Reid dumped his go bag on the double bed at the far end of the hotel room and looked back towards the door anxiously. Hotch was busy scrolling through updates on his phone, his wheeled bag forgotten at his feet. Reid bit his lip and tried to summon up an expression of casual interest.
“So, is that the one, Goldilocks?” Hotch said without looking up from his phone. “No weird stains or questionable hygienic elements over there?”
It would’ve been difficult to match the general horror of the motel room that had forced Reid and Hotch to share a bed, but Reid had been secretly hoping for it over the last two months. He looked down at the bed and despaired at its pristine appearance.
“Please stop calling me that. I have enough problems with prescribed gender identifiers without my boss making fun of me…”
Hotch looked up then. “I apologize, Reid. I only ever meant it affectionately.”
“I know.” Reid turned away to hide a smile and began unpacking his bag. “But its more familiarity than you show to the rest of the team. It probably isn’t that appropriate… aside from the whole gender slam aspect…”
“You’re right.” Hotch paused and then cleared his throat. “I forgot myself - it won’t happen again.”
Reid couldn’t help being a little disappointed. It felt nice to be different from the others in Hotch’s eyes. But this was probably for the best - they had a case to solve and he needed his head in the game. He sat down on the edge of his bed and flipped through the latest coroner’s report as he tried to avoid watching Hotch unpack from the corner of his eye.
It was maddening. Three days of staring at crime scene grids, manifests of evidence, victim profiles, soil compound analyses, geographic survey maps, interstate routes, photos of abduction and dump sites… and still he couldn’t discern a viable pattern. Try as he might, he couldn’t perceive the forest with all of these damned trees in the way. Every day that he failed to find the connection was a day lost, and a lot of silent stares from the team. He was their ‘Beautiful Mind’ guy and all he had managed so far was to drink too much coffee and squint a lot. Even the Henry Grace case had been easier to crack than this one, and who the hell ever thinks to look for the Fibonacci series? Reid rolled over again, the sheets making slicing sounds as he moved. They were too new - not worn smooth and soft by hundreds of bodies and washings. He groaned to himself… maybe if he started removing certain elements... maybe he was combining too many aspects at once…
“You okay?” Hotch’s voice was almost a whisper. Reid thought that he had fallen asleep long ago.
“Well… no, I guess not.”
“What is it?”
“I can’t see the pattern. I’ve tried looking at it from so many angles, but it still seems random.”
“You need to sleep, Reid.”
“Nothing is random, Hotch. There is a discernable causality for every event, if you look hard enough…”
“Did you hear what I said? You need to sleep. You won’t be any use to us if you exhaust your acetylcholine levels and let your intellect plummet to room temperature.”
Reid raised an eyebrow at Hotch in the dark. The analogy was ridiculous but it did make his mind stop chattering for a second.
“I can’t stop thinking about it - why it won’t emerge… I know that you’re all waiting for me to see it.”
“We can go about it another way, Reid. Let it go for tonight.”
“I can’t!” He rolled away from Hotch’s voice. “Its not like I can switch this off.”
There was a long moment of absolute silence in the dark, and Reid cringed as he thought about how he had just spoken to someone he respected. An apology was on his lips when he heard movement, and then, his mattress dipped behind him. An arm wrapped around his chest and pulled him back to rest against a solid wall of warmth.
“Stop moving and go to sleep. That’s an order.” Hotch’s voice was still a whisper, only now much closer as it breezed past Reid’s ear.
This wasn’t like before. There was no need for this closeness, no reason for the intimacy, no excuse for the lapse in judgment that could be ignored afterwards. But he’d be lying if he said that it didn’t feel good, just like last time. Already the warmth had evened out over him and his mind had stilled a little.
“We’re not going to talk about this either, are we?” Reid shifted but Hotch held him too tightly to turn around completely.
“No. Unless you really want to.” Hotch yawned. “If we do it now I can’t promise that I’ll be awake by the end of the conversation.”
“You’re in violation of section 37b of the Bureau’s Code of Conduct right now.”
“Yes. And I was before but it didn’t seem to bother you so much when you were freezing.”
“It doesn’t bother me now, I’m just stating a fact for the record.”
Another silent moment passed. When Hotch spoke next, Reid felt his breath tickle the back of his neck.
“You know how cognizant I am of Bureau regulations. But in this case, the manual doesn’t really apply.”
Reid twitched in Hotch’s grip to cover the warming sensation flooding through him that had nothing to do with shared body heat. He turned his head into his pillow and told his mind to focus on the simple joy of lying next to a friend rather than the labyrinthine tangle of their current case.
“Goodnight, Aaron.” He murmured eventually.
