It was happening again and Spencer didn’t know what to do. Despite himself, Spencer couldn’t help but smile as he spotted the plant sitting outside his front door. It had obviously been delivered recently which meant that Hotch had most likely called in the delivery order before they ever got on the jet. Walking closer, he noticed it was a lovely Euphorbia milii or Crown of Thorns. He knew why Aaron had brought it. Spencer had made a joke during the case about the Unsub acting like he was wearing a “Crown of Thorns” and Hotch had chuckled at the idea.
The man could be so subtly funny.
Spencer had tried to discourage the older profiler from sending him anymore flowers by complaining to the team in general that he wasn’t home enough to care for the plants he already had. Of course that had prompted Hotch to send him something that didn’t need much tending to but would still have pretty bright red blooms.
It had started right after Maeve died. One day he heard a delivery being made outside his door but he knew it was too early to be Penelope again so once the footsteps faded far away, he peeked out of his door to see the giant arrangement of beautiful white flowers - lilies and roses and chrysanthemums. It was huge, overflowing the vase and the card was simple.
If you ever need to talk to someone who understands
He’d not been ready to talk then, but he had appreciated the gesture.
One bouquet became two when it was followed the next week with a large display of Hydrangea. He’d smiled at the beautiful blue and purple flowers, setting them in a place of honor by one his windows so they could receive the sunlight they needed to thrive. Then an arrangement of daffodils and tulips followed by a hearty Boston Fern.
Each plant included a card with an invitation - to talk, to dinner, to go to the zoo with him and Jack. When he found a vase full of roses on his desk at Valentine’s Day, Spencer had a horrible revelation.
Hotch was trying to woo him.
He picked up the plant, turning it around in his hands before making a decision. He stepped inside, quickly showered and changed before driving over to the Hotchner home. He stood before the door, trying to wait patiently for it to open. When Hotch opened the door, a look of shock passed over his strong features.
“Reid?” He asked. “What are you..?”
Spencer stepped forward, interrupting the Unit Chief. “I know what you’re doing, Hotch,” he said as he thrust the plant into Aaron’s chest, “And it has got to stop.”
Aaron flinched and hissed at the prickly plant piercing the skin on his chest. Spencer felt bad, rushing forward to pull the plant away. For his part, Aaron simply chuckled and pulled the shirt away from his skin before pulling it up and over to see if he was bleeding.
Unfortunately, there were tiny dots of red now covering his chest, making Spencer feel even worse.
“I’m sorry, Hotch.”
Smiling, Hotch motioned Spencer into the apartment. “You want to come in and tell me what the problem is?”
Spencer sighed and nodded, walking into the main room before turning to look at the older man. He had to admit, Aaron looked good. He had seen Hotch with his shirt off before but somehow, this felt different. They were in his home and he was in his casual clothes. The t-shirt dangled from his fingers and the jeans hung from his hips, the pants obviously one size too big for the fit man. Hotch reached up and swiped at the tiny points of blood that were already drying up, making a small smear across his tanned skin.
“Spencer?” Hotch prompted when he didn’t respond. “What’s the matter?”
Shaking himself, Spencer turned and glared at the confused man.
“You must think that I’m stupid.”
“You must think that I’m a fool. Oh, you think I’m new to this. Is that it? Hotch, I’ve seen this all before.”
“No!” He was sure this was a bad idea. He just wanted to come over, say his peace and leave. And yet, here he was, ready to open up his soul even though he promised he would never, ever do that again. “I’m never going to let you close to me even though you mean the most to me because every time I open up it hurts.”
“I only want to get a chance…”
“And I’m never going to get to close to you even when I mean the most to you in case you go and leave me in the dirt.”
“Spencer,” Aaron said, jumping forward and cupping Spencer’s face, silencing him for a moment. “I know you haven’t had the best luck with people. Relationships have been less than favorable for you but I’m not like that. I would never leave you like that.”
“You can’t say that, Hotch. You don’t know. You might think that it makes me sound heartless or cold but I’m just trying to protect what little bit of my heart that I have left.”
“Who has left you, Spencer? What has happened that has hurt you so bad?”
“Really? Do I have to answer that for you? Let’s make a list, shall we? My dad, Ethan, Lila, Austin, Jason, Maeve. Those are just the really important ones - the ones I cared about, that said they would never hurt me. And honestly, I don’t think they wanted to hurt me and yet they did - badly. So you’ll have to excuse me if a few pretty plants don’t sway my need to protect my heart, even from you, Hotch.”
