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Aaron had made some questionable decisions in his adult life and coming out to this club certainly ranked high up on that list. He was too old for this; the music was too loud, the crowd too young, and the drinks came with fancy-ass names and a homogenous watered-down quality about them that let you know you were supposed to be there for reasons other than drinking. At least no one from work would ever know. He could weather this social miscue privately and was glad of that. If any member of the BAU ever set foot in this place except on a case, he'd be on the lookout for four guys riding horses down K street heralding that the end times had arrived.

He shifted in the bathroom stall and tried to get a grip on his situation. It had only been forty minutes but he felt a profound urge to flee; his attempt at a new 'lifestyle' (he didn't yet know what to call it) at fifty was an unmitigated disaster and he was starting to wonder if he was really all that gay to begin with. There wasn't much in this meat market that aroused him and as he felt eyes pass to him, and then pass over him, he figured that the lack of interest was mutual. Frankly, a night at home reading a book and drinking a good single malt seemed more promising.

He straightened his shoulders and smoothed his shirt as he prepared to admit defeat and go home to his scotch. He reached for some toilet paper to wipe away the club's clamminess and that's when he saw it: a phone number written on the stall wall that he recognized. Next to the number was a symbol that was shorthand for something that, according to his limited knowledge, few people advertised. He just stared at the graffiti and tried to make the number and the symbol match up like some sort of alien math that he didn't understand. It couldn’t be. Maybe he was wrong about the number. He hadn't called it in a long time - he wasn't even sure that it was still in his contacts list anymore. People closed their accounts, got new phones, numbers got recycled and reused... It probably wasn't him. Aaron pulled out his phone and took a picture of it anyway. He didn't know why - it just seemed like he should. And then he left the stall, splashed some water on his face, and got the hell out of there.

----

Three weeks later they were all staring listlessly at a cluttered crime board in the Baltimore homicide squad room waiting for some missing flash of brilliance to occur and make their profile a reality. It had been nearly sixteen hours of stale coffee, failed theories, bad take-out, and a bunch of contradictory sniping. Even Aaron had to admit that his focus wasn't too good at this point. His mind slid to the picture in his phone as it had several times over the past few weeks, usually whenever it was extremely inconvenient or embarrassing for him. He didn't know why he still had it. It's not like he'd ever have the balls to call the number and it was exactly the kind of unsavory digital evidence that Garcia was always preaching against. After that night at the club, after he'd sobered up and decided various 'lifestyles' weren't in his wheelhouse, he still hadn't deleted the photo. During some intense brooding on the subject he came to the conclusion that he kept it as a symbol of daring, of risk that he could choose to reach out for, or not. The clubs were not for him, and online dating was too much exposure, but this snapshot of uninhibited anonymity could be both desired and safely contained. Just so long as he kept the picture. Otherwise he was just another repressed, unfulfilled middle-aged cliché trying not to be too obvious in his disappointment. Sadly, the symbolic photo also depressed him because having the option to choose, and yet not making that choice, said a lot about him that he didn’t like. He rubbed the edge of his phone in his coat pocket and thought about how small his world had become.

"Let's call it a night," he murmured just as J.J. tried, and failed, to stifle a huge yawn. "We'll come at it fresh tomorrow morning. Seven a.m."

The team slowly collected their things and shuffled to the street exit. Rossi offered to buy them a late dinner; Reid and Morgan agreed. J.J. started texting rapidly - probably checking in at home. Aaron paused, pulled out his phone and saw the goodnight text from Jack on his screen. He thought about his hotel room, the progress reports that were awaiting his updates, the team evaluations that he was already late in delivering to the Director's office... He thought about meetings and eye strain and the new hire policy he had yet to draft and his right-to-carry recertification coming up and Jack's dental appointment next week and getting snow tires put on his car and checking in with Jessica and her Dad to see how they were coping and did they need any help... His world got smaller and smaller.

He scrolled to his phone's photo gallery and then sent off a text before he could change his mind.

