Reid stripped off the bandages and got dressed as quickly as he could after the splatter against the bedroom window woke him. The wind was strong tonight – it would be a good one.
“Just where do you think you’re going?”
He almost yelped as he stared incredulously at the rumpled shadow uncurling from his sofa.
“What are you still doing here? I thought you left hours ago?”
Hotch stood up, hair charmingly cowlicked in half a dozen directions, and meticulously folded the blanket he’d used. Reid also wasn’t sure why Hotch was on the sofa. If he felt compelled to stay, he could’ve shared the bed – Reid didn’t mind. They’d been doing that a lot since Reid was shot – in an annoyingly platonic way of course – and Reid was beginning to think that it was less about Hotch being around to help him and more about Hotch’s expanding comfort level.
“I thought you might need something,” Hotch murmured.
“I do. I need to go out.”
“Reid, it’s one in the morning. And it’s pissing down rain.”
“That’s why it’s perfect. It’s a terrible night – no one will be out to see me.”
“See you?” Hotch’s silhouette seemed to get taller, sharper.
Reid sighed. He could see this battle coming from space. “I’ve been cooped up in here for two weeks, Hotch. I need to go out. They need to stretch a bit. Sometimes they need to get wet.”
“You can’t be serious,” Hotch growled quietly. “The stitches only came out on Tuesday, and they have been getting wet…”
“Not showers, Aaron. Not treated water from a manmade pipe… rainwater, seawater. Something natural. Besides, my back is healing well – this will only help.”
Reid straightened his spine and squared his shoulders, fingers tightening around the handle to his front door. Hotch could either let this happen or stay and pout on the couch, but Reid wasn’t missing this storm.
“I did this all the time long before you knew about me. I appreciate the concern, and all of the help you’ve already given me, but you don’t get a say in this decision. I’m going – end of discussion.”
Hotch’s shadow seemed taken aback by Reid’s tone. He deflated a little. His arms crossed in front of him, perhaps trying to shore up his sense of authority in this losing scenario. When he spoke again it was quiet, resigned, and a little unsteady.
“Fine. You know best.”
Reid’s stomach tensed and he felt the tentacles move nervously under his shirt. No part of him enjoyed an upset Hotch. For a moment he thought about everything Hotch had already invested in his recovery, and the fact that he’d slept out here on the sofa even though Reid didn’t really need him any longer. He thought about the secret Hotch had promised to keep, and the way he was still more protective than affectionate. Reid made up his mind and took a step toward him.
“Come out with me.”
“In the rain?”
“Yeah. It actually feels amazing once you get past the whole soaked-to-the-skin part, and I guarantee that you’ve never seen them move quite the way they do in the rain.” Reid smiled and waved Hotch forward like he was trying to convince a reluctant child. “C’mon, it’ll be great.”
Hotch took a hesitant step. It was impossible for Reid to make out his face in the gloom. “Where do you go?”
“A couple of blocks away there’s a blind alley between two industrial buildings. I get a lot of privacy there, plus the laneway is really old and uneven so there are awesome puddles.”
“Puddles?” Hotch took another step forward and Reid figured he had him. He turned again to the front door and opened it, waiting on Hotch.
“Yep. And if it’s really quiet out, there’s a park not far from the alley. The trees are old and tall, and it’s very dark so I can spin around or whatever and no one’s the wiser.”
“Spin around?” Hotch made it to the doorway and his surprise was highlighted by the light from the hall. Reid placed a hand along his back and gently pushed him through.
“You bet. Sometimes you’ve got to get down with your primal self. Having tentacles just means that I have a legitimate excuse to go out and act like a mad Muppet character.”
Hotch snorted. “I always liked Animal…”
“Then boy do I have a treat in store for you,” Reid chuckled and locked the door behind them.
Hotch’s scowl remained firmly in place until he relented to the fact that he was standing in a dark alley in the middle of the night and he couldn’t get any wetter if he tried. Reid watched the transformation happen from the rivulets plastering his hair down over his stony glare to the sudden burst of unexpected laughter when Reid peeled off his shirt and began leaping into puddles like a demented five year old. The tentacles unfurled – literally expanding and stretching skywards with joy – and when Reid flipped his soaked hair away from his face and grinned back at Hotch, he could tell that Hotch finally got it. Wind whipped down the alley and thunder rumbled the pavement beneath them in sympathy as Reid jogged back to him and grabbed his arm pulling him in for a kiss. The tentacles reached out for Hotch as well, even the healing ones still stiff and bruised, getting grabby in a way they only did when they felt elated.
“See? It’s fine. We’re fine out here,” Reid’s words condensed into a brief, warm cloud between them in the downpour. “If there’s one thing being like this has taught me it’s that you can’t spend your whole life being afraid. It doesn’t help at all and it will never make you safer.”
Hotch didn’t say anything just letting his gaze get serious instead as he leaned into Reid’s forehead and managed to split the deluge that was running down them.
“So, you know, go dance shirtless in the rain now and then,” Reid continued, a couple of tentacles curling around Hotch’s hand where it held Reid’s jaw. “Or join the most suspicious policing agency in the world while keeping a huge secret. Or show who you really are to someone you care about.”
“You’ve made your point,” Hotch murmured.
“Have I? I didn’t show you who I am just to give you another responsibility, Aaron. There has to be more to us than this secret. There’s more to me than that.”
“I know there is.” Hotch’s breath followed Reid’s and they blended together briefly before the rain and the night air whisked it down the alley. “I’ve been told that I can get too… stern.”
“Aaron is sooooo serious…” Reid mocked and then gave Hotch a toothy grin when he looked at him. “Well, we’ll put a dent in that cliché starting now. It’s a ghost town out here. Let’s go to the park – I wanna smell wet trees.”
“Are you going to dance around like Kermit the frog?” Hotch’s hand stroked Reid’s jaw as he held him and smiled back.
“I might. You’re gonna want to see it if I do. I want you to see it.”
“How can I turn that offer down?”
“I’d hoped that you’d finally come around to my way of thinking,” Reid said before gently kissing Hotch again and dragging him off into the night.
No one saw the silhouettes of two men leaping around in the rain that night, bare chested and arms raised (one with considerably more appendages than the other) like joyous throwbacks to a simpler, happier time.