FIC: Solace; Hotch/Reid; FRT
Author: silentflux or Andrea
Disclaimer: Never mine, just thought I'd borrow them for a while.
Word Count: 4743
Warnings: Slash ahead -- if this throws you, please look elsewhere...otherwise, welcome!
AN: Thanks to goddess_of_7s for the quick read-through/beta. She is completely responsible for me inflicting this on you. Her encouragement is the reason I posted anything in the first place.... And of course, any and all mistakes are mine alone. Also, I shamelessly stole the name Ben for Hotch's son from slash_girl's fic 'Once Upon a Time in Mexico' cuz it's a nice name, and I couldn't think of anything better.
Okay, so this is the sequel to my fic Restless .... I just couldn't stop there -- it was like a compulsion....and you asked for it, so here it is: the aftermath for Hotch and Reid.
Reid arrived early to work Monday as per usual. He fervently hoped that he could make it through the day without speaking to Hotch too much. He felt the flush creep up his neck as he thought about having any kind of conversation with his supervisor after this past weekend. He wished he could just let everything be, but given his brain’s constant rewind and replay of his perfect if alcohol-fuzzed memory and his body’s blatant reaction, he would never forget it and never be able to let it go. That night he’d felt safer and more cared for than he had in a long time. Ten years, in fact. And then morning had come.
Reid noted out of the corner of his eye when Hotch arrived. The older man gave him the customary morning greeting, nothing more or less. Reid was both relieved and annoyed. Had Hotch just decided it was nothing? Not even worth a conversation? Had it meant anything at all?
Rationally, Reid knew they were at work, but still, he couldn’t stop the flood of disappointment and anger. Finally, he just rode it out. The entire day seemed like that – a complete turmoil of emotion which he had to hide. It was excruciating, but he didn’t want the other team members to ask him questions, so he stuck to his desk and paperwork, perhaps a little quieter than usual, but not enough to be noticed. Or so he had hoped.
“Reid.” Gideon’s voice behind him startled him and he accidentally bumped the stack of files on his desk, barely reaching over to catch them before the avalanche could end up on the floor. Turning, flustered and embarrassed by the display, Reid met the seemingly all-knowing gaze of Jason Gideon, and his heart jumped into his throat.
“Yes?” he replied, proud of the steady, normal tone.
“I need to talk with you.” There was a slight pause, and Spencer inclined his head, waiting. “In my office.”
‘Fuck!’ Spencer thought as he followed Gideon back to his office.
“What’s up?” he asked neutrally as the door shut behind him, his eyes wandering over the pictures. Anything to avoid Gideon’s eyes.
“You tell me, Spencer.”
“What do you mean?” Reid crossed his arms, wrapping them around his chest to tuck in his hands, in an automatic defensive gesture, and he cursed his habit silently when he saw Gideon take note and catalogue the motion.
“What’s wrong?” Dark, knowing eyes bore into Spencer’s until he dropped his gaze again. “You’ve been avoiding Hotch and me all day, sticking to your desk like glue… and you look tired, Spencer.”
“I don’t know what you want me to say.” Reid’s voice was quiet and desperate as he tried to back away from Gideon’s questioning.
“Please tell me what's wrong.” Gideon perched on the edge of his desk, close to where Spencer remained standing. The younger man seemed to fold in on himself in thought as the seasoned profiler watched. Gideon didn’t want to push Spencer back into the shell he had been in when he first arrived, but he knew this was important. And his instincts told him to push…to try and help. Finally, after a moment of silence, Spencer’s brown eyes, hard and cold, met his.
“I don’t believe it’s any of your business,” Spencer responded, wincing inwardly at the harshness of his words and the solidness of his tone. He knew Gideon wanted to help, but he just couldn’t. Before Gideon could respond and push even harder, Reid held up one of his hands, warding off the older man. “It’s not affecting my work. It will not affect my work. I know you want to help, Jason, but you can’t. Not with this.” Reid held his gaze until Gideon nodded, his mouth thinned into an unhappy line. For once, though, Reid couldn’t oblige his mentor. He never did share memories well.
