If I can live through this,
I can do anything.
-Fall Out Boy, 'Champion'
“You destroyed my life, Spence.”
Spencer sat alone at the dining room table, a steaming cup of coffee cradled in his hands, warming his palms as he stared blankly at the wall in front of him....
“I'm—I'm sorry. Parker, please—”
He worried his bottom lip between his teeth, trying his best to ignore the small twinge of anxiety that was slowly creeping in, chipping away at his defenses....
“Where's the kid?”
“He's....he's not important. He's just a little boy, Parker, please....you don't need him. Just leave him out of this.”
The house was quiet, almost eerily so, save for the ticking of the clock in the living room and the low hum of the refrigerator behind him.
And his thoughts.
His thoughts were quite emphatically not quiet.
On the contrary; they were the exact opposite. They were loud and boisterous, screaming, screeching inside him like a raging storm, deadly, violent, running rampant....
“Tell me why I should. Give me one good reason, Spencer.”
Flashes of memory, of sights and sounds and smells—devastatingly vivid and achingly familiar—were flitting across his psyche in a constant rushing stream, threatening to throw him into a full blown panic attack....
“I'll do whatever you want. Is that a good enough reason for you?”
He hated that he could still feel the ghost of hot breath lingering on his face; still sense phantom fingers holding him down beneath a heavy shadow; still hear the echo of Parker's icy words filling his mind.
Even now, almost a year later....
“You’ll do....whatever I want?”
His grip tightened instinctively around the coffee cup, and he screwed his eyes firmly shut as the tiniest whimper escaped his throat....
“Careful, baby....those delicious little noises you make drive me crazy.”
He bit down hard on the inside of his cheek, stifling a sob that wanted to claw its way up and out of him. He was desperately trying to fight off the memories that were viciously assaulting him, pushing at him, attempting to break through his cracking resolve....
“I hope you know I'm gonna want so many things from you.”
“I don't care.”
Suddenly, and without warning, everything shattered.
It all just felt like too much for him to handle.
Too much, too fast, too loud.
His heart was instantly in his throat, his pulse roaring in his ears, deafening his senses as hot tears stung his eyes....
“Let's just go. I'll go with you right now, wherever you want, I promise.”
This wasn’t right.
Something was wrong. So, so wrong.
It was a dark and hateful thing, squeezing his chest, a heavy pressure—like a band wrapping tight around him—making it almost too difficult to breathe....
“Park, you can do whatever you want to me. I really don't care. Let's—Let's just go. Now. Please....”
He tried to calm himself down, tried to focus on anything else—the comfort of his surroundings, the house that had become his home, Aaron and Jack—anything at all to steady his rapidly climbing heart rate, that jack-rabbit beat pounding against his ribs, but it just wasn’t enough.
He couldn’t concentrate....
“You're such a tempting little minx, aren't you?”
He was failing, and he was falling....
“So filthy....and so eager. Exactly how I like you....I'm gonna hold you to it, Spence.”
He could feel himself succumbing to the attack, his mind slipping back into that horrible day....
“Now....there's my good boy....”
That horrible fucking day when his worst nightmare had invaded his safe haven....
“No no no no....”
Tried to steal him away from the ones he loved....
“Please....no....I—I don't want this....I don't....”
Tried to destroy everything he held dear....
That chilling voice surrounded him, ripping him further and further from reality....
“Relax, baby....I can make it feel good....it doesn't have to hurt. You like it when I make you feel good....”
And plunging him right back into his own personal hell....
Parker's weight pinned him down, keeping him in place, pushing him into the mattress as the man's tongue thrust deep into his mouth....probing, invading, devouring.
He couldn't breathe; it was suffocating.
He felt a shiver run down his spine, his stomach churning as greedy hands began to roam, nails dragging sharply along the curves and planes of his body, hungrily tearing at his shirt, his pants, dipping underneath the loose fabric to reach flushed skin.
The smell of cinnamon filled the air, spicy and sweet, wretched and nauseating.
Hips ground down into his own, firm flesh and unrelenting insistence rutting against him; and heated arousal trickled down low in his belly as a result, settling heavy there, teasing him, mocking him.
He felt disgusted with himself at his body's so obvious betrayal.