“Spencer,” Hotch whispered, his face so close to Spencer’s own that he felt the brush of air at the call of his name. All it would take would be the barest of movements, just a simple tip forward and then they would be kissing. But he couldn’t, he wouldn’t be hurt like that again. “I’ll try my best never to hurt you. I sure as hell am never going to leave.”
Spencer wanted to gasp at the look in the deep brown eyes that seemed to be staring into his soul. His desire to believe was so complete that it felt like an ache deep inside but he knew better than to trust that.
“Don’t! Don’t make promises you can’t keep, Hotch.”
Aaron sighed as he tipped forward, pressing their foreheads together. “I can’t promise you I won’t hurt you, Spencer, but I can promise that I will do my best everyday. And we’ve known each other how long? Just over nine years? If I was going to leave, I would have done it by now, wouldn’t I? I’m not leaving, Spencer. It would take wild horses to drag me away.”
Spencer sighed, shaking his head as he pulled away.
“I can’t, Hotch. It…”
Before he could finish, Aaron was there his lips warm and insistent, pressing against his own. Spencer wanted to pull away, to deny that the kiss was affecting him, but a small moan bubbled up unbidden, rumbling low in his throat. He couldn't deny that he’d been attracted to the older man for a long time, nearly from the moment they’d met, but that didn’t matter, not when Spencer needed to protect himself. Then Aaron was chuckling, pulling him close.
“I know it’s not ideal, Spencer,” Aaron whispered in his hair as he tucked the younger man in close to his bare chest. “I won’t force you into anything but I will continue to pursue you because I think - no, I know we can be good together. Please just give me a chance. Give us a chance.”
Spencer let Aaron continue to hold him despite his desire to flee. It felt so good to be held like that. He ducked his head down, burying his nose in the juncture of Aaron’s neck and shoulder. He inhaled, sucking in the intoxicating scent unique to the older man. He wanted to run. He wanted to hide. He wanted to protect himself.
“Okay,” he whispered, despite himself. “Okay.”
Aaron had been true to his word. He gave Spencer his space, let him take things at his own pace. It was slow, so slow that he was sure Aaron would eventually give up, but he didn’t, wouldn’t. Aaron was a true Southern gentleman and he continued to woo the young genius with small, subtle gestures of his affection. There were quiet nights in the Tower Theatre, watching obscure foreign films, sharing popcorn with their heads pressed together while Spencer provided live translations when subtitles weren’t available. There were endless trips to the zoo or museums or gallery showings, sometimes with Jack, sometimes without.
Spencer smiled as he looked down at the card with the instructions in his hands. It only contained a time and suggestions for the wardrobe. Dressy but comfortable shoes, which meant that Aaron wanted to take him somewhere nice but it would be a walk and he had specifically directed Spencer to style his hair which meant Aaron intended to take pictures. That had been a shock for Spencer, being with someone who wanted to document their time together, keeping a record of the budding of their relationship.
He sat the card down and set about slipping into the clothes Aaron had suggested. Staring at the tight trousers, he decided to forgo underwear for the evening. If he was right, Aaron had plans for his body at the end of the night. Spencer knew they were getting to this but it was still a scary step. Physical affection led to words he didn’t want to hear, words he couldn’t return. Aaron was a good kisser and Spencer had enjoyed spending hours simply kissing on his couch when the older man came over or after Jack went to bed and they were sure they wouldn’t get caught. Spencer had been adamant that no one know about their relationship. He’d told Aaron it was to protect their positions at the FBI but they knew in reality it was that Spencer didn’t want the pity of the rest of the team once the relationship was over despite all of Aaron’s reassurances.
Slipping on the buttery soft navy button up, Spencer picked out a lilac waistcoat and matching tie. After pulling on a pair of socks, one with polka dots, the other with gold Starfleet insignias, he pulled out his favorite pair of all black Chuck Taylors. Standing before the mirror, he started to run his fingers through his unruly hair. He managed to get into some semblance of order before the curls fell over his forehead once again. Sighing, he slumped lightly before he felt strong slick fingers comb through his locks. Hazel eyes flew open to see amused dark brown eyes smiling at him in the mirror.
