Title: Old City Bar
Series: A Universe of Meetings
Ratings: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Fandom(s): Criminal Minds
Relationships: Aaron Hotchner/Spencer Reid
Characters: Aaron Hotchner, Spencer Reid, Jack Hotchner
Tags: ProfilersForChristmas2018, Alternate Universe,
Summary: It was Christmas Eve, and Aaron was planning on doing what he always did until Jack finds a man across the street who is alone.
Notes: Based on the song Old City Bar
Aaron heard laughter and looked out into the corner to see that there were was the small table of regulars for this time of year. He knew who they were and was glad that they were in town. They had missed the Christmas Eve party they usually held in Aaron’s bar the last two years because of work. Aaron was very, very happy to have them there. This late at night Aaron was lone in the bar. It was just him and Jack, and there was no reason to be at home when somewhere out there might just be someone who wanted to be in the warmth because they had nowhere else to be or no one to be with. At least if they were in the bar, they were not alone.
The door opened, and a blast of cold air preceded Jack into the bar. Jack was too young to be up that late at night, but after a few weeks of being sick and sleeping al the time, his sleep schedule was very messed up. They were working on it, but right now Jack was up all night and slept in the day. Aaron was going to set out the toys and things that he had got for Jack at one point when he went upstairs. Jack would stay down in the corner of the bar playing the handheld video game system he had got the day before from his grandparents or reading one of the many books that Jessica had got for him. Christmas Eve and Day were for Aaron and Jack, Jessica was part of that and made sure that her parents understood that.
“Dad, there is someone outside, and they look lost,” Jack said, and he pointed out the big window that made up the front left side of the building. Aaron looked out to see someone standing in front of the broken pay phone. They did not look like they were wearing enough clothes for the weather that DC was having. While there was no snow or ice, the wind was sharp enough that it took Aaron’s breath and he was used to winters here.
Aaron looked at the FBI agents as they started to get ready to leave. It was near midnight when everyone who had someone to be with or somewhere to be would already be there. All of them left but none of them paid any attention to the man standing across the street. He had turned to where Aaron was pretty sure that it was a man. Aaron grabbed his coat from the rack that was just beside the bar and slipped it on. He passed by Jack who was sitting on the bench below the window and just looking at the man. Aaron slipped the coat on, and as he made his way to the man, he realized that the man had a bag at his feet. It was a suitcase. Aaron wondered why the man was where he was. There were no hotels, motels, or anything like that near where they were.
“Hello,” Aaron said as he walked up behind the man. The man spun around, and he looked scared but also cold.
“Hi, I’m sorry am I bothering you?” the man asked and his hand clenched like he was worried about something or just wanting to grab his suitcase.
“How could you be bothering me when you are standing beside a broken phone and across the road from my bar?”
“I don’t know but today seems to be the night of me bothering everyone. From the hotel that I should have had a room booked for the night in but my boss messed that up. Then the new hotel that they tried to book me at was full. There are no flights leaving for Vegas until morning, and my cab driver didn’t like that I was questioning his driving, so he left me here. My cell phone is dead, and I am just at a loss of what to do.”
“Well, I have eggnog and warm food so why don’t you come inside and we can figure something out.” Aron reached down and picked up the suitcase while the man tried to snag it from him. Aaron turned though and walked. He wasn’t sure if the man would follow him right away but he would at some point to get his suitcase. Aaron closed the door behind himself but made sure it was unlocked. He set the suitcase down at the edge of the bar so that it was safe fro Aaron knocking it over as well as where the man could see it. Jack rushed to the bar and hopped up onto the seat that was there for him. As long as there were not too many people in the bar or the people were not rowdy, no one cared that Jack was in there. It wasn’t like Aaron had miscreants in his bar. He had pretty low key patrons. No one ever got upset even if Jack was making a nuisance of himself.