Hotch had been nervous that morning. Walking into the BAU offices had been one of the hardest things he’d ever done. He knew things with Reid would be awkward, but he also knew he couldn’t let Jason see it. God only knows how he was going to stop that from happening, but he would damn well try.
‘Lock it down, Hotchner,’ he commanded himself, allowing the cold comfort of his control to slip into place. Taking a deep breath to help clamp down on his emotions, Aaron began his day at the office.
He couldn’t miss the flash of disappointment and hurt in Reid’s eyes when he greeted him just like any other day. It made him angry at himself for being so – afraid. Reid was the last person he should take advantage of just because his marriage was dying. Or, what was more likely, dead. Haley had taken Ben two weeks ago for a visit with her sister. He’d known she was fed up, but he’d thought she’d return after reorienting herself. It looked like he was wrong. Shaking himself, Hotch concentrated on his day, trying to ignore how Reid avoided him.
Sometime around five, Hotch was headed to the break room for some coffee when he saw Gideon lead Reid into his office. ‘Oh, no!’ he immediately panicked, his heart speeding up and his hands clenching. ‘Fucking goddamned best profiler in the country…should’ve known.’
Hotch got his coffee, his fingers tapping against the warm mug impatiently as he kept an eye on the door to Jason’s office. A few agonizing minutes passed as he contemplated what Jason had seen to tip him off. Of course, Reid had been avoiding both of them, and the younger man had looked a little ragged around the edges, but nothing terribly…oh. Jason probably had picked up on the tension that had caught Hotch’s attention on the plane.
When Hotch saw that Reid had vacated Gideon’s office, he debated with himself a moment, and then purposely walked to confront to his colleague and friend. Knocking lightly before opening the door, Hotch was greeted by a frowning Jason who was staring at everything and nothing in his concentration.
“Jason, what’s up?” he asked casually, closing the door behind him, literally trapping himself with the only man who could force him to admit things that Hotch really didn’t want to talk about. But he had to know what Gideon had found out. Maybe Reid had confided in his mentor.
“Aaron. I just wanted to talk to Reid for a moment.” The tone caught Hotch’s attention. Jason sounded – wistful and disappointed and concerned… and possibly a little hurt. He decided to let Gideon continue at his own pace, so Hotch sat in one of the chairs and drank his coffee, letting the other profiler work through everything in his head before talking. Finally, and three-quarters of his coffee later, Gideon blinked and focused on Aaron.
“I’d been noticing this tension from Spencer. I just thought it was time to ask him about it.” Aaron nodded at Jason’s statement, his eyes urging him to continue as he nervously swallowed the remainder of his coffee. “He told me to mind my own business.”
Hotch looked up sharply at that admission to see the hurt he’d heard flash briefly in Jason’s eyes before it was safely stashed behind the profiler façade. “What do you think is wrong? Something from his past?”
“Yes. Exactly that. Something he needs to talk about, but it seems he doesn’t want to open up to me.” Gideon’s statement was flat, and Aaron felt the tiniest bit of irrational relief. He was ashamed of it, but he was glad that Reid hadn’t confided in Jason. Hotch selfishly wanted to be the one Spencer entrusted with his past…and he guessed he’d have to really face why that was – later. “I just hope that someone can get him to unburden himself. He’s carrying a lot of guilt and pain about something. He needs the support…” Jason fell silent, and Hotch observed the man quietly before removing himself back to his own office.
Gideon was still pondering the problem several hours later when he left for the day, seeing that Reid was still attached to his desk. However, after the earlier encounter where Spencer had firmly told him to back off, Jason was unwilling to interrupt and order the younger man home like he would have otherwise. He regretted that reaction to Spencer’s words, but didn’t have the emotional energy to overcome it tonight. Perhaps tomorrow.
Reid spent the rest of the evening buried in his work, and when the paperwork ran out, he researched. Researching soothed his nerves more than anything. It’s who he was: he learned, soaking up knowledge like a sponge, and he did it better than anyone.
