down a tip on the table. He turned around to thank the barista. but she was right there with a to go cup of coffee in her hand. She handed it over with a big smile and Spencer smiled back.
“Thank you for keeping me in coffee.”
“You are welcome.” The girl’s eyelids fluttered, and she had a rosy tint to her cheeks. He wanted to ask if she was feeling well. but he stopped himself. People never liked it when he asked that before. Spencer turned away and there was a look on Hotch’s face that Spencer had never seen before. It was almost like jealousy. but then he’d never seen that look on his boss’s face before. so he wasn’t sure if it was the right look. Spencer moved towards the door after he snagged his bag from the floor and hefted it up. Hotch frowned and took it from him as he passed.
“Did you drive or take the subway?”
“I took the subway, why?”
“We are not walking around the mall with you carrying fifteen pounds of books. I’ll drop these in my car. Why don’t you go to the leather store and look around and I’ll meet you there.” Hotch actually fished inside for his wallet and handed it over before he just left the shop. Spencer stared in shock at him until he couldn’t see his back anymore. Spencer shoved the wallet in his pocket before he started out of the coffee shop. He wasn’t sure what exactly had made Hotch want to do that, taking his bag away and even putting it in the car. There were lockers that he could have stowed the books in until he was ready to leave. Instead of using his bag as a calming device, he sipped at his coffee, and kept on sipping until it was all the way gone, just as he was getting to the leather shop at the other end of the mall.
Spencer threw the cup away in a trash basket inside the shop, and as he did Hotch entered the door. There was that weird look back in his eyes as he looked at Spencer.
Shop after shop, the two of them walked around. Hotch got them started on the topic of Christmas and Winter Holiday traditions the world around, and the conversation just evolved from there. When Spencer would go on tangents or ramble, Hotch would let him until it came to a natural point, he’d chime in with a new thought on what he said. Spencer felt his anxiety about the gift go away and just enjoyed hanging out with Hotch.
Spencer didn’t pay attention to anything but Hotch, so when they were in the middle of a hand blown glass shop, and his stomach growled so hard that other shoppers around them looked at him, Spencer knew it was time to eat.
“Did you eat anything for lunch?”
“Ham sandwich, three pickle spears, Fritos, and two and a half glasses of unsweetened tea. What did you eat?”
“Jack and I had potato soup with crackers and lemonade. I don’t remember the exact ounces of the soup, or the lemonade, but between us we did finish off a sleeve of crackers.” Hotch said it with a smile on his face. “There is a restaurant on the second floor that is supposed to be good. Why don’t we eat some dinner there? Then we can finish up shopping.”
“Sure.” Spencer had heard JJ talk about the place Hotch was talking about. Even Henry liked it there. Spencer followed Hotch up the escalator and when they got to the restaurant, Spencer was upset to see that it was packed, and that there was a line. but Hotch moved passed the line and went to the hostess.
“Two for Hotchner,” Hotch said. The hostess smiled at him and motioned for them to follow her.
“Hotch?” Spencer whispered as they passed the other customers.
“I knew it would be packed and so I called in reservations yesterday. We are about ten minutes early.” Hotch pulled out a chair, and Spencer tried to move around to take the other when he realized that Hotch had pulled it out for Spencer to sit in and not himself. Spencer felt that blush creeping back, but he moved to take the seat. Hotch seated himself across from him and Spencer realized that their table was kind of cut off from the rest of the restaurant, but not so much that the sounds didn’t filter to them.
“This place is nice.”
“I’m glad you like it. Save room for dessert. They have a chocolate cake that you are going to love.” Hotch picked up the menu in front of him and started to look it over. Spencer picked up his own, and looked through the appetizers, and then the main courses before he got to the dessert. There was only three listed, and the only cake was the chocolate, made for two people to eat, together. Spencer choked a little on air in his lungs and looked at Hotch. The man was absorbed in his menu.
Spencer kept his menu in front of him. He didn’t look up at Hotch again, even when the waitress took their drink order. Hotch ordered a single beer with water to follow, while Spencer just ordered iced tea. After Spencer had plenty of time to read the menu forty two times he looked up to see that Hotch was looking at the people around them. Spencer knew that he was acting weird, but he wasn’t sure what to make of anything that was going on.
