Hotch stared at the water and listened to the faucet run as to block out the sound of Reid ranting at him, or more specifically about him. As he scrubbed a plate he thought about how he was grateful Reid never raised his voice, it was definitely easier than with Haley. He was taken aback that Reid wasn't already throwing things at him, both physically and verbally. Haley would usually already be screaming insults at him as she tossed the first object she could find at him. If Spencer started that, he didn't even think he'd try putting his hands up to protect himself. It never helped anyway.
"Aaron? Are you even listening to me?" He heard it, but didn't comprehend. In his mind, it was surely something assassinating his character, and he'd rather not pay attention to that. "Tuh, of course. It's not like it's the first time someone has completely ignored what I say," Reid spoke to nobody in particular, starting to dry his plate with a little more force. Still, he held on to hope that Aaron would respond and say that he was listening, and just had no comment. It was very hard to have an argument when the person you are arguing with is acting like a brick wall.
"Aaron!" Hotch didn't flinch, but his expression got tighter. He bit the inside of his lip, only processing the tone. His senses were in overdrive, he hoped that no response was the route to least trouble.
Reid was getting worried now. "Aaron," he said gently as he placed a hand on Hotch's shoulder. Hotch spun around and accidently dropped his plate. He stared at it, smashed to pieces on the ground, in horror. "Aaron?" Reid was confused by the fearful look on Hotch's face, and his voice immediately took on concern. However, Hotch took it as an admonishment.
He immediately dropped to his knees and dragged the trash over next to him before picking up pieces of glass with his bare hands. Now Reid was really concerned, all anger from their argument gone. He momentarily fixated on the scene unfolding in front of him, wondering why Aaron was responding in such an odd manner. After all, the dustpan and broom (which were much safer) were only a few feet away. It's not like he didn't see them, for chrissakes he had to rearrange them to lean against the wall after removing them from their position against the bin!
Aaron was terrified. Using the broom didn't even cross his mind. His mess, he cleans it up. This was part of the punishment. His mind flashed back to when he broke a plate in front of Haley once, and she ended up throwing all the rest of the plates at him (well except one, which she cracked over his head.) They were going to have to be replaced anyway, as he had fucked up the set.
Reid dropped next to him and placed his hand on Hotch's back, which he flinched away from. Before he could say anything, Hotch terrifiedly said, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. It's all my fault." He wondered if Reid's methods of punishment would be like Haley's (throwing things while shouting verbal abuse) or like his fathers (punches and kicks with insults here and there.) It was a tie in likelihood, on one hand he was similar to Haley in the partners aspect, but he also shared the fact he was male with Hotch's dad.
"Stop, Aaron." Reid's voice was laced with panic, so it came out harsher than intended. Either way, Hotch would have made the same assumption: stop talking, instead of stop picking up broken glass. "Aaron."
Hotch continued. Finally, Reid grabbed his wrists and said, "It's just a plate Aaron. I'll clean it up, okay?"
Was it a trick? It probably was, he recalled his father once telling him he was off the hook, only to laugh at how naive he was to not understand his father was joking, and he was, in fact, getting his ass beat. When Reid let go, he went back to cleaning the plate. He had cuts on his hands by now, but he ignored them.
Reid went through all he knew about abuse victims, trying to figure out what to do. Because he was sure now, this was the aftermath of abuse. On one hand, he was surprised that Hotch of all people would be a passive victim. However it made sense. Because it started with his father, he most likely had low self esteem and only passed off fake confidence. From there, he did what everyone else does: he accepted the love he thought he deserved. His mind told him he deserved this, even though logic would have told him that Haley was abusive. He was trained, he was aware of it. But he thought he deserved it.
And at some point, the awareness was gone. It had gotten so severe, he began to think it was normal, because it was definitely expected.
Reid needed to phrase it as an order, not a question. Putting on a commanding voice, he firmly demanded, "Aaron, stop. Go to the bedroom, now." Hotch immediately dropped the plate piece he was holding and said, "yes," before rushing upstairs.
Grabbing the broom, Reid started to swiftly clean up the broken plate. Tears sprang to his eyes as he thought about the condition Hotch was in. He quickly wiped them away, ashamed that he was the one crying. If anyone should cry, it's Hotch. When done, he raced upstairs.