By the time he looked up from his papers and research materials, he realized that everyone was gone. He vaguely remembered Elle and Morgan and JJ saying good night. He knew he had felt the weight of Gideon’s gaze, but he’d refused to turn and face him. It hurt that he was disappointing his mentor in some way, but Reid just couldn’t bring himself to confide in the man. He trusted Gideon to understand, to not judge his past actions, but he didn’t want to see the pity and sympathy and further disappointment. He was ashamed of his ineptitude and helplessness ten years ago, and he knew he shouldn’t be, but knowledge and logic had nothing to do with emotion. Self-loathing was rarely earned.
Reid shook himself, trying to dislodge his thoughts from their depressing track. Finally, he looked at the clock and truly realized how late it really was. He should head home. As he stood up to pack his bag, he swayed on his feet and his vision blurred with exhaustion. Fatigue weighed him down and he felt as if he wouldn’t be able to make it anywhere. He shook his head, trying to clear it, and quickly realized that was a bad idea when dizziness caused him to grip his desk for support.
‘A shower,’ he thought. That would hopefully shock his system enough to allow him to get home. Indulging in a cab tonight would be a good idea -- public transportation was a bad plan when he was this tired.
He grabbed his bag and headed to the team’s lockers and the showers. Turning on the radio Morgan kept in his locker, to which the other man had no idea Spencer knew the combination, he stripped and stepped under a steaming stream of water, wincing and welcoming the shock and sting of the overly hot water. Closing his eyes – wait, bad idea… with open eyes and a focused gaze, Spencer concentrated on waking himself up with heat and loud music.
After drying off, he pulled on the FBI sweatpants and t-shirt he kept in his locker, pushing his wet hair out of his eyes as he returned Morgan’s radio to the other profiler’s locker.
“You know, I don’t think Morgan knows you have his combination.” The teasing reprimand came from behind him. Reid refused to jump in surprise, even though his heart rate sped up as he turned to face Hotch.
The older man studied Spencer, noting the sunken eyes and blank, exhausted gaze, his slender form seeming to fold in on itself as Aaron watched.
“God, Spencer! Didn’t you get any rest this weekend?!” The words flew out of Hotch’s mouth before he thought, and a blush crept up his neck as he realized that he could personally testify that Reid had rested. On Friday night.
Spencer just stared at this man who had slowly and quietly become so important to his sanity. Hotch had stayed with him that night. Spencer may not be the most socially astute person, but even he realized the implication of Hotch staying because he asked. Of course, the next morning had been a disaster, but whatever. Spilled milk and all that.
*Reid had woken slowly, painfully noting his bitch of a hangover. A sharp intake of air gave him a musky, vaguely familiar scent. That was when he realized that the heavy heat surrounding him was not his comforter or his mattress. Reid quietly cursed as the events of the previous night rushed back in painful, alcohol-hazed clarity. He’d kissed Hotch! God damn it! He had one horrible day and just had to drown it in alcohol and try to get laid. With Hotch. His married supervisor.
As his thoughts began to whirl into a panicked roar, Reid held on to one thought. Hotch had kissed him back. Right? Everything was a little blurry, but he distinctly remembered being kissed back. And – oh. Oh, yeah. Hotch had wanted him. Had been hard for him. Oh, no. What was he supposed to do now? He’d asked Hotch to stay – what had he been thinking? – and now he’d have to face him. Shit. Why did he have to be so weak?
First step: extricate himself. That sounded simple in his head, but he realized the difficulty when he took stock of the way his body was firmly wrapped around the other man. He was mortified. He’d managed to practically crawl on top of Hotch in his sleep, his legs and arms wrapped around the other man like he was a security blanket.
Cautiously, Reid lifted his head and glanced up at Hotch to assure himself the man beneath him was still asleep. Reid’s breath caught. Seeing Hotch so completely relaxed, his usually serious, stern expression smoothed away to reveal a face without worry or cares that looked years younger.
