"This is ridiculous."
"You've divorced three times, Dave."
"I never cheated on any of my wives!"
"I know, but you have to think of how it looks to the average American."
Reid wishes Mister Hotchner had kept the door closed but that's not obviously an option anymore. Instead, he tells himself to keep a blank face, one that he's sure he'll end using more and more if Mister Hotchner has his way.
He really wishes he doesn't.
How was he supposed to know that the job offered to him by Aaron Hotchner, his former Law teacher and currently the most important White House Adviser, was that of personal assistant for newly appointed President Rossi?
Not that he has anything against personal assistants in general, but isn't he a bit overqualified for the job? After all, he has three PhDs and a similar number of MBAs, understands twenty-seven languages and dialects, is well versed in a vast number of subjects from cultural to historical to actual, loves new knowledge and can absorb it in a matter of minutes …
He scrambles to his feet when the President enters the office, his face furious. Mister Hotchner follows him at a more sedate pace, as blank faced as Spencer has ever seen him.
"Mister President, let me introduce you to Spencer Reid, a former student."
"A lawyer." The way the President says the word sounds like an insult, not that Spencer feels especially insulted. As much as he's been interested in such a vast and intricate topic, he has never thought of getting a title in that particular career.
It probably comes from hating his father.
"And he's too pretty," the President continues. "What do you think the average American will think of that?"
"It is a well known fact that you like surrounding yourself with pretty things," Mister Hotchner says without batting an eye. "He is also obviously a man, that's all they are going to notice."
"He is a child."
He's here, Spencer wants to say, but he's never been one for clichés.
"Philosopher, actually," he says instead. "Not a lawyer," he adds when both men's eyes are on him.
As he had expected the President frowns at him, suddenly loss at words. Behind him Mister Hotchner smiles one of those so-small-they-are-barely-here smiles of his.
"He's also particularly good at linguistic tricks and at downplaying himself. Don't let that deceive you."
Spencer can tell Mister Hotchner that he doesn't downplay himself, at least not all of the time. He's well aware of his worth and of how special his intellectual gifts make him. That doesn't stop him from finding himself flawed and incomplete, because he's nothing but honest.
President Rossi doesn't read as fast as Spencer does, but it is obvious he's good at speed reading in the way he scans the file Mister Hotchner hands him. That it contains Spencer's whole life in white and black is kind of clear when the President pauses, frowns, and goes back to reading with far more attention.
"So, Doctor, Doctor, Doctor Reid," he finally says, taking off his glasses and looking at him with piercing eyes. "Why exactly does a man of your qualifications want to be a personal assistant?"
"He doesn't," Mister Hotchner answers before Spencer can open his mouth, "which makes him perfect for the work."
And what exactly that means, Spencer can't say. Maybe President Rossi can; after all, he's known Mister Hotchner for years, according to the political news sources Spencer follows. Whatever the reason, he looks at Spencer for a long, long moment before nodding.
"Tell Agent Morgan to give him the tour," he instructs Mister Hotchner. "Oh, and take him to Garcia first," he says, slowly walking a circle around Spencer, a wolfish smile not out of place in his face. "After all, I do like surrounding myself in pretty things.
"Thank God," JJ says as soon as he hops out of the helicopter. "He's been absolutely insufferable."
Spencer barely has time to kiss the media liaison back and take the tablet from her hands before the Secret Service takes hold of him. He does a double take when he notices Prentiss is in charge of his entourage.
"We can't risk anything happening to you, he's been absolutely insufferable," she says, closing his door and jumping into the front passenger seat, giving their driver the all clear.
Spencer just mutters So I've heard, but he's sure there's too much for him to get up to, so he turns his attention to the electronic files.
Garcia is waiting for him. "What the hell are you wearing?" she says, straightening his clothes and hair. "He's going to have a cow, you are all wrinkly."
Yes, well, at least he's wearing clean clothes. It is not his fault that he hasn't had time to sleep in a bed for almost a week, much less to iron the clothes he just managed to snatch and squeeze in a bag before flying to Las Vegas.
