Reid entered the storeroom just in time to see Hotch crash into a metal shelving unit. The shelves caved against the force of his impact and spilled their contents, but Hotch didn’t have time to shield himself from them before his body was sent violently upwards smashing his head against the ceiling. He hung unconscious, head pressed into the grey acoustical tiling, defying the laws of nature and common sense. Reid turned away and pointed his .38 across the room.
“Ridiculous monkeys.” The assailant had black eyes that belatedly focused on the new threat with the gun. “You’re not even good sport.”
Black Eyes stretched out his free hand and curled his fingers towards Reid. Nothing happened. Black Eyes’ expression changed as he realized his mistake too late. Reid holstered his gun as he stormed forward, pulling a bottle of liquid from his sport coat and uncorked it. It was forbidden for him to even possess such a thing but sometimes you had to betray your beliefs a little in order to get by.
Reid’s face contorted into something hideous that he hid most of the time. It felt good to let it out. He splashed the contents of the bottle on Black Eyes watching him burn and squeal a little. It was just enough to distract him and Reid heard the sound of Hotch’s body hitting the ground behind him.
“What the fuck?! Holy water?” Black Eyes cried out through the sound of sizzling flesh. “Listen, I’m sorry, alright? I didn’t know that he was yours… there’s no need to be inhospitable though - we’re family!”
“If we were ‘family’, you’d respect my house.” Reid snapped on a forensics glove and pulled out a medallion from a secret pocket. The howl of pain that Black Eyes made when he pressed it into his forehead was so exquisite that it made Reid dizzy with pleasure. When he pulled it away, flesh came with it and Reid had to stifle the twin reactions of delight and revulsion. He quickly looped the medallion around Black Eyes’ neck and then stepped away to gain control over himself again.
“Take it off! Take it off!” Black Eyes clawed at the medallion but only burned himself when he touched it.
Reid took a quick glance at Hotch: still unconscious and, yes, he was breathing. Time to get on with this and clean up the mess…
“Do you know who I am now?” Reid asked over his shoulder.
“Y-yes… Yes, sir.”
“Then you understand the mistake that you’ve made, and the punishment that I am entitled to.”
Black Eyes cowered, wincing as his flesh continued to burn and he was unable to stop it. “Sir, please… I didn’t recognize you at first… you don’t look like… yourself. I never would have-”
“And you never will again.” Reid turned and walked back to the simpering, smoldering man. He bent low and clasped his hands behind his back as if inspecting a fascinating insect. “You will avoid my territory and you will leave my people be, is that clear? I will let you live only so that you can spread this warning to others.”
“But… but, sir - they’re only human. Some of them are nice as pets - I didn’t know that you kept any… I don’t understand…”
“It is not your place to understand.” Reid bit out each word in the softest voice that he could muster. “Come near my people again and I’ll deport your underachieving self back to Hell with a love note to Crowley carved into your chest. I have a beautiful knife that I’m eager to use… borrowed it off of two brothers I met out west…”
Black Eyes just stared at him in pain and confusion. They wouldn’t even be having a conversation if Reid had chosen to reveal his true self. His orders would not be questioned. But Spencer wasn’t the most imposing of figures; he often had to work harder to remind others of the power that he wielded. Still, there were many things that he enjoyed about being a skinny, socially awkward geek - the element of surprise, for one…
“Nod if you understand me.” Reid smiled.
Black Eyes nodded.
“Good. That’s settled.” Reid straightened and yanked the medallion, breaking the chain. “Off you go… send Crowley my love…”
Black Eyes continued to stare but this time resentment crept into his face. Reid held the medallion in his gloved hand and made a flicking gesture with it.
“Want another taste?”
Black Eyes threw his head back and screamed issuing a long plume of noxious black smoke. The plume smashed into a storeroom window and escaped into the night sky leaving an empty, scarred shell in a heap at Reid’s feet. He didn’t give the body a second glance as he turned on his heel and ran over to Hotch. He slid into the ruin of the shelves on his knees and heaved Hotch against him.
Cracked skull. Subdurel hematoma. A few cracked ribs. No problem - I can fix that.
He concentrated for a moment and then let out a sigh as he felt Hotch moving against him. Aaron’s eyes opened and Reid realized that he was a grown man cradling another grown man. He cleared his throat and helped Hotch sit upright.
