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The party seemed like a good idea when Linda suggested it to him. Not that he was any good at parties. But socializing always seemed like a good idea, even if it often didn’t turn out that way in practice. And Linda was cool – his best friend so far at this college – and she was pretty and funny and could calculate differential equations in her head, and that would make her hot even if she had a third eye or a tail. He was flattered that she’d asked him and he was determined to discover if this meant that they were friends or actually friends. Because either way, he’d like to know for certain, and then deal with the ensuing complications once he could figure out if he wanted either of those options or not. Negotiating interpersonal relationships seemed unnecessarily complex to him. He didn’t understand how anyone could claim ‘it just happened – I didn’t know what I was doing’, because even deciding to go to a frat party with a friend took considerable time to commit to, let alone figuring out if he wanted to sleep with that friend.

Yet, somewhere in the course of the evening, he’d lost Linda in the crush of people at the house party with its loud music and sweaty, over-smiling population of strangers all in pre-fornication delirium, and had accidentally become drunk instead. Maybe they weren’t destined to be boyfriend and girlfriend after all. Maybe you just always brought someone along to a party – like bringing something to drink in order to be polite – and you didn’t necessarily end up leaving with the person you brought. But still, the party wasn’t a total bust. He was happily drunk – much happier than he was when sober, due to the sudden lack of pressing neuroses – and, for once, he wasn’t the youngest guy in the room. Sure, some of the partiers recognized him from the classes he taught, but to most he just seemed like another freshman student, and it was a relief to temporarily blend in.

As the evening wore on, the crowd thinned out; people migrated upstairs for more privacy, and Spencer migrated too, being dimly aware that he should be concerned about Linda. Searching for her in the upper rooms had been an eye-opening experience in various shades of sexual depravity, as well as the almost universal oversight of door locks. Screaming had occurred, and several solid objects had been thrown at him, leaving him stumbling and shocked at how little he understood about living as a college-aged student. And he was also flushed and confused by his own unfocused arousal as well as his desperate need to sit down and convince the frat house to stop spinning.

He stumbled into yet another dim bedroom and was relieved to find the couple in there still had all their clothes on.

“Oh, thank god…” he mumbled as he shut the door behind him and the guy and girl on the bed stared at him as if he’d just sprouted horns.

“Ummm… hey,” the girl said, halfway leaning towards the guy with a pipe in her hands. “I’m not selling or sharing…”

Spencer blinked, aware that he was weaving while standing still, and focused on the pipe as well as the odor in the room. Then he shook his head, hair swinging into his face loosely, and snapped his fingers as he got it, pointing the uncoolest fingergun at them in an attempt to offset the awkwardness. God knows where he got that idea from. The guy on the bed laughed gently at the movement, and when Spencer looked up at him, he forgot about Linda, and the horrors of the other rooms, and his slightly unreliable stomach. The guy was dark and tanned with floppy, I-don’t-give-a-damn hair and an immense, brilliant smile that made the air around him almost twinkle. Spencer felt himself sag at the sight, and couldn’t think of a single thing to say in response.

“Don’t be rude, Jamie,” the guy drawled, still smiling. “Poor guy looks lost.” He jutted his chin at Spencer. “You okay, buddy?”

Spencer just hiccupped in response. He didn’t understand. This was the sort of guy that used to stuff him into lockers in high school. The kind of guy who stole his books and shredded them in front of him, taunted his undersized self and belittled him. But all he could do now was stand frozen, thinking, Wow, and, Wait, where did THAT come from?

“I, uh… yeah,” Spencer blurted eventually, eyes dropping to his sneakers. “I’m, uh, looking for my girlfriend. Or, maybe she’s just a friend… I’m unsure on that point… and, uh… well, I’m just relieved that you aren’t having sex, I guess. There’s so much sex happening right now…”

The guy laughed again, but much more heartily, and the girl, Jamie, just rolled her eyes and took a long draw from the pipe.

“It’s not for lack of trying,” Jamie said smokily after holding it in for a few seconds. She passed the pipe to the guy who was still laughing, and still staring at Spencer. “But I’m not his type.”

“Jamie,” the guy mumbled through a cloud of his own smoke.

“What? It’s true. I’d do you in a second if I thought I had a shot,” Jamie pouted and grabbed for the pipe. “But I can only get you to ravage me for my product. Life is cruel to this single girl.”

The guy leaned in closer to Jamie, waited for her to inhale from the pipe, and then grinned devilishly as he slowly moved to kiss her, and then separated enough that she could blow the smoke into his mouth. Then they both fell into each other laughing and coughing. Spencer wondered if he should leave – this seemed to be heading in the same direction as the other rooms…

“I care about you more than any other dick in this house tonight. And I’m guaranteed to call you tomorrow as well.” The guy laughed and rolled on the bed so he could look at Spencer again, body lithe and spread-eagle like he had nothing to hide. His whole demeanor seemed like a giant, wordless invitation. “Come sit,” he murmured, patting the blankets. “Take a load off. Looks like you might fall over.”

“Oh, uh… no. I can see I’m intruding…” Spencer made flappy gestures between them and the guy laughed hard enough to shake the bed. Jamie sat up, braced on her elbows and chuckled.

“He’s gay,” she explained. Then the guy sat up too and held out his hand. “The ‘gay’ has a name. I’m Aaron.”

“Oh…” Spencer stumbled, and then found himself gratefully staggering to the bed and flopping down on it. He closed his eyes as the swirling intensified for a moment and then calmed. He breathed out in relief, and then remembered his manners, shoving his hand over his head to blindly clasp Aaron’s. “Hi, I’m Spencer.”

Aaron’s hand was firm and warm, and his chuckling continued as they shook. “Feel better?” he said eventually, and Spencer turned to look at both him and Jamie.

“Yes,” he sighed. “Guess I drank too much. Thanks for letting me crash.”

“No problem,” Aaron smiled, eyes just as warm and sure as his grip had been. Spencer couldn’t look away, and then he realized that he’d barely looked at Jamie at all since he’d stumbled through the door. Interesting… “So, you’ve lost your girlfriend, huh? How did that happen?”

Spencer blinked. “I, uh… I don’t know if she’s my girlfriend. I mean, we’re friends and she’s a girl. A woman. I sorta thought maybe I’d figure that out tonight. But, yes, I’ve lost her here somewhere.”

Jamie cocked her head and then coughed through another cloud of smoke. “How can you not know if she’s your girlfriend? Isn’t it sort of obvious?”

“How would it be obvious?” Spencer asked back. Now that he was finally focusing on her, Jamie was quite pretty. The sort of pretty he’d normally notice straight away: curvy, long, dark hair framing a unique face that didn’t hide anything she was thinking or feeling.

“Well, you know – the usual: kissing, hanging out, sex…” Jamie made a strange rolling gesture with her hands suggesting that there was a myriad of topics that fell in line after ‘sex’, but Spencer couldn’t imagine what those were for the life of him.

Spencer’s face flamed. “Uh, no. We haven’t… ummm…”

Jamie’s curved eyebrows rose slightly. “How long have you known her?”

“A year.”

The eyebrows rose even further. “You’ve known her for a year and haven’t done any of that yet? Well, do you want to do any of those things to her? Maybe you just don’t have the balls to try…”

“Jamie,” Aaron quietly admonished.

Jamie rolled her eyes. “Aaron, c’mon. He hasn’t even kissed this girl. He’s acting like a virgin or something. It’s a relevant question.” Jamie’s glance flicked back to Spencer lying helplessly on the mattress. “Maybe he’s a gay too.”