“It’s called hair gel, Spencer,” Aaron whispered, his voice soft and amused. “I bought it for you for a reason, you know.”
Spencer couldn’t help but chuckle in return. “I don’t know how to use that stuff.”
“Good thing I’m here then.”
When the fingers continued to thread through his hair, Spencer couldn’t help but let his eyes slipped closed, letting Aaron do as he pleased. Soon, he felt warm lips pressed against the skin of neck right below his right ear. He sighed as the kiss lingered, lips moving over his neck and down to the collar of his shirt. Blunt teeth scraped against the skin as Aaron near growled in frustration and Spencer could hardly hold in a chuckle.
“I’m sorry,” Aaron whispered as he placed one last kiss on the exposed flesh of Spencer’s neck. It was the same thing he said every time he thought he’d pushed Spencer a little too far.
“Please don’t apologize,” Spencer answered like he always did. “If you do something I don’t like, I’ll tell you.”
Once Aaron declared Spencer ready to go, they left, driving across town to a small, hole in the wall hotdog joint. Spencer looked around, shocked at the grease on the walls and cracked vinyl seats at the sparse bar.
“Aaron,” he whispered harshly as he looked around. “What are we…?”
A happy smirk met him over Aaron’s shoulder. “Trust me.”
Spencer followed the older man to the back of the room all the way to a bright red phone booth in the back. Aaron stepped in, motioning the younger man inside with him. Once they were able to get the door closed, Aaron picked up the receiver before dialing a number.
“Hotchner for two,” was all he said before he hung up the phone.
Just as Spencer started to ask the question, the back of the phone booth opened, revealing a lovely bar hidden behind.
“It’s a speakeasy.”
Aaron had the widest smile that Spencer couldn’t help but answer with a smile of his own. “An honest to god speakeasy?” he asked.
He looked around, shocked at the surprise. It was amazing. Dark, rich mahogany lined the room. Couples gathered together around the bar or at tables crammed in front of the small stage which held several different instruments scattered about.
A cute, dark-haired hostess approached them, looking every bit like a pin-up girl. She looked them both up and down for a moment before asking, “Table or booth?”
Aaron looked at Spencer and raised a single eyebrow. “Your choice.”
Spencer looked around quickly decided he wanted to be right in the middle of things.
They were seated off to the left hand side of the stage and immediately a waiter came over and placed glasses of water before them.
“How did you find this?”
Aaron chuckled lightly. “I have my ways,” Aaron answered, his smile brilliant and dimples popping.
Soon, a brilliant purple cocktail was placed before Spencer, followed by a lovely amber concoction given to Aaron. Taking a small taste, Spencer smiled. It was perfect.
“I’m not going to get to order tonight, am I?”
“Is that okay?” Aaron asked, suddenly unsure of himself.
Spencer thought for a moment. Was he ready for this step? Could he do this without giving away his heart? He looked up into the deep chocolate eyes regarding him and made a decision.
“Yeah,” he said with a smile. “It is okay.”
The evening was different, but interesting. Spencer was charmed by the theme of the speakeasy with its wait staff all dressed up and the themed cocktails. He made sure not to drink too much and to enjoy the food that Aaron had obviously had chosen for them specifically. The music was wonderful but not too loud that they couldn’t have a conversation. By the time their desserts and coffee arrived, Spencer was feeling warm and content.
“What is all this, Aaron?”
Aaron smiled over the top of his coffee mug. “I wanted to give us a date to remember. We need a little bit of fun. Our days are surrounded by ugliness and evil so I wanted to something different and fun that we can remember.”
Spencer couldn’t help but laugh. “I doubt either of us will forget this anytime soon.”
They smiled at each other, silence between them - easy and comfortable.
Finally, Aaron leaned forward, gripping Spencer’s long fingers in his own, right on top of the table. Spencer stared down at where their hands were joined in full view of anyone who cared to look. He was shocked that Aaron would make such a public display, not with their jobs, their history, and yet here they were, holding hands in public.
“Ready to go?” Aaron asked over the music.
