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Hotch was in deep trouble, and that was the very least he could say about it.

He dipped down and captured Reid’s mouth, swallowing the sounds he was making as they slowly moved together. The tension was building between them again and it would only end one way, but that wasn’t the troubling part. That was joy and connection and fulfillment that Hotch had never experienced before. That was curling around a body made of sharp edges rather than soft curves, that was the hint of musty books and aftershave, the rasp of five o’clock shadow against him as lips roamed trying to devour him. That was struggling to be patient, waiting to hear his name in a voice dark with want, both calmer and more hysterical than Hotch had ever heard it said before.

None of these things were the problem. The problem was his own pregnant silence because it wasn’t actually silent at all. Inside his head the quiet expanded filling with words and desires, stretching the edges that kept it muted too thin until it seemed as though it would break through him, shattering bones and peeling skin away as the urgency of it burst into reality. He’d never been good at talking, but now he wanted to so badly and found that he simply didn’t know how.

“Aaron…” Reid gasped against his throat as they rolled together. It was small and breathless and so, so tight that it ruined Hotch each time he heard it. The walls of his silence got thinner, almost translucent now under the strain of its burden. He arched forward with a gasp of his own, feeling sharp hipbones dig into him and long fingers grip too closely along his back. His mouth sank down close to Reid’s ear, tangles tickling his face and heat radiating back and forth between them until it felt as if he were searing where they met.

“Spencer,” he murmured back, fingers knotting in Reid’s hair harder than he intended. They were being more considered tonight, more thorough for whatever reason, but Hotch’s silent weight was eroding his restraint. He groaned but it got desperate at the end and petered out into a painful whimper. Reid’s hands pulled him impossibly closer and Hotch buried his face in Reid’s neck to avoid seeing whatever look accompanied the movement.

“S’okay, Aaron.” Reid’s breath skimmed Hotch’s neck and made his stomach flip and roll dangerously. “Keep going. S’okay…”

It wasn’t okay. The supersaturated silence was filled with cumbersome, sharp-edged things like ‘Looking for this - for us - for years but I didn’t see you’, ‘Can you hear what I feel? Are you smart enough to guess at it? Please guess… please see me’, ‘This is more than I thought you’d let me have…’. It had taken them so long to get to this point, even after Hotch tipped his hand with an inappropriate Christmas present that seemed to tell Reid a lot more than Hotch thought an inanimate object should. There had been hesitancy, starts and frustrating stops, interruptions from life, and crippling long nights of self-doubt. But Reid kept inviting him in, inviting him to be loved, and it turned into everything for Hotch almost instantly. But he couldn’t find a way to string together a simple declarative sentence that told Reid so. And that was not okay.

“Spence,” he choked, getting urgent now as their breathing stuttered and their skin burned and his hips told him that they were both way too close. “I… I need…”

Come on, man. Spit it out. Three basic words would do if you couldn’t manage something more eloquent… But Hotch’s tongue was sluggish, pressed to the roof of his mouth as if physically blocking the words from racing towards daylight from his chest.

And then Hotch arched, and Reid bowed up against him immediately, eyes wide, mouth gasping with new desperation and stretching out that long throat in the process as he leaned in hard for breath. “There… Aaron… Jesus, rightthere.”

“Goddammit…” Hotch groaned, but the tracery of roots beneath that one word were ‘I’m running out of time to tell you that I’m living for this, and all the time that came before now seems like waiting’. But honestly, how could he expect Reid to deduce that?

They strained through it, moving together like a sea. Reid bent as if Hotch would break him, moaning loudly with each thrust. His neck corded, his ribs jabbed into Hotch’s; he was just too pale, too skinny, too awkward, too goddamned beautiful to believe. And then he gasped like it hurt and went still as Hotch moved in him. Hotch curled around him, pulling him close, sliding through their mess as the sheets rustled monstrously at his movements and Reid panted tiny gusts in his ear that sounded a lot like his name. Hotch broke with a crack that he thought must have been audible and Reid held him with too much force as they subsided, making breathing a bit of a chore.

“Finally.” The voice was distant and didn’t really sound like Reid, but the buzzing in Hotch’s brain from the sex and the burdensome cloud of silence was dividing his attention.

“What?” he mumbled blurrily as he reached for Reid’s face.

“I didn’t say anything.”

Reid looked confused. Hotch decided that he didn’t care because he was exhausted and Reid was fucked-out and handsome, and his mind narrowed to the immediate need to kiss him. Which he did. They slipped together unhurriedly for several minutes, their harsh breathing eventually being replaced by the soft pull of their lips and whisper of them tangling in the sheets. Hotch reverently held Reid while they lingered. Reid reached up and lightly scored the back of Hotch’s neck with his nails which always sent excited shocks through him as well as poking at the big silent brain cloud.