There's no time to change though, as Prentiss snatches him back from Garcia's clutches and pulls him across the White House so fast that it takes a moment for his mind to adjust when they eventually stop.
And then a heartbeat to realize he's in Rossi's presence.
As always, there's a fluttering mass of advisors and assistants and whatnot surrounding the President, but as soon as he notices Spencer he dismisses every one of them. The haste with which they leave the room makes Spencer think that maybe there's a chance that the President has in fact been somewhat insufferable in his absence.
The knowledge makes his stomach flutter, and the intensity of the look Rossi is giving him doesn't help.
"How was the service?" he asks, and Spencer is grateful when his tone of voice is the same as always, none of the pity and sorrowfulness he's been hearing for days.
"Dreadful. I hate funerals. I wouldn't have been there-"
"But your mother wanted to, and you couldn't leave her face this on her own," Rossi ends for him. "How is she?"
"Showing surprising fortitude," he answers truthfully. Even if he isn't prepared to admit it out loud, the reality of his father's death is hitting him hard. He is guiltily jealous of his mother strength. But well, at least he can count with his overly absorbing job to help him forget. "She sends her regards."
Rossi's sudden smile makes Spencer's heart stagger. The President and his mother have only met once, but that meeting had been the thing of legends. There's true admiration whenever the man asks Spencer about his mom, as well as whenever she tells Spencer to say hello to that nice boss of yours.
Spencer recognizes the double knock as Hotch's and turns his attention back to the tablet, preparing himself for the following discussion. It doesn't come, as neither does Rossi's instruction to enter. Curious he raises his head just to find the man staring at him with a contemplative air.
"Do I have something in my face?" he blurts out. Garcia surely would have told him, wouldn't she?
"I often forget you're older than you look like."
Spencer can't ask for clarification because Rossi is the President again and he's calling for Hotch to come in, and they have just too many topics to review.
"About the UN Security Council," President Rossi asks when Hotch brings the issue up to discussion. "What would you do?"
Spencer doesn't even have to think. "I would sign the resolution."
"It would be political suicide," Hotch is swift to point out, as he's always done whenever they talk of the subject's full implications. It is elections year, and while there's nothing Rossi's opponents can do to make him lose the race, he still can botch up his chances himself … which is basically what Spencer's choice would mean, Hotch never tires to repeat.
Still Spencer doesn't change his answer, simply shrugging to signal he has made his mind. He understands Hotch's point of view, how four more years of Rossi's Administration would be more useful than the immediate results the Act could bring, especially with the other possible candidates' personal ideas on America's international presence.
But it means people are to die now, and he can't choose that.
"You're a better man than I could ever dream to be," President Rossi says, leafing through what Spencer believes is Vice-President Strauss' latest report, if only for the amount of glares the man is directing to the document.
"I have the advantage of this being no more than a hypothetical exercise for me," Spencer admits honestly. "If I truly were in your place I would refuse to accept the actual iteration of the document, although not for Hotch's reasons. The objectives are laudable, but as it stands there's no truthful expectative it'll be enforced."
Rossi looks up, interested. "We could use that," he suggest to Hotch. "Delay the actual signing until our concerns are covered, or at least analyzed."
"It'll transmit the wrong message. We don't want it to look like America is open to negotiation in this subject." Still, Hotch's frown is one that says he thinks there's some worth in the idea, so Spencer is expecting the President's next order.
"We'll look into this new angle with Gideon. Spencer?"
"The Secretary is back on Wednesday's morning. Your schedule is full, but I can move a few meetings and have him at noon, if that's okay with both of you." He waits for their affirmatives before reminding the President he has a Gala Dinner in an hour.
"Then I better get ready, and so do you. I want you by my side tonight."
It is not unusual, but Spencer can't help feeling something is different, if only for the wondering way Hotch looks at him when they part ways.
The first thing Rossi says when Spencer gets into the limo is "You shaved," which isn't really unexpected, because yes, he did. He had been surprised by the stranger's face in the mirror, finally realizing what it was that had called the man's attention earlier.
