It isn't that Aaron didn't already know Wendell gets along with his team. By the end of the first case they'd worked with him, Garcia had already developed an almost disturbing habit of pinching his cheek and dragging him around the bullpen with their arms linked like a favorite show dog; Garcia has always had a taste for surrounding herself with pretty things. He's heard Reid mention some kind of bimonthly 'squints poker game'--whatever that is--several times now, and once he'd even seen the two of them drive off together at the end of the day. Wendell had been wearing a green plastic visor and Reid had been laughing. And then there's the fact that he's pretty certain Wendell babysits for JJ and Will sometimes.
So he knows, has known from the beginning, exactly the kind of draw Wendell has on people. A pretty face and an open smile are probably the oldest, most reliable lures in the world, and all that being a profiler means is that he sees exactly how very genuine that smile is as he and his team are hooked and reeled in.
Dave really needs to stop trying to talk him into a fishing trip.
The point, Aaron thinks as he takes another carefully shallow sip of his beer, is that he knows that Wendell somehow manages to fit into their small, admittedly cliquish group surprisingly easily, but knowing that had never translated into expecting to walk into the bar for one of what Garcia calls their 'family bonding nights' and finding Wendell perched at a high top between Reid and Garcia debating the relative merits of slippery nipples and suck, bang, and blows. Apparently they're drinks and Wendell and Garcia are very enthusiastic about them. Very enthusiastic.
It would take a stronger, braver man than Aaron to stay at that table when there's such a perfectly good bar to retreat to.
Aaron spins his wrist, swirling the beer around inside his half full bottle, and slowly counts down from ten as Wendell shoots a smirk in his direction and slides another shot in front of Reid. There's nothing malicious in the secretive twist of his lips; if anything, it's more like an invitation to join in on a joke that Aaron doesn't know the punchline or the setup for. Reid leans closer against Wendell's side, practically half draped across him already, and mumbles something that Aaron can't catch while Wendell makes a show of downing his own clear shot that Aaron saw him refilling from his water glass earlier.
Reid can take care of himself. He's young and still startlingly naive about a lot of things, but Aaron knows he's stronger and more capable than most people give him credit for. He's certainly capable of saying no and there have been enough evenings with Garcia goading him on that there's no way he doesn't know exactly what his limits are. It's obvious that he's already drunk, but he's not sloppy with it, just loose and easy, and Garcia may call Dave and him the 'mom and dad' of the team, but she's adopted all of them enough that only a very stupid man would try to take advantage of any of them in front of her.
Wendell is many things, but stupid is not one of them.
Aaron wouldn't put it past him to be able to induce stupidity at this point, but Wendell's not stupid.
He's not stupid, so it would make sense that he's cut his losses and moved on to someone else. Aaron may not be an expert on the dating scene, but even he knows that you can only turn someone down so many times before they stop offering. Fuck knows he's turned Wendell down enough times than he would have thought possible. He doesn't look perfect with Reid, but they still look good together, certainly more fitting than Wendell would with Aaron. They look...appropriate, and when Reid leans his head on Wendell's shoulder and Wendell drops his cheek on top of Reid's hair, the two of them together go from appropriate to right, and something twists so hard in Aaron's chest that he almost expects to hear the snap of it breaking.
Across the room, Emily arches an eyebrow and dead pans something, and Wendell's head tips back on a laugh.
It's such a little thing, just something about the stretch of his neck and the slight crinkle at the corners of his eyes, but for an instant it's like he's back in high school watching Haley from across the cafeteria and trying to figure out how to get her to notice him. And it's scary, because Aaron knows himself, and he knows that he would audition for a play for Wendell, even if it meant singing or learning choreography. He would go to bad poetry readings and worse basement parties just for the chance to see the smile he' s turning on JJ and Will as they walk through the door. He would let himself be dragged to a carnival and spend an entire week's worth of a minimum wage paycheck to win a five dollar bear on the off chance that it would mean he could hold the hand that's clumsily petting over Reid's hair.
He's been here before, and he knows the symptoms. He is completely, utterly doomed to fall, and he can't think of a single way to catch himself.
"What the hell does he think he's doing?"
Aaron glances over at Morgan, who's slumped down on the stool next to him, and lifts a shoulder in a shrug. "Unwinding, it looks like."