He couldn't do this—he couldn't stomach it.
He just couldn't.
It was sick, perverse.
He couldn't pretend to be interested in what was happening to him, what was being forced on him against his fucking will.
Before he could think better of it or stop himself his hands were moving of their own volition, palms flush with Parker's chest, trying in vain to push him away; trying to get some semblance of space....of distance....of fucking relief. He wildly punched out at any part of the other man he could reach, clawing and screaming, thrashing his anger into the air around them.
A moment later, though, striking pain lanced through his jaw as the gun that had been digging into his neck made brutal contact with his face; and everything stopped.
He stopped fighting.
His head snapped to the side, his body stilled from the shock of the impact, and he grit his teeth as he let out a strangled cry. All he could do was try to breathe through the throbbing ache that was slowly taking over his existence, his eyes clenched tightly shut as another whimper escaped his throat.
“If you try something like that again,” Parker hissed in his ear, his breath hot, voice menacing, “I'll find the kid....and I'll fucking kill him.”
“NO!” Terror coiled deep within him at the threat, taking him over; and he opened his eyes, meeting the man's rage-filled gaze. “Please, no!” he sobbed, begged, “I-I-I'm sorry....I promise, I'll....I'll do whatever you say!"
He tried not to flinch away as the gun came back up to his face, the barrel sliding roughly down his cheek, then farther, following the line of his neck and shoulder.
“If you try anything,” Parker snarled, vicious and calculated, a furious rage simmering in his tone as he leaned in close, “I'll kill that kid, and I'll make you watch while I do it.” Cold metal ran along the length of Spencer's arm, stopping at the crook of his elbow, the front sight digging sharply into his flesh....just like a fucking needle. The sensation, and the sick implication of it, sent another chill surging through him, tears pricking his eyes and bile rising to the back of his throat. “And then, after I'm done with him, I'll shoot you so full of drugs that you won't even know who the fuck you are anymore.” Parker smirked at him, bringing the gun back up to rest gently against his chin, “And I'll fucking keep you like that, Spence.”
A hand landed on his shoulder, fingers squeezing lightly, and the contact had his mind and body both jerking back into the present moment with a shuddered gasp.
“Spencer, honey....” Hotch was immediately there, kneeling beside him, in his space, worry furrowing his brow and trepidation laced in his voice. “Hey, what is it? What's wrong?”
He didn't say anything in answer. To be quite honest, he really didn't know if he could say anything at that particular moment in time. His throat felt too tight, his chest too heavy. So instead, he closed his eyes, just breathing deeply, slowly, taking in Aaron's familiar scent and letting it ground him, surround him, ease his trembling muscles and calm his thundering heart.
He was safe, and he was home, and everything was alright.
He knew that.
Of course he knew that.
He had no doubt whatsoever that he was safe, but it had been a very stressful few weeks to say the least, and he was still reeling from all the emotions swirling around in his head—still dealing with a renewed surge of flashbacks and panic attacks.
“Spencer, come on....talk to me.” Aaron’s hand moved down from his shoulder to rest on his thigh, a gentle, reassuring pressure, “Please, baby. Just tell me how you're doing.”
“Hmm?” he asked, distracted, opening his eyes and looking back over to Hotch. He met the other man's intense gaze as he finally came fully out of his rampaging thoughts.
“After everything,” Aaron slowly elaborated for him, “How are you doing after everything that's happened?”
“I honestly don’t know,” he sighed.
And that was the honest to god truth; he really didn’t know how he was doing. He was in shock. Numb, maybe. Surprised. Possibly relieved beyond imagination. Other than that, he had no idea how he was supposed to feel. Not now, not after everything.
Now that it was all said and done, all over.
It was really over.
That thought alone was enough to send him reeling, the reality of it almost overwhelming him.
It was all over.
The cross examination.
Over the last two weeks, he’d had to relive every horrible thing Parker had ever done to him. Every single hit, and punch, and kick; every hissed threat; every deceptively tender touch used to ease all the aches and pains those same hands had given to him.
He'd been forced to play every moment over and over again, like a broken record, repeating the facts to everyone who'd needed to hear them.