“You have zero filters, darlin’,” Aaron chuckled before turning back to face Spencer, and then his expression changed because of what he saw there. It gave Spencer an odd feeling of both warmth and shame, because how great was it that someone so handsome should seem to care, but also how mortifying to be someone who didn’t measure up to two strangers who suddenly knew all of his personal business?

“Oh hey, buddy. We weren’t judging. Really. You don’t have to do those things to be with someone. You’ve got to do what feels right for you. Jamie’s just a fiend for relationship drama, that’s all.”

“Nonsense, I’m just a fiend for fucking,” Jamie shrugged.

Spencer cringed where he lay on the bed. It must have been written all over him, even more so given how drunk he was. His glaring inexperience could probably be seen from space.

“She’s right,” he admitted, curling into a ball and wondering what it was about these two that made him feel comfortable enough to discuss what he’d barely thought about himself. “Linda’s great. Smart, funny, attractive, and we get along well. What does it say that I haven’t tried to do anything about that yet?” He turned his head so he could meet Aaron’s gaze. He didn’t know why, but he hoped Aaron would just have the answer, and pass on the information freely. “How do you know what to do and when to do it?”

Aaron’s face went blank and he blinked for a while. Jamie filled in the gap in conversation.

“It’s just… instinct, ya know?” She cocked her head at Spencer again, like he was an interesting, friendly alien dropped at their feet. “Everyone wants to fuck. Everyone wants to feel.”

“Well, everyone in this house certainly does, yes,” Spencer huffed. “I saw things tonight I can never unsee. But not everyone craves sex, you know. Some people just don’t want it.”

Jamie huffed dismissively, but Aaron leaned closer, curious. “Are you saying you don’t crave sex?” He seemed genuinely interested.

Spencer gulped. He’d never had any, so how would he know? “I… I dunno.”

“Hmmm,” Aaron leaned away and flicked his hand at Jamie for the pipe again. “Maybe you don’t know because you haven’t met someone who turns you on yet. I wouldn’t worry if I were you. It’ll happen eventually.”

“Is that… how it happened for you?” Spencer stuttered, staring at Aaron with his floppy hair and easy smile. Surely everyone would be attracted to him. Not like Spencer with his ridiculously long limbs and zero muscles and complete lack of sex appeal… “Did you just… wake up one day and feel stuff for someone else?”

“I guess,” Aaron shrugged.


“I was, ummm… ten, I think?”

“Ten?!” Spencer was floored, and then surprised by Aaron’s surprise. He flicked his eyes to Jamie and asked her the same question silently.

“I was twelve,” she nodded, eyes getting unfocused and huge. “Will Copping. He was a complete tool, but cute as hell.”

“Jesus. What’s wrong with me?” Spencer mumbled and Aaron sat up looking concerned. He seemed about to say something when Jamie chimed in again, oblivious.

“Yeah, maybe this Linda doesn’t do it for you. You know, on an animal level an’ stuff. Lord knows that the guys I choose to get naked and sweaty with don’t really do much for me outside of the bedroom…”

“Jezebel,” Aaron smirked and winked, and holycrap Spencer never thought winking was awesome until this moment.

“The cooch wants what it wants. Like, if you ever decide to become hetero-curious…” Jamie winked back at Aaron. It was less awesome. Then she glanced at Spencer and really focused on him for a minute. “You know, you’re not half bad, Spencer. Nice bone structure, tall, great mouth… I’m just randy and stoned enough that if you wanted to bang one out – just to ease the pressure a bit – I’d be okay with that.”

Aaron sat up a little straighter. “Down, Jamie.” Spencer started choking on his own spit. This was the craziest party he’d ever been to.

“What?” Jamie turned to Aaron, slightly frustrated. “We’re sitting here, stoned, talking about not getting any while being surrounded by randy college kids contracting STDs all around us as we speak.”

Spencer made a face at that mental image. And he was lying on a stranger’s bed. He suddenly wondered what unsavory deposits had been left in this room before any of them got there.

“I’m horny, and it’s not like I’ll get satisfaction hanging out all night with you,” Jamie continued, unperturbed by the possibility of random bed-spunk contamination. “Just give us the room for ten minutes, and we’ll all feel better.”

“I, um… I don’t think I’ll feel better,” Spencer whispered, raising his hand like he was in a class or something.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Aaron ignored Spencer and stared at Jamie critically. “You barely know him. You aren’t that hard up…”

“Easy for you to say. It’s never hard for a gay guy to find someone to fuck, is it, Aaron?” Jamie shot back, and Aaron’s face flamed in response. “It’s like a goddamned handshake to you. Sex is different for women, but it doesn’t mean we need it any less.”

“It’s never hard to find someone to fuck,” Aaron said quietly. “For anyone. It’s much harder to find someone to fuck that you give a damn about though.”

Then it was Jamie’s turn to look embarrassed. She glared at Aaron, who only looked back at her with a strange twist of sadness on his face. Then she shuffled awkwardly off the bed, grabbed her bag, and tripped over Spencer’s legs dangling off the mattress as she stormed off.

“Screw you, Aaron. You think you’re soooo insightful. Well, we’re in the middle of a pop-up whorehouse right now, so I’m off to see what’s behind door number two,” she muttered over her shoulder an instant before she slammed the door behind her.

Spencer stared at the closed door, too lightheaded to make his own exit, and a little confused if he should or not. The scene somehow felt like it was his fault.

“Did I do that?” he mumbled towards the door. “Sorry…”

“She doesn’t mean it,” Aaron sighed, and Spencer rolled back to look at him. He still seemed sad. “She’ll end up sitting somewhere fuming until the buzz wears off. And then she’ll be mortified by it all. She can get so brutal when she’s high.”

“Then why does she do it?”

Aaron glanced down at him and smiled thinly. “We were almost boyfriend and girlfriend once upon a time. Before I came out. We’ve known each other since we were little. I guess it still really bothers her.”

“That you’re gay?”

Aaron shook his head, no. “She thinks that men and women only come together for transactions: sex, relationships, business… I don’t think she believes that being connected to someone else could be selfless. She gets high because I like it and she gets to hang out with me like we used to. She thinks it’s a transaction and she can ignore how much that hurts when she’s high. She doesn’t understand that I don’t need drugs to want to hang out with her.” Aaron sighed again. “It bothers her that I love her – selflessly and platonically – and I always will. She doesn’t get that. I’m waiting for her to get it.”

“Oh,” Spencer fell silent, thinking about that. Thinking about how that didn’t sound like a compromise at all. It sounded like winning, just in a different, unexpected way. “Do you think she will?”

Aaron’s smile returned in spades, making Spencer’s chest feel tight and weird. “Oh yeah. She’s too fucking smart not to. But it may take a few years. And some shitty boyfriends along the way.”

“That seems like a terrible waste of time and energy to me. Why can’t she just skip to understanding it instead?”

Aaron laughed at him, sliding down on the mattress and wiggling over so that he was laid out like Spencer, facing him. It was so much more comfortable than watching Aaron at a ninety-degree angle. He wondered if he should thank him for the consideration, but instead became mesmerized by how dark Aaron’s eyes were, how huge his pupils got when he stared. And he was staring at Spencer so intently…

“You’re odd,” Aaron grinned.

“Oh… umm,”

“It’s okay. I like it.”

Well, that was a first. No one had ever told him he was strange and then acted like it was a good thing.

“Do you smoke?” Aaron offered the pipe.

