Spencer Reid stopped and looked at the windows that made up the storefront for his bookstore. It was in a prime spot, and really Spencer had outgrown his last location by leaps and bounds but choosing a right spot was hard. Spencer knew that he was picky, but if being picky had got him the best location, Spencer was all for that.
There was no name for the building complex, and Spencer found that odd but everyone knew exactly where everyone else was talking about when it came to it. There were six stores in the building that was on the first and second floor and then the third, fourth, and fifth floors were apartments.
"Mister Reid," a woman said.
Spencer turned to look at the woman who owned the whole building. Her accent was a mixture of Scottish and English, and it was quite lovely. Minerva McGonagall was an older lady who made Spencer think of a very strict school teacher, but he never asked how she came to own the building and how she had turned it into the place to have a store. Spencer hadn't even been sure that she liked him when he came to pitch his store. Every single store was picked by her. From when she had opened up years before to now. The stores inside came and went, but she didn't.
"Ma'am," Spencer said. He nodded his head in greeting as well. Spencer was three weeks away from opening his bookstore. The shop before had been nothing like a bookstore so the fixtures had to be changed and it had taken a little longer than Spencer wanted to get things the way that he wanted. He still had his other shop open and he would wait until the day that he closed it and spent a hurried few days getting his books and other wares moved to the new building where he would open up with a much bigger space.
"I saw that the opening day had been pushed back another week."
"There was some area of the floor that I still had no clue what I wanted to do with it, so I moved my office to the other side and then I made a game room."
"Game room?" Minerva said. She looked at Spencer like she was debating retracting his buying out of the space.
"Paper and dice games, Ma'am. Not video. Dungeon and Dragons, Rifts, Pathfinder."
"Oh, I see. I remember seeing that you had a nice section of books like that in your store. That will make your gamer customers happy."
"Yes, I was thinking of renting it out in hour blocks."
"Renting it out?"
"Oh, they wouldn't pay anything, but I want to make sure I don't have people just showing up to use it and demand to have it." Spencer smiled at her, but he stopped when someone caught his eye. There was a man leaving the elevators that were only for those who rented the apartments on the upper floors. He was very handsome to Spencer's eyes and when he smiled at someone who was passing by he went from handsome to breathtaking.
"I am glad that you are here, even if you are just looking at your storefront from a floor down."
"Oh?" Spencer asked trying to act like he hadn't been checking out one of her tenants.
"Yes. For years I have tried to keep my tenants of the apartments to ones who owned stores in my building, but the store you have, the man who I liked best for that one owned a house not too far from here, and so I rented out to someone else. He was a fine tenant, lovely if a bit of an isolationist. He didn't interact much at all with anyone else. Scientist of some kind. Had a few weird friends and even that lovely young man who has been in the news a lot with his technology. Anyway, well he's moved out as of two days ago, he got a job offer in Malibu that he couldn't refuse from that young man in the news. Well, I wanted to know if you wanted the apartment."
Spencer looked at Minerva, and it was probably much like a look that she had grown a new head. No one ever knew when one of the apartments came up for rent for the same reason that Minerva had stated, she usually only rented to those who owned stores.
"I would love to look at it," Spencer said, trying not to sound like an idiot by accepting without actually seeing it.
"Good." Minerva turned and looked around. Her eyes narrowed in on the man who had exited the building. "Tony!"
"Ma'am," the other man said as he stepped up to them. It was like he had been waiting for her to say something the entire time. He looked Spencer up and down as he got close. Spencer wasn't sure what the man thought of him.
"This is Spencer Reid, Spencer this is Tony DiNozzo."
Spencer tried to keep his moan of delight to himself. The man was a genius in the kitchen was the proprietor of the restaurant Café Américain. Spencer had eaten there a great deal because he loved the food. It was a standard sit down restaurant, but they did not have a to-go menu for many years until finally, he had caved. The thing was that the to-go menu was standard burgers and sides. There was staff that cooked those in a different area of the kitchen and would deliver them down to the eating area that was in the courtyard of the building. The building was U-shaped and tables had popped up here and there in the area. It was nice, and Spencer hoped to take advantage of that with the coffee shop that he was adding to his store. That part was ready to go, having contracted that out to the coffee shop that had been right next to him in his current shop. Spencer had been prepared to pay handsomely to get access to their beans and other such things, but instead, the daytime manager had come along with him to help him set up. It seemed that they had not wanted to lose Spencer due to distance and so a deal had been struck. As long as they were the ones to supply Spencer with everything he needed for his coffee shop, outside of baked goods and food because their pastry chef that they had on staff was overworked as it was, he could have their manager to run the place as she had been looking to stretch her wings anyway.
The staff for Spencer's coffee shop was working their way through the other shop for training, and then they would be released to work at Spencer's. It was a nice setup, and it gave the other shop more publicity and no overhead of expanding into a new place. For Spencer it gave him a well-established coffee shop to get the word out about his new location.
"Spencer," a voice said, and Spencer shivered as Aaron had used his rarely used slightly southern accent.
"Hello, Aaron," Spencer smiled at him and looked to see that Aaron must have been heading to or from a court visit as he was very much in his fuck you court outfit.
"Are you here for any more legal advice? Only Draco is in the office at the moment. Steve's been in court all morning, and I am headed there myself."
"No. I just came to look at my shop."
"Oh, you are the bookstore owner?" Tony asked.
"You are in good hands, Spencer. Tony, show him the empty apartment and don't take no for an answer. The paperwork is on the island." Minerva gave each of the three men a look before she started away, heading down the street.
"Minerva wants to rope you into the new apartment as well as having your store here huh?" Aaron stepped up and pressed a kiss to Spencer's cheek. They had met years before both trying to forget the past as much as possible. Aaron was fresh from a divorce that had turned bitter and ugly, and Spencer had been trying to figure out his sexuality by sleeping with anyone that he wanted. It had been a short-lived but very memorable sexual affair, and when it had run its course, they had stayed friends, and Aaron had helped Spencer with everything that he needed to get his bookshop up and running. It was why Spencer had known about the empty storefront.
"How do you two know each other?" Tony asked.
"Well Tone, do you remember that beautiful young man you teased me about after the divorce." Aaron wasn't blushing, but Spencer was at his words. He had not realized that Aaron had told anyone about him.
