Every individual acts and suffers in accordance with his peculiar teleology, which has all the inevitability of fate, so long as he does not understand it. - Alfred Adler"
There was a kind of frenetic energy about Reid that Aaron had noticed almost from the moment they'd met. He'd been drawn to it, though he wasn't entirely sure in what capacity. Some days he wanted to soothe that energy away, to let Reid know he didn't always have to be running a hundred miles an hour. Some days he just wanted to bask in it, to let Reid be Reid and maybe allow himself to steal just a bit of that youthful energy for himself.
But after Hankel, things changed.
There was an underlying darkness to that energy now, an obfuscation that hadn't been there before. It was as if Reid's life had become one of the seemingly endless magic tricks he'd somehow learned in between, or maybe before, acquiring his doctorates.
Aaron didn't like it.
Reid's always used his whole body to communicate. Hands moving to illustrate what words alone could not describe. Arms sweeping forward to indicate the landscape that Reid always seemed to see in his mind's eye.
But the jittery, jiggling movements of late - the way his legs jostled about when the rest of his body was in stillness, the way his fingers tapped away even when he had nothing to say - were a different type of communication. Aaron could see the contest, feel the conflict in Reid, almost as surely as he could feel it in himself.
Reid was struggling and Aaron wanted, no needed, to help him.
But there was a fine line between being a superior and being a friend that Aaron had always had difficulties straddling. And his feelings for Reid had always been complicated. It was why, for the most part, he stayed firmly on the side of professional with the entire team.
Ultimately, it was Owen Savage who pushed Aaron passed that line.
He'd watched as Savage's story broke Reid down. Watched as Reid placed himself in harm's way, placed his own life below that of a boy who'd lost his innocence long ago. In those moments, all Aaron could hear was the roaring of his own heartbeat. All he could feel was the cold steel of the gun in his hand as he stared at Reid's back.
And when sound returned and the world righted itself, when they finally had Savage in custody and Reid safe, Aaron understood that his decision had been made long before this. Maybe long before it should have been.
The day after they returned to Quantico, Aaron found himself standing outside Reid's apartment door. It wasn't particularly remarkable or sturdy looking, though Aaron knew from sad experience that not many doors, locked or otherwise, could keep you safe.
He touched the cool wood and imagined Reid behind it, looking for that safe place.
He knocked, the heavy rap of his knuckles echoing in the apartment beyond. He could almost feel Reid's surprise and his hesitance. Though Aaron understood now that this moment had been practically inevitable, he didn't know what Reid thought of him showing up uninvited to his home.
"Reid, I know you're in there," Aaron said. He heard the chain disengage and the locks click.
Reid's eyes were more sunken than usual, dark circles shading the skin beneath. Aaron wanted to reach out then, but refrained. They were alone in the hall, but that could change at any moment.
"May I come in?"
Reid nodded once, and then stepped aside. He looked resigned, as if he expected a lecture or another dressing down after their last case.
"I don't make it a habit of following my subordinates home to reprimand them," he said, hoping to reassure but only realizing too late that his words would do anything but. He hadn't meant to remind Reid of their roles, either.
"Oh, but you'll make an exception this time?" Reid snapped.
"No, Reid, that's not what I'm here for," Aaron said, sighing. "Spencer…"
"Oh, now I know I'm really in trouble." Reid was pacing the room, that fractured, broken energy crackling all around him.
Aaron's instincts were screaming at him to touch, to soothe Reid's jangled nerves. Since they had saved his life on more than one occasion, Aaron rarely, if ever, fought his instincts. So, on Reid's next pass, Aaron reached out to encircle Reid's wrist, thumb pressing lightly against the jackrabbit pulse there.
Reid stilled immediately, and the tight ball of anxiety that had been living inside Aaron for months finally loosened.
"Maybe you are," Aaron said, squeezing lightly. "But I'm not here as your Unit Chief. I'm here as your friend."
"My friend?" Reid repeated, incredulous. Defensive. "So, what, this is off the record?"
"Yes." Aaron didn't hesitate.
Reid raised one slender brow at him.
"It is," Aaron insisted.
Some of the energy seemed to seep out of Reid then, his shoulders slumping. "What are you doing here, Hotch?"
"I told you," Aaron said, thumb drawing lazy circles over Reid's wrist. "I'm here to help."