“Spence…” he pulled back gently and stared.

“Yeah?” Reid waited, flushed and half-smiling in anticipation.

Christ, why was this so hard? Hotch watched Reid with his messed up hair poking away from the pillows in random spikes and the delighted blush bringing color to his face and making his eyes seem bigger and amazing. He fought to say something - anything - and then he fought the impulse to just fall back into kissing him. Come on… deal with this. Man up.

“Sticky?” Reid asked with amusement and made a face.

What? No… wait… What?

“Yeah,” Reid nodded in answer to his own question and then began to wiggle out from under Hotch. “It’s my place so I get first crack at the shower. But I’ll save you some hot water.”

He leaned on one elbow and bent to give Hotch a slow kiss before grinning and leaping over him to escape to the bathroom. Hotch watched him go, confused and a little entranced by the view, and then flopped back onto the mattress once he heard the shower start.

“What is wrong with you?” he muttered to the ceiling. How was it possible that telling someone you loved them was more difficult than hostage negotiation or interviewing a serial killer?

Something thumped out in the living room. Hotch sat up and went completely still, focusing. A minute passed and all he heard was the muted splashing from the bathroom. The muscles in his arms complained and he realized that they were corded with tension. He took a deep breath and forced himself to relax - he was becoming acutely paranoid in his old age.

Another thump came from the room beyond, distinct and immediate. Then there was creaking as if someone were walking around on Reid’s ancient wood floors. Hotch was on his feet in an instant, pulling his off-duty piece from the holster on the floor next to his discarded clothes. He quietly checked the chamber and flicked off the safety, scowling as he slid out of the room and didn’t even think about clothes. Reid’s apartment was dim but not dark - he always left a light on somewhere out of a childhood fear that he never discussed. Hotch had been there often enough to know which floorboards were the loudest and he crept as efficiently as he could sweeping his gun as he cleared gloomy corners along the way. A reading lamp near Reid’s ancient couch was on and Hotch was sure it hadn’t been when they’d retired. He slid forward and aimed for the sofa - someone was there, sitting. And then that someone shuffled closer to the lamp light.

“Agent Hotchner, how good to see you again. All of you.”

Sherlock Holmes smirked from the half-light cast by the lamp. He’d made himself at home: his coat was strewn across the back of the couch and he held a steaming mug in one hand while dipping a tea bag with the long fingers of the other. He’d been here long enough to make tea?!? The consulting detective’s eyes ran over Hotch from head to toe and back again, and then those eyes thinned as he broke into a knowing smile. Hotch blushed and didn’t once consider lowering his weapon.

“I came by to see Spencer. Thought it would be a nice surprise. Let myself in when he didn’t answer the door.” Sherlock continued dipping the tea bag methodically. “Didn’t know you’d be here of course, and since you both seemed to be… temporarily indisposed, I decided to wait.”

Sherlock’s smile faded as he cocked an eyebrow. “I had to wait longer than anticipated. I’m unsure if I should congratulate you for that or suggest some possible remedies for arousal dysfunction.”

Just shoot him. No one would blame you.

“Still…” Sherlock continued, staring at Hotch’s 9mm and categorically unfazed by it. “If our dear Spencer is content… It seems he thought you’d do as well, didn’t he? I was right about all of it. Unsurprising.”

He tossed Hotch a bored wave and then took a sip of tea. Wincing, he set the mug on Reid’s coffee table as if its offensiveness were contagious.

“Be a dear and fetch Spencer for me, would you? With or without pants. I’m growing accustomed to this American openness of yours…” He crossed his legs and picked a piece of invisible lint from them. Then he flashed his unnerving blue gaze to Hotch and gave him what might have passed for a lascivious smirk if he’d meant it. “You can come back as is, Agent.”

Hotch felt his ears flame in indignation. The scowl on his face almost hurt. He lowered his gun briefly, considering what accusation to hurl first, and then he remembered the man from their last encounter and decided that any effort he made would be wasted. He sighed loudly and flipped his gun dismissively at Sherlock before stalking back to the bedroom in silence. He heard ‘a bit rude’ uttered behind him as he left.

As he walked into the bedroom, expression furious, Reid walked out of the bathroom scrubbing his hair with a towel. He took Hotch in, saw the gun, and his relaxed slouch became a sharp-angled algebraic expression of agitation despite his nakedness. He dropped the towel as his eyes flicked to his own .38 still in its holster on his dresser.