Aaron set about making some eggnog. He had bought a very fancy espresso machine and learned how to use it when he started to get a lunch crowd wanting his food. He had a full kitchen and a good cook, even if when the nights the cook wasn’t there, like tonight, the food wasn’t as good, it was still very edible. Aaron steamed a small bit of milk to mix with the concentrated eggnog that his cook made for drinks. Aaron enjoyed it. It tasted really good, with and without some kind of alcohol in it. Aaron was just mixing the concentrate and the milk when the man finally ventured into the bar. He opened the door and slipped inside, shutting it to stop the air and just stared at Jack sitting at the bar.
“You know technically that is stealing,” the man said.
“You didn’t tell me no or try and stop me. I didn’t use violence to take it.”
“A lack of no is still not agreeing to it.” The man wasn’t moving away from the door, so Aaron scooted the drink down to the far end of the bar where Jack was not.
“This will warm you up.” Aaron pointed at the eggnog.
“I’m plenty warm.”
“Where are you from?” Aaron asked.
“Nowhere that you need to know.”
“Feisty aren’t you?” Aaron asked with a smile on his lips. He picked up the mug and walked around the bar to carry it to the man. The man had no gloves on. Aaron pressed the warm mug to the sides of the man’s fingers, and Aaron heard the gasp before seconds later nimble fingers closed around the mug. The man near moaned in delight. Aaron pointed to the corner where one of those fake log but real flame fireplaces was. The man looked at Aaron, looked at Jack, looked at the fireplace, and then back at Aaron before scooting past him to go toward it.
“I’ve been called worse than feisty. Thank you for the eggnog.” The man took a sip before he walked the rest of the way to the fire. There was an armchair there that generally wasn’t, but Aaron had been sitting in front of it with Jack during slow hours with Jack being sick. It allowed him to watch his bar while still being with his son. Jack liked to watch the patrons of the bar anyway and had been spending time curled up there on his own.
Jack followed Aaron over. Aaron had built the bar when he had bought the building and made it like a home for him and Jack. There was a large area to sit beside and in front of the fire with a glass front stopping anyone from hurting themselves. Of course, the glass was hot, but it never got hot enough to leave more than just a red spot.
“My name is Aaron, and this is my son Jack. We’ve lived here since Jack was born. My loft apartment is upstairs.”
The man sipped at his eggnog and stared at Aaron over the rim of the cup before he finally acted like he was going to answer. “My name is Spencer. I live in California. My boss is trying to get me to take a position here to run the office, but I keep on denying him. I like where I am, but these trips keep wearing me down.”
“And what do you do?”
“In California, I oversee a small section of a very large lab. Here I would oversee the whole lab and be able to do what I wanted as far as projects go as he would be the only one over me. Technically he’s the one in charge of my boss, but my boss refuses to work with me. The man does damned good work, but he’s intimidated by me. So I just do what I need to do and go from there.”
“And why wouldn’t you want to move here? Do you have a family? Friends?” Aaron asked. He knew that there was more to life than the good jobs and more money. Aaron had given that life up the day that his wife had died in childbirth and left him with an infant son to raise alone. Technically, Haley had left him long before that, but Aaron hadn’t known that until after she was dead. Aaron had been home getting things to be able to stay with Jack in the hospital as he would be there a few days when the divorce papers had been dropped off by a court-appointed person. That had been a punch to the gut. Aaron hadn’t been shocked when he sat down and thought about it. The fights between him and Haley had been less than normal, and Aaron just thought she had accepted that he wasn’t going to jump up and try and become the main DA. Instead, she had stopped fighting because she had given up. The divorce papers were not needed as she had died, but her family had tried to fight it and get what would have been hers in the divorce. As soon as the judge learned that Aaron was going to sell her car, her jewelry, and give away her clothes, putting what money he got from those things into a trust for the education of Jack, he had thrown the suit out.
“No, I don’t have any family that I am close to. Friends are only the ones that I work with, and really I’m not that close to them. I know I can do the job. I know that I can be really good at it, but I grew up in Vegas and moved to Calirnofrian for college and just kind of stayed. I have a few people I know there, but if I move here, I’m moving away from everyone that I know. It’s kind of scary.”
“Wasn’t going to college scary?” Aaron asked.
Spencer hadn’t said it, but Aaron was pretty sure that he had gone to college before he was legally an adult. To be where he was at the age he seemed like he was, he was totally not an average person.