"Oh, I remember the young man that warmed your bed and all of us only got eyefuls of after he had escaped from your bed and was fleeing before the sun hit him. Are you telling me that this enchanting creature here is him?" Tony looked at Spencer, and his eyes were twinkling with humor, but they were not leaving Spencer's face. He looked like he didn't mind picturing Spencer and Aaron together and it just made Spencer blush all the more.
"Down tiger," Aaron said. He looked at his watch, and there was a honk of a car horn, and Spencer turned to see it was a driver for Aaron. Aaron pressed a kiss to Spencer's lips with a chuckle before he walked past Spencer and Tony to catch his ride to court.
"I think I know exactly why Aaron hid you from everyone. Well, let's get this tour over with and then it's lunch at my restaurant. I'm trying a new dish, and I think I want your opinion." Tony pressed a hand to his stomach and popped out his elbow. Spencer was still blushing as he linked his arm through the hole made there, and his arm was tucked into Tony's body. "So you know the basics of what the building is. There are three tenant entrances based on which set of apartments you are in. Obviously, the first and second floors have a great deal of entrances and exits as well as each store on the second floor having a dedicated outside walk entrance via stairs."
"Yes. I've actually been inside of every store except for the security firm."
"Yes, I recognized one of Danny's suits on you. I wasn't aware that you had eaten at my restaurant though."
"I have. Several times. Never had a bad meal there."
"Good. Good. Now Minerva tells me that your coffee shop will not be having the same pastries and breakfast items that the other coffee shop has."
"Their pastry chef doesn't have enough time to make double, and I haven't found a shop in the area that I like enough to commit to having them put their name to my shop." Spencer was picky. He knew that. There was a reason that he was in business alone when many would have a partner of some kind. Having Aaron's law firm take care of those kinds of things helped, the books for the shop were easy for Spencer. His brain, his reading speed, and his eidetic memory made for a perfect storm for accounting. Spencer had taken many classes on it as soon as he started to think about opening a bookstore.
"Hmm." Tony had a grin on his face, and Spencer wasn't sure exactly what that grin meant at all.
The apartment was beautiful. Spencer fell in love as soon as he stepped inside of it. There was an alarm that Tony deactivated as soon as they stepped inside.
"The security for the whole of the building, apartments, and stores is run through Seeley and Jack's store. Once a tenant moves out the code is set back to seven zeroes and then when a new one moves in they set it themselves. The units are actually made at Gadgetry and Stuff."
"Interesting," Spencer said. He pulled his arm free of Tony's and started to walk around. It was empty except for the fixtures. The kitchen was the center of the apartment, literally. On one side were the two bedrooms and on the other was the living room. There were two bathrooms that Spencer could see off the bat, and it looked like a third in the master bedroom. Tony stayed back and let Spencer look around. The master bedroom was huge, and Spencer loved the bathroom. There was an old time looking clawfoot tub that looked like it could fit two and not just one as well as a standup shower that looked like one could have an orgy in it. It looked modern but had the old feel to it. The whole of the apartment did. The second bedroom was small and would work perfectly as Spencer's office.
The kitchen had very updated appliances and looked to be well cared for but not used a lot. Spencer wondered if the person who moved out cooked at all. The living room was open, and there was a hookup for the cable running from the wall in the center of the wall. There were enough windows that even with no lights on, Spencer could see everything.
"I'll take it."
"I knew I wouldn't have to make a hard sell with you," Tony said with a grin. "That means you need to fill out the paperwork on the island. I'll leave you to that while I go and get us coffee and a snack."
Tony was gone before Spencer could tell him that it wasn't necessary. Spencer looked at the form to fill out, and he made work of it. He was singing his name in the last form when Tony came back in. Tony had two mugs in his hand with a carafe as well as a tray filled with things. Spencer eyed what he had on the tray as he set it down. It was baked goods. Spencer looked up at Tony with a cocked eyebrow.
"You said you don't have pastries and such for your coffee shop in the bookstore and well, I figured that it was a good time to plug my things. Also, I think I want to hear what you sound like when you make sex noises." Tony set down the coffee cups next and filled up both cups from the carafe. He scooted one of the cups to Spencer before pulling out a few packets of sugar from his pocket. He dug into another pocket and out came individual cups of half and half.
Spencer still wasn't exactly sure what he was going to say in answer to Tony's comment about sex noises. Spencer looked at him and wondered exactly what Aaron had told his friends about their relationship. It wasn't until Spencer looked at the food on the plate that he saw exactly what Tony meant by sex noises. One night when Spencer had stayed over for an entire weekend when he was on summer break during college classes for another degree, Aaron had got hungry at three in the morning and had slipped away from the apartment before coming back with goods. Spencer had never asked where he had got the food from, and Aaron had never offered but Spencer had fucking loved the cinnamon coffee mini braid that Aaron had taken a dozen of.
Reaching out, Spencer picked up the item that was right next to the braid with a smirk on his face. He bit into it and found that it was full chopped caramelized nuts and the crust was melting in his mouth. Spencer closed his eyes in pleasure but made sure to not make a single sound. After that night, if Spencer stayed over at Aaron's, there was always a few of the braids there for him for breakfast the next morning, which usually led to another round of sex.
Tony laughed and sat down again, reaching for his coffee to doctor it up with the sugar and creamer. Spencer watched him do that before doing it to his own.
"Aaron never said and don't think that you need to as well but what happened between the two of you? Aaron was doing really good for a long while, and then he started to get super serious again." Tony wasn't looking up at Spencer, but he was hyper-aware of Spencer beside him, Spencer could tell that much.
"It was sex and only sex. Aaron is not made for relationships like that. I was in the middle of getting a few more degrees, and that was the only thing that I had time to focus on. We parted friends and while we fell into bed a few times since then the connection that we had was gone. I can see myself being a damned good friend with him but nothing more."
"You are the one he disappeared with after the embarrassment that was the Foyet case?" Tony asked.
"Yes. He needed a weekend away after Foyet's full breadth of crimes had come out. I know that Aaron doesn't dabble in prosecution like that anymore, but it was a special favor that someone owed him. No one could predict him escaping like that and getting out of the area."
"Yeah, he sent Aaron a few postcards. It really freaked out Seeley and Jack, and that was when they talked Minerva into letting them take care of security for the whole of the building. It was Seeley who caught and ended up shooting Foyet in the ribs to stop him from trying to break in."