Late twenties, and almost a week worth of stubble isn't more than a shadow in his face.
"Yeah. Sorry about that." It is a well known fact that Rossi doesn't like those around him looking sloppily kept, and although he tolerates it best in certain people than in others, Spencer knows better than to test his luck.
"I thought it suited you, kid," Morgan adds from the driver's seat. It is just the usual teasing from the Secret Service Agent, as Spencer's customary response is to roll his eyes and tease back. But this time President Rossi's frown and the way he keeps his eyes to the passing scenery make him pause, and Morgan's concerned glance shared over the mirror confirms that Spencer didn't imagine it.
They spend the rest of the trip in heavy silence.
It is a horrible event right from the beginning. It isn't more boring than others, but Spencer feels every second stretch interminably. Although to the untrained eye the President is his charming self, to those used to dealing with him on a daily basis it is obvious the man is almost dangerously angry. It is not a surprise when, barely an hour in, he orders Spencer to call for his car.
"Tell Agent Prentiss to meet us in the front in ten minutes."
Spencer blinks, startled, but doesn't try to make him change his mind. Morgan's colorful expletives at having to rush and at being kicked out from his place as President Rossi's personal guard cover what Spencer thinks, and then a bit more.
In what feels like no time they are outside, and Spencer can feel immediately something is wrong. Later he will try to remember, but the only memories he'll have from the moment are that of immense terror, a strange clarity of mind, and a single thought ingrained in his brain.
Get the President down.
(There's a blurry image of a blood splattered Rossi looking down at him, horror clear in his eyes. Horror and sorrow, and an insurmountable amount of something that looks like loss and makes Spencer ache even more that the bullet wound. But he's sure he imagined the whole scene, even if he clings to it during the maelstrom of pain and darkness that follows.)
"Don't you ever dare do that again."
Spencer blinks, slowly waking up. He feels foggy, and under the thin patina of what he knows have to be heavy duty painkillers is the knowledge that he isn't going to be a hundred percent okay soon.
"I said, don't you ever dare do that to me again," the same voice repeats, and Spencer is finally able to focus. He's immensely grateful when he recognizes the man, especially as he seems unhurt, even if he's a bit disheveled.
Actually, Spencer realizes, he's awfully disheveled.
Something like a half drowned cry comes from Rossi's throat, and suddenly he's clutching Spencer's shoulders. "You cannot die on me, Spencer Reid, especially not because of me."
It takes a moment for Spencer's brain to comprehend that he's being kissed, and that were not for the medication it would have hurt quite a bit. But he is heavily medicated, and so when Rossi breaks off, a look of abject fear in his face, he clumsily pulls him down again.
The surrender is not immediate but eventually he wins, and the kiss that follows is so sweet and tender that he falls asleep in the middle of it.
He's been given a month of enforced health leave, and by he's been given, he means they don't allow me to get close to the White House in any way.
He doesn't quite understand why.
At his return he can tell something has changed once again. He eventually decides everybody is quite angry at him for jumping in front of the President because, as Morgan drives the point again and again, being a human shield is not in his job description. He doesn't seem to care that Prentiss admits President Rossi would have not survived the shot, and that what Spencer did was actually quite the best-case scenario.
Garcia hits Spencer in the top of the head before giving him homemade cookies, advising him to be careful around the President because "he's graduated from absolutely insufferable to DEFCON 3", and fussing over the hair she herself disheveled just a moment before. Hotch doesn't say quite as much, but he is always looking at Reid, and frankly that's quite creepy.
All in all, being in President Rossi's presence is not as bad as he fears. There's a couple moments when he notices his boss looking at him curiously, but after almost dying by taking a bullet meant for the man he can understand the random moment of reflection.
It happens slowly, but he eventually realizes everybody is waiting for him to do something. What, he can't say. Spontaneously die, perhaps. Nobody answers his questions, so he makes a note in his mental agenda.
Never almost die again. People get weird.