"And how do you propose to do that? What exactly do you think I need help with?" Reid sounded tired now and Aaron hoped that meant he was breaking through whatever shell Reid was using to protect himself.
Now that he'd begun to touch Reid, Aaron found that he couldn't stop. And since Reid wasn't objecting, maybe he didn't have to. He held on and stared directly into Reid's eyes.
"I don't have specifics," Aaron said, watching Reid's gaze skitter away and then back again. "But the mood swings, the obvious signs of sleep deprivation, the distinct lack of self-preservation. PTSD? A relapse? Both? Something else? Whatever it is, I'm here."
"I don't need a therapist," Reid said, sullen.
"We'll agree to disagree for now," Aaron said, pulling Reid closer inch by inch. "But as I said, I'm not here as anything but your friend. Whatever you need, I…I want to help, to take some of the burden, maybe, to take care of you, if you'll let me."
"I'm not a child," Reid said, sounding as petulant in that moment as Jack ever had.
"No," Aaron huffed. "No, I know that." Reid hadn't any idea how well Aaron knew and now wasn't the time to tell him. He was here for Reid, not himself.
He pulled Reid the rest of the way to him, Reid's resistance suddenly gone. Reid's slight body trembled against his and Aaron tightened his arms, holding him close. He remembered a cold night in Atlanta, relief making his own body tremble as he'd held Reid to him. He hadn't been able to stand seeing Reid suffer then, and couldn't let him suffer now.
"Whatever you need," Aaron repeated. He slid one hand up Reid's spine to cup the back of his neck and felt Reid settle against him.
"I haven't been sleeping," Reid confessed into Aaron's shoulder.
"Nightmares?" he asked.
It should have felt strange, Aaron thought, holding Reid this way. He'd always done his best to respect Reid's boundaries, always maintained his distance. But instead it felt right, as if maybe Reid needed this, needed a way to release some of that manic energy sparking around him. And maybe, Aaron could be that conduit for him.
The way Reid seemed to calm at his touch, to lean into his embrace, was certainly evidence in his favor.
"Sometimes," Reid finally admitted. "Sometimes I just, I can't quiet my mind. I think about Tobias, about his death, about not being able to save him."
"Reid - "
"He was just a kid, Hotch."
Aaron tightened his embrace, squeezing lightly at the nape of Reid's neck. "I'm not sure Tobias Hankel ever really was a kid, Reid."
"But that's the point, isn't it?" Reid said. "Do you remember what I said to Chester Hardwick? That he knew deep down inside that he was the one who never really had a chance?"
"I remember," Aaron said, chest aching in sympathy.
"Well, Tobias never had a chance, Hotch. Except he was too broken to even understand that." Reid clutched at Aaron's shirt, fisting the material as if to anchor Aaron to him. "He still had hope. In the end, I mean. He sounded so…happy. So hopeful. That his father was gone. That he'd see his mother again. That's what I think about, what I can't stop reliving. That after everything he'd been through, he still had that inside him." Reid's hands were shaking now, even as they tightened around Aaron's Henley. "And I killed it."
"Reid, Jesus," Aaron said. He closed his eyes for the briefest of moments, feeling the hitch in Reid's breath more so than hearing it. "You did what you had to do to survive. And so did Hankel."
Reid's trembling grew worse, so Aaron led him toward the couch. Reid's hands were shaking when he finally released Aaron's shirt, so Aaron didn't let him go as they settled together on the worn leather.
Reid's fingers twined with Aaron's own, his obvious anxiety overriding his usual avoidance of this type of touch. Aaron had always liked Reid's hands, his long dexterous fingers tracing lines on a map or deftly rolling a coin from pinky to index and back. They were fascinating, mesmerizing to watch.
Even more so now that they were curling around Aaron's own, dancing along his skin as Reid shifted and fidgeted beside him. They were silent for what felt like a long while, but when Aaron began to shift away in order to give Reid some space, Reid's grip tightened.
"I'm not going anywhere," Aaron assured him.
"I'm sorry." Reid's hold loosened.
"You don't have to apologize. I told you that I want to help, that I'm here if you need me." Aaron stared down at Reid's bent head. "For as long as you need me."
Reid began tracing the life line running across Aaron's left palm and said, "Did you know there are 1,447 English words you can type on a QWERTY keyboard with just your left hand?"