"Aaron told me. I was in Vegas for the weekend to visit-" Spencer stopped because that wasn't something he wanted to bring up to this man who was still mostly a stranger. Spencer was saved from saying more by his phone chiming that he had got a text. Spencer lifted his phone up and smiled at the text from Aaron telling him to demand the braid from Tony.
Spencer texted back that Tony was already trying to entice Spencer into using his pastry line from the shop but that Spencer wasn't going to give in that easy for a braid. Then Spencer admonished Aaron for telling Tony about the sex noises he made while eating the braid. All Spencer got in return for his trouble was a winking smiley face.
"So, Mister DiNozzo," Spencer said as he set down his phone and picked up his coffee to take a sip before he continued on. "Sell your pastries to me."
Tony grinned at Spencer.
"Well, the position of the pastry chef is still new at my restaurant. The cinnamon braid is the thing that Harry used to make when he was trying to fall asleep at night. I loved them, and so he gave them to me."
"Harry..." Spencer tried to think about where he had heard the name from Aaron. "Draco's partner."
"Yes. Harry fought for the British military, and I've never asked more than that, and he's had a lot of issues from it. He can go for days without sleeping, so he bakes. After trying that braid, even if Aaron did take the first batch that Harry gave me to feed to his sex friend, Harry made more, and I tried them. It was something that he learned to make during the war in a posting. That's neither here nor there. After I tried it, I made Harry a promise. Harry worked for a job as a dishwasher to help put Draco through school. Minerva knows them from before she moved here from England and from what I have learned she bought this building to protect them."
"Because the first thing that any of you would think is that if they needed a job like that to put one of them through school how could they afford to live here."
"Yes. It was interesting, to say the least when we all started to move in. I think Minerva likes to collect strays and protect them. That's the only thing that connects everyone who lives here. She's the one who put up the start-up money for almost every single business in this place. Yours is the only one that she hasn't helped in some way to get off the ground."
"No, I wouldn't say that. She started to come to my shop after I opened it and in the weeks after I was getting people that said that she recommended it. So while she didn't give money to help me start up, she did send a lot of people my way which got them to send a lot more. So Draco was in school, Harry was washing dishes while having trouble sleeping because of PTSD."
"I didn't say that."
"So Aaron didn't tell you much about me? Other than sex noises. Well, I said I was in school for a degree, and you didn't make a comment about my age compared to Aaron's so you at least were aware that I was much younger than him. I was not going for my first degree. I had two Ph.D.s to my name as well as a few BAs before I turned eighteen. I was good at learning and getting grants and things to make sure that I could keep learning. I have a degree in psychology, and I took it all the way to PH.D. with a focus on trauma to the psyche."
"Damn. You know a few of us have wondered about Aaron and his predilection for smart ones. Haley was no slouch, but after you, he had gone for smart ones that don't like to broadcast it."
"I have an IQ of one hundred and eighty-seven, can read twenty thousand words per minute, and I have an eidetic memory. No one knows that unless I want them to. Why? You'll have to find that out later. But back to Harry."
"I really liked the things that Harry did when he couldn't sleep so I sat down with Aaron and we discussed what kind of contract I could draw up to get Harry in culinary school while still helping him support himself. I know that Draco worked for Aaron's firm, and he made sure to pay him well while he was in school, but that ends didn't always meet. So Aaron advised me to offer it as a job. It would be on the job training of sorts. So Harry went to culinary school during the day and afternoon and then worked at my place as a dishwasher for four hours a night. For every hour of schooling that he worked, he got paid half wages since I was paying for it and he got full wages for the hours that he worked as a dishwasher. He got two days off on the weekend from school and two random days throughout the week as a dishwasher, but I tried to give him one day off from both on the weekend so that he and Draco could spend time. Well, halfway through culinary school, Harry was awarded a grant that paid for his schooling until he graduated but it didn't pay anything more than that, so Harry stayed on as a dishwasher at my place, making a lot more than what he did at the other job. He started to mess around after hours when he was alone in there finishing up dishes from dinner. That's how each of these came about."
"Well I've only tried two, and I love both of them."
"One more than the other," Tony said with a leer on his face.
Spencer didn't react to it, but he did pick up another confection. It looked like a thumbprint cookie of some kind.
"Well after culinary school, he won another grant to put him through an intense three-month course in France on pastries. Everyone in the building made sure that he could go, sending Draco with him as it was during summer, so Draco was out of school. He had planned on taking a secondary course, but it was easy to talk him out of it."
"So he came back and was given the position of pastry chef at your restaurant?"
"He was offered the job before he went to France as I knew that the gentleman that I was employing was leaving at the beginning of summer to move where his fiancee was for work. She worked in California and had a better job. Pastry chefs can get jobs nearly anywhere, especially when they could do what he did. I talked him into staying until Harry got back and he did as long as I allowed him weekends to go and visit his fiancee. I did that willingly. Harry came back and has been in my kitchen since. My deserts have beat my food in a few of the tastes of the city contests, but that's okay because it still puts my name out there." Tony took a sip of his coffee, and his eyes closed in happiness.
Spencer could tell that Tony liked the nice things and the coffee that he had was expensive. More expensive than most would want to pay per cup in a coffee shop. It was wonderful and paired well with the desserts in front of Spencer.
"I've eaten at your restaurant several times. Aaron never took me and now that I know that everyone who has a place here lives here as well, I can kind of understand why. Aaron showing up with a date probably would have had gawkers arrive to watch."
"I have a table that seats ten that unless I have stars of some kind show up or other friends, is held just for those that live here. They come in and sit and eat and just have fun. You are more than welcome to sit there as well, even before you move in."
Spencer had been talking to Tony for a while, and he was finally figuring out that Tony was flirting as a way of communicating, but he was flirting because he really was interested in Spencer. Spencer just wondered if it was to get more information on Aaron and his relationship and the attraction wasn't anything he cared about or he did care about the attraction, and it was the main reason that he was flirting. Spencer was going to flirt back but wait to attempt more until he had more information, maybe even going into the restaurant to eat and taking him up on the offer of the table.
"So tell me about these," Spencer said as he waved at the desserts that were left on the tray before filling up his cup of coffee again and doctoring it up. Tony started a long spiel about the origins of the original recipe as well as the differences that Harry had done for each. Spencer ate each one of them as Tony talked about them, saving the mini braid for last.