Reid tried to stay awake but it had been a long eight days. When Hotch had turned to the worn and disheveled team and told them to head back to the hotel for some rest, Reid had wanted to argue, but Hotch’s glare made him think better of it. He went back to the room and waited. He knew that Hotch was scheduled for a video conference with Strauss about the case, and he wanted to be awake when Hotch returned. But his traitorous eyes just wouldn’t stay open…
His mind wandered while he waited, and he wondered what the hotel maids thought about the guests in room 476. For three days housekeeping had had to make up two beds, but for the last five days they had only had to make up one. Perhaps the maids thought nothing - maybe they had seen it all already. Or maybe they lacked the curiosity to cast aspersions. He did not share that flaw; he was curious about whatever this was all the time. During the day, he forced his mind to the case, but at night all he could think about was curling up next to Hotch - Aaron - and sleeping in satisfied warmth. Any way you chose to look at the situation, it was weird and, of course, they weren’t talking about it. Part of him worried that it was just this case, and that when it was over, so would this new intimacy. He was mulling that thought over, and trying not to be panicked by it, when he heard the door lock snap and saw a brief shadow enter and be swallowed by the darkness of the room. He didn’t say anything - just listened as Hotch moved around making almost no noise at all. It was remarkable and Reid assumed that it was a skill borne out of married life; his marriage was long over but the habits remained. After a few minutes, Reid felt Hotch slide quietly in behind him.
“How’d it go?” He mumbled, trying to pretend that he had been asleep.
“Wow. That badly, huh? What did she say?”
“I said that it went fine.”
“Please. Its like you don’t know who I am or what I do for a living. Even in the dark I can hear you scowling, Aaron.”
Hotch was silent for so long that Reid started to panic. Perhaps he wasn’t allowed to pry; maybe he wasn’t permitted to ask about personal matters unless it involved him directly.
“Have you always been this sarcastic?” Hotch sighed.
“Yes, but I usually keep it to myself.”
“I’ve never had someone to talk to like this before.”
There was another long silence and then Reid felt Hotch turning him so that they could face one another.
“Strauss is unhappy. She expected us to close out this case by now. She’s worried about expenses and the heightened media exposure of having a BAU team here and failing to get results. She says that she has shared this with the Director but I get the feeling that he contacted her about it - shit rolls downhill, after all…”
Reid moved closer, placing a hand across Hotch’s chest. He was close enough to feel Hotch’s sigh along his collarbones and knew that Hotch was averting his eyes even though it was too dark to see much of anything anyway.
“What do they think profiling is? That it is some sort of mathematical formula into which you slot profile aspects as variables and just solve for x?” Reid never had much respect for Strauss but he was newly angered that someone who had spent so little time in the field was in a position to dictate terms to them. If she knew how hard they all worked, if she only understood what it cost them… “It saddens me to admit that profiling is not a science. The human element is far too prevalent for that to be true. If it were otherwise, I’d be the king of crime fighting geeks and I’d never have to leave my apartment or all of my lovely books.”
Reid felt Hotch’s chest moving under his hand and tried to picture his face breaking into a rare smile.
“I more or less explained that to Strauss. But without the King Geek part.”
“Well, that’s because there can be only one, and it’s me, not you. I defy you to find someone nerdier. We can geek to the death but, I promise you, I’ll always win.”
This time, he heard Hotch’s laugh, and then felt the man’s hand land on his shoulder. Its weight and warmth made him feel that he’d done the right thing by prying.
“So, what was Strauss’s decision?” He eventually asked.
“We get another week. If, after that, we still have nothing, she’ll create a task force - bring in other agents with fresher eyes.”
“The implication being that we have failed… that you have failed.”
Hotch shrugged under Reid’s hand. “It’s always been a political position.”
“Then how do you explain all of the lives you’ve saved?”
“I have good people to back me up.” Reid felt Hotch’s hand move until it came to rest below his jaw. He shook once as Hotch’s thumb moved lightly back and forth along his neck. The hand was warm, and Reid felt warmer underneath it. Hotch moved a little closer and Reid went very still, unsure of what was going to happen next.
“Would you really prefer not to go into the field, Spencer?”
It was sort of an unfair question given their current predicament and the fact that it wouldn’t have happened under any other circumstances. That, and the ridiculous enjoyment Reid derived from Hotch’s thumb stroking his neck made the answer, to his mind, fairly obvious. But maybe Hotch wasn’t really asking. Maybe it was just a tease… Reid tucked his head under Hotch’s jaw and into his chest as his arm moved to curve over Hotch’s waist. He just lay there, breathing Hotch in, and let that be his answer. Hotch moved and settled around this new configuration with a sigh.
“‘Night, Aaron.” Reid let his lips brush against Hotch’s neck as he said it.