"I did not know that," Aaron said, faint amusement tipping up one corner of his mouth.
"There are only 187 you can type with just your right."
"Reid," Aaron murmured, hand curling around Reid's before he could retreat again. "Tell me what you need."
"Why are you really here, Hotch?" Reid sounded tired, confused.
"I'd like to believe that we're friends," Aaron said. "But the truth is, whether you see me that way or as nothing more than your superior, it doesn't matter. I'm here because I care, Spencer. Because you're important to me."
"I, uh, I don't know how to respond to that."
"You don't have to," Aaron assured him. "And I apologize if I've made you uncomfortable." He hadn't meant to reveal so much. "I…I'd like to stay, but I'd understand if you'd prefer me to leave."
"Why would I prefer that?" Reid looked up at that.
A grin flitted across Aaron's face. "I'm glad that you don't."
"So, uhm, what now?"
Reid's earlier resentment at Aaron's intrusion seemed to have lessened if not completely dissipated. At the risk of resurrecting that anger, Aaron said, "I'd like to discuss Texas, if you're up to it."
Reid tensed, and before Aaron could think too much about it he was reaching out again, wrapping the palm of his hand around the back of Reid's neck and pulling him close enough to press their foreheads together briefly. Reid relaxed almost instantly. "We don't have to, but I'd like to understand."
"I'm not sure what's happening here," Reid whispered.
Aaron breathed in Reid's scent, his own fingers trembling at Reid's nape. "Only what you're comfortable with." He hadn't come for any other reason but to offer Reid help, but like everything else this, too, seemed inevitable. "Only what you want."
"And what do you want?" They were so close, Reid's lips nearly brushed his own.
"I think," Aaron said, his own breathing gone ragged. "I think you know that what I want is you."
A part of Aaron knew that this wasn't the best time for confessions or the best time for Reid to be making any decisions; but when Reid ducked closer, lips tentatively caressing Aaron's own, he couldn't have stopped himself from reciprocating even if he'd wanted to.
He hadn't let himself imagine what Reid would taste like, how soft his lips would feel, or how eager he might be. But it didn't matter, wouldn't have mattered, because in that moment, all Aaron could do was feel.
Want crashed through him.
He scratched blunt nails through the short hairs at the base of Reid's scalp and swallowed the moan it elicited. It sent a thrill of possessive need through Aaron.
"Spencer," Aaron said between biting kisses. Reid's bottom lip was so inviting, Aaron just kept sinking his teeth in. "Are you sure this is what you want? We don't have to rush." He tried to slow himself down, but instead all he did was draw Reid closer.
Arousal skittered up his spine at the way Reid said his name.
"I want this, want you," Reid breathed. "I have for a long time."
His body felt hot and tight all over at Reid's confession. He'd been hard since the first press of Reid's lips to his, but now his body ached with it.
"Spence," Aaron groaned.
"I want this," Reid said again.
Though he sometimes gave that impression, Aaron knew that Reid was no innocent. And he respected Reid enough to take him at his word.
"Bedroom?" he said, just barely keeping himself from pressing Reid back into the couch cushions instead.
"End of the hall," Reid panted.
They made it halfway before Aaron had Reid against a wall. The sounds Reid made as Aaron sucked a bruising mark just beneath his collar drove Aaron crazy. It made him want to leave even more bruises, to mark Reid everywhere as his.
He pressed his thigh to Reid's groin, felt his answering arousal.
Reid's responsiveness was infinitely intoxicating; the way he leaned into each of Aaron's touches, the way he chased after Aaron's kisses. Reid rolled his hips, rutting against Aaron's thigh, and moaned.
"Christ," Aaron said, pressing his own hips forward to rub along the jut of Reid's hip. "Christ, Spencer." It felt like years since Aaron felt anything so intense.
"Hotch," Reid gasped. "Aaron. Please."
Aaron took Reid's mouth in another hungry, desperate kiss before letting Reid drag them both toward the bedroom.
Aaron pulled off his Henley one handed as Reid ripped at the buttons of his own shirt. If he'd allowed himself to consider it, Aaron would have thought that Reid's skin would be smooth as silk for no reason other than that it would match his innocent veneer.
Instead there were scars. Not enough to indicate long-term abuse, but more than Aaron would have guessed at. Or maybe just more than Aaron would have wished for him.