"The pastry menu that Harry developed covers an entire month, for the most part. Each night a different one with a few that get rotated in and out based on the local fare that's at the markets and based on the season. He's also willing to attempt any recipe base out there and put a spin on it. I'm sure that given enough time he could come up with something signature for you."
"A cookie or something that's named after the shop?" Spencer asked as he reached over to pick up the braid. He stopped just a few inches from it and instead drew his hand back to pick up his coffee to take a drink. Tony started to laugh and shake his head.
"You are an utter tease, Spencer." Tony reached out and picked up the braid.
Spencer watched Tony as he raised it up but didn't put it toward his own mouth but instead it went toward Spencer. Spencer kept his lips pressed together right up until if he didn't open them, Tony would press the braid into his skin instead of between his lips. Spencer bit down when Tony had half of it in his mouth. Spencer kept the sex noises to a minimum but he really enjoyed eating that, and it was very evident. Wondering what Tony would do, Spencer closed his lips around Tony's fingers when he fed the second piece to him. Spencer licked them clean of the glaze that was painted onto the braid. Tony's eyes dilated in slight arousal.
The beep from Spencer's phone reminded him that he needed to get going and needed to break up the flirting that was going on. Tony's eyes darted down to his phone.
"I need to get back to my store. We are getting ready to do the weekly reading of a chapter of a book to kids who show up for story time."
"Oh, really? What book?"
"Right now we are on Mister Monday by Garth Nix. I did the first chapter of it last week. We record them and put them on the website for kids to listen to if they miss it."
"Do you mind company? I think I want to look around your store."
'Shouldn't you be heading into the restaurant?"
"My sous chef can handle today. It's technically my day off, and I only stop in during the dinner rush to talk to patrons who want to talk to me. So I have a few hours to kill and why not look at what the store looks like now and then later see the new and improved one."
Spencer drained his coffee before answering because he wasn't sure that he would like Tony listening in on him reading to kids. The whole thing had started when Spencer had found himself with a group of kids one day that had wandered in the shop and Spencer hadn't liked them just wandering the streets until their parents came to collect them, so Spencer had picked his favorite book in their age range and started to read it aloud to them. It became a weekly thing. There was a large group that came right after school let out and worked on homework while listening to Spencer read a book. When Spencer had been looking for a new place, he hadn't wanted to go that far so that the kids could still come back.
"You know, I think that it would be fine. We can discuss pastries and other things while we walk to my shop. Maybe until I get this place open, we can see about a trial run of pastries during events that I put on weekly. That will give my poor current supplier a little break and a way to wean off of them if people like them."
"I'll talk to Harry about maybe changing some things around and doing some book themed things."
"Like Lembas Bread?" Spencer asked.
"Hmm, I think that Harry could do that. Even making them look like leaves."
Spencer was glad that Tony got the reference, but he wondered if it was from the book or the movies. He didn't want to ask and ruin the mood that they were in at the moment. This was fun, and it was easy with the ability to back off if nothing came of it.
The smell of coffee made Spencer realize that he had been lost in a book for too long and it was very much time for breakfast. The whole of the shop was nearly ready for opening with Spencer's back stock of books on the shelves, and the rest were going to be moved from the shop when he closed it in two days. Spencer looked up and expected to see his best friend and manager, Derek Morgan, but instead, it was Aaron with a cup of coffee and a plate of breakfast pastries.
"That had better not be full of braids," Spencer said as he eyed the plate.
"There is only a single braid on the plate. The rest is warm breakfast foods. Tony didn't tell me what they were just that it was what was being served for breakfast today in the restaurant. I saw the light on and didn't see anyone moving around. I should have known you would be stuck in a book." Aaron set the tray down on the floor beside Spencer and sat down beside him before handing over a cup of coffee. "Tony and Harry are going to join us in a few minutes when the next pot of coffee is brewed. Harry needed a little break and wanted to see the bookstore and not just through a window."
"Everyone in the building has been dropping by to look at it. James even got me into his shop for a fitting for a rush suit for the opening day. Danny is getting in some silk fabric for ties that are literary. I heard Steve groaning about Danny's fascination with ties, but the man was smiling as he did it."
"Those two are an old married couple that never married."
"Yes, Tony told me that everyone in the building was gay or bisexual and he's pretty sure that Minerva did it so that Harry and Draco felt safe. She's done a lot for those two."
"I think if she had wanted kids, she would have loved two exactly like them. She adopted them of sorts. She worked at a boarding school in England, and that was where she met them, but that's all I know. So are you on track for opening day?" Aaron handed over one of the pastries, and it was just warm enough to eat and smelled terrific.
"Sort of. I have my staff ready to go. However, Derek can't be here to help move things the way that I want. His sister went into early labor, and the doctors are trying to stop it long enough to make sure the lungs are developed, so he's heading home to Chicago."
"Well, you are closing the store on Friday and opening up on Monday. Steve and I don't have anything planned this weekend, and so I was coming to offer our backs, and I know that most of your staff are women at the moment. You and Derek are the only males. While females can do just as much as males, yours are all not that..."
"They look like a stiff wind will make them fall over? I know. You and Steve can replace Derek then in getting things done. I also trust that you'll make sure that everything goes smoothly here. That sounds like a plan. You and Steven can manage here, and I'll make sure everything is taken care of there."
"Sounds good," Aaron said. He bumped his shoulder into Spencer's before taking a bite of his pastry.
"So, I heard a very juicy piece of gossip from Tony the other day when I went to lunch at his place."
"Oh, yes." Spencer bumped his shoulder back into Aaron's and grinned at him even though he had just taken a bite of food. Spencer picked up the coffee again to wash the food down and look at Aaron. "So you and Danny?"
"No," Aaron said, but the tone was very much the opposite.
"Are you sure?" Spencer asked.
"No?" Aaron said, and it sounded very much like a question. Spencer laid his hand down on Aaron's shoulder to comfort him. There was a difference between Spencer and a relationship that could be something. Haley had hurt Aaron a lot divorcing him because he wouldn't do what she wanted and become a politician.
"Tony said that you ate dinner at Danny and Steve's place the other night and didn't come home until late."
"You know living on the same floor as the building gossip is rubbish," Aaron said.
Spencer laughed and had to set down his coffee before he spilled it. It was how they were when Tony, Harry, and a man that Spencer had not met before came in.
