Title: Burned By the Fire
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Year: Season 10 (2015)
Tags: Angst, Hurt/Comfort,
Pairings: Aaron Hotchner/Spencer Reid, Past Spencer Reid/Emily Prentiss,
Spoilers: Up Through Season 10
Summary: Family was a word that Aaron used for him and Spencer and Jack, just never to Spencer’s face and the one time that he had to prove it, he messed up.
It wasn’t like his apartment was a monument to the secret that he was keeping in his life. There was no evidence of his lover anywhere in the apartment except for the master bedroom, and bathroom. The contact case that was in the top drawer. The hairbrush, and the few styling products that lived in the corner of the counter. The second rag in the shower, and the second set of bath products. Any profiler could look at the bathroom and see that a second person lived there. In the bedroom, it was the closet with a second style of clothes, as well as, a whole side of the dresser with socks that he’d never wear, and a drawer with boxer briefs. Aaron could name them all because he worried about having to hide them.
At least before that night all of those things had been in his bedroom and bathroom.
Aaron stared at the bedroom in utter shock. The closet door was open, and he knew that he and Spencer always kept it closed. The drawers that had held Spencer’s things were open and empty. He hadn’t been in the bathroom, but he figured it would look the same. The only evidence that Spencer had been in the room was the book on his side of the bed. It was on the nightstand where the genius had set it down when he carried it from the living room. It was one of Aaron’s law texts.
There was a single sheet of paper on Aaron’s pillow.
I thought that this relationship was something different than it was, and the blame for that falls totally at my feet. I just cannot be in the type of relationship that you so obviously want. I am going to be using up two weeks of my stored up leave. It has already been cleared. I told Cruz that you were at a family party, and I was unwilling to bother you. I told him that I had some family issues that popped up. I hope that by the time I get back we can go back to what we were. Coworkers. I will not be asking for a transfer from the unit, so if you cannot accept that, I am sorry, but you will have to transfer me. You will have to explain what happened to the team.
I would prefer it if you allowed Garcia to call me about case work from now on. I will not be answering phone calls from you unless I am working.
I will abide by whatever decision you make about Jack but know that I will always be there for him. I will be in his life as much as he wants, but again, if you decide that I am to not be part of his life, you have to tell him that as I will always tell him the truth.
Doctor S. Reid
Aaron sat down on the bed and stared at the letter. He had known he would have an upset Spencer when he got home if Spencer had even stayed. He knew there would be fallout, but he hadn’t expected this. He figured he would have to woo the younger man a little to get back in his good graces. He really hadn’t expected this at all.
“Dad, where’s Spencer?” Jack asked as he entered the room. It was summer so his bedtime was later than normal. Aaron didn’t know what to say. He moved to the drawers and shut them, hoping Jack didn’t seem them empty.
“He stayed at his apartment tonight, Jack.”
“Oh.” Jack frowned. “We were going to play Minecraft.”
“I’m sorry, buddy. Hey, maybe he’s online.” Aaron hoped he was. For Jack’s sake. Jack smiled and took off towards the living room. The sounds of the Xbox starting up sounded through the apartment. Aaron sighed and moved towards the couch. Jack had his headphones on and a controller in his hand. The smile on his face when the screen loaded up told Aaron that yes Spencer was online.
“Spencer, where are you?” Jack’s voice was overly loud as he couldn’t hear how loud he was.
“I’m getting ready to head to visit family, Jack. I’ve had some family issues that popped up. I have to leave in an hour to catch my flight. We can play for a little while.” Jack hadn’t turned the volume of the TV off yet. Spencer’s voice sounded normal.
“Family issues? But why didn’t Dad know about it?” Jack looked at Aaron with a look of shock on his face.
“You’ll have to discuss that with your father.” Spencer still sounded normal, at least to what Jack would be able to pick up.
“You always say that when you don’t know what to say, and you are making sure you don’t say the wrong thing. Spencer, what’s wrong? Why didn’t you go with us tonight?”
Aaron cursed his son in his mind. Over XBox Live was not the way that this was supposed to go. There was a pause. Just long enough for Aaron to know that Spencer was weighing his answers.
“Ask your father.”
Jack stared at Aaron and then he ripped the headphones off his head and ran off. Aaron followed. Unsure of what his son was doing. He expected to find him in his bedroom, but instead, he was in the master bedroom. He had the drawers that had been Spencer’s open. The drawers were just as empty as they had been when Aaron had found them. He wanted to hate Spencer. The man cared so much for Jack that he was willing to go with whatever lie Aaron wanted to concoct to make Spencer the bad guy, just to have him not hate his surviving parent. Jack moved away from the dresser and grabbed the cordless phone sitting on its cradle on Aaron’s bedside, and started to dial. He looked at Aaron as he walked past him and into his own bedroom, slamming the door shut. Next, he heard the closet door shut.
All he could do was wait. He had no clue what Spencer was telling him. He wanted to know, but he wouldn’t betray Jack’s privacy. Aaron dropped to his ass just outside his son’s bedroom door and waited. He listened for any noise. Any little thing that would tell him what was going on.
Ten minutes went by, and nothing.
Twenty and he thought he heard the sound of the closet door opening.