“You okay, Hotch? That guy slammed you pretty hard…”
Hotch rubbed the back of his head and winced as he tried to straighten his back. “I’m fine. Nothing that won’t heal in a few days… Where’s the UnSub?”
Reid nodded towards the body on the floor.
“Dead?” Hotch squinted.
“Yep. I had my gun drawn, I identified myself, and he just screamed and had some sort of seizure. Then he collapsed. It was really weird. Perhaps it was PCP or meth, although we didn’t profile drug use… I suppose the autopsy will tell us more.”
“Is he… is he branded? On his forehead?”
“Yeah, you didn’t notice that before? The lighting’s bad in here…”
“It looks… Babylonian.”
Reid glared at Hotch. “I didn’t take you for a secret admirer of anthropological antiquities.”
Hotch met Reid’s stare and, for the first time ever, looked away as if he had revealed too much to someone. Reid’s suspicions amped up a notch but so did his interest. As if he needed to be further interested in Aaron Hotchner. His job was so much easier when he had just been paranoid and mission-focused… Hotch continued looking at the body in silence. Eventually, he rolled away from Reid with a groan.
“What a mess.”
You can say that again.
Reid jumped up and offered Hotch his hand. Hotch winced as he stood and bumped into Reid as he tried to steady himself.
“Maybe you should consider exercising.” Reid smirked and looked away. “Take up running or cycling perhaps… maintaining your physical fitness is more important as you grow older.”
“I’ll take that under advisement.” Hotch said dryly.
Reid felt a surge in his chest to which he was gradually growing accustomed. In spite of all of his experiences, he wasn’t sure if it was him feeling it, or if it was Spencer.
This is what happens when you stray from your ideals - confusion, distraction, compromise. You can’t keep them safe forever, and furthermore, why do you even care?
Reid shook his head and smiled. Hotch stood scowling, dusty, and disheveled in the middle of the ruined storeroom. Why do I care?
“I’ll go call this in.” Reid said as he ducked out of the room.
The paperwork, the interviews and statements, the final reports - it was all endless, but by the time they had wrapped things up, Hotch moved as if he was made of cement. Reid kept an eye on him as they collected their things from the men’s locker room. After Hotch’s third unsuccessful attempt to remove his t-shirt, Reid decided that enough was enough.
“Let me help.”
“I can manage.”
“Okay, well… I’d like to see that…”
Reid leaned against his locker and crossed his arms, waiting. Hotch glowered at him and then sagged as he looked away.
“You needn’t be so smug about it…”
Reid grinned as he walked over and helped wrestle Hotch’s shirt over his head. Reid told his body to bank the rush of heat it felt at the sight of Hotch’s impressive new collection of bruises, an intricate dark marbling across his upper back and shoulders. He told himself to man up as his hands trembled at the thought that they might accidentally brush against one of Hotch’s many scars. Pain was of such interest to Reid - so ingrained into everything that he had done for so long - that combining it with the fascination that he already held for Hotch turned the whole situation electric for him. The only thing that marred it was that he hadn’t made those bruises, and the scars were another man’s work. Hotch hadn’t asked for - begged - Reid to hurt him. Oh, so help him, if he had this would be a very different moment…
Hotch’s shoulder muscles contracted as they worked their way free of his clothing. Reid heard him suck a gasp through his teeth as pain inevitably followed the movement. Delicious. Then Hotch turned, moving in the cage that Reid had created with his arms… and he saw it. His fingers, tangled in Hotch’s discarded shirt, almost touched it, and he yanked his hand away too quickly. Hotch’s gaze sharpened: his need to incise and dissect aberrant behavior rising in his face as surely as if Reid had spontaneously confessed. Reid took two hasty steps backward, his eyes glued to Hotch’s left pec.
“You’ve got ink.”
“Yes.” Hotch murmured, his tone casual but his jaw tight. “A youthful indiscretion.”
“I don’t think so.”
An anti-possession mark - a good one. It was older than the known languages of mankind. Many cultures had created their own, in their own tongues, but this one came from before when the world was simmering in the unknown, fired by a power it could no more understand than the movements of the heavens. A time when darkness and magic held creatures in check, resentfully huddled around fires for protection against the unseen that wanted to eat them. The good old days. There it was on Hotch - a blast from the past - over his heart, protecting the seat of his soul.