“Ah… not really. I mean, I’ve never tried it. And I’m sorta drunk right now.”

“It’s just weed,” Aaron shrugged. “Nothing fancy. And it might help with the drunkenness…”

Spencer was willing to try anything that stopped the room from spinning, so he tentatively reached out for the pipe. He was emphatically not doing it because Aaron’s face lit up at the idea and Spencer was a little too eager for Aaron to believe in the fiction of Spencer’s ‘good’ weirdness. Aaron produced a lighter and helped Spencer light the weed and told him how to breathe it in and hold it until he was sputtering and everything smelled like burnt mold. Aaron smiled the whole time, all dimples and blown-out pupils as they passed the pipe between them lying on the bed. He was so close, but they only touched when passing the pipe back and forth. Spencer found himself staring unabashedly, taking in the wealth of tanned skin peeking out from his worn Joy Division t-shirt, and noticing that his jeans fit just so over thin hips and a capable frame. Everything about Aaron seemed casual by design, as if it was an aura he put on every day as easily as he put on shoes. Spencer wondered what that would be like, and then he wondered if it was something he could take with him from this encounter. And then, suddenly, he thought about what it would be like to taste that, hold it… to kiss it…

The house throbbed around them with shouting and bad dance music. In the room next door, people were moaning loudly. It distracted him from the alarming kissing question. To his mind, it sounded like three or four different voices, and that fascinated him. So much he didn’t know…

He caught Aaron staring at him while he was dissecting the lovemaking next door, and he choked out, “I don’t feel any different. H-how long does it take to kick in?”

“You’ll know when it happens,” Aaron laughed. Spencer wanted to know if he always laughed so much, even when sober. Because it was fantastic. “So, tell me about yourself, Spencer. What are you studying?”

“Oh, I’m not a student. I’m a ‘visiting fellow’, which always sounds like I’m a guy who got lost in the halls and decided to stay a while rather than someone whom the university lured into teaching for free.”

“Wait…” Aaron’s brows creased. “You’re a teacher?”

“Ummm, sort of. I teach some classes and advise grad students an’ stuff. But it’s a temporary position. And I don’t get paid. Well… that’s not totally true either. I get a free house on campus for the length of my stay and there’s a ‘gratuity’ for my consideration…” Spencer made air quotes with his fingers, then remembered he hated when people did that and flapped his hands around like a pair of dead birds instead. Then he became fascinated by his fingers. So long…

“But you’re…” Aaron blinked at him, confused, eyes sweeping him up and down on the bed. “You’re… my age… maybe?”

“I’m nineteen,” Spencer’s face flamed again as Aaron’s eyebrows shot upwards.

“Wow,” Aaron breathed, and then snuggled down into the mattress even more. “That’s… and here I thought you were just some third-year idiot like me. You must be a genius or something, huh?”

Spencer rolled his eyes, and then wondered how far a human could actually roll their eyeballs while remaining attached to the optic nerve. “I hate that term. It isn’t quantifiable.”

“So, you’re a science nerd then,” Aaron grinned, and snuggled a little closer looking absolutely delighted. Which was both alarming and distracting in the extreme.

“Mathematics, actually,” Spencer breathed around the rabbiting organ in his chest. He was confused. Was this fear? It felt a little like fear. The panic, the increased heart rate, the nervous sweating, dry mouth, hyperawareness of how he appeared to someone else… But why would he be afraid of this guy who seemed pleasant and hadn’t threatened him at all? “And chemistry. And engineering. I get easily distracted, I guess.”

“I wouldn’t call it a distraction if you’re successful in all of those areas,” Aaron mumbled warmly, tucking his folded hands between his cheek and the mattress. “And I’m gonna call it a win that if you are so distractible, you’re still here hanging out with me rather than off finding your girlfriend.”

Linda. Oh damn. He forgot all about her for a while. He really should get back to finding her, making sure she got home safely…

“So, uh… what do you study?” Spencer said instead.

“I’m in pre-law.”

“Well then, you’re no slouch either, huh?” Spencer forced a smile, and after a moment, found he didn’t have to force anything when Aaron returned it.

“We’ll see,” Aaron shrugged. “I’m from a family of high-functioning failures, so…”

“I doubt that.”

“We’ve only just met, Spencer. You don’t know me,” Aaron whispered, but his pupils got huge like they were trying to swallow Spencer up, to see everything about him. Spencer found himself edging a little closer, compelled by the dark openness of Aaron’s expression. Next door, someone yelled ‘FUCK YES!’ and it was followed by a chorus of ‘FINISH IT!’. Spencer felt like his face was on fire, and he had to glance away.

“They are… loud,” he said, and wondered why he’d mentioned it.

“That’s what happens when you get carried away,” Aaron murmured, listening to the final shouts and cheers, and oddly, a celebratory air horn. “Sex is stupid,” he chuckled and it brought Spencer’s eyes back up. “It turns us into dumb animals.”

“A-are you saying you don’t like it?” Spencer stuttered.

“Oh, I love sex. I love everything about it: the anticipation, those first tingles of attraction, the way another person feels against you, the things that get said when our brains switch off and our bodies take over… everything. Even feeling like a dumb animal. It’s all great. But none of that makes it any less stupid,” he chuckled, and then let it fade away as he stared at Spencer. “You’ve never been with anyone, have you?”

Spencer turned his face away.

“It’s okay.”

“No, it’s not.”

“You’re young, Spencer. We both are. You can’t compare experiences from other people – everyone’s different. And I bet high school was even more of nightmare for you than it was for me.”

Spencer turned back to look at Aaron. “I was eleven in the twelfth grade.”

“See? All I had to deal with was being the head of the basketball team, dating the prettiest girl in school, and crushing hard on my point guard instead.”

“How…” Spencer stopped and wondered about the wisdom of his question. “How did you know?”

“That I was gay?”

“No. How did you know it was right for you?”

Aaron blinked. “How do you know that being straight is ‘right’?”

Spencer twitched. It felt like he’d been slapped by reality; it was a question he’d never considered. He’d always just assumed: girls. Perhaps that was the problem.

“I don’t think ‘rightness’ has anything to do with it, Spencer. You know, Jamie might have been correct when she asserted that some things you just get on instinct…”

“Well, that doesn’t help…” Spencer muttered to himself.

“Help with what, Spencer?” Aaron was so close now that his features blurred. All Spencer could see was the dark gaze, the careless hair, the sharp outlines of his athleticism. And suddenly, he reached out, grabbing those sharp edges and pulled him gracelessly to his mouth.

It was a crazy explosion of heat when they connected, muffled grunts of surprise, and then an immediate, full-body desire to have more. Hands clutching, open-mouthed gasping and searching, never stopping, always moving, caught breath and cinched shirts and squashed noses as they sucked and nipped their way through wondrous new territory. Spencer had never kissed anyone like this. He’d never tried something he hadn’t thought through beforehand. He couldn’t picture himself being so raw with a woman, making rough demands of her and being excited when she did the same in return. Then he remembered that he’d only just met Aaron, and he was already kissing him. He’d known Linda a year, and couldn’t decide about her, though he knew everything about her. He broke away from Aaron with a worried whimper, pushing back with hands braced on his shoulders. Aaron blinked, hesitating for an instant before breaking out into a flushed smile that made Spencer want to pull him back in like a dumb animal – this boy who looked like so many bullies who’d tormented him over the years. It was so fucked up.

“I gotta say that was a delightful surprise,” Aaron rumbled as he tried to lean back in again.