Thirty minutes, and he heard a door open, but it wasn’t the one in front of him. It was his front door. He heard the door shut, and heeled feet striding down the hall. He looked up to see Jessica standing there. The look on her face reminded Aaron so much of Haley that it was stepping back into the past. She didn’t say a word just knocked on Jack’s door, and then it opened. Jack was standing there with Aaron’s old go bag in his hand, and his backpack over his shoulder. He hugged him quickly and then was moving away. Aaron didn’t understand.
“I’m going to spend the next few days with Aunt Jessica.”
“I’m sorry, Aaron,” Jessica said as she followed Jack. Jack was upset, and Aaron could understand that. If Aaron had somewhere else to go, he would. He didn’t understand what had caused this. He needed to do that.
Aaron thought back over the day. The morning had been perfect. Spencer had stayed the night, and Aaron had woken up wrapped around him. It was a late morning. Cruz had told them all to wander in whenever they wanted before noon given their caseloads lately. Aaron had heard Jack in the living room watching TV, so he knew that he’d be occupied at least for a little while longer.
It hadn’t taken long to wake up Spencer and have a hushed, slow round of morning sex. Showers, and then a late breakfast of eggs, bacon, and toast with juice for the three of them. Spencer had moved to the living room to settle in with a case file from the C.A.R.D. team on an active case they were working and wanted his help with. Aaron had ushered Jack through getting ready to drop him off at a friend’s for the day. Many of the stay-at-home mom’s of Jack’s friends were more than willing to watch him throughout the day while he was at work during the summer months, so that Jessica could have some days to herself, and not have to work and watch him. Jack had been so happy when he had worked it all out.
Work at the office was fine, up until Aaron had gotten ready to leave early for the birthday party for a set of twins by one of Haley’s cousins. The twins were just a year older than Jack and were his closest friends in the family. There had been a smaller birthday party for the extended family over the weekend, but that night had been for the kids. An evening at a paintball/laser tag range. Jack had been so excited to go. There were going to be plenty of adults there, and it was a chance for them to catch up. Aaron hadn’t even thought about going until Jessica had pointed out it was the part of the family that didn’t blame him for Haley’s death, who knew that he had done everything he could have to save her. The invitation had even named Spencer. Aaron had just thought they were being nice. There was no hating him for Haley’s death, and bringing his younger than him male lover to a birthday party with his dead ex-wife’s family was something that Aaron would have never would have thought would be something accepted.
When Jack and he had shown up, no one said a thing. There had been a few looks, but then Aaron was in his work suit, not having enough time to change out of it. It was rare that he wore suits to family things. The twins had been in the middle of a laser tag match, but as soon as they had seen Jack, they were across the room, pulling him away. Samuel had asked where Spencer was, and Aaron had answered that he hadn’t been able to get out of work. Jessica had asked where he really was, and Aaron had answered the same thing again. He already had the discussion with Spencer that he didn’t think it was right to display him in front of the family. That the twins only wanted him there, and it would make things awkward. He wondered then why Jessica had brought it up. Surely she understood.
Aaron sighed and leaned his head back against the wall just as his phone went off. He jerked it out of his pocket a lot harder than he would have. He hoped it was Spencer. When he saw who was calling, he sighed again but answered it.
“Aaron, I was hoping that Spencer was around.” Valerie was the twins mother and Haley’s cousin. “Samuel and Tina want to thank him for their gift.”
“Gift?” Aaron questioned. Aaron and Jack had taken their gift to the party. He hadn’t taken a gift from Spencer.
“The sweet man had it messengered over. It arrived at the same time that we arrived home from the party. It was a shame that he wasn’t able to make it. One would think that since you are his boss that he would be able to get the night off, but I understand that he was probably very busy.” The tone that Valerie used told him that the twins were right there and that she didn’t believe a word that she was saying. It was then that Aaron figured it out. It had been a family outing that Spencer had been invited to. A family outing that Aaron denied him the right to go to. Family.
I thought that this relationship was something different than it was and the blame for that falls totally at my feet. I just cannot be in the type of relationship that you so obviously want.
“I’ll give you Spencer’s cell phone number. I’d texted him first, though. He tends to not answer numbers he doesn’t recognize.” Aaron didn’t want to be on the phone any longer. He didn’t want to be there.
“That sounds like you aren’t going to be seeing him for a while. Aaron?”
“His cell phone number is the best way to reach him.” Aaron rattled off the numbers and then hung up. He jumped to his feet and grabbed his keys, leaving the apartment. He got into his car and drove to Reagan. He found that the flight to Vegas was leaving in the hour. He had enough time to catch Spencer. The plane was just starting to board, but there was no Spencer. He bought a quick ticket to Vegas. The money didn’t matter to him. He took a seat and waited but twenty minutes before the gates were going to close, Aaron knew he wasn’t coming. The only family that Spencer cared about was in Vegas. Where else could he be going? He looked at the doors and made the decision that he was going.
A quick call to Cruz had him off for at least the next day. Thankfully the man could tell that something was wrong, and gave him the day willingly, with more if needed. Aaron was the last to board the plane. He took his seat and waited. He was thankful that no one was seated in the seats beside him because his leg bounced the entire way to Vegas. His thoughts were on getting Spencer and making sure that he never left again.