“You’re a hunter.” Reid felt sick.
“What do you know about hunting?”
Reid closed his eyes briefly and when he reopened them, they were black. Revelation had always been an exquisite moment for him when he could come back to himself and feel free once again, but not this time. In the instant that it took Hotch’s mind to comprehend what he was seeing, Reid felt diminished in the man’s eyes. All of his power accounted for nothing as the lines became clearly drawn; this man who fascinated him was now cast as an enemy. Beyond that, Reid felt something totally alien - something oppressive and mournful. He had a dim memory - that humans called it ‘shame’.
Hotch’s face solidified into the deepest scowl Reid had ever witnessed as he rolled his shoulders forward, eyes searching the locker room for possible weapons. Reid flicked his irises back to Spencer’s soft hazel and held up his hand.
“There’s no need for that, Aaron. I have no desire to hurt you.” That way.
“It isn’t about me.” Hotch growled. “Get out of Reid.”
“No. And, honestly Aaron, you can’t really force me to either.”
Hotch began speaking an exorcism spell without the benefit of a Devil’s Trap or a binding curse of some kind. He stared Reid down with a glare that was pure, undiluted bravado and Reid couldn’t help the surge of affection that lit him up at the sight of it. The man had balls - he never backed down from anyone. He would’ve been a perfect match…
“Stop that, Aaron.” Reid sighed. “It won’t work and it’s annoying.”
Hotch only spoke louder. The tips of Reid’s fingers and toes started to itch, as if he’d received a full-body Indian burn. Reid decided to put an end to it quickly. He curled his fingers at his sides and the lights of the locker room dimmed as if the shadows were curling in closer. His irises flicked black and then orange as he drew the power from Hotch’s words into his lungs like smoke. He held them there, floating and coalescing, until they settled into the core of him safely under lock and key. His released his hands and the lights, and when his eyes returned to normal, he smiled at Hotch.
“You can’t deport me. I’m like… royalty in Hell.”
“Okay, so you’re a badass.” Hotch looked like he wanted to kill Reid with his bare hands. God, it was a turn-on. “Why are you here? What do you want with Reid?”
“First things first: I didn’t take Reid. I asked and he accepted.”
“How long have you been wearing him?” Hotch’s lips curled in disgust.
“About ten years now. Just a drop in the bucket for me, but for you… the only person that you’ve ever known as Reid is me.”
He let Hotch chew on that for a while and saw it settle into the man as his fists slowly loosened and his shoulders straightened once again. Even Hotch’s famous control couldn’t entirely hide the look of loss that pulled at his features. For the first time, Reid caught a glimpse of that depth of feeling. Wow, who knew?
“Why?” Hotch croaked.
Reid took a hesitant step forward. Hotch’s devastation evaporated instantly as he slammed his back into the lockers behind him, his eyes meeting Reid’s and daring him to lay a hand on him. Sweet, sweet tease…
“Aaron, the man that you saw as your friend, the man you trusted with your life… he’s right here in front of you. I haven’t changed, only your perception of me has.”
“You’re a DEMON. I’ve never met one who gave a damn about people.”
“You’ve never met something like me before.” Reid snapped and then told himself to calm down. “We were all people once, Aaron - every demon started out human. Any one of you could end up just like us given a few millennia.”
“It should be. It should open your mind to the possibilities that that affords us.”
“Which is what exactly?”
“That there are as many different types of demons as there are humans, and that our goals might vary.”
“You’re saying that you don’t want to open the gates of Hell and have demons take over the Earth?” Hotch laughed mirthlessly.
“Clearly, you’ve never been to Hell… demons have been running it forever and it’s a damned mess. Why do you think that we all want to be here so much? I’d sooner offer myself up to an angel for smiting than let demons have free reign over Earth.”
“You’re lying. All demons lie. But what I can’t figure out is why - you can do just about anything but possess me, so why not kill me now that I know what you are?”
“Maybe you’re right. Maybe I’m lying.”