Hotch shut the door a little too abruptly behind them. Then he stormed into the bathroom, slamming the door so hard that it made all of the cheap landscape paintings on the walls flutter until they settled crookedly from their nails. Reid stared at the bathroom door and hesitated. His right eye throbbed and his jaw ached where the bruises were really starting to take hold, but he didn’t think about going to get ice for them; he just stared at the closed door. It hadn’t been Hotch’s fault - everyone knew that Reid was almost useless in a fight - but it seemed clear that Hotch was determined to feel guilty about it. It didn’t appear to matter that Reid had shot the UnSub in the end - that while he lay dazed and bleeding on the carpet watching Hotch and the UnSub wrestle for Hotch’s weapon, Reid had pulled his back-up piece, aimed, and fired a perfect kill shot. He was a much better marksman than he was a fighter…
Reid moved towards the bathroom and then stopped as he heard the shower turn on. Alright, let him stew for a little while if he was determined to do so. Reid didn’t think that their newfound intimacy could withstand a procedural argument in the shower, no matter how potentially titillating that might seem. He packed up his go bag on autopilot instead. The case was over and they’d be flying back to D.C. first thing. He did his best not to think about how cold Hotch had been since the shooting, or that this might be the last evening that he’d be permitted to pry. Maybe thirteen days was all they’d get, and what had they really done with it? Just kept each other from feeling alone in the dark.
Reid suddenly felt sick. He changed quickly and collapsed into his bed, doing his best not to wonder if it would be ‘his’ bed or ‘theirs’ for one more night. What he was feeling was ludicrous and blown out of all proportion; he could not maintain this relationship with Hotch. There were too many problematic variables and it had no future. They were both just starved for attention. Perhaps that was part of the reason for Hotch’s silent treatment - it must have occurred to him as well and he felt foolish. Unfortunately, Reid didn’t feel foolish and that was going to make this much harder to bounce back from. Maybe he should look into online dating again…
The shower stopped and, moments later, Hotch emerged stone faced but with glossy hair and wrapped in a towel. Like Reid, he quickly repacked his go bag, and then disappeared into the bathroom once more to change. Reid waited patiently but when the bathroom door creaked and the lights went out, he did not feel his mattress dip behind him. The crisp sound of fresh sheets being unfolded came from the other side of the room, as well as the low sigh that followed them. Reid turned and stared at the dark expanse across from his bed as if he could will it to explain the situation. If this was their last night, did Hotch really intend to spend it apart?
“Hotch.” Reid’s voice was louder than he intended.
Hotch sighed again. “Its an early start tomorrow, Reid.”
Reid moved before he could think about it, abandoning his bed and quickly sliding himself into Hotch’s. Hotch turned to face him and then shuffled backward to place space between them. His hand landed on Reid’s chest and kept him from advancing.
“What are you doing?”
“Why are you angry?” Reid ignored Hotch’s question.
“I’m not angry.”
“I’ve been accused of being emotionally obtuse, but anger’s pretty basic. I think I know it when I see it.”
“Alright, well… I’m not angry with you. Is that better?”
“That’s a clarification, not an explanation.”
“Jesus, Spencer…” Hotch huffed and turned his hand into a fist, thumping it against Reid’s chest lightly. “You’re too much sometimes.”
“We’re both okay, Aaron.” Reid grasped Hotch’s arm and tried to pull him a little closer. He felt warm, as always, and smelled faintly of the hotel’s floral soap. “We made it through this case and we’re both okay.”
“But we almost weren’t. A moment’s hesitation and it all could’ve ended differently. How can you be okay with that?”
Hotch’s voice cracked a little as if his throat was dry, and his resistance against Reid’s chest faltered. Reid pushed against the fist and Hotch’s arm buckled, letting Reid in close enough to feel Hotch’s body heat along the length of him.
“David Berkowitz was caught by a random traffic stop. This job is as much about luck as it is brilliance.”
“And you can accept that?”
“This time, yes.”
“Because luck brought me back here tonight so that I could lie next to you. I refuse to find that unacceptable.”
Hotch’s hand slowly traveled up Reid’s chest until it slid into the space between his neck and jaw line. The warmth tickled up Reid’s face and turned his ears hot. It seemed as though every cell in his body had developed a sense of direction and they were all unified in their intent to pull towards Hotch. He wanted to ask for… what? He wasn’t sure. All he knew was that he wanted it and wondered if Hotch could feel it in the tattoo of his pulse now under his fingers.
Do you?... Will you?... I dare you… to say no…
“You saved my life today.” Hotch murmured, his thumb rubbing hypnotically along Reid’s carotid artery.
“Only after you saved mine.” Reid tried to keep his voice even and failed. “Reciprocity is the foundation of any worthwhile relationship.”
“I get a little… emotionally turbulent after case-related shootings, especially those where team members were at risk.”
“Haley never saw it that way.”
“Because of the way I dealt with it. She claimed that it was a perverse reaction, although, at the time she appeared to enjoy it’s effects…”
“How did you deal with it?”