"Spencer Reid, this is Angus MacGyver, Mac, this is Spencer. Spencer, don't call him Angus unless you want a petulant child on your hands."
"Thank Tony. Thanks," Mac said. He sat down on the floor in front of Aaron while Tony sat in front of Spencer and Harry sat on the edge of the group on Spencer's side. "It's nice to meet you."
"You as well," Spencer said, and he put him as the man who ran Gadgetry with the partner of the suit store owner. Spencer had met Q because with the new location he had needed an upgraded computer system. Q had been working on that and had figured out something that was a modified part of what he had made for his own shop as well as the rest of the shops in the building. Spencer kind of liked having all of the customer support he needed right in the same building. James was the other partner in the suit store, and Spencer still hadn't figured out the couple that was James and Q. He really hadn't tried all that hard either really.
"So I had a thought," Mac said.
Spencer wasn't paying that close of attention until he realized that Mac was talking to him.
"Oh, sorry. Please go ahead."
"Aaron was telling me about the whole thing where you read to the kids, and you load them on your website so that people can listen in if they miss a week. With a few tweaks to your layout and a better sound system, you could live broadcast them to those that can't be here as well you know."
"It'll make the kids feel like a bigger part of it. We can even set up a camera and do it in video form. I know that you have the rights to do the readings and I had Q look into it and your agreement includes video recording as long as you don't steam on media sites. Q can lock down the website so that no one can copy them."
"And you know this how?"
Mac actually blushed a little and shook his head.
"I've told him time again to never agree that he or Q have hacked servers. I would say while working on your inventory system they took a gander around your entire file system." Aaron's tone was stern, but there was a twinkle to his eyes when Spencer looked at him.
"So friendly hackers," Spencer said.
"Mostly," Tony said.
Mac started to laugh, and just a second later Harry was laughing as well.
"We can be made very upset and then retaliate if pressed," Mac said.
"Write up a proposal and costs and such, and I'll come to the shop later today and look at it," Spencer said.
"Cool." Mac took a bite of his food before glaring at Tony for a few seconds.
"Oh my God, let the damned prank go!" Tony nearly yelled, and it made Harry and Aaron break out into laughter that shook Aaron's body so hard that it was making it hard for Spencer to drink with their sides pressed to each other.
Aaron leaned in close, "I'll explain later."
Spencer nodded. The conversation turned to what everyone was going to be doing that day, and Spencer realized that everyone who lived in the building was meeting for dinner later. Spencer still had a week until he was able to move his apartment items over because he wanted the whole store moved in first, so he had still been staying in his old place. Spencer listened to them talking, making plans for various things. Spencer knew that the people who lived in the building were friendly, but he hadn't realized how close they were until he had started to spend more time in the new store. They ate lunch together all the time, in various sets of two, threes, and even fours depending on who was on break when. All of them were friendly with each other, and it seemed that no one disliked anyone else. It was like a family that they had made for themselves with Minerva as the pseudo-mother of the group. It made Spencer a little jealous, but he knew that time would tell how the group treated him. Spencer had not seen them with the other person who had lived in Spencer's apartment before him, but he knew that the man was very introverted and didn't leave the apartment that much from what Tony had said.
"Earth to Spencer," Aaron said as he jostled at Spencer' body with is own to pull Spencer from his thoughts.
"Wow," Tony said.
"Oh, yeah. If he starts on a mental tangent, he cannot hear a damned alarm going off beside him."
"I said," Mac started again. "Q has the proposal wrote up if you wanted to come down and look at it."
"The shops not even open yet."
"Eh, James went in early to the shop to finish up an order for a client, and it woke up Q, and he decided to work on the proposal. We were discussing it last night while waiting for Jack and James to get done at their shops and join us for dinner. He figured you would want the mock-up and such, so he went ahead and did it since he was awake. We have no repairs going at the moment to distract him from the fact that it's not bright enough outside yet."
"You would think that he would be used to the dark. I know he's from London."
"Yes, well he's adapted well to the bright shiny of where he now calls home and abhors the dark morning hours," Tony supplied before he ate the last bite of his breakfast. "I need to go shopping in the market for things for dinner for the group. Spencer."
"Hmm?" Spencer questioned as he looked at Tony.
"Anything you don't like?"
"What?" Spencer asked because he had no clue what Tony was asking.
The group chuckled, but unlike when Spencer was growing up they weren't laughing at Spencer to be mean.
"Why don't you do pizza?" Aaron asked.
Tony's eyes narrowed at Aaron.
"What you can make one special for Danny that doesn't have pineapple on it. There isn't a topping other than sardines on pizza that I have not seen Spencer eat."
"Who doesn't like pineapple on pizza?" Spencer asked because while Spencer knew that people like that existed, he had never met one, not that he knew of.
"Danny," Tony, Aaron, Mac, and Harry said at the same time.
"Wow, I am not sure I can be friends with him." Spencer shook his head in disgust but smiled as he did.
Spencer laughed with everyone else when they started to. Everyone started to get ready to leave, going on with the things they needed to do for the day. Tony and Aaron collected the plates and began to carry them out with Harry on their heels. Mac was waiting for Spencer.
"Wait," Spencer said before the trio got to the door. "Why do you want to know if there is something I don't like?"
Tony turned around and the look on his face a was a little shocked. He was looking at Spencer like he didn't quite understand him. Mac waved the three of them forward.
"I'll talk to him."
Tony was pouting, but Aaron drew him out the door.
"What did I say?"
"It's been a while since anyone new has joined the group and well...Tony is not used to having to invite people to things he just assumes that people know they are invited unless its made plain it's an intimate affair. You've not moved into the building yet, but you are fitting in well with the small groups. Tony wondered the other day why you hadn't come to the lunch tasting of the new menu for the season."
"Aaron talked about it and so did Q, but neither of them invited me specifically to it."
"Like I said they operate that if you know about it, you know to show up. It's going to take them a while to adjust to the fact that you don't know that you can just show up. Tony's even talking about expanding the table to make room for all twelve of us."
"Minerva shows up when she wants, and it's always easy to fit her in the table."
"Ah." Spencer wasn't sure how he felt about it. Aaron had been the first person to accept him for who he was. Derek had been second. It still was odd to have people like him when he wasn't using his work persona.
Mac thankfully changed the subject to what he had planned. They were halfway down to the stairs that would take them out in front of Mac's shop when Q exited the doorway. He had his computer in its bag and a stack of paper in his hands, and he smiled at the two of them.