-- Your number was in a public place. Are you still up for it? --

The icon blinked green: Sent, and his pulse jackrabbited in his throat. He looked up suddenly, looked around to see if anyone noticed his guilt but they were all too preoccupied with their own phones and plans to care about him. He told himself to calm down: he didn't have to follow-up if he got a response and his number was private so it couldn't be traced back to him without a certain amount of effort. It wasn't going to come to anything.

J.J. waved to the boys as she headed in the direction of the hotel. Rossi waved back. Morgan got a call and by the grin that spread across his face it must have been Garcia. Reid fished out his phone and squinted at it before placing it back in his coat without answering it. He grinned at J.J. and called out to wish Henry a good night from him. Within a minute they were all gone.

Aaron stood on the sidewalk in front of the station house and watched the evening traffic ebb and flow to the beat of the stoplights on the corner. His phone was silent in his hand. After several minutes he dropped it back in his pocket, took in a deep breath of damp October air, and followed J.J. in the direction of their hotel.

----

He was battling his punchy insomnia with paperwork and it wasn't helping. He'd need at least three hours if were going to make it through another day and he hoped that one of the reports spread out across his bed would be the magic bullet that put him down for the night. On the nightstand, his phone buzzed making him jump just enough to wonder if he'd been dozing.

* Where did u find this number? *

He blinked at the message and was wide awake in an instant. His fingers shook a little as he texted the club's name back. He waited several minutes for a response but nothing came. After a while, his personality kicked in like a gag reflex.

-- Sorry. Didn't mean to be distressing. --

* Why would this distress me? Put the number there for a reason *

The message came back almost immediately and Aaron just stared at it in wonder at its frankness. He wished that he knew how to mimic that.

* To answer ur question - I can't now. Working. Later? *

And now he had a decision to make: reach out for the risk with all the danger it entailed, or settle back into his life. Delete the photo. Erase the messages. Forget the person he'd secretly always thought he was but hid from everyone. He stared at the phone - stared and stared and stared until it made his eyes hurt in the dim lighting of his room.

His fingers flicked over the screen.

-- Are you sure? --

* U texted me *

-- I know but I could be anybody. You aren't worried? --

* Can take care of myself. Not worried. *

Jesus… he was so not ready for this.

* It is OK to back out. Don’t know u – it’s not rejection *

He waited for too long. His mind felt sluggish from lack of sleep and the unrelenting pressure his subconscious had placed on this dilemma from the moment he turned in that club’s bathroom stall. He just wanted to lie down and forget that he was ever confused about himself at all.

-- How do we do this? --

* Public place. Agree to a time. Walk away if u can’t handle it. *

-- How will we recognize each other? –

* I’m 6’1”, 155 lbs, will wear a purple shirt *

-- OK. When? --

He felt brave and sick at the same time, but then his phone was quiet and his stomach twisted with a confusing mix of relief and defeat.

* Schedule is uncertain. Text u later with time & place? *

-- Sure --

Aaron laid out his phone next to him on the bed and looked at his response blinking back at him with a Sent icon next to it. He had no idea what he was doing. He was a car without headlights racing down a dark, unknown road and someone was pushing the gas to the floor. His tangled mind kept spelling out D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R to him but he just sat back and enjoyed the thrill of night air whipping past him.

----

A week later Aaron found himself scanning the crowd of an outdoor café at night. Patio lights twinkled, couples lingered, and families cheered around the busking performers on the sidewalk beyond. It was a busy scene and as he shuffled in the shadow of a doorway - acting exactly like the sort of stranger you’d want to avoid - Aaron thought there was a good chance that he was going to be stood up. His texting stranger (his mind wouldn’t give him a name despite his suspicions) had waited four days to give him a time and location, and then he’d been silent thereafter. Aaron had been waiting for about twenty-five minutes; he wasn’t sure that anonymous sex was worth this much planning. He sighed and then straightened in the doorway, feeling a little silly for having bought into this premise so much and a little naked without his suit and tie for protection. He smoothed his hands over the dark, thin sweater he wore (to foolishly highlight his assets) and took a last look around before calling the whole thing off. Then he saw the flash of purple in the crowd. He recognized the casual slouch of the man who wore it as well as the small smile he flashed at the performers he passed. Aaron didn’t want to believe that he’d been texting with Reid the whole time but a large part of him suddenly relaxed at the sight of him, finally discovering that his stranger wasn’t a stranger at all.