Still half dressed, Aaron stepped close enough to trace the scar running just about two inches above Reid's right hip. It wasn't overly long, but it had obviously been deep enough to leave its mark.
"High school," Reid said, as if it were an obvious explanation and maybe it was. "Some of the football players liked to, uh, kick me while I was down. Sometimes they wore cleats."
"Reid," Aaron's voice broke on his name. It wasn't hard to see why Owen Savage had touched such a raw nerve.
Reid was hunching into himself, crossing his arms to try to cover some of the scars.
"Hey," Aaron softened his voice. He cupped Reid's chin and tilted his face up so their eyes could meet. "You," he said, pressing a quick, reassuring kiss to Reid's lips. "Are one of the strongest, bravest men I've ever known." Another kiss. A squeeze to Reid's bare shoulder. Aaron felt Reid's tension ease, his arms loosen and fall back to his sides. "There is nothing about you that I don't find attractive," he said. "Mind and body."
Reid flashed a tentative smile. Then his eyes fell to Aaron's own bare chest. "You're not so bad yourself."
A short, sharp bark of laughter escaped Aaron then, something loosening inside his chest. "God, I want you." The truth of the words hit him like a punch to the gut, knocking the breath from him. He'd pushed his feelings down for so long, not allowing them to see the light for so many reasons. And now there was something wildly freeing about saying the words aloud.
It was Reid who leaned in to steal the next kiss, hands roaming over Aaron's chest and down to his belly, fingers teasing the start of Aaron's treasure trail before moving to unclasp his trousers.
Aaron shuddered with need. He didn't consider himself an overly vain individual, but Reid's obvious appreciation made him want to preen. And when Reid finally pulled Aaron's cock free and closed his hand around him, Aaron groaned, body jerking as every muscle tightened. "Spence."
"I want," Reid said, voice rough as he stroked Aaron.
"Anything." Aaron didn't hesitate. "What do you want, Spence?"
"I want to see all of you," Reid said, tugging at Aaron's loosened pants with his free hand.
Aaron pulled away just long enough to kick his pants and boxers free. "You too," he said, indicating Reid's own trousers.
Reid nodded and followed suit. Aaron didn't even try not to stare. Reid's arousal was still evident, his erection jutting thick from the light tangle of hair at his groin. The sight made Aaron's mouth water. It'd been years since he'd been with another man, law school actually, when he and Haley had split for a few months.
And now he and Haley had split for good and Aaron was allowed to want again.
"Spence, you are -" Aaron's body was vibrating with need. His skin felt hot and his hands shook as they reached for Reid.
"It's weird hearing you say my name like that," Reid said, and Aaron hesitated for a bare second. "Weird but good," he added quickly.
Aaron grinned, joy and freedom forcing his usual walls to come crashing down. "Weirder than our standing here naked together?" he asked, wrapping his hand around Reid's arousal, fingers teasing the head. "Weirder than my hand around your cock? Than my asking permission to taste? To take you into my mouth?"
"Aaron," Reid moaned, thrusting into Aaron's touch.
"May I?" He was already licking his lips, already slipping to his knees when Reid nodded.
He nuzzled Reid's sac first, teasing with the tip of his tongue. When Reid's thighs began to shake, Aaron directed him to the edge of the bed to sit. "Don't want your knees buckling," he said with a grin, then swallowed Reid down.
He couldn't take all of Reid. He might be able to, with practice, but just then he was only able to take the first few inches. Reid's reaction, though, the jerk of his hips and his harsh intake of breath indicated that he didn't mind.
Aaron took his time learning Reid. He savored the feel of every vein and ridge as he slid his mouth along Reid's shaft, licked at the bitter saltiness leaking from the tip. He loved Reid's responses… the sounds he was making, the way he tugged involuntarily at Aaron's hair when Aaron applied just the right suction.
Aaron had one hand stroking the parts of Reid he couldn't reach and one hand on his own cock. It was so good, so intense, Aaron knew his own moans sounded filthy, desperate.
A burst of pre-come flooded his senses and then Reid was pushing him off, away. Before he could ask what was wrong, Reid had hauled him onto his feet and taken his mouth in another hard kiss. This time it felt like Reid was chasing his own flavor, licking into Aaron's mouth hungrily. Their bodies were pressed together, erections hard and trapped between them.