“I’m sorry,” Spencer blurted, feeling hot and tortured all over.

“What for?”

“I’m… confused.”

“Oh, I can see that, but you didn’t do anything wrong, Spencer.”

Spencer looked up at Aaron, hands still clamped around his shoulders so he couldn’t move.

“Listen,” Aaron murmured, looking amazing as well as terribly earnest. “I’m not gonna lie: I find you attractive. You’re funny, and smart, and hot, even though you dress like a Nixon-era middle school teacher…”

Spencer looked down at his clothes. What was wrong with them? Then he noticed his obvious interest. Oh dear…

“And I don’t think you’re particularly straight either,” Aaron concluded with a smirk. “But you also don’t have a lot of experience with this, and we’ve only just met, and we’re drunk and high… so it’s fine if you want to stop. But…maybe you could give me your number and… we could get to know each other? I mean, you know, if you liked me enough…”

Spencer didn’t know what to do; his mind was swimming. He had an overpowering urge to wrap himself around Aaron, to see if they’d make the same sounds as the people next door. And he was also petrified at the idea of doing that, of giving away the intimacy he’d held so tightly for so long. And what about Linda? What if he wasn’t really gay at all, just too drunk to tell the difference between random horniness and genuine attraction? Then his mind stilled and asked, Why can’t I just skip to making a choice about this?

“So, if we liked each other enough, we could have sex?” he asked without thinking. Boy, he was doing that a lot tonight.

Aaron blinked rapidly. “Okay, I think we can safely assume that you’re stoned now-”

“I mean it: if we agreed that we liked each other, would you want to have sex with me?”

“Spencer, you’ve never done this. It’s not someth-”

“Answer the question, Aaron. If you liked me-”

“Of course, I want to have sex with you,” Aaron interrupted, color rising to his face. “You’re fucking gorgeous. I wanted you the moment you stumbled in here. Instant attraction. But that’s a dumb animal thing, and you’re a nice guy. Not some random dude I picked up at a bar who doesn’t want anything more than a quick screw and an even quicker goodbye.”

Gorgeous? Instant attraction? Wait… he turned someone on just by being present? Spencer’s brain shut down and did a laborious reset on him.

“But… but what if I wanted it?” Spencer murmured shakily, feeling slightly disconnected from reality in this frat house bedroom suddenly. “What if I wanted it with you? I-I mean…”

His eyes trailed down his body to where he was pressed urgently against his pant seams. “I mean… if I was confused… unsure… I wouldn’t still be… I mean, would I?”

“Maybe,” Aaron said huskily, and when Spencer looked at him, his eyes were focused on Spencer’s hard-on with a hunger he’d never seen directed at him before. Then Spencer just moved, hand sliding to cup Aaron’s jaw and firmly bring him back to his mouth. Pure instinct, like Jamie said.

Aaron rolled into the kiss with a moan, hands looping around Spencer’s waist and pulling him in until their chests bumped together. Then, with a quickness Spencer couldn’t fathom, one of Aaron’s hands was in Spencer’s hair, tugging him harder into their open-mouthed searching. The other skimmed to Spencer’s pants, fingers tangling in a belt loop and hauling him against Aaron’s hips.

“Ugh…” Spencer gusted, lost in the fog of a body pressed so sharply into his, and the insane heat of being wanted. He latched onto Aaron’s mouth and pulled insistently until Aaron made a soft noise and tried to curl them closer. Then Spencer’s hands moved without thought, skimming under Aaron’s shirt and zipping over his skin that felt like the sun was trapped beneath it, making him heated and full in a way impossible to ignore. Spencer’s hands worked up Aaron’s chest until Aaron shuddered into Spencer’s mouth, and Spencer dove deep with tongue and teeth, going mindless for the first time in recent memory.

“Christ, where did you learn to kiss like this?” Aaron huffed into his lips before going deep again himself.

“Books,” Spencer mouthed.


“Anatomy books.”

Aaron pulled back, flushed and puzzled. “You’re joking.”

“No,” Spencer felt his cheeks heat. “When you understand the function of facial musculature, it’s just a matter of coming up with the right combinations.” Spencer blinked, feeling weird with a renewed wave of spinning washing over him. “And Jenny Lam helped.”

“Who’s Jenny Lam?”

“I paid her twenty dollars to take me into a janitor’s closet at school and teach me how to do… things. You know, for when I was ready.”

“How old were you?”

“Ten. I wasn’t really interested, but it seemed advisable to get my first kiss out of the way before I graduated high school.”

Aaron barked out a laugh, but continued holding Spencer close. It didn’t seem like mockery. It felt like… joy, and Spencer decided to feel optimistic.

“She told me that you can’t just stand there frozen not doing anything. Movement is key, so is variety. And then she gave me a quick primer on French kissing for free. ‘Cause she said I was ‘sweet’.”

“Well, I gotta agree with her there,” Aaron rumbled and pulled Spencer back in with gusto and another warm laugh. “Sweet and hot… can’t believe my luck tonight…”

Aaron wrapped them up and then rolled Spencer back into the mattress with a groan. A thigh slid between his legs and suddenly there was delicious pressure against him beyond the warmth of Aaron’s arms. Spencer’s hips pushed forward without thought and he whimpered at the contact and the way his body began to rock against Aaron’s.

“That’s it,” Aaron breathed up his cheek as he headed for Spencer’s ear, taking the lobe between his teeth and worrying it. Spencer moaned and rocked into Aaron’s leg until he felt sparks racing up and down his thighs. “Feel good?”

Spencer swallowed, tried to answer, and just ended up nodding into Aaron’s shoulder instead, his hips grinding harder. Aaron licked his way slowly down Spencer’s throat, grazing the skin with teeth and blowing against the wet halos he left behind as he moved. Against the heat of their bodies, the sensation left Spencer gasping and sparking all over. He arched his chest upward and awkwardly bumped Aaron away. He just… he wanted more. More feeling, more alien sensory delight, more newness that translated to electric energy headed straight for his cock. He didn’t know what to do though, what to ask for, but he tried to keep it all going by pulling Aaron as close as his arms would allow, just wrapping himself in the warmth of another person.

“Okay, Spencer?” Aaron huffed against his neck. Spencer’s hips were now painfully glued to Aaron’s leg, frantically rubbing but not getting much friction anymore. Spencer whimpered, hiding his face in Aaron’s old t-shirt. He smelled like weed, sunlight, cotton drying outside in a summer’s breeze… and his dick got harder just thinking about that.

“What do you want?” Aaron found his mouth and poured the words into it. But Spencer didn’t know. How could he know? He scraped his nails along Aaron’s back under his shirt as he moaned and worried about how to tell him he didn’t know what to do next.

Maybe Aaron sensed his distress. “S’okay, s’okay…” he murmured, taking Spencer’s mouth slowly and deeply, trying to gentle them down a little. “We can keep doing this – just kissing and rubbing. You feel so good, Spencer…”

Spencer whined softly. The flattery was kind and completely new to him. But dry humping seemed… like a half-commitment.

“We could… take our clothes off and touch each other,” Aaron suggested. “I’d love to touch you.”

Wow. Aaron had a real talent for saying devastating things at the right time. He’d probably make a great lawyer someday. Spencer considered the option – all of the amazing possibilities involved in threading his body with another – and then his drunk-stoned haze cleared long enough to remember where they were.