The night’s problems were wholly at his feet. He had known going in that Spencer was all in. He knew that the younger man craved family, and Aaron had brought him and made him part of the family, but their little family of three was the end of that scope. He could see where Spencer felt that he was a dirty little secret. Those words hadn’t been used in the letter, but the tone was more than enough. He screwed up so much.
Aaron cleared the airport, waiting for a taxi to take him to Bennington before he tried to call Dave. It was the middle of the night and the man didn’t answer. That didn’t shock him. He left a message stating that he wouldn’t be in the office that day. Changing his mind halfway there, Aaron had himself dropped off at a car rental place. He didn’t want to rely on taxi’s to get around. He was just about to pay when his cell phone started ringing. He looked at the caller ID. It was Garcia.
“Hotchner,” Aaron said as he answered it.
“Sir, why was Reid’s passport pinged? I didn’t even know he had a passport.” Garcia sounded alert, more alert than she should be.
“I have security protocols set up that tell me when weird things happen. Obviously, Morgan going to Cuba or other places like that don’t ping, but Boy Wonder’s passport for Germany would be worthy of a ping. He flew out five hours ago. Sir, what’s going on?”
“I know that he asked Cruz for two weeks leave.” Aaron waved at the person to stop. He covered the phone. “I guess I won’t need the car. I’m sorry for wasting your time.” Aaron uncovered the phone and stepped outside the car rental place. The only family was in Vegas. So who was in Germany? “He told Cruz it was a family thing.”
“Hold on.” The clacking of keys told Aaron that she was at work. She probably got the ping and went in to see if it was worth calling in the rest of the team. “I don’t ping anyone that Reid is related to in Germany, or the surrounding area. I do have…an email from…Prentiss that states she’s in Germany. It even has her address. Why is Reid going to see Prentiss?”
“I don’t know.” Aaron waved down a taxi, naming the airport he wanted. The driver grunted and then they were off. Why was Spencer going to Germany? Why was he going to see Prentiss?
“Why are you in Las Vegas, Sir?” Garcia asked.
“I…I did a stupid thing and I was trying to correct it.” Aaron wasn’t even shocked that she knew where he was.
“What did you do to Spencer, Sir?” Garcia’s voice hardened as she spoke. Their relationship was still where neither of them wanted to share with the team. Dave knew. He was their watcher. Making sure they didn’t do anything stupid on cases, and when they did, he would call them on it. So far nothing had happened, yet.
“I made a mistake.”
“And he’s going to Germany to get away from you? Not home to his mother? Not here to any of the team, but all the way to Germany? What kind of lover’s spat did you have that sent him all the way to Germany?”
Aaron wasn’t shocked that she knew. He wasn’t really sure if everyone on the team knew but never mentioned it because they wanted their privacy. “I basically told him, and I didn’t know it at the time, that I don’t consider him part of my family.” Aaron waited. He expected a blow-up. He expected the stuttering gasps that told him that Garcia was pissed. He never expected her to hang up on him.
Arriving back at his apartment six hours later, Aaron exited his car. He was shocked to see Roy standing there at the elevator. He looked and didn’t see Jessica.
“I had her drop me off an hour ago. Some woman named Penelope called and told her that you were catching a flight back from Vegas and that your boyfriend was on his way to Germany. Jack was a little upset, but when Jessica explained he was going to see Aunt Emily, he settled down. You and I need to have a talk.”
Aaron waved for Roy to walk in front of him towards the elevator that would take them to the ground floor. The older man was silent up until they entered the apartment.
“I was never happy when Jessica said that you had moved on. Told me you were dating again. I can’t stand the thought of you happy with Haley dead. She never would tell me who you were dating so I talked to Jack a lot. Never asking outright. It took six months for me to figure out that this Doctor Reid, Spencer, was the boyfriend. I was shocked. I was angry. Pissed. I was half tempted to call your boss and tell them that you were sleeping with a subordinate. Then Jack was talking one night about something that he and Spencer did, and that’s when I saw it. Jack loved him. You are always respectful, never inviting him over to things that the family is going to be at. Making sure he isn’t around when I am visiting Jack. I may be losing my mind, but I’m not an idiot, not yet. I can tell that you love Haley still. The divorce was never because of a lack of love. This Spencer understands you in a way that no one else has ever been able to, except for Jack. Spencer has been the best thing in Jack’s life since Haley died. There was a reason that the selection of those invited to the birthday part was so small. It was all the family that you and he could be yourself around. He was invited, and you told him no. That wasn’t your right.”
“I know, Roy.” Aaron started but one look from Roy had him shutting up.
“No. I’m talking right now. You fucked this up royally. Valerie called Jessica, and now at the apartment is Valerie and her husband, Samuel, and Tina, Jessica and Jack. I’m sure that by the time they are done, Spencer will be more welcome at family gatherings than you. Jack’s already made the decision that he’s not coming home until Spencer comes home, and if he never does, he never will as well. When he figured out why Spencer didn’t come to the party, he broke down. I’m sure that he doesn’t mean it that way, he’s upset, and we all know that he got his histrionics from Haley.”
Aaron was shocked at that. Spencer hadn’t told him?