“Oh.” Reid’s breath came out in a prolonged stutter as he shook under Hotch’s hands.
“I have to warn you,” Hotch whispered as he inched a little closer. “I think that I’m about to egregiously violate section 37b…”
“I can’t wait.”
Hotch’s mouth closed over Reid’s, pulling and teasing and searching, as Reid’s hands slipped in Hotch’s damp hair and under his shirt to skim along his scars. For one last evening, there were no barriers to what they were allowed to say or do. Reid forgot his giant brain for a while and Hotch forgot to be prudent. It was enough to fall under the spell of their combined breathing, straining into one another in the dark as they reaffirmed that they were both undeniably alive. Afterwards, as they lay tired and sticky, tied up in their tangled sleepwear, Reid could find nothing to regret in it. He spoke it aloud without thinking and when Hotch’s mouth found his again, it was smiling. That was probably the limit to their discussion about it, Reid thought.
Reid was cranky. He hadn’t slept well in over a week. The usual pleasure that he gained from his books or late night chats with colleagues from CalTech was suddenly diminished in the sight of his empty bed. It had taken his body less than two weeks to become accustomed to communing with another person there, and now he found the withdrawal to be an ache that reached down into his bones. He just couldn’t get comfortable - couldn’t ease it - no matter how he laid himself down at night. This, his intellect chirped smugly, is why team relationships are discouraged. It might have been easier to get over if he didn’t have to see Hotch every single day. How had he convinced himself that sleeping with his boss was a good plan? Well, he wasn’t my boss when he was curled up next to me - he was just Aaron… And it had felt good - like it was the most natural thing in the world. The contentment was so basic that it was almost mammalian…
The door buzzer rang, forcing Reid away from evolutionary justifications for Hotch’s allure to his wall clock instead. It was a quarter to two - far too late for a visit from Morgan or Garcia…
“Who’s there?” He flicked the call button expecting another drunken co-ed. The guy in 2c had a voracious appetite and low standards.
The intercom crackled but the voice could be heard distinctly. Reid’s heart bumped around in his chest, momentarily painfully out of sync with its normal rhythm, and then he thumbed the entry button before sprinting to his front door. It took Hotch about thirty seconds to climb the stairs and by that time Reid was at the top of the stairwell anxiously waiting.
“Hi.” Hotch huffed. “Why doesn’t your building have an elevator?”
“The landlords are doing their part to combat the cardiovascular disease epidemic in this country.” Reid answered without hesitation and was rewarded with a smile that told him how much Hotch secretly appreciated sarcasm.
“I, uh… I know it’s late… sorry about that…”
“S’okay. What’s up?”
“I…” Hotch ran his fingers through his hair and immediately ruined his suave image. “I’ve been having trouble sleeping. Ever since we got back.”
Hotch looked up at Reid’s quiet response and seemed to be trying to tamp down the hope that brightened his face. Reid internally rolled his eyes - he had no idea why Hotch thought that Reid would turn him away.
“This isn’t about sex.” Hotch added hastily as he stepped closer. “Although I’d like to have some, if it’s on offer.”
Reid couldn’t help but smile at that. His inner mammal was stretching out its muscles, delighted at the prospect of both sex and spooning.
“It’s more about being with you. You make me feel comfortable, Spencer. Safe… wanted… included…”
Reid cupped Hotch’s neck gently and pulled him in for a slow kiss. He teased Hotch’s lips with his tongue until he was let in, telling himself that he had all the time in the world to enjoy the anticipation of it. Hotch’s body softened against him. They moved to match each other, softly, quietly, and achingly slow in dimly lit hallway. Reid pulled them away from the top of the stairs and back towards his apartment door.
Step…Reid’s fingers worked the soft, short hair at the base of Hotch’s neck…
Step…Hotch’s teeth nipped Reid’s jaw igniting the slow burn of the fading bruise there…
Step…Reid’s hand skimmed down Hotch’s back delighting in how he could sense the muscles moving - even through his impeccably tailored suit jacket…
Hotch’s grip grew tighter, pulling Reid in as close as decency would allow. When he eventually broke the kiss, his stare was critical.
“This is probably a bad idea.”
“It is a problematic scenario, to be sure. But ‘bad’ is a value judgment that I would hesitate to use when characterizing something that feels this good.” Reid brushed a kiss along the edge of Hotch’s mouth. “Come inside, Aaron. We have a combined I.Q. of three hundred and sixty-seven; I’m sure that we can work this out.”
Hotch smiled shyly in a way that made him seem almost boy like, and Reid was shocked to see the crest of something powerful behind his eyes. But Hotch just nodded and stroked Reid’s face with a finger, his lips tightening against whatever he might have said. Reid shook his head leading Hotch into his apartment with a hand placed casually along his back.
“Of course, in order to work through this situation, we may be required to actually talk about it.” He smiled to himself and shut the door.