A week or so before the elections everybody is wearing so thin that they barely complain when Rossi sends them home. Spencer is, as always, the last one left behind. He could leave the cleaning up for the White House crew, but used as he is to working with sensitive documents all the time, he likes to make sure there's nothing important left laying around.
Of course, as always, it means he ends straightening up every corner of the President's antechamber.
Is quite late when he finishes, and he's exhausted enough that, instead of immediately taking his leave, he takes a look at his grinning boss and all but flops face down in the closest couch.
He tiredly opens his eyes when Rossi crouches down, a strange soft smile in his face. Spencer finds his behavior quite curious, but not enough to question, drained as he is. Then Rossi gently caresses his cheek and Spencer's heart rate skyrockets, but it melts along with the rest of his body when the man kisses him.
The kiss is soft, tender and delicate, and Spencer really has no idea as to how he ends on his back, Rossi stretched flush all over him. It is delicious, everything he would have expected had he allowed himself to ever think of it, and he's whimpering quietly, wanting more, needing more.
Instead he pushes Rossi; gently, because you don't save the President's life and then bodily harm him. Just enough that their lips are not touching and they can see each other in the eye.
"Mister President, I don't think-"
"You really don't remember," Rossi interrupts him, a searching look in his face, his right hand still curled in the back of Spencer's head.
"Remember?" Remember what? Not that his mind is working properly, with Rossi's weight and heat making his senses go haywire.
"At the hospital, the other day. I thought you had chosen not to pursue this thing between us, thought I had lost my chance with you. Aaron said you didn't remember, I didn't want to believe it. How could you not remember what I couldn't forget, try as I might?"
He's peppering Spencer's neck and jaw with kisses, his speech muffled. Spencer cannot put the words right , cannot think when Rossi grinds their groins together. And Spencer, Spencer is not a virgin, he's always liked knowledge and that of the sexual variety is not the exception. But this is undoing him, surely and inexorably, and he just can't.
"The hospital," he manages, tries to make Rossi stop even if he wants nothing but. "What did I say? What did I do?"
"You called me Dave." He can feel the smile even if he can't see it. "I kissed you." A nip and a lick, and Spencer's body arches, pleasure overtaking it from head to toes. "You kissed me back."
This time it is Rossi who brings them to a halt, and for that Spencer is grateful. And yet, as it is, he's already craving for what he shouldn't want.
"I can't offer you much," Rossi says, looking at him suddenly too serious. "This will have to stay in the shadows for as long as I'm in the Office, most likely even after, possibly until we both die. I might have to deny you, maybe publicly, definitely vehemently. You will have to be my secret, but not my dirty secret, never my dirty secret. I can't offer you much," he repeats, "but my heart and the knowledge that I've never loved anybody the way I love you."
And to Spencer, who never dared to even wish, it is more than enough.
But still he can't.
"I'm sorry," he says, feeling his hearth constrict. "I won't."
The look on Rossi's face is so painful that Spencer can't keep looking at him. Thankfully he doesn't have to, because Rossi gets up and moves to the wet bar he keeps there and serves himself a hearty glass of Scotch.
"I understand," he says, although it is clear in the way his voice almost breaks that he doesn't. "I'm just going to need a few days, I apologize in advance if I become, if I'm distant." He gulps down half the Scotch and Spencer grimaces, because he can already imagine the hangover. "But I promise I'll respect your wishes. I am aware of my reputation, but I swear, on my honor. No inappropriate advances."
He must have let something slip in his voice, because suddenly Rossi's attention is back at him, like a laser guided missile.
"Satisfy my curiosity," he says, and Spencer knows he has to tread carefully now that Rossi has adopted the tone that made him the most powerful man on Earth. "Just why exactly you won't?"
Spencer could lie to him. As Hotch once told the President, back when he was nothing but the President to Spencer, he is quite masterful at deception.
He has never lied to Rossi, though, and he's not going to start now.
"This can end your career," he admits. "This will end your career."