“Strange room,” he gasped as Aaron’s teeth insistently sucks a mark into his neck while he keened under the pressure of it. His hips jabbed forward brutally. Christ, he wanted to come so bad already… “Who knows… w-what’s happened on this bed…”

Aaron pulled back and gave him a blurry, scrunched up look. “You’re right, ew….” He laughed and his hair flopped as he nodded in agreement. It lit a fierce flame of kinship in the center of Spencer’s chest and he wrenched Aaron back to his lips and kissed him through a relieved smile of his own. “But I want you… somehow…” Aaron growled when they broke free again, and the words caused Spencer to tense all over. He shut his eyes and held on as a wave of scorching heat thrummed through him, making him pin his hips to Aaron’s thigh and clamp down.

Not yet, not yet, please not yet…

“Fuck, sorry…” Aaron gasped above him, finally forcing Spencer to look at him. “You’re way too close for me to tease, aren’t you?”

“I-I don’t know…” Spencer gulped, hoping he didn’t come off too pitifully. “Tell me what to do.”

“Oh…” Aaron said so softly that it was almost lost in the muted noise of the party below them. His eyes got soft too, as well as impossibly dark, pupils dilated beyond belief. Then he pulled Spencer in for a tender kiss, different from the frantic grasping they’d managed up until that point. “I’m gonna take care of you,” he pressed into Spencer’s mouth before squirming down his chest. “Don’t worry.”

But worrying is what Spencer began to do immediately as Aaron sank lower and the warmth and delicious pressure disappeared along with him.

“Where are you… what did I say?”

Spencer tried to elbow himself upright, fighting the swirl of the room as he did so. But one of Aaron’s broad hands pushed him back down without much effort. Spencer bounced on the mattress and tried not to feel humiliated. In the room next door, the moaning started up again, and Spencer distantly wondered if it was the same group of kids or a new bunch.

“If it’s the same ones, their refractory period is remarkable…”

“What’s that?”

“Do you think the guys next door are on round two already?” Spencer asked without thought. Then his attention sharpened like a blade when he felt fingers brushing his crotch. His head popped up and looked down to Aaron, though he regretted it when the room spun. Aaron grinned back at him, his hands working independently on Spencer’s pants.

“Let’s see if we can take them, huh?”

“W-what?” Spencer gasped as Aaron’s hand slipped into his pants and wrestled his cock free, pointing insistently upwards like an absurd road sign. Aaron took a moment to appreciate it and made a deep groan as he ringed the base with his fingers. Spencer hissed at the slight contact and his dick visibly twitched, making Aaron chuckle.

“Can’t believe my luck…” he mumbled again and then glanced up at Spencer with a smirk. “You’ve only got one job here, Spencer: be loud.”

“What?” Spencer gasped stupidly an instant before Aaron wrapped his lips over the head of his cock and licked, forcing Spencer to collapse back into the bed with a sharp yell of astonishment. “Fuck! You’re… oh god… sucking my dick…”

The statement was loud and embarrassing, but Spencer couldn’t believe it and he wanted to talk about it. He came to a party, trying to warily discover if he had a girlfriend or not, and now a handsome stranger was gently sucking his cock for him. This might go down as the best party in Spencer’s life.

“Yep, sure am,” Aaron mumbled around him, and then silenced any further conversation by sucking Spencer in so deep that he made a brief choking sound. Spencer clamped his eyes closed and tried not to come on the spot, his hands diving down to get lost in Aaron’s hair to anchor himself. Aaron’s head began to bob under Spencer’s hands, and the resulting flashes of energy jolting through him caused his hips to undulate in sympathy. One of Aaron’s hands flashed to Spencer’s hip and controlled the swell of his waves, encouraging him and then clamping down when he started to get out of control. Spencer moaned helplessly, head punched back into the blankets, neck stretched as if he couldn’t get enough air. Aaron’s mouth tightened around him, his tongue exerting incredible pressure as he pressed him to the roof of his mouth.

“Oh… oh…” It was all he could manage, and he tried to do it shyly, while his hips wanted to launch into Aaron’s jaw like a jackhammer. There was a grumble accompanied by a vibration that shook through Spencer from balls to tip, making him yelp in a delicious sort of pain that zapped up his spine.

Then Aaron pulled off completely. “Louder,” he rasped.


“You like it? You want more?” Aaron waited for an answer, hair flopping into his face. Spencer swallowed hard and nodded vigorously. Had he suggested that this wasn’t the best he’d ever felt? Aaron smirked at him and leaned over his slick cock dangerously. “Then get louder,” he growled. “I wanna hear you, Spencer. It turns me on.”

Oh. Okay then…

He moaned loudly when Aaron sank back down over him. It elicited a vibration of laughter which Spencer chose to take as a good sign. But almost instantly he forgot to be worried about reactions when Aaron took up a punishing regimen of deep, slow sucks that swallowed Spencer whole. Next door, a girl was making strange ‘yeeeee, yeeeeeee!’ sounds that didn’t sound flattering at all, yet whomever she was with was clearly enjoying themselves despite the noise. Part of Spencer’s brain split off and considered what Aaron had said – that sex was stupid. Then his mind burped up a choice selection of the porn he’d witnessed over time. He wasn’t really interested in remote arousal, and the scenes and sounds were all clearly fake, but he thought about how obvious and visceral everything was. That was real – and he felt it right now. It felt great to be a dumb animal for once – a goddamned joyful, exhilarating experience of thoughtless physicality. He wanted to express it. He wanted to do that, not only for himself, but because Aaron wanted it also. But he didn’t think he could manage the strangled hyena sounds of the girl next door…

So, he went a different way with it.

“Aaron… thank you,” he moaned loudly. He felt Aaron’s mouth twitch on him, and then a small vibration like he was mumbling a word. Spencer’s hands pushed his head back down; he could probably only do this if he couldn’t see Aaron’s expression.

“Thanks for being here tonight, in this room, at this party. Thanks for mistakenly thinking I’m cooler than I am…”

Aaron sucked him deep until he hit the back of his throat and Spencer’s whole body throbbed dangerously before he spurted a little energy and pumped his hips to roll the mounting sensation back into him once more.

“ohgod… thank you for doing this… it’s amazing that someone so handsome should care… about me – a stranger… someone you don’t owe anything to… to be my first… fuckthankyou.”

Aaron made a worried noise but his grip on Spencer’s hip tightened unbelievably, and then the worried sound turned into a deep moan.

“Wanna come so badly… because of that grateful mouth… of the way it smiles like it doesn’t know anything else… wanna feel you… everywhere, all over… swallowing me down because it gets you as spun out as me… giving me something I’ll never forget… never…”

Aaron’s other hand suddenly snaked between them, into Spencer’s pants and tugged his balls. Spencer yelped as he throbbed all over. Aaron whimpered around his cock, working it and Spencer’s balls frantically.

“God, Aaron, please… please… can’t feel anything but you. You around me, slipping over me… fuck… please, I’m losing my brilliant mind…”

Aaron growled deep and low, like something feral, then he ground himself against Spencer as he sucked. He was hard and brutal against Spencer’s leg and that brought Spencer’s mind to a shuddering halt because… damn, maybe Aaron really wanted him too. Maybe he wasn’t just doing him a favor…

“Gonna come…” Spencer warned through gritted teeth. It seemed like the polite thing to do. His fingers dug sharply into Aaron’s head, trying to push him down over his cock until he choked. And Aaron did, briefly, then he took a huge breath in and swallowed Spencer down, over and over, both hands now clamped to his hips and drawing him as close as possible.

“Christ… Aaron… Aaron!