“That’s right. Jack spent that time on the phone, and Spencer told Jack that he would always love him, but that sometimes relationships didn’t work out, and that no blame was going to be laid at Jack’s feet. It was him, and it was you that messed it up, but that the both of you loved him. I listened as Jack told every single bit of this to Jessica. Jack put it together when the twins told him that Spencer had messengered over the present. You have a lot of things of what you want out of life, Aaron. You had the white picket fence, and it wasn’t enough. You had a man that loved you more than life itself and loves your son so much that he’d rather that son be upset with him over something that wasn’t his fault than have him upset with you. No one in this family will stop Jack from seeing Spencer. At the moment the women are treating this like a divorce. The holidays at which Spencer is going to be invited with Jack and the ones you will be invited with Jack are being doled out. I wouldn’t be surprised if by the time I get back there is a whole conclave of Brooks women and some men weighing in.”
“What do you expect me to do? Spencer ran to Germany.”
“Yes. That’s something else that I know that you don’t. I know why he ran to Germany. I know who Aunt Emily is. Aaron, when someone says they should probably tell you who their past lovers have been, you really should listen. Especially when that last lover’s name is Emily Prentiss.”
Aaron stopped breathing, stopped moving, stopped everything but thinking. Spencer had tried hard for two weeks to talk to him about his past lovers. In the end, the genius had dropped it rather than fight. Aaron could understand now why his lover had been wanting to tell him.
“I think that it’s time I take my leave. Jack or Jessica will call when he’s ready to come home.” Roy was silent as he lumbered out of the apartment. Aaron dropped onto his couch and just sat there. He didn’t know what to do to fix this. He could hop on a plane and got to Germany, get on his knees and beg. Makes promises that he had every single intention of keeping. He was trying to flesh out his plans when a knock came at the door. He ignored it.
“Hotch, I will break this door down!” Morgan yelled.
Sighing, Aaron moved and threw open the door. Morgan, Dave, and JJ were there. He took in the stormy looks on their faces and knew that this wasn’t going to be pleasant. JJ entered first. She looked fit to be tied, and Aaron wasn’t sure that he was going to survive this. Entering her second trimester had made her a mama bear of epic proportions, and since she couldn’t mother Henry while at work, the team was the fall guys. With Spencer getting most of it.
“Spencer has landed in Germany and Emily has him. I wanted to come alone, but Morgan wanted a piece of you, and Rossi is here to make sure that if we kill you, there won’t be a trace back to us,” JJ said as she sat down on the couch that Aaron had been sitting on. She looked like she belonged there. Morgan took a chair while Dave stayed in a neutral position.
“I know that I messed up. Nothing you say will put that into my head more than it already is. I just can’t…he left, and he didn’t talk to me, and I understand why. We are a family and I didn’t understand what the Brooks’ were offering when they invited him.”
“So you didn’t ask them? How hard would it have been to ask them?” JJ asked.
“You want to know the really stupid part of this all?” Morgan asked. Aaron looked up at him. “Reid started to sleep with Prentiss after Gideon left. It continued up until he was infected by anthrax. That’s almost two years of that boy having sex with Prentiss, and no one knew. No one knew until Prentiss told us two hours ago when she called to figure out why Reid was running. She’s pissed.”
“How is that the stupid part?” JJ asked.
“Because we all knew the moment that he started a relationship with Hotch. Almost down to the second. He couldn’t hide it. He didn’t want to hide it, but we never brought it up. We kept our mouths shut. Now we have Reid in another country, and Jack is hiding away with the Brooks family.”
“I KNOW!” Aaron yelled. He laid his head in his hands.
“I can have a private jet ready to take you to Germany in just a few hours. How does that sound?” Dave asked.
Aaron wasn’t expecting to find Spencer alone at a place called Zur Letzten Instanz, Garcia had tracked down the use of a credit card there to within an hour of Aaron arriving there. Aaron looked around the restaurant area first before he moved to the bar. Spencer was sitting at the end of the bar, hunched over a glass of bourbon. There were five seats open between Spencer and the person closest to him. Aaron moved over and sat down beside him.
“Please move over a seat.”
“We can’t talk then,” Aaron said.
Spencer gasped and looked up at him. Aaron could tell by the look in his eyes that he was pretty drunk.
“What are you doing here?” Each word was careful and precise, another indication that Spencer was drunk. Aaron had only ever seen him drink like this when they were out with the team. Morgan had always taken him back to his place after to crash. He never drank like this after he and Aaron had gotten together.
“I came to talk.” Aaron tried to read his emotions, but it was all a blank stare.
“How did you find me?”
“Well, Prentiss called to tell us that you arrived in Germany, and from there Garcia tracked your credit card to here. Spencer we do have to talk. You have had more than enough time to build a sky-high wall between us. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have stopped you from coming to that party. It wasn’t my right when your name was on there too. I love you and I hurt you without realizing what I was doing. Can we talk?”
“Why did you?” Spencer asked.
“Because I was afraid of what pushing you on the Brooks’s would do. I didn’t even think about the fact that it was the first invite with your name on it. I should have asked Valerie why it was on there. I should have talked to you. I should have done a lot of things differently.” Aaron’s fears were still there, but now the fear was what would happen if he didn’t have Spencer in his life. The Brooks’s weren’t going to turn him over for sleeping with a subordinate.
“Because I love you, and we are family, I know that my actions haven’t seemed like it, but I mean it. I am not happy without you around.”