“Going to scary was more freeing. I didn’t have to be anyone more than what I was. Yes, I had to hold up to what they thought I was but given that I was a genius, their words not mine, I could be that. It wasn’t hard. I stayed with a professor there until I was able to emancipate myself. My father made sure that it happened, both times. Getting away from home meant getting away from my father.”
“He didn’t hurt you did he?” Jack asked.
Aaron had forgotten about Jack being there. He was being very quiet. Jack was a good listener. Sometimes a little too good at listening to things that he shouldn’t.
“Not with his hands. There is more than one way for parents to hurt their kids. It looks like your father takes really good care of you. My father didn’t other than making sure I wasn’t a bother to him. When it was known that I could go to college the year that I turned thirteen, he sent me.” Spencer took a drink of his eggnog and stared into the fire. “Tonight not’s the time for talk like that. Jack, what do you hope Santa is bringing you?”
“Well, I’m old enough to know that Santa doesn’t exist.”
“Oh, the man might not exist, but the spirit behind him is much alive in the hearts of all of the parents who make sure that their kids get presents. It’s the spirit of the holiday that has kids being good for parents when stress is high. So while a man named Saint Nick isn’t a real person the teachings of him do exist.”
“Daddy didn’t explain it like that to me.”
“Well, Jack your father is just a humble barman not a scientist like Spencer here.”
“You are more than that,” Spencer said, and he was smirking as he sipped at his eggnog again. Aaron stood up and looked in the mug. It was almost gone, and a glass of it for himself sounded good as well as a top off for Spencer. Aaron walked up to the bar, and Spencer followed behind him. Spencer took a seat beside the machine as Aaron started to steam enough milk for two more mugs. Aaron picked up a bottle of scotch and waved it. Spencer nodded his head.
“You are correct in that I am a father.”
“That’s not all, Mister Hotchner.” Spencer was smirking, and he pointed at the wall behind Aaron. Aaron saw it was ahis liquor license. His name visible. “I do not work for this location but I’ve visited on occasion and the last time I was part of a trial and I listened to one of the DA’s discuss an Aaron Hotchner who had left the office a few years ago to raise his son and run a bar. I doubt there are any other Aaron Hotchner’s in this area who have a child about the right age and run a bar.”
“So not just a pretty face,” Aaron said.
Spencer smiled and damn that smile was beautiful.
“No, I’m not a pretty face. Well not only. Though I don’t think that anyone has ever looked at me like you look at me.” Spencer smiled at Aaron again. It was interesting to see the way that his lips turned up and his eyes crinkled but Aaron could tell that while Spencer smiled sometimes, he didn’t do it all the time. There were no laugh lines on his face. Aaron wanted to change that, and he hadn’t felt that want for a long time. It was just Aaron’s luck to find it in a young man that wasn’t going to be staying around.
Aaron handed over Spencer’s mug before taking a sip of his own. Spencer made a face when he took a sip of his and Aaron wondered if he put too much scotch into it but Spencer took a second sip just seconds later and he smiled as he did.
“It’s always that first sip, the taste buds reconciling the sweet and the heavy as well as the sting of the alcohol.”
Spencer started on a tangent and Aaron stood there and listened as Spencer kept on going and going. It was nice to listen to him talk. Spencer touched the counter a lot, the mug when he wasn’t holding it. It was interesting to see Spencer’s face as he talked. Aaron learned more about the origin of beer and other spirits in the hours talking with Spencer than he had in his whole life.
Dawn came, and with it a sacked out Jack in the chair by the fire and Spencer having to leave to catch his flight home. Aaron didn’t want to say goodbye, but he did.
One Year Later
Aaron was wiping down the bar as the FBI agents left, leaving their money for their food and drink on the table along with a generous tip. The rest of the patrons had long since left, but Aaron still kept his doors open. Jack was asleep, but Aaron had slept through the day. He a little bit of work to do during the night to get Jack’s Christmas present done. Well, one of his presents. Aaron pulled out the music sheet and looked at it. Jack had found a whole stack of Aaron’s old music that he had used to play for Haley. The papers were stained and old and some of them torn. Aaron was going to spend the night rewriting them carefully.