"I figured that it was best to just come up and do it in situ instead of having to do with mental visuals for the whole thing," Q said. He waved the papers in his hands and then waved the two of them back where they came from.
Spencer got the feeling that this was going to be his life from now on. It seemed that all of them lived in each other's pockets and they were going to do the same to him.
Q and Mac started to talk in terms that Spencer knew vaguely from his engineering degree that he had got, but he didn't care to listen that hard. His mind was on Tony who still flirted with Spencer every chance that he got and it seemed genuine, but so far neither of them had been brave enough to step past what could be just harmless flirting and into territory that one couldn't come back from.
Spencer slumped down into the chair in his office as he listened to the last of the staff leave after their opening day in the new location. Everyone in the building had come through at some point and bought something. James a new trashy spy novel that he was told that if he told he would face a gruesome death. Q had bought a few new paper and dice game books for a new line that Spencer was the exclusive dealer of in the city. Mac had bought a new physics text and Jack a biography on an actress that Spencer only vaguely knew. Harry and Draco had bought drinks and food before getting a few science fiction and fantasy books. Danny had bought a fashion book on the newer lines that were coming out and Steve a book on military history that had been out a few months, but he hadn't picked up yet. Seeley had bought a book on crime that he said was written by a friend of his from his days when he worked for the real crime fighters as he called cops. Minerva had stocked up for the month on the books she read for various books clubs that she was a part of to pass the time. Aaron had bought a crime fiction book that Spencer had never seen him read before but given it was the seventh in the series he had to have been reading them before.
Aaron had blushed a little, and then one of Spencer's staff had made the comment that they had wondered when he would be in for it. That told Spencer that Aaron had been sneaking in to buy it without Spencer there.
Tony had spent two hours going over the store, looking at the shelves like he was memorizing the location of everything. He even spent time in the kid's section, despite many kids being in there playing. Mac had done well at helping Spencer get the acoustics going so that the kids could have fun, but for the most part, their sounds of happiness didn't project into the rest of the store. It also made the kid's area a bottleneck so that there was only a single way in and out and it was watched by cameras in Sharpshooter security. During open hours, there was someone watching that camera and the ones that covered the single customer entrance and the two employees. With a larger place, it was harder for staff to keep an eye, so Spencer had paid well for that privilege. There were other stores that had the same in the building, mainly Q and Mac's own place as well as the Tonys and even Aaron and Steve's law office.
"Spencer?" a voice called out from somewhere in the shop. It was Tony, so Spencer didn't freak out. Aaron had the code to get into the store, as well as Q and Mac but he wasn't shocked that Tony had wheedled it out of one of them.
Spencer didn't answer. He was really worn out. He knew that he would be, but he was just too tired to even call out. Tony would see the light on in Spencer's office and investigate or at least Spencer hoped that he would. Spencer inhaled deeply, the smell of a spicy tomato sauce filled his nose and he exhaled quickly to smell it again. Tony had to have come from the restaurant and was still in his chef coat or something like it because it was the only time that he ever smelled like that.
"Worn out?" Tony asked from right behind Spencer.
Spencer hummed an affirmative as Tony brushed his arm as he stepped to Spencer's side. There was the sound of ruffling papers before a clink of something. Spencer forced his eyes open to see a plate of spaghetti and meatballs in front of him. It was still steaming. A bottle of wine was set down next as well as two empty wine glasses.
"Aaron told me that you ate a quick sandwich for lunch in the middle of the rush. And didn't eat breakfast." The tone that Tony used was mildly chastising, and it irked Spencer a little bit, just like it did when anyone in his life tried to get him to do what they thought that he needed. Spencer knew his body, and he cared for it well enough. He might eat a lot of takeaway, but it wasn't burgers and fries, or greasy food at all. He ate balanced, healthy choices, he just didn't do the cooking. For a while he would have to live on that because getting the store entirely up and running was going to be hard and demanding of Spencer's time and if he had left over energy, he now had an apartment to get ready. Food was low on the list of things he wanted to cook.
"Sometimes I hate how close Derek and Aaron got. Derek tattles on me all the time." Spencer forced himself to lean up so that he could eat. He had tried several times over the past three days to tell Tony that he was okay ordering in food after a long day of getting the store ready. Tony kept on feeding him though. "Even in Chicago, my staff report my every move to Derek."
"They care about you." Tony set himself down on a spot of the desk after cleaning the papers off of it. Tony kept them together and set them a different way on the other stack he had moved to set Spencer's food down. He was careful, and Spencer was glad of it.
"I know that they do. I've done fine though taking care of myself since I was ten." Spencer rubbed at the bridge of his nose because he did not mean to say that. "I don't always eat three meals a day, and breakfast is the one most skipped. I might have just at a sandwich for lunch but it was a club sandwich with avocado on it, and I ate a protein bar to supplement the wear and tear on my body over the past while and with what is coming up. I have some of those meal replacement shakes that don't have the artificial sweeteners in them to use when I do skip breakfast. Sometimes I have an upset stomach from running around, and it's why I don't eat."
Tony raised his hands in supplication and didn't say anything else as Spencer tucked into the food again. Spencer knew that everyone cared, but sometimes they took his scatterbrained way of acting as a reason to think that he was a child. Spencer was scatterbrained because he had too many things on it. He took care of himself, probably better than most of the ones who were trying to mother hen him.
Spencer drank the wine as he ate, never paying attention to Tony refilling it but given that he was sure he had drunk two glasses and there was still half a glass left, Spencer was sure that he was filing it up. The pasta was incredible, and the meatballs were even better. Spencer saved two of them for last, cutting them in half and using them to get the last of the sauce from the plate. By the time that he was done eating, it looked like he had licked the plate clean and f he had felt a little more enthusiastic, he would.
"So Mac, Jack, and James have a little time on their hands over the next few days. You've talked about a lot of books, and they wondered if you wanted them to start moving them early?"
"What?" Spencer looked at Tony, and he was confused, but he didn't think it was all from him being tired.
"You've gotta start moving in at some point, and a few of the guys are willing to work on the books. Mac will make sure that the books go back to the exact same place, but you are going to be worn out with opening and the hassle of more work on yourself."
"You know I knew before moving in that the people in the building were close, but I didn't think that everyone lived in each other's pockets as much as you do. It's kind of..." Spencer couldn't find the word that he wanted. He was too tired.