“What?” he whispered simply, moving towards Hotch.

Hotch held up his hand, though he couldn’t quite convince himself to erase his pissed off expression. “Sherlock Holmes is sitting on your couch,” he enunciated meticulously and with distaste. “I almost shot him.”

“He… what?” Reid blinked like he was having a seizure. Hotch nodded.

“He helped himself to some tea.”

“That’s…” Reid’s face was turning red, and then, while Hotch watched, it turned from red to purple. Hotch was mesmerized by the transformation and wondered if he should say something before he got worked up enough to induce a stroke. “I know he and John are in town… we had plans to meet up on Thursday…”

“It seems he couldn’t wait that long.” Hotch took a breath and hoped Reid didn’t have a mortification setting beyond purple. “I think he’s been out there for a while. He probably heard us having sex.”

Reid’s eyes widened beyond belief, his mouth dropping open in a shocked O before he snapped it shut and adopted a look of murderous irritation that Hotch had never seen before.

“I did,” Sherlock’s voice added helpfully from the living room, making Hotch’s spine stiffen. “And I have some notes that I think you’ll both find enlightening. Not just for you, Agent, although stamina at your age is indeed my primary concern…”

Hotch growled - actually growled - and then picked up his gun again from where he’d placed it on the bedside table. “I’ve changed my mind. I’m going to shoot him. I know he’s your friend, Spencer, but… I’m just gonna do it. Sorry.”

“But perhaps we should address your paralyzing emotional constipation, Agent,” Sherlock continued, unaware that he was moments away from witnessing his own murder. “You’ve come quite far on mediocre carnal efforts alone but Spencer is a tediously emotional man - you’ll never keep him by just buggering him.”

Hotch ripped his gun from the table and turned, only to find Reid in front of him holding his wrist still and looking surprisingly calm.

“Aaron, I’ve got this,” he murmured. “You’re right - he’s my friend. Let me deal with him, okay?”

“Make sure he thanks you for saving his goddamned life,” Hotch hissed through gritted teeth, and then Reid flummoxed him by kissing him as if they were alone. “What was that for?” he asked when Reid let him up for air again.

Reid shrugged. “Naked rage with sex hair is a good look on you I suppose. And I really didn’t want you to march into my living room and commit a felony.”

Hotch huffed and then ran a hand over his hair. Yeah, it was a bit tufty…

“What are you going to do?” he asked as Reid hopped into some pants and them fumbled for his phone. He held up a finger and then dialed a number.

“Hey, John? Hi, how are you?... Oh that’s great. Yes, we’re still on for Thursday, not to worry… no, no case or anything, I swear.” Reid took a breath and then continued. “So, listen, are you missing something?... honestly, John, they have tracking apps for that now. Well, then get him microchipped like a beagle or something.”

Reid rolled his eyes and Hotch wasn’t sure if it was for his or John’s benefit. He sighed.

“Do you remember my address? Okay. He’ll be out on the stoop when you get here. No, it’s fine… John, we’re fine, okay? It’ll take more than this, I promise you. Not much more, but still… Yes. See you on Thursday. Think about that microchip. Bye.”

Reid hung up the phone and tossed it on the bed. “John says sorry,” he mumbled at Hotch over his shoulder.

“That’s… What are you going to do now?”

Reid held up his finger again and then walked out of the bedroom. Hotch heard muffled steps and the creak of floorboards.

“There you are,” Sherlock enthused. “I was beginning to wonder how much coital afterglow you needed. It couldn’t possible be more than John-”

There was a substantial thud.

“What? What was that-”

This time there was a smack and a thud followed by a loud bang that reverberated through the floorboards. Hotch took three quick steps to the doorway when he heard Sherlock yowl in surprise. He stopped and held his ground. Then there was huffing and the sound of a scuffle and finally a hysterical ‘Hey!’ that was cut off by a slammed door that rattled the pictures hanging in the bedroom. The soft tinkle of the door lock and safety chain was almost an afterthought. A moment later Reid sauntered back into the bedroom looking serene. Hotch’s curiosity was definitely piqued. He raised an eyebrow at him.

“What did you do?”

“Isn’t it obvious? I tossed him out.”

“Okay, maybe I should’ve asked how did you do it? He’s got a height advantage.”

“Well, Morgan and Prentiss spent ages teaching me how to fall properly, you know. It turns out, when you practice all of that falling, you learn a lot about all the moves that can make you fall in the first place.”

Hotch laughed, loudly and joyfully. It lit Reid up and after a moment he moved nearer and slid his arms around his waist.