Every icy word that Parker had said to him had slithered its way back into to forefront of his mind—and subsequently, back into his dreams as well—until their ghosts were haunting him throughout day and night alike.
It had been months, months, since he’d had a nightmare that came anywhere close to the magnitude of the ones he used to have when he'd first moved in with Hotch. But since the trial had begun, he'd woken up in a cold sweat more nights than not, his heart pounding wildly out of his chest as he gasped for air.
But Aaron, bless him, had always been right there. Of course. He'd been there every time Spencer had jolted awake with a sob, pulling him into strong arms and protecting him from all the monsters lurking in the dark. Softly murmured assurances always helped to soothe away the tremors coursing through him, and the warmth of Aaron's body worked to ease him back to sleep every night. It had been just like in the beginning, really, when he’d first moved into the Hotchner residence and Aaron’s presence had been the only consistent thing that could keep the night terrors away.
“Do you want me to call Boone?” Hotch asked, hesitantly, “I know he was over here last night, but he said he’d be available today, too, if you needed anything.”
Reid smiled then, just a small little thing, a minute curve of his lips at the mention of his friend. He'd called him the night before, freaking out about the upcoming sentencing, and Boone had come over to help him piece together his feelings on the whole ordeal. They’d all grown surprisingly close over the last several months, and he was beyond thankful for the support, but he didn’t think it was necessary to bother the man again. There was another meeting in a few days anyway; he could make it until then. “No,” he finally answered, quietly, when he noticed the increasing concern marring Aaron’s face, “You're here. That's really all I need right now.”
The declaration had Hotch smiling lightly back at him, a hand coming up to run gentle fingers through his hair; and he couldn't help but press into the tender touch. “Okay,” he softly murmured, “If you’re sure.”
He was absolutely sure.
He knew he wasn’t quote-unquote ‘fine’ by any means, but he was okay at the very least. Or, he wouldbe okay, eventually, now that the trial was over.
He sighed at the thought.
The trial was over, and he’d testified.
He’d taken the stand and explained—in excruciating detail—exactly what had been done to him.
It hadn't been easy.
It had been one of the hardest things he'd ever done.
He’d been forced to look at crime scene photographs from both attacks, the one inside Parker's home and the one from Aaron's; images of shattered glass, cracked plaster, broken furniture, and bloody sheets had stared back at him, taunting him, laughing at him. He’d cringed at the pictures of his own body, pale and bruised and beaten, on display for all to see under the harsh lighting of an emergency room. He’d been brutally cross examined by the defense, his character ruthlessly attacked until he’d been shaken to his very core, until he'd barely known which way was up or down; but he’d still managed to get through it and walk out of that courtroom with his head held high, knowing that he’d done exactly what he’d needed to do. All the while, furious crystal blue eyes had met his, locking their gazes and boring into him. It had felt like they'd never left him, even following him as he’d made his way back to the gallery, back to Aaron's side. Parker had looked downright murderous the whole time, which had done absolutely nothing to ease his frazzled nerves.
But still....he’d fucking done it.
He’d fought his goddamned demons and he’d won. He’d come face to face with his flesh and blood nightmare—the real life monster of his own twisted little tale, fire licking at his feet the entire time—and he’d come out of the experience victorious in the end. In that moment it hadn’t mattered what the verdict was going to inevitably be; the only thing that had truly mattered to him was the fact that he’d gotten through it.
He’d risen above all of his fears, his doubts, his anxieties; and he’d fought back.
He'd come out the other side stronger.
Reid sensed Hotch lifted up from the knelt position by his side, then heard as the man pulled the chair next to him out from under the table and took a seat. The sound of the wooden feet scraping against the tile floor was loud in the stillness of the room, and it startled him out of his reverie.
“Spencer, Love, you’re too quiet,” Aaron pressed, his voice soft and gentle, almost timid, “You’re scaring me a little bit here. Please say something. Let me know you’re really okay.”
“I’m okay.” It was a knee jerk response, and his voice sounded hoarse to his own ears, but it was the truth nonetheless. He cleared his throat, swallowed, took a breath and focused on the other man. “I am. Really, Aaron, I’m....I'm doing okay.”