He moves backwards rapidly as Rossi hones down on him, until the wall is at his back and he can move no more. He has seen Rossi get intense, there is that famous speech still making the rounds in the Internet … but this? This was other thing altogether.
"You, you promised." His voice is shaking yet it is not fear what he feels. Rossi is looming but he's not touching him. Spencer wishes he would, but he isn't.
"Because I believed you didn't want me. Because I believed you wouldn't have me under those conditions." He extends his hand, as in to cover Spencer's crotch, but he still doesn't touch him. Spencer can swear he almost feels the heat, although he knows it is impossible, all in his mind. They both look while the bulge in Spencer's pants gets even more obvious.
"You do want me. You would have me."
"Fuck my career," he mutters, and he moves his hand painfully slow, his fingers ghosting over Spencer's length, and he still is not touching, but Spencer feels like he's a marionette and Dave has total control of the strings that move him.
But he has to be strong, he has to.
"At this moment you are the best man for the work," he makes himself say. "You admitted it yourself; you wouldn't have run again were it not for the other candidates. If we get involved and it comes to light, and eventually it will, it'll destroy whatever good you've done. How could I even think of being so selfish-"
"But I want you to be selfish."
He can't help but laugh at the childish tone, even if his laughter is nervous and he has to choke it down.
"Four years. I won't be the first President to take a lover. We just have to hide it for four more years and then I'll retire."
Spencer shakes his head sadly.
"Presidents don't retire, not really, not ever. You'll still do much beyond the White House, sir. I can't steal your future."
"But you are my future. You are my present, you are my past. I didn't truly start living until I met you." There's vehemence in the words, but Spencer can see he's wining. When he moves, Rossi steps aside.
He doesn't want to leave, but he says "I'm sorry" one more time, and then goes for the door.
Given his luck, it is not really a surprise that Prentiss is the one standing by the door. She says nothing, only raises an eyebrow and makes him realize what a picture he must paint. He has to find a bathroom and put himself right before somebody else sees him; rumors would be as damaging as the real thing.
He walks down the corridor and then stops. This is the biggest mistake in your life, he finds himself thinking, looking back against his conscious will. Her eyes still trained on him, Prentiss raises an eyebrow again. He forces himself to look away and start walking, five steps, six, before stopping one more time.
Twenty minutes later he's still in the same corridor, actually closer to the President's door. This is stupid, he tells himself after he hasn't managed to knock for what feels like the hundredth time. He softly thumps the wall with his forehead. This is oh, so stupid. Thump. He's sure Prentiss is about to have him carried out anytime now, but thankfully she hasn't said anything of his strange behavior yet.
"I am going to need my car. Tell Agent Morgan to- Spencer?"
Spencer cringes, knowing he's just the epitome of pathetic, and turns slowly around. President Rossi is standing at his door, even more disheveled than he had been twenty minutes ago. He also has a look of surprise that slowly turns to delight, and Spencer can't help smiling back.
"I couldn't leave," he admits.
Before he realizes what's happening, Rossi is in front of him and has a knee to the floor. "Marry me," he says, and Spencer's heart stops. Thankfully Prentiss is their only witness and she's grinning like the Cheshire cat, and for that he's grateful. Still, this is something that shouldn't be discussed lightly, especially if they really want it to work.
"Aren't we putting the cart before the horses?" he says, trying to make the man stand up, but Rossi is heavier, and he's stubborn.
"I'm not saying right now, but eventually. I've always said I support same-sex marriage, maybe it is time I prove these are not only empty words."
"An ex-President's value rests not only on his past employment but on the causes they support. This is a cause my heart is close to. This is a cause I want to support."
And put that way, how can he say no?
"Not until you've retired."
"I'm just going to say yes right now, but I'll keep trying to convince you." And has Spencer said the man is stubborn? Because he is.
"You are just crazy, has anybody told you?"
"Young man, you can't call the President crazy," Dave says, finally raising up, immediately pulling Spencer in his room's direction. "Maybe I have to teach you some respect."
And Spencer, he just smiles and flushes red at the thumbs up Prentiss gives him before the door closes.