“So, Reid, what do you know of pasta and it’s origins?” Hotch asked after the waitress took their appetizer and dinner order. Spencer tried to keep the answer short, but Hotch kept asking more and more questions about things, and the conversation lasted long after their dinner was served.
Hotch kept him talking and talking about anything and everything, and before Spencer knew it, dessert was being served. He didn’t even blink at diving into it. The dessert was massive and made for two. He expected Hotch to cut it in half, but they both just started eating off of it. The lights in the restaurant flicked a little just after they were done, and Spencer looked at his watch. It was almost closing time for the mall.
“Oh,” Hotch said, sounding just as shocked as Spencer felt.
“Damn,” Spencer said back.
“That’s…huh. I’m sorry, Spencer. I didn’t realize that that much time was passing.”
“I’ll hit something close to home before heading to the party at Garcia’s. I think that I can find something that doesn’t match what you’ve already vetoed.”
“Mr. Hotchner?” The waitress asked as she handed over the little black book that the check’s came in. Spencer reached for his own, but she wasn’t passing one to him. Hotch signed the slip inside and handed it back over. He smiled at the waitress.
“It’s the least I could do since today was a bust.”
“I had fun though, and days that one has fun are never a bust, as you call it.” Spencer was honest. It had been a fun day, one of the best he’d ever had.
“Something your mom taught you?”
Hotch smiled at him and stood up. Spencer scooted back a little stood as well.
“I’ll drop you at home, no sense in taking the subway this late at night with all the crazy Christmas shoppers around.”
Spencer found that he couldn’t say no.
Spencer ended up going to his favorite used bookstore and finding a copy of Dante’s Inferno in Italian for Rossi. He carefully wrapped it and stuck a bow on it just as JJ was pulling up. She’d all but forced him into taking the ride saying that they didn’t want him late, or in a bad mood because of holiday shoppers. The team had a week off, and since several members were going home for Christmas, the team was having their get together early.
The presents were all slipped under the tree, and Spencer saw the one with his name on it. It said Spencer not Reid so he figured that JJ had got him again.
Once lunch was eaten, the team gathered around the tree. Hotch had claimed the love seat, which was odd, but Spencer shrugged it off until he realized that all other spots were taken. He had a choice of sitting on the floor, or by Hotch. If he chose the floor, everyone would read into why so he took the seat next to Hotch.
“Who is first this year?” Morgan asked.
“I say age order this year,” Hotch offered. He laughed when everyone looked at him. “Oldest first.”
“I won’t argue with that,” Rossi said as he dove into the tree to find his gift. He pulled out one that Spencer realized wasn’t his gift. He almost opened his mouth but as he started to, Hotch’s hand fell onto his neck and squeezed. Spencer shut his mouth, but the hand didn’t go away. Rossi ripped into the package and he smiled. “Thank you, Reid. These are just what I wanted this year.”
Rossi showed the rest of the team the cigars that Spencer knew he hadn’t got him. Spencer sat there trying to figure out why Hotch had swapped the presents, and what exactly happened to his original one. Hotch made a fuss over his gift from Garcia. A new digital picture frame for his desk, filled with pictures of him and Jack over the years. Spencer barely paid attention as the rest opened theirs.
Then Spencer’s was set in his lap. He barely paid attention to the paper as he pulled it off. The box was bigger than normal for JJ’s gift certificates to his favorite bookshop and coffee shop. What was inside wasn’t gift certificates. There was just a handwritten note. He lifted that and there was a gift card under that to the retailer that he used to get some of his rarer books. He kept the note in the box to read it.
I know this isn’t a normal gift, but I figured if not now, when? No matter your answer, the gift card is yours. I had a great time last night and I want to do that again. This time with no other reason than we are on a date.
“What did you get?” Morgan asked.
“Gift card to my rare book store that I go to.” Spencer held it up and smiled. He set the letter back down into the box and closed it after slipping the card in. When the team was all looking away from him, Spencer moved his hand down to brush against Aaron’s. Aaron wrapped his hand into his and squeezed. It was gearing up to be the best Christmas ever.