“Alright,” Aaron acquiesced, wiping a strand of hair off Spencer's forehead with a feather-light touch. “You did so well in that courtroom,” he continued, “You were a superhero in there. I hope you know how proud I am of you.”
He nodded, smiling faintly at the memory the sentiment brought back to him....
“So, you're like a superhero?” Jack asked, staring at Spencer with child-like wonder sparkling in his wide brown eyes.
He had to hold back a self-deprecating laugh at the ridiculousness of the question, especially considering his current condition. He was sitting in the Hotchner dining room, bruises covering his body, a splint on his wrist, and no home to speak of....all because he'd let his boyfriend beat on him, force himself on him. He'd just taken it, submitted, allowed Parker to do all those horrible things to him.
He wasn't at all like a superhero.
In fact, he was pretty certain that he was the exact opposite of a hero.
“Well....” he shook his head, “I wouldn't say that—“
“Yes,” Aaron interrupted his answer, giving him that same warm look he'd given him before. The look that said so many things without actually uttering a single one of them. It said, I believe in you, I'm proud of you, you're stronger than you think you are . It was a look that made him kind of melt, a warmth radiating through his chest. “He's exactly like a superhero.”
“I know you're proud, Hotch. I do.” He took Aaron's hand, threading their fingers together before bringing them both up to his mouth and placing a kiss along the man's knuckles. “I’m just kind of having a difficult time believing it’s truly over, you know? It's hard to think that he’s really gone this time, and that I’ll probably never have to see him again. He won’t be able to hurt me, or anyone else again.”
“No, he won’t,” Hotch said, lowly, full of conviction and righteous fury, “Never again.”
Reid gave him another small nod, willing his body to relax; then he closed his eyes once more and let his mind drift back to the week before, back to the moment everything had snapped into focus....
The room fell silent, everyone's attention instantly aimed toward the front of the room, anticipation heavy in the air as his eyes tracked each and every member of the jury. They were slowly filing back into the courtroom, moving to take their seats inside the jury box after completing their deliberations. Unfortunately for Spencer, their faces gave absolutely nothing of what they'd decided away, and his heart rate spiked as he gripped tight to Aaron’s hand.
He had no idea what to expect.
He nervously worried his bottom lip between his teeth, and he felt Aaron’s hold on his hand increase.
“Will the defendant please rise.”
At the request, Reid's entire body tensed, his anxiety skyrocketing tenfold as he watched Parker slowly stand up, smoothing out the wrinkles in his designer clothes after he was on his feet.
It wasn't fair.
It really, really wasn't fair.
The man looked effortlessly put together, flawless, like he’d just stepped out of a fucking GQ magazine spread instead of a goddamn holding cell. He wore an impeccable dark charcoal gray suit with a crisp white dress shirt underneath, and his hair was messy in a way that seemed very deliberate—and very familiar. A way Spencer had always liked it, honestly. Intentionally ruffled. Pretentious. The shaggy coif framed his ex's sharp features perfectly, and accentuated his piercing blue eyes....eyes that shot an icy cold glare in his direction before turning to fully face the bench.
He knew that frigid stare all too well, and it stabbed deep into his chest, like an ice pick, carving out his heart and stealing his breath away.
It kind of made him want to throw up.
“Will the jury foreperson please stand?” Judge Richards asked then, and a petite red head in a floral print blouse and a sensible black pencil skirt rose to her feet, an envelope held deftly in her manicured hands.
Reid couldn’t take his eyes off the paper. He honed in on it, everything else in the room melting away as he stared, scrutinizing it, studying it. It was funny how such a little thing could be so important. How something that small could be so significant—mean so much to someone else's future.
“Has the jury reached a unanimous verdict on all the charges presented?”
“We have, Your Honor,” the woman solemnly replied, handing over the envelope to the court clerk.
Spencer watched every movement in a sort of hazy slow motion: the clerk walking toward the bench....the judge taking the envelope....opening it....pulling out the slip of paper nestled within....silently reading it....returning it....handing it back over. It all seemed so dramatic and drawn out, taking much longer than it should; and he felt his body fidgeting throughout the entire exchange, his nails now digging deep into the soft flesh of Aaron’s hand in an attempt to calm his nerves.