“Did you look in the hall closet?”
“Where the coats are? No.” Aaron was used to Spencer’s non-sequiturs. Of course, to Spencer they never were. It just took Aaron a moment to up.
“I couldn’t pull my things out of your place. I had them packed, and I was pissed off at you, but I just couldn’t do it. I love you, and I love Jack, and I couldn’t just leave. I expected you to have Garcia give over Emily’s number and force me to talk to you. Not show up in Germany.” Spencer sighed into his glass of bourbon before he downed it. He waved at the bartender and the man walked over. In near perfect German, Spencer said something to him and the man nodded. Within a moment there was a receipt handed over, which Spencer signed. “Did you drive or take a cab?”
“I took a cab.”
Spencer rattled off more German and the bartender picked up a phone and called someone.
“He’ll call us a cab. Where are you staying?”
“Hotel Berlin. I got a suite. Are you sure that you don’t want to go back to Prentiss’s and wait until morning to talk? We don’t have a time limit. The entire team is on stand down. Cruz was worried about your family thing and then realizing that it wasn’t, that’s when I hopped a plane to Vegas to try and talk to you. I told him that when I got back that I would explain everything. Well, I had Dave tell him that.”
“You know that I am drunk,” Spencer said as he stood up and moved towards the door. Aaron followed behind him.
“I do know that. I also know that you don’t fudge the truth when you drink.”
“Are you sure that you want the truth?”
Spencer just made a noncommittal noise as a taxi pulled up to the curb. Aaron opened the door and Spencer slipped inside of it. He moved as far away from the other side of Aaron as he could get. Spencer gave an address to the driver and off they went. Aaron didn’t try to talk while they were going to wherever Spencer was having them taken. When the cab driver stopped in front of a very posh building, Spencer got out, handing over money to the driver. The man drove off as soon as Aaron shut his door.
“Come on up,” Spencer said. A night security man opened the door for them as the approached and nodded at Spencer for a few seconds before nodding at Aaron. “He’s fine.”
“Have a good night, Doctor Reid.” The man’s German accent was thick.
Spencer moved to the elevator and punched in the floor number as Aaron was stepping inside. It opened right into a living room.
“That’s Emily’s personal elevator. I’m on the list of allowed people. The guard was making sure that I wasn’t being forced to allow you in.”
“And if I was?”
“He’d have locked down the elevator before I got there. Then killed you.”
“Oh.” Aaron looked around the apartment and it screamed Prentiss at him. There was a picture on the mantel that drew Aaron over. He had never seen Prentiss smile like that. Aaron knew the bed, though. It was a picture of Spencer and Prentiss in bed at Spencer’s apartment. It was the same bed sheet set that Spencer preferred on it that gave it away. Prentiss had a bra on, and if the sheet was truthful, nothing else. Spencer was totally naked and only a small strip of sheet was protecting his cock from view. Spencer was telling Prentiss something and the look on his face was happy, but it wasn’t the kind of looks Aaron got. Prentiss was obviously in love, and Spencer wasn’t.
“I don’t know why she likes that picture so much.” Spencer sounded tired. Aaron turned to see him sitting on the floor at the back of the chair. Aaron had seen him defeated looking before. Aaron knew he had done that. He’d taken a strong man and made him doubt everything.
“Because it reminds her of what she had.”
“That makes no sense.” Spencer stared at Aaron as he moved over to sit on the floor in front of him. “She ended it. Before I was shot. She left me. I was in the hospital with Anthrax and she told me that we weren’t working anymore.”
“Did she tell you why?”
“She said that she wasn’t ready for a relationship like I wanted. I thought we were friends with benefits, but she made it seem like it was more.”
“Maybe she wanted more, and knew you didn’t and was trying to make it seem different.”
“You are like the sun, Spencer.” Aaron heard the noise the Spencer made when he was trying to pass off praise. Aaron moved over to straddle his legs. Spencer was still drunk, but he was sobering up slowly. At this close, Spencer couldn’t look away from him.
“I thought I was the drunk one,” Spencer whispered.
“Then why does everyone leave me? If I’m the sun they shouldn’t be able to escape.” Spencer did look away from him then. Aaron sat down on the floor and moved to the space in between Spencer’s legs. He scooted just a little closer as he pulled at Spencer’s hips. The younger man didn’t fight him as he was pulled into Aaron’s lap, his back still resting against the chair. Aaron kissed the side of his head before he buried his face in his hair. Spencer’s body started to shake and Aaron wrapped his arms around him, pulling him into his embrace. Spencer’s sobs were so hard that he shook both them bad enough that Aaron knew he would be sore.
Between the alcohol that Spencer drank and his crying, he was going to be massively dehydrated, and hungover in the morning. Aaron held him until he cried himself to sleep. Aaron was loathed to move, afraid to wake him up.
Just after two am, the elevator doors opened. Prentiss stepped off looking tired. She didn’t even see them at first, and Aaron was loathed to call out for fear of waking Spencer. Prentiss moved to her safe and stowed her gun. When she turned, her eyes went right to Aaron.
“Huh. I guess things didn’t go well.” Prentiss’s eyes went soft as she took in Spencer sleeping on him. “He looks so different when sleeping.” Prentiss crossed the room and shook Spencer. Aaron tried to grab her arm, but it would mean jostling him. Spencer uttered something unintelligible before he buried his head in Aaron’s neck.