They fell onto the bed, hips rolling as they rutted against each other. It was playful and desperate all at once. Aaron couldn't stop kissing Reid. His mouth. His throat. His shoulder. He put his mouth everywhere he could reach and left a few darkening bruises along the way. The sight of them only made his arousal surge.
He'd wanted Reid for longer than he could remember now and seeing the evidence of their coupling ignited a raging inferno of need inside him.
"Wanted you for so long," he said, tracing a thumb along the line of heat tinting Reid's high cheek bones, covering Reid's body with his own. "Just like this." He thrust their erections together, making them both groan. "Wanting me just like this."
The thought that all his want and need and longing hadn't been one-sided, that Reid had felt their connection just as much as Aaron… It pushed Aaron right to the edge.
"I do want you," Reid said, mouthing at Aaron's jaw, rocking up into Aaron's thrusts. "God, you feel good. I like you like this, on top of me. The ultimate alpha male. M-making me yours."
"Mine," Aaron growled. He could feel his orgasm building at the base of his spine, ready to spill over any second. "Spencer." His thrusts grew erratic as Spencer shuddered and came beneath him. "Jesus, fuck." And then he was coming too with Spencer's cock pulsing right alongside his as they continued to rock together through the aftershocks.
For the first time in months, maybe years, Aaron felt as if all of his tension - all the worry, fear, guilt and anger - had drained away. He felt sated, and not just in body.
He kissed Reid, their mouths moving together in a languid caress. He rolled away reluctantly to retrieve a wash cloth from the adjoining bathroom. After cleaning them both up, he slid back into bed next to Reid, this time underneath the covers.
"Well, that was unexpected," Reid said with a grin.
Aaron laughed. He could see the tension that had been hovering in the lines around Reid's eyes had lessened as well.
"I," he said, growing serious again. "I think it was a long time coming."
"Yeah." Reid nodded, eyes searching Aaron's face. "I'm sorry about Owen. Not for saving him, but for taking advantage of your trust in me."
Aaron sighed. "I would rather that you were sorry you put your own life in danger."
They were tangled together beneath the sheets, making the conversation seem even more intimate than it already was.
"I just, I couldn't watch another kid die in front of me." Reid's breathing grew uneven. Aaron drew comforting circles over Reid's spine. "I know we can't save everybody, I know that's not how it works, but I also know how Owen felt. I… that could have been me."
"No, Spencer," Aaron said firmly, waiting for Reid to meet his eyes. "Yes, you shared some similar experiences, but there's a core of strength in you that Owen Savage didn't have. You would never have become what Savage was. You didn't. Instead you became a man who is compassionate enough not just to hunt the Owen Savage's of the world, but to help them."
Reid gave him a tired smile and a soft kiss.
Aaron shifted them both so that he could wrap himself around Reid more fully. "Do you think you can rest now?"
"If I can't, then there's something seriously wrong with me," Reid said, snuggling closer. "You've left me stunningly exhausted."
Aaron huffed a laugh and pressed a kiss to Reid's nape.
"I just," Reid said, voice tentative again.
"What is it?" Aaron said, matching Reid's hushed tone.
"Full disclosure," Reid said. "I, uh, I haven't relapsed. I've been clean for 10 months, but I have been craving. I mean, I haven't done anything about it, beyond attend a meeting, but I, uh, wanted you to know."
"Thank you." If there were a way to hold Reid even closer, to shield him from the world, Aaron would. "I'm proud of you and I'm glad you were able to find support. You have it with me as well. Whatever I can do, whatever you need."
"I know." Reid's hand covered Aaron's, squeezing gently. "Thank you."
"Get some sleep," Aaron said.
Reid nodded, shifting a little to get more comfortable before his breathing finally evened out and he relaxed completely in Aaron's arms. A surge of protectiveness flooded him. Aaron knew Reid could take care of himself, that he had been doing exactly that for nearly the entirety of his life. But that didn't mean that Aaron didn't want to be the one guarding his back.
It felt… right, being here like this with Reid. Maybe Aaron hadn't come here for exactly this, maybe he had. Maybe it was all as inevitably fated as it felt. Whatever the cause or the reason, Aaron couldn't bring himself to regret it. Would never regret it. Whatever the consequences, Aaron had meant what he'd said. Reid was his now.