Every molecule of energy in Spencer’s body raced down his spine and flooded his cock until the overwhelming pressure caused him to arch upwards. Then he yelled – loudly and meaningless – letting go with a full-bodied relief as his mind checked out and he pulsed into Aaron’s mouth again and again. His heart stuttered painfully in his chest, as did his lungs, and his pleasure became tinged with the thought that he might not make it out of this, and then his mind burped that he was just fine with that. Aaron made a sloppy, greedy noise around him, sucking until he finally softened, releasing him with a raw noise. Spencer couldn’t see for a few moments. Nothing but hazy bursts of light. But when his vision cleared again, Aaron was hovering over him, mouth bruised, cheeks flushed, eyes riveted to his. Hungry.

“You okay?” His voice was rough, as was his breathing, hair sticking out in tufts where Spencer’s hands had used him.

Spencer gulped down, unable to speak. His whole body felt like melted butter, useless and pooling on the mattress. Aaron smiled down at him, obviously unworried about the lack of response. Then Spencer’s body found some hidden pocket of energy and pulled Aaron’s mouth to his.

“Wait, I tast-”

Spencer cut him off, tongue licking curiously at the new way he tasted. With me on him…. His hands buried themselves into Aaron’s shaggy tufts once more, and anchored them together as Spencer took his time using that mouth in a different way, but still wholly appreciated.

“Thank you,” he gasped when they separated, and Aaron chuckled.

“You don’t have to thank someone for sex.”

“Why not? Seems ungrateful not to.”

Aaron kept smiling, but then Spencer got worried. His eyes skimmed down Aaron’s body, landing on the tight bulge of his jeans. Oh. Speaking of ungrateful… He reached down and brushed Aaron’s zipper hesitantly.

“S’okay,” Aaron huffed.

“No. It’s not.” Spencer pressed his palm flat against Aaron until he groaned gently. Then he looked up into the flushed, blown-out expression. “Show me what to do.”


Spencer cupped him against the denim seams and squeezed. Aaron’s eyes rolled briefly before he shut them and shuddered.

“Show me,” he repeated. “I want to make you feel as good as I feel.”

Then Aaron kissed him brutally, pressing down hard, groaning into it as he fumbled with his fly and Spencer’s unschooled fingers.

“My fucking luck…” he growled, catching Spencer’s lips with his teeth. “Random, odd guy at a party who turns out to be insanely hot by accident…”

“Maybe it’s the weed,” Spencer gulped, embarrassed by the compliment and not sure how to return it.

“Maybe it’s just you, gorgeous,” Aaron growled back, but any rebuttal Spencer might have made was silenced when Aaron pulled his dick free of his clothes while he hovered over them. Spencer had never seen a cock other than his own, and hadn’t developed any opinions on their general aesthetics. But seeing Aaron’s, flushed and full, almost angrily urgent, Spencer made up his mind immediately. And he also came to the resounding conclusion that he definitely wasn’t straight.

“Touch me,” Aaron said tightly. “Please.”

Spencer reached out and brushed the outline of it slowly, dragging his fingers over the ridges as much for his own tactile pleasure as for the obvious one that Aaron hissed above him. He was warm and solid, a sort of tender assurance made physical, and Spencer glanced up at Aaron, thankful once more for this strange openness he’d been given. Aaron was staring at him, mouth open, arms rigid on either side of Spencer as if he didn’t trust himself to move. Spencer stared back, fingers still moving blindly, finally skimming through the wetness at the tip and smearing it in lazy circles. Aaron’s eyes shut as he shook quietly.


“Show me, Aaron. How should I touch you?”

“Man, you’re doin’ fine already,” he breathed, but then one of his hands captured Spencer’s and twined their fingers together. Then they circled Aaron as he forced them to tighten their shared grip. He twitched in Spencer’s fingers and made him feel an insane spurt of pride. Even his own dick twitched, though there was no chance of him joining Aaron again so soon.

“Ah… Spence,” Aaron groaned, eyes glazed as he coaxed their hands into a rougher rhythm. Spencer felt himself blush at the sudden nickname.

“It’s okay?”

“Better than… okay,” he huffed, and tried to refocus on Spencer’s gaze. “Pretend… it’s your cock, Spencer. Get yourself off… using me.”

Spencer got lightheaded in an instant, a fine sweat breaking out under his clothes. He swallowed hard, held Aaron’s stare, and flexed his hand with Aaron’s, gripping him much more firmly and pulling with renewed purpose. He had a task to accomplish, and someone he was desperate to impress. He wasn’t going to fail on either score. Aaron grinned and made an ‘ugh’ noise as he began to pant, his hips swaying slightly into the movement now.

“Like it a bit rough, huh?” Aaron gasped.

“I like it definitive,” Spencer corrected lowly, feeling a flash of heat wash over him.

“Jesus, you’re just the right mix of smart and curious, aren’t you?”

“Am I?”

Spencer changed the rhythm but kept the pressure the same. Aaron whined and twisted, his fingers going lax between Spencer’s and letting him control everything. Aaron’s hips began to saw forward in time with the strokes, adding more force to everything. He moaned each time he got close to Spencer, mouth edging near Spencer’s lips, but never close enough to brush them.

“Will this be enough?” Spencer whispered as he drew close. Aaron bit his lip and nodded, forehead creasing with strain. “I can do more, you know. Just show me…”

“Spence,” Aaron gasped roughly. “Stop talking. Almost… came in my goddamned pants while sucking you off because of the talking…”

Spencer felt another wave of heat flash through him, but now he recognized it as power, and that’s something he’d never thought he’d experience during sex. He grinned at Aaron as he struggled, then leaned up and buried himself in the hair covering his ear. Aaron stilled his movements to keep them close, though his hips were pulsing roughly, beyond his control. Spencer’s hand tightened around his cock as Aaron moaned and his hand skimmed up to Spencer’s wrist to hold him in place instead of guiding him.

“Most people believe visual stimulation is the easiest way to arouse,” Spencer murmured into Aaron’s ear. “That’s why filmed pornography is so popular. But from a neurobiological standpoint, aural stimulation is the most effective in harnessing unconscious behaviors as well as cuing memory retrieval, thus making it an obvious choice when seeking to stimulate a partner. It’s just harder to do – more subjective variables at play and such…”

Aaron moaned loudly, his body smacking into Spencer’s as his hips kicked it up a notch.

“Maybe you have a thing for people talking to you during sex. Or maybe you’re just more vulnerable to stimuli in general because of your inebriation. But maybe, just maybe, it’s the company you’re keeping.”

Spencer gulped, feeling heat circling in his gut weakly and trying to coax energy into headed lower on him.

“Maybe it’s the perfect storm of a moment, a feeling, the correct loss of inhibitions, the desire to be seen in just this way, and then… realizing that you ARE being seen, and connecting all of that with a timbre, with word choices, with a genuine, aching plea to be released…”

Aaron’s free hand left the mattress and clamped down on Spencer’s shoulder, forcing him to depend on Spencer for their balance. He shuffled awkwardly until he was straddled over Spencer’s waist, and knee on either side of his hips as he continued jacking into Spencer’s grip.

“I think it might be that because you didn’t get off when the people next door orgasmed. And they were noticeable. You needed… more…”

Aaron moaned again. Loudly.

“Was I loud enough, Aaron? Did that please you? I wanted to please you…”

“Fuck!” Aaron hitched violently and Spencer had to shift to hold them upright.