Spencer nodded, surprised when they simply rose and left. He wondered when Aaron had paid for the the meal for them. Outside, the evening was cool without being cold so Aaron suggested that they walk instead of taking a cab. Spencer agreed, happy to take some time to let the alcohol wear out of his system since Aaron’s apartment wasn’t that far away. They hadn’t even made it halfway down the block before warm fingers threaded in his own and Spencer smiled as they walked along, hand in hand. He couldn’t believe that Aaron was here with him like this, holding hands in public where anyone could see them, could report them to the FBI, but Aaron didn’t seem to care so Spencer let that thought go.
It felt good - so good and that scared Spencer a little but he was determined to enjoy his night so he pushed those thoughts away.
Soon they were at their destination and Spencer wondered where the rest of their night would take them. Aaron practically dragged him inside, never once letting go of the fingers tangled in his own. Once the door was closed, Aaron turned them and pressed Spencer’s back against the door, leaning in until he was pressed against the front of him, connected shoulder to knee. When he spoke, his breath ghosted over Spencer’s face.
“Spencer, can I have you? Please?”
Spencer shuddered. It was something he’d wanted for a long time but it was a huge step and he worried that he would be giving away more than just his body.
“What about Jack?” he asked, his voice rough with desire.
Aaron smiled lightly, leaning in further. “He’s with Jessica for the night. Tonight is just us.”
Spencer sighed as he looked into dark, lust-filled eyes.
“Can I have you?” Aaron asked again.
Spencer didn’t know how many times Aaron would ask him that through their time together, all he knew was this time, this first time, was earthshaking.
“Yes,” he whispered, almost too quiet to hear.
Before he had finished the word, Aaron’s mouth was on his, kissing him, possessing him. They had kissed before, many times in fact, but this was different. The heat that travelled from their lips all over his body burned bright and made him arch away from the door, pressing further into the warm body against him.
Aaron wasted no time, his hands running all over Spencer’s body, searching, learning. He reached down, sliding his hands below the trim, lean thighs before quickly hoisting the smaller man up and quickly turning toward the bedroom. Aaron undressed him, slowly, reverently, touching, kissing and tasting every piece of skin that was exposed to him. Spencer had never felt so open and exposed but so safe and cared for at the same time. He did his best to just feel and enjoy but he couldn’t completely tune out the sweet words whispered in his ear or the sound of his name falling from Aaron’s lips as he came deep inside him.
The night was long as they came together again and again, resting or napping in between touches and kisses that seemed to consume them. By the time the sun was rising, they were tired and sore but they were each happier than they had ever been.
Spencer began to spend more and more time at Aaron’s apartment after that. They spent most of their time together when they were not on cases. Despite Aaron’s reassurances that he would never leave, Spencer still didn’t want to let everyone know about their relationship. They made a concession to each other - Aaron could tell Dave and Spencer could tell his mother. Other than that, they hid what they were to each other.
Things were good - until Mr. Scratch.
Spencer had never been so afraid in his life as when he saw Aaron’s face, bloodied and bruised as he sat on the back of the ambulance. Dave was with him, helping him, making Aaron tell him the story. Despite his protests, Aaron was packed into the back of the ambulance and taken to the hospital with Dave, leaving Spencer behind to finish up his reports. As soon as he was done with the paperwork, Spencer rushed to the hospital, needing to assure himself that Aaron was alright.
He found his way to the wing Aaron was resting in, slowly walking up to the doorway, trying to remain silent, not wanting to startle the traumatized man. As he approached the door, he waited, listening in when he heard Dave begin to speak.
“What is it, Aaron? Why is this still bothering you?”
There was a sound of frustration and a noise that sounded like someone was repeatedly hitting a mattress.
“I can’t explain it, Dave. It was real, it was so real. I know he was manipulating me, trying to find out my deepest fears, but it was all so real. I heard the shots. I felt the blood splash my face. But when JJ screamed that Spence was down, it felt like my whole world had been pulled out from beneath me. Spencer died and I never got to tell him how I feel. It was just like Haley all over again, having to hear it and not be able to do a thing to help. The love of my life was taken away from me and I couldn’t do anything to stop it.”
Spencer silently gasped at the doorway. Love of his life? Spencer didn’t know what to do with that information but he heard the panic in Rossi’s voice as he tried to calm Aaron. Noting the telltale signs of a panic attack, Spencer walked into the room, making his presence known. As soon as Aaron saw him, dark, pleading eyes drew him forward.
“Spencer,” Aaron whispered, the sound strangled and rough.