"Overwhelming? We've been told that before but we don't notice it because we were all moving in at around the same time. We are a peculiar family."
"I feel like I've been adopted into the family." Spencer kind of left off the part about without his consent because he knew that they didn't mean it in a bad way. "I'm too tired to move, much less go home."
"I have a spare bed, and Aaron has already texted me to tell you that he has one as well if you don't want to stay with a stranger."
Spencer shrugged because while Tony was still a stranger, it wasn't like if Tony decided to kill him that evidence couldn't be found that he had last been with him. Spencer closed his eyes, and he knew that he needed to open them up but it was so nice. He was full and had a slight buzz from the wine, which had been one of the best he had drunk before that was sweet. It paired well with the heavy spice of the sauce.
"Hey, Spencer, why don't' we get you upstairs before you pass out." Tony shook Spencer's shoulder, and Spencer's eyes popped open to look at him. Tony was smiling at him. There was such a fond look on his face, close to how Aaron used to look at him when Spencer would catch him watching Spencer sleep in the early morning hours. Tony was dressed in a suit which meant he had been talking in the restaurant more than working, so Spencer reached out and pulled him in close with the tie. Tony didn't fight him, instead, let the motion carry him to where he could prop his hands on the arms of Spencer's chair. Tony had been flirting with him since the word go, and Spencer wanted to know if Tony was just being Tony or he meant it because Spencer was lonely and if he was barking up the wrong tree he wanted to know.
Just before their lips touched, one of Tony's hands gripped the back of Spencer's neck to tilt his head up. Tony's lips pressed to Spencer's firmly. It felt good. Spencer parted his lips to lick at the seam of Tony's, but Tony pulled back. Spencer blearily blinked at him.
"Why don't we try that when both of us are awake and haven't drunk an entire bottle of wine between us."
"Okay. You mean that right?"
"Oh, I do. I really do," Tony said and just to show it, Tony leaned in and kissed Spencer again. His fingers on the back of Spencer's head curled in some and scratched across his skin. Spencer moaned into the kiss, and his whole body felt like it was a live wire. "Sorry."
"You didn't know," Spencer said, panting.
"But I will remember," Tony said with a hint of arousal in his voice. Spencer wasn't sure if it was Tony saying he would remember and not do it or it was a promise that he would use it to his advantage at a later date. Spencer wasn't sure which he wanted.
There was a chime on both of their phones, and Spencer groaned it had to be a group text as the possibility of both of them getting a text at the same time was low.
"Well," Tony said as he looked at his text. "Aaron wants to know if you are coming up to his or not because he's getting ready to bunk down for the night."
"I'll go to yours."
"Good choice. I can make you breakfast."
"I'll be fine eating cereal."
"I actually don't have any breakfast food in my place that is just grab and go like that. It all needs prepared. I'll be cooking my own breakfast at the same time."
"As long as there is coffee, I'll eat whatever you put in front of me."
Tony grinned at Spencer with a look of such happiness. Spencer could see why he excelled as a chef, he like cooking and it seemed that cooking for friends pleased in the same way that Spencer felt when he helped someone find a book that was exactly like what they wanted, or Spencer got a reluctant reader to come back to find that next book that the would like. It was like a drug.
Spencer was pulled from his seat and Tony wrapped an arm around his shoulders to help him out of the store. Spencer felt his keys being lifted from his pocket. He allowed Tony to lock up and reset the alarm and trusted that Tony was not going to do anything that Spencer didn't want.
"As tempting as it is, I don't think a make-out session in the elevator is going to help you sleep tonight."
"No," Spencer said before he covered a yawn with his hand.
"Me and you, a week from today. I saw on your calendar that you have no plans. I'm going to take you on a date."
"What?" Spencer asked. He had been half asleep, leaning against the wall of the elevator car. He forced his eyes open to look at Tony who was on the opposite side. Tony was grinning.
"I said that a week from today I am taking you out on a date. You'll need a tuxedo, but I think that James and Danny get you one made up in time."
"I need a tuxedo for a first date?" Spencer asked.
"How about we go over the details at a later time?" Tony asked.
The thought of the date kept rolling through Spencer's head. He tried to understand exactly what Tony wanted out of him. A date that required a tuxedo wasn't exactly a fun kind of the first date in Spencer's opinion though if that was the kind of dates that Tony liked, finding out right off the bat would be better and maybe they could save some of their friendship if it fizzled.
Tony's spare bed was soft, and Spencer didn't care that he was sleeping in his clothes. He would wake up at some point and take them off. He was just too tired to worry about it at all at the moment.
Just as Spencer was just about wholly unconscious, Spencer felt a kiss being pressed to his forehead. He smiled and dropped off the rest of the way.
Spencer looked around his new apartment, between everyone in the building helping when they had time, Spencer had been moved into it in record time, and it was set up exactly like his old, just spread out more. Spencer had dropped off his keys just that morning. He smiled before dropping onto his new couch. It was Aaron's old, but he has got new things to make a few bits of art that he had acquired from the gallery down the street and so had given Spencer all of his old things instead of just setting them at the side of the road for someone to pick up.
"So, I think that we need to go shopping," Aaron said from somewhere behind Spencer.
"I think that I need to set my alarm even when I am home," Spencer said back.
"Eh, you gave me a key, Spencer, I'm going to use it. So we need some art for you."
"I just opened a much larger store, I don't have the money to just willy-nilly go buy art."
"Did you forget that you told me about your most recent Atlantic City trip? And what you wanted to do with the money from it?" Aaron walked around to stand in front of Spencer. He was glaring at Spencer, but there was no heat to it.
"No, I did not forget." Spencer grinned at him. "I was hoping that you had. You know that an art trip with you take hours. Days sometimes. I have two days off, and tomorrow I am going wherever Tony is dragging me. Plus I have my final fitting for the tuxedo for said date in an hour. I don't have time."
"You don't have time beforehand, but you have plenty of time afterward. I heard you talking to Mac about not having anything to do to pass the time today other than reading. So going around with me for art is a good thing."