“Louder, Aaron,” he purred. “Talk to me…”

“Where do you get the right to be this hot!” Aaron moaned, his hips pinioning dangerously, come dangling down onto Spencer’s clothes. “You’re a fucking virgin for chrissakes…”

“Not anymore, thanks to you,” Spencer grinned into his hair with warmth, and then Aaron howled painfully.

Aaron’s hand left Spencer’s shoulder and ripped his shirt up his torso so that Spencer’s stomach was bare, then he clamped down on Spencer’s wrist and roughly stroked forward, spurting for an instant, and then with a loud moan of relief as he made a mess of Spencer’s chest.

“Fuck, fuck, fuuuuuuuck…” Aaron panted. “Ugh,youridiculousmsartgorgeousboy… fuck…”

Spencer had a split-second of triumph, looking down over the chaos he’d caused and the wreck he’d made of Aaron, but then the bedroom door opened and he found himself in a dead-eyed stare with a half-naked girl draped on the arm of some red-faced jock, both of whom stopped in midstep and froze there.

“Uhhh…” Spencer whispered uncertainly.

“Oops,” the girl hiccupped, weaving dangerously while turning to her companion. “This is the dude-on-dude room. My mistake.”

And then they were gone again with a shout of ‘Ew!’ and a slammed door. A moment of nothing passed and then Aaron collapsed against him, laughing his ass off.

“Oh man, this evening’s got it all…”

“I could’ve lived without the voyeurism, to be frank…” Spencer grumbled, and then his attention was brought back as something rubbed his stomach; Aaron was wiping him clean with a pillow case and a wicked grin. Spencer watched him work, enjoying the loose giggling and the slightly hapless care on display, and then he leaned up and kissed him gently with a grin of his own. “Hey.”

“Hi,” Aaron nipped back.

“Was that alright?”

“It was well out in front of ‘alright’. Don’t usually come like a flustered teenager while someone talks. I think you stumbled onto something there.” He grinned and then let it fade. “Was it okay for you? Being your first an’ everything…”

“I’m never gonna forget it,” he said seriously. “In a good way.”

“Okay,” Aaron nodded and quietly blushed, making Spencer feel flattered and powerful all over again. This was definitely the strangest night of his life thus far. Then Aaron tossed the compromised pillow case away and flopped back into the bed like he was never going to move from there again. Spencer scooched down next to him, thinking it a great plan, especially considering the renewed room-swirling.

“I’m gassed,” Aaron sighed and closed his eyes, shuffling until he had an arm looped lazily around Spencer’s shoulders. “And I wouldn’t want to be an owner of any of these rooms after tonight.”

“You had to go there, didn’t you?”

Aaron chuckled and pulled Spencer closer. Spencer let him and allowed himself to feel a warm pang of something as he settled against Aaron’s shoulder.

“So, uh… maybe I shoulda asked this before but…” Aaron paused. “Can I give you my number? In case you want to… get a coffee sometime or…”

Spencer turned to look up at him and waited until Aaron opened his eyes and stared back. “Or get to know each other better?” Spencer smiled shyly. “Yeah. Yeah, I’d like that.”

“Great,” Aaron grinned and then kissed his forehead, following it up with a gentle kiss to his mouth. “That’s great.”

Spencer thought so too, relieved and delighted to have sorted out this one thing with relative ease.


Then he woke up with a raging headache that blurred his vision and an angry frat denizen screaming at him to get out of his room. Spencer stumbled out into the hall, along with half a dozen other evicted drunks, and only then realized that he was alone. He whipped his head around hoping to find Aaron in the crowd hustling down the stairs and outside into the rain, but he wasn’t there. Spencer’s stomach dropped suddenly, and then heaved with the threat of being sick in front of a bunch of furious frat dudes, when he looked at his hands and saw black scrawl marks over one of them. It was a series of numbers followed by a chicken-scratched ‘Aaron’, and suddenly Spencer’s wave of self-loathing receded. He felt himself grin foolishly as he ran down the stairs without worrying that he’d trip or faceplant or whatever.

The rain felt rejuvenating as he scrambled across campus to his house in the thin morning light, and he didn’t even care that he was soaked through when he finally staggered inside. He was just elated and alive, and confident in himself for the first time in his adult life. He swept his damp hair from his face and wrung out the ends of his shirt without thinking. Then he glanced down at his hands and saw nothing but black smudges over one hand, dribbling down his forearm, and everything crashed to a halt.

“Oh no…”




Gideon popped his head through Hotch’s office door.

“The new guy’s here. He’s in my office.”

Aaron looked up from his report and gave Gideon one of his well-practiced glares.

“I’m still angry at you over this. It could take years for me to forget your self-important sense of entitlement.”

“I apologized. What more do you want?” Gideon tried to look sorry and failed miserably.

“I want you to accept that you, alone, do not direct this unit or its command decisions.” Aaron placed both hands on his desk and scowled hard enough to make his face hurt. “You should have consulted me before hiring him.”

“I know, I know,” Gideon waved, shuffling into the room. “But he’s incredible – a real catch. I had to nail him down before the NSA or those assholes over at the Agency got their hooks into him. Trust me, you’re gonna be impressed.”

“His resume says he’s an academic, Jason,” Aaron sighed. “Intelligence is great, but we need a little backbone as well. Your last ‘great find’ burned out in under six months…”

He rose from his desk and collected a few folders, reluctantly trying to stow his resentment towards a co-worker who undermined him at every opportunity in favor of putting on the semblance of a welcoming expression for the new fish. Just because Jason Gideon was a dick didn’t mean that he had to be one as well. He brushed past Gideon at the door and felt him fall into step beside him as they circled the bullpen to Gideon’s office.

“Listen, Aaron,” Gideon tried again. “Yeah, he’s been teaching for the past twelve years, but he’s also been collecting PhDs and a shocking amount of aberrant psychology know-how in the process. We kept bumping into each other at professional conferences and, I gotta tell ya, you only have to talk with him for a few minutes before you see that he’s wasted in academic life. The insights, the intuitive leaps, the way he sees things… it’s damned remarkable.”

Aaron grunted.

“Be the pessimist all you want, Aaron, but I know brains turn your head. Even before I offered him the job, I thought you’d approve. You weren’t wholly outside of my decision-making process on this one.”

“Imagine how flattered I am to hear that,” Aaron murmured dryly, rounding the walkway towards Gideon’s office.

“Alright, fine. Hold onto a grudge. I can handle that. Just… give this guy a chance. He’s gonna change everything about the work we do here, I promise you that.” Gideon came to his office doorway and stopped, turning to glare at Aaron. “Try not being so much of your dour self until he gets his feet under him, okay?” Gideon mumbled and then ducked into the office. Aaron grunted again softly and followed.

A lanky guy with scruffy hair and an oversized messenger bag was standing, staring at the framed photos on Gideon’s walls with interest. He was in profile, hands shoved in his pockets, leaning dangerously, mouth half open in distraction, and Aaron stopped dead in the doorway, recognizing the look immediately, even though he hadn’t seen it in over a decade.

No fucking way…

“Spencer, I’d like you to meet the strategic leader of our team, Aaron Hotchner,” Gideon waved at Aaron just as Spencer turned and froze where he stood, eyes wide and mouth still hanging open but for a new reason. “Hotch, this is Dr. Spencer Reid. Even though you two haven’t met, I have a feeling you’ll get along famously.”