Spencer quickly strode to the side of the bed, allowing himself to be wrapped up in the older man’s arms.
“I’m here, Aaron,” he whispered, keeping his voice even and calm as he poured out all the reassurance he could. “I’m here and I’m fine, see? I’m just fine.”
Aaron ran his hands all over the younger man, making sure he was okay, that he was uninjured. Spencer let him, knowing that Aaron needed this after all he’d been through.
“Spencer. I thought you were dead. He showed me - said you were. I thought you were gone and I’d never see you - never get to tell you.”
“I know, Aaron. It’s okay.”
“NO! I have to say it. You have to know. I love you, Spencer. I love you, Spencer Reid.”
He continued to say it, the words falling from his lips as if he couldn’t stop them. Spencer looked up to see that Rossi had left. He was happy for that. He didn’t want to have witnesses to this because then someone would know how Aaron poured out his heart, declared his love while Spencer sat, silent and still, mute despite his desire to say something, to repeat the words back to him, but holding back, still afraid to give over his heart.
After that, Aaron felt no need to hold back. His declarations of love given freely and often. Any time they were alone, he told Spencer he loved him - in front of Jack or Jessica, it didn’t matter. He poured out his heart every time they made love, his desire and passion evident in every touch, kiss or bite. Spencer soaked it all in, basking in the love, but still not completely able to believe or return it. Aaron said it didn’t matter, wouldn’t matter to him if Spencer never said it. It would still be true for him.
One day, Spencer came home and was surprised at the mood in the apartment. Aaron was practically bouncing around the apartment, as if he was trying really hard to be happy - or make someone else think he was happy.
As soon as Spencer was close, Aaron swooped in, kissing the genius firmly on his lips.
“Hello my Love. You’re just on time. Dinner is about to be served.”
Spencer shook his head, chuckling at the odd behavior.
“What’s up, Aaron?” He asked.
“Why does anything have to be up? Maybe I just wanted to do something nice for the two most important men in my life?”
Spencer turned toward Jack who had a equally suspicious look on his face.
“Because you’re acting weird, Dad.”
Aaron just snorted and turned to head into the kitchen. “Think whatever you’d like. I’m just about ready to eat. How about you?”
Spencer turned to look at the boy. “How long has he been like this?”
Jack shrugged. “Ever since he came to pick me up and Principal Kircher asked to talk to him.”
They considered each other for several long minutes until they finally shrugged, following Aaron into the kitchen when the older man shouted out, “Hurry up, slow pokes! Your dinner’s getting cold!”
Later that night, after Jack had gone to bed, Aaron curled up behind Spencer in the bed, spooning him from behind. Soft kisses brushed the back of his neck, nose nuzzling beneath his chestnut curls. He loved moments like this, just the two of them, quiet and calm. Slowly, Aaron pulled away, rolling Spencer onto his back before bracing himself over him, connecting them ankle to rib cage.
“Let’s go away,” he said, shocking Spencer into silence.
“What?” He gasped eventually.
“Let’s go away. You, me, Jack. We’ll take your mom and Jessica too. We can go to all those places we’ve never got a chance to see before. Take your mom to Paris and London. Take Jack to Disney World and Universal Studios to see Harry Potter World. We can go explore Canada or Mexico. It’ll be an adventure.”
Spencer laughed - actually laughed out loud at the notion. “Go away. We can’t just go away. We have jobs, Aaron.”
“I know. But we both have a ton of time banked since we never really take a vacation. I mean, honestly, when have any of us taken any real time since the Fisher King case? We deserve it.”
“What about the team?” Spencer asked.
“The team will be fine. There are plenty of great agents that can fill in for us for a little while. I’m not talking forever, Spencer. But can’t we have time for us?”
Spencer smiled up at him, wrapping his arms around Aaron’s strong neck. “We take plenty of time for us, maybe too much. I haven’t seen Morgan at all this month and he’s starting to get testy about it. I love the idea of doing something, just us, but we have responsibilities, ones that I just can’t ignore.”
Aaron studied him for a moment, his dark eyes searching for something he apparently didn’t see. He leaned down, pressing a soft chaste kiss to Spencer’s lips. When the younger man tried to deepen the kiss, Aaron pulled away to stare at him again.
“Do you ever think you’re going to leave the FBI?” he asked quietly.