Reid looked around the crowd with interest. He didn’t know who he was looking for; it was up to Aaron to either reveal himself or not. If he stepped forward now, Reid would know a lot more about him and Aaron wasn’t certain he was happy with that prospect. He could slip away into the night and Reid would never know. No doubt that was why Reid had chosen this scene in the first place. Reid strolled past the doorway where Aaron lurked, none the wiser. Aaron could walk out into the street behind him, mix into the crowd and be back at his car in under a minute…

“Reid.”

Reid turned and blinked a few times before he gave Aaron a shocked but genuine grin. He offered up a wave and looked as though he was about to launch into a ‘what are you doing here’ conversation when Aaron blocked him.

“You’re looking for someone,” he said quietly. “It’s me.”

Reid’s smile fell immediately and his gaze widened - for once, he had nothing to say. Aaron’s sweater suddenly felt too tight and menacing, like it was a creature trying to suffocate him. He coughed away the claustrophobia and carried on.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have let this go this far.”

“You knew it was me all along?” Reid’s voice was low, his face guarded.

“I thought I recognized the number but I wasn’t certain.” Aaron looked at him sheepishly. “You maintain two phones?”

Reid gave him an eyeroll. “I work for the government and I have a friend who’s a paranoid hacker. Of course I carry two phones. Some things aren’t the FBI’s business.”

The profiler in Aaron popped out like a jack-in-the-box. “The Bureau would make it their business - this is pretty high-risk behavior, Reid. It’s bound to end badly at some point.”

“You’re here too,” Reid said pointedly. “We all have our dark sides.”

Aaron shuffled a little as the crowd brushed past them. He wanted to ask Reid why he’d have sex with strangers. He was young and attractive - there’s no reason why he couldn’t find someone to date… Then it hit him that perhaps Reid’s answer would tell Aaron too much about his own hang-ups. Perhaps Reid’s ‘dark side’ disgusted him and he just needed to sate it and move on. Or maybe anything that Aaron imagined about Reid was just what Aaron secretly thought about himself. Reid cleared his throat and when Aaron looked at him there was a curious squiggle to his eyebrows as if he’d been parsing Aaron’s silence.

“I’m assuming that we’ll mutually forget about this evening,” Reid said, that curiosity still etched into his expression. Aaron suddenly deflated at his words as if his tension burst and then disappeared like flash paper. He had an unbidden image of Reid on his knees in front of him, pushing him into the darkened doorway, fingers scrabbling across his scarred stomach under his sweater as the oblivious crowd enjoyed the buskers on the street beyond them. He imagined their quiet gasping, he imagined wrenching Reid forward by the collar of his purple shirt, he imagined digging his fingers into the doorframe to keep himself from crying out…

“I’d appreciate that.”

“Sure,” Reid shrugged and half turned back into the crowd as if that were the end of it.

“I’m sorry, Reid,” he said quickly. “If this was embarrassing or a violation…”

“I’m not embarrassed. I know who I am, Hotch. I just don’t advertise it, that’s all. You’re probably the last person I expected to meet here, but even so, it doesn’t change what I think of you. Well, not too much, anyway.” Reid smiled. “Your personal life, just like mine, is private. I respect that.”

“Okay.” Aaron smiled back. “Thank you.”

“Of course.” Reid gave him another curious look and then shook it away. Aaron thought that he’d just walk off but then he took a step closer to him, his eyes flicking to the V of Aaron’s sweater where it gave way to his collarbones and then back to his face. “You weren’t wrong before when you said this was high-risk behavior. Be careful, Aaron.”