‘Beautiful,’ Reid thought as his body suddenly remembered the release denied it the night before and his cock hardened…*
Reid jerked himself to the present. Remembering that comforting warmth was not helping him, and the morning had only gotten worse and more humiliating from there. Hotch had woken up and… ‘Stop it!’ Spencer admonished himself. ‘That’s done. Can’t undo the stupidity now. Just prevent more.’
Hotch watched Spencer struggle with himself, the exhaustion allowing for all his emotions to be clearly broadcast by his eyes, and made a decision.
“C’mon, Spencer. Let’s go.” He turned and didn’t even glance to see if the younger man followed or not. He knew Spencer would. And he did.
It didn’t even filter through where they were going until Spencer realized they had just pulled into Hotch’s garage. Or he assumed it was Hotch’s garage, since he’d never been here before. The other side of the garage was empty. Haley wasn’t here. Reid automatically tensed, but he was too exhausted to even try and puzzle it out.
“Why’re we here, Hotch? I thought you were going to take me back to my apartment.” Reid’s voice was steady, but Hotch had to lean in to hear him. He turned his head to catch Spencer’s gaze and spoke his next words deliberately.
“Spencer, you need rest. And if you’re ever going to be able to sleep, you need to trust someone enough to share whatever it is that’s bothering you. So, I brought you here. You need to talk to someone, and I want you to talk to me.” Hotch maintained eye contact and the conviction in his words was unmistakable. Spencer stared like a deer in the headlights and finally inclined his head in acquiescence.
Wordlessly, he followed Hotch into the darkened kitchen. After hitting the light switch, Hotch began puttering around, making what looked like stir fry for them. Aaron knew he loved Chinese… and Spencer would be sure to use a fork.
“You want something to drink? Soda, coffee, tea?” Spencer noticed the obvious lack of alcohol in all of those, and felt a small smile stretch his lips.
“Water’s good,” Spencer replied automatically, settling himself on a stool at the end of the lengthy island centered in the large room while Hotch started rice in the cooker. There was something soothing about watching Hotch move, knowing he was taking care of him, and Spencer slowly tried to push away his anxiety, breathing deeply. A glass appeared in front of him, and Spencer continued to watch the other man in companionable silence as he chopped vegetables while the chicken he’d diced a moment ago soaked in some kind of concoction of soy sauce and spices.
Aaron heard Spencer’s shaky intake of breath, and knowing the younger man was still trying to calm himself enough to speak, he turned to the wok which had been heating on the gas stove. For a moment, the kitchen filled with the crackle and sizzle of cooking as the vegetables were stirfried and almost completely cooked. Then, after setting the vegetables aside on the platter, Aaron threw the black beans in the heated oil of the wok before adding the chicken to be cooked.
“You know I was real young when I started college, right?” Spencer began. He saw Hotch pause his stirring for a moment before continuing his task, listening with his back turned. Aaron sensed that his actions were comforting somehow, so he continued to cook as he waited for more. “There was this girl, Heather. She was a TA in one of my classes. She adopted me. I was pretty much on my own. Had always been…the geek who was just there. I mean, the school looked after me, but I was alone all the time, you know? She became family.” Reid paused for a moment, exhausted by just that much. He took reassurance from Aaron’s continued cooking as the older man added back the vegetables for a few moments before dumping the entire dish back onto the platter. As Aaron reached for bowls and silverware, Reid took a breath and continued.
“She had dinner with me almost every day, went to movies with me, let me hang around with her at her place for no reason. Hell, I was practically living there.” Some of Spencer’s favorite memories of his life were whole afternoons spent reading at Heather’s apartment while she did the laundry, the dishes, the cleaning – fussing over how thin he was and feeding him every two hours. He smiled slightly at the memory. It had been the closest he’d come to a real home in a long time.
Aaron set the small kitchen table and brought the rice and stir fry over, silently continuing his self-appointed tasks, keeping busy as he listened to Spencer reminisce.
“I’d known her for about three years when she was killed.” His voice shook with the statement and his hands were clenched into fists at his sides, his eyes staring at nothing. He hardly remembered Hotch’s presence anymore, failing to notice when the other man stilled his movements and turned to look at him. Spencer just wanted to finish it, the story tumbling out of him after having guarded it for so many years.
