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Spiraling Down (into you)

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Notes: it’s hard to write Hotch whump. Let’s be real. That’s Steve Rogers.

They all got used to cases that were about touch, about the need for it, the drive, the hunger. Gideon shook people’s hands until the day he left the FBI. He was good at it, quick handshake that tipped everybody off, revived everybody a little bit. And they’re profilors despite it.

 

Some days it goes a little better than others.

 

Elle never shook a stranger’s hand after the Fisher King, never danced close up against a strange man. The job wears that away in a lot of people. The hunger never goes away.

 

People kill for touch, to end that hunger.

 

Spencer Reid constantly looks like he needs a sandwich.

 

“Hey, kid, you eat today?” Morgan asks him, when they start getting ready to leave for a case.

 

“Huh? Course I have.” Reid tries to brush past him, not making skin to skin contact. Morgan gently touches Reid’s wrist. If he was right about Reid, the kid would’ve froze, eyes falling shut, his entire body swaying toward Morgan.

 

Instead, Reid glares at him. “I told you, I fed.”

 

“Okay.” Morgan takes a step back. He tilts his head a little bit and just looks at Reid, waiting until his friend’s ready to reply.

 

“I’m fine.”

 

“Hm.”

 

Reid takes a step forward, and stares at Morgan. “I’ve been going to movies, and I’m talking about it.”

 

“Okay, okay.”

 

And he’s been doing okay, Morgan knows that. But Reid’s wearing that skinny purple scarf, and they all have scientific evidence that nothing good happens when he’s wearing that scarf. They have charts on Garcia’s computer and everything. Reid didn’t touch another human being for two and a half weeks after Hankle. Morgan had to drive him to the hospital to get him help. Morgan does his best to not remember that week.

 

Elle left. Hotch is going through a tough time. Reid had done drugs. Emily is well . . . their team takes time to get used to. And Rossi’s the worst about getting over his old ways. The first time JJ brushes up against Morgan in a quick top off, Rossi gives them a look. Emily doesn’t blink twice.

 

It takes more than Rossi to throw Emily off her game. She doesn’t flinch easy.

 

Hotch on the other hand . . .

 

“Hi, yes. I would like to place an order for-” Hotch says into the phone, pacing around his apartment. Jack was out for the evening, with Jackie. It was all planned and arranged. He could do this. He could. Damnit.

 

“What type?”

 

“Uh, not blond. Um male?”

 

“Sir, please hold for confirmation,” the other person says. Hotch nearly hangs up. He sighs into his hand. His team will notice in the next four days if they haven’t already. It’s just like ordering out for Chinese, he tells himself. It’s the same thing. People do it every day.

 

“Sir, there’ll be a man at your place in about forty minutes. Your payment has cleared. Have a good day.” The line clicks.

 

Hotch stares at the phone in his hand. Maybe he can call them back and cancel? Yeah, he can do that. Totally. Hotch loses forty minutes of time. He comes to at the sound of the door bell ringing. He gets up and opens the door.

 

It’s a small guy, quiet. He’s wearing jeans and a tank top. This is probably just a summer job to him. He has blond hair. Hotch doesn’t try to stop his fingers from shaking.

 

“Hello, I’m Steve Barnes. I’m with the Contact Health Organization.” He gives Hotch his badge. He doesn’t cross the doorstep. Everything about him reads open, relaxed. The FBI works heavily with the CHO. They’re good people, some of the most honorable people Hotch has ever met. There’s a gun five feet away from him. He’s fine. He’s fine.

 

“Come in.” Hotch takes a step back. Steve waits for him to backup more before coming inside. Hotch gives the badge back. It all checks out. It’s just like ordering Chinese food. Haley loved Chinese food.

 

“What’s your name?”

 

“Aaron. Do you want a cup of coffee or . . .?”

 

“I’m good. Come sit on the couch with me.” Steve grins a little bit. He’s about as relaxed as a guy can get. Good, because Aaron’s currently freaking out. He sits on the couch. “That’s it. Anything good on tv?”

 

“I don’t watch much tv.” There’s a knife under the coffee table. It’s made so Jack wouldn’t be able to open it up and hurt himself. Aaron can get to it in under thirty seconds. Aaron knows this, has drilled it over and over.