“Come on, sleepy head. Time for geniuses to be in bed.”
Spencer stood up and leaned into Prentiss as she escorted him to a bedroom. There was a bottle of water on the bedside stand that Spencer drank before he covered himself up. Prentiss moved back into the living room before she helped Aaron to stand. His legs were pins and needles from sitting too long with Spencer on his lap.
“He’s asleep,” Aaron said as he moved slowly to the bedroom door.
“Yes. He sleeps like the dead after drinking. It’s part of why Morgan used to take him home on that night he drank too much. Afraid of him sleeping through anything. Are you going to sleep?”
“No?” Aaron said. He didn’t feel like he could sleep, but he wasn’t sure what he’d feel like in a few hours.
“I was going to make coffee if you wanted some. I have food. I doubt you’ve eaten.”
“No, I haven’t.” Aaron moved into the kitchen area of the large apartment. It was an open floor plan, like a loft. Prentiss grabbed a few things from the fridge. Aaron recognized the makings of sandwiches. When the bread was handed over, Aaron started to put together hers before his. He smiled when he found pepper jack cheese in the mix and used it on his own while he used Colby for Prentiss’s. Coffee was set down in front of him.
“I almost approached you about it when Reid said that you and he near fought about him wanting to discuss past partners with you. He said that he was sure that it was going to come up. Who told you?”
“My ex-father-in-law told me when he was yelling at me for upsetting Jack.” Aaron didn’t even want to think about how Roy was probably crowing. He would have told Aaron anything if it meant that Roy could push Aaron down a few notches, but there was no doubt that Jack loved Spencer.
“Reid’s pretty emotional right now. I’m shocked he allowed you inside.”
“He was drunk when I found him and you know that he doesn’t like public displays of emotion, no matter if it’s positive or negative. Private is better.”
“Why did you give him up?” Aaron asked.
“Because he wasn’t in love with me, and wasn’t ever going to be. I loved him, and I still do, but I wasn’t going to keep him with me just because it was what I wanted. I thought that there was someone else that he wanted, but was living with what I was giving him. Then he came into work one day and he was happy. He was different, and Morgan wanted to make sure that he wasn’t using again, but I stopped him. I watched Spencer as he went about his life for a while. He was happier than he’d ever been, and while we spent less time together, I wasn’t upset. We still went out and saw the movies that no one else wanted to see. We went back to friends just as easy as we had become lovers, and that shouldn’t be that easy if we were meant to be. Then I noticed a change in you. You watched him more and it wasn’t like after Hankel. You weren’t watching because you were worried, you were watching because you cared.”
“I love him.”
“Do you know your problem, Hotch?”
“What?” Aaron asked.
“You have lived your life making yourself happy with what is best for your image. Oh, you have shining moments where you do things that no one expected you to. Quitting your job as a prosecutor, joining the FBI, even becoming a member of SWAT. But after you settled into the BAU, you forced yourself back into that niche. You keep yourself separate from the rest of the team. The single most interesting thing that you have done in your entire life was fall in love not only with someone you work with but the fact that he is a he, he is younger than you, and he is also someone that you have power over. That goes against everything that you were raised to believe.
“Spencer was made to stand out. His brain doesn’t allow him anything else. Every single facet of his life is a face that can’t hide. He’s tried for so long to hide, he hides behind his intelligence, he hides behind his job, he hides behind Morgan a great deal of the time. He even hides behind his mother. He uses her as a reason to not do anything, but he didn’t hide with you. He let himself shine just enough to get you. He wanted your happiness more than his own. He loved you enough to hide behind whatever you wanted because it’s what you do. Because of Jack, you couldn’t keep him a secret from the family. He thought that with time you would start to come out of that shell and allow him into that part of your life, but even when that part of your life was bringing you kicking and screaming still you denied him. He was faced with the fact that his happiness was never going to be put above your happiness and comfort. He could be happy never being put in front of Jack. Everyone in the world knows that you will never put anyone above him, and no one who deserves your love should ever think different.”
“You seem to know a lot about his mind right now.”
“I saw this from the moment that I realized what you two were to each other. The rest of the team was happy because their two loneliest members were happy together. You have to make a decision. Stand out with him, or stay like you are, and lose him. You taught him not to hide, as a friend, as a co-worker, and as a lover. You created the man that Spencer Reid is today, and you have to choose between loving him for who he is, or letting him go and not destroying him.”
“What if I can’t let him go?”
“He doesn’t want you to march into Cruz’s office and give him a blow job. He wants to be able to go to a kids birthday party with you and Jack. He wants to throw Jack’s next birthday party, and have everyone that you two know to be there. Can you give that to him?” Prentiss asked.”
Aaron looked down at his cup of coffee and long-forgotten sandwich. He knew that he could do it. He just didn’t know if he should keep up the relationship. He loved Spencer, he even thought that he might love him more than he’d loved Haley in the beginning. But look how that relationship turned out. Would Spencer be better, be happier without Aaron in his life?