“The blood was the first thing that struck me. I’d never known how much a person could bleed… I mean, I knew, but I’d never understood, you know? Seeing it was – ” Spencer stopped, breathing hard as if he were running a marathon. Aaron stood behind him, his silent presence comforting, helping Spencer to focus past his pain and panic. “I was coming over for dinner that night… she wanted some help with her calculus and we were going to watch some TV. She was in the kitchen. Her face was – gone. Her clothes torn. The floor was soaked and, uh, sticky.” Spencer swallowed back the bile as he remembered the smell of death…her death. “She’d tried to – to crawl away, so there was a – a blood trail. I –” Spencer stopped, oddly silent tears freely flowing down his cheeks. He couldn’t stop them.
“I’d known what murder and death were. Hell, I probably knew more ways to kill a person than a Marine after my anatomy class… But I’d never – felt death, never smelled it. Never lost anyone I loved like that. I knew all the theories…”
“And then you saw the reality,” Aaron stated quietly from behind him, walking slowly around to face the younger man who was carefully staring at the counter in front of him.
“Yeah. She’d been family, you know? The only family really present in my life. And I can never seem to… this last case was hard… the girl looked so much like her… and the date… and – ”
“Spencer.” Aaron waited until the younger man lifted his gaze to meet Hotch’s. “It’s okay. I understand. Why didn’t you just tell Gideon or me? We would’ve – ”
“What? This is mine to deal with. I’ll work it out. I’ll be fine.” Spencer’s reply was automatic, voice rough with emotion. Aaron just stared at this man who had managed to surprise him once again. He knew that wasn’t the whole of it, that Spencer had pared the story down to its cleanest form. After a moment of silence, he gestured to the set table, waiting for Reid to join him.
“What happened?” Aaron’s question was quiet and almost hesitant as he served them both.
“Heather’d been seeing the professor she worked for.” Spencer paused, remembering the argument he’d instigated after seeing the way she acted around that prick. He’d been older and married, and Heather had been so blind. He’d tried to make her see sense, and he’d been so angry that she wouldn’t listen. He’d thrown words at her that he’d never, ever applied to anyone…he’d been jealous of the time that Heather spent with that man, unworthy as Wilkes was. He realized how childish it was later. When he could regret everything. Shaking himself, Spencer realized he’d been silently and robotically eating for several minutes. Looking up, he saw that Aaron was eating as well, carefully concentrating on his food, waiting for Spencer to continue.
Hotch surreptitiously watched Reid eat as his profiling mind whirled and absorbed the information given, spinning out the horror he saw coming. He saw the flash of shame that had appeared on Spencer’s face a moment ago, and catalogued it for further thought. If Reid wouldn’t share everything, he’d have to use his training to figure it out so that he could help the younger man. Gideon was right…this burden was wearing Reid out, weighing him down, and he needed help to shed it.
“She got pregnant.” The blunt statement brought Aaron back to the present story, pushing the relevant profiling details to the back of his mind as he concentrated on the here and now. “She’d been scared and talked to me about it. I told her what I thought, and advised her as I could, but I’d had no real experience, and…well, anyways, Wilkes told her to get an abortion -- that she couldn’t ruin his life, his marriage that way. She refused.” Spencer halted to drink some water, his hand visibly shaking. Aaron continued to eat and quietly wait for the continuance. Reid was grateful for the lack of pressure and how the other man allowed him the time. It was – he was - comforting.
“He was angry, but he walked away. She thought it was over. I was helping her pick out baby clothes and decorate the second room in her apartment. She was so happy about the baby.” Reid fondly recalled the beautiful shade of yellow she’d picked for the baby’s room.
* “This is one of the few surprises that’s really worth it,” she’d told him when he’d asked her why she didn’t want to know the sex. “All that really matters is if the baby is healthy.” Reid had just shook his head and chuckled to himself. He’d been so pleased that she’d rid herself of that bastard Wilkes.*
‘I should’ve known,’ he screamed at himself.