This was it.
This was the moment he had been waiting for—the moment he had been working toward, yet kind of dreading at the same time.
The moment of truth, as it were.
This moment was going to change his life forever. No matter what happened right here and right now, whatever the outcome, he would finally have some sort of closer.
He’d have answers.
But still, just knowing that the man who'd hurt him so deeply—the man who’d betrayed him, who’d raped and beaten him, who’d threatened his family and done his best to try and break him—could essentially be locked away from the rest of society for the foreseeable future was enough to have his stomach doing somersaults and his heart trying to hammer its way out of his chest. Unfortunately, he also realized that that same man could potentially end up walking away from all this with nothing more than a few years to serve and a hefty fine, and his once excited stomach lurched at the thought of the injustice. He would be okay if that happened, because he'd have to be; but it would certainly make coping with things much more difficult for him moving forward.
Aaron's other hand, the one that wasn't currently trapped in Reid’s death grip, began to soothingly rub up and down along his arm; and he tried to focus on that simple point of contact as he continued to watch the clerk at the front of the room. The man glanced back down to the paper he held before bringing his gaze up to meet Parker's; then, in a calm and stoic voice, he began listing off every offense, followed by the accompanying ruling.
“For the charge of aggravated sexual assault, the jury finds the defendant, Parker Joseph Simmons....guilty.”
A breath punched out of him unexpectedly, completely catching him off guard. It was harsh and quick, like a bolt of lightning burning the air directly from his lungs; and heat immediately began to prickle behind his eyes, hot tears welling up at the very sound of that one single, solitary, beautiful word.
Everything he'd gone through over the last two years—all the pain, and the humiliation, and the fear; all the scars, physical and mental; all the isolation and feeling like he was never good enough, never worth anything, never wanted—it was all being avenged right here, right now, right in front of his eyes.
Parker wasn't going to get away with what he’d done. He hadn't gotten away with it. He was going to pay for his crimes.
“For the charge of aggravated sexual battery, the jury finds the defendant guilty.”
He was going to pay for each and every fucking one of them.
Spencer felt Aaron’s arm move to wrap around his shoulders, pulling him in close, helping to keep him upright when he thought he might just fall over from the sheer shock of what he was hearing. He took a deep, shuddering breath, and then another, and another, swallowing down the lump of emotion growing thick in his throat as waves of relief slowly washed over him. The tension in his body and mind began to trickle away, fading a little bit more with every new guilty verdict he heard.
“For the charge of assault with a deadly weapon, the jury finds the defendant guilty,” the clerk continued on, and Spencer just sat there, soaking it all in, reveling in it, letting tears of relief fall down his face, “For the charge of drug possession with the intent to harm, the jury finds the defendant guilty. For the charge of attempted second degree murder, the jury finds the defendant guilty....”
Guilty, guilty, guilty.
At one point Hotch leaned close and murmured something in his ear, but he really couldn't decipher the meaning of any of the words, only the calm tone with which they were delivered. That seemed to be the most important part, anyway. The voice. The soft, low cadence was soothing to him, and the rumble of Aaron’s chest against his side helped to ground him in the moment, giving him the strength he needed to raise his head and look back up toward the front of the room.
Back to the jury, and the judge, and the bailiff standing off to the side.
Back to Parker, still and tense beside his attorney.
When the clerk finally fell silent, Judge Richards began to speak once more, looking to the jury box. “Thank you, members of the jury, for your service. You are now excused.” He paused, bringing his attention over to Parker. “I stand in agreement with the jury's decision. We will reconvene for sentencing in one week, on August twenty-third at one pm. Until that time, the defendant, Parker Simmons, will remain in custody. This court is adjourned. Thank you.”
The gavel sounded then, a loud and thunderous crack of wood on wood echoing throughout the room, and Spencer still just sat there. He really didn’t think he could stand anyway, so he was content to stay right where he was, sitting in the front row of the gallery as his mind attempted to wrap itself fully around what had just happened. It was hard for him to reconcile, but he was probably in a bit of shock, to be perfectly honest.
It was understandable that it might take him some time to come to grips with it all.