Aaron nodded, and then after a long moment, found some of his courage. “Why strangers, Spencer? Why like this?”

Reid’s expression took on a tiredness that he didn’t often show, and then he backed away giving Aaron one of his patented waves instead. “Good night, Aaron.”

He sauntered back into the crowd.

----

Aaron deleted the photo. It didn’t really matter, after that night at the busker festival, the number had been seared into his brain anyway. Reid didn’t treat him any differently and Aaron hadn’t expected him to do any less. It really was if the whole thing had never happened.

Aaron didn’t go back to the club, or invest in any porn, or even spend too many nights reading and drinking scotch. He kept his head down and did the work, as he’d done for almost twenty years, and steadfastly did not indulge in midlife self-pity. He would admit: he thought about Reid now more than he did previously. He thought about how Reid had subtly helped him avoid a near-miss that might have been costly. He thought about how he felt less isolated knowing that Reid was the way he was without judgment. He felt an odd kinship to him now.

Sometimes he thought about how Reid’s shirt might feel clutched in his grip.

Aaron was unfailingly professional unless he was tired. If he ever gave anything up to his team it was after a long case or at three in the morning or when he half-dozed on the jet. Reid caught him staring in the tiny Bakersfield station house while they waited on some background info from Garcia. He was guzzling down the awful squad room coffee and Aaron became mesmerized by the long line of his throat and how it moved as he swallowed. He was so tired that he didn’t even stop when he saw Reid shift so that he was staring back at him.

“Problem?” he said eventually arching an eyebrow at Aaron.

“No,” he blinked hard to rouse himself. “Just tired. I’m considering some of that coffee actually.”

“Well then you must be exhausted because it’s terrible.”

Reid smiled at him but when Aaron thought back on it later it was clear that Reid was focusing on his mouth. He hadn’t expected that to excite him.

He got caught again later at J.J.’s welcome back party. She was showing Reid a video she’d taken of the boys on her phone and he was laughing, holding her hand steady as his fingers curled around her wrist. His eyes flicked up and snared Aaron immediately. Aaron felt hot and exposed but Reid just waved him over and covered the whole thing by folding him into the moment with J.J. He nudged Aaron into J.J.’s side with those same long fingers and then left to find some cider while Aaron tried to concentrate on Henry singing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ to his new baby brother. When Reid got back, Aaron couldn’t look him in the eye.

Some time after that, he stood by as Reid hunched over a body on the side of Route 33. Reid’s mouth hung open as he concentrated, his hands encased in forensics gloves this time. He twisted and stretched trying to collect as many observations without disturbing the scene - he was always so careful with his body that way. He leaned hard on one knee in the dirt, dust from the road painting the cuffs of his pants; his sleeves were rolled exposing the ropey muscles of his arms. Aaron found himself breathing shallowly.

“The force profile is different with this one,” Reid said distractedly not looking up. “The head trauma appears significant, but not consistent with a hit and run. It’s more like…”

Reid hesitated for a moment and then raised his arms above him, fists tight around a phantom object. Then his body seized with tension as he threw whatever he was pretending to hold down with tremendous force. His face pantomimed rage, his torso twisted under his trim shirt, muscles in his neck straining from the strange position. Aaron felt a nervous energy flood his system as his mouth went dry; his eyes riveted to Reid’s movements trying to memorize the hard lines and his crisp, certain edges.

“…like a physical struggle. The killer threw him down with a lot of force. The ground’s pretty dry here… it’d be like hitting concrete even if the victim only fell a few feet.”

Reid looked up at Aaron then, his imaginings falling away from his body like water, but when he caught Aaron’s expression, his gaze turned circumspect. Aaron tried to recover.

“That’s more emotion than we expected,” he murmured, still staring.