Reid stepped closer to Hotch so that there was barely six inches between them. Hotch’s neck straightened and the back of his head knocked against the lockers behind him. Reid saw the pain flicker through him, but Hotch’s gazed remained fixed and focused. I could make that better for you… and worse. I could make you want it more than your next breath. How I want you to want that… Reid had to check himself from licking his lips because it would be a short leap from there to licking Hotch’s lips, then biting them and sucking away the blood.
“But think about the years we’ve worked together, known one another - have I ever put the team at risk? Have I ever compromised a case? Haven’t I been an excellent F.B.I. agent? Profile me, Aaron, and tell me what you see. Then ask yourself why I haven’t killed you.”
Hotch stared Reid down. Reid felt Hotch’s breath, soft but rapid, breeze past the open collar of his dress shirt. Hotch’s face remained unreadable but Reid knew better, knew that this man was stripping away the motivations of every single significant encounter they had had in the past seven years. He was shifting through the detritus, he was reassembling the pieces, and he was checking his gut. Those dark eyes bore into Reid’s and for a brief moment, Reid held out hope that things might turn out differently than he anticipated. Demons had bad luck though: it’s why they were demons.
Reid pushed in a fraction closer; the movement was almost undetectable. His shirt brushed against Hotch’s chest and he had the briefest contact with Hotch’s nipples. They were hard. Maybe he was cold. Reid placed both hands on Hotch’s side, allowed him the twitch that was expected, and then gently moved him aside. He reached past Hotch, opened his locker and retrieved a button-down shirt. Reid watched Hotch from the corner of his eye as he held the shirt out to him.
“This should be easier to manage than the t-shirt. I assume that you will no longer be accepting my help.”
“Why are you protecting us?”
Reid smiled at Hotch’s directness. He loved that the man rarely minced words.
“It was just you to begin with, then later it became the others as well.” He leaned his shoulder against the locker doors and watched as Hotch gingerly shrugged into his clean shirt. “I remember what it felt like being human. Many of us forget in time, but I never have. Being a live wire of emotion, having it pulse through you in uncontrollable waves driving you forward… driving you a little bit mad. Obsession, revulsion, desire, hatred, trust, despair, unshakeable connections to others… You think it’s torture when you are living it, but when it’s gone it becomes a dream.”
Hotch stood silently and watched Reid as he spoke, his shirt remaining unbuttoned.
“My time in Hell has twisted me - of that there can be no doubt. I am an excellent demon. But I live with the echo of my humanity. When I was sent back, it became clear why we wanted Earth and it also became clear why we should never have it.”
Reid’s long fingers made a sudden gesture to the locker room around them.
“This is paradise, Aaron, and we will ruin it if given the chance. I want a détente between the worlds. Those who want to be topside and agree to exist here causing the least damage possible can migrate. Those who want to run roughshod over everything stay in the Pit - or better yet, get dispatched for good.”
“Least damage possible?” Hotch whispered disbelievingly.
“No worse than what average people do to one another everyday. As an F.B.I. agent I’ve already been enforcing this for a while to a certain extent.”
“Because demons start out as people…”
Reid nodded slowly and turned to close Hotch’s locker. As the lock clicked into place, he felt the space around him shift to accommodate another presence. He stood facing the locker door and waited for the question that he knew was coming.
“You said that it started with me…”
Reid smiled to himself. “Don’t ask me to explain it. Even as a human, I never understood why one person stood out over another.”
He turned slowly to face Hotch who was now close enough that Reid could feel his body heat. Hotch stared into him, his face still unreadable, and Reid remained motionless and calm under that stare. I’m not provoking you. I don’t need to and it’s not what I want. Hotch’s eyes suddenly flicked to Reid’s lips, and then refocused on his eyes again. Reid could almost believe that he imagined it.
“What do you want?” Hotch spoke so quietly it drew the empty room in around them both.