 

Steve flipped on the tv, finding an easy comedy movie. Aaron breathes a little bit easier. It’s not so bad.

 

Steve waits patiently. Carefully, he loops an arm around the guy’s neck, barely pressing his skin to the guy’s. Somebody fucked this guy up. He’s a graduate from NYC, studied PTSD with skin aversion. He also reads veteran pretty well thanks to Sam. Eventually he gets Aaron naked chest to check, laying on the couch with the guy on top.

 

Aaron groans, relaxing more into it. Steve doesn’t move, doesn’t tense. And then Aaron gets a little bit too into it. The guy freezes. Steve doesn’t startle. Clients can get like this, can get too sensitized and the only fix is to keep touching. They’ve all been given extensive training about it.

 

“I should-” Aaron goes to move. Steve doesn’t physically stop him.

 

“It’s okay. It happens.”

 

“Not to me. You need to leave.” The guy rolls off, not breathing right. Steve doesn’t move, still fully relaxed. “Y-y-you n-n-neeed t-t-to g-ooo,” Aaron gets out. He has a gun in his hands, and is hyperventilating.

 

Steve rolls off the couch slowly, sitting on the ground. He doesn’t make any move towards Aaron. “Is there anybody I can call?” He puts his shirt back on slowly, followed by a lightweight jacket, signaling that no skin contact is going to happen here. He’s used to coming prepared.

 

Aaron shakes his head. He’s sitting against a wall with the gun in his lap. His boner’s gone at least. There’s a phone on the coffee table. Steve picks it up, and speed dials the first number.

____________________________________________________________

“Morgan,” Derek answers his phone, turning away from the hot lady at the bar. He smiles at something she says. He hopes that’s the appropriate response.

 

“Sir, I’m Steve with the CHO. I have a client who has your number on his speed dial. Are you liberty to come stop by?” Morgan closes his eyes for a second. They’re all used to dealing with the CHO.

 

“Aaron? Aaron Hotchner?”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

“Put me on speaker right now!” Morgan’s already bolting from the bar. He’s relatively sure he paid for everybody’s drinks. He’s sober enough to drive. He hears the phone click onto speaker. “Hotch, you okay?”

 

“Morgan, I’m fine.” Morgan, not convinced at all, turns his car on and starts driving for Hotch’s new apartment. “I’m fine.”

 

“You’re currently sitting on your floor with a gun aimed at me,” the unknown guy says. He sounds pretty calm for having a gun on him. CHO agents are good at their jobs.

 

“Hotch, I’m five minutes away.”

 

“Morgan, I’m fine.” It’s taken Morgan years to know that Hotch’s slight waver means he’s currently the opposite of fine, and is possibly bleeding out if past experience says anything.

 

“Yeah, I’m not leaving until your friend gets here,” Steve says.

 

Morgan uses his spare key to get into Hotch’s. Hotch is clearly still panicking, back up against the wall, gun ready. “Easy, Hotch. I’m coming in.” Morgan takes in the scene quickly: Steve sitting up against the couch, Hotch pressed up against the wall, everybody overly defensive.

 

“Thanks, Steve. I’ll take it from here.”

 

“Aaron, is that okay with you?” Steve asks, firmly ignoring the other man with a gun.

 

“Yes. I’m fine.” Steve nods.

 

“I’m leaving my card on the table if you want to try this again.” Steve glares at Morgan. “Get him some help.” He leaves after that.

 

Hotch slowly gets up, pulling his shirt back on. Morgan tracks him, holstering his gun. Nobody moves quickly after that. Hotch doesn’t meet Morgan’s eyes.

 

“What was that, Hotch?”

 

“It’s nothing.”

 

“Talk to me, man.”

 

“I can’t-after Haley. I’ve tried-I can’t, Morgan.”

 

“Hotch, you know Reid, Rossi, and I are all certified. You know that. So why did you go hire a kid, and then have a panic attack on him?” Morgan doesn’t mention that Emily and JJ are certified, even Garcia is. It’s practically a requirement for being an FBI agent now, what with all the stressors of their jobs.

 

“I know,” he says, but he’s still not meeting the other man’s eyes.

 

“Come on, I’m not leaving you alone tonight, and you need a shower.”