“There’s no way you could have predicted that, Spencer.” Aaron’s statement startled him. He hadn’t realized he’d spoken out loud. “You were young and inexperienced. Human behavior is puzzling to most everyone, especially when you’re a teenager.”
“But I was a psychology major…I should’ve – ”
“You didn’t realize the extent of the man’s rage and fear. That’s not uncommon for someone who wouldn’t even consider doing harm to another… someone like you were.” Aaron’s voice was calm and matter-of-fact. Spencer recognized the truth in those words. It had never occurred to him because he hadn’t understood that kind of reaction…not like he did now.
Hotch watched silently as Spencer picked up his fork and began to eat again. Aaron felt like he could hear the marathon pace of Reid’s thoughts and memories. He wanted to comfort the younger man, but knew it wasn’t over. The story wasn’t complete.
“It was almost three weeks later. I… he came over to try and talk her into the abortion again. She got angry, I’m sure she did…when she got angry, she loved being a smartass.” A smile ghosted across Reid’s face before being eclipsed by the haunted look in his eyes. He could almost see her: red hair combed back, her green eyes blazing with disbelief, irritation and fury. She had been so beautiful, the pregnancy just starting to show and she had this happy glow about her.
He had been in class while she was being killed. He had still been a little miffed by their argument earlier about Wilkes. That asshole had called and she had agreed to see him. Reid couldn’t believe she’d do that…not after everything. He’d let his temper get a hold of him and stormed out, shaking with his anger.
“What I saw…he’d attacked her, beat her, raped her and left her to die alone. “ Reid’s voice was hushed and hoarse. “I found her about half an hour too late. God, I didn’t realize that fists could do that much damage. I told the police everything, and Wilkes broke down confessed once they found him. He was still covered in her blood.” He shuddered as the visual came rushing back to him.
“And with your memory…God, I’m sorry, Spencer.” Hotch reached out and hesitantly placed a warm hand on Reid’s shoulder. When the slender man didn’t object, he left it there. Hotch glanced down to see that Spencer had at least finished his bowl of food, and figured he’d have to be satisfied with that.
“C’mon, Spencer. You need to get some rest.” Hotch led him through the house to the guest bedroom and set out some sweats for the younger man to use if he wanted. As he turned to leave Spencer to his sleep, a statement stopped him in his tracks.
“Haley isn’t here.” The words were dull and hung in the air between them. Spencer didn’t really know why he said it…it just seemed important.
“No.” Hotch managed to answer, his back still turned. Reid studied this man who had forced him to talk, had taken it upon himself to care for Spencer. He didn’t understand what this was – friendship? There was too much – just too much for that. Reid’s mind pushed his own pain away, trying to concentrate. Then it clicked into place.
“Is she coming back?” he asked quietly. He saw Hotch’s shoulders tense, and that was enough. Slowly, as though afraid of what he was doing, Spencer moved up behind Hotch and hugged the older man. “I’m sorry,” he whispered in Hotch’s ear. Aaron relaxed back into the comfort, finally allowing himself to need that contact, and turned so that he could return the embrace. God, he was tired.
“C’mon, Aaron. Let’s get some sleep.” And Spencer led the way to the bed. Aaron hesitated for a moment, but toed off his shoes and socks and wrestled with his tie and shirt. Spencer watched him silently, concern and lust burning in his tired eyes. Finally, dressed in his boxers and undershirt, Hotch lay next to Spencer, tense and silent.
Spencer stretched out quietly next to this amazing man and made a decision. Sex was an idea that his body readily agreed with, but they were both so exhausted. And Aaron had helped him by forcing him to unburden himself…and Spencer wanted to do the same – offer what solace he could. He turned and molded himself against Aaron, offering and receiving comfort. Something both of them needed. Maybe he couldn’t find the right words, and maybe he didn’t need to. But perhaps together, they could at least find comfort. And with that thought, Spencer felt the even, slow breaths of the man relaxing beneath him and fell into a blissfully dreamless sleep.