The bar staff had gone home for the night to spend the evening with their families. Aaron would have the next day with Jack, and it would be wonderful. Aaron had the ham in the oven already and a few other things prepared to throw into the oven to cook when it was time. He picked up the new pen that he had bought for transferring the music.
Looking at the letter that was sealed up still on the bar, Aaron tried to force his mind not to go there. Spencer had sent the first letter just after arriving back home in California. It had been sent to the bar address, probably because of Spencer’s memory for remembering everything that he read. It wasn’t a stretch that he had looked at the address on the bar and sent the letter there. He would have no way of figuring out what the address of Aaron’s apartment was.
Spencer had been sending letters weekly, and Aaron always responded and had right up until the one before this one. Spencer had told Aaron that his next letter was going to have good news in it and that he couldn’t wait to tell Aaron about his new job when he was able to. Spencer had talked to Aaron about a few openings in his position in the letters over the last few months, different places that were trying to recruit him. Aaron was not looking forward to Spencer telling him about whatever place he was going instead of coming to Aaron and taking the position that had been offered him time and again. It was Aaron’s fault, and he knew it. He was the stupid idiot who had fallen in love with a man who was married to his job and was on the other side of the country. Still, the longer he ignored the letter, the longer he could live with that slim hope that it was Spencer telling him that he was coming to Virginia.
Aaron lost himself in the drawing of the musical notes. He only stopped when the alarm went off that he needed to baste the ham and turn it. The smell was making him hungry, so he made himself a quick sandwich with some of the ham that had been used for the bar meals. Aaron was settling back in at the bar with the papers when he heard a tapping on the window of the bar. The door was not locked. Aaron got up though and found that the person on the sidewalk was wrapped up like they were in Antartica. Virginia was having a mild winter. The temperatures were will in the twenties.
Opening the door, Aaron shivered as the wind hit him and he stepped aside as the person rushed into the room. Aaron shut the door, but before he could turn around, the person hugged Aaron tightly. Aaron tried to shove the person away, but then he smelled something that he had only smelled once. Aaron wrapped his arms around Spencer tighter. Spencer had not changed the cologne that he wore in a year, which Aaron understood he had been wearing the same thing since he had started working.
“What are you doing here?” Aaron demanded when he pulled back and started to unwrap Spencer from his layers. He worked on getting Spencer out of his ridiculously fluffy coat first before working on eh scarf and toboggan as well the second scarf that it seemed he was wearing. It took several minutes before Spencer was standing there in front of him, red-faced and smiling.
“What do you mean what am I doing here?” Spencer was now deeply frowning as he looked at Aaron and he looked like he was going to bolt. “I guess maybe I should have waited for your reply, but I had to leave when I did. My landlord said I didn’t get any mail. I asked him when I talked to him after my layover. I messed up.”
Aaron wasn’t sure what was going on. He didn’t understand any of it, and he was trying to process Spencer’s words. Spencer turned around and grabbed his things from where Aaron had hung them up on the on the wall coat rack and started to put them back on. It wasn’t until he was raising the hood on his coat with one hand and reached for the doorknob with the other that Aaron realized that Spencer was leaving. Spencer had just got there, and he was leaving. Aaron had to have missed something very important in that letter.
“I’m sorry I invaded your privacy on Christmas.” Spencer had the door open and was gone before Aaron moved. The door shut before Aaron could grab it. He flung it open so hard that he heard it slam into the wall. However, the glass did not break, so Aaron didn’t stop. Spencer could move fast it seemed. He was a block away and moving fast.
“Wait!” Aaron yelled, but Spencer didn’t stop, so Aaron put on a burst of speed. He caught up to Spencer half a block away, grabbing his arm in the stupid puffy coat and tried not to jerk Spencer back too hard. “Spencer, please. Wait.”
“Please, don’t make me explain. Just let me go.”
“No. No, I need to tell you something before you go. I haven’t opened your last letter. You’ve talked about all of the places that had offered you positions and then you talked about your new and exciting news that you would share with me in that letter that is sitting on my bar unopened. I didn’t want to learn about it during Christmas and be upset.”