“Yes,” Reid rose to his feet, batting away the dirt on his knees. When he finally met Aaron’s eyes again, the curious wrinkle reappeared between his brows. “I don’t think this is our guy. This is something else. M.E. will have to confirm my observations though…”

He snapped his gloves off and headed back to the SUV without another word - work concluded. Aaron had to wait thirty seconds before following him. He leaned his head back and took in the sky overhead trying to pull tranquility from the cirrus clouds into his shaking, enervated limbs. He took in a huge breath, road grit lining his mouth, and then he rolled his shoulders as he sank back into his professional disguise. When he got into the driver’s seat, he was himself again. Reid didn’t mention anything and kept his eyes on the road until they got back to Quantico.

That night Aaron dropped Jack off at a friend’s for a sleepover, ran ten miles, took a frigid shower, and when that didn’t work, jerked off to the picture of a male model who was too thin and had artfully disheveled hair.

Yes, the pattern was becoming apparent to him as well.

----

When it finally happened, he hadn’t gone looking for it, and afterwards he had the uncomfortable sense that he’d bumbled his way through it as a result. Thinking about it made his neck itch under his collar but still, he didn’t wish it away. He’d walked into the locker room, splashed some water on his face to stir him after a long day of paperwork, and then gone to his locker to fetch his stuff that had to go to the cleaners.

And then Reid was all over him. Pushing him against the lockers, hands ripping at his tie, his collar, his belt, lips sealing off his muffled denials…

“Figured we’d better get this out of the way before it becomes any more obvious,” Reid gasped as they broke apart and he focused on Aaron’s fly.

“Before what becomes more obvious?” Aaron tried to back away but Reid was already on his knees. That image made Aaron bite his tongue as heat flashed over him making him tight everywhere.

“C’mon, Aaron,” Reid began massaging him through his pants and Aaron’s knees nearly dropped him to the floor. “You think about my mouth, my hands, my throat… I’ve seen you watching me. I guess you’ve never caught me watching you though. I think about you too.”

“We can’t,” Aaron hissed as Reid’s fingers slipped into his briefs and wrapped around his shaft. He nearly choked when Reid began tugging mercilessly, and then had to stifle the impulse to yank Reid back by his hair and shove his cock down his throat. “This room… has no lock…”

“It’s high-risk behavior, remember?” Reid chuckled an instant before he nosed the briefs down and swallowed Aaron whole.

The shot of lust that fired through Aaron was so intense it was almost painful. He cried out - no words, just a feral sound - and slammed his fist into the locker behind him hard enough to leave a dent. Reid pulled off quickly and Aaron caught him looking up at him, first worriedly, and then with confidence.

“Wow, I love the enthusiasm but you’re going to have to be much quieter than that.”

“Are you kidding me?!?” Aaron hissed in disbelief, still trying to come to terms with Reid attacking him in the first place. Reid gave him a surprisingly pragmatic look for someone on his knees in front of his boss’s open fly.

“Listen, say no and I’ll stop. Say yes and I’ll do what you texted me about months ago. But either way you need to be quiet, okay? Just say the word…”

Reid’s hands were stroking him effortlessly while he waited for an answer. Aaron felt completely victimized: he looked at Reid’s fingers working him over, shifting in grip and pattern, saw the banked eagerness in his expression, knew that it was already better than his imagination could conjure… there was no way he could take all that in and then tell Reid ‘no’. And Reid knew that as well.

“Yes,” he breathed. Yes. Yesyesyes. He wanted that warm, wet, eager heat to take him. He wanted to be the focus of those eyes, those hands, that throat. He wanted their kinship to expand to include this. This. He wanted it more than his next damned breath.

Reid grinned and then his mouth was around Aaron again, sucking him in, his tongue pressing against the ridge of Aaron’s cock and forcing him to the roof of his mouth. It already felt tight, moving fractionally between those pressures, and Aaron wasn’t prepared for it. He groaned loudly and then bit his tongue when he remembered Reid’s warning. Reid chuckled around his cock, which felt both dangerous and amazing, and Aaron’s hand blindly fumbled its way into Reid’s hair. He pressed Reid forward, not enough to force him if he refused, but it didn’t come to that. Reid leaned in until Aaron felt the tip of his nose brush the base of his cock and then Reid drew a deep breath in and swallowed around him. The tightness around Aaron got a lot more restricted as Reid swallowed him down over and over and over again; he had no idea that someone could do that with their mouth. He had no clue that it would feel this intense, focus his world achingly to the tip of his cock and hold him there in suspended animation. This was what the symbol next to the number really meant - up until now it had just been a theory for him. He was really out of his depth in so many ways.