 

“Morgan-”

 

“Don’t argue with me right now.” Hotch follows Morgan to the bathroom without any more prompting. Morgan stripped to his underwear. Hotch raised his eyebrows. “We’re not going to have sex, but you’re not going to work tomorrow like this.”

 

“Morgan-”

 

“Hotch, you know damn well I could report you to HR for health reasons. I’m not attracted to you; I’m not trying to sleep with you; and you’re not going to pull a gun on me.” Hotch got in the shower after taking off his pants. Morgan silently congratulates himself.

 

“I lost it because I got aroused, Morgan,” Hotch confessed. “I-that hasn’t happened since Haley.” Morgan catches that his tone is the same flat voice they use to describe cases, like Hotch can just as effectively distance himself from this.

 

“Hotch, you’re not going to panic around me. I’m not some unknown person you let into your house. Calm down and take your shower. Keep the door open.” No way in hell is he giving Hotch another opportunity to shut him out.

 

Morgan, however tempted he was to join Hotch in that shower, took a sponge bath in the kitchen. He borrowed some of Hotch’s underwear. He was sweaty from clubbing after all. He should’ve caught this. Goddamnit.

 

“Hotch, I’m stealing your food.” Morgan and Garcia had made him a shitton of mac and cheese, and given it to Hotch. ‘Love is food’ is what Garcia always says. She’s his smarter half alright.

 

“That’s fine, Morgan,” Hotch shouts back sarcastically, clearly humoring him. Morgan’s not convinced.

 

Morgan gets a tray of mac n cheese and water. He locks the door, deadbolts it.

 

“Well?” Hotch asks him, leaning against the wall. “How are you going to cure me?”

 

“Mac n cheese. TV.” Morgan steers Hotch into the bed, giving him a bowl of mac and cheese, getting him to put his back against his chest.

 

“Sorry,” Hotch murmurs. “I didn’t want to get anybody involved.”

 

“Clearly.” Morgan flicks on the tv, not wanting to force Hotch to talk just yet. Eventually they finish the bowl of mac n cheese. Eventually, Hotch falls asleep. Morgan flicks the tv off, and they sleep soundly through the night.

 

Morgan stretches that next morning. Hotch is showering, he can hear the sound of water running, probably having a very stoic looking panic attack. Slowly he gets up, and throws on some of Hotch’s clothes. By the time, he’s not going to be able to dart back to his place and not be late in.

 

And Morgan knows that this problem hasn’t gone away, knows it better than Hotch, possibly better than Reid could imagine. After Chicago, Hotch knew some of it, which made it a little better.

 

“You know we’re going to need to talk about this right?” Morgan addressed the bathroom.

 

Hotch exited it. “No, we don’t. Thank you for your help last night.”

 

“Hotch. If you continue what you’re doing, this will happen again.”

 

“I’ll be fine,” Hotch argues. The towel is dangerously wrapped low around his hips.

 

“Hotch, you know I’m responsible for reporting this.”

 

For most people, this kind of issue wouldn’t be a problem. Most people who suffer the loss of a spouse rely on friends or on services, like the one Hotch tried. Hell, it’s not like people need to have thirty minutes of contact to not pass out. Usually, it’s a few brushes, a second long handshake, normal, everyday contact. And Hotch has been starving himself, possibly deliberately.

 

Morgan can see his ribs for God’s sake.

 

“I know that, Derek. Just . . .”

 

“I can help you. The team can help you. Let us. That’s all I’m asking.”

 

“I’ll try,” Hotch finally agrees. Derek lets it go.

_____________________________________________________________

“Late night?” Emily asks Reid.

 

“Huh?” She motions at his eyes. He blinks and rubs at his face.

 

“Yeah. I had a client last night.”

 

“You okay?” she asks. They’re good about that here. Some places give licensed employees shit over their night work. Emily always asks him if something seems wrong after a client.

 

“Yeah, yeah. She uh has anorexia.” It seems a little rich coming from Reid, but they know that’s more from his childhood than anything else. Out of all of them, Reid has the healthiest relationship with skin contact, except from Garcia, but that’s a low bar given the rest of them.

 

“Tricky case,” is all she says.

 

“Yeah. What’s up with Hotch?”

 

“Hmm?”

 

“Morgan’s wearing Hotch’s clothes.” They both look at the two men, only looking away when the men turn towards them.