“Why?” Spencer asked. His face finally turned to Aaron’s, and Aaron saw that he had been crying. Aaron reached up to wipe those tears off of his face so that they wouldn’t freeze.
“Because you have said nothing about coming here for that job your boss has been trying to get you to take for years. About coming here to me, coming because I was here. I couldn’t take that pain.” Aaron pulled on Spencer’s arm until the younger man followed him until they were inside the bar again. Aaron locked the door and stripped Spencer of all of his extras again.
Aaron escorted Spencer to the bar and started to make them both a latte. This called for more than eggnog. Aaron set the cup down for Spencer first, and he picked it up, warming his hands on the hot ceramic. When Aaron was done with making his latte, he picked up Spencer’s letter and opened it up. He was careful so that he didn’t rip it. When the letter from free from the envelope, he settled it down onto the top of the car to read it. Aaron read it over twice before he looked up at Spencer who was staring into the coffee he was drinking.
Reaching over to tip Spencer’s face up to his, Aaron said the words that Spencer had been brave enough to close his letter with. “I love you, too.”
“I waited as long as I could to get an answer, and when I didn’t have it, I just hoped that no news was good news. It didn’t even register on my mind that you would have not read it.” Spencer sipped his coffee and shuddered like he was still cold. Aaron walked around the bar and settled his mug onto the table by the fire, and he turned up the fire a little more before walking back to coax Spencer over to the chair with him. Aaron sat down, and when Spencer moved to take the seat across from him, Aaron grabbed his hand and pulled him down into his lap.
Aaron had kept the chair by the fire and only removed it when he didn’t have the fire going anymore. Then when winter had come around again, Aaron had brought it back out. It was nice to sit in front of the fire during the dead times at the bar when Jack wasn’t around. Spencer gasped as he fully settled down into Aaron’s lap. Aaron cupped the side of his face and kissed Spencer’s lips. It was their first kiss, and it was the best thing in the world to Aaron.
“I’d love for you to take over the apartment above me while we fully get to know each other in ways that letters don’t allow. I’d love for you to get to know jack as more than just a person who sends him gifts and books. I’m also really, really excited to Spencer Christmas Day with you. I do have a few things that need to be done tonight, but as long as you don’t mind just sitting there and reading, I don’t mind having you around. Or if you want to sleep. I know that you are probably a little off as it’s still earlier for you.”
“I’m too wired to sleep, even before you gave me coffee. I don’t want to go to sleep yet. Whatever you were doing before, please do it. I’m content to entertain myself. I’ve done it for a long time.”
“You said in your letter that your mother used to read to you and it’s what you miss most about her since she died. Maybe later if you don’t mind, I’ll read to you.” Aaron rubbed his nose on Spencer’s. Spencer’s eyes were tearing up again, but this time Aaron could tell they were happy tears. Spencer nodded his head in agreement to Aaron’s suggestion. Aaron had even bought the book that he wanted to read to him. He had seen it in the window of a bookshop when he had been getting the Christmas present for Spencer. He hadn’t sent it because he was scared to. Aaron was very happy that he had not because now he could give it to Spencer in person on Christmas morning. Aaron looked at the bit of luggage that had been over Spencer’s shoulder. It was a duffle bag, and it held more than just clothes as there was something poking the corner. Spencer had to have presents for Aaron and Jack in there. “Where is the rest of your stuff?”
“In one of those moving pods. It’ll be dropped off the twenty-seventh. I have supplies to get me through, and clothes and that’s all I need. Anything else I can buy if I really need the day after Christmas.”
“As if I would let you leave for anything but something dire. I am not letting you leave for a while.”
“Well, I officially start my new job on January fifteenth so you will have to let me leave then. Head of the whole shebang here in Virginia. There will be some travel but nothing big and nothing more than a night or two. I’m here, and I’m yours.”
“And I am yours.” Aaron tangled his ringers in Spencer’s hair and pulled him into a kiss again. He wasn’t ever going to get tired of being with Spencer, ever.