Aaron’s hips pulsed forward without his permission and he wondered if he should stop when he felt Reid’s hands dig into his ass and encourage him into a rhythm with it instead. Then he grunted with satisfaction around Aaron, tickling him with the vibration in the back of his throat, and Aaron nearly lost it.

“Christ! Spencer… good… so good… so…”

His mind went blank as Reid kept swallowing and undulating and making wet, slipping noises against him. Aaron looked down and it was probably a mistake. Seeing Reid’s mouth stretched wide over him, his nose pressed into his base breathing him in as well as taking him in completely made something in Aaron ravel and snap. His grip tightened in Reid’s hair, his hips jabbed more aggressively, his exposed abdomen flexed and strained as he mindlessly pressed his luck and tried to go deeper. Reid moaned and it felt like instruction - half warning, half encouragement - and then one hand flashed up to land flat along Aaron’s scarred stomach, moderating his movement forward guiding from both in front and behind.

Aaron couldn’t take it. He leaned his head back suddenly and slammed it into the locker with a crash. He hissed through the jagged spiral of pain it produced in the base of his skull, and then was lost again in the mental image of Reid on his knees before him, sucking greedily, Aaron’s hips throbbing and ebbing in an endless, hot tide under Reid’s steady hands. It was so fucking perfect to him that he wanted to stay frozen in that moment forever. Reid made a questioning grunt around him and it was only then that Aaron realized that he’d been repeating ‘This’ over and over out loud, breathless and strained and zealous. And then he felt the inevitable build - the searing sudden punch to his guts that snaked like lightning down, burning through his veins, lower, with just enough delay for him to stutter out a warning.

“ ‘M there… S-Spence, please… coming…”

He tried to pull Reid off but he resisted, instead pulling back far enough to give him breathing space while still sucking insistently. Aaron’s torso went rigid, his vision whited out for a torturous second, and then his hips slammed forward just barely held in check by Reid’s hands. He yelled once, caution forgotten for an instant, and throbbed into Reid’s mouth getting lost in the sounds of the locker creaking under his movements and the dirty grunt of excitement Reid made as he hungrily took him. Aaron tried to breath through it, tried to wait patiently for his body to come back under his control again. He whimpered a little as the crests of pleasure slowed, his hands in Reid’s hair eased and stroked, watching in fascination as Reid licked him clean. After one long, last suck, he released Aaron and gently tucked him back in. Aaron was astonished at the little notes of kindness.

Reid rose to his feet, coughing and swaying a little as if he were drunk, and then he grinned and pinned Aaron back into the lockers. He deliberately took his time leaning into Aaron - first his thighs, then his hips, then abdomen, pecs, and finally his lips - pulling him in and propping him up at the same time. Aaron was too flushed to do anything but absorb it, and he moaned as Reid sank into him, his mouth soft and tasting of them both. Aaron’s hands found their way into Reid’s hair again where they shifted and held him gently. He knew that he wouldn’t have done that with a stranger in a doorway, but this moment wouldn’t have been complete without it - without this relieved ‘thank you’. He waited for Reid to pull away but he didn’t. The kiss stretched out, their hands roamed, they shifted where they pressed into one another and then something occurred to Aaron and he pulled back with a gasp.

“You…” he whispered, eyes flicking downwards and then back to Reid’s confused face. Aaron wasn’t sure if he could do what Reid just did but it was rude of him not to try.

Understanding lit Reid’s eyes and he smiled, shaking his head. “Not necessary. But thanks for offering.”

“Not necessary?”