 

“I’m sure they’ll tell us if it becomes important,” Emily assures Reid.

 

“Yeah. Because they always do that.”

____________________________________________________________

Reid easily finds Morgan later. “You okay?”

 

“Not really.” Morgan’s not meeting his eyes. “Hotch has been starving himself.”

 

What?! ” Reid yelps. “On purpose? Why?”

 

“Guilt over Haley. Apparently I’m one on his speed dial. He called me after a meeting with an agent from CHO went badly.”

 

“The CHO? He knows we’re all certified.” And Morgan spares a thought about how Reid wouldn’t expect anybody else to starve in silence like he has.

 

“Yep.” Morgan has a little bit more experience with people thinking not to ask their friends for help after Reid becoming a drug addict. He’s aware of the irony.

 

“So we’re what? Hoping he calls them again or tells us?”

 

“Yep.”

 

“That’s . . .that’s excessively foolish.” Reid is stunned.

 

“Fear makes us do strange things, Reid.” Reid nods. “Just be on the lookout for any strange, stranger, behavior.”

 

“You going to tell Emily?”

 

“Not right away. Hotch isn’t going to go to her, or to JJ. He’s terrified of being close to women ever again.”

 

“And you have to report it.” Derek nods. “Are you going to?”

 

“Yeah. I’m going to give him a couple of days, but you know I have to report it, as a CHO agent and as an FBI agent.”

 

It doesn’t come to anything.

 

Hotch shows up on Derek’s doorstep two nights later. Derek lets him in. They sit on the couch and watch tv. It’s not some grand gesture. They share these actions in near perfect silence. You know, the overly manly way that makes Derek’s skin itch like crazy.

 

“We ever going to talk about your crush on Reid?”

 

“What crush?”

 

Morgan raises an eyebrow. “You know.”

 

“Aren’t you supposed to be giving me shit over Emily?”

 

“Why? So you can bring up your ex-wife? What would that do?” Like Morgan would fall for that obvious trap. Like they don’t all know Emily’s gunning after somebody else, and they damn well know that Hotch is never going to touch another woman again with his truck of baggage.

 

“Are you profiling me?”

 

“It doesn’t take a profiler to see you checking out Reid’s ass.”

 

“You do it too.”

 

“Hmm?”

 

“You’re checking him out,” Hotch says, without hesitation.

 

“I-I am not,” Morgan protests. And somehow Morgan manages to get out of that conversation without bursting into flames from lying.

 

And they all start touching Hotch a little bit more. Garcia starts instituting hugs with the same type of seriousness most people reserve for regular gun drills. Hotch submits to them with the same level of respect that a cadet has. Emily tags him on the shoulder, wraps her bare arm around his, linking them together as casual as she can manage. JJ doesn’t touch as much as the others; she brings Hotch some of Will’s food though, the spicy mac n cheese. Will somehow puts all his negotiation skills into convincing Hotch to take Jack to their house for a sleepover.

 

Hotch lets them.

 

Spencer doesn’t touch him until he touches Spencer first. The genius remembers being hospitalized, touched all over by nurses until he screamed. He physically screamed; the doctors had to drug him to make him not care what was happening. He tries hard to not think about it. So he only touches Hotch when Hotch reaches out first.

 

Morgan doesn’t have that same issue, surprisingly, but he’s careful to not push Hotch at all, in any fucking way.

 

Same went for Rossi. In a fashion.

 

Rossi has the lessons of ‘personal growth’ still rumbling around. He’s an asshole about it, carefully hovering his hand over Hotch’s skin, not touching, brushing past Hotch like there’s not an entire book of emotions happening between them. Rossi is damn good at being an asshole. There’s that time when he offered Hotch a gun, like Hotch didn’t have at least two on him, like Hotch would’ve thought of it without that intervention. Rossi’s good like that.

 

Hotch still doesn’t put on weight like he should. He takes better care of Jack, making sure to never shy away from his own son. His suits still hang on him, like the flimsiest shield against the rest of the world.

 

“Reid,” Emily calls across the room. The agent doesn’t look up until she calls again. “What is with you?”

 

“Client. She’s been abusing drugs.” They all look up at that. Reid shakes his head. “I-uh . . .”

 

“Take the day, Reid,” Hotch says after the other doesn’t speak for a minute.