“Why would I ever leave?” Spencer asked, his lips twisted up in a half smirk before pulling himself up to place a needy kiss on the mouth before him. “I have everything I need. Good friends, a great boss, a job I love. They’d have to throw me in jail and toss out the key before I’d leave the BAU.”
Aaron just chuckled as he stared down at him before laying down completely, blanketing Spencer with his body. He began tracing small kisses over the strong jaw down to the long, sleek neck, hinting with small nips and gentle scrapes of teeth to show his intent.
“Can I have you, Spencer?”
Spencer smiled at the familiar request.
Spencer sighed and arched his back, leaning into the kisses and bites, relishing every mark that Aaron left behind where only he would see. Aaron took his time taking him apart and Spencer cherished every minute of it. He felt whole and complete. He felt possessed and owned and it was like nothing he had ever felt before.
Afterward, they lay together in bed, Spencer on his back and Aaron wrapped around him, holding him tight as he slowly fell asleep. Spencer stared off into the darkness of the night, listening as the older man’s breathing evened out and his body went slack against him. Spencer was sure Aaron was asleep, but still he waited, wanting to be sure.
Finally, much later into the night, Spencer whispered into the darkness, “I love you, Aaron Hotchner.”
The next morning there was a lot of commotion as the three men rushed around, trying to get ready for the day. Spencer noticed that Aaron was hanging back, looking over them as he and Jack were working on getting Jack’s shoes on.
“Aaron?” He asked. “What’s going on?
“What do you mean?”
Spencer sighed. “You have been acting weird since yesterday. You seem distracted and you’re making me nervous.”
Aaron regarded him for a moment before confessing, “A man approached Jack’s school.” When Spencer shot a panicked look first at Aaron, then at Jack who was sitting at his feet, putting on his shoes and refusing to make eye contact with either of them, Aaron continued. “A man who looks vaguely like Peter Lewis.”
“What? He’s stalking you?” Spencer asked.
“Maybe.” Aaron sighed, rubbing his hands through his hair. “I don’t know. The camera footage is fuzzy at best. He didn’t actually approach the school so he’s too far away to get an actual ID but one of the security guards approached him and he laughed and hurried away before they could talk to him.”
“What are you going to do?” Spencer asked.
“I don’t know.”
When Jack’s head shot up and stared at Aaron, he nearly deflated. Spencer watched them before prompting, “Aaron..?”
“It’s out of my hands,” he said with a sigh. “Cruz and the AD are taking care of it.”
Spencer smiled. He knew they were in good hands.
“Well, we won’t anything happen to you...either of you.”
Jack jumped up quickly from where he’d finished getting his shoes on, wrapping his arms around Spencer’s neck and squeezing tight. After shooting a concerned look at his lover, Spencer returned the hug.
“Don’t worry, Jack. Remember, this is what the BAU does.”
“I know,” the boy murmured in his neck, refusing to lift his head. “It’s just...I don’t wanna go.”
Spencer chuckled as he pulled the boy away, gently swiping away his tears. “You’ll be just fine. You don’t think your dad or I would let you get hurt do you? Or go somewhere that’s not safe? Trust me. Your school will be the safest place for you today.”
Jack looked at Aaron over Spencer’s shoulders. Aaron must have done something to make Jack feel better because he leaned forward again, giving Spencer another tight hug.
“Thanks, Spence,” he said.
Spencer smiled at the name.
“Of course, Jack. I care about you.”
‘’We care about you too, Spence, don’t we, Dad?”
He turned to see Aaron nearly beaming at him. “Yeah, Buddy. Yeah we do.”
They finished getting ready and as soon as Jack was through the door, Aaron stopped Spencer and gave him a sweet, tender kiss.
“Thank you,” he whispered against Spencer’s lips.
“For being so good to Jack.”
Spencer dropped his head. “It’s not a chore, you know. He’s a great kid and has a great dad.”
Aaron’s knuckled trailed over his cheek, dark eyes boring into his soul.
“I love you, Spencer Reid.”
“I know,” Spencer smirked.
Aaron chuckled and leaned in for another kiss. “Never forget that, okay?”
“LIke you’d ever let me.”
Aaron ushered him out the door and they rushed off to make the day happen.