"He's never unwound like that before," Morgan says, sounding remarkably petulant for a man who Aaron watched jump off a bridge and onto a boat to tackle an arsonist a few weeks back. It shouldn't be possible for someone who's probably capable of bench pressing Aaron to sound like Jack in a snit.
Garcia has her arm hooked through Wendell's and she's pulling him out onto the dance floor. Wendell, in turn, has his fingers tangled in the cuff of Reid's shirt and is dragging him along in their wake. They're a stumbling, laughing cluster out on the floor, the kind of spectacle that makes other dancers clear space and laugh not unkindly along with them. Reid ends up with his face against the back of Wendell's neck and an arm curled around his waist while Garcia does her best to twine her arms around both of them.
Aaron can practically feel Morgan bristling next to him, and he focuses on that because it's safer than the alternative.
When they were juniors, a boy named Billy had transferred to their high school and swooped in during one of his and Haley's bad periods. She'd gone to the homecoming dance with him, and Aaron had spent the entire time ignoring his last minute date and glaring at the two of them as they swayed together to the music. Even at seventeen, Aaron had known that Haley was the love of his life, the future mother of his children, the person he was destined to be with forever, and there's absolutely no reason why watching Wendell bopping around with Reid and Garcia should make him feel as unsteady and angry as he had when he'd watched Billy bending to kiss Haley at the end of a slow dance.
Reid stumbles and nearly takes his two partners and a couple dancing nearby down with him. It's loud and crowded in the bar, but Aaron still has no trouble picking up Wendell's laugh. Garcia pushes at his shoulder and says something with a teasing smile, then bounces through the crowd back toward their table, and Wendell takes Reid by the elbow and starts steering him toward the bar. Aaron grips his warm beer bottle hard enough that his knuckles hurt, because Reid can take care of himself, but he really probably shouldn't be drinking anymore. Aaron can feel the shift in the air when Morgan tenses, no doubt preparing to intervene. Before he can, though, Wendell and Reid are right there in front of them.
"Somebody could use a ride home," Wendell says without a trace of a slur. Reid blinks hazily and smiles the smile of the truly sloshed at Morgan. Wendell adjusts his grip on Reid's arm and gives him a blatant once over, then adds, "And probably a couch to sleep it off on too."
When Morgan just gapes at them, Wendell aims that same smirk from before at Aaron and gently propels Reid forward into Morgan.
"I took the bus, and I'm pretty sure my couch has been absorbed by books for my dissertation," Wendell says as he shifts around to lean on the bar next to Aaron. Morgan still doesn't say or do anything, and Wendell bumps his shoulder against Aaron's as he says, "Of course, my bed is plenty big enough for two to share-"
"I've got him," Morgan cuts in before Wendell can finish his sentence. Aaron watches them go, noting the way Morgan's hands are gentle at the small of Reid's back and the side of his waist and how Reid can't seem to tear his eyes away from the other man's face. There's something going on there, has been for a while. Maybe even years, and Aaron's good at denying himself, but his stomach flips at the thought of seeing, working with someone for that long and never letting himself reach out to touch.
"They look good on each other," Wendell says. When Aaron turns to face him, he tips a drink he acquired from somewhere at him in a mock toast and smirks again.
"Don't you mean with each other?"
"That too." Wendell's smirk slips into a soft smile, and he ducks his head. His fingernail picks at the label on his beer; it's a nervous tick Aaron hasn't seen from Wendell before and a part of him hates that he probably would have already known about it if he would just stop getting in his own way.
Wendell peeks up from beneath the spiky fringe of his eyelashes, and his lips part like he's going to say something, but before he can make another sound, Garcia's right there at his side.
"Hey, bossman," she says with a slightly wobbly grin as she hugs Wendell's waist. "Kevin's here. I'm going to steal everyone's favorite lab rat and introduce him, okay?"
Wendell looks between the two of them, his smile faltering when Aaron just stares blankly back at him, then coming back twice as bright. "Sure." He drapes his arm over Garcia's shoulder, and winks down at her when he says, "It's always good to meet the competition."
And Aaron closes his eyes and downs the rest of his drink, because he can't quite bring himself to watch them go.