 

Reid shakes his head. “I’m fine, Hotch.”

 

“I’m taking a day as well,” Emily says firmly, getting out of her seat. She grabs her purse, gun, and go bag. “Come on, Reid.”

 

“I’m fine. I don’t know why you guys are worried.”

 

“Let us worry,” Morgan says firmly. He lets them go though, doesn’t try to follow. Reid’s always been a little finicky around men, especially after Hankle.

 

“Paperwork day,” Hotch declares, firmly shuttering himself in his office. Rossi groans softly to himself.

 

“Huh?” Morgan asks.

 

“It’s bond breakage.”

 

“What?” Morgan asks.

 

“Bond breakage. When you’re married to somebody, you bond with them, not in the touchy soulmate thing, but in a reassurance between two people. Haley’s death is causing that bond to wither, and it’s worse because he thought it was gone.”

 

“Whatever happened to inter team profiling?”

 

“I’m not,” Rossi protests. “This is between two people who care about him.”

 

Morgan doesn’t try to protest it. When it comes to Hotch, sometimes they need all the help they can get.

 

Emily presses Spencer’s head against her neck. “Easy.”

 

“Em, I’m fine. Really.” But he gets as close as he can get, shaking slightly.

 

Nobody had told them off for having to take a day. There are several jobs that fit inside an FBI Agent’s position, and one of them is helping people. And some days they’re too good at it, too good at saving others to save themself. It’s why they work as a team, and it’s why Emily took Spencer home, wrapped him up in blankets and skin that won’t have track marks.

 

“Uh-huh.” Sergio curled up in a ball against Spencer’s back. “What actually happened?”

 

“What?”

 

“You wouldn’t be this agitated without a reason.”

 

“Actually, agitation rarely needs a reason. 15% of people feel agitation without a concrete reason. The assumption that feelings and actions are connected is not true in many cases. You would think that a profilor-”

 

“Reid.” She waits for him to breath a little easier. “What happened?”

 

“She offered me drugs.”

 

Emily raises her eyebrows and moves a little closer. She doesn’t say anything. She knows better.

 

“I called the police. They arrested her for drug abuse.” He laughs in a choking fashion, heaving his body on Emily’s bed. “I can’t-I don’t know if I did the right thing. I damned her to a life where anybody who touches her will have to worry about drugs, and transference.”

 

“Reid. We can’t save everybody.” And Emily hopes that he gets it, because he’s been taking on more dangerous clients, which is fine because it’s Reid. Reid is the best with the really troubled ones, being brought up by a mother who clawed at people when they came too close had done something useful, it seems at least. But she worries that he’ll wear himself out.

 

And largely they all learn to handle the job. People just want to be seen, to be held. That’s all they want, that’s all they know.

 

Reid gets shot.

 

Hotch very carefully and with great thought loses his shit.

 

“You know, we’re not supposed to shoot unarmed suspects,” Rossi says easily, sitting next to Hotch in the hospital waiting room. The only thing that gives away his wariness is the way he’s eyeing Hotch.

 

“Huh. I’ll make sure they put that in a book.” Hotch doesn’t move his head from his hands. Reid had been in surgery for seven hours.

 

“Huh,” Rossi says, imitating his boss’s tone, “I’ll be sure to write that down later.”

 

Hotch sighs, not bothering to look up still. “I thought he was waving the gun towards Derek, and he shot Reid. It’s a clean shoot.”

 

“You wanna play poker?”

 

“I want the doctor to get back here, and Morgan to be done with the police.”

 

“They’re fifteen minutes out.”

 

“Good.”

 

“I’m shocked they let you go with your gun. In an ambulance.”

 

“I do what I can,” Hotch snaps slightly.

 

Finally, finally, thank fuck, the doctor shows up.

 

“He’s refusing drugs.” Hotch closes his eyes, and silently curses Gideon forever plopping Spencer into this mess of a life. “And he’s refusing contact.”

 

“I can help with one,” Hotch replies, standing up. Rossi’s on his left in a second, partially ready for Hotch to react in an unfortunate fashion. What? After that whole shootout bit, Rossi’d rather be prepared than not.

 

“Right. We don’t allow-”

 

“I’m on his form, and I’m cleared by CHO, now move .” The doctor, very wisely, moves. Rossi follows Hotch. Reid’s still in the ICU, trying very hard to not whimper from the pain of, you know, getting shot in the leg.