Reid’s eyes moved over Hotch’s chest until they landed on his half exposed scars from Foyet. The scars were bittersweet to Reid. They were undeniably beautiful; Foyet had taken his time and it showed in his work. But Foyet had taken without the grace of permission, and Hotch had suffered brutally and without any kind of mitigation. Foyet turned out to be nothing more than an artistic animal with no poetry, no soul, and no purpose. Reid was also angry that he hadn’t made it to Foyet first, although he often recalled Hotch’s reported account of Foyet’s death when he needed to blow off steam, sitting in his favorite chair at home with a cognac in one hand and his cock in the other…
Moving away from the sorrow of those scars, Reid’s eyes wandered upwards until they spied a hint of the new bruises that had formed over Hotch’s shoulders. Peeking out from under the collar of his open shirt, the blue-purple bloom flirted with the edges of Hotch’s excellent anti-possession tattoo. The contrast suddenly amused Reid: nothing wanted is ever easily acquired. He licked his lips quickly and sighed, then allowed his eyes to reach up again to Hotch’s.
“Now I see what you mean when you say that you’ve been twisted…” Hotch whispered.
“I very much doubt that you do.”
Suddenly, Hotch’s body slammed Reid’s into the lockers with an impressive crunch. One of Hotch’s hands wrapped around Reid’s windpipe and squeezed for all he was worth. How delightfully unexpected! Reid splayed his hands against the locker door behind him and pushed forward into Hotch’s grip. His body fought its end. Blood tried to rush to his extremities but pooled, trapped by Hotch’s grip instead. He could feel Spencer’s heartbeat in his temples screaming for escape. His breath came in ever shortening gasps, spit flecking his open mouth as he tried to speak. His body fought but inside his body he laughed with unrestrained joy. Yesyesyes! You marvelous creation - this is perfect. YOU are perfect. Hotch leaned in as if to listen to Reid’s final gasp, his lips close enough to taste it.
“Y-you… c-can’t… kill me…” Reid sputtered feeling the thrill of lightheadedness.
“I know. I’m not trying to.”
Hotch’s lips sealed Reid’s, cutting off his escape route to survival. Reid felt them search out the center of his mouth, press against it so that Spencer’s frantic, dying pulse sent out crazed rhythm into both of them. Hotch’s grip on Reid’s windpipe eased; perhaps he realized that the demon wouldn’t die but the body he lived in might. Hotch roughly mapped out Reid’s mouth, his tongue licking and pressing persistently until Reid relented. Reid gasped and life seized the opportunity greedily pulling in Hotch’s breath. Hotch sucked in Reid’s lower lip and then bit down until blood swirled across both of their tongues. The mix of sudden relief and pain made Reid instantly hard. Still gasping for air he pushed himself into Hotch’s grip even further, letting a moan escape as Hotch bit into him again. Hotch swiped his tongue across the fresh marks inside Reid’s lower lip, making them sting, and then slowly drew his mouth away taking a long suck of demon blood as he went. He let Reid’s lip go with a satisfying pop, and pushed his body hard against Reid’s for an instant as he squeezed his throat once more. Reid’s dark, immortal soul groaned: Hotch was hard too.
Oh. So. Perfect.
“Never without my permission.” Hotch hissed into Reid’s bloody lips.
“I’ve held no other view.” Reid smiled knowing that blood stained his teeth as he did so. He didn’t need Hotch’s permission for anything - he could take whatever he wanted. Still, he wouldn’t raise a finger towards him without this fragile human’s agreement first.
Hotch released his grip and stepped away from Reid. The sudden loss of that firm body, the death grip, and the suffocating closeness of breathing each other in left Reid dizzy and buzzing everywhere. He felt a stupid grin break out across his face.
“I don’t trust you.” Hotch was standing a few feet away now, scowling at him sideways.
Of course he didn’t. Trust is earned - they’d get to that eventually. He hoped that they’d have time to establish it before Crowley got too impatient about his topside plans. Reid’s threat to the storeroom demon would eventually arouse suspicion that even his sterling reputation couldn’t hide. They’d come for him and he didn’t know if he was smart enough to protect what he’d started here. Besides that, his new pet was a hunter - it didn’t get more complicated than that. Reid was powerful, but there were still ways to kill him. Hotch was smart enough to make it as a profiler and a hunter - he’d be smart enough to find a way to kill Reid. And he’d be brave enough to try it too, which made the prospect all the more tantalizing. Reid reached up to his mouth and wiped away a smear of black blood. He stared at the blood and smiled: he’d have to hope for the best even if demons had the worst luck. He looked back at Hotch and his grin widened even further.
“Button up your shirt.” He murmured as his eyes flashed with preternatural affection.