As soon as they were in the BAU, Aaron closed himself off in his office. It wasn’t long before he had several visitors. Spencer, of course, recognized Mateo Cruz and the AD, but there were several other people that he didn’t know. He tried to watch surreptitiously while he continued to work through his case files. They stayed in Aaron’s office for one hour, seventeen minutes and forty seconds. In that time, Aaron had only talked approximately fourteen minutes from Spencer’s observation. They all left, leaving Aaron alone in his office. Spencer stood, ready to go talk to his boss, but Rossi slipped through the door before Spencer could even leave his cubicle.
As he sank back down into his chair, Tara leaned over and asked, “What do you think is going on up there?”
Spencer shook his head, his eyes never leaving the windows to Aaron’s office. “I’m not sure.” He thought about confessing his worry to his team, but that was Aaron’s story to tell, not his.
Just as Rossi opened the office door, Spencer’s cell phone vibrated. Seeing that it was Aaron, he opened the screen and quickly read the message.
I’m being sent out on special assignment. Leaving right away.
Spencer frowned at the phone before typing back a reply. Because of Scratch?
Y was the only reply.
There was no immediate response and Spencer was sure his heart had just dropped down into his stomach.
Finally, he read, Don’t know.
He looked up as he finished reading the last message, noting the agents that had entered Aaron’s office. Anderson was standing in the doorway, hanging back from the others. Aaron was obviously speaking to them and by the look on their faces it wasn’t a pleasant conversation.
The phone vibrated and Spencer looked down before smiling.
Remember, I love you, Spencer Reid. Take care of yourself.
He looked up as Aaron left his office, his go-bag in hand, with the other agents close behind.
You too, Hotch
As he walked by on the catwalk, Aaron nodded at him, his mouth set in a thin, hard line. Spencer nodded back as he tried to smile and put as much courage behind it as he could.
Once he was gone, Rossi stepped down into the bullpen before addressing them all.
“Aaron has been selected for a special assignment that’s going to take him out of the area for a while. It’s a top secret assignment so he’s not going to be able to contact us for a while. But we will all do our best to carry on without him while he’s away. Any questions?”
The rest of the team looked around at each other before JJ asked, “What about Jack?”
Rossi just nodded. “They’ve made arrangements.”
Spencer noticed that Dave was not making eye contact with him. He wondered if that was because the older profiler was afraid of giving away Spencer's relationship with Aaron.
“So we don’t get to know?” JJ surmised.
“Basically,” Rossi said with a nod. “But let’s not let him down. Even if he’s not here, he’s still our Unit Chief. So everyone get to work.”
They all nodded, agreeing as one as they turned back to their desks, getting back to work. Before he left, Rossi came over and dropped a strong hand on Spencer’s shoulder. He looked up and smiled at the older profiler who looked at him with a sad smile on his face. He nodded, letting Rossi know he was okay. He had faith Aaron would be alright and back soon.
They got a case that was luckily close to home. Spencer found it slightly difficult to concentrate, especially with his mother’s worsening condition. He hated having his attention split in two but there was nothing else to do. Things were not going well with the study and he worried what would happen to her.
Another case came and went and still there was no word from Aaron. They’d been told that his assignment would take him out of cell range and Spencer wondered if Aaron was back in the Middle East. Spencer was happy to have Emily back. Her return was like a balm to his wounded soul but nothing could replace the loss of Aaron, their true Unit Chief.
At the end of the following case, Spencer knew something was wrong - very, really wrong. When Dave told them about Scratch stalking Aaron and Jack, he felt his breath catch. He’d known about that but didn’t truly believe it was that bad. Suddenly, all the pieces fit into place - the men who came that day, Aaron asking him to go away. Even Jack knew. He’d told Spencer goodbye that last morning, hugging him tight as if he didn’t want to let go.
Spencer didn’t hear anything after that. He knew Emily was talking, probably saying something grand and profound about Aaron’s time at the BAU and as a father or whatever bullshit she needed to say to take over his job but Spencer didn’t hear any of it. All he heard was the words that Aaron had whispered in his ear when he had taken Spencer that last time - words of love and devotion pouring from his lips after Spencer had all but laughed at him when Aaron had suggested they go away together.
Aaron had suggested they go away. He’d asked Spencer to go with him - hell, he’d nearly begged but Spencer was too selfish to see it. Aaron had told him he loved him and now he would never get to hear the words back because Spencer couldn’t bring himself to do it. The last thing he’d said to him was ‘You too, Hotch’.