“Arousal lives in the mind, Aaron,” Reid went in for another long, deep kiss. “I got what I wanted, just like you.”

“And what was it that you wanted?” Aaron was a little afraid of his answer.

“Pleasure. Giving pleasure to another, making them come apart because of it - that’s a real rush of power. The high I get from that can eclipse an orgasm for me.”

Aaron found Reid’s response to be both a surprise and something expected. He wasn’t sure that anything could replace getting off, but it was in keeping with Reid’s personality to be turned on by giving to someone else.

“How often do you… find yourself wanting to give that to a stranger?” The question felt oily on his tongue but he couldn’t help himself. Reid’s justification seemed so personal, so intimate; he wondered why he was offering it up to people he wasn’t invested in.

“You want to know how much I sleep around? Do you want to know if I’ve been safe?” Reid’s face closed off.

“I’m not impugning… it’s just… listen, I was here too - I have no room to judge, but… why scrawl your number on a bathroom wall? Why give yourself like this to strangers?” Aaron stammered, his hand rising to stroke the line of Reid’s neck. “Because that was a gift, Spencer, and I’m not sure that a stranger could appreciate it.”

Reid looked away, and then backed away, but he seemed ashamed rather than angry.

“I haven’t done that in a while. Your text was the first I’ve received in over a year. Haven’t been back to that club in longer than that. Even when I was more into that sort of thing, I was always picky about whom I did it with. I walked away from plenty of guys that I got a bad feeling about. And I was always safe, just so you know.”

“That’s not why I asked. It’s not safety or health concerns that I’m talking about here.”

“I know what you’re talking about,” Reid sighed. “There’s an… openness that comes with being with a stranger. There are no expectations, no histories, no emotional hangovers - it can be a very honest transaction. Yes, perhaps the recipient doesn’t understand why I do it but I don’t need them to in order to get pleasure from it. And with the work we do, well, some days all I can think about is creating some joy somewhere to offset all of the darkness.”

Reid shifted on his feet a little. Aaron wasn’t sure if he was done or not but he stayed quiet because he knew that sometimes you had to be patient with Reid to coax the important stuff out of him.

“And there’s freedom that comes with anonymity. I can try things… maybe things I wouldn’t want someone I care for to know about me. It’s not very practical to share any of this with the people I work with, and, honestly, until I saw you at the busker fair, I didn’t think anyone else in the unit was bisexual anyway, so…”

“You think I’m bisexual?”

“Of course you are. I saw you around Haley - you weren’t faking that.”

Well. Now, at least, he knew what to call it.

“If you… like the anonymity,” Aaron continued. “Why be with me? Why tell me about any of this?”

“Because being anonymous can also imply being meaningless. Maybe I’m starting to want this to matter… like you said, have the recipient understand my motivations.” Reid blushed and looked to a spot on the lockers off to the right of Aaron. “Besides, you’re very attractive and I was flattered that someone like you still seemed interested in me after our texting mystery was cleared up. It was too good an opportunity to pass by, and… I know that you’ll be discreet…”

Someone like me?, Aaron thought. He thinks I’m attractive… he thinks that I might have standards that wouldn’t include him…

“I like to keep my personal life out of the office. Even though, technically, the men’s locker room is in the same building as the office…” He smirked and Reid chuckled back. “I’m happy to keep this between us if that’s what you want. I’m also happy to… discuss this again, at another time, if that’s something you want.”

Reid’s eyes snapped to Aaron’s and his smile fell away, but he didn’t look upset. His curiosity was back again. Aaron’s stomach twisted dangerously from the vertigo of being way out on a limb.

“Whatever you decide is fine. Regardless, I’m grateful for what you gave me today. You have a generous spirit and I could never find that meaningless.”