“It helped that Sherlock wasn’t expecting it. I probably won’t get away with it again. But hopefully he’s learned his lesson and I won’t be forced to try.”

“He’s a terrible friend,” Hotch chuckled, leaning his forehead into Reid’s as he pulled him closer. “I still don’t see what you see in him.”

“It’s hard to explain,” Reid brushed his nose against Hotch’s and Hotch’s laughter melted into a focus he usually reserved for the job. “He’s just… all internal, ya know? He lives inside his head and he questions, analyzes, tests and concludes so much in there he forgets that he hasn’t told anyone about it. He just expects everyone to know, which is entirely unreasonable. So, people like me and John have learned to become very sensitive to all of the tells that might give us insight into all of those internal machinations.”

Hotch took a long moment to think about that, and for a fraction of a second he felt sympathy for Sherlock. Reid’s hands held him a little tighter drawing him back to the conversation.

“It’s a helpful skill to have,” he murmured.

“For profiling, sure,” Hotch agreed.

“Not for profiling. For you.”

Hotch took a shaky breath. The cloud of silence pulsed ominously. “What do you mean?”

Reid let one hand drift up to hold Hotch’s jaw, his thumb stroking the cheek absently. “You’re spending a lot of time torturing yourself these days…”

Hotch’s mouth dropped open but, as expected, he couldn’t find anything to say.

“Do you really think I don’t know, Aaron?” Reid’s face creased in disbelief. “All of the years we’ve known each other, all of those conversations where your only contribution was a meaningful eyebrow arch… do you really believe that I don’t understand what you’re not saying?”

Hotch felt his expression collapse as the silence fought to stay lodged in his throat. He swallowed convulsively, cleared it brutally, anything to get the words in his head out before they splintered inside him. One of his hands gripped Reid’s neck too tightly as he closed his eyes and prayed for some form of grace in this moment.

“Spence… I can’t…” I can’t lose this. “I need…” I need to tell you. “I keep trying. It’s important, but…” But it’s too big, too vital - if I fail at it… “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

Reid pressed in and caught his lips quickly. His fingers along Hotch’s jaw dug in as if he were afraid that Hotch would make a break for it. But his kiss was tender, softly skimming his lips until he found the perfect spot, until they slotted together and then Hotch gave himself over to the warm tug of it with a sigh of relief.

“There’s nothing wrong with you,” Reid said breathlessly as they slid apart.

“Yes there is. It shouldn’t be this hard to say what I feel. You can’t be expected to simply infer it indefinitely. Both you and Sherlock are right: that’s not reasonable and I can’t keep you without it.”

Reid blinked, flushed and still holding him too firmly. “Well… i-isn’t it something that you can tell me you want to keep me?”

Hold on a second. He just did that, didn’t he? A shy smile spread across him and he felt his cheeks heat. “I want to keep you,” he reiterated quietly, as much to himself as to Reid. Reid smiled back, and, oh, it was such a smile…

“I want to keep you too.”

Hotch dipped in and sampled that incredible smile. It was unafraid, even though it had reason to be. It made him shiver even though their lips burned together. It was soft and easy, even though nothing about their lives had ever been that way. Hotch thought maybe it was what hope tasted like. He funneled the thankfulness he always felt for Reid into that kiss, and he made a promise with it as well: One day I’ll figure out how to tell you everything and you can stop guessing. One day it’ll be all you can see in me - LOVE.

Reid pulled away first and pressed his cheek hard against Hotch’s. “Come back to bed.” His voice was low and dangerous. “I think Sherlock might have been right - I have a ridiculously long coital afterglow…”

“Stop talking about Sherlock,” Hotch growled as he pushed them back towards the bed.

“Done.” Reid wriggled out of his pants enthusiastically and then was pressed against Hotch from thigh to pec with a satisfying grunt. He pulled at Hotch’s mouth until he gave in, and then he used him recklessly until Hotch found himself whimpering and shaking from it. Reid groaned as they shifted together. “There’s nothing wrong with your stamina…”

Hotch pushed him until he fell onto the bed, and then he followed hovering above Reid and marinating in the idea of being that satisfying.

“Quiet,” he poured into Reid’s mouth and then chased it down. Reid laughed, making his chest buck a little where they brushed together. Hotch was about to issue another warning when Reid tangled their legs and then twisted, making Hotch tumble ungraciously into the mattress as Reid took over on top.

“What?” Hotch gasped when their mouths broke free. Reid just grinned like a fiend and closed in again slowly.

“Learn how to fall, Aaron.”

He certainly would. He could already tell that it was worth it.