Before Aaron could even voice his concerns to Prentiss, for her condemnation or her praise, a moan came from the bedroom that Spencer was in. Aaron was up and moving towards him before he could even think about what he was doing. Spencer was on his side and it seemed he was in the throes of a nightmare. Aaron toed off his shoes and climbed into the bed behind him, under the covers. Spencer was muttering and his hands clenched into fists. As soon as Aaron wrapped his arms around him, and started to shush him, Spencer settled down a little.
“I’m here, Pen,” Aaron whispered against Spencer’s neck. Spencer fought Aaron’s hold, but he didn’t want to let go. Aaron held him harder until Spencer let out a whine. Aaron loosened his arms, and instead of pulling away, Spencer rolled over. He buried his face in Aaron’s neck, the whine less pronounced, but still there. Aaron knew then that he couldn’t walk away from Spencer. “I love you so much, Spencer. I’m not going to let you go without a fight.”
After spending a few days in Berlin with Spencer, Aaron could tell that Spencer was hesitant. Aaron didn’t blame him at all. They talked to Jack every day, and the boy always looked so upset if Aaron was alone on Skype before Spencer would come over and sit beside him.
Jack and Jessica were there to pick them up from the airport when they flew back to the States. Jessica drove, and Jack forced Aaron into the front seat so that he could cuddle with Spencer in the back. There was a whispered conversation in the back the entire way home, and Aaron never asked what it was about.
Going back to work wasn’t something that Aaron had been looking forward to. He had to face the team, and while he got Spencer back, there were a lot of hurt feelings. Aaron figured Morgan and JJ would be in his office to talk to him, but no. The person waiting was Cruz.
“Sir,” Aaron said as he turned on the lights. Cruz looked worn out. “What can I do for you?”
“When I took over as Section Chief for the BAU, I was warned not to mess with your team. Family was the word used and I could see it. I’d known it from Jennifer long before, but seeing it was a whole different matter. The way that Morgan gets away with picking on Reid, but if anyone else does, the entire team gets pissed. It’s made this team a better unit, and the best profilers. So when Doctor Reid ran to Germany, I did a little digging. His mother is in Vegas. His father, if that word can be used for him, is in Summerlin. The rest of his biological family is unimportant. There is no one related to him by blood in Germany. Agent Prentiss is stationed there, I found out. So what sent him running to her? Of all people?”
“Sir, I can-” Aaron stopped when Cruz held up a hand.
“As I said I did some digging. Talked to a few other members of other BAU teams. Listened to gossip. Figured out what was truth and what wasn’t. A lot of talks happened when the rumors made it around that Reid had gone to Berlin to see Prentiss. Everyone knows they were friends and Reid is young enough that a switch in jobs isn’t out of the realm. So the AD and I have two proposals for you.”
“What?” Aaron tried to understand what the man was talking about.
“The FBI doesn’t want to lose Doctor Reid, at all.”
“If this concerns him, he should be here.” Aaron moved to his desk to pick up his phone.
“Reid is talking with AD Richmond now. He’s being offered the same deal as you are. One, you step up to my job as Section Chief, or two he gets his own team.”
Aaron stared at Cruz. Both were steps up for the both of them, but Aaron was basically having to choose between the job he loved and the job that Spencer loved. He wasn’t going to force Spencer away from the team.
“I’ll take the job as Section Chief,” Aaron said as he sat down in the chair to his desk. Before he could say anything else, Spencer entered the office with AD John Richmond on his heels. The AD was smiling. Spencer though glared at him before looking at Cruz.
“The Judgement of Solomon.”
“What?” Aaron asked.
“The Brass is deciding whether to allow the relationship or screw us over. Two choices, one that hurts one, and the other hurts the other. If you had chosen to screw me, they would know the relationship isn’t a good one, and who knows what would have happened.”
“What did Doctor Reid choose?”
“He chose door three, the same one that I told you that he would, Cruz. He told me to take a hike. If I made him tell me, he would have chosen to take his own team because Hotch’s job means a lot to him, but I didn’t force the issue because door three hurts all of us.”
“What is door three?” Aaron asked.
“He goes into Academia. I told you, Cruz, that you should have left things alone.” Richmond sounded upset, but not at Aaron or at Spencer. “Cruz is being pulled back into his own job by the State Department. They want him overseas. He was hoping that this would make you choose it, and he wouldn’t have to worry about finding someone else.”
“See it doesn’t work, though, Aaron would still be my boss. Sign my reports. It’s not a slap on the wrist for having a relationship that is frowned upon.”
“Oh no, see. I’m already taking over all of your work, Spencer. Dave Rossi doesn’t want it, and no one else does either. Your petulant side is very well known, and while you never write anything in a report that maligns anyone, when someone pisses you off your reports triple in size. The one hundred and thirty-eight page report that was given while Hotch was on two weeks leave during the affair with Gideon’s leaving is still passed around as what happens when one pisses on the BAU,” Richmond was smiling at Spencer fondly. Aaron hadn’t known that Spencer knew him, professionally. “Strauss bitched when you would be upset with her, and turn in case files that were inches thick. She couldn’t censure you, though, as it was needed. Hell, I’ve turned some of those files into teaching aides. What to look for at crime scenes. I meant what I said, Spencer, we don’t want to lose you. Not before and not now.”
“Who is tapped to take over as Section chief?” Spencer asked.
“No one. We’d have to do a search.”