Spencer glared at Aaron again, and this time there was heat in it. Aaron just laughed before starting to walk to Spencer's bedroom. Spencer was still in his pajamas as it was only seven in the morning. His staff had a coup the day before and had conspired with Jack and Seeley to lock him out of his own damned store for two days. He had opened up the last of his boxes the night before in a snit and got them empty before passing out in bed. Waking up to a fully furnished apartment had been terrific, and Spencer liked it but still, he was a little upset. He wasn't even allowed into the store to get coffee. Spencer liked the coffee that he kept in his apartment, but the new coffee pot, a gift from Aaron was not out of the box yet. Spencer still had the old one that he loved and had since college but it wasn't hooked up either and Spencer did feel like doing either.
"So if you don't get going, I'm taking you to the store in those. Wait until James and Danny see you in them."
"I hate you," Spencer said as he got up off the couch and walked toward his bedroom.
"No, you don't. You don't hate me. You just want to hate me. Hating me would easier because then you could dismiss all of us out of your life."
Spencer wanted to slam his bedroom door, but he didn't. He didn't even shut it as he stripped naked before getting into the shower. He bathed as quick as possible so that he could get dressed and talk Aaron into going into the store to get him a coffee. He knew that it probably wouldn't take much on a typical day, but Aaron seemed playful in a way that was a little out of character for him. Personal Aaron was different than lawyer Aaron, but both were still a little dry at times.
When Spencer was done with the shower and had finished in the bathroom, styling his hair to look at least less like he had just had sex and more like he had just artfully styled it to look messy, Spencer walked naked into his bedroom and right to the closet. He liked the large walk-in closet with a shoe rack built in. While Spencer's shoes of choice were always Converse, he had few others. Tony was going to make him dress in a tuxedo, he was going to wear his black and white Converse. Spencer had already cleaned them and was waiting for them to dry. He picked a pair of dark purple ones for today and then chose the rest of his outfit around it.
"You, I always did like to take clothes off of you, but I do still like watching you dress."
"Keep your thoughts to yourself." Spencer was tempted like he always was to take a tumble in bed with Aaron. The sex part was natural, it was the rest of it that Spencer had issues with. To build a relationship with Aaron it would take a lot of work, while the work might be worth it in the end, right now it was like staring at Mount Kilimanjaro with just a backpack on your back and no climbing equipment.
"Why?" Aaron asked as he stepped up behind Spencer and laid his hands on Spencer's hips. Aaron was too close for Spencer not to feel the heat from his body. "You've made no promises other than a date."
"Because you are a hot mess and I'm done with that mess," Spencer said. He looked in the mirror to lock his eyes with Aaron's. Aaron was grinning. "What has you in this mood today?"
"Back to back good cases all week. I don't want to be cooped up all day, and I don't want to go out alone, and you are the only one who has today off."
"So I'm chopped liver?" Spencer asked.
"No. I knew that you had today off and it wasn't until after I found that out that no one else had today off. So Spencer what do you say? Wanna come and hang out with me all day?"
"Fine but we are stopping for coffee whenever I want."
"Of course, I remember that clause to monopolizing your company for a whole day. There is a restaurant near here that I want to take you to."
"You eat at some place other than Tony's?" Spencer asked.
"Of course, when we want food that's bad for us or just something different than Tony's homestyle fine dining we all pile inside of Angelo's. His menu is kind of like Tony's a little bit of everything. There is a set of nachos that are to die for and will make me have to run a few extra miles but worth it and there is enough for two."
"I see, you want to get bad food, and you need someone else to do it with."
"Well, they do not reheat well, and the half-sized portion taste the same." Aaron let go of Spencer's hips and stepped back to allow for Spencer to turn around to look at him.
"You are a child."
"I'm a grown man," Aaron retorted, but he started to laugh just seconds later. Spencer couldn't help but laugh as well. Spencer has missed this. Being close to someone who had no desires on his body, despite Aaron's words.
"You are a grown man," Spencer said as he looked up and down Aaron's body and settled his gaze on his cock. Aaron laughed harder. Spencer stepped around Aaron to exit the closet to see a cup of coffee on the stand that was just inside the door leading to the living room. There was a splash stick stopping it from filling the room with the smell of it. "Sneaky asshole!"
"You are welcome for feeding your addiction. I don't even want to know what would happen if we walked into the other shop and you had to pout for coffee."
"I would not have pouted."
"You pouted last night when you were told you weren't even allowed in the store for coffee, Spencer. You would have pouted all morning until I got you some."
"Did the know it was for me?" Spencer asked as he pulled the splash stick out and sucked it into his mouth to clean it off.
"Yes. They made it to your exacting specifications. You can tell you are a coffee snob if making your favorite drink is the test to see if someone was going to work in your store."
"The other shop started it first."
Aaron stepped up to Spencer and took the coffee cup from his hand. Spencer couldn't help the pout that popped up on his face. Aaron smiled and cupped the sides of Spencer's face to make him look Aaron in the eye.
"I just want you happy, Spencer and you have been happy here so far. Tony's a good man, and I think that you two could be very good for each other. Promise me that you'll let him in if he does good by you."
"Aaron," Spencer said.
"You never let me inside of you, not in your heart. You love me in a vague way, but you've never been in love with me. I don't want you to be like that for the rest of your life."
"I can't...I can't promise that, but I'll not actively stop it. How does that sound?"
"That works for me." Aaron tipped Spencer's head down to where he could press a kiss to his forehead. Spencer wrapped his arms around Aaron and pulled him in close. They stood like that hugging for a while before Spencer's stomach started to demand food.
"I got you a scone and a braid, they are in the kitchen in the oven on warm. They were still hot and fresh, so I tried to keep them that way."
"Thank you." Spencer let go of Aaron and grabbed his coffee before walking into the living room and straight across to the kitchen. He pulled the paper plate from the oven and picked up the scone. It was a cinnamon one, and Spencer licked his lips before taking a bite. He looked at Aaron to see that he had walked to the window that looked down into the back of the building. No apartment looked out into the horseshoe that was the interior of the building, but Spencer was okay with that.
Spencer hadn't realized how much his life would change just by moving his shop. He was happy about it, but still, it set his mind spinning when he tried to think about it. He meant it when he told Aaron he couldn't promise to make himself love Tony, but he wouldn't actively try not to. He just had to see how they did on the date the next day.
Which despite the tuxedo, Spencer was really looking forward to. He wondered if Aaron was distracting him because he knew that Spencer would stress and obsess over it. It had been a long time since Spencer had been on a date.
The future wasn't as bleary as it had been and Spencer was looking forward to it.