While Reid was downstairs, Hotch worriedly thought about what was to come. By now, he was certain Reid's punishment methods would be similar to his father's. It only made sense, the commanding voice and all. Plus, there wasn't many insults and he could have just as easily thrown things at him in the kitchen.
When Reid entered the bedroom, Aaron wasn't on the bed as he had expected. He caught sight of the open bathroom door and slowly walked over. He pushed the door further open and was met with the sight of Aaron sitting on the floor. "Aaron. . .what are you doing in here?"
"I don't think you'd appreciate blood on the bed, and it's easier to clean off of tile." Reid hadn't even noticed his bloody hand.
"Oh my god, Aaron!" Hotch flinched and leaned away from Reid's gaze. "I'm sorry," Reid said instinctively. Then he noticed that Hotch was still on the floor, peering up at him. That must add to the dominance Hotch seemed to think he had, especially considering he's 6'0". "How about you sit on the toilet seat and I'll get your hand cleaned up?"
Hotch cradled his hand to his chest, confused. Was this a trick? Last time wasn't a trick. Hesitantly, he got up and sat where directed. Reid tenderly grabbed his wrist and pulled it forward as his other hands pulled out the medical supplies. He silently cleaned the small cuts. When he was done he kissed Hotch's knuckles and said, "There we go."
Later that night, they were both in bed. After he cleaned the cuts, Reid went to read up on how to handle the situation. Hotch also read, as it was an activity that didn't take up much space and in his state he wasn't exactly begging for attention.
The thing that confused Reid was that he usually didn't act like this. Well, that wasn't entirely true. Looking back on it, every fight they had was one sided. And he did get quiet afterwards, but never this severely. . .vulnerable. Finally he decided that the fight must've triggered the response, as Hotch didn't usually walk on eggshells around him. Or maybe he did, and it was just not usually this severe? Reid didn't know what to think.
"Aaron, I think we need to talk." Hotch immediately panicked. It was a trick! He knew it.
"No, no. Don't be sorry, Aaron. You didn't do anything wrong." Hotch was silent, not knowing how to respond. What if he said the wrong thing, what if this was another trap? Once Reid realized he wasn't getting a response, he continued. "Aaron, when you dropped the plate, what did you think was going to happen?"
"I'd get punished." It was the most confident he'd heard him since the incident.
Reid bit his lip. "Aaron. . .honey, no." He rarely used pet names, but he felt in this case Aaron needed all the endearment he could get. "I. . .I'm concerned that you think that. I'm sure at one point you were aware that shouldn't be the response, but now it's become muddled." Looking back, whenever they had cases involving abuse, someone else always pointed out the signs. "It's. . .I'm not going to say love isn't supposed to hurt, because people often get their feelings hurt in relationships, so that's not very apt. But it's. . .it's never supposed to be physical, and it's not supposed to hurt all the time."
"But. . .I broke a plate?"
"Aaron. If I were to punish you for that, it would be abuse. End of story. It wouldn't be acceptable. And if we break up, I hope you know not to ever let anyone treat you like that."
"You're breaking up with me?" Aaron sounded heartbroken.
"No," Reid gently ran his hands through Aaron's hair. "I just think that maybe you need to share some of these thoughts, that if you do something wrong, you get punished, with a therapist."
"I know there's something wrong with me."
Reid breathed a sigh of relief. "So you do know that's abusive behavior."
"No, I just know that I'm such a fuck-up I need therapy. But. . .what are you saying."
"I think that if Haley punished you for things like that, she was abusive." Reid knew there was a chance it could stem from his father, but he was hoping Hotch's daddy issues weren't so severe that he could imagine Reid, his boyfriend, in a similar light to his father.
"Oh. . .but she did it because she loved me. What you're saying doesn't make sense, abusers don't love their partners." Reid was alarmed now, because if he didn't word it right, he'd essentially be saying, "she didn't love you."
"Aaron, if Haley broke a plate, would you hurt her."
"No," was his immediate response.
"Because. . .I wouldn't want to hurt her."
"Exactly. I think you should think about that. You don't need to get this worked out tonight, but I am hoping we could maybe sign you up for therapy, okay? You can say no, but I think it'd be good for you." With that, Reid pulled Hotch closer to him. He buried Hotch's head in between his neck and shoulder, stroking his hair. "I love you."
"I love you, too."