 

Hotch sits down heavily in the chair next to Reid. The kid’s barely looking at him, fully concentrating on not screaming. The doctor gave him an epidural for surgery, accompanied by general anesthesia, which had really messed up his system. He spares a quick thought on how doctors should improve their ability to manage ex-drug users’ pain. He’s only barely conscious of Hotch’s tight grip on his hand.

 

“We’re giving him a constant supply of local anesthetic, but that won’t help much with his pain,” the doctor says. “We’re using steroids on the epidural, but that’s not a long term solution to pain management.”

 

“Okay,” Hotch says, not taking his eyes off Reid.

 

Rossi pats him on the back, “I’m going back to the police station. Want me to bring you anything?”

 

“No. Thanks.”

 

“Hotch?” Reid asks, squeezing Hotch’s hand tightly. “Don’t leave. Don’t let them give me drugs.”

 

“I’m not leaving. They’re not giving you opioids, just try to sleep, Spencer.”

 

And Spencer eventually gets discharged. Hotch eventually stops sleeping on that specific hospital couch. His back thanks him. They go back to Virginia. “Pretty boy, the doctor said you need somebody to stay with you.”

 

“I thought you were,” Spencer says, still not tracking right. They’ve all gotten used to milling around the genius when he’s bold enough to attempt to move around his posse who act like he needs to be guarded. They’ve all caught him when he over balances on the crutches. Only Dr. Spencer Reid can recite the equations created by crutches while flailing towards the ground.

 

“I can’t, pretty boy, Garcia needs me.”

 

“I can,” Hotch volunteers. Reluctantly, Spencer nods. “I don’t have to-” Hotch attempts to add.

 

“Henry needs me.”

 

“I can’t,” Emily says, equally quick.

 

“I have a  . . . thing,” Rossi says. They all look at him. Rossi’s a terrible liar sometimes.

 

“Right,” Spencer says, trying to not take offense at them all. They all give him their most innocents looks.

 

So Hotch takes Reid back to Hotch’s apartment, because he still has Jack.

 

“Dad, is Spencer staying with us?”

 

“Yep. He’s feeling a little sick so he’s gonna stay with us until he feels better.”

 

“What happened?” Jack looks at them so curiously.

 

“Well, he was very, very brave, and a bad guy hurt him.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Because Spencer wasn’t going to let the bad guy hurt anybody.”

 

“Okay.”

 

Hotch, using all his lawyer skills, manages to convince Reid to sleep on the bed. Hotch will pat himself on the back for that one for years to come. He doesn’t want to question why Reid was so easy to convince.

 

Reid’s leg is still all strapped up. The docs weren’t taking any chances, which was probably a good idea if how Reid was handling crutches was anything to go on. He’s also still too skinny. Morgan had tried to talk him into letting the nurses not wear gloves but Reid had not been convinced. Luckily, the doctors didn’t commit him, and all was well. Mostly.

 

“Hey, where are you going?” Reid asks after Hotch managed to tuck Reid in, and was just about to turn to go sleep on the- “You are not sleeping on the couch.”

 

“Where else am I going to sleep?” Hotch asks with all the brilliance he possess after only four hours of sleep in the past two days.

 

Reid just blinks for a second. “In the bed?” he asks like Hotch is the strange one (because he is).

 

“Uh, no?”

 

“Hotch, as the person drugged, you’re going to do what I say, and get in the bed.”

 

“Right, let me just change and-”

 

“Hotch, shuck your pants and get in the bed.” Hotch, demonstrating more common sense than Rossi credits him with, shucks his pants and gets into the bed. Reid promptly rolls into him, carefully mouvering his leg into a comfortable position. “Sleep,” Reid mutters and passes out. Eventually Hotch follows suit.

 

Hotch wakes up with Reid pressed up against him, bare skin pressed against his. He moves slightly to the right, attempting to wiggle out from the deathlock underhook that Reid has on him. Reid mumbles and tightens his group, touch starved genius, Hotch silently curses. Hotch moves again.

 

“What-what’s going on?”

 

“Nothing. Go back to sleep.” Hotch successfully wiggles out from under Spencer, and stands up.

 

“Mm. What time are we due for work?”

 

“Two hours.”