Once they were all excused for the evening, Spencer made a beeline out of Quantico. JJ had asked he if wanted to come over as had Rossi but Spencer quickly turned them down. As he rushed off to his vehicle, he shot off text after text to Aaron’s phone, none showing as delivered. Giving up on that, he quickly called the number, not at all surprised to get a recording that it had been disconnected. A call to Jessica’s phone revealed the same thing. He raced across town and tried to use his key to get into Aaron’s apartment but the locks had been changed. Not to be deterred, Spencer pulled out his lockpick kit and had the front door open in no time. He burst through the door and found a surprised looking family staring at him from their dining room table.
“I’m sorry,” he stumbled as they all stared at each other in shock. “I thought this was my friend’s apartment.”
The man, who had stood to confront the intruder, stepped forward. “We moved in here over two weeks ago.”
Over two weeks. Aaron had been gone longer than that and not once had Spencer tried to reach him. How could he be so stupid!
“Was there…” He thought it was stupid to ask, but he needed to regardless. “Was there a note or anything left in the apartment?”
The family all looked at each other.
“No,” the father said finally. “Nothing that we ever found.”
It made sense. Aaron wouldn't want to leave him with a letter just like Spencer’s father or Jason. Aaron had told him he never wanted to say goodbye to Spencer. This way - he never had.
“I’m sorry for disturbing your dinner,” Spencer said as he turned to leave, closing the door behind him. His feet moved of their own accord, leading him away from the apartment where he’d last seen his love.
He sighed as he walked to the park, the same one he’d sat at by himself too many times before. He found the familiar swing, the one that held memories of mourning the loss of his mother’s memories or having his best friend at work with him every day, a comforting presence helping him through the toughest of days. He’d rested there even before then, contemplating the loss of Maeve or Jason.
He couldn’t help but analyze the reason why he was here in this park well after dark. His years of training and education pointed directly to the fact that he had lost huge chunks of his childhood to other pursuits – pursuits that had made him happy, without a doubt, but a lost childhood all the same. He had some memories of his mother pushing him on a swing so similar to this one, encouraging him to pump his legs, to kick harder, to swing higher. With just a bit of plastic and two lengths of chain, Spencer, a skinny, lanky nerd felt like he could fly – but not now. Now he sat, slowly rocking back and forth, his toes digging long channels of dirt beneath him as he thought about all he’d lost.
Of course, that was not the only reason why he’d come to this particular park. Years before, he’d come here, hidden under the cover of darkness, all under the guise of needing a quiet place to hide, to think, when in reality, he knew someone would find him.
He wondered if he would be found again.
Because he wanted it – no, he needed it. For the first time in many years, he was willing to bend to that need because he was broken and the only thing that would calm that pain was the numbness that he craved. There was a hole in his heart. One that he was determined would never, ever be filled again.
He suddenly had a thought, maybe it was him. Maybe he wasn’t made to be loved when everyone had to leave him. He’d had a chance with Aaron but he let it all go because he wanted to protect his heart. But all he had left was a broken heart and a broken mother. He sat on the swing, digging his toes in the dirt as the night closed in around him, the darkness of the night matching the darkness in his soul.
He sat and thought about Aaron and Jack and everything they had been to each other, could have been to each other. He ignored the tears that poured down his cheeks as he re-lived every beautiful moment they had spent together until finally he heard someone approaching him.
“Hey, Doc!” the voice called out of the darkness. “Haven’t seen you in long time. Been missing you.”
Spencer wiped his face and shoved his hands in his pockets. He felt the coin in his pocket, reminding him of all he was about to say goodbye to. But he had already said goodbye to so much, what was one more thing?
The man moved in close, smiling down at Spencer with his dirty teeth and greasy hair. It felt like a lifetime ago since he’d seen him last but it also seemed like a lifetime since he’d been in Aaron’s arms. Knowing now that that was all gone, Spencer sighed.
Spencer shook his head. “I’m going to need something stronger.”
“You got it.”
Soon, Spencer was headed back to his apartment, his pockets heavy and his heart empty. He had pushed his love away because he was afraid of being hurt when it was his fault all along. He could wait until he got home, to be someplace where he could lose himself in his memories and be numb for a while, and do the one thing he was way too good at - saying goodbye.