I want to kiss you and hold you and run my hands all over you. I want to peel you out of your clothes and discover what you taste like. I want you pressed against me, I want to be in you, I want you in me, I want to fuck your mouth and to suck you off and I want you to hold me down until I beg for it. I want to see you come… I want to show you that it’s just as good to receive joy as to give it. I want to hear you talk, I want to pry open your mind and find out what else you keep hidden, I want to look into your darkness and trade notes. I want to find out if you still think I’m attractive afterwards. I want the chance to find out if we could matter to one another…

“Thank you, Aaron.” Reid’s voice was quiet, his body language back to the shyness everyone took for granted. “I’ll keep your offer in mind.”

Aaron nodded and hoped that Reid would do more than think about it. He straightened his clothes to give his hands something to do, and to prevent from telegraphing his wish to the man across from him. This is why anonymity would never work for him: he attached too easily. But he didn’t know if Reid had that problem.

“So, how did it feel engaging in high-risk behavior on Bureau property?”

Aaron looked up and took in Reid’s mischievous grin. He smirked back.

“I feel like I ought to write myself up.”

“Don’t do that. You’ll end up firing yourself.” Reid laughed with his whole body. Aaron tried to soak it in on the sly. “Then, what would we do?”

“Struggle on without my ethically-questionable brilliance, I guess.”

“It would, indeed, be a struggle.” Reid was still chuckling as he headed for the door. He paused as he looked back, his fingers wrapped around the door handle. Aaron wanted to cover those fingers with his own. “Probably best to pretend it happened somewhere else, or not at all.”

Reid was still grinning but Aaron suddenly felt lost. That wasn’t the response he’d been hoping for. Was he really suggesting that they ignore this? Because Aaron thought that he’d never be able to look at the locker room the same way again.

“See you tomorrow.” Reid hadn’t read any of Aaron’s doubt as he smiled congenially and then ducked out into the hall.

Aaron stood frozen, one hand half reaching into his locker for his laundry. Perhaps that was the benefit of Reid’s experience showing: he could moderate his expectations. Aaron clearly could not. He slumped as the realization set in, and then grabbed his clothes before heading out. He shuffled resentfully through the darkened bullpen as he tried to plan the tasks that he had to finish before his day ended. Somewhere in the back of his mind he crossed another ‘lifestyle’ option off his list of acceptable choices and slipped back into his small world.

----

It was a Thursday afternoon after a long week following an interminable case that came on the heels of Jack getting over the flu and Aaron moderating an altercation between Jessica and her father. And now he was stuck at his mechanic’s garage arguing over the merits of replacing part or all of his exhaust system. He was starting to feel beige enough to blend into the walls - it was simply amazing how much of life was filled with meaningless banality. It was hard to believe that people didn’t feel obligated to celebrate the tiny moments of splendor a little bit more. He fervently wished for a little more splendor in his life and wondered if it were possible to manufacture it or whether that was simply courting disappointment. His phone buzzed in his suit jacket and he pulled it out while he tried to haggle muffler prices with the technician.

* R U up for it? *

Aaron’s complete surprise would’ve been impossible to hide. It had been weeks since the locker room happened. He laughed softly though, which seemed to confuse his mechanic and caused the man to subsequently revise his repair quote, something that Aaron’s legendary scowl alone had failed to achieve. Even when Reid wasn’t around, he seemed to have an effect on things.

-- I thought you’d never ask --

* Great. When & Where? *

-- Tomorrow night. My place. It’s lower risk than you’re used to but I’ll make it worth your while. --

His phone was silent for a full minute, and then…

* I should have done this ages ago *

-- Yes, you should have. But then again, I didn’t believe that someone like you would be interested in someone like me. I thought Round Two would only be in my head. --

Aaron put his phone away, not waiting for a response. He wanted to start off whatever this was with a small gift, just as Reid had done for him without a promise of anything beyond it. It already felt good, arousing… he was starting to see how Reid got off on it. But he hoped it was just a beginning - just one splendid moment in a series that stretched out before him waiting to be realized. In a new mood, he finalized the details with the mechanic and signed the work order: the dull beside the motivating. The world didn’t seem quite so beige now that it suddenly had an unexpected splash of purple in it.