Just… no fucking goddamned way…




There was the wooden introduction, followed by an excruciating handshake and an awkward silence. Gideon, not expecting Aaron to take his resentment so far, quickly bundled Spencer off on a building tour with Garcia before he rounded on his sometimes-friend and hissed, “Jesus! What was that? I thought gay guys were supposed to have good people skills. We’ll be lucky if he hasn’t fled to the parking lot already!”

Aaron excused himself and didn’t explain a damned thing. It was just too perfect that Jason had attempted to professionally emasculate him by hiring someone without his consent, and that new hire was a man who had personally emasculated him a decade earlier. He would not be explaining that irony to Gideon because that was far too much ammunition for one jerk to possess. Especially since Jason Gideon wasn’t your run-of-the-mill jerk.

He went back to his office and seethed quietly. Who knows how long he lost himself in that before the soft knock woke him from it. He looked up and found a sheepish Spencer standing just outside the open doorway, as if the room would attack him.

“Do you have a moment to talk?” His voice was almost too quiet to be heard above the office buzz. “I think we got off on the wrong foot…”

His eyes flicked to his feet for a moment (sneakers, just like ten years ago) and then back up. He didn’t wear glasses anymore, and without them, his eyes seemed even more engaging. His hair was longer, his frame just as rangy, but a little thicker with age, and Aaron had to glance away before his mind told him, he got better-looking. Instead, he cleared his throat and gestured him in with a dismissive finger wave, trying to fix a scowl firmly in place. Spencer shuffled in, closed the door, and sat opposite Aaron’s desk like the whole place was wired to explode.

“I’m sorry.”

Aaron looked up.

“About today. I was unaware that Jason had hired me without telling anyone.”

Aaron looked away again to a line of legal books along his far wall.

“And, of course, I had no idea you worked here.”

Aaron’s glance landed back on Spencer, who looked as unsure as he had when he stumbled in on Jamie and him that night at the frat house.

“Yes, well… one would think the chances of running into someone you met once in college on the other side of the country a decade ago would be… in the millions.”

“It’s closer to hundreds of millions, actually,” Spencer smirked, making something flicker weakly in Aaron’s chest. “I could tell you exact odds, but I have been warned that such displays come off as arrogance. Not a good first impression to make at a new job.”

“It’s ten years too late to make a first impression on me, I’m afraid,” he huffed without thinking. Spencer twitched across the desk from him. He took a deep breath and got on with it. “It’s fine. We’ll make it work. No one needs to know about our past but us. I apologize if I made you feel unwelcome this morning. Did Penelope give you the full tour?”

“Aaron,” Spencer leaned forward and placed a cautious hand on the edge of his desk. “It was raining that day and I didn’t have an umbrella.”

Aaron blinked. “Pardon?”

“The day after the frat party,” Spencer gulped and looked a little green. “It was raining. I got soaked. By the time I got home… the ink had washed away.”

All the air left Aaron as he stared at Spencer in silence. Then, he slowly leaned himself back into his chair, eyes unfocused, thinking.

“I tried to find you.”

His eyes flashed back to Spencer’s, and they were liquid and earnest.

“What?” Aaron whispered, but Spencer just nodded slowly.

“I looked for you, and for Jamie. I went back to the frat house and asked around, but no one remembered you two. There were too many people there, I guess. I went to the registrar’s office to look you up, but back then, student files didn’t have photos, and there were so many Aarons… and I didn’t know your last name.”

Aaron just kept blinking, unwilling to either go back in time to that place in his mind where he felt gutted at being slighted by a boy he only knew for one night, or to jump forward into this moment where his general pessimistic view of humanity might have a chance at lifting.

“I even began hanging out around the law department, hoping to catch a glimpse of you between classes,” Spencer continued, cheeks coloring slightly and pulling his hand away from the desk. “But it was a big campus, and I never caught a break. After a few weeks, I figured… even if I did find you again, you’d be so ticked off that I hadn’t called that you wouldn’t talk to me anyway.”

Aaron felt his breath rush out in an ungainly, ‘Pfwhoa’ that he couldn’t hide or shake off as something else. His pulse was quick and tight in his throat and he felt too hot and lightheaded to be in control. It shouldn’t mean anything. It was one night, ten years ago, and he was just a stoned kid who didn’t know anything about anything yet. Just a stoned kid in the arms of another, amazing, stoned kid who didn’t know anything either…

“Six months later, I was offered a position at CalTech and I left. But I never forgot you. In ten years, I never forgot how great that night was.” Spencer waited and stared, but Aaron couldn’t make himself do a damned thing. Eventually, he shrugged and got up from his seat. “It was a long time ago… water under the bridge, I’m sure… but I’m really glad I got a chance to tell you: I was gonna call. I was excited about it. So, I hope knowing that now… helps, or whatever.”

Then Spencer stood up straight, intimidatingly so given how tall he was and that Aaron was seated. A hard seriousness washed over his features that was new to Aaron. Clearly, Spencer had his own growth experiences in the intervening years as well. He cleared his throat and become a man for the first time in Aaron’s eyes.

“This job is something I want, Aaron, and I know I can be good at it. I need an unequivocal answer from you: can you put the past aside and give me the chance to prove my worth to the Bureau?”

Heat raced over Aaron once, in an incredible, searing flash that he knew shouldn’t be a part of this conversation, but was anyway. He took his time considering, eventually standing from his own chair, rolling his suit jacket across his shoulders and then looking Spencer in the eye. They were the same height, and they had the same determination. Even if Spencer’s confession hadn’t just unknotted some ferocious, emotional tangles in him, he’d have been newly compelled by the way Spencer demanded an opportunity from him. Gideon was right: brains always turned his head. But so did guts and decency. So, he was bound to fall for Spencer Reid.

“I cannot,” he said quietly, and Spencer stumbled back a step, shocked. “I cannot put the past aside. But I can give you an opportunity for you to prove yourself to this team.” Aaron stretched out his hand. “Welcome to Behavioral Analysis.”

Spencer looked at Aaron’s hand and spent quite a while thinking about it before he reached out his own to grasp it. When he met Aaron’s eyes again, he was smiling. A beautiful smile. Christ, this was going to be a challenge…

“Thank you,” Spencer said quietly, an echo of a memory Aaron wouldn’t look at in this moment.

“Don’t thank me,” he mumbled and pulled his hand back. “Just prove yourself. Be extraordinary.” Make me believe in you again, gorgeous…

“I will,” Spencer smiled and nodded, happy but also unsure about how to get out of the room. Still awkward as ever.

“Go on. Get out of here,” Aaron couldn’t help but smile back. He’d have to work on that though – he had a reputation of seriousness on this team. He couldn’t allow that to slip. Smiling too often might cause team aneurysms. Spencer shoved his hands in his pockets again and, still smiling, rolled on his feet and turned to head out of the office.

“Case status meeting tomorrow morning at eight a.m. sharp,” Aaron called out. “It’s the quickest way to get up to speed on what we do here. Don’t be late.”


“And, Spencer?” Aaron waited for Spencer to turn and face him. Then he wondered whether he should say what he intended to say. It didn’t seem wise, let alone appropriate. Spencer watched him and raised his eyebrows. Aaron tapped the edge of a file folder on his desk and glanced up, decision made. “I never forgot about you either.”

Spencer’s happiness faded from his face and was replaced by shock. His cheeks went pale, and then, while Aaron watched it happen, something heated and knowing and experienced rippled over him, confirming what Aaron already suspected: this was going to be problematic as hell.

And he couldn’t wait.

“See you at eight,” he finished quietly.

“Yes, boss,” Spencer rumbled back just as quietly and shuffled out of his office.