 

“It’s 6am, Hotch. You go back to sleep.” But he closes his eyes, and is back under quickly.

 

Hotch smiles slightly. They’re no longer skinny, no longer as defensive as they were years ago. And maybe it’s enough.

 

“My dad never touched me growing up,” Hotch says, not looking at Reid, not having to check if he’s awake or asleep.

 

“I know.” Hotch blinks. “You’re pretty easy to read after all this time.”

 

Hotch sighs into his neck. “I- Haley and I weren’t having . . . for the months before we broke up.”

 

Well that explains the starvation. Reid tightens his hold, and does his best to ignore the overwhelming desire to kill Haley again. Because he knows Hotch, and Hotch can spot familial abuse miles away, and there’s a goddamn reason for that. And how ever Hotch failed her as husband, it doesn’t justify this.

 

“It’s not your fault,” Reid says confidently. Hotch shakes his head and tries to jerk away. Reid doesn’t let him. “It’s not your fault.”

 

And somehow they both fuck it up, in the way that only they could. Reid starts a long distance relationship that the rest of the team try and fail to support. The others do a little bit better with Beth, not having the heart to not want Hotch any amount of happiness.

 

And then Maeve happens.

 

“Hey, kid,” Morgan says slowly, making himself as small as he could. Reid flinches further into the closet. Spencer can see the writing on the wall; there’s hospital personnel in the other room. They’re not especially quiet. JJ is with them.

 

Hotch wouldn’t be here for this. He’s not cruel enough to force this on Reid.

 

“Under Section 13.4 of the CHO Regulations, you can’t commit me since-”

 

“Hey, hey, no one’s going to commit you. I’m just here to talk. That’s all.”

 

And somehow, Morgan still doesn’t know how, they manage to coax him out. The CHO agents, despite all contrary evidence, declare the genius recovering. Morgan allows it because Spencer answered the questions with blunt honesty that nearly drives Morgan to his knees.

 

“I recommend Dr. Reid goes back to work as soon as possible, and takes part in normal bonding activity. I further recommend that he be placed with one of your agents.”

 

Morgan blinks, and then blinks again. It’s Steve, the worker from years ago who handled Hotch, and later did his follow up under Reid’s recommendation. “Work?”

 

“He’s sitting in a closet without anything else to think about. It’s been a month. He’s as recovered as he’s going to get from that. Anything more, he’ll spiral.”

 

Reid’s silent, not mummering facts or stats, and that scares Morgan more than most things do. Actually, it had scared him enough to call the hospital. Morgan’s terrified. So Reid ends up at his house, after having refused his help several times over.

 

Morgan gets good at convincing Reid to shower in the mornings, eat toast, and go sit in the car. Hotch, after a quick conversation, assigns Reid only cold cases. He borrows himself in Rossi’s office, and they do their best to give him space.

 

It takes Spencer months to realize that Hotch fucked it up with Beth. He never gets the full story. It’s definitely something related to his job. He does have the honor of watching Hotch get plastered by his side. Reid does his best, and piles the shots on him.

 

“I loved her,” Aaron says bitterly. “After Haley, I never-I never thought I’d find somebody who I’d love.”

 

“Not everybody is Haley, Hotch. You’ll find somebody else.”

 

“Yeah, man,” Morgan adds.

 

Rossi says nothing, calmly accepts the drink from Emily and pounds it back. Infants, he’s dealing with infants. Emily sympathetically pats his shoulder.

 

“All of you should go have sex. Together. For fun,” Rossi finally snaps, completely losing it. Emily starts coughing against him, probably because he’s stolen what she’s wanted to say for years .

 

The terrible trio all look at each other, and leave as one.

 

“Thank fuck,” Emily says firmly.

 

Rossi looks at her. “Want a ride home?”

 

“Yeah, thanks.” They don’t go to Emily’s.

 

The whole team stumbles into the office the next morning, a lot closer than they were the night before. Garcia hands them all cupcakes, having been immediately told about Rossi from JJ. And they all eat and are happy for a moment.

 

And somehow it’s a little bit better, and worse all at the same time. But’s that par for the course.

 

The hunger never goes away. It’s there, restless against the night. They all get a little bit better at handling it though, and that’s more than enough to be going on about, getting this small amount of happiness.

 

the end.