“I’ll still take it,” Aaron said. Spencer’s head shot around to look at him. Spencer’s eyes narrowed. “I think that a change will do me well. We don’t know who we would get in replacement of Cruz, and Morgan will step up as Unit Chief.”
“Did Cruz tell you what the team I would lead would be?” Spencer asked. Aaron watched as Cruz stepped out of the room and shut the door but the AD was still there.
“Rapid response team that would take nonserial, but dangerous crimes. In the past three years, Spencer has caught seventy-eight cases where he has contacted locals and gave them help over the phone to catch a killer earlier based on what he has read in the paper. Patterns in crimes from his years of working with the BAU. Once it was someone who had been taking pets while working up to taking the object of his obsession.”
“That’s-” Aaron knew the offer had to intrigue Spencer. It sounded like it was more paper trails than anything else.
“The FBI would also pay to have a secure line set up at his home, to be able to work from home should he so wish.”
Aaron saw the look Spencer gave Richmond, the man was still selling the job to him. Richmond stepped over to Spencer and laid a hand on his shoulder before he said something too low for Aaron to hear. That Spencer allowed the touch spoke more than anything else. It clicked in Aaron’s head then. The phone number in his phone that had no name, and a few texts that Aaron never got into. Sponsor John now had a full name and Aaron was shocked.
“I’ll leave you two to discuss what your plans are. Maybe discuss it as a family?” Richmond left with nothing else said, shutting the door behind him.
“You love this job, Spencer.”
“I do but priorities change as life changes. John said I could follow any of the teams I wanted. Maybe even the IRT. I can work from home and have two minions, hand picked by me from anywhere.”
“Spencer,” Aaron said as he stood up and moved over to his lover. Spencer looked away from Aaron and wouldn’t look him in the eye. “Spencer.”
Still, the younger man wouldn’t look at him so Aaron reached up and gently grabbed his chin, forcing his eyes over to him.
“I like the work that we do, but the always being gone and never being able to set something down, and it stay set in stone has been getting to me over the past few months. If I can do the work, and maybe, maybe stop a few crimes from happening before it becomes a BAU case, I’m still doing a lot of good. I can get through more consults in a day then the rest of the team does in a week. John meant it, I could work from home a lot. Set up an office that is secure, I can take cases home, and work on them there, over the summer, spring break, winter break.”
Spencer nodded. His eyes shifted, he didn’t like to hold eye contact for long at all, even if it was with Aaron, but Aaron wasn’t letting him get away.
“Because it’s what I want. Does it have to be anything more than that? I’ve had a single job for a decade, and it was my first job outside of college campus ones. Aren’t I allowed a change?” Spencer asked, his voice forceful. Aaron narrowed his eyes at the tone. Spencer jerked out of his hold and moved to the other side of the room. Aaron followed him and spared a glance out the window of his office into the bullpen. The rest of the team was all standing there, looking at them. The AD was sitting at Spencer’s desk looking through a book. The team didn’t need this, so much upheaval in a short time. Aaron didn’t need it either.
“Spencer, we have to talk. We can’t keep things bottled up anymore. You promised Prentiss that you would talk to me. I promised to explain things better and to listen, but you have to talk to me.”
“Those days off I’ve been taking haven’t totally been for the degree I’m working on. I’ve been spending them with Jack because I am enjoying it. I think that this is John’s way of making me happy, and not taking the job I love away from me. It’s not like I can’t do phone consults, or fly to the team if they need me.”
“You truly want this? Because I’ll fight them on it.”
“John isn’t making me. He’s giving me the chance to make myself happy. Do you want to be the Section Chief? It would be a big change in your life.” Spencer turned to look at him again and Aaron could see in his eyes that he wanted this. Aaron got it then, that he had changed Spencer more than he ever thought that he had. Prentiss either hadn’t seen how much Aaron had shifted Spencer’s worldview, or she had kept quiet, letting Aaron see it when he saw it, leaving the shock for him. Spencer wasn’t cut out to be a stay at home dad any more than Aaron was, but this was as close as either of them was ever going to get.
“In our lives. We can maybe set up two desks. Facing each other. Find a house big enough that the office is huge, and our desks can be an island. Surrounded by books.”
“That requires us going and finding a house.”
“It’s summer, and Jack would love to be part of the hunt. With me and you leaving the team they are going to be on downtime while our replacements are hunted down. Your section is being created so it’s not like you are going to have to be here for a long time. Finding your two minions, though…”
“Don’t call them that. They will be my subordinates.”
“You and Jack love those movies too much,” Spencer said, but he was smiling. It was a smile that Aaron hadn’t seen since before that birthday party. Aaron stepped over to him, kissing him for the first time ever inside of the building. Spencer gasped as he realized it wasn’t going to be a short kiss, but something more than that. His hands settled on Aaron’s stomach, fingers flexing like he was trying to stop himself from stripping Aaron. He knew that movement well when they were in places that having sex was frowned on.
“I love you, Spencer Reid, to the moon and back, and I’m going to spend every second of every day that I have left on this planet showing you. Let’s go find a house.”
Spencer nodded, pulling back just far enough so that he could see Aaron and Aaron could see him. It was happiness, that was the only emotion on Spencer’s face. Aaron never wanted to put any other emotion on his face other than that, never again.