He did notice that Aaron hadn’t move either, though—which was a much needed comfort. Instead of trying to leave, the other man simply remained a silent, vigilant rock by his side; and they both watched everyone around them disperse, moving on with the rest of their day—the rest of their lives—as though nothing monumental had just happened at all.
Judge Richards stood, gathering up a stack of papers before disappearing into his chambers.
The jury disbanded, moving out of the jury box and heading toward a back doors.
Everyone else in the gallery with them left, mingling quietly amongst themselves as they departed.
And then there was Parker Simmons—his ex, his tormentor, his attacker....his would be murderer.
The man was standing right in front of him. He watched mutely as the bailiff shackled Parker by his hands and feet and proceeded to haul him off in chains. It was a surreal sight, and Spencer couldn’t bring himself to look away as the person he thought he'd once loved was led back to a holding cell.
Oddly, Parker never once glanced in his direction; he merely kept his head bowed low, staring down at his feet as though he didn’t want to see anyone. Or, maybe he didn’t want anyone to see him . Didn't want them to see how he'd lost, how he'd failed.
He was probably pretty fucking angry, actually.
He was guilty.
Parker wasn’t going to get away with what he’d done; he was going to be punished for all of it, and hopefully he would never be able to hurt anyone else again.
That thought alone made everything Spencer had been forced to endure over the last year worth it. Just knowing that his pain was going to help protect others made it all worth it, and he felt more tears start to cascade down his cheeks as he leaned heavily against Aaron, relief and elation washing over him in equal measure.
“Spencer, Love....come back to me.”
Reid automatically opened his eyes at the familiar request, turning back to Aaron and taking in the quiet concern etched across the man’s face. This was the same man who'd dropped everything he'd been doing to run to his side when he'd called for help. The same man who'd picked him up off a bloody floor when he couldn't physically do it himself, when he'd been at his absolute lowest point. The same man who'd welcomed him into his own life—into his son's life—and stayed with him through every painful day of his recovery. Through every sleepless night, every terrifying flashback, every paranoid thought.
This was the man he'd fallen in love with; the man he wanted to spend the rest of his life with.
Slowly he lifted his hands to Aaron's head, cradling the man's face between his palms, fingers smoothing out the harsh furrow of his brow. His heart swelled with warmth, with a love he couldn't even begin to describe. “I um....I know these last few weeks have been really hard, for all of us,” he started, moving his fingers up to card through Aaron's dark hair, “And they've brought a lot of things back to the forefront of my mind. Everything he did to me....well, um, I can never truly forget any of it, but having to actively relive it all hasn't been easy. It's been terrifying, actually. It's made me feel the same way he made me feel, back then, when it was all really happening. When I couldn't get away. Helpless and scared. Weak. Broken. But even though it was awful, Aaron, even though it hurt, and it was terrifying, and it made me want to give up....it was still worth it.” Hotch gave him a questioning look at that, and Reid quirked his lips in a subtle grin. “It was worth it because we won. I didn’t think I’d be able to go into that courtroom and tell my story to all those strangers. Especially not while Parker was there too, watching everything I did, listening to everything I said, reliving it all through my own words. I didn't want to allow him that....that sick pleasure. Honestly, I kind of expected to freak the fuck out and make a complete fool of myself, but that didn’t happen. It didn't happen....and do you know why it didn't happen?” Aaron shook his head, his eyes suddenly suspiciously misty, shining in the light. “It didn't happen because you were there.” He paused, taking in the other man's tentative smile, soaking in the warmth of it, mirroring it. “You helped give me the strength I needed to rise above my own fears and doubts. You helped me truly believe in myself, and you helped me stand up to him. Because Aaron, as much as I wish it weren’t true, he does still scare me. Even now, after all these months, I still fight against it....against how he made me feel. But I’m gonna keep fighting. I'll keep fighting for the rest of my life, because I know I’m strong enough to keep winning.”
“God, Spence....I am so very proud of you.”
“You already said that,” he smirked, his arms moving to circle Aaron’s neck, pulling his head forward until their lips met in a soft press of tenderness and warmth, all smooth caress and slick heat.
He loved this part.
He loved kissing Aaron.
He loved the softness of the embrace, the gentle motion of their mouths moving in sync as they fit perfectly together, slotting seamlessly into place with one another. He loved the spark of pleasure that always radiated through his body whenever one of them opened for the other—coaxing them closer, deepening the touch, giving more. He loved the feel of Hotch slipping inside him, taking and tasting as they shared space and heat and breath. And he loved the way his body thrummed with the buzz of unbridled electricity whenever they were pressed together.
But most of all, he loved that being close to Aaron like this, letting Aaron take the lead, take him, didn’t make him feel scared or pressured in any way. He never felt forced to do anything he didn't want to do. It was the exact opposite, actually; he felt cherished, protected, adored....and in complete control.
He was always in control.
He knew that all he had to do was say the word and everything would stop in an instant, no matter what. Aaron had given him that power before they'd ever done anything at all, made sure he'd understood it, made sure he knew he deserved it, and that made him love the other man all the more.
After a minute, or maybe five, he finally forced himself to pull away, resting their foreheads together as they both caught their breath. “I love you,” he whispered, lightly scratching his nails through the fine hairs at the nape of Aaron’s neck, “I love you.”
“I love you too, Spencer.”
“Lay down with me?” he asked, shifting back to look into soft chocolate brown eyes.
“Of course,” Hotch murmured, “Anything you want. Always.”
“I just want you to hold me.” He stood, smiling, taking Aaron's hand and pulling him up with him. All he wanted to do was block out the rest of the world, for just a little while. Pretend that nothing else mattered. “I wanna fall asleep in your arms.”
They made their way up the stairs, Reid taking in each picture along the wall as they ascended. Jack throughout the years mostly, with a few cross stitched landscapes littered here and there. He always loved seeing them—the photos of the smiling boy—watching him grow with each step, every picture showing a slightly older version of brown eyes and hair and freckles; and in that moment he was struck with an overwhelming sense of home. Of belonging. He was immensely grateful for this little family he'd been given, and all the hardships he'd had to endure to get to this point had been absolutely worth it.
When they entered their room, Hotch quickly collapsed onto the bed with a pleased huff, getting comfortable as he settled on his back; and Spencer wasted no time sliding up beside him, nuzzling into his side and resting his head on a broad shoulder as he let the warmth of the other man's body surround him. He felt Aaron place a soft kiss to the top of his head, fingers carding lightly through his hair; and he let out a long, tired sigh as he allowed himself to melt into the bed and the embrace.
He smiled when the arms around him tightened their hold, sure and strong and secure. He felt protected, like nothing in the world could ever touch him; nothing could harm him or the people he loved.
This was his safe haven, his solace.
This room, this man, this family.
Parker had tried so hard, so fucking hard to destroy this. To take everything away from him and lock him away, keep him all to himself; but he'd failed.
Spencer had stopped him.
He'd stood up to the man. He'd defended what was his and protected what he loved.
He'd fought back, in more ways than one, and it had definitely paid off.
It had paid off because earlier that same day, Parker Simmons had been sentenced for his crimes. Due to the violent nature of his actions, and the premeditation it took to pull some of them off, he'd received thirty-five years to life, with the possibility of parole after twenty-five; and Spencer had made damn sure he’d been in that courtroom, front and center, to see the sentence passed down—to see the devastated look on Parker’s face as those sweet words cut swift and deep. It had been surprisingly satisfying to witness, if he were being completely and totally honest. Possibly even more satisfying than it had been to put a bullet in Parker's knee all those months ago, in this very same room.
More satisfying than the scream that had followed the impact.
Sure, it wasn’t a guaranteed life sentence—and it was certainly feasible that Parker could be released someday, a long, long time from now—but it was still something.
It was important.
It was justice and retribution—for himself, and for Aaron, and for Jack.
It was a substantial burden lifted from his shoulders, allowing him to breathe easier.
It was a fresh start; a new beginning with his family—the man he loved and the boy he adored.
It was everything he’d ever wanted, but had never allowed himself to dream he could have.
It was a life filled with love, and joy, and a promise for a brighter future.
It was a hard-fought victory.
It was freedom.
This is no mistake, no accident.
When you think the final nail is in, think again.
Don’t be surprised.
I will still rise.